Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Can’t blog. Marking.

It’s exam time, which means I’m now faced with a giant pile of exams to mark. *sigh* And they don’t seem to be marking themselves, so I’m resigned to the fact that I will, in fact, need to mark them myself. *double sigh*.

And, because I have this crazy idea that university should be about learning how to think critically, how to analyze and synthesize and evaluate using information rather than how to regurgitate random, out-of-contexts facts, I won’t give fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice or matching questions, which are, of course, waaaaay easier to mark. So marking 94 exams is quite a project. Now, I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as at least I’m being paid to do this, whereas the students have to pay to take the course and write the exam!

But I still don’t like marking. I don’t like it in a house. I don’t like it with a mouse. I don’t like it in a boat. I don’t like it with a goat.

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I noticed this when I logged into my UBC email the other day:

It was accompanied by an announcement that the amount of storage UBC student1 email accounts were increased from 30 MB to a whopping 120 MB. That’s quadruple the space! Wow, whatever would one do with all that space? I mean, everyone knows that 640K is more than enough for anyone.

And so I couldn’t resist adapting the image to show the UBC account relative to my Gmail account:

I’m just sayin’.

1Faculty accounts were upped to 200 MB a few months ago in a move that prompted me to email my friends and say “Welcome me to 1997!”

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ubccard.jpg

So I finally got my UBC Faculty card. Isn’t it pretty?

Are you thinking, “Hmmm, that photo looks familiar?” Rather than going into the Bookstore and having them take a mugshot for the card, which invariably turns out terribly, I selected the option where you can upload a photo that you already have. There are a bunch of requirements for what makes an acceptable photo: I needed a photo that’s not bigger than 3 MB and 120 pixels x 160 pixels, with a white background in which my “shoulders squared to the camera.” Photoshop took care of size requirements and creating a white background, but I discovered that I don’t have many photos with my shoulders squared to the camera. At least not ones that I look good in. Not that I wasted over an hour picking a good photo. How vain do you think I am?

The photo I ended up choosing is from Shalu & Deepak’s wedding. I kinda like that I am wearing a sari and some serious bling in my Faculty card photo.

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As I’m sure you’ve heard1, the Biological Sciences Building at UBC was locked down due to a “police incident” yesterday. They still aren’t saying exactly what the threat was, although apparently it was “specific and contained a deadline.” 

I first heard about it through an email from my Faculty (since I teach at UBC this term, I get all their department- and faculty-wide emails), then very soon saw a flurry of comments about it on Twitter2.  Then I heard it in the mainstream media.

I was just checking out this entry on the situation on Now Public, written by a UBC grad student who was looked in the building at the time, which contained information such as “a swat team with complete tactical gear has entered the building (with fully automatic assault rifles), assailiant might have a gun” and “Students in my office are currently playing pictionary…team 2 is winning.”  Thankfully, everyone got out OK, but now I am wondering who won the game of pictionary.

Also,  I’m feeling kinda like the queen of being next door to bad stuff.  The Bio Sci Building is next door to the Nutrition building (where I did my Ph.D. and for whom I currently teach), although I wasn’t there at the time or anything.  And a few weeks ago there was a shooting at a restaurant downtown and I was close enough that I heard the shots.  Freaky.

1Well, if you are in Canada. I don’t expect my American readers heard about this. Or even know what a UBC is. And Canada is the big country just north of you, FYI. 😉
2I also first heard about Heath Ledger’s death on Twitter.

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Going Under the Knife

Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., I’m getting my wisdom teeth out. And I’m really not looking forward to it, because I don’t like the following:

  • needles
  • pain
  • getting up early

I’ve needed to get my wisdom teeth out for a while now, but never had the dental coverage for it. UBC claims to have medical and dental for their students (they make you pay for medical and dental at any rate), but it pretty much doesn’t actually cover anything. But now that I have a big girl job, with actual benefits and suchlike, I can do such things as have parts of my body taken out, for the low, low price of $5001.

