Not To Be Trusted With Knives











{December 31, 2008}   2008 – My Year in Review

Wow, it’s the last day of 2008. How did that happen?  Seems like only yesterday that it was New Year’s 2008 and now New Year’s 2009 is upon us!

So, in a blog posting that fits perfectly into my “rampant narcissism” category, I give you my personal 2008 summary:

The Good

  • I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress
  • I got to hear Gloria Steinem speak
  • Got laser eye surgery
  • I saw Madonna in concert
  • I saw Chris Rock live
  • I taught two courses at UBC (Nutritional Assessment & Topics in Food, Nutrition & Health)
  • I got hired to teach another UBC course (Research Methods) and my first SFU course (Human Anatomy) for the upcoming term
  • Tod got the greatest cat EVER1.

The Bad

The Ugly

Travels

Accomplishments

Books Read3

  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
  • The Pleasure’s All Mine by Joan Kelly
  • What to Eat by Marion Nestle
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  • The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
  • Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (just started)
  • Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
  • Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind The Pay Gap-And What Women Can Do About It by Warren Farrell

Textbooks

  • Principles of Nutrition Assessment by Rosalind Gibson
  • Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches by John W. Cresswell
  • Best Practices for Teaching Statistics and Research Methods in the Behavioral Sciences, edited by Dana S. Dunn, Randolph A. Smith, Bernard C. Beins
  • Philosophy And The Sciences of Exercise, Health And Sport: Critical Perspectives On Research Methods, edited by Mike McNamee
  • Brain-based Teaching For All Subjects: Patterns To Promote Learning by Madlon T. Laster. (only a bit, because it turned out to be about elementary school teaching, whereas I was expecting it to be about university teaching)
  • Conducting & Reading Research in Health & Human Performance by Baumgartner & Hensley (only partway through)

Misc

And what year in review blog posting would be complete without some nerd stats:

Nerd Stats 2008:

  • Blog postings: 423
  • Tweets: 2,2274
  • Visits to my blog in 2008: 32,4104
  • Average number of blog visits per day: 934
  • Most popular blog posting: Hockey Hotties (1062 views)
  • Busiest day on my blog: Friday, September 26, 2008 (460 views, thanks to the Hockey Hotties posting)
  • My first guest posting on a blog as a correspondent for Miss604 at BlogHer

1OK, I realize that *I* didn’t get the cat and this is supposed to be *my* personal summary. But he’s the best freaking cat ever and he’s sitting on my lap as I write this, so it counts.
2A “letter of intent” (LOI) is an application to be allowed to submit an application. Anyone can submit an LOI, but only the people whose LOIs get accepted are allowed to submit the full application.
3I’m sure I’ve read more than this and am just forgetting some of them. This list is based on ones (a) I can actually remember without prompting, (b) appeared on my blog and so I saw them when I went through my blog to write this year in review, and (c) I still have out of the library, so I saw them when I checked what books I have out of the library.
4At the time of writing this blog posting.

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Miss604 is having her last contest of 2008 and this blog posting is my entry.  Supporting Canada Helps, a site that facilitates online charitable donations, the prize for this contest is one of two $25 e-gift cards that can be donated to the charity of your choice.  The contest requires that you write a blog posting about a charity that is close to your heart.  This is surprisingly difficult, as there are so many good charities out there.  But I’ve decided that the charity I would donate my $25 e-gift card to, should I win the contest, is the Pivot Legal Society.

Pivot Legal Society is a non-profit legal advocacy organization located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Pivot’s mandate is to take a strategic approach to social change, using the law to address the root causes that undermine the quality of life of those most on the margins.

We believe that everyone, regardless of income, benefits from a healthy and inclusive community where values such as opportunity, respect and equality are strongly rooted in the law. (From the Pivot website)

Pivot has been/is involved in a number of important issues, including addictions (including supporting the supervised injection site in Vancouver), homelessness, child welfare, policing, and sex workers rights.  I’ve had the opporutnity to meet with some amazing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (and I have a number of inspiring colleagues who have done a great deal of work in the DTES) and I know that Pivot is doing really important work.



