Inspiration! Roundup: 1.7 billion ways to be Muslim, recommended reading, and lots of magic

My desire to protect our waters is so strong right now. Let's go to Tofino! Go to the beach! look at the ocean. Don't  cover it in oil.
This week's "I want to go to there":
I suddenly find myself deeply desiring a return trip to the natural beauty of Tofino.
(Possibly this has everything to do with yesterday's approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.)

1.7 Billion Ways to be Muslim

Just like any religion, Muslims are a multi-faceted group of people. Here's a wonderful little intro video made by Vox highlighting all the different ways a person might live their Muslim faith.

Recommended Reading

Trying to expand your intake of culture beyond the default can be hard. First of all, if you're anything like me, you really want to see Dr. Strange and the new Gilmore Girls, and re-reading Harry Potter makes you feel safe and happy. There is only so much time and so much to take in. Plus, let's be honest, we have to work just a little bit harder to find things outside the default (that's why they're defaults), and nobody's got time for that.

That's why the internet is great! It's full of lists like this one, in the Guardian, collecting non-western books for students (and non-students) to read.

Magic Leap

This is by far one of the most incredible things I have ever seen.

Read more about Magic Leap in this Forbes article.

Su Blackwell Brings Books to Life

I am so in love with the magical artwork of Su Blackwell. She creates the most magical worlds out of paper and books.

Su Blackwell's magical book art is incredible.

A Harsh Reminder

Despite my love for inspiration, here's a harsh-but-true reminder about work, life, and creativity. It's not just about feeling good. Sometimes (or all the time) you just need to show up and start working.

An anti-inspiration quote from Chuck Close that is actually rather inspirational

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The Gilmore Girls: Winter to Summer

I have not yet watched the last episode of the new Gilmore Girls season. This is not stopping me from having thoughts and opinions:

(WARNING, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS - not of the last episode, of course, but of everything up until then.)

DID THEY NOT GET THE RIGHTS TO THE THEME SONG???? This is very upsetting. The intros feel empty and sad.

Rory is... unimpressive. I'm not talking about the fact that she doesn't know what she's doing with her life or anything. I'm talking about the way she gives up so quickly on everything. She has the curse of the naturally gifted: she's used to working hard and then seeing success. When she doesn't, she crumbles because she is not used to meeting resistance.

Lane seems like she's still a pretty cool cat, but they gave her a truly unfortunate set of mom-bangs.

There is nothing more frustrating than watching a show where everyone is unhappy because everyone feels disconnected from everyone else, but they are disconnected and unhappy because they are all lying and keeping secrets from each other!

If Rory doesn't have a valid driver's licence, why does she keep driving everywhere????

People have aged reallllly unevenly. Zack looks like a tired old man! Oh, Zack! What happened to you? Meanwhile, Kirk is a total hottie!

It seems clear that they want to tell a story that stretches over all four episodes (or "seasons", but that is confusing parlance in TV-land where seasons refer to something very different), but that doesn't mean you can't have some closure at the end of each episode. Every other TV series does it, you did it in the past, you can, too!

For example: what is with this LETTER that Emily brought up once in therapy and then never got brought up again??? This better get cleared up in the final episode.

Alex Kingston! Alex Kingston is on the show! And she is cheeky and hilarious and I love her.

Rory is kind of a total jerk. She's got a boyfriend who she ignores and constantly forgets about and won't do the service of breaking up with and sleeps with a bunch of other people including an engaged Logan, who is also being a jerk here, but expectedly.

Will Lorelei ever not be able to suddenly need to go and do something dramatic?

If you're doing a TV show with a bad play in it, you don't need to show us the bad play for 15 minutes. It's okay for your episode to be 15 minutes shorter than you intended - this is Netflix, you're not trying to fill a fixed broadcast slot.

I miss Richard.

Paris continues to be one of the best, most interesting humans. Her bathroom freak out when she holds a door shut with her stiletto'd foot is one of the finest moments in television history.

Who on earth would let Paris talk to children????

When you eat junk food like the Gilmores your insides die.

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Cute! Roundup: Cookies that bite, a puppy meets sand, and Percy's penguin "friend"

It's time for a little kitty throwback. I've introduced Percy, the kitty I had before Gertie, before. Here he is on the day we got him, with his favourite buddy (mostly for biting and scratching), Penguin.

Attacks or cuddles? A kitty with a penguin buddy, cat cookies, a puppy encounters sand, significant otter

Other Cuteness:

These cookies will bite you.

A puppy encounters sand for the first time.

Donkey in a hammock. DONKEY IN A HAMMOCK!

Otter cuddles.

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Singalong! I Would Die for You by Jann Arden

This is one of those songs where the emotion of the song is bizarrely unmatched by the music video. Listening to the song makes me feel like clutching my chest, falling to my knees, and reaching out across a dark void. The video, on the other hand, features disjointed shots of lethargic couples and swimming babies while Jann rides a bus by herself.

by Jann Arden

I've never seen this kind of love
The kind that won't wash away
And then leave you in the dark
I would die for you
I would die for you
I would die for you

I've never kissed a sweeter mouth
I've never been swept away
It's what dreams are made up of
Don't you know I could not survive
Without you in my life
I would die for you
I would die for you
I would die for you

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah ya ya
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah ya ya
Yeah yeah yeah

I've never seen this kind of love
The kind that won't slip away
Yes I'm soaring through your heart
Don't you know I could not survive
Without you in my life
I would die for you
I would die for you
I would die for you

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah ya ya
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah ya ya
Yeah yeah yeah

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Learning! Roundup: Extended winters, sexism is still bad, better earthquake warnings, and more!

