Not To Be Trusted With Knives











{January 12, 2009}   101 in 1001 for my 1000th post

So, for my 1000th blog posting I wanted to do something special. And I decided that the something special would be a “101 things to do in 1001 days” list.  The first time I saw one of these was on Dave’s blog and I may or may not have soon after written a parody version called “102 things to do in 1,000,001 days” on a satire blog that may or may not have been removed from the Internet for possible libel issues. Anyway.

The idea behind this list is to come up with 101 things you want to do – things you’ve always meant to do but haven’t gotten around to,  things you want to challenge yourself to accomplish and, let’s be honest, a few things that sound good but you are pretty sure you’ll do so that you can gain the satisfaction of checking at least a few things off your list.  As well, it’s important that the goals are clearly defined/measurable (or, as we say in the Research Methods world – you need an “operational definition” of each) so that you know whether or not you’ve done it.  Props for this idea go to triplux, who appears to be the creator of this idea (or, at least, is the first Google hit for “101 in 1001”).

So, after much thinking and pondering and reflecting and considering and deliberating and contemplating and ruminating and reading the thesaurus, I have come up with the following 101 items that I intend to do in the next 1001 days:

  1. go to New York City
  2. leave the continent
  3. live above ground
  4. run another half marathon1
  5. run the full marathon in Sacramento (i.e., the net downhill one!)
  6. assemble my last 7 years worth of photos into scrapbooks2
  7. give something a cool name (i.e., not just adding the letter “y” to the end of what the thing is a la “froggy” or “puppy”)
  8. get my blog onto WordPress.org
  9. participate in a political campaign
  10. attend Women’s Campaign School
  11. conduct some kind of  education research project
  12. conduct another systematic review for the Cochrane Collaoration
  13. publish a paper in a scholarly journal on the training program that I run
  14. write something creative (e.g., a story, a script or a poem)
  15. change a life
  16. write a book
  17. teach a course at a college
  18. ski at Whistler 3
  19. ski at Big White
  20. ski on Grouse Mountain
  21. learn to snowboard (or at least try it)
  22. go surfing & actually stay up on the board
  23. skate at GM Place
  24. coach a hockey team
  25. hike Black Task
  26. hike the West Coast Trail
  27. write a computer program
  28. start a business
  29. learn French (at least a little bit. Like more than just what’s on the cereal box)
  30. write a blog entry entitled Word to Your Moms, I Came to Drop Bombs4
  31. read something by Salman Rushdie5
  32. visit Macchu Picchu6
  33. for one week, go to bed at 9 and read non-work related books7
  34. read The Last Spike by Pierre Berton8
  35. take pole dancing lessons. Like, a whole set of them, not just the intro class.
  36. beat my current record of 10 points in a hockey season (which I achieved on the Blazing Blades team in both the Winter 2007/08 and the Spring 2008 seasons)
  37. teach the same course at UBC twice9
  38. participate in the “365 Day Challenge”. This involves taking a self-portrait every day for 365 days and posting it to the 365 Day Flickr group.
  39. make a list of 100 things that make me happy
  40. buy a Smart Car
  41. buy an iPhone
  42. skate on the Rideau Canal
  43. take Tod to a Vancouver Canucks game [Accomplished: 13 January 2009, Canucks vs. NJ Devils. Next time I should try to take him to a game when the Canucks win!]
  44. take Tod to a Vancouver Giants game
  45. go to a BC Lions game
  46. go to a Vancouver Canadians game
  47. see a Vancouver White Caps game
  48. start composting
  49. keep a plant alive for a whole month
  50. write in my journal every day for a month
  51. go kayaking
  52. camp at Joffre Lake
  53. visit Galiano Island
  54. visit Salt Spring Island
  55. visit Bowen Island
  56. save $500 in coins10
  57. deposit that $500 worth of coins into my 40th birthday savings account
  58. write 10 friends real letters, on paper, with a pen and snail mail them
  59. follow Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating every day for 1 month11
  60. go to a Bikram yoga class
  61. go to a spa for a facial
  62. visit 5 new American states12
  63. visit Newfoundland
  64. visit Nova Scotia
  65. visit New Brunswick
  66. visit the Yukon
  67. visit Nunavit
  68. do a 24 hr blogathon
  69. do 15 minutes of yoga every morning for a month
  70. sort through my many boxes of papers (most of which contain papers from my thesis), recycling the papers I don’t need and filing the ones I do need
  71. find out my credit rating
  72. determine my net worth
  73. buy a bike
  74. bike to work every day for two months
  75. record a cooking show (at least 5 episodes)
  76. publish said cooking show online
  77. participate in five research projects (as a subject/participant, not as a researcher)
  78. sell counter top dishwasher on Craig’s List13
  79. see at least one Bard on the Beach performance14
  80. put up a Christmas tree and decorate it with chili peppers15
  81. live blog something
  82. go to bed every night for a week with all the dishes cleaned
  83. achieve inbox zero and maintain for one full week (where “maintain” = by the time I go to bed each night)
  84. up my blog readership to an average of 200 readers a day16
  85. break my current record of 460 blog views in a day17
  86. write a blog posting about the Car Co-op18
  87. go sky diving
  88. resurrect my teaching blog
  89. see the Dresdan Dolls in concert
  90. see Groove Coverage in concert
  91. see a show at Richard’s on Richards before it closes down
  92. devise some sort of proper back up system for my computer files
  93. get my ring from my great Auntie Bernice re-sized to actually fit my finger
  94. buy a pair of brown dress pants19
  95. bake at least one thing per month for 12 months in a row, without baking the same thing two months in a row20
  96. go zip cording
  97. make homemade vegetarian marshmallows
  98. go on a polar bear swim
  99. recycle my old Sony Vaio desktop and my old Palm Pilot that are now just taking up space in my apartment!
  100. scan all the photos from my pre-digital camera days
  101. publish a blog posting for each of the next 1001 days!

