Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thematic Photographic 117 - Parallel

Two-tracked solution
Toronto, ON, March 2009

I've chosen parallel as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because I realize we often have more than one thing going on at the same time. And given the speed with which we blast through a day, a week, a lifetime, it's entirely reasonable for the average person to have any number of things - thoughts, projects, goals, whatever - in flight at any given moment.

As I took this picture, I was sitting on a Via Rail train on my way home to London after a productively eventful day in the big city. I like to day-trip to Toronto on occasion because most folks I work with are located there. I don't do this nearly often enough; something I'll work on in the coming months. Because a day in the big city is always a learning experience filled with folks who never fail to teach me a thing or two about advancing my own state-of-the-art.

Sitting with my forehead leaning against the window, I realized how lucky I was to be able to consciously drive opportunity in a world where so many never even have the chance. As the tracks slipped by below, I whispered a quiet thank you for being privileged to expand my - and my family's - horizons.

Your turn: Please post a parallel-themed picture to your blog, then drop a comment here letting us know where to find it. If you've already got something posted - perhaps in your archives - feel free to share that, too. Want to share more than one? The more the merrier. For more background on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo sharing and learning extravaganza, works, just click here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The family that paints together...

Painting with mom
London, ON
February 2009
About this photo: We're slowly wrapping up this week's "still life" theme (link here). I'll post a new Thematic Photographic theme tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:00 p.m. ET. What will it be? Well, what would you like it to be? I'm all ears. Just drop a suggestion in a comment below.
My wife is so artistic and crafty that it was inevitable that our kids would inherit it from her. And they have. Beyond their ability to express themselves in a variety of media, they love to dive into it just as much as she does. I think that's what gets me when I watch them with her: That they throw themselves into it and have such a good time exploring, with her as their guide.

I'm still building my ability to successfully complete stick figures, so I'm not overly keen to pick up a brush alongside them. Instead, I'm content to observe quietly as I pop into the kitchen every once in a while for a snack. And if I snag a picture or two along the way, so much the better. It's one of those neat things about being part of this family, and one of those neat things that will never get old.

On this day, the windows were frosted over with yet another wintry blast. But just inside, Debbie and the kids had turned the kitchen table into a temporary art studio. Our daughter painted a collage that day that sits on our fireplace mantel today, and serves as my Twitter page backdrop (link here). Their work shows up in so many places around the house that it's difficult to walk through any room and not be reminded of what they can do.

I hope they'll always want to take the time to create with their mom. It's one of those seemingly little things that makes childhood worth remembering.

On second thought, maybe it isn't so little after all.

Your turn: Do you have a fond childhood memory you'd like to share?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Checkers, anyone?

Table for ten
Dayton, OH, January 2009

It's a restaurant that no longer exists, in a place we passed through one cold winter's night as we sped through the very middle of Middle America on our way home.

Despite its very temporary presence in the life of our family, it strangely sticks in our collective memory almost two years later. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was the novelty of the place - we didn't have anything like it at home - or the fact that we came across it during the kind of family adventure that gets us raised eyebrows when we tell friends about it: "You drove HOW far...?"

Or perhaps because it was a Fuddruckers, a build-your-own burger place that our kids had first experienced years earlier in Florida and had always wanted to revisit. Only they couldn't, because the place went bankrupt in the wake of a bunch of hurricanes Rita and Wilma (2005 was a bad year, for that.) Not a huge, headline-grabbing life experience by any stretch of the imagination, but one that mattered to them all the same, because small experiences aren't any less significant just because they're small.

We were lucky enough to find this otherwise non-descript place in a suburban strip mall, the proverbial needle in a haystack in the middle of a 2,400 km drive. All the way home from Florida, the kids talked about maybe finding a Fuddruckers. So I played with our GPS unit's points-of-interest database and voila, there it was, just a couple of kilometres off of our route. Fate, perhaps?

We'll never know, of course. But for 90 minutes on this night, we hung around and drank it in, because we didn't know if we'd be able to do so again. History, sadly, proved us right.

Your turn: Ever stumble upon a memorable place while travelling. Want to share?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Burned out

Solar powered?
London, ON, August 2010

Inspiration can come from anywhere. In this case, my friend, Jeff, saved this past-its-prime light bulb for me because he knew I'd find it photographically fascinating. Nice guy, this Jeff.

Of course, he was right. So when I had a free moment, I found a sunny spot for a quick exploration with my camera - oops, make that my wife's camera (shhhh!) I thought sunlight would give an ordinarily forgettable and forgotten sliver of consumer life a somewhat new lease on life. It couldn't create light on its own anymore, but that didn't mean that with a little help from another source of light it couldn't inspire us at least one more time before being sent on its way.

I've got to spend more time looking at garbage in a different way. And I've got to spend more time listening to my friends when they suggest offbeat ideas like this one.

Your turn: I'm in a captioning mood again. Got one for this shot?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Picture in a picture

London, ON, September 2010

If you've been following along on my little photographic adventure, you now know that I like to capture scenes from the dinner table*. Restaurants hold particular appeal to me because they always seem to serve up different, often cutting-edge artistic visuals to explore. Freaking out other patrons is another delicious little side benefit.

This particular resto was no different. We had come here to celebrate our daughter's birthday, and much to my chagrin the light was horrid - memo to restaurant designers: We really like to be able to see our food, and each other, when we eat. Makes for a more enjoyable and arguably much safer dining experience. End rant.

But I still wanted to try something new, especially since the day was an important one for our family's newest teenager. She had just gotten a new camera, and was trying it out for the first time. Since she's my kid and her photographic genes seem to have developed quite nicely, she was game for a little picture-within-a-picture experiment while we waited for the very friendly but somewhat absent-minded waiter to get our orders right.

