Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Hawaii

You know that thing where you go on vacation and then you come back and not only did all the work that you didn’t do while you were away not get done, but it seems to have made some new friends while you were gone so you now have about eleventy billion emails to deal with and decisions to make and meetings to present at and assignments to grade? That is officially my excuse for why this blog posting about my trip to Hawaii is coming 25 days after we arrived back how!

Anyhoo, I’ve managed to mostly catch up so now I’m just back to my baseline level of crazy busy, plus it is a 4 day weekend, so I have found some time to sit down and tell you all about our trip to Hawaii.  Spoiler alert: it’s amazing and I didn’t want to come home.

Sunday

We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday, after an uneventful flight from YVR to Seattle and another uneventful flight from Seattle to Honolulu. We’d booked our trip through Costco1, as it was the best deal we found, and the package came with transportation to and from the airport. The person greeting us also had leis for all, so here’s a selfie of us at the airport”

Scott and I upon our arrival in Hawaii

In what would become a theme for the trip, after a day of flying, my hair looks like crap.

The rest of Sunday was basically just getting checked into the hotel (the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel) and then wandering around to get the lay of the land. Since we got in around 2pm, which meant we didn’t have much time to see stuff before the sunset because omg, the sun sets early. I knew that Hawaii was near the equator, but I hadn’t really thought about the implications of that in terms of sunrise and sunset – it’s pretty much sun from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm every day, all year long. I’m used to living quite far north of the equator and so my brain thinks summer weather = suns sets at 9 pm, so it was kind of trippy for it to be 27°C and have the sun set at dinner time! Fortunately, it stays warm even after the sunset, so it’s still nice to wander around even after the sun goes down. If you’ve never been to Honolulu, it’s basically just all beach and open air malls, with an ABC store every 12 feet.

Monday

We decided to start the holiday off with a bang by taking a surfing lesson. As long time readers may recall, I have been surfing only two times in my life and had only managed to get to a standing position for about half a second on one of those two surfing days. And that was more than a decade ago. So I figured that an actual surfing lesson, which I didn’t do the last time, was in order. We found a Groupon for lessons through Moku Hawaii Surf Shop, which was close to our hotel, so we decided to take our lessons with them. And I’m happy to report that having a surfing lesson resulted in a much more success in the amount of standing on the surfboard! We had a fantastic instructor named Jennifer, who was the only female instructor we saw in Waikiki. She went over the safety basics and the basics of how to surf, and told us that the hardest part of surfing isn’t getting up on your feet – it’s all about timing – picking the right wave and then figuring out when to start paddling and when to jump up. We headed out to the beach and then Scott and I basically took turns getting some help from Jennifer – she helped us pick a good wave, helped us with timing when to start paddling, gave us a little push to get going, and yelled “up” to let us know when to pop up. Once we got the hang of that, she helped us with timing but without the push (which made me realize how much the push helped!). She also had a GoPro camera that was on my surfboard for the first half of the lesson and on Scott’s surfboard for the second half. She also remembered part way through my time with the Go-Pro to tell me to turn the camera off when I was just walking/paddling back out to the waves, which meant that there were a million photos of me walking/paddling back out from before she told me that, but no photos of Scott like that. We got footage of a few of our runs each, but of course none of my really good runs were captured on video!

Waiting for a good wave:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Starting to paddle – you have to make sure you get up enough speed before the wave gets there so you can catch the wave:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you have to pop up:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

First up on your knees:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then pop up to your feet:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Then you are surfing like a pro:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

Until you fall off:
Beth surfing in Honolulu

We had an absolute blast! Jennifer said that most people don’t last the full two hours, but Scott and I did. I credit all the hard workouts we did leading up to our trip2.

The water was pretty shallow and the reef was very sharp and what with all the falling off and getting knocked about by the waves, I managed to rip up my foot pretty badly:

My foot got wrecked by the reef when we surfed

It looked worse in person than that photo, if you can believe that.

Also, this picture is awesome:

Beth surfing in Honolulu

After our lesson ended, we spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach. It was at some point on this day that I said “Let’s send for the cats! I want to stay here forever!” Sadly, the reality of not having jobs there or a place to live there or the necessary citizenship to do that quickly quashed my dream, so I had to just make do with 6 more days.

Here’s a video of me surfing (you really only need to watch the first couple of minutes – after that it’s just me sloooooowly walking back out to sea as I didn’t know I was supposed to turn off the camera!):

And here’s Scott – this video actually includes him surfing twice:

Tuesday

We had so much fun surfing that we decided to do it again the next day. Since we’d taken lessons from Moku, we were able to get a discount on renting boards the next day. We were just going to rent for a few hours, but they gave us the whole day, so we spent the day surfing, then lounging on the beach, then surfing, and repeat.