So, there you have it.  I expect I’ll be posting updates when I get stuff on the list accomplished and possibly some excuses about my abject failures.

End Date: Monday, October 10, 2011 (thank you dateandtime.com!)

Footnotes

1Ya, this one is totally cheating, since I’m already training for another half. But it’s hard to think of 101 things!

2Um, ya.  I have seven years worth of photos in boxes, waiting for scrapbooking.

3Can you believe that, having lived in Vancouver for more than eight years, I’ve not yet skied Whistler?

4This one is stolen from an homage to Dave’s 101 things in 1001 days list. He didn’t actually manage to do it, but I think I can. I think I can.

5Also stolen from Dave’s list. I’ve been wanting to read something by Rushdie, so here’s an extra push

6This is the last one I’m stealing from Dave’s list. Promise.  Also, Dan said I should go there.

7Stolen from Triplux.

8Which Sarah’s been telling me to read since forever. And which she just gave me for Christmas, so if I fail to accomplish this one, well, that would just be sad.

9I always seem to get a course for one term only.  I taught Nutritional Assessment last year as a sessional, but the department hired a new prof and he chose that as one of his courses to teach, so I don’t get to teach it this year. And then, this past term I taught another course as a sessional because the usual sessional needed a break from it for one term only, so I probably won’t get to teach it next year. Now I want some consistency!

10Just because it would be difficult.

11i.e., meet the recommended number of servings for each food group every day and consume no more than one unhealthy “other” food per week.

12i.e., ones that I haven’t been to before. Or ones where I’ve only been to their airport/airport hotel (I’m looking at you Texas, Oregon and Arizona), if I actually go to somewhere other than the airport/airport hotel.

13since it doesn’t fit in my kitchen. =(

14I can’t believe I’ve lived in Vancouver for 8+ years and not once have I been to see Bard on the Beach. I like Shakespeare (I even have a minor in Drama that included a whole course in “Acting Shakespeare”). And I like beaches!

15Inspired by the tree at the Mexican resort I stayed at this Christmas.

16My 2008 average was 93 readers per day.

17Which occurred on Friday, September 26, 2008 as a direct result of my list of the hottest players in the NHL

18Which I have partly written and can’t seem to get around to finishing.

19I’ve been trying to find a good pair of brown dress pants since forever! Hopefully I’ll find them in the next 1001 days.

20Because I really enjoy baking and I never seem to do it anymore.



{November 22, 2008}   My First Book!

Just received this in the mail the other day1:

IMG_4292

That sounds like an interesting book, yes? I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about prenatal alcohol and bone development?

And wait, what is that there?

IMG_4297

That author’s name looks awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

Yup, that’s my thesis2, in handy book form!

