Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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How did I do on my 2017 goals?

Time to check in on how I did on my goals this year (spoiler alert: pretty bad!)

Successes:

  • Learn 12 new things (1 per month). I learned the following 12 things:
  1. Plumbing
  2. Folding a Fitted Sheet
  3. Strength training
  4. Sewing
  5. Growing Balcony Potatoes
  6. Politics
  7. Car Part
  8. Epigenetics
  9. Canning
  10. Short cuts
  11. Make-up expiry
  12. Brain rules
  • Establish a weight training program and actually do regular weight training, where “regular” = at least 2x per week for at least 3 out of 4 weeks per month. I totes kicked ass at this one – since joining Strong Side in March, I went to the gym 3x a week (with the exception of a two week period at the end of Oct/start of Nov when I was away and put my membership on hold).
  • Get gum graft surgery doneDone!
  • Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before. Surpassed this goal!
  • Vague goal: Finish the letter of intent for mystery thing #2. The thing didn’t end up panning out, but I did finish the LOI.

Partially completed:

  • KonMari my condo I did most of the “clothing” category and then nothing else. I’m rolling this goal over to 2018.
  • Travel somewhere awesome. I did go to Washington, DC, which was cool, but I only got one day of sightseeing in and don’t think that qualifies as “awesome”.
  • Submit 5 papers for publication. I submitted one! And I have another that I just need to cut 100 words out of and then I can submit it (so that will be my first submission for 2018).
  • Vague goal: Finish the plan for mystery thing #1. Didn’t finish it, but did make some progress! Will be continuing to work on this in 2018.

Failures:

  • Do yoga at least 2x per week (either at home or in a class). I don’t think I did a single yoga session all year.
  • Get back to journalling regularly (where “regularly” = once a week). Nope.
  • Get a Nexus card. Been meaning to do that for a while.
  • Send an actual physical birthday card on time to all my family members and close friends. Nope.
  • Bring my lunch to work 80% of the time. I was tracking this in a Google spreadsheet and have the data from up to mid-way through Oct, when I was at a meagre 56%. But then there was some epic fail on the spreadsheet where it wasn’t saving my entries after that and I lost a couple of months worth of data and I have no idea which days I did or didn’t bring my lunch during that time. I’m guessing that I didn’t bring it above
  • Complete the 100 push up challenge. Didn’t bother with this because I’m doing my strength training programs at the gym.
  • Read 17 books. Four out of seventeen is so bad that I can’t even call this one “partially completed”. Just an epic fail!
  • Write 117 blog postings! When I hit “publish” on this posting, I’ll have published 92 blog postings this year – 97 if you count the 5 I wrote on my “professional” blog. And since I don’t have it in my to write 20 blog postings this evening, I’m accepting this as a fail and a reminder to be more diligent with blogging next year!

And that’s going to be it for my 2017 blogging. Have a great NYE everyone and see you next year!

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Brain Edition

I went to a couple of conferences this year and learned a tonne of stuff at them, but in the interest of not boring you to tears with things that are very interesting to evaluators and probably no one else, I’m just going to tell you about one of the things that I learned from one of the keynote speakers: John Medina, developmental molecular biologist who focuses on genes that are expressed in the human brain. He wrote a book called “Brain Rules” that is totally on my list of books to read in the new year. He was giving a keynote about how to give effective lectures – i.e., lectures that will actually be interesting to, and hold the attention of, the audience and will make it more likely that they will remember the stuff you are teaching them.

