An Evening With Jill Barber

Why yes, that is an autographed vinyl copy of Jill Barber's Mischievous Moon.

Not only was Friday the second #LunchUpGuelph, it was also an Evening With Jill Barber. Could this day have been any better? Likely not.

The eve started with a nice glass of wine with my friends Dr. V. and Carolyn. We chatted about running, marathons, and health, with a bit of work thrown in, and of course, shenanigans. After that, we met up with Cody and Sarah who were saving seats for us in the second row of the Dublin Street Church; the location for the concert.

Note to my mom: I went to church! So, I’m good for the year now, right?

I’ve never seen a concert in a church, save for choral type music. I have to say, it was really pretty cool. There was a smell of incense in the air (or as I mentioned to Victoria – It smells like Church in here); a smell that I happen to love as it makes me think of Christmas mass when I was a kid. The organ-as-backdrop was rather epic too. The setting was quite intimate, especially since we were sitting in the second pews from the altar/stage.

Eventually, the band came on the stage and started playing. Jill Barber entered from stage left. While her band was decked out in black, she was in a very sparkly white dress and heals. The contrast was pretty striking. She had the air of an old-time movie star, crossed with a pin-up girl from the 50s. Sultry, seductive, beautiful. And then she started singing. Her voice is even more amazing in person than it is on her album, and that is saying a lot. I’ve been trying to come up with the best way of describing her voice, but the only words that come to mind are sultry and sensual and completely feminine. She seems like she has been transported from an era long-gone-by. Her voice is unique, and timeless, and completely soothing.

Between songs, she chatted with the audience; telling us stories about her life, some of the instruments, and her band members. They included a violin-hickey sporting child prodigy, a pianist/accordionist Doctor of chemical physics, an amazing Upright Bassist who was apparently available for the single ladies (and possibly single men) in the house, her amazing drummer, and her guitarist/road manager (if I remember correctly). It was clear that the band enjoys spending time together. There was a certain obvious mischievous between them. This only made the concert that much better; it was as if we were watching an amazingly smooth and flawless rehearsal; one that we were privileged to take part in.

After the concert, the band played with the church organ while we waited in line to chat with Jill, purchase some music, and have her sign the items. Up close and personal, she seemed very down to earth and personable. She took the time to not only sign my LP, but to chat with me about it and then personalize it for me. Very cool Jill. Very cool indeed.

Anyway, I’m so glad I was able to see her in concert. I look forward to her next visit to Guelph. I’m definitely going to make a point of seeing her again.

When Twitter Attacks Part Deux: The Re-Luncheoning.

Friday marked the second official #LunchUpGuelph. You might remember that I first wrote about it just over a month ago.

Once again the event was fantastic; this time with about 45 tweeps in attendance. While the venue had changed, and there were some new faces, the overall vibe remained the same; charged. It felt as if something amazing were brewing – that the group potential could be limitless. And I’m convinced that is the case. I’m also convinced that there is something even more amazing that is going to develop out of this. It may be simply a collection of friends getting together to chat and such, but I’m positive that it’s more than that.

Anyway, before I get into the specifics of the day, I wanted to send out a huge thanks to the bookshelf/ebar for hosting the event. It was a great success, the food was great, and based on follow-up tweets from @TheRobCampbell, we managed to raise 135lbs of food for the local Guelph food bank. And that ain’t too shabby.

Of course, being the sort of awesome-sauce misfits that we are, @TheRobCampbell‘s info-tweet was followed up with a challenge from @RealJeffWilliam: can we break the 150lb mark? Personally, I think that will be easy. So easy, that I think we should aim for 200lbs of food (or more), especially since the holidays are fast approaching. Given the vibe at these events, it’s clear that the tweeps in attendance want to give back in any way that they can. I also think that we have momentum on our side. Plus, I think we are pretty awesome.

So what say you #LunchUpGuelph? Are we ready for a challenge? I think we are.

In related news, here are some other links related to #LunchUpGuelph: A blog post by @Cinn48, and pics here, here, here, and here, plus a video here. Also, check out the official playlist of the day, brought to you by @MusicLives.

Better Than Coffee? What The What?

I forgot to snap some shots at The Coup, so I pilfered this from

Before I left Calgary and made my way home to Guelph at the ungodly hour of 4 in the morning, I had to make a stop at The Coup. In fact, on this particular trip Rick and I would make two stops; the first was for dinner, the second for drinks.

While our first visit was slightly marred by the fact that it took 2 hours to get a seat (it’s a very busy place), the food was fantastic, and it in no way affected my decision to return later for drinks. I was undeterred for 3 reasons. The first reason, as I mentioned, was the food. It was fantastic. The second reason was simple: I was hanging out with Rick and other friends; the company more than made up for the 2 hour wait. The third reason however was more beverage based in nature. And that is the purpose of this post.

