Tuesday, 30 September 2008

How To Tell A Story

I decided to write a story today and practice my video blogging. Hopefully this entertains you. Please rate & post comments so that I can improve.

Hello and welcome to the second of my video blog posts, entitled "How To Tell A Story" from my "Canadian Adventure" blog.

He awoke in the night with a start; sweat dripping down his round face. For a second he forgot his peril and wondered what the weather would be like today but then he looked around and remembered everything. He breathed a heavy sigh and wiped the sweat from his brow.

He had been here before. The square room was dimly lit by flickering lights which reflected off the blue walls and gave everything an eerie glow. In the darkness he struggled to make out his surroundings. It had been a while.

The room had been designed with "prisoner storage" in mind and was flawless. Yellow food packages littered the floor in uniform rows - each cleverly designed to be tempting but unfulfilling. The entire set would afford him the energy to last him a day but he knew better than to waste them. He would save them for when he really needed them.

In this place, time had no meaning. Days were broken up between panic and sleep but weeks and years drifted by as if there was no reason to count them at all. He'd tried at first, but soon lost count whenever he was moved to a different location and so he soon lost heart and gave up. He wondered now if he could even count at all.

Like weathered ancient castles, his memories had been eroded and his mind had become emptied. He wondered if he had a past anymore, he wondered what his present was and he wondered if this was to become his future. He had long since given up any hope of rescue or escape - his screams had never been heard anyway. He'd decided instead to conserve his energy for running. Running was his purpose now.

He glanced back to where he had been sleeping and suddenly remembered his nightmare. The girl. The girl with the red bow. She'd been running. She knew his name. She'd told him it wasn't safe and that he should go with her. But he had so many questions. Who was she? Where was she running? Was she running from the same people he was running from? He hoped she was okay.

Suddenly the flickering lights went out and the room was plunged into darkness. A couple of seconds passed. From the high ceiling he heard a buzz, and then watched as the neon lights illuminated the warehouse-sized room. His heart skipped a beat. He could never get used to this feeling. They were coming!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

How To Make A Video Blog

The first of my video blog posts, hosted on YouTube, to go with my Canadian Adventure blog.

Please comment and rate it so I can improve as I make more videos.

Edit: Video remade to remove a few errors. Further suggestions welcome.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

How To Get A New Job

Since arriving in Canada, I have had 4 jobs and worked more than 1000 hours. As well as landscaping and the summer program, I also worked briefly as a chef and even more briefly as a cold caller, back in the Spring. Now it is approaching winter and I don't want to be working outside when it is raining or snowing (having had enough of that during the first 4 months of my stay!) so have started looking for a new job.

Since January, I had planned on moving to Whistler and working near the slopes; with the promise of more snowboarding with meeting international travellers exciting me greatly. However, these plans have now changed! As it turns out, Whistler is very popular and as such is very expensive. While I could probably see myself earning about the same wage as I do at the moment, living costs would probably triple to over $2000 a month - which would not help my finances at all.

Psychoanalysing the decision, I realised that my main reasons for wanting to go were to snowboard more, experience life in the mountains and make new friends (from all over the world). Ever the optimist, I have since realised that I can fully experience a Canadian winter (and Christmas) here in Richmond, with snowboarding pretty close by; just north of Vancouver. As for making new friends, (which I am currently doing anyway) I will be able to visit Whistler on weekend breaks and trips (SnowJam 2009?!) since my living costs will not be ridiculously high!

As this sees me remaining in Richmond for the foreseeable future, I recently declared interest in the Fridge's assistant coordinator position under Bruce, who I worked with during SummerFun. As well as a wage, it means more responsibility and extra volunteer hours, becoming more involved in the planning and running of the Friday night program. I think this is something that will be useful for me to improve as a youth leader as well as something that will look good on my résumé on the path towards becoming a teacher.

Working at the program last night I made an effort to get to know as many new faces as I could, managing a good number before the end of the evening. Even after the building closed I was making friends with the other volunteers and the youth waiting outside for rides home. I even hung out with a group that had seemed like trouble makers last year and found them to be quite entertaining and mostly harmless.

The Whistler news was also good for the two other youth groups that I work with - something that they were happy to tell me since they are very appreciative of the effort that I put in and think I work really well with the youth. It is great to know that even though it seems like my plans have fallen through over the winter, I will still have plenty to do over the next six months!

Ideas for a new job are being whittled down by the criteria of the things that I didn't enjoy in previous jobs. Stress from restaurant work has narrowed customer service down to cafés and shops, almost catching pneumonia in January has pretty much cut outdoors work from the list and not enjoying long bus rides has cut out anything with a commute longer than 6 miles.

Suggestions so far from various sources have been a shop worker in Richmond Centre, a post office worker (possibly postman - walking quickly to stay warm!) and youth worker in one of the community centres. I have considered each of these options and when I have put together a pretty flashy résumé, I will start applying to employers across Richmond.

