Tuesday, March 24, 2009

?'s Are Awesome

So if you read my previous post, ?'s Are Curvy, you will be interested to know that I got the internship with WHERE Calgary. They offered me the job today, and I start on May 4.

On that note, I really have to say I'm impressed with the diligence of Mount Royal's Career Services. I was at the gym when Where called to offer me the job, and seeing as working out is one of the only activities where it is still acceptable to not have your phone, they left a message. My career advisor, Chad, got wind of the fact that they were trying to contact me, and sent me another message as well as a frantic e-mail telling me to call the Where people ASAP.The poor guy has to find placements for 30 some students in a recession, so he can get a little intense, but you have to give Chad credit for doing a very difficult job.

And yes, for those of you who may get asked what your favourite punctuation mark is, the correct answer, is a question mark.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The End of the World As We Know It

My older sisters are constantly reminding me about how lax Mom and Dad have gotten with me and my brother since when they were living at home. I have to admit they're right. I remember when they were teenagers and I was a kid, and they had a lot more rules then Peter and I do.

Mostly, my parents have gotten more relaxed about the amount of media in our house. When I was little we had no channels, played no video games, and didn't really use the internet. And considering the fact that we went to Waldorf school, it was interesting enough that we had a tv. I remember being excited when we got one with a remote.

A few years ago, by brother rented a game cube, and instantly fell in love with pressing buttons and pretending he was a car racer/warrior/all star basketball player. Seeing it as a good incentive, my mother told him that if he practiced his piano for a certain amount of hours each month, he could rent one again at the end.

My dad saw a way to make this venture cheaper. Why didn't we buy a game cube and just take it out at the end of each month? Yes, that was an excellent notion, and the cube would only be out at the end of each month. Right?

My brother is a mastermind. The game cube remained out. The piano was forgotten and eventually quit.

So when Nintendo came out with the Wii, my brother was prepared. Our house became riddled with comments like; "Oh, but you move around. It's video games with exercise. Jason has one (my brother-in-law)."

That Christmas, we got a Wii. My sisters were all shocked and appalled. At least until they made their own Mii's and played some tennis. I might also add that I often see my brother playing his "exercising video games" from the couch. Although that's a bit harsh. He does, after all, play some kind of sport in every season.

Last week, I came home from school. My mother was in the kitchen. She looked up from whatever she was doing at the table and said these fatal words;

"Elena, we're getting cable. The guy's coming to install it next Thursday."

(I'm busy looking in the fridge) "That's nice Mom, did you know that the 12 year old who killed her family in Medicine Hat only got six years? (What she says finally hits me)


"We're getting cable, honey."

"Who are you? And what have you done with my mother?"

"We thought we'd give it a try. Your brother and dad can watch their sports games, I can watch the history channel, and you can finally watch the news. But it's only a trial, if you and Peter don't moderate how much you watch, it's gone."

So now here we are. My brother and his friends are watching March Madness and will be for the next several days. My parents, the people who raised me with the idea that tv is evil and rots your brain and couldn't I just read a book or go outside, have got cable.

It truly is the end of the world as I know it. The world has ceased to make sense.

Jim and Karyn Redd got cable.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Alpha Auntie

You probably know that I'm an aunt several times over. If you didn't, well I have one niece and five and half nephews. I call them my ibbi because there is no word in English for nieces and nephews, so we made one up. At the time we invented it, ibbi spelled out the first initials of all our sister's children's names. We would keep adding to it, but then it would eventually just be gibberish.

This is one of my nephews, Isaac. He's the only ibbi who lives in Calgary, so he's the one I see the most often, and the one who got to model for a lot of my photography assignments. The above photo was actually my final photo for the angle of view assignment.

Anyway, this past Saturday, I went to my sister Emily's (Isaac's mom) to do some work for my kitchen gadget story. Isaac was having his quiet time when I got there, so I remained out of sight for the first little while to prevent him from getting too excited and not getting any rest at all. When he finally came downstairs, I experienced one of those moments in life when you feel so totally awesome. He squealed, ran right for me and called out, "Auntie!" and gave me a big hug. Then he preceded to go jumping around the kitchen gibbering about his trains.

After boosting my ego, Isaac went running into the living room where his dad, Shaun, was. Still bouncing, he announced;

"Daddy, Auntie's here!"

Shaun (who of course, already knew I was there) responded with, "Which auntie, Isaac? Is it Aunt April? Aunt Jaima?"

Isaac looks at his dad for a minute and then says quite seriously, "No. Just Auntie."

I guess I have no name. I'm just the generic aunt.

