Category Archives: Academic

So Many Thanks

With 14 months to spare, I got in just under the wire.
With 14 months to spare, I got in just under the wire.

The last few weeks have been weird and wonderful, and today was no exception.

Actually, let me take that back. Today was an exception in the sense that it was even weirder and even more wonderful than the last few weeks have been.

For those who haven’t already seen the news, read the twitters, liked the facebooks, or thing-a-ma-jigged the social medias, today was the day that the Guelph Mercury presented the 2014 Forty Under Forty honourees. And as you can see by the photo, I was very fortunate to be named with so many other very deserving and remarkable people1.

While I am incredibly honoured by this award, I really am standing on the shoulders of some very inspirational and game-changing difference-making giants. From the faculty and staff who I work with at the University of Guelph, to the friends and family who are the very definition of amazing, I am fortunate to surround myself with truly incredible people.

Of course, the group that really deserves all of the credit are my students. I have had (and continue to have) the very great privilege of teaching some of the most inspiring and brilliant minds. Sure, sometimes they frustrate the hell out of me, sometimes I can’t tell if I’m making a difference at all, and sometimes I feel like I’m doing more harm than good. But most of the time, they really do give me hope for the future. They remind me that there are people out there who care beyond the walls of their own little worlds. They remind me that things can and will get better. And they remind me why I wanted to become a prof in the first place.

Thank you to everyone who made today possible. I am so very honoured and humbled.


 

1 Congrats to everyone who was honoured today. It was amazing to share the stage with so many fantastic people. It was extra amazing to share the stage with so many people who I am lucky enough to call my friends.

So Many Things

The Farm To Fork team - all smiles after the big funding announcement at the Big Show.
The Farm To Fork team – all smiles after the big funding announcement at the Big Show.

I can’t believe the coming week marks the end of classes for the winter 2014 semester. I won’t lie, I’m actually pretty excited to see it come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a blast this semester, however, it has been far busier than I was initially expecting and I know that I’m definitely ready for a break.

The last two weeks have been particularly busy, but they’ve also been absolutely fantastic for a number of reasons.

On the 17th I was invited to speak to students in the Masters of Public Health program at the University of Guelph. My talk was on social media, and how – in my opinion – it could and probably should be used as a tool for public health. It was great to speak to a new class of students, and especially fun to talk about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media in an academic setting.

Later in the week (Saturday, March 22nd) I got to play judge at CollabNow, an event put on by the Entrepreneurship Society of the University of Guelph. The event brought together business, computer science, and engineering students from both the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo. Student teams were tasked with developing solutions to deal with the expected population growth in the City of Guelph over the next 17 years. Although they were given only about an hour or so to develop a solution, the students came up with some great ideas that were supported with real data.

Corey and Lee-Jay. Still smiling. Still laughing.
Corey and Lee-Jay. Still smiling. Still laughing.

The very next day (Sunday, March 23rd) I joined the Farm To Fork team as we ventured to Kitchener to celebrate the launch of the Farmer’s Kitchen Table website. I was invited to speak at the event – specifically on Farm To Fork and the importance of sufficient sustainable healthy food on every table, especially in the case of tables where food is often absent. While Farm To Fork has garnered attention outside the borders of Guelph (thank you social media and word of mouth), it’s always great to bring the message personally. Thanks again to Anne Marie, founder of the Farmer’s Kitchen Table, for letting us speak at the event.

Tuesday the 25th was one of my busier days. The day began with me helping to host one of Google’s engineers who was invited to the school to talk to the students. Immediately following that I got to watch as several student groups presented the mobile apps they’ve been developing – and holy hell some of them were super cool. After their presentations I had to jet to the River Run Centre to join the rest of the Farm To Fork team for the Big Show. For those not in the know, the Big Show was a showcase for the 52 ideas submitted to the Elevator Project to make Guelph an even better place to live. At the event Farm To Fork was announced as one of the top 15 ideas, and we were also awarded over $10000 in funding. While we knew before the event that we were in the top 15, we were floored when the funding announcement was made. Talk about an amazing way to end a Tuesday!

Speaking at the Farmer's Kitchen Table launch party.
Speaking at the Farmer’s Kitchen Table launch party.

And the Farm To Fork team got together again this weekend (because apparently we can’t get enough of each other). Yesterday we were in Centre Wellington for the Food For Thought event. There, Danny gave a phenomenal talk about what inspires him, and he also introduced the audience to the Farm To Fork project. To say they were excited would be an understatement. And you can only imagine how awesome that left us feeling - especially considering the high we were still on from Tuesday night’s big announcements.

