Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gas prices keep dropping, but what's the cost? #CalgaryCancerCentre #saveourCCC

I was visiting family in Thunder Bay this past weekend, and while we were there my Aunt filled up here car with gas for just under $1/L. Of course I bragged that I had just filled my car back in Calgary for 75cents/L. We laughed about how it was so nice to see the Ls go up faster the the price while you were filling.

For me, seeing gas dip so low is great. As a grad student, the budget is always tight and being able to fill my car for $30 instead of $50 makes a huge difference.

However, last night at our Grad Representative Council meeting, the question was asked, what does the drop in oil prices, and subsequent drop in revenue for the Alberta Government mean for us. We have already seen major cuts to post-secondary education in Alberta in the last couple years, with a scrambling provincial government, are we likely to be looking at even more? The answer, we won't know anything for sure until the provincial budget is released in March.

But there are some things we already know have been affected here in Calgary, by the drop in oil. And not just at the pump. Real estate here in Calgary, where rent before Xmas just reached the highest out of Canada's major cities, is already beginning to swing the other way. Last September I looked for a new apartment and couldn't find anything for even the same rent as what I was paying, let alone cheaper. Now? You can get yourself into a 2 bedroom for that same rent. And while some sources are predicting housing sale prices will still increase this year, they remain cautionary about it. And as for jobs, well energy giants like Suncor have already announced cuts to approximately 1,000 jobs. Overall, it seems like we are headed for an economic recession here in Alberta.

The effects of which may be far reaching. Today, the Concerned Citizens for the Calgary Cancer Centre are rallying in front of the McDougall Centre over the announced delay in breaking ground on the new Calgary Cancer Centre. The Centre, originally promised in 2005, is intended to provide more inpatient beds for Albertans fighting Cancer. Currently many patients are spending up to a week in Calgary's emergency rooms while waiting for beds to open up. Since I couldn't attend the rally in person, I'm following along right now on Twitter, here's some highlights.







So please, if this is a cause you care about, show your support with a retweet or two.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Response to a Teenager's View on Social Media: Is Facebook Dead?

It's seems just about every other day that I see a tweet throwing out a link to something along the lines of 'Is Facebook Dead'. Rarely do I click and read the post, but I guess today I've got time on my hands while running experiments (or really, in typical grad student fashion, I'm putting off work I should be doing by embracing the internet instead).

The original article is here "A teenager's view on social media" and a part 2 is here "What teen's really think about youtube, google+, Redit and other social media" .

And I guess you could say, this is my 20-something's response. In the original article, By Andrew Watts, a student at U Texas, McCombs School of Business, Watts takes the reader through his (or possibly opinions of other's he's gathered) opinion on a number of social media platforms, so I guess I'll do the same.

But first! When I read the title including the word 'Teenager' I was expecting some the article to have been written by some stereotype teen (read 15-16 year old), female, iphone glued to her hand, dip-diddy-do da-daddy pays my cell phone, and credit card....etc etc.

Instead Watts is a 19 year old male, university student.... and in the nicest, most encouraging way, I say to you Andrew....teenager  is not how you should identify anymore, it just comes with poor pre-conceived notions, you are officially an adult, you can vote, enlist, and in regular countries (read not the US) purchase and consume alcohol to your hearts consent. You live on your own, are a university student, have real responsibility, and based on the fact that you are regularly writing online while likely juggling a dozen or so other extracurriculars, so should drop the classifier of teenager, and embrace the word adult. The even more attractive descriptor: 20-something, is just on the horizon for you!

With that out of the way, I'll point out that I'm still nearly 10 years older than Watts, and from that oh so high vantage point likely have an entirely different perspective. So let's get on to Facebook!
(social media icons available for free here)

Facebook

Watts claims it's simple... Facebook is dead...and then details the many uses that is still has, why everyone pretty much still has it and uses it. For me, facebook is still very much alive, and I still check it probably every day, admittedly it certainly has changed since I first got my account back in 2006! I remember sitting in my dorm room, signing up from this relatively new (it had just become publicly accessible outside of colleges) Facebook thing, that I had to sign up for with my university email to join the McMaster group.

At the time it was the perfect tool to find the details of that hot guy in your calculus tutorial without seeming like a creep. Today it might still be, if the hot guy was signed up using his real first name (not his middle name as most of my friends use), had any information outside of his profile picture publicly available, and you were bold enough to actually friend him. OK so a google search might serve you better than the old find him on facebook.

