100 things to do in 1000 days; #87: Make a Candle.

IMG_7032Toronto is not a small city. You can do all sorts of weird things in Toronto. We have a sugar museum and a shoe museum and places to learn ukulele, and we have three universities and five colleges with what I am assume are an almost infinite amount of school clubs and societies, but so far as I can tell, we do not have a place to make candles. The closest place I could find was the very friendly and accommodating Village Craft & Candle, located in St. Marys.

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Now, I do not have a driver’s license, and a bus trip to St. Marys ends up being a journey of about six hours (ONE WAY), so I gently suggested to my mother that perhaps this would be a nice bonding experience, and I just bet she’d love candle-making, it’s right up her crafty alley! And, in exchange for tea, help with scrapbooking, and a lifetime of using this against me, mom agreed!

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I don’t have a heck of a lot of funny stories from the actual day. We made pumpkin spice tarts, crispy apple votives, Canadian pillar candles, and autumn-themed cube candles.

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After the lesson, we drove to the gift shop, and bought the entire store. We have since made blueberry and raspberry votives, a giant citronella candle for my aunt, one million tea lights of various scents, and some cute cup candles and glass candles. Despite all this, I still get guilted for “forcing” her to drive all the way to St. Marys for something she had no interest in doing whatsoever. None at all.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #27: Learn to Scuba dive.

I tried really hard for this one. I booked weeks in advance for an intro dive course in Maui with Ed Robinson’s Diving, which has excellent reviews on Tripadvisor. But LONG STORY HERE, they cancelled. I tried again on two other days, and they told me the whether was too rough and the visibility too poor for the shore dives that intro divers do. I tried again in Belize, on Caye Caulker, but before I got around to booking I was bitten by a dog in Mexico and told to stay out of the water for three days to prevent infection. Naturally, two of those days were our only days on Caye Caulker. I tried one last time to organize an intro dive in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, but because of the altitude requirements and bus schedule, couldn’t make it work.

I’m counting this one as done anyway, however, because I did a lot of snorkeling in Hawaii and Central America, as well as a bunch of adventure activities I’ve never done before, and doing things I’ve never done before or always wanted to do is the whole point of this list. I went parasailing, caving, cenote jumping, and finally, snuba diving, which is ALMOST scuba diving, after all.

Essentially, I’m treating item 27 the same way as item 56: I have completed this in spirit, and by the end of the year, hope to complete it in name by taking a diving course in Toronto.

PICTURE OF MY SNUBA DIVING

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100 things, 1000 days?

Well, 61 things and change, anyway. I’ll do a more thorough report when I get hold of a computer that works, because texting a post from my phone doesn’t really seem like something I want to do.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #34: Watch 20 [21, apparently] great old movies.

With the completion of The Godfather III, this is DONE. And you can’t say I was easy on myself. There were fun movies and short movies, but also three-hour-long, tedious, infuriating trilogies, and when movies came in groups, I watched them all (see: The Alien Movies, The Back to the Future Movies, the aforementioned Godfather Atrocities). I loved some, liked some, and hated some, and I feel like I’ve expanded my cultural knowledge. This item’s a keeper – I think I’ll have it again on my next list.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #76: Take a long-exposure picture.

I’ve already posted twice and it’s after 1am on a work day, so I’ll make this quick.

Slow-motion waterfall shots in nature photography! I like them! I want to do one!

To make a short story even shorter, my dad is an amateur photographer, his camera is capable of doing that, and Hawaii is capable of providing the waterfall (granted, so is Niagara, but we were already in the Aloha state, so…). So he showed me how, we set up the camera, and I clicked the button a few times.

Mission accomplished. I hope to become more proficient in this skill after taking some photography classes, but that is a goal for another day.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #33: Visit Marina in Minnesota Washington California Hawaii.

