Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Universe Has a Sense of Humour

I wasn't going to blog tonight because I was too busy enjoying my last few hours with my dear friend, Carolyn, (yes, this Carolyn) before she buggers off to Vancouver so that the boy no longer has to be a commuter but then I checked my news feed before going to bed.

Recently I stated in a blog post that I believe there are other planets out there like earth, but I doubt we will find them because "[i]t's the proverbial needle in the haystack except the haystack is the size of the Pacific Ocean."

Tonight's news feed which prompted me to post this? Scientists confirm they have found a Goldilocks planet.

Touché, Universe. Touché.

GBC Question #19

Question #19 is another head scratcher for me: A book that changed your mind about a particular subject (non-fiction). What? Fiction can't also be used to educate?

WARNING: This turned out to be very long. Go grab a cup of tea before you start reading it.

I read a lot of non-fiction but I usually read it because I don't know much (or anything) about the subject and therefore want to be educated about it. I learn from it and possibly form opinions based on it, but if I haven't already made up my mind, how can it change my mind? I decided, instead, to look at the non-fiction books which have had a great impact on my life.

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Lt.-Gen (Ret.) The Honourable Roméo Dallaire.
Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis
I wrote about Shake Hands earlier in these questions as a book that was difficult to read, but for me it was also a book which was life changing. It also lead me to reading Race Against Time. I lumped these two together because they are books that impacted me in the same way.

When I was growing up, my dad used to have a huge map of the world on the wall (some times in the dinning room, sometimes in the hallway) and once a week, he'd get me to stick flags in it, five news stories which I had heard on CBC (the only radio station acknowledged in my parent's houses) in five different countries. I'd tell him what they were as I'd stick in the pins and we'd talk about them. I stuck a pin in Rwanda once. There was a genocide going on. I was 14 and didn't quite understand what 'genocide' meant. I knew a lot of people were dying, I didn't realise it meant the systematic mass murder of a ethnic or religious people. A week later, I moved the pin to another country and that was that.

Skip forward ten years to a rainy Friday night and my impulse purchase while waiting for the bus. I read that book and faint memories of hearing about Rwanda came back to me. I was struck with the simple question Dallaire asked, are some humans more important than others? The book moved me, pressing me to learn more about what had happened. I read more books, trolled the Internet and, eventually, decided I was strong enough to see the documentary Shake Hands with the Devil. While watching the film, they play an audio clip of Michael Enright interviewing Dallaire and as the clip played, I snapped back to being fourteen, sitting at the dinning room table with my mom and stepdad, listening to As It Happens. It was like a door opened and I remembered everything that I had heard back then. I remembered the pin, but this time I knew what genocide meant.

Stephen Lewis was interviewed for the documentary and I instantly liked him. He was honest, straight forward and truthful yet the strongest word he ever used was 'poppycock'. I decided I had to read his book and found a copy a few days later. The book begins with the observation "I have spent the last four years watching people die." Yet the book is incredibly hopeful and by the end, I felt there was a possible solution to the end of, or at least the stemming of the tide that is, HIV/AIDS.

Through these two men--in print, in the movie, and in speeches I attended--I learned so much and it inspired me to do more. In Tanzania, I learned even more. I can not stress how important education is to stopping HIV/AIDS. Not just because it teaches the children how to prevent it, but because education is a way to break the cycle of poverty. It is a way to help women make an income which doesn't involve selling their body. Education also makes it harder to teach people to hate, to devalue human lives. It caused a shift in how I donate my money, both at home and abroad.

While I was in Tanzania, I spent a day at the Arusha ICTR (or as everyone else calls it, the War Crimes Tribunal). Arusha was picked as the location as it was the location of the failed Peace Accord which lead to the Rwandan genocide. As I sat in the room with my headphones on, listening to a gentleman give evidence regarding the actions taken in a school, I found my mind wandering through all of the events which had brought me to this moment. I thought of the horrors that I had read about, that other people had experienced, and yet they still came through the other side (with help and perhaps a few prescriptions) to think that the world can be a better place. I will never have the opportunity to thank Dallaire for writing his book, for causing me to care more about the world I inhabit, and for being the encouragement I needed to get involved, but I hope that he knows that his actions have paid it forward in a million little ways.