He talked about how our brains are constantly on the look out for things that it should pay attention to and things that it need not pay attention to. Remembering that our brains “evolved to solve problems related to surviving in an outdoor setting in varying meteorological environments while in constant motion”1, it makes sense that it is wired to pay attention to things that would promote survival in that context. The human brain processes meaning before it processes details , as you don’t really want your brain to be paying attention to how many teeth that sabre tooth tiger has before it thinks about the meaning of that mouth full of sabre tooth tiger teeth2. So, what does “meaning” mean in this context? Basically, when you observe something, the brain asks the following 6 questions, in the following order, to determine if something is worth paying attention to:

  1. Will it eat me? [i.e., is it a threat?)
  2. Can I eat it? [i.e., is it a resource I can use?]
  3. Can I have sex with it? [i.e., a potential reproductive opportunity?]
  4. Will it have sex with me? [i.e., a potential reproductive opportunity?]
  5. Have I seen it before? [i.e., pattern recognition]
  6. Have I never seen it before? [i.e., surprise]

Since these are the things that catch the attention of brains, he suggested starting lectures with anecdotes that use one of these six ways of catching the audience’s attention3 and showing them why what you are talking about is meaningful. As well, since we have relatively short attention spans, you should also use these to re-engage the audience about every 10 minutes of so.

There was a tonne more that I learned from his lecture and I’m definitely going to read his book. And then I’ll probably have to re-write every lecture that for the courses that I teach before the next time I teach them!

  1. I took pretty good notes in this keynote, so caught that quotation verbatim. []
  2. I didn’t catch that quote verbatim, but that was another of his points! []
  3. Though I think numbers 3-4 probably wouldn’t be appropriate for most lectures! []

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Books I Read in 2017

As I mentioned recently, I’ve done absolutely abysmally on my goal of reading 17 books in 2017. I did managed to finish off two of the books I was reading when I wrote that last posting1, so I upped my total number of books read in 2017 to four instead of two, but it’s still pretty sad.

2017 reading challenge

For the record, the four books were:

my 2017 books

And here are some stats that Good Reads gave me on those books:

books stats 2017

I have high hopes that 2018 will be a better year for me for reading because (a) four books is a pretty low bar to set, (b) my book club is getting rebooted, so that will give me several book reading opportunities/motivation, and (c) I’m hoping that my office will get moved to a more transit-friendly location soon in the new year, so that I’ll have more Skytrain book reading time in 2018 than I did this year.

Anyone have any good book suggestions for me?

  1. I did read a chunk more of Better Angels of Our Nature over the holidays, mostly on during my flights too and from Toronto, but I didn’t manage to finish it off. But I’m sure I’ll finish it soon in the new year, so at least that will get me off to a good start on my 2018 book reading goal! []

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Anyone have suggestions for my next 101 things to do in 1001 days list?

I’ve been working on my next list of “101 things to do in 1001 days” and I currently have 62 items on my list. Anyone have suggestions on things I should add?

My previous lists are here.

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My favourite Tweets of 2017

It’s been a year since the last time that I shared my favourite tweets with you – so here are my favourite tweets for 2017! I’ve put them into a few categories (so, for example, if you aren’t interested in politics, you can skip the political ones), and added a few comments to provide context for some of them. Otherwise, they are in somewhat of a random order.

Cat tweets:

Cinnamon roll cat

Istanbul cat

Cat logic

This one was posted on the first work day after the 2016 holiday season:cat butlers

cat marking

how was your day?

cat sisters

cat logic - food

cat vs grantwriting

cats are awesome

if it fits

cat tweet

cats on sheep

purmaid

Egg cat

cat falling off a table

angry cat

reading with cats

Helfpul cats

Mondays

cat statues

Nerdy tweets:

Santa math

Achievement Unlocked

dunning-kruger club

social construction of time

serenity

pi day

Epigenetics Spice

clever student

knowledge, wisdom, philosophy

Academic Halloween p value

Academic Halloween

unsuccessful self-treatment of writer's block

for the herd

Political tweets (American politics):

the future liberals want

Never Moore

Any Functioning Adult 2020

After Trump’s White House made a rule that women that work there have to “dress like a woman”:

dress like a woman

dress like a woman 2

dress like a woman 3

perfect score

looking for the real killer

FBI

job creation

fake president

Hoping not

Scooby Doo villian

Millennials Are Killing The Racist Statue Industry

more Pokemon than white supremacists

the sun never went out

perspective

As a Daughter of a Father

Political tweets (BC provincial election):

BC poli

all the votes

blue BC

Better BC

Local tweets:

On Oct 25, there was a traffic nightmare in the Lower Mainland, with a fire on the Patullo bridge and major accidents on other bridges and one of the highways. Despite the fact that I didn’t need to cross any of those bridges nor drive on that highway, all the people who would normally use that routes ended up on the route I take home from my work – my usual 30 minute drive to more than 2 hours! Hence this tweet made me laugh:

EVERYWHERE!

