Learning! Roundup: Cat Tongues, Side Benefits of the Pill, Cube Poop, and More!

A roundup of research including the power of cat tongues, wombat poop, and the connection between our stress response and cognitive health when we're old
Photo by Antelope Park.

Cat Tongues

Cats spend about a quarter of their waking hours grooming themselves. Their tongues are, apparently, such great cleaning machines thanks to little protuberances all over that are shaped like little scoops with grooves on the end. This helps the cat's saliva get right into the fur and also picks up dirt, blood, and other icky things. It's a loofah and a sponge all in one.

Benefits of the Pill

While there are a lot of negative side effects to taking birth control pills, there are some benefits! The obvious, of course, is not getting pregnant when you don't want to. The less obvious side effect of the pill is more stable, satisfying long-term relationships, possibly due to an emotion-stabilizing effect of the pill.

Cube Poop Explained

Did you know wombats have cube-shaped poo? Well, now you not only know that (if you didn't already), but you also know that this is thanks to wombats having stretchier intestinal tracts with a more irregular shape.

Drawing Memories

Drawing things helps us remember them better than writing them down. As someone who is very bad at drawing, I can see why: it takes a lot of time and concentration to get anything on paper!

Stress and Age

If you're looking to avoid cognitive decline as you age, one thing that you could try (that might just make life a bit more pleasant in the intervening years) is reacting less to stressful situations. A new study shows that older people who have stronger negative reactions to daily stressful situations are more likely to suffer cognitive decline. (Yes, I know, this is correlation, not causation, but I bet you won't find ANY studies suggesting it's healthier to get really angry in a traffic jam.)

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This Week in Church: Money, the Common Good, and Power

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.

I think that church can teach things that are beneficial to everyone, whether or not we believe in church-related things.

I already shared my favourite quote from church in an earlier post (which I listened to as a podcast instead of attending in person this week), but here is more from church this week.

This week in church we talked about the common good.

God instructed his people to use their resources for the common good. What does that actually mean?

Probably something to do with sharing, staying put, knowing people, and caring for the earth.

How is this concept tied to the idea that, "if one of us suffers, we all suffer"?

This week in church we talked about clean money.

"Clean money is examined money."
- Joel Solomon

You can't have clean money if you don't know where it came from and pay attention to where it's going.

Where do you earn money? Where do you hold money? Where do you grow money? Where do you spend money? What people does it value? Does it value preserving the earth?

This week in church we talked about power.

The Pharaoh in Egypt got his power by hoarding resources -- in this case food -- and selling it back to people during the famine at a high cost. First, they paid with their money. Then when there was no money left, their livestock. Then when they had no money or means of production, their land and freedom, becoming slaves to Egypt.

He manipulated the economy to benefit the few in power, thanks to an anxiety and scarcity mentality that told him he had to take care of his own first. (Sound familiar?)

"Those who are living in anxiety and fear, mostly fear of scarcity, have no time for the common good. Anxiety is no basis for the common good. Anxiety will cause the formulation of policy and exploitative formulation of practices that are inimical to the common good. A systemic greediness that precludes the common good."

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I Was On a Diversity Panel and I Have Some Thoughts (aka: here are some socks to pull up)

I participated in a multicoloured panel discussion about diversity and decolonization
Photo by Mario Gogh.

I just got home from a panel discussion called Diversity Versus Decolonization: An Honest Conversation in Technicolour where I was one of the case studies on what happens when a white person in a position of authority gets called out on systemic racism (spoiler alert: they were right) (also, I wrote a little about what I learned from that experience here).

I have some thoughts on the evening.

1) Before heading over, I was reading Anne Lamott's new book Almost Everything, and came across a passage that was an absolutely perfect place to ground myself before participating in this conversation:

"When we are stuck in our convictions and personas, we enter into the disease of having good ideas and being right. My Jesuit friend Tom used to say that he never noticed what he was feeling: only that he was right. We think we have a lock on truth, with our burnished surfaces and articulation, but the bigger we pump ourselves up, the easier we are to prick with a pin. And the bigger we get, the harder it is to see the earth under our feet."

If you are inclined to fling this passage at someone whom you consider to be impossibly self-righteous, take a moment. What is the ground beneath your feet? Could it be that you, also, think you are right?

