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Think Again!

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hexagonal cross-stitch symmetry sampler
hexagonal cross-stitch symmetry sampler by Craig S. Kaplan via isohedral.ca

Rethinking seeds, from the ground up: "no one had ever asked him to select for flavor" | Rethinking the rectangular weave cross stitch grid: Mad weave is triaxial | Rethinking procrastination: "Procrastination has nothing to do with self control" | Rethinking the "gold standard" for assessing scientific truth: Scientists rise up against statistical significance

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18 days ago
Toronto, ON
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Someone filmed all of Queen Street from a TTC streetcar

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Have you ever taken the streetcar all the way across town just for fun? It's an excellent way to see the city, and an even better way to document Toronto's fast-changing neighbourhoods for the sake of history.

Inspired by Norweigan-style Slow TV, a YouTuber named Ze Han filmed the entire north side of Queen Street (and beyond) on August 27 while heading eastbound on the 501 streetcar.

The resulting video is over an hour long and, for whatever reason, it's absolutely hypnotizing.

In Han's film, the streetcar starts at the Humber Loop and continues all the way to Neville Park in real time, passing through Parkdale, West Queen West, the Entertainment District, the Garden District, Moss Park, Regent Park, Leslieville, The Beaches and so on and so far.

At times, the ride is painfully slow — as the TTC can be in real life — but watching all of the cool people and places roll by outside Han's window is entertaining.

It's like enjoying the best part of riding a streetcar while skipping all the smells and scary encounters, you know? Even the stops are exciting in an "OMG I've been there!" kind of way.

queen streetcar view

"I've done this ride a million times and it's still interesting to watch it on video," commented one of the video's viewers. Image via Ze Han.

As many on Reddit have pointed out, the video should prove even more valuable in the future.

"Think about how neat it would be to see this same video shot in 1998. How much better would it be watching one from 1978? Or how about 1958?" wrote one commenter. "Thanks for sharing."

"In all seriousness, this will be great to watch in 20~30+ years," wrote someone else. "I love seeing how spaces and locations develop over time."

Also cool? The video's halfway point (around 36:45) lines up almost perfectly with Yonge Street, where Queen West turns into Queen East.

A worthy watch if you're looking for something chill and nostalgic.

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18 days ago
Toronto, ON
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Journaling and Self Care

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April 30th.

For Canadian accountants, it’s the worst day of the year. Every chicken comes home to roost. Every project is due. Every phone call is a must-answer. And, in all likelihood, the weather is beautiful outside.

For the most part, the eight weeks leading up to April 30th are no vacation either. Twelve to fifteen hour days are normal. You often walk into the office before the sun has risen and leave after the sun has set. There’s little time for anything other than number-crunching.

Now, nobody likes the person who brags about how busy they are or how hard they work. Everyone works hard — people need to work hard to make ends meet. Hard work is a necessity of life, for any and all people on this planet.

But there are those people who can deal with a high stress load and there are those who can’t. Some people work 12 hours at the office, maintain a stringent fitness regiment, run a hobby business, and volunteer in the evenings. Others spend half a day at the office and find their lives too busy to do much more. Neither of these two people are lazy. They just handle stress differently.

Those who handle stress well are, quite often, masters of self care.

“Self care” will mean different things to different people. For the basics, self care may sound like vacations, spa days, and maintaining physical health. Others may view self care as keeping your mind sharp by reading books, meeting new people, or having a creative hobby. Generally though, self care boils down to taking care of your body and mind to ensure stress doesn’t break you down.

Of all things that get swept under the rug during the high-octane eight-week tax season, self care ranks right at the top of the list. Fitness gets pushed aside. Healthy eating goes down the drain. Vacations are out of the question.

For this tax season, journaling became my ultimate form of self care. Near-daily reflection and written entries worked in many ways to ensure tax deadline day went off without a hitch, and those written entries will certainly work to form a backbone heading into future tax seasons.

Here’s how journaling kept my head screwed on straight over the last few months:

1. Pace

Every time the front door opens, a new project stares you straight in the face. For our office, each new client brought in a new financial situation, a new set of variables, and a new opportunity to create a lasting relationship. When this happens a hundred times a day, it becomes hard to ensure each project is given the attention it deserves.

