Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Last Thursday I wrote my last final exam at the University of Calgary. Given my long relationship with said institution, this really is a landmark occasion.

I started at the U of C in fall 2004, as a young, naive engineering student. I was planning to major in civil engineering and use it as my pre-architecture undergraduate degree. That lasted about two weeks, until I realized that I HATED engineering. I was able to transfer into the Faculty of Science, where I was technically a math major but actually a general studies student searching for a new purpose as I took general interest courses for a year. After a brief detour to attempt the Bachelor of Commerce at the Haskayne School of Business, I settled in to a cosy new department, the department of Economics in the Faculty of Social Science. It finally felt like home. I've loved my economics classes and my economics professors all the way through. I've micromanaged my schedule to accommodate classes with my favourite professors, like the amazing Dr. W who taught me Intermediate Microeconomics Level 1, Canadian Public Finance, and Economics of Taxation. I took two classes in a row from the incredible Dr. H, who not only taught me the fascinating intricacies of Industrial Organization and Regulatory Economics, but helped me discover my ideal career path in electrical regulation and find a great summer internship.

I'm really going to miss finding random, out-of-the-way places to study. I still remember the time when I hiked all the way to the top of the 14-story Social Science building for some exercise and then decided that the secret landing at the top, with a door leading to some sort of storage room, was a great place to sit and read Sallust's The Jugurthan War. While taking a summer course, I discovered that if I left for school at the same time as Daddy left for work, we could bike together and I'd have an extra hour before classes to study. I found an unlocked door to the roof of Craigie Hall, where I wiled away that early morning time in the sunshine. The amount of time that I've spent in the study carrels in the library tower is just despicable, but I did discover that the third floor and seventh floor are typically the least crowded.

On the days when I forgot my lunch or was running late, I'd run over to the Institute for a cheap lunch. The frozen burritos, pizza pops, and canned soup were a huge boon to a poor, hungry student. While there, I would do the crossword puzzle or the sudoku from the paper—although, once Jane my crossword buddy was gone, it wasn't quite the same.

There's a lot of memories for me on that campus, and I'll be sad to go. But I'm excited for new things and to discover a whole new world of the workplace, where I will undoubtedly be able to fill my life again with little quirks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


My paper is finished! After months of procrastination, I finally got started on it about 2 1/2 weeks ago and have spent time on it a hour here, an hour there. At times I was so excited and motivated about the topic that the paper practically wrote itself. At other times, I would sit staring at my computer screen for half an hour, type four words or so, delete a sentence, then take a break on facebook before repeating the cycle over again. The wonderful thing, though, it that it's done a day early and I can spend tomorrow preparing for my job interview and getting started on my studying for Monday's exam. Only 7 days left!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Engagement Photos

In the middle of all the craziness, Benjamin and I knew we had to get our engagement photos sometime before we sent out our wedding invitations, which we want to get out before Christmas. However, you read the last post—you know how much other stuff I have to get done. Now to understand how busy Benjamin and I are, take the stuff I have to get done, multiply that by 3, and you'll get the basic picture. The added complication is that Benjamin has about five group projects that need to be done this week, so his schedule is not only filled with completing the work, but coordinating his schedule with seventeen other people to plan the projects.

By last week, between our busy schedules and the likewise busy schedule of our photographer, we had already rescheduled twice. We had finally decided on 2 pm this past Saturday when I realized, "Wait a minute! I have a piano recital for my eleven students and their families at the other end of town at 4 pm... how is this going to work?" Our photographer couldn't go any earlier, and I was worried about getting to the church in time to set up. My amazing fiance was able to take some time out of his afternoon to help me get everything ready for the recital, and so we squeezed pictures in at 2 o'clock anyways. They turned out great!

If you have some time and want to see more, they're at http://hopephotography.com/redd/index.htmlBut be warned, there's over 200 and it might take a while.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Almost There...

Exactly 13 days from right now I will be finished at the U of C. Finished my undergrad. It seems so close... and yet so far. It seems so far because it's only 13 days, but in those 13 days I still have to accomplish:
  • One Christmas piano recital for 11 children under the age of 13
  • One personal finance exam on mortgages and personal loans
  • One finance assignment on risk management and insurance
  • One 15-20 page research paper on the roles of economics and policy in determining optimal wind penetration levels
  • One job interview
  • One energy economics final exam
  • One final exam on applications of Excel to economic data management
  • One essay on the evolving Senatorial attitude towards imperial successions in 1st century Rome
and one day of work as a dental receptionist.

But if I can only hang in there for 13 more days, I'll be free!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


If you haven't heard yet, I guess now the news is out. Benjamin and I are engaged and we're getting married in February! People have been bugging me for the whole story, so here goes.

Benjamin and I met in our singles ward last summer (August 2009) when I had just received a new calling as a Gospel Essentials teacher. He was the Sunday School teacher and had been told to give me a copy of the manual our stake uses. The way he tells it, he asked a friend of mine, Luke, who I was, and Luke said he would point me out. I'm really glad that Luke didn't just take the manual and pass it on to me. Luke pointed me out to Benjamin at the beginning of a Sunday School class, and Benjamin came over to give me the manual just as class was starting, so he took the seat beside me.

I remember him commenting at some point in the lesson something about learning Russian on his mission, so after the lesson was over, I asked him where he had served. He replied that he was in the Donetsk Ukraine Mission, a mission where several of my friends had gone (it's interesting to note here that I asked about an old boyfriend of mine who had served there—turns out that the old boyfriend was Benjamin's trainer). We talked about our respective missions and the difficult languages we had to learn and seemed to have a pretty good connection.

The quality of the connection was confirmed when he called me a little while later and asked if I would go to see "The Importance of Being Earnest" with him at the Pumphouse Theatre the following weekend. We had fun, but the way things were in both our lives that semester, we didn't go on another date for quite some time. I thought of asking him to Preference, but he got asked by another girl and we even ended up being part of the same group date.

During this period of time, we sat together at church most of the time. He liked to sing the hymns in Russian, and I love to bring my Finnish hymnbook to church, so it seemed to make sense that we would sit together and not distract everyone else with our foreign language hymns. I found out later that a lot of people in the ward thought we were dating then—nothing like a singles ward for gossip! I also remember the wife of our bishop repeatedly telling me that I should date him, to which my response was usually, "Maybe. He seems like a nice guy, but I'm not sure how interested I am."

By the time Christmas break rolled around, I was thinking that it would be nice to go on another date with Benjamin, who had turned out to be a good friend. I knew he was planning on a semester abroad in Hong Kong after Christmas, and I would be taking a trip to China and Thailand with my family over the holiday, so when my mum suggested that I propose an evening of Chinese food and comparing trip plans, I decided to go for it. That date ended up being a lot of fun, but he still just felt like a good friend.

When I got back from my trip, he called and invited me in my jet-lagged stupor to go see "Fiddler on the Roof" and eat Hungarian food with him later in the week. I wasn't super coherent due to the jet lag, but apparently I said yes, and we had a great time. At the end of the date, I was starting to think that I wanted to stay in touch with Benjamin while he was away, so I contrived to trade email addresses with him so that I could send him some of the information about my trip that he asked about, like the part of the Great Wall that we visited. We kept in touch for the whole five months that he was gone and I looked forward to his emails.

At the end of June, when Benjamin came home, I was excited to see him but wasn't really sure how things would go—we hadn't seen each other for so long and I was pretty nervous. The first day we saw each other at church, he asked me out on a date, but I was busy with work and visiting teaching every night that week. I was disappointed, but hoped that he wouldn't take it to mean I didn't want to go on a date with him.