2) I became aware of a pattern during the panel discussion. This is a pattern that will likely be obvious to racialized people, but thanks to white supremacy, I just noticed it:

Step One: A white person is in a position of influence/power/authority;

Step Two: This white person knows there is, or worries there might be, inequality in their area of influence/power/authority, but doesn't really know what to do about it or the extent of the problem, so they let it stew in the back of their minds, until;

Step Three: A person of colour takes the risk to point it out, and then likely has to do some or all of the work to help solve it.

Here is the call on the other side of this realization: if you are a white person, you have any kind of authority or influence, and you have a bad feeling that there is some kind of racism or other exclusion going on, systemic or otherwise, SAY SOMETHING.

I know, it's scary. I know, you don't want to point a finger--at someone else or at yourself. But what is the alternative? That the injustice you are worried might be there continues? That the oppressed must risk their safety, livelihood, or even life by pointing it out?

Remember: being able to feel vaguely uncomfortable with the idea that racism may be happening while also being able to go on with life unscathed is a super privileged thing.

3) It's okay to have hurt feelings.

That's it. There was a fair amount of talk of feeling hurt, angry, attacked, shamed, frustrated on the panel - and yet we all survived and even managed to work together with the people who made us feel that way. Because feeling bad isn't the end of the world, or of a relationship. (Thank goodness.)

4) My fellow white people: we have got to start holding ourselves to a higher standard. I, and my fellow white panellists, were profusely thanked because we weren't assholes when people of colour had conversations with us about racism.

Not being an asshole should not be a thing that deserves thanks, profuse or otherwise. If that's exceptional, we have to really pull our socks up.

(In fact, a lot of us haven't even put our socks on yet. They are balled up in a corner somewhere. Go find your socks! Put them on and pull them up! Be intentional about not being an asshole!)

5) As I left, I popped in my earbuds and turned on the podcast I was listening to, which just happened to be a sermon by my friend Nelson Boschman. He was talking about poverty and systems of financial exclusion and corruption, not the topic of the panel, but it all intersects, and this was the perfect sentiment I heard almost immediately after leaving:

"We are part of larger systems and patterns that are highly resistant to the common good."

Can. I. Get. An. AMEN?!?!!

(Also: so what are we going to do about it?)

A panel discussion about diversity and decolonization, reflecting on Robert Lepage with case studies.
It's the panel! Photo by David C. Jones

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Inspiration! Roundup: Subtracting Homogeneity, Raising Aspirations, Kid the Wiz, and More!

Inspiration! Roundup: A bunch of inspiring things, from Mary Robinette Kowal's quotes on reducing homogeneity to Scott the Painter's eyes to the heart.
This Week's "I want to go to there": Does anyone else find a huge stack of fire wood really comforting?
Photo by Radek Grzybowski.

Subtracting Homogeneity

"It's not about adding diversity for the sake of diversity, it's about subtracting homogeneity for the sake of realism."
-Mary Robinette Kowal

Giving Raises

This brief blog post called 'The high-return activity of raising others' aspirations' is a wonderful reminder that spending a little time giving someone else a lift is totally worth it.

Kid the Wiz Freestyle

One of my favourite things about watching dance crews go for it is the amazing responses and feedback they give each other. It's this ridiculously supportive, excited thing and I LOVE it! (Plus - LOOK AT THOSE MOVES!)

Do the Work

"Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere."
-Chuck Close

Light it Up


Gratitude is awesome and all, but here's a list of 21 ways to help you share your thankfulness with others more often!

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Challenge Accepted: How Jack White Inspired Me to Cut Down My Phone Use

Is it liberating to be away from your phone?
Photo by Hugh Han.

I've been spending extra time lately thinking about my relationship with my phone. These days, I expect that most of us are at least a little bit troubled with how we use these devices and the never-ending pull they have on our minds.

I used to refer to it as an addiction, but I've realized that is the wrong word. It's not an addiction because when I am away from my phone, aside from that initially uncomfortable feeling of "something's missing", I don't feel any kind of withdrawal. Instead, I mostly feel relief. Freedom. I love going places where I can't use my phone - it's so liberating.

So I've been thinking of it more like a compulsion. If my phone is present, I pick it up without even thinking about it. I don't decide to look at my phone, I just find myself doing it, compulsively. If it's not there, I'm free. Sometimes, I don't even miss it at all.