Though, as Emily pointed out, I'm the aunt he sees the most often, plus I'm the unmarried one who is not in Finland. So really, I'm the Alpha Auntie.

Score! I will now go check off "Become favourite auntie" from my to do list. It's been there for seven years.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Dog-Eared Pages Are Not So Utterly Illuminating

My friend Holly recently started a book club called the Dog-Eared Pages. Our first meeting was on Wednesday night, and The Last Lecture was the first book we read. I would recommend it to anyone.

But my opinion of The Last Lecture is not the purpose of this blog. Although, that would be a very good blog if everyone hadn't already done it.

The thing that surprised me most about the Dog-Eared Pages is that almost everyone finished the book. I've heard things about book clubs, and one common cliche is that people join book clubs, and then never read the books.

Granted, The Last Lecture is a very short book, so it was easy. I'll be interested to see what happens next month, when we discuss Les Miserables. Abridged of course.

I think I get most of my misconceptions about book clubs from The Vinyl Cafe, this radio show on CBC that I really like. If you haven't ever listened to it, you should. The Vinyl Cafe tells stories of a fictional family of four; Dave, Morley, Stephanie, and Sam. One story tells of when Morley (the mom) joins a book club. She works hard and stresses about finishing the book on time, and then gets to the meeting and realizes that no one's read the book. But, everyone else tries to pretend that they have read it and are in fact very intellectual, saying things like, "This book was utterly illuminating." 

What utterly illuminating is supposed to mean, I have no idea, but I'm glad that for now, the Dog-Eared Pages do not have to pretend that they know what they're talking about.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

?'s are Curvy

I just had an interview for my DFS (Directed Field Studies) this summer, where I have to go and work for a real publication.

The interview went well, I think, but my favourite part was the following question that the editor asked me:

What is your favourite punctuation mark and why?

As you can tell from the title, I said question mark, because they're curvy and fun to write. Plus I like questions. Really I was just winging it, as people do not generally ask me about favourable punctuation in normal conversation. 

So what do you think? Good answer? Or obvious flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants answer?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Place That Has Seasons...All in One Week

Ahh, Calgary. Where else does the season change every other day? Or better yet, several times in a day?

This week has been particularly bizarre. Tuesday, I woke up, and it was snowy, slushy, and icy all at once. As someone who hates driving in the best of weather, there was no way I was risking the drive across the city in rush hour traffic for my one class. All anyone who heard this argument had to do was look outside, and they'd see my point.

Then the afternoon came, and it stopped snowing. The ice melted. It was a beautiful day. My dad came home from work and asked me why I hadn't gone to class that day. Suddenly my excuses seemed lame.

The rest of the week got even more interesting. Wednesday I didn't wear a jacket, Thursday I froze on my way into school. But it wasn't till Saturday that it really got interesting.

Saturday morning and afternoon were beautiful and sunny, I went around in jeans and a light jacket. Saturday evening I had a church meeting. It was still nice out, so I changed into my skirt without much thought of the weather. I didn't even wear tights. I almost didn't bring a jacket either, but at the last minute, I grabbed a light one that went with my shoes.

The meeting was great. Inspired, good music, and I caught up with a few friends afterward. Then I looked outside.

You couldn't see far out the glass door. Snow was blowing everywhere. Someone went outside and a blast of cold air hit me like a slap in the face. I looked down at my high heeled shoes with their open toes. The parking lot was covered in ice and snow. We'd parked on the far side of the parking lot. It had been hard enough walking across that ice in heels to get into the church. The problem now would be that there was a cold wind and snow flying through the air. I wouldn't want to carefully walk through that parking lot. I'd want to run. And let me tell you, running in heels on ice is not for the faint hearted.

My only comfort was I'd brought some kind of coat. I looked at my friends who didn't have anything but their suit jackets, and was grateful I'd thought to wear more then a cardigan.  Still, there was no way I was going out across that parking lot. My dad brought the car to the door.

On that note, I discovered something through this experience; chivalry is not dead. In all this madness, it was the men who were running out in the cold and getting cars to the door, so the women don't have to go marching through the snow in their open toed shoes. It was one of those moments that gave me hope for the future.

To really be prepared in Calgary, one has to bring several different outfits. How else do you avoid moments like this? I think though, it would very nice to live somewhere where the seasons run on monthly periods instead of hourly.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lenie and Adi Get Hobbies

My friends Adrianna and I have been close since the first grade. Through elementary and jr. high, we went to the same school, and aside from petty arguments every preteen girl goes through, were best friends.

