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.
So apparently I’ve been working steady since about 7:30 this morning. How it’s now after 11 pm is beyond me. I remember getting home around 5:30, having some food, rubbing Elliot’s belly, and then plopping myself in front of my trusty laptop to continue working on a grant application1, and one of three other draft proposals. The former is due on Wednesday, the latter three are due tomorrow.
Clearly my work day is not over.
However, given the hour I thought it best to take a break, have a scotch2, stretch, rub Elliot’s belly a little more, and clear my mind.
Having stretched, and with glass-o-scotch3 firmly in hand, I figured that I should take some time to review my exercise challenges for the year. I mean, it is July 30th – almost 60% of the year is behind us.
First, let’s review some of the goals I had set for myself this year.
Run a sub 4 hour marathon,
Run two marathons in a month,
Run three marathons this year,
Run 1610 km this year,
Walk 1500 km this year, and
Bike 2200 km this year.
So how am I doing?
Not too shabby I think. First, I ran a sub 4 hour marathon in May. Later that month I ran marathon number two – successfully crossing off the first two items on the list. I’m scheduled to run marathon number three in October – so hopefully, barring injury, I’ll be crossing that item off my list as well.
According to RunKeeper, I’ve walked, I’ve run, or I’ve biked a total of 2020.4 km this year. To put it another way, 2020.4 km is roughly the distance from Guelph to Winnipeg.
Breaking it down by category, I’ve achieved 53% of my walking goal, 40% of my running goal, and 25% of my biking goal.
But Dan, you say, 60% of the year has passed and you haven’t reached 60% of any of your goals!
That is correct, but fear not dear readers, as I am not worried. At least, not yet. Let me explain why.
My running numbers will surely be helped given that I’m about to start another few months of crazy long races. Specifically, I’ve got a 30 km race planned for August, a half marathon (or two) planned for September, the previously mentioned marathon in October, and a half marathon + two 5 km runs (back to back to back) in November. And there is of course the training that I’ll need to put in for all of these races, plus the crazy-ass adventure known as the Goofy Race that I’ve decided to run in January4.
From a biking perspective, I only started riding in May. So, in three short months I’ve already logged 25% of the total that I’ve set myself to bike this year. And given that I’m training to do a 100 km bike ride (with the possibility of something longer), I’m sure I can hit this goal as well. It works out to biking 330 km per month until the end of the year, or slightly less than 11 km per day. Since my bike to and from school accounts for more than half of the required 11 km I’d need to ride per day, I’m thinking 2200 km shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.
Walking is the one activity I’m not so confident with. To hit my goal I need to walk about 4.6 km per day, every day, for the rest of the year. If I were to walk to and from school every day, this would be easily achieved – but then my biking goal would likely suffer. Clearly I need to find a balance between biking and walking – perhaps walking more frequently and saving my biking kilometres for longer treks. Something I’ll have to consider.
Regardless, I’m pretty happy with how things have been progressing for the year. We’ll see if I can stick to this and somehow make each of my goals.
I have to wonder though, how do I reward myself if I manage to cross off all six of these things on my list?
1 Specifically a Notification of Intent (NOI) to apply for the grant.
2 Because all good NOIs and proposals are written with scotch. That’s a rule – you should probably write it down.
Last night ended the second day of the Hillside Festival weekend here in Guelph. While I have only been to Hillside once, I can say without a doubt that it is a fantastic music, arts, and culture-filled festival for people of all ages. It has become very much an annual tradition for many people, including a large group of my friends.
The tradition, however, does not end with Hillside. Each night after returning from Guelph Lake (the Hillside venue), my friends make their way to a local pub for further fun, and beer, and if the kitchen is still open, food. This is where I come in. It is my tradition to meet up with them – wherever they are – to partake in the fun, and the beer, and the food. Because who doesn’t like fun, especially if it includes beer and food?
The night was, of course, filled with a lot of laughter and a lot of fun.