The good news is we had lots of time to set up the shot. Sometimes, sluggish service isn't such a bad thing.

Your turn: Now that Dahlia's got a camera of her own, what should she shoot? What's the best way for a new photographer to get started in this wondrous art?

* Earlier restaurant shoots can be found here, here and here. To participate in this week's still life-themed Thematic Photographic, head here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Before the red light goes on

You can experience a so-called "still life" moment even when you're in the middle of a very busy sequence of events. I'd like to share this scene from a studio as Exhibit A.

I was a bit early for my interview earlier this week, so I had a couple of minutes to spend in this very special place. It's special because it's been around since long before I came on the scene, and if its muted, hanging-equipment-to-the-rafters walls could talk, they'd tell stories of a community's broadcast history, and of shows and personalities who imprinted themselves on generations of viewers. It's the kind of behind-the-scenes scene that few of them were ever privileged to see, but that doesn't even come close to eroding its impact.

So whenever I get the chance to drink in the peacefulness of this shrine to broadcast history, I grab it. I know it's a small thing, but I'm learning, slowly, that life is well lived when you take the time to appreciate the small things.

Your turn: Ever take time to smell the proverbial roses? Care to share?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tea time in London

London, ON, September 2010

Normally I don't dwell on messy plates. But this post-tea-bag scene almost begged for it. At least that's what I lamely told my wife as I interrupted dessert and brought out the camera.

As it was, I don't think she really agreed with me. And her semi-rolled eyes suggested this was another one of those moments where she'd let me get away with it, but I was pushing it if I asked for anything else.

She knows me too well.

Your turn: We're exploring "still life" as part of this week's Thematic Photographic theme. You can explore it, too. Just go here. And if you've got an extra moment before you click that mouse, feel free to let us know why mugs with hot stuff inside 'em are so appealing.

About this photo: Today's tea-stained moment marks the end of a hyper-busy, uber-eventful week in the Levy household, and it reminds me that I need to make more tea, and I need to spend more time drinking it quietly while surrounded by my family.

Thematic Photographic 116 - Still Life

You say tomato...
London, ON, August 2010
[Please click photo to embiggen]

They say nothing tastes better than vegetables grown in your own garden. Well, these didn't come from my own garden because I do not have a garden. Which is a good thing, because if I had a garden it would be filled with, well, nothing. I kill plants, especially when they're outside, baking in a southwestern Ontario sun. I believe my photo has been posted at the entrance to the local garden centre, and I am quite certain I am banned from purchasing anything that even remotely resembles plants, flowers or even seeds.

My gardenish ineptitude isn't all for naught, however. My inability to grow things from the earth has taught me to appreciate this gift in others. So when our gifted friend gave us these tomatoes from her garden, they were more than mere vegetables. A kitchen table photo shoot was called for, and the result makes me happy.

Your turn: This photo launches our newest Thematic Photographic theme, "still life". What's still life? Simple: If you put it on a table and carefully arrange it so you can take an artsy picture of it, it's still life. What's going on on your table? Shoot it, post it, then let us know where to find it by posting a comment here. Rules, such as they are, for our weekly photo insanity can be found here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A year

Not eternal
London, ON, September 2010

A year ago, our phone rang in the middle of the night. Tonight, I find myself with lots of thoughts swirling through my head. Oddly for me, however, I find myself out of words.

Perhaps it's just as well. Some days, I find comfort in silence.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not as weak as you'd think

One of my earliest literary influences was Ernest Hemingway. I can't quite put my finger on why, as he was a hard-living, hard-drinking guy whose life trajectory was about as far from mine - think boring-suburban-husband-and-dad - as you can imagine.

Yet when this guy wrote, words came alive. He could draw a scene more vividly than any ascot-wearing, HD-equipped filmmaker or brush-wielding Renaissance-era painter. His work proved to me that writing was as much an art as any other discipline, and it continues to bring me both comfort and inspiration to this day.

In any case, this past week has been one filled with success and sadness. While I continue to score wins on the editorial and media front, my routine was interrupted today with a call from a good friend who had just found out his dad, a man who probably could give Mr. Hemingway a robust run for his money, is sick. Cancer. Just as "heart attack" and "bypass surgery" forever changed our lives when our father first entered hospital just over 13 years ago, I knew my friend's life had just taken a significant turn.

I said what I felt, shared pieces of my own experience and tried to help him focus on the things that he could control. I don't think I succeeded, but I know we'll be having more such discussions in the weeks ahead so I'll have plenty of opportunities to get it right. In the meantime, this quote from Mr. Hemingway stuck in my head for some reason, and I think it's appropriate to share tonight:
"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places."
Sadly, the man who pieced these resonant words together never had the chance to prove himself right. But I'd like to think that my friend's father will. As will my friend, who now finds himself learning a whole new language as he figures out how to be there for his dad.

Your turn: So...what do you say in cases like this?

Twitter gets hacked. I get shot (with a camera).

The neat thing about having a front-row seat to the only thing more fun than a drunk roller derby race - read the tech industry - is the randomness of it all. When I wake up, the day I've laid out ahead of me can change on a dime if something big happens in the world of tech.

Yesterday's "something big" was the fact that Twitter, the popular microblogging service (wiki) that allows me and 160 million others to nag our friends, had been hacked. By the time the dust settled, the White House Press Secretary and the wife of the ex-British PM were among the victims. And my phone began to ring.

