Sunday, September 30, 2007

Caption This 38

Please suggest a caption for this photo [See below for details]
Laval, Quebec, August 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I'll hold off on saying what this is and why I took it. The photo is abstract enough that I think you'll use plenty of creativity to come up with neat sayings/captions/titles for it.

I'll share background details on it after I announce the winner next Sunday.

Your turn: Caption this image. Do so more than once. Call your mother-in-law and ask her to do the same. Want to know how this crazy Caption This thing works? Click here.

About last week's image of a forlorn piece of driftwood: I loved this photo from the moment I first captured it on the beach in Grand Bend. It was our last visit of the season, the day before the kids went back to school, and I was feeling somewhat morose as I took it. I'm not good with endings, you see.

Thankfully, you all came through with wonderfully diverse suggestions. The brilliantly artistic Shane tapped into an icon of 1970s television with this caption:
This week on Mutual of Omaha's South Beach Kingdom. Marlin Perkins carefully sneaks up on the rare and dreaded driftwood crocodile, who has craftily submerged himself in hopes of obtaining a low-carb meal.
(Disclosure: I was always a huge Wild Kingdom fan!)

And because I suck at picking just one, honorable mentions go to these gems:
  • Morah Mommy (yes, she's my lovely wife): Creature from the black lagoon emerges from the deep, dark sea!
  • Deni: Lift the anchor and feel the wind
  • Jeremiah: A centurian of the past comes to protect his beach....
  • Marisa: I wish I wood knot get drifted from beech to beech
  • Bread Box: Driftwood, basking
  • Colleen: Stick in the mud
  • Linda: Nessy's been spotted
Have fun with this week's caption, and thanks again for making Caption This a highlight of my bloggish week.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Study in red

London, Ontario, July 2007

Remember when you were a kid and you'd lie on your tummy on the walkway in front of your house and stare close-up at the ants for what seemed like hours at a stretch? Remember how you saw so much that your parents couldn't because they didn't want to get their clothes dirty or ripped by joining you down there?

You do remember when you took the time to zoom in, don't you?

Your turn: What did you see when you took the time? What did you miss when you didn't? Why does this seemingly innocuous image taken during a rare quiet moment at our son's birthday party evoke these kinds of thoughts? Why ask why?

One more thing: I've posted a new entry to the Words@Work blog. Click here to drop by and share a thought or two (yes, it's my week to whore for visits...I'm still begging for Facebook requests, too. Click here for that insanity.)

I guess that was two more things. Sorry.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Facebook friends

I'll come right out and admit it: I'm a bit of a Facebook freak. A few months back, a now-former colleague at my now-former company expressed mock shock when I admitted I hadn't yet signed onto Facebook. Using logic akin to "all the cool kids are doing it," she essentially shamed me into getting on the bandwagon.

I recognize that this shining example of the potential of social networking can turn into a monumental vortex that voraciously consumes free time and brain cells. I appreciate the seeming shallowness of building really big lists of so-called friends for no other reason than, well, building really big lists of so-called friends.

But there's more. It's reconnected me to folks I hadn't seen since elementary school. I've used it to initiate and strengthen business connections - which, as a writer, are my newfound lifeblood. I've used it to reach out from the hospital when our son had his accident. In short, I've learned that there's more to emerging resources like Facebook than initially meets the eye.

Not such a time suck, after all.

(And, no, it doesn't replace Written Inc. - or my Words@Work work blog. It complements them in ways I'm still figuring out. If you're also figuring all this out, I'd love to hear from you.)

Your turn: If you're a Facebooker, please click here to visit my home page and add me onto your list. Yes, I'm whoring for Facebook friends. Such is life in the digital age...

Life in a northern town

Telegraph road
Lancaster, Ontario, August 2007 [Click to embiggen]

The scene: Highway 401, just after we've crossed into Ontario on our way home from Montreal. I'm tooling along in the left lane, listening to tunes and calculating how much longer it'll take for us to get home. Suddenly, I notice something funny on the dashboard: a blinking light. And not just any blinking light: a blinking engine light. Uh oh.

I calmly ask Debbie to look it up in the owner's manual, because a blinking engine light is something I've never experienced in my kajillion years of accident-and-ticket-free driving. She quickly fetches the book from the glove compartment while thoughts of warranty claims, rental cars and hydraulic lifts fill my mind. It's the emissions control system, she reports. The car is drivable, according to the manual, but they recommend you get it serviced. Well, duh!

The ominous rumbling coming up through the steering wheel suggests the manual may have gotten it wrong. I pull into a rest stop, hoping it's a spurious code. When we get going again, it's still blinking. The wondervan accelerates like an early-'80s Lada and I know we've got a problem.

