Friday, September 29, 2006


I was in the middle of typing up a long blog reporting on my trip to the OSC today and I just lost it all!!!!! I use Firefox as my browser and with it you can have several "tabs" open, each of which functions as its own browser window...except that if something in one tab goes screwy, you have to shut down the whole window (with all its tabs). Doesn't happen often, but I was using one tab to navigate to links that I wanted to include in my post, and a crash happened, meaning that I had to shut down Firefox and lose the entirety of the long post I had been working on. Crap. I cannot retype all that; it just won't be the same.

Let me just say that at the Ontario Science Centre today I saw a lot of interesting things...and a few that absolutely shocked and outraged me at how human beings (doctors and scientists even, who are supposed to uphold life and be unbiased) in North America have treated each other in recent history (as recently as the 70s)...with practices that Nazi leaders, when on trial at Nuremberg, cited as their inspiration. Ugh, my blood is boiling again now just thinking about it, so I'm not going to go through typing that up again because it just may give me a heart attack. Maybe later.

Okay, okay, I have to tell you just a little bit about a couple points I learned about in the "A Question of Truth" exhibit (which, contrary to the way I will depict it here, was not all about shock value, but the few things that were shocking were very shocking to me):
  • to quote from a Wikipedia article on eugenics that supports what I learned through a video in the exhibit: "between 1907 and 1963 . . . over 64,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized under eugenic legislation in the United States." Okay, that's not the "over 450,000 in less than a decade" that the Nazis sterilized, and at least the U.S. didn't kill their undesirables under this policy, but it's still upsetting...especially as the United States' sterilizations set the stage for the Nazis' sterilizations of others. Oh, before you go dismissing this as something only the Americans would do: "a few nations, notably, Canada and Sweden, maintained large-scale eugenics programs, including forced sterilization of mentally handicapped individuals, as well as other practices, until the 1970s." "Many First Nations (native Canadians) were unfairly targeted, as well as immigrants from Eastern Europe, as the program inevitably identified racial and ethnic minorities as being genetically inferior." Shame on us all.
  • Notice I said above "at least the U.S. didn't kill their undesirables under this policy." Ever heard of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, "also known as the Public Health Service Syphilis Study"? Between 1932 and 1972, almost 400 black men with syphilis in Alabama were told that they were being treated at a particular clinic, when in fact treatment was withheld (many were given placebo treatments and "were also prevented from accessing syphilis treatment programs that were available to other people in the area") so that the fatal course of their disease could be studied. Just seeing how the arms of these people were affected in the video really shocked me. "By the end of the study, only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. Twenty-eight of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis." "It is important to note that this was not a secret study, with several papers published throughout the study." When a whistle-blower got concerned about the ethics of the study, the Center for Disease Control, the National Medical Association and the American Medical Association basically said the study had to go on "until completion (until all subjects had died and had been autopsied)" the whistle-blower went to the press. Only after the press and the public reacted was the study stopped and measures established to ensure something like this would not happen again. Bill Clinton formally apologized to "five of the eight remaining survivors of the study" in a ceremony during his presidency (no, I don't know why the other 3 weren't there; choice? inability? lack of invitation?), so I suppose that's good, but it shouldn't have been necessary because this study should never have happened in the first place.
There, I feel a bit better now for getting that out. The video looked at a lot of different aspects of how we place values on others, so these two issues were only part of the bigger picture (and this video was only one part of the whole exhibit, which had many things to make you think and not react on such an emotionally shocking level), but together they really, really upset me.

I also saw some stuff in the MindWorks exhibit about chimps that can communicate with researchers through a special symbolic keyboard (which both the researcher and the chimps use as the particular chimps I saw don't understand verbal speech) and a bonobo ape named Kanzi that knows over 200 symbols on this keyboard and understands human speech (even complete sentences)...and, according to a Wiki article I looked at on him while writing up the blog entry that is now lost forever to cyberspace (I'm not bitter), may even be trying to speak perhaps original vocalizations. (Oh, he also plays Ms. Pac-man, apparently. ) Bonobo apes in general do use vocalizations and gestures with their own kind, and "are capable of passing the mirror-recognition test for self-awareness," so perhaps Kanzi's success is not surprising...but it does pose some hairy questions regarding non-human sentience and what it means to be created in the image of God.