At some point in the eve, likely as the bone marrow was almost consumed, someone – I think Jon – mentioned something about a shot that one does with the leftover bone. The all-powerful and all-knowing Google informed us that the shot was known as a Bone Luge2. The idea – use the hollowed out bone to act as a trough to carry a shot of alcohol from glass to the mouth of the recipient. The alcohol of choice – apparently sherry or bourbon. Jon, being the professional that he is, opted for bourbon.
Now you have to understand that on reading the name Bone Luge to my group of friends, those of us with the maturity level of a 12-year-old boy giggled immediately. And by those of us I clearly mean all of us, and by giggled I clearly mean roared in hysterics. Kathy continued the laughter by proclaiming that it’s even funnier if you say it louder. Which of course we did. So much so, that the neighbouring tables began to wonder what we were up to.
The bourbon arrived and Jon prepared. Kathy, the bourbon pourer3, focussed on the task at hand. The goal, to successfully pour the bourbon into the bone such that it might roll towards the awaiting mouth of Jon. Cameras at the ready, Kathy started pouring. But something was wrong.
Zounds! The bone was either not angled correctly or had contours that we were not expecting. As Kathy poured, the bourbon rolled out the wrong end of the bone.
In prompt order, the staff (who had gathered to watch the sport) had replaced the bourbon with a second shot. Cheers from the crowd pumped up our athletes. Kathy passed the pouring responsibilities to Eric. The bone was positioned, angled slightly better this time. Jon kissed the bone, and Eric poured. All was quiet. We watched, anxiously wondering if the bourbon was going to meet its mark.
Success! A direct hit. And this time, not a drop was spilled. The bar – which was mainly our table – erupted in applause and laughter.
I’m thinking we may have just discovered a new Hillside tradition.
Anyway, a huge thanks to the Baker Street staff. Our night was fantastic, and we appreciate your patience for all of our shenanigans.
1 For those counting, that means I was at Baker Street Station twice yesterday. First with Dr. Mark, second with the Hillsiders.
2 Which, given our state and perhaps the fact that we were noisy, was misheard as Boner Luge. Whichever way you say it, still funny.
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.
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.
Several months ago, after thinking about how much running I had been doing this year, and after sitting down and tabulating all of the running that I had been doing this year, I came up with the idea that I should be doing even more running this year. Profound, no?
Anyway, way back in the old-time-y days of May I made the decision that I should attempt to run at least 1 half marathon (or longer distance) per month for a year. This challenge was borne of the fact that I had already completed a half marathon (or longer distance) every month since February. The challenge seemed easy given that I already had 4 consecutive months under my belt.
Today I’m here to update you, dear readers, on that goal. I mean, it has been 2 entire months since I jotted down the challenge. So without further ado, I give you my list of half marathons (or longer distances) run since February of this year:
So there we have it. Six months and 10 runs later, with each month containing at least a half marathon distance, and with each run exceeding 21.1km. Which means I have only 6 more months to go. W00t!
But the story doesn’t end there. You see, while I am stoked that I’ve finished 6 months in a row, I have to say that today’s run was probably the toughest one I’ve done so far. There were several moments during the run where I fully expected to vomit, quit, quit and then vomit, or vomit and then quit. Today’s run was not pretty. Not by a long shot.
I knew the moment I woke up that I really didn’t feel it today. My legs were like lead. I lacked motivation to lace up my shoes and run. I felt tired. I felt weak. I felt dehydrated. I wanted to do anything but run. I just wasn’t feeling it.
After fuelling myself with some delicious oatmeal, raw peanut butter, and honey, and after slamming back a couple of tall cold glasses of water, I begrudgingly laced up and started to run. The first 5km were, well, awful. I really didn’t want to be running, but I figured if I could just keep moving, maybe something would click.
After 5km, I still felt like garbage.
Just do another 5km, then you can re-evaluate. I told myself.
By 10km, I was still feeling like garbage.
But you’re so close to the half-way point – just go to 10.55km. I kept running.
My body was still not responding.
By this point, I could have stopped. I could have called it quits and decided that today would not be the day that I would finish the half. I could try again tomorrow. Or Sunday. Possibly even Monday. But I couldn’t hold out too long because the month is all too sadly coming to a close.
