# The Sloth Is Dead And Other Bric-A-Brac: An Update

Just over a week ago I commented on my downward spiral into the pass-out-on-the-couch, do-nothing-and-whine-about-it world-o-fun that is Sloth.  Truly I was so full of seven-deadly-sinfulness, that Kevin Spacey‘s John Doe would surely have considered replacing his original drug dealing victim with me1.  Or not.

Regardless, one of my goals last week was to get back on my regular wagon; walking, running, biking (I wish – stupid return of winter), yoga, and recording my food intake.  The former activities were required simply to continue my preparations for the upcoming full marathon in May; item #105 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list. The latter was to prevent any further weight loss due to my stupid, stupid hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernias being the stupidest of all hernias.

As promised, I’ve decided to update you, dear readers, on my progress. Mainly this serves as a way to ensure that I am accountable for what I have or have not done. So here goes.

Since March 21st, 2011 (up to and including March 30th, 2011) my results are:

• running ~12.00km (gah – that is TERRIBLE)
• walking ~48.00km (not bad, but not good either)
• biking ~0.00km (stupid winter – I shake my fist at thee)
• yoga ~320min (not bad, but much improvement needed)

My average net daily Caloric intake was 1617.8, although I didn’t actually record my Calories every day.  Gah!  Super fail.  Regardless, the average compares to my required value of 2253 Calories (which would maintain my weight at 145lbs; I am however not 145lbs – I am 137lbs, which clearly requires fewer Calories to maintain, assuming I have not lost further weight.  I should consider purchasing a scale).  This means on average, I was under by 635.2 Calories per day.  And that’s with as little exercise as I’ve been doing.  Not good.  Not good at all.  How am I supposed to become a buff young stud if I can’t eat enough?  LOL.  I’m not sure what is funniest about the last question: buff?  young?  stud?  Or the ridiculous combination of all of these - buff young stud – to describe myself?  Hilarious.

Additionally, I spent a total of 43 hr 12 min sleeping over the course of the 10 days between March 21 and March 30, which gives me an average of 4 hr 20 min of sleep per night.  Hmm, I have to work on that too.

Anyway, while things have improved slightly, and I’m not the lay-about that I was, I’m still not satisfied with the result.  Much work to do.  Clearly.

1 If you have no idea what I’m talking about, see the move se7en, with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey. If you like messed up movies, you are sure to love this.

# Just Call Me Ass Prof For Short

Before reading this you might want to find a chair and sit down, for the magnitude of what I am about to relay to you is so shocking that you might actually pass out from the sheer intensity of it (assuming you are of exceptionally weak constitution or prone to random bouts of fainting).

So today it is official. After spending the bulk of my life in school, I have signed all the necessary paperwork, and can announce to the world that I have a job. A real job!

My shiny new position comes with a title as well. Specifically, I am no longer just a Doctor of Statistics, now I am also an

Assistant Professor of Statistics.

My new home is in the School of Computer Sciences at the University of Guelph. It comes with a newly constructed/painted office1 (in the former Axelrod but now refurbished and newly minted Alexander building; rooms 101 and 102 to be exact), and a lab to fill with young minds that I might shape and such. I know, I’m shocked too that someone would entrust the shaping of young minds to me, but hey, it’s an awesome job and one that I gladly accept.

I also get to purchase some fancy-pants new computers. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I plan to purchase Macs. When I know what I’m getting, I’ll be sure to blog about them :) [Update: Clearly I wrote this ages ago, as we are all aware that I've already purchases said shiny new computers - as documented here]

The position officially started on January 1, 2011, however there were some paperwork issues, and as such I haven’t been able to sign the contract until now. Regardless, I’m stoked. I’ve already started teaching two courses: Math2080 – Calculus for the Biological Sciences, and IBIO6070 – Advanced Methods in Population Modelling. The former I’ve taught twice before. The latter is a course of my making. I’ve actually been surprised at how well the latter course has been received. At this point, I’ve had to turn students away so as not to overload myself in my first semester. Crazy stuff!

Anyway, now I need to figure out what to do with myself given that I am gainfully employed. I have a good idea what my research goals will be, but I still have to fill in a bunch of details to get from where I am to where I want to be. A little overwhelming to think about all at once, but also very exciting.

In other news, I’m still not accustomed to stating my degree/profession when queried about my employment status. Take for example the following two situations.

Situation the first: Shortly after getting my Ph.D., my phone rang. Someone was calling to get a reference for one of my former students. The conversation began something like this:

• person calling: Could I speak with Dr. Gillis, please?
• me (to person calling): Who?
• me (internally): Oh wait, that’s me.
• me (to person calling): Oh wait, that’s me.

Epic fail.

Situation the second: Everyone will recall the recent introduction of my face to the floor through the matchmaker that is yoga. While I was at the hospital getting my face repaired (or improved if you are to ask Rick), I was asked my profession by the attending nurse. I actually giggled to myself before saying it aloud, and even when I did, it sounded hilarious. So much so, that the attending nurse had to ask numerous times. I think the professor part of assistant professor threw her (but to be fair, she also needed me to spell statistics, so maybe she had just never heard of the profession before).

Anyway this is guaranteed to be an adventure of a lifetime, and to say that I am stoked is a gross understatement.

1 Of course, the furniture leaves something to be desired, but hopefully my CFI grant will cover the cost of fancy new furniture like things (assuming of course I get the grant).

# 200 Years Of Bunsen Burn-y Goodness

As noted in the list below (have I mentioned that I love lists?), you will find a little blurb on one Robert Bunsen.  That’s correct folks, the Robert Bunsen; the man who brought light to the world-o-chemistry where there once was darkness; the man who gave the world the Bunsen burner.

But you may be thinking to yourself,

Why do you, a self-proclaimed math and stats nerd care about a chemistry geek?