Phew. Okay, I could say so much more about today's trip to the OSC (and in my other, now-lost post I was saying more and it was more obvious that the OSC is not just about shock value, despite my talking a lot about the things that did shock me), but I think that is more than enough for now. We can always talk about the lighter things (that's actually a pun as lights were involved in a music-creating experience I had, but I'm not going to get into that now) in person. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Edit: I just checked out the Kanzi page at the research facility's site, and Kanzi actually knows over 500 words now. "His comprehension of spoken language is at least equivalent to that of a two-and-a-half-year-old child." He can also make and use tools. The ape/human line does look pretty fuzzy, doesn't it? I still don't believe in evolution, but like I said, hairy questions...

Edit: Just a little more on Kanzi :) can see videos of him here...the necklace one isn't very good (though it's kinda cute), but watch the ones titled "Kanzi and Novel Sentences" and "Kanzi the Toolmaker." The Wiki article on Kanzi mentions a YouTube video of Kanzi playing Ms. Pac-Man, but when I followed the link there was a message on YouTube saying it had been taken down as it's copyrighted. Oh well.

Field trip day, hooray!

Today I and a bunch of other people from my program are going to the Ontario Science Centre. "Real" teachers get into the OSC for free, but since we're not real teachers yet we don't get that privilege...or at least we wouldn't if one of our course directors, Maurice, didn't have connections :). To get free admission (though, as I understand it, not free parking nor a free IMAX ticket), no more than 40 of us can go (there are 59 of us in my program, but I know some people had reasons that they didn't want to go Friday--such as they were going to be visiting family in Edmonton this weekend or whatnot--and went Wednesday or another time instead, though they did have to pay) and we have to meet at a particular spot at 10:15 a.m. Can I just say that I love the Science Centre and I am excited that I "get" to go back there today? I actually have to go there this time as we are expected to go see the exhibit "A Question of Truth" before Wednesday (when we will be exploring the topic "the nature of science" and I will also be participating in the formal debate), but that's definitely not the only part of the OSC I'll be looking at (especially as I think I've actually been to that exhibit before). I was looking at the website and I don't think I've been there since they added certain features, such as the Teluscape "outdoor experience area" and the Weston Family Innovation Centre; I don't think I've seen an IMAX Dome film at the OSC yet, either (one of my course directors recommends the Bugs film among other for connections to the Ontario curriculum; one of my classmates saw it when she went to the OSC on Monday and tells me it was amazing). Well, I'd better go get ready to go now. I just love a good field trip!

[Maurice]'s taking us to the [OSC today],
[OSC today], [OSC today];
[Maurice]'s taking us to the [OSC today],
We can stay all day [or at least until they close at 5 p.m.].

We're going to the [OSC], [OSC], [OSC];
[We get in for free, free, free]
You can come [with me, me, me - but not for free!]
We're going to the [OSC], [OSC], [OSC].

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

If the pen is sharper than the sword, could a formal debate be deadly?

Normally on Wednesday we have a half day of classes, so I normally get the joy of getting out of school at noon on said Wednesdays. Today we did indeed only have a half day of classes, but there was a seminar going on at 4:15 that I wanted to attend so I stuck around (and helped one of my course directors with some stuff to do with the seminar...what can I say, I'm a sucker for volunteering myself when I hear someone mention how much work they have to do for something that I can help my second impulse was that I'm going to be heading out into the workforce in less than a year and a little bit of making myself stand out can't hurt ;)...originally the seminar providers thought maybe 10 people would attend, maybe 25, but when they found out about 60 people would attend, panic ensued about getting more materials ready for the attendees). I ended up catching the 6:10 p.m. bus home, so that gives you an idea of how late I was at school today.

After the seminar, one of my other course directors came up to me and asked if he could talk to me about something for a minute. Some of my classmates had been sitting at my table during the seminar, and one of them said to me, "Oh, Joy, you're in trouble!" She said it tongue-in-cheek, but I was worried. Anyway, this course director had me come into a smaller room adjoining the room and asked me to grab a I figure this is going to be a formal sit-down talking-to about something I've done wrong somehow...and nothing is coming to mind about what I possibly could have done (it did come up in class once that a particular host teacher called our course directors regarding problems the teacher had with one of my classmates; I do hope the host teacher talked about the issue with the student first, but it made me wonder if that meant we could hear about problems people had with us out of the blue from the course directors). Well, one of my classmates came in and my course director said he would sit between me and this other student. Okay, I think, so whatever it is, it's not just me, unless this student somehow has a problem with me, but I doubt it as I've hardly interacted with the guy. Well, it turned out that neither of us was in trouble after all; we have instead been asked to do a special assignment. On Wednesday in one of our classes the topic is going to be "the nature of science." As part of this class, this other student and I as well as two others in our class (one of who joined us just a little bit into this impromptu meeting) will be doing a formal debate on this statement: "Be it resolved that science produces reliable, unbiased, value-free knowledge in an organized and systematic way." I have been assigned to the negative side...the side that disagrees with this statement. Oh, I thought, I am going to have a field day with this! Then we were told that in order to limit the amount of research we had to do, our arguments were going to be limited to things we could pull from 4 articles that he then gave us. Well, ok, that means less work, but I hope that I can find good stuff in those articles that I can agree with and say the kinds of things I would normally say on this issue. (I started reading one of the articles on the bus ride home and I found out something about a significant "missing link" hoax, so things are looking up, but one of the headings I didn't get to read more on seemed to read "there is no such thing as absolute truth," so I'll still have to see.)

