Thursday, February 28, 2013

Character Development

One of the things that I like to do as an aside to writing my fiction is developing certain characters. I want the people in my fiction to be as believable as possible, so I devise a history for those people.

Whether I actually use those histories in the story itself doesn't matter; what matters is that I know those characters as well as I know real people.

When I was writing Songsaengnim, I gave great consideration to Roland's mother, Kate. Because she had also lived through a tragedy, I wanted her to be one of the guiding figures in Roland's life. A couple of years ago, I started writing a history of Kate Axam and was considering using it in my novel, but it got shelved before I finished it. By mistake, I accidentally posted it with the rough chapters that I had on my novel's blog site. A friend read it and then contacted me about it, saying she didn't understand what it was that I was adding to the story.

I pulled the passage immediately. It wasn't intended for others' eyes (the Save and Publish buttons are just too close to each other in Blogger!).

This week, I pulled this passage out again, cleaned it up, and finished it. It's still a rough draft, but now that Songsaengnim is published and Gyeosunim is in the works, I thought I would share it. I still don't know if I'll ever use it in my book, but at least it will give the fans of Roland Axam a look into his family.

Oh, and I added a change to my main character's name. Like me, Roland goes by his middle name.


Katie Axam was a strong woman, no matter what your eyes led you to believe. Not large, not brawny. To see her was to be utterly deceived of her nature, her might, her determination, and will. A petite woman in stature and in frame; a mighty woman in substance.

Only if you gazed into her ice-blue eyes would you know not to mess with this island woman.

Born of a hardy stock, Katie was a woman who found solutions to any problem, who never let an obstacle hinder her. She looked beyond a situation to find ways forward, that were outside those that were generally understood and accepted. When a situation seemed hopeless, she found hope.

Where she came from, there were many obstacles to success. Many who came from her birthplace seldom left, rarely moved beyond its borders. Born Katherine Mackenzie MacInnes of Laphroaig, Islay—pronounced eye-lah, a small community of only a few hundred residents. Her father, Angus MacInnes, one of the master distillers from the whisky distillery of the same name and sworn ancestor of Oengus of the clan Aonghais, the founding son of Islay, always wanted more for his only daughter, who showed so much promise. Angus didn't make much money at the distillery but of what he earned he set a bit aside for his wee Katie. He wanted more for her, and though his love for his island would keep him there, he wanted his daughter to get off the island, to the mainland and to more opportunities.

Katie's mother, Flòraidh Senga MacDonald, was also strong in spirit, whose ancestors could be traced back for centuries to the famous and infamous MacDonalds of the island. Yet she was not as hearty as the land that formed her was, and died shorty after bringing Katie into the world. Which made wee Katie all the more precious to her dad.

Katie saw that her father wanted the most for her, wanted to give his only family all that he couldn't give to his departed wife and kids that would never come to be, and she did what she could to fulfill his desires. It wasn't difficult, for even she saw little future for herself in this remote village on this harsh and barren rock of the southern, Inner Hebrides.

She did well in school, dreamed of being a doctor. Her will to succeed took her far: all the way to the University of Edinburgh, where she earned her MBChB. For her father, it might have been the other side of the planet: having never left Islay before he helped his daughter move to the big city, Angus was a wary traveller. Trusted no one, feared for Katie's well being, out of his caring and watchful eye. He trusted Katie's judgement: he just didn't trust strangers.

In her final year, with studies out of the way and her career before her, Katie let the strangers come. It was then that she met a feisty civil engineer named Iain Robert Axam, known by his peers as The I.R.A.: a terror to behold and capable of mayhem. At first, it seemed like a meeting of opposites. A quiet, petite west islander from a whisky community was she; a boisterous, larger-than-life east-coaster from a community loyal to its local brewery was he. But when Iain and Katie met, it was love at first sight. A love that could never be broken.

Upon graduation, in 1960, Iain and Katie married and moved to Iain's home town of North Berwick, in East Lothian, east of Edinburgh. Iain found a job in Edinburgh and took the ScotRail line into Waverley Station every day. Katie was hired at Edington Cottage Hospital, a short walk from their newly built home on the corner of Westgate and Abbey Roads. Katie quickly found an adoration, not just of her life with Iain and the career for which she studied so hard, and her father scrimped and saved to give her the means to realize, but for her new home in the small seaside resort town.

