Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Books I Read in 2016

I set my goal to read 16 books in 2016 and I started off strong with books I was reading for fun, but the decision to take on teaching a new course meant that come the summer, when I did my course development, the type of book I was reading was predominantly textbook. Also hampering my reading was the launch of PokémonGO, as I used to do a lot of reading on my commute to work, but once I got hooked on trying to catch ‘em all, I ended up spending much of my commute either catching Pokémon or grabbing stuff from PokéStops as I whizzed by them on the bus or train1 or doing my Pokémon inventory management2.

Anyway, I did manage to surpass my goal of 16 books:

I read 21 books in 2015!

The books were:

2016 Books

2016 Books 2

2016 Books 3

This list includes:

  • 4 fiction books
  • 8 non-fiction books
  • 9 textbooks

I think my goal for next year should be to read fewer textbooks!

Looking at the list, the book I most enjoyed this year was the Voodoo Killings, followed by Dear Committee Members, and the books I learned the most from were the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and The Spirit Level. The book I liked the least was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking3

In terms of stats, I read 7,711 pages of books4 in total, with book lengths ranging for 181 pages to 704 pages.

2016 books - stats

Not surprisingly, the most popular book I read was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the least popular book was the textbook I assigned to my class. Apparently only one other person on all of Goodreads read that textbook, which I’m hoping means none of my students are on Goodreads!

I’m not planning to teach any new courses next year, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be reading more books for fun!

  1. Back before they changed the game so that you can no longer get stuff from Pokéstops when you are travelling at fast speeds. []
  2. For the uninitiated, you only have room for 250 Pokémon in your PokéBox, so once you’ve caught that many, you have to free up space by transferring some of the Pokémon to the professor in exchange for candy. This takes some work, as you need to figure out which Pokémon you have extras of and then figure out which is the lowest value Pokémon so you know which one to get rid of. []
  3. And that includes all the textbooks I read! []
  4. I also read some unholy number of pages of journal articles. I wish there were a site like Good Reads where I could track all my journal article reading! []

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Here’s one for the nerds

As you may recall, I am a huge nerd. As a huge nerd, I love spreadsheets. Tonight, as I was taking a wee snack break from marking assignments, YouTube suggested that I might like this video of standup comedy related to spreadsheets:

You know me so well, YouTube.

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Meta

The first time I learned about the concept of “meta” (though not by that name) was in my undergrad when I was taking first year drama and we studied a play called Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello, which we were taught was “self-reflexive”1 – i.e., it reflected on itself. In the case of Six Characters in Search of an Author, it was a play about a play in which characters, known as The Characters, show up and interact with The Actors and The Director.

Sometimes described as “X about X”, meta means “a prefix added to the name of something that consciously references or comments upon its own subject or features” (Source). So, a play about a play would be a meta-play. (Meta can also be defined as “a prefix added to the name of a subject and designating anothersubject that analyzes the original one but at a more abstract, higher level”, but for this blog posting I’m going with the “X about X” definition.). 

I started noticing a number of things that were meta and once you start thinking about it, you start to see it everywhere! For example, I’ve come across a number of meta things at work:

  • Metadata – data about data
  • Meta-analysis – when you analyze a bunch of studies to combine their results (so, in a sense, you are analyzing the previous analyses)
  • Meta-evaluation – evaluating an evaluation
  • Meta-scope – at work we had a group determining the scope of the project, but we had to determine the scope of what the scope group was going to scope
  • Meta-scrum – in Agile project management, you have something called a scrum meeting (where each working team gets together each day to plan its work) and one person from each scrum team (the scrum master) goes to a meeting of all the scrum masters, called the “scrum of scrums.” ButI liked to call it the “meta-scrum”
  • Meta-checklista checklist about making checklists
  • Meta-cognition/meta-thinking – thinking about how you think

And in things I’ve read lately:

  • Meta-measurement error – measurement error in the measurement of error2
  • Meta-approach – approaching how to approach things3
  • Meta-insurancethis article in the Globe and Mail talks about insurance on insurance and while they call it “re-insurance”, I think it could be called meta-insurance.
  • Meta-engagement – engagement about engagement (see: Pat’s blog)
  • Meta-update – update about updates (see: Pat’s blog again)
  • Meta-skepticism – this article caused a lot of discussion in the skeptical movement and I’m not saying that I think it was a good article; rather, it got me thinking about how you could be skeptical of skepticism and that would be meta-skepticism
  • Meta-passionate – being passionate about being passionate (see: Kalev’s blog)

