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.

So Many Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

70 Down 20 To Go

Bundled up before my run.
Bundled up before my run.

Holy cow, I can’t believe 10 weeks of the 90 Day Fitness Challenge are now a part of history, and less than 3 weeks remain.

Last week was a huge improvement over the two weeks that preceded it. While it wasn’t my strongest week ever, it did see me get in three solid runs, plus a lot of stretching which I desperately needed. More than that, I actually managed to end the week with a really strong run on the treadmill. Specifically, I logged 6.49km in 30 minutes – or in other words – I managed an average pace of 4:37 per kilometre. Not too shabby at all.

At this stage in the challenge I’ve managed to complete 25% of the distance required on my quest to 1000km. Note – my quest to 1000km was not the goal for the 90 Day Fitness Challenge. I’m crazy, but I’m not that crazy.

Anyway, at the rate I’m going and if I manage to keep to my training schedule (translation – no injuries), I should hit my goal of running 1000km sometime in May or June. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now I have the remaining days of the 90 Day Fitness Challenge to focus on.

I’ve got this.

A Pi-Day Weekend

Mmmm, pie on Pi-Day
Mmmm, pie on Pi-Day

Happy belated Pi-Day all y’all.

For those unaware, Pi-Day (March 14th) is the mathiest of math days; unless you also observe Tau-Day (June 28th) – which I do. Since tau is equal to 2 pi, Tau-Day must be equal to 2 Pi-Days, and 2 Pi-Days is better than 1 Pi-Day, so by definition Tau-Day would have to be the mathier of the two. Math!

I digress.

To celebrate Pi-Day I opted to spend my day enjoying as much pie as I possibly could. This meant that I attempted to have pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m all about healthy choices.

Sadly my breakfast pie was not to be as The Joint Cafe was out of their oh-so-delicious banana coconut cream pie. I settled for a bagel and apple juice – which is about as far from banana coconut cream pie as one can get.

To make up for my breakfast pie failure, I sauntered over to the Woolwich Arrow for lunch-pie. I had learned the night before that they were serving pie from The Williamsford Pie Company. And it was oh so delicious.

To round out my Pi-Day, I enjoyed a delicious peach-raspberry-blueberry pie with friends. I made a point of having just enough pie to be able to say that I ate half a pie on Pi-Day. Why would I eat that much pie? Because half a pie is equivalent to pi radians worth of pie, that’s why.

Pi radians worth of pie on Pi-Day. Yup – I’m just that nerdy.

Igniting Guelph

Meeting Natasha
Meeting Natasha

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking at Ignite Guelph 3. This would be the second talk I’ve given (the first being at Ignite Guelph 1) as part of the Ignite speaker series, but the first that I’ve done solo1.

The night was a blast. There were so many amazing talks spanning topics from ukuleles, to animation, to metadata, and even hip hop. Some of the talks brought a smile to my face, others presented ideas on topics that I don’t think I would have thought about were not for the speaker, and some of the talks hit me right in the feelings zone2. I’m looking at you Bang Ly.

For those unaware of the Ignite Guelph speaker series format, it’s quite simple: each speaker gets 5 minutes and 20 slides – timed to automatically transition every 15 seconds – to inspire the audience with something they happen to be passionate about. It can be nerve-racking and scary, but it’s a lot of fun.

Given that I do a lot of public speaking – what with having to lecture students on a regular basis, and spreading the word about Farm To Fork to anyone who will listen – I’m very comfortable speaking in front of an audience. However, Ignite talks are different. They demand that you get to your point quickly, and without the benefit of notes (save for whatever you may have put onto the slides). For someone who usually has 20-80 minutes of speaking time per presentation, the shorter duration poses a challenge. But it’s the kind of challenge I like because it forces me to distill my thoughts to the most essential components.

Of course it’s not an easy task. In fact the talk I gave last night wasn’t the original talk I had intended to present. During the week preceding Ignite Guelph I finalized what I thought would be my talk. I spent my spare time memorizing the story of my talk – which I find better than memorizing the exact text – and working on my timing. By Monday night I was fully prepped, but I just wasn’t feeling it. The confidence wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, and I found this frustrating. Something was missing from my presentation.

