Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Five New Foods, Two Books, and One Hell of a Deadlift

After last year’s pathetic display of accomplishing so few of my goals, I’ve decided to come out of the 2018 gate strong. In fact, I’ve already made 5 new foods/beverages that I’ve never made before (of my goal to make 18 new things year), finished 2 books (of my goal of 18), and deadlifted my body weight!

The foods are:

  • chicken florentine – I had a bunch of spinach I needed to use up, so I picked this recipe.
  • grog – this was the house drink at my birthday party. It was pretty tasty!
  • slow cooker lasagna – made this for my birthday party. I’ve made lasagna a million times before, but never in a slow cooker.
  • kale salad from a recipe from Savio Volpe – Scott took me to Savio Volpe for my birthday and since the reservation said it was my birthday, there was a birthday card waiting on the table and in that card was a recipe for their kale salad. Which is delicious. And which I’ve made several times since then!
  • herbed goat cheese-stuffed chicken thighs – I had a bunch of goat cheese, leftover from my birthday party, that I needed to use up (do you see the trend?), so I google “goat cheese recipes” and found one for stuffing chicken breast with goat cheese that you’ve mixed with herbs. But I did it with chicken thighs. Pretty good stuff.
Making slow cooker lasagna

Making lasagna in the slow cooker

Kale salad

Kale salad

The two books I’ve finished so far in 2018 were:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker – I started reading this massive tome last year and it took me about eleventy billion years to get through it, but I finally did. The gist of the book is that violence has decreased over human history and Pinker puts forward his theory as to why. Often people think that we are living in particularly dangerous times – probably at least in part because we hear about violent events on the news on the time, but that’s actually a skewed perception, as the news covers the most sensational events (If it bleeds, it leads). Overall we are at much less at risk of being a victim of violence than in any other time in human history1 There’s a tonne of data illustrating the decline in violence and we can see it also in what is considered acceptable – e.g., it used to be legal and considered acceptable by society for people to keep slaves, for a man to rape his wife, for parents to beat their children, to people to brutalize animals, for example2. Pinker presents a pretty extensive theory as to why violence has declined and I’m not even going to try to get into describing it all. You’ll just have to read the 800+ pages to find out for yourself!
  • Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline – {SPOILER ALERT – Don’t read this if you don’t want the book to be spoiled for you!} After reading such a long, dense book, I decided I needed to have a quick and easy read as a bit of a palate cleanser for my brain, and Ready Player One fit the bill. Plus, there’s a movie version of it coming out this year and so I figured I should read it in case I decided to see the movie. I know a lot of people *love* this book, but I thought it was just OK. I mean, I enjoyed reading it but I got the exact same feeling from reading it as I did when I read the DaVinci Code – I was compelled enough by wanting to see how the various puzzles would be solved to keep reading, but the writing is so flat3 that it was kind of a painful, if easy, read. He does a tonne of name dropping of 80s games (game dropping?), movies, and music. Having grown up in the 80s, most of these were familiar to me (especially the movies and music), but the excitement of “hey, I remember that” gets pretty old pretty quick and then it just becomes annoying. And most egregiously, the Deus ex machina of Og showing up to give them a completely impenetrable fortress from which to complete the end of the game was just too much.

And then the one that I’m most excited about: I deadlifted more than my body weight! One of the challenges to doing this was that my body weight has increased due to the muscle mass I’ve put on from all the weight training4. I’d thought I’d lifted my body weight one time last year but then when I got home and weighed myself to confirm, I found that I’d been just shy of my weight.

In this month’s training program, one of my exercises was to do bar bell deadlifts where you start with a weight you can lift for 12 reps, then you up the weight and do 9 reps, then you up the weight again and do 6 reps. Then you start over at 12 reps, but with the weight you used for 9 reps the first time through, then you do 9 reps with the weight you did for 6 reps the first time through, then you do 6 reps at a higher weight. As you can see from my record sheet, on Jan 30, 2018, I did 6 reps of 67.5 kg!

Untitled

Since I’m of the generation of Canadians that still thinks of our body weight in pounds instead of kg, I had to do the conversion to confirm that this was, in fact, more than my body weight:Untitled

And I do, in fact, weight less than 148 lbs, so hooray for me – goal achieved!

