Learning! Roundup: Cell division, how to survive a nuclear attack, religion and pornography, and more!

Learning! Roundup: Cell division, how to survive a nuclear attack, older moms are better moms (maybe), and rejecting implicit biases

Cell Division

Watch a frog egg multiply from a single cell into over a million. COOL!

Move and Learn

New research shows that kids learn better when they can move around. Imagine a future where classrooms are not built around desks and chairs, but space to move, engage, and learn? LOVE IT.

How to Survive a Nuclear Attack

Not the blast itself, of course. As much as they loved the duck and cover method back in the Cold War, there's not much you can do when the bomb goes off except wait and find out if you're dead or not. If you're not dead, well now you've got your work cut out for you. Here's a guide to where the best places are to hide (to avoid nuclear fallout) to increase your chances of survival.

Personally, I don't like the idea of fighting for my life in a post-nuclear apocalypse society. I'll take the quick ending in a flash of light, thanks.

Religion and Pornography

A new study shows that states with higher percentages of Evangelical Protestants, theists, and Biblical literalists have more searches for the word "porn" than other states. Now, I would not be surprised if all these repressed folk are just guiltily googling sexy images at 3am, because that's part of what denial does to people, but there is an alternate explanation: protest.

When you are against something, and want to actively fight it, your google search history will probably include that term quite a bit. A pro-lifer would have the word "abortion" come up a lot, too. It doesn't mean that they are looking up resources for their secret abortion.

That said, it's still an interesting correlation.

Asparagus? More Like Aspara-gross!

I actually love asparagus. Which is why I was sad to learn that it has a HUGE carbon footprint.

Old Mom/Good Mom

Just to throw more mom-judgement out into the world: new research shows that older moms have kids with less behavioural problems and improved language and social development skills than those who give birth at a young age.

On one hand, this is nice to hear since my friends (and I, presuming I get around to having a kid at all) are mainly in the "older mother" category. With all the anxiety around the health risks of bearing children in your mid-thirties, it's nice to know that there are benefits.

On the other hand, let's all chill out about younger parents. Who knows what causes this (the researchers guess that older parents are more laid-back and less disciplinarian, but that's just ONE theory) and kids born to young parents turn out JUST FINE.

How to Overcome Implicit Bias

Implicit Biases: we all have them. They are the unconscious biases or snap judgements we make, based almost entirely on the images we have seen and stories we have heard our whole lives - even if our conscious minds reject them, they get filed away in the back of our minds no matter who we are. Case in point: Femi Otitoju, a black gay woman who was surprised to find that she had implicit biases that favoured white people. Why? Because she grew up and was educated in an environment where the only positive examples were white people.

How did she fix it? EASY! She educated herself about black history and the contributions of black people to society, and surrounded herself by positive images of black people. The next time she took the test, no bias existed.

Check out this CBC article on her story, with a link to take the implicit bias test so that you can see where you need to educate yourself.

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This Week in Church: The Old Testament, inconsistencies, and the difference between description and prescription

Welcome to the series wherein I share my take-aways from church. The things that, I think, are beneficial to all of us to know or think about, whether or not we believe in any church-related things.

This week in church we talked about the Old Testament.

What Christians call the Old Testament is also known as Scripture to Jewish people. So, if you're not Jewish and you're reading the Old Testament, you are reading something that wasn't written to you. That doesn't mean you're not allowed to read it (or does it? We basically took it without permission. Although, Jesus was Jewish... This is a conversation for another day.), but it does mean that in the Old Testament, we are listening in on a conversation between the ancient Israelites and their God, so we have to come at it with a lot of humility.

I like this as a reminder for anytime we engage with material that's outside our cultural context and history. If it's not a part of your tradition, then come at it from a "low" position: approach with humility and be ready to learn.

Ohhhh boy, imagine how much better the world could be if we all managed to do this!

This week in church we talked about inconsistencies.

Here's an example of inconsistency in the Bible: in Numbers, a man was caught working (picking up sticks) on the Sabbath, and God instructed that he be stoned. In John, Jesus heals on the Sabbath and says that he breaks the rule because he represents a God who doesn't do harm but heals. It doesn't really sound like the same God, does it?

The answer, according to Sunday's sermon, is that the Bible is not a flat text, in which all scripture should be treated equally. For Christians, the words and actions of Jesus are the context through which everything must be interpreted. So inconsistencies like this must be read "backwards" through the lens of Jesus, who spent a decent amount of time turning traditional interpretations of scripture on their head (he did a lot of "you have heard it said.... but I say to you...."-type teaching).

From a Christian perspective, it makes perfect sense to interpret the entire text in light of Jesus. I wonder what Jewish people would have to say to that concept, though, as well as how they might approach the gnarly or inconsistent bits of the scriptures.

Personally, I don't feel I need a God who acts entirely consistently across generations. If the Bible and human history is the story of God trying to meet us where we're at, he will not always act the same. I also recognize that people sometimes think God is telling them to do something when he isn't, and don't know that Biblical stories are exempt from this.

This week in church we talked about the difference between description and prescription.