We also tested ou snorkelling gear3 in the hotel pool.

Wednesday

We rented a car for a couple of days because we knew we wanted to check out more of the island – and because I wanted to go swimming with sharks and you have to go to the North Shore to do that. So Wednesday we drove around the island, including stopping by the beach at the Turtle Bay resort to do some snorkelling. The water was pretty murky, but we still managed to see some cool looking fish. Sadly, there were no turtles!

We also managed to find Ted’s Bakery, which my friend Heather had recommended that we check out. They make some pretty fantastic pie:

Ted's Bakery - pies

Thursday

Thursday was the day I’d been waiting for since we’d decided to go to Hawaii – swimming with sharks! When my sister went to Hawaii ages ago, she did this and it sounded so cool that I wanted to do it too! We found a Groupon4 for a trip with North Shore Shark Adventures, but then I discovered that if you book directly with them online, you get the same price as the Groupon, so I just booked directly. The concept is simple – you get on a boat, go out to a place where there are sharks, and then jump in a cage that’s floating off the side of the boat and snorkel while you watch the sharks swim all around you. Apparently the sharks are attracted by the sound of the boat because they go out to an area where people fish for crabs and the sharks have become accustomed to the crab fishers dumping their used bait out of the crab traps there, so the sharks hear a boat and think “dinner time!”5. The sharks in the area are mostly Galapagos sharks, with some sandbar sharks. I totally thought that Great White sharks were common in Hawaii, but the crew told us they are not.

We were supposed to be on a 10 am trip, but we got a call from the company a day before saying that forecast was for really choppy water so they were going to cancel the 10 am trip, but we could go on the 7 am one instead. Despite this meaning we had to get up at like 5 am to make the drive from Waikiki to the North Shore, we decided to do it ‘cuz we really wanted to swim with the sharks!

Here I am on the boat:View from the shark boat

Here’s the cage:

Shark diving cage

And here are some of the freaking sharks, as seen from the deck of the boat:

Sharks!

There were 12 people on the boat who wanted to go in the cage, along with some crew members, and a few people who were just along for the ride. So one group of six went first while the rest of us watched and then the second group of six took a turn after. Here’s the other group after the ropes had been loosened to allow the cage to float a bit away from the boat:

Shark diving cage

While the other group was in the cage, one of the women popped her head up and asked the crew “What’s the little shiny silver shark?” One of the crew members said “Is it about this big [holding his hands about a foot apart] and kind of pointy?” When she replied “Yes”, he said “That’s a barracuda. You should watch out for that. It can get inside cage and it will bite”.

After the first group’s turn was up, we got to go into the cage. I was the first one in our group to get in the cage. It was such a cool experience! The sharks were so beautiful – so graceful swimming by, all around and beneath us. Some of the Galapagos sharks were quite big – the biggest one we saw was probably 10 ft long. I really, really wished I had a Go Pro camera of my own as  it would have been amazing to capture it! I wasn’t scared of the sharks at all – there was no way they could have gotten into our cage and they really seemed pretty docile. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to stick my hand in their mouth or anything, but being in the cage felt totally safe. The barracuda showed up while we were in there and honestly, I was more afraid of him, because he could totally have swam into the cage and taken a bite! And he just sat their next to the cage, staring at us with his cold dead eye. I found this photo of a barracuda on Wikipedia and this is just what he looked like:

Great Barracuda close-up, western Puerto Rico

Scary barracuda is scary!

As I mentioned, the water was pretty choppy and eventually it got the better of me and I totally puked from sea sickness right in the cage! So gross! But I did feel better after losing my breakfast, so at least there’s that. (I also found out that several other people also got sea sick while we were in the cage – they were just puking off the side of the boat!) As much as I hate puking, it was totally worth it to see those sharks!

Also, while I didn’t have a Go Pro to capture this, some other random people who did the same dive as us on a different day did and put it up on Youtube. So check out this video and imagine that Scott and I are in that cage, because this is exactly what it was like:

After we finished with the sharks, we decided to head back to Turtle Bay for more snorkelling and lounging on the beach. Still no turtles!

Later that day, we hit the Dole plantation. We decided to go on the aptly named “Pineapple Express” train that goes around the plantation and features a narration that tells you about how the Dole Food Company is the most successful and generous company on the planet, pineapples are the greatest food ever to have existed and probably can cure cancer, and James Drummond Dole could walk on water6.

Tickets fo the Pineapple Express

IMG_8372

We did get to see some cool stuff, like how pineapples actually grow on bushes on the ground – I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’d kind of assumed they grew in trees, like coconuts!

IMG_8396

I also didn’t know that pineapples aren’t native to Hawaii – they were brought there from South America in the 1500s.

IMG_8395

In addition to pineapple, the Dole plantation had a bunch of other stuff – sugar cane, lemons, limes, avocados, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, bananas, etc.