Learning! Roundup: Climate change has brought us longer winters, sexism is still bad for men, gravity can give us better earthquake warnings, there are only six plot lines, and more!

A Long December

Well, crap. Looks like climate change is not only giving us droughts and forest fires, but it's extending winters, as well. This is due to shifts in the polar vortex (a zone of cold air around the Arctic), thanks to sea ice loss.

Sexism is Bad for Men

It has long been the argument of feminism that the patriarchy hurts us all, not just women. Now we've got a bit of science to back us up: a new study shows that men who conform to masculinity norms have worse mental health than those who don't. These norms include everything from seeing themselves as "playboys" to desire to win to dominance to primacy of work.

New Earthquake Warnings

It looks like changes in gravity could provide better, faster, more accurate warnings of a coming earthquake than seismic changes. This could eventually lead to quicker warnings that might save lives.

The Six Possible Stories

As far back as the Old Testament, people have been complaining that there are no new ideas, only remixes (take a look at the existential Ecclesiastes if you want proof). An analysis of fictional stories has narrowed them all down to six emotional plot lines: rags to riches (rise), riches to rags (fall), man in a hole (fall-rise), Icarus (rise-fall), Cinderella (rise-fall-rise), and Oedipus (fall-rise-fall).

Emotions and Spatial Ability

Who would have thought that a person's emotional openness would relate to their ability to mentally rotate images? Not me! Turns out it does. One of the long-held differences between men and women has now been shown to be the result of social conditioning: women who suppress their emotions are just as good as men at mentally rotating images.

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Some November Blessings

A collection of blessings to get you through this rainy, cold November
"#blessed" by Raffi Asdourian

For Americans, today is Thanksgiving, and thanks to globalization of culture, the rest of us hear about it incessantly. This really isn't such a bad thing. I always enjoy watching how sitcoms find excuses to keep their characters from going home over Thanksgiving,and any reminder to be grateful is useful.

Instead of sharing things I am thankful for, however, I decided instead to share some blessings for a cold, rainy fall that may or may not include family gatherings:

May your bike rides be sweat-free and your bike chain stay in place.

May the rain take pause the instant you leave your house, and refrain from restarting until you get home.

May your family argue only over who gets the last roll at dinner, until you realize that there are more rolls in the kitchen.

May your afternoon caffeine-intake give you just the right amount of boost to get through the day.

May the only emails you receive be from friends inviting you on a free trips.

May your avocados ripen one at a time instead of all at once.

May your Facebook feed be filled with the lives of your loved ones and not political articles.

May your bus show up exactly on time, unless you are running a minute late, and then may it also be a minute late and wait for you while you run up to the door.

May your pet, should you have one, greet you with love and poo where it is supposed to.

May your child, should you have one, also greet you with love and also poo where it is supposed to.

May your shoes never leak.

May your nail polish never chip.

May you find that thing that you can't remember where on earth it could be, but it has GOT to be around here somewhere.

May you walk into a room and remember why you went in there in the first place.

May your Netflix suggestions be just what you need.

May there be one last cookie in the tray and the ice cream tub not be empty.

May the last pair of clean underwear in your drawer NOT be the uncomfortable weird ones you put off wearing, but a cute and fun pair.

May the good cheese be on sale.

May the lights all turn green.

May the wind give your hair just the perfect amount of volume.

May you be able to squeeze one last plate into the dishwasher.

May your partner/child/roommate tidy up without being asked.

May you get hugged, but only if your a hugger. If not, then may nobody even try.

May your high fives land squarely and make a satisfying sound, without hurting your hand.

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Me & Ryan Gosling playing catch

Me and my guy Ry Ry like to play catch - we just play it a little different than everyone else. I yell "CATCH!" and then jump and he has to catch me. It works about 35% of the time.

Me and Ryan Gosling, playing catch in our own way (he caught me this time!)

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Inspiration! Roundup: Gryffindor-style awards for scientists, artist superpowers, jarred worlds, and hope

Inspiration! Roundup: Elizabeth Loftus receives the John Maddox Prize for bravery in science, artists against Trump, double-exposure photography, and vaclav havel on hope
This week's "I want to go to there":
Making something with my hands.

If Scientists Were Gryffindors

Elizabeth Loftus has long been one of my favourite researchers. She has studied the incredible frailty of our memories and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, and as a result, she has received bullying and death threats. Now she is the recipient of the John Maddox Prize, an award for bravery in standing up for science. Go Liz, go!

Being an Artist in a Trumped-Up World

21 artists were asked what it means to be an artist now that Trump is president-elect. The resulting statements are beautiful, meaningful, challenging, and empowering to artists and non-artists alike.
"Everyone has different superpowers. For those whose superpower is helping people through their art, it’s important that they now put that superpower to use."
-Emma Sulkowicz
Jarred Worlds

Check out this stunning artwork by Christoffer Relander, Jarred and Displaced. In it, he collects landscapes from his childhood home of Finland into jars, through double-exposure photography.

