Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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.


{December 16, 2008}   Skate For A Cure

When I saw Rebecca’s posting today about Skate For A Cure, I jumped on the chance to join her “Bloggers for a Cause” team.

Skate For A Cure is an event that raises funds for the Michael Cuccione Laboratory for Childhood Cancer Research at BC Children’s Hospital. As an incentive to fund raise, they offer a few perks:

  • if you raise $150, you get to skate at GM Place!
  • if you raise $300, you get to skate at GM Place AND get your picture taken with a Vancouver Canuck player!

OMG! I *totally* want to skate at GM Place!  And have my picture taken with a Canuck!  But, it’s first come, first serve, as space is limited!  So I quickly joined Rebecca’s team and sent an email to family & friends saying “please donate to this cause because it’s really important. And so I can meet a Canuck.  Space is limited, act now already!!!”  I mean, I don’t want to be scooped right?

So, did I ever tell you that my friends rock?  Almost instantly, I had raised $445! In fact, I appear to be the very first person to have raised the $300 required to get a pic taken with a Canuck:

skate for a cure by you.

I wonder if this means that I get my choice of Canuck?

Anyway.  I’m telling you all about this because even though I’ve met my initial goal of $300, that’s just a drop in the bucket for what research costs these days (trust me, I’ve done lab research. It ain’t cheap!), so I encourage you to donate to this really important cause.  You can sponsor me here, or you can check out the Bloggers For A Cause team page and sponsor one of the other bloggers to help them reach their goal of getting on the GM Place ice.  Or you can join the fun and register to fundraise yourself!

And thanks again to my amazing friends who have sponsored me already. You guys rock my world!

About the Michael Cuccione Foundation:

Michael Cuccione was a pretty incredible kid. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 9 and he decided he wanted to make a difference. Which he did by writing songs and producing a CD (appropriatley named “Make A Difference”), which he sold to raise money for childhood cancer research. By the age of eleven, his CD had raised $130,000! Sadly, he passed away at 16 due to respiratory complications, but his dream of finding a cure for childhood cancers lives on through his foundation.

{September 15, 2008}   Read Airdrie’s article!

Today on Mental Health Notes, Vancouver blogger and postcaster Airdrie (of Lip Gloss and Laptops fame) started a series on her experience with depression:

My first experience with clinical depression came in the year 2000. I remember clearly: I was in the maternity ward recovering from the birth of my second daughter. She was a healthy baby, and my labor was relatively easy. But something was not right; I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was like I was falling, out of control, and afraid. My confident cheery personality had just disappeared overnight. Literally 12 hours after the delivery, I was a different person. (check out the whole posting here)

I think it awesome that Airdrie is sharing her own personal story with the world.  Stigma around mental health issues is prevalent and it makes people hesitant to tell their stories.  And that results in people feeling isolated.  And to not seek the care they need and deserve.  When people share their stories, it helps to let other people experiencing similar things to know they aren’t alone and it also helps dispel myths about mental health issues.

In her article, she discusses, among other things, Student Health facilities as a great way for university students to access mental health services.  I totally agree with her – during the last year of my doctoral studies, I was not only going through the stress of completing a Ph.D. (complete with a very unexpected snag), trying to find a job (which also came with a somewhat devastating snag of its own), but I was also in the process of getting divorced (which resulted from anotherdevastating situation).  I honestly don’t know what I would have done without my counselor at the university’s Counseling Services.   I really encourage students to use the Counseling Services and Student Health Services available to them and for people who aren’t students,to use the resources available in your community.

And I encourage people to read Airdrie’s article.  I’ve added Mental Health Notes to my Google Reader and I’m looking foward to the rest of the series.

Thanks, Airdrie, you are doing more good than you know!

Further reading:
“Time for Action: Tackling Stigma & Discrimination – Report to the Mental Health Commission of Canada” (PDF)

{August 30, 2008}   Pimping Tanya’s Run

Tanya over at is running a half marathon in DisneyWorld with Buzz Bishop’s 95 Crave Team Diabetes on Jan 10, 2009 (that’s one day before my birthday!) to raise money for the Canadian Diabetes Association. And you should sponsor her!

Why, you ask? Well, if supporting a worthy cause1 isn’t good enough reason, how about COLD HARD CASH?

Tanya’s running a contest where you will be entered into a draw for $500 in cold hard cash if you sponsor her run (2 contest entries for every increment of $25 that you pledge) and/or blog about her campaign. Pledge before September 4, 2008 to get an extra contest entry!

