Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Happy 10th Blogiversary to Me!

Number 1010 years. A decade. One-tenth of a century. Whatever way you look at it, it’s an awful long time. Unless you are looking at it in geological time, in which case it’s not even noticeable. Thankfully, neither me nor my blog is a rock.

Obviously things have changed a lot during that time. In fact, blogging itself has gone from “You write a what? A “blog”? What the hell is a blog?” (when I started in 2005) to *everyone* is blogging (in maybe 2007 or 2008) to “You write a what? A blog? How antiquated. Can I Instagram a photo of you? #OldLady #GetWithTheTimes”1.

I obviously don’t blog anywhere near as often as I used to – the days of the 231-day blogging streaks are over2. Even at my peak, I never had a tonne of comments on my blog postings, but the comments section has been a veritable wasteland for years now, with the few people who choose to comment doing so on the Facebook posting linked to my blog posting.

I don’t think it’s very difficult to figure out why me – and pretty much every else – is blogging so much less these days. There are just so many more ways to publish your ideas online now. Back in 2005, Facebook wasn’t yet open to the public – you had to have a university-affiliated address to join back then – and Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the myriad other ways we have of sharing our ideas online weren’t even invented. And it’s a lot easier to write 140 characters or copy-and-paste a link to something than it is to sit down and think enough to write a coherent blog posting. And, likewise, it takes a lot more attention to read a blog posting than to flip through a bunch of tweets and Facebook statuses. As Mitch Joel said in his blog posting Blogging is Dead (Again):

Blogging is hard because writing is hard. Writing is hard because finding the time to do real critical thinking and then to put those thoughts down in writing is even more complex. Reading, research, critical thinking, writing, editing and publishing isn’t like posting a picture to tumblr or texting off a tweet. They’re different beasts and they deserve different forms of metrics and comparison.

When I used to not have those other outlets, I channeled all of my creative energies into blog postings. Now it’s much easier to post a funny one liner on Twitter and go on about my day.

But the thing is, I’m still constantly thinking of ideas that would  take more than 140 characters to write, and I often find myself making a mental note about something that I want to blog about3. I currently have 63 draft postings sitting in my blog in various states of being written (from just a title to remind me of something I wanted to blog about to some half-baked postings that I haven’t found the time to finish baking), not to mention other ideas jotted on my whiteboard and still others floating around in my brain. But, as Joel says, finding the time to actually craft a blog posting is the real challenge. It’s not just that other social media platforms are competing with blogs, it’s that all the other stuff I do in my life is competing for my time.

Anyway, after all this talk about needing to spend time to think critically to write blog postings, I’m pretty much just rambling on at this point. So I should probably find some way to wrap this thing up. But now I can’t think of a good ending. Gah! The pressure is too much. Oh wait, I know! How about a quiz to see if anyone is actually reading this. 1000 points to anyone who actually posts a comment on this blog posting (and you lose one million points if you post a comment on the link to this blog posting that appears on my Facebook).

10th Birthday Cakey

Omg, why didn’t anyone make this cake for me today?

Image Credits:

-Number 10 image osted by draml on Flickr with a Creative Commons license4.
-Sheep cake photo posted by darkdwarf on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

Footnotes:

  1. See here for a report on how blogging is for old folks… and this was back in 2010! []
  2. Though you may have noticed that I’m currently on a 6-day blogging streak, which I started when I noticed “blogiversary” in my Google calendar. []
  3. Something that frustrates me is that I never seem to get a blog posting written on current events because I need to take my time to learn about them, to think critically about them, and to decide what I’d even want to say about them and by the time I’m done all of that, everyone will have stopped posting links to that news story on their Facebook, having moved on to the next big thing. []
  4. While searching for an image for this blog posting, I searched Flickr for “number 10″ and got a lot of photos of the house of the British Prime Minister. []

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Pet Peeves, An Incomplete List