That's why I loved this article about a Jack White concert where people were barred from using their phones in the concert hall.

First of all, the solution to cut people off from their phones was so elegant: each person's phone went into a neoprene pouch that was locked. They kept the pouch and if they ever needed to use their phone, they simply stepped out into the hallway where it could be unlocked, used, and then locked away before re-entering the concert itself.

What a simple solution to remove phones without actually taking them away from people!

While I know that taking photos has been linked with people actually enjoying an experience more, I also know the feeling of wanting to get the best shot of the band I'm seeing: reaching for my phone with a level of franticness with each cool new lighting effect, wondering if somehow this time my plastic rectangle will be able to capture the effect even though every other photo was sub-par.

This kind of photo-taking is part of an overall attempt to optimize everything about an experience that is just exhausting. It's like watching a movie with the person who won't stop fiddling with the sound balance on the TV. At some point, their attempt to make things better is just ruining it. Sit down, watch the movie. Stand there, watch the band.

Of course, the photo-taking isn't really the main problem. The problem is that when you take out your phone to take a photo, you think about where you might post it. You scroll back through and evaluate the quality of your photos, wondering if a different angle would be better. You see that your friend texted and reply. You compulsively open Facebook or Instagram or a news app or your email, not because you chose to, but simply because that's what your hands do when they are holding your phone.

If this only happened in concerts that would be one thing. It happens in life. For me, it's especially a problem when I am only loosely engaged in a thing I'm doing. When I am spending quality time with friends, for example, my phone is almost always out of sight. When I am at work, however, it is right next to me and I pick it up every single time my mind wanders, without even thinking about it.

So here is my challenge to myself: inspired by Jack White, I am going to find ways to make it just a little bit harder to use my phone.

Possible methods include leaving it in my jacket or purse (instead of on the desk next to me) and keeping my phone charger in a different room from where I am working.

Honestly, I only expect this to last for so long, but I am really interested to see how often I decide it's worth it to walk over to my jacket and get my phone out of my pocket. I am also interested to see what I do when my mind wanders instead of looking at my phone.

Let the phone-avoidance challenge begin!

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Cuteness! Roundup: Living Ornaments, Bobcat Jumps, an Armadillo, and More!

On Saturday I spent a bunch of time hanging out with Gertie. This is the first of many (mannnyyyyy) photos I took of her throughout the day.

Gertie the cat is our queen!


One of these ornaments is not like the others.

Just the best way to pass the time.

Bobcats are the BEST jumpers! This is amazing!

Typical cat.

A little tiny armadillo that is obsessed with baths.

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Singalong! Faith by George Michael

I first learned of this song when the Limp Bizkit cover came out in the 90's. A group at a local dance competition did a routine to a mashed up version of the two songs, and when it switched from Limp Bizkit to George Michael, I was shocked! Shocked! This very stupid song wasn't necessarily very stupid! George Michael's version is actually... good? Wow!

Also, it's got the words "loverboy rules" in it. That's just fun.

by George Michael

Well I guess it would be nice
If I could touch your body
I know not everybody
Has got a body like you

But I've got to think twice
Before I give my heart away
And I know all the games you play
Because I play them too

Oh but I
Need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor
Oh when that love comes down
Without devotion
Well it takes a strong man baby
But I'm showing you the door

‘Cause I gotta have faith
I gotta have faith
‘Cause I gotta have faith, faith
‘Cause I gotta have faith, faith, faith

I know you're asking me to stay
Say please, please, please don't go away
You say I'm giving you the blues
You mean every word you say
Can't help but think of yesterday
And another who tied me down to loverboy rules

Before this river
Becomes an ocean
Before you throw my heart back on the floor
Oh oh baby I reconsider
My foolish notion
Well I need someone to hold me
But I'll wait for something more

Yes I've gotta have faith…
Mmm, I gotta have faith
‘Cause I gotta have faith, faith, faith
I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith

Before this river
Becomes an ocean
Before you throw my heart back on the floor
Oh oh baby I reconsider
My foolish notion
Well I need someone to hold me
But I'll wait for something more

Cause I gotta have faith
Mmm I gotta have faith
Because I got to have faith-a-faith-a-faith
I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith

Lyrics to Faith by George Michael
Photo source: Giphy

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Learning! Roundup: Hugs Matter, Brand New Life, Lying to Yourself, and More!

