Tag Archives: Academic term

Smile Worthy

This was not my students.

And just like that the semester is over. Okay, maybe not completely over but pretty much over. The students still have to write their exam, and I have to grade said exam, but otherwise everything that the students needed to do, they have done.

Today was their final lab demo. That is, today they put everything on the line to show off and sell what they have been working on the entire semester. I’m sure they were nervous and worried about their presentations, but they were awesome.

Truth be told, when I woke up this morning I was rather nervous. I had no idea how the students would respond to the task at hand, nor did I really know what to expect in terms of their overall final project. Don’t get me wrong – I knew what they had to do, and I knew that they had been working hard – but I didn’t know how their final project would function nor how it would look.

Given that I was slightly in the dark in terms of what exactly they had produced, you’ll understand when I write that I was terribly excited to see the final versions of the projects they had completed, and even more excited to watch as they explained what they had done to the client. It took all my energy not to peek at their projects until the presentations formally began.

After the presentations began I walked around the class observing the students, listening to them explain to the client representatives how they translated the goals of the project into a tangible, usable, web-based solution. They were pretty impressive. Of course, being my students you might think that I’m biased in my estimation of their skills. Trust me when I say that their ability to impress was noted not just by me, but by the six client representatives that came to judge what they had completed. So yes, I was rather happy and proud with how things played out.

Through all of this I tried unsuccessfully not to smile. I really couldn’t help myself. It’s hard not to smile when what I saw was so totally smile worthy.

Winding Down

Fall 2012 is almost over.

So apparently today was the last formal day of class – well, at least for the course I teach. Tomorrow is the last day I will meet with my students this semester in a non-exam setting. Crazy. I honestly can’t believe how fast the semester has gone. It seems like only yesterday that I was meeting them for the first time, wondering how they might react to the course, their semester long project, me.

As with any course we’ve had our ups and downs, but I can honestly say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching this class. Was it a lot of work? Hells ya – more so than any other course I’ve taught over the past 6 or so years. But was it fun? Double hells ya. That’s not to say that there weren’t frustrating moments, because there were, but the awesome moments far outweighed the not so awesome moments.

One of my favourite moments came when I had to be late for class due to meetings in Waterloo. As I wrote here, I was more than impressed when, on arriving to class 30 minutes late, I found the students in a very active conversation about their major project – everyone actively engaged and involved. It was amazing and inspiring, and one of the moments that I’ll keep with me long after the course is over.

As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow the students will present their final projects. I’m pretty sure that at this very moment they are all still madly working, perfecting their presentations and organizing their reports. I say this confidently because they have already demonstrated their work ethic, and their commitment to the final project over the course of the semester.

I honestly can’t wait to see their final projects tomorrow. In a way, it feels a little like Christmas eve.


One more class to go!

Holy hell the semester is almost over.

On one side of the coin I’m stoked because it has been a long semester filled with late nights, early mornings, sleep deprivation, and probably far too much coffee and beer.

On the other side of the coin I’m a bit sad because, while the semester has been long it has been a lot of fun. Yes there were moments where I may have wanted to stab myself repeatedly in the eye instead of deal with whatever mountain of work was in front of me, but on the whole it was a fun-filled semester. My class has been awesome, the students fantastic, and I’m super excited about the project they have been working on1.

Indeed, as busy as this semester has been, I think I’m going to miss teaching my class more than I would have initially thought. I realized this today when I learned that next Thursday will actually be a Monday – at least scheduling wise. The idea is that classes that were cancelled during the Thanksgiving Monday holiday will be made up this coming Thursday. This means that the last class for my course will be held Tuesday, and not Thursday like I had originally thought.

I really don’t know how to feel about this.

1 Which will be revealed – at least in a prototype form – at the end of the semester. I can’t wait!


The Countdown Starts Now

Calvin and Hobbes. So wise. 

Holy crapshite it’s the end of July. Seriously, how the frick did that happen? It seems like the winter semester just ended, and here we are with the fall semester fast approaching. Eep! So much to do. So many grants to prepare, lessons to plan, papers to write, meetings to fall asleep in. Ha!

Fortunately, as of end of day tomorrow (which will be late tomorrow eve), I am not going to care about any of this stuff. As soon as my last meeting ends on Wednesday I will officially be on vacation. W00t!

What have I got planned for my week off? Pretty much anything that resembles goofing off, adventuring, and/or shenaniganning. To start, I’m going to head into Toronto on Thursday with my friend Manon. Our purpose? We have none. We’re just going to go and figure out what happens once we’re there. Friday I’m meeting up with Steph and then heading to her cottage until Monday1 afternoon. The weekend will be filled with delicious food, delicious beverages, delicious s’mores, and of course a ridiculous amount of laughter. I can’t wait.

As for Tuesday and Wednesday of next week – I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ll be back in Guelph and possibly spending the time puttering, running, biking, or vegging downtown whilst sipping coffee and people watching. Who knows? The point is – I won’t be working.

And that, dear readers, is enough to get me through the craziness that will be this eve and tomorrow.

1 Would-be thieves should note that my house is protected by an attack-cat. He’s cute and cuddly, but if he doesn’t know who you are, and you don’t know the secret password, he’ll claw your face off. Okay, he’ll perhaps lick you and then snuggle in your lap – but you’ll be covered in so much hair that you’ll be hard pressed to prove you weren’t in my house. Also, friends are house-sitting.

