Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Scales of justice?

Weigh this, please
London, ON
September 2008
[Click to enlarge]
About this photo: All week long, Thematic Photographic has been focusing on angles. If you'd like to share a photo that has something to do with angles, click here. As ever, I'll be posting a new Thematic Phographic theme Wednesday evening, and invite you to participate in that one, too. What's the theme? Well, here's where I happily break with tradition: I'm announcing it now! Read through to the Your Turn below...
I like things that remind me what life was like before digital electronics revolutionized our lives. For all the wonder these inventions bring, they often suck the romance out of the experience. To wit, looking up a word in an online vs. conventional dictionary:

Online - type word into box, click the "Look Up" button, then wait the nanosecond it takes for the definition to appear onscreen.

Book - Fetch the massive, dusty, leatherbound book that your parents bought you for some long-ago forgotten birthday from its shadowy living space beneath the little table in the front hall that also houses the Yellow Pages and the dog's leash. Plop it on the kitchen table and slowly leaf through the pages, stopping here and there to skim whatever words catch your eye. Eventually, you find the word you're looking for and return to the task at hand. You leave the book on the table because you may want to explore some more before bedtime.

So the new way is clearly more efficient, infinitely faster, less dust-prone and kinder to trees than the old way. But I don't think I'll ever give up my old dusty dictionary. And I know the owner of this scale won't let it slip into history, either.

Your turn:
The NEXT Thematic Photographic theme is (drum roll, please)....KIDS! I'll be posting it on Wednesday night at precisely 6:30 p.m. Please get your minds churning over any kid-themed pics that you'd like to share this week. It's infinitely more fun to pop up a new one every day, and I invite you to spend the next week doing just that with us. Can't wait to see what you come up with! (If you're new to Thematic Photographic, please click here for the most recent entry. Rules/guidelines are included there.)


Picture perfect (see this week's Thematic Photographic theme, angles, for more.)
London, ON, September 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I like it when the supporting cast takes center stage. Frames don't always have to play second fiddle, after all.

Your turn: The unsung heroes among us. Please discuss.

Bailout fails. That's not the scary part.

It's hard to watch the current economic turmoil without feeling a certain kind of dread. Somewhat surprisingly, I'm not talking directly about the massive losses in share value or even the institutional instability that's driving daily takeovers. While these things most certainly are in and of themselves frightening, they are expected outcomes of regular, relatively predictable economic cycles. It's not like we've never seen these events before.

No, what really freaks me out is the total lack of leadership in government that first allows the lax behaviors that created this mess in the first place to fester, then the partisan, short-sighted sniping that seems to override our elected representatives' collective accountability to serve as stewards of a stable economy.

I feel like I'm sitting in a tumbling aircraft while the flight crew tumbles through the galley in a fight to the death over whose chocolate contaminated the other's peanut butter.

Something tells me the standards of government have fallen to historic and irreversible lows. Which bodes ill for whatever global crises lurk in our future. And scares me more than any one specific event.

Maybe I'll avoid planes, chocolate AND peanut butter from here on out. I'll walk wherever I need to go.

Your turn: Does the failed bailout, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, any of this touch you in any way?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Caption This 90

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

London, ON
October 2005
[Click to make me taller]

Please note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, angles. Got a picture - or a link to one - that fits the theme? Have a hankering to grab your camera and take just such a picture? Click here to get involved.
You can have a lot of fun with the late afternoon sun. I'm not, shall we say, vertically gifted. But on this day, in this light, none of that mattered.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this image. Come to think of it, suggest as many as you wish! I'll choose the winner next Sunday. Need more background on how this works? Click here.

About last week's spider photo: I have to apologize for the creepiness of this pic. I received e-mail, IM, Facebook and Twitter messages from more than a few people who wanted to let me know they wouldn't be looking at this entry. It gave them the willies. Since I'm not named Willy, and this is a family-friendly blog, I'll keep future pics from freaking anyone out. For my non-arachnophobic captioners, honorable menschens go to:
  • Judy: "Oh what a tangled web she weaves..."
  • Star: "Welcome to my parlor."
  • Robin: "Web writer" (though, truth be told, I revelled in her full list of submissions)
  • Salubrina: "Just when i needed a fly on the wall, there's none to be found"
  • Bradley: "While the cool kids were hangin' out, the arachnerd was inside playing on the web."
  • Sealaura: ""Wilbur, better appreciate this!"
  • Awareness: "Inner beauty is what matters."
Melissa wins my eternal adulation this week with her caption, "Spin doctor". I think it might even make a great vanity license plate. Melissa is an eclectic and accomplished writer whose work has a refreshing habit of popping up where you least expect. When you're looking for an inspirational read, head over to her site, Escribition, and share a word - or two - of congratulations with her.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman's own life lesson

Paul Newman died last night. I rarely write about celebrities because I find the whole star worship thing to be particularly shallow. Watch Entertainment Tonight or TMZ for 30 seconds and you stand a better than even chance of losing enough brain matter to scare you back to public broadcasting for the rest of your life.

But I'll make an exception here because Mr. Newman wasn't a typical celebrity. Sure, he could have rested on his considerable laurels as a gifted actor and agent provocateur in the entertainment industry. But there was so much more to him than the yellow journalism headlines in the supermarket aisle ever suggested.