Anyway, the obvious question that was on the minds of me and the first other student to come into this meeting was, "Why us?" ( We wondered this aloud to each other while our course director was out of the room looking to see if the third and fourth debate participants were still around.) When this other student asked my course director, he said that for doing this debate (which is marked by the course directors, but according to him marked quite easily--oh, some of our peers are given an evaluation to do on us, too, though, but though they decide who won the debate on those forms, ultimately the whole class votes to decide that), we get let off the hook for doing one of the reading response assignments later in the year (in the winter term), and the four of us were picked because the course directors think that we could use a bit of a break. Well, it's well and good to get that break, but I think I am generally better at writing something like this than at doing a formal debate, so I hope the easy marking and the luck I've had with doing better at such things in other people's minds than in my own will make up for that. But I am now caught up with wondering, why did they feel I (and the other three students) needed a break? Do I look stressed out? Is it because I am married (don't think so--several other students are married and even have kids)? I don't get it. They did choose one male and one female each from the J/I and I/S divisions, but there are several other I/S females...why me? I'm hoping it is not just because they thought I needed a break, but because I have managed to make myself stand out in some positive way already that made them feel I would do a good job. I just kind of wish that they had said or at least implied something like that rather than "We think you could use a break," 'cuz again, now I'm just still stuck wondering, "Why?"

Must go prepare for an activity I'm leading my grade 12 chemistry classes through tomorrow now...that is kind of nerve-wracking to think about at the moment, too, but hopefully doing this prep will ease my worries. How bad could it be :)?

Hope you all are well...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Links added

Ok, I finally did for some of my friends what some of them did for me a while back: I have added links to some blogs in my sidebar. Other than the link to my old blog (which has been there forever), for now I am only adding links to blogs that I check regularly, that have been updated recently and don't require you to have the person on your MSN Messenger contact list to see the blog's contents ('cuz if they're on your contact list, you really don't need a link anyway; you can just click on the status icon beside their name and select the appropriate link to see their blog). I don't know when I'll update my links list next but I thought this would be a nice touch.

Ok, really going to go be productive now. Later...

Brainwave: technology + food = good?

I was just reading Emma's most recent blog post talking about the recent bit of batch cooking she did/is doing. I made the comment that the last time I tried to make and freeze extra portions, I think I did it wrong because the stuff wasn't so tasty when reheated. Then I went off on a tangent complaining about how I have so much homework to do that it's a pain when it's time for me to go make dinner ('cuz I can't make Martin cook every day). I remembered, though, that if I started using my slow cooker more I could have food ready and waiting when I got home...there would still be some preparation required, but it would free up more of my evenings for schoolwork. The reason I haven't generally been using my slow cooker though is the amount of time that I'm out is generally longer than the recommended cooking time for slow cooker recipes. There are some things you can leave cooking in the slow cooker for hours longer than recommended and they turn out fine, but not everything is like that. Okay, so here is my idea: what if I prepared my slow cooker like usual in the morning, then hooked it up to a timer? I could have it start at a specified time, allowing it to cook for not too much longer than the recommended time and be assured that the food will be ready at whatever time I decided dinner would be (which is generally pretty arbitrary around here, partly due to both of us putting off doing the cooking because we're "busy" with other things, whether it's my schoolwork or Martin's doing a computer game quest with a group of his friends). This could mean ingredients that are normally refrigerated could be sitting out in the slow cooker for a few hours before it turned on, but that probably wouldn't be a big deal. Of course, the other way I could stop having to deal with preparing dinner on a daily basis would be to learn how to freeze stuff properly and do batch cooking like Emma, but that requires more research than I really care to do for now (school is piling on enough readings and assignments for now, thank you very much).

Okay, I'm off to do more productive things now, but I had to tell someone about my brainwave before I forget :). We'll see if anything comes of it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Weekend time...and I don't really get to enjoy it.

