Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Branching Out on Their Own

I like to think that I have good taste in music.

I have shared some of it with my friends, and they have liked what I have introduced to them; some have even thanked me.

I'm talking about the friends I've recently introduced to artists like Hawksley Workman and Sam Roberts, or to bands like Metric.

In high school, I was the first of my friends to be into Led Zeppelin (first of my friends in elementary school, actually) and Peter Gabriel, to which my old friends still groove.

My kids have benefited from my music tastes, as they also like these bands and artists. My youngest loves Sarah Slean, and couldn't get enough of her on Canada Day. She is always listening to her music and has two autographed posters in her bedroom.

But my eldest daughter has branched out and discovered new music, and both of them listen to a pop-music radio station on a regular basis. That's okay. I feel that I've laid down enough roots and introduced them to music that they will take with them and keep for the rest of their lives.

When I was young, growing up in my parents' home, I was subjected to their musical tastes. Some, I didn't care for, like Roger Whittaker and Nana Mouskouri. But they did listen to Cat Stevens, who I still love, Neil Diamond, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, and ABBA. While I never had a lasting affinity for Denver, I still sing some of his songs from time to time in the shower or while cleaning the kitchen.

I branched away from most of this music when  I discovered Led Zeppelin and became close friends with my older sister's boyfriend, Keith Haartman, who introduced me to Alice Cooper, B.T.O., Yes, and Strawbs (although that 60s band never stuck with me).

While my daughters, for the most part, have listened to the music that I play around the house and have gone to live shows that my wife and I have taken them to, they are not limited to only that music. As I said, they listen  to the pop stations and have come to know music that has not been brought into our house any other way.

I suppose that as we try to break out on our own, we go in directions that run against the flow of our parents. That is something that our eldest daughter has done recently, and she's taking our youngest with her.

My kids are becoming head bangers.

I don't use that term in a derogatory way: though my kids didn't understand the reference, I'm sure that it is still used to describe those who listen to heavy metal and hard rock.

Lately, my sweet, adorable girls are listening to the band, Three Days Grace.

I remember hearing this band a couple of years ago, and I dismissed them out-of-hand because it's simply not to my taste. I like classic rock bands and alternative rock, but I'm not a fan of hard rock. I never listened to Iron Maiden, or Black Sabbath (though one friend always played Ozzie Osbourne's old band when I went over to his house), or any of those other metal/hard-rock bands.

To me, it almost all sounds the same.

For my wife, every hard-rock band these days sounds like Nickelback. I think that's harsh.

Over the weekend, as we were driving around town, my eldest child handed me her MP3 player and asked me to connect it to our car, so she could listen to her favourite rock band. Being open-minded, I consented.

To their credit, Three Days Grace does not sound like Nickelback. While they have those classic hard-rock guitar riffs and heavy base, there is some talented guitar playing. The lyrics of many songs were thoughtful. I listened to her music without judgement or without the urge to turn it off (something my parents would have done after five seconds in a similar situation, when I was a young teen).

When the album finished, my daughter asked me what I thought of the music. I told her that it wasn't bad, but it wasn't to my taste. I wouldn't stop her from listening, I wouldn't mock her, I wouldn't put her new-found band down.

But I look at my sweet daughter, I just can't picture her as a metal head. I've seen her in her room, reading a Percy Jackson adventure, listening to the instrumentals of Sarah Slean's Land and Sea orchestral songs. It's as though she's become another person.

Which is probably how my folks felt when I went from singing along with Sweet Caroline to cranking up the Immigrant Song.

Eventually, we all branch out on our own. I'm just glad they haven't embraced country music.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beer O'Clock: Palomar Lime & Chipotle Ale

Last week, I racked up my second Master of Beer Appreciation (MBA) status at Mill Street Brew Pub in Ottawa. I know, it's a tough life when you consume 85 pints of beer and receive recognition. I, by no means, am a leader in the MBA members at Mill Street. A friend of mine, who has been going to the pub for as long as I have, is either close to his fourth MBA or has just achieved it.

Another regular to the pub, has earned his fifth.

I love beer, but I don't have an addiction.