Going with the arts theme, which is where I first learned of meta, you can have lots of meta-art:

  • Meta-fiction – fiction about fiction
  • Meta-literature – literature about literature
  • Meta-book – a book about books
  • Meta-writing – writing about writing
  • Meta-brochure4 – a brochure about brochures
  • Meta-journalism – journalism about journalism
  • Meta-painting – a painting of someone painting
  • Meta-photography – a photograph of a photograph
  • Meta-drama/meta-theatre/meta-play – a play about a play
  • Meta-film – a film about film
  • Meta-lecture – a lecture about lectures
  • Meta-blogging – blogging about blogging
  • Meta-tweeting – tweeting about tweeting5

And they I started thinking about all kinds of other things you could meta:

  • Meta-review – reviewing a review
  • Meta-monitoring – monitoring your monitoring
  • Meta-reflection – reflecting on reflecting
  • Meta-strategizing – strategizing about strategizing
  • Meta-decision – making decisions about making decisions
  • Metaphilosophy – philosophy about philosophy
  • Metaethics – the ethics of ethics
  • Meta-criticism – criticism of a criticism
  • Meta-data collection – data collection about your data collection
  • Meta-communication – communicating about communicating
  • Meta-planning – planning to plan
  • Meta-trying – trying to try
  • Meta-issue – having an issue with an issue
  • Meta-risk – a risk about risks
  • Meta-reporting – reporting about reporting
  • Meta-meeting – a meeting about meetings
  • Meta-assumptions – assumptions about assumptions
  • Meta-estimates – estimates of estimate
  • Meta-goals – goals about goals
  • Meta-objection – objections about objections
  • Meta-emotion – feelings about feelings
  • Meta-acceleration – accelerating the acceleration of something
  • Meta-pedantry – being a pedant about pedantry
  • Meta-idea – an idea about ideas
  • Meta-interactions – interactions of interactions
  • Meta-iterations – iterations of iterations
  • Meta-workaround – a workaround to get around workarounds
  • Meta-band-aid – a band-aid solution to cover up other band-aid solutions
  • Meta-blister – when a blister gets the blister (those are the worst!)
  • Meta-rabbit hole – when you follow rabbit holes and they have
  • Meta-joke – a joke about jokes
  • Meta-meta – being meta about meta (does this blog posting count as that?)

Although I’m sure there are countless more examples that I could come up with, I feel like I’m all meta’d out. The only other “meta” that pops to mind is metaphysics, which is “is a branch of philosophy investigating the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it” (Source). Which isn’t really physics about physics, is it? I’m not sure why it’s called metaphysics (but if anyone else knows, please enlighten me!)

Also, I can’t figure out why sometimes “meta” is hyphenated (as in meta-analysis), but other times it’s not (as in metadata)6.

  1. Although I see it is described in the Wikipedia entry as “metatheatrical” []
  2. I read about this idea, though not by this name, in a journal article too []
  3. I actually read about this one in a journal article. []
  4. OK, brochures aren’t “art”, but I was thinking about stuff people write. []
  5. And you could go on like this re: any other form of social media []
  6. For any of the words I made up (or that I made up as far as I knowledge), I’ve hyphenated it. []

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Elsewhere

I wrote a posting for the blog of a conference for which I am a co-chair of the program committee. You should totally read it, if you are interested in reading a blog posting about how many people submitted abstracts to that conference. Also, it contains a loathed pie chart, but also an infographic that I made. Hooray for infographics!

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One Week Today….

… I’ll be co-presenting a workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador with my sister! I am very excited about this for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to) and in no particular order:

  • the content we are presenting on is very cool and I’m excited to share it with colleagues
  • the conference that we are presenting at is a good one – I always learn a lot, meet great people, and have a lot of fun
  • I get to hang out with my sister
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province I’ve never been to, so when I go there I will have collected the entire set of provinces in my travel history

The one thing I’m not excited about is the weather forecast. St. John’s is going to be cold while we are there:

St. John's forecast

And in the meantime, I’ll be missing out on summer weather in Vancouver:

Vancouver forecast

I’ll have to make sure to pack some warm sweaters and my coat!

