Category Archives: Random

All The Feels

Sleeping Elliot cake, complete with Ardbeg, Starbucks, greek letters, and the Blerch.
Sleeping Elliot cake, complete with Ardbeg, Starbucks, greek letters, and the Blerch.

Last Tuesday I celebrated the fourth anniversary of my PhD defence. It’s hard to believe that four years have passed already. As with most of the anniversaries I celebrate, I marked this particular event with a dram or two of scotch.

As is custom, I also marked the event by taking some time to think about the changes in my life since the big day just over four years ago. To be perfectly honest, when I began reflecting on the events of just the last year, I found myself thinking did all of that really just happen in one year? 

While I won’t get into all of the details, the highlights have included the Farm To Fork crowd-funding campaign and launch, numerous talks – both invited and contributed – on things ranging from community engaged scholarship, to pedagogy, to statistics, to public health, and to social media. I’ve been interviewed several times, and I’ve written for other blogs. I’ve watched as the Farm To Fork project has grown from a simple idea to an amazing tool to fight food insecurity. And I also received a teaching award – which sits proudly in my office.

Amazing detail. An Ardbeg
Amazing detail. An Ardbeg “garnish” for my cake.

But the thing that I find myself dwelling on – the thing that makes me the most happy - is something that really has, in my opinion, little to do with me. The thing that makes me smile the most has been watching the success of the students that I’ve been so fortunate to work with over the past 20 months. These men and women are amazing, and every day that I get to spend with them I find myself loving my job even more, smiling a little bigger, and feeling blessed that I can watch as they become even more incredible people. Their dedication and creativity are inspiring. Their desire to give back, to improve the world, and to help improve the lives of people in our community and abroad, are my armour against the daily onslaught of negativity that the media often presents. I honestly can’t begin to describe the profoundly positive effect they’ve had on my life in such a very short period of time.

This weekend I invited the students - my minions – over for an end of semester celebration. This was to be a thank you from me to them for all of the hard work they’ve put in over the past months; a small gesture to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work with them. Instead, they arrived with one of the best gifts I’ve ever received – one that I won’t soon forget. If you know me, you’ll know that their gift – a sleeping Elliot cake – was perfection, right down to the smallest details. It’s not often that I’m speechless or overwhelmed with emotion, but last night’s thoughtful gift left me in exactly that state.

Starbucks, the Blerch, and greek letters.
Starbucks, the Blerch, and greek letters.

After the minions left and I tidied up, I sat down on the couch, and waited as Elliot went through his routine of pawing at my belly before nuzzling in for his evening snuggles. As I sat there I thought about the night, and the past year, and I once again came to the conclusion that I am one lucky bastard. I smiled to myself, content, happy, and completely overwhelmed with everything.

So a huge thank you to my minions for making last night an amazing night, for constantly putting a smile on my face, for making me laugh, for inspiring me, for challenging me, and for making my job the best job in the world.

To my minions who are graduating this semester – your graduation will be bittersweet. I know that I will be beaming as you walk across the stage to receive your degree, but there will be a small part of me that selfishly won’t want you to be leaving. You are all amazing individuals, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

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?

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.

An Apple A Day

Paging Dr. Zoidberg
Paging Dr. Zoidberg

I have a confession to make. A confession that is well overdue, and going on 4 years in the making.

At the strapping young age of 38, I am without a family doctor.

I’ll give you a moment to pick yourselves up off of the floor.

For years this was never a problem. I moved to Guelph back in the old time-y days of 1994. At the time whenever I needed a health care professional, I simply sauntered over to the Student Health Centre on campus. There I was fortunate enough to see some really great physicians; experts who saw me through coughs and colds, a crazy bout with pneumonia, stress related eczema, and crazy weight loss that would eventually be attributed to a hiatal hernia.

But the day that I graduated with my PhD was the day that I was no longer entitled to visit Student Health Services. After 16 years building a relationship with the awesome staff and doctors there, I was on my own.

