Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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For The Record

In tangentially related news to yesterday’s posting (in that it’s about hockey), I’ve been meaning to post the following two screenshots from the summer season. First up is the stats for the regular season and would you look at that, my name is right at the top1!

Team Leader for Points! Summer 2017

This is the first time I’ve *ever* been the points leader on my team and, since it very may well be the *only* time that ever happens, I figured I should capture it for posterity. I would also like to add that the number of goals I scored is in error – I actually got three, but my third goal was credited to someone else on the team by mistake (the refs and/or scorekeepers don’t always record these things correctly). Which means I should have been second highest goal scorer as well (and the first highest of our regular players, as the person who got the most goals on our team was a spare who scored all of those goals in the one game they played for us). Unless of course one of the other people who are recorded as having 2 goals also had one of their goals erroneously credited to someone else.

Next up is the stats for the playoffs, and would you look at that, there I am at the top again!Team Leader for Points! Summer Playoffs 2017Unfortunately, there was also a scorekeeping error here, as the goal they credited me with was not my goal – it was someone else’s that they gave to me by mistake. So really, it should be a four-way tie for points leaders for the playoffs, with 4 of us each having 1 point (We only played two playoff games before we got knocked out, so not really a lot of opportunity to score goals, especially given that we were last place and we played both our games against first place.) But I still was one of those people, as I got an assist in the first game, so it’s not technically incorrect for me to be at the top of this list.

Now, what accounts for this spectacular showing on the scoreboard, after what feels like ages of me getting very, very few points? I think that it’s probably the fact that I got a new stick:

But also I have been working out 3 days a week for six months now, so I’m pretty sure that’s not hurting either. At any rate, here’s hoping it continues into this season – I am currently tied for second place (with three other people at 1 point each) for points this season so far (though at only 3 games into the season, it’s probably too early to be bragging about such things. Probably.).

  1. Ignore the fact that there was a very, very low number of goals scored by my team in this 14 game season. That’s not what’s important here, people! []

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Beth and Sidney’s Excellent Adventure

So I have a new hockey team this season – we are called the Penguins! On this team, they have a tradition. The player of the game is awarded a Sidney Crosby stuffy, which they get to keep until the next game. And during that time they must take Sidney on an adventure, which they must photograph and send to the team. Apparently Sidney has gone on a variety of adventures – he’s gone mountain biking, he’s gone to the spa, he’s played dress up, he’s gone for an acupuncture treatment, and so on.

Well, as luck would have it, I was awarded this great honour in my second game on the team, which we played this past Sunday. The honour was bestowed upon me for scoring a goal with just 4 seconds left in the game. The goal was one for the highlight reel – a beautiful wrist shot, top shelf! Or perhaps I just skated up to the goalie, who quite possibly wasn’t expecting anything to actual happen in the last 4 seconds of the game, took a shot right at her which she easily stopped, but it fell between her knees and then when I kept skating towards her hoping to poke at the rebound, she fell over backwards and knocked the puck into her own net. It could have been either of these things, really. I guess we’ll never know! At any rate, my teammate kindly named me player of the game for my never-give-up attitude and making the other team’s goalie, who was quite spectacular all game, look silly. And so it was that I brought this hottie home with me:

Sidney came home from the rink with me!

Watson and Crick smelled him for an unusually long time (They smell pretty much everything I bring into the condo, but usually it’s a few sniffs and they are on their way. But the each spent several minutes smelly every inch of this guy!)

Crick smelling Sidney

Watson smelling Sidney

Now, I only had a few days in which to adventure with Sid, as our next game, when I had to pass him along to the next player of the game, was tonight (Wednesday). So I really only had Monday and Tuesday and I was working those days, plus I am teaching a class at UBC on Tuesday nights this semester. So Sidney ended up having a very nerdy adventure. He came to work with me (I actually had him at the table during our team meeting1 and one of my team members was like “He’s staring at me!!”):

Sidney

Sidney

And then on Tuesday night, he helped me give my lecture on business strategy and marketing:

Sidney gives a guest lecture

Students cut out of the photo to protect privacy! But I wanted a photo with students in it to prove that I didn’t just take him to a lecture hall and pretend to have him in my class!

