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.

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{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.



Because apparently my blog is now just a vehicle for memes…

Today’s blog posting is the 56/5 meme. It works like this:

  • Grab the closest book to you. Now.
  • Go to page 56.
  • Find the 5th sentence.
  • Write that sentence as your status.
  • Copy these instructions as a comment on your status.
  • Don’t go looking for your favourite book, or the coolest one you have – just grab the closest one.

So, yeah, the sentence I got was:

“Thus, the crux of such models is the attempt to refute or falsify their predictions.”

You know you wish you read the books I read.  Seriously.



{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 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?



I was reading this new story about some dude who wrote a book about “kids these days” and this sentence caught my attention:

Don Tapscott says those weaned on the Internet — people born roughly between 1977 and 1997 — are more politically savvy, socially engaged and family-centred than society gives them credit for.

1977?  Really?  *I* was born in 1977.  And as much as I like to think of myself as “young,” I don’t really think I can say I was “weaned on the Internet.”  Sure, I’m a netaholic now, but I grew up in a home with a Commodore 64, I typed all my assignments in high school on an electronic typewriter and didn’t get a “real” computer, or an email address, until first-year university.  Hardly an age I’d refer to as “weaning.” Anyway, I think I’ll get the book: “”Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World” once it comes to the library1, as it sounds kind of interesting. And I’m down with reading a book that refers to me in the same breath as “kids these days.” =)

1Because I am cheap. And the library lets you borrow books… for free!



{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.



{July 5, 2008}   Unending Jest Finally Ends

I never thought I’d live to see this day. But I have, in fact, finished Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. A book that I started A YEAR AGO. I mean, it’s not like I was reading it non-stop – I read a few other books during the past year and during the time that I was teaching, I spent all my reading time with textbooks, not novels – but still. And it’s not like I didn’t enjoy reading it – I really, really did. But it was so very, very long1. And the print was very, very small. And many of the words were very, very big. And thus, it seemed like the book that would never end, explaining why my blog is #1 when you search Google for “Unending Jest.”

Infinite Jest is a very hard book to explain. Wikipedia lists it as being in the genre of hysterical realism, and the Howling Fantods2 describes it thusly:

… the story of this addictive entertainment, and in particular how it affects a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts and a nearby tennis academy, whose students have many budding addictions of their own. as the novel unfolds, various individuals, organisations [sic], and governments vie to obtain the master copy of Infinite Jest for their own ends, and the denizens of the tennis school and halfway house are caught up in increasingly desperate efforts to control the movie -as is a cast including burglars, transvestite muggers, scam artists, medical professionals, pro football stars, bookies, drug addicts both active and recovering, film students, political assassins, and one of the most edearingly [sic] messed-up families ever captured in a novel.

If pressed to describe it, I’d say it’s a novel, set in a dystopic future, about addiction, tennis, entertainment, and Quebec separatism. Also, the book is not written in chronological order and, to further complicate things, years are subsidized by, and named after, products rather than being numbered3, and you don’t find out until page 223 what order the years come in. Also, there are a ridiculous number of endnotes5, meaning that on top of the sections being all out of order, you are also jumping back and forth to and from the endnote section of the book, which comprises 97 of the 1079 pages in the book.

Given all that, this seems like the type of book I’m going to have to read again4. And I think that is part of the point of this book. Many of the characters are dealing with addictions of some sort and the main plot revolves around this movie, called Infinite Jest, that is so addictive that anyone who sees it becomes instantly and irrevocably addicted to it, ceasing to want to do anything but watch the movie over and over again, to the point of death6. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say to say that the book is literally addictive, I’d say that one is compelled to continue reading it. And to want to read it again7 as (a) there are still many questions left unanswered when you finish the book, and (b) things early in the book will probably make a lot more sense the second time through, once you know the whole story.

All in all, I totally recommend the book, but be forewarned that it will require a significant investment of time, effort and looking up words in the dictionary. And now I leave you with the words of DFW himself, in an interview about IJ:

The sadness that the book is about, and that I was going through, was a real American type of sadness. I was white, upper-middle-class, obscenely well-educated, had had way more career success than I could have legitimately hoped for and was sort of adrift. A lot of my friends were the same way. Some of them were deeply into drugs, others were unbelievable workaholics. Some were going to singles bars every night. You could see it played out in 20 different ways, but it’s the same thing. […]

Some of my friends got into AA. I didn’t start out wanting to write a lot of AA stuff, but I knew I wanted to do drug addicts and I knew I wanted to have a halfway house. I went to a couple of meetings with these guys and thought that it was tremendously powerful. That part of the book is supposed to be living enough to be realistic, but it’s also supposed to stand for a response to lostness and what you do when the things you thought were going to make you OK, don’t. The bottoming out with drugs and the AA response to that was the starkest thing that I could find to talk about that.

I get the feeling that a lot of us, privileged Americans, as we enter our early 30s, have to find a way to put away childish things and confront stuff about spirituality and values. Probably the AA model isn’t the only way to do it, but it seems to me to be one of the more vigorous. [Source: DFW Interview, on Salon.com]

11079 pages, to be exact.
2Which appears to be a DFWa fansite, although they don’t have an “About” page to give me their backstory.
aDavid Foster Wallace.
3So, instead of it being 2008 right now, it would be the “Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland.”
4Although not for a while, as I really need to read some of these other books first!
5In fact, the friend who recommended this book to me assumed I was a big DFW fan because I use so many footnotes on my blog. As it turns out, I’d never read any DFW before and just use a lot of footnotes out of my own pure genius.
6One of the defining characteristics of addiction is the compulsion to continue to use your substance despite catastrophic consequences. I think ceasing to eat or drink and being willing to cut off your own fingers to get to watch the movie again qualifies.
7and probably again.



