Sunday, August 31, 2014

After the interview

Small moments aren't as small to me as they might have once been. I'm slowly learning to dial back a bit so I can enjoy the ride instead of wondering afterward where I've been. Of all the things I've learned over the past year, these words resonate most strongly in my somewhat rearranged brain: Take the time.

So I do.

As an example, the scene above greeted me as I headed back to the parking lot outside the CTV London studios earlier this evening. I had just finished up my weekly Clicked In segment with Scott Laurie, and was feeling pretty good about my little place in the world. The skies apparently agreed, with a post-sunset performance that almost begged for a spontaneous photo shoot.

All I had was my BlackBerry - a Z30 - but the best camera is always the one you have with you. So out it came.

Looking up has its merits. So does slowing down.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grab a look before this bird is fully extinct

PH-KCA, inbound
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Here.
Click all photos to embiggen
Disclosure: I'm a bit of a plane geek. Way back in the dark ages, before the Interwebs, I used to read every aviation-related book I could get my hands on - sorry, they were way more interesting than comics. I studied the theory of flight because I wanted to understand the magic that allowed hundreds of thousands of pounds of metal, glass and related exotic compounds to lift off the ground, travel near the speed of sound for countless hours, then land safely clear across the planet before the food on board had a chance to get stale.