Thursday, March 25, 2010

Earth Hour 2010

This Saturday marks the 4th annual installment of Earth Hour. You can read the full history here. The first event was held in Sydney in 2007 with 2.2 million people and 2100 business participating. In 2008, the event grew to include 371 cities in 35 countries. 2009 marked more than 4000 participating cities in 88 countries. Will you participate in Earth Hour 2010?

For some local news, the Record posted this article.
The City of Waterloo pledges it's commitment here.
University of Waterloo Residences encourages students to participate here.
Waterloo Town Square is hosting an event, details posted by Renjie
If you're not in Waterloo you can check to see if there's an event near you here.

And... for a completely different view to give you some ammo to form an educated opinion, here is an article that criticizes Earth Hour.

Personally I won't be doing anything special beyond shutting everything off in the house and enjoying a candlelit dinner. While I am uncertain of the physical impact of a whole bunch of us turning off the lights I think the awareness aspect is the real benefit of this event. The more we know the better equipped we are to DO something about it. So grab some candles, a deck of cards, maybe a board game, maybe your guitar and enjoy some time without the steady hum of electricity filling our homes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

World Water Day

Today is World Water Day and a friend of mine posted this link to a little video that shows the life-cycle of bottled water. It got me thinking a bit, given that there is a very strong push to be more environmentally friendly - why are we still using bottled water? Ok, my thought was a little harsher than that... are we really so stupid to believe that our tap water isn't safe?

I started thinking about what drew me to buy bottled water. I remember in 2nd year when my roommates and I would split cases of water every time we'd go for groceries. The allure for me was that given we remembered to put the water in the fridge, I'd always have cold water. So... I was buying bottled water just to have a glass of cold water? I soon learned the error of my ways and became anti-bottle and bought a Brita Filter jug.

Today, after watching that video link I started to re-consider my choice once again. There is nothing wrong with the water here in Waterloo yet I'm still paying $4 per filter just to get a cold glass of water? Erica, you are stupid. I am disappointed in myself that it took so long to see this.

Now, I think I've come to a pretty good, and final, decision on my drinking water. I want a cold glass of water. I have a 4L juice jug in my cupboard. Bye-bye Brita, I'm now committing to using just that jug and drinking straight tap water which I can easily keep in the fridge for much cheaper than bottles or Brita. Alas, I finally have my coveted chilled glass of water and I'm doing it the right way.

Come to think of it, just about every house I visit has a Brita jug in the fridge. What's the point? So today, on World Water Day I ask you to reconsider your drinking water choices, maybe save some money for yourself and help us all be a little more environmentally friendly.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Interview questions

I was listening to the radio today and in a Barbara Walters-style interview, the interviewer asked:

What do you know for sure?

What are you most certain of? What can you rely on 100%?

Being all fancy-like, the interviewee responded "I know that life is short" while this is a very reasonable answer I feel like I could be a little more personal.

Here are 2 answers I came up with... which aren't very original but will hopefully get you thinking about your own answers:

- I know I love my mom, dad, and brother and I know they love me.
- I know that I would rather be 10+lbs overweight than stop eating all the foods I love

The next question, which is a bit of a cliche but still fun:

Who are the 5 people that you would have for dinner, alive or dead?

The interviewer had what I think to be a great answer. She said she'd have her grandmother, her own mother, and her children so that they could all be together and to see how they would act around each other.

I think I'd agree with the grandmother thing. All of my grandparents died while I was in my teens. I'd love to hear them talk about their childhoods and coming to Canada.

These questions got me thinking of conversation starers so I looked a few up, here are some of my favourites:

1. What song or songs do you know all the lyrics to?
2. What did your favourite birthday include?
3. What are you afraid of?
4. What is your best, most useless, skill?

(My answers:
1. way too many Disney songs
2. Surprise 16th birthday, 2 months before actual bday
3. Sharks, deep water, scary movies
4. curling my tongue and shaking my eyes)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blogging & Stress Relief

The other day at the Ignite speaker series event, a friend of mine spoke about blogging. One point that she made that really hit home was sucking it up and clicking PUBLISH.

I struggle with this. That 'publish post' button is terrifying. Given that I've kept up pretty regularly with blogging that might seem silly but let me tell you, I have libraries of unpublished posts. Some are finished, most aren't. Most are unfinished thoughts that may have trickled off and I realized that I had no point to my post. Some I feel aren't interesting enough and I can tell my mom that stuff on the phone given that she's probably the only person who cares sometimes. Most of those will never be posted but I have still benefitted from writing each one.