In this light, journaling helped me understand how much I could get done in one day and how much I could plan to complete in my 10 to 12 hour day at the office. Even after a single week, reading through prior entries helped to point out the need for a mid-day mind break or mid-day walk. I learned I get more done when I head out to pick up lunch from a restaurant about 5 minutes away from the office. I learned I need to take 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to create a plan of attack and read the news.

In short, keeping a journal helped me to find my pace and stick to that pace for the grueling season. When the going got tough, it became easier to fall into a personal routine I had outlined in my journal and it became easier to know how much I could get done in a single day.

So while the work kept piling in, the anxiety of completing that work didn’t grow. Learning to keep a pace was the single most important factor of the eight week stretch and meant I wasn’t mentally broken down by the time the bell rang.

2. Prioritize

Knowing how much you can get done in a day is only as good as the deadlines that are set for you. When the clock strikes midnight and the work needs to be done, well, the work needs to be done.

When digging through my journal, I find a bunch of checklists — lists of plans, lists of steps to be taken, and lists of most important projects to be completed. The last set of lists became a guiding hand for each work day and work week. If something had an upcoming deadline, I put my nose to the grind stone on that project.

Prioritizing may seem like a pretty simple factor when it comes to your personal self care, but it can be the difference between being focused on a specific goal and being scatter-brained around many projects.

3. Controllables

Some variables you can control. Others you can’t. Journaling helps to highlight what you should focus on controlling and what you need to leave to others.
There’s enough worry to go around, so why bother worrying about what you can’t control?

That last part — “what you need to leave to others” — is an essential form of self care. Not only can you not save the world on your own, you can’t save the world in one day. Trusting others to complete their end of the work and trusting the course of life to complete the remaining variables leads to a less stressful outlook on your task at hand.

A healthy dose of reflection at the end of a working day can quickly highlight how your efforts impacted part of a project and where you wasted your time. This not only makes you more effective and efficient in your daily work, it also nails down how you do you.

What are you good at? Where are your efforts best utilized? What can you control that others can’t? To me, there’s no way to answer these questions aside from healthy end-of-day reflection each day.

4. Deferrals

This would be the exact opposite of “prioritize”. A bit of journaling and planning can go a long way to determining which cans can be kicked down the road and which ones can’t.

The kicker about deferring work down the road is the amount of work that inevitably doesn’t get done. And when work doesn’t get done, it’s, well, a lesser work load. If the need for self care arises from high stress and large work loads, deferring work and eliminating work can go a long way to maintaining sanity.

Where does journaling come in? I find end of day reflection can give great opportunities to discover activities you need to undertake and activities you don’t need to undertake. If the goal in life is to be the best you, then you need to learn about you before you can be the best you. Ted Williams always said he’d hit .400 every year if all he did was hit his pitch over and over. In order to determine what was “his” pitch, he had to study his habits after each at-bat.

If you want to hit .400, journaling is the best way to discover habits and trends and can give you insight on the pitches you need to hit and the pitches you need to leave alone.

5. Successes

Perhaps the most important factor of journaling, discovering your successes can lead to enormous personal satisfaction. At the end of a project, journaling which parts of the project went well and which parts you’d do differently can lead to a new, more efficient workflow the next time you run through a project. For each project you complete and reflect upon, the more efficient and effective you become.

But it can go a step further than that. One of the greatest stages of happiness hits through self-realization, or recognizing you succeeded upon goals you created in the past. Journaling those goals and looking through the process can greatly improve mental health and satisfaction.


There are always traps when partaking in a habit that doesn’t look like it has a direct impact on the work you’re doing.

  • Having your boss or manager looking over your shoulder can work to deter you from journaling. If it’s not work, it can’t be a good activity, and it’s easy to fall into the trap as a manager in assuming an employee is fooling around when they are merely reflecting on their work.
  • Not every hour of the day has to be productive. Perhaps I’m old-school, but I started off my working career with the assumption each day had to be a solid 8 hours of productive work. This, quite frankly, is next to impossible. Starting your day with reflection — either personal reflection or reflection on the news, media etc. — and ramping up your brain for the gruelling processes of the day can be just as productive as staring at a blank screen with a zombie-like mind.
  • Social media may be a place where personal reflection can take place, but there really is a time and place for it. Generally, social media works to undermine any confidence I have in myself or my beliefs, so I try to stay away as much as possible these days. Having a personal journal can act as a social media platform. Either way, social media can surely work against any gains you make in self care.
  • Saying “yes” can also destroy any momentum you have in keeping a balanced self care approach. I volunteer a lot, and I’m convinced the world doesn’t spin without volunteers. But just because volunteers are so important doesn’t mean you can save the world on your own. Pick your spots, and do what you can.

