Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Stuff I Learned This year: Tableau edition

One of the things on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days is “Learn a new software program” and this year, I did just that. The program in question is Tableau, which is a fantastic software for data visualization. 

This was something that I did for work, as my team and I had to create a dashboard to present data that needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis. We were able to get Tableau licences and a place to store our dashboard on a Tableau server that the organization has, so we had to teach ourselves how to use it quite quickly. It wasn’t very intuitive at first, but once we got the hang of it, we were able to create some very cool dashboards.

As these dashboards are part of my work, I can’t actually share them here – they are limited to within the organization. But they are awfully beautiful and they are interactive too, so you can hover over things on the graphs to get more information or filter them (e.g., to see the data for different hospitals, or different units within the hospitals).

I won’t say that I’m a Tableau expert by any stretch of the imagination – several of the people on my team who work on our dashboard regularly are much more skilled at it than I am. But I learned the basics and I think that counts as a new thing I learned this year!

Image credits: Tableau logo was posted in the Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons license

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Stuff I Learned This Year Aeropress Coffee Making Edition

While I was getting my place painted, Scott and I stayed at his place. But Scott didn’t have a coffee maker – he only had an Aeropress. And thus I had to learn how to use it!

It was actually pretty simple, but hey, it’s a new thing I learned this year, so it totally counts!

Here’s all the stuff you use:

Aeropress

First, you need to put the little filter in this circle thingy (which you’ve put on top of a cup) and wet the filter with hot water:

Aeropress

Then you put the coffee grounds into the tube thingy, which you’ve put on top of the circle thingy:

 AeropressAeropress

Then you fill it with boiling water and stir.

Let it sit for a few minutes, and then press the plunger down to make the coffee come out:

Aeropress

If it’s too strong, you can put some more water in it (sort of like an Americano).

And viola, you have coffee!

Personally, I prefer to just use my drop coffeemaker, but this thing is useful when you don’t have a coffeemaker with you!

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Trademark Edition

Another thing I learned this year is how to register a trademark in Canada.

Did you know that for just $2501? All you need to do is to fill in a simple form (with your name and address, what you want to trademark, what goods and/or services will be associated with your trademark and how you intend to use it), send them $250 ,and then wait.

After you file your application, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), will review your application to make sure that what you want to trademark can be registered (e.g., make sure it’s not in conflict with an existing trademark). If your application is approved, it gets published in the “Trade-marks Journal” for two months, during which others can oppose it). If it doesn’t get opposed (or if the opposition isn’t successful), your application will be “allowed”. Then you pay another $200 to register the trademark.

Once registered, you have 3 years to use the trademark – and it’s a case of if you don’t use it, you lose it! After 15 years (and every 15 years thereafter), you have to pay a renewal fee of $3502.

So it’s actually a pretty simple process – assuming that no one opposes your trademark. If they do, you have to provide evidence and written arguments and it could even end up going to court – which I’m sure would end up being pretty costly!)

Anyway, it’s all summarized here on the Government of Canada’s website, if you are interested: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/wr04355.html?Open&wt_src=cipo-tm-main 

  1. $300 if you want to file on a paper form instead of online – but why would you, really? []
  2. $400 if you file on paper – but again, why would you? []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Drywall Edition

I’ve had my condo for more than four years now and decided it was high time to give the place a little makeover. When I bought my place, I only had a few days to move in due to multiple trips that were happening around the same time. I figured that the paint in the place at the time was OK – I didn’t love the dark brown wall in my bedroom and the beige walls throughout the place were not the colour I would have picked, but it didn’t look terrible and I’d also spent all the money I had buying the place, so didn’t really have the money floating around for unnecessary things like painting. But I grew bored of it, and there were some imperfections in the previous paint job (like brush strokes in a corner of the bathroom from where the painter didn’t do a good job of paint coverage). So I consulted with my good friend Lianna, who is a graphic designer, and she recommended a friend of hers who is a painter, and now my place looks so bright and clean! So while I can’t add “learned to paint a condo” to my list of things I learned this year, I did learn some interesting things through the process.

When I had my condo painted, my painters told me that the paper on some of my drywall had come loose in some places. I have never really given much thought to drywall before, but she said that it happens when you hang things on the wall and then remove them – it pulls at the paper on the drywall and over the years if you do this enough times, eventually you’ll need to replace the drywall. I had no idea!

