Tag Archives: Starbucks

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.

Falling To My Death? Not Today Indefatigable. Not Today.

The Mount Indefatigable trail - hitting both north and south peaks.
The Mount Indefatigable trail – hitting both north and south peaks. Image via: http://www.soistheman.com

Yesterday Rick, Aidan, and I jumped into the car and headed to Kananaskis country to face the challenge of climbing Mount Indefatigable (stopping first at Starbucks and Safeway for necessities like go-go juice, snacks, and lunch).

Approximately 1.5 hours from Calgary, Indefatigable actually represents two peaks and a ridge connecting the two. The southern peak is approximately 2556m (8386ft) above sea level, while the northern peak is slightly higher. According to this website, the peak reaches 2678m (8786ft) above sea level. Not the highest peak that Rick and I have ever done, but still a solid adventure.

Rick, getting close to the southern peak of Mount Indefatigable
Rick, getting close to the southern peak of Mount Indefatigable

The first half hour included a rather steep incline, and amazing views of the lakes surrounding the region. The weather was perfect – not too hot, not too cold – and the company was fantastic. The hike included a lot of laughter and chatting, and every few steps hooting and hollering. Why? Well, it turns out that we were hiking a decommissioned trail; decommissioned because it is home to several generations of grizzlies. The hoots and hollers were to warn them of our presence, and hopefully scare them off. The last thing we needed was to be eviscerated by a hungry grizzly.

Once we passed the tree line, we were greeted by the ridge that defined the Indefatigable trail. According to the experts, the trail from north to south would be tough, but we were determined to conquer it. There were a few sketchy areas that gave all of us pause – partially to figure out our footing and grip, partially to breathe, gather our thoughts, and quell the voices in our head that might have been screaming to turn around because holy shit why would we put ourselves into such a crazy situation? To put the climb into perspective, there were sections where, while not quite vertical, we were forced to hug the mountain for fear that the slightest slip would send us falling several hundred metres to the valley below. In fact, the major hazard described for this climb: falling to your death. 

Rick pretending to be Icarus on the sketchy part of the climb.
Rick pretending to be Icarus on the sketchy part of the climb.

Talk about a rush.

Fortunately none of us fell to our death. And despite a few breath caught in our throat moments, we reached the north peak with only a few scratches and scrapes. Our reward – absolutely spectacular scenery. Honestly, the views were probably some of the best that I’ve ever seen from a mountain top.

After resting for a bit, we began our venture along the ridge from the north peak to the south peak. Walking at times on a path about a foot and a half wide, with very steep drops on either side was amazing. Strangely, we all felt quite comfortable traversing the ridge.

A nerdtacular shot at the top of the north peak.
A nerdtacular shot at the top of the north peak.

We reached the southern peak around 5:00pm. Tired, but still energized, we took some more photos, soaked in the scenery, and then began our descent. The trail here was steep at points, but well-defined and quite easy to hike. Along the way we ran in to some mountain goats who seemed to be enjoying the views of the valley from high above.

The entire trail took us about 8 hours, including several stops for snacks, lunch, and about 10 thousand photos.

Honestly, yesterday could have only been better if our friend Paul was able to join us.

Just A Wee Dive

The many faces of skydiving

Last Saturday was an awesome day. Around 8 in the morning my friend Aqleema picked up the slightly hungover version of me, and we started on our trek to Niagara.

Our mission – to jump out of a perfectly good plane. For me, this would be my third time skydiving. For Aqleema – her first.

As with most of my Aqleema-filled adventures, this one began with a visit to Starbucks for some go-go juice, and also some water for yours truly. Did I mention that I was slightly hungover?

The drive was uneventful, save for the side-splitting laughter, giddiness, and conversation that gracefully danced between high-brow intellectualism and low-brow shenanigans. So pretty much, it was the standard Dan/Aqleema fare.

We eventually arrived at our destination.

I was stoked. I love skydiving. The only thing I was concerned about was the aforementioned hangover. I had no idea how that might play into my jump. I figured as long as I didn’t vomit or soil myself I’d be alright. Fortunately for me and my tandem jump instructor, neither such event occurred.

As with all of my jumps so far, the anticipation is nothing in comparison to the joy of soaring through the sky. The feeling of flying is pure freedom. Seeing the earth through the eyes of a bird is stunning, and humbling, and breathtaking. To be honest, it’s impossible for me to do justice to the experience. All I can say is that I will do it again.

Aqleema jumped after me, and as she drifted towards the ground I could hear her screaming – the happy sort of scream. She totally kicked ass – especially for someone with a fear of heights. She’d never admit that she’s the type of person to face her fears, but I’ve got a list of examples to suggest that she does just that. Aqleema never fails to amaze me, and our skydiving adventure was no exception to the rule.

Thanks Aqleema for helping me knock yet another item from my Not So Bucket List list. Here’s to starting the summer in style. Here’s to crushing more adventures.


I Don’t Know All The Maths – Yet

All the maths – I want them.

