Monday, August 22, 2016

Heart Thumping, Mind Wheeling, Hail Thrashing - TORNADO!

(Sorry for the long post)

Summer can be a dangerous time for some. More dangerous than a simple sunburn or the risk of skin-cancer. The weather phenomena called the 'tornado' is a destructive force that strikes every summer - it's expected on the North American plate, where the conditions are just right.

Growing up, I always had a morbid fascination for tornadoes. When I say "morbid" I mean: "I find this fascinating, yet also terrifying". The mechanics of how tornadoes formed fascinated me, but the destruction and the lives they took frightened me to death.

I never thought I would ever have to hide from the threat of one. Sure, when my mother, grandmother, cousin and I were travelling across Canada when I was six, we drove through this weird cloud that stretched across the highway that had lead us about halfway across Saskatchewan. Mom could barely see and I can remember how her shrieking had my heart dancing in my throat - an experience I hadn't endured before, since I was only six and that was the first time I remember being out of my home province since I was 2 years old (though my parents traveled to the USA a lot when I was younger than that).

A few years later, my mother and I discovered that the weird cloud, that acted like a solid wall of dust, was caused by a tornado. We never saw a tornado, and the dust seemed to just hang in the air. It was by God's prevention that we hadn't hit the tornado as we drove through its cloud, and that everyone that drove through it (the highway was packed with cars that day - that's why Mom was shrieking so much. She didn't know if she could slow down, speed up, or whether or not she was still on the road since we really only had about 20 feet of visibility in front of the nose of the car).

That was as close to a tornado as I would ever get, I thought, up until last night.

It's one thing to run into a tornado when you're outside of your home province, it's another when a tornado decides to visit you in your backyard.

Since I was six, my family has moved one province over, from British Columbia to Alberta. I live so far north in Alberta, in the Taiga Biome where it's normally wet and void of the conditions needed for a tornado to develop. The only thing different from my childhood home on the west coast is the fact we get thunderstorms here, and it's not as humid, or wet.

I've heard over the last few years that tornados have begun to pop up down south. A couple years ago a tornado touched down on a farm outside of Whitecourt, a town/small city only an hour away from when I live, and dissipated before it could leave the farm's boundaries. Edmonton has been struck by a couple devastating tornadoes... but I honestly didn't think one would touch down so close. Edmonton is farther from the Rocky Mountains than I am, thus leaving it open for the volatile mixing of cold air from the Rockies and the warm air from down south.

Last night, my brother came back from summer camp orienteering (it's soccer themed and he's been looking forward to it all year) and warned us that there was a tornado watch, something that was a surprise. The weather was so calm and peaceful. The wind was gentle and it was actually cool and slightly rainy. Dad jumped outside and looked up at the sky while I peered out the bay window in our living room. At 9:30 in the evening, it was still light out despite the fact it would be gone in the next 30 minutes. But when I looked out that window, a dark, ominous cloud was creeping across the sky, like a black ooze.

Mentally, I went "uh oh", since the last time I saw a cloud like that, I was in the car with my mom as we went to pick my brother up from VBS. The thunder and lightning were fierce, and the rain had poured from the roof of the church with the intensity comparable to someone running several water hoses an just letting the water splatter loudly to the concrete of the parking lot. The rain drops that hit my face and back as I ran from the car to the safety of the church felt like bullets and were at least the size of my thumb.

My mind flashed back to that storm, and how it had terrified me then. I wasn't looking forward to facing such a terrifying storm so late at night, not after the recent memory of a fierce thunderstorm that hit at six in the morning in late June (I think...), where a tree across the yard was struck and the thunderclap was so loud that it sent my cat running from my bedroom and caused me to jump out of fright and nearly scream.

I went about checking the Weather Network app (last night), and I was presented with a terrible surprise. According to the Weather Network, the tornado watch had been upgraded to a tornado warning! A tornado watch is when meteorologists see that the thunderstorm is behaving in a way that it could produce a tornado and devastating side-effects like harsh winds, hail, and driving rain. But a tornado WARNING is when a storm chaser or someone watching the storm has seen rotation at the base of the cloud (think the swirls left by the whisk in your home-made whipped cream or how the water in your kitchen sink sometimes when it spins and then forms a funnel shape as it goes down the drain).


