Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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What Have I Been Doing for the Past Month – a bulleted list

So now that I’m done making excuses for my prolonged absence from the blogosphere, here’s a brain dump of all the things I’ve thought “I should blog about that!” in the last month:

  • I did, in fact, have that belated birthday party I talked about having. I decided that since I celebrate Bethmas Eve, Bethmas, and Bething Day, it only makes sense that if I have a party after my actual birthday, it’s Orthodox Bethmas. The party was fantastic, if I do say so myself. I’m so lucky that I have so many wonderful friends and I love it that even though lots of my friends don’t know each other, everyone enjoys chatting and making new friends with my other friends. There’s also some of my friends that only know some of my other friends from having met at my various birthday parties over the years, so they get to catch up – lol! I also discovered that two of my very close friends, each of whom I have known for well over a decade, have never actually met each other! They seem to have just not had their paths cross before – even when they’ve both been able to make it to one of my parties, for example, one of them had come early and the other hadn’t come until later, after the other one had left. 
  • Rather than doing an elaborate house drink for my birthday party, which I often do because I love mixing cocktails, I decided to go with the simple Moscow Mule. This choice may have also been influenced by the fact that I had a bottle of ginger liqueur that I bought in Portland ages ago with the intention of using it to make Moscow Mules but hadn’t. At any rate, they were very popular.
  • Dr. Dan, and his grad student, Nic, visited for a while. It was great to see them, as always (I only wished I could have spent more time hanging out!). They got to come to my birthday, which was awesome, and Dr. Dan even guest lectured in my class at the JI!
  • I completely blew my weightlifting personal record (PR) that I set on my birthday out of the water. As you may recall, on my birthday, I back squatted 77.5 kg (171 lbs). By the time that particular program ended two weeks later, I back squatted 85 kg (187 lbs)! I also set PRs for trapbar deadlift (100 kg or 220 lbs!) and what I think are PRs for bench press (42.5 kg or 94 lbs) and barbell overhead press (26 kg or 57 lbs), but I’d have to look back at all my old programs to be sure.
  • We had a full day planning meeting for the Canadian Evaluation Society BC chapter executive last weekend and I have to say, I’m really lucky to work with such a dedicated and creative group of people. We’ve got lots of exciting plans for this year!
  • Work is crazy, as always. And that’s probably enough said about that!
  • On Thursday, my friend Alicia took me to see a performance of Much Ado About Nothing by an all female cast at the Cultch. It was hilarious! I’ve never seen or read Much Ado About Nothing before, so it was fun to get to see it without knowing what was going to happen. All of the actors were brilliant and the venue is so intimate – it’s quite a different experience than seeing places up on a tradition stage in a big theatre. It’s running until Feb 16 – if you can, I highly recommend you go see it!

How much better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!

Leonato, Much Ado About Nothing
  • In nine days, Scott and I head to Palm Springs for week. Given that the forecast for Vancouver for the next two weeks is highs around 0 degrees, I think that the Palm Springs forecast of highs in the teens sound pretty appealing. We are flying Swoop from Abbotsford to Vegas and then driving from there (because cheapness). It will be really nice to get a little bit of break (where by “break” I mean “doing course prep pool side rather than wrapped in blankets in my condo”)

Anyhoo, I guess this has been enough of a break for today – time to get back to my marking!

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I guess this is what it must feel like to be a whale, if a whale lived in a vast ocean of work instead of water

Illustrator whaleI feel like I’m coming up for a short breath after being submerged for a really long time, knowing that I’m shortly going to dive back down. I guess this is what it must feel like to be a whale, if a whale lived in a vast ocean of work instead of water.

The things under which I’ve been submerged recently include, in no particular order:

  • finishing up the course I was teaching this semester, including grading all the final assignments, calculating participation grades for the semester, and submitting final grades to the school
  • completing revisions for the new edition of my textbook1, including proofing all the revisions we did
  • submitting a grant application2
  • working on another grant application that is due May 1
  • my presidential duties
  • my actual day job, which is getting crazy busy as a Really Big Thing is about to happen and we have to be ready for it

But the textbook revisions and the marking are all done now, and those were two really time-consuming things that I was having to fit into my weekends and evenings, and the time available for working in the evenings and on the weekends were abbreviated due to the fact that I’m dedicated to doing my three days a week at the gym (which really is a big part of what helps me decompress when I’m so busy!) and I’ve been working longer than normal hours at my actual day job, due to all the work of preparing for the aforementioned Really Big Thing. So now I feel like I have a few days where I can actually breathe. By which I mean “write a blog post about how busy I’ve been”.