Well, it's the weekend. I don't normally have classes or practicum on Fridays; we are to keep it open for conferences and make-up classes, but this particular Friday I don't have any of those, so I basically have a long weekend this weekend. It's nice that I don't have to go anywhere today. However, I don't really get to enjoy my long weekend for three reasons:
  • I'm sick (not bad at this point, but enough to make me achy and tired and not up to going out)
  • I have a lot of reading and homework to do
  • I currently have a birthday dinner for my dad scheduled for Sunday evening, though depending on how I'm feeling tomorrow I think I may postpone that until I am healthier. I haven't bought him a present yet, either, hmm...yeah, I'm thinking dinner and gift presentation are likely both postponed, as I'm not up to gift-shopping at the moment...okay, so there are now just two reasons I'm not enjoying this weekend much, plus the guilt over the birthday thing :P.
The second point above is a real sore spot for me...I have several sets of readings to do for next week, and I hate doing readings. Some texts are more interesting and readable than others, but even when I'm reading the interesting and readable ones I find myself wishing I could do something else after not too long. The easy solution is to read a bit, take a break, read some more, and so on, but that does interrupt the flow of the text (so I have to take some time to remind myself what the author was talking about prior to the bit I'm about to read) and it also means that it takes a longer amount of time to get all the readings done...and when you're under a time crunch to begin with, that's not helpful. I remember having this hate of doing long readings from textbooks in Bible college, too, and when I took an intro-to-psych course by correspondence last year it cropped up now and again, too. I think it didn't come up as much when I had to read science textbooks because often while reading those I would have to pause and double-check their equation (textbooks usually skip more steps than I'm comfortable with in going from line to line, so I usually have to take some time to show myself that yes, indeed, this line can be rearranged and then operated on to get the next line) or to think hard through what was actually being said (especially in courses like "modern physics" where all the weird theories get discussed). Essays and other non-fiction works, however, are structured in such a way as to try to convince you that what they are saying is indeed the truth; in good, thoroughly-reasoned works, there is no equivalent of line-skipping. Certainly I should still be thinking critically about the author's arguments, but I have to read it first as-is to know what the author is saying before I can go back and critique it (other than any points that really stick out for me and make me go, "wait a minute, I don't think I agree with that")...and it is that first reading that makes me yawn and nod a lot, especially when I am sick and reading on the couch as a result. Anyway, at this point I know of four sets of readings that I have to do for Monday and Tuesday, plus an "issue paper" due Monday and a summary of/response to my readings for Tuesday...and for practicum on Thursday I need to prepare a lot more for an activity I'm taking my grade 12 chem classes through...and I need to organize the notes I've taken up to now and make sense of it all...and I need to come up with some "reflections" on my practicum thus far for my practicum anything else that gets assigned to me via postings on our FirstClass bulletin board system...argh. Life these days consists of school and not much else. Please be understanding if I seem to be somewhat anti-social over these 9 months; it may become a necessary survival strategy, other than the odd day when the survival strategy will be to get away from it all for a while.

I'm off for now to do my morning routine (including de-smelling myself...I hate how being sick can make me all sweaty and gross in a fairly short amount of time), which today will basically serve to prepare myself for a day of reading on the couch and trying to rest and drink fluids so I can get better. Stay healthy, everyone! If I'm not feeling better by Sunday I'll stay away from church to try not to infect everyone else (though Martin will likely go).

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The things I get into when I'm sick of doing readings.

New personal best. Blame Miriam for reminding me the game existed ;)...I just couldn't resist the urge to actually beat the 4000 Monkey Meters mark, which is the milestone the sign at the beginning of the game says is where the monkey village is. I don't think I'm all that interested in trying to go further now but you never know :).

I have now finished all the readings I know of that are due Monday. I have readings due Tuesday as well and also want to reorganize the notes I've taken so far, but none of that is going to be looked after tonight. Oh, and I got some dishes done today, too. I didn't do any laundry but I did get stuff that goes in hampers into hampers rather than in miscellaneous piles on the floor--amazing how much difference it makes to the look of a room just to pick up a dozen articles of clothing.

I worked the food station at the carnival today, assembling hotdogs from precooked weiners (the ladies inside boiled them and brought them out to our chafing dishes) and warm buns and handing them out to people. My "shift" started at 10:30 a.m. and it was pretty quiet until about 11:30 a.m., when suddenly everybody in the city wanted a hotdog. I stuck around doing that until about 1 p.m. and then it was quiet enough that I could justify saying to myself, "well, my shift was over half an hour ago anyway and there are now more helpers incoming; I should eat now before I get lightheaded and can't help anymore." After eating my own picnic fare I took off for home to do readings and errands and more readings.