[photo by Kara]

The is Junior. He was the sweetest, gentlest child I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He never clamoured for attention like the other children, he was just happy when you remember he was there. He rarely spoke and he waited patiently for his food to be brought to him while the other children made a fuss. He was the perfect child except that his body has slowly been killing him since the day he was born. Junior is HIV+. Every day, it killed me a little bit inside to know that this adorable boy who wanted nothing more than to be hugged didn't have a future. Yet every story I tell of him now makes me smile and laugh, and I wouldn't trade my memories of him, both good and bad, for the world. For that, I thank you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

GBC Question #18

Question #18: A Book you can't find on the shelves anymore that you love.

I couldn't come up with an answer for this one because even though there are a few books I love which are no longer in print, I own a copy of them. This got me thinking about which book would cause me the most heartache to lose. That is an easy answer: The Ellert Family Bible or, as it actually says on the spine of the book, Christkatholische Handpostille.

The book was apparently rebound in the 70's. It has that Encylopedia Britannica look to it.

My great-great Grandpa gave this is my great-Grandma in March of 1910. We know this because she wrote the date on the inside cover. Below it she wrote:
got married April 4th, 1910 - my lucky day when you said yes. Father Haar ( maybe Haas?) - Do you Henry Ellert take Anna Harpel for better or worse until death do you part? - I do.
Monday after Easter,
St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church at Glencoe
Anna's record of the day she became an Ellert.

Anna's record of the children's births. Raymond was my grandpa.

The book itself was printed in 1908 in Blackletter and contains a list of all the Saint's Days as well as all the moving holidays (e.g. Easter) from 1908 until 1922. At the back, there is an appendix about raising German-Catholic children in a non-German speaking (and perhaps non-Catholic) country.

The front page

The Saint's Days

The book came into my possession after my grandpa passed away in 2006. It was found while the aunts were going through the household items as the house was to be sold. I was the only member of the family who spoke any German and so the decision was made that I should have it. Given my love of history, it was probably the best keepsake I could have received.

The start of the Bible. It's a pretty impressive title page!

The book is filled with illustrations for key events.

The irony is not lost on me that the Bible ended up in the hands of the one family member who uses the term 'agnostic' so that I don't offend the extended family although 'athiest' is more apt, but I also know that no one else in the family would love it as much as I do. It holds a place of great honour in my library collection. It is irreplaceable and I don't know what I would do if I was to ever lose it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

GBC Book Review (Bonus Book): The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second book in the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. It picks up roughly a year after the last book to find Lisbeth Salander living abroad in the Caribbean before returning to Sweden where she again becomes embroiled in a mystery when she's accuse of a triple murder.

I didn't find this book as engrossing as the first one for a few simple reasons: there were a lot of secondary characters whose necessity to the story line is never really apparent to me, and there's a lot of plot points which weren't paid off by the end of the book. I know the story does continue so I'm hoping that these issues will become mute by the end of the third book. That's not to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy the book, I just felt like it could have down with a bit of editing to tighten it up.

The book succeeded like the first one in keeping me guessing. My initial thoughts on where it was headed turned out to be very wrong which always the sign of a good 'whodunnit' for me. The amount of background research which must have gone into making this book possible is incredible. From complex math equations to the staggering figures of Sweden's illegal immigration for the sex trade, Larsson really knew his stuff. Yet the moral message which was woven throughout the book wasn't overtly in-your-face which I liked. It's easier to get people to your side when you're not beating them over the head with an obvious-stick.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it (but only if you've read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Unproductive Weekend

I have book questions to answer, I have a book review to write, and I have another blog to update but somewhere between Friday night and Saturday morning a sore throat and hacking cough completely blindsided me. Usually, I see this sort of thing coming a few days in advance with achy muscles and disruptive sleep patterns but not this time. I felt fine when I went to bed. I felt like death when I woke up.

I keep starting blog posts and then wander off into my own little thoughts only to return an hour later and realise I have no idea where my thoughts were going. The good news is that I'm feeling better than yesterday so hopefully this is just a little blip on the radar and I'll be back to writing soon.

I kind of felt like this yesterday.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

GBC Question #17

Question #17: Book turned movie and completely desecrated.

It only makes sense to get the opposite of yesterday's question. I tend to avoid movies based on books until I can read a few reviews and I'm very good at completely blocking crap films from my memory so I was actually reduced to trolling the internet to job my memory for a film that could fit in here. Thank you internets for reminding me of the abomination which was the Jim Carrey vehicle How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There was already a perfectly delightful cartoon adaptation which everyone has watched at some point. There was no reason for this version. No wonder I've blocked it from my memory.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to YouTube and find the cartoon version so I can once again remove the live-action version from my memory.