Come high school, we were at different schools. Rival schools actually. I remember our first few weeks of school we'd call each other every night and compare notes on the bizarre experiences of life in a big school. Our jr. high after all, only had about 50 students. Our graduating class was 17 kids we'd known since preschool. Through high school, we remained close, even when we finally made friends at our new schools and didn't need the nightly phone calls anymore.

Now in university, majoring in journalism and music, we still get together and try to maintain our sanity with two huge course loads.  Two weeks ago we got together (our belated Christmas get together) and realized how lame we've both gotten. All we really do is school, all the time, and once we'd both talked about our classes and which profs we liked, there was an awful lull. So we decided we were going to make time for our hobbies. Adrianna is reading non-textbooks again and knitting a purse. I'm painting again taking time for my creative writing.

But to really make sure we stuck with this idea, we've decided to get together every other Friday and work on another hobby; cooking. I pick her up after my class on Friday afternoon every other week and we cook something. Our first time was yesterday, and we made Gingerbread Pancakes with Butterscotch Apples, as pictured above.

We got the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which I think is a book everyone should have in their kitchen. They turned out very well. If you like gingerbread but find it too hard, make these. The pancakes are basically like soft gingerbread. I would also suggest making a larger portion of the apples, as people pile them on their pancakes and they don't come out even.

As a result, I am a huge advocate of hobbies. Sure I may not have the perfect GPA I had last year, but I'm happier, and I have a life.

Needless to say, my family is also a huge fan of hobbies. They get to eat the leftovers.

Try our pancakes for yourself! I've included the recipe below.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 &1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1&1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1&1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil

1. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add apples and cook, stirring occasionally until tender (about 10 min.) Stir in brown sugar, 2 tablespoons water, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until bubbles. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl stir together flour, sugar, ginger, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Combine 1/4 cup water, egg, molasses and oil. Add to to flour mixture and stir till just combined but not smooth. Add additional water as necessary to reach consistency of pancake batter.

3. Brush a non-stick skillet with a little oil, heat over medium heat. Add gingerbread mixture in tablespoons and make pancakes.

NOTE: We tripled this recipe, as it only serves 4. And again, make a bigger portion of apples if you want to come out even. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Epic Adventure of Page Eight

As part of journalism school, we put out our own newspaper. Not just writing it, but the students are responsible for the website and the layout of the print edition. So every month, we have what we call, Production Days, where we lay out our monthly paper. Last Friday was a Production Day, and the experience was so frustratingly memorable, I am writing it down for my posterity. sisters, who will likely be the only people to read this page.

Scene: The Calgary Journal Newsroom, five minutes before production. Students are hurrying in to get a good computer terminal so they do not get stuck with the one where the spacebar doesn't work, or worse yet, the one where the shift key is missing. Enter Mild-Mannered Elena. And yes, she is mild-mannered at this point because she's just finished her Ethics essay and is thinking, "As soon as I finish production, I can go home, and it'll be the weekend. It won't take long." (Perhaps, Elena is naive as well as mild-mannered at this point).

Enter professor Terry, who does his usual beginning of production speech (which no one really takes in) and begins delegating people to work for different section editors according to how many pages that section has.

Elena looks around (no longer mild-mannered, more apprehensive), looking for an editor she likes. Sadly, there are few. She thinks wistfully back to last semester when she could always just work with Jessica Petillot.

Terry asks for volunteers for the Theme section, led by editor-in-chief, Scott. Elena volunteers with four of her friends, as Scott looks nice enough, and Theme should be an interesting enough section to work on.

Scott comes around giving out assignments and meeting his lab rats. This months theme is the recession (surprise, surprise).

Scott: (extending his hand) Hi, I'm Scott.
Elena: (putting down the sandwich she's in the middle of eating and trying to look professional) Hi, I'm Elena.
Scott: Elena Redd?
Elena: Yeah.
Scott: Wow, I really liked your story.
(Elena's liking of Editor Scott goes up)

Pages are assigned to the five Theme lab rats; Nori, Marie, Nichole, Kylie and Elena. Each will be given two pages to lay out and edit.

Scott: Okay, who wants to do the hardest page editing wise?
Elena: (Already having her ego boosted that day) I'll do it.
Nori: (consulting layout diagram) You can't Elena. Your story is on one of these pages.
(Elena secretly thinks to herself that she looks awesome, because she volunteered, and she doesn't even have to do it, cause she has a good excuse)
Scott: That's okay. I don't mind if you edit your own work.
Elena: Oh okay.
Scott: Be sure to make your photo the largest, cause it's the best.
(Elena does a happy dance in her chair)

Cocky Elena sets to work, having her ego stroked much more then is healthy, and ignores all the warnings her professors and Nori have ever given her on trying to edit your own writing.