But first a little info about The Coup. The restaurant is located on 17th Avenue; close to shops and other fine restaurants. The schtick of this particular restaurant is two-fold; it’s vegetarian/vegan, and it’s local/organic. Now please don’t read any of that to mean that the food is less than. In fact, it is anything but. Everything that I’ve ever had there has been amazing. The flavours have been intense, and the food has been hearty. I’ve never left feeling hungry. Quite the opposite to be honest. Further, the restaurant is also quite green; trying to reduce waste wherever possible, and planting trees to offset their carbon footprint. Awesome.

The restaurant itself is split into two rooms. On the right is the lounge. A DJ plays funky tunes while 20-, 30-, and not so 30- somethings sit, chat, and enjoy the fantastic array of beverages and appetizers that are offered. I’ve sampled some of the great Belgian beers that they offer, as well as an interesting beet drink. Yes; beet juice and booze. Weird? Perhaps. Tasty? Indeed. But it is the next drink that captured my heart.

Another pilfered photo, this one from

Last year I travelled to Calgary with my friends Manon, Mark, and Nadia for a wedding. Specifically, our friends Karen and Steve were tying the knot (and in fact, just recently welcomed a beautiful and tiny little baby girl into the world). During that visit, Rick introduced us to The Coup. It was at that time that I first tried the drink known as Better Than Folgers. In a word: sofreakingtasty.

To understand this tasty beverage, you must imagine the offspring that would result from the torrid love affair between espresso, a milkshake, and booze. Honestly, my mouth is watering as I think about it. The drink is about 10oz, 2 of which are booze: hanger 1 espresso vodka, and kahlua. The rest of the drink is a mix of espresso sorbet, soy milk and ice. In other words – it’s made of 100% pure awesome. But don’t expect to get this thing cheap. The price of awesome is high. In this particular case, $11.50. But trust me, it’s so worth it. If you stop in Calgary and find your way to The Coup, you have to try this. Not to would be akin to high-fiving the god of all things tasty right in the face. And that’s not right.

Anyway, thank you Rick for an awesome adventure. And thank you for taking me back to The Coup so that I could enjoy another Better Than Folgers (despite having eaten so much prior). And thank you also for buying said beverage for me. You sir, are a huge slice of awesome pie, and I miss your ugly face already.

A Note On Classy Bitches

Who drinks mountain top scotch? Classy bitches, that's who.

On Saturday I wrote that All The Classy Bitches Drink Mountain Top Scotch, and while those words were clearly true, they didn’t tell the entire story. That is, classy bitches do drink mountain top scotch, but they also scree down the mountain after consuming mountain top scotch. Because who wants to hike 2 hours back down a mountain when one can scree down the mountain in 25 minutes? Suckers, that’s who. And we are clearly not suckers. We’re classy bitches. And classy bitches scree. Write that down kiddies.

As luck would have it, both Rick and I had cameras that would record 1080p video of the adventure. So, after much discussion and hours of editing we present for your viewing pleasure the screeing descent from Nihahi Ridge – Classy Bitches style. You are welcome.

But wait. There’s more. On Sunday, Rick and I headed to Rat’s Nest Cave for a little adventure in cave exploring. Since my battery was essentially dead, Rick took the reigns and captured the following little video for you. The video takes place when we were introduced by Russell, our fearless guide, to the Laundry Shoot. The video will give you a bit of an idea of how awesome it was. Or for those of you that might be claustrophobic, how tiny it was. And you should know, this was not the tiniest cave we entered. Rick, Chloe and I conquered the ‘cave challenge’ and it was way smaller than this. Enjoy!

It’s A Dark Wet Hole. It Must Be Fun.

Looking sexy and ready to do some caving.

Yesterday Rick and I went caving, and I can sum up the adventure with one word:


It was an incredible experience. Absolutely incredible. I’ve gone caving before with my brother many years ago, and Rick and I did some caving when we were exploring Hawaii and also at Rattlesnake Point, but this was caving on an entirely different level.

As with all of our adventures, the day began with a requisite visit to Starbucks, and then we were on our way to Canmore to meet our caving guide Russell and four of Rick’s friends; Chloe, Sanjay, Rachna, and Roshan.

Yup, it's really called Rat's Nest Cave

The adventure itself took place in Rat’s Nest Cave. Despite the fact that the name might read as some place that most wouldn’t want to go, after strapping on our gear (harness, knee pads, overalls, helmets, headlamps, and smiles) we dove in. Pretty much literally. The beginning of the cave consisted of a short descent while attached to guide lines. Not too challenging, and definitely in an area where room was readily available.

We eventually made our way to the area of the cave where we needed to rappel to a lower level. I’ve never rappelled into anything, but it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Of course, I was the last in the line for our group so I sat around for a bit while I waited for each person to, in turn, drop into the lower layers of the cave. Once it was my turn, Russell quickly set me up and then I jumped into position. My first few steps were a bit, um, shaky. But I think this was mainly due to not knowing what I was doing or how to really step (despite some very clear instructions from Russell), and not so much a function of nerves, because I wasn’t nervous at all. Once I got the general feeling for it, I made my way to the bottom of the cave without incident. I definitely want to do some more of that.