Learning! Roundup: The power of hugs, brand new forms of life (hemimastigote), lying to yourself, changing other people's minds, and more!
Photo by Shalom Mwenesi.

Four Hugs a Day

Charlotte Diamond was right! We need hugs! A new study shows that, out of a group of people who have experienced stressful events in a day, those who were hugged were not as affected by it as their counterparts. I wonder if the effect is the same for people who don't really like hugs.

A Brand New Thing

A whole new type of living thing has been discovered! It's not a plant or an animal or fungi or anything other kingdom of life we have identified! It's called a hemimastigote, and it was discovered when some Canadian (yessss!) scientists collected dirt on a whim while hiking. A whole new branch of life we didn't even know about! The universe is so vast and mysterious!!!

Lie to Yourself

Turns out it's even easier to lie to ourselves than you think - just the attempt to tell a convincing lie about yourself makes you feel less certain of the actual facts. It goes to reason (although is not yet proven) that the more often we tell a lie about ourselves, the more we will believe it.

How to Change Someone's Mind

A common thing people say these days is to not even bother trying to change someone else's mind on political issues. While this is definitely true for Facebook comment threads, it's apparently not true in real life. Thanks to our brain's incredible ability to retcon itself, all you have to do is trick someone into thinking they chose your political view instead, through false feedback, and then their brains will do the rest. Okay, this sounds difficult to do in real conversations, but hey, it's fun to think about!

Video OCD Treatment

A new study had people with OCD symptoms related to contamination watch a video of themselves repeatedly touching a filthy bedpan. The result? Their symptoms reduced!

Expect Pain

The expectation of pain makes us feel pain more acutely, even after we have experienced the pain and should know better.

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Book Club: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Image Source: CelesteNg.Com

I recently read this gem of a book and I HAVE to share it with you!

First, a confession: I genuinely thought the image on the cover was a bunch of leaves up close, not a suburban street. I honestly have no idea how I could have made that mistake except that I only looked at it as thumbnail images when I was taking the e-book out from my library, so... hopefully don't let that colour your view of my judgment too harshly.

Second, this book is truly a beautiful thing to experience. I almost don't want to tell you too much about it: I had no idea what the story was when I picked it up and it was a joy to discover. However, I also don't believe in this whole nonsense around every little thing being a spoiler, so here you go (no actual spoilers, don't fret):

Little Fires Everywhere is set in one of those perfect little suburbs where the town was planned from the start and everyone is nice to each other.

The Richardson family are perfectly suited to the town: moderately wealthy, charitable, well-behaved (except the youngest daughter, who everyone seems to think is a total freak show of a failure but really just rages against the machine in relatively reasonable teenage ways - for the most part). They rent their second home out to a single mother and her daughter, and the two families become quickly entwined until, obviously, something goes awry.

Here is what I love about this story:

It takes the topsy-turvy teenage experience entirely seriously. There are five teens in this story with varied and interesting inner lives and little journeys that are both earth-shattering and minuscule all at once.

While it is obviously critical of some elements of the cookie-cutter planned suburb, it fully respects the lives of everyone living in it.

There is so much richness in how the racial and financial differences in this town are layered in beneath the narrative before they become a part of the primary story itself.

Family is such a beautiful and complex and damaging and wonderful thing in this story, as it is in life.

There is a major conflict that arises out of a wealthy white family that adopts a Chinese-American baby girl. A custody battle that ensues, dividing the town and the Richardson family. It is written in such a way that I felt entirely torn between the two sides, swinging back and forth along with the characters, never sure if the outcome was right.

It grabbed my heart and didn't let go. It's a thoughtful, detailed, complex, beautiful story. Go read it! Go now!

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Inspiration! Roundup: Sue Austin's Underwater Wheelchair Dance, Imaginary Moon Art, For Like Ever, and More!

Time to get inspired! First, let's go to Sillyville! Then this roundup of underwater dancing, art on the moon, and more!
This Week's "I want to go to there": SILLYVILLE! Obviously.
Photo by Will Myers.

