regtiangha’s blog

I survived WordPress 5.0!


“Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem.”

Translation:   “The one hope of the doomed is not to hope for safety.”

If you haven’t been following the latest WordPress developments lately (and to be honest:  I haven’t), you may not have known that WordPress 5.0 was officially released on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

The big thing about this milestone release:  A new editor named Gutenberg was to be officially debuted, after being in beta testing for many years.

Why the need for a new WordPress editor? In a nutshell, the current editor based on TinyMCE is severely limited when compared to today’s standards. To do anything advanced, you have to code directly in HTML (or PHP or JavaScript or whatever). Contrast this with page builders such as Squarespace and Weebly that allow you to craft a decently looking website quickly through their visual page editor tools, without having to shell out a fortune to hire a dedicated web developer, and you can see why some people who want to set up their first websites may not consider WordPress as their first option given the competition that exists today.

In theory, Gutenberg levels the playing field (or at least, sets the stage for one later on as it matures), allowing WordPress users to better craft blogs and web pages visually through the concept of “blocks” of certain types of content (ex. You write one block of text, post a new block after that’s just a photo, then another block of text followed by a block that’s an embedded Tweet or YouTube video, etc.), without having to delve too deeply into short codes, markup or other kinds of web programming in order to do so. Eventually, you’ll be able to click and drag those blocks all around the Block Editor wherever you like and once you hit Publish, that’s how they’ll appear to your reader.

This new way of composing is a good thing for the platform and the community, as it’ll make things more accessible to those who want to get down to the business of creating great web content without having to enroll in a course to learn basic web development first. That can only help in growth and adoption of the platform in the long run.

Stern finger pointing Granny:  “…BUT!”

In general, major releases with new functionality are a cause for celebration, but not in this case. This release filled many WordPress developers with dread or mixed feelings, even to the point where some people were begging to delay the release.

And understandably so. For example, there are still some major assistive technology issues with Gutenberg in its current state, and developers are recommending that if you need those features, to either wait on upgrading or to preemptively install the Classic Editor plugin to ensure the old interface is used after the upgrade. There are also around 185 bugs still left to be fixed as of this writing, which for some people is simply too many to consider a software product as “stable” or ready for the general public.

As the editor is the core feature that all things such as themes and plugins is built around,  the concern in the community was that things would break all over the place, especially with the sheer number of unmaintained themes and plugins still in use. And considering that WordPress now powers at least 30% of all websites on the planet, some people were concerned about doomsday or apocalyptic scenarios where almost one-third of the Internet would disappear due to botched updates (should have called the new editor Thanos instead, ha!).

All of these concerns and more made people feel that WordPress 5.0 is not ready, or at least, not ready for the general public.

Do what you gotta do, I suppose.

But, WordCamp US 2018 was this weekend, and the more cynical of us out there figured that they’d need something to announce at that thing. Thus, only a few days notice was given before it was released to the masses. And whether or not you agree that the release was rushed for the wrong reasons or question the motivations behind all of this stuff, the bottom line is that WordPress 5.0 and the new Gutenberg editor are now out and we’re all stuck with them.

This is part of the reason why I put tweaking this blog of mine on hold for a bit; I wanted to wait and see what the fallout from the new release might be.

My initial plan was to wait until January or so for a point release or two to come out, fixing some of the major bugs that were missed. In the meantime, I’d clone this site and others onto a local dev VM and play around with the new code.

The problem was, as soon as I enabled the Gutenberg editor on my dev VM, everything broke. While I could still access my dashboard, I couldn’t edit existing posts or create new ones because the editor would throw an error anytime it tried to save.

Suffice to say I was ready to throw in the towel; no need to waste my life trying to figure out where the problem was or who was at fault when there was every likelihood that things might fix themselves if left alone for long enough. Having the Classic Editor enabled worked just fine, so I could just stick with that until this whole thing blew over.

However, I was bored yesterday and on a whim, I decided to update a live WP instance that I had running on a server that I had yet to do anything with (rebuilding that one from scratch would have been quick because there was literally nothing on that site), and lo-and-behold, everything worked fine. Which was strange to me because the exact same set up on my local dev VM did not work properly.

So at this point, I had things working perfectly fine on my production instances, but absolutely horribly on my development instances. Usually, it’s the other way around!

And because I was feeling bored and just a bit adventurous, I shrugged and said to myself “Una Salus Victis” while taking another backup of the live version of this blog before clicking on the “Update” button on the production dashboard.

The inspiration for today’s blog post.

And everything still works just fine! All the old posts still render correctly, and I’m even writing this post using the new Block Editor rather than the old Classic Editor.

Of course, I didn’t do so without preparation. I made sure to switch to a theme that was still maintained and guaranteed tested to be compatible with Gutenberg, purged stale and unmaintained plugins and/or found more current alternatives, etc. So that certainly helped things. And yes, I did make sure to have the Classic Editor plugin installed prior to upgrading, just in case.

My impressions?

I don’t mind it. I can see where they’re going with this, and I can see the potential once they develop and add in more block concepts. I’m a visual person too, and the main reason why I’ve struggled so hard in wrapping my head around web programming is that using markup language to lay things out visually was never intuitive to me (I mean, seriously I’ve had to resort to using tools such as Netscape Composer in order to build websites in the past!). But a Block Editor that lets you click and drag things around until you’re satisfied while still offering you the functionality needed to offer your guests the rich new media experiences that they expect? Sign me up!

A friend of mine who’s a pro with WordPress said that it feels like he has to click five times now to get anything done compared to the old editor, but a) No one’s stopping him from using the Classic Editor or coding directly in HTML, and b) he is probably not the intended audience with this new editor.