And finally, we ended our hard day’s work with a fine beer from Steel & Oak:Sidney

  1. which I totally neglected to get a photo of. Epic fail! []

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Happy Workiversary To Me!

Yesterday was the my third anniversary of working in my current job! It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s been three years, as I still think of it as my “new” job. And as much as I can sometimes be frustrated with the bureaucracy of working in a big organization (while, several big organizations, actually, as the project I’m working on crosses quite a few), overall I quite like my job. I’m doing work that’s challenging, where I can see that I’m making a difference, and where I have a lot of leeway to figure out how to do my job best – it’s actually got the three keys to motivating someone to be a high performer (autonomy, mastery, and purpose), now that I think about it.

The other thing I really like about my job is the people I get to work with. Case in point: I found this on my desk the other day:

Workiversary card from my team

It’s a card, handmade by one of my team members, that my whole team had signed with some really thoughtful comments to celebrate my workiversary! I’m very lucky to have a team that are not only very good at what they do, but also a super fun group of people to work with!

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Car Part Edition

Much like the Plumbing Edition of Stuff I Learned This Year, this is a lesson I’d have been happy not having learned. It all started on my drive home from work on Friday – I was slowing down for a red light on Stewardson Way and my car jerked (sort of like it would if you were driving a manual transmission car and accidentally put it in the wrong gear) twice, and then as I stopped at the red light, it died. Like, it would not start. And I was on a busy road during rush hour! I put on my four-way flashers and called BCAA to get some emergency roadside assistance. Pretty soon, a couple of women came up to my car and asked if I need some help: “We can push your car around the corner and into this parking lot”. A guy from the business whose parking lot they were referring to, Kirmac Collision1, also came out to help push. Since I drive a Smart car, they were very amused at how light it was to push! I was so thankful that they took the time to stop and help me – no one wants to be the car that they talk about on the traffic report: “A stall on Stewardson Way is blocking the right lane, so there’s only one lane getting through eastbound and everyone just wants to be home already!”

The BCAA tow truck driver showed up in about 20 minutes, which is exactly the time the BCAA dispatcher had estimated (and was more than enough time for me to take over the Pokemon Gym that was there), and he was super nice. Here was where I learned the first thing of this adventure: the location of the battery in my car! Now, lots of things in Smart cars are not where they are in other cars – the engine is in the back and the ignition is in between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat, near the gear shifter, for example. Well, it turns out that the battery is located under the foot well on the passenger side! Also there was the tow hook for the car! I’ve never needed to check my battery before – it’s never been a problem. And the only other time I had it towed was when I had a flat tire and that time it was still under warranty, so I had Smart Car roadside assistance still, and they just took care of it. I knew the battery was working, as I could still roll up my windows and the radio was still working, but the tow truck guy tested it, and decided that I would indeed have to get it towed somewhere, because whatever was making the car not start wasn’t something he could diagnosis on the spot.

Now, I’ve never had any trouble with my car before and I’d only ever taken it to the dealership for its regular maintenance (while it was under warranty I had to take it there or else the warranty would be void and once the warranty was up, I just kept going there out of habit/being too lazy to find an alternative). Smart cars are sold at Mercedes dealerships, so you know that there is going to be a bit of a premium on their prices. But I really wasn’t prepared for how bad it would be!

