I realize that autumn doesn’t officially begin for another week or so, but I think someone needs to state the obvious – summer has passed on. Let’s take a moment to remember summer for what it was. Oh summer – we hardly knew ye!
While summer is my favourite season, spring and autumn also hold a special place in my heart. The difference between the two is that autumn – despite the crisp air, smell of freshly made pies, preserves, beautiful colours, and the like – reminds me that winter is coming. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know my feelings about winter. If you’re new here, I’m not a fan. Sure, winter comes with its own charms – skiing, sledding, and skating with friends, hot chocolate, newly fallen snow, scotch by the fireplace, stouts, baked goods, mulled cider, and everything spiced – but I just can’t embrace it like the others. Perhaps, like the Grinch, my heart is just two sizes too small. Or perhaps I just suck at maintaining a body temperature that exceeds popsicle status.
Regardless, it seems that autumn has come early to Guelph. Some of the trees have started their transition from green to yellow or red, extra layers are required, and the sun is setting earlier every day. There’s also a different smell in the air – that spicy autumn crispness – sort of a mix between damp earth, decaying leaves, and I’m not sure what. And of course, the truest sign of the season, I feel more compelled to curl up on the couch with the wee fuzzball and a scotch instead of heading outside.
While I’m looking forward to some of the things that autumn brings (did I mention scotch by the fireplace?), I can’t help but feel somewhat sad that summer is over, and that winter isn’t far off. So welcome autumn. May your stay be long, and may you be full of good food (e.g. cherry pies, peach pies, blueberry pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, … ) and good friends.
And for the love of all things holy, stick around a little longer than summer. I’m really not ready for winter yet.
The following is a response I provided on a friend’s Facebook feed. The response follows a set of comments voiced in reply to this article: Ottawa Parkdale Food Centre Says No To Food Like KD, Gets Criticized Online. Whether or not you believe it is right for Parkdale to reject certain types of food donations, I think the most important thing is that this article has people talking. Food insecurity is pervasive, and much like any problem, can only be dealt with appropriately if people are made aware of it. So please – spread the word – let everyone know that the awesome people who fight food insecurity every day need our help.
And while you’re at it – sign up for Farm To Fork. Together we can eliminate food insecurity in our communities.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Dan Gillis. I’m an Assistant Professor and Statistician in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph, and one of the co-founders of Farm To Fork – a project designed by my students in collaboration with the Guelph Wellington Food Round Table, local food insecurity experts, emergency food providers (EFPs), and the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship.
The goal of Farm To Fork is to improve the quality and quantity of healthy food donated to EFPs (such as the food banks and food pantries). This is done by connecting donors with the real-time needs of the emergency food system (EFS). Potential donors sign up, connect with an EFP, identify when they typically go grocery shopping, and pledge items that are required. The system delivers an up to date list of needs via email to the donor based on the day the donor goes shopping.
Presently the website (farm-to-fork.ca) is available in Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo, but we will soon be launching a mobile app that will be available in any city that wishes to participate in the program. The mobile app will alert donors as they are approaching a market or grocery store with a list of emergency needs. We are also looking to integrate Farm To Fork with Point-Of-Sale systems used in the various grocery chains.
Why are we doing this? The Farm To Fork team firmly believes that everyone, absolutely everyone, deserves access to healthy food, not just those of us who can afford it. This can only be achieved if everyone is aware of what is needed, in real time.
While numerous studies have identified the benefits of healthy food, many food banks and other emergency food providers receive lower quality/less healthful foodstuffs because they are non-perishable. In moderation these foodstuffs aren’t a problem; as a staple they are. It’s not that donors are donating maliciously – quite the contrary – they donate because they know it’s the right thing to do. The problem is as simple as a disconnect between what is needed, what can be accepted, and what is donated.
Often the refrain I’ve heard when talking about improving the food that is donated focusses on the belief that “something is better than nothing”, and “beggars can’t be choosers”. While 500 grams of processed sugar would provide approximately 2000 Calories of energy – the same amount needed daily by an adult male – it is clearly not sufficient to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We need to do a much better job of informing the public of the ongoing and persistent problem of food insecurity, and we need to arm those who can donate with the tools to make a significant difference. We need to talk about this issue, and demand more from not just our leaders, but ourselves.
This starts by making sure that everyone is aware of what food banks and food pantries can accept. Many food banks and pantries can receive fresh produce, but don’t (or they receive it in inadequate amounts). Many food banks and pantries receive significant amounts of a certain set of foods, but lack others. Many food banks suffer through feast and famine because donations are inconsistent throughout the year. Most food banks and pantries require our help, but people are unaware of the magnitude of the problem of food insecurity. It affects us all, directly or indirectly.
The truth of the matter is that we can do better. Our country wastes approximately 40% of all food produced. Almost half of the waste happens in the home, costing every Canadian household approximately $1500 every year. The waste – often fruits and veggies that have been left to rot – represents food that could have been put to better use.
