Geoffrey Dow's blog

February 2012

So a man walks into the office ...

February 9, 2012, OTTAWA — I got to the office early yesterday, because I thought I might need to spend some time debriefing the boss on the Great Big Gaping Hole now grinning from the rear left door of one of his vehicles — the one I had been driving the day before.

I'd parked my bike at the lot, picked up the van that was waiting for me and shucked my leather jacket in hopes of cooling down a bit before I had to greet my passengers. (Wednesday was not nearly as cold as I expected, so I'd worn a much heavier sweater than I ought to have. I digress.)

I fired up the van, confirmed it was fully fuelled and that I had a spare bottle of washer fluid; tuned the radio to CBC in both Ottawa and Montreal and adjusted my mirrors; set the beast in gear and headed on in, secure in my knowledge that I was without blame, but still, just a little insecure about what the boss was going to say about his mangled vehicle.

The SUV was still where I had left it on Tuesday, the guts of the rear door exposed the world, like bones and tendons stripped of skin. I couldn't help taking another look, rubber-necking at my own misfortune.

It being afternoon, the office was a little cramped. The number one and number two guys were at their desks, the day-time dispatcher — let's call him Normand — was at his, and a couple of my fellow drivers were hanging around.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen," I called out as I slipped through the swinging gate.

Normand looked over at me, smirking. "Hey, Geoff," he said with obvious delight. "You're supposed to bring the whole vehicle back with you, not just part of it!"

"Hey man! It's in the back!" I said, referring to a dinner-plate sized scrap of metal that had once been part of the vehicle's door.

I took a look at Ahmed, my boss, and was pleased to see he was smiling, but was distracted when Charley, an older driver, asked me, "Geoff, do you live in North Gower?"

"Uh, no," I said, "No, I live in the Glebe. Why?"

"Oh," he said, deadpan. "I thought I saw your sweater in the garbage."

"My sweater!" I thought wildly for an appropriate response, but was too taken aback by the non-sequiteur insult to do anything but sputter while the office rocked with laughter.

Grinning, I shook my head and approached the boss' desk to explain just what had happened.

So what did happen? Click here for Dump Truck Horror on Autoroute 40!


Young Geoffrey now pushing 50

February 6, 2012, OTTAWA — Thanks to those of you who wished me a happy anniversary of birth — it was.

The whole week was a good one, the highlights including an outing in Gatineau Park on snowshoes (I am the bigfoot-like creature in the photo at left), finally getting out onto the canal and dining Sri Lankan style.

And also, a Mysterious Ottawa Valley Apparition, caught on camera by the one and only Phantom Photographer, who was able to attend this year's Winterlude opening ceremony, while I laboured on this week's edition of True North Perspective.

Cut to spare those uninterested in my personal blatherings. If you want them, or the striking photo of the Ottawa Valley's no-longer mythical Dance of the Winter Turkeys/Danse des dindes d'hiver come to spectral life, click here.

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Of snowshoes, skates and giant dancing turkeys

So I think 47 is gonna be a good year ...

Especially if she and I see it in together

Honestly, there's not a hell of a lot to tell; my birthday was celebrated with skating and food (and some writing — I didn't quite make my quota Saturday morning —) with Raven. No splashy parties, no drunken shenaniggans.

It was also a day filled with sappy joy. Nearly two years since I draped my arm across that shoulder, and I have no regrets.

Anyway ...

It's been a shitty winter for those of us who like our winters deep and crisp and even, not dank and wet and foggy.

The the Rideau canal is finally open and off we set on Saturday afternoon for our inaugural skate.

Turned out the day after the opening of Winterlude — a Saturday, no less — doesn't leave a lot of room on the ice for a newbie, but we managed.

The ice was pretty bad, pitted and rutted, but skate we did. Raven (somewhat to her surprise) found that her body remembered quite a lot more of last year's lessons than she had expected, yet she ignored my suggestions she fly solo for close to an hour. Then she surprised me (I'd given up for the time being), by suddenly saying, "Stay close!" and dropping my hand.

And ladies and gentlemen: she soloed! A bit penguin-like in her gait, but a skater nevertheless!

(For a woman who would rather take the bus than walk, this week was actually quite a physical one for Our Raven. On Thursday, we found ourselves in Gatineau Park, for a snow-shoeing expedition, our second, in fact. And there too she surprised me by daring to leave the beaten trail in favour of gamboling through virgin snow and sliding down treacherous cliffs, getting quite soaked in the process. But I digress — and I don't imagine that even the most indulgent of you will put up with much more of this.)

Our skate completed, we returned home, got into dryer clothes, then headed out once more into the night, this time to feast upon food Sri Lankan — spicy, spicy, spicy (and delicious). If you're in Ottawa and have a hankering for pretty damned good curry, Ceylonta is quite lovely.

As for what happened upon our return home, some things must remain unsaid.

Happy winterlude, folks!

A fowl start to winterlude ...

In keeping with long-standing Ottawa Valley traditions, Ottawa's Winterlude opened Friday evening with the spectacular Dance of the Winter Turkeys/Danse des dindes d'hiver, animated in fireworks on the Alexandra Bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau. (Photo courtesy of the Phantom Photographer.)

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January 2012

Well of good intentions slakes no thirst

Cover to Well of Sorrows, by Benjamin Tate

January 12, 2012, OTTAWA — I hate coming down hard on books by relatively unknown writers; given my 'druthers, I'd much prefer to pass over them in silence. At the same time, if a writer goes to the trouble of sending me a review copy (even an electronic copy), it seems disrespectful to ignore it.

So I've struggled with this review, and not only because I have been "friends" with the author (or rather, with his pseudonym) on Livejournal for a while, but because it became clear in the reading that Benjamin Tate's heart is very much in the right place.

Well of Sorrows tries hard to play with, and even to reverse, many of epic fantasy's tired tropes. The protagonist is more peace-maker than warrior, and in plays of scenes of glorious battle we are given the blood and the shit and the brutality of hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately, good intentions alone don't make for good art. Well of Sorrows suffers from shallow characterization, structural confusion and world-building that is not remotely convincing. Click here for my full review (hardly any spoilers).


Blistering Barnacles! The Adventures of Tintin reviewed!

January 6, 2012, OTTAWA — Remind me, please, if ever I get the urge to spend good money on a "major motion picture" from out Hollywood way, that I shouldn't get my hopes up too high.

My girlfriend and I decided to ring in the new year by doing something we've never done in the nearly two years since we became Involved. You guessed it, we decided to go out to the movies, that time-honoured North American tradition.

For quite different reasons, we both had an urge to see Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, and so we set out this past Tuesday night, one of the coldest of the winter thus far.

I don't think I'm committing any spoilers in saying that we were both disappointed. Not an awful movie, but not a good movie, either. It looked good, had a few laughs, but if you are among those who want some story to go along with the eye-candy, you'd be out of luck. Billions of billious blue blistering fight scenes! Click here for my full review!


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November - December 2011

Closing the curtain on 2011


(Ottawa, Canada, December 25, 2011.
Photo courtesy of the Phantom Photographer.)


(So much for) The War on Christmas

December 27, 2011, OTTAWA — As most of you know, there is in the air at this time of year, a recurring noise about a "war on Christmas". Out of the blue, otherwise intelligent and reasonable people are trade angry anecdotes about how they are tired of "giving in" to "political correctness" by being forced to say "happy holidays" or "seasons' greetings" instead of "merry Christmas".

Click here for more Christmas cheer!


Catching up

December 6, 2011, OTTAWA — Seems like only yesterday I was making an ass of myself by forgetting how to Bcc people, but it was in fact actually about a month and a half ago.

Despite the appearances here, I have been keeping busy, beavering away on a long-form writing project, getting myself back into the paid work-force as a driver, doing a lot of cycling to the Ottawa International Airport, experimenting with a technology a bit more recent than a velocipede, and taking note of some lunatic developments in urban "design".

I've also been doing some reading and expect to have a couple of book reviews posted here shortly.

Meanwhile ...

Danger! Urban renewal ahead!

City life is full of familiar risks. Traffic, pollution, crime, unfortunate fashion decisions.

But there are other dangers, too, stationary hazards that lurk right out in the open, waiting for the unwary, the distracted.

In recent years, Ottawa (and many other cities in the ostensibly advanced first world) is in the midst of a lunatic experiment in Ergonomic Selection. I speak of course, of the boxy behemoths which have replaced the old-fashioned, coin-only parking meters.

The new meters take coins, bills and any number of varieties of plastic.

And if they haven't yet, they will also soon take lives.

Don't believe me? Find out why the new parking meters are an ambulance-chaser's best friend!

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Farewell to the Gutenberg era

I've taken the plunge and purchased not one, but two, e-readers. (In succession, one replacing another.)

And I fear I may never again purchase a book make of paper and ink.

¡Viva la Revolución!

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Slouching towards the Singularity?

Speaking of technology, it seems I'm a little slow on the uptake, because I have only just now realized that, well, I do think about the applications of science with which we surround ourselves and on which we depend.

So, a new section, ever-so-imaginatively entitled, "Technology". The name will likely change at some point in the nebulous future, but for now my experience as an e-reader reader has convinced me I'll be talking more about the machines in our lives.

The intro page is here, though it is little more than a holding page at the moment. But if you're interested, click away.

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That's it for now. Coming soon, a review of Steven Pinker's provocative new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, which claims we live in the best of all historical (if not of all possible) worlds, of Benjamin Tate's unusual epic fantasy, Well of Sorrow and, sooner than later I hope, of Von Allan's sequel to Stargazer.

So check back soon or, better still, subscribe to my newsletter and let me keep you up-to-date!


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Mea culpa! Mea culpa

Mea culpa

(My) dreams must do explain themselves


Sigmund Freud
Siggy says: "Clearly your dream iz a rezult uv zexual represhion".

Sigmund Freud would hate me.

As some of you may know (I have not yet dared to check my email this morning, so I'm not sure), I made a hideously embarrassing amateur's mistake last night: putting a (very long) list of addresses into an email's "To" field, rather than the "BCc" field.

To make matters worse, said email was an invitation to join the Edifice Rex mailing list. And so it was that my fantasies of waking up to an inbox replete with subscription notifications instead became nightmares of rising to face the wrath of some 95 outraged voices demanding to know just how stupid yours truly really is.

I said "nightmares", but even my sub-conscious knows it wasn't that big a deal. Anxiety dreams is what I had last night, not 'nightmares'. That is, I dreamt a lot last night, and every dream I remember had to do with opening my email and dealing with the fall-out from my bone-headed move last night.

No sublimation for Young Geoffrey, that's for sure! No symbolism or imaginative metaphors, just prosaic variations on how folks might react to having their email address 'shared' with 94 strangers.

Anyway, that was then, this is now. I suppose I can take some comfort in the fact my shame has got nothing on what Rob Ford should be feeling right about now.

I know. Cheap shots R us.

In other news, and to add insult to self-inflicted injury, my Wikipedia fame was short-lived. My citation has been removed and (horrors!) the review in question dismissed as "amateurish".

Heaven forfend! And if you're new to these pages, welcome aboard. And sorry for screwing up the invitation.

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