On Hope
Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world
Either we have hope within us or we don’t.
Hope is not a prognostication—it’s an orientation of the spirit.
You can’t delegate that to anyone else.

Hope in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy
when things are going well,
or the willingness to invest in enterprises
that are obviously headed for early success,
but rather an ability to work for something to succeed.

Hope is definitely NOT the same as optimism.
It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it turns out.

It is hope, above all, that gives us strength to live
and to continually try new things,
even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.
In the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing
to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily,
without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.

– Vaclav Havel

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Would you rather?

Would you rather be able to speak to animals or speak every human language?

So much benefit to both scenarios...

Would you rather switch genders every time you sneezed or not be able to tell the difference between a baby and a muffin?

Confusing in the unconnectedness of the scenarios. Switching genders would get confusing, but might be good for decreasing gender bias in the world?

Would you rather know how you die, or when you will die?

Neither is not an acceptable answer! Ugh! I think when would be better? So that I'm not constantly afraid to do a certain thing? Except I'll probably just get cancer like most people.

Would you rather always give bad advice or always receive bad advice?

If I know the advice is bad then at least I know not to follow advice I'm given. I'm guessing in this scenario I don't get to know that, though. So then... I guess receive? Just so I'm not actively ruining peoples' lives? Maybe I'll figure out eventually that all the advice I'm getting is terrible?

Would you rather stay up all night with a crying baby or helping a very irritating person with a problem you think is stupid?

I think the baby? No, the irritating person. They are both horrible.

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Cute! Roundup: Save the kittens, babies in the rain, dancing polar bears

When you're rushing out the door, and then see your cat lying on your purse on the ground... naturally you pause to photograph her desperate attempt to keep you from leaving before shunting her out of the way and running away.

More Cuteness:

Don't forget to save your kitties!

This baby experiencing rain for the first time truly warmed my heart.

These kitties bopping their heads in unison is pretty incredible.

Dancing polar bears!!! (Okay, they aren't actually polar bears, but they are dancing and they are strangely adorable):

A video posted by BalletBC (@balletbc) on

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Singalong! Jackie's Strength by Tori Amos

I love this song, and right now I want to sing songs of a woman's strength.

by Tori Amos

A bouvier till her wedding day
Shots rang out
The police came
Mama layed me on the front lawn
And prayed for Jackie's strength
Feeling old by 21
Never thought my day would come
My bridesmaids getting laid
I pray for Jackie's strength

Make me laugh
Say you know what you want
You said we were the real thing
So I show you some more and I learn
What black magic can do
Make me laugh
Say you know you can turn
Me into the real thing
So I show you some more
And I learn

Stickers licked on lunch boxes
Worshipping David Cassidy
Yeah I mooned him once
On Donna's box
She's still in recovery
Sleep-overs Beene's got some pot
You're only popular with anorexia
So I turn myself inside out
In hope someone will see

Make me laugh
Say you know what you want
You said we were the real thing
So I show you some more and I learn
What black magic can do
Make me laugh
Say you know you can turn
Me into the real thing
So I show you some more
And I learn

I got lost on my wedding day
Typical the police came
But virgins always get backstage
No matter what they've got to say
If you love enough you'll lie a lot
Guess they did in Camelot
Mama's waiting on my front lawn
I pray
I pray
I pray
For Jackie's strength

Make me laugh
Say you know what you want
You said we were the real thing
So I show you some more and I learn
Jackie's strength

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Learning! Roundup: Help Standing Rock, research on racism, reminiscence, sexy parasites, and priorities

Learning! Roundup includes how to help Standing Rock, research on calling out racism, the reminiscence bump, parasites that change your sexy fantasies, and getting our (wifi) priorities straight
Standing Rock Postcard. Photo Credit: The Boston Public Library 

How to Help Standing Rock

Want to do something to help the water protectors at Standing Rock? Me too! I wanted to buy one of those t-shirts (I really like this one), but couldn't find any evidence that the money from those sales actually goes to help the cause and the last thing I want to do is give my money to someone profiteering off a cause. Instead, here is a list of things that can be done to actually help, including donating money (like maybe the money I would have spent on a t-shirt, which isn't on the list).

What Research Says about Racism

Right now we're living in the age of the call out. When someone is being racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, they get public attention, and shame, brought upon them. There is very little research out there so far on what will change peoples' attitudes, but what is borne out in the evidence is that calling someone a racist is the worst way to stop them from being racist. Empathy, on the other hand, is effective.

The Reminiscence Bump

In a rarely uncontested psychological phenomenon, humans remember things best when they happened between the ages of 15-25. It's called the "reminiscence bump". What isn't agreed upon is the reason it happens: is it because those ages are full of many life "firsts" (kiss, date, graduation, apartment)? Because that is a culturally-defined period of significance in one's life? Or, as new research suggests, is it because this is an age where we lay down memories that define who we are for the rest of our lives - a "crystallization period"?

Sexy Parasites

Okay, the parasites aren't sexy at all. But it seems that people who have the toxoplasma gondii parasite are more likely to be interested in more "adventurous" sexual practices, like bondage, zoophilia, and fetishism. However, the higher interest didn't actually lead to a higher likelihood to practice these things. It's a parasite of sexy fantasies, not follow-through.

