Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Veronica Mars: The Ten Thousand Dollar Tan Line

I'm a Veronica Mars fan. The TV show was good, and the movie was good closure. Imagine my surprise then when I found out they were doing a series of books to follow up the movie!

Veronica Mars: The Ten Thousand Dollar Tan Line
By Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
336 pages

This book picks up right where the movie left off. [SPOILER ALERT] Veronica has moved home, her dad is recovering after his "accident", and Logan is on a Navy ship somewhere. We follow Veronica as she (with Mac and Wallace's help) tries to keep the detective agency afloat. (Un)fortunately, there is enough crime in Neptune, and an incompetent sheriff, to keep Veronica busy. She takes the cases of two missing spring break party girls. What follows is an almost episodic story of Veronica tracking the perps, getting into an unhealthy dose of trouble, and meeting some old characters.

I found the story to be very much like a tv episode. Besides the format shift, it felt very much like I was reading what I used to watch on tv. The characters are all there, their mannerisms intact. The banter and dialogue is all there. The episode format (trouble, case, trouble, solved case, more trouble, until next time) is all there. So in this respect, if you were a fan of the tv show/movie, you'll probably enjoy the book(s). I thought it was a nice continuation of the canon, and I'll probably try to read the other books in the series when they come out too (next one is due out January 2015).

As a mystery though, well, if you have never heard of Veronica Mars you'd best start with the tv series and work your way up. I'm not sure how well it stands alone as a mystery, nor is it necessarily a shining example of quality literature. They did do a good job of providing plenty of background summaries to characters and events for new readers though, which I would have found annoying and tedious but since I didn't remember certain things they were a nice reminder.

It was a quick and easy read, definitely recommended for Veronica Mars fans! I hope Weevil plays a bigger role in the next book...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review: Seconds

I read another book for fun (yeah ok it was short)!

By Bryan Lee O'Malley
336 pages

I read Scott Pilgrim and it was weird but ok, so I thought I'd try O'Malley's newest graphic novel (and the cover was cute and anime-ish, so there's that). It was a neat story idea, so that got me through. Katie is a chef who is opening a new restaurant. A few bad things happen in her life (as they do). She discovers a house spirit, named Lis, in her attic apartment. Lis tells her to write down a regret, then eat a special mushroom. When Katie wakes up, life is as if the regret never happened. Yay! But then Katie finds the mushroom patch and eats a whole bunch to fix a whole bunch of things that went wrong, and then everything goes wrong. And then there's a bad house spirit and the world is all screwed up and how will she ever get back to life before the mushrooms, oh no! Character crisis. And then it all works out. The end.

I was enjoying the story, but the climax was slightly unsatisfying, although I liked the ending, if that makes any sense at all. The art is cute and quirky and very visually appealing for the most part. I found the heroine to be more unlikeable than likeable (because she makes stupid decisions and is whiny but who doesn't/isn't?!) but she does redeem herself. It's definitely a weird story like Scott Pilgrim was, but seems like a more adult and refined plot line.

Though not a huge graphic novel fan, I'd recommend this one, especially to any woman who's ever wanted to change a decision made along the way (and who doesn't). The past is the past - you can't go back. Onwards and upwards everyone!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Book Review: Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective

September's book club genre was children's literature, and thank goodness because this month has been extremely busy and I haven't had time to read anything! I initially thought I would read a flimsy novel, but alas, I didn't even have time for that. At work, I've been organizing a monthly "librarians read to the day care" initiative, so while I was browsing our library's children's collection for books to read to the kidlets, I came across a picture book that I figured would make a great read for book club. Probably I should've picked a best seller or an award winner or something with literary merit, but reading about a bug detective just sounded so fun! And there are three in the series so put together that's an acceptable amount of reading, right?

September 2014: Children's Literature

Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective
By David Biedrzycki
40 pages

Ace Lacewing is a bug detective in Motham City (!). Queenie Bee has been kidnapped and Mayor Buzzbee puts Ace on the case. With the help of Sergeant Zito (a mosquito) and the beautiful Doctor Xerces Blue (a butterfly and Ace's girlfriend), they track down the culprit and save the day.

(You can listen to this book for free on Tumblebooks here. Very cool and animated way to enjoy a story!)

