In part this was because Dr. Dan told me that the CN Tower Edgewalk was way scarier than skydiving because when you are on the CN Tower, your brain can perceive the distance and it’s thinking “if I fall off of here, I’m going to splatter”. But when you are at 10,000 ft, you are so high up, your brain just cannot process that kind of distance, so you don’t feel that fear. I took those words to heart and decided that skydiving was something that I really wanted to try. And I’m really, really glad I did!
Since Dr. Dan is in town, we decided that yesterday would be a good day to jump out of a plane. Two of his students – Nic and Marshall – were also up for the adventure. We didn’t book the excursion in advance because the not insubstantial fee is nonrefundable and whether or not you can skydive at a given date and time is very weather dependent. If you book in advance and then the weather is not conducive to jumping, you have to reschedule for another day and since Dan is only in town for the week that didn’t really work for us.
So we called yesterday morning to see if the weather would allow us to jump and they said things weren’t looking great but we should call back at about 1:30 pm to see if the situation had improved. We did and they said the weather still wasn’t right, but to call back at 4 pm to check again. When we called back at 4 pm, I think we were prepared for them to say “today is just not a good day to jump “and we would try again the next day2, but much to our surprise they said “Yeah, it looks good now. How soon can you get here?” We were at my place New West and we had to get to Abbotsford, which is where the skydiving placs is, and we had to pick up Marhsall, who was in Maple Ridge, on the way. And since my wee Smart Car can’t fit four brave, soon-to-be skydivers, we had to grab a Modo car share for the trip. So we jumped into action, booking the car, running around trying to find the car after I misinterpreted the description of where the car was, and then off we went!
We arrived a bit later than we’d hoped and skydiving people were waiting for us, so it was a whirlwind of activity: signing the waiver, getting on our jumpsuits, people were strapping us into our harnesses as an instructor explained the procedure of what we need to do. We all got a chance to demonstrate that we listened to the procedure we needed to follow: cross your hands across your chest, and cross your feet when you jump out of the plane, then when your instructor (who you are attached to during the jump) taps your shoulder, you raise your arms up. That’s really all you need to do, because in a tandem jump, the instructor does all the actual work. Then we each met our respective instructors to whom we were going to be attached to – mine was a friendly guy named Jess – and they did the double check to make sure all the straps and hooks were strapped and hooked so that we would not plummet to our deaths. After that we walked toward the plane feeling like something out of Top Gun. Well, I would have felt more Top Gun if they hadn’t given me a pink jumpsuit (*barf*). Dr. Dan got the cool army green one, so he looked the most Top Gun-ish, imho.
And then it was into the plane and we took off – it all happened so fast I barely had time to think, let alone be scared. I set my Fitbit to record my heart rate for the trip, because at all times I’m a nerd and I was dying to see how my heart would react to all of this.
The plane climbed and climbed and I honestly could not wipe the smile off my face. I was so happy to be doing this and when I realized that I had such a big smile on my face, I was even more happy that I was genuinely happy and not scared!
I looked out the window as the beautiful scenery – the lush green farmland and river below us, the mountains off in the distance, a few pretty clouds, and amazing sunshine – and all I felt was excitement. At one point Jess said “We are halfway up” and I felt my stomach leap a little bit as a thought “omg, we are going twice this high?”, but as quickly as I thought that, it was replaced with “omg, it’s so beautiful”.
My heart took another leap when the plane levelled off because I knew that meant it was go time. Marshall was up first and I was after him. Both our instructors, who has tightened our harasses and attached us to themselves, got up to open up the door on the side of the plane and in an instant, Marshall and his instructor vanished out the door. Jess moved us to the door and, being attached to him and all, before I knew it, I was standing at the edge of the plane looking at the 10,000 ft to the ground. I think I said something like “oh my god, this is really happening” and then he jumped. I remembered to cross my hands over my chest but honestly do not know if I crossed my feet like instructed.
I feel one second of sheer terror and screamed, and then instantly I felt completely at peace. My brain was just like “we are totally fine. We are totally safe.” We were head down, free falling towards the earth3, but because you are so far up, you can’t actually tell that you are moving – the ground doesn’t look like it’s getting any closer. So it actually just feels like you are sitting still in the sky but with a great wind coming up at you. It was exhilarating. According to the skydiving log they gave me afterwards, we were in free fall for 40 seconds, but it felt like 10 seconds – just like your brain can’t make sense of the height you are at, I don’t think it can comprehend time properly while trying to process this completely surreal experience.
