Personal Challenge: Writing down your life

Every summer I go into "summer mode" - this means less time at my job (I work for a theatre company that doesn't produce shows over the summer, so we all reduce our hours a bit to help compensate for all the overtime we work year-round) and more time working on personal projects, reading, beaching, and friends.  Or so I like to think will happen.  What generally actually winds up happening is that I feel just as busy as ever but don't really get extra stuff done, and I have no idea what fills my time.

Then today I came across this genius-in-an-incredibly-obvious way (also known as, the right kind of genius, because the best ideas always seem incredibly obvious as soon as you come across them) idea on Lifehacker: just track everything you do!  It's pretty freaking easy: get some kind of day planner and write down everything you do in it after you finish doing it.

The author used some fancy goal-tracking day planner.  I don't want to buy things, so I'll make my own.  Today!  Today I will make a day planner, and tomorrow, July 1, I will begin this grand experiment in tracking everything that I do and finding out where the heck all the time goes.  I will track my life for two weeks and then reflect and report on what I did, how I tracked it all, and any value at all that came of it.

Cute! Co-Pug-lot

I've seen this little guy a couple of times while biking near Cambie, and recently they stopped in to the same bank as me so I was able to snap a photo of the cutest little WWII co-pilot (or should I say, PUG-lot?) in history!  The photo doesn't really do him justice, because I was trying to be quick and not-too-creepy, but you get the adorable idea.

Singalong! Army of Me by Bjork

Bjork!  I first heard of her in when I was a young and impressionable teenage girl reading one of those magazines for young and impressionable teenage girls.  It was talking about making a mix CD (yes, mix CDs!) with your boyfriend to celebrate your sweet young love.  They instructed that you had to accept him and his musical choices without too much judgement, meaning that the "sweet" LL Cool J song you love might have to go next to the "gag-worthy" Bjork song he loves.  You must be okay with this because loving someone is about accepting all of them, weird music taste and all.

In retrospect, a) I wonder why on earth this stuck with me all these years, of all the things I read.  Could I not have retained their advice on... okay, I'm drawing a blank for anything from those magazines I wish I'd remembered, so whatever.  B) I question and/or applaud the fact that they consider Bjork to have a stereotypically male fan base.  Personally, if I was generalizing, I would have switched the Bjork and LL Cool J references around.  But of course, at the time, I'd never even heard of Bjork, so maybe they were right.

Now I love her!  Her, and the army she rode in with.  Even though I'm too lazy to put the umlaut over the J in her name.

by Bjork

stand up
you've got to manage
i won't sympathize

and if you complain once more
you'll meet an army of me

you're allright
there's nothing wrong
self-sufficience please!
and get to work

and if you complain once more
you'll meet an army of me

you're on your own now
we won't save you
your rescue-squad
is too exhausted

and if you complain once more
you'll meet an army of me

What to Read Next?

You know when you finish an amazing book, and you're a little traumatized by suddenly being cut off from this glorious world that you were immersed in for so long and aren't sure how you're going to go on with your life or what you should read next because it's just not the same?

Well, I just discovered a website that will help!

It's so simple: go to What Should I Read Next and enter the title of a book or author you love.  Then it makes recommendations.

I did a few tests with some of my favourite books:

The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell gave me The Great Brain at the Academy by I Fitzgerald John D and Mayer Mercer, Flash Forward by Robert J Sawyer, and Omega by Jack McDevitt, among others.

Patrick Rothfuss' masterpiece The Name of the Wind lent to suggestions like A Memory of Light and Towers at Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.

The first suggestion that came in based on White Teeth by Zadie Smith is a Nigella Lawson cookbook, which is not the same at all. Also in there is Love, Etc. by Julian Barnes and A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore.

Harry Potter 6 provided The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber and the Chronicles of Narnia, as well as a novel about Doctor Who.

It's hard to judge how good the recommendations are, since I hadn't heard of any of the books recommended except for Narnia (which is quite fitting). I'm a bit put off by the cookbook recommendation, but that's okay. They also list all the tags associated with your book and their recommendation, so you can scan through for one that has the attributes you liked best.

Warning: this website is definitely run by Amazon. Each book has an "Info/Buy" button that leads you right to the book's Amazon page. I'm not too concerned about this, but you might be.

Learning! Can astrology predict your health?

I've often wondered about astrology.  Not whether the stars being in certain positions in the skies have any impact on our lives, but whether being born at certain times of year does.