Back in the summer, this publishing company contacted me about publishing my thesis (which they’d found online). At first I thought it was some sort of scam (like they’d require all my banking account and credit card numbers, my passwords, my PINs, my SIN3 and my first born), but I checked into it and it seemed legit. They are a print-on-demand publisher and if anyone buys it4, I get royalties and I also retain the right to publish up to 80% elsewhere5. You can even buy it from Amazon. For the low, low price of $107.53. Seriously.

1Before I left for my trip. I didn’t have time to blog about it, but did have just enough time to snap the pics.
2Technically, it’s my “doctoral dissertation.” I’ve been given hell for referring to it as a thesis before, but I just can’t bring myself to say “dissertation.” It just sounds so snooty.
3for my non-Canadian readers, that means my “Social Insurance Number.”
4Which I am 99% sure won’t happen.
5And since I’ve already published all of my thesis data in scientific journals, I’m not anticipating being able to re-publish anyway.



{November 20, 2008}   Why I Need This Vacation

I promised that I’d snap a picture of my copy of the grant application that I just submitted. Because I knew you’d never believe me about its ridiculous size.  That is me with just one copy of the grant application1.  We had to submit the original, plus five copies.

Ostensibly, that’s a 13 page proposal.  However, 21 CVs, 15 publications, 3 appendices and many, many pages of administrative stuff added to those 13 pages result in the behemoth you see in the pic.

So, yeah, after months of work on that, I feel I’ve really deserved the few vacation days I’m taking to go to visit my family and to celebrate my neice’s 4th birthday. I’m still not done my marking, but I figure that’s what five hour plane rides are for, right?

Update: I added up the pages, plus all the photocopies, and the grand total what I sent in was 4962 pages. Wow.

1Dr. Beth inserted into photo with grant application to give you a frame of reference to judge size.



I was about to write a blog posting entitled “Can’t Blog. Marking Papers.” But that title seemed eerily familiar to me, so I Googled through my blog and discovered that I’ve already used that same title1.  I’m so original.

Anyway.  I’m pretty beat after a long day of a nutrition symposium + lunch with friends I haven’t seen in ages + Christmas shopping + dinner with Kalev, but I’m trying to get some more papers marked before I go to bed because my poor students have been waiting forever for me to mark their papers.  Because I’ve been spending every waking hour working on a ridiculously large grant application that was due yesterday.  I mean, remember when I sent out this report?  That pile is not even as big as one copy of the grant application I just submitted yesterday.  And I had to submit the original plus FIVE copies.  I was going to take a picture of this behemoth report, but we2 were scrambling to get the final package assembled in time for the FedEx guy3 to pick up, so I didn’t have a chance to run back up to my office to grab my camera. I do have my own copy of the submission, so I’ll snap a pic of that and then you can imagine it x5.  Suffice it to say that it filled up nearly two full boxes – the kind of boxes that you get photocopier paper in (you know, with like 10 packages of paper per box).  So, yeah, I killed a small forest and I hope it results in me getting the grant that we were applying for, so I can still have a job.

And speaking of jobs, I have another one and it requires that I go mark some more papers now!

1Or 3/4 of that title, anyway.
2 We = the four people it took to assemble the damn thing!
3Who we had to ask to give us 10 more minutes to finalize our package.



{November 14, 2008}   Research Methods Rule!

So, I’ve picked up a new class to teach next term: Research Methods. I am stoked because I *love* research methods.  This may or may not be because I’m a nerd.

Thus far, I have two issues with this course.  One is trying to find a good text book.  As you can see from the photo, I’ve got quite a sampling of books (plus I have a number of other evaluation copies on their way to me).  I haven’t reviewed them all in depth yet, but from scanning them, I haven’t found one that gives me what I want.  The problem I’m having with a number of them is that they overwhelmingly focus on quantitative methods and barely even touch on qualitative methods.  I should clarify here what I mean by “Research Methods,” as I’ve discovered from talking with people, “research methods” means different things to different people.  I’m not talking about library research (which was a number of people’s first impressions when I said I was teaching RM); I’m referring to designing scientific and social science research projects – experiments, quasi-experiments, survey research, qualitative interview type research, etc.)  It includes things like the philosophy underpinning different research approaches, research ethics, research writing and a bit about analysis of research results (but not super in depth as there is a separate statistics course).   I’d been hoping to get a kinesiology methods text (as this is a Kin Research Methods course), but so far the books I’ve seen have really skimped on the qualitative.  Like, a 400 page textbook will have 20 pages on qualitative research.