So while I’m not sick, and before I absolutely am desperate for one because I start sprouting a horn or other unsightly blemish, I have decided that this must be the year that I find the doctor that’s right for me. Or, as is likely the case, whichever doctor happens to be accepting new patients.

This is where – hopefully – you can help. If any of you know of and can recommend a family doctor who might be willing to take me on as a patient, I’m all ears. Since I don’t drive, someone in the downtown area or near Stone Road Mall or campus would be super swell.

While I don’t doubt an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it’s probably prudent for me to get at least one checkup every now and then. I’m apparently not getting any younger.

Things I Should Have Posted But Didn’t

Adventures with the Doctors in New York City
Adventures with the Doctors in New York City

Since I started writing this blog back in the old-time-y days of 2011, I’ve used it as a sort of map of my life. It provides me with the necessary bread crumbs to guide be from wherever it is I might be, back to wherever it is I might have come. It has seen me through many adventures, lots of shenanigans, ups, downs, crazy accomplishments, rants, peeves, opinions, and the like.

However, as I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I’ve done a spectacularly poor job this year of writing down the comings and goings of my life. Where last year I posted daily, this year I’ve managed to post just over 80 times at ConsumedByWanderlust1. This means that at a time when I’m trying to look back and reflect on the last 365 days, I’m coming up with some rather large gaps.

Fortunately I have other sources of data. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have helped me piece together the things that I’ve gotten myself into this year. And amazingly, there were some things that I really should have written about but I didn’t.

So as not to bore you to tears, I now present for your entertainment my list of Things I Should Have Posted, But Didn’t.

We found pie at the Christmas Market in Columbus Circle
We found pie at the Christmas Market in Columbus Circle
  1. Interest in the Farm To Fork project continues to grow. In the past year I have chatted with numerous groups within Guelph, throughout Ontario, and beyond, as well as the Ontario Association of Food Banks, and a major grocery chain. I’ve also been interviewed for Inside Guelph, and several magazines (the Portico, col.lab.o.rate, the Renegade Collective – which is based out of Australia). The support we’ve received continues to blow my mind. This includes financial contributions from TasteReal, the Better Planet Project, and the College of Physical and Engineering Sciences.
  2. Earlier this month I returned to New York City with Steph and Gerarda. The 5 days were amazing. We ate, and drank, and ate some more. The trip was filled with laughter, great conversations, and so much good food. We also saw Pippin, Waiting for Godot (with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen), and a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (which was unreal).
  3. In November I gave an invited talk at Western University in London Ontario. It was the first non-Farm To Fork presentation I had given in what seemed to be a very long time. I spoke about the use of Scenario Analysis for public health assessments. It was a lot of fun, and reminded me why I love statistics (even if my presentation offered zero equations, and very few real numbers).
  4. I was surprised and excited to learn that I was in the top 20 for the Guelphonography photo contest this year. The entries were so good, I really wasn’t expecting to place.
  5. Enjoying a brew from The Filling Station
    Enjoying a brew from The Filling Station

    During the fall semester I got to work with a bunch of great students. Some were research assistants, some were doing senior undergraduate projects with me, and others made my class that much more enjoyable. One group of students spent their semester working on The Guelph Coding Community – a student driven series of talks focused on computer science topics not typically covered in the classroom. The talks were all fantastic, and a lot of fun. Better than that, I learned a thing or two as well.

  6. On October 16th I was fortunate enough to be invited to the World Food Day Event with George Stroumboulopoulos. It was held in Toronto, and featured a panel of experts on Food Insecurity. It was also pretty cool to be that close to George.
  7. Because I don’t have enough on my plate, I decided this past semester that I’d start offering a statistics seminar. I was hoping to host one a month, but things got started late and I managed to hold two. Regardless, they were both well attended, and were a lot of fun. Since I normally only teach Computer Science courses at the moment, being able to talk statistics felt great. I’m going to continue the series this coming winter semester.
  8. I went to my first TiCats game in October. It was cold. I made it to halftime and then decided warmth trumped watching a bunch of dudes chasing around the pigskin. Can you tell I’m not really a football fan?
  9. I joined a bunch of friends at the end of October to tour downtown Guelph on a Ghost Walk. While I was hoping to see a ghost, I had to settle for being entertained by the stories. Also, it was cold.
  10. A view from our room.
    A view from our room.