Of course, this is just a short reprieve, as I’m about to dive back down into the deep ocean that is work craziness. As, I mentioned above there is a Really Big Thing happening at work soon. This Really Big Thing will involve my team (a) providing data to monitor the progress and/or outcomes (good or bad) of said Really Big Thing (translation: lots of people will be wanting to see the data we produce daily) and (b) having to provide support 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until such time as the Really Big Thing settles down into just a Big Thing and we can go back to our regular work days and hours. Which means that I’ll be working some early mornings and some weekends and also, since I’m the lead of the team, should any crises happen, I could potentially be called even when I’m not on site. All that stuff happens starting April 28th.

Also, I’m going to have some house guests around this same time! Dr. Dan and one of his students will be staying with me from May 2-8, as they will be in town for important work things, and then from May 8-13, my mom and my Aunt Wendy will be staying with me as my Aunt has an important conference to attend and my mom is coming along to visit. I’m very excited to see all of them, as I think it will be good for me to get some quality time with family & friends to keep me grounded when I’m not at the hospital doing my Really Big Things.

Sperm whale starting a dive #2

Image Credit: Whale illustration posted by Steve on Flickr with a Creative Commons license and whale tail photo posted by Vilmos Vincze on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that we are putting out a new edition. The original came out in 2012, which is like a million years ago in textbook years, so it was due. Nutrition is still a pretty young field, so there were a fair amount of things to update! It should be ready by the end of the month and everyone should buy a copy or 12. []
  2. Which I was just a co-investigator on, so I’m not saying I did the most work on it; was it was a team effort of a bunch of people and lead by someone else, but it still took up some time. []

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Stuff I’m Learning This Year: Sewing Edition

Knowing about my goal to learn one new thing every month this year, Cath suggested we try out a sewing class at Spool of Thread in Vancouver1. I’d never sewn anything using a sewing machine before, and Cath hadn’t sewn since high school where she used a machine from the Stone Age, so we took the introductory how-to-make-a-tote-bag class. Our other friend, Stephanie, who has a little more experience than Cath and I, also joined in the fun.

Fabric at Spool of Thread sewing shopI have to say, Spool of Thread is a cool little business. They sell sewing supplies, hold sewing classes to make things of varying levels of difficulty, and you can even rent time on their sewing machines (along with use of the associated space and equipment – a big table to cut out your fabric, irons and ironing boards, and all the pins in the world). The renting of the sewing machine time is a particularly good idea in a city where everyone lives in tiny condos (because who has room for a sewing machine?) – and also for people who have curious cats that love to sit on whatever you are working on at the moment (because who wants to end up sewing a cat into their tote bag?).

Fabric to make a tote bag at my sewing classYou could bring your own fabric to the class, but we all elected to buy some fabric there. There was an extensive range of options and I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to choose. The tote bag is reversible, which meant we had to pick two fabrics, and every time I picked one that I liked, I couldn’t decide on another one that would go with it. I. The end I decided to go with a black and white theme and picked ampersands on one fabric and stars on the other.

The sewing teacher, whose name I completely forget, explained all the parts of the sewing machine, took us through how to thread the sewing machine, and then step-by-step through how to make our tote bags.

As it turns out, the easiest part of sewing is the sewing part. Threading the machine, cutting your fabric, and pinning it together correctly take about 99.9% of the time and effort, but the actual sewing is relatively easy, at least as far as sewing a tote bag where you only need to sew in straight lines. And while not all my lines came out perfectly straight, they came out straight enough and Cath and I agreed that we are both better sewers than we are painters.

Here we at with our fabulous tote bags:

Cath, Stephanie, & Beth at sewing class

Cath, Stephanie, and me with our new tote bags!

