Friday, April 28, 2017

Photo Friday: Flood Gates

The Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River are an awesome force of nature.

In the spring, when the snow melts, the falls exhibit a show with large, crashing waves. This year, with huge amounts of rain adding to the melt, the volume of water has been unbelievable.

Anyone care to do some white-water rafting?

I didn't think so.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Beer O'Clock Returns

It's my off-again, on-again blog.

I love beer. I know: it's no surprise for many of you. Ever since my friend, Perry Mason, introduced me to craft beer at The Olde Angel Inn, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and later, at Ottawa's Arrow & Loon, and later still, when he started his own microbrewery and let me work with him at various food and beverage events.

To this day, I can't drink a new brew and wonder what Perry would think of that beer.

When I first decided to review beer, on The Brown Knowser, one of Perry's vintage imperial stouts was the first pick for a post. I reviewed it a couple more times before the ale finally breathed its last, 10 years after my friend had bottled it.

As I wrote more reviews, I made a decision to create a separate blog, Beer O'Clock. My intention was to write at least one review each week, sharing my observations and opinions on a new beer that I had tried during that week. At first, I was eager, some months writing more than one post a week: in March of 2013, I actually published 11 posts.

But as time went on, I found that Beer O'Clock became less like a fun thing to do and more like work. I was invited by local breweries to try new releases. I was invited to beer events, sometimes hired to photograph and cover them.

I enjoyed tasting the offered samples, had fun at the events. But when it came to sitting down and writing about them, I felt the pressure of giving what I thought other people wanted to read, not what I decided to say or not say.

I've taken a few breaks and have even made a decision to stop the blog, one that I changed and returned to after several months absence.

These days, my beer reviews are sporadic, popping up whenever the mood strikes me. Sometimes, I think I'm going to write a review, only to change my mind. Other times, I try a beer that gets me excited, and I think that I should review it for my blog. But I don't.

I've watched the viewership steadily dwindle at Beer O'Clock, as it should. Readers want a steady, reliable feed. I get that.

And so, today will be the last Beer O'Clock blog post. I'm wrapping up work on that blog, closing the book. But Beer O'Clock will not go away.

My readership on The Brown Knowser has exploded over the past couple of months, and I know that if I want to write a beer review, I have plenty of space here. I will try to write a review once a month, but I'm not going to keep a tight schedule. Perhaps I'll write more; perhaps, fewer.

I would like to try to do more video reviews: the post I made in January had some good feedback, but because my numbers on the blog were shrinking, it's hard to tell if that format for my reviews is a good one. Also, the video was much longer than I wanted—nearly 20 minutes—and I want to keep the videos to less than five minutes.

I'll try another one soon.

Beer O'Clock returns to The Brown Knowser in May. Cheers to that!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Keep the Hyphen

I have a good laugh, sometimes, when the voice of Google mangles its pronunciation of certain words.

When I use Google Maps to guide me on routes to which I've never driven, it never pronounces Woodroffe like Ottawa residents say it: "wood-ruff." It says "wood-roh-fee."

It mangles a street name that I would have thought easy to say: Baseline. It says the word quickly and I'm sure I'm mishearing it, but it comes out more like the pronunciation of Vaseline, with a B.

When I have asked Google questions, on my smartphone or tablet, and it reads an answer from an Internet site, there's a word that it struggles with, and I'm not surprised.

The word comes out as "ehm-ale," and when I read the word that the voice has just read, I can see why the word is botched.

The word is e-mail, spelled without a hyphen.

It's one of my many pet peeves. It's evidence that English writers have become lazy and have just stopped giving a crap about language. This is a road I have fought against taking.

The hyphen in e-mail has a distinct function: it separates the word mail from the massively abbreviated word, electronic. Just as in the x in x-ray, the letter stands for something: in this case, an unknown form of radiation that was discovered in 1895.

It is believed by some (another Google search) that the t in t-shirt represents the shape of the garment when it is laid flat.

Both x-ray and t-shirt are exclusively written with hyphens, so why in the world would you write out e-mail without one?

One answer: laziness.

I, for one, will balk at the Microsoft Manual of Style and other such publications. I will hold onto my 2009 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook. Which also includes a hyphen for e-book, e-commerce, and e-business.

And I have learned a lesson from the Google voice: whenever I read aloud the word email (which is French for enamel, in case you didn't know), I pronounce it as a single, complete word.