Suck it up buttercup.
Yes, I actually thought this to myself. In fact, I said it out loud. Several times.
Suck it up buttercup.
SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP.
I kept running, one kilometre at a time. While my body never truly got into the groove of running, the kilometres kept ticking away. When I hit the 16km mark I knew that I was going to do it. While this offered some comfort, I was still not really feeling the run.
I kept running.
I distracted myself with math. I distracted myself with mental puzzles. I distracted myself with music. I distracted myself with whatever I could to get myself through the last few kilometres.
Holy shit, one more!
And then it was done. Twenty-one point one four kilometres in 1 hour, 45 minutes and 2 seconds. Considering how crappy I felt during the run, I was stoked with my 4:58 pace. Mainly, I was just happy that I’d finished.
Anyway, it’s several hours later. I’ve rehydrated. I’ve eaten. I’ve stretched. I’ve had time to look back and reflect. Of all of the long distance runs so far this year, I’m going to have to say that this is one of the top three proudest runs for me. Not because it was a ridiculous distance. Not because I finished with a less than 5 min per kilometre pace. Nope. I’m proud of this run because I did it when my body, my brain, my everything was telling me I couldn’t.
Bring on August. My next long run is going to be a piece of cake after today.
In line with yesterday’s post that was all-Guelph-all-the-time I thought I would take the time today to write about yet another awesome Guelph-centric event.
Today, however, is not about a contest. Today is a bit more serious1. Today’s post is about something that we all have in us to give. And that thing is blood.
My friends Dr. Mark and Dr. Julie (@DrMarkKubert and @DrJulieGill, respectively2) have organized a blood drive in Guelph for August 1. For all of the details click here or here. In a nutshell, the event starts at 6pm on August 1. If you are interested in donating (or perhaps just providing cookies/treats to those who are able to donate) the event will take place at The Canadian Blood Services - 130 Silvercreek Pky N, Guelph.
Of course, not just anyone can donate. There are some basic rules3, most of which are to protect the health of the donor. For example, you need to be 17 or older, healthy – with normal hemoglobin and iron levels, at least 50 kg (110 pounds), and can not have donated within the past 56 days. Apparently dental work, colds, flu, body piercing, and tattooing are also on the list of restricted activities.
Sadly, due to various rules I’m not able to donate. As such, I figured the least I could do would be to put the information out there for any of my readers who might be able to roll up a sleeve and give. Trust me, if I could, I’d donate4.
But don’t let the fact that this is a Guelph blood drive stop you from donating. If you’re not from Guelph, call up your local blood services and find out how you can help.
So go donate, because the alternative is to let a vampire gorge on your tasty red sauce.
And note: I’m not talking about one of those sparkling-pseudo-deep-and-brooding-vampires from a certain book series – I’m talking the hardcore-blood-sucking-no-reflection-no-soul-no-nonsense-garlic-hating-stake-through-the-heart-to-kill-them vampires of the old time-y days. You know, the real vampires.
1 Because people who know me know that I am nothing if not serious. Ha!
2 I’m pretty sure that respectively is redundant. I have a tendency to write it after drafting so many mathematical and statistical papers. Apparently respectively is our crack.
A word of caution – this post is not about cheese or the fact that I haven’t eaten it or dairy1 for several years. It has nothing to do with the fact that it has been well over a decade since milk has passed these lips. And it has nothing to do with the fact that both are poison to my body. Nope, this post is about none of these things.
It’s about saying cheese.
You know – saying cheese – that thing people ask you to do when you get your picture taken. Why do we say it? What are the origins of the expression? I have no idea, although I’m sure the all-knowing and all-powerful Google could tell me – but I’m far too lazy to look it up right now3.
Of course, now you’re probably wondering why I’m rambling on about saying cheese. And you are right to wonder. Especially if you live in Guelph and just so happen to read this blog, and perhaps are part of the Twitter.
Anyway, about a week ago (maybe longer – I forget things) I started noticing a new hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag was #Guelphonography and it seemed to always be associated with a photo that I or someone else had posted. It didn’t take much of a genius4 to figure out that the photos were all of Guelph. That is – pictures that I or someone else had taken while wandering town using our phones5.
