Friday, November 24, 2017

Photo Friday: Kuala Lumpur

Look through your photos, I told myself, you'll find something.

I was, of course, looking through the folders of photos that I've shot over the past couple of months but had done nothing with. They're sitting in those albums, awaiting editing, looking for me to pull out a story.

I found an album with a quick photo that I captured of the Chateau Laurier, Ottawa's castle. From the angle, near the pedestrian underpass that takes you to the southwest corner of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive.

I looked at the angle of the shot and was reminded of one that I shot, more than 30 years ago, with my Minolta X-700. While this shot was near sunset, the old photo was from after dark. I tried to remember if I had scanned the photo, which was captured on E-6 film: slide.

I have several external hard drives that hold a vast number of my photos, but only one holds digitized images, captured with a device that projects negatives and slides.

I moved from the drive that held the image of this month's Chateau to a drive that I rarely access.

No such luck.

But I did come across other folders of scanned negatives, from various travels, and my eye settled on one that was labelled Malaysia.

There was one scanned image of which I'm particularly proud, which was a candid shot that captured some calm amidst the bustling crowd of Kuala Lumpur. Two barbers, plying their craft, on clients.

No one knew that I was focusing on this everyday scene, did not know that they were the subject, until I pressed the shutter release and the attached motor drive made a mechanized sound. One of the barbers looked up, away from his client and into his mirror to identify the sound. He saw me, nodded, and returned to his task without a word.

As though I was no longer there.

My work was done, but his wasn't quite ready.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Under The 416

There's nothing like being out at night, on a deserted road, out of sight, under an overpass, alone, vulnerable, that makes the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

It's cold, outside, but you shiver from within.

The road had only recently been closed to all but local traffic, though there was no one who would use it, other than as a throughway. And the throughway was not an option: a smaller sign, next to the imposing Road Closed sign, read No Exit.

I turned down it, nevertheless.

I came to the overpass, beyond which a rise in the road concealed what lay ahead. I turned off my engine, but seeing that I was now in complete darkness, decided to engage the hazard lights. Orange beacons, warning somebody—should somebody come from the direction of no exit—that there was life beyond the dip, under the overpass.

I got out of the car and knew that I was completely isolated. No one could see me from the highway above. It would take a keen eye to see the blinking lights from my car, though it wasn't impossible. I knew that should a police cruiser travel along Strandherd, and should the driver look down the closed roadway, my warning lights would attract attention.

The only sounds came from above. The rasp of tires on a frozen road. The buzz echoed under the concrete that supported the cars and trucks that made their way, north and south, oblivious to the man with the tripod.

Every little sound of wind rustling what little growth protruding from the snow-covered landscape made sent my ears on edge. I looked for any signs of movement from an animal, though I knew that the chances of a coyote or other predator were remote.

But not impossible.

My images captured, I was about to pack up when one last distinct sound caught my attention: a train horn. I knew that somewhere in front of me, under the overpass, the train line led into my community. I could just make out the rails in the dim light, now that my eyes had adjusted to the darkness.

One more shot, and then I'd be off.

Away from the dark, deserted road, when the hairs on my neck could settle down.


Monday, November 20, 2017

I Love Photography

More than my desire to write, over the past couple of months, has been my desire to catch the light as it reflects off the objects that are captured through my camera's lens.

And yet, as I've taken thousands of photographs in this time—indeed, the several thousand photos this year—I find that my desire to process those images has waned.

I have hundreds of unprocessed photos still stored on the data cards in my camera. I have focused on the images that make it to my Photo of the Day project, and have ignored all the others.

When I have taken the time to remove the images from my camera, they have been cataloged in hard drives and forgotten.

I need to give them some love.

Some have stories that accompany them, and those stories need to be told.

Not today.

Hopefully, though, some time, starting this week.

I need to retrieve those images, need to bring them to life, and then tell the stories.

This weekend, I gathered all of the cameras that are in my house, minus the camcorders and the smartphones that belong to DW, DD16, and DD14. Minus, also, the camera that I found in a box with darkroom equipment, that I learned belonged to a longtime friend.

I placed them in a pile, wanted to capture them in a random pattern, but found myself laying them down, gently, so that I could see them all.

I wanted to include my own smartphone, which is used as often to capture images as my D-SLR. Of course, to do that, I wouldn't have a camera in which to capture this gathering. So I used a proxy: my last smartphone, which hasn't been used since I replaced it, in March.

Both it and my current smartphone look identical. Problem solved.

Over the many decades, I've loved photography, loved the cameras that have captured all of my images. All of these cameras have done so at one time or another.

Now, it's time to refocus on the recent images I've captured, but ignored.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Return

I don't know if it was laziness or fatigue, if I felt that I wanted to focus on other aspects of my life, if it was that I simply wanted a break from writing and processing photos, or if it was a combination of all of those factors that made me walk away from The Brown Knowser.

On the writing front, I felt uninspired. I had a few ideas for posts, as I almost always do, but was tired of the flat, trite words that tend to make their way from my brain to my fingers that move over the worn keyboard. I'm not sure that I've found the inspiration to write better prose, even as I string these words together.

I don't always think about how I'm going to write before I compose those thoughts. I just let the flood of images, ideas, and random, fleeting opinions that flow without restraint.

I need to stop doing that, but I don't know that this is that time.

I was considering changing the format of The Brown Knowser. I was even going to change the name but I still like it. I enjoy saying the name of my blog to strangers, telling them that the spelling of the last word isn't what it seems to be, and seeing them smile. The name will stay.

I'm thinking of cutting back the number of posts. I don't need to publish a post five days a week if I feel that I want to take a night off or if I don't feel inspired. I don't always have to post a Where In Ottawa each month. I don't always have to post a Wordless Wednesday (though, I've taken so many photos over the past month or so that if I want to share them, that post won't go away any time soon). My Photo Friday needs a total rework or may go away, altogether. I've never had a pure format for those posts, anyway.

I've tried some new beer over the past few weeks, some that I'd like to share. But I think my Beer O'Clock reviews will be reduced to maybe once a month. We'll see.

I still haven't decided what lies ahead for The Brown Knowser, but I do know this: I want to keep it going.

I've lost a lot of followers over the past couple of months, but I'm not posting my thoughts and photos to gain high numbers. If you have followed my blog and have enjoyed it, I thank you. I hope that as I figure out a new path for this blog, I continue to give you something that you can continue to enjoy.

I haven't decided what my next post will be or when I will post it. I'm aiming for Monday or Tuesday, next week.


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. 

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