Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beer O'Clock Is Not Dead

I'm sitting on a fence.

For years on The Brown Knowser, I used to share my views of various ales and lagers that I would find at the local LCBO, at brew pubs, at breweries, or at special events. I like to share: it's what I do.

Too much, my family and friends remind me.

But one thing that I really like to share is beer, especially when I find a real gem and I feel that you should try it, too. There's something about taking that first sip, having the flavours wash around in my mouth, my tastebuds delighting in the sensation. It's at that moment that I want to take a photo of that beer, as it glows in the glass, with the bottle snuggled alongside it. I want to make as many notes as I can, describing its appearance, how it smells, how it tastes, and how it makes me feel.

Only, I haven't done that it a while. I'm sure many of you have wondered, is Beer O'Clock dead?

In a word, no.

But I've been busy, writing on The Brown Knowser, working on my novel, and then there's my day job and my family.

So, when I enjoy a beer, sometimes I just want to live in the moment, and savour the flavour.

But even then, I'm still keeping track of what I'm consuming. And sharing it. Through Untappd.

I'm not saying that Untappd has replaced Beer O'Clock. But while my beer blog is on hiatus, I can still share what I'm drinking, and what I think. And I also get the benefit of seeing what my friends are drinking and what they think. So that I can try it, too.

And share my opinion.

Of course, because this is a social-media app, there are some geeky bits to it, too. There are badges that you can earn, depending on what style of beer you drink, where you drink it, and what holiday befalls that day.

They mean absolutely nothing, but they're fun, especially when you're not expecting them (I earned a Take-It-Easy badge when I was drinking a sampler in New York City: I had only had sips of each, and was clearly taking it easy).

Beer O'Clock is not dead, but I don't know when I'll post another review. I do have a collection of various Imperial stouts that I've amassed over the years, and I'd like to compare them with each other, possibly, in the next few weeks. I may post a Beer O'Clock review on The Brown Knowser. I just don't know what I'm going to do with my beer reviews yet.

In the meantime, you can connect with me on Untappd, and perhaps we can share a beer or two.

Virturally, at least.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Music Monday: Move Me

They say it's sometimes the smallest things that can have the biggest impact on us.

Take, for example, the Scot in me. I have, at best, a dram of Scottish blood, but I love all things Scottish. My main character in my novel is from North Berwick, just east of Edinburgh. I married a woman who is half-Scots. One of my favourite authors is from Scotland. And, for the past eight years, I have celebrated Robbie Burns Day in Ottawa's foremost Scottish pub, The Highlander.

For the first couple of years, I went to The Highlander with colleagues from work. Then, for five years, it became a tradition with my father and me. And this year, because he was out of town, I brought my wife and kids, and we feasted on haggis, nips, and tatties, and we washed it all down with some single-malt whisky.

My thanks go to the staff, for putting on their usual outstanding show, and to Ken, the owner, who chatted with me about fine Islay malts, and who shared some rare, 25-year-old Laphroaig.

I never feel more Scottish than when I'm at The Highlander.

Do you know what else I love that's Scottish? The awesome music of Midge Ure.

And because he's coming to the Ottawa area for my 50th birthday, I want you to spend this special show with me.

Doing so would greatly move me.

If you can come out on Tuesday, March 3, to the Black Sheep Inn, in Wakefield, I would be honoured. You can buy the tickets by clicking here, and then you could let me know that you're coming by going here.

Or just show up and surprise me. I like those kinds of surprises. I know that it would be no small thing for you to commit to a show on a week night. Small things have big impacts: just think what a big thing like this would do.

For Music Monday, here is one of Midge Ure's songs, Move Me.

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Photo Friday: In My Bones

There's a humidity in this city that lingers year-round. It's felt in the heat of the summer, when it clings to your body and weighs you down, smothers you like a thick, wool blanket.

In the dead of winter, it penetrates every fibre of your being, gets in your skin, chills you to your bones. Once there, it's hard to shake, hard to warm back to a feeling of normality.

As I age, I find I like the cold less. I hate dressing in layers, hate changing in and out of boots that collect dirty slush and salt. Navigating wet areas of floor with socks intact.

Always seeking warmth.

In the dead of winter, when I feel the chilling bite, I wonder why I do it. Why do I stay in this city that sees temperatures that are colder than Siberia, in a country that sees temperatures colder than Mars—than MARS... a planet further from the sun than our own!

And then I walk the Rideau Canal at night, and I see the beauty of the snow-covered trees, how the steam and smoke from stacks dance in the air. I see skaters enjoying the world's largest skating rink, doing what they couldn't do anywhere else.

And I know.

This city, like the chill, is in my bones. It may make me shiver, but it also warms my heart.

There's no place I'd rather be.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Prickly Situation

For a couple of weeks, I have been receiving physiotherapy for my lower-back pain. With this treatment, I am gradually returning to normal—I think.

I love the TENS unit: the electric current numbs the pain and relaxes the muscles.

The ultrasound further eases the tension, and apart from the smooth device moving over my skin and the cool gel, I feel nothing during the treatment.

There are doughnut-sized suction cups that are filled with damp sponges, connected to a machine that, like the TENS, sends an electric current over my back. I can control the intensity, and I turn it up until it is almost painful, but when it's done, I feel great.

My physiotherapist has provided exercises to move the slipped disk back into place and to strengthen my core muscles. He massages the muscles and gently manipulates my vertebrae, ensuring that everything is where it's supposed to be.

But yesterday, he tried something that, in a nutshell, I just didn't like: acupuncture.

DD11 made me remove my moles and smooth my skin. I drew the line at removing the hair. The red is from a heat pad.

I have friends that swear by this ancient form of pain treatment, and I'm truly happy for them. But here's why it's not for me.

I don't like needles: I can get a shot and I can give blood, but I don't like the prick and I cannot, under any circumstances, watch somebody stick one in me. But I had 12 needles placed into my back, at the same time, and they were left there for more than 15 minutes. I could feel them the entire time, and I did not like the sensation.

I tensed up with the first needle, and by the time the twelfth one was in me, my back was one firm piece of meat, and it never settled down. I felt as though I had flexed my back and it had become stuck: even after my physiotherapist had removed the needles, my back remained tense.

When the TENS unit and other devices are used, my muscles may spasm through the treatment, but I experience no pain and when the device is removed, my back feels good. With the acupuncture needles out, my back was sore. It remained sore through the rest of my visit. It remained sore on the drive home. It remained sore through dinner, Dragon's Den, and The Book of Negroes.

Writing this post, my back hurts.

My next visit to the physiotherapist is tomorrow (Friday). I look forward to the TENS unit, the ultrasound, the suction cups. I happily anticipate the massage and spinal manipulation.

Acupuncture, not so much.