The second issue I’m having is that, while I’m super stoked to be teaching this course because (did I mention?) I love research methods, but everyone keeps telling me that it’s a course no one wants to teach because students don’t like it.  I even got a book on “best practices for teaching stats & research methods” and the whole intro was all “Students hate taking research methods. It’s like torture to them!”  And I’m all “*gasp*! How could anyone not love methods??” I think methods is super interesting and can be readily made interactive (hello! create a research proposal! hello, critique a research paper! hello, conduct a research project!) and relevant (even if you aren’t going to go to grad school and do research yourself, you need to be able to critically assess research that other people have done to, say, know what the best evidence is for any given situation).  And making things interactive and relevant, in my experience, is key to catching students’ interest and helping them learn.  But, seriously, I’ve been told by multiple people that students are really resistant to research methods course.

So, I’m putting the question to you, dear blog readers: Have you ever taken a research methods course?  If so, what did you think of it?  What would you recommend?



{October 12, 2008}   Hockey Updates

Well, sports fans, hockey season is upon us. The Canucks are undefeated, with two glorious victories against the Calgary Evil Flames. Thursday’s game was a 6-0 thrashing, which came after a beautiful tribute to the late Luc Bourdon, who died in motorcycle accident over the summer. Luc’s best friend on the team, Alex Burrows, scored 2 of the 6 goals. Saturday’s game was closer, but ended in an OT win for the good guys. It’s kind of funny now to remember all the naysayers over the summer and their “The Canucks have no players! Who is going to score the goals?” naysaying. By the looks of the pre-season and the first 2 games of the regular season, the answer to that question is “everyone.” Hell, even Rick Rypien scored a short-handed goal! Seriously!

Also started is the Blazing Blades season. The arena where we play got enough teams to make three divisions instead of the two we had last year. As you may recall, last year we won Div 2 quite easily. We were easily the top of Div 2, but properly would have been slaughtered in Div 1. This year, most of the Div 2 teams are in Div 3, and we are in Div 2 with the bottom team from last’s year’s Div 1 and a couple of new teams. It’s totally more fun, because the games are competitive and we really have to skate hard, have our heads up and really think about what we are doing to stay in the game. Our record so far is 1-2-1-1, including tonight’s tie game. And tonight’s game was quite a physical one – I got *totally* flattened in front of the net. After the whistle, I might add. I was doing what I do best – sitting in my office1, getting in the goalie’s face and trying to pick up a rebound and, after the goalie covered up and the ref blew the whistle, this chick on the other team punched me in the chest. Like hard enough that I went *flying*. Nice. And later on, a fight broke out! Chaos!! They are lucky I wasn’t on the ice at the time, because I may be little but I am fierce2.

NOT started up3 is the UBC Rec hockey league. Well, more accurately, started up and then stopped. UBC Rec only managed to scrounge up 3 women’s teams, and then one of them dropped out. Then, not wanting to play the exact same opponent every single week, the other team bailed too. Sooo lame! I was really looking forward to playing some Aggie hockey. I’m really, really hoping they can get their act together to put together a women’s division for January3, because I just recently picked a class4 to teach at UBC next term, meaning I’ll be allowed to play in Rec, if there’s enough teams to put together a division. So, keep your fingers crossed fo rme, k?

1That’s what we call it when I get all up in the goalie’s face, waiting for a rebound – being “in the doctor’s office.”
225 points to the first person who correctly identifies the source of that (modified) quotation.
3If you happen to be a woman who goes to, or works at, UBC – or if you know a women who goes to, or works at, UBC – you should totally recruit a bunch of peeps to play hockey next term. I’m just sayin’.
4A research methods course. I’m so stoked!



{October 9, 2008}   Science and the Election

Note: This blog posting is going to be a long one. I’ve been writing it for days. But it’s so worth the read, if you are interested in science, education, the Canadian election, or hearing my ongoing rants about the Conservative* party.

