Saturday, 31 July 2010

So far this weekend, I have:

played on 3 playgrounds
danced around a field with sparklers
had a mid-afternoon nap
spent an hour and a half in a children's book store
spent the evening thus far curled up with my newly-purchased copy of Five Children and It.

Tonight I'm actually going to be all grown-up-like and go out dancing and stay out well past my bed time.

Friday, 30 July 2010

This is my 300th post, and it is a gnome-tastic celebration!

The fact that I've written 300 posts here over the past 3 years is occasionally the only reason I don't ditch this blog and build a shiny new one with a brand new title and design.

Today, however, I'll spread some gnome lovin'! Because this blog is all about the gnomes.

In case you forgot, here's the link to my gnome story, which I shared at the Johnny Pez Blog as part of last November's NaBloPoMo blog swap.

Here's a Happle Tea comic about gnomes. Because I love gnomes. They're from the ground.

Here's a tiny gnome knitted by Anna of Mochimochiland. All of her tiny things are adorable. Seriously adorable. Actually most of her non-tiny things are adorable too. If you like adorable knitted things, you should read her blog. She also made a factory which turns pandas into gnomes (no wonder they're endangered!).

That depletes my store of gnominess, but a quick Etsy search turned up all of these gnome-y goodies, plus much more!

See? Aren't gnomes just the best? Hooray for gnomes!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


I want to do something crazy. I want to break into an old abandoned building or go somewhere at night that I know I'm not supposed to be after dark or climb over fences to get into places I'm not supposed to be. I want to break the rules. I want to cause trouble. I want to do something wrong. I want to make the less safe decision.

I also want to play paintball or have a water fight or a big game of capture the flag or one of those other games that are high-energy, low-skill, and you just run around, act silly, and try to win. I want to be loud and I want the adrenaline rush and I want to run until I can't breathe and my heart is pounding so hard it feels like it might burst.

I also keep watching this video (Yes, I know I've linked to it before) and just wishing that there were some sort of magical mystical realm just on the other side of the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before, where you could just have adventures and explore and quest and find yourself and it would be like a rite of passage and then you could just come out and get on with your life, no questions asked, and everything would make sense and it would all just work and not be so complicated.

This is all somehow related.
Going back in time a bit from yesterday's post, I was at home for this past weekend. I thought I had been having a pretty good summer, and wasn't super keen on going home and missing out on Hali-happenings, but as soon as I got there I was so glad I did.

Friday night I spent the whole evening having a fire with my parents. My dad just finished making this beautiful fire circle that he's been working on for at least two years now. It's set back in the woods a bit, with a stone wall built around it except for where the path enters. There are solar-powered lanterns along each side of the path and around the inside of the wall, with solar-powered lights strung around the one tree in the centre of the circle. Then there's beautiful wooden furniture for sitting on. We sat out there all evening cooking food over the fire and talking. My parents told stories of when they were in university, which are always my favourite stories.

Saturday morning we got up and went to the Hubbards Farmer's Market. It's not nearly as big or interesting as the Halifax Farmer's Market, but I still like it. It's held at the Hubbards Barn and Community Park, which is a wonderful place. The barn is big and beautiful and the gardens outside are absolutely lovely. Mom said that it gets rented out for wedding receptions pretty much every Saturday evening, and everyone who's been to one says that it's absolutely amazing when they have it all decorated up. I could totally have a wedding reception there. Future husband, be warned: must be open to the possibility of barns.

We picked up breakfast at the market (chocolate covered oat cakes, yum!), and then dropped dad off at home while mom and I went shopping. She took me to get pretty things and food, which are my two favourite things to shop for. After that we went home and had lunch on the deck of the other yummies we got at market: fresh multi-grain bread, smoked salmon, and cherry tomatoes in a variety of colours. Summer food is the best.

Mom and I went to the beach for the afternoon, and then she and dad went to a barbecue with some friends while I stayed home for the early evening and then headed out to a movie with my friends. We saw Inception, which was really good, although I would not say it lived up to the hype everyone was giving it. Good movie, but in my books not worthy of "omg best movie evars it will blow your minds go see it nowwwww!"

