Tuesday 31 December 2013

Realistic New Years Resolutions: the Eat/Pray/Love ideal

I have spent a fair amount of time the last few days trying to map out some New Year resolutions for myself; I found my plans becoming more wild and grandiose with each revision, and basically if I was truly successful in managing this ambitious list, I’d be some sort of zen’d out new age super rich philanthropist world traveller who also never failed to get her socks into the damned laundry bin. 

So then I tried narrowing it down into something more manageable, and found myself stymied by the actual context in which I live…you know, the part where I remember that I can’t hit Australia and Italy this year because I can’t take the time off, and oh yeah: money doesn’t grow on trees—at least, not until I complete my resolution to master the arts of both gardening and genetic science so that I can grow a real-life money tree. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the idea: my goals were pretty lofty. Anyway, when I mentally erased the chalkboard and tried to start over, I found myself thinking of that book/movie, Eat Pray Love. I thought to myself, “That’s what I want from myself this year! I want to be like the Eat Pray Love lady!”


Let me tell you something, people, because this is the truth of things: life doesn’t really go ‘eat, pray, love’. For most of us, the path looks more like this:
Love no more
Eat too much
Pray for weight loss
Love again
Pray for the other person to go away
Love anew
Pray for more to eat
Eat nothing but kale and beets for months, because someone tells us these are the new superfoods
Eat a half pound of chocolate chips from the baking cupboard at midnight
Pray for someone’s failing health
Pray for a new job
Pray for cute boots
Eat Chinese food at the mall and regret it
Love new cute boots

…You get the idea. For most of us, we get the eat-pray-love all out of order, and we do them all several times over and we often do them badly. Or in excess. Or not enough. Or at the wrong time, or with the wrong person, or with the worst intentions.

I’m here to tell you that that’s ok, and that while it may feel like you’re going in circles, you aren’t. You’re a smarter, better, stronger YOU with every turn of the wheel.

The point here is, don’t burn yourself out two weeks into January by attempting to fabricate a perfect Eat Pray Love year. Be realistic about how life works: it ignores all the colour-coded, numbered, and itemized plans you have, and it meanders and wobbles and gets distracted and falls apart.

It’s not going to go according to plan. Enjoy it. 

Monday 23 December 2013

My Mother Crafted Christmas: a thought on what we learn from Christmas

This weekend I went over to my parents’ house and baked cookies with my mom. This was my first time
learning two secret family recipes, so I’m sorry but there’s no recipe to accompany this post. This was a symbolic passing of the torch: I now possess the precious knowledge necessary to continue the tradition of the world’s best shortbreads and ‘bird’s nest’ cookies.

On my way over, Alan asked me what my favourite Christmastime memory was, and my first thought was of my mom, making gifts by hand for all our relatives. She never seemed to run out of ideas, nor did she ever seem to come up against a material or medium she couldn’t work. Salt-dough candle holders festooned with perfect miniature fruit? Done. Tole-painted wooden signs? Done. Crepe paper angel tree toppers? Done! Macaroni angels, fabric angels, cellophane sparkly blue translucent angels? Done. (I’m noticing an angel trend, are you?) One Christmas, Mom and Dad decided to make my brother and I a pair of hobby horses from scratch. I remember hours of cursing after our bedtime, but in the end, two incredible horses were found under the tree that year.

I think that watching my mother’s meticulous persistence in tackling any and all crafting media has made me the fearless artisan I am today.

In recent years her confidence seems to have slipped a little—we took a tole painting course together and created a pair of really hideous Christmas balls—but I think that’s ridiculous. That same year she asked for canvasses and paint for Christmas, and just on a whim she painted two deep and expressive paintings of poppies. On a whim.
Rest assured, my mom had nothing
to do with these monsters. These
are all ME. 

I have to give a nod to my dad, too; he was the one who got me into drawing, because I’d try to stump him with demands like, “Draw a giraffe! Now draw a tiger!” when I was a kid; and somehow Dad could always draw what I asked for. Yesterday I showed him Sculpey (a bakeable polymer clay), and set him to work on a chicken statuette he wanted to make. Two hours later there stood on the table one of the finest, if weirdest, chickens you’ll ever see. It was holding a syringe and a strip of clay bacon. It’s an inside joke.