Specifically, we talked about the Bible being a descriptive text, and not necessarily a prescriptive text. In the sense that, we are not intended to emulate the actions of everyone in the Bible, which is good because this book contains all sorts of gross stuff: genocide, incest, rape, and murder, to start. The point is simple: just because something is described in the Bible doesn't mean it's condoned.

On one hand, this is obvious, on the other, it's really not. As a theatre person, I have spent a decent amount of time in my life explaining to people that just because a play contains swearing, sexual violence, homophobic language, or whatever else, doesn't mean it is condoning those actions. A story about forgiveness is pretty weak if you don't see the darkness a person is living in.

So basically, I like this point and wanted to share it because it supports a perspective I have had about art and the world for a long time.

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Inspiration! Roundup: Who will you help, incredible Native women, pay attention, and let's buy a dog!

Inspiration! Roundup for this week includes the artwork of Nima Chaichi, Ontario's anti-sexual assault ad campaign, and 8 Native women you should pay attention to
This Week's "I want to go to there":
Curling up in some cozy blankets with a furry friend.

Who Will You Help?

This ad from the government of Ontario is ON THE MONEY. It's hard, sometimes, to step outside of the social norm of "minding our own business" or "not getting involved", and this is such a powerful reminder that inaction is just as much a help as action - just to someone else.

8 Native Women You Should Know

Check out this list of 8 incredible Native women whose stories never made it into headlines or history books. From artist Zitkala-sa to the smart-and-snarky Elizabeth (Wanamaker) Peratrovich (Tlingit), who was instrumental in the first anti-discrimination law in Alaska. Direct quote: “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.”

Pay Attention

"Pay attention to what you pay attention to."
-Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Nima Chaichi

Loving the photography of Nima Chaichi!

A post shared by nima chaichi (@nimariel) on

ACTION ITEM: Help James Watkins Get an Aid Dog

I don't know about you all, but I get really caught up sometimes on the big, systemic problems in our society. The things that make me wonder if we just need to burn it all to the ground and start over. Aside from a total disdain for society, this viewpoint can also make it feel like there's no point in doing little things to help people, because all these little acts are just bandaids, and we've got an artery that's spurting blood in multiple places.

Well, guess what? When I am thinking that way, I am WRONG. Dead wrong. As dead wrong as the hypothetical person connected to that artery spurting blood in multiple places is going to be. Because helping individuals my not solve systemic problems, but dang if it doesn't save that person, and that matters, too.

So let's all donate to the YouCaring fund for James, a little boy with Downs Syndrome, to get a service dog. And then, I don't know, we could write to our representatives and let them know that maybe service dogs should be covered under provincial healthcare?

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Racism Roundup: The Canadian Edition

I noticed recently that I've saved up a small collection of articles about racism in Canada. I had no idea what to do with them, but kept feeling drawn to hold onto them for... something?

So here is one thing I can do with them: share a round up of articles about racism in Canada (my home and "native" land). I suspect this won't be nearly as popular as my weekly Cute! and Inspiration! Roundups, which is too bad because there is some learning to do.

Anti-Aboriginal Racism

In case you thought that Canada was "cleaner" than the USA because we never shipped slaves from overseas and didn't elect a racist "business man", think again! Our treatment of Aboriginal people is far far worse than America's treatment of black people.

Oh, and how about this? Some First Nations women were involuntarily sterilized in Saskatchewan. Not 50 or 100 years ago, which would still be terrible but allow us all to feel better about ourselves. This happened in 2008, and maybe since then.

Anti-Black Racism

Again, thanks to our history of being the destination at the end of the Underground Railway, we tend to think of ourselves as non-racist against black people. Also not so.

This article also does a great job of explaining the reason behind naming the specific type of racism being discussed (Anti-Black, Anti-Aboriginal, etc.) - racism is expressed and experienced differently by different groups.

The #BlackinTO campaign highlights issues faced by black people in Toronto.

Racism at the VPD

If you're a Vancouverite, you've probably heard about the ongoing battle between Black Lives Matter, the Vancouver Police Department, and Pride. Here's some of the racist history of the VPD to give you some context to the BLM argument.

Anti-Muslim Racism

If anything made us feel morally superior up here, it was the election of Trump while we were still in the honeymoon phase with our feminist, refugee-welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau (who turned out to be everything that classically handsome men are known for: lots of smooth talk with no follow through). Here's a warning about the rise in anti-Muslim racism and the potential for Trump-style politics in Canada.


Oh, and we weren't so good "back in the day" either. Let's not forget our historical racism: Residential SchoolsJapanese Internment, The Komagata Maru, The St. Louis, The Chinese Head Tax.

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Cute! Roundup: You never knew wedding invitations could be this cute!

My girl Gertie is a ... rotund child. When I got her from the SPCA she was fairly small, but quickly bulked up at home and has remained the same curvy shape ever since. It's fine, I love me a chubby bubby. HOWEVER! I posted this photo, that particularly displays her size, online and got PARENT-SHAMED for it! WHAT??? Get lost, haters!


The most adorable wedding invitation of all time.

Listen up! 

