Monday, March 31, 2014

Music Monday: Skyscrapers

Oh, how I wanted Fred to come back to Ottawa.

I was first introduced to this Cork, Ireland, band in late 2008 or early in 2009, when some friends of mine, who lived in that city at the time, were big-time fans and had pointed me to Fred's website. My friends told me that if this energetic band came to town, I was not to miss them.

In July of 2009, I got a first-hand taste of Fred: not only did I attend their Ottawa show, I had the privilege of meeting the group and chatting with their front man, Joe O'Leary.

Five years later, at what seemed to be the height of their career, the band members went their separate ways.

You owe me another show, lads!

For Music Monday, I thought I would share the first song of theirs that I had heard, before I saw them perform live. This song, Skyscrapers, shows the fun, goofy side of the band. It also features a short-time member, the uber-hot Carolyn Goodwyn.


See also, Get Fred.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Photo Friday: Colour

Last Friday, a large group of my photography meetup group gathered on the Mackenzie Bridge for a late-night photo walk that took us along the canal to the locks between the Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill, over to the National Gallery, and finally, at the Alexandra Bridge, which was closed to traffic, for maintenance.

If you saw my Wordless Wednesday this week, you've already seen some of my photos from that evening.

Our walk took us underneath the War Memorial, where Wellington and Elgin meet, and where my family ended our summer canoe vacation, which had started in Kingston. This underpass is clean, unadorned concrete, which I'm happy to say is free of graffiti. I've taken photos under here before, but never at night.

The lights that illuminate this area are multicoloured, but the eye wanted to blend them into a uniform tone.

But my camera and photo-editing software know better.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

You Mess With My Kid, You Mess With My Neighbourhood

As a parent, the only things you wish for your child is for them to be safe, healthy, and happy. There are plenty of things you can teach them about being safe: to not climb too high up a tree; to wear a helmet when they ride their bikes. To look both ways before crossing a street.

And to never get into a stranger's vehicle.

That last point is something you teach your child, but always hope that you never have to see put into practice. And if it must be put into practice, you hope for a safe outcome.

On Tuesday, one of my kids was put to the test.

As she walked from where her school bus lets her off to our house, she noticed a rusted, white pickup truck parked on the side of the road, less than 100 metres from our driveway. She didn't notice the make, but when she pointed out a similar truck in a neighbour's driveway, she remarked that it didn't have "that little door behind the driver's door." It wasn't an extended cab.

The engine was turned off. A lone man was sitting behind the wheel: he was older—as she put it, "older than grandpa G"—wore his white hair long, and covered on top with a blue bandana. He wore a black tank top, and she could see a tattoo on his left arm. From what she could tell, he worked out: his arms were big.

His truck was facing her, and she had to step out onto the street to get around it because she didn't want to have to climb the snowbank. Walking alongside the truck, she was passing it on the driver's side.

As she came alongside the vehicle, the man rolled down his window, hung his arm out, and told her he had candy. His voice was deep and raspy, she later described. A smoker's voice. Did she want to come into his truck and have some?

My daughter isn't stupid. Her response was clear: "no."

Not easily deterred, he added, it's cold out: you should come in and warm up.

My daughter isn't stupid. Her response wasn't verbal. She high-tailed it home.

As parents, we did what we could: we called the police and filed a report. We notified our neighbours of what happened. We contacted the schools. Being on social media, I sent out tweets, warning people of a child predator. (So many of you did exactly what I had hoped for: you spread the word.)

I contacted people I know in the media (through social media): the CBC, 1310News, Majic100. Two reporters talked to me on the phone. Later, CTV News tweeted me, wanting to talk, but never got through to me. I later learned that the local CTV station aired a story.

Word got out.

I have the most awesome neighbours. They banded together. At the end of yesterday's school day, there were parents on the street, watching and waiting. Many of us have known each other since our kids were born. In a way, we're an extended family: the kids know they can go to any house and be safe.

For my part, I worked from home yesterday. About 30 minutes before my daughter's bus was scheduled to arrive, I picked up my camera (strapped the 70-300mm lens on it) and walked around the surrounding blocks, truly hoping I would spot this bastard. I wanted to capture some images of him to help the police with their investigation.

And then I wanted to crack my camera over his skull (I could use an upgraded body).

