Saturday, 14 December 2013


Pelham Lego Robotics Team Takes First at Regional Competition
Pelham Lego Robotics Team Takes First at Regional Competition
At this weekend’s Niagara Regional FLL (First Lego League) robotics competition, Pelham was well represented having 3 teams out of the 13 competing.  The Lego Da Vincis took the 1st Place Champion award, in addition to the Robot Performance award, while their mentor team, Legolas, won the Rising Star award.
The competition consisted of 4 categories: the robot game obstacle course, robot design, project research and solution and core values, which includes problem solving skills, team work and ethics.  This year’s topic was “Nature’s Fury” so the teams had to research natural disasters, identify a problem and develop innovative solutions. The Lego Da Vincis have developed a solution to connect neighbours in the event of an emergency, so they don’t have to call 911 as often, and efficiently care for others in their community in times of crisis.  This initiative consists of a website to raise awareness on local emergency situations, how to plan a “block party” and how to construct an emergency preparedness kit.  They have presented this idea to the Mayor of Pelham and Fire Prevention Officer Saskia Holditch and have been invited to present it to Pelham Town Council on the 16th of December.  Teams are also judged on their robot design, with one judge commenting that the Da Vincis “set the standard for programming efficiency.”  The robots compete against each other to complete autonomous tasks on the obstacle field.

3 teams advance to the East Provincials Competition on January the 18th in Oshawa at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.  The Lego Da Vincis (a team from the home schooling community), the Fonthill Fury (composed primarily of St. Alexander’s students) and the Princess Margret Panther Bots from Niagara Falls. The 3rd team from Pelham, the St Ann’s Stallions, made Pelham proud and took home the Robot Design award and put in a stellar performance in all other areas.

Congratulations to all students on the fruits of hard work and ingenuity!  Your community is cheering for you on January 18th!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Racing Overload!

Jamie's bar-cam with his boy Connor. Rare footage of me actually passing someone on a MTB!

I love the bike - end of story. While cyclocross has become my passion, I just love all types of riding. But it's racing that's the real spice that makes the whole love affair sizzle, and over the past weeks I dove back in hard-core into every type of bike racing around.
First up last Thursday was the Larkinville crit series in downtown Buffalo, probably my first criterium since 2001 Nationals! Next up was my return to road racing at the KW Classic in Kitchener Sunday, my first Ontario race since the KW in 2009. All fun and games until I dropped my chain at the base of the big hill about the same time that the torrential rain started!
Then this past Tuesday, did probably my hardest club race that I can remember. Flat course but we were just killing it all day (OK part of it was my fault for hammering and attacking). So hard that I woke up sore everywhere like I was a rugby tackle dummy. That was all just a prelude for my 3rd comeback of the week - this time mountain bike racing and the local Laura Secord series put on by Liberty! Bicycles. Awesome AWESOME fun all around!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Dr. Freeze and the Freezies!

"Freezies" work for Freezies, apparently...Jacob works on the shoot's storyboard...

Last fall we shot an episode of "Science Scoops" for Virtual Researchers on Call, a group producing news and videos for grade school kids about the fun and importance of science. Debbie had the great idea of "if it's meant for grade schoolers, then why not have the boys interview you?" Here's the result that went live on YouTube today!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Josh Tiessen - Shipwrecked Treasure

Saturday June 1, Zachary and I went to Stoney Creek for the Stoney Creek Artists Stroll event and also the Battle of Stoney Creek (200th anniversary) re-enactment. For the artist stroll, we went to visit Josh Tiessen at his studio. What a terrific artist and great young man - all of 17 and already making a great career for himself as a painter. He was also homeschooled and really appreciated the chance to have the ability to focus on his passion and talent for art - and what talent it is.
His paintings are really something, and he's had a piece exhibited at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa along with being mentored by renowned artist Robert Bateman. I bought a giclee print of his "Shipwrecked Treasure" for Debbie and I to celebrate our upcoming anniversary and to reflect our Nova Scotian heritage. Here's Zach with Josh and the original.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Mint

Now the mint in Ottawa is only used used for collectors coins, and investment coins, but it used to make all of the coins that we used. Now all of the regular coins are made at the mint in Winnipeg. We went to the Mint while we were in Ottawa, and we learned the worth of gold and silver. Silver is worth $23.27 CDN per ounce, and gold is worth $1433.40 CDN per ounce. We took a tour, so we got to see the whole process of making coins. At the mint we bought a Silver coin of an Arctic Fox (we each got one). They we 20 for 20, so they cost $20 and are worth $20.