When my tutoring fell through on Tuesday night, I decided to call Benjamin and ask if he was still free. I ended up driving to the other end of the city to play board games with him and his cousins. Despite the general exuberance of his cousins (one called me a deceiving vixen when I claimed what he deemed to be "his" route in Ticket to Ride Europe), I had a nice time and decided that I'd be interested in going out with him again.
All through the summer, we met for lunch downtown when he had a day off, we went for walks and other dates on the weekends, and in general had a wonderful time together. By the beginning of August, we had determined that we were interested in dating each other exclusively and had a very happy and fun relationship. About a week after we had starting dating, we were already getting comments on how tall our kids would be (with me at 6'1" and him at 6'6", it's a valid observation).

We had determined that we would be spending the weekend after Thanksgiving down in Cardston for his sister's wedding—I had already met some of his family the weekend before, and I was excited to meet the rest of them, but dreading a tiny bit the inevitable jokes about "You're next" and "So when are you guys getting married?" which we'd already been getting from our friends. Whenever we discussed putting up with the teasing, Benjamin always said, "We just look too happy together, we can't help it!"

The wedding was wonderful and despite the teasing, we managed to stay looking happy. The night before the wedding, we decided to go for a walk around the temple grounds and take some pictures. It was apparently then that Benjamin decided to go ahead with his planned proposal for later in the weekend, despite the fact that the ring hadn't arrived yet.

Sunday morning, Benjamin wanted to go see the sunrise from the temple grounds, so we bundled up, drove over, and waited in the car until a few minutes before the sun came up. We moved to a bench on the corner of the temple grounds and waited for it to come up. It was really cold, so we were snuggled together, trying to stay warm. We watched the sun come up and talked, I can't even really remember what about. I just remember as the sun came right up over the horizon, Benjamin turned to me and said,

"I have a question for you." after which he got off the bench and down on one knee. My reaction, in typical Janine fashion, was to blurt out excitedly, "Are you serious?!?"

After reassuring me that he was, indeed, entirely serious, he asked me to marry him and I said yes. I was so happy! And still am, as a matter of fact. We could hardly wait to go home and call family to tell them the good news.

There you go, the story of Benjamin and me. Sorry it took so long.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Reason to Love the iPhone

Today I'm spending a lovely day off in the business library, studying for my Finance midterm tomorrow. After going through a ton of review questions in the textbook, I decided it was time to tackle the practice midterm. Our professor was very clear that we should time ourselves when we try it, to make sure we would finish the exam on schedule. He has written the exam perfectly so that it should take us 3 hours to write at five minutes per question. He was very clear that if the practice midterm takes us more than five minutes per question, we are not sufficiently prepared. I was sitting here thinking what would be the best way to time myself as I write the exam and then thought, "I could put on a stopwatch on my iPhone." When I turned it on, I realized that I could do one better. I could put it on stopwatch and hit the "Lap" button every time I finished a question. That way, it would seem like a race. And I would have the added bonus of being able to calculate my average time per question. I'm doing the exam in ten-question intervals and so far, have scored 10/10 with an average response time of 3:23.47. So far, so good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Adventures in Boston... Part II

I realized that I should probably tell you all the rest of my adventure as a victim of Bostonian crime, so that you can all learn from my mistakes and NEVER keep your passport and wallet:

a. in the same place
b. in the coatroom of a Stake Centre

and also, if this does ever happen to you, then you can learn from my exciting experience the process of getting your new travel documents. Trust me, it's not all fun and games.

We left off in the previous post with me spending a lovely evening and night with a sweet older couple in suburban Cambridge. Well, I woke up on Monday morning, ate some cornflakes, and headed off for the Cambridge police station to get my police report. I was feeling chipper and looking forward to getting home later that evening. My plane ticket had been changed, Benjamin had been called to update my pick-up time from the airport, and all was well. I approached the friendly-looking officer at the reception desk and asked what I needed to do to file the complaint and get my report as soon as possible.

"When do you need it by?" he asked.

"In time to get to the consulate, get emergency travel documents, and get to the airport by 3:30." I replied.

The look on his face sent my heart plummeting down to about my knees.

"We usually can't get a report approved and ready for release until the day after." he said. "Why didn't you do it yesterday?"

Because Officer Callinan told me I could do it today! I wanted to yell. Instead, I got a terrified look on my face, told him that I had no money, no place to stay, and needed this report as soon as possible. I tried to stop from crying and looking like some crazy hysterical girl at the police station, but I couldn't help it. In the end, I think the tears were what really saved the day.

"I'll see what I can do." he mumbled.

Ninety minutes later, I was out the door and on my way to the consulate.

Unfortunately, the consulate didn't have good news for me, either. Apparently, the emergency travel documents that I had been told about no longer exist. The only way to fly from Canada to the US when one's passport has been stolen is with a fancy white temporary passport, which takes anywhere from 24 hours to three days to process. So now I really was stuck in Boston for another night, and tears weren't going to get me anywhere.

The people at the consulate were super helpful, they contacted my family and told them how they'd have to take my birth certificate over to the Calgary passport office and how they could wire me some money to tide me over. They lent me money for lunch and found me a charger for my cell phone. I was especially grateful for the latter when I got a phone call around 2:30 pm (while still waiting in the consulate lobby).

It was a Bishop from the Stake Centre from the previous day. His wife had helped me look for my back pack and had written down my number in case anything turned up. He told me that the missionaries had been at the building that morning when a woman showed up with my backpack, claiming that she had found it on a nearby dumpster. It was still missing my wallet, my money, my travel snacks, and the few souvenirs that I had stuck in there, but my journal was back, safe and sound. I couldn't believe it. That kind Bishop even offered to drive the bag into Boston from his home in Cambridge during the rush hour so that I could have it back as soon as possible. There were so many kind people that helped me out during this whole process.

Another one was the Generous Restauranteur. I met him in the consulate lobby, where he was also waiting for an emergency passport. He had overheard my discussions with the consulate staff about how I had no money and was without any form of ID. we chatted a little while we waited, and just before he left, he turned to me and asked,

"Are you ok for money and everything? Do you need any more help?" I assured him that I was ok, that my parents had been able to send me sufficient funds. He then persisted, "I still want to help if I can. I own a restaurant here in Boston, so I'm going to call my secretary and have her call the restaurant and leave a giftcard at the front desk for you. You can eat there as long as you're stuck in Boston." I thanked him profusely and then spent the next day - until I was eventually able to leave - eating the tastiest food at the Elephant and Castle.

Since I had been told that my passport would take anywhere from 24 hours to three days, I was prepared to wait a while. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the consulate the next day and was handed a shiny new white passport, ready for travel. I called Delta, got my flight rebooked for later that afternoon (for free!) and had enough time to stop at the Elephant and Castle for lunch before heading home, after a very exciting adventure.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Long-Awaited Photo

Ok, ok, so I've heard enough people bugging me to see a picture of Benjamin that I finally insisted on taking one yesterday (I realized that I didn't actually have one). Here's Benjamin and me when we went for a walk on the bluffs above the Bow River by our old house in Varsity. It's not super flattering of either of us, since we're both squinting, but it gives you the general idea.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adventures in Boston: Part I

I'm pretty sure all of you have heard about my mishaps and adventures on the way home from Boston, but I figured that some people might enjoy a full account.

