Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Halfway There – And A Bunch Of Random Things I Learned in School

Untitled14 months ago, I started my MBA. Given that my program is 28 months long, that means I’ve reached the half-way point! *happy dance*

These past 14 months have really flown by – it seems like only yesterday we were starting this program! But at the same time, when I think about all the things I’ve done in these 14 months, it seems an eternity! In that time, we’ve finished the extremely intense core part of our program – including running a simulated business, creating a full-fledged business plan, covering dozens of subject areas – and started off on our post-core modules1. Of the 51 people in my class, we’ve had, by my count2, 4 babies (with one more on the way), and 6 engagements (and 2 weddings).

I’ve had this idea in my head that I should be blogging about all the many interesting things I’ve been learning in school – and sometimes I even jot ideas down in a draft blog posting. But I haven’t been doing it consistently and then I get this feeling like I can’t post the list because it will be incomplete! However, I’m coming to grips with the fact that this needn’t be a complete list in one blog posting and am considering it instead the first in many incomplete lists of random interesting things I’ve learned in school:

  • The importance of constructive conflict. I remember many moons ago when I took a course at McMaster in “Nursing and Healthcare Leadership & Management3, I read an article from Harvard Business Review about the importance of conflict. That article really stuck with me, as it changed the way I think about conflict, which I’d previously viewed as A Very Bad Thing. Without conflict, we get mediocrity. We get Groupthink and Yes Men and we don’t get the best of what the group can do. We’ve learned about this in our Organizational Behaviour course and I’ve seen it in my group work as well. Of course, too much conflict can be bad – as can conflict that isn’t about the work itself. But conflict allows us the opportunity to explore if decisions being made are the right ones, as opposed to just the first ones that are voiced (or the loudest).
  • Cash flow statements are really important when looking at a company’s financials. Before I started my MBA, I couldn’t tell a balance sheet from a income statement from a hole in the ground4. Now I can pick up a set of financial statements and have a reasonable idea what’s going on in that company. And the cash flow statement is one of the things that I’m sure to look at!
  • Fail early to succeed sooner. This was a saying I picked up from one of our profs about the importance of trying things out. Experimenting… and learning from those experiments… and applying the lessons you learned – that’s where you’ll get somewhere. Don’t be afraid to fail – be afraid of not learning.
  • People don’t buy a 1/4″ drill. They buy a 1/4″ hole. This was from our marketing class and it’s about knowing your audience. People generally don’t care about the features of a product (the 1/4″ drill bit), they care about the benefits that product will give them (the 1/4″ hole in the wall that they need to hang their picture). Think about what’s in it for them!
  • Everything is connected. This was a strong message that came across in the core part of our program. Every part of an organization affects every other part. Things that marketing does affects sales and operations and accounting and HR and all those things affect all the other things. You can’t make a change in one without considering what happens with the others.
  • Point of diminishing marginal returns. This is a phrase you’ll hear even in every day settings5. It’s basically about the fact that what you put in does not have usually continue to result in an equal amount of output over time – and you really should ask yourself if continuing the input is worth it. Studying is a perfect example. Perhaps your first few hours of studying will get you from scoring 0% on the exam up to 75% and then the next hour of studying will get you to an 80% and the hour after that to an 82% and the hour after that to an 83%. Is that last hour worth investing to get one extra %?

As I mentioned, I’ve learned tonnes more stuff than just the above – these are just things that I happened to jot down6. I’ll try to be more diligent about capturing my learnings over the next 14 months!

Speaking of which, while I’m very happy that my program is halfway done, I’m also thinking, “omg, I have to do the same amount of time that I’ve already put in all over again? That’s forever!!” So I think it’s time to pull up my inspirational photos of the signs that some lovely volunteers made and put up at the rink to help me and my teammates get through our 10-day long hockey game:

We are closer today

than we were yesterday

Amen!