The mint also makes some of the medals we use in Canada. They made all the medals for the Vancouver Olympics (which you can see on the left), one thing that makes them interesting besides their strange shape, is that they all came with a scarf, The scarf had a picture of an Orca (Olympics) or a Raven (Parolympics) on it. If you put all the medals together, you can make the picture on the scarf with them. So all the athletes that won a medal at the Vancouver Winter games can find their part of the medal on the scarf they got with it.

These are 2 pictures of the front gate at the Mint, with the mint logo.

Me and Jacob lifting a real GOLD bar!!!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Food in Ottawa

When we were in Ottawa, we decided to go to zak's for dinner on our first night.

Me and Scott decided to split the Zac Attack Special (shown above) with a side of poutine.

And of course here is me trying to fit the burger in my mouth.

On the last day we decided to get Beaver tails before we left, and here is Jacob with his.

Jacob got half Nutella and half butter maple.
Here I am with mine!

Mine was half Scor and half oreo.

Friday, 31 May 2013


May 6 2013 has been an amazing day for the Cheung clan, one that will certainly be marked on the calendar with big red letters and celebrated. I got the amazing news that I got not one but two scientific papers accepted - never had such a bumper crop of a day before! To top it off, I got another paper accepted two days later, for a total of 5 over the past three weeks!

But MUCH more importantly, we received the greatest email ever. Our Afghan friends Ali and Basyah, along with their children Abufasal and Sadaf, after 4+ years of uncertainty and a sword literally hanging over their heads, received refugee asylum from the Netherlands! Ali converted to Christianity and had a death sentence placed on him by his former mullah, but managed to escape Afghanistan and was smuggled to the Netherlands. We became friends in Amersfoort, where they were at the very end refugee camp prior to deportation with every avenue of claim and appeal pretty much exhausted. Their story is quite incredible and moving, and certainly has been a constant reminder of how fortunate we are to be Canadians.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Singletrack Mind!

Had one of my dreams fulfilled this past week. Being the nutbar cyclist that I am, as a dad you can only dream of the day you get to share your passion for the bike with your kids. Last Monday, 4 of us dads on Team905 decided to take our kids out for a trail ride. While the boys and I have been on the bike lots together, from the early days of hauling them behind me on the trailer, this was our first real offroad adventure. Well, the boys were AWESOME! We went through the trails around Brock and, much to my pleasant surprise, the boys did great and loved it.

And especially so since I just set up Zach on his new "big" mountain bike and this was his very first time on it, and Jacob's very first time on Zach's bike! They cleaned most of the trails we threw at them with a big smile on their faces, and with an even bigger smile on my face! Here we all are at Decew House, where Laura Secord completed her famous trek during the War of 1812 to warn the British about American attack plans.

This past Saturday, I took them on some different trails around Brock for 90 min, including some really twisty and tight trails that I myself had only just discovered. Zachary even started hopping some logs and they both cleaned most of the trails except for the big log series, dips, and rock humps. So much fun! On the left is our start at Morningstar Mills, and on the right we're on the levy around the lake.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Community Building - BikeStyle

This past weekend has been all about the bike. Saturday May 25, my racing team Team905 hosted our first annual Kids Build-a-Bike event at our sponsor Inception Cyclery. Our team raised funds and organized the purchase, building, and donation of three new bikes to disadvantaged kids from three different St. Catharines schools. The three kids Sydni, Trevor, and Billy came with their family to Inception, where we had some media and made a presentation.

Sydni was chosen through an essay contest at her school. She didn't know she had won the bike and her parents suckered her into coming to the shop. So she was rather overcome when Jamie informed her why she was there! On the right Jon helps fit Trevor to his new helmet that we also got donated.

