Friday, September 30, 2011

Wearing the cone of shame

I'm not happy
London, ON, September 2011

The charmed life of our dog added another chapter this week. Nothing major - well, nothing beyond the usual - but when you're a dog, there's no easy way to tell the difference. Furry man must have gotten a bug bite on his paw, as he's been licking the same spot for days. You can probably tell where this ended up: the spot became irritated, and the vet recommended a cone of shame to prevent him from further irritating himself. He'll keep it on until it heals.

As you might imagine, Frasier is not a happy camper. He stares at us with a sad look in his already sad-looking eyes. He's moping around the house. He can barely get his now-outsized head into his food and water bowls. He bumps into things. He gets stuck. He cries.

By my estimate, he's been in this contraption for about three hours. It's going to be a long stretch for us all.

Your turn: Any ideas on how we can cheer him up?

Clifford Olson Dies.

One of Canada's most notorious serial killers has died of cancer, 30 years after being arrested and admitting he killed 11 children.

Although the damage he caused in his misspent lifetime can never be undone, at least he'll never have the chance to cause any more.

Sorry for the lack of forgiveness. I just don't have it in me.

Tractor beam

Komoka, ON, September 2011
About this photo: We're exploring "it's in the details" this week, and you can, too. Just go here and it'll all make sense. Kinda.
The scene: I'm cruising through the countryside just outside London on my bike, trying to get back in touch with my green side before winter arrives and forces me off the road for a few months. I come across an old tractor sitting in front of a dilapidated farmhouse. I doubt the rust- and dirt-covered tools scattered around the tractor still work, but the hand scrawled "for sale" sign suggests at least one person on the planet still believes this pile of metal retains some kind of value.

That's the cynic in me talking. I roll on past the forlorn site. Then something makes me stop. A second thought, I think, perhaps even a pang of first-impression remorse. Maybe it isn't as worthless as it first seems to be. Maybe it deserves a second look.

I turn the bike around, park on the gravel shoulder and carefully cross the ditch to get a closer look. The battered, sun-baked metal wears years of hard work with a grace I hadn't noticed as I was riding. Even if it never tills another clump of soil, there's something here that I had totally missed when I first rode past.

I head back to my bike, fetch the camera from the bag and get to work. After all, there's a story to be told here.

I suspect I learned a valuable lesson on this day: You learn a lot more about stuff - and life - when you stop to take a closer look.

Your turn: What do you learn when you stop to take a second look?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spell much?

It's Carmi with an i, thank you
About this photo: It's in the details. Thematic. Here.
I'm not especially high-strung, and I don't play the diva card. Much. But if you've known me for heaven knows how long, yet you misspell my name, I'm going to be slightly ticked. In this case, let's call it half my life, give or take.

I sit on a board of directors with a guy who finds new ways to misspell my name every time out. I often miss receiving e-mail because he manually types my e-mail address - wrongly - and then doesn't re-send the message after the fact. Polite requests to have it corrected are met with a shrug and a laugh. I find silliness like this unacceptable.

Yes, I'm ornery. But it's disrespectful. I was raised and trained to take the extra moment to double-check that you got it right. In the Internet Age, it's not that difficult. Making sure is the least I can do to treat those around me as I'd like to be treated in return. That is all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On death. And life.

"Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Steve Jobs.

I've been saving this one for a while, and today for various reasons seems like the right day to share it.

Mr. Jobs has, for reasons obvious and less so, always been a huge influence on me. As the new year dawns for my own tribe, I find myself reflecting on how so many of us fail to squeeze the most out of the time we've been given. Whatever your background and whatever you're celebrating, may the year to come - and more importantly each individual day - bring us not only happiness and health, but the ability and willingness of us all to recognize just what a gift this time is.

Your turn: How do you intend to, as Mr. Jobs recommends, follow your heart?

After summer ends

Chlorinated blue
Rigaud, QC, July 2011
About this photo: We're looking at details this week. You can, too, by clicking here and joining in the Thematic goodness.
Autumn started this week, a fact that I deftly tried to ignore in deference to my need to remain optimistic. Perhaps that's harsh: I really do like the season, as there's a texture and a feel to it that both reach down deep into my soul.

Still, that doesn't mean I can't look at something I shot in the heat of summer without a bit of a sigh at what's been left behind. It was a good season, filled with good times and good people. I suspect Autumn has similar moments in store for us all, even if they're served up in a slightly different-looking and feeling package.

Your turn: What does autumn have in store for you?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On being truly alive

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive."
Howard Thurman

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thematic Photographic 164 - It's in the details

Safety sells
London, ON, June 2011

I don't have a whole lot of rules in my life, but one that does pop up fairly regularly is this: Look closely. When you narrow your view, lean in and squint your eyes just so to focus in on a specific detail, you see things you might have otherwise missed.