This cat and shark are birds of a feather.

A porcupine eating a pretzel.

Baby's first time in the water.

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Singalong! 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco

I learned about Ani DiFranco from my cool friend who's name just happened to be Anne. I think we probably started with this song: the perfect tune for a pair of misfittish, wannabe-alt teen girl who just wants the world to see their unique spirits. Okay, okay. Anne was not a wannabe-alt - she was a true and actual punk. So dang cool.

(As an aside, it's taking HUGE self-restraint for me to not add a 'u' to 'Flavors' in the title of the song, but I respect Ani's vision and Americanness, and so I am holding myself back.)

by Ani DiFranco

squint your eyes and look closer
i'm not between you and your ambition
i am a poster girl with no poster
i am thirty-two flavors and then some
and i'm beyond your peripheral vision
so you might want to turn your head
cause someday you're going to get hungry
and eat most of the words you just said

both my parents taught me about good will
and i have done well by their names
just the kindness i've lavished on strangers
is more than i can explain
still there's many who've turned out their porch lights
just so i would think they were not home
and hid in the dark of their windows
till i'd passed and left them alone

and god help you if you are an ugly girl
course too pretty is also your doom
cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room
and god help you if you are a phoenix
and you dare to rise up from the ash
a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
while you are just flying past

i'm not trying to give my life meaning
by demeaning you
and i would like to state for the record
i did everything that i could do
i'm not saying that i'm a saint
i just don't want to live that way
no, i will never be a saint
but i will always say

squint your eyes and look closer
i'm not between you and your ambition
i am a poster girl with no poster
i am thirty-two flavors and then some
and i'm beyond your peripheral vision
so you might want to turn your head
cause someday you might find you're starving
and eating all of the words you said

Image by Erinc Salor

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Learning! Roundup: Don't plant Cheerio's wildflowers, trans men and sexism, chameleons, Australian Aboriginal history, and the meaning of life!

Cheerios Won't Save the Bees!

The Cheerios campaign to plant wildflowers to save the bee population is ILL-ADVISED! I repeat! It is ill-advised! The campaign is not specified to local ecosystems, and thus the flowers that are helpful in one region are noxious weeds or invasive species in another.

Instead, check out organizations like Xerces that work to save bees in a sustainable way that interacts with local environments.

Trans Men and Sexism

In case you still want evidence that sexism is real, transgendered people provide a wonderful before-and-after experiment of how different gender expressions are treated (against the control group of cis people). Here is a Time Magazine article about how transgendered men's lives changed once society started perceiving them as male. Short version: they gained authority and respect, and lost permission to be vulnerable.

Are you a chama-chama-chama-chama-chama-chameleon?

I noticed when I was in high school that I was really different when I was in different settings: with my church friends, my family, dance classes, school friends - they all brought out different sides of me. When I became aware of this, I worried that I was maybe just a big ol' faker, but it happened so naturally. Since then I came to terms with the fact that I just have a lot of different sides to my personality, and different ones come out at different times.

Well, according to researcher Mark Snyder, I'm a "High Self-Monitor" person, and all I care about is my image. Dang. You can read about high and low self-monitor people in this Science of Us article, and even take a quiz to see where you land.

Aboriginal History

DNA testing has revealed that Australian Aboriginal people lived on that land for about 50,000 years. That's a long time to be connected to their land.

Chicken or Egg?

Here is a definitive explanation on what came first, found on the Wonders of Engineering Facebook page.

Walking Fish

There are fish in the South Pacific Ocean that are currently adapting to become land-dwellers! Say wha?!??!!! Evolution in action! Right now!

DIY Gifs

Here's a quick-and-easy video on how to make your own animated gifs in Photoshop, for anyone looking to gain a skill today.

The Meaning of Life

Here's a fun piece of trivia: in The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to "life, the universe, everything" is 42. Turns out that, in computer programming, the number 42 denotes an asterisk symbol, and that (still in computer programming), the asterisk is used as shorthand for "whatever you want." It also turns out that Douglas Adams was a big computer nerd, so probably knew this.

So the answer to life, the universe, and everything is whatever you want it to be. If this random Facebook post is correct, anyways.

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'Hi Stranger' is the creepiest thing I've watched in a long time

This video was shared on Digg with the headline 'Hi Stranger' Is A Weird, Relaxing And Life-Affirming Video You Need To Watch Right This Second.

IS THIS SOME KIND OF PRANK???? This is the creepiest thing I've EVER watched. The naked humanoid figure, the rubbing of the ground next to him/her, the whispered "I feel like I can really be vulnerable around you", "I just want to sit here and relax with you", "I love looking at you. I want to remember all your shapes."


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Inspiration! Roundup: Yayoi Kusama, reconciliation, ignorance, and more!

This Week's "I want to go to there":
I want to make things with my hands. Maybe clay things!

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, 87 year-old Japanese artist is incredible! Her artwork is stunning and her brain is awesome. Read this interview with her in The Guardian (best quote, when they ask her to tell a joke, "I don't know any. But pumpkins have always made me smile: they are the most humorous of vegetables."

