Thursday, June 21, 2018

Beer O'Clock: Space Invaders

You got me, Amsterdam.

It's been a few years since I've reviewed one of your beers; nearly as long, since I've even drank one. I don't remember when I decided to stop drinking your products, or why. (That's not true: I do remember, but it's not worth mentioning. It's all in the past.)

I realized that I was only hurting myself by avoiding your great beer, but yet I still denied myself a can or two when I was in an LCBO.

Until this week, Amsterdam. You got me.

I'm a sucker for nostalgia: I love finding old photos, whether it be of my city, in its early years, or rediscovering old pastimes that I had long forgotten.

When I was in my teens, in the late 70s and early 80s, my sisters, friends, and I would spend our weekends at an Ottawa roller-skating rink, Skateway Roller Disco. We would spend hours, dancing in circles on our skates, long before inline skates was a thing. The strobe lights, disco ball, and coloured lights. The giant stack of speakers in the centre of the rink.

There's a high probability that I'm somewhere in this photo.
Man, I loved to skate, and I did it well: speed-skating, waltzes, spins. Girls would want to skate with me to the slow songs because I could help them spin on the floor, would help them improve their own skills.

I had the moves. (Too bad I didn't have the ability to attract them beyond the rink.)

When I needed to take a break, I would head over to the arcade area and plunk my quarters into one game and one game alone: Space Invaders.

That's where you got me, Amsterdam. That bright can with the pixelated enemy that I spent untold amounts of time and money, trying to eliminate with a joystick and a big red button. Row after row, wave after wave of these aliens, moving side-to-side across the screen, slowly descending toward my defenses.

Your label got me. I had to have that beer. I had to try it and share my thoughts. Which brings us here:
Space Invader IPA (6% ABV)
Amsterdam Brewery
Toronto ON
Appearance: a deep, golden amber, with loads of sediment that moves around, working its way to the bottom of the glass, just like the digital aliens march toward the structures that rest between my cannon and certain doom. A white, foamy head pours thick but settles to a creamy, firm cap.

Nose: mild citrus and even milder pine resin.

Palate: orange rind and bitter tea. The flavour starts mild and builds in intensity, toward a finish that gets bigger the more you drink. It accumulates, just like the waves of alien enemies that keep coming and coming, faster and faster.

Overall impression: this IPA plays out like that game from the 1970s, but from a 2018 perspective. That is to say, had Space Invader IPA hit the market when Space Invaders was popular, the beer would have been a sensation. Revolutionary.

Looking at Space Invaders today is like comparing it to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It would be interesting, but not a game-changer. There are much better and more complex games out there, today.

Still, Amsterdam's beer is good. But when you compare it to the other IPAs of today—even to its own Boneshaker—what you get is an India Pale Ale that is easy-drinking but offers nothing that stands out as extraordinary.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3

I would drink this ale any time it was offered to me but I'm not sure I'd seek it out. Much like I would play Space Invaders if I found myself in front of the game, with time on my hands, but I wouldn't go searching for it in an arcade.

But you got me, Amsterdam. I'm back. I'll ignore you in the stores no more. With Space Invader, you have me nostalgic for your brews.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Under The Umbrellas

As I whined, last week, about my black-and-white photo project and how I'm getting tired of schlepping around three or more cameras, every day, I'm reminded of a stop that I made, last Friday, on my morning commute to work.

In a couple of Facebook photo groups I follow, on Instagram, and on Twitter, I noticed that various local photogs had discovered a spot where several coloured umbrellas were hanging, suspended, in close formation, as though they were all floating earthward, their handles pointing toward the direction of the ground. The effect was so cool that I thought I had to find this area and capture images for myself.

Of all the photos I saw, no one revealed the location of this display of parasols. It wasn't until I saw one photo, with a familiar building in the distant background, that I knew exactly where this spot was. I waited until the next morning where the forecast called for clear skies, and left for work a little earlier than usual.

The detour was only slight.

So there I was, at 6:30, on Friday morning, with four cameras: my Nikon D-SLR, my Canon PowerShot compact digital, my Android smartphone, and a Ricoh 500G manual rangefinder, with black-and-white 35mm film. And above me, countless colourful umbrellas.

(I'm sure I could count them, but I was on the clock.)

I used all of the cameras, reaching into my bag, pulling out one device, shooting images, putting the camera away, grabbing the next one, and so on... wanting to know how each camera captured the images.

In no particular order, here are photos from the three digital cameras.

I won't have the photos for the Ricoh until the entire roll of film is used up, which should be within a month.

Which photo do you prefer?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Walking on Broken Bones

The conversation went like this:

Doctor: "So, Ross, how's the foot feeling?"

Me: "It's getting much worse. It feels like I'm walking on a broken foot."

Doctor: "Well, in a sense, you are. Let's take a look at the scans... ."

The nurse who admitted me to the examining room, for this appointment, had already inserted the CD in the disc drive. I had brought the CD with me, from the Smiths Falls hospital, where a couple of months ago I had had CT scans on both feet.

The doctor opened a program that showed a clear black and white image of both feet. He rotated and zoomed in on the images to get a better look of the left foot. "No wonder your foot feels like it's broken. It really is broken."

He zoomed in on the area where I'm experiencing the most pain, where the foot clicks and crackles, like I'm walking on egg shells with every step. An actual piece of bone appeared suspended above the other bones that were still attached to one another. It was clear that this piece had broken free from the arthritic mass on the top of my foot.

The solution is clear: surgery.

The doctor continued examining the images of my foot, layer by layer, zooming in on some areas, rotating others to gain a new vantage. Because the arthritis is so extensive, he told me that it won't be an easy surgery. He will most likely require extra bone material to fix it, most likely taken from my shin. Another place to extract bone would be the hip, but he's reluctant because he knows that the pain, afterwards, is substantial.

I've had bone taken out of my hip before, and let me assure you: it hurts. A lot. The first time that the orderlies and nurses moved me, shortly after my first foot surgery, they tried to get me to sit up. The pain was so intense that I projectile-vomited on one of the nurses before blacking out.

A third option, explained the doctor, would be to harvest bone from a cadaver. I liked that option: the dead feel no pain.

We filled out forms, talked about the risks. Because the arthritis was so bad, he had no clear path for fusing the bones that are degenerating because of the Köhler's Disease. He told me that the surgery might not work. He may have to operate more than once.

These are risks that I've heard before: in fact, I experienced them with my right foot, when I had my two surgeries for Köhler's in the early 90s.

"Let's do this," I said. "And, if anything goes wrong, don't hesitate to cut it off."

My doctor smiled. I've asked him to cut my foot off at every visit.

"Only, if you do cut off the foot, you'll have to take the other one, too. With prostheses, I intend to add about four inches to my height."

That got a laugh.

So now, I wait. My doctor is booked through to September. He told me it would be autumn, most likely, early October. It will require an overnight stay in hospital (my first surgery kept me in hospital for a week; the second, five days). I'll be in a cast for about six to eight weeks, and then another month in a boot. It will take about four to six months before I fully heal, assuming the surgery is a success.

My doctor knows that I like to cycle, knows I've missed the last two Rideau Lakes Cycle Tours. He, himself, also cycles and has said he'd like to ride the RLCT some day.

If all goes well, perhaps we'll ride it together.

For now, I have to wait four months, all the while walking on broken bones.