During the class, when we were cutting our fabric, the teacher mentioned that we’d have enough leftover fabric to take the how-to-make-zippered-pouches class – we’d learn how to sew a zipper and have pouches to match our totes! He also mentioned that since we get the pattern and instructions for the tote bag, we probably should come back to rent a machine to make another one to reinforce our learning. Sewing machine and Fabric to make a tote bag at my sewing classAnd when Cath inquired into it later, apparently the zipped pouch course is more advanced, so we’d need to take at least one more introductory level class before we do zippered pouches. So they’ve really got a good little system set up from a business perspective because all of that does make sense – I do want to have pouches that match my tote and I want to learn how to sew more things and I kinda want another tote bag – and it all just so happens to increase their sales!

All in all, I really enjoyed my sewing class! I got to make something useful (I often use my tote bag to bring stuff to work), I learned something new, and now I want to do more sewing!

  1. As usual, I have no relationship with this company other than that I am a customer. []

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My Friends and I Ran A Marathon Yesterday

Yesterday was the 45th running of the Vancouver marathon and I ran in it!

Other statements that are true include:

  • My friends and I ran a marathon yesterday
  • I ran across the finish line of the Vancouver marathon yesterday.

I did not, however, run the entire 42.2 km. Instead, I took part in the marathon relay with my friends Julie, Jen, and Pam. The way the relay works is that you have 4 runners on your team – Runner A starts at the starting line with all the full marathoners, but at the 12 km mark there is a relay exchange point at which Runner A hands off a belt, which contains your team’s timing chip, to Runner B, who runs the next 12 km, and then hands the belt with the timing chip to Runner C, who runs 5 km and then hands the belt off to Runner D, who then runs the remaining 13 km of the race. There are timing points at each relay exchange area, so the time of each leg, as well as the time of the entire duration of the race, is recorded. Honestly, I think this may be the only way I’ll ever participate in a full marathon – the way where you don’t actually have to run the full 42.2 km!

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Our team was named the Tenacious Tempos! Props to Julie for coming up with the name!

I was Runner D – also known as the anchor. The downside of being the anchor is that you do a lot of waiting – there are shuttle buses that take the relay runners from the start area to their exchange points, but the buses got us to our exchange point at 9:15 am and by my team’s estimates, I wasn’t expecting to start until 12 pm! Also, the area where the shuttle buses dropped us off, which is also where the portapotties were located, was about eleventy billion kilometres from the actual exchange point and while many runners went over to the exchange and then had to walk all the way back to go pee before they actually ran, a small group of us decided that we had no interest in doing all that extra walking, so we hung out by the buses (where there were benches and stuff to sit on) until it was time for a pre-race pee and then we headed over to the exchange.

Happily, it was a nice sunny day and I was prepared with sunscreen and a book to read. I also spent some time chatting with my fellow anchors from the other teams and Andrew dropped by to say “hi” to me as well.

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Me, waiting for Julie (Runner C) at the exchange point. I have no idea why my hair is this terrible *before* I even started running!

The plus side of being the anchor is that you get to run over the finish line! I tend to find finish lines very motivating and usually can find some energy to put on a good kick at the end – even if I feel like I’m just barely hanging on up until the finish line is in sight, once I see it, I find a previously unavailable store of energy for a sprint to the finish! But I’m getting ahead of myself!

The route that I got to run was a lovely one – we went over the Burrard St bridge, then along Pacific, which turns into Beach, which then takes you into Stanley Park, and then we went all around the Seawall, and then along Georgia and up to Pender to the finish line. It was flat and scenic, which is just how I like my race routes to be! It was also very hot – especially since I didn’t start running until about noon! I spent a significant portion of the race  wiping the fog from my sunglasses, because I was so hot and sweaty!

As for the running itself, I was pleased with my run. As you know, I’ve only really been training for about a month due to having all the sicknesses in the early part of this year, so my fitness level is way below what it was last year. I’ve been running my zone 1 runs at about a 7:30 min/km pace and my recent blood lactate assessment1 shows all my zones to be considerably slow compared to this time last year (which is not surprising, given that this time last year I’d spent ~4 months training for the BMO half marathon). But I decided that my relay run would be a good chance to see how well I could do in a zone 2 run (as most of my training focuses on zone 1, which helps to raise my aerobic threshold, but is not the zone that you want to run a 13 km or a 21.1 km race in), and I was pleasantly surprised with what I could do! I managed to run the 13.2 km at an average pace of 6:27 mins/km – and I felt strong! The last 3 km I definitely had to work to keep up that pace – my body was tiring and wanted to slow down, but I dug deep and focused on maintaining the pace. It’s funny, because as I was running I was thinking “Wow, I can’t believe how fast I’m running this! This is awesome!”, but afterwards I realized that last year I’d run 8 km more at an average pace of 5:45 km/km! But it’s all relative and given my start to this year, I was happy with my performance. The official race results clocked my leg of the race at 1:29:51, but that includes the exchange (which necessitated a hug with Runner C before I took off on my leg) – my runner watch indicates that my actual running time was 1:26:55.

