Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eight is indeed lucky

Milestone for a munchkin
London, ON, July 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Little man, otherwise known as Noah, turned eight today. All day long yesterday, he was counting the hours until midnight, wishing he could somehow speed things along. We gently reminded him that time always moves at the same speed, and someday he'll wish he could slow it down.

As we got ready for bed, my wife and I both found ourselves wishing we had that power. Maybe it's because he's our youngest, but his birthdays seem to tug at our hearts with just a bit more bittersweet flavor because he's the last of our three kids to celebrate them.

It's been quite some time since he was a baby, of course, but I still remember his coming into the world as if it were yesterday. It's hard to believe it's been eight years. But at the same time, it's hard to imagine life without him. Indeed, it's hard to imagine our world without him, without his kindness, empathy, sense of humor and sweetness.

He burst into our room early this morning to announce that he was finally eight years old - because we might have otherwise not known. As the fog receded from my eyes, I looked closely at him. He looked bigger than he had when we tucked him in just a few hours earlier. On her blog, my wife has written about his big puppy feet. This morning, his legs looked like they had grown just a little bit. Maybe they were trying to catch up. His face looked slightly older, more angular. Maybe it was just my eyes playing tricks on me - that happens when you hit my age, I suppose.

I can't slow down time and I can't keep him from rushing away from the baby he once was. I can't yet get him to truly appreciate why he shouldn't be in such a rush to grow up. I can't hold onto his childhood any more than he wants to remain there. Yet as he adds another year to his life, I find myself looking at my own, hoping I'm doing everything I can as his dad, as his mom's husband, to set the tone, to give him what he needs, to show him the way.

Eight years on, I still wonder some days if I'm following the manual the way I'm supposed to. Then it hits me that there is no manual. It's a reality that makes parenthood a challenge, but also an adventure and definitely a joy. I'm becoming who I am through the lens of our kids, and I doubt it would be anywhere near as much fun without them.

May your ninth year be as charmed as your eighth, my sunshine boy. May we always feel that unique joy in our hearts as we watch you cheerfully work your way through the day, rubbing your goodness off on everyone who crosses your path. May you always be surrounded by family and friends who love you limitlessly and unconditionally - because you know we do.

Your turn: I hope you'll pop by my wife's blog and share a thought with her. She's a lovely person. Yeah, I'm biased :)

About these photos: I could take pictures of my family all day. Some days, I do! We took the munchkin to a neato hotel here in town for a party with his friends. It's got an atrium with a pool and water slide, and it was all he could talk about for the last month. He was just, just tall enough to go down the water slide - that growth thing again - so it ended up being an even happier day for him.

Thematic Photographic tie-in: If you're following this week's Thematic Photographic theme - signs - you'll notice my none-too-subtle inclusion of Noah's birthday cake in this entry. That's kind of a sign, right? Anyway, my point is simple: Signs are everywhere. They take many forms. Please feel free to think outside the box as you plan your own TP contributions. Click here to start or continue your photo addiction.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thematic Photographic 9 - Signs

You didn't say please
Toronto, ON, May 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Welcome back to Thematic Photographic. This weekly photo challenge has become a highlight for me, and I hope for you, too!

This week's theme is...signs!

They're quite literally everywhere, telling us where to go and what to do (or not to do, as the case may be.) It's easy to let them fade into the background - and I suspect most of us do just that as we try to navigate our way around without getting flattened in the process. But sometimes, you come across a sign that makes you pause and think.

As you post and share your sign-themed photos this week, I hope you'll take a bit of time to ponder the meaning of signs. I also hope you'll share a thought or two about them along the way. Most of all, I hope you have fun with it.

Your turn: Here are the Thematic Photographic guidelines:
  1. I post a new entry every Wednesday evening.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...signs!
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. You may post one per day, many per day, one each day of the entire week, whatever suits your fancy. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  7. Please share this link with friends, too. I like when lots of folks have fun with photography.
One more thing: I couldn't resist posting another monochrome photo - kind of like a link to last week's theme. As we get more themes under our collective belt, I may mix and match along the way, just because it's neat. As always, your suggestions and thoughts are most welcome, so feel free to share.

Wordless Wednesday - Grated

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

The scene: The playground in the neighborhood park a few blocks from home. Our daughter and youngest son are busily climbing, swinging, sliding and squealing with glee. I'm sitting on a bench, trying to keep track of it all, thinking about a similar park in a similar neighborhood hundreds of kilometers and a generation removed from here. I'm imagining my parents deriving joy from watching me all those years ago. I think about how fleeting these experiences are, how fast my own kids are growing. I wonder if my parents thought the same thing as they watched me fly between the swings and the teeter totter.

I often bring my camera here. It's the kind of place that gives up something new every time we come. This time, I turn my attention to one of the climbing platforms. The pattern of the grating can't be ignored. So after their little feet have propelled them elsewhere, I zoom in and shoot.

Your turn: This is the final posting in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, monochrome. It's not too late to post your own similarly-themed photo or link. Click here to dive in. I'll be posting the new theme later this evening.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pillars of strength

Like a rock
San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I love when pictures instantly give you a sense of size and scale. These pillars suggested, strongly, the concept of massive as soon as I walked past them. I got the sense that they had been here forever, and that nothing we build today can quite as effectively suggest strength as these architectural features can.

Your turn: Why don't new buildings inspire the same feelings of awe that old ones seem to?