Go here to sponsor Tanya!  And while you are at her blog, wish her the best of luck with her training and her race.  Do it!  Do it now!

P.S. Good luck with the fundraising, the training and the race itself, T!

1Seriously, who doesn’t know someone affected by diabetes? Personally, I have type II diabetes on both sides of my family (my mom and my paternal grandmother) and know several people who are afflicted by it. And it causes some serious health problems – blindness, amputations, and it’s a major risk factor for heart disease!

{July 13, 2008}   Help Make My Dream Come True

Just the other day I came home to find a package in the mail. And in that package was:

  1. a dragon
  2. an invitation to become a fairy godmother
  3. a letter saying that I’m really a witch and inviting me to attend Hogwarts
  4. all of the above

Believe it or not – and I’m not making this up – it was (b). And I even have the tiara to prove it!

The invitation came from DreamBank – a new Vancouver company that helps people fund their dreams. The 411 on them is basically this:

  • most people get gifts they don’t really want
  • most of those unwanted gifts are wrapped in wasteful wrapping paper and shipped (burning up fossil fuels and polluting the air) to the people who don’t want them and end up dumping them in a landfill
  • so, instead of getting crap you don’t want, you set up a “Dream” on DreamBank‘s website to fund something you really do want – and tell your friends & family to support your dream in lieu of a gift
  • to sweeten the pot, any interest accrued on the money that’s sitting there in your dream fund goes to a charity of your choosing (from among their partner charities).

My fairy godmother invite included, along with that wicked cool tiara, a coupon for me to donate $20 to any dream on DreamBank. Hence, I get to help grant someone’s wish!

Upon checking out DB, I knew immediately what my dream I wanted to post – the dream of paying off my student loans! However, in setting up my dream on the site, I discovered that the maximum you can ask for is $20,000 – so my dream is officially listed as “To Pay Off 1/3 of My Student Loans.”1

One other thing I did notice is their fee structure – since DreamBank is a for-profit company and all the interest on money being held in your dream fund goes to charity, how do they make their dough2? Well, two ways – there’s a $2.25 fee taken from every donation made to your dream, and then they get 2.5% of the total when you cash out. At first I thought “this seems like a lot” and “hey, why don’t people just give me money and cut out the middle man?”3 But, as I think about it, I can see how the site might facilitate people supporting your dream more than if you just asked them for cash. I imagine if you just told people to give you money to help you pay for that dream trip to BlogWorld/buy tickets to the Olympic gold medal hockey game/put a downpayment on your first home, they probably wouldn’t be overly receptive. But I could see people donating through a site like this, much they do when you are raising money for something like the breast cancer run or other charitable donations. And if people who want to donate to your dream in lieu of a gift feel that $2.25 per transaction is high, when they put it in these terms:

Think of it this way—a $2.25 fee is cheaper and less hassle than driving to the mall, purchasing and wrapping a gift. (Source)

… that puts it into perspective.

And one thing I do want to give them props for is that this info is found on their on their fees page, subtitled “The Large Print,” which is quite easy to find. I can imagine other people might hide this type of info in the “fine print,” but DreamBank really is completely transparent that this is a for-profit company that mixes business with charity. And I think the fact that the interest on all the donations made goes to some really good charities is what I like most about this site. Either way though – their transparency in letting you know the exact fees you are signing up for lets you chose if this is the best way to raise money for yourself.

And speaking of – are YOU interested in posting a dream? If so, you should do it now, because:

The first 5000 people to post their dream will be automatically entered into the “Win your Dream” contest. Each dreamer will have 5 chances at winning their dream amount up to a total of $1500. If the dream is less than $1500 the prize winner will still receive the full $1500. DreamBank will also donate $250 to the charity that is associated with each winner’s dream.

I’m kinda hoping that *I* win the $1500 myself, but hey 5 people get to win, so sign up if your so inclined3.

Oh ya, and while you are there, don’t forget to support my dream!

So who is Fairy Godmother Beth going to donate her $20 to? Well, I’m up in Sun Peaks right now and forgot my coupon with the instructions of how to donate my $20 back at home, so I have a few days to decide. If anyone wants to make suggestions of who I should donate to, I’m all ears!

1Yes, I owe $60,000. Over $60,000, actually, and that’s after making payments for over a year already. At the current rate (i.e., $850 per month), it will take me another 8 years to pay these off. See why this is my dream?
2I also thought “I’m hungry!” but that’s really neither here nor there.
3I’m always kind of interested how people make money on the Internets, perhaps because I’m cheapa, so everything I use through the tubes is free!
      aGiven that I pay $850 a month in student loan payments, can you blame me for being cheap tho? Srsly?
3And post a comment here if you do. I’m interested to see who else I know has a dream that they want to fund!