Photo by Stig Nygaard

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Biggest Problem

In his Letter from the Birmingham Jail (excerpt here), Martin Luther King Jr. identifies the biggest obstacle facing black people's rights in the United States. It wasn't the overt, violent racists. It was what he called the "white moderate".
"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

-Martin Luther King Jr. (emphasis added)
Let this be the slap in the face that many of us (white people) need as we try to be allies in battling racial inequality.

Admit Your Prejudices and Grow

For anyone who is terrified to be honest (with themselves or others) about their prejudices, here's some inspiration. A man called into a television program and admitted that he has biases against black people, leading into a really beautiful conversation.

Fitting the Mold

I'm pretty into this photography series, but Julia Busato, documenting women holding a mannequin mold.

Reconciling Canada's 150th Anniversary

Here in Canada, we're getting ready to celebrate our 150th anniversary as a nation, or, more specifically, the 150th anniversary of when this stolen land officially became a country recognized by Britain. Understandably, the much-anticipated 150th anniversary celebrations don't feel particularly celebratory for everyone who lives here.

In a brilliant example of working together, the City of Vancouver has partnered directly with its Indigenous population to make sure the celebration was inclusive. What has resulted is, among other things, dubbing it Canada 150+, as a reminder that this land wasn't empty 151 years ago, and celebrations that feature ceremony and art performances by local First Nations.

Ignorance is rarely the problem.

The challenge is that people don't always care about what you care about. And the reason they don't care isn't that they don't know what you know.

The reason is that they don't believe what you believe.

-Seth Godin
This Good World

If you live in some major cities in the US and want to give your money to socially responsible businesses, check out This Good World, it's like Google Maps, but for businesses that make a difference.

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Awesome Award: Margaret Ann Bulkley/James Barry

Dr. James Barry and 'his' servant of 50 years.

Dr. James Barry was either the first female surgeon, or the first transgender surgeon, in the world.

(If you ask me, I think the former is more likely: her transformation into manhood was timed out exactly with her enrolment in university to study medicine, something only allowed for men at the time. Smells like a Shakespearean case of cross-dressing to achieve greatness to me, but heck, maybe it served a dual purpose.)

Born Margaret Ann Bulkley, this young whippersnapper was smart and wanted to enrol in medical school. When her wealthy uncle, artist James Barry, died and left her family a load of cash, it was the perfect chance: she took his name, somehow passed the medical exam required to enter school, and enrolled.

From then on, nobody knew she was a woman until she died. Except, I bet, her servant, who stayed with her for 50 years and provided her with the towels she used to bind her woman-parts every day.

But that's not all! In her disguise, she performed the first-ever Caesarian section on a woman in labour, forever changing the landscape of women's lives and allowing more mothers and babies to survive childbirth!

For this most excellent trickery and outstanding medical accomplishment, I award Dr. Margaret Ann Bulkley/James Barry, The Receptionist's Awesome Award!

(via: The Irish Examiner)

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Cute! Roundup: Turn your back on evil, getting all tucked in, and a pig in a blanket

Sometimes you can't leave, but you really want to disengage yourself from a situation. The situation in question here was the movie Star Trek Beyond. It was very bad. Gertie had the right idea to turn around.


Tucking in for bed.

There's a very small elephant in the room.

I am the bush and the bush is me.

This one is nearly invisible, but the cuteness will sneak up on you!

A pig in a blanket (don't eat it!)

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Singalong! A Better Son/Daughter by Rilo Kiley

There is something incredibly empowering about being able to listen to the song that, in the depths of your depression, broke you down into a sobbing mess every single time you even thought about it, without turning into a puddle of brokenness.

I don't know if anyone else has had this experience, but the song A Better Son/Daughter by Rilo Kiley used to kill me. The lyrics drove directly into the heart of what it was like for me in my depression - feeling hopeless, lost, and empty, but forcing myself to put on a smile and get through each day - that I could barely stand to think about it.

I learned to avoid the song like the plague (but never actually deleted it from my iTunes, because why would I do that? Also a friend that I was secretly in love with put it on a mix CD for me, so I was holding onto that forever), skipping it every single time I heard those first drum beats and doing my best to banish it to the edges of my consciousness. So when it came up on a Spotify playlist today I instinctively skipped ahead - and then I realized something magical: I am not struggling with depression anymore! Or at least, not that particular kind of depression (I am, after all, on antidepressants, so I guess I have to be real about that). I can listen to this song, and while I feel that pull of remembered feelings, they don't crush me. Guys! The feelings didn't crush me!

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...

Image Source: Randi Fukunaga, Wikimedia Commons

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Learning! Roundup: Our place in the universe, planning problems, antidepressant yogurt, dark matter, and more

Learning! Roundup: the most detailed map of the universe ever, why things take longer than you expect, probiotics as antidepressants, dark matter, sexism at work, and more!

The Most Detailed Map of the Universe to Date

This stunning video depicts, and explains, what we have mapped so far in the universe, including where we are and where we're going (because we are on the move).