Personally, I’m glad that I don’t have to switch to something like Squarespace anymore, just to get a website looking the way I see it in my head without having to spend a ridiculous amount of hours coding and testing and coding again. I actually like WordPress and think the new Gutenberg editor is exactly what the platform needs. The Classic Editor will continue to be maintained until at least 2022, so those who prefer the old way of doing things have nothing to worry about. And the great thing about the Classic Editor plugin is that it allows you to switch between it and the new Block Editor  as many times as you want. That’s what I’m doing at the moment as I start to modernize bits and pieces of this site over the next few days and weeks, but honestly, I’m tempted on making the new Block Editor my default editor (while leaving the Classic Editor plugin still installed and active).

Granted, I’m probably one of the more lucky ones as my WordPress needs are very basic (as in, I only use it for a personal blog). Others who’ve put in a lot more custom development work into their sites (or their clients’ sites) will need to be more cautious.

Time will tell if this was a wise move for WordPress. In the meantime, if you’re looking to learn more, here is a collection of Gutenberg Conversations, Resources, and Videos, and a good discussion on all the various viewpoints that make Gutenberg’s inclusion so divisive among the WordPress developer community.

And if you’re super pissed at how all of this went down to the point that you’re looking to do something about it in protest, check out ClassicPress, which is a fork of WordPress without Gutenberg, aiming to modernize the codebase through community input. In fact, you can switch right from WordPress 4.9.8 directly to ClassicPress almost seamlessly!

Back from the Dead!

Photo by MontyLov on Unsplash

Hello, World! Long time, no see.

You may have noticed that my blog disappeared for a couple of years, to the point where it even got blown off of Google (goodbye hard-earned SEO, lol!). You would have had to hit up the Wayback Machine to read anything I had previously written here. But like any good undead creature, this guy is back, although whether or not resurrecting this thing is a good idea remains to be seen.

When my hosting contract expired back in 2016, I didn’t really have it in me to go out and find a new web host and to migrate the site. I was swamped with a bunch of projects, and was essentially burned out too. I hadn’t blogged personally since 2012, didn’t see myself doing so again any time soon, and I just wanted to take a break from the public spotlight for a while. So I made sure to take a backup of the site, and then as with many of my old houseplants and/or human relationships, let the whole thing die of neglect.

That isn’t to say that I wasn’t busy doing other things. Just Google me and you’ll see that I’ve still been up to various hijinks and shenanigans and have left my mark in various places, both publicly and privately.

But I had a few spare moments these last few days as I wait for various things to settle, so I decided to get off my butt and bring back the old blog. Luckily, my backups were still good! However, I have to be honest:  It’s taken me a while to get back into the WordPress way of doing things. Lots of the plugins I used to use are no longer maintained, so just tracking down replacements took a lot of time. And I’m still not done:  There’s lots of old copy that has yet to be updated, and so many dead links that I need to figure out what to do about.

You’ll also notice some additional content on here that didn’t exist before. Just because I stopped writing for myself personally back in 2012, it didn’t mean I had stopped writing altogether. I still wrote for various organisations that I was helping out with, but unfortunately, some of those websites no longer exist.

Because those were tens of thousands of words that I had written representing thousands of hours of work, I didn’t want those words to die and disappear. Neglect is something that I do to living things, not the things I create!

Thus, I’ve scoured the web and merged in various pieces that I’ve written for other outlets elsewhere into this blog, which kind of messes with the flow over here a bit since those were pieces written for different purposes or audiences in mind, but it’s still my work and no one ever made me sign away my copyright, so I as far as I can tell, I still have rights to publish my works and use them in any way I wish.

So what you’ll be able to find here now in addition to my random musings are:

There are still a few guest posts and other things that I had written for various organisations that I haven’t easily been able to track down yet, but if I do manage to find old copies, I’ll migrate those over here too.

Going forward, I would like to get back into the writing game again, even if it’s for simple things like a personal blog. I won’t make the same mistake in promising any sort of frequency or consistency though. I’m only doing this for fun, and will only do it if I have something fun to say. But I will admit that it’s nice to have my own little spot on the Internet again that I can call my own.

Plus there’s a bunch of maintenance work to do on this end as well; for example, making sure I’m following current best practices when it comes to WordPress security, in addition to finding a new blog theme that’s responsive on mobile devices. That’ll take a while to accomplish, so don’t be surprised if you see this thing change multiple times over the next few weeks. It just means I’m working on stuff!

So to sum up:  Nope, I’m not dead (yet anyway; or at least, as far as I can tell), but I have made a conscious decision to retreat from the public spotlight a little bit, and am enjoying the peace and quiet that comes with not being an influencer or a public figure. Thanks to everyone out there who respects that; sometimes we all need a little break.

2016 Best Food on the Midway winners: your eating guide for Final Sunday

Don’t forget to tag your food adventures with #Stampede2016 and #CSFoodie!

The Best BBQ on the Stampede Midway award went to Boss Hogs BBQ for their BBQ Pork Ribs. Perfect for sharing, they’ve won multiple awards across Canada for their take on this summer classic and now they’ve won in Calgary too. Check them out at the Triple B.

Best alternative eat for 2016: Crazy Cones for their Apple Pie Ice Cream Sandwich  Does vanilla ice cream smothered in apple pie filling and caramel sauce encased in a crispy cinnamon sugar crisp sound intriguing? Then you need to try the Apple Pie Ice Cream Sandwich by Crazy Cones. This cool, refreshing and lactose-free dish won Best Alternative Eat on the Stampede Midway. Find it just outside the Big Four Building.