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Academically Promiscuous

It’s September, which means the start of the school year is upon us. This is, of course, rather meaningless if you aren’t a student, a parent of a student, or some sort of instructor… Now, don’t worry, I haven’t enrolled in any new degree programs1. But I have picked up a new teaching gig.

As you know, I teach an online stats class at the Justice Institute, but that is offered in the January semester. I haven’t taught a face-to-face class since before I started my MBA and, honestly, I’ve been missing the in-person interaction with the students2. I really enjoy working with students – it’s so rewarding to be able to help them learn new things, to see the moment when a new concept or skill just “clicks” for them, when they start to connect what they are learning in class with things in their other classes or their work, and I always learn new things from my students too. So when the opportunity to teach a class that is in my exact area of expertise came up for this semester, I jumped on it!

As you also may know, I have three different alma maters3 and I’ve taught at two different post-secondary institutions4. But now I’m adding yet another school to my repertoire, as the university I’ll be teaching at starting next week is Simon Fraser University. Now, you may recall that a few years back I got an Adjunct Prof title at SFU. In that capacity I’d done some grant writing with a colleague and supervised some practicum students, but this has been my first opportunity to teach a course5. And I’m pretty stoked about it.

So now the number of post-secondary institutions where I’ve taught has caught up with the number that I have degrees from! I know some academics who are academically monogamous (*cough* Dr. Dan *cough*), but apparently I am academically promiscuous.

Anyway, writing this blog posting has been a wee bit of a break from preparing my slides for next week’s class, but I really should get back to that! In the meantime, check out this adorable image that I found while looking for Creative Commons licensed or royalty-free images to put on my slides6!

L'il Devil

Image Credit: Post on Flickr by Darren Bell with a Creative Commons license.

  1. I’m still sticking by my claim that I’m not going to do any more degrees! []
  2. While doing my MBA, I often thought about how, though I really enjoyed all the cool things I was learning, I kind of liked being on the other side of the classroom better! []
  3. McMaster – the best university in the history of universities! – for my BSc(Hons), University of Guelph for my MSc, and UBC for my PhD and MBA. []
  4. UBC and the JI []
  5. This is the first time that they’ve needed an instructor in a class that I have expertise in where the class wasn’t during the day. I can only teach night classes, since my day job is, well, a day job. []
  6. For the record, the slide on which I’ll be putting this image is during the part of my class where I’m talking about group work and, in particular, the importance of having someone be a devil’s advocate, so you don’t get stuck in groupthink! []

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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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Doing All The Things!

So apparently I’ve decided to do all the things, which means that I have eleventy billion things to blog about and no time in which to write said blog posting1, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for a bullet list! List all the bullets!

  • Both my teams’ winter hockey seasons have come to an end. My Burnaby team got knocked out of the playoffs yesterday, but we made a decent showing in both of our playoff games and besides, this was a rebuilding year. My Coquitlam team made it all the way to the finals and lost a heartbreaker in OT.
  • Speaking of hockey, remember the beginning of the NHL season when I joined a fantasy hockey league? As it turns out, I abandoned all gimmicks after week one and actually changed my picks each week (it’s the kind of pool where you get to pick new players each week) and would you believe that actually putting effort into it, rather than being goofy, resulted in me winning the pool? Now I am the proud owner of all the bragging rights!
  • Also, speaking of hockey, I’m taking another set of hockey lessons. I signed up for a class called “Shoot to Score” and based on this description: “The Shoot to Score program is designed for adults wanting to exclusively improve their scoring ability. The program will incorporate skating, passing and puck control but a major emphasis will be placed on developing a players wrist shot, snapshot, back hander, slap shot, one-timer and shooting while in motion“, I made the silly mistake of thinking that I’d be learning to shoot the puck. Instead, the class is being taught as “forward” class, with the other half of the rink being “defenceman” class and then at the end of the lesson they put the two groups together and run drills against each other. I’m a bit disappointed, because I really wanted to work on my shot, which is terrible, but I am learning a bunch of stuff that I think will improve my game, so I’m still going2.
  • Speaking of lessons, our salsa dance instructors told me that I’m good enough to move on to level “Intermediate 2”3! We are just at the start of our third set of “Intermediate 1”, so I think that’s pretty good, as they actually have 4 different sets of “Intermediate 1” classes that people can go through. The problem, however, is that our instructors don’t offer “Intermediate 2” on a night that we are available, so we have to hope that in the next set of lessons, they switch up the nights or we may need to find a new dance studio.
  • Speaking of working on stuff, I’m just 17 days away from my next half marathon4! Since my usual running partner, Alicia, isn’t running this race with me, I decided to sign up for a Sunday morning running clinic that was set up to train for the BMO half, so I’d have people to run with, as the long runs start to get a bit boring by the end of the training if you don’t have company. The group is run out of Fit First in Burnaby (the same place I did my running study) and I’ve enjoyed having company to run with5.

