# After The Scotchening

On my rather slow walk to campus today, I couldn’t help but be amazed that my body hadn’t decided to stage a revolution on my brain.

You see, dear readers, it was my brain who decided that I should get myself involved in the Goofy race. My brain was also responsible for my love of scotch – although I’m going to have to point an accusatory finger directly at my stomach for enjoying it too. As it turns out, despite what my body might think, it usually has to tag along and do whatever my brain decides it wants to do.

Yesterday my brain almost went too far.

As part of my training for the Goofy race, my body was forced by my brain to run 24 km; this after having been forced by my brain to run 12 km on Saturday. If my body were more aggressive, it might have just had enough cause right there to punch my brain in the face.

After forcing my body to run 24 km, the normal course of action would be to spend an ample amount of time stretching, and stretching, and stretching some more. One might also be inclined to hydrate given the amount of water lost during a 2+ hour run.

My brain of course, had other ideas. I mean, how could I stretch and hydrate when my condo was about to host Scotch Night 2012? Your body can wait argued my brain.

Amazingly, my body didn’t argue. I mean, why hydrate when one can drink tasty delicious scotch with friends? Scotch has water in it – that’s almost as good as hydrating, right?

Sigh. Sometimes my brain is so stupid.

Despite my present dehydrated, exhausted, and slightly achy state, yesterday was awesome. Part of that is due to staying on track with my training (because I did consider abandoning my training run given the scotch-filled evening I was about to have). But mostly yesterday was awesome because I got to share the eve enjoying food and scotch with an awesome group of guys. So a huge thanks to Danny, Mark, Nick, Bang, and Greg. Scotch night was a huge, hilarious, sometimes inappropriately hilarious, scotch-filled success.

And now I’m going to go drink some water because damn I’m dehydrated.

For the record, scotch night included samples of the following:

• Lagavulin
• Wemyss
• Ardbeg
• Glenmorangie
• Té Bheag
• Glenrothes
• Oban

Wonder how scotch night progressed? Here are several tweets to give you an idea.

# Blurgh Part II: The Re-Blurghening.

The cold continues.

Despite crawling into bed at 11 or so last night1 and sleeping for 7 hours and 45 minutes2, I woke up a zombie. This is likely due to waking up every hour or so because the evil beast of a cold that has invaded my body has decided to choke me in my sleep. Damn you cold. Damn you to the fiery bowels of hell.

My zombie state continued while I walked to campus; my exhaustion clearly demonstrated by the fact that the short walk from my house to the mall had me almost out of breath. I was reminded once again how exhausted I was when I needed to climb the stairs to my office. By the time I reached the top, winded, I knew I wasn’t going to last the entire day. I also kicked myself3 for not cancelling the meeting that had me walking to school. Why didn’t I just admit defeat, stay at home, and protect myself in a cocoon made of blankets?

After a few hours on campus I finally caved. I wasn’t able to focus on any one task, my brain was lagging, and I was falling asleep at my desk. I had to admit defeat and head home. You win this round Cold. Sadly the venture home was painfully long. I just wanted to be in bed. All I could think about was bed. And so I trudged on, unaware of my surroundings, focussed only on the prize that awaited me at the end of my walk. By the time I arrived at my door, fumbled my keys into the lock, dropped my bags and coat, I was too tired to even go upstairs. I collapsed on the couch and quickly fell into a deep and clearly needed sleep.

Honestly, there’s nothing I hate more than feeling this tired and weak, unless I’ve just finished an epic run. I guess I’m also okay with feeling this tired and weak if I’ve just worked an epically long week. But being this tired because of some wee virus – unacceptable.

I won’t say that when I woke I was cured of this infernal cold, but I did feel like a new man. New enough to head out once again to pick up some food for Elliot and some medicine for me. Which just goes to show that there really is a silver lining to every story. And by silver lining, I clearly mean scotch (a.k.a. my medicine).

1 Which for those unaware is considered really early for me.

2 A full 2 hour and 15 minutes longer than average.

3 Actually, I was too tired to kick myself. I did, however, curse under my breath.

# My Pavlovian Response – Highly Questionable

So I mentioned the other day that I had picked up my February bottle of scotch – part of my mission to buy a new bottle of scotch each month for the duration of 2012 (and item #251 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list). The goal – build up both my collection and my knowledge of the spirit that I love so much.

Anyway, something I learned a while ago but apparently keep screwing up is the pronunciation of the word islay. I continue to insist on saying Eye-Lay despite knowing that it’s supposed to be pronounced Eye-La. Even worse, the proper pronunciation is written on my bottle of Lagavulin. You’d figure that since I’m getting a treat (read scotch) that I’d be more apt to retain information such as this – positive reinforcement and all that. But no – Pavlov’s dog apparently learns quicker than I do.