Best Deep Fried 2016 goes to Canadian Beaver Balls Gourmet Doughnut Holes Stampede is a time to indulge and where the calories don’t count. That’s why you need to check out the Canadian Beaver Balls Gourmet Doughnut Holes booth which won Best Deep Fried on the Stampede Midway this year. Deep fried little dough balls are cooked to golden perfection with a variety of toppings, all for a reasonable price.

Best International Goes to Waffles & Chix for their Signature Dish: The Waffles & Chix! A fusion of Southern US tradition with some Canadian sophistication, Waffles & Chix’s signature dish combines southern fried chicken on a Belgian waffle with white gravy and maple syrup in a partnership that would make fans of the current bromance between the leaders of our two nations jealous (and hungry!). That’s why the “Waffles & Chix” won Best International on the Stampede Midway.

2016 Best food on a stick No Stampede Foodie adventure is complete without having something on a stick. From corn dogs to candy apples, foods on sticks are a Stampede staple. This year, the Frosted Flakes Chicken on a Stick by Chicken Tenders won Best Food on a Stick.

2016 Best sweet treat If you’re looking for something to wash down your Frosted Flakes chicken, try the Pineapple Whip Float from Summerland Soft Serve. This fat-free delight won Best Sweet Treat this year.

2016 Best pizza Ideas are like pizza dough: made to be tossed around. Know what else is a good idea? Hitting one of the Rick’s Pizza booths around Stampede Park and trying one of their slices. Derek Wiggan and Frank Beltre from the Calgary Stampeders helped our Midway food judges choose them as having the Best Pizza on the Stampede Midway.

Best Between Buns 2016 goes to R&R Bratwurst for their Bison Bratwurst R&R Bratwurst is a staple of the Stampede Midway. Located near the BMO Centre, all of their meat products are chemical and preservative free and are naturally smoked. Winner of Best International 2014, our Midway food judges for this year have awarded their Bison Bratwurst as the Best Between Buns 2016. Don’t forget the sauerkraut and onions!

Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse wins Best Fair Fusion Some foods are so far out there that they boggle the mind. Others take established ideas but implement them with a twist. Best Fair Fusion goes to Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse for their Smoked Chicken and Waffles dish, where instead of using the traditional Belgian-style waffle, their chicken is served in a freshly made waffle cone. With three choices of sauces, this is a savoury dish that you won’t want to miss.

Family Squeezed Lemonade is now a two-time Best Beverage winner! Winner of Best Beverage 2014 for their Mint Mojito, Family Squeezed does it again as they were voted as Best Beverage 2016, this time for their Cantaloupe Lemonade. A new food for Stampede 2016, this beverage features freshly pressed cantaloupe and lemons mixed with lemonade and a bit of sugar. It’s the perfect drink, period.

Best Value on the Stampede Midway goes to Wrap Daddy’s Winner of Best New Food in 2014 for their Spicy Thai Chicken Wrap, all of the wraps at Wrap Daddy’s are good value as they sport large portions that are ideal for sharing (or not, if you’re really hungry), and can all be made gluten free for a nominal fee. That’s why Wrap Daddy’s wraps were awarded Best Value on the Stampede Midway. Be sure to try their Vegetarian Wrap, which features a meatless protein that can fool any carnivores out there.

Something Awesome: Happy Mothers and Healthy Babies

What’s Awesome? Happy mothers and healthy babies! What’s not awesome? Parents of all kinds struggling to provide a basic necessity such as clean diapers for their children.

A baby uses on average 60 diapers per week, 240 diapers per month, or 2,800 diapers in their first year alone, costing approximately $850 per year. That’s equivalent to a month’s worth of groceries for a family of four!

The bottom line is that 1 in 5 Canadian families struggle to provide clean diapers for their kids. Some parents in these circumstances try to make ends meet by prolonging the use of both cloth and disposable diapers for as long as possible before changing them, which unfortunately can expose the child to many health-related risks and complications.

That’s why Kristina Prins started the Bare Bottoms Diaper Drive in 2013 as a way to raise awareness about the plight that some families face when it comes to providing something simple as clean diapers for their babies, as well as to inform the public that the Calgary Food Bank collects donations of both new and opened unused diapers for inclusion in their hampers all year long. The Food Bank relies on diaper donations from the public because their mandate dictates that any funds they raise must go towards food purchases.

The inaugural Bare Bottoms Diaper Drive received Awesome Calgary’s $1,000 micro-grant for March 2013, which helped Kristina cover some of the promotional and marketing costs needed to raise awareness of the diaper drive, the first of its kind and scale in the city. In the end, over 62,000 diapers were collected from generous Calgarians and were distributed to families in need, and it inspired four additional community health clinics to start year-round diaper collections to add to the existing three clinics that already collected diapers on behalf of the food bank.

Kristina’s back at it with this year’s edition of the Bare Bottoms Diaper Drive, hoping that Calgarians will step up and help more families in need by beating last year’s total. The flagship diaper drive event will be held again on Mother’s Day Weekend this year in partnership with The Calgary Zoo.


  • What:  Bare Bottoms Diaper Drive 2014
  • Where:  The Calgary Zoo (1300 – Zoo Road NE, near the Penguin Plunge exhibit at the North end of the Zoo)
  • When:  May 10 and 11, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

New and opened packages of disposable diapers will be accepted, in addition to monetary donations. All sizes of diapers are welcome, with a particular need for sizes 5 and 6. If you drop by the Zoo this weekend with a diaper or dollar donation, you’ll also receive a 2 for 1 admission for a future visit!

If you can’t make it to the Zoo this weekend, diaper donations are being accepted until Sunday at:

Diapers are also accepted year-round at the Calgary Food Bank, various Food Bank donation boxes at grocery stores around town, and at all of the Calgary Community Health Centres, with the exception of the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre downtown.

