Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Weekend, exam week, etc.

I headed to Stratford for a chill weekend.  It was a friend's baby shower, so I figured why not go, but I only made it a mini-trip (left on Saturday morning and came back Sunday night).  I didn't do a whole lot when I was there, other than go shopping for a present, and then go to the actual shower.

We are now finished first semester, and it's exam week.  I am chugging through the marking.  I now have six sets of term work left to deal with and two sets of final exams.  I'm feeling like that is getting under control, but then there is the fact I have to get ready for another semester.

Tonight I get a break when I go to Pitch Talks.  Woo-hoo!

Also, it's really dreary today.  Man, I could use sunshine.

That is all.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Leaving early.

Really the biggest thing I need to improve is my work-life balance.  I can honestly say I love my job, it's fun, it's fulfilling, and gives me a lot of purpose.  In a lot of ways, I feel ridiculous to be paid to do something so rewarding and so fun.

But it is a lot of work.

I can see how you could be a crappy teacher and get by.  Boring textbook lessons every day.  Don't change things up or be creative.  And you could leave at the bell!

But I would hate that.  I'm always changing things up, experimenting with new labs, inventing new games, and scouring the internet for interesting videos and funny science cartoons. And as a result my classes fly by and we all have fun.  Case in point today, I had a room full of teenaged boys with words taped to their foreheads walking around and playing a version of the game "Headbands" to review for their exam. And they were having a great time and completely into it. 

Anyway, the more I keep planning and innovating (the stuff I like), the farther behind I get in the drudge work of marking, photocopying, cleaning up my lab, and other things I hate.  And then I feel stressed and ugh, and it's an awful cycle.  I often stay at school way too late trying to get caught up but I'm not even that productive because I distract myself either by planning something new, or get caught up chit-chatting in the staff room.  

This year I'm trying to leave school early more often and it's great!  I leave, go to the gym or run errands and come home refreshed enough to maybe to a little bit of school catch-up.  I must keep doing this.

Yesterday, I left early to go on a three-hour expedition to get supplies for a long-term lab for my grade 12 biology students (they have to take another semester of bio but with another teacher).  It was still work-related, but being out of the building was so much better and I had fun because a friend was kind enough to join me.

I need to get out of there early more often.  I must continue this into next semester despite the spectre of another new course to teach for the third semester in a row.  I'm no longer using "I'm teaching a new course" to allow the rest of my life to fall apart.

January... so far, so good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Off season woes.

I was a pretty big baseball fan when I was a kid.  I would read my dad's baseball magazines religiously and was quite happy to go on a family vacation to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  I had my baseball card collection and my MLB Panini* sticker books.  I used to ride my bike with the boys in my neighbourhood to the convenience store to buy sticker packs and trade.  I remember oh-so-clearly tearing my Mark McGwire sticker out of my book to give to my then-BFF Karl because that was the only sticker he was missing from his "Rookies of 1986".  I always regretted doing that, but then after all of the steroid scandals, I'm glad that sticker is no longer in my possession.

My baseball obsession peaked in 1992/1993 when the Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series.  Those were good days, hey?  In 1992, my dad took me to my first baseball game at the Skydome. I even named a cat after Joe Carter, who hit the home run that won the 1993 WS.

As I got older, and the Jays weren't as great, my basbeball obsession diminished.  When I moved to Toronto, I'd go to the occasional game, but more as a social occasion.  It was fun to reminisce about the old days, and remember all of my favourite Jays from the glory days (Fred McGriff, anyone?).  But I didn't follow baseball at all.

Fast forward to the end of 2013.  My friend Mathew had recently rekindled his own love of baseball, and asked me if I want to join him on flex passes.  15 games for $120.  Why not?  Even if I missed games, it was a great deal!  And baseball games are fun, right?

Well, by the end of the 2014 season I was pretty much watching every game that I could on TV.  Even though the Jays weren't in contention that year, my early-90s super-fandom came flooding back.  And then, well, you know what happened in 2015.  It was a (bat) flippin' amazing season!  Playoff baseball games!  Woo-hoo!

And that brings us to now.   The long boring off-season.  Do you know what I'd give to be watching a game right now?  Baseball has the most insanely long season of 162 games but somehow that's not enough for me.  I almost need to start following all of the international leagues or something.