We limp to the next exit and happen upon a small garage beside the rail crossing in a small town known as Lancaster. It's approaching closing time on a Friday, but the owner and his mechanic do whatever it takes to diagnose the problem, get the part ordered (a cylinder coil pack), argue with the warranty company and ultimately get us back on the road. While they're at it, they entertain our kids and even allow the dog to roam free in the checkerboard-tiled waiting room. The owner even invites us to stay with his family if they can't get it fixed. It's the kind of attention we simply wouldn't have gotten had this happened in a larger city, and we're pleasantly blown away by the generosity of spirit here.

In the end, the van is fixed as the shadows begin to creep across the main street of this welcoming town. We stop off at the Dairy Queen down the road before we get back on the highway. It's a lesson in life that we won't soon forget, and I think this quiet place of gentle souls will become a regular stop on future trips back to our hometown.

Your turn: Why small towns matter. Please discuss.

About this picture: These are the telephone/power poles that line the railroad tracks beside the garage. We watched countless freight and passenger trains speed through town while we were there. It was a big deal to our kids, and they watched with wide eyes and blocked ears as the ground shook with their passage. Town residents, on the other hand, found it all routine. Just before we headed back out on the road, I took my camera to the tracks and captured this early evening scene. I wish I lived closer to this place so I could spend more time soaking it in.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stranger wants a home

The look
London, Ontario, September 2007 [Click to enlarge]

No one knows where this little cat came from. He (or she? I can never tell. I'll use the male gender as a default) started appearing on our front step earlier this week. He seemed friendly enough, but without a collar, there was no way to know if he had a family somewhere. He didn't have the bedraggled look of a stray.

He wouldn't go away. He hung around our house for days, bouncing between our bushes, our car and the big rock under the leafy maple tree on our lawn. Our dog, who wants to play with everyone, would strain at his leash on every walk, hoping we'd let him get to meet the newcomer. Um, no.

He'd follow us around as if we were the modern incarnation of the Pied Piper, almost coming into the house on more than one occasion, driving the poor dog crazy as he sat outside the front door and softly meowed.

And that's the rub. As sweet as this little one's face is, and as friendly as he seems on the surface, you just never know. So you stand back and resist the urge to pick him up and hold him. You warn the kids to stay away in case the clawed interloper suddenly turns on them. You keep the dog well back, just in case the cat has a nasty streak or a nasty bug.

And you hope that this little being has a real human family somewhere. And that they're looking for him. Because the bush underneath the kitchen window isn't the kind of place for a young kitten to call home.

Your turn: Rescuing strays. Please discuss.

P.S. We haven't seen him in a couple of days. The kids ask about him every time we go outside. Frasier still strains at his leash, forlornly looking under the car every time we take him out for a walk. We're hopeful that he found his way back home. Wherever he is, I hope he's fine, and wish I could have done more than simply write about the experience.

Update, Friday: I've pasted in a comment that my next-door neighbor e-mailed me, so feel free to click on the Comments link to see the latest in this sweet little critter's life. Long story short, it's a girl, her daughter's boyfriend temporarily took her home, and we're hopeful someone will come forward to adopt her.

Update, Saturday: Good news! Looks like the furry little girl has found a home. Our neighbor, Nicky's, colleague will be adopting her. Thank goodness for amazing neighbors. Thank you all for being so generous with your thoughts and suggestions. I love a happy ending, don't you?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blue waters run deep

Water color
Laval, Quebec, August 2007

This is what happens when you deliberately ignore the light meter on the camera and instead massively underexpose the shot. You get away with stuff like this with digital because mistakes don't really cost anything and sometimes, the experimental, fingers-crossed pictures that really shouldn't work still manage to surprise you.

I've really got to screw up more often.

Your turn: Mistakes that turned out to be anything but. Please discuss.

One more thing: We're taking the young 'un back to the hospital later this morning to have his injury reassessed and the cast replaced. We can't guarantee the new cast will still be bright green, though: he's been asking about orange for the past couple of days. Beyond color, we're hoping the docs have good news on his recovery, and can give us some answers about the pain that's been keeping him up nights for the past week. The adventure continues...

Update, 6:42 p.m.: Things went well at the hospital. Ortho surgeon-doc was happy with his progress, said there's good evidence of initial bone growth. The giant full-leg bright green cast has been cut down a bit, and now ends below the knee. Much more manageable for him, and for us. It's still bright green, though, and he kept the piece that they cut off from his upper leg. Souvenir, I guess. Zach wanted to thank everyone for being so nice. It's touching to receive so much support from folks around the planet. More soon, as our next appointment at the hospital's already been scheduled for next week.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Caption This 37

Please caption this image for me [See below for details]
Grand Bend, Ontario, September 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Isn't it amazing what you find washed up on the beach?