I was scheduled to fly out on Logan airport on Sunday at 6:30 pm, so I figured that I had time to check out, go to a 1:00 sacrament meeting in Cambridge, and get to the airport with plenty of time. I lugged my luggage (I just noticed that those two words are remarkably similar - can any English/linguistics majors illuminate me on that?) to the Stake Center in Cambridge and arrived about an hour early. Since I had three bags including my backpack, I searched the building for the always-present cloakroom that one finds in Mormon buildings. The one I found was kind of hidden behind some walls and so I figured that it was a safe enough place to leave my bags. Since my backpack contained my wallet and passport, I debated bringing it in to sacrament meeting with me, until I remembered how awkward I had felt with my big bulky backpack last week at sacrament meeting in Washington DC. I ended up deciding to put it under my other suitcases and calling it good. Besides, I was at church! Churches are safe! Luckily, I decided to take out my phone so that I could work on typing up an email to my missionary cousin while waiting in the foyer.

When I came to get my bags a little over two hours later, my backpack was gone. I looked all over the cloakroom and everywhere I had sat. Not finding it in any of those places, I went to both Sunday School classes and asked if anyone had seen of moved it. No one had. I think it was at this point that I first called Daddy in a panic. Then I enlisted the help of the Bishop and a few people helped me look. When we didn't find anything, I called the Canadian Consulate to see what my options were. A helpful man named Mark told me that we should probably cancel the passport and that I would be able to get an emergency travel document the next day. So I went ahead and rescheduled my flight, canceled my passport, and got all the necessary information to go to the Consulate the next day. Mark told me I would need a police report as well, so we called the Cambridge police.

When officer Callinan arrived, he told me in a great, classic Bostonian accent that since I needed a copy of the police report ASAP, my best option would be to go to the station first thing the next morning where they could take my statement, get it approved in person, and print out a copy.

Faced with the prospect of an extra night in Boston and no wallet, I was eternally grateful when a retired couple from Cambridge offered me their spare room for the night. I was able to use their wireless and their phone to finalize all my arrangements to leave the country. They also fed me a delicious dinner made with fresh vegetables from the farmer's market and washed down with the most incredible fresh Massachusetts apple cider.

People have asked me what i was able to do with my extra two days of vacation. Mostly, it was spent at the consulate and running from one official to the other, but the one extra touristy thing I was able to get in was with this older couple, and ended up being on of my favourite things in Boston.

The couple I stayed with both had PhDs. His was in chemical engineering and he taught at the university of New Hampshire and then I think at MIT before he retired. Hers, finished after their children were in school, was in American History and she currently teaches at Harvard. After dinner, they asked me if I wanted to go for a walk, since they live only about 5 minutes away from the main Harvard campus. They showed me around Harvard and she was the best tour guide I could have! She knew the dates of all the buildings, who the architects were and whether they were actual Georgian, revival Gothic or revival Georgian. She had interesting facts and stories about each building, for example, in the freshman dorms (which are mostly buildings from at least the early 1800s) they keep a list of who has lived in every room and when you arrive, they tell you which famous people lived in your room as students. A freshman might write home and tell their parents that they're living in the same freshman dorm room as John F. Kennedy. The tour of Harvard was amazing and one of the best parts of my trip.

I was so grateful to the ward in Cambridge for all their help. The couple who had me to stay were so kind and thoughtful and accommodating. One theme of my whole experience with theft (which I think I'll finish in another entry) was the kindness of people that I met.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Lone Wolf on Vacation

Sorry that there's no pictures on my vacation posts. I realized en route to the airport that I had forgotten the cable that plugs the camera into the computer, so you'll have to wait until I get home for photos.

I've always wanted to go on a vacation by myself. I'm not really sure why, but I just thought it was a cool and grown-up thing to do. Well, it's gotten me some weird looks since I've been here, from most people who are not Australian/German backpackers at the hostels. It started with the US Customs lady in Calgary. She asked me who I was travelling with. No one. Who was I meeting there? No one. Do I have any family there? Nope. Then she gives me a very suspicious look and asks dubiously, "Why are you going to Washington DC and Boston?" The even more suspicious look she gives to my answer "for vacation" leaves me thinking that unless I elaborate, I might be put on the terrorist watch list and then it's goodbye to passing through the border ever again.

I hot similar looks from most Mormons I've met on my trip, other than one girl in the Washington singles ward that seemed to think I was some sort of Mormon hippie just travelling through the states ojn a prayer and a song. Which I fully am not.

It's been nice, though. I've been free to do exactly what I want every day. If I feel like getting up early and being in line for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the first tour of the day, I do it. If I feel like sleeping in and then wiling away the morning in the antique shops and boutiques of Beacon hill, I do it. The only downside is that I don't particularly like being out alone when it's dark and getting late, so pretty much after dinner (which I've been eating late to maximize my time), I don't have much to do. I've mostly been reading and going to bed early, which is also nice because on the hostle mattresses and with 5 roommates in the hostel room, I'm never going to have a great sleep, so it might as well be a long one.

The trip alone has been great, but I can't help wishing every once in a while that there was someone to share my giggles when the tour guide said "the Hahvahd Yahd" for the twentieth time in five minutes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Greetings from the Nation's Capital!

No, I'm not in Ottawa. I'm actually in Washington DC, which is not my nation's capital, but I've seen enough "the Nation's Capital" signs to make me think that this is the capital of something larger than just the USA.

So far, I have managed to take the plane by myself, check into the youth hostel, make my way out to the suburbs for the biggest singles ward I've ever seen, ride a bicycle from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Monument and back, eat two cans of tuna for two separate meals today and yesterday, visit the Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of American History, and take pictures by the White House, all without serious injury or mishap. Which is good, because I only recently (read: today) acquired health travel insurance. Tomorrow it's off to the museum of Crime and Punishment and then the Washington DC temple - if I can navigate two jurisdictions' worth of transit systems, that is.

You'll hear from me again in Boston!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Gentleman's Game

I remember golfing as a little girl with Grandpa at the Lee Creek golf course in Cardston every summer and fighting with my siblings over who was going to drive the golf cart. And when I say "golfing" I really mean driving the cart and putting every green, maybe once in a while trying to play a par 3. I did the same with Daddy a few times at Elbow Springs.

I even worked at a golf course for three summers in high school and was entitled to free golf, but never used it. I think I went to the driving range a few times with my employee free discount, but everyone was always shocked when they heard that I had the option of free golf and didn't take advantage of it. I've always enjoyed the driving range and mini golf, and even took a golf unit in high school phys ed, but had never played a full nine holes until a few weeks ago.

When my boyfriend Benjamin asked me if I wanted to go golfing to the par 3 course on a Friday night, I wasn't super excited right away. I thought it would be fun, but was kind of nervous since I'm not much of a golfer. Imagine my surprise when my first drive was right down the middle of the fairway (what little of a fairway there was on a par 3) and within two shots, I was on the green. I managed to do pretty well, even keeping my score always three strokes below Benjamin's until the last hole, when I got stranded in a sand trap that added those three strokes on and tied our scores. Sad day. I got this close to beating him at golf. It was really quite a surprise–I never knew I was passable at golf.

We're headed out to the same course again this Thursday, I'll let you know how I do this time around.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Dark Side

Ahhh! I keep reaching for the control key! Anytime I want to cut, copy, or paste anything on my home computer, my finger keeps reaching way too far to the left for the PC's apostate control key! I'm constantly looking for the right delete key!

My work computer had seduced me to the dark side.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Summer of Concerts

Since I have friends that go to concerts fairly regularly (as in a few times a year or more) I always thought that I hadn't been to that many concerts. I went to a Great Big Sea concert in Grade 11 and then during my country music phase I went a few more: Aaron Pritchett & Chris Cummings, Rascal Flatts, and Emerson Drive. In total, before this summer, I'd been to four concerts.

This spring, I heard on the radio that one of mu favourite bands, the Barenaked Ladies, was coming to town. I was so excited that I bought four tickets that very day. Elena and I took some friends and we had an amazing night. The Barenaked Ladies exceeded all my expectations by playing all my old favourites. We sang along to "If I Had a Million Dollars", "Lovers in a Dangerous Time", "Testing, 1, 2, 3", and "One Week".