As for landscaping, since returning I have been Larry's spare guy (used either as extra help, or to cover for a sick employee) and am halfway through a few weeks with Sal's crew as she tries to bring them back up to speed after a lull over the summer. Quite the opposite of how I remember her, she has been really nice for most of my time with the crew and was careful to give me easier jobs when mono was making work hardest for me.

Having spent around 6 months of my time here as a landscaper, I have learned much about the job and been through many emotions towards it. Covering every area of the spectrum I have gone from loving the idea of sticking at it for my career to hating it with a passion. Currently I find myself in the happy medium of knowing that I won't ever make a career from it but I could return to it as a good way to make money in foreign countries as I travel.

This upcoming "end of an era" again puts me in the scary but exciting mindframe of not really knowing where I'll be in a few months (career-wise) and is a feeling that I don't think I could ever get used to. I'm sure that it'll work out, just as this trip has and I look forward to finding out what happens.

Monday, 15 September 2008

How To Fail An English Paper

This week's post was guest-written by Zander Rios and amused me. Regular blogging will resume next week with updates on Whistler and my life in general.

It was once said, "What is worth doing, is worth doing at the last minute". Actually, I may have made that up but in the interest of my getting a decent grade on this paper, lets hope I'm right. While I have always been something of a procrastinator, in writing this paper I seem to have set the bar at a new high. It is now nearly lunchtime and this paper is due in about four hours. Perhaps I should have started a week ago, but in light of this omen, and since I really have no other choice, I'll take my best shot.

The first step towards failing an English paper is to skip the class in which the assignment is given. Not only do you receive the assignment late, but you also miss learning how to write it! While this step isn't entirely necessary to failure, it helps to lay a firm foundation of ineptness in your writing.

For this step, several approaches can be taken to help you achieve your goal. First, there is the classic "weekday partying" approach which substitutes class for a good time the night before - with large quantities of alcohol recommended to ensure success.

Another good approach is to schedule a haircut during class, resulting in a dilemma as you weigh up the guilt of standing up the salon against the guilt of skipping class. This is actually an easy decision since there is not a single person on Earth who'd rather go to class than have their hair cut! Suit fitting or medical appointments are acceptable alternatives for this approach.

The final method - the ever dreaded “sleep through” approach - is not for the faint of heart. While this may not seem like an overwhelmingly difficult task, remember, friend, I am talking about a class that begins at 2:30pm! This approach is best aided by using your phone's alarm. This way you can leave it on silent and not have to worry about any annoying alarms. If you cannot quite bring yourself to silencing your own alarm, there is always the “roll-over”. This simple technique involves using your body to muffle the noise which will prevent you from waking up.

Since you aren't trying to fail the class, you'll have to show up eventually, which leads us to step two; achieved simply by burying the assignment deep in your schoolbag. Try to avoid viewing the assignment as you hide it since this can cause a feeling of anxiety and a future desire to search through your bag for it.

Be sure to cram your books on top, both to avoid accidentally viewing the assignment, and to lend a sense of overall classlessness to the proceedings by bending and wrinkling the paper in ways only achievable through intentional unintentionalness. This will cause you to feel extra depressed at the way you treated the assignment (once you are finally forced to start writing), helping to foster an overall sense of failure to your failure. This is okay though, since failure is the goal here, after all.

The third step is one that I hold close to my heart, known as the “four day weekend”. Starting your partying a full 24 hours earlier, on Thursday, allows for a large momentum to build up which will carry you through the weekend with ease – avoiding any threat of “weekend work”; the mongoose to failure's snake, if you will. Though seemingly similar to step one it is actually only a distant cousin!

Avoiding weekend work is essential to ensuring failure and this can be achieved with the classic “college kid routine”. This is simply consumption of alcohol each night, recovery each morning and then immediate preparation for the quickly approaching evening in the afternoon! Alternatively, a trip to the nearest city without your books is a great way to spend your long weekend - gambling recommended but not essential.

Poor planning, with some tweaking, can be used to great effect in achieving failure. Suddenly remembering a second paper (or doing it a week early by accident!) whilst avoiding the first can help to confuse proceedings and prevent the first from being started at the right time. To perfect this, it helps to ignore the professor when they are announcing deadlines, which can be achieved by sitting near attractive members of the opposite sex in class and not discussing your work with your classmates.

Applying every step discussed above to both papers can be very effective but is difficult to master, so don't get discouraged if you cannot fail two papers simultaneously. Spending all night writing the wrong paper will help to tire you out for the paper you intend to fail and help you ignore your conscience as you continue to put it off.

The final step is fairly simple. Having spent the weekend partying and now tired from an all-nighter doing another paper (that is possibly not even due!), despite a long morning nap, you start to think about starting the paper. To avoid temptation, the final recommendation is television. Flip through channels until you find a show like Law & Order S.V.U. - which is seemingly on repeat! Now, you may well have seen these episodes before, but that doesn't make them any less entertaining. Sit back and enjoy. Go through your normal routine of television watching. If that includes a favourite chair or popcorn then be sure to follow your routine thoroughly. Before you know it, you will have totally forgotten about the paper you intend to fail.