I've never felt such fear before! Dad went out onto the deck again, and watched the sky since there was still enough light to see by. He said that the clouds were going west, then were going north, then east. They were going everywhere, and I knew something was going on since clouds did not do that.

So, after some debate on what we should do (should we ride it out on the main floor or should we go downstairs into the basement?) I ran down into the basement and grabbed one of the cat carriers. Rushing back upstairs, I located my cat and stuffed her into the carrier and carried her downstairs. Dad rushed outside to shut the quad shed since it is one of those flimsy tarp ones stretched over a frame, and he didn't want it to blow away, and I prayed that he would be safe.

Once Pebbles was downstairs, I packed up my laptop, my mother's laptop, my kindle, and some books. I couldn't remember if my laptop is insured and I need it for college so I wasn't going to take any chances. Dad made it inside as the storm began to hammer the house with hail, harder than I've ever experienced before. I was lamenting our outdoor kitties because they must have been so scared! I love them so much, and even if the tornado was weak enough to not cause too much damage if it came through the property we were renting, the shed the cats take shelter in is so weak and the old barn they like to explore has sat on a strange slant since the day it was built several decades ago.

F-0, or "cold-core" tornadoes as they call them when they're as weak as a dust devil but still appear to be a tornado, are still strong enough to lift mobile homes and blow over cat sheds.

I'm still trying to deduce if it was a wedge tornado or a tornado cloaked by rain by this shot.


We all hunkered down in the unfinished basement, on the little decorative couch my mother hopes to refurnish someday, and to help take our minds off the storm raging outside, I opened my laptop and we continued to watch The Flash episode we had been watching before my brother came home (Season 2, Episode 1, in fact, since I had bought it from Google Play). At some points I couldn't tell if it was the wind shrieking outside or the sound effects from the show, but I kept my mouth shut.

After the episode was over, we watched "The Unicorn Song" by the Irish Rovers on Youtube, and a clip from the Irish Rovers TV show. By then, the storm seemed to have quieted down, and moved off, so we let my cat out of the carrier, shut down my laptop, and moved upstairs.

It was too quiet after the rattling caused by the hail which drove us downstairs. I honestly thought we were going to lose something - a storm had never been so fierce to us before. My dad had checked Doppler radar on his phone and the part of the storm that eventually created the tornado in the pictures I showed in this post passed right over us.

If you can zoom in, there's a tiny triangle of a funnel cloud smack dab in the middle of the picture.

Stupid me has always wished to experience a tornado for the rush, but now that I've experienced a near-miss, I wish I could go back and slap myself. This experience was NOT fun, there was no rush! I suppose it was a by-product of my morbid fascination with tornadoes, and I know better now.

I want to go see if there was any damage left behind. I'm hoping my dad will take me today before it gets too dark.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: The Artisan's Wife

The Artisan's Wife. Judith Miller. 2016. Bethany House Publishers. Pages: 333. [Source: Netgalley / Bethany House Publishers review program]

