Friday, March 30, 2012

Blast From the Past

So, my friend K was roped into helping a Brownie troupe learn how to hand-tie a quilt last night. She, in turn, roped some of us into it. And honestly? I had a great time! The girls were really quick to learn, and fun to teach. At one point, I helped a girl do a tie, then watched as she did it, offering a bit of assistance, and then she turned to me and said "I'm going to do another one. I don't need your help." Totally matter-of-fact. It was awesome. It was like "Okay 6 year old, sounds good to me!"

AND THEN. At the end of the meeting, they invited all the special guests to join their circle, and they did the Grand Howl (scroll down) to thank us! Holy flashback, batman! It was awesome! I've never had anyone tu-whit, tu-whit, tu-woo me before :) (Also, didn't remember that it's called the Grand Howl, definitely learned that just now.)

Yay, brownies! Sad part: They don't wear the brown dresses anymore. Happy part: Warm fuzzies (did my Good Deed for the week!) and an opportunity to buy a box of Girl Guide cookies!

This is what we looked like when I was a Brownie!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sh*t Bureaucrats Say and Do

So, if you haven't seen it already, watching the Sh*t Bureaucrats Say video will be helpful for the reading of the remainder of this post. Go ahead, I'll wait.

First, I think the video is hilarious, and the actress is adorable. And yes, I know exactly what she's talking about. But there's some good commentary on this - while it's awesome (and sometimes very needed) to poke fun at ourselves and our jargon, there are indeed some sinister overtones. I've seen it happen to me - I'll be trundling along, minding my own business, and suddenly the most appalling bureaucratese will just pop out of my mouth.

If you know me, you may have been witness to it. More than once, I have stopped in my tracks, felt my jaw drop a little as my brain registered what I said, and have asked myself and/or those around me "Did I just say that?" The need to be polite, subtle, let others read between the lines... in my experience it's definitely an expectation of those working in the Government of Canada, but I do wish we could all just be frank in our work.

"We need to consult wider" often means "we've made our decision, but we have to LOOK like we're considering the opinions of others, so we'll send this out for comments and disregard them, okay?" And that's bullshit - a waste of your time and mine. We should be consulting our colleagues where their input may have value - but the ruse of it isn't helpful to anyone.

So yeah. We should take a good look at the sh*t we say and do, and really get back to our first principles in order to reduce/eliminate the ridiculous - especially in light of the upcoming (later today!) maybe-scorched-earth-but-who-knows budget announcement. If things go the way we fear, I won't have time for your sh*t (or mine!) - I'll be too busy doing three jobs or trying to find a new one for myself.

That being said, I also think we need to remember that this is damn funny.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Just Call Me Herlocke

So, one of the funnest* parts of fiscal year end is the craziness of trying to get all of our invoices tracked down and paid. The way it works (generally) for us is that I will receive an invoice, make sure it's correct, and then send it to our awesome finance person for payment. Then SHE sends it to the departmental finance people, and THEY actually issue the cheque.

Mostly, this works just fine. It's maybe a little slow, but hey - such is the reality of working for a large organization. That being said, there are things I could do to make the process smoother, and I'm working on it.

So when a vendor called me this week to say "HEY! Your invoice is way overdue, and we're turning off your access," I thought to myself "Self, you thought this was resolved back in December, but clearly something went wrong - okay. Tell them you're sorry and will get the invoice paid ASAP." So that's basically what I did, feeling kinda bad about dropping the ball (I did get them to extend our access for another week. Huzzah!).

And then my finance person said she thinks the invoice was paid back in December. I smelled vindication on the winds of change... and promptly fired off some emails to try to help figure out what in the heck is going on with this payment. Because I would love for this not to be my fault... I don't need to assign blame, but I would like to not be on the receiving end of it.

Anyways, I'm finding that with fiscal year end comes a lot of this kind of sleuthing. Forensic invoice paying? I dunno. But I feel like I need a special detective hat. Also perhaps a bubble pipe.

And a magnifying glass! How could I have forgotten?
*Sarcasm, people.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It Never Rains...

So, work has been all fiscal-year-end-y: Where is this invoice? Has that been paid for? Why haven't we gotten that contract in place yet? It's not much fun at all - and yes I know that it's a normal, and expected, part of the job. But I don't have to like it. I'm looking forward to April 1st: fiscal year end will be done, the budget will have been announced, and hopefully I'll be able to spend more time & energy on things I find more interesting! (Like usage analysis of our subscriptions to see what we should renew or not for next year's subscriptions).

So that' s been busy.

This may be me in a couple of weeks.

And then life got all super-busy too. We bought a house a couple of weekends ago, and spent last week working to get all the paperwork/inspection(s) done so we could waive the conditions. Which we did last Saturday - yay! But now we're in full-on "get the condo ready to sell" mode, which is quite the undertaking. It's nothing huge, but now all of a sudden all of those little projects that we've been putting off (like touching up the paint) have to get done pronto. On the plus side I don't think my fridge has ever been so clean!

Anyone want a great 1-br condo?

The house stuff was causing my stress levels to shoot through the roof for a while, but it's calmed down now, and the hubbub and I are working well as a team to get 'er done. And it really was nice of Mother Nature to throw this lovely "warm" spring weather our way right about now - somehow, it makes the whole endeavour easier.

