Dividing By Zero Is Like A Punch In The Face…

For some reason, this picture makes me think of Rick. HA!

…because they both hurt your brain.

So apparently time flies when you’re sitting at work running statistical simulations. :)

In case you were wondering, I just so happened to look at the clock and realized the hour. Given that I’ve been on campus since 9am, and up and working since 6am, I think I should probably go home. And I will. As soon as this current simulation finishes running.

Why on earth are you still on campus?

Excellent question. I’m glad you asked.

I had a meeting with my Undergraduate Research Assistant Justin today. We’ve been working on a simulation study that is testing a hopefully improved method for estimating the abundance of animal populations given only harvest data. Justin had very observantly noticed that our simulations were sometimes breaking down. That is, the model was ending without completing the task of analyzing the data.

Weird, right?

Anyway, because of that I’ve been on campus playing. Seriously. I’ve spent the last 3 or so hours working through the model that simulates a population of animals in the wild. So far, I’ve found a few interesting things. The most significant issue was that there existed a significant probability that our model would produce a population that was negative. As in, less than zero animals. Clearly that can’t be – except maybe in Bizarro World1.

I also noticed that some of the code was permitting division by zero. GASP! How did I miss that before? Of course, our model was adjusting for these instances by thankfully ignoring them. Regardless, as a big-ole math and stats nerd, I couldn’t let that go uncorrected. Dividing by zero is asking for trouble. Serious, serious trouble. The worst kind of trouble.

Not sure what dividing by zero will do? Consider these images.

Moral of the story: dividing by zero is dangerous, and not just mathematically speaking.

1 Bizarro World – best explained by watching this clip.

Fuzzball – One Year Later

Happy 1st anniversary Elliot.

How time flies.

Can you believe it was 1 year ago today that the wee fuzzball, also known as Elliot, came to live with me? And since that day, I can honestly say that my life has been different.

For those of you not in the know, Elliot came to live with me when my friend Jamie was moving. It was a very sad day for Jamie and for Elliot – who spent the night yowling for his dad. Eventually though, Elliot adopted me and things haven’t been the same since.

How has my life changed? Well, first and foremost I know that whenever I come home I’ll be greeted by a fuzzy face who is excessively happy to see me1. It’s not that I require a fuzzy face to greet me, per se, but it’s still very nice. The greeting isn’t short-lived either. That is, he doesn’t just run to the door because he knows he is going to get a belly rub and some treats. He follows me around. He’s like a shadow, only furrier and purrier. If I go upstairs, he goes upstairs. If I jump in the shower, he patiently waits for me to finish. If I open a cupboard, he’s right there checking out whatever I’m checking out.

Trying to work. Elliot has other ideas.

One of the best things about Elliot is that he loves to snuggle. This is pretty much all of the time. During breakfast he’ll curl up on my lap. In the eve, he lies on my belly and chest. At night, he jumps into bed – either under the covers, lying by my head, or nuzzled up near my arm (but usually only if I’m using my arm as a prop for my pillow)2. And, if I’m laying my head on my pillow which is supported by my arm, then Elliot will no doubt rest his head on my arm as well3.

What does all of this mean? Well, apart from being too cute to handle, I assume that this means that he is content and happy, and either considers me a fellow cat, or himself a fellow human.

I think, however, that the most important contribution Elliot makes to my life is that he reminds me – either by forcing himself between me and my computer, or demanding to be snuggled – that there are other things for me to do than just work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it), but there is a time every night when I need the reminder to step away from the interwebs and the statistics and the equations and suchlike, and just relax.

Elliot is that ever-present, ever-purring, ever-cuddling reminder.

As I write this, Elliot is curled up on a blanket behind me. I can hear him purring softly, and I assume that means he’s happy – which is more than enough for me.

1 Elliot isn’t a typical cat; he’s uber affectionate – demanding that I snuggle with him on a frequent basis.

2 He’s not so much into spooning.

3 And since he’s a bit of a wee fuzzball based furnace, this is nothing but positive news for someone who is generally cold all of the time.

My Everything Hurts And I Couldn’t Be Happier

Bobsleigh rides: adult diapers not included. Wuss-bags need not apply.

Well, after a most incredible 4 day adventure in Calgary with Rick, I am home. And holy crapshite my everything hurts – a lot – and in the best kind of way.