Ainslee McKay's world is shaken when she discovers her twin sister has not only eloped with a man she barely knows but now Ainslee must fulfill their obligation at a tile works in Weston, West Virginia. Ainslee must learn the ropes and, if she can keep the tile works profitable, her brother will help her sell the business. 
When Levi Judson arrives and shows Ainslee his designs for new tiles, she's impressed by his skill and passion for the business. But he's hiding his true reason for coming to Weston. And Ainslee knows he'd be crushed to learn his plans for a long career at McKay Tile Works are in vain since she intends to sell. Can the growing feelings between them survive if the truth comes to light--or is a future together as untenable as the future of the tile works itself?


~~~

Rating: ★★✩✩

I was sorely disappointed with this novel. At points I thought the story was going well, but then the jumbled plot soured my opinion of the story. When I chose to read and review this novel, I expected that the story would revolve around Ainslee and how she struggled to keep the fact that she wanted to sell the tile works from the man she fell in love with. Instead, Ainslee's older brother drops the bomb in front of the man she loves, a man who is one of her employees (that's why she was trying to keep the secret from him). And she wasn't madly in love with him at the time - yet.

I couldn't get into this novel, and not because it was the third novel in a series (something I didn't know when I requested the novel). The interactions, reactions, and the way the characters felt stilted, unrealistic to me. I know that Judith Miller put a lot of time and energy and thought into the story, but I didn't like it.

The plot felt strung out. The tension that could have been gained was let go half-way through the novel (the secret about wanting to sell the tile works), and the sudden appearance of "awful" Aunt Margaret and subsequent death seemed unneeded and pointless to the story - it probably would have seemed less pointless to me if I was forewarned about the novel being the third in its series and I had read the first two instalments. There wasn't enough forewarning about Aunt Margaret for her part to mesh with the rest of the story. 

I wish I liked the story more, because I really did like Ainslee. And I really felt for her when her twin sister took off on her and eloped. But that wasn't enough.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Come Over, Let's Lecture Economically & Get Educated



If you're confused about the title of this post - let me let you in on a little secret.

*crooks finger* A little closer... I have to whisper... well, not really.

The title of the post spells "college", because that's what I'm going to be talking about in this post.

Yes, this time of my life has finally arrived - well, will arrive, since I'll be arriving at the college I'm going to be attending in 3 weeks, give or take a few days. I'm going to be a college student, and I've stuck with my desire to study in Digital Media.

The reason why I'm writing about college is because it occured to me that I won't have as much time on my blog when my days will be filled with classes and studying. And when I have free time, I'll probably spend it either reading, writing, or even, *gasp*, hanging out with any friends I might have managed to gain.

But I'm so excited for the days in which I'll be able to fill my mind with interesting information again. I'm not looking forward to the tests, though. But if I want to learn about something new, I have to endure tests.

The lineup for the courses of the fall semester seem extremely interesting. I'll be studying the Torah and film and premiere stuff. I can't wait!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew. The Chronicle's of Narnia #1. C.S. Lewis. 1955. HarperCollins Publishers. Pages: 221. [Source: Childhood Gift]



He never finished what he was going to say for at that moment something happened. The high-backed chair in front of the fire moved suddenly and there rose out of it - like a pantomime demon coming up out of a trapdoor - the alarming form of Uncle Andrew. They were not in the empty house at all; they were in Digory's house and in the forbidden study! Both children said "O-o-oh" and realized their terrible mistake. They felt they ought to have known all along that they hadn't gone nearly far enough. 

 • •

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

 • •

The Magician's Nephew continues to be my favourite Narnia novel. It's not because it's the first novel, no, it's because of what Digory and Polly have to go through and what they see on their way to and while they're in Narnia.

I can still remember the day when my father gave me my boxed set of The Chronicles of Narnia - I was in second grade, I think, and I was getting ready to go to an assembly with my father at the school I was going to (Comox Elementary, which has sadly been closed down). He handed me the boxed set and let me open it, and told me he would read the books to me whenever he could. And he did, though the last novel I remember that he read to me was The Horse and His Boy. I read the rest by myself because my father, I guess, soon became too busy to just sit down and read to me.

The story starts with Polly playing out in the garden when a boy peeks his face up over the wall dividing his garden from her own. The boy, who she was soon to learn was named Digory, was crying because of how ill his mother was getting. After that meeting, they become good friends and go regular little adventures, you know, the kind kids like to do.

But one day, they go up into the attic and decide to try and go explore the empty row house attached to their houses. But they make a grave mistake and accidentally enter into Digory's attic, where they discover that his uncle has converted the attic into a study...

This has to be my most favourite Narnia novel. There's so many things that happen in it that make me think. Think, think, THINK, think, THINK! And I love it when a book makes me THINK.

One of the parts of the books that makes me think the most is the part when Digory and Polly appear in Charn and take in what's left of that world. The fact that Charn's sun is red and "tired"-looking immediately makes me think that Charn's sun was a red giant - which is a star that has reached the end of it's life. It was hanging low over the horizon, so it made me think that it had probably swelled from its original size and took up most of the sky by the time Digory and Polly got there. Charn was an old world, and yet the sun had always been large and red, according to Jadis.

The fact that Charn was no more by the time Digory and Polly's adventure in Narnia was over unsettles me a bit, and I don't know why. 

I deeply love C.S. Lewis' style of writing in this book. It makes it sound like a lovely fairy-tale and it sucks me in every time I open this story. I look forward to the day I can read it to my kids, like my father did to me.

One thing I wish I could do, though, was find one of the sets of green and gold rings that Uncle Andrew created. I would love to explore the Wood between the Worlds, just to see what other worlds there could have been. My curiosity always gets to me like that. What other worlds were there other than ours and Charn and Narnia?

Note: I never realized, until now, that Digory and Polly lived in the Victorian era, when Sherlock Holmes still solved mysteries and the thought of motor-cars were still a bit of a ways away...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Star Trek: From History's Shadow

From History's Shadow. Dayton Ward. Based on the concept created by Gene Roddenberry. (Star Trek: The Original Series).  2013. Pocket Books. Pages: 427. [Source: Bought]

He heard breathing and the rustling of clothing. Muscles tensing in anticipation of a confrontation if not a full-blown firefight, Kirk stepped around the stacked containers and levelled his phaser at the figure standing in the open. It was the Vulcan, who appeared flush and disheveled. At his feet lay what could only be the particle weapon detected by Spock's tricorder.

"That is my only weapon," he said, standing in place and holding his hands away from his body. "I am not a threat. It is my counterpart who should concern you."

