Wednesday, April 30, 2014


In case you missed it, I wanted to share the video of my reading from last night's Blog Out Loud event at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

I had the privilege of sharing the lectern with 10 other Ottawa-area bloggers, as we presented some of our favourite blog posts.

My reading was taken from my post, If I Had a Time Machine.

Thanks to everyone who attended and Lynn for organizing the event. And thanks to my mom, who came out to support me and who recorded my reading.

Turn Around, Again

I originally published this blog post on April 22, 2011, on my old blog, Brownfoot Journal. After reading a similar story on OttawaStart, I was reminded of my story and wanted to share it again, only I closed access to the Brownfoot Journal more than a year ago. So here it is again, on The Brown Knowser, for those of you who haven't read it before.

Want more information about the CIVIC Pharmacy? Check out The Margins of History

It all started with Twitter.
As some of you know, I follow Twitter. A lot. Sometimes, too much. After all, I do suffer from FMS Syndrome*.
Last week, I let myself be distracted by a photo, tweeted by a fellow Ottawa blogger, Andrea Tomkins. Her photo showed a famous, though obscure, Ottawa landmark: a sign on a building at the intersection of Carling and Holland Avenues. This sign:

I immediately recognized the sign. It has been on this building for as long as I can remember. And so, when I saw Andrea's picture, I thought that I would add a comment to her picture. I told her that I had a recollection that at some point, the CIVIC letters actually turned on their posts. I wasn't sure: I just had some childhood memory.
Andrea responded to my comment, telling me that she wasn't sure if the letters had turned, but that it would be cool if it were true (not that she was accusing me of making it up). A conversation ensued, in which I said that yes, I was pretty sure that sometime in the 70s, I saw those letters turn. I added that I suspected the letters stopped turning in the 80s. But I couldn't be certain. And then Andrea pulled in another tweep, OttawaStart.
As great and tuned-in as the folks at OttawaStart are on issues concerning our fair city, the tweet they provided shed no light. Another tweep, who was in Ottawa in the 70s, also seemed to support my claim, but wasn't sure. And so I took this on as a personal quest to get the answer.
But not right away. I have a full-time job, a couple of books on the go, this blog, and two young kids that deserve the bulk of my time. And so it wasn't until last Friday that I was able to act on this quest.
I started by looking for the building owner, but didn't find much information through Google. Just a couple of numbers for businesses in the building. And so I struck off and headed to the building (I wanted to go there anyway, because I wanted to take my own photos of the sign, and last Friday was a gorgeous day). What I learned was that the owner had no office in the building. But one of the tenants had the phone number for the building manager and was very helpful in passing the number on to me. Unfortunately, calls to the manager were unreturned. The gentleman who provided the building manager's number also suggested that I talk to the folks in the pharmacy itself, because it had been in the building for a long time. The pharmacy, though, was closed when I made my visit.
When I called the pharmacy on Monday, I spoke to the pharmacist, who informed me that he had taken over the pharmacy only a couple of years ago and didn't know the history of the building. But he did offer a glimmer of hope: one of his employees had worked in the pharmacy for a number of years, and she may know the answer to the sign. Unfortunately, she wasn't in that day. She would be in Tuesday. I said I'd call back then.
Well, I did say that I have a full-time job, and I was busy on Tuesday. And so I didn't get a chance to call the pharmacy before it closed for the day. And when I called on Wednesday, the pharmacist told me that my contact, Betty, didn't work on Wednesdays. "I thought you were going to call yesterday," he said. I was, I told him, but I got busy. My next opportunity to reach Betty was Thursday.
And so I called on Thursday, and Betty answered the phone. I promised not to take too much of her time, and so I only asked a few questions. She was, after all, busy. She was working.
Betty had worked at the pharmacy for 30 years or so. Perfect.
Did the letters on the sign ever turn? Yes. The letters were designed to rotate when the sign was built and they did so until the late 70s, possibly later. In fact, not only did they revolve on their posts but they also lit up at night. At some point, the letters stopped turning and the owner had them fixed. But then they stopped working again and it was determined that they could no longer be repaired; either by lack of the right parts, total fatigue, or some other reason that Betty was not sure of.
I also asked Betty if she knew the age of the building itself. She said that she thought it was built in 1959, but again wasn't certain.
But I did, at least, have the answer I sought. This landmark sign did, in fact, rotate. And, as a bonus, it even lit up.
And my memory was intact.
My thanks to Andrea, for providing the photo that sparked the memory and dialogue, to OttawaStart, for joining in the conversation, and to Betty Eady for helping me with my quest.