Walking The Edge


August 19th. Bring it.

Apparently it’s almost the end of July.

While I love August, my feelings about this point in the summer are mixed. This probably relates to the fact that August serves as a reminder that the new semester is almost here and I still have so much to do to prep for it. There’s also a nagging voice in my head reminding me that there are several grant applications which need to be written1, and a stack of papers that I’m trying to write and submit before I get bogged down with teaching responsibilities.

To be honest, I have no idea how I’m going to complete everything that I need to complete by September. I’m sure I’ll manage it, I just fear what that might mean for my sleep. 

And there’s always the important concept of time off to consider. I really need to take vacation between now and when the semester begins because I’m not going to have the time during the semester. More importantly, time off isn’t just a luxury, it’s good for me.

This is why I took yesterday off2. This is why I’m taking vacation beginning Thursday3. This is why I’ll be making a trip out to visit Rick for more mountain climbing at the end of August. And this is why I said Yes! Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! when my friend Gerarda asked if I might want to join her on the 19th of August for the CN Tower Edge Walk. Given that I’d already suggested that this would happen, my answer should come as no surprise.

CN Tower Edgewalk! (image via canadiantourism)

So today, between wandering downtown, enjoying the market, having coffee with friends at Planet Bean, wandering to With The Grain, and finally having a mid-afternoon snack of raw oysters and onion rings4 at Baker Street Station with Dr. Mark (@DrMarkKubert), I managed to send off an appropriate sum of money to Dr. Gerarda to cover the expense of dangling myself over the edge of the CN Tower.

I can’t wait to feel the adrenalin rush of leaning back from the edge and letting go. I can’t wait to experience the thrill of falling but not falling. And I can’t wait to dive – face forward – over the streets of Toronto.

Yes, the next month and the next semester are going to be insanely busy with work. Regardless, setting up these little oases of time off for relaxation, or running, or adrenalin seeking will no doubt get me through.

I am stoked!

1 All of which are due within the first 6 weeks of the new semester.

2 And holy flying crapshark it was awesome. So much so that I’ve been convinced today was Sunday pretty much the entire day.

3 Squee!

4 Sounds like an odd combination, but oh so freaking tasty.


True Lies


Okay, remember how I said a few weeks ago that the semester had come to a close? Well, I think I specifically wrote that classes had ended.

Regardless of what I wrote, I lied.


True story. Of course, having just admitted I had lied, you might be wondering how you can trust the statement true story. Excellent point. Let’s just look past this little conundrum.

Anyway – the semester is almost over. What’s left? Grading. Sweet, sweet grading.

Today, thankfully, I took a huge bite out of my grading. Specifically, I managed to finish grading the exams for my undergraduate class. While I can’t talk about the grades (of course) I had to laugh at some of what the students wrote.

Let me be clear – I’m talking about the notes that the students wrote to me – not in response to the questions on the exam, but in response to the course itself.

Again – I can’t actually tell you what they wrote, but I can say they made me laugh and they made me smile. And that is one of the best rewards I get from teaching – connecting to students and knowing that they fully enjoyed the time we spent together – that they got something, anything from the course.

What a great way to almost end the semester.

No More Pencils No More Books.

School's out for summer!

And just like that, classes are finished.

I taught my last class of the semester today. Bittersweet? Perhaps. I mean, as much as I’m excited for the semester to be over, I really did enjoy teaching the two courses this semester. My students were great, and the courses were a lot of fun. Despite all of the long hours, I really can’t complain.

But as I wrote the other day, I can’t help but say that I’m also very happy that the semester is almost finished. It has been a very long, and very busy one, and I’m due for a proper vacation. You know – a proper vacation – where I’m gone for more than a long weekend.  A vacation where I’m not actually working while I’m away. A proper, real, honest, no work involved kind of vacation.

Mmmm, my everything is happy just thinking about a proper, real, honest, no work involved kind of vacation.

Regardless, none of that matters right now because it’s Easter weekend and I’m about to fly to Calgary for a mini-vacation. The plan: enjoy some hiking while breathing in some fresh mountain air1. There’s nothing quite like fresh mountain air to rejuvenate oneself. And I plan to do a lot of rejuvenating while I’m there.

Well, as much as I can in the short time that I’m away.

I guess I’m also going to get to spend some time visiting with Rick, and truth be told I guess that’s better than a kick in the teeth. Ha. Seriously though, I am absolutely stoked to get to hang out with Rick for a few days. For those of you who have been reading my blog posts for a while, you will know that whenever the two of us get together, adventure has a way of finding us.

I think we are adventure-magnets.

Okay, maybe we’re just a bunch of idiots that do a lot of crazy things without considering the consequences.

Whatever the case may be, I know that my mini-vacation is going to be a blast. And it will also be enough to get me through another few busy months before I can take a real vacation in the summer. And that vacation, dear readers, is going to be epic. But more on that later.

Now I’m off to pack, because all the cool kids pack last-minute. Write that down.

1 Specifically, I’m getting picked up for my ride to the airport at 3:30am. Three. Thirty. A. M. As awesome as the weekend will be, tomorrow morning – specifically tomorrow morning at 3:30 in the morning – is going to suck like a bag of smashed hammers.

I Hereby Dub Reading Week Adventuring Week

Best to-do list ever!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

My URA and this dish - both Awesome Pie

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

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

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

Next week is going to be AWESOME.