Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Review: The Big Splash

September's genre for book club was school stories. I actually had a hard time finding a book: I didn't want to read about teenager romance or vampires or wizards (already read those). But yay for goodreads - I found a gooder!

September 2015: Set in a School

The Big Splash
By Jack D. Ferraiolo
288 pages

Vinny Biggs and his syndicate has control of Franklin Middle School. You know, the usual stuff, forged hall passes, contraband candy. If you cross him, or he doesn't like you, then you get put in "the outs" - a group of outcast kids who once had water guns sprayed on them so it looks like they peed themselves. You try coming back to the cafeteria after the entire school has laughed at you. Vinny needs a favour from Matt - the local school detective, but that favour turns into another job after one of Vinny's top guns gets soaked. Who sprayed Nikki? Matt is on the case, with the help of the local newspaper editor and friends to solve the mystery.

This book was great - so film noir I could hear the characters talking like on set of a noir film! There was a touch of romance, but more about junior high friendships, all narrated perfectly by our detective. Sure it was written for kids (man I bet junior high boys would love it), but I think the author did such a great job with the film noir tone that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd highly recommend this to any mystery fans who are in, or want to go back to those junior high days!

There's a sequel too (The Quick Fix) that I fully intended on reading, but the premise sounded similar and let's be honest, I'm not 13. It was a fun trip to film noir for preteens though! (Although I wonder if Matt found his dad, who disappeared mysteriously? And what's up with his mom's mean boss...)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review: I Kill Giants + Lost At Sea

I don't really like graphic novels. There. I said it. Sometimes I read them because I want to feel cool, but I still don't really "get" them. I guess I just prefer novels. Recently I came across a top 10 list somewhere and, as per usual, thought maybe I'd try getting into graphic novels again. Maybe I'd change my opinion. (Spoiler: I didn't)

Lost at Sea
By Bryan Lee O'Malley
160 pages

I sort of liked O'Malley's Seconds and Scott Pilgrim, especially the art, I do like his art. So I sort of liked this book. Raleigh is on a weird road trip with acquaintances. She's an introvert. They're not. Mostly she lives in her head, which is useful for finding out why they're in the car in the first place. She's sad. Broken hearted. At one point she decides a cat stole her soul so they all try look for the cat. And then it ends.

I think love is stupid and I can't relate to angsty young adults. So the point of this book was lost on me. But it was pretty. And there were cats. So that's something.

I Kill Giants
By Joe Kelley & J. M. Ken Nimura
184 pages

Barbara is a weird kid with an impressive active imagination: she's prepping to kill some giants. She's got problems at home. She's got problems at school. And then one day the giant comes and a secret is revealed and all is solved.

The story of this is good, but the art was...confusing? Especially at first. I had a hard time following along for awhile. I guess it's just not quite my style. But it works with the story, which is good. How's that for a deep review?

So do I love graphic novels now? Nope. But I'll keep trying to fall in love again every once in awhile.

Klondike Days: Volunteer Rookie

There are few volunteer gigs I like better than selling 50/50s in our big arena. Last year, I signed up to be a volunteer for the Northlands crew so I could sell 50/50s for the Canadian Finals Rodeo each November. As part of the crew, I get notices for volunteer opportunities throughout the year, which unfortunately due to timing and other commitments I could never participate in.

But, I figured I ought to make a special effort for K-Days in July - Edmonton's annual fair and exhibition, and Northlands biggest event. There were a number of opportunities to choose from, but I chose 3 shifts of Gate Welcome Ambassador, one at each of the 3 gates, although on one of my shifts either I got confused or the person who sent me out got confused and I ended up at the wrong gate but oh well, no harm no foul.

As for all big events, I had to attend an orientation night. I got my updated volunteer ID, and a free bus ticket in case I couldn't ride my bike. It was very nice of them to offer free bus tickets and free parking, but no one mentioned bike parking the entire evening. I also got my volunteer uniform which consisted of a blue polo shirt, a grey sort of rain jacket and a black baseball cap. There were snacks and speeches from the VIPS, and then specific speeches for the role I selected. I also received a handbook. So I'd say I was mostly prepared for my shifts. Mostly, but still was very apprehensive on the first day.

There was some back and forth on social media about bike parking, as I didn't find it very clear on the website (it was buried in the FAQS, and not on the transportation page that I saw at the time) and everyone I contacted was super s-l-o-w to get back to me. It would be nice if they offered a secure bike corral, but alas, nothing was available for bikes besides the usual few racks outside the gates. And these did fill up over the course of the day so really, Northlands ought to offer more and encourage cycling as a transportation option. It's a no brainer to include sustainable transportation opportunities for big events. Sometimes I hate the massive car culture of this city. (Ok, all the time...)