  1. So far I’ve done 3 and am partway through 3 more []
  2. I feel like maybe I’m forgetting some here []
  3. I had a work-study job in the School of Nursing and part of my work was doing admin stuff for the distance ed version of the course. The material looked so compelling that I enrolled in the course one summer out of sheer interest – I got university credits for them, but they didn’t apply towards my degree. Foreshadowing that I’d one day do an MBA, perhaps? []
  4. I also didn’t know a stock from a bond! []
  5. But usually misquoted as “point of diminishing returns.” []
  6. And I’m too tired at the moment to thing about more! []

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Modern Conveniences

Skype logoHow did students ever get by without the modern conveniences of online journals and Skype and Google Docs? Case in point: I just got off a Skype chat with a group for one of my courses – we are preparing for our class on Thursday
and while on the call, we were brainstorming and then looking up resources to check out some of our ideas – we sent links via the chat function of Skype and emailed articles from online journals in mere moments as we talked.

Google Drive logo

Tomorrow I have a group meeting with another group for another one of my courses – which we’ll be doing by WebEx, so that we can share our computer screens with one another as we talk and we’ll be participating from various places across the Lower Mainland, plus Calgary and Kelowna1. In preparation for that call, we’ve been brainstorming by adding our ideas to a shared Google Doc.

When I was a post-secondary student the first time – i.e., in my undergrad2, Masters3, & PhD years4 – we didn’t have any of this stuff. Want to share a document? You had to print it out on a piece of paper and hand it to the other person! Or, if you wanted to be fancy, you’d save it on a floppy disk!

remember when your whole life fit on a 1.4 megabyte floppy disk?

Group meeting? You had to do that in person! We actually went to the library to work together. But that was OK because you had to go there to photocopy that article you wanted from a giant bound volume of journal issues from the stacks.

We did have email – I got my first email address very early in my first year of undergrad – but the only other people I knew with email addresses were other university students and we all had to go to the computer lab to check email, since we didn’t have Internet access in our rooms. You were likely to see the person to whom you had sent an email in class, in the caf, or in residence before they actually got to the computer lab to see the email. And then when you did get an email, you’d print it out on a dot matrix printer, because it felt like you should probably have a record of that.

Hell, my profs didn’t even start to use PowerPoint until I was in my third or fourth year, and even then it was only the most innovative of profs and they had to have a back up set of slides on acetate because there was a 50/50 chance that the computer and projector wouldn’t actually be able to connect properly.

Now5, my profs post their PowerPoint slides lecture notes in our class Connect site, or in SugarSync or some other such marvel of modern convenience, I meet my classmates virtually, and I have access to virtually any article, website, or other resources in a millisecond. I collaborate on group papers in Google Docs in real time, I submit those papers via email, and my profs mark them using an annotation app on their iPads. And then I blog about it to a world wide audience! When you stand back to think about it, it’s pretty amazing how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time.

Floppy Disk Image Credit: Posted by ehpien on Flickr.

  1. Unless our Kelowna-based group member is working in the field, in which case she’ll join in from wherever the heck she ends up tomorrow evening. []
  2. 1995-1999 – a.k.a., grades 13-16 []
  3. 1999-2000 – a.k.a., grade 17 []
  4. 2000-2006 – a.k.a., grade 18-23 []
  5. I.e., in grade 25. []

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10 Things

So you are probably wondering if I survived my first weekend back at school since mid-December, given that I blogged about heading to class and then disappeared for a week. As I’m sure you’ve now figured out, I am, in fact, still alive. Just got buried under a bunch of homework, as well as assignments that I had to mark, and suddenly it’s Thursday night!

As usually happens in such situations, I have a bunch of ideas of things I’d like to blog about – if only I had the time! So now, in no particular order, I give you 10 random things! Hooray!

1. While flipping through an issue of Canadian Living at my massage therapist’s office today, I saw this ad:

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Translation: We at Starbucks hear that you Canadians like Tim Horton’s coffee, so we watered down our own in the hopes that you’ll drink it. And we’ll call it “mellow, easy drinking” in our ads, but we really mean “weak.”

2. Speaking of Tim Horton’s – it’s Roll Up the Rim to Win time again. I’m almost tempted to get a coffee or two there, despite the fact that I know that I’m not going to win.

3. In our ongoing search for craft brewed soda pops, Devon and I discovered that Phillips brewery, which makes my favourite beer, also make pop:

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Intergalactic Root Beer. Its taste is out of this world (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)! I know it’s in a Guinness glass, but it is, in fact, root beer.

5. And speaking of beer, this is freaking delicious:

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Innis & Gunn. It’s a Scottish beer and they serve it on tap at the lounge that’s just a couple of blocks from our place.

