What a busy month! I’ve been fortunate to start some projects for a couple of new clients, as well as do a whole bunch of writing on the side. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to…
I love writing articles and blogs, so when the chance comes to guest-write for other people, I jump at the chance! Somehow, I was lucky that every contributed article I wrote in July was about my great passion, sustainability. From writing about a ground-breaking net-positive workspace to turtle protection, I had a great time highlighting the important work our community is doing to ensure the safety of our natural world. I also provided some tips about reducing food waste in the kitchen for the University of Guelph Sustainability Office student blog. I don’t always get the chance to write about topics I love so much, so this month was an absolute pleasure.
Moon of the Crusted Snow, by Waubgeshig Rice: A novel about a small Anishinaabe community following a long blackout. Without power or food supplies, tension begins to rise among community members – and then, people from the south begin to arrive, disrupting their lives even more.
I’m Afraid of Men, by Vivek Shraya: In this beautiful memoir, trans artist and professor Vivek Shraya describes her experience with misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia.
The Matched Series, by Ally Condie: This series, which is faintly reminiscent of The Giver, tells the story of the Society, in which officials decide everything for the community members including their jobs, spouses, and even death dates. Suddenly, something goes wrong with the perfect system, and young Cassia and her friends are thrown into uncertainty.
The return of beautiful weather and the continuing quarantine have pushed me to pull out my old bicycle. I learned how to ride as a child, but am unfamiliar with bicycle road procedures and shaky on busier roads. This month, I’ve been learning about arm signals and rules of the road as a cyclist. I’ve also started exploring Cambridge’s vast array of trails and bike lanes. I feel lucky to have so much nature just in front of my handlebars!
Long after audio books became widely popular, I refused to swap my weekly visit to the public library for an app on my phone. I loved everything about visiting my local branch of the Idea Exchange (Cambridge’s public library): the opportunity for a walk downtown, the chance to say hello to the familiar staff, and a comfy seat by the large glass windows. And besides, I had my earphones in during every waking hour – my eyes and ears needed a break!
Of course, COVID-19 put a stop to that lovely habit. Once I ran out of books to read at home, I finally cast around for an audiobook option. I briefly considered and discarded Audible and looked with interest at Libro.fm (similar to Audible, but supports local bookstores), but ultimately settled on the free option provided through the Idea Exchange: the Libby App. It’s easy to use and has a great selection of audiobooks and e-books.
I am currently listening to If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. It is a beautiful novel about Amanda, a transgender teenage girl who moves to live with her father in Tennessee for a fresh start following a physical assault in a women’s bathroom in Georgia. Her struggle to navigate life and love has touched my heart.
Local restaurants I’m loving:
Andy’s Pizza (Galt/Cambridge): this family-run local joint has delicious pizza and friendly service. Be sure to try their honey garlic wings!
Hungry Ninja (Galt/Cambridge): it’s hard to find good sushi in Cambridge (unless I make it myself), but at least I know I can always grab a decent salmon sashimi and shrimp tempura bowl at Hungry Ninja.
Barnacle Bill’s (Galt/Cambridge): these guys know how to fry a fish! Be sure to call ahead as their line can get a bit long. I love the cod & chips (pictured).
In this memoir/historical/travel adventure, Ann Hui embarks on a cross-Canada road trip to explore the odd phenomenon that is “chop suey” (or “bits and pieces”) cuisine. Over crispy egg rolls and brightly coloured sweet-and-sour pork, Hui speaks with restaurant owners to understand what has brought them to Canada’s smallest towns to serve this odd version of Chinese food. Along the way, she discovers her own family’s chop suey story.
This book spoke to me on an unexpectedly personal level. Like the author, I’ve scoffed at “chop suey” cuisine for most of my life. You wouldn’t catch me eating a fried chicken ball for any amount of money. In Chop Suey Nation, Hui provides the context I needed to understand why Chinese restaurant owners serve this food day after day, and why every restaurant somehow has the same decor, menus design, and furniture no matter where you are in the country.