Here's the thing - blogging for me is not a job and my blog doesn't really serve a purpose and deliver any valuable information. All of these posts are just a collection of random thoughts with a few well placed, usually unanswerable questions put up to get your brain moving a bit during the day. Ok, maybe that's the service I'm offering.

For me, blogging is an outlet. Well, writing is an outlet. The fact that I know people can read this nonsense is kind of therapeutic.

An example: last summer I was big into dating, as you may have seen from my Summer 2009 posts. Often times I would find myself in a situation of he-said-this-but-I'm-not-sure-what-he-meant-so-now-I'm-thinking-about-it-too-much. My solution: type it up. More often that not, after typing it up and re-reading it with the thought "What will the general public think of this?" usually resulted in a conclusion for me. Usually that conclusion was you're-being-ridiculous, but it got me further than just sitting on the couch. Writing down your thoughts forces you to organize them in a way that letting floating in your brain could never do. Writing and blogging are stress relievers and provide me with quality time with myself. No wonder I've managed to keep up with this thing for nearly 6 years. It's my therapy.

What is your favourite way to spend time with yourself? Do you enjoy reading on the porch, knitting, or gaming? Do you have any time that you devote to yourself? Do you feel that it's necessary to do so? Do you find it a chore or a stress relief? What is your favourite way to relieve stress?

Now I'm going to suck it up and hit PUBLISH.

Wishing you all a wonderful and SAFE St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Doing things a bit differently

Given that I've lived my entire 24 odd years with one hand, I've certainly developed some stories that are not so common to most. I find myself describing how I do something (eg: tying my shoes) and hearing the response "I never thought of that". I suppose that makes sense though given that all you nice people do things a bit differently than me, I also have a hard time understanding why everyone uses two hands to put on socks. Next time, try it with one. Below I've shared a few stories about my unique experiences growing up and how I learned to do things a little differently. Is there something you do especially different than the rest of us?

1. I needed help washing my hair well into my teens. With one hand and a ton of hair it was difficult to get all the soap out and so my mom would come in and help me rinse it out. I was no wonder that my mom was always pestering me to cut my hair. After all she was doing 100% of the maintenance from washing it to brushing it to braiding it every single morning! I really had no part of it. Thanks mom. In first year I chopped off all my hair for a fundraiser and I have never let it grow back past my chin.

2. I learned to tie my shoes when I was 12. I also figured it out on my own. I remember sitting on the end of my bed with my white Keds tennis shoes making 2 bunny ears and figuring out how long they needed to be to get it to stay in the bow form. To this day I use the 2-bunny-ear method and have no idea how to do it the way the majority of the population does. My dad also uses the bunny ear method (he has both hands).

3. I learned to ride a 2-wheeler bike when I was 12 (it was a big year for me!). I had a 2-wheeler for a long time but it always had training wheels on it. It was never an issue though. I never felt like I was slower or worse off than the rest of the neighbourhood kids (thanks guys). It was just what I did. I remember getting on the neighbours little red, banana seat bike and going 15 feet, it was the best thing ever.

4. I have a very hard time seeing myself on camera. As it is so natural for me to be as I am, I don't really consider myself different. When I see myself on camera my thought is 'is it REALLY that much shorter?' as if I expect myself to look like everyone else.

5. Enough about my slow progress... I can knit! I learned to knit when I was in grade 8. The woman who taught me simply gave me the needles and showed me how to move the tips. I'm not an especially good knitter but lets accept small victories here.

Is there something you never quite mastered as a kid? I seemed to struggle with the monkey bars... har har.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Roundabouts <> Traffic Circles

This article showed up in The Record today.

That article makes my brain hurt and makes me shake my head. Ok well, the announcement is awesome. Franklin Blvd will function much better with the roundabouts. The first half of the article is great... roundabouts have worked well in the Region, mayor supports, etc. The second half of the article is the brain-hurting-head-shaking part.

Many people in the community don't like the change. "Critics" argue that roundabouts will frustrate drivers. Who are these magic critic people and how to I get a hold of them? Seniors have no interest in learning how to use them. The corridor will be DANGEROUS and CHAOTIC! You know, because the resulting slower speeds, reduced collision opportunities, reduced environmental impact and general pleasing aesthetic WILL BE DANGEROUS AND CHAOTIC!! Run for the hills, people.