I spoke with CTV News Channel's Sandie Rinaldo - video here - and then appeared in Rob Brown's report - video here - on the CTV national newscast at 11 p.m. (well, 11:22-ish by the time the report aired.) The report re-ran in the morning on Canada AM. Here's CTV's main page for this story.

Your turn: On Twitter? Following me yet? Go here. Yes, folks, I'm that shameless.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Putting her best foot forward

Got sole?
London, ON, September 2010

Shopping ranks relatively low on my list of preferred things to do. If I had to actually build such a list, hitting the stores would likely slot in just above shooing those pesky flying ants from the garden and just below walking the dog in a driving rainstorm.

So you can imagine how much I love looking for shoes. It's an even more depressing version of shopping, frankly. The smell of child-slave-assembled vinyl conspires with the jumble of randomly opened shoe boxes clogging the already too-narrow aisles to make you both nauseous and disoriented before you've even tried the first pair on. It doesn't help that the Britney-esque family over there seems to have mistaken the entire store for a playground for its unruly brood of hellions.

Yet on this day, I found myself in a local shoe store with three very important ladies: my wife, our daughter and my mom; three generations of Levy women, all looking for footwear. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Since the employees seemed a little frazzled with the mini-Britneys, I thought I'd step in and play the shoe store equivalent of cruise director (Julie McCoy, where are you?)

First, I sat on a seat - standard guy's position, apparently - and cheerfully welcomed total strangers into the store. I thanked them for shopping with us and pretended to actually know where stuff was. It brought many smiles, so I kept up the charade for a bit. Eventually, I got bored and took out my BlackBerry for some really bad photography. When our daughter brought us this pair of Converse All-Stars - the kind of shoe Mr. Rogers might have worn, I think - I took one to the front of the store and set up shop on a dangerously tilting display of stylish but sensible pumps.

I told the rather surprised shoppers around me that the sun was better there. They politely declined my request to hold the shoe in place, but still hung around to see the final result. I set the BB to macro mode (this ridiculously limited little camera actually has macro. Amazing) and got to work. It won't replace my real camera, but if it helps me turn a disaster-waiting-to-happen into a fun romp in a godless temple of suburban commercialism, it's worth having.

And I do love our young lady's shoes. They're so her.

Your turn: Do you try to make strangers smile when you're out in public? Do tell!

Inconsiderate? You decide.

Dear fellow-parent-from-my-kids'-school,

I've known you for a number of years, and we've often chatted in the parking lot while waiting for our kids to be let out of class. You've always been a nice, funny guy who clearly cares about the things that matter, both in your family and in our community. Which makes this rather difficult to write.

It was with great disappointment that my kids came home with news that you had parked your pickup uncomfortably close to my wife's car, then proceeded to smack it with your door before driving off. They watched you do this, and it upset them.

It upsets me, too, because you left a nice-sized scratch in the middle of our door. I suppose I could give you the benefit of the doubt that you were in a rush, that there was a big gust of wind, that you were preoccupied, that you didn't know it was our car (we've only had it for six weeks, so...) Whatever it is, your actions quite noticeably damaged my car.

Because of this, I'm now in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether or not I gently approach you about it - tough, as I risk making you feel uncomfortable and potentially coloring our relationship going forward - or ignoring it and fixing it on my own dime.

As you can imagine, either option sucks. Worse, your not coming forward forces me into the situation of being the bad guy. Which sucks more. Why I should feel uncomfortable over something I did not do is beyond me.

In the end, it's just a car. And it's just a scratch. And I should probably not be making the deal out of this that I am. But if the tables were turned, I'd have been leaving a note on your windshield. Because it's one of those keep-me-up-at-night things my mother always taught me to fix before tuck-in.

And I still have to explain to my kids that the world isn't always as fair as we'd like, that people don't always do the right thing when given the choice. It's a lesson we've been gradually teaching them over the years, of course. But I didn't think it would have to come courtesy of someone I know and trust to look out for them whenever he sees them in the parking lot.

Thanks so much for adding to my large-enough pile. And please don't park anywhere near us again.



Saying Kaddish

Prayer of remembrance
London, ON
July 2010
[Click here for more Letters & Numbers]

If you're Jewish, it's only a matter of time before you say this prayer. It's called Kaddish, and while I can write volumes on what these few paragraphs of ancient Hebrew are saying and why these words are significant, the Cole's Notes version is this: Immediate relatives of folks who've died say Kaddish for about 11 months to honor their memory.

I said this prayer until this past August, and every time through represented a difficult journey. It forces you to reflect on why you're there, what you've lost, and how you move ahead regardless. When you're saying it in the company of other mourners, standing apart from everyone else as a way of almost physically confirming your loss, the staccato rhythm almost drills its way into your head, just as it's done for thousands of years.

Now that I'm past this stage of mourning, I still catch myself as I listen to others who have suffered loss say it. It's just as difficult to hear their voices as it was to hear mine.

I spoke about this in synagogue on Friday night, just as the Jewish Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur) got underway. I'm used to speaking in quiet television studios, where my only companion is a camera, a floor producer and a red light. Sure, there are countless people out there watching, but I can't see them so it's easy to ignore the numbers and just focus on the topic at hand. Standing in front of a crowd, however - my first time ever up there - definitely raises my blood pressure.

So I talked not from cue cards or a script - can't do the reading-in-public thing - but from thoughts I'd been percolating for the last year, thoughts that danced around my head as I recited this very prayer. I'm still not the world's most religiously focused individual. I'd rather be sleeping in instead of stumbling through services and trying to keep up with everyone around me. But the repetitive ritual of dragging myself into services and sharing these moments with some very kind, caring and supportive members of my community taught me that it isn't always just about the words on a page. It's about the connections you make while you're reading them.