Just as I should.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Killer Suit

I've been binge-watching a lot of The Walking Dead on Netflix over the past few weeks, and I've become addicted to the high-tension, ultra-violent zombie drama. With each episode, I've wondered whether we can get through just one episode where we focus on a character-development line that doesn't involve any blood splatter or gory death.

So far, I'm still waiting.

On Saturday night, as DW and I were enjoying some drinks and lively conversation at the Black Dog Bistro in Manotick, my eyes would wander upward to one of the many TV screens that was showing the NHL playoff game that would have the Montreal Canadians handed their asses and given their walking papers.

I'm not a hockey fan but I knew that this was an important game for the team from my home town, and so every so often, I would check the score, in case I would have to discuss it with my hockey fan father-in-law.

It was during Coach's Corner, with legendary commentator Ron MacLean and his jester-sidekick Don Cherry, that I stopped to take notice.

Cherry, who is also known as Grapes to hockey fans, could possibly have spilled a claret on a pristine-white jacket. Or had a glass of it thrown on him before he went to air.

He's known for his flamboyant, custom-tailored jackets that would put Liberace to shame. I always thought that it was a matter of time before he finally stopped pretending and came out already.

It's okay, Don, it's 2017. You can do it.

But Saturday's jacket wasn't just eye-catching, wasn't flamboyant like his other out-there attire. It was shocking. Horrifying.

If he had just dispatched a walker, had helped save humanity from a zombie apocalypse, he should have said so.

If not, he should have stuck with the flowers.

Seriously, Grapes, you can come out of the closet now.

If you're up to date on The Walking Dead, keep it to yourself. I'm only halfway through the sixth season.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Photo Friday: The Accidental Photo

It really was too dark to see.

I passed by the United Church, on Merivale Road, earlier in the day. At that time, the dark grey clouds threatened rain, let loose a sprinkle off and on to show that it was serious. Moving slowly, in traffic, I looked at the cemetery stones, saw the old tombstones that went back more than a century, and new I wanted to use the site for my photo of the day.

I've known of this church for decades, remembered passing it when I was a kid, travelling with my folks to visit relatives, who lived in Barrhaven. I remembered when this section of Merivale Road seemed more isolated, when it was a simple, two-lane roadway, where the front doors of this church faced the street and there was more yard space.

These days, the entrance has been moved to the north side, the building now feet from traffic. 

Built in 1875, on the site of a meeting hall that went back as far as 1849, this structure has a lot of history. It surprised me, as I pulled into its parking lot, last week, that it was the first time that I had given it my undivided attention.

Now, late at night, the clouds still threatened rain. As I stepped out of the car, camera and tripod in hand, a few scattered drops fell, proving that the sky was serious.

There was no illumination in the cemetery. Only the dim glow from streetlights and the shops across the street kept me from tripping over broken branches and little metal fences that marked the boundary of some graves. One very old tombstone had fallen over from decades of neglect, and it was by good fortune that I noticed it in time to step over it.

The exposure was only supposed to be 30 seconds. The aperture was opened to a middle range, so that I could let a good amount of light in but that I could have a wide depth of field.

My mind wandered after I pressed the remote shutter release. The wind blew leaves, which echoed off the stones, making it sound like many feet were dragging across the grass. There wasn't a lot of traffic at this time of night, but the sound of automobiles and a passing bus filled my ears. There wasn't much that I could see, and of course, with all my recent binge-watching of The Walking Dead, it was easy to get the creeps.

I looked around, in the dark, at the tombs, and wondered if anyone else was out there, with me, watching me.

Surely, I thought, the 30 seconds would be over soon and the result of my exposure would appear on the camera screen. Not yet.

An airplane had taken off from the airport, was climbing not too far away. Because of the low-lying clouds, not even the plane's lights could be seen. I hoped that the rain wouldn't fall in earnest before I finished taking pictures. The day was coming to an end, soon, and I didn't have time to go elsewhere to get my POTD.

Something was wrong. It was way more than 30 seconds. My mind had wandered and I didn't know how much time had elapsed, but it felt like more than a minute at this point.

Had my battery died? I didn't get any warnings that it was getting weak. I had a spare pack in the car: it would mean that I'd be out here longer if I had to swap it.