Well, inside I’m a bit of a chemistry geek too.  I love chemistry.  In fact, at one point early in my education I had considered pursuing a degree in the field.  I went so far as to use one of my electives to take Analytical Chemistry; a course I’ve been told is the true killer chemistry.  I loved it.  There’s something satisfying and altogether mad-scientist-like about acid-filled beakers, test tubes of unknown chemicals, burettes, titrations and yes, even Bunsen burners.  And don’t even get me started on the math-y goodness that is the balancing of stoichiometric equations, the Ideal Gas Law, Avogadro’s Number, and molar mass calculations.  And plus there are the lab coats and the playing with chemicals.  Did I mention the lab coats and playing with chemicals?  Awesome.

Oh, and there’s also the periodic table.  Surely you have to respect the order and structure of the periodic table.  Metals on one side, and non-metals on the other.  Lanthanides, actinides, noble gases, inert gases; it’s just all so organized.  Yup, I’m totally giving myself a nerd-on.

Anyway, this post was not intended to be about Bunsen burners or anything of that nature. To be honest, I only stumbled on the 200th birthday of the father of the Bunsen burner while scouring the intertubes for other information about March 30th.  And why might I be searching for information on March 30th?  I mean, it is just another day in the year, like any other.  Well, it just so happens to be someone else’s birthday today.  Someone else’s birthday that also just happens to hold the title of father of.

That’s right folks, today my Dad is officially one year older.  Happy Birthday Dad!  I hope you have a most excellent day.

Anyway, after yesterday’s post where I unburdened my soul and revealed to the world that I am completely challenged when it comes to plumbing, I got to thinking about the man who always ends up coming to my rescue.  Who is that guy?  Why does he do it?

Without getting into great details, I have realized that my Dad is, by all accounts, a Renaissance Man.  He does it all; plumbing, wiring, construction, gardening, hunting, cooking, baking, etc.  And he does it all well.  His cooking is by far some of the best cooking I’ve ever had (and I know that I’m biased, but seriously, it’s freaking good).  He has never been afraid to explore new recipes; so at an early age I was introduced to ethnic dishes that my peers never had.  He also instilled in me a sense of gastronomic adventure: try everything. I also blame my Dad for introducing me to all sorts of amazing wines, ports, scotches, and the like.  I was one of the few people who, at the age of 19 or 20, would show up to a party with a bottle of wine, or order a dirty gin martini at the bar.  And this was long before martinis were the thing to order.

My Dad is also a self taught nerd, and persistent to say the least.  We often joke that the bullheaded-ness of our family comes from my Mom’s side, but I think my Dad’s side is just as bad :).  But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It gave my Dad the drive to move from the East Coast where he was born and raised, to Ontario to make a life for himself and his eventual family (which now includes 4 sons, 2 daughter-in-laws, 5 granddaughters, and 1 grandson).  He studied entomology at home, without tutors or professors to guide him, and he eventually worked his way up from McCormack’s in London, to working at George Weston’s head office in Toronto.  His bullheaded-ness also gave him the drive to tell my Grandfather, in no uncertain terms, that he was going to marry my mom.  And this wasn’t said after years of dating.  This was at a company party, at a point when he barely knew my mom.

Clearly, my Dad is awesome!  And I’m sure I could tell you all kinds of hilarious stories to prove this.  But, I’ll save those for another day.  So with that, I ask that everyone take a moment to raise their glass today and toast my Dad.  It is his birthday after all.

Other notable March 30th birthday celebrants:

• 1811 Robert Bunsen of the Bunsen burner fame.  Which means that the inventor of the Bunsen burner would be 200 years old today.  Very cool.  Are the Chemistry nerds out there celebrating this?  If not, I ask why?  Why would you not celebrate all the chemically goodness that the Bunsen burner has brought to your world?

• 1853 Vincent van Gogh of Starry Night fame.
• 1892 Stefan Banach of the infamous Banach Fixed Point Theorem, Banach Spaces, and so many other amazingly amazing math-tastic math-y things.  Cripes, I had no idea my dad shared this man’s birthday – EPIC!  My nerd zone is all a-twitter.
• 1937 Warren Beatty.
• 1962 MC Hammer.  You can’t touch this.
• 1964 Tracy Chapman
• 1968 Celine Dion.  She’s only 7 years older than me?  What that what?
• 1979 Norah Jones.

Some people liked this day so much, they decided it would be their last:

# Adventures In Leaky Faucets And Veggie Fueled Green Hemp Rage

Last Friday my parents came to town, partly to help me fix a leaking bathtub faucet, but mainly to visit.  And by ‘help me fix a leaking bathtub faucet’, I clearly mean my dad did all the work.  I simply walked home when they arrived to let them in (although they had already done so given that they have a spare set of keys), and then promptly left after I stuffed my lunch-hungry face with an english muffin and a couple of slices of salami.  And yes, for me, that is what passes as stuffing one’s face these days.

Anyway, the taps in the tub had been leaking for about 2 weeks and they were getting progressively worse.  It wasn’t the drip, drip, drip of a basic leak.  It was more of a constant stream.  Or river.  Whatever.

Being somewhat environmentally aware, I realized that allowing water to pour directly down the drain without at least using it for some purpose was probably enough to send any environmentally friendly individual into a veggie-fueled-frenzy of green-hemp-rage.  Not having any patchouli on hand1, I called my parental units to come to the rescue.

But Dr. Dan, why not just fix the leak yourself? you rightly ask.  Well, you might want to sit down or brace yourself for this revelation but

My plumbing knowledge ends with Drano and a plunger.

Shocking, I know!  But it’s just not in me.  And it’s not for lack of trying.  Trust me; my dad has tried and continues his efforts to teach me what he knows about the topic – which is a lot.  But every time I try to take notes on what he’s doing, all I hear is best described as what Charlie Brown hears when his teachers speak.  Sorry Dad, I might be a whiz when it comes to numbers, but mechanically inclined I am not.  I’m one of those that rely on the Right-y Tight-y, Left-y Loose-y adage.  True story.

And this is not the first time he has been called on to rescue me.  When I had a pipe burst in my first house (way back in ye olde time-y days of 1997 or 1998) he managed to single-handedly fix the problem.  I write single-handedly because back then I’d be hard pressed to identify a screwdriver from a ratchet.  And I’m not even kidding.  Oh how I wish I was.

