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Go Habs… Go!!! An evening (and not just any) at the Bell Centre.

Tuesday. May 28th. 14:12 minutes into the 2nd period, 21,273 go silent. It is the fifth game in the NHL Eastern Conference Final, and the Montréal Canadiens are up against the New York Rangers. In this 14th minute of the second period of the fifth game, the Rangers have tied the game (again), back from trailing 4-1. The Bell Centre is less than amused. And for a moment, the fear – that fear – is back. The fear that the Habs will not, after all, make it tonight. If the Rangers win, the Habs go home – or rather stay home.

"So how do they etch the symbols into the ice?" ...

“So how do they etch the symbols into the ice?” …

 But they didn’t.

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Running Thoughts

A per-kilometer check-in on running the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon for the second time, on May 25, 2014.

Starting Line-      Apparently, there’s a man here running his 728th marathon. He is 88. Amazing.

Kilometer 1-      Yay, crowds of runners! (5min06 sec)

2-      I can’t believe these people woke up to cheer us on. It’s 7AM. Go back to bed. (9:52)

3-      The Rideau Canal is beautifully misty. (14:41)

4-      So I just gotta do this like 10 more times…

5-      Poster reads: “Pain is just a sign of de-feet.” Puns. (23:56)

6-      You know what? I’m not feeling too bad. Surprising given how much sitting I’ve been doing. (28:37)

7-      The sound of so many feet running is spectacular. And a bit frightening. (33:19)

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Let’s talk business

During Winter 2014, I participated in Basic Business Skills for Non-Business Graduate Students (BBS), offered through SKILLSETS. Recently, I sat down with David Syncox, Graduate Education Officer, to learn more about the course.

Could you give me some insight on how the course came about?

It really is a fairy tale story. Two PhD candidates, one from Experimental Medicine and the other from Human Genetics, had the idea of setting up a lecture series on basic business skills. Unfortunately, even though they were part of a student consulting group at McGill, they experienced difficulties in doing so.

These graduate students came to me in 2009, right after SKILLSETS had been founded, and together we created BBS. To their credit, they worked tirelessly to coordinate the series, picking topics, determining the cases, booking rooms, and inviting presenters. During the first session, in Winter 2010, we had 30 students. By Fall 2010, we had 150 people apply for 50 spots. We quickly realized this was going to be a very popular course, and we needed to scale-up our capacity to accommodate students.

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Writes of Passage

"Poetry Reading"  from www.analogartistdigitalworld.com

Café Mariposa is a tiny place located in Notre-Dame-De-Grace. It’s not very conspicuous and from the inside looks like a cozy room crowded with colorful objects. Paintings of a nude woman, with an overtly protruding bosom line the walls of the place. Inside, several tables are assembled together to increase the surface area of interaction for the guests of the Quebec Writer’s Federation Schmoozer. The focus of the event is to celebrate “Montreal Writes” – a writers’ group formed during a workshop by the QWF ten years ago.

I walk into a loud scene of people chatting animatedly, half-full glasses of drink and there is a foot-by-foot area by the door where a piano stands next to a microphone. A guitar is hung on the wall behind the mic, presumably for people who wish to do improv on open-mic nights (I had previously read that this place is notorious for open-mic nights for musicians). As I take a seat far removed from the crowds on a bench, I wait for someone to approach me and ask if I had come for the event but everyone seems so engaged in conversation. Where were the organizers? It suddenly dawns on me that, for the first time in my life, I am at a social event where I literally know nobody. I pull out my cell-phone and pretend to do something important. Occasionally, I glance up to see if anyone had noticed me.

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AÉCSUM, Politique Étudiante et Conseil Généraux – Mémoires d’un Représentant

La démocratie en mouvement... assise.

La démocratie en mouvement… assise.
(photo: McGill Daily)

Un autre mois qui passe à McGill, un autre conseil général de l’AÉCSUM. L’AÉCSUM (mieux connue sou son nom anglais, PGSS) est l’Association Étudiante des Cycles Supérieurs de l’Université McGill. Je reviens tout juste de son conseil général, qui regroupe les représentants de toutes les Associations des Étudiants Gradués (AEGs) des diverses discipline, et qui – en tant que plus haute instance de l’organisation – est chargé de toutes les décisions importantes (et de celles qui ne le sont pas, aussi…). Après deux années passées en tant que représentant de mon AEG (Sciences Politiques), ce soir aura été mon dernier conseil. Ci-joint, donc, quelques réflexions vis-à-vis de la politique étudiante à McGill, de l’AÉCSUM, et de mon temps passé en contact avec ces éléments.