  • When someone answers one question from an email that had four questions in it.
  • When someone replies to an email that had one question in it without actually answering the question, but to tell you something totally unrelated. It’s like they want you to know they got that email, but aren’t going to answer your question.
  • When people send you an calendar invite in Outlook and then email and say “I just sent you a calendar invite.” I know that, because you sent it to me. It’s *directly* below this email in my inbox.
  • The use of the word “solution” as a verb. “We don’t need to solution that in this meeting. We’ll just flag it and send it on the tech team to figure out how to fix it.” “Solution” is not a verb. In fact, we already have a verb for this exact purpose: “solve.” Glad I could solve this grammar problem for you.
  • When my Skytrain arrives at Waterfront Station at the same time as the Seabus. Seabus people are slow walkers and get in my way trying to get from Expo Line to Canada Line. The only thing worse than when the Seabus arrives at the same time as my Skytrain is when the West Coast Express arrives at the same time as my Skytrain. West Coast Express people make Seabus people look like Usain Bolt.
  • People who step onto the Skytrain or bus and stop the moment they are in the door, with no regard for the person/people who are right behind them who might also like to board that train or bus1 See also: people who stop walking abruptly with no indication that they are about to do so, right in the middle of a crowd who is getting off the Skytrain2
  • When someone responds to an email that is not the last email in a chain, so they are responding to old information that is no longer relevant/has already been answered later in the chain. Read the whole chain before you respond, dammit!
  • When someone sends you a calendar invitation with the event name that is only useful from their perspective. Sending me a calendar invitation called “Lunch with Beth” is really not very useful to me!3
  • People I don’t know trying to add me to LinkedIn, but not bothering to actually personalize the note. Using the boilerplate “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn” tells me nothing. Why are you trying to add me? Do you want an informational interview and need to add me to LinkedIn to be able to send me a LinkedIn email? Did you read one of my papers or see a presentation and think it would be cool to connect? Did we meet at a conference 6 months ago and you are finally getting around to trying to connect (in which case, I probably don’t remember your name and face!)? Do you just want to add as many people as possible to your contacts list? If I can’t tell who the hell you are, I’m clicking “reject”, promptly followed by the “I don’t know this person” email.
  • The fact that LinkedIn won’t let me reply to people who are sending me invites to ask “Do I know you?”. Unless I pay them money.
  • The use of PowerPoint as a document . And when people project PowerPoint slides, but don’t actually use the slide presentation view, so the slide is smaller than it could be and all the menus for building PowerPoint slides after taking up valuable screen real estate. Especially when the font size on the slide is minuscule because you are using PowerPoint as if it were a document instead of a visual aid.
  1. I may have ran right into one of these people the other day as I jumped into the Skytrain car as the doors were closing. I said “sorry,” but I wasn’t really sorry. There was tonnes of room for her to have kept moving. []
  2. I actually once stepped on the back of someone’s shoe when they did this and their shoe came flying right off. It was an accident – I really did not expect them to stop directly in front of me – but I was not sorry. []
  3. Unless I’m having lunch with someone named Beth, which I’m pretty sure has never happened in the 38 years that I’ve been alive. []

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Beer – Now In Soap Form!

Hey, remember that time that I made a bunch of suboptimally carbonated beer? Well, I happened to tell my friend Susan about that. And the thing is, Susan owns a soap making company. And one of the types of soaps that she makes is beer soap. And to make beer soap you need, apparently, uncarbonated beer!

I’m sure you can see where this is going!

Beer soapSo I gave Susan some uncarbonated beer and she scienced it into soap!

It smells heavenly – sort of like a sweet bread, with a hint of orange (as she included orange essential oils in it). I have a bar of it in my shower and it’s quite lovely!

Check out Susan’s company, A Little Soapy Business. She sells all kinds of soaps and skin care products1.

  1. As per usual, I have not received anything to promote Susan’s business. We did an old school bartering deal – I gave her beer in exchange for a few bars of soap! []

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Vancouver: The Big Smoke

So yesterday I got up to go for my run, figuring I’d make it a morning run while it was still relatively cool, given that the forecast was calling for yet another 30+ degree day. When I looked outside I saw what I thought was a foreboding storm cloud – angry and grey – and thought “That’s strange, it isn’t supposed to rain today. It’s supposed to be sunny. I wouldn’t mind a bit of rain on my run, but that cloud looks like it would cause a torrential downpour!” And then I headed off to Burnaby Lake, as I needed to run a 10 km and the route around the lake is just that distance. And in Burnaby it was clearer, though I noted that it seemed rather humid. Or, as it turns out, it seemed like it was humid because the air was thick with smoke from about eleventy billion forest fires raging around the province!

It’s weird that Burnaby was clearer than New West, as the closet fire was atop Burnaby Mountain:

But the smoke covering the Lower Mainland isn’t just from that (relatively small) forest fire. There have been fires all over the Interior, in Pemberton, and on the Island. At the time I’m writing this blog posting, the most up-to-date stats ((That link will take you to the current stats, so unless you read this right when I post it, there will be different stats on there. I couldn’t figure out where to get a permalink to today’s stats!)), which cover from April 1 to July 5, 2015, state that there have been 865 fires with a total of 221,455 hectares burnt. There are currently 103 “fires of note and/or fires larger than 10 hectares1.