And now the conclusion of our harrowing tale of trying to fly on US Airways.  When we last left the story, our heroine and hero had spent SEVEN hours waiting in the San Jose del Cabos airport, been flown to Tuscon to walk through Immigration/Customs only to find out their luggage had been lost, then flown to Phoenix where they were put up in a hotel and given coupons for a horrible, horrible breakfast.

So.  Comparatively speaking, our flight from Phoenix to Vancouver was not nearly as bad, but still involved the following screw ups:

  • The pilot went to the wrong gate. Seriously. We were originally supposed to be at Gate B28 and then they announced that it was changed to Gate A23, so everyone started to walk over to the new gate. But then the person on the PA system said, “Wait. The pilot appears to have gone to Gate B23 instead of A23, so we’ll just have your flight to Vancouver board there.”  The fact that the pilot can’t even go to the correct gate does not give me confidence in the competence of this airline.  Not that I had much confidence left in them at this point.
  • Yet another maintenance “issue.” We were delayed an hour at the gate because, apparently, the maintenance people didn’t fill out the paperwork correctly.  The pilot announced, in a very annoyed tone of voice, “Maintenance has to come on the plane to straighten out some paperwork.  The TSA is really picky about having paperwork filled out correctly.” Oh yeah, those darn safety people wanting you take the safety seriously, how dare they?  I also find it rather suspect that it took them an hour to “straighten out the paperwork.” An hour? Really? Again, this did not fill me with confidence.
  • They didn’t have anyone at the lost baggage desk at YVR. They had lost baggage there – plenty of it.  Just sitting out in the open where anyone could have walked away with it.  We waited for 20 minutes for someone to show up.  We called their support line and the person we got on the phone tried calling someone to figure out why no one was at the desk, and then claimed that they couldn’t make any outgoing calls when we suggested that they get the airport to page the missing lost baggage person (you may recall from earlier in this sentence, they had already made an outgoing call).
  • They left forms with people’s confidential information on it sitting right out on the desk for anyone to see. Seriously. I saw six forms with people’s names, home addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, flight information, signatures and the approximate value of the contents of their lost luggage1. Eventually, someone showed up at the American Airlines desk next to the US Airways one and, after repeatedly telling us “I don’t work for US Airways. I don’t know what the other airlines do,” looked behind the counter and found our luggage, which apparently had been put on an earlier flight to Vancouver than us.  The person from American Airlines refused to put the forms with people’s confidential information out of sight, despite the fact that I asked her to do so very nicely three times, again with the “I don’t know what the other airlines do” line. Like, seriously, would it have been that hard to take the forms and put them under the desk?  At that point, I gave up on the whole thing and we left the airport, finally home in our beloved Vancouver.

So, to recap, here is a list of all the ways that US Airways screwed up on one trip:

  • FOUR planes with “maintenance issues,” including two that were unfit to fly altogether
  • a total of ELEVEN hours of delay2 (not counting the two hours delay waiting to leave Vancouver, which was due to weather (i.e., the need to wait for the de-icer), which is not their fault; and also not counting an overnight stay in Phoenix, which was their fault3)
  • They lost our luggage
  • They don’t have a person at their lost luggage desk
  • When luggage does eventually arrive at its final destination, they leave it out in the open where anyone could steal it
  • They left several people’s confidential information out in the open, also available for stealing

Additional things that suck about US Airways:

  • They charge you if you have ANY checked bags.
  • They charge you for a can of pop or a bottle of water on the plane.
  • They don’t have any food at all on their plane. Not even the over-priced crappy sandwiches or bags of chips that other airlines carry.

In conclusion, I will never, ever fly US Airways again and you shouldn’t either.  I feel lucky to have arrived home alive after that trip, quite frankly.

