Category Archives: Elliot

28 Down 62 To Go

Snuggles - very much needed this week.
Snuggles – very much-needed this week.

Week four of the 90 Day Fitness Challenge was trying; very trying. It started off filled with good intentions and kick-ass energy, but then life decided to get in the way and that all changed.

Initially I was worried that work was going to be the main challenge – what with three major events this week. But then Thursday’s mail arrived and everything changed. I’m not going to dwell on that, but needless to say the wind was knocked from my sails and I found myself needing to spend more time at home thinking with the wee fuzzball safely snuggled up next to me.

There’s a part of me that is annoyed that I didn’t make my weekly goals (only 1 run, instead of 5), but I know that I also needed to take the time to begin to deal with everything. And because I find safety and comfort in numbers, I also know that I can easily catch up. In fact, the only goal where I’ve fallen short is running. My schedule indicates that I should have run a total of 123km by tomorrow, and I currently have 111.29km under my belt. I should be able to get back on track with one longer (and much-needed) run tomorrow.

So yes – this week sucked more than it should have. Yes – life got in the way. But I’m not going to stay down for long. Tomorrow begins week 5 and I’m ready to crush it.



Take That Cold Weather

Baby it's cold outside. And yes, that is ice on my hat.
Baby it’s cold outside. And yes, that is ice on my hat.

I woke up yesterday morning to the news that it was -23C outside but that it felt like -29C with the windchill. Seriously, who decides that these temperatures are okay?

As I huddled under my covers shivering from the thought of -29C, I began to wonder whether or not heading outside for a run was a good idea or a demonstration of insanity. I’m pretty sure it’s more the latter than the former. As I blinked my vision into focus, I grabbed my trusty iPad and opened up my training schedule.


Not really a terribly long run, but my mind was immediately imagining every single one of the 5000 metres required to complete that distance. Back and forth my mind went with messages of it’s too cold and suck it up buttercup. I may have pulled the wee fuzzball a little closer in an attempt to siphon some heat.

Eventually I made it out of the warmth and security of my blankets. Eventually I made it downstairs for a piping hot coffee and some oatmeal. Eventually I started convincing myself that running had to happen. Surely I couldn’t mess up my training this early in my schedule.

I’m not exactly sure when but at some point I opened up my blog. I immediately noticed that my training gauge was indicating 41.13%1. What the hell? It took me half a second to understand why the reading was so low. It also was the proverbial kick in the pants I needed to get off my butt and get out running.

And so early yesterday afternoon, after the temperature had warmed up to a balmy -24C with windchill, I laced up, bundled up, and headed out. Despite the cold it was another beautiful day for running, and I found that I was quite distracted by the crunching of the snow with every footfall. It wasn’t an easy run, but it also wasn’t a terribly difficult run either. The temperature forced me to slow my pace and remember to control my breathing. And before long I was finished. Interestingly, I ran 5.71km bringing my cumulative total so far this year to a nice round 9.00km. I wish I could say I planned that, but I didn’t.

It’s amazing how easy it is for numbers to motivate me. I guess this really shouldn’t be much of a surprise given my love of mathematics and statistics.

Anyway, I’m proud to say that my training gauge has settled at 112.50%. Here’s hoping I can keep it at or above 100% for the next 24 weeks2.

1 The training gauge indicates the up to date percentage of kilometres I’ve completed compared to cumulative total I should have completed according to my training schedule. In total I had planned 8km between January 1 and January 3. As of the morning of the 3rd I hadn’t put in my run, so only had 3.29km from January 1 to add to my total. And since 3.29/8.00*100% = 41.125%, we see where the 41.13% came from.

2 Actually, I’ll be quite content to keep it above 90% for the next 24 weeks. While I ultimately want to run the entire schedule I’ve set for myself, I also have to realize that life will probably get in the way at some point.

Buyer’s Remorse? Not Yet

The wee fuzzball, enjoying a quiet Christmas night

Today is a comfy-pants kind of day.

Like many of you, I spent yesterday celebrating the Christmas holiday the way it was intended to be celebrated: with lots and lots of food. And booze. And more food. And coffee. Also scotch. And pie.