First, when I called the dealership to say I was going to have my car towed there, they said it was no problem even though they would be closed for the night, the driver could just drop off the car and put the keys in an envelope with my name and number on it through the drop spot they have for just such occasions. However, the next day when the service guy contacted me, he was all “We have 68 cars with appointments ahead of you, so we can’t even look at it until Monday and I won’t do anything until you approve the $200 minimum fee to diagnosis it. Plus it is due for a major service appointment (replace spark plugs, belts, oil, etc.) and that costs $970. So with have halted everything until you approve the fees”. My first thought is “why is he making a big deal that other cars have appointments. My car died with no warning. Sorry I didn’t make an appointment for that!” And my second thought was “why would I approve $1000 of maintenance if I don’t know what is wrong the car? What if it isn’t even fixable and they just do all that maintenance on a car I’m going to throw away?” So I said I’d pay the $200 diagnostic fee, but not approve the maintenance before I knew what was wrong with the car.

IMG_4775On Monday, they contacted me with a diagnosis – the clutch actuator motor had died – and an estimate – $900 for the part, $800 for labour (including the $200 diagnosis fee). So in total they wanted $2700 + tax to fix my car, which is 8 years old and only worth about $4000 (if it weren’t broken!). So this made me an unhappy camper because I have a lot of more exciting things that I would want to spend $2700 + tax on, such as anything else. I would rather spend that much on pretty much anything else. Also, they would have to order the part of Toronto and it wouldn’t arrive until Friday, and that’s only if they placed the order that day (i.e., trying to pressure me to make a quick decision!).

So this is the major car part thing that I learned: what the heck is a clutch actuator motor? I knew what a clutch was from my years of driving manual transmission. When you drive manual, you step on a clutch pedal, which allows you to shift gears (or to start the car moving from a stationary position) – basically, stepping on the clutch pedal disconnects the running engine from the turning of the wheels so that you can shift gears; then you release the clutch pedal, which allows the engine to continue turning the wheels with the car in the new gear you’ve just selected2. However, Smart cars don’t have manual transmissions – they have something called a Tiptronic – with this type of transmission, you can shift the gears yourself, but you don’t need to step on a clutch pedal and if you fail to shift correctly, the car will just shift it for you so that the car doesn’t stall. In the photo above, you see that there is Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive, which in an automatic car and you can just drive your Smart as an automatic using those. If you want to do the shifting yourself, when in Drive, you push the stick over to the left (where the + and – are) and then you push up (towards +) and release to shift up or down (towards -) and release to shift down. I did this when I first got my car, but it just wasn’t as satisfying as driving a real manual, so I’ve driven it as an automatic after about the first month of owning. Anyway, the clutch actuator is a part that basically takes the place of the clutch pedal that you would step on to change gears in a manual transmission car. So, the fact that the clutch actuator died and was making my car not work was like insult to injury –  it’s a part that my car has because of a feature I don’t even use!

Anyway, I called a friend of mine who is into cars for advice and he said, “They are likely charging you a Mercedes tax. I know this other shop run by a good guy – they know their stuff and they are straightforward and charge fair prices.” So we contacted them and they gave me an estimate for all the same work (replace the clutch actuator and do the full maintenance service): $1200 + tax! So basically Mercedes was trying to fleece me out of $1500! So I called them back and said I would not be having them do anything more with my car – I would pay their $200 diagnosis fee and then have a tow truck come to take it away. He said it would take some time to put my car back together and he’d call me when it was ready. And then he called me back shortly after, said he’d talked to his manager, and since I’ve been such a good customer, they wanted to know what I was planning to do with the car3. I said that I was taking it somewhere else to get it fixed, where they are charging me a reasonable price and where they can get the part tomorrow, not Friday. He asked what the other place was going to charge me and when I told him, the guy says that because I’ve such a good customer4, they can match the price for replacing the clutch actuator ($1000 for parts & labour, instead of $1700), but he didn’t believe that the quote of $200 for maintenance (vs. Mercedes charging $970) could be right. “Are you sure it’s a full maintenance, with spark plugs and belts and everything? Are you sure it’s not just an oil change?” And I was sure, because I’d sent the shop the list of what was included in the list of things for maintenance. But he was all “nope, we can’t drop the price on that”5. And then he also dropped in that “We’ve found the part locally, so we can have it by today instead of 5 days from now”. At this point, I was just pissed off, and I said, “Well, if you can drop the price of replacing the clutch actuator almost in half, just like that, now I just feel like you were trying to fleece me! And that’s a very interesting coincidence that all of a sudden you found the part locally, once I told you that I taking it to another shop! I’m taking my car – please tell me when you have it reassembled so I can tell my tow truck driver it’s ready.”6