For my final point. The article refers to these things as TRAFFIC CIRCLES.




Ok, enough yelling. This article is frustrating because it is only hindering the progression of education regarding roundabouts. The construction is approved and ready to go so why not have an article highlighting the features of the corridor to produce more knowledgeable and better prepared drivers? Ugh, I need a drink.

Love, you local roundabout enthusiast

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Workspace Pros & Cons

I have the fortunate opportunity to have both a job I like AND a job that lets me work from home. There are a surprising amount of perks to this but also a few downsides.

Some perks:
  • My commute is 15 feet
  • My dress-code is whatever I choose (for the most part sweats and tshirts... unless I have to leave the house... AHH natural light!!)
  • The bathroom is RIGHT there
  • Gee I feel like singing along to this song.... and then I DO
  • Gee I feel like speaking out loud to better solve this problem... and then I DO
  • I have a dog and he is great company and I can give him more than enough attention. He also gets me up in the morning and outside (that place where you have to wear pants, what a buzzkill) a few times a day
  • All the food you could ever want is 15 feet away
  • I can get groceries at lunch
  • I can do just about anything at lunch
  • No one cares whether or not I've showered, not even the dog (after all, I don't judge HIM when he hasn't showered)
Some downsides:
  • The TV is right there
  • All the food you could ever wants is 15 feet away
  • There is no one to watch over your shoulder to make sure you're being productive. There's A LOT of self-motivation that needs to happen
One of the biggest perks for me is that my workspace can be as comfortable as I'd like it to be. While I spend most of my time sitting in my office, I could potentially bring my laptop to the porch, to the couch, or even to a coffee shop. My workspace is very flexible. So, what is your ideal workspace? Does it change? Does it even exist? Are you using it right now? Are there major changes you wish you could make?

When I consider my best workspace it becomes a bit of a Catch 22. Let's say I want to be as comfortable as possible. Ok, so I put our sweats on, I have a nice cup of tea, maybe a blanket over my lap, reclined on the couch with laptop. Well, now I just want to fall asleep. Ok, so now I'm too comfortable. So now I need to reevaluate. Let's scratch the couch and choose the desk. Ok now I'm at my desk but I'm in a chair that I know is bad for my back. Is there a right answer here? I haven't even covered being inspired or productive in my workspace. Does being in a cubicle with a superior walking by every 10 minutes encourage you to work or does it just cause you stress and make you uneasy? Also, what is the end result of your best workspace? Is it a place where you are most productive, inspired, comfortable, and ultimately happy? Well that cant be right as we already saw that being comfortable can turn on us pretty quickly.

What I've learned from being at home: my ultimate workspace is a place where I can achieve high levels of productivity most of the time and I'm mostly comfortable (the space heater under my desk does wonders in the morning). The space just cannot be perfect. The facets of my preferred workspace cannot co-exist at high levels in perfect harmony.

What are some components of your workspace that help you achieve better results? (comfort, productivity, inspiration, motivation) For me, these are not necessarily physical. One thing that helps is when it's a sunny day. I know I'll get to go out with the dog eventually so I don't sit staring longingly out the window but the sun sure puts me in good spirits. Another thing is a clean desk and a clean house. All distractions are covered and I can get some work done. Or write another blog entry.

Another thing to consider, do you have a different ideal workspace for the different task in your life? What if we get TOO productive? Is there such thing as too productive? Will we just exhaust ourselves?

Ok I'll stop, too much thinking for a Sunday event. Hope everyone had a great weekend :)

Friday, March 05, 2010

A story about guilt

Every single day I feel tempted by a handful of things. From what I eat, what I wear, what I do, what I listen to, and what I watch on TV. A lot of these things tend to induce guilt. That is, if I succumb to the temptation.