And then at 6pm on Monday night it hit me. My presentation was too academic. It lacked a human connection. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t spouting statistics or theories, but it just wasn’t as relatable or personable as I’d wanted it to be. It was almost clinical.

And so I made the decision to rewrite the entire thing.

I’m glad I did because I was able to better connect with my own story – which I hope translated to a better connection with the audience. Having a story that I could embrace fully made telling that story so much simpler. It’s amazing what a little humanity will do for a talk. And given the feedback I received last night at the after-party, I know that the rewrite was the correct thing to do.

For those curious, I spoke about my experiences with fear and how, at the age of 37, I decided to embrace my arachnophobia.

Thanks to the Ignite Guelph team for organizing another amazing event, and thanks to all of the speakers for sharing what inspires you. I can’t wait for Ignite Guelph 4.


1 Last year I spoke at the inaugural Ignite Guelph with my friend (and co-founder of Farm To Fork) Danny Williamson.

2 Ew – feelings.

63 Down 27 To Go

No more excuses.
No more excuses.

My life over the past few weeks has been rather stupid busy, so I didn’t get to post my regular update (which would have been aptly entitled 56 Down 34 To Go). But, given my lack of running it wouldn’t have been much of an update anyway. In fact, the last few weeks has been a rather black mark on my otherwise great start to the year.

I’m opting to look on the positive side of things and realize that sometimes one needs to allow for these breaks. Still, I feel like kicking myself in the ass for not getting out for even a few short runs.

Fortunately I did manage to get out for a run today. And there is hope for the future: the remainder of the semester – while it will be busy – shouldn’t be as stupid busy as the last two weeks.

What does this mean? Well, it means I have zero excuse to get back on track. And so that is what I intend to do. We’re in the final few weeks of the 90 Day Fitness Challenge, and I plan to embrace each day of it with as much kick-ass-ery as I can.

 

49 Down 41 To Go

Hard to believe that I'm going to be tackling the Toronto GoodLife Marathon in a little less than 10 weeks.
Hard to believe that I’m going to be tackling the Toronto GoodLife Marathon in a little less than 10 weeks.

I can’t believe the 90 Day Fitness Challenge is more than half over already. 

Despite missing my running goal by slightly more than 3km, I’m actually really happy with how this week went. The week was super busy, beginning with a presentation with my students on Tuesday, and ending with a 24 hour hackathon on campus. The hackathon – known as the Open Data Day Hackathon – officially started at 10am on Saturday, and finished by 10am Sunday. While the hours were long, the event was well worth the effort – and I even managed to sneak away to get in a 13.42km run.

By the end of week 7 I managed to log another 38.94 km, bringing my cumulative total since January 1st to 225.50km. I also managed to put in 140 minutes of yoga, and 225 minutes of mobility/strength training. All told – a rather productive and active week.

But I can’t rest on my laurels as week 8 is going to be an even bigger challenge: my running goals are taking a leap forward, and I also have to manage a rather hectic schedule at the office. Here’s hoping I stay on track, and that I manage to find some time to relax and rest. If I want to crush the Toronto GoodLife Marathon in May, I’m going to need to.

 

 

 

 

42 Down 48 To Go

Another wintry week of running.
Another wintry week of running.

Last week got away from me a little bit. I probably spent far too much time in meetings, and probably far too much time running around between meetings. Fortunately I didn’t allow this to interfere with my training schedule, and from my point of view that’s a huge win.

My goal this week was to add another 42km to my cumulative running total, spend 150 minutes doing yoga, and hit the gym for 90 minutes.

How’d I do?

Well, despite having too many meetings, presentations, and other academically related activities, I managed to log 46.58km, 130 minutes of yoga, and 120 minutes at the gym. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. Definitely an improvement over the previous two weeks.

After 6 weeks of training I’m happy to say that I’m pretty much on track for where I want to be at this point. I’ve logged 186.56km of running, 965 minutes of yoga, and 665 minutes at the gym. These values are 92.36%, 100.52%, and 116.67% of my cumulative goals respectively. W00t!