In the dark, my eyes were starting to adjust, and the glow from the street light was illuminating the top of my camera that I could barely make out the LCD display. I could see that 30 seconds wasn't appearing where the time is shown.

It read bulb.

The camera was waiting for me to press the shutter release again, to end the exposure.

Too long, I told myself. I looked at the display on the back, to see how blown out the exposure was going to be.

It wasn't. It was perfect.

Though the sky didn't look as dark as it was, though the tombstones were much more visible than they were to my eyes, the exposure was just fine. In the darkness, I didn't see that one of the stones had lined up with the street light, as though it was pointing to it. The lights on the passing bus show as streaks in the distance.

Those clouds, that threatened to pour rain down on me, seemed calmer.

It wasn't the photo I had planned to take. It was an accident. But it was a good accident. 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Custom Ringtones

I always try to give my phone ringtones that, when I hear them, stand out from the standard chimes and melodies that others use on their smartphones. I think there are fewer and fewer people who use Thomas Dolby's tone for Nokia that everybody recognize, but there are still enough people who keep the default tone that comes with their phone.

My default ringtone is one that grabs your attention. In a quiet room, it can be downright terrifying. It's an alert sound from the 2009 re-boot STAR TREK movie, from Nero's Romulan starship.

DW hates it.

But I have other ringtones for the important people in my life and other people and places that call me. Sounds, that, as soon as I hear them, I know who is calling.
  • DW—Warm Greetings. This is one of the tones that came with my new phone. It's a gentle sound with a nice melody. It is certainly more appealing to DW than when I used to have Darth Vader's evil-empire theme song play.
  • My parents—an old-fashioned telephone ring. My folks are fairly traditional and the ring reminds me of when I was a kid.
  • My sisters—a computerized series of beeps, followed by a mechanical woman's voice, which says, "Your sister is attempting to reach you on your cellular device."
  • My brother—"Alert Status Red," by Matthew Good. It's a great tune, and when my brother was last in town, we jammed at an open mic night, and had talked about doing a Matt Good song. The song I chose for his ringtone would be a challenge to perform with acoustic guitars, but I'd like to try it the next time he comes to visit.
  • DD16—"Sarah," by Sarah Slean. This song is off her new album, and I only recently made it DD16's ringtone. It's a fitting tune because a) it's her name and b) I am an über Sarah Slean fan. It's a really, really good song.
  • DD13—similar to my sisters' tone, it's a computerized series of beeps, followed by the same voice; this time, she says, "Your daughter is attempting to reach you on your cellular device."
  • My manager—Darth Vader's evil-empire theme song. Okay, my manager is far from evil. But I think using that ringtone is funny. I can have a laugh, can't I?
  • My mechanic—an old-fashioned car horn. Sort of that aah-ooh-gah sound. It's appropriate.
Knowing who is calling me before I can see my phone is great for when I'm busy and can decide whether I want to take the call or not, without having to pull the phone out of my pocket. Do you have customized tones for people in your contact list? What are your best ringtones?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sharing is Caring

I had planned to get on my bike this weekend.

Even though I won't be riding in this year's Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, I am volunteering for the event. I'll be helping out as riders check out, from Perth, on the Saturday morning, and helping them check out again, the next morning, in Kingston.

DW is riding again, taking the 100-kilometre route, from Perth.

But we're both still members of the Ottawa Bicycle Club, both plan to do the group rides whenever the weather cooperates. 

It didn't cooperate on Sunday morning. We awoke to the rain, beating on our window, and said, "screw it."

Bicycling season is finally in full swing, now that the snow has melted on most paths and roadways, and now that the street cleaners have started sweeping away the salt and dirt from the edge of the roads. Each week, I see more and more avid cyclists on the road.

I just want to remind drivers that cyclists have every much a right to be on the road as automobiles. Everybody wants to make it home at the end of the day. Give us our room.

Cyclists, remember that you're on vehicles, that you have to abide by the same rules of the road as automobiles. On pathways, pedestrians have the right of way.

Sharing is caring. Let's all show we care.


Monday, April 17, 2017

The Brownfoot Easter Hunt

They're not too old, I'm happy to see.

When they were very young, our kids prowled a limited space in the house for Easter chocolate. We'd place treats in brightly coloured plastic eggs and hide them in the family room. Each daughter would have her own basket, in which they would collect what they found. They were limited to one colour for each egg, to ensure that our eldest daughter, who had the eyes of a hawk, would not collect all of the booty before the hunt was over.