{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:

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!

{May 5, 2008}   Only 5 days left…

…to sponsor my Pacific Spirit Run!

It’s for a good cause – proceeds from this year’s run will support important research and the development of care initiatives for individuals with dementia

Thanks to those who have helped me reach 72% of my fund raising goal so far.  If you are willing and able to sponsor me, you can go here to do so.

{April 22, 2008}   Happy Earth Day… sort of

I went to Starbucks at lunchtime for a wee bit o’caffeine to get me through the afternoon and when I handed over my travel mug and asked for an Americano, the dude¹ said, “But it’s Earth Day. You get a free drip coffee.” My response, “But… [long pause]… I don’t like your coffee.” The long pause was because I was trying to decide if it would be too offensive to say “Your coffee tastes like you burnt the coffee beans in the seventh level of Hell for a few millennia before you brewed the coffee. I would rather eat poison than drink your coffee.” And so I got, and paid for, an Americano in my travel mug.

Anyway. If you like the taste of burning, go to Starbucks with a travel mug today and you’ll (probably) get a free coffee. A free coffee that you’ll sweeten with tiny packets of sugar or sweetener (since they don’t have a bowl of sugar) and then stir with a disposable wooden stir stick (since they don’t have reusable spoons for stirring) throwing out the packets and stir stick into a plastic garbage bag.

Also, for every Starbucks card you buy today, they’ll donate 5 cents to some eco-charity. Every plastic Starbucks card.

I mean, I’m totally down with raising awareness and having people use travel mugs and such, but I think, for the most part, “green” and “earth” are just marketing buzz words to many people.

¹I can’t bear to call them “baristas.” I’ve only just recently been able to order by saying “tall/grande/venti” instead of the proper words: “small/medium/large.”

{March 29, 2008}   Earth Hour

Today at 8 p.m. local time, turn off your lights.

The World Wildlife Fund is encouraging everyone to turn off their lights for one hour on March 29 at 8 p.m. local time as a statement about climate change. They call it Earth Hour and you can join up here to let them know you’ll be taking part. I’m totally down with it and will be turning off my lights. But I have two things I want to say about it.

1. This is just a start. This is one hour and having millions of people turn off their lights for an hour will have a measurable impact on energy usage. But it’s only one hour. We live 87601 hours every year on this planet, and Earth Hour is just one of those. When you join up with Earth Hour this year, make a commitment to make changes in those other 8759 hours. Drive less. Refuse paper cups and plastic shopping bags in favour of travel mugs and reusable tote bags. Wash your clothes in cold water using eco-friendly detergents2. We only have one planet and turning your lights out for 1 hour a year just isn’t going to be enough.

2. I have a bone to pick with BC Hydro on this whole Earth Hour thing. I noticed something they say in their radio ad promoting Earth Hour and I’ve just checked and it’s on their website too. Here’s a screen shot:

Notice anything off in the text? Take a closer look:

Unnecessary lights? Are you kidding me? The idea behind Earth Hour isn’t that you just turn off lights in rooms where you aren’t. It’s to turn off all your lights. You should always turn off unnecessary lights, every single hour of every single day! Turning off unnecessary lights is not making a statement! And they have this text on their website directly under the Earth Hour & WWF logos, making you really think this is representing the WWF‘s Earth Hour. That’s lame BC Hydro… big time lame!


OK, so turn off your lights at 8 p.m. today for one whole hour… I’m sure you can find something fun to do by candlelight during that time, no?   And make it the first of many many more eco-friendly hours, the whole year through!

1Or, in this case of leap years like this year, 8784 hours.
2Looking for ideas? Check out the blog Green is Sexy for daily tips on living a greener life.3
3Although I do take issue with their willingness to post giant pictures of spiders4
4This post is NSFA (not safe for arachnophobes).

{February 4, 2008}   N.V.

It’s that time of year again… Northern Voice is just around the corner.

Remember that blogging conference I went to last year? Ya, that was Northern Voice. And I’m volunteering again this year because I’m too cheap to pay the $60 registration fee volunteering is good for the soul.

Word on the street is that tickets are close to selling out, so if you want to attend, you better register.  Come on, you know you want to.  It’s what all the cool kids are doing.