* FMS: Fear of Missing Something

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Come Out and Hear Me Blog

Got time on your hands tonight? Have you ever wanted to start a blog but weren't sure what to write? Don't know what's out there?

Come to Blog Out Loud at the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

I know: I wrote about this event last week, but I really want your support. And you'll also get to hear from nine other excellent writers as they share their favourite posts from their blogs. Plus, you'll see some great pictures from talented photo bloggers.

And, if you don't already have a copy of my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, there will be copies on hand, for sale.

If you follow The Brown Knowser, I'd love to meet you.

The event starts at 6:30, sharp, so make sure you get there early and get a good seat. Tickets are free.

Come out to the Knox Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin. I hope to see you there.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Music Monday: Devastating

I have quite a few friends that have thanked me for introducing them to Hawksley Workman.

You're welcome.

I, myself, discovered Hawksley when my wife and I bought a compilation CD box set of Canadian musicians and it included his song, Jealous of Your Cigarette. It's a whimsical song that, now that my daughters are older, I can't play around them.

When Between the Beautifuls and  Los Manlicious came out (both in 2008), I was hooked, and when my wife and I saw him perform in Ottawa a couple of years ago, we became die-hard fans.

Hawkley oozes talent, from his vocals, to his proficiency on the guitar and drums, all you have to do is listen, and you'll understand.

Here's a version of his song, Devastating, which he performed live on CBC Radio's Q.

You're welcome.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 25, 2014


Have you seen the ad?

Under-aged kids, buying alcohol in a convenience store where the hapless clerk happily takes their money and tells them to have a good night.

Here's the ad.

The Beer Store, a multinational corporation that is owned by Molson-Coors, Sleeman, and Anheuser-Busch InBev, is reacting to the proposal by the
Ontario Convenience Stores Association to sell alcohol, by running such ads and setting up a Web site that provides the "facts" about letting other businesses do what they've been doing for decades.

Ontario Beer Facts maintains that if control is taken away from them, sales to minors will skyrocket. Because, as we all know, only The Beer Store will check ID.

(When I was a minor, I bought beer through my local beer store.)

It's plain to see that the real reason behind these scare tactics is that The Beer Store wants to maintain its monopoly on beer sales. It doesn't want to share the pie.

Most other provinces (and many American states) allow the sale of beer and wine at corner stores, and we don't hear of widespread abuse. A little friendly competition often brings savings to the consumers, too.

I'm calling for a boycott of The Beer Store. I haven't shopped in one in about 10 years. I get my quality craft beer from the LCBO. In fact, many of the great beers that I've reviewed over the years aren't even available at The Beer Store.

Who's with me?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This is the 'Droid I'm Looking For

So, the Windows Phone didn't last long.

If you read my blog post last week, you learned that I suddenly found myself going from a consumer who was inquiring about a replacement smartphone to the owner of a new telecommunications device/hand-held computer. About two months sooner than I had expected to be.

And, because I had been wondering about the Windows Phone, it was the first device I picked up. I planned to test it for two weeks, but by day five, I was ready to move on.

Though I was able to find most of the apps that I used on my iPhone, I quickly discovered that I missed the apps that I couldn't find: especially, my Starbucks app and HootSuite. I also found that the camera wasn't that great—didn't seem that sophisticated nor did the photos appear that clear on the screen. While I liked the tiles and the ease of navigation, I found the look of the tiles themselves to be a little uninspiring.

Many of you who communicated with me through the blog and Twitter steered me toward Android, and so I returned the Windows Phone 10 days earlier than I planned and opted for a Samsung Galaxy S4.

On day 5 of having it (as of writing this post), I love it. I love the speed of its quad-core processor and five-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution HD display, it works fast and looks great doing it. It also has a 13 mega-pixel camera and, with my love of photography, makes more sense than the 5-MP camera on the Windows Phone.

As far as apps go, Android has so many, including my favourites. I was paying for my grande Pike on my phone the very day after I left the store with it. And I can finally receive audible notifications from HooteSuite, something that stopped working on my iPhone a year ago.

I'm bonding with this phone more than I have with any phone to date. I'm not even missing my iPhone a little bit, and that Windows Phone is already long forgotten.