When you achieve your MBA, you receive a few perks from the pub. You get a pint glass with your name engraved on it. You can take it home or you can keep it at the pub, where you can have your pints served to you in your very own glass.

You also have your name engraved on a plate, which is affixed to a stainless-steel keg that celebrates all of the folks who have earned their MBA.

Also, you are treated for a dinner for two at the pub.

On Friday, I shared my MBA dinner with Lori and the kids. It was a perfect evening with clear skies and no humidity, and a gentle breeze that kept the bugs at bay.

My timing for this dinner was perfect, because the evening before saw the launch of the brew pub's latest one-off and I was very eager and excited to try it.
Palomar Lime & Chipotle Ale (5.5% ABV)
Mill Street Brew Pub
Ottawa ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 4.5
Appearance: a clear, effervescent, deep amber with an off-white head that settles to a thin cap.

Nose: not much off at the beginning, but eventually I detected a slight citrus scent with light caramel.

Palate: my taste buds were immediately met with fresh lime. As the beer washed over my tongue, I caught a wave of smoke, and then a mild burn at the back of the throat, like cinnamon hearts without the sweetness. There is a good balance of malt and hops.

After a few sips, my lips began to tingle a little bit. I had an overwhelming urge to kiss someone. Luckily, my wife was nearby.

Overall impression: I'm not typically one for complex, fruity ales, but Palomar is a refreshing ale with the right amount of bite. I tip my hat to head brewer, Adam Rader, for this adventurous and exciting ale. He has mixed real lime juice and Mexican chipotle peppers into this American amber ale and has created a unique summer thirst quencher.

Because this ale is a one-off, the Ottawa Mill Street pub will have a limited amount on tap. Luckily, it's also available in growlers at the pub.

I highly recommend that you grab some before it's gone. Who knows if and when they'll make more.

I had two pints at Friday's dinner: they count towards my third MBA, right?


Friday, July 26, 2013

Photo Friday: Golden Linings

I could see that I wasn't going to reach my destination by sunset. That fiery orb was sinking too quickly toward the horizon, the dark storm clouds were moving to intercept.

I made the decision to be late. I knew that when I showed my waiting family the reason for my tardiness, that they would be okay with my reason.

While I took many shots as the sun set, I waited until it had barely disappeared behind the cloud to take the following shot. I wanted the cloud lining to glow.

If you look carefully (click the photo to enlarge it), a bird made its way into the photo. But that's okay: we both had places to be.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Can We Move On? Please?

Aww, that's nice: Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, has given birth to a healthy baby boy, Prince George of Cambridge. Eight pounds, six ounces. Ten fingers, ten toes. Two eyes, a nose, and mouth. As far as we know, a typical example of the male gender of the human race.

Now, can the press and media—and I'm including social media—please stop talking about him? Until, at least he does something that no other child does? And, I'm including nude photos of him with an unknown person at a frat party.

I understand that there are a lot of fans of Will and Kate, that the lovers of the British Monarchy live for this type of attention given to the Royal Couple. I admit, when the young couple tied the knot, my family was caught up in the wedding... I mean, Pip in that dress? What warm-blooded guy couldn't become interested?

Two years ago, when the Duke and Duchess visited Canada and made an appearance in Ottawa for Canada Day, my family and I headed downtown, climbed a lamppost, and waited for the carriage to pass by. With my camera at the ready, and Lori with my Flip, we captured some impressive images.

When the media learned of Kate's pregnancy, the crazies came out of the woodwork, making predictions of gender, name, of what the child would look like, what brand of whisky he or she would drink, and what Twitter nickname the child would chose.

Did you know that, according to online search results, more than 350,000 babies are born each day around the world? Last year, an estimated 2,000 babies were born each day in the U.K. alone. And yet, much of the world went ape-shit over the birth of one child.

I almost feel bad for the parents who welcomed their own offspring into the world on Monday. If those parents were hard-core monarchists, will they forever remind their child that they were born on the same day as the third person in line for the British Throne? Like the child should feel lucky for sharing his or her birthday with someone who knows nothing about him or her?

