Monday, October 31, 2016

Taking a Pass

It's like when I was a teen, when I decided that I was done with dressing up and going door to door, trick-or-treating.

No one told me that I was too old. It was a conscious decision that my friends and I had made. The first time that we had decided not to go out on Hallowe'en (yes, I still insist on spelling it that antiquated way), we went to hang out at the shopping mall, which seemed ghostly quiet. We just sat on the benches, doing nothing.

It felt great to be out on a night where so many young people, our age and younger, were roaming the streets, and we were doing nothing.

My kids are still dressing up in costumes, but this year they've decided to abstain from going to the neighbours, asking for candy. They're just hanging out with friends, eating candy that they bought for themselves.

And doing nothing.

For myself, I find myself wanting to take a pass on Hallowe'en. I won't be putting on a dark robe, trying to scare the kids who come to our door. I'm not carving up a pumpkin, not answering our bell. This evening, I'm going to retreat to our basement, see what interests me on Netflix, and wait for the day to pass.

I'm not entirely done with Hallowe'en, but for this year, I'm taking a pass.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Photo Friday: The Calm Before

They said flurries and I grumbled, but didn't fear it.

On Tuesday, at the office, the overcast sky and wind chilled the air, and tiny white particles fluttered about the parking lot and surrounding forest, as though that non-existent entity had shaken its long, grey hair and let loose flakes of dandruff.

On Tuesday, those flurries melted on contact.

Thursday started of mild: no frost on the windshield, dry roads all the way to work. There was a slight breeze but nothing to chill the bones. A hoody and gloves kept me warm. On the radio, a risk of rain was promised with a chance of snow. The rain, the CBC announcer said, would carry through to Friday.

I hadn't yet stopped, this week, for my Hog's Back Project photo. Indeed, I hadn't posted any of the photos in about three weeks, and I feared that I would lose track of the ones I had already shot. I didn't relish the prospect of shooting the falls in the rain—had avoided wet days for most of the previous 42 weeks (of which, I had missed a couple)—and at the last second, before I turned onto Colonel By Drive, I diverted my course and made my way to the parking lot at Hog's Back Falls.

It was dark, just past 6:30. A few cars were in the lot: runners out with their regular group. Sometimes, I would see them warming up in the lot or just returning from their workout. There was the one lone car, parked in a corner, idling. I had seen vehicles like that, before, on Bate Island. The drivers who used this lot, though, pretty much kept to themselves, didn't approach anyone who parked in the middle of the lot or ventured toward the falls.

This park is a safe one.

Although it was only a couple of degrees above the freezing point, it didn't feel very cold. I left my gloves in the car and held the one leg of my tripod that is covered by a foam grip. Sadly, the flashlight that I keep in my camera bag was dead, so I had to trust that I knew my way on the path well enough not to trip.

At the lookout, I extended the tripod and tucked it into the corner of the rail that protects the sightseers from a steep drop into fast-moving water. I focused on the bridge, turned off the automatic focus, and mounted the camera on the tripod, dialing the zoom lens to the 24mm position.

I use the trunk and overhanging branch of a nearby tree as a framing bracket for the top of the viewfinder and the left-hand side. It's not perfect, but it's been close enough. The camera has a built-in level, which I can see on the viewing screen, and once I'm lined up, I take my shot.

It was a 30-second kind of morning, so I dialed the aperture until the shutter speed indicated half a minute: f/4.

Cars of all shapes and sizes traversed the bridge in that 30 seconds. As luck had it, a few giant pickup trucks with several bright spotlights on their grill drove by, lighting the maples across the road, bringing their autumnal splendor to life.

As per usual, I reset the camera and took a couple more shots. I take at least three, in case something screws up. On each, I double-check the exposure. On the small view screen, my eyes aren't good enough to see if the image is in focus, but that rarely seems to be a problem.

It was the second shot that was the best. Early morning, before sunrise, on a crisp autumn day.

Before the storm.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Let There Be Light

Sink's in place (but not connected).

