Conferencing in Canada

The maple leaf

I was the first of our group of four to get to get to the customs desk in Toronto. I handed the officer my declaration form and passport. He looked at the section where I marked that the main purpose of my trip was business.

“What business do you have here?”

“Uh, academic conference.”

“Where is the conference?” he asked and looked at the 5 year old picture on my passport.

Downtown Toronto

“The Hilton. No, the Sheraton downtown,” I said.

“What’s the topic of the conference.”

I froze momentarily.

“Um, higher education and institutional research.”

He handed my documents back to me and waved me along to baggage claim.

I’ve attended a number of academic conferences during my graduate school career, but this was the first one in (a) a new city and (b) out of the country.

I got the business stuff done early on Monday. While Canadians were out celebrating Victoria Day, my colleagues and I presented a paper on graduate students in science and their relationships with their advisors, faculty, lab mates and other peers. That went well, and thankfully I had a good public speaking day. Even better, our PI/my advisor liked the presentation.

I didn't go inside. Entrance was about $20 and I didn't have much time.

I spent the rest of my short trip eating through my per diem, running along Lake Ontario, biking from downtown to High Park and back along the lake front, and hanging out with new/old grad school friends. I wish I had some photos from the parks along the lake and during my bike ride, but I’m much more concerned about my safety biking through a busy, unfamiliar street to whip out my camera. And I never take my camera out with my while running. It’s too bulky and I’m too busy, you know, running.

I’d love to go back to Toronto when the weather isn’t so finicky (it was warm/sunny, and then cool with light rain everyday) and I have more time to visit. We were really close to the Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays play, but the team was out of town. If they weren’t, I’d definitely have gone to a game. I also remembered on my last day and last few hours of sightseeing that the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels are set in Toronto. When I visited the Baldwin Steps and Casa Loma, both felt familiar. I kicked myself for not doing a Scott Pilgrim tour of the city. Oh well.

Seemed like a nice place to write or chill

Ever since my friends and I got pulled aside and grilled by US customs agents as we returned from Vancouver, I get nervous crossing the border or going through customs at the airport. This time I worried they wouldn’t think I was the same person in my passport photo since (a) that photo is from 2005; and (b) I look much different. Fortunately, the US Customs agents asked fewer questions and I had no trouble getting back in to the states.

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Haiku: from Toronto, Ontario to Ontario, California

The sorta familiar Baldwin Steps

05.23.11
Smooth presentation
Positive feedback from boss
Surprised us a bit

05.24.11
Biked through Toronto
Downtown to High Park and back
My quads will hate me

05.25.11
Steps feel familiar
Where have I seen them before?
I know! Scott Pilgrim!

05.26.11
Bio professor’s
Lecture on sex differences
Makes frosh laugh a lot

05.27.11
Zvi works out tension
Instant relief, but he warns
Tomorrow, soreness

05.28.11
Slow, tentative steps
From an almost one year old
Time to baby proof

05.29.11
Party in the park
Kids jump in bouncy castle
Birthday girl takes nap

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Haiku: haven’t quit yet

Mosqueda kids '11

05.16.11
Sees old friend on bus
But he doubts if really her
This girl’s much thinner

05.17.11
Three hundred students
Present their research posters
Grow as scientists

05.18.11
Practice baton pass
With higher ed relay team
Place in palm, don’t drop!

05.19.11
Annual relay race
Closer than expected
Yellow team takes first

05.20.11
First venue visit
Pro: large enough for our group
Con: can’t bring our booze

05.21.11
Danny, clad in white,
Earns culinary degree
We’ll call him chef now

05.22.11
Waving maple leaf
Greets Toronto visitors
Hello, Canada

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Chef Danny

Danny

When Danny first told me he was enrolling in culinary school, I was a bit confused. ‘Since when were you in to cooking?’ I wondered. I may have rarely seen him cook, but he had worked in the food service industry for a few years as a server at a chain restaurant. Culinary school wasn’t too far off from his interest.

Over the next 15 months, I didn’t see Danny as much as I was used to and when I did see him, it was for a few minutes. He was busy with classes every night of the week, studying and holding down a job at a restaurant. I flipped through his huge books occasionally. I ate the food he prepared. Whether a tuna melt neatly plated, spicy chilaquiles or a colorful fruit tart, it was all delicious.

A few weeks ago, he informed me that he would be graduating. We sent an invite to the family and included the photo above. I really like it.

Yesterday morning, my family gathered at Santa Anita Park to attend Danny’s graduation ceremony from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts College-Los Angeles. Afterward we had a reception at the house. Danny cooked with help from my mom. The food was made with a lot of love.

My family

Congratulations, Danny! The whole familia is proud of you.

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HEOC 4×400 relay: TMAC vs Bees Knees

Team T-MAC aka The Most Athletic Champions

This relay with my ed school people is gonna kick my ass. I’m not a sprinter.

That’s what I tweeted after the first practice with my relay team five weeks ago. I don’t have even a fraction of the speed of some other really fast Mexicans like Leonel Manzano and Ana Guevara. The other women on my team, Ashley and Tanya easily outran me. And of course I was slower than Marc, the one guy on our team. I didn’t feel too good about my chances of running a relay and not making a fool of myself.

Still, I didn’t back out. I liked my speed workouts on the track. At the practices, we did a mix of workouts: sprints of varying distances with recovery jogs or walks; hills; running the stadium stairs; and practiced passing the baton. We even got some unsolicited advice from a man training at professional level on how the “pros” pass the baton.

As I tried my best to become speedier, I also got to know my team, T-MAC. They reminded me of what it was like to be a first or second year in the program and prepare for exams. They were also pretty cool and I’m glad I got to know them. The race was definitely a good way to build community within the program.

The relay was held this afternoon at UCLA’s Drake Stadium track. When I arrived after work, a bunch of HEOC folks were already out to watch the competition between T-MAC (in purple t-shirts) and the Bees Knees (in yellow, of course).

Team Bees Knees (the winners)

The race was fun and challenging. The lineup:

T-MAC:
Ashley
Tanya
Cindy
Marc

Bees Knees:
Hannah
Gina
Dayna
Chris

Our first two runners would be slower than their first two. We knew this going in to the race. Marc reminded me before we started that we’d behind when Tanya passed off the baton and my job was to catch Dayna. Ashely and Tanya gave it their all. Tanya is slower than Gina, but she kept pace with her so we didn’t lose ground there. Still, we were behind and once Tanya passed the baton to me I had a lot of ground to make up. I tried to catch Dayna, but never did. I did close the substantial gap and was a few steps behind her when I passed off the baton to Marc. The last leg between Marc and Chris was the closest. They were pretty well matched in speed, but Marc couldn’t make up Chris’ small lead. Bees Knees won by a couple of seconds making for a pretty exciting finish.

Taking the baton from Tanya to run the 3rd leg

I was a little bummed about the loss and that I couldn’t catch Dayna. From the photo timestamps, she had about a 17 second lead. I know I could have started faster and pushed harder. I’m more bummed that we didn’t time our splits. I’m pretty sure we all ran faster than we did in practice.

After the race, we were awarded silver beads. The Bees Knees got gold. Then we went off to enjoy a free happy hour and greasy bar food in Westwood. Fun times.

I’m still no sprinter, but at least I didn’t make a fool of myself out there. Now, back to long and easy runs with occasional speed work at the track.

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