I also called on him a few months ago when my kitchen sink backed up.  Of course, before I called him I did give it my all; my all being the one-two punch of the Drano/Plunger solution.  But even my best one-two punch was thwarted when the sink began to overflow, all due (after some investigation) to the clever misuse of the drain as a grease-disposal-pipe by my neighbour3.  While I am admittedly plumbing-challenged, I know enough to understand that grease does not go down the drain.  Again, my dad fixed the problem more-or-less.  In this case, he fixed 95% of the problem, but I still had to call a plumber to deal with the clog that was out of my dad’s reach (25ft out of my dad’s reach to be exact).

I’m sure these revelations only work to strengthen the image of me as a nerd.  I’m okay with that.  One should know where their strengths and weaknesses lie.  My strengths – numbers.  My weaknesses – pretty much everything else :)  But don’t get me wrong.  I’m not completely inept when it comes to home repair.  I have managed to replace several light fixtures and install some ceiling fans, all without electrocuting myself, and all while keeping each and every one of my digits.  For me, that’s 100% win.

Thankfully, my dad is skilled in all things home repair.  And that works just fine for me, thank you very much.

1 The only known cure for veggie-fueled-frenzies of green-hemp-rage.

2 Actually, I guess a more accurate phrase would be that my plumbing skills end with my dad seeing as he is who I call after I’ve tried Drano and a plunger.

3 Being in a condo, some of our pipes are shared. In this case, the drain pipe from the kitchen.

# Snuggling With Elliot: 1 Month Later

One month ago today, my family of one grew to a family of two.  That is, my friend Jamie dropped off Elliot, his loyal and trusted ~2 year old cat.  Elliot moved in with me because Jamie was in the process of moving out of his old apartment and into some schwanky new digs.  Sadly, he couldn’t bring Elliot along for the ride (described here).  And as sad as it was for Jamie, it’s been awesome for me (sorry Jamie).  Since then, I can confidently write that Elliot has adopted me, and that he pretty much thinks that he owns the house.  Cats are amazing that way.

Anyway, I realized on Friday or Saturday that as of today, Elliot and I have lived together for a month. Time clearly flies. I figured what better way to celebrate than with a bunch of pictures that I’ve snapped.  Elliot figured the best way to celebrate would be to throw up on the tile in the kitchen1.  I’m guessing the excitement of realizing he’s been here for a month was just too much for the little guy to handle.  I know how you feel little buddy.  I know how you feel.

So how has having a cat changed my world? Apart from dealing with feedings and treats, cat fur everywhere, and the dreaded litter box, it has been awesome. Elliot is unbelievably friendly, and cuddly (as the pictures indicate), and licky. He’s especially licky after I run, but I’m sure that just has to do with all the salt on my body. Honestly though, he has made me slow down at least on the weekends. And late nights. Pretty much at all times when I should be slowing down. Between plopping down next to me, curling up in my arms, laying on my chest or computer, or pretty much nuzzling his head into the crook of my neck or armpit, I can’t help but stop what I’m doing and enjoy the epic cuteness that is Elliot. When someone this cute throws himself at you, one is inclined to respond.

Additionally, according to RealAge, having a pet (such as a cat) lowers my stress and thus reduces my real age. As it stands right now, my real age is 19.7. W00t! Check out the website if you want to calculate your real age. It’s pretty fun, and quite informative.

Regardless of the benefits Elliot brings to my world, I can honestly say that I’m completely in love with him. How can you not be? He’s so freaking cute!

Oh, and before you go commenting on how I’ve turned into that guy – you know, the one who takes pictures of his cat, posts pictures of his cat, probably talks incessantly about his cat – be aware that I’m already very cognizant of this fact, and am actively seeking therapy.  It’s like I’ve turned into a *gasp* parent.  Yikes!

1 Added bonus – Sean cleaned up the mess. Thanks Sean! 1000 extra interweb points to you.

# A Punch To My Stupid Travelling Face

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I love to travel.  A lot.  In all honesty, I think if I were given the opportunity, I would do that for a living above all else.  Well, maybe not.  I do love statistics.  But the beauty of being a Statistician is that I don’t necessarily require an office.  Just my trusty computer, a connection to the interwebs, and somewhere to deposit the billions of dollars that people want to throw at me for playing nice with their data1.  So ultimately, the best, best, best job for me would be a Travelling Statistician.  Does that job exist?  If not, how might I convince people to pay me for such a position?  Something to ponder.

Since I travel a lot, I often hear one or more of the following:

• It must be nice to travel.
• You’re travelling again?
• You’re going where now?
• I’m going to punch you in your stupid travelling face.

Okay, maybe the last one I’ve never heard, but I’m sure people have thought it.  Trust me, I sometimes feel this way when I find out that someone is travelling and I am not.  For example, my good friend Rick is heading to Europe later this year for several weeks of travelling awesomeness, and I am completely uber jealous.  But given that I will be doing the same a few short months after him makes that jealousy pretty moot.  Regardless, I often use these feelings to keep me motivated to find new and exciting places to explore.  You will often find me perusing the interwebs for deals, checking out blog posts for hidden travel gems, or daydreaming about adventuring.  It’s in my nature.  I can’t help it; I have the wanderlust.

Anyway, I get the sense that sometimes when people say such things to me, that they believe that I must spew lucky charms and horseshoes out of my mouth.  And perhaps I do.  But don’t get me wrong; I know I am fortunate to travel like I do.  It’s not something everyone gets to do.  Clearly I am very grateful that I can.  But the wanderlust is a strange mistress; only satisfied for brief periods of time, ultimately looking for new adventure, new places, new foods, new people, and new experiences.  She seems to be instantly sated the minute I board a plane.  It really doesn’t matter where I go, so long as I’m going.  But should I choose to ignore her, look out.  She turns into a screaming banshee.  Every waking moment becomes a battle between concentration on whatever task is at hand, and thinking about travel.

