Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Happy 9th Birthday, Thomas!

Having a birthday in a pandemic-induced quarantine is probably not anyone’s first choice for a 9th birthday. But that is the situation that we find ourselves in, so for my nephew’s 9th birthday today, we decided to have a group video chat to share birthday cake. My niece baked a tie-dye birthday cake at my sister’s house, my mom baked a cupcake at her house, and I baked a cake at my house, and then we all got on video call, along with my nephew’s other grandparents, aunt, and cousins, to sing “Happy Birthday” and wash our hands eat birthday cake.

In order to build some extra excitement, I made a movie trailer for the event. This may be because I had to fire up the old iMovie to add some intros and outros to some videos I’d made for an online course I’ve been working on and I noticed that iMovie has templates to make movie trailers. Clearly, an online birthday cake eating party warrants an action-movie trailer, right?

I had to improvise a bit with the clip of the cats, as that part of the trailer required a video clip for slow motion, but I don’t have any video clips of my nephew. I also have almost no photos of my and Thomas together, so that’s something that I need to rectify the next time I see him!

Also, here’s the cake I made:

Pokéball birthday cake for my nephew’s 9th birthday

Thomas and I like to play Pokemon Go together, so I though the design was appropriate.

For the record, this cake adds three new things I’ve never made before for this year’s goal of making 20 foods or beverages I’ve never made before1:

  • vanilla buttermilk cake – I usually make cakes from a mix because it’s easy and I’m lazy, but I wanted to make a small cake since it’s only Scott and I here to eat it, so I decided to try a new recipe from scratch rather than using just part of a cake mix.
  • caramel sauce – surprisingly easy to make. Surprisingly easy to ruin as well, but my second batch was perfect. And I needed caramel sauce to make:
  • caramel buttercream icing – this was tasty, but sooooo sweet. I mean, caramel is mostly just melted granulated sugar with a splash of butter and cream, and then buttercream icing just butter and a tonne of icing sugar, so I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this.

So the cake was a vanilla buttermilk cake with caramel buttercream filling. It was decorated with regular buttercream icing because I didn’t want the caramel to mess with my colours. Also, I used a bucketload of gel food colouring to get that vibrant red and black. Totally worth it.

While we were on our video chat, Thomas told us about how his best friend, Jack, and Jack’s little sister and brother drew a birthday cake and wrote Happy Birthday Thomas in sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk outside of my sister’s house. I thought that was really sweet.

Thomas also reminded us that in just 10 years it will be his champagne birthday and we will all be drinking champagne. Here’s hoping we can do it in person!

  1. Which I’ve already surpassed, because what else are you going to do in quarantine? But that is for another blog posting. []

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9 Weeks And Counting

So somehow we are 9 weeks into this whole stay-at-home/isolation/quarantine/shelter-in-place/lockdown thing. I struggle with what to call it, as here in BC we’ve actually not been ordered to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place or quarantine (unless you are coming across the border or have a specific reason, like you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive or have tested positive yourself). We were just asked nicely to stay-at-home unless we were in an essential job and then we (mostly) all just did. Or, as Justin McElroy put it:

As other provinces started to announcing their plans to re-open, BC was getting criticized for not announcing plans to re-open stuff as soon as other provinces. But the province pointed out that other provinces were opening things that we never closed. In fact, that only things that were ordered closed in BC were dine-in restaurants and personal care services (like hair stylists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, nail salons – stuff where the practitioner has to get close to you to provide their service). Three of the health authorities in BC ordered gyms to close, though that was actually quite recent (and I learned at one of Dr. Henry’s pressers that that was because there were cases of COVID-19 that were spread at gyms) and the vast majority of gyms closed voluntarily.


It helped a lot that many businesses, organizations, and post-secondary institutions quickly moved to set up working-from-home where possible. Not every type of business can easily be moved to remote work, so there were many companies and employees who made huge sacrifices by shutting down voluntarily. And we’ve seen that some businesses haven’t been able to weather the storm and won’t be reopening ever again, which is really sad. Some companies found have ways to creatively continue to operate in new ways that are safe in the middle of the pandemic. I guess it’s kind of like evolution of organisms – “survival of the fittest” is context dependent. When the context changes, sometimes it’s just luck of the draw as to whether you fit well – or can quickly adapt – to the next context.