~~~

I've had this pocket book sitting in the data-banks of my iPad for 6 months to a year. I can't quite remember when I bought it, I just remember that I wanted to read it very badly since it sounded like it was quite exciting. And I wasn't disappointed. Did I love From History's Shadow? Yes, yes I did.

From History's Shadow starts out with the crew of the Enterprise just having returned to the 23rd Century after the whole incident with Gary Seven in the Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth". They've barely been in their century a day before a disturbance in a cargo bay has them slamming on the brakes so they can go investigate.

What exactly is causing all that fuss in the cargo bay, anyway? Turns out, Enterprise somehow gained a couple of stow-aways when it was in the 20th Century.

One of the reasons why I grabbed this book was because Mestral was in it. Mestral is a Vulcan character from the only Star Trek: Enterprise episode I've ever watched - "Carbon Creek". The reason why I like him so much is because he decided to stay on Earth after kind of falling in love with a Carbon Creek resident named Maggie. The thought that Mestral, a Vulcan, decided to stay and live amongst the human race, which at the time was extremely interested in the concept of alien invaders, is an interesting concept.

I liked the action and the cohesiveness of the plot of this story. Despite the fact that there were at least four points of view at any given time, I understood what was happening at each point and the only times I felt lost were when I returned to the story after stopping in the middle of a scene. Each and every character read like they were supposed to. Sometimes I felt that the situations weren't described as much as they could have but in every scene my imagination took over and compensated because there was enough information!

At the end of the novel, when one of the characters, a James Wainwright, is retired and old and slowly succumbing to Alzheimer's Disease, a breaking news TV spot pops up on his TV, showing a picture of a very familiar UFO. After several encounters with a similar-shaped ship which was under the command of Captain Kirk when he was in his prime, Captain Janeway's starship pulls the memories of his times chasing aliens and seeing things out-of-this-world from the depths of his mind where they had long since been buried.

What I would have liked to have seen at the end was Mestral visiting James after he saw the image of Voyager on the TV, since they had a bit of a working relationship halfway through the novel. You know, just to see how he was doing since Mestral would have hardly have changed at all. But it didn't happen. Oh well.

Note: The reader of this novel would have to be extremely well-versed in the Star Trek universe to get a lot of what happened in this novel. I just squeezed in thanks to my curiosity and due to the fact that I'm finally watching Star Trek: Voyager from the beginning.