    Earlier this year I was asked to speak at an event on campus where RBC donated $1 million to the University of Guelph. The money was provided to the University for undergraduate field experience related to Aboriginal water needs. The idea – get undergraduate students into the field to work on water related challenges identified by our First Nations partners. It was also pretty cool getting to hold a novelty cheque for $1 million.

  11. I finally received my Leap Motion device near the end of the summer. It is so freaking cool. Sadly I can’t tell you much more than that since one of my research assistants has been playing with it since then.

As I mentioned before, I need to do a better job of writing things down.


1 Full disclosure: I have other blogs for which I write. In total I’ve written over 150 blog posts this year: more than 80 here, almost 20 at danielgillis.wordpress.com, more than 30 at FarmToForkGuelph.wordpress.com, and more than 20 for the School of Computer Science.

 

19 Again

Christmas mimosas – it’s what’s for breakfast.

For those who follow my Twitter account1, you’re likely already aware of the fact that I had a bit of an incident at the liquor store yesterday. Nothing crazy of course – I made no scene, there was no need for security to be called. Regardless, something happened; something that was a mix of amazing and surreal and ridiculous and hilarious.

I had sauntered over to the liquor store early yesterday to pick up certain key ingredients for the traditional Christmas morning mimosas. Surprisingly the store wasn’t very busy when I arrived, so I only had to wait in line behind one other person. I placed several2 bottles of Christmas cheer on the counter and pulled out my bank card.

Could I see some ID?

I was only slightly surprised to hear this. I’ve heard this request before and I’m sure I’ll hear it again because I realize that I look younger than my 38 years. Further, the staff of the liquor store are required by law to ID anyone that looks 25 or younger. The legal drinking age is actually 19, but the law is in place to honestly, I have no idea what the intended purpose is. 

You might be asking, do I look younger than 19? Unless you are visually impaired, drunk, or high, I’m going to guess no. I’m not even convinced I look 25. However, the liquor store employee decided that she needed my ID.

I happily passed her the ID I’ve been using for the past 10 years.

I’m sorry, but this has expired.

I stared blankly back at her, not realizing what she was saying.

I can’t accept this. Do you have another piece of ID?

I didn’t. I told her so.

It was at this point that I realized what she was getting at.

It was at this point that I realized she wasn’t going to sell me the booze.

It was at this point that I realized that Christmas might be ruined.

I tried explaining that it was the same ID I’d always used. I never thought to reiterate the fact that I’m almost 40. I just kept staring at her assuming that my impressive powers of persuasion and my out-of-date ID would convince her that I was worthy of the bottles placed before her.

I clearly was not. Instead I had to pack it in, sad-faced, empty-handed, and convinced that Christmas was ruined. Denied at the liquor store at the tender young age of 38, because I apparently didn’t look old enough to pass as someone of the legal drinking age in this province.

But don’t worry folks – all was not lost. My little brother dropped by later to buy the necessary mimosa ingredients. That’s correct – my little brother bought me Christmas cheer because apparently I’m not old enough to buy my own.

It was a weird but wonderful Christmas miracle.

Merry Christmas everyone.


1 @thedangillis

2 Read 3.

White Whine Anyone?

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah

Several weeks ago I was chatting with someone about my lack of travel this year. To put this into proper perspective you’ll have to understand that this observation had followed multiple months of 100+ hours of work per week. That is, I made the observation at a point in time where my body, mind, and soul were beyond exhausted. In other words, I was in a heightened state of stupidity, suffering from extreme lack of awareness, and dealing with a giant case of woe-is-me-itis.

After I made the bold proclamation that I haven’t really travelled that much this year, my friend looked at me as if I were on some sort of Rob Ford bender. How could I make such a claim knowing full well that the facts of the case would clearly destroy it?

It was at this point that I felt obliged to justify my statement.

It’s true. I haven’t really travelled that much this year. Ugh. 