Photos such as the following6:
Why so many photos of Guelph? Well, why not? Guelph is awesome and it’s great to see it through the eyes of the people who live here. In fact, viewing the photos reminds me of two things. First, there are a lot of very creative people in Guelph and we definitely should be celebrating them. Second, there are so many places in Guelph that I still need to explore. Or re-explore. I think the thing that I love the most about this collection of pictures is that it reminds me to keep my eyes open – to remember to look at Guelph and the people who live here all the time – because there is beauty and awe right outside my door. Being someone who wanderlusts on a pretty regular (permanent) basis, it’s good to be reminded of what I have to be grateful for right here in this town I call home.
Of course, Guelphonography isn’t just a collection of pictures of Guelph. It’s also a contest to celebrate our city and the talent we have here. For details on the contest, you can check out the Guelphonography webpage here, or perhaps read the Guelph Mercury article here, or simply follow @Guelphongraphy here. The gist – winners will have their photos blown up and put on display as part of an exhibit in downtown Guelph in September. There are also jazz tickets and other prizes to be won.
So if you’re in Guelph – start snapping those pictures, and don’t forget to say cheese.
1 Intentionally. There have been a few mix-ups2 since then. Several painful, awful mix-ups.
2 Such as the chocolate gelato incident of circa 2005 – also known as the day that Dr. Steph and I became family.
3 Okay, I’m not that lazy. An explanation is provided here. It’s riveting. You are welcome.
4 I mean, I figured it out and I’m definitely not much of a genius. Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing me walk into a wall, bike into a car, or perhaps pour orange juice into my kettle when making tea. Oh, and there were also those times when I poured coffee on my oatmeal. Take it away Homer:
5 Get it? Guelph + Phone + Photography = Guelphonography.
A few weeks, possibly even a month ago, I was approached by my friend Amanda who just so happens to work with me in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph. She approached me about speaking to the Toronto District School Board near the end of August. As I understand it, the board gathers every year for several days so that teachers might take courses or hear stories about pedagogy, classroom strategies, etc.
My first thought was Why me?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I wasn’t flattered/honoured to be asked. But really, why would the Toronto District School Board want to hear from me?
Turns out, the board is very much interested in learning what Computer Scientists do1, and moreover, how they might use computers more effectively in their classroom. Specifically, they are asking us to present to them on three major topics: Environmental Stewardship2, Problem Solving, and Application Development.
Anyway, today I sat down with Amanda and the Director of the School to discuss the specifics of our presentation. To be honest, I’m very happy that we did because I think we all have a much better vision of what we need to do. Based on our conversation, we’ve decided that our presentation will include (but not be limited to) a description of one of the simpler models that I use to do environmental risk assessment. From there, we will build different scenarios to develop specific problem solving techniques, and ultimately a simple application that can be used in the classroom.
Of course, now that I know what we need to do I’ve been overloaded with potential ideas of how to do what we need to do. I’m sure this will include Prezi – the presentation software tool that I primarily use for talks – but I’m also considering various methods for data visualization. And classroom materials. And code. And risk metrics. And stochastic models. And…
Okay. I should stop before I hurt myself.
Needless to say, after last week’s soul-sucking marathon of meetings, today’s meeting appears to have been just the thing I needed to get my creative juices flowing again. And I couldn’t be more stoked about that.
Now if only I could translate that to my NSERC grant application.
1 Wait a tick – I thought you were a Statistician? Excellent observation. I am. However, for the sake of argument we are going to pretend for now that I’m a Computer Scientist.
2 This is one of the areas where I fit in, since my research includes environmental risk assessment, population modelling for managing and sustaining wildlife populations, public health assessment, scenario modelling, and climate change.
3 It had the potential to be a 0 Nb meeting, but it was sadly devoid of beer, or chocolate, or coffee. Any of these would have improved the meeting substantially.
Today felt terribly unproductive. After last week – a week filled to the brim with meetings – you’d think that I’d have jumped into the day filled with a spunky1 sort of go-get-em attitude.