This novel takes elements from:
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth".
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday" with a cameo by Captain John Christopher.
  • Star Trek: Voyager episodes "Future's End & Future's End, Part II"
  • Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Carbon Creek"

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Movies That Have Left Me Dissatisfied

This was something I just wanted to share, since it occurred to me that, lately, I've been subjected to certain stories that have made me want to scream with frustration. Only one novel I've read in recent memory has had this affect on me, and that was The Phantom of the Opera.

But this post is about the movies that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, literally.

I don't really know why I wanted to make a post about it, but I guess I wanted to talk about story endings. I know that there are effective ways to end a story, but some of them end up being totally unnecessary. Really, some endings I've seen on movies have just left me frustrated and furious.

Here is a list of movies that have made me frustrated:


  1. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
  2. The Amazing Spiderman 2
  3. Star Trek Generations
  4. Maze Runner & Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
  5. The Pretender: Island of the Haunted

Usually, I'm pretty tolerant about how a story is crafted, due to the fact that I'm a realist 50% of the time. Real life often doesn't allow for happy endings of "happily ever afters". So when something doesn't go perfect for the main characters, then I'm fine. Because that's realistic. Though, even though I'm fine with it, that doesn't mean that I'm happy about it, lol.


1. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life


One evening, Mom was flicking through the channels when she stumbled across this movie. She went "eh, why not?" and changed to it. When I was little and I was just becoming coherent enough to play computer games (I've been playing video games since I was five - and computer games are more challenging than video games, I swear! lol) I discovered Mom's copy of the Tomb Raider CD-ROM disk. I quickly discovered that I could only make it through a quarter of the first level before I would make it to a stone bridge in this cave where I would be taken down by a couple wolves (and where exactly did those come from???) and GAME OVER would be thrown up onto the screen.

The reason why I was dissatisfied with this movie's ending: Terry had to be such a overgrown baby in the Cradle of Life. Didn't he realize that if he took Pandora's Box, he could, eventually, be the last living man on Earth (if he opened the box) or would eventually become a victim of the plague contained within the box (if he sold it)? I was really disappointed that he was greedy enough to try to push past Lara in the Cradle so she was forced to shoot him. I really liked Lara and Terry as a pair.


2. The Amazing Spiderman 2


I really enjoyed the first Amazing Spiderman movie, so I thought I would love this movie just as much. At the beginning, it was exactly what I expected, but then it quickly spiralled into something less than what I was hoping for. I sympathized for Max Dillon/Electro - one of the villains.

The reason why I was dissatisfied with this movie's ending: Gwen's death. The subsequent twisting of Harry Osbourne's mind because of his inherited disease so that he was eventually so desperate to live that he labeled his childhood friend - Peter Parker - his enemy. And he killed Gwen! I fully believe that Peter should have been able to save Gwen despite how intense his battle with Harry was, but the writers decided that she had to die instead of actually getting to fulfil her dreams. (Oh, and if you can't figure out why she died when Peter clearly caught her - well, the sudden stop caused by Peter catching her with his webbing snapped her back).


3. Star Trek Generations


I like this movie. I loved how it brought the original Star Trek series and The Next Generation together through finding Captain James T. Kirk in the Nexus. One thing I didn't like about it, though, was the fact that Data just had to swear as the Enterprise-D's saucer-section crash-landed. Was that exactly necessary? I thought people had almost completely discarded the instinctive need to swear? I know Data was trying out his emotion-chip, but still--

The reason why I was dissatisfied with this movie's ending: Captain Kirk's death. Probably every Star Trek fan agrees with me - Kirk's death was unnecessary. He had plenty of time to get off of that catwalk before it fell. I knew that he was out there distracting Soran so that his rocket would blow up on him, but Kirk could have started running for solid ground as the rocket exploded, or he could have run over to somewhere else. I really wanted to see how Kirk would have reacted to the 24th Century.


4. Maze Runner & Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials


Where can I begin? For one thing, I really don't like dystopian films or novels, but the action in the first movie had me intrigued. I got to like the characters, even though dread throbbed in the pit of my stomach. I was intrigued from the beginning of the first movie because I wondered if these kids were on some other planet, and were being dropped off by machines left over from the human race and that the human race no longer existed. But then I quickly learned that, no, the teenagers were not on another planet, but were actually on Earth, and Earth has been hit by some sort of catastrophe caused by the sun?? I'm not sure since it's only called "The Flare". Apparently there was a massive solar flare that must have weakened every human's immune system that a plague of epic proportions swept through the population of the planet. I didn't like The Scorch Trials at all, and spent the time my family watched it building Lego as it droned on in the background.

The reason why I was dissatisfied with these movies' ending: I admit, I liked the action in these movies, but the endings left me with bitterness to end all bitterness in my mouth. With the first movie, when they killed Chuck off - they didn't have to kill Chuck off! But probably it happened in the book (I haven't read the book). The ending of the second movie frustrated with how Teresa betrayed her friends for W.C.K.D. even though it was made very apparent that W.C.K.D. is evil. Really, Teresa??!?


5. The Pretender: Island of the Haunted


The Pretender has to be one of my favourite cat & mouse-themed TV shows of all time. In each episode, Jarod - the main character, the "pretender" - goes about helping someone who was wronged, like a security guard who was killed by a couple of police officers who broke into the bank he was guarding and made it look like he was the criminal. Or the family of an pilot who was accused of being drunk when he was flying a jet (so it crashed and he died) so they couldn't get his pension. And all the while he teases and taunts the organization who kidnapped him when he was a kid and exploited his genius for their research. More often than not, I wish the Pretender had gone on for more than four seasons and two movies.

The reason why I was dissatisfied with this movie's ending: This is the second movie of the two movies produced to help tie up the TV series since the Pretender was cancelled, leaving it at a very tense and suspenseful situation. The reason why I was dissatisfied with the ending of this episode was the fact that it revealed why Jarod was taken by the Centre when he was a child. He was taken because of a prophecy. But that's not entirely the whole reason why I wasn't happy with ending - viewers were left with Jarod still on the run. What I wanted was for the entirety of the Centre to be gone, destroyed, so Jarod could settle down, start a family, and find his mother, father, and sister. After all, wasn't that his goal and was what he had been striving for the entire show?

~~~

Now, those are the movies, that I can remember, that have frustrated with their endings. They leave me going into overdrive with my thoughts. I overthink about it until, ultimately, I have to abandon it knowing I can't change them. So all I can do it fume quietly about them, lol.

But every writer has a reason for an ending that may annoy me, but sometimes those endings really don't make sense, or entirely unnecessary.

What movies have driven you up the wall, or driven you crazy?


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Murder On the Orient Express


Murder On the Orient Express. Agatha Christie. 1934. William Morrow Paperbacks. Pages: 365. [Source: Bought]

After watching the "Mummy On the Orient Express" episode of Doctor Who, I was curious about the original form of the story by Agatha Christie. I really didn't think about it, though, until I saw the novel at Chapters. It was on a display case with a sign stating "Sherlock's Bookshelf". I was drawn in by the sign because I was experiencing a Sherlock kick at the time.

I had this novel for a long time before I decided to read it. And it wasn't until I took a good look at it that I realized that it was the 10th book in the Hercule Poirot series. So I was a little apprehensive when I finally dove in.

When I began to read, I really didn't know what to expect. I didn't know who Hercule Poirot was so when I was introduced to him I never really connected to him. I couldn't see what his personality was like, so it was like I was sitting back and kind of watching the action from the distance. Though I did start to feel like I was in the story as the mystery became more and more intense.

I always like a good old mystery. This was a good mystery and I can see why it's considered Agatha Christie's best. I couldn't deduce who was the culprit until the very end, and I like it that way. I usually can deduce who's the culprit is about three quarters of the way through the novel - I don't know how or why, I just do sometimes.

But I was really happy with it. It really made the last five days go like the wind.