The ugh was delivered with probably more drama than warranted. It was at this point that I started listing where my travels had taken me, fully confident that my statement would easily be verified. Inside I felt a pre-victory party brewing, because by the end of my list I knew that I would stand point-proven and triumphant.

True story. In January I was in Florida for the Goofy Race.

February I was in New York, because, well, New York.

In March I headed to Vegas for my friends’ wedding.

It was at this point that I realized how much of an ass I sounded. Three major trips in three months. And somehow I had forgotten them. They seemed a lifetime ago.

Early in the summer I was in Newfoundland for a conference.

I trailed off. How, I thought, could I have travelled this much and still not feel like I’ve travelled at all this year. Seriously – could I be any more spoiled? I stood there smirking awkwardly because inside I realized how much of a whiney little shit I sounded.

Truth be told I’ve travelled a lot this year. My trips to Florida, New York, Nevada, and Newfoundland & Labrador were followed by trips to Ottawa, Calgary, and New York City. I’ve also been fortunate to travel for work – giving talks at Western University, and in Toronto. In essence, the year has been filled with adventures wrapped in shenanigans and deep fried in awesomeness.

And yet somehow I had forgotten.

Talk about feeling like a giant ungrateful ass.

Fortunately this is the time of year when I often look back at the things I’ve accomplished to make sure I don’t take where I’ve been and where I am for granted. I’m a lucky SOB because I am able to travel like I do, and even though I always want to travel more, I’m very grateful for this crazy life I have. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and it’s irresponsible for me to take that for granted.

Here’s hoping that I don’t soon forget this.

68 Days Later

Wow. Have I ever been slacking. It has been 68 days since I last wrote anything on this blog.

Sixty-eight days.

That dear friends is what I like to call pathetic.

Fortunately I’ve been keeping myself busy. According to some1 probably too busy. All I know is that I’ve been busy enough that writing here has fallen by the wayside. Whether that’s too busy or not remains to be seen. What I do know is that I need to get back to writing for several reasons.

First, I forget everything. Writing it down here is my way of keeping track of all of the crazy-stupid things I do. And I do a lot of crazy-stupid things.

Second, writing keeps me focused on my goals; it keeps me in check and on track. While I’m always working on my Not-So-Bucket-List list, I’ve done a really poor job of actually checking in.

Third, did I mention I forget stuff?

Fourth, it helps keep me balanced. It forces me to take some time out of my otherwise busy day so that I can stop, reflect, unwind, and just breathe. Given how busy the last four to six months have been, I really should have been writing more.

As such I’m going to do my best to start writing on a regular basis again. The good thing is that I have a slew of things to write about – especially given all of the amazing things that have happened in the last 68 days. But I don’t want to give away all of the secrets yet, so you’ll just have to check in again to find out more.


1 Where some equals my mom, and several friends.

Shenanigans Are Nigh

Rick and me near Sentinel Pass
Rick and me near Sentinel Pass, during the Big Mountain Challenge (Sept. 2nd, 2012)

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly the time for shenanigans, but shenanigans are nigh – so very, very nigh.

For those not in the know, I’m about to take a real vacation. What do I mean by real vacation? Only that I’m about to board a plane (requisite number 1), travel afar (requisite number 2), and do something crazy (requisite number 3) with someone almost as crazy as me (requisite number 4).

In this particular case, I’ll be boarding my flight to Calgary on Wednesday eve. You can rest assured knowing that my flight will more than likely include a scotch or two – because, well, VACATION!

On the other end of my flight will be fellow partner in adventuring shenaniganery, Mr. Rick. You may remember Rick from last year’s Big Mountain Challenge. You may also remember that last year’s Big Mountain Challenge happened at approximately this time last year – which makes this trip our Big Mountain Challenge-versary. While having a “versary” isn’t a requisite for any of my travels, it does up the awesomeness that is this trip.

