Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Politics edition

I started this posting ages ago, but haven’t gotten around to finishing it until now. So it’s pretty old news at this point, but I am posting it as part of my chronicling of the stuff I’m learning this year. #YouHeardItHereLast

So eighty billion years ago, we had a provincial election in BC. Politics in BC tend to be weird, and I think we may have outdone ourselves on the weirdness front this time. There are a number of things that I already knew about how our government worked, but the weird situation provided the opportunity for me to learn a few new things!

The BC provincial legislature has a total of 87 seats, which means in order to have a majority, a party needs to win 44 of those seats. On election night, the results ended up being:

  • 43 BC “Liberals”1
  • 41 BC NDP
  • 3 Green Party

BC LegislatureThis meant that no one had a majority and this situation is referred to as a “hung legislature” (this term is the first (#1) thing I learned). But there was an additional weird thing at play – after the votes were counted on election night, there were several very close ridings, including one where the BC NDP won the riding by only 9 votes! But any absentee ballots and ballots cast in the advanced polls are not counted on election night, and with thousands of those ballots outstanding, it was entirely possible that the numbers of ridings could change. If that riding with a 9-vote margin were to end up going to the BC Liberals after the final count, they would have the 44 seats needed for a majority. But if other close ridings changed, it was theoretically possible that the NDP could gain a few seats and end up with a majority (although the odds of that were slim, as the other close ridings weren’t nearly as close as 9 votes). To add even more weirdness, the riding with the 9-vote margin includes a military base (and any deployed personnel would have had to have cast absentee ballots) and the BC “Liberal” candidate in that riding was the former boss of that military base. As one TV commentator put it on election night, the election could end up being decided by whether or not this group of people liked their boss.

IMG_4772At any rate, we then had to wait two weeks for the absentee ballots were counted. This leads to the second (#2) thing that I learned – why it takes so long to count these ballots! When I heard it would take two weeks, I thought, “It’s only ~180,000 ballots. Get a team of volunteers and you could count those up in a day!” But what I didn’t know, and only later learned, was that every advanced poll and absentee ballot has to be sent to its riding (e.g., if you live in Vancouver, but happened to be miles away in another town during the election and voted in a poll there, your ballot would have to be sent to your riding in Vancouver!), where it is counted and then checked manually against the records to make sure that no one voted twice. Because you could imagine a situation where someone votes in by absentee ballot and then shows up at their own polling station on election day and votes again. Hence the manually checking.

After all the ballots were counted – and in some ridings, recounted – the results stayed the same with a hung legislature. What happens in this situation – and this is something that I already knew – is that the Lieutenant Governor (LG) (who represents the Queen of England, who is the head of state in Canada) asks the leader of the party with the most seats if they will be able to maintain the confidence of the house – i.e., will they be able to get enough votes to pass legislation, including budgets, and win votes of non-confidence (where someone in the legislature basically says “I don’t have confidence in this government, who is with me??” and then the legislature votes and if there are a majority of votes in favour of “no confidence”, the government falls. If that leader feels they can get enough votes from the other party/ies, the can say “Yes I can!” and then they can try to govern and thus test out that theory. If they don’t think they can get the other side to vote with them, they can say “No, I can’t” and basically resign, which can either end up as the LG asking another party leader if they can govern or the calling of an election. So the LG asked the leader of the BC “Liberals”, Christy Clark, if she will be able to maintain the confidence of the house. During the time where all the votes were being counted, both the BC “Liberals” and the BC NDP were negotiating with the BC Green Party to see if they could strike a deal to get their support. If the BC “Liberals” could get the Greens to support them, they would have the majority of votes (43 + 3 = 46) and if the BC NDP could get the Greens’ support, they would have the majority of votes (41 + 3 = 44). After negotiating with both sides, the Green Party agreed to a “confidence and supply agreement” with the BC NDP. What is a “confidence and supply agreement” you ask? That is what I asked as well, and it is thing #3 that I learned – a “confidence and supply agreement” is where a party (or individuals) strike an agreement with a governing party (or, in this case, a party that will become government) to vote in the government’s favour on votes of non-confidence and on budgets, ensuring that the government will be able to continuing governing. This other party (or individuals), don’t become a part of the governing party, nor are they in a coalition with the government. They merely agree to vote to keep the governing party in power. In exchange for this agreement, the governing power agrees to stuff that the other party (or individuals) want. So by entering into this agreement, the Green Party effectively demonstrated that the BC “Liberals” would not have the confidence of the house and the BC NDP did. So when the LG asked the leader of the BC “Liberals” if she could govern, she should have said “no” since she knew she would lose the vote 44-432 (and she herself admitted she knew she would lose a vote of non-confidence), but instead she said “yes”, waited a while before she called the legislature into session, and then called the legislature where she lost the vote of non-confidence. She then had to go to the LG’s house to say “My party does not have the confidence of the house so I can’t govern”. She is then supposed to make a recommendation – either that the LG ask the party with the next most seats (i.e., the BC NDP) if they can govern or to call a new election. She went to the LG’s house insisting that she would not make any recommendation because she was not going to ask for a new election and that the LG should decide for herself. The LG told her she *had* to make a recommendation so she recommended a new election, but the LG asked the BC NDP if they could govern and they said “yes” and now we have a BC NDP Premier. Of course, he has a slim one seat majority of votes, but another wrinkle to the whole situation is that one of the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) has to be a speaker of the house and thus doesn’t vote unless as a tie breaker  (thing #4 that I learned – I didn’t realize that the speaker of the house doesn’t vote3 – I feel like I’d be upset if I voted for an MLA to represent me and then they didn’t get to vote on stuff!) and traditionally when they do the tie breaking vote, they vote to continue debate up until the last vote, at which time they vote to “keep the status quo” (or vote against proposed new legislation). So effectively you’ve got a government that has 43 votes in favour and 43 votes against. This, of course, assumes that no one is sick, away, has to resign due to a scandal, chooses to resign to run in an election in a different level of government, or any of a myriad of other possible reasons for being absent. Since the new NDP government has been sworn in, they’ve been busy working on a number of things, but the legislature won’t sit until the fall. Should be interesting times!

