Monday, September 26, 2011

My Eternally Busy Life

It feels like I’ve only been back at school for a few days, but it's actually been three weeks, and already I have to start thinking about applying for university entrance and scholarships. Thankfully for the former, my marks are great, and so as long as they stay basically the same, I’ll get in almost anywhere I apply. I work hard, and it’s paying off.
There’s just one teensy little fly in the ointment: I’m planning on studying engineering. And engineering is unfortunately one of the most expensive degrees to acquire. Depending on the university, commerce can be more, but with lab fees and such, engineering is not kind to the wallet.
The other degree option I have seriously considered is computer science - cheaper, lower courseload, more freedom to take electives. And yet I know engineering gives me so many more options, and it’s a lot easier to transfer ‘down’ (aka to CompuSci, the lower workload option).
What all of this means is that scholarships have become incredibly important to me. As have their deadlines, which are fast approaching! The applications are long and confusing, and getting them in requires at least two other forms verifying your information - it’s all too much, too soon.
But I have to apply. And I know if I do, I have a good chance of winning at least some money. Last year, I won a minor award - 250$ - from the University of Toronto, based on a transcript, a resume, and a short essay I wrote the night before the application was due.
So I have hopes, but it’s still a lot of extra stress.
Speaking of added stress, this weekend I decided to play ringette again this year, adding a layer of complexity to my life that I was trying to be happy about having eliminated. But I missed it too much, and I would have regretted it. So I’m playing again, although I’ve told the coach I won’t have great attendance.
Other than that, this weekend I didn’t get anything done really, despite everything I needed to do. At least I managed to get one very important task done - I made bark! For those of you who haven’t encountered this heaven, it’s a delicious crunchy caramel and chocolate treat. One good recipe can be found here.
I recruited a friend and we made plenty: for another friend’s birthday, for our families and for my hockey team. We made so much we had to go to the store to buy more ingredients! I’ll put up a picture of the big sheet we made - it measures about 18x24 inches - when I get it off my camera. (edit: see below) We also made a smaller sheet which we decorated with the birthday boy’s name in white chocolate.
Life certainly has started again. It’s busy, but as my inability to quit ringette shows, I wouldn’t have it any other way… although I could certainly do without the procrastination.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Two Pleasant Surprises

    The first few weeks of school are always crazy. Once again, we must adjust to homework, rising early and generally feeling way too busy. The last two weeks have definitely been tough in those respects, but also fun, as the first few exciting weeks always are. Thankfully, while last week was tiring, I had two unexpected pleasant surprises to perk me up.
First: After I got my braces off on Tuesday, my teeth look fantabulous!!! I’ve known since July I was getting my braces off on September 13, but I was worried my teeth would be stained and dirty from two and a half years of limited toothbrush access. In short, they aren’t! Instead they’re really straight and shockingly big (although I’ve gotten used to that now, it was kind of scary at first).
Here's a picture of my new teeth. It's not the prettiest, but I'm not identifiable in it, which is also important. 

Second: There’s this rather random short story I wrote maybe a year ago called Fire. Since then I’ve edited it a bunch and submitted it in various incarnations to three or four contests, but I knew it wasn’t stellar, and it showed in the lack of accolades.
So this weekend I finally posted it on Fiction Press, as I try to do with nearly everything I write these days. I wasn’t expecting much of a response - I’m not a particularly popular author - but the very same day I received a review. The reader was ‘looking forward to the rest’ and asked me to ‘please update soon’. I was flabbergasted.
When I posted Fire, it was as a one-shot. In my mind, the story was done. It was tragic and bitter and complete. I wasn't even particularly fond of it anymore. But that review got the authorly wheels in my brain spinning. There will definitely be more to the story now.
It’s funny, I’ve been meaning to put up a full-length story on Fiction Press for quite some time, but keep procrastinating. Now, I might end up with Fire as a full-length story, completely by accident. Of course, first I have to figure out what kind of world the story is set in, and who my other characters are…
It’ll probably be a while before any more chapters actually get posted, but I’m excited to have at least one reader already. Maybe you could be another… check out Fire, and please let me know what you think.
May your week be full of pleasant surprises as well!