You see, all of this hurt just reminds me of how good the weekend was, and how lucky I am to have someone in my life as adventurous as Rick. I really think everyone should be so lucky to have a Rick in their life; someone who will agree to any of your wild and crazy ideas while still acting as the voice of reason; someone who will grab life with both hands; someone who will see the good before the bad; someone who would rather laugh than cry; and someone who will remind you that life is meant to be lived completely, without reserve or regret.

Ricks are rare – so if you find one, hold on to them.

Unfortunately, the hurt also reminds me that I hurt. Go figure. However, I know that the hurt is temporary and the experiences I’ve had this weekend – much like all the others that Rick and I have shared (I turn your attention to our Hawaii adventures, screeing, mountain-top scotch, and caving, to name a few) – will last a lifetime. And that is worth any of the physical discomfort I’m currently experiencing.

For those who might be wondering, Rick and I are already planning our next set of adventures. These may or may not include such things as zip-lining at the Elora gorge, the CN Tower Edge Walk, paragliding, and a camping adventure on the Wapta ice fields.

Prepping for the ride by doing my best Darth Vader impression.

Can’t. Freaking. Wait.

But back to the moral of my story. I’m hurting in the best way possible, and I can’t stop smiling about this weekend. Sunday was the last day of our 4 day adventure and it was a great way to end our shenaniganning.

It started simply: breakfast at The Coup. It ended with an intense adrenalin rush following the most insane ride I’ve ever been on. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We arrived at the Canada Olympic Park around 2:15, just in time for our 2:15 ride. Of course, there were others in front of us so we didn’t actually get into our sled for about 30 minutes or so. And those 30 minutes were enough to give both of us nerves. Which is weird because neither of us normally experience nerves like this when we’re doing crazy adventurous things. At least, not on this level. Regardless, we laughed them off as best we could and busied ourselves trying on helmets (safety first). And then, before we knew it, our names were called:



All smiles afterwards. Okay, mostly smiles, somewhat nauseous.

That’s right folks, they b0rked up Rick’s name. Or did they? I’m still trying to decide that. Whatever the motivation behind the name change, it was enough to make me giggle. And by giggle, I mean laugh out loud. And that calmed me enough to allow me to take my first steps out to the track.

After a few last-minute instructions from our driver, we were loaded into the sled. A random dude that was  added to our sled was placed at the back. Then me. Then Rick. And finally our driver. Helmets were double checked. Visors were lowered, and then the ride started. It started off simply – like a gentle toboggan ride. But before long it became obvious that this was not going to be an ordinary trip.

Our speed grew. And then it grew further. And just when I was thinking “Hey, this isn’t so scary” we hit the first turn. The force was absolutely intense. My head was instantly pushed towards the ground as our bodies hit approximately 5 times the force of gravity. That meant that my head weighed about 5 times as much as my neck is accustomed to holding. The force of the turn took my breath away. I’m sure my eyes were wider than they’d ever been.

All this and we get a certificate too? Sweet.

As we came out of the first turn, in the milliseconds before hitting the second turn, I remember taking a breath and then realizing that both Rick and I were giggling. I’m not sure why our reaction was to giggle, but I know for sure it was not out of fear. I was loving every second of the ride – at least between the moments when I was trying to adapt my body to the force of 5Gs. Sure, the sled could have slipped, or we could have somehow been launched off the tracks, but none of that was going through my head. All I could think was HOLY SHIT THIS IS AMAZING.

And then, as quickly as it started the ride was over. It lasted 60.66 seconds, we reached a maximum speed of 119.89 km/hr (74.50 miles per hour), we were wobbly afterwards, and we both felt nauseous.

In other words, it was absolutely amazing.

Thanks again for an awesome weekend Rick. I can’t wait for our next adventure.

It’s Time For More Awesome


The adventure continues.

Rick and I are about to head out to Canada Olympic Park. Once there, we’ll be launching ourselves down the bobsled course – facing forces of up to 5Gs. That means that we are going to feel about 5 times as heavy as we are.

Personally, I think 5 times as heavy is another way of writing 5 times as awesome.

Ha! I’m such a dork.

How I Learned To Hump Ice

Getting my game face on. That, or I've lost my mind due to the influence of winter.