And because I’m a spoiled bastard, I did all of this while barely contributing much more than my presence to the Christmas celebrations. Personally, I think the Christmas day hosts got the short end of the stick. They prepped and cooked and cleaned and served and served some more; I was chauffeured around, delivered to and fro, stuffed full of treats and coffee, and I was fed and then fed some more.

Today my waistline feels as if it has expanded into territory it hasn’t seen since a hasty retreat several years ago. While the food was definitely worth it, I’m sure a case of buyer’s remorse is going to kick in soon enough. But that’s something to worry about another day. For now, I’m going to enjoy the quiet comfort of my home, and the wee fuzzball snoozing next to me.

I’m also going to spend the day with the very comforting knowledge that I have an amazing group of friends; people who invited me into their homes, treated me as family, and shared their holiday traditions with me. So thanks again Bang, Lindsay, and Henry for an awesome Christmas brunch. And thanks Mark and Julie for a fantastic Christmas feast. I’m so very fortunate that I have you nerds in my life.

Merry Christmas all.


I Miss The Mountains

We came. We saw. We conquered.
Me, Rick, and Aidan at the top of Sparrowhawk

On Tuesday afternoon I made my way back home to Guelph, having spent the prior week visiting Rick in Calgary. The adventure was amazing – but that really wasn’t a difficult bar to pass given that the trip involved mountains, hiking, meeting up with friends, good food, a drink known as Better Than Folgers, more mountains, Banff, hanging with both Rick and my brother, and basically celebrating the anniversary of the grandest of adventures known as the Big Mountain Challenge.

Since I returned I’ve been running around a little crazy – doing last-minute and final prep for the course that I’m teaching this semester, organizing my undergrad and grad students1, organizing several projects, organizing the Farm To Fork launch party, trying to come up with a prioritized list of things to do, and basically doing whatever I can to make sure the next several weeks/months aren’t too stressful2.

Easier said than done, obviously.

Despite all of this (and the occasional build up of anxiety3) I’m feeling good. I think my trip has a lot to do with that. There’s something special about mountain air that does my body good – providing me with better focus, more energy, and the drive to crush whatever obstacle might be in my way. And I’m going to need that this semester, because my list of projects and papers and grants and talks and posters and events could be overwhelming. I just have to remember to take the time – especially when the anxiety and stress start building – to stop and reflect on my mountain-top adventures. Because nothing destroys my stress quite like the mountains.

And I think that’s why I miss them so much.

I’ve uploaded a bunch of pictures and a video below – some of these are new, some you’ve likely seen before, and some are courtesy of Rick. Enjoy.

Adventurers (at Mount Indefatigable)
Adventurers (at Mount Indefatigable)
Climbing Sparrowhawk
Climbing Sparrowhawk
Not the summit of Sparrowhawk, but still pretty impressive.
Not the summit of Sparrowhawk, but still pretty impressive.
Sunset following our Sparrowhawk climb
Sunset following our Sparrowhawk climb
Climbing Mount Indefatigable
Climbing Mount Indefatigable
At the top of Indefatigable. Epic scramble. Epic ridge walk.
At the top of Indefatigable. Epic scramble. Epic ridge walk.
More of Indefatigable
More of Indefatigable

1 Which really means organizing myself.

2 Such as snuggling with Elliot.

3 Apologies to Julie who had to hear a mild rant today.


So This Is 38

Apparently I’ve survived another year on this, our wee blue-green spaceship


Three Eight.



I’m trying to decide if thirty-eight has a nice ring to it or not. There’s nothing particularly wrong with thirty-eight. It’s a perfectly cromulent number, composed of two rather curvy digits (and who doesn’t like curvy digits?). But it’s also not entirely notable. It doesn’t represent any of the standard milestones – sweet 16, legal drinking age in Canada, legal drinking age in the States, 25, or dirty 30 – and it’s just shy of the four decade flag. It’s not prime. It’s not a perfect square. It’s just plain ole thirty-eight.

And yet, as I sit here thinking about how plain thirty-eight appears to be, I just can’t seem to accept it. I can’t seem to shake the feeling that 38 could be awesome.