Addendum: I just realised that I am posting this exactly three months before Christmas.

Friday, September 24, 2010

GBC Question #16

Question #16: Favourite book turned into a movie?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I was fairly apprehensive before the first film came out. Other than Heavenly Creatures (great film, by the way), most of Jackson's work was a little, well, dark, odd, bloody, creepy, and just plain whacked (and really, Heavenly Creatures could be called all those things too). This was the guy the film studio trusted to turn this genre-creating classic into cinematic genius? But  I think the whole creative team did a great job of creating the movies.

Pretty much sums up how I feel about the Orcs. [Source]

When you look at the breadth and scope of the books, I would be hard pressed to think of anyone who could have done it better. That's not to say that I have no issues with them (ending the second movie with the Battle of Helm's Deep left waaaaaaay too much material for the third film--the battle is about halfway through the second book--which left the pacing in the third film feeling rushed and a few subplots barely developed, although the extended DVD did a good job of fixing that issue) but when the good parts are soooo good, I'm willing to give a pass to my few issues.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hawaii Five-OH!

I got rid of cable last January. The decision itself was somewhat rash, but I had been tossing and turning it around in my head for at least three months prior to actually doing it. I found that I had gotten into the habit of having the TV on all the time. Not because I was watching it, but because I liked background noise. Then I found that I would spend a lazy Saturday doing nothing but flicking for hours.

The great thing about the Internet is that I cancelled my cable but I can still watch my favourite TVs on the cable sites that broadcast them. This makes me feel less guilty about not watching them on TV. Sure, it means that I will have to wait until tomorrow night for The Big Bang Theory which aired tonight (does Sheldon actually have a girlfriend?!?!?), but I'm willing to put up with that when it means that a) I'm saving money and b) I'm not wasting time watching shows I don't actually care about.

This week is the 'big week' of TV shows starting up again. I wasn't able to watch Castle on Monday night, but it was a great way to unwind after dance on Wednesday (seriously, if you don't love Nathan Fillion, I can't be your friend. It's as simple as that.). Not having cable also meant that I didn't have to choose between watching Castle and watching the new Hawaii Five-O. I didn't have to choose between Nathan and Alex. I've had a huge crush on Alex O'Loughlin since his days in Moonlight, so I was super stoked about the idea of him being back on TV on a weekly basis. Plus, it takes place in Hawaii so I'm hoping the show will be increasing the number of shirtless scenes. The first episode left a bit to be desired in that department.

This picture is not from Hawaii Five-O, but any excuse to post it :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jupiter's in the Full Moon of Uranus?

I was supposed to write an entry tonight, to be posted tomorrow morning, for the next question in the Great Book Challenge. Instead, I decided to go outside and check out Jupiter in the night sky. On September 20th, Jupiter was the closest it has been to earth since 1963. Today, the 22nd, is the opposition of Jupiter which means we are directly between Jupiter and the sun. In essence, the light reflected back to us is a full Jupiter (next to a full moon, that's pretty awesome).

Dudes. I'm using NASA photos... again.

I, sadly, only had my slightly-wonky-but-correct-with-glasses eyes with which to see this. If you happen to have binoculars (or better yet, a telescope, but if you have that, you probably don't need me to tell you this), you will also be able to see Uranus and a few of Jupiter's moons.

You will still be able to see this for the next few weeks although the brightness will diminish with time so I'd encourage you to get out sooner rather than later.

GBC Book Review: Long Way Round

Long Way Round was actually one of the second hand books I bought for my trip to Africa and then promptly left on my bed. I had enjoyed the TV series when I had caught it on OLN and figured the book's always better, right?

Long Way Round follows close friends and motorcycle enthusiasts, Ewan McGregor (yes, that Ewan McGregor) and Charley Boorman as they embark on the journey of travelling from London to New York by motorcycle via Europe, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, etc, etc. Originally, Ewan and Charley wanted to do the whole thing on their own, but upon research found that, as actors with families to support, they didn't have the time to do all the leg work involved in setting up the trip. A decision was made to make a documentary about their journey to fund the process of making the trip possible. The book is written by Ewan and Charley. They switch off on narration duties and their voices are distinct enough that I could often pick it up mid-narration and know who was doing the writing.