Apparently it’s all in the way you move your hips, or so Thomas our ice-climbing instructor would have us believe. And, as with most of the things he told us today, we quickly learned that he was correct.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our morning started early. A 6am wake up call had Rick and me up organizing our gear for the day long adventure outside of Calgary to master the fine art of climbing ice. To say that we were both stoked would be an understatement. But we couldn’t let the excitement of the day distract us from the tasks at hand: dressing warmly, packing extra clothes, extra hats and mitts, food, water, and the like.

Starting out trek out to the ice wall

We left the house at 6:45 on our way to Starbucks (which will come as no surprise if anyone has ever read anything about my adventures with Rick), and then to pick up our friend Sanjay before heading to Kings Creek, just off the Kananaskis Trail.

We met with the rest of our group, loaded up our packs and then started the 25 or so odd minute hike to the foot of the frozen waterfalls that we would be climbing. The hike itself was spectacular. The scenery was, as expected, breathtaking. And while the day had started off foggy and grey, the sky had cleared and made the views that much more incredible.

Thomas, our guide, walked us through the necessary steps in getting prepared; getting our crampons on1, and then walking with said crampons. He led us through some preliminaries including the optimal standing position when the toe picks were in the ice – specifically with our heels down so that the weight of our bodies ensured the picks wouldn’t slip. Having mastered that, we moved on to traversing the ice wall while holding onto ice-axes that he had strategically placed. And then things got interesting. Because apparently just traversing isn’t enough – you have to do it with style.

Powerful pose, or butt posturing for ice humping? You decide.

And that style, dear readers, is the fine fine art of humping ice2. Essentially there are two major positions that one must master when climbing ice. The first position is for moving one’s feet left, right, or up. The second position is for moving the ice-axes.

To move left, right, or up, one starts by sticking their butts out from the wall of ice – as if you’re showing it off for the world to see. Arms should be perfectly straight – hands holding the base of the ice-axes. It actually looks very much like a yoga pose known as powerful pose – although on the side of an ice wall.

Photo time at the top of the ice wall. Dangerous? Perhaps. But Danger is Rick's middle name.

The other position required involves placing all the weight onto the toe picks that have been (hopefully) embedded in the ice. Knees are slightly bent and the hips are pushed into the ice. The shoulders are back. The idea is that one’s centre of gravity will prevent them from falling over.

Thomas described this as setting up a tripod with your legs and your centre of gravity against the side of the ice wall. And while it looks a little hilarious, it works. I was, once I got the hang of it, easily able to relax my upper body and let my hands release the ice-axe handles that I was so furiously gripping.

So why ice humping? That’s easy. With all of this butt posturing and hip tripod-ing, it really was a bit like humping the wall.

Having successfully ice humped my way to the top, I stop for a quick photo. Rick is in the background belaying (also known as making sure I don't fall on my ass).

Hey – I never said I was mature.

Anyway, the day was a phenomenal adventure. Apart from some cold toes and cold fingers, we survived unscathed. I’m thinking that if I try this adventure again3, I’m going to spend some time in advance converting my upper-body-strength-of-a-12-year-old-boy body to an upper-body-strength-of-at-least-a-13-year-old-boy body, because I’m definitely going to want to climb longer and higher.

And I should probably work on my butt posturing and hip tripod-ing too, because practice makes perfect, right? But I’ll do that in the privacy of my own home.

1 We had already learned the night before about the double eight knot, how to get strapped into our harnesses, and how to belay someone properly.

2 Note: Thomas never once called what we were doing “ice humping” or “humping ice”. However, we felt compelled to call it as we saw it. And we saw it as ice humping.

3 Who am I kidding, we all know I’m going to do this again.

And Away We Go

And we’re off.

Step 1: 1.5 hour drive out of Calgary (after coffee of course).

Step 2: 20 minute hike to the frozen waterfall.

Steps 3 and beyond: Be Awesome.

Rules of the day:

1. Don’t fall down.

2. Don’t drop anyone.

3. Be Awesome.

We’ve got this!

Back On Track

First post migraine run

It’s amazing what more than 5 hours of sleep will do for the body.

I know that isn’t new information to pretty much anyone, but given how little I sleep, anything beyond 5 hours is a luxury.