Could, for example, being born in the summer versus the winter make any difference on your disposition?  Sure, family environment and genetics play a significant role.  But what about the rest of your external environment?

During that first year of life, when we process and learn so much about the world, does it have an impact if you learn to walk in a warm, grassy park or in your heated kitchen?  If you have to be bundled up before you go outside as a newborn or if that doesn't start happening until you're 7 months along?  If your first experiences are the lazy days of summer or the hectic Christmas rush?

When people get a proper astrological reading done, they often remark at how uncannily (even creepily) accurate it is.  Sure, there's confirmation bias at play, but could it also be that when the astrological signs were being determined, they were actually mapping overall differences that come from simply being born in different times of the year?  A simple correlation between being born in a certain physical and social climate and disposition?

I certainly don't know the answer, but what I do know (because I just read it) is that researchers have found a relationship between birth month and health.  This was done through the development of an algorithm that compared 1.7 million New York patients' medical records from 1985 to 2013 against their birthdates.

The result?  You are more likely to get heart disease if you were born in March and ADHD if you were a November baby, among other things.

Fret not, if you are planning children - you don't need to start timing your procreation for birth month as well as ovulation.  While these relationships are statistically significant, the chances of all these illnesses are still pretty low.

Source: Science Daily.

Tim Hunt: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

UPDATE: I find it fascinating when outrage does and doesn't explode on the internet. Tim Hunt got an immediate rebuttal, a hashtag, and his university essentially forced him to step down. Then Andy Benoit, writer for Sports Illustrated, tweets that women's sports are "not worth watching" and there is... moderate anger? Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers call him out, and that seems to be about it.  How about a #worthwatching hashtag for lady athletes?

You know what I'm talking about when I bring up Tim Hunt, right?  The nobel prize-winning scientist who said that men and women should have separate labs because when men and women work together they fall in love and women cry?  And also that women are distractingly sexy in the workplace?


Stupid, inappropriate, and unacceptable things to say anywhere, but especially in public, into a microphone, to an audience of journalists who are listening to you because you are a respected scientist.  That's not okay.  He was joking.  That doesn't matter.  You do not get a free pass to say racist or sexist or homophobic things because you are trying to be funny.

There have been a ton of responses, some that pleasantly further the sexism calling the response "hysteria" (thanks for reminding us that all emotional responses are due to a lady's uterus making her crazy and not legitimate anger, Telegraph), some including quotes from female students who have worked with him and say he was a great mentor and not sexist (Star Tribune), some from other men who say "yeah, but women do cry a lot" (The National Post), and some super sarcastic (Medium).

Here's my thoughts on the good, bad, and ugly that came out of Tim Hunt's remarks.

The Good

We now have a mass, public movement of people asserting that this kind of sexism is not okay.  Men and women around the world have been reminded that making these kinds of remarks (and holding the beliefs behind them) is unacceptable.  That it hurts everyone.

Also good, nay, great, is the #distractinglysexy response.  It was the perfect mixture of poking fun and asserting the vast, diverse, and impressive contributions of women to science.  The hundreds (thousands?) of images flooding the hashtag showed that women are making science happen alongside their male colleagues (because human beings can be around each other) and that they can be angry and funny at the same time.  After all, as Louis CK and Amy Schumer have taught us, being funny is the best way to get a tough point across.

The Bad

The complete dismissal of Tim Hunt as a person was not so great.  Don't get me wrong, I fully support the backlash.  Backlash is how we know where our lines are culturally.  By getting angry at or making fun of something someone said, we tell them and each other that they do not represent the rest of us.  That certain things are not okay.

Is it okay, however, to demonize someone as a person based on one remark?  Before you answer, think of some of the worst things you've ever said when you were nervous and trying to be funny.  Or nervous and trying to sound smart.  Or just nervous.  Or not nervous at all, but just saying things without thinking.

We have ALL said terrible things.  Sure, most of us don't say them in public, into a microphone, to a bunch of journalists, but that's mostly because most of us don't have that opportunity in our day-to-day lives.  We all like to think we'd be smarter than to say some of the worst things we've said in this kind of setting, but you don't know until you get there.

If this were a pattern of behaviour, or even if douchey Richard Dawkins was the only one saying that people have gone too far, that would be one thing.  It means a lot to me to hear his wife and other women who have worked with him defend him (and before you dismiss his wife as a love-whipped woman from a past era, she is an incredibly respected scientist herself and has some very intelligent responses to the whole situation).