I mean, the years that came before 38 have been pretty great. I’ve been fortunate enough to land myself a job that I love, and that permits me the opportunity to explore (both theoretically and in application) the world around us. I’m surrounded by a rather weird yet incredibly wonderful assortment of family and friends who, despite the crazy ideas that pop into my head, never cease to offer their support and love (and sometimes pie, or date squares1, or chocolate). And I’ve been able to travel – not nearly as much as I’d like, because let’s be honest, I’d be travelling and exploring and adventuring every day if I were independently wealthy.

My life is pretty awesome. I don’t write that to brag. I write it because it’s good to take stock and remind myself just how lucky I am; to remember that even on those days where I’m not feeling like things are going my way, that the overall trend has been positive and getting better every day.

And this is why I get the sense that 38 is going to be anything but plain.

So here’s to another year of adventure, another year filled with shenanigans, and family, and friends; a year full of highs and lows – but mostly highs; a year full of laughter, and more laughter, and laughing so hard I cry just a little; here’s to 38.

1 I’m not saying that date squares would be a pretty stellar birthday gift, but, actually, wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.


The image that started it all

Several weeks ago there was an incident at the Stone Road Mall. I think it had something to do with a coolant leak, but details were scarce. Okay, maybe details weren’t truly scarce. Maybe I just didn’t really do any research to find out what happened. We’ll probably never know. All I do know is that whatever happened was severe enough to have the mall evacuated.

Almost immediately the Twitterverse was buzzing with theories explaining the incident and subsequent evacuation; a chemical spill; a bomb threat; an alien invasion; the zombie apocalypse; super gene-mutating-monster-creating radioactive gamma radiation1. So many theories. So little information.

Being the science-y guy that I am, I immediately sat down and began debunking the theories. My goal – eliminate all of the theories that were clearly hokum, and by the process of elimination obtain only that which could properly explain the truth. Clearly a chemical spill or a bomb threat were too far-fetched; we are talking about the Stone Road Mall after all. Zombie apocalypse or alien invasion? Nope. The event started during the day and we all know that alien invasions and zombie apocalypses require the dark of night. What was left? The only probable explanation: super gene-mutating-monster-creating radioactive gamma radiation.

With this knowledge firmly in hand, and armed only with my camera and quick wits2, I began the painstaking task of documenting the effects of the gamma radiation. Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, Gort, King Geedorah, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, King Kong, giant Gigantor-Elliot, a Tyrannosaurus Rex for some reason, Jaws, a Wampa, and a giant tarantula – all have made their appearance in town, all have left their mark on the good citizens of Guelph. 

While I’ve managed to capture many of the creatures below, I fear that we have not yet seen the last of the super gene-mutated monsters. Stay vigilant.

1 Radioactive gamma radiation being the worst of all the radioactive radiations.

2 And the program GIMP.

Everyday Heroes

I am freezing.

Fortunately, I’m in the safety of my warm comfy home, in my warm comfy pants, enjoying the warmth of the wee fuzzball lying next to me, and savouring the extra hot tea I’ve just made. All told, a fantastic situation.

However, things could have been much worse.

You see, after another long day of work and meetings and other academic pursuits, I arrived home to realize I had no idea where my keys were. I spent several minutes checking and re-checking my pockets, searching the ground, checking my school bag – but to no avail. I know they didn’t just up and walk away, nor did they simply vanish into the ether; they’re out there, somewhere, waiting for me to find them. And find them I will.

But Dan, you’re in your house – how is that possible if your keys still need to be found?

Excellent point. You are correct – I am in my home, and my keys are still at large. Fortunately, like some sort of über boy scout, I am always prepared. In this case, always prepared means having friends who have copies of my keys. Specifically, friends who don’t mind getting late night texts that read Save me! It’s cold outside and there are wolves after me. Friends who, after receiving said pleas, will jump in their cars and head across town to deliver to me the very keys I am in so desperate need of.

Tonight my friend Mark – the Dr. Mark – came through for me in a big way, and reminded me how lucky I am to have such amazing friends in my life. So here’s to you Dr. Mark. You sir are a huge slice of awesome pie, and I owe you huge.

A Turn Of The Page

The Big Mountain Challenge – one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Thanks Rick.