About this photo: This is another in a series of images that, despite being shot in color, came out in near-monochrome. Which fits this week's Thematic Photographic theme of...monochrome (what, you were surprised?) New theme goes up tomorrow (Wednesday) evening, so you've still got time to share your photo or link. Click here to get on board the b&w train.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Carrying the load
San Francisco, CA
July 2008
[Click to enlarge]

It's hard not to feel small as you stand in the shadow of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. On this morning, the low, gray skies threaten to swallow the tops of the towers. The weather is leaving a uniformly gray pall over everything along the waterfront. I've taken pictures from here before, and the contrast between this visit and the last one couldn't be more extreme.

Strangely, I find this murky morning even more beautiful than the brilliantly sunny, blue-skied afternoon on my previous trip (see here , here, here and here for entries/photos from last year's walkabout.)

Different strokes, I guess.

Your turn: The first three words that come to mind as you view this photo are...?

One more thing: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is monochrome. I hope you'll share your own black and white photo or link. Click here to get started. It's easy and fun. Promise.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Caption This 81

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to embiggen]

If you're just joining us, this photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, monochrome. Click here to get in on the insanity.
The scene: San Francisco waterfront, on the Embarcadero, 6:31 on a dismally gray and damp morning. I probably should have been back at the hotel, packing and getting ready to go to the airport. Instead, I got it into my head that I should take a rapid walk out to the Ferry Building in the shadow of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. I wanted to bring some pictures home from this very brief trip, and a morning photo-blast through the downtown seemed like a fun way to cram a lot of optical bits into a teeny slice of time.

So emotion trumped logic out as I jumped out of bed, grabbed my camera and tore out of the hotel. The weather was so gray that many of my pictures - especially the ones of the bridge - came out monochrome despite the fact that I was shooting in color. I was stunned at how many homeless people were here, and had to take great care to avoid getting too close or otherwise upsetting them with my lens. In retrospect, probably not the smartest place for me to be, far from home and alone. But you can't tell new stories unless you push your envelope a bit every once in a while.

I shot this image from the parking lot behind the Ferry Building. The shepherd-like statue seemed to be watching over the countless cars and trucks making their way over the huge structure. I tried to will the statue to cast its protective gaze over the poor, forgotten souls sleeping, hidden, under blankets near its base. No dice.

Your turn: Please give this photo a caption (or many captions.) Click on the comment link below and go to town. I'll post the winner next Sunday.

About last week's image of a gull in flight: Definitely a keeper, this image was. You obviously agreed, as you filled the site up with zillions of great captions. Here's a quick rundown of some of the honorable menschens:
  • Robin: "Bird's eye view."
  • B13: "Commence bombing run in 3... 2... 1..."
  • Terri: "So long and thanks for all the fish."
  • SPwriter: "Gull ever travels" and "Bird flew."
  • Awareness: "Gull a vanting."
  • Lynda: "Jonathan Livingston WHO?"
  • Twobuyfour: "I just flew in from San Francisco, and boy are my arms tired!"
  • R. Sherman: "Sadly, Bob's career was cut short following an unfortunate navigational error which placed over the Hamilton Skeet Club."
  • Anne: "Where did i put my keys?"
  • Killired: "Bird's eye view."
  • Sara: "The one who flew over the cuckoo's nest."
In the end, I had to declare a tie in what evolved into a delightfully fun superpower arms race of Caption This. Steve (aka SPwriter) and Robin went at it all week and ended up making this a totally cool, majorly entertaining process. Steve's "Never a gull moment" and Robin's "Tastes like chicken" take the title this week. Please visit them both. Their words and images will captivate you.

Shameless plug time: I'm a sucker for repeat players. Keep tossing captions at the wall until something sticks, I always say. It's more fun that way, too!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

He's dead, Jim

Dead ivy on concrete
London, ON, July 2008

I took this toward the back of a crumbling parking lot in downtown London. The brilliantly blue sky overhead stood in stark contrast to the gray scene that surrounded me at ground level.

I didn't originally take this image as a monochrome shot. But as so often happens, there was just no color there to begin with. Further evidence that we're remarkably adept at sucking the life out of a place when we don't care to try harder.

Your turn: Scenes that are naturally grim. Please discuss. (And please click here to visit this week's Thematic Photographic entry if you haven't already done so. We're exploring the monochrome world this week, and we'd like you to join us on our quest.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

We're on the road to nowhere

San Francisco, CA, July 2008 [Click to embiggen]

This entry continues this week's Thematic Photographic's theme, monochrome...
Click here if you'd like to join in. I hope you do!
I like simple, stark scenes because I think we remember them best. Like a good photo, life is best enjoyed when you strip all the extraneous garbage out of the scene. Doing so lets you focus only on the simple stuff, the stuff that matters most, the stuff you'll hold onto when things get rough.

As my plane approached touchdown in San Francisco, I looked out the window and saw this simple perspective. Of course, if you think about the engineering that makes this possible, and the complexities of the folks making the crossing, it isn't simple at all. But for a moment, all I saw was a straight line cutting across a vast stretch of monotonous sea. And I thought it made for a simply memorable moment. Don't you?

Your turn: Why do you like simple?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vacancy at the Economy Inn

Ocala, FL, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]
Quick note: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is monochrome. So if you've got any black and white or sepia-toned visions of your world, please click here and submit to your heart's content.
It's early evening in northern Florida. We've got hours of driving ahead of us as we pull off exit 352 on Interstate 75 and look for a place to get a quick snack, let the kids run around for a few minutes and then get back on the road. I spot a Dunkin Donuts and, thanks to two days of accumulated fatigue, take the wrong entrance. I end up in the motel next door and can't get back to Dunkin without some serious vehicular backtracking. I park the wondervan at the edge of the crumbling asphalt. We can walk.