IMG_8382

After we finished our Pineapple Express trip, featuring the musical stylings of a band that was willing to record a song called “Pineapple Express”, we checked out the shop to get some delicious Dole whip, which is basically like ice cream except that it’s made of pineapple instead of cream. I have to admit, it was pretty delicious. We also stayed for a pineapple cutting demonstration, during which the demonstrator took about 20 minutes using a special pineapple cutting knife while repeating “So easy!” over and over and over again. I will admit that it looked pretty cool when she was done, but I don’t think I’ll be adjusting my pineapple cutting ways.

How to cut pineapple

Scott as a pineapple

Scott is a pineapple

After we were full of Dole whip and indoctrinated into the cult of Dole, we decided to try to find a waterfall that you can hike to at the Waimano Public Hunting Area. I was a wee bit concerned to start a hike that starts with a sign that says I might be hunted with a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, a knife, a spear, and/or a bow and arrow (should I be mistaken for a pig or goat of either sex).

Waimano Public Hunting Area

Also concerning were the angry looking clouds in the sky and, not fancying the idea of driving all the way back to Waikiki in soaking wet clothing, we decided to just snap this pic of us with the scenic background and head back to the car without getting to our destination. I guess this is why they say don’t go chasing waterfalls.

As usual on this trip, my hair is a mess. But I had to fight off sharks and a barracuda earlier that day, so I guess it is to be expected.

Friday

On Friday we jumped on the city bus and headed to hike Diamond Head, which is a 300,000 year old crater.

Diamond Head hike

It’s not a super tough hike, thought these stairs at the top were not my favourite:

Diamond Head hike

but they get you to pretty cool views;

Diamond Head hike

Diamond Head hike

I don’t know what that lighthouse is called, but I’m totally adding it to my upcoming blog posting “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”7

Diamond Head hike

Since we’d already paid for a day pass for the bus8, we decided to head to the other side of town after our hike and checked out what was going on over there. Highlights included, this turtle who was hanging out in a fake pond by a restaurant:

In a fake pond by a restaurant

these beautiful birds that live at the Hilton:

and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten:

Possibly the best ice cream I've ever eaten

It was surprisingly difficult to find ice cream in Waikiki. You’d think there would be an ice cream shop on every street corner. But you’d be wrong. We had to go all the way to the other side of Waikiki to find it.

waikiki map

Another reason we had decided to go to that side of town was that every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort has a fireworks show. So after strolling around to see the various sights and eat the various ice cream that was on the side of town, we strolled over to the beach to watch the fireworks.

Yet again, my hair is craptacular! Given how much time we’d spent in the ocean on this trip, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could do anything with my hair by this point.

We followed up the fireworks display with a meal at Morton’s steakhouse, which was super freaking delicious. We were also somewhat amazed that we could walk into a restaurant on a Friday night without a reservation9.

Saturday

On the advice of my uncle Harry and my friend Sarah, neither of whom have actually been10, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. The USS Arizona is one of the ships that was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbour and it still sits where it sank, with the 1,177 who died that day still on the ship. In addition, some of the survivors of the USS Arizona have decided to have the ship as the final resting place of their remains when they subsequently died, making it both a memorial to those who died in the attack and an active military cemetery. When you visit, you first watch a movie about the attack on Pearl Harbour, complete with footage of the attack and some explanation of how and why the attack happened. Then you go on a navy boat to the memorial, which is basically a platform that sits astride the remains of the ship.

USS Arizona

The white structure in the background is the memorial, as seen from our boat as we headed towards the memorial.

USS Arizona

Parts of the remains of the ship.

Oil still leaks from the USS Arizona

Oil still leaks from the ship, more than 75 years later.

USS Arizona

There were some divers going into the water near the ship. I’m not sure what they were doing.

Divers at the USS Arizona

Divers in the water near the oil leaks.

USS Arizona

Names of the men who died on the USS Arizona are written instead the memorial

It was very sobering to see so many names – 1,177 men died just on this ship, let alone all the others who died in various other parts of Pearl Harbor that day – and to think about how young they all were – just boys, really, and their ship was sinking, and then exploding, before they even knew what happened. Today, there are only five remaining survivors, ranging in age from 94-96 years old.

After the navy boat brought us back, we wandered around a bit to see the other things that were around, like this nuclear torpedo:

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor

And read the various signs with more information about the event:

Pearl Harbor

After that, we headed back to Waikiki to do more wandering around, eventually hitting Duke’s for dinner:

Drinks

Delicious drinks at Duke’s

and then stumbling upon a hula show that was going on at the beach:Hulu show on Waikiki Beach

Sunday

Sunday was our last full day on Oahu and we decided to spent it at Hanauma Bay, a beach on a bay that was formed by volcanic activity about 32,000 years ago, It became a very popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beach and amazing marine life, with about 400 different species of fish living there. They state has turned it into a nature preserve and when you first get there you have to watch a movie that basically just says “Don’t touch any of the living creatures, including the coral. Hey, did you know coral is alive? Well, you do now, so don’t touch it!” Then you are allowed to head down the hill to enjoy the beach.

