Monday, June 29, 2009

The Name Game

I have always enjoyed giving inanimate objects names and referring to them as he or she (mostly he), but, as my friend Colleen and I have discovered, not all inanimate deserve a name because they are all not very interesting. It's like in Finding Nemo, when Dorey names the little jellyfish, "Squishy."

"I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine. My Squishy. Owww! Bad Squishy!"

Okay, so maybe a jellyfish is not an inanimate object, but the same principle applies. By naming the baby jellyfish, Dorey is defining it's character. Here are just a few things of mine I have felt necessary to name:

Dexter, my car. Or sometimes we call him Dex for short when he wants to be cool. Dex is named after the cartoon kid from Dexter's Laboratory, an eccentric genius with a really annoying sister. I think I named him that because, well, he's white, and kind of dorky looking.

I always name cars. The other two I've had (or driven, whatever) are Hurati and Melvin. Hurati (my green Tercel) was named by my sister after this group of assassins in The Lazarus Vendetta. I kept the name because it sounded kind of sports car-ish, and Hurati thought he was a sports car. A ninja name also suited him because he was a bit of a showoff with a loud engine. Melvin was quieter. He was a Rav4 but he seemed shy, if not a bit dorky with his purple interior. I named him after Melvin O'Neal in Bruno and Boots.

Amaryllis is my computer. She is one of my only female inanimate objects. Those of you who knew me when I was little recognize the name, and no she's not named after the character in Music Man I played when I was 12, she's named after the flower, because she's pretty and white.

Ruby is my external hard drive. Yes, yes, you are all thinking what kind of wacko names their hard drive? Well, I only named her because when you plug her in, the icon comes up as No Name, and that's just depressing. So I named her Ruby because she's bright red. I could have dug deeper, but what other character are you going to get out of a hard drive?

Humphrey is the vacuum I use at work. I named him after Humphrey Bogart because he's this big hulking vacuum that doesn't do much but make strange, uninteresting noises.

For the longest time, I had no name for my camera, but the longer I used him (yes, that was already decided) the more I knew he needed a name. After the number of escapades where I'd be doing something dangerous and nearly fall to my death with my only concern being my camera, I named him Clarke after Superman.

I was talking to Colleen, who was trying to think of a name for the picnic table where she eats lunch at work (don't ask. Just trust me, this table has character) I was talking about my desk chair, which is a bit of a character. The arm rests are adjustable so you can raise and lower them as much as you like. The only difficulty is every once in a while they get a mind of their own and decide they'd much rather be down low then up high the way I like them. It happens at least once a week that I'll be sitting, minding my own business when my armrests go crashing down.

Then there are the wheels. One of the wheels is broken off so it's a little tippy. Sometimes it leans over when I'm trying to move the chair, and the broken wheel makes an awful scraping noise against the plastic mat. Or, I sit with my feet resting on the wheels. If I forget and don't move the broken one to the back, I step on it and pitch myself towards my monitor. Or if I lean back to far, I tip back and fall. I have been forewarned that the other intern fell right out of this chair. It's a hazardous place to sit.

And so, this sneaky chair deserves a name. His name is Snidely, after Snidely Whiplash, the bad guy in Dudley Doright.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Unexpected Job Requirement

In February and March when I was looking for an internship, I read a lot of job postings. They all seemed the same, or at least, close to the same. Need writing skills, familiarity with InDesign, web publishing experience, blah, blah, blah. The posting for my job was pretty much the same. However, one skill I think that should be on their requirements, or at least, strongly encouraged as an asset, is to be a foodie.

In my interview among other interesting questions they asked me, Laura asked me where I liked to eat. I'm a huge Thai food fan so I mostly talked about that, they seemed sort of impressed that I knew so much about eating Thai and so I came to work thinking I sort of knew a bit about eating in Calgary.

I don't know squat. My office knows everything.

Whenever there is a birthday in the office, we all go out to lunch. The birthday person gets to choose a restaurant they like in the surrounding area. Now before I started work, the places I knew to eat around here were as follows; Julio's, Crave, and Oolong Tea House (mmm, special brownies). Yes, I did know there were other places to eat around here, I walk past them everyday, but I didn't actually think to try them. Then the birthdays began rolling in, and I learned. Here are a few of the places we have been for birthdays so far:

Niko's
This was my first birthday lunch. A nice easy way to break me in I thought, as Niko's is mostly nice, predictable Italian food. Aka - pasta. It's like Chianti's but more upscale. I enjoyed it, I thought it was yummy, though apparently the menu us far too ordinary.