Last night, I awoke after sleeping for only 4.5 hours. Normally this scenario would involve me leaping out of bed to take on the day. But not today. Oh, not today. Instead, I realized hey, I’m on vacation. As such, I rolled back over and slept for another two hours.

ZOMG – more than 6 hours! Insane.

Anyway, after Rick headed to work (sucker) I took care of a few emails, wrote up some invoices, and updated my CV. After that excitement, I headed out for a few hour jaunt. The weather was crisp but very tolerable. I explored the University of Calgary campus, and managed to find my way to Starbucks for some much-needed java deliciousness. I also managed to find myself some new running clothes (on sale no less), and some running gloves.

This will be Rick and me tomorrow. W00t!

And since I picked up new running gear, it only seemed appropriate to test it out. So I headed out for my first run post migraine. And it felt great. Slippery, but great. The weather couldn’t have been better. While it wasn’t the fastest run ever, it just felt great to get out and breathe in the crisp winter air.

Beyond that, it felt great to get back to marathon training. The last week or so had been so hectic and such that I was beginning to feel rather fat and lazy. I know that neither of those were the case, however, that is how I felt. After today’s run, I’m feeling back to normal and ready to take on the world.

And good thing, because Rick is home and we are just about to head out to the orientation session for the ice climbing adventure. I’m so stoked!

I See Mountains

Being greeted with a Dr. Gillis sign is the best way to arrive at an airport.

Today was another early day. However, unlike the last however-many-days-it-has-been, getting up early today was for a reason other than work. Today was the day that I rekindled my once-per-month-travelling goal1, boarded a plane, and made my way to Calgary. W00t!

The flight was rather uneventful, save for the fact that we were without an in fight entertainment system. Oh cruel Fates, why have you cursed me with this terrible luck? In reality though, this wasn’t even close to being an inconvenience. And to be honest, after several rather intense days I was too tired to care. Also, I had my iPhone and my computer with me so I just watched my own movies and listened to my own music.

In an unexpected twist, AirCanada offered us vouchers for 5% off our next flight for the inconvenience of not being able to watch movies while we flew through the air. Personally, I found this rather strange because I’ve been on flights before where I was far more inconvenienced. You know – those flights where they board you on the plane, have you sit there for hours with nothing but a paltry glass of water, provide you with zero information, then ask you to get off the plane to reschedule you at a much later hour, significantly cutting into your vacation (and as such, your margarita drinking time)2.

Regardless, the voucher was a nice gesture and given that I’m going to be travelling again very soon, 5% off is 5% off.

But while I’m talking about AirCanada, I also wondered something today. It never fails that when I’m watching a movie on their inflight entertainment system that one of the flight attendants, or the captain, or the co-pilot, or whomever jumps on the PA to announce something about something that no one on the plane seems to care about. Honestly, I’ve watched and have never noticed anyone actively listening to any of these announcements.

The result is that the announcement just cuts into whatever movie the masses have been watching to forget the fact that they are flying thousands of feet above the ground at speeds we only dream of on the land – and the result is an almost audible gah, because it was just getting to the good part of the movie. And then there is a sigh of relief when the movie restarts, only to be followed by another gah because the announcement has to be repeated in French (as we are a bilingual country).

Jessica Fletcher - where she goes, the Grim Reaper follows.

Anyway, why am I pointing this out?  Well today, on a flight with absolutely no inflight entertainment options apart from twiddling thumbs, staring at the person’s head in front of you, or (if you were as lucky as me) watching Absolutely Fabulous on my computer, there were pretty much zero announcements. That’s right, apart from the initial safety announcements, and the final get-yer-butts-back-in-yer-seats-cuz-we-be-landing, there were none. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

It makes me wonder – was this is all just a coincidence, or is there more to it than that? Are the flight attendants just making announcements because it’s some sort of inflight joke? Or was it just that I wasn’t interrupted right at that moment when Jessica Fletcher reveals the identity of the killer in the big screen version of Murder She Wrote? Ya, that’s probably the case.

Flash forward a few hours and I’ve just awoken from a wee nap. Rick picked me up at the airport and then dropped me off at his place before returning to work (sucker). Prior to him heading back to the office, we did a quick catch-up. It was honestly so awesome to see him when I got off the plane, and I’m looking forward to the next 4 days of shenaniganning with him. We start the adventure tonight with dinner at a friend’s, and then drinks at The Coup.

