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Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: All Wound Up

I recently realized that I'm not doing to well with my reading this year. Including my latest book - All Wound Up by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee - I've only read 5 so far. With a goal of 20 for the year, I better get my butt in gear. 

All Wound Up is a series of short essays written by the same woman who writes the incredibly popular Yarn Harlot blog. I love her blog, and I read and reviewed an earlier book of hers (Yarn Harlot: Secret Life of a Knitter), so I knew I was sure the book would be fun and entertaining. 

I was right! There were some laugh-out-loud moments - such as when her three daughters had a water balloon fight inside the house, or when her husband got his truck caught between a rock and hard place (practically literally) - and some very emotional and enlightening moments too - like when she had to give up knitting for a while, or what she was like as a teenager (and still is that way). 

This was a fun and fast read, and I'm sure I'll be reading more of her books in the future. I do wish there were photos included of her knitting, because so much of it sounds amazing. I give this book a 4/5.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Flying

A friend of mine from work, who is a flying instructor, offered to take me up for a short flight on Friday afternoon. How could I say no to that?

So, after inspecting the 4-seater Cessna, we took to the air. The take-off and accent were much smoother than I expected, even though the wind was pretty strong. We flew over London, and I managed to snap a few decent shots.

Fig. 1: Downtown London from about 5000 feet.

Fig. 2: The university campus.

Fig. 3: Our neighbourhood from above. Our house is in this shot :)

After flying over London, we went on to Centralia airport - did two circuits there, which included touching down on the runway and taking off right away. Then we flew over to Stratford and back to London. 

I was doing fine until he did this 365 degree turn during which I was staring at the ground (to see how the wind greatly alters the speed of the airplane). At that point, I lost my sense of inner balance and never quite recovered. I actually still feel a bit wonky, and it has been almost 24 hours! He didn't even really do anything too aggressive - some of the stuff they are trained to do just made me feel ill thinking about it!

The coolest part for me was just seeing and hearing how the whole operation works. Listening in on the radio while he talked to the air- and ground-controllers was really interesting (though I didn't understand most of it). He did a great job of explaining how everything worked, including all the gauges, and I even got to fly for a minute or two!

I'm also fascinated to learn "other sides" of people I feel I know well in one context (in this case, work). It was really fun to see how much he clearly loves to fly, and how good he is at it.

It was a pretty cool experience!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vacation, Please

I'm so in need of a vacation. My brain just feels like mush lately - like I'm walking around in a fog. I can't even come up with decent blog posts and have little motivation to do so. 

Thankfully, we are going on a vacation soon for a week. We're going up to cottage country, about 3.5 hours north-east of here. The plan is to unplug, relax, and play. Even if the weather is crappy, we're still going to enjoy ourselves, because it's just about being AWAY. 

Now I just have to get through the next week or so, prep for four events the week after we are gone, and then get the hell out of dodge.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Washing Washing Machines

Maybe I'm ignorant or maybe I lead a very sheltered life as a child, but I had no idea one had to regularly wash washing machines.

A couple weeks ago I noticed a slight mildewy smell coming from the washer. Soon after, I noticed there was a "tub clean" setting. Putting two and two together, I realized that perhaps there was a way to wash the washer.

After ignoring the problem for two weeks, just hoping it would fix itself, I followed the cleaning instructions found in the washing machine manual. I wiped the inner part of the glass door, around the rubber around the door opening, and then ran the "tub clean" cycle with some liquid bleach.

Apparently, this is something that should be done quite frequently. Who knew? This was the first time I've done it since we bought it two years ago. My bad!

Friday, April 20, 2012

1.5 Years

Evan turned one-and-a-half yesterday! It's amazing to see how far he's come from my last post:

- He took his first step the same night as that post, and has been full-on walking for a while now.



- His eye teeth are still not in (??) but he's cutting a bunch of other teeth now.

- He is really starting to communicate with us. He knows a few signs, and has about 15 words he uses on a regular basis (doggie, tuck (for truck) and kitty are his favorites). He also has started mimicking what we say.

-  He is developing his own interests - like buses and trucks for instance.

- He loves to help clean up. Apparently at daycare he's the only kid who will help, and he goes around saying "keen up, keen up" while he's doing it.

Evan is definitely turning into a little boy, and I'm enjoying every minute of it (okay, most minutes!).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Are We Going Backward?

Over the past few weeks, there have been a few things floating around the news, the blogosphere, and around the water cooler that really make me wonder if we're going back in time:

- All the cuts to science in both Canada and the US (is it going on elsewhere too?)
- Cuts to the local education system
- The fact that women still make far less money than men
- The focus on violent behaviour in the NHL playoffs, how it's just part of the game, and how that is actually bringing in larger audiences (while I'm losing complete respect for the game)
- Issues over reproductive rights in the USA

WTF is going on in our world right now? Is it just me, and all of a sudden I'm more aware of these issues, or do others feel the same?

Thankfully, there are new episodes of Glee, knitting, and good chocolate in this world to take my mind off things.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

As a pessimist, that is my general mantra for life. I always hope things go well, but I'm usually prepared if they don't - or at least I've thought about all the possible outcomes. 