Sadly, he was nowhere to be found. Whether he moved on to another neighbourhood or was scared off by the crowd that gathered at the end of my street, we won't know. But I do know this: my neighbours are watching. We are united in keeping all of our kids safe.

To the dude in the truck, I say this: seek help. Never come back to my end of town. Because if you mess with my kid, you mess with my neighbourhood.

And we will mess with you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hitting the Wall

Saturday started great. I awoke at seven and immediately started making breakfast. A simple meal: oatmeal with fresh raspberries and sweet maple syrup. Mango-orange juice. I turned on CBC Radio One, catching the latest news. The radio also helped me keep track of time.

I went to my daughters' rooms and gently woke them up. Told them that I had a warming meal for them, that it was time to get ready for dance class. They got out of bed easily, without the need for me to call out to them, over and over, with my volume rising at each call. We had a great breakfast.

Off to dance class, and then home, where I cleaned the kitchen and then sat to process the photos from the night before. A late-night photo walk downtown, which ended on the Alexandra Bridge, which was abandoned, closed due to maintenance, though there was no sign of workers. The photo walk got me home just before two in the morning.

When both girls were finished with dance, I took them to the Walter Baker Sports Centre, where my eldest and I were going to start a swim routine: me, training for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour; her, training for a Try-a-Tri race in May. It was a simple swim: 400 metres for her; 500 metres for me.

Meanwhile, my youngest daughter visited the library and then watched us swim from the observation area on the floor above.

The snow storm was pretty much over, by the time we were done, so we drove home, where I spent the next hour shovelling the driveway. Though it is officially spring, the cruel snow is not yet done with us.

An afternoon of housecleaning before an early dinner, to celebrate my eldest's recent birthday, her entrance into teenhood. A large table with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. A great table at a favourite restaurant.

On the drive home, I felt heavy, tired. I could feel my energy levels wane. Though it wasn't yet nine, I wanted to go to bed when I got home. It had been a busy day. A busy week, for that matter. Late nights and early risings. The most I had slept in one night was about five and a half hours. The least, two. Most nights, four.

I was hitting the wall.

I know some athletes hit the wall when they push themselves, but they overcome it to finish their challenge. When I cycled to Kingston, last year, I hit the wall just past Westport. I wanted to give up. But the only thing that kept me from quitting my ride was the realization that I had nowhere else to go. I was much closer to the end of the journey than the beginning.

When I arrived home on Saturday night, my body had hit its limit. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. My brain was unable to cope, and it was only sending me one message: sleep.

With my wife's encouragement, I fought to stay up as the kids readied themselves for bed and we did a final cleanup of the kitchen, which had become messy again after preparing a birthday cake.

But as much as I pushed my body, my body pushed back.

I had flashbacks to when I was three and we had just moved from Montreal to Ottawa, how I was underfoot as Mom and Dad, my aunts and uncles, unpacked in the evening, how I was tired and unfamiliar with my new surroundings.

I tried to get words out, but my brain failed to make connections with my mouth. I started a sentence and then stopped. A random word came out but it was the wrong word, or a word mispronounced. Sometimes, I wasn't even sure that the word I used was even English. My ears didn't hear what I was trying to say, the sounds didn't even sound like my own voice.

I had trouble standing. I was dizzy and I felt a huge weight on me, as though the air itself was too heavy, that gravity was pulling me downwards.

As soon as the kitchen was finished, I gave one final push. I managed to indicate to my wife to turn out lights before she came upstairs. I grabbed onto the bannister and pulled myself up the stairs, willing myself to get into the bedroom.

I have vague memories of pulling off my pants, letting them fall where they may. I took off my shirt and then fell onto the bed with a weighted crash. My final memory was pulling the duvet over myself.

I slept for 12 hours.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Music Monday: Beautiful Trash

This is another song that I received as a free download at Starbucks.

Starbucks, I love you: you give me satisfying coffee, tasty treats, and music.

I know nothing about Lanu or any other song they perform. All I know is that this is a feel-good tune that lights me up whenever it comes up on my iPhone.

It's a perfect tune to start a Monday.

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Photo Friday: Where Is Spring?

If I'm not mistaken, spring, the vernal equinox, arrived yesterday at almost 1 pm.

