Monday, September 01, 2014

Thematic Photographic 308 - Vegetation

Purple and proud
London, ON
August 2014
Did it come from the earth? Did it grow from seeds? Or from a branch? Or from something else? Was it harvested? Did it fall to the ground? If it does - or is, or was - it's time once again to take your camera out in support of this week's Thematic theme, vegetation.

As you can see, I'm launching with a somewhat literal interpretation of the theme. Go purple! But you're welcome to play with it any way you wish.

Your turn: Upload a picture that supports this week's theme - vegetation - to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the photographic fun, and feel free to drop back in through the week and share more pics as they occur to you. If you're new to Thematic, head here. If you tweet, feel free to use the #ThematicPhotpgraphic hashtag. If you're so inclined, smile while you shoot. Because that's the entire point of this exercise. Enjoy...and thanks.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

After the interview

Small moments aren't as small to me as they might have once been. I'm slowly learning to dial back a bit so I can enjoy the ride instead of wondering afterward where I've been. Of all the things I've learned over the past year, these words resonate most strongly in my somewhat rearranged brain: Take the time.

So I do.

As an example, the scene above greeted me as I headed back to the parking lot outside the CTV London studios earlier this evening. I had just finished up my weekly Clicked In segment with Scott Laurie, and was feeling pretty good about my little place in the world. The skies apparently agreed, with a post-sunset performance that almost begged for a spontaneous photo shoot.

All I had was my BlackBerry - a Z30 - but the best camera is always the one you have with you. So out it came.

Looking up has its merits. So does slowing down.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grab a look before this bird is fully extinct

PH-KCA, inbound
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Here.
Click all photos to embiggen
Disclosure: I'm a bit of a plane geek. Way back in the dark ages, before the Interwebs, I used to read every aviation-related book I could get my hands on - sorry, they were way more interesting than comics. I studied the theory of flight because I wanted to understand the magic that allowed hundreds of thousands of pounds of metal, glass and related exotic compounds to lift off the ground, travel near the speed of sound for countless hours, then land safely clear across the planet before the food on board had a chance to get stale.

Once I figured out the physics thing, I dug into the planes themselves. Plane spotting was my way of making aviation an everyday thing. I wanted to look up and know precisely what I was looking at. I wanted to know the story of the particular plane, the company that made it, the things that made it special. These weren't just flying examples of the most cutting edge science and engineering known to humankind. To me, they were works of art. So it was okay to stand on the ground and admire them for what they were.

Fast forward to today and I'm still standing on the ground in awe. And I'm still plane spotting. And sadly, many of the planes I spotted as a kid are no longer flying. The star-crossed McDonnell Douglas DC-10, for example, recently retired from passenger service. Its successor, the MD-11, continues to fly, but in dwindling numbers as airlines shift to increasingly fuel efficient twin-engine aircraft like the Boeing 777 for long-range routes.

So when I saw this particularly lovely KLM MD-11 taxi toward its gate at Toronto's Pearson International Airport last month, I knew it might be one of my last opportunities to record the moment. For all the wizardry of modern twinjets, they just don't have the panache of this near-relic. That third engine, stabbed through the vertical stabilizer, is iconic. The way this thing floats during approach also makes it easy to spot. So it was an easy call to drop my bags beside the bay window and start shooting. Belated apologies to the stranger with the Dell laptop who could no longer focus on his Skype call because he thought I was breaking the no-pictures-in-airports rule.

For the record, an MD-11 is based on the DC-10, with a stretched fuselage, winglets on the wingtips, more efficient engines, a smaller empennage, and a glass cockpit. It is the last remaining trijet in the skies following the retirement of the Lockheed L-1011 from commercial passenger service. An Air Canada L-1011 was the first plane I ever boarded - on of all things a winter day camp field trip to the airline's maintenance base in Montreal. The 7-year-old me didn't want to leave the plane, and I've been smitten ever since. Seeing an old bird like this reminded me of why I first thought flight was something more than just a way to get around.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On Hemingway's idea of fun

"When you stop doing things for fun you may as well be dead."
Ernest Hemingway
I do a lot of things that make people crinkle their eyebrows and wonder if perhaps I might have lost a marble or two at some point. For instance, sometimes I'll lie down in the middle of the sidewalk to get a closer look at something. I don't do this to deliberately get a rise out of people, but I'm willing to admit I find it funny just knowing that a little deviation from so-called "normal" behavior can make complete strangers stop and notice. And think.

I don't know who decided what "normal" is. But I don't think I'd want to spend any amount of time hanging around someone whose idea of fun is deciding whether I do or do not meet some arbitrary measure. I don't recall electing anyone to make judgment calls on my behalf, and I'm guessing you didn't, either.