Today the team gathered with some of my other students to spend the day coding our butts off. It was a long day, but a lot of fun, and I think in the end we managed to accomplish a lot. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Corey and Danny and the Farm To Fork table - part of the Farmer's Kitchen Table launch event.
Corey and Danny and the Farm To Fork table – part of the Farmer’s Kitchen Table launch event.

Despite the crazy schedule, the last two weeks have been fantastic. And as tired as I am, the feedback and support that Farm To Fork has been shown has reinvigorated me; it’s reminded me of how far we’ve come, where we are, and what still needs to be done. And I know we can do it.

Fortunately, I’ve got an amazing group of people working with me, and an equally amazing group of friends supporting me. Thanks to everyone for keeping me (relatively) sane. I promise I will get some sleep – soon.

I’m Wearing A Stupid Grin

My new shiny
My new shiny

About two months ago – maybe longer – I learned that I had won a teaching award when one of my colleagues congratulated me out of the blue. At the time I had no idea what they were talking about, so I replied with a puzzled look. It’s then that they realized my confusion. They replied with an awkward laugh, mumbled something about I thought you would have known by now, and then carried on their way without providing any further details. I stood there wondering what had happened.

Up until my last few days on campus in December I still had no idea exactly what my colleague was talking about. I had my suspicions, but since nothing had been formalized and no one else had said anything, I figured it best not to start poking around or asking questions. So I sort of forgot about it.

And then I received my yearly evaluation letter1 which also congratulated me on being awarded a teaching award. The details in my evaluation were light. Specifically, the letter outlined the name of the award and that was it.

Well folks, today was the day that I actually received the award – the inaugural School of Computer Science Faculty Teaching Award to be exact - and I’m still smiling like a giant idiot. I don’t embarrass easily, but today I couldn’t help but feel awkward and humbled when the award was announced. I’m sure I was beet red.

The best part about this award is that it is based on nominations cast by students. In this case I was nominated by students in both of the classes I taught – User Interface Design, and Systems Analysis and Design in Application. Being recognized for my contributions by my peers is one thing, but having students respond in this way means so much to me that I’m not quite sure how to put it into words.

You see, there’s a part of me that always worries that I’m not doing a good enough job teaching2. For the most part, this worry is what drives me to do the best job I can, but there are days when I’m also convinced that I’m causing more harm than good. When I started in the School of Computer Science – having just finished my PhD in Statistics – I was very concerned that my position would be short-lived. How could I possibly teach Computer Science when my training was in Statistics? I sort of assumed that I’d start teaching, screw up in a very dramatic way, and be quietly asked to leave before I could inflict any more damage. Somehow that didn’t happen.

Anyway, I’m still having a hard time believing that all of this has just happened. It’s surreal and wonderful and humbling, and so many amazing things that I can’t even quite describe. All I know is that I’m going to keep trying to do my best, and hope that somehow I don’t screw things up.

I’m also going to enjoy this moment, try to fully internalize the accomplishment, and maybe celebrate with a wee scotch. But I won’t be wiping this stupid grin off my face. I really don’t think I could if I tried.


1 Each year I go through a review process by my peers. There are three major components to the review: research, teaching, and service.

2 I’m convinced it’s part of the Impostor Syndrome that I’ve had since I started my PhD.

The Business Of Do Goodery

The Bigger Picture Series: Bridging The Gap
The Bigger Picture Series: Bridging The Gap

On Wednesday I spoke at the Bigger Picture Series: Bridging the Gap event. The speaker series is sponsored by the Centre for Business and Social Entrepreneurship, the CMESA, Innovation Guelph, and the College of Management and Economics.

You’re probably wondering why the hell a stats-nerd who works in the School of Computer Science was invited to speak before a group of management, economic, and marketing types. 

Don’t feel bad, I wondered the same thing. As it turns out, I was asked to talk about the Farm To Fork story.

This would be the first time that I would be presenting anything to a group of people who weren’t stats-y, or computer science-y, or community-engaged-scholarship-y. As such I was a little nervous. I mean, what the hell could I say that might be useful to a bunch of entrepreneurial business types?

So before I presented I sat down and pondered what pearls of wisdom I might have that could prove useful to someone starting a business; specifically a do-good business.

After a lot of working and reworking, pulling from previous presentations, adding some statistics, and polishing up my presentation, something hit me: of all the stuff I was presenting, the biggest idea was that of doing something. 

