Friday, September 30, 2016

Pioneers

When I looked around the room, saw all the fresh faces, I could see my class of 30 years ago.

All the aspirations and promise of what was to come. The bright eyes, the smiles, the energy of youth. They were the students who followed us, who are studying today.

"What was it like when you began the paper," a fresh-faced, second-year student asked me.

"It was scary," I said. "We had no frame of reference. We couldn't look back at previous issues for guidance. We were it."

We were it.

A 30th-anniversary cake, printed with the cover of the first Algonquin Times edition.
On the 30th anniversary of the launch of The Algonquin Times, I remembered all of the friends, all of the faces of the founding members of that paper. Michel, Becky, Marc, Mary, Kristen, Sean, and many more. I remember the long hours, cranking out sheets of paper on manual typewriters or, if we were lucky, some of the new computers.

The developing of photographs. The layout sessions. The copy editing. It was hard as hell. It was a blast. It was unforgettable.

Our teacher, Bob Louks, joked that he taught us all he knew about journalism in 20 minutes, but he taught us much more than that. He taught us to push ourselves. He taught us to always ask questions, to always search for the answers. He taught us to write in straightforward tones but to be creative with how we let a story unfold.

I owe my ability to write to a lot of people, but Bob is right up there at the summit. He gave me lots of opportunities to reach my potential.

Last night, in seeing him again for the first time in nearly 30 years, I forgot to say one thing to him.

Thank you.

Michel Hell (reporter, photographer, photo editor), me (reporter, copy editor), Bob Louks (teacher, publisher), Pat Dare (teacher, publisher).

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Dad and Son

Yes, we were both drunk. It was the only time that he and I were ever drunk together.


I don't remember what brought my dad to Ottawa on Canada Day, in 1995, nor do I remember why I chose to invite him to party with me, downtown, on the day before my first wedding anniversary.

The assistant manager to the Inniskillin wine boutique had held the second annual Canada Day party in the wine store, which was across the street from Parliament Hill, on Metcalfe Street. He had held the first party on the previous Canada Day, and that party turned into an impromptu, second stag for me.

I got very drunk on that day, too.

I wouldn't say that my relationship with my dad was estranged—not at that point, anyway. But it was a strange relationship. In 1995, he was trying to build our relationship to something bigger than it was, always telling whoever cared to listen about how my sisters and I meant the world to him, that there was nothing that he wouldn't do for us.

Except, be around for us when we were growing up, or when we needed him.

He would always have harsh words for the British—the "Bloody Chirps," as he called them—and wouldn't be afraid to share that opinion when he was in public, when he had an unwitting audience, much to my siblings' and my embarrassment.

And yet, here we are, getting drunk together, on a Canada Day, in a wine shop across the street from Parliament Hill.

The look in my eyes makes me laugh to this day. They're saying, "I can't believe he just said that," or, "get me out of here."

What was said as that photo was shot is long forgotten, but the looks on our faces is very telling of our relationship at that time, leading toward when we finally became somewhat estranged, had a falling out of sorts.

In a couple of weeks, I'll take a moment to remember that 15 years ago, he died. I wonder what our relationship would have been like, were he still here. Would we have grown closer or moved farther apart? What kind of grandfather would he be? Would he be a better granddad than he had been a dad?

When I see this photo, from more than 21 years ago (I just realized that my dad, in that photo, is only four years older than I am now), I only hope that when my kids are older, and we share a drink together, they won't have that same look if I put my arm around them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On Debate Night

There's a reason why I listen to CBC Radio's The Debaters. Topics are meaningless and the debaters area always guaranteed to make me laugh.

Rarely, do I watch the political debates in Canada, because they are not particularly interesting and I never make up my mind about who to vote for in listening to the candidates: by the time the debate rolls around, I already know who I'm voting for.

I expected last night's American debate, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to be entertaining: mostly, because of what I thought The Donald would say, whether he would shoot his mouth off or what half-truths and outright falsehoods he would sputter. He went up against a career politician and, like her or not, she mopped the floor with him.

Biggest zingers of the night: when Clinton went after Trump for not paying contractors for their work. She added that she was glad that her father, a fabric printer, never worked for Trump. Clinton also defended herself when Trump claimed she had no stamina: she countered that when he has visited 112 countries, to come and talk to her about stamina.

And one more, from Clinton: "Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. Know what else I prepared for? To be president."

It was hard to watch the American debate without my own biases, but I did listen to both sides very carefully and tried to take each candidate for how they presented. And I have to say that I thought Clinton came out on top, for calling Trump out on facts, for criticizing his stance on foreign relations, his treatment of women, and his cavalier views on nuclear weapons.

To me, Trump seemed to be mostly on the defensive, while Clinton took an offensive stance without coming off overly aggressive. She made her points without too many cheap shots, and I think that will ultimately help her in this campaign.

Trump, I don't think, won any votes when he explained that perhaps he didn't pay contractors for the work they provided because he didn't think they did a good job. And yet, he says his hotels and casinos are the best in the world.

And he said he's smart for not paying taxes. Hmm... 


Clinton made a good call, I think, when she looked at the camera and told Americans to get out and vote, to vote as though their country depended on it.

Still, the debate was boring as hell. There were few solid sound bites, there weren't the stupid Trump claims of building a wall on the Mexican border and making the Mexicans pay for it.

I didn't find the debate all that informative or entertaining. And maybe that's why I'll stick to listening to The Debaters.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Long Time Coming

It was my first day on my internship, and he was going to throw it out.

I don't remember his name because we were rarely in the office together, rarely spoke to one another, and it was nearly 30 years ago on a six-week gig.

At the end of my journalism program, I was placed at The Ottawa Citizen for my six-week internship, and I was placed on the Entertainment team. Jay Stone was the editor and the person to whom I reported. He was disappointed with me right away because I wasn't one of the cute girls in my class who were working on the City desk.

But for my first assignment, I was sent downtown, to the Parliament Press Gallery, where the government was announcing that recording artists would be receiving larger royalties for the songs that they released on their records. At that meeting, I got a chance to meet and talk to Canadian music legends, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman.

My first day as a newspaper reporter was a good one.

Back in the newsroom, that now-forgotten reporter was clearing out his desk: not because he was going anywhere but because he had accumulated a lot of swag from interviewing musicians, actors, and other entertainers. While he cleaned house, and while I got my notes from my first assignment together, we chatted and he offered me some of his swag.

Because I had no context for most of it, I respectfully declined. But he had some audio cassettes and as he was about to throw them in the garbage, I started looking through the small pile. Nearly all of them had been opened and most of the plastic cases were cracked, but my eyes fell on one unopened and intact case with a simple green cover and only numbers printed on it.

The album, and the band, was 54•40.

I had never heard of them but thought I'd play the cassette when I got home and, if I didn't like the music, I'd throw it out or pass it on.

The first song blew me away. "Baby Ran" was a solid-driving rock tune and I loved the deep, near-monotone lyrics that Neil Osborne delivered with power. The other hit song from this album, "I Go Blind," had me hooked.

Over the decades, I knew the band for their other hits: "One Day in Your Life," "One Gun," "Unbend," "Casual Viewin'," "Nice to Luv You," "Ocean Pearl," "Plenty Emotion," "Since When," and my personal favourite, "Snap." There are so many more songs that get my toes tapping and have me singing along, but over all this time there was something missing from my being a fan.

I had never seen 54•40 live.

Last year, while looking at a list of upcoming shows at North on 29, a barn-turned-music venue on the outskirts of Carleton Place, I saw that this Vancouver band was scheduled to perform in January, on DW's birthday. Because my wife is also a fan of 54•40, I thought it would be great to take her to the show.

Sadly, North on 29 closed its doors shortly after I saw the listing and just before I was going to purchase tickets to the show. I looked on the band's Web site to see if they had chosen another venue in the Ottawa area, but saw nothing.

Enter Beau's Oktoberfest.

I was planning to go to this annual beer festival, anyway, was planning to cycle from Ottawa to Vankleek Hill, as I had last year. This year, I was hoping for good weather and no wind, so that I could actually complete the 100-kilometre ride (the wind killed me by the halfway point).

But when I saw that 54•40 was going to perform on the festival's opening night, I changed my plans. I couldn't be there late on the Friday night, drinking beer and bopping to great tunes, and expect to ride the next morning. Plus, with my ongoing home renovations, Saturday wasn't going to be possible, anyway.

I bought the tickets for Friday and spent months, anxiously anticipating the show.

The band rocked.



The band played a lot of their hits, playing only one new song (which was great), and I exhausted my vocal chords singing along. It was great to have DW with me, as well as some good friends. My only regret is that the show was too short, lasting only an hour.

And no "Snap."

Beau's Oktoberfest is always a worthwhile event, even though it takes more than an hour to drive out to it. With 54•40 playing, it was even more worth the drive.


And, after nearly 30 years as a fan, I've finally seen the band live.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Photo Friday: Zen

It's a long way from being finished, but we're starting to see progress.

Where there was once demolition, we have new colours and new flooring. Our home renovations are well underway.

DW is totally at peace with the progress.


Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Salty Dawg

Long before Beer O'Clock, a few years before The Brown Knowser, I was enjoying craft beer.

And sporting an earring.



This is me, in 2008, with a brew from a sampler at Sea Dog Brewing Company, in Bangor, Maine. The family and I were heading to PEI, via St. Andrews, with a stop for lunch in this small town. Lunch was great and the beer selection was awesome.

Cheers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reunions

I didn't make it to my high school's 25th-anniversary reunion. At the time, I was in South Korea, teaching English and exploring South-East Asia. At the time, I told my friends, "the only people that I want to see, I see already."

And for the most part, that was true. Over the years that followed high school, I kept in touch with most of my close friends, even though they had moved far afield. There was one friend, who moved out to Vancouver Island, who invited me to her wedding, which she held in Ottawa, but after that, she was gone, and shortly thereafter, we lost touch.

That is one person I would love to see again.

I knew that she probably wouldn't travel all the way to that reunion, and so I had no regrets in missing it. "It would be nice to get together with all my friends under one roof," I told DW, "but I know I'll see them again."

Several years later, after I had returned to Canada and had two young daughters, I learned that my old high school was closing, that it had been sold to the Catholic school board. Teachers and alumni had organized a celebratory open house and all former students were invited. I went, with children in tow, to pay my respects.

I saw a couple of teachers that I recognized but didn't have for any subjects. I learned that some of my old teachers had paid a visit but had left before I arrived. I saw one or two faces I recognized and one old friend who I hadn't seen since we graduated. We exchanged pleasantries but made no plans to keep in touch.

I showed my daughters some of the classrooms where I studied math, drafting, music, and science. We visited the gymnasium and the cafetorium, where a slide show actually contained photos from some of my yearbooks. My kids saw what I looked like when I was at the school.

I didn't enjoy the visit, didn't connect with anyone who still keeps in touch. I spent almost three hours, exploring the old halls, checking out where my lockers were, and hoping to make a connection with a past that I rarely thought about.

It was three hours of my life that I'm never getting back.

It's okay. The people that I wanted to see, I still see.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine, Becky, from my days in Journalism school at Algonquin College contacted me. She wanted to let me know that the college was having a reunion for the Journalism department: specifically, those who were involved with the college's newspaper, The Algonquin Times.



My second-year classmates and I were the founding members of that paper. It was the first year that the school newspaper would be run entirely by the students in the Journalism program. We did the reporting, took the photographs, and edited the stories. We did the layout and sent the completed edition to the printer. How well we worked on The Times affected our core-course grade.

I loved working on that paper. My closest friends in the class and I worked hard, put in all kinds of hours, and were proud of our accomplishments.


This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Algonquin Times, and the college is holding a reunion. When Becky told me about the reunion, she also let me know that she wouldn't be able to make it because she would be away on vacation. There is one other friend from our group that I still keep in touch with, Michel, and I contacted him to see if he would be interested in meeting up. There are others, with whom I've lost touch but would like to see. Only, I don't know if they know.

And so, I'm off to another reunion next Thursday evening, September 29, from 7:30 to 11:30. I'm hoping it won't be four more hours of my life that I'll never get back.

If you know anyone who was in the Algonquin College Journalism program and had worked on The Algonquin Times, please let them know. The link for the event is here and the registration deadline is September 21.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Overkill

On a positive note, that floor was never going to make a sound.

That's about the only good thing you can say about it.

When we bought our house, in late 1999, we were lucky enough to see the construction first-hand. All that had been laid was the foundation and we had been through the model home. Through the negotiations with the bank, the outer frame was erected and by the time our purchase was signed, sealed, and delivered, the roof was in place and construction had begun on the second floor.

We took delight in visiting the design office for the builder: picking out colours and patterns for the ceramic tiles, the counter tops, the cupboards, the carpet, and the vinyl flooring for the kitchen floor.

We could have gone with ceramic tile in the kitchen, but I remembered living in one of my parents' homes, where we had ceramic. Anything that fell out of your hands, anything that hit that floor: it was gone. One autumn evening, I had just cut myself a slice of pumpkin pie, had delivered it to a ceramic plate, had smothered it in whipped cream. As I headed to the table, the plate slipped from my young hands. I remember it clearly, how the plate managed to turn upside-down, how it landed perfectly flat against the kitchen floor. The whipped cream escaped first, spraying outward in all directions. Next, came the pumpkin filling, like Play-Doh squeezing out. The plate spread, too, only slightly cushioned by the pie: instead of a crisp shatter, it made more of a "pop" sound.

No. No ceramic in the kitchen.

DW and I also had our sights set on children, and that gave us even more reason to have a nice, cushioned, vinyl floor. We didn't want any toddlers falling on such a hard surface that ceramic brings.

When the builders laid the first floor, they made an error where the vinyl met the carpeted floor near the refrigerator. They cut a squared angle of carpet that cut into the kitchen at a sharp angle. The carpet was too close to the fridge door: if something were dropped there, it would make a mess on the carpet.

Because the builders would let us come into the house any time we wanted, we were able to catch the blunder as soon as it had been made. The vinyl was pulled, another section cut, and it was rolled out onto the space.

This time, the builders noticed a huge flaw in the vinyl, right in the middle of the floor. With little time left to complete the kitchen, they rolled a new cutting and laid it on top of the flawed piece.

Extra cushioning for our wee ones.

With our home reno, that vinyl came up again—both layers—for the last time, to make room for hardwood flooring. Our kids are now old enough that they run a low risk of falling, and while wood is harder than vinyl, not everything that hits the floor is destined for destruction.

DW and I pulled up the vinyl with little effort. Same, for the carpet. But in removing the vinyl, we discovered quarter-inch-thick sheets of plywood that raised the vinyl for the kitchen area. All of it had to be removed so that our hardwood was at the same level throughout the reno space and the existing hardwood, in the front half of the house.

The plywood was held in with staples, so we thought it would take no time to pry it up and remove it. What DW and I discovered was that this was the most labour-intensive part of the demolition.

There were a lot of staples in the hardwood. A. Lot.

Prying up the boards was next to impossible because there were just too many staples in place. I had to use a circular saw to cut each sheet of plywood into many squares—some, only about a square foot each. I then had to use a pry bar and sledgehammer to knock the boards loose, and the staples didn't come up with the boards: they stayed in the floor.

The noise was deafening, and I apologized to my neighbours for the racket.

It took me about 15 hours to remove all the sheets. Some where held together with glue, in addition to the staples. In some areas, in the space of a square foot, I counted nearly 100 staples. In banging and prying off the plywood, I strained my shoulder and aggravated the wrist that I fractured, last year. 

But we weren't done.

After the boards had been stripped away, we were left with thousands of staples to remove. And the only way we could do it, properly, was to pull them out one at a time.



Some broke and would require vice grips to pull out. Others were bent and pressed to the floor. DW and I worked tirelessly over three days, putting in nearly 24 hours, to get them out of the wood.

I spent more time on my knees than an alter boy in front of a Catholic priest. (Too soon?)

Blood was drawn. Backs broken. Necks strained. Fingers skinned. Sweat shed.

I don't know what the contractors that laid that floor were thinking. Was it a new staple gun and were they having fun? Were they just trigger-happy? Whatever it was, they made damn sure that that floor wasn't going to make a single sound.

Until it came up. And some of that sound was me, cursing their very existence.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Photo Friday: Week 37

The mornings are cooler, bringing single-digit temperatures. The water is still warm and, like breathing in the chilled air, a mist hangs.

Before sunrise, the sky is magical, with hues of pink and blue. Images appear sharper, not washed out by the sun's rays.

Autumn is coming, and I can't wait.



Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday: New Dad

More than 15 years ago, I took on a role for which I was not prepared, for which no one is prepared until he finds himself up to his arms.

Fatherhood.

Our first-born came five weeks early and spent nearly two weeks in the Special Care Nursery at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital. I carried her from the delivery room to this ward, terrified that the slippers that they made me wear for her birth would make me slip on the clean hospital corridors. I had a nurse hold my bundle so that I could remove them before continuing down the hall.

When she was deemed healthy enough, we were allowed to take her home. She barely fit in the car seat and we had to place pads around her to keep her from rocking from side to side. Both DW and I were shocked that the hospital staff would allow this little life to leave their expert care with two highly unqualified people.

When we got our DD home, we gently carried her up to her crib, which was placed at the end of our bed in our room. She fell asleep almost immediately, and for almost an hour, DW and I lay at the foot of our bed, staring at this beautiful child.

And thinking, now what?

Me and DD, coming home for the first time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

In The Library

It was a short, simple, but very kind note. He didn't have to leave it, but he did, and for that, he made my day.

All too often, people seem to feel the need to leave comments on news sites or blogs that are full of negativity, full of vitriol and hate, and are aimed to make the writer or a group of people feel bad.

Thankfully, that hasn't happened to me. Not often.

No, my blog posts get largely unnoticed by the trolls, rarely have any comments left behind. If there is any feedback, it's positive.

I'm lucky that way. Thank you to all who have reached out.

But the message that I received on the weekend was not left on my blog, nor passed to me through Twitter or Facebook. It was sent to me through my photo meetup group by a fellow member.

We had last attended a Milky Way photo shoot, though I'm not sure if we chatted. I did say hello and made some initial small talk with some of the other photographers, as we set up our tripods and aimed our cameras skyward. But a friend soon joined the group, and he and I tended to chat just among ourselves for the rest of the evening.

It's the first photo meetup that I attended, where the leader didn't introduce himself nor was there a general assembly. We just arrived and got to the task at hand.

Anyway, this gentleman from that event sent me a message through the group, and it made my day. He told me that he had recently checked a book out from the Ottawa Public Library and he was enjoying the first few chapters, when he noticed the photo on the back cover of the author and realized that he had seen that photograph before. The author was looking straight at the camera but was sipping from a coffee cup, hiding the lower-half of his face.

The photo was of me and it's the same photo that I use for my profile in our meetup group.

He contacted me to let me know that he was surprised that he knew the author and that he didn't realize it was my book when he checked it out. He added that he was enjoying the story, so far, and that the reason that he had chosen the book to read was because his daughter was travelling and had taught English for four years, in Daejon, which is a city that is only an hour north of where I lived, in Jeonju. I had visited Daejon many times and mention it in the book.

I replied to him, thanked him for his kind words, but I failed to mention that his message had made my day for two reasons: one, of course, was that he sent his message and it was a pleasant surprise to learn that someone was reading and enjoying my story. The other reason that I was placed in such a great mood was to learn that the OPL actually had my novel on their shelves.

In a (small) way, it was a validation of my work. I never intended to write a best-seller nor make a lot of money from Songsaengnim (so far, I'm a long way from either), but I wanted to tell that story and put it out there for people to read. To know that anyone can go to the library and read my book is a big deal for me.

I went to the OPL Web site to look for my book, and found out that all copies are currently checked out. My first thought was that they have only one copy, and that my fellow photog is currently in possession of said copy.

That's okay. I also see that someone has also placed it on hold (it's not me).

I still have a few autographed copies, for sale, if you're interested. Once I run out of them, I won't be ordering any more. You'll have to go to Chapters, or Indigo, or Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

Or to the Ottawa Public Library.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dunton Tower

When I was working toward my English degree at Carleton University, way back in the early 90s, there were many late evenings where I would race up to the sixteenth floor of Dunton Tower to get a timestamp on an essay and slide it under the English Department's door, to meet my professor's deadline.

I've never missed a deadline and have continued that streak to this day.

(Not sliding papers under doors, but making sure my project gets completed on time.)

As one of the major landmarks of Carleton University, and because I pass it on my way to and from work, I decided to make it the location for this month's Where In Ottawa.



Congratulations to my dear old friend from Journalism School (which we didn't take at Carleton), Becky Garceau, for solving this photo challenge. Here are the clues that, with the photo, helped her locate the building:
  1. Rise above all others—Dunton Tower, at 22 storeys, is the tallest building on the Carleton campus.
  2. Quad = 5—when I was going to Carleton, Dunton Tower was one of four buildings that closed in the quad, a square park-like area that was popular for hanging out or studying. Today, five buildings surround the quad: Dunton Tower, MacOdrum Library, Paterson Hall, Tory Building, and Azrieli Pavilion.
  3. Way-higher learning—university is well-known as an institution of higher learning. If you took a class in Dunton Tower, you'd be way higher.

Thanks for everyone who played. The next Where In Ottawa will be on October 3.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Photo Friday: Playing with Prisma

This is the most-addictive app I've ever put on my phone.

More addictive than Angry Birds or Hay Day. Probably more addictive than Pokémon Go, but I wouldn't know: that game has absolutely zero appeal to me.

This is a photo app, and that can draw my attention on its own. With my love of photography and photo editing, I'm always looking for a new way to present my photographs.

Prisma is such an app.

Like Instagram, it applies filters to your photos, but these filters are more complex than those of X-Pro, or Lo-Fi, or Hefe. These filters don't just change the hue or vibrancy of your photos.

Prisma applies complex algorithms to make your images look like works of art, mimicking the style of Edvard Munch (The Scream), or the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, or Picasso, plus many more. There are 38 different effects that you can apply to an image.

Of course, not all effects work with all photos, but you can play around and choose the best ones to suit your work.

Here are some examples of effects that I applied to my images.



My favourite one is with the whale, with the Japanese wave art effect. It helps that I captured natural waves in the shot.

Prisma is available on Google Play and iTunes. But I warn you: it's highly addictive.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Overload

My head is full.

Work. Home. Health. Finances. All of these are weighing on me.

Ten years of the same ol' and I'm busier than I've ever been. Multiple projects with different versions of the same product to keep in my head. Writing. Maintaining. Editing work of my colleagues. Keeping things straight. Keeping deadlines. Taking one document that I've maintained, in one form or another, for more than nine years, and now deconstructing it and building it anew, with a new footprint and a new approach.

Much more complex than my project at home.

And yet, that consumes me in my hours outside of the office. Shopping for cabinets, for appliances, for flooring, for lighting. The walls need new colours; the ceiling, a fresh coat. Everything from top to bottom, end to end. We tear the old down in preparation for the new, hoping that everything will be ready in time. And as we plan, as we prepare, as we accumulate, the sound of old-fashioned cash registers ring in my ears, sometimes louder than the cicada-like buzzing that is endless.

My consultation for my tinnitus is looming, with no guarantees that the problem will be solved. In the meantime, I await the surgery that will hopefully fix my feet before the nerves are irreparably damaged, before circulation fails, and before I can no longer support my own weight.

I am constantly in pain.

I wonder if my feet can take the long periods of standing, of lifting, of climbing. But they must, because for this project to be completed, I have to do some of the work myself. I cannot afford to have it all done for me.

I spend endless hours, worrying about the cost, about aspects of the project for which we haven't accounted, that will creep in and surprise.

I hate surprises.

Like, the spring in the garage door that snapped in two. Like the extra layer of floor boards that was laid in the kitchen and for which we need to even up for the family room.

Like the stuff that hasn't crept into the budget that undoubtedly will.

And then there's my car, where the transmission is unreliable, where I don't know from one day to the next whether I need to take it in, once again, for service.

There are the kids. Parents always worry about their kids.

One thing after another piles itself up on me, fills my head. My head is full.

And when my head is this full, I find it hard to function. I can't fall asleep at night. I'm exhausted during the day.

My story is not unique and I'm sure there are many other people who have as much or more on their plates.

Are they also headed for an overload, for a meltdown. Like some electronic tablets, whose batteries burn or explode from overcharging, from over-stimulation, I'm on my way to a possible breaking point.

Will I burn out, melt down?

Just one more thing to worry about.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

They Don't Call It Labour Day for Nothing

We didn't toil all weekend with our home reno. We did take some time to enjoy the fabulous weekend.

Two evenings of dinner with old and dear friends: wine, beer, and a hot tub, which did much to soothe my old and aching muscles. Especially, my feet, which can no longer hold much more than my own weight, and not for very long.

We tore down the family room: our wall unit got separated, the various parts now stashed in corners around the house, their doors and contents not accessible for about a month or so, while we lay down the hardwood and affix the kitchen cabinets.

With one sofa put out to the curb, last week, the other has been carried to the basement. I'm fearful that while we managed to carry our shorter, red sofa down the narrow steps, getting it up will be a chore that will require someone with stronger feet to bring it back to the family room.

The worn and stained carpet is now gone, with nothing left but the plywood floors. Care was taken to ensure every nail and every staple was removed, so that there would be no obstacle for the hardwood. We discovered one challenge, as we removed the transition strip between the kitchen and the family room, where a quarter-inch particle-board layer separates the two rooms. It looks like we'll have to add another layer of plywood to the family room to make everything level.



The track lighting that hung over the fireplace is now gone. It was removed to make painting the ceiling easier, but it was a light fixture that we never liked, and so we're replacing it. The first coat of ceiling paint has covered the sloped stipple, where the ceiling starts at nine feet and ends at 11.

My back started to feel sore as the day wore on.

On track for this week is to paint the walls. New colours will hopefully give new life to this living space. On the weekend, I'll start pulling up the kitchen counters and cabinets, and removing the vinyl flooring.

That's when the easy stuff will be done. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Where In Ottawa LVII

I know: it's a long weekend, and a gorgeous one at that. You're either relaxing at home or putting your feet up at the cottage: either way, you're soaking in the wonderful late-summer weather, and reading a blog post is far from your mind.

Or is it?

Why not do something frivolous like try to solve a photo challenge?

Because it's a holiday, I thought I'd go easy with the latest Where In Ottawa challenge. If you've never played this contest, here are the rules:

Below, you will see a photo that I shot somewhere in Ottawa. Your job is to simply identify the location and leave your guess in the Comments section of this blog post.
Please, only leave a guess on this post. Do not contact me through Twitter or through Facebook, or even by e-mail. I need everybody who plays to be able to see the guesses, and the only guarantee that he or she will, the only guarantee that this contest is on a level playing field, is for me to accept guesses that are left on this blog post.

If you try to guess by any other means, whether you're right or wrong, I won't respond to that guess and you can't win.
For every day that the challenge isn't solved, I'll leave a clue in the top-right corner of my blog. Above my photo.
The first person to correctly identify the location wins the challenge. You can guess as many times as you like. Only bragging rights are claimed by the winner: there is no actual prize.
Ready for this month's photo? Here it is:


Think you know Ottawa? Prove it!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Photo Friday: Kitchen Sink

Yes, I've spent a lot of time this week, talking about my home renovations. About tearing up the kitchen and building anew.

DW and I have taken care of most of the renovation details. All, except the kitchen sink, but even that's pretty much decided.

I haven't taken much time, this week, to think about photography, and that's too bad: my photography, for good or ill, keeps me grounded. Like my writing, it's a method of maintaining my sanity.

Last week, with vacation and reno shopping at the height of my priorities, I even forgot to take a photo for my Hog's Back Project.

I looked through lots of photos that I shot over the past month or so, looking at the ones I have yet to get through in post-processing, to look through the folders that contain photos I haven't even looked at.

I grabbed one of those photos, which I took at the end of a model shoot, at the old factory in Carleton Place. I took the photo because I liked the building and wanted to get my mind off the work I had done in the previous hour.

The shot in of itself was not much to look at: windows, bricks, and a deep-blue sky.

I looked in the various palates and filters in my photo-editing software, looking for something to do with it. A black-and-white effect came at me, looking at the richness of the sky. I wanted to make it black as night.

Easy enough to do.

But then I started looking at the building itself and was at a loss of how to shape it. So, I masked out the sky and started playing with special effects, textures, and colouring. Not paying attention to what I was doing, I threw everything at it.

Everything, but the kitchen sink.

I can't tell you how I created the image. I could never reproduce it. I don't know if I'm even done with it. I feel like one of those crazed artists, who stares at a canvas for hours and finally starts throwing every colour of paint at the surface with his bare hands, not measuring, not aiming at any particular spot.

I threw lots at this image, and this is what I got. Not sure if I'm finished.



Happy Friday!

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