Brandon, our sponsor at Inception Cyclery, is a meticulous and very thorough mechanic, and my Kane TT bike, Thin Blue Line mountain bike, and BMC cross bike have all been fabulous since he's overhauled them. Jamie and Josh went to the shop Wednesday evening to build up the bikes, and the joke is that Brandon spent most of Thursday rebuilding them! I also gave a short bike skills clinic.
Sunday May 26, our St. Catharines Cycling Club member Jeff Poulsen helped organized the annual bike rodeo in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we took over the arena and spent the afternoon fixing up the bikes belonging to some of the many migrant farm workers in the Niagara area. We drive/bike by these folks every day and rarely give a second thought to them, their lives in a foreign land trying to make and send money back to their families far away, or how our food gets to our tables. 
I brought along my stand and toolbox along with about 6-7 other guys, and spent the afternoon having fun as a bike mechanic. Did everything from changing tires and tubes, tightening up bottom brackets, adjusting brakes and gears, to replacing cables and truing wheels. Amazing how much you can accomplish with a couple of adjustable wrenches!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Gymnastics provincials

On Saturday the March the 8th we went to Windsor for our Gymnastics provincials. I got a third on rings, and there was a six way tie for sixth on vault that Jacob and I were in. We drove up to Windsor the day before because it was a 4 hour drive, and we stayed in the Howard Johnson Hotel. We also went to Grill 55 with the team for dinner, and got a team menu. The whole family got spaghetti/meatballs and the meatballs were massive. The competition went well, and was shorter than most other competitions.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Paris-Ancaster Mudfest!

Big anniversary in local bike racing here in Southern Ontario, as this past Sunday April 14th was the 20th running of the Paris-Ancaster ride/race. How to describe it? It's a "not a race" race in that many racers target it; it's not really a mountain bike race nor a road race but you can use either a mountain bike or a cyclocross bike. Oh forget it, why try to figure it out? It's 60 km, run over rail trails, road, singletrack trails, and various huge mud chutes between the towns of Paris and Ancaster. In other words, it's just a muddy blast!
Kudos to Tim Farrar and John Thorpe for organizing this event all these years. It's really well-done, with marshals and police at every corner road or off-road. Being from one town to another also makes the logistics so much harder than a circuit race, not to mention continually maintaining good relationships with all the towns and private land owners to allow us maniacs romping over their land. Thanks guys!

Being a big anniversary, P2A invited lots of big names from Canadian cycling past and present to take part. The first set above there features St. Catharines legends Gord Singleton (World Sprint Champ) and Steve Bauer (legend of legends). Here on the left is World track omnium champ Tara Whitten and on the right Curt Harnett, who set the fastest 200 m record back in 1995 at over 70 km/h! Sue Palmer-Kolmar, Leigh Hobson and other Canuck Olympians also rode.

Each year, P2A invites a pretty big name. They've had cross star Helen Wyman and last year they had retired road pro Roger Hammond. This year, it was insanely cool to have American cyclocross legend Jonathan Page. Besides being the current US cyclocrss champ, Page is the only North American male to ever podium at the Worlds, with a silver in 2007. Page also lives and races full-time each winter in Belgium, and we saw him at the CX races we went to in Belgium last winter.

As for me, I had an awesome day - one of those "great days" on the bike where the legs are awesome and everything clicks. Brandon @ Inception Cyclery did a terrific job overhauling my BMC cyclocross bike beforehand, and there wasn't a single missed shift despite the extra 2 kg of gooey mud all over the bike. I got put in wave 2 despite registering for wave 1, and also started at the very back of the about-300 rider wave. However, I managed to move up quite easily in the first 10 km, and actually ended 9th overall in that wave.

There was tons of mud on the course and that made for a really fun day of powering through the troughs. My Michelin Mud 2 tires had amazing traction, and I was able to plow through some big pits at speed. I even managed to "clean" most of the two deep huge downhill mud chutes. The final long hill, I managed to avoid cramping up and passed a stash of riders, sprinting in up the steep finish straight with my granny gear and a final time of 2:22:02 for 242nd (out of 1340) overall, thus hitting my goal of top 250!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

R2 D2

When we went to visit our Grandparents out in BC, our Uncle also came to visit them. When he came he brought the Lego R2 D2 for us to build together, so here are some pictures while we go along.
 This is when we are starting to set up, on the left you can see I am holding the THREE instruction books! This set has 2127 pieces. It has several moving parts including a retractable third leg, and a buzz saw. 
Here is us starting on the first few steps, in the first part it does is his body.
 This is at the end of the first booklet, in that we only do the body.
 on the left we have finished the retractable leg, and on the right we finished book 2 which was just the legs.
Here is a picture from when we are all finished.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Haka

During our post-conference hike, we spent two days in Paradise, where some of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. The scenery in the area is truly astounding, but more on that later. The cool thing that happens at U Otago's Physical Education program is that, prior to the start of 2nd year, students are taken on an outdoor experience in Paradise. There, they learn outdoor skills including firelighting, river crossing, tramping (hiking in Kiwi-speak), and teamwork. The other important thing they learn, apart from being comfortable in nature, is Maori history, worldview, approach to health and wellness, etc. It's really quite neat. At the end of each session of camp, the students perform a Maori haka, or song and dance.
Many of us know the Haka from the rugby All-Blacks, but that is just one of many songs, and both men and women can be part of it. As you can see here, the guys REALLY got into it, and it's very powerful to see it in action. Of course, if this was an angry 120 kg All-Black doing this, I'd be off to another continent (and incontinent!) in no time!