As Debbie goes on ahead, I take some quiet time to observe the desolate building behind me. A tattered vinyl banner covers the roadside sign, peeled paint visible all around it. There's not a soul in sight. It reminds me of the ghost towns in the wake of 1950s nuclear tests in the Nevada desert. Time definitely forgot this place. Out comes the camera - this is too reminiscent of urban ruins to pass up.

Suddenly, an even half-dozen polyester-clad folks of a certain age emerge, almost from nowhere. Three men, three women, obviously couples, all dressed in colors that remind me of the bright stucco used on buildings down here. They stare at me as I point my lens in their general direction. I lower it, not wanting them to think I'm capturing them. The lady with the blue hair and shiny white purse waves at me. I wave back as they make their way to the landau-roofed Grand Marquis with the wire hubcaps.

Even without the camera set to sepia, this place seems old, worn, devoid of color or spirit. Wait, it has a spirit. You just have to stand still for a bit and focus on it for a bit.

Your turn: A place that seemed monochrome as soon as you laid eyes on it. Please discuss.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thematic Photographic 8 - Monochrome

7:43 p.m.
London, ON, June 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I've always preferred monochrome photography to color. By taking away the tool of color, you're forced to rely more heavily on composition, texture and light. You can't let color tell the story for you. Instead, you have to think a little harder, linger over the viewfinder a little longer.

The first pictures I ever took were black-and-white. To this day, I love the forlorn tone that monochrome adds to a scene. Indeed, if my camera ever lost the ability to record color, I think I'd shrug my shoulders and keep on using it.

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is all about YOU. I hope you use the next week to share your favorite colorless perspectives. Here's how it works...
  1. I post a new entry every Wednesday evening.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...monochrome!
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. Feel free to play along as often as you like. You can keep posting, playing and sharing for as long as you wish. I'll post a new theme next Wednesday.
  7. Please share this link with friends, too. I like when lots of folks have fun with photography.
As always, please use this theme as an opportunity to explore your own photography and push your bounds a little. If you're looking for a bit of inspiration before you get started, please click here for more monochrome-themed entries on my blog. Enjoy...and thanks for making this a weekly highlight for everyone who visits. And for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Fishies!

Big mouthed fish
Atlanta, GA, January 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Why a fish? This photo continues this week's animals theme in
Thematic Photographic. It's not too late to post your own animal-themed picture or link. Click here to get started. I'll be posting a new theme later Wednesday evening, so please feel free to drop back in for yet another photographic adventure.
Your turn: What should this fellow's name be? I found him at the Georgia Aquarium. Wanted to take him home. My wise wife wouldn't let me.

Another squirrel

Please take me home
London, ON, July 2007 [Click to embiggen]

I've always been of two minds about squirrels. On the one hand, they're quite cute. From a purely shallow, visual perspective, they're definitely keepers. Yet they're also the most voracious little destroyers you'll ever meet. Bring one home and you're likely to not have a home by morning.

Doesn't mean they won't pose for the occasional picture while we're playing by the river. Nice rodent.

Your turn: Thematic Photographic's animal theme continues through tomorrow, when I'll unveil the new theme for the coming week. Anyone want to guess what it'll be?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pretty in pink

Flamingo road
Palm Beach, FL, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]
Quick note: This week's Thematic Photographic theme, animals, is still looking for creative and fun submissions from...YOU! Click here to see what all the fuss is about.
I could have stood with my family all day at the railing, staring at a flock of these gorgeously colored birds. As tired as they were from walking in the sun all day, the kids probably would have stayed, too. But it was the end of a long afternoon and the park was about to close.

Looks like this lovely birdie was getting a head start on nap time.

Your turn: Why do adults seem to love zoos as much as kids do?

About the title: I grew up with Molly Ringwald movies and the Psychedelic Furs. I seem to have betrayed my coming-of-age-in-the-80s roots in this title. Sorry.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Caption This 80

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Grand Bend, ON, July 2007 [Click to embiggen]

I've got a thing for seagulls. Most of us may dismiss them as disease-carrying pests - probably a fair assessment - but there's something in the way they fly that's always captivated my eye.

Living midway between two Great Lakes, we've got more than our fair share of the flying beasts. So it's no surprise that these images fill up my memory cards fairly frequently.

Your turn: Please click on the Comments link and suggest a caption for this photo. Also, if you haven't yet participated in this week's Thematic Photographic challenge - theme: animals - please click here when you're done. Extra brownie points if you bring a friend along.

About last week's fiery photo: I played with fire to capture this one and thankfully wasn't burned in the process. The benefits of a long lens, I suppose! Lots of honorable menschens this time out, so let's jump right in, shall we:
  • Robin: "Out of the frying pan..."
  • Bradley: "Good-bye Norma-Jean."
  • Linda: "Insatiable...."
  • Barbie2be: "Come on baby, light my fire....."
  • Terri: "Firewall."
  • Killired: "Boy scouts paid off."
  • Morah Mommy: "Fire dance!"
And this week's nod goes to...AverageMom for "Hell was just as gorgeous as Betty had hoped." There was a fantastic undercurrent of subversiveness in most of this week's submissions (must be the tanking economy...thoughts?) but this one had an extra bit of edge. Please click over here to congratulate AverageMom for her win.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight sucks...

...because it's turned our burg's humble movie theatre into a seething cauldron of humanity, all waiting to see the late Heath Ledger in the apparent performance of his career.