What crazy things are we going to be doing? Well, in true “versary” style, we shall be celebrating the Big Mountain Challenge-versary by climbing several mountains. This may or may not include (but most likely will include) jump shots, yoga, high-fives, and seemingly death-defying photos that aren’t really in any way death-defying. Okay, maybe the death-defying photos involve things that most people would find crazy and such, but never fear – Rick is the voice of reason and has the power of veto should any of my ideas push the envelope of good taste or safety. Actually, he’s only ever vetoed things that push the safety envelope, because let’s face it, good taste is not really in our vocabulary. Ha!

So far I’m only aware of two adventures that we’ll be doing. The first – retake Mount Yamnuska. Apparently the first time Rick and I did this, we actually didn’t hit the peak. Clearly this is a mark on my otherwise spotless (Ha!) record, and it must be rectified. The second – conquer Mount Bourgeau.

I can’t freaking wait.

Of course, I still have a bunch of work to do before all of this happens. Which means I need to focus. Easier said than done. My brain is full of outdoors-y thoughts, mountains, fresh air, adventures, shenanigans, laughing, chatting and spending time with someone I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with.

Sigh. Only 52 more hours until my flight leaves. But who’s counting?

The Year That Was

I assume you’re humming the theme of Jaws right now.

I stumbled on this website last night (whathappenedinmybirthyear.com) and I thought it was rather cool (assuming you, of course, are interested in random trivia). The gist – provide the website with the year you were born and it will provide you a string of information related to things that happened that year – news, movies, books, music, etc.

For example, assuming you were born in 1975 – which, in my completely unbiased opinion is a rather spectacular year, and I’m not just saying that because I may or may not have been born in said year – you’d learn the following (which is only a partial and slightly modified extract from the full website text):

In 1975, the world was a different place. There was no Google yet. Or Yahoo. 

The top selling movie was Jaws. 

The academy award for the best movie went to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The top actor was Jack Nicholson. The top actress was Louise Fletcher. 

The number one US bestseller of the time was Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow. 

Altair 8800 is released, sparking the era of the microcomputer.

The United Nations proclaims International Women’s Day.

Bobby Fischer refuses to play in a chess match against Anatoly Karpov, giving Karpov the title.

The Suez Canal opens for the first time since the Six-Day War.

NBC airs the first episode of Saturday Night Live, with George Carlin as the first host.

The wreck of the HMHS Britannic is found in the Kea Channel by Jacques Cousteau.

Victoria, Australia, abolishes capital punishment.

The video game of the day was Pong.

Anyway, check it out. It’s kind of cool in a completely nerdy kind of way.

So This Is 38

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

Thirty-eight.

Three Eight.

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.

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.

 

I Have The Lazies

It’s a Sunday thing

I just had an accidental nap. Note – I’m not complaining. It’s Sunday, and I’d just sat down on the couch after finishing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and pretty much doing whatever was necessary to catch up on the chores that I had neglected this past week.

In other words, a nap was very much in order.

Fortunately my naps aren’t usually that long so I don’t typically feel like I’m losing much of my day. Fifteen minutes to half an hour usually do me just fine. I’ve even been known to hammer out a 7 minute power nap when the time has called for it.

Today’s nap lasted all of 20 minutes1. Sadly, I don’t feel like I’m completely rested. That is, I still feel the need to lazily lay about like a lazy lay-about. I might blame the heat. I might blame my lack of sleep last night. But that would really be blaming the wrong things. I love the heat, and I actually got slightly more than my average 5.5 hours of sleep last night.

Ultimately, I have to face the music. I’m simply full of the lazies today.


 

1 I think. I’m not exactly sure when I fell asleep.


 

Apparently I Am Not Superman

Although I look just as buff as Superman, I am in fact not Superman. I’m actually the Hulk. HA! I kill me.

A few weeks ago I was supposed to run my very first 50km Ultra Marathon. I trained, I trained, and I trained some more. I made sure to stretch, and I tried to do all this while balancing a bunch of other projects. I found the hours I spent in the office and in meetings increasing. I found the hours I spent in my own home relaxing and recharging decreasing. And I found that I was always telling myself that I’d catch up on rest after the next grant, the next paper, the next presentation, the next next thing.