With their careers secured, thoughts turned to raising children, and five years after settling in North Berwick, a son—Angus Roland, named after both of his grandfathers—arrived. Nearly three years later, a daughter—Siobhan Flora, named after both of her grandmothers. Their house was large but would easily house a family of four. By the early 70s, it would also house her private office, where neighbours preferred the warmth of intimate consultation to the antiseptic coldness of the town's hospital.

In the late spring of 1980, Iain was offered a lucrative position as a partner for an engineering firm in Ottawa, Canada. It was a giant step. Both he and his wife would be leaving their country for the first time. It would mean starting over. Katie decided that she would open her own private practice, and the transition for them was effortless, marked only by her minimal name variance, to Kate. The move for their children was a little harder, as they had to adjust to the different education system. Their youngest, Siobhan, had the easiest transition. She would be entering into middle school, where she would be joining a hoard of fellow students who would be just as lost as she. Roland, on the other hand, was entering into the second year of high school. Friendships would already have been formed. The soft-spoken but witty and mischievous lad would have to do some catching up. But Kate wasn't overly concerned. Her children had the same charisma as their father. They'd do well.

Kate kept her Ottawa practice away from their Sandy Hill home, preferring to stay close to the Ottawa Civic Hospital, where she had privileges. Her office, on the second floor of a yellow-bricked building that housed a pharmacy, looked south, across Carling Avenue, toward the Experimental Farm. Looking out of her office window and slightly up, on the corner of the building, she could always see the brightly coloured letters of the pharmacy, C-I-V-I-C.

As much as Kate tried, she could not get her dad to come to Canada, to check out her life first-hand. It had been tougher than pulling teeth to get him to return to Edinburgh to give her away at her wedding, had been easy to get him to come the two times to North Berwick to see the birth of his grandchildren (North Berwick, he said, was as big a town as he wanted to navigate). Angus was content to speak to her on the telephone, to read the letters and receive the photographs of his kin. But if they were to be reunited, Kate had to make the journey back to Laphroaig, which she did every summer, at the most-seasonable time of year. Iain would not always join her, but Roland and Siobhan did. The kids knew the small village as well as North Berwick, better than the whole of Ottawa (it wasn't hard: the village was smaller than their Ottawa neighbourhood. Apart from the distillery and a couple of farms, there was nothing).

It was a storybook life, for Kate. It wasn't perfect, but it was nearly so.

Until the accident brought it all down.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I hate being sick.

Last week, I got hit with a flu bug that kept me in bed, unable to do anything except sip a few liquids, for about three days. During that time, the only thoughts that went through my head are: I'm so cold; I ache; I don't want to eat; I hope my family doesn't catch this; I can't blog.

Believe it or not, it bothered me that I couldn't muster enough energy to write a blog post. I couldn't sit up long enough to start up my laptop, nor did I have the mental faculties to come up with anything that I could type up for The Brown Knowser. Drinking a beer and writing about it was out of the question. Even digging up a photo to post was a daunting task.

And so I lay in bed and rested, tried desperately to get better.

During my fits and fevers, I had some pretty disturbing dreams: one, in which I was an acrobat on a flying trapeze that used bungee cords. Me, with my fear of heights, plunged about five stories before the cord would swing me, while I held on.

Upside down, by my ankles: back and forth and up and down.

Over an Olympic-sized pool that was simultaneously holding a swim meet.

In a straight jacket.

All the while, I was worried about some kids I didn't even know, was growing frustrated in wondering why I had to be responsible for their safety instead of their parents. Where the hell were they, anyway?

In both my drowsy, waking hours and my deep sleep, imagined that in my absence, my readers grew tired of waiting for my health to improve, thought that my blog was boring anyway, and that my lack of posts was excuse enough to leave me, to read another blog post.

There are plenty of them out there. Why wouldn't you?

I don't know how many months I have written six posts a week, without interruption, but it's been a while*. For me, not writing on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights was an eternity. (Okay, I did write something for Beer O'Clock on Sunday, which posted yesterday, but I also wanted to have something for yesterday's Brown Knowser post, to let you know that, for the most part, my flu has subsided.)

One of my favourite bloggers once wrote about her fear that if she stopped writing for a day or two, she would lose the momentum that she had created with her readers and that they would go away. It's crazy, of course: she's a highly successful blogger with a huge fan base.