I guess that's another lesson of mourning that I've learned this past year. Of course, it's a lesson I wish I never had to learn, but life clearly has other plans for us all.

Your turn: How do folks around you - friends, family, community, whoever - help you when times get tough?

Monday, September 20, 2010


There's a story behind this rather beaten up piece of technology, but I'll spare y'all the details as I suspect it'll be of interest to, um, no one.

But I thought it made a neat spectacle all the same. Shattered screens have a bizarre appeal, and for the life of me I can't figure out what that appeal is (please enlighten me if you've got any thoughts on this.)

What occurred to me as I shot this with the admittedly limited camera in my BlackBerry, though, is how temporary these things are. Broken items don't stick around long before they get tossed, so you either snap 'em while you can or lose the moment forever.

This particular example was part of my life for all of three minutes, so I hope this lameoid photo sticks in my brain a little longer than that. I guess we all need the occasional reminder of how fragile things - and life - can be.

Your turn: It's been a while since we did the caption thing, so in the interest of informal Monday fun, have at it. How would you caption this photo?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

You can read it in the Sunday paper

The day has dawned bright and sunny, so I suspect we'll be spending more time outside than at the keyboard. But not before we have a chance to meander our way through the Sunday newspaper. I can't describe it all that well, but there's a certain sense of calm and peace associated with plopping the carefully folded paper on the kitchen table before it gets gradually shared with everyone in the family. Before, long, each section is carefully unfolded, ready for the kind of slow, studied exploration that no laptop or iPad can yet replicate.

[Note to my wife: I still want an iPad.]

Today's paper, the Toronto Star, adds a fun wrinkle to the adventure: My latest article, Is it the end of the line for the landline? leads the business section. The piece examines the long, slow decline of the conventional phone in favor of mobile and Internet-based telephony services.

Earlier this week, I also published a piece in, Power & Cooling Developments, that takes a closer look at some key data center technologies will impact your life more than you might suspect. Later today, my head may be discussing a disturbing case of rape and social media on CTV News Channel. More on that as I know.

Update: TV interview confirmed for 3 p.m. Eastern. If you're in Canada, you can watch it live on CTV News Channel. I'll post the link to the video here once it's posted to their server. Here's a link to the tragic case that started it all.

All told, a great writing/media week!

Your turn: Have you cut the landline chord yet? Why/why not? If you have, what's the experience been like?

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Toronto, ON, August 2010

[Please see here for more Thematic letters & numbers]

This isn't my BlackBerry. It belongs to a friend, but it nevertheless reminds me how much time my thumbs, my poor, poor thumbs, spend dancing over a keyboard much like this one.

I really think it's time we came up with new ways to cram our thoughts into the devices that we use to communicate. Current forms of text input are, for most of us, too slow and cumbersome. And in some cases, they're even hurting us (RSI, anyone?)

One of the most often-cited solutions to the keyboard conundrum, voice recognition, doesn't do it for me: Too noisy and zero privacy. I wonder if the Star Trek cupboard of technological goodies has something to hope for. Like brainwave recognition or implantable communication chips. My thumbs cry out for a solution. And soon.

Your turn: What ever did we do with ourselves before we texted and e-mailed everyone from our mobile devices? Have we truly advanced ourselves? Or not?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stepping on Eugene Levy

Wish we were related
Toronto, ON, March 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo sharing activity, celebrates letters & numbers this week. If you've got a picture with at least a letter, or a number, or both in it, please go here and join in the fun.
I often joke that Eugene Levy, the actor-comedian who counts SCTV and American Pie as highlights in a career that's spanned a generation, is my cousin. He is, unfortunately for me, not. But that doesn't mean I can't repeat the joke ad nauseum and revel in the fact that a guy with the same last name as me - and a Canadian, no less - has done as well as he has.

So as I walked through downtown Toronto last year and inadvertently stepped on his brick on Canada's Walk of Fame, I had to stop and take the shot - and silently apologize to him in absentia for walking all over him, because I'm Canadian and we apologize for everything.

Admittedly, I also snapped William Shatner's, Alex Trebek's and Gordie Howe's bricks, just for good measure. I still won't ask for autographs - too obtrusive and invasive - but I figure taking pictures of hardened, colored concrete is the acceptable and polite thing to do. So Canadian of me.

Your turn: Ever had a brush with fame? Do tell?

This just in: After I wrote this, my BlackBerry chirped with news that some of the damaged bricks, including Captain Kirk's and Mr. Hockey's, will be either repaired or replaced. Here's the Toronto Star's piece on it. Coolness.

One more thing: I know Yom Kippur has already started. So G-d wouldn't be too pleased if he saw me sitting here with my laptop, updating my blog. No worries on that front: I've prepared all weekend entries in advance, and Blogger, in its infinite wisdom, is auto-posting them for me. Magical, isn't it?

I'm on TV. Don't watch if you're davening*

TVO's Steve Paikin interviews me on BlackBerry maker RIM's battles with foreign governments on tonight's show, The Agenda With Steve Paikin. The episode page, Wireless Storm, is located here, and the podcast will be posted here after the show airs. If you live in Ontario and want to watch it on-air, it's scheduled for broadcast tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Why am I on television when I really ought to be in shul hoping I get another year on this planet? (You just know my mother's asking this very question.) Not to worry: It was pre-taped earlier today.

Enjoy the show. More soon.

And if you find yourself in a synagogue tonight looking toward the year to come with hope and forethought, gmar chatimah tovah to you and your family. May 5771 be filled with peace, health and happiness for us all, whatever we celebrate.