Vacation is awesome.

1 You may have noticed that I put that goal on hiatus after 13 months of travel. I’d like to say I had a good reason to do that, but in reality that isn’t the case. And after 1 very long month of not travelling, I have made the decision that it is something that I need to do. For my health. And other such stuff.

2 Yes, I realize that these delays are almost always related to my safety – that is why I haven’t ever complained about them. Well, that’s not true. I’ve complained – to friends – but never to AirCanada (or whomever I happen to be flying). Sometimes a guy needs to vent you know.

Brain Whoring

Rule #1 of Grant Writing: Check your ego at the door. At the end of the day, you're just a brain-whore. Ha! I kill me.

ZOMG I am freaking tired!


I’m currently sitting in my office finishing a reference letter for a student. That’s right, it’s 9:48 and I’m in my office. I’m cool like that.

Actually, if I’m being completely honest I’m not finishing a reference letter. That is, I’ve just finished the letter and am listening to it print. As soon as it has finished printing, and as soon as I finish writing this post, I shall be putting together the final touches on a grant (whereby final touches mean printing, signing, enveloping, sealing, signing again, and submitting to the peeps that process said grant bric-a-brac) that I need to submit before I head to Calgary.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m leaving for Calgary in about 10 hours? W00t!

Anyway, given my barely conscious state, and given that I still have to make sure everything is signed where it needs to be, and given that it’s getting more and more difficult to think in a linear fashion, I’m going to go. I probably should devote all the energy I have to this letter and to the grant. And then to getting my sorry ass home so that I can pack. Because I’m going to Calgary. Have I mentioned that?



Today is February 21, 2012. Or in the DD/MM/YYYY format 21/02/2012. If we remove those pesky slashes, what are we left with: 21022012 – a palindrome date! A palindate if you will.

Want to know something else crazy cool about today?

Of course you do.

Today is the 52nd day of the year. That on its own isn’t entirely noteworthy, except to say that you could have flipped over 1 card in a regulation deck of cards per day since January 1st and only now would have revealed the entire set. I digress. Since today is the 52nd day of the year, this means there are 313 days remaining in a regulation year (52+313=365). But, dear readers, since you’ll recall that 2012 is a leap year we actually have 314 days remaining in the year. And if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that 314 is approximately 100\pi, and I do love \pi.

So, I’m celebrating today’s palindate-iness with the following pi(e)-lindrome (ha, I crack me up):

I may also be celebrating with pie. And a scotch.

That is all.

A Cruel Master

Photographic evidence of my forced confinement. Such a cruel kitty.

Today was a lot of fun – day 1 of a 3 day long training session with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Much of the morning was spent talking about data exploration – that is, getting to know the data before you actually begin any sort of analyses – and data visualization (which is also known as making graphs – but that doesn’t sound nearly so scientific or fancy as visualization).

The afternoon was all about modelling – simple linear regression to be precise. That’s when I got to be a lot more nerdy, especially given that it was an opportunity for me to drop words like multicollinearity and homoscedasticity on the audience. Of course, those words weren’t necessarily new to the people in attendance, but the concepts might not have been fresh. As such, I took the opportunity to refresh everyone’s memory, and probably enjoyed myself more than I should have.

After forced confinement, I may have gone a touch insane. Or perhaps we found the effects button on my Mac.

Anyway, after talking for so many hours I can honestly say that I was spent. The second I got home, I dropped my bag at the door and then plopped myself down on the couch.

Unfortunately1 for me, Elliot immediately curled up on my chest and forced me to remain where I had plopped. I was being held hostage by the wee Fuzzball! Having nowhere to go, and seeing no recourse, I was forced to have a wee short nap while he purred maliciously on my chest.

He’s such a cruel master.

And on Family Day of all days.

1 I really wish there was a sarcasm font.

Three Day Nerdfest

SAS: The Power To Know.

Three more days.

I just need to survive three more days.

And then it’s off to Calgary for adventuring and shenaniganning with Rick.

Have I mentioned that I’m stoked?

Anyway, the next three days are going to be extremely busy but also a lot of fun. I’m heading to the Public Health Agency of Canada for 3 full days of training. It’s going to be all SAS, all the time.