So that was Monday. They didn’t have my car reassembled until the next morning, but I got a tow truck to take it to Deckers Auto in Burnaby, who had the car fixed and all the maintenance done in about 24 hours, and the cost was right on what they’d estimated! And to put a cherry on top, when I got there, the guy was super friendly and helpful, he showed me the parts that had been replaced and explained what was wrong with them, and basically treated me like I was a person capable of understanding information about cars (which many mechanics do not do when they speak to women.). He also told me that my car is in great shape, so I shouldn’t have to worry about it for quite some time! I was just so pleased with their service and I will be definitely going back to them for all my maintenance from now on. If you are ever looking for a great auto shop, I highly recommend them!

Reflecting back, I have a lot of people to thank for helping me out in this situation:

  • the two lovely women who stopped to help me out when I was stalled in traffic, along with the lovely gentleman from Kirmac who helped them push my car. Also, the other nice guy from Kirmac who came out while I was waiting for my tow truck to make sure I was OK
  • the friendly and professional BCAA driver who came for emergency roadside assistance
  • my friend Tig who gave me a ride to our hockey game that night!
  • my friend Randy who recommended Deckers Auto and who talked with me through my options
  • the amazing mechanics at Deckers Auto who treated me fairly and professionally and who charged me a fair price for the work they did
  • my Dad, for teaching me about how cars work
  • my sister, for pointing out that my Dad’s legacy lives on through our tendency to call people out on their bullshit

Here’s a video of how a manual transmission works, in case you are interested:

Image Credits:

  • Cross section of Smart car showing engine location is from Wikimedia Commons shared with a Creative Commons license.
  • Gear shifter in my Smart car photo was taken by me!

Footnotes:

  1. Those of you from New West may be noting that Kirmac just so happens to be right next to New West’s craft brewery, Steel & Oak. And if I didn’t have a hockey game to play later that evening, I definitely would have meandered into S&O’s tasting room for a pint after the tow truck took my car away! []
  2. Here’s a simple explanation, if you are interested: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/clutch.htm []
  3. At this point, I was assuming he was going to try to sell me a Merc. []
  4. Interesting that they didn’t seem to care that I’d been such a good customer until I was threatening to leave! []
  5. Of course, he couldn’t drop the price on that because then if I came back for my next service appointment, they wouldn’t be able to charge me the hundreds of extra dollars anymore! []
  6. I was telling my sister this story and said that I wished Dad was here to help me deal with this car stuff – he is the one who taught me all the things I know about cars – and she said “It seems like he is. What you said to them was such a Dad thing to say!” I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! []

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RIP Kobo

My kobo1, appears to be no longer capable of holding a charge. I plug it in overnight and it seems like it’s charged, but then a few hours later (during which time it isn’t being used) and I see this:

My kobo won't hold a charge :(

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, as it is more than 4 years old and in electronics time that’s like 1000 years old. Plus I’ve not been able to get it to connect to my computer for quite some time now, which means that I haven’t been able to put any new books on it. I was hoping to read the books that I already had on there that I hadn’t yet read though. I’m in the middle of reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker. Though I can’t tell you exactly how far because my goddamn kobo won’t hold a charge. Guess it’s time to start looking at what’s happened in eReader technology in the last four years…

  1. Which I had named Luna, after Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. []

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Growing potatoes on my balcony edition

Last year when I made my herb garden, I learned that one could grow potatoes on their balcony. I didn’t get to try it out last year due to travel and balcony power washing that happened, but decided I would do it this summer. Fast forward to the May long weekend – Scott and I set out to buy some seedlings to plant this year’s herb garden and while at the store, I remembered the potato thing! I hadn’t remembered early enough to actually sprout some potatoes on my own, but fortunately one can purchase “potato seeds” (which are little potatoes that have been sprouted).