Image Credit: Photo of the BC Legislature building was posted by David Gasson on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. The “voting place” sign photo is my own.

  1. For the uninitiated, the “BC Liberal” party has nothing to do with the federal Liberal party, nor are they liberal. They are actually conservative. There is a BC Conservative party, but they run few candidates and don’t win anything. []
  2. Assuming all members of the legislature were present to vote []
  3. I feel like this is something that I should have known. []

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Road Trip

Scott and I went on a road trip1. He had met my mom and sister when they were here in May and now it was my turn to meet his family. Our two main destinations were Red Deer, where his mom lives, and Kelowna, where his dad lives.

On the way there, we went through Jasper. I’ve never been to Jasper before, but I remember my Aunt Wendy going there when I was little and bringing me back a silver dollar. I’d also heard that it’s absolutely gorgeous there and I was not disappointed!

Jasper, AB

Jasper, AB

Jasper, AB=Jasper, AB

To make it even better, we had free entry thanks to the Parks Canada free-entry-to-all-national-parks-in-celebration-of-Canada-150 pass. While in Jasper we enjoyed:

  • the Miette Hot Springs, where there had both hot springs pools and cold pools, the latter of which gave me flashbacks to the torture of the physiotherapy cold tub
  • the Columbia icefieldJasper, AB
    Jasper, AB
  • Tangle Creek
    Jasper, AB
  • Various wildlife, although not as much as I expected to see and no bears, which I wanted to see, but only from a distance and from inside the car. Because I don’t have a death wish. Bears are scary!
  • Goats in Jasper, AB
    Jasper, AB

After Jasper we were off to Red Deer to visit Scott’s mom and spend some time on the family farm. At the farm I:

  • rode a horse named Cookie Monster and got bitten but eleventy billion mosquitoes.

    The Cookie Monster - I got to ride him!

    Cookie Monster!

  • met a lot of dogs. Every time I turned around, there was another dog! There was Rosie and Dudley and Puddles and Dakota and Flydog and Archie.
    Rosie

    Rosie

    Dudley

    Dudley

  • met Sylvester the cat, who is heard a lot about from Scott and who looks just like Sylvester from Bugs Bunny. He’s a farm cat through and through – I watched him eat a mouse2 – but he’s also a snuggly little guy who will curl up with you at bed time. He’d been in a bit of a scrap with another farm cat at a few days earlier and had a big gash just above one eye, so I was worried about him, but he’s all better now after some antibiotic ointment that Scott’s mom got from the vet. And I’m just realizing I didn’t get any photos of Sylvester. #fail
  • met three little kittens who recently arrived at the farm: Milkshake, Stripey Cat, and the Orange One. They were pretty freaking adorable!
    Milkshake the kitten at the farm

    Milkshake

    Stripey Cat the kitten at the farm

    Stripey Cat

    Orange kitten at the Farm

    The Orange One

  • met 2 other cats, but only from a distance because, while adorable, they were, let’s say very protective of their territory: Halo, and the aptly named Killer.
  • saw a bunch of cows. It is a cattle farm, after all. Most of the cows were out at pasture, but there were two calves that didn’t have moms to be out at pasture with – one was orphaned and the other was rejected by its mom – so they were hanging out in a pen with a dairy cow who was brought in to feed them. Sort of like a wet nurse for cows. The dairy cow had a tongue that was about 2 ft long and tried to eat my arm.

I really think my niece and nephew would like the farm. And my dad would have liked it too!

While in Alberta, we also made a trip to Eau Claire Distillery ((Here’s my usual disclaimer: no one paid me to talk about any of the business I talk about in this posting. I kind of wish they did, because most of the business I talk about in this posting make booze!)), the first craft distillery in Alberta, which opened in 2004. Scott had been there back when they first open for a fundraising event and wanted to show it to me. They make primarily barley-based booze, although they do have one vodka made from prickly pear cactus. They also hand harvest all the barley, which seems like a particularly crazy way to get your barley.

Eau Claire Distillery, Turner Valley, AB

Drinks at Eau Claire Distillery, Turner Valley, AB

Scott had a Moscow mule and I had (if I recall correctly) an apricot whiskey sour.