I’m going to be knocked out by IV sedation – I talked about it extensively with the surgeon at the consultation but, of course, don’t quite remember all the drugs included in the cocktail2 – I think it was some combo of benzos and opioids. I’ll have to remember to ask him again tomorrow. Apparently this will cause me to sleep through the whole procedure3, but is nowhere near as risky as general anesthetic (i.e., unlike a general, the risk of dying from sedation is pretty much nil)4. And when I get out of surgery, I’ll feel like I’m drunk. Thankfully, Rachel is coming with me to make sure I actually make it home in my altered state – she has experience in this realm, so I’m confident that I’ll be fine.

On the way home from work I figure I’ll stop at work for frozen fruit (for smoothies) and ice packs. Anything else you recommend?

1My insurance doesn’t pay the specialists fees which, apparently, aren’t cheap.
2because I did ask him for all the details.
3Why does “procedure” sounds worse than “surgery” to me?

4*knocks on wood*

Note: That pic is not me, but that’s pretty much what my bottom wisdom teeth look like. The pic was stolen from the interwebs, but not really stolen ‘cuz it’s under a Creative Commons license that says I may “copy, distribute, display, and perform the work”… and look ma, I’m even linking to the license.

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I Went to the Dentist and Found Out That I’m Hideously Deformed and Possibly Dying

First of all, I’d just like to say that I’m sitting out in the sun, literally dripping with sweat, feeding my internet addiction via wireless and drastically increasing my risk of skin cancer. I love having Fridays off!

And speaking of Fridays off… I tend to pack my Fridays full of errands and meetings and lunches with friends and suchlike. And since this job thing that I’m doing came with this sweet, sweet benefits package, I’ve been frequenting the offices of medical professionals of late. First I found a family doctor, then there was the optometrist and today, a dental appointment. I haven’t been to a dentist in forever because (a) the dental plan I had at as a UBC student sucked and (b) the last dentist I saw was a total shyster, turning me off of the dental profession. But I decided to go to a new dentist since the aforementioned sweet, sweet benefits plan covers all the basic dental stuff and a hefty chunk of the extended dental stuff. Since I hadn’t been to the dentist in so long, I ended up there for almost 2 hours! They took a full set of X-rays, since I noticed recently that my top wisdom teeth are starting to come in… yes, I’m 30 years old and I’m teething! Two observations about the X-rays – (1) whenever I’ve had x-rays (which is not that often), I always feel like I can *feel* the radiation changing my DNA and I’m somewhat surprised that I don’t have superpowers at the end of it, and (2) is it weird that while having my X-rays taken I was thinking, “well, if I ever get murdered, they’ll be able to identify by my dental records! How could I have gone this long without such a record??”? The upshot of this is that I need to go see an oral surgeon who will tell me that I need to get my wisdom teeth pulled and why-didn’t-you-do-this-when-you-were-younger-because-old-people-like-you-don’t-heal-so-well*!

Also, the dentist did two things to freak me out. First of all, she looked at my teeth and said, “Are you happy with that smile?” with the strangest combination of contempt and pity in her voice. Now, I’m already very self conscious of my teeth. When I was a kid, I smashed my front teeth running into a jungle gym**, resulting in my formerly straight teeth becoming quite crooked, 3 root canals needed and a brief contemplation on becoming an endodontist***. I avoid smiling with my mouth open in photos**** because my teeth are awful and I think I look like quite a gap-toothed hick in the photos where someone does catch me in a toothy smile. So the last thing I needed was to be told that I have a hideously deformed smile that requires thousands of dollars of treatment before anyone can even look at me without turning to stone. No wait, the last thing I needed was being told, “We should take a biopsy of this abnormal white patch on your soft palate. Don’t worry, though, it’s probably not oral cancer.****” So, the upshot of these two things is that if I don’t have oral cancer and die, I should probably get either braces (which I’d need for 1.5 years + 1 year of a full-time retainer + a nighttime retainer forever more) or veneers, which would not only fill out my f’d up teeth so that they lined up more nicely, but would cover up the hideous discolouration of my root-canaled teeth. What’s that, you didn’t notice the hideous discolouration? Here, let me shine a very bright light in your mouth and give you this magnifying mirror to look at so you can see how hideous you truly are. My dental plan covers about the same amount for either braces or veneer, so if I decide to do anything to fix my hideousness, I could go either way as far as cost is concerned. I think I’m leaning towards veneer, but need to look into it some more.