But my mom: all those years watching her work—laying out the supplies, choosing the glue, cutting the perfect tiny pieces, mastering the paints—that was (and still is) my favourite Christmas memory. It’s not Christmas til there’s glitter stuck to your face, third-degree glue gun burns on your fingers, and paint on your jeans.

Christmas for me has always been made by hand, with love and meticulous care. It’s much the same anytime we’re expressing love to one another: lay out all your goodies, proceed with conscientious care, and be entirely fearless. Sometimes it’ll work out, and sometimes it won’t. But anything you put your heart into, no matter how much of a fail it is, was worth the effort and is worth remembering.

This Christmas, remember it’s the thought that counts…and also the effort, the care, and the blood/sweat/tears. This transcends any price tag. 

Thursday 19 December 2013

Jordan's Guide to Spotting Internet Trolls (well, more like stumbling over them).

This week I had a minor (but annoying) run-in with some internet trolls. This wouldn’t usually be something to blog about, but I figured some people might be wondering about the incident if they watched it, and other people who didn’t watch it may learn something valuable from my post-chaos reflections. So here we go.

Note: this is a long post. If you’re not that interested, NO PROBLEM. I encourage you to look through some of the classics on the blog today. I’ll have a new topic tomorrow.
For those of you who stay to read: note that I am removing the specifics of the argument from this post: no names, no affiliations, not even the meme in question. This is a general retrospective on the issue of bullying, trolls, and decision-making. Enjoy.


Sometime early in the week, I reshared a meme (an shareable internet picture) on the Capital Geek Girls page that I'd seen somewhere else. It was based on shock value humour, and I posted it because:
a) It’s not the first time we’ve shared a tongue-in-cheek meme,
b) It was edgy enough that it caught my mind's eye and made me think about certain aspects of our culture. I appreciate that.
It sat on the page for a day or two with very little complaint. Most people seem to ‘like’ it, understanding that it should not be read literally, but as a commentary on stereotyping and profiling.

What the audience saw a few days later was a suddenly flurry of activity as a number of people suddenly jumped on this meme, now a ways down the Geek page, and attacked it. What I failed to do at the moment of crisis was slow down and recognize a troll when I had one.

What the audience didn’t see was that the ringleader of this flame war had just had a private message discussion with me where she was angry I couldn’t provide her with something she wanted. That discussion lapsed quickly into an attack on the edgy meme, and thus began the battle. Maybe it has nothing to do with anything…but the timing was awfully coincidental.

Of the dozens of comments launched against the meme, there were really only about five authors. Interestingly, most of them were not members of the page, and remarkably, all of them were friends of the ringleader. I watched carefully as debate broke out and saw that no one jumped into the shouting that wasn’t already related to the little mob.

As the shouting and belligerent activity unfurled, I received messages from admins from other sites, letting me know that this ringleader and her troll posse routinely cry outrage on various walls. Like a pack of hyenas, this was not the first attack they’d launched. Trolls can become quite infamous, and it’s helpful to know other people who can warn you about what you’re dealing with.

‘Bully’ is a word that is thrown around a lot lately. Let’s look at the definition (Wikipedia for ease of access):
Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively to impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. …[They use] an imbalance of social or physical power. Behaviors used to assert such domination can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particular targets. Justifications and rationalizations for such behavior sometimes include differences of class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, behavior, strength, size or ability.[2][3] If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing.[4] "Targets" of bullying are also sometimes referred to as "victims" of bullying.

This ringleader and her group:
-intimidated and aggressively dominated any discussion that attempted to happen
-employed an imbalance of power by bringing along her team of trolls to the party
-repeatedly justified their aggressive behaviour towards people based on the race, gender, and sexuality of those that disagreed with them.
NB: What was confusing for those watching this foray was that this particular group would attack people based on their lack of minority status, which seems like a humanitarian effort…but it’s not. Attacking someone based on your perception of their race, class, gender, or sexuality for any reason makes you a bully. What was doubly confusing was that they were rationalizing their aggressive behaviour because of their own inclusion in various minority groups (note: ironically I am also a member of the same minorities), which somehow meant that they could be nasty to people to get their point across. I’d argue it made it impossible for anyone to hear the point.

I started to get seriously concerned when people started informing me that they had been private messaged by members of the trolling group to further argue/fight in private. Bullies (and trolls) like to pick on the weak; singling out a person in a private message and causing him to communicate with you away from the public forum is much like waiting ‘til a kid walks down a dark alley before you beat him up.