And as the photo of the rear end of a black Volvo XC90 attests, you don't have to go all the way in to see more. Sometimes, just a slight amount of zeroing in is enough to get a fresh perspective. So that's what I'd like to accomplish over the next week. Thematic's "It's in the details" theme will challenge us to isolate things a bit, to stop looking at the big picture and instead look at one or two of the details that contribute to it.

I think it'll be fun, and I hope you'll think so, too.

Your turn: Please share a picture that reflects this week's "it's in the details" theme, or find something you've already posted online. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Drop in on other participants, and feel free to repeat the process throughout the week. If you're new to Thematic, just click here for more details on how it works. You'll be glad you did.

They were vegetables once

London, ON, July 2011

I thought it made sense to end off this week's celebration of all things vegetable with a somewhat off-center look at what a vegetable is - or can be. I know the onion rings pictured here are horridly bad for you, and have had virtually all of their Mother Nature-gifted goodness sucked out of them by the deep fryer. But as a very occasional treat and still life subject, I'm thinking they're just barely acceptable.

Besides, that checkered-placemat-in-a-tray is too retro for words.

Your turn: When good foods go bad. Please discuss.

One more thing: Our new Thematic theme - "It's in the details" - launches tonight at 7:00 Eastern. Hope you'll join us for that, too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On those who light fires

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."
Albert Schweitzer

What's up, Doc?

I've been toying with the camera on my new BlackBerry (yes, I'm old school) and while it'll never be a DSLR, it's surprisingly decent when the right set of factors - read, the stars - align.

It reminds me of the old saying that goes something like this: the best camera is the one you remember to take with you. And since my Berry is never more than arm's length away from me, I'm guessing it's the best tool for the job when I notice the carrot display and decide it's something I want to remember.

Because when all is said and done, this photography thing is more about preserving moments and memories than it is about what equipment you use.

Your turn: Do you use your camera's phone?

One more thing: We're still doing the vegetable thing, and you're welcome to submit your veggie-themed photos through tomorrow (Monday) night. Just pop over here if you've got something to share.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pick a peck of non-pickled peppers

I've gone back to grocery store photography because I apparently won't be satisfied until I'm busted by the Retail Police Force and forcibly removed from store by a couple of baton-wielding retirees.

Once upon a time, I coined the practice "fruitography" because, well, I was shooting fruits. So does this pepper shot qualify as "vegotography"? What about Loblawsography or Sobeysography in honor of the two major grocery store retailers around here? Does it really matter what it's called?

I'm guessing the only thing that matters is that this kind of spontaneous shooting presents yet another opportunity to stretch the bounds of photography. And life. Because that's why we do these artistic things in the first place, right?

Friday, September 23, 2011

A moment alone in the darkness

It was well before dawn today when I quietly picked up my Mac and tiptoed downstairs. It's a ritual I often follow now that I'm balancing full-time 9-to-5 work with life as an independent tech journalist. If I'm going to write on my own time, it'll usually be when the sky is dark and the rest of the house is quiet.

Indeed, on this morning, even the dog didn't stir as I headed to the kitchen for some quality time with my keyboard. As much as I treasure my sleep, I admit I really enjoy these early morning writing jags. I know what I need to do and how much time I've got to get it done. My phone isn't ringing and folks I thought I left behind after high school aren't trying to IM me. I'm not even remotely close to being a loner, but I like the thought of being awake when no one else is. And I like ripping through whatever's on the docket so I can tiptoe back upstairs for a few more zees before the rest of the house stirs.

This morning was different. In the back of my mind, I knew this wasn't going to be my best writer's session. My mind weighed heavy with the significance of the day, and I wasn't sure I had enough in the tank to set the sadness aside and let the writer's muse take over. I didn't think I'd be able to get myself into that zone of sorts where the words just tumble out of my head and through my fingers. All I could think of was my father, and how incomprehensible it seemed that two years had already gone by since we lost him.

I looked at the clocks on the stove, the coffee machine and my BlackBerry. All moving forward, as they always had. Unfeeling pieces of technology ticking silently toward an unseen deadline, they didn't much care that today was different for me. They didn't much care that this whole life-of-a-writer thing of mine had been rekindled a decade ago, in the early morning gloom as I flew back home to be there for another of my father's surgeries, with my fingers dancing across the keys of some long-since-disposed laptop. They didn't much care that that moment, so similar to this one, became the first of many newspaper columns that helped me find my writer's voice and ultimately reignited my passion for the craft.

All that mattered was what came next, that an empty screen sat in front of me and was waiting to be filled.