The big W art piece referenced in this tweet by the New West mayor is made of shipping containers:

not to scale

This from a sandwich shop across the street from me. They heard Liam Neeson was in town, so they put out a chalkboard sign to attracted him. To their surprise, it worked:

Liam Neeson Eats Here for Free

The mayor replied with this:

no free sandwiches for mayors

Does your mayor ever referee professional wrestling matches in a mall? Mine does:Mayor Ref

My own tweets:

international symbol for sexist bullshit

histper Quatchi

hockey stick

A KFC romance novel

science craftsperson

I went to my first ever lacrosse game, which prompted these two tweets:

Lacrosse 1

lacrosse 2

spam

Rorschach test

EHR

how's the pot situation

how to Fahrenheit

spam

Tweets that I found amusing that don’t fit into the other categories:

child of wealthy parents

regret

Clue movie

risque advertising

Is German real?

Gateway Chicken

hated this park

deadlines aren't suggestions

the flash

iphone battery

millennial falcon

pickles

I don’t actually follow Laureen Harper’s twitter account, but this one got re-tweeted a lot:

Laureen Harper's tweet

I like that she had to clarify that she did, in fact, tweet the above:

Laureen Harper was not hacked

nav bar

Franklin

free food

hold my beer

escape room from you life

privacy breeches

reasons he's not texting you

millenials

it's personal

NASA tank tops

RCMP bear

bear bear

robotic spider apocalypse

Tell Cersei

beauty

ducking asshomes

sunblock in the eyes

During one of the hurricanes this year, there was a raft of fire ants floating towards an exploded chemical plant:fire ants floating toward an exploded chemical plant

favourite slide

boring superpower

it's my actual job

spammer

hack

Eevee on a TV

French for zombie apocalypse

Ottawa Senators

free food

dating

brevity

280 characters

KFC's twitter

Donut costume

dinosaurs in a bar

Wingdings in the sheets

Apple added facial recognition to the iPhone:apple

Vancouverites say

detox

a small fiction

best case scenarioA couple of thought-provoking tweets:

things white people should do

change the future

And to end of a positive note, this heartwarming tweet:

first day of kindergarten to college move in

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Donations

My charitable giving “strategy” has typically been to wait until one of my friends is doing a fundraiser, or someone passes away and the family suggests a donation in their memory, and then to donate to those. I do have a few charities that I give to at least once a year without prompting from someone I know doing fundraising – Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) (from where I adopted my beloved kitties), Centre for Inquiry (CFI) Canada (which I believe does important work), and the Wikimedia Foundation1 (because I think it’s important for knowledge to be freely available to all). I also have some money that I’ve leant out through Kiva ((Props to Sarah and Dave who introduced me to Kiva many years ago by giving me a gift card of funds to start loaning through Kiva)), which I just re-lend to new borrowers as existing borrowers re-pay their loans.2 This year I also gave to the BC NDP during the provincial election, because I thought it was really important to get the BC so-called “Liberals” out of power3. But this year it seems like not very many people I knew were doing fundraising, as I’m looking at my 2017 charitable tax donations and I haven’t donated very much at all. So I’m thinking I should probably come up with a better system than just waiting to be reminded to give.

I recently heard about Give Well, which makes recommendations for charities to donate to that are “evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, and underfunded”, so you know that your donations are doing the most good. As someone who values evidence, this appealed to me! However, this is an American website and being that I am selfishly interested in getting a tax deduction when I can, I tried to find a similar one for Canadian charities, but the only one I found was Charity Intelligence Canada, which does give charities a score for the impact they have, but doesn’t include it in their rating of the charities, which seems weird. Then when I was playing around on their website, I discovered that to get some of their ratings, you have to subscribe! And the only other stuff I could find was articles rating charities based on things like how much of the money they raise goes to overhead vs. how much goes to the services for the cause itself, and other articles talking about how that’s not a good way to rate charities (because does it matter if all the money goes to the “cause” if it’s not effective in making a difference?)