Happy to be here!

The environment of course was not to be an open one for long. That is, we soon found ourselves in some very tight, and for some of us, uncomfortable situations. For whatever reason, most of these tight squeezes don’t freak me out (too much). Don’t get me wrong; there is an air of discomfort, and my mind sometimes says what the hell are you doing? but it passes quickly and I just push on through wherever I’m going.

I guess my mettle was first tested when we were presented with an offshoot from one of the main caves we were in. Sanjay crawled into it head first on his belly. I decided I’d go on my back, but realized immediately that this wasn’t going to work for me. Not because I was freaked out, but because I had a bunch of snacks stuffed in my pants that were getting in the way. Anyway, after adjustments and such, I followed Sanjay’s example and crawled on my belly. On the other end of the tube was a small cave that allowed those of us that crawled through a chance to sit and relax. We gave ourselves a minute to recoup, and then turned around to return to Russell and the remaining members of our group.

I'm loving this. Clearly.

Next up, the Laundry Shoot. The Laundry Shoot is essentially a straight and narrow drop that suddenly requires a 90 degree turn once you get to the bottom of it. You then have to crawl a little way until you hit another patch where you just slide down a tear shaped tube. It was awesome. While Chloe dove in head first right from the start, I opted to go feet first for the initial drop, then switch it up and go head first for the second drop. Amazing. I want to do it again, but all head first this time. Head first was definitely the way to go. So much fun.

Following the Laundry Shoot, we explored deeper into the caves while Russell taught us about stalactites, stalagmites, columns, deposits, etc. It was all truly fascinating, especially for someone who used to read geology books as a kid.

Before leaving the cave, Russell presented us with the ‘challenge’ cave. After Sanjay and Roshan had checked it out, I thought screw it. I crawled my way to the entrance and peaked in. It represented 7 metres of crawling on my stomach with very little room to move. My brain raced – Am I really going to do this? Yes. No. Yes. No. Sweet Jesus, am I insane? 

We're in a cave. It ain't nothing.

About a microsecond later, with the support of those behind me, I dove in. To get through this particular cave I had to crawl on my elbows and drag myself along in that way. I pushed as best I could with my feet but they weren’t really providing much help. In the middle of the crawl, the floor dipped a bit, requiring a bit of a back bend. Interesting, but not impossible. Near the end of the crawl things tightened up and twisted. The only way for me to get through was to put both arms out in front of me and wiggle-pull myself through. It was AWESOME! Once I made my way through, the cave opened up into a small chamber that continued to descend quite a way. I didn’t go down there as Russell hadn’t mentioned that we should and I figured I shouldn’t risk it.

Chloe. Chillaxing on the cave wall. I'm in a cave; it ain't nothing.

Shortly after I made my way in, Chloe popped through in typical Chloe fashion – all smiles. And then, despite being out of his comfort zone, Chloe and I helped pull Rick through. We were pretty much all smiles; laughing and amazed at what we had just done, and thoroughly enjoying the tiny chamber that we found ourselves in. I really can’t describe how amazing it felt.

Of course, to get out we had to go back from whence we came. Chloe led the way, with Rick and I following behind. I got a bit too close at one point and ended up with a Rick-boot to the face. Thankfully I had a helmet on so it wasn’t too bad.

After that, my level of feeling awesome was through the roof. Sadly, the tour was all but over. We investigated several amazing geologic structures, stopped for snacks, and then made our way out. It was great to see the sunshine, but I could have spent a few more hours in the caves. Thankfully, I know I’m going to do this again.

A huge thanks to Rick for organizing this. A most awesome adventure, and something I won’t ever forget.


Holy Mole-y

Happy International Year of Chemistry all y'all

Not being strictly a math & stat nerd, I also feel the need to celebrate National Mole Day, which just happens to fall on October 23rd every single year. Why October 23? Well, a mole represents a specific number of atoms or molecules in a set unit of mass; that number is known as Avogadro’s number and is approximately 6.0221415*10^23. And as you can see, October 23, or 10/23 in mm/dd format represent the base and power of Avogadro’s number.

How does one celebrate Mole Day? I celebrate by playing Sporcle‘s ‘Can You Name The Elements Of The Periodic Table‘ quiz.  How many of the elements can you name?  Thanks to practice, I can name all of them in about 7 to 8 minutes. I mentioned I’m a nerd, right?

Of course, whenever I play, I find that the last few always have me stumped. I’ll have to sit for a while trying to remember them, but usually/eventually they come to me. And every time I finish I feel just a little bit nerdier than the last.