A Quick Summary

The best self care habits begin and end with the amount of activity, work, and stress you can handle. Any habit that works to improve your effectiveness in handling the right amount of activity, work, and stress, to me, would be a positive self care habit. And this is why journaling has become my number one self care habit through busy work stretches.

The world doesn’t revolve around you — this much is clear. But you can’t be the best you if you don’t take some time to focus on what makes you you.

Keeping a journal and reflecting on your thoughts and activities is a simple step for discovering what makes you you.

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18 days ago
Toronto, ON
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You really should come and try improv!

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Improv classes at the Haviland Club start back up for the fall next Monday, September 12, 2022:

Is it time to be creative and gain confidence from  learning about improv? HA Club Charlottetown Monday night classes start on Sept. 12, 7-9pm, Farringford House (The Haviland Club), Charlottetown. All levels of experience are welcome to attend. Must be 16 years of age and older. Book in advance with an email/payment to  lauriemurphy@marram.ca. Classes are $35 each or five for $150  - a $25 saving when paid in advance! Student showcases will be in October and December 2022.

You should join us.

Really, yes, you.

Last fall I was freshly down in the dumps about a possible relationship that ended abruptly, and in a particularly “fuck it, what’s the worst thing that could happen” state of mind. Following an ad in The Buzz, I got on my bicycle, rode down to the Haviland Club, and was still 50-50 on whether I’d bolt as I made my way up the stairs.

I am so, so glad I didn’t bolt.

What I found at the top of the stairs was, in Laurie Murphy, a kind and patient teacher of the art of improv, a fantastic and finely-honed combination of pusher, puller, cajoler and supporter.

This isn’t the “you’re going to be made fun of” improv of your nightmares, this is the “you will grow as a person in ways that you never thought possible” kind of improv. 

And the art isn’t just a “theatre thing”: the months I spent last year guided me to insights about all manner of things in my everyday life: how to run better meetings, how to work better with colleagues, how to be a better parent, and, most important and world-changingly, put me in the right frame of mind, a month after the first fateful class, to enter into a romantic relationship that has improv’s “yes, and…” baked into its very core.

You need not have any qualifications. You need never have done improv or anything like improv before. You don’t need to be a “jokey” person—indeed it’s likely better that you aren’t. 

What you will find next Monday, at the top of the same stairs that I ascended, is a dynamic merry band of friendly people engaged in a practice that, at its core, is about the exchange of gifts, a practice that is designed to make you look good and lift you up.

You’ll also find me, welcoming you.

Fuck it, what’s the worst thing that could happen.

The 2021-2022 class of the HA Club
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21 days ago
Toronto, ON
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My contribution to Markdown

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I was listening to the most recent episode of The Talk Show this morning, and my extremely important contribution to Markdown came up. Sort of.

Rosemary Orchard is the guest, and she does a great job with the single most important task of a Talk Show guest: staying engaged and making relevant contributions while Gruber is on a long digression. Lots of guests find it hard to balance letting Gruber go while also making sure the audience knows you’re still there. Rosemary does this perfectly.

Anyway, it was during a digression—actually a digression within a digression— that Gruber talks about code blocks in Markdown and how one of his favorite features is that you don’t have to escape anything in a code block. You can paste source code directly into your Markdown document without any changes, and it will appear as expected in the rendered HTML.1 That’s my doing.

In 2004, any code that contained backslashes (\) was likely to need some editing when placed in a Markdown code block. Backslashes weren’t treated literally within a code block; they acted as escape characters and made the output look different from the input. Very un-Markdown-ish.

I pointed this out in the Markdown mailing list, and Gruber agreed that it should be changed. In the next Markdown release—which was, I believe, his last—he made the change, and all the text in code blocks has been treated literally ever since.

Undoubtedly, as Markdown became more popular, someone else would have pointed out this problem. Gruber himself would have been annoyed by it if he ever needed to write a code block with backslashes in it. But I was there first. And you’re welcome.