As I've done in previous sucks-themed entries - Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto 4, the iPhone and a seemingly endless litany of consumer and artistic-cultural products - I've chosen to use my blog to once again lampoon our near-universal obsession with being the first on our block to have the latest gadget or see the hottest movie or play the newest game or...

Mark my words: Two weeks from now, you'll be able to stroll uninterrupted right up to the ticket window and buy as many overpriced tickets to this film as your eyes - and bladder - can handle. You may even get to kick away the tumbleweed on your way into the near-empty theatre.

I promise you it'll be exactly the same movie that's being shown tonight.

Disclosure: I'm writing this from my seat in said theatre as I await the start of yet another film, Mamma Mia. My wife and I had to carefully step through hordes of Black Knight wannabes who had camped out in the hallways here. Many of them were playing cards. Others texted each other. No one, mercifully, wore a Batman costume. Or, even more mercifully, Robin.

So, by virtue of the fact that I've also braved the crowds to see an homage to really bad 70s-era Scandanavian music, I am very much a sheep, too. But a sheep who loves his wife.

Your turn: Seen any good movies lately? Do tell!

Post-movie update, 12:35 a.m.: Just got back from the movie. A good time was had by all. My wife loved it, and said it lived up to her expectations. Yes, I enjoyed myself, too. Will it win an Oscar? No. Do I care? No. Did it make my wife and I smile for a couple of hours at the tail end of a miserably gray day? Absolutely. Good movies take us places we'd like to go, make us feel good about the world around us, give us opportunity to see the familiar from a different perspective. Critics be damned: Mamma Mia did all three.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Walking in San Francisco

Taking my owner for a walk
San Francisco, CA
July 2008
[Click to embiggen]

It's an animal-themed week here at Written Inc. (please click here to go to Thematic Photographic central) so I thought I'd share a quick vision of this week's trip to San Francisco.

As trips go, it was short. I landed just before lunchtime Monday. The main event that I attended - Intel's global launch for its new Centrino 2 - lasted precisely 3.5 hours and I headed back to the airport early Tuesday morning.

Long story short, I had precious little time to capture photos. Still, I didn't want to come home empty-handed. So I essentially kept my camera in my hand whenever I was out. Going to lunch? Yup. Walking home from the event site? Check. Wandering home from dinner? Got it.

I call it power shooting (or desperation photography, depending on your perspective) and it involves capturing anything that grabs my attention without giving any one image too much time or thought. On this trip, I had a fully charged battery and a big, empty memory card. The net result once I hit the street: chaos. It was unbelievably fun.

And as insane as it all sounds, as I start to work through the 500+ images I managed to bring home I realize that at least one or two of them may be worth sharing. It's a neat place with a neat texture, and I'm glad I tried this little photographic experiment on this trip. I hope you enjoy the results in the days to come.

Your turn: (Aside from submitting your Thematic Photographic link, that is...) Squeezing in photography into impossibly small slices of time. Please discuss.

About this pic: I have no idea who this woman is, much less her dog, but I followed the time-honored tradition of shooting an unidentifiable pose to preserve her privacy. It was one of those life-in-the-big-city moments that just struck me as really sweet and worth remembering.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Remembering Wilson

Goodbye pose
Delray Beach, FL, January 2008

This is the last picture I ever took of Wilson. It was the morning we left my aunt's and uncle's house and headed home. As usual, I looked in his regular hiding places and as usual, he remained well hidden. When he was good and ready, he found his way to the top of the stairs where, as he had done so many times before, he allowed me to take his picture.

Wilson was an old cat who had been through more medical turbulence than any animal ever deserves. My aunt and uncle gently cared for him throughout his long life and, as they have so many other furry friends ever since I can remember, gave him the kind of home that every animal truly ought to have.

Wilson had to be put down today. After I read my aunt's IM - stark black words on a white screen - I thought of this picture. Part of me knew he might not be around the next time we came to visit, but I tried to keep it out of my mind as I quietly spoke to him while I snapped away.

The kids were upset when we told them. They lost their own cat three years ago, and they still speak of Shadow as if it happened yesterday. It hurts them as I know it hurts my aunt and uncle, yet I hope that every time they think of Wilson, they remember a gentle cat who always seemed to be happiest watching the world from a quiet, hidden perch. And I hope they always remember him with smiles in their hearts.

Your turn: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is animals. If you haven't yet done so, I hope you'll click here and share a link to an animal-themed entry. If you've already posted something, I hope you'll share a comment here about how pets imprint themselves on our lives.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thematic Photographic 7 - Animals

To err is human. To forgive, bovine.
Middlesex County, ON, July 2008 [Click to embiggen]

This week's image comes to us courtesy of the farmers just up the road from our house. I was on my way to pick our daughter up from a playdate last weekend when I caught this happy family of moos out of the corner of my eye. The sunroof was open, the sun was shining and cool tunes were tootling through the wondervan. I pulled over and quietly approached the roadside fence to avoid spooking them.

Then the one in front started to pee. So much for not spooking them. Ah, the joys of photography.

Your turn: It's time for YOU to share YOUR animal-themed pictures with the rest of my little blog-world. Here's how it works:
  1. I post a new entry every Wednesday evening.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...animals!
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. Feel free to play along as often as you like. You can keep posting, playing and sharing for as long as you wish.
  7. Please share this link with friends, too. I like when lots of folks have fun with photography.

Wordless Wednesday - Study in chrome

Lighting the way
London, ON, June 2008 [Click to embiggen]
If you're visiting from Wordless Wednesday, welcome! This photo continue this week's Thematic Photographic theme, light. It's not too late to add your light-themed link. Click here to dive in. I'll post the new Thematic Photographic theme later tonight, just as soon as I recover from my Air Canada experience.
Parking lots continue to be fertile places for a guy with a few extra minutes on his hands and a camera hanging from his shoulder. Sometimes, I think I shoot pictures like this just to make complete strangers wonder what the heck I'm doing.