Your turn: Click on the Comment link below and suggest a caption for this photo. The winner will be announced next week. You won't get rich in the process, but you'll earn my everlasting happiness and friendship. Have fun with it...and thanks for playing! If you're a Caption This newbie, click here for the rules.

About last week's image: The picture of our wounded son, Zach, resting with his rather large green cast, prompted a lot of very thoughtful responses. I usually pull a few out as honorable mentions, but I won't do that this time out: they're all honorable.

I've been sharing your thoughts with him by plopping down next to him with my laptop. He so very much appreciates the kindness of folks from around the world who have never met him, yet who feel a connection through my writing. Please know that every comment you leave makes a very big difference to a young man who's going through a rough patch. I wish I could thank you all in person for being so generous with your words of encouragement.

And since there has to be one winner, it goes to the one person who's upended her life to make sure Zach's recovery is as free from hiccups as possible: his mom. My wife, Morah Mommy, penned this: "Sleepy green-legged alien invades levyland!"

I know I risk being accused of nepotism, but she's been incredible since the moment this happened. It's no wonder our kids love her so much.

If you haven't read her blog, I hope you'll pay her a visit (click here) when you have a moment. She's a pretty lovely person.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's not easy being green

Fleeting color
London, Ontario, August 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The lush green canopy that paints our world will soon be gone, temporarily replaced by brilliant yellows, oranges and reds before the whole thing gives way to the unending gray of a cold winter. I took this picture because I wanted to freeze the moment before it disappears for good.

I know that next spring, it'll all be back just as it was, and I'll be able to walk outside my front door and take an almost identical shot. But that's no reason to not mark the transition beforehand. We don't know what the future will bring, after all, so we should enjoy it now and not wait for its return to appreciate it. You simply never know...

Your turn: What's going through your mind as green turns to red, brown, and then nothing? Why do transitions matter so much to us?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Clouds gather before nightfall

Clouds and sun from a hospital parking lot
London, Ontario, September 2007

The scene:
September 10, 6:48 p.m. London Health Sciences Centre parking lot.

It's already been a long day. It's been a shade under 5 hours since our phone rang with news that our son had been hurt. After dropping the two younger munchkins and the dog off at our friends' house, I've returned to the hospital with a backpack full of snacks and other stuff for what promises to be a long night in the ER.

Inexplicably, I have my camera bag with me. I'm not sure why: it's not as if I can shoot pictures inside the hospital. But the battered blue bag is an adult's version of a security blanket. It feels normal, comforting to have it slung over my shoulder.

So as I get out of the car and start walking toward the hospital, I pause and stare at the thick clouds obscuring the setting sun. It's just a quick moment, but I decide that later on, I'll want to remember what it felt like to stand there at that precise point in time. So I take the camera out and snap off the only picture I dare take that day.

Your turn: Do you try to remember quiet moments in the midst of chaos? Why?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

His master's foot

Someone to watch over me
London, Ontario, September 2007 [Click to embiggen]

One thing I remember well from my own childhood adventures with casts is how the experience affects everyone else in the family. In so many subtle ways, everyone in our house has stepped up to the plate over the last week and changed his/her routine to ensure we continue to lead a somewhat normal family life.

Well, normal is a relative term.

Noah and Dahlia have been helping by fetching his crutches, adjusting his pillow, and being there whenever he needs something and Debbie and I aren't nearby. They've even largely set aside the sibling rivalry thing for now, recognizing that he's not in much of a mood to zing them back. We don't have to ask: they just do. It's heartening to watch.

The dog obviously doesn't know what happened to him, but he knows something's changed. He hangs around Zach like a magnet. He's such an exuberant dog that we've had to prevent him from jumping up on the couch for fear he'll bump Zach's leg. But that doesn't stop this sweet dog from regularly walking up to him, bringing him a toy, nudging him with his nose, making sure he knows that he's there.

Frasier has become Zach's protector. And in all his 20-pound, untrained-puppy glory, he'll stick by his oldest human sibling until he's sure he's all better. So when he curls up beside the cast and closes his eyes for a little nap, we're comfortable leaving him there because it makes both of them feel just a little more normal.

Your turn: Pet therapy. Please discuss.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Glassy nautical view
Laval, Quebec, August 2007

I don't tend to look at the same things as most other people. That likely explains why I'm always bumping into things. It also likely explains why I take pictures that don't seem to make much sense.

I grabbed this one while walking by myself near my parents' and in-laws' building (did I tell you that they all now live in the same building? Such fun! At least we save on driving back and forth when we visit. But I digress.) I was rather enjoying being temporarily alone, and looked for scenes that would tell the story of what it felt like to be surrounded by quiet.

I thought this reflective perspective taken from the riverside dock might do the trick.