Today I primarily use facebook to keep in touch with my family (who all live half way across the country). With friends (who now are spread literally all over the world). To stalk the photo albums of acquaintances who've recently traveled somewhere new, or gotten married. To keep up to date on who's gotten married/had kids from my elementary and high school classes. And to cry about the fact that I am almost 27 and have done none of those things. (jokes, that never happens!)

All said, while some of my friends have taken the bold step to delete facebook altogether, for as long as my mom still uses it, it will be an integral part of my social media life. While younger people might lament that all it's full of is babies, weddings and vacation photos, I say bring on the 200+ photo albums of your kid making different faces!


Instagram

For Watts, instagram is where it's at y'all (young people say y'all right (ouff did I just say 'young people! how jaded am I?)). In short, more people may have facebook, but they're all posting on instagram instead. I mean why take a whole bunch of photos of your weekend in Banff, carefully select the best ones, post them into an album with witty captions and titles a month later... when you can share each photo, with all your followers, moments moments after it was taken. Don't forget the clever hashtag.

Ok that was mostly my sarcasm, what Watts breaks things down in to real numbers and observations. For instance someone might have 800 followers on instagram and get 250+ likes on a photo they posted there.

Hold on a second! is this person a celebrity! Cause I can barely get people I know in real life follow me on instagram, let alone heart something I post!

Reading further along into his comments on instagram he notes that it 'hasn't been flooded with the older generation yet'. Wait I think that's me. I think this comes down to a generational gap in purpose of use. While I do follow a select group of my friends on instagram, mainly I follow a lot of inspirational Yogis and drool over their ability to fold themselves in half, or press up into artful forearm balances with zero apparent effort. I also follow some youtubers (I secretly wish I could have their lives) and a number of #dogsofinstagram accounts... because I really want a puppy that badly.

As for what I post on instagram, it's rarely pictures of me or the people in my life, and more likely a photo of food, beer, or lego. I guess I'm just too old to understand, but I do check it nearly every day, and post once or twice a week.

Twitter

Oh I love twitter! Have I told you about how much I love twitter, because I do! I really, really do!

But in general I completely agree with Watts on this one. Twitter is free of generational divides and is rather divided into those people who really 'get' twitter, those people who can't shut up, and those people who don't care.

I like to believe I belong in the first group. For a long time I was really sure about twitter, I've been on since 2008. But I've really only been 'on' for the last 2-3 years, when I began tweeting (and blogging) more regularly, grew my following and followers strategically, and began to start reaping the benefits. As a Calgary/Science/Yoga/Running twitter enthusiast, I have followers who fit those four categories primarily, which means twitter can be a great crowd sourcing tool for opinions around those topics. If I tweet out "where should Kevin and I go for dinner tonight" I can expect to get a quick response and good advice. If I tweet out "does anyone have recommendations on a running gps watch" the feed back I receive will (and has) likely influence my ultimate purchase.

I'm not the only one who has figured this out, and this my friends is the idea behind Klout. Not just the actual website, which determines your score and sets you up with free perks (I've managed to enjoy a few, even with my only middling score). But also just in general. You see, it turns out that consumers respond more to word of mouth (in person or online) than they do to traditional marketing. And while straight up paying a popular blogger/tweeter to rave about your product is usually quickly spotted for being disingenuous, giving free things to these same people can often result in good reviews (therefore good marketing).

And so tweeting about my reservations at the Calgary restaurant Charcut got me a free appetizer sent over from the manager. I've gotten free deserts at other restaurants following tweets featuring pictures of my entrees too. When I needed my winter tires put on, and most places in town had weeks long waiting lists, tweeting about it got me in for an appointment that day. Twitter though perks or contests has gotten me free food, free luggage, free drinks, free event tickets, free electronics, free stuff!

At this point I would point out again, my klout score is middling at 45 (The scale is from 0-100, Justin Bieber is the 100), and as for Twitter followers, I'm at 463 today. However, this is all organic. I have never sat down and said, today I'm going to try to raise my klout, or gain more followers (or disgustingly enough, but some people do it) I've never purchased followers. I just tweet about what I want, when I want, and with the people I like. A few years ago I didn't twitter, and then suddenly it became a thing for me.

Snapchat

I'll mostly skip this one because 1)The set of social media icons I downloaded didn't come with snapchat, 2) I use a Blackberry and still can't get on snapchat, and 3) based on the way I've seen it used by my boyfriend and his buddies, it's great for sending short videos of things you think are hilarious when you're hammered to your friends.

So I'll leave it to Watts on this one.

