Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

By

May Health Challenge

So, I’m getting fat. True story. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve gained 10 pounds. TEN! And remember, I’m only 5 ft tall, so that’s like a normal sized human gaining 50 lbs1. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit, but the point is, this is entirely not acceptable. I knew when I decided to start school that I was going to have to give us things like training for half marathons, but I didn’t realize that my physical activity would drop to pretty much zero. Granted, I didn’t expect to move apartments and I certainly didn’t expect my dad to die during this time, so I suppose I have a few good excuses for my lack of focus on my health, but honestly, it’s just getting way out of hand and I need to do something about it.

So the other day when I saw Dr Dan’s blog posting about the May Health Challenge, I immediately responded, “I’m in. I’m so very, very in.”

The May Health Challenge, started by Dr. Julie and Dr. Mark (friends of the aforementioned Dr. Dan) is pretty simple. Pick something – or maybe two things – to do every day for the first 30 days in May to make your life a little healthier. Seems pretty simple, right? Of course, with my typical “Go Big or Go Home” mentality, I immediately thought of 27 different things I wanted to do: pack a healthy lunch, do 30 minutes of exercise, no sweets, 30 days of yoga, take a 30 day vacation on a tropical island. But then I remembered that the reason I’m in my current predicament is because I have no time – I’m already getting waaaaay too little sleep – which is bad for your health and, not-so-coincidentally, insufficient sleep is linked to overweight & obesity – so adding 27 new things to my plate is not going to healthify2 me. So I thought long and hard about what small things I could do to get myself back on the right path – things that are doable, but that will have an actual health benefit. And here’s what I came up with:

  1. Eat breakfast. For many, many years, I was not a breakfast person. But at some point I realized that I really should become a breakfast person, because it’s really important to get some nutrition action in the morning, and so I started making myself eat breakfast. At first, I really didn’t feel hungry, having gone so many years without breakfasts, but once I got used to it, I really started to like it. It makes you feel a lot better with some food in your belly in the a.m., and then you don’t end up overeating at lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, with my schedule being all messed up from the aforementioned scheduler messer uppers, breakfast seems to have fallen by the wayside. But it’s time to take back breakfast! Hard boiled egg and toast! Yogurt, fruit and granola! A homemade Egg McMaster! Even a bowl of cereal will do. For the next 30 days, I pledge to eat breakfast every morning (and picking up a muffin at the coffeeshop is not allowed!). I mean, if I’m trying to get back on track with being healthier, why not start with the first meal of the day?
  2. Do some form of physical activity every day (beyond my incidental walking and stair taking). It doesn’t have to be big long run or bike ride, but it does have to be more than just the incidental activity I get from, say, walking to the Skytrain Station, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. After all, I’m getting that exercise now and it’s clearly not doing enough. For the next 30 days, I pledge to do some sort concerted physical activity every single day. Maybe it’s a trip down to the exercise room to ride the recumbent bike as I read a chapter of one of my textbooks. Maybe it’s a bunch of pushups during homework breaks. Maybe it’s stretch break every half hour in the office3. It will include at least a few runs along the boardwalk/yoga classes/trips on the bike path that my friend Patrice just told me about, but knowing my constraints, especially on days when I have classes, I intend to use this 30 days as a time to think creatively about how I can incorporate physical activity into my routine.

In addition, as coincidence would have it, my workplace just started offering a program for employees to work on their own health and part of the program is that you get to work with a health coach who will help you figure out things you can do be more healthy. I’ve already filled out the initial assessment and have been assigned a coach. And my first phone with my coach is in the middle of May – so I’ll be sure to report back to y’all on that as part of my May Health Challenge!

  1. Seriously. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I can’t fit into most of my dress pants right now. []
  2. Healthify is too a word. I read it on the Internets! []
  3. I do entirely too much sitting all day, and sitting all day is bad for you! []

By

Bulleted Lists Are The New Black

Just finished a weekend of classes. As per usual, I learned a tonne of stuff, the people are super awesome and I’m freaking exhausted. Freaking exhaustion will thus be my excuse for a lack of coherence and plethora of typos I will likely make in this blog posting. Apologies in advance.