Playing my favourite song from their new cd, "Ordinary"

The this past weekend, two of my roommates and I went to see the Backstreet Boys in concert at the Saddledome. Funnily enough, I was never one of their screaming teenage girl fans back in the nineties when they were bigger than Twilight, but when I was in high school and they had become a bit passe, I latched onto them. They were now kind of retro and cool. I loved singing along to "Shape of My Heart" at the youth dances. Seeing them was a sort of unfulfilled dream that I never knew I had. The three of us had a riot at the BSB concert. Instead of the twelve-year-olds that monopolized their concerts in the nineties, this concert was swarming with twenty-something women who needed a throwback to junior high. When Howie, Nick, AJ, and Brian burst out of the screen singing "Backstreet's Back", the screaming was deafening. And there I was, screaming along at the chance to see Brian in real life. They sang all my old favourites and I loved their dance routines.

Jess and I show the shape of our hearts... for Brian...

Now I only wish that I had bought those Michael Buble tickets for next week after all...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Janine the Felon

Today I discovered that there is a warrant for my arrest.

It all started back in my second week of work. It was still May, and my U of C bus pass ran out at the end of April. I didn’t want to buy a May bus pass when I’d only be using it for a week and a half of work, so I found some bus tickets around the house, and when those ran out after a day or two, I bought another book. I had exactly enough to get me through to the end of the month, when I’d buy a June bus pass. It was all organized and perfect. Then, unexpectedly, I had to use two of my bus tickets on the weekend and didn’t give it much thought. BIG MISTAKE.

On May 31, I was running to the ticket validation machine and scrambling through my pockets when I realized—I had no tickets left. Running quickly through my options left me no better off than before. Since I also had no money on me, my only choice would have been to take an extra 5 minutes to run to the bank across the street. But wait, unless I wanted to pay $20 for a single ticket worth $2.75 (the ticket machines don’t give change) I would have to find a store willing to give me change for a twenty. Did I mention that this is all taking place at 7:20 am? I’d have to walk quite a way to get change.

This all puts me in quite the dilemma. You see, I’m an honest person. I don’t like riding the train without a ticket. In fact, on the days where I’ve forgotten my ticket, I’ve been known to buy an extra ticket on the way home to pay for the morning’s free ride. One time I even got to my destination, bought a ticket, and threw it in the garbage. Today, my choice is either take half an hour to somehow get a stupid ticket and be late on my 5th day of work, or else ride without one, get some cash at lunch, and buy two tickets for the way home. I naively picked the latter option.

Just as I passed University station, three ticket-inspectors revealed themselves and started making their way down the train. They came in from all the entrances and I was trapped. Dang. They gave me a ticket despite all my protestations.

Now, foolishly, I totally forgot about the ticket until I saw it in my wallet early this week. It was due on Tuesday. I read over the back of that smug little pink piece of paper and I saw the words “deadline”, “court appearance”, “overdue” and “warrant for arrest”. Dang, dang, dang! All I could picture was transit cops busting in to my office, looking like the characters from Flashpoint (although I wouldn’t mind Spike or Sam coming to visit…) yelling things like, “Everyone on the ground! Nobody move!” I was suddenly glad that I haven’t officially changed my address yet. If they tried to bust me at home, they’d find Mum and Dad but I’d have flown the coop to my new place. I decided that it was high time I paid my fine and so I headed over to the courthouse at lunchtime. It was surprisingly easy, they didn’t even blink when I handed them my late and unpaid ticket. Perhaps the real surprise and/or miracle, though, was that they didn’t even slap on a late fee. It was still just the original $150 (still a difficult sum to part with). Feeling a little gypped and let down (why weren’t they reading me my Miranda rights and slapping on the cuffs?) I asked about this warrant. “Oh, there’s probably one” the girl replied. “It’ll take 2-3 months for this payment to show up in the police and RCMP databases, though, so keep this proof of payment on you at all times in case you get arrested.” That’s what I’m talking about!

Then the thought occurred to me, “Wait a second… I’m leaving the country in just a few weeks. When they scan my passport, I’ll come up as a wanted fugitive.” I’ve been planning my trip to Boston and Washington DC since, well, June when I impulsively went online and bought myself a ticket on my lunch break. And NO ONE is going to take that trip away from me. So I googled “Calgary Police” on my iPhone and headed over to get things taken care of.

Ten minutes later, and thanks to the nice semi-retired cop who mans the front desk at the Police administration building (apparently where the police go to do union stuff, not issue arrest warrants) I was eventually on my way to the right spot. The kind man acting as both receptionist and security guard wrote me the information I’d need: “316 – 7th Ave SE, 3rd floor, Arrest Process Unit”. Yikes. They wouldn’t really arrest me, would they? I decided to chance it.

The Arrest Process Unit was decidedly less intimidating than it sounds. I showed up, talked to a lady behind glass, showed her my ID and the receipt of payment from the courthouse, and then she delivered the verdict: the warrant hasn’t even been officially issued yet! Here I was cowering in fear that the Flashpoint team would be busting into my office any second, and I’m not even officially a wanted person! Unfortunately, she tells me, the warrant is in the process of being issued, so if I don’t want to get arrested whilst returning from vacation, I’ll have to come back when the warrant actually exists to get it cancelled. Until then, she says, “Hold on to that proof of payment for dear life.” Apparently, if I don’t have it on me and I get pulled over for speeding or something, the cops can take me in.

Guess I’ll be driving carefully the next few weeks.

Overall, my brush with the law was exciting, but not everything I ever imagined. I probably watch too much Flashpoint, CSI, Law and Order, Criminal Minds, and Monk for my own good—be warned: real crime is not like tv!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Read today as the opening line in an academic paper on tacit collusion in the UK electricity market:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an electricity market with high prices is in want of a remedy."
- Joanne Evans, in "Why did British electricity prices fall after 1998?"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All on my own

Tonight is my first night in my new house. I started paying rent here on July 1st, but since I went away the past two weekends, I didn't have a convenient Saturday to do all my moving. Hence, I've spent the past week's worth of weeknight evenings taking one load at a time in the back of a minivan from Tuscany to Varsity. Luckily, I have a wonderful family that
a) helps me lift heavy things
b) gives me free rein over their minivan
c) has extensive experience assembling knockdown furniture
d) apparently has a great deal of patience

Daddy and I came over exactly one week ago with the major pieces of furniture. The idea was to get it all set up and in place, so that the boxes could get unpacked as they came. Unfortunately, the bed was not quite as cooperative as one might have wished, and although I'm currently laying on a comfy mattress, it's on the floor, surrounded by a mostly assembled bedframe. I feel like a baby in a crib.

The room is full of boxes, some empty, some half full, and others not even opened. I have a grand total of 2 litres of milk, a box or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and a box of Wal-Mart brand Special K to live on until I get to the grocery store for real. This is the life!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another Off the Bucket List

Last weekend I completed a goal that I'd had in the back of my head for almost 12 years– I biked the Jasper-Banff highway. It was something I tried when I was around 12 or 13, and that time I didn't make it. Ever since then, I've had a little inkling to try again someday, just to say that I had, and this was the year.

The first time around, my Uncle was taking his Young Men's group to do it and my family decided to join them. I had an old mountain bike that had cost $200 from Costco and all the go get 'em spunk of someone in the seventh grade. I got about 37 km the first evening, but then my cousins arrived and all I wanted to do was hang out with them. I think I ended up biking about 80 km total that weekend.