My family was part of an early wave of Cantonese-speaking Chinese mainlanders who came to Canada long before the influx of wealthy Mandarin-speaking expats from Hong Kong (many of whose children were my peers during adolescence). As I was reading, I remembered that in the 70’s, my own father had worked for a time in my Uncle’s chop suey restaurant in the Vancouver area. I had no idea that this narrative was so wide-spread in the Chinese-Canadian immigration experience until I read Chop Suey Nation. Growing up, I read voraciously, but never found novels with my own perspective – the child of a child of Chinese immigrants, mostly Western, and yet inextricably still Chinese. Now, I understand how these Chinese restaurant owners have worked so hard to be here, making chow mein noodles and lemon chicken.
It’s not often that a book truly changes my outlook on something, but Chop Suey Nation has done just that. I have a newfound respect for restaurants at which I previously would have wrinkled my nose, and for the hard-working restaurateurs of my own family. It’s the perfect book to kick off Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month (May).
The Age of Persuasion is filled with funny anecdotes from O’Reilly’s long and successful career in radio advertising. It provides insight into the evolution of persuasive marketing, examines the successes (and failures) of guerrilla campaigns, and discusses the Great Unwritten Contract between advertisers and consumers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It provided an excellent backstory to the strategy and communication tactics I use every day in my life as a freelancer. It also gave me a peek into the world of national agencies and big campaigns that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to be a part of. This book is accessible to everyone and has the same flavour as O’Reilly’s current podcast, Under the Influence. Recommend!
Never Have I Ever is a charming new Netflix coming-of-age series about Devi, an Indian-American teenager, who is dealing with the death of her father while navigating high school and family drama. It explores themes of dual cultural identities, grief, young love, friendship, and more.
I binged this series within a few days of its release. Throughout the funny, heartwarming and sometimes painfully awkward scenes, I kept thinking about how much it would have meant to me (and other visible minorities) to see a TV series like this when I was in high school. At one point, Devi bemoans that she feels both “too Indian” and “not Indian enough” – an extremely familiar feeling to me. Mindy Kaling has created a beautiful show with complex and diverse characters. This is the representation I want in my television shows!
Parable of the Sower tells the story of a society fallen to drugs, war, and climate devastation. Lauren Olamina lives with her family and a close group of neighbours within a walled community near Los Angeles. When the walls fall, Lauren is thrust into the outside world in search of safety.
I read this book as part of Life’s Library Book Club. It reminded me a little of The Walking Dead in that, while the environment is harsh and resources are limited, it is other desperate humans that pose the greatest to danger to Lauren and her friends. It’s a thought-provoking and cautionary tale. Well worth a read.
The Greatest Showman is a musical movie loosely based on the life of P. T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), a famous 19th century American Showman. A man of humble beginnings, P. T. dreams of a life of glory and fame. He gathers a group of outcasts and begins a circus.
Zac Efron plays P. T. Barnum’s business partner, Phillip Carlyle, who falls in love with the trapeze performer, Anne (Zendaya). Phillip is determined to date Anne; she is more reluctant, knowing that their interracial relationship would be more than difficult. I’ve had Rewrite The Stars, their love song, stuck in my head for weeks. It has gorgeous harmonies and is performed on trapeze – what’s not to love?
This Is Criminal Podcast usually covers quirky or unusual crime stories in half-hour episodes. Since the onset of COVID-19, however, showrunner Phoebe Judge has had to pause the show. She’s currently reading a chapter a day of a classic mystery book, beginning with The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. Phoebe’s calm, soothing voice has been a welcome sound during a stressful time.
I recently discovered that I have access to Lynda.com, now also known as LinkedIn Learning, through my local public library account. The website has video courses for everything from Project Management to building a website to learning how to code. I’m about halfway through a course on the Basics of Graphic Design and am finding the videos extremely easy to follow. If you are finding yourself at a loss without something to do, why not brush up on some old skills or learn something new?