Category Archives: Professional

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.

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.

The Business Of Do Goodery

The Bigger Picture Series: Bridging The Gap
The Bigger Picture Series: Bridging The Gap

On Wednesday I spoke at the Bigger Picture Series: Bridging the Gap event. The speaker series is sponsored by the Centre for Business and Social Entrepreneurship, the CMESA, Innovation Guelph, and the College of Management and Economics.

You’re probably wondering why the hell a stats-nerd who works in the School of Computer Science was invited to speak before a group of management, economic, and marketing types. 

Don’t feel bad, I wondered the same thing. As it turns out, I was asked to talk about the Farm To Fork story.

This would be the first time that I would be presenting anything to a group of people who weren’t stats-y, or computer science-y, or community-engaged-scholarship-y. As such I was a little nervous. I mean, what the hell could I say that might be useful to a bunch of entrepreneurial business types?

So before I presented I sat down and pondered what pearls of wisdom I might have that could prove useful to someone starting a business; specifically a do-good business.

After a lot of working and reworking, pulling from previous presentations, adding some statistics, and polishing up my presentation, something hit me: of all the stuff I was presenting, the biggest idea was that of doing something. 

Was it rocket science? Hells no. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that this was what I wanted to pass along. Do-Goodery, in any of its forms (e.g. scientific, social, business) requires more than just talking about Do-Goodery. It demands doing. It’s right there in the title.

Sadly, most of us spend our days simply identifying problems. Many of us seem to have this innate ability to pinpoint all of those things that aren’t working, or those things that need to be improved, or those things that are just stupid, or those things that we’d have done differently if we were in charge. But how many of us actually take the time to do something about all of these problems we see?

Do we take action? Do we try to change things? Do we put forth our best fight, even in situations where we’re convinced we might fail? Or do we simply bitch about the problem, and leave it for someone else to solve?

If the Farm To Fork project has taught me anything, it’s that we all can make a huge difference if we just get off our asses and do something. It’s not always easy. It’s sometimes scary. But sometimes the stars and planets align and all of the right people come together, and something magical happens – if we act. Otherwise, the magic fizzles and we’re left with nothing more than what we began with – an identified problem without a viable solution.

Do-Goodery demands doing - so ask yourself this – what am I going to do today?

Three Year Prof-iversary

All the classy bitches drink mountain top scotch.
Mountain top scotch – it’s what profs do.

Over the weekend I spent some time organizing files, prepping notes for class, and doing whatever it is that profs do in their free time1. Of course, sitting around organizing meant that I spent much of my time exploring the past year of work. It’s weird; most days I feel as if I get nothing accomplished because I spend far too much of my time in meetings. But, as with most aspects of my life, it’s not until I sit down and actually reflect on the past that I realize how much has happened in one little year.

From a strictly academic viewpoint I managed to submit several papers, write a bunch of reports, and work on several cool (at least to me) simulation studies. The year was also filled with so many grant writing sessions that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing grants. I found myself in Newfoundland and Labrador for a presentation, spoke as part of a panel of experts for a teaching innovations conference, and was invited to speak at Western University. All told, not a bad year.

I think, however, the best part of the past year had to be the Farm To Fork project. It has become a central part of my life. It is on my mind all of the time, and it’s something that continues to amaze me. I am constantly blown away by the support that it has been shown at the local level, and the interest it has garnered beyond the borders of Guelph-Wellington.

Farm To Fork has also reminded me how amazing students can be if you just give them something worthwhile to do. The amount of work they’ve put into the project continues to make me smile a crazy stupid proud smile. Getting to work with the Farm To Fork students has been a fantastic experience, and I’m not quite sure how I lucked out as I have. It’s going to be very strange around my office when they all graduate.

Anyway, it wasn’t long after thinking about all of this stuff that I realized I just passed my third year as an Assistant Professor. Crazy how time flies. So many things have changed since the day I first stepped into the halls of the School of Computer Science. My job is better than I ever could have imagined it would be. And while my days are often rammed with meetings, I do love what I do. I think the students have a lot to do with that.

Officially my contract has two years left on it. I’m pretty excited to see what those two years will bring. If they’re anything like the first three, it’s going to be a crazy ride.

For now, I’m going to celebrate my three-year anniversary with a wee dram. It’s what profs do.