  1. Of course, this is not to say that there is no violence or that the violence that does happen is not horrific. []
  2. Again, this is not to say that these things don’t still happen or that they aren’t legal in some societies still today. But they are legal or accepted in far fewer societies today than in the past. []
  3. Full disclosure: I saw the description of the writing in this book as “flat” in a GoodReads review and it totally fit with the feeling I had about the writing that I couldn’t find the right word for, so I totally stole the word! []
  4. Also, it’s kind of cool that after several years of setting, and failing to achieve, a goal of losing the 15 lbs I put on during my MBA (I’d get part way there from half marathon training, but never quite lost it all), I’m now actually happier with my body size despite weighing the most I’ve ever weighed, because it’s all been muscle mass gain. Don’t get me wrong, I still have some fat mass I’d like to lose, but I’ve got some kickass muscles that I’ve never had before! []

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Books I Read in 2017

As I mentioned recently, I’ve done absolutely abysmally on my goal of reading 17 books in 2017. I did managed to finish off two of the books I was reading when I wrote that last posting1, so I upped my total number of books read in 2017 to four instead of two, but it’s still pretty sad.

2017 reading challenge

For the record, the four books were:

my 2017 books

And here are some stats that Good Reads gave me on those books:

books stats 2017

I have high hopes that 2018 will be a better year for me for reading because (a) four books is a pretty low bar to set, (b) my book club is getting rebooted, so that will give me several book reading opportunities/motivation, and (c) I’m hoping that my office will get moved to a more transit-friendly location soon in the new year, so that I’ll have more Skytrain book reading time in 2018 than I did this year.

Anyone have any good book suggestions for me?

  1. I did read a chunk more of Better Angels of Our Nature over the holidays, mostly on during my flights too and from Toronto, but I didn’t manage to finish it off. But I’m sure I’ll finish it soon in the new year, so at least that will get me off to a good start on my 2018 book reading goal! []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Epigenetics Edition

So I’ve been totally slack on blogging about the stuff I’ve learned this year as part of my goal to learn 12 new things in 2017. I’ve been learning stuff, but just not getting around to blogging about it. But I’m on vacay now, so I’ll have time to catch up on all the stuff I meant be blog about! And since I’m on vacation now, I’m also able to read books and finally finished reading the book that my friend Cath wrote: Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide.

Epigenetics is the field of study that is concerned with how things interact with our genes to control their expression. We all inherit DNA, which contains a bunch of genes, from our parents, but there is a whole bunch of complicated things that go on to control how/when/where those genes get expressed (or not). Back when I last took a genetics course – i.e., eleventy billion years ago in my undergrad – I only remember learning about gene transcription (where a cell reads the code in DNA and makes a copy of it in a similar molecule called RNA) and gene translation (where the cell translates the code from the RNA into a protein, which can then go on and perform some function in the body). I also only remember three kinds of RNA: messenger (mRNA), transfer (tRNA) and ribosomal (rRNA). Now there are a tonne of other RNAs – micro (miRNA), long noncoding (lncRNA), and piwi-interacting (piRNAs), just to name a few1. All this to say – a lot has happened in our understanding of genetics since I last learned about it, so this book was great way to get up to speed on a whole lot of learning in a fun way! Also, my copy just so happens to be signed:

Book signing by Cath

Dr. Cath, doing a book signing just for me!

I’m not going to even try to summarize all the stuff that I learned about epigenetics – the book has a *lot* of information and if you want a solid introduction to the world of epigenetics, you should probably buy the book!

  1. Sidebar: I feel the same way about dinosaurs. When I was a kid, we learned about 6 dinosaurs – T. Rex, stegosaurus, triceratops, brontosaurus, pterodactyl – and then Jurassic Park came out and we all learned about velociraptors,  but now there are dozens of different kinds of dinosaurs and it turns out that pterodactyls aren’t actually dinosaurs and that brontosaurus is actually an apatosaurus, except then more research came out that suggested that apatosaurus and brontosaurus were actually two different kinds of dinosaurs after all. But I digress. []

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Books

So speaking of books, I have been absolutely pathetic at reading this year. I just looked on Good Reads to see how close to my goal of reading 17 books this year and discovered to my dismay that I have read a mere *two* books this year. TWO! I mean, I feel like I must have read more books than that, but I can’t for the life of me think of what they would be.

I blame my lack of reading in large part on the fact that partway through the year, my work team and I were moved to an office that is not easily accessible by transit and so I’ve been driving to work. Given that I do the lion share of my reading when I’m on the Skytrain or bus, this really cut into the amount of time I spent reading1. In addition, I didn’t really go on any vacations where I could do a bunch of reading and my kobo died and it took a little while before I bought a new one.

Also hampering my total is the fact that I started reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, which 800+ pages long. I mean, it’s no Infinite Jest, but it’s still been taking me a looooong time to read it.

