Monday, October 16, 2017


It was as though the world had unleashed a Ninja-sized nope card on me, this weekend.

On my vacation, last week, DW and I rented a camper van, packed up the kids, and hit Prince Edward County and the St.Lawrence Seaway before we returned the kids home and continued on to the Montreal area and up to Joliette.

To keep our teenaged, technology-prone daughters occupied at night in our four-person mobile home, we picked up a card game that we thought would keep them engaged while their electronic devices were charging. That game was Exploding Kittens.

Turns out, the girls had played it before. Luckily, they loved the game.

One of my favourite cards was the NOPE card, which you could play at any time to negate the action of any other player's move. Except, it doesn't save you from an Exploding Kitten card.

For today's blog post, I meant to write about the adventures in travelling with my family in a camper van, but this weekend, in real life, played a giant NOPE card on me.

Instead, a real-life kitten exploded onto the Brownfoot scene.

It all stared with a conversation between DD14 and me, in Picton.

"Dad, I want a cat."

"We have a cat," I answered, "Edwin's been our cat for more than 12 years."

"No, Dad, I want my own cat. I want a kitten."

"I thought you wanted a dog." For almost as long as she's been able to speak, DD14 has told me that she has wanted a dog. My response has always been that we were not going to get a dog because I don't like dogs. And that's putting it mildly. I hate dogs. Can't stand to be near one.

I've always told her that there were three ways in which she could get a dog: one, that she get one when she is ready to live on her own; two, if I should die while she is still living at home; three, that her mother would kick me out of the house while she is still living at home.

Earlier this year, DW joined DD14's cause, and brought a dog home. I moved out of the house for a couple of days, and (luckily, for me) when the girls decided that they'd rather have me than a dog, our household returned to normal.

Both DW and DD14 still reminded me, daily, that they wanted a dog.

"I thought you wanted a dog," I said.

"I still do, but if you get me a kitten, I won't ever ask you for a dog again."

"I'm not sure that I believe you," I said. "If I get you a kitten, what's to prevent you from still telling me that you want a dog."

"I promise," she said. "I want a kitten that I can raise, and when I go away for university, I can take it with me. When I get a place of my own, I'll get a dog."

DD14 was very responsible with the dog in the time that she had it. She was true to her word in keeping it away from me, in taking it for walks, in keeping it fed and cleaning up after it. For 14, she was extremely responsible.

"I'll think about it," I promised.

She knows I have a soft spot for cats. I've lived with many cats, growing up with my parents. I've owned three cats since I've lived with DW.

This weekend, I've been formulating a blog post about our vacation, listing the pros and cons of travelling in a camper van. Providing tips for keeping the kids engaged, like having marshmallows with camp fires and games to play, like Exploding Kittens.


This weekend, we went shopping for kittens. We went to our Barrhaven Pet Smart and Pet Value: one had a kitten that was one year old; the other, a six-year-old. Both were nice cats but didn't meet the criteria of DD14.

On Sunday—yesterday—we went to the Ottawa Humane Society. It was crowded with lots of people and a group that was celebrating a birthday. It was a grey and rainy day, but the people came, none the less.

We found her, right away. A female, only three months old. A tortoiseshell coat, playful, yet cuddly. It also was a polydactyl kitten: six digits on one front paw, seven on the other, five on each hind paw.

A face to die for.

It climbed onto the laps of both daughters—something our older cat would never do. It curled up on my chest and fell asleep, winning me over.

DW and I first inquired at the adoption desk because there was no information attached to the kitten's cage. Only a small sign read "Not available yet." At the desk, we were told that the kitten was still awaiting final clearance from the vet. She had been found on the street at a very young age and had been fostered for the past two months. She had feline herpes, which caused her mild respiratory problems and discharges through the eyes and nose. While she wasn't contagious to humans, other cats were susceptible. 

We returned to the visiting room and it was apparent that both DD14 and DD16 had bonded with the little cutie. I explained the situation to the girls and they said that we would have to check daily to see when she would be available. I researched feline herpes, and the symptoms matched many that Edwin would exhibit from time to time.

I returned to the desk and requested that a hold be placed on the kitten. The Humane Society, I was told, does not place holds on cats that haven't been cleared by the vet. "It's too big a risk if you develop an attachment and place hope, only to find that there are problems and the cat can't be cleared. Too much sorrow."