Everything Takes Longer Than You Think

This is a constant source of mini-arguments between my boyfriend and I: he assumes that everything will take WAY LONGER than it does (like that we need a whole afternoon to prepare and cook a lasagna) and I assume everything will take way less time than it will (like we can turn around a lasagna and bring it to a potluck in 45 mins). Turns out that my error is so common there's a name for it: Planning Fallacy.

The nice way of looking at it is that people like me are really optimistic. I suppose the less-nice thing would be to say that we are poor planners or inconsiderate. Sigh. Either way, I'm working on it! In the meantime, if my boyfriend and I both give you estimates of when we'll get something done, it's best to assume reality will fall somewhere in the middle.

This is Why Ladies in Yogurt Commercials Are So Happy

New research shows that mice experiencing anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms were lacking in the probiotic lactobacillus. They even found that symptoms got better just by adding the probiotic back in! Bonus, this probiotic is found in many yogurts!

Of course, this is ONE study, so don't go throwing away your Paxil in favour of Activia, but keep an eye on the research. And in the meantime, there's no harm in adding some yogurt to your diet (unless you're lactose intolerant).

Understanding Dark Matter

A beautiful and simple explanation of (what we know of) dark matter by Astrophysicist Janna Levin.

How to Get Rid of Sweat Stains

Here's an easy guide to scrubbing out sweat stains. Because some of us sweat, okay?

One Secret to Success

When we feel like we're doing well, we sometimes stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to perform. Maybe that's a good thing if you need to relax, but if you need to put in a stellar performance, then you need to stay motivated. Measuring your performance against a higher benchmark, one that shows you are "not there yet" will drive you to work harder.

Sexism and Job Performance

Two coworkers, one male, one female, ran an accidental experiment: they switched email accounts so customers thought they were switched. Suddenly, the man encountered difficulty and questions from the clients he'd never encountered before. Meanwhile, she had the most productive week of her career, because customers trusted and listened to her. More evidence of sexism! The man, Martin R. Schneider, tweeted about it.

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Netflix Ruins Storytelling

(Yes, I realize that this photo is not of Netflix. Let's move on with our lives!)

Netflix is poised to ruin storytelling. FOREVER.

Am I being melodramatic? You tell me: starting next season, Netflix will shoot multiple endings to their original programs, and viewers will get to decide how the story ends.

Okay, so there is an element of cool here: it's Choose Your Own Adventure! Neat!

But my first reaction was a big old "NOOOOOOOO!"

One of the HUGE values of storytelling is the ability to help us see new perspectives and follow an imagined situation to its (potentially unexpected) conclusion. Sometimes we get to see how things magically work out and everyone's dreams come true. Other times we get to see how everything falls apart. Both are important realities to experience, if only vicariously.

Living through a story that someone else wrote, especially one that really grabs you and brings you into its world and characters, is also an important exercise in experiencing something without controlling it. There is much we cannot control in life. We can't make someone forgive us, hire us, or let us win. We can't make things go our way - and we shouldn't be able to do this.

One could argue that because there is so little we can control in life, why not let us live an imaginary life of control through our stories? Why not indulge in the fantasy a little?

Sure, that would be great, once in a while. The problem is that the internet is already doing that for us: we live in a world that is an increasingly powerful echo chamber of our own opinions and perspectives. What we see on Facebook, Google, and Netflix is curated based on what we already like and agree with. It's getting harder and harder to step outside of our own comfort zones and explore a perspective different from our own.

Sometimes it's painful and disappointing, but it is incredibly important for our egos to not be able to control everything and shape each story to fit our worldview.

So don't do it, Netflix! Don't join the ranks of those who are shaping our brains to think that everything will always go the way we want it to! Don't help us curate our experiences to be just what we want and take away our opportunities to experience something wildly outside ourselves! Don't feed into our illusion of control!

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Inspiration! Roundup: Control, the best survey ever, embroidered photos, and more!

Inspiration! Roundup: Reminding yourself of the things you can actually control, taking the best grade two survey ever, embroidered photography, postcard art, and more.
This Week's "I want to go to there":
Breakfast and books in bed! Yummmmmm!

Things You Can Control

Last week, I shared a "locus of control" exercise that reminds us what we do and don't have control over. Here's another perspective on the same thing: a list of things you can control, edited and bolded for what I think is most important!

Your beliefs. Your attitude. Your thoughts. Your perspective. How honest you are. What books you read. How often you exercise. What food you eat. How many risks you take. How you interpret a situation. How kind you are to others. How kind you are to yourself. How often you say "I love you." How often you say "thank you." Whether or not you ask for help. The amount of effort you put forward. How often you think about yourself. Whether or not you judge others. Whether or not you try again after failing.

The Best Online Survey

A grade 2 teacher named Mrs. Porter is teaching a unit on surveys to her class, and together they created what has got to be the best online survey of all time. Go forth, help children learn, and embrace the joy of a survey that was created just for fun!

Embroidered Vintage Photos

Love this art by Julia Cockburn, embroidering over the surfaces of vintage photos.

Andre Lorde

This is a long quote, but it is SO WORTH IT.

"I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you.... What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.