1In fairness, this desk was also for a few other airlines and there were forms from people who flew on Air Transat & Continental sitting on the desk as well. So whoever had been at that desk for all those airlines totally sucks. And I bet it was a US Airways employee.
2One hour of them fixing our plane in Phoenix, waiting to go to Cabos; seven hours waiting for our plane in Cabos as they had to replace two non-functional planes in a row; about a two hour detour to Tucson because our flight was so late that we couldn’t clear Immigration in Phoenix; one hour of them “straightening up the paperwork” waiting to leave Phoenix to get to Vancouver; plus having to stay overnight in Phoenix
3Ironically, the only flight segment of our entire journey that didn’t have a delay was our originally scheduled Phoenix to Vancouver flight, which we missed because we were still in Cabos. It left Phoenix right on time.



{December 29, 2008}   OMGIhateUSAirways!

So. I’m in friggin’ Phoenix.

After waiting for SEVEN hours in the San Jose del Cabo airport, we *finally* got a flight to Phoenix. Most people on the flight had bailed by this point, with only 17 passengers remaining to take the flight. This was an Airbus A320 plane, which seats 179 passangers, and it had been full. Until we had to wait SEVEN hours.

By this point,we were kind of starving. Because, of course, everything in the airport had closed down. And we asked the flight attendant what there was on the plane that we could buy and she said, “Oh, we don’t carry any food.” (US Airways, by the way, sucks.) Um, what? No food on the plane? I remember from the flight down to Cabos that you have to pay for your lousy can of pop (did I mention that US Airways sucks?), but you can’t even buy food on their plane? wtf? Then we asked what kind of mechanical problems they had that had delayed us for SEVEN hours and the flight attendants said, “Which one?” Apparently there were two non-functional planes (the first one wouldn’t pressurize, the second had some door locking problem) before they got this third, functional plane. So, counting the mechanical problem on the way from Phoenix to Cabos (which caused a few hours delay), that’s THREE major maintenance issues in one trip. Somehow,this does not give me confidence in their ability to maintain their planes.

The next ridiculous thing to happen was that they announced that we had to fly to Tucson to clear customs before we could go to Phoenix. Wait, what? Apparently, our flight was so late that the Phoenix customs people had all gone home. So we had to go to Tucson (which has 24 hour customs), get off the plane with all our luggage, clear customs, go back through security, get back on the plane and fly to Phoenix. No, really. And then we get to Tuscon and find that they have lost our luggage. Lost. Our. Luggage. They had SEVEN hours to get our luggage on that plane. SEVEN! (Did I mention that US Airways is the suckiest airline ever? Did I?) I have never, in my entire life, had my luggage lost. I was starting to think that lost luggage was just a myth. But no, US Airways lost our luggage. Way to go, US Airways!

Once we got to Phoenix, they put us up in a hotel (14 of the 17 people from our flight were on the shuttle to the hotel) and gave us little coupons for their horrible hotel breakfast buffet. And I’m not even making this up, the coupon said it was for an airline “distressed” passenger breakfast.

OK, I’ll have to continue this story later, as I need to go board my plane. Keep your fingers crossed for us to actually make it home before 2009!



{December 28, 2008}   Mi Navidad Mexicana

My Christmas vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico went a little something like this:

10:45 a.m. Wake up1.
10:55 a.m. Arrive at breakfast buffet restaurant.  Acquire coffee, refried beans, papaya and pineapple. Big decision of the day #1: French toast, omelette or fried eggs.
11:30 a.m. Grab beach towels. Apply sunscreen. Order non-stop delivery of Coca-Cola Light2 with a slice of lime from poolside server.
11:35a.m. Lay in sun. Alternate between reading, chatting with people and swimming. Reapply sunscreen as needed.
2:00 p.m. Have lunch, where lunch = french fries, onion rings, nachos with fresh guac and salsa.  And Coca-Cola Light.
2:30 p.m. Tod’s naptime. Big decision of the day #2: Decide between having a nap, reading, or going for a walk on the beach.
5:00 p.m. Nap (if not already napping)
6:30 p.m. Shower.  Dress up pretty.
8:00 p.m. Big decision of the day #3: where to have dinner.
10:30 p.m. Go to the disco, possibly followed by hot tub.
2:00 a.m. Order sandwiches from room service.
2:45 a.m. Re-order sandwich because they put bacon on my vegetarian sandwich.
3:15 a.m. Sleep.

Repeat for six days.

Seriously, I could get used to a life like that.

Highlights of the trip:

  • Los Cabos is gorgeous. Gorgeous!
  • The people we met were very friendly. Friendly!
  • Being a Vancouverite, I’m not used to sunshine, especially not in December.  Los Cabos was sunshine-y almost the entire time.
  • In Los Cabos, I didn’t have to think about work at all.
  • Standing on the beach, listening to the waves break3 and feeling myself sink into the sand as the waves rolled in and then back out.
  • 3 a.m. room service sandwiches. So. Tasty.

Lowlights of the trip:

  • Apparently, I’m the first vegetarian to ever set foot in Mexico.  To the point that on Christmas Eve, I was told that they couldn’t make me anything for dinner. After talking with one of the guest services peeps (who said, “Oh, would you like them to make you something special?” to which I replied, “No4, I just want something vegetarian!”) they agreed to make me… a salad. Because, you know, us freaks only ever eat salad. And who wouldn’t want a salad for Christmas dinner? In the end, I  managed to convince them to give me both the salad and a turkey dinner, hold the turkey.
  • Sitting in the San Jose del Cabos airport writing this blog posting. Our flight was supposed to have left 5:30 p.m. and it’s now, as I type this, 8:30 p.m.  The plane we were supposed to be on hadn’t even left Phoenix by 5:30 p.m. And apparently they can’t get us any other plane. And so now we are scheduled to leave here at 9:20 p.m. Which is going to make it rather difficult to make our 8:59 p.m. connection from Phoenix to Vancouver. So. Looks like I’ll be staying either in Phoenix (given that the 8:59 p.m. is the last Phoenix to Vancouver flight of the day) or here in Cabos5 (if this stupid plane decides never to arrive).

Books Read on This Trip:

  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (start to finish)6
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks (about one-third of the book)
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (about half a page)
  • Research Design by Creswell (the chapters I hadn’t yet read) and Conducting & Reading Research in Health & Human Performance by Baumgartner & Hensley (bits and pieces – since I’ve been stuck in this airport)

Things I Learned On My Trip:

  • Spray on sunscreen, which starts out invisible, turns green. The towel you lay on while wearing said sunscreen will look like it has grass stains on it.
  • Coffee whitener is highly flammable7.
  • Broken bones don’t hurt until you move them8.
  • Los Cabos airport appears to be a tent.

1Important, as they stop serving breakfast at 11 a.m.
2Which is what they call Diet Coke in Mexico. I didn’t see diet Pepsi anywhere.
3Of course, being a Vancouverite, I can easily get to the ocean. This was a reminder that I should make a point of doing so more often.
4Seriously. I’m not asking for the moon here. I’m like, “just give me the veggies from the turkey dinner, hold the turkey!”
5Kicking myself for joking in my last blog posting about deciding to stay in Mexico. Staying sounded nice, but not if it means staying in the airport!
6Thanks to Sarah & Dave, who gave this to me for Christmas.
7Didn’t actually have the opportunity to see this in action, but we were assured that it is true.
8Didn’t learn this firsthand, but one of the people we were hanging out with broken his toe playing beach volleyball. I was sure it was just dislocated, given that it didn’t hurt and bones have lots of nerves in them. But when the doctor showed up, he said it was broken (as he was able to move the joints normally, meaning the joints couldn’t be dislocated) and that it didn’t hurt because it wasn’t moving.