As for week 7, I’ve purposely set my goals to be the same as week 6: 42km of running, 150 minutes of yoga, and 120 minutes at the gym. Here’s hoping this week is just as strong as last.

35 Down 55 To Go

Another chilly run.
Another chilly run.

And just like that week 5 of the 90 Day Fitness Challenge is over. While I’m not quite back to where I should be in terms of my goals, week 5 was a huge improvement over week 4.

For week 5 of the challenge I had aimed to run 5 times, covering 37km and bringing my cumulative distance to 160km for the year. Since my foot1 and knee were feeling a bit wobbly on Friday I opted to forgo my run; instead using the time to rest and stretch at home. Because of that I managed 4 runs, covering 28.69km. My cumulative total is now sitting at 139.98km, which is shy of my overall goal for this time by slightly more than 20km. Week 6 is going to be all about making up some of that missing distance.

Other than running, I managed to get in a session of mobility training with Dr. Mark, while continuing to stretch at home. All told, not a bad week.

It’s hard to believe the challenge is almost half over.


1 Not to worry – this wasn’t my related to my previously injured ankle. It was my other foot that felt wobbly – but I can attribute that to trying to run through the snow on Tuesday during/after the storm. Deep snow and ice do not make for an easy run.

Relief

I’m sitting here feeling so different from even 24 hours ago.

I just got off the phone with some friends who’ve admitted to sending the envelope I received last Thursday. It was never intended to hurt me – and I know with my entire being that this is the truth, because I know how amazing and supportive and loving these friends are. The pamphlet was sent to me because they assumed it would make me laugh; that I’d see the obvious insanity behind it, and I’d shake my head at its pure stupidity.

What they didn’t know – what they couldn’t have known – was how I would respond.  They couldn’t have known how eerily similar this event was to something that happened only a few years ago. They couldn’t have known that I had received hate mail taped to the door of the very same office which their envelope was addressed, because I’d never talked about it. They couldn’t have known because I’d kept that information to myself; I’d only allowed a few people to have access to that part of me because I had felt that keeping it hidden would somehow protect me – keeping it under lock and key would ensure that no one would feel the need to put me under a microscope to figure out why it had happened in the first place.

Am I angry at them for sending me the pamphlet? No, I’m not. And to everyone who has sent me their support and encouragement, and who have offered to be my personal bodyguards and hit-men, I ask that you aren’t either. Because honestly, I know as I sit here that I’ve been in a similar situation where I’ve done something expecting a particular reaction, only to learn that what was meant to be harmless fun affected someone in a way that I never could have predicted. I’ve been the bad guy and I know how miserable and sorry I felt because I had hurt someone I loved. So no, I can’t be angry with them. It’s not helpful or productive, and it won’t lead any of us to a better place.

Honestly, as I sit here writing this I’m trying to decide who I’m angry with. Am I angry at the people who would intentionally spread hate? Am I angry at myself for letting those people get under my skin? I think the answer is yes to both of these questions. Yes I’m angry that the world seemingly is filled with people who would choose to purposefully harm others, and yes I’m angry at myself for allowing fear to take over my life. But I am not, nor will I allow myself to be, consumed by this anger.

I’m not sure where I’m going to go from here. The past week has taught me a few things about myself, and about how much the events of my past have truly shaped who I am. There are a million thoughts running through my head that I need to process; there are a million things that I could do – I just need to take some time to sort through them.

What I do know, and what I’ve said many times, is that I am a very fortunate man. This week I was reminded of this because of so many people who were willing to go to war to protect me because I thought I was being threatened. While this week has been a low one for me, I find myself humbled by your words, your actions, and your defence of me. I owe each and every one of you a hug, and I love you all for being there for me.

For now I’m heading to bed because I am exhausted in every way. But please do me a favour – please hug your kids, or your parents, or your siblings, or your partner, or your pet; tell the people you love that you love them, even if it scares you, especially if it scares you; forgive. Because these tiny acts are what keeps the darkness and anger and hatred at bay, and these tiny acts heal us. But most importantly, these tiny acts become a force of change if we want them to be.