Your turn: How do you find quiet? Why does this matter to you?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Color, light and mood

That green liquid glow
Thornhill, Ontario, August 2007 [Click to embiggen]

We've seeing a lot of green for the past week thanks to our son's big green cast and the general feeling of green that's descended over me and my wife as we try to keep things balanced around here.

We're getting ready for his return to school tomorrow. We've met with his principal and homeroom teacher, and detailed plans are in place for his first day back. It'll be a dicey few days as we try to transition him back to a somewhat more normal routine. We'll manage.

I thought a somewhat brighter view from a warm summer day with beloved family would help offset the mood a little.

Your turn: Color's impact on mood. Please discuss.

One more thing: Two news items crossing my screen tonight are making me think. First, a plane crashes in Thailand, killing 88 people. Then comes news that OJ Simpson has been arrested for robbery and assault. Google News lists over 3,700 links to the OJ story, and barely 1,700 for the plane crash one. Then I flip on the nightly news and, sure enough, they lead with OJ and follow with the plane crash. Why do I get the feeling that the news media's sense of priorities is horribly inverted?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Caption This 36

Please caption this image [See below for details]
London, Ontario, September 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Someday, he'll look at the pictures we take of him in his cast and smile. For now, he's just working his way through the next couple of months, trying to figure out - just as we are - how to re-establish a routine that lets him lead as normal a life as possible despite suddenly being very different than everyone around him.

There's no manual for this, of course, so it'll be trial-and-error for the most part. And he'll manage, because he's a tough soul who's already learning that he has deeper reserves of strength than he previously knew. Tough break. Tough kid.

Your turn: Please come up with a caption for this image. Suggest as many as you wish. Refer to the virtual-cast-signing entry comments (click here) for additional inspiration. As before, I'll share every submission with him - gotta love laptops - and he'll help me pick a winner before next week. For the Caption This rules, please click here.

About last week's image of Noah sleeping with our dog, Frasier: Jaded Prima Donna touched a soft spot with her excellent quote: : So tired they could only play frisbee in their dreams...

Honorable menschens (sorry, I'm descending into Yiddishisms today) go to:
  • Miss Meliss: Sometimes the best thing in life is a long nap with a good friend.
  • Sara: finally home
  • John: "It sure was a great day, huh pal?"
  • Joy: Serenity Now
  • Heidi: It just doesn't get any better than this.
Thanks, everyone, for making Caption This a highlight of my blogweek. Keep watching this space...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


When we moved to this city, we knew nobody here. The first winter that we spent here with a 2-year-old son was a lonely one. We were as cut off from our support network as we had ever been.

That was 10 years ago. Our toddler is now 12, and he's been joined by two London-made siblings. We've made friends, and in doing so have turned the original loneliness of this place into something warmer and homier.

But we still have no family here. Indeed, the closest family worthy of mention is an eight-hour drive from here. So when Zach, the aforementioned no-longer-toddler, broke his leg and ended up in the hospital on Monday, we wondered what we were going to do with the other two kids and our dog. Leaving them in front of the supermarket apparently wasn't an option.

We needn't have worried. Our close friends opened their doors to our little folks and shooed us on our way, telling us not to worry about a thing. Our voicemail filled with messages from families offering any help they could share. E-mail and instant messages kept my BlackBerry humming all day and all night. My blog and Facebook pages were similarly overtaken by words of support and comfort. Laura's daughter called her at work and asked her to send a YouTube link to a Muppets video to him. Readers from around the world have virtually signed his cast.

It's hard to put into words how it feels to be on the receiving end of such an outpouring. We've always gone about our life in a fairly quiet manner, trying to avoid attracting too much attention to ourselves. Having everyone come up to me in the pickup line after school represented a bit of a change from my usual routine, and I'm still not sure I quite know how to respond without seeming overwhelmed by it all.

But as humbled as I feel at all the attention, I am immensely comforted that we're surrounded by so many kind-hearted folks who would think nothing of dropping everything to be there for us. It reminds me once again that the world has far more good than bad, and that life challenges like this are often thinly veiled opportunities to appreciate the best in humanity in ways that wouldn't be apparent on a more routine day.

Sometimes, it takes a bit of a shock to the system to realize just how lucky we are to be surrounded by such goodness.

Your turn: What does your network look like? Why do informal community support networks matter as much as they do?

One more thing: Please accept my heartfelt thanks for your write-on-Zach's-cast suggestions in an earlier blog entry. If you haven't yet submitted your virtual cast signing, please click here and share a thought. I've been reading them to Zach, and your words have helped bring smiles to his face.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Peekaboo building

The view from 217 York
London, Ontario, August 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Quick life update: The man with the large green cast is resting comfortably on the couch. We're slowly becoming more comfortable with the somewhat clumsy routine that will define Zach's life - and ours - for at least the next couple of months. People from near and far have been calling us to see how he's doing, to hear him share the experience in his own words, and to make sure we all haven't gone stark, raving mad in the process. It's harder than the usual routine of life in our home, but it's temporary, not fatal, and nowhere near as challenging as some of the other patients we saw in the hospital earlier this week.