Then we went into Calgary, which you may recall is my least favourite place that I’ve ever been. In Calgary, police cars are all Ford F-150s and everyone drives Lamborghinis. True story.

This is how they do police cars in Calgary

Row of expensive cars - apparently this was a show & shine in Calgary

We did go to Prince’s Island Park and it was nice and we ate at the Palomino Smokehouse and it was good. So I may have to revise my stance from “I hate everything about Calgary” to “I hate everything about Calgary except Prince’s Island Park and Palomino Smokehouse”.

After a few days of Red Deer, which included some family dinners with Scott’s mom and her boyfriend, and meeting Scott’s grandma3 we hit the road again, this time traveling through Banff on our way to visit Scott’s dad in Kelowna. We made a stop in Revelstoke to visit Monashee Spirits Distilling. Monashee opened about 4 months ago and makes some of the best craft booze around! Josh gave us a tour of where all the magic happens and we got to sample his wares. Incidentally, I have a bottle of Big Mountain Creamer and, since all of Monashee’s products are certified organic and don’t have preservatives, and the Big Mountain Creamer has, understandably, cream in it, this bottle has an expiry date – anyone who wants to come help me drink it should let me know!

While in Revelstoke, we also decided to try out the Pipe Mountain Coaster, a single person roller coaster down the mountain! It was a bit pricy, but pretty freaking fun!Scott on the Pipe Coaster in Revelstoke, BC

Then it was off the Okanagan! While there we checked out, in no particular order:

Old Order Distillery

    • The People’s Crafthouse Soda Company – these guys make fantastic craft sodas: root beer, cream soda, tonic, ginger ale, elderflower, and they even have one called “seasonal fruit” that is made with whatever fruit happens to be in season. When we were there it was strawberry-cherry (the end of the strawberry season and the start of cherry season) and they said that the next week it would be just cherries, then later it would be blueberry, blackberry, peaches, etc. I just looked at their website and they currently have pear-ginger! We did a tasting of their sodas and then talked to them for nearly an hour about how they started their business and about their experience on the Dragon’s Den. They were super nice people and if you ever happen to be in Penticton, I highly recommend you check them out!
    • Bad Tattoo Brewing
    • The Vibrant Vine winery – I was there last year, as the half marathon I ran in Kelowna started in their vineyard (and then I went back later to actually check out the winery) and I really wanted to show it to Scott. All of their packaging and the art in the winery is 3D and while you might think that gimmicky labels may signify poor quality wine, but you’d be wrong. Their wine is outstanding!
    • House of Rose – At the Canada Day festivities at the Kelowna waterfront, we’d gotten coupons for the “Fab 5” wineries – a group of wineries, including The Vibrant Vine, who co-market to try to get people to visit these wineries that are all in the same area (though they are quick to tell you that it’s just a marketing arrangement – they are all independent wineries). So we decided to check out some of the others, which we hadn’t heard of before. One of them was the House of Rose and while the grounds were pretty (I kind of felt like I was at House Tyrell with the rose theme), sadly their wines just weren’t very good.

The House of Rose Winery, Kelowna, BC

  • Camelot Vineyards – Like House of Rose, Camelot sticks to its theme, with coats of armour and a sword stuck in a stone decorating the place, but I didn’t like their wines. After this, we decided to cut our losses on the “Fab 5” wineries, electing not to go to the remaining two.
    Camelot Winery, KelownaCamelot Winery, Kelowna
  • Summerhill Pyramid Winery – This winery has a pyramid that they apparently store their wine in for some reason. Their sparkling wine is quite nice.
    Scott and I at Summerhill Pyramid WIneryPlus they have what looks like a weirwood tree.Summerhill Pyramid WInery
  • Grizzli Winery – I discovered Grizzli Winery last year when I was in Kelowna – just saw it as we were driving by and went in on a whim and I really, really like their wines. So Scott and I went there so that he could check it out and also so I could see what was new since I was there last year, shortly after they opened. They had white wines this time (which they didn’t last year) and I liked them a lot!

When we weren’t tasting all the beverages, we spent some time walking the boardwalk in Kelowna and having family breakfasts and dinners with Scott’s dad and his girlfriend. And then before we knew it, our vacation was over! Will definitely have to go back – feels like we just scratched the surface of all the things we could do!