I have some bad news to break to you guys: growing up can kind of suck. That cozy little shell of a home city you lived in, the one that that held all your friends and family and familiarity inside, it cracks open, and the people you were closest to spread out all over the whole damn world. One of my best friends from high school went to do her master’s degree in the US. I swore I would visit her – Minnesota is not that far away! But I was also at school, and not earning that much, and anyway, the next thing I knew she got a job in Washington. What an awesome place to go visit with a friend! I was so serious about finally getting to see her that I went and put “visit Marina” on my list of 100 Things To Do. But I didn’t get over there, either, before she moved to California. That’s right! The very place where I’d be this summer when I went to Comic-Con! Hurrah! Only I didn’t tickets, the group I was going with bailed, and California was no longer doable.

But no matter! Because this friend was getting married in Hawaii in July, and guess where my parents were planning on going for the next family vacation! (On my suggestion, with only constant prodding and wheedling and whining and nagging!) That’s right!

So finally, after, what, six years? I got to visit Marina. The wedding ceremony was beautiful, the day was wonderful, and it ended with an exciting view of the 4th of July firework celebration from a dinner cruise. I am so, so happy that I got to be with you on that day, Marina. I hope your honeymoon was amazing. And I swear, it won’t take me another six years before I visit you again.

 

Finally.

Finally.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #93: Learn to do that two-fingered whistle.

Remember how, when I learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube, I posted an unedited, 5-minute long video proving it on YouTube? Well, I took pity on you this time. Instead of throwing up 20 minutes of raw footage of me spiting fruitlessly onto my hand, I downloaded some free editing software from AVS and went to town. Unfortunately, playback on my computer kept skipping as I’m running low on memory, so to see the finished product, I had to post the finished product, and hope for the best. To be honest, I don’t know whether I’m more proud of the whistle or the one hour crash editing session.

I also make sure to annoy people with it at least once a day, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

NOTE: SWEARING NEAR THE END. I’M SORRY, I GOT FRUSTRATED. IT SEEMED ARTISTICALLY RELEVANT TO DOCUMENT THIS.

Updated to add: Nataly, who has been my champion throughout the doing of this list, was filming me, and it was on her suggestion that item 93 was even attempted and accomplished. Could not, and most likely would not, have done it without her! I plead exhaustion for leaving this out earlier!

100 things to do in 1000 days; #65/71: Watch all of Blackadder. Black Adder. BlackAdder? Whatever.

BlackAdder_UltimateEdMy last few posts have been rather long, and I still have a memo on sleep and dreams in British literature to write, so today, it’s time for another Half-Assed Review from a Lazy Person!

Series 1 (The Black Adder):

  • Ep 1 – The dead king ghost is vaguely amusing, as are some of the elaborate insults, but otherwise – bah.
  • Speaking of bah, the baaaa made me laugh out loud. So that’s one.
  • Ep 2 – meh.
  • Ep 3 – I laughed! parts were fully enjoyable! Progress!
  • Ep 4 – also okay!
  • Ep 5 – I did NOT like this one (witch smeller was a pain in the ass)
  • Ep 6 – this one was alright; I liked the closing theme; also the ending to Cougarton Abbey makes sense now.
  • That was really…underwhelming. But the theme song is the ear-wormiest thing I have ever heard. I go humming it around the house, at dinner time, at parties.

I bought the complete series on DVD, and after watching the first series, I was beginning to regret my investment. But certain friends talked me into giving the rest of the show a chance, and I’m glad I did.

Series 2 (Blackadder II):

  • Ah, we’re off to a much better start. I actively enjoyed the first episode (except for Lord Flashheart, who can bite me, and not in the way he’d want to), and have already laughed out loud twice at second. Way to go for meeting the bare minimum of comedy, Black Adder!
  • I pity the loss of smart Baldrick, but smart Blackadder is plenty entertaining (and…kind of weirdly attractive).
  • New lyrics every episode?? Excellent.
  • Also, the queen character is weird as hell, but…you know how when sometimes things annoy you for no reason you can name, you say they “rub you the wrong way”? Well, she rubs me the right way.
  • The last episode of s2 was best so far. Am I biased because Hugh Laurie had a major role? Only perhaps.
  • As for the special features: the commentaries are decent but unremarkable.

