Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Day One of College Life

So, I’m finally at college, and today is day two of Orientation (today is day two, even though this is my first day living on my own at college). Despite the fact that I want to ball my eyes out every other minute due to the fact that I am now no longer with my family, and because they’re now driving back home, which is at least 500 kilometers from the college is, everything is okay-ish. My feet don’t hurt (yet), all the sessions are getting kind of boring and somewhat repetitive, the little coffee shop in the atrium is cute and serves great drinks (I tried one this morning before I went to Library Orientation - it was an Iced Chai Latte with a shot of white chocolate syrup (it was so good!). I can’t wait to try their “London Fog” beverage (I think it’s tea) when it gets a little cooler), and everyone’s really friendly and happy, and some are downright hilarious.
But the climate is a lot different from where my home is. It’s dryer because it’s the prairies - and while it’s only getting cooler and more fall-like up at home, it’s still hot here. And the heat here is oppressive. It saps my energy while I walk from my dorm room to different buildings between sessions.
It’s kind of lonely here, because the college is in a small town. The town is so small that the only chain-store here is an IGA, and there’s only half the banks here compared to what we have at home (so they don’t have my bank). I can look out my dorm window and see nothing but a couple of houses and endless prairies. If I look sharp enough to the right out my window, I can see a lone wind-turbine - which is part of a larger wind-farm but it’s out of view. The land is so flat here that I can see that lone turbine, even though it’s over 20 kilometers away (I know because I drove past it).
I was so excited to come here, and I’m excited about the prospect of learning something that can further me in life, but I really miss my family. I really wish they hadn’t had to leave. :’(

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!

The Situation With Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii

It has been several days since Mt. Kilauea started erupting ferociously. I don't think I've ever seen it erupt as bad as it is now...