I spent part of this weekend entering all the assignments I know of into 4 calendars (one for my binder where I printed off all the months for the school year I'll need, a 2006 wall calendar, a 2007 wall calendar, and my Palm...and the way I put it into my Palm was kinda convoluted so it was a lot of work...and I wrote them all out list-style for my binder as well) and it was a little scary seeing all my free time seemingly evaporate before my eyes. Really I think it probably looks scarier than it really is and I'll be fine so long as I work consistently, but we'll see.

Oh, for you former ACI folks: I am working with two host teachers at ACI; Mary Kay Baillie and Kathryn DeNoble (née Atkinson). I am with Mrs. Baillie on days 1 and 3 to practice teaching chemistry and with Mrs. DeNoble on days 2 and 4 to practice teaching physics. You'll probably know Mrs. Baillie but if I've got my facts straight Mrs. DeNoble has only been teaching for about 4 years so people around my age and older won't likely have had her as a teacher. Oh, there is a Georgia Mantis doing student teaching at ACI as well who used to be a student there in her high school days. Anyway, let me know if there's anything/anyone you are curious about at ACI and if I know the answer I'll try to give it.

I was going to say something else but I forget. *shrug*. Bye for now.

To ease Mira's frustration :)

Here is a quote from the Jay is Games post which led me to the Monkey Kick Off game mentioned in one of my previous posts: "A good strategy is to wait for the monkey to juggle the ball above his head, then click when it's even with his chest. Time it right and the ball will soar out of sight. Then just kick back and enjoy the tour." Hope that helps. Good luck! I actually haven't touched the game recently myself but I wouldn't want you to stay frustrated ;).

Friday, September 15, 2006

Were you born before the age of cell phones and iPods?

If so, and if you like country music (or at least don't run from it screaming), you might appreciate this song I heard today about what life was like when people like us were growing up and what it's like for kids/teens today. If I had heard it before I went to the mall today, it might have come to mind as I considered all the "mall rats" around me (no, I was never a mall rat...I wasn't allowed to be and really had no desire to be anyway). To listen to this song, you'll need Windows Media Player as the link I'm going to give is actually to a video of the song being performed live on Good Things Utah...but then, if you're using a Windows-based computer to see this web page, you pretty much automatically have Windows Media Player. Ok, here goes: go here, click on the picture under the "Good Things Utah" heading in the upper right-hand area of the site, turn on your sound, and enjoy.

Of getting things done and ex-coworkers.

Hmm. So I just looked and my escape-the-room experience was back on July 24. We have been without a functional bathroom door since that date. Every once in a while I would think, "We really need to look after getting ourselves a new bathroom door and hardware for it," but not act on it. At one point, soon after the incident, my husband and I actually went out and looked at doors and hardware, but decided to put off purchasing them until we could run our choices by our landlady (i.e., my DMIL), who I think was on a retreat with the young people of our church at the time. After that, we just kept putting it off. Thankfully noone who's come over between now and then has had to use our washroom (we could have sent them upstairs if it became an issue, but it's a little embarrassing to have your only washroom out of commission), but we have planned company coming over next weekend (not this one, thankfully) for a longer amount of time (the duration of at least one Scrabble game plus chatting before and/or after and probably some snacking, too), so the situation is a little more urgent now. Today we finally went out to Rona (again), picked out a door (the same one we picked out before), gave one of the lumber guys all the dimensions we needed said door cut down to (the drop ceiling in our basement apartment leads to our required door height being non-standard), paid for it, then drove home to get our old door to take into him when it became clear that our estimate of the placement of the doorknob hole from the edge was a non-standard width and we needed it double-checked (and to allow them to see all the dimensions better)...then I had to drive it back on my own because the door was just a little too wide to allow one of the rear seats to be left up for hubby (well, without having the door stick out the rear of the car, anyway). The cutting of the door won't be done until probably Tuesday morning, so we walked out of Rona having paid x amount of dollars yet empty-handed, but at least we have got the ball rolling. Tuesday we'll pick it up, get a doorknob and install the door plain for now; we can stain it at some undetermined point down the road (let's see how long that takes ;)), but at least we'll have a functional door for Scrabble day.

This Rona used to be a Lansing Buildall location. It happens to be the location that's across the street from my parents' place...and the one I worked at for a little over two years while I was still living at home. The funny thing about retail is no matter how high the turnover rate for a company's staff, it seems to be that there are usually a few people who weather all the changes and stick around many, many years with the same company. Like I said, I worked for Lansing for a little over two years, and it's been six years since I left my job there. Well, today while door-shopping I spotted, called out to and chatted with my old boss for a while, who had lots of stories to tell me about other people I used to work with (and some of whom are indeed still there) and called one of my other former co-workers out of the cash office to exchange greetings. So I got two hugs today while door-shopping. Just goes to show that even though the few times I've been to Rona since leaving their employment I haven't recognized any of the cashiers doesn't mean all my old friends are gone. Oh, point that will be relevant later: both my friends I saw today mentioned that they keep looking for me every time they go to a particular Black's, which is where I worked after I left Lansing's employ and where I did see each of these ladies at least once.