I remember some of the elements simply because I like the sound of their names. Others I have associated with various people, places, etc. For example, I remember Dubnium (Db) and Hafnium (Hf) by thinking of George ‘Dubya’ Bush, who may or may not have been a “Haf”-wit. Samarium (Sm) comes to me by thinking about the Good Samaritan. And whenever I get stuck on Cadmium (Cd), I somehow think of a Caramilk bar and remember it. Weird? Maybe. But it works. Also, I don’t normally have to think about the first 20 or so as I was required to memorize them when I was in high school – but I always loved that the sequence of Boron (B), Carbon (C), Nitrogen (N) and Oxygen (O) always, always, always made me think of bacon.

My shiny new Sporcle results

For complete nerd disclosure, I feel that I should also mention that I find a few elements particularly awesome.  Their awesomeness is completely subjective on my part.  That is, I like them because I think they have some pretty wicked awesome sounding names.  For example:

The first three of these elements are part of the Lanthanides, while the last is part of the Actinides.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with a couple of comics that I think are rather hilarious. Happy Mole Day all y’all.

Cyanide & Happiness #2334

All The Classy Bitches Drink Mountain Top Scotch

All the classy bitches drink mountain top scotch.

We just finished hiking Nihahi, the same mountain ridge that Rick hiked last weekend. It was awesome! Round trip, it was 4hrs, 15 minutes, including about 30 minutes for lunch. Despite the cold and despite the snow, it was amazing. The views were great, the company was fantastic, and I’m a big fan of conquering mountains.

Anyway, we picked up Rick’s friend Paul around 9:30 this morning, after making the requisite stops at Starbucks (go-go juice for us), the gas station (go-go juice for the car) and the grocery store for snacks and such (I may have purchased 2 of the dark chocolate sea salt bars from Lindt).

After a short drive, we parked and started our adventure. The weather started out being quite beautiful; relatively clear skies, sunshine, and not too cold. But as we climbed, things began to get a bit worse. Not terrible really, but definitely colder. And then the snow started. Of course, neither of these things would keep us from our goal – reaching the top of Nihahi.

Scenery along the hike. Amazing.

The climb was quick – about 2 hours to the top. There we were able to see some great views, even if they were obstructed by the snow and cloud. And yes, it was cold. Thankfully, we may have brought a small tipple; specifically scotch and a thermos of Kahlua laden hot chocolate to warm ourselves. And both were quite delicious. There’s really nothing like having a proper glass of scotch at the top of a mountain as one looks out over some incredible expanses of nature.

Three quarters of the way to the top. Cold. Windy. Awesome.

After warming ourselves with the tasty treats, we also grabbed some lunch. We didn’t stay too long at the top however because we were freezing. So off we went to hit the trails back down. The descent was far faster than the climb because we were able to scree. By scree, I mean that we slid atop the loose rock that made up the side. This was the first time I was able to scree, and it was awesome. Seriously freaking awesome. While the rocks were unstable, they still provided enough stability to basically fly down the mountain. It’s almost as if we were surfing the mountain. Amazing. I definitely will be doing that again.

After we returned to the car, we ventured off to Elbow Falls for more photo opportunities, and to enjoy the sights that it had to offer. Overall, an amazing day. Tonight we’re heading for food, and then tomorrow off for a caving adventure. I can’t wait!

As per usual, photos of the hike are provided below. More to come later.

Dan Has Left The Building

Coffee prior to the first session. Mmm, coffee

I wrote this while on the plane headed to Calgary. Of course once I landed, Rick and I had plans to meet up with his friend Paul, and I basically forgot to post it.


As I write this, I think I’m somewhere over the mountains on my way to Calgary to visit Rick. The plan whilst in Calgary – hiking, caving, shenaniganning, not necessarily in that order. My stay in Victoria was short, but it was fantastic. I definitely will be returning.

The conference was also quite awesome. It was smaller than the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada, having about 70 participants instead of say, 500. But, I think I liked this better. It was a bit more intimate, and everyone there was interested in Spatial Statistics, Geography, Public Health, and the like. It was a giant nerdfest, and I’m so happy that I was invited to speak.

The GeoMed'ers (minus me, as I took the photo). Dr. Dean is on the far right.

As for my presentation (which is posted below for your viewing pleasure), I think based on the feedback that it went really well. My talk was only supposed to be 20 minutes, so I planned for 18 to provide enough time for questions. Sadly, my talk got started about 25 minutes late because the 2 presenters that spoke before me clearly didn’t budget their time for a 20 minute presentation. When one has 60+ slides for 20 minutes, and each slide contains more than 10 bullet points, one can’t be expected to finish in 20 minutes. But I digress.

