Monday, November 28, 2011

Chancellor’s Award Stress (and a Christmas song!)

 Last Thursday, I got the super exciting news that I was nominated for the Queen’s University Chancellor’s Award, a scholarship worth 36 000$ over four years. At some high schools, being nominated is just a matter of talking to your guidance counsellor, but at my high school, it meant filling out the entire nine page application and competing with 25+ students for two spots.
Understandably, I was over the moon when I got the news - and then almost immediately incredibly stressed. I had to find someone to write me a reference, and then get my OUAC application done. On top of everything else that was looming.
Thankfully my cross-country coach agreed to write me the letter, which I hugely appreciated, since she knows me best out of everyone I considered asking, and the OUAC application was just basic personal info.
Then I did my three hour French exam today, and handed in my lab report, and yesterday I built my spring launcher, so those three things are out of the way… but I still need 5000 words to finish NaNoWriMo, and I should study for the three math tests I have this week. This is, of course, on top of regular schoolwork and other projects and summatives. I’m just glad today is over with. The week has to get better from here!
In any case, tonight I finalized my application, and tomorrow it goes off to Queen’s. Hopefully I receive one of the awards. Engineering tuition is expensive, but 9000$ per year would just about cover it. My mom’s happy about that, but to be honest, I’m more excited about the fact that Chancellor’s Award recipients are automatically guaranteed a single room in residence. Yes, I’m just that introverted and worried about cleanliness. What can I say? I need my space.
Today’s post may not be that interesting to you, whoever you are, but it was seriously therapeutic for me - I was a lot more stressed before I realized how many of these tasks I actually have knocked off since Friday. So thank you, whoever you are, for providing the motivation to write this.
Before I go, I want to recommend a Christmas song, since although the snow we had last week had melted, I am totally in the mood for Christmas music. The song is Christmas At My House, by Jessie Farrell.

Monday, November 21, 2011

When I was in elementary school...

Let me open with a confession: When I sat down to write this post this evening, I had absolutely no idea what it would be about.
In other news, after a 5000 word day yesterday, I’m finally caught up with NaNoWriMo, but at the expense of my homework - and the last thing I want to do right now is study math. That’s not to say I don’t like math, but I’m behind in my studying even though I understand everything we’re doing, and I really ought to be doing that instead of this…
So I guess I’ll just share a few things from my past week. On Saturday two of my friends and I cooked epically for our French class “gastronomie” project. It went wrong in a lot of little ways - par for the course when you’re cooking something for the first time. We realized after simmering the soup for 45 minutes that we should have been adding things in starting at about 20 minutes… oops!
At one point (after the first round of clean-up, while we were waiting for the soup to simmer), my best friend told me about this cross-country skiing coaching/training clinic she had attended that morning. She had been told that boys are more competitive, even in training, so they push themselves to go further, faster etc… whereas girls are more cooperative. They don’t want to leave their fellows behind, or race ahead. In life, that might get the group further, but in training that doesn’t help you in the slightest.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether this difference - if it exists at all, which I’m inclined to say it does - is genetic, sociological or some combination of the two…
My first thought was - that’s not me at all! I’m a guy, in yet another respect. And it’s true in a lot of ways. I want to be faster, to show people up, to make them work to catch me. I want to win.
Although on my school cross country teams I’ll stay with the stragglers if we’re doing a warm-up job, that stems from leadership and responsibility (aka not wanting to lose anybody on the run). I agree that perhaps showing leadership that way is more (stereo)typically feminine, but I’m not doing it to make them feel better. And if we’re doing a training run, where speed is important, my training comes first.
But I’ve seen the “girls are cooperative, boys are competitive” mantra played out again and again in every sport I’ve participated in. When I was in elementary school, I tried out to high-jump for the track and field team. One day I had an appointment after school when the girls’ try-out was, and so I went to the boys’ try-out at lunch the next day. Perhaps it was just that I had few close friends trying out, and the “popular girl” and I weren’t on the best of terms, but I enjoyed the boys’ try-out a lot better than I had any of the girls’ ones.
What I liked best about the boys was their lack of fake-niceness. The girls were super encouraging to everyone, but this was a try-out for goodness’ sakes! Everyone in the gym was competing for one of two spots. They would clap after a bad jump, but inside, like me, most of them were thinking “my chances just got better.” (that’s not just me… right?)
At the boys’ try-out, my attitude, the one I’m pretty sure most of the girls had but hid, was evident. Good-natured laughter greeted every fall, and occasional jeers if someone messed up really badly. At the same time, no one laughed at the “challenged” kid when he tried (disclaimer: I don’t know the specifics, but he wasn’t fully there, that’s for sure).
Among the boys, there was a different kind of sports friendliness, one that felt a lot more real to me, and I loved it. In the end, I earned one of the two spots to compete for my school (towering over most of the competition helped) and had a lot of fun at the team practices. But I’ll never forget that feeling of fitting in with the guys… especially since I have rarely had that feeling, before or since. That, however, is a discussion for another day.
For now, back to math. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Number Two Reason NaNoWriMo Rocks