Quick hint: Look closely in the reflections...

Your turn:
Do you get stared at when you shoot photos? Do tell!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Light from the sky

Steel and glass
London, ON, September 2007

I've often referred to malls as soulless, Godless temples of conspicuous consumption. They're places where villages go to die, where towns lose their sense of community, where any sense of individuality is turned into little more than a distant memory. In short, malls suck.

But that doesn't mean I can't try to find something redeeming when I'm forced to visit one. I do, after all, need to replace my socks just as often as anyone else.

Malls are especially challenging to shoot. Since they all look pretty much the same, with their generic "architecture" and overwhelming sense of prefab drabness, it's hard to find compositions that are worth the effort. Doesn't mean I'm not trying, though. I love a good challenge.

Your turn: I hope you'll take your camera with you the next time you go shopping. What are you going to look for?

One more thing: Thematic Photographic's happening here, and Caption This is captioning here. Click on both to avoid missing all the fun. No charge for either, except for a little imagination.

I lied: As you read this, I'm homeward bound, floating somewhere over the continent, courtesy of Air Canada and the engineering wizards who designed the Airbus A319. Be home soon. (And despite my little absence, I'll be posting a new Wordless Wednesday entry just after midnight.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Scene from a breakfast table

Get a handle on yourself
Laval, QC, May 2008 [Click to embiggen]

The scene:
A crowded breakfast place. We were there with Debbie's parents before we got on the highway for the long drive home. 730 kilometers separated us from our driveway, but first we needed to fuel ourselves. It was a typically crowded Sunday morning, and we'd been waiting a while for our meals to arrive. No worries, as I had my camera, a little tripod and a little bit of free time. I set up on the breakfast table and shot quickly before anyone noticed. Okay, some people noticed. But they smiled, so it was okay.

Your turn: Do you have any backlit photos hanging around your hard drive? Wanna share? I sure hope here.

One more thing: I'm not actually here. I'm on the other side of the continent for what must be one of the shortest work-related trips in history. Fly west on Monday, then fly back home Tuesday. Cool meeting in San Francisco for a cool event. Details when I return. Till then, I'll be blogging from some odd places. Please say hi to my wife and wish her sympathy, as she's now surrounded by three kids and a dog...and completely outnumbered. Stay tuned...

Make that two: We're still captioning this week's Caption This entry. Hope you can share a thought or two. Click here to start the fun. Thematic Photographic's still a go, too (no, it's not too late to submit your light-themed photo or link. Head over here to see what the fuss is about.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Caption This 79

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, ON
July 2008
[Click to enlarge]
Before you get started: We're still accepting links for this week's Thematic Photographic challenge. Got a light-themed photo? Click here to give it a shot. Now, on with the show...
Fire is one of the most difficult things to shoot properly. It moves quickly. Its rapidly and unpredictably cycling levels of light make exposure a challenge. It's damn hot, which forces you to stand back and use longer focal lengths - which reduces depth of field and further worsens your focusing precision. I could go on, but you get the picture: It sucks to shoot this stuff.

Which is why we try in the first place, though. Because you learn more from a serious challenge than you do from an easier scenario. Steeper hills are more fun to climb, after all.

Your turn: Please give this photo an appropriate caption. As always, be as creative as you wish, and feel free to submit as many captions as you can handle. Click on the Comments link below and have at it. Not sure how Caption This works? Click here for instructions.

About last week's plane photo: I now view this photo with a bit of irony, as I take off for the other side of the continent early tomorrow morning. I'll be in San Francisco for a major tech vendor's global product launch (more on that later this week.) Then on Tuesday, I head back to the airport and fly back home. I won't be there long enough to adjust to the time change. But I'll bring my camera and will try to power-shoot for the couple of hours that I'll have to walk the streets.

This week's honorable menschens go to:
  • Barb: "The sky's the limit."
  • Jacie: "Err .. can we get a refund on the skywriting... that doesn't look anything like 'Happy Birthday'!"
  • Bob-kat: "Are we nearly there yet?"
  • BreadBox: "Parallel lines meet at infinity."
  • Sister AE: "Happy contrails to you!"
Uisce takes it with the delicious caption, "Tell me honestly, do these vapor tails make me look fat?" He's been one of the most erudite, cutting writers in blogdom ever since I can remember. Please visit his sit, Whiskey Talking, and congratulate him. And if you stick around and read a few entries, I'm sure you'll quickly become as hooked as I am.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saying goodbye to the day

Laval, QC, May 2008

Another in a series of photos that align with this week's Thematic Photographic theme, light. If you haven't posted your photo or link yet, it's not too late (this theme runs until this coming Wednesday, and you've got the whole week to join in as often as you wish.) Click here to start the fun.
I often look up at the sky and think that someone must have painted it. How else can we explain the exquisite, ever-changing scenes taking place just above our heads? And to think all we need to do is look up...

Your turn: What does the sky near you look like right now? Does it make you feel anything?

Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone mania. Not.

Wait, please read this before you continue: Have you submitted your link for Thematic Photographic yet? Don't know what the hell I'm talking about? Please click here. I'll wait. Really!
It's been the week of the iPhone here in Canada. The new-and-improved 3G device went on sale here today, and Canadians have been lining up to be the first on their respective blocks to have one.

