Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Life's Like That (that time we almost got tackled in airport security)

Life being the way life is, my dad, brother and I were heading back from Canada a few months ago without my wonderful mom and sister. We had been traversing up and down British Columbia and Alberta in Gertie, talking to so many people, getting less than the recommended amount of sleep a night and had just gotten off a thirteen hour plane trip. (It was a great trip, of course, but in case you didn't get the point we were pretty tired at this point.)

The sis et moi.

We've been a fan of this TV show called Brooklyn Nine-Nine and we were able to watch the Christmas special during the plane ride. My brother and I had a good giggle over it on the plane, but Dad was sleeping so he was left out of the conversation. 

In the episode, a police officer wants to give the captain a Christmas present but he continually refuses. She decides the best way to get the captain to open her present is to wrap it in an unmarked box, disguise her handwriting and leave an unsigned note reading "Open me now". As this is a police captain, he immediately yells "Bomb!" and puts the precinct under lockdown. We all got a good giggle out of that. 

So we landed in the Brisbane airport and were standing in line for security. Security being boring, we were all catching up on the movies and TV shows we watched on the plane and Brooklyn Nine-Nine came up. We hadn't discussed it with Dad yet, so we were all re-living our favourite parts. 

Dad's eyes went wide, he grinned and yelled "B-"... then realised we were in security. 

He almost quoted the captian yelling "Bomb!"

In airport security. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

I have been very excited about seeing this movie for a long time. As someone who is a) a female, b) starting engineering school in a few weeks (although c) not African-American), d) a huge fan of the time period and e) also a huge fan of civil rights movies, I could not wait. 


During the Space Race, three brilliant African-American women (Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) worked at NASA to launch the first American into orbit. I was actually having a pretty bad day when we went to see it, and I came out so happy that I was literally bouncing around the movie theatre. Basically it's got science and math and amazing role models and everything you could ever need in a movie. Go see it. Immediately. 

The characters were perfect, the costumes and sets beautiful, the score incredible, the story flawless. I was cheering and cringing and laughing, and if we weren't in public I would have given it a standing ovation. The film showed *gasps* black women having fun, falling in love, being human. It was beautiful. It taught me something. It gave me hope. 

Sorry for the short review, but when I have nothing to criticise my reviews tend to be shorter. Have you seen Hidden Figures? Would you like to see it? (Now excuse me, but there's a book that I'm off to get my hands on...)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Driving Misadventures (part 4) (in which we get stranded in the middle of nowhere)

So a couple of weeks ago my friend Sarah, my sister M and I decided to go to the ice rink that was in town for a couple of weeks. It had been forever since M and I had been skating, and what better way could you spend the afternoon than in ice skates? 

We showed up to the rink and to our horror, the door was locked. We banged on it for a little, double-checked the website then wandered around for a little to no avail. No one was there. Just as we were about to leave, a truck pulled up and a guy stuck his head out the window. 

"You girls here for the skating?" We nodded, probably looking pretty confused. "Can you come back at three o'clock? More people usually show up then." I checked my phone. It was ten o'clock, and it was a forty-five minute drive back to the house. Hmmm, not likely then. 

We bought smoothies and tried to decide what to do, and eventually driving to the top of a nearby mountain came up. Seeing how none of us had ever done it before and we suddenly had lots of time on our hands, Sarah plugged the route into iMaps and away we went in my old reliable car, without telling anyone where we were going. 

The drive there was absolutely beautiful, with gum trees dotting swaying fields of grass and the road stretching out in front of us like a pair of faded jeans. M blasted the music and we all sang along. 

Eventually, we hit a dirt road. My car could handle it without too much difficulty, so onwards we went, winding deeper and deeper into the Australian bush. The ever-present symphony of the Australian insects surrounded us, with patches of sky peeking through the canopy above. 

After a little while, we came across three men in a truck. They were loading leaves and branches into the back of their ute, and looked like complete bogans. Two of them were wearing the typical Australian tradie uniform, which was a thick yellow button-up jacket with reflective stripes across the chest. I had to do a double-take with the third one. He had a mullet. An honest to God mullet. Pair that with a muscle shirt, board shorts, a pair of flip flops and a cigarette and it didn't take long before I was locking the doors. After all, three young girls alone in the middle of nowhere with three bogan men? It was just a little scary. 