So I wrote. And the muse woke up and sent the right words in the right order through my fingers and into the backlit keyboard. And for the 45 or so minutes it took me to hit word count and shape the piece for submission, the darkness of the day didn't matter. I wrote like I always had, focused on the one thing that matters to everyone who trades words for opportunity: Finishing.

And when I did, I clicked Send, then softly closed my laptop's lid and padded silently back to our room. As I got to the bottom of the stairs, the first slivers of blue morning light were already working their way through the window.

I woke up this morning unsure of how I should mark the day, or whether I should even be marking it at all. But as I thought about the words that were now floating into a faraway editor's inbox, I realized I had already marked it in the most appropriate way possible. My writing had always been so closely tied to my father's life that it seemed somewhat right to have closed the loop in the darkness of my kitchen.

Although he's no longer around to read the words, it felt cathartic to have written them on this morning, and to have set the stage for so many more mornings like this one in the months and years ahead.

Two years on...

I lost my dad two years ago today. They say that time heals, but I'm not entirely sure I believe it, and I'm not entirely sure it would make a difference one way or another.

Normally I'd have a whole lot to say, but today, for whatever reason, the words won't come.

Maybe later.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On a physicist's imagination

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."
Albert Einstein

Please don't sneeze on the salad bar

Laval, QC, July 2011

I always smile as I pass by the salad bar and catch sight of the sneeze guard. I've never actually seen anyone sneeze into one, so I haven't been able to validate that these things actually do what they're supposed to do.

But just thinking about it is enough to creep me out. I may risk the wrath of vegetable lovers everywhere (see here for more), but the salad bar is little more than communal food, sourced from trough-like buffets in mostly public places.

Of course, there's no guarantee that I'll get anything better if I order a salad off the menu. One disgruntled chef in an unseen restaurant kitchen can be just as dangerous to my food-borne cleanliness as a lineup of customers at the very visible salad bar. All of which makes me wonder if I should be going to restaurants at all. Probably not.

Your turn: Feeding yourself in public. Gross or not?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On tragedy

"The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach."
Benjamin Mays

Now I'm allowed to say, "Pepper"

About this photo: Thematic. Vegetables. Here. Because they're good for you.
Never let it be said that the land of my birth, the Canadian Province of Quebec, isn't a strange and wondrous place. For example, when I was growing up, Dr. Pepper was not sold in La Belle Province. Now, I didn't much care, as pop - oops, excuse me, boissons gazeuse, or soft drinks - have never really been my thing. Still, this product's absence from the store shelves was one of many examples of how different this part of the country was from the rest.

The popularly understood reason for Dr. Pepper's Quebec no-show was an interesting one: The word pepper is derogatory slang. If you described someone as such, you'd be just as likely to find yourself surrounded by a bunch of very angry people. I'm guessing the bottlers didn't want to change the name to something else.

These days, the drink is sold throughout Quebec. I'm guessing the word isn't as taboo as it once was. Or consumers simply wanted their sugared, fizzy drinks without having to drive across the border.

Your turn: Things you can't buy where you live. Please discuss.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On knowing your place

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
Mark Twain

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thematic Photographic 163 - Eat your veggies

You say tomato, I say...
London, ON, September 2011

Mom always told us to eat our veggies. If memory serves, they were supposed to help us grow big and strong and healthy. Because moms are always right, and because we always want to respect their wishes, I'd like us to spend the week exploring the world of vegetables. I hope you're ready to share some of your own veggie tales, too.

Your turn: Please select a picture of vegetables. Or a picture that reminds you of vegetables. Or one you've already posted. Then pop over here and leave a comment to let everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the joy, and feel free to pop by through the week to add to the fray. For more info on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly non-competitive video-sharing activity/meme/party thing, works, please click here.

Panes in the glass

Feel the sun
Quebec City, QC, July 2011

I'd like to bring the "playing with light" theme to a close with this seemingly simple view of a south-facing window. What initially presents itself as a relatively geometric picture without a whole lot of detail becomes something more as you spend more time taking it in. On a brilliantly sunny summer's day, the light that spills through the glass and onto the sill seems to take on a life of its own. It isn't just light: You can almost feel the warmth radiating off of the lovingly polished wood.

Whoever restored this heritage building obviously cared about the end result, wanted whoever visited here to stop and drink in the history, to touch the walls and feel the years. Which was what I was doing as I slowly walked down the main hall of the building. And when I got to the window, it hit me that this was much more than glass and wood. It wasn't something you simply looked at, or through. If you closed your eyes just so, you could almost feel it.

Your turn: What makes windows so special?