And now – a bulleted list1!

  • My mom, sister, and baby nephew came to visit last week. And I totally didn’t blog any of it because I suck. Or perhaps because we were having way too much fun to spend time blogging. Yes, I think it was latter. They were only here from Friday to Tuesday, which was waaaay too short!  But we did manage to have such adventures as fish & chips for dinner on Friday at Cockney King, checking out the boardwalk at the New West Quay (since I now live near there and all), a trip to Granville Island, and, because my family is so awesome, finished setting up the apartment2
  • We also had our housewarming party last weekend which I also failed to blog. It was super awesome to actually be able to host a party3 and to be able to show off our lovely view – which was the first thing that pretty much everyone commented on when they came into the apartment. And Devon got to show off his mad bar tending skills, which were also highly appreciated. Thanks to everyone who came out and made it such a great party. Also, we somehow seemed to have ended up with more booze than when we started, so you all need to come back again to drink said booze.
  • Another thing I failed at was taking photos while my family was visiting was taking photos. I took a grand total of one – it’s my mom holding my baby nephew Thomas, who in turn is holding a pint of Guinness4:

Grandma, Baby Thomas and pint of Guinness.

  • My nephew Thomas is the best baby in the whole wide world! He’s adorable and hilarious and extremely brilliant5. He also loves to watch kitchen appliances in action – especially the mixer and the coffee grinder. Seriously, he lost his little mind anytime the coffee grinder was turned on – wherever he was in the apartment, as soon as he heard the coffee grinder, he’d crawl as quick as a flash into the kitchen and insist on being picked up by whoever was closest to the grinder. And then when it was done he’s stick his hand out towards it, which is his baby way of saying, “More! Grind more coffee! This is the most entertaining thing in the entire world and I MUST SEE MORE OF IT!” Now I can’t grind coffee without feeling guilty that Thomas isn’t here to watch it.
  • In class this weekend, we spent some time with students visiting from Shanghai, where UBC has an MBA program (known as the “International MBA”), which was pretty cool. We had lunch with them at the Hotel Vancouver and then they joined us for a discussion on a case study of a trade dispute between China and the US over solar panels. It was pretty cool getting to know the students and hear about what they are up to in China. We will see them again in just under 2 weeks to do another case study – this time on Cirque du Soleil!
  • I have sooo many more things to blog about6, but it’s way past my bedtime, so those things will have to wait!
  1. Somehow bulleted lists make my lack of coherence seem less obvious than if I tried to write paragraphs with segues and suchlike. Or so I like to tell myself []
  2. We had only gotten the key to our storage locker just a few days before they arrived, so it was actually a bit of a miracle that we got our place *mostly* set up before they got here, but there was a coffee table to put together, furniture to rearrange, and things to clean! []
  3. As the vast majority of people would never come out to my old place. Not that I’d blame them! []
  4. For the record, in case anyone is thinks I’d actually give a baby a pint of Guinness, let me clarify that that was a stress ball in the shape of a pint of Guinness – also known as a “stress pint.” []
  5. Not that I’m biased or anything. []
  6. Note to self: Those things include, but are not limited to: my new plants, my new t-shirts, the May Challenge, Prosper, a whole bunch of photos that I have collected here, there, and everywhere []

By

Things My Brother-In-Common-Law Taught Me

Jeff & a giant pina colada

In my ongoing birthday series of Things That Important People in My Life Have Taught Me, it’s time for a birthday shout out to my brother-in-common-law1, Jeff.