If you’d like to know more about the Bare Bottoms Diaper Drive or would like to help volunteer, feel free to reach Kristina on Facebook, Twitter or by email.

We hope you can help Kristina out, either with a diaper donation or two this weekend, or by spreading the word about this great endeavour with all of your friends and family. Let’s make sure that as many parents as possible in this city won’t have to go without something simple such as clean diapers for their children!

In the meantime, here are some photos from last year’s flagship Bare Bottoms Diaper Drive event, courtesy of Saudah Chan:

Announcing our 3rd Anniversary Awesome Calgary Finalists!

Valentine’s Day Balloon Give-Aways, Speed Gaming 2.0, ‘Meat-Filled’ Zebra Piñata Parties and Cardboard Fort Days. It’s all been leading up to this: The re-launch of Awesome Calgary and our 3rd Anniversary Pitch ’n Party!

After an extended hiatus, we’re re-launching our Awesome Foundation chapter with a new mandate and vision:

We’ll continue to enable awesome in the community through our micro-granting program and facilitating connections within the community to help applicants execute their Awesome Ideas just as before, but we’re vowing to do more awesome in the community ourselves.

For those that’ve participated in our previous events this year as listed above (all inspired by projects that have received grants from AF chapters in other cities; yep, these are the sorts of things that we can also fund so if you feel that you can do better, submit your idea for consideration!), you will have already gotten a taste of the sort of awesomeness that we want to unleash on the city throughout 2014 and beyond, with the help of some fantastic community partners.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! From Awesome Workshops that’ll teach you how to do Awesome Things, to a Speaker Series that’ll inspire you to do Awesome Acts yourselves, to possibly even an Awesome Concert Series that’ll promote some wicked-cool grassroots talent or talent you may never have heard about, we have a full slate and variety of different events and activities planned and in the works for throughout the year that are designed to help build community, make the city more vibrant and to showcase some awesome things, but most importantly, geared to help YOU do awesome things yourselves.

Many things are brewing in the background right now programming wise, so stay tuned over the coming months (sign up for our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss a thing!) as we get ready to announce them!

In the meantime, we still have our 3rd Anniversary Thousand Dollar Thursday to get through tonight. In keeping with the theme of ‘3’s’ today, we’ve decided to go with a Top3 instead of a Top4, just for this month to change things up. Will we ever emulate Awesome Edmonton and go with a Top5 one month? Maybe. Stay tuned! Variety is the spice of life, after all.

For now, here are your Top3 Finalists for April 2014:

  1. Rainbow Connection Dome by Stephanie Orr, Janelle Pansky and Lisa Sudeikat:  “Creating a beautiful dome to showcase the Rainbow Connections summer art show.”
  2. Mealshare by Jeremy Bryant:   “Help Mealshare equip our street teams with awesome materials to help spread the word this summer.”
  3. Acts of Fabulousness by Yiorgos Boudouris:  “Chronicle the individual stories of gender and sexual minority youth throughout Calgary.”

We recognize that our event coincides with Day 1 of the Calgary Expo, and as we’re big fans of that event ourselves, we’ll try our best to keep things short and sweet for this one so people can take off and participate in those other festivities. But don’t worry; we have plans to throw a BIG celebration in honour of our Third Anniversary at a future date, along with the help of some fantastic community partners and other like-minded individuals and groups. So stay tuned for that! (Hint: It too may involve a piñata, among some other things)

In the meantime, here’s a bit of a look back at some of the cool things we’ve been able to pull off in the city over the last few years:

This video was created in honour of the first-ever Awesome Day in Canada last year on June 21, where Canadian Awesome Foundation chapters from coast-to-coast (and even a handful of chapters from the US as part of a Worldwide Day of Awesome that Canada had hosted) were invited to participate by doing something public facing in their communities. Coordinated from right here in Calgary, we had various AF chapters awarding grants, holding ‘Unlimited’ Picnics, giving away balloons and throwing frisbees in a park, just to name a few of the things.

We were originally supposed to do a big giveaway throughout the day downtown ending with a Pitch Night in partnership with the Calgary Public Library, but the floods last year threw those plans out the window. Instead, we held a Relaxation Station in support of the community of Mission where we offered amenities such as free cell phone charging, massages and a place to sit in the shade for flood evacuees and volunteers. It was a huge success and the inspiration for our new direction this year.

We hope you can join us tonight for our 3rd Anniversary event in support of three fantastic ideas, and even if you can’t, we definitely hope that you’ll join us at one of the many wacky events we have in store throughout the year. It’ll be…Awesome!

Deconstructing the Construction of a “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata – Part 2

Only a few days left until showtime and our Baby Zebra Piñata is virtually completed, save for a few final finishing touches and the stuffing of various meat-treats (generously provided by Big Chief Meat Snacks) and candies (for you non-meat eaters).

(And if you’re wondering why we’re hosting this crazy ‘Meat-Up’ event (get it?), read this.)

When last we left our Zebra Piñata, it was just about to be assembled. Piñata Experts Heather Ilsley and Derek Mah from have been working furiously over the last couple of months to complete it in time for our “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata party this Sunday, spending at least 100+ hours on this project. We’re so grateful for the thought, effort and most importantly time they’ve put into this project on our behalf, and we hope you’ll support their efforts by joining us this Sunday!

And now on to the photos.

Here is our fully assembled but yet-to-be-decorated Baby Zebra. The head has already been mounted to the body and the whole thing has had mâché applied as well as a layer of white tissue paper to give it some uniformity. The ears were constructed out of white cardboard and the ‘feet’ are styrofoam balls.

