Monday, April 06, 2015

Book Review: Sarah Bishop

This month's book club genre was 'published the year you were born'. It was hard for me to search because googling "published in 1980" mostly came up with results for "published in 1980s" which was not helpful. Not even my superstar librarian tricks solved that problem. In the end I narrowed it down to two. The first was Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates, a gothic mansion family generational novel that sounded interesting enough but ended up being just as many pages as those Game of Thrones books I don't have time to finish, so that was out. The only other book that sounded remotely interesting was by the Island of the Blue Dolphins author - and I loved that book! So, I figured, how bad could it be?

April 2015: Published the Year You Were Born

Sarah Bishop
By Scott O'Dell
1980
192 pages

It's the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). Sarah Bishop's father is a royalist (pro British), and her brother a patriot (free America!). Her brother enlists and dies. Her father dies when patriot assholes burn down their house. She works in a pub for awhile, then gets into trouble with a lying British Captain. This part of the book was depressing.

Running from the law, the only thing for Sarah to do is enter the wild. She finds a cave and a cute albino bat. She procures food and fixes up the cave as home. A pair of Native Americans help her during their travels through Sarah's bit of the wild. This part was interesting. I wish it ended here.

But then Sarah get's convinced to go to a Quaker meeting in town and they throw her in jail for being a witch. Then she get's freed and goes back to her cave. This part was stupid and the ending was dumb.

It took me a couple hours to read this book, so it wasn't a complete waste of time, but I didn't really enjoy reading it. Would I have enjoyed it if I was in junior high as the target audience? Maybe, Island of the Blue Dolphins is pretty depressing too. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone though. There's got to be better YA books out there. Throw this in the waste of time pile.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: Beatrix Potter - The Complete Tales

I missed the book club get together last month, so couldn't quite wrap my head around this month's theme: Shame on you! Why haven't you read that yet?!. I needed to find a book I was "supposed to" have read, but hadn't yet. This was a hard one. A lot of the popular books, like Twilight or The Hunger Games, I haven't read because I think they're crap. Same with some of the boring classics. And it was hard to find recommended lists for this too, but after trolling the interwebs, I settled on The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Nighttime. I went upstairs in our library to pull it off the shelf, and got distracted by the Tolkien section. Oh to have the time to read the entire Tolkien section.

Near to Tolkien, I happened to spy a beautiful volume of The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter. And true to this month's "genre", I have never read Beatrix Potter! Sure, I "know" the tale of Peter Rabbit, but I've never actually read any of the little books! So I checked it out, and it sat on my coffee table for three weeks, then I hastily read it over 3 evenings. Yay for short kiddie tales with pictures!

March 2015: Shame on you! Why haven't you read that yet?!

Beatrix Potter - The Complete Tales
By Beatrix Potter
2012
400 pages

This large volume has all of Potter's 23 animal stories and verses in complete, unabridged format and it includes all the original illustrations (colour and black and white)  as well. Did you know that Potter did all of the paintings and drawings? I had no idea. Also included are a couple picture sequences, and two unpublished stories. The stories are arranged in the chronological order in which they were published, starting with A Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902. Each story includes an short introduction, or background, about where/why Potter might've written the story, or to whom she dedicated it, or how the story setting related to her real life. The introductions do an excellent job of setting the scene, and helped transport me as the reader back to turn-of-the-century English countryside.

The stories themselves are quite cute. They are definitely of and for another time period, back when children were allowed to read stories about bags of bunnies being cooked in a Mr. Tod's (the fox) oven (spoiler - the bunnies are rescued). The animals are anthropomorphized, in their cute human clothes, the houses they live in, the items they keep and the activities to do (to market so we can have a dinner party!). And sometimes, there are even humans living alongside the animals. I did find the stories a bit...well, I'm not the target audience. Some of the endings are a bit twee or abrupt, some of them don't seem to have any point at all (like the one about Pig Robinson), and some are just plain boring (like sadly almost any story with a cat in it). But I can see how they would be lovely read-alouds to young children, who would quite enjoy the cute characters and idyllic scenery. It's also quite sweet how some of the characters are reoccurring, and the map inside the book cover really makes it feel like Potter created a world of animals and nature within our own world.

I think my favourite story is The Tale of Peter Rabbit, because, well, look at how cute he is!