Keep Your Genitals, Give Me Wifi

A new study shows that people would rather have wifi than sex, chocolate, or alcohol. I'm sure there will be tons of people sharing this, and commenting on how we are so addicted to our phones that we have misplaced our values (because obviously sex should always be the most important thing in our lives). To me this just means that we value interconnectedness, communication, entertainment, and productivity. Those are all pretty great things on their own, and combined, are kind of vital.

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Me and Ryan Gosling at Fan Expo

Last week Ryan and I went to our first Fan Expo! Basically a convention of all things nerdy (fantasy, sci fi, comic books, anime, etc.), it's a sweet time for those of us who like to indulge our dorky selves. We wanted to dress up, but had to pull together last-minute costumes. I went as River Song from Doctor Who, and Ryan grabbed his lute and called himself a traveling minstrel. I still think he should have worn his Roman Gladiator costume (doesn't he look like Rory - also from Doctor Who?)

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Inspiration! Roundup: Overview, bottoms up, book sculptures, and more!

This week's Inspiration! Roundup includes lots of art, a daily overview, going from the bottom to the top, and more
This Week's "I Want to Go to There":
The art world of Wolfgang Palin

Daily Overview

When I think of a daily overview, I expect some kind of productivity system where you overview your entire life every day in two easy steps (that secretly break down to twenty steps each and will take up half your day, but only if you're doing it wrong). Turns out it's actually an art project by Benjamin Grant, taking satellite images of the world, documenting what humans have done to change the planet.

Screen Shot from the Daily Overview Instagram account

Bottoms Up

"It's not the bottom, it's the foundation."
-Seth Godin

Work Together to Make Things Better

Hey Americans! If you're feeling like you need to make some positive change in your world right now, you could start with Together List, a website that lets you find a charity that is working on a cause you care about.

The Book Sculptures of Jacqueline Rush Lee

Aren't the book sculptures by Jacqueline Rush Lee oddly captivating?

Learn Your Type

I love personality tests! Obviously, they never explain everything about you, but I find it so useful and interesting to learn something new about my tendencies or how my brain works. Here's a new one called 16 Personalities that seems to be a variation on the Myers-Briggs. I rated as a Campaigner (ENFP-T), whereas on the Myers-Briggs I am an ENFJ. You can take the quiz in 12 minutes and then it will email you detailed results. Then let the self-reflection begin!

Easier Said than Done

It's easy to work when you're in the groove and you just have to follow your inspiration. It's hard to work when you don't feel like it. Guess what we have to do more often?

"Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get work done." - Chuck Close quote

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Reporting on The X-Files Season Two: Skinner Gets Real

Observations on season two of The X-Files
Image by Mediodescocido

Season 2 of The X-Files is complete! Things got pretty real this time around. Let's dive in with observations and questions!


Skinner is suddenly interesting. No longer the villain keeping Mulder down, he is now a dubious ally, helping where he can while constrained by forces of his own.

He is also suddenly a badass. Like Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he is the master of persuasive off-camera violence. One minute he looks like a frustrated bureaucrat, and the next he has extracted both blood and information from his opponent.


Scully gets ABDUCTED? Apparently this happened because Gillian Anderson got pregnant. How is she going to keep being a skeptic after she's abducted?

Oh, turns out that she can keep being a skeptic because she doesn't remember anything from her abduction. Convenient!

Does anyone think that Scully's mom actually looks old enough to have two adult daughters?

True supernatural experiences had by Scully: voodoo-related hallucinations (could have been written off as just brain-chemistry hallucinations); an active demon possession, including a woman pinned to the ceiling of her home; seeing a bunch of aliens rush past her deep in a mine; suddenly and severely aging while trapped onboard a ship.

DUDE! Scully ate a BUG! Okay, really it was sleight of hand, but it was still pretty awesome.

Other things!

The most interesting thing about Mulder this season is that he isn't always the one obsessively pushing the paranormal agenda: at least twice, he writes something off as "normal" (including a woman's rape, go figure that Scully takes that more seriously than he does) until Scully pushes to continue investigation.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." - Some bad guy said that. Pretty good quote though, right? Slap that on a pretty image, throw it on Pinterest, and no one would guess it came from a villain.

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Cute! Roundup: A three-bunny boop, a fallen corgi pup, and more!

This weekend I got to meet this sweet little nugget! His name is Teddy and he likes to be held suspended in one hand against your chest. He will ease all your troubles.

Photo by Kimberly Dawn
More Cuteness:

Player three enters the book.

The challenging life of a corgi pup.

A very cute baby duck.

Proof that cuteness is not intrinsically tied to smallness.

Baby fox plays with dog.

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Singalong! Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

This week had so many cracks in it. Hoping they let some light in.

Leonard Cohen, sing us out, please.

by Leonard Cohen

Well I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah


Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah


But baby I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I've seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah


Well there was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me do ya
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah


Maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah



Singalong with Leonard Cohen, to close out this terrible week
Photo by Rama

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Learning! Roundup: Mean religion, check your facts, a new kind of human, and more

Learning! Roundup: The effects of growing up religious, checking facts

Mean Religion

Yikes. A new study has shown that religious kids are meaner than their secular counterparts; they are less kind, less altruistic, and less forgiving. The study included children who were Christian, Muslim, and non-religious, and shows that there is something seriously lacking in how religions that are meant to focus on forgiveness are teaching our children.