Bike parking. Available but certainly not glamourous.

This rack filled up over the course of the day, so that's promising.

So on my first shift I arrived and parked my bike at the gate I was stationed at. I signed in at the volunteer centre in the middle of the grounds, got and filled up a reusable water bottle, pocketed my free $10 in food vouchers (sadly not midway food, just building cafeteria but super thankful for this nice perk!), and headed out to my gate. This was the first change from the training - at the training we were told to wait in the volunteer centre for our supervisor, but no one showed up and it turned out we were supposed to just go to the gate. Off I went. I found a supervisor there, got an apron off a person going off shift, and started "welcoming". My job was to hand out day sheets with the schedule and map on it, and Lost Child stickers. As I was stationed near a ticket line, I also was crowd control, which shouldn't have happened as they had their own volunteers in ticketing, but there was a line and it was chaos so someone had to do something.

Then it got a little tense as one supervisor got a bit cranky with me for standing where I was, even though my supervisor when I started told me to be there. It turned out the supervisor schedule got screwed up and there were two supervisors at the same place giving different orders. Annoying. So I was already cranky, when the shift change happened for me to go home and the supervisor said I had to stay even though everyone else got swapped out.

In the end, my first day was...mediocre. I like the job of welcoming people, and it was busy so that was nice, but all this bossy supervisor drama left a bad taste in my mouth and honestly, I didn't want to go back.

But go back I did. The second shift I was at a different gate so I just went out and took someone off. The people I worked with on all shifts were super nice - which is always the best part of volunteering - so it was pleasant making small talk with them during quiet times. We worked quite well together this shift I'd say! Turns out this was the shift I was actually at the wrong gate! But the (same as yesterday) supervisor didn't show up until 5 minutes to hometime (3hrs later) so no obviously one noticed/cared. No drama this time because of the absent supervisor and I was feeling better about the whole experience.

Third shift was the same place as the second, and as it was a weeknight, it was slower, plus it rained a bit. But the people were still lovely so it's all good. I actually wished I had more time to volunteer for more shifts, but it was a busy week.

All in all, I would volunteer for KDays again. I would pick my shift time/place more carefully, but I would probably be a gate ambassador again. I don't mind being out in the elements, it had it's busy moments, and people were, for the most part, very friendly. I could've done without the supervisor drama but instead of complaining I'll climb the ladder of seniority and move my way into that position and then do a super awesome job!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Interstellar Rodeo 2015: Oh So Civilized

Oh Interstellar. What a pleasant venue. What a lovely festival.

It was another great weekend of music at the year's Interstellar Rodeo! It's so easy to attend this festival. The line up is low stress. There's chairs and shade/rain cover. The food is fantastic and the lines aren't very long. And even though the bathrooms could get messy at times, there were indoor bathrooms with plumbing! It's hard to not want to go to this festival, and that's not even considering the music!

Of course the best part was hanging out with my music people. It really was a lovely 3 days of chatting in the line up, in the stands, over a meal, and on breaks as we walked around the lake at Hawrelak Park. My people are awesome - they shared their food, cleaned gum off my bum after I sat on some and didn't even laugh when I dropped my knitting and it rolled down the aisle!

Spotted this little dude on a walk around the lake. Isn't he cute!

But the music! The lineup was good this year - except there were a number of really "showy" acts. Between the fancy light shows, and arrogant performers, I could've done without the "showy". The venue is ace, but I really wish the music meshed more with what I like. And what I don't like is showy, hipster, pretentious crap.

Here's my top 3:

Buffy Sainte-Marie
It's been a Buffy summer for me. I saw her play in Ottawa in early June, and since then pretty much listened to her CDs nonstop in my office all summer. Her concert did not disappoint. My music people were sceptical, but she wowed them over. She was upbeat, genuine, and belted out all my favourite tunes. She had the crowd eating out of her hands. Buffy is one cool lady. Why wasn't she the headliner???

Buffy is one cool lady!

All Stars: Joel Plaskett, Kathleen Edwards, Luke Doucet
A late edition, this set was awesome. I love Luke Doucet's guitar, and the fact that he got Kathleen to come out of retirement for us was very special.

See, Kathleen is having fun! She should come out of retirement more often! Oh yeah, that there is the White Falcon. I heart the White Falcon. Right, because you don't have a crush on a guitar...

