Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Just when there was light at the end of the tunnel...

The reconstructive surgery on my foot is just over two weeks away and it can't come soon enough. With the cool, damp weather of autumn settling in, the joints in my feet are at their worst and I'm hobbling more than ever.

For those of you who haven't heard about my feet, you can start reading here.

Because of my impending operation, I'm unable to receive any of the steroid shots to relieve the osteoarthritis, and because the last round of shots has worn off, I'm experiencing a high level of pain. I'm hopeful that I can receive those shots shortly after surgery, though I'm doubtful they'll want to mess around with the left foot.

I'll be in a cast for that foot for three months.

But just as the end seemed near for my feet, more bad news has sprung up.

Because of the condition of my feet, I've been modifying my gait over the years to compensate. Over time, my knees started to feel sore and even more recently, my hips have been stiffening up, particularly on my left side.

Not surprising, since it's my left foot that's in the biggest spot of bother.

But for the last couple of weeks, my left hip has been giving me so much trouble that the pain is starting to surpass the discomfort in my feet, and that has made me somewhat concerned, so I made an appointment to see my doctor.

She agreed that by compensating for my feet, I might be putting additional strain on my other joints. She also suspected that I may have bursitis, and gave me a requisite for x-rays on both hips. A week later, she had the results and gave me the news.

More arthritis, in both hips.

I don't know what my next steps are. My doctor sent me the results just before she left for a vacation and I'm not sure if I'll have an opportunity to see her before I go under the knife.

Just take the whole leg, I say. Take 'em both.

I'm almost afraid to talk about my knees.

Monday, October 29, 2018

My Dark Secret Life

I considered turning this post into another guest one.

Getting hacked is nothing to laugh at. I've been hacked in the past, where someone gained access to my e-mail contact list and sent messages to all of my family and friends. The message had a simple subject that went something like Just for You or Too Funny. Or something like that.

In the body of the message was only a hyperlink. No explanation, no greeting, no signature. Anyone who has ever received an e-mail from me knows I'm not one for brevity. My subject lines always convey a clear introduction and I always explain any link that I include.

Most people recognized it as a suspicious message and notified me. They deleted the message without clicking the link and I promptly changed my password.

I have a few e-mail accounts: my main one, which is known to family, friends, and people with whom I am in regular contact. I have a secondary account, to which I give those I'm not close to but with whom I don't mind keeping in contact.

My third account is the one that I rarely use. It's the one I provide when I visit Web sites that require one and from where I expect spam. It's also provided to anyone who wants to contact me for The Brown Knowser: RossBrownfoot@live.com.

Recently, I received a couple of messages on my secondary account, which immediately was tagged as spam and sent to the appropriate junk folder. One was dated October 19; the other, October 24. They were from the same sender, with similar messages.

They were blackmail.

Here: I'll let you read one of them yourself:

I'm a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from blahblahblah@blah.com on moment of hack: P@s5w0rd!*

Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn't matter, my malware updated it every time.

Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your account.

Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a complete history of visits to the Internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.

You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.

I am in shock of your fantasies! I've never seen anything like this!

So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!)
I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.

There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I'm sure you don't want it.

Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $832 is an acceptable price for it!

Pay with Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: alkupganvakjfakjflakfaopivnalkfcaslfuaut4**

If you do not know how to do this - enter into Google "how to transfer money to a bitcoin wallet". It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your operating system.

My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!

I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen - all your contacts will get crazy shots from your dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48 hours)

Do not be silly! Police or friends won't help you for sure ...

p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on unsafe sites.

I hope for your prudence.
I have to say, I laughed at this message. After reading it for the first time, I read it aloud, to DW and DD17, using my best sinister voice. I also used a Russian accent, though I have no idea where this message originated.

First of all, they did give me my e-mail account, but that meant nothing. They then gave me what was supposed to be my password, but wasn't. What they gave me was the name of a shared Google folder I had created for one of my kids, to which we have shared photos but haven't used in recent memory (the photos were ones I had taken of her with my phone that she wanted to use as profile pictures or to share with her friends). 

In other words, the hacker had nothing. 

I love how this hacker said that they usually lock computers and ask for ransom but were "struck by the sites of intimate content" that I visited. 

I became interested in learning of these sites that would keep someone from locking my computer. I wish he or she had given me a hint as to the address of these "piquant sites." 

Sounds exciting. 

I wonder how this person came up with the amount of $832. Is it in Canadian dollars? American? What fraction of a Bitcoin is that?