Potato seeds

Basically, you cut a bit off of the potato, put some dirt in a bag, and bury the potato cut side down.

Potato seed

Cutting the potato seed before planting

Growing potatoes on my balcony

Growing potatoes on my balcony

After about a week, you see the plant sprouting above the surface, and then you dump more dirt on it to cover the sprouts and let it grow another four weeks. And then you have potatoes!

As you can see, my potato plants are sprouting quite nicely:

June 4:

Potato plants are growing!

June 10:

Potatoes

June 14:

IMG_5865

Also, the bag that I bought to grow the potatoes in has am opening, which I’m assuming is to make it easier to harvest the potatoes when they are ready. However, such a bag also doubles as an excellent astronaut costume (as long as it is before you put the dirt in it):

Potato growing bag doubles as a spacesuit!

Since I still had more potato seeds, so I decided to get myself another bag to grow a second batch. But since the space suit potato bag appeared to be made out of the same material as Ikea bags, we decided to just buy an Ikea bag for less than $1 and cut a hole in the bottom of it!

Planted on June 4:

Planting balcony potatoes - second batch

June 10:

Potatoes
June 14:

Potatoes
In addition to growing potatoes, also picked up a bunch of seedlings to make this year’s herb garden1. For the record, this year’s garden consists of:

  • chives
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • marjoram
  • mint
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • tarragon
  • thyme
  • tomatoes
  • jalapeño
  • strawberries

Balcony Herb Garden

First strawberry of the season

Strawberries

Balcony Herb GardenDoes anyone know why this tomato is called a “mortgage lifter?”

Also, while we were picking up seedlings, we discovered that the garden store was selling  cat grass seedlings. And seedlings of variegated cat grass. And cat nip seedlings. So guess who got their own little garden?

Watson & Crick love their new cat garden

You can’t see it in the photos, but the cats are wearing harnesses and leashes because I don’t want them falling off the balcony!

I also toyed with the idea of growing a hipster garden when I saw that you could buy kale, quinoa, and stevia seedlings, but decided that the cost in money, effort, and space on the balcony would outweigh the joke. Of course, if I had, I would have to have bought the “craft” compost:Hipster dirt

Anyhoo, like last year, I’m enjoying having fresh herbs to cook with, as well as enjoying watching the garden grow! And I’m really excited to get to harvest some potatoes!

  1. I didn’t find a way to bring last summer’s herb garden inside, given that my cats would eat it all and that I really don’t have anywhere to put it all, so I had to make a new garden from scratch. []

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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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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Strength Training Edition

As you know, one of my goals for 2017 was to learn 12 new things – an average of one per month. First, I learned some basic toilet repair. Then I learned how to fold a fitted sheet. In that second posting, I alluded to the fact that I’m learning something else that required a bigger blog posting – well, this is that blog posting!

This goes back to the old time-y days of 2016, when I was injured so bad with bursitis that I had to walk with a cane for 2 weeks and I had to spend all of the dollars on physiotherapy for months so that I could walk again and I haven’t been running since then. When I was walking with a cane, one of my work colleagues told me that the best thing she ever did was after she got injured, when her physiotherapy was completed, she got a personal trainer. A personal trainer was able to help determine which of her muscles were weak and which were compensating for the weak ones and was able to give her an interesting exercise routine (as opposed to the super boring stretches you have to do when rehabbing an injury) that helped her get stronger so she wouldn’t get re-injured. And while I had made doing regular strength training one of my 2017 goals *and* I have a weight room in building in which to do said strength training, I spent the first two months of 2017 never lifting a single weight. And then I remembered that I suck at weight training because I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing when I walk into a gym – I need someone to tell me what to do1. And then I remembered that I don’t really do any exercise unless I have some external motivator2. And I also remembered that I dislike doing exercise if it takes much more than walking out of my front door to do it because I begrudge the time it takes to drive to a place to exercise and then drive back afterwards3 – it’s one of the reasons I like running! So I joined a gym with personal trainers that is about a block from my place. It meets my needs of being super-conveniently located, it has someone telling me what to do, and I’m externally motivated because I’m paying money for it (and I have to show up 3 days a week to follow my plan!). The place is called Strong Side Conditioning4