{December 28, 2008}   Two Week Warning

Today is the day that Beth travels back to Vancouver. Unless she’s decided that Mexico is so nice that she’s going to stay. Which, you know, totally could have happened. Anyway, today’s blog posting contains not a link or a cute photo of cats in boxes, but rather, a very important reminder: Beth’s birthday is only two weeks away. I’m just sayin’



Now that Christmas is officially over, it’s time for all the various news channels and websites to start releasing their “best of 2008” lists.  Beth’s still enjoying a couple more days in the Mexican sun, but she thought you might like this:

The Smoking Gun’s Top Ten List of Mugshots for 2008.



{December 26, 2008}   Happy Boxing Day

This is two cats in a box, in honour of Boxing Day:

Cats and boxes!!! by fofurasfelinas.

Cuteness!

Photo credit: fofurasfelinas on Flickr.



{December 25, 2008}   Merry Mexmas!

Merry Chrifsmas by Piutus.

Wishing you a Merry Xmas from sunny Los Cabos, Mexico!

Can you believe I actually found an image, avaialble for use via a Creative Commons licence, that combined Christmas (since it’s Christmas), Spanish (since I’m in Mexico right now)  and my beloved Flying Spaghetti Monster (since he’s my beloved Flying Spaghetti Monster)?  It’s like a Holiday miracle!

Photo credit: Pitius on Flickr.



and all through the blog,
not a Bethy was stirring,
‘cuz she was too busy learning to salsa dance on her vacation in Mexico. Or perhaps it’s merengue today. Or maybe yoga on the beach. Whatever it is she’s up to, she’s not here blogging.

She did, however, leave this link for you today. It’s a discussion about the sex (not the gender, as the headline says) of Santa’s reindeer.  Hint: they are probably girls.



She’s probably lounging on the beach right at this very moment. It’s probably 30 degrees in Los Cabos. And she left you and me stuck here in freezing cold Canada1. Hmph.

Anyway, she left you this link for today:

The Periodic Table of Awesoments

Like the periodic table of elements, only awesomer.

Beth especially likes awesoments #4, #36,  #47, #58 and #113. Although not necessarily all at the same time.

1Unless, of course, you are reading this from somewhere other than Canada.



She’s on a plane heading to Mexico.  She’ll think about you while she’s laying on the beach.

She left this link to a podcast that you can listen to while she’s gone.  It’s a WNYC Radiolab show about sperm. She especially liked the part about the sugar room in the fallopian tube. That was not something she knew about prior to listening to that podcast.



Vancouver doesn’t really get that much snow for a Canadian city.  And even when it does snow, it usually doesn’t usually stick around for very long.  But after last Saturday’s storm, we had another storm on Wednesday and then it snowed pretty consistently all day today.  Enough that our hockey game was canceled because no one could get to the rink!  So it seems that the people of Vancouver will be enjoying a white Christmas this year.

Where I Am Right Now:

Snow in Vancouver by Mark Busse.A snowy night in Vancouver by tyfn.

Photo credit: Mark Busse on Flickr and tyfn on Flickr, respectively.

I, however, will be winging my way southward in about 8 hours.  Mercifully, the snow has stopped falling, so this should give them enough time to clear the runways, yes?

Where I’m Heading:

Pool View in Los Cabos by paultwo.

Photo credit: paultwo on Flickr.

I’ll think of you all while I’m soaking up the rays on the beach for the next week.

Also, thanks to everyone who sent emails/comments/IMs/Facebook message about the passing of my Granny. The kind words are very much appreciated.