That tells me that, while his remarks are not okay, they probably don't actually represent his views.

Should we get mad?  Yes.  Should we make fun of him with #distractinglysexy and perhaps other internet memes?  Of course.  Should we use this as a catalyst to challenge sexism in science?  Above all other responses, definitely.  Should we ruin this man's life work?  Well... I say probably not.

The Ugly

The biggest ugly here is sexism.  The fact that, whether or not he meant them, Tim Hunt's comments represent and affirm overall mistreatment and neglect of women in science, is very ugly.  I am not a woman in science, so I don't know what it's like, but it's not surprising that this is an issue given the fact that patriarchy is never-endingly present in every field except maybe nursing and teaching elementary school.

Another ugly was seeing the response labelled as a "feminist pile-on" or "feminism gone to far", or whatever other way that the defence blamed the issue on the feminists who are too sensitive and scratching Tim Hunt's eyes out.

Framing feminists as bulldog, ball-busting bad girls (once again) is not exactly helpful to anyone's case for equality or understanding.  Yes, I do think things went too far, but guess what?  That wasn't just the "feminists" - it was also the general media, who I would be hard-pressed to define as feminist.  It was the university that instantly tossed him aside to avoid bad press - an action that does nothing to actually deal with systemic problems at the heart of the issue.

To brush the negative backlash off as a "feminist witch hunt" absolves anyone else of their responsibility in addressing the real issues at play.  It turns it into a "him vs. crazy pseudo-women" fight instead of a dialogue about the actual problems women face in science and lets those who actually are sexist off the hook because they can just scoff at the "stupid feminists".

The argument has been made that this is larger than Tim Hunt as an individual, this reflects a need for change in the sciences.  I agree.  That's why I don't think ending his career is the answer.  Making an example out of someone is not justice, it's public relations, and it doesn't solve anything in the long run.

Anger is good.  Creating a funny-yet-pointed hashtag in response is excellent.  Using an individual as a catalyst for conversation and change is wonderful.  But does tossing someone out to dry completely accomplish change?  Or does it lead to more finger pointing and polarizing of sides?

Best case scenario, in this chain of events, other sexist men in science will be afraid to open their mouths.  This means we'll have less public sexist remarks, which is great, but it won't change their views.  It won't change how they treat their female colleagues, who they give promotions or grant money or the "fun jobs" in the lab to, who they invite to co-author their papers, or what kind of culture they create among their younger male colleagues.

For that kind of change to happen, we have to actually engage.

Now, let's end things off by having a good chuckle with some scientists who happen to have ovaries.

Inspiration! Re-Imagining Africa

This video made me happy.  It just felt good to watch these African men stand up, name the stereotypes that have been thrust on them, and then defy them.

The image Hollywood created of Africa.
Posted by Roël Dunand Kofi on Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cute! Puppy Stuffies

Yesterday I went to a beach BBQ with some friends with dogs.  Their three little gals are pretty adorable to begin with, but look!  They have a little stuffed husky they put down with the dogs to get them to calm down.  SO CUTE!

Singalong! I Don't Wanna Wait by Paula Cole

I've already featured Paula Cole once, and now it's time to relive her only other major hit: I Don't Wanna Wait. Oh, the sweet longing of a teenager to experience everything NOW, to be able to do whatever you want NOW, to never have to wait for anything or be held back by your stupid parents who just don't understand how important everything is that is happening right NOW.

You know, as I write this, it occurs to me that teenagers might be very good at this whole zen, "living in the moment" thing, if only their "now-ness" wasn't so desperate and angst-ridden.  Also, it's kind of funny that a song about the impact of war on a family became so associated with teen angst.  I guess we have Dawson's Creek to thank for that, and an urgent chorus about not wanting to wait any longer.

by Paula Cole

So open up your morning light,
And say a little prayer for right
You know that if we are to stay alive
Then see the peace in every eye...

doo doo doo doo do doo do
do do doo doo doo doo dooo doo ooh

She had two babies, one was six months, one was three
In the war of '44...
Every telephone ring, every heartbeat stinging
When she thought it was God calling her
Oh, would her son grow to know his father?