OK, I need to go grab something to eat before my softball game. Apparently the Friday night games are the ones where we are really supposed to do some drinking. The drinking at Wednesday night games is minor, really, compared to Friday games, or so I’m told.

*the answer, of course, being that it wasn’t covered and I lived below the poverty line, so how the hell could I have afford it??
*long story, but it really isn’t as stupid as it sounds
**primarily because I saw that the assistant did most of the work and the endodontist had a really big diamond ring and an expensive sports car.
***Seriously, check out my Flickr photos – you’d be hard pressed to find one of me smiling anything but a closed mouth grin.

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A few unrelated things

(a) So, I went out for a run today. Just a little 14 K*. In a torrential downpour. Believe it or not, I actually really enjoy running in the rain… You get awfully warm running and the rain is delightfully cool. There are only two drawbacks: (1) I get a lot of water in my shoes when the puddles are too large to jump (which they certainly were today) and having wet feet kinda sucks, (2) my hair turns into a knotted rat’s nest if it gets anywhere near rain. How knotted, you ask? Take this for example – after my run, I was applying a half a bottle of conditioner to try to work out the knots in my hair. And apparently, in addition to not being trusted with knives, I should also not be trusted with my own hair. Check out the wound I received from trying to run my fingers through my knotty, knotty hair:


That’s a hell of a hunk flesh to be ripped from one’s finger!! My poor, poor finger!!

(b) On Friday night, I went to see a talk by Nobel Laureate, Carl Weimann. He talked about his research for which he won the Nobel Prize (he and his colleagues produced the first true Bose-Einstein condensate). Here is a picture of the “velocity-distribution data of a gas of rubidium atoms, confirming the discovery of a new phase of matter, the Bose–Einstein condensate.” (taken from Wikipedia… I’m just including it here ‘cuz (1) it looks cool and (2) it’s in the public domain, so I can).

He also talked a lot about science education, as that is what he was recruited to UBC to study. The best part of the whole talk was when this completely belligerent audience member asked a series of long and rambling questions, including a diatribe about how he didn’t believe any of what Dr. Weimann said about what makes an effective educator since we all know that being a dynamic speaker is the only thing that matters to being a good teacher, “SO ANSWER THAT MR. NOBEL LAUREATE!”**… to which Dr. Weimann responded there is plenty of solid data to support what he’s said about education and so, “You can either say that you don’t believe evidence or you can say that I’m right.” Ha ha! Take that, belligerent audience member! Here’s a pic I snapped at the talk – Dr. Weimann is the guy on the right:

(3) I bought a wicked pair of news shoes. For work. Ha ha… I just love saying that. Work. As in a job. As in employment, with a paycheque and benefits and challenging responsibilities and the need for appropriate footwear. I decided to buy a simple pair of black heels, ones that will go with pretty much any outfit I might wear to work. But, being the sexy shoe-obsessed girl that I am, I bought really shiny black shoes that are ever so slightly too high to be exactly considered conservative. Yes, I’m edgy like that.

After I bought my shoes at the trusty Payless, I strolled around Kingsgate Mall (I’d never been there before) and stumbled upon a shoe store that must have fallen from heaven***. Never before had I seen so many platform boots! Boots that make my boots look like nun’s shoes. I was also very pleased to see that cork wedge heels are in fashion for another year… my eBay shoes will come out of mothballs once the rain, rain goes away!

(4) Damn, I was sure I had something else I wanted to blog about, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. I’m going to blame the trauma of my above mentioned hand injury for this lapse in memory.

*That’s over 8.5 miles for my American readers.
**I’m not even joking… the audience member actually yelled that, while pointing emphatically in Dr. Weimann’s general direction.
***The “heaven” in my world my vary from yours.

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Final Thoughts on Northern Voice

So, I’ve looked at my notes and collected my thoughts from Northern Voice. And pretty much this is just a literal collection of the notes that I took (well, the interesting parts anyway), unprocessed*. Sort of a glimpse into the mind of Bethy at a blogging conference – I’m sort of using my blog as a “brain dump” (and a record of my notes should I want to go back and re-visit them) so feel free to skip this post if you find it less than interesting….