But I will say, social media marketing has infiltrated snapchat as well... for instance if you follow your favourite stores, you might just get a snapper with a one time coupon, or flash sale. In fact there's tonnes of examples on the way brands are using snapchat for more effective marketing.


Tumblr

In short, I have one, I occasionally use it, but since I maintain a full blog (or 4) I prefer to save content I want to blog for them, rather than share it on tumblr.

In response to Watts comments here: "Tumblr is a place to follow/be followed by a bunch of random strangers, yet not have your identity be attached to it." I understand what he's getting at, but I suggest there's a certain naivety here, in the sense that there may actually be anywhere online where you can exist independent of your real life identity. Sure for brief periods yes, or if you remain quiet enough that no one cares, or if you share almost nothing from your own life and make it a full time job to be anonymous, and hope that when you slip up no one notices. Sure you can operate under a pseudonym but then you will eventually fall into one of two categories 1) too boring to care who you really are or 2) someone will find out. I've seen this happen in the online community, as well as with a coworker, and chances are, when you do get found out, either you, or someone you care about might get hurt by what was said under assumed anonymity.

Watts may have been getting at the idea that tumblr is a great place to post things without worrying about what all your in real life acquaintances will think (ie express your inner lego-nerd without losing your role as one of the cool kids (attention: lego-nerds are the cook kids, get your priorities straight)). But I am and always will be an advocate of be yourself, your true self online. If you are posting something online you feel you should have to hide your real identity to post, then maybe you shouldn't.

Like the saying goes "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I'll skip past Yik Yak, Medium, Kik and GroupMe, because I've never heard of them before. WhatsApp I'll just say, I think it's a cross platform msg app, and I'll comment briefly on LinkedIn and Pinterest.


LinkedIn

Basically your online resume. Get it once you're out of high school (like Watts says), and update it as often and as professionally as you would your own resume.

This can be an amazing tool when you're job hunting, and I've written a whole other lengthy post on optimizing your LinkedIn profile here.




Pinterest

I'll briefly say, Watts probably isn't the target demographic for pinterest, and I probably am.

I keep the 'PinIt' button at the top of my browser so when I come across a great recipe/DIY/book/decor idea/vacation spot etc while I'm browsing the web, I can save it onto the corresponding board. Then I come back to those boards when I need inspiration (or Pinspiration if you will). Sometimes if I'm board I browse and pin things from other peoples boards.

This post has gotten massively lengthy, so I'll do just like Watts and deal with the rest of social media in a Part 2 tomorrow!

In closing, Andrew Watts, I massively enjoyed reading your posts, they inspired the heck out of me to write my own version, and that truly is the best compliment I can give anyone! I'm following you on twitter now, and can't wait to see what else you have to say!


Snow's Melting

Here's to days getting longer, and a great Chinook here in Calgary making them warmer. We've had several days of above freezing temperatures in a row now, and it just feels great!

On the other hand, all the snow that was on the roads in town has been melting and refreezing into ruts and bumps, making parking on the street a huge pain in the a$$. Oh well, if that's the price to be paid for warmer weather inn January, then I'll happily pay it. (Or maybe the City of Calgary will one day get it's act together on snow removal).

All this melting snow reminded me of some pictures I've been meaning to share (as per the request of someone I stole this gift from).


In a Christmas gift swap at my friend Sarah's this year, the gift I took home included a snowman that you can build over and over again, and watch him melt each time (In opening the box I promptly lost one of his eyeballs). Here he is at 4:45pm, looking snazzy in his scarf and hat.


Only 3 minutes later he has begun to melt. He's looking like he's had a few too many drinks.


Another 10 minutes gone by and he's leaning waaaaay back.


Later that night, at 11PM he was fully melted, and a little bit dusty. So you can just pull the plastic parts off, and build him again.


Anyways, it's Tuesday, and it's already been a busy week in the Lab. Plus I'm headed to Thuderbay for the weekend on Thursday night, so I have a feeling this week is just going to fly by!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thoughts from the Myograph

I'm at the pressure myograph all afternoon in the lab today, tomorrow, Friday, all next week, all the following week, all next month... forever basically.


What that means is a do about 20minutes of some complicated work under a microscope, and then I watch a black line move across this screen for the next 3 hours while periodically turnings nobs or refilling the buffer. Also I watch out for bubbles disturbing the reading.

All and all, it's very thrilling (actually sometimes it is, but I think it's an acquired taste lol). Which gives me plenty of time for working on school work, or piddling around on the interwebs. I try to find a balance between the two so I don't go insane.

Here are a few of today's thoughts from the Myograph.