Don't have a clue what I'm talking about? Click here to catch up.

I'm brewing lots of words and more than a few pictures, and will post those in upcoming blog entries. For now, though, I'll set aside the dominant story of our week for something a little more quiet and static...

I captured this image while running an errand with my wife a few weeks ago. She was headed to a government office to update some government-issued card. You know, the usual fill-in-a-form, wait-for-your-number, admire-the-nondescript-waiting-room-furniture, avoid-eye-contact-with-strangers kind of place. It was a quiet, early morning, so I tagged along with her. I wasn't really adding any value. But I'm not one to turn down a hour of alone time with her. So off we went.

After she finished up and we were walking out, I looked out the window and noticed how we were almost at the same level as the building across the street. I rather liked how the skyline beyond was playing peekaboo with me. I wondered if any of the other zillions of people who had visited this place ever bothered to look out the window and wonder the same thing. I decided it didn't matter anyway. They're not me. And they didn't have an understanding wife who ruefully nodded her head when I started making noises about shooting the scene.

Your turn: Scenes from a government office. Please discuss.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Another birthday in the Levy household

Shh...don't tell anyone, but it's my wife's birthday today. She always says our daughter, who celebrated her birthday yesterday (see here for more) was the best day-early birthday present she ever had.

Am I going to out her true age as she outed mine last May? Nah. I'm not a age-by-numbers person. But I am selfish: I want many more milestones to share with her. She's the kind of wife and mother who makes you wish we were all immortal.

Your turn: Please drop by her blog (click here) and share a birthday wish with her. After the wild week we've had, I'm sure she'll be tickled.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

She hits double digits

When our daughter, Dahlia, wandered downstairs this morning, she was greeted by balloons, streamers and posters that my wife had painstakingly put up late last night. My wife does this every time one our munchkins celebrates a birthday because she believes that these days are special, and deserve to be acknowledged as such.

I watched her look up at the streamers that criss-crossed the living room. She came a lot closer to them this year than last. Indeed, she seemed less a little girl and more a young lady. Part of it was her height: she's shot up noticeably this year. But mostly it was the way she carried herself, the way she spoke and moved and laughed when I made a joke.

She is her mother's daughter. Every time I see her, I'm reminded of my wife and why I think it's so cool that we made such neat kids. She's got a personality that would melt the heart of a complete stranger, and I find myself looking for any excuse to hang out with her so we can banter. She's an easy kid to like, and I'm proud of the person she's becoming: smart, empathetic, funny and intense.

I still can't quite internalize that this is the same person who came into the world weighing less than my laptop, who I've called Peanut Girl forever because her ultrasound looked just like that, and who I always saw in my rose-colored dad's eye as a tiny little girl. As she finishes up her first decade on this planet, it dawning on me that she is doing a pretty good job becoming the person she is destined to be.

Your turn: What do you hope for a newly-minted 10-year-old's future?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A moment

It's funny how significantly things can change in a moment. When the phone rang at 1:49 yesterday afternoon, I looked at the caller ID and knew this wasn't an average call. It was Zach's school. Not good. He's a sweet kid who doesn't get into trouble. Even less good. I hesitated to answer the phone, hoping that an extra heartbeat would change the outcome. Not so much.

The secretary said he'd been in an accident. PE class, soccer, collision, leg, ice, principal's office. I didn't hear the sentences as much as I heard disconnected words. Things became blurry as I called Debbie and bounced work priorities around before running out the door.

Two hospitals, countless doctors, nurses, tests, twists and turns later, he's nursing a badly broken leg, has a bright green full-leg cast just waiting for everyone to sign, and is enjoying the prospect of being the center of attention for a little while.

I'm not sure what was more exhausting: the direct upheaval of everyone's lives as we shipped his brother and sister to our friends' house, navigated the city-within-a-city that is the children's hospital here and fought the fatigue as we try to be by his bedside 24/7; or the more subtle realization that you've got to give up any and all sense of control as you entrust your child to a group of people you met not five minutes previously.

But entrust we did. And my how incredibly gifted these doctors, nurses and hospital staff were. It was inspiring to watch them shepherd a frightened 12-year-old along the convoluted path from initial injury to resolution.

If you ever find yourself doubting the future of humanity, spend some time watching the ortho team step through a reduction on your kid's crunched leg. I think what did it for me was the most senior doc's demeanor as he sat at the head of the bed, timing drug doses and talking to our son as if they were watching a ballgame. He never failed to find the right words, tone and inflection. This surreal mixture of professional perfectionism and heartfelt humanity was remarkable to watch.