Regardless, the talk went well. I was a bit nervous before I started as I was presenting in front of some of the rock stars of the Spatial Statistics world (yes, we have rock stars). However, that dissipated rather quickly for two reasons. First, once I got up in front of the audience, something switched in my head and I went into presentation mode (I love the adrenaline rush of speaking, and if I feel confident about my particular topic, even better, because then I can have fun with it and those that are listening to me). The second reason was random. And by random, I clearly mean Rick. You see, as I was about to speak, Rick sent me a text to ask how the presentation went. And that made me giggle just a little, and it also reminded me that this wasn’t a big deal, and there was no reason to get stressed about it. After that, things were golden.

The talk garnered several questions, and a lot of interest. Partly for my topic, but also for the manner in which I presented. That is, all of the talks save for mine were done in PowerPoint. And most went over time. And most had too many things written on one slide. In fact, the tendency these days is to use PowerPoint to lay out everything in the presentation. So much so, that I don’t need to listen to the speaker – I just need to read the slides, which is what the speakers are doing as well; they are reading the text on the slides and they aren’t engaging the audience. I do not approve.

So, as with previous presentations, I used Prezi. And as with previous presentations, I kept the number of ‘slides’ to a minimum. And I also kept the content on the slides to a minimum. Clean. Clear. To the point. For example, one of my slides simply presented 3 numbers to the audience: 2.5, 88, and 90000. And then I proceeded to tell a story around those numbers. It’s a simple trick, but it works; based on the feedback, I definitely captured the attention of the audience.

Anyway, the rest of the conference was awesome. It gave me a lot to think about, and I met some really great people. I’m going to be chatting with one rather nerdy (read awesome) student I met once I get back home (we were chatting about a potential submission for publication in the Journal of Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology). I also had plenty of time to stroll Victoria to get some snappy shots. And even with the rain, it was a beautiful city. W00t!

Dear Victoria, The Doctors Are In You

Best de-planing ever!

After sleeping for only 2 hours Wednesday night, and after getting up at 3am on Wednesday morning to head to the airport, and after about 1.5 hours of sitting in said airport before boarding my flight, and finally, after about 5 hours in the air, I landed in Vancouver yesterday to meet up with Dr. Beth. And in true awesome style, Beth was waiting for me at the gate holding a sign that made me giggle out loud the second I saw it. In fact, I laughed so much (note: I may have been slightly sleep deprived) that several of the other de-planing passengers around me stopped to stare.

After hugs and chatting, we then boarded our plane to Victoria, ultimately making our way to the Inn at Laurel Point; my swanky home for the next couple of days and the location of the 7th International GeoMed Conference.

Following a quick shower to remove the smell and feel of stale airplane air off of me, we headed out to explore Victoria. First mission, lunch, or in Beth’s case, breakfast. I had already eaten breakfast about 7 hours prior. Regardless, the re-breakfasting occurred. And thanks to a recommendation from Dr. Julie Gill of The Twitter (and an awesome in-real-life person too), we headed to Lady Marmalade. I ordered the Tofu Scramble, while Beth had some Eggs Benedict with Bacon (everything is better with Bacon). Verdict – delicious. Thanks Dr. Julie for an excellent recommendation.

Tasty beverages at the Scottish Pub.

We spent the rest of the day wandering the city, taking inappropriate and appropriate photos of our wanderings and shenanigans, text messaging Rick so as to make him jealous for not also joining us in Victoria, sampling some beers at the local Irish and Scottish pubs, and pretty much catching up on the comings and goings of each others life that we didn’t know despite emailing and tweeting each other daily.

And just like that, Beth is now on her way back to Vancouver to head to work. Because she’s awesome like that. Thanks Dr. Beth for taking a day off to enjoy Victoria with me. It wouldn’t have been the same without you. And thank you Victoria for putting on a most beautiful day for Dr. Beth and me to enjoy. This city really is beautiful, and I’m looking forward to exploring it more over the next few days.

Anyway, that is all for now as I have a presentation to finalize and conference sessions to attend; the Andrew Lawson is speaking soon, and I always love his talks. W00t!

ZOMG! I almost forgot. Today is the first anniversary of World Statistics Day. The proper protocol, for those who don’t know how to celebrate, is to hug a statistician. And perhaps offer them samplings of dark chocolate, and wine-y, beer-y, or scotch-y goodness. I don’t make the rules folks, I just enforce them.

Okay, I totally made these rules.

Happy World Stats Day all y’all.


Tired, Chilled, And Awake At An Ungodly Hour. Still Smiling.

GeoMED 2011

The adventure continues tomorrow morning. That’s right folks, I’m heading to the airport at the ungodliest of hours; 4am. The sun won’t be up. It’s guaranteed to be frosty. I’m going to be exhausted. And yet despite all of that, I’m going to be smiling from ear to ear because I’m heading to Victoria. I’ve never been to Victoria so this will be a grand adventure indeed.