Today Yesterday The other day, I read this story on the CBC: Researchers wonder: What’s the plan for R&D?. Some of the key things that jumped out to me:

  • “On Sept. 17, federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion did pledge a 60 per cent increase of funding for university-based research — to $500 million a year — and proposed a $100-million fund to enable scientists, researchers and graduate students to take on projects that extend beyond the barriers of their disciplines.  But the topic was soon buried under the larger issue of government spending, with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper that same day calling the spending proposals of Dion and NDP Leader Jack Layton “mind-boggling” in size.”
  • The Conservatives have not issued their party platform, but neither they nor the other party leaders has devoted a speech to science-related issues outside the environment.”
  • Scientists “expressed dismay at political parties that want to build a knowledge economy but seem unwilling to contribute to it.
  • “Funding was the top concern: few scientists can complain about current funding levels, but some worry about the future of the funding while others worry those funds are becoming too narrowly focused on industrial spinoffs or favoured established programs at the expense of new initiatives.|

Few scientists can complain about current funding levels?” What? The Canadian Institutes of Health Research – the federal funding agency for research related to health and the agency with which I’m most familiar – has very depressing rates of funding: exact numbers depend on the particular grant competition, but it’s fair to say that you can expect ~ 25% success rate1,2 when you submit a grant application (i.e., 3 of every 4 grant applications submitted won’t get funded). And that’s not because the grant applications aren’t high quality.  They have a category called “Fundable, But Not Funded,” which basically it means that the proposed research is of high enough quality that it should be funded, but there’s no money for it.  According to a recent CIHR Operating Grant Program Analysis2, the success rate of “fundable but not funded” grant application is only ~30% – that means that 2 out of 3 high quality research applications submitted to the operating grant competition are not funded.

As I’ve mentioned before, the National Science Adviser to the Prime Minister was first shunted to the Industry Ministry (which shows how the Harper government views science – in their view, science is only important if you can make money from it) and then canned completely.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, the Harper government is willing to completely ignore scientific evidence and oppose Vancouver’s supervised injection facility, claiming that there isn’t enough science to back it up (I suppose all the scientific evidence that they choose to ignore doesn’t count?).

Shortly after reading that article, my friend and scientist extraordinaire, Mel Kardel, sent me and some other colleagues a summary of each of the main political parties’3 stances on science and on students, which she created by going through each of their platforms and searching for “science” and “student”4. Would you believe that the Conservative* party platform does not include the word “student” even one time? Oh yeah, the Conservative* party *finally* released their platform. One week before the election. The election that THEY called. And after some people have already voted in advance polls. Anyway. The only mentions of “education” in their 44-page document were vague references to “provid[ing] practical help to Canadian families to assist them with higher costs of living, and protect them from unfair retail practices so that families can focus on the things in life that matter most, like buying their first home and saving for their children’s education.” Which basically sounds like “as for actually paying for education – you’re on your own!” Oh wait, on page 9 it says that they’ll let charities and NPOs create RESPs for kids. Isn’t this like saying “hey poor people, want your kids to go to college? You better ask a charity, because the Conservative* government isn’t going to help!” And then there’s the vague: “Improving Aboriginal education is crucial to giving young members of the Aboriginal community the opportunity to succeed.” No mention on *how* they are going to improve Aboriginal education. Awesome.

As for science, the only mention of science in their platform is the claim that they “made major new investments in leading-edge science over the past three budgets, which will increase support for science and technology by $850 million by 2009-10,” (with no indication that most of this was directed very specific, industry-focuses areas rather than the basic sciences), a claim that they will “make additional investments in internationally recognized science and technology projects in Canada,” (with no suggestion of how much that investment will be, or in what areas).  And there’s a promise to “build a world-class High Arctic Research Station that will be on the cutting edge of Arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development.”  And that’s it for education and science in the Conservative* party’s platform.  For real.

In contrast, the Liberals, NDP and Green Party all talk extensively about science and education in their platforms. I can provide you with the full details if you like, but in view of the fact that this blog posting has gotten quite long (!), I’ll just hit you with some highlights here:

Liberals:

  • increase in the indirect costs of university based research to $500 per year
  • increased funding for both CIHR and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to $1.275 billion/year (from $960 million) and for the Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC) to $450 million a year (from $320 million), plus $100 for interdisciplinary research
  • an Education grant of $1000/yr for postsecondary students, plus a $250 tax credit for students who also work
  • increased grants and bursaries for students in need
  • an extension of the post-graduation interest-free period before you have to start paying off your student loan from 6 months to 2 years, plus lower interest rates on student loans (man, could I ever use that!)