My biggest problem with the book is the fact that I had seen the TV show... twice... so there were no real surprises left for me while I read it. I knew the people they were going to meet who would impact them; I knew the big arguments they would have; I knew the outcome of every crash. While I enjoyed reading it, it didn't have the excitement to it that reading Long Way Down had. I read Long Way Down (their second journey from John o' Groat's, Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa) before I saw the TV series and I really think that made all the difference.

One reason I did really enjoy the book was that you got a better sense of what they were thinking along the way. Although they do personal video diaries, often those can be somewhat jumbled as they try to work out everything in their memory from that day, whereas the book was written after the fact, using journals and memory so it's much more thorough. I also liked that Claudio, their always hungry, motorcycle-riding-and-crashing Swiss cameraman, became much more of a figure in the book than the silent partner you rarely see in the mini-series.

Both Long Way Round and Long Way Down offer a great chance to do some armchair travel, but I'd recommend reading them before seeing the mini-series. Get ready to fight the desire to get a motorcycle license until after you've finished reading.

Monday, September 20, 2010

GBC Question #15

Question #15 is interesting: Favourite book dealing with foreign culture.

Ethnic Cookbooks. A good ethnic cookbook will not just have recipies, it will have history, customs, and traditions from that region/country. You'll learn a new dish and you'll learn about the culture. Amazingly, I have only bought myself two ethnic cookbooks in my life. People know my passion and keep giving them to me (not that I'm complaining, I love them) so at current count, I have:

Africa - 1 (broken into regions)
France - 1
Germany - 1
Italy - 1
Lebanon - 1
Mexico - 1
Morocco - 1
Switzerland - 2
Tanzania - 2
Thailand - 1

Of course, my favourite ethnic meal to cook will always be cheese fondue :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Stroll Down Memory Rain

Fall is decidedly upon us on the West Coast and rainy days are fast becoming the norm. I love Fall and I know that rain is a part of the process. In a strange way, the rain makes me happy. Today, however, the rain was freaky. I was sitting in bed--tea in one hand, book in the other-- listening to the softly falling rain through my open window when all of a sudden it was like someone turned on a faucet. I had plans for a big walk today and wasn't really looking forward to the idea of having to walk in the rain. I stuck my hand out and the rain was coming down so hard, it actually stung a little. By the time that rain stopped within 20 minutes of starting and after a few more sprinkles of rain in the morning, the afternoon turned out to be very hot and muggy with no need for a jacket. I was telling a friend that it reminded me of the rains in Tanzania.

Towards the end of my time in TZ, my stepmom and my 'baby' brother, Brendan, came to visit. I was really excited to get to show them around my Tanzania and the people and culture I had fallen so in love with. The only problem is that their visit in November coincided with the start of the short rainy season. They arrived into Dar Es Salaam just past midnight on Sunday night and on the Monday, I took them over to Zanzibar so they could get over their jet lag while lying on a beach.

Dar Es Salaam ferry terminal

Despite a torrential downpour while waiting for the ferry in Dar, Zanzibar was dry. Brendan and Charlotte's first real meal in Africa overlooked this:

Nungwi Beach, North Zanzibar

While Charlotte tried to catch up on some much needed sleep, Brendan and I headed out to the northern beach for a quick swim and then to watch the sunset. It would prove to be the only nice sunset while we were on Zanzibar.

Brendan enjoying the view

It rained on and off for the next two days before we headed down to Stone Town. The rains didn't bother me too much. The rains never lasted more than 20 minutes, there was always a bar to duck into, and the sun was so hot that every thing was dry within minutes of the rains ending. Besides, having been to Zanzibar at the tail-end of tourist season, I found it was really nice to have the beach to pretty much ourselves and the locals.

I was so happy to return to Stone Town. It's such a fascinating place for a history-dork like me. I was happy to revisit some old haunts while we wandered the labyrinth of streets. When we wearied of the walking, we'd head back to the hotel to drink some tea and play Rummy on the rooftop terrace. It rained but we always seemed to be at the hotel.

Typical Stone Town street

On our last day, we checked out of our hotel but left our bags there as we heading out to a tea room for one last Zanzibar outing. We sat in the tea room playing a round of Rummy when suddenly the sun disappeared making the tea house very dark and the rains just started bucketing down. Within a matter of minutes the street outside had become a river almost a foot deep.