We just got him home and he's resting comfortably on the couch, his little brother hovering over his every need. I'll have much more to say in the days and weeks to come. For now, Debbie and I feel changed by the experience, challenged by what comes next, and lucky that it wasn't worse. Blessings always seem to hide amidst the chaos. More on that in future entries.

Your turn: Wordnerd, who kindly IMd us with words of comfort while we were in the hospital (BlackBerries rule, btw), suggested we ask visitors for a virtual cast signing. I love that idea! So what would you write on our son's cast if you had a marker in your hand right now? I'll share all of your submissions with him, so please write to your heart's content.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A pipe, a wall and a shadow

Stark, shadowed color
Kingston, Ontario, August 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The Scene: It's 8:30 in the morning and we're filling the tank with energy-intensive decomposed ancient matter in a city far from home and far from where we'd like to be. We stopped overnight in this transitional place, spending the night in a hotel that to most of us would be mundane and forgettable, but to our kids is a memorable treat.

The day has dawned sunny and warm, so it promises to be a good drive. The dog, tagging along on his longest trip yet, is behaving wonderfully as each of our munchkins takes a turn doting on him. Their quiet voices and the soft jingle of his dog-tagged collar fill the car as my wife and I focus on getting everything ready for the rest of the trip. I snapshot the moment in my mind, hoping the rest of the day is as charmed as its start.

As I've noticed in a recent post (click here), the immediate area surrounding a set of gas pumps isn't usually the kind of place worthy of a picnic and a photo shoot. But, coincidentally, I'm looking north this time, too, and the sun's once again casting just the right kind of shadow. So I reach for my camera and look for a way to remember the simplicity of how I felt.

In the end, it's just a yellow pipe on a concrete wall. But the moment I took it wasn't "just" anything. It was worth capturing and sharing.

Your turn: A quiet family moment remembered. Please discuss.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Caption This 35

Please suggest a caption for this image [See below for details]
London, Ontario, September 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The first day at school was a busy one for the little man (please click here for this week's back-to-school entry.) He tuckered out on the couch before we even knew he was there. Thankfully, I had the camera handy. I am, however, at a loss as to what to call the picture. Can you help?

Your turn: Please leave a comment with your suggestion for a caption or name for this photo. I'll post the winner next week. If you're new to Caption This, click here for the rules.

Last week's image: The picture of a scary-looking public restroom hand dryer drew a wide range of responses. BreadBox floored me with " To think, Senator Craig could have used this for a blow job." Sometimes, vicious humor is just the ticket.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Summer slips away

Saying goodbye to summer
Grand Bend, Ontario, September 2007

[Click all images to enlarge]

The day before the kids went back to school, we took them to the shores of Lake Huron for one last taste of summer before we all returned to the serious business of school, work and life. Instead of heading to the crowded public beach, we went to a place called the Pinery, a provincial park that's just down the road from the main town.

We drove through the woods for what seemed like forever until we got to the parking area. Then we hiked over a forested trail before arriving at the most peaceful beach imaginable. It was a perfectly sunny, hot day. But as we crested the hill and saw the water, cool winds blew over us, possibly as a signal that we really had left the real world behind, if only for a few hours.

I spent the afternoon trying to remember the little moments from this outing. I kept thinking that it would be a while before they would once again feel the warm sand between their toes. I wanted the day to mean something to them, to help them bridge the transition from a carefree time to one that promised to be a little more formal.

I pushed thoughts of gray, cold, snowy days aside as I watched our kids frolic in the surf, returning to us to recharge with the occasional drink or snack before heading back out. I hoped that when winter closed in on us, they'd look back to this snippet in time and feel warm inside. Memories can do that, I think.

After leaving their temporary mark on the perfectly sandy beach, it was time to pack up and go home. We opened the sunroof and slowly drove back out of the park along its tree-covered back roads. Little voices filtered over the music from the back of the minivan, chattering about the day that was and talking about when we might have another. In a while, we said. There's always next year.

In the back of my mind, I hoped that we'd get to have a lot of "next years", and that the time between now and then would move slowly so we could all enjoy experiences completely different from the one we had just had.

Warm and sunny or cold and snowy, I hope they always find something to smile about when they think back to a day we spent together. I hope we're doing enough to give them these moments for future reflection.

Your turn: A memorable day from your childhood. Please discuss what made it memorable in the first place.

Friday, September 07, 2007

BlackBerry, jammed

I use a BlackBerry 8830 for work. While walking the dog early this afternoon, I was thinking to myself, "Myself, it's been such a quiet day for e-mail. I love when my inbox is clear and everyone is happy that things are being taken care of."

Now it turns out that my idyllic reverie was a little premature: Research In Motion isn't saying anything, but the Web is alive with reports of yet another BlackBerry outage.