Trailblazing philanthropist. Uber devoted husband to the love of his life, Joanne Woodward. Devoted father who managed to find the opportunity in his son's tragic drug-related death. A pedal-to-the-metal car racer who knew how to squeeze the most out of life. I could keep going for a while, as he embodied the spirit of a Renaissance Man.

And that's the thing that set him apart, that made him a role model even to folks who had never seen him onscreen. He lived life well. He followed his own heart. He did the right thing for the right reason.

He was the kind of person I suspect we'd all like to emulate just a little bit in our own lives. He was the kind of person we need to help repair our fractured, shallow world. He's the kind of person who will be missed on so many levels by so many.

Your turn: His legacy. Please discuss.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What I learned from a leaf

Sharp edged leaf
Delray Beach, FL
December 2005
[Click to embiggen]
About this photo: If you've got an angle-themed photo, we want to hear about his. Point your mouse over here to share your photo or link. We call it Thematic Photographic, and if you participate in one photo activity this week, we hope you choose this one.
I always thought sharp angles and straight lines were the domain of the artificial and the urban. I figured only humans were capable of - or dumb enough to - create entire environments composed of straight lines and sharply defined angles.

Then I saw this leaf while hanging out with my favorite aunt and uncle and I realized I was completely wrong. They've got great taste in foliage, don't you think? Note to self: take more time to appreciate the leaves and the folks who matter most.

Your turn: The weekend's finally here! What's on your calendar for the next couple of days? What should be on mine?

One more thing: Caption This is still taking submissions. Eight legs, eight words, whatever you've got. Head here to join the party.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Every square is a family

Lives. Lived.
Somewhere over the U.S. midwest, July 2008
About this photo: We're sharing photos with angles as part of this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Have you posted yours yet? Ooh, you'll have so much fun if you do! Head over here to get started.
Flying across the continent gives you an amazing perspective on how vast and varied the planet can be. From desert-like mountain ranges to strange strakes in the snow, you don't really need to watch the in-flight movie. Just stare out the window and watch the show.

As I winged my way home from San Francisco this summer, I found myself searching for words as we flew over this endless carpet of rectangular farmland. I couldn't stop thinking about how each block was a family, and as tiny as they looked from way up here, each one contained untold stories that I could only begin to imagine.

Part of me wished I could be on the ground for a bit, just to hear one of those stories. I bet it would be more interesting than any in-flight movie.

Your turn: I'm enjoying the three-word game, so let's play it again, shall we? Please share the first three words that come to mind when you first see this photo.

One more thing: It's been a busy media week this week, and I'll post a full rundown of the more significant interviews that I've had published and aired this week. For now, I'd like to share two neat things:
  • I was interviewed by BNN's Michael Kane on his show, The Street, this morning to discuss Research In Motion's quarterly earnings report. We spoke about the BlackBerry device's prospects as the economy goes to hell in a handbasket. Click here to see me on TV. (Please don't be afraid.)
  • My weekly radio gig airs tomorrow (Friday) night on AM640 Toronto. I'll be chatting about tech with John Downs before we throw the lines open and answer listeners' questions. Click here at about 8:30 to listen to the live stream. (Update, Friday 12:14 p.m.: The show is being pre-empted by hockey tonight and next Friday. I've just been interviewed on RIM's results, and that interview should air shortly.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thematic Photographic 17 - Angles

90 degrees of plastic
London, ON, September 2008 [Click to enlarge]

First, a word of thanks: last week's Thematic Photographic theme, nature, was the most popular one in TP's history. I'm blown away that this little idea of mine has touched so many people and is well on its way to becoming quite the tradition. Thank you for your enthusiasm, and for helping spread the word. Here's to bigger and better things...

About this photo: While taking pictures at our daughter's birthday party, I found myself wandering around the fringes of the room, looking for the kinds of scenes that most folks wouldn't associate with a party (I'm odd that way.) The kids hadn't yet had cake, so the table was as clean as clean could be. Something in the folds of the plastic table cloth made me stop and stare. I love lines, even when they're drawn in unconventional ways.

Your turn: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is angles. As ever, feel free to interpret the theme any way you see fit. The joy in this lies in seeing the incredible variation in submissions from everyone who plays along as the week progresses. If you're new to TP, here's how it works:
  • Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...angles.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Life on Mars?

It's like reading the atlas
Somewhere over the western U.S., March 2007
[Click photo to view original on Flickr]

Shhh, don't disturb the tectonic plates!

Your turn: What three words come to mind as you first see this image?

About this photo: Our weekly Thematic Photographic feature continues here at Written Inc. This week's theme is nature. If you have a nature-themed photo or link that you'd like to share, click here to get started. I promise you'll have fun! I'll be posting a new theme on Wednesday evening, and as always, everyone's invited!

Google Android on a Google Phone

It's official: the first so-called Google Phone has been announced. Officially, it's the HTC G1, and it's the first handset based on Google's Android operating system, and T-Mobile is the first carrier to sell the device. It's moments like this when I lament living in Canada: We're still waiting for touch tone service in my neighborhood.