Anyway, in preparation for a scotch tasting (either this month or next), I’ve decided I should document the scotch that I have. Specifically, I’m creating a new page devoted to scotch. However, in order to keep things tidy and such like, I figured I’d merge it somehow with my wine page. And since wine, spirits, and beer oft go hand in hand, I’ve opted to create a separate sub-page for each, all nicely housed under the heading LCBO1.

So, if nothing else, this post is simply to say – hey, look up there at the menu because it’s different and somewhat shiny and new. Expect the scotch page to be slowly updated with comments from the scotch tastings (both good and bad). The beer page will probably be populated once I figure out exactly what I want to post there (besides beer, obviously). For now, consider it a page holder.

Lordy, all of this work and talk of scotch has made me thirsty. I wonder whatever I should do? Ha!

1 For those readers not familiar with the LCBO – also known as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario – this is where citizens of the province of Ontario (Canada) go to purchase their spirits, wine, and beer. We also have The Beer Store, and The Wine Rack.

# Zounds! 40000 Happened While I Wasn’t Looking

On September 15, 2011 I suggested that I wouldn’t write this kind of post until I hit another major milestone. Well, sometime last week a milestone was hit which demanded a post. Okay, maybe it didn’t demand a post, but it did provide me the opportunity to take a break from work, crunch some numbers, and continue my blog updating streak1.

In case you haven’t guessed it, my blog had its 40 thousandth view late last week. In a word: Amaze-balls. I’m not exactly sure when because I wasn’t actually paying attention enough to track it. Back calculation suggests it happened some time on Friday. Normally I watch numbers – what with me being a Statistician I’m sure that comes as no surprise – and then squee with delight when certain values appear (like $\pi$ or any multiple thereof, for example). This time however, I was caught somewhat unawares. I think part of the problem was that there was a huge spike in views on Friday – 294 views to be specific. I’ve no idea why, I just know that it happened.

As with my previous posts of this nature (see here for the 10000 view announcement, and here for the 20000 view announcement), I feel the need to break this number down with some stats. You can’t honestly be surprised. Anyway, without further ado:

• It took about 382 days to reach 40000 views. This translates to an average of ~105 views per day.
• In 2011, the average daily views sat at 103. So far this year, the average daily views are 125. Based on the current average, I might actually hit 80000 views before the end of the year. That is insane.
• I’ve posted 332 times since starting this particular blog. That’s an average of 120 views per post.
Once again, thank you to everyone who takes the time to drop by and read my ramblings. It still blows my mind that so many people do, and I very much appreciate it.
Here’s to the next 40000! Now to get back to work while sipping some February scotch – a drink worthy of today’s milestone.

1 In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve posted at least once per day for all of 2012. In fact, the streak goes all the way back into the old-time-y days of 2011. Specifically I’ve posted at least once per day since December 20 of last year for a total of 50 posts (including this one).

# I Am A Spoiled Bastard

I am very spoiled. And lucky. Let me explain.

Yesterday, after another very long week I was treated to a most excellent dinner. While I myself rarely cook – unless one considers toasting an English muffin, cracking a can of tuna, slicing some avocado, and assembling said ingredients cooking – I do admire and respect those who do. You see, I wasn’t always the non-cooking person I am today. But after the hernia my diet has changed significantly, and, well, the rest is history.

I digress. Point is, I was spoiled last night with a fantastic meal, and great conversation.

Today, I was spoiled further. I made my way to Toronto to visit some friends. Of course, this meant dinner out – sushi dinner to be exact. And it was delicious. Even as I write this I am still stuffed with raw fish based tasties. The eve also included the purchase of my February bottle of scotch (a Bowmore – but more on that in another post), followed by discussion about a new adventure that is brewing for July (more on that in another post as well). Clearly, a most awesome evening in Toronto.

But let me be clear. When I wrote that I am spoiled, I am not referring to the food or booze. While those are indeed fantastic, they pale in comparison when I think of the people who I am fortunate enough to get to spend my time with. People who challenge me (in the good kind of way), people who make me look at the world with new eyes, people who amaze me in ways that I can’t put into words.

So yes, while I am blessed to have a lot of stuff in my life, the largest blessing of all is how many amazing people I can share my life with, and who choose to share their lives with me.

Bottom line is – I am one lucky bastard.

# Happy Scotchy Burns Day

Happy Robbie Burns Day all y’all.