Apart from a few meetings, I spent the bulk of my day working through what I assumed should be a simple mathematical problem. For whatever reason, and despite my best efforts, my brain just didn’t want to process or comprehend it. I spent hours staring at it, trying to approach it from different angles – but to no avail. Perhaps my brain knew it was Friday.

Normally this would annoy me. I mean, I’m supposed to be a mathy/staty kind of guy. In my mind, it should be second-nature for me to review an equation and automatically know it, understanding every possible nuance. I shouldn’t look at a formula and think What the hell is that? unless of course the formula is flawed. And none of this should require any in-depth thinking. I should just get it. 

While I realize this is an unreal expectation, there have been times where I have found myself beyond frustrated because something wouldn’t click. In most cases, a nap, a meal, a drink – all have served to put me back on track. In the cases where this didn’t help, perseverance won out – eventually.

After struggling with the problem for several hours today, I wandered to Starbucks to chat with Gerarda. The intent was not to chat statistics over coffee, but I did query her for advice. This, apparently, was the seed that I needed. While she didn’t have the answer, she suggested the same strategy that I had considered prior to meeting her. After our coffee I spent a few more hours poking away at the equations. While the solution still eludes me, I know that I am close. I can feel it.

Why do I mention all of this? Well, first, I need to remember that I’m not expected to know all the maths. I am, however, expected to be able to devise methods to find the answers – to push the boundaries of our collective knowledge. This may seem obvious to most, but for whatever reason it’s usually the first thing I forget. Further, I need to remember that I have amazing colleagues and friends for a reason. The old adage is correct: two heads are better than one. Sometimes the solution can be found in a simple conversation with someone who speaks the same language. And of course, it’s always great to have an alternate point of view, or in my case, a similar point of view to encourage a potential path to a solution.

For now I’m going to keep plugging away. The solution is close. I can feel it.


The Very Serious Business Of Being A Grown-Up

Celebrating a very grown-up day with a very grown-up beverage and my wee fuzzball.

Today I decided to play grown-up. That is, I put on my big-boy pants and my big-boy shirt, brushed my hair and brushed my teeth (much like responsible adults do), packed up my wallet, gave Elliot a snuggle good-bye, and sauntered over to Starbucks for a tall coffee before I got down to the very serious business of being a grown-up.

For those not in the know, getting down to the very serious business of being a grown-up meant shopping for such things as washers, dryers, flooring, backsplashes, tile, sinks, counter tops, and vegan brownies. Okay, perhaps the vegan brownie wasn’t truly a part of my big-boy pants-wearing grown-up kind of day, but holy cripes on a cracker it was good. I digress.

As part of my mission to remodel after the floods-o-August, I decided to spend today shopping for things that I need in my condo. First and foremost – a washer and dryer because holy hell I can’t believe how much I take for granted the luxury of having laundry facilities in my own home. Over the past 6 weeks I’ve been doing laundry at my brother’s place, or at my parents’ place. While I’ve been absolutely appreciative of their hospitality, I really can’t stand the inconvenience.

Fortunately I was able to find a very grown-up laundry set at Leon’s. They are new and shiny and energy-efficient and shiny and made by Whirlpool and shiny and front loading and shiny and oh my god so shiny. It’s disturbing how excited I am about this purchase which should arrive October 10 – not that I’m counting or anything. Also, did I mention how shiny?

The next item on my list of grown-up things to do was flooring – specifically flooring for my living room. While only part of the carpet was damaged during the floods, I’ve opted to take this opportunity to replace it completely. So off to Home Depot I went. There I toyed between laminate and hard wood floors, ultimately opting for hardwood which was only slightly more expensive than the laminate that I oh-so-loved. And the hardwood floor – so shiny! Again, I can’t believe how excited I am about this purchase. I’m even more excited about actually having it installed. My condo is going to look so damn sexy.

Did I just find my size 6 kids costume for Halloween? I think so.

I spent some time looking at backsplashes, lighting, paint, and fireplaces but opted to stop the spending spree at the washer, dryer, and hardwood flooring. While today’s purchases were pretty much on budget, I can say for sure that the lighting, paint and fireplace are all well below the budget I had set aside. I’m not sure about the backsplash yet, so I can’t really call if it’ll be above or below budget. Of course I’m aiming for below budget because that’s what grown-ups do.

Of course, today couldn’t be all about being a grown-up. And for that reason I opted to look for a halloween costume. I found a very charming pumpkin costume at Home Sense. I figure I could just pair this with a nice set of green tights and I’m set for an evening of scaring the locals.

In case you were wondering, the costume is meant for a size 6 child. I’m not sure if that says more about the size of children these days, or perhaps about the size of me. Regardless, I think the costume is a winner.


Sweet 16 Plus Legal To Drink In The States

 

A note on my office door. I wonder who was responsible for this?

The last several days have been, um, interesting. Let’s recap.

About a week ago I received notification from Rick that he had won the Big Mountain Challenge, and that I would be joining him as he hikes 3 mountains to raise money for The Kidney Foundation of Canada.

Awesome-sauce.