The hype machine isn't quite as frenetic as it was when Apple released its iPhone, and I'm sure we're all getting pretty tired of the "best-device-ever" claims whenever one of these things comes out. But Google's entry into this market is notable because it holds the promise of more widespread, more affordable availability. How we use our cell phones/handsets/smartphones and how they're paid for will begin to change. It won't happen overnight, of course - nothing ever does. But today marks another milestone along the path.

Where does it end? No one knows, and frankly we hope we never find out. For now, I'm content to being entertained by the ever accelerating rate of change.

Your turn: Want one?

Monday, September 22, 2008

See my span

Strike a pose
Port Stanley, ON, September 2008 [Click to embiggen]

About this photo: We're covering nature as part of this week's Thematic Photographic extravaganza here at Written Inc. Don't know what all the fuss is about? Head on over here to see what you've been missing. For the latest Caption This, click here. This week, we're looking more closely at spiders from Mars. Or at least it seems that way.
I guess a part of me will always enjoy shooting birds. Not shooting, shooting, of course. Taking pictures, shooting. (See here, here and here for previous examples.) When you look really closely at birds in flight, you can't help but marvel at the subtle yet incredible level of control that they have over their domain.

We often marvel at the engineering magic of an airplane, but no smoke-spewing 737 can hold a candle to the way a usually-ignored birdbrain can ever so slightly curve a wingtip and change direction almost via telepathy.

The next time you're out in the back yard or sitting on the beach, I hope you'll take the time to take in the show. I think you'll be impressed.

Your turn: Seemingly simple things that can still amaze us if we take the time to watch. Please discuss.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Caption This 89

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

Montreal, QC
August 2008
[Click to enlarge, if you're not arachnaphobic]

My wife noticed this rather juicy-looking being lurking in a downtown store window as we walked by one evening last month. Poor thing was kinda skittish, which combined with low light made for an interesting couple of minutes of photography before he (she?) disappeared around a corner.

Your turn: Please use every creative muscle you have to come up with a witty, pithy or otherwise memorable caption for this photo. Yes, folks, our weekly feature, Caption This, is back. Need some background on how this works? Click here. Otherwise, click the Comments link below and let the games begin.

About last week's tape measure photo: Thank you all for (virtually) coming along with me to the stadium for this one. This week's honorable menschens go to:
  • Barbie2be: "How life measures up."
  • Carli: "Eight is Enough."
  • Jacie: "Made to measure."
  • BreadBox: "No, really, I measured it! Eight inches!"
  • Moi: ""Beyond measure."
Pinky takes it this week with "Missed it by that much." Her blog, Cheese in my Shoe, is a delightful read that pushes the kind of blog buttons that got me into this online journaling thing in the first place. Please drop by her site to share a word of congratulations.

One more thing: If you haven't yet tossed your hat into this week's Thematic Photographic ring, click here for yet more optical insanity. Even if you have, there's no limit on submissions.

The media party continues

It's been a bit since I caught y'all up on my media-related work. I've popped up in some neato places in recent weeks. Here's a quick rundown of some of the more notable ones.
On the other side of the coin, I continue to publish bylined articles. The latest ones are in Processor Magazine:
More to come (yes, this is hellishly fun!)

(Almost forgot: New Caption This coming later this afternoon.)

Goodbye Yankee Stadium

Couldn't let the day pass without marking it somehow. The New York Yankees play the last game ever in Yankee Stadium today. Their new stadium - bigger, more luxurious, more expensive - is being built directly across the street. After the ball players and fans leave the hallowed field for the last time, the demolition crews will move in for the final goodbye.

Despite my general sense of disdain for what professional sports have become in our cynical, modern age, I can't help but feel sad about our inability to hold onto history. We just don't seem to collectively appreciate places that matter as much as we ought to. I'm not saying this is the Roman Coliseum, of course. But doesn't a place that's been so important to so many for so long deserve a better fate?

Could Fenway Park be next?

Your turn: Is newer necessarily better?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The shifting sands of time

Port Stanley, ON, September 2008 [Click to enlarge]

The thin strip where water meets land isn't exactly the intertidal zone because lakes - even the Great Lakes - don't have tides. But whatever we call it (ideas?), it's still a place that is in a state of constant change. And when you look straight down, you never quite know what you're going to get.

Your turn: Another place of constant change might be...?

One more thing: This photo supports this week's Thematic Photographic theme, nature. We'll be taking submissions and links all week, through next Wednesday, so click here to jump in with both feet. Caption This gets a new pic tomorrow (Sunday), but you can still show some love to last week's entry - and win some Web notoriety in the process, by heading here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Like snowy fingernails on a chalkboard

Patterns in the snow
Somewhere in the Rockies, March 2007
Quick note: We're digging into this week's Thematic Photographic theme, nature. Please click here if you'd like to join in - and we very much hope you do Caption This is also awaiting your photo-naming genius (here).
Sometimes, you look out the window and see something that reminds you what it was like to be a child. Heading home from a conference last year, I saw this through the plane's window and instantly thought back to a moment when, sitting in front of my snowbound house, I used my gloves to dig deep grooves in the snow. I sat for a while, staring at my handiwork, wondering what would happen in spring when the weather would warm up and the water would begin to flow.

I was master of my own little universe, then. Whatever I imagined was real to me as I waited for my mom to call me in for lunch. It was a peaceful place to be - no worries about work, life or the future. Just me and some snow.