Hanumba Bay was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, which is saying something because I loved pretty much everything about this trip. But the snorkelling here was amazing! The water was so clear and there were so many different kinds of beautiful fish! I was really regretting not having a GoPro while snorkeling here. You can see some of the types of fish that we saw on this Hanauma Bay Education Program Fish Identification Card – ones we saw included Bluespine Unicornfish, Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Sergeant, female Spotted Boxfish, male Christmas Wrasse, Moorish Idol, many types of Parrotfish and tonnes of Reef Triggerfish and Convict Tang. There was also a giant purple fish that I think was a type of Parrotfish and it was so big that you could actual hear it eating when you were underwater with it!

I found this video on Youtube from someone who had a similar experience – it’s a different colour of fish, but you can see what I mean about hearing the fish eating:

Apparently there are sometimes reef sharks in the bay, but we didn’t see any. I would kind of loved to have seen one because sharks are awesome, but even knowing that there has never been a shark attack in the bay and reef sharks don’t feed on humans, I may have freaked out if I’d actually seen one because OMG SHARK!

We basically spent the whole day there, alternating between snorkelling and lounging on the beach. On one of our later times out snorkelling that day we finally saw the second thing (other than sharks) that I wanted to see in the wild: a turtle! We were just snorkelling around on the opposite side of the bay than we’d been before and Scott called me over to where he was and pointed down into the reef. And there was a beautiful green sea turtle, just swimming around and eating from the reef! Again, I was kicking myself for not having a GoPro! I did find this photo on Flickr of a turtle that looks just like the one we saw:

Sea Turtle @ Hanauma Bay

I spent a bunch of time just swimming around following the turtle – he was just so cute11!

Here’s a video from someone who was smart enough to bring a GoPro with them while snorkelling there (this is pretty much exactly what my day was like, except for the soundtrack):

Also at the beach were a whole bunch of cats, who apparently live, feasting on garbage and having somewhat of an uneasy truce with a bunch of mongooses.

At one point, Scott was petting the kitties and a little kid who was probably three or four years old and had clearly paid attention in the “don’t touch the wildlife” video admonished him “Don’t touch them!!!!!” Of course, not touching the feral cats is probably more of a safety rule for you rather than the cats, but he didn’t end up getting bitten or scratched, so I suppose we’ll call that a win for all.

Monday

And just like that, the trip was over! We got one last morning in Honolulu, where I snapped what is probably the nicest photo I took on the whole trip, and from the restaurant in our hotel, of all places!

View from the restaurant in our hotel

On top of being a super amazing awesome fun time, my trip also allowed me to knock two items off my 101 list: #1 – Cage dive with sharks and #91 – Go to Hawaii. And as soon as I hit publish on this posting, it will put me 1/6th of the way towards achieving my 2018 goal of having “published at least six [blog postings] that are long form  (minimum of 3000 words).”

In conclusion: A++, would Hawaii again.

Image and Video Credits: The barracuda photo is from Wikipedia and the Green Sea Turtle photo posted by FHKE on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. All the other photos are mine or Scott’s. The two surfing videos are mine and Scott’s and for sources of the other videos, follow the links to YouTube.

  1. I’m reasonably sure that I’m slowly drifting towards an entirely Costco-based life. First it was just for food… then clothing… and now travel! []
  2. I told my trainer for January & February to give me a training program that would help me with surfing and/or looking good on the beach. So she gave me some crazy tough workouts and I think it really helped! []
  3. Which we bought at Costco (of course) before we left Vancouver. []
  4. Are you sensing my cheapness? []
  5. Apparently some companies will chum the water to attack sharks, but it’s controversial as it can affect shark behaviour and even lead to sharks equating humans with food, which is not a good thing. []
  6. Honestly, the whole time I kept thinking that the narration should have been done by Troy McClure. []
  7. Note to self: write that blog posting that you’ve been meaning to write since forever called “Dr. Beth’s Worldwide Lighthouse Tour”. []
  8. As a day pass is the same price as going somewhere on the bus and then returning, we decided just to get the pass to get to the hike and back, and then use it to travel around town some more. Because frugality. []
  9. Not something you can really do in Vancouver. []
  10. Though Sarah did plan a visit for her parents when they were in Hawaii and thus was able to give me detailed instructions of how to get there, get tickets, etc. []
  11. I’d also stalked some fish throughout the day – I’d find an interesting looking fish and then just follow it around to see where it would go. It got me wondering what the fish and turtle think about all these snorkelers – do they just think we are some weird looking fish? []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Epigenetics Edition

So I’ve been totally slack on blogging about the stuff I’ve learned this year as part of my goal to learn 12 new things in 2017. I’ve been learning stuff, but just not getting around to blogging about it. But I’m on vacay now, so I’ll have time to catch up on all the stuff I meant be blog about! And since I’m on vacation now, I’m also able to read books and finally finished reading the book that my friend Cath wrote: Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide.

