Sunday, February 10, 2013



Flickr turned 9 this weekend, and the challenge was to take a picture of "9". I was out of ideas and came up with this at the last moment. I wish I had fancier editing tools, or some way to blur parts of photos or something. I took this with my phone, and I had a decent focus on the 9, but some of the other keys came out sharper than I'd hoped. Oh well. I don't plan on winning any photography contests anytime soon.

I have been on Flickr for about 7 1/2 years. My first upload was August 15, 2005.

5-storey pagoda near Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima

From my 2004 trip to Japan and Southeast Asia. Not even a digital photo. I had to scan that baby to get it online :-)

Over the years, I have uploaded over 6300 photos. The majority are from trips. My photos are organized with tags, and the two most common, not entirely surprisingly, are japan and france, with paris and egypt not far behind. Other tags include camping, apartment, puppy, and, somewhat oddly, volleyball.

The photo that has been viewed the most, with over 1,000 views?
Girls' relay races

Since that same photo is the one that has been favourited the most, which is the second-most favourited photo, with 4 people (rather than 5) calling it a favourite?
Lantern 29

I have 108 sets grouped into 19 collections. Some of them are embarrassingly small. Some of them are embarrassingly incomplete. Some of them are either too large or too thorough. Someday I'll go through and compile a "Best Of". Someday I might actually get up-to-date on what's in there. At least, there's always hope.

Some of my favourite photos are from the Inuyama Festival in April 2007. You get the chaos and splendour of the one-day festival that takes over the town, and the magic of the lanterns on the shrines in the evening. It's a mini-Takayama Festival. I also took one of my favourite shots ever that day, far from the madness, noise, and bustle of the festival:

Inuyama Riverside

It's far from a perfect shot, but while the sky and water are grey, the walkway along the riverbank is paved and impersonal, and the distant landscape is bleak and industrial, the focus for me is on the ladies picknicking in the foreground, enjoying each others' company and relaxing on the mild, late spring day.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Everyone Loves Pie

This week's Flickr Friday theme was "Everyone Loves Pie".

Well, I don't know if everyone does, but I know bears do.

Everyone Loves Pie

Especially if said pie is mini chocolate mint pie.*

* I live alone. I don't tend to keep pie in the house. But I do, much to my waistline's chagrin, keep these.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Beer, A Second Round

Beer, A Second Round
Jon, looking erudite as he mulls over Hello Kitty Psycho Killer...or maybe she was just a chair that he grew fond of and started to hallucinate that she was a Real Girl. If none of this makes sense, congratulations! You're normal. Keep reading...

This is the second entry in an occasional series of beer-tasting notes, also from the sunny locale of Pub Italia. Read the first here.

Kichessippi Cask

(Jess' first beer.) According to their website, Kichesippi Brewery does do a monthly cask, but what they described on their page was not what Pub Italia was serving. According to our waitress, however, this Cask was a mix of 1855 and the Natural Blond. It was a bit strange-tasting. It was warmer than beer normally is, and didn't have quite the zing it could or should have had. Jon said it's the guy you go out a date with, where you can't figure out if the Transformers shirt that he is wearing is being worn ironically or not. You need to go on a second date to figure it out, and it turns out that the answer is a resounding no, not ironic. Ouch. Jess and I both think this beer met a lot of good criteria, it checked off a lot of boxes re: what you are looking for in a relationship, but overall: "Meh." There's just something missing. Upon further reflection, Jon declared it to be unique, but in a bad way. We might start out being friends for a bit (after that second date when you decide that is not going anywhere), but then realize we are having the same conversations over and over. Jess offered that it's like you meet his parents (aka 1855 and Natural Blond) and they are really cool and awesome, leaving you to wonder how on earth these two great people managed to create someone so boring.

St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout by McAuslan Brewery

My beer. Full disclosure: I've had this beer before, though not for a very long time, and I'm not sure if I've ever actually drank a whole pint to myself (rather than just tasting others' pints). I ordered it because I'd had a very busy day full of much errand-running, and I only had 20 minutes at home before I had to leave to go to Pub Italia, and so I had oatmeal for dinner. Still somewhat peckish, I figured oatmeal for beer could count as a second serving of supper.