I'm pretty sure that last year, at this time, it was mild and a lot of the snow was gone. Two years ago, temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s.

I'm tired of the cold. I'm tired of the snow. I'm ready for warmth and colour. I can't wait for the tulips to come alive.

Piss off, winter. You've overstayed your welcome.

Happy Friday! (Not you, snow.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Son of a Black Sheep

When I was growing up, my dad always told me that he had "no use" for his family. The thirteenth child of fourteen, most of his brothers and sisters were nearing adulthood or had even reached it and moved on while he was a young child.

You would think that with 14 children, my grandparents had lived on a farm. But no, they had lived in Rosemount, in downtown Montreal. With that many children, Elizabeth and Sidney Brown actually took up two apartment units.

Dad was only two years old when his father died: his baby brother, Don, wasn't even born, was still forming in his mother's womb. The older siblings gathered to help out at home and take care of the newborn, and so my dad fell outside of the family spotlight.

He carried resentment throughout his life, feeling that the world had treated him poorly. His brothers and sisters made him grow up quickly, and when he was old enough, he grew away.

"I have no use for them," he told me, countless times.

He was the self-imposed black sheep of the family.

My dad felt that he needed to be responsible for himself and himself only. He realized this, however, with a wife and three kids, and so he disappeared for many years while I was growing up. I was five when he left. He wasn't gone like his dad was gone from him, but there were some times when my sisters, my mother, and I didn't know whether he was dead or alive.

When I reached adulthood, I met many of my aunts and uncles, met several of my cousins. It was at a family reunion that I learned about through my Uncle Don, who managed to keep in touch with my mother and me. When I worked at a bank, I saw him almost every day.

At this reunion, I learned that the Brown side of my family was made up of some fabulous people. They were the salt of the earth, and they welcomed me whole-heartedly. I kept in touch with a few of them after the reunion: one, my Uncle Jim, even kept in touch, through e-mail, when my wife and I lived in Korea.

But because I didn't have direct contact with many members, I dropped off the radar after my return to Canada. I stayed in touch with Uncle Jim, but more and more, our correspondence waned.

It took this past weekend, when I learned that Uncle Jim passed away, for me to realize that I had to reach out and let the Browns know that I wasn't my father's son. I had use for this side of my family. And I wanted to let them know that I'm there for them.

There's another Brown gathering in a couple of weeks. I'll be there. I want to know more about this side of my family.

I may be the son of a black sheep, but I'm not one myself.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I'm old.

My memory is fading so that I can't remember what I ate last Thursday, what movie I watched on Saturday night, or the last book I read.

I can't even remember details of the last book I wrote.

As I write Gyeosunim, the sequel to Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, I find that I have trouble remembering details of the first book. Like people's names. And things that Roland said and did. There are details that should be fresh in my main character's head, that should, at most, be only a month or two old.

I finished writing my novel about three years ago. It's been available in book stores for more than two years. And it's somewhere in between those years that I had last read my manuscript. I have never read the final, printed version. And the final version is not the same version that I started selling or giving away. There are four or five story lines that changed, and I can't remember which one ended in the published version.

So, before I write more of Gyeosunim and dig myself in deeper, I've started reading Songsaengnim. And I'm taking notes.

If you haven't read my novel yet, why not read along with me? If you've started reading the sequel, be aware: it will go through changes too, as my memory is refreshed.

I'm thinking of this reading as research. Because my memory is fading.

I'm old, you see.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Music Monday: Zoom

I first got into Winnipeg band, The Watchmen, several years ago, when I was car sitting. My next-door neighbours and friends, Marc and Vicki, would travel to Belgium for a couple of months to train for cycling, and would leave me with their Matrix to look after and keep running while they were away.

Tough gig: drive a car during the coldest months of winter, instead of taking the bus to work.

One year, they left a CD in the car, and I would play it when I wasn't listening to the CBC. It was The Watchmen's album, Brand New Day, and I was hooked.

I added one of the songs from that album, Zoom, to my playlist for my own cycling, and it's one of my favourite songs from the band. It has a good pace and a driving chorus, just what you need to keep the pedals going. It's also a great tune to get your week moving.


If you like this song, give a listen to another song of theirs that I love, All Uncovered.

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Photo Friday: Out of Gas

On the Road to 50, I ran out of gas.