Was it rocket science? Hells no. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that this was what I wanted to pass along. Do-Goodery, in any of its forms (e.g. scientific, social, business) requires more than just talking about Do-Goodery. It demands doing. It’s right there in the title.

Sadly, most of us spend our days simply identifying problems. Many of us seem to have this innate ability to pinpoint all of those things that aren’t working, or those things that need to be improved, or those things that are just stupid, or those things that we’d have done differently if we were in charge. But how many of us actually take the time to do something about all of these problems we see?

Do we take action? Do we try to change things? Do we put forth our best fight, even in situations where we’re convinced we might fail? Or do we simply bitch about the problem, and leave it for someone else to solve?

If the Farm To Fork project has taught me anything, it’s that we all can make a huge difference if we just get off our asses and do something. It’s not always easy. It’s sometimes scary. But sometimes the stars and planets align and all of the right people come together, and something magical happens – if we act. Otherwise, the magic fizzles and we’re left with nothing more than what we began with – an identified problem without a viable solution.

Do-Goodery demands doing - so ask yourself this – what am I going to do today?

Three Year Prof-iversary

All the classy bitches drink mountain top scotch.
Mountain top scotch – it’s what profs do.

Over the weekend I spent some time organizing files, prepping notes for class, and doing whatever it is that profs do in their free time1. Of course, sitting around organizing meant that I spent much of my time exploring the past year of work. It’s weird; most days I feel as if I get nothing accomplished because I spend far too much of my time in meetings. But, as with most aspects of my life, it’s not until I sit down and actually reflect on the past that I realize how much has happened in one little year.

From a strictly academic viewpoint I managed to submit several papers, write a bunch of reports, and work on several cool (at least to me) simulation studies. The year was also filled with so many grant writing sessions that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing grants. I found myself in Newfoundland and Labrador for a presentation, spoke as part of a panel of experts for a teaching innovations conference, and was invited to speak at Western University. All told, not a bad year.

I think, however, the best part of the past year had to be the Farm To Fork project. It has become a central part of my life. It is on my mind all of the time, and it’s something that continues to amaze me. I am constantly blown away by the support that it has been shown at the local level, and the interest it has garnered beyond the borders of Guelph-Wellington.

Farm To Fork has also reminded me how amazing students can be if you just give them something worthwhile to do. The amount of work they’ve put into the project continues to make me smile a crazy stupid proud smile. Getting to work with the Farm To Fork students has been a fantastic experience, and I’m not quite sure how I lucked out as I have. It’s going to be very strange around my office when they all graduate.

Anyway, it wasn’t long after thinking about all of this stuff that I realized I just passed my third year as an Assistant Professor. Crazy how time flies. So many things have changed since the day I first stepped into the halls of the School of Computer Science. My job is better than I ever could have imagined it would be. And while my days are often rammed with meetings, I do love what I do. I think the students have a lot to do with that.

Officially my contract has two years left on it. I’m pretty excited to see what those two years will bring. If they’re anything like the first three, it’s going to be a crazy ride.

For now, I’m going to celebrate my three-year anniversary with a wee dram. It’s what profs do.


1 Some academiologists2 suggest that professors spend their spare time enjoying scotch. I can neither confirm nor deny this. I can only tell you that this professor enjoys spending his spare time sampling wee drams.

2 Academiologist: a person who studies academics.

Praise Be To Google

Shiny happy charts.
Shiny happy charts.

When I was young I was rather fortunate in that I was exposed to computers early. I remember my brother and I creating short programs on the Commodore 64 that Canadian Tire had on display when it was first introduced, and thinking we were some sort of computer geniuses.

10 Print “Hello world”
20 Goto 10

Oh those were some wild and crazy times.

These days I spend my time coding far more interesting things. And when I get tired of coding, I spend my time figuring out how to make certain things on my computer work with other things on my computer. It’s what nerds do, I guess.

As an example, let me direct your attention to those shiny charts to the right that summarize my progress towards my Quest To 1000 km. While beautiful and information rich I can’t take credit for them. Sure, I’m the guy who’s updating a spreadsheet of data with each and every run, and I’m also the guy who spent some time filling that spreadsheet with formulas to aggregate and summarize those data, and I’m also the guy who selected a particular chart over another to visualize those aggregated and summarized results. But those shiny charts are really the result of the all-powerful and all-knowing Google.