Oops, almost forgot: New Thematic theme launches tonight at precisely 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be eating our vegetables for the next week.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On inevitable change

"Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."
Elizabeth Lawrence
So I'm walking the dog and I'm feeling the crunch of the newly fallen leaves under my now-sneakered, sock-wearing feet. It's a little too chilly to wear my summertime-staple sandals on our nighttime walks, and the hooded sweatshirts are now coming out of storage, too, to help ward off the almost-autumn breezes.

I don't begrudge this transition, as it's one of my favorite times of year. We've had our summer, our lushly hot and humid days, our days at the beach, and now it's time to put them all away for a bit and hunker down for what lies ahead. There's a sweetness, a romance, almost, to pulling on an extra layer or two, tightening it against you and heading out into the cooling world.

I like living in a place that moves through such diversity over the course of a year. We may yet complain about missing the warm summer, about the inconvenience of a colder, snowier climate, but I've got to believe that the very act of putting one season away and preparing for the next somehow enriches us, somehow makes us better people.

Or maybe I just like how I feel when I bury myself in an oversized sweater and feel the chill on my face. It's what I imagine life should feel like.

Your turn: Autumn starts this Friday, September 23rd*. What are the first three words that come to mind when you hear the word?

* In the Northern Hemisphere. It's all Spring down under.

Power to the people

Lights on, lights off, your call
Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, July 2011

I've always been more interested in what lies beneath than what's plainly seen up-front. So when I found myself wandering the streets of this lovely old town on the very western tip of the island of Montreal, my eyes were drawn toward the alleyways between the well preserved buildings.

What I found in the process didn't necessarily change my view of the place. And it didn't change me, either. But that wasn't the point. You don't always need a point to grab a shot that makes you ponder.

Your turn: Do you ever take a picture just because? Got an example to share?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shooting a lady of the night

Quebec City, QC, July 2011
About this photo: Thematic. Playing with light. You. Here. Because you want to.
Every time I look at this picture, I think about what it isn't. Namely, focus, composition and lighting are all, to be charitable, off. Way off. In a past life, I probably would have deleted it from the set and forgotten about it.

But every time I saw it, my finger hovered over the delete button but didn't actually press it. There's something in this moment, captured almost reflexively as I walked down a busy Quebec City street, that makes me wonder who she was, what she was doing there and what happened to her after I continued on my way. Was she a regular

Lesson learned: Even the technical failures (like this one) have some kind of redeeming value.

Your turn: Do you hold onto so-called failed photos?

On finding open doors

"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."
Alexander Graham Bell
It's been a week filled with lots of opening and closing doors, so I thought this thoughtful thought from one of history's great communication-facilitators struck particularly close to home. I hope it has the same impact on you, too.

Your turn: Did you open a door this week?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why RIM's in freefall, in 4 minutes or less

I'm having a bit of a wild evening thanks to the whole Research In Motion hullabaloo that's thrown Canadian markets into a tizzy today. But don't worry, as it's a good kind of wild.

Long story short, the BlackBerry maker announced sharply lower profits and disappointing sales of its signature smartphones and PlayBook tablets. Investors responded by selling off RIM shares in droves. To make matters worse, millions of BlackBerry users in North America, Latin America and elsewhere were hit by an e-mail/BlackBerry Messenger outage earlier today. Talk about bad timing.

As sometimes happens when Tech Planet needs a little clarification, I got - or will soon be getting - to chat with some really cool folks in the broadcast world. Here's the lowdown:

CBC's The National - I'll be speaking with Havard Gould (10 p.m. in most time zones) (Video here - they led the newscast with a clip, and included another one in the report itself. Coolness.)
CTV's National newscast - I'm up with Richard Madan (11 p.m.) (Newcast here. Report here)
CTV London - Clip aired on 6 p.m. newscast. Maybe 11 p.m. package, too.
CTV News Channel - I'll be speaking live with Marcia MacMillan at 9:00 p.m. Eastern
CFRB Newstalk 1010 - I'm on-air with John Downs and Ryan Doyle at 9:45 p.m. ET

Some days, life really is a trip. Today's one of 'em.

Turn your face to the sun

From blue to green
London, ON, July 2011
About this photo: Thematic's been playing with light all week long. You can, too, by going here.
Here in Ontario, we're deep into a provincial election campaign that'll have us headed to the polls on October 6th. It's turned into a particularly nasty campaign, with attack ads hitting the airwaves even before the writ was dropped just over a week ago. As entertaining as the whole process is, the now-predictable meanness makes me somewhat sad, as I think we all deserve a little better from the folks who lead us. Call me naive.

One of the major issues is renewable energy. The incumbent Liberal government implemented a Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) that allows regular folks to sell excess energy back into the grid at a guaranteed - read much-higher-than-market - rate for up to 20 years. Since the Liberals were first elected eight years ago, energy costs in general have skyrocketed well above the rate of inflation, and the FIT has become a flashpoint between those who say we need to invest in clear energy and opponents who say we shouldn't be going bankrupt in the process.