If she found an egg of a colour that she already had, she would help her baby sister find it.

As the years went on and as the girls got older, we stopped hiding the chocolate throughout the house. We extend the range of the search, but instead of placing the eggs, full of sweet chocolate, throughout our living space, we filled those plastic shells with slips of paper.

To find the pot of gold (basket of chocolate) at the end of the hunt, the kids would have to solve a set of clues, each carefully hidden throughout the house. The final clue would lead them to their old baskets, filled to overflow with gold-wrapped bunnies, caramel-filled chocolate, and Easter Cream Eggs.

This year, DW and I woke up late. She had already purchased the chocolate for the girls but was planning only to fill their baskets and leave them out in the kitchen for the kids, for when they awoke and decided to come downstairs.

But, as DW sat up in bed and tried to stir me, she had a change of heart. "Help me come up with clues," she said as I became conscious.

I'm not at my best in the morning.

"But first," DW continued, "go to the basement and get 10 of the plastic eggs." We keep the Easter decorations in a large, blue Rubbermaid container. DW had already pulled it out to decorate parts of the house.

When I reached the main floor, DD16 was already downstairs, was fixing herself a glass of warm water and salt. "I have a sore throat," she said in a sleepy voice.

"Sorry to hear that," I said. "The salt will definitely help."

She didn't question me as I continued down to the basement. On my return, empty egg shells in hand, DD16 had already headed up to her room. I made it back to my own room without detection.

It took DW and me about 20 minutes or so to think up the locations for the eggs and to create clues that would lead the girls to each location. We filled their baskets and made the final location our oversized bathtub. I placed each basket next to a bathtub basket filled with bath bombs. The final clue: When it comes to Easter hunts, mom and dad are da' bomb!

The initial clue was written on a cue card and placed in a decoration of a stuffed rabbit holding a frog (see the photo, above). It introduced the hunt and gave a clue to our dryer, that was running with bath towels.

I went to DD16's room and gently rubbed her back as she lay in bed. "Do you feel up to an Easter hunt?" I asked.

Bright eyes, big smile. She sat up in her bed. "Really?"

"Yes," I said. "Let's get your sister." DD13 was sound asleep but was receptive when her excited, older sister told her to get up.

DW baked cinnamon scones. I sliced up a pineapple and washed some fresh strawberries, and made a pot of coffee. By the time breakfast was ready, the girls were sitting on the family-room sofa, chewing on chocolate.

It's great to see that as these young teenagers grow into young women, the thrill of the hunt still lies strong within them. To some extent, they're still my little girls.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Photo Friday: Spring Sunset

One of the best places in Ottawa to watch the sunset is along the Ottawa River. It's really hard to capture a bad image unless, of course, the sun doesn't reveal itself. It's hard to tell a sunset is happening if the clouds have obscured your view.

There are lots of places to capture the sunset along the Ottawa River: from Bate Island, Westboro Beach, the Rideau Falls, Nepean Point, and Andrew Haydon Park are some of the popular ones. If you like sailboats, the Britannia Yacht Club offers spectacular views.

Last night, I decided to visit the Deschênes Rapids, which, at this time of year, do not reveal the swift-moving waters because of the spring runoff. The sky was cloudless, which doesn't always lend itself to sunsets with character, but the light wind on the river created small peaks and the shadow of the Québec side provides a stark contrast.

I set up my tripod and noticed that others had come out to watch the light show. Some, with cameras of their own; others, just standing there, taking it in.

This won't be the last photo of a sunset that I capture for my POTD. It's not even the last sunset of the Ottawa River. But it is the last clear-sky sunset, at Deschênes Rapids.

But it won't be my last time capturing the beauty from this spot.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Oh, That Hair!

Christmas: 1981.

I was 16, had my driver's license, was in my prime of teenhood. My younger sister, Jen, and I had our Operation: Christmas routine mastered. Looking at the portable stereo in my hands, I was going through the motions—not faking my happiness at having the device but feigning surprise in receiving it.

By Christmas morning, I already knew that my parents had bought it for me. They had purchased it in the fall, long before any snow had fallen. Not only had I found it in their bedroom, I had opened the box and played some cassettes in it, had bought the required D-cell batteries to power it, and had taken it to the General Burns Park, where I played Genesis' Duke while my friends and I hung out on the swings.

