Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Trip to Newfoundland and Labrador

Except I didn’t actually go to Labrador, but the province is officially called “Newfoundland and Labrador”, so it’s technically correct to say I went to Newfoundland and Labrador without setting foot in the Labrador part. It’s kind of confusing, but there you have it.

Canadian Provinces and Territories

Map of Canada highlighting the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The island is Newfoundland and the part on the mainland is Labrador. Image source: By TUBS

The reason for the trip was to attend the Canadian Evaluation Society’s 2016 conference being held in St. John’s, NL from June 3-6. I won’t bore you with all the conference stuff1, but I will tell you that my sister and I did a pre-conference workshop on a project we’ve been working on together, along with her partner, Jeff, and it got a fantastic reception2. As well, I did a presentation on my big project at work that also drew a good sized and much engaged audience, which made me happy.

The most exciting non-work part of the conference was the screech in ceremony at the closing reception. Screeching In, for the uninitiated, is a Newfoundland and Labradorian tradition whereby people “from away” (i.e., not from NL) take a shot of screech3, say some NL phrases, and kiss a cod and are then declared an honorary Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Everyone was quite excited by this event and I have to say I quite enjoyed it, though the screech was probably the worst rum I’ve ever had and kissing a cod is disgusting!

Screeching in ceremony at CES 2016 conferene

My sister and I with our shots of screech

Screeching in ceremony at CES 2016 conferene

Me, just after kissing the cod (Didn’t manage to capture the kiss on camera). It was truly disgusting.

Screeching in ceremony at CES 2016 conferene

Official certificate to provide that I have, in fact, been screeched in. I will frame it and hang it next to my Official Irish Whiskey taster certificate.

Since we’d flown such a long way to get there and neither I nor my sister had been to Newfoundland before, we decided to tag on a couple of vacation days to check a bit of it out. NL is actually quite huge, so we only got to explore a tiny fraction of it, but we did get to:

  • Dildo: Seriously, there is a town in NL called Dildo and I made my sister drive there just so I could take this picture:

    Dildo, NL

    There is nothing in the town of Dildo. You pretty much just go there to take a photo with the town sign.

  • South Dildo: Somehow, I think South Dildo is even funnier than Dildo. Sadly, we did not see a town sign when we drove through South Dildo, but I took this screen shot of Google Maps as we drove through it to prove we were there:South Dildo, NL
  • Harbour Grace:My Great Granny Snow (my dad’s dad’s mom) lived in Harbour Grace when she immigrated to Canada from England, so my sister and I decided to go check it out. We had no idea where exactly she lived beyond the fact that it was a house on the water near some trees, which describes pretty much every house in Harbour Grace4. It’s not a very big town and we drove along the aptly named Water St, so we think we probably drove by where her house would have been. The day we went to Harbour Grace was my dad’s birthday. While we were looking around we saw a big church that we wanted to check out, but it turned out to be under renovation and had a gate with a “no trespassing” sign on it. Anyone who knew my father will tell you that he viewed a “no trespassing” or “do not enter” sign as not so much a notice that you should not go to that place, but as an indication that you probably should. “They wouldn’t put a sign up saying to “stay out” unless there was something good in there that you would want to see!” he used to say. So I decided to take this photo in his memory5.
    Trespassing in Harbour Grace, NL

    Me, trespassing in Harbour Grace, on my Dad’s birthday. He would be proud!

    My sister said she was spending her vacation driving around taking photos of me for my blog. She was not wrong in this statement.))

  • The Easternmost Point of North America: which is in a place called Cape Spear, which is quite close to St. John’s. Though, as my friend Linda (who was the first person to mention this place to me as a place to go) pointed out, you aren’t *actually* at the most eastern point since this viewing spot that says “You are at the Easternmost point of North America” is not actually at the shoreline, but I think this can be considered the easternmost point of North America that you can safely go to, as that ocean looks scary! So I say it still counts. I took a selfie of me there because of course I did.Me at the eastern most point in North America, at Cape Spear, NLCape Spear also has a cool old lighthouse that you can visit and learn about how the light keepers lived in the old timey days (as well as a new, functioning light house that still provides signals to ships that they are getting close to St. John’s Harbour and also don’t come over this way because it’s super rocky) because GPS can fail you sometimes.

    Cape Spear, NL

    This is the new lighthouse. I didn’t get a good photo of the old timey lighthouse, though we did go into it.

  • The Eastern Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway*: While we were meandering around NL, I got a Facebook reminder that three years ago today, I was at the Pacific Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway.
    Beth at the Pacific Terminus of the Transcanada Highway

    Three years ago

    So I thought it would be super cool to go to the Eastern Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway on the same date! Unfortunately, there isn’t a marker anywhere to show you where the Trans Canada Highway ends in St. John’s – it just sort of ends out of nowhere:

    TCH eastern terminus

    So I took a bunch of selfies as my sister drove through that section and so one of these photos has to be correct. They basically all look like this:

    Driving through the eastern terminus of the Trans Canada Highway

    At the Eastern Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway. Probably.