It's the potential for stuff like this to creep elsewhere that really gets me: Today they might be judging me based on my horizontal sidewalk technique. Tomorrow, it could be because of a particular hat that I wear (yes, I have a propellor hat, and yes, I wear it proudly.) From there, it's a bit of a skip to falling out of favour because of my nose. Or my ethno-cultural background. Lots of slippery slopes here, and I'd rather not even get into it in the first place.

Hence these words of wisdom from the guy whose writing helped me decide to become a writer in the first place. We don't have unlimited time to do things that might appease the tastes of others. We have limited time, period. So I hope no one minds if I spend it trying to bring another smile or two to the universe.

Your turn: What do you do for fun?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

And then along came Polly

Why's everyone staring?
Montreal, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Birds of a feather. Here.

Click photo to embiggen
It's difficult to look at this particular bird and argue that the universe doesn't operate in strange and fascinating ways. I'm sure evolution can explain the blinding colors, but part of me doesn't want to know.

So instead I stand quietly among the crowds and reach in with my lens for this shot. I'll keep the mystery going for at least a little while longer. It's better that way.

Your turn: What's she thinking?

Rogers & Shaw: Shomi the money

Everyone loves Netflix. And what's not to love? For $8 a month, you can watch as many streaming movies and TV shows as your poor eyeballs can handle. Yes, Netflix addiction can cause you to bust the monthly bandwidth cap from your Internet service provider, and yes, it can be a chore to sift through kajillions of movies in a futile search for something decent to watch. And if you're Canadian, it bugs you that American customers have a much larger library to choose from. Welcome to the First World, everyone.

But there's no denying why Netflix has quickly become such a darling, and why it has succeeded in radically changing how we consume, and pay for, content. Call it the modern world equivalent of a cheap thrill.

So, of course, if you're a cable or satellite operator - or a telecom company that provides such service - you tend to view Netflix with equal parts envy and white-knuckled fear. Those cushy monthly bills you've been sending out for decades - the ones where you force customers to pay more money than they want so they can subscribe to a bunch of bundled channels that they won't watch, all so they can get the relatively few channels that they do want - are at risk as customers realize on-demand viewing is significantly more cost-effective and convenient than waiting around for Thursday at 8 p.m. to watch The Big Bang Theory.

Chord cutters, those folks who cancel cable and satellite TV entirely and get all their TV completely online, are a direct threat to the future of conventional cable and satellite distribution, and the carriers won't give up without a fight.

Enter shomi. It's an online streaming service that, outside its deliberately lowercase branding, looks, smells and feels a lot like Netflix. Canadian carriers Rogers and Shaw partnered up on it, and yesterday they launched it to much fanfare. Rogers and Shaw are two of the largest carriers in the country. They're ISPs. They're TV distributors. They own TV channels. They sell wireless phones and they build and own the networks over which all of this stuff flows. If they don't replace their old TV distribution business with something new, online, over-the-top upstarts like Netflix will be happy to eat their lunch. It's akin to leopards changing their spots, dinosaurs avoiding extinction, and the Titanic turning soon enough to avoid the iceberg, all rolled up into one.

Will it cause Canadians of all stripes to kick their Netflix addiction in droves and try the new guy?

Not so fast.

I wrote about it for Yahoo Canada Finance:
Why the Rogers, Shaw shomi streaming service won’t stop Netflix in Canada
Your turn: Are you a Netflix fan? Why/why not? Would you switch?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On kicking life where it needs to be kicked

"Sometimes life knocks you on your ass; GET UP! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them."
Steve Maraboli
I was doing a radio interview recently about my medical misadventure. At one point I touched on the fact that life isn't about what happens to you, but about how you choose to respond. The first thing we can't control, so there's no real reason to worry about it. The second thing, on the other hand, is absolutely within our control.

So if these words seem to punch a little harder, at least now I know why. In the meantime, if anyone's looking for me, I'll be over there in the corner figuring out ways to kick fate's ass and find the advantage along the way. Who's with me?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thematic Photographic 307 - Birds of a feather

Color me happy
London, ON
June 2014
After sticking closer to home for longer than I'd like, I've started wandering a little further out. It's a confidence thing, really, as for a while after this happened I was concerned about something happening while I was alone. I realize now I was worrying needlessly, but at the time it seemed to make sense to me.

So I headed downtown one fine morning this summer to meet a friend for tea. And on my way back I came across this bird standing on a railing on the riverside path. It was a delightfully peaceful place and time, and this very colourful animal cooperated by posing there for an overtly extended period of time. It's almost as if she (I'm guessing a she, just because) knew how lovely she was.