Epigenetics is the field of study that is concerned with how things interact with our genes to control their expression. We all inherit DNA, which contains a bunch of genes, from our parents, but there is a whole bunch of complicated things that go on to control how/when/where those genes get expressed (or not). Back when I last took a genetics course – i.e., eleventy billion years ago in my undergrad – I only remember learning about gene transcription (where a cell reads the code in DNA and makes a copy of it in a similar molecule called RNA) and gene translation (where the cell translates the code from the RNA into a protein, which can then go on and perform some function in the body). I also only remember three kinds of RNA: messenger (mRNA), transfer (tRNA) and ribosomal (rRNA). Now there are a tonne of other RNAs – micro (miRNA), long noncoding (lncRNA), and piwi-interacting (piRNAs), just to name a few1. All this to say – a lot has happened in our understanding of genetics since I last learned about it, so this book was great way to get up to speed on a whole lot of learning in a fun way! Also, my copy just so happens to be signed:

Book signing by Cath

Dr. Cath, doing a book signing just for me!

I’m not going to even try to summarize all the stuff that I learned about epigenetics – the book has a *lot* of information and if you want a solid introduction to the world of epigenetics, you should probably buy the book!

  1. Sidebar: I feel the same way about dinosaurs. When I was a kid, we learned about 6 dinosaurs – T. Rex, stegosaurus, triceratops, brontosaurus, pterodactyl – and then Jurassic Park came out and we all learned about velociraptors,  but now there are dozens of different kinds of dinosaurs and it turns out that pterodactyls aren’t actually dinosaurs and that brontosaurus is actually an apatosaurus, except then more research came out that suggested that apatosaurus and brontosaurus were actually two different kinds of dinosaurs after all. But I digress. []

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Thanks, Past Me!

The great thing about having a terrible memory is that when you support a Kickstarter fundraiser, by the time the thing you are funding gets released, you’ve forgotten that you funded it and then you get a surprise package in the mail. It’s like a gift from Past Me to Future (Now Present) Me!

Case-in-point: I got a delivery card notice from Canada Post1 saying that they had tried to deliver a package but I wasn’t home and I could come to the post-office in the Pharmasave after 1 pm the next day to pick it up. But I hadn’t ordered anything, so what could this mysterious package be? After a long and drawn out saga involving some combination of Canada Post being misinformed/incompetent/way  understaffed for the holiday rush of packages, I finally got my hands on my package. As soon as I saw this stamp on the box, I knew what it was:

Zombies, Run! Board Game

That logo is from Zombies, Run! – my favourite app, where you listen to a zombie story while you are out for a run and you are taken on missions where you have to run for supplies, or outrun zombies, or outrun bad people2. It’s superbly written and not listening to these zombie stories is something that I really, really miss thanks to not running in more than a year, thanks to all my stupid injuries. Anyhow, quite awhile ago I got an email about the Kickstarter project by the makers of the app – a board game based on the running app. Given their talent for audio stories, the board game also has an interactive audio component, which you get via downloading an app. The app isn’t quite ready yet, but they wanted to send out all the packages before the holiday mail rush3 and then we’ll get an email notifying us when the app is ready for download4

So now I have in my hot little hands, this board game:

Zombies, Run! Board Game

Zombies, Run! Board Game

… that I can’t play! Who wants to bet that the app will come out when I’m in Toronto for the holidays??

In a related story, I pre-ordered a copy of the book Soonish by Kelly & Zach Weinersmith. It wasn’t a Kickstarter, but it was a pre-order that was far enough in advance of the release date that I totally forgot I ordered it until it showed up:

Soonish

I heard about this book on Zach Weinersmith’s webcomic page, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, which I read religiously because it’s hilarious. When he talked about the book on there, he said that it’s really important to have a lot of pre-orders because it shows the publisher and booksellers there is interest in the book, so they will print more copies, arrange for book signings, and do various other things that will increase the sales of the book. Since I get so much joy out of reading SMBC every day for free, I figured that buying the book would be a good way to support an artist that I like (and assuage my guilt for being such a freeloader.))

I haven’t started reading it yet, because the semester was so busy, but now that that’s over with, I might actually have some time to check it out.