What Absolute Niceness Looks Like

The very first time I met Jeff was on a trip back to Toronto for Christmas. I arrived during the day when my sister was at work, but since Jeff works from home, he was there to greet me and right from the get go, I could tell this was one of the nicest people I’d ever meet. And for Christmas that year, he made me a  Flying Spaghetti Monster. Now, remember, this is someone that had never met me before, yet he spent untold hours designing and creating the best FSM I’ve *ever* seen – and which I always get compliments on whenever anyone sees it – for my Christmas present. He also built a spreadsheet to crunch all my financial data to help me figure out the best way to get my student loans paid off and my RRSPs built up. Jeff is the guy that will help anyone out without even thinking twice. He’s the guy who fixes a hole in the neighbours’ basement when a raccoon got inside – and these are neighbours that he barely even know! Jeff is the guy who goes over to my cousin’s place for lunch and ends up fixing their washing machine. Jeff is the guy who spends his weekends doing runs to the local dump to help my mom clean up my dad’s stuff. And he really, truly never expects anything in return.

That One Can Be Talented At Many, Many Things

Computer geek. Chef. Crafter  (Did I mention the Flying Spaghetti Monster? And my niece’s amazing Halloween costumes?). Camping guru. Home renovation specialist. Jeff is an expert at all these things and more! And his multi-expertise inspires me -whether it’s to make one of his delicious recipes for dinner or to craft a FSM of my own!

What a Great Dad Looks Like

Jeff’s kindness, combined with his brilliance at many, many things, lead him to being one of the best parents I’ve ever seen. He’s so patient and such a good teacher and he always seems to know exactly what his kids need when they need it. Whenever there’s an issue, he helps my niece figure out how to solve it – teaching her important things like problem solving, creativity, and responsibility. And fun! If I get to be a parent, I’m definitely going to be applying all the things that I’ve learned from watching Jeff with my niece and nephew!

Happy 38th birthday, Jeff!

  1. i.e., my sister’s partner []

By

Have You Gotten Your Pertussis Shot?

I just got my pertussis vaccination!

Untitled

Showing off my post-immunization band-aid!

In case you haven’t heard, there’s an outbreak of pertussis – a.k.a., whooping cough – going on the Lower Mainland of Vancouver. And, in case you didn’t know it, pertussis vaccination is one of the vaccinations you need to get a booster shot of if you haven’t had one since you were a kid. Which I hadn’t. But I rectified that today!

Also, might I add, I absolutely hate needles. They make me queasy. Even ones like this one, which is just a little poke in the arm that didn’t even hurt at all. But I felt it was really important, because pertussis can be quite a dangerous disease to little kids and how bad would I feel if I caught pertussis and passed it along to a baby?

In case you think that pertussis is not a big deal:

About 1 infant out of every 170 who gets pertussis (whooping cough) will die from it. Most deaths (4 out of 5) are babies under a year old.

-From the ImmunizeBC website

One out of every 170! That’s a lot of babies. And the thing is, pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease. And the best way to prevent outbreaks is for everyone to get vaccinated! When enough people in the population are vaccinated, the disease can’t spread – we call that “herd immunity.” So today, I’m happily part of the herd!

By

Linked In – I’m Doing It Wrong

So the other day I noticed that you could make a map of all your Linked In contacts, which shows you where you have clusters of contacts and where the clusters connect. Naturally, because I love visualizations of data, I jumped on it. And this is what I got:

My LinkedIn Network

The first thing you notice is the giant cluster of blue on the right. That’s my social media contacts. Now, remember that I don’t work in social media – those are strictly social contacts. And remember also that Linked In is supposed to be the social network for work contacts.  I also don’t work at UBC or in science outreach, yet they represent my other big clusters. Hell, there are even little clusters of my high school friends and my family members!  The orange cluster on the left is really the one closest to my work, but it’s a mix of contacts from my former workplace and the lab I worked in during my PhD (there was crossover between these two groups, hence the mishmash). The two places one would actually expect me to have clusters from on a supposed work-related social network – my actual workplace and my MBA program – are nowhere to be seen! I am totally failing at Linked In!

So I may have sent 85 invites to people to join my network. Granted, many of these are still not work-related, as I added my Gmail contact list and then checked “invite” to anyone whose name I actually recognized from said list, but it’s a start. Next up, actually searching for work and school contacts!