Earlier this week, we started our campaign to raise $5000 – money that would be matched by Banff Lake Louise Tourism. After less than 3 days of fundraising, we are already at 82% of our goal1.

Awesome-sauce with a cherry on top.

On Monday I learned that I had won a draw on campus. My prize, a $25 gift card to be used at any hospitality services location on campus. Which is pretty much everywhere. Also, if I’m not mistaken, they own the on campus Starbucks. So we all know how I’m using my new-found wealth.

Awesome-sauce with a cherry on top AND chocolate sprinkles.

And then the other proverbial shoe dropped.

Kitty litter soup? Anyone? Anyone?

After venturing out with my brother last night to grab a coffee and get some work done, I was brought back to reality by a single little phone call. On the other end of the line, my condo corporation informing me that there was a leak coming from my condo.

EEP.

I rushed home to find a massive flood. The night before my 37th birthday.

Double EEP.

And then I discovered that Elliot’s litter box was in the direct line of water. And had overflown. Everywhere.

EW.

Oh fine, I’ll go ahead and say it. Double EW.

But don’t worry folks, this isn’t a whoa-is-me kind of story. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. My brother and I quickly had the water supply cut ending the torrential flow of water into my home. Within seconds I was furiously mopping up water. Elliot watched bemused from the sidelines. When I could mop no more, I realized that Elliot needed a place to do his business. Twitter to the rescue. More accurately, a bunch of awesome friends to the rescue.

We can rebuild it. We have the technology.

And that’s the point of this post. Within seconds of people finding out about the flood, I had offers for help clean up the mess, offers of places to stay, offers of food, and scotch and kitty litter deliveries. It was overwhelming and awesome and in a very strange way made my birthday one of the best ever. Because in the grand scheme of things, the things in life really don’t matter. Yes there is a lot of damage, yes it’s going to be a royal pain in the ass to deal with, and yes I am going to have to live in a very cluttered condo for a period of time. But, and this is a big but, it’s all stuff that’s replaceable. What’s irreplaceable are the amazing family and friends who have immediately jumped to my rescue.

To be reminded of that on my birthday – well, that’s pretty freaking amazing.

Oh – you might be curious about the title of this post. I’m 37 today; 37=16+21. In other words, I’m celebrating my sweet 16 plus I am legally able to drink in the states. Clearly this is cause for celebration.

I think I’ll go pour myself a scotch.


1 Thank you so much to everyone for donating and spreading the word – keep it up.


 

Lazy Is Not My Colour

How I spent the better part of my day.

Today was the laziest day in the history of lazy days. In fact, I was so lazy, I had to take a second nap after my first nap because I was exhausted from my first nap1. Seriously.

I’m fully blaming the remaining plague that is swirling through my body as I can’t honestly think of any other reason to explain why I’m so tired. Needless to say, I’m going to be back in fighting form tomorrow. I have to be.

Why? you ask.

For two reasons actually.

  1. Being this lazy does not become me. Honestly, I feel so pathetic and lethargic that I’m annoyed with myself. I want to punch myself in the face and force myself to go out and do something. But I know that my body needs one more day to really smash this bug into oblivion. I know that because I went out for a short coffee-seeking walk earlier2. The entire adventure – which lasted approximately 60 minutes3 – tired me out so much that I may have had to lie down afterwards and snuggle with the wee fuzzball. I wish I were kidding.
  2. More importantly, tomorrow sees the epic beginning of stage 2 of the Big Mountain Challenge – fundraising for The Kidney Foundation of Canada. Clearly I need to be in tip-top form because $5000 won’t just collect itself. At least, I don’t think it will.

Hear that body?

Tomorrow I’m back in control.


1 Okay, I also managed to clean the house, enjoy a planned visit with friends, and kill about eleventy-billion fruit flies that had apparently taken my kitchen hostage overnight.

2 Mmmm, Starbucks Mocha-Coconut Frappuccino.

3 I also picked up some food for the wee fuzzball.


Dear Stomach

Happy stomach is happy.

So after yesterday’s rather annoying acid reflux flare up, I made a point of being extra cautious with what I ate and drank today. I also made sure that I monitored very closely the quantity of food that I put into my food-hole1.

I started the morning off as usual, getting up at 5:30 and going about my daily ritual – beginning of course with breakfast – first Elliot’s, then mine. Except today, instead of having a piping hot cup of coffee with my oatmeal soup2, I opted for a glass of almond and coconut milk. Just as delicious, not nearly as caffeine-y. That seemed to go well. My stomach remained happy, and not hurt-y. And for those of you not in the know, hurt-y is not the way you want your stomach to be.

I followed up breakfast with a bottle of water, thinking that maybe dehydration may have played into the reflux issue. To be honest, I have no idea if this is the case, or if dehydration could influence reflux, but I figured more water couldn’t hurt.

Aside: I just asked the almighty Google, and apparently dehydration can cause acid reflux. Weird. Why is this the first I’ve heard of this?