  • Snow’s Lane: While we were looking for the eastern terminus of the Trans Canada Highway, we noticed on the map that there was a street called “Snow’s Lane”. So naturally we had to go there. The road itself was nothing much, but at least we can say we’ve been there!Snow's Lane in St. John's, NL
  • Signal Hill: This was the hill upon which Marconi received the first ever trans-Atlantic radio signal6Signal Hill

Other random things about our trip:

  • Every restaurant we went to in St. John’s was fantastic! My favourites were Yellowbelly – a brew pub that makes the best french fries I’ve ever eaten and a pretty solid wheat ale – and Oliver’s – a fancier place where we had amazing sea scallops, I had a bourbon chicken and risotto to die for, while my sister had Atlantic salmon7, and we shared a delicious creme brûlée. Other great restaurants included the Celtic Hearth (my sister got a turkey soup that was like homemade, I got an excellent club sandwich on the freshest of breads, and I tried Quidi Vidi Iceberg beer, which is made from water harvested from icebergs! At first sip, Iceberg seems like a meh lager, but then a fraction of a second later it hits you with an outstanding flavour8. I highly recommend it!
  • It was bloody cold in St. John’s, to the point that on Wednesday it felt like biting winter cold. We were told it was unseasonably cold and it wasn’t helped by the knowledge that I was missing out on 30 degree9 weather back home in Vancouver!
  • I took this photo for my Uncle Harry. Don’t know what Harold Snow of Newfoundland was advertising, as this sign literally just said his name:IMG_2720

When I set foot in St. John’s, I officially completed my quest to visit every Canadian province. Now I just need to visit the two territories that I haven’t been to yet (Yukon and Nunavut) and I’ll have been to every part of the country!

  1. If you are interested in reading about that, you can check out my professional blog where I will be writing about that in the coming days – I’ll update the link to the specific blog posting once I post it. []
  2. I’ll probably blog about it more once it’s ready for prime time – right now it’s in a beta phase. []
  3. i.e., crappy Newfoundland rum/ []
  4. Not to mention that it’s entirely possible that the house isn’t there anymore []
  5. And, of course, to add to my collection of me doing things that signs say not to do. []
  6. For some reason, I always thought he sent the first trans-Atlantic radio signal, but he did not – he received it. []
  7. I’m a bit of a salmon snob, in that I much prefer Pacific salmon. I tried some of my sister Atlantic salmon, just in case the Atlantic stuff is better when it is fresh (which I don’t get in Vancouver), but it just isn’t as good as the Pacific stuff, imho []
  8. I’m sure the water harvested from an iceberg thing is gimmick rather than being what makes the beer awesome, but it really is an awesome beer. []
  9. Celsius. []

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One Week Today….

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

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

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

St. John's forecast

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

Vancouver forecast

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

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We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!

In fact, I haven’t been in Kansas in more 3 weeks1! Hopefully I can remember all the stuff I wanted to blog about it2!

  • I added FOUR new states to the list of states to which I have been: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. The first and last of those were just in airports, but technically I was in those states, so I’m counting them.
  • And speaking of technicalities, I can now check off “go to Chicago” on my 101 list, as I had a stopover at Chicago O’Hare. Someday I’d like to go back and actually see the city, but for now, this satisfied the requirement. To prove I was there, here’s a photo I took in the airport.
    IMG_0193
  • And speaking of photos I took in airports, here’s a photo I took in the Denver airport.
    IMG_0219
    You’d think that would be a photo from Kansas, what with all the house-lifting, witch-crushing tornadoes they have there, but nope, that was Denver.
  • And speaking of Kansas, a few of my colleagues were surprised to learn that the Kansas City we were going to was not in Kansas. I’m not sure why I knew there were two Kansases, one of which was in Missouri, but it probably has to do with my being a huge baseball fan as a kid and the Kansas City Royals playing in Missouri. What I didn’t realize was that the two Kansas Cities are right next to each other, separated by the Missouri River in the north and by the aptly named State Line Road in the south. During our time at the conference, my colleagues and I waxed poetic about wanting to go to Kansas City, Kansas, which seemed like it made more sense than Kansas City, Not in Kansas. On our last full day, we had time between the last conference session and the evening conference party, so we decided to grab a cab to the outlets to go shopping. On the way there, we went over a bridge and, knowing that Kansas City was separated from Kansas City by a river, I was like, “Hey, are we going to Kansas?” And indeed we were. So we got our wish to go to Kansas, which we were mostly wishing to do so that we could later say “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” Which we did.
  • And speaking of the conference party, it was quite an event. The conference itself was massive – with 11,000 conference delegates, it apparently brought more than $11 million to the local KC economy for a 3-day conference! – and the party was no exception. They closed off the club district of Kansas City, located in the KC Power & Light District, just for the conference delegates. This area has a bunch of restaurants on the ground level, and then a bunch of clubs on the second level, all surrounding a giant courtyard where they had a concert. Here’s a photo, though it really doesn’t do justice to the size of it (while lots of people were outside at the concert, all the clubs and restaurants were also full).
    IMG_0208
  • And speaking of restaurants, before I went to KC, lots of people told me that KC is famous for BBQ, but I only got to try one BBQ place3, where I had an amazing steak dinner; the second night they took us to some museums and had appies stationed throughout the museums, but none were BBQ, and on the third night was the big party, where they had food stations in all the restaurants as well as in a giant food tent and there was where we finally got some BBQ.)) and it really wasn’t very good. I took one bite of the ribs and immediately said, “I get way better ribs at Re-Up BBQ in New West!”
  • I was pleased to see that weapons – concealed or otherwise – were prohibited from the conference center.
    IMG_0214
  • One of the side benefits of attending the conference (in addition to the conference itself, which was quite useful in terms of learning stuff that is useful for my job) was that I got to spend a bunch of time getting to know three of my co-workers. At work, everyone is so busy that there is rarely time to talk about anything other than work, but at the conference, we ate all our meals together, got to do some shopping, hung out at the parties, and I ended up being on the same flights home with one of those co-workers, so I got to chat with her while we were traveling too. It’s really nice to feel like I have some friends at work now.
    1. I just realized that the last time I blogged was three whole weeks ago and I talking about going on my trip and so you all probably thought I died in a fiery plane crash! Well, I’m happy to report that I did not died in any sort of plane crash, fiery or otherwise. []
    2. Naturally, I’m only going to blog about the non-work things, as I’m sure that though I find the minutiae of closed loop medication management and the latest in electronic health record sepsis alerting systems to be fascinating, you may have a different opinion on that! []
    3. All three nights had hosted dinners – the first night they took us to an Irish pub ((And they had Murphy’s Irish Stout at the pub – very unusal to find it outside of the southern part of the Republic of Ireland!
      IMG_0196IMG_0197
      []