But so help me, this may well be the house I die in, coz holy heck is buying and selling property a PITA!

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Running Primer

I just typed this up for a friend who is going to run her first 10k in September (I'm hoping to run it with her!), and figured I'd share it in case it is useful to others interested in taking up running. It's info I think I could have used when I started out!

Any questions? Suggestions for newbie (or otherwise!) runners?

Hi [friend]!
I'm going to be gearing up for 10k training for May Race Weekend, which made me think of the 10k in September! I thought I'd send you an email with a run down of information I would have found useful in your position - let me know if you have other questions! I'm really hoping I'll be able to run this with you, and train virtually together, too! The great thing about running a 10k is that it is long enough to be impressive to people, but you're not training for HUGE amounts of time.
Yay! I'm excited :)

1) Shoes: You need good running shoes; not sure if you have them. Go to a reputable running store (in Ottawa I would recommend Sports4 on Bank), get fitted. Regular gym shoes that you use for everything else aren't the same; they should have you walk around the store barefooted (called a "gait analysis") to figure out what kind of support you need, and then have you try on a bunch.

2) Other gear: Since you already workout, you probably have most other gear you'll need for running, either on a treadmill or outside. Congrats! You may want to get a new sports bra specifically for running, though. Other than that, I wear wicking pants, tops and socks - super nice, but not necessary. If you're getting blisters/rubbed spots, and your shoes fit well, try some running socks.

I also have a running belt to carry a bottle of water, snacks for longer runs (over 1 hour), keys, ID, some cash. You may want to look into this. Alternatively, if you're running outside, you can map out (for example) a 5k loop from your house, and leave a bottle of water in the mailbox, so you can pause to grab a drink before completing the remainder of a long run.

I listen to music when I run. This isn't for everyone. When I first started running alone outside, I couldn't listen to music because if I did, I tended to run too fast, and then I felt like crap/missed my training goals. But if you listen to music, finding headphones that STAY in your ears can be hard. If you solve that one, let me know!

3) Mapping your route: You'll want to be able to figure out the length of running routes. Websites like Map My Run and gmaps pedometer will help with this.

4) Your training program: I find it really useful to have a training program/schedule to follow. There are great ones geared at new runners, such as the Couch to 10k program (there's an app for that one), this one,  or this one. I really like Hal Higdon's programs. If those don't appeal to you, try Googling "novice 10k training plan". There's also a lot of good info on the Runner's World website. You should plan to follow a program for about 12-16 weeks, and try to start running before the official program start date to give your body time to get used to running. You could, for example, start with a couch to 5k program, which is a FANTASTIC way to learn to run.

5) Apps and tools for measuring distance/pace: I have a GPS watch (Garmin 305, if you're curious) that tells me my distance and pace, and that I can set up for intervals etc. I love it, but it was expensive, and is definitely not necessary for running. There are apps, such as RunKeeper, for Android/iPhone (not sure about Blackberry) that work just as well, and are free. If you want some metrics, I'd suggest going the app route. That being said, this is totally an optional thing. You can get a regular watch that will do intervals for under 100$, easily.

6) Race goals: Don't try to kill yourself on this one. It's a good idea go have a few of race goals - like an "awesome race" goal and a "good race" goal and a "minimum" goal - your minimum could be "finish!" and that in itself would be a fantastic accomplishment.

7) Running resources: there are lots of good ones on the web. I like the Runner's World website (I also have a subscription to the magazine; I can lend you my old issues if you're curious), and the Running subreddit.

8) Getting into running: I don't know if you've heard my little rant about this before, but running is HARD, especially at the beginning. You've got to give yourself enough time for it to stop being so hard before you decide if you really like it. Make sure to stretch a lot after running, and to cross-train, too, to strengthen the rest of your body. This helps avoid injury, and improves running form. You'd be surprised at how important your core is to running! Also, SLOW DOWN. Most new runners (myself included) go faster than they should, because they feel like their legs can handle it, and then they're SUPER wiped after a kilometre. It's because you're only as strong as your weakest link. So, your leg muscles may well be able to go faster, but your lungs aren't able to oxygenate your blood fast enough. The trick is to go slower than you need to, especially at the beginning until you figure out your pacing. This will allow you to go longer, and then eventually to get faster.

9) Interval running:
Speaking of pacing and being able to run for longer, run intervals. I run 10s and 1s, which means ten minutes running and one minute walking. I started out with 1:1s. You'd be surprised at how much of a difference the walking break makes, and how little it impacts your overall time, really. So if you're going to go for a quick run, you could try running 10 intervals of 2:1s or 3:1s. You'll feel great at the beginning, but will probably really appreciate them towards the end!

10) How to dress:
So, it's starting to warm up here, and this isn't as much of an issue anymore, but when running in cool/cold weather, don't bundle up! You generate a LOT of heat when running. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it were 10 degrees warmer out - so if it is 0, dress like it were 10 - long pants, a long sleeve shirt. You'll be cold when you start, but that's good - it's WAY easier to warm up than to be stripping stuff off and hauling it around with you (unless you planned it that way).

11) Running jargon: You'll probably see lots of jargon that makes no sense. Ask me if you don't understand something! For example, LSD is Long Slow Distance - the longest run of the week, at an extra slow pace. It's a run that allows your body and your mind  to get used to DISTANCE and TIME running, but isn't too taxing.