Tandoori Hut
This lunch was just yesterday, for one of my editors. Tandoori is an Indian buffet. Previous to this, I had never eaten Indian food. I had happened to mention this at a previous lunch, and instantly, my two editors informed me they would make sure I tried it several times before I left. Tandoori has a lunch buffet. This means I had to go up and figure out what goes where on my plate (I watched the person in front of me very closely).
Overall I enjoyed it. I still prefer Thai but it was delicious. Although, I have been informed by my coworkers that Tandoori Hut isn't the best Indian. They put Glory of India and The Clay Oven on my list.

Pulcinella
This is thus far, my favourite restaurant I have tried.
We went here for our publisher's birthday. I remember when the e-mail went around and I just stared at the name. Pulce-what? What kind of food could that be? When we walked over, I studied the sign carefully. It read, "Pulcinella: Authentic Napoletana Pizza." So we were having pizza, cool. It seemed a bit simple for my coworkers but whatever. I had no idea what Napoletana meant but I guessed it had something to do with Italy.
Turns out Pulcinella is two things; an Italian pizza place that is actually monitored by the Italian government to make sure it is in fact, authentic, and an upstairs private dining room that will open into an Italian eatery, but right now is just available for private functions.
We went for the latter, which means we were served several courses of fine Italian food. My favourites were the green olive bruschetta, the bell peppers stuffed with pruisciutto and goat cheese, and the tiramisu. I had never eaten tiramisu before, and I had no idea I liked green olives until then. I was marveling over this discovery when my editor turns to me and says, totally deadpan;

"Don't worry Elena, we'll have you turned into a foodie by the time you leave."

I wasn't sure if it was meant to be a threat or a kind gesture. But if these threats include more yumminess like goat cheese and green olives, I'm all for it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Exception to the Rules

I'm always a little wary of writing book blogs. Most people only advocate books they like on their blogs, and so it's fairly easy to determine how the post will go. I have chosen to write this one because, well, this is more then just a good book to me, it's an exception to a rule I've learned to hate. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

You know how in children's literature, whenever a new sensation comes through, critics label it the "new Harry Potter?" I hate that. First I wonder why they can't just let new authors be great on their own, and second, I hate Harry Potter. I shan't bore you with the details in this post (cause I did a post on it a few years ago) and I think most people are already sick of my Harry Potter rant.

But I will say this much; as far as my literary experiences go, Harry Potter was the book that made this awful rule.

What is this rule I keep alluding to you may ask? Well I will tell you.

Whenever a children's author starts writing a series, and they become a JK Rowling-esque sensation, they start something wonderful. Their books are alluring and exciting, I usually get really into it, and then the final book of the series comes out. By this time, the author is famous and has made lots of money, and they get lazy. The last book in their Earth-shattering series sucks.

It sucks so much it ruins the rest of the series. It becomes a book I throw down in disgust and any time someone brings it up, I roll my eyes and can't bear to think of how that author shattered my hopes and dreams for their work. It happened with Harry Potter, it happened with Twilight (don't hate me Jaima), it happened with Eragon (actually I barely made it through book one). These series pull you in and then ultimately disappoint you.

I know not everyone feels the same way as I do about the above titles. I can't tell you how many arguments I've had with my die-hard Harry Potter friends, or how many times my sister has tried to convince me to finish Twilight, but it's all been in vain. I felt let down with these books, the authors let their ideas spin out of control in a way I couldn't stand, and suffice it to say, if my cousin starts crying during Breaking Dawn, not because it's so moving but because it's so terrible, I don't want to read it.

A month and a half ago, my brother turned 16. For his birthday, he asked my parents for the book series pictured in the blog; Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan. He read them with a ferocious intensity that surprised me, and then started hounding me to read them. I was shocked, normally I'm the one making him read stuff. Still, I gave it a try.

Book One, The Lightning Thief excited me. I drank in every word Rick Riordan wrote. I laughed, I cried, I was enthralled. But I was wary, I felt the same way about Harry Potter when I was a kid. I'm working on my own book and preparing for rejection right now, the last thing I need is to be let down by an awful book that's made it to print.

Still, I read the next, The Sea of Monsters. If anyone watches my reading list on the side of the page (which you probably don't), you'd of noticed how quickly I went through all five books. Or rather, the first four.

By the time I finished The Battle of the Labyrinth, I was completely immersed. I loved all the characters, I was so inspired, I was nearing the end and I was worrying about what I would do after Percy Jackson ended, but, I was still scared.

I started The Last Olympian with trepidation. After reading the first chapter I chickened out and left it alone for three days. Then, I decided I would have to face it. I would either torment myself not knowing or torment myself with what happened. If it was truly terrible, I could always put it down. I've done that so many times before.

I read it. I kept reading it. I laughed. I cried. I was on the edge of my seat. I drank it in right to the end. I could only think of minor things I would change rather then the whole book. It was fabulous!