This time around, I figured I'd do a lot better. I remembered through my rosy-hued glasses of pre-teen memory that while it had been hard, it hadn't killed me, and heck, I've been riding a lot more in the past year than I ever had at my tender younger age. I also had a wonderful road-mountain hybrid bike that would make the long ride less of a chore. His name is Sibelius and I love him more than one really should love a bicycle. Anyway, I was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.

Until I hit about 75 km on the first day. We were supposed to ride a total of 102 km, ending with a long hill up into the Columbia Ice Fields pass. Right around kilometer 75, when we passed our campground, I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be nice to just wrap up now? There's a van at the campsite, and it would still be an impressive ride."

Then I realized that stopping at kilometer 75 would just mean that I'd have to try the whole 285-ish kilometer ride again another year in order to gratify my long-buried goal. So I pushed on.

Right around kilometer 94, as I grunted up a steep incline for kilometers on end, I decided that it would be prudent to create a will. Since I was pretty much planning on dying at the top of the hill and never moving again, someone should know who gets dibs on my many assets (in particular, my shoes and my iPhone).

As I rode into the headwind across the final flats, I started to feel sick. Only copious amounts of Gatorade sustained me until I saw the sign saying "Icefield Visitors Centre, 1 km". Then I just wanted to cry. Another whole kilometer? Who were they kidding?

Suffice it to say that when I got back on the seat the next morning, it was a great test of willpower., not to mention the part of my rear that felt like a bike seat had been branded into it, padded shorts and gel seat notwithstanding.

The next two days, although difficult, were less near-death than that perilous first day. The included a lot more downhill and much less headwind. One of the best parts was the last 40 km, riding along highway 1A through the Bow Valley Parkway. By then, songs by The Script and Uncle Kracker, and Barenaked Ladies had gotten me as far as they could, and I needed some new inspiration. It was time to bring out the big guns. My old-time radio shows came on.

It was kind of weird to ride through the beautiful woods and mountains while listening to Relic Radio's The Grove of Ashtaroth, but it did the trick. If those last three hours didn't fly by, at least they didn't drag on.

At the very end, as we rode the last few kilometers into Banff, I was suddenly hit by my 20th wind and I was able to fly into Cascade Park triumphantly, to find that my brother-in-law had been there over an hour already. But do you know what? I didn't even care. It may have felt like death while I was doing it, but now in retrospect, it's an experience that I'm glad I was able to check off while I'm alive.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

So what exactly do you do?

Well, I guess it's been a while since I was on here– my wonderful job is keeping me pretty busy, but I love it. So far, whenever anyone asks me what I do and I explain, most of them give me look of sympathy that I have a boring job where I read regulatory documents all day, then I tell them how much I enjoy it and the next look I get from them is more a look of, "Stay away from the crazy person" but I figure there's got to be someone who enjoys this kind of thing.

Earlier this week, I was reading a decision issued by the Alberta Utilities Commission. I came across a little gem of random vocabulary that I though some of you might enjoy. This is all on the public record, available on the AUC website, so I can be absolutely sure I'm not in breach of any of my confidentiality agreements.

"In the view of the MSA this will help to ensure fulsome* and rigorous discussion, in furtherance of the ultimate determination by the Commission.

And later on down the page: *Although the word ‘fulsome’ could mean characterized by abundance and copious supply, this meaning of the word usually connotes a situation of excess. The word’s other meanings, and the most commonly cited ones in any dictionary, are: offensive to the tastes generally, either morally or aesthetically, and exceeding the bounds of good taste. The Commission, however, assumes that the MSA did not intend any of these meanings, but rather meant more complete or comprehensive."

I thought it was hilarious that the AUC had to clarify that the MSA was calling the rigorous consultation progress neither morally nor aesthetically offensive, but rather complete. Kudos to the MSA for using the word 'fulsome' in the first place. MSA, you rock my world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Regulator

Today was my first day at my new summer job. For those of you who were unaware, I got a position as a summer research assistant at an Alberta electricity company about two weeks ago. As has been every first day at a new job that i have ever had, today was the longest day of my life. From experience, however, I know that this feeling will pass and soon I'll be passing normal-length days in my spacious cubicle. That's right, spacious cubicle. It's honestly about the same size as my bedroom. I'm trying to figure out which pictures I should bring to add a slight touch of homeyness (I know I'm only there for 3 months, but who wants to look at those grey upholstered walls for 8 hours a day?)

So far, I'm loving the job. I'm assisting in the regulatory department, so already today I got to read over about 70 pages of AESO briefings and industry responses to sum up a brief for the VP. It was kind or a nerve-wracking experience, writing an e-mail brief for the higher-ups on my very first day, but my supervisor seemed to like it and I enjoyed the material I got to read (which may or may not fall under my employee confidentiality agreement, so I'll be refraining from mentioning subjects on my blog for the next few months– I don't want any of you accused of insider trading)

Keep your ears open for further news about fun work stories!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


One of the things I thought about a lot while in Finland was cross-country skiing. It seemed like my last 5 months were a continuous tempt-fest of kids hauling their skis out after school and skiing all over the woods while I tracted. I was so jealous of these lucky Finnish preteens who lived in a place where impeccable ski trails and virgin snow in the forest was halfway between their apartment and their neighbourhood school. I couldn't wait to get out to the mountains when I got home.

Of course, by the time winter rolled around this year, I had forgotten about my deep yearning for skis on my feet and was ridiculously occupied with five university courses and two part-time jobs. I didn't make it out on cross-country skis until February, when I visited Jaima in Edmonton and accompanied her to Chicks with Sticks, the local ski group. I loved it so much and was finally reminded of my love for outdoor snow sports.

It wasn't until yesterday, however, that the circle was complete. Dad and I made it up to Sunchine for an afternoon of downhill skiing, which I haven't done for over three years. He's been bugging me to go with him all season, but I've either been busy or not feeling like it. Truth be told, it's been so long since I skied that I forgot how much I love it and how much fun it is. Every time Dad suggested a ski day, I would groan inwardly and think, "Why would we drive all that way for a day of sliding down hills with sticks?"

I have repented of that great evil. Yesterday, while cruising down my favourite run at Sunshine, Bye-Bye Bowl, during a moment of bright sunshine, finding patches of soft, white snow, I was reminded of the reasons why I love skiing. Why I've been doing it since I was three years old, why I have up snowboarding after that one lesson, why I am scared of heights and fast speeds with any gear other than skis on my feet and poles in my hand. There's nothing like being in the mountains when it's cold and white and the flakes are flying in your face. Even better is when the sun is glinting off the fresh snow and there's not a cloud in sight, especially if it's -30 degrees and the resort is like a tomb.

Here's to skiing, whether heels strapped down or not.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Free Time... What?

I wrote my last exam almost a week ago and spent my first few days catching up... I had a piano recital, got a few things done that I've been putting off all finals season, and slept. Then yesterday I woke up and said to myself,

"Janine, what are you going to do today? For the first time in weeks you have an empty day with no textbook readings tugging at the back of your brain, papers hanging over your head, or pressing Sunday School lesson deadlines. You don't even have any back episodes of Flashpoint left to watch. What are you going to do with yourself?"

I know that at one point of my life I had hobbies. I used to have things to do in my spare time. There was a time when I loved to make projects out of scrap wood in the garage and would set up a little workshop out there. I also seem to recall enjoying gardening a few years ago. I know that I love to bake and cook, and I even had time for knitting during this past semester once in a while. But a full day's project that I would be able to do without running out for ingredients, supplies, or any other sundries? It seemed a tall order. Mum had also commandeered the island in the kitchen for some flower arrangements, so I had to find something constructive that would allow me to be in the kitchen for company, and yet keep me confined to the table.