1) Recently a pharmacist pleasantly surprised me. Usually when you go to refill your birth control prescription (even if the pharmacy is dead, and they are clearly not doing anything...once he was even just sitting there playing candy crush on his phone), the pharmacist says sure, I'll have that ready for you in 20 minutes. 20 Minutes! come on, this is not something you need to count or weigh, all you have to do is grab the boxes of a shelf and stick them in a bag with the receipt.  This is really a ploy you see, often time the pharmacist has a stake in the company (many of them are franchise owners) so the 20 minutes gives you time to browse the store, hopefully spending some money. This time however, she said "I'll get that for you right now." Grabbed 3 boxes off the shelf, shoved it in the bag, printed the receipt and sent me on my way.

2) I need to buy more wooden matches. Last night I spent an hour lighting, blowing out, and gluing about 100 of them. Looks like I need about 300 more to finish this project.


3) Speaking of pinterest worthy art projects, have you ever watched Man VS Pin on YouTube? because you should. It's a show produced by the lovely people at ThreadBanger, and I'd say it's both educational and entertaining, plus it shows you just how garbage about half of Pinterest DIYs really are. Here's a cool one for a personalized Easter Egg Note. Why Easter? Because following the trend of XMas stuff going up in stores before Halloween, I thought we should just skip right on past Valentines Day to Easter.



4) One size fits all shops (not just for the apple store anymore....ok that's my own personal view). But one size fits all women's clothing shops are springing up everywhere. We got one of these in the form of Brandy Melville here in Calgary at Market Mall this summer, and I even bought two t-shirts there, which I love. Both 'one size fits all', interestingly while I fit into some OSFA items from this store, I did not fit into others. Hmmmmm. So please watch this amazing video by Buzz Feed, where a group of beautiful, unique, women prove that 'One Size' doesn't even fit most.


5) While I was writing this post and running this experiment, we had a fire alarm and had to evacuate the building for about 15 minutes. When I came back I found $5 on the floor in my very deserted hallway. Is it terrible if I keep it? Weigh in in the comments. Hope you all are having a lovely Tuesday!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Bathday

I love soaking in the bathtub. With tones of bubbles, a bath bomb, candles and a book. I can't wait to have a gorgeous tub like this one, one day.


And sure it's right in the bedroom, but I can't think of a cozier place for it. (Image Source).

Since it'll probably be a while before I get a tub like that one day, in the mean time, I thought I'd go by Lush and treat myself to a Happy Bathday.


This gift box/tin was perfect for me, especially because I was all out of bubble bath and gone none for Christmas (tears). I did have a Lush gift card to cover half of the nearly $50 dollar price tag. (worth every penny....side note, do you think this common phrase will disappear now that Canada dropped the penny?)


Inside the tin, along side a totally adorable duck bathday garland, is a Dragon's Egg Bath Bomb (the white one, which 'hatches open in the tuble revealing a golden and glittery center-I used this one right away). A Fizzbanger Bomb (the yellow one, which smells like citrus). There are two bubble bars, the swirled Brightside one and the floral Pop In the Bath one. These bars each are good for 4-5 baths (maybe even more if you don't go nuts like I did). And finally a stick of Red Fun.... I've never used this product before, apparently is good to go as soap, shampoo or bubble bath, FUN! Plus now I have this great tin to store all of my bath time goodies in.


So I hung my garland, started the hot water flowing, grabbed a book and enjoyed a very long soak, with tonnes of bubbles and fizz!