  1. Like a month ago, but I’m only getting around to blogging about it now. Because there are too many exciting things going on this summer and I haven’t had time to sit down and write! []
  2. I realized that I’d never seen a cat eat a mouse before! We saw that Sylvester was sitting in the grass so we went over to see him and saw that he had a half eaten mouse corpse in front of him and one of the mouse legs, which he was slowly devouring, in his mouth. After eating the leg he started pulling the guts out to eat! []
  3. Who reminded me a lot of my Granny Snow. Incidentally, Scott’s grandma told her hair stylist that she approved of me (one of the times we went to visit her she was in the salon) and then Scott learned that women always tell their hair stylist everything! []

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I’m a Frankestein’s Monster

So I got a gum graft this morning. I’ve been putting it off since forever ago when my dentist said my gum line was receding on the lower left side of my mouth on a tooth near the back. Basically, the root of the tooth was slowly being exposed and ultimately that would just lead to the root rotting and no one wants that. I looked into an alternative procedure, but then it turned out that the alternative procedure is pretty much what my periodontist does but using cadaver tissue instead of your own tissue (which is an option with my perio1 as well), but some guy gave it a fancy name and patented it. So anyway, after looking into that and deciding it wasn’t worth it, I put off booking the actual surgery for ages because (a) it didn’t sound that fun and (b) my insurance doesn’t cover the procedure (apparently Pacific Blue Cross is the only insurance that doesn’t cover it – lucky me) and I did not like the idea of spending $1400 on this rather than any number of other $1400 purchases I would have preferred to make. What finally got me to do it, though, was the realization that since I had to spend a bunch of money out of pocket for physio on my hip in the fall (as my physio allotment of my insurance got used up pretty quick), if I did the gum graft within 12 months of the physio, I could lump the receipts together and they will probably add up to a high enough amount that I can claim them on my taxes. And so I found myself in the periodontist’s chair this morning.

Not thrilled to be getting a gum graft

As you can see, I’m not thrilled to be sitting in this chair

The procedure was fairly quick and pretty much painless other than the needle to do the freezing2. They also put a blood pressure cuff on me, which inflated every 15 minutes during the pressure just to make sure it wasn’t going crazy – and I hate blood pressure cuffs! They make me feel all claustrophobic and when I can start to feel my blood pumping, I get queasy3. Ugh! Once everything was frozen, I could only feel a bit of pressure here and there, and it was weird to see someone sewing stitches in my mouth! Basically, they cut out a bit of tissue from the roof of your mouth, sew that incision up, then open up a little pocket in the receding gum and stuff the tissue inside there, and then sew that up. And that’s it. She did also put a “bandage” on the roof of my mouth to protect that cut – it feels like a little pack of putty. It sort of protects that cut – I imagine without it, I’d just be running my tongue on those stitches, like you do when you burn the roof of your mouth! Before the surgery, they gave me some Advil and Tylenol and then said to take an Advil every 2 hours today4, and then just as needed for any pain tomorrow. My jaw is a bit achy, but that doesn’t bug me too much. I was worried there would be sharp pain in the roof of my mouth, as I’ve heard from other people who have had gum grafts, but so far, knock on wood, I’m OK. I can deal with just achy (so I’m hoping it stays at just that!). The periodontist also said I might have a bruise on my cheek, but one hasn’t developed yet. I guess we’ll see how I look in the morning.

Today I had to take it easy and for the next week or so I have to eat only on the right side of my mouth. I can brush my teeth except for the ones where the graft was, and I have to swish around a special rinse after that to keep the wounded parts clean. The perio even said that I can play my hockey game tomorrow night5, so I should probably get a good night’s sleep!

  1. And, in fact, my friend Rick is getting a gum graft done using cadaver tissue, so he is going to be a real Frankenstein’s monster. Or perhaps a chimera. I haven’t been to periodontal school, so I’m not sure which of those is technically correct, though I’m sure it must be one of them. []
  2. The only painful part was paying the bill! []
  3. On the plus side, my blood pressure was good – about 109/60, which is a bit high for me (I’m usually around 90/60), but way below the normal of 120/80 and also I was having surgery! []
  4. Which I kept forgetting to do, so it’s been more like every 3-4 hrs. []
  5. I thought she would say not to, as the written material I got before the surgery said I shouldn’t engage in any physical activity for 48 hours, but she said that the written material is very conservative – she said that they don’t want you to raise your blood pressure in the first 12-24 hours while the initial healing is taking place, but after that I’m fine to play hockey!)

    Sadly, I didn’t get any gruesome photos like I did that time I got crowns and veneers done, because there really wasn’t anything gruesome to see. I kind of wish I could see what the stitches look like, but the periodontist said not to try to pull at my lip to look at what’s going on with the wound (like many people do) as it will only disrupt the site and delay healing/screw up the graft and after $1400, I’m not risking that, no matter how many cool looking stitches I’m missing out on seeing.

    Anyhoo, I suppose I should take my last Advil for the day and hit the hay. Tomorrow is my first day back at work after two weeks of holidays ((Which I’ll blog about soon! []

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RIP Kobo

My kobo1, appears to be no longer capable of holding a charge. I plug it in overnight and it seems like it’s charged, but then a few hours later (during which time it isn’t being used) and I see this:

My kobo won't hold a charge :(

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, as it is more than 4 years old and in electronics time that’s like 1000 years old. Plus I’ve not been able to get it to connect to my computer for quite some time now, which means that I haven’t been able to put any new books on it. I was hoping to read the books that I already had on there that I hadn’t yet read though. I’m in the middle of reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker. Though I can’t tell you exactly how far because my goddamn kobo won’t hold a charge. Guess it’s time to start looking at what’s happened in eReader technology in the last four years…

  1. Which I had named Luna, after Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. []

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Goals 2017 Check In

We are more than 5/12 of the way through 2017 and first of all, how is that even possible? It feels like it was just New Year’s! But secondly, it seems like a good time to check in on my goals to see if I’m even remotely on track before the year completely gets away from me.