I'm still small potatoes, by comparison. I'm grateful for the followers that I have, but I'm still hoping to someday have a tenth of the number of followers she has. I feel that I can't afford to lose any of you, because if I lose the momentum and you stop reading, I will not have the drive to write as often as I do.

And I feel that you make me better for writing more.

So, I'm sorry for the break in continuity. Sorry for leaving a gap in The Brown Knowser. I'm feeling better now. The blogging continues.

Thanks for still being there.

You're still there, right?

If so, could you please keep an eye on your kids while I do this death-defying feat?

One... two... three...

* Actually, it's been since last July.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

From the Spotlight to the Searchlight

Photo by Jennifer Churchill
Last November, I asked you to check out one of Ottawa's gems of the music scene, Amanda Cottreau.

I hope that you did.

I know, I ask a lot of my readers: buy my book, try this beer, check out that artist... but have I ever steered you wrong? If you did, in fact, check out Amanda's music, you know that I was spot-on when I said that she has an ethereal voice that warms the heart, haunts the soul (and believe me, I'm using haunt in a good way).

Amanda's music plays all the time now on my portable device. And because I carry that device with me everywhere, I hear her in the house, in the car, at the office, and in the gym (when I actually do go there).

Now, I want to hear her on the radio. And this is where I once again call on you, my wonderful readers, for your help.

CBC Music and Ottawa's All In A Day are looking for the next Best New Artist. And they are calling on fans to vote for their favourite. I've already voted for mine and I want to help her succeed. Can you help me to help her?

Go to the CBC Searchlight page, find Amanda's song, Couldn't Wait, and give it a listen. And then vote for her.

And if you haven't yet picked up her CD, go to iTunes and treat yourself.


And good luck, Amanda!

Monday, February 18, 2013


No, not sordid. But I can do that.

Just not today.

Unless I'm running a Where In Ottawa contest, Monday's have been reserved for beer reviews. But that ends today.

From now on, my beer reviews are going to run exclusively on my Beer O'Clock blog.

I'm sure some of you are relieved, as there is now less confusion. Is he writing about beer on his Brown Knowser blog? WTF? Beer O'Clock is in two places??

Now, Beer O'Clock is in one place: at Beer O'Clock.

And there is a post there today, so go. Now.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rewind: February 11-15, 2013

By the time that the middle of February rolls around, I finally start to think that winter is almost over. The days are noticeably longer and the temperatures become bearable. And though it will be at least six more weeks before the snow will be mostly gone, I still look at now as the beginning of the end.

This is also the last weekend of Winterlude in Ottawa, and this year, the festival is ending with a beer festival on Sparks Street. I think every festival should end with beer (and start with beer). I am the official photographer of the WinterBrewed event, so if you're there either today or tomorrow and you see me, be sure to come over and say "hi."

If you're relaxing this weekend, take a few minutes to catch up on this week's posts in The Brown Knowser.
If you follow my Beer O'Clock blog, you might also be interested in the following posts.
  • A Little Help Here?—for my upcoming road trip, I'm looking for suggestions for stops along the way. Beer stops.
  • Elemental—another look at a New Zealand brewery.
  • Getting Naked—and reviewing a chocolate raspberry stout.
Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Photo Friday: Post Valentine

So, how was your Valentine's Day?

Even though I screwed up plans for the big V Day, it turned out just fine. I spent the evening with the three most-important girls in my life.

And we stuffed ourselves on amazing homemade food.

And candy.

Before it was all gone, I thought I'd capture some.

And then put that photo through a couple of Kaleidoscope effects.

I hope that your Valentine's Day went as you had planned it. Or better for not being planned.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentine

I screwed up.

I forgot to make dinner reservations.

Though my wife celebrates all of the chocolate holidays—Easter, Hallowe'en, Christmas, and Valentine's Day—we never really make a big deal about the holiday of love.

So, when we talked about dinner plans and she reminded me that we had a gift certificate for an Ottawa restaurant, I said that I'd make us reservations for tonight.

And then I promptly forgot.

On Monday, as we drove into work together, I was asked if I made reservations. That's when I remembered that I had forgotten. I said I'd call when I got to my office. But then I forgot until she called later that morning to remind me. And so I called as soon as she and I hung up.