Many people are talking about being excited to get a haircut once we move into the next phase of re-opening society. I only usually get my hair done like every 6 months in normal times and I had it done in January, so I wouldn’t even be thinking about a haircut for another month or two anyway. (I love my hairstylist and will be delighted when I get to see her again, when she feels that it’s safe to re-open her shop, but at least as much because I want to catch up with her as friend as because she makes my hair beautiful). I’m most excited to see my massage therapist! When he feels it’s safe to start seeing patients again, of course.


Every month Google sends me an email to tell me where I’ve been the previous month. Because, as my mother puts it, my phone is spying on me. I found the email from April hilarious. Here are some of the images from it:

Clearly, Google can verify that I’ve been staying close to home and not doing anything frivolous.


Due to the lack of going anywhere, my car battery died (We’ve been taking Scott’s car for grocery trips). I used to only drive my car once or twice a week (to hockey mostly), but I probably hadn’t driven it in about a month when I tried to start it up to go to the store and it was dead. Figuring that I didn’t really need it since I don’t really go anywhere, I didn’t bother to call BCAA to get a a boost for a few weeks. But then I needed something from my car and since the battery was dead, I had to use the actual key to unlock the door instead of the fob. But then the key wouldn’t let me lock the door! I mean, it’s in my parkade and I don’t have anything valuable in there and it’s not like anyone could steal the car because the battery is dead. But then I got a reminder in the mail that I need to renew my car insurance. And I remembered that there is a discount if you driver fewer than a certain number of kilometers in a year, so you have to take a picture of your odometer and the insurance broker compares that to your odometer reading from last year to see how many kilometers you have driven. But my odometer is electronic, so without being able to turn on my car, I can’t see my odomter reading! So I called BCAA and got my battery boosted (Fun fact – the battery in a Smart car is underneath the passenger’s feet and is a huge pain in the butt to get to when you need to boost your battery). The guy who fixed it said to run it for 30 mins, which I did, and then to take it for a spin at least once a week. When I tried to start it again the next week for it’s weekly drive, the battery was dead again. So I guess I need to buy a new battery. The car is 11 years old and Google tells me that car batteries last about 3-5 years. I don’t recall ever having bought a new battery, thought it’s possible I bought one at some point during a routine maintenance appointment and I just don’t remember it.


Speaking of things that stopped working: the seal on my dishwasher decided that it didn’t want to seal things anymore. We were super lucky that it only caused a small leak and not a full on flood! After some Googling, we learned that it’s relatively easy to replace, so parts were ordered. They were supposed to be here in 3-5 business days. That was on May 1. I know the postal service is super busy with everyone buying everything online these days, but it’s been 10 business days, and the Canada Post tracking service says they are still “in transit”.

Canada Post time travel
I’m really excited about Canada Post’s new time travel technology. I can’t wait to have received my packaged on May 12!

So we’ve had to wash the dishes by hand like in the Olden Days. (The Olden Days were long before the Before Times, which is what I have taken to calling the time before the pandemic. Given that we were already running the dishwasher way more than usual due to always being at home and my stress reduction baking habit, this is really getting untenable. Hopefully the parts will arrive on Tuesday (curse you, holiday Monday!) and we can get the dishwasher back into action. I think in the not-to-distant future, I should probably just buy a new dishwasher. While looking at the manual to find out the make and model to be able to order parts, I found a receipt from when the former owner of my condo had the computer board in the dishwasher replaced… in 2009. So the thing must be over 10 years old (given that they paid for the replacement, it must have been past its warranty period). And the last thing I want is my dishwasher to have a full on meltdown!


Random thought: people’s Christmas letters are going to be hella boring this year.

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Pandemic Playlist

You know how some songs just resonate with you at a given time based on whatever’s going on in your life? Maybe it’s a song you’ve heard a million times before, but a lyric just jumps out at you in a different way because of where you are at the time you hear it?

Since the pandemic started, I’ve actually gotten (a little bit) back into running. You may recall that after a decade long (very) amateur half marathon running career, I stopped because I sprained my ankle, which led to (excruciating) hip bursitis, and even after my hip got better, I never went back to running because my ankle never fully healed and I’ve been terrified of getting hip bursitis again. Well, not being able to play hockey or go to the gym was making my antsy. I’m doing at home workouts, which are good for me physically, but I don’t think have the same mental health benefits as my usual exercises, especially since I’m doing them in the same place where I now spend my entire workday, my evenings, my weekends…. So I decided to give running a try again. Just to see how my ankle feels. And not super long distances. And really paying attention to my form so I don’t overcompensate and put stress on my hip again. And did I mention not for super long distances?