Don't get me wrong: I'm happy for the Royal Couple. I'm glad that George was born without complications, that both child and mother are fine. Just as I would be at the news of anyone having given birth. It's one of the most natural acts in the world; it's what keeps humanity thriving.

But enough of the press coverage. With mother and child back home, let them get on with living and learning about parenthood.

Let's get on with the rest of what's happening in the world.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Letting Go of the Past

Having consumed two bottles of wine, I feel that I can finally write this post.

I've never written a blog post while under the influence of alcohol. I have developed a slight buzz from some high-alcoholic beer while conducting a review, and I admit that some of the chapters of Songsaengnim were composed with a few Manhattans under my belt, but I've never needed to use booze to share some feelings on The Brown Knowser. Until tonight.

For those of you who are coming to my blog for the first time, this post may seem déclassé: me, outing somebody publicly. For even some of my long-time readers, this post may sound harsh. But The Brown Knowser is a place where I feel I can air my feelings, vent my frustrations. Open my heart and soul and bare myself. Can I?

How's my spelling? Grammar okay?

Stephen Page, in his early days of the Barenaked Ladies, once sang: If there's someone you can live without, then do so. Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to make a lot of friends. These friends have gone on to live their various lives, and I have wished them well. Many I have lost track of, but if I were to run into them tomorrow, I would enjoy sitting down with them and catching up on lost time.

Some of those long-lost friends—many of them, I should think—would chat with me and it would seem as though no time had been lost: we would pick up where we left off.

I am lucky in that many of my elementary-school friends and I still keep in touch. I have friends that I am close to from high school and college. And there are some who I still see from my early adult years.

To me, when I make friends, I keep them.

In my life, there are only three people that I can think of, with whom I've had a falling out. One friend, I had known since college. We had had a misunderstanding when he was about to start a job in Toronto. For years, we didn't keep in touch. It was, perhaps, as many as 10 years.

When I learned that he had moved back to Ottawa, I reached out, and he readily agreed to meet. When we did, it was as though time had never elapsed: we picked up exactly where we left off and still maintain that friendship.

Another friend, one with whom I had known since the fourth grade, and I had had a falling out after more than 12 years of being best friends. Some of those years, we were inseparable. But a woman got in the way, things got ugly, and like that, we were no longer on speaking terms.

That incident tore me up, and it took me a long time to recover from that falling out. For more than 17 years, we didn't speak.

And then he reached out, not knowing if I would tell him to go to Hell or would try to make amends. We met, in a pub, knowing almost nothing of each other. It was like the last 17 years never happened. We're close friends, once again.

The only time I fell out with a friend and did not try to patch things up happened more than 11 years ago. I won't get into the details. That friendship was one, when I think about it, that shouldn't have happened in the first place. We weren't right for each other. Both of us were bad influences on each other, but in the end, I came to realize this person was not the type of person that I really wanted as a friend.

With that person, there will be no reconciliation. I won't ever reach out: I won't ever respond to any contact. We're done.

But what is killing me is that last week, I came to the realization that one of my oldest, dearest friends and I have come to a point in our lives where we have grown into two individuals who have differing views on life and have taken paths that come nowhere near each other.

We were elementary-school classmates who didn't come together until a classroom bully brought us together on the playground at recess. And even though we became friends on that day, our lives only intersected briefly during the remaining years in elementary school.

We didn't become fast friends until high school, and even then we only got together in a gang of four or five, or sometimes six, at a time. It wasn't until the university years that we really bonded and would hang out one-on-one.

This person is like family: first, he was like a distant cousin, and then like a close cousin. Eventually, he was like a brother. He was an integral part of my wedding; he saw the birth of my daughters. I have crossed the Atlantic to visit him.

We have differed in opinions and have argued on countless issues. But recently, in my last two visits with him, I came to the realization that if I had met him for the first time on those visits, I would not have wanted to be friends. The last time I saw him, I couldn't wait for the evening to end, couldn't wait for him to return home.

And that realization broke my heart.

All of my friends who have known me for years and are reading this post know who I am talking about. Many of these friends will be shocked that I'm being so open.

Believe me: I've toiled over this issue for a few days. I tried talking to this friend about my frustrations with his critical attitude over things for which I hold dear. He either spoke over me or appeared dismissive.