Your turn: Ever see something in a landscape that instantly takes you back?

About this photo: I've been adding photos from my archives to my Flickr account because as much as I like to rage on about my ISP, I discovered that tey offer free Flickr Pro accounts to subscribers (never mind that I had to call and beg for it...in the end, I got it.

So thanks to frighteningly efficient uploader software and a fast Internet connection, I've now got thousands of images on Flickr. The blog? Not so many. If you've been hankering for a wider perspective on what I shoot, head on over here (http://www.flickr.com/photos/writteninc/) and have a mosey. (And no, don't worry, Written Inc. isn't going anywhere. Think of Flickr as a nice complement to my life as a writer/photographer/somewhat insane husband and father.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Feelin' squirrelly

That's MY nut, buster!
London, ON, September 2008 [Click to enlarge]
About this photo: We're taking pictures of nature all this week as part of the latest Thematic Photographic theme. Please click here to get started. Or read on for a laugh, then follow the link. And while you're here, I hope you'll drop in for some Caption This fun. Either way - or both - enjoy!
Our daughter's become an expert at spotting great pictures. As I pulled into the driveway after picking her up from a playdate, she shushed me as I reached for the door handle.

"Squirrel. Across the street. Take a picture, Dad."

Not wanting to disappoint her, I quietly reached for my camera - women have purses; I have my beat up old camera bag - tiptoed out of the car and zoomed in. It's not a particularly memorable view of a particularly voracious little furball. But I wanted to share it because it reminds me of a moment that I could only have with our daughter. I hope she always remembers seemingly minor events like this with the same happiness that I do.

Oh yes, almost forgot...squirrels: I've taken pictures of them before (here and here) and my association with these critters stretches way back to my childhood, when I'd tick my parents off by leaving nuts out on the back deck. The 'rents were none too pleased when squirrels, upset that I wasn't refilling their nuts fast enough, attached themselves to the screen door while we tried to eat dinner. Ah, good times.

Your turn: Ever have a species you keep coming back to for reasons that don't seem to make much sense?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thematic Photographic 16 - Nature

Storm's coming
Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I've always preferred the simple to the elaborate. When you pat on too many layers of anything, you tend to lose the entire sense of the thing. If last week's theme gave us an opportunity to zoom in a little and eliminate extraneous detail, then this week's theme, nature, continues the trend.

I'm hoping the next week gives you a chance to get out and shoot stuff that wasn't created by us. I hope you get back to the simple joys of observing the world around us. Have fun reconnecting with nature!

Your turn: Time for you to click and share! Here's the rundown of how Thematic Photographic works...
  • Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...nature.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • 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!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
If you'd like to see past Thematic Photographic entries, please click here. I hope you enjoy this week's theme.

One more thing: To submit your caption for the latest Caption This, head on over here. This week's entry is a game of inches - you won't want to miss it!


Hold on
Toronto, ON, May 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Thought I'd sneak in a final closeup-themed photo for Thematic Photographic. I'll be posting the new theme later this evening. But if you still have any closeup or macro photos to share, have at it.

Your turn: Ever feel like you're being grabbed at by countless hands?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

John McCain invented the BlackBerry

We interrupt this broadcast. If you're looking for...
  • Thematic Photographic...click here (new theme coming on Wednesday evening. Still accepting for "closeup".)
  • Caption This...click here
  • Wordless Wednesday...click here
You've got to love a good election campaign for its ability to spit out idiocy on an almost constant basis. Yes, I fervently believe in thr democratic process and certainly I appreciate the freedoms that this process allows us (like, um, I don't know, free speech, among others.) But sometimes along the campaign trail, people say boneheaded things.

I'm having a sense of deja vu. First Al Gore invents the Internet. And now this! Perhaps there's something in the presidential candidates' water fountain that gives them technological super powers. Or makes them and their team members very adept at lying with a straight face.

Fact: The BlackBerry is the product of a CANADIAN company called Research In Motion. I doubt McCain would even know where its HQ is, let alone be able to find the logo on the back of the thing. (It's in Waterloo, Ontario, btw. Yes, we're very proud.)

Next up: Sarah Palin cures AIDS just before killing a bear with her bare hands. Remember, you read it here first.

Your turn: Are politicians in your neck of the woods similarly fast and loose with the truth? What gives?

Wordless Wednesday - Disposable

Montreal, QC, May 2008 [Click to embiggen]
About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is closeup. This picture continues our look at the macro world around us. Got a closeup perspective you'd like to share? I hope you'll pop on over here and join in the fun! Come back Wednesday evening for a new Thematic Photographic theme. The latest Caption This is here.
Your turn: Why are styrofoam cups still being made, anyway? Isn't this stuff supposed to be super-toxic?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beached Teletubby

Does Po need sunblock?
Port Stanley, ON, September 2008 [Click to embiggen]

About this photo: Our latest Thematic Photographic theme, closeup, continues with this up-close-and-personal view of Po the Teletubby lounging on the beach. Please click here if you'd like to dive into this week's photo theme. Don't forget to also drop in on this week's Caption This. Click here for more fun than most octagenarians can likely handle.
I've never been one for mind-altering drugs, so I hardly know what an acid trip might feel like. But had I ever been so inclined, I imagine that watching the Teletubbies approximates what your brain might feel like after taking a couple of hits of LSD.