* Davening = praying. Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sundown tonight and continues through sundown tomorrow (Saturday).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thematic Photographic 115 - Letters & Numbers

Dialup (voice) networking
London, ON, March 2010

I wanted to keep things simple and fun for this week's Thematic Photographic theme. If it has either letters or numbers or both in it, I'm hoping you'll share it with us. That's it!

I knew I wanted to use this picture to launch the theme not only because it qualifies on both fronts, but because it's something that over the next few years will likely become less prevalent in our day-to-day existence. Like vinyl albums (iTunes), typewriters (PCs) and floppy disks (flash drives), the basic telephone is morphing into something very different. As I stare at my BlackBerry, for example, I realize it looks nothing like anything the 1980s-era Carmi would have recognized as a phone had someone shown me this futuristic-looking smartphone way back when.

The world moves quickly. The things we take for granted today likely won't exist in their current form - if they exist at all - tomorrow. I'll suggest we avoid blinking for a bit.

Your turn: Please post a letter/number-themed pic on your blog, then leave a comment here with a link to your entry. Repeat as often as you wish. If you've got tech issues with the pasting thing, no worries: A basic comment should be enough, as the blog automatically includes your blog link with every comment. When you're done, visit other participants and spread the Thematic word. My goal is nothing short of spreading photographic goodness as far as it can go, and I'm hoping you can help make that happen. More Thematic background can be found here.

Twisting by the pool

Take a load off
Laval, QC, August 2010

I used to think that art existed exclusively in museums. If it carried a hefty price tag, was hung on a wall and then discussed at great and often exasperating length by ascot-wearing retirees with fake British accents, it was art. Anything else didn't even need to apply.

Then it hit me that I don't get to museums as often as I'd like. Sure, in the ideal world I'd wander their hallowed halls for a couple of hours every morning after dropping the kids off at school. The world would wait while I filled up on my daily dose of impressionism, cubism and neo-classical expression. But the real world compels us to spend more time, you know, working and creating value. So I won't be wearing ascots and holding a fake pipe anytime soon. Artsy bummer, indeed.

Which means I need to get my art elsewhere. Which means the old museum-only definition is out. It doesn't need to be framed, mounted or spotlit. It doesn't need to carry a name like Renoir or Rembrandt. If it isn't from a Group of Seven painter, it'll still count. Heck, it doesn't even have to be an actual , deliberately created work of art. It could be incidental, accidental art.

Like these deck chairs. The kids liked their curvy, wavy shape, and I noticed when they lined up next to each other that they looked rather unique - worlds better than the weather-stained off-white resin excuse for furniture that used to be here. So as I said a silent thank-you to the condo board folks who decided these chairs represented a worthwhile investment, I decided the moment needed to be remembered somehow. And I decided the result qualified as art. Unconventional, to be sure, but still just the kind of thing that gets you thinking about the things that make this world a nicer place to be.

Your turn: Look around you. What art do you see?

One more thing: I'll post the new Thematic Photographic theme, "letters and numbers" at 7:00 Eastern tonight. Which gives you some time to mull over how you'll tackle this one. I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reflective sky

The remains of the day
Laval, QC, August 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

I've decided to share this picture now because it's been an insanely busy day, with my mind being pulled in countless different directions. I wish I had the time to pen something deep and thoughtful to accompany this resonant, makes-you-feel-small-in-a-good-way image. But I don't. Some days, you just have enough mental energy to make it back to bed in one piece at the end of the day.

So today's one of those days. The kind of day when you hope the seeds you've planted somehow take root, when you know you've done everything you can to ensure a successful outcome, but you know you must now sit and wait.

Sorry for being cryptic. I'm having one of those inflection point kind of moments. Forgive me.

Whatever the case, there's always enough time to stop in your tracks and catch your breath at a sight like this. Because we all need inspiration. And moments like this are so rare, so fleeting, that we cheat ourselves if we elect to miss them. Which is why I dropped everything that night to head out on the balcony with my camera. Because there are only so many sunsets, and only so much time to share them with the folks who matter most.

Your turn: What inspires you?

One more thing: This photo rounds out our Thematic Photographic look at the "reflective" theme* (head here if you want in on the fun.) New theme hits the site tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you've got any suggestions, I'm all ears.

* How is this reflective? Sunlight reflecting off of clouds...yes, I know I'm stretching it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Let there be light

Shine on
London, ON, August 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "reflective" this week. My spidey sense senses you want to explore it, too. Go here to see what everyone's yammering about.
There's something to be said for the carefully shaped sculptures of plastic and glass that adorn most modern vehicles. I know we don't give them much thought unless they're blindly accelerating toward a particularly sensitive body part or two, but a closer look at the average car today reveals an intricate little micro-world of light management that ensures the vehicle can both see and be seen. Observe an older car next to a newer one and the difference is even more obvious.

So if you see me scrunched down on the sidewalk with my camera mere inches from the corner of a car, you'll know why. My wife will be the one walking briskly in the opposite direction, hiding her face lest anyone realize we're together.

This particular scene is from our family's car, Chloe (see here for her introduction.) Her rear turn signal is particularly fetching, I think.

Your turn: Find a car. Look at the lights. Tell me what you see - or better yet, show me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The great glass envelope

Office space
London, ON, August 2010

I feel sorry for the birds who inevitably slam into tall, mirror-finished buildings before falling ingloriously, and finally, to the ground. Generations after skyscrapers redefined the urban landscape, we still build wildlife-unfriendly structures without so much as a second thought.