For those of you not in the know, SAS is a program that is used for statistical analyses. It is, I would say, the gold standard of stats programs. Yes, the use of the term gold standard does imply that there is more than one program used for statistical analyses. Many in fact.

Personally, while I use SAS and understand its power, I usually rely on R (a freeware statistical program). They both perform the same types of analyses, but I prefer that R allows me to code in the same way I would were I writing a program in C++ or most other standard programming languages.

Anyway, I’ve spent the eve prepping my notes for tomorrow, emailing Rick, reviewing presentations, and updating slides. I still have a few touches to add, but I’m pretty confident that I’m going to be ready to tackle whatever might be thrown at me between tomorrow and Wednesday.

While all of the prepping and programming has been time-consuming, it has come with a set of advantages. For example:

  1. I’ve been forced to formalize some of my notes (which were a bit of a mess to be honest).
  2. I’ve allowed myself some time to review statistical theory that I’ve not been able to review for a while.
  3. I’ve relearned things I forgot.
  4. I’ve strengthened my understanding of some concepts.
  5. I’ve reminded myself once again that I love mathematics and statistics.
  6. I’ve used this task as an excuse to get my nerd on both in terms of coding in SAS and in R (not that I really needed an excuse to get my nerd on).
  7. I’ve updated my $\LaTeX$ coding skills, specifically in the realm of presentations using something called Beamer.

But most of all, this work has given me the opportunity to work with Rick. And I have to say, I’m very fortunate to work with someone like him. He’s a hard-working nerd in all the best kind of ways. That’s right folks, he’s not just a pretty face – he’s also smart.

Just don’t tell him I said that.

I Regret Nothing!

Winter greets me as I head to the market

Today has been a pretty great day.

I slept in until the crack of 6:30. I know – I’m a wild man. Even better, I didn’t jump out of bed immediately. Instead, I remained within the warm confines of my blankets while Elliot softly purred next to me.

Eventually, however, Elliot decided he’d get up and stretch. I took his advice and did the same. It was only then that I realized I had slept in an awkward position (apparently) because my neck didn’t like when I lowered my left ear to my left shoulder. All day I’ve been working on getting rid of the kink, and only about an hour ago did it finally release. It’s still a bit tender, but nothing like it was when I woke. That alone was enough to make my day. But wait – that’s not all. It got even better!

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur.

After breakfast (oatmeal and a coffee – of course), Mr. Jasper Tey came by and we headed to the market. It has been a number of weeks since I’ve been to the market, so it was great to get out and enjoy a brisk snowy Saturday morn. I picked up some lamb sausage from Thatcher Farms, some chicken and mushroom meat pies, and a delicious bag of apple cider donuts. I know I shouldn’t eat those, but I figured I deserved a treat. I really don’t have any justification for deserving a treat, but I really didn’t feel that I needed one. Point is, I wanted apple cider donuts, I bought apple cider donuts.

I regret nothing!

Following my market outing with Jasper, we headed to The Joint Cafe to meet up with Dr. Mark. There we chatted and laughed and chatted and laughed. Jasper enjoyed some very tasty looking breakfast, Mark had a very tasty looking mocha latte, and I had my third coffee of the day (as we may have stopped off at Planet Bean so that I could warm my soul with a vanilla soy latte).

You are right to be jealous. These are freaking delicious.

Eventually, Jasper and I found our way to B-Chocolate, Chocolates & Cafe. This would be the first time that either of us had set foot in this local chocolatier – which is amazing considering it has been around for over a year and I am an unapologizing chocoholic. Jasper enjoyed a freshly made hot chocolate (made with dark chocolate). Sadly, the dairy content prevented me from joining in on the fun. I did however treat myself. Again.

I couldn’t help myself. I was hypnotized by the delicious treats that were set before me. It’s like each little morsel were shouting out to me – if you don’t eat us, our purpose will never be fulfilled. And who am I to deny an inanimate piece of chocolate the satisfaction of achieving its purpose?

This box is full of chocolate deliciousness.

Moral of the story. I bought a bunch of dark and delicious chocolate. Fifteen pieces to be exact.

I regret nothing!

Since the day was far from over, I opted to hit up a session of hot yoga with my friend Mark. Not Dr. Mark, the other Mark. Actually, there are a lot of Mark’s in my life, and all of them are pretty awesome. I wonder if it’s in the name? I digress.