So despite my disdain of these whacked-out children's characters, I have a bit of a soft spot for Po. She's the smallest of the quartet - something I relate to given my being my parents' youngest - and she's the troublemaker of the group (again, something I totally get.) More importantly, she's the only one I have in miniature, bag-mountable form. So ever since our eldest son was a baby, she's been clipped to the outside of my camera bag or backpack. She goes everywhere I go, and like a travel gnome, I often take pictures of her in weird and wonderful places (see here, here and here.)

Complete strangers often smile at me when they see her, too. She's an instant icebreaker whose role as stand-in model in distant airports has started more conversations than I can remember. Even when I'm far away, I look at her and can't help but smile at how it connects me to the important folks back home.

Your turn: What do you do to make complete strangers spontaneously smile?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Caption This 88

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

London, ON, June 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Note: This photo continues our closeup theme in support of Thematic Photographic. We're still actively taking entries for the latest TP. Please click here if you want to jump in.
I took this picture at London's TD Waterhouse Stadium last June. Our daughter was attending the big annual track meet, and as I headed back to the grandstands, I caught this scene right at the edge of the track. As you likely have guessed, I received many stares from curious students and meet organizers.

Your turn: Can you come up with a jazzy, snappy, creative caption for this photo? I know you can. Click on the comments link below and have at it. Repeat as often as you wish. I'll post this week's winner and a new photo next Sunday. If you're new to Caption This, please click here for the rules...such as they are.

About last week's photo of a really old phone: My kids look at old tech like this and shrug their shoulders. I look at it and marvel at how far we've come, and how quickly it's happened. I feel like we're all on the ultimate amusement park ride! Honorable menschens go to:
Judy: "1973 calling."
SPWriter: "Re: Dial."
Barbie2be: "For whom the bell tolls."
Sister AE: "Old school."
Terri: "Call waiting."
Anne: "The lights are on and no one's home."
Mojo: "Call history."
Mama C: "On hold...for about 30 years..."
Lynda: "Aren't you glad you use 'dial.'"
Awareness: "Basic black."
Killired: "Gone but not forgotten."
I agonized over this one, as there were so many memorable ones. In the end, John's "Switching to dial up?" took the cake. It managed to bridge the gap between old and new. Please visit his blog, Read My Mind, and send a word or two of congratulations his way. He writes about family, life and community in a way that will captivate you and keep you coming back for more.

As we close out the phone pic and shift to the tape measure, I wanted to thank you all for ensuring that an old phone in a school that no longer exists will forever stand out in my mind. I look forward to seeing your captions for this next photo. Enjoy!

Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt

Two words come to mind as I watch the weekend headlines get more ominous: uh oh.

It's unbelievably frightening how institutions formerly thought to be inviolable are falling like dominoes as the sub-prime mortgage mess in the U.S. evolves into a global issue.

I feel sad for the thousands of folks who will be hit by this. And for the countless others who will get caught up in the inevitable ripples. I guess the old adage about not being able to get something for nothing continues to apply. Maybe next time sanity will prevail before institutions play fast and loose with the rules.

Nah, that'll never happen. Pity.

Looking close to look far

Woodstock, ON
June 2008
About this photo: We're continuing this week's Thematic Photographic theme, closeup. If you haven't yet shared your photo or link, click here to get started. Indeed, even if you have shared your link, feel free to share as much as you wish. We actively encourage that kind of thing around here.
Canada's largest highway, the 401, is also variously referred to as the busiest highway in North America. I don't often sit by the side of the road and count cars, so I can't confirm that claim. But I do know that it's busy enough, and I don't much fancy busy.

So occasion, I'll take the regional highway between London and Woodstock. It shaves a few kilometers off of the ride, which is nice. But more importantly, it lets me slow down to a relatively sedate cruise as the countryside rolls past my windows. I feel like I'm part of the landscape and not just flashing through it at light speed.

Sometimes, I even stop by the side of the road to capture a picture or two. Later, I look back at them and remember why I need to take the road less traveled more often.

Your turn: Do you like to slow things down every once in a while? Why?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A face I could look into forever

My pensive one
Laval, QC
August 2008

My wife is another year older today. A day after we marked our daughter's 11th, we celebrated my wife's...well, you'll just have to guess the number.

She often reflects on how Dahlia was the best early birthday present imaginable. And I love how they get to share something like this. Another one of life's little wonders, I guess. Watching the two of them together, I'm always struck by the things that connect them, the bond they share. It may sound cliche to wax on about mother-daughter relationships. But I get to watch theirs unfold every day.

Dahlia's been coughing and feverish for the past couple of days. Today, doc confirmed she has bronchitis. So Birthday Girl Debbie spent much of the day hovering over our daughter, watching her temperature and keeping her comfortable. Not your typical birthday, but meaningful on its own merits because it typifies what an incredible mother and person she is.

Debbie believes that everyone's birthday should always be special. She fills the house with balloons and other decorations. She has just the right cake. She makes every moment memorable. I'm not quite as good at the birthday-management thing as she is. But with a little help from our brood, I hope we did all right by her this year.

Your turn: You wish for her in the coming year is...?