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Trip

Wrote this on a plane on Thursday night. Plane arrived at 1 am. Then I spent the next two days having fun with my family and completely forgot to post this. So now I’m posting it from the Toronto airport as I await my next flight. Better late than never, right?

So here I find myself on a plane heading to Toronto and I realize that I haven’t even mentioned a thing about my trip here on ye old blog! But now I’ve got 4+ hours on a plane and, sure, I have work I could be doing1, but my brain is pretty fried from all the work I’ve been doing of late, so I figure I’ll write this blog posting now and leave the work for later, as there will be plenty more flights and sitting around in airports in the next week!

So yes, about the trip. I found out about a month ago that I was getting the opportunity to go to a conference for work. The conference itself looks fantastic – so many interesting sessions to go see and lots of great networking opportunities. The conference is being held in Kansas City, Missouri2 and while Kansas City was not on the top of my list of places that I wanted to travel to – hell, it wasn’t even on my list at all – I’m not one to turn down free trips to interesting conferences and I have been assured there will be excellent BBQ to be had.

Anyway, unsurprisingly, there are no direct flights from Vancouver to KC, so I started looking at flight options and, weirdly, I saw a flight through Toronto. I say “weirdly” because Toronto is not on the way to KC and that flight had another stopover in addition to Toronto, but at any rate, it got me thinking about tagging on a leg of the trip to go see my family3. The conference starts on Sunday night, so I first thought I’d fly out after work on Friday and get to spend Sat with the fam. But then I looked at the calendar and realized that Friday is Halloween and no way was I going to be spending Halloween on a plane! So I took tomorrow off and booked my flight for this evening so I get to spend Halloween at my sister’s place. Which means I get to go trick or treating with my niece and nephew for the first time ever! I moved out to Vancouver before either of them were born and have not had the opportunity to be in Toronto on Oct 31st since then4, so I am super duper stoked to go out with them!

Also, my sister bought a pumpkin for us to carve and, because she’s the best sister in the whole world, she bought a big, big pumpkin, because she knows I love big pumpkins (and I cannot lie.). When we were kids, my parents would take us to the pumpkin patch and my sister would always choose the most perfectly shaped, round little pumpkin she could find and I would picked the biggest one (obviously compensating for my own short stature by choosing a pumpkin that is bigger than me. Go big or go home, I always say). So it’s super sweet that she got us a giant pumpkin, because her own pumpkin preference is little and perfect!

After Halloween, I get to spend Saturday hanging with the family some more and then I’m jumping on a plane on Sunday morning to make my way to Kansas City. I have a 1 hr stopover in Chicago – Chicago *is* on my list of places I want to travel to and so I’m a bit choked that all I will get to do is run through O’Hare airport to catch my connection. That won’t stop me from crossing “Visit Chicago” off my list of 101 things to do, but getting to actually go to Chicago and see the city is still going to be on my list of places to travel!

I’ll be in Kansas City for three days of learning all the things, and then Wednesday night it’s back to Vancouver with a 1 hr stopover in Denver. And then back to work on Thursday! No rest for the wicked!

As per usual, let me remind any would-be thieves that I do have a house sitter who will totally kick your ass if you try anything, along with 2 attack cats and 4 vicious (not viscous) attack frogs. You have been warned.