I had on flip-flops but everyone else was wearing shoes. This was not good.

We were filled with a slight panic as we had to leave the tea room within the next half hour to get back to the hotel (and our bags) in time for the cab we had ordered, but the rain was lashing down. We hadn't had rain this strong in Zanzibar before (although I had experienced it in Usa River where I was living, but that's a whole other post). There was no Gore-Tex jacket in the world that would keep us dry. Even if the rain did stop, the street had become a f***ing river!! There was little we could do about it so after we snapped a few photos we continued with our game of rummy and hoped the rain would stop soon.

At least we got stuck in a tea room and not a stranger's front stoop.

The rain did stop just as suddenly as it had started and the river disappeared just as quickly. Walking back to the hotel there were still areas where we had to pick our way around sizable puddles, but must of the streets had nothing more than the 'just rained' glean to them. In fact, the street that our hotel was on was bone dry! I noticed, for the first time, the number of large grates all over the place and realised that this mini flash flood was obviously the norm during the rainy season.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

GBC Question #14

Question #14: Book that should be on HS/college required reading list.

Bastards and Boneheads by Will Ferguson if for no other reason than it makes Canadian history much more interesting than the current high school text books. In Bastards and Boneheads, Will Ferguson goes through all of Canada's Prime Minsters and ranks them, based on their achievements and their failings, as one or the other. It's a fun, light-hearted but well researched romp through Canadian history looking at the decisions (or indecisions) of our highest elected official. Given the title, however, I find it highly doubtful this would even make the short list of possible books.

Bastard is meant as a compliment in this book. It's simply
someone who has the cojones to get the job done.

I'm also a big fan of his Why I Hate Canadians which my stepmom sent to me when I was living in Germany. It's a look at events in Canadian history which make Canada Canada. I was always able to tell you what made me Irish (besides my unpronounceable and unspellable--I'm making this a word--last name) but defining what made me Canadian was much more difficult. Agree or disagree with some of Ferguson's opinions and conclusions, it's a great book to make you really think about what 'being Canadian' means to you although a few of the chapters are starting to show their age.

My Love Letter to the Universe

Thanks to two free passes to the Imax that I won last May, I went to Hubble with my friend, Dani, and her son, Liam, this afternoon. I chose the movie because I've always had a passing interest in space and am always captivated when I see Hubble images but I actually didn't know that much about Hubble except that it was a huge telescope orbiting the earth, it was broken almost immediately upon being put into service, it has made huge contributions to our understanding of the universe, and it takes pretty pictures. (Speaking of pictures, NASA does the awesome thing of allowing anyone to use their photos as long as you state 'Dude, these belong to NASA'. You guys rock!)

I came out of the film finally understanding more about what the images I had seen previously actually meant and exactly how large of an impact the Hubble Space Telescope had on our understanding of the universe. It was incredible and amazing and awe-inspiring and humbling. Not wanting to spend any money, I flipped longingly through the coffee table books on display in the gift shop before I came home and did what any self-proclaimed geek would do, I took to the Internet to learn more. I have spent my Friday night reading about nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, supernovas, and more. Let me repeat what I have oft said before: I am a dork.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was named after Edwin Hubble who was able to prove that there were galaxies beyond our own Milky Way. (He also gave us the Big Bang Theory which indirectly gave us an awesome TV show, am I right?) Until his discovery, the belief in astronomy was that we were the only galaxy in the universe. As you can see from the picture above, that is clearly not the case!

HST has allowed astronomers to determine more precisely the rate at which the universe is expanding and, by extension, a better idea of how old it is. It has captured detailed pictures of stars being created and of galaxies in various states of growth. I watched the film and I felt myself fill with that six year old wonderment at it all. The movie ended and my six year old self wanted them to play it again. "Again! Again," she shouted as my 30 year old self put on my jacket and headed towards the door.

My stepdad had the most wonderful knowledge of the natural world growing up. He's a geologist so knowledge of the history of the earth was to be expected, but his ability to look into the night sky and find constellations when we were camping always amazed me. Even more amazing, he tell me their names in Latin and then spew off facts about what the Romans or the Greeks or another ancient civilisation thought about it inevitably coming to the sentence 'of course, modern science now knows...' and then telling me exactly what modern science now knows. I wish I had seen the movie with him so I could have picked his brain on our way out.