Anyway, I’m home now doing pretty much what I did when I started the day: lounging in my bed while Elliot softly purrs beside me. Except now instead of breakfast, I’m going to enjoy a delicious piece of fine chocolate.

Yup – As days go, this one has been pretty great.

I Hereby Dub Reading Week Adventuring Week

Best to-do list ever!

And just like that, half of the winter semester is over.

That’s right folks, it is officially reading week. Although if you were to judge by the size of my 2nd year class, you would have thought that reading week started yesterday. I digress.

Honestly, I can’t believe 6 weeks have already come and gone.

I’d like to say that the rest of the semester will be easy, but I know that isn’t likely to be the case. My list when the semester resumes includes:

  • completing edits on 2 papers,
  • completing at least 4 more draft papers for submission,
  • preparing 2 presentations (1 for a conference, the other an invited talk),
  • helping prepare 3 conference posters,
  • finishing 2 more grant applications,
  • prepping course notes, as well as marking assignments, quizzes, and exams,
  • acting as examiner for a Ph.D. qualifying exam and an M.Sc. defence,
  • evaluating scholarship applications for the province,
  • and writing a major report.

Whew. I’m tired already. Ha! Not really. As much effort as these things demand, I’m excited to work on them.

Thankfully I’m not facing all of this on my own. That dear friends, is why I have minions – er, students.


To accomplish this list I really must rely on the hard work of several students. For example, one of the draft papers will require the assistance of one of my Masters students. Another draft will require the assistance of my undergraduate research assistant (URA) Justin who just so happens to make his own beer.

There’s also a chance that a fifth paper might be added to the list – but this assumes that another URA who is being supervised by one of my colleagues manages to finish a huge list of things before the semester ends. I’m not betting on that, but stranger things have happened. It’s not that the URA can’t do it, it’s just that getting all the work completed by the end of the semester might be a long shot.

Additionally the three conference posters are going to be put together by my students, so my role there will be simplified to advisor. Of course, I’m excited about all three projects so I’ll likely be more involved than just saying “sure, looks good.”

My URA and this dish - both Awesome Pie

Since my current URA is a giant slice of 100% Grade A Awesome pie, I might get him to help me out with the major report as well. But that will depend on how involved our current study gets. He’s been working like a mad man on it, and I’m stoked with our preliminary results. I’ll have to assess the benefits of stealing his time from the current study to help me out with another one.

Anyway, for now I’m going to put all thoughts of this list aside. You see, while I have 3 days of presentations lined up next week, I am officially on vacation as of today. Yes, I’m technically going to be working Monday through Wednesday, but it’s going to be more fun than work – especially since Rick has helped me out by preparing some of the material that I’m going to be presenting. And as I mentioned yesterday, I’m heading to Calgary on Thursday to continue my adventuring.

So with that I proclaim here and now, for all the blog-o-sphere to read, that even though my list be long, it shall remain as such for the duration of reading week because I have far more important non-academic pursuits and adventuring to do; such as climbing walls of shear ice, and throwing my body down an ice track to the mercy of gravity.

Next week is going to be AWESOME.

The Countdown Is On


One more week until mini-vacation number 1 for 2012. I. Am. Stoked. Also,




While I know that vacation is only a week away, the next 6 days are going to be intense. But all in a very good way, of course.

Tomorrow is pretty much the same-old, same old. Marking assignments, writing papers, meetings, meetings, meetings, and then, oh yeah, more meetings.

But Saturday – that’s when things start to get crazy. I need to begin my day by running a half marathon – all part of my ongoing marathon training. I also need to prep for three full days of course material that I will be presenting to a group of nerdly government officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada between Monday and Wednesday. I also need to finish edits on two papers so that I can get them submitted before the end of the semester for peer review (thus hopefully convincing the powers-that-be that I am worthy of further paycheques). And I also need to take some time to mark assignments, prep lectures, and build a midterm. Yes – this weekend is going to be anything but restful.

And yet, all I can think about is next Thursday and hanging with Rick; vegging, eating, grabbing coffees, hiking, eating again, dinner, drinks, ice climbing, bobsledding, eating some more, and anything else that we determine warrants our time and attention.

The next few days are going to be insane, but the payoff is going to be more than worth it.