For example, my current contract is up on March 31, 2013. My hope is that more funding will be found to extend my contract, but I am also prepared to start looking for a job a few months before it ends. I don't care if I'm told "not to worry about it - something will work out". I'm not one to sit around, waiting for "fate" to intervene. I'll take things into my own hands, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, I did not think of all the possible outcomes in this situation: last week, the Government of Canada announced that thousands of public service jobs will be cut. This includes a 10% budget cut at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).* Their budget is about $300 million (paltry compared to NASA's budget of about $20 billion - clearly not scaled by population), so cutting 10% is pretty huge. So, apparently the decision was made to completely abolish the CSA Space Awareness & Learning program - the program that funds 100% of my salary. 

We have one more year on our grant. We're hoping that they'll make good on all their current grants and contracts - but looking at our contract with the CSA, it clearly states that they are entitled to change/cancel grants if the federal budget changes. 

So, here's where I start preparing for any number of possibilities, from best- to worst-case scenario:

1. The last year of our grant comes through, and we have a year to come up with other funding sources.

2. The last year of our grant doesn't come through, but we find another source of funding. Depending on the source, this could be a short- or long-term solution, and could potentially mean a pay cut.

3. The last year of our grant doesn't come through, and we can't find another source of funding. I am out of a job. We have to pull Evan out of daycare. We can live on DH's salary alone if we cut back slightly on our spending, but we would not be able to do anything else. I have to find another job.

What's sad is that I'm not the only one going through this. Not only are thousands of government employees losing their jobs, but so will countless of other people who hold contracts or otherwise work closely with government agencies.

It's also frustrating that, by cutting the CSA Space Awareness & Learning program (and other science programs and employees), the government is sending a clear signal to the country that they do not value science research or education. 

It's a frustrating and scary time to live in.

*I know there are loads of other cuts being made, all of which are terrible, but in this post I'll be focusing on the one that is an issue for myself - I'm self-centred that way.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Through His Eyes

One of my favorite things about having a child is seeing the world through his eyes.

He LOVES trucks and other big vehicles. He will stand or sit on his chair by the front window and just watch the traffic for 10-15 minutes at a time. Every time a large vehicle goes by - especially buses - he gets SO excited, points, squeals, giggles, and looks at us as if to say "are you seeing this, guys??". Now every time I see a bus, I get a smile on my face because I know how much he would love it.

Fig. 1: Oooohh!! A bus!!!!
He finds joy in the simplest things, like shoveling dirt or rocks into a pail (then dumping it all out and starting all over), or making funny faces to make us laugh. Some of my favorite moments are when him and I are just giggling with each other over something silly - and once one of us starts, the other is soon to follow.

I know I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but this is my favorite stage so far!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Year-End

Over the past few days, I've been working on our year-end report to send to our major funder. Though it has been a bit tedious (mostly because I'm working at home on my laptop and not at work with my large monitor and real keyboard and mouse), it has been a great opportunity to reflect on how the last year has gone.

I have a list of ideas that I hope to implement over the summer to be used in the fall. Some are ways to make things more efficient - like the way I log the feedback we receive from students. Others are updates to current surveys we use to glean more useful information. There will be several new activities and presentations to be developed, which is always exciting, and I'm starting to put together a wish-list of things we want to apply for funding in the next round.

We also submit quarterly reports, but they haven't had the same effect on me. Probably because they're more about reporting event types and numbers reached, and don't focus on the big picture like the year-end report tends to do. 

Do you have to submit "big picture" reports for your work? Do you find they motivate you, or are they more annoying or tedious than anything?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Great Weekend!

We had a fantastic long weekend! We ate lots of great food - like steak diane, first-of-the-season BBQ ribs, and crème brûlée. We spent a lot of time outdoors - in our yard, going for long walks, and taking Evan to the playground. We even watched Avatar - over two nights, because that's the way we roll, and I even got some work done on a report that's due later this week. 







And since Evan’s daycare is closed today, I get an extra day to my long weekend! On the docket for today is a tour of a potential new daycare, iChat with Grandma and Grandpa, Toys R Us for a truck or two (he’s become very fascinated by large vehicles lately), and hopefully a jaunt to the playground.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Helping

Lately (and by that, I mean the last few months), Evan has been wanting to help us around the house. He enjoys unloading the dishwasher, unpacking the groceries, and sorting the laundry. It's a great way to get things done without having to deal with a meltdown at the same time.

One area in which I'm having a tough time getting him to help is in the kitchen. He has always loved to watch me cook, and now he wants to help, but there are only a limited number of things he can do. Some things I make up ("Evan, can you take the pierogies out of the bag and put them in this bowl?") but it keeps him busy and happy (i.e., he's not crying and pulling on my pants).

Any tips for how to include him in more of the cooking without putting him near knives or the stove top? He's too short to reach the counter, but he's not stable enough to stand on a stool or anything yet.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Not Entertaining

Contrary to what many, many people in public may think, Evan isn't there to entertain (or be entertained by) the masses. Just because he doesn't respond to your inane baby talk, silly faces, or "cute" comments, doesn't mean he's tired, shy, or cranky. It means he's uninterested, distracted, or just doesn't give a shit. Move on and stop making an ass of yourself and, for God's sake, don't take it personally.

Hmm...this came across way more bitchy than I intended!! I just meant that people shouldn't get upset when Evan doesn't giggle/laugh/smile when trying to make him do so. Please don't submit me to STFU, Parents! LOL!!