And I want them to be.

 

 

 

Untitled II

I’ve spent the last few days feeling rather low, confused, angry, and so many other things because of the act of one or more ignorant cowards. Whatever his/her/their intention, I’ve found myself feeling apprehensive; carefully monitoring myself lest I say or do something I presumably shouldn’t, or worrying that in some unknown way I’m going to bring about the interest of someone I clearly don’t want around me.

I woke up today thinking that I wouldn’t let this person or group get to me. I would move past it like I have so many times before. But this is easier said than done.

When I got to the office I found my stomach in knots as I approached the mailroom. This scenario repeated itself today when I checked the mail at home, my mind immediately dreading what I might find. And I realized while running tonight that I was far more tense than I should have been; jumping at any noise that in previous weeks and months wouldn’t have garnered so much as a second glance.

This might seem like an extreme response to a letter I received in the mail. I won’t lie – I think it is too. But it’s a response that has been sadly etched into my psyche one word, one abusive taunt, one threat, one physical attack at a time. I’m not writing this for pity or sympathy; while all of these are things that I’d not wish on even my worst enemy, they have in ways – for better or worse – shaped me into the man I am today. They are my reality.

But I know this behaviour isn’t me. At least, it’s not the me that I want to be. It’s the me that someone else wants. And unfortunately for them I can’t – I won’t – subscribe to their vision of my life.

For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I don’t get this upset easily. I’m a rather easy-going person; I try to laugh at my fears and face them head on; I try to enjoy life to the fullest because this world truly is an amazing place. And it can be even better if we really want it to be. We – I – have to remember that those that would try to bring us down are few, those who would work to make the world better are many.

Fortunately, I know that this checking over my shoulder behaviour isn’t going to last. I won’t allow it. Because I won’t allow some person or group to have that kind of control over my life. Yes, they may surprise me from time to time, they may sneak up on me when I’m least expecting it, but I know that I am far stronger than anything they can throw at me.

I also have something that they likely don’t; an amazing group of friends who have sent me support, and love, and so many kind words over the last few days. Countless emails, and texts, and Facebook messages, and tweets, and phone calls from people – some whom I haven’t talked to in far too long – sending me their support, and words of encouragement, and everything that makes me know that I’m not alone in this fight.

So to all of you amazing people – thank you for checking in on me; thank you for the extra tight hugs; thank you for letting me vent; thank you for taking me out for pie; thank you for playing the I’m not your mom, but I’m still a mom and I want to make sure you’re okay card; thank you, thank you, thank you.

The last few days have been long and, for someone who is normally up, quite low. But I know they won’t be this way for long. How could they be with this many people cheering me on?

28 Down 62 To Go

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Untitled

This post will likely end up darker than most of what I’ve written previously. For those who came here expecting my usual fare, I apologize. I should also apologize in advance because I’m likely going to drop the f-bomb. Trust me, each and every one is in my opinion warranted. Mom, you may not want to read any further.


I’ve been struggling over the last 24 hours about how I wanted to address something that happened yesterday. In fact, I have been torn about whether or not I should write about it at all. But, given that this blog is often an outlet that helps me sort through the comings and goings of life, I’ve realized that if I don’t write something I’m going to pretty much drive myself insane.

When I arrived on campus yesterday I opted to check my on-campus mail – an entirely unremarkable and typically uneventful habit that usually has me finding the odd memo, but more often empty space. Yesterday I smiled as I saw what I assumed was a much delayed Christmas card – a small envelope decorated with a peace dove; a small berry laden branch in its beak.

The envelope was addressed to me – appropriate title, full name, and including my middle initial. However, it was also addressed to an office that I haven’t had since 2010, so the original office information was scratched out and updated accordingly by the fine folks from Math & Stats who would have handled the mail.  There was no return address, and after reading the contents I would scan the envelope again to identify that the Canadian stamp hadn’t been post-marked by Canada Post. That is, the letter was hand delivered to campus.