I'm not worried that my friend in question will read this post: he's never read a thing I've written, has turned down every opportunity. I can only guess by the way he brushed aside any mention I've made about my blog and novel that reading it is beneath him.

I may be wrong, but that's how he made me feel to believe the other week.

As Stephen Page sang: If there's someone you can live without, then do so.

When I last saw my friend of more than 40 years, I thought that I never wanted to see him again. Now, as I sit and write this post, my mind hasn't changed. Perhaps, in time, I can let these feelings go, remember the good times, not see him as the pessimistic, self-righteous asshole that he displayed.

Maybe, just maybe, he'll read this post. He'll either be outraged and never speak to me again. The way I currently feel, in my saddened and alcohol-induced state, that would be the easiest way out. Maybe it would invite him to contact me and talk about it. And from there, we would maybe move forward.

Right now, I'm content to just let him return home, to let go of the past. To think of the many friends that I still have and whose company I cherish.

To move forward.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Not To Be Left Out

Many times, when we're at social outings, I often stay behind the scenes, with my camera firmly affixed to my face.

This photo proves that I can sometimes be part of the action.

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Photo Friday: The Coming Storm

I love keeping my D-SLR in the car with me. It means that often, when I see a photo op, I can whip it out and start shooting.

Assuming that I can pull over somewhere safely and legally, and that I'm not late.

On Wednesday, as I was driving along the Ottawa River Parkway, heading west, I could see dark clouds moving eastward, that rain was falling, and that the sunshine, which was only able to peek out from time to time previously, was now being consumed by the coming storm.

The light was dramatic, with the orange glow of sunshine being capped by black clouds, and fine tendrils of streaming water was falling from the sky.

I wanted to capture the moment immediately.

Unfortunately, being on the Ottawa River Parkway, there is nowhere one can pull over. Neither safely nor legally. There are turnoffs for parking areas at Westboro Beach and the Deschênes Rapids, but I had already passed those and was approaching Lincoln Heights.

And, besides, I was running late for picking my daughter up from camp.

Instead, I sped up a little, hoping that by the time I reached the day camp, the dying sunlight wouldn't disappear completely. That the rain would not reach me.

As soon as I pulled into the camp parking lot, I could see my daughter waiting for me, but I went straight for my camera and walked to where I had the best vantage. The light was almost gone, but not quite. The rain was still falling in the distance, but not as intensely nor with as much stark contrast.

I shot anyway, hoping that post production could help bring the image closer to what I first saw.

Not quite, but close.

Moments after taking the shot and loading my kid into the car, the rain hit. At least in terms of not getting drenched, I had perfect timing.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Alarm that Haunts Me

It starts out almost imperceptible. A soft, steady throb that grows, a pulse that sounds like a beat against various lengths of plastic tube. The sound stirs me, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, compels me from slumber to rise from my bed, shuffle across the room, and make it stop.

Because of its gentle beginning, Lori doesn't often hear it. She sleeps more soundly than I. Though I can awake at the slightest of sounds, my reaction comes quickly. Even in some of my deepest slumbers, I can get to the Off button in time. It's only in my most sleep-deprived state that I don't reach the alarm in time.

And then it gets noisy.

On the mornings where I get up early, at 5:25, I do everything I can to be as silent as possible. For my alarm, I use an app that plays music from my iPhone, which is docked in a charger that has speakers. The docker itself is a clock radio, but neither the built-in beep nor the radio can provide a calming sound.

Because I generally awake easily, it's best to play something soft, and so, on those early mornings, I awake to the introduction to The Cranberries' song, appropriately entitled Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.

From the moment the song begins, I have approximately one minute and 20 seconds to awake, get out of bed, and walk over to the table where our clock radio/docker sits and turn off the alarm, but the song is almost undetectable for the first 10 seconds or so: it is that quiet. The song, during that time, is almost haunting. And since I started using this song, when I'm listening to my music at work, if this song comes up, I have to skip it because it freaks me out.

If I don't get to the alarm in the first 1:20, I am met with a bold, loud guitar and a pounding percussion that make me literally leap from the bed.