I found the answer in a big bin of fabric scraps, my mum's old sewing machine, and a shoebox full of crazy quilt squares that I've made over the years. With my favourite Old Time Radio Shows going on the stereo, I happily knocked off 6 quilt squares, bringing me up to 68– only 13 more needed for my giant 9x9 picnic blanket! I had completely forgotten how much I love my old hobbies. Maybe next week I'll bring out my old chisel set and some scrap wood.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some Movie Reviews

Last night I celebrated my 24th birthday by writing a test, baking my brother's birthday cake, going out for Thai food, and watching two movies. When we stopped by Blockbusters on the way home from Thai Boat, we weren't really sure what to get, but ended up coming home with two movies placed in the Victorian era. Not really sure how that happened. That, however, is where the similarities between these movies ended.

The first movie was The Young Victoria, with Emily Blunt. I really had no idea what to expect with this one, as I don't recall seeing the preview or anything. It looked good, so we got it. It ended up being a wonderful movie! The costumes were incredible, the characters believable, the story very sweet. It's not a huge dramatic story like so many love stories are these days (Nicholas Sparks, anyone?) but when the movie drew to a close, I was left with a wonderful, happy feeling and was touched by the love between Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. I remember reading in my London guidebook that she wore mourning for forty years after he died and that all the iron-wrought fences in downtown London were painted black for his funeral, but to see their story portrayed so well was a real treat. I would give it five stars.

With our happy love story out of the way, we turned to our next Victorian movie. When I heard a while ago that Sherlock Holmes was being made into another movie, I was apprehensive. You see, I'm a bit of a closet Sherlock fan. I've read most of the Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels, listened to the Sherlock Holmes radio show from the 40s, and devoured lots of old Holmes movies. My favourite portrayer of the occupant of 221 B Baker street is Basil Rathbone, the voice from the radio show and star of several old films. He plays the perfect dry, sarcastic, condescending Holmes from the books. I love following the dance of crime and detection between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis, Professor James Moriarty. The preview made the current Sherlock Holmes sound a little too supernatural for my taste and I wasn't sure if I liked their portrayal of a sloppy, badly dressed Sherlock. Last night, though, I figured I'd give it a try. I was not disappointed. The whole movie was full of little gems from the books– references to previous cases from the short stories, constant use of characters from Sir Conan Doyle's writing, and a wonderful (though slightly reinvented) portrayal of the world's most famous detective. I was pleased with the attention to detail that came out in Holmes' final expose of the criminal and in the way that this movie didn't replay all the classic Holmes' eccentricities to death. The way they treated the violin set this movie apart. This one is a gem, especially for detective fans. It's not BBC's Hercule Poirot, but it's pretty dang close.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Non-Author

It seems like lately I am the only one of my sisters that is not writing a book. Between one's work of historical fiction, another's planned series of fantasy novels for 8-12 year-olds, and another's constant children's stories, I feel woefully unartistic when it comes to my writing skills.

I did, however, recently finish a work of shocking non-fiction. It is a tale of scandal, intrigue, and underhanded government operations. It reveals the truth unvarnished and exposed in all its ugly complexity. It has a nasty villain– the one and only Alberta government, headed by the shadowy figure some call "Ed Stelmach". Along with its accomplices– Altalink, Atco Electric, and the dangerous gang nicknamed "the Northern Electricity Generators"– it has conspired to regulate the Alberta transmission market according to their own evil plan. Seizing control of previously independent regulatory processes, this formidable foe plans to build unnecessary transmission lines to the tune of $14.7 billion and the worst is yet to come... they plan to make the Albertan consumers pay for it! Ominous music here.

This ghastly and woeful tale was all foretold many years ago by the visionary predictors of markets, sometimes called "economists". Almost 50 years ago the great and wise pair of Stigler and Peltzman tried to warn us against the approaching calamity, but Alberta took no heed.

But there were those who fought against this malignant medley of evildoers. A last alliance of academics, think tanks, engineers, economists and a lowly Calgarian electricity provider would not be silenced! They fought the machine of bad regulatory policy with words, with brilliant papers and studies, and with public awareness campaigns! They fought bravely and well, but alas! Their victory was not to be. The cartel of wrongdoers had one last weapon on their side: the great sword of CONSUMER APATHY. They wielded that great weapon with deadly force and with deadly accuracy, until the papers were buried for none to see or care about. In November of last year, despite the efforts of these valiant warriors, Bill 50 was passed, another great victory for the majority-generating function and shockingly bad legislation.

So yes, I finished my paper. It was fun.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Utah by the Numbers

Number of kilometers travelled in a single day: 1,517

Number of Finns seen: 12

Total tanks of gas used: 5

Conference sessions in which I dozed at least once: 4

Conference sessions in the conference centre: 1

Heart attacks of joy from hearing that Sister Julie B. Beck would be speaking in that session: 2

Calories consumed at Cafe Rio: at least 1000

Number of mission buddies seen: 12

Number of Elders hugged (and it didn't even feel weird!): 8

NIghts away from home: 5

Proportion of those nights spent in an actual bed: 40%

Proportion of those nights spent on a couch 2 feet smaller than me or the cushion thereof: 40%

Total hours of sleep: maybe 20, if I count the half hour accidental nap I took during Sunday afternoon session

Servings of Wooz and Syd's delicious ham and scalloped potatoes: 2

Number of times I was exhorted to "Move to Zion": 12,897,348,623,857,029,749,023,493,014,901,284.

Dollars spent at the BYU bookstore: $36.45

Awkward and compromising pictures taken: 1

Winks from an apostle: 1

Showers taken with zero water pressure and a showerhead that's 5 feet from the ground: 4, every time I was taking a shower in a BYU apartment

How much I wish I could see these awesome pals every weekend: pretty much 100%

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Almost a Year

I've been thinking a lot lately about the time that's gone by since I got home from my mission. People often ask me how long I've been home and it was an odd feeling to say last week that is has been almost a year. I've been counting the months since I got back, so that I'd be able to tell people how long it's been, and as I went from saying the number of weeks to the number of months, that was an odd milestone as well. Just a few weeks ago I was telling people that I'd been back ten months, and now all of a sudden I'm using the word "year" to describe how long ago I left Finland.

I miss a lot of things from my mission, some of which are spiritual and meaningful, others a bit more trite, but I miss them all the same:

I miss having the ocean nearby– I loved seeing the sea in both of the cities where I served.

I miss eating delicious rye bread every day, especially with lingonberry jam.

I miss saying "lähetyssaarnaja" and "Myöhempien Aikojen Pyhien Jeesuksen Kristuksen Kirkko" and having people understand me.

I miss having 3 hours set aside in the morning to study the scriptures, practice Finnish, and prepare my lessons and tasks for the day.

I miss Finnish dairy products. Yogurt most of all.

I miss wearing holes through all my winter tights and repairing them with a needle and thread five minutes before I leave the house in an attempt to be thrifty.

I miss tracting and street contacting. Those are the things I never thought I'd miss, but I miss the opportunity to just come out and tell people what I believed and testify to them right there.

I miss the Finns and their reserve. North Americans are so noisy and rude sometimes.

I miss salmiakki.

I miss Finland.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lumberjacks, Carousels and the GST

Today I learned how to participate in a tax fraud scheme that could easily earn me millions of dollars. Yep, that's just how we roll in the Economics department.

Today's Economics of Taxation class was one of the best ever. It started out with Dr. W announcing excitedly,

"Today we're going to learn about Carousel Fraud. This is actually a really profitable fraud scheme that is hard to detect, so you can scam millions of dollars from the government with it."