About this photo: Taken during a quiet moment last month. Like our children, Debbie is used to my photo-happy ways. No matter how many times I take her picture, I never seem to tire of looking at her face through my lens. I don't ask for much, of course. But a whole lot of years to keep taking pictures like this would be a good start.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Eleventeen years old

Old soul
Laval, QC
August 2008
[Click to enlarge]

Tuck-in remains my favorite time of the day. You almost feel as if you're putting the brakes on consciousness, deliberately slowing your kids' frenetic lives down just long enough for the sleepies to take over and lull them into sweet dreams.

Last night was Dahlia's last as a ten-year-old, and as she put her music on and arranged her stuffed animals around the edge of her bed just so, I quietly counted how many tuck-ins we had left before she'd decide she was too old for the ritual. But on this night, she was all too happy to have the attention. As was I.

As I kissed her head, I half seriously asked her to stop growing. She laughed and said she couldn't, that she has no control over how fast or how much she grows, that it just happens. Of course she was right. As much as I wish I could slow down her headlong rush away from the peanut she was when we first saw her in an ultrasound image, I know I can't. All I can do is freeze moments like this and hope I'm doing enough to remember them.

Your turn: Remembering the important stuff. Please discuss. (Oh, and if you want to share a birthday wish with our newly-crowned 11-year-old Dahlia, please feel free. She'll read 'em all!)

About this photo: It's a closeup - in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme - and it's the kind of picture she knows all too well. I've been sticking a lens in her face since she was born. She knows I'll follow her and her brothers around until just the right moment. She's used to being seen through a lens. And as I look through the lens at her, I see more of my wife in her with each passing year. It's a good thing, even if I wish I still had the power to slow down the passage of time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A pitcher's curve

Thirsty yet?
Toronto, ON, July 2008
[Click to embiggen]
About this photo: We're working our way through this week's Thematic Photographic theme, closeup. I hope you'll share your own closeup view of your world. Just click here to get started on your own thematic adventure. Caption This also needs some love. Click here for that.
What I love about photography is the way scenes seem to present themselves, almost out of the blue. You could be sitting at the table chatting about nothing in particular, when suddenly something catches your eye and you feel an immediate need to break the camera out and start shooting.

The scene need not be extraordinarily spectacular. In fact, it's usually something plainly ordinary. A little snippet of everyday life that suddenly draws attention to itself because of the way it's positioned, the way light hits it, or the way you're feeling at this particular moment.

I love the feeling I get when that inspiration hits.

Your turn: Do you?

Hurricane Ike sucks

My intense dislike of extreme weather continues. I'm nowhere in the line of fire - one of the happy byproducts of living in the most boring place on the planet, I suppose - but I know enough people who live in the Texas coast region. And that bugs me.

I hope this turns into another Gustav - lots of worry and anticipation, followed by a weaker-than-expected strike. I hope everyone in the shadow of this meteorological temper tantrum finds safe haven and doesn't suffer too much material loss in the process.

I know. There isn't much comfort in a bunch of words on a blog page. But it's all I've got from my distant perch in the Great White North. If you're in Ike's crosshairs, please know a lot of distant voices in a lot of distant places are praying for you tonight.

Your turn: If you're affected by this in any way, shape or form, I hope you'll share a thought or two in a comment. Godspeed, y'all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thematic Photographic 15 - Closeup

London, ON, September 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I grew up in the world of the wide-angle shot. You may already be familiar with the scene: little, itty bitty people - often relatives - lost in the middle of an incredibly wide vista. The wider, the better. I have vacation shoeboxes filled with them, and they're priceless.

But as I got familiar with my own photo chops, I started leaning in a little, looking more closely at the small stuff that few people bother to shoot. I enjoy macrophotography because you never quite know what you're going to get. The process of composing and shooting macro is also quite good for the soul. Well, my soul, anyway. I work quietly, alone, thinking through the various technical bits of turning something small and weird and intriguing into a scene that anyone can enjoy.

So this week's Thematic Photographic theme is closeup. I'd like you to zoom in on the small stuff that surrounds you, to find the weird and wonderful and share it in lots of closeup photos over the next week. Here's how Thematic Photographic works:
  • Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...closeup.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • 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!
  • Please share this link with friends, too. I want this thing to being photographic happiness to lots of people - and I need your help.
Your turn: I'll stop yakking now so you can get shooting. I look forward to seeing macro through your lenses! If you're looking for some closeup inspiration, please click the macro label here for some past closeup work.

Look out any window. Or not.

Darkened interior
Montreal, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I know there must be a reason why someone at some point decided to brick off every visible window toward the top of this old downtown building. But since said person wasn't anywhere nearby when I found myself cradling my camera and wondering about this strange sight, I had no choice but to shoot first and keep my thoughts to myself.

But now that I'm able to write about it, I'd like your help, if you wouldn't mind...

Your turn: Why were this building's windows all covered up? What would possess an owner to do something like this ?

(Yes, we're still doing Thematic Photographic "faded" pictures here, and Caption This submissions here. They're both highlights of my week. I hope they're highlights of yours, too. New Thematic Photographic theme is coming later this evening. What will it be? You'll have to pop back in to find out! A little birdie tells me it'll be available at precisely 7:10 p.m. ET. Shhhh.)