    Here’s a photo of my running clinic group – aren’t we a good looking group?

    I have more to say about my training, but I think that I’ve got a whole blog posting on that (spoiler: there’s a spreadsheet involved!), if only I can find the time to write it. I will say that my ambitious goal, which I’m not sure I will be able to achieve, is to run a sub-2 hr half marathon, which has been on my “to do” list since forever and is currently sitting my list of goals for 2015.

  • Speaking of my “to do” list, I’ve completed yet another item off my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days: #64: Go on a Paddle Wheeler cruise down the Fraser River). Daniel and I went on this cruise last Friday and we had a really good time. We tried to take a selfie that I could put in this posting, but could not get anything even halfway decent (at least in part because I didn’t think to take a photo until after we’d gone out on the ship’s deck in the rain and my hair becomes a complete rat’s nest at the slightest sign of a drop of water). Also, by sheer coincidence, a woman from our salsa dancing class was there with a bunch of her friends, and while there was no salsa music, we all had lots of fun hitting the dance to some old school tunes mixed with some current hits.
  • And speaking about my 101 list, I’ve also knocked #7 – “Be written about in the New Westminster Record” off the list, with this article about the Arts Council of New West, where I happen to be on the board of directors. I really like the photo we had taken:

    For the record, I didn’t know everyone else was going to be wearing black, grey or blue when I chose a red shirt!

  • And also speaking of my 101 list, I have just booked a trip to Halifax in May, which will knock #46 – “Go to Nova Scotia” off that list and will leave me just one province short of having been to all the provinces in Canada6. I’m going to a conference in Halifax to present some of my research, which will be fun. I’ll also get to stop by Toronto on my way home to visit the fam for a few days, which will be awesome. And, as it so happens, I’ll be there for my nephew’s birthday party, which will be doubly awesome!
  • Speaking of trips, Daniel and I have registered for the Montreal full and demi-marathon, respectively, in Montreal in September. So I’ll get to see some family then too, as I have family who live there and my mom plans to go there while we are there too.
  • And speaking of seeing my family, my sister is coming to present at a conference in Vancouver in June and my mom is going to join her for the trip. The kitties are very excited to see their grandmother again and to meet their Aunt Nancy!
  • And finally, speaking of people visiting, I get to see Sarah on Sunday, as she is going to be in Seattle, so I’m going to drive down there to hang out! So excited!

So, as you can see, I am clearly doing all the things and I haven’t even talked about, you know, work, teaching, and various other gadding about that I do. I also hear there’s this cool thing called “getting enough sleep” that I’d totally love to check out someday, if I can only find the time!

  1. As a microcosm of my doing all the things, while writing this blog posting, I’m also doing laundry, doing dishes, baking cherry squares for the bake sale that my office is having tomorrow, watching the Winnipeg Jets v. Anaheim Ducks playoff game and being kneaded on by Crick. Oh, now I’m being climbed all over by Crick. Crick is really turning into quite the lap cat, especially when I’m trying to type something. []
  2. Incidentally, if anyone knows of any good classes where I can actually learn to shoot the puck, let me know! []
  3. Daniel’s done Intermediate Level 2 before, so it’s just been me that needed to develop my skills a bit more so we could move on []
  4. The BMO Vancouver []
  5. Though to be totally honest, I really miss running with Alicia! []
  6. Newfoundland, I will conquer you one day! []

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Look at me! I’m A Talking Head

A colleague of mine was making a series of videos1 for a class that she teaches and interviewed some experts on relevant topics. One of those topics was evaluation and one of those experts was me!