I don't want to wait for our lives to be over,
I want to know right now, what will it be?
I don't want to wait for our lives to be over,
Will it be yes or will it be...sorry?

doo doo oooh doo ooh do do ooh

He showed up all wet on the rainy front step
Wearing shrapnel in his skin
And the war he saw lives inside him still,
It's so hard to be gentle and warm
The years pass by and now he has granddaughters


You look at me from across the room
You're wearing your anguish again
Believe me I know the feeling
It sucks you into the jaws of anger
So breathe a little more deeply my love
All we have is this very moment
And I don't want to do what his father,
And his father, and his father did,
I want to be here now
So open up your morning light,
And say a little prayer for right
You know that if we are to stay alive,
And see the peace in every eye...


doo doo doo dooo oooh do dooo doo
doo doo doo dooo do doooo oooh
doo doo doo do dooo do do

So open up your morning light,
And say a little prayer for right
You know that if we are to stay alive
Then see the love in every eye...

Learning! 3 Actual Nutrition Facts (that everyone agrees on)

I've been thinking about nutrition more lately.  It's become unfortunately clear to me that all those things people say about getting older and not being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want with zero consequences anymore is a real thing.  Since I want to try to make sure I stay nice and healthy and put off becoming a shrivelled, lumpy root who can't even stand up straight for as long as possible, then I guess riding my bike and doing yoga is no longer enough to put whatever the heck else I want in my body.

The thing is, everyone disagrees about what is actually healthy eating!  Plus, they say things I don't want to hear, which his unpleasant!  Thanks to Lifehacker, however, I now know that all nutrition experts agree about these three things:

Run away from sugar.

As they say in the Lifehacker article,"the only disagreement on sugar is whether it’s bad for you, or really bad for you."

Fun fact for the people who think honey is a "healthy alternative": it's still sugar. Just because it's not "processed" doesn't mean your body doesn't treat it exactly like sugar.

Flee from artificial trans fats.

I feel like this one is a gimme now. That's why every label says "trans fat free!" on it, in bold lettering surrounded by a starburst-like graphic to grab our attention.

Embrace veggies.

This is the kicker. Gotta eat more vegetables. SIGH. Yep. Okay. It's not that I don't like vegetables, I do! I think they are tasty and fun. They just don't often leave me feeling all that full. Also, they go bad. You can't just stock up on a month's worth of vegetables the one day this month you have time to grocery shop and be done with it, can you?

But, as they say, where there's a will there's a way.  I just need to summon all my will, make a plan, do some research on Pinterest (the font of all health wisdom), and get 'er going.

Source: Lifehacker

Me & Ryan Gosling in Seattle

A couple years ago Ryan and I managed a quick meet up in Seattle. He left a red carpet early and hopped a flight down, I grabbed a train, and we had a few fun hours together in America's rainiest city. He felt a little over dressed, but I was just happy to see him!

Learning! Get a Good Night's Sleep With Therapy, Not Pills

I am a big fan of therapy!  I think everyone could use a little heart-to-heart with a professional now and again, and if you are struggling with, well, pretty much anything, there is a good chance that therapy can make a big difference.  It is also shown to have greater long-term benefits than medication for many emotional or mental illnesses.  (Not to say you shouldn't use medication if you need it, but meds-plus-therapy seems to be the most effective model in those cases.)

Now a study has shown that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) also has powerful effects for those who suffer from insomnia, with longer-term results than medication!

The beauty of CBT is that it is very focused on finding solutions to your current problem.  Sure, you can talk about your mother and general stresses, and that will help because you'll identify the things that are stressing you out and preventing sleep, but you'll also discuss your actual sleep habits and patterns, and practical solutions for changing them.

So if you have trouble sleeping, take sleeping pills to get you through, but maybe consider finding someone to talk to as well.


Inspiration! What Has Changed In Your Life On Earth?

Sometimes it feels like everything is changing too fast to keep up.  Sometimes it feels like nothing is changing at all and we have been stagnating for millennia.

Well, now you don't have to wonder exactly how much the world (and you!) have actually changed throughout your life.  The BBC has created a stunning infographic that tells you everything from how many times your heart has beat compared to a blue whale (or hummingbird) to the distance you have travelled around the sun to the rise in sea level and the amount of tea available to each person on earth from the day you were born to today.

Check it out for yourself!

Here are some of my stats:

Me & Ryan Gosling at a Wedding

Ryan and I don't get to attend a whole lot of events together, but a few years ago he was able to come out to my friends Natalie and Alex's wedding. I danced a lot (gotta burn off all that table wine somehow) and got a little aggressive. He found me adorable, as always.