While we might debate whether or not it was right for the Ottawa Parkdale Food Centre to reject donations, they have started a conversation that should have been started long ago. Food access isn’t the domain of the rich – everyone deserves access to healthy food. It’s up to us to do more to make this happen.
Beijing has been a little bit different from the previous cities in China I’ve visited, but that doesn’t mean it has been any less amazing.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I opted to stay at a hotel while in Beijing, mainly because the hostel I wanted wasn’t available, but also because the hotel deal was too good to pass up. The problem, however, with staying in a hotel versus a hostel is the type of people who share accommodations with me.
Hostels are mostly filled with travellers and backpackers; people who don’t mind getting dirty, sharing bathrooms, sleeping in bunk beds in 6 or 8 person dorms with complete strangers, and randomly striking up conversations that begin with Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going? These conversations always seem to develop into some sort of instant friendship, and before long, you and your fellow traveller are out experiencing the city together, writing crazy new adventure stories to tell at the next hostel.
Hotels are mostly filled with business folks and tourists; people who expect a certain level of pampering and sophistication, room service, and guided tours. Any conversations are limited and short, and have rarely led to adventures (at least in my experience).
Why is this problematic for me? Well, tourists and business folks aren’t likely to strike up a conversation with a random dude travelling on his own. And as has been my experience, they don’t necessarily open themselves up to a random dude striking up a conversation with them. Don’t get me wrong – they talk back – but it’s usually limited to casual chatting and small talk. Backpackers and travellers ignore the small talk and get to the stories. That’s how I met so many great people in Xi’an and Shanghai.
However, this doesn’t mean that I’ve not met some amazing people while in Beijing. I randomly met Brian – the second person from Nashville I’ve met while in China – while touring the parks next to the Forbidden City. He was almost caught in a selfie that I was taking, and that of course led to hello, some laughter, and before long lunch, beer, dinner, and wandering the city at night. We also managed to explore Tiananmen Square, spending part of our time getting photos with locals, and the rest of our time trying to figure out where Tank Man was last photographed as he stood defiantly in front of a line of tanks in 1989.
And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I spent a few days on a gastronomic adventure with Till. From Peking Duck to silk worm, scorpions, and spiders, we tried pretty much anything we could. We enjoyed beers while chatting about travel, education, and other random things. We compared cities, and the people of China to our expectations and experiences at home. And we talked about Munich – where he’s from.
When I explored the Great Wall I met Arneau and Rihanna – travellers who had the exact same idea as me when we saw a sign that informed us that the public were not allowed beyond said signage. Clearly this was meant to be ignored. And so the three of us trekked on and found ourselves probably 1km or more beyond the no-admittance declaration, along a section of the wall that hasn’t been repaired as of yet. It also afforded us some amazing views of the wall as it ascended and descended the various mountains we could see. Breaking the rules – always the best decision (that’s a rule – you should write it down – ha, see what I did there).
Last night I had dinner with a Brazilian that I met who’s in Beijing for only 2 days on business. Having been to the city numerous times, he knew of some great restaurants. We ended up eating at La Pizza, where I had western food for the first time on my trip – seafood pizza if you’re curious. While eating, the sky decided to open up and pour for the first time since I’ve been travelling. The rain brought with it thunder and lightning, and apparently sent all of the cabbies into hiding. After eating we did our best to stay dry, but I ended up soaked and having to walk about 3 km before I was finally able to hail a cabbie to get me back to my hotel. Fortunately it was a warm rain and ultimately refreshing given how hot and smoggy it had been that day.
Anyway, while the people I’ve met here have been no less amazing than those I’ve met elsewhere, the ways in which we met have been vastly different. Regardless of how we met, Beijing has been an amazing experience and I’m definitely going to miss it.
The end is nigh! I fly home tomorrow. I honestly can’t believe that a month has flown by so quickly. I guess that’s what happens when you explore a country where you don’t speak the language, but somehow manage to find yourself in crazy adventures. From climbing mountains and dangling on the side of a vertical rock face, to exploring temples, side streets, and mysterious – possibly questionable looking clubs, China has been an incredible adventure.
Of course, the food has been an adventure all onto itself. I tried the recommended staples – Peking Duck (enjoyed several nights ago with a german student named Till), dumplings, noodles, and hot-pot. I’ve enjoyed various soups and rice dishes, both spicy and non. And I’ve also tried some of the local desserts, because dessert, naturally. But nothing in the world could really prepare me for the smorgasbord of gastronomic treats that were available in some of the various markets in the various cities I travelled.
So several nights ago, Till and I continued our gastronomic exploration of Beijing. Specifically, we found ourselves at the Donghuamen Street Market which was very conveniently located within walking distance of our respective hotels.