The tone of the book is very film noir - it felt like I was inside an old detective mystery movie narrated by the main character, trench coat and fedora and all! And though it's a kids book, there are clever visuals hidden everywhere that will be funny to adults, like the 'got milkweed?' milk moustache billboard, or all the glow worm lights, or the police tape that says "Police Bug Off". There are also clues hidden in the pictures, so pay attention to the newspaper headlines. Also the blood at the crime scenes is green. Tee hee. And the S.W.A.T. team carries fly swatters. Very clever

Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective: Bad Bugs Are My Business
By David Biedrzycki
44 pages

Ace Lacewing and his friends are back! This time someone has stolen Scratch the Flea's well earned money. The usual suspects are on the case.

The climax/solution to this mystery seemed a bit more contrived, but the puns and sight jokes were still everywhere and it was worth those 5 minutes of my time.

(Preview this book from A Story Before Bed.)

Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective: The Big Swat
By David Biedrzycki
44 pages

Motham City's baseball team, The Stinkbugs (sponsored by everyone's favourite credit card company, BEESA), usually stink, but this year they have a top rookie, Bugsy, who has led them to first place. But someone has stolen Bugsy's bat!

I could only preview the first bit of this book, but it sounded quite promising. Who doesn't love bugs and baseball??

(Preview this book from A Story Before Bed.)

The Ace Lacewing books are cute and clever, fun for kids and adults. They'd make great read alouds, especially if you do that film noir NY accent voice over!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Music Monday: Delhi 2 Dublin @ The Kaleido Festival

Delhi 2 Dublin. Never heard of them? Think Bhangra meets Celtic Techno Dance party. I love this band. I've seen them half a dozen times at least. They bring out my best dancing fool self. Their concerts make me happy. Listening to their music makes me happy. They rock. Take a listen.

The first time I saw them was at Kaleido Festival in 2010. It was an epic good time. Then, surprisingly, they came back to the Kaleido Festival just a year later in 2011! And imagine how happy I was to find out they were playing the Kaleido Festival in 2014! I've seen them a couple times at the Starlight Room here in Edmonton, and they were at Folk Fest in 2011 and 2013. Plus they're coming back to play The Arden next spring!

I never ever use the video function on my iPhone. I never take concert video. Except I apparently started a tradition in 2010 and have since take 3 Delhi 2 Dublin concert videos of each time they've come to the Kaleido Festival. Did you miss their latest outing in Edmonton? Here are my (poorly shot by oh so fun) concert videos of Delhi 2 Dublin playing the Kaleido Festival...


If you look back, you can see my filming skills haven't improved, but I like to think my dancing fool skills are coming along nicely.


The year I forgot how to use the zoom on my iPhone. But at least the sound is better. I love the crowd's hands in the air!


Oh the sound is horrific because all I had was a crappy digital camera, but I was so close and it was so fun! We were a small crowd, but boy could we scream.

You'll find better concert videos of Delhi 2 Dublin on the internet, but these are my memories. I hope they come back to the Kaleido Festival again in the next few years. We love seeing them there. Try catch Delhi 2 Dublin in concert near you. The dancing fool hidden deep inside you will be thankful!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Curling Team Shuffle - 2014

It's a post Olympic year and wow were there some interesting curling team swaps, changes, moves and retirements! This year, Grand Slam of Curling has a great team line up tracker! Here's what I've gathered over the summer though. What/who am I missing?

Women's Teams

  • Jones: Team Jones will stay together for another Olympic run. 
  • Bernard: Cheryl Bernard has retired. Susan O'Connor is skipping a new team made up of Lawnie MacDonald, Denise Kinghorn and Corrie Morris.  
  • Kleibrink: Last year's team is done, and Shannon has a new team.
  • Nedohin: Beth Iskew is taking some time off, so Amy Nixon has moved from star fifth to third for real.
  • Webster: Geri-Lynn Ramsay is still staying, but Cathy O & Sam Preston have been replaced by Jessie Kaufman & Becca Konschuh. 
  • Carey: Chelsea Carey has moved to Edmonton! Her new team is Laura Crocker, Taylor McDonald & Jen Gates.
  • Scott: Team Kelly Scott has retired.
  • Lawton: Team remains as is.
  • Homan: Alison Kreviazuk has moved to Sweden! Joanne Courtney (formerly of team Sweeting) will take over at second.
  • Sweeting: Andrea Crawford replaces Joanne Courtney at third. 
  • Middaugh: Team remains as is.
  • Ott: Miriam Ott has retired.  
  • Muirhead: Claire Hamilton has left the team. Sarah Reid is in at lead.