  1. In addition to work work, I also have to make some edits to my online stats course, which I will be teaching again at the Justice League and I have a talk to write for a workshop to give to some med students that I was just invited to do today and I have a journal article that I’ve been meaning to start for ages! []
  2. Not to be mistaken for Kansas City, Kansas. Why the hell Missouri decided it was a good idea to name their biggest city “Kansas City” when there is already a Kansas City right there in the state of Kansas, I’ll never know. It would be like New Brunswick saying “You know what would be a good name for a city? Quebec City, New Brunswick. Yeah, I like that way that sounds!” []
  3. Once you are flying, it’s way cheaper to tag on a side trip than to book a flight on its own. I have to pay the difference between what my flight would have cost if I’d only gone from Vancouver to KC and what it cost to add on the Toronto leg, which was only $150. A flight to Toronto from Vancouver is usually in the range of $800, so I’m totally fine with paying $150 to get to see the fam! []
  4. The closest I’ve been was a couple of years ago when I was in Toronto for the Hoot and Howl fundraiser at my niece’s school and we had Thankoween dinner. []

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Prioritize It!

I am spending the next 3 days at Priorities 2012, the biennial conference of the International Society on Priorities in Health Care (ISPHC).

From the conference website:

The International Society on Priorities in Health Care was formed in 1996 to strengthen the theory and practice of priority setting in health care. It provides the leading international forum in which health researchers, clinicians and managers involved in priority setting come together to exchange ideas and experiences. We are proud to bring the Society’s 9th world congress to Vancouver this year.

The theme for Priorities 2012 is “Partnerships for Improving Health Systems” which will examine the interface between researchers, clinicians and managers, and how these key stakeholders can best work together to improve our health systems. The conference is a true international forum with strong participation from stakeholders from low- , middle- and high-income countries.

I’m super excited because this is a chance to meet people from all around the world who are working on similar things to what I do and to learn about some of the ground breaking work that is being done. I also foresee there being connections between what I’m learning in school and what I do for a living1. I always find I come away from conferences chalk full of new ideas and totally re-energized about my work.

If you are interested in the goings on at the conference, you can follow the tweets at #priorities2012!

  1. I have being making lots of connections already, but I feel like this conference will take it up to a whole new level! []

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On Being Vulnerable and Connecting

Recently, a coworker of mine shared the following video with me and I think everyone should watch it:

The speaker, Dr. Brené Brown, gave a keynote at the management conference at my work today.

It reminded me of some conversations I’ve had with a few friends recently. As you may notice from my blog, I talk about just about anything1. When I do something stupid or absentminded or just plain silly, my first thought is usually: “Hilarious! I HAVE to blog that!” But I know that for a lot of people, looking stupid or absentminded or just plain silly is a terrifying prospect2. People might realize that you aren’t perfect! And, honestly, I wasn’t always so cavalier about this. I used to be much more of a perfectionist AND much more concerned what other people thought of me. I’ve been trying to pinpoint how I made this change and after talking about this with a few friends and thinking about it, there are a few things that I think played a part in it.

1. Going through a divorce. When my marriage fell apart due to my ex-husband’s infidelity3, I was a mess. At first, I didn’t tell anyone. Thoughts like “Everyone will think I’m a failure” and “Everyone will think this is my fault” and – even worse – “Everyone will think I deserved this” were prominent. It was horrible to feel that way and horrible to be so isolated from my friends and family. I felt very disconnected and alone. But I was paralyzed by the thought that people I cared about would think poorly of me and would see me as a failure4. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. After working with an amazing counsellor – who I was willing to talk to about my experience, my feelings, and my fears because she was contractually obligated to not tell *anyone* – I took the step of telling a friend of mine what I was going through. And, of course, she didn’t think poorly of me at all. She was unequivocally supportive and caring. So then I told another friend and got the same reaction. And then I told my sister and she was amazingly supportive too. Bolstered by the support, I was able to “come out” as separated. Through all of this, I learned that (a) I have friends and family who are more amazing that I’d ever known, (b) sometimes you need an outside perspective to help you see clearly, and (c) when you open up to being vulnerable and tell people things that you fear might cause them to reject you, they often open up to you too and your shared experiences and fears and love will bring you closer to them than before5. And this is exactly what Brené Brown is talking about – the only way to really connect with others is to open yourself up to being rejected. And, in some cases, you will be rejected. It isn’t always pie in the sky. But in those cases, you learn who your real friends are and who aren’t real friends.

2. Long time readers may remember when I was reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Well, there was a line in that book that really struck me when I read it and has stuck with me since then: “You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” While we are all sitting around worrying what other people think of us, they are too busy sitting around worrying about what *we* think of them to be thinking all that much about us! I learned a long, long time ago that you can never make everyone else happy – it’s a fool’s errand and you’ll just be miserable if you try. Of course, it’s easy to say that, but much more difficult to actually feel it and act accordingly. But once you do, it’s very liberating. It means you don’t spend all of your time worrying about what will make other people happy with you and instead start thinking about – and acting on – what will make *you* happy with yourself. You are the one who has to live your life, so you should really do the things that you want to do with it, rather than what other people think you should do with it.

The offshoot of this is that when you are able to go through your fear of failing6, you get to do some awesome things! When I signed up to play hockey for 10 days straight, was I afraid that I might not make it? In the weeks leading up to the game, was I terrified that I made the wrong decision? You bet your ass I was! But I took a deep breath and did it anyways. And, in the end, I was one of the best experiences of my entire life.

A few of the other key things I took away from Dr. Brown’s keynote today7:

  • Motivation is about what we know/trying to get people to do things – and it’s hard to keep motivating people – that takes a lot of energy
  • Inspiration is about being. It’s about being someone that others would want to be like.
  • When we are opening ourselves up and being vulnerable, oftentimes what others see is a not a person being vulnerable, but a person being courageous to put themselves out there
  • We often squander our moments of joy by thinking “This is too good. When is the other shoe going to drop?” (Like when you look at your beautiful sleeping baby and then think about all the horrible things that could happen to them). This is because we feel vulnerable and we think the only thing worse than having a bad thing happen is being blindsided by that bad thing. So we try to beat vulnerability to the punch.
  • Research shows that those who are leading a joyful life actively practice gratitude. Having an “attitude of gratitude” is not enough. You can’t just expect to have a “yoga attitude” – that doesn’t mean jack on the mat. You have to practice yoga to be good at yoga, and you have to practice gratitude to make it work.
  • Guilt = feeling bad about what you did (e.g., “I made a bad choice” or  “I made a mistake” )
  • Shame = feeling bad about who you are (e.g., “I am a bad person” or “I AM a mistake.”)
  • People tend to be either prone to feelings of shame or prone to feelings of guilt when situations are bad (though you can’t measure this reliably in kids before about grade 4). Those who are shame-prone are more likely to not finish high school, to engage in risky substance use & sex, to be depressed, to commit suicide.
  • The best predictor of if a child will be shame-prone or guilt-prone is parenting. E.g., parents telling their kids, “You are a bad kid,” “You are stupid,” etc. leads to shame-proneness, while “You made a bad choice” leads to guilt-proneness (and yes, while guilt-proneness sounds bad, it’s actually the better way to be!)
  • We can’t give our kids something that we don’t have. It’s very hard to get your kid to believe that they are worthy when you demonstrate that you don’t feel you yourself are worthy.
  • Shame requires secrecy, silence and judgement to grow. Everyone experiences shame sometime (the only ones who don’t are sociopaths), but shame-resilient people name shame. They talk about it and shame can’t hold on when you get empathy from others.
  • The number one barrier to belonging is, funnily enough, trying to fit in. If you show up in a group trying to fit in (which usually means acting like someone you are not), if it doesn’t work out, you’ve failed at fitting in (and, really, if it does work out and you fit in, now you have to pretend to be someone you are not to continue to fit in); if you show up as your authentic self in a group and it doesn’t work out, you still succeeded because your goal was just to be you.
  • If you can honestly say “I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” then you’ve lost your capacity to connect (again, only sociopaths really don’t care what anyone else thinks.) But if you are defined what everyone else thinks (or care about it too much), you won’t be your authentic self and then you won’t be able to connect either.
    • Think about the people whose opinion of you truly, truly matters. The list shouldn’t be very long. You should really be clear about who is on that list. And then don’t steamroll over these people, who really matter, to try to impress or please other people.
  • “Don’t try to win over the haters. You are not the jackass whisperer.” Stratton (in the book “Unmarketing”)
  • The three most contagious affects are: anxiety, shame and calmness.
  • People react in one of two ways in response to anxiety: overfunctioning (i.e., kick into series getting-shit-done mode) or underfunctioning (i.e., can’t do anything). When Dr. Brown first described these two, I thought, “I don’t do either of those things when I’m anxious.” And then she said, “For overfunctioners, it’s easier to do than to feel.” And then I immediately wrote down: “I’m totally an overfunctioner.” I think I respond to anxiety by overfunctioning both because it allows me to feel like I can have some control in a situation that’s out of control and because it allows me to numb out of my feelings because I can get lost in my work.
  • In a stressful situation, calm people: (1) breath. Seriously, they take a few deep breaths before they react. (2) ask a lot of questions. They don’t just start reacting, but rather try to sort out the information they have/the sources of that information/the accuracy of it, etc. (3) They ask, “Do I have enough information to freak out about this?” (usually the answer is “no”) and, if yes, (4) They ask,”Will freaking out be helpful in this situation?”8
And now, in the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, I’m going to write out a gratitude list related to this post:
  • I’m grateful that I work for an organization that brought Dr. Brené Brown in to talk to us about this really challenging, but really thought-provoking and useful stuff.
  • I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work through some hard times and come out the other side knowing myself better and with some skills to deal with challenges and anxiety. For this, I’m extremely grateful for the amazing counsellor that I worked with and my amazingly supportive friends and family.
  • I’m grateful to have a blog where I can write about not only the silly things I write about, but also about things that matter to me. And I’m grateful to have a little community of friends (whether I’ve met you in real life or not) here that I can connect with through my writing and then your writing comments and then our shared dialogue (and sometimes that dialogue even gets taken offline!)
  1. And, while there are some things that I don’t blog about (things that it just might not be prudent to put on the record), if you know me in person, I’ll generally tell you those things too. []
  2. Dr. Brown’s talk went into more serious stuff – not just funny, embarrassing stuff, but stuff where you feel like you *are* an idiot or a bad person. See the stuff about “shame” later in this posting for more on that []
  3. Gawd, just writing that out for the world to see makes me feel *really* vulnerable! []
  4. Which is kind of ironic, because it was my fear of being rejected by people I cared about that lead me to isolate myself from those same people I cared about! []
  5. And, in many cases, they are relieved that they can tell you something that they’ve wanted to share with someone too, but have also been afraid to talk about. []
  6. The definition of courage isn’t “not being afraid,” but rather “feeling the fear and doing it anyway,” right? []
  7. Some of which I already knew but were good reminders []
  8. Note that this is very similar to the Serenity Prayer. And honestly, even though I’m an atheist, I’ve adopted the sentiment of the Serenity Prayer in recent years and my life is immensely better for it. []

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Looks Like I Can Add “Blogging Conference Panelist” To My CV

nv-left.pngSo, it looks like I’ll be at panelist at this year’s Northern Voice conference. After three years of attending1, I’ve finally decided to actually take part in one of the sessions. But it’s not related to NTBTWK – rather, I’m on a panel of science bloggers in a session called “The Naked Truth: Canadian Science Blogging Scene” based on my blogging over at my science nerd blog. My fellow panelists for this session are:

and the panel will be moderated by Lisa Johnson of the CBC.

So if you are going to be at Northern Voice this year, be sure to come and check us out!

  1. Out of the last four years. I didn’t attend in 2009 as I had bucket loads of work that I had to get done, but I was working at the UBC campus, where the conference is held, so I kind of felt like I was there []

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Northern Voice 2010

Apparently I’ve caught the conference bug, because here I am at yet another conference.  I know I promised to blog about something actually interesting to my usual readers after all those conference posts earlier this week, but it’s my blog and I’ll prevaricate if I want to.  But for my *next* blog posting, I’ll talk about something that doesn’t involve me yattering on about conferences, k?

Not Dead Yet… Blogging by Alan Levine, Chris Lott and  Brian Lamb

  • hashtag for this session #BlogsAreDead and #BlogsAreAlive
  • Alan talking about how when he started going to NV, he would blog every single thing that happened, but now at the end of the day he tries to write stuff up – there’s Twitter, etc. to say stuff that we used to say on our blogs
  • people comment on his blog in Facebook, completely detached from his blog – I hate that too!  I wish there were a way to disable comments on my blog postings in FB and a way to direct people to comment on my blog instead
  • “I won’t ever delete my Facebook account because I’m endlessly fascinated by what’s happening in the lives of people I went to high school with” </sarcasm> Brian Lamb
  • companies like eHow.com commission ultracheap articles on topics that are searched for on Google to drive traffic to their sites
  • blogs are dead because they’ve become uninteresting – Chris Lott
  • divided attention – FB, Twitter, YouTube  “Life is just what we concentrate our attention on” (I missed who it was that said this)
  • “blogs are an artistic medium” – Chris Lott [cool. I’m adding “artist” to my resume]
  • Derek commented: My blog is still there. I have control over it.  I treat Twitter and Facebook like they are disposable.  They could be gone any day.
  • Alan: blogs are a record – for those of us with bad memories, we can search our blogs to see what we were interested in a month ago, a year ago
  • people use WordPress as a web publishing medium (e.g., businesses, artists)
  • Tris: confusing the technology (just a way to quickly write on the web) with the activity (e.g., we can use it for a variety of things)
  • bavatuesdays – “a spot of genuine lunacy” – it’s *his* space
  • Brian: If I have a good conversational exchange on Twitter, I can’t go back and find it. Twitter search = no good
  • From the audience: “But is it [blogs] as durable as paper? Will they find it in 1000 years?]
  • From the audience: “I’m writing blogs for my young children but by the time they are on the web, the web will be completely different” – Brian:  you can easily export your blog from most blogging platforms
  • Chris doesn’t care about durability – “I never see a fireworks display and think “wow, I wish that fireworks display could last forever and I could share it with my kids.” [I disagree with this analogy – although he probably was intentionally being flippant. I  use my blog as a sort of repository for my thoughts that I do go back to.  Hell, I’m blogging this so I can remember it later!]
  • “yesterday, Brian made a very cogent argument that bloggers are always trying to conform” because everyone wants to get traffic, so they blog about what everyone else is searching for –> a very homogeneous set of blogs – Chris Lott
  • “If Scoble says “blogs are dead,” that means they are alive” – Chris Lott
  • the Internet is being built by corporations into a “commodified sewer” – “Program or Be Programmed” (from SXSW – can find it on YouTube)

A Four-Letter Word Called Sex by Danielle Sipple, Monca Hamburg and Steffani Cameron

  • Monica: it’s ok with society if a company commoditizes women to sell a product, but if a woman commoditizes herself (e.g., sex work) it’s considered horrible/she’s a slut/she’s stupid
  • cuntinglinguist.com
  • Darren (the moderator) is Googling the stuff that the speakers or audience members are talking about on the screen – I need to steal this technique sometime, ‘cuz it’s very cool
  • abstinence porn – fetishizing anything, including not having sex

A Bridge Too Far? The Uses and Misuses of Social Location Sharing Sites by Travis Smith, Noah Bloom, and Ian Bell

  • Travis – “these tools let me go out and experience the world” in a way that’s more community than just on one’s own
  • Ian Bell – launching a location-based dating app soon [at first blush, this sounds like a straight Grindr to me]
  • more FourSquare users than Gowalla (at the moment) – though varies by location (true for Vancouver, but Gowalla more popular in, for example, Holland)
  • Facebook is talking about updating your status with your location (and probably will do this automatically and you’ll have to “opt out” – if you know about it)
  • we don’t really know why people check in on these services
  • experimentation, we don’t know what the value will be
  • safety – example – the 15 year old who was sexually assaulted by an older man who connected with him on Grindr

Awesome-izing Your Podcast: Secrets From Radio by Tod Maffin

  • Poll Everywhere.com – freaking cool – lets people text their vote and the poll shows up on your slide
  • good radio shows and podcasts just have “it” – “it” is hard to define – but Tod’s going to deconstruct it for us
  • the art had to confirm to the medium (e.g., Ethel Murman had to belt out her songs because it was in a big theatre; radio came on the scene and the family would sit around the radio and listen to it; when transistors came on the scene, big singers belting out their songs would blow transistors –> crooning)
  • then TV came only – smaller families than previous generations sitting around the TV
  • now when you listen to the radio, you are driving your car or doing chores – radio shifted to background (you don’t sit around the radio and listen to a show anymore)
  • now podcasts – shifting from giant theatre audiences to a single person listening to a single individual – increased intimacy
  • “when you are podcasting, you are *literally in someone’s ears”
  • so if you say “hello everyone” in a podcast, it’s not intimate – it’s a mismatch between you (as a podcaster) thinking of your audience as one big group to a bunch of individuals each listening to you on their own – you can say “you” instead of “everyone”
  • you don’t want your podcast to be background
  • “it” = intimate
  • Vin Scelsa – intimate  – feel like you are there with him
  • Ira Glass – leans right into the microphone (not projecting his “broadcaster” voice)
  • “it” breathes (often podcasters edit out every breath and “um” and “uh” and the result is frenetically paced and doesn’t sound natural.)  Breath is emotional punctuation.
  • “it” seeks the universal truth – tries to find the overarching message or greater meaning of the story you are sharing – something people can connect with
  • flipping back and forth between the narrative and the universal truth is useful
  • “it” takes time – may need to interview someone for hours to get the good stuff
  • lapel microphones are good because the person forgets they are being recorded
  • “it” is everywhere – keep your recording equipment with you all the time (can even use your iPhone – broadcast quality audio) – “it” can happen anytime, anywhere
  • “it” does not abuse music – we identify music with things, so if you use music that your listener has already identified with something else, you will lose them – use music like movie scoring – simple music
  • “it” is phony – it’s a performance/production – but that’s OK

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Canadian Evaluation Society Conference – Looking for student volunteers

Since I’m apparently in the mood to promote events, I wanted to let y’all know about a conference that is going on in Victoria in May:

2010 Annual Canadian Evaluation Society  Conference
Going Green, Gold and Global: New Horizons for Evaluation

May 2 to 5, 2010 — Fairmont Empress Hotel and Victoria Conference Centre, Victoria

The CES encourages evaluators and related professionals to join this tradition of sharing a spirit of ever increasing openness to knowledge diversity. Evaluation professionals from governments, post-secondary institutions, private practice, non-profits, and the voluntary sector will come together to discuss, debate and learn from each other. CES members will discuss the latest developments in evaluation in Canada. As well, we invite non-members and evaluators from outside Canada to share information and their experience on evaluation initiatives. We expect participation from colleagues in health, education, environment, natural resources, social sciences, and economic and community development sectors among others.

Check out the conference website for more information.

Volunteers Needed!

Also, I just so happen to be the Volunteer Coordinator for the conference, so if you just so happen to be a student who is interested in attending this conference, you will want to keep reading.

In exchange for a minimum of 4 hours of volunteered time, students will have their registration fee for the conference waived (note: this doesn’t include pre-conference workshops or other extras).

The types of tasks we need volunteers to do include:

  • helping assemble the delegate kits (if any)
  • helping greet the delegates on registration days and throughout the conference
  • provide logistical support at each conference presentation
  • a variety of other tasks, as needed, to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Any interested students should contact me as soon as possible. Volunteer spots will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also, if you aren’t available for/interested in volunteering, but would like to attend the conference, there is a considerably reduced registration fee for students1!