The reason I tell you this is because several people have asked me how I created them. So for them, here’s the secret. First, I’m going to assume you’ve already created a spreadsheet of data using Google Docs. Select the data you wish to magically chartify. Google Docs will provide you with a selection of chart-tastic options. Pick one you find to be the swankiest, and for ease – create the chart in its own sheet.

To embed the chart in your blog, begin by clicking the Publish Chart button. You may receive a warning that states “Publishing this chart will require all sheets to be published.” Select OK, unless your data are so precious that you want to keep them hidden from the world.

You’ll next see a pop up that contains a bunch of computer-geek-speak. Depending on your blog type, you may be able to copy paste the Interactive Chart computer-geek-speak, or, as is the case for my blog, you may have to select the Image computer-geek-speak (using the available drop down list).

In either case, copy the appropriate computer-geek-speak. Mine looked something like this:

<img src=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/oimg?key=a bunch of letters and numbers” />

To finish embedding this in my blog, I simply created a Text Widget and placed it in the appropriate column. I then pasted the above computer-geek-speak into that widget1, hit save, and presto voila, a fancy pants shiny chart2.

Oh Google, is there anything you can’t do?


1 This is what my widget looks like:

Proportion of Goal Achieved

<img src=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/oimg?key=a bunch of letters and numbers” />

Training Status

<img src=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/oimg?key=a bunch of letters and numbers” />

Up To Date Stats

[ googleapps domain="docs" dir="spreadsheet/pub" query="key=a bunch of letters and numbers" width="280" height="200" / ]

2 I realize this may not be the most elegant solution, but it seems to work and that’s good enough for me. For now.

Let The Semester Begin!

My walk to work starts here. Granted, it doesn't usually have ice covered tree branches in the way.
My walk to work starts here. Granted, it doesn’t usually have ice-covered tree branches in the way.

Today is the first day of the winter 2014 semester, or as I like to think of it – Reading Week bookended by class. Twelve weeks of class to be exact; six on either end.

I’m actually pretty excited to get back to work. Don’t get me wrong, working in the comfort of my pajamas is always better than trudging myself to the office, especially when that trudging involves ice and snow and howling wind. However, until I figure out a way to effectively lecture 70+ students in User Interface Design whilst sipping a coffee and enjoying my fireplace, my need to be on campus will remain. And if I’m being completely honest, I love teaching so trudging through the winter weather is very much worth the trouble.

Despite the fact that today is day one of a semester that still has that new-semester smell, I’ve been mulling over potential destination ideas for Reading Week. Apparently wanderlust never dies. Since it’s only a week-long, the destination can’t be too distant. As much as I’m crazy enough to fly somewhere (Japan for example) for a week, I’m going to save that type of travel for later in the year. I’m thinking I may keep myself confined to North or Central America.

Deciding on a location, however, is the second decision that needs to be made. The first decision is to figure out what type of vacation I want/need. That is, should I go with an adventure vacation (think hiking, mountain climbing, zorbing, skydiving, cliff jumping, bungee jumping, etc.) or a relaxation vacation (think well tanned hotties serving me drinks while I read/nap on the beach)? Or perhaps a blend?

So what do you think, dear readers? If you were vacationing over reading week, what type of vacation would you be taking?

Final Thoughts

Happy New Year all y'all
Happy New Year all y’all

So 2014 is nigh. I’ve just finished cleaning up the house, organizing some platters of food, chilling some champagne1, and am about to go shuck some oysters as I await the arrival of some friends who will be ringing in the new year with me. All told, not a bad way to spend the last day of 2013.

Looking back, 2013 has been a crazy amazing year. Despite setbacks with my exercise goals, I’ve had an adventure filled 12 months. Crushing the Goofy Challenge with Mark, wandering New York City twice, learning the true meaning of What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas2, exploring the beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador with Danny, Lee-Jay, and Corey, celebrating the 2nd Annual Big Mountain Challenge with Rick and my brother3, and various other adventures with friends in Ottawa, Toronto, and London; all have reminded me that I am one lucky bastard.

And even though work was as crazy as it was, I have to say that I love my job and had so much fun this year. I was beyond fortunate to work with several amazing students – people who have reminded me again and again that if you give students something real to work on, they can do amazingly awesome things. Their hard work led to Farm-To-Fork.ca, and all of the subsequent and well-deserved attention that it brought. I’ve been spoiled because of their talent, drive, and passion. Because of them, I was invited to speak at several conferences and seminar series. Because of them the Farm To Fork project raised and continues to raise money because so many people understand its importance. Because of them I feel that I have something significant to contribute to the world beyond academic papers. And that dear readers is an amazing feeling.