Sharp-eyed readers may remember that when I was an official analyst, I got a little ornery with RIM for its silence during the first meltdown (click here for the blog entry. Click here for the followup.)

I guess it's time to e-mail some journalists again. I'll use my laptop this time. Not the BlackBerry.

Your turn: Are we slaves to technology?

One more thing: I'm editing lovely photos for my next batch of blog entries. Happier themes will return imminently.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

In my big sister's footsteps

Follow me
London, Ontario, September 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Taking the kids back to school this year was a bittersweet experience. Sweet because they so very much wanted to be there, because they were thrilled to see their friends after a long summer apart, because they felt at home in a schoolyard that's been welcoming kids since long before their grandparents were born. Bitter because I remember them being a lot smaller when we made this walk last September, because I still find it difficult when they walk away and I turn for home, alone, because I don't know how many more moments like this I'll have before they no longer want me to be there with them.

Our eldest son wanted to fly solo on his first day back. As much as it pains me to admit it, he's already beginning to grab hold of his life, gradually taking over the reins from me and my wife, taking those first few halting steps of real independence into a world that's less certain than the controlled one he's lived thus far.

But the two younger munchkins still wanted Daddy to tag along for their first day back. I brought the long lens and quietly observed them take their first few steps back into a world that's always been welcoming and warm to them. I listened to the banter as they happily greeted their friends and shared stories about the summer that they had, the summer that's now over. Then I watched our son follow our daughter into the school.

They're at an age where she's the natural leader and he's the natural follower. He trusts her implicitly, and she loves him limitlessly. It's a symbiosis that makes me unbelievably proud of who they're becoming, and it clouds my vision with tears as I try to compose the shot. I'm far away from them as they move into their new school year; getting further with each step. But with my long lens, the least I can do is grab the memory of the moment and hope that I can hold onto it - onto them - for just a little bit longer.

Your turn: Transitions. Please discuss.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Interviewed on iPods

Sometimes, I get to do an interview where all the stars align and I come out of it feeling like high-fiving everyone I see on the way home.

Tonight was just such an interview. I spoke with Business News Network's Kim Parlee and the interview was broadcast live on The Business News, their flagship dinnertime show. We discussed the just-announced next-generation iPods from Apple. What I really liked about this interview was how we explored the higher order implications of the announcement. In the end, it was much more than a story about hardware, and we got to dig deep into the meaning of it all.

It was a fascinating opportunity to do some really great analytical work with a frighteningly good team of broadcast journalists. Some days, it's hard to believe that I am privileged to pursue this kind of career path. I pinched myself on the way back to the car to make sure it was real. It was.

If you want to see me chatting on most of my cylinders, click here for the interview.

Your turn: Is this stuff cool or what?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Adventurer's end?

As I write this, the search for millionaire adventurer and aviator Steve Fossett continues. Fossett took off in his small plane yesterday and never returned. His aircraft is believed down somewhere in Nevada (click here for news, and here for wiki entry.)

I last wrote about him in 2005 (see here and here) when he became the first person to pilot an aircraft solo non-stop around the world. The GlobalFlyer record wasn't his only achievement: he holds in excess of 115 world records or firsts.

I pray he's found in good health, because a world that can so often sap the spirit with its cruelty needs the inspiration of extraordinary folks like him. I don't have all the money in the world to buy planes and balloons and fly them ridiculous distances. But I'm not beyond being touched by the example of someone who, when faced with the choice of comfortably and safely staying home or heading into the great unknown, repeatedly decides to take that chance and push the bounds.

I can't help but think that we can all learn a little from people like him, and we would all be lessened in some way by his possible loss.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Additional links: Updated Sep. 5 coverage, PBS/Nova interview text.

On the line

40 yards, this way
London, Ontario, June 2007

Football isn't my favorite sport. I think I have issues with the fact that North Americans call it football in the first place, when we all know the real football is the monstrously popular game that everyone else in the world worships because it is as simple and pure as sport can be. Here on the wrong continent, they call it soccer, and David Beckham aside, it is essentially dead at the professional level.

North American football is played by very large men wrapped in even larger cocoons of protective equipment. Although I enjoy watching a rare game, I fail to understand the beyond-religious appeal of the game in some communities - especially when so many of this sport's so-called "fans" have never even set foot on a real field, much less played the game.

But when our daughter's school attended a track meet at the big stadium on the campus of London's main university, I found myself staring at the micro-elements of the place. There was so much symmetry in the way the place was laid out. It had order, richness, purpose. I learned that I can appreciate a venue even if I don't quite appreciate the rabid fans who follow the sport that is played there. Call me a square, I guess.

But in the end, the photography matters more than my contrarian views of popular sports. So I took a bunch of pictures (click here for an earlier view) and I'll share more in the weeks to come.