One more thing: Wanna see me on TV? I spoke with Business News Network's Martin Cej and Francis Horodelski on Trading Day yesterday. We discussed Apple's new iPods and Research In Motion's prospects for its BlackBerry franchise going forward. Here's the link.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Faded lives

Montreal, QC, May 2008

I know you're not really supposed to take pictures in hospitals. But I've never really been much for rules. It was such a familiar, sad place that I couldn't not take my camera out.

Your turn: The first thing that comes to mind when you see this photo is...?

About this photo: This image continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, faded. Click here to get involved. Come on back later Wednesday evening for our next theme. I took this picture, by the way, from my father's hospital room because I wanted to remember what it was like to be there. I'm sure some relatives will see this and flinch. But I often don't decide on a topic. The topic decides itself for me. Does that happen to you?

One more thing: I've added the "Followers" widget to my blog. Look over to the sidebar on the right, then scroll a bit down, just below the "About Me" section. I hope you'll sign up - that way you'll be among the first to know when I've posted more lunacy-inducing content. And if you'd like to be added to my new-and-improved blogroll, let me know, too.

88 Piano Keys

Tickle me, Elmo
London, ON, August 2008

Quick note: We're still focusing on "faded" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Click here to go back to the initial entry and try your hand at it. New theme goes up this coming Wednesday evening, but this one's going strong right up until then.
I'd like to introduce the latest addition to our home. This beloved old piano, age somewhere north of 100 years, came to our family thanks to an amazingly kind friend (yes, I'm blowing your cover, Laurie) and in a few short weeks has already succeeded in transforming the feel of our living room.

The kids have taken it upon themselves to teach themselves to play, while Debbie and I are content to sit back and drink it in as the sound fills the house. I can't not smile whenever I begin to hear its notes percolate through the walls. It makes a house a home.

I've started taking various pictures of it, and I've got to admit it's proving to be a welcome photographic challenge. I can only begin to imagine how many people have played it before we have, have enjoyed time with friends and family gathered around, have felt the sound as much as they've heard it. I've never met these people, of course, but I wish I could. I'd like to know if this amazing instrument had the same effect on them as it does on me.

About this photo: The keys tell a story of a well-loved instrument's many decades of use. Although I know lots of people who would PhotoShop the keys to their original off-white, I'm not one of them. The story is the patina accumulated through the years. It wouldn't be the same without it.

Your turn: Imperfect beauty vs. perfect soullessness. Please discuss.

Monday, September 08, 2008

What happened in this alley?

Lives happened here
Montreal, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Continuing with this week's Thematic Photographic theme, faded, I wanted to share this image captured on a walk through downtown Montreal one morning last month. It was a brilliantly lit day, and I found myself challenged by the deep shadows that seemed to dominate the narrow streets and alleyways of this old neighborhood.

I don't imagine this place was ever sleek or magazine-worthy. But I was captivated by the fact that there were windows everywhere. Even in the most humble places, there was a place for someone to sit, gaze and wonder about the world outside. The cracked pavement, weather-worn brick and concrete stained by multiple graffiti-cleaning cycles were all testament to invisible lives that have all passed through this seemingly abandoned alley.

The beauty lies in our ability to stop and wonder what those lives must have been - or indeed still are - like. I hope you'll take a moment to do just that.

Your turn: These windows have stories. What might one be? Oh, before I forget: It's not too late to share in this week's Thematic Photographic (here) and the latest Caption This (here).

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Caption This 87

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

London, ON, June 2008 [Click to enlarge]

In our headlong rush into the future, we often leave formerly advanced technologies behind, forgotten by our collective need to have the latest and greatest of anything. As the pace of change accelerates, successive generations of children never have the opportunity to wonder where all this wizardry came from, and what life must have been like beforehand.

This old phone sat quietly in a forgotten corner of our children's old school. The building has now been sold and this past week they started classes in their brand new facility. It has air conditioning, a real computer network and a host of other technologies the 80-plus-year-old building never could have dreamed of.

Indeed, our Internet-savvy, tech-fearless eight-year-old son smiles when we tell him about life before touch tone phones, voicemail and e-mail, when Google didn't exist (by the way, happy 10th birthday today, Google) and personal computers hadn't yet been invented. Now, even this relic no longer lurks in the dim corner of his classroom to remind him of a forgotten time.

Your turn: Please give this photo a worthy caption. Or two. Or ten. Enter as often as you like. Just click the Comment link below and have fun. Click here for the rules, such as they are.