While the politicos rage, solar arrays like the one in the photo above have been popping up seemingly everywhere as everyone tries to lock in their FIT bonanza before it possibly goes away. I found this one in the park near where our kids were playing soccer, and was struck by the creativity of some unseen marketing types in including such news-savvy marketing right on the panel. Given my general addiction to things that look neat, it was almost a foregone conclusion that it would end up on my memory card.

Political machinations aside, I think technology that essentially gives us free electricity is an amazing thing. Don't we all want something for nothing?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On the meaning of chess

After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box.
Italian Proverb
I'm not entirely sure why these words speak to me today, but they do. I'll leave it for another day - or, for you - to figure out their meaning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Burn baby burn

Mobile combustion
Quebec City, QC
July 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's "playing with light" week all week long. You don't need to try the veal, but you may want to click over here to see what we're talking about.
We happened across this scene while walking around Quebec City - the only walled city in North America and a living example of history that two months after our trip there remains a constant topic of conversation among our kids. A large crowd had gathered around a street performer on the riverfront boardwalk. This particular guy was unusually acrobatic and unusually funny, more professional than hokey. Our kids were entranced. So were we.

It didn't take long before he was down to his skivvies - fleur-de-lys, of course - and riding a unicycle. A few bilingual jokes later and then the flaming batons came out.

I'm not an arsonist or a pyromaniac, and I generally don't end up entranced by flames. But this time, I'm figuring it was the late afternoon heat or the fact that we were in a unique place with friends who mattered, enjoying a day we knew the munchkins would carry with them for a while yet. Whatever it was, I zoomed in on the flames and let the fun begin.

I'm kinda glad I did. This picture takes me right back to that moment when everything was just right. I like when photography does that.

Your turn: A picture's ability to take you back. Has that ever happened to you?

On why you matter

"In the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world."
Brandi Snyder

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another day, another year

Fourteen years plus one day ago, my wife received the best birthday present imaginable. Which means today is another birthday day in our house. I won't share any numbers because, well, she'll kill me. But however many years she celebrates, I'm just observant enough to realize how lucky I am to get to share them with her.

It's been a pretty cool journey, thanks to her. My only wish is we get to celebrate many more days - birthdays, regular days, and everything in between - because she always finds a way to make any day special, and to make things better for everyone around her.

Happy birthday, sweets.

Your turn: What do you wish for Debbie's birthday? Feel free to visit her here and drop her a line.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thematic Photographic 162 - Playing with Light

Going with the flow
Quebec City, QC, July 2011

This week's theme, playing with light, is a bit misleading. That's because one can easily say that all of photography is technically playing with light. It's all about optics, about capturing light in certain ways and sharing the results with others. So why would I single it out on its own?

Good question. Because for the next week I'd like us all to explore pictures where the light is the story. It doesn't matter how strange it may look - all that matters is that the picture jazzes you in some way, and that you find some way to interpret the theme. As is always the case with Thematic themes, there are no rights or wrongs. Just visions. And for the next week, I hope you'll enjoy exploring this one. And yours.

Your turn: Take a pic that reflects the "playing with light" theme - or find one you may have posted online - and then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Repeat as often as you wish, and feel free to pull in a friend. We'll be doing this all week, so don't be shy. And if you're new to the Thematic thing, click here and all will be explained.

Update: Almost forgot to update y'all on what this is. It's a jellyfish, and I caught this shot at the Quebec Aquarium. Low light and relatively fast-moving beings made for an interesting challenge. The meandering crowds didn't help, either. But I stuck with it for a bit and eventually got this one reasonably decent shot. I'm learning that patience can be a virtue on occasion.

Peanut grows up

So serious
Laval, QC, July 2011

She was just born yet she's already an accomplished, confident young woman. She was a tiny little thing, yet now she fills a room with her spirit by simply walking through the door. She quietly made friends with everyone in pre-school just as easily as she settled into her first week of high school. And as our daughter, Dahlia, turns 14 today, I find myself wondering how she went from that to this so quickly that I fear I'm missing the journey.

She's "Dali" to us, a delightful, engaging, whip-smart, limitlessly kind template of my wife. She's "Dal" to her best friend, and is the kind of friend who I wish everyone had a chance to have at least once in a lifetime. I still call her "Peanut" because that's what she looked like in her first ultrasound. And I know it drives her crazy - especially when I use the term outside the house - so I'm doing my best to cut back.

Whatever we call her, it's hard to imagine what our family would be like without her. Of course, we say that about all of our kids, as each of them brings such a remarkable sense of uniqueness to this little world of ours. But today is Dahlia's day, and as I think about what makes her her, and how that her-ness makes us that much more us-like, I'm reminded of how much joy she manages to inject into the little things we do every day. The conversations in the car as I bring her home from a program, the banter on the walks to the grocery store, the sound of her voice when she talks to the dog. She makes all of these seemingly routine slices of the day seem better, somehow.