I hear you: My heart bleeds a liberal shade of red, and there's a cute koala bear over there that also needs saving. So I'm a softie, and I guess I'll always be one. Whatever. It nevertheless bugs me that designers still create gigantic mirrors like this one knowing full well what the consequences might be, and so often are. In the overall scheme of things it may not be the biggest tragedy out there. But it shouldn't need to be to merit some motivation to change. Even a little.

Your turn: To mirror or not to mirror. That is the question. What's your answer?

One more thing: To participate in this week's reflection-themed Thematic Photographic activity, just click here.

Reflective birthday. Encore.

Someone else in our house is having a birthday. My wife's completion of another spin around the sun comes one day after our daughter's special day. Our only girl certainly doesn't need another reason to be connected to her mom, but it doesn't hurt that they share consecutive-day birthdays.

As my wife has always said, Dahlia was the best birthday present she could have ever received. Which makes any present I ever try to get her seem woefully inadequate. But I'll keep trying. Because she's neat.

Your turn: If you haven't met her, click here. She's much nicer than I am.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reflective birthday girl

Deep thoughts
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

What I like about this week's Thematic Photographic theme, reflective, is its ability to be twisted any numbers of ways. You could take it literally and explore the optics of things like mirrors, water and other reflective surfaces. Or you could go virtual and look at behaviors - the kinds of things we don't necessarily see.

Or do we? As I watched our daughter, Dahlia, take in a scene she doesn't normally get to enjoy, I thought about what she must be thinking. I kept quiet as I snapped away, though. Sometimes, it's best to just enjoy a quiet moment together.

Her pensiveness is merely one of the things I love about the young lady who in barely 28 minutes becomes a teenager. She appreciates the little moments that don't necessarily merit headlines, but still deserve to be cherished. Just like her mom, she considers the needs of others long before she considers her own, and she has a way of connecting with anyone, anywhere that renders her almost impossible to forget, even if you only crossed her path once. She's growing into the kind of person anyone would dearly wish to call a friend, the kind of person anyone would want to spend more time with.

I wish for many more shared moments like this in our future, and wish time didn't move as quickly as it does.

Your turn: What would you like to wish our newly minted birthday-girl teenager?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thematic Photographic 114 - Reflective

Waste no more
Delray Beach, FL, December 2009

I'll come right out and admit it: I'm a bit of a car freak, so it was with more than a little interest that I watched the entire industry go through one of the most convulsive chapters in its history over the past couple of years. If we can say that the recession was a nasty kick in the teeth to the broader economy, it's similarly safe to conclude that it was that and worse in the car sector.

By the time the dust settled, entire brands like Pontiac, Saturn, Mercury and Hummer were no more. Saab's brush with near-death was staved off by a last-minute buyout that may or may not save the storied Swedish icon.

Which brings us to Hummer. I never understood why this brand existed. Well, maybe I did: To provide unreliable, inefficient examples of conspicuous consumption to those primarily male buyers who felt a compelling need to compensate for, ah, other shortcomings in their lives and in themselves.

I get that a capitalist-based market thrives on providing choice, but this particular choice always struck me as representative of the worst that humankind can offer. I know most of its drivers can afford to feed their 10 mpg pigs-on-wheels, but that doesn't mean I'm happy that we've arrived at a point in our history when thumbing our nose so obnoxiously at the planet - and each other - is so pervasive. With that in mind, I'm not sorry to see Hummers go.

Still, the photographer in me enjoyed capturing this somewhat dusty example on a sunny Florida day. You can still find aesthetic goodness in something that makes no sense.

Your turn: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is reflective. So shoot into any reflective surface and share it on your blog. That's it! Well, that and then come back here to share the link to your entry. And then go visit others to spread the Thematic Photographic word. How does this thing work? Glad you asked. Go here for rules, and here for all TP entries.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Not quite the highway to hell

Take this exit
Highway 401 near Woodstock, Ontario, December 2009
[Click all photos to enlarge.]

Quick housekeeping: If you've found this site by way of Google's Blog of Note, welcome! Here at Written Inc., we do a weekly photo sharing activity called Thematic Photographic. The premise is simple. 1) I post a new theme. 2) Folks post their own photo on their blogs. 3) Participants come back here to post a link to their entry. By visiting other participants, so the theory goes, we expand our view of the world - and get to know some pretty neat people a little better.

Last week's theme was "transportation", and you can find it here. You are, of course, welcome to dive right in and have fun with it. That is, after all, why we do stuff like this here. I hope you enjoy the ride. I'll post a new theme tomorrow (Friday morning). [End housekeeping]

I don't often find myself sitting in the passenger seat. I've written previously about my near-pathological need to be at the wheel, so I'll spare you a repeat here. On the relatively few occasions when I'm riding shotgun - usually during a long drive back to visit the homeland-dwelling extended family - I try to divert my attention by playing with my camera. At least until the motion-induced nausea sets in.

So on this bright, sunny day, we found ourselves headed back to Montreal. The 401 is the busiest highway in North America, and it cuts through some of the loveliest country imaginable. Sadly, highways like this don't encourage sightseeing. As great as they are at turning time into distance, they just don't provide the same engaging driving experience you'd get on a smaller regional road. Worse, photography at 120 km/h (shhh, my wife speeds) is more miss than hit. If you end up with one or two decent captures from the entire shoot, consider it a good day.

I'm thinking today was a good day. I hope you enjoy the view.

Your turn: Tell us about a memorable road trip. What made it memorable in the first place?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

OMG - Blog of Note!

It's been a little over six years since I started this blog. I did so because I wanted to exercise my inner writer and extend my boundaries a little bit into the social media space. Written Inc. has allowed me to meet and be inspired by some truly incredible people.