Sunday was a lazier day; we stayed home and read and made food (yemista with lemon potatoes, have I mentioned I love food?) and watched tv and cleaned. We went to a movie in the evening because mom really wanted to see Despicable Me. It was cute, and funny in places, but probably won't go down in the books as a great children's classic or anything. We went home and ate delicious cheesecake and lemon chiffon.

Then in the morning I had to come back. Such is life.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Just Your Typical Evening

The playground was locked. We had ogled it on our way to and from class every day for the past year. Finally, we decided to trek back off the road to check it out. It was even better up close. There was even that Holy Grail of playground equipment: a tire swing. Better yet, the gate was even unlocked. To our dismay, there was a second gate, which was quite thoroughly locked. So we moved on.

On the way to our second-choice playground, we made the discovery of the summer. Tennis courts. Free for public use. Just a 5-10 minute walk from our apartment. With hardly anyone there. Likelihood of playing tennis is now greatly increased, since it no longer involves walking all the way to the Commons and then waiting for a court and then schmucking our errant balls into the middle of someone else's game.

Passing the tennis courts brought us to playground number two which, although accessible, was still a bitter disappointment. Their monkey bars were set up oddly, and none of their other play stuff was any good, and they had but one single swing. What kind of elementary school has a playground with just one swing? Mind-boggling.

We took a shortcut path back to the street and ended up coming out lower on that street than we had ever ventured before. On our way back up it toward home, we happened upon a third and completely unexpected playground. It was a wooden one too; I love wooden playgrounds best of all. The gate (what is with playgrounds being locked up around here?) stood wide open, so we rushed toward it excitedly - only to notice at the last minute the sign that said "Members only." Members of what, we weren't sure, but that's probably a good indication that we aren't members of it.

Having exhausted our local playground options, we meandered along. There was a cat sitting on someone's doorstep, so we stopped to pet him. He was friendly, so we stuck around for a while, and ended up sitting on this strangers stoop petting their cat and talking for quite some time. All of a sudden, we hear noise in the house of someone coming toward us. We bolted off that step and tried to walk casually away, glancing behind us to see a lady holding the cat and staring after us.

We decided to take the long way home because we weren't quite ready yet. The long way involves walking past a cemetery, and we were mildly curious about one of the big grave monuments. Not curious enough to walk all the way around to the gate. Just curious enough to crawl under the gap in the fence that I happened to notice. By this time it was after dark, but still we wandered around the cemetery, looked at all the big monuments, deciphered the old engravings by feel moreso than sight, and tried to determine how all the people buried under them were related. Just as we were beginning to get bored and feel like it was time to be heading home, we had an run-in with a couple of large white seashells - a disconcerting sight in a graveyard after dark from a bit of a distance. We decided it was definitely time to be getting home. Of course, this was just as a couple of guys were walking by our fence-gap, who made grave-robber jokes at us.

We cartwheeled our way through the Sobey's parking lot, and arrived home. Roomie C must have felt like going to Candy Mountain or stealing some kidneys or something, because the second we were inside, he greeted us with a cry of "shun the non-believer!" Of course, this left me no choice but to defend my believer status with a rendition of Smashmouth's "I'm a believer," which led to a roommate sing-a-long dance party.

But this is all just a typical day for us.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Great Lake Swimmers

Great Lake Swimmers are an absolutely amazing band. I used to listen to a couple of their songs back about 5 years ago before they even got popular. It was recently announced that they're performing at Halifax Pop Explosion this year, so I started listening to them again, and oh man they are so good.

You should listen to them too. You will not regret this decision. Also, then I will have friends to go see them with in October.

In short: Like this band so I don't have to feel like a loser.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

More Money Than Brains

I just finished reading More Money Than Brains by Laura Penny, which I won a few weeks ago from the #cbc140 contest that the cbcbooks twitter feed runs on a semi-regular basis. It's sort of funny that this happened to be the book I won, given that Laura Penny is not only local, but gave a handful of my first year university lectures.

It was a very interesting read. She expressed some ideas that I already agreed with, such as that business/engineering/otherwise career-related programs should be part of the college system, not universities; that it's ridiculous for people who have no interest in academics to go to university just because you need a degree to get a job these days; and that streaming people into technical/university paths like the European system does is maybe not a bad idea; and that standardized testing is a meaningless practice, among others.