In case you were wondering, I haven’t actually dropped off the face of the earth. The lack of blogging around here has been due to me spending the last several days marking exams. But I am finally, finally, finally done with the marking! Rejoice!

And now that all the students, some of whom apparently read this blog occasionally, have written the exam, I would like to share with you one of my exam questions:

Estimate the daily total energy expenditure of a 38 year old, 220 lb, 6’4” Vancouver Canucks centreman during the hockey season

25 points to the first person who can tell me who the player in that question is!



{April 21, 2008}   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.



This afternoon I gave my last lecture for the class I’m teaching. It was a short one because it was just an exam review and my students clapped for me at the end, which totally caught me off guard¹. The exam for the class is next week and I can’t *wait* have all the exams marked and be done the class. Don’t get me wrong, I *loved* teaching the class, but, damn, it’s a lot of work. I know that any time you teach a class for the first time, it’s a ridiculous amount of work, but it’s one thing to “know” that and a totally other thing to live it. So I’m looking forward to having some time back because I was totally getting burnt out from the lack of sleep². And now, a list.

Some of the things that I’m going to do once I have the exams marked:

  • clean my apartment, for the first time in I don’t even know how long, including vacuuming, cleaning my icky microwave and doing battle with the sentient lifeforms that have evolved in my bathroom
  • my taxes
  • scrapbooking my photos from 2000-2008, inclusive
  • sleep

¹Is this common? I’ve never seen students clap for their instructor before, but maybe it’s what kids do these days. Or maybe they were totally fucking with me. Or could have been because I said I’d be perfectly happy if everyone got an A.
²This may also have something to do with taking on a few different contracts and spending a weekend in Vegas.



{April 3, 2008}   I <3 data clouds

Saw this over on Derek’s blog. Tweetcloud.com will make a data cloud from your Tweets. Here’s mine:

The words “blog” and “posting” are huge because I have my Twitter set up so that my blog postings are automatically set up to appear as Tweets that start with “New blog posting: [title of blog posting]” What I can’t figure out is why the word “new” doesn’t appear in this cloud.

This also reminds me of the cloud I made up from my thesis – I blogged about it here, but you have to go to this link to see the cloud. And you totally should check it out, ‘cuz it’s damn cool.



{March 10, 2008}   56% of Kevin Bac’n

Sometimes, it feels like all I ever do is sort through email. I have my Gmail account, and my work email account and yet another email account at UBC, since I’m teaching there this term. I also have a variety of other emails (hotmail, yahoo, another Gmail account) that I almost never check and you can even email me (beth) @ my domain that I don’t actually use yet (drbethsnow.com). My Monday mornings, especially since I’m not in the office on Fridays, range anywhere from 1 to 4 hours of dealing with email before I can do any real work. That’s kind of insane.

Also, it seems that while I get tonnes of email, much of it isn’t really important messages from people who have info I really need or who need info from me… rather, a lot of it is bac’n. “What’s bac’n?” you ask. Well, it’s not quite spam, because it’s not completely unsolicited emails from total randoms, but it’s not email that you really, truly need. It’s low priority stuff that clutters up the old inbox. E-newsletters. Stuff people send to listservs you are on. Canucks news releases. Notifications that you received a new message within Facebook/DM on Twitter/comment on your blog. Stuff you signed up for thinking “oh, wouldn’t it be convenient to be notified of that?” when really, no, no it wouldn’t. You get swamped with the stuff, making it difficult to see the real emails that require your attention.

So, this past week, I decided to keep track of how much of email is made up of actual, legitimate messages vs. how much is bac’n. Some of the more interesting findings:

  • I only received 321 emails messages last week. I really thought it would be higher than that¹.
  • Of those 321, only 8 (2.5%) were spam that snuck by my spam filters. I think that’s pretty good actually.
  • Of the 313 non-spam emails:

bac'n.jpg

That’s 56% bac’n, 44% real emails.

  • Looking at the data broken down by day, we can see that I got a lot of friggin bac’n on Thursday:

Also, I like graphs.

¹Granted, it’s totally possible that last week was not a good representation of a typical week.



{March 5, 2008}   Stress Hurts Your Brain

At work, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about addictions, trauma, violence, and mental health. And to be honest, it can be a really downer reading things like “Most violence against adult women is perpetrated by intimate partners” and “…past victimization increased the risk of a new rape incidence by a factor of seven and increased the risk of a new physical assault incidence by a factor of three,” and “…women who reported being raped in the preceding 12 month months averaged 2.9 rapes in the preceding 12 months…”1,2 all day long.

But the following sentence in a paper about the effects of stress on the brain that I was reading today made me smile:

Along with epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinepherine, glucocorticoids are essential for surviving acute physical stress (evading a predator, for example) but they may cause adverse effects when secretion is sustained such as when waiting to hear about a grant renewal.2, 3

Also making me smile in this paper were the use of the words: hippocampi (the plural of “hippocampus,” the structure in the brain that is involved in learning and memory) and Cushingoid (to describe people with Cushing’s syndrome, a disease in which individuals produce excessive amounts of glucocorticoids (a hormone we produce in response to stress).

Say them with me: Hippocampi.  Cushingoid.  Fun to say, right?

Oh yeah, and the moral of the story is stress hurts your brain.  So chill out already. =)
1All three of these quotations are from: Najavits, L., Weiss, R. D., & Shaw, S. (1997). The link between substance abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder in women. American Journal on Addictions, 6(4), 273-283.
2Emphasis added
3Sapolsky, R.M. (1996). Why stress is bad for your brain. Science, 273, 749-750.



et cetera