It's a lovely phone, and all. But at some point, the hype becomes more than a little ridiculous. People who don't even need the thing - by my estimate, 95% of those who will actually buy it - are working themselves into a tizzy over how this will revolutionize their lives and make them better people in the process.

Come on, people. It's a phone! A very nice phone, mind you, with a ton of great, geeky features that are all very slickly integrated. It's likely the best smartphone available, period. But it's still a piece of technology that will be all but forgotten in two years, if not less. Want proof? What happened to that iPod you bought 5 years ago? C'mon, be honest.

All I ask is for a little perspective. Is that asking for too much? Oops, I guess it is.

The good news in all of this is I got to do a bunch 'o fun media this week. In the runup to today's launch, Canadians were ticked off with Rogers because the exclusive carrier's rates were perceived to be a little on the high side. OK, I'm being nice. They said Rogers was stealing them blind. Someone launched a protest web site called The blogosphere heated up with discussion over how much we love to hate our wireless carriers. Nasty things were said. People cried.

Then Bell and Telus coincidentally introduced a plan to charge customers 15 cents for every incoming text message. The blogosphere went even more insane after this story broke. I yakked about this, too. Here's the CTV story on the Bell-Telus thing. Here's the interview I did with CTV Newsnet's Marcia MacMillan. More nasty things were said. Even my dog cried.

But in the end, no one died. A few thousand people in the land of beavers and mounties got a new plaything. And we all had a little fun bashing the wireless carriers around. Because they deserve it.

Here are some of the fun hits I've had over the past week or so:

Canadian Press.
Byline LuAnn LaSalle:
Reuters. Byline Wojtek Dabrowski:
Business News Network. Chatted with Michael Hainsworth. Watch it here. Was also quoted in a piece by Noah Zivitz: Apple's iPhone is coming to Canada.

Did some interviews with CBC Radio affiliates across the country - including one from my car to avoid the barking dog - and had the distinct pleasure (or horror) of waking up to my own voice on the local radio after the morning guy pulled clips from some kinda national feed.

National Post/Financial Post. Globalive Set To Join Big Boys. Byline David George-Cosh.

PC World. Canadians Blast iPhone Pricing. Byline Nestor Arellano (yes, I used the words "ticked off."

Ottawa Citizen. Consumers' perception still fuzzy Byline: Vito Pilieci

One word comes to mind as I look back at the week that was: Crazy. This going viral thing is a little tiring, but hellishly fun.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Party in the garden

Shoots and leaves
London, ON, July 2008

Light can take many forms. It can be intense or harsh, soft and comforting or something in between. As you mull over your Thematic Photographic submissions - theme: light - this week, I hope you'll use the broadest possible definitions that you can to come up with a unique perspective on this theme.

Your turn: What does "light" mean to you? I hope you'll share it with a Thematic Photographic photo or link of your own. Click here for this week's TP entry.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Thematic Photographic 6 - Light

Let there be light...
London, ON, July 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Photography is the art of capturing, channelling, manipulating and mastering light. So I thought I'd reflect this reality with this week's theme.

I captured this image this past weekend at the birthday party of one of our son's friends. While waiting for the room full of 7- and 8-year-olds to get their cake, I positioned myself near this rather fascinating fixture and went to town. I'm sorry I didn't also capture the looks of the other parents and family members who, unfamiliar with my little optical addiction, wondered why the apparently insane man in the Hawaiian shirt was taking pictures of lights.

Your turn: I'm hoping you'll join the growing Thematic Photographic bandwagon. Here's how it works...
  1. I post a new entry every Wednesday evening.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...light!
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. Feel free to play along as often as you like.
  7. Please share this link with friends, too.. Let's get this photo sharing party started!
That's it for now. (Oops, almost forgot: if you haven't captioned this week, please click here.)

Wordless Wednesday - Smog-choked Shanghai

Day breaks over Pudong
Shanghai, China
May 2007
[Click to enlarge]

Quick note: This is the last sky-themed photo from this week's Thematic Photographic challenge. Click here to see where it all began - and to get in on the action. I'll post a new photo and theme later this evening, so please be sure to check back.
If Beijing's air is anything like Shanghai's - and news reports suggest it is - then it's going to be a fun time for the world's Olympic athletes later this summer. The air is so thick with coal-fed pollution that you can practically taste it when you first walk outside.

Rumor has it that just breathing the air is akin to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day. Either way, it's not the world's most environmentally happy place.

Those clouds you see? Not clouds. The first 15 or so degrees of the horizon are basically smog. I took this shot at 5:42 a.m. from the 66th floor of my hotel. The sun had already risen, but had not yet cleared the smog. The good news is you get a pretty spectacular sunrise when it finally burns through the atmospheric muck (see here). The bad news? Well, you may die young.

Your turn: Your most memorable image of the sky was...? (And click here if you want to submit a sky-themed photo.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Real dogs don't eat cake

Best friends forever
London, ON, July 2008

Birthdays are very special in our house, even if you wear fur and don't speak a recognizably human language.

Frasier turned two today. Of course, he doesn't know that. As it was last year (click here for his first birthday entry, and here for all dog-related entries) he woke up to three children competing with each other for hug time with their favorite dog before breakfast. This being an extra special day, the hugs were a little tighter this morning, sprinkled with liberal singings of the Happy Birthday song and more than a few extra treats, too.

On the way home from camp in the afternoon, they insisted on stopping off at the pet store and getting him a present. Much discussion ensued before we settled on a large-ish stuffed whale.