Lori, for the most part, doesn't budge.

Lately, however, my mind has begun to anticipate this alarm, and for the past couple of weeks, I awake with the haunting throb in my head. So convinced am I that my alarm is going off that I bolt upright in my bed, rub my eyes, and focus on the clock display, only to find that I've awakened anywhere from a half hour to an hour, or more, before the alarm is meant to sound.

So convinced, am I, that the alarm is going off, that the hair at the back of my neck stands up. I hear this song playing in my head every morning, whether I have my alarm set for 5:25 or 6:30. And it is now starting to cause me anxiety.

I've never been a morning person. I don't like getting out of bed early. I don't like talking to anybody until I've had a shower or a coffee: preferably, the latter. Often, the former. Though I don't enjoy being up so early, I do it. For work. If I have to be somewhere early.

If I don't have to be anywhere, I resist getting out of bed. But now that Wake Up and Smell the Coffee comes to my head every morning, sleeping in is only a dream.

It's the song that comes to my head at ungodly hours. It's the alarm that haunts me.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Think My Wife is Trying to Kill Me

I know she means the best.

My wife wants me to be healthy so that I can live a long time, so that I can take out the trash, mow the lawn, shovel the driveway, refinish our bathroom, and empty the dishwasher. Among other chores.

She's the one who talked me into participating in a Try-a-Tri event a couple of years ago, a couple of swim-cycle events, to take spin and step classes. It was she who signed us up for the 175-kilometre cycle tour to Kingston last month (who, by the way, changed her entry to the 100K route only a couple of weeks before the event).

I'm not a health nut. I try to eat in moderation and get a bit of physical activity a couple of times a week. I love to ride my bike, but I don't do it out of a sense to train for any event. I'll talk about my love of cycling in another post, but that's not the focus of this blog post.

I think my wife is trying to kill me.

In her latest scheme of physical activity, Lori has planned our vacation, which we plan to do sometime next month. She wants to take the family on a canoe trip.

This is the kind of canoeing I'm used to: puttering around a lake.

I'm not talking about a vacation where we go camping and spend some days, leisurely paddling about a lake. No, the vacation is all about the journey. You see, Lori wants us to spend our vacation in a canoe, paddling from Kingston, along the Rideau River system, back to Ottawa.

Her plan is to pack up the kids and our camping supplies, rent a canoe, and drive down to Kingston with my parents. Lori, the kids, and I will pack ourselves into this canoe, leave our van for my parents to drive back to Ottawa after a lovely day in that historic town, and the four of us will paddle the 195.2 kilometres of waterway, camping along the way.

The trip is estimated to take us 11 days to complete, from Kingston Mills to the Chateau Laurier.

I love canoeing. From time to time, when we've camped in the past, we've rented a canoe and cruised around whatever lake we staked our tent at. When we've visited family at their Gatineau cottage, we've occasionally put their canoe in the lake and paddled about.

I've never used a canoe as my only mode of transportation to get home.

Lori is excited about the trip. The kids are excited. We've even started practicing, having joined the RA Centre and headed out on Meech Lake, to hone our skills. We've also completed a 5-kilometre loop at the in-laws. Much more work is required.

But this will be something for you to blog about, she tells me. Think of the photos and experience you can share.

Sure, get me where I live.

I'm nervous, much more than when I cycled to Kingston. We have the great unknown of the weather and other elements in nature. We have the safety, not only of ourselves, but of our kids. What if we get tired or injured from paddling six to eight hours a day?

I will do this trek, will be enthusiastic and will hopefully show my kids that we can do these sorts of adventures, can face these challenges.

But, I swear, my wife is trying to kill me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beer O'Clock: Kid Stuff

Now that my beer reviews have moved from their own blog back to The Brown Knowser, I thought that I would start things with a twist.

First: today's review is a guest post*.

Second: it's not a beer review. That is, it's not an alcoholic beer (and I don't mean one of those lame, 0.5% "de-alcoholized" brews).

We're talking root beer.

A couple of weeks ago, I organized a photo walk along the Ottawa River Parkway, where we all ended up at Mill Street Brew Pub and then turned the event into a tweetup. It was a fun event and, as always, the crew at Mill Street treated us like royalty.