I’m totally breaking my “I don’t talk about work on my blog” but (a) the job title listed in the video is my old job, so I’m technically not talking about my work in its current form and (b) rampant narcissism requires that I share this video with everyone. Also, I think I come across as a little bit more professional than the last time I was interviewed as an expert… on drinking beer and eating nachos while watching Canucks playoff games

  1. I posted this on Twitter the other day, but I figured I’d post it here so that I’ll be able to find it again when I want to. Twitter is like a black hole that all my various witty remarks disappear into, never to be seen again. []

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Hooray for Composting

I was sure that I’d posted this blog posting back in mid-January, but I just discovered it sitting in my “Drafts” folder, so apparently I did not. At any rate, I’m posting it now!

As of January 1st, it has been illegal to send any organic waste to the landfill in Metro Vancouver 1. Apparently, for the first six months, residents and business who break this rule will just be issued warnings, but after that there will be fines. I was a little concerned when January 1st came and went and nothing had been mentioned in my building about getting compost bins for our places, but then a few days later a memo went up in the elevators saying that on Jan 15 our waste management company would be set up in our lobby with information and free compost bins for everybody.

I’m unnaturally excited by this.

My sister lives in Toronto and they’ve had city-wide compost pick up for years. When I went to the University of Guelph, the city of Guelph was piloting what they called at the time (if I recall correctly), wet/dry garbage pickup, where you had one bin for wet garbage (like food waste) and another for dry garbage. That was back in 1999/2000. So it’s nice to know that Metro Vancouver has caught up only 15 years later.

When I think back even further, I remember in elementary school there was a competition that my gifted class went to where we competed against other gifted classes from other schools in a sort of case competition. I don’t remember all the details but I do remember it had something to do with making some sort of plan around environmental stewardship and when my group presented and we talked about composting (which no other group had thought of) all the teachers went crazy over how brilliant we were2. Anyway, the point of this half remembered and seemingly pointless story is merely to point out that composting is really not a new idea and it seems like it’s taken a long time to get to the point where it’s finally part of our garbage pick up system. But here we are , it’s 2015 and I have a my very own compost bucket:

My new compost bin

The people giving out the buckets claim that the bucket’s lid has some sort of magical sealing property that prevents odours and fruit flies, but from talking to others who have already had their compost bins for awhile, I’m not holding my breath that this will be true.

Also, I was checking out the City of New Westminster’s webpage on food scraps collection (because, did I mention, I’m unnaturally excited by this?), and this sentence made me laugh: “Each residential unit (apartment or condo) was provided with a kitchen container to collect pre and post consumed food scraps.” I don’t think you really want my “post consumed” food scraps. I mean, I’m assuming what they actually mean is food that’s leftover and you are getting rid of after you’ve consumed the rest of the food, but any “post consumed” food will be taken care of by the sewage system, thank you very much.

That site also has this useful diagram on how to origami some newspaper to make a liner for your compost bucket, if you are too cheap to buy the paper bags with corn-based plastic-like lining:

I like how they specify that you should use your “community newspaper” to line your compost bucket. Not sure if this is meant to be a commentary on how the city feels about their community newspapers… At any rate, I am cheap so I think once I’ve used up my free paper bag with corn-based plastic-like lining that came with my bucket, I might just give this whole origami thing a try3.

  1. “Metro Vancouver” is the name of a “political body and corporate entity […] that delivers regional services, policies, and political leadership to” the group of municipalities/a treaty First Nation/an electoral area that make up the greater Vancouver area. Apparently one such policy is what is allowed to go into the landfill. New West is part of Metro Vancouver, so we all have to get onboard with the composting. []
  2. I also remember that we didn’t win and our teacher took us to the store and bought us ice cream bars and told us that even the winning team’s teacher said to her that the judges were wrong, our team really should have won. I’m sure it was more than just the composting idea that we had done well, but I totally can’t remember what else it was all about. All I remember is composting, injustice, and ice cream bars. And I think our presentation involved aliens in some way. []
  3. Update, since I’m posting this more than a month after I wrote it. I’ve tried the origami thing. It seems to work just fine. []