Anyhoo, getting back into running means I’ve been listening to my Zombie Running app – which is still really great storytelling, but I have to say that listening to a story where you are a character running missions during a zombie apocalypse was maybe not the best choice in the early days of living in a viral apocalypse – and interspersed through the story you listen to music from your playlist. And as I listened to these songs that I used to listen to on the regular, but haven’t listened to in more than three years, more than a few of them jumped out at me with a new resonance. (There have also been a few things I’ve heard listening to the radio or to various Spotify playlists that have had similar effect). And so I give to you, in no particular order, my pandemic playlist (I reserve the right to add to this list later as the pandemic is ongoing).

Evacuate the Dancefloor by Cascada:

Untouched by the Veronicas:

Contagious by Avril Lavinge:

Poison by Groove Coverage1 (particularly the line “your lips are venomous poison”)

Don’t Stand So Close to Me by the Police2:

Break My Heart by Dua Lipa (particularly the line “I should have stayed at home):

  1. Yes, I know this song is originally by Alice Cooper. But I have the Groove Coverage cover on my playlist. []
  2. Props to Cath for point this one out []

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Livin’ Covida Loca

It’s been a 5 weeks of working from home for me – I haven’t set foot in my office (or on campus for the one in-person class I was teaching) in all that time. It’s been 5 weeks since I last hung out with a friend in person. It’s been 5 weeks since I last took transit. These things that were just taken for granted as part of everyday life suddenly stopped and we have no idea when we will do them again.

Five weeks that seems like a year. They say time is an illusion – pandemic time, doubly so.

With apologies to Douglas Adams

And just like time seems to run at the speed of molasses, so too does my brain. Case in point: I started writing this blog posting because I had so many things I wanted to say and now that I’m sitting at the keyboard, they have all escaped from my brain.


slowly...

My molasses brain is also why I haven’t blogged in so long. When the pandemic hit I, as usual, had too many things on the go. Full-time job, teaching gigs, course development side projects. I’m extremely lucky that all of these things were things that I can do at home, but my brain seems to function so slowly that everything takes me eleventy billion times as long as it used to. Plus, using remote access to do all my work for my day job is exceedingly slow, which means everything takes even longer to accomplish than it used to . Connecting with my team requires more effort. Teaching that was supposed to be face-to-face had to be switched to online. And in the early days, policies and recommendations and guidelines were being updated so fast, that just keeping up with them required a lot of time and brain space. The onslaught of emails about how everyone was dealing with COVID-19 was overwhelming1. Daily briefings from various levels of government are also a new edition to my life2. And I need to take time for self-care and to connect with loved ones to keep my sanity. All of which translated to me just not being able to get things accomplished in the way I used to be able to.

So for the past month, my weekdays have been working my day job from home, taking a short break (often to go for a walk with Scott when he gets home from work), then work for several hours on some combination of teaching and side projects (with a short break for dinner and to ring cow bells on my balcony at 7 pm to cheer for healthcare workers, and another break around 9 or 10 pm to feed my sourdough starter3 ), eventually heading to bed around midnight or 1 am, when Watson starts loudly meowing at me that it’s time to go to sleep. Weekend days I let myself sleep in and then get up and work on my teaching and side projects for most of the day, usually with a break at some point to go for a walk or a run, or to bake something, or maybe a trip to Costco. So it’s been a lot of sitting at my desk in my home office – side note: I think it’s time I bought myself a proper office chair. The one I have I bought at a garage sale like a decade ago.


There’s been lots written on what one should do while living in quarantine/isolation/lockdown/sheltering-in-place. And I feel like for every thing I read, I then read the complete opposite. “10 Tips for Being Productive While Working from Home” will be followed by “Don’t Expect Yourself to Be Super Productive in the Midst of a Global Crisis!” “It’s Important to Stick to Your Routine” (get up at the same time you used to, get dressed and do your hair, keep the same office hours as before) will be followed by “What Was So Great About Your Old Routine, Anyway? Now Is The Time To Figure Out What You Really Want From Life!”