By

Apparently, I Peak Early

Remember that time I was in a hockey pool and did terribly? Well, there’s a new pool for the playoffs and guess who is leading the pack?

playoff pool - Sat morning standings
These are the standings as of this morning

OK, so I know that it’s early days and that I’m only 3 points ahead of Cath, who is in second place and who jumped from last to 2nd in one day (!)…

Playoff hockey pool

… which clearly shows that position in the pool is pretty meaningless this early on. But I’m still posting this, because I know (based on my past pool performance) that I’ll probably never been in this position again, so I have to brag while I still can! I’m in first! Hooray for me!

I’m also in a bracket pool and doing super craptacularly bad at that:

bracket pool

And we aren’t even going to talk about the Canucks right now! Not only are they down 2 games to none, having dropped two games at home, despite being the President’s Trophy winners playing the 8th place team – but they’ve also ruined my bracket prediction that they’d beat LA in 5 games! Argh!

By

TELUS

While preparing to move into our new place, I called Telus to arrange to have my Internet connection transferred. As luck would have it, they could have a technician come the very same day as we moved our stuff in. As soon as I had the thought, “Wow, things don’t usually go this smoothly with telecom companies!”, I should have known that I was doomed.

Error the First

Telus dude shows up on the afternoon of March 17, about an hour after the “sometime between 2 and 4 pm” timeslot in which I was expecting him. He plugs something into the telephone jack and then says, “Looks like I’ll need to get into the telephone room in the parkade.” “The what?” I say. Apparently there is some room where he needs to flip some switch. A room to which, of course, I do not have the key. “Why didn’t Telus tell me you might need access to this room?” I ask. Because the building manager who had been there a few hours before for our move, is the one with the key. “I don’t know,” he says. There’s nothing he can do, so I have to call Telus to arrange for another technician to come on another day and then coordinate for the building manager to be there with the key as well.

Error the Second

So I arrange for them to come out the following Friday evening, but since I’m going to be in class, I give them Devon’s number to call when we get there (because, as it happens, you also need access to that telephone room to hook up our apartment buzzer). So, of course, on Friday evening, I get a phone call from the technician saying that he’s at the building. Thankfully, I happened to be on my dinner break when the call came, so I was able to give Devon’s phone number to the technician. When I get home and ask expectantly, “Do we have the Internet?” And Devon shakes his head “no,” Because, apparently, flipping the switch was not sufficient to turn on our Internet connection – someone needed to flip a switch at some relay station, but when the technician called Telus to get them to do that, he just got a “our office hours are 8 to 4 message.” Why, exactly, do they send out technicians in the evening if they don’t have the support they need to do their jobs? Why??

Error the Third

So Devon arranges for a technician to come out again the next day. I, of course, don’t trust that they will call Devon’s number even though we’ve given it to them multiple times, so I keep my phone on the table during class and, of course, Telus calls me to say the technician is on the way. I manage to restrain my anger as I yet again give them Devon’s number. And then, thinking my job is done, I put my phone away so that I can concentrate on my very important1 class. And then when I check my phone at lunch, there’s a friggin’ voicemail message from the technician saying “I’m here!” Aaaaaaahhhh! Thankfully, the technician must have called Telus and gotten Devon’s number, because I called Devon and the technician had managed to reach him. And, after having to go to the freaking relay station himself, the technician managed to hook up the Internet. And he claimed to have hooked up the buzzer too. But the buzzer doesn’t work.

