Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Smart-ish Home

Amazon Echo and Google HomeA few weeks before Christmas, Scott came to my place with an Amazon Echo as an early Christmas present for us. Then I got a Google Home from my sister and brother-in-common-law for Christmas! And then Scott got me a starter kit of wifi-enabled light bulbs that can be controlled by the Echo and/or the Home. So (a) I was spoiled at Christmas and (b) I can now walk around my condo speaking various commands and having things happen and I feel vaguely like I’m in Star Trek. Except that what these “smart home” devices can do is far more limited than all the things I want them to do. As one of my colleagues at work, who also has a Google Home, said, “I’m not too worried about the robots taking over yet.”

Things that I can get my smart home devices to do just by saying words aloud:

  • turn on my wifi-enabled light bulbs ((Which are currently in the lamps in my bedroom, living room, and office.)), either individually or collectively
    • I especially like being able to say “turn off all the lights” when I’m either going to bed or leaving the condo, rather than having to go around and turn off each one individually like a sucker
  • dim, brighten, or change the “colour temperature” of the light1
  • hear the news2, the weather forecast, or the score in the Canucks game
  • turn on the radio
  • find out the hours for a business I want to go to3
  • how long it will take me to get somewhere by transit or driving
  • write a voice memo4
  • add stuff to my shopping list
  • set an alarm or a timer

I’ve also set up my bedroom lamp to slowly come on in the morning to simulate a sunrise, in the hopes that it will ease me into waking up.

Stuff my smart home devices do, but poorly:

  • Google Home can add an event to my Google calendar5, but it seems to struggle with translating my words correctly, so I usually have to go in and fix it. And I have trouble getting out all the words that it wants6 in the way it wants to hear them, though I suppose I will get used to that.
  • Give me information that I ask it for – sometimes it gets what I’m asking it for, but often it just gives an “I don’t understand” response.

Stuff my smart home devices won’t do that I want them to do:

  • control the thermostat (because I don’t yet have a smart thermostat)
  • make my coffee
  • do the dishes or the laundry
  • feed the cats
  • clean the litter box
  • take more than one command at a time!

That last one is irritating, because sometime you want to do something like: turn on the lights, set them to cool white, turn on the music and set the volume to 50%. But the Echo or the Home won’t respond to all those commands if you issue them in one sentence – it will only do the first thing. You have to say each thing individually and you have to say “Hey Google” or “Alexa” before each one. Similarly, I can’t get Google Home to add more than one thing to my shopping list at a time. I read online that if you pause between each item, it will add them as separate items, but that didn’t work for me. When I tried, it only managed to separate out one item:

Unsuccessful attempt to get Google Home to add multiple items to my shopping list at the same time

I tried say “comma” in between each word, but it listed everything as one item with commas:

Unsuccessful attempt to get Google Home to add multiple items to my shopping list at the same time

And I tried saying semicolon, but then it just wrote out the word “semicolon”!

Unsuccessful attempt to get Google Home to add multiple items to my shopping list at the same time

Also, it irritates me that I can’t change the default voice on either device. I changed the voice of Siri on my iPhone to a British male ages ago because I don’t like that digital assistants default to use female voices and reinforce stereotypes of female subservience, but neither the Amazon Echo nor the Google Home will let you do that7.

Anyway I’m sure these things we get smarter as more and more people use them (and yes, I know that I now have two giant corporations listening to everything I say). For now, I think I’m going to get myself a few more my wifi-enabled light bulbs so that I can use my voice to control all the lights that are a pain in the butt to switch on and off right now and some “smart” outlets to control a few other devices. Now if only they would invent a wifi-enabled self-cleaning litter box!

  1. I don’t have the light bulbs that have all the different colours, because I can’t imagine I’d often want red, blue, green, etc. lights, but the bulbs I do have can vary from a cool to a warm light, depending on the mood you want. []
  2. I like to get my morning “news briefing” as I’m getting ready for work in the morning. []
  3. E.g., what time does the Safeway close today? []
  4. I use an IFTTT applet that records all the memos that I say to it throughout the day and then emails them to me at 10 pm []
  5. Using an IFTTT applet. []
  6. The event name, date, time, and the right trigger words to get it into the right calendar (as I have several different calendars in my Google calendar (e.g., a work calendar, a personal calendar, a teaching calendar, a sports calendar, etc.) []
  7. Apparently you can switch the voice of the the Google Home assistant to male in the US, but not yet in Canada. []

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Nerd Stats 2017

Another year goes by, another row gets added to my table of nerd stats. .

