andrew burke





Busy Weekend!

Posted on: 2024-05-17

It's a bit of a cliche to start a first post in a while with an apology and explanation that you've been really busy lately. I've learned over the years that it's better to not apologize for gaps, as most often people don't even really notice - and if they do, by not apologizing you're implying that maybe the gaps were on purpose because you're doing Other Important Things.

So I'm not going to apologize, and wouldn't even be pointing it out, except to highlight how ridiculous the next few days are:

After doing surprisingly well in 2019 in my first run at the Toastmasters International Speech competition, making it to third place in the entire District (NS, NB, PEI, Maine, Vermont, and NH) I've competed every year since. Some years I didn't even make it out of the club level, but last year I got back to the District level for the Humorous Speech competition (which I think is much more challenging than International Speech, but doesn't get as much respect) and managed to place second. This year I'm back with International Speech and Table Topics. I enjoyed attending the 2019 District 45 conference in person, but since then it's been either virtual-only or on a hybrid setup. While I'd love to head down to Maine and meet up with people in real life again and experience the thrill of competing in front of a real live audience, I will be competing from the spare bedroom instead because there are a few other things going on:

Tonight it's the Table Topics competition, which is frequently something of a luck-of-the-draw has-the-improv-muse-blessed-you kind of thing, but at least I don't have to worry about memorizing something.

Tomorrow morning, I'm running the Bluenose 5K. While I've been training for longer distances, I actually enjoy the 5K, as it's short enough that I can really push for speed, and some rousing music is often all I need to keep me going the whole distance.

Last time I did this run, back in 2022, I managed a Personal Best of 20:35 and placed second in my category of M50-59. Much of it was due to this galloping masterpiece of super cheesy operatic Euro-metal:

Andrew Burke sweaty at the finish of the 2022 Bluenose 5K with a time of 20:35

I seriously doubt I'll break any records this year, as I had some disruptions in my training and I'm still recovering from a cold I picked up a week or so ago. But it'll be fun to get back out there again. I managed to miss every single race last year, due to other commitments or apocalyptically bad weather, so I'm really looking forward to running.

But that's not all I'm doing tomorrow. In the evening I'm competing again, this time in the District 45 International Speech Contest. I'm up against a half dozen other seasoned speakers so once again I'm not expecting to win, but it's an honour to at least be in the competition. I'll see if I can record one of the rehearsals and post a take here some time.

But still that's not all. The next morning after the Speech Contest, I'm getting my shoes back on and heading out for the Bluenose Half Marathon! Back in 2022 this was another personal best and second place in my category (it wasn't the same guy beating me each race, thankfully). It was also fuelled by Euro-cheese, but this time my long-time long-running companion through the pandemic and beyond, Armin Van Buuren's 2019 A State of Trance mix. It's not the best trance mix out there, or even the best from van Buuren, but it's solidly mid-tempo and has enough punchiness to keep me moving without wearing me out. I can now figure out where I'm at just by when certain tracks play.

(I'm past the point of caring that the music I listen to for motivation isn't "cool" or even necessarily very good - it just needs to work!)

Andrew Burke sweaty at the finish of the 2022 Bluenose half-marathon with a time of 1:39:04

Once again, I'm not expecting to do so well this time - but I guess we'll see! Thankfully I'll have much of Sunday to recover from the race.

On Monday, I have several friends doing a first test run of my Bloomsday Halifax app project. I've been frantically getting the app in proper shape and filling out the content and regularly changing my mind about locations and features. It will be interesting to see how things go.

Tuesday was originally going to be a bit of a "victory lap" as I was scheduled to give a short talk and demo about my Bloomsday project at the Volta Generative AI Showcase and Mixer - I'm using OpenAI API tools to give participants their own custom narratives in the style of various chapters of Ulysses, and thought it would be interesting to discuss AI and art, which is a pretty controversial topic these days, and could trigger some interesting discussions.

However, I just found out that a last-minute schedule change means that I'll be getting dental surgery on Tuesday afternoon! (Long story short: I have a molar that's never been quite the same since I got my wisdom teeth out decades ago, so it's going to have to go). I'm not expecting to be in the physical or possibly even mental condition to be able to give a live talk in front of a crowd, so I'm going to spend Monday pre-recording my talk and then possibly showing up on Zoom for Q&A if I'm feeling healthy enough.

Hopefully after that I'll be able to recuperate a bit and maybe eventually get back to the day-to-day work I'm supposed to be doing - though by then it'll probably be Wednesday or even Thursday. I might not get around to blogging again for a while - but I'm still not going to apologize for it!

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