The number of times that one of the trolling people told someone else they couldn’t have a valid opinion based on their colour/creed/crotch was absolutely absurd, but sadly it was expected and people just rolled with it. Where things got mighty dicey from my side of things was when I discovered, on a different wall, that one of the trolls had begun discussing my personal relationship in public. I’m not talking about her just saying, “She’s dating so-and-so, so her opinion is skewed” (which DID happen and is incredibly anti-feminist: minimizing a woman’s opinion based on her relationship status is appalling), but she actually went so far as to start sharing personal information about the intimacy levels between myself and my partner. For someone who had just been arguing some pretty big moral points, this troll seemed to have no trouble behaving against her values as long as she was doing it where she thought I couldn’t see it. Gross.

There are two big things in life I hate: bullies, and mass hysteria. I refuse to abide by either of these things. As a child, I was a constant schoolyard scrapper—not because I started fights, but because my school was notorious for bullies with big fists, and the teachers at the time took very little notice. I was the kid who waded into the foray and took that bully out so that the little guy could get away. I wasn’t afraid of pain; I was always taught that the moral victory was the one to win.

In this same way, I refused to back down to the demands of a bully and its mob, even on Facebook. If reasonable concerns brought up in a logical manner were presented, we could look at the issue further…but using name-calling, swearing, yelling, isolation tactics, personal slander, and outright shouting? These things will not elicit a response from me. Nor will I bow down to mass hysteria caused by such behaviours.

I’m a fool, that’s why. Because various members of this trolling group were people I had some knowledge of before the foray, I stupidly found myself assuming they couldn’t be trolls, and I STUPIDLY responded in the first place. Page admins, if you learn one thing here today, let it be this: don’t respond to trolls. But I waded into the trap before I knew it was set, and that was the start of the end. I didn’t take down the meme because a handful of aggressive people started shouting. I took down the meme when I started getting reports that individuals were being further pestered and attacked via private message. I couldn’t think of a way to defend those virtual ‘back alleys’, so I took down the meme in the hopes of getting those kids out of those dark spots.

It worked. But I don’t like the thought that, for even one minute, one of these trolls thinks that the key to getting its way is to be a bully.

I will be better prepared next time. This isn’t a big deal nor is it the end of the world. But it was a major part of the week, and whenever someone might be able to learn from something I get myself into, I like to share it.

That’s why I post all the funny stories about pantyhose mishaps and falling down my basement stairs: so you’ll learn from these things. You are learning from them, right? Good lord, please tell me it’s not all in vain.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

What Did the Fox Say?

I love everything about what you're about to see.

Many (MANY) of us follow a page on Facebook called "I F***ing Love Science". IFLS is awesome. They post pictures from various scientific news stories, usually with a caption, and provide a link to the original story. This is how I get my science learning done these days. Well, that and MJ, my BFF who happens to be science-crazy. So naturally, she posted this picture from IFLS on my Facebook wall yesterday:

I could only see a very small version on my phone, so I had no idea what the caption said. So when I finally read it, I thought it was pretty cool, but my imagination had already ran a hundred different directions with the whole thing. And my procrastination got a hold of it, and well....here's what I made for MJ's amusement:

You'll notice here that I added shampoo sparkles.

You'll notice here that I forgot to get RID of the shampoo sparkles,
so now it's like there's some kind of fox magic happening or something.

You're welcome, internet.
I F*cking Love Science: responsible for the dissemination of enlightening scientific facts across the internet...
Jordan Danger: responsible for furthering the dumbening of the internet.

It gets better: make your own! Here's your template! Send them to me! jordandangerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

DIY Macaroni Angels: a Christmas Craft Gong Show


 When I was about nine years old, my mom went on a Christmas ornament-making binge. This in itself isn’t unusual; Mom is very creative, though she doesn’t let it out nearly enough, and Christmas has always been an opportunity for her to shine. I remember that particular Christmas, however, because that was the year of the macaroni angels.

Mom slaved away for hours. Days, in fact. At the end of it, she had produced several dozen perfect little macaroni angels, made of four different kinds of pasta, white enamel paint, and wooden beads. I was too young to understand why I wasn’t allowed to help with this specific craft, and I have wanted Mom to do this one again now that I’m older and am certain I would be a better helper. So last Christmas, as the last two surviving macaroni angels were visibly chipped and damaged, I demanded we craft these anew. With a turn of good luck, Mom found the right farfalle, and we were good to go!