No surprise, of course, as that's the way my wife's always been. Gentle, empathetic, sweet, spine made of titanium, attitude as sharp as a tack, a laugh from the depths of her soul. Little moments matter to her, and the needs of others always seem to take precedence over her own. We've been blessed by her for 14 years, and I'm already looking forward to seeing what she does with the years she has ahead of her.

Happy birthday, maidel. May you continue to go from strength to strength.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Water. Falls.

Quebec City, QC, July 2011
[Click all photos to embiggen]
About these photos: We're winding down Thematic's white week, and by all accounts it's been a great one. If you've played along, please accept my thanks for your contribution - and if you're still wondering whether or not it's too late to jump in, rest assured it isn't. Click here to squeeze your shot in under the wire. And stay tuned Monday (tomorrow) night - at 7:00 Eastern - for our new theme, playing with light.
The neat thing about water as a photographic subject is its ability to shift form. Left undisturbed, it can potentially be as clear as the surrounding air. But get it flowing just so, and set the camera this way or that, and everything changes. Use a long enough shutter speed - like I did in the smaller shot to the left, and you can almost feel the motion in the resulting still image.

This isn't the first time I've done the moving-water thing (click here, here and here for earlier examples) and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. There's just something about standing near flowing water that speaks of peace, that reinforces that all is right with the world, even if for only this moment.

Which makes finding more moments like this all the more important.

Your turn: Why do waterfalls, rapids and other fast-flowing stretches of water appeal to you?

9/11: Looking back. Looking inward.

"If everyone howled at every injustice, every act of barbarism, every act of unkindness, then we would be taking the first step toward a real humanity."
Nelson DeMille
It's been 10 years since that fateful day, when hatred came home and embedded itself more deeply in our community than we ever felt it would. It's been 10 years since we learned how little value some among us place on human life. It's been 10 years since the rate with which cynicism and suspicion replaced innocence began to accelerate. It's been a difficult 10 years, and there's no end in sight.

I wonder if the world would indeed be a better place if more among us heeded Mr. DeMille's words. I don't know the answer, but I feel the question still needs to be asked.

Your turn: 9/11 + 10. Where were you on that day? What's going through your mind as we look back today?

One more thing: I wrote this piece on the 5th anniversary of 9/11.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

About those balls, officer

Quebec City, QC, July 2011

Either it's the world's ultimate practical joke or someone's really got a thing for plastic balls. Whatever the reason, when you come across a white Ford Fiesta stuffed to the roof with enough balls to keep an army of snot-nosed indoor playground dwellers happy for months, your only choice is to take a picture.

Funny thing, though, is I probably would have grabbed the shot even without the balls (oy, this is getting ugly.) I liked how the bright white paint reflected the various colors of the evening streetscape. It really doesn't take much to get me to lift my lens these days.

Your turn: So how did the balls come to be there? Take your best shot.

Friday, September 09, 2011

On realizing Mr. Kasem was right

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
Oscar Wilde
NASA launches its GRAIL mission to the moon tomorrow morning, and despite my never-ending wish to sleep in and let the world take care of itself, I'll be watching. Because life's sweeter when lived with a certain sense of limitless wonder.

Your turn: What stars are you shooting for?

Blizzard conditions

Remember this? It's from a wintry - and decidedly white - January afternoon, but I found myself thinking of winter last night as I walked the dog. There was a distinct nip in the air and before long I found myself buttoning buttons and zipping zippers in a vain attempt to keep the advancing cold at bay. Summer's over, folks, and it's only a matter of time before we're seeing this out the window. Nice thought to end the work week, no?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Hockey's darkest day

The impact of the horrific crash of a Yak-42 jetliner on takeoff from the Russian city of Yaroslavl is just now sinking in. Virtually an entire team, Lokomotiv, has been killed. The hockey world there and here is in shock, as the victims list included a number of former NHL players. In this interconnected age, the ripples travel far and wide.

There's no way to undo tragedy, no way to bring back what's irrevocably gone or fill the incalculably huge hole that results. I often lament the lameness of mere words at times like this, because they don't seem to tangibly change the fact that a plane fell from the sky and countless lives were either ended or forever altered.