I’ve thought a lot about my routine. I think it’s important to have a routine, but the more I’ve thought about it, I’ve come to realize that I did not love some aspects of my routine in the old time-y days of the pre-pandemic. I used to get up at about 5:30 am, which gave me enough time to feed the cats/make my coffee/get ready for work and do my ~40 minute commute to start work at 8 am. I liked working from 8 to 4, as I could get home before 5 pm, which gave me lots of time in the evening to do things like go to the gym or do some marking/lecture writing or get to an early hockey game4. But I did not like getting up at 5:30 am. I’m a night owl and find it hard to go to bed before midnight, which meant I typically only got about 5 hours of sleep on weeknights, which is just not enough sleep. If I were to follow the advice of sticking to the same routine as when I went to work, I’d get up at 5:30 am after not getting enough sleep, feed the cats/make the coffee/get ready for work including putting on work clothes and do my hair and makeup, and I’d be able to start work at about 7 am… but why? Why wear work clothes when I can wear a t-shirt and yoga pants? Why do make-up? Why be sleep deprived just to start working at 7 am for no real reason?

So my routine now looks more something like this: sleep until 8 or 8:30 or 9 – whenever I feel like starting to work. Get up and feed the cats/make the coffee (unless it’s a week when Scott has to go into the office, in which case he’ll already have done that). Work in my fuzzy warm bathrobe. Around noon, put on my workout clothes for a virtual 30 minute yoga class run by my friend Cheryl5, then I’d shower and put on clothes (translation: t-shirt and yoga pants). Have some lunch (if I remembered to) while I start my work for the afternoon. And you know what, I like some aspects of this routine. I am actually getting 6-7 hours of sleep a night instead of 5, for example. I like moving my body in the middle of the day, to break up the 8 hours of sitting in a chair. Whenever the world gets back to a place where I can actually go into my office to work, I’ll have to give some thought to what I want my new routine to be.


Image Credits:

Snail photo posted on Flickr by Cinzia A. Rizzo with a Creative Commons license.

  1. It probably doesn’t help that I work for one health organization (but with connections to two other health organizations as well) and three post-secondary institutions and I get updates from all 6 of those organizations, all of whom have a lot of things they need to deal with in relation to the pandemic. []
  2. In truth, I stopped watching the federal ones weeks ago – I just read the highlights later – but I still watch the provincial ones unless I have a meeting scheduled at the same time – and even then I usually watch the video of it afterwards. []
  3. Some evenings I’ve also had a break for Zoom drinks with friends. []
  4. Side note: I miss my gym and hockey a lot. []
  5. The yoga class was a new edition to my life last week. Prior to that, I would typically spend my lunch break going for a socially distanced walk or doing my at-home workout. []

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Sourdough Starter

And speaking of pandemic baking, I finally did something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages: make a sourdough starter1!

Well, I’m attempting to make a sourdough starter, at least. I won’t know for several days if it worked out or not. I decided to go old school and create it from just flour and water and whatever wild yeast are floating around. It takes a bit longer – and I’m sure has a higher failure rate – than making it from packaged yeast, but I figure I have time to spare, so may as well go for it.

My plan is to make this sourdough starter and maintain it and pass it along to others, so that generations from now people will say “This sourdough starter was created during the great pandemic of 2020!” And maybe people will search on the Wayback Machine and find this blog posting and say “So that’s what my sourdough starter looked like on the day it was born!”


The recipe is literally to just mix together and 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water and then let it sit on the top of your fridge for a day, and then you feed it over several days and hope the yeast start doing their yeast thing.

Here’s what it looked like when I mixed it together today:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

The consistency at this stage is thick and sticky:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

And here it is, sitting on top of my fridge:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1

I’ve set a reminder to feed it after 24 hours have passed. Very excited to see what happens over the next few days!

Also, like a good scientist, I decided to make a lab book to document my process:

Sourdough Starter - Day 1 - Lab Book

My friend Paul informed me that if this batch doesn’t work, I should try using pineapple juice instead of water, as it’s the right pH to favourite the good wild yeast. So I have a plan B if this batch doesn’t work.

I promised my friend Heather that she will be the first recipient of my sourdough starter once it is ready to be shared. Heather is a public health nurse on the front lines of the pandemic – translation: she’s a freaking hero! Thanks for everything you do, Heather! You are a rock star!