And that, dear friends, is what brings me to the point of this post.  Where am I going next?  Okay, let me be specific.  I know where I’m going next.  That is, I already have several trips planned between now and December, and I also know that I’ll be boarding a plane for Europe with my brother Aidan sometime in December.  And while I have drafted a tentative set of places to visit while in Europe with Aidan, I’m looking for your insight.  I’m looking for local activities, foods, restaurants, customs, and experiences that are not-to-be-missed.  What would you recommend we do?  What would you tell us to avoid at all cost?  So that you have a sense of our plans, we are aiming to travel for at least 3 weeks.  The goal is to visit

Any recommendations or suggestions would be highly welcome.  And please don’t feel compelled to stick to activities within these cities.  We most likely will venture out to surrounding areas if the inclination catch us.

Oh, and before anyone can suggest that I get travel insurance so as to prevent any further yoga injuries, you will be happy to know that I have extended coverage with my job.  In fact, I had it while I was in Hawaii, but since the school was slow on getting my contract finalized, I didn’t have the necessary paperwork.  I can, however, submit all my expenses from that little Hawaiian incident for retroactive reimbursement.  w00t!

1 I wish.

# I’m So Happy I Could Punch A Dolphin In The Mouth

I woke up this morning with only one thing on my mind (okay, maybe a few things on my mind, but those thoughts were a combination of mathematics, statistics, and other things that probably aren’t safe for public consumption).  And what was this thought that was bouncing through my head at 6:30 on a Saturday morning?  Only that I needed, required, had-to-buy, the new book by The Oatmeal called 5 Very Good Reasons To Punch A Dolphin In The Mouth (And Other Useful Guides). Since I have just returned from the Stone Road Mall, you can rest assured that the book is sitting next to me as I write this blog post1.  I can smell the newness of the book from here; all inky and fresh.  I’m stoked to start reading it, so am going to try to make this post short and sweet.

For those of you that have been going about your life blissfully unaware of The Oatmeal, let me introduce you.  The Oatmeal; meet my blissfully unaware readers.  Blissfully unaware readers; meet The Oatmeal.  If you’ve already been introduced, then you know what I’m talking about when I tell you that he is one of the funniest people to have ever graced this earth.  His work is hilarious, probably offensive to some, and just the type of punch-a-dolphin-in-the-mouth type of humour that I love.

To give you a better example, I reproduce for your reading pleasure the last 2 paragraphs of the introduction to the book:

“This book contains gorillas, prostitution, poop jokes, small quantities of chainsaws, large quantities of man nipples, and one drug-addicted dinosaur.  Its purpose is to entertain, inform, and offend.

I hope you like it.  If not, I hope a large meteor finds its way across the universe and smashes directly into your crotch while you sleep.”

Several of my all time favourite comics have been included in the book, and these I fully plan to purchase as posters to put up in my office at the University.  For example, the following comics are pure gold and educational.  I must have them.

Truth be told, I feel compelled to provide these very useful guides to my students as most could use the lesson in grammar, spelling, and the like.  Note: I haven’t shared them as of yet; I need to determine which of presumably many politically correct policies I might be violating by doing so.  Regardless, it is appalling on a level that I can’t even begin to describe that the current crop of students present work with abysmal spelling, no punctuation, made-up words, and grammar that would make any literati spiral into a rage so intense, it might best be described as a red-hot-banshee-screaming-dolphin-punching-anger-burst.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means the best writer, I create words for my blog posts, and my grammar is often less than stellar.  However, the difference is that I actually care about these things.  I try my best to present work that is grammatically correct, and I definitely try to present as few spelling errors as possible.  As for made-up words, I use them only in my blog.  I would never enter them into my professional lexicon.  Of course, the odd typo slips by2, even for my students.  Typos I can look past.  But there are so many other problems that I can’t.  I provide a few examples below, with commentary of course:

• so im… [Clearly they meant to write I'm. Sadly, this was not a typo as they continued to write im throughout the 4 paragraph email.  Perhaps they thought that this was endearing or cute?]
• i no i… [In this case, they wrote the word no instead of the word know.  Again, multiple copies of this mistake make me sad in my Spelling-zone]
• anyway were talking about…, were looking for… [Dear students, please learn the differences between and appropriate uses of the words where, were, and we're. While you are doing that, perhaps also review the words ware, and wear]
• the process to see if there real or not… [Dear students, please also learn the differences between and appropriate uses of the words there, they're, and their]

Note that all of these excerpts can be found in various emails that I have received from 2nd year and higher university students.  I present only a small portion of the emails to protect privacy.

Anyway, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy reading 5 Very Good Reasons To Punch A Dolphin In The Mouth (And Other Useful Guides).  I fully expect to laugh until I cry, or at least until the Dolphins seek retaliation for all the mouth-punching.

1 I also purchased Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen written by Christopher McDougall. I’m pretty stoked to read this one as well, but clearly for different reasons.

Other purchases included:

• brand spanking new size 29 jeans (as my old size 32 were rather large and very much falling apart)
• brand spanking new extra-small dress shirts (as I’ve recently purged the large and mediums from my wardrobe, leaving me with about 6 small or extra small shirts)
• a brand spanking new belt (but it came free with the jeans)
• a brand spanking new pair of socks (purchased to get my order over \$100 in order to get a 20% discount).  Socks = \$5, 20% discount = \$22, net savings = \$17 plus a new pair of socks.
• brand spanking new neon coloured underwear.  Because who doesn’t want to gird their loins with neon coloured underwear?

2 For example, when I first published this page it was published under the name I’m So Happy I Could Punch A Dolpin In The Mouth.  Do you see the typo? I didn’t, at least not immediately.  But thankfully I reviewed my work and noticed that Dolpin is not the correct spelling of the word Dolphin. Spelling fail, edit win.

# A Wintry Junk Punch Triggers A List

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Ottawa for a presentation with several Public Health Agency of Canada big-Whigs.  And as I mentioned, the presentation was a grand success1.

On our flight back to the Toronto area, Victoria and I were shocked by the sudden return of winter.  Ottawa, while chilly, did not get the snow that Toronto and area received.  The weather forced us to circle the airport for about 45 minutes prior to landing.  There was zero visibility.  Well, I could see something, but all that I could see was white.  To be perfectly honest, I just assumed we were still in the clouds.  And then as if out of nowhere, the ground appeared.  It honestly scared the shit out of me.  My first thought was “Holy shit, that’s the ground!  Is the pilot aware of this?”  My mind raced with visions of a fiery wreckage as we slammed into the ground.  Thankfully, and obviously, that was not to be my fate.  We landed ever so gently and safely and made our way to Terminal 1.