Let’s dive right in, shall we? Below is a list of the goals with notes on how I’m doing on each one. I’ve also colour coded them: green for those that are done or on track, orange for those where progress is made but the goal needs a bunch of work to get back on track, and red for those that are seriously in danger of not getting completed (or are already failed), plus grey for one that has been superseded.

1. Learn 12 new things (1 per month). So far I’ve learned: plumbingfolding a fitted sheet, strength trainingsewing, and growing balcony potatoes – I’ve also learned about one more thing but haven’t written it up yet, so I’m actually ahead on this one!
2. KonMari my condo. I have started this one, but have gotten a little stalled after I got through all my clothes and shoes (still have jewelry and purses to do before I can consider the “clothing” category done). Got a little distracted by teaching a course for the past 6 weeks, which took up a lot of my spare time, but that’s done now so I can get back to making giant piles of my belongings to decide which things bring me joy and thanking the ones that don’t make the cut for their service (lol!)
3. Do yoga at least 2x per week (either at home or in a class). Haven’t done it even once this year!
4. Establish a weight training program and actually do regular weight training, where “regular” = at least 2x per week for at least 3 out of 4 weeks per month. I’m doing excellent on this one! I have gone to the gym 3 days a week, every week, since I joined Strong Side on March 3. Hooray for me!
5. Get back to journalling regularly (where “regularly” = once a week). I forgot this one was a goal. I should really do this! Good thing I’m doing this check in to remind me!
6. Travel somewhere awesome. Scott and I are doing a road trip next week1 and one of the places will be going is Jasper. Though it’s not far away, I do believe it constitutes awesome.
7. Get gum graft surgery done.  Booked for July 4!
8. Get a Nexus card Oh yeah, I should do this!
9. Send an actual physical birthday card on time to all my family members and close friends Already failed at this one! Maybe next year…
10. Bring my lunch to work 80% of the time. I’ve been tracking this on a weekly basis, but hadn’t looked at the actual percentage until just now. I’m only at 56% Clearly I need to up my lunch game when I get back from my holidays!
11. Complete the 100 push up challenge. This goal has been superseded by my joining Strong Side. Hopefully I’ll start to get better at pushups – I’ve managed to make great improvements in my strength, but pushups remain tough for me.
12. Submit 5 papers for publication. I’ve gotten one submitted, I’ve got one that is about 85% of the way done, I’ve got one that I’ve planned out with my co-authors (but we haven’t yet started on), and I’ve got one in my brain. Better get working on the lesser done ones (and also come up with the 5th one!)
13. Read 17 books. I’ve only finished one so far this year (Maria Kondo’s book), but I’m in the middle of reading 4 different books at the moment, plus I have my friend Cath’s new book sitting on my coffee table waiting to be read. So I’m rather behind on this one and I mostly blame the fact that I spend my commute doing my Pokemon inventory management rather than reading
14. Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before. I’ve only done 6 so far, but I’ve got some good ideas for other things, so I think I’ll manage this one.
15. Write 117 blog postings! Counting this one, I’ll have done 26 blog postings so far this year. I better step it up!
16. Finish the plan for mystery thing #1. I’m actually working on this in earnest this week – my mystery collaborator and I have the week off work to focus on this, so this goal is well underway.
17. Finish the letter of intent for mystery thing #2. I did finish this, so technically I completed my goal. Doesn’t look like this mystery thing is going to go anywhere, so let us never speak of it again.

So I’m doing OK on several, have quite a few that are not on track, and a few on which I’ve made progress. So I guess now it’s time to turn some of those orange and reds into green!

  1. Attention would be robbers: My cat sitter will be here, so don’t even think of trying to rob me! []

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Growing potatoes on my balcony edition

Last year when I made my herb garden, I learned that one could grow potatoes on their balcony. I didn’t get to try it out last year due to travel and balcony power washing that happened, but decided I would do it this summer. Fast forward to the May long weekend – Scott and I set out to buy some seedlings to plant this year’s herb garden and while at the store, I remembered the potato thing! I hadn’t remembered early enough to actually sprout some potatoes on my own, but fortunately one can purchase “potato seeds” (which are little potatoes that have been sprouted).

Potato seeds

Basically, you cut a bit off of the potato, put some dirt in a bag, and bury the potato cut side down.

Potato seed

Cutting the potato seed before planting

Growing potatoes on my balcony

Growing potatoes on my balcony

After about a week, you see the plant sprouting above the surface, and then you dump more dirt on it to cover the sprouts and let it grow another four weeks. And then you have potatoes!

As you can see, my potato plants are sprouting quite nicely:

June 4:

Potato plants are growing!

June 10:

Potatoes

June 14:

IMG_5865

Also, the bag that I bought to grow the potatoes in has am opening, which I’m assuming is to make it easier to harvest the potatoes when they are ready. However, such a bag also doubles as an excellent astronaut costume (as long as it is before you put the dirt in it):

Potato growing bag doubles as a spacesuit!