Day 1 was “Moosecamp” – the unconference.

At the end of the session called “Mashups for Nonprogrammers,” I made myself the following note:

Wow, this session is going way fast – lots of info in a short amount of time. I’ll have to check out these sites** to see what they actually do, because I can’t really follow at this rapid speed.

That was my first indication at the conference that I’m a veritable neophyte in the ways of computers.

At “Photocamp” and “Videocamp” I just made a bunch of notes of technical stuff that the pros were suggesting for taking better pics/videos for the web. Nothing really interesting enough to blog about***, but definitely useful stuff for me to use. Highlights included the fact that someone had a waterproof digital camera and someone else had a shiny red camera that takes 8 photos at the same time. Also, the idea of having a pocket camera that you always have with you was stressed… if you don’t have the camera, you don’t get the shot.****

The “Vancouver Transit Camp” session was quite interesting – the presenters talked about a barcamp event held in Toronto where the community of transit users came together to collaborate on ideas for a new website****. The idea was to start discussing the idea of having a “Vancouver Transit Camp,” or, as someone pointed out, a “Greater Vancouver Transit Camp,” as, unlike in T.O., Translink is responsible for transit in the GVRD, not just Vancouver proper. It seemed to me that a key point that seemed to come out of the session was that Vancouver is not Toronto, so a transit camp here would probably evolve into quite a different event than Toronto Transit Camp.

Stats: The Forbidden Love“, IMHO, should win the “best title of any session I attended at Moosecamp” prize, if there were such a prize. Which there was not. But I digress. This session was a discussion on how we don’t need to be ashamed of our obsession with how many people are reading are blog, and when, and from where, and how they found us, and… well, you get the point. The group was a lively bunch and I got a learned about a whole bunch of different stat counters I can try out.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Blogs” provided me with some tips for, not surprisingly, optimizing my blog for search engines. As well, I learned that Google used the concept from academics where how many times you are cited by other authors determines your reputation (i.e., searches are based on who is linking to whom and how often).

Other random thoughts from Day 1 that I felt it necessary to record in my notes:

everyone here seems to be using a mac. either that or writing in a notebook.. like with a pen. on paper.

also, there are a lot of people here using a lot of words (or more often, acronyms) that i totally don’t know. i feel like the least techy person here.

Onto Day 2… the more formal conferency day. First up was an interesting keynote talk from Anil Dash, whose job title of Chief Evangelist at six apart tends to be problematic at Customs.

Then I went to “Blogging 101,” where I could actually keep up with what was being talked about, what with being a techy neophyte and all.

How to be a Citizen Journalist” was a cool session on what journalism is and what makes something “news.” I learned that “reporting” requires you to (1) gather information, (2) filter it, and (3) distribute/publish. Missing any of these keys steps = you are not a reporter (you are either a plagiarist (or writing opinion pieces) (missing #1), a transcriber (missing #2) or a snoop (missing #3). Also cool: with the “Access to Information Act” – Canadian citizens/permanent resident has the right to information for any record under the control of the federal government (and there are provincial equivalents of this act). It only costs you a stamp (and maybe a photocopy fee). And they have to tell you. And they have to do it within a certain time period. Cool. Also cool to know: you can buy a microphone that plugs into your iPod and use it as a recording device, should you ever need to. Also discussed, and echoing what was discussed at a previous session: there are 2 rules of photography – (1) have your camera, and (2) take the picture *****. As well, if anyone is interested in Canadian law as it pertains to photography (like, hmmm… I wonder if I can legally post that pic I snapped of that random at the conference/party/protest/change room the other night), check out ambientlight.ca/laws.shtml. Apparently it has a lot to do with whether you can have a “reasonable right of expectation of privacy”… for example, if you are at blogging conference, it’s pretty fair to say you do not have a “reasonable right of expectation of privacy” and so someone can take your picture and post it… if you are in the change room at the gym, however, most reasonable people would expect some privacy.

The “Legal Rights & Liabilities of Bloggers” session taught us all about such fun stuff as defamation, copyright infringement and the like. Good times.