My eldest daughter, Sarah, took part in the photo walk and stayed for the tweetup: it was her first time at both events. Being under the drinking age, and not liking beer anyway (don't worry, folks, I'll have her straightened out by the time she hits 19), she opted for something else that the brew pub produces: root beer.

She enjoyed it so much that she asked me if she could write a review for my blog. How could I say "no" to that?

The following is Sarah's review.
Root Beer (0% ABV)
Mill Street Brewery
Toronto, ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 5
Colour: Dark brown almost black (root beer colour)

Smell: sweet a bit like fennel

Taste:  fennel (licorice ) sweet

Sound: Bubbly... reminds me a bit of Rice Krispies cereal

So.... If it's really all that interesting, and if you MUST know, I was on a photo walk with my dad and his twitter friends (he calls them his peeps or twits...whichever comes first) and we were walking from Remic Rapids to Mill Street. I was wondering what I would drink when I got there since I was thirsty and I have a bit of a one-track mind when I'm sorta bored and very impatient.

Anyways, we finally arrived at Mill Street and we got a table. Dad and his friends went on about how they were the first there and all. I'm not very familiar with the whole photo walk thing so of course I had no clue what they were talking about. I almost literally had a big question mark floating in the air just above my head. I sat down and briefly skimmed the menu and I stumbled upon the root beer. I was quite excited since it was homemade. We ordered, then the adults started talking about strange adult stuff like how long the line was at Starbucks, or how a work colleague was crabby that day. I'll never understand adults... Yet again, some adults probably think that they'll never understand small children.

You know, when I think of a typical root beer, I think of A&W or that bulldog brand... Barq's is it called? Anyways, I thought for a moment that the root beer would be like that but it wasn't which was good. It tasted more like licorice than well... the cheaper root beer.

Overall, it was very good. Extremely refreshing. I highly recommend trying it!


After Sarah wrote her review, I contacted the folks who make Mill Street's root beer, Bridgid and Andrew, to get more facts. Here' what they had to say:
  • We've been making the root beer for about 7 years, and we make it exclusively for Mill Street.
  • On average we make about 6000L of root beer a year.
  • The root beer is made onsite at the Toronto Brewpub location, in the same brewery that we make all the seasonal and specialty beers.
  • It is not available in bottles, unfortunately! It is exclusively available on draft at the Mill Street brew pubs.
  • No plans to make any other sodas at this time. Just keep on rocking the root beer!

* Want to write a guest post for The Brown Knowser? Contact me at roland_axam@yahoo.ca or via Twitter (@RossBrownfoot).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Photo Friday: Candid

I've started doing something to my photos, lately, and I kind of like the effect.

Previously, when I played with HDR images, I would work with three or more bracketed images, merging them and getting a single, evenly exposed image. But sometimes, no matter how much I played with the settings, I couldn't get the merged images to come out exactly the way I wanted.

A couple of weeks ago, out of curiosity, I wondered what would happen if I used the HDR tool on my editing software with a single image. Would anything happen? The first attempt can be found here.

I liked the effect, so I tried it a few more times.

My latest attempt was the other night. I shot this photo during the summer photo walk that I led on the Canada Day weekend. It's a couple of kids, presumably boyfriend and girlfriend, walking across the Prince of Wales Bridge that spans the Ottawa River and Lemieux Island.

I didn't like the shadows that had been cast across the couple, and my attempts to play with the fill-light settings on my software were not doing it for me. So I ran the single image through the HDR merge feature.

I like it. What do you think?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Can Be Such a Child

There are people out there, who, when they discover my age, say, "no way."

I'm 48.

When those people express their disbelief, I have a pat answer: "I know. I get that a lot. It's because I act like I'm 12."

The evidence of my childish behavior lies in some of the posts I've blogged in the past. To wit, my posts about my Top 5 List. Like the Ross of the 90s show, Friends, my wife and I devised a list of the five celebrities, who, if given the opportunity to sleep with, would be allowed to without any repercussions toward our relationship.