  1. Aside: I feel like being a Canada Post delivery person who has apartment buildings on your route must be the most futile job in the history of jobs. You carry packages to a building where you have to buzz to find out if someone is home but (a) you don’t have a buzzer number on the package and most people don’t list their name on the buzzer directory and (b) it’s the middle of the work day, so of course no one is home anyway. So you carry all these packages to apartment buildings, look at a long list of “Occupied” on the building directory, then write out a delivery card and stick it on the building. And repeat. []
  2. As most zombie stories go, it turns out that the humans are worse than the monsters. []
  3. It came from England, so perhaps it missed the holiday mail rush there, but it definitely got caught up in it here! []
  4. I know all this because they actually do send emails about such things, but they sent it long enough ago that I’d forgotten about it by the time the mail delivery notice card arrived. []

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NaBloPoMo – Day 26 – Happy 50th Birthday to the Arts Council of New Westminster

Today was the Annual General Meeting of the Arts Council of New Westminster, followed by its 50th birthday party! For the past 50 years, the ACNW has been bringing community of New Westminster together through the arts and I’m proud to have been a small part of that.

Name tag. Arts Council of New Westminster

I joined the board of ACNW back in June 2014, at the encouragement of my friend, Tig. It was shortly after I finished my MBA and it gave me my first experience of being on a board of directors. For the past year, I served as the secretary on the board. I got to work with a fabulous group of people, got to contribute to an organization that supports artists in the community and runs many of the amazing events that makes New West such a cool place to be. I learned a lot, made some great friends, and am proud of what we’ve accomplished over this time. I made the tough decision to step down from the board after 3+ years – with my day job getting busier and busier and my new role on CESBCY, I felt like I should not spread myself too thin and that it was a good time to make way for some new blood on the Arts Council board. I will continue to be a supporter of the ACNW, but now as a cheerleader on the side rather than as a member of the board. Looking forward to seeing what amazing things the ACNW does in the next 50 years!

Happy birthday, ACNW and thank you to all the artists, art enthusiasts, donors, staff, volunteers, board members, and ACNW members who make it all possible!

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Halloween 2017

This year’s Halloween costume, being immortalized here on ye old blog:

Cersei Halloween costume

To put this photo in context, my gym had a costume contest: show up at the gym in your costume, take a photo, and post it on Instagram. Best photo wins a prize! Hence why I am holding a dumbbell in the photo – but in true Cersei fashion, I did not put down my wine goblet, even to workout! Props to my fellow gym goer for suggesting that I put up a weight bench to use as my throne!

Just like the year I dressed up as Daenerys, I am surprised by how many people I came across today who do not watch Game of Thrones. I mean, isn’t it the most watched show in the history of television? I thought for sure that in the intervening two years since I dressed up as Daenerys, including carrying around three dragons all day, and repeatedly got “Are you Elsa from Frozen?”, surely enough additional people would have started watching GOT that everyone would know I was Cersei. But alas, I got a fair number of blanks stares and upon asking “Do you watch Game of Thrones?” and hearing “No,” I’d reply “Well, I’m Cersei from Game of Thrones”, and they’d said, “Oh, is she good?” Ha! She’s only like the most evil character to ever have eviled!

The fact that there are so surprisingly many non-GOT fans out there did allow me to have this fantastic conversation:

Me: I’ll have a grande no room Americano.

Starbuck Barista: OK. What’s your name?

Me [with a straight face]: Cersei.

Starbuck Barista [with a confused look]: Sorry? What?

Me [continuing to have a straight face]: Cersei. C-E-R-S-E-I

She still managed to spell my name incorrectly on the cup:

Cersei Halloween costume

Cersei Halloween costume

Sadly, my gym photo is the only full length photo I managed to get of myself! I was teaching tonight and I wore my costume to class, because I’ll be damned if I’ll let a little academic responsibility get in the way of my wearing a costume on Halloween. A couple of students asked me for a photo, but I didn’t get a copy of those and totally forgot to snap one on my own phone. (I also wore my costume to work during the day, but also neglected to get a proper photo1.) Here are some photos of my failed attempt to take a decent photo when I got “home” tonight (where “home” = the hotel I’m staying in as I’m working offsite to collect some data):

Cersei Halloween costume

Cersei Halloween costume

Cersei Halloween costume

And also an OK photo of my hairstyle:

Cersei Halloween costume

When I bought my costume, I was looking at the wigs in the Halloween store to see if they had a Cersei one (which they didn’t). I didn’t clue into the fact that I already have long blonde hair until I got home. D’oh!

  1. A colleague did take a photo of me working intently on my computer in my costume, but (a) it wasn’t full length and (b) I look terrible in it. []

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The Lady And The Lords

In not so serious but absolutely important news, Dr. Dan, Rick, and I have spent the last several months painstakingly exploring our respective genealogies to uncover a really random piece of shared ancestry. And for all it’s click-bait worthiness, you’ll be surprised to learn what that is.