1 Some academiologists2 suggest that professors spend their spare time enjoying scotch. I can neither confirm nor deny this. I can only tell you that this professor enjoys spending his spare time sampling wee drams.

2 Academiologist: a person who studies academics.

On The Topic Of Wanderlust

The world is so much bigger than North America
The world is so much bigger than North America

While my friends Beth and Rick were in town over the Christmas holidays, we spent some time chatting about travel (as we are wont to do). Both Beth and Rick have been on some pretty fantastic adventures over the past year (for example, read about their awesome but separate trips to Ireland here, and here1), and it’s always great to hear about travel related shenanigans.

One of the interesting things to come out of the conversation wasn’t exactly expected. We were chatting about off-continent trips, and I began to wonder when last I launched myself through the air in a people-filled lawn dart3. For someone who loves travel as I do, I was actually shocked by the realization. My last trip off-continent was back in the old-time-y days of 2011 when Rick and I adventured our asses off in Hawaii4, 5. The year before that also saw me in Europe twice – once for Christmas with my brother, and once to celebrate the successful completion of my PhD.

Clearly this close-minded North Amerocentric travel practice can not be permitted to continue. It’s just not right. Think of all of the cultures that I’m not learning about. Think of all of the shenanigans I’m not getting up to. Think of all the adventures that aren’t being adventured. It’s a travesty I say.

Fortunately I have a few plans up my sleeve. One involves Asia, the other involves a return to Europe. Both could occur sometime during the summer. In the former case I’m looking at a potential exchange program that would allow me to bookend a two-week teaching/researching adventure with shenanigan filled adventuring. In the latter case I’m looking at several conferences that are separated by a few weeks.

In any case, it’s very clear that I haven’t been living up to my wanderlusting potential. This is something that I must correct in 2014.


1 Also, why haven’t I been to Ireland yet2?

2 Honestly, 2013 seemed to be the year that everyone I knew when to Ireland or Scotland. I may or may not be jealous.

3 Also known as an airplane.

4 While Hawaii is politically part of the United States, it’s actually in the region known as Oceania.

5 Which means that the three year anniversary of that particular trip is only a few weeks away. I should figure out a way to celebrate said adventure-filled vacation.

Let The Semester Begin!

My walk to work starts here. Granted, it doesn't usually have ice covered tree branches in the way.
My walk to work starts here. Granted, it doesn’t usually have ice-covered tree branches in the way.

Today is the first day of the winter 2014 semester, or as I like to think of it – Reading Week bookended by class. Twelve weeks of class to be exact; six on either end.

I’m actually pretty excited to get back to work. Don’t get me wrong, working in the comfort of my pajamas is always better than trudging myself to the office, especially when that trudging involves ice and snow and howling wind. However, until I figure out a way to effectively lecture 70+ students in User Interface Design whilst sipping a coffee and enjoying my fireplace, my need to be on campus will remain. And if I’m being completely honest, I love teaching so trudging through the winter weather is very much worth the trouble.

Despite the fact that today is day one of a semester that still has that new-semester smell, I’ve been mulling over potential destination ideas for Reading Week. Apparently wanderlust never dies. Since it’s only a week-long, the destination can’t be too distant. As much as I’m crazy enough to fly somewhere (Japan for example) for a week, I’m going to save that type of travel for later in the year. I’m thinking I may keep myself confined to North or Central America.

Deciding on a location, however, is the second decision that needs to be made. The first decision is to figure out what type of vacation I want/need. That is, should I go with an adventure vacation (think hiking, mountain climbing, zorbing, skydiving, cliff jumping, bungee jumping, etc.) or a relaxation vacation (think well tanned hotties serving me drinks while I read/nap on the beach)? Or perhaps a blend?

So what do you think, dear readers? If you were vacationing over reading week, what type of vacation would you be taking?

Final Thoughts

Happy New Year all y'all
Happy New Year all y’all

So 2014 is nigh. I’ve just finished cleaning up the house, organizing some platters of food, chilling some champagne1, and am about to go shuck some oysters as I await the arrival of some friends who will be ringing in the new year with me. All told, not a bad way to spend the last day of 2013.