Not so. In fact quite the opposite. I woke up this morning completely and utterly exhausted. Fortunately it was an exhaustion that I was expecting given yesterday’s long bike ride2. I fully expected my legs to be tired, and I fully expected to be trudging along a little slower than normal (and that most definitely was the case – I can’t even begin to tell you how tempted I was to use the elevator today3).
But, my brain was also off. Focus was lacking. Reading anything with academic weight was taxing5. Writing anything more than a simple tweet was an exercise in, um, something…something bad. Gah! WAKE. UP. BRAIN!
As you can see, productivity was a goal at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. I’m pretty sure I’m still in the tunnel – possibly walking backwards.
To make matters worse, today was the day that I had set aside to focus on my NSERC6grant application. Of course, since focus was essentially non-existent you can imagine how successful my NSERC grant writing was. I started by updating some of the standard NSERC forms – a task which I deemed easy enough – a warm up if you will. Given that simple forms were a challenge7, I probably should have just called it a day. I trudged on.
Trudging on meant actually getting to the meat and potatoes of the application. That is, what the hell I plan to do over the next three to four years. I sat there staring at my computer while a million questions started flying through my head. I started scribbling on pages. I started scribbling on my whiteboard. I started jotting down notes on my computer.
After all of that scribbling, you’d think I’d have come up with some sort of cogent program description – or at least the framework of one. Sadly, this was not the case.
Fortunately all was not lost. I did spend some time finding some up to date articles in the general research area in which I plan to work. I also have a list of questions that I would like to answer. The next step is to somehow synthesize these things into a logical and productive research program.
How am I going to do that?
I have no idea, but I’m sure beer is going to be required.
1 Ugh. I can’t believe I just used the term spunky. I clearly need to turn my brain back on, because there have to be better words than spunky.
2 83 km! W00t!
3 Ultimately I took the stairs4. Of course, I wasn’t exactly happy about my decision, but I know it was the healthy thing to do. That’s got to be worth something, right?
4 Several times throughout the day. One does need to take coffee breaks.
After quite a lengthy stay as a full-fledged member of the as-yet-to-do on my Not-So-Bucket-List, I have decided that you have paid your dues and should be rewarded for this. As such, as of today – July 22, 2012 – I happily upgrade your status from as-yet-to-do to so-freaking-done.
Let me explain my reasoning. First, you’ve sat patiently on my list, never questioning why I was spending so much time dealing with the other items around you – even some of those that arrived after you. I appreciate that. Second, you’ve been around so long (since the inception of my list) I realized that I was neglecting you. And that is just plain wrong. I apologize for that. Third, and this is probably the most important reason for your movement to the so-freaking-done class:
You are so freaking done!
That’s right folks, today was the day that I finally managed a full 80+km bike ride. And I have to say, despite the fact that my body is rather tired right now, it felt great. The pace was comfortable, I felt strong, and the weather couldn’t have been better – even if it was a little bit warm.
I do, however, need to fuel better. By the end of the bike, I realized just how dehydrated and hungry I was. Sadly, that meant I was also rather tired so a nap won out over all other issues. I’ve since corrected the hydration issue, but still need to pump about 2000 Calories into my gob if I intend not to be in a Caloric deficit today. Given the hour of the day, and the amount of food that I typically eat, I think I’m going to have to eat a big-ole-bowl of deep-fried lard to avoid that.
Anyway, now that I’ve successfully crossed off item #81, I have to set my focus on bigger and better goals – such as biking 100km, or perhaps even biking 160km.
Time flies when you’re doing stuff. It was just over a month ago – June 20th to be exact – when I mentioned the Big Mountain Challenge (BMC). For those who may not remember, the BMC is a contest wrapped in a charity event. And if you’ve forgotten that, then you’ll have probably also forgotten that my friend Rick has entered the BMC.