For every person that views this e-card:, BC Hydro is donating (up to $5,000) to BC Children’s Hospital. It’s a pretty cool little e-card – check it out and it will be the easiest donation you make this holiday season!

{October 16, 2007}   Blog Action Day

Although my previous post was, at least in part, about the environment it was not actually intended as part of Blog Action Day. I actually didn’t know about Blog Action Day until Darren mentioned it in the comments on that post.

In his post, Darren asked “what is your big eco-sin?” Like most of his commenters, I try to be good to the environment:

  • I don’t own a car – I take the bus to work and for most of my transportation around the city, and I joined the car co-op for getting to hockey games
  • even when I do take a co-op car, I usually try to do multiple things on a given trip (such as go to the grocery store after my hockey game) in order to minimize the number of car trips I take
  • I’m a vegetarian and I don’t wear leather
  • I use a travel mug1 to avoid using paper cups and I bring my own Tupperwear container to the cafeteria to avoid using Styrofoam containers
  • I bring my own bag to the grocery store so I don’t have to take plastic ones
  • I recycle anything that can be recycled2
  • I turn the lights out in the bathroom, the kitchen and the photocopy room at work when I leave them3
  • I use the back of old printouts as note paper before I recycle them
  • I don’t buy anything new if I can get it used instead and buy almost all of my clothes in consignment & thrift stores
  • I rarely fly anywhere4

But I do have one big eco-sin. I leave my computer on. All the time. 24/7. Even when I’m at work all day, my computer at home is on. And the main reason I do this is a rather ridiculous one – when I come home, I like there to be messages waiting for me. Even though I haven’t had my landline and it’s accompanying answering machine for months now, my natural inclination when I walk in the door is to look for the little flashing red light telling me that someone cared enough to call me! And since I don’t have that anymore, my msn serves that purpose. With my computer on, people can msn me all day long and when I get home, I have messages waiting for me. OK, now that I write that down, I see it’s silly. Starting tomorrow, I’m shutting my computers off when I leave.

On a related note: why, since the librarians have been on strike for four months, were all the lights on in the local library branch when I walked by there tonight?

1A friend of mine said that he feels if he can’t have his act together enough to bring his travel mug with him, then he feels that he doesn’t deserve a coffee. I think this is a good philosophy
2and in light of the 4 month garbage strike that has, mercifully, just ended, this is a real sacrifice as I can barely fit in my kitchen because I have so much recycling piled up in there!
3and have noticed that some of my co-workers have started following my example
4Although, truth be told, this has more to do with my lack of money (thanks, $70,000 of student loans!) than with a conscience choice to fly less

{March 3, 2007}   A test of my will

The other day I was watching the Canucks game with some fellow scientists at Coppertank and Erika told a story about how she was burned as a young child when she spilled a scalding hot cup of hot chocolate on herself and she bears the scar tissue to this day. For some reason, this made me crave a hot chocolate*. And since Coppertank is right across the road from Timmy Ho’s and I was walking home from the ‘tank, I decided to pop in to satisfy that craving. And what did I discover when I entered Timmy’s?

It’s Roll Up The Rim To Win time. For you non-Canadians, RUTRTW is this promotion they have at Tim Horton’s where you can, not surprisingly, win prizes by rolling up the rim of your coffee cup. Your disposable paper coffee cup.

This is where the test of my will comes in. As I have mentioned before, I bring a travel mug around with me, as I prefer not to use disposable cups, destroying trees and filling up landfills unnecessarily. When I emailed my sister the pic from the Metro, her response was “And look at you sporting your environmentally friendly coffee cup.” It’s what I do. However, I also like winning things. Hence, my dilemma. You can’t very well win anything at Roll Up The Rim To Win if you don’t take the paper coffee cup. So, I’ve been to Timmy’s twice since RUTRTW started and used my travel mug both times, forgoing my opportunity to roll and win. But how long can I resist the siren song this is a chance to win an iPod**? And shouldn’t they have a contest that rewards the use of non-disposable mugs, rather than promoting those who continue to fill up our landfills??

Me, modeling with a disposable paper cup at Timmy’s (not a Roll Up The Rim To Win one, mind you) on a day when I was not practising what I preach. And yes, I always dress this nicely to go to Timmy’s, don’t you?

*I know. I’m weird.

**I know that I already have an iPod. But this one has more memory than mine!

I’m planning to donate blood.