What’s even more amazing than the fact that I’m heading to Victoria, is that I get to stop in Vancouver. And if you aren’t aware, Vancouver is home to my friend Dr. Beth – you’ll likely remember her from such Guinness World Records as The Longest Hockey Game for Cystic Fibrosis. Even more amazing, is the Dr. Beth will be joining me on the second leg of my trip. That’s right, tomorrow Dr. Beth and I will be taking on Victoria. Look out Victoria; the Doctors are coming for you. W00t!

But why am I heading to Victoria in the first place? Well, I’ve been invited to speak at the 7th Annual GeoMED conference. W00t! I’m stoked. My presentation is slotted for Thursday around 3:45. Hopefully I’ll rock the conference. Of course, I’ll just be happy not to do anything silly.

The best part about presenting on Thursday? It’s the anniversary of the first World Statistics Day. Clearly I’m going to have to drop that into my presentation. Although I’m sure everyone is going to be fully aware of this and celebrating in appropriate style.

Following the conference, I’m then going to fly back to Toronto, but not before stopping in Calgary to visit the one and only Rick. While in Calgary, various shenaniganning will occur, including but not limited to hiking, mountain conquering, and caving. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on any and all shenaniganning, because where there’s shenaniganning, there’s adventure filled stories.

Clearly, the next few days are going to be amazing. I can’t freaking wait!

Best. Christmas. Ever. Part II: The Re-Christmasing.

Wanderlust 1.1. Best map in the history of maps.

As I wrote yesterday, I recently received the most amazing gift I think I’ve ever received. Specifically, my friend Rob created a map of the world that summarizes the various places around the globe that I’ve travelled during my adventures in wanderlusting, including those that I plan to travel. He merged these to-be-travelled places with my Not-So-Bucket-List list so as to make the map more informative and complete. Further, he sought out the help of my friend Rick who provided haikus and some very touching (read vomit inducing) words. The gift – my map – was dubbed Wanderlust 1.1.

And as I wrote yesterday, I was amazed by this gift. I still am. It’s freaking awesome.

Anyway, last night I asked Rob if he could send me a jpeg or pdf version of the map so that I could make it my desktop image. And as I type this, I can see parts of that gift poking out from behind my browser, because of course Rob got right on it and sent me a jpeg file – one perfectly sized to the dimensions of my MacBook Pro. Clearly, Rob is awesome.

I should point out that the map is also the image that I see whenever I look at my iPhone. And tomorrow, when I get to the office, it will also become the background image to both of my monitors of my iMac desktop computer. Although, this might not be conducive to work as every time I look at the map I start wanderlusting.

Anyway, I thought I would also post the jpeg image here so that you might be able to see the entire gift in all its glory, instead of just pathetic little snapshots that I took trying (but failing) to capture the epicness that is Wanderlust 1.1. I look forward to providing Rob with the adventuring, the shenanigans, the travel, the travelling shenanigans, the adventure travelling, and other suchlike things that would be required for him to spend further countless hours updating this map. Because that’s the kind of friend I am. And if I’m extra lucky, Rob will be joining me on some of the adventures that will one day become a data point on Wanderlust 1.x.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

Christmas! In October! Bah!

Earlier this week, my friend Rob (whom you’ll remember from this awesomeness) emailed my brother and me and asked if we were free for sushi dinner. Specifically a Christmas sushi dinner. That’s correct; I wrote Christmas. In October. Shudder. Clearly, Rob had lost his mind.

Now, instead of balking at the idea of celebrating Christmas in October, what with my well-known annoyance of retailers that rush the season (I’m looking at you Hallmark, Carleton Cards, Sears, Zellers, HomeSense, um, really I could go on forever), Aidan and I opted to make it happen. Especially since it gave us a great excuse to see Rob and Katherine, whom we don’t get to see enough. So Friday evening we braved the chilly October weather and hopped onto the 401, making our way to Toronto.

Izumi sake - available in the Distillery district of Toronto.

Our Christmas in October dinner was held at Fin, and it was delicious. If you have a chance to check this place out, do so. It’s not the typical sushi place. The food was amazing, both in taste and appearance. Rob took care of ordering, so I don’t remember all of what we had, but I do remember the grilled pork belly skewers (ZOMG, my mouth is watering just thinking about these), the salted chicken wings (If my stomach were not what it is, I could eat about 1000 of these – so freaking good), sashimi, duck salad, and raw prawn. Verdict: delicious. The meal also included a pitcher of brewed-in-Guelph Sapporo, and a small bottle of warm sake. YUM.

After dinner we headed back to Rob and Katherine’s to chat, visit with their cats Nami and Mushi, and to enjoy some further sake that Rob had picked up in the Distillery district of Toronto. The sake was fantastic – light, almost like water, but with delicious tastes of pear and other fruits. I’m going to have to pick up a bottle of this stuff.