Before I even started my new project, where I planned to take a selfie each day for a year, I knew it was doomed. I hate photographing myself. I don't do "creative" under pressure. I had only a handful of ideas, and most of them involve better weather.

On Day 7 of my Road to 50 project, instead of capturing an image of myself, I went in a different direction: I removed the previous six photos from my Flickr album.

We will never speak of this project again.

Because I much prefer to be on the back-side of my camera, my next photo project will not have a single image of myself.

You're welcome.

I still want to challenge myself, and I want to further overcome my general shyness (stop your snickering: I am shy!), so I'm going to start a project that I've been thinking about for a couple of months. A year of strangers.

Throughout the year, starting on March 31, I'm going to approach total strangers and ask them if I can take a photo of them. Each day, I will post a new face.

For now, here's the last selfie of my ill-fated project.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Looking For a Handout? Try Crowdfunding

I believe in working hard for what you want. But sometimes, you need a hand. Whether you get that helping hand or not depends, for me, on whether the cause is worth supporting.

Crowdfunding, the act in which you ask a large group of people to donate a small amount of money, in order to cover the cost of a project, seems to have become popular over the past couple of years. With the economic downturn in the United States, crowdfunding has been a method for keeping some struggling businesses afloat.

If you believe in that company or that project, crowdfunding is a great and inexpensive way to show your support. But should you always support a project or company?

Last year, I participated in a crowdfunding venture to raise funds, in support of PEN Canada, "a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with other to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right." The Bare It For Books project offered a calendar in exchange for your support. It features some of Canada's esteemed authors, such as Farzana Doctor, Terry Fallis, Yann Martel, and Yasuko Thanh, baring flesh in a tasteful and amusing fashion.

I was interested in the project as soon as Angie Abdou, one of my Twitter buddies, said she took it all off for the calendar.

It really is a gorgeous calendar. I feel I got my money's worth and supported a good cause in the bargain. I'm just sad that I can't hang it at work.

I don't think crowdfunding should be a means of acquiring money as a means of personal support. To me, I equate that action with standing on a street corner with a handout. I don't think that's an appropriate use of crowdfunding.

One of my LinkedIn contacts, one with whom I had very little contact but with whom I connected because she was a fellow technical writer, wrote to me and her other connections, and encouraged us to visit her Indiegogo page, and give what we could so that she could continue payments on her car. She was currently between contracts and was having trouble making ends meet.

While I sympathized with her situation, I thought that a lot of people were in a similar situation but were not looking for handouts. They were doing whatever it takes to keep going. I've been in a situation where I've lost my job, and yet I fought on. Though I was a writer, I would have flipped burgers if it meant I could keep my family afloat.

I was uncomfortable with her reason for crowdsourcing, so I declined the invitation. I also severed my LinkedIn connection with her.

I wish her all the luck in the world.

I've been recently introduced to a new crowdsourcing project, and I have mixed views on it. A new craft brewery, Dominion City Brewing Company, is starting up in the Ottawa area, and they are appealing to beer lovers to help them finish their facility. In exchange for your support, they offer swag, from singing "your name into a pot of boiling wort" to sweaters, toques, and even collaboration on a new beer.

Dominion City's Web site displays their three main beers—an IPA, a blonde, and a saison—and my mouth waters. I can't wait to try these ales and write a review for Beer O'Clock. What I find missing from the site is information about the brewer or brewers. Who makes the beer? How long has he been making it? (I know it's a he because the video on their site shows three buddies.)

Sure, swag is good, but I only want to advertise a brewery after I've tried its beer and decided that I like it. I would also only want to give money to a brewery that I believed in, whose beer I loved.

If Hogsback, Ashton, or Beyond The Pale started a crowdfunding program to expand their production, I would support them, but that's because I know their beer and would want to encourage future success. 

I can't get behind a brewery that doesn't yet exist.

I supported PEN because I believed in the cause and was receiving something I needed anyway (who doesn't need a calendar?). I didn't support my LinkedIn connection because I felt uncomfortable with the cause and felt that crowdfunding wasn't an appropriate vehicle for handouts. And I'm conflicted with Dominion City, because I'd love to support a local craft brewer, but I don't yet know if the beer is worth my support.