Throughout the movie, the soundtrack kept playing refrains from IZ's Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I found myself contemplating exactly how lucky we are for earth to exist. What a lucky chance that a planet formed which is capable of sustaining life. I believe that, given the vastness of the universe and the sheer number of galaxies, there must be other planets out there like earth but I doubt if we'll ever find them. It's the proverbial needle in the haystack except the haystack is the size of the Pacific Ocean. Hmm, maybe we should call the Mythbusters.

It think it's safe to say that a spark went off in me while I watch the movie and I have a burning desire to learn more (which may show up via the the Great Book Challenge) and I may some how find my way back to the gift shop to peruse the Hubble books again, but for now, I'll leave you with the internal soundtrack I was hearing during the movie.

EDIT: Once again, can't get the embedding to work on this blog (but it does on the other one, why not here?) so you can see the video here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

GBC Question #13

Question #13: Favourite childhood book.

It's not one book, it's four. It's an old box collection of my older brother's, which I wiggled away from him when he became too cool for such things, of the A. A Milne works When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We Are Six, and The House at Pooh Corner. I used to love those books, and I'm known to randomly quote the opening lines of 'Buckingham Palace' because I like the rhythm of them (bonus points if you know what poem I'm talking about without googling it).

The books are really showing their age and I fear every time I pick one up that I will open it and all the pages will just come loose. Worse, the old paper will disintegrate into dust in my hands. I treat them with great care and as much as I want to share them children, I get antsy at the idea of anyone else touching them. That's why I have a newer all-in-one copy, so they can put their grubby little hands on that one.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

GBC Question #12

Question #12: A book so emotionally draining you couldn't complete it or you had to set it aside for a bit.

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Lt.-Gen (Ret.) The Honourable Roméo Dallaire.

Dallaire's experiences in Rwanda left him with PTSD culminating in a suicide attempt in 2000. Reading the book, you can completely understand how he came to be in such a fragile state of mind that he believed suicide was the only way out. It is an incredibly moving and honest look at what occurred leading up to April 6th, 1994, the failings of the international community at large, and the 100 days of bloodshed that followed.

I purchased the book while waiting for a bus one day. My bus stop was in front of Chapters and the rain was coming down in buckets so I headed inside to stay somewhat dry. Shake Hands with the Devil was displayed prominently as I walked in the door. When I went to purchase it the girl behind the counter told me that once I was done the book, I should watch the documentary of the same name. It's as if I knew what a profound experience that book would have on my life because I remember the most insignificant details of that purchase. As hard as it was to read the book, I'm so glad that I did. It made me a better citizen of the world.

I had the privilege of hearing Dallaire speak when he was in Victoria in 2006. He encouraged people who wanted to get involved to volunteer with an NGO. Inspired by him and his words, I put my life in Canada on hold and did exactly that in 2007. I have never, for one second, regretted that decision.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

GBC Question #11

Question #11 is another 'how good is your memory?' question: The book that made you fall in love with reading.

As soon as I get my flux capacitor working or find my own TARDIS, I will let you know the answer to this question. It might be a bit of a wait, I'd suggest you go put on a pot of tea.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Got Canned!

I wasn't at work today so instead I did something that I've been wanting to do for a number of years: my mom taught me how to can peaches.

We done good!

Every peach season for about the past five years, I've thought to myself "I should can peaches like mom used to", but then my mom would go away camping or I'd be too busy enjoying summer BBQs and we just never got around to it. We actually missed the good peach season this year, but determined to finally get this done, my mom found some good peaches hiding out at a local farmer's market.

I can honestly say that the whole process wasn't as labour-intensive as I was expecting, but time-wise it did drag on. It's given me confidence, however, that I can do this on my own in the future (although I will have to borrow all of my mom's equipment so really, why not just do it with my mom?) and that I want to try and can a few other items. My mom's relish recipe is on my list along with dill pickles, pears, beets, well, pretty much anything you can can. (Because we can can can!)

GBC Question #10

Question #10 really challenged my memory: the first novel you remember reading.

I racked my brain to try and answer this question and I've come up blank every time. I can tell you that the first book I read to myself was Go, Dog, Go! followed by Put Me in the Zoo. Shortly after that, my parents got me The Sneetches and Other Stories which I still love to read to this day.

I can tell you that the very first Baby-Sitters Club book I read was #4: Mary-Ann Saves the Day. My dad bought it at a garage sale. I wanted to name my daughter Mary-Ann for the longest time. The second one I read was #11: Kristy and the Snobs. I took it out of the library.

