Friday, August 22, 2014

Lizard breath

Please take me home
Laval, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Shoot strangers from afar. Here.
Because no one ever said the theme was limited to humans.
It's been a rough week, so I wanted to drop a randomly crazy picture on the blog to give everyone a moment to disconnect from the heaviness of the world and to just smile.

We stopped at this pet store after a day spent wandering the city. It was just me, Dahlia and Noah, and it had been an epic day of hanging around strange-looking animals and enjoying life away from responsibility or schedule. Note to self: Do this more often. Because they seem to dig it. So do I.

This iguana almost seemed to be posing for us. And since we seem to have a habit of crossing iguanas' paths wherever we go - here's some evidence - it was a no-brainer to capture this particular lizard as it (I can never determine lizard gender) seemingly posed for us.

Thankfully the staff at the store didn't seem to mind the middle-of-the-aisle photo shoot.

Your turn: What shall we name him? Her? Whatever...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More stroke stuff...

It's been an interesting week around here, mostly driven by my decision earlier this month to write about the stroke that I had last year. Hit this link if you're just joining us. Then this one for the part 2 (which I guess makes this entry #3 in a series. Funny how that works. But I digress.)

I've received a ton of outreach from folks near and far, and it's been happily overwhelming to realize just how much goodness there is out there. It's often said you realize how great people are when the chips are down, and this is one of those moments: I'm amazed at how kind everyone has been.

At the same time, I've received a lot of attention from folks in media. I'm sure part of it revolves around the fact that many of them know me, and there's a certain appeal to the-tech-guy-had-a-stroke angle. I'm perfectly cool with that, because one of my goals in raising the volume was to help generate awareness, and give folks an opportunity to look at their own lives and perhaps lead them more purposefully.

For example, my friend Dan Brown wrote an article about me, Stroke survivor shares his story, that published in the August 20 London Free Press. Here's the link to the PDF.

I spoke with Susan McReynolds on CBC Ontario Morning on Aug. 21. She is an incredible interviewer, and she very gently, very deftly walked through the experience with me. Here's a link to the audio file of that interview. - or just click the embedded play button below. It's always a privilege to work with the CBC Ontario Morning team, but this was extra-special.

John Moore interviewed me on his show, Moore in the Morning, on NewsTalk 1010 Toronto on Friday (Aug 22) morning. Here's a link to the audio file, and the embedded player is just below. I often speak with John and his team about the big tech topics of the day, so it was a fascinating change of direction to talk about this.

Barry Morgan and I opened our weekly tech segment on CJAD 800 Montreal on Aug. 22 with a bit of a segue into my little adventure. Stay tuned to the end, as well, as a listener shared an incredibly moving - and sobering - experience. Here's a link to the audio file. Here's a link to the stream on CJAD's SoundCloud account. Or just click on the embedded element here:

I spoke with NewsTalk 1010's Adrienne Batra on August 8:

And CHED 630 Edmonton's Dan Tencer on August 11:

Related blog entries:
- When even "thank you" seems lame
- More stroke stuff...


Next up:

I'll be sharing my experience with CJOB Winnipeg's Dahlia Kurtz on Tuesday, August 26th at 3:30 p.m. ET. There may be more as plans continue to unfold. I'll update the blog accordingly, and will upload audio files as they become available.

Thank you, everyone. More to come - just writing that makes me smile, because I'm still here. It's a small thing, really, but the more I think about it, the more I realize nothing is small anymore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Luckiest. Cop. Ever.

The Department of Player Protection
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Shooting strangers from afar. Here.
I was tempted to ask him what lucky star he was born under to merit such a plumb assignment. Some beat cops spend their shifts rooting out drug dealers from the middle of urban ruins. Others sit in stale old Buicks sipping cold coffee and waiting for johns to appear on a nearby street corner.

And this guy gets to watch the Jays play. From field level.

As it was, I was a little too far away from him to have a conversation. So this geometrically bizarro view will have to do.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the worth of writing

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
Benjamin Franklin
Wise words. Please excuse me while I spend some up-close and personal time with my keyboard.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thematic Photographic 306 - Shooting strangers from afar

Where do we go next?
New York, NY
July 2014
We're going to try something a little different with this week's Thematic theme, shooting strangers from afar. Essentially, we're going to go outside our comfort zone and capture folks who we don't know. A long lens helps, but it isn't absolutely essential (here's another example of an even more distant longshot.) If they're out in public and worthy of a picture, feel free to roll the dice and see what you can come up with.

Yes, it's a little edgier than the usual theme. And I'm sure I risk the wrath of those who insist on never shooting identifiable pictures of folks they encounter while walking a city street. But the more I think about it, the more I realize public spaces are just that, public. And to not include the people who fill it, in any capacity, feels like a lost opportunity.

So here's our opportunity. Who's in?

Your turn: Take a picture of a stranger or strangers - safely and unobtrusively, of course. Post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here to let folks know where to find it. Visit other participants through the week, and feel free to post again throughout the week - serial participation is not only allowed, but it's encouraged. Thematic Photographic is all about expanding our photographic horizons and learning from others. Here's more background on how it works. Thanks gang!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

30 years, in a blink.

Laval, QC
August 2014
Time has a funny habit of slipping away from us when we're busy focusing on everything else. How do I know? Thirty years ago tonight, a very pretty girl became my girlfriend.

Normally these things aren't worth remembering, but this particular very pretty girl stuck around and eventually became my wife. And my, am I glad she did.

I often find myself staring at her, just as I did then. I still pinch myself that someone like her would want to stick with someone like me. I still get that strange fluttering in my stomach when I think about her. You'd think that 30 years would take the edge off of what makes it - her, us - special. You'd think wrong.

She was my friend before she was my girlfriend, and before we started dating we would often spend long evenings just talking on her front porch. She's been my best friend ever since, someone I can still talk to for hours and never run out of things to share. Our kids are just like her, too. Engaging, empathetic, curious, kind. It still amazes me that we made them, still makes me thankful that fate ensured our paths would cross, and stay crossed.

I could listen to her voice forever, and I'm guessing the reason that 30 years seems more like 30 seconds is because she's made the journey such a joy. Neither one of us is perfect, and I'm pretty sure I'm far less perfect than she is. Yet we seem to have been gifted with a pretty charmed life despite the usual challenges that have been thrown our way. Putting our heads together and figuring it all out has always been central to who we are, and I can't imagine what life would have been like had she not found me.

I want a lot more than another 30 years, but I also realize the universe grants no guarantees to anyone. Just over a year ago, I learned first-hand how easily all of this can be snatched away. I'm here because of her. So tomorrow, I'll wake up and stare a little, and I'll be thankful that I've been given another day with someone who makes my tummy flutter as much today as she did then.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I'm almost home

We have liftoff
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Look straight down. Here.
My favorite part of any work-related trip is the trip home. Sure, I love seeing new places and enjoying the frenetic pace of life in a city I wouldn't otherwise get to see. The kind of brief trips that I take for work are perfect for sucking up as much of the experience as I possibly can, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity. Indeed, this most recent trip, to New York, was particularly epic (I wrote about it for Yahoo Canada here and here), and I'll upload more perspectives from the trip to the blog in the weeks to come.

Still, nothing tops coming home. And that last leg is always the one I treasure most, because I know who's waiting for me at the other end. So as my plane lifted off from Toronto and took to the sky for the quick final hop to London, I grabbed a few pics to remember what it felt like.

Your turn: What is it about coming home that appeals most to you?

Friday, August 15, 2014

On clarity

"Anything that can be said can be said clearly."
Ludwig Wittgenstein
I grew up surrounded by folks who wrote with a thesaurus on one side of the desk and a dictionary on the other. They loved big words, especially if they were strung into ponderous phrases that slowed readers down if they reached for their own thesauruses - thesauri? - to deconstruct the wordy ball of twine.

The same kind of thinking peppered their conversation, as well. They'd crack open a sanctimonious little smirk when they knew you couldn't follow along.

It was a literary pissing contest of sorts, a never-ending exercise where folks tried to prove how smart they looked by tossing in every chunky word they could dredge up.

I guess I was just too much of a simpleton to keep pace. Because to me, great writing was spare and clean. It didn't draw attention to itself. Instead, it faded into the background and allowed the core message to easily float into the reader's imagination. It wasn't about proving how brilliant I was. It was - and still is - about telling a story in an easy-to-digest manner.

I came across an old thesaurus in a dusty corner of my office last night, and as much as a writer should have the trappings of writing in plain view, I left it where I found it, confident that I'd somehow get by without its pompous assistance. Likewise, the thesaurus feature in Word will remain the most underused bit of code on my Mac. I can choose my own words, thank you, and I'd rather not force anyone around me to reach for their own thesauruses.

I guess I'm just not smart enough to know any other way.

Your turn: How do you define simplicity?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eat your breakfast every day

Shapes on a table
Laval, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Look straight down. Here.
There's a moment before every meal when I stare down at the table and ask myself if the scene needs to be remembered. Yes, we're supposed to eat three square meals per day and, yes, over the course of a lifetime that probably adds up to to a lot of potential photographic moments. Indeed, it's enough that pics like the one you see here aren't all that special anymore, because we can shoot them anytime, anywhere.

But this particular pic was taken on a particular morning in a particular place that my kids had been talking about for a while. It's just a breakfast place, a simple restaurant, really, a spot we've been taking them to since they were kids. It's called Allo Mon Coco, and whenever we make the long drive back to our hometown to visit family, it's high on their must-visit list.

So when I stood up and pointed my lens down at this decidedly geometric meal, I wasn't just capturing the sight of an apple crepe and coffee. I was trying to remember why this place was, and is, special to our kids, and what that experience felt like. Because sometimes I like to scroll through other mealtime entries here on my blog - exhibits A and B - because they take me back, like little time machines, to places, people and times that would otherwise vanish to history.

Looking at it that way, maybe I'm not taking anywhere near enough mealtime pics. What thinketh you?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On keeping the blinders on

"The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook."
William James
Inclusion. Exclusion. Aggregation. Not boiling the ocean. Makes sense to me.

One sleepy puppy

Wherever there's space...
London, ON
August 2014

Thematic looks straight down this week. You're invited, to do the same. Here.
‎I'm not sure why Frasier sleeps on the hard floor instead of on his comfy pillow right next to him. But if I understood the logic of dogs, I'm pretty sure I'd be writing about something other than technology.

I may not know what drives this little guy. But it's clear he's happy right where he is, and that's more than good enough for me. Sleep tight, sweet pup.

Your turn: What's your favorite place to sleep?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Robin Williams & being alone

"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone."
Robin Williams
These words haunt me today, because I can't help but wonder about how alone he must have felt in the moments leading up to his decision to end his life. I wonder whether he might have changed his mind if he could see the outpouring of reaction to his passing. I wonder if things would have been different had we all been somewhat more evolved in our understanding of depression and other forms of mental illness. Somewhat more darkly, I wonder who he might have been talking about, and whether their actions, intentional or not, pushed him even further down the rabbit hole.

I wonder...I don't even know what I wonder, but I do know whatever we're doing, as individuals, as a society, to better understand depression and other forms of mental illness isn't remotely enough. And every time I think that we're there - like Olympic hero Clara Hughes riding across Canada to raise awareness - I realize we're nowhere near there at all.

The sad truth of life in 2014 is we continue to stigmatize those who suffer from mental illness. Look no further than the headlines. They say Mr. Williams killed himself. They don't say he suffered from addiction and mental illness. They don't say he was sick, a victim. They don't talk about his struggle, or what it must have been like to try to maintain career, family, facade to the outside world while knowing full well what was consuming him from the inside.

No one ever really knows. Because society still expects victims to suck it up, to just get over it. Because those who suffer remain fearful of the consequences of going public. Asking for help just isn't compatible with our increasingly Type A society, where people hold onto miserable jobs because they fear the alternative, then search for years in the hope that no one will learn their terrible secret. Where we often assume the worst in someone before we take the time, if we take the time, to learn what truly drives them. Where we wear cancer survivor as a badge of courage but depression sufferer as an admission of failure. Where self-identifying as such would be the Digital Era's equivalent of a scarlet letter (seriously, put that on your Twitter profile and see if your phone continues to ring.) Where no one would ever admit to singling out a known sufferer and selecting them out of a job or an opportunity, but we all know we would do exactly that, ashamedly, if we were in that position.

Because risk aversion, and the mindset of those who sit at the top of the corporate heap and make the rules for the rest of us, ensure we'd never willingly go with someone who admits to such a fundamental weakness. Lest we ourselves get punished for making a supposedly sub-optimal choice. So the suffering continues in silence. Until it doesn't. Until this happens.

I grew up in a house where folks who sought help were looked down upon, where "going to a shrink" was something so-called "normal" people just didn't do. It wasn't so much what was said, but how. The tone said it all. And I learned the power - and the peril - of silence in avoiding confrontation.

Except silence gives those who suffer no way out. That feeling of being alone? We can do better. We need to do better. Or we'll keep losing those who still matter.

As tragic as this loss is, it's the countless other non-stars who suffer in their own form of silence who scare me infinitely more. This touches us all, and that is as true if we choose to accept it as it is if we continue to ignore reality. Maybe the loss of a comedic legend will be the catalyst we need to stop paying lip service to the concept of awareness. Maybe we're finally ready to see it for what it is: Illness. And no one should ever feel ashamed for stepping out of the shadows and telling those around them what's going on. Ashamed for asking for help.

Yet, we still are ashamed. To ask for help, and to provide it. And I fear for the countless others we'll lose before we finally figure it out.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams dead at 63

News just in that Robin Williams has died at the age of 63. Preliminary reports suggest it was a suicide.

How incredibly sad, and what a monumental loss.

Maybe that's why the universe seems a little dimmer tonight.

Thematic Photographic 305 - Look straight down

Geometry below my feet
Laval, QC
August 2014
One of the small side effects of my medical misadventure last year - see here if you're just catching up - is I get a little dizzy if I'm not careful. It isn't remotely debilitating, and is certainly nowhere near the kind of vertigo that might stop other folks in their tracks. I think of it as a subtle message from my body that I need to slow things down for a few seconds.

It tends to happen when I'm either looking straight up or straight down (I can hear you now, "So, dummy Carmi, just don't look up or down!") Yes, I should do just that. But I really like to shoot pictures in all directions, and my journalist/photographer/endless-curiosity gene compels me to keep looking in all directions of the imaginary sphere that surrounds us all. I'll just have to deal with the minor consequences, I guess. Call it another adjustment to the new reality of a slightly altered life.

This picture is the scene 12 storeys below my father-in-law's balcony.The angles called to me, so I carefully braced myself six ways from Sunday and pointed my lens toward the center of the planet. I'm glad I did. I'm glad I still can.

Your turn: Point your lens downward at whatever tickles your vertical fancy. Post the look straight down-themed shot to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Remember, HOW you choose to interpret it is entirely up to you - there are no rights or wrongs here. The goal is purely creative and artistic. Visit other folks to share the fun, and please know you're welcome to share as many pics through the week as you wish. New participants are always welcome, too. For more info on how this Thematic thing works, head here. Otherwise, I can't wait to see what lurks under your nose. Happy shooting!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

All by myself

Where did everyone go?
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Please be seated. Here.
I like taking pictures that illustrate different ways of looking at the same thing. The launch photo of this week's Thematic theme, please be seated, is an overhead view of a crowded section of Toronto's Rogers Centre. It's as vibrant and chaotic a scene as you would expect when the hometown Blue Jays are playing and you point your lens to the middle of the action.

This scene, from a rather forlorn corner of the same stadium on the same day, paints a very different picture. I'm not sure why this guy decided to sit all alone, but I can understand why someone would choose to get a little distance from the craziness. Baseball, after all, is a game that often demands to be appreciated in studied silence. And the world is a neater place with folks who appreciate both sides of the in-stadium experience.

Something tells me this applies well beyond baseball. I'll have to mull that one over for a bit.

Your turn: What's he thinking?