  1. Since sourdough starter something I’ve never made before, it counts towards my 2020 goal of making foods that I’ve never made before. And then when I bake my first loaf of sourdough bread, it will be another thing I’ve never made before and will count towards my 2020 goal of baking 20 times. And I also have “bake sourdough bread” on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, so really this is like the most efficient goal achieving act I’ve ever done! []

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Cyberbaking – It’s Not Just for Christmas Anymore!

As you may recall, my family and I love to bake. And sometimes at Christmas, if I’m not in Ontario visiting, we cyberbake: I bake in my kitchen in BC and my mom and my sister bake in my sister’s kitchen in Toronto and we videochat while we do said baking1.

Well, I’m really missing my family while everyone is isolating in our own homes during the pandemic. I know it’s kind of silly, because I often only see my family at Christmastime anyway, but (a) before the pandemic hit, I was planning to go to a conference in Ottawa in June and was planning to see my family then (but of course that is now not going to happen), and (b) it’s different when you don’t have a *choice*. Back in the old timey days where we could just hop on a plane whenever we wanted to, I at least had the option to go see my family. Now, since non-essential travel is a no-no, that choice is taken away, so it feels harder. I know it’s important that we all hunker down at this point to manage this pandemic, but I’m still acutely aware of missing my family. AnywayI digress…

A few days ago, I suggested that we all get on our webcams and bake together today. My mom in her house, my sister and her family in their house, and me in my condo. It really is fun to just chit chat and bake and be “together” even though we are apart.

My sister made cinnamon rolls and two loaves of bread shaped like turtles. She also taught my about “parbaking” – where you bake bread to about 80% of the way done and then freeze it. When you want to eat it, you bake it the rest of the way. So that’s a pretty great idea for when you have the urge to bake a bunch of stuff but you are stuck in a condo with just two people who shouldn’t each several loaves of bread in a day. I also realized that since “parbaking” means “partway baking”, that “parboiling” just means “partway boiling”. I would face palm, but touching one’s face is frowned upon these days.

My niece made snickerdoodles and my nephew made chocolate chip cookies. Last Christmas I gave my nephew a “virtual reality” baking set because I knew he likes baking and apparently he only wants to use the measuring cups from his set when he bakes. So nice to see that he likes his present!

My mom made a modified shepherd’s pie, using up some things she had around the house.

I decided to make carrot cake. I’ve never made carrot cake before, so it counts towards my goal of making 20 new foods this year). Plus I have a giant bag of carrots from the last time we went to Costco, so it seemed like a good way to use some of them up! I got my mom to send me my Uncle Stephen’s carrot cake recipe and I have to say, it is delicious.

I posted that before I made the cream cheese icing. Mmmm, cream cheese icing!

As always, the down side of cyberbaking is that you can’t taste what each other are baking! Fortunately, I have a bunch of carrot cake with which to console myself.

  1. As aside: this past December was so busy that I didn’t do any Christmas baking at all. None! That’s the first time in my life that I can remember not doing Christmas baking. I think maybe I upset the balance of the universe and that caused our current apocalypse. If so, sorry about that! []

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#ExtrovertProblems

Those of you who know me in person are probably painfully aware that I am an extreme extrovert. So self-isolation and social distancing are quite a challenge for a social butterfly such as myself. But since lives are literally on the line, I am taking the advice of experts who say to stay the hell away from everyone.

It’s so weird that the best thing we can do from society is literally nothing. Stay at home. So hard to feel like you are doing something important when you feel like you are doing nothing. And yet here we are!

So many things are weird right now. So many things that would be good to do in normal times are the worst things to do now. Like taking public transit instead of cars. Or helping an elderly person cross a street. Or going to the gym. Or visiting a friend or family member who is in the hospital or a long-term care home. Or giving people hugs! The world is topsy turvy.


I’m extremely fortunate that all of my jobs can be done from home. My entire office was put on work-from-home indefinitely starting last Monday. The one face-to-face course that I am teaching this semester was moved to online this past week as well, and my other course was already an online course. I’m developing two other online courses and all of that work can be done from home, so, like I said, I’m very lucky when it comes to work.

In working from home full time for the last week, I’ve noticed that I really miss the little conversations I got to have with my colleagues. Whether it was coming up with a plan to get our work accomplished, or chatting about how our weekends were, or how our families were doing, or sharing recipes for the baked goods that someone brought in to share1, or talking about upcoming vacation plans2 – I always knew that I loved conversations with my colleagues. But I never realized how much I needed them.