Men's Teams (Oh boy, here we go...)

  • Bottcher: Tom Appelman is in at third
  • Cotter: Morris is out. Ryan Kuhn will play third.
  • Martin: Kevin Martin has retired.
  • Morris: John Morris is taking over Team Canada, and will skip Pat Simmons, Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen. Scott Bailey will play 5th and take over for Carter for some tour events. 
  • Koe: Koe will skip a team with Marc Kennedy at third, Brent Laing at second and Ben Hebert at lead.
  • Stoughton: Team Stoughton as we knew it is no more. The new team will include Rob Fowler, Alex Forrest & Connor Njegovan. 
  • Howard: With Laing moving on, Jon Mead will step in at second. Wayne Middaugh has retired and Richard Hart is back at third. Savill stays at lead. 
  • Epping: Epping will skip former members of Team Kean with third Travis Fanset, second Patrick Janssen and lead Tim March.
  • Kean: Kean has picked up Mat Camm, David Mathers & Scott Howard. 
  • Menard: No change.
  • Murdoch: No change. But Brewster is gone.
  • Gushue: Mark Nichols is back at third.
  • Carruthers: Reid Carruthers is skipping Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski and Coling Hodgson
  • Jacobs: Team Jacobs is staying together as is. 
  • Casey: Adam Casey will skip  to skip Josh Barry, Anson Carmody and Robbie Doherty out of PEI.
  • Virture: Brock Virtue will skip Charley Thomas, Brandon Klassen & D.J. Kidby
  • Laycock: Team stays as is.
  • McEwen: Team stays as is.
  • Edin: The new team is  Niklas Edin, Oskar Eriksson, Kristian Lindström and Christoffer Sundgren. 
  • Ulsrud: Team Ulsrud is sticking together.

Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity

Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity! It's something I've always wanted to do, so when our university's faculty association put out a call to volunteer (on my birthday!) I had to sign up! The response was so good that they split up the university's volunteers: some went to the build site, and myself and another coworker from my department were with the group at the prefab shop. I was nervous about the day, but figured there was nothing better to do on my birthday than help better someone else's life so I was also really excited!

It was an early wake up call, as we all met at the prefab shop (which turns out is quite near my house). They are currently building the biggest Habitat community in Canada - a 64 unit site in Edmonton's deep south. It was interesting to learn more about the organization. Families (with at least 1 child) have to apply, must meet the income range, must pay their (interest free) mortgage and put in 500 hours of volunteer time as sweat equity. Very interesting.

Anyway, first up was an orientation on safety mostly, and then we picked up our safety gear. We had to bring work gloves, but were given steel toed boots, a hardhat, and safety glasses to wear for the day. We also had to wear ear protection and some people chose to wear dust masks. The university provided us with snazzy red tshirts and off we went!

We were split into three groups: cutting lumber, building outside walls, and building inside walls. I spent the morning building outside walls, under the guidance of helpful and informative staff and a team lead volunteer. I learned how to router out a hole in the 2x6s, the how to lay them out according to the specific wall plan, on huge tables (sometimes we worked from the ground, and sometimes we worked up on the tables. Then we nailed the boards together with an air gun. So this was not my absolute forte and I nailed my first wall to the table, but hey, beginner's initiation and I got better. Sort of. Ok so air nailing wasn't my favourite.

After the boards were all nailed together, we squared them, and then we cut backing boards to size and nailed and stapled them on top. Sounds easy, but it took all morning to do a couple small walls! So much to learn, such a learning curve! We did get a morning coffee break, and they provided us with a tasty pizza lunch!

After lunch, my team switched to building inside walls. This was easier as we only had to get the 2x4s from a pile (which was already routered), assemble them to the specs provided, and nail them together. Again my nemesis, the air nailer! Eventually we assembled enough walls (outside and inside) to load them in order onto a pile. The outside walls got logos spray painted on them. And then, it was time to go!

Trying not to lose a finger while nailing boards with some help from a university colleague. 
Photo taken by Lucio Gelmini.