In short, while I was productive and crossing stuff off of my list, I was also setting myself up for something.

And then something happened. It wasn’t anything severe. There was no broken bone. There was no muscle tear. I didn’t trip and impale myself on a branch. Nor did I get hit by a car. I didn’t spontaneously combust. I wasn’t immersed in a vat of boiling acid.

Simply put, the something was that my body decided to remind me that I am in fact not Superman. After 664 km since December 1, my right ankle decided that it just couldn’t handle another step. Stupid ankle. Stupid, stupid ankle.

I think at times I like to believe I am Superman. I don’t need to rest. I can do all of the things all of the time and then do even more because why wouldn’t I also try to do that while I’m doing all of these other things?

Long story short, I did not run the 50km Ultra Marathon. It wasn’t an easy decision either. I made the call on June 21st, the day before the race was set to be run. And I did it begrudgingly – knowing that in all other ways I was ready to crush my first Ultra Marathon. But having realized that I was limping as I walked to the office, I had to admit that running was the last thing I should be doing. Regardless, I felt like a giant wimp. My ankle didn’t hurt that much. I could probably run through the pain. I’m making a mountain out of a sore ankle.

But I was the only one saying that. Everyone else was saying I’d be stupid to run. And I knew this to be true. So I didn’t run. While I know it was the right thing to do, I’m still not completely comfortable with the decision. I know I could have crushed the Ultra, but I also know that I would have screwed my ankle for any other running this year.

So as of June 16th, Running and I are on a break. I love Running, but I have to accept that we’re just not getting along these days. It’s for the best really. In running’s absence, I’ve decided to rekindle my relationship with taking time off. As such, I’m currently writing this post on my first of five days off in a row.

I’m not sure if Superman took days off, but I have to say it feels pretty good.

Also – There Was Pie

Also, there was pie. Mmmm, pie.

So it’s been a few days – and by a few days I clearly mean more than 7 – since I last wrote something here at Consumed By Wanderlust. I could probably give you a list a mile long as to why I’ve been so tardy, but the truth is rather simple – weird stuff happens.

True story.

In this case, the weird stuff has all been good. Really good in fact. So good that I often have to remind myself that yes, this in fact is my life. 

Where to begin?

When last we spoke I was in the final stages of a fundraising campaign for the Farm To Fork project. With only a few hours remaining and having raised slightly over  $14000, I won’t lie, I was a wee bit stressed. Of course, I didn’t need to be. With all of the amazing people out there we managed to surpass our goal. In total, $15116 were raised.

If you want to know more about the fundraising campaign, you can check out this  interview by Ethan Perlstein of Microryza.

The interview was conducted on the Monday following the fundraising campaign. Ethan has also written up a summary of the campaign here (including some stats – which you all know I love).

All of this, however, didn’t quite define the weird in the weird stuff that happened. The weird came a little later in the week.

First up - I was asked (a number of weeks ago) to write a blog post for RunKeeper. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been an avid user of the RunKeeper app for some time, and I credit the app with helping me become a healthier version of me. Anyway, my post went live on the RunKeeper blog on May 28th. Since then it has been read by I don’t know how many people, liked at least 130 times, and retweeted more than a few times. Crazy. If you’re up for extra reading, check it out here.

But that’s not all. Around the same time that I was asked to write a post for the RunKeeper blog, I was also asked to do another interview. To put this into proper context, I awoke one morning to find an email from the fine folks at RunKeeper. The email, which I initially assumed to be a standard update about my running stats (or possibly an update on global RunKeeper statistics), was actually to ask if I’d be willing to be interviewed by CNN.

Seriously. That CNN.

My reaction went something like this.

What the hell?

Is this a joke?

Wait, was this actually meant for me?

Whaaaaaaaaaaaa?

Of course, once I realized that this was in fact a real message intended for me, I quickly replied with a dignified HELLS YA.

Anyway, the story was officially released today. You can check it out here.

Beyond all of this, my week also included celebrations related to the pi-anniversary of my PhD. That is, my PhD officially turned ~3.14 years old earlier in the week. Naturally I celebrated with pie.


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