I finished The Last Olympian on Tuesday. I was amazed at how nicely it all wound up, completing the story in it's entirety and just beautifully written. And I mean, completely masterful, this guy is amazing with words.

So now I have it, my exception to the rules. My series that didn't break my heart in the end. Read it!

And now, for those of you who are taking me seriously, I will tell you a little:

The idea behind Percy Jackson and the Olympians is that ancient Greek mythology is real. In modern day they still exist, and follow the heart of Western civilization (so Mount Olympus is over the Empire State building, Apollo's Sun chariot is a Masserati, blah, blah, blah). And what did Greek gods do in all the myths? Have children with mortals! The main character is one of these demigods, and he and his demigod friends go around on adventures like Hercules, Achilles and Odysseus.

As a huge mythology geek, I love the premise of these books. I love seeing all the monsters they face and remembering the myths they were really in. And it's so accurate, not like Disney's version of Hercules which, though funny always sends me running to find my book of Greek myths so I can make myself feel better after. These books are true to the myths I love.

Not only that, but the author just combines the mythology with pop culture so well. Normally attempts to do so are just annoying, but these, are funny. For example, I don't want to spoil much but when Percy goes down to the Underworld, he looks over the Fields of Punishment, and I quote:

"We could see people suffering all kinds of eternal torment, like being burned at the stake, or chased by hellhounds, or forced to listen to opera music."

I love it! He not only includes pop culture, he enters the mind of a teenage boy. Read it! I's going on my favourite books of all time list.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Attack of the Editorial Meetings

Ever since I started at Where, we've been having semi-regular editorial meetings. This journalistic custom is not new to me, during the school year we have one once a week in class. These meetings have always been amusing, because a school editorial meeting comprises of a few main components.

First, our editor talks about upcoming deadlines, which are never really clear, and reminds us we actually need to get work done. Then, we go around the room and say what we're working on. I always felt this was more like a homework check then an actual editorial meeting, a sort of see-who's-not-a-slacker-this-week meeting. Either that or who's really good at making up what they've done so they sound cool. And yes, that's happened. Then our prof gives us her final, do-stuff-or-you're-in-trouble scare tactics, and we go home. I mean, work on our stories.

In my second week at Where, my editor phoned me. Yes, she phones me even though her office is near enough for me to hear her sneeze. Apparently it's easier then getting up and no one in this office likes to shout. Unless it's just talking over the cubicle wall.

Anyway, Laura phoned me, and said we were going to have an editorial meeting. Seeing as I had done nothing but read orientation material up to this point, I really enjoyed this meeting. All I did was get a sheet outlining everything I had to do on it. Plus all my assignments aren't due until the end of June. Sweet.

Two weeks later, Laura calls again. Another editorial meeting. I grab my notes and am ready to go. I've been working on my online ice cream feature and am pretty psyched to show how awesome I am. I get to the meeting and the first thing Laura says is;

"So, how's the article on 14th Street going?"

I gibber and try to form a complete sentence. I've hardly touched that one yet. Then Laura starts rolling out the deadlines. One article due by the end of the week. Two others, the following. The next day she calls and tells me she forgot to give me a deadline for the art piece, can I have it by Tuesday? Maybe earlier? It's Friday, and I've been setting up interviews for the following Wednesday. I am an idiot.

You see, this is how editorial meetings, and deadlines in general work at Where:

  • Meetings are not scheduled on a regular basis. They are whenever Laura calls. This means they spring up on you. You're going through your day, minding your own business, when the phone rings, and you have to prove you've made tangible progress on whatever you're asked about. And unlike school, you can't just fudge your way through.
  • You never know what they'll ask you about. While I may have worked long and hard on one story all week, I may get in there and Laura will decide she needs something completely different. So working consistently on everything is a must.
  • As if that weren't enough surprises, Laura often brings up things I have never heard of before. Like WhereMail, our online publication. She turned to me one meeting and said, "What are your ideas for GuessWhere?" Guess What? I had no idea I was thinking of ideas for that. Again, I am an idiot.
Yes, I know all my friends at newspapers are probably laughing at me, thinking; "Elena can't get deadlines that spring up on her? I meet deadlines everyday. Haha!" Well let me say this. I've had this blog idea percolating in my mind for weeks because I just wasn't sure when to put it. There's a reason I'm writing it now.

I was flipping through the magazine archives last week when I noticed a section called "Hot Dates." No, Where is not running personal ads. Hot Dates is a section at the front of the magazine where we highlight some key events that will be happening in the next two months. No one had mentioned them yet. This looked just like a deadline sneak attack. I started paying very close attention to the listings I was writing.