But words are all I've got right about now, and those shared by a Brazilian author (who's inspired me previously) seem tailor-made to the way I'm thinking right about now:
"Tragedies do happen. We can discover the reason, blame others, imagine how different our lives would be had they not occurred. But none of that is important: they did occur, and so be it. From there onward we must put aside the fear that they awoke in us and begin to rebuild."
Paulo Coelho

The woman with no face

London, ON
August 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's white week. What's Thematic? What's white? Click here for more.
Don't ever say that modern-day advertising can't be completely bizarre. When every available square inch of retail and online space is used up by advertisers screaming for your attention, it's a given that the messages will, over time, become increasingly loud, obnoxious, and just plain weird. Advertisers that stick to normal and sedate risk getting lost in the mix.

Which is my only way of explaining this one. I came across it at the mall (the very bottom of the billboard actually crept into this recently posted pic.) I'm guessing it's Sony's way of saying people who buy Vaio computers stand out from the crowd. Because, as we know, a colorful case makes all computers better.

Hang on while I ponder the message inherent in my oh-so-sober-silver laptop. I guess I'm not cool enough to be in a Sony ad. Manyana.

Your turn: Perhaps this is a bit of an oversimplification, but does advertising work on you? Why/why not?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

On optimists, pessimists and leaders

"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails."
John Maxwell

Taking flight

Gull needs a name
Grand Bend, ON, August 2011

Sure, he's white. Or is he really a she? I guess I'll never know.

Either way, it was the blue sky that really got my attention as I was shooting from a crowded beach. I understand the optical reasons for this color to appear in the atmosphere, but that doesn't make it any less breathtaking.

So as I write this blog entry on this grey morning in the middle of a week of grey, I thought it might be fun to close our eyes, to look back at the summer than was and remember what it was like to be surrounded by scenes like this.

Your turn: So what should we name him? Or her?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The ultimate (white) driving machine

Bangle butt

Orangeburg, NY, July 2011
About this photo: Thematic. white. here.
I'm not the world's biggest fan of white as a car color. I figure if I'm going to spend six figures on a vehicle, it'll have a color somewhat more appealing than that worn by the fridge that until recently stood in our kitchen.

Either that or I'm still experiencing flashbacks to my mother-in-law's late, unlamented white Ford Tempo. I swear that car started rusting before its first birthday. Then again, maybe it would have sucked in any color. Whatever.

Still, there was something neat about the golden-hour glow on the rear trunklid of this BMW convertible. It reminded me that little details - in any color - can make even an ordinary-seeming thing like a nameplate seem a little less ordinary.

Your turn: What's in this car's trunk?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Thematic Photographic 161 - White

Backed into a corner
London, ON, July 2011

They say you can't wear white after Labor Day. I'm not quite sure who "they" are, but I'm virtually certain their so-called rules deserve a one-way trip to the recycling bin. Life's short: Wear what you want, when you want. Except the topless-on-main-street thing. That's just plain hideous. But I digress.

I've chosen white as this week's Thematic theme because I'm selfish. I've always had issues shooting white, as it's one of those colors that demands a little extra attention. Never mind that white, in the optical scheme of things, is an agglomeration of all colors, a super-color, if you will. It still throws me off a bit, makes me think a little longer before I pick up the camera and start shooting.

I hope this color-themed theme gives you similar opportunities to think and shoot over the next week, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you all bring back from your adventures.

Your turn: Shoot a picture in support of the white theme - or simply find one that you may have already taken/posted online. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, then feel free to visit other participants. Repeat as often as you wish: serial Thematic is highly encouraged. For more background on how Thematic, our totally non-competitive, hopefully-smile-inducing, weekly photo-sharing experience, works, please click here.

Marie Antoinette was here

Is this a store? Or a museum?
Quebec City, QC, July 2011
About this photo: I thought I'd sneak in a final shopping-themed vignette before the new theme, white, launches at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Please forgive my indulgence.
The Chateau Frontenac is an iconic hotel on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, the kind of building that instantly takes you back to an era where the finer things were made Right Here, before rollbacks, the lowest price is (was) the law, and extreme couponing. This building is breathtaking whether you're looking at it from across the river or across the street, and that sense of reverence continues as you wander inside and take in every sumptuously historic detail.

Like this store just off the main lobby. I still have no idea what they sell. Or if they even bother selling anything at all. Perhaps it's an excuse to show off the kind of history most other hotels can only dream of. Perhaps the staff here do nothing beyond shushing visitors and shooing them away from the ornate floor displays. Whatever the story, I couldn't resist shooting through the display window before one of them started shushing me.

Your turn: Who shops here?

You really don't want to sit here

The old and the forgotten
London, ON, May 2011

We're wrapping up our week-long shopping expedition with this rather forlorn view of a downtown sidewalk. I found it more than a little ironic that the 15-ish year-old chairs were being tossed away mere meters from an antique shop window filled with lovingly restored furniture that was old when my grandparents were born.

I guess they really don't make things like they used to.

Your turn: What have we lost in the move toward a disposable society?