Strong Side ConditioningBut it wasn’t just the super-convenient location that convinced me to go to this place. I did a free assessment there where I got to learn about the gym and their business model, to go through an assessment and hear what a plan for me would be like, and to meet some of the staff5. The business model of the gym is that it’s sort of halfway between a gym membership and a personal trainer. With a regular gym membership, you would pay less but not have assistance in creating a plan or assistance with your training (like making sure your form is correct or helping you decide when to go up in weight or number of reps). With a regular personal trainer, you get all 1-on-1 training sessions and pay by the hour (and then maybe do some other training sessions totally on your own, following the plan they’ve created for you) – and the hourly rate is not cheap. At Strong Side, they come up with a training plan for you each month and at the start of the month, you get a week’s worth of 1-on-1 sessions to learn your exercises (in my case, I chose 3 days a week, so I got 3 training session to learn my 3 workouts) and after that you have 3 weeks where you drop into the gym at your convenience to do your workouts, but there are a bunch of trainers circulating to help you if needed. You record your workouts and the trainers can see how you are progressing and then they make up a new training plan for the next month and repeat.

I started on March 3, and so far I’ve had my three training sessions, and done four solo sessions. My assessment had shown that I basically use my diaphragm and my quads for everything and all my other muscles don’t do anything. So I’m working on releasing the tension in my ribs and quads and strengthening my everything else so that my everything else will stop being such a bunch of freeloaders. I do exercises with a variety of resistance bands, free weights, kettle bells, machines, risers, sliding thingys, and more, so I’m learning the proper form for all kinds of exercises and what muscles should be doing stuff during those exercises. There are always plenty of trainers around watching during my solos sessions to tell me if my form is right or needs adjusting and I’m already seeing some improvements (in that I can do more reps of some things and squat lower than I could two weeks ago). And the trainers I’ve met, which I think is most of them by now, are all really friendly and helpful and down-to-earth.

The only thing that I can say that I don’t like is that I wish they had longer hours – they open at 6:30 am on weekdays, so if I want to do a morning workout, by the time I get through my workout, go home and shower and get ready, and then head into Vancouver, I’m not getting to my office until about 9:30 am, which is a bit later than I’d like (and on many days, too late as I have meetings at 8 or 9 am). Similarly, they close at 9 pm on weekdays, which means that if I don’t want to have to rush through my workout, I have to get there by 7:30 pm, which can sometimes be difficult for me on a busy day. I get that the hours of operation are constrained by the need to have enough trainers around and it doesn’t make any business sense to have the gym open at 5:30 am and close at 11 pm on the off chance that I might want to be there extra early or extra late once in a while. All in all, having to get to the gym within their set hours is a small price to pay for what I’m getting out of my membership!

Anyhoo, so far so good. I’m sure I’ll blog more about my exciting strength training adventures as the year goes on!

Strong Side Conditioning

  1. Similarly, when I’m running, I always have to be training for a race, because I need a plan to follow as without one, I can’t seem to make a simple decision, like how often I should run or how far should I run on a given day. []
  2. Unless it’s hockey, but that doesn’t count because it’s so fun in and of itself that I don’t even think of it as exercise. []
  3. Again, hockey excepted. []
  4. As always, I haven’t been paid to blog about them, nor have I even talked to them about the fact that I’m writing a blog posting – I am blogging about them because I like them! I’m actually paying lots of money to go there! lol! []
  5. I also did a free assessment with a personal trainer whose gym is literally across the street from my office (Did I mention I need something conveniently located?). He seemed nice and all, but he charges by the hour for training sessions, so it would work out to a lot more than Strong Side (though in the end I’d get less service) – I liked the business model of Strong Side better and I clicked more with the staff. Also, the trainer near my work said he was a Philadelphia Flyers fan and said “I have to have a Canadian team too, so I’m a Leafs fan.” I’m not saying that I decided I couldn’t work with a Flyers/Leafs fan – but I’m not saying that I could. []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Folding Edition