Looking back, 2013 has been a crazy amazing year. Despite setbacks with my exercise goals, I’ve had an adventure filled 12 months. Crushing the Goofy Challenge with Mark, wandering New York City twice, learning the true meaning of What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas2, exploring the beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador with Danny, Lee-Jay, and Corey, celebrating the 2nd Annual Big Mountain Challenge with Rick and my brother3, and various other adventures with friends in Ottawa, Toronto, and London; all have reminded me that I am one lucky bastard.

And even though work was as crazy as it was, I have to say that I love my job and had so much fun this year. I was beyond fortunate to work with several amazing students – people who have reminded me again and again that if you give students something real to work on, they can do amazingly awesome things. Their hard work led to Farm-To-Fork.ca, and all of the subsequent and well-deserved attention that it brought. I’ve been spoiled because of their talent, drive, and passion. Because of them, I was invited to speak at several conferences and seminar series. Because of them the Farm To Fork project raised and continues to raise money because so many people understand its importance. Because of them I feel that I have something significant to contribute to the world beyond academic papers. And that dear readers is an amazing feeling.

Beyond all of this, I’ve just been lucky to spend the year with some amazing people. Family and friends who look out for me, take care of me, feed me, and spoil me on a seemingly continuous basis. To all of you, thank you for making this another fantastic year. Thank you for telling me I need to sleep more or eat more or get out more, or that I need to learn to say no. I can’t promise I’ll do any of that in the new year, but it makes me smile to know that you’ll still be worried enough to tell me so.

So raise your glass and toast the year that was. To the ups and downs, the good and the bad. Here’s wishing that 2014 brings with it all the things that make you smile.

Happy New Year everyone.


1 Okay, not Champagne so much as sparkling wine.

2 Curious, aren’t you?

3 I’ve decided this must be an annual event. However, I’ve also decided that we don’t necessarily have to climb a mountain at this point in time, so long as we are doing something adventurous.

Things I Should Have Posted But Didn’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Over-overwhelmed

Farm To Fork launched October 3, 2013
Farm To Fork launched October 3, 2013

Early on in 2012, my friend Danny and I were sitting around drinking scotch or beer or something of that nature, discussing doing something. I don’t mean doing something in the sense that we were bored and wanted to entertain ourselves with an activity. I mean in the sense of doing something to demonstrate that regular everyday folks could make a meaningful difference in their own community if they simply got off their butts and did something.

Little did we know where that conversation would take us. Little did we know that our conversation-soon-to-be-project would garner the attention of people around the globe. Little did I know how much of an impact this thing would have on my life.

Fast forward to last Thursday. There we were at Innovation Guelph, surrounded by over 100 people – students, staff, and faculty of the University of Guelph, community partners, and local citizens – all interested in learning about, signing up, supporting, and celebrating the launch of the Farm To Fork project. To say that the experience was overwhelming would be an understatement. Over-overwhelming might begin to scratch the surface of what we felt.

I mentioned earlier that this thing - this Farm To Fork thing - has had a huge impact on my life. That is by no means an understatement. For those of you not aware, my training is in Mathematics & Statistics. If anyone were to tell me that one of the things that I would do in my life of which I would be the proudest would dwell in a world outside of Mathematics & Statistics, I might have thought you insane. And yet, here we are – several days post launch – and I am blown away by how things have changed in my life over the last year and a bit. This class project has become more than anything I could have ever imagined.

  • Farm To Fork is a computer science based solution to the very real problem of food insecurity in our community. Just over a year ago I barely knew anything about food insecurity. Now I find myself spending most of my day researching this very real problem, and talking about it with anyone willing to listen.
  • Farm To Fork has been supported by the community in ways I never imagined, including a very successful fund raising campaign earlier this year. Just over a year ago, I would have never even considered crowd-funding for science. Now I’m contacted on a regular basis because I’m apparently one of the first Canadian academics who have used it to support their research.
  • Farm To Fork is the result of community engaged scholarship – students, faculty, and community experts working together to make a difference. Just over a year ago I’d never even heard of community engaged scholarship. Now, I find myself giving talks and extolling the benefits of engaging students in real outside the textbook problems. It is a better way to educate.

My life is vastly different than that I had imagined. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact it’s completely wonderful. It’s amazing and unexpected. It’s full of highs and lows, but mostly highs. It’s beyond the words that I am capable of writing. It is, simply put, more than I could have ever asked for. I am the luckiest bastard I know.