I do have a few books that I’ve read parts of, varying from almost all of the book to just a chapter, including2:

I should probably finish some of them just to get my numbers up!

Plus I have a few that I have lined up to read, including:

Fortunately, I only have one week left of work for 2017 and then I’m on holidays and I’m really hoping I can get in some pleasure reading3.

  1. On the flip side, I listened to way more podcast, as I typically listen to podcasts when I’m driving. []
  2. Full disclosure: All the things in this posting are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you click on them and then buy something, I get some cash. So you should totes do that because I like when I get cash! Seriously though, you should totally buy Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide by Dr. Cath Ennis because (a) it’s a very interesting book (from what I’ve read so far), (b) my friend Cath wrote it! But mostly because of (a)! []
  3. I also have some serious vacationing planned for 2018, so hopefully I’ll get a strong start on my 2018 book reading goal! []

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RIP Kobo

My kobo1, appears to be no longer capable of holding a charge. I plug it in overnight and it seems like it’s charged, but then a few hours later (during which time it isn’t being used) and I see this:

My kobo won't hold a charge :(

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, as it is more than 4 years old and in electronics time that’s like 1000 years old. Plus I’ve not been able to get it to connect to my computer for quite some time now, which means that I haven’t been able to put any new books on it. I was hoping to read the books that I already had on there that I hadn’t yet read though. I’m in the middle of reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker. Though I can’t tell you exactly how far because my goddamn kobo won’t hold a charge. Guess it’s time to start looking at what’s happened in eReader technology in the last four years…

  1. Which I had named Luna, after Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. []

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Books I Read in 2016

I set my goal to read 16 books in 2016 and I started off strong with books I was reading for fun, but the decision to take on teaching a new course meant that come the summer, when I did my course development, the type of book I was reading was predominantly textbook. Also hampering my reading was the launch of PokémonGO, as I used to do a lot of reading on my commute to work, but once I got hooked on trying to catch ‘em all, I ended up spending much of my commute either catching Pokémon or grabbing stuff from PokéStops as I whizzed by them on the bus or train1 or doing my Pokémon inventory management2.

Anyway, I did manage to surpass my goal of 16 books:

I read 21 books in 2015!

The books were:

2016 Books

2016 Books 2

2016 Books 3

This list includes:

  • 4 fiction books
  • 8 non-fiction books
  • 9 textbooks

I think my goal for next year should be to read fewer textbooks!

Looking at the list, the book I most enjoyed this year was the Voodoo Killings, followed by Dear Committee Members, and the books I learned the most from were the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and The Spirit Level. The book I liked the least was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking3

In terms of stats, I read 7,711 pages of books4 in total, with book lengths ranging for 181 pages to 704 pages.

2016 books - stats

Not surprisingly, the most popular book I read was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the least popular book was the textbook I assigned to my class. Apparently only one other person on all of Goodreads read that textbook, which I’m hoping means none of my students are on Goodreads!

I’m not planning to teach any new courses next year, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be reading more books for fun!

  1. Back before they changed the game so that you can no longer get stuff from Pokéstops when you are travelling at fast speeds. []
  2. For the uninitiated, you only have room for 250 Pokémon in your PokéBox, so once you’ve caught that many, you have to free up space by transferring some of the Pokémon to the professor in exchange for candy. This takes some work, as you need to figure out which Pokémon you have extras of and then figure out which is the lowest value Pokémon so you know which one to get rid of. []
  3. And that includes all the textbooks I read! []
  4. I also read some unholy number of pages of journal articles. I wish there were a site like Good Reads where I could track all my journal article reading! []

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All the Books I Read in 2015!

I started tracking the books I’m reading on GoodReads this year and it made a nice summary of the 18 books I read (i.e. surpassing my goal of 15 books), so I just stole screenshots from that report. #Efficiency

GoodReads 2015 - part 1
GoodReads 2015 - part 2

The above list includes:

  • 4 books that I read for one of the courses that I taught
  • 5 books that I read for my book club
  • 1 book that I read for work
  • 8 non-fiction books that I read out of interest

Wow, I just realized there isn’t a single fiction book on that list that I just chose to read myself. Good thing for my book club or I wouldn’t have read any fiction at all!

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Reading Fiend

Two parallel stacks of books on blue backgroundNow that I have copious amounts of time on my hands, I’m doing what I did the last time I suddenly had copious amounts of time on my hands – reading all the books ever!