We passed them without too much difficulty and continued on our way, still laughing about the mullet guy. Eventually, a sign reading "Private Property" marked the end of the road. We glanced around, the mountain rising from the ground to our right. iMaps had obviously told us to take a wrong turn, and we had gone around the back of the mountain. 

We shut off the car and, laughing, took a few pictures to sum up this spectacular fail of a morning. First the skating, then the mountain climb. But hey, it was an adventure, right? Adventures always made for good stories. 

The truck with the three men rumbled over the road, and we squealed then hopped back in the car and locked it, stories our moms had told us of the girls who never made it back home running through our heads. They passed us without a word. Our photo session wasn't quite finished, so we shut the car back off and posed for a few more pictures. 

Once the mosquitos and the heat had become too much, I slid back into the driver's seat and turned the key. The engine sputtered then died. I blinked, then tried again. The car struggled, then was silent. We all stared at each other, the full reality of our situation suddenly clear. 

"We're all Christians, everyone start praying," said M as she pulled out her iPad to record our crisis. I frantically turned the key again and again to no avail. It had to be the battery. 

"Is there signal out here?" I whispered. 

"No!" Sarah laughed, which I found a bit inappropriate, considering our situation. Then again, I often decide to laugh instead of cry, so I could kinda of see where she was coming from. After all,between the three of us we had very little experience with mechanics and it would take us a good forty-five minutes to walk back to the main road, and another few hours to get back to civilisation. 

There was a roar as the ute with the three bogans rounded the corner. Completely terrified, we climbed out of the car and waved them down. 

"Could you help us? Our car... stopped starting." Sarah offered a weak laugh at her inability to string together a sentence. I wasn't going to judge as my own lips were sealed. 

Bogan #1 and Mullet Guy jumped out of their ute and started poking around under the hood of my car, and eventually declared that the battery had died. They had jumper cables back at the house, so they headed back in their truck and left Bogan #2 with us. What followed was the most awkward situation I've experienced in a long time. After all, what do you say to a stranger while you're stuck in the middle of nowhere with him? We made a few passing remarks about the strangeness of the situation, of the car, of the weather. The buzzing of the insects filled in the gaps. 

The men came back after a while and plugged the cables into the batteries, and before long the car was gasping for breath but was at least alive. We thanked them a million times and headed off, barely able to contain our laughter at our adventure. 

Has your car ever broken down in an inconvenient place? Has a dodgy person ever helped you out of a scrape? 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Reading non-fiction is weird (and also kinda wonderful)

So for a good many years of my life, I was sure that non-fiction was a crazy genre and no one should ever read it. As a kid I could never get through a whole non-fiction book, and I considered them to be for adults who spent their evenings discussing politics, the price of gas and the economy while they drank red wine with their colleagues. (Please excuse my ten-year-old self.) Fiction was much more appealing, with the dragons and wardrobes and adventures through time and space. 

In high school, my opinion of it didn't change much. Sure, I recognised that my view of non-fiction was just a little narrow-minded, but that didn't encourage me to start reading it. I spent enough time stuffing my brain with facts and figures as it was, and every time I went to read something that had a lack of magic I'd find myself trying to figure out how to in-text reference it and watching the page numbers so I could refer to it in my essay. (And obviously that was about as much fun as driving a mallet through a dolphin's brain.) I needed the escape that fiction provided, compared to feeling like I was still doing homework. 

This year, I haven't had much formal education beyond a few French classes. As a result, I've found myself more and more attracted to non-fiction and all the wonderful knowledge I can extract from it. I'm a student at heart (despite my issues with our education system, which is a whole other post) and I love to learn, love the never-ending game of knowing. I've learned so much this year about topics I love, whereas before I was so busy trying to get essays done to bother with hurting my poor brain with yet more knowledge. 

I've learned about bees and beekeeping, about China and Mongolia and genetically modified organisms and insects. I've learned about the conflict in the Middle East, about women's rights and feminism in both developing and developed countries, about surviving a plane crash in the Andes. And that's pretty cool. I don't know if I'll be able to continue with my self-education this year, but I'm looking forwards to the day when I'm no longer in school and once again feel the tug to pick up a non-fiction book. 

Do you read much non-fiction? Do you feel school has ever discouraged you from reading non-fiction in your free time?