Monday, September 12, 2011

One True Sport

I’ll admit it freely and with pride. I’m a nerd - or whatever the current term is for someone who gets the jealousy-inducing grades they do by spending an inordinate amount of time doing homework and studying.
And I love learning. I adore fiddly little math and physics problems, and great discussions in English class, and practicing my French and Spanish. So there are quite there are a lot of things I like about school. But to be perfectly honest, I probably don’t quite qualify for nerddom, because for me, the best part of school is cross-country running in the fall.
I’ve run cross-country since my dad forced me into it in grade 4. At first, I didn’t want to get up early to go to practice, but by the end of that season I was hooked. I’ve been a runner - and a cross-country fanatic - ever since.
At my high school the cross-country (X-C) team is a lot like a big family, at least for the core of us who love it, and as we have grown from grade nines to grade twelves, have slowly started leading it.
This year, the season started right away. We had our first meeting last Friday, and it was so great to see all the familiar faces, as well as plenty of new ones. I couldn’t wait for our first practice, to get to know everyone. That practice was this afternoon, and it was amazing. My best friends and I taught the newbies the drills we do, and led the runs, and ran around introducing ourselves to everyone.
Cross-country running is one of the toughest sports out there, both mentally and physically. It’s you, on your own, against the uncaring elements. Running isn’t easy even under perfect conditions, and X-C is pretty much designed to generate poor conditions - but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And X-C certainly teaches you to be tough.
A friend of mine (actually someone who I got to know partly through X-C) and I made posters for our team’s meeting, emphasizing toughness and grit, calling X-C the only true sport.
We also made one that said “If running were easy, they’d call it rowing.” Surprisingly, those disappeared shortly after we posted them right by the rowing team’s posters. (Our school’s rowing coach is the most feared teacher at the school. We’re not mad he took down our posters… we’re just happy he didn’t come after us.)
In making these posters, we tried to stay true to the spirit of the team that drew us in. I remember the posters that were up when I was in grade 9. They consisted of a stack of words related to cross-country: Mud. Sweat. Tears. Hills. Pain. Speed. Distance. More hills. More mud. And a picture of a runner, grimacing and muddy, going up a hill. Did this discourage us? No way, it made us rush to join.
After all, as my favourite cross-country saying goes, pain is weakness leaving the body.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Purchasing Philosophy

Today is a tragic day; school starts tomorrow! I am kind of excited about it - seeing my very busy friends again, starting a new cross-country running season etc… But at the same time, I’m nervous and sad. This is my last year of high school, and it feels way too soon.
In any case, I don’t want to moan, so I thought I’d share with you some pictures I took with my new digital camera.
I bought it just last Friday, after an effortful decision-making process. First, on Wednesday I went to Best Buy (big box electronic store) and looked at a couple things I was considering purchasing, including cameras.
On Thursday, having decided for sure to get a camera, I went to my local specialty camera store (Vistek) and got their recommendations based on my needs and price range. Then I went back to Best Buy and compared prices, as well as seeing what similar cameras they had.
Everywhere I went I took copious notes on the features I needed/wanted and the features the cameras had. Thursday night, I spent more than an hour online researching features and how they affected performances and ease of use, and comparing different cameras.
I ended up deciding on Vistek’s original recommendation, and I bought it there on Friday. I’ve taken quite a few pictures since, and I’m super happy with the portability and performance of my camera: a Canon Powershot ELPH 100 HS.
Three trips in three days, plus copious research and thinking: my sister thought I was a bit crazy for not just taking the first recommendation, especially since that’s what I ended up with. But this way I’m happy with my purchase and sure I made the right choice, which I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t take the time to learn about my options in depth.
It’s kind of a theme in my life, when it comes to buying new stuff or getting involved in something new. Do I want it? (Really?) Do I need it? (Really?) Do I have a use for it? (A good and real use? A use that is commensurate to price*?)
*price is not just money, but also time, hassle, complications etc…
Take Facebook example. I don’t have a Facebook account. I don’t want one. I don’t need one. I have a use for one, but not a big enough use to be worth the time I would most likely spend on it, and the complications having one would entail, for reasons I won’t go into publicly. So the status quo endures, until something in that equation changes.
In any case, here are some non-identifying (I hope) pictures I’ve taken over the past couple days, when I was trying out some of the cool special effects settings on my camera.
 This is my kitchen, taken with the special effect “miniaturize” on. This blurs the top and the bottom, and makes the scene look as if it might have been taken in a dollhouse.
These two shots were taken from the porch of a cottage in northern Quebec, using a fisheye lens effect.
Hopefully with my new camera I'll post more pictures here in the weeks to come. In the meantime, good luck to everyone going back to school this fall!