After my run, I headed out to Ladner and as the day progressed, it just got smokier and smokier. I’ve never seen anything like it! Apparently people were even finding ash on their cars!

Now, if you haven’t been in the Lower Mainland in the past two days, you might think I’m exaggerating, so here’s a side-by-side photo comparison of what Vancouver usually looks like and what it looked like yesterday:

Forest fires suck  :(

The sun looks like this these days:

Sun Rise over smoky Vancouver City

And here’s a photo of the smoke invading the city:

wildfires smoke invading Vancouver, 08:21 on July 5th, 2015

It’s quite surreal have your city covered in smoke2. I’m getting away pretty easy, health-wise, as it’s really just irritating my eyes when I’m outside or if I have my windows opened (which I need to do because it’s so hot!), but for anyone with lung issues, this can be really dangerous. And the forecast doesn’t call for any rain in Vancouver until next Monday3!

Image Credits:

Footnotes:

  1. Ibid. []
  2. And I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the people who live near these fires and the people who are fighting these fires. []
  3. And forecasters are notoriously bad at predicting our weather that far in advance, so who knows! []

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Mindfulness – My Take Home Lessons

Mind Full v. MindfulThis past Monday was the last class of my 8-week mindfulness class. So I figure now is a good time to stop and reflect on what I learned.

  • Mindfulness is “intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices.” (Wikipedia). But reading a definition of mindfulness is really hollow – in my experience, you need to actually practice mindfulness to really get what it is. Before this class, I’d read a bit about mindfulness and talked to people about mindfulness, but until this class, I hadn’t actually put any dedicated time towards doing mindfulness. And it’s really in the process of doing it that you come to understand and to get any benefits from it.
  • Speaking of which, I was *terrible* about doing my homework for this class. As I mentioned previously, I didn’t realize that there would be homework – and certainly not several hours per week for homework – and I just never managed to get dedicated blocks of time into my calendar to do a 45-minute body scan or a half hour sitting meditation or an hour of mindful yoga. I was more successful with finding brief moments in which to practice mindfulness – 5 minutes here where I would drop everything and really pay attention to playing with my cats or 10 minutes there to clear my mind of thoughts of past and future and really experience the sensations as I was out on a walk. I think this is more likely to be the way that I’m going to be able to work on mindfulness in my daily life.
  • Here’s a quote that was in our workbook that I found interesting: “We almost never directly experience what pain is because our reaction to it is so immediate that most of what we can pain is actually our experience of resistance to the phenomenon. And the resistance is usually a good deal more painful than the original sensation. In the same way, we experience our tiredness, our boredom, our fear; we experience instead our resistance to them.” (Stephen Levine, A Gradual Awakening, 1979). By anticipating and fearing pain or loneliness or boredom, we actually make it worse than it otherwise would have been!
  • Another useful tidbit: When we desire something and then we get it, we are often gratified “only in the process of moving from not-having to having […] The process of satisfying the wanting occurs not in the possession of the wanted object, but in the cessation of the painfulness of desire.” (Source: class instructor’s notes). Once we have it, we then experience the fear of losing it or of it becoming damaged. This relates to the idea of non-attachment – if we are less attached to things and understand that things are impermanent, it lessons the fear of losing that which we have and allows us to enjoy something in the moment, in and of itself. Because once we don’t have it anymore, we’ll look back and think “Why didn’t I appreciate that when I had it??”
  • While meditating, you often focus on your breathing. As my instructor put it, this is something you can do any time you notice that you are worrying about the future or brooding about the past, as a way of grounding yourself in the present because “no matter where you go, you always have your breath with you!”
  • The instructor shared this poem: Please Listen – with us.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

  • I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving – and the giving – end of this type of behaviour. This poem was a useful reminder of the importance of really, genuinely listening to people. And then later in the poem was some good advice for helicopter parents:

When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy.