Blog postings Tweets1 Visits to my blog Average number of blog visits per day Busiest day on my blog
2008 423 2,227 32,410 93 Sept 26, 2008 (460 views)
2009 357 1,815 45,153 126 July 25, 2009 (1,181 views)
2010 344 2,302 44,689 122 Feb 9, 2010 (233 views)
2011 380 3,625 60,560 166 Oct 10, 2011 (374 views)
2012 201 875 63,844 175 Feb 13, 2012 (350 views)
2013 213 945 46,665 128 Sept 4, 2013 (721 views)
2014 91 910 33,948 93 Mar 7, 2014 (208 views)
2015 118 800 34,930 96 Nov 23, 2015 (512 views)
2016 116  812  51,549  141 Jan 29, 2016 (13,968 views)
2017 92 449 20,691 57 not sure2.
% change from 2016 -21% -45% -60% -60% N/A

So I was down across the board on my social media involvement in 2017, which is probably reflective of the fact that I feel like I didn’t really do anything in 2017. I was thinking of writing my usual “year in review” blog postings yesterday, but then I realized that I didn’t really do anything! I mean, I went to Washington, DC for the first time, which was cool, but other than that it pretty much just usual every day stuff: going to work, going to the gym (though I really, really do love the gym), playing hockey, and repeat. No epic trips, no epic accomplishments. I definitely have to step things up for 2018!

  1. Note to self: You started Tweeting in 2008, so you get these totals by simple subtraction, not by some fancy pants program or anything. I hope this helps you when you write your “Nerd Stats 2018″ posting when you think “how the hell did I figure out how many times I tweeted in a given year??” []
  2. I used to get this from a “Your 2015 year in blogging” email that Jetpack (the thing I used to track my blog stats) used to send. They stopped sending that in 2015 and the only reason I knew the most popular day in 2016 was because it was my most popular day ever, which Jetpack does provide on its dashboard. Since I didn’t surpass that day this year, it still stands as the most popular day ever and there’s no easy way to find my most popular day for 2017 []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Short Cut Edition

Speaking of stuff I learned from Cath, at the same time that I got her to sign my copy of her book, I also learned that you can create a calendar event from an email in Microsoft Outlook by dragging the email into your calendar, like this:

Possibly everyone else already knows this, but it was new to me!

When I told a colleague about this, she was like “yeah, I knew that” and I said, “I knew about creating a Google Calendar event from an email in Gmail, but I didn’t know that shortcut in Outlook. To which she replied “you can?” (In Gmail, if you have an email with a date and/or time in it, you can click  on it to create a Google Calendar event. Or if there isn’t a date, you can just select “More” and then “Create Event”.) It’s funny how we all learn various shortcuts with software, but then don’t learn others. From that same colleague, I learned that in Excel, if you cell is set to date format, you can just type the numerical month-numerical day and it will fill it out as the current year (e.g., you can type 01-11 and it will fill it in as Jan 11, 2017.1. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you are doing 300 chart audits that require you to record as many as 100 dates per chart, that’s a huge time saver! You know, as a completely hypothetical example. But then I taught her that you can type CTRL+; in an Excel cell and it enters the current date (and do the same thing but with CTRL+SHIFT+; and it enters the current time).

This reminds of the time that I learned my favourite ever computer shortcut: Format Painter. It was many years ago and I was working on a document with a group and we were writing it as a group, which is quite possibly my least favourite thing to do2. Anyway, we were sitting watching someone type and she wasn’t using any of the normal short cuts – like, instead of hitting “CTRL-C” to copy something and then “CTRL-V” to paste it, she would go up to the menu bar at the top of the screen, click “Edit”, then “Copy”, and then put her cursor where we wanted to paste and go back up to the menu bar, click “Edit”, then “Paste”. I would have even taken her using the “copy” and “paste” buttons on the toolbar which, while not as efficient as the keyboard short cuts, is at least better than using the menu bar! Anyhoo, we are sitting there trying to co-write this thing while watching the excruciatingly slow typing and then all of a sudden, when the person typing wanted to change the formatting of something, she did something I’d never seen before. She clicked the button with the picture of the paint brush on it (which I’d honestly never paid attention to before) and it magically changed the formatting of the text she highlighted. I (and another colleague) were both “wtf was that???” And that was how I learned about Format Painter, which is now  my most favourite things in Word:

If you already knew about Format Painter, my apologies for boring you to tears. If you didn’t, you’re welcome!