In other words, if an animal can't be cleared, it's snuffed out.

"What can I do?"

The assistant gave me the registration number of the cat. "You can call any time to check the status. As soon as she's been cleared, we'll also post her on our Web site."

There was no way that the cat would last long once she was listed. She was way too adorable.

The assistant gave me a form to fill out, anyway. I returned to the visiting room, to be with the kids and the cat while I filled out the form. The kitten climbed up on me and fell asleep while I worked.

DD14 and I returned to the adoption desk once the form was filled out, for one last plea. The assistant looked at the form, agreed that it would be a good fit.

"We'll do anything to bring her home," I said. She looked at me, looked at DD14, and said, as soon as she's cleared. She went to her computer and typed in the kitten's registration number. Earlier, she had relied on the printed records for the cat.

"Oh," she said, "it looks like the vet has just cleared her. She's now available for adoption."

"No," I corrected, "she's not available. She's just been adopted."

More administrative work. I had to drive home to retrieve our carrier. We tried to pick a name for our new family member: Kiki, Sienna, Pia, Molly, Sasha. We looked up foreign words for paws, toes, feet.

We've come close to Sasha, but it's not official as of my writing this post.

This post was supposed to be about our vacation, our travels in a camper van. Of playing Exploding Kittens.


A real-life kitten has exploded on the scene. I'll have to share our travels another time.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Carp Library

This is the first Thanksgiving, since we lived in Korea, that DW and I aren't celebrating the holiday. Of course, I'm thankful for my family and friends, the fact that we're all healthy and happy, and that we have food in our bellies and a warm roof over our heads.

Instead, we've rented a camper van and have hit the highway, exploring along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

I'm also taking the rest of this week off from blogging. The Brown Knowser will return next Monday.

But I thought I would take the time to announce that Where In Ottawa was solved, last week, by one of my writer colleagues, Tina Klein Walsh. Tina correctly guessed that last week's photo was shot at the Carp Library.

Congratulations, Tina!

Here are the clues, explained:
  1. There's more where that came from: I was referring to the photo of a book. There are plenty more books in a library.
  2. Maybe the Guardian knows: in the late 80s, one of Canada's greatest observed UFOs landed in West Carleton, just outside Carp. During an episode of an American TV show, Unsolved Mysteries, an envelope had been delivered to the authorities with a video recording of the UFO event, plus documents and illustrations. The envelope had been delivered by an unknown person, known only as Guardian.
  3. The Chief never visited here, either: during the cold war, the federal government build a large fallout shelter in Carp, which would house the prime minister, plus officials and scientists, in the event of a nuclear attack. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker came close to having to go to this shelter at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Though his government had built the shelter, which is now the Diefenbunker Museum, Diefenbaker himself never visited the site. He wouldn't have visited the library, either.
  4. Carpe Diem: okay, I wanted the contest to be over by the time I left for vacation so I played on the name of the town, Carp, where the library is.

That's it for this month. The next Where In Ottawa is Monday, November 6. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Photo Friday: Tranquility

There's a dragonfly in this photo.

I'm not going to tell you where it is. I didn't know it was in my frame when I composed and took my shot. When I cleaned up this image, I almost removed it, mistaking its wings and long tail as a speck of dust on my camera lens.

It wasn't until I zoomed up, ready to blend the surrounding pixels over its graceful body, that I saw it for its true self.

Of course, I had to leave him in the image. He and his companions were silently fluttering around me, unnoticed, keeping the mosquitoes away so that I could do my work.

I won't tell you where he is. I don't want to disturb him during this tranquil-sunset moment.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Hats

Twenty years ago, DW and I had become fairly familiar with our new country, South Korea, taking advantage of the weekends to hop on an inter-city bus and see the countryside. With so many temples, ancient sites, and cities to visit, we certainly got around.

It's not like we had a lot of weekend chores or kids to look after.

While I did travel with my expedition hat on most of the excursions, I did accumulate a couple of straw hats to wear on particularly hot weekends. These hats often had ridiculously wide brims, were so large that I had to keep them in the overhead storage on the buses. they took up
a ton of room.