After coming back home to pick hubby up again, we went out for a cheap McD's lunch (not my favourite place to eat, but it's a cheap date when you've got a 2-can-dine-for-$7.98-plus-tax coupon :)), and then guess where I had to go? Well, I was originally going to go to Wal-Mart to do some photo printing, but after hubby's protests about how much he hates it there (and really I can't blame him), we went to Black's. There I saw my former co-worker Kate, to whom I said, "Kate, you're here like every time I'm here!" (It's pretty much true.) We chatted, I placed my digital printing order, we'll see each other again tomorrow when I go to pick my pictures up (yeah, apparently she's there a lot, though she's looking for something in her field now that she's done school). No hugs at Black's; I guess my relationships with people at Lansing were different than the ones I had at Black's, or the people were different, or...who knows.

This is when I feel like I should be talking about running into more former co-workers from my York research job or the Ice Gardens, but no, I didn't see any of those people today (not yet, at least). However, I did get a call from the Ice Gardens this morning! They finally hired an Office Manager, who saw my name on the list of Guest Services staff and was kind of wondering what the deal was. So I've finally told the Ice Gard--er, Canlan Ice Sports York that I'm no longer available to work there. I am getting a clear idea that I'm going to be way too busy with teacher's college (and trying to get everything else in life, like cleaning and sleeping, in around my studying) to even think about taking on any sort of employment this school year. I guess that's in the "getting things done" category, too.

Something else we got done today that is exciting: remember that I mentioned that I finally paid off our line of credit back in July? I mentioned that I was going to take the $ that had up until then been directed towards paying off that loan and start directing it instead towards paying off my husband's student loans come September (using the unneeded funds from July and the whole of those funds from August for textbooks for this year's studies first). Well, September is here, so today I got hubby to call up the bank and increase the amount of his monthly student loan payment--we pay this by direct deposit so we had to let them know to change the amount of each automatic transaction from now on. It was a quick phone call and the change has been made; our payments starting at the end of this month will be in the new amount. If I follow the rest of the debt-reduction plan I've set up (which involves using a certain amount from next year's tax refund as well as redirecting our payments to pay off hubby's provincial loan once his federal loan is paid off), we should have those debts cleared away in December 2007, which isn't really that far away, hooray! When I am hopefully gainfully employed come September 2007 I will then be able to use my earnings to buy out our car (the lease is up in April 2008 and the car has such a low kilometerage on it that we'd be crazy not to buy it out), pay my own school debt (a mere $4500 borrowed penalty-free from hubby's RRSP under Ontario's Lifelong Learning Plan) right off, and then start saving up for a down payment so we'll no longer have to live in a basement and will have some room to think about having a family. (Er, forget I mentioned the family part...that's a ways away yet and there's no need to be thinking about these things too early :).) So I'm all happy and excited about how our financial life is shaping up and how we are slowly but surely progressing along our path through this thing called life. Sometimes I wonder if we should also be re-examining our charitable giving and perhaps increase it, but I think the reason I keep getting turned down for bursaries and loans might be that according to how much hubby makes I should be fine for school and so on, and that part of the reason we don't have the kind of money these institutions think we have is because we keep giving it away (which I'm fine with; I think that's as it should be). It does give me pause when I consider that only 8% of the world's population has a car, though...and that includes us.

Well, I am off for now as I have other things to get done...I made some squares for my church to sell at our annual carnival tomorrow and they need icing; I need to finish tending to the laundry I started earlier; and hopefully I will actually get some more stuff done related to school like I'd planned to today. I just love getting things done :). Talk to you later...

Nevermind :)

The background and pictures are back now, hooray! I didn't even have to do anything but wait.

Well, this is interesting...grey day?

Hmm, my blog's background won't seem to display for me in either of my browsers (I use Firefox most of the time, but when I am not sure if a web page is displaying properly or not I will sometimes--*shudder*--pop open IE...and generally it is just that the web page is broken and Firefox is working just fine, of course...hooray for open source!). All I see is my text arranged properly in a vast sea of grey. I'll give it a couple days to see if it's just a Blogger friends' blogs seem to be displaying properly, though...hmm. If you can see the background of this page and not a vast sea of grey, I'd appreciate it if you could quickly post a comment here...'cuz maybe it's just me :-b. Thanks!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Need to kill some time? Try this.

