Saturday, July 19, 2014

Return of the Planter

After being up north near Thunder Bay for the past couple of months, my sister is finally home.  Last Thursday, I got a text around lunch time saying that she was coming home. Nearly 12 hours later she was sleeping in her bed.

I'm really glad she's back and it really wasn't the same at home without her.  Now she has about a month and two weeks of summer left before school begins.  In a sense, she's lucky because she managed to work and have a vacation whereas I am locked within my job and can't even take a day off, but I know that her job was really hard.

Everyday, she had to plant thousands of trees in rugged terrain. Starting around 8, they worked to 5 everyday, this not including their ride in from and then back to their camp.  Speaking of their camp, she lived in a tent for the work period. At the start of the season in May, it was still frigid up north and they even had snow for a few days. After the cold left, the bugs came out in swarms. Black flies would be so thick that they created their own cloud and fog.  Really, my sister says the experience was not "fun" and definitely not a walk in the park.  But she survived and accomplished  lot.

I'm proud of her, but again, also really happy that she is home.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lost & Found

May 2-4 I switched from my dad's house to my mum's. My mum and I were going up to visit her parents and as we set out, I realized I didn't have my ipod to play in the car. At the time, I wasn't overly concerned. I thought I knew exactly where it was at my dad's.  What with switching houses every week I was used to certain items being left behind and figured I'd just see it in a week.

Well, that week went by and upon returning to my dad's, I went immediately to that remembered location. The ipod was not there. I figured I must have put it somewhere so I began to tear apart my room. Nothing. Still though, I wasn't worried. I'm not a stranger to losing things and figured it had to turn up eventually.  The following week I went back to my mum's and did a search there, too. Maybe I brought it over and just forgot. Still nothing.

By now, I was a little worried. My ipod had been missing for 2 weeks and now I was so far removed from when I last had it I had no idea what I did with it. A full month passed and I started to feel antsy. I'm not a huge ipod user--if I was, I probably would have panicked a little more, but as I neared 6 weeks, I started contemplating other options. Could I find one used? Should I buy a new one? Wait until Christmas?  I didn't need my ipod, but I was starting to want it, especially when I went running.

At last I found it this past week. My sister is coming home from tree planting soon and while she's been give, I've been sleeping in her bed at my mum's. My bed squeaks every time you move and I was getting really annoyed. With her returning though, I needed a new solution.  So my mum and I took down the bed and brought up the futon from upstairs. During the process, I had to move the drawers from under my bed. On a hunch, I opened the back end up one and pulled a sweater I haven't worn in weeks--nay, months--an d checked the pockets. There it was: two months later, my ipod.

I'm reminded of the parable from the bible (Luke 15:8-10) about the widow who loses one of her coins. She tears apart her house and when at last she finds it, she goes to her friends and rejoices. I can understand the joy over finding the small things, that really, in the grand scheme of things, don't mean a whole lot, but still count for something.

What have you lost & found?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Skeleton Writing

Once again I am participating in Camp NaNo. As much as I'd like to participate in November during regular NaNo, November is always a really busy month--especially for university students.  With exams in December and final assignments due every other day, I've always found NaNo a little too stressful for my liking. April and July have tended to fit better with my schedule. I also like being able to select my word goal.  This month, I set a goal of 30,000 words. At about half way through the month, I am currently on tract with around 1,000 words a day.  The story I'm working on is nearing the end and in total, I have over 40,000 word.  By the time Camp NaNo is done for this month, I should be sitting around 55,000.

A couple months ago, I sat down with some cue cards and wrote down different events or scenes that still needed to happen or that I wanted to happen.  My problem at the time was that I didn't know which order to put them in.  Did I want my MC to discover a certain room first?  Did I want him to have a conversation with another important character next or should that wait until after he'd overhead something else?  For days I stared at my cards and played with different orders.  At last, I forced myself to pick one because I wanted to progress in the writing.  I thought to myself, If the order really bugs you later, you can always move and alter the completed scenes, but if they aren't even written, that won't be easy to do.

Those cue cards are what I'm still going off of and part of the reason I am still running into difficulty.  As I go to write some of the scenes, I start to second guess myself.  These self-doubts sometimes lead to changes such as characters changing names after 10+ pages or rooms moving/disappearing, or even descriptions changing drastically changing.  Basically, my word document is a mess of chaos.  I have notes in the margins for things like: "Is this consistent?"  "Double check your map." "I really don't know how you smoke meat." and "Move later?"  I'm sure future me will love reading back through all of it later.