Series 3 (Blackadder the Third):

  • Wait, Hugh Laurie’s in ALL of s3? Excellent. This is now my favourite season.
  • The music isn’t as good as the first two, though.
  • Also s3 has more clunkers than s2. Really didn’t like Nob and Nobility (even if it was nice to see Percy again) and…um, one of the others. Can’t remember which.
  • Amy and Amiability was good, though. Also liked Duel and Duality. Although it didn’t end with Blackadder and everyone else dying, so I’m not sure it was the right episode.
  • Overall, I think I’d rate it about the same as s2; more uneven on the one hand, but regular dosage of Hugh Laurie on the other.
  • Commentaries are better in s3 as well.

Series 4 (Blackadder Goes Forth):

  • He’s in all of s4 as well??? I AM OVERWHELMED WITH RICHES!
  • Ah yes, series title. I see what you did there.
  • I think part of the reason I like Tim McInnerny so much is because he reminds me of Michael Palin. I’m glad he’s back full-time.
  • Enjoying s4 best (British M*A*S*H* is the obvious comparison…except that I’ve never seen M*A*S*H*. I know, I know) but I miss the credits of s2. I think I’m mentioning that I miss them now just because it’s been two whole seasons without them, instead of just one, and I’m really feeling the loss.
  • There’s a bit of Bertie (Wooster) in both of Laurie’s main characters, and a bit of Jeeves in Atkinson’s Blackadder the Third butler. And references to the name Bertie. But imdb tells me that Blackadder came first, so I guess it’s just coincidence.
  • Yes, this one is definitely my favourite, and one I can see watching over and over again.
  • Commentaries are also quite enjoyable.

The Specials:

  • As nice as it always is to see Stephen Fry, the Cavalier Years felt like a bit of a waste of time.
  • Christmas Carol was decent, though.
  • I know I’m in the minority, but I really did enjoy Back and Forth. Like, a lot.
  • Might as well say it here: Before Blackadder, I’d known Rowan Atkinson from Mr. Bean during vaccination days at school, and Rat Race. So his ability to speak in complete sentences was surprise enough, but to see how funny he can be as straight man? Damn my North American ignorance!

EMBARRASSING CRAZY SIDE NOTE: As if I needed it, I have been well and thoroughly reminded of how much I love Hugh Laurie, how amazing and talented and funny and tall and blue-eyed he is, and how much everyone else in the commentaries and interviews thinks so too. And how adorable his relationship with Stephen Fry is. So now my obsessive little fangirl heart has been reignited and validated. So thanks for that.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #94: Spend a day tree planting.

IMG_0659I have a very ambiguous relationship with nature. I love looking at pictures of it. I think we should be nicer to it. Several plants and animals that exist in it are pleasing to me. However, it also tends to make me itch and sneeze. My nose basically runs year-round; colds in winter, pollen and ragweed in summer. I also react badly to bug bites; they itch, swell, burn, and bleed. Last summer, one on my arm looked so bad (it had…a tail) that doctors thought I might have blood poisoning. (I didn’t. But that is not the point.) I’ve never been stung by a bee before, but family history isn’t uplifting. A classic approach/avoidance dilemma. Basically, the math is this:

(wonder + beauty + science + actual place that provides sustenance and shelter for life) – (allergies + fear) = …positive x? minus x? irregular x? y?

I don’t garden, and I’ve never owned any plant that wasn’t either a cactus or one of those idiot-proof bamboo trees that don’t need too much water. And I’ve still managed to kill two or three of them. (And remember that one plant I bought for #89? Remember how I kill things?) But I try. (Oh my god, do I try.) And how much damage can I really do here? Tree planting is fairly intuitive; dig hole, insert plant into hole, refill hole.

So I put “spend a day tree planting” on the list, because it’s all about learning and doing new things, and that’s why Claritin was invented. Only in this case, “a day” means “two hours” because the only tree planting program I could find that wasn’t both a) in another province, and b) about 4 months long was through Green Toronto’s Natural Environment and Community Programs, organised through the City of Toronto Forest Initiative and Toronto Region Conservation Authority under the Urban Forestry Naturalization Program.

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Forgive the picture quality, it was taken through a window.