When I arrived home this eve I found the new Portico magazine in my mailbox. For those not in the know, the Portico magazine is the University of Guelph’s alumni magazine. It details the current research and goings-on on campus, while also highlighting the successes of former students. It’s actually a really cool read if you’re into nerdy things, cutting edge science, and holy hell I can’t believe someone did something so awesome stories.

The first thing I did – once I poured my Friday night scotch and settled in with the wee fuzzball – was to peruse the pages of the magazine. While I normally recognize a face or two within the pages, I was happy to see several faculty and students – who are working on some very cool science-y type things – highlighted for the awesome work they are doing. In fact, with every turn of the page I found myself recognizing someone who was being recognized for the work they were doing. I couldn’t help but smile, because each are doing great work to improve the lives of students, help build better communication pathways, and improve our understanding of the world around us. Cool stuff indeed.

And then I flipped the page again.

I won’t lie – I was a bit surprised to see a picture of Rick and me at the top of a mountain. Clearly, an image of the two of us at the top of a mountain wasn’t surprising. Flipping the page to find myself staring at my own face – that was. In some ways, our Big Mountain Challenge feels like a lifetime ago. In some ways it feels like yesterday. Regardless, the story took me by surprise – in a good way.

I was reminded of our trip, of the things we got to see and experience. I was reminded of how tired we were (at times) and how awesome it was to summit so many mountains in spite of fatigue. I remembered the cold and the snow and the wind. I remembered the awesome hotels and spa days. I remembered the laughter and conversations as we hiked for hours. I remembered the fun. I remembered somehow raising a bunch of money for a really great charity. I remember feeling inspired and lucky and awed that I was able to take part in such an awesome adventure. Most of all, I remembered spending a week with an amazing friend.

So with that, I once again want to offer a huge thanks to Rick. I guess you’re alright.

The Worst Part About An Unexpected Nap

I may have accidentally had a nap after my run. I blame this guy.

Based on the fact that I just accidentally passed out for about an hour or so, I’m going to make the rather profound declaration that I’m tired. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10 Zs1, I’m guessing I’m going to rank around Stupid-Exhausted. For those counting, that’s 10 times more tired than Wiped, but only one tenth as tired as I just poured orange juice on my cereal tired.

The weirdest thing about this particular nap is that it completely snuck up on me. I didn’t feel particularly tired at work, nor did I feel too bad when I left the office, picking up groceries on my way home. Once I got home, I jumped on the treadmill and pumped out a 12 km run. Napping was the last thing on my mind.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until after I stretched, and had some dinner that I even noticed how tired I was. I was enjoying an episode of Futurama when I started to nod off. I’m sure it didn’t help the situation that I has just eaten, nor that my fireplace was warm and cozy, nor that Elliot had nuzzled in next to me. I tried to fight the nap – at least initially – but it was ultimately a battle I was meant to lose.

The worst part about this unexpected nap is that I had intended to work this eve, especially given the mountain of projects I’m trying to stay on top of. I’d also hoped to finally get around to cleaning up my kitchen. Oh, and I guess there are all of those groceries that still need to be put away, laundry to be finished, and my bed still needs to be made. Blurgh. Stupid unexpected nap getting between me and a productive evening. Stupid unexpected nap long time.

Alright, let’s be real – the worst part about this unexpected nap was absolutely nothing at all. Because work and dishes and laundry and groceries and the like can all wait – at least for today.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for bed. That nap tuckered me out.

Night all y’all.

1 Measured on the log scale, naturally. Ha! I kill me.

Elliot Seems Pleased

I should have known Elliot would have enjoyed the fact that I brought home the remains of a bird, a mouse, and a dog.

Well, after 4 awesome days in sunny Florida I am home. While I’m sad to say goodbye to the 25 Celsius days spent running around the Magic Kingdom with Mark, I’m thrilled to be home after having completed another of my Not-So-Bucket-List list items1.

When I arrived home, I was greeted by a very affectionate cat. Don’t get me wrong – Elliot is normally affectionate. Today, however, he was insanely affectionate. He was underfoot so much that I accidentally stepped on him while I was walking down the stairs. Oops.

I naturally assumed that his affection was a sign that he had missed me – or at the very least had missed me giving him treats and changing his litter box. But after offering him treats and checking his litter box, that clearly wasn’t the answer.

