Aside

Not Just a Diploma

1525569_10152192501680953_1342603584_nTomorrow is the day I have been waiting for three years! I finally will be a college graduate.

I didn’t get picked to be Valedictorian and that’s fine with me because I don’t think I could make it through any speech on such a big day without a massive amount of tears.

But if I did, I think it would go a little something like this:

I have heard some of my classmates really downplay what this means to them, “it’s just a diploma, I’ll celebrate when I get my degree,” and other related statements. For my family and I though, this is a huge win.

It was around this time last year I almost gave up on my third year to graduate early because I thought I had a great job and I didn’t really need my third year. It was my mom who talked me out of this and until this week I didn’t understand why. Her main argument was she didn’t want me to miss my chance at a convocation ceremony. At the I didn’t care if I walked across the stage in front of hundreds of people I didn’t know to receive a piece of paper that could be mailed to me.

Well Mom, I’m proud to say that it took awhile but I finally get it. It isn’t just a walk to get a piece of paper; it’s the last leg of the three-year journey my family and I have been on together. It’s not just my win, it’s everyone’s.

This is a win for my mother who spent her days off watching her grand daughter, who wasn’t always the best behaved. She had a million other things I’m sure she’d rather do on her days off than change diapers, do laundry, cook meals etc. but without complaint she watched Ellie, cleaned the house and provided everything we needed to make it as easy as possible on me while I went to school.

This is a win for my grand mother who also spent a large portion of the last three years babysitting. Who unselfishly devoted herself to ensuring Ellie was cared for if I had meetings, or club events, or class trips. Never complaining and was always there when called.

Oh God now I’m crying!10155455_10152374107225953_6744487966935631584_n

This is for my dad who helped me discipline and teach Ellie when I was away for school, and was always willing to watch her if I wanted to see friends. Even after long days at work if I had to get homework done he was always willing to help even if it was just helping get her to sleep.

And this is for my Grandpa, especially my Grandpa, who delayed retiring for a year so he could be there for me during my last year. Who drove me to school everyday and having his only complaint be when I fell asleep in the car, who gave me advice (when I stayed awake in the car to listen), and was always willing to wait (sometimes hours) for my classes to be over to drive me home.

It’s with the help of my family that I am graduating tomorrow, and in that time I learned more about family and love in these three years than I have my whole life.

So tomorrow when I walk across this stage, it isn’t just a diploma, it is the best present I could ever give to my family for their hard work, dedication and love.

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My First Three Months

It’s been almost three months since I started my journey at the Brockville General Hospital in their marketing and communications department. In those three months I have learned and experienced more than I ever could have in a classroom.

When I first started my supervisor said a hospital communications department is only second to the military. I didn’t know what she meant at first, but I quickly learned the meaning behind that saying.

Never in my life have I been exposed to a high paced, ever-changing environment. I may go to work thinking of a list of items on a to-do list that need to be completed, but that day may have other plans in store.

Not only have I written press releases that I’ve gotten to see published, but I’ve designed a room layout, completed two marketing plans, organized an event, shot and edited video, new learned photography techniques, ran the communications department for two weeks and so much more. I’ve even begun taking what was a monthly newsletter and turning it into a monthly hospital magazine.

I don’t think I ever expected to have so much diversity in my work and learned what I’m truly capable of in intense conditions.

All of this isn’t why I love my job though. It’s the people. Everyday I meet someone new, everyday I learn a new story or even just a new name. Whether it’s a co-worker, a volunteer, or a patient. I love seeing how my work impacts each person that walks in the door of the hospital and hopefully makes their experience that much better.

I never thought a career in non-profit was something I would enjoy (or be good at), but this has definitely shown me what I could be doing for the rest of my life.

Moon

moon_poster_sam_rockwell_5691Moon follows astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) on his last days of a 3-year stint as the sole employee of Lunar Industries. He works to harvest helium-3 from the dark side of the moon. With no live link available to Earth, Sam’s only interaction is with GERTY the intelligent computer who is to help him with his everyday needs. This sci-fi drama follows Sam in his daily work schedule until he wakes up in his lunar base after having running in to one of the base’s harvesters. Sam then takes an unauthorized trip to the broken harvester, and there is where he makes a discovery that makes him want to go back to Earth now more than ever.

Lighting and colour play a large part in moon but in a somewhat obvious way. When Sam is in the large protective structure everything is white. The white suggests safety and clean. However when Sam leaves to check the harvesters it’s very dark and almost black. This leaves the audience to believe that while Sam is outside there is a potential danger.