6. And speaking of Scottish beer, we made an even more rare discovery – Tennent’s lager on tap:

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Devon’s brother-in-law has been searching for Tennent’s since he moved here years ago from Scotland and has never been able to find it. And, as it turns out, they have it at the St. James Well in Port Moody, a fantastic little pub that makes stuffed1 yorkshire pudding appies and various other delicious things. Subsequent to finding it on tap at the Well, we also found it in cans at Legacy Liquor Store in Vancouver, which Devon bought and sent up to Kelowna for Mark. Needless to say, Devon has won the most best brother-in-law points in the history of ever.

7. And speaking of beer, the discovery of these wonderful beers is *not* helping in my quest to lose the weight I gained since starting school. So I think it might be time to lay off the delicious beers and other such caloric beverages!

8. But not until after Saturday, as we are having people over and it wouldn’t be polite not to partake of the beverages with my guest.

9. Also, I really should activate my next yoga Groupon, as I’ve fallen off on my yoga since my last one expired. The next studio that I’m planning to try out has a hot yoga class on Monday mornings, which I’m very excited about!

10. I received my T4 slip for my day job today; I now have almost all of the slips I need to do my 2012 taxes. Most importantly, I got my T2202A slip from school – that’s the one that says how much of the tuition I paid is eligible for tax deduction2 and how many qualifying months I have for the education and textbook credits3. I’m *very* excited to do my taxes this year!

  1. Stuffed with roast beef, that is. []
  2. $17,861.63, to be exact. []
  3. 12 months, part-time. []

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Return of the Pratt

My easy going start to the year has now come to an end. As you may recall1, I did not take my usual weekend classes in Jan & early Feb, opting instead to take a Public Health Leadership class from a different Faculty at UBC. Given that I work in Public Health and I am building my leadership skills, it seemed like a relevant course to take. The thing with this class, though, is that it’s mostly online/self-study (with one in-person class per month2 and it’s spread out over 3 months, so the relative workload is much more manageable than the intensity of my usual weekend classes. Until now.

My next two classes from my program start tonight – in fact, at this very moment3, I am Skytraining it into class. Tonight, we have Strategy class. I happen to *love* Strategy and we’ve just been studying Strategy in my other class, so I feel that I’m pretty warmed up for that. But tomorrow, we have Financial Reporting – a.k.a., Accounting. Which means that this guy is back in my life:

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Although probably this is a better reaction to that:

Accounting Textbook

Or perhaps this:

Accounting Textbook

 

Let the number crunching begin!

  1. What, you don’t keep track of my scheduling? Wait with bated breath to know what classes I am or am not taking? []
  2. Usually on a weekday so I just take a vacation day to go to that class and thus keep my weekends free. []
  3. I.e., when this publishes, not when you are reading it. Because I don’t know when you are reading this. What do you think I am, a psychic? []

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Happy St. Frogentine Day!

Devon came home from work with the best Valentine’s Day present ever – two new frogs!

Ever since we lost Rocky and Torpedo, our family of wee frogs has been too wee. They were not, as it were, supernumerary frogs, but rather an integral part of the frog family1.

The new frogs are considerable smaller than our original frogs – Copernicus, Starsky, & Hutch. We aren’t sure if our originals were this small when we first got them or if these frogs are just a lot younger than C, S, & H were when we first got them.

The new frogs are also very speedy, so it was hard to get any good photos of them, but I did manage to get one photo of each.

This is Righteous2:

Frogs

And this – in the back – is Shemp3:

Frogs

This photo really shows you how small the new frogs are compared to the old ones – that’s Starsky in the foreground.

This is what I got Devon for Valentine’s Day:

Hoppy Valentine's Day!

And here’s a photo of the two presents together!

Frogs

Frogs!

  1. On a practical level, we feed the frogs pre-measured blocks of frozen blood worms and the block is the right size for 5 frogs, but too big for just 3 frogs. And cutting a frozen block in half is just a right PITA. []
  2. This name comes from one of my niece’s friends. It’s just such a commanding name! []
  3. 1000 points to the first person who correctly identifies where the name “Shemp” comes from. []

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Important Issues in Canadian Politics – Is Canada a Safe Haven for Zombies?

From the Canadian House of Parliament:

Props to Kalev for bringing this important piece of Canadian politics to my attention!