I didn't set out for any kind of recognition, but the Google Gods have apparently decided otherwise, as they've named this silly little corner of the blogosphere their Blog Of Note for September 8th. It's not an Oscar, an Emmy, or even a Daytime Emmy. It won't radically change my life any, but it's a neat little shot of happiness that reinforces why I still enjoy doing this all these years later.

It's also a nice way to end a year I'd rather forget. Perhaps this is another sign of what lies ahead. One can always hope.

Your turn: If you've arrived here by way of the Blogger homepage, or the Blogs Of Note entry, welcome! I hope you'll take a few minutes to poke around and read a few random entries. I also hope you like what you see, and leave a breadcrumb or two so you'll return soon. There's always room for more folks at the conversational table.


Flat Stanley

Pneumatically challenged
London, ON, July 2010

It's difficult to get where you're going when your route takes you through neighborhoods that, to be quite charitable, seem to require copious amounts of charitable giving. Notice the overturned shopping cart behind my going-nowhere machine. It's one of many littering this sad stretch of road - called, I'm not kidding, Cheapside Street - that I often try to ride at speed because, let's face it, I'm an elitist wimp who doesn't really want to get into it with the muttering drunk who claims the graffiti-covered bus stop with the shattered windows as his own.

The combination of tires that require the air to stay inside - imagine that! - and roads littered with shattered glass, nails and staples that, despite their lack of sentient capability, seem to conspire to remove said air from said tires was, unfortunately for me on this morning, not a happy one. A rogue staple quietly reduced my rear tire to mush, and by the time I felt the telltale bounciness from the rear end, I knew I was cooked. The damage was in a part of the tube that meant I wasn't going to McGyver-patch my way out of this one. Or McGruber. So out came the BlackBerry for the plaintive call home, and pretty soon my wife was winging her way east to rescue me.

While I waited, the drunk stayed on his side of the busy street. The beer store wasn't scheduled to open for another two hours.

Your turn: Ever get stranded? Do tell!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Green means go

This is progress
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, August 2010

[Please click here for more transportation goodness]

We see traffic lights every day, but do we really look at them? Probably not, as a detailed analysis might not be advisable when you're negotiating a six-lane intersection at speed, bracketed on one side by some kid balancing driving his dad's Volvo with texting his buddies on his BlackBerry and on the other an octagenarian on her way home from bingo who apparently has difficulty telling the difference between the accelerator and brake pedals.

(For what it's worth, I've encountered both of these folks in recent days. I love London drivers.)

So on an afternoon when I found a set of lights while out on a walk with my wife, I had all the time in the world to explore it with my camera in a way I just couldn't do while fending off Teen Berry King or Grandma Pedal Pusher. Either way, I need to walk more and drive less.

Your turn: What's your favorite traffic signal. Why?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Four sea legs

Young faithful
Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, August 2010

No one ever said transportation must revolve exclusively around motors that burn dinosaur remains yanked from some distant desert governed by despotic rulers with an irrational devotion to American muscle cars and high-end luggage stores. Sometimes, a quiet, efficient paddle with your best friend on the bow is the best way to get from here to there.

I'm going to assume the lack of a lifejacket is due to the fact that the water is so polluted that this lovely pooch would likely dissolve before drowning.

Your turn: I know this pic is just begging for a caption. I also know it's been some time since I did a Caption This. Got a caption suggestion, anyway?

One more thing: Every week here at Written Inc., we do this weekly photo-sharing-theme activity called Thematic Photographic. This week's theme is transportation, and if you follow your mouse here, you'll be able to share your own transportation-themed photo. Trust us, it won't hurt a bit.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Chloe joins the family

The road ahead
Laval, QC, August 2010

Because nothing in life is permanent, especially if it's a planned-obsolete piece of North American engineering, it's only a matter of time before the lovely set of wheels you carefully piloted home from the dealership just a few short years ago eventually becomes an older, less lovely conveyance that increasingly - and increasingly unpredictably - consumes family resources you'd rather allocate to basics like food, shelter and Apple-branded products.

So as the noise from another clearly blown wheel bearing gradually evolved from a gentle thrum to something a little less gentle, we kinda knew the wondervan's time with us was drawing to a close. As much as we enjoyed having something large enough to carry a miniature pony to the fair or the Iceland national basketball team to its next practice, our vehicle's slow de-evolution back to oxidized metal particles meant it made more sense to redirect our finite dollars toward something a little newer, a little smaller and a little (okay, a lot) more efficient. We'd miss the cassette deck, of course, but that's the price of progress.

But here's the thing: our not-so-mini minivan (seriously, can something 200+ inches long and well over two tons in weight be considered mini?) served us well. It took us to Florida five times, to Montreal dozens of times, and to countless other places near and far on trips that helped us continue to tell the story of us. Even on drives to school, it served as our little cocoon, a place where we got to spend a few relatively peaceful moments together before the day took us all our separate ways. So when it came time to take Wilhemina (or Wilma. Yes, we name our cars) on her last drive to the dealership before trading her in, I found myself trying to commit the last five years of ownership to memory.

The new car has a working rear defroster. We don't need to keep our ears tuned for the next thing to go wrong. The kids aren't allowed to eat in it. Or within a 25-foot radius, for that matter.

Our daughter named her Chloe. She fits just fine in our driveway and, more importantly, into our family. This reflective photo, shot in the parking lot of my in-laws'/mom's condo complex after completing the first leg of her first-ever road trip, makes me realize that in the end, it's not as much about the car itself as the places it takes you and the memories you make - and hold on to - along the way. If Chloe is as effective in that regard as Wilma was, we'll do just fine for the next few years on whatever road adventures await us.