Try to beat me. I'll update if I manage to do better myself :).

Friday, September 8, 2006

Ever wish you had three of you? Apparently I actually do.

I just got an e-mail from Joy McCourt. This was very strange because that is my name, too (I don't usually put my personal information in here, but I will make an exception here). Every time I've Googled my own name in the past I've only run into mention of people who were no longer alive as far as I could tell...after I got this e-mail, though, and I ran the search again, I found reference to two Joy McCourts other than myself who are currently alive (one of them may be the one who e-mailed me as it is consistent with the province she says she's from, although I am clarifying this). Feels weird to have a namesake out there, but I guess a lot of people have namesakes. After all, when I was at a staff meeting at my host school Tuesday and it came time for one of the teachers to give a presentation of some "professional development" information, the paper that he made reference to was written by someone with the same name as Kef.

Oh, yes, by the way, I have survived my first week in my host school, though it was only a four-day week so I don't know if that counts. If I have time later this weekend I'll tell you more about my experience, but I don't know if I will have time. *shrug* Off to make dinner now.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Crocodile tears...

Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin has died, at the age of 44 :(. You can read the story here.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

"You should go!"

Because it's so little-known, you get bonus points if you can identify the store whose slogan is this entry's title before you read the rest of this entry.

Okay, so I'm training to be a high school teacher. In one of our group work sessions during orientation last week, a few groups was asked to discuss professionalism among themselves, and as part of this to make a list of things that you need to stop doing as you transition from being a student doing any other university degree to being a student teacher. My group was asked to discuss something else, but at a certain point all the groups had to break up, see what the other groups were discussing, and report back. The member of my group who checked in on one professionalism group came back to us and summed up their list of things to stop doing like this: "Basically you need to stop swearing, stop sleeping in, and stop wearing sexy clothes." Well, I'm not much of a one for swearing (though there are stories about me out there), though not sleeping in is going to be a challenge. That group's third point, however, brings up something that has been in the back of my mind for a while: I need to build myself a teacher's wardrobe. My usual clothes may not fall under the "sexy" category, but they do for the most part fall in the "unprofessional" category...and much of the professional-type stuff do own (the stuff I generally wear to church) needs replacing because I have either had it a long time or someone else owned it before I did or it turned out not to be of as great quality as it originally appeared to be (some great grey pants Jen and I picked out at Reitman's and that I used to love, for example, are suffering from some stitches coming undone down the outside leg

While I've been considering this need to buy clothes, other people's mentioning of clothes-buying has caught my attention more than usual. When Emma mentioned getting a great pair of expensive-but-quality pants at Eddie Bauer, I decided that that was what I was going to aim for this time around...I am going to be willing to spend more money if necessary to get a piece of clothing that is going to stand up to wear and tear and stick around for a while. When someone on one of my e-mail groups mentioned using the tips of a fashion consultant to find clothes that looked good on her body at the local thrift store, it stuck in my mind that you can get decent-looking stuff for not a lot of money, though I was concerned about the quality of such items. When I mentioned to DMIL that I was thinking of checking out the local Eddie Bauer, though, as I wanted to find some quality stuff and was willing to pay a little more to get it, and she mentioned that you can get designer clothes for a lower price at Winner's, I was skeptical but decided it was worth a shot (I could always get back in the car and drive to EB if Winner's didn't work out, after all...ah, the freedom of wheels).

Well, the upshot is that I am pretty happy with what I came home with. I didn't spend as much time there as I might have if I hadn't brought my husband along (who tells me he abhors clothes shopping), but in the time that I did spend there I found a really nice burgundy V-neck sweater and a really, really nice pair of grey pants (to replace my now-disliked-and-falling-apart Reitmans pants). Winner's labels all their clothes with both the price they are selling them for and a "compare at" price--the price you would probably end up paying for the exact same product in a department or specialty store. I'm not sure how accurate the "compare at" prices are...however, to give you an example: the grey pants I got were Liz Claiborne (sp?) and feel to be a good quality product; they were given a "compare at" price of $80, but the Liz Claiborne tag that was still attached listed a suggested retail price of $150. Know how much I paid for this fantastic pair of pants? $40. And I tried 'em on on my return home and they are great (though could use a re-hemming like all my pants). The burgundy V-neck sweater I got was given a "compare at" price of $40 and I got it for $25 (and it also looks great). I didn't see a ton else that I wanted to check out at that particular store, but every store is different, and the merchandise changes every week. Getting that pair of grey pants in particular (and the sweater to a lesser extent) has given me "the thrill of the find" Winner's mentions on its website. I'm not about to become a Winner's-a-holic like some people out there, and I'm not going to overlook places like EB to give me the quality stuff I can't find elsewhere, but I'm not going to turn up my nose at Winner's completely anymore, either.