I began to ask each time: 'What's the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?' Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, 'disappeared' or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: 'What's the worst that will happen?' Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it's personal. And the world won't end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don't miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, 'If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.' And at last you'll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
― Audre Lorde

Thank you, Audre!

Gold Underneath

This art installation that repairs sidewalks using gold reminds me of the Leonard Cohen quote, "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."

Postcard Art by Alex Kuno

Alex Kuno's postcard artwork is so lovely!

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This Week in Church: The Bible and Jay Z

Welcome to the series wherein I share my take-aways from church. The things that, I think, are beneficial to all of us to know or think about, whether or not we believe in any church-related things.

This week in church we talked about what the Bible really is.

We think of the Bible as a book because it's all bound together and looks like a book, but maybe it's better to think of it as a library, since it contains multiple authors, genres, and perspectives, like libraries do.

The pastor also went on to suggest that the Bible is the story of God's redemption in the midst of struggle, which is a beautiful way to look at it, don't you think? Now, he made the point that the Bible is a unified story of God's redemption in the midst of struggle, which I don't think really jives with the whole "library" thing - a collection of books on a theme don't have a unified story arch.

Here's what I like: I like the idea of a librarian who is really into books about one theme. In this case, the theme is God's hand in the lives of this particular group of people (Israelites) and then the outfall for another group (followers of Jesus). So the librarian collects everything she can find on the topic: poetry, science fiction, histories, legal documents, letters, and anecdotal stories.

Sure, all the documents are connected by a theme, and could even be arranged into something of a story arch, but they are ultimately individual accounts.

I like this approach a lot. If I'm in a library looking at a mystery novel and a self-help book, I wouldn't expect a line in the mystery novel to explain a chapter in the self-help book; that would be silly. I might, however, read a line in a mystery novel that drops into my heart in the a way that the chapter in the self-help book didn't, thus illuminating the entire concept of that self-help chapter, opening it up for me to really dig in.

This week in church we talked about the uncomfortable contradictions in the Bible.

The Bible has been used to justify slavery, sexism, and ethnic cleansing. It's also been used to empower the weak and inspire resistance, charity, and social change. You can find both the poison and the cure in the Bible.

There was a long and excellent quote by someone named Peter Enns that I didn't write down. It basically says, "what if the Bible is just fine the way it is, with its messy, troubling, and weird bits? What if we don't have to 'make it work' or smooth over any of that stuff that feels yucky? What if the problem isn't the Bible, but what we expect from it?"

If you expect a perfectly consistent instruction manual for life, you will probably be disappointed and have to do a lot of work to make it fit. If you expect a collection of stories about God's redemption and attempts at relationship with some humans in a particular time, then maybe the uncomfortable bits can be there, in their context, and teach us something.

This week in church we talked about Jay Z.

The song is called 99 Problems, and it is generally considered to be a very sexist song. I mean, the chorus is, "If you've got girl problems I feel bad for you son, I've got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one." Not super respectful to women, right?

Turns out that, in at least one of the instances, the song is using the term "bitch" to refer to an actual dog.

The second verse talks about a time Jay Z was pulled over (driving while black), and he had drugs hidden in a locked compartment of his car. When he refused to let the police search the car, they called for drug-sniffing dogs, and he knew his goose was cooked. Then, as luck would have it, they took too long and he was let go! As he pulled away, the police van with the dogs in it arrived, so right in the nick of time he avoided the "bitch" of a drug-sniffing dog.

I mean, at the very least Jay Z is still playing off sexism and using it to his advantage, which is probably still at least a little bit sexist. It's an interesting bit of context, though.

Of all the random facts I expected to learn in church, this was not one of them.

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Singalong! Changes by Stars

Familiar beloved music is like comfort food, amiright? One of my favourite comfort bands is Stars - specifically their albums The Five Ghosts and In Our Bedrooms After the War. This is a song that instantly grabbed my heart and feels like warm blanket every time I listen to it (which is funny, because it's not necessarily a comforting song.)

by Stars

This time in between the day and the night
The light kills my sense of life
So scared, I'll turn it on, turn it on, turn it on

It's dull, this dusk, this desk, this dust
My eyes adjust, I'll blow out the flame
Can you and me remain

Changes, I've never been good with change
I hate it when it all stays the same
Caught between the gold and the gain

Changes, I've never been good with change
I hate it when it all stays the same
Caught between the cold and the wave
My heart beats up again

Once said, words make a world of their own
I misread, I can't get you back on the phone
So tired, I'll turn it off, turn it off, turn it off

How's that last week we were whole
You're far away and I hardly know
Can you and me delay

Changes, I've never been good with change
I hate it when it all stays the same
Caught between the gold and the gain

Changes, I've never been good with change
Troubled when it all stays the same
I'm caught between this cold and the wave
My heart beats up again

Are you my trouble
Are you my trouble
Are you my trouble

Are you my trouble

Image by Codo on Wikimedia Commons

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Learning! Roundup: The beginning of life, authority vs. facts, glitter bombs, addiction, the worst kind of pregnancy scare, and more!