I can tell you that I learned how to spell 'mystery' after I spent a day trying to figure out what the my-stery in Brian and the Rooftop Mystery could be. My mom told me the word was 'mystery'; I didn't believe her. I still see that book cover in my mind's eye every time I write 'mystery'. I took the book out of the library because it had chapters.

I got Little House in the Big Woods for my eighth birthday. I pretty much read the entire series within a year and a half after that. I tried calling my mom 'Ma' as a result. She didn't take too kindly to that idea.

I think I read Emily of New Moon before Little House but I'm not totally sure. I do know that I read it before Anne of Green Gables. I like Emily better than Anne because she had dark hair like me.

Despite all those little tidbits from my early book reading memories, I honestly don't remember what was my first novel.

Does anyone remember what their first novel was?

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm Declaring a New National Holiday... It's the Only Way I'll Finish

Despite Autumn not officially starting for another 10 days (it occurs on the 23rd this year), it has decided to make a premature appear in Victoria. It's grey, wet and dismal since the end of the long weekend. There's been moments of sun but even then it's still cold.

Somewhere in that fog is East Sooke Park.

I love Fall and all it's changing colours so I'm excited despite the depressing view out my window. Plus, we all know what exciting season fall brings right? People running around, trying to get things done before that big night, feelings of stress because you haven't gotten everything written before the deadline, so many social events to attend but you have to turn them down because there's too much to do...


I first learned of NaNoWriMo last year for a creative non-fiction writing class I was taking. Learning about the event a mere week before it began, I took a valiant stab at it... and failed miserably. It didn't help that most people go into this with characters developed, outlines created, key scenes blocked in their heads. I went in with the idea that it might be fun and I had a story I had been mulling over writing for a while. Between full time school, part time work, and life in general, I got to around 800 words and then quit. My excuse is that my class did NaBloPoMo for charity so that took up all my allotted 'fun' writing time.

Well, not this year! This year I am undertaking the challenge again and I will be prepared! To victory!

Or, at the very least, 50,000 words of crappy writing!

GBC Question #9

Question #9: A book you've read more than once.

I tend to read books more than once. They're like dear friends that I have to visit every once and a while. The ones I visit most often, however, would be any of the novels of Jane Austen. I'm a huge Jane Austen fan, even going so far as to include Bath on my travels around the UK strictly because so many of her stories have settings there. Yes, I'm a dork. I think I've already established that fact!

If you watched the BBC's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and didn't
fall in love with Colin Firth, we may have to rethink our friendship.
[Copyright: BBC]

Some where in my travels I picked up The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. Every couple of years, I pick it up and pick and story to read. In fact, it's been a while since I've done that. I'll add that to the list of books to read for the challenge.

Any other Jane Austen fans out there?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

GBC Question #8

Question 8 is, to me, very strange: An unpopular book you believe should be a Best-Seller.

This question has honestly stumped me. Just because a book isn't a Best-Seller doesn't mean it's unpopular. It could just be that it doesn't have the marketing power of the Twilight series behind it.

I honestly have no answer.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

GBC Question #7

Question Seven: A book that's hard to read

This question has me confused. Does it mean actually hard to read as in 'hard to follow', or does it mean emotionally hard to read? I skipped ahead a few questions and saw that there is a question coming up dealing with emotional difficulty so I'm going to go with my first assumption. For that question, there can be no other answer than Ulysses by James Joyce.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have started reading this book and set it aside never to return. One of the problems is that it ones of those books, like The Tin Drum, which has so many references to other literary works and ideas that it really should be read as part of a class so you can actually understand half of what is being said (without words in many cases) on the page.

About a year ago, I broke down and bought myself an annotated version when it was on sale but never quite got around to cracking it open. Some day I will give that sucker a go and if I still can't finish it... well, I'll buy the Cliff Notes and start lying.

"I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries
arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality."
~James Joyce, on Ulysses

Friday, September 10, 2010

GBC Question #6

Oh, right. Those questions for the Great Book Challenge. Question #6: A book that makes you cry.