We are dealing with a few things here:
1. temptation + poor will power = guilt
2. temptation + good will power = satisfaction

An example: Last weekend a friend bought me a 1kg bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs. These little pieces of candy coated heaven have helped me get through the dreary months of February and March for years now. They are nothing shy of awesome. However, they are so rammed full of sugar that they are actually wolves in sheep's clothing. This bag sits on my desk. I am tempted by it every single day. To use the first equation I have my temptation (mini eggs) and then I have my will power. As you can see I have two options. Poor or Good. If I have poor will power at that point I will eat the eggs and then feel guilty because they are bad for me, my teeth hurt, I'm going to gain 100 lbs over night and die next year. Stupid mini eggs! However if at the time of my temptation I am feeling (will) powerful I will push the mini eggs aside and either find something else to eat (hopefully not candy coated) or simply get back to work. The results of that second option sure sound easy. In fact that second equation could take less than a minute to unfold and I will be filled with satisfaction for the rest of my day all because I said no to that little piece of candy. Well, at least until I notice the bag again and go through this battle all over again.

It sounds so easy when I write it out. Poor choice = guilt and likely a bad mood and a sore tummy for the rest of the day or Good choice and feel great. Well I'm obviously going to take the good choice!! Why wouldn't I??

Oh right, that whole theory of short term gain vs. long term pain. So now it comes down to how good I am at debating my own conscience.

"I'll have some mini eggs but I'll only have 3, anything is fine in moderation... right?"
"Who cares if I have a handful of mini eggs, I'm young, in good shape, nothing can stop me!... but I have been kind of tired lately and I didn't go to the gym this week"

The debate has many ugly sides.

Which bring me to another point. What do you prefer to carry: a clear or guilty conscience? And within that: how good are you at clearing a guilty conscience? Mentally, it doesn't matter how many mini eggs I eat if afterward I say to myself "who cares, it's just a bit of chocolate" That being the easy route of course. A second option being "who cares, I'll go to the gym for an hour today" which is far more genuine as it will legitimately clear your conscience because you have physically worked out at least some of the impact of the chocolate.

Sidebar: my example has the fortunate ability to have a physical cure: the gym. If your debate is over something far less trivial your 'cure' is far more difficult. Though, if it's time or money wasted there are physical cures: make more money, reevaluate schedule etc. If it's moral guilt (hit and run... though I hope not) your debate gets infinitely more difficult.

Yet another question: What is the best way to clear your conscience and find yourself at the end of the better (second) equation? Do you carry guilt around until you eventually forget about it (for small things like mini eggs) or do you have to make a physical change to ensure a completely cleared conscience?

I'm going to tell you a secret, none of these questions have answers. We all work differently. When I indulge in TV, shopping, food, etc I tend to try to balance them with something healthy or positive. Clean part of the house, shovel some snow, go to the gym, walk the dog, etc. Does this mean that if I continuously set myself back to zero that I could potentially live a long and happy life? Not so much, see next paragraph.

How do you handle your guilt and clear your conscience? How do you keep your will power strong? Even better, how do you avoid temptation? Personally, I think this last one is definitely the best one we should all aim for as it nullifies this entire argument and gets me back to work much quicker.

I dare you to guess how many mini eggs I have left.

Happy weekend :)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Ignite Waterloo 2

Last night I had the most delightful pleasure of presenting at Ignite Waterloo v2.0

When I first decided to do this I was a bit conflicted. The pros and cons were getting pretty confusing. It's only a 5 minute speech... so pick something familiar to most. No notes allowed on stage... pick something familiar to me. Slides are auto-advanced... so pick something with lots of points or something that doesn't rely heavily on slides. Audience is techy super dorks with a good sense of humour... cater to that somehow. In the end I chose to talk about roundabouts.

When it comes to public speaking I'm decently confident in my abilities but can't seem to shake the nerves within 20 minutes of speaking. I should really be over this by now. I'll work on that. Not only that but the group of presenters seems to ooze experience and confidence which they seemed to have snagged out of thin air. Teach me your ways!! Well in the end my speech was very well received and I feel good about it... I think I may have even converted some haters into lovers... or at least reconsider-ers.

Once again I was amazed at the unique and diverse personalities that are in the Waterloo community. There are so many brilliant and hilarious people in this town!

This event truly has something for everyone, with each speech lasting only 5 minutes it's easy to be engaged and difficult to be bored. That and the Children's Museum has awesome food and a great atmosphere. For other wonderful comments and photos on the event please visit:

Hilary Abel @ RQ (wonderful comments and links to most speakers)
Photos by MonsterFarm
Photos & Comments by Michael Seliske
CuteGecko Blog
Photos by Sean M. Puckett
Photos by Ramy Nassar