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  • Put your $$ where it’s needed

    May 19th, 2009 she Posted in Flan-dom, Random Burbling, Reading Begets Enlightenment   No Comments »  

    Ok, so we all know I’m a big fan of Twitter and charity. I’m especially fond of charities that promote learning (#Tweetsgiving & #Tweetluck come to mind), reading (Kids Need to Read), and foodbanks. Charities that give people a hand up when needed hold a special place in my heart.

    Recently I’ve been able to combine these two loves as the #yeg community has started responding to local needs.

    First up was @SirThinks foodbank challenge. Many may not remember back in the day when a number of military members lined up at foodbanks because they couldn’t afford to both house and feed their families. Former CDS Hillier refers to that period in the CF as the “days of darkness”. I doubt many CF members who lived and worked through it would disagree. We were fortunate enough not to need the services of a foodbank at that time but there were days when we’d be sorely tempted. While we’ve donated over the years, when @SirThinks posted his 200 items for school lunch challenge on Twitter last week we couldn’t resist picking up the guantlet.

    That event got @SirThinks and I thinking about other ways to support local foodbanks in a more formal manner through Twitter. The near weekly #yegsafetymtgs (nobody works, nobody gets hurt) seemed like the perfect place to launch a collection for the local foodbank. All that remains is to iron out the details.

    As I’ve babbled many times over the year(s), I’m a big fan of a charity co-founded by Edmonton’s own Capt Tightpants, Nathan Fillion. Kids Need to Read purchases books for children’s school libraries – often in the poorest districts – to foster learning, imagination, and a love of reading. The charity was co-founded with PJ Haarsma, an author of books for young adults. Tonight I was once again Tweeting about my wish to hold a fundraiser in the #yeg Twitter community for this organization and luckily for me, marketing and promotions chica extrordinaire @Out_Inc has taken up the guantlet. My continual whining has inspired her to consider promoting one charity event that the #yeg Twitter community can sponsor at a #yegsafetymtg each month.

    The timing couldn’t be better. The second part of #TwilightYEG, @ZoomJer‘s fundraiser for local womens shelters is taking place tomorrow night. The first half – collecting tips through charity bartending at LUX – raised just over $400 towards the $3000 goal. Hope we surpass it tomorrow evening. There’s still time to buy a ticket online at the #TwilightYEG web site or you can get one at the door on Wed. evening.

    Crappy Town Update:
    Regular readers may recall that we recently won an auction to “name a crappy town where you’re the hero“. Many towns were available on a number of planets. Our town is on Persephone.

    The auction concept was based on an episode of our favourite show and funds raised are going to support CSTS‘s Equality Now fundraiser.

    We’re still waiting to hear if our Crappy Town name for the upcoming QMx map of the ‘verse is acceptable. Haven’t really thought of a possible second choice so keep your fingers and toes crossed that option one makes it pastthe cutting room floor (and FOX lawyers).

    NOTE: posted from iPhone. Will update with links later when at a computer.

    Upperdate: Added links 11:20am May 20th

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    Letters combine to make words

    February 5th, 2009 she Posted in Reading Begets Enlightenment   1 Comment »  

    Got home after 7pm tonight but for once it wasn’t due to overtime. One of the bonuses of working at a college or university is that they have libraries. I love libraries. Tonight I spent some time culling through a bunch of databases at ours to complete a literature search for a paper.

    I’ve always loved to read. There’s just something wonderful about books. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been going to libraries. It was our Saturday morning ritual with my dad when we were kids. While he poked about in the crime and sci-fi section my sister and I poked about the children’s section. We always left with mitt fulls of books. Mum even enrolled us in a book reading camp one summer at the main library downtown.

    I barely remember going to bed as a child and not seeing my dad sitting at the kitchen table reading a book with a few more stacked by his elbow. And mum? She was frequently curled up on the couch reading. No wonder I’d hide under the covers with a flashlight and read for a few hours at bedtime each night.

    Dad was still reading books for hours a day right up until a few weeks before he passed away.