There are a lot of reasons NaNoWriMo is amazing, from permission to suck on the first draft, to the support you receive from writers around the world.
 In my opinion, the second best reason NaNoWriMo is awesome is the existence and amazingness of the forums. In particular, the Reference Desk forum is always a great source of amusement and inspiration.
A quick check this evening revealed questions about:
    • milking a pregnant goat
    • how long it takes a body to decompose to the point where you can't tell how it died
    • what kind of things in an office building you could shoot with a gun and make explode
    • guy’s first romantic/sexual experiences
    • history’s most epic speeches
Some of the questions are funny, some are serious, some are thought-provoking… all are good ways to procrastinate!
On the NaNo site there are also forums dedicated to specific regions, age groups and genres. I was poking around the Fantasy forum a few days ago and found a thread entitled How Can You Not Know That? (aka Fantasy Terminology We All Take For Granted).
While I laughed my way through the long list, I later realized that every group or micro-culture has it’s own specific terminology, often incomprehensible to anyone else.
Fantasy terms include simple nouns and verbs such as mage, scrying, dryad, selkie, and concepts like true name, the good folk etc… It amazed me to think people wouldn’t know these.
So I decided to conduct the highly scientific test of asking my mom. She knew what a mage was, didn’t have a clue what scrying was, and kinda knew what a score was. Here’s a rough transcript of that last conversation:
Me: “Okay, so do you know what a score is?”
My mom: “Yes, but only because of Lincoln. Twenty years, isn’t it?”
Me: “Twenty anything, actually.”
My mom: “Well, I only know it from the declaration of independence.”
Me: “It’s not the Declaration of Independence Mom!”
My mom: “Well, whatever it was with Lincoln.”
Me: “The Gettysburg address?”
My mom: “Yes, that’s it!”
Me: “I didn’t even grow up in the US! You took American history!”
I am a dual Canadian and American citizen, but having grown up in Canada, I think not knowing the origin of the phrase “four score and seven years ago” would be forgivable. In my mother, a naturalized Canadian who studied Lincoln in school, it’s simply hilarious.
In any case, fantasy is only one of the dialects I can comprehend, and one that among my friends isn’t really that obscure. What they don’t know about, however, are writing and in particular fanfiction terms. I’ll use POV in my note-taking and have to explain it to everyone who sees it. To me, POV reads “point of view.” Likewise, MC is “main character.” Other terms, like slash, het, one-shot, lemon etc… will result in blank stares, followed by my often awkward attempts to explain.
On the other hand, I still don’t fully understand my best friend when she talks about sailing, or another friend when he goes on about biking, so I think it must all even out in the end. As always, I wish you all, whoever you are, a happy week. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, what are you doing here? Go back to writing right now! Err… I mean, good luck, keep up the good work.
Oh yeah, and the number one reason NaNoWriMo rocks? Because it’s writing a novel in 30 days!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recommendations from a Busy Wrimo

Have you noticed how nearly all of my blog posts happen just before midnight? No? Well then I’m glad, and kinda wishing I hadn’t pointed it out. Since I have, I might as well offer the time honoured excuse of being a procrastinator.
Which is certainly part of it. But really, it comes down to this: without goals I work poorly, without deadlines, not at all. Which can be a problem, because when the line between important and urgent becomes blurred, and self-imposed deadlines conflict with exterior deadlines, my tidy little plans fall apart.
At least, in the midst of not doing so many things I need to, I am doing well with NaNoWriMo. As of this writing, I have eleven thousand and some words, although still no clue how the main characters are going to stop the bad guys. That's NaNo for you!
Other goals aren’t going so well, like getting eight hours sleep for a week. But remembering that goal does tend to make me sleep more, so it is serving a purpose.
Because I’m too tired from school and NaNo to come up with too much more to say, I’ll end by mentioning a couple of songs I’ve had on repeat over the past few days.
Scarborough Fair, a folk ballad whose opening lines (”Are you going to Scrborough fair?”) you probably recognize. Plenty of different versions have been recorded. This one is by Simon and Garfunkel, from the movie The Graduate. I chose it because it’s 6+ minutes, and it’s convenient not to have to restart it so often. Plus it sounds really cool with all the overlap, although if that’s not your cup of tea there are lots of other simpler versions out there.
If you like Scarborough Fair, there’s a really amazing book called Impossible (by Nancy Werlin) about a girl who has to lift a curse based on the song. I actually read this book by accident, when I was looking for Graceling (by Kristin Cashore). On my library’s website the Graceling cover was shown on Impossible’s page, which was seriously unhelpful. Anyways, both books are really good and I totally recommend you read them.

A Drop in the Ocean, by Ron Pope. I was at a get-together for my high school hockey team on Friday night, and this came on from one girl's iPod, and it just struck me. It’s a really pretty song, and I can relate to a lot of what he’s saying. This isn’t my favourite version, but the recording he made with The District doesn’t seem to be on YouTube.

Wish me luck with the next week of NaNo!

P.S. Did you notice I'm posting this a whole three-quarters of an hour before midnight?