Anyway, I guess all this is to say that I still don’t have a solid charitable donation plan for the new year, but I’m thinking about how to come up with one. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

The other thing that I really should be donating is blood. I’m needle phobic, especially when it comes to someone taking my blood (more so than I am about, say, getting a vaccine injected into me) but I feel guilty about not giving blood when people whose need is much greater than my mere queasiness at the thought of a needle poking into me and my blood pumping out of my body into a bag4.

Image Credit: Posted by Jamez Picard on freeimages.com.

  1. I really wish there was a Canadian arm of the Wikimedia Foundation, as when I give to this charity I don’t get a tax receipt since it is American. []
  2. I also started supporting a podcast through Patreon, but I that doesn’t count as a charitable donation, since you are technically supporting someone to create something, but if feels a bit like one, since one could just listen to the podcast for free. In case you are interested, the podcast is called Onlightened and it’s by one of the former hosts of Caustic Soda, a podcast that I loved but only discovered as it was ending. It’s just getting started and I’m hoping that in 2018 there will be more regular episodes! []
  3. And donations to political parties give big tax deductions – except if you are donating to municipal campaigns, which don’t give you any tax deduction. But that’s a story for another day. []
  4. Oh man, just typing that makes me want to hurl. []

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Apologies in advance for deluge of tweets my blog is about to unleash!

So I’m about to post a bunch of blog postings today in my typical year-end fashion. And my blog auto-tweets all my postings (since I know that most people don’t typically go to blogs anymore unless they see it mentioned elsewhere, such as in Twitter)- and all my tweets automatically show up on Facebook (since I know that not everyone that reads my blog goes on Twitter). So apologies in advance for deluge of tweets my blog is about to unleash! You have been warned!

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Baby Mr. Moveable Bear

My mom found this teddy bear from my childhood and gave it to me while I was in Ontario for the holidays:

Baby Mr. Moveable Bear

My sister had one like this that was bigger – his name was Mr. Moveable Bear, because you can move his arms and legs at the at the joints1. Mine was named “Baby Mr. Moveable Bear”, for obvious reasons2. I need to mend his paws, as the stuffing is starting to come out. Interestingly, his stuffing is made up of old nylons! Note to self: I’ve now found a use for my nylons once they get runs in them!

  1. My mom didn’t find Mr. Moveable Bear, so we think he’s likely long gone. RIP, Mr. Moveable Bear. []
  2. Did I mention that I was terrible at coming up for names for things as a child? []

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New Foods I Made in 2017

So I guess now is that time of year where I do all my year-end wrap up postings! Decided to start with one of my 2017 goals that I actually accomplished: Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before.

In fact, not only did I achieve this one, but I surpassed it by 8!