Of course, the restaurant was booked solid. They could take us at 3. Or at 10.

Too early and too late.

And so, I screwed up.

But I do say this to my dear wife. I may forget some things, but I never forget the most important things in life. Like you, and our life together with our wonderful girls.

I screwed up this week and I'll screw up again.

But I love you.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Of Dark Horses

He never wanted to be there in the first place.

It's not that he was treated badly or that he was ignored. It's just that when he was there, he was bored. He had nothing to do.

He was a spectator, nothing more. And though he liked the horses, they didn't like him. They would snort and sputter, turn their ears down, stomp their hooves in the dirt. He kept his distance from them, and so they, for the most part, did the same.

The farm hands ignored him too. He stayed out of their way, let them take care of the horses, muck out the stalls in the barn, ensure that all of the fences stayed strong and secure, would hold the horses, keep them properly enclosed.

He was there to keep a watch on his sister, make sure that she wasn't alone with the instructor or any of the farm hands. It wasn't that their parents thought the men from this riding school were dishonourable or untrustworthy; if they felt that way, his sister wouldn't be there in the first place. But it seemed the proper thing to do, to keep a sibling as the unofficial chaperone, to be the independent eyes.

A boy, no matter how young, was safe on the farm, the family thought.

Some of the hands on the farm were mentally challenged, but they were capable of work. They had a special bond with the animals, and not just the horses: the dogs and cats also had a connection with the handicapped help. It may have been that these men were soft-spoken, gentle. Many times, you didn't know they were there.

That's why it surprised the boy when one of them approached him as he stood at the edge of the corral, watching his sister ride in circles, her instructor standing in the centre, turning around in one spot as she lapped the outer ring. The horses ears would turn back as the sister passed her brother.

The man didn't speak, didn't enunciate, so much as he softly hummed, almost singing. It was a nasal tone, not high, not low. It neither asked nor pleaded, but the boy knew it was a call. A beckoning.

Though the boy hadn't watched the farm hand working, he did see bales of straw moved from a wagon into the barn. The tone from the wordless man indicated that he wanted the boy to follow. That something was needed in the barn.

The lesson was almost over. Soon, his sister would be leading the horse into the stable, where she would remove the tack and harness, would wash down and groom her mount. He would need to be with her in the barn, to watch and wait while she finished her work.

He would follow this man, would be there, in the barn, when she was ready. At least, helping this man, he would be doing something, wouldn't be bored. With any luck, time would pass quickly.

The man had a limp, his left foot dragged on a perpendicular as he hobbled. He was squat, solid-framed; not fat, but hulkish. Husky, in a compact body. His denim jeans and blue plaid shirt were evidence of his hard work: the dirt was caked erratic patches, cracked where the strain of bending and lifting had added more patterns to the plaid. The hair under his weather-beaten Habs cap was dark, long, and greasy, had not been washed in days, if not weeks.

He smelled of the muck of the stables. He smelled of years of hard work.

The sun was just setting behind the barn and though dim, no lights had been turned on for the evening. There were enough slits in boards and open windows and doors to allow enough light to see, but barely. The boy could hear the whinny of some horses, put away for the day, but couldn't see them from within their individual cells.

The man led him to the stairs that were close to the open doors. There would be more light above, where the sun would continue to penetrate the windows a little longer. Long enough to be there until his sister came.

The man had worked hard. Countless bales of hay stood, neatly stacked at the top of the stairs. They would have been heavy, a burden to carry from the wagon and up to this level. But the man had accomplished his task. But he had more work to do and the day was fading.

The man grabbed one of the pitchforks that hung on a post and in one swift motion broke up one of the bales in the stack. He flung forkfuls into a pile in the far corner of the loft and then motioned to the boy, pointed to another pitchfork and with soft, whinnying grunts, indicated that he wanted the boy to help.

The fork was heavier that he imagined, but he could manage. His arms weren't accustomed to the heavy lifting, but he was capable. He didn't work as quickly as the man, but it surprised the boy how speedily the two of them managed the work of breaking up the bales and building a fresh pile that could be later sent down a chute to supply the stables below.

The boy was surprised that time almost slowed to a halt. By the time the two had a sufficient mound, the lesson had not yet ended. There was no noise from underneath the loft.

The man made a sound that the boy instantly recognized, that needed no translation in any language. A laugh. A sign of satisfaction.

The man, after taking the pitchfork from the boy and hanging both up on the posts, laughed, patted the boy on the shoulder, and moved closer.

Arms went around the boy, who was taken by surprise. The man with the mental handicap wanted to show his appreciation, and the boy had no warning. Though he didn't want to be rude, the boy didn't welcome the embrace, didn't want to be subjected to the encrusted filth and smell that defined this man.

But the man was strong and the embrace was paralysing. There was nothing the small boy, who could only just wield a straw-laden pitchfork, could do to break the grip.

The straw was brittle and strong as the boy hit it, the full weight of the man following, landing on top, pinning him down. The boy was winded, desperate for air, but could only smell the rancid odour of days-old sweat. The sourness gagged him, but he fought for every breath, determined not to let his windedness make him pass out.

The man kissed his cheek, tried to bring their lips together, but the boy rocked his head from side to side, resisting as much as he could. Apart from his head, only his legs from the knees down could move. He was helpless.

The man's breathing increased, as though he was working harder than the effort required to hoist the straw from the stack of bales to the pile on which they now lay. He hissed a stuttering "Shh...", one of his dirt-covered hands now moving to cover the boy's mouth, lest he scream out for help.

Another hand fumbled below, clumsily grabbing for the boy's pants, trying to get underneath. Immobile, the boy could only grind his teeth as he felt cool fingers on his warm abdomen, near the elastic boundary of his underpants.

This can't be happening, the boy thought. This can't happen to me. He thought of his sister, about how his parents had him at the farm for her protection. But who was to protect him? Surely, his sister's lesson was over by now. Surely, she would escort her horse into the barn, and he could call for help.

The only sound that he heard below was the grumbling of horses. They made noises that sounded to him like they knew something was wrong, that something was disturbing them. He could hear their disturbed whinnying under the excited whimpering and heavy breathing of the man atop him.

Please stop touching me, he pleaded. Please let me go. The man's fingers had not crossed below his underwear waist strap, but they were making progress. Closer, and closer. He started to cry.

And then he heard another sound. A voice. His mother's. Calling his name.

He was emboldened with more power. His squirms became stronger, more urgent.

I'm here, he screamed, shaking loose the hand that fought to suppress him.

The man's resolve diminished. The boy could feel the weight lifting off him. As soon as he was able, he scrambled below the man, caught purchase of the ground, and slipped out from under him.

He scrambled to his feet but never found his legs. He stumbled down the stairs and hit the floor of the main level with a thump.

I'm here. The words were gasping cries, huffing whimpers, more than  words. His mother, walking with the sister, the horse, and the instructor, walked slowly to the barn. His mother's early arrival had delayed his sister's entrance into the stables.

What's wrong? his mother asked.

I want to go home was all he could muster as his breathing constricted him.

He was helping to move the straw, said the instructor, he must be worn out.

The boy walked past them all, walked straight to the parked car, pulling the straw from out of his hair and off his dusty clothes, wiping the saliva off his cheeks. He opened the car door and climbed in the back seat.

And cried.

And composed himself when he heard his mother and sister approach the car.

He was a boy, trying to be a man. This wasn't supposed to happen to men. Or boys. Or anyone.

He kept silent the entire way home. He spoke nothing of what had happened to him. How could he face the humiliation of it all? No one else knew, except for the farm hand who did this to him, and he wasn't going to tell.

No, this was his secret. He was unharmed, the man was never able to really touch him where he shouldn't. It would never happen again.

Tonight was the last night of his sister's riding lessons for the season. That's probably why the man tried what he did. But the boy would never return. Not next season, not ever. He would never see that man again.

Nor the horses that didn't like him anyway.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Beer O'Clock: Did I Wait Too Long?

There's a problem in hoarding beer: eventually, you have to drink it?

Not much of a problem, is it?

Sometimes, I buy a beer and put it in my cellar, telling myself that I'll drink it at a special occasion or that I'll wait until I have a theme.

But then a special release will present itself, or a limited-release seasonal will come out. And I put those beers down as a priority, tell myself that I have to get a review out for those first, so that my readers, if they're interested, can get some for yourselves.

You're welcome.

But then those other beers fall behind and I never seem to find the right time to open them.

Take this week's beer, for example.

Last July, when I vacationed with my family along the eastern seaboard of the United States, we made some stops along the way and I visited a couple of brew pubs. I took notes and wrote some reviews, which, if you haven't read before, you can read here. And here.

When we spent a couple of days in Washington, we visited a Whole Foods Market to pick up a quick meal. In the store's basement, I discovered an entire section of local craft beer, and I went wild: I picked up so many bottles that I could barely carry them back to our hotel. My wife and kids had to help carry my dinner while I carried the cases and lone bottles.

I've since consumed most of what I brought back. I also gave some away to friends. But there are a couple of bottles that I still have, lying on their sides amongst my wine bottles, waiting to be opened.

Last night, I opened one of those bottles.
Double D Double IPA (10.2% ABV)
Old Dominion Brewing Company
Dover, DE, U.S.A.
Beer O'Clock rating: 4/5
I was first drawn to the bottle by it's label. As a kid, I was obsessed with WWII fighter planes. My father would buy me models and help me assemble them; would painstakingly paint them with camouflage markings and patiently apply the decals to just the right place.

I loved the bombers that we built and was fascinated by the ornate artwork that would be affixed to the nose section. In most cases, it was a pinup girl, scantily clad and riding a bomb, sidesaddle.

That's just what I saw on this bottle. It was the artwork that caught my eye, but when I saw that this was a double-hopped IPA, I was sold.

On Saturday, nearly seven months after I purchased this ale, I opened it up.

Candy-orange in colour (I was reminded of lollipops—more childhood memories), this IPA delivered a fresh, foamy, off-white head. There was sediment in the bottle, but that didn't bother me at all.

The nose was intense and had a candied sweetness, with floral notes and bold orange citrus fruits. In the mouth, Double D lives up to its name with intense hops, burnt orange, and caramel. There's a hint of sweetness to the incredibly flavourful finish.

Double D boasts an incredible 95 IBUs, and delivers with an explosive punch that is well-balanced with the high alcohol level.

As its label illustrates, this is a voluptuous IPA with an explosive amount of flavour.

Yet, despite the incredible flavour, I was worried that I had hung onto it for too long. As I drank my pint, I saw the sediment bubble upwards with the carbon dioxide and the pieces seemed to get bigger, much like the bricking effect you can get in an old wine that is past its prime.

I have watched a glass of old Bordeaux disintegrate in my glass, have experienced a new taste with every sip, as the wine quickly turned into vinegar. It's a fascinating process to watch.

While this didn't happen with Double D—it maintained its structure and taste—I had to ask myself: did I wait too long to open this beer? Perhaps not for the life of the ale, but in depriving myself of an awesome brew, definitely.

To my Canadian friends, I suggest you keep an eye out for this beer the next time you slip across the border. It's worth having in your cellar.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Aberdeen Pavilion & Rewind

I'll get to this week's roundup of The Brown Knowser in a moment, but first I must clear up some unfinished business (which relates to this week's post).

My Where In Ottawa challenge was solved just before lunch time on Friday. That is to say, the person who left her answer on my blog post won the challenge. Some folks contacted me earlier in the week, as early as Tuesday, and told me that they had the solution, but weren't sure. Or they've won before, and wanted to give someone else a chance.

Let me be clear: as soon as you think you know the location in the photo, leave your comment. Right away. If you're wrong, no big deal: you can keep playing. Maybe your next guess will be correct. And if you've won in the past, you can win again. Why not earn yourself a winning streak?

Several people have won multiple times. That's great! Those folks can feel proud in knowing Ottawa very well. They can't earn any more copies of Songsaengnim, but they can pat themselves on the back.

So, if you think you know the location of the Where In Ottawa photo, speak up!

This week's winner has, indeed, won in the past. Congratulations, once again, Amy Boughner. You and your hubby, Joe (also a multi-time winner), clearly know your city.

This month's location is the Aberdeen Pavilion, also widely known as the Cattle Castle.

Here is how the clues panned out:
  1. That's no cow: high atop the outside of the pavilion, a horse's head adorns the facade. Even though this building is called the Cattle Castle.
  2. Not named after a city: this 1898 heritage building is named after the Governor General who presided over its opening, John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, or Lord Aberdeen.
  3. It's seen worse days: after being largely ignored for several years, the pavilion fell into such disrepair that, in 1991, city council almost had the building demolished. A year later, that decision was reversed and the Cattle Castle received a major restoration.
  4. The Stanley Cup was smaller then: the pavilion has been used as a hockey arena and was, in its early days, home to the Ottawa Hockey Club (later known as the Ottawa Senators). In 1904, Stanley Cup challenges were played here.
Once again, congratulations to Amy. I hope you play again. As always, Where In Ottawa returns on the first Monday of each month.

And that explains the Monday post of The Brown Knowser. Here's what else I posted.
  • Beer O'Clock: Keeping a Diary—my reviews are now more organized, thanks to a practical gift from a friend.
  • Wordless Wednesday: Near Alexandra Bridge—on Tuesday, I went to Jacques Cartier Park, hoping to capture night scenes from the Winterlude grounds: it was closed. With a snow squall blowing in, I lazily stood on the corner and shot whatever passed by. I also decided to play with HDR images again.
  • R.I.P. Penny—so the Canadian penny is no more. Do we really care?
  • Photo Friday: Selfie—in anticipation of a 365 project, I wonder if I'm going to be able to keep up my self-imposed challenge.
 And if you like my beer reviews, here are a couple at Beer O'Clock:
Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Photo Friday: Selfie

I'm toying with an idea for a 365-photo project but I don't know how it will fly.

You see, I'm not comfortable with the subject.

I've enjoyed the picture-a-day-for-a-year projects that others have undertaken. My favourite is from my friend, Christophe Ledent, who runs his Ottawa Seen 365 Ways in 365 Days blog. His photos are simply inspiring and creative and use light in ways that I only wish I could capture.

Another friend, Tamara Manning, took a picture a day for a day and posted them on Instagram. Tamara has a great eye and a creative mind, and set up some unique images.

I take plenty of shots around the city, but I couldn't maintain a creative streak every day. And I don't have the artist's mind that Tamara exhibits. I'm thinking of going simple.

At the risk of seeming like a self-centered navel-gazer, I'm thinking of taking a self portrait every day for 365 days.

For me, self portraits are hard. You have to think of a setting, of a pose, of an angle. You have to create a mood around yourself that shows you for who you are. Doing something different 365 times is a challenge.

I also don't think I'm particularly photogenic. Of all the photos that I've taken of myself (and I could probably count them on two hands), there are maybe only one or two that I don't mind. One of them is the one that I use for this blog: it's one that I shot last fall as part of a photo challenge. And it was tough to get the look I wanted (I never really got the look I wanted and just settled with what I had).

Last weekend, just before I shut of all the lights and locked up the house for the night, I took a couple of selfies with my iPhone. I took one more the next evening. I wanted to practice for this photo project, to see if I could handle taking photos of myself. If you follow me on Instagram and Twitter, you've already seen them.

Of the three photos, there was only one that I thought wasn't too bad.

For about 24 hours, I used this photo for my Twitter avatar. And then I got tired of it and went back to my old one (the same photo I use for The Brown Knowser and Facebook).

I get tired of looking at myself.

Anyway, I'm going to start this project on my 48th birthday. I think it will be interesting to see how I age over the year.

What do you think?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

R.I.P. Penny

So, it's over.

The Canadian penny is no more.

As of Monday, the Royal Canadian Mint no longer pumps out the little copper coin* that weighs down my pockets and fills the dish on my dresser. It seems, in Canada, that a penny saved is time well wasted.

Other terms and phrases that will phase out, along with rotary-dial telephones, Beta video cassettes, and smoking in doctors' offices will include the following:
  • Penny loafers
  • A penny for your thoughts
  • Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes...
  • Pennies from Heaven
  • (Knock knock knock)... Penny... (knock knock knock)... Penny... (knock knock knock)... Penny
  • Find a penny, pick it up, then all day you'll have good luck
Somewhere in my boxes of things I never look at any more, I have a booklet that holds pennies of every year from 1919 to some time in the late '70s. That's when I got bored of collecting them and became interested in other things.

Like girls.

R.I.P., penny. You will colour our wishing wells and fountains no more.

If you have any pennies that you'd like to get rid of, Ottawa City Hall is collecting them at the security desk. Proceeds will go to the Ottawa Food Bank.

* Actually, the last penny was minted in May, 2012. I blame the Mayans.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beer O'Clock: Keeping a Diary

For a relatively smart guy, I'm not that smart.

Luckily, I have friends who keep me in check.

For years, I've been tasting wine and beer, keeping notes, and sharing them when I get the chance. I have recorded notes on scraps of paper, on my iPhone, on my iPad, and even in my head (I have a great memory for flavours).

But I've never had a true method of keeping track of what I'm drinking. Until now.

A couple weeks ago, I received a package in the mail from a buddy of mine in Guelph, Stuart. Because of the size and feel of the package, I thought immediately that it was a book. I was excited, thinking that Stu had published another book and was surprising me with a copy, or that he had found a really good read and was passing it on.

The book was neither, but pleased me nonetheless.

It was a beer diary.

In the accompanying note, Stu said that he wasn't sure if I already had one of these, but when he saw it he thought of me and my reviews, and decided to send it along anyway.

You know me so well, my friend. You knew that I needed one of these diaries but that I'm not organized enough to get one myself. I love you, brother.

This diary conveniently fits in the front compartment of my camera bag, where I carry cables, business cards, a pen, and loose slips of paper. The papers are gone, now replaced by this beautifully bound book.

I wanted the first beer that I placed in this journal to be special; luckily, I didn't have to wait long. What better than to put a beer by my favourite brewery in a diary from my best friend?

Mill Street has a couple of seasonals that are available in growlers at their brew pub in Ottawa. One, I felt, was appropriate at this time, coming out on the heels of Robbie Burns Day. It took me an extra week to try it: I had my first pint in the pub and brought a 750 ml bottle home.

I actually brought two bottles of beer home, but the second bottle will appear tomorrow, in my Beer O'Clock blog.

Today's beer review will be mixed with a pseudo-review of a food dish that my wife makes, that she and I love, and that went nicely with the beer that I was reviewing.
Tartan Scotch Ale
Mill Street Brewery
Toronto, ON
Brew pub: $7.65, pint; $8.95, 750 ml; 7.2% ABV
Beer O'Clock rating: 4 out of 5
A clear, deep toffee colour with hints of red, the head is a creamy, light beige that lingers down to the bottom of the glass. 

On the nose, I detected malted, spicy caramel with a hint of coffee. In the mouth, this ale is a slightly sweet toffee with a bit of clove, and is well-balanced with the alcohol, which comes to meet you in the finish but does not overpower.

I really like Scotch ales and I think that this is perhaps the easiest-drinking one of any that I've ever had. I often associate a Scotch ale with a sweet, toasted, and malty beverage, whose alcohol level leaves your nostrils flared. I often have only one pint of a Scotch ale in a sitting. This time, I enjoyed the pint that I started for my review and then continued drinking the 750 ml bottle throughout dinner. And dinner was a great match.

Not burned: the charmoula marinade bakes dark on the top.

On Saturday night, my wife made one of our favourite dishes, charmoula fish. This is a classic Moroccan dish that uses a cumin-based marinade. In the dish, we layer a casserole dish with potatoes, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and top it off with fish—typically haddock, but this time we used cod.

The cumin is quite powerful but actually tempered the toffee in the ale. The alcohol, though mild tasting, came up in the finish and married well with the marinade. Scotch ale and charmoula on a cold winter's night is the perfect comfort food.

The recipe for the dish can be found on the Epicurious Web site. Try it.

And be sure to wash it down with some Scotch ale from Mill Street.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Where In Ottawa: February 2013

Last month's Where In Ottawa challenge was solved too quickly—within a couple of hours of posting the photo.

This month, I'm hoping that I make the challenge just that: a challenge.

On the day that I posted my Wordless Wednesday that revealed last month's location, the Mackenzie King Estates at Moorside (or is it Moorside on the Mackenzie King Estates?), I looked through some of my photo archives and found a photo that jumped out (or did it trot out?).

Here is February's challenge.

And for those of you who don't know the rules, they are simple:
  • When you have identified this location (and be as specific as possible), leave your answer in the Comments section for this post. No e-mail messages, tweets, or Facebook posts will be accepted.
  • If you have already won a Where In Ottawa challenge, you can still play to earn bragging rights, but no giveaway will be awarded. You already have it anyway.
  • If you have been to this location with me at any time, you are ineligible to play. You have an unfair advantage.
  • You can guess as many times as you like.

The first person to correctly identify the location of this photo will receive a PDF copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary.

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!