My instructor tapped me on the shoulder, and I put my arms up like we’d been told me – we were now free falling in the belly down position and then it felt like we were being pulled back up into the sky. I knew that this meant he’d pulled the parachute and we’d slowed down a lot – and now we were heads up and it honestly felt like I was just sitting on a swing and floating in the sky. It was an unbelievable feeling.
And only then did I get a chance to look around and take in the incredible sights. We spun around and got to see the world from a vantage point like no other. You know how when you look out the window of a plane and it’s so cool to see the world from up so high? Imagine that you aren’t looking at that through a tiny window while sitting in a uncomfortable plane seat – but you are getting a 360 view of that while freely floating in the sky. The fields were so green. The river was kind of brown, but I marvelled at the fact that if I could follow that river, I’d end up back at my home in New West. The mountains were amazing off in the distance, and there were a few fluffy clouds in the same sky as I now sat.
As I looked around, I saw two other parachutes off in the distance, but both below me and I remember being a bit confused because I was sure that I was the second person to jump, so how could there be two people below me? But my brain wasn’t able to process it, so I just continued to look around and enjoy the surreal experience. As it turned out, Dr. Dan’s instructor seemed to have be a bit speedier than the other instructors in getting to the ground, so he actually was below me despite having jumped after I did.
We floated around for a bit, going here and there over the land, and I was chattering about the experience the whole time. I am an external processor, so when I thought about it later, I realized that I was talking as a way of comprehending what was happening. It was a very interesting experience to see my brain trying to understand what was going on – the experience is so unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
And all too soon, the jump was over. We came to a gentle landing on the grass and I reunited with my friends to excitedly talk about our jumps. We had all chosen to get the video package where the instructor wears a video camera on their wrist – for me, Nic, and Marshall, it was our first times and we needed to have it documented. We had to wait for a bit while they edited our videos, which was OK because I think we also needed a bit of time to come down from the adrenaline rush.
While we were waiting, I decided to check out my heart rate from the jump. This is what my heart rate was from the time we got on the plane until the time I landed:
I was delighted to see that my heart rate mirrored my subjective experience – you can my heart rate actually lowering as we sat on the plane, a small jump which I think was when the plane levelled off and and I realized it was go time, a spike which I’m sure was the moment we stood up and then jumped, resulting in my one second of terror, and then an immediate drop as my brain said “actually, this isn’t scary. It’s amazing!)
As we waited for our videos, Jess came over and said “I’ve got good news and bad news. When we jumped, the camera malfunctioned – the screen just went blank – so while we were in free fall, I had to reboot it. I only got the last few seconds of free fall and then the rest of the time. So we are going to refund your money, but we will give you the footage we did get.” My reply: “If anything was going to go wrong during the jump, I’m glad it was just the camera.”
As it turned out, I think the video is just fine. I don’t mind that it missed the jumping part – that is the part where I was freaking out and screaming anyway! And I got it for free, which makes this cheap, cheap woman happy.
I can’t upload the video to YouTube because it’s set to music (which YouTube would flag as a copyright violation). And the file is too big for me to upload directly to my blog4. So if you want to see it, you’ll just have to ask me to show it to you the next time I see you!
In conclusion, skydiving was amazing and I want to do it again. I want to skydiving over all sorts of different scenery. Imagine skydiving over the desert! Or a lush tropical landscape! Or the Arctic! Anyone up for skydiving on every continent with me?
In fairness, the Patullo Bridge does seem like it’s about to collapse at any moment, so that fear is somewhat justified. [↩]
Although the price is more expensive on weekends and I’m a cheap, cheap woman. [↩]
I looked it up and in the head down position, terminal velocity is about 200 mph! and when you switch to belly down, it’s about 120 mph! [↩]
OK, so it’s not technically summer until Friday, but you’d never know it from the weather we’ve been having. It’s sunny and warm and the sun is up until nearly 9:30 pm.