NDP:

  • $1000 grant to students who qualify for student loans
  • more funding to universities and keeping tuition fees affordable (although I’d argue with the word “keeping” here, as tuition fees are *not* currently affordable)
  • reforming student loan system, including interest relief for students completing an internship after graduation
  • increased funding for research and for grad students (to keep the best and brightest here in Canada)

Green Party:

  • “Post-secondary education should not be a debt sentence”  Hee hee. Debt sentence.
  • forgiving 50% of your student loans when you graduate (holy crap! that would have amounted to a $35,000 grant for me!)
  • increased funding to universities
  • working with provinces to lower tuition fees
  • “Fund universities to create more tenure track teaching positions, regardless of perceived commercial value of the area of pedagogy.”

Now, I realize that the proof is in the pudding and we’ll only know if anyone will follow through with these promises once they get into power. But I also think it’s pretty clear that the Conservatives* have no intention whatsoever of doing anything for students or for scientists.  At least the other parties have promises for which we can hold them accountable.  Time to replace Harper!

1How to Prepare a CIHR Application, University of Western Ontario
2Operating Grant Program Analysis
3Not including the Bloc, ‘cuz we can’t vote for them here in BC.
4My friends rock.



{September 11, 2008}   Blog Posting From the Bus

Oh, how I love my little Palm Pilot keyboard1. Here I am on the bus, traveling from work-related event #1 to work-related event #22, but writing a blog posting that I can upload from my beautiful Hermione when I get home tonight.

Had my first real class yesterday – last week’s class was more of just an introduction to the course. It’s a seminar style course, so most of it will be students presenting stuff (debates & seminars), but this week I gave a lecture on “Thinking About Thinking” to set the stage for all the student-directed learning and debating that the students will be doing. I usually avoid blogging about my work, but I do have a few general things I’d like to say (it’s all pretty innocuous, so I think I’m safe to say it):

  • My class seems pretty cool. Lots of interesting ideas – I can’t wait to see all the seminar presentations they are going to be giving and debate arguments they will be coming up with.
  • I was surprised when I asked my class if anyone used Twitter and only one of my 42 students raised their hand.  I guess because I hang out with a lot of tech-savy at-risk youth3, I forget that most of the world isn’t drowning in social media the way I am.
  • I actually presented my “research paper” on the Count to my class yesterday. You know, the one that showed a correlation between childhood attitude towards the Count from Seseame Street and mathematical ability later in life? No really, I did. We were talking about how “correlation is not necessarily causation,” so I used my paper as an example of how, although we showed a correlation, we cannot conclude from that any causation…. We know that kids who were scared of the Count went on to be adults that aren’t good at math, but this doesn’t prove that being scared of the Count causes people to be bad at math. Perhaps people with a propensity to be bad at math get scared off of the Count because he’s doing math (i.e., being bad at math CAUSES a fear of the Count). Perhaps there’s a confounder – maybe people who have a genetic tendency to fear the colour purple have a genetic tendency to be bad at math, and so both fear of the Count and poor math abilities are CAUSED by a scared-of-purple-plus-bad-math gene. The point is that although we can speculate as to why these two things are correlated, these are just speculations (or hypotheses) that we would have to go on to test. Correlation does not prove causation. Which makes my paper legitimate, since it’s been presented in a university class. No, really.
  • For the record, I wore this skirt and this shirt to class.  And for class #1, I went with Stacia’s suggestion and wore this outfit.

1which needs a name, now that I think about it. The Palm Treo is Hermione, so I’m tentatively thinking about naming the keyboard Ron Weasley.
2I’m not sure how I ended up with two work-related events – both major launches – today, as I very rarely have any work-related events. Mostly, I’m just happy that since I have to travel around the city to said events, it’s nice and sunny and warm out. It’s hard to sit in my office and look out at the sunshine, and often when I do have to go out, it’s raining.
3OK, they aren’t really at-risk or youth, but my friends are tech savvy. And 25 points for the first person to identify where I stole the phrase “tech savvy, at-risk youth” from.



{September 3, 2008}   First Day of School

In honour of today being the first day of school1, I decided to share with you some education-related podcasts I’ve listened to/watched lately.

First, up from the Philosophy Bites podcast, I give you M.M. McCabe talking about the Socratic Method.