Do you love a soak in the bath tub? Or are you a showers only type?


~~~~~~

This post wasn't sponsored by Lush... although I wish they would give me some free stuff, because I love all of their products. Lush, if you're reading this, send me presents!! Please?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Namasaturday 04: Yoga Resolutions 2015

If the fullness of the classes at my yoga studio are any indication, many people in Calgary have made yoga related New Years Resolutions. I myself don't typically make umbrella resolutions, although in the tradition of stuffing myself for two weeks straight over the holidays, I do typically declare January an eat healthy/get back to fitness month.

This year, however, I have a number of Yoga Resolutions in the form of particular Asanas I'd love to achieve in 2015. Here are my top five.

1) Adho Mukha Vrksasana or Handstand



OK for some people Handstands are no problem at all. For me, it's another thing entirely. You can read about my first handstand as an adult (heavily assisted of course) and my journey to headstand in this post. But the short story is, I am terrified of falling, and although I've concurred the headstand, handstands leave you a full arms length further up in the air. Or a full arms length further to fall. However, with my ever patient Kevin agreeing to be my assistant on this one (catching my flailing legs as I kick up towards him) I'm determined to cross this Asana off in the next month or so.

2) Hanumanasana or Splits


First I'll tell you that I was in dance lessons literally my whole life, and I never even came close to managing a full split. Second I'll tell you that after the last 6 months of consistent yoga practice I am now closer to full splits than I've ever been before. Really I'm so much more flexible in general. In addition, this month at the Yoga Shala Calgary, the hips and hammies class is focused on developing this posture. Now I don't have any illusions that I'll cross this one off before the end of the month, but I think if I work at it, it'll be this year for sure.

3) Yoganidrasana or Legs Behind the Head



I am so close on this one. But still so far! I've been gifted with really open hips (or maybe it came from all those dance lessons, or both) but I would definitely say this is my Yoga strength. And I can just almost get a foot behind my head (either side). Also the first time I learned turtle pose, I neatly folded myself right into it, ankles crossed and all....just not behind my head. However, I feel like I haven't seen any progress here in months. So all I can do is keep working at it I guess.

4) Jumping back from Bakasana or Crow Pose.



Yoga isn't just about flexibility for me, it's also been a journey of building my physical strength. Throw all those sun salutations and lowering myself through Chaturanga, I've gone from someone who laughed at the idea of push ups to someone who can rock them with the best of them. Jumping back from crow pose is all about upper body and core strength and stability. Plus this motion is essential to developing the strength to flow through all of the postures in the Ashtanga Primary Series.

5) Jumping Through and Back to and from Seated


Ok so while just like number 4, this is really a transition and not an asana, it is still a lofty (yet achievable) goal. In a good class, I can manage jumping through 2 out of 3 times, but jumping back doesn't seem close yet. Again however, I really aspire to be able to flow seamlessly through my practice, and this is one hurdle along the way.

I'll keep you all posted throughout the year as I check off each of these yoga goals. But I'd love to hear from all of you, what are you Yoga goals or Resolutions for 2015. What pesky postures have been eluding you lately?

Namaste!


~~~~~

The lovely Yogi in all those videos is of course the amazing Kino MacGregor. You can check her out on her YouTube Channel KinoYoga. She is one of my yoga heroes and I have been learning indirectly from her through her books and her lessons on CodyApp, and can't wait to meet her when she comes to Calgary later this year.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Five things Friday: #Selfie Troubles

It's the weekend! And I have a beer in my hand and dinner in my belly. So here's five things on Friday.

1) I made broccoli stuffed chicken breasts for dinner. So good, so moist. Forgot to take a picture, but all you do is mince up a head of broccoli, fine chop half an onion, mix with a can of low fat cream of broccoli soup, and a little bit of shredded cheese. Stuff it into 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (just cut pockets into them), spoon the rest on top and bake for 30 min at 350'.  So moist and delicious. So easy.

2) This morning after I got ready for work I thought to myself, you look great! You should take a selfie for your blog.




Yeah clearly mirror selfies are not my strong suit. This is why I could never be a fashion blogger...that and many, many other reasons of course.

3. I finished reading I am Malala. The book is so good, I learned a lot about her, Pakistan, Islam and the desperate need for safe access to education by both girls and boys in so much of the world. In addition the book showed Malala's strength of character as well as her cheery demeanor, the importance of family and standing up/speaking out for your rights. Highly recommend the book.

4. I cast on some new knitting and crochet projects, one of them is even for me. A sweater kit I picked up at Mary Maxim. I also registered the blog www.YarnLab.ca where I'm going to begin to feature more of my crafting endeavors. This weekend, hopefully, I'll spend some time developing the blog.


This photo shows one of the problems with using cheap acrylic (Red Heart yarn) sometimes you find odd bits of plastic worked into the yarn. It also highlights my exceptional nail polish maintenance.

5. I went to a variety of different styles of yoga class this week to get back into the swing of things after the holidays. In our Hips and Hamstrings  class it was announced we'd be working on splits this month. Something which sucks! but also has me super excited, through yoga already I've been able to get further into the splits than I ever did in all the years of dance I did growing up.


Just to prove a point here's another crappy selfie from the yoga studio, I think my issue is that I just don't know what to do with my face.

Which reminds me of this beautiful Will Ferrell scene from Talladega Nights.


Well that's all for me tonight, I've got a beer getting warm, hope you had a great first full week of the new year. Hopefully if you made em, you're sticking to your resolutions so far. I'll be back tomorrow with a NamaSaturday Post.