Perhaps he really did miss me.

It wasn’t until I unpacked that I was able to determine the true source of his affection. As I separated my clothes to do laundry – colours over there, whites over here, stinking running gear very, very, far over there – I came across my medals which I had carefully packed so as to avoid damaging them. I laid them on my bed in a line – partly because I like orderly things, but also because I was reflecting on the weekend and this seemed the appropriate thing to do.

In short order, Elliot pounced.

It was as if the medals were laced with catnip. He grabbed at them, attempted to bat them around, and bit them. Clearly this was much too fun to ignore, so I put the ribbons around his neck to see if he would pose as a winner. Of course, getting a cat to pose for a picture is like trying to herd, well, cats. Instead, he took this as a sign to play. And play he did.

And that dear readers, is the story of how Elliot approved of me crushing a bird, a mouse, and a dog. Go figure.

1 Actually, I’ve managed to cross off two things from my list this weekend. The first is obviously the Goofy Race. The second is completing three marathons in a year (The Toronto Goodlife Marathon in May ’12, the Ottawa Capital Race in May ’12, and the Goofy Race in January ’13).

Moose And Norm

My new roommates. Dr. Beth sent them to me through the mail. Thanks Dr. Beth. You’re awesome.

Due to the awesomeness that is Rogers1, this post is going to be short and sweet2.

When I got home from the office today I did what I always do. I checked my mail before making my way to the front door (where Elliot is always waiting3). When I opened up my mailbox, what did I find? My hydro bill, a bank statement4, and a package from my friend Dr. Beth.

Surprise package from Dr. Beth! W00t!

Inside the package were my Christmas gifts: the mascot that she developed for one of her MBA projects (D2NA Moose), and a stuffed Standard Normal Distribution. I call them Moose and Norm for short5. With names like that, you know they should probably have a prime time television show named after them. I imagine they’d be like Starsky and Hutch in the sense that they are bad-ass crime fighting undercover cops.

Yup, Moose and Norm. Totally bad-ass.

Thanks Dr. Beth. Thank you long time and repeatedly.

1 Pfffffft. Awesome – riiiiiiiiight.

2 For fear that the Rogers provided interwebs will be down again for several hours.

3 Don’t judge. You’d probably be waiting for me too if you were pretty much guaranteed treats and a belly rub the minute I walked in the door.

4 Weird, because I could have sworn I’d switched them over to electronic bills.

5 I’m creative like that.

Off To A Good Start

w00t times 1000
w00t times 1000

As I mentioned back in the old time-y days of 2012, my attempt to log 1000 miles on my treadmill before I rang in 2013 ended just shy of my goal1. While I could have put in the extra miles on the 31st of December, I opted to prevent a potential injury and call it a day.

I do not regret that decision.

In fact, I regret it even less today because I managed to get my lazy ass on the treadmill and knock out the required distance to put me over the top. The number 1000 never looked so good2.

The best part about this is that I get to cross something off of my Not-So-Bucket-List list, making two items in two days3. What an awesome start to the year.

Of course, I don’t think I’ll necessarily be able to sustain this pace all year. Most of my Not-So-Bucket-List items require a significant time contribution, and there are other things I need to do – such as work, stretch, bike, sleep, and veg out with the wee fuzzball.

Regardless, I think I’m going to bask in the warming glow that is crossing off two items in two days for the rest of the eve. In fact, I may have a scotch to celebrate.

1 Approximately 4 miles shy, to be exact.

2 See how shiny and awesome it looks below?

3 The first being to set up a budget for 2013. Which I did. Yesterday. Because I’m a nerd. W00t!


Silent Night

A good plan. A better plan would have included motion sensors on the roof. And maybe some scotch to distract the jolly fat man.

After a busy week of seeing friends, Christmas shopping, and the like, tonight my home is surprisingly and most enjoyably silent. Well, silent-ish.

To my right is the wee fuzzball, purring, snoozing, and probably dreaming about whatever it is that cats dream about. To my left is a dram of scotch1. The Christmas tunes are playing softly in the background, and I’ve already stuffed myself on some Christmas treats2. Everything that needs to be done is pretty much done.