After the race, the Tenacious Tempos went for a lovely brunch – which really is the main reason that we do these races. Well, the brunch and the medal!

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The Tenacious Tempos showing off their race bling!

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My race bib has taken it’s place on my board along with its fellow race bibs. Also, this is probably the coolest race number I’ve ever had: 9900!

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A new medal for my collection. Medal #2 for 2016!

  1. A new blog posting coming on that soon! []

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I went for a float and it wasn’t of the root beer variety

I-sopod Flotation Tank.jpg

This isn’t the tank that I floated in, but I forgot to take a photo of it when I was there, so I got this picture from Wikipedia to give you the general idea.

My friend Alicia took me for a float for my birthday. For the uninitiated, a float (a.k.a., floatation therapy or sensory deprivation tank) is where you get into a big tank with water that has about 1000 lbs of Epsom salt in it so that you can lie in and, as the name suggests, float. You wear earplugs and you close the lid of the tank so that it’s pitch black. The water and the air are skin temperature, so the idea is that you don’t feel anything. And you just float there – ideally clearing your mind of any thoughts – for 90 minutes. It’s supposed to help you relax and is supposed to be good for stress relief, reducing muscle tension, and all sorts of other things1.

My experience

When we got to the float place, they had me watch a little video on what you need to do. You have to take a shower to make sure you won’t get anything icky in the tank (like hair gel or makeup), then you put in the earplugs, and make sure your face is completely dry. You have to be careful not to get any of the tank water in your eyes because there’s 1000 lbs of Epsom salt in there and omg, that would sting like hell. Then you get in the tank, close the lid, and float! They suggested that you could try different postures – like arms down at your sides, arms up above your head – and that while you didn’t have to worry about your head sinking because of all that Epsom salt in the water, there was a pool noodle that you could put under your neck if it made you feel more comfortable.

When I first stepped in the tank, and before I closed the lid, the thought that sprung into my mind was “This would be a perfect setting for a death in the next Final Destination movie!” But then I thought that visions of the tank rapidly filling up while I panickedly scratched at the door which would inexplicably not open – all with my eyes stinging like a mofo – wouldn’t really lend itself to relaxation, so I dropped the thought.

The actual floating experience was quite interesting. It felt like I was floating in zero gravity (or what I imagine that would feel like, since I’ve never actually floated in zero gravity) and at one point when I tried putting my hands under my head, it actually felt like I was tumbling head over heels2!

Somehow, the time in the tank felt both long and short. My mind was flipping around from thinking about one random thing to another, so I tried using my mindfulness training, which seemed like a logical thing to do on such an occasion. I found that focusing on my breathing was the most effective way to help me clear my mind of thoughts. In the end, I think I fell asleep, as I remember thinking about something and then the next thing I knew it felt like time had passed and I was hearing the music that they play to inform you that your time is up.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. I mean, I won’t be getting a membership and going on a regular basis or anything – I think I get better meditation through running and massage is still my preferred method of working out muscle tension – but I’d probably go back for another float again.

Image Credit:

I-sopod Flotation Tank” by FloatguruOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Footnotes:

  1. According to the Wikipedia page – the neutrality of which is disputed because it totally sounds like someone who runs a float tank shop wrote it – research has shown that it also helps improve creativity and performance in a variety of sports. []
  2. Even though I knew I wasn’t because (a) physics, and (b) my face would have gotten wet and I could feel that it wasn’t! []

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Birthday Report

So I had a birthday. Apparently my cats knew it was my birthday, because they gave me a present: one of their toys was in the bag that I take to work when I got up on Monday morning. So thoughtful of them.

Kitties gave me this present for my birthday

At work, some of my coworkers took me out for lunch, which was very sweet of them! And that night a group of friends took me out for dinner to El Santo, a new Mexican restaurant in New West that everyone has been raving about. I completely forgot to get a photo of all of us at dinner, because I’m old and senile. But I did manage to get a shot of me with my birthday dessert – Potted Tres Leches – which the restaurant gave to me for free, what with it being my birthday and all. It was delicious!

Birthday dessert at El Santo

The next day I received a hard copy of the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, in which I have an article!

Hard copy of a journal article that I wrote

Then I didn’t really do anything birthday-related until Saturday, when I had my birthday party, by which point I’d kind of forgotten that it was even for my birthday, which seemed like eons ago. Before the party I told myself “I’m totally going to remember to take photos, because I never take photos when I have a party and I totally should.” And then I took zero photos. Cath took a photo of Watson smelling her sock, because he was smelling her sock for like 5 minutes1, but as far as I know that is the only photographic evidence of the event. I suppose this is actually a sign of a good party, as I was too busy actually chatting with all my guests2 to think about photography. Anyway, the Coles notes version of the party is that I had a blast – my friends are awesome and my cats were very entertaining – despite not going onto the very top platform of their new cat tree despite everyone’s attempts to get them to do so. Thanks to everyone who came, thanks for all the lovely gifts (which you totally didn’t need to bring), and special thanks to Michelle for making a delicious salted caramel chocolate cake and to my sister for sending an edible fruit arrangement3

I would also like to point out that since 2016 is a leap year, I get to have a whole extra day before I turn the big 4-0. I think this was an excellent choice on my part.

  1. Cath has two cats, so I’m betting Watson was picking up Google and Saba’s scent. []
  2. As well as mixing the occasional drink and putting out the way too much food that I made. []
  3. And she wasn’t even able to come to the party! []

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The Penultimate Night of the Year in Our Nation’s Capital

Spent the day driving to Ottawa with my family, as we are going to a friend’s wedding tomorrow night. The invitation says it’s a fancy-schmancy attire sort of occasion, so I’ve got a fancy dress, impractically tall shoes, and even some full length gloves for the occasion. My friends Sarah and Dave and their crew will also be in attendance, so it will be nice to ring in the new year with them. My niece baked the wedding cakes and I hear there’s a late night pierogie bar! Rock on!

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Paint Nite – Take 2

Remember that time I did a Paint Nite with Cath? Well, I also did a paint night with my friend Amy way back in the old timely days of October! Here’s the painting we were trying to paint – a heron sitting on a hill:

Paint Nite with Amy

My hero turned out to look more like a duck, but I’m OK with a duck on a hill:

Paint Nite with Amy

I don’t really love my clouds, but overall I’m happy enough with the painting that I’ll hang it up (once I figure out which wall I want to hang it on!)

Amy was unhappy with her initial attempt at the heron, so she painted over it making the hill bigger and did another heron!

And here are Amy and I with our masterpieces!

Paint Nite with Amy

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This May Be The Only Way I’ll Participate in a Full Marathon

And speaking of races that I’m going to run in 2016, thanks to my friend Julie, who you may recall from the PNE Donut Dash and the longest game of hockey, I’m already registered for one:

BMO marathon relay tweet

The marathon relay involves four people teaming up to complete the 42.2 km of the full marathon as a team. For some reason, the legs aren’t an even distance – I’m guessing it has something to do with where on the route there are convenient places for relay team members to trade off the timing chip, which serves as the relay baton. The legs are approximately:

  • 12 km
  • 12 km
  • 5 km
  • 13 km

My team, which Julie has put together, is going to be meeting up in the new year to figure out who is going to run which leg and other such important details.

I figure that running in this race, which is on May 1, can probably be incorporated into my training for, say, the Scotiabank half marathon in late June, as I intend to make 2016 the year that I finally break that elusive sub-2 hour half marathon goal!

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OMG, it’s December tomorrow

So, it’s December tomorrow. How, exactly, did that happen? Wasn’t it January just like 5 minutes ago? Looking at my calendar for the next month, I see that December will also be flying by, because I have an insane amount of things in my calendar, including:

Plus a variety of other meet ups with people I haven’t seen in ages and, you know, Christmas and New Year’s! Let the festivities begin!

  1. This is how you can tell that the 12 Bars of Christmas crowd has gotten old. []
  2. Where DDG = Drinks/Dinner with Dr. Girls – where me and my PhD grad school buddies get together to catch up []