On Wednesday, the phone rang. We had an editorial meeting, and sure enough, Laura turned to me and said;

"Elena, what are your ideas for Hot Dates?"

I had a whole list ready. I am no longer an idiot. I am awesome.

A word to a wise though for all those future journalists: get used to watching your back. You never know where the editorial meetings will attack from.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Working Out With People

I love working out. I'm not just saying that so I sound like one of those super fit people (cause if you know me, you'll know that's a lie), but I love working out. I love going to the gym, I love lifting weights, I love running in circles around a track. Working out for me is just such a good way to clear my head.

During the school year, when I'm on my regular schedule, my workouts usually go something like this:

  • I'm in the Comm Centre, I'm bored/ have a break in classes and haven't gone to the gym yet.
  • I invite others to come along, but no one else really keeps their gym bag in their locker all the time. My poor locker partner.
  • I head to the gym - go on the bike, walk/ run around the track, do some weights, stretch a lot so my bad back doesn't turn me into too much of an old lady, and return to the Comm Centre with a very red face.
Or, it may go something like this:

  • Jess and I make plans to go to the gym. After putting it off a few times, we finally go.
  • If we're not playing squash (or more accurately, whacking a rubber ball at the ceiling, floor, plexiglass and anything but the targeted area of wall) we go to the track.
  • Jess goes on the treadmill, I run away in fear. Literally, as I go around the track or on the bike. I am always convinced if I go on a treadmill, I will trip and be swallowed up by that whirring path.
  • We go to the weight room, try to figure out some machines we've never used before doing our favourites, and go home.
Or, I sign up for classes with friends, but working out at school usually involves one of two things: I am with people I already know really well, or I'm alone. Unless of course, I'm going through one of those phases where I only ever run into people I know while I'm gross and sweaty at the gym instead of when I actually look cute. But that's another story.

When the semester ended, and my membership to the school gym expired, I looked for other ways to work out. I didn't have to look very far because on my second day of work our circulation manager, Emilia came up to me and invited me to join the office boot camp.

For those of you who may not know what that means, no, Where did not join the army, boot camp is just a term used for a lot of fitness clubs that people take to get in shape. The girls in my office took one before I started, but they're pretty pricey so after taking one and learning all the moves, they decided to run their own. Each person takes one week, and we work out in the park two evenings a week.

Last week, my editor Laura was in charge. To understand why this is a blogworthy story, you need to understand a bit about Laura.

She's very small. She's really short and cute, not at all like my previous experience with editors at school. Laura's very sweet, she rarely gets mad, in fact, the only time I've seen her really upset was when she was describing bikers who don't ring their bell when they pass her when she's jogging. And that was just funny to see her mad. Laura is also a fitness guru. She's a total toothpick, and super, super in shape.

At work. Laura is all sugar and sweetness. Working out, she's that girl who's always running on the spot cheering people on and telling them to bring their knees up higher. Last Monday she had us running relays with weights, doing 10 downs (10 push ups, 10 sit ups, 9 push ups, 9 sit ups etc), all the time in that threateningly cheery way of hers.

Here is an interesting thing about working out with your boss: you are running around, and lifting weights with someone who evaluates your performance everyday of the week. Though you know how long you can stay in plank in no way reflects your job performance, you still feel the need to try much harder then you do with your friends so your boss doesn't think you give up too easily. So, on the week your boss runs boot camp, you come home not able to walk.

Then, you go to FHE.

For those who don't know, FHE is a weekly activity put on by my church for college aged kids in my ward. It's always on Mondays. This particular FHE was at Bowness Park. We had a fire going, and someone pulled out a frisbee.

Now, here's the thing. I love Ultimate Frisbee. So even though I was already aching all over from working out an hour before, I couldn't resist. I joined the game.

Here is an interesting thing about playing sports with boys: no matter how well you know them, every time you play a game you have to prove yourself. If you ever want them to pass you the frisbee, you have to prove you know what to do with it.

This means, that in this game of ultimate, I was running hard, and jumping, and proving I knew what I was doing so I could actually touch the frisbee. Already having your thighs burning because of all the lunges you've done is no excuse. I kept trying until it started raining and we ended the game. I think it sort of payed off, they actually passed to me. Then I went home and couldn't move.

Two days later, my muscles forgave me. After having my stomach ache when I laughed, having to actually lift up my leg when I wanted to cross them, plenty of back stretches and dreading all stairs, I was back to my normal self with nicer legs. Or at least they better be.

I love boot camp, and I love ultimate, but after worrying about my boss evaluating my workout ethic and trying to convince a bunch of guys I am a competent frisbee player, I'm ready for a nice, we're-not-trying-to-prove-ourselves workout. Who's with me?