Wanderlust 1.1

It was at this point that Rob presented us with our Christmas gifts. To say that Rob outdid himself is an understatement. My gift was clearly a labour of love. I can’t even imagine how many hours went into the project. Anyway, weeks ago Rob had contacted me about clarifying certain things that I had done; places I had travelled to; adventures I’d been on. The emails weren’t terribly out of the ordinary, but they also triggered a what the hell is he up to response. Shortly thereafter, he asked for Rick’s contact information, but then asked that I forget that this had occurred. Rick and Rob have never met. Clearly something was up. But, being the forgetful person that I am, I actually forgot that the two of them were in contact.

Fast forward to last night. Rob presented me with another infographic, but this one more epic than the last. This particular graphic began with a map of the world, and ended with a summary of my journeys travelling around it. There are so many amazing touches that I keep finding new and amazing things every time I look at it.

A close up of Brazil. Note the Not-So-Bucket-List list numbers at the 10 o'clock mark within the circle.

I wrote the other day that Rob “appreciates quality and attention to detail like no one else that I know”. This is so clearly evident just by looking at my infographic. For example, within each of the circles that highlight places I’ve been or am planning to travel, Rob has included numbers that coincide with items on my Not-So-Bucket-List list. If you were to look at the circle that surrounds Brazil (a place I’d like to go), you’d read the numbers 142, 149, and 160. These are

  • #142 Travel to South or Central America again,
  • #149 Attend Carnival in Brazil, and
  • #160 Travel to the World Cup in 2014.
Amazing. Simply freaking amazing.

Further, and for those curious – the title of the infographic Wanderlust 1.1 is to indicate that this particular gift isn’t finished. That is, as I continue my travels and see more of the world, he’s going to update the map and reprint it for me. I’m stoked to see the time line as my adventures continue.

Honestly, without a doubt this is one of the most amazing gifts anyone has ever given me.

Rick: Thank you for helping Rob out. Your words and haiku’s were fantastic, heartfelt, and vomit inducing. I look forward to every second I get to spend with you; chatting, shenaniganning, adventuring, travelling, and living life without hesitation. I love you long time. You are one-of-a-kind and I’m fortunate to have someone as incredible as you in my life, even if your face is crooked. ZING!

Rob: Where to begin? I honestly do not have the words to adequately describe how amazing you are, nor how important you are to me. Thank you for the best gift in the history of gifts. As soon as it is framed it is going to be hung up where I will see it everyday and smile. Not because it reminds me of where I’ve been and where I want to go, but because it will remind me that I have the most amazing friends in the world, and all the travels and adventures would be meaningless if that weren’t the case. I love you my friend. Thank you for 25 years of awesome.

Happy 10000 To Me!

Yesterday was a rather monumental day for me. Okay, maybe not as monumental as finishing my PhD, starting my position as Ass. Prof., or finishing my first marathon, but still awesome in its own way.

And why was yesterday monumental? Well, it just so happens that yesterday was the day I posted my 10000th tweet. Crazy.

I remember when I first signed up for Twitter; it was way back in the old-time-y days of January 24, 2008. At the time, I signed up simply to be able to communicate in another way with several friends that lived across the country. Little did I know that Twitter was going to become a fixture in my life. I also hadn’t imagined that I’d use it in the way that I do. I mean, most of the time it’s just for keeping up to date with what is going on in the world, or my community. I also use it to organize social activities. But, it also comes in handy as a research tool. The amount of information out there is staggering. And Twitter is a great way to source it.

So what does one tweet about when they have 10000+ tweets? I wondered the same thing. And amazingly there is an application that will summarize all that I’ve said in a nice little word cloud. So for your viewing pleasure, and brought to you by the awesome people at, I present to you a word cloud of the 50 most popular words that I’ve tweeted between August 2008 (as far back as the program would allow) and today. You are welcome :)

Get your own word cloud at

I love that awesome, w00t, thanks, chocolate and love are the dominant words. I also love that Guelph, coffee, scotch, beer, bacon, and elliot made the list as well. Clearly I’m consistent if nothing else.

Anyway, given that I pay attention to numbers, I made a point of watching my tweet count as it got closer and closer to the 10000 tweet mark. Once I got close, I had to start thinking about what my 10000th tweet would be. I mean, should I search for some profound wisdom buried deep within me to share in the Twitterverse? Should I simply leave it a joke, or a non-interesting tweet; as if 10000 tweets really meant nothing? And then it dawned on me. I had the perfect tweet in mind for number 10000.

What did I post? you ask. Exactly the following:

Here’s to another 10000!

Music To My Ears

A few days ago I posted a list of items that I’d save if given the chance should my house be on fire (see The Burning House Project). The particular post was inspired by a tweet that my friend Rob had posted during the Ontario provincial election. Later on, Rob commented on the post with his own list of items that he would save. The first item on his list of things to save was his collection of favorite albums. Specifically, he stated

If this list was a ‘desert island’ music pick – these would be it.

And as a typical response to anything Rob does, I started thinking. Specifically, if I were on a deserted island which albums would I want to bring with me? Which albums do I think I’d be able to listen to for a lifetime without ever getting bored with them? While the questions themselves are not new, and the idea of a ‘desert island’ list is clearly old hat, it’s one that I hadn’t really thought much about. Until now.