On Tuesday, my pal Mathew and I are doing something that cements us as die hards.  We are going to an event called Pitch Talks, which is a series where we listen to people talk about baseball.  Yes, it's come to this.  The event is advertised for "real baseball fans" and I'm pretty sure I qualify.

Tonight Mathew just messaged me "what are you going to wear to Pitch Talks.  I think I'm going to wear my playoff hoodie."  I started laughing so hard.  This is what the off season has brought us to.  Until then, we've got 29 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

*Wow!  The 80s were great!  I like to remember the days when "Panini" didn't refer to a sandwich, but to those sticker collections that you could spend all of your allowance money on.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pirate Cat

When I got home on Thursday, Rilo greeted me at the door with her left eye closed. It was weird.  All evening, she wouldn't open her left eye and it was rather runny.  I consulted the Internet about what it could mean when your cat was closing one eye, and after becoming freaked out with stories of cats having their eyes fall out of the socket, I figured that she probably just got something in it, and if it didn't look better the next day, I'd make a vet appointment.

Even though she looked like a pirate with one eye shut, she was her old spirited bossy self, so at least I knew that she wasn't in pain.

On Friday, I got home from school to a quite pathetic looking cat.  Her pirate eye was half open and very runny.  It was 6 pm, so I called the vet's office right away to make a Saturday appointment before they closed for the evening.  I described her condition, and they fit me in for an afternoon appointment.

As Friday night progressed, her eye got better.  In fact, her eye was back to normal by the time I had to cart her off to the vet on Saturday.  However, no harm in getting her checked out.  It's been a while since she was at the vet anyhow.

Getting Rilo into her cage is quite the ordeal.  There's nothing she hates more.  I got her carrier out on Friday, and as soon as she saw it, she promptly hid.  After about 20 minutes, she figured the coast was clear.

On Saturday, even before I got ready to go myself, I seized the opportunity to pack her up.  She was snoozing on the couch, and I scooped her up and got her locked up in the cage before she knew what was happening.  As I was getting myself ready, I was treated to a cacophony of furious meows and the sound of claws trying to scrape through plastic.

The vet's office is about a seven-minute walk from my place.  As I was walking, many people expressed "poor kitty" at my pissed-off meowing caged pet.  When we got to the vet's office, we had to wait for awhile, and a couple of dogs walked up to her cage to check her out.  I was afraid she'd get scared, since I don't think she's seen a dog up close before, but she was too angry to care.  I think she just saw the dogs as someone else she could express her outrage too.

Once we were into the examining room, and she was out of the cage, she was fine.  The vet was impressed how chill she was.  I explained the eye problem to him, and he said it was most likely a flare-up of cat herpes that she probably caught back when she was at the Humane Society.  Like the herpes simplex virus in humans, it can lay dormant for long periods of time.  In cats, an outbreak of the virus can result in upper respiratory infections and ocular discharge.  These outbreaks are often caused by stress, but it doesn't seem like anything has changed to stress Rilo out on Thursday.  Who knows, maybe I didn't wake up early enough to give her treats.

Anyway, it was good to get her checked out.  The vet said she was in excellent health for an approximately eleven-year old cat.  (I don't know her exact age because it was estimated she was about 3 - 5 when I adopted her.)  Her only problem is that she's got some tartar build-up on her teeth.  The vet said that she could use a cleaning, and then he printed up an estimate for me, which would run around $1000, so ummm, I think she's gonna live with dirty teeth.

So now at least I know that if Rilo busts out the pirate eye again that it's just her herpes acting up.  Nice souvenir, there Humane Society.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Emo Reading

I had a rather emotional day on Friday.  It was no big deal, and nothing negative, other than I had some feelings to deal with.

As a result, I was in no head space to deal with reality this weekend, so I lost myself in books.

I did, however, manage to get my hair cut AND plan an event for my birthday.  It's a cross-stitching class held at a local brewery!  Crafts + beer sounds great!  I bought the last four remaining tickets for myself and 3 friends.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Things I'm Into:

1) Wool socks from Simons in Montreal.

2) Grimes' album "Artangels"

3) Making A Murderer.  Especially Dean Strang.  I binged the series in two days.  Now I just keep up on news and the reddit. (My heart broke for Brendan Dassey so much.)

4) Toque weather but not what it does to my hair.

5) Jenny Lawson's Fuirously Happy.