The oldest traces of life found in Quebec, helping date back the evolution of life
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Oldest Traces of Life on Earth Found

A rock was found in Quebec carrying traces of life from as far back as 3.8 billion years. This will help scientists as they look for signs of life around the universe, and continues to close the timeline for when life emerged on our planet. Of course, I've been watching a lot of The X-Files lately, so I just assume that it houses an alien goo-worm that will crawl into our noses and eat our brains.

What Happened to Facts?
"Why did authorities decline and become replaced by facts? In the 17th century the nature of information changed: as information became more reliable, authority became less so. ... We now live in a digital age, in which information becomes fluid and variable. All that was solid has melted into air. In the print world, getting your facts right was about competence and care; now what the facts are depends on what date you access a website, or which website you visit. The nature of information has changed irreversibly."
This brilliant analysis of the history of facts vs. authority, and how one supplants the other, answers a lot of questions about our current lives.

A Nicer Kind of Glitter Bomb

If you read the word "glitter" and shudder, thinking of little flecks of shiny plastic stuck to EVERYTHING, well, you're not alone. That's why Glitter Bombs were invented, as a way of tormenting your enemies.

Well, now you can also use glitter to save the world, with Solar Glitter - a new kind of solar panel that is small, cheap, and effective because it uses small, glitter-like, pieces.

Rethinking Addiction

Check out this five minute video that explains a lot about how addiction really works. The theory is that addiction is simply a symptom of disconnection. Humans are meant to connect to others, but if we don't have people to connect to, then we'll connect to something else: drugs, social media, television, porn, whatever.

Check out the video here, or on Youtube!

Locus of Control

This exercise is presented as something to do with children to help them learn about what they do and don't have control over in life - and then act on what they can control. It sounds great for children, but also great for adults.

Read about it on the Huffington Post to get the full story, but the basic idea is to draw two concentric circles. In the inside circle, write things that you can control (e.g.: my hobbies, my attitude, how I dress, etc.). Then in the outside circle, write things you can't control (e.g.: the weather, what other people think, etc.). Then pick something you can control, and think about ways you can make it better.

Love it!

How to Practice Effectively

This video has been making the rounds on my social media lately. Practice is, of course, something we all know is vitally important to get better at things. Yet, if we don't have a coach or instructor of some kind (or our coach or instructor isn't very good), we aren't great at practicing ourselves.

Working While Black

Wonder what it's like to be on a professional team and be black? Design firm Havas Chicago wanted to demonstrate the realities their black teammates face, and they did it during Black History Month with an obstacle course. Looks brilliant, I wish we could see it all to learn more!

At about 2:40 they get to the how-tos of practicing effectively.

Get Crowded, Think About the Future

New research shows that living in a high-density area causes people to have more future-oriented thinking. Those who live in population-dense centres plan more for the future, invest in longer-term relationships, and wait to have kids. Plus, this correlation is backed up by some experimental data.

Cool, right? I bet living in a more crowded environment forces us to think longer-term because we know there is more competition for resources?

Calorie Burn

Most diet information is based on an assumption that the average person burns about 2,000 calories a day. Well, turns out that most of us burn more, but the estimates will stay the same because we're so bad at estimating our caloric intake, we would overeat like crazy if we knew it was higher.

A True Pregnancy Scare

Ummmmm.... you can get pregnant WHILE YOU'RE ALREADY PREGNANT???? That is just so not fair.

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Why did authorities decline and become replaced by facts? In the 17th century the nature of information changed: as information became more reliable, authority became less so.

Taking Songs Too Seriously: Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Let me start by saying how much I love Robyn. If I wanted to show you how much I love Robyn, I would hold my arms out all the way to the sides as far as they go! She is the greatest.

I do not, however, love her song Call Your Girlfriend. Everyone else was obsessed with it because she did some cool dancing in the video, and it's catchy and all, but nobody ever talked about how the song is also kind of the worst. Am I the only one who doesn't actually like it? (Okay, the song is musically great, but the message is terrible!)

First is the very obvious thing that sucks about this song: it's about cheating and dumping. It's sung from the perspective of a girl who is getting with a guy who is in a relationship. That sucks big time. I'm not going to demonize her as some evil "other woman", but that is a bad-news thing for both of them to be doing.

That considered, am I the only person in the world who finds it kind of gross that the new girl is telling the girlfriend how to get over the boyfriend, and that she's doing it through the boyfriend? AND that the advice is so bad? It's like mansplaining, but from a girl to another girl through her cheating boyfriend.

I mean, really: you fall for someone who's in a relationship and they fall for you, too. Fine. To then give these ridiculous platitudes to the the girlfriend is just insulting.

"Tell her not to get upset, second-guessing everything you said and done"

You're seriously going to tell a girl not to get upset after cheating on her and dumping her? REALLY?

Oh, and right, you can just tell someone to not go back over their relationship bit-by-bit and figure out what the hell happened when they've been cheated on. All it takes to stop them from parsing through every conversation and fight figure out where you were lying (and when they should have known something was wrong) is you telling them not to do it. Good one!