As with most people, I can list a bunch of albums that I like, and some that I love, but listing a collection of albums that I’d never get tired of should I be required to listen to them for the remainder of my years – that’s tough. I mean, there are a lot of albums out there; where does one start? What makes a good album? Is it the lyrical content? Is it the musicality? Is it the statement? Or is it simply that I want to dance in my chair when I hear the album? How does one classify art?

Clearly, a set of rules to govern my list selection was in order. The thought being that a set of rules would help limit the list of potential albums that could make it to my ‘desert island’ collection. I first thought to trim the collection by imposing a time constraint. Specifically, the albums had to be released during or after 1975 – hence, in my life time. Further, I could only pick one album per artist – no doubling up (and that wasn’t easy). I also excluded movie soundtracks, rap, and country. Excluding rap and country was easy, as there is no way they would have made my list regardless. Soundtracks could have made the list, but I opted for non instrumental-only albums. Next, I decided I’d allow myself 10 albums, plus one additional 10 song mixed album which could include any song from any time (for 11 in total). The mixed album would be a repository of one-off songs that I absolutely love for one reason or another. Finally, I would count a multi-disk album as a single selection on my list.

So with my list of rules in hand, I sat down and thought about my list. And dear readers, without further ado, I offer to you my desert list in no particular order. Note that I tried to select a range of music to satisfy whatever mood I might be in while on a deserted island. I assumed those moods would be think-y, day-dream-y, hungry, mosh-pit-ydance-y, or sexy-time-y. Those are all moods, right?


  1. Adele – 21
  2. Tori AmosLittle Earthquakes
  3. Loreena McKennitt – The Visit
  4. Sarah McLachlan – Solace
  5. Pearl Jam – Ten
  6. Tragically Hip – Yer Favourites
  7. Florence and the Machine – Lungs
  8. Guns ‘N Roses – Appetite for Destruction
  9. Nirvana – Unplugged In New York
  10. Joni Mitchell – Hits
  11. Madonna – The Immaculate Collection

Album of One-offs

  1. Dee-LiteGroove Is In The Heart
  2. Michael Franti & SpearheadSay Hey (I love you)
  3. Third Eye Blind – Semi Charmed Life
  4. Sir Mix-a-Lot – I Like Big Butts
  5. K.D. Lang – Hallelujah
  6. Annie Lennox – Into The West
  7. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over The Rainbow
  8. Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill
  9. Simon and Garfunkel – The Boxer
  10. Nina Simone – Sinner Man

I have to say, picking Groove is in the Heart was the easiest selection for my one-offs. That song is my happy song. Every time I hear it, I can picture myself and a certain group of friends dancing our collective faces and butts off. It is absolutely awesome because it always, always, always makes me smile.

So there you have it folks. My list of music. Of course, I’m sure I’ve forgotten some rather epic albums, so I reserve the right to modify this list as I see fit. And who knows, the best album that ever existed may not yet exist. I have to be allowed the ability to add that to my list.

What albums would you have included?

Shake It Out

Florence and the Machine in concert.

Walking home today I was listening to the new single by Florence and the Machine, called Shake It Out. For your listening pleasure, I’ve attached a YouTube Vimeo clip of the song below.

Now for those that aren’t aware, I’m a big Florence and the Machine fan. Prior to hearing Adele‘s 21 earlier this year, you could be guaranteed that I was listening to Florence and the Machine’Lungs on repeat. I love the album. It’s a wall of sound that charges me up, and makes me feel that I could do anything, that I could take on the world. The new song, Shake It Out has the exact same effect. It’s an anthem and I absolutely love it. The song is supposed to be about letting go of regrets and moving forward, and there is clearly something very powerful about being able to do that. Perhaps that is why when I hear the song I feel somehow empowered.

Or it’s just uber catchy and I’m a sucker for some sweet beats.

Florence + The Machine – Shake It Out [Official Music Video] from Back Alley Journals on Vimeo.

So, the song got me thinking – not about regrets or anything like that – but instead about things that charge me up; things that get me excited about seeing the world, trying new things, or working on various projects. Some of what inspires me can be as simple as a conversation with a friend or colleague, or a spontaneous gathering of Tweeters, or even videos that I’ve found online. Regardless of what they are, I can’t help but use them as motivation when I’m working on something; especially when I’ve been working on said something for an extended period of time, and I’m nearing the end of said something, even though said something just doesn’t seem to want to end (I’m looking at you PhD that never wanted to end, but thankfully did).

Anyway, with that in mind I leave you with several videos that I find inspiring. They leave me excited to learn about the world; wanting to see things I’ve never seen; wanting to seek out adventure; wanting to stay inquisitive and awestruck at just how amazing this existence is. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them too :)