One ofmy goals for 2017was to learn 12 new things – an average of one per month. In January I learned some basic toilet repair. In February I learned nothing. Ok, I probably did learn some stuff, butjust stuff that I would have learned anyway even without this goal (I learn new stuff at work all the time – it’s sort of the nature of my job). So to make up for it, I’m going to learn two new things in March. I’ve already started on the second thing – it will be a longer blog posting on another day (and it’s way more interesting than the thing I’m about to talk about). But tonight I decided to tackle learning how to fold a fitted bedsheet! Usually I just sort of roll it up and stuff it in apillowcase with the much more nicely folded flat bedsheet (and then leave it on the bed for the cleaning lady to change the sheets). And I usually do this on the morning of the day the cleaning lady is coming (and up until that day, the sheets have been sitting, unfolded, in the “clean” laundry bucket mixed in with all the other laundry I haven’t bothered to fold. Because I have more interesting things to do in life that be a responsible launderer. But then it’s always kind of bugged me that I was being shown up by fitted bedsheets. Surely I could master folding those things right? And on those rare occasions when I actually did fold my laundry, I’d end up with a big lumpy pillowcase in my linen closet. Boo-urns. So tonight I decided to actually just learn how to do it.

I followed these instructions from the Internets and lo and behold, I have folded a fitted sheet! It might not be perfect, but this isthe best folding job I’ve ever done (and probably will ever do!) when it comes to fitted sheets:

I folded a fitted bedsheet

I’m pretty muchMartha freaking Stewart.

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Kondoing my Condo

So I finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – a book by Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying consultant. Because apparently that’s a job. Her basis premises for tidying is that:

  • you should start by discarding a bunch of stuff before you even think about storing stuff
  • you should sort through everything by category (as opposed to, say, by room) in the following order1
    • clothes
    • books
    • paper
    • everything else except mementos (she refers to this “everything else” category as “kimono” or miscellany)
    • mementos
  • for each category, you put every single thing you own from that category into a big pile, then one by one, pick them up and use the following single criterion to decide what to keep (and, therefore, what to discard): “does this item spark joy in me?”
  • once you have decided what to keep, then decide where to store it
  • whenever possible, store things vertically and in drawers
  • store all of the same category in one place and one place only (e.g., don’t store some clothes in your bedroom closet and other clothes on your spare room closet)