"And then when she gets upset tell her how you never meant to hurt no one"

Since when was it comforting that your partner who cheats on you and then dumps you "never mean to hurt no one"? NEVER. If you don't want to hurt someone, then you don't cheat on them. You break up with them in a respectful way and they will still be hurt but not nearly as much because you are treating them like a human.

"Just tell her that the only way her heart will mend is when she learns to love again."

This may be true, but it needs to come from her best friends and mom and counsellor, not YOU saying, "oh, you'll feel better once you meet someone else." WHAT THE HECK???? Nope.

"And it won't make sense right now, but you're still her friend."

No, you're not. Friends don't cheat and then dump. It's not a friendly thing to do. Maybe you want to be friends now to make yourself feel better about the situation, but it's a bad-feeling situation and you just need to live with that.

"And then you let her down easy."

I think that once you've told your girlfriend that you met someone new and are leaving her, you are past the point of letting anyone down easy. That ship has sailed.

"Don't you tell her how I give you something that you never even knew you missed
Don't you even try and explain how it's so different when we kiss"

I just can't even believe that this is advice that would need to be given. "Hey, don't rub it in your girlfriend's face that you are so much more into me than you were ever into her, okay? I know it's the logical thing to do, and any sensible/sensitive person would want to do it, but just hold back for now."


So there is my irrefutable proof that this song is the worst. But don't worry! Robyn has SO MANY beautiful songs that you can listen to instead. So crank one of her much much better songs (Dancing On My Own, Every Heartbeat, Show Me Love, Fembot, Hang With Me, Be Mine!, etc.) and emulate these gifs of her dancing like the awesome person that she is:

Today is International Women's Day!!!

Today is International Women's Day!

My friends who consider me "the most (militant) feminist person they know" will be surprised to find out that I planned all my posts for this week without even realizing that today was going to happen. I mean, I knew today was going to happen in terms of the passage of time, but I didn't remember that it would be International Women's Day. You get it.

So here is a random assortment of observations about today, to try to make up for my gaff:

I am drinking out of my Male Tears mug this morning, mostly because, when I started making my tea, I thought, "I guess I should drink out of my feminist mug."

I am going to work today. I didn't even really consider taking the day off, mostly because I've got a lot to do and I'm taking over management in my company and we are a staff of women (except the boss, who is male), and thus I know women's contributions are very appreciated in my workplace.

I feel guilty about going to work and about not even really considering the alternative. I know this is about more than just my own direct environment, but is a larger issue. Why do I not feel compelled to make this point? Or at least, not in this way? I'm still not sure.

Recently, my boyfriend and I decided to be really extravagant: we hired a friend who was starting a housekeeping business to come in and clean our place once a month. She is now moving away and can't do it anymore. As I thought about potential replacement people, I realized that they are all women. Why aren't there male housecleaners?

I wish I was more chill about traditionally feminine things to freak out about, like the fact that there's a dirty pan on the stove right now. This is, in part, because I hate fulfilling stereotypes. It is also, I'm sure, because "feminine things" are devalued in society and I don't want to associate myself with devalued things.

I had an argument with some coworkers a while ago about gender. Specifically, they were dreaming of a world where gender doesn't exist, and I was (surprisingly) arguing in favour of gender. Not because I'm so in loooove with the construct of gender, but because cognitively our brains REQUIRE to categories in order to function in the world. If we abolish gender, we'll box people in based on something else, and it will be just as destructive. I think we need to just learn not to be assholes about the categories our brains create instead of switching to a new criteria.

The first song that came up on my Spotify playlist today was about waiting for a boy's love and I thought - mmmmm, not today. Luckily I have a "Putting the Grrrrr in Grrrls" playlist! A mixture of old school No Doubt and Lizzo, I'm pretty stoked about this start to the day. Listen with me!

Thinking more about the Women's Day Off Work: some industries would completely shut down if we all didn't work for a day, especially lower-paid, support and domestic work. Others won't even flinch because they have little or no women. Would they even notice or care?

To me one of the main problems is that we, as a society, value roles filled by women lower than those filled by men. Does a house not getting cleaned for a day or a secretary not being present show how vital that role is? I wonder if part of my hesitation about all this is that it doesn't go far enough. Anyone can cover a few extra bases or let something go for a day. What about a week? A month?

What if men didn't work? What would function just fine, and what would fall apart? I think it's easier for people in support roles to step up into management positions than for those in management to step down into support (they don't know how to do the things). That might be interesting.

Have you read Y the Last Man? It's a graphic novel imagining a world where all the men die and suddenly women are left alone on earth (except, of course, one man who somehow survived and is the natural protagonist). It's a pretty interesting exploration of the good and bad that might happen if we suddenly had no men. (Mostly it's bad, in large part because if half the population up and died at once, we'd be in a rather post-apocalyptic situation.)

Finally, a bunch of photos of interesting women. Click on the photos to learn more!

Ida B. Wells
Image Source: Wikimedia

Sally Ride
Image Source: Wikimedia

Frida Kahlo
Image Source: Wikimedia

Miriam Makeba
Image Source: Tom Beetz

Rukmini Devi
Image Source: Wikimedia

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