Check Your Facts

Sometimes I don't know how to evaluate whether what I'm reading on the internet is true or not. There is so much crap out there, am I right? A recent episode of the podcast Science for the People helps: it's called Check Your Facts, and it'll help you do just that.

A New Kind of Human

Here's some cool news in the history of homo sapiens: Aboriginal people in what is now Australia and the Pacific Islands have small amounts of DNA from a previously unknown human species. Not just Neanderthals, Denisovans, or a combination of the two, but a third branch. Neat!

Placebo Effect Located

They have located the part of the brain that seems to be responsible for the placebo effect (my favourite psychological phenomenon). It's the midfrontal gyrus, and in some people it's more connected to the rest of their brain than in others. These people (I highly suspect I am one of them) are now referred to as "Placebo Responders", as they are more likely to be impacted by the placebo effect.

Electrocute Yourself Into Effectiveness

This one lands in the creepy pile for me: U.S. military researchers have successfully used electric brain stimulation to improve mental performance. This is expected to be used for people like drone operators, who are more likely to fall prey to the monotony of their task, to keep them sharp, and is seen as a safer alternative to drugs like Ritalin.

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Dear Prime Minister Trudeau

One of the things I said yesterday is that, in a post-Trump world, we have a responsibility. We are responsible to stand for what is right and to encourage those in power to do the same. I am starting with a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. If you are Canadian, consider sending him a letter of your own. If you are American, write to your reasonable Republican leaders. If you are from any other country in the world, write to your leaders. Trump can be held back, if we do it together.

Your Pride Parade high-fives were great, and now you can follow through
on the values you symbolically supported there.
Photo Source: Flickr

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

As you know, Donald Trump was just elected the president of the United States. Of course you know. Yesterday, you congratulated him on his win and have invited him to Canada.

In your statement, you said that we have "shared values" with the United States. I am giving you a lot of benefit of the doubt that you were referring to the values of an ideal America - not of our values compared with the values America signed off on by electing Trump. Because Canada cannot ever stand for those values, and you were elected based on very different values.

Personally, I am a bit disappointed so far at your follow-through on some of your promises. You did increase arts funding, which I am grateful for. You also marched in Pride parades, a powerful symbolic statement of your values of inclusivity and celebration. Thank you for that. In the next turn, however, you approved a pipeline and went back on promises to Canada's Indigenous people - this is not okay.

So first of all, I want to remind you of the values you were elected for: peace, unity, and caring. Partnership with the Indigenous people of Canada. Support for the environment and the rights of those whose rights are too often questioned (women, people of colour, transgendered people, people with disabilities, and more). You presented yourself as a Prime Minister who would care about the needs of this country and its people - not just the rich or powerful. As a Prime Minister who would uphold progressive values, who would be inclusive and collaborative.

Our diplomatic relationship with the United States is important. Because of this, you will be put in a lot of difficult situations in the next four years. You will have to make decisions between things like economic security and the values of Canada.

Please, do not ever compromise our values. Work with Trump where you can, when it does not compromise these values, and stand up to him whenever necessary. Do it diplomatically, when you can, but if you must pull a Hugh Grant in Love, Actually and openly call him out for being the bully that he is, then do that, too. 

As Prime Minister, you always have a choice for who you are going to ally yourself, and therefore this country, with: the rich or the poor; the privileged or the oppressed; the truth-speakers or the liars; the bullies or the victims. The choice isn't always either-or, but sometimes it is. Be aware of who you are standing beside, who you are aligning yourself with, and who, by default, you are then standing against. Do not stand against the people and land your are here to protect. 

I hope you will be increasingly aware of your power as an ally in all your decisions as Prime Minister. Perhaps I am getting too caught up in my fear, but right now it feels especially important, especially symbolic, when it comes to Donald Trump. He stands for so much that is wrong. You must stand for what is right. Hopefully this won't mean opposing him at every turn - he may not be able to do half the things he promised - but it might.

The water is going to be hot for the next four years, but as Prime Minister, you should be used to a little heat. If it gets too hot, call on us, the Canadians whose values you are protecting. If you stand up for us, for truth and equality and compassion and accessibility and inclusivity, then I will stand with you, and I know others will, too.

Be the Prime Minister that was promised to us when you were elected.


Andrea Loewen
Second Generation Immigrant (descended from refugees) and Settler/Visitor on the Unceded Coast Salish Territories

PS: Hopefully we have entered a dark alternate timeline due to someone's errant time-travel, in which case this may all get corrected soon without us even knowing anything happened. This means that if anyone rushes into your office claiming to be from the future and that the world isn't supposed to be like this and somehow you're the key, HELP THEM! Destroy the amulet, distract the dementors, repair their weird car, whatever.

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Me and Ryan Gosling taking pictures or people taking pictures of us

It's customary before heading out to a fancy event, to take a photo with your date in your fancy garb. When you're going out with a friend, then you do the nice thing and take pictures of each other, maybe at the same time. Ryan always looks sharp, so we're covered in that regard.