Sue Austin: Underwater Wheelchair Dancer

This is incredible: performance artist Sue Austin uses a specially-adapted wheelchair to dance underwater. It's the kind of thing I have never thought of and the result is stunning.

Imaginary Moon Art

Now for some imaginary art: eight artists were asked what art they would make if they were on the moon. The answers include painting the sphere so it looks like a perfect square; creating a colony of sexist, white supremacists; or creating a space habitat on earth in protest of the wealthy having an escape hatch into space should things get too bad on earth.

Reasons for Art

Author Chuck Wendig made a pretty incredible Twitter thread with 25 reasons to create art in terrible times. I may not have needed someone to encourage me to keep creating, but dang if it isn't inspiring to read a bunch of emphatic statements for the power of art.

My favourite:

"Because what you make is a carrier for ideas. A Trojan horse stuffed with your NOTIONS. Packed tight with arguments and hopes and fears and solutions. Even when you don’t mean it to be? It is."

For Like Ever

I like this piece by Super Rural.

Two Questions for (the chance of) Success

Say you want to learn something new or get better at something you already have in your repertoire. Two questions matter:

1) Do you want to be better?

2) Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and won’t work right away?

The first question is pretty obvious. The second one may be unexpected, but gaining skills is HARD. You are going to feel like you suck for a while, because you will suck for a while. You will have to use new muscles - actual or metaphorical - and they don't know what they are doing. It's good to remember that up front.

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Here's Something to Try: A To-Don't List

Try writing a to don't list instead of just a to do list.
Photo by Jose Aragones.

I am intrigued by this concept: in addition to making a to-do list, why not make a to-don't list of all the things you don't want to do that day.

This might be habits you're trying to break, like smoke or cuss or eat junk food. Or it could be identifying your most common procrastination voids and declaring that you will not stroll mindlessly into them.

What I like about this idea is that it forces you not only to consider what you want to do with your day (and by extension, your life) but also to look at the obstacles that frequently get in your way: if you want to go to bed early, but find you usually watch one too many episodes The Good Place or lose track of time while texting and scrolling on your phone, make that a to don't!

(Okay, I know there is no such thing as too many episodes of The Good Place, but we're dealing with finite time and a need to do a few other things with our lives, so let's just accept the fact that we can't spend all our time watching The Good Place and doing nothing else.)

Phrase it in whatever way will be most impactful for you: I will not scroll on Instagram past 9pm; I will not watch more than two episodes; I will not worry about what I'm missing on the internet after 9pm because I know there is actually nothing.

As I write this, I am realizing two things:

One: that we're going to want to have something in the to-do column to help us when the habit strikes. If I always lie on the couch with my phone for indeterminate amounts of time in the evening, I'm going to be hard pressed for ideas of other things to do when 9pm rolls around and I said I would stop. Best to think of some ideas of what I could be doing with that time instead. (Read a book? Do yoga? Do the unthinkable and talk to someone on the phone? I've heard other people like to take baths in the evening, so maybe that?)

Two: The phrasing of "Today I Will Not" for the to-don't list made me realize that it would be awesome to write "Today I Will" for my daily to-do lists instead of just "to do." It just feels better. More intentional. I think I will approach what I write on the list a little differently if I do this.

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Recommended Read: Actress Ann Dowd on What It Was Like Not Finding Success Until Her Fifties

Recommended Read: Ann Dowd on what it was like finding success in her fifties
Photo by The Peabody Awards. CC.

I really, really love stories about people who gain success, accomplish big things, or otherwise find their stride later in life, so I highly recommend we all read this Glamour article from Ann Dowd on what it was like to be pursuing acting her whole life, and not "make it" until her fifties.

Why do I love stories like this? There is the obvious reason that I am 34 and a "nobody." Whenever I see those lists of young people doing amazing things, I have to actively remind myself that I don't know their backstory, that my worth has nothing to do with what I accomplish, and that comparison is the thief of joy.

Maybe it's that little, broken part of me from childhood that decided I only had value if other people told me I had value, maybe it's because there is something I still feel I need to accomplish in life, or maybe it's just a basic human condition. I don't know. Still, I find stories like Ann Dowd's quite inspiring.

Some snippets:

"For some reason I had an unshakable faith that all would work out... I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the future. I would suggest that—a little time but not a lot. Pay attention to where you are. Celebrate the small victories."