    Considering my love for books it should come as no surprise that I married a reader. We frequently read the same books. I get first dibs since I’m a speedier reader. Since he’s been gone he’s had less access to reading materials. We’ve been sending him books for weeks now in the hopes he’ll keep himself occupied and make a good contribution to the KAF library when he leaves.

    It seems only my sister has managed to avoid being bitten by the reading bug. Even then, she still reads on occassion.

    I can’t imagine being unable to read. Not being able to find comfort and joy in letters and pages – the thought scares me deeply.

    Other great book memories include all the times I’d paw through boxes and stacks of books at the local swap meet at Parkway and McAllister Malls on Sunday’s after church. Finding a hardcover Nancy Drew I didn’t already own was the hi-lite of my trip.

    And I can’t forget the sheer excitement of bringing the Scholastic book flyer home from elementary school a few times a year. The thrill of deciding which books to ask my parents to order could only be surpassed by the joy of book delivery day. I’d devour the books as soon as they arrived home.

    Yeah. I’m a book nerd from way back. Proud of it too!

    The most special of my childhood books – the collection (unabridged) of Grimm’s fairy tales my dad gave me for my 8th birthday, the Judy Blume collection from my parents and my old Nancy Drew’s – have traveled with me from one end of the country to the other over the years. A few years back I fell into a pit of nostalgia and bought some of my all time favourite childhood books to add to my smaller collection. I have a small bookcase filled with them now.

    As the years pass and technology changes I find I’m buying more and more books in eBook format. I’ve read books on iPaq’s (have I just dated myself?), laptops, and now on my iPhone. In fact, the ability to read books on my iPhone is my absolute favourite feature. It makes the original expense of purchasing my fancy little phone well worth every penny.

    And the 130+ books I’ve downloaded to read on it fill me with glee. I’m giddy with the thought of making my way through them.

    I’d never survive as a librarian. Nor work in a publishing house. Too much organization involved and it would ruin the mystique. I don’t want anything to interfere with my sordid love affiar with the written word. No wonder I read 300+ books a year. I’m an addict and proud of it.

    Now you’ll have to excuse me. I have a book to read.

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    need more brains…

    November 23rd, 2008 she Posted in Learning & Education, Reading Begets Enlightenment, Those Who Volunteered   1 Comment »  

    Back in the dungeon working on Enviro Chem papers. At this rate I’ll soon be able to bore my enemies to death with facts and figures. For the moment I am busy reading “The National Defence Sustainable Development Strategy: 4th Iteration – Environmentally Sustainable Defence Activities” and can feel my eyeballs burning. Someone hook up the caffeine IV. I’m going to need it STAT!

    On the home front we’re still in hurry up and wait mode.  Just don’t tell me that “no news is good news”.  We’ve been on stand-by for close to a year now and of late the waiting is far harder than the knowing.

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    Christie Blatchford Wins Governor-General’s Prize

    November 18th, 2008 she Posted in Reading Begets Enlightenment   4 Comments »  

    I’ve written about Christie Blatchford’s book Fifteen Days before [here].  She has recently been awarded the Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction for her book about Afghanistan, “Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death From Inside the New Canadian Army.”  If you haven’t already done so pick it up and read it.  I’d lend you my copy but I have to pry it back from W first.  That may take a while.

    When you’re done don’t forget to buy and read Three Cups of Tea!

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    Inspiration

    November 15th, 2008 she Posted in Reading Begets Enlightenment   No Comments »  

    I spent most of Thursday night reading Greg Mortenson’s journey in “Three Cups of Tea”. I often write of charity and the need for social change and open access to education. Mr. Mortenson has lived in a manner that we should all aspire to. He has managed to bridge cultural gaps and helped to educate hundreds, if not thousands, of children. With the assistance of locals who understood and valued his vision he has helped bring literacy and change to remote villages.

    I like to think I have a positive (albeit) impact on the world around me. Perhaps that is just the insulating aspects of ego. Mr. Mortenson is proof of the maxim that one man can make a difference. Certainly he has had help along the way. Financial and emotional support has been provided. Without his vision and dedication to a promise made in his past the support would never have been solicitated.