Your turn: With this week's theme, birds of a feather, I'd like to invite everyone to shoot a picture of a bird, or feathers, or ideally both. Share it on your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where they can find it. Visit other participants, and feel free to add more photographic fuel to the creative fire later on in the week. Hit up this link if you'd like to learn more about how Thematic works, and feel free to use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag, too. Most of all, enjoy being out and about with your camera. It's been cathartic for me, and I'm sure the same applies to you. Thanks gang!

They walk dogs in strollers here

I'd like to round out this week's Thematic theme, shooting strangers from afar (more here), with a couple of photos I took on my recent quick trip to New York. In the 2-ish hours of daylight that I was working with, I wandered from Central Park to Riverside and back. The goal was a simple one: Gather as many pixels as possible before the sun went down to ensure I didn't forget the fact that I was here.

Sure, we all want the luxury of time to drink a place in. But when real life dictates otherwise, you grab what you can in the time you've been given. On second thought, that simple photographic truth also sounds like a metaphor for life. Imagine that.

Photo 1 of the red-shirted man dragging his apparently stubborn beagle made me smile, because that could just as easily be me with my dog. Frasier is, to be charitable, not the most leash-disciplined dog. He wanders from side to side like an inebriated toddler who may or may not have gone off his meds. He has to sniff or otherwise investigate everything, and as a result even the shortest loop around the block always seems to take twice as long as it should. I always leave extra time for our walks, and pulling him in the right direction has become part of the yin and yang that makes him special.

In any case, I had to resist the urge to catch up with this gentleman and say hello. It just didn't seem like the kind of place to randomly smile at a fellow dog person and engage in spontaneous conversation. I contented myself with the cagey shot from the back and went on my way.

A little while later, I came across this lady with the pink-frocked, stroller-carried pup and it made me wonder about the whole act of walking your dog. First the word: Walk. It implies that the dog, you know, actually walks. I don't quite see the point of pushing a dog in a stroller. Maybe I don't understand the whole pet ownership thing, but I thought walks were about getting your dog some exercise and giving him/her and chance to, ah, use the loo.

The funny thing is I saw more strollers in this one walkabout than I've probably seen in my entire life back home. So maybe it's a New York thing. But by now, the light was fading and I was far from my temporary hotel-home. So I stole another quick pic and retreated from the pier before she even knew I was there. My misgivings aside, both pups looked incredibly well cared for, and very well loved. In the end, nothing else matters.

Your turn: Dogs in strollers. Please discuss.

Will the Burger King Whopper swallow Tim Hortons?

Here in the Great White North, you don't have to be a coffee lover to appreciate just how deeply ingrained Tim Hortons is within the Canadian national psyche. With a store on almost every other street corner, and terms like "double double" and "roll up the rim" now firmly embedded in the national lexicon, Tims has become integral to how we view ourselves.

So when news broke over the weekend that Burger King was in talks with Tim Hortons on a possible "merger of equals", it didn't take long for the news to dominate headlines here in Canada.

My take is fairly simple: Tims is more than a place to pick up a snack for the kids. It's part of who we are, and there is risk to its heritage by opening the door to a possible American takeover.

Moreover, we've been down this road before - Wendy's bought Tims out in 1995 amid great hopes of mutual cross-border expansion. That didn't work out as planned, largely because Tims just doesn't resonate in the U.S. as it does in Canada, and Wendy's sold its shares in 2006 before Tims was spun off as a standalone company in an IPO.

The Burger King deal, ostensibly being pushed because it would allow BK to move its head office to Canada and avoid higher U.S. corporate taxes, smacks of failing to learn from the mistakes of the past. President Barack Obama, fed up with U.S. companies pulling off "inversion" deals like this to avoid paying U.S. taxes, has pledged to crack down on the practice.

I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance that outlines the key winners and losers of a possible deal, and the factors that are driving it in the first place:
Tim Hortons, Burger King deal: Winners and losers
Your turn: Do megamergers benefit anyone beyond shareholders?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A conversation among friends

It's not polite to point
New York, NY
July 2014
To share your own stranger-themed Thematic, head here
I'm slowly working through the pile of pictures that I took during my all-too-brief trip to New York City late last month. I was in town for less than 24 hours, just enough time to allow me to attend the BlackBerry Security Summit* before jumping into a cab and heading back to the airport. Just after I arrived at the hotel the previous evening, I grabbed my camera and headed out for a long-ish walk. I figured I'd walk and shoot until there was no more light.

As I wandered past Lincoln Center, I came across these two women as they waited for traffic to clear at the crosswalk. I'm not sure what they were talking about, but the moment stands as one of my absolute favorites from a trip that, despite its brevity, offered up plenty of memorable snippets. More to come.

Your turn: What are they talking about?

* I wrote a couple of articles for Yahoo Canada Finance based on the summit:

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:
- So, about that stroke (where it all began)
- When even "thank you" seems lame (part 2)


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!