She also tied her discussion into a much larger picture, however, one that includes politics and the media and the economy. The problems with the education are both a symptom and a cause of much larger-scale problems in the world in general.

The money-makers gonna bring us all down.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Toy Story 3

A couple nights ago Roomie J and I took advantage of half-price night at the movie theatre to go see Toy Story 3, and boy am I glad we did.

It was the most fantastic movie I have seen in quite a while - probably since Up, actually. I do maintain that in the past decade children's movies have been far superior to adult movies (Think Shrek, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up, and The Princess and the Frog, to name a few), but that's another story. Anyway, I was not really expecting it to be so wonderful. After all, this was the first Toy Story since Pixar was completely bought out by Disney, and after Disney's output these last few years (excluding P&tF, obviously) I was fearing the worst.

My fears turned out to be entirely unfounded. They managed to maintain character personalities, not do anything stupid, be funny without being juvenile, have a plot, and cause an emotional response. Not joking even a little bit: I bawled my eyes out for the entirety of the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone. Especially those of you who, like me, grew up with Toy Story.

A Few Tweaks

I've made a few changes around here in the past couple days.

The most time-consuming one was retagging all of my past posts into a more useful and comprehensive system. This will probably make minimal difference, especially compared to how long it took me, but I will never again have to tag something as being "drama llama" just because I thought it was a good idea three years ago.

I created two pages which can be found in the tabs just above the posts. Hooray.

I also rearranged the sidebar a little bit and updated my blogroll to reflect what I actually currently read.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Western World

The use of the word "West" in its academic context really, really bothers me. I mean when people talk about "the Western world," "Western culture," and "Western tradition." Any time someone does this in casual conversation, it's about all I can do to not chastise them for it. The word is a) grossly inaccurate and b) creates and extremely exclusionary discourse about World culture/history/politics/literature/whatever.

Point a) was pointed out by one of my profs last year. Point b) is something I realized a while ago when someone was discussing something along these lines, although I don't even remember what it was now.

When we use the word West in this sense, we do not mean any actual area of land that is actually West. We certainly don't mean the Western hemisphere:

This map clearly does not include enough of Europe, and too much South America and Africa. So, let's try adding a lot more Europe into the mix:

Horrors! Even more of Africa is included in that definition. No, what we really mean when we say "West" is a map that looks more like this:

So when you see the word "West" you should read it as "white." This is what we really mean. It no longer has anything to do with an actual geographic direction, although it did at one point before the New World got thrown in to the mix. The simple fact that it's inaccurate isn't such a big deal. There is a generally accepted definition which is accepted and understood by the majority of folks.

What I do have an issue with is the exclusionary attitude toward world history/culture/literature/whatever that this creates. The focus of so many discussions becomes the East/West divide, because this is the language we like to use. Unfortunately, when West means white and East means Asia, you end up with a world map that looks something like this:

And while I agree that East/West comparisons/contrasts are often useful and interesting, I also would like to know about Africa and the Middle East and South and Central America and Native Americans and the South Pacific. It bothers me that they are continuously excluded from our international discourse. They exist too. So let's get over our Western tradition of calling ourselves Western.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Good Online Reading

I feel like I've come across a lot of good reading material here on the internet lately, so I thought I'd share some of what I've been reading.

Teenagerie. This is a brand new project by Jamie Keiles, the girl who did the Seventeen Magazine Project, which I wrote about here. According to her own description, Teengaerie is "1: a collective set of media representations defining society's understanding of the exotic condition known as adolescence 2: a blog meant to analyze, deconstruct, and promote discussion centered around these representations." I know I (and most of my readers that I know about) aren't exactly teenagers any more, but we're not that far off (only 2 years older than Ms. Keiles), and a lot of her criticism of media is actually applicable outside of teen culture.