  • I’m always amazed by what kids can do and I’m equally amazed when I see parents who won’t let them do things for themselves. I’m sure some are afraid to see their kids experience anything hard (so they take over) some are control freaks who think that their way is the only “right” way (and so they take over), and I’m sure there are tonnes of other reasons that I can’t even imagine as to why people do what they do. But I remember one of the profs I worked with when I first started teaching saying “Praise the students up to where you want them to be. Even if you think it’s beyond them. They will surprise you.” And I think it is similar with kids. Listen to them, let them do things for themselves – including failing! “Failing” is a great way to learn.
  • I think the most useful thing that I learned – which I have thus saved for last – is something that our class instructor shared with us from the Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh. He talks about treating our “negative” emotions gently, like you would a small puppy or a baby. Often, we don’t even notice that were are experiencing our emotions as we get more and more wound up by them. Our fear or anxiety or judgmentalness grows and grows. But if you manage to be more observant and notice that you are feeling an emotion, you can hold it gently and say to yourself ‘My little anger, what do you need from me?” I’ve tried this out and it is amazing how it diffuses the spiral of emotion and helps me to think “What is underlying this feeling? What am I anger about?” or “How, if at all, does this feeling of judgmentalness serve me?”

Image Credit: Posted by Heidi Forbes Öste on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

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Happy Birthday, Nancy!

Beth & Nancy Christmas 2013

Apparently the Earth has gone around the sun a significant number of times since my sister was born. How many times that was, I will not say!

But if it makes you feel any better, Nancy, you were born two months early, so if we are talking gestational age, you aren’t [redacted] years old until September!

Happy birthday, sis!

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I wish there were more time in a day!

As someone who is always trying to do all the things, I’m perpetually saying “I need more than 24 hours in a day!” Well today, for the first time in 3 years, I’m getting my wish. Today we get a leap second!

Leap seconds, which happen every once in a while, are added to our clocks “to keep Co-ordinated Universal Time (or UTC, the modern replacement for Greenwich mean time), the world standard for regulating clocks, in sync with Mean Solar Time, which marks the passage of time based on the sun’s position in the sky” (Source).

I say “every once in a while” because it’s not on a set schedule, like leap years that occur every 4 years like clockwork (pun intended). When we are going to have a leap second is decided on by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS)1.

“Between 1972 and 2012, a leap second has been inserted about every 18 months, on average. However, the spacing is quite irregular and apparently increasing: there were no leap seconds in the seven-year interval between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2005, but there were nine leap seconds in the eight years 1972–1979.” (Source).

The last time we had a leap second was 3 year ago. Here’s what it looked like:

Leap Second - June 30, 2012.png

So enjoy that extra second that you get today, everyone. Try not to spend it all in one place!

Image Credit: Posted on Wikipedia, in the public domain.

  1. At least since 1988. Prior to that, it was done by the Bureau International de l’Heure (BIH). []

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Here and Gone

So remember that time I told you about howall thehouseguestswere on their way to my place? Not only did that trip whizz by in the blink of an eye, but it’s been a week since they left and I’m only just now blogging about it!

In no particular order, our adventures included1:

  • wenttoBowen Island2, where we had some amazingly delicious food at the Old Orchard Grill3
  • delicious dinner atForage– I’ve been there a couple of times before, but omg, is their food ever fantastic. And their wait staff is amazing!
  • delicious breakfast at Angelina’s
  • went to my hockey game – well, my mom did. My sister was busy at her conference that day.
  • went to Daniel’s hockey game
  • went to Granville Island, where we did some shopping4 and enjoyed some Lee’s Donuts5and some drinks at Liberty Distillery. I also bought myself an herb garden to put on my balcony6 – it contains parsley, sage, chives, marjoram, and peppermint and it only cost $13!
  • my sister and Dan got to meet my kitties! My mom had already met them on her last trip, but was happy to see her grandkitties again!

Pursuing my phone, I realized that I was a delinquent in taking photos, so I have no proof that anyone actually visited me. But I did take this photo of me stopped in front of a “no stopping anytime” sign on Bowen Island, in my ongoing project to chronicle people disobeying signs.

Untitled

So there’s that.

  1. “Making a delicious meal onmy BBQ” didn’t end uphappening and “trying my delicious home-brewed beer” happened for Dr. Dan, but not my sister (my mom and Dan’s student don’t drink beer, so I wasn’t expecting them to). []
  2. which just so happens to be onmy list of 101 things to do []
  3. Best. French fries. EVER! []
  4. I bought a new dress and got FOUR compliments on it the first day that I wore it! []
  5. Dan and his student agreed with me that Lee’s Donuts kick the butt of Cartem’s Donuts! []
  6. which just so happens to be onmy list of 101 things to do. []

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All The Houseguests!

I believe that I may have mentioned 1 that my mom and my sister are coming to visit me this week. My sister is presenting at a conference here in Vancouver and my mom, being a retired lady of leisure, is coming along for the trip.