Successful consumption of breakfast and water made me bold. Perhaps too bold, but life is full of risks and I figured Why not go for it? Of course, I meant coffee. Me being me, I headed to Starbucks and picked up a tall coffee. The first sip was delicious, but fearing that I might anger the demon in my stomach, I chose to drink it very slowly. Specifically, I nursed it over the course of about 4 or 5 hours.

Mmmm, coffee.

Fortunately, nothing happened.

And nothing continued to happen during my dinner5. Nor did anything happen during my bike ride. Nor did anything happen when I had a snack of berries and granola.

So I sit here this eve, very happy that the acid reflux seems to have returned to the corner of hell from whence it came, but also perplexed.

What was so different about yesterday that made me want to punch my stomach square in the face? Did I eat too much5? Did I eat the wrong type of food? Or was it really a case of dehydration?

Whatever the reason, I’m going to continue to monitor my food intake. I think I’m also going to try to up my water intake again.

And if that doesn’t work, be warned dear stomach – I’m gonna punch you right in the face.


1 Also known as my gob, my pie-hole, my word-hole, or the place where I occasionally store my foot.

2 I call it oatmeal soup3 because it is not nearly thick enough to be classified as true porridge4. Regardless, I find it quite delicious (and filling).

3 Recipe: combine ~1/3 cup of oats, with ~1/2 tbsp shaved dried coconut (unsweetened), ~1 tbsp raw peanut butter, ~1 tbsp raw honey, ~1/3 cup granola in a standard cereal bowl. Fill with boiling water to the lip of the bowl. Let stand for a few minutes. Eat. Enjoy. Variants: fruit, raisins, almonds, etc., may also be added in place of, or in addition to the shaved coconut.

4 If I were to make it as thick as traditional porridge, I’d have a very difficult time being able to eat it without incurring some sort of acid reflux.

5 This had better not be the issue, because I really can’t afford to eat less.


Bing! Email!

I’m not sure I had the energy to stand up this straight this morning.

I woke up today feeling exhausted. Again.

I’m not sure what’s going on. My sleeping patterns haven’t changed – save for the fact that I seem to be waking up about an hour earlier than normal. And when I write an hour earlier than normal, I don’t mean that I’m purposely getting up at this time. What I mean is that I’m waking up before the time when my alarm is set to wake me. And when I wake up, I wake up exhausted. Fortunately I’m awake enough to recognize that I’m exhausted, so I’ve just rolled back over and promptly fallen back to sleep. But clearly it’s a craptacular sleep because when I finally wake I’m completely knackered.

For now, I’m going to blame it on the heat as I have not yet turned on my air conditioner. That, or Elliot has been purposely poking me to wake me up as some sort of bizarre feline joke. Note to self: keep your eyes on the cat – he knows too much.

Sadly, I didn’t just wake up exhausted today. By the time I got to the office, and while I was meeting with one of my grad students, it struck me – I was cranky too.

Excellent, I’m tired and a charming bag full of crank, I thought to myself. This is not going to be a good day.

I don’t think I necessarily woke up cranky, but it wasn’t long before my computer started chiming. Bing! Email! Bing! Email! With every Bing! Email! I cringed just a little. Mainly because I was tired and really wasn’t ready to start my day. Nor was I ready to read about this or that that I needed to do. All I wanted was just one more hour of sleep.

Bing! Email!

Yup. This about sums up my morning.

I tried to shrug off each and every Bing! Email!, going about my usual morning. I should have known I wasn’t doing a good job of shrugging it off. Regardless, I hopped on my bike and headed to the office. I had hoped that the bike ride would get me out of my funk. Not so much. It only took one more Bing! Email! to put me over the edge. I was full on Cranky-pants McGee. In this case, it wasn’t so much the Bing! Email! that did it; it was the content of the final mood-killing Bing! Email! I’m not going to get into the content of the email, but suffice it to say someone else’s lack of preparation was suddenly somehow my problem.

I have to give my grad student Kat tons of credit. She sat there patiently and put up with my crank. She smiled and let me have myself a little pity party. At some point during the meeting I think I acknowledged that I was a giant bag of crank, we laughed, called it a meeting, and headed to Starbucks based on her suggestion that she needed a coffee. On the way there, I told her I need to shake off this funk that I’m in. That may or may not have been followed with a w00t, three solid motivational claps, and a Go Statistics! cheer (seriously). She took it all in, allowing me to be the dork that I needed to be. Best grad student ever!

This was clearly the beginning of the end of my funk. The proverbial nail in the coffin for my funk came when I met up with my friend Rob (@therobcampbell). Chatting with him was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t so much anything that he said – it was just sitting with someone who has the type of energy and spirit that I like to surround myself with. He was just the reminder that I needed that I was choosing to be cranky. I didn’t have to respond to the Bing! Email! the way that I was. I didn’t have to let someone else’s lack of preparation get to me. I had, but it wasn’t the only way I could have responded to these things. And since I allowed this to happen, I could just as easily not allow it to happen.

I left my meeting with Rob feeling completely refreshed, ready to take on the day, and no longer Cranky-pants McGee.