The Socratic Method is:

a form of philosophical inquiry in which the questioner explores the implications of others’ positions, to stimulate rational thinking and illuminate ideas2

It’s an form of “investigation through dialogue” and one of the key things I take from my reading about the Socratic Method is the reminder that in order to learn anything, you need to first recognize that you don’t already know it!  Typically in our educational system, we make students afraid of saying, “I don’t know,” but really, that’s just the thing we need to say in order to figure out what we need to learn.  When I teach using Problem-Based Learning (a student-centred technique that requires students to determine what is the problem they need to solve, what do they already know that can help them solve the problem, and what do they not know, but need to know, in order to solve the problem), I use Socratic-style questions to help students recognize for themselves what they know and what they don’t (and, in many cases, it turns out that people assume they know something, but once questioned, it turns out that they don’t actually know it!). Although the course I’m teaching this term isn’t PBL, it will be student-centred, involving debates and student-led seminars, so I anticipate using a fair amount of questions to get critical thinking happening. Some of my favourite questions for use in this reals are:

  • how do you know that?
  • how did you come to that conclusion?
  • what is your evidence for that?
  • why?

One time, a student got a bit, shall we say “annoyed” with my questions – students are used to asking the instructor a question and being told the “right answer,” so my always answering a question with a question can bit a bit off-putting3. Exacerbated, the student exclaimed: “Can’t you ever just answer a question without asking another question?!”  To which I replied, “Why do you think I always answer a question with a question? What education benefit might there be to my doing this?”  Hmm… I think I’m starting to see why Socrates was forced to drink hemlock and die because he annoyed the hell out of everyone with his infernal questioning.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
-Socrates

Next up is an interesting talk I saw in the TED podcast – Ken Robinson’s talk: “Do Schools Kill Creativity.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Ken Robinson says schools kill creati…“, posted with vodpod

And finally, since I teach nutrition, I give you this clip from the Onion Radio News:

Also, as a scientist, I feel the need to share these Onion Radio News clips:

Here’s to a school year filled with Socratic questioning, creativity and french fries.

1Well, technically yesterday was the first day of school, but the course I teach is on Wednesdays, so today is the first day of school for moi.
2Socratic Method. Wikipedia.
3I always explain why I do what I do when I’m teaching and that usually helps. But it does appear to take some getting used to.



{June 24, 2008}   Comps

Comprehensive exams: com·pre·hen·sive ex·ams

n. an especially cruel form of torture to which Ph.D. students are subjected
—Synonyms 1. comps  2. hell

Props to Erika for passing her comps yesterday!



{June 19, 2008}   Support a little scientist!

Planning any travel in the near future?  If you are and if you book through Travelocity, I encourage you to use this link:

http://www.gvrsf.ca/travelocity.html

A portion of the commission of anything booked through that link will go to support the Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair.  I’ve judged at the GVRSF for several years and it really is a fantastic experience for both the students who get to show off their amazing science projects and meet with scientists and get inspired to go on in the sciences, and for the judges/scientists who get to meet these amazing, inspirational, enthusiastic kids!



Look whose funding they’ve cut now.

When will it end?



Today we had a grant application due for a grant we’ve been working on for the last eleventy billion years.  Finishes touches were put on it over the weekend and today it just needed one last read through and then to be photocopied and picked up by the courier.  Last night I had a dream that it was tomorrow and we discovered that no one had sent the grant app in.  I thought my colleague sent it and she thought I’d sent it.  I was panic-stricken at the realization that eleventy billion years worth of work, by a fairly large team of people, was all for naught as we’d missed the deadline.  Fortunately, the dream ended at that point.

When I got into work, I told me colleague about this dream, and she was like “No way!  I had the *exact* same dream last night!”  Apparently we spend so much time working on this grant together that we are turning into one another.  Later on in the day, after we did actually have the grant successfully picked up by the courier (and don’t think that i didn’t go into paranoia mode all day today making sure everything was on track, ‘cuz I *totally* did), one of my other co-workers  and I were chatting in the hallway and she asked how I was celebrating being done the grant.  “I’m going for a run this evening,” I said… only to hear my dream-sharing colleague yell from her office, “ME TOO!!”  It’s official, we are turning into each other!



{May 14, 2008}   Update from the Mountain

SFU campus is…. confusing. But wifi works great¹!

¹Knock on wood.



  • Busy-ness necessitates point form notes, incomplete sentences.
  • Busy writing grant, planning year-end extravaganza for my program, various other tasks
  • Next two days = conference at SFU
  • Presenting at said conference tomorrow – presentation ready?  Hells no.
  • Friday = heading to Kelowna for the long weekend for hockey provincials
  • Purchased hockey bag with wheels yesterday = w00t!
  • Starting tomorrow, supposed to be sunny and 1,000,000,000 degrees outside; right now = pouring rain
  • Gotta run to catch a bus now – SFU = a land far, far away


et cetera