Anyway, I quite liked this. When I tried it before, I wasn't into stouts, and found it too heavy. But it's not (for a stout). It's very smooth. But then, after listening to it drip past our taste buds for a while, we wondered: It's almost too smooth. In fact, it might be the smooth talker who intrigues you at first, but eventually wears off, or far worse, the smooth talker you end up staying with because it's better than being single, and it keeps talking you back. A very dangerous beer to get involved with, obviously.

Flying Monkeys Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale

Ahh, Flying Monkeys. The first time I bought one of their beers was a 6-pack of Hoptical Illusion from the LCBO, entirely because I liked the psychedelic packaging and the funky name. There also may have been a dare from a sibling involved. Anyway. Netherworld - Jon's beer, his theme being "animals" this week - was new for me. Jess found it to be too bitter for her, but said she'd definitely hook it up with a friend (and not just an acquaintance). I liked it, and would visit it when I'm in town, but we would never have a relationship together - just too different. Jon was slightly fascinated by this beer, labelling it the emo goth whom you date for a while, possibly even quite a long while, even though you sort of think that whole fashion and lifestyle scene is ridiculous, just because, well, you can, because for some weird reason, Emo Goth Girl likes you, too.

Cochonnette (Vapeur Brewery)

Jon's second beer, of course, pictured above. (A cochon being a pig. Apparently, a cochonnette is a bit lewder. I'll let you Google it. Don't do so in the presence of young children, or your grandmother.) Jon and Jess thought this beer was okay, though Jess admitted she would just want it once. Jon didn't know what to make of this one: Sort of like the guy in the Transformers shirt but darker. It's in a bottle, it's then poured into a giant goblet, and it's a really sweet beer. It's like the girl who says she likes Hello Kitty but that she kills hobos in her spare time. Two very opposite things - one loveable, one really really not - that just should never be together. This beer, for Jon and Jess was the fling you have over Spring Break; a summer romance would be far too long. As for me, my reaction was definite: This is not even a beer. This beer is not a relationship, not a date, not even a man. This beer is a lamp-post or a fire hydrant. It doesn't even merit me looking at it - it's not even a decorative lamp-post. I took one sip and asked Jon if he was sure it was even beer he was drinking. A second sip confirmed I hated this beer. I'm not even sure I hate my worst enemy as much as I hated this beer.*

Rogue Dead Guy

My second beer. There were no other oatmeal beers - at least none that the waitress could think of off the top of her head (and I didn't see anything in the Beer Bible - so I tried this at random. I also partly picked it since I had tried a beer called Dead Elephant at Pub Italia last summer, and it amused me (in a horribly morbid way) that there was another Dead Something beer (by a completely different brewery). I quite liked it. Jess did not have a strong reaction any which way. Jon said it was lovely, in that way that it's the beer you want once you've been married and then divorced, and you just want to settle down with someone nice, with no more drama ever again. I don't have a problem with that. I do suspect that part of the reason why I liked the Dead Guy so much** is because it did, in fact, immediately follow the traumatizing experience that was the Cochonnette.

Palm Speciale

A nice Belgian beer, which Jess ordered. For her, it's not the beer you stay with forever, but the one you have a fun fling with, and then wish each other super-well, actually meaning it, and move on. Jon is not so enamoured: for him, it's the beer that if he had common sense, he'd date, but since he doesn't, he won't, even though he probably should. It's not that he can't have a beer like that, but rather, that he can't seem to want a beer like that. I have no such qualms: It's nice, simple, clean, and no drama. Sometimes that's all you want in a beer. OK, maybe I'm still suffering trauma from the Cochonnette. *sigh*

Old Speckled Hen

Jon's third beer. Having gotten over the train wreck that was Julie Meets the Cochonnette, I am coming out of my dating shell once again and getting bold. I'd go out with this beer once or twice. We'd have a fine first date, and I'd probably agree to a second. But I'm not sure there's much more for me there. It's fine, and will do in a pinch, but I want more than just comfort. Jon, on the other hand, is more generous. While all 3 of us agree that it's not quite what we want in a long-term beer, Jon says that if this beer made a lot of money, he'd be willing to let it be his sugar daddy. I'm not sure that's a ringing endorsement, but there you have it.

Lasko Zlatorog

Jon's fourth beer. Yes, there's an animal - a goat - "long live the goat". It's the first beer you date. You later see it at parties of at least 30 people, where it's easy enough to tell it that it looks great, but you can then move on without getting trapped into a lengthy tête-à-tête. It's the beer of the insincere smile. It's the beer you go on your first date; you know, the one when your mom drives the two of you to the movie theatre and then picks you up again after a couple of hours. Jess says that any later than mid-teens, and she would not even give this beer her phone number. Jon says he'll take offensive over boring anyday. I am already halfway in the tank by this point (I was really tired!), and even I just want to leave this beer and go home alone.


I didn't take notes in situ, but I will tell you soon about the night I drank 12, yes twelve, different beers.

* Pure hyperbole: I don't hate anyone, really, and I certainly don't have any least, none that I know of.
** OK, when I put it that way, that just sounds wrong. Definitely have no interest in necrophilia. Blech.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beyond the Horizon...

So after years and years and years of being a member, I have tentatively taken a step into The Great Beyond, and joined a Flickr group. Flickr Friday posts a new challenge every Friday, then you have all weekend to take a picture encapsulating that week's theme.

Last week's theme was "Beyond the Horizon". I took a picture on Friday but only added it (and myself!) to the group today.

Snow field

This was my view, for one last day, from my office high above the Carleton campus (11th floor of Dunton Tower), looking across the Canal and the Experimental Farm, near the Hartwell Locks. On Monday, we moved back to the library. It's a nice, new space, following extensive renovations, but alas - only second floor, and no windows for me.

Can't promise that I will always participate in Flickr Friday, but it was fun this time around, and I look forward to seeing future themes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Of Beer and Men

Of Beer and Men

Last year, I made only one New Year's resolution. It was a good one, and I managed to keep it all year. I enjoyed the execution of that resolution so much, in fact, that I made it again this year (plus a few others).

I resolved to drink as many new and different types of beer as possible.

Those who know me well (and, OK, even those who know me not so well) know I like beer. I'm not a heavy drinker, but I do like a good beer.

Last year, not entirely coincidentally, I also started frequenting Pub Italia, an Italian-restaurant-meets-Irish-pub just down the street from where I live. Truth be told, its food selection is mostly mediocre, but you don't go there for the food - you go for the Beer Bible.

Usually when I go, it is with my friends Jon and Jess. Jon is a beer nut - he wholeheartedly endorsed my 2012 resolution as well as my decision to trudge it out again for 2013. He has, however, no pretension to be classy about beer. Every night at Pub Italia with Jon is an adventure. He decides on a "theme" - beers in great bottles, beers with the most vowels in the name, beers that start with P, etc. One of the more memorable evenings was the night he kept challenging the waitress to bring him the most awful beers she could think of - we had some terrible ones that night, but one or two were decent.

I am not as dedicated to the cause of beer as Jon is, and as I'm usually only having two beer in the evening (and only rarely a third), I want them to count. Jess is the same way. So we don't always go all-out and join Jon in his theme, though we do of course engage in much aiding and abetting.

Sometime this past summer, we came up with a great rating system. Forget beers that have "notes of oak that last with you like a lingering summer breeze", forget a standard ranking from 1-10. Our rating system is visceral. You just GET it. We rate beers like relationships. The Kronenburg White with Frulli on top? It was like that time in college when you decided to experiment with, ahh, alternate relationships. Titillating at first, but ultimately not your thing. There was a beer that tasted like smoky bacon (I forget its name, unfortunately), that was like that guy you just couldn't shake out of your mind - the bad relationship guy where you knew it wasn't going to last; he was going to run off with that redhead in the end; but you just had to keep going back for a little more each time. You knew you shouldn't like him, but you couldn't help it. And the beer that is the gold standard, the one that is so good, the one you want to be still waking up next to when you are 80. For me, that beer is Innis & Gunn. There might be more exciting beers, more refreshing beers, more beers that have more punch or zing or zip, but in the end, I'll come back to my Innis & Gunn. Bliss.

The problem last year is that I drank a lot of new beers, but didn't keep track. So I decided 2013 would be different. 2013 would be the Year of Beer Documentation. We'll see. I'm not as good at keeping resolutions that involve some kind of regular, recurring action [see: blogging]. But I'll try.

A couple of weeks ago, Jon, Jess, and I went to Pub Italia, and I took notes. Yes, I am just that nerdy. But now, you get to read them!

Yellow Snow IPA from Rogue Ales
Described to me by the waitress as "citrusy with a bitter finish". I was in a weird mood, so anything with bitterness at the end struck me as being very à propos. This beer was kind of like the guy you date for a month or two - you want to like him more than you do, and you wish he liked you more than he obviously does. So you keep agreeing to another date for no good reason, even though you know there are better beers out there. (Full disclosure: I may have been projecting a prior failed why-did-I-bother relationship onto this beer.)

One of Jess's beers. Comes in a cute bottle (a stubby). There's a rebus puzzle in the cap. But as Jess said, the beer itself is the one referred to in those generic Canadian beer commercials, where the guy says, "If you wanted to drink a lake, you'd drink from a lake. Get yourself a real beer." The package is pleasing, but the product is boring, dull. This one lives in Barrhaven.

Hawaiian Pale Ale from Spearhead Brewery
Jon's first beer. (Challenge: beers with lots of letters. In the menu, this was listed as an Indian Pale Ale, so there are 2 more i's and one more a for you.) Starts out great and makes you go, "Wow," but fizzles off into empty feelings soon enough. A good time, but not The One. Which is sometimes all you ask from a beer.

2XIPA from Southern Tier
Jon's second beer. This one was the friend who ends up at the bottom of your favourites list. He's a nice enough guy, but nothing more there. You'll call him if you're having a big party and inviting everyone else; otherwise, you probably won't bother. Sorry, Double IPA.

Hacker-Pschorr Weisse
Jess' second beer. It was really very good, but in the end, not the beer for me. It was, as Jess said, the beer you don't want for yourself, but you want to set up with someone awesome.

Westmalle Abbey Tripel
My second beer, a Belgian Trappist beer. Not for the faint of heart. A sophisticated beer. Jon instantly thought that it could very well be the beer for him. I was not convinced. But then, later, I realized the beer had a hidden sweet note, and it was growing on me. Will definitely revisit this one (all - eep! - $15 and 9.5% of it).

Wellington's Iron Duke
Jon's third beer. I've had this many times before. I think it's good and deserves a good go at seeing if a relationship could work out, but not for me in the end. Would I set it up with a good friend? Sure! Jon and Jess think, on the other hand, that I need to give it more of a chance - that it could be one of those beers that start out weak but end up developing into an amazing relationship, as it has a lot of subtle flavour that creeps up on you.

There have been other beers in the last couple of weeks. I went, for example, on a tour of the Kichesippi Brewery which is just off Carling Avenue in Westboro. I love Kichesippi beer as a good, honest, friendly beer that never disappoints. Sad to see their seasonal Logger go - pictured above is the last growler I enjoyed - intrigued by the replacement seasonal Wujack (sp?) Black IPA. Richard is not crazy about the IPA; he finds the aftertaste too strong. I know what he means, but I find it oddly compelling.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

New Year, New Roomie

I have a house guest! New Year, New Roomie He arrived yesterday and is staying for another 9 days. So far he has proven himself to be handy with catching runaway toys (even those that don't belong to him), warming me up on the couch, and sleeping solidly. He also likes going for walks along the beach or elsewhere, and is bemused by the vast quantities of snow in my backyard, previously unsullied by any other canine paws. He's not much of a cook, and isn't the best at cleaning up after himself, but otherwise, he's a perfectly decent roomie.

Monday, October 08, 2012

musings on life and death

musings on life and death

unlike these moths that could not stay out of the candles,
the blog is not dead

but it's not quite alive these days either

i'm considering my options, and a reboot may be in order; i'm just not sure yet what form it should or will take

but hey, in the meantime, i've uploaded a bunch of photos to flickr from the past year; you should take a look