Beyond all of this, I’ve just been lucky to spend the year with some amazing people. Family and friends who look out for me, take care of me, feed me, and spoil me on a seemingly continuous basis. To all of you, thank you for making this another fantastic year. Thank you for telling me I need to sleep more or eat more or get out more, or that I need to learn to say no. I can’t promise I’ll do any of that in the new year, but it makes me smile to know that you’ll still be worried enough to tell me so.

So raise your glass and toast the year that was. To the ups and downs, the good and the bad. Here’s wishing that 2014 brings with it all the things that make you smile.

Happy New Year everyone.


1 Okay, not Champagne so much as sparkling wine.

2 Curious, aren’t you?

3 I’ve decided this must be an annual event. However, I’ve also decided that we don’t necessarily have to climb a mountain at this point in time, so long as we are doing something adventurous.

Over-overwhelmed

Farm To Fork launched October 3, 2013
Farm To Fork launched October 3, 2013

Early on in 2012, my friend Danny and I were sitting around drinking scotch or beer or something of that nature, discussing doing something. I don’t mean doing something in the sense that we were bored and wanted to entertain ourselves with an activity. I mean in the sense of doing something to demonstrate that regular everyday folks could make a meaningful difference in their own community if they simply got off their butts and did something.

Little did we know where that conversation would take us. Little did we know that our conversation-soon-to-be-project would garner the attention of people around the globe. Little did I know how much of an impact this thing would have on my life.

Fast forward to last Thursday. There we were at Innovation Guelph, surrounded by over 100 people – students, staff, and faculty of the University of Guelph, community partners, and local citizens – all interested in learning about, signing up, supporting, and celebrating the launch of the Farm To Fork project. To say that the experience was overwhelming would be an understatement. Over-overwhelming might begin to scratch the surface of what we felt.

I mentioned earlier that this thing - this Farm To Fork thing - has had a huge impact on my life. That is by no means an understatement. For those of you not aware, my training is in Mathematics & Statistics. If anyone were to tell me that one of the things that I would do in my life of which I would be the proudest would dwell in a world outside of Mathematics & Statistics, I might have thought you insane. And yet, here we are – several days post launch – and I am blown away by how things have changed in my life over the last year and a bit. This class project has become more than anything I could have ever imagined.

  • Farm To Fork is a computer science based solution to the very real problem of food insecurity in our community. Just over a year ago I barely knew anything about food insecurity. Now I find myself spending most of my day researching this very real problem, and talking about it with anyone willing to listen.
  • Farm To Fork has been supported by the community in ways I never imagined, including a very successful fund raising campaign earlier this year. Just over a year ago, I would have never even considered crowd-funding for science. Now I’m contacted on a regular basis because I’m apparently one of the first Canadian academics who have used it to support their research.
  • Farm To Fork is the result of community engaged scholarship – students, faculty, and community experts working together to make a difference. Just over a year ago I’d never even heard of community engaged scholarship. Now, I find myself giving talks and extolling the benefits of engaging students in real outside the textbook problems. It is a better way to educate.

My life is vastly different than that I had imagined. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact it’s completely wonderful. It’s amazing and unexpected. It’s full of highs and lows, but mostly highs. It’s beyond the words that I am capable of writing. It is, simply put, more than I could have ever asked for. I am the luckiest bastard I know.

Farm-To-Fork.ca
Farm-To-Fork.ca

Of course it didn’t just happen. I have to acknowledge the incredible contributions and hard work of so many amazing people. Throughout all of this, Danny and I have been very fortunate to work with the best of the best – people who knew everything about all of the things we didn’t; people who had the power to act, and did; people who inspire me every time I think of what they’ve accomplished. I am incredibly spoiled to be surrounded by so many big brains and bigger hearts. The success of Farm To Fork is due to this collective of awesomeness; this group of dedicated and highly motivated people who know that things change only when we come together and think beyond the rules. I am so fortunate to find myself in the company of these people, and I am forever grateful. There is no way I can thank them enough.

While there are many people to thank, I want to thank the students the most. They were the thinkers, the planners, the doers in this story. They worked tirelessly. They worked beyond the grades. They worked because they knew what they were doing was right. I am incredibly proud of them. So proud that I have no idea how to express the impact they have had on my life. They have reminded me that people can be amazing. They have taught me so much. They have reassured me that, despite what one might read in the news, our future will be bright. Bright because there are people out there who care; because there are people out there who are willing to go above and beyond; because the future will be led by them.