    Our society throws the word hero around so frequently that its meaning has become diluted. That’s not to say that some who has been given the title don’t deserve it. Certainly many have done little or anything to earn it. Celebrity worship has become the norm in many western countries.

    Greg Mortenson’s schools prove that actions speak far louder than words and that we need to look further outside ourselves to discover how I make positive impacts on the world around us.

    Read “Three Cups of Tea”. I can’t imagine how one could not be inspired to try and become a better person. I suspect we will all be inspired to become better people living up to Greg’s example.

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    it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

    November 2nd, 2008 she Posted in Flan-dom, Random Burbling, Reading Begets Enlightenment   2 Comments »  

    Minus the snow of course *knock wood*

    I know it’s early – but then again, it’s never to early to put your Christmas wish list out there for friends and family to view.

    As we get closer to Christmas and the economy seems to be balanced on a knife’s edge, I’d like to suggest that people consider downsizing their own collection of Christmas presents under the tree and consider donating some of the money they would spend on gifts to charity. While charity is a great idea all year long, it is at times like these where we need to do more for those less fortunate.

    With so many worthy causes out there it can be difficult to choose who to donate to. If you want to make an immediate impact to those in your own community, consider donating food or $$ to your local food banks, the Salvation Army (or it’s local equivalent in your area), local homeless shelters, or soup kitchens.

    If you’d like to make a wider impact on the world, consider donating to one of the many charities I have listed on my left sidebar under the title Wearing a Coat of Brown. For those of you not of the Browncoat persuasion (can it be possible?), Browncoats are a dedicated group of worldwide Firefly/Serenity fans who’s main distinction in the world of TV fandom is that they fund-raise and donate money to a number of different charities. Two of the most popular charities for Browncoats are Kids Need To Read (Nathan Fillion and PJ Haarsma are co-founders) and Equality Now.

    Kids Need To Read purchases books to donate to libraries so children have access to books to spark their interest in reading a continue the development of their imaginations.

    Equality Now works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world through the mobilization of public pressure.

    Looking for something different?  World Vision and Heifer International both offer alternate gift giving.  Purchase school supplies, chickens, goats, etc. for families in developing countries. These gifts offer meaningful ways to make a difference in the daily lives of others.

    Interested in Supporting Canadian Troops, both current serving members and our veterans?  Visit your local Legion and make a donation or consider donating to the Sapper Mike McTeague Wounded Warrior Fund or Boomer’s Legacy.

    Have an ill family member?  Consider donating to a charity that supports research or services provided to those sharing the same disease.  Having lost my father to cancer in 2006 the Canadian Cancer Society is a pretty popular choice in my family.

    Want to kill two birds with one stone?  Need something under your tree but want to do good?  Consider purchasing something from the Kids Need to Read Christmas Store on eBay.  Goodies for you and books for children.  What an awesome combination.

    Don’t forget many charities allow you to make your donation in someone else’s name.  Your gift to them could be a tax receipt for your charitable donation.  So many people can benefit from small acts on your part. Do something different this year.  Place fewer gifts under your own trees and add gifts to the lives of others.

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    shameless post thief

    June 17th, 2008 she Posted in Reading Begets Enlightenment   2 Comments »  

    Last year I signed up for the 52 books in 52 weeks reading challenge and found myself passing the 100 book mark half way through the year.  Needless to say I gave up counting and listing the books I had read and just kept reading.

    Today I dropped by Mare‘s place and found her reference to 2000 1001 books to read before you die.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll end up having read a number of them – and many more that never made the list – long before I’m 50.  I’d say 30 but that bus left long ago. I have no life and few shiny pieces of university granted papers (just one so far) but I’d challenge anyone who’d suggest I wasn’t well read.  We’ll just pretend that my current fixation with Military History and my on-going love affair with SciFi/Fantasy are equally valuable ways to spend my reading time.