{December 20, 2008}   My Granny

This morning, my Granny died.  She’d not been well for some time (having heart disease (including some heart attacks in recent years), suffering from type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and debilitating osteoporosis), yet I still didn’t expect when my dad called this morning that he was calling to tell me that his mom was gone.  The last few times I’d been there to visit, she’d told me that she’d had a good long life and that she was tired and was ready to go when “the good Lord was ready” to take her.  I would always tell her that we liked having her around and that we’d really miss her when she was gone.  And even though we knew it was coming, it’s still hard to believe now that it’s happened.

My family thought about not telling me right away, since I’m leaving on Mondayfor a week in Mexico and they didn’t want to ruin my trip.  But they quickly realized that they had to tell me. I mean, what if one of my cousins mentioned it on Facebook (which, of course, one of them did. And why wouldn’t they?) and I saw it there.  My dad told me that even though the funeral will be next week, I should still got to Mexico rather than canceling my trip and heading to Ontario for the funeral.  “You can’t get your money back, right? Granny was always so careful with money and she’d be really upset with you if you wasted money! Grampa said to tell you that he knows you are with him and that he’s surrounded by family and that you should go to Mexico.”  After talking to my dad, I talked to my mom for a bit and she told me about the dress they’d picked out for Granny to wear.  I asked to make sure they’d picked nice shoes because Granny, like me, loved shoes, especially high heeled ones. My mom said they had thought of that and chosen a nice pair, with heels, that go with her dress.

I’m sure that over the next few days this will become more real to me.  It’s hard to believe that she’s gone.  I’m very glad that I have a lot of happy memories of my Granny –  for some reason, the first one that comes to mind is how she used to put orange juice in the blender to make it frothy for me and my cousins.  I remember how she pulled me aside the first time I saw her after I told my whole family that I was getting divorced and she told me how sorry she was about my marriage breaking up and how she was proud of me for doing what was right for me and that she knew I was strong and that she wanted me to be happy.  I remember how she complimented my platform sandals that I bought on eBay, saying they were the type of shoes she would have worn in her youth.

Last year, when I was in Ontario for Christmas, my dad’s whole family got together to take a big family photo and my Granny was really happy to have the whole family there in one room.  Here’s the photo (which is already out of date as we had two new babies in the family this year):

My Granny is survived by Des, her loving husband of 65 years; five of her six children (predeceased by her beloved son, Bob); her nine grandchildren; her twelve great grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.  I’m proud to share my Granny’s name.  I love you, Granny.



{December 19, 2008}   ‘Tis the season…

…to receive.  I mean to give. And receive.

OK, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a child when it comes to getting presents.  I can’t help it – I love ripping open wrapping paper to see what someone’s given me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely selfish. I love buying presents for other people (especially when I find just the most perfect thing that I know they will love!). But if we didn’t like getting presents, wouldn’t there be no joy for the giver of the gift?  OK, enough with the rationalization. On with the prezzies.

Kalev and I exchanged gifts earlier this week, since I’m going to be gone to Mexico soon.  In addition to the last installment of Y: The Last Man, all the prior installments of which he’s given me previously and the story of which I’m just dying to find out how it ends, he got me a Quatchi hoodie:

IMG_4422 by you.

As you know, Quatchi is my favourite of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic mascots.  Inexplicably, they don’t make adult-sized clothing with Olympic mascots on them1, so Kalev had to get me a child-sized hoodie:

IMG_4425 by you.

Good thing I’m child-sized, because this totally fits me. And it’s cosy and warm!

I think the best thing about the hoodie is that inside the hood is lined with pictures of all the mascots playing winter sports:

IMG_4426 by you.

Look, there they are playing hockey!  And Quatchi is the goalie!

IMG_4429 by you.

In other present-related news, I also received this package in the mail from my parents:

IMG_4431 by you.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Luongo card is from my dad.

I know of two other packages that are winging their way towards me, but which I’ll just have to wait until I get back to open, as I leave on Monday first thing in the morning.

And then there’s the best gift of all… a trip to Mexico!

In conclusion, I’m spoiled.

1Adults can too like Quatchi!



et cetera