  1. The code block has to be indented, of course, or—in many implementations, but not Gruber’ssurrounded by fences

[If the formatting of equations looks odd in your feed reader, visit the original article]

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21 days ago
Toronto, ON
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Toronto once had the greatest playground ever

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Once upon a time, Toronto offered up a unique life experience for young people called Adventure Playground, the likes of which could never happen again. Perhaps you're old enough to remember it or know someone who told tales about how amazing it was?

From 1974 until the mid-1980s, Adventure Playground (located at the foot of Bathurst Street on the grounds of Harbourfront) allowed children to build amazing structures restricted only by their own imagination.

adventure playground toronto

Used tires, plywood, cans of paint — just some of the things on offer on at Adventure Playground.

They were given hammers, nails, saws, assorted tools, metal shovels, and unlimited amounts of lumber to go hog-wild constructing buildings, bridges, forts, houses, dog houses, and whatever else they desired.

There was a garden, a fire-pit, and a water supply. It was a mini-civilization, a shanty town on Bathurst — devised, designed, constructed and lorded over by kids.

For children under six, there was a sister site called the Creative Playground which featured large building blocks, painting stations, costumes and crafts.

creative playground toronto

The Creative Playground wasn't quite as wild as its sibling, but it still offered a unique experience for kids under six.

So-called “Adventure Playgrounds” had been all the rage in Europe, dating back to the 1940s when Danish landscape designer C. Th. Sorensen envisioned and popularized a “junk playground in which children could create, shape, and dream and imagine a reality.”

In 1974 upon the opening of Harbourfront, a professor of landscape design from the University of Toronto named Bill Rock had pitched the concept of a “Junk Playground” to be created at the bottom of Bathurst Street.

Michael Moffat, one of Rock’s students, took on the project and navigated it through completion, even starting a non-profit organization (“Adventure Education Concept”) to keep it properly staffed and funded.

Although the project was guided by a healthy dose of 1960s idealism, there was the very real challenge of maintaining law and order in a situation that might quickly dissolve into Lord of the Flies with shovels and hammers.

Children were supervised, and their buildings were inspected regularly for safety codes (no doubt liberally applied).

adventure playground toronto

Those who visited Adventure Playground will remember how amazing some of the self-built structures were.

Guests of Adventure Playground were easily split into two tribes – the regulars, kids who lived nearby and attended the playground daily, and the visitors, usually school groups, Harbourfront day campers or daycare wards.

As you might imagine, tension often arose when the visitors interfered with anything created by the regulars (whose work usually included “KEEP OUT - REGULARS ONLY!” signage).

Most children who spent time at the Park recall the basic survival skills they learned, all the more amazing in an urban setting. Sure, there were fights, hurt feelings, cuts, and bruises but these were off-set by a strong feeling of independence and accomplishment. At the end of each summer, structures were judged and awards were doled out.

Imagining such a place in today’s litigious and overprotective climate is simply beyond belief. While injuries were no doubt commonplace, they were accepted as part of the experience, just like rope burns or skinned knees at Ontario Place’s Children’s Village.

In the early 1980s, the Playground was forced to move from Bathurst to a space next to the Fort York Armory due to the construction of Little Norway Park. The new space was a paved parking lot, so many of Adventure Park’s lusher offerings were scrapped.

adventure playground torontoGone were the gardens, the water, and the fire-pit. While both Adventure Playground and Creative Playground were featured more prominently in Harbourfront’s marketing, truth be told it was never really the same.

Attitudes about safety and accountability were changing too, and as you might imagine there were a legion of legal entities salivating at the prospect of taking on this dangerous playground.

An unfortunate incident occurred in the 1980s when a child broke into the grounds late at night and injured himself.

His parents retained counsel, and the legal eagles descended like locusts. Not surprisingly, Adventure Playground was soon closed for good.

adventure playground toronto

The site of the original Adventure Playground. Photo by William Kimber.

Anyone who ever attended Adventure Playground, albeit on a short or long visit, no doubt carries vivid memories of it through life. It was a fleeting moment of absolute freedom; to not only imagine and create physical structures, but to govern them as well.

Being handed a saw and a 2x4 was empowering, and while technology now allows young people to create and dominate virtual worlds, it’s not quite the same thrill.

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49 days ago
Toronto, ON
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