  1. chicken parmesan casserole
  2. pork tenderloin in bourbon – this was bourbon-licious
  3. cedar planked salmon – thanks to cedar planks that I got from Costco
  4. cedar planked chicken – because I got the cedar planks from Costco, there were eleventy billion of them
  5. oat fudge bars
  6. BBQ pizza
  7. zucchini chocolate chip muffins – these were a big hit when I brought them into the office
  8. maraschino cherries – I made these from cherries I picked up in the Okanagan and a cherry liqueur that I also got in the Okanagan1
  9. amaretto cherries – I decided to try making these in the same way that I made the maraschino cherries (i.e., soak berries in booze). When I tried then after about a week in the booze, the maraschino cherries were delicious, but the amaretto ones didn’t seem like they’d absorbed any of the amaretto yet, so I’ve now left them for
  10. tarragon vinegar – with fresh tarragon from High Garden
  11. BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze – I had some fresh peaches and made a pretty delicious glaze to go with BBQ chicken
  12. cauliflower tots
  13. broccoli tots
  14. Garlicky Butter Chive Parmesan Pork Chops – not gonna lie, I did not leave these
  15. pita bread – my friend Steph made these when I was at her place and they were so good that I asked for the recipe. And she was like, “these are so easy, I don’t even use a recipe.” So I tried making some (with a recipe I found) and they were, in fact, really easy!
  16. raspberry jam
  17. figs pickled in balsamic vinegar – with figs from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party
  18. fig infused balsamic vinegar – this may or may not have been the left over balsamic vinegar from when I pickled the figs
  19. pickled spicy beans – sooo good
  20. pickles – nor these
  21. pickled beets – haven’t actually tried these yet
  22. sautéed beet tops – since I had the beet tops from the beets that I pickled, I tried sautéing them, because I read that was a thing to do. Didn’t love them, but they weren’t terrible, so would probably make them again should I be in possession of beet tops
  23. jalapeño jelly – nor these
  24. bitters – from the “make your own bitters” kit my sister gave me last Christmas
  25. vanilla sugar – from vanilla beans that had previously been making vanilla extract
My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, pickles

Making jalapeno jelly

Making jalapeño jelly

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar Planked Chicken

Cedar Planked Chicken

Oat Fudge Bars

Oat Fudge Bars

BBQ Pizza

BBQ Pizza

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze and grilled peach and veggies

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Sauteeing beet tops

Sauteed beet tops

  1. So they aren’t technically maraschino cherries, which should be made with maraschino liqueur, but I figure they are close enough. []

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Dr. Snow Goes to Washington

Hey, remember that time that I went to Washington? Since I’m on holidays right now, I actually managed to put all my photos into Flickr so now I can show you some of the cool stuff I saw.

I spent the lion’s share of my day that I had for sightseeing at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, where I saw mummies:

Mummy at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

including this mummified bull:

Mummified bull at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

And these mummified cats (though some of the mummified cats didn’t actually contain any cat remains! (read the signs below the mummies)):

Mummified Cats at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

This lion that was shot by Theodore Roosevelt. Poor, sad looking lion:

Lion that Teddy Roosevelt Shot in Africa; at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

I watched a movie about evolution at the Evolution Theatre:

Evolution Theatre

Where I also took this selfie:

Me and my new friend at the Evolution Theatre

Over in the gem section, I took a picture of the supposedly cursed Hope Diamond:

The Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Hope Diamond Sign at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum>

After leaving the museum, I took a quick jaunt through the sculpture garden outside the Smithsonian National Art Gallery:

Sculpture Garden Outside Smithsonian Art Gallery>

Sculpture Garden Outside Smithsonian Art Gallery

After that, I went to see the Lincoln Memorial, which involved about a half an hour walk along the national mall in the pouring rain. Walked by the Washington Monument:

Washington Monument

The WWI Memorial:

WWII Monument

WWII Monument

The reflecting pool (you can see the Lincoln Memorial at the end):

Reflecting Pool

Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Once I got there, I actually couldn’t get a good photo of Abe – it was too dark and gloomy out! I did, however, get this photo of what Abraham Lincoln would be looking at if he weren’t just a statue:

View from the Lincoln Memorial

When I’d Google Mapped the directions to the Lincoln Memorial, I saw on the map that just up the street was an Albert Einstein Memorial, just outside the National Academies of Science. Despite the fact that I was cold and wet, I decided to tough it out and go see it, since it was my only day for sightseeing (as the conference that I was in Washington for was starting the next day):

Albert Einstein Memorial

Albert Einstein Memorial

And that was the extent of my sight-seeing, as the next day was conference time!

Welcome sign at the AEA Conference

There were soooo many things that I didn’t see, so clearly I’m going to need to go back to see such things as:

  • the Holocaust Museum
  • the other 16 Smithsonians in Washington, including the zoo
  • National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia (which I was told was even cooler than the National Air and Space Museum that’s in DC)
  • the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  • the White House
  • the Capitol