Anyway, as everyone in the Greater Toronto Area is aware winter decided to junk-punch us once again.  It might be spring, but Old-man Winter is still in charge, and not going out without a fight.  The drive home was long and brutal.  I really have to give credit to Victoria for not losing it, as I would have wanted to punch a baby seal given the lunacy of other drivers, and the terrible conditions of the roads.

We kept ourselves entertained on the 2.5-3.0hr drive home by listening to the radio, chatting, and commenting on drivers, vanity license plates, and plates that looked like they could be of the vanity variety, but were likely not.  For example, one such plate read

BDAN 392,

which I remember because $3^{2}=9$, and because who doesn’t want to B Dan? HA!  Clearly this could be a vanity license plate for myself, given my love of math and such.

During our very slow crawl home, some radio personality on the CBC (I forget who) queried the listeners regarding their favourite book.  This got me thinking; what is my favourite book?  Victoria and I discussed this and I realized that I don’t think I can pick one particular book above all others.  I have favourite math-y books, stat-y books, brain candy books, kids books, etc.  There are just so many epic books out there that have influenced me in some way that I can’t hold one above all others as the book to rule all books.

However, I can offer the following list of my favourite books.

1. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb.  This book is incredibly beautiful.  I was absolutely devastated when the book ended.  Not because it has a devastating ending, but because it had to end.
2. She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb.  Heartbreaking.  Uplifting.  Everything.
3. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.  I’ve read this book several times and every time I get something new out of it.  Dark, beautiful, challenging.
4. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Some people find this book rather dry, but I absolutely loved it, and still love it on every read.
5. Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  A short story, but once read was immediately added to my list of favourites.
6. A Widow For One Year, by John Irving.
7. A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey.  I didn’t care about the controversy surrounding this book.  It was breathless and frantic, difficult to read at times, and completely in my face.  I loved it.
8. The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes.  An epic poem, beautifully interpreted by Loreena McKennitt.
9. Oh the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss.  This book just makes me happy, and optimistic.  I love to read this whenever I feel not-so-awesome.
10. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney.  This book is sweet, and beautiful, and a great gift for anyone with kids.  Little Nutbrown Hare is so freaking cute.
11. Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.  Another great gift for anyone with children.
12. The Lord Of the Rings Trilogy (and The Hobbit), J.R.R. Tolkien.  Dragons, ogres, elves; what’s not to love?
13. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling.  Magic, wizards, witches, adventure.  Awesome does not begin to describe this series.
14. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.  My first love.  Seriously.

The last book on the list, Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, I’ve previously discussed in detail on Dr. Beth’s blog (as a guest-blogger).  Check it out and you’ll know why I think this book is so incredible, and what it really means to me.  As a follow-up to reading that, let me add that I was not disappointed by the movie.  I loved, loved, loved the movie, and I was instantly 7 years old again.

The other books listed above, for one reason or another, spoke to me at the time I read them.  They offered something that I clearly needed to know, or questioned my world view.  In some cases, they provided me an outlet, a voice, or an escape.  Regardless, they are and always will be special to me.  And while I’m sure there are other books that I should probably add to this list, these are the ones that immediately come to mind.  You may not agree with my list, but that’s okay, because this is my list.

Anyway, I leave you with this question: what are your favourite books, and why?

1 Clearly, that’s my opinion.  I have no idea what the big-Whigs really thought, but I’m sure they thought we were awesome; it is the natural reaction.

# 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.

# Heed My Words: Prepare For The Oncoming Zombie Apocalypse

A few days ago, I posted about my most recent publication on the prestigious blog Dissertation Haiku.  While I was creating the post, I decided to search for some fun haiku, and I stumbled on Zombie Haiku.  This led me to a site of such importance, that I felt compelled to share it with you.  The site is the Zombie Research Society.  The society does work that all of us should support.

They are governed by three main principles:

1. A zombie is a biologically definable, animated being occupying a human corpse.
2. The zombie pandemic is coming.  It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
3. Enthusiastic debate about zombies is essential to the survival of the human race.

Immediately I had to share this site with my friend, and fellow concerned citizen Dr. Beth of Not To Be Trusted With Knives.  The two of us have discussed the potential of a zombie uprising on several occasions.  She has also posted several blog entries related to zombies and zombie related issues (see here, here, here, and here).  Clearly, she needed to know about this society.

Dr. Beth, being the investigative sort that she is, immediately determined that there were no chapters of the Zombie Research Society in Vancouver, or Guelph.  Obviously, our cities were vastly unprepared for the impending zombie apocalypse.  Something had to be done.   Dr. Beth promptly followed up this revelation by contacting the society to determine how we might rectify this problem.

Being the reputable group that they are, the president immediately replied with a list of things that we needed to do.  They are:

1. Each local chapter has to have at least 3 lifetime ZRS members to act as the core leadership of the chapter. This includes a President, Vice President, and Sergeant At Arms.
2. The chapter must complete at least 2 “research” projects per year.
3. You must have at least 5 meetings a year and at least 2 of these meetings need to be open to the public.
4. Each new chapter is on a probationary period until it completes two projects and has three meetings.

The research projects described in item the second, could fall within the societies core research areas: zombie pop culture, science, or survival/preparedness. Other groups have organized Zombie Walks.

Honestly, this sounds like so much fun and is clearly of such importance that I feel compelled to set up a Guelph Chapter.  But first, dear readers, I need to determine how many of you might be interested in such a thing.  Do you have what it takes to fight the good fight, and prevent the oncoming zombie apocalypse?  Dare you take up the challenge?

For those that are sitting on the fence, perhaps this will help your decision: all meetings will require anti-zombie juice and anti-zombie chips (also known as beer and nachos).  That may or may not inspire some of you to at least consider this venture.  Further, I don’t really know if beer is anti-zombie juice, so this could and should be our first research project.