    I think I’m with Mare on the concept of creating my own list.  There were a number of books I would have included that are missing from this list.  Perhaps I’ve just spent too much time reading Canadian and Indian literature lately…or maybe I just have bad taste…

    If you’re interested in the list it’s below the fold…  * represents the books I’ve already read.  I did have to refer to the books on my bookshelves to make sure I selected the correct ones.  There’s a number of books with similar (or the same titles) that I’ve read.  The double-check was to ensure I had the right books.  The joys of “author matching”.

    Upperdate for the curious: I’ve ready 374 of the 1001 books on this list (37%)

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    nightstands are for books

    May 29th, 2008 she Posted in Learning & Education, Reading Begets Enlightenment, Those Who Volunteered   2 Comments »  

    Lately I’ve been reading a number of books that might not have crossed my threshold. I blame it on the evils of mandatory History and Political Science/Civics courses. After spending a bazillion $$ on textbooks and custom course packs (CanCopy fees mostly) someone in the class invariably recommends a book. I’m finding myself spending time arranging to get my hot little hands on them. Sometimes through a library. Sometimes it’s on loan from a friend. Other times I haunt second hand bookstores or use up my Chapter’s gift certificates.

    Since I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy, getting me to read a non-fiction book tends to involve school, grades, or pulling teeth. Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that most of the books I’ve been reading lately may never have made their way onto my nightstand without the poking and prodding of friends or fellow classmates.

    This week I’ve been reading Mark Steyn’s America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It wherein western society is doomed to fall to the wayside in favour of nation-states based on Islamic law through a lack of breeding (demographics) and a post-judeo-christian ethos. Or so I think. I’m only about 1/2 through the book at the moment.

    Last week I was reading Patrick O’Donnell’s We Were One. One of the ex-army guys in our neighbourhood recommended it after many, many beers. It follows members of 3/1 Lima company (part of the US Marines Thundering Third) through the battle of Fallujah. Perhaps it’s a hold-over from my smallish sense of nationalism and patriotism but my reaction to this book is not the same as my reaction to Blatchford’s Fifteen Days. When I was reading Blatchford’s book I never felt sorry for the troops we sent to Afghanistan. I never had a sense that those who choose to serve in the Canadian Forces may not have had any other options open to them. Perhaps it’s the difference in age of many of the soldiers Blatchford wrote about. Maybe it’s the difference in the average education level of our “grunts” as opposed to Marine “grunts”. Perhaps I’m blinded by my own bias. Most of the time reading We Were One was spent feeling extremely sorry for the soldiers O’Donnell followed during his journey. I had a sense that no one in this group of soldiers would ask questions. They wouldn’t balk at commands or suggest alternate ways of approaching a situation. They would simply die without ever really understanding why they were there.

    Heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, Christie Blatchford’s Fifteen Days has become one of my new favourite books. Like O’Donnell, Blatchford spent time with many of the soldier’s she writes about. She also makes every effort to “tell it like it is”. While appearing more sparingly in Blatchford’s book than in O’Donnell’s (not all that difficult actually) cursing does appear prominently in a number of the pages. Oral histories and reflections are gathered. And yet, Blatchford’s writing seems more genuine than O’Donnell’s. While O’Donnell’s book focuses mostly on the soliders and provides little back history, Blatchford tells the soldier’s story from a number of vantage points. We learn who they were before, during, and after battles. Family and friends play a prominent role in the stories of those who were injured or died. And the soldiers themselves are more articulate. They are their best public relations machine; able to explain the roles they are filling and why (from a personal and professional standpoint). I wish I could explain it better but words seem to be failing me today. I just know that while I may have laughed and cried during the reading of both Blatchford and O’Donnell’s books my end reaction to both was significantly different.

    Carol Off’s The Ghosts of Medak Pocket has been the victim of “pick it up, put it down” reading behaviours for the past few weeks. She’s an excellent author and I’m finding her book both fascinating and incredibly frustrating. Mostly it’s in reaction to the blind eye (or outright ignorance) of most Canadians to the political interference hyphenated Canadians play in other nations. More than Steyn’s book, Off’s presents a strong argument (wittingly or not) regarding the abject failure of multi-culturalism and pluralism in Canadian immigrant society.