What are your thoughts on crowdfunding? Do you support projects in this manner? Have you created a crowdfunding project, and for what?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Driving Circles Around the Neighbourhood

I'm a fairly happy-go-lucky driver, but my mood changes when I get behind drivers who don't know the rules of the road.

I use my horn. I make unkind gestures. I curse like a sailor.

Traffic circles are a fairly new phenomenon in Ottawa but they seem to catching on, particularly in new neighbourhoods.

I love them. They are an effective means of keeping traffic moving at busy intersections, plus they mitigate the damage and potential injury in the event of a collision.

This year, a traffic circle replaced a busy intersection in my neighbourhood. What could once take time to navigate now takes a fraction of the time, especially during weekday-morning commutes, where everybody seemed to be out on the roads. Being in a residential zone that had two nearby schools, mornings could be brutal, as kids were delivered to their classes and folks were trying to get to work. The circle made perfect sense.

But there are many drivers who don't know how to navigate a traffic circle, and encountering one of these drivers has become a pet peeve. In particular, I become frustrated when I'm behind a driver who, when they approach an empty circle, come to a full stop. And wait.

This circle is a single-lane traffic circle. It's not particularly big: as you approach, you can see the other three entrances and any traffic within the circle. If it's empty, you know well before you reach it.

When I approach the circle, I will decelerate to the posted speed limit. Maybe a little faster. If no one is in or near the circle, I will release my foot from the brake as I enter the circle, coast around, and then accelerate as I approach my exit.

That's the way it should happen.

If there is a car that is approaching from the left or right lanes, and I'm ahead of them, I do the same thing. I'm going to get through the circle first. I have the right of way. If the person to my left is ahead, I'll yield, allowing them to enter the circle first and pass me before I enter. If the person to the right is ahead, I slow down a little more but I don't stop, because he or she will still be ahead of me, and it's okay for more than one vehicle to be in the circle at one time.

I always yield to a car in the circle that is approaching on my left. If more than one car is approaching from my left, I stop and wait until it's safe to enter the circle. If any pedestrian is crossing ahead of the circle, from either left or right, I yield to them.

And, folks, once I'm in the circle, I don't stop.

That's the way it should happen.

As a bonus, I will put my turn indicator on if I intend to turn right or left, as a courtesy to the other drivers. I don't know if there's a rule for that, but I do it anyway. I'm a courteous, safe driver. At least, I try to be.

More times than I'd care to see, drivers come to full stops before they enter the circle, whether there is traffic or a pedestrian, or not. Sometimes, if I'm following a car inside the circle, that driver has stopped, in the circle, to let another car in or allow a pedestrian to cross (pedestrians must give the right of way to cars exiting a circle).

As Ottawa grows and more communities are added to the landscape, I'm sure that traffic circles will be a part of that growth. They make a lot of sense. But they only make sense when everyone uses them properly.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation clearly outlines the rules for navigating traffic circles. If you're new to them, take a look and familiarize yourself with the proper way to move through them.

Because, if I'm behind you and you've stopped when you shouldn't, I will use my horn, make unkind gestures, and curse like a sailor.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It All Comes Together

I really can't believe it's over.

One year ago, I decided that every time I crossed the Champlain Bridge, whether I was going to work, going for a ride in Gatineau Park, or heading home, whether I was in the car or on my bike, I would stop at the same spot on Bate Island and take a snapshot of the same view.

I would always use my 50mm lens, always shoot at 100 ISO (almost always: sometimes, I forgot to reset my camera from a previous shoot). Rain or shine, hot days or downright frigid, I would take that shot.

I didn't cross that bridge every day. Some days, I worked from home or was sick. I rarely crossed the bridge on weekends. And then there were vacation days, when I was nowhere near the city, let alone the Ottawa River.

I captured 296 images over the course of my Bate Island Project. Some are good, many are bad. A few look a lot alike. But it's interesting to see how the lighting changes, how the river can be choppy or calm, how the bush fills out, changes colour, and thins again. The snow starts and ends the project, people unwittingly get in the shot.

And I have now taken those images and compiled them into a short video. Not all of the images from the project are in the video: I removed some shots that were taken with low speeds and shakey hands, or those that were so similar that it was hard to tell one from the other. I added music, and the result is one year in two minutes and nineteen seconds.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Photo Friday: I Love Photography

My wife isn't going to like this post.