I have a confession to make. If not for a random Tweet that I read earlier today, I would have completely forgotten it was Robbie Burns Day.

Me – a lover of all things scotchy and delicious forgetting Robbie Burns Day? The day that people ’round the world celebrate Scotland‘s Favourite Son. Sacrilegious at best. Unforgivable at worst.

But don’t worry folks, I’m disgusted with me too. In fact, I’ve decided for being so forgetful about such an important night on which to have an excuse to drink scotch (Does one really need an excuse? I’d suggest no.) that I should be punished somehow. Fortunately for me, I’m not much of a disciplinarian. As such, I’ve determined the only punishment fitting this crime is a glass of scotch. Which also serves the function of being a celebratory glass of scotch given that it is Robbie Burns day.

Hmmm, I’m clearly efficient, what with my dual purpose glass of scotch. So efficient, that I should probably reward myself with another glass of scotch.

I really love how my mind works sometimes.

# Très Bien Montréal. Très Very Bien.

This morning I awoke around 3:30am. I know, I threw up a little in my mouth when I wrote 3:30am too. But such is the life of this intrepid explorer. Okay, maybe not so much intrepid explorer as wanderlusting nerd. POH-TATE-OH, PO-TOT-OH.

Why, pray tell, did you wake up at the ungodliest of ungodly hours, when there are so many godly hours for which you could have woken? you ask. Well, today was the day I had to say au revoir to Montréal. T’was a sad parting, but I made sure to let Montréal down easy. I also reassured her that I would not be gone long. How can one be gone from such an amazingly vibrant city? It’s not possible I says. Not possible.

Back to the story at hand. When last we spoke, nigh on 3 days ago, I had just finished a most excellent Friday night of gallivanting with my dear friend Rick. When I awoke on Saturday at the reasonable hour of whatever-it-was, I was a bit parched, and perhaps a bit on the hung-over side; a sign that the night before was just as fun as I had remembered (thanks Mr. Rick). But, being the up-and-at-em sort of fellow that I am, I got up and headed out for some hangover cure-all; Starbucks.

Since I had Ville-de-Montréal all to myself (Rick had other obligations, and Dr. Steph wasn’t arriving until Sunday eve, and Dr. Beth was at home), I struck out on an extended walk. I toured Rue Sainte-Catherine and all of its lovely stores (Hugo Boss, I’m looking at you). I also spent an extended period down by the water, wandering Old Montréal. I opted to have lunch at Les 3 Brasseurs, which of course had to include a beer. Hair of the dog if you will. Following lunch, I returned to my room for a bit of a nap. Apparently the late hour from the night before followed by an extended walk demanded a rest.

That night I returned to Les 3 Brasseurs for a bottle of La Belle Province, a very tasty 750 ml bottle of heaven. And by heaven, I mean delicious amber beer. It’s 7% by volume, so of course, I was a bit toasted by the time the bottle was done. I wandered the streets some more and then returned to my room for a relatively early night.

Sunday was a day of work. And by that, I mean I spent the day in various locations writing up one of the 2 grants that I have been working on. Thrilling, I know. The day started weighing on me, what with the grant writing, and how grant writing can suck the life out of you like a Dementor. Thankfully, Dr. Steph, Jamie, Kathy and Jon arrived just in the nick of time. I haven’t seen Steph in far too long, so of course there was much catching up to do, as well as much hugging, and general shenanigans.

To celebrate their arrival, and the 2 year anniversary of Steph’s Ph.D. defence, we opened up a bottle of champagne, and may also have had some delicious cupcakes, and then another bottle of wine – this time a Riesling. It was an awesome feast. But, one cannot survive on cupcakes and booze alone, so off we went in search of food.

Dinner was found about 25 minutes away (by foot), at a tapas and paella restaurant called Sala Rosa. Much was ordered. If I remember correctly, this included the chorizo frito, aceitunas, rapini con ajillo, patatitas fritas con romero, ensalada de espárrago y champinón, plato anti-pasto, and the paella de pollo y mariscos (but they were actually out of pollo). The meal was fantastic, and was washed down with several rounds of sangria. Jon and I topped it all off with a very nice glass of scotch.

After wandering home, Steph and I stayed up chatting for a bit before hitting the hay. All said, it was an awesome ending to a very draining day of grant writing.

Anyway, this post is verging on too long, so I’ll leave the final full day of adventuring for later.

I miss you already Montréal. I miss you long time.