Since I still had more potato seeds, so I decided to get myself another bag to grow a second batch. But since the space suit potato bag appeared to be made out of the same material as Ikea bags, we decided to just buy an Ikea bag for less than $1 and cut a hole in the bottom of it!

Planted on June 4:

Planting balcony potatoes - second batch

June 10:

Potatoes
June 14:

Potatoes
In addition to growing potatoes, also picked up a bunch of seedlings to make this year’s herb garden1. For the record, this year’s garden consists of:

  • chives
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • marjoram
  • mint
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • tarragon
  • thyme
  • tomatoes
  • jalapeño
  • strawberries

Balcony Herb Garden

First strawberry of the season

Strawberries

Balcony Herb GardenDoes anyone know why this tomato is called a “mortgage lifter?”

Also, while we were picking up seedlings, we discovered that the garden store was selling  cat grass seedlings. And seedlings of variegated cat grass. And cat nip seedlings. So guess who got their own little garden?

Watson & Crick love their new cat garden

You can’t see it in the photos, but the cats are wearing harnesses and leashes because I don’t want them falling off the balcony!

I also toyed with the idea of growing a hipster garden when I saw that you could buy kale, quinoa, and stevia seedlings, but decided that the cost in money, effort, and space on the balcony would outweigh the joke. Of course, if I had, I would have to have bought the “craft” compost:Hipster dirt

Anyhoo, like last year, I’m enjoying having fresh herbs to cook with, as well as enjoying watching the garden grow! And I’m really excited to get to harvest some potatoes!

  1. I didn’t find a way to bring last summer’s herb garden inside, given that my cats would eat it all and that I really don’t have anywhere to put it all, so I had to make a new garden from scratch. []

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My new neck guard

Two games ago, I got high sticked in the throat. It wasn’t intentional – we were playing hard and it was so fast I’m not even sure how it happened, but seemingly out of nowhere I felt a stick blade on my throat – but it was hard and down I went. All I could think was “Can I breathe? Ok, I can breathe now, but is my throat going to swell up and I’m going to suffocate to death right here on the ice?” My throat did swell up, but not so bad that it killed me (obviously, or I’d have a hard time writing this blog posting!). I couldn’t lie on my back and breath at the same time for two days (as the swelling in the front of my throat would sort of collapse down on itself), but I was OK if I lay on my side.

Old hockey neckguard

Old neck guard

Long story short, I decided that the neckguard I’d been wearing – because, yes, I was wearing a neck guard – was providing me with insufficient protection. I felt the stick blade on my skin, so I think the blade must have hit below the neck guard, or at least shifted the guard out of place when it hit. Imagine if that had been a skate blade instead of a stick blade! So off I went last weekend to the Hockey Shop to buy a new neck guard that provides more ample coverage.

New hockey neckguard

New neck guard. My neck feels so much more guarded now!

As you can see from the photo, the new neck guard provides a lot more coverage in case of errant sticks, skates, or punches. Also, if someone challenges me to a duel on the ice, I’ll be ready for that too!

I wore it in my game on Wednesday night (and I scored a goal1!) It’s definitely warmer wearing this new guard compared to the old one, but I’m already sweating up a storm out there, so what’s a little more sweat? And it’s a small price to pay for an intact jugular and a non-collapsed trachea.

Stay safe out there, people!

  1. Coincidence? Probably, but we can’t really know for sure! []

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My Dad’s Legacy

In honour of what would have been my Dad’s 72nd birthday, I give you this photo of me entering a door that has a sign explicitly stating that only authorized personnel, which I am not, may enter:

Authroized personnel. Pfft!

And so my father’s legacy lives on every time I see a sign that says “do not enter” and I think “There must be something good in there. I should go check it out!”

In all seriousness, though, I was thinking about this the other day and as much as I enjoy the rebelliousness and hilarity of disobeying signs the way my dad liked to do, I think there are two important character traits that I learned from my dad reflected here. One is confidence. I remember him telling me that it’s easy to get away with going where you aren’t supposed to go: “Just walk in to a place like you belong there, and no one will question you.” Acting confident can often get you want you want. And in my life, acting confident often has gotten me what I wanted! The other is questioning authority. The sign may say “Do not enter” or “Authorized personnel only” – but why does it say that? Sometimes there is a good reason, but sometimes not. When I saw the signs at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland that said “do not cross this fence”, I knew that many people have accidentally slipped off the edge of those cliffs and fallen 700 ft to the death, so I thought “that’s a sign to take seriously”.

IMG_5563

But this “no entry” sign on an open gate in Freemantle, Australia, where there was clearly no danger, not so much:
Freemantle, Western Australia

So I guess the take home message here is not to automatically not do something just because you are told not to, but to ask the even important question “Why?” Asking “why?” has also gotten me things that I want (or, in some cases, the knowledge of the reason why I can have what I want – but at least I know). I think these are two pretty cool things to have learned from my dad.

I wish you were still here for me to wish you a happy birthday, Daddy.