I always had it perfectly packed up and returned to its "hiding spot" when I was done with it.

Earlier in the morning, while Jen and I snuck downstairs to pre-unwrap our gifts, I practiced my surprise in unwrapping my mini ghetto blaster. She didn't know that I had already discovered this gift.

The only true surprise I would have had would have been to find out, after months of playing with it, that the portable stereo wasn't, in fact, for me; that I had been breaking in one of my sisters' gifts. But I was fairly certain it was mine: I had asked for one for my birthday, that March, had made it clear that, having not received it on my special day, that "Santa" (my brother was just two at the time, so we weren't spoiling the magic of the holiday) had better deliver.

My faked surprise wasn't captured in the photograph that my father took, but my genuine satisfaction was.

However, looking at the photo now, it's hard to narrow on the expression on my face. It's hard to get beyond the mass of bushy curls on the top of my head.

While my hair gets unmanageably wavy when it grows long, it doesn't curl. A year earlier, I had my thick head of hair changed to a tight 'fro, and let it continue to grow over the next year. If I were to grab the rings in the front and pull them straight down, they would extend to my lips.

It wasn't until later in the school year, in 1982, after receiving my yearbook, that my hair would change again.

My class photo, which I had already seen, wasn't the most flattering, but I expected that as my hairdo grew, it would flow over my shoulders and down my back. Looking through my yearbook, seeing our high school concert band, my eyes scanned the group photo, seeking out my friends and myself.

As I sat in the Red Room with my friends at J.S. Woodsworth S.S., I puzzled as I came across someone I didn't recognize. "Who is that girl?" I asked, pointing to a stranger at the back of the group, on the risers, with the other trumpeters. As I studied her further, I added, "And what is she doing, wearing my shirt?"

It was a black Led Zeppelin t-shirt with the artwork from their fourth album, with the robed man at the top of a summit, holding a lantern, the light illuminating a woman who was climbing the mountain to join him. It's the symbolic image for their song, "Stairway to Heaven."

The lighting of the group shot was such that my hair cast a shadow over my face. As a woman, I wasn't very attractive.

Seeing myself like that, I realized that I wasn't looking good as a guy, either. Less than a week after seeing myself in that yearbook photo, the mass of hair was gone.

Sadly, the rolled-up jeans remained in style for a little while longer.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Roadside Attraction

To the guy in the Mustang who slowed down until I waved him on, showing him that I was okay.

To the woman who rolled down her window and asked if I needed her to call anyone.

To the others who reduced their speed until they saw what I was doing, and continued on their way.

Thanks for your concern.

My car was working just fine. I was not in distress.

It's comforting to know that there are so many good people along that darkened stretch of road, willing to lend a helping hand.

But it was just me, my camera, and my tripod, illuminated only by the rising moon, the lights on the four towers, and the lights of the passing cars. I stopped to take a photo, unaware that I would become a roadside attraction.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Embassy of the People's Republic

I know: I stumped everyone, right up until the fifth clue.

For clues to past Where In Ottawa locations, I relied on the Internet and the information that I could glean on these sites. I would take that information and weave clues.

It took a multi-time winner to tell me, later, that he had taken my clues and used an Internet search to find the locations. The very method I used in creating the clues was used against me to unravel the location.

I still search the Internet but I use less information from that research directly in my clues. For the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, though, I relied less on the Internet and more on my overall knowledge of the century-old* structure.

After four days of tricky clues, which led to many guesses but no successes, I decided to give an easier clue, one that sealed the deal on the photo challenge.

Congratulations to DaniGee and her second victory at this contest. Here are the clues, explained:
  1. Church & state collide—it wasn't really a collision. This building, which is located at 515 St. Patrick Street in Ottawa's Lowertown area, was built by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd as a convent. In 1972, diplomatic relations were established between China and Canada, and The People's Republic purchased the building from the holy order for about $1.6M. Thus, a building that belonged to a religious order (church) met a sovereign state. I'm also guessing that when China took possession of the building, whatever religious statue occupied the recess between the windows, in my photo, was removed.
  2. NOT a church—several guesses pointed to various churches in our city. And I must remind those of you who participate in the contest to place your guesses only on the blog post, not via Twitter (direct messages or otherwise), Facebook, or text messages. While the building had seen decades of use as a convent, it was never classified as a church.
  3. From the sisters to the people—like I said, the convent was built and occupied by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, as the order was also known. In 1972, it passed from the sisters to the People's Republic of China.
  4. Back to the river—as the photo below shows, the back of the embassy faces the Rideau River, near Porter Island and across from Stanley Park, in New Edinburgh. The embassy literally has its back to the river.
  5. This spot can raise a red flag—yes, it can. And it had one when I took the photo, but the wind didn't cooperate and make the Chinese flag wave. DW pointed out the double entente of the clue, but I focused only on the flag.