The costume and set design were incredible, as they had to differentiate between two Sam’s. The three-year old Sam was very rough looking. We first see him running on a treadmill with shoulder-length hair and full facial hair. As he gets closer to the time his contract is up he begins to get cleaned up and get a haircut, and shaves. However after his accident he still has a cut above his eyes and slowly begins to look increasingly rough. His clothes look very work and old to further distinguish him as the Sam that has been there for three years.

New Sam however has a crisp clean look. He further distinguishes himself to be new by holding himself in a way that suggests he is military. Rather than relaxing like the three-year old Sam commonly does, he is stiff and rigid.

The set design is very futuristic however not going overboard. The set gives the audience something that makes them believe someone could actually live on the moon. However it is basic. There isn’t a lot of futuristic “gadgets” except for GERTY, and the airlock.

This in my opinion is Sam Rockwell’s best movie that I have ever seen and that includes The Green Mile. Sam captivates the audience, in a way that up until the very end, they still hope for his safety.

Most of the music and special effects are used to show the isolation Sam feels while on the moon. The music does an amazing job at heightening the sense of unearthly isolation Sam feels, as it’s very gentle music that you don’t really hear unless you are listening for it. This is with the exception of the music three-year old Sam plays to annoy the new Sam.

Every time one of the Sam’s are in a rover they receive the common reminder that the long-range communications are unavailable.

The most interesting use of sound, or lack there of however was when the three-year old Sam is outside and begins to vomit blood. Rather being up close to him as the camera commonly does afterwards, it stays far back. This eludes to the fact that he truly is alone, especially when he needs help the most.

The editing is one of the most impressive pieces of this film. It isn’t the first time movies have played with multiple images of the same actor, however I am yet to see one do it so well. To have both Sam’s fight each other and interact on a higher level than purely speaking roles is very impressive and really shows the talent of the director.

This was an amazing film that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Sci-fi dramas. Overall it as a theme of isolation, yet at the same time what it means to be human but doing it all on the moon was something that makes this movie so different and thoughtful.

Crash

crashIn the real city you brush past people. People bump into you. In L.A. nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.”

Crash follows the lives of 13 individuals as their lives intertwine with each others over the course of 36 hours. Director Paul Haggis moves seamlessly between all these stories and has structured them in such a way that his characters reach a crisis point simultaneously. Through the use of an ironic script, symbolism and effective cinematography, Haggis, encourages us to empathize with characters who if we met in real life we may not give them a chance to show their story. This movie shows not only the strong theme of racism, but to not judge a book by its cover.

Social standing throughout the movie is suggested by camera angles and positioning of the characters. Seeing Daniel (Michael Pena) crouching to fix a lock while showing Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock) descending the stairs. This physical position indicates her position of high authority, and hints to justify that she is completely justified being worried Daniel might be a “gang-banger”.

Overall it is a very dark film, mainly taking place at night the audience expects that with the light of day many of the characters problems will be solved. However even as the characters try to resume their daily lives after an eventful evening, more is added to make the problem worse.

As I said earlier the underlying theme is “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” While Daniel may have tattoos and a shaved head, which bothers Jean, he is at heart a caring family man.

However every stereotype featured in the movie is made obvious by their clothing. Ludacris and Larenz Tate play the two thieves who car-jack Jean and District Attorney Rick Cabot (Brenden Fraser). Ludacris makes a point to say how himself and his partner are being stereotyped by the “white” neighbourhood. As he is discussing this they are dressed in a way that again gives Jean a reason to be validated, especially when they proceed to car-jack her and her husband.

The movie has a cast of strong actors making it hard to pick a favourite performance. However there was a weakest performance. Thandie Newton who plays Christine Thayer, the wife of a television director. Her performance, one who’s character had so much potential, is instead portrayed to be weak. After being the victim of molestation from Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) she does nothing except rely on her husband to stand up for her. She then gets into a car accident and her performance drastically drops in quality.  The audience is left guessing what her feelings are towards Officer Ryan who saved her from her car.

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Music is a large portion of this movie. Music is used in this movie as a talking point as a further reference for Ludacris to once again start a monologue on racism. while he discusses rap and hip-hop his partner in crime (literally) expresses his love for country, this later on would be his downfall.

The editing is (in my opinion) the strongest element of this film. As someone who is easily confused by complicated editing and multiple story lines, I followed this movie to the very end.