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101 in 1001 Days Recap (A Wee Bit Late)

So, I figured it was a good time to do a check in on my 101 things to do in 1001 days because that 1001 days is coming to an end very soon… or so I thought. I was sure that my list’s end date was in July, which meant I’d have about a month to try to knock a few more items off the list, but I just looked at it to see what specific date in July and found that it wasn’t any date in July – it ended on April 9! As in almost 2 months ago!! It started on July 12, 2014, which must be why I had July in my brain. I am an epic fail! So yes, let’s start with seeing how I did on my 101 list!

In total, I achieved 38/101 things. While that sounds pretty sad, it is better than I did on my second 101 list and one shy of the number that I achieved on my first 101 list. Let’s look at the breakdown:

Completed Items – A. Stuff I Did That I Figured I’d Be Likely To Do

7. Be written about in the New Westminster Record
13. Install screen doors on my balcony doors
16. Get a jewelry armoire
18. Get a strong structure on which to place my frog tank
20. Clean my new BBQ
21. Get rid of the fake trees my condo’s previous owner left on my balcony
22. Put felt pads on the bottom of all my furniture to protect my floors
23. Replace my mishmash of old dishes with a nice set of dishes
26. Unpack everything from my recent move
27. Update my address on every account I have by the time my mail forwarding ends
28. Update my budget to reflect my new financial situation
29. Get rack and pannier for my bike
32. See a show at Bard on the Beach
38. Write a will1
56. Visit Bowen Island
57. Participate in political campaign
58. Ski at Whistler
64. Go on a Paddle Wheeler cruise down the Fraser River
66. Take the Peak to Peak gondola in Whistler
69. Create a balcony herb garden
80. Have a picnic
83. Make a Christmas wreath to hang on my door
86. Decorate a cake in a creative and awesome way
89. Increase the amount of money I loan out via Kiva by 100%
91. Pain something worth hanging on my wall
92. Get a journal article published
99. Don’t get any university degrees (unless they are honorary degrees) during this 1001 day period

B. Stuff I Did That I Was Surprised I Managed To Accomplish

4. Create a computer simulation model
35. Go for a ride in a float plane
37. Present at a conference at an international location (not including the US)
43. Go to NYC
44. Go to Chicago
46. Go to Nova Scotia
47. Go to Newfoundland
78. Get a promotion or a new job
93. Get a book chapter published
95. Publish something with my sister
100. Fall in love

I listed all the travel-related ones as “surprising” because my travel locations tend to relate to opportunities that present themselves rather than my picking them.  Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and presenting at an international conference (Australia) were all places I went to because there happened to be conferences there and I went to Chicago on the way to a conference in Kansas City. I did pick NYC, but it was actually my sister’s idea of a place to take our Mom for her birthday.

C. Stuff That I Partially Accomplished

19. Hang all my diplomas and artwork in my new place – All my diplomas are hung in my office at the hospital and almost all of my artwork is hung (I just need to hand a photo of a cool iceberg that I got in Newfoundland, a painting of flowers that I got in Nice (which I did *finally* get framed), and the two paintings that I painted at Paint Night.

60. Participate in 10 research studies (as a research “subject”) – I participated in 5 studies. And I actually emailed two or three other studies that advertised they were looking for research participants but didn’t get a response back from them.

Incomplete Items

A. Abject Failures

These are all things that I totally could have done but just didn’t.

1. Fix my ruby ring (from which I lost a ruby!)
2. Stay in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
3. Stay in the Chateau Lake Louise
14. Paint a room
15. Get a linen tower for the bathroom
17. Get a litter box hiding piece of furniture
24. Mend all the clothes in my “to fix” box
31. Read “Lord of the Flies”
33. Watch salmon spawning
39.Buy a red suit
40. Run a triathlon
41. Go zipling
42. Go skydiving
61. Make homemade marshmallows
62. Go on a relaxing vacation in a tropical location2
63. Donate blood (despite my needle phobia!)
65. Go to the free Friday night dance class at Hyack Square3
68. Go horseback riding
70. Go to a New Westminster Salmon Bellies lacrosse game
71. Complete the 100 pushups challenge
72. Write a short story
74. Make a list of 100 things for which I’m grateful!4
75. Go waterskiing
76. Go scuba diving
79. Hike up a glacier
81. Make a key lime pie
82. Send out Christmas cards to all my friends and family
85. Make Eggs Benedict
87. Make homemade spruce beer
88. Go to Science World After Dark
90. Lose the weight I gained during my MBA program
94. Publish something with Dr. Dan5
96. Invent a cupcake recipe
97. Invent 5 new drinks
98. See a Cirque du Soleil show

B. Stuff I Thought Was a Long Shot Anyways

5. Use the computer simulation model that I created to run a sensitivity analysis.
6. See Celtic Thunder live
8. Cage dive with sharks
9. Ride an elephant
10. Ride a camel
11. Ride a zamboni
12. Go whitewater rafting
25. Make a quilt from all my old t-shirts from different events
34. Go for a ride in a helicopter
36. Climb an active volcano
45. Go to Paris
48. Go to the Yukon
49. Go to Nunavit
50. Go to Iceland
51. Go to Italy
52. Go to Hawaii6
53. Go to Japan
54. Go to the Galapagos
55. Go somewhere in South America
59. Skate on the Rideau Canal
67. Visit Alcatraz
73. Do an amateur stand up comedy night
77. Go for a ride in a hot air balloon
101. Publish 751 blog postings during these 1001 days7

C. Stuff I no longer even care about/couldn’t do because of outside forces.

30. Bike to work at least 10 times – Once I got my new job, biking to work became off the table as it would probably take me 2 hours each way (at least at the speed I bike). And you can’t take a bike on the Skytrain during rush hour, so it’s not like I can Skytrain part of the way and bike the rest of the way.