Anyway, for those of you interested in becoming a part of this tribe, let me know.  Clearly we are unprepared for the zombie uprising that surely awaits us.

# The Sloth Is Dead And Other Bric-A-Brac

So yesterday I posted about my incredible bout of laziness this weekend, coupled with my slacking in all things yoga, massage, and Calorie counting.  I also indicated that turning into a sloth was not good because I have been getting increasingly unbendy, and because I have somehow lost more weight; something I’ve been desperately trying to avoid.

Today I made a triumphant return to form.  That is, I managed to get on the treadmill, go to yoga, and at least chat with my massage therapist (given that I went to yoga with him, this was way easier than expected).  I also recorded my food intake, and my exercise using LoseIt.  Clearly I deserve an A+ for effort today!  w00t!

So how did I do?

• Walked 5.88 km (~50 minutes).
• Ran 5.79 km (30 minutes).  This represents an average speed of 11.58 km per hour.  The first 1.61 km were slow (10 minutes), followed by a faster 4.18 km in 20 minutes (or an average speed of 12.54 km per hour).  And while this wasn’t the initial distance I had intended (hello 26 km), given that I didn’t get home until 6:30ish I am happy that I managed a run at all.
• 105 minutes spent doing Yin reduced heat yoga.

This translates to

• Total Calories burned ~ 710.
• Total Calories consumed ~ 2126.
• Net Calories ~ 1416.

Which means that I am still 837 Calories under my budget of 2253 Calories per day (as indicated by this screen capture of the LoseIt website)1.  And this, dear reader, is why I need to track my Calories.  I’m full.  Terribly full.  And yet I’m way off on my daily intake.  Is it any wonder why I’ve lost more weight? Gah!

Sadly, the variability of my food intake is pretty high.  For example, my Typical Breakfast normally involves a bran bar, and a bowl of oatmeal soup2.  Today it was just oatmeal soup.  Minus a bran bar means minus ~130 Calories.  Further, I question whether my dinner was actually 506 Calories.  It might have been.  I’m just not confident that it was.

Despite the variability, I still like recording the information.  At a glance I can at least get a general sense of the directionality of my intake.  Today was definitely an under day.  Something I clearly need to work on.

Now given this, just imagine how bad my Caloric deficit must be when I run for longer than 30 minutes.  My half marathon usually consumes about 1700 Calories.  Do that a few times a week and I might be looking at a serious Caloric deficit.  And this isn’t even considering longer than half marathon training runs, nor does it consider other exercise.  Obviously I must feed my neurotic desire to record more and more data about myself.  Otherwise I’m going to have a serious problem with the marathon training and run.

I may actually have to start eating buckets of lard.  Ew.

To further repent for my sloth-like behaviour over the weekend, I have also been inspired by my friend Carolyn, who posted about RunForJapan.  Check out her post here.  I’ve decided that one of my runs will also be dedicated to the cause.  I’ll keep you posted on which one – but my guess will be either Friday or Saturday’s long run.  w00t!

Alright, with that I leave you with a haiku, in honour of World Poetry Day (which was March 21, for those not in the know).  Clearly I love haiku.  If you want to read more – specifically haiku related to zombies, check out the comments for my post Follow Up III: Dissertation Haiku.  My friend Jorge of BarkingSpace.com and I have been having an epic haiku battle.  AWESOME!

My net calories:

food in minus exercise.

I can’t eat enough.

1 This budget is set so that I maintain a weight of 145 lbs.

2 I call it oatmeal soup because my oatmeal is very thin. To the point of being hot water with floating oats in it. The regular thickened oatmeal is too hard on my stupid stomach right now. The soup typically contains 1/4 cup of oatmeal, 1.5 cups of water or more (basically I fill the bowl with water), 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter (no salt or sugar added), 1 tbsp of honey, and 2 tbsp of home-made trail mix (which consists of almonds, pecans, raisins, dates, cashews, figs, and unsweetened shredded coconut). I might also add some raspberries if I have them on hand.  A recipe for deliciousness.

# I Have Become Sloth, And Other Weekend Adventures

So I totally slacked off this weekend.  I could offer the excuse that my stupid hernia was acting up – which it was – but that has never stopped me from running before.  I really just wussed out and used it as an excuse not to run the 26k that I was supposed to run.  I’ll let myself get away with not running on Saturday because I really did feel awful (thank you hernia), but today there was no excuse.  I could have run.  I opted not to.  Instead, I worked on several projects which also needed to be completed.  But those projects were not running.

Gah.  I’m terribly annoyed with myself.

Monday I have to get back at it.  I’m supposed to be meeting some friends later in the eve, but if I plan my day properly, I should be able to get home by 4:30 and jump on the treadmill for 2.5 hours (give or take).  That would give me a slow but steady, and hopefully more comfortable pace of 5m 30s per kilometer.

Ultimately the goal was to run the 26k this weekend so that I’d be able to run the Hamilton Around The Bay 30k next weekend.  Two problems; 1) the aforementioned slacking on both Saturday and Sunday, and ; 2) I didn’t register for the race in time and it’s too late for me to do so now.  Ya, that’s what being a sloth gets you.  Sweet lady bupkis.  Bupkis I say!

Perhaps as punishment for my laziness and slacking, I’ll force myself to run a 30k next weekend anyway.  By myself.  Without the pomp and fanfare.  Sigh.  At least I know that I’ll finish first :)  I’m such a dork.

Anyway, apart from the slacking that was this weekend, the training for the marathon has been going well.  I managed several long runs last week without too many aches or pains.  However, I do have to make a point of getting back to yoga, and to book a massage.  I’ve been slacking on both fronts, and I can tell given my general sense of non-bendy-ness when I get out of bed in the morning.  Or when I stand up after sitting for an extended period.  I really do know better than to let these things slide.  And yet, here we are.

In other news, while at my parents for Lobstermania I decided to weigh myself on their fancy-pants new electronic scale.  This would be my first weigh-in since my helicopter adventure in Hawaii informed me I had put on 9lbs (I was up to 146 – w00t!).  For some strange reason I was expecting to have gained some more weight.  Specifically, I was expecting to be up to the 150ish mark.  There are no real reasons for this – my clothes all fit the same; I haven’t been eating poorly; I’m still exercising.  I just felt for some reason that I had managed to put on some weight.  So I was rather shocked to see the scale read

136.8lbs.