Things I’m excited about for the summer, in no particular order:
The New West Grand Prix – watching professional cyclists ride around and around and around and around my home is actually a lot more exciting than one might expect. Plus my gym will have beer and snacks
playing tennis – Scott and I bought some tennis rackets that were on super duper sale at a sports store that was closing down, right before I sprained my MCL. And while the MCL healing has been going slower than I would like, it’s definitely getting better. So much so that I’ve been able to play hockey with a knee brace – so I think I’ll give tennis with a knee brace a try too!
the New West Farmers market – while the Farmers Market in New West runs all year, the winter market is uptown on Saturdays and somehow I never manage to get all the way uptown! But the summer market is at City Hall, which is just a short walk (up a very steep hill) from me on Thursday afternoons/evenings. I haven’t gotten out there for the first few weeks, but I’m planning to go soon.
canning/jamming more stuff – my friend Patricia has some pear trees near here that have those most amazing tasting pears EVER. I can’t wait until they are ready because I’m going to pick some and can them!
tackling stuff from my 2019 goals list– I am VERY behind on my goals for this year (I blame teaching too much in the January semester), but now that that is behind me (along with all my work travel for May), I can actually do some of that stuff
hiking – every summer I say I’m going to do more hiking. Hope springs eternal!
I also have a bunch of vacay that I need to book, but I don’t really want to go away when it’s so nice out and there’s so many fun things going on. Perhaps I’ll take some days off to do stuff around here (especially if a certain friend of mine comes to visit and wants to jump out of a plane with me, as we may or may not have previously discussed).
And maybe I’ll look at the fall for a trip somewhere…
I did, in fact, have that belated birthday party I talked about having. I decided that since I celebrate Bethmas Eve, Bethmas, and Bething Day, it only makes sense that if I have a party after my actual birthday, it’s Orthodox Bethmas. The party was fantastic, if I do say so myself. I’m so lucky that I have so many wonderful friends and I love it that even though lots of my friends don’t know each other, everyone enjoys chatting and making new friends with my other friends. There’s also some of my friends that only know some of my other friends from having met at my various birthday parties over the years, so they get to catch up – lol! I also discovered that two of my very close friends, each of whom I have known for well over a decade, have never actually met each other! They seem to have just not had their paths cross before – even when they’ve both been able to make it to one of my parties, for example, one of them had come early and the other hadn’t come until later, after the other one had left.
Rather than doing an elaborate house drink for my birthday party, which I often do because I love mixing cocktails, I decided to go with the simple Moscow Mule. This choice may have also been influenced by the fact that I had a bottle of ginger liqueur that I bought in Portland ages ago with the intention of using it to make Moscow Mules but hadn’t. At any rate, they were very popular.
Dr. Dan, and his grad student, Nic, visited for a while. It was great to see them, as always (I only wished I could have spent more time hanging out!). They got to come to my birthday, which was awesome, and Dr. Dan even guest lectured in my class at the JI!
I completely blew my weightlifting personal record (PR) that I set on my birthday out of the water. As you may recall, on my birthday, I back squatted 77.5 kg (171 lbs). By the time that particular program ended two weeks later, I back squatted 85 kg (187 lbs)! I also set PRs for trapbar deadlift (100 kg or 220 lbs!) and what I think are PRs for bench press (42.5 kg or 94 lbs) and barbell overhead press (26 kg or 57 lbs), but I’d have to look back at all my old programs to be sure.
We had a full day planning meeting for the Canadian Evaluation Society BC chapter executive last weekend and I have to say, I’m really lucky to work with such a dedicated and creative group of people. We’ve got lots of exciting plans for this year!
Work is crazy, as always. And that’s probably enough said about that!
On Thursday, my friend Alicia took me to see a performance of Much Ado About Nothing by an all female cast at the Cultch. It was hilarious! I’ve never seen or read Much Ado About Nothing before, so it was fun to get to see it without knowing what was going to happen. All of the actors were brilliant and the venue is so intimate – it’s quite a different experience than seeing places up on a tradition stage in a big theatre. It’s running until Feb 16 – if you can, I highly recommend you go see it!