Farm To Fork started out as an idea over scotch, but it has become so much more than that. I couldn’t be prouder.


 

For those who missed it, this is the slide show that was presented during the launch party.

You Hang Up

We should be best friends
We should be best friends.

This weekend was the 30th anniversary of the Hillside Festival. It was also the 2nd time I attended. My first venture to Hillside was 2 years ago. At that time, I attended because I had promised Dr. Steph that I would.

And I’m a man who keeps his promises.

Apparently.

What is Hillside? For those not in the know, Hillside is a giant music festival that is held at Guelph Lake. It has several stages, hosts numerous workshops, and has crazy awesome food considering it’s a music festival.

Seriously, I’d go just for the food.

Anyway, this year’s visit was slightly different from the last. This year I went to Hillside because I was running one of the workshops. The major goal was to teach people about food insecurity, and introduce them to the Farm To Fork project.

I started the workshop out by having everyone introduce themselves; name and a brief description of what they do for a living. A bit of an ice-breaker if you will.

During the second workshop, Dr. Steph joined. Naturally, she introduced herself as Stephanie and stated “I’m a Statistician”. Of course, I already knew that, what with the fact that the two of us basically held hands and hugged our way through the joy that is the PhD together. At mention of her being a Statistician, I may have cheered a little (It’s not too often that Statisticians are cheered, so we try to cheer each other on whenever we can).

Shortly after Steph’s announcement, one of the other audience members – a student of mine who knows that I too am a Statistician – decided “You two should be best friends”. I mean, we’re both Statisticians, so clearly we have to be best friends.

Despite my love of all things math-y and stat-y, it got me thinking: what would our relationship be like if all Steph and I had in common was our shared love of numbers and greek letters? Sure, we’d be able to calculate the estimates of various model parameters, we’d be able to derive an estimate of the variance using Taylor series expansion and the delta method, we’d be able to simulate millions and millions of individuals given certain statistical properties and correlation structures, and we’d be able to develop new and novel methodologies for data that aren’t quite normal – but would that be enough to sustain us?

I believe we just divided by zero.

I’m confident to say yes, I believe we could have a relationship based solely on the beauty that is math and stats. We would get together, derive and extend models, talk about statistics, write code, run simulations, and be perfectly content.

But it wouldn’t hold a candle to the relationship we have. It would be devoid of the crazy long nights spent hunkered over a computer, stressed beyond belief, tired beyond words, desperately trying to solve whatever problem-du-jour popped up on our paths to PhD’dom. It would be devoid of the adventures in New York City, and Vancouver, and Toronto, and everywhere else we’ve found ourselves. It would be devoid of moments of absolute insanity, laughing until we couldn’t breathe, and our sides hurt, and our faces hurt, and tears of joy poured out of our eyes. And it would be devoid of all of the lows that come with the process of getting a PhD, and the challenges that life sometimes throws at you. It would be devoid of the hugs – the hearty celebratory kind, the comforting and holding me together kind, the I’ve missed you so much kind. It would be devoid of such an amazingly beautiful and wonderful and kind person. It would be devoid of love and friendship and so much awesome. It would be devoid of everything that I love about Steph that is so much better than math and stats.

So while I could be best friends with Steph because we share the common interest of Statistics, it wouldn’t be enough. Because Dr. Steph is so much more than just statistics.

- no, you hang up.

 

Happy Pi Approximation Day

Dinosaur Comics – go there. Read them. Laugh. You shan’t be sorry. http://www.qwantz.com/

 

In honour of Pi Approximation Day, I thought I’d offer you this most awesomely awesome comic from Dinosaur Comics that approximately honours the approximately awesome awesomeness that is Pi Approximation Day.

Of course, I realize that I’ve offered this comic before but I enjoy the last panel far too much not to share it again.

“Failure is just success rounded down, my friend!”

Now if you don’t mind, I have some pie to rub on my face.

 

 

Worst Vacation Countdown Ever

Big Mountain Challenge II – The Re-Mountaining – coming to a blog near you later this August.

I’ve decided that it’s high time I take a full week off of work.

Sort of.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I really should be taking a week off – it’s good for me, I’ll ultimately be far more productive after a proper rest, I have other things that I want to accomplish outside of my academic/work life, and if I don’t use my vacation days I probably deserve to be punched in my stupid head1.