  1. there are also reduced registration fees for seniors, and members of the American Evaluation Society and the Australasian Evaluation Society []

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Thoughts On Fredericton

So I’m back now from my trip to F-ton. And I didn’t even blog the whole time I was there! I must have been having fun or something.

I was there for a teaching & learning conference at the University of New Brunswick, where I gave a presentation & a poster on my work from my former job. The original plan was to have Tod meet me in F-ton after my conference and take some vacation time to tour around the Maritimes, but between the time when my conference proposals were accepted and the time of the actual conference, I got my new job and had to be back in Vancouver for a conference here this upcoming week, so there was no Maritime vacation for me!  But I’ve at least knocked New Brunswick off my list of provinces to visit, and off my 101 things to do in 1001 days list!

Random things from my trip:

  • The taxi system in Fredericton is very different from Vancouver. They don’t have meters, but instead run on a grid system, so there’s a set price for a taxi ride from the airport to the university. Also, the taxi drivers drive Fords instead of Priuses and use CB radios instead of GPS.  Which means that one taxi driver will stop another one to ask how to get to a given location.
  • Shortly after arriving at the university, I ran into Jane, a girl I knew from the science outreach program I used to run at UBC. She now teaches at the med school. And who just happened to not only be at this conference, but had the residence room right next to mine!  We had an awesome time catching up!
  • UNB had these signs up *everywhere* (despite the fact that it was 28 degrees C!):

IMG_4975 by you.

  • Downtown Fredericton looks *exactly* like Oakville, Ontario. In fact, I’m not convinced that I was really in Fredericton at all – I think they just added a few hills to Oakville and sent me there.
  • When Jane and I went out to find some dinner on Friday night, we discovered that almost nothing was open.  Downtown. On a Friday night. At 9 p.m.  (If anyone from Fredericton is reading this, what do you guys do on a Friday night?).  We eventually found that Mexacali Rosa was opened until midnight, so we had dinner there. Unsurprisingly, there is a Mexicali Rosa in OAKVILLE, further supporting our theory outlined in the previous bullet point.
  • Frederticton also has a Snooty Fox, which has the exact same logo as the one in Hamilton, right across the road from McMaster. Hamilton, of course, is very close to OAKVILLE.
  • Someone at the conference, who was staying in the same residence as me, was from New Hampshire.  Apparently they named their state motto after a Bruce Willis movie:

livefreeordie by you.

Seriously, who wants the word “DIE” on their license plate?

  • The conference banquet1 featured lobster, roast beef, or a lovely lentils-in-pastry thing.  Here are Cynthia & Jane about to enjoy some lobster:

IMG_4976 by you.

Unfortunately, there was no lentil bib for the vegetarians!  We were also sitting with a girl from the Netherlands, who had never tried lobster before. I’ve never tried lobster, even before I became I vegetarian, so I asked her what she thought. Her reply: “It tastes like nothing.”

  • Oh yeah, so I did got to the conference for the actual conference. Here’s a picture of me and my beautiful poster2.

poster2 by you.

I also gave a concurrent session, which I now get to write up to publish in the journal issue that will be generated from the conference sessions! It likely won’t be as entertaining as Snow, Snow & Gillis, 2007, but it will be good.

  • The theme of the conference was “Dilemmas” and sessions focused on one of four different dilemmas facing higher education (e.g., disciplinary education vs. liberal education).  The opening plenary speaker talked about the difference between an easily resolvable issue (just make a decision already!), a “problem” (things that are solvable – just do the necessary work to figure it out) and a “dilemma” (not really solvable  – must find ways to “transcend” the issue/move from thinking of these things as either-or and instead thinking of ways to find the best balance.  He was really big on 2×2 matrices (he even wrote a book about them!) and I think my favourite one of the many he showed was this once, used to help you refocus on what’s really imporant:
    Urgency
    Low High
    Importance High Long-term
    Priority
    Top
    Priority
    Low Waste of
    Time
    Out of
    Control

    ‘cuz seriously, how much time do we waste doing things that are highly urgent, but not really important?

  • I also got a neat idea for a way to help students learn to read scientific journal articles from one of the sessions. And since it appears that I’ll be teaching a course at UBC again (didn’t think I would with the new 5 day-per-week job out in Surrey and all, but I convinced them to make it a night class), I may actually get to use it!
  • Also got some neat ideas for helping students critically read things that aren’t journal articles (as well as helping your write things that other people might read critically!) from another session that I went to.  The book “They Say, I Say” by Graff & B was recommended during this session, so I’ve just put a request in at yee old Vancovuer Public Library so I can check it out.
  • And finally, from the closing plenary, a quotation that I really liked: “Cover less and let your students discover more.”

1The banquet was referred to as a “Maritime Kitchen Party,” but it seemed like pretty much every banquet I’ve ever been to other than (a) they served lobster, (b) people were dressed causally instead of in formal wear and (c) they had a live Celtic band. (The band was really good, for the record). I guess it’s hard to replicate a true kitchen party with 475 people.
2Props to Tod for the design work on that poster!