piles of papers

On a general level, I can get behind these premises. I’ve held onto things that I never use and don’t really like for reasons like “someone gave me that as a present”, “I might need it someday”2, and “I paid good money for that”3 None of these are actually good reasons. When you think about it, it’s kind of silly to feel guilty for getting rid of a present but not to feel guilty about leaving that same present at the bottom of a drawer where it never sees the light of day. Surely the gift giver didn’t intend that for it to be its fate. The other two excuses comes from my cheapness – I would hate to get rid of something only to then have to go buy that same thing later when I have a use for it. But Kondo points out a good way to think about this – if you think about the cost your home, do you want to use it to store stuff you don’t like/never use or do you want to actually enjoy your space? It’s like my supply chain management prof used to always say: inventory is evil! And saying “I paid good money for that” is just the sunk cost fallacy – you don’t get any of that money back by holding onto the object and if you aren’t using it/don’t enjoy it, you aren’t getting your money’s worth by holding on to it. And, when you think about the cost of your home and your limited square footage, you are essentially spending more money to store it! If it’s a useful object, you may as well donate it so at least someone can get some value out of it. Kondo’s other suggestion that is useful in this realm is to think a bit differently about the value that an object brought to you. For example, you can be grateful for all the times you got to use a piece of clothing that is now worn out. Or perhaps a gift served its purpose by making you happy that the giver was thinking of you and gave you that present (so it’s purpose was fulfilled when you received it). Or maybe a piece of clothing taught you that orange really isn’t a good colour on you, so now you’ll know not to buy any more orange shirts. I think it can be useful to think about things in this way so you feel less guilty about discarding them, and thus it will be easier to let go of them.
Cassetti della memoria della Terra, sistemati e messi in ordine da Marie KondoThis, however, gets to the part where I can’t take seriously what Kondo instructs the reader to do. Basically, she tells you to talk to objects as if they were a person. Thank them for their service before you put them in the trash/donation pile. Say hello to your apartment every time you go home. Take every single thing out of your purse every time you arrive home and put it away, because don’t your objects deserve a home to rest in after they work hard for you all day?? How would you like it if you didn’t have a home?? Similarly, her rationale for storing things vertically is because the poor item on the bottom of a pile will suffer from bearing the weight of all the other items on top of it (as opposed to focusing on the idea that if you store things vertically in a drawer, you can see all of your items, whereas if you stack them, you forget about the item that’s on the bottom because you never see it, which is why I find it useful).

She also makes some outlandish claims. Like her claim that *none* of her clients have ever regressed to being untidy once they have followed her program. Or that if you follow her program you will lose weight, have clearer skin, find your dream job, have better relationships, etc. Of course, there’s no proof of any of this being what really occurs and it would far too easy for her to say that if anyone doesn’t achieve these things, they didn’t follow the program exactly. You didn’t take everything out of your purse when you got home. You weren’t sincere enough when you thanked that pair of jeans for their service. So basically anyone who remains tidy after completing her program must have done the program right, and anyone who doesn’t must not have done it right. She can’t lose!

At any rate, I feel like there’s enough stuff in the book that’s worth trying – I’ve already noticed a few items in my closet that I’ve thought “That doesn’t bring me any joy,” so I know at the very least I’ll purge some items that I’ve been holding onto for years. I also know that I have way too much in the way of papers and Kondo’s advice when it comes to papers is pretty much “throw all of it away!” She does make an exception for a few things that you should hold onto – she keeps talking about holding onto warranties (whereas I would have said to focus on keeping legal documents – tax returns, the deed to my home, my divorce papers, my will) – but for the most part, all the other papers people hold onto have a very low likelihood of ever being needed; if you do end up needing it, you can probably get that information online (or perhaps through contacting, for example, your bank to get an old statement should you ever need it). Even in the event that you need to do that, it will probably take less time than searching for it amidst piles and piles of papers (not to mention not needing to store all the paper that you don’t ever use). I think when I get to the papers category, I’m going to have a giant pile of things to get rid of!

I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures of my before and after piles and there will be a spreadsheet to track how much stuff I end up getting rid of vs. keeping. Because spreadsheets spark joy in me! I’m not sure exactly when I’ll start – I think I’ll need to find some dedicated time, as I think you need to do a category (or at least subcategories) all at once. But when I do, rest assured there will be photos and a spreadsheet. And probably graphs.

The Crash of 2016


Image Credits:

Footnotes:

  1. Am I the only one who finds these categories a bit unbalanced? I mean, it’s like she thought of three categories and then went “fuck it, plus everything else!” To me dishes/pots/pans is a major category, as is toiletries, but she just lumps that together with everything else in your home. []
  2. Why is it that so many of us hold onto old clothes saying “I might need it someday when I paint a room!”? You know how many rooms I’ve painted in my entire life? Exactly zero. []
  3. Just ask Sarah how much useless crap I transported across the country when I moved to Vancouver, as she helped me pack it all while I constantly used those excuses when she said “Are you sure you want to keep this [insert name of piece of junk]?” I’ve gotten better at getting rid of stuff since then, but I still have a long way to go! []