In the interest of socializing, I’m making an effort every day to reach out to one or two people I haven’t talked to in awhile to see how they are doing. While we aren’t able to go out for a coffee or go see a movie or anything like that, phone calls, texts, Twitter conversations, and Google Hangouts/Skype/Zoom/FaceTime video call are my lifeline right now. It’s a silver lining that I’m connecting with people I haven’t connected with in a while3.


I also saw on Twitter that some researchers at UBC are doing research on how people are coping with the COVID-19 outbreak ( https://blogs.ubc.ca/coronavirus/ ). So I took their survey and then I signed up for their other study, in which you fill out a morning and evening survey for a week. I think it will be fascinating to see the results of this study, as this situation really is unprecedented and is putting stress on people in so many different ways: worry for ourselves and our loved ones, worry about jobs and being able to pay bills, worry if our healthcare system will collapse under the avalanche of patients that are coming their way, and just the stress that comes from dealing with so much uncertainty (just to name a few).


As I settle into this new way of life that I suspect will be a few months4, I’m trying to do my best to take care of myself, go one step at a time, and make connections with those I care about.

If anyone is up for a call or video chat, hit me up!

  1. Omg, remember the days when you could share food with each other? []
  2. Omg, remember when you used to be able to travel to places?? []
  3. In addition to being an extrovert, I’m also an optimist! []
  4. Oh please, let it only be a few months! []

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Pandemic at the Disco

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

I don’t usually write about anything serious here on ye ole blog, but omg, the COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing else I’ve ever seen. SARS, H1N1 – they were nothing like the level of response and the level of people’s attention that’s happening with COVID-19. It’s all anyone is talking about – among friends, in the office, and the news on it is changing so rapidly that it makes your head spin.

Every time you turn around, there’s a new major development. The NBA has suspended its season. The NHL soon followed suit. Universities are telling their students to pack up and leave. Large gatherings of people are cancelled and recommendations are made to not travel outside of Canada. The Prime Minister’s wife tests positive for novel coronavirus. Cities under lockdown. Countries under lockdown.


My friend Cath and I were supposed to go to a show tonight. In the early afternoon a tweet said the show was a go. A few hours later, the recommendation was made by the provincial health officer that gatherings of more than 250 people or more should be cancelled, and so it was cancelled.


I’ve legit started doing the elbow bump with people in the place of handshakes. Like, two days ago I had two meetings in a row where me and the other person instinctively stuck out our hands to do a handshake and then, half way to the shake, we both froze and said “oh, we better not”. Today I had a meeting and me and the other person both looked at each other and said “Elbow bump?” and then we did it. Later another colleague told me some tough news and I said “Can I give you a hug?” and they said, “I still have a bit of a sore throat and I don’t want to pass it to you.” So we did an elbow bump. When Cath and I met up, we did an elbow bump and then the waitress complemented us on our elbow bumping, so we gave her elbow bumps too. Life is really weird in 2020.


I know this blog posting is really scattered, but I feel like the whole world is a mixed up, topsy turvy, scattered mess right now, and all I can think to do is getting my scattered thoughts out onto the page.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I think the best thing we can right now is listen to the experts. There are public health professionals whose job is to know how to respond to things like pandemics. They are experts on the science of tracking diseases and responding to the emerging situation in a way that gives us the best chance to protect the population. Want information on the pandemic and what to do about? Go to trustworthy sources, like the BCCDC and the WHO. Don’t believe random stuff you see posted on Facebook and Twitter. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and there are lots of unethical people who are trying to profit off of people’s fears. Listen to the experts.

Which reminds me – I saw this on Twitter the other day and thought it was pretty great:

Also pretty great is Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer. She keeps the public informed with facts in a rational, calm, and human way, which is pretty freaking amazing when you consider that this situation is rapidly evolving, so there is a constant need to respond to new and unexpected things. So co-wrote Canada’s Pandemic Plan and has been on the front line fighting H1N1, SARS, and Ebola and honestly, BC is really luck to have her leading us in this really difficult time.