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Notes on the return of the Dark Ages

Various, relatively unfiltered thoughts, connected only by yesterday's election:

Sorry, mom and dad, today is a day for swear words: fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK.

While we're at it, fuck you to the following people:
-Anyone in America who didn't vote and is able to. This is your fault.
-Anyone who voted for Trump, not because you agreed with the things he said, but to make a point or because you "couldn't bring yourself" to vote for Clinton. This is actually your fault.
-Anyone who posted or said "should have been Bernie."

If you voted for Trump because you actually agree with the things he said, well then, congratulations. Your hatred and fear won. Don't bother trying to argue that it wasn't hatred and fear behind it all. We all know that's exactly what fuels you, even if you don't.

I am afraid for so many things: the lives of black men and women in America; the lives of Muslims in America; the water protectors at Standing Rock; all Indigenous people; women; boys.

People kept talking as if it's understandable/expected/okay for white men to vote for Trump. NO! This is not okay. It's not understandable. It's not expected. Do we really expect that just because a person is male and white he should be devoid of empathy? Are we okay with a world where people can never look beyond their own personal interests? There is no excuse for this kind of talk, I don't care who you are.

People also keep talking as if only white men voted for Trump. Not the case. The fact that women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQI community, people with disabilities, and others voted for him does not make him less bigoted, it just means that people perceive their own best interests in very different ways.

Men, especially white men, I believe you are far better than this. Make sure people know that Trump is not your representative. Don't assume that it is obvious where you stand: speak up.

To my Christian friends who are posting things about how God is in control: if world history and the Bible tell us anything, God is not going to fix our mistakes. He'll hold the whole world in his hands with love and weep while we burn it down. So, at least he's crying with us.

Harry Potter is my comfort reading. I was already delving into the world of young, brave wizards yesterday. Now I feel like Voldemort is actually rising. Not sure if I can take refuge in this world anymore.

I feel like a fool. I legitimately believed that I was going to get to watch Hillary Clinton give an acceptance speech. There was fear, but deep in my heart I thought that I would see the first woman president accept her post. My deepest heart was so excited.

Americans, this is your job now: make noise and hold him back at every turn. I don't fully understand the American system, but I hear that the Republican party is deeply divided and that there are still plenty of reasonable Republicans out there. Remember how you stalled everything Obama tried to do? Do that again. Write letters, protest, phone your representatives, do whatever is in your power to reduce Trump's power to that of a figurehead. Let your reasonable Republican leaders know that Trump does not represent you.

Canadians, we have to make SURE that Trudeau and our leaders know that we do not want to participate in any of this insanity. I know that our economy will likely suffer, but we cannot compromise our values, should Trump try to bully us into doing so.

The rest of the world, let's band together. America chose hate and fear. We don't have to. Let's stand by each other.

If there is any time to be on antidepressants, this is it.

All of this will take more than Facebook status updates. We must actually write letters and make visits and donate money and protest and get involved and physically do things. When our grandchildren ask us what we did when the world turned dark, our answer can't be "complained to my friends and posted on social media." We must do more.

I'm told that the president apparently doesn't actually have that much power. Let's hope so. If we are all overreacting in our fear - GREAT.

Even if he doesn't have the power and is unable to do any of the things he promised, we still live in a world where an entire country voted YES to those things. That scares me more deeply than ever.


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Inspiration! Roundup: Water protectors, Coast Salish acknowledgments, countercultures

Today is a sad, deadening day. I thought about not posting my inspiration roundup, but of course, we need inspiration more than ever today. More election thoughts later.

This Week's "I want to go to there":
I wish I could be contributing in a real way to Standing Rock. Especially today.
Photo posted on Facebook by Dell Hambleton.

Sacred Stone Defence Camp

It's about time I say something about the Sacred Stone Defence Camp. I think one of the reasons I haven't said anything yet is because it just feels like there is way too much to say. I am so awed by the honour and strength of these people, standing in defence, not only of their own rights and land, but the land of their ancestors and children. I have heard the saying that land is not inherited from ancestors, but borrowed from our children, and that is so beautifully enacted here.

I think I have also not said anything because I feel a drive to be there, and that's just not possible for me. There are ways to support this movement, though. We can donate, sign pledges, and organize solidarity events in our home. All the info is on their website.

Making Coast Salish Territory Acknowledgements Matter

Working in theatre in Vancouver, there is a general norm of acknowledging the territory we are on before a show starts. I think it's important, but have felt pretty sure it's just the beginning. It is. This podcast goes deeper into the protocols of the Coast Salish Peoples and the things we can do to make these acknowledgments more meaningful. If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, you might want to still give it a listen, as it might help you begin to understand the nuances of whatever territory you do live on.

Collecting Counterculture

I have always been really into the different counterculture movements throughout history. As a young pseudo-punk of the late 90's, my friends and I would talk a lot about how our attempts to be 'nonconformist' lead us all to conform to each other.

Photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek have made their work out of profiling individuals from these groups, referring to them as "style tribes". It's a fascinating and beautiful exploration of subsets of our culture: from the punks with mohawks to aunties with pastel blazers. Once you pick an aspect of our unique differences, we suddenly become indistinguishable from a wider tribe.

Concentrated Frustration

There is something oddly inspirational to me about this gif, depicting one frustration after another. Maybe it's the clever way they assembled these images of "almost there" and "not quite", but it makes me want to go and do something. Anything. Just get something done to cover up all the pent-up feelings.