According to Wikipedia:

Drywall (also known as plasterboard, wallboard, gypsum panel, sheet rock, or gypsum board) is a panel made of calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum), with or without additives, typically extruded between thick sheets of facer and backer paper, utilized in the construction of interior walls and ceilings.[1] The plaster is mixed with fiber (typically paper and/or fibreglass or asbestos), plasticizer, foaming agent, and various additives that can decrease mildew, increase fire resistance, and lower water absorption.

Anyway, no posting about home improvements would be complete without photos, so here’s the before colour: Hallway - before painting And here’s a couple of examples of the poor paint job done by whoever painted this place before I bought it: Bathroom corners Bathroom corners See how you can see the brush strokes where they didn’t fully cover the wall in the corner? Ugh!

And here’s the new colour – it’s called “Silver Satin”1: Freshly painted walk through closet

I decided to go with a fairly neutral colour as I get bored of things easily, so I didn’t want to pick a colour and then not like it anymore in a year. This way, I can add colour to the place by hanging paintings on my wall or have pillows on my couch and when I get bored of the colour, I can swap them out with different accessories. 

In addition to the paint, I also replaced the closest door in my spare room because it was ridiculously broken. It was one of those sliding mirror doors that you often see in condos and the tracks were so bent that you couldn’t slide the doors – and some of the wheels had fallen off the doors (probably from trying to slide the door through the bent tracks), and then a piece of the frame fell off too. 

Here’s the old mirrored door, with missing frame and opened because I couldn’t get it to slide closed anymore – plus, mess instead the closet: Closet in the spare room

Instead of replacing it with a mirrored door though, I decided to get something a little nicer. I was a tad bit worried that not having the mirror there might make the room feel smaller, but I actually think that it makes the room feel better (probably because the room is rather messy, so a mirror just made it look like a bigger mess!):New cupboard doors

And in addition to the new door, we also got a closet organizer installed, so that all the stuff in that closet2 is neatly organized. 

I have to say, I love this door a lot. Every time I open it and it slides so smoothly3, it makes me smile!

I still have a bit of work to do – for example, when we removed the track from the old closest door from the floor, we learned that when the place was built, they had installed the flooring around that track, so there’s now a gap in the flooring where that track was (the new door is only attached at the top, so it doesn’t have a floor track). So I need to get some stain to at least colour that spot to match the rest of the floor.

I also want to build a closet organizer in the front hall closet, which is currently a jumbly mess of coats, shoes, bags, and various other crap.

And I also kind of want to paint inside the closets because I didn’t bother to get them painted when I painted the condo, thinking “who even sees inside the closets?” but I have leftover paint and am now like “OMG, I hate the inside of these closets!). 

But those can be projects for 2019.

  1. And was just one of the 150+ shades of white that was in the big book of paint swatches that Lianna brought over to my place. []
  2. Which is mostly cat things (like the cat carriers and the timer cat feeding dish) and kitchen overflow (like the juicer, slow cooker, and various baking and canning items). []
  3. Unlike that godforsaken previous door, which was the bane of my existence. []

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Merry Atypical Christmas

Typically I spend most of my Christmas break catching up on writing the eleventy thousand blog postings that I was too busy to write during the year, along with reading books for fun and maybe watching some movies, and definitely Christmas baking. But this year has been a bit of an anomaly, mostly because I was asked to teach a couple of new courses next year, so I have spent most of my Christmas break developing course materials rather than doing all of those things. And my family did two different cookie exchanges before I got to Ontario, so my sister’s place was so well stocked with cookies that it was unnecessary to do our usual Christmas baking extravaganza.

In lieu of Christmas baking, I made some chocolate hockey sticks and pucks for friends and colleagues, and today for Christmas dinner dessert I made a sugar pie. Sugar pie is a French Canadian delicacy that I’ve always wanted to try making, so today seemed like a good time to do it.

 
 
 
 
 
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I made Sugar Pie for Christmas dinner dessert.

A post shared by Beth Snow (@drbethsnow) on

In lieu of reading for fun and blogging, I’ve read 1.5 textbooks!

But don’t feel too bad for me – Christmas was spent with my family, eating delicious Christmas dinner, and giving each other a crazy amount of presents (translation: I was spoiled as usual). 

And now I have 14 more days to get the first new course ready to go! Wish me luck!

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Merry Christmas Eve from the Future

My brother-in-common-law got a virtual reality (VR) game system for his and my sister’s family this year. So we’ve spent most of Christmas Eve doing this:

I mean seriously, if you’d told me when I was a kid that someday I’d basically be doing Jedi training in the living room, I would never have believed it! But here we are with computers in our pockets, a digital assistant that can turn up the thermostat with a simple voice command, and VR systems in our living rooms.