I have somehow lost 9lbs since Hawaii?  How the frick?  Clearly I’ve been missing out on some essential Calories.  I think it’s probably related to the fact that I haven’t been logging my food consumption on LoseIt as religiously as normal.  It’s not that I’m not eating, I’m clearly just not eating enough.  Given the recent increase to my running schedule, I can’t afford not to eat.

Given all of this slacking and the clear problems it has created, I am starting this week with a renewed ‘get off my lazy ass and do what I need to do‘ attitude.  Perhaps I will force myself to post my Calories and such at the end of the week so that I am somehow accountable not just to myself, but to you my reader.  Perhaps I’ll just eat a bucket of lard to make up the Calories I’ve lost.  Or maybe I’ll do both.  Nothing says penance for one of the 7 deadly sins like eating a bucket of lard.  Although then I might be guilty of gluttony.  Gah – I can’t win.

For now, I’m off to bed.  It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow, what with the Calorie counting, yoga-practicing, massage-appointment-making, 26km-running, and other regular job-related work I have to do.

# Ah Mais Oui, Ca C’est Toujours Delish

Today has been a day that my stomach will not soon forget.  It was the epic gastronomic adventure known as the Gillis family Lobster-fest, or Lobstermania as I’ve decided to call it.

My dad, being of East Coast stock, was essentially raised on seafood.  Of course, this means that I too was raised on seafood, and that is truly an awesome thing.  I’m pretty sure that the minute I started eating solid food I was sampling seafood.  Scallops, mussels, clams, oysters, crab, lobster, snails; you name it, I’ve probably tried it as a child. And I’ve loved all of it.  I can’t recall ever having sampled something from under the sea that I didn’t enjoy.

Anyway, as I was saying, seafood has always been a part of my life and diet.  Because of this, I think that I have probably taken its staple-like presence in my personal food pyramid for granted.  Despite the gastronomic experiences that shaped my young reality, I understand that it’s not common for an 8-year-old to know how

• to put a lobster to sleep1,
• to prepare a lobster dinner,
• to separate a lobster from its shell, and most importantly
• to know how good they taste.

Furthermore, I was acutely aware at a young age that the best way to serve lobster was not on some fancy-pants platter with fine crystal and cutlery.  Fine clothing should also be avoided.  Lobster is nothing if it isn’t messy; a true lobster feast requires bibs or old clothing, and in the perfect world, a beach, a bonfire, corn-on-the-cob, inexpensive but tasty wine, and cold beer.  Clearly I have my dad to thank for this knowledge.

To prep for Lobstermania, my dad ordered 36 lbs of fresh live lobster flown in direct from Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia.  Or perhaps Heaven.  Either way, their arrival was met with smiles, lip-smacking, and much hooting and hollering.  Okay, they were met with smiles and lip-smacking.  I don’t hoot.  I’ve been known to w00t, but not hoot.  I digress.

Before the feast, and while my dad was busying himself in the kitchen, I enjoyed some tasty beer2, coffee, and date squares (not necessarily in that order or combination).  I also spent the afternoon chatting with my aunt & uncle, my cousin and his son (who shares my birthday – go August 15 birthday babies), my nieces, my brothers, and my sister-in-law.  It’s not often that all of us are in the same room together, so it’s always nice to catch up.  Especially if that catching-up is done at the kitchen table where food is always plentiful.

While sitting patiently for dinner, I caught up with my nephew.  So freaking cute!  He was born late last year, is still pretty thin on top, and big for his age.  But he’s cute and quiet, so I approve.  At some point in the eve, Aidan decided that his hair would make a great wig for Ethan.  Personally, I think it gives Ethan a bit of a hockey haircut look.  I’m not quite sure that this would be the look that he’d want to go with, assuming he could verbalize such things.  Since he can’t, we opted to obtain photographic evidence of his new hairdo; you know, so that he could say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ at some later point.  It has nothing to do with recording embarrassing moments to say, release to his future prom date.  Regardless, he was hilarious and stylish (at least on some level) – clearly a Gillis man.

Dinner was epic.  Beyond the 36 lbs of aforementioned lobster, there was a huge serving of paella (home-made by my dad, and stuffed full of tiger shrimp and chicken), mussels, wine, wine, and more wine.  And did I mention the wine?  What more could I ask for?  Nothing really.  But the food kept coming.  Following the feast there was coffee, fruit fondue3, more wine, and date squares.  Apparently my mom had also whipped up a home-made lemon pie, but by the time that was suggested, everyone was just too full.

Overall the feast was a huge success.  Everyone was sated and then some, and both Aidan and I departed with leftovers to keep us fat and happy for at least a week.  Most of all, it was just amazing to have everyone together.

Of course since it happens so rarely, we decided that our goal would have to be, and should be to have some sort of epic meal like this on a semi-regular basis.  Granted, with everyone’s crazy schedule that becomes harder to put into practice than to actually say or write.  But of course we’ll try to do it.  And for the most part, we’ll succeed.  We are Gillis’ afterall.  Clearly that means we are awesome.  And awesome has a way of accomplishing things that seem impossible.

Now I’m heading to bed.  Full, oh so full, and very, very happy.  Happy Lobstermania all y’all.

1 You stand them on their head (as my niece Madison is demonstrating in the picture below).  I love the fact that my nieces have been introduced to lobster at such a young age.  Clearly the traditional love of seafood will carry on in with their generation.

2 In this case, some Railway City Brewing Co. Sham-bock . According to the website: A celebration of a Spring German Doppelbock style beer brewed featuring local Maple Syrup. According to me: Delicious.

3 I was offered a 70% dark chocolate fondue (with cherry goo and hot peppers), plus fruit. So tasty. So tasty long time. Based on Madison’s face, I’d say she agrees.

Note: I stole borrowed the title for this post from the song Les Poisson from The Little Mermaid.  Every time I hear this song I smile.