About 35 people, children and adults, showed up to the event, which took place at Marie Curtis Park in Mississauga.

Together, we planted about 400 trees in just under two hours.

The weather was perfect. The sky had been threatening rain all day, but the downpour only started (and with a vengeance) a couple of hours after planting finished. So we got to plant in the sunshine, and the plants got refreshment. Win-win. I planted 11 trees, plus, I escaped with only several mosquito bites!

My first tree!

My first tree!

The park used to be the site of an old arms factory, and we also dug up a lot of brick, plastic bags and tape, and one explosives fragment with fuse.

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Most Toronto tree plantings take place in open areas, but this one took place in an already established forest. Why? I spoke to two leaders of today’s event, Jeanette and Cheryl, who told me that although this is a mature forest with high quality understory, they want to protect the older healthy trees and help the endangered species that grows in the area, the butternut tree. There are a lot of bike paths and hiking trails in the park, so we helped to close some of them by planting new trees on the former pathways, and thus concentrating traffic in a sustainable way. Or, if you’d like, we re-routed the routes to avoid roots.

We planted iron wood, American beech, sugar maple, alternate dogwood, choke cherry, black cherry, and red raspberry on nice, soft soil, and on gravel-and-stone-infested soil.

I can see how some people get addicted to this; I added it to the list a few years after reading a short story by Charlotte Gill, taken from her novel Eating Dirt, because even after all this time, her story (which I read in J-school) stuck with me. Nature may be icky, but if you spend enough time in it, icky becomes okay, even fun, and I’d gladly do it again. The trick is to just immediately get dirty, and the rest is easy. It’s kind of like paper mache that way.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #7: Sustaining Memories program at Ryerson University.

It took six months, but my part in the Sustaining Memories program, a joint project coordinated by Ryerson and the Azrieli Foundation where I used to work, is finally complete.

(The program pairs volunteers with Holocaust survivors who want to share their story in the form of a memoir, but, for whatever reason, require some help to actually get the story on paper. It involved several initiation/information sessions, interviews, hours of transcription and organisation, data gathering, chronological ordering, and finally, editing the mess into a readable story representing the life of the survivor as told by him or her.)

The experience was a wild array of adjectives and emotions. Meeting, interviewing, and getting to know my survivor was deeply moving and educational, but also disturbing and overwhelming. Where to start? How to do her story justice? How to react as she tells me about these dreadful experiences? How much and when do I probe? These problems were compounded by a slight language barrier (English is her fifth or sixth language) and the usual difficulties that come with age (hearing loss, sickness, memory lapses).

Writing the manuscript was another monumental task – I knew transcription was a long and monotonous process from my time in J-school, but I had never had to deal with such huge quantities of tape. I had over 11 hours of material from interviews and video documents, some of it repetitive, some of it contradictory, all of it important. There was also a huge amount of existing literature and data both online and in libraries in which to read, sort through, and find relevant information. And worst of all were the three competing authorial visions – left to my own devices, I would have written the memoir one way; my survivor also had a fairly clear picture in her mind of what she wanted; and the Sustaining Memories program itself had a clear and rigid set of rules and guidelines. Shaping the story into something that satisfied all three of us might have been the most difficult part of the whole endeavour…if it wasn’t for everything else.

It was stressful, time-consuming, and exhausting, but I also feel that it is one thing that is important and good that I helped bring into the world. I’ve never in my life felt like I was doing something more worthwhile. In some ways, it feels weird to write so much about my experience helping with the memoir, almost like I’m trying to appropriate her experiences. I hope it goes without saying, but I am under no illusions about how lucky I am, how minor these “difficulties” were in the larger scheme of things, and how much of a privilege it was to be involved.

Today, I received a package in the mail containing a bound copy of the manuscript, a certificate and letter of appreciation, and finally, a sense of closure, and with that, I count this item as complete.

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Name hidden to protect privacy of the survivor until she is ready to release it and/or the manuscript is published in an anthology.

(There are currently talks about putting all the memoirs from this year and last year into an anthology, and having it published. So we’ll see where that goes…)