84. Decorate my balcony with Christmas lights – I decided I don’t really care about this one anymore, as my balcony faces the back of the building, so who is even really going to see them?

I feel like the stuff that I accomplished was most boring tasks – though I suppose that a fair number of task-y type things ended up on the list because I’d just moved into my new condo when I wrote that list. I did manage to get some cool travelling accomplished and I published two journal articles and a book chapter, so that’s something. But I really haven’t done anything epic like I did during my previous 1001 days (much of which wasn’t even in my list at the time!).

I guess it’s time to put together a new 101 list – my fourth one! I have a few items on my list already and I think I’ll import a few of my as-of-yet not done ones from this list. And then I need to think of some truly epic things to do (I do have one extremely epic thing I’m working on, so that’s going on the list!). If anyone has suggestions on what I should put on my next list, I’m all ears!

  1. Loophole on this one – I’ve written it, but not yet signed it, as you need two witnesses to sign it at the same time and I rarely have more than one person at my place unless I’m having a party and I feel like “who wants to witness the signing of my will is like the worst party game ever. At any rate, I’ve written my will and that’s all this item said, so I’m counting it! []
  2. I can’t believe I didn’t go on a relaxing tropical vacation in 1001 days!! []
  3. I don’t think they even have those classes anymore! []
  4. I really should have done this. This is going on my next 101 list for sure! []
  5. Definitely going on my next 101 list. We even having something that we are just starting to write up! []
  6. I did have a plan for this one, but my stupid hip injury thwarted my plans! []
  7. For the record, I only wrote 289 blog postings in this 1001 days. Yikes! []

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Sewing Edition

Knowing about my goal to learn one new thing every month this year, Cath suggested we try out a sewing class at Spool of Thread in Vancouver1. I’d never sewn anything using a sewing machine before, and Cath hadn’t sewn since high school where she used a machine from the Stone Age, so we took the introductory how-to-make-a-tote-bag class. Our other friend, Stephanie, who has a little more experience than Cath and I, also joined in the fun.

Fabric at Spool of Thread sewing shopI have to say, Spool of Thread is a cool little business. They sell sewing supplies, hold sewing classes to make things of varying levels of difficulty, and you can even rent time on their sewing machines (along with use of the associated space and equipment – a big table to cut out your fabric, irons and ironing boards, and all the pins in the world). The renting of the sewing machine time is a particularly good idea in a city where everyone lives in tiny condos (because who has room for a sewing machine?) – and also for people who have curious cats that love to sit on whatever you are working on at the moment (because who wants to end up sewing a cat into their tote bag?).

Fabric to make a tote bag at my sewing classYou could bring your own fabric to the class, but we all elected to buy some fabric there. There was an extensive range of options and I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to choose. The tote bag is reversible, which meant we had to pick two fabrics, and every time I picked one that I liked, I couldn’t decide on another one that would go with it. I. The end I decided to go with a black and white theme and picked ampersands on one fabric and stars on the other.

The sewing teacher, whose name I completely forget, explained all the parts of the sewing machine, took us through how to thread the sewing machine, and then step-by-step through how to make our tote bags.

As it turns out, the easiest part of sewing is the sewing part. Threading the machine, cutting your fabric, and pinning it together correctly take about 99.9% of the time and effort, but the actual sewing is relatively easy, at least as far as sewing a tote bag where you only need to sew in straight lines. And while not all my lines came out perfectly straight, they came out straight enough and Cath and I agreed that we are both better sewers than we are painters.

Here we at with our fabulous tote bags:

Cath, Stephanie, & Beth at sewing class

Cath, Stephanie, and me with our new tote bags!

During the class, when we were cutting our fabric, the teacher mentioned that we’d have enough leftover fabric to take the how-to-make-zippered-pouches class – we’d learn how to sew a zipper and have pouches to match our totes! He also mentioned that since we get the pattern and instructions for the tote bag, we probably should come back to rent a machine to make another one to reinforce our learning. Sewing machine and Fabric to make a tote bag at my sewing classAnd when Cath inquired into it later, apparently the zipped pouch course is more advanced, so we’d need to take at least one more introductory level class before we do zippered pouches. So they’ve really got a good little system set up from a business perspective because all of that does make sense – I do want to have pouches that match my tote and I want to learn how to sew more things and I kinda want another tote bag – and it all just so happens to increase their sales!

All in all, I really enjoyed my sewing class! I got to make something useful (I often use my tote bag to bring stuff to work), I learned something new, and now I want to do more sewing!

  1. As usual, I have no relationship with this company other than that I am a customer. []