When I got home, I continued my mission to not be cranky. First, I had a sweet 30 minute nap with the wee fuzzball. Second, I went for a great run, then followed that up with about an hour of yoga and stretching. And finally, to close out my day, I’m going to eat a dairy free pecan butter tart. It’s basically impossible to be cranky when one has a dairy free pecan butter tart to eat. That’s a rule – you should write it down.

And this is pretty much how my morning ended. Except it wasn’t peanut butter crackers and a comic book that did it. It was a friend with one of the greatest smiles going.

Feeling Zippy

Itchy head after wearing a helmet all day.

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed, rested, non-headachy, and ready for adventure1. Fortunately for me, adventure was exactly what this doctor had on order. Specifically, adventure in the form of zip-lining with Rick and Jasper2.

The morning started off with a trip to Starbucks (of course) for go-go juice and a lunch order. It may or may not have also included banana chocolate chip muffins, because zip-lining demands such sugary treats. After purchasing the necessary fares we were off to Elora, and before long we were strapping into our safety gear, putting on our helmets, setting our figure eight clips, and learning the ins and outs of rappelling down the side of a cliff.

Apart from the different equipment and knots, this was all very old-hat for Rick and me as we’d learned how to do this during our caving and our ice-climbing adventures. Regardless, being good students we paid close attention. Rick was the first victim over the edge, and as always, he made everything look easy. Jerk. Ha! After a guided rappel each, we were allowed to venture over the cliff on our own. Good times.

Flying through the air. W00t!

Once everyone was comfortable controlling the speed of descent and proving they could handle stopping should they need to, we moved on to the zip-line area. It wasn’t long before we were strapped in and taking a giant running leap off the cliff. The zip-line had us flying across the gorge and over the raging3 river below. Awesome.

Our zip was set to automatically stop three-quarters of the way across the gorge. This allowed for some excellent views of the river below and the scenery around us. Once we were ready, we had a controlled rappel to the river – stopping about 2ft above the water. Definitely an excellent experience given that the waters were quite muddy, raging, and threatening enough to pull us quickly downstream should we actually fall in.

After chatting with our instructor Kevin, Jasper, Rick and I have decided that we are going to try to organize another adventure with him. This time however will be another caving adventure later in the fall.

Because what’s a grand adventure if it doesn’t end with plans for more adventuring?


1 It’s amazing what a few hours of sleep and a headache curing kitty named Elliot will do for me.

2 I’d say that this makes our zip-lining adventure an unofficial meeting of Nerd Caucus. However, with only three of us there, I’m not sure we can say that quorum was achieved. I’ll have to check our charter.

3 Thanks to all of the recent rain.


Carbo-Loaded

Wine has carbs in it, right?

Today I boarded the train and made my way to Ottawa1 – day one of my Ottawa Marathon weekend.

The train ride was great2. I spent the bulk of it working – reviewing and commenting on a report, and prepping notes for a course that I’ll be helping to teach in June – the week after the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada. The rest of the train ride included staring out the window as the train cut its way across Ontario.

After arriving in Ottawa, I met up with Mark – who will also be running the marathon on Sunday – and we made our way to our schwanky hotel for the weekend. Following check-in, we wandered to the ByWard Market for some good old time-y carbo-loading.

Translation: french fries and beer. Verdict: carbo-licious.

Sunset. Awesome.

After sufficiently stuffing our faces with carbs, we wandered the market some more and then decided we needed Starbucks. An icy cold tall Mocha Coconut Frappaccino (with soy-milk, hold the whip) for me, and a grande hot chocolate (with whip) for Mark. Of course, we justified the consumption of these high Calorie high sugar treats with the fact that we would be running 42.2km on Sunday morning. Clearly we need the Calories. Ha!

Our bellies now full of carbs and sugars and Calories, we headed to pick up our race kits and wander the pre-race expo. As per usual, the pre-race expo included free samples of various gels, running gummies, and energy bars, information on other races, and places to buy new running gear. A runner’s Mecca if you will.

Sun setting behind parliament. A great way to end the day.

Eventually we made our way to dinner – pasta and a beer of course. By the end, I was stuffed. Painfully stuffed. To be honest, I’m still stuffed (hours later). But it’s all for a good cause, right? And I need to keep reminding myself that I need the energy.

We ended the day by taking a walk around parliament and down to the river so that we could watch the sun set, and then returned to the hotel to chat and relax. After all, we are supposed to be taking it easy so that we are in prime form when the gun goes off on Sunday morning.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day to relax and fill my gullet with carbo-treats. Which means I should get to bed so that I’m rested for my day of gluttony and sloth.

Gluttony and sloth, two of the seven deadly sins, or the best pre-marathon game-plan ever? Something to ponder.


1 My trek also included a bus ride thanks to the Via Rail strike. Truth be told, the bus ride wasn’t too bad as it was only one hour long. However, the larger than average dude that sat next to me took up more real estate than I was comfortable with. I pretended not to notice, and instead focused on napping and watching Game of Thrones on my computer.

2 There’s something to be said for first class – lots of leg room, lots of service, and plenty of extras, such as chocolate3 and wine4.