Tied: Elle King, Oh Susanna, Rhiannon Giddens
I don't like female singers as a general rule, but this year these 3 impressed me. Elle King was fiesty, Oh Susanna sang my favourite song from the olden days, and Rhiannon, well, what a voice!

Elle King. Banter was better than the music (which was good too!).

Oh Susanna. River Blue, yay!

Man that Rhiannon lady has some voice!

So yes, I'll be back next year regardless of music line up and ever increasing ticket price. I'm not ready to give up this luxury just yet!

Folk Fest 2015: Who Needs The Main Stage Anyway?

Oh Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Where the side stage music is epic and the main stage is crap.

But the view. Always love the view.

Seriously. Apparently they're trying to appeal to "a younger demographic" and I noticed it more than ever this year. The main stage act were all women who sounded the same, and showy hipster bands. Where is the folk? Where were the men? Where were the actual generation transcending big names?And why do they bring fantastic world bands from half way across the world to throw them on a side stage or plug them in during lunch when no one is listening? I swear I'm losing patience with this festival. Yeah, I know they're not trying to appeal to me. And I know they don't care about my opinion/money because they'll sell out anyways. And yeah I know I'll keep going as long as I get tickets because there's those 3 bands out of 80 that I must see. Dammit.

But the view...

But it was worth it to see the few bands I love and to spend time with my people. This year was...complicated, as a number of different groups of my people decided to come this year. I got stressed about spending time with them all and in the end thought I balanced it well but could've done with more alone time, immersing myself in the music, which was only mediocre anyway.

Here's my top 5:

Le Vent du Nord
Hands down, the best group of the fest for me, which is not surprising since they're one of my all time top 5 bands. They were charming as always, funny, and brilliantly gifted in the music department. Their combo of Les Marches des Iroquois/Papineau will take your breath away.

LVDN - my favourite and top pick of the year

Another of my all time top 5, their concert was good, but I really felt the loss of Chopper on backup vocals. It's hard not to enjoy their sets though, as I know every single word.

I love this band. Not sure why, but I do.

Session: Hanggai, Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson, Brian McNeill, Danny Michel
The music from the other three was fun, but Hanggai was epic! I'm sad I missed their other concert - the Mongolian rocky throat singing - awesome! And the best part was the reactions and banter of Danny Michel! He was hilarious; you could really tell he too was blown away by Hanggai. It's cool to see musicians be fans. I don't usually follow Danny Michel around, but I did this year - he was on fire! And I usually follow around the pipers - Ross and Jarlath were good again this year - I guess it helped Jarlath sang my sad love song like 3 times (usually I get annoyed when acts repeat songs at each session but I'll make an exception for these guys only).

Hanggai. Very different, very cool.

Danny Michel. On fire!

Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson (r-l). Pipes for the win!

Brandi Carlisle
I thought I didn't like her, but I was thinking of someone else. Her main stage show was pretty much the only one I liked all festival. She was spunky and rocky and what a voice. A great set.

Brandi is down there, wowing the crowd.

Wish I had seen more of: Jerry Douglas presents The Earles of Leicester
The scheduling just didn't work for me (opposite of Oysterband) but man, Jerry Douglas can play some mean bluegrass. Why would you bring up the best bluegrass band of the summer to stick them on the sidestage and not put them on the main stage??

Name another dobro player. No? Yep Jerry is the best.

Hmm, so it was hard to put together a top 5. A couple stand outs, some greats, but nothing spectacular. Folk Fest competes with Interstellar Rodeo for my money and love, and it's starting to lose. The lineup next year is going to have to impress me a bit more, or 2016 might be my 15th and last year in attendance for awhile. I think my musical tastes have been driven out by the hipsters.

2015 Curling Team Shakeup

There's Grand Slam of Curling games on tv this week so it must be curling season time!!

My Team Tuesday is all registered for the upcoming season, and I've let a colleague know I can spare for their work league if needed. And, my mom and I just booked flights today for the Continental Cup in Las Vegas in January! So suffice to say I'm looking forward to the upcoming season. The only downside is that for the first time in 5yrs I don't have a volunteer gig set up for a major curling event, which is sad. There are two events (Canada Cup and Scotties) about 5hrs away from home but I'm not sure I'll get to them. I will be working the U18 in town again (I think), and am waiting to hear about ifI'm accepted as a volunteer to the Winter Youth Olympics in Norway, but other than that it's possible my #curlingvolunteering era is coming to an end.

But back to the teams...

This year there were a ton of team shake ups! Here's my list of some of the biggies, but check the TSN Roster page, Grand Slam Tracker or Sportsnet article for the full list.



Sunday, August 30, 2015

FIFA Women's World Cup: Team Leading for the Win!