I returned to my office, settled in, and happily opened the envelope. Inside I found a tattered and stained pamphlet. There was no note; zero indication of who sent it to me. It was just a pamphlet.

Without getting into the details, I scanned the pamphlet and immediately felt my stomach knot, and my heart rate jump. I was instantly overwhelmed with a feeling of dread, of unease, and of maliciousness. My mind raced to plausible alternatives, and the best I could come up with was that someone I knew found this pamphlet, thought I might find it hilarious, and decided to send it to me. There’s a huge part of me that hopes that is the case.

But, I reasoned, why no return address? Why no note reading Dan, read this bullshit. Can you believe people are like this? If this were a joke, wouldn’t the punchline be obvious. Wouldn’t my reaction be this is hilarious?

Instead I kept returning to the pamphlet and the words within; words like blasphemy and heresy and anti-Christ. I’d like to say this is the first time I’ve received something like this. I’d like to say that it doesn’t bother me. And I’d like to think that I won’t ever receive something like it again. But I can’t honestly say any of those things, because history – my personal history – has taught me that I would be foolish to think such things.

To be honest, it has been a very long time since something like this has disrupted my life. It’s been many years since I felt like my feet have been swept from beneath me; like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me; like the world in which I live is a dark and scary place – full of threats and fear. And I loathe this. I loathe these feelings so much because I would rather choose to live in the light, to believe that we all have something amazing to offer this world.

So to whomever sent me that note – fuck you. Fuck you for spreading darkness and fear. Fuck you for trying to intimidate me. Fuck you for being a coward. Fuck you for thinking that your vitriol would change me. You may have hit me when I wasn’t expecting it but I’m not so easily defeated. I know who I am and I know I will come out of this the better man – because I have been through much worse than your pathetic attempt to bring me down.

To the family and friends whom I’ve chatted with about this, thank you for your support, thank you for your concern, and thank you for just being amazing. While I’m likely going to be out of sorts for a day or two, know that you are the beacon that will keep me on course.

To anyone out there who has to deal with bullying, or harassment, or homophobia, or sexism, or any of the many other horrible things we do to each other, stay strong, focus on the helpers, and know that you are stronger than those who would choose to make you feel small.

I’m Wearing A Stupid Grin

My new shiny
My new shiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Bi-Polar Vortex

Walking on the road because the sidewalks are covered in snowdrifts.
Walking on the road because the sidewalks are covered in snowdrifts.

With a -30 something wind chill this eve, my walk home from the office was a bit of a chore. With every gust of wind I shivered and cringed and tried to ignore how painfully cold the exposed bits of my face were. I also tried not to curse Mother Nature whenever she decided to blow snow – which felt like tiny frozen razor blades – at said exposed bits.

It’s usually around this point in the year when I begin to lose my patience with all things winter. My walks to and from the office become a little less the air is so crisp and clean and the snow is beautiful and it’s all so wonderful and magical, and a lot more holy fricking shitcakes, I’m going to punch the next snowman I see in his stupid, stupid neck. 

Fortunately winter hasn’t completely destroyed my spirit, which means any snowman I meet is safe – for now.

The thing I find ultimately weird is how easy it is for me to run in weather like this. It’s almost like some bizarre badge that I wear, and one that I wear proudly. Just yesterday I ran in similar weather for 30 minutes, through snow drifts and crazy-stupid cold wind. A few days before that I returned home with my eyelashes and eyebrows encased in ice. In both cases I ended my runs feeling like I’d just conquered a small country, and loving that I was able to take on winter. Today, however, I spend 25 minutes walking home and I want to assault a snowman and then collapse into a defeated quivering pile.

I think the solution to my bi-polar1 response to winter is that I leave all of my work at the office. My non-homework laden self would then be able to run to the office in the morning, and home in the evening – filling me with conquering winter pride instead of murderous snowman rage.

Or, another solution might be a wee vacation somewhere warm and tropical and filled with servants who bring me coconut based drinks.

Tough call.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some travel websites to peruse.


1 Polar! Ha!

Adventures in Life

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