I found the “Why Do We Blog” session to be particularly interesting… there was a presentation by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward on why he blogs and then Darren Barefoot showed the results on the survey he conducted that I told y’all about a while back. And I have to include this photo montage thingy of his presentation, taken by leftantler and posted on Flickr, ‘cuz it’s just too cool for words.


And the last session of the day was a lively panel discussion about “Online Dating,” which drew a big crowd and generated lots of Q&A. And the woman who recruited me to her Ph.D. research study was able to recruit more subjects at this talk, so that was cool.

My random thoughts on Day 2 that I felt it necessary to record in my notes:

There is a lot of multi-tasking going on here. People uploading to Flickr, checking out Flickr, writing posts, etc. while listening to the keynote. Only at blogging conference would that not seem rude!

I <3 technical difficulties at techie conferences. Blue screen of death on the projector, rather than the slides that the presenter probably spent a long time working on.

Why is everyone using the word “granular” all of the sudden? They are using it to mean like “very subtle differences,” which I suppose the word “granular” does invoke, but I’ve only heard it in the last, say, 4 days, but I’ve heard it about 70 times over those 4 days.

Whew, that was a super long post. Did anyone actually read it? 25 points to anyone who claims they actually read the whole thing.

*I know I promised processing. But I also promised Jorge that I would start using his Footnotz soon. Just goes to show that you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

**these sites = all the sites that they were talking about… which have all been added to the wiki for the sessions, so follow the link “Mashups for Nonprogrammers” if you are interested.

**But apparently the fact that I’m not going to blog about it is interesting enough for me to blog about.

***as I discovered, much to my dismay, at this Vancouver Giants game!

****apparently the TTC currently has an atrocious website and the transit users were like, “hell, we can make a better site than that with our eyes closed!”

*****of course, as learned on my run yesterday, “bring your camera” implies that you should have your memory card in your camera. So, for example, if you take your camera on your run because you know you are going to run by a cool sign that you want a photograph of, it really sucks if you carry your camera there and then can’t take the pic ‘cuz you left your memory card in your jump drive on your desk and so you carry your camera for 10 frigginkilometers and can’t take any pictures. I’m just saying.

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Moosecamp ’07 – Post #3

This blogging conference is being held in the Foresty Building at UBC. And despite what the signs would have you believe, it is not a logging conference.

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Coffee, Sunshine, Singing Birds and A Blogging Conference

I’m sitting at Calhoun’s right now, drinking coffee and availing myself of the free wifi*. I’m sitting on the patio. In the sunshine. Wearing sunglasses. No jacket. In FEBRUARY!!

I was lured out of my dark dank basement suite by the sounds of birds singing! I’m not making that up. Friggin‘ birds were friggin‘ singing outside my friggin‘ window. In the sunshine. In February. The Weather Network claims that it is 9 degrees out**, and Environment Canada would have you believe it is 8 degrees. This is complete bullshit. It must be at least 15. It’s gorgeous. I’m pretty sure this is a conspiracy to keep the rest of the country from knowing how amazing it is here, as we have no room for any more people to move here.

Also, I’m going to a blogging conference tomorrow – Northern Voice! It’s two days – tomorrow is Moose Camp, the unconference and Saturday is the more conferency part. I’m volunteering because I didn’t have the $50*** it costs to attend. I’m really looking forward to it – it sounds like there is going to be a lot of really cool sessions, and it’s sold out and so I’ll get the chance to meet lots of really cool people. My friend Phillip is going, so I’ll at least know one of the attendees. No doubt you’ll be hearing all about it from me over the next couple of days.

*Free because UBC made a deal with fatport where anyone with a UBC Campus Wide Login (CWL) can use any fatport in Vancouver for free. Apparently it is a one-year trial. Of course, being
UBC, they didn’t bother to actually advertise this, so hardly anyone I’ve talked to knows about it. I only know about it because I have connections.

**That’s 9 degrees Celsius. For my American friends, that’s 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

***Yes, I’m aware that $50 is a fantastic deal for a 2 day conference. But I’m ungainfully unemployed, so to me that it a prohibitive amount. Thankfully Darren & Cyprien, two of the organizers, took pity on me and are letting me volunteer.