Farm-To-Fork.ca
Farm-To-Fork.ca

Of course it didn’t just happen. I have to acknowledge the incredible contributions and hard work of so many amazing people. Throughout all of this, Danny and I have been very fortunate to work with the best of the best – people who knew everything about all of the things we didn’t; people who had the power to act, and did; people who inspire me every time I think of what they’ve accomplished. I am incredibly spoiled to be surrounded by so many big brains and bigger hearts. The success of Farm To Fork is due to this collective of awesomeness; this group of dedicated and highly motivated people who know that things change only when we come together and think beyond the rules. I am so fortunate to find myself in the company of these people, and I am forever grateful. There is no way I can thank them enough.

While there are many people to thank, I want to thank the students the most. They were the thinkers, the planners, the doers in this story. They worked tirelessly. They worked beyond the grades. They worked because they knew what they were doing was right. I am incredibly proud of them. So proud that I have no idea how to express the impact they have had on my life. They have reminded me that people can be amazing. They have taught me so much. They have reassured me that, despite what one might read in the news, our future will be bright. Bright because there are people out there who care; because there are people out there who are willing to go above and beyond; because the future will be led by them.

Farm To Fork started out as an idea over scotch, but it has become so much more than that. I couldn’t be prouder.


 

For those who missed it, this is the slide show that was presented during the launch party.

A Life Well Lived

Photo from Flickr

Today I listened to friends, students, staff, and faculty describe a person I met about 19 years ago. She was an incredible, remarkable woman; full of life, compassion, and empathy. She was genuine. Truly genuine. And she was seemingly filled to the brim with all of the qualities that make a person an amazing mentor, educator, role model, and inspiration.

I knew Linda Allen as the embodiment of all that makes a teacher great. I will always be awed by her ability to connect with students. To not just help them, but to get to know them. To know their families, their friends.

Whenever I saw her on campus, she would often ask in her very maternal way about my brother – who, for a time, studied at the University of Guelph. She met him only a few times while we ran around getting papers signed and documents filled out so that he could enrol, and yet she remembered him. She remembered what he was doing then, and wanted to know where he was now, what he was doing, how he was doing.

And this is what was amazing about her. She wasn’t bestowing some special treatment on me and my brother. She did this with everyone. She knew or wanted to know about everyone. And she remembered. Even the tiniest of details.

Sadly, the world lost someone special on Sunday. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and far too soon.

Fortunately her memory will not be forgotten. She has touched so many lives, so many countless lives, that I think it impossible for that to happen. Her spirit, her passion, her smile, will live on in the minds and hearts of the people who knew her.

I was fortunate to know Linda as an undergraduate student. I knew Linda through my Masters degree, and then throughout my PhD. And I knew Linda as I happily accepted my current position in the School of Computer Science. She smiled the day that my paperwork was finally signed. And it was a proud and loving smile. Through it all she remained a constant and positive always smiling force on campus.

Thank you Linda for being one of the many examples of a life well lived.

I’m going to miss you.

I Miss The Mountains

We came. We saw. We conquered.
Me, Rick, and Aidan at the top of Sparrowhawk

On Tuesday afternoon I made my way back home to Guelph, having spent the prior week visiting Rick in Calgary. The adventure was amazing – but that really wasn’t a difficult bar to pass given that the trip involved mountains, hiking, meeting up with friends, good food, a drink known as Better Than Folgers, more mountains, Banff, hanging with both Rick and my brother, and basically celebrating the anniversary of the grandest of adventures known as the Big Mountain Challenge.

Since I returned I’ve been running around a little crazy – doing last-minute and final prep for the course that I’m teaching this semester, organizing my undergrad and grad students1, organizing several projects, organizing the Farm To Fork launch party, trying to come up with a prioritized list of things to do, and basically doing whatever I can to make sure the next several weeks/months aren’t too stressful2.

Easier said than done, obviously.

Despite all of this (and the occasional build up of anxiety3) I’m feeling good. I think my trip has a lot to do with that. There’s something special about mountain air that does my body good – providing me with better focus, more energy, and the drive to crush whatever obstacle might be in my way. And I’m going to need that this semester, because my list of projects and papers and grants and talks and posters and events could be overwhelming. I just have to remember to take the time – especially when the anxiety and stress start building – to stop and reflect on my mountain-top adventures. Because nothing destroys my stress quite like the mountains.

And I think that’s why I miss them so much.