It's also your typical morality tale of the "serves you right because you were naughty" variety. And, if you read the rest of the tales, when Peter Rabbit comes up again, he is much changed from his experience, and is basically a kind, upstanding member of the community, his veggie stealing days behind him. Aw.

I'd recommend this book, or any of the Beatrix Potter tales, to anyone who has small children. The artwork alone is worth a look, as some of her paintings are quite the portrayal of the perfect country life. This is a worthy collection for adult fans as well, so if you remember reading these stories as a kid, pick up this book and read them again to your own kiddlets!




Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: Frostbike

When I was looking to buy my new house, I made sure I was close to a direct public transit bus to work. As my house hunt progressed, I started to consider bike routes to work - and I totally lucked out! My new house is less than 6km from work and my bike route is awesome! It's all sidewalk, paved trail or quiet residential street, plus it's flat. In the summer it takes me about 25mins door to door, and in the winter about double. That's right - I biked in the winter! Well, not every day, but most days. I took the bus when it was super windy or during and for a few days after heavy snowfalls. And then I got lazy and found reliable free parking a few blocks from work so I drove during the dead of winter, but I'm back on my bike now! I love it. It's quicker than traffic. I don't pay for parking (or the bus). It's better for the environment. It's exercise. It's freedom.

So I was excited to read Frostbike!

Frostbike
By Tom Babin
2014
304 pages

Tom Babin is a journalist currently at the Calgary Herald. One day instead of getting stuck in winter traffic, he digs out his bike, some long johns, and starts pedalling! But why don't more people bike in the winter? Babin sets out to dispel myths, provide tips, explore bike cities around the world and ultimately encourage everyone to ride through the snow. 

Frostbike is split into 3 sections. First is The Bike. Do you need a special bike to ride in the winter? Babin describes the winter bikes of the past, tests out a fat bike, and talks about the trial and error mods for his own bike. He discovers that with a few minor tweaks, you can ride any bike in the winter. So surely that's not stopping most people from winter biking?

Next is The City. Perhaps the most controversial, Babin talks about winter bike infrastructure, politics, and snow removal. He travels to the top winter biking cities to learn how all the people move around on their bikes and discovers bike infrastructure helps, but people bike in all sorts of cities with all sorts of winter issues.

Finally is The Attitude. Why did we stop playing outside in the winter? Why does no one ever walk around town in the snow? Why are outdoor winter sports participation rates dropping? Why don't we enjoy winter anymore? His advice? Just try it! And Babin closes the books with tips to help you love it.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about winter biking, or to those who are wise winter bike veterans - Babin's book is an easy quick read that is informative and interesting. It's inspiring too, it might get you on two wheels.

Honestly, it was a tough sell in the beginning but I'm so glad I got into winter biking! It's harder in the winter, and it takes longer and sometimes it's cold and slippy but it's still better than getting stuck in traffic! I'm looking forward to the spring/summer/fall bike season, but next winter you'll find me and my handmedown mountain bike with studded tires back on the road. Try it! You'll like it!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: The Sisters Brothers

Every year, the university I work at chooses a book of the year. We all read it and then the author visits and there's public readings, workshops, etc. I was super excited to read this year's book because rumour said it was a darkly humorous western - I like dark humour (I think) and I hadn't read a western in...well ever but I super love Firefly so I couldn't wait to read it. I was able to convince book club to read dark comedies for February and couldn't wait to take The Sisters Brothers along with me to Moose Jaw for my vacation!

February 2015: Dark Comedy

The Sisters Brothers
By Patrick deWitt
2011
325 pages

Charlie and Eli Sisters are infamously known as the Sisters Brothers - hired, brutal killers. The Commodore sends them out to San Francisco to find a prospector who assumably did wrong. The brothers head out on their new used horses, and after a series of misfortunes (and killings) eventually find the prospector. But things don't go as planned and the brothers' future is irreparably changed.

This book is full of shooting and dirt and horses and gold dust. Eli is the narrator and deWitt does a suburb job giving insight into his character. The younger brother is a pensive man; seeing the wild west through his eyes somewhat tempers the violence. You can really feel his inner dilemma about his chosen career. deWitt does a great job overall of making the killing not overly violent, and I guess this is the dark humour of the novel. Consider Eli's unfortunate horse, Tub, who is a most tragic character, yet all the ills that befall him are actually...funny, in a perverse way. Poor Tub.