I want to thank those who helped steer me towards an Android phone, but I especially want to thank Vanessa, from Future Shop, for her help and patience in setting me up with the phone, and Jon Moore, for showing me some secrets of the Galaxy phone and passing on some useful apps.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Music Monday: Live and Die

I can't stand country music.

I don't know what it is about it: the twang of the guitars, the seemingly similar beat, the god-awful drawl of just about every country singer. Whatever it is about country music, after about one minute of listening to it, I get in the foulest of moods: I become angry combative, and overall, not nice to be around.

So, typically, when I hear a country song come on the radio or television, I switch channels or turn the TV or radio off.

If someone were to put a gun to my head and say, "if you listen to this song, you will live: if you put your hands over your ears, you will die," I would most likely die within seconds.

Now, that can't be said of every single song that falls into the genre of country music. There are some Kathleen Edwards songs I like. I can tolerate a few (very few) songs by the Eagles and Blue Rodeo.

And there's this song by The Avett Brothers.

I really like the sound of a banjo if it's played right, and in Live and Die, it is plucked just right. I like the vocals of this song: no sickening drawl that borders on a yodel. This is just a lovely song. It's a country song that I could get through and live.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Photo Friday: Hung Fatt

For decades, every time I've passed this small, Montreal Road Chinese restaurant, I've wanted to take a photo of its sign.

This Beacon Hill take-out restaurant looks as though it started as a home and, despite its size, does not offer dine-in service. Perhaps it is because the owners live there?

Though I've never eaten food from there, I've always been intrigued by this eatery's name. I mean, how appealing is the name?

I've always guessed that the food must be decent if a small, out-of-the-way restaurant has survived for more than 20 years. But, according to some reviewers at Urbanspoon, Hung Fatt has changed management and is no longer as good as it once was.

Have you eaten at Hung Fatt? How is it?

One of these days, I'll go. It's not a convenient restaurant for me: usually, when I'm out in the east end of the city, I'm visiting friends who offer hard-to-beat, homemade pizza. But someday, if I have the chance, I just might pick something up.

I just won't think of the name while I'm putting food in my mouth.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Goodbye, iPhone

Last weekend, I got a new smartphone.

I hadn't meant to swap up my phone so soon, had meant to replace it in June. I also hadn't made up my mind about what phone I wanted. Did I want to upgrade to the latest iPhone? Did I want to move over to Android? How about those Windows Phones?

I'm never tied to a brand. I am loyal to no corporation. I own a Windows PC and an iPad. My laptop is made by HP and I hook it up to an LG monitor. The TVs in my house are Insignia and Samsung. I shoot photos with my Nikon DSLR and my Canon compact cameras. My cars have been Pontiac, Chevy, Toyota, Datsun, Honda, and Ford.

I have coffee apps for Starbucks and Bridgehead.

The only issue I had with moving away from Apple for my smartphone was that I would lose some of the apps upon which I have come to rely. My favourite app for cycling, Cyclemeter, is available for Apple products only. Same goes for Tweetbot, which is what I use for mobile tweeting. HootSuite, which I also use (though, I really use it on my laptop), is only available for iPhone and Android.

In breaking with Apple, I thought it might be best to go with a Windows Phone because I feel it will be easier to integrate with my home computer. And while I'm not crazy about the tiles for Windows 8 on my laptop, I liked the ease of use on the smartphone.

The next major factor for choosing a new phone was the price. My provider was offering the Nokia Lumia 625, with Windows 8, for free, on a two-year contract (contracts don't bother me, especially since I was going to unlock my old iPhone). For an iPhone 5s, under the same contract, it would cost more than $400.

I went for the Windows Phone.

That is to say, I'm testing it. I understand that this is a pretty basic smartphone, but my needs are simple. I want to be less reliant on my device. I found that I couldn't walk away from my iPhone, that I was on it all the time. I was addicted. So far, with my new device, I've been on it only when I've been customizing it and restoring some of the apps that are still available (I almost freaked out when I learned that the Starbucks app is not supported, but settled down when I found the Bridgehead app).

I have 15 days to decide if I like it. And so far, there are things I like, other things I don't like. I like the ease of navigation. I'm not planning to load up the device with tons of apps; just the "essentials" (my social-media apps, communication apps, note-keeping tools, and photo-related apps). No games. I love how I can scroll to the tiles that I've set up and quickly access the apps I need.

I like the size of the screen. With my failing vision and my constant forgetting of my glasses, this screen is much easier to read than my iPhone.

I like how I don't have to deal with the controlling and un-intuitive iTunes for setting up my music. I'm still dealing with a learning curve with the Windows Phone app, which lets me quickly drag and drop the tunes I want, but I'm getting the hang of it and it's much faster.

I like the integration of many of my social-media tools, such that I can check Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail in one place. Awesome.

I like how the phone knows when I'm getting in my car or van, and the Bluetooth automatically syncs and shuts off all apps, except for the phone and text messages. And it will read my texts to me through the hands-free speakers. My old iPhone 4 didn't do that.

But I do have a make-or-break issue with the phone: the other day, when I plugged my Windows Phone into the USB port in my car, I expected it to sync and respond to the voice-command system of the car (my car's console runs on Microsoft, after all). But the car failed to detect the device through the USB connection (it did connect with the phone, through Bluetooth). When I wanted to listen to my music, it only played through Bluetooth, only played one song, and the sound quality was poor.

I love my music. When I'm not listening to CBC Radio while driving, I'm cranking my tunes. This is a deal-breaker.

I have reconfigured my music on the phone and will try it again. But I'm now doubtful.

Also, I listen to my music through my device when I'm at work. On my iPhone, I would use my noise-cancelling headphones. But, because of how the headphone jack is angled, I have to remove the phone from the protective case to get the jack all the way in. And some of the jack is exposed. 

I don't like that.

I don't know if I will keep the device. If I don't, I can try an Android phone. I'm eyeing the Samsung S4.


Update: in the time since I wrote and sent this post to publish, I have replaced the Windows Phone with an Android. I'm now test driving a Samsung Galaxy S4. I would still love to hear your thoughts on your smartphone pick.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blog Out Loud meets Writers Fest

I've always wanted to do a reading at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. For me, it would be a way to validate myself as a bona fide writer.

This year, I will be doing just that.

While I won't be reading from my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, I will be reading one of my Brown Knowser blog posts. You see, the writers festival has teamed up with Blog Out Loud, the annual Ottawa event where local bloggers deliver a post orally. This will be my third time at the event and I can't wait to meet new bloggers and reacquaint myself with bloggers I haven't seen in a while.

Have you ever wanted to meet some of the Ottawa-area bloggers? Have you wanted to be a blogger yourself but haven't known where to start? Come out to Blog Out Loud for the best opportunity to do both. Ten bloggers will read their favourite post of the past year (or so). Come prepared to laugh, cry, and think. Photo bloggers will also display their favourite photographs.

The event is on Tuesday, April 29, at 6:30, at the Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar Street (at Elgin). And, best of all, it's FREE!

I hope to see you there.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Music Monday: Guttersnipe

I bought a new smartphone on the weekend.

It was a totally spontaneous act: I wasn't expecting to update my current phone for a couple of months, as I'm on a contract and it doesn't expire until mid-June. But I've been considering moving from an iPhone to either an Android device or a Windows phone, so I just went to see what was out there.

The salesperson at my cell-phone provider, upon looking at my account, told me he'd allow me to get out of my contract right away, with no penalty. I told him that I had intended to unlock my iPhone and give it to my daughter: she would get a basic monthly plan, with no data. I would then get a newer phone.

He said, "Let's do it." So, I did it.

My new phone is not an iPhone, so I'm starting over. While I was able to seamlessly transfer my contact information to the new phone and gain access to photos through the Cloud, I have to rebuild my music files.

And, because I could pick and choose new songs, get rid of ones I've grown tired of (and finally get rid of the ones I downloaded through the iCloud and didn't like, but could not delete), I had to think about what I wanted.

One of the songs that I acquired as a free iTunes download through Starbucks moved almost immediately to my new phone.

It's Guttersnipe, by Bhi Bhiman.

I like the steady acoustic guitar and driving vocals. The song is also driving, and it's no surprise to find that it's one of my favourite songs to play while I'm driving, especially at night.

Give it a listen.

Bhi Bhiman "Guttersnipe" from Bhi Bhiman on Vimeo.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Photo Friday: The Other Shot

When I took pictures of the Canadian Bank Note Company last weekend, in preparation for Where In Ottawa, I wondered if the crest would give it away.

It didn't.

The beaver is one of our national symbols and those flat-tailed critters can be found all over the city.

It was the first clue that gave it away, according to this month's winner, Joe Boughner.


The clue was simple: "Make a note of this place." But with that one clue, Joe was able to guess the Canadian Bank Note Company.

I think he lives in the area.

When I chose the closeup of the building's crest, I thought someone may have paid attention to it. But I almost used a different shot, one that shoes a clock that protrudes from the right-hand side of the building, as you face it.

It's not easily seen.

Which means that you would have had to rely on many clues to get the answer to the challenge.

How about you, Joe? Would the clue have helped you with the first clue? (Congratulations, by the way, buddy. I hope you enjoy your dinner at Mill Street.)

For next month, the gloves are off. The challenge will be the hardest yet. Are you ready? Also, I'm looking to see if any Ottawa-area business would like to offer a giveaway for the next Where In Ottawa. Any takers?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre says that he's spoken with many of his constituents about the so-called Fair Elections Act and that they were happy with the contents of the act.

Really? How many constituents has he spoken with? And who are they? Are they supporters?

I have the great misfortune of living in Poilievre's Nepean-Carleton riding and I've spoken about the Fair Elections Act with my neighbours and friends, who are also constituents. Know what? Not one of them likes the act. Not one of them thinks it's fair.

On a broader scope, I've discussed the act with other Canadians, who live in other ridings and other provinces, but who will be equally affected by the proposed changes.

And they all say it stinks.

In discussions about this act (among other political subjects: in case you didn't already know, I like to follow politics and often get in animated discussions over it), my friends and I agree that the vouching issue, while important, is being used as a smoke screen to pull attention away from a more-dangerous part of the act.

The act will give incumbent parties in each riding the power to name key election officials, who will oversee the voters at the polls. Until then, that job fell to an impartial Elections Canada official. But Poilievre thinks that Elections Canada has too much power, can investigate election irregularities and breaches in the election rules.

The Conservatives don't like being told that they are breaking laws. They don't like being called out on anything, for that matter. In the past, when department heads have blown the whistle on misdeeds and coverups by the government, the Conservative response has been to discredit that whistle blower.

Does anyone remember Chalk River? Afghanistan detainees?

Recently, Poilievre has verbally attacked Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand for speaking out on the proposed Fair Elections Act. Poilievre, who has never produced anything in his political career (how's that Strandherd Bridge coming along? Results?), whose only claim to fame is that he's been able to climb the ranks in the Conservative Party by having his head stuck so far up Stephen Harper's arse that he sees light every time Harper speaks, claims that Mayrand is condemning the act because he is power-hungry.

Poilievre says that Mayrand "wants more power, a bigger budget, and less accountability.” I'm sure he thought he was looking into a mirror when he said that.

So, Poilievre says that he's spoken to his constituents and they all like the act. First, I think he asked some of his staff. I don't think he asked real residents, unless they were close friends and Conservatives. I don't believe him. But even if he has talked to residents, he didn't ask enough people. I don't know anyone in his riding who likes it. The people I know think it's a bad act.

Many credible people, who have read the contents of the proposed bill, including Mayrand, the former Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, many elections commissioners, and academics from across the country, have condemned it as an attack on Canadian democracy.

And then there's former auditor general, Sheila Fraser.

Fraser was praised by Harper over her uncovering of the sponsorship scandal, which lead to the end of the Liberal government. Harper has called Fraser "the mother of all accountants" and that she could be counted on to be fair, to call things for what they were.

"When you look at the people who may not be able to vote, when you look at the limitations that are being put on the chief electoral officer, when you see the difficulties, just the operational difficulties that are going to be created in all this, I think it's going to be very difficult to have a fair, a truly fair, election," she said this week.

Fraser not only finds troublesome problems with the Fair Elections Act, she has spoken out against Poilievre's smear campaign toward Mayrand. “To actually attack (Mayrand) for bringing forward his concerns is totally inappropriate,” she said.

If Poilievre and Harper fail to listen to Fraser, we will know that the only reason they want this bill to pass is that they don't want to listen to Canadians, that they only want what's best for the Conservative Party, that they do not want what's best for Canadians.

I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Believe

I was never one to believe in ghosts.

As a child, I enjoyed the thrill of ghost stories, but I never really believed in disembodied spirits that haunted hotels, or riversides, or government offices. I didn't believe in tormented souls who found no peace, or who could not leave the places where they died or where they considered home.

As a child, I loved to be spooked by the thought of a ghost, but I never really believed ghosts to be real. And it didn't stop me from spooking others. Once, in a cemetery, in Châteaguay, Québec, just down the road from my grandmother's house, I scared my cousins, telling them that they were going to die. That the evil spirits in the tombs would get them, would rise from their graves, place a hand on them, and that would be it.

They ran as fast as their legs could carry them, crying all the way back to Nanny's home, whimpering, "I don't want to die."

No spirits laid a hand on them.

Almost fourteen years ago, I felt a hand on my shoulder, but no one was there.

I was at a friend's house, with my wife. I say it was my friend's house, but really it was his mother's house. He was visiting Ottawa and was staying in his old homestead, so Lori and I were guests to a friend who was a guest for his mother.

The house was beautiful. Just outside the Ottawa area, on a large property that backed onto a forest, his family used to grow and sell pines and spruce trees as Christmas trees. The house was a large, two-story construction with lots of wood on the siding, with brick and stones. It was our first visit, and our friend was having us over for dinner.

Both our friend and his mother had worked hard to prepare a lovely dinner, and we were seated in the dining room to enjoy it. Lori and I were instructed to take a seat while our friend served us the dishes, fresh from the kitchen.

As he and his mother took there seats, I felt a firm hand on my shoulder, followed by a gentle squeeze, almost as though a familiar person was delivering a sign of friendship. The hand was on my right shoulder, so I naturally turned to see who had joined our meal.

No one was there.

Confused, I swung around in my seat to see where the stranger had gone, but it was clear that nobody was anywhere behind me. Everyone at the table noticed my movements. "Is everything okay?" my friend asked.

Not wanting to sound crazy, I said, "Yeah, everything's fine. This meal looks great!"

The meal was great. I'm not a fan of broccoli, but the way my friend had prepared it—blanched, then tossed in a creamy dressing with pine nuts and raisins—was delicious. I had two helpings.

But throughout the meal, I felt that someone was standing behind me. I could feel an energy, a presence. My eyes would occasionally turn upward, but I refused to look behind me.

After the meal, we all cleaned up and my friend's mother left us to relax in the living room and catch up. At one point in our discussion, my friend asked me what I was doing before we ate. He had also noticed that my eyes wandered during the meal and thought I seemed distracted at times.

"You're going to think I'm nuts," I said. "Just before we ate, as you and your mom were joining us at the table, I had a feeling on my shoulder as though a hand had rested itself there, and had even given me a gentle squeeze."

"Really?" he said, seeming interested.

"But the funny thing is, the hand was warm: not in temperature, but in sentiment, as though the hand was saying, 'welcome.' And, throughout the meal, it felt as though someone was standing behind me."

"That's fascinating," he said. "You were sitting in my dad's seat."

My friend's father had died many years before. I had never met him, didn't know my friend when he lost his dad. "My dad would have liked you," my friend added.

I didn't believe in ghosts before this dinner. But I was a believer from that moment on.

And I'm not afraid of them. If they're anything like the spirit of my friend's dad, I welcome them.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Where In Ottawa XXXV

I've started counting.

Today is the 35th Where In Ottawa photo challenge. It's been almost three years since I've started the challenge and, thanks to you, it is stronger than ever.

And, this month, thanks to the wonderful folks at the Ottawa Mill Street Brew Pub, I have another great giveaway for the first person to solve the photo challenge.

One of my favourite breweries and the best brew pub in our fair city is giving away a dinner for two to the winner of Where In Ottawa. The dinner giveaway is for two people, up to a maximum of $100. There is no cash value for the giveaway. Tip is not included—the service is exceptional, so give generously. Tables are subject to availability.

If you have won in the past, you are still eligible to play; if you have won in 2014, please give others a chance (wait until the end of the week).

If you know where this month's photo was taken, leave your answer in the Comments section of this post. All other forms of communication are not accepted and I will not respond to any other forms of guessing. 

Here's April's photo:

Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

And good luck!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Photo Friday: NYC is Calling

Wanderlust is calling.

It's telling me to hit the road, to travel, to leave Ottawa.

I want to go back to New York City.

A friend of mine was recently there and shared parts of the city that I love through tweets and Instagram photos. And I wanted to be there.

Some of my oldest and dearest friends, with whom my wife and I have traveled in the past, to the Niagara Region, to Toronto, to Montreal, are headed to the Big Apple in another week. And I want to follow them.

I'm not one for big cities. Ottawa is the perfect size for me. A respectable city that feels like a town. But New York is different. Its size, the height of the buildings, and the crowds of people. Every part of NYC seems to breathe, is alive.

And I want to go back.

How about you? Is there a place that is calling to you?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

When I Go, You Won't Be The First To Know

Speculations on my impending doom are greatly exaggerated.

I may be to blame for that.

I know, I'm a pretty public person. I blog and tweet a lot about what goes on in my life. My wife will sometimes cringe when she reads one of my posts or when she talks to somebody—a close friend or a relative—to find that person knows a lot about what is going on with us, or me. And she rolls her eyes.

But trust me, I don't share every aspect of my life. There is a lot that goes on when I'm not on a screen, when I'm busy actually living my life, instead of reporting on it. Some things are private, and will stay that way.

When it comes to my health, if there's some earth-shattering news, if I get seriously sick or, worse, learn that a condition is terminal, I will eventually make it public. But first, I will share it, privately, with close friends and loved ones.

Recently, some of you have contacted me to see if I'm okay. You have told me that you are concerned for my well being. And I love you for that.

I'm fine, thanks.

Last week, on Twitter, I tweeted three words: "Fuck. You. Cancer." I then went quiet.

Many people sent me direct messages, asking if everything was okay with me. I was fine.

The reason for that tweet came after a sad discovery: a former colleague of mine had passed away. We worked closely together for a company that neither of us liked. We liked some of the people in the office, but didn't like many others, didn't like the management, didn't like the office politics. We often chatted about how we would like to find a better job and move on: eventually, both of us did exactly that.

But we still kept in touch.

She was the first person to follow me on Twitter. We were also connected through LinkedIn and followed each other's blogs. Though we now lived on opposite sides of the country, we had maintained a good friendship.

When I learned that she had become ill, I followed her experiences in fighting the illness through her blog. We chatted on Twitter, and I passed on as much positive energy that I could. But at a point, when her stomach cancer got worse, she said that she was going to quit social media for a while so that she could focus on the treatment and get better. Eventually, we lost touch.

Apparently, we lost touch for about two years. When I thought of her, I looked her up, but heard nothing through any of our channels of communication. Not a peep. I feared the worst, so I summoned up the courage and looked up the obituaries for her area.

I found her. She passed away shortly after we last chatted, in 2012. Her cancer got the better of her. She was gone at 33.

Fuck. You. Cancer.

A couple of weeks earlier, my family said goodbye to an uncle, who lost his battle with cancer.

It made my wife worry about my health, and we discussed the results of the last physical exam I had, where my doctor raised a minor concern over the state of my prostate exam. It was nothing serious, but he wanted me to have more tests done.

I forgot about those tests, until my wife brought them up after my uncle's funeral.

Yesterday, I returned to my doctor to order those tests. As he filled out the requisite forms, he asked, what about my cholesterol medication.

I've been off those meds for more than a year.

"Prostate cancer isn't going to kill you," he said. "Your heart attack will. I guarantee it. You're going to die at the same age as your father." My dad was 62 when he died.

When I arrived at work, I tweeted: "Started my day by listening to my doctor tell me how & when I'm going to die. How's your day so far?"

Of course, some of you contacted me. Some of you put those separate tweets together.

I love you guys.

If I find out I have an incurable illness, I won't tell people through Twitter. Or, at least, I won't make it known through social media until the people who are closest to me know.

You know who you are.

Because I do share a lot of my life through social media, especially through this blog, I will eventually make such news public. I have even written a farewell blog post, in the event that I go before I plan to hang up my blog. My wife has instructions on how to post it, so I'll be able to say goodbye after the fact.

Grim? Probably. A bad idea? I don't think so. I'm hoping that that day will be a long, long way off. And again, my close family and friends will already know. I think, as a writer, I would like to get my last words out. I will update that last post as time goes on, as, hopefully, my words show more wisdom.

But when I go, it won't be social media outlets that hear it first. You won't be the first to know.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Poor Judgement, Eh?

So, the Conservative Party of Canada wants to criticize Justin Trudeau because he dropped the F-bomb at a wrestling match that was a charity fundraiser.


Like they've never heard the word.

Like a wrestling match was no place for rough language.

Of course, the Tories have never shown poor judgement. Stephen Harper is a man of sound judgement, beyond reproach.

Except for Nigel Wright.

And Mike Duffy.

And Pamela Wallin.

And Patrick Brazeau.

And Marc Nadon.

And Dimitri Soudas.

Yeah, that Justin Trudeau. He had better shape up.