As this month's winner of Where In Ottawa, DaniGee also got her hands on a copy of my book, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary. I had the honour of meeting her and presenting her with the photo-challenge giveaway. This year marks the 20th anniversary of my travels in South Korea and the fifth year that my book has been in print.

Want to get your hands on a copy of my book? Visit Chapters-Indigo online, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. If you live in the Ottawa area, I can provide an autographed copy for $25 (cheaper than the book stores): if you want one shipped to you, we can talk.

Or, you can play Where In Ottawa next month, when I'll give away another copy. The next photo challenge is Monday, May 8.

* I don't know the actual date of the building. A 1928 aerial photo from geoOttawa shows the building well-established, which indicates that it has been around for about 100 years or so.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Photo Friday: City Lights

Now that winter seems to finally be behind us, now that the snow is being washed away by April showers, we can finally turn toward spring.

And while spring is my least-favourite season, it at least makes us want to get outside, makes us want to shed those extra layers of clothing.

Between those rainy days, I managed to get downtown on a mild evening and photograph the contrast of old buildings and new, to slow things down and catch the light trails of a passing bus, seemingly glowing with brighter colours, mixed with the neon lights in the shop windows.

Spring is a time of colour. And the city lights seemed to come alive.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dealing With Pain

I hate my feet. Both of them.

If it was just that I had a degenerative disease that could be easily fixed with surgery, that would be one thing. I might be able to cope with the short-term pain, as acute as it is, while I await my turn under the knife. With the operation complete, I'm hoping that handicap will be placed well behind me.

But I also have severe osteoarthritis, in both feet, and in this damp, cool spring, the inflammation and pain in my feet is incredible. I am in a continuous state of stiffness and soreness.

When I walk or stand, my bad foot, as DW and I call it because it's the one awaiting surgery, is sore in a targeted spot and clicks when I'm moving, like I'm snapping my fingers with each step.

When I start walking, the stiffness caused by the arthritis sends shock waves of agony that carry up my legs. I limp, moving like an ancient man, until the joints loosen up. It's a strong limp, at first, like I've just been hit by a bus, but then settles to a noticeable but light limp, like I'm walking with one leg shorter than the other.

I feel bad when I limp in the office, as I work with someone who does have a permanent condition with one of his legs that causes his foot to turn outward. When he walks, there's a clear indication as to why he's limping.

With me, my feet point in the direction I'm going. I always feel self-conscious of people noticing my limp. I don't want to explain to everyone why I'm limping. But what really makes me feel self-conscious is that if I'm going on one of my many cruises around the office is that someone may see me limping severely, as I start my walk, and then see me, a few minutes later, with a barely perceptible limp.

I really hate when I'm walking toward that co-worker with the permanent limp and I'm limping heavily, too. We nod a subtle greeting and it's obvious he's curious about my limp. Minutes later, I pass him again, and my limp has eased.

And he looks at my legs and then looks me in the eyes.

I'm not mocking you, dude. Honest.

In a few months, I'll have had the surgery to correct the disintegrating joint. I'll be on crutches, and at that point I hope that those colleagues who saw me limp will put two and two together. But while the surgery will fix my bad foot, it will do nothing for the osteoarthritis. In cool, damp weather, I'll still be stiff, will still hobble for the first few steps.

And because I've been adjusting the the bad foot for about a year, favouring the right leg and modifying my walk, the pain now extends up to my knees, adding a new spot of bother.

What I wish is that the surgeon would just cut my legs off at the knees and give me prosthetic legs. The springy ones, for when I'm in a hurry and need to run, and the sleek metal ones, for most of the day.

Four inches longer than my real legs would be nice.

I know: a lot of you are thinking, that's awful! How can you be so flippant about removing your legs?