6) Rilo no longer waking me up at 5:30 am for treats.  She's gotten chill.

7) Short lists.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Holiday Wrap-Up

Where did those two weeks go?  Seriously, how it can be 11:39 pm on the Sunday night before I have to go back to work is beyond me.

I had a really nice time in Montreal.  It snowed the whole time, but I was prepared with my Hunter boots & warm liners (I can just walk through all slushy puddles), my sparkly warm toque, mittens and warm winter coat.  A snowy winter vacation is fun as long as you are prepared for the weather!

Places that we visited:
  • St Hubert's - The Quebec version of Swiss Chalet!  Their sauce is better, I think.
  • Simon's - I love going to this department store whenever I go to Montreal.  I think there might be one in Mississauga now, but I haven't gone there.  I got lots of neat things: a new cardigan sweater, a fuzzy owl blanket (that Rilo will take over I know it), an owl shower curtain, some cheap jewelry, owl napkins, and some winter socks.
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - I'd never been here before, and wanted to go.  They had lots of cool art, but this was the highlight!  I waited in line for about 45 minutes to go into this exhibit and it was so fun!  The birds were so cute.
  • La Banquise - A great cafe for poutine.
  • Creperie Chez Suzette -  A cute place in Old Montreal for crepes.
     
  • The Montereal Biodome & Planetarium - A great opportunity to get my science nerd warmed up for back to school!  I loved the Biodome; there were four distinct ecosystems set up inside the dome, with lots of cool animals and plants.  I think the highlight for me was seeing the two lynx playing with each other.  The Planetarium was okay; the show that I really want to see (on the Aurora Borealis) was sold out, so we saw a less-interesting one on how constellations were used to tell time in the past.  I may have fallen asleep in my comfy chair.
  • Fairmount Bagels and St. Viateur Bagels - We checked out both famous bagel places!  The blueberry bagel I bought at Fairmount was the best train snack ever.
  • Notre Dame Basilica - A beautiful church both outside and inside.  I'd never been inside before, and I was glad to see its bright and colourful altar.
I'm very bad at adding pictures to my blog, but I'm pretty good at posting on my instagram account.

Our train got back to Toronto at 11:30 pm on Friday night, and I've been having a pretty chill weekend.  Last night I went out for drinks for a friend's birthday, and today's been a lot of reading and Netflix.  Not the marking and lesson planning I was going to do....

I haven't yet made a resolution for 2016.  I think my priority will be to get back into running because I miss it.  That means a return to regular visits to the gym and weight-training.  I'd really like to do a 5K in May, and then do the 5K at the Toronto Zoo in September.  Then maybe I can work up to longer races again in 2017...

I should blog more too.  I definitely need to do a post about all of the true crime documentaries I binged upon over the holidays.

Happy 2016 friends!

2015 Wrap-Up: Books!

I wanted to read 40 books in 2015, and I made it by finishing the last one on New Year's Eve eve.  Here's the list. 

  • 40) Why Not Me? - Mindy Kaling (funny)
  • 39) Pretty Girls - Karin Slaughter (awful)
  • 38) My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante (quite good)
  • 37) A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini (amazing)
  • 36) The Grownup - Gillian Flynn (excellent gothic short story)
  • 35) Those Girls - Chevy Stevens (quite good!)
  • 34) Luckiest Girl Alive - Jessica Knoll (ugh)
  • 33) Garden of Shadows - V.C. Andrews (sometimes I like to re-read crap from my teenage years)
  • 32) The Daughter - Jane Shemilt (mixed feelings)
  • 31) We Have Always Lived In the Castle - Shirley Jackson (excellent gothic novel)
  • 30) Burn - Ellen Hopkins (meh)
  • 29) Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari & Eric Klinenberg (excellent)
  • 28) Dear Daughter - Elizabeth Little (meh)
  • 27) Woman With A Secret - Sophie Hannah (good)
  • 26) Pretty Baby - Mary Kubica (OK)
  • 25) Disclaimer - Renée Knight (quite good)
  • 24) Who Do You Love - Jennifer Weiner (excellent)
  • 23) Dietland - Sarai Walker (good and different)
  • 22) Has Anyone Seen My Pants? - Sarah Colonna (hilarious)
  • 21) Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen (good)
  • 20) Inside the O'Briens - Lisa Genova (good tearjerker)
  • 19) Wolf Winter - Cecilia Ekbäck (quite good)
  • 18) Missoula - John Krakauer (excellent)
  • 17) Finders Keepers - Stephen King (okay)
  • 16) Pretty Little Killers - Daleen Berry (can't believe I read true crime)
  • 15) What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarity (good)
  • 14) Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarity (excellent)
  • 13) The Pocket Wife - Susan Crawford (okay)
  • 12) Where They Found Her - Kimberley McCreight (meh)
  • 11) The Wicked Girls - Alex Marwood (quite good)
  • 10) Life Sentences - Laura Lippman (meh)
  • 9) The Good Girl - Mary Kubica (meh)
  • 8) After I'm Gone - Laura Lippman (meh)
  • 7) If I Fall, I Die - Michael Christie (OK)
  • 6) All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven (quite good)
  • 5) I Was Here - Gayle Forman (OK)
  • 4) Celestial Navigation - Anne Tyler (heartbreaking)
  • 3) The Girl On the Train - Paula Hawkins (good)
  • 2) Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng (excellent)
  • 1) What the Dead Know - Laura Lippman (good mystery)
My top three (in no particular order) were:

Everything I Never Told You - by Celeste Ng

This book about a missing girl isn't a simple murder mystery.  It's a complex look at a multicultural family before people were used to inter-racial relationships.  This book is beautifully written.

Who Do You Love - Jennifer Weiner
This is probably my favourite book written by Weiner.  It's a gripping love story where you really come to like the characters.

Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari & Eric Klinenberg
This is a book looking at modern dating written by a stand-up comedian and a sociologist.  It was a fascinating read and really funny.  I learned that the next time that I want a first date to go well, I'm going to a monster truck rally!




My reading goal for 2016 will stay the same at 40 books.  I don't think I can increase it and still keep up with other parts of my life, but about one book per week-and-a-half is a good goal to maintain.

2015 Wrap-Up: Concerts

The List:
  • Dec 19th - Stars' Set Yourself On Fire @ The Phoenix
  • Nov 28th - Sloan @ Nathan Phillips Square
  • Nov 14th - Hawksley Workman @ The Phoenix
  • Nov 3rd - The Weeknd @ The ACC
  • Oct 4th - CHVRCHES @ The Danforth Music Hall
  • Sept 30th - #imagineoctober20 @ Randolph Theatre
  • Sept 11th - Sloan @ Massey Hall
  • Aug 22nd - Blue Rodeo @ The Molson Ampitheatre
  • Aug 11th - Jann Arden @ Nathan Phillips Square
  • Aug 8th - The Roots @ Nathan Phillips Square
  • July 22nd - Mariah Carey @ Cesar's Palace in Las Vegas
  • July 15th - Marianas Trench @ Nathan Phillips Square
  • July 14th - The Joel Plaskett Emergency @ Nathan Phillips Square
  • June 28th - Nelly/TLC/NKOTB @ ACC
  • May 27th - Constantines @ Massey Hall
  • May 22nd - Joel Plaskett Emergency @ Danforth Music Hall
  • May 9th - Hawksley Workman @ The CBC
  • March 14 - Dan Mangan & Hayden @ The Vogue Theatre in Vancouver
  • Feb 28th - Dan Mangan & Hayden @ Massey Hall
  • Feb 13th - Stars with Hey Rosetta! @ Danforth Music Hall
  • Feb 12th - Stars with Hey Rosetta! @ Danforth Music Hall
  • Jan 24 - Elliott Brood & The Wilderness of Manitoba @ The Phoenix
22 shows in total.  Not too shabby!  What were the highlights?

1) Mariah Carey in Las Vegas - This was insane.  She more or less channeled the music videos of all of her #1 hits.  At one point she was pulled out on a sea-doo.  Classic.

2) Stars doing "Set Yourself On Fire" at the Phoenix - What a great album to play in it entirety.  The energy at this show was insane, and it was such a fun way to start my holidays.

3) Blue Rodeo at the Molson Ampitheatre - This show was fun because my friend Elisa and I won seat upgrades through social media.  And seeing Blue Rodeo's summer Ampitheatre show has always been a goal of mine!

I hope that 2016 brings many concerts as well!  I've already got two set up! Woo-hoo!