  1. And then I was playing around with it some more and found that you can type 11Jan and it will do the same thing! []
  2. I would much rather draft something up and have people respond – or have someone else draft something up for me to respond to – than sit in a group and watch someone type while we try to co-write something. Excruciating! []

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What’s Been Amusing Me in the Twittervese Lately

It’s been a year and a half since I shared my favourite tweets, so I figured it was time to check out what’s been amusing me in the Twitterverse.

Given the year that was 2016, quite a few of my favourites were related to politics:

NDT

Trump's scientific paper

Trump trauma

$900M debt

comparison

Qualifications aren't a thing

For some of the politics ones I feel like I need to provide context, as they might seem quite nonsensical without it. Like this one in response to then-candidate for the Republican nomination Ben Carson’s claim that the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grains, rather than to bury pharaohs:

Pyramids

At the Republican national convention, Melania Trump gave a speech in which she plagiarized a speech by Michelle Obama. When Donald gave his speech, this guy made this pithy remark:

plagiarism software

The next two are related to people’s responses to Trump’s misogynistic comments related to how he can sexually assault women and they just let him because he’s famous; many politicians and pundits said things like “as a father of a daughter, I am offended” or “as a husband of a strong women, I am appalled”:

Women are people

This next one collides politics with another thing that happened in 2016: the fact that there were a reboot of the Ghostbusters movie with all female leads (and people got all pissed off about that):

Rebooting the Clinton administration

Shortly before the election, someone smashed Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame1 and this was George Takei’s response:

Horcuxes

In response to Russia’s interference in the US election:

Russian election hacking

And in probably my favourite of all the political tweets was this one that came during the second presidential debate. Donald Trump, in one of his examples of islamophobia and racism, was ranting about Muslims being terrorists and how Muslims need to report people whose behaviour is suspicious, and, in reference to earlier in the debate when Donald was menacingly standing behind Hillary Clinton on the debate stage, was this brilliant tweet:

report

Moving on to less political things, there were a few hashtags that amused me, including #scienceamoviequote:

#scienceamoviequote 5
#scienceamoviequote 4
#scienceamoviequote 3
#scienceamoviequote 2
#scienceamoviequote 1

and #HarperAirport (when it was proposed that Calgary airport be re-named after the much loathed former Prime Minister Stephen Harper):

#HarperAirport

That last one refers to these really terrible radio ads the Conservatives ran during the election that said Justin Trudeau was “just not ready” to be Prime Minister.

This next one refers to Bill C-51, an “anti-terrorism law” that gives the government sweeping powers to invade people’s privacy that was brought in under the Harper government:
#HarperAirport 2

A tonne of my favourite tweets over the past year and a half have come from the account “Shit Academics Say”:

preetenure

Shit Academics Say 5

Shit Acadmics Say 3

Don't bring anecdote to a data fight

Shit Academics Say 2

Don't bring anecdote to a data fight

to err

Shit Academics Say

A few have a feminism theme::

Female ghostbuster

So lucky

And several have cats in them:

helper cat

Drunk Pickles

bread tag kitty

Hockey cats

Kitty

Office cat

And then there is a whole bunch of random stuff:

stress reduction

wrong park

fully support

For the record, I have *no* idea what campaign that tweet refers to. Dr. Dan, do you remember?

bacteria-free

There is no cloud

80s playlist

10,000 characters

cheques
spanx

the new

Twitter expansion

Email filter

Assertive

meeting fail

muffins v cupcakes

1 v 0.78

science

Cat video calls

White chocolate

Calling her bluff

Life imitates art

Microsoft Edge browser

Proportional lineups

Outrage

Cat kisses

I quite liked Jen’s response to this tweet of mine (see below):

Luna Park

Luna Park reaction

Video calling software

Safe does not equal comfortable

Cistrionics

Mr. Pepper

Flu shot

Homeopathy

Neuroscientist's dread

economics

And this one was fun because my friend Cath was reading the interwebs one day and discovered I was internet famous:

My quokka buddy and I are famous

And there’s even a few of my own that I favourited, because I amuse me (and I didn’t want my best tweets to disappear into the bottomless pit that is Twitter and my terrible inability to remember stuff)

First, one that would only appeal to nerdy scientists who also like Pokemon (so, basically, only me and Cath):

Schrodinger's Pokemon

Then there’s one I thought hilarious and apparently at least one other person agreed:

BMDK

And finally one that I tweeted, but was actually a quotation from my sister, so she get the credit of the hilarity of this one:

Hockey as described by my sister

  1. Aside: I can’t believe Trump had a star and Carrie Fisher didn’t! []

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A Wild Pidgey Appears

When my dad was young, he and his brothers would go hunting with my grandpa. My dad’s older brother, Bob, used to say that if he died, he would be reincarnated as a duck and then one day when his brothers were out hunting, they would take aim at a duck, but would miss and the duck would laugh at them. My Uncle Bob died in a boating accident when he was 21. And then one day my dad and his brothers were out hunting and they took aim at a duck and were sure they had the duck in their sights, but when they fired, they missed and the duck quacked and quacked in the duck-like way that sounds like a laugh. Personally, I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife or reincarnation, but I always loved that story.

My dad used to raise pigeons for racing and every time I see a pigeon – which is quite often where I live – I think of my dad. In Pokémon Go, the most common Pokémon seems to be Pidgey, the pigeon-like Pokémon. Sometimes when you throw a PokéBall at a Pidgey (which is how you catch a Pokémon) you miss and I would swear that the Pidgey is laughing at me.

Pokemon GO

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Games

Jumpman_2I’ve never been much of a video game player. The number of video games I’ve ever really gotten into can be counted on one hand. I remember playing Jumpman Jr on my Dad’s Commodore 64. The main character was a pixelated stick figure who you could make climb ups pixelated rope or pixelated ladder, trying to avoid being shot by a bullet (which was a single pixel) while you.. hmmm… I can’t actually remember what the object of that game was.

In university my friend Therese and I enjoyed a game called Theme Hospital where you built hospitals. It was sort of Sim City-like and you had to decide who to hire (nurses, doctors, custodians, etc), what units to build (more surgical suites or more diagnostic imaging rooms?) and how many vending machines to put into your waiting room (if you put enough, you got an award from the national dental association for increasing business for them). During those times I also played NHL ’98, as my then husband got me hooked on that one.

The next video game I played wasn’t for probably a decade or so – Boogie Bunnies. It was like the various jewel matching games, but you had to match bunnies of the same colour. When you matched them they danced and giggled and blew up. I never understood why those bunnies were so happy about getting blown up, but the game was rather addicting.

Fast forward to last year, when my then boyfriend’s kids got me playing an iPhone/iPad game called Cooking Fever.  In this game, you serve meals to people at various restaurants. You can upgrade your kitchen equipment, your ingredients, and your restaurant’s interior to make more money and then use that money to but more upgrades and more restaurants. Now, I have to point out that in my youth I worked in restaurants serving food to people and I hated it, yet here I am playing a game doing exactly that, but for fun. This game really lends itself to completism, because you work to complete all the levels of a given restaurant and then you want to complete all the tasks in a given restaurant (one of which is to complete all levels with 3/3 stars), but then there is a list of achievements to complete across the whole game (like upgrade 5 of your restaurants or make a total of one million dollars from your restaurants) and you want to complete those. I’ve now completed everything in the game and so have to wait for the occasional “challenges”, where you get a limited amount of time to complete 15 new levels, or new restaurants, which don’t come out all that often because they must take a lot of work to create.

Soon after all that, my Twitter friend Jen introduced me to Neko Atsume or, as I call it, the internets kitty game. The object of this iPhone game is to attract cats to your yard by putting out food and toys for them. In appreciation, the cats leave you sardines or goldfish, which you can use to but more food and toys (why a cat would leave you a fish rather than just eating the fish is beyond me, but I guess I’m not an internets cat, so I just don’t understand how their minds work). There are special rare cats that require specific combinations of certain toys and food to show up and your goal is to get all the cars to come to your yard, get photos of them when they are there to fill up you album, and get them to come enough times that they leave you a special gift. It’s another game that really lends itself to completism.

Internet cats

A whole bunch of Internet cats in my yard!

And now we have Pokémon GO. I downloaded it to check what all the hype was about and started playing it like I do most games – I just randomly click thinks and see what happens. I’ve been able to figure out the basics – you create a character for yourself (the game walks you through this part) and then you start walking around and the game uses GPS to show your character on a map. When you encounter a Pokémon, you can throw a PokéBall at it and trap it; if you manage to do this, the Pokémon is registered in your Pokédex (which I gather is a list of all the Pokémon you have caught) and you get points that I don’t know what they are for. Sometimes you catch a Pokémon but it manages to escape from the PokéBall – I assume that these are stronger Pokémon and I need to do something in order to be stronger to catch those one – thought I’m totally guessing on that. Real life locations are PokéStops – places where you can stock up on PokéBalls that you use to catch Pokémon that you encounter, as well as other objects that I have no idea what they do. A building, a piece of public art, or other such location can all be PokéStops – you see them on your map as your wander around and if get close enough to them, then you can stock up on stuff. There are also PokéGyms, which I assume you train at to get better at catching Pokémon, but that’s just a guess because the one time I was at a PokéGym, my game playing technique of randomly clicking things was not effective – I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do and then it told me that I lost. I think I may have to actually read about how you are supposed to play this game if I want to go any further with it.

Pokemon GO

A Pokémon in my kitchen!

Pokemon GO

A scary Pokémon I caught on my way to my massage appointment the other night

Pokemon GO

This Pokémon was in the Skytrain station. I wonder if he tapped in?

Pokemon GO

This Pokémon was in my office! These things are everywhere!

Image Credits:
Jumpman posted by Abel-Archer on Flickr

Theme Hospital posted on Wikipedia under fair use.

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Gone With The Wind

Totally thought this posted a few days ago, but just came onto my blog to write a new posting and discovered I hadn’t. Anyway, here it is now!

So it turns out that I bought my last phone a really, really long time ago. Like more than 3 years ago, which in phone-years, means my phone was 892,386 years old. It was an iPhone 5 – not even a 5S, let alone the newer 6 or a 6 Mega-Double-Plus size. A lot of features have come out on iPhones since I bought that phone – like TouchID (where you scan your fingerprint rather than typing in a passcode to unblock your phone, which is super useful),or the phone being able to count the number of steps you take (slightly less useful when you leave your phone sitting on your desk or your kitchen counter for half the day, but kinda cool when you do carry it around) or a camera that can actually take decent photos in light that is less bright than full-on sunshine at high noon). But I am cheap and I don’t like throwing out things that are useful and replacing them with a slightly newer and shinier version. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was that my battery, after 3 years of constant use, decided that it no longer wanted to hold a charge, so it wouldn’t last me anywhere near a day (despite the fact that I put the phone into “Low Power Mode” pretty much all the time), which necessitated me constantly having to bring my charging cord with me and always needing to find a place to charge it.

My problem then became what phone to buy. I really love my iPhone, but I did *not* want a phone that is bigger than the one I had. I run a lot and when I do, I have my phone strapped to my arm. And I am a small person, so the iPhone 5 already takes up most of my upper arm – I couldn’t even imagine having something bigger – it would be so cumbersome! Fortunately, Kalev keeps abreast of all the iPhone rumours and told me a while back that Apple had a plan to bring out a phone that basically had all the feature of the iPhone 6, but in the iPhone 5 size. And so I waited and lo, the prophesy was true! The iPhone SE has basically all the features of the iPhone 6 that I wanted: TouchID, wicked good camera, Apple Pay, stuff that makes it faster than my old phone1.

While I was deciding it was time for a new phone, I also decided that it was time for a new cell phone provider. I was with Fido and while I never had any issues with their service, their price tag seemed a bit high for what I was getting. So I decided to switch over to Wind. Wind is a lower price carrier – I’m able to get everything I had in my Fido plan (unlimited calling and texting in Canada, caller ID, voicemail) plus 5 times as much data (5GB vs the 1 GB I had with Fido) for less than half the price I was paying to Fido. The trade-off is that the Wind network doesn’t have as good of coverage as Fido, though I’m so rarely out of the city, it’s not really a problem for me2.

I consulted a few people who use Wind and they all told me that they’d not had issues and one person even pointed out that since you don’t sign a contract with Wind, I could try it out and if I don’t like it, I can always go back to one of the bigger carriers. So I decided to take the plunge and sign up for Wind. After a couple of technical hiccups3, I was up and running with the new phone and am ever so happy with it.

The next step in the process was that I needed a name for my phone. I’d totally phoned4 it in one my last phone (the iPhone 5) and named her Bellatrix 2, as the previous phone (the iPhone 3G) was Bellatrix. I name my electronics, with some exceptions, after female literary characters (see: Bellatrix, Hermione, Ginny Weasley (my external hard drive), Marla, and Daenerys), and the name for my new iPhone SE just came to me as I thought about the fact that I’d “Gone with the Wind”. Everyone, meet Scarlett ((I absolutely loved the movie Gone with the Wind when I was a kid and watched it many times, as we had it on a VHS tape. Because, like my previous phone, I am 892,386 years old. I even dressed up as Scarlett O’Hara one year for Hallowe’en.)):

My new iPhone SE

I thought that since I was getting a new phone that is the exact same size as my old phone, I’d be able to keep using the same case, but my old case has a slight problem:

My new iPhone SE

As you can see in the above photo, my old case covers the home button, which was fine with the iPhone 5, as you can still press the home button through the silicone case. You cannot, however, do Touch ID through the silicone case because the home button needs to be able to scan your fingerprint, which it cannot do through silicone, and Touch ID is my favourite thing that this phone offers. So I ordered a new case that won’t have this problem. It also gave me the opportunity to buy a case with a slot on the back to put my Compass card5 in.

My new iPhone SE

I currently keep my Compass card stuck in the back of my case, but it’s a bit of a pain to have to take my card out from there, especially given that 5 days a week I have to tap my card a total of eight (!) times going to and from work and the faregates cannot read the card through the silicone case. Apparently once I set up Apple Pay, I won’t be able to leave my Compass card in my new case when I scan it (as Apply Pay interferes with the Compass Card system), but even still, it will be a lot easier to slide it out of a card slot than it will be to half remove my case every time I want to tap my Compass card. I’ve ordered a new case from Amazon – should be here next week. Hmm…. I suppose I will have to name my new case Tara.

  1. It doesn’t have 3D Touch, but I don’t really care about that. []
  2. I looked at Wind 3 year ago when I got my Fido account, but at the time I had a job where I covered the Fraser Valley and beyond and Wind didn’t have coverage out there, which would have meant that every time I went to, say, Abbotsford for a meeting, I wouldn’t be able to use my phone. Wind now has coverage there, but I don’t have that job any more, so it doesn’t actually matter to me. []
  3. First, they messed up porting my number from Fido by accidentally typing my Fido account number in wrong. Fortunately, since they typed the account number in wrong, Fido didn’t know that I’d cancelled, so they didn’t give away my number and Wind was able to port it the next day. Second, because I was on the temporary number (which was only supposed to be on my phone for ~1 hour until my original number ported) for half a day, my iMessage got all messed up and kept trying to use the temporary number (which I no longer had access to once they fixed my porting problem) instead of my real number. The Apple engineers were able to help me out with that one though. []
  4. Pun intended! []
  5. For my non-Vancouver readers: Compass card is the card you use to pay for travel on our Skytrain, buses, and Seabus in the greater Vancouver area, and you have to tap in and tap out as you enter/exit fare paid zones of the transit system. []

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IT is not my friend. Or is it?

I’m not talking about my iliotibial (IT) band, nor am I talking about the monster from the Steven King novel1. I’m talking about information technology. Which seems to have had my number recently. I think this whole IT being a problem thing actually started last Thursday, when I ordered a pizza online and when it didn’t arrive after a long, long time, I called the pizza place and apparently their computer had crashed and they hadn’t bothered to reboot it, so my order was there, but they didn’t know it ’til I called and they went “oh, I guess we should reboot our computer”. And I ended up with a later pizza than I wanted, though I did get it for half price!

Crick on a pizza box

While not happy the pizza was late, Crick was satisfied with the pizza box as a new place for sitting.

The next morning I awoke happy that I was able to work from home today, but then discovered that my wifi was not working, though a reboot of the modem fixed that issue. Much more concerning, however, was that my work laptop would not start. The power button light came on, but the screen was just blank. I tried turning it off and turning it on again, the universal fix for computer problems, but that didn’t help.

Props to my friend Steven for finding that clip on YouTube!

The first few times I tried holding the power button to shut it down and then holding the power button to turn it on, I saw a flash of the ThinkPad logo for a fraction of a second, but after a few attempts, I couldn’t even see that.

I tried plugging it into my monitor in my home office, in case it was just the display, but that didn’t work – my monitor just showed me a blue screen. (In fairness, I’ve never plugged my work laptop into my home monitor before so had no idea if it is just that they aren’t compatible with one another2. ).

I was doing this while on a series of conference calls. Thankfully, my home laptop was working so I was able to check my emails and calendar and whatnot with that so that I knew things like what the teleconference number was and getting the emails about why everyone else missed one of the calls and what time we could reschedule the call.

Eventually I decided that doing the same thing over and over again was not getting me different results, so I emailed the IT guy from my office, who suggested that I turn it off and turn it on again3 When I informed him I had tried that, he told me about a reset hole that you stick a paper clip in to do a reset, which I didn’t know my laptop had and though it didn’t work, at least I know about that for future reference.

So he suggested that I bring the computer by the office for him to look at. So much for me getting to work at home! And off I went to my office to drop it off. Our schedules unfortunately did not match up so I couldn’t actually meet up with him – I could be at the office by 1 pm after finishing my conference calls, but would have to leave by 2 pm to get to another appointment, whereas he had another meeting that meant he couldn’t get to my office until 2 pm.

Anyway, I got to the office and decided to try plugging into the dock there and lo and behold the damn thing worked, albeit only showing stuff on the external monitor! So apparently the problem is with the laptop screen not working, rather than the computer as a whole. I still left it there for the IT guy to see if he can figure out what the deal is – he emailed this morning to say that he had to send it in for repairs, so it will be *at least* 10 business days before I get it back. My office was able to provide me a loaner laptop for that time, but now I have none of my bookmarks, my browser add-ons, or my various other settings for stuff I do every day.

The other – minor by comparison – IT annoyance was that I’m not able to use my credit union’s deposit-a-cheque-by-taking-a-photo-of-the-cheque-with-my-smartphone option to deposit royalty cheques from my publisher because it is a US company and you can only do that with Canadian cheques. So today I had to go to an actual credit union branch, like Neanderthals used to.

As I was reflecting on my IT woes, I thought about this bit by Louis CK:

And really, when I think about it, the vast majority of my technology worked flawlessly during this time (and most days). I was able to work from home for most of Friday because my own laptop worked fine (as did the modem after a quick turn-it-off-turn-it-on-again), my smartphone allowed me to keep up with emails while I took the driver-less Skytrain (which I paid for by swiping my Compass card, which automatically reloads itself when my balance dips below a certain amount so that I never run out of transit fare) to my office, which I accessed by swiping my fob, and then I dropped off my laptop, the repairs for which will be taken care of my IT guy, who responded pretty much immediately upon my sending him an email. And now I have a fully functioning loaner laptop for work while my main laptop is being repaired. Most fortunately of all, I had just backed up all my files onto an encrypted thumb drive on Thursday4,5, which I did after a co-worker lost a bunch of files when her laptop died and she’d been saving stuff on her laptop’s drive rather than the network drive. I have an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop, and a television, all of which connect to all of the information ever via The Internets. My car tells me when it’s time for an oil change, my alarm clock updates itself automatically to account for Daylight Saving Time6, and my washing machine can tell how dirty my clothes are. I can email money instantly to family and friends from my phone, I don’t have either a home phone or cable TV because I can get everything I need through the my smartphone and the Internet, and I have a contraption that will feed my kitties at whatever time I set it for so that I can work a 15-hour day without having to come home for cat feeding duties7.

So, yeah, I think maybe I’ll give IT a break here and be thankful for all the modern conveniences I have rather than being upset when one of them doesn’t work perfectly at all times!

  1. Though both of those things would be good guesses for things that might not be my friend. []
  2. Spoiler alert: It was just that they weren’t compatible, for some unknown reason. []
  3. In fairness to him, I’m sure that many people call him without trying that. []
  4. I’m not able to back my files up on a network drive due to a peculiarity of my work situation where I technically work for a research centre, but am mostly at a project office, and my research centre-owned laptop does not play nice with the project office network. []
  5. I also store the most up-to-date copies of my most important files on a SharePoint site that I share with my business analyst. Fortunately, none of the files I have as of yet contain any confidential information, so I’m able to do this. []
  6. Yes, I still use an alarm clock instead of just using the alarm on my iPhone. I’m a Luddite. []
  7. OK, maybe that last one isn’t so great! []

By

Podcasts I’m Listening To These Days

Library PodcastI’m a big fan of listening to podcasts when I drive and since my boyfriend lives about a half an hour drive away, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. Here are some of my favs:

  • Caustic Soda – As they describe it, this is “a weekly podcast about the science, history, and pop culture of the weird, gross and disturbing hosted by Toren Atkinson, Kevin Leeson, and Joe Fulgham. It’s hard science by soft people! If you like weird, gross, disturbing things, this is a must listen to show. The hosts are hilarious and know a tonne, so it’s a great combo of learning interesting things and being entertained. I recently finished listening to all of the current season so far and have now downloaded all the previous seasons and started listening to Season 1 and I think this might be the first podcast I’ve listened to that was great right from episode 1!
  • Savage Lovecast – Dan Savage’s relationship and sex advice podcast. Though I don’t agree with Dan on some things, overall I think his advice is pretty wise and one thing that I really like is that when someone asks for advice on a topic that is outside of his expertise (e.g., a medical question), he brings in a guest expert on that topic.
  • Dazed and Convicted: Craigslost – This is my friend Monica’s dark comedy podcast. D&C is an evolution from Monica’s previous podcast, the S&M Rants, which you may recall from the amazing guest judge they had on episode back in 2011. This iteration of the podcast features Monica reading the crazy stuff she finds on the Internet, primarily, but not exclusively, from Craig’s List. It’s hilarious and every time I see a new episode in my podfeed, I get unnaturally excited.
  • The Skeptics Guide to the Universe – A weekly podcast produced by the New England Skeptics Society. I quite like the blog NeuroLogica, which is written by one of the hosts of the SCU1, though SCU focuses on science more broadly than NL, which is focused more on medical sciences. SGU is the place where I learn more about things like physics, which I don’t really tend to read as much about as I do the biosciences.
  • Planet Money – Their tagline says it all: “The Economy Explained”. A great way to be entertained and educated (which apparently is a theme for me!)
  • Reasonable Doubts – This podcast hasn’t had an episode in a really long time, but I’m hoping they will start up again because I love their show!

Anybody have any great podcasts that they listen to that they want to recommend?

  1. And which I’m just now realizing that I forgot to put on my blog posting about the blogs I’ve been reading lately! []

By

Tweet tweet tweet

Every so often, I like to post some of my favourite tweets, because Twitter is a huge pain in the butt when it comes to finding old tweets (you have to just keep scrolling and scrolling!) and I have a terrible memory, so I need my blog to have all the things on it. Anyhoo, now seems like as good a time as any for it to be an every-so-often.

I could really relate to this one1:

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And I could really relate to this one too:

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I, too, teach a post-secondary stats class and am surprised by how many students ask for extensions on assignments because a grandparent has passed away.

This next tweet, from the Vancouver Canucks Twitter account, was a hilarious auto-correct of Radim Vrbata’s last name:

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Poor Connor McDavid:

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These are particularly funny if you are a Game of Thrones fan2:

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And speaking of Game of Thrones, Cath tweeted the following:

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Which set off a conversation about other fonts that could be renamed after GoT characters:

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Shit Academics Say is a particularly funny Twitter account if you happen to be an academic:

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And this one totally made me laugh:

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I can’t remember what specific situation this was in response to, but there have been a lot of people saying something offensive and then being surprised/angry/playing a victim when the world calls them out on being a d-bag:

twitter favs 05Canadians love jokes about Canada:

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And the next two tweets really spoke to me as a cat owner and an arachnophobe, respectively:twitter favs 02More lols:

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I also want to share a few of my favourite tweets of my own, because scrolling through my Twitter feed to find the good stuff among the “I’m going to hockey/for a run/for a massage” tweets and my “new blog posting!” tweets and the random badges that my beer tracking app auto-tweets is for suckers.

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For the record, that tweet is still the *only* tweet that has used the hashtag #TeamGanttChart.

I was really pleased with myself when I thought up this line and very excited to have a chance to tweet it (For the record, Beer Friday is an event that happens in the building that is directly outside of my building):

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twitter favs 04Naturally, there has to be a few tweets with photos of my kitties because adorable:

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That above tweet was the result of something that played out even more funny in person. A former coworker who now works at a nearby building and I met up for lunch at the Japadog truck. We both got diet Cokes with our lunch and when I looked at mine I saw that it said “share a Coke with your best friend”. So I said, “Aww, look and showed it to him”. So he looks at the one in his hand, which is turned the opposite way, and then he turns it around to reveal the “Share a Coke with your co-worker”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an unintentional prop joke with such perfect comedic timing before!

Both of these things are 100% true:

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I also have a number of my fav own tweets that result from my office job:

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This one is only funny if you are a fan of Game of Thrones and Lord of The Rings (or at least know their memes) and if you happen to work on the project I’m working on (For context, “Cerner” is the IT platform we are working on and SNOMED-CT is a standard nomenclature of clinical terms that we are using. Clear as mud, right?):

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my tweets 02And finally, an inspirational (?) quotation:

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  1. Probably because we were born in the same year! I totally thought I was a lot older than Paul, but I just double checked Facebook and I’m not even half a year older! []
  2. For the uninitiated, the Starks a big important family in GoT, but the head of the family has a bastard son who always gets treated as second-rate. And in the North, where they are from, all bastards are given the last name Snow. Which, of course, is my last name! []