He leads a charmed life, our dog, and we'd have it no other way. He doesn't do a whole lot around the house. In the year-and-a-bit since we brought his bedraggled form home from a family that really ought not have had a dog in the first place, he's chewed through more than his fair share of slippers, cables, garbage bags and plates of leftovers. He barks at the most inopportune times - in the middle of the night, during live radio interviews - and he barfs on the floor right at the moment that I'm running out the door to an appointment. Let's not discuss his behavior when he encounters neighbors' dogs during a walk.

Beyond this, he doesn't contribute to the mortgage. Nor does he clean up after himself. From a purely practical perspective, he's useless. But this little useless animal has burrowed himself into the fabric of our family. Our kids have learned the importance of caring for an pet who can't care for himself. We've watched them grow as they've figured out how to be responsible dog owners.

I hope we have many more happy days like this - both with him and with each other. We've learned in the past year how fragile life can be, and I find myself hovering over them and him, trying to remember every last aspect of what it feels like to experience moments like this.

Your turn: Remembering a special day. Please discuss.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Flying into the twilight

Seeking shelter from impending darkness
Laval, QC, May 2008

My in-laws live on the 12th floor, facing west. Their balcony provides a front-row seat to an ever changing landscape that always seems to offer up something new. I could never tire of moments or places like this.

Your turn: Got a similar vista in your own neck of the woods? Do tell!

One more thing: This photo continues the sky theme from this week's Thematic Photographic. A little birdie told me you've also got sky-related photos to share. Click here to start the fun.

Oops, make that two: It's my mother-in-law's birthday today. Anyone up for cake?

Okay, I lied...this makes three: Caption This needs you. Got a creative thought for an airplane pic? If so, then please go here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Caption This 78

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Quick note: This week's Caption This photo continues the latest Thematic Photographic theme, sky. Other sky-related entries are here and here. I figured with soaring fuel prices prompting airlines to slash jobs, routes and service, this was a timely photo to share. Click here to share your Thematic Photographic link.
Your turn: As I do every Sunday, I'm turning to you to give this photo a name. Give it your best shot - or as many shots as you've got - by clicking on the Comment link below. Not sure how Caption This works? Click here. It's the most fun you can have while touching your mouse.

About last week's chocolate cow photo: I laughed out loud all week as your suggestions poured in. In the end, only one victor could be declared - well, aside from our son, who got to eat the thing - and that would be Izedabye's Well, at least they captured my best side. Oh, wait, I only have one side. He's new to the blogging world, so I hope you'll click on over to his site, All things me, and welcome him to the insanity.

Honorable menschens go to these following fine folks:
  • Robin: "Udderly delicious" and "Cow, lick." (Submitted from the beach, no less!)
  • Linda: "Do chocolate cows give chocolate milk?"
  • John: "I think I've milked this one for all it's worth."
  • Marcia: "Holy cow."
  • Me: "Cows...quietly taking over the world one bite at a time"
Thanks again to all of you for making this a weekly highlight for me and for everyone else who drops in here!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sweet 16

It's often said that time flies when you're having fun. So as my wife and I woke up this morning, 16 years after we were married, the first thought that occurred to both of us was how fast it all seems to have gone.

Bleary-eyed, I headed downstairs and stopped halfway down the stairs to peer out over the living room and try to put it in perspective. I saw three children playing and a dog wandering between them. They were speaking quietly to each other, filling the room with the kind of weekend-morning banter that makes a house a home.

It was one of those Rockwellian moments that have always seemed to be a part of our little suburban life. I quietly sat on the stairs and tried to remember back to a time when life wasn't like this. I couldn't.

I couldn't remember what this world - our world - was like without these three little extensions of us, without the uniqueness each of them brings to our home: Zach's wicked sense of humor and fast-emerging view of the world. Dahlia's empathetic serenity and kindness and Noah's never-ending sweetness and energy. On this day 16 years ago, they were mere glimpses in our future, yet I couldn't, from my perch on the staircase, remember life without them.

In my mind, they've existed forever. We created them, their memory, their impact on the planet, when we decided to start a family. And I'm not afraid to admit that there are days when I wonder whether we've bitten off more than we can chew, whether we're up to the challenge of shepherding them into adulthood, whether I'm good enough to be their dad and my wife's husband.

But as I padded back upstairs and tucked myself back in next to my wife, I stared at her for a bit and realized that she's always been all I've needed. That's the way it's always been: she grounds me. I don't remember life before her, and can't imagine a life any different than the one we've built since that magical day 16 years ago.

Saying thank you to whatever powers-that-be that put me here doesn't seem adequate. I don't know what I did to deserve any of this, but I'm perfectly happy to revel in it for as long as I possibly can. Life is good because she decided to navigate it with me.

One more thing - If you want to go back in time, click on these anniversary-themed links:
Your turn: What are you celebrating today?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Through our son's eyes

Zach's sky
London, ON, June 2008 [Click to enlarge]
Quick note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, sky. If you haven't already done so, click here and post your sky-related link. If you've already posted one, feel free to post some more. Enjoy!
As our kids have grown into the fabulous little people that they are, they've begun to pursue their own artistic directions. Zach's learning guitar and has become adept with a camera in his own right. Dahlia draws and paints like my wife - beautifully and thoughtfully - and has gravitated toward the keyboard. Noah is following in his big sister's artistic footsteps and slowly filling our house with colorful examples of his unique view of the world.

So I wasn't surprised a couple of weeks back when Zach asked if he could shoot some pictures with my camera. We were waiting for our table at a restaurant after a series of thunderstorms had rolled through the late afternoon sky. I placed the Nikon in his hands and showed him how to cradle and balance it, which controls he needed to learn and which ones could wait for another day. He took to its heft pretty quickly, and before long was shooting like he'd been using it all his life.