I’ve uploaded a bunch of pictures and a video below – some of these are new, some you’ve likely seen before, and some are courtesy of Rick. Enjoy.

Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawk
Nerds
Nerds
Adventurers (at Mount Indefatigable)
Adventurers (at Mount Indefatigable)
Climbing Sparrowhawk
Climbing Sparrowhawk
Not the summit of Sparrowhawk, but still pretty impressive.
Not the summit of Sparrowhawk, but still pretty impressive.
Pika!
Pika!
Sunset following our Sparrowhawk climb
Sunset following our Sparrowhawk climb
Climbing Mount Indefatigable
Climbing Mount Indefatigable
At the top of Indefatigable. Epic scramble. Epic ridge walk.
At the top of Indefatigable. Epic scramble. Epic ridge walk.
More of Indefatigable
More of Indefatigable

1 Which really means organizing myself.

2 Such as snuggling with Elliot.

3 Apologies to Julie who had to hear a mild rant today.

 

A Weekend With The Good Doctor

The good doctors – a picture of scientific brilliance?

This past weekend I did several things that I haven’t done in a long time. First and foremost I took some time off. In fact, I took Thursday and Friday off too. Oh, and also Monday1.

A five day weekend you say? Don’t mind if I do.

Even better, this particular five day weekend included a cottage getaway with the one and only Dr. Stephanie. Since we find ourselves living in different cities with hectic lives and careers and social activities and – well, life – it’s awesome when we are able to coordinate our schedules, get together, and be the goofs that we are.

I already miss you Steph. NO YOU HANG UP.

Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, I was getting to the other thing that I did this weekend that I haven’t done in a long time. Are you ready for this? I did some reading for fun.

Holy crapshark. Reading for fun? It’s a Festivus miracle.

Now before I tell you what I read, I need to ask you to promise me that you won’t freak out or judge me or whatever, because it really was reading for the sake of fun. Promise? Okay, good. I spent part of the weekend reading statistical papers, and it was AWESOME.

I can almost hear you screaming That’s not taking time off.

In most cases I would agree with you. However, and bear with me here, I haven’t actually had the time to sit down and read some really good, really juicy, really thought-provoking statistical papers in a while. This isn’t a complaint. It has just been the reality of my life for the past 8 months or so. Course work, reports, various projects, presentations, conferences, meetings, Farm To Fork – all have kept me away from statistics on some level. So, you’ll understand when I write that I was super excited to actually sink my teeth into a few articles from the world that is my bread and butter. 

The weekend was also a bit of a time machine in the sense that Steph and I were able to read papers, bounce ideas off of one another, talk the statistical talk, and goof off all at the same time. We haven’t been able to do that in a very long while, and this was our daily life while we were working on our PhDs. It was amazing to relive a little of that, minus all of the pressure and stress associated with the degree.

The end result? I came back from the cottage feeling refreshed, and filled with so many statistical ideas that I think I might be busy for years trying to work through them all. In some ways, knowing that there are so many things that we don’t know is a bit scary and humbling, but it’s also exciting and energizing.

This past weekend was exactly what I needed – a mini vacation to recharge, to step away from the everyday routine, breathe in nature, and just be.

Thanks Steph. I can’t wait for our next adventure.


1 Okay, technically we worked on a paper on Monday, but since we did so at the cottage I almost feel like we took the day off.

 

Dear Readers – We’re So Close

So. Very. Close.

This shall be a short and sweet post.

We are so close to our goal for the Farm To Fork project.

At this moment, awesome folks like you have come together and contributed $14007 of our $15000 goal.

That means we’ve got $993 left to raise.

We can do this.

If you have it within your means, please consider helping us out. Any donation helps. Every dollar counts.

Together, we will improve the quality and quantity of food entering the emergency food system. We can make a difference. We will make a difference.

To donate, click here.

For more information about the Farm To Fork project, check out the Farm To Fork blog here.

 

 

Two Thirds To Awesome

img_01872.png

I think something might be wrong with me. Ever since Friday I’ve had a ridiculous smile on my face and it doesn’t want to go away. Trust me, even when I’m having a serious moment or pondering all things academic or think-y like, there, just beneath the surface is a giant smile.

And every time my thoughts move to the Farm To Fork project, that just beneath the surface smile bursts through. In fact, as I write this post sitting in a Starbucks in Toronto, I’m sure that my neighbouring coffee drinkers are watching me as I grin from ear to ear. They’re likely wondering what I’m up to. I’d probably be wondering what I was up to as well.