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Concept Mapping with the McGill Library

Concept mapping is a way to link ideas and concepts in a visual and easy to follow way. Yesterday, I participated in a workshop held at the McGill Library that was all about using this method to organize and visualize ideas. So why would a graduate student want to spend part of their day learning about concept mapping? Aside from adding another bit of non-standard software to my computer, concept mapping seems to be a useful way of connecting ideas; be that as part of a research project, a course curriculum, or even a way of collaborating with others.

At the most basic level, concept maps consist of two ideas linked by an arrow labeled with words or phrases that connect the two ideas in a meaningful way. The example given in the session was (pie) –is–> (good). Voilà, a concept map! Yes, this is really a technique that can be used for just about anything. Several ideas can be linked using linking phrases, and gradually built into a map of concepts, which can help to to clarify concepts, and more interestingly, highlight areas where connections could be made.

A concept map about concept maps. From the IHMC Cmap Tool Website, http://cmap.ihmc.us/

 

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False Positives, False Hope

Matt and Gabumon stuck in a cave made by Matt's negative thoughts. (From Digimon: Digital Monsters, S01E52) I wish I had a Digimon, too in times like these!"

Matt and Gabumon stuck in a cave made by Matt’s negative thoughts. (From Digimon: Digital Monsters, S01E52) I wish I had a Digimon, too in times like these!”

I haven’t written in a long time because I’ve been swimming in what I’d like to call “Grad School Limbo” or the grey area where you don’t really know where you are and it’s getting difficult to navigate. My primary source of unhappiness has been stemming from the fact that my projects are just not working out. But maybe not exactly…

I’ve always been a perfectionist and found it very difficult to accept failure. I’ve almost always blamed myself, scrutinized my abilities and concluded my own incompetency when things didn’t work out. The simple truth about science is that, well, things hardly ever do work out and it’s nobody’s fault. Despite having been told this before and even reading about it in the context of biographies of all the great scientists in history, it somehow didn’t sit with me. I still believed that anything I can touch will magically be set to work by some mysterious force of hope and light. If you think that’s naive, you are definitely right. So for the past few months, I’ve been in grey limbo of low self-esteem, hopelessness and lots of anger against the fates that set me up with my project!

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Keeping it trivial

Some of his woodcuts are titled Puddle, Dolphins, and Metamorphosis. Though he did not have a significant mathematical background, he was fascinated by figures such as Necker Cubes that are contradictory. This artist usually made lithographs, including Still Life with Spherical Mirror, Relativity, and Drawing Hands. For ten points, name this 20th Century Dutch graphic artist whose pictures contained logical contradictions.

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“Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education” …

The MOC House!

The MOC House!

Hidden McGill gems, part 2: after cooking with the Midnight Kitchen a few weeks ago and reporting about it on this blog, I want to bring up another great group on campus: the McGill Outdoors Club (MOC). As its name suggests, the Outdoors Club is an all-purpose sports/travel/adventure club which serves as a hub for outdoor activities of all kinds. What’s not to love?

And yet, having known of the MOC for two years, I had, until recently, never done anything with it. Not, mind you, for lack of opportunities: their mailing list, which I’ve been on since I’m at McGill, witnesses emails every day from people proposing trips and offering shared rides for anything from skiing at Mont Tremblant to trekking in up-state New York (or just building snowmen on McGill’s lower fields). I was even an MOC member last year, but no – no trip, no outdoors, no adventure; it was always for “next time”, when I would have fewer things on. But not this time! After one and a half years at McGill, it was time to stop “letting my degree getting into the way of my education” – the MOC’s motto, incidentally. And – *spoiler* – it was fantastic.

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Indecision Québec 2014

PLQ Corrumpu

Anti PLQ election graffiti in MontréalParti BourguoisAnti PQ election graffiti in Montréal.

In case you’ve been living under a rock the last few weeks (or under a thesis), you should know that today, Monday April 7, 2014 is election day in Québec. Across the province, people are making their voices heard in what has been an interesting (to say the least) election campaign.

This year, it was easier than ever for students to vote, as we could vote on campus over a period of four days. As a resident of a riding outside of Montreal, this made life easier for me, as I’m sure it did for many other students. I actually cast my ballot last week, without trouble. Then again, I have been resident here for more nearly 7 years; I pay taxes here, I have a Québec driver’s licence, a RAMQ card, and I own a house in Trois-Rivières. I’m already on the list of registered voters. I walked up to the polling station, presented my identification, and was handed a list of candidates for my riding, marked my ballot, placed it in a sealed envelope and went on my merry way.

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