Range hood has arrived (but not installed).

Electrician has made his final visit, connecting wires to the island, installing pot lights, puck lights in glass-door cabinets, and hung pendant lights. (I picked up the pendant lights, making a last-minute decision--texting images to DW, who was at work--hours before the electrician arrived.)

The kitchen is brighter than it's ever been and will be even brighter when we install the under-counter lighting. We haven't chosen those lights yet but got the electrician to install the wires. I trust myself enough to hook them up myself.

Here's the kitchen, as of last night.

Next on the agenda: the drywaller arrives next Tuesday; the counter top gets installed on Wednesday. I will cut and install the baseboards after that and will move the family room furniture back into place. Then comes the backsplash, the range hood goes up, the plumber installs the dishwasher and hooks up the sink, the gas line goes in, and then the stove.

It's almost done. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


We just saw the sofa, imagined its deep, chocolate leather against our antique-white wall, contrasting with the natural oak floor and complementing the dark-brown wall on the opposite side of our family room, and we wanted it.

When we started our home renovations, we decided that it was time to retire the two sofas in our family room. One went to the curb; the other went to our basement, where I suspect it will stay for the rest of our lives.

We decided to stay with leather for our large sofa: Edwin, our black cat, seems to hold no interest in leather, neither to sleep upon nor to use as a scratching post. Because our budget doesn't allow us to buy a new sofa, we've been scouring Kijiji, looking for a great deal. We knew the colour that we wanted, and our style preferences are basically similar. I need a sofa I can sleep on, so the arm rests can't be too high. Neither of us likes cushions that are baggy, nor do we like buttons or studs as accents. We like clean lines and smooth surfaces.

After a month of searching, we found a sofa that met our criteria. After some negotiating, we settled on a price and made plans to pick it up. I enlisted the help of my father and his Yukon, and we brought it home on an evening when the rain wouldn't spoil the like-new fabric.

The sofa was heavy and took nearly all of our energy to carry it around to the back door, from where it could go straight into its new location. Only, when we got it to the sliding doors, we discovered that it was a tight fit and wouldn't go through, as it was. With the last of our energy, my father and I walked it back to the front of the house and stored the sofa in the garage. With some preliminary measurements, we figured that we would have to remove the feet on the sofa and dismantle parts of the back door so that we could either remove the sliding door or remove the handles so that it could open wider.

Again, we had to wait until the autumn rain subsided.

Last night was that night.

I measured the sofa twice: at its narrowest, with its feet removed, it is just over 34 inches. The door, I figured, was just under 36 inches.

Somewhere in my calculations, my measurement of the door was off.

After an hour or so of messing with the door so that it could be at its widest opening, we took one last measurement and discovered that the opening was only 33.5 inches. That sofa was not coming into the house.

We should have measured the door before we started shopping.

Currently, we're seeking other ideas and trying to figure if the stationary panel for our sliding doors can be safely removed.

If not, I have a beautiful sofa to sell.

Monday, October 24, 2016


They said it was going to be a one-week job. That was three weeks ago.

My laptop contains all of the photo-editing tools that I use, and for months, that computer had a glitch that we could no longer overlook, especially with our home renovations and space on our main floor being at a premium.

Several months ago, our laptop developed a problem where the battery would hold a charge but would not recognize that it was fully charged. As a result, the computer could not operate on the battery at all. If the machine was running and became unplugged from the power cable, it would immediately die.

It wasn't a huge problem, as the computer worked perfectly fine, as long as it stayed plugged into a power outlet.

During the demolition stage of our kitchen and family renovation, I would constantly cut the power to various parts of that area, and sometimes I would inadvertently hit the wrong switch at the power box. If DW was working on the computer at the time, I would learn very quickly of my error, as I would hear an "Ahh!" or an "Oh, no!"


When we moved our refrigerator, toaster oven, kettle, microwave oven, portable electric stove, and coffee maker in to our dining room, we very quickly learned that you couldn't boil water and heat up a meal at the same time. The trouble was, we also had our computer plugged into a workstation in the same area. Again, one of us would gasp if the circuit suddenly blew.