3 Tasty carbs.

4 Tasty liquid carbs.


Awed

Yesterday I continued my mini-vacation by heading to Banff, Alberta with Rick. We woke up relatively early1 and puttered about the house before getting on the road around lunch. Before getting on the highway, we made our requisite pit stop at Starbucks for coffee deliciousness and snacks2.

While we made our way to Banff – about 1.5 hours away – we chatted, laughed, and took in the scenery as it whizzed by us. I’m always awed whenever I make my way through the mountains. I really can’t put into words how beautiful and majestic they are. Nor can I fully describe how at home they make me feel.

I really am a lucky bastard that I get to experience them as often as I do.

The weather was once again absolutely perfect – blue skies with just a few clouds. And when a larger concentration of clouds did appear, they were off over the mountains wherever we weren’t. Brilliant!

Rick's turn.

Arriving in Banff, our first mission was to check out travel gear for Rick. He’s going to be doing the same Peru trip that I did when I turned 30 way-back-when. We also figured given all the end-of-season sales, we’d probably score some sweet deals.

After arriving in Banff, picking up some new hiking/running gear, stuffing ourselves with burgers at Wild Bill’s, and enjoying some lattes from Evelyn’s, we decided to hike up the Tunnel Mountain trail3.

The hike was a bit slippery given melting snow and ice, but overall not too bad. I think we made it to the top in about an hour, including several stops for pictures and shenanigans.

The top of the trail offered some pretty spectacular views of Banff. In fact, if not for this hike I would never have known about some of the amazing hotels in the city. Rick was surprised I’d never seen the hotels, but after chatting about it we realized that this was probably the first major touristy thing we’ve done on any of my visits. Sure, we did the bobsledding thing, but I’d suggest that wasn’t exactly the typical tourist activity.

Mount Rundle in the background - we will conquer you.

While the views of Banff were stunning – especially as the sun was setting – the views on the opposite side4 of the mountain were insane!

Standing there looking out over the valley, Rick spotted what we assumed were either a small herd of caribou or elk or some other large elk-like animal. Perhaps deer – but from where we were they looked too large. We also decided that should we return to Banff for hiking, that one particular mountain – Mount Rundle – was going to be the one we would next crush. It looks epic.

After descending the trail but before we left town, we made sure to check out one of the hotels – Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – that I had spied from the top of Tunnel Mountain. The hotel was stunning, and afforded us some excellent views of Mount Rundle, as well as some deer that were feeding on the grounds.

The day ended with a quick stop at Bow Falls and some more coffee from Evelyn’s.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but stop and reflect on what I’d seen and done. To say that I’m a lucky bastard is a huge understatement. Thanks again Rick for another excellent adventure. You sir, are a huge slice of awesome5.


1 Well, I woke up around 5:30 but lounged on the couch until about 6:30 before I started working. Rick got up a bit later. On average, we were up relatively early. :)

2 Of course.

3 I use the term hike loosely. The hike is actually more of a vigourous walk. I don’t normally consider anything a hike if the trail has been basically smoothed completely for ease of tourist traffic.

4 Bow Valley and Mount Rundle to be specific.

Sentiment.



Dear Smokers

No smoking. 'Nuff said.

This is an open letter to the two smokers that I had the (mis)fortune of meeting on Saturday. Please note, this is not a general letter to all smokers, nor is it meant as an attack on those who do smoke. While I don’t smoke, you have every right to do so. But really, please don’t smoke – it’s so bad for you.

First let me paint a little picture. Saturday afternoon – before leaving Guelph for my dad’s birthday party, and following my 21.5 kilometre run – I decided I needed to eat. There were two reasons for this. First, it was several hours after lunch and I hadn’t eaten since about 7 in the morning. Second, I had just finished a 21.5 kilometre run and I knew it was probably in my best interest to eat sooner rather than later. And given my surprise when I was faced with the realization during Sunday morning’s weigh-in1 that I’d lost about 10 pounds since Christmas, I’d say it was a smart move on my part2.

Anyway, since I had nothing in the house to eat3 I decided I’d venture over to the local Starbucks for a breakfast sandwich, a vanilla soy latte, and perhaps a rice-krispie square – because my meals are all about balance. Ha! After ordering, I decided to eat my food outside since the weather was nice, the air was clear, and I was still rather warm from all the running. However, the wind was a bit on the cool side so I decided that I’d move to a sheltered area outside – specifically an alcove to the left of Chapter’s (if you were standing in front of the building). It was empty, sheltered from the wind, but open enough that I could feel the sun. Perfect.

Starbucks' breakfast sandwich - best served sans cigarettes.

I dug into my food as I was a bit ravenous. As I was savouring my third or fourth bite, I saw an elderly man approaching. He was tall and thin. As he approached he smiled at me – which immediately put me on edge for reasons that I won’t get into here. I’m sure I awkwardly smiled back, although my look may have instead been one of what the hell do you want and why are you smiling at me and dear god why are you coming over here? I calmed a little when I saw that he was followed by an elderly woman who I assumed was his wife. They both smiled at me.