Wouldn't you be excited if that's what your prof told you at the beginning of a 75-minute class on taxes? It got even better when he began explaining the necessary theories we had to have under our belts before we could tackle Carousel fraud.

We were learning about Value-Added Taxes and how they work compared to Retail Sales Taxes and our professor gave a great analogy using furniture manufacturing. We started with a lumberjack cutting down a tree and selling it to a lumber mill, who then sells the boards to a furniture factory, who sells the furniture to Wal-Mart, who then sells it to you. If you're the kind of person who buys furniture at Wal-Mart, that is. I've heard that there are people who scorn it. We then proceeded to dissect the impact of the GST on all the different transactions within this tree's life cycle. It started out with this gem of a quote from Dr. W:

"To simplify this model, we're going to assume that the lumberjack has no inputs. He never bought a saw or anything. I guess he just went into the woods and tore it to the ground with his bare hands. Or maybe he used his teeth, I don't know."

It was with this image in my head that I heard his question a moment later, "So how much GST does the burly lumberjack pay?"

And if this wasn't the best class ever, Dr. Wen then proceed to tell us how all we need to do is move to Europe, buy a large shipment of cell phones (computer chips work as well), and set up three dummy companies in two different countries, then we can be scamming the government out of millions of dollars each year! All said with a straight face!

I feel like I got my full tuition's worth out of the Economics of Taxation in today's lecture alone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Apparently some people were under the impression that I made up the term "IFF". I definitely did not. It is a completely valid scholarly term, as you can see below:

Friday, March 19, 2010


I have discovered a new term this semester, and that term is "iff".

It means "if and only if" and I'm contemplating using it in everyday language. I'm just working on how to pronounce it so that everyone will know that I'm saying "iff" and not plain old "if". Because let's face it, my newfound "iff" will lose all of its panache and I'll look less determined if it comes out "if".

So do I say "if-f"? Or "if-if"? What about some sort of "if-uh"?

To see why I'm so excited about this term, play out the following circumstances in your mind:

Scene: A dinner table. Young five-year-old is refusing to eat his asparagus. Miraculously, this child has taken either advanced math classes or else introduction to logic at the local university and so is familiar with the implications of an extra F.

Mother: Theophilus, IF you eat your asparagus, Mummy and Daddy will let you have some ice cream!

Theophilus: (thinks to himself) Mummy is trying to bribe me... so maybe if I eat a bite or two, I'll still get my ice cream...

Father: Theophilus, IFF you eat your asparagus, you may have some ice cream for dessert.

Theophilus: (thinks to himself) Uh-oh. Daddy means business. The only scenario in my future which includes consuming ice cream necessarily includes eating asparagus as well. Better start chowing down!

The implications of "iff" are endless. Say "aye" iff you agree.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Triathlon Update

Here's the update on my triathlon status: I've registered in the Foothills Charity Triathlon, taking place in Okotoks on July 10. I figure that by then, the lake where I have to swim 500m will be slightly more warm than it is now.

So mark your calendars and come to cheer for Daddy and I as we swim, bike, and run our way to victory!

Or more accurately, as we swim, bike, and run our way to the finish line, hopefully ahead of the 75-year-old competitors.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Review

As an economics major, whenever a book about economics makes it onto the New York Times bestselling list, I am morally obligated to read it. Such was the case with Levitt and Dubner's first work, Freakonomics.

I loved that book because I could identify with Steven Levitt. I, too, am mostly only interested in microeconomics and couldn't care less about global interest rates or the monetary system. Whenever I tell people that I'm an econ major, they respond with, "So what do you think about the recession?" or "How's about that hike in interest rates?" I typically respond with some comment that I remember from the bare minimum of macroeconomics classes that I was forced to take, like "Well, that'll have ramifications on the savings/spending ratio." while actually thinking inside, "Don't know and don't care!"

My interest in economics lies mostly with Game Theory, Industrial Organization, and Economics of Regulation. My focus is on individual firms and why they make the decisions that they do. I'm intrigued by the idea of natural monopolies in the electrical transmission industry and how we can change their incentives so that they want to give fair prices to consumers. I get a rush out of finding Nash equilibria and calculating ideal price discrimination schemes. So few people understand that there is more to economics than Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman. There's an entire world out there about how people act and why.

So I found a kindred spirit in Steven Levitt when he wrote a book about sumo wrestlers who have disincentives to win one match relative to another, about strategic naming of children, and why people are more scared of guns than pools. The original Freakonomics was full of little economic gems that made me wish I actually understood econometrics so that I could analyze similar exciting data.

It was with great anticipation that I purchased my copy of Superfreakonomics. I was hopeful for another engrossing read full of nuggets of humour, well-applied econometric skills, and insightful conclusions, all organized into a cohesive book that would fill my need for fun economic applications.

My hopes, while not dashed to pieces, were let down.

Superfreakonomics is a clever book, and it has it's moments of sheer brilliance. The introduction about walking drunk showed skillful use of statistics, dashes of humour, and well-phrased conclusions, while the conclusion about the applications of consumer theory to a monkey experiment made me laugh out loud and identify concepts from all my micro classes. A chapter near the beginning analyzes the effects of the sexual revolution on the real wages of prostitutes (which, had they been any other industry group, would have had great success in lobbying the government for a compensating bailout) was extremely well done.

However, many of the chapters were glued together pieces of hodgepodge, unsupported by conclusive data or sound econometrics. The chapter on global warming seemed to me to have little relevance to economics and jumped from issue to issue like a kangaroo on a pogo stick.

In conclusion, it's worth a read, but definitely a selective one. And probably using a copy from the library. My copy is also available for loan. If you want a really entertaining book that will teach you something about economics, borrow my copy of Games, Strategies, and Decision-making by Joseph Harrington instead.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A New Take on Tradition

My best friend Aurora and I have a great tradition– we love to make homemade doughnuts. I think it started when we were in about grade eight and we've made them many times. The first time, we pulled out the cookie cutters to find the doughnut shaped ones (that have a pre-made hole in them) and realized that there were a lot of doughnut possibilities in that tupperware of cookie cutters. We tried making a gingerbread man doughnut with the two different-sized men that we had, but it mostly just burned. Our best outcome was without a doubt the star doughnut. We had two perfectly sized star cookie cutters that made fun shaped doughnuts and little poky doughnut holes. It's a fun tradition that I've loved doing throughout the years.

Fast-forward to last weekend. Aurora got married last summer and she and her husband have a nice little basement suite. We decided that her home hasn't really been broken in until it's been blessed with the smell of deep-fried food as we whip up a batch of doughnuts. When her husband, John, heard that we were planning to turn his house into a fast food joint for the evening, he made a special request: one of his favourite things is Boston Creme doughnuts.

I'd never made filled doughnuts before. It always seemed like a really daunting task that was for kitchen experts, not lowly aspiring cooks like myself. Aurora downloaded a recipe off the internet and we got started. It surprised me how easy they were and how delicious they tasted!

Our next doughnut making plan: mini filled doughnuts in varying flavours. All the puddings at the grocery store looked so tempting!

Friday, February 26, 2010

My Favourite Econ Prof Moments

Yep, they mostly look something like this.

The economics professors at the University of Calgary are a wonderful bunch. Somehow, in my entire degree, I've had exactly 2 professors who weren't middle-aged, dorky men. But luckily for all of us in the field of economics, nerds are back in.

Over the past several years, I've had some interesting interactions with my econ profs, starting with the first economics class I ever entered. I walked into the first lecture of Introduction to Macroeconomics on a Monday at 8 am, only to find my instructor (in this case, not a prof, but a PhD candidate) blasting "Don't cha" over the giant lecture hall's stereo. You know, that really annoying song that was cool in 2005?