Of course, I blocked the sender and deleted the message. There was a link associated with my e-mail address but I didn't click it.

If any of my contacts receives "crazy shots" that supposedly come from from me, if they come in the form of links, don't click them: no doubt, you'll become at risk for possible hacking.

I am curious about one thing, though: what does my dark secret life look like?

* I changed my e-mail address and the so-called password that the hacker provided.
** I also changed the Bitcoin account number to protect (?) the privacy of the hacker (isn't that a hoot?). 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Beer O'Clock: Keeping It Simple

I find myself overthinking beer. And it's not hard to do.

Think of those New England IPAs, with their hazy and rich colours, big, tropical aromas, and fruit-filled flavours. Think of chocolate stouts with hints of raspberries. Think of blueberry wheat ales.

I've almost come to expect a lot going on in my pint glass, and that expectation is to my detriment. Now, I expect every beer that I try to be something more. It's almost as though I've come to think, if it's simple, it's no good.

And that simply isn't true.

A few weeks ago, as DW and I were enjoying a night of theatre at The Gladstone, just off Corsa Italia (Preston Street, Little Italy), I noticed that a selection of one of Ottawa's recent local breweries was available from the bar. I had heard of Vimy Brewing Company but had never tried their beer, and so I grabbed a pint of their cream ale to take to my seat.

That night, I enjoyed both the play and the beer.

I promised myself that I would visit the brewery, as part of my search for Ottawa's best breweries, and would bring home a sample of their offerings.

With a name like Vimy, I thought that the brewery might be somewhere in Riverside South, not very far from the Vimy Memorial Bridge. I couldn't have been more wrong: in fact, I was very close to the brewery when DW and I were at The Gladstone. Coming from Preston, you pass the theatre on Gladstone Avenue, cross over the O-Train line, and hang a right onto Loretta Avenue N.

The brewery is in a spacious area, with a lounge for intimate gatherings, a tap room with plenty of tables for a party, and, of course, the brewing facility. There's a long bar in the tap room, where you can enjoy a pint on premises or pick up a few cans to take home.

I picked up two of everything and left.

At home, I decided to first try the brewery's seasonal ale, the Vimy Wheat Ale. It's a Hefeweizen with great aromas of banana that carry through to the palate, where it's mixed with spice and washes down really well. So far, it's my favourite brew from Vimy, but I wanted to take a closer look at the ale that brought my attention to this brewing company, and so I'm going to review its flagship brew.
Vimy Cream Ale (5% ABV)
Vimy Brewing Company
1-145 Loretta Avenue, Ottawa
(Hey, notice that I've started adding the address? Because I've decided to limit my reviews to Ottawa-area breweries, I thought I'd be specific about where the brewery is located.)

Appearance: a clear, deep gold, with lots of effervescence and a foamy, off-white head that leaves a solid cap and remains throughout the session.

Nose: strong odours of straw and a bit of creamed corn.

Palate: creamy and malty, with a gentle finish.

Overall impression: at first, I thought I was faced with a dilemma. While I enjoyed drinking it at the theatre, I think my attention was on the production and not on my pint. All I knew was that after the first sip, I thought it was a nice cream ale, and then the lights when down and the show started.

Drinking it with discerning attention, I still thought it was a good cream ale, but deep down, I think I was looking for something more. I think of my previous reviews of beer that was in my face with flavours and aromas. Here, I had a simple cream ale.


But what's wrong with simple?

I looked for a flaw in the ale, something I could criticize, and I couldn't find anything. I thought of other cream ales I've had, and Vimy's version was right there with those expectations.

There was nothing wrong with this beer: there was something wrong with me.

Vimy Cream Ale is a solid cream ale that refreshed and was quite enjoyable. It's everything you would expect in this type of beer, and it's no surprise that it won the gold medal for lagered ale at the 2018 Ontario Brewing Awards.

This is a beer for everyone. It needs no gimmick or added flavour. It's a classic cream ale.

Don't overthink it: just enjoy it.

It's also available at the LCBO, and in stores, restaurants, and pubs across the province. Oh, and also at The Gladstone, along with their red ale and pale ale.

Beer O'Clock rating: 🍺🍺


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

My Mind is Going

I used to pride myself on a solid memory. When I wrote Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, I pulled a lot of events that Roland Axam experienced from those of my own or of those I knew when I lived in South Korea.

To this date, when my buddy Russ and I get together and talk about old times from 1998, he is surprised that I can recall events with clarity.

When I look at photographs, I'm almost immediately pulled back to that time when I stood with my camera, capturing the memory. I remember the circumstances surrounding the image. I remember the weather, my mood, and who was with me.

For good or otherwise, I can remember smells.

There are a couple of photos that I shot, in 1996, when DW and I were on vacation, celebrating our second wedding anniversary, and we took a trip out east, to Nova Scotia, PEI, and parts of New Brunswick, that when I look at, I draw an almost total blank.

A year or so ago, I digitized one of those slide images and cleaned it up, and it's become one of my favourite photos that I have taken. Only, I don't remember where I shot it.

The other day, I found another slide image, taken of the same harbour, and again I couldn't summon the location.

This failure in memory has become one of my own Where In The World photo challenges that I, myself, cannot solve.

Last night, I stared at both images, and the small town of Alma, New Brunswick, came to mind, though the background in the first image doesn't sync with my memory of the area. Along Hwy 114, as you drive eastward from Fundy National Park, you cross a small bridge and into Alma. The bridge crosses a small channel of water where fishing boats took harbour and would rise and fall with the tide levels of the Bay of Fundy.

I had taken photos of the boats at high tide, and meant to return to the same spot for low tide, but didn't make it back in time. DW and I had explored trails in the park and had missed seeing the boats on the drained bay floor.

Looking at these photos, the background doesn't jive with me. I went to Google Maps and looked at the bridge on Hwy 114, but it doesn't strike me as the same.

My mind is going. I've lost this memory.

And so I appeal to any readers who may know Alma, NB. Could these photos have been taken in that harbour? If not, do you recognize the area?

My memory is not what it once was. Don't even talk to me about my short-term memory.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Checking Boxes

As important as choosing the leader of our country or the leader of our province, I think it's equally important to wisely choose who will manage our cities.

Moreso, in some ways. Municipal elections determine how our garbage is collected, how the snow is removed from our streets, how potholes are filled. They shape public transit and how our neighbourhoods are kept safe. They determine how schools are governed.

Get out there: check those boxes.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Last Sunset

I wasn't going to see it.

Not because the sun, for the most part, was hidden behind the clouds off to the west. I could see rain moving slowly over Kinburn and to the south of Dunrobin. The precipitation seemed heavy and, with the cold temperature and blustering wind, looked suspiciously like flurries.

There: I said it. The F-word. Flurries.

I'm not ready to use the S-word. It has an air of permanence. We will have that soon enough.

Crows glided in the stiff wind, almost hovering in place. They would pull their wings inwards, almost roll onto their backs, and dive a short distance before the wings would unfurl and they would swoop back up.

It was approaching 6:00. In about 15 minutes, the sun would be upon the horizon and with any luck, shine on the slopes to the northwest. My eyes could trace the hills in the distance, toward Shawville, and already see light making the red and yellow trees glow.

A few more minutes, and I would have light fall closer.

I saw the truck pull up in my peripheral, the two men emerge, both in green uniforms with patches on the shoulder. The driver, a massive man, approached me, smiling. In his hand was a leaflet with what appeared to be a map.

I smiled and greeted him as he approached but didn't turn my camera away from the west.

"I'm sorry," he said, speaking English after he had heard me say my hello, "I'm afraid the park is now closed."

"So early?"

"Yes," he said, "there's a risk of snow coming soon," his eyes seemed to find the precipitation over Kinburn, "the roads will become icy. It's too dangerous to stay open."

The descent from the Champlain Lookout, along the parkway, is steep and winding. With my summer tires still on my car, I wouldn't want to slide around a corner.

"The sun sets soon," I said, "in less than 15 minutes. Can I stay to capture it? I promise to leave as soon as it has set." There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot but its occupants were nowhere to be seen. No doubt, walking on the trail below the lookout.

"I'm afraid not," he said, "it's not safe. We're closing gates. The only exit now is by Boulevard St-Raymond." He handed me the paper with the map.

"Can I take a few more pictures? S'il vous plaît?"

He looked past me, toward the falling sky. Even though he must have looked out here countless times, perhaps every day, his eyes revealed his wonderment. This is why I do this job, they seemed to say.

"Sure, you can take a few more pictures, but then I'm afraid you must go."

"Merci," I said, then added, "how long will the park be closed?"

"Until further notice. But once we've had our first snow, we'll be closed for the season." He turned to head back to his pickup truck. His colleage, who had attached the notice to the windshield of the other car, was also heading into the vehicle, out of the cold. It was just above the freezing point and with the wind, no one wanted to linger outside.

I took a few more photos and returned to my car. In my rear-view mirror, I could see the NCC truck drive away. I contemplated sticking around but decided to heed the park officer's instructions. I still had about 10 minutes: I didn't want them coming back, this time not as polite.

I took one last look. Though the park might reopen in the coming days, I doubt I'll be back this season, especially at sunset. This autumn was a beauty. If this was going to be my last sunset here, for the season, I couldn't have asked for better.

Even though, in reality, I missed it.

Bring on the F-word, but let's hope the S-word is farther away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Drive Through The Woods

The Gatineau Hills is one of the greatest spots to check out the fall colours. There are plenty of fabulous walking trails and lookouts where you can see the Ottawa Valley meet the Canadian Shield.

There are ruins, historical places, and waterfalls. At this time of year, the leaves make all of it magical.

Of course, I love to drive through Gatineau Park up to the Champlain Lookout, where you have one of the most beautiful vistas in the region. However, at this time of year, it can sometimes be a challenge to drive the parkways because of all the other people, in their cars, with the same desire to take in the scenery.

Forget about driving through Gatineau on the weekends: sometimes, the bumper-to-bumper traffic starts in Chelsea. Cyclists can climb the hills faster than cars.

If you've never driven through Gatineau Park but don't want to get caught in a long line, fear not: I have driven it for you. Last Friday, after work, I drove up to the Champlain Lookout. It was early enough in the afternoon that I didn't meet much traffic—although, there was that one slowpoke who drove less than 40 kph from the Fortune Parkway turnoff to the end of the Champlain Parkway.

When I arrived at the loop at the top, it wasn't packed and I was able to park right at the lookout. I sat on the top wall and took in the spectacular view, and then moved to the lower level for some more photos, before returning to the car.

(My office is only about a 20-minute drive from the Champlain Lookout, so I come up often and don't need to hang around for very long.)

Once in my car, I decided to attach my smartphone to a mount on my windshield, which I bought a few weeks ago for when I need my phone for navigation. But I've also started using my phone as a dash-cam, recording my trips to and from work.

I decided to record the drive down from the Champlain Lookout. With a quick stop and view of the Huron Lookout.

I doubled the speed of the video and stopped recording before I reached the end of the Champlain Parkway. What I have is about six-and-a-half minutes of video that goes down some of the steepest parts of the parkway.

I've cycled this route many times. On the way down, pedalling hard, I've reached speeds on my bike that have exceeded 70 kph. I've often muttered to myself, "please don't wipe out... please don't wipe out..."

Despite the numerous signs that prohibit you from parking, you'll see some bozos who have pulled over. One guy just stopped in the middle of the road.


There's no sound to this video because I couldn't find a suitable song that lasts 6:36. If you can think of one, let me know. When I drove this route, I was enjoying Ella Fitzgerald, The Watchmen, and Matt Good.

If you can't make it up to the Gatineau Park, this is your next-best thing. Enjoy.

Monday, October 15, 2018

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

With the trees turning colour
And geese honking o'er harvested farm fields
It's the most wonderful time of the year
It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those Thanksgiving greetings and family meetings
When leaves start to fall
It's the hap-happiest season of all...

(Okay, I'm no Andy Williams.)

But I love the cool days and crisp evenings, the smell of drying leaves and the crunching sound of them underneath my feet. I love the colour. Autumn is my favourite time of year. This week, The Brown Knowser will be dedicated to this beautiful season.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Off to My Grad

In my day, they weren't called proms: that's American lingo.

They were grads.

In early summer of 1983, I was 18 years old, had just graduated from grade 12, and was on my way to my grad celebration. I had a new suit and it fit my slim build: navy blue. I had a new shirt that was a pale blue with a crisp, white collar. The patterned, dark-blue tie had flecks of rich, wine red, which perfectly matched my kerchief. My shoes, I still remember, were a polished black leather, also new.

My mother, who owned a flower shop at the time, had made a boutonniere: a simple, single white rose surrounded in baby's breath. And a new hair cut to finish the look.

I looked good.

My eldest daughter is in grade 12. This is her final year of high school before she heads off to university. When her school year ends, she'll be 18 and off to a grad of her own (sorry... they call it prom now).

Looking at my photo from 35 years ago, knowing that my daughter is almost at the age I was in that shot makes me realize how time has flown. It seems like a long time since that photo, taken just before I hopped in the car to pick up Sue G., my date for the evening.


Just wow.