# Shucking Awesome!

Yesterday I boarded a WestJet flight bound for Ottawa with my friend Dr. Victoria (who just so happens to also be my colleague and boss).  The purpose of the trip: to attend a meeting with several Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) big-Whigs1.  The purpose of the meeting; to present the findings of one of our recent projects2.  And that we did.

Of course, while the meeting was grand and fantastic, and our presentation was epic and awesome and full of nerdly goodness the likes the PHAC big-Whigs have never seen, the point of this post is not to discuss PHAC-nerdery.  In fact, it really has very little to do with nerdery at all.  Shocking, I know.

Instead, I want to introduce you to The Whalesbone Oyster House, located at 430 Bank Street in Ottawa. If you live in Ottawa and you haven’t been there, you must, must, must go.  Must.  It is shucking awesome.  Let me provide you with justification (as I see it):

1. Did I mention the oysters?  They serve oysters. Lots and lots of oysters.  Our order included tasty goodness from Ireland, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.  Personally, I thought the Irish and Nova Scotian oysters were the tastiest.  In fact, I fell in love with the Irish ones.  The flavour was obviously salty, but also rich without being overpowering.  They went especially well with the freshly grated horseradish.
2. Oh ya, did I mention the horseradish?  They serve oysters with freshly grated horseradish.  I’ve never had freshly grated horseradish, but shuck me it was a revelation.  I love horseradish (the garnish), but this was something else.  Intense, just the right amount of heat, and strong enough to give my taste buds a punch in the junk.  I think I’m going to have to try incorporating this in future dishes.
3. Oh, and did I mention the Chivas?  They serve oysters with Chivas.  I’ve never had scotch with oysters.  You’d think I’d never had oysters before.  Truly, the combination of the salty brine mixed with the sweet flavour of the Chivas was amazing.  I’m curious now to try oysters with other scotches; perhaps some stronger, oakier, or peatier varieties.  I imagine the smokey flavours will pair quite nicely with a freshly shucked oyster.  I expect the combination would be Shucking delicious.
4. They shuck the oysters at the bar in front of you.  I’ve never actually seen this done before.  In all other cases where I had ordered oysters at a restaurant, they have been shucked behind closed doors.  A shucking travesty, I say.  This skill is something to see, and by simply bringing the art and science of shucking to the bar-top, the Whalesbone gave their restaurant an air of authenticity that is lacking from many other establishments.  While I didn’t get an up close and personal view of the shucking, what I saw from my seat was very cool.  The bartender/shucker was quite skilled.  I wonder if he’s ever been involved in a shuck-off.  HA!
5. The main courses are works of art, both visually and taste-bud-ily.  For \$29 I ordered the Halibut, which was presented on a stacked tower of duck fat chips, celery, and fennel.  All of this was perched on a mortar base of black olive tapenade.  Verdict: I loved it.

Sadly, I was too full to try dessert.  I do recall that they were offering a Chocolate Peanut Butter tart, and an Apple Coffee Cake.  Both sounded delicious, but as I mentioned, I was far too full.  Shucks.  Next time I return I’ll make sure to try some, and I’ll be sure to update you on the tastiness.

6. The restaurant is a member and supporter of the Vancouver Aquarium‘s sustainability program known as Ocean Wise.  What is Ocean Wise?  It is a program that recognizes that “overfishing is the number one problem facing the world’s oceans.” The website also provides the following description:

Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Ocean Wise works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers ensuring that they have the most current scientific information regarding seafood and helping them make ocean-friendly buying decisions.“Clearly Ocean Wise is doing some good work.  And it’s great to see that The Whalesbone is not only a supporter of this group, but a member.

As I mentioned, if you live in Ottawa you really need to check out this restaurant if you haven’t already done so.  If you are visiting Ottawa, definitely try to get reservations.  I know for sure that I will be making a return when next I’m in town.

After our most delicious dinner, Victoria and I returned to the Lord Elgin (the schwanky hotel that PHAC put us up in).  Of course, before parting ways for the night, we popped over to the hotel bar for a tasty glass of wine.  I actually forget what we had because the wine at dinner gave me a slight buzz and, well, I forget things.  I do remember enough to know it was yummy and just what the doctor ordered (HA – literally) after walking back in the frigid wintry Ottawa wind from The Whalesbone.

I ended my evening by meeting up with Matt and Monique for a martini or two.  It was a quick visit, but always awesome.

Overall, a most excellent trip to Ottawa, albeit very short.  Oh, and the meeting was good too.

1 Or is it big-wig? I’ve seen both but am unsure as to which is proper.

2 One of my many jobs: I am a Statistical Consultant for the Public Health Agency of Canada.