To give you an idea of the scale of this thing, here’s Heather as she presents our piñata to the world. As you can see, it’s half the size of Heather and twice as thick. Or in other words: This thing is HUGE! The black markings on its body are where the stripes will be applied.

Heather as she applies the Zebra striping. The stripes were created by taking black and white paper streamers and folding them in half, then feathering them by making quarter-inch cuts perpendicular to the folds. It results in a great effect as it gives the piñata a bit of texture. Simple to do, but very time consuming to create; converting an entire roll of paper streamer can literally take a few hours. The stripes are then applied to the piñata using white glue.

Derek as he applies the googly eyes to the Baby Zebra. They initially thought to create their own as they were uncertain that they’d be able to find eyes at the correct scale, but in the end, they were able to find something close. To make the eyes look bigger than they actually were, Derek added some black striping around the eye sockets.

The snout and the feet are decorated with black and white hockey tape, to give those parts of the Zebra a different texture and look. Much thought and consideration has been put towards the visuals as the piñata takes more and more damage throughout the night, and a conscious decision was made to use different materials for the feet as Heather and Derek want to see them fly off as it takes more and more damage from the evisceration by our ‘lions’ for the evening.

We wanted to give our Baby Zebra a bit of an attitude, so we decided to go with a multicoloured mane and tail rather than a plain black one. Heather shows off the mane she created by taking multiple pieces of different coloured tissue paper, folding them over and feathering them similar to the way the zebra stripes were feathered using the paper streamers. To hold it all together, she broke out her sewing kit and stitched the tissue paper similar to how a book is bound to its cover.

Heather and Derek apply the mane to the piñata using hot glue. We decided to give our Baby Zebra a bit of a mohawk as well by attaching it closer to the forehead. The tail was created by taking various pieces of tissue paper, twisting them together and splaying the ends. It was attached to the piñata by poking a hole in its backside and securing it with more hot glue.

And there you have it, our (mostly) finished Baby Zebra Piñata! Isn’t it cute? Just needs a few more finishing touches and to be stuffed with candies and jerky-treats and then it’ll be ready for showtime!

If you’re interested, more photos from our Baby Zebra’s construction can be found on our Facebook page.

In order to accommodate the interest that seems to be brewing in the public eye for this project, we’re extending the hours by opening the doors at 6 p.m. rather than 6:30 p.m. That way, if you want to have your picture taken with our piñata before the festivities start, you’ll have some extra time to do so. Make sure to take plenty; once the evisceration starts, there’ll be no going back!

So the final agenda for the evening now looks like this:


  • Doors and “Last Chance” Piñata Photo Ops at 6:00 p.m.
  • Eulogy at 8 p.m.
  • Zebra Evisceration at 8:20 p.m.
  • Lamentations, Reminiscing and After Party at 8:45 p.m.

A BIG THANK YOU to Heather and Derek from for helping us with this project and for generously sponsoring our piñata. They’ve spent over 100 hours of their free time on it, bankrolling everything from the materials to the candy stuffing themselves as an official piñata for their piñata project for this year. It’s a beautiful piece of art (the very nature of this event will highlight its transient nature) and we certainly couldn’t have created such a magnificent beast on our own.

And another shout out to Big Chief Meat Snacks for their generosity in providing the jerky-treats that will be stuffed into our Baby Zebra, as well as for the meat-treat platters that we’ll have on display that people can enjoy before and after the evisceration. Without the support of this local Calgary company, our event would not be “Meat-Filled” at all.

As always, all of our events are free and open to the public. Hope you can join us this Sunday evening at Endeavor Arts and feel free to bring your friends. It’s going to be AWESOME!

Deconstructing the Construction of a “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata

The original Meat-Filled Zebra Piñatas project funded by Awesome Foundation – Boston in January 2013 was the talk of the Global AF sphere for a solid three months. It had been a while since a zany project such as that one had been funded by a chapter anywhere in the world, and it was a callback to our roots of funding things that no other traditional granting organization would fund (i.e. Funding Awesome).

So when we here at Awesome Calgary were looking for programming ideas to host during the lead up to our chapter relaunch in April based on ideas of projects that have been funded by The Awesome Foundation elsewhere in the world, something to honour AF-Boston’s original Zebra Piñata project was always in the back of our minds.

When we learned that there was a group of individuals in Calgary (i.e. Heather Ilsley and Derek Mah at or TPP for short) that decided to make a piñata a month for fun (and this despite them never having built a piñata in their lives outside of their childhood), choosing to bankroll the whole thing themselves AND documenting the whole thing from construction to destruction (or deployment to destroyment, as they like to put it), we took it as a sign.

So we reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in working with us in some way this year and if we could commission them to create a zebra piñata for us. We were thrilled that they wanted to work with us on this project, and couldn’t be more grateful that they chose our AF-Calgary Zebra Piñata to become one of their official monthly piñatas for the year as part of their experimental Piñata Project. And that is the story of how our ‘Meat-Filled’ Zebra Piñata Party was born.

What follows are some behind-the-scenes photos from the early phases of the build; in fact, the actual piñata itself is much further along as we speak, and you can tune in to later on to learn more as we get closer to our event on Sunday, March 30.

These are some of the materials that will be used in the construction of the piñata. In addition to the paper mâché, there’s newspaper, white glue, black and white coloured streamers (to give the zebra its striped body), black tissue paper, balloons, some twine to suspend the piñata from the rafters of its final home at Endeavor Arts and a paint brush to apply the paper mâché and glue. All-in-all, it’s basic piñata construction fare. The pink item is a Japanese paper lantern, whose use will be described later on.