For those who are interested, here’s a link to the CDC’s zombie preparedness plan, as referred to by the Honourable Pat Martin in the video.

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Hockey pool, week 3

Hey, remember that time I joined this year’s hockey pool? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t – looking at the pictures of my team of uggoes is something that I imagine most people would try to shut out from their memory. *shudder*

Anyway, as I’m sure you remember, I’m generally pretty delinquent when it comes to the hockey pool. I make my picks at the start of the season and rather than switching my picks each week based on player’s performances and other relevant data, I tend to just let my picks ride. This year I’ve been even more delinquent than usual – in fact, despite week 3 of the hockey season having just ended, I am just now watching a Canucks game for the first time all season1! So, basically, I’m watching the game as I write this – so please excuse the typos that will likely result from my attempt at multi-tasking!

First up, here’s a shiny bar chart of everyone’s points this week:

Hockey Pool Points

Clearly, having “Scientist” as your last name was a good strategic this week, with Mod Scientist and Sugar Scientist leading the pack in week 3, with Lavaland close behind. My personal strategy of doing nothing seems to be working out OK for me, as I’ve been consistently moving up – I was 9th in the first week, 8th in week 2 and came in a respectable 4th for points in week 3. Last week’s winner, Gerty-Z, had quite a fall from grace, dropping to second-from-last in points for this week. Just goes to show that anything can happen from week to week!

Turning now to the overall points, the graph, at this point, looks like a pile of spaghetti:

Hockey Pool Points

 

Though we do see that Sugar Scientist has held onto top spot for overall points since week 1 and there appears to be a group of 2 (Bam294 and Gen Repair) breaking away at the bottom in the race for the title of “most efficient” (i.e., the most efficient player is the one who gets by on the least amount of points).

Looking forward to see how things go in week 4!

  1. The hockey pool is full of bloggers and we each take turns doing the weekly update on our blogs. I signed up for doing this week’s hockey pool and as I was thinking, “I should probably write my blog posting,” I then immediately thought, “Oh yeah, hockey! It’s Saturday night. Don’t they usually play hockey games on this night? A hockey night, if you will? I should turn on the TV and check that out!” We are at Devon’s parents’ place on the Island and they, unlike us, have cable, so I actually can watch the game. []

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One Year

A year ago today, my Dad had his last thought. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I’ve been assuming that the anesthesiologist who put him under for his brain surgery asked him to count backwards from 10 and the last thing he said was probably 10-9-8… What was the last thing he said other than that? I wished I’d asked the surgeon, but given the circumstances, it didn’t come to mind to ask him1. If I had to bet, I’d say he cracked a joke. My Dad never passed up an opportunity to crack a joke.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking about my Dad a lot as this day approached. I mean, I’ve been thinking about him a lot since the day we learned he had a brain tumour last January and all through this year we’ve spent without him. I’ve written this blog posting in my head about a million times over the last month or so, and I can never get it right. How could I? I miss my Dad so much, every single day, and I don’t know how to express it. It’s mix of sorrow, anger, disbelief, love, and a hollow place that will never be filled. All the things he’ll miss out on. All the times we could have had.

I try to remind myself of the good times, the good memories. I try to remind myself that the loss of my Dad hurts so much because I loved him so much. And he loved me. And I was lucky to have a good and loving Dad. But it’s hard to remember that without thinking about how it’s unfair that I only got to have him around for 35 years. I should have had longer. It wasn’t nearly enough.

But it doesn’t do me any good to go down that line of thought for too long, because it’s not like it can bring him back. Though I do believe that it’s entirely healthy to let myself feel the sadness sometimes2, but not to wallow in it forever. And it’s not like he would have wanted me to wallow in sadness. My dad was generally a happy guy3 – he loved to tell jokes and make people laugh – our family gatherings were always full of jokes and laughter and I’m sure he liked it that way. I know I did.

I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife; as far as I can tell, once you die, you are gone. So I’m not going to see him again ever, and that’s hard. I take some comfort, as I’ve mentioned before, in the knowledge that he didn’t suffer, because he really valued quality of life and living life to its fullest, and the fact that his eyes were donated so that two people who would be blind otherwise can now see, because I know he would have liked that. I know that the best way I can honour his memory is to be a person who does some good in the world, the way he and my mom raised me to be.