About last week's picture of a man walking his cat: It seems I wasn't the only one who found this scene beyond weird. I'm so glad you had so much fun with it. Here's a quick look at this week's Honorable Menschens:
  • Stacy: "Cat on a hot, tin....dock?"
  • Lissa: "Who says I can't be a model? I've got my own catwalk!"
  • Terri: "Of Mice and Men."
  • Mama C: "Cat: Man's best friend."
  • Sister AE: Superstitious Steve figured a white cat crossing his path would be good luck.
  • Breadbox: Schrodinger discovered that somehow fluffy had escaped the box.
  • Me: "Stay, Staay...Good Man...now COME!"
  • Omykiss: Paws for thought ....
  • Anne: You forgot your pole.
And the winner is Sealaura, for "Trust me...I know where I am going."She's new to Written Inc., and already I can tell I'm going to be reading her excellent blog for long time to come. Please pay her a visit and share a kind word with her.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Forgotten doorway

Enter here. Or not.
Montreal, QC
August 2008
[Click to enlarge]
We're still continuing this week's "faded" Thematic Photographic theme. We'll be doing this right through until next Wednesday, so you've got plenty of time to head on over here and submit your own. The next Caption This also goes up tomorrow - but you can still share a thought or two on last week's entry by clicking here.
Old Montreal is an interesting study in contrasts. The tourists tend to stick to the main squares and the Old Port promenade by the waterfront. But dodging busloads of camera-toting, kitsch-seeking visitors isn't really my bag. So as I walk through the narrow streets, I deliberately seek out the quieter back alleys. I grew up here, but it's such a diverse landscape that every visit deserves a fresh look from a different direction.

These streets are bathed in an old kind of gloom that doesn't seem to be part of any tourist pamphlet I've ever read. Yet I find the scenes and textures back here far more interesting than the cafe-lined square just a couple of blocks away. As soon as I see this door, I know it deserves a picture. It's obviously been around a while, and I could probably spend an hour deciphering the stories its weathered surface could tell.

Your turn: Please accept my apologies for my apparent door fetish this week. What is it about doors that seems to attract our attention?

Friday, September 05, 2008

The blue door of bizarro

Forgotten entryway
Montreal, QC
August 2008
[Click to embiggen]

Quick note: This photo continues this week's Thematic Photographic theme, faded. Got a faded picture to share? Click here...we're taking submissions all week long. We're also trolling for caption submissions for this week's Caption This. Head here for more.
I found this forlorn sight in the McGill Ghetto. I stood on the sidewalk for what seemed like an age as I wondered whether this thing had been built at non-right-angles or if the ravages of time had gradually evolved the geometry.

Either way, it reminded me of those kid museum exhibits from the pre-electronic era that were designed to teach us about perspective and balance.

I had to shoot and move on, because just being here was making me dizzy.

Your turn: I often talk about how buildings have "stories". At the risk of sounding repetitive, what's the story here?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Overlooking the market

Windows over the neighborhood
Toronto, ON, August 2008
About this photo: We're zooming in on the "faded" theme as part of this week's Thematic Photographic extravaganza. It's never too late to jump right in. Just click here to get started.
Toronto's St. Lawrence Market is the kind of place that big cities seem to have forgotten. Fortunately, this big city hasn't. It's lunchtime in this old crossroads, and the streets around this beloved old building are crowded with office dwellers escaping from their air conditioned cubicles. The hot sun beats down from a dull blue sky, but no one seems to mind the near-oppressive heat.

High above the fray, this old building seems to be silently watching the procession. No one comes in or out, and the windows show no signs of life. A couple of young men - obviously cubicle drivers from nearby - sit on the sidewalk out front and eat take-out from super-ungreen styrofoam containers. Not once do they turn around to face the building behind them.

I know this building has stories. I wish I had the time to hang around and listen to a few of them.

Your turn: Do you want to share a story that this building might have? What have these old walls and windows seen?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Thematic Photographic 14 - Faded

Chevy in the rough
Port Stanley, ON, September 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Everything has its prime. When it's new and perfect, it's easy to find a flawless angle. But over time, the world takes its toll. Cars get rusty and dented. Bricks crumble. Skin gets wrinkly. Sadly, it's almost in our nature to look elsewhere.

This red Chevrolet stood out in the parking lot behind Mackie's, an almost-century-old restaurant just off the beach in this cottage/resort town on Lake Erie's northern shore. Our eldest son, Zach, saw it from way off and knew it would make a great photo subject. But as we drew closer, it became apparent that this car had seen better days. I couldn't find a workable composition in between the haphazardly applied bondo, mismatched paint and faded, scuffed chrome. I almost gave up before it dawned on me: Its imperfection is part of the story. That's the beauty.

So this week's Thematic Photographic theme, faded, zooms in on stuff thay may be a little older, a little run down, a little broken, a little humble, a little forgotten. Here's how this weekly photofest works:
  1. Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  2. Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...faded.
  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 want this thing to being photographic happiness to lots of people - and I need your help.
Your turn: Go nuts with this one, as I know you will! I suspect this is going to be a very entertaining week. And if you know of someone who might be interested in joining this insanity, please forward them this link: http://tinyurl.com/phototheme

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Art on the water

Reflective impressionism
Laval, QC, August 2008

Please note: This is the final photo in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, watery. I invite you to submit your own photo or link by clicking here (it's never too late, btw.) Please stay tuned later Wednesday evening, when I post the new TP theme for the coming week. If you'd like to participate in Caption This, point your mouse this way.
I never noticed how incredibly rich the surface of a moving body of water can be when you take the time to look into its reflection. At different times of day, it seems to take on radically different personalities. That fact alone invites you to keep returning to the riverbank, because you never know when you'll see something new.

Your turn: What body of water is located nearest your home? I hope you'll share a quick line or two about your last vist there.

One more thing: Do you Flickr? I do. If a picture or two a day on the blog isn't enough, head over to my Flickr page (click here) for a massive overload of visions through my lens. Here's the full link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/writteninc/