While Googling Dr. Henry just now to add a link to the paragraph above, I learned that she wrote a book all “Soap and Water and Common Sense.” Which brings me to something I’ve been thinking about in the past few weeks as people have been arguing about whether we are overreacting to COVID-19. The main messages we’ve been getting from the very beginning is wash your hands properly, cough/sneeze into your arm1, and stay home if you are sick. This is something that public health professionals have been saying for years! Even if the COVID-19 pandemic had not happened, we all should be washing our hands properly, coughing/sneezing into our arms, and staying home when we are sick. It helps prevents colds and flus and other random pathogens from being passed around.

I’ve been working in the healthcare sector for over a decade – and I spent five of those years working in Public Health specifically. So perhaps I’ve lived in a bit of a hand hygiene bubble, where my office spaces have always been replete with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. And where how to properly wash your hands is actually training that we get.

I’ve also seen first hand the incredible and tireless work of epidemiologists and public health nurses and medical health officers and a whole host of others during an outbreak, though what I saw was on a vastly smaller scale than this. I can’t even imagine the amount of effort and the toll it takes on public health professionals all around the world dealing with this crisis.

And then there are those who work in long-term care facilities and in acute care. Long-term care facilities are seeing outbreaks among the people most vulnerable to the virus. These facilities are often understaffed to begin with, but now we are talking about having even less staff – with some staff being quarantined – and having to care for sick and vulnerable people. I can’t imagine how hard it is. Acute care also faces hardship, especially in places where there are large numbers of cases. In Italy they literally do not have enough ICU beds and ventilators to treat everyone who needs intensive care, so healthcare staff have to choose which patients get treatment and which are left to die. Imagine having to make that decision.

Healthcare professionals are goddamn heroes.


There’s a been a lot of talk (at least among the nerdy science bubble in which I live) about “flattening the curve”. The idea here is to follow public health recommendations (like social distancing and hand hygiene), while public health does their critical work of tracing contacts and tracking the disease and all the other countless things they have been doing since this crisis started, to prevent everyone from overwhelming the acute care system all at the same time. If we spread it out over a longer time, we don’t end up in the situation where those working in the acute care system have to pick who gets to live and who has to die, like is happening in Italy.

To do this, we need adequate resources in public health, and in acute care, and we all need to listen to the advice of the public health experts.

Of course, following the advice of the experts is easier for some people than others. Like pretty much everything, the most vulnerable in society are the ones who are hardest hit by this. They are also the ones who are least likely to be able to follow the advice. For example:

  • Stay home when you are sick. But how do you do that if you don’t have paid sick leave and you can lose your job if you call in sick? And you live paycheque to paycheque, so losing your job means you can’t pay your rent or buy food or buy medicine?
  • Work from home to avoid crowds. That’s fine for many tech workers and office workers who can do that. But what about people whose job physically can’t be done from home? Anyone in the service industry can’t just work from home, for example.
  • Avoid public transit, especially during rush hour, to avoid crowds. Easy enough for someone who has a car that they can drive instead. What about people who are dependent on transit? And those people who can’t work from home, who have to physically be at their jobs to perform them – they probably also can’t just shift their work hours to avoid rush hour.
  • If you have COVID-19 but don’t need to be hospitalized, isolate at home, in a room with no one else. What if you don’t have a home? What if you have a home but it’s not a safe place to be, due to domestic violence or inadequate housing? Where do you go? What if you live with multiple people in an SRO?

I’m not bringing this stuff up to criticize these recommendations – they are evidence-based, they will help flatten the curve and I think that people who can do these things should do these things. I’m more bringing them up to criticize the system in which we live – a system that is set up so that so many members of our community don’t have adequate housing, don’t have access to sick leave, don’t have the ability to save up money to see them through hard times, that live paycheque to paycheque and are just one small incident away from losing a precarious job or home.


Again, apologies that this is super scattered. I needed to dump all these swirling thoughts out of my brain. And apologies that I didn’t actually proofread this either, so there’s probably eleventy thousand typos. I’m too tired to even proofread!

  1. As opposed to your hand, which you will then use to touch stuff, or not covering it at all, which will cause droplets to go everywhere, where someone else might touch them []

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Champagne Gymiversary

Beth at the Gym

Three years ago today I became a weightlifter.

I wasn’t particular good at it at the start- the 20 kg barbell was heavy and awkward for me to lift and my abs were never engaged when they should be and my gluts were lazy. I had to learn all the basic movements. I had to learn how to breathe properly.  To breath! Like, the thing I’ve been doing all day, every day since I was born. But, seriously, there are better ways to breathe and less good ways to breathe. Oh, and often when I would lift a weight I’d forget to breath altogether!