This really should come as no surprise given that Rick loves climbing mountains, and apparently protecting people’s kidneys. That’s right folks, not only does he work for a kidney research group, he’s also trying to raise $25000 dollars for the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
But how does he do this? Well, first he has to win the contest. Then he has to climb 3 mountains. If successful, he will receive a check for $15000 for the Kidney Foundation. He’ll also receive a dollar-for-dollar match (up to $5000) based on money he raises. Add all that up, and it could be a $25000 cheque for the Kidney Foundation.
To win the contest he needs your votes. Currently, thanks to your efforts he is in fifth place. But the contest isn’t over. Not yet at least. We have until Friday to rocket Rick to first place. There are several ways to do this:
Vote for Rick here. Note that you can vote every day on all of your devices and using all of your browsers.
Spread the word to your friends. Do it. Do it right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The more votes we get out, the more likely it is that Rick will be able to hand a cheque over to the Kidney Foundation of Canada for $25000.
We can do this. We can make this happen.
Anyway, I’ll leave the last word to Rick. Apparently we aren’t the only ones who think he’s doing an awesome job. He was interviewed this morning by Global Television about this very contest. You’ll find the full interview here.
As expected, the night was fantastic and full of nerdery. A perfect Friday night, if you ask me. Between several pints of beer, edamame, and salt and pepper chicken wings, I’d say the night was a gastronomic success. Spending time with a group of people who always make me laugh was icing on the cake. Especially after a week that included no less than 22 hours of meetings.
Among all of the laughter, beer, and food, was a particular treat that my friend Cody found. It’s called Black Mischief. The ingredients – a pint of stout, a shot of gin, and a single shot of espresso.
Truthfully, it was fantastic. So much so, that I’m going to be ordering it again. And probably again after that. :)
Anyway, after a long week, a Black Mischief, and a pint, I’m quite ready for bed.
It’s 11:30 and I just got home from a gathering with colleagues – a weekly meetingthat we have at the Woolwich Arrow. For those not in the know, the Woolwich Arrow (or the Wooly) is one of a group of most excellent pubs located in downtown Guelph.
Of course, our meeting can’t be considered a true meeting since we never gather for the purpose of discussing work or research1. We gather because we want to spend time with each other outside of the work environment in a place where we can stop being academics for a while. And if that place just so happens to include beer and good food – well, then we’d be insane not to meet.
Truly, it’s a most excellent way to spend a Thursday eve.
But that is not the purpose of my post.
I’m writing mainly to say that I’ve been geeking out all day2 and I’m stoked because of it. There are two reasons for this:
I had a meeting today with my colleague Dr. Andrew Binns. He’s an engineering Post Doctoral fellow, and the two of us are about to start some pretty cool research together.
I spent the better part of my eve learning how to make R3 communicate with The Twitter.
Reason number 1 is awesome because I’ve spent the better part of a year and a half working with biologists who are slightly math-phobic. That isn’t a problem per se, but it’s nice to know that Andy isn’t. We can talk math together and that is freaking awesome.
Reason number 2 is particularly exciting to me because I should be able to use this feature of R to do a bunch of really cool analyses of real life, real-time data. I won’t get into what those analyses are right now because I don’t want to give away everything, but trust me when I say I have a million things running through my mind right. The next challenge is to figure out which of these things I should tackle first.
I won’t lie. The nerd inside of me is squee’ing out loud.
1 Okay, okay, from time to time we might slip in a little bit of shop-talk.
2 Where all day means any of the time that I wasn’t in meetings.
I need to share with you a little story about how I failed in a rather grand way. In fact, it’s almost too embarrassing to discuss, but I know that I need to. I guess you could say that it’s a form of penance; a way to help me determine the path past this particular shortcoming of mine.
What did I do?
Well, it’s nothing so bad that the police might be involved. It won’t ever involve lawyers. I didn’t hurt anyone – although I guess I could be considered a danger to myself at this point. And as far as I’m aware, no one has died as a result of my actions.
What I did – and you might want to sit down for this – was attempt to take today off. Gasp!
Of course, since I’m confessing things I should offer full disclosure. I tried to take today off1. Sadly, I failed in a big way.