In nine days, Scott and I head to Palm Springs for week. Given that the forecast for Vancouver for the next two weeks is highs around 0 degrees, I think that the Palm Springs forecast of highs in the teens sound pretty appealing. We are flying Swoop from Abbotsford to Vegas and then driving from there (because cheapness). It will be really nice to get a little bit of break (where by “break” I mean “doing course prep pool side rather than wrapped in blankets in my condo”)
Anyhoo, I guess this has been enough of a break for today – time to get back to my marking!
a solid workout at the gym (including the aforementioned back squat PR)
going for a walk on the Quay
catching two new Pokemon that I didn’t have before
perusing a thrift store and finding a skirt with POCKETS! Plus two nice shirts. But mostly POCKETS!
playing with the kitties
a video chat with my mother, sister, brother-in-common-law, niece, and nephew, who were enjoying a birthday cake and birthday wine (except for my niece and nephew, of course) in my honour! They even sang happy birthday to me and I got to virtually blow out the candle2.
Of course, Bethmas celebrations really started yesterday, on Bethmas Eve, as a friend took me out for lunch, then my team at work took me to dinner at Nuba before we went to the Canucks game, which we’d decided to do as a team building event, since several people on my team had never been to a hockey game before.
Bethmas celebrations continue tonight as Scott and I are going out for a nice steak dinner.
I’m contemplating having a belated birthday party at the end of the month. I was going to skip the birthday party this year, mostly because I’m stupid busy with all the classes I’m teaching this semester (in addition to my day job and my many extracurriculars). But it looks like Dr. Dan will be back for a visit, so I’m thinking maybe a party is in order…
I took the day off work because who wants to work on their birthday? Especially if their birthday is on a Friday! [↩]
Apparenlty when my sister and I were kids and our family went to EPCOT Centre there was an exhibit we saw that had a family that virtually celebrated someone’s birthday and there was a hologram cake. I have zero recollection of this – the only thing I remember from that exhibit is the hydroponic lettuce. [↩]
I feel like I’m coming up for a short breath after being submerged for a really long time, knowing that I’m shortly going to dive back down. I guess this is what it must feel like to be a whale, if a whale lived in a vast ocean of work instead of water.
The things under which I’ve been submerged recently include, in no particular order:
finishing up the course I was teaching this semester, including grading all the final assignments, calculating participation grades for the semester, and submitting final grades to the school
completing revisions for the new edition of my textbook1, including proofing all the revisions we did
my actual day job, which is getting crazy busy as a Really Big Thing is about to happen and we have to be ready for it
But the textbook revisions and the marking are all done now, and those were two really time-consuming things that I was having to fit into my weekends and evenings, and the time available for working in the evenings and on the weekends were abbreviated due to the fact that I’m dedicated to doing my three days a week at the gym (which really is a big part of what helps me decompress when I’m so busy!) and I’ve been working longer than normal hours at my actual day job, due to all the work of preparing for the aforementioned Really Big Thing. So now I feel like I have a few days where I can actually breathe. By which I mean “write a blog post about how busy I’ve been”.
Of course, this is just a short reprieve, as I’m about to dive back down into the deep ocean that is work craziness. As, I mentioned above there is a Really Big Thing happening at work soon. This Really Big Thing will involve my team (a) providing data to monitor the progress and/or outcomes (good or bad) of said Really Big Thing (translation: lots of people will be wanting to see the data we produce daily) and (b) having to provide support 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until such time as the Really Big Thing settles down into just a Big Thing and we can go back to our regular work days and hours. Which means that I’ll be working some early mornings and some weekends and also, since I’m the lead of the team, should any crises happen, I could potentially be called even when I’m not on site. All that stuff happens starting April 28th.
Also, I’m going to have some house guests around this same time! Dr. Dan and one of his students will be staying with me from May 2-8, as they will be in town for important work things, and then from May 8-13, my mom and my Aunt Wendy will be staying with me as my Aunt has an important conference to attend and my mom is coming along to visit. I’m very excited to see all of them, as I think it will be good for me to get some quality time with family & friends to keep me grounded when I’m not at the hospital doing my Really Big Things.