These are conceptual sketches of the Zebra Piñata that Heather and Derek envision creating. Most of the Zebra Piñatas used by zoos in real life are created almost to scale in order to increase their authenticity to the lions. Because we’re paying homage to the original project that AF-Boston funded rather than going with a strict reimplementation, they decided to have a little fun with their design, choosing to go with a caricature of a baby zebra with rounded limbs. The tricky bit was figuring out how to create the elongated body; up to this point, TPP’s piñatas have used balloons to create the majority of their structures, which in this case, would not have been able to give them the shape they envisioned the body should have at this scale. According to Derek, the team at this point had already spent 20+ hours on figuring out how not to build the body. The first prototype body was too weak and the second prototype wouldn’t even fit through the door. The piñata body we’re talking about here is their third attempt.

As you can see, they envision building it so it cracks open like an egg when broken, rather than it opening randomly with bits flying everywhere. This implies putting some thought into how the body is constructed and which parts of it are reinforced. Because we’ll be holding our event at an art gallery, they’re also putting in some thought to how the ‘guts’ of the piñata fall out, or in other words, what the visuals of the evisceration looks like. The ideal is that things fall straight down because a) that would look more visually pleasing as the zebra starts slowly leaking its guts all over the place as it accumulates more damage, b) it’ll make clean up easier later on and c) there’s less risk of damage from flying debris to the other art pieces in the gallery. TPP is trying to practice responsible destroyment and we couldn’t agree more.

In order to give our baby zebra an elongated body, the team ultimately decided to go with two Japanese paper lanterns. That way, they could approximate the desired egg-like behaviour as the piñata cracks open down the middle by making each lantern one-half of the body, while still giving them something hollow enough to work with when it came to stuffing it full of treats later on. Of course, with the lantern being made of paper itself, it would disintegrate as soon as the paper mâché was applied. They solved this issue by waterproofing it first by wrapping it in plastic and then applying the paper mâché overtop of it.

Here is what the two halves of the baby zebra body lo
ok like after the paper mâché is applied. There’s at least three layers in this photo, although they may have added more since then to reinforce the structure (we want to make sure as many people in attendance as possible get a whack). Again, you can see how the body will try to emulate the breaking of an egg when everything is fitted together.

This will form the basis of the head of our baby zebra. It was constructed using a traditional balloon, while the snout was shaped and constructed using regular cardboard.

Here’s another headshot, with a bottle of wine and Derek’s finger for scale, along with the initial application of the neck piece which will later be mounted on the body. As you can see, the head alone is larger than a bottle of wine. Ears and other decorations will be added later, and the team hopes to custom-create 3D googly eyes that will react each time the piñata is struck. They believe that they’ll have to build those eyes themselves as they have been unable to find any that have been pre-made to the scale that they need.

And that was a sneak-peek at some of the earlier aspects of our piñata build, courtesy of Heather and Derek. They started building our piñata back in February, and things have progressed greatly since then. Another update detailing more advanced phases of the build will soon be posted over at, so make sure to keep an eye on them over there, or follow them on Twitter at @PinataProject for all the latest details!

In the meantime, here again are the details on our “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata Party:


  • Doors and “Last Chance” Piñata Photo Ops at 6:00 p.m.
  • Eulogy at 8 p.m.
  • Zebra Evisceration at 8:20 p.m.
  • Lamentations, Reminiscing and After Party at 8:45 p.m.

Heather and Derek have spent an INSANE amount of hours on this project up to this point (not counting the 20+ hours on the failed prototypes), with many, many more hours to go until completion, so we hope you can make it out to our event on March 30 to show them your support for this massive undertaking!

And a BIG THANK YOU to our friends over at Big Chief Meat Snacks as they’ll be providing some meat-treats for us to make our Zebra Piñata truly “meat-filled” (and if you’re not a meat eater, don’t worry as we’ll also have traditional piñata fare like candies and toys). So make sure to come join us if you can; this event promises to be Awesome!

Awesome Calgary Presents: A ‘Meat-Filled’ Zebra Piñata Party!

As we countdown to our chapter’s relaunch in April 2014, we’ll be hosting various events and activities during the lead up inspired by Awesome Foundation grants awarded in other cities around the world.

Thus far, we’ve performed a Valentine’s Day Balloon Scavenger Hunt on Stephen Avenue Walk and Barclay Mall in partnership with Downtown Calgary in honour of the Valentine’s Day Love Letter Scavenger Hunt project funded by AF-San Francisco back in January 2013 (as well as the Poetry+QR Codes project funded by AF-Chicago back in November 2011), and a “Strings-Attached” Speed Gaming event inspired by the Speed-Gaming! project funded by AF-Ottawa back in January 2013.

Up Next: Our take on the Meat-Filled Zebra Piñatas project that Awesome Foundation – Boston funded in January 2013.

The original AF-Boston funded project contributed to the creation of meat-filled zebra piñatas as a way to engage lions at the zoo in various animal enrichment activities to help stave off cabin fever (yes, apparently, it’s A THING).

Our Awesome Calgary ‘Meat-Filled’ Zebra Piñata Party will pay homage to the project that AF-Boston funded with us creating our own GIANT-SIZED Zebra Piñata (oh no, this ain’t no store-bought piñata at all) in partnership with the piñata experts (i.e Heather Ilsley and Derek Mah) over at You’ll also be able to follow along in the creation of this special piñata over on their blog.

In fact, meticulous thought is being put into the creation of this piñata as we speak, including how it’ll break, the impact of the visuals as its guts get eviscerated onto the floor, and even what the ‘meat’ filling will be (and we’re DELIGHTED to announce that there will be meat-treats (in addition to traditional piñata fare like candies and toys) courtesy of our friends over at Big Chief Meat Snacks! Mmm…BITE ME! 🙂 ) The ‘lions’ will be people (wearing lion-themed blindfolds, of course) and the evisceration will take place using baseball bats (or possibly hockey sticks), but after seeing this piñata in the flesh, you’ll agree that it’s less a piñata and more a form of art, and an experience so rich that you’ll regret missing out on it if you don’t attend.