I knew my attempt was going to be a giant failure when I realized that I had booked a meeting today – having forgotten that I was intending to take the day off2. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had nothing planned for the day in particular. I just wanted to putter, or perhaps spend the day lounging around3. Regardless, after my meeting4 I ended up back in my office working. And then working some more. Before I knew it, I was in a second meeting working on a draft manuscript with a colleague. And then it was 5:30 and I was still in the office. And then I was at home reading a report from a student. And trying to maintain Inbox-Zero.
Despite my fail, I did manage to get a lot accomplished. But, I really do need to learn to take a day off5. I’ve only used 4 of my vacation days for the year and the remaining days aren’t just going to vacation themselves. Obviously I need to get off my ass and get organized. You know, organized enough so that I can take a day off and sit on my ass all day. Ha!
Seriously though, vacations and time away from the grind are important. I can’t allow myself to forget that.
Ultimately, I think I just need to remember that it’s not just okay to say no, sometimes it’s necessary.
1 And yes, having written tried I now have the distinct voice of Yoda in my head saying There is no try, only do.
2 Even writing this makes me want to punch myself in the face for forgetting that I had intended to take the day off. Who does that?
3 Without pants, of course.
4 Which was rated at 0.5 Nbs, in case you were wondering.
Yesterday I mentioned the need to travel for 3 hours to a meeting. After deciding to rate the meeting, I presented you, dear readers, with a value of 6.5 out of 10. However, after I published yesterday’s post I realized that I did not put this value into context. I simply stated:
The meeting went as expected. That is to say, our agenda was longer than could be tackled in one meeting, but we did manage to cross off several crucial items.
Note that I offered no justification for the rating, nor an idea as to whether this was typical, good, bad, or other. All I wrote was that the meeting went as expected.
This is clearly unacceptable. If, for example, my meetings are always fantastically awesome1, then as expected is pretty freaking fantastic. If, on the other hand, my meetings always involve long-winded presentations riddled with execu-speak2, as expected could represent a soul-sucking experience that leaves an otherwise lively fellow (such as myself) a brainless zombie. In short, as expected is far too relative.
Anyway, I am going to attempt to rectify these oversights today.
Let’s begin with the scale. In this case, the scale runs from 0 to 10, where higher values represent the worst meetings possible. To get to a 10, you really need to imagine the worst meeting you’ve ever experienced, mix in a swarm of violent and angry wasps, a locked door, a case of poison ivy, a broken air conditioner (assuming a sweltering summer heat wave), food poisoning, and perhaps, just for fun, cheesy Christmas music on repeat. Once you’ve imagined that, realize that a 10 would be worse.
But what about the unit? Temperature has Celsius (or Fahrenheit, or Kelvin), distance has metres, volume has litres, force has Newtons. Surely a unit for which to measure meetings must exist. But what of its properties?
I’ve decided that the unit should reflect some level of discomfort and annoyance, because I’m not sure that anyone actually enjoys meetings. Truthfully, who wouldn’t rather be lounging on a beach, or sipping a beverage, or simply just working away in one’s office without being disturbed? To determine the appropriate unit, I had to identify something that everyone could relate to, but also could immediately identify as the unit of annoyance.
And then it struck me – A Nickelback4! The unit of annoyance should be a Nickelback. Of course, it’s almost too obvious.
So now when I write that a meeting has a rating of 6.5 out of 10 on the annoyance scale, I mean it has a rating of 6.5 Nickelbacks (Nb). Meetings with a rating of 0 Nb are rare – so rare, they might be non-existent. Meetings with a rating between 1 and 3 Nb are good in comparison to those rated 4 through 7 Nb. That is, a meeting rated from 4 to 7 Nb is one which is too long, fails to accomplish enough of the agenda, and sucks just enough energy out of your system to make you want to curl up into a ball when it’s over.
Anything above a 7 is deadly, and you should run as fast as you can lest you turn into a soulless zombie.
1 That is, they involve any or all of a beach, a cottage, a perfectly good plane for which to jump out of, a CN Tower to lean over, a beer, a scotch, or no pants.
2 Execu-speak: for example, see the following YouTube clip3
3 Hmm, I’m trying to determine if I’ve ever used a YouTube clip as an actual footnote.