A Brief History of Mike EdmondsThis page tells the story of where I'm from and what I've been up to over the years.
1982-1989: Early Years
I was born in the summer of 1982 in Scarborough, Ontario. We lived in the same neighbourhood where both of my parents had grown up - just north of Eglinton Ave. near Bellamy Rd. Interestingly, while my parents had lived only a few hundred meters from each other for much of their lives, my mom went to Catholic school and my dad went to public school which meant that they didn't actually meet until they were in their late teens.
I attended kindergarten and first grade at Cedarbrook Public School. I played t-ball and took swimming lessons at the Cedarbrae pool. Some of my most vivid memories of these early years are of riding my BMX around the block near our house, including regular trips to the public library on Markham Rd and to the local convenience store, where I would spend my allowance on nickel candy .
1989-2000: Port Hope
My parents had been searching for a way to own their own home, and since the owner of the home they were renting in Scarborough wished for her son to live there, they decided to build a house. They bought a property north of Port Hope and began construction in April 1989. My dad, an experienced carpenter, did most of the work himself with the help of many of our family and friends. We spent a lot of time there that summer, using an old silver Airstream trailer at the back of our new lot as a construction command post and camping base. Since I was only 7, I was really only useful for fetching tools and beverages, but I do remember digging a few holes and hammering a few nails. Despite the fact that our new house wasn't quite finished, we moved in on the Labour Day weekend so that my sister and I could begin the new school year at our new school.
Looking back, I feel like moving to the country should have been a big shock - I'd lost all my friends and been thrust into a completely different environment. But that's not how I remember it. When you're 7 years old, everything just seems like a big adventure. I remember collecting left-over nails and building supplies from building our house and heading out into the woods to build tree forts. My new friends and I had hidden bases below ground and high up in trees.
When I became a teenager, hacking around in the woods gave way to hacking around on the computer. I learned to program in BASIC on a classic Commodore 64, and eventually I convinced my parents to shell out for my first modern computer, a Macintosh Performa 5200. I remember how I pleaded with them to get the more expensive model which had 8MB RAM and a 4x CD-ROM (at the time, that was quite impressive). I used that computer to create bicyclesource.com with my friend, Simon Rowland, during the summer of 1995.
I played soccer quite competitively while growing up, and competed on Port Hope's tier-1 team in numerous Ontario-wide tournaments. After my last under-15 season was over, our reasonably successful tier-1 team fractured, and some of the team dropped down to play local houseleague, while others were invited to play for Cobourg's more serious tier-2 team. I was invited to try-out for the tier-2 team, but since Cobourg was a 50km round trip from our house, it was entirely impractical. I played the next season in house league, but the lack of organization and the tendency for games to devolve into fist fights lead me to abandon the sport in favour of mountain bike racing the following year.
To a bored teenager living miles from town, cycling was freedom. When I finally got a road bike and my range extended, I could bike with ease to neighbouring towns like Oshawa or Cobourg. Suddenly, I could visit friends in town without always having to arrange a ride through my parents. Most of all, the road bike allowed me to ditch the school bus. I could complete the 12.5km commute to Port Hope High School in just over 20 minutes - well under half the time the bus took! All that commuting served me well on the local race circuit, both off-road and on-road.
In grade 12, I was very lucky to get a job coding HTML & Perl for a local web design firm, Blue Cat Design. Working there was a big upgrade over my previous job pumping gas at the local Esso. I worked on several big websites while working there, and I learned a lot about web design and html. I returned there for more a second summer of keyboard-punching after my first year of university.
2000-2004: University of Waterloo
After a summer of punching computer keys full time, I loaded my bike, computer and clothes into my parents' car and moved into residence at UW (V1-West6!) in September of 2000. I was enrolled in the biochemistry program, and also took a number of computer science courses to fill my elective slots. The most memorable courses I took were definitely the chemistry labs. While first year chemistry was about as complicated as following a recipe to bake a pie, the 2nd year analytical and organic labs were highly rewarding.
In second year, I somehow found out that there is no tuition fee for each course you enrol in after your 5th. Each semester after that, I signed up for an extra course (usually in arts) that sounded interesting. It probably distracted me from my core courses, but some of my most memorable university moments came from the creative writing and literature courses I took - especially sci-fi lit!
Part way through third year, my financial situation got a little more desperate, and I started taking programming contracts on the side to pay the bills. Aside from making me realize what being *truly* tired felt like, it made me think about what my career prospects would be if I stuck with biochemistry. Knowing that the job market for computer programmers was much hotter, I decided that in my final year I would load up on computer science courses and pick up the scientific computing option. Still, I really appreciate my background in chemistry and biology, even if it didn't initially play a direct role in my jobs.
2004-2009: The Toronto Years
I had already begun a contract programming job before school was done, and soon after my last university exam I moved to downtown Toronto where the company I was working for was based. For the first summer, I lived in Campus Co-op, a student housing area in the Annex. My fellow housemates were a group of Irish on a work abroad summer exchange program, which was a lot of fun. I really liked the local restaurants and the feel of the Annex, so I eventually moved into an apartment on St. George Street.