"Darlings, stay humble and grateful. It will suit you. It will support you. Use your manners. Manners are a wonderful and forgotten thing. Use them."

"Here's the last thing I want to tell you, and I think it's the most important: You do not have to be the best. That's a whole lot of pressure, darlings. Say no to it."

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Cuteness! Roundup: Bands of Animals, a Dog Drawn to Water, Sneaky Cats, and More!

I almost always can't help but take a photo of Gertie during our morning cuddle sessions. They are truly among the happiest moments of my life and each one needs to be saved! EACH ONE.

So many cute things in the world! Lots of cats cuddling, sneaking into museums, and getting potty trained.


A bunch of animal bands waiting for their new album to drop.

This can't be a comfortable sleeping position.

A dog that can't help but go into water, no matter where it is.

Two cats have been trying to sneak into the Hiroshimi Onimichi City Museum of Art for years!

It takes this cat a minute to figure things out, and then it realizes that it is having the best day of its life!

A baby potty training a cat. They are the same size!!!

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Singalong! Atomic by Blondie

Singing along with this song is extra fun because there are so few words, but the whole thing feels very important. If you're brave and want to go big with the feelings, it would make an excellent karaoke number.

by Blondie

Uh-huh make me tonight
Tonight make it right

Uh-huh make me tonight

Oh, uh-huh make it magnificent

Oh, your hair is beautiful
Oh, tonight

Tonight make it magnificent
Make me tonight

Your hair is beautiful
Oh oh, tonight

Photo by Jean-Luc. CC.

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I Don't Want to See Fantastic Beasts and it's Giving Me an Identity Crisis

Gif by Brandan Ray.

When I watched the trailer for the latest Fantastic Beasts movie, I cried.

Now, this is not special in and of itself. I cry at things, especially Harry Potter things. Every time I encounter this world, a feeling of magical joy and wonder perks up in my chest. I can't help but feel supremely excited, and sometimes (most times) that excitement comes out of my eyeballs as salt water. (The human body can only hold so much, guys!)

This time the tears were different: I wasn't crying because I was swept away in that magical world that makes me feel like anything is possible or because I was feeling nostalgic or because of a group of friends who band together to sacrifice everything and fight for what's right or even the sadness of a lonely boy who becomes a terrible villain.

Nope, I cried because I felt empty inside. I felt nothing. I had interacted with a Harry Potter-related thing and was unmoved, to my core.

There was just no magic. I mean, there was magic in the sense that people did impossible things using their wands and their minds, but there was no heart-magic. There was no sense of magical possibilities or of the other wonderful feelings I associate with Harry Potter.

It looks like a regular old "chase down the bad guy" movie with some fancy tricks thrown in, and that is not the same thing.

So now the movie is out and I kind of don't even care if I see it, which leads to some questions. Who am I??? What have I become??? Am I even Andrea anymore??? Did my heart shrivel up and die???

I don't know what to do with this. Let's watch the trailer again and see if I feel anything.

Nope. Sigh.

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Learning! Roundup: Pony Therapy, Moderate Self-Control, Stopping Pirates, and More!

Photo by Kym Ellis.

Pony Therapy

In Scotland, doctors are prescribing their patients spend time in nature, with looking for fungus and appreciating a cloud being the top two nature-related prescriptions. In November, however, they want everyone to go talk to a pony.

Self Control - In Moderation

Apparently, too much self-control can be bad for our physical and mental health. Sometimes it's better to just give in and indulge a little.

Scientists Agree to Disagree

To disagree with Trump, that is. A common statement from people who are against implementing policies that are more inclusive of transgender people (or those who are otherwise gender queer/outside the binary) is that it shouldn't be up to them to decide these things, it should be up to the experts. Well, here is what the experts say: you should not define gender as biological, nor establish it at birth.

Don't Be a Pirate

Explicit anti-piracy warnings may be just as good, or better, at reducing piracy than actually issuing fines. It turns out people don't like reminders that they are being monitored and someone knows when they are doing something wrong.

Anti-Political Political Arguments

Next time you are having a political argument, try removing all partisan information (I know, I know, it's kind of impossible). It turns out that most people (or at least, Americans who were in this study) agree on what an ideal society looks like when you don't reference actual political parties. Also included in that article are some tips on how to intellectually disarm your opponent in a political argument. My favourite is to simply ask them how the thing they are arguing about works - chances are they don't actually know much about it and then they'll question themselves on a deeper level.