And Then There Was The Survey

So the other day I get an automated call from Telus asking me if I’d like to do a survey about my recent Telus experience. And I’m excited, because I think that this will be my chance to tell them how very, very crappy their service is. But it turns out that their crappy service is rivaled only by their crappy, crappy survey design. The survey consisted of seven multiple choice questions which did not even come close to capturing my experience as a customer. Some examples:

  • Did the technician call before they arrived? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no
  • Did the technician tell you their name and give you a business card? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no
  • Did the technician tell you when they were done? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no

Well, yes, yes, and yes. The technician… or should I say technicians, since we ended up with *three* visits from technicians since Telus wasn’t doing their job properly…. were all fine. But there were *no* questions like:

  • Did Telus neglect to tell you pertinent information like that they need access to a locked room that you couldn’t possibly have the key to?
  • Did Telus repeatedly call the wrong phone number, even though you gave them the correct phone number several times?
  • Did they tell you that they hooked up the buzzer, but they didn’t??

You suck, Telus. You suck long time.

  1. And very expensive! []

By

Cherry Squares

We had an Easter/Visakhi1 potluck at work and I decided it was high time I baked something2. I went for something that’s relatively easy to make: my granny’s cherry squares. These are quite delicious, but probably the sweetest thing you’ll ever eat. They make my teeth hurt just thinking about them!

Cherry Squares

Cherry Squares
Cherry Squares. The basic recipe is 1 million parts sugar to 1 part not sugar.

My mom, my sister, and I share an account on the Allrecipes.com website so that we can easily share our recipes. I knew that the cherry squares recipe was on there, because my mom often makes them for family events, as my family loves their sweets. When I opened up the recipe I noticed the note my mom had included when she put this recipe up: “These are Jack’s favourite.” And they were.

One of my co-workers decided that these goodies needed a better name than just “cherry squares”, so she started calling them “cherry bomb”. I like that! I think I’m going to call them that from now on!

  1. Truth be told, we just wanted an excuse to have a potluck. []
  2. I used to bake stuff to take to work all the time, but I’ve been so busy, blah blah blah. []

By

And Then There Was One

A long, long time ago1, an intrepid young graduate (i.e., me) was buried under a mountain of student debt. More than $71,000 of student debt, in fact. Said debt was originally in the form of no fewer than 15 separate loan accounts, which were then consolidated into 3. And for the last 5 years I have been pouring insane amounts of money into paying off those mofos.

My strategy has been to set a fairly high monthly amount that I pay, focusing on the highest interest loans first. Every time I got a raise, I upped my monthly payment by the after-tax amount of that raise; the idea here is that since I’m not used to having that money, I won’t even notice it missing. Similarly, any extra money I managed to make (e.g., from freelance work and teaching) was made as lump sum payments onto my loans2.

My first taste of victory came in June 2011.

student loan 1 of 3 - done!The first of my 3 loans was done! Huzzah!

And then, just days ago, this happened:

zero balance

Student loan #2 down. And then there was one. Just one student loan left to go.

At this very moment, that student loan sits at about $5,400. At my current rate of $1,800 per month, that would take me three more months.

However. I happened to come into some money recently. By which I mean my mom generously gave me some. And as soon as the cheque clears3, my student loans will. be. done. Just a few days past the 5 year mark from when I started paying them off, I will have paid off more than $71,000 plus interest. In case you haven’t noticed, that is ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

Guess I’m going to have to figure out what to do with the money previously allotted to “student loan payments” in my monthly budget.

  1. i.e., 5 years ago []
  2. With a few bucks of that extra money being used for things like laser eye surgery and braces. Because you have to have some balance in your life, right? []
  3. Because apparently it takes a week for Vancity to talk to the Royal Bank. I believe they communicate by the Pony Express. Or maybe messenger pigeon. []

By

My first baked good in our new home

After a hectic weekend of getting my taxes done1, doing homework, watching the Canucks at a pub, and a crazy amount of unpacking, I decided this evening that it was high time that I christened our new kitchen with some Snow baking. Given that I’m freaking exhausted2, I went with something simple: chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip cookies

The secret to their deliciousness, I think, is the use of real butter, both white and brown sugar, and my own homemade vanilla extract! I wish you were all here to try one!

  1. By which I mean picking up the paperwork from my accountant, who did all the heavy lifting. []
  2. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is going to be a permanent state of being for me until my MBA program is over []