I felt like we were working pretty slow, and my coworker said that probably it would go much faster if we weren't there, slowing the staff down, but one of the volunteers putting in her 500 hours said we accomplished a lot, much more than an average day with new volunteers, so I left feeling pretty ok with my effort.

And that's what happens in the prefab shop. They put together flooring or walls. These go to the build site and get put up to make the homes. Talking to a staff member, he said it never ends. The job site name changes, but the walls just keep coming. This experience gave me a new appreciation for the trades professions! The people we worked with were very good with us, so patient and helpful as they taught us how to do our job. It must be annoying for them, to have to constantly train up people to help them with their jobs. They did good work and knew their stuff, that's for sure!

I enjoyed working at the prefab shop, and all the comforts it provided: inside out of the elements, working washrooms, etc. I'd like to see what happens at a build site though, what I could make out from the photos taken was that they helped with landscaping, painting, joining etc. Talking to another colleague who was on the build site, she said some people were painting or washing windows but she had to dig trenches all day. I still can't believe they let newbies help build their houses!

All in all, it was a great experience! I learned some new skills, met some nice people and helped put together walls for someone's new house. Pretty decent way to spend my birthday! I'm not sure this is quite my volunteer niche - I just don't have the skills and abilities to do that kind of work so I won't make this a regular gig, but I would definitely volunteer for Habitat for Humanity again if work organized a day or if other people I know go out as a team. It was a good day, and I was happy to help such a good organization!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

FIFA U20 Women's World Cup: Volunteer Time

In early August, I had the opportunity to volunteer for another major sporting event - this time for FIFA! I was lucky to be able to volunteer for the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup, held in Edmonton, Toronto, Moncton and Montreal.

I knew the event was coming, so stalked the websites and asked the Canadian Soccer Association on twitter when the volunteer application would open. I can't quite remember how far in advance I applied, a year maybe, 8 months? I was contacted by email, and then had to do a phone interview with the volunteer coordinator! Seriously, a phone interview! Following that came more emails, questions about uniform sizing, volunteer newsletters etc.

There was a training evening at the end of July. Unfortunately due to bad timing, I had to miss a great night of music at Interstellar Rodeo to attend, but somehow I'd ended up being classified as a Team Leader, and figured it would be bad if I missed the training. Sigh. Anyways, training was useful and not a complete waste of time, though I'll admit I didn't 100% know what I was supposed to do as a Team Leader.

We got our uniform at training too. I've volunteered for the Canadian Curling Association and Hockey Canada, but FIFA is an international organization - and go big or go home! Not only did we get a tshirt and a jacket, but also pants/capris, a hat, socks, running shoes, a bag and water bottle! I was pretty impressed with the Adidas gear, but a couple people said it wasn't as good as what they got from volunteering at the Olympics! That's a thing people do, I could volunteer for the Olympics! Anyway, my uniform didn't fit too well so I ended up giving most of it away to a friend after the event though. Sorry, no picture either - FIFA has a really strict social media policy and I was too scared to tweet much or take many pictures. This was definitely a different experience that other volunteering - it was always apparent this was a big deal!

The first game I volunteered for - it was a double header. Lot's of great women's soccer action!

The FIFA U20 Women's World Cup was a test event and precursor to the FIFA Women's World Cup held in 2015, so there was a learning curve for everyone. I was a Guest Services Team Leader. As Guest Services volunteers, we were assigned to the stadium concourse or LRT transit/parking area, basically to answer questions, help people find their seats, smile, etc. The first few games were pretty quiet and time didn't really move very fast, but as usual the volunteers were super nice and I really enjoyed talking to them over the course of the event. As a Team Leader, I was responsible for scheduling volunteer breaks for my crew and making sure everything was going well. I got to carry around a radio but thankfully nothing really went awry.

My last shift was the big Canada/Germany playoff game, so it was stupid busy and chaotic - a taste of what the Women's World Cup will be like in 2015! All in all, it was a good experience. Nice staff, nice volunteers, nice fans, interesting event. A good experience overall and I'm excited to hopefully be a part of the experience in 2015.

Canada vs Germany. Lot's of fans came out and it was super exciting!

And it's now my dream to volunteer for a Winter Olympics!! I'm hoping to get on with the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and then the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea! It's nice to have a new dream!