The last of the original angels.
In the end, this craft took:
-three days of crafting
-four adults working on them
-one-and-a-half tubes of smelly glue
-enough ingenuity to create something far more useful, like a cold fusion machine.

Let me walk you through it.

-farfalle pasta
-penne rigatoni pasta
-gorgonzola pasta (or chop up macaroni into quarters)
-macaroni pasta
-E-6000 glue
-glue gun and glue
-wood beads for heads
-small beads
-white enamel paint (not acrylic)
-extra-fine tipped sharpie or other permanent felt tip pen


1. Use your E-6000 glue to:
            -attach the head bead to the penne body,
            -roll the head in the gorgonzola, after applying glue to the head, to make hair,
            -glue on the farfalle wings,
            -glue on the macaroni arms.

2. Let them dry, preferably for a couple days to be sure the glue is set and isn’t off-gassing.

If you are a sane human being, you will make one, maybe two dozen of these. You will do it in a well-ventilated area. If you are absolutely nuts (or are aiming to become nuts), you will assemble 100 of these angels; you will also do the gluing part all in one go, on a cold day when it sucks too much to open a window. You will do it with your mom while your sweetheart and your dad play with powertools in the basement, until they come upstairs and find the two of you giggling uncontrollably after two hours of inhaling glue vapors. At this point, they will demand dinner and you and your mother will continue to titter, and attempt to engage in witty quips, like, “What’s for dinner? I dunno. You’re for dinner!” At this point, both partners will take the glue away and hide any unfinished angels. It brings new meaning to the phrase, ‘Angels we have heard on high.


3. Pull out your glue gun and glue a bead onto the head of each angel. This is where the string will go through.

4. String fishing line through each bead and tie a good knot. If you still have E-6000 glue (and your partner hasn’t hid it on you), you can dab the knot with some glue to make it permanent.

5. Hang the angels off of a dowel, broom, or other stick-like thing. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps detangle the fishing line.

6. Dip each angel, one by one, into the enamel paint. You may need to take a paint brush and fill in little areas that somehow elude the paint.

7. Hang each angel onto a dowel, broom handle, etc. Beware: the angels will require more ‘breathing room’ from each other than they did before. Let dry for at least a day.

By day two, Mom and I realized we were outnumbered by the angels, and recruited the others to help. How many A-type personalities does it take to paint 100 angels? The answer is four: one named Mom to dip and direct, one named Jordan to string the angels onto broom handles, and both to then harp at Dad to find more brooms, dowels, and sticks. Oh, and number four, my own sweetheart, to quietly help string up angels, wisely keeping his mouth shut as the other three nag each other about the ‘right’ way to do this.
At one point, we realized we’d accidentally bought acrylic paint. Why is this bad? Because acrylic paint is water-based, and it made the pasta go soft, which meant that some of their stringing beads fell off. Along these lines of pasta storm troopers, we’d hear the occasional fwap as an angel fell several feet to the table top with a splatter. Dad started nagging that my bead idea hadn’t worked, and I said, “Whoa now, everyone! Out of  dozens of angels, only a couple have fallen. I think we need to look at the bright side here.” This caused me to break into hysterical giggles and point out the theological parallel: that another Creator had reportedly made angels and a few had fallen, and before this moment He was probably the last person to make the exact comment I’d just made. My parents, cool Christians indeed, had a good chuckle.


8. Inspect each angel, now dry (and no longer soggy, if you accidentally used acrylic paint), for any exposed pasta. Use a paint brush to fill in these little spots.

9. Grab your Sharpie and draw a little pair of eyes. If you look at our troops, every angel is a little different because no one could follow instructions; but I have more faith in you out there, so here they are: draw two smiles from two happy faces for eyes. Add some eyelashes if you feel like it. Now put the pen down.

 We ended up having to paint over many of the angel’s faces and start again. There was just too much temptation for my own sweetheart, A.D.D. man that he is, to try out different faces. Somehow, whenever he veered from the prescribed eye-painting method, the angel would end up looking angry or unhappily surprised, like she’d sat on a tack. My dad couldn’t seem to get the knack, and my mother just kept painting the eyes the wrong way-up. I couldn’t believe it. The years have really mellowed my mom, who, twenty years earlier, made every angel meticulously identical. Her new que sera sera philosophy should have pleased me, but it turns out, I have inherited her perfectionist streak and so I found myself having minor heart palpitations as she handed over angel after angel with upturned eyes.