I smiled back, still chewing. They came to stand about a foot away from me (the alcove was small).

And then it happened.

He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He looked at me with what I can only describe was a twinkle in his eye as he pulled out one of his cancer sticks, popped it in his mouth and made to light it.

I know for sure that at that very moment the smile left my face. Are you effing kidding me? was the only thing that ran through my mind. Okay – to be perfectly honest, many other expletives were running through my mind but since my mom reads this I’ll refrain from writing exactly what I was thinking. But seriously are you effing kidding me?

Smoking in this day and age – when we know how bad it is for us to do – is one thing, but to purposely sit down next to someone who is eating, and then to light up? Are. You. Effing. Kidding. Me?

The look on my face was surely a mixture of disgust, disdain, and confusion4. How could anyone be so oblivious as to not realize that smoking next to someone who was eating is rude. The fact that I was standing next to a sign that read “No Smoking Within 9 Metres Of The Entrance” seemed completely lost on them. The fact that I was eating was clearly not of concern to them. The fact that I clearly did not look amused when they lit up also didn’t seem to bother them.

Ladies - FYI - smoking almost never looks this seductive/sexy/classy.

What almost pissed me off was that I wasn’t sure how to respond. Was it worth my energy to tell them to take their smoke and go elsewhere? Should I have told them how rude they were? Would it have made any difference to them? Or would it have left all of us frustrated and angry?

Before their smoke could reach me, I grabbed my coffee and moved – close enough that they could still see me, but far enough away that their smoke couldn’t invade my space and spoil my otherwise healthy lunch. Passive-aggressive? Maybe. Did it get me away from the elderly couple who were now furiously sucking on their cancer sticks? You betcha.

As I stood a distance away from them finishing my lunch, I chuckled at the ridiculousness of what had just happened. Clearly these folks had no clue that what they did was rude. Or perhaps, maybe my measure of rude is out of whack. Whatever the case, I had to chuckle because it really wasn’t worth getting pissed off over. But it did get me wondering about smokers, and that of course led me to write the following brief open letter to those that opt to light up:

Dear Smokers:

  1. Do you not realize that it’s rude to light up in front of someone who is eating? At least, for the love of all things culinary and delicious, ask if it’s okay to light up first.
  2. What’s the deal with leaving your butts all over the ground? You realize this is littering, right? You also realize that it looks disgusting?
  3. What’s the deal with lighting up next to a sign that clearly reads “No Smoking Within 9 Metres Of The Entrance”, or “Do Not Smoke Here”, or some derivative of these5? If you can’t read, then you are forgiven. But if you can, what gives? The sign isn’t there as an inconvenience. It’s to prevent smoke from getting into the building. Really – it’s just that simple.
  4. Please, please, please explain to me why you feel okay6 about lighting up and smoking around babies? I mean, really? Babies? What the what?
Gents - FYI - You never look like as tough or as cool as Brando when you smoke.

Signed, Me.

Now as I mentioned before – this is not a letter to all smokers. Just those who do the things I’ve mentioned above. I know this isn’t all smokers as I have friends who smoke and they are very aware of the non-smokers in the room. They would never light up while a non-smoker was eating, they are very careful to make sure their smoke is not blowing into the non-smokers face, and they aren’t the type to just drop a butt anywhere. This letter is really just for those smokers who don’t seem to realize that their actions have consequences to the people who are around them.

Anyway, my rant is done.

I’m going to go eat some pie now, because all good rants deserve pie. That’s a rule kiddies – write it down.


1 Every time I write or say the phrase weigh-in I feel like I’m talking about cattle. Moooo.

2 He says while patting his own back.

3 Okay, that’s a lie. I had mustard, ketchup, various sauces, oatmeal, white rice, and a clove of garlic. As creative as I am, I couldn’t think of any magic creation to whip up with these ingredients. Plus, I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to cook.

4 When I have emotions, I don’t always hide them well.

5 I see this all the time on campus. I can’t honestly believe that of the large number of smokers on campus that choose to smoke where it clearly says not to can’t read. So ya, this has me stumped.

6 I assume you are okay with this, otherwise I’m sure you wouldn’t be exposing a child – whose lungs are still developing – to cigarette smoke.


A Simple Universal Rule

Mmm, Hendrick's martini. Not shown - two garlic stuffed olives that I'd already eaten. YUM.

Yesterday I headed to Simcoe to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. As expected, it was a night filled with excellent food, wine, scotch, and laughter. It was also a rather late night, and to be perfectly honest I’m amazed that I wasn’t hungover today. I mean, I felt pretty happy after my first glass of wine1, and that was well before I had even considered the requisite birthday martinis and birthday scotch.