This will also be an opportunity to meet the creators and experts behind and learn more about why they’re creating a piñata a month and documenting it from construction to destruction (or deployment to destroyment, as they like to put it), as well as to pick their brains about all things piñatas in case you were interested in creating one yourself.

Finally, you’ll also be able to meet some fantastic people and learn more about Awesome Foundation – Calgary directly from the people involved with it in a fun, casual environment.

So yes, it’ll be a “Meat-and-Greet” event with the folks at Awesome Calgary and And as always, all of our events are free to attend and open to the public. We hope you can make it down!



  • Doors and “Last Chance” Piñata Photo Ops at 6:00 p.m.
  • Eulogy at 8 p.m.
  • Zebra Evisceration at 8:20 p.m.
  • Lamentations, Reminiscing and After Party at 8:45 p.m.

More programming details to come as we get closer to the event (although in the meantime, feel free to read up on our behind-the-scenes feature Deconstructing the Construction of a “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata (as well as Part 2) for a look at the early stages of construction of this thing), so stay tuned and make sure to save the date! It’ll be…Awesome. 🙂

And in the meantime, thanks again to Big Chief Meat Snacks for sponsoring the meaty bits that we’ll be stuffing into our Zebra Piñata! Mmm…Bite Me!

Awesome Calgary Presents: A ‘Strings-Attached’ themed Awesome Hours at Speed Gaming 2.0

Photo Credit: Erik Mallinson via Flickr

As we countdown to our chapter’s relaunch in April 2014, we’ll be hosting various events and activities during the lead up inspired by AF grants awarded in other cities.

Up Next: Our take on the Speed-Gaming! project granted by Awesome Ottawa back in January 2013.

We hosted one of these last year during a Gamer Sunday at Dickens Pub, and we’re doing it again…but this time with a twist!

(and good news for any of you that attended our Speed Gaming 1.0 event last year, or played with us at our Relaxation Station in the community of Mission last year during the flood aftermath: Doktor Stephen has agreed to host a GIANT game of Werewolves at the end to cap off the event. Friendships can be made/broken based on the outcome of these games so you know that a fun time is essentially guaranteed!)


  • What:  Awesome Calgary Presents: A ‘Strings-Attached’ themed Awesome Hours at Speed Gaming 2.0
  • Where:  Dickens Pub (1000 – 9 Avenue SW)
  • When:  Sunday, March 9, 2014. Check-in/Registration starts at 1:30 p.m., event from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • RSVP:  Facebook, Meetup, Yelp


  • 1:30 p.m. – Check-in/Registration
  • 2:30 p.m. – Game #1
  • 3:00 p.m. – 15 minute break
  • 3:15 p.m. – Game #2
  • 3:45 p.m. – 15 minute break
  • 4:00 p.m. – Game #3
  • 4:30 p.m. – GIANT game of Werewolves moderated by Doktor Stephen
  • 5 p.m. to Whenever – Event Ends/After-Event Gaming

Tentative Game List:

…and more!

How Speed Gaming Works:
The intent is that perhaps you’ll be exposed to a fun game that you’ve never played before while meeting some fantastic new people. Various stations will be set up with different games you can play. We’ll randomly assign you to a table, where you’ll have 30 minutes to play. After the 30 minutes are up, we’ll take a short break where you’ll be randomly assigned to another table and then you’ll have another 30 minutes to play the new game. We’ll do this three times and afterwards, everyone is invited to stay and play some other games (the bar has an assortment, or you can bring your own) until the pub closes at midnight. Who knows, Werewolf was a huge hit last year but took too long to cram in a complete game in 30 minutes. Maybe Doktor Stephen will be willing to host a giant game after the event? We’ll see…

What are Awesome Hours?
We’re ramping up operations here at Awesome Calgary as we lead up to our chapter’s relaunch in April 2014. Awesome Hours are a great way to meet people involved with The Awesome Foundation to learn more about our micro-granting program, some of the events and activities we’ll be up to throughout the year, and learn about the various Trustee and volunteer opportunities that are available. And if you ever wanted to pick our brains about what kinds of projects we like to grant or what makes for a successful pitch, now’s your opportunity to do that from the source!

Our Twist:
We’re very proud that our $1,000 micro-grants come no-strings-attached. It encourages people to take risks when pitching an idea they have to make Calgary just a bit more awesome to live in.

However, sometimes strings can be a FUN thing! So, if you have any questions about Awesome Foundation – Calgary or The Awesome Foundation in general, look for the people with ‘Strings-Attached’ (to pink balloons) and feel free to assault them with your curiosity.

And if you want your own balloon name tag, we might be able to accommodate you (while supplies last)! BUT: You’ll need to know the secret phrase and it’ll be up to YOU to figure out what it is using all of your intelligence and ingenuity… 😉

Something Awesome: Hi-Tech and High Fashion in Calgary

In November 2012, Awesome Calgary awarded a $1,000 micro-grant to Make Fashion, a collaboration of great minds who want to demonstrate that the convergence of Technology and Art can result in a form, fashion and community brand new to Calgary.

Fashion, jewelry and accessories designers were united with software and hardware engineers as well as technology enthusiasts to create innovative artistic pieces that demonstrated the convergence of fashion and technology.

100% of our micro-grant went towards paying for the materials needed to create the pieces, which included things such as electroluminescent wire, LEDs of various colours and an assortment of battery packs to power everything. All-in-all, the materials purchased with our grant contributed to the construction of about 10% of all of the creations.