Since finishing school, I’ve read one complete book (The Bridge to Teribithia – which I read for the book club that my friend Shalu just started), started two other books (Ender’s Game and A Short History of Nearly Everything) and nearly completed another book (Born to Run). To give you a sense of how bad my ability to read for fun has been while I’ve been in school, Sarah and Dave gave me Born to Run TWO Christmases ago, and I’ve only now gotten around to reading it! I also started reading Thinking, Fast and Slow near the end of the summer, as it was a recommended book on the syllabus for my Internet Marketing class (and it sounded super interesting), but once my classes, including Internet Marketing, started, I didn’t have time to finish it. So I’ll get back to that soon!

As I’ve now returned to the land of reading things other than textbooks and Harvard Business Review articles1, I also finally gotten around to joining Good Reads, where I will track all the stuff that I’m reading because in addition to loving to read, I love to track things! So you can friend me over there is you want to follow my reading adventures, which you totally know you want to.

Image Credit: Posted by Horia Varlan on Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

  1. Not that I intend to stop reading stuff from HBR – I *love* those articles! []

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Nerd Stats 2012

Here is a quick summary of my blog and Twitter stats for 20121:

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 % change from 2011
Blog postings: 423 357 344 380 201 -47%
Tweets: 2,227 1,815 2302 3,625 8752 -76%
Visits to my blog 32,410 45,153 44,689 60,560 63,844 +5%
Average number of blog visits per day 933. 1264 122 166 175 +5%
Busiest day on my blog: Sept 26, 2008 (460 views)5 July 25, 2009 (1,181 views)6 Feb 9, 2010 (233 views)  Oct 10, 2011 (374 views) Feb 13, 2012 (350 views)7 -6%

It’s pretty clear from the above that I was a lot less active on my blog and on Twitter this year – which is pretty much what I expected would happen once I started school. I was pleased to see that despite the decrease in blogging, I still managed to squeak out a slight increase in visits to my blog and I’m approaching my goal, as per my 101 list’s item #82 “up my blog readership to an average of 200 readers a day”8. Also, if you are so inclined, you can also check out the blogging annual report that the helper monkeys of WordPress were so kind as to compile for me.

Also, perusing through some of my old postings, I noticed that when I first started blogging my Nerd Stats for the year, I also included a list of all the books I’d read – or at least the ones I could remember – in the year. I’m sure I’m not going to remember all of them as I haven’t been tracking them, but to the best of my knowledge9, I read the following books in 201210:

  • The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg11.
  • Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchn Rubin
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  • Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Your Brain at Work by David Rock

Textbooks:

  • Financial Accounting in an Economic Context by Jamie Pratt
  • Corporate Finance by Berke et al
  • Fundamentals of Organizational Behaviour by Langton et al
  • Managerial Economics (Custom Edition)
  • Management Ethics by Bowie & Werhane
  • plus countless journal articles and course notes!

And that, my friends, is my final blog posting for 2012! See y’all next year!

  1. To see previous years’ nerd stats postings, click the year in the table. []
  2. 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 2013” posting when you think “how the hell did I figure out how many times I tweeted in a given year??” []
  3. not sure why this value is not equal to the number of visits to my blog divided by 365 days. Probably some some of rounding error []
  4. ibid []
  5. thanks to the Hockey Hotties posting []
  6. thanks to the Blogathon! []
  7. This makes me sad, because the posting that drew this attention was my dad’s obituary. []
  8. Which should really say “views” per day, not readers, as the blog stat tracking thingy tracks viewers, not individual readers. []
  9. Where “my knowledge” = anything I wrote about on my blog, is sitting on my bookshelf that I can see and remember that I read, and was recorded by my e-reader. []
  10. In no particular order. And for the textbooks, I didn’t read all of them from cover to cover – just the required chapters []
  11. In progress. []

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Any resemblance to actual persons, living or undead, is purely coincidental

Somewhat spoiler-ish. I’m too lazy to do an actual thorough review or anything, but if you are planning to read the book and don’t want to know anything, I suggest you skip this posting.

I just finished reading World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. At the very end of the book there was the typical disclaimer, “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” I think you can see why this made me laugh.

The book itself was quite good. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to read this book because, while I love zombie movies and TV shows, I thought, “A book about zombies? How scary can that be?” But it was. Not scary the way a movie would be, but definitely frightening to think about what it would be like if the zombie apocalypse were to actually happen. What was also intriguing was the exploration of what it would be like in different countries – zombies freezing in northern climates and then thawing in the spring, more militarized countries having different capacities to fight hordes of the living dead, how countries might go about repopulating the Earth once the zombies were beaten.

I’m interested to see how this will turn out as a movie, which apparently will be coming out next summer1.

  1. After some delay due to them having to refilm the ending on account of the first version of the ending sucking. []