Spacing Atlantic. I've mentioned Spacing a couple of times before, but I don't think I've said a whole lot about it in any amount of detail. Spacing Atlantic is "dedicated to engaging readers with the urban environments of Canada’s Atlantic provinces." They post about transportation, public spaces, community development, and community events. I didn't realized how interesting urban development was until I started reading this blog. I recommend it quite highly. Spacing also has sites for Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, with Vancouver coming soon, as well as a podcast and a print publication.

Unphotographable. This is a beautiful blog that I discovered quite recently. It was started by Michael David Murphy, a photographer/writer, during a trip to Ethiopia on which he was told that taking photographs was considered not culturally-sensitive, and not a good idea in many communities. So instead he began Unphotographable, where he captured all of the picture picture moments in words instead of images. He has continued the blog ever since, and the entries range from the beautiful to the bizarre. Updates are generally sporadic and brief.

Happle Tea. I can't believe I somehow haven't shared this one yet; I've been reading Happle Tea for ages now. It is my most favourite webcomic ever. Its tagline "a webcomic about mythology and other things" is pretty much the best descriptor. It is often based on mythology, but sometimes mythology-inspired literature such as The Lord of the Rings, and sometimes history, and sometimes it's just about owls. It's usually about the main character Lil K, but sometimes it's not. Regardless, it always makes me laugh, and the author/artist Scott Maynard always includes a fun/interesting bit of accompanying writing which varies from explanation of obscurer myths to social diatribes.

Captain Estar Goes to Heaven. This is an online graphic novel. It is a little bit dark and disturbing. But it's really good. Captain Estar is a contract killer, and she wants to die but is not quite suicidal enough. She gets kidnapped and taken to Heaven, and what happens afterwards is the most interesting part.

That's the cream of the crop on my end. What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

101 in 1001 Update for the second half of June

In the latter part of this month I completed three goals, all of which I have already blogged about.

First, I finished #12, Attend a pow wow. This also took out 3 days of #50, Spend 10 days volunteering.

Then I completed #97, Score higher than 160 on the LSAT, and #63, Renew my scholarship for 4th year at pretty much the same time.

Also, I'm making some changes. My four exercise goals that were all "do x 20 times per day for a month, 3 months" have all been changed to "do x 20 times per day for a week, 12 weeks." I'm still doing basically the same amount over all. It's just hard to do a whole month without getting interrupted by something.

I actually have no idea what I may or may not accomplish in July, so this should be, er, exciting.

Monday, 5 July 2010

An Enormous Week, Part IV: Canada Day

Thursday came along, bringing with it Canada Day. The day started early. Roomie J and some co-workers were going to tour some of the ships that were in for Fleet Week, and I was invited along (mainly because Roomie J didn't want to be stuck with nerdy boys all day). We were going to see the USS Wasp, which is a friggin' enormous aircraft carrier, but the Commanding Officer decided at the last minute that for no apparent reason, he just wasn't letting any tours on that day. So instead we settled for the HMCS Athabaskan. It was pretty cool, I guess, although not nearly as interesting as Roomie J's co-workers seemed to think it was.

We grabbed some lunch, during which the boys continued to talk about ships and war and more ships and more war and blah blah blah. They went on to look at more ships, but Roomie J and I figured they would all be more or less the same, so we split off to go find other adventures. We checked out the Commons because we'd heard there was stuff going on there, but "stuff" turned out to be bouncy rides for small children. Then we took in the end of a concert at the Public Gardens. It was decent throughout; but at the very end the lead singer said that her dad had just died the day before and she was performing because it was what he would have wanted, and her family wanted her to do it, and then she sang "What a Wonderful World" in his memory and it was beautiful. I had a lot of respect for her.

It surprises me somewhat that Halifax doesn't have more to do. Back home there's a street festival in Lunenburg, then Bridgewater has various acts at the bandstand all day plus some more street vendors, and a street dance I've never gone to in the evening, and then fireworks. Halifax - you can look at boats, do kiddie stuff, listen to a short concert of oldies, go get drunk, or go to the later concert that was too late for people who get up at early hours of the morning. Why is there nothing, I don't know, interesting? You've really let me down, city.

Anyway, after that we came home and ate corn and barbecued potatoes and generally bummed around until it was time for fireworks. Halifax also does not do fireworks right. They have some impressive ones, to be sure, but they send them all up at the same time so you don't have time to appreciate them. Also they're really far away and therefore not nearly loud enough.