Well, everything if everything excludes wrapping gifts.


The mountain of things on the table behind me, which at this moment I’m choosing to ignore, patiently await the hours of wrapping and ribboning and bow tying to transform them from simple things I purchased to marvelous wondrous mysterious presents-o-Christmas. Would that I could fast forward time to the exact moment in the very near future when that task is finished.

But fear not, dear readers – I will get through this. It may require the help of an extra dram or two of scotch, it may demand that I watch several Christmas movies while wrapping, and it most definitely won’t happen without the much-needed Calories provided by the ghost of future Christmas cookies I’m about to eat. But I’m willing to do all of this for the sake of Christmas, because Christmas is about giving.

Ha. I’m such an ass.

Merry Christmas everyone.

1 Ardbeg, thank you very much.

2 Fresh bread, sliced prosciutto, smoked mackerel, olives, and a Christmas cookie or ten.

Christmas Eve Eve

I remember when I was younger how time would slow to a crawl prior to Christmas arriving.

Holy hell. How is it Christmas already?

With all the running around and shopping and cooking1 and visiting with friends2 and parties and lunches and gift exchanges and pub crawls3 and beers and cookies, time has flown by. When I was young, it felt like every second until Christmas morning was longer than the last. And here we are – tomorrow is Christmas Eve – making today Christmas Eve Eve.

Given the crazy schedule of the past week or two, I opted to spend the bulk of my day lounging at home watching movies while the wee fuzzball purred contentedly nuzzled in the crook of my arm. I assume he was purring contentedly because he remained there, curled up with me for hours. He purred through several movies, only moving when I had to get up to answer the call of nature or to get something to eat or drink.

After we had finished watching our second movie, I had one of those moments where I was reminded how awesome the simple things in life are, and how amazingly lucky I am to be able to enjoy them. I think that’s one of the best things about this time of year. It’s remembering all of those little things that make life amazing. It’s not the fancy ribbons and bows, it’s not the shiny new baubles and trinkets. It’s the laughter and smiles shared with loved ones. It’s the time spent with family.

And in my case, it’s the Sunday mornings spent watching movies with a good friend.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve all y’all.

1 Ha! Who am I kidding? I didn’t cook anything.

2 One of my favourite Christmas things to do.

3 Such as last night’s the 12 Bars of Christmas.

Persuasive Moves

I should be this bendy all of the time.

Since I’m going to be back on the treadmill tomorrow chasing down my dream of crushing Goofy, I figured I’d spend as much time as I could over the past few days stretching. In my world, stretching is as important as every minute I spend running. Honestly, if I didn’t take the time to stretch I can’t imagine how I’d feel. I’m sure my body would become so wound up and tight that at some inopportune moment in the very near future, it would just snap into several pieces.

Fortunately yoga and stretching help a lot. Combined with massage, and visits to my friendly neighbourhood Chiropractors1, and the odd round of acupuncture, I manage to stay flexible and loose enough to maintain the excessive mileage required to train for half marathons, marathons, and the Goofy race. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m stubborn as hell.

As of right now I feel much bendier than I did on Sunday when I opted to cancel my scheduled 30 km run. My body isn’t nearly as achy or stiff as it was then. In fact, I was considering adding a run today because it feels so much better. Sadly, my hamstring and quadricep muscles have apparently decided to resist my persuasive stretching moves2. How that’s possible, I have no idea – my moves are pretty persuasive. Because of this, I’ve decided to err on the side of caution and not push an extra run that isn’t necessary.

Look at me being all cautious and stuff.

To provide a little more convincing to those stupid hams and quads of mine, and because my hams and quads are so very clearly asking for it, I’ve decided to write this post while rolling around on my Y-roller. You may remember mention of this little torture device from previous posts (such as here).

It’s difficult to describe the pain that I can inflict on myself using this rather innocuous looking device. Suffice it to say, I’ve been dropping some pretty colourful language3. Poor Elliot is so disturbed, he’s resorted to hitting the catnip.

1 The good Doctors Mark & Julie.

2 Stupid hams and quads, why won’t you relax?

3 Mom, if you are reading this, colourful language means phrases like the following: