Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Oh Christmas Trees!

Since knew I was going to be in Ontario for Christmas, we put up the Christmas tree in mid-November to allow me time to enjoy it before I left. But since I was crazy busy up until I left, I haven’t gotten around to blogging about it until now. Though the Christmas tree on its own probably isn’t worth blogging about, as it looks pretty much the same as every other year, except with new ornaments from Hawaii and Scotland. Which I appear not to have taken a photo of before I left. #fail

But then for Scott’s work Christmas party his office went to a ceramics place and painted little ceramic Christmas trees, so now we also have this tree to adorn the condo for the holidays:

Christmas tree

And here’s the big tree:Christmas tree

As per usual, Watson enjoys chewing on the branches, and Crick likes to map on the velvet tree skirt. Happily, Watson hasn’t been interested in knocking ornaments out of the tree or trying to eat light bulbs like he has in the past.

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On the fifth day of donating…

Rounding out the New Westminster-based non-profit organizations that my students worked with this semester is New Westminster Family Place, which is “a community hub where families access support, opportunities for engagement, and community resources.”

They run a variety of programs for families with children, including arts, cooking, and nature-based programming, and have drop-in locations around the city. As a community hub, they bring families together so that parents can connect with other parents, children can enjoy a variety of activities and learn social skills – and it’s all free for families!

New Westminster Family Place welcomes all families by supporting them with services and resources that empower them to thrive! 

New WestminSter Family Place Mission

As we hear more and more about the negative effects of social isolation on mental and physical health, I think that an organization like New West Family Place, which provides opportunities for engagement and community building is well worth supporting!

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On the fourth day of donating…

Another non-profit organization that my class worked with this semester was the New West Hospice Society. This is a relatively new non-profit organization in New Westminster that is working “to provide services and to facilitate processes for those in New Westminster experiencing end-of-life and bereavement”.

Death and dying are a fact of life, but so often we don’t know how to talk about it or how to support people going through it – both people who are dying and those close to them. The Hospice Society is looking to change that.

We will work to build a community where death is no longer hidden or whispered about; where people know what to say and do to be supportive; where residents can die with dignity; and family and friends can grieve well.

New West Hospice Society Vision

One of the things that I learned as my students worked with the New West Hospice Society is that there is something called the Compassionate City Charter, which is “a framework to address 13 social changes/sectors to normalize dying, death and loss”. The Society works with partner organizations from a variety of sectors (including schools, trade unions, religious organizations, arts groups, etc.) “to support those at end-of-life to live as fully and comfortably as possible in locations that are conducive and appropriate.”

One example of this is a partnership with the non-profit that I wrote about yesterday, the Arts Council of New Westminster! For example, the Hospice Society and ACNW are jointly holding a short story contest on the theme of “compassion through sharing stories of loss, grief, and healing.”

 

When my dad died, my mom, sister, and I received a lot of love and support from our family and friends and work colleagues and classmates. But not everyone has that kind of support. The New West Hospice Society is working towards a future where everyone is supported – and everyone knows how to be supportive – around death and dying. And I think that is very important work.

 

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On the third day of donating…

This semester I taught a program planning and evaluation class at SFU and the main assignment was for the students to work with a non-profit organization to develop an evaluation plan that the organization can use. So I figure I will highlight the five nonprofits that we worked with as part of my course.

First up is the Arts Council of New Westminster. You may recall the ACNW from such things as me being on their board of directors for a few years. The Arts Council is so integrated in the community that they have a hand in pretty much ever event that happens in the city. Fridays on Front Street, New West Craft, Music by the River, Uptown Unplugged, the Cultural Crawl, etc., etc., etc.!

Bringing Community Together Through the Arts

ACNW Tagline

In recognition of the great work that the Arts Council does, both the Executive Director, Stephen O’Shea, and the President, Leanne Ewen, won Platinum Awards1 , this year. Stephen won Citizen of the Year and Leanne won the Bernie Legge Cultural/Artist of the Year award!

  1. For those of you not from New West, the Platinum Awards are given out by the New West Chamber of Commerce and are kind of a big deal. []

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On the second day of donating…

knowledge should be free

Today’s charity is the Wikimedia Foundation1

To empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

Wikimedia Foundation mission

I use Wikipedia all. the. time. It’s a wealth of information on a huge number of topics and it’s my go-to place to learn the basics on pretty much anything. And it’s clearly a go-to for many people, as it’s one of the top 10 websites in the world!  And because it’s completely ad-free, you don’t need to worry that information is being spun, censored, or altered to placate advertisers. 

But even for something like Wikipedia that runs primarily with volunteers, there are still costs that need to be covered. Like the cost of servers on which Wikipedia lives, and the cost of software to run it, and legal costs, just to name a few.

And there’s where Wikimedia comes in. It is the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia, as well as other knowledge projects. And the way to ensure that Wikimedia’s work to “give access to knowledge to everyone, for free, forever” succeeds is for those of us can to kick a few dollars their way.

  1. Wikimedia is an American non-profit, so as a Canadian, I can’t get a tax deduction for donating to them, but I think the work they do is important enough that I’m willing to forgo the tax deduction! []

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On the first day of donating…

As I’ve mentioned before, my charitable giving “strategy”, well, doesn’t really exist. I typically end up giving to charity when someone I know is doing a fundraiser, like a fun ride or the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Some years I get a lot of asks and end up donating to a variety of charities. But this year, I haven’t seen any asks like that from family and friends. I’m not sure if people have become tired of fun runs or if everyone is just asking on Facebook instead by email and I’ve missed them all. So in the interest of actually doing some giving, I decided to do my own version of the 12 Days of Christmas, featuring one charity per day that I’ll give some money to.

Today I’m starting with the one ask I’ve actually seen from people that I know – specifically, the trainers at my gym. As I have mentioned before, the people at my gym are the best people ever and here’s yet another example. They encourage gym members to donate to the Purpose Society, which is a social services agency located about a block away from the gym. And the trainers have to lift a kilogram for every dollar that is donated. So if we donate $1000, they have to lift 1000 kg! (Not all at once, of course, but enough reps with enough weight so that they’ve listed the total).

 The Lower Mainland Purpose Society for Youth and Families is “a community-based multi-service organization that delivers a continuum of programs to children, youth and families.”

http://www.purposesociety.org/

They offer a variety of services, including:

  • youth health clinics
  • outreach workers for high risk youth
  • youth groups
  • family therapy
  • early childhood programs
  • parenting groups
  • a rent bank
  • an independent secondary school

…just to name a few!

So that’s my charity for the first day of donating. Check back tomorrow for another instalment!

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A Whole New iPhone Battery

Remember when Apple was in the news for, without telling customers,  slowing down the operation of older iPhones when the battery was low on power (which older phones are all the time because their battery life sucks) or it was cold outside (which is a constant problem for someone like me who is often at a hockey rink)? And then they offered a discount on replacing batteries in the affected iPhone models?

iPhone

I have desperately needed that battery replacement for quite some time, but I haven’t had a chance1 to get to the store to do it until now (as I am officially on vacation and can do such things as go to a mall in the middle of the day). And even that was prompted by the fact that the discount ends on December 31! So today I went to the Apple store for my replacement battery.

The Apple “genius” ran some diagnostics on my phone was like, “Hmmm, seems this phone is about two and a half years old. That’s usually about the life of these batteries. Hmmmm… oh yeah. Look at this!”

Typically you need to replace the battery after about 500 charges. You have done 1100 full charges.

Apple “Genius”

If we do the math, that’s about 1.2 charges per day. Which actually sounds about right, given that the battery has been so bad for the last several months I’ve had to charge it at least twice per day, sometimes more!

And since, as my mother puts it, “my phone is spying on me!”, I decided to check out what I’ve been using up my battery power on. Here’s the breakdown for the past 10 days:

Battery usage

I’m actually surprised that I didn’t spend more battery power on Google Maps, but other than that, this seems about right. 

Clearly, I should look into investing in Niantic2

  1. Where by “had a chance” I mean “have been too busy and disorganized to actually do this. []
  2. The company that makes Pokemon Go. Sadly, I just saw on their Wikipedia page as I went to make that hyperlink that they are a privately held company, so not stocks in Niantic for me! []

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A Whole New WordPress

I logged into my blog tonight to write a posting and learned that there is a brand new version of WordPress, which is the open source software that I use to publish my blog. And it’s not just a usual little update with a few bug fixes – it’s a big change to how the WordPress editor works. Instead of just writing stuff in one big textbook like I used to, it’s now all down in different types of “blocks”.

So now instead of writing what I was going to write about1, I’m writing a post to play around with the new features2.

Like in this paragraph, I used a “drop cap” to create the giant “L” at the start of the paragraph, like one might see in a fancy book. Unfortunately, it looks totally ridiculous with the font my blog theme uses.

There’s also a new way to insert photos, so I’ve inserted this random photo of Watson & Crick exploring the inside of the dishwasher:

Kitties in the dishwasher
Although it’s a new way to insert a photo, it doesn’t seem like it will look any different when I post it on the blog.


Now I’m using a “quotation” block, just to see what that looks like. (When I preview the post, I can see it’s in italics, which isn’t how it looks in the editor. I think that’s because my theme has itaclics for quotations. But it looks better without the italics, to be honest).

-Dr. Beth Snow

This is a pull quote. I kind of like the look of this in the editor, but again when I preview, it’s in italics. Perhaps it’s time to change my theme?

It was really easy to change the colour on this though!

DR. BETH SNOW

There is also an option called a “cover”, which is a photo with writing on top of it. But it only seems to let  you choose a photo that you’ve uploaded to the same place where you store your blog, whereas I prefer to store all my photos in Flickr and use them from there. So here’s an example of a cover from one of the very few photos that I’ve actually stored with my blog rather than on Flickr:

This is a cover

There’s also a “gallery” where you can add a bunch of photos, but again, I have to store all the photos on the server where I store my blog, but I don’t want to pay to store a bunch of photos there when I already pay to store all my photos on Flickr. 

That button just takes you to my homepage, so it’s not very exciting. And it looks terrible, because the text is picking up the link colour (blue if you haven’t been to my homepage and purple if you have) from my theme – whereas on the editing screen it looks much nicer.3

But think of all the exciting places I could direct you to go, now that I have button creating powers!

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that I can do with this (including changing the background and text colour in a block, apparently), but it’s getting late so I think I’ll leave that all to another day. Now to click “Publish” and see how this all really looks on the other side (though WP tells  me that it should look very similar to what I’m seeing in the editor screen, but when I previewed it did not!)

  1. I don’t even remember what I was going to write about, to be honest! []
  2.  Basically, what I’m saying is that this post will probably be of interest to no one, so you can save yourself the boredom and stop reading now. Assuming that you read the footnotes. Assuming that my footnotes plugin still works with this brave new WordPress…. oh wait, I just previewed the post and the footnotes do, in fact, appear to work. Hooray! []
  3. Perhaps I need to update my theme? []

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30 days to go for my 2018 goals

There are a mere 30 days left in 2018, so I figured I’d check in on how I’m doing on my 2018 goals. When last we checked in, I had achieved 3 of my 2018 goals. I have now achieved two more of my goals:

And I’m nearly done:

  • read 18 books (I’m on book #18 for the year)
  • make 18 new foods and/or beverages that I’ve never made before (I’ve made 14/18 new things this year, but I haven’t yet done my Christmas baking)
  • learn 12 new things – I’ve only blogged about 7, but I have 4 other things that I’ve learned about but haven’t yet blogged. Which means I only have to learn about one more thing (or remember one other thing that I learned but haven’t yet put on my list) – that’s totally do-able

There’s a few others that are within the realm of possibility:

  • write in my journal at least one time per week, on average – I’ve been writing in it lately, though I’d need to check exactly how many times to see how many more I’d need to do to reach 52
  • sew 5 items – I’ve only done 2, but 3 more isn’t that much if I just make the time to do it!
  • apply for a Nexus card – also something that I can do if I dedicate the time to it
  • publish 118 blog postings – so far I’ve done a meagre 47, which means I’d need to do 2-3 postings a day from now until the end of the year to hit this. So not impossible, but would require a lot of time (and would probably annoy the hell out of everyone who follows me on Twitter).
  • publish at least six long form blog postings(minimum of 3000 words) – I’ve done 2 and I expect when I finally do my big recap of my Scotland trip, that will be more than 3000 words, but I’m not sure what else I’d want to write that’s that long. So possible, but I guess we’ll see whether I get it done or not.

So that makes 8/18 that are highly likely to be completed, and I could possibly be as high as 13/18 if I do all of the possible ones. Wish me luck!

 

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Lightning Strike

Lightning 8

This is not the lightning bolt that struck my building. But I’m sure it looked something like this.

I was at a conference on Friday in Vancouver and apparently while I was there, the apocalypse happened in New West. There was torrential rain, hail, rivers of blood, plagues of locusts, and lightning struck my building. Ok, maybe the rivers were just made of rain and there weren’t any actual locusts, but lightning did, in fact, strike my building. And apparently that killed our building’s transformer1, so they had to bring in a generator, which will power the building until they can bring in a portable transformer, which will get us through until they can fix the building’s transformer, which is expected to take 10 weeks. Ten weeks! Fingers crossed that the strata’s insurance will cover all of this!

The power ended up being out for about 12 hours on Friday, so when I got home from the post-conference dinner, I met up with Scott at Waves, as he had an assignment due at midnight and Waves has free wifi, lots of access to electrical outlets, and lets you sit there pretty much forever. When they closed at 10 pm, we went over to the pub2. By about 11 pm I was too tired to stay up anymore3 and it occurred to me that I didn’t actually need electricity to go to sleep. As I was brushing my teeth by the light of a flashlight, the power came on!

Just a few weeks ago, I had bought a stand up freezer, because I was sick of both having to be selective of what frozen foods I could have at any given time since the freezer at the top of my fridge isn’t very big and of having stuff fall out of my freezer at the top of my fridge every time I opened it. So I bought this lovely appliance, and filled it up with a whole bunch of frozen meats and vegetables, homemade veggie stock, homemade waffles, fish that Scott’s dad caught on his most recent fishing excursion, etc.

Freezer Freezer

So of course I was worried that 12 hours of no power was going to have ruined all that food. But lo and behold, this thing must be super well insulated, as after the power came on I opened it up to survey the damage and everything was still frozen solid!

Yesterday afternoon, the power went off again! I had just gotten home from having been out most of the day and was going to try to fix the wifi, which wasn’t working since the first power outage, and the power to the whole building went out again! We got a letter from the strata later telling everyone that the generator they have running cannot provide enough power for everyone to do all the same things they are able to do under normal circumstances, so we need to minimize our electricity use. So don’t, for example, do laundry while cooking dinner and, if possible, cook dinner outside of the peak hours of 4-7 pm. And maybe turn off the lights when you aren’t in a room. Most of this (other than the not eating dinner between 4-7 pm) is stuff we really should be doing anyway, when you think about it, so I’m going to use this as a way of getting myself into the habit of being more energy conscious!

Image Credit: I did a search for a Creative Commons-licensed photo of a lightning bolt on Flickr and one of the first ones to pop up was the above photo, which was taken by Derek Miller. You may recall Derek from his final blog posting. It’s really an incredibly cool photo!

  1. Fun fact: I did not know that my building had a transformer! When you think about it, it makes sense, but I guess I thought the transforming happened somewhere outside, rather than in the building. []
  2. Fun fact: Kelly O’Bryan’s pub has free wifi! You just have to ask for the password! []
  3. In my defence, I’d been at a full day conference at which I gave two presentations, than ran an AGM, and then went to dinner, all after having stayed up late the night before putting the finishing touches on my presentations and making sure I had everything prepared for the AGM! []