First of all, you don't know my pain. I have learned to hold it in well but on the inside, I'm screaming in pain. I've been quiet, sitting at my desk in the office, and you didn't see those tears rolling over my cheeks. You don't hear me breathing heavily as I drive, alone, in my car.

Cutting off legs is a drastic measure, but to me it seems better than living the rest of my life with a chronic pain.

And besides, have you seen that commercial for The War Amps kids? The one about Jericho, who was born without lower legs? Do you see him run and play? Do you see the smile on that lucky bastard's face?

Yeah, I want that.

Maybe, then, I would stop cursing both feet every time I stood on them.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Absolutely Terrified

When my stand-up comedy class ended, I thought to myself, well, that's one more thing to strike from my To Do List.

In our final class, we teamed up with the neighbouring improv class, where we performed the bits that we had created over the eight weeks and they performed for us. We got to gather our nerve and do our stuff, to see how funny we could be.

Albeit, it was a welcoming crowd, made up with supporting classmates and people who wanted us to laugh at them as much as we needed their laughs.

So that was it, right?


No sooner had I finished the class that I signed up to do it again: this time, culminating in a live stand-up performance in a real comedy venue.

With paying customers.

I'm only going to say this once: I'll be performing my stand-up routine in a five-to-six-minute bit on Wednesday, May 3, at Absolute Comedy, on Preston Street.

That's my deer-in-the-headlights look. Get to know it.

Come if you want, if you can.

I've spoken several times in front of crowds and have done many years of public speaking. That's easy. I've sung from a microphone in front of complete strangers. That doesn't bother me.

With public speaking, you have a prepared message that you deliver, either memorised or with notes, and you convey a message or information. It's not very different from blogging: it's blogging out loud. At the end, people clap, either pleased with your talk or relieved that you've finally shut up.

Singing is easier. You know the song (hopefully) and you work your way through it. If people like the sound of your voice, they applaud. If they don't, they usually applaud anyway out of politeness.

Comedy is hard.

You've created jokes, hope that you can remember them, hope that you can deliver them effectively, and hope that the audience laughs. If they don't, you try another gag, hoping again for laughter. And again.

If you don't get laughter, you start to think that you suck, and you probably do if you don't manage to get a single chuckle. And yet, you persist, and the crowd gets weary, and someone might heckle you, another might boo you, and everybody in the room, including you, can't wait for you to get off the stage.

I have roughly a month to polish and practice my material, and present it on stage, in front of people who will either make me feel great by laughing where I want them to or will make me want to crawl under a rock and die.

At least they have some decent craft beer on tap.

Come if you want, if you can. I can think of worse ways to spend $7.

And you just might enjoy the show.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Where In Ottawa LXIV

Last month, when DW saw the Where In Ottawa photo, she didn't recognize the location so she asked me where I had taken it. My response was simple:

"If you want to know, you have to play."

I wish I had used that answer, yesterday, when she asked me where I was going. I was heading out to take the photos that I will use for this month's photo challenge.

When I told her, she said, "Oh, no, you're not heading way over there. You'll be gone for hours."

From now on, I'll simply say, "If you want to know where I'm going, you'll have to play the game." Of course, in doing that, she'll only discover where I had been.

And, by the way, in telling you what she said to me, I'm not really giving you any undue clues. I wasn't gone for hours. All told, from the time I headed out of our Barrhaven neighbourhood, in the beautiful afternoon, until I had returned home, I had only been gone for less than two hours, but I had also driven around until I found my Photo of the Day.

But I digress.

If my monthy contest is new to you or if you've forgotten the rules, here they are:

Below, you will see a photo that I shot somewhere in the Ottawa area. Your job is to identify the location by leaving a guess in the Comments section of this blog post.

You must leave your guess only in this post to qualify. Because the comments are time-stamped, everyone who plays can see the date and time that an answer is submitted. If you try to guess by any other means, whether you're right or wrong, I won't respond to that guess and you can't win.

For every day that the challenge isn't solved, I'll leave a clue in the top-righ corner of my blog. Above my profile picture on the main page of my blog. (I know, I've changed the layout of my blog and the individual posts don't show my profile. Simply click The Brown Knowser title at the top of any post, and there you are.)

The first person to correctly identify the location wins the challenge. I will also give you an autographed copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary.

You can guess as many times as you like.

Are you ready? Here's April's photo (to make it extra challenging, I rendered the photo in black and white):

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!