WARNING: It only works and makes sense if you pay attention the whole way through. Get your popcorn before you watch because you will get lost between symbolism and the different character interactions throughout the movie.

As the movie moves into a new day, it also moves into Act II. This is a large turning point in every character as they each try to sort out the conflicts they were presented with the previous evening.

All is all I would absolutely recommend this movie. If asked if I would watch this again I can honestly say yes as I have watched it twice just this past week! It is a strong movie if you have the time to sit and watch the full 115 mins.

watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00YDv-5JqRY

3 Elements of Well Written Blogs

UnknownShort-story, creative writing piece, journal, news source, or informational narrative. No matter how you define blogging there is a fine line between a well written blog, and one that was written to meet a deadline. How can we tell the difference between the two?

With the internet and the way it has evolved anyone and everyone can write a blog these days, and more importantly is that more people want to write them. Blogging has been made into a digital journal to put your daily thoughts, or a way to quickly get information from industry thought leaders. Getting information from these people has changed we interact with them. Now rather than buying their book we may just look up their blog and get their thought snippets on different topics. While this is very cool, it has made it so not every blog is a well written one.

Should blogs be long, or short? Thorough or a teaser for more information? Here are 3 key elements in well written blogs.

1. Be Thorough. Always answer what you said to your readers you were going to fix. Give them a solution. No story is finished without an ending so don’t leave your readers feeling unsatisfied. This doesn’t mean write an online novel just ensure that you don’t leave your readers with the question “what?” It helps if you ensure your blog answers the five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why) within the first 2 paragraphs.

2. Keep it simple, this speaks to the point above of don’t write a novel. Focus on one topic, and speak to that topic. There is no correct number of words to follow, as long as your information is interesting and compelling it will be worth reading.

3. Have a media element. Whether it is a photo or a video, music, or a podcast; your blog needs something more to help illustrate your point to your reader.

There will be good blogs, and there will be bad ones; but following these 3 key elements of well written blogs will make sure yours is worthy of readers.

What do you think are some key things great blogs do?

How Much do you Trust Customer Reviews?

bogus-review-1Being an online shopper I tend to look at customer reviews a lot. Before buying almost anything I want to know what others had to say about it and the competition. I don’t want to buy clothes that tend to be too tight in the wrong places, or electronics that start to fail after a week of use; so I use customer reviews to help gain insight to products I buy so I at least know what I am getting myself into.

The same can be said about why customers like a page on Facebook or follow a company on Twitter: they want to know what is being said about the company so they can decide if they are a worthy investment. Social media has proven to be a great customer service tool, allowing companies to answer all inquires and

But what do we do when the reviews we trust aren’t real? It isn’t a new concept for companies to enlist the services of writers fake_reviewsto write good reviews for their products, but how far has it gone?

Samsung has very recently been fined $340,000 for an organized campaign of using a ”large number of hired writers and designated employees” to post good reviews and comments about its own products and criticism of competitors’ products.

In September Yelp announced the number of possibly fraudulent reviews on Yelp rose from 5% in 2006 to 20% in 2013, according to “Fake It Till You Make It: Reputation, Competition, and Yelp Review Fraud,” a report by Luca that was co-written by Georgios Zervas, an assistant professor of marketing at Boston University — and may now be as high as 25%.

Ever since its release 24 hours ago, the BBM app for Android and iOS has been downloaded millions of times from users worldwide.  However, the app has received less than favourable reviews from its user base, making its current average rating of 4.2 stars dubious. All the five-star reviews of the app on the Play Store are very similar to each other making them seem very fishy.

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As you can see, all the reviews are on the similar lines of “Thanks blackberry Thank you so much blackberry team. I was waiting this app. Its really great user friendly and smooth.” Go through the review pages and you will find many such similar reviews from what looks to be fake Google Plus accounts. It looks like someone from the BlackBerry team, or someone intending to sabotage BlackBerry’s launch party for BBM, is filling up the Play Store listing of the app with fake reviews.

This brings to question how willing are we to believe what we read online? Juan Ghomeshi held a QDebate on Wednesday on whether the internet makes us “smarter or stupider”. My main takeaway from this debate was how great the internet is for receiving information, but also misinformation. It is so easy to get wrapped up in everything you see but the internet is slowly making me very cynical about what I read.

If you are going to remember anything from this blog remember this:

  1. Samsung and Blackberry are the newest cases of fraudulent user reviews.
  2. Look for item reviews from 3 sources before you buy (this is just safe online shopping.
  3. Help others by posting your thoughts on purchases so others can get real reviews.