Besides the violence, which is really in the background, I really enjoyed reading this western. It makes me wonder why I don't read more westerns - something I will definitely fix in the future! I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes westerns, and horses,  or darkly humorous books, or those who aren't scared of violence. It's a quick read, I think y'all should pick it up and follow the Sisters Brothers through their gold dust tinged last job!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Scotties Canadian Women's Curling Championship: Update 2

Thursday. I slept through my alarm and thank goodness my lunch friend texted me to confirm a reservation at our favourite cafe, otherwise I would've slept through the draw and my job! I made it just in time though, with extra time to proofread my stupid text so I don't make anymore embarrassing typos!


I love watching multiple games at once!


Brian Mudryk filming a 5th end interview.


Another cute kid, for those who where wondering where Cameron was.


Rider Kevin Glenn was around to say hi to Team Saskatchewan.




Another delicious lunch at The Gallery Cafe. Another game. A wee nap? Dinner of poutine in the Heartstop Lounge with a volunteer. Another game. Completely unbiased media cheering for the last shot of the night. Bedtime!


***


Friday, only two draws today. The first draw was media overload - everyone was in town, even though apparently the highways were full of cars in the ditch!

My poor camera suffers from somewhat of an inferiority complex.


There was a long break because there was no tiebreaker game, so it was another delicious lunch at The Gallery Cafe, followed by some quality time with a book, and then back to the arena!

What a game. Close. Heartbreaking. Playoffs are intense - 4 more games to go!

Getting ready to play the 1 vs 2 game.


Tough battle out there.


***


Saturday. Another 2 tense games. Seriously, I could feel my chest tightening for those women. In the end both games were great - came down to the last rocks. Couldn't ask for better curling!

Christmas colours 3 vs 4 game.

Final shot...


Final shot...


Media was just buzzing about the Saskatchewan win!


Team Canada (Rachel Homan) won't make the semi.


Team Saskatchewan (Stefanie Lawton) ready to go for the evening's semi final!

AB vs SK in the semifinal.


Slider dances to the Rider's Pep Band. Dude is hilarious.


Happy winner Val Sweeting (Team Alberta) ready to go to the final!


It was sad today to eat my final lunch from The Gallery Cafe, and this one was the best one! I'm totally putting turkey, brie and pear on a sandwich or something in the future.

As it was an early night, I had time to blog a bit, read a bit, internet a bit, and sleep a lot!


***


Sunday. Last day of curling. This was bittersweet. I'm ready to go home, but I am having as great time and have settled into the routine - basically I don't want to go back to work. It's also that time when you have to say goodbye to all the people I've worked with all week. I know I'll see some of them again down the road, but this is still the hardest part of the end.

No morning game so I got to sleep in and relax before heading to the arena for the bronze medal game. And it was a sad one for the home province. Saskatchewan lost a tough one, 4th 4 years in a row. Hopefully they come back and get themselves into that final next year!

Another Christmas game - this time for the bronze!


Intense!


Last tv time out!


Rider's Pep Band getting the crowd excited for the 10th end.


I think I'll watch the final end from here!


Great win by Team Homan (formerly known as Team Canada).


Sad loss for Team Lawton - I hope they'll be back!

I finally tried Taco in a Bag - and it wasn't that bad! I wouldn't eat it regularly, but it made for a not horrible dinner!


The final was another intense game! It never gets old, waiting near the gate with the herd of media, then running onto the ice, filming the skips with terrible background songs as audio, then watch the closing ceremony, then film/edit/post - all done!!

Mascot dance off! Live it live!


It's the final! MB vs AB!


Slider's found himself some wheels!


Such a great game!


And this is what they're playing for!


Going to miss my hockey dressing room office! I really enjoyed working with all the media guys, the CCA folks and the volunteers!

Sad. It's been a great event! Fantastic venue, super friendly people, great town - I'll miss it for sure! Bittersweet to be leaving, especially since it was suck a fun week and my last event of the season. I hope I'll be back for another couple events next year, and I can't wait to do it all again!

And that's a wrap from the Moose Jaw Scotties! See you next year!