Apparently, way back in the old-time-y days of yore we shared a Scottish ancestor who just happened to be of noble stock1. Crazy, right? What does that mean? It means that
Sir William MacPherson has had some influence I'm a Ladyon our genes2. It also means that his nobility has somehow been passed down through the generations to us5. I mean, that probably comes as no surprise, given how noble and royal-like we are. More than that, it means that we are rightfully the Reverend Lady Dr. Beth Snow of Glencoe, Lord Ricky Chin of Glencoe, and Lord Dr. Daniel Gillis of Glencoe6. Although it might actually be the Reverend Dr. Lady Beth Snow of Glencoe, and Dr. Lord Daniel Gillis of Glencoe – I’m not quite sure how the titles should be ordered.

Regardless – we be all sorts of noble, yo!7


1 No, we didn’t.

2 No, he didn’t3.

3 Though some of the records indicate that he may have changed his name to Sir William MacPherson from the noble Sir Billy MacChin4.

4 Actually, the records don’t show that at all. At least, we don’t think they do. We didn’t actually check.

5 No, it hasn’t.

6 No, we aren’t.

7 Yes, we are8.

8 This post might not be factually accurate. In fact, it’s probably mostly factually alternative in its factitiousness9.

9 Truth be told, we actually donated funding to support conservation efforts in Scotland, and in return we each “own” a one square foot plot of Scottish highlands and were given the titles of Lady and Lords of Glencoe10. But that doesn’t seem nearly as fun as the possibility of a shared ancestry.

10 Don’t worry folks; despite our newfound but obvious and noble birthrights, we promise to preside over the common folk in a fair and just way. We’re good like that.

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Scientists Like Lasers

Two words for you: laser tag. Anyone who didn’t celebrate their milestone-birthday-whose-number-shall-not-be-named by playing laser tag really missed out.

Laser tag for my birthday!You will not find a finer group of laser taggers than this crew.

I knew I wanted to do something different for my birthday this year and after much deliberation, I settled on laser tag. I hadn’t played laser tag since high school, but I remembered it being really fun and also, it seemed like something epically ridiculous to do for my birthday. And hence, I scheduled two private games of laser tag (or should I say “lazer” tag) at the laser tag place in New West and gathered a group of peeps who were up for the challenge of spending an hour shooting at each other in a dark labyrinth. The first game was a free for all, where it was every man, woman, and child for themselves. In this game, I learned that I have terrible aim and was very glad that there is no cost for ammo when it comes to laser tag. In the second game, we were put into two teams and your objective was to only shoot people on the other team while not shooting people on your own team. As it turns out, Team Red’s strategy of strategizing bested Team Blue’s approach of not strategizing. Who knew? Despite my poor performance, I had so. much. fun! It was even more fun than I remembered it being! Everyone else was also raving about what a blast they had too (even a few who had been skeptical before the game), which made me very happy!

After the games were over and we all had a chance to examine our score cards in detail1, we headed over to my place for the after party, where we (along with some other peeps who weren’t up for (or available for) laser tag but who were up for partying) ate, drank, and were merry into the wee hours. As usual when it comes to parties, I didn’t get nearly enough time to chat with anyone as much as I wanted to, but I did really have a great time and was reminded that I have the best friends ever.

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with me. And if anyone wants to go play laser tag again, I’m game!

  1. For the record, in game two I only shot one of my own team members, though I did shoot her twice. []

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Items I Knocked Off My List of 101 Things To Do List

I set a goal to knock 16 items off my 101 things to do in 1001 days list during 2016 and while I failed spectacularly at doing that, most of the 5 things that I did were pretty awesome. In level of increasing awesomeness, they were:

21. Get rid of the fake trees my condo’s previous owner left on my balcony

This one wasn’t awesome, but I am glad to have it done. When I bought my place, the previous owner left these gaudy fake trees in extremely heavy pots on my balcony, claiming they were part of the condo because they were tied with twine to the balcony railing. They were ugly and they took up valuable room on my balcony, but the aforementioned extremely heavy pots stopped me from getting rid of them until I got a message from my strata that they would be power washing all the balconies and everything had to be taking off our balconies during that time.

35. Go for a ride in a float plane

I spent some time on Salt Spring Island this year and on one of the trips, I took the float plane back so that I could spend one extra night there and then just fly into Vancouver for work in the morning. Super fun.

47. Go to Newfoundland

Visiting my 10th of 10 Canadian provinces was a milestone this year. Not that many people can say that! Plus I went to an awesome conference and got to hang out with my sister!

43. Go to NYC

I <3 NY. We had such a good time and now I want to go there again!