All in all it was not nearly as lame as I make it sound. There was a lot of delicious food, if nothing else. And I do like the city when it's busy and all the people are out walking and smiling and looking like they're having a good time. Also, I heart Canada.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

An Enormous Week, Part III: Royalty and Family

Wednesday morning was going better than usual at work; I got to head down to the Central Registry to pick up our next order of boxes, which means a) I got 15 solid minutes free from the room/the work, and b) I got to talk to the people down at the CR, who I actually like. When I got back upstairs, though, co-worker informed me that someone had come around when I was gone to let everyone know that we were allowed to go see the queen when she was leaving.

For the record, I am neither particularly pro- or anti-monarchist. We're a constitutional monarchy, that's just the way it is. It is perhaps superfluous but not inherently bad. I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Anyway. Personally, I was excited to see her not so much because she's the queen, but moreso because she's Queen Elizabeth II. She is such an icon; she wears the best hats, she is classy and elegant, she smiles and laughs in public all the time always, and she has managed to avoid media scandal (for personal reasons at least, she can't help the flak she gets just for being queen). So I was pretty glad I got a chance to see her, even if it was just for a minute as she walked from Government House to the car to go the airport, but she smiled and waved and she was wearing an awesome hat.

Around noon my dad called and said he came downtown for a meeting which got cancelled at the last minute, so we went out for lunch. It was a beautiful summertime patio lunch, and delicious. And I have seen/talked to my parents probably not enough lately. So it was lovely.

In the evening, Roomie J and I went to see the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. A friend of mine is volunteering and as a thank you they gave out free tickets to the preview show, but he couldn't use them since he was working backstage at the time of the preview show, so he kindly gave the tickets to us. It was an excellent show! I've seen it two other years, and it is brilliant every time. The show consists of marching bands, military drills acrobatics, highland dancing, singing, fireman competitions and much more. The music is amazing, the showmanship is impressive, and hey, lots of men in uniform doesn't hurt either. We had a fabulous time. At the end of the show they always open the floor to the public to interact with the performers, so we went down, told a few people they were great, and received sweet pins from some RCMP guys.

Friday, 2 July 2010

An Enormous Week, Part II: The Intangibles

Warning: May contain mild tooting of my own horn. I don't think I do this frequently, so indulge me this once?

So after the hectic weekend, I took Monday and Tuesday to a) relax, and b) clean. During that time, though, I received some important and much anticipated mail.

The first item of mail was of the e- variety, and contained my LSAT score. I didn't actually write very much in detail about the LSAT here beforehand, so maybe a little bit of that first.

A general explanation: The LSAT consists of six 35-minute sections. The first five sections are multiple choice. There are two sections of Logical Reasoning, where each question presents a paragraph containing some sort of argument, and you're asked about the main point or the flaw or something like that. There is one section of Analytical Reasoning, which is the type of question that goes something like "six people are going to a dinner party at a circular table. A can't sit by B, C has to sit by D, blah blah blah." There's one section of Reading Comprehension, which contains four passages with five to eight questions about each one. Then there's an "experimental" section, which will have the same type of question as one of the other sections, but is testing the difficulty of future questions, and therefore is not scored. These five sections are given in random order so you don't know which one is experimental. The final section is the writing sample, which gives a prompt to make a decision between two options based on certain criteria. The writing sample is not scored, but is sent to any law school you apply to.

So, my LSAT experience went something like this: I started studying about a month beforehand, and did a lot of it. Analytical Reasoning came pretty naturally for me. Logical Reasoning was straightforward, it was mostly a matter of getting faster. Reading Comprehension I found brutally hard at first, and got them to be manageable by the end. I wrote four practice exams, and scored 164, 165, 172, and 166. Those were consistent enough that I was pretty much expecting mid-160s. Marks range from 120 to 180, and are based on a curve, not number of questions right or wrong. The practice exams which are released do not contain an experimental section, so the actual exam took 35 minutes longer, making it difficult to be entirely prepared for the length.