The source of my smile is probably obvious. Over the last week the Farm To Fork fundraising campaign not only passed 50% of our $15000 goal, we smashed through it. At last check, citizens and businesses have really stepped up – donating over $10000 to the cause. They’ve recognized the potential of Farm To Fork to be a game changer – making sure that the people in our community who are struggling to feed themselves and their families get what they need. They’ve recognized that meaningful change can occur if we all just start moving things in the right direction. They’ve recognized that the power comes not from talking a good game, but jumping in and getting involved.

And holy hell, that is inspiring. What started as a simple class project has grown into something so much more than I could have ever imagined.

And the support is not just local. I’ve received emails, Facebook messages, and tweets from as far away as Berlin, Kentucky, and across Ontario and Canada. People are hearing about this program and they want to know how they can help.

I repeat – I never expected this thing to be what it has become.

But what is Farm To Fork? At its base level, Farm To Fork connects those of us with the ability to donate to the front line emergency food providers. These are the fine folks who support the members of our community – our brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, and children – who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. It does so by sending donors a grocery list of items that the food pantry around the corner that you never knew existed might need, on the day they go grocery shopping. We’re also working on mobile apps that will use location based notifications to remind us the minute we step into a grocery store what is needed. And if the stars and planets align, it’s going to be even more than that.

But beyond the lines of code, the hours of testing already completed and as yet to occur, the meetings and presentations and blog posts and tweets, Farm To Fork has become something so much more to me. Farm To Fork has become a reminder to me of how awesome our world can be. It’s a reminder to me that, despite all of the terrible things that might happen every day, there are people out there who want to help. Despite the odds against them, despite the challenges and hours, days, weeks, and months of work, there are people out there who just won’t give up, just won’t say no.

And that, dear readers, is pretty effing amazing.

For those of you who may wish to help out our campaign, check out the link here.

One In Forty Is One Too Many

From left to right, Beni, Lee-Jay, Danny, and me.

I’m very lucky. I’ve never known what it means to go hungry. I’ve never had to wonder where my next meal would come from. Sure, I’ve had to scramble during periods in my life to make rent or pay a bill, but I’ve always managed to find the cash. And when I couldn’t, I had parents who helped me out, or friends who had no problem buying me a coffee. Or a snack. Or a lunch. Or a dinner. Or all of the above.

I’m so very, very, very lucky.

Especially when you consider that over 850 thousand Canadians need to use emergency food services (like a food bank or pantry) each and every month. Let me repeat – 850 thousand people. That’s about 2.5% of our population. Think about it this way: imagine lining up 40 of your family and friends and telling one of them that they weren’t allowed to eat for the day. Or the week. Or the next month. 

That’s one of the reasons why we started the Farm To Fork project. Clearly there has to be a better way to help people who are in this situation, because no one should go to bed hungry, no child should go to school hungry, and no senior should wonder how they’re going to be able to feed themselves.

I know that Farm To Fork will improve the situation. I can feel it with every fibre of my being. The passion with which my students have taken on this project, the way it makes people feel – I know it can only make things better for a lot of people.

Today the Farm To Fork project was featured in the at Guelph online magazine. When I saw it posted, I couldn’t help but feel amazingly proud of my students. They’ve turned this from an idea into something tangible; something amazing. But more than that, they’ve started a conversation, an awareness, maybe even a movement, that can only do good.

Of course, we’ve only just begun. We need to beta test the prototype. We need to make sure that everything about Farm To Fork works perfectly before we officially launch in September. But we can only do this with your help. This is why we started the Microryza fundraising campaign. If you can, please donate. Every dollar donated gets us that much closer to our $15000 goal, which gets us that much closer to completing the project. Please help us help the 1 in 40 who need to use emergency food services each and every month.

Before I end this post, I’m going to leave you with a quote from an email I received today from someone who had read the at Guelph article I mentioned above:

“I saw on Facebook that your food bank project is going well, that is awesome. You should feel very proud. A roommate of mine has been struggling with money and health, and she cried when she came home with some pasta from the food bank. She was literally crying tears of joy because someone donated pasta and eggs so she could eat.”

This, dear friends, is why we must finish this project. Please help us.