37. Present at a conference at an international location (not including USA)

Definitely the highlight of the year was my trip to Australia! The conference was fantastic and I really enjoyed all the places that I went!

So while I didn’t knock a large quantity of items off my list, I’d say that the quality of the ones I did do were A++.

My current 101 things to do in 1001 days is slated to end on April 9, 2017 and I’ve only achieved 34 (!). I should probably take a hard look at the remaining items to see which ones I can feasibly do in the next 3 months. Surely I can do better than 34/101!

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One Week Today….

… I’ll be co-presenting a workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador with my sister! I am very excited about this for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to) and in no particular order:

  • the content we are presenting on is very cool and I’m excited to share it with colleagues
  • the conference that we are presenting at is a good one – I always learn a lot, meet great people, and have a lot of fun
  • I get to hang out with my sister
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province I’ve never been to, so when I go there I will have collected the entire set of provinces in my travel history

The one thing I’m not excited about is the weather forecast. St. John’s is going to be cold while we are there:

St. John's forecast

And in the meantime, I’ll be missing out on summer weather in Vancouver:

Vancouver forecast

I’ll have to make sure to pack some warm sweaters and my coat!

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My New Messenger Bag

Generally speaking, I’m a cheap, cheap frugal woman. I prefer buying my clothes at thrift stores over paying retail prices1 ,2. I collect AirMiles and Shoppers Optimum points and various other points that I can turn into money. Today I was very excited to learn that the cobbler near my office has a “buy 10, get the 11th one free” card for shoe re-heeling, as I wear out heel tips pretty quickly and I’ll re-heel a shoe several times rather than throwing them out and buying a new pair3.

However, there are certain things I’m willing to spend money on. Laser eye surgery was one – I wasn’t going to trust my vision to a pay-for-one-eye, get-the-other-eye-zapped-for-free scheme. Getting my hair coloured is another – I figure my hair is beside my face every single day, so it makes it worth my while to pay Jenny Lynn to work her magic rather than go to a cheaper place (or try to do it myself at home!). I also made a deal with myself once I finished paying off my student loans that I wasn’t going to buy any cheap Ikea furniture again – when I want a new piece of furniture, I look for a good quality piece that will last me, rather than something disposable.

So this brings me to my latest purchase. As someone who commutes via transit, I need a good bag for carrying stuff to and from work. At a minimum, I’m carrying a wallet, phone, various keys, my eReader, an umbrella, and my travel coffee mug and these items are often joined by some combination of a notebook, journal articles, a laptop, my lunch, my breakfast, etc. Up until now, I’ve been using a variety of tote bags, but inevitably, they eventually fall apart (usually the straps end up wearing through and breaking). So I decided it was high time I invest in a really good quality bag that willl last, rather than continuing to buy bags that end up in the landfill after a year or two.

I had it in my head that I’d like to get a nice messenger bag, but after searching through a ridiculous number of stores, I couldn’t find anything I liked. A friend of mine recommend that I check out Saddleback Leather which admittedly has lovely stuff and, while I’m willing to pay for quality, when you factor in the current US exchange rate (which is roughly US$1 = $10,000,000 Canadian) and the shipping, the prices became pretty hard to swallow. Also, I can’t hear the word “Saddleback” without thinking about the Saddleback Church and, more specifically, Dan Savage’s definition of saddle backing [NSFW].

So then I started thinking – isn’t there anyone local I can buy from? So I googled “leather messenger bag Vancouver” and found Divina Denuevo. They hand-make also sorts of leather products and I want to buy all of them! After checking out the stuff on the website, I made an appointment to drop by their studio (which is conveniently located about a 10 minute walk from my office) to check stuff out in person. (They also sell their products on Etsy, but it’s cheaper if you buy on their website as you don’t have to deal with the US exchange rate or the markup that they have to cover their Etsy listing costs). I decide on the “Canterbury Briefcase Satchel” in “Crazy Horse Brown”, customized it with the pockets I wanted to have, and then patiently waited for two weeks while they made it. And let me tell you, it was well worth the wait!

Divina Denuevo

The photo doesn’t really do it justice – you just have to see it in person!

I am told that I don’t need to do anything to care for it and then the look of it actually gets nicer with use – the leather will get softer and will develop a nice patina.

Divina Denuevo

Anyway, I’m glad to have found this shop – I get a high quality product at what I think is a reasonable price and I get to support a local artisan. And if anyone is in the market for some hand-made leather wares (and/or is looking to buy me a present), it wouldn’t hurt to check out their website!

  1. Or I buy stuff from Beyond the Rack – if you haven’t joined and want to, let me know because if I send you a referral, I get a cool $10. []
  2. Disclaimer: As per usual, I have no relationship with any of the businesses mentioned on here, other than that I give them money in exchange for their products and/or services. []
  3. Or just wearing one of my other elevently billion pairs. []