So, we made the decision, before its warranty expired, to have the problem fixed. We contacted HP and they sent us a box and packing slip to ship out our device for repair. They said that it should take no more than one week to receive, fix, and return our unit.

Three weeks have gone by.

For the most part, it hasn't been much of a problem: we have a second laptop, which the kids use, and DW and I have our work computers, although I can't do much in the way of personal work with that laptop.

I can write my blog on almost any device: I've even used my iPad when I've travelled for any length of time. But what I can't do on any computer at my disposal is my photo editing. My main laptop had the software that I use. On a couple of occasions, DW has let me use her work computer, which also has this software (she works for the company that makes it): I transfer my RAW files from my camera onto one external drive, use the apps on her computer to fix the images, and then I save the finished image on a second external drive.

But my big dilemma is that I just shot nearly 500 photos, this weekend, on a project and I don't have the luxury of using DW's computer at my leisure. I get that.

I want my old computer back. I want to be able to use the tools that I am familiar with on a machine to which I am accustomed. HP says I should have my laptop by the end of this week.

The clock is ticking.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photo Friday: Under the Bridge

No, I'm not a grumpy old troll, living under a bridge.

But sometimes, you've got to go low to get a good shot.

It took a long time for the Vimy Bridge (aka the Strandherd Bridge) to open, but I think it's one of the prettiest bridges in our city, spanning the Rideau River on the south end of town, linking Barrhaven to Riverside South.

Even now that the water levels have dropped, with the leaves in autumn colours and the sun setting low in the sky, this is one of the great areas in which to capture the season.

And no, I found no trolls.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Retrospective Drinking

For those who follow my other blog, Beer O'Clock, I have to acknowledge that I haven't posted a review in more than a month, but I have a couple of reviews written and I will publish them in the coming days.

I haven't stopped trying new beer and making notes: I just haven't typed up those notes.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, through Untappd, you know that I haven't stopped drinking beer. As of this blog post, I have checked in on the social-media beer database 1,456 times with 802 distinct brews. I started using the app more than four years ago.

I don't drink a lot: I drink often.

When I think about the various beer that I've consumed in my lifetime, my thoughts have occasionally turned to the beer that I drank when I lived in South Korea: Hite, OB Lager, and Cass were the three major beers that could be found in corner stores in 1997 to 1999. These were the ones I drank on a regular basis, when I wasn't drinking soju, mokolli, or when I could find imported wine.

And reflecting on these beers, I wondered: is it fair to log these brews on Untappd? If you use that app, have you retroactively added a beer to your database records?

I haven't logged those Korean brands, but I would like your input: what do you think?

While I wait, I might have beer number 1,457.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Short Conversation

I'm not a tall man. DW isn't tall either, so it comes as no surprise that we have petite daughters. Still, it doesn't keep them from trying.

Here's a recent phone conversation that I had with my youngest squirt:

DD13: "Hi, Dad, I'm very tall."

Me: "What makes you say that."

DD13: "I'm wearing very tall heels. I'm tall, now."

Me: "You think that makes you tall?"

DD13: "Yes. I'm so tall that I had to bend low to throw something in the garbage bin. I'm so tall."

Me: "But artificially so."

DD13: Pauses. "I don't want to talk to you anymore."

Me: "Okay. Take care, shorty."

DD13: "I'm going to hang up on you now." Hangs up.

Monday, October 17, 2016


It's been a few weeks since I wrote about our home renovations, and many friends, family members, and work colleagues have asked me about the progress with our kitchen and family room. The last time that I blogged about the work, we had finished the first coat of finish on our hardwood floors and had covered up the dulled builder's white and the burnt red on our walls.

Lots has happened, since then, but in other ways, things have slowed as we wait for contractors and we pick at some of the work ourselves.