I've had all kinds of econ prof moments over my career as an economics major, the crown of which took place yesterday. there was supposed to be a midterm in my "Economics of Taxation" class at 2:00. The whole class was there waiting at 2:05 and there was no professor in sight. We sat nervously, thinking that any minute, he'd walk in and we'd start our exam. He finally walked in at 2:27, did a second take at all of us sitting anxiously, and asked, "When does this class start?" Turns out that although he's been teaching us twice a week at 2:00 pm, for some reason he thought that the class started at 2:30. The exam has been postponed until Tuesday. The thing is, he's such a good prof that I can't even get mad about it. He's an incredible instructor, just prone to a little "econ prof weirdness" like all my other beloved Economists:

"Oh, there's no substitute good? Well, then, I guess we'll just kill you." Dr. H, referring to the ethics of price discrimination based on elasticity of demand.

"So this picture looks good, right? We're all happy with the Ricardian model of international trade? WELL, IT'S WRONG. I've been lying to you, and it's time to confess." Dr. G, telling us that our beloved idealized theories have no real-world applications.

"So if you want an allocation that's efficient AND fair, you'll just have to take someone's endowment away." Dr. W, on the futility of welfare policies.

"Goods are normally normal– it's why we call them normal goods!" Dr. G's thoughts on normalcy.

"With the kinds of prices we see in our world, we could live happily ever after, if only our equilibrium would behave itself!" Dr. W.

"Let's consider non-basket case economies..." Dr. G, on why we can never get good conclusions from African data.

"Agriculture tends to be a sacred cow everywhere." Dr. G's thoughts on Hinduism in relation to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

"... and so even though he might be better at both, I specialize in being a university professor and Bill Gates specializes in being a CEO, and we're both better off! Well, maybe him a little more than me..." Dr G's explanation of comparative advantage.

Oh, economics. The fun times never stop.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One Step Closer

I'm not sure how many people I've told about my goal for the summer, but for those of you who weren't around during my post-mission goal-setting frenzy, I've been training for a triathlon this summer. Last semester, that took the form of riding my bike to school as long as the weather held, going for a run every few weeks when I wasn't sick, and going to the gym maybe four times.

This semester I decided to really get serious. In Thailand (after New Year's, when my will to exercise was string) I got on a treadmill at the hotel and ran three miles. This pushed me to my limit and I felt like I was going to die. It also took over 40 minutes. Since I've been back, I've been going to the gym at least twice a week and can tell the difference. Today, I set my best time ever– I ran the entire 5 km required for my triathlon, and I did it in 30 minutes! Now I just need to start swimming. I should probably get on that, since I need to work up to 500-700m (depending on the race) by the summer and I haven't been lane swimming since high school.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another Valentine's Survived

Valentine's Day was so much cooler when I was in the third grade. You had a ton of fun making the mandatory cards for everyone in your class, and then you got to spend an entire afternoon at school decorating envelopes to be your Valentine mailbox, eating cupcakes, and playing various red-and-pink themed games. You chugged cinnamon hearts and got to scarf down those yummy jujube hearts, all the while telling funny jokes with Necco conversation hearts (whoever came up with the "fax me" one is my hero).

However, the older one gets, the more one realizes that Valentine's Day is kind of a pointless holiday. And no, I'm not just saying that because I'm bitter and single–in fact, I'm actually quite happy and single. I have a friend who referred to it as "Singles Awareness Day" and while I am reminded of my unattached status on February 14th, that's not what gets my goat about the holiday.

The thing that I think is retarded is that mass media and the big firms have decided which will be the most romantic day of the year and has dictated to couples when they will celebrate their relationship with something extra– whether it be a simple bouquet or a fancy dinner out on the town, or expensive jewelry. Then, they jack up all the prices to deal with the increased demand and prey on people who feel the need to show their affection through cheesy teddy bears.

As an economist, I cannot support this kind of price discrimination. Why should my eventual lover have to fight through crowds to get flowers on an arbitrary holiday that originated from a feast day for a saint from a religion I don't even believe in? What makes February 14th more special than any other day besides convention? I therefor present what I call "The Informed Consumer's Valentine":

Do not celebrate Valentine's Day on the 14th (unless you are a third grade child with your required 25 cards).

Instead, go to the stores on the 17th, when things are dropping down to half price, and buy that special someone a sweet teddy bear or a box of chocolates and keep half of the cash in your pocket to put towards the mortgage payment.

Because that's what real love's about.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Economic Applications

If this guy had taken a game theory class, he would have known better.

And people say that economics isn't applicable!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Most Exciting Mail of the Year

I was about to title this entry "Most Exciting Mail Ever" and then I remembered my mission call. Not much tops that. But it definitely wins for most exciting of the year.

So far this year, my mail has consisted of: Student Loan documents, a copy of the Electrical Statutes Amendment Act from the Alberta Queen's Printer, a friend's wedding invite, and a thank-you card from a wedding shower I attended a few weeks ago. Now, you must understand– I love mail. Mail is one of the most exciting things ever and I love getting it in any form. Even bills are fun when they arrive in the mailbox. Being a missionary only made my condition worse. As a missionary, you're so dependent on mail and every little envelope that drops through your mail slot is a little slice of heaven. Even when it's from the Nordea Bank.

Basically, I check the mailbox on a more frequent basis than anyone else in the family.

Today, it paid off! A fat envelope was sitting in there, with my name on it! Stamped with with a return address from Manitoba, I had no idea what it could be. I couldn't even wait the 15-second walk back home to open it. Standing in front of the mailbox, I tore open the brown paper and saw nestled inside four tickets to a Barenaked Ladies concert this April.

I am so happy.


Ever have that feeling where you know that you should go to bed, and you should do it an hour ago, but you just can't? When there's nothing actually worth doing to stay up, but since you just can't go to bed yet, you end up looking for the smallest excuse to stay up? I thought I'd get over that once I turned 10.

Nope, apparently not.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why I am not on Game Shows...

Tonight's FHE was Valentine's Day Jeopardy. I was pretty excited, because I'm good at trivia games. It's like my one claim to fame, other than the time I beat a bunch of nerdy guys at ZombieTown on my very first game, or the time that I accidently beat my date at President enough times straight that we never went out again.

(In case you missed it, that was my subtle way of telling you that I'm a fairly competitive person, under the best of circumstances).

I went into the game thinking, "My mission has mellowed me out– I'll be able to be chill for this game." Then they announced the teams: boys versus girls. That already got my competitive spark going.

I sat in the front row because everyone else was still putting finishing touches on their heart-shaped cookies. That was my first mistake. It is next to impossible to be chill or mellow about a trivia game when one is sitting in the front row. However, I passed my next task: when our Alex Trebek-esque host asked for a team captain, I sat entirely still and did not submit my name for consideration, even when one of the girls said, "What about you, Janine?" I humbly waited for another to be appointed.

"Yes!" I thought, "I've conquered my competitive instinct that made me the laughing stock of all scripture mastery games in early-morning seminary!"

Then they started asking questions and I knew I was lost. As much as I tried to stop myself from hollering out, "Who was Albert Einstein?" in answer to Who said it? for $300 ("Gravitation can't be held responsible for people falling in love.") it came out of my mouth without conscious thought. Apparently I am incapable of keeping quiet when there is a chance to prove my random knowledge.

This trait has made me the coveted teammate in all forms of Trivial Pursuit, but take warning: we may win, but you'll have to put up with at least one outburst where I correct the host's Google-obtained answer. Or reprimand the other team for not answering in the form of a question.

What can I say, it's an addiction. But I'm doing my best, and I think that one day, in 50 years or so, I may be able to sit through an entire episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in silence.