As we walked the length of the market we were greeted with various aromas, not necessarily matching the images we were seeing. There were standard things such as chicken and beef skewers, but mixed within these there were also skewers of crickets and beetles, snake, frog, fish, scorpions, sea urchin, starfish, unidentifiable animals, unidentifiable insects, and of course, spiders. Creepy, crawly, and heebie-jeebie inducing even in their skewered death-form.
We started our culinary exploration with a skewer of grilled silkworm pupae. To be honest, they look like cockroaches. As for the flavour – they were actually pretty good. They were seasoned with some sort of magic seasoning that pretty much makes everything taste amazing. The inside of the pupae had the consistency of cheese. It actually reminded me of cheese that one would have in a lasagna after it has been baked. The shell – is that the proper term – was crunchy, but not to the point of being offensive or intrusive. It wasn’t so thick that it made for difficult chewing, nor was it so thin that it had no textural impact.
Next we tried grilled snake. The outer flesh was a bit tough to bite through, but the inside had the consistency of egg white. It was actually, in my opinion, quite delicious. We also sampled deep-fried snake – but it was pretty much like eating anything that was super deep-fried. Crunchy, salty, and really devoid of most flavour.
Scorpions were added to our menu. They also were deep-fried, but I think since we had them before the deep-fried snake I enjoyed them more. Also, scorpions seem to be a bit more out there than snake, so there might have been a thrill factor involved with my liking them more.
I also managed to sample some deep-fried starfish – although it was huge so I couldn’t eat it all. It had the toughest/crunchiest of exteriors. The interior was like nothing I have ever tried. It had a weird crumbly wet texture, with a bit of a seafood (but not fishy) flavour.
There was also some sort of bat/lizard thing that I tried. The vendor claimed it to be a bat, but the tail on it suggested to me it was something else. The head and tail combined made me think it was a lizard prior to its untimely skewering. That is, unless bats have long tails and I’m just not as informed on bat knowledge as I should be. Regardless, it was super deep-fried so I’m sure whatever it was lost its original flavour in place of salty deep-fried crunchy deliciousness.
But the showstopper for me was the spider. For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time, you’ll know that I suffered from arachnophobia since I was a little kid. I grew up with a recurring nightmare about tarantulas killing my family. I’d wake up sweating and unable to breathe, fearful that the nightmare were real and if I moved they’d know and get me too. I won’t lie, walking by the platter of skewered spiders invoked both the heebie-jeebies and a sense of joy that they were actually dead. That didn’t stop my brain from jumping into old patterns of what if they aren’t really dead? Don’t get too close, they’ll get you.
When I came to China I knew that the possibility existed of eating a spider. The thought creeped me out. I remember telling someone who I’d be able to eat pretty much anything, but I didn’t think I’d be able to eat a spider.
Well, now here I was, staring at a small tarantula on a stick. Was I truly over my fear of spiders? My mind repeated – I don’t think I can do this. Internally the monologue went on for an eternity, but I know it was short-lived. I looked at the spider, reminding myself that I try to live with a goal of not letting my fears stop me from experiencing everything I possible can. And I thought to myself – what’s the worst that could happen?
The vendor passed me my spider and I contemplated it for a moment. Then I ate a leg. It was crunchy. Almost like an over cooked and super crunchy french fry. I ate another. Till joined in. Before long it was just me, Till, and the spider’s body on a stick. Go big or go home, right? One big gulp and it was gone.
And just like that, revenge was mine. Take that spiders everywhere.
I ventured to Toronto on Monday to get my visa. I won’t lie, I was giddy with excitement as I handed over all of the necessary items – completed application, one passport sized photo, and an official letter of invite from Dalian Nationalities University – to the very friendly woman who was working behind the counter.
On Friday I’ll be returning to Toronto to pick up said visa – bringing Phase I of Operation China Adventure to a close. In case you were wondering, Operation China Adventure is what I’m officially calling my trip.
Before I leave, however, I have a few tasks to complete (what I’m calling Phase II of Operation China Adventure):
Organize all of my projects, and leave explicit instructions and a set of deliverables for all of my students, to ensure that my return is stress-free.
Organize dates for Elliot. He gets lonely when I’m not around.
Organize the house-sitters. Identify the comfiest spots in my condo for a nap.
Figure out how to post to the Twitters and the Facebook while I’m away. I’ve learned that both of these sites are blocked in China. Fortunately, the Instagrams are not. At least, not yet.
Finish designing course materials that I will be presenting while in China.
Set up meetings with students and colleagues while I’m gone.
Finish up all of the reports, grants, papers, and other deliverables that need to be completed.
No big deal. I’ve still got three working days to get it all done.
Anyway, the bottom line is that I’m stoked. I haven’t had an adventure like this in ages, and it’s making concentration rather difficult. For example, while I should be working on any of the things listed above, I find myself watching this over and over.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wow. Have I ever been slacking. It has been 68 days since I last wrote anything on this blog.
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.
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?