Merry Christmas Eve to you, whatever you may be doing tonight!

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On the twelfth day of donating…

And last but certainly not least in my twelve days of donating is the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (VOKRA). VOKRA is a volunteer-run, no-kill rescue organization that helps about 1200 surrendered, abandoned, and feral kittens and cats per year by finding them permanent homes (or, for feral cats that aren’t adoptable, through their trap/neuter/return program). While cats are waiting to be adopted, they live in foster homes rather than a traditional shelter. And, of course, VOKRA is where I found my kitties!

Watson thinks the new garbage can is good place to hang out Crick

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On the eleventh day of donating…

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank provides assistance to nearly 30,000 people every week! That’s a lot of people. And that’s just to support people in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and the North Shore (Other food banks serve people in other suburbs around Vancouver). 

And apparently the demand has increased 30% in the last 4 months. So now seems like a good time to donate to them.

22% of the people using the food bank are children. Another 22% are seniors.

Source: https://foodbank.bc.ca/about-us/

And while you can donate food to the food bank, the food bank actually really likes it when you give them money because (a) since they buy in large quantities, they can get deals so that $1 will get them $3 worth of stuff, and (b) they can buy what they need to have a variety of food available to people, rather than ending up with a thousand cans of the same stuff.

In addition to the traditional services that one thinks of when they think about a food bank (i.e., providing food), the GVFB realizes that “emergency food as a stand-alone is not a long-term solution. [Their] goal is to build strong, connected communities through the power of food, and [they] employ the principles of sustainability, education and training, and quality nutrition to achieve this goal.”

Some of their programs include:

  • Project CHEF: Cook Healthy Edible Food: “an experiential, curriculum-based school program aimed at children in kindergarten to grade seven that teaches students about healthy food”
  • Community Kitchens
  • Workshops
  • Rescuing Food from local businesses to distribute to individuals and organization.

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On the tenth day of donating…

Today’s charity is another blast from my past: Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Remember that time I played hockey for 10 days straight to raise money for them? Can you believe that it was seven years ago! Seven! So it seems like it’s a good time to remind you about all the good work that CF Canada does.

Source: https://www.cysticfibrosis.ca/

Among other things, CF Canada funds researchers who are working towards finding a cure. Did you know that the gene for CF was discovered by researchers who were funded by CF Canada, in collaboration with the US Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in 19891. They also advocate for better care for people living with CF, including advocating for newborn CF screening (which is now provided in all provinces except Quebec) and advocating for public coverage of medications for people living with CF2.

CF Canada is working towards a world without cystic fibrosis.

  1. Source: https://www.cysticfibrosis.ca/uploads/An%20Impact%20Story%20ENG.pdf []
  2. Source: https://www.cysticfibrosis.ca/uploads/An%20Impact%20Story%20ENG.pdf []

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On the eight and ninth day of donating…

Apologies for the missed posting yesterday! When I went to post last night, I found out that I couldn’t get into my blog! I texted the Overseer of Deb0rking and Tsar of the Nerdery, who figured out that it was one of the plugins that was b0rking my blog, so he deactivated a bunch and now I’m able to get back in! Thanks, Kalev!

I’ll  have to do some testing to see if I can figure out which plugin is causing the problem, but that will be another day’s problem. Today, I’m going to post about two more charities that I’ve donated to.

Eighth Day

First up is a blast from the past: Options for Sexual Health. Remember that time that I did a 24-hour blogathon and raised money for Options for Sexual Health ((OMG, when I just looked that up on my blog to make that link, I saw that it was nearly TEN years ago! TEN!))? 

To champion and celebrate the sexual health of all people in BC by supporting, providing, and promoting inclusive and accessible health care and education.

Options for Sexual Health Mission

Opt provides clinical services to 30,000 people every year and they are the “only organization training and certifying sexual health educators in Canada”! They also “supports the unrestricted right of all women to choose when and if to have children [… and] the right of young people to receive the sexual health education and services they seek, based on their informed consent.” I believe that work is important and that’s why I’ve donated to this organization. 

Ninth Day

Another organization that I think does really important work is the Centre for Inquiry Canada. In these times of misinformation and “alternative facts”, I’m glad there is an organization that promotes critical thinking skills and good science and basing policy on evidence.

Centre for Inquiry Canada fosters a
secular society based on reason, science,
freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

CFIC’s MIssion