One more thing: Thematic's next theme, white, launches tonight at precisely 7:00 Eastern. You're all invited. Even you, Bill.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

People watcher

A typical Masonville afternoon
London, ON, July 2011
About this photo: It's still shopping week - till tomorrow, anyway - and you're invited to share your own here. What's our next theme? How does white grab you? More details tomorrow...
As we often do when we run errands as a family, we split up to cover more ground in less time and, more importantly, to give our kids a little more "alone time" with each of us. Divide and conquer doesn't only apply in war and business, apparently, as parents like us have learned it's a great way to keep things balanced when you'd otherwise be outnumbered or outgunned.

So on this sunny afternoon filled with things to do and not enough time to do them, the gents went one way and the ladies went the other. Noah and I had a little extra time when we were all done, so we decided to hang out in the atrium and take it all in. My mom did this with me, in malls much like this one, a generation ago, and now it was my turn to hang back and watch him watch the world around him.

When he asked if he could go downstairs for a bit, I hesitated a bit before nodding my head. He's still our baby, and allowing him to go off on his own still gives me pause. Perhaps I've become a modern-era paranoid parent, but I worry. Still, it was only downstairs, and I'd see him the entire time. So off he went. And out came my camera, because something told me this image of our no-longer-small son beginning to explore the decidedly large world around him was something I wanted us to remember.

Your turn: When is it time to let go?

On life's canvas

"Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it."
Danny Kaye
This being a long weekend and all, I thought the late Mr. Kaye's words would be particularly worth sharing. I hope you're making the most of the time you've been given, this weekend and always.

Your turn: What does your canvas look like?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Let's all go to Bikini Village

Cover up
Grand Bend, ON, August 2011
[Please click here for more shopping silliness]

Sometimes, pictures tend to be best displayed in pairs. As I was reviewing my images from our grand adventure to Grand Bend last month, I realized that the topless picture - posted earlier today here - was taken immediately before this one.

Which essentially means first I question why grown men are running around town topless. Then I'm suggesting they pop into the women's wear shop to cover up.

This photography thing just keeps getting weirder. Somehow, I'm not disturbed.

Your turn: Who shops here? Why/why not?

Topless shopping

Taste is subjective
Grand Bend, ON, August 2011

Once upon a time, we dressed up when we went out to dinner, went shopping, took a flight, went to work, etc. Maybe the world was a more formal place back then. Maybe we spent more time thinking about how our behaviors impacted others.

I get the whole shift to casualness. After all, who wouldn't want to walk around in shorts and sandals instead of a stuffy shirt and tie? Life is short, so why would we deliberately spend it wearing clothes we hate?

Still, a little voice in the back of my head - what, you don't hear them, too? - sometimes suggests, in a whisper, that there's such thing as too casual, and sometimes it may make more sense to put some real clothes on before stepping out the door.

Your turn: Is there such thing as too casual?

Friday, September 02, 2011

On two ways of looking at the world

"Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world."
Wayne Dyer

The wrong side of the mall

No delivery today
Laval, QC, July 2011
About this photo: We're shopping this week. You can, too, by clicking here.
The 21st century shopping mall has evolved into a slickly architected environment designed to efficiently separate unwitting consumers from their money. Everything about a mall speaks to marketing perfection, from gleaming glass and marble floors to the placement of the food court relative to the department stores relative to the places that sell Mrs. Roper-ish costume jewellery and gourmet popcorn. Setting aside my natural cynicism toward the all-sales-all-the-time mentality, I realize just how much insight goes into every last detail of these places.

Yet no one gives much thought to the unseen infrastructure that feeds all that artificial commercialism. (Or is it commercial artificiality? I never really know.) But if you wander around enough, eventually you see the somewhat less glitzy backside of the whole operation. It's the seamy yin to the average mall's more prosperous-looking yang. But without it, none of the pretty stuff would work. Or even exist.

So as I wandered around the back of this local mall and dodged the shards of glass embedded in the cracked asphalt, I didn't fault anyone for the ugliness back here. It's simply a function of its design. It's up to us, however, to look at both sides of the equation.

Your turn: Do you ever go behind the scenes? Do tell...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

On knowing when to shut up

"It's very important in life to know when to shut up. You should not be afraid of silence."
Alex Trebek
I've always liked Alex Trebek. And who wouldn't? The longtime host of Jeopardy - and wannabe-thief-catcher - is Canadian (well, he was, once), he answers his questions with a question, and he gives away lots of money to smart people every day.

After seeing this quote, I like him even more.

(And being the Canadian that I am, I'll apologize for the ever-so-slightly-edgy title of this entry. Goosing the Google algorithm makes my heart race.)

Your turn: How do you deal with folks who don't know when to turn it off?