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Remarkables

So it has been fabulous here in New Zealand with the ICEE. It really is like a family reunion for me. All the usual suspects are here: Igor (my M.Sc. advisor), Nigel, Mike, Mark, Hein, etc. We had the Exec Committee meeting Thursday over lunch and I got stuck with another 2 years of chairing the unruly mob. Not bad though as a gig. I just finished giving the closing speech and banging the gavel to end the conference. We're heading to a pre-season Rugby match between the Otago Highlanders and the Auckland Blues this evening, and then heading up to our big 4 day hike up through Paradise, which ironically was Isengard in the Lord of the Ring series of movies.
 The "Remarkables" mountain range on the left, an amazing view right from Queenstown, located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. On the right are the Crown Ranges of mountains near Lake Wanaka.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Revenge of the Hotten-tot!

Revenge is a dish best served cold according to the old saying. But in my case, revenge is a pizza pie served flaming hot! This story started WAAAY back in 2005, at the end of my sabbatical trip with Jim Cotter. His Ph.D. student, Shawnda Morrison, who I co-supervised for both her M.Sc. and Ph.D., and I went on a trip out to the amazing Milford Sound. After a huge day of hiking, we were all insanely hungry. After getting to the campsite very late in the dark, we started making pasta. Little did I know that they only had "Sweet Thai Chili" tuna sauce. Not only that, they tossed the entire dish of napalm together instead of keeping things separate. Those of you who know my history with spicy foods can predict the result, with me pretty much putting out the campfire with the sweat geyser from my face...

So anyway, Friday in Dunnos, Shawnda, Geoff, and I went to Poppa's Pizza for a terrific lunch. Terrific for me because I picked the Veggie pizza with no capsicum. Even more terrific because Shawnda went for the Hotten-tot pizza (capsicum, jalapenos, peppercorn, chili sauce, and pepperoni) pizza. Her turn to recreate the Milford Sound Geyser!

Down Under in Dunedin!

The next phase of the continuing family adventures has me down under in New Zealand with my student Geoff Hartley for the 15th International Conference on Environmental Ergonomics (ICEE) in Queenstown Feb 10-15. ICEE is my "home" conference where many of the scientists I grew up with from graduate days reside, so it really is a family reunion. It's also interesting my life evolving, from being a first-year Ph.D. student in 1994 presenting my M.Sc. project at my first-ever conference, to now being one of the senior members of the field and society.

Above is the railway station in Dunedin (New Edinburgh from the major Scottish settlement to begin the city). This is where the Taeri Gorge Railway journey begins. I took it in 2005 and it's pretty stunning.

We started with a satellite conference in Dunedin at the University of Otago, where I stayed for Feb-March 2005 with Jim Cotter during my first sabbatical. It was a fun few days of deja vu, and also far warmer than I ever recalled Dunnos being! Interesting things so far:
  • Seeing Sebastian Racinais, a French working in Qatar, wolfing down a massive plate of bacon every morning (recall that Qatar is a Muslim country, and there's only turkey bacon and beef bacon there!
  • Watching Mike Tipton from the UK try to run a tutorial workshop on cold water immersion with no prep time and none of the equipment cooperating - just like a real experiment!
  • The irony of a busload of thermophysiologists getting absolutely boiled and baked on a long bus ride from Dunedin to Queenstown under a blazing hot sun.
The main admin building at U Otago, the first uni in New Zealand in 1868

Sunday, 3 February 2013

We're all soaking wet!

Yesterday we went to Hollyburn, and went snowshoing with dads friends Paul (who was dads professor at UBC) and Victoria. It took about 2.5 hours to get to the top but was much faster coming down. me, Paul, and dad went right to the top, but Jacob and Victoria, stopped about 15 minutes below the peak, because Jacob was getting tired. The best part is the descent because you can just slide down on your butt for about half the distance!

here me and dad are at the top of the mountain before sliding down on our bottoms!

in this picture, well... Jacob just decided he needed to cool of