So far, our plans include:

I’m sure we’ll get up to a variety of other things, being all spontaneous-like.

But not only are my mom and sister going to be here, but I’m also having another pair of houseguests this week! As it happens, my sister told Dr. Dan about the conference she’s going to, as it’s a conference for post-secondary educators, so he also is going to said conference. Then, as it happens, through what I can only assume is some bureaucratic nonsensicality, Dr. Dan and his graduate student don’t have a hotel room on Tuesday, the day they arrive. There is, apparently, no room at the inn. They are like Mary and Joseph but without the donkey or the imminent arrival of a baby4. I had told Dan that he was most welcome to stay here if he needed, as long as he doesn’t mind it being a little cozy, what with all the houseguests and current feline and amphibian and homo sapiens residents. He agreed that this was a most cromulent arrangement and so that’s how I now will have All The Houseguests at my place on Tuesday.

Dan and his student are arriving in Vancouver on Tuesday morning, but I will be at work, so I told him that he can just drop by my office to get the keys to my place. And then I sent him this email with directions, which I’m posting here because I happen to think I’m pretty hilarious.

Dear Dr. Daniel J. Gillis,
Thank you for booking your accommodations at Chez Neige, New Westminster’s most exclusive hotel, for the night of Tues, June 16th for two guests.

Check in:

You can pick up your keys at our inconveniently located check-in desk at Beth’s office, located at [address redacted]. You can get to this location by taking the Canada Line from the YVR airport to the Broadway-City Hall station. https://goo.gl/maps/u32pa

Upon arriving at [address redacted], you can call or text Beth at [phone number redacted] and she will bring you the keys.

Getting To Your Accommodations:

From the key pick-up location, you can take the 99 bus eastbound (which leaves from in front of the Broadway-City Hall station) to the Commercial Drive Skytrain Station and then take the Skytrain eastbound to New Westminster Station (you can take either of the the archaically named Skytrains – the Expo Line or the Millennium Line from Commercial Drive Station – both of them go from Commercial Drive Station to New Westminster station): [link redacted]

Once there, it’s just a short walk to the condo. Although my address is on [street name redacted], the door to my building is not actually on [street name redacted]. The easiest way to get there is probably to just walk [directions redacted].Or you could just take a taxi to all these locations, if you are so inclined.

Hotel Amenities

Chez Neige features world class amenities, including:

  • a roof over your head
  • the finest of air mattresses
  • free booze
  • complementary cat companions for the duration of your stay

My mom and sister arrive late on Tuesday night, but they didn’t get a fun email with directions because they’ve both been to my place before.

Let the festivities begin!

  1. If I’ve seen you in real life in the last little while, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this to you eleventy billion times! []
  2. Well, my sister is anyway. My mom doesn’t like beer. []
  3. Well, my mom is anyway. I have a 6 pm game in Burnaby on Saturday, but my sister’s conference presentation, which is in downtown Vancouver, doesn’t end until 5:30 pm, so she won’t be able to make it to my game. My sister has been to see me play hockey on a previous trip, but my mom has never seen me play in real life (she saw me play online as the Longest Game for CF was live streamed), so I’m super excited that she’s coming to my game. No matter how old you get, it’s always special when your mom comes to watch your hockey game! []
  4. Well, as far as I know, neither of these two men are preggers nor are they bringing a donkey. As far as I know. []

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70

Racing pigeon

Isn’t this racing pigeon beautiful? You can tell it’s a racing pigeon because it has bands on its legs.

My dad would have been 70 years old today.

I think of all the stuff he’s missed in the past 3+ years since we lost him. My little nephew was just a tiny baby when my Dad died and now he’s getting ready to start school. My niece was only 7 – now she’s such a grown up 10 year old! He would have been so proud of the amazing people they are growing up to be.

My sister and I have both finished the Master’s degrees that we were starting just before he died. We both have big fancy new jobs. He would have been so proud of our respective accomplishments.

We Call Him Paddy

Another pretty racing pigeon, just like the kind my dad used to have.

My mom, my sister, and I have all gone on various trips, near and far, that he – not being much of a traveller himself – would have loved to have heard all about. My mom is enjoying her retirement and he should be here, enjoying it with her.

This is, by sheer coincidence, my 2600th blog posting. This is not be design – I just happened to notice it when I went to write this post. I think my dad would have liked that.

I miss you, Daddy.

Image Credits: