Saturday, January 31, 2015

Take me out to the ballgame

Levys in the stands
Toronto, ON
July 2014
For more Thematic childhood memories, head here
One fine day last July, we decided to take the kids to see the Blue Jays play. Since we live in London and the Jays play in Toronto, it made for a grand adventure of a day for all of us.

Thankfully, the good guys won. And thankfully it was a packed house that day, which made it even more of a crazy experience for them.

I remember moments like this from when I was a kid. And I'm hoping they carry days like this with them as they continue their own relentless and entirely-too-fast march toward adulthood.

Your turn: Are you a fan? Of whom? And why?

On hanging out with the right people

"Stop running to those who ignore you and start running to those who adore you."
Joseph Simmons

Makes sense to me. Life's short enough as it is, so may as well spend it with those who are worth your time.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Show me the way home

‎I've evolved a bit of a strange habit: whenever we're driving somewhere far away: I like to take a photo of the nav unit whenever we've parked. I'll grab reference shots before we hit the road, and then at each rest stop until we reach our destination.

It's partly driven by my inner data geek, as every picture is precisely time-stamped and, assuming I turn the geolocation feature on, location-aware, as well. The numbers can paint a fascinating picture of a long drive that would otherwise be lost to time.

The pictures themselves are rather repetitive and uninteresting, a seemingly never-ending stack of pictures of my GPS unit (her name is Lucille, by the way), the dashboard, and a gauzy view of some forgettable place outside the window.

Still, I find these pictures fascinating because they take me right back to a particular time and place, and they allow my mind to linger there for a bit, the perfect mini-break from the chaos of the here and now.

This one's one of my faves. We were on our way home on the I-75 earlier this month, and had just crossed from Florida into Georgia. We pulled into the welcome centre to stretch our legs, and happened to pull into a spot beside another vehicle from Ontario. The owners dutifully wandered back and forth with their dog - so cute - and I quietly commended them for having the courage to drive thousands of kilometres with a dog in the vehicle. As Debbie and the kids went inside, I spotted the license plate surround on their Chevy Traverse: they were from London, too.

I said nothing because it just seemed weird to walk up to complete strangers and spring the hey-we're-also-from-London line on them. I'm an introvert at heart, and it made more sense to tuck the moment away in the back of my mind.

As I lined up the requisite GPS/reference shot with my smartphone, I failed to notice the owner and his dog wandering into the frame. Fatigue: bad, apparently. Looking back at this shot now, I find it poignantly amusing that these wayward strangers-and-kindred-spirits‎ were somehow preserved in pixels, in a moment in time I hope they remember as fondly as I do.

Funny how one picture can spawn experiences like this, isn't it?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

She shoots...

Game on
By Dahlia Levy
September 2014
This is a sketch of our daughter, sketched by our daughter. A self-portrait, if you will.

Dahlia's got game, both on the soccer pitch, and when she's got a pencil in her hand. And I keep coming back to this particular work, because it reminds me of a moment in her young life when nothing else mattered but being out there on the field, giving her all.

I can't take credit for any of it, as I'm still struggling with stick figures. But when she grabs her notebook and settles in for some quiet-creative time, it's only a matter of time before the walls of our house get another candidate for another piece of her home-grown art.

Your turn: What should she draw next?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thematic Photographic 323 - Childhood memories

He shoots, he scores!
London, ON
January 2015

Allow me to apologize for letting Thematic Photographic slip a bit. Life has been hoovering up any available free time - including the quiet time when I'd normally be sleeping. So the blog, and by extension Thematic, has been a relatively abandoned place of late.

But as I toyed with my smartphone earlier today, it dawned on me how much I miss the creative process, and how much I enjoy shooting and writing not because I have a deadline or a need to keep the lights on. But because I enjoy it. There's something to be said for creating something for no other reason than fulfilling a lifelong need. There's something to be said for following those little voices in your head that say, "Do it."

Because if you don't, that moment gets lost to history.

The moment you see above, thankfully, did not. Some very kind souls decided to install this table hockey game in the back corner of the television studio at CTV London. It'll never appear on-camera, of course, but from this angle, it's easy to see how close to the desk it is. I find it comforting having it back there.

See, virtually every Canadian kid grew up with a table hockey game in the house. In mine, the Montreal Canadiens always played the hated Toronto Maple Leafs. And it always ticked me off that my older brother got to control the Habs players (okay, they were flat pieces of wood and plastic, but still.)

Never mind that every game eventually devolved into a chaotic fit of arguing and name-calling. And never mind that the game inevitably ended up stashed under dad's side of the bed as punishment for tarnishing our national game.

And yet, in the darkened corner of this time-honored studio, a quiet memory continues to beat. And an echo of my childhood reaches forward and grabs on.

Your turn: Got a pic that evoked a childhood memory? Whether you're just shooting it now or already have it in your archives, leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other Thematic participants to keep the fun going. Share additional pics through the week if you wish. Head here for more background on how Thematic Photographic works. And enjoy the moment. That's why we do this.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On being tough

‎"We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy."
Sir Winston Churchill, speaking to the Canadian House of Commons, December 30, 1941.

Sir Winston sure did have a way with words. And on this day, he was absolutely on the money. We're tougher than we look, and sometimes it's not a bad idea to remind ourselves of this.

Your turn: Can you define toughness?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Who wants to be carded?


 It's not often that I get new business cards, so I thought I'd share them here just in case I don't have a chance to give y'all one in person.

In our digital age, it's kind of funny that we still need actual paper-based business cards. And given what I do, I should probably be the last person on the planet to carry them.

But here's the thing: I like having them in my pocket. I like swapping them with real people when I meet them in‎-person. I like how they add a certain sense of gravity, warmth and connectedness to a conversation. I was like a kid in the candy store the day they came back from the printer last week, and that feeling remains just as strong today. Yes, I'm a strange individual.

I know that technology has had an answer to the business card for decades now. I've been beaming contact information back and forth since my Palm Pilot days, and by now it's no big deal to email a PDF of one of these things whenever I meet someone new.

But it's just not the same. With great apologies to the geeks among us, I believe that this is one of those cases where bits simply can't hold a candle to paper. And despite technology's hold on my very soul, I have no intention of giving these up anytime soon.

What say you?

Chatting with CNBC

I've been slacking in the what-I'm-up-to-in-medialand department, and admittedly part of the reason I haven't been sharing much here has been because I've been busy making the fun stuff happen out there.

But I didn't want to miss this one: I was interviewed by Linda Federico-O'Murchu for an article she wrote for CNBC. Here's the link to the piece online:

Why people pick Team Apple versus Team Android

Cool fact: I was quoted opposite Peter Shankman, who founded the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) service and has long been someone I admire.

The technologist in me has always enjoyed these little geeky holy wars that seem to underpin entire industries for years at a time. Once upon a time it was Apple vs. IBM. Then Apple vs. Microsoft. Now Apple/iOS vs. Google/Android. Wait, is there a pattern here? Either way, it all makes me wonder what the next great battle will be.

Oh, so what did I say? Here's my snippet:
Carmi Levy, vice president of marketing at multinational agency Voices.com, also said that user's attachment to the Apple brand transcends the mere device at hand.
"The average consumer doesn't want to know what's going on beneath the hood," Levy said.
Apple is "the rare example of a company that doesn't market itself as a tech company but as a solutions company. They sell the emotional connection with consumers," Levy said. 
"Even though Android sells the vast majority of devices and tablets in the U.S. today, it still doesn't have that psychological hold on consumers to the same degree. Android devices are largely sold on the basis of price, features and performance, not on emotional connection," Levy said.
"You've got to be more tech-savvy, you have to know how the apps work, you have to be comfortable digging into the settings. These are people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. It's part of the [Android] game," he said.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Google's permanent memories of me

Fact: The Internet has a memory all its own.
Fact: That memory will present itself to you at the most inopportune times, and in ways that will touch you in unpredictable ways.

A frequent source of this technology-driven coughed-up memory is the auto-suggest feature that Google and other web service providers build into their products. Start typing an email address in the To: field and Gmail will helpfully suggest some folks you've communicated with previously - even if they're no longer with us. Similarly, search for something and Google will spit back, in real-time as you type, an interactive list of choices based on stuff you - and others - have posted, shared or otherwise encountered online in the past.

Which largely explains why Google now defines me in this way. The digital Zeitgeist has spoken, and it has apparently decided that a split second in time on a rural Ontario intersection (see here for all the gory details) will become an indelible part of my ongoing digital signature. I guess until further notice, I am defined by the fact that I tore my carotid artery and subsequently had a stroke. Oh joy.

It's the digital era equivalent of wanting to move on but being unable to because the tools we use to navigate that digital era refuse to let go of the past. Not that I really ever want to let go of it, anyway. It happened to me, and while I can't control the history, I can control the response (stay tuned on that front: Good things happening.)

It's cool technology, but like all cool technologies it often comes with unintended consequences. I guess I could live without the geeky reminder every time I look something up online.

On making someone's day...today

"When you rise in the morning, form a resolution to make the day a happy one for a fellow creature."
Sydney Smith
Your turn: How will you make today happy for a fellow creature? One thing...go!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Seeking refuge from the storm

‎You see fewer and fewer of these, and a part of me finds that a little sad. Parking attendant huts have always been like little beacons of warmth on an otherwise cold streetscape, but the advent of automated parking entry/exit/payment systems makes it easy to bypass the human attendant entirely. Proximity cards and automated payment machines: Welcome to our lonely, dystopian parking future.

‎And yet some huts still stand, defiantly, staffed by folks who I often wonder if they're watching the calendar and fearing if there's a robotic replacement in their future, too.

I hope not. Because when all the real people are replaced by machines, the world becomes a pretty‎ lonely place. I know the bottom line must be fed, but not having these oases of warmth - and maybe a little morning conversation - seems like too-high a price to be paid.

I guess I'm old school that way. What about you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

(Key)boarded

I doubt I'll ever come across a better keyboard than Apple's full-sized, USB model in the photo above. My fingers just seem to like everything about it. Perfect keys, layout, feel, minimalist aesthetic, the whole enchilada.

I've become so addicted to these things that I feel hobbled when I write on anything else. Seriously, I'm buying a truckload of them so that I'll have spares when Apple eventually decides to introduce an "improved" model. Sorry, gang, but this is a design that needs no further improvement.

The strange things that make me happy.

Your turn: What seemingly mundane tool of everyday life makes you happy?



Monday, January 19, 2015

Hunting and foraging in the frozen foods section

‎The scene: a non-descript corner of a non-descript Publix grocery store in a non-descript town in South Florida. We had come here to find food and sunblock for a couple of growing teens before getting back to the very real business of either swimming in a pool, or sitting beside said pool with a book in our hands. The paper kind.

As the kids debated the relative merits of a couple of packages of cookies that, let's face it, wouldn't win me or my wife any parent-of-the-year awards for generational nutritional excellence - but, hey, it was vacation! - I wandered over to a relatively quiet corner of the store to admire the vertical frozen food displays.

They "do" groceries differently here than they do in Canada. Things are bigger, fancier, with far more choice. You feel like it's more of an event than a chore. It's, dare I say it, kind of fun to explore. I'm sure some of it is simply based on the fact that we're on vacation far from home, but I'll take it any way it comes. The kids are happily chattering away with my wife, and life is good, so who am I to question it?

I hadn't brought my camera with me today. Although I had long shlepped my ginormous camera bag with me wherever we went, and never hesitated to pull out my DSLR for an impromptu photo shoot in the strangest of places, this vacation was different. While the camera bag did indeed get packed, it nevertheless stayed put as a pillow most days. Instead, on wanderings like today's grocery run, I flew light, with just a smartphone in my pocket.

As I pondered the geometry of the display cases in the corner, I idly pulled my phone out of my pocket and mentally composed the image in my head. Almost as I completed the thought and started swiping the screen to bring the device alive, the lady you see here wandered into the frame.

Now, normally I'd wait for her to wander back out of the frame before taking the shot. But by the time this was going on, the kids had settled on their cookie package - I actually think they tossed both of them into the cart - and were preparing to move on. Since I usually play the role of Dawdling Dad, I knew I had mere seconds before someone would come and fetch me so as not to lose me in the crowd.

I looked at the scene, scanned to both the left and right and spied even more errant shoppers about to crowd into this once-quiet corner of the store, and realized my original composition needed ‎a quick re-think. The simple lines of an overstuffed display case were now out. The singularity of a stranger pondering her options was in. I needed to shoot fast before ducking back to my family.

Up came the BlackBerry (Passport. Amazing camera, by the way. And, yes, I'm writing this entire post on it) and as soon as it focused, I tripped the shutter once, and looked around to make sure I wasn't about to get busted by the supermarket police. Satisfied I got the shot, I popped the phone back into my cargo shorts and fast-walked back to my family. The unknown subject of this little moment in time never even knew I had been there.

Does a moment like this deserve to be lavished with this many words or pixels? Probably not. Yet there's something decidedly poignant about living in a world where you can get away with tiny acts of artistic defiance, and where you can quietly brush up against the lives of complete strangers and turn otherwise forgettable snippets of time into things that manage to escape the oblivion of the forgotten everyday.

It's another reminder that I really enjoy this being alive thing, and I hope you do, too.

Your turn: What's she thinking?

Friday, January 16, 2015

On a good day

‎As Friday winds down and the work week ‎gives way to the first giddy moments of the weekend, I find myself sitting in my car getting ready to head home.

As I turn the key and my trusty little vehicle - her name is Henrietta - comes to life, the cabin fills with a familiar and comforting tune. I glance down at the display and realize the irony of the song title. It was indeed a good day. Come to think of it, it was an entire week of good days.

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

Your turn: Was it a good day for you, too? What made it so?


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

All by myself

In the interest of work-life balance‎, no one wants to be the person who leaves the office last every night. Or arrives first every morning. Or becomes so familiar with the after-5 rhythm of the office that the timing of the lights going off and the cleaning crew arriving become an integral part of the old internal clock.

And yet (sorry, I say that often these days) there's a certain sense of peace associated with walking out onto the top deck of a deserted parking structure on a bitterly cold evening. The folks who normally fill this bustling place have all gone home for the day, and the sense of quiet on this somewhat soulless slab of snow-covered concrete is palpable.

On this evening, I allowed time to get away from me. With my headphones plugged in and the voices inside my head sending words coursing through my fingers and keyboard, I lost track of how late it was. By the time I buttoned up the document I had been working on, the friendly lady who cleans my office was at my door.

I stopped to take this picture because it seemed to be one of those moments worth remembering. I seem to have a lot of those moments in my life, but thinking back to the crisply cold snippet of time you see here, I'm somewhat pleased that I continue to listen to the voices that compel me to re‎cord the moment. Maybe there's a story there, and maybe there isn't. But we'll never know if we don't stop and give it a second thought.

Your turn: Do you stop and remember moments like this? What do your quiet moments look like?

On optimism

‎"Optimism is the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other."
Brian Tracy

Sunday, January 11, 2015

When dogs dream of sheep

‎I can't ever tell whether our dog, Frasier, is napping or awake on account of his massive schnauzer eyebrows. But given how relaxed he looks on his pillows here, I'm not entirely sure it even makes a difference. Looks like a great place to be, doesn't it?