After several hours, to your surprise, the familiar comfort of Elliot and Olivia miraculously capturing rapists and murderers will end. While this may seem like a negative event at first (as though you'd have to start writing), be patient friend, for “The Saint” starring Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue, has just come on!

Since you probably know of its terribleness, you won't want to watch but give it a chance. We're talking Kilmer, Shue, Russians and Cold Fusion; good writing, directing, and acting be damned! After the stunningly bland conclusion, you'll head to bed; the paper nothing more than an afterthought!

Now, you've reached the due date of the paper. Since you have no intention of failing the entire class, you will want to start writing eventually. This is where I must cut ties with you; you're on your own. I could tell you to find your favourite writing spot, and put on some music, and the usual things that people say to help you get started, but what's the point? You are royally screwed!

Written by Zander Rios.
Edited by Chris Reed.

For those of you that actually care about grades, lectures and success, Homework Tree is a cool schedule planner designed for students that may help you organise deadlines and assignments - provided you aren't distracted by attractive people whilst the deadline is being announced!

Friday, 5 September 2008

How To Go Back To Work

After an eventful summer, things have gone back to the way that they were in April! I recently returned to work as a landscaper (after two months out; having worked with kids before a month off), attended two youth club planning meetings (of the three that I hope to be involved with before and after Whistler), I am blogging things that happened within the last week and I am again single.

The main difference is that my bank balance has dropped after a lower income for 2 consecutive months (SummerFun, travel and sickness) and despite my rent being reduced whilst I was away, I have still paid out more than I have had in and so I am going to be working hard in these coming months to make sure I am comfortable in Whistler - with it's notoriously high prices!

In terms of getting ready for Whistler, I met a guy (who happened to be a friend of my Aunt and Uncle) whilst working in June and he told me to call him so he could put me in touch with some contacts that he has in Whistler. I have sent resumés to the provided contacts and should be sorted in terms of getting a job. Unfortunately, as confirmed by Cory (who tried the same move last Autumn) the accommodation is much harder to come by and is the reason that a lot of people end up not going even with a job sorted out.

From what an international employee told me when I was in Whistler in the Spring (that I could sort work and accommodation through Whistler/Blackcomb resort), I have also been scouring the website for information on jobs and housing recently and although most of the jobs don't apply to me (not sure whether I am too early or too late!), I have discovered that they do student-type housing arrangements that sound good.

In order to book the accommodation, however, I need to provide credit card information and since many travel sites request this (and I like to travel), I have decided to get a secure credit card with a limit of $500 (£250). This is partially because I don't want to accidentally go over the limit and be in trouble, partially because I don't yet have a credit history and partially because they request the limit amount in cash before they give over the card and so I couldn't afford to get one with a four-digit figure anyway.

Whilst waiting to go back to work this week, I spent some time helping out the Bowen's with their house painting - putting the money towards my rent. The work has been hard but it was good to get some exercise and I worked hard. I had been planning to do it for three days this week but after the first two (and with mono-induced fatigue) I accidentally fell asleep during the day on Wednesday for 6 hours, despite having already had a 9 hour rest! I found ceiling painting to be hardest (requiring constant force upwards - whilst dodging splashes of paint!) and messiest and have a new respect for my cousins and their boyfriends (who have been painting houses for the last few summers)!

Aside from the occasional fatigue, the mono has pretty much cleared up and I should be better before October. I returned to work yesterday and did well with the new crew - Danny having moved on and some new foreigners having been brought in (from Nigeria and Brazil) without getting tired at all. In the evening I purchased a bus pass for the month (since Danny would no longer be driving) and now have freedom to get about without frantic loose-change hunting before every trip!

As well as the return to work, it has been all change for most of the people that I know - with the youth returning to school and most of my friends who are my age going to university or college! As much as I enjoy what I am doing, I know for sure that I want to return to university one day with my new sense of direction and improved focus.

Still definitely sure that I want to teach, I am again excited that three nights of my week will involve having fun with the youth and learning new things through working with them. After visiting Keats and Latona summer camps, I realised that SummerFun (though fun) was no substitute for a real summer camp and am now looking at preparing applications for around December in terms of applying for an American summer camp next year - hopefully on the west coast!

Between all of this I have also tried hard to remember what I knew about coding from a while ago and with the help of some websites, I have added a few new features to this page as I look to perfect it in the coming weeks. My favourite at this point is the "favicon" icon of a maple leaf shown in the address bar when you visit my page. Along with the content-rating system, new menu and soon-to-be-improved search bar I am beginning to enjoy seeing my page and hope that people who visit it like it too.

As ever, comments, questions and thoughts are appreciated and I look forward to responding. For the less vocal among you, a rating out of 5 will suffice.