Image Credit: Whale illustration posted by Steve on Flickr with a Creative Commons license and whale tail photo posted by Vilmos Vincze on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that we are putting out a new edition. The original came out in 2012, which is like a million years ago in textbook years, so it was due. Nutrition is still a pretty young field, so there were a fair amount of things to update! It should be ready by the end of the month and everyone should buy a copy or 12. [↩]
Which I was just a co-investigator on, so I’m not saying I did the most work on it; was it was a team effort of a bunch of people and lead by someone else, but it still took up some time. [↩]
Hey remember that time more than four months ago when my kitchen cabinet door fell off? I *finally* got around to fixing it. I was really gung-ho to fix it when it broke, going so far as to buy replacement hinges at Home Depot right away. But then I got busy and somehow four months went by before I got around to trying to actually attach the new hinges to the cabinet and, as it turns out, the hinges I got were not the right ones. I’d bought ones that looked like the old ones, but when Scott and I attached them, the door wouldn’t close – it was off by like half an inch. My friend Heather’s husband Dwayne came over to help out and discovered what the problem was – the hinges I had gotten from Home Depot were made by Blum, but the hinges in all my cabinets are Ferrari. And apparently there is no standardization among different manufacturers, so you can’t just use a Blum hinge to replace a Ferrari one. After running around town, I managed to find someone who could sell me the right hinges, which Scott and I used to fix the cabinet yesterday and now I am the proud owner of a kitchen in which all the cabinets have doors on them!
And while we were in a fix it kind of mood, we also tightened the toilet seat, which was starting to become a bit loose. For this, we went to YouTube and found a video that showed us how very easy peasy this is to do:
So now not only can I successfully hide the contents of my kitchen cabinet with a fully functioning door, but I also will not slide off my toilet due to a loose seat. Hooray!
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:
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!
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. [↩]
Knowing about my goal to learn one new thing every month this year, Cath suggested we try out a sewing class at Spool of Thread in Vancouver1. I’d never sewn anything using a sewing machine before, and Cath hadn’t sewn since high school where she used a machine from the Stone Age, so we took the introductory how-to-make-a-tote-bag class. Our other friend, Stephanie, who has a little more experience than Cath and I, also joined in the fun.
I have to say, Spool of Thread is a cool little business. They sell sewing supplies, hold sewing classes to make things of varying levels of difficulty, and you can even rent time on their sewing machines (along with use of the associated space and equipment – a big table to cut out your fabric, irons and ironing boards, and all the pins in the world). The renting of the sewing machine time is a particularly good idea in a city where everyone lives in tiny condos (because who has room for a sewing machine?) – and also for people who have curious cats that love to sit on whatever you are working on at the moment (because who wants to end up sewing a cat into their tote bag?).
You could bring your own fabric to the class, but we all elected to buy some fabric there. There was an extensive range of options and I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to choose. The tote bag is reversible, which meant we had to pick two fabrics, and every time I picked one that I liked, I couldn’t decide on another one that would go with it. I. The end I decided to go with a black and white theme and picked ampersands on one fabric and stars on the other.
The sewing teacher, whose name I completely forget, explained all the parts of the sewing machine, took us through how to thread the sewing machine, and then step-by-step through how to make our tote bags.
As it turns out, the easiest part of sewing is the sewing part. Threading the machine, cutting your fabric, and pinning it together correctly take about 99.9% of the time and effort, but the actual sewing is relatively easy, at least as far as sewing a tote bag where you only need to sew in straight lines. And while not all my lines came out perfectly straight, they came out straight enough and Cath and I agreed that we are both better sewers than we are painters.
Here we at with our fabulous tote bags:
Cath, Stephanie, and me with our new tote bags!
During the class, when we were cutting our fabric, the teacher mentioned that we’d have enough leftover fabric to take the how-to-make-zippered-pouches class – we’d learn how to sew a zipper and have pouches to match our totes! He also mentioned that since we get the pattern and instructions for the tote bag, we probably should come back to rent a machine to make another one to reinforce our learning. And when Cath inquired into it later, apparently the zipped pouch course is more advanced, so we’d need to take at least one more introductory level class before we do zippered pouches. So they’ve really got a good little system set up from a business perspective because all of that does make sense – I do want to have pouches that match my tote and I want to learn how to sew more things and I kinda want another tote bag – and it all just so happens to increase their sales!
All in all, I really enjoyed my sewing class! I got to make something useful (I often use my tote bag to bring stuff to work), I learned something new, and now I want to do more sewing!
As usual, I have no relationship with this company other than that I am a customer. [↩]
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 on 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.