She didn't like last week's Photo Friday, and it was safe for work. But she doesn't like that I attend model shoots.

She likes my photography, even helps me with some post production, because she works for a company that creates photo-editing software. There are two products that she works on, and I love them, and I love it when she shows me great effects.

But my dear wife, who I love with all my heart, doesn't like when I go to a model shoot. She doesn't like me photographing women she doesn't know. Especially, when they're naked.

"You're a perv," she has said. "It's so degrading to the women."

I love my wife, but I disagree.

I love women, but I'm not a pervert. I don't oggle the models. I treat them with the utmost respect, and when I'm looking at them through the lens, I'm focused on the composition of the photo and the lighting. I use their eyes to focus my lens, before I recompose the frame and shoot.

When I'm not working on images, when other photographers in the session are working, I don't stare at the model. If the photographer gets the model to pose in a way that I find artistically appealing, I'll make a note of it and try to recreate the shot when it comes back to my turn. But more times than not, I'm thinking of my next shot.

I don't believe it's degrading to women. The models of our photo group have joined the club to be models. They choose the theme, decide whether they are going to be clothed or not. They make it clear to the photographers what they are willing to do and what they are not willing to do. In talking with the models, I find them to be confident women who truly enjoy what they are doing.

I almost take exception to women who tell other women that what they are doing is degrading. To me, defining women by telling them how they should behave, when they have made a choice, is degrading.

Are women who model for painters or sculptors degrading themselves? For me, they are aiding an artist celebrate the beauty of the human body at its best: the female form. I cannot draw or sculpt. But I can take a photograph. I can see the beauty in women and celebrate it in photographic images. I like to think I take tasteful photos. I don't shoot porn. I don't bring a woman down to a base, sexual object.

I joined the photographer's model meetup group because I want to explore this type of photography. I love all forms of photography.

And if this means that I take a photo of a disrobed woman, I think it's okay.

As long as it's totally okay with them.

The last time I shot at a model meetup, the model, Fredau, was very much in control, pretty much led the shoot. She was professional, and a treat to work with.

And, as today's photo shows, she loved to work with cameras.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dramatic Ending

Not only has this week been the last that I shoot photos for my Bate Island Project, it is the end of Bate Island itself, the way I have known it for this past year.

A couple of months ago, I noticed that some of the mature trees were beginning to shed some of their bark. Because it was winter and none of the trees had leaves anyway, it was hard to determine if they were sick, but I knew that bark shedding was not a normal process. Unless, perhaps, they were sick or dying.

I'm not a tree expert. I don't know if these trees are oak, or ash. I suspect they are oak, only because some of the fallen, dried leaves that flutter across the snow-covered park are of that species.

About a month ago, during one of my afternoon visits, I saw that several trees were painted with a red X, below which a number was also painted. The first trees I saw were numbered in the 20s, but I saw one tree numbered 53.

A shitload of trees were going to be coming down.

This Monday, as I stopped on the island on my way to work, the trees were falling. Not of their own accord, but by about four men with chainsaws, a big truck, and a wood chipper. Some of the trees that I have walked past all year had already been taken down and cut into manageable stumps. Observing the inner core of these trees, they seemed healthy.

Now, they would make excellent firewood.

On my way home on that same day, I once again stopped for my afternoon shot, and the men were gone. But they had been extremely productive. Or destructive. Take your pick.

Bate Island looks like a war zone. Tree trunks and branches litter the pathway to my photo spot. By the end of the week, I will have a clear line of sight from where I park my car to where I set up my tripod.

Bate Island will be a wasteland.

Where I have been turning my back for the last year, few trees will remain. What marks the end of a photo project marks the end to generations of growth.

I couldn't be more sad about ending my project. I wish I had turned my lens around more often.

I have called the NCC, which oversees Bate Island, to find out why so many trees were coming down. Are the culled trees suffering from Dutch Elm Disease (if that is their species)? So many elms have come down across the city. If these trees are oak, have they befallen Sudden Oak Death? The operator for the NCC wasn't aware of the situation but has promised to look into it and call me back.

By then, I fear, very few trees will remain on Bate Island.