    Sometime this week I’m expecting Kevin Patterson’s Outside The Wire to arrive from Chapters. I understand that it’s the Canadian equivalent of We Were One in so far as it’s a collection of oral histories from individuals serving in combat situations. In true Canadian fashion the book isn’t limited to telling only the soldier’s side of the story. It is said to also contain copies of letters home and interviews/text from non-governmental organizations (NGO) representatives.

    No wonder I barely have time to do my required readings for courses!

    While I’m on the subject of books – I’m really not impressed with the government’s allocation of tax credits for textbooks and expenses for part-time students. I (thankfully) don’t qualify for student loans anymore because I’m working full-time. We’re bearing the costs of my return to the hallowed halls with grimace firmly in place. As a part-time student I get to claim 120$ a month while I’m in school, as opposed to full-time students who (more likely to qualify for loans and less likely to be working a full-time job) receive a 400$ a month tax credit. Full-time students can claim 65$ a month for textbooks while, as a part-time student, I’m limited to 20$ a month. Those with student loans also get the “added benefit” of a tax credit for the interest paid when they repay their loans.

    Do you realize how depressing it is to pay between 150$-300$ for textbooks in a course (I’m finding most courses have very expensive custom course packs as opposed to books you could find elsewhere or purchase used) and only be able to claim 20$ a month for the duration of the courses. Of course most of these are core courses – which means I don’t have the ability to opt not to take them. If I don’t complete my core courses I don’t qualify for the pretty little degree at the end of the process. Let’s not do the math or I might start crying in my coffee mug. Just remember that in an average semester I take 2 courses and am enrolled year round (one week break between semesters). Tuition is approx 515$ a course (x6/year). Textbooks for the courses range between 150$-300$ per class.

    Apparently part-time students’ (without student loans) mortgage payments, utilities, transportation, food, vet bills, etc., aren’t significant enough to warrant a more equal footing for calculating tax credits.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be eligable for student loans. Been there/done that the first time I went through university. Took me far too many years to pay off. I just miss the tuition and textbook re-imbursement program the evil mega-corp I used to work for offered. It helped me pay for the program of studies I completed at the U of A a few years back. As long as my grades were C or better the costs were re-imbursed up to a capped dollar amount each year. Passing one course meant I could afford to pay for the next.

    At the college there’s no tuition re-imbursement or academic upgrading programs in place for non-Faculty members. Which is one of the reasons I got into this return to school yet again situation in the first place. I can’t get a Faculty position without a Masters and I can’t a into grad school without first finishing a shiny BA in a related field. Are you dizzy yet?

    Have I mentioned that I’m not even sure what I want to be when I grow up?

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    i used to love reading

    April 13th, 2008 she Posted in Learning & Education, Reading Begets Enlightenment   4 Comments »  

    I’ve a few short days left before I have to hand in my paper and have spent most of the past week doing nothing more than searching out resources, reading, tracking down proper citations, and banging my head against the wall. I’ve got at least another 300 pages left to dig through over the next day or two. I’m hoping I can somehow manage to string together many pages worth of coherent sentences in order to actually *write* the paper sometime this week. For the moment all I have is a mountain of notes, an outline, and a looming panic attack!

    Oh, and if my history paper worries aren’t enough, sometime this week I need to start reviewing my psych notes so I can prep for my exam in 2 weeks. I suck at exams. I can know materials inside and out but the minute you put me in a little room and expect me to answer questions all the contents of my brain starts to leak out of my ears.

    Returning to work is starting to look like the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure that’s what is supposed to happen…

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    heaven

    October 8th, 2007 she Posted in Reading Begets Enlightenment   3 Comments »  

    I’ve spent time culling through the library of congress and University of Virginia’s online ebook offerings. If you’re cheap, running out of storage space (that’s me) and want to re-read the classics without having to visit your local library (where’s my TAL card?) then I highly recommend visiting the following sites:

    All of these have great selections of books available in MS Reader format. If you’re not a fan of MS Reader, you can download a large number of classics at Planet PDF.

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