Cute! Mountain Dog

If I was to picture the kind of dog who could climb a mountain, it would be some kind of large, rugged, shaggy animal. I don't really know breeds, so I can't tell you the breed name, but I can tell you that it would not be a little guy like Darwin, here. And yet, Darwin is probably a better mountain climber than I am! (This of course is not surprising, I have climbed relatively few mountains in my life, and judging by his owner, Darwin has climbed many.) He was amazingly spry and gave me several much needed breaks while we paused to make sure he was finding his way over, under, and around the trail's obstacles.  Thanks, Darwin!  You're a pal.

Singalong! Better Sons/Daughters by Rilo Kiley

I didn't used to be able to listen to this song. I had depression issues for most of my teens and early 20s, and something about this song put a tack right into my experience. So much so that if I heard it, the little veneer holding all the pieces of me together would know that it was being called out by name and shatter, and I would 100% fall apart.

Even though I got through my depression some time ago, I still instinctively avoid this song. It doesn't break me anymore, but it does make my eyes get all teary. Especially that last verse that details all the ways you can force yourself to exist in the world without letting on the death inside. But it's not just an anthem of brokenness; it's also an anthem of glimmering hope, and I think that's worth singing along to once and a while, even if your voice isn't even coming out because of all the feelings in your throat.

by Rilo Kiley

Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can't move
Awake but cannot open my eyes
And the weight is crushing down on my lungs I know I can't breathe
And hope someone will save me this time
And your mother's still calling you insane and high
Swearing it's different this time
And you tell her to give in to the demons that possess her
And that God never blessed her insides
Then you hang up the phone and feel badly for upsetting things
And crawl back into bed to dream of a time
When your heart was open wide and you loved things just because
Like the sick and the dying

And sometimes when you're on, you're really fucking on
And your friends they sing along and they love you
But the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap
And it teases you for weeks in it's absence
But you'll fight and you'll make it through
You'll fake it if you have to
And you'll show up for work with a smile
You'll be better you'll be smarter
And more grown up and a better daughter
Or son and a real good friend
You'll be awake and you'll be alert
You'll be positive though it hurts
And you'll laugh and embrace all your friends
You'll be a real good listener
You'll be honest, you'll be brave
You'll be handsome, you'll be beautiful
You'll be happy

Your ship may be coming in
You're weak but not giving in
To the cries and the wails of the valley below
Your ship may be coming in
You're weak but not giving in
And you'll fight it you'll go out fighting all of them...

Learning! What if the moon was a pixel?

Someone built an incredibly accurate map of the solar system, scaled to the moon being one pixel in size.  It starts with the sun and goes out from there, and my goodness, this is a good reminder of how much space there is out there in space.  Gives you a good sense of your own smallness.

Check it out here.

Me & Ryan Gosling Getting Silly On Robson

Hanging out on Robson Street, there's a huge public art piece that's basically a bunch of yellow rings. Obviously, we had to jump in and get silly!

Inspiration! The dictionary of obscure sorrows

Oh dear.  This one is a bit heavy, but then a collection of obscure sorrows would be.  There is something sweet and melancholic in it all as well, and somehow this little gallery of sadness is inspiring to me.

Here are some of my favourites:

Zenosyne: the sense that time keeps moving faster.

Lachesism: the desire to be struck by disaster—to survive a plane crash, to lose everything in a fire, to plunge over a waterfall—which would put a kink in the smooth arc of your life, and forge it into something hardened and flexible and sharp, not just a stiff prefabricated beam that barely covers the gap between one end of your life and the other.

Altschmerz: weariness with the same old issues that you’ve always had—the same boring flaws and anxieties you’ve been gnawing on for years, which leaves them soggy and tasteless and inert, with nothing interesting left to think about, nothing left to do but spit them out and wander off to the backyard, ready to dig up some fresher pain you might have buried long ago.

It's also worth mentioning that this dictionary is invented.  John Koenig decided that there were holes in the English language - we were missing words for these deep feelings we all experience.  So he invented them.

Check them all out here.

Cute! Stevie at sunset

Stevie is a beautiful, giant dog who I've had the good fortune to spend some time with recently (and her owner, who is pretty good, too).  It is a treat!  There's something about a huge dog who is super gentle with a bit of an Eeyore vibe, but who is also generally perfectly content, that I find irresistible.