Phew, that is out of my system now :). Finding that pair of pants really was exciting and I just had to share, but I am feeling better now :). Building up my teaching wardrobe is going to take a little bit of time, seeing as I don't have a ton of funds available even to blow at Winner's, but I am having fun with the process of finding out what looks good on me, acquiring a relatively small set of basic pieces and learning how to mix and match them to extend my professional wardrobe enough so that I won't have to have a ton of clothes yet when my three-week teaching block comes up the kids won't wonder if I really do wear the same outfit every Monday, the same one every Tuesday, and so on. Oh, and hey, if something I'm wearing really doesn't work for me, please do let me know during this experimental phase...or I could end up really liking it and propagating some fashion faux-pas (sp?) throughout the rest of my professional life. Mira, for example, pointed out that I need to wear higher heels with a particular pair of pants or get them hemmed, which solves nicely my constant wondering about why this otherwise great pair of pants was doing so much bunching around my lower legs, and I appreciate that...see, I can be open :).

Alright, I'm off to do other things now (maybe today I will finally be able to get back to Warcraft for a bit!). Hope y'all are enjoying the long weekend!

Edit: (later) I just remembered that it is a good idea to check labels when buying clothes. My "fantastic" pants are dry-clean only. I am going to have to think about this. I could return them, but should I? Hmm. Dry-cleaning isn't that expensive nor is it that inconvenient and the pants are good quality. Well, I'll think about it. Also, my marvelous new sweater is a dry-flat item, but I think I can handle that now that I've actually bought myself a proper sweater-drying rack...I do have other dry-flat stuff and continue to wear it, after all; my only concern would be if it would lose its shape and other marvelousness, but hopefully having a proper dry-flat rack now rather than fakely drying it flat over a chair back will help avoid that. Something to learn from for next time, but I may well have gone ahead and bought these pieces anyway. Oh, and they look great together, too. I could probably even layer the top with a blouse and maybe add a blazer, too, if I wanted to go for a different look. Anyway, I'm off to bed soon but wanted to add that little postscript.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Good morning

I understand now a little bit more why my husband finds it hard to sleep in on the weekend. See, he usually gets up sometime between 4 and 4:30 a.m. on a given morning to go to work (he starts work at 6 a.m. a fair distance from here and his carpool also likes to leave here earlier than necessary so any potential trouble on the road won't delay them enough to make them late). This week my orientation sessions have started at about 9 (9:30 on the Monday). I, like Martin's carpool, also like to leave earlier than absolutely necessary so that any problems I encounter getting to school (a missed bus, road trouble, etc.) won't make me late. I also take forever to get ready in the morning before I even leave the house, and the earlier I have to get up, the longer it takes (really if I stopped going on the computer and checking my e-mails before I left the house I would probably not need nearly so much time, but then I could miss something I'd need to know that day--I do sometimes get e-mails with important stuff in them I need for the day, or suddenly notice on the GO Transit site that my route is having trouble and that I'll need to allow myself some extra time, for example...though more often than not I just get the e-mails that sidetrack me and make me wish I hadn't gone on my e-mail system that day). Anyway, due to all this I, too, have been getting up around 4 a.m. in the mornings (some days later than others, but still early). Today, though, I have a day off and have all the time in the world to sleep in...and I woke up about 6:30 a.m. feeling pretty awake. I decided that was too early to get up and tried to go back to sleep, but once one is in that pretty-awake stage one's bladder seems to feel that it is then appropriate to constantly bug one about the fact that it needs some looking after, keeping one from falling asleep until one does so. So annoying. Anyway, I did do some more dozing this morning, but I am still up earlier than I had expected to be. Tonight we have a BBQ with some of Martin's family that may go late, so I will let myself sleep in again tomorrow morning if necessary but will then start implementing an attempt to get up and go to bed at the same time every day.

I am learning that a disadvantage of writing long posts like I've been doing for a while is that it is harder to bring oneself to go back and proofread them in their entirety. This morning I corrected a few mistakes I made in yesterday's entry, though I may well have missed some more. Anyway, if anything I type here ever doesn't make sense to you, feel free to point it out...I am anal enough to go back and fix my mistakes/things that need clarification, after all.

That's really all I have to say for myself this morning. Off to finish some e-mails I've started and carry on with the rest of my day (like laundry and taking hubby to a new dentist...he's going to try my dentist out and see if he likes him). Talk to you later...