10. Hot glue fun things into the angel’s hands: harps, books, holly, pompoms, etc.

A bonus of mom’s relaxed crafting mood: she was totally on board with putting all sorts of nonsense in the angels’ hands. When Mom made these angels the first time ‘round, she painstakingly glued a piece of creased ribbon into each of the angel’s hands to function as a choir book. This year, Mom and I went to the dollarama and gathered all manner of tiny decoration. Technically, I think it detracted from the angels’ classy-ness, as I’ve always seen Mom’s angels as the pinnacle of Martha Stewart-worthy crafting. But it was more fun, and it was a nice splash of sparkle.


Oh, Boba Fett, what have you done.
In the end, we had one hundred perfect little angels. Do you remember that scene in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones when Obi-Wan Kenobi sees all the lines of identical storm troopers that those weird tall aliens have been manufacturing? Take a good look at the rows of angels. Yeah, there’s a parallel there. What I loved about this craft was doing it with my mom. I agree wholeheartedly with her that this is not a kid’s craft, so I completely understand why I couldn’t help out when I was little, though even then, it was fascinating to watch her work. But now, as an adult, learning one of my mother’s secrets arts, the experience had a feeling of deep importance. I have inherited my mother’s ability to MacGyver a pile of sequins, pipecleaners, pompoms, and toothpicks into an adorable chotchkie; and for this I’m eternally grateful. Mom’s ability to craft something out of nothing has always been an enviable brand of witchcraft that I hope I will one day master as she has done.

Next year, we’re going to make new crepe paper angel tree toppers. Mom’s is twenty years old and badly torn, and I don’t have a topper at all yet. This will require no toxic glue and we’ll only be making a couple, so I suspect it will be less of a gong show.

But I did enjoy the gong show.


On the tree.

Dad, monitoring the troops.



Friday 13 December 2013

Top Secret Christmas Craft 2: Gift for the Geeky Roomie

I’m live-blogging some of my Christmas crafting this year, so I’m going to have disclaimers: WARNING: if you spoil the surprise for a receiver of one of these gifts, bad Christmas karma WILL get you. Be sure of it. And if you are my roommate, this post is about YOU and DON'T PEEK.

So my roommate is a big nerd, and I love him for it. We bonded early on over Lilo & Stitch for reasons that are deep and meaningful and complex...and cute and fuzzy. In the movie, they talk a lot about 'ohana'--family. Because Bruce came in and became a part of my hodgepodge family, I felt the message was suiting. 


Plain wood photo frame
Printer (optional)
Paints and brushes
Permanent fine point marker
Water based varnish (eg Delta Ceramcoat gloss interior/exterior varnish...available at the craft store)


1. Decide on your image. Here, my image is Stitch, and some skateboards. Draw these on paper or print them off the computer.

2. Scribble onto the back with a graphic pencil so that the entire image is covered (on the backside) with graphite. This will cause your piece of paper to basically work as carbon paper.

3. Place your paper onto the frame so the image is where you're going to want it to be when it's finished. Trace the image with a ballpoint pen. Be firm. The graphite will now transfer, fairly lightly, onto the frame where you have traced.

4. Paint your background. I used acrylics for this frame because they're versatile and I can use them thick or thin. For the background, I watered down some yellow simply by adding some plain ol' water to some yellow acrylic on a plate. Then I 'washed' the whole frame with the yellow. Don't worry, the pencil markings will show through.

5. Paint your character. I can't give you a whole lesson on how to paint here. But if you're nervous, choose something that doesn't have shading. For example, many cartoon characters don't have shading (look at The Simpsons, generally speaking...other TV cartoons, too.) Or stick to more abstract shapes, like flowers and stars and so forth. I'm a long-time painter, so my Stitch looks pretty accurate. Don't worry if yours doesn't; it's still going to be super thoughtful!

7. Let it dry, then outline the character's lines with permanent fine tip pen. Let that dry at LEAST three days. It needs to off-gas or it could smudge.

8. Varnish the whole thing with a soft-bristled brush and your water-based varnish.



Freehand your art...I freehanded my lettering. Just remember: if you mess up your pencil lines, you'll have to paint with a thicker paint to make them disappear. So at least try to get your pencil lines right the first time.
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