But – and there is a but – I’m actually having a lot of fun at work right now, so it’s a bit difficult to stop. I may change my thinking by the end of this week, what with the papers, posters, proposals, grants, reports, meetings, analyses, and presentations I have to finish up. But I digress.

Regardless, I have begun scouting out options for my vacation. My guess is that I’ll have a bit of a stay-cation at the beginning of August (where I may attempt to paint my condo), followed by an adventure out west with my ever ready to agree to the stupid things I want to do friend Rick2.

Since I have yet to officially book either of these vacations – although my trip to visit Rick to commemorate the Big Mountain Challenge is definitely a go – I can’t quite set my vacation countdown clock yet. Which is – for someone who loves to travel and wanderlust and adventure and shenanigan – rather annoying. Even more annoying, is that this annoyance is of my own doing. That’s annoying squared, I think.

Anyway, I think I’m going to go punch myself for being so annoying.

You may return to your regularly scheduled whatever it was you were doing before I decided to annoy myself and probably everybody else activity.


1 I realize that if Rick is reading this right now, he’s probably rolling his eyes and wanting to punch me in my face for being so stupid. And he would be right to roll his eyes and want to do this. Because not taking a vacation is stupid. Really, really stupid.

2 You may remember Rick from such adventures as this, this, or this.

A Weekend With The Good Doctor

The good doctors – a picture of scientific brilliance?

This past weekend I did several things that I haven’t done in a long time. First and foremost I took some time off. In fact, I took Thursday and Friday off too. Oh, and also Monday1.

A five day weekend you say? Don’t mind if I do.

Even better, this particular five day weekend included a cottage getaway with the one and only Dr. Stephanie. Since we find ourselves living in different cities with hectic lives and careers and social activities and – well, life – it’s awesome when we are able to coordinate our schedules, get together, and be the goofs that we are.

I already miss you Steph. NO YOU HANG UP.

Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, I was getting to the other thing that I did this weekend that I haven’t done in a long time. Are you ready for this? I did some reading for fun.

Holy crapshark. Reading for fun? It’s a Festivus miracle.

Now before I tell you what I read, I need to ask you to promise me that you won’t freak out or judge me or whatever, because it really was reading for the sake of fun. Promise? Okay, good. I spent part of the weekend reading statistical papers, and it was AWESOME.

I can almost hear you screaming That’s not taking time off.

In most cases I would agree with you. However, and bear with me here, I haven’t actually had the time to sit down and read some really good, really juicy, really thought-provoking statistical papers in a while. This isn’t a complaint. It has just been the reality of my life for the past 8 months or so. Course work, reports, various projects, presentations, conferences, meetings, Farm To Fork – all have kept me away from statistics on some level. So, you’ll understand when I write that I was super excited to actually sink my teeth into a few articles from the world that is my bread and butter. 

The weekend was also a bit of a time machine in the sense that Steph and I were able to read papers, bounce ideas off of one another, talk the statistical talk, and goof off all at the same time. We haven’t been able to do that in a very long while, and this was our daily life while we were working on our PhDs. It was amazing to relive a little of that, minus all of the pressure and stress associated with the degree.

The end result? I came back from the cottage feeling refreshed, and filled with so many statistical ideas that I think I might be busy for years trying to work through them all. In some ways, knowing that there are so many things that we don’t know is a bit scary and humbling, but it’s also exciting and energizing.

This past weekend was exactly what I needed – a mini vacation to recharge, to step away from the everyday routine, breathe in nature, and just be.

Thanks Steph. I can’t wait for our next adventure.


1 Okay, technically we worked on a paper on Monday, but since we did so at the cottage I almost feel like we took the day off.

 

Dear Readers – I Need Your Help

Farm To Fork

Dearest Readers,

I’m going to phone it in a bit this eve. That’s correct, I’m not going to write a completely different post. Instead, I’m going to modify something that I just posted to Facebook. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Anyway, I know I’ve been yammering on a lot in the past few days, weeks, months about Farm To Fork and our constant requests for funding. That will stop soon. I promise. However, if you are interested in changing the way we deal with food security in this country – hell, in North America even – please consider donating to this program.

Farm To Fork will allow donors (you and me) to know exactly what items a food bank or pantry needs when they need it. Moreover, we’ll receive an email the day we go grocery shopping so we know in real-time what food is required. In this way, we’ll actually be able to donate fresh produce and meats, instead of the standard peanut butter, boxed processed whatever, or leftover canned bric-a-brac that sits in the back of the cupboard for an indeterminant amount of time.