Nicole and I were introduced through a mutual connection following an astronomy lecture at the University of Toronto. Nicole was doing her undergrad at University of Toronto, and we had many shared interests in science. We chatted away for a while at a restaurant and stayed in touch. After a while we moved in together, and soon found a new place with more space a few blocks away on Dupont St.
After knocking off a number programming projects for a few different companies, I started working full time for Commercial Design and Multimedia. The company had created a product called LeagueStat that allowed professional and semiprofessional hockey leagues to track stats and scheduling, and even score games directly from the arenas. It was here that I really took my skills with databases and large application design to a new level. I also worked for Commercial Design on several other projects
Both Nicole and I were both pretty busy during those years, but we did get the chance to travel a bit, even if it was just a weekend canoe trip to Algonquin Park. In 2005, we took a trip to England, where we visited my relatives in Manchester and spent a week visiting museums and other famous sites in London. The following year, we skipped Christmas and went to Havana, Cuba for a couple of weeks.
After a couple of years of juggling multiple projects and tight timelines, I decided to take an extended vacation and travelled to Asia for around 2 months while Nicole was away at field camp and working on her honours thesis project at Santa Cruz. When I came back from Asia, I began to start thinking about getting back into the academic world, and I thought a good first step would be to take a job programming for the Robart's Library IT group at the University of Toronto. Working in the library was a lot of fun, and I got to work on some interesting projects.
In 2009, Nicole was finishing her bachelor's degree in geochemistry, and my 1 year contract at the University of Toronto was coming to a finish. We were both ready for a break from the city, and Nicole looked into a number of schools to consider for a master's program. Eventually, we decided to go to St. John's, where Nicole would attended Memorial University of Newfoundland. I proposed to Nicole and we decided to get married in August of 2009, just before we would move to Newfoundland.
By far the most rewarding part of living in Newfoundland was the time we spent outside, hiking, camping and canoeing there. It was the beautiful views we were experiencing that inspired my to get a serious camera and learn more about photography. We hiked nearly the entire length of the East Coast Trail, including the famous Spout Path Trail. We also hiked the Long Range Traverse with some of our new friends, and had more than enough moose encounters for a life time.
When we moved to Newfoundland, I initially continued working remotely for University of Toronto, and that is when I truly confirmed that working at home by one's self is not all it's cracked up to be. After a few months I found a job as a programmer analyst at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I was assigned to work on upgrading the student portal system, where students would be given a single point of access to all university services, including email, library services, and student services. Unfortunately, the portal software the university had purchased prior to my hiring was very unreliable and altogether incompatible with many of the university's other systems. As a result, working their involved lots of creative hacking and work-arounds. Working at MUN also opened my eyes to how an organization composed of well-meaning individuals might still produce poor decisions, especially when the decisions involve highly technical issues.
After a year of battling beauracracy at MUN, I left and started working for a local creative agency called SPARK Marketing. There I had the opportunity to work on websites for several local organizations, including some not-for-profits that dealt with mental health. For example, we made a website for the Consumers' Health Awareness Network Newfoundland And Labrador, which enabled local support groups to chat online, use message forums, and schedule events. Working with such local mental health organizations helped fuel my interest in Psychology.
2012-2013: Traveling Asia
After about two and a half years in Newfoundland, Nicole finished her M.Sc. in earth science and we realized that we had a unique opportunity to travel for an extended period before we again made new long term career commitments.
We kicked off our tour of Asia with three weeks in Japan. We visited Tokyo, caught a soccer game in Osaka, and headed down to Hiroshima. Then we took the JR Beetle ferry from Fukuoka to Busan, South Korea, where got experience a Korean baseball game and visit Gamcheon Culture Village. We spent a few days on Jeju Island where we got to climb to the top of a dormant volcano. We continued on to Seoul, where we discovered Soju, made new friends, and ate even more Korean BBQ. After Seoul, we flew to Beijing, where we saw the Forbidden City and The Great Wall. From there we travelled to Xi'an, Chengdu and Shanghai.
Since I knew a few people in Taiwan from my previous visit there, we decided to teach English in Hsinchu, Taiwan, which would allow us to live there for an extended period. Once there, we bought new road bikes from my new favourite bicycle shop (Yicheng Bicycle). When we weren't teaching, we took every opportunity to bike to interesting places. Eventually, we capped off an amazing year in Taiwan with a 1000km bike trip around the entire island and even over some mountains!
While I was working part time teaching English, I also took some distance education courses to get started on my second degree in psychology. I was able to complete some important prerequisites remotely, which meant I could start full-time in the fall when we returned.
2013-Present: Second Degree at Waterloo
In September 2013 I enrolled fulltime in the Honours Psychology program at the University of Waterloo. My second degree has been different in many ways. Wireless connectivity is pervasive this time around, with almost all students using laptops during lectures and connecting with eachother in realtime using Facebook groups. I suppose I'm different too. I have a much more specific goal this time, and as a result I'm more focussed and much more careful about maintaining good marks.