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 Scotties Canadian Women's Curling Championship: Update 1

It's Monday! Hard to believe it's only day 3, seems like I've been here forever, but in a good way! I think I've endeared myself to the media volunteers and enjoy their company in the lounge between games and then backstage waiting for the media show to start.  And I think I have been accepted by the media guys, which is much quicker than usual - either because they're super friendly or I'm just getting better at this whole pretending-to-be-a-cameraman thing. Regardless, it feels like home and should make for an excellent week!

So I set a challenge for myself and think I came out on the losing end. Taco in a Bag is a thing here, as I'm sure it is in many small town prairie rink, but I've never sampled it. What is Taco in a Bag you ask? Split a bag of doritos down the edge, add taco meat, lettuce, salsa, sour cream and cheese, throw in a plastic for and voila! Cuisine. Or something. I said I'd eat it if I got 12 recommendations and between twitter and Facebook it didn't take too long. I promise, one day this week...

Today was busy for the media. Being more comfortable with the job and the media guys means I'm piping up and yapping at everyone a bit more so it's been fun. Actually, it was quite fun. It was Family Day in Saskatchewan on Monday so I got to put together this...


Crap. Typo. sigh.


Cute kid alert #1! This is Isabella and Jennifer Jones. I tweeted this photo and it's gotten the most retweets/favourites of any tweet I've ever tweeted. Ever.


Cute kid alert #2! This is Eric and Stephanie Lawton. His yawn in the video above is just the most well timed cuteness ever!


View from the front row.


An ice tech shares his fries with Richard Hart, who shares them with the TSN boom camera operator. Curling is such a sharing sport.


***


On Tuesday there was no morning game, so we went to the Tunnels of Moose Jaw - and they were AWESOME!! I was sad to miss the tourist spot last time I was here for curling in 2012 so we made sure we got out this time. There's two different tours. One is very historically reflective about the hardships endured by Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s. You get to tour an underground laundry and a couple other areas - it's a sad story but very interesting. The guide did a great job conveying the trials of the labourers. I knew about the head tax, but I never knew how marginalized the Chinese people were at that time. The second tour was about Al Capone's bootlegging operation. We saw a lounge, some of Al Capone's rooms, and of course the tunnels where they hid the booze. The guides were fantastic: very in character and had the group laughing or screaming. The Capone tour was a bit more interactive as the guides voluntold people to do different things, whereas the laundry tour was more of a group immersion into the hard lives of the workers. All in all, I was very impressed with staging of both tours, and especially with the guides -  they were fantastic, very informative and in character. It was pretty neat to be lead around the different tunnels knowing that this was all happening right under Main Street! I would highly recommend the Tunnels of Moose Jaw to anyone travelling through town as they were well work my 2hrs/$25. And next time I'm here for curling (?) I'm totally going again!

Now if only I'd remembered a bathing suit for the spa pool...

Moose Jaw is a nice town. I quite like it here.


After a lovely late lunch at The Gallery Cafe (why don't I ever think of putting brie and pear into a turkey sandwich??) with a CCA friend, I couldn't stop smiling! It was like I was actually on vacation. But back to the curling world!

Also on Tuesday, my media utopia was somewhat trampled. I arrived to find large news networks had usurped my spot in the media workroom and moved their cameras into the scrum area. I forgot this would happen later in the week, and not like I begrudge the national broadcast of my favourite sport, but they do make me feel like an amateur. Luckily, I've made enough friends with the local and CCA media and with the volunteers plus my CCA friends to keep me going and despite my new "cosy" spot in the media workroom, I'm still really looking forward to the rest of the week!

Those hardworking mascots, putting in such long days, they must be exhausted!


Except somewhere in the third end of the evening draw on Tuesday I signed up for Plenty of Fish. Again. What was I thinking?!


***


Wednesday. Typo day. The powers that be spotted 3 and I got all ashamed and had to make more work for someone to fix it and crap they can't fire me now but what if they don't want me back. sigh.

Also there was some curling and I had a delicious lunch again at The Gallery Cafe and interesting conversation over dinner with the media guys and also there was some curling.

I kept Cathy's seat warm for her this morning.


There's some lovely Scotties and curling art at the Gallery.