The apps that we are also developing will take this one step further – giving those of us with mobile phones location-based notifications. The minute we walk into a grocery store, our phones will let us know what foods are needed at our food banks and pantries.

We have other ideas in mind as well, but even these simple tools will make a huge difference.

How so?

In short, Farm To Fork will allow those in need to receive healthy, nourishing foods – something we have an abundance of in North America. And yet, despite this, 1 in 40 Canadians go without. That number is appalling. It’s even more upsetting when you realize that we waste so much food. The average Canadian family throws away about $28 in food every week in the home. That doesn’t include restaurant waste.

We have enough food to feed everyone; we’re just not doing the best job we can to make sure that every last member of our society has it.

How else will Farm To Fork help?

Farm To Fork will allow food banks and pantries to have a consistent supply of food, instead of the feast and famine situation that typically occurs now. Imagine – a constant flow of fresh veggies and fruits; shelves stocked with products that aren’t one step up from fast food; food that will actually nourish the bodies and minds of the people who receive it.

To date, 70% of the funding goal from our campaign has been raised. We’ve made it to this point because of awesome people like you. We’ve also made it to this point because of amazing businesses who have recognized the potential of the Farm To Fork project. But we still need to raise about $4500. We need to do so by Sunday.

Much of the funds collected will cover the cost of students who have been volunteering their time to work on the project. They’ve been doing this in lieu of summer jobs – which they easily could have found – because this project means that much to them. But they also have tuition to pay, and I think they should be rewarded for doing something amazing.

Please consider donating whatever you can – $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100. It doesn’t matter. Every dollar gets us that much closer to our goal.

If you can’t donate, please consider sharing this post. Email it to your family and friends. Send it to your boss, your grocer, your pastor – anyone who might be interested in helping out.

I wouldn’t be pushing this if I didn’t believe in it. But I know in my heart and in my gut that this program will make a huge difference. Please help us make it a reality.

Donate here -> https://www.microryza.com/projects/farm-to-fork

Thanks,

Dan


Two Thirds To Awesome

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I think something might be wrong with me. Ever since Friday I’ve had a ridiculous smile on my face and it doesn’t want to go away. Trust me, even when I’m having a serious moment or pondering all things academic or think-y like, there, just beneath the surface is a giant smile.

And every time my thoughts move to the Farm To Fork project, that just beneath the surface smile bursts through. In fact, as I write this post sitting in a Starbucks in Toronto, I’m sure that my neighbouring coffee drinkers are watching me as I grin from ear to ear. They’re likely wondering what I’m up to. I’d probably be wondering what I was up to as well.

The source of my smile is probably obvious. Over the last week the Farm To Fork fundraising campaign not only passed 50% of our $15000 goal, we smashed through it. At last check, citizens and businesses have really stepped up – donating over $10000 to the cause. They’ve recognized the potential of Farm To Fork to be a game changer – making sure that the people in our community who are struggling to feed themselves and their families get what they need. They’ve recognized that meaningful change can occur if we all just start moving things in the right direction. They’ve recognized that the power comes not from talking a good game, but jumping in and getting involved.

And holy hell, that is inspiring. What started as a simple class project has grown into something so much more than I could have ever imagined.

And the support is not just local. I’ve received emails, Facebook messages, and tweets from as far away as Berlin, Kentucky, and across Ontario and Canada. People are hearing about this program and they want to know how they can help.

I repeat – I never expected this thing to be what it has become.

But what is Farm To Fork? At its base level, Farm To Fork connects those of us with the ability to donate to the front line emergency food providers. These are the fine folks who support the members of our community – our brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, and children – who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. It does so by sending donors a grocery list of items that the food pantry around the corner that you never knew existed might need, on the day they go grocery shopping. We’re also working on mobile apps that will use location based notifications to remind us the minute we step into a grocery store what is needed. And if the stars and planets align, it’s going to be even more than that.

But beyond the lines of code, the hours of testing already completed and as yet to occur, the meetings and presentations and blog posts and tweets, Farm To Fork has become something so much more to me. Farm To Fork has become a reminder to me of how awesome our world can be. It’s a reminder to me that, despite all of the terrible things that might happen every day, there are people out there who want to help. Despite the odds against them, despite the challenges and hours, days, weeks, and months of work, there are people out there who just won’t give up, just won’t say no.

And that, dear readers, is pretty effing amazing.

For those of you who may wish to help out our campaign, check out the link here.