Being LGBTQI at Trinity Western University

Trinity Western University is a Christian university in BC that has a "community covenant" all students must sign to attend. The covenant includes that the students pledge to refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Every once in a while, they get into public hot water over this aspect of the covenant that many (including myself) see as discriminatory against the LGBTQI community. There is a long debate here about what we are supposed to do as a society with the right to religious freedom collides with the other human rights, and that is an argument we'll save for another time.

Right now, I am impressed and inspired by Mars Hill, the student newspaper at TWU. You see, the school insists that it is a warm and inclusive environment for queer students, and hasn't dealt well with dissenting voices. At Mars Hill, they shared stories from queer students and their allies about the challenges they faced at the school. This is brave and important. No matter what you think about the school's right to put these rules in place, it is vital to know what the real impact is of these rules on the student population.

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Election Day Singalong!: Sister Suffragette from Mary Poppins

Today is a big day, folks! In honour of the giant precipice Americans are standing on, I would like to honour the suffragettes. I think Mary Poppins was the first introduction I had to the suffragette movement, and at the time I thought it was a funny and confusingly quaintism from the past. Now I know that it was so much more than happy, stubborn women singing and hiking their skirts up. It was violent and terrifying and vital and incomplete. The blind spots of the suffragette movement are well encapsulated by this woman singing to her servants "No more meek and mild subservients we!" (Let alone women of colour.)

Yet, this movement was a start and it brought us here. I am proud of the first, incredible, daring step these women took, and I hope that we will make the right choices, today and forever on, so that our daughters' daughters (and our sons' sons and our nieces' nieces and nephews' nephews and friends' kids' kids) will say to us "Well done! Well Done! Well done Sister Suffragette!"

Onward and upward, sisters, to a more inclusive, strong, and wonderful world!

from Mary Poppins

We're clearly soldiers in petticoats
And dauntless crusaders for woman's votes
Though we adore men individually
We agree that as a group they're rather stupid!

Cast off the shackles of yesterday!
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!
Our daughters' daughters will adore us
And they'll sing in grateful chorus
"Well done, Sister Suffragette!"

From Kensington to Billingsgate
One hears the restless cries!
From ev'ry corner of the land:
"Womankind, arise!"
Political equality and equal rights with men!
Take heart! For Missus Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!

No more the meek and mild subservients we!
We're fighting for our rights, militantly!
Never you fear!

So, cast off the shackles of yesterday!
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!
Our daughters' daughters will adore us
And they'll sing in grateful chorus
"Well done! Well done!
Well done Sister Suffragette!"

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Cute! Roundup: Costumed cat, unzipping a hedgehog, and chinchillas eating apples

I know Halloween is now a distant memory, but I just have to share this photo of me torturing Gertie with various costume pieces on Halloween night. Yes. I am that person. Judge me.

How to unzip a hedgehog.

A child and his pet armadillo.

Reflection fun.

A chinchilla and her apple, together at last.

Family cuddles.

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Singalong! Birmingham by Amanda Marshall

As a curly-haired teenage girl in the 90s, I found an obvious soul sister in Amanda Marshall. I also had a weird draw to stories of women escaping abusive partners. I had zero life experience to connect me to this in a real way, I think they just appealed to that deep well of swirling feelings in my gut that I didn't know what to do with.

by Amanda Marshall

Virgil Spencer's got a nineteen inch Hitachi and many demons lingering.
Friday night he pulled a gun to change the channel,
something that he picked up from the king.
His wife remembers well the man she knew.
Seems the dreams she had have all turned black and blue,

She's wasted years.
No time for tears
'cause there's another chance, and someday soon
shining like the Alabama moon.
She's looking for the promised land out beyond the lights of Birmingham.

It's three a.m. and Virgil's passed out on the sofa,
a fifth of Jim Beam on the floor.
She's packed a bag.
She slips the keys out of his pocket.
She's careful not to slam the door.
And as she drives, she rubs her rosary.
She's never been so all alone. She's never felt so free.

She got miles to go, blind faith and hope
'cause there's an other chance, and someday soon
shining like the Alabama moon.
She's looking for the promised land out beyond the lights of Birmingham.

As the rain falls down upon the interstate,
any doubts she had are all but washed away.

One long look back at Birmingham
'cause there's another chance, and someday soon,
shining like the Alabama moon,
She's looking for the promised land out beyond the lights of Birmingham.
Another chance, and someday soon,
shining like the Alabama moon,
She's looking for the promised land out beyond the lights of Birmingham.

Let's learn the lyrics to Amanda Marshall's Birmingham.
Source: Flickr Allen McGregor

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Learning! Roundup: An excuse to be late, history refreshers, stop kissing your dog

Learning! Roundup: news from psychology and science research

An Excuse to be Late

New research shows that the more familiar we are with a space (or a route to work), the bigger we perceive it to be. Now, you might think this would cause us to overestimate how long it will take us to cross that space, but it doesn't. At the same time as our brains are stretching the distance, it shrinks the amount of time we think it will take to travel across that space. That's right - we pull a mental double-whammy that makes us more likely to be late for work.