Lori kept her list private. She's smart. And mature. And, I don't think she really made a list.

I, on the other hand, not only made a list, I told people about it. Unlike the fictional Ross, I didn't laminate the list on a wallet-sized card: worse, I posted the list on my blog. I started following three of the five on Twitter (I don't think the other two are on Twitter). And, I tweeted links to my blog to those three unsuspecting women.

Yes, that was creepy. I know. But I'm harmless, mostly.

Of those three, I know that two of them have read the post. One of them even responded to the post with a comment. That made my day (more proof that I can behave like a 12-year-old).

On Canada Day, Sarah Slean came to Ottawa to perform a free concert at the NAC. She was accompanied by the NAC Orchestra and the 60-member Unisong Choir. It was a first-come, first-seated event.

This is as close as I managed to get.

Shot with my 50mm lens, the magnification is 1:1.
Because photography was allowed (or, at least, it wasn't discouraged), I switched lenses and got closer.

Having been to three other Sarah Slean concerts, this was the closest I've ever sat. For me, this was as close as I thought I'd ever get to one of my Top 5.

But it got better.

After the show, as we were heading out, we saw a sign that said Sarah was going to come out to the theatre foyer, where she would greet fans and sign autographs. We hung around, letting the kids pick out a poster and one of the few CDs of hers that we didn't already have.

When Ms. Slean came to the foyer, we applauded and got into the autograph lineup. I handed Lori my iPhone and my brother-in-law my D-SLR, and asked them to get ready to snap photos.

When it was our turn to approach her, my youngest handed Sarah the poster, and gave her name. "What a pretty girl," Sarah said, and she looked up at me. She then began to sign, but looked up at me again."

I extended my hand. "Hi, Sarah, I'm Ross Brown."

She smiled and replied, taking my hand, "We're Twitter buddies." Yes, Sarah Slean and I follow each other and have exchanged tweets. But for her to call me her Twitter buddy made my heart race.

Just like a little kid.

While she finished signing the poster, we chatted, but I have no memory of what we said. I was self-conscious of the fact that while she looked fabulous, I was in my Canada Day shirt and shorts, having worn these clothes all day, outdoors, where I had sweat in the summer heat. I thought to myself, I must stink. Also, I hadn't shaved, and I was sporting the worst hair cut I've had in years, if not ever. But I summoned up the courage to ask: "Would it be all right if I had my picture taken with you?"

"Of course," she said.

Beauty and the Beast
Did I talk to her about my Top 5 List? Are you crazy?

I may be childish sometimes, but unlike Ross from Friends, I didn't make any proposition. On the contrary: I thought, Sarah Slean can't be on my list any more. We're Twitter buddies. We're virtual friends. I can't sleep with a friend. (Also, we stayed until most of her fans left, and we met Sarah's parents, who came to get her at the end.)

And just like that, my list crumbled apart.

Like every child, we must all grow up at some point.

But if Kate Kelton came to town...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In Over My Head (Almost)

This weekend, when my girls and I were visiting family up at the lake in the Gatineau Hills, I had Lori snap a picture of me while I was swimming.

When I saw the photo later, I thought to myself, that sums up me and my life perfectly, right now: up to my neck, nearly in over my head.

This photo is now being used as my Twitter avatar.

I felt that life was getting so busy, so hectic, that I was drowning. I have more projects on the go at work that I can't work at them all at the same time. I get confused, having to try and remember which issues go with which document on which product.

At home, I have so many chores that it would take me a couple of weeks, without interruption or distraction, to get through them.

And, in whatever leisure time I have left, I have blog posts to write, photos to shoot, and novels to write.

If I'm lucky, I get five hours of sleep each night. Once in a while, I'm spoiled by seven.

I love to write and I love this blog. Though I know many of you read it on a regular and semi-regular basis (and I thank you for that), I really write this blog for myself. It's where I can dump some of the things that overflow from my brain. I find that writing these blog posts is probably more satisfying and a lot cheaper than therapy.

I promised myself, when I started blogging in 2008, that if I ever thought of this writing as work and not relaxation, that I would stop. Last week, I found that to be the case with my other blog, Beer O'Clock. And so, today, I wrote my last post on that site.