I felt mostly pretty good about the exam immediately afterwards. This sitting of the LSAT had Reading Comprehension as the experimental, meaning I had to do my hardest section an extra time, and the one that counted was the fifth section, so my concentration was flagging by that point. I was worried that might lower my score a bit. I ended up with a 168, though, which is better than I was expecting based on practice tests/my exam experience, so I was pretty happy with that. It does still seem a long way off from the coveted 180, but it actually puts me in the 96th percentile, so it's just because their scale is absurd.

Sorry that ended up being so long-winded. Anyway. The other exciting item of mail I received was the much-anticipated scholarship letter. A short history of why this is so exciting: I came in to first year with the largest entrance scholarship King's gives out. My marks at the end of first year weren't quite good enough for renewal, which was pretty disappointing. I worked really hard in second year to get them back up to where they needed to be, only to receive a letter informing me that due to financial difficulties, they'd had to raise the required GPA for scholarship renewal up to just slightly higher than what mine was. Brutal. So actually receiving a scholarship this year was more exciting than maybe it should have been, but I'm very pleased about it.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

An Enormous Week, Part I: Ma'wiomi

This past weekend, the Grand Chief Membertou 400 Ma'wiomi was held on the Halifax Commons. This was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Grand Chief Membertou, a Mi'kmaq chief who was a great leader to his people, and sought peace with the Europeans.

It was a four day event involving a re-enactment of the baptism in Annapolis Royal, followed by a three day celebration in Halifax, including dancing and drumming competitions, a "cultural village" where various traditional Mi'kmaq practices were demonstrated, a vending area, a mass, and various concerts, including the legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie.

I spent the weekend volunteering at this marvellous event. It was a lot of work. I put in about 33 hours from Friday evening through to Sunday night, so I basically pulled a work week over my weekend. It was cold, it rained, it was too hot. I don't remember sitting down even once in the 13ish hours I was there on Sunday. But was it worth it? Yes. A million times yes.

For one thing, I met a whole bunch of really cool people. All of the other volunteers were fantastic. The staff were great. Most of the guests that I interacted with were lovely too. I got to spend a whole weekend learning about another culture, and not in a dead schoolbook way but in a real-life experiential beautiful way. Not to mention hearing the wonderful music, and seeing the beautiful regalia and dancing.

There were a few moments of the weekend that were absolutely beautiful and magical.

Saturday night, at the end of the competition dancing, they had someone play a round dance on a hand drum. In a round dance, everyone joins hands and does a sidestep in a circle. A few of the other volunteers and I went and joined in. Just looking around and seeing all the people there was incredible. There were hundreds of people in the dancing circle, all holding hands and smiling - people of every race and colour, every shape and size. It was incredible.

Sunday, in the afternoon, there were girls who did hoop dancing. This wasn't a competition category; there were only three girls and they said the tradition was for each one to lay out a shawl or a blanket to collect money from the audience. At the end of their performance, one of the girls (early to mid teens, I would say) announced that she was giving all the money she had earned to one of the drum groups, just because she liked their music and wanted to support them. They returned her kindness with a free copy of one of their CDs.

Also on Sunday afternoon, they had an honour song for Residential School Survivors. Everyone in the audience stood in silence while a single hand-drummer played and the survivors in attendance walked slowly around the circle. It was far more touching than I could ever find words to accurately describe.

Sunday evening, I was stuck doing clean-up, and feeling pretty bitter about having to pick up more garbage when I was tired out and had to go to work the next day and mostly at that point just wanted to go home. As I was thinking this, an elder happened to walk by. He stopped for a moment and said "Thank you so much for doing this; we really appreciate it," before continuing on his way. Picking up garbage got a lot more pleasant after that.

I think this is exactly the kind of event that Halifax should host more often (or perhaps that I should attend more often). I think there should be more events that really bring the community together, to interact in a positive and meaningful way. In a city better known for pub crawls and karaoke nights, I'm not sure this happens often enough.

I didn't get any pictures from the event; I was too busy living it. There are tons of beautiful ones over on the Facebook page, though. Also, Spacing Atlantic did a nice post about it, and brought out the context of how this event fits into the bigger picture of Halifax and the commons.