Okay – maybe birthday martinis and scotch weren’t required, but who am I to argue when our waitress basically insists that I order one?2

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before I made my way to Simcoe for the festivities, I decided that I’d wander over to the Stone Road Mall on a quest to find something new to wear. After picking up some Starbucks – also known as shopping fuel – I headed to Le Chateau. There I found myself a nice new shirt and vest to go with the jeans I was wearing. As has been the case over the past year or two, whenever I’ve purchased new clothes I’ve always started off by selecting something about 2 sizes too large. Yesterday was no exception. Long story short, I finally found myself trying on the slim-fit extra small stuff3. And despite the initial sizing issue, I was quite happy with the result. You know when you buy something and just feel awesome in it – I was that guy yesterday.

When we finally arrived in Simcoe, the first thing my mom said to me was Please stop losing weight4. Whenever I hear this I have to remind whomever is saying it that I’m not trying to lose weight – because I’m not – and that I’m healthy – because I am. Furthermore, I was confident that I hadn’t lost any weight.

I insisted Mom, I haven’t lost any weight.

You have. I can see it in your face. You’re so thin.

In the limo on the way to dinner.

It probably didn’t help that the new clothes I bought for the occasion were extra small and form fitted.

Regardless, I insisted that I hadn’t lost weight. And I still felt like a million bucks in my new clothes.

This immediately led to a challenge: the next I was at my parents’ house I had to get on the scales. My mom even wanted to be present to make sure I didn’t lie to her about my weight. I laughed and agreed – knowing deep down that I had this challenge wrapped up. In fact, in my mind it wasn’t even a challenge. Although, I did tell her there was no need for her to be present for the reading because why would I lie about my weight?

Sooooo, flash forward to this the morning-after-the-night-before. Aidan and I had crashed at our parents’ place last night. After waking up, I walked to the bathroom to splash some water on my face. The first thing I saw was the scale. I smirked to myself. Giddily I turned it on (it’s one of those fancy-pants electronic scales) knowing full well it was going to say that I was 147 or higher. I jumped on.

139.2

What the what?

I knew this had to be a mistake. I went downstairs to the other bathroom which has one of the non-electronic scales.

135.

WHAT THE WHAT?

I was gobsmacked.

Being the statistical type of person I am, I took the average of these two weights and very quickly realized that I’d somehow managed to lose 10 pounds since Christmas. Crikey! I’m not sure what upset me more – that I had lost weight, or that my mom was right. Dammit. Moms are always right. How could I have forgotten that simple universal rule?

I guess I can’t be terribly surprised that I’ve lost weight given all of the marathon training I’ve been doing. And I guess the weight loss could explain why some of my runs have seemed a bit more sluggish than normal, and why I’m the walking dead after my long runs. But I feel healthy, so I’m not really worried about it.

However, the weight loss does suggest that I might not be fueling properly – something I have mentioned previously in other posts – so I’m going to have to redouble my efforts on this front. I mean, I still have another half marathon and a 10 miler to run this month, and 2 marathons scheduled for next month. Fueling could mean the difference between finishing, and finishing but feeling like a bag of smashed-ass. I’d much rather finish strong.

In light of all of this, I’m going to go make myself a deep-fried gravy, butter, and bacon sandwich with a side order of bacon-crusted bacon-wrapped back bacon5. That should make up for some of the Calories I’m missing. :)

And of course mom – if you are reading this – date squares would really help with this weight loss thing. Just sayin’.


1 Likely a combination of being a light-weight, and also having just run a half marathon.

2 Clearly the phrase insists that I order one means that she enquired if I would like a drink. In my defence, I was already 1 glass of wine drunk, so my logic and decision-making abilities were highly suspect. Regardless, the martinis and scotch were delicious, and I probably should be suffering for my choices today.

3 Extra small. Crazy. Just over 2 years ago I’d have been trying on the large clothes. It’s amazing the difference a little hernia and some running can make.

4 She has been very concerned since day 1 of the hernia because, well, she’s my mom and that’s what mom’s do. Also, I did lose a lot of weight in a not-so-healthy way; her concern was clearly justified.

5 Okay, I won’t lie. A side order of bacon-crusted bacon-wrapped back bacon is making me drool just a little.



Toronto’ing

20120303-225009.jpg
Mmmm, fresh bread, olives, and oil. YUM.

I am full.

I decided a few weeks ago that today was going to be my day to venture into Toronto. Despite the fact that I have a butt load of work to do, I decided that taking a full day off was essential.

The day began with brunch at the Beer Bistro (on King street). Verdict – yum. While I waited for my friends Silvia and Angela to arrive, I sampled a very tasty and very hoppy beer-y beverage. In case you aren’t aware, I’m a big fan of hoppy beer.

Brunch was fantastic – Crab Benedict on a potato patty. Delicious.

Afterwards I wandered the city while I awaited Gerarda, Alan, Steph, and Eric to arrive. I may or may not have treated myself to some delicious chocolate from Godiva and a tall soy latte from Starbucks. Waiting for people requires treats. That’s a rule folks. Write it down.

After meeting with the nerds, we ventured to our selected dinner locale – Osteria. There we enjoyed some very delicious wines, oysters, anti-pasti, and pasta. In a word – holy-crapshite-delicious.

Anyway, I’m on my way home now and ready for bed. Because today was full. And I couldn’t be happier.