But despite it being the basics, I really enjoyed it. I was learning a lot about how my body works – and how I can make it work better. I saw progress from my efforts and not just in the gym, but in life too. From mundane things (it’s easier to carry groceries) to fun things (my hockey game is better (faster skating, harder shot, better able to fight for the puck with players from the other team (who are always bigger than me)).

I remember when I first signed up at this gym (Strong Side), I signed up for 6 months because it was a cheaper monthly price than if I signed up for 3 months (and I am nothing if not a cheap, cheap woman). And I remember thinking “I wonder if I’ll really make it 6 whole months”. And here it is, 3 whole years later, and I’m still loving it.

I started a new program this week and yesterday I got to try my first Olympic style lift : a push jerk. It’s super awkward because there’s so much that you have to do simultaneously, but it’s a super fun challenge. You basically start with the barbell in front of you, holding it on your collarbones, then you do a little dip down and then as you come up, you lift the bar straight up as you squat down low – essentially, you are trying to duck under the bar. It’s hard to describe, but it looks pretty bad ass when you do it right. I’ll take a video of me doing it once I’ve got the pattern down properly.

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2020 Still Sucks and I Still Hate It

In the continuing saga of 2020 sucks and I hate it:

  • I started off my trip to NYC by losing my belt at security. I took my belt off and put it in the bin with all my other stuff. And when the bin came out the other side, there was no belt. I’m guessing that it must have fallen out of the bin at some point in the process, but I didn’t want to cause a fuss at security, plus it was an old belt and I wasn’t overly attached to it, so I just went without a belt (and had to continually keep pulling up my pants).
  • I got sick on the Thursday night of the NYC trip – I’m talking fever and chills. Like the kind of chills were you have to sit in a hot bath – with a touque on – to not feel like your bones are made of ice. And then you go to bed in multiple layers – t-shirt, hoodie, long pants, socks, and again the touque – and you still feel cold. So I lost Thursday night and the whole day of Friday of my trip where I had to just sleep until my fever subsided.
  • I’ve had a wicked sore throat ever since then (so that’s been 11 days and counting). Like, swollen lymph nodes and it hurts to swallow. Like, it feels like my throat is some combination of on fire but also covered in ulcers that someone also took sandpaper to. And just when it starts to feels a little bit better, the pain comes back with a vengeance. It was so bad that I even went to my doctor because I was worried it was strep throat, but my doctor tested me and the culture came back negative. So basically it’s just something viral and all you can do is treat the symptoms and wait. Basically, the exact same advice as I was given about Crick.
  • And Crick still isn’t fully better from whatever she’s been sick with. Her coughing/sneezing isn’t as frequent or prolonged as it was, but she still sneezes or coughs at least once a day and for the past few days she’s had a runny nose. I wish there was something I could do to make her feel better.
  • More than half my team at work has also been hit by whatever plague has befallen me, which is just adding injury to insult given the super crappy stuff that’s gone on work-wise.
  • Also, I lost my wallet.

So this year sucks and I hate it.

But. I am nothing if not a glass half full person. So on the bright side:

  • Other than getting sick, NYC was fun. We did and saw lots of super fun stuff. If I ever catch up on all my side jobs that I’m hopelessly behind on enough that I can spend some time uploading my photos and writing, I may even do a blog posting about it.
  • When I got a fever in NYC, I was worried that (a) I’d not be able to fly back into Canada due to the COVID-19 epidemic (even though I’d had no exposure to any of the cases of COV-19 in BC and New York had not yet had their first case at that time) and/or (b) I’d get sicker and need to use the American healthcare system, because even though I have travel medical insurance, I’m never confident that it will cover everything. Fortunately, neither of these things happened.
  • None of the credit cards in my lost wallet got used and none of the most important things that could have been in my wallet (driver’s license/health card, main credit card, debit card, Compass Card, passport, Nexus card) were in my wallet. These were all in my cell phone case, except my passport and Nexus card, which were in my backpack. So I canceled the credit cards that were in there and I’m just out a little bit of Canadian cash that was in there, plus a few minor cards that are no big deal. So it could have been much worse.

OK, can 2020 start being nice to me now?