Some days, the words seem to put themselves on the page and my fingers fly across the keyboard.  On those days, I pull myself to a stop, almost with a grim reluctance.  But then, there's been a few other days where I feel like 100 words is a lot of effort.  This past Thursday-Saturday were a bit like that. I was just at a point in the story where I wasn't sure what I wanted to happen next or what logically should happen next.  When that happens, I force myself to keep going.  To get to the next scene which will hopefully be easier.  I tell myself that right now, all I'm doing is working on the skeleton.  I'm creating the frame for my story so that I know where I'm coming from to where I'm going.  I can always perform surgery later, if I need to, when I go back to flesh it out.

I think that's one of the big things for any NaNo.  It's not about writing the perfect story, but about writing.  About moving forward toward your set or given goal.  No good essay is the same as the first draft and neither is no good novel.  In high school, I don't think I would have understood that.  What I wrote first would have most likely ended being handed in--if tweaked for better sentence structure and grammar.  The past couple years in university, I've had to throw out pages of material because it didn't fit or it was too wordy or it was just garbage.  My best papers went through countless edits and revisions.  Why should it be any different with a novel which is ten times longer (well, depending on the paper) and contains a longer plot?

That said, I will push forward with my skeleton because I know that once the bones are formed, I'll be that much closer to having a finished product that I can be proud of.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Boy VS Girl Movies?

The other day I was talking with some friends about animated films and one of them made the offhand comment that DreamWorks (and in relation Pixar and Disney) tend to work in an alternating fashion, releasing a "boy" movie one year and then a "girl" movie the next.  I stopped for a moment and tried to force recall the movie releases of the last couple years. All I could remember was Brave then Wreck-it-Ralph then Frozen, which would fit the pattern. When I later came home I did some research and realized my error. I was remembering movies I had seen in theatres, but there were a number of others that hadn't interested me at all. The pattern was all of a sudden void. (See full list here for Disney (ex. Brave (2012), Frankenweenie (2012), Wreck-It-Ralph (2012), Monsters University (2013), Planes (2013), Frozen (2013)) and for DreamWorks Animation).

However, the overall comment still gnawed at my consciousness. I couldn't help but think, "what makes a boy movie? What makes a girl movie?" Is it based on the gender of the main character or whether there are masculine machines vs frilly clothing? If the Lion King is a boy movie, and the Little Mermaid a girl movie, would Aladdin then fall in the boy category?  How can we add labels based on categories like that? Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-it-Ralph, How to Train Your Dragon, Monsters University... these would most likely be labeled as "boy" movies. And yet (except for the last which I haven't seen), I loved these films and I know countless other girls who felt the same. Likewise, TangledBrave, Frozen--classic "girl" movies are also liked by an audience of boys.

What kind of impressions are we placing on children when we teach them that certain movies, certain stories--certain ideas are strictly reserved for specific genders?

Even with adult films--why are action movies considered primarily for guys and RomComs for girls? We have freedom of opinion and our likes and dislikes change as we grow. Everyday we are surrounded by gender stereotypes that we have self-created and I, for one, get tired of playing into their rules.  I don't like having these categories resting over my head.  I will choose to like what I like--whether it's considered masculine or feminine or both.

Thank you for reading my food for thought.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Too much garbage!

Well, the summer is already half over. I'm currently finishing up week 10 of my 18 week summer employment. I don't remember if I have mentioned it, but I am now a professional grass cutter. I cut grass all-day-everyday for the town. An exciting life, eh? For the most part, I don't mind my job. I'm not new to grass cutting as I have past experience working on a golf course (a job I loved and now miss). I like that we get to drive all over my city to get to different parks--each day is different which means I'm never bored.

On my crew, we have nearly 40 different parks to cut in a 16 day cycle. That's a lot of cutting and I feel like so far we've been eternally behind. Mostly because of weather and situational factors (e.g. broken equipment).

Sometimes though, the delay is related to extra work that arises. Namely, garbage cleanup. If a park is really dirty, we need to clean up the litter so that it doesn't get mulched by the machines. Picking up garbage takes a surprisingly long time from twenty to forty minutes. On the whole, I don't mind as it creates a change from trimming, but sometimes the filth astounds me. Call it a bit if a pet peeve.

Let me set the scene so that you can understand my frustration. Our parks have a number of soccer fields and like any good public establishment, they have been socially engineered to suit people needs. If you haven't guessed already, I'm referring to garbage.  Garbage cans are placed conveniently for easy access. You would think then, that they would be used to the fullear, but no. I have found 30+ water bottles within 20 feet of a can along with an assortment if napkins and sport tape. Less than 20 feet away! Is it really that difficult to walk over? That's what the garbage bin is for so why not use it?

Not only are you makinh my job harder, but you are creating a grotesque view of the fields. For the most part, this rubbish has been by the team benches so I ask: if you are a parent of a player, a friend/family member of a player or a player yourself, please respect the fields. Don't be lazy and put your garbage where it belongs.

And yep. That is all for today. Goodbye.

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...