Your turn: What's this view saying to you?

One more thing: The little folks are sleeping quietly after a busy and fun-filled weekend. Later this morning, they head back to school. Ambivalence reigns as I recognize once again that they're not getting younger. And neither am I. I am virtually certain that words and images will result from this annual, increasingly meaningful milestone. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dark chair in a dim alley

Shanghai, China, May 2007

I think I took around 1,200 pictures when I was in China. At that rate, I could post an image a day and keep y'all entertained into the next decade.

Don't worry, though, as I'm not that cruel. But as I continue to refine my archives, I continue to find images that bring me right back to an incredible experience in an incredible place. So don't be surprised if you keep seeing bits and pieces from my Chinese adventure.

While I was there, I kept looking for scenes that I thought would tell the micro-story of this place. Small pictures, not big ones. Quiet moments instead of the loud ones. The kinds of scenes that would normally not make it into the typical photo album, but would still evoke the spirit of what it was like to be here.

I found this scene in the shadows of one of the many alleyways that snake away from the jam-packed streets. I had gone for a walk with other members of the Canadian contingent, and as the evening sky darkened over the still-busy, neon-lit pedestrian mall, the ghostly fluorescent glow from this forgotten corridor drew my attention. I liked the two intersecting forms of light, the down-on-its-luck tile floor, the chair with no one in it, and the story of how it came to be there that everyone in my group tried to divine, but no one could.

In the end, we figured it was another mystery for us to ponder.

Your turn: Who sits here? What's his/her story?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Caption This 34

Please come up with a caption for this image [See below for details on how Caption This works]
Somewhere on the I-75, January 2006

I like to take depressing pictures. Or pictures of odd things in nondescript places. To wit, I'm willing to bet that this badly-powered, woefully ancient and sad-looking hand dryer in an Interstate rest stop washroom wasn't a frequent photographic subject.

Until I sauntered by, of course. So I'm hoping you'll be touched by the spirit of Caption This, my blog's increasingly famous (OK, famous in my house) weekly feature that promises happiness for all who participate. Really! You just smiled, didn't you?

Lesson learned: One must be really careful pulling out a camera in a public washroom. The whole Larry Craig "I cruise airport washrooms but I'm not gay" episode has added yet another layer of chill to this unique form of institutional photography. Don't ask how I learned this. I just know. Trust me.

Your turn: Invent a neato caption for this image and be the toast of the blog world next Sunday when I announce the winner. Click here for the Caption This rules.

Last week's image of a lady of a certain age searching the beach with a metal detector was one of the more poignant images I've brought home this summer. In the end, Danny took it with his deliciously ghoulish caption: "I knew I should have taken the ring off of my husband's finger before I buried him." I hope you'll visit his site (click here) and share your congratulations.

Other notable quotables included the following:
Thanks, everyone, for making Caption This the pseudo-popular feature that it is. Have fun with this week's photo!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A&P produce video fracas

From the world of the Dora spoof to the produce aisle...

When I first heard that two brothers, Mark and Matthew D'Avella, were first fired from their jobs at the A&P grocery in Califon, New Jersey, and then sued for $1 million, I immediately wondered about the tightness of the grocery chain executives' neckties and their obvious inability to recognize satire.

The trouble for these two 17-year-olds began when they were given permission from their manager to shoot a rap parody video for a class assignment. Their intent was to spoof so-called rap "artists" by building a story around vegetables. They shot it at night, when the store was deserted, and brought in their own produce for the shoot.

After they posted the video to their web site,, someone - anonymous, of course, because cowards never have the guts to identify themselves - complained to A&P. The grocery chain launched an investigation, fired them, and then sued them, claiming that's how much business they lost because of the video's release.

These two seemingly straight-laced college kids have been making the rounds of the talk shows in recent days, sharing their thoughts on how absurd it seems for a Big Bad Supermarket Chain to go after them with such a legal-driven vengeance.

There's an A&P near my house. I've often brought my own camera into its produce aisles for some photographic fun (see here and here for a couple of examples.) Something tells me I'd be less inclined to shop at a store whose leaders clearly don't know how to take a joke. Maybe it's time for companies with stuffed shirts at the top to bring in younger leadership that clearly understands how we communicate in the world today.

I'll betcha the execs who made the fire-and-sue-'em decision had never even heard of YouTube (or Facebook, or blogs, or podcasting, or...) before this video was brought to their attention. I would advise them to drop this lawsuit so the rest of the world will stop laughing at them. Then they'll be free to go back to printing their weekly flyers and taking down the old postings from the community message bulletin board at the front of the store. That sounds more their speed.

Your turn: What say you on this oddball story? Are some companies (A&P, anyone?) too disconnected from reality for their own good? Is this the way to build a business?