Tetris Relieves Anxiety

A new study shows that Tetris may be the perfect anxiety-reducing activity because players reach a state of flow. I haven't played Tetris in years, but I also remember it being a little bit stressful.

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It's a Start: Prince Charles Recognizes Britain's Role in Slave Trade

Photo by InSapphoWeTrust. CC.

A little while ago, Prince William and Kate Middleton visited Vancouver and I, being the dorkiest of my friends, lined up to greet them. I love the royals!

Of course, I also felt conflicted: the royal family represents a lot of badness in the history of the world and my country. They were the ones who said, "yeah, sure, go to that other continent and take it over, don't worry about the people who already live there, you need not treat them with dignity." (Actually, I have no idea what their orders were or if they intended things to go differently, but I'm guessing they didn't care that much.)

So many people have suffered, and continue to do so, thanks to the legacy of the royal family.

But... they're so PRETTY!

So yeah, I feel some cognitive dissonance over my love for them.

At the very least, this happened: Prince Charles has acknowledged Britain's role in the slave trade calling it a 'profound injustice' and 'indelible stain.'

That's one profound injustice recognized, and how many to go?

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Just One More Thing for Women Who Want to Have Babies to Worry About

There are so many things women are supposed to think about when they want to have babies.
Photo by Melanie Brown.

I just came across this article, called How to Time Your Next Pregnancy to Reduce Health Risks, and my first thought was, "oh for pete's sake! Can we just let women who want to have babies take five seconds without feeling pressure to do it perfectly???"

If you want to have a baby, you're already supposed to stop drinking before you've even gotten pregnant, get fit, avoid stress, eat and sleep well, and take prenatal supplements. You should also have money and a job and a stable relationship, be happy and full of love, hopeful for the future, and feel like a life-giving goddess. You need to know exactly what is going to happen with said job and be prepared for the judgement you will inevitably receive no matter what your choice is.

Then there is the timing. The TIMING! Did you know that if your baby is born in January they will probably do better in school? Is your work seasonal and therefore you should ideally be starting maternity leave at a particular time of year? Do you have other life events to work this pregnancy around? How old are you? Are you too young or too old? Trick question! You are both! At the same time!

And now, into the mix: the timing of your subsequent children.

I don't know, guys. Can we just chill?

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Inspiration! Roundup: Venus With a Smoothie, 100 Rejections, Elizabeth Cotten, and More!

A roundup of inspirational things, including Rodrigo Pinheiro's art, Elizabeth Cotten's guitar playing, Anais Nin, 100 Rejections, and a solstice clock.
This Week's "I wan to go to there": Somewhere a little weird.
Photo by Lava Lavanda.

Familiar Faces

Artist Rodrigo Pinheiro has taken classic paintings and mashed them up with some modern photography for a pretty fun twist. Honestly, looking through his Instagram, I don't love a lot of it - there's a lot of "let's use naked ladies but cover up their faces and it's art" kind of thing that loses me when I realize that's basically all you do. But there are some real gems in there, including Vincent, Lisa, and that girl with pearl earrings. And, of course, Venus:

100 Rejections

I just came across the 100 Rejection Letter Challenge, and I love it. It's not the first time I've heard of the concept of making failure into your goal, but it is the first time I thought of it in this particular way. This one is geared towards writers pitching to magazines and publishers (perfect for me), but what rejections can you rack up?

Create From the Excess

You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.
-Anais Nin

I love this notion of creation coming from the excess. This means that in order to create, we must take care of ourselves. We must fill ourselves up with inspiration, love, food, longing, and everything else. We must be full so that our creativity can overflow.

It also means that the fact that I am full of SO MANY FEELINGS, ALL THE TIME might be a good thing!

Elizabeth Cotten's Guitar

"I taught myself how to play, no one helped me. And I give myself credit for everything you hear me play."

That Feeling

that feeling. that you can not name.
that. is your heart. growing.
– Nayyirah Waheed


I realize that sharing this is basically product placement, but whatever, I really like it. It's a beautiful wooden clock that expands and contracts throughout the day, created by Animaro Designs.

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