Les poisson, les poissons,
how I love les poissons,
love to chop, and to serve, little fish.
FIrst I cut off their heads,
then I pull out their bones.
Ah mais oui, ca c’est toujours delish.

Les poissons, les poissons,
Hee hee hee, hah hah hah.
With the cleaver I hack them in two.
I pull out what’s inside.
and I serve it up fried.
God, I love little fishes, don’t you?

Here’s something for tempting the palate.
Prepared in the classic technique.
First you pound the fish flat with a mallet.
Then you slash through the skin,
give the belly a slice,
then you rub some salt in,
’cause that makes it taste nice.

Sacre bleu! What is this?
How on earth could I miss
Such a sweet little succulent crab.
Quel dommage, what a loss.
Here we go, in the sauce.
Now some flour, I think, just a dab.

Now I stuff you with bread.
It don’t hurt, ’cause you’re dead.
And you’re certainly lucky you are.
‘Cause it’s gonna be hot
in my big silver pot.
Toodle loo, mon poisson, au revoir!

Les Poissons, The Little Mermaid

# Follow Up III: Dissertation Haiku

So remember back in the old-timey days when Dr. Beth and I had reported that our dissertation haiku had been published on the prestigious website known as Dissertation Haiku1?  Well, I am proud to say that my second haiku has officially been published today!  W00t!  Check it out here.

The first haiku, for those who may have forgotten, can be found here.

To say that I’m stoked that my second haiku has been published is an understatement.  I’m celebrating with a coffee and a date square.  I may celebrate again with another coffee and date square.  I’m wild and crazy like that.

Actually, the celebrations will be fully reported on later.  Tonight I shall be enjoying the Gillis family Lobster-fest.  My dad has purchased 36 lbs of lobster.  The gorging commences in about 3 hours.

1 See here, here, and here for example.

# The Answer Is: Who Are Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett, and Jodie Foster?

In honour of St. Patrick’s day, last night I headed off to Toronto with my friend Aqleema (see her review of the concert here).  The goal – to see Sarah McLachlan in concert.  This would be the second time that I would be seeing her in concert, but it would be Aqleema’s first.  In fact, this would be Aqleema’s first concert ever.

Before the concert, we opted to head to the Asian Bowl for some grub.  And by opted, I mean that we were forced to go here as all other restaurants and pubs were elbow to elbow full of people getting their green-beer on.  One pub had a line-up that spanned a city block.  Crazy.

Dinner was good, if not a little rushed given the time we actually arrived in Toronto, managed to park and then find a place to eat.  I opted for 2 appetizers (spring rolls and deep-fried chicken filled wontons – YUM), while Aqleema chose a delicious avocado salad.  I paired mine with a cold bottle of Tiger beer.  I may have also enjoyed a bit of a lychee martini, but I’ll never say for sure.

Following dinner, we walked to Massey Hall as the concert was to begin promptly at 7:30pm.  I love this venue for concerts, because it’s not too big and it’s not too small either.  It offers an intimate setting while still giving you a big concert feel.  To date, I’ve seen Amanda Marshall, Erykah Badu, Jon Stewart, the Kids in the Hall, and several other comedy shows at Massey Hall.  All were amazing.

Tonight’s concert was going to be a bit different from the normal concert fare that most are accustomed.  In this particular case, Sarah decided to avoid the use of an opening band, and instead feature the musical talents of her band.  Their music was interspersed throughout the set.  The talents included

I had never heard music from either of these artists.  But what I heard was fantastic.  Their music fit so well with Sarah’s music, while at the same time being unique and stand-alone.  The best; whoever wasn’t singing lead became back-up singer.  And I have to say I was amazed by this.  Seeing Sarah take a back seat to two amazing talents speaks volumes.  Not only was Sarah playing back-up, she did so with the same intensity that she would use as lead.  She knew all of their songs word for word.  It was quite inspiring and amazing to see.  Ultimately, it felt as if the three were having a very polished jam session, and we were allowed to watch.  Awesome!

The night also included a question and answer period, where audience members could submit questions during the intermission.  Sarah then randomly drew them from a hat and answered them as honestly as she could.  What did we learn?

1. Sarah has kissed a girl, and she liked it.  On multiple occasions no less.
2. If she could date any actor, it would be Viggo Mortensen.
3. If she could date any actress, it would be either Jodie Foster, or Cate Blanchett.
4. Motherhood has been far more profound than her career.
5. She has had sex on the beach.
6. She learned to surf when she was 30.
7. She has hung ten only once.
8. She would not say which guitarist in her band was the best.

The set list, to the best of my recollection and proficiency on the intertubes included (please correct me if I’m wrong):

1. Awakenings
2. Building A Mystery
3. Loving You Is Easy
4. Stupid
5. To Feel Love (Butterfly Boucher)
6. Another White Dash (Butterfly Boucher)
7. Passenger 24 (Melissa McClelland)
8. Brake (Melissa McClelland)
10. I Will Remember You
11. Don’t Give Up On Us
12. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
13. Fallen
14. World On Fire
15. Broken One (Melissa McClelland)
17. I Can’t Make Me (Butterfly Boucher)
18. A Bitter Song (Butterfly Boucher)
19. Good Enough
20. The Path Of Thorns (Terms)
21. Forgiveness
23. Hold On
24. Illusions Of Bliss
25. Sweet Surrender
26. Possession
27. Angel
28. Rivers Of Love
29. Ice Cream

Overall, the concert was everything I was expecting, and then some.  Between Sarah and these two new amazing artists (well, new to me), the music was incredible.  It also didn’t hurt in the slightest that Sarah brought a Cellist on stage at the end of the night for Angel.  So. Freaking. Good.  Honestly, the cello is one of my absolute all time favourite instruments.  Between that and Sarah on the piano, I was in heaven.  All of this, and I get to check off item #33 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list.  Who could ask for a better night?

1 Bitter Song by Butterfly Boucher. She played this last night. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

2 Broken One by Melissa McClelland. Another excellent performance.

Some other songs by Butterfly Boucher and Melissa McClelland:

And an example of how awesome the three (Sarah, Butterfly, and Melissa) are together. I really hope they do a joint album.