OK, “stupid” probably isn’t the best word. Giving blood is important. People need blood and it has to come from somewhere. Blood doesn’t grow on trees, you know. Perhaps “paralyzingly terrifying” is a better term. You see, I am deathly afraid of needles. In fact, I’m getting woozy just writing this posting.

Sarah can attest to my unreasonable fear of needles. After all, she was present the only time I ever gave blood, way back in high school. I had recently turned 17, the minimum age for giving blood, and there was a blood drive at our high school. I felt that I really should give blood, despite the fact that I usually cry like a little baby when anyone comes anywhere near me with a needle. I distinctly remember Mr. Burt, one of the teachers and the director of the play that Sarah & I were in at the time, making fun of me for being such a big baby as I waited in line, white with fear. Sarah was still 16 at the time so, since she couldn’t give blood, she ran back and forth between my cot and the cot of another person who also had the deathly fear, trying to keep us calm as we sat there with huge needles piercing our veins, nay, piercing our very souls, sucking our life’s blood from us! She was also the one who pushed the chair underneath me as I blacked out on my way from my cot to the juice table! Mr. Burt later recounted to me that he felt like quite an asshole for making fun of me when he saw me collapsing from across the school gym shortly after calling me a big baby. As he should have.

Now, you may think that blacking out is a bad thing, but as they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonades, ya? I’ve parlayed that one second of unconsciousness into 13 years of “I can’t give blood, I black out.” And for quite a while, I managed to not feel (too) guilty about it.

But last year, Jay talked about giving blood on her blog. And the guilty feelings started to appear. Every so often, the idea squirmed its way into my brain – “You are fortunate that you are healthy. You could help out someone who really needs it!”* I even looked into it, but I discovered that I was below the minimum weight. So my excuse became, “I’d love to give, but they won’t let me!” That one’s even better than my wimpy “I black out” excuse, as it’s not my fault they won’t take my blood. But it has been on my mind. And since I’ve put on a couple pounds, I’m just over that minimum weight. Dammit.

So, last week when I saw a poster up on campus that a group from the Ag Sci faculty is getting together to give blood this Friday, I decided, against my better judgement, to email and say “hey, can I join you?” Of course, I have had a cold for about a week and if it isn’t better by Friday, I will have an out, as “full recovery” is required if you have had a cold, flu or sore throat. So the big baby in me is hoping that I still have a cough when Friday comes around. But the bigger person in me hopes I’m better**. Because I have blood and “it’s in me to give,” right?

Well, that brings me to one big problem I have with Canadian Blood Services – their discriminatory practices that mean that, for many people, their blood isn’t in them to give, despite what the commercials say. In particular, check out this question from the screening form:

Male donors: Have you had sex with a man, even one time since 1977?

If you are a man that has had sex with a man, even once in the last 30 years, you can’t give blood. Period. You also can’t give blood if you’ve taken money or drugs for sex (or paid someone money or drugs for sex). But there aren’t any questions to assess if you have had sex with lots and lots of people. The closest is question 28, which reads:

In the past 6 months, have you had sex with someone whose sexual background you don’t know?

But you could have unprotected sex with say, a different person every night, and as long as they didn’t pay you and you asked them about their sexual history, you’d be allowed to donate. Whereas a gay man who has been in a monogamous relationship for the last 30 years would not be allowed. Basically, hetero sluts can donate, but gays and whores cannot. And why only a 6 month limit on straight sex with strangers, but a 30 year limit on men having sex with men?

However, despite my dismay with their discrimination, Canadian Blood Services is the only provider of blood in Canada. And people get sick or injured and need blood, and it’s not their fault that CBS discriminates. They may suffer because perfectly healthy potential donors aren’t allowed to provide them with much needed blood, and I don’t feel like boycotting CBS and further decreasing the blood supply will help. Perhaps writing to CBS, to the government, and just raising the profile of this issue will help.

*and as the list of all the people I know who were injured or sick or died continued to grow last year, the idea seemed more and more important.
**that, and I’m sick of coughing and sneezing and being tired all day long.

{February 11, 2007}   Sign Here

I received the following email from my friend Mike:

I’m reading Stephen Lewis’s “Race Against Time” (about the HIV-AIDS
crisis in Africa) and was inspired to do what I can to enable
Medicines Sans Frontiers and other well-intentioned do-gooders to
deliver treatment and curb the spread of the virus and its effects.
This means asking you to visit:

Please have a look at the links above and consider signing. Adding
your name is easy and really helps those campaigning for access to
HIV-AIDS treatment.

So I thought I’d let y’all know so you, too, can be a well-intentioned do-gooder.

et cetera