Here, at home, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing one of these hats; but, in Korea, I never gave it a second thought.

Obviously, I didn't bring this one home with me.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Simpler Times Spent

When I was 19 and had finished high school, I took a year off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. In that time, I took on full-time hours at the paint and wallpaper store where I had worked in my spare time while in school.

I also applied for my first credit card.

At first, I was afraid to use it and promised myself that I would use it only in cases of emergency, that I would still use cash as my primary form of payment. For almost the first six months with my card, which originally had an $800 limit, I never touched it.

It was a friend who worked in another bank who told me that it was a good idea to use the card at least once every six months, to keep the account from going dormant. And so, just before my six-month, semi-anniversary, I used my card to purchase gas at my local Sunoco.

I felt instantly grown-up, felt that I was a responsible member of society.

I tried my card again, at a nearby restaurant, Hurley's, on an evening with my friends. I showed them the flashy plastic. Oh yeah, my confident grin revealed, I'm a contributing member of society.

I paid the bill, in full, when it first arrived. Only a handful of charges, well within my means. It wasn't so hard to be responsible and use the card. Perhaps, I'll use it more often, I persuaded myself.

Each month, it was easy to see my spending habits. My bar tabs at Ruby Tuesday's. New clothes at Warren's House of Britches. Rolls of film at Black's Cameras.

My first large expense came the following year, when I paid for my college tuition and books on my credit card. Having returned to part-time hours, I found that I had to reduce my entertainment spending. I also carried a balance for the first time, though I worked extra hours to get my debt paid off.

When I left the paint store to work at Black's, I made more money but I spent more, too. More bars, more restaurants. Though I received substantial discounts at work, I bought more film, expanded my camera equipment. My credit card was becoming less of a status symbol and more of a ball and chain.

It wasn't until I worked at a bank, had managers and accountants who had my best interest at heart, that I got my credit-card spending under control. And, when I moved to Korea, I became fully debt-free.

Over this summer, DW and I found ourselves in our basement, clearing out junk and reducing paperwork, that I found an old cardboard box with the words, Ross' Old Receipts. In it, the first five years of VISA statements: the receipts, stapled neatly in chronological order; the items on each statement, checked off with pencil marks. Long before the tap or swipe, the card would be slowly worn out from a carbon-paper slip being pressed against the raised numbers, name, and expiry date. My signature, evolving over the years, scribbled on the bottom line.

By today's standards, my monthly expenses were minimal, rarely more than a couple-hundred dollars. Even when I flew to Cancun and to Scotland, or when I paid for my college semesters, the total rarely broke the thousand-dollar mark.

Good ol' days.

To keep my credit-card bills under $5,000 each month, these days, is a challenge. But I always pay my balance, in full.

I'm a responsible, contributing member of society, after all.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Where In Ottawa LXIX

It's autumn, my favourite time of year, and while we started this season with the summer weather that we deserved in July, it's finally started to feel like fall.

It's also the first Monday of the month, and for this blog that usually means the beginning of my Where In Ottawa photo challenge, though, like many things this year, it hasn't always come as expected.

For those of you who don't know how this game is played, or for those of you who have played but need a reminder of the rules, here's how you do it:

Below, you'll see a photo that I shot somewhere in Ottawa. Your task is to locate where I shot it, as precisely as you can.

When you think you know this Ottawa location, leave your guess in the Comments section of this post. DO NOT TRY TO GUESS THROUGH E-MAIL, TWITTER, FACEBOOK, OR ANY OTHER SOCIAL-MEDIA FORUM. The Comments section for this post is the only place where I'll acknowledge your guess, whether you're right or wrong. 

You can guess as many times as you like.

Starting tomorrow, if the challenge hasn't been solved, I'll post a clue on the main page of The Brown Knowser, just above my profile photo. The first person to correctly identify the location in the photo wins the challenge, bragging rights, and will be mentioned in an upcoming blog post, where the location will be revealed to all.

But this month, there's more. Read on to find out.

Ready for this month's challenge? Here you go:

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

As you can see, the photo is of a sculpture that includes a book. Count that as a bonus, an early clue. And, because I've tied a book into this contest, whoever solves this challenge will receive an autographed copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary

Good luck.