Les Miserables - I read the book when I was 12. I had discovered the musical a few years earlier and decided I should read the book. I did the same for Phantom of the Opera, how hard could it be for Les Mis? I was in love with the book and I went through it quite fast given its size. My parents were throwing a party and knowing I only had about a quater of the book left, I excused myself when I felt I had done my daughterly duty and escaped to my room to continue reading. If memory serves me correctly, that was a little before 10 pm. Some time before 2 am when my mom checked on me before she went to bed, I started crying. I put the finished book down sortly after 3 am and my tears had reached full sobs. I sat in bed crying until I noticed the sky was getting light (it was summer so I'm going to say this would have been around 5 am)so I laid down and cried myself to sleep.

Is it really any surprise that this is the man who wrote a book called 'The Miserables'?

For weeks afterwards, I'd think about certain scenes in the book or sacrifices certain characters made and I would just start to bawl. At the dinner table, in the shower, writing notes off the board at school, I was an emotional wreck thanks to that book. I've wanted to reread it as an adult but I've shied away from it because I don't know if I really want to be randomly bursting into tears while I but sugar in my coffee...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Either I'm Cool or the World is Inhabited by Geeks

I attended Denbaya this past weekend. It was a four day West African Dance extravaganza. On our last night there, MoonDance Arts (the coordinators of the event) treated everyone to dinner at the West Arm Pub on Shawnigan Lake, not too far from where the weekend was being held. Our instructors brought a lot of life to an otherwise quite Sunday night at the pub.

The original video is not this dark, but I can't seem to fix it on this site.
My apologies to Manimou, the singer, because you can barely see him.

I love that as I get older, I need to explain myself to people less and less. It seems like the rest of the world is becoming nerdified because people just 'get me' now. The following is a list of things I admitted to people that I hardly knew and none of them blinked an eye:
  • Robert Service is my favourite poet. I travel with a collection of his poems and I can recite a few of them as well.
  • Name an 80's/early 90's rap and I can probably rap it for you. Also, I will most likely bust out the running man because that's just good times.
  • When something frustrates or angers me, I do my 'West Side Story' snaps and I have trained my office to do the same.
  • This is the greatest news I've heard in probably ever; does anyone have a Wii they'd like to sell?
  • I have been accused of snoring, talking and singing in my sleep although all these accusations have come after a night of drinking.
  • I'm a classically trained pianist. My favourite composer, well, it's a toss up between Bach and Chopin. If I had to pick one, Bach would probably win. I held an open debate with myself about why.
  • My favourite movie in Casablanca. In close second is Beauty and the Beast which I haven't seen since 2003 when I moved out and no longer had a VHS player. It's being re-released on DVD on October 5th. I have seriously debated booking that day off work so I can go buy it at 8:00 AM. (I then sang a few of the songs for those within ear shot.)
  • I will slap my own ass in the middle of a dance routine if I think it's funny.
  • I will do a lot of strange things in strange places if I think it's funny.
All these geeky things that I willingly admitted to and yet I came away from the weekend with lots of former acquaintances I now call friends. Drumming, dancing and new friends? It's going to be hard to top that.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I'm Not Dead Yet!

Why, oh why, can I embed a post on my other blog but not this one? This will require some investigation when it's not an hour past my bed time. This post was supposed to open with this which explains the title.

It's late and I need to go to bed but I just wanted to say 'hello'. I can update that I'm failing miserably at my Project365 (it really doesn't help when you keep leaving your camera at home), I'm currently reading two books for the Great Book Challenge, and I have a lot of things written in my head but I'm trying to enjoy as much of the nice weather that I can before it leaves us. I love Fall so I'm not sad to see Summer go, but now that it's no longer really hot, I want to enjoy it just a little bit longer.

Plus the sudden change to winter on Tuesday just screamed 'rewatch the BSG mini-series' and so I did. Originally it screamed specific Doctor Who episodes but those are currently out on loan so BSG it is.

copyright owned by SyFy (don't get me started on the name change)

I'm also working on something creative that I think is awesome and I will most likely share on here once I'm do, so... my friend's son thinks I'm the coolest person alive. I introduced him to pretty much any geeky thing a 10 year old boy is old enough to watch and I did it without ever once having met him. Last Saturday, we actually hung out for the first time and we got along really well. Well, I have risen yet another notch in his eyes. His mom has a foster child in Chad and he's decided he wants to go to Africa. His mom told him I lived in Africa for four months and next time he sees me, he should ask me about it. When she told me this, I immediately set about turning my pictures into a video with (if I get a decent microphone) a speaking track or written commentary about them. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? HELLS yes!