I can't believe I let 3 typos get uploaded to youtube. I guess this is why I'm a librarian and not in the actual media business. I'm such a schmuck!






Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 Scotties Canadian Women's Curling Championship: Opening Weekend

I'm back! The 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian Women's Curling Championship is being held in Moose Jaw, SK and I was happy to be asked to revive my job as that media girl who films/edits the media scrums! I've been looking forward to it ever since last year's Canada Cup, which was a good time.

I flew out to Moose Jaw on Friday morning. I chatted to a curling fan sitting beside me on the plane. I chatted to curling fans waiting for my luggage. I chatted to curling fans waiting for the shuttle. I chatted to curling volunteers/staff on the shuttle. This is why I keep saying yes to doing these events: the people are so fantastic! Everyone, staff, volunteers, curlers, fans, every single one is super friendly and happy to chat curling or otherwise. This is why I keep coming back. Sure, I could go on a fancy holiday somewhere fancy (or warmer) but I've learned over the years it's not about where you go, it's about who you're with. And I'd much rather chatter to curling strangers and friends than go exploring the world on my own. So that's that.

Pretty. Flat.


On the shuttle from Regina to Moose Jaw, it struck me that Saskatchewan really is flat, flatter than Alberta, but beautiful country. I was in Moose Jaw for the 2012 Canada Cup and I remember the city being very friendly. Also, the arena is perfect because it's smallish and right across the street from a Safeway, which is very important as otherwise I'd have to eat arena food for 10 days! After checking in to the hotel, I walked the 5mins to the arena. See, perfect.

Location, location, location.


I got my accreditation and acclimated to the venue. I set up my laptop and 'stuff' in the media room, and helped set up the lights for the scrum area. Then I watched the Hot Shot Qualifier for a bit, caught up with a CCA (Canadian Curling Association) friend for a bit, relaxed at the hotel for a bit, then headed to the opening banquet. I'm not much for small talk so I always find those things a bit awkward but I did have some lovely conversations with Cathy Overton-Clapham and a few fantastic CCA/Krueger people. I always learn so much about the business of curling from these great people. And, as I've never been to a Scotties banquet, I learned all about how the jewelry for the curlers works: after they win their province, the get a 4 Heart pendent and then every year they qualify after they get a diamond (up to 4), then for the 6th trip to the Scotties they get a tennis bracelet with a diamond every year after, and for every Scotties win they get a ring and progressively bigger diamond every year after. And Cathy O has been there the most so she has an extra special bracelet. Lot's of gold and diamonds but diamonds are a girl's best friend, right? (I'll keep my opinions on that to myself, but will admit the jewelry is pretty - you'll be able to see the pendants on TSN).

Hot Shots qualifier - one of my favourite events - wish I had those skills!


Saturday I woke up to wind and snow and cold. I made it to the arena too late to catch all the opening ceremonies, but did see some past Saskatchewan Scotties winners throw out the first stone. Then I prepped a bit, and watched the Hot Shot finals. How cool was it that Heather Strong (NL) won twice in a row! It's a hard event to win and I love that the superstar skips rarely win it - it's someone else who plays lights out and takes home the truck!


Newfoundland/Labrador for the win!


Wrong box!


One of my favourite parts of working these events is walking around backstage. I love this stuff! I did screw up though (forgot to push record, oops) and then when I tried to fix it I annoyed a curler. Oops. Lesson learned! I'm not fired yet, but I still felt bad about that a day later. I guess I'm not quite cut out to be a full time media pro.

Sunday marked the start of the routine. Get up, walk to the arena, watch curling, film, edit, post video, walk to Safeway for lunch, watch curling, film, edit, post video, walk to Safeway for dinner, watch curling, film, edit, post video, find a ride home or walk, sleep. Repeat!

Repping my province!


The Eye(s) on the Ice - Ice Techs rock! Oh, and you can see Taco in a Bag! More about that next post...


Sometimes this is my view, but that's ok too.


These "soft" mascots are walking around, just waiting for you to take your picture with them.


I told you last event what NFG means - anyone remember?


This is a good view too.


The one blip in my routine this week will be making the Influential Coaches videos. I've been asked to put a few together over the week and the first one turned out pretty well. I love this idea - it's great that the ladies are so keen to show their coaches some curling love!