Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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This sore throat really needs to go away

Frog In Your Throat Box 1So I’ve had a sore throat for like a month and it’s really, really over stayed its welcome. It seemed to have developed right when I got back from the holidays, so I blame germy people on the airplane. When I said I was going to get back into my running routine, I was figuring that my sore throat would be gone soon, but it seemed to just keep sticking around, which meant that I decided not to go out running in the cold rainy weather we’ve been having for fear of making it worse. In the last about a week, it seemed like it really was gone, but yesterday it came back with a vengeance1. Or perhaps the old one is gone and this is a new sore throat. All I know is that I am not impressed!

I had briefly contemplated doing the UBC Triathlon in early March, which seemed like it was do-able if I started training in early January, but now it’s February 3 and I really don’t think less than a month is enough time to train for one’s first triathlon, and that would be assuming this sore throat goes away right now, which doesn’t seem likely.

Anyway, this is kind of a pointless blog posting2, but if a blog isn’t a place to put my pointless whining, then what is? Also, I really like that photo of the “Frog in Your Throat?” cough lozenge package.

Image Credit: Posted by Infrogmation of New Orleans on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. By which I mean my throat is sore and scratchy again. It’s not like so sore that I think it’s strep or anything. But it’s annoying and I’m sneezing a lot []
  2. Unlike all my other blog postings which are *sooo* profound! 😉 []

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Race Medal Inflation

As you know, I’m rather addicted to race medals. And since I started racing in 2007, there’s been a considerable amount of what I’m calling race medal inflation. Race medal inflation has occurred both in the number of medals being offered and in the size of medals.

Medals have gotten considerably bigger over the years. Case in point: The medal on the left is from the 2007 BMO Vancouver half marathon and the one on the right is form the 2015 version of the same race:

Vancouver BMO half marathon mdeals - 2007 and 2015

Here they are shown with the 2009 BMO Vancouver medal in the middle – you can see that the progression has been a gradual increase over the years:

Three different years of BMO Vancouver half marathon

The other way that race medal inflation is occurring is in terms of the number of things you can get medals for.  When I first started racing, you usually needed to run at least a half marathon to get a medal – the BMO Vancouver Marathon was notably in that it gave a medal for the 8 km race, which was virtually unheard of in those days. But these days most 5 km and 10 km races offer a finisher medal.

Plus, races are also offering bonus medals for running multiple races – the Rock’n’Roll series of races does this a lot. If you run two RnR events in a calendar year that are at least a half marathon, you get the bonus “Double Beat” medal. If you run 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. RnR events that are at least a half marathon, there are bonus medals for that too. Plus there are themed bonus medals – like getting the Cascadia medal for running the half or full-marathons in each of Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. And my personal favourite was that someone I know was given the “World Rocker” medal for running two RnR events that were at least a half marathon or longer in two different countries – because he ran the marathon in Montreal and the half marathon in Vancouver, BC. That’s right folks – apparently RnR thinks that Montreal is not in Canada.

And finally, you can also now get race medals for running non-existent races. The Hollywood Florida Virtual Half Marathon was like this – you just had to send a link to show that you’d run a half marathon distance worth of running during an allotted timeframe (e.g., from an app like Runkeeper or from your GPS watch) and pay US$20 and you got the medal. I did that one, but it didn’t feel nearly as fulfilling as running a real race. Which is actually what kept me from going for the RnR “Bonus Track Virtual Run” – which only requires that you run *any* distance you want at some point between Dec 17 and Dec 31 and then pay them US$26, which, with the current US exchange rate, is about eleventy billion dollars.

I mean, it’s a super cool medal because the guitar pick slides up and down (!), but the fact that you could just go out and run 0.1 km for all they care, means you are really just buying yourself a medal. That’s no fun.

Anyway, all this talk about race medals is getting me excited about running actual races. I really should decide what ones I want to do this year!

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Pet Peeves, An Incomplete List

  • When someone answers one question from an email that had four questions in it.
  • When someone replies to an email that had one question in it without actually answering the question, but to tell you something totally unrelated. It’s like they want you to know they got that email, but aren’t going to answer your question.
  • When people send you an calendar invite in Outlook and then email and say “I just sent you a calendar invite.” I know that, because you sent it to me. It’s *directly* below this email in my inbox.
  • The use of the word “solution” as a verb. “We don’t need to solution that in this meeting. We’ll just flag it and send it on the tech team to figure out how to fix it.” “Solution” is not a verb. In fact, we already have a verb for this exact purpose: “solve.” Glad I could solve this grammar problem for you.
  • When my Skytrain arrives at Waterfront Station at the same time as the Seabus. Seabus people are slow walkers and get in my way trying to get from Expo Line to Canada Line. The only thing worse than when the Seabus arrives at the same time as my Skytrain is when the West Coast Express arrives at the same time as my Skytrain. West Coast Express people make Seabus people look like Usain Bolt.
  • People who step onto the Skytrain or bus and stop the moment they are in the door, with no regard for the person/people who are right behind them who might also like to board that train or bus1 See also: people who stop walking abruptly with no indication that they are about to do so, right in the middle of a crowd who is getting off the Skytrain2
  • When someone responds to an email that is not the last email in a chain, so they are responding to old information that is no longer relevant/has already been answered later in the chain. Read the whole chain before you respond, dammit!
  • When someone sends you a calendar invitation with the event name that is only useful from their perspective. Sending me a calendar invitation called “Lunch with Beth” is really not very useful to me!3
  • People I don’t know trying to add me to LinkedIn, but not bothering to actually personalize the note. Using the boilerplate “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn” tells me nothing. Why are you trying to add me? Do you want an informational interview and need to add me to LinkedIn to be able to send me a LinkedIn email? Did you read one of my papers or see a presentation and think it would be cool to connect? Did we meet at a conference 6 months ago and you are finally getting around to trying to connect (in which case, I probably don’t remember your name and face!)? Do you just want to add as many people as possible to your contacts list? If I can’t tell who the hell you are, I’m clicking “reject”, promptly followed by the “I don’t know this person” email.
  • The fact that LinkedIn won’t let me reply to people who are sending me invites to ask “Do I know you?”. Unless I pay them money.
  • The use of PowerPoint as a document . And when people project PowerPoint slides, but don’t actually use the slide presentation view, so the slide is smaller than it could be and all the menus for building PowerPoint slides after taking up valuable screen real estate. Especially when the font size on the slide is minuscule because you are using PowerPoint as if it were a document instead of a visual aid.
  1. I may have ran right into one of these people the other day as I jumped into the Skytrain car as the doors were closing. I said “sorry,” but I wasn’t really sorry. There was tonnes of room for her to have kept moving. []
  2. I actually once stepped on the back of someone’s shoe when they did this and their shoe came flying right off. It was an accident – I really did not expect them to stop directly in front of me – but I was not sorry. []
  3. Unless I’m having lunch with someone named Beth, which I’m pretty sure has never happened in the 38 years that I’ve been alive. []

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YHZ to YUL to, sadly, YYZ instead of YTZ

I wrote the following on the plane flying from Halifax to Montreal on Tuesday, which, as it turns out, was an unnecessary place for me to go.

On a plane, somewhere between Halifax and Montreal. My flight was delayed, so I’m going to miss my connection to Toronto City Centre – though when I got on the plane they told me I’d be able to catch my connection, but then we sat on the plane at our gate for eleventy billion years and as we were taxing down the runway the pilot casually mentioned that we’d land in Montreal at 8:30 pm (instead of 8:00pm, which was when our flight, with its delay, was going to land)… and my flight to Toronto City Centre leaves at 8:30 pm. Rather wishing that I’d just booked a direct Halifax to Toronto Pearson flight and made my sister drive all the way out there to pick me up – I figured flying into City Centre would be much easier for the pickup – didn’t think about the possibility of delayed flights! The flight attendant assures me that the agent will have already booked me on another flight by the time we land (“It’s her job to do that!”), so I’m hoping that’s actually how it goes!

Don’t really have much to report on my time in Halifax beyond what I wrote in my previous posting – Sunday was really my only tourist day – I spent Monday and today (Tuesday) in the conference that I’d gone to Halifax for1. It was a good conference and my presentation was very well-received, which was awesome. Made some good connections too, so very happy that I went there!
Now I’m looking forward to some time visiting the fam. I haven’t been to Toronto since last Halloween, which is more than half a year! As luck would have it, my nephew’s birthday is in May, so I get to be in town for his 4th birthday party. By sheer coincidence, I happened to be in town for my niece’s 4th birthday, six and a half years ago, so it’s nice that I get to do the same for Thomas’. I’ll just tell them that one’s 4th birthday is the extra special aunt visiting birthday!
It actually looks like I’m going to be spoiled with seeing family & friends over the next few months. I got to see Sarah a few weeks ago in Seattle2, and now I’m visiting Toronto, and then my mom and sister are coming to visit me in June3, and then Daniel and I are going to Montreal to run a full and demi-marathon, respectively, and my Mom (and maybe my sister and her family) and Sarah and her family are planning to come out to Montreal to watch (plus I’ll get to see some of my extended family in Montreal, who are also going to come out and cheer us on). So I’m going from not seeing family for more than half a year, to 4 visits in a 6 month period!
Now I’m writing this next part on Thursday at my sister’s place.
So, after landing in Montreal at 8:27 pm, I went directly to the gate agent to see if my other flight had left (I was hoping that maybe they too had been delayed), and she tells me that that flight regularly leaves 15 minutes early because it’s going to Toronto City Centre and the people in the city like don’t like planes flying there late at night, so to they try to get in as early as they can. But we put you on this other flight” and she hands me a boarding pass for a flight to Toronto. “Wait, this doesn’t say ‘Toronto City Centre,'” I say, “It just says ‘Toronto'”. “Oh yeah, the flight you just missed was the last one into City Centre. You have to go to Pearson.” And then my head explodes.
Seriously. If they hadn’t kept telling me that I’d totally my flight – or even if they’d told me that my flight to City Centre was the last flight of the day to go there and there was a chance I’d not make that flight – I would have just asked them to switch me to a direct flight from Halifax to Pearson. Because the *only* reason I’d booked through Montreal was to go to be able to end up in City Centre, which is way more convenient for me to be picked up, given that it’s in the centre of the city, near to where my sister lives, rather than way out in the boonies like Pearson. And had I done that, at least I’ve have gotten into Pearson at a reasonable hour, rather than at 11 pm. So props to my wonderful sister who went all the way out to Pearson to get me4!
At any rate, I’m here now and enjoying spending some time with the fam. Going for dinner with my friends Jen and Tanya tonight, tomorrow we are doing a belated Mother’s Day high tea and then baking an IronMan cake for my nephew’s birthday, which we will celebrate on Saturday!
  1. I did take some notes from the conference, which I quite enjoyed and learned a lot at, on my “professional” blog (Day 1 and Day 2), but those notes are probably of interest to no one other than me. []
  2. Note written after the fact – I totally thought I’d blogged about that, but now as I’m proofreading this posting before I post it, I looked for the posting and discovered that I never did post about it! []
  3. I have to say that the most exciting part of this upcoming visit is that my mom will get to watch me play hockey live, for the first time EVER! I didn’t start playing hockey until I moved to Vancouver and the times she’s visited in the past, I haven’t had games. She’s seen me play on the Internet, as the Longest Game for CF was streamed online, but she’s never been to a game in real life. I’m very excited for that! []
  4. Apparently they are going to be starting train service from Pearson to Union station, which is long overdue. It will cost $30 a trip, which is a heck of a lot more than a Canada Line Skytrain ride from YVR to downtown Vancouver ($9 – or less if you are exempt from the YVR Add Fare), but also a heck of a lot cheaper than a cab ride from Pearson to downtown Toronto. []

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Flickr Angst

Why is it that every time an online service tries to make an “improvement”,  they make their service worse? Case in point: Flickr. I’ve used Flickr for years store my photos and then use their handy dandy embed code to embed photos here on my blog. In fact, Flickr is one of the few online services for which I actually have a Pro account, because I like Flickr and felt it was worth paying to get the unlimited amount of uploads. Recently they changed their site so it looks slick, but seems way slower to navigate through and this morning while I was composing my blog posting about wine, I discovered that they fucked up the embed codes!

Prior to this, when there was photo that I wanted to embed in my blog, I just grabbed the embed code from the photo’s page on Flickr, entered it into blog posting in the Text edit mode and viola! – my photo would be in my posting. When you switch to the Visual edit tab, you could see the photo and it would show up in the posting and it would be hyperlinked to the photo page on Flickr and all would be right with the world.

But now, when you use the embed code and then look at the Visual tab in WordPress, you see this instead of seeing the photo:

If you “Preview” your blog posting, you just see an empty space where the photo is supposed to be. That is also what happens when you embed a video from YouTube – a yellow box in the Visual tab and a blank space in the Preview. So I posted my posting and discovered why this was happening. First, you notice right away that there’s a big Flickr logo stamped across the photo:

(I had to take a different photo to create that screen shot, because I fixed the one on the wine posting before I thought of writing this posting).

Then I noticed that there were little left and right arrows on the photo – you can’t see them in the above photo – I think perhaps they only show up when you mouse over the photo, but when you click them, you flick through the photostream from which the photo came.

So the embed code now results in not your photo being embedded, but rather it’s more like having a little mini slideshow embedded. Which is totally not what I want -I just want the photo.

So I figured that I was now going to have to grab the photo’s URL and then use that to put the photo in my blog posting and then hyperlink it myself… but now, after writing out that ranty email, I just noticed when I was inserting the above two photos the long way, that they actually have checkboxes for three different options to embed the photo: embed, HTML, and BBCode. So it turns out that “embed”, which they set as the default option, embeds the little slideshow, but “HTML” gives you the code to embed just the photo. So now I’m slightly less annoyed at Flickr. I’m annoyed that they changed their stuff to trick me into thinking that I couldn’t easily get the code to embed photos, which prompted me to write this long, ranty email which I’m far too invested in now to just delete, and I’m annoyed that I will now take me one extra click to get the right embed code. But I guess at least I don’t have to insert the photo manually like I thought I was going to have to. Hooray?

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You Know What’s Worse Than When A Massive Spider Builds a Web Outside Your Living Room Window of Your 6th Floor Apartment and Then Just Sits There Looking Threateningly At You All Day?

I will tell you what’s worse. It’s when a massive spider builds a web outside your living room window of your 6th floor apartment and just sits there looking threateningly at you all day for several days, knowing full well that you have no way whatsoever to reach him and kill him like he deserves because your windows don’t open (except for a tiny spot that is nowhere near his web) and your window is too high up to be reached from the outside… and then he disappears. Because now you have no idea where that eight-legged beast of pure evil has gone to and he could be ANYWHERE!

So, basically, I think I have to move now.

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I’m Never Going To Get To Sleep Tonight

WARNING TO DAN: DO NOT CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK!!!!!!!! And this isn’t one of those instructions, like most instructions in life, where I recommend not following the instructions.

This link contains a news story with a horrible, horrible picture of a horrible, horrible spider. Even more horrible than the average spider, which is already horrible enough.

I was just perusing the news, as one is wont to do, and saw this horrifying headline: New “cave robber” spider found in Oregon.

OMG! Cave robbing spiders?? What does that mean?? I had to know, but I was also terrified to click on the link, because I knew they’d have a picture of the damn things and that they’d give me nightmares. So I made Devon click the link1 and scroll it so that the picture – which I knew would be there – wasn’t on the screen, so I could find out what the what. Apparently this spider, which was recently discovered in caves in Oregon, had to be given its own taxonomic family because it “evolved so distinctly”2 and is the first new spider family in North America since 1970 (!), is called a Trogloraptor which means “cave robber” because it has “fearsome front claws”. First of all, what do claws have to do with cave robbing? And secondly, holy motherfuckingshit, a spider with CLAWS? GAH!!! Like spiders weren’t bad enough with their eight horrible legs and their penchant for devouring human souls? Oh, and speaking of devouring, apparently “scientists don’t know yet what or how it eats.” What the fuck? Doesn’t it eat with its mouth like everything else in existence? Or do they mean that they don’t know if this bastard will suck your soul out before or after it devours your body? GAAAAAHHHHH!!

OK, now that I’ve sufficiently given myself the heebee jeebees thinking about the fact that not only does this horrific, clawed spider exist, but that there are possibly other, as-of-yet undiscovered horrible spider atrocities, I’m going to go watch my adorable frogs play and try to forget that I ever read about this. *shudder*

  1. Did I ever mention what a patient man Devon is? []
  2. Whereby “distinctly” they mean “horribly”. []

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Fact Check, Much?

So I was reading an article on the CBC website the other day and I noticed something curious:

contradictory!

Now, unless the 2nd Canadian on death row was executed between the time that the first sentence was written and the time the photo caption was written, one of the two statements I’ve highlighted has to be wrong. It’s bad enough when a story has incorrect facts in it – but, seriously CBC, conflicting facts in the same article?

And then I saw this:

Tired of Being Referred To As MacKay's Wife

Now, in the first article is a bit surprising that they didn’t fact check from, you know, earlier in the article. But this – this is just a slap in the face. They quote Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay, a human rights activist, as saying that she’s tired of being referred to only as MacKay’s wife… and then refer to her as MacKay’s wife in the headline of the same article1.

Fact checking pro tip: Start with the article you are writing. You’d be amazed at all the facts in there. Ideally, these facts should not contradict each other. You’re welcome.

  1. And, yes, I realize that they throw the adjective “activist” in front of the word “wife,” so technically they aren’t referring to her as “only” MacKay’s wife. But, seriously. []

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Why do people insist on referring to all of the city of Vancouver as “downtown”?

Why do people insist on referring to all of the city of Vancouver as “downtown”?  I seem to have this equivalent of this conversation on a regular basis:

Me:                             Have you ever been to The Naam (or some other location in Vancouver that is not downtown) ?

Other Person:        No, I hardly ever go downtown.

Me:                            Oh, it’s not downtown. It’s in Kits.

Other Person:        ???

Then today, I saw this in an email from Groupon:

Kits does not equal Downtown

It’s called KITSILANO Laser and Spa Centre. Kitsilano is a neighbourhood in Vancouver that is *not* downtown.

There is a part of Vancouver – a very *small* part of Vanccouver, I might add – that is known as “downtown”. It’s written right on the map!

Here, I have annotated the map for you:

Vancouver

I trust this clears things up for everyone, yes?

</rant>

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TELUS

While preparing to move into our new place, I called Telus to arrange to have my Internet connection transferred. As luck would have it, they could have a technician come the very same day as we moved our stuff in. As soon as I had the thought, “Wow, things don’t usually go this smoothly with telecom companies!”, I should have known that I was doomed.

Error the First

Telus dude shows up on the afternoon of March 17, about an hour after the “sometime between 2 and 4 pm” timeslot in which I was expecting him. He plugs something into the telephone jack and then says, “Looks like I’ll need to get into the telephone room in the parkade.” “The what?” I say. Apparently there is some room where he needs to flip some switch. A room to which, of course, I do not have the key. “Why didn’t Telus tell me you might need access to this room?” I ask. Because the building manager who had been there a few hours before for our move, is the one with the key. “I don’t know,” he says. There’s nothing he can do, so I have to call Telus to arrange for another technician to come on another day and then coordinate for the building manager to be there with the key as well.

Error the Second

So I arrange for them to come out the following Friday evening, but since I’m going to be in class, I give them Devon’s number to call when we get there (because, as it happens, you also need access to that telephone room to hook up our apartment buzzer). So, of course, on Friday evening, I get a phone call from the technician saying that he’s at the building. Thankfully, I happened to be on my dinner break when the call came, so I was able to give Devon’s phone number to the technician. When I get home and ask expectantly, “Do we have the Internet?” And Devon shakes his head “no,” Because, apparently, flipping the switch was not sufficient to turn on our Internet connection – someone needed to flip a switch at some relay station, but when the technician called Telus to get them to do that, he just got a “our office hours are 8 to 4 message.” Why, exactly, do they send out technicians in the evening if they don’t have the support they need to do their jobs? Why??

Error the Third

So Devon arranges for a technician to come out again the next day. I, of course, don’t trust that they will call Devon’s number even though we’ve given it to them multiple times, so I keep my phone on the table during class and, of course, Telus calls me to say the technician is on the way. I manage to restrain my anger as I yet again give them Devon’s number. And then, thinking my job is done, I put my phone away so that I can concentrate on my very important1 class. And then when I check my phone at lunch, there’s a friggin’ voicemail message from the technician saying “I’m here!” Aaaaaaahhhh! Thankfully, the technician must have called Telus and gotten Devon’s number, because I called Devon and the technician had managed to reach him. And, after having to go to the freaking relay station himself, the technician managed to hook up the Internet. And he claimed to have hooked up the buzzer too. But the buzzer doesn’t work.

And Then There Was The Survey

So the other day I get an automated call from Telus asking me if I’d like to do a survey about my recent Telus experience. And I’m excited, because I think that this will be my chance to tell them how very, very crappy their service is. But it turns out that their crappy service is rivaled only by their crappy, crappy survey design. The survey consisted of seven multiple choice questions which did not even come close to capturing my experience as a customer. Some examples:

  • Did the technician call before they arrived? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no
  • Did the technician tell you their name and give you a business card? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no
  • Did the technician tell you when they were done? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no

Well, yes, yes, and yes. The technician… or should I say technicians, since we ended up with *three* visits from technicians since Telus wasn’t doing their job properly…. were all fine. But there were *no* questions like:

  • Did Telus neglect to tell you pertinent information like that they need access to a locked room that you couldn’t possibly have the key to?
  • Did Telus repeatedly call the wrong phone number, even though you gave them the correct phone number several times?
  • Did they tell you that they hooked up the buzzer, but they didn’t??

You suck, Telus. You suck long time.

  1. And very expensive! []