Beer O'Clock started as a regular post on The Brown Knowser a couple of years ago, but when I started reviewing more than one beer a week, I felt that those posts deserved a place of their own.

But, being busy with work, the family, and just trying to enjoy life, dammit, I felt that some nights I had to bust my ass reviewing a beer while thinking up something fun, or though-provoking, or creative on this blog.

Beer O'Clock soon seemed more like work than with enjoyment, and I felt that I had to produce a post, rather than wanting to do one.

So, goodbye to that blog.

Without repeating myself (I know many of you read both blogs: again, thank you), I've decided that if I want to share a great beer with you, I'll do so here, prefacing the title with Beer O'Clock, just as I had before I spun off my beer blog.

I hope that those of you who enjoyed my beer thoughts will continue to do so here. I hope that once I start wanting to review beer, it will no longer feel like a chore.

And I won't feel that I get in over my head with things to do.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lemieux Island

Guesses for the last Where In Ottawa challenge came in after a few days and clues, but in the end it was solved on Saturday by someone who already has a copy of my book. But that doesn't stop Marc from claiming bragging rights for knowing this city.

Congratulations, Marc.

The location is Lemieux Island, along the Ottawa River, where one of the city's water-purification plants is located.

Here are the clues, explained:
  1. Not "fire" works—while the water flowing from the fountain sort of look like fireworks, they aren't. They are water works, just like the water works plant where this little pond is located.
  2. Water, water, everywhere... but is there some to drink?—located on an island in the Ottawa River, you can only drink the water after it is processed at the plant.
  3. All will be made clear—at the water-purification facility.
  4. Future O-Train stop?—the Prince of Wales Bridge, which runs north and south of the island, is owned by the city and may someday carry passengers from Ottawa to Gatineau. Perhaps the line will add a station along this line?
Where In Ottawa returns on August 5.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Photo Friday: Shooting Under a Beauty Dish

Last weekend, I attended another model photo shoot, working with low lighting to capture dramatic contrasts. It was the first time that I used a beauty dish.

A beauty dish is a parabolic reflector lamp that focuses the light to a single point. This means that you can have a subject in a dark setting and the light will only fall on your subject, as long as the dish is not pointed towards the backdrop.

For this shoot, we suspended the beauty dish directly above our model so that the light would fall straight down. Our model stood in front of a black background, allowing us to create a stark contrast of light and dark.

The following shot was taken with a single beauty dish and no other lighting. I shot at 1/100 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200. The focal length was 70mm.

Post-production work was performed by using PaintShop Pro X4.

What do you think? You can see more photos from this shoot on my Flickr page.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I Still Have My Uses

Three years ago, I wrote this post for my other blog. Today, I bring it to The Brown Knowser with a slight update.

It's hard to believe, sometimes, that Lori and I have been married for 19 years.

A couple of years ago, Lori and I discussed our long-term relationship:
Me: So, are you sick of me yet?
Lori: For the most part, no.
Me: The most part?
Lori: Yeah, I mostly still like being around you. You have your uses.
It seems, after 19 years, I still have my uses.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Where In Ottawa: The July Edition

Happy Canada Day!

As many of my fellow Canadians celebrate the 146th anniversary of confederation, I wanted to also remind you that today is the first Monday of the month, which means that fellow Ottawans have something else to celebrate: the Where In Ottawa contest.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this contest, the rules are very simple. Below, I have a photo of somewhere in this great city, the capital of Canada. Your job is to tell me where I shot it. But there are a couple of catches:
  • If you were with me when I shot this photo, you cannot play, so please don't tip anyone off.
  • If you know where this photo was shot, you must leave your answer in the Comments section of this post (that is, no tweets, Facebook posts, or e-mail messages will be accepted).
That's it.

If you are the first person to correctly identify this location, I will reward you with a PDF copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, with the following exception: if you have already won a Where In Ottawa challenge, no giveaway will be awarded, but you will still have bragging rights.

Ready for the challenge? Here it is:

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

Good luck, and Happy Canada Day!

Update: Where In Ottawa has been solved. The solution will be shown on Monday, July 8.