The clouds fascinated him, especially as they moved off toward the horizon. They were moving quickly, so he didn't have a lot of time to compose. But when we reviewed his handiwork on the camera's screen, we knew this was the one that would tell the story of the moment when he moved his photography to the next level.

Your turn: When did you discover what jazzes you? How did it happen?

One more thing: Wherever you are, I hope you're having a safe and joyous 4th of July. It always touches me how deeply felt this holiday is. May we always have blessings of all shapes and sizes to share.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Drama in the skies

Parking lot find with the kids
London, ON, June 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Quick note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, sky. Got a sky pic you'd like to upload and share? Already have something posted online somewhere? Click here to get in the game.
The kids noticed the dark clouds gathering on the horizon. They sighed as I stopped the wondervan in the parking lot to compose this shot. We played a quick game of guess-what-I-see before we got going again. Another moment in the life of our not-so-typical family.

Your turn: So what do you see in this cloud? Lots to ponder, I reckon. Have fun!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Thematic Photographic 5 - Sky

The sun sets over London
London, ON, June 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I've been poking my lens skyward for as long as I've owned a camera. The sky offers one of the most varied and challenging landscapes for a photographer. Between constantly shifting light, a ball of gas that can burn your sensor to oblivion and the occasional bout of rain or, gasp, snow, the sky is hardly an easy subject to work with. But when you come home with magic moments like this, you realize it's worth the extra effort.

Your turn: What do you see when you look up? Here's how Thematic Photographic works, and I hope you'll play along this week:
  1. I post a new entry every Wednesday evening.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's!
  3. You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  4. You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  5. If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  6. Repeat process as often as you wish. Send this link to friends, too...the more, the merrier.
If you want to make sure you're always up on the latest Thematic Photographic-related news, here's the link to the label/tag/category of all TP entries on my blog: Photographic


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Shake it

Shaken, not stirred
Montreal, QC
May 2008
[Click to embiggen]

Quick note: I've started something new on my blog. It's called Thematic Photographic, and every Wednesday evening, I upload a new photo and a theme for that week. Hopefully, you'll post your own similarly-themed photo and paste the link into a comment here. That way, we all share, learn and enjoy life through our respective lenses.

About this photo: Taken on a restaurant table in our hometown of Montreal. My wife and I managed to get a rare couple of hours of alone time thanks to in-laws who saw that we needed it. The light was super dim, so out came the spidery-looking tripod and remote control for some long exposure fun. Our server, who ignored us for most of the time we were there, was none the wiser.

Your turn: This image is from last week's theme, wood. Click here to dive in. Next theme goes up this evening.

One more thing: Caption This can be found here.

Rogers sucks - and other media madness

It's been another busy time in medialand for me. Here are some notable hits (and, no, I still can't believe I'm lucky enough to get to do stuff like this. Someone please pinch me):

CBC. Went to the CBC studios in downtown Toronto to talk about Canada's proposed copyright law, Bill C-61. It was an experience to be there.
National Post/Financial Post. RIM falters, rolls on. Byline David George-Cosh (it's a good day when I get to use the word "spanking" in print!)
"This is more a case of missed expectations than any reflection of sub-par performance by RIM," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc.

"The market is spanking RIM a bit because the company has blown past estimates over the past year, and this time out it fell just short. It's like the star athlete that fails to set a world record but still wins the event."
CTV Newsnet. Spoke to Marcia MacMillan last night about the upcoming release of the iPhone in Canada and the rate plans from Rogers that amount to sanctioned extortion of Canadian consumers. Oops, did I say that? Guess I did! If it walks like a duck... I'm still looking for the video on their web site. Stay tuned (I recorded it at home, though, so if you want to pop by for some tea, ping me.)

(Here's a link to the protest site, It's currently returning "forbidden" error messages - Rogers conspiracy, perhaps? - but I hope you'll sign the petition nonetheless when it's back up.)

Canadian Press. Bidding continues in auction to bring more competition to cellphone industry. Byline LuAnn LaSalle.
Analyst Carmi Levy said the higher than expected amounts that have been bid will have fallout for all of the players in terms of what they will be able to offer consumers.

"So obviously the more you spend on bandwidth and on the rights to own bandwidth, then the less you have after the fact and that will have implications for the kinds of services we can see and when we will be able to see them," said Levy of Toronto's AR Communications Inc.

It will also impact the smaller players that want to build cellphone networks, said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting.


Even though bidding is starting to flatten, nobody is giving an inch, Levy said.

"This is the way it's being played out and they don't have a choice," said Levy. "Their only alternative is to fold up their tents and go home and none of them is doing that."

The symbiosis of life

Mutual support
London, ON, June 2008

It's been a neat week of transition and reflection for our eldest son, Zach. He graduated elementary school last week, ending the semester strongly after a year of challenge thanks to his accident. As a reward, we signed him up for guitar lessons and listened intently as he began to fill the house with, um, music.

May our walls always be filled with such chaos, may my unpredictably cool little family always have happy milestones like these to celebrate. And your family, too, because goodness seems that much sweeter when it's shared.

About this photo: This image, mossy bark from a grand old tree just across the street from our house, reminds me that all life depends on other life in order to survive. Neither one would be as rich without the other. It continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, wood. If you haven't jumped into this mushrooming online photo sharing experience, click here to get started. You'll be happy you did (I know this because I'm happy I started it!) Caption This is also still going strong here.

Your turn: I hope you'll share a milestone in your own life. Why do they matter so?