Her two pages have three stories between them. One, which is 1500 words, but be paired down to 1100 and gets it's own page. The other two (including Elena's) are both 800 words and must be paired down to 400 a piece. Elena chooses to begin with the other 800 word story, written by Zoey.

(Elena opens story)
Elena: Oh look! Zoey wrote her story on spending less on groceries. So did I. How did our professors not notice this?
(Elena edits down to 560 words, and is also relieved that Zoey's story centers more around the Good Food Box, where hers is all about buying in bulk. She then turns to her own story, and manages to get all her carefully crafted sentences down to 700, but no further)

Enter professor Janice, or rather, Elena takes notice of Janice. She really has been sitting with Marie for several minutes by the time Elena looks up.

Elena: (raising her hand) Janice? I need a hand editing.
Janice: (getting a chair and joining Elena) Goody, that's what I'm here for. And I'm prepared. (she holds up a plastic knife for "cutting." Elena can't decide between being amused or wierded out)
(Janice then proceeds to cut Elena's story down to 430 words, with Elena whimpering the whole way through. Thankfully, Janice also helps inflate Elena's ego by being as disappointed as Elena that the story must be cut down)

Beginning of Phase 2: Now that her stories are about the right size, Elena begins arranging them in InDesign. Zoey's story stretched out across the top and her own along the bottom.

Nori: (looking over from her own computer, where she is much farther along) Didn't Scott have that page with a vertical layout?
Elena: (trying to hide her dismay) I don't remember. I'll got ask him. (Elena walks over to the back room, where editors like to hide) Hey Scott, did you want page 8 to be vertical?
Scott: Oh yeah. We're a vertical section.
Elena: Fantastic. (she slumps back to her computer and starts from scratch. This is where she makes the transition from Cocky Elena to Annoyed Elena)

Problem one: Elena's story is longer, but the photo must be bigger.
Problem two: Zoey's is longer, but her photo is supposed to be smaller.
Problem three: Elena feels like a jerk cause it sounds like she's favouring her own work when she explains these problems to her classmates.

First, she tries putting in her photo. It looks so nice she reverts to Cocky Elena for 0.3 seconds. Elena's story and headline fit in nicely under the photo. Elena does a happy dance in her chair which Kylie makes fun of.
Then she tries putting Zoey's story in. Hers is much too long to for the space. Elena tries to edit, but can't cut anymore if she wants it to make sense. Reverts to Annoyed Elena.

Next plan, move Zoey's photo into space not needed for Elena's shorter story. Everything fits, but it looks ridiculous. Annoyed Elena evolves into Ballistic Elena.

Nori, who is already on her second page, leans over, seeing that Elena is about to explode.
Nori: Just make it a horizontal layout. (she takes the mouse from Elena's clenched fist and begins rearranging the page. Elena is slightly cowed)
Scott, who is walking by: Yeah, I guess you can make it a horizontal layout if it's not working.

Elena starts the page a third time. Everything fits and she begins to work in some of the more mundane details like photo credits and bylines. Kylie gets ready to leave, having finished her two pages. Tranfer to Jealous Elena.

The page fits! Elena is overjoyed! She calls over layout professor Brad to approve it. The end is in sight......

Brad rearranges the entire page. 

Ballistic Elena returns, and begins to bang her head against the desk. Nori passes over an Advil and some guacamole.

At last, at long last, the page is done, the photos have been resized, and it's passed final approval. Now all Elena has to do is one more page.....

Not surprisingly, I was the last lab rat left in the newsroom. And do you want to know the really sad thing? This is a pretty typical Production Day.

One of those moments

Last weekend I went up to Edmonton for the blessing of my youngest nephew, Teddy. It was great to catch up with family and all that jazz, but there was one experience that really stuck out to me as a sign I am getting old.

It was Saturday night, and my whole immediate family was gathered at my sister Jaima's for dinner. By the way, my immediate family includes three married sisters, who all have kids. We all got together and ate, and then, as with any gathering of different families, the children ran downstairs to play, declaring things like, "I'm batman!" or gibbering on about awesome trucks (my sisters kids are made up of five and half boys and one girl). My little brother went with them, as the young uncle who makes an excellent horse/batmobile. And I stayed upstairs.

No, I'm not trying to say, look at me, I'm a big girl now, in fact just the opposite. I wanted to stay upstairs with the adults, wash the dishes and talk about boring stuff.

I always tell my friends I'm like an old woman. I have back problems, neck problems, and bad feet, plus I hate really loud music. I think I just proved how old and boring I am again.