The NCC phoned me this morning to say that the trees that are being cut down are, indeed, ash, and are being culled as part of the citywide plans to stem the spread of emerald ash borer. The trees must be cut down before the temperatures soar and the pests migrate.

You'd think that with this cold weather, the devastating creatures would have frozen to death!

Thanks to Paul at the NCC for getting back to me.

Further update:

When I returned to Bate Island, this afternoon, to take my project photo, I chatted with some of the workers, who were loading chunks of ash trunks into a truck. They showed me borer holes in the wood and told me that the larvae was hibernating within. Only the chipping process, he informed me, would ensure their demise.

He believes some 5,000 trees have been cut down, recently, in the Ottawa area.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Road to 50

Where one photo project ends, another begins.

This week brings the end of my Bate Island Project. My last photo will be taken on Friday, as I head home from work. Over the weekend, I will select the best shots and compile a short video to show the changing weather, the changing seasons, the changing light. The bush, so poorly positioned in the foreground, which was my guide when the cityscape was obscured by fog and snow, will sprout buds, grow leaves, colour, and lose those leaves.

No more will I keep an eye out for creepy guys and wacko ladies. I'm not saying I'll never take another photo on Bate Island, but I'll never feel compelled to.

But before the Bate Island Project ends, another project will begin. Tomorrow, I turn 49. It will be the last year in my 40s. And I thought that to mark this close to a decade, one of the best decades of my life, I would take on a true 365-day project.

I call it The Road to 50.

I will take a selfie of myself, every day, until my 50th birthday. I will try to be original with each shot, doing something unique for each day. That, on top of the fact that I hate taking photos of myself, will be doubly challenging.

But take heart: I won't be posting the photos every day on The Brown Knowser. They will be available on Flickr.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Where In Ottawa: The March Edition

Okay, I'm going to talk a lot about a location in Ottawa, but it is not the answer to this month's challenge.

Let me be clear on that point.

One of my greatest memories of my grade-12 graduation celebration was the dinner and dancing at the top of one of the city's prestigious hotels, one with a revolving restaurant, where, over the course of the evening, I could look out and see all of Ottawa laid out below me.

NOT the location of
this month's challenge!

Today, that is the location of the Ottawa Marriott.

Which is not the location of this month's photo challenge.

So, you may ask, why did I even mention it?

Good question.

This month, as my Where In Ottawa challenge has gained a larger interest and more recognition, the Ottawa Marriott has partnered with me to present a marvelous giveaway. The first person to successfully identify the location of this month's photo will come away with the following:
  • A one-night, weekend stay in a traditional guest room at the Ottawa Marriott for up to 2 adults and 2 kids, including access to the indoor pool, sauna, fitness center, and Kids' Zone.
And now, the fine print and rules of the game:
  • The giveaway is open to anyone, including winners of previous Where In Ottawa challenges.
  • If you were with me when I took the photo, you cannot play.
  • All guesses for the challenge must be submitted in the Comments section for this post. Answers submitted by Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, or other means will neither qualify nor receive a response.
  • If the location of the photo isn't identified today, a clue will appear at the top of the right-hand column of The Brown Knowser. A clue will appear each day until the challenge is solved.
  • The giveaway is valid for one year and is subject to room availability. Blackout dates may apply.
That's it. And now, here's this month's photo challenge. Sorry about the quality of the image: I shot it from far, far away (I don't know if that's a clue, but it's on me).

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

And my warmest thanks to the Ottawa Marriott. Whether you win the giveaway or not, consider visiting this landmark hotel. Stay a night or two. Get up to their revolving restaurant and look out on this great city. Like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram


After one hour and nine minutes, the challenge had been solved. I didn't see that coming. The folks at the Marriott and I were hoping to stretch this month's challenge out, but you showed that you were keen (I had more hits on this post in the first hour than I usually receive for the first few days). Several people told me that they knew the location, but they told me through Twitter, and so I didn't respond. A couple of you correctly guessed on this post, but the first person past the post was Bethany Harpur.

Congratulations, Bethany! You correctly identified the location as Immaculata Catholic High School.

Oh, the clues I planned to weave.

Next month's challenge, over which I am determined to leave you stumped, will also feature a fabulous giveaway. What giveaway?

You'll have to tune in on Monday, April 7.