Your turn: Do you name your cars? Do tell!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Memorable wheels

My dad's car
Laval, QC, October 2009

I had been hearing stories about my father's Renault Gordini (a sportier version of the venerable R8/Dauphine) ever since I was a munchkin. It's the car he owned when he and my mom got married, the car that unceremoniously ended its time with the family long before I came along in a puff of smoke and flame, the car that, by today's standards, was all style and notably less substance.

But none of that matters now. Because somehow, this vehicle - well, not this particular vehicle, as this is merely a photo of a dinky car, while the actual Gordini was long ago melted down and re-cast as a planter just outside the entrance to the Airport Hilton - weaseled its way into the psyche of our family in a way that no car since has managed to do.

To wit, we don't swap stories about the burgundy Chevy wagon (was it a Biscayne? I can't remember) or the gold, then silver Ford monster-wagons we owned when the company paid the gas bill (man, imagine that!) or the fire engine red AMC Concord wagon (sense a pattern here?) with woody appliques on the sides and enough black crushed velour on the inside to outfit a Las Vegas lounge.

Yet this car, a car I never saw first-hand, never rode in and, frankly, have never seen another example of on the road ever since, became a character in the stories my parents told about their just-begun adventure. They personified it, reflected how much character it had, and allowed it to set the tone for the years ahead, when cars of every stripe would connect our far-flung family in ways the young couple at the wheel of this ill-starred foreign car could hardly foresee.

Your turn: A car that mattered to you. Please discuss.

About this photo: We had returned to Montreal barely two weeks after we had left. That's how long my father had been gone, and we were home with my mom, slowly, tentatively beginning to go through some of the things in the house. His things. I found the dinky in the catch-all on top of his dresser and had to catch my breath - something I've been doing a lot over the last almost-year. It was a little the worse for wear, as witnessed by the missing tire, but that was irrelevant in the context of the day. I immediately thought of why he would have bought this overtly foreign car when the conventional wisdom of the day would have pointed him toward a bigger, more conventional piece of Detroit iron.

But my father wasn't conventional. Not then, not ever. And for better or for worse, he lived - and drove - on his terms. I guess I was meant to find this car after all.

Friday, September 03, 2010

3PAR: HP wins. Dell loses. I write.

The media craziness continues, as I've been commenting extensively on BlackBerry maker RIM's challenges in India, the CRTC's decision to force carriers to give refunds to some of its customers, and the HP/Dell bidding war over storage vendor 3PAR.

I published a piece on that last bit - HP won the war yesterday, BTW, with a final $33.00/share offer that prompted Dell to bow out - in today's Toronto Star*. Here's the link:

Fighting for the cloud: Behind the duel for 3PAR

I've also been busy in front of the camera. Here's a rundown of this week's major hitters:
  • CTV News Channel. Chatted with anchor Dan Matheson about the RIM/India thing. Video here.
  • CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange. Spoke about the RIM story as well. Video here. They begin coverage about 1:15 in, and the interview proper starts at 16:50 in.
  • Global National (first time!) I spoke with anchor Gord Steinke about the CRTC (Canadian telecom regulator) decision to tick off carriers by forcing them to refund some of the proceeds of the so-called "deferral account". Video here. Click the Sep. 1, 2010 image, then scroll to about 7:25 in (14:45 to go) for the report by Francis Silvaggio.
Whew...what a great week! This stuff never gets old, and I always feel privileged that the phone continues to ring, and that I get to share perspectives with some of the smartest people out there. Very cool stuff.

* This is my third article for the Star. Article 1 is here. Article 2 is here.

Thematic Photographic 113 - Transportation

Where the rubber hits the road
Laval, QC, August 2010

For the coming week, I'm hoping we'll share perspectives on the things that help us get from one place to another. While cars are easy targets of opportunity, don't feel compelled to limit yourselves to them. In my own archives, I've got a pile of bike, aircraft and even kayak photos that may or may not show up here in the days to come.

What have you got?

Your turn: Please share a transportation-themed photo on your blog, then post a link to it in a comment here. Participate as often as you wish. And if you've already got something that you posted online a while back, feel free to share that, too. For more background on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo sharing extravaganza, works, please click here. To see all TP-tagged entries, click here. Oh, and have fun with it. Because that's the point of this entire exercise.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Life begins. Life ends.

Circle of life?
Thornhill, ON, August 2010
About this photo: We're winding down our week-long look at flowers - thank you to everyone who made this theme (see here if you've got something to share) such a vibrant one. Thematic Photographic launches a new theme tomorrow morning. What will it be? Pop by after 7 a.m. ET to find out.
Flowers have a bit of a bittersweet aura about them. Their near-limitless loveliness exists within a somewhat sad context, because their beauty will soon shrivel into brown, crinkled dryness. They'll quickly go from being the center of attention to yesterday's news, forgotten as we look for the next pretty thing to capture our eye.

Such is the nature of ephemeral beauty.

Your turn: Treasured but temporary. Please discuss.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Little. Yellow. Different. Better.

They call me Mellow Yellow
London, ON, April 2009

[Please click here to participate in this week's Thematic flower theme]

There's a softness to flowers that extends well beyond how they feel when you touch them. I think of it as a visual kind of softness, more of a feeling or a tone than anything else. It's the kind of thing that lowers my blood pressure when I'm around them, that makes me smile because I can still enjoy a simple pleasure in the middle of an otherwise busy life.

Your turn: Does this make any sense at all?

(Almost forgot: Happy new month, everyone!)