The event was a HUGE success, putting Calgary on the map and at the forefront of wearable technology and high fashion around the world, and local creators Laura Dempsey and Angela Dale were even invited to show some of the pieces they developed for Make Fashion 2013 at the FashionWare show at this year’s International CES in Las Vegas in January.

This year, the folks behind Make Fashion are ready for their second annual gala. Entitled the Make Fashion Show & Gala 2.0, the organizers plan to go bigger and better than last year’s show, with a larger venue and by bringing in some of the top designers in this field from all over the world. Headlining the show this year are Erina Kashihara from Japan, Tricia Flanagan from Hong Kong and Rainbow Winters from the UK, alongside a plethora of Canadian designer teams.

As a special THANK YOU to everyone in The Awesome Foundation network for the support of their inaugural show last year, the organizers behind Make Fashion would like to offer everyone a special 20% discount off the cost of Advance Tickets (5% more than the early-bird special which expired on Feb 14; Yay!) for any of the various ticketing levels. To take advantage of their special offer, use this ticket link or navigate to and use promotional code LoveAwesome20 during check out to redeem. Advance tickets (while available) will be on sale up to the day before the event, so make sure to get yours before they sell out!

Make no mistake: This event is world class, and Awesome Calgary is proud to have helped kickstart such a show right here in our own backyard. If you’d like to learn more, check out our piece on the International AF Blog.

Hope to see you there!

Awesome Foundation – Calgary’s November 2012 Winning Project ‘Make Fashion’ Set to Dazzle and Delight Again!

Make Fashion - Angela Dale

An Awesome Foundation – Calgary winning project for November 2012, last year’s Make Fashion 2013 gala in Calgary was a complete success! It brought local technology enthusiasts and engineers together with fashion designers to create innovative artistic pieces that demonstrated the convergence of fashion and technology.

AF-Calgary’s $1,000 micro-grant helped kickstart the creation of various pieces of wearable technology for the show through the purchase of materials, ultimately contributing to roughly 10% of all the pieces created last year.

The inaugural Make Fashion gala became the first of its kind anywhere in Canada, joining FashionWare at CES and the wearable fashion show organized by Tech in Motion: New York as one of the premier events in North America showcasing the convergence of high technology and high fashion. In fact, local designers Laura Dempsey and Angela Dale were invited to show the pieces they developed for Calgary’s Make Fashion 2013 gala at this year’s FashionWare event in Las Vegas last month.

What makes Make Fashion different from shows like FashionWare and the Tech in Motion: New York wearable fashion show is that Make Fashion funds a significant portion of the development costs for the pieces designed for the gala, up to $1,500 worth for each piece.

“By covering our designers’ expenses, we allow them to take bigger risks, stimulating industry and inspiring innovation,” says Shannon Hoover, Make Fashion Co-Founder and AF-Calgary Fellow. “We’re proud to say that we have some of the best designers in the world right here in Calgary, and with this year’s show, we may become the most international one as well.”

Last year’s Make Fashion gala consisted of design teams mainly from the Calgary area, but this year, three top designers from outside of North America have been invited to showcase their wearable technology pieces at Make Fashion 2014.

The international designers headlining this year’s gala include Erina Kashihara from Japan, who has been creating light accessories and dresses since 1985, London, UK based artist Rainbow Winters, who fuses cutting edge science with the high-art of fashion to create visually stunning pieces that have been showcased in music videos, rock-concerts, advertisements, and other red-carpet events, and Dr. Patricia Flanagan, Head of the Wearables Lab at the Academy of Visual Arts at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“After seeing some of these talented artists show their pieces at various events around the world, we extended an invitation for them to participate in this year’s Make Fashion gala, and we’re thrilled that they accepted,” says Hoover. “Calgarians are in for a treat.”

Along with 11 returning and emerging design teams from the Calgary area, Make Fashion 2014 aims to be the biggest and best show to date with a larger venue and more exhibits.

What: Make Fashion Show & Gala 2.0
Where: WestJet Campus – 22 Aerial Place NE, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
When: Saturday, March 1, 2014 from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Tickets: Advance Purchase Here, General Admission (i.e. Standing Room) only to be sold at the door

About Make Fashion

Make Fashion is an initiative that introduces talented local designers to cutting edge new technologies, subject matter experts, and wearable technology. We are a collaboration of great minds who want to explore and demonstrate the convergence fashion and technology.

From awe-inspiring responsive runway dresses to scientific wearables with practical applications, Make Fashion designers are inspired by fashion with functionality.

Our runway gala in Calgary, Alberta is our largest annual event, where we pair fashion designers and artists with engineers and tech enthusiasts. The combination of skills and ideas creates stunning results and groundbreaking fusions of light, fashion and performance.

In addition to our runway series, Make Fashion produces a series of thought leadership symposiums, public-access workshops, and molecular cocktail events.

For more information, please visit

About Awesome Foundation – Calgary

The Calgary chapter of The Awesome Foundation (Awesome Calgary) was created in April 2011 and to date has granted $27,000 in no-strings-attached $1,000 micro-grants to enable awesomeness in Calgary. As part of the international Awesome Foundation network, collectively, $873,000 by 89 AF chapters in 18 countries has been granted to inspire and enable awesomeness around the world.

For more information, please visit


Maria Hoover
Co-Founder, Event Director and Media Coordinator, Make Fashion
Email: [email protected]

Reg Tiangha
Dean of Awesome and Media Coordinator, Awesome Foundation – Calgary
Email: [email protected]

Photo Credit: Faby Martin

Source: The Awesome Foundation