History Lesson

I am often embarrassed at how little I retained from my high school history classes. Thank goodness there are tons of resources on the internet to give us refreshers that are quick and interesting. Here's an oversimplified introduction to WW1. You know, not because you don't know what happened, but you might be having some trouble recalling all the details.

Just Say No to Dog Kisses

Dog owners, beware! The old axiom that dog's mouths are cleaner than humans' is now shown to be baloney, and you shouldn't let their gross mouths near you (or at least not your face).

Pirates in Power?

GUYS! You know those fringe political parties that you don't even realize are running for city government until you start flipping through the election booklet the day before you go to vote? The ones that probably have some good ideas, but are wrapped up in anarchy and nude parks and other random stuff that just aren't going to win a landslide election? Well, Iceland is about to (probably) buck that trend and elect the Pirate Party. Can I get together with my high school punk rock friends and celebrate by blasting Rage Against the Machine?

Also, high five that the U.S. gong show isn't the only one to watch right now. I think I'll shift my focus to Iceland, thanks.

Autistic Photography

We already know that autistic people feel less socially connected to others than their neurotypical peers. This has been confirmed through all sorts of technical studies, often involving them looking at photos of people. But what happens when you give autistic people the camera? A new study shows that autistic people take very different photos than their neurotypical peers.

The autistic participants took more pictures of people than their neurotypical peers, but the photos were often of bodies without faces and were not of people who were posing or looking at the camera. They took more repetitive shots, more pictures from different angles, and more "incomplete" images. This was a very small study and should be treated with caution, but boy is it interesting.

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Today I tried something new

Today I took my first-ever antidepressant.

It's not something I ever thought I would do, which is a little bit funny to say, as a person who dealt with depression for a significant portion of her life.

Back then my depression was rooted in my beliefs about myself. I thoroughly believed that I was worthless, unloveable, annoying, stupid, ugly, and a general drain. Pretty depressing. I never had a medical diagnosis or took drugs, but I did see counsellors and do a whole lot of work to painstakingly teach myself that what my heart knew to be true was not actually true.

This time it was different. This time, I was just stressed out.

Normally I don't mind a bit of stress. I like being busy, and a little stress fuels me, but over the past year and a half, it's become too much. I can't seem to handle it anymore. Every little challenge makes me want to curl up and run away. My brain feels tight, like a ball of elastic bands.

I tried a bunch of things:

I took time off, and when I was off, I partitioned my brain to not think about the stressful things. This worked relatively well. Sure, my brain still felt tight, but other than that, my breaks were a-okay.

I turned off all notifications on my cell phone except for texts. I had developed an automatic-anxiety response to phone notifications, and this was temporary magic for reducing stress.

I indulged in comfort and relaxation where possible (to the detriment of my bank account and benefit to my muffin top - being bummed out is expensive and fattening).

I also tried to eat more healthily and became a smoothie enthusiast. (Contradictions are at the heart of stress release.)

I started exercising more regularly and tried to re-incorporate meditation and prayer into my life.

I carved out time for things that gave me joy and made sure I was writing every single day.

I set aside weekly "Andrea Time" when I would buy groceries, do laundry, prepare meals, do yoga, and otherwise relax and set myself up for a good week.

I actually managed to say no to a few things.

I did all the things you're supposed to do to manage life and bring joy and reduce stress, and I did all those things on repeat.

To say it didn't work wouldn't be entirely correct. Instead, I'll say that it... worked? I mean, I survived. I was able to continue to force myself through life, to drag myself back into my responsibilities, and to keep plugging away, chasing that ever-moving light at the end of the tunnel.

Except that things kept getting harder. Perhaps not objectively, but inside my brain and body they were getting worse and the desire to retreat only grew stronger.

Like a good little mentally-aware citizen, I made an appointment with my counsellor.

"Hello, counsellor," I said, "I have been feeling very stressed out for a long time, and the things I normally do to deal with stress aren't working. What other suggestions do you have of ways to deal with this horrible feeling?"

Instead of offering gentle advice about learning to say no or making time for health or drinking more water, she talked about depression and anxiety.

"But it's just stress," I said, "it doesn't feel anything like depression."

"I'm used to being stressed out, it shouldn't be a big deal."

"I'm a busy, productive person. Stress is just a part of it."

"How else am I supposed to do everything?"

"This is clearly circumstantial - if things were different, I'm sure I'd feel better, so this can't be depression."

"I just don't have the energy to deal with things right now."

"Everyone has responsibilities and life is full of challenges, I just need to figure out how to deal with them like I used to."

"This is what it means to be an adult."

"I work in theatre. It's a stressful field, what do I expect?"

"Everyone is stressed out, it's normal. Why should I be different?"

Obviously, the moral of this story is that I was telling myself lies again.

So, today I took my first antidepressant.

The goal is that they will help me feel like I'm able to face challenges again, including the biggest challenge: slowing down and doing less. Creating a life that doesn't make me secretly wish I would get hospitalized just to get a break. For the past several years, this has been my New Year's resolution, and I always resolutely fail. I am terrified of what it will take to actually make it happen.

Thanks to what I'm assuming can only be the placebo effect, today was largely awesome. I felt energized and like I was winning at life for most of the day (with a little dizziness and weird vision stuff thrown in for good measure - yay brain chemistry). We'll see what happens tomorrow.

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