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup has come and gone. Just like last year's FIFA U20 Women's World Cup, I volunteered as a guest services team leader. This experience is right up there with the 2013 Brier, the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship, and the 2011 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship as the best sporting event volunteer experience ever!

Since I had volunteered last year, the sign up process was super easy. Basically, I just said yes I'd like to come back and that was that. I was notified of a volunteer orientation evening, which was less than exciting but I did get to meet with our supervisors and got briefed on being a team leader. I also attended the accreditation/uniform pick up night. Weird, so last year my uniform was too big so I went down a size on my volunteer profile account. Turns out last year everything was unisex, but this year it was all mens/womens, which meant going down a size screwed me. I was super anxious everything was going to be too small, but when I got to where I was to pick up my uniform, it turned out they were still bundling the 'S' last names. And they'd run out of all the sizes I'd chosen, so they had to give me bigger sizes which magically fit! Seriously, everything fit was a miracle because there were a lot of clothing SNAFUs and swapping throughout the entire event.

So here's what I got - FIFA is really good to their volunteers!

Plus a red rain jacket a couple days into the event. Everything is a keeper this year!

A lot of volunteers returned from last year, so I knew a lot of people. And the other team leaders were fantastic - we clicked pretty quick! Sadly, I missed the opening double header because I was away at a conference - and this meant missing the opening ceremonies! I was sad about this but was told it wouldn't be much and from what I heard it was short so it's all good. That day was the craziest for working out the kinks of the event, and had the largest attendance. Wish I could've been there.

But I was at the other 7 or so days of action. I was assigned the same gate, so that was nice: I got to figure out how everything flowed and positioning volunteers was easy. I also got used to the stadium staff and it was nice to see familiar faces every shift. This event was really all about the great people I got to work with - here are some highlights:

- The volunteers were all amazing! The team of team leaders was supportive and relaxed. We all got along really well. Our volunteers were also enthusiastic and a great bunch to get to know. That's what I remember about the event: hanging out with the people in the red shirts. And this is what to this day I miss. Event volunteering is special. You spend a lot of time with the same people in a condensed manner and then you may never see them again. Yet, this doesn't deter people from forming friendships and sharing their lives. I almost can't put it into words. Special.

Team Leaders for the win!

- At the volunteer party, I won the FIFA flag that hung outside the stadium as a door prize. That's right, 5 ft x 8 ft! It was cool, but really I had no idea what to do with it! I knew right away who would want it though, and gave it to one of my volunteers, who was going to give it to his grandson. Karma achievement unlocked.

My 5mins with the flag. Yes it is a person tall!

- The second day of the event there was a rain storm. Like one of those storms that comes with thunder and lightning, so they had to evacuate all the people into the stands into the concourse for about 20minutes. It was packed; no one could move, but everyone seemed to be in mostly good spirits and besides a bunch of lost kids, there were no problems. Very exciting.

The calm before the storm. Lookin' good Commonwealth!

- At times I felt like we were running the FIFA daycare! The volunteer information booth I was supervising seemed to get all the lost kids. By the end of the event we got the procedures down (and the gates stepped up their lost child bracelet system) and everyone went home happy though.

Game ball!

- Before a game, one of the ushers came to us with a fist size piece of concrete that had fallen from the ceiling. These falling rocks happen from time to time due to the freeze/thaw/heat expansion cycles of the stadium in accordance to the weather, but it kept us busy wondering where it came from. No spectators were hurt in the making of this episode.

Bronze Medal action.

- I got an opportunity to hold the peace flag during one of the games. I left my shift a bit early, and then walked down on to the pitch with the other volunteers. We watched the game from the sidelines for a bit and even got to see a goal right in front of us! Then after the match, we carried out the flag and held it as a backdrop and the designated players shook hands with each other and the official. Then we walked it back out and folded it up. It was cool. Actually, it was hot, stupid hot that day so I look ridiculous in the photos because I had to put my hat on. I also got to kneel on that artificial turf and realized what the controversy was all about. It's not super forgiving. And I was picking rubber bits out of my knee for a little while after. All in all a cool experience though!

The Peace Flag. That's me, left middle.

- I saw so many people I knew! Our Oilers game season ticket guy, my curling skip, colleagues, family, classmates, friends, fans from all over the world -  it was great to see so many people come out for the event. It was just a super awesome international event that got people involved and excited, even it they weren't soccer fans!

Every time I look back on my FIFA memories, I smile. It was such a great experience. A chance of a lifetime...unless Canada gets the FIFA World Cup in 2022 like the rumors flying around!