Work also slowed, a couple of weekends ago, after I fell from a ladder while I was touching up some of my flaws from painting in our first week. I didn't hurt myself, luckily, considering I fell onto the hardwood from about four or five feet up, and was holding a paint brush, trying not to let it hit our new floors.

The electrician has come once, to install new switches and outlets. He couldn't finish the work because our cabinets hadn't been installed, and he needs to add puck lights to some cabinets, pot lights on the ceiling that would run where our counters and future island wouldn't. He'll be back to do that in the next week or so.

Last week, the cabinets and island were put in place, and we started to get excited because we could finally envision the final results. But we have a long way still to go and our schedule has been delayed because of schedule conflicts with some of the contractors.

Here's what's left to be done:
  • We've ordered the counter tops but are waiting for them to come and make templates.
  • Our sink has been ordered but we're waiting for it to arrive. Once we have it, the plumber can come and install it and our new dishwasher.
  • The backsplash tiles haven't been chosen yet. DW and I haven't agreed on a pattern. But we have until the counter is installed to make our choice.
  • Our range hood has been ordered but hasn't arrived. Once we have it, the electrician will come to install it, set in the pot lights, and wire the island.
  • The dry waller will fix the ceiling and the wall where it was damaged for electrical and when we removed the old backsplash tiles. This will happen after the electrical work is done but before the range hood is installed.
  • The tile guy will install whatever tiles we decide to get.
  • A gas line will be fed in to where our gas range will go.
So, there's still lots to do, but here's a peek at the progress we've made:

Since I shot these photos, all of the doors have been installed, with all the knobs and handles. Our new microwave oven is in the island but hasn't been hooked up yet. That huge slab of cardboard contained extra backboard for the back of the island, and has since been returned to the store because we didn't need it.

We've also removed the remainder of the exhaust vent because it needs to be moved to where the new stove will go, plus it was too small for a gas stove. DW and I are handling the replacement of that pipe. 

This weekend, we purchased a new sofa for the family room. Our next task is to install the base boards around the family room so that we can move our furniture and TV back in place: I haven't watched network television in more than a month (and it's slowly starting to kill me).

Onward we go...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Face

I look in the mirror and another face looks back at me. It's older, tired, worn. The cheeks sag, look depressed. The jaw line is dark, round, full.

It's not attractive, not that my face ever was. But the old face held youth. A smile. Bright, ever-observing eyes.

That old joke from my days in elementary school comes to mind: Is your face hurting you? 'Cos, it's killing me.

That was the locker-room talk that my friends and I had. Cheap jokes that made fun of each other. Occasional talk of girls in class: "Did you check out so-and-so's butt in those jeans? Nice!" Sure, it was immature and wrong, but we never bragged about wanting to force ourselves on anyone. That's not locker talk that I've ever heard. Ever.

But I digress...

I was talking about my face.

I've always looked younger than my 51 years. Sure, I walk like a 90-year-old man, hobbling on my deteriorating feet, but my face has always looked young.

I have usually kept a clean-shaven face, which adds to my youthfulness. There have been times, on vacations, where I've left my razor at home. On a couple of Movembers, I have grown a moustache in support of prostate-cancer awareness. For a couple of months, when I was at home, on parental leave with my first-born, I grew a goatee.

But facial hair has never stayed long, I've never tried to grow a full beard.

On Friday, September 30, in the early hours of the morning, a rose from bed, got in the shower, and shaved, in the dark, with my eyes closed, as I always do. Before six, I dressed and hopped in my car and drove to work.

It's not uncommon for me to not shave on a weekend, especially if I have no formal plans. With the tear-down of our kitchen in full swing, I wore faded jeans and a paint-stained t-shirt on October 1. My hair, though recently cut, went unwashed, and as I pulled down cabinets and pried backsplash tiles, I became sweaty and covered in dust.

If I were to walk the downtown streets, appearing as I did, you might think I was homeless.

I didn't shave, that weekend, and when Monday came, I decided not to shave again, as I readied myself for work. For nearly two weeks, now, I haven't so much as touched my razor. A scraggly mix of salt-and-pepper whiskers covers my cheeks and makes my neck itchy. I haven't decided to grow a full beard, so much as I have given up on maintaining a smooth face.

The longer I wait, the longer the hairs grow, the more challenging it becomes to return my face to normal. The last time that I had used my electric razor, around the time that my youngest daughter cut my hair, the device fizzled out and stopped working. It was a gift that I had received about 35 years ago, at Christmas, when my first peach fuzz started coming in. That old Braun razor owed me nothing, had served me well over the decades.

Two weeks in, my beard is still patchy but the whiskers are too long to simply remove with a triple-bladed, manual shaver. Anyone who has tried to shave this much knows that after a couple of millimetres, the cut whiskers get clogged between the blades and the razor ends up pulling out as many whiskers as it cuts. It becomes painful, labour-intensive, and slow.

At this point, if I am to shave, a new electric razor is in store. I'm going to need one, anyway, because even if I decide to keep the beard, I'm going to need to groom it. I'm going to have to remove the scratchy hairs from my neck.

It's getting into sweater season, after all.

Not many people have seen my face, lately. My family, of course, as have my co-workers. And, a few neighbours. I'm not showing my face around my friends. Not yet.

The question, for now, is this: should I shave or should I grow?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Booth Steet Complex

I really like Ben Wood. He's a bright, young lad who always seems to carry positive energy and thoughtfulness. He's a very good photographer who loves his city and seems to know it very well.

I first learned about Ben when he solved the very first Where In Ottawa photo challenge, and since then has solved several more. When I have asked readers who think that they know Ottawa to prove it, Ben has done so time after time. And for the latest challenge, Ben has proved himself to be knowledgeable yet again. Congratulations, my friend.

October's challenge was doubly difficult because, not only did I capture a small portion of the complex, I modified the photo to make it seem like an aged print (which of itself was a clue), but Ben used the image with the four other clues to correctly discover that this month's location is the Booth Street Complex, otherwise known as CanmetENERGY, a government research facility for Natural Resources Canada.

As Ben added in his answer, this facility, which is bordered by Booth, Norman, Rochester, and Orangeville streets, near Little Italy, in what is considered Centretown West. While some of the taller government offices that surround this complex were built in the 1950s and 60s, some of these structures date back to the 20s and 30s.

Here are the clues, explained:
  1. This challenge is stacked in your favour: there are few old smoke stacks left in the city, but the one that towers above this complex is clearly visible, especially when you pass the area along the Queensway.
  2. Think diner seating: of course, when you go to a classic diner, there are only two places where you want to sit, and they are either at one of the round stools along the bar or in a booth. I was looking for the latter, as part of the name of this complex.
  3. Where once there was a rail crossroad: until the 1950s, a railroad ran along what is now the Queensway, Highway 417, which runs east to west through the heart of our city. In fact, many railway lines intersected the city, where trains moved lumber and other goods from the core. In the 1920s and 30s, a huge lumber yard covered the land to the south of what is now CanmetENERGY, just east of Dow's Lake. A rail line ran from this lumber yard and ran northward, toward Lebreton Flats. This line snaked in an S-curve, where Booth Street and Orangeville Street now meet, and intersected the east-west line. Today, there's no evidence of the railway intersection's existence: I found it by looking on geoOttawa.
  4. No ceramics classes here: among the buildings for mines, minerals, and natural resources, this complex also conducted research on ceramics. But I can only assume no classes were held here (this clue was as much a guess as anything).

Although many of the buildings here are dated, they give us a glimpse into Ottawa's past and I hope that they will be preserved for many more years to come. To see a glimpse of this area now and in 1938, go to Ottawa Past & Present.

The next Where In Ottawa is Monday, November 7.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Photo Friday: Autumn Falls

On a cool, foggy autumn day, it's still nice to pick up the camera and see what's out there.

And even though you've been to a place countless times, there is no such thing as the term too much.

Happy Friday!