After my Dad’s surgery, we waited in the hospital for three days before the doctors were able to tell the extent of the damage that had happened to his brain during his surgery and the fact that he was never, ever going to wake up. The only thing keeping him alive were the machines he was hooked up to – a state that he had clearly told us he never wanted to be in – and so we took him off the machines. And then we sat vigil with him until he took his last breath and his heart stopped beating, some 14 hours later. So while today marks one year since my Dad’s last conscious moment, his death technically happened on Feb 11. Those days in the hospital, waiting hopefully for him to wake up, only to be crushed by the news that he never would, seemed an eternity. Yet the year that has gone by since then has gone by in flash. And I still can’t believe it happened at all.

I wish I had some happy, hopeful way to end this posting, but I think this is one of those times that I just have to feel my sadness.

I really miss my Dad.

  1. I don’t know why I’m so concerned with this thought, but I am. After he died, I racked my brain for “what was the last thing he said to me and I to him?” We were sitting in the waiting area the hospital chatting when they called his name and we hadn’t realized that they were calling him into surgery – we thought he was just going to fill in some paperwork – and so we thought we’d have a chance to give him a hug and wish him luck before he went into the OR. I can’t remember what we were talking about, though my sister says it was hockey, which seems like something we would have been talking about. I truly believed he was going to come out of that surgery and be OK, and didn’t actually think that that might be the last time I’d ever talk to him. []
  2. Sometimes I think about him – maybe a line in a song triggers it, or something happens and I think “I have to call Dad and tell him!” but then remember I can’t – and I end up crying in my kitchen or my parking garage. It doesn’t happen a lot, but seems to hit me when I’m least expecting it. []
  3. Don’t get me wrong – my dad wasn’t a pollyanna by any stretch – he could really get going on a rant about things that pissed him off (see: various Toronto Maple Leafs personalities through the years; most politicians), but I think his general disposition was to see things in a positive light. []

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I’m On A Roll!

Apparently I am on a publishing roll! First came my textbook, and now my latest literary masterpiece:

Adverse Events Following Immunization: Evaluating an Enhanced Nursing Role for PHNs

Sadly, you can only read the full article if you (or the organization for which you work or the organization at which you go to school) has a subscription to the journal – Canadian Nurse. But it’s well worth the read if you can get your hands on a copy. Riveting, I say!

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Random Sunday Night Thoughts

  • Remember how I said that I hadn’t knocked off the item from my 101 list that I intended to do in January  1. I totally did that today, putting myself officially back on track!
  • When the zombie apocalypse happens, I’m really going to miss hot showers. I really, really love a good hot shower!
  • I got an assist in my hockey game today – hooray!
  • I’ve been really enjoying not taking the two courses offered in my program in January2, but the course that I am taking has a take-home mid-term that’s being released tomorrow, plus I received the course syllabus for one of the two courses that I start on the weekend after next – Financial Reporting3. I have to read one billion chapters and do eleventy billion practice problems before the class even starts. Trial by fire.
  • My Groupon for Bamboo yoga expires tomorrow. Quick review: I doubt I’ll ever go back to that studio. The regular prices are way too high for what you get; they closed down for two weeks over Christmas and when they re-opened, the class I liked the most (yoga for runners) no longer existed; and the schedule is quite poor – no yoga classes on Sundays at all, only one class on Friday (at 5 pm, and I often couldn’t make it home from work early enough to go to that one4 ), and no early morning classes at all. The redeeming quality of the studio was really that it was very close to my place, but that’s not nearly enough to keep me going. Fortunately, I have Groupons for 2 other studios that are in my ‘hood – hopefully one of them will work out better!
  • Devon just brought me a hot chocolate with marshmallows in it – I think it’s a sign that I should go and read a chapter of The Passage – which I’m really trying to get done before school really ramps up. I figure between all my hockey playing and tidying I’ve done today, I deserve a few minutes of R&R before bed!
  1. i.e., item #78 – sort through my many boxes of papers (most of which contain papers from my thesis), recycling the papers I don’t need and filing the ones I do need. []
  2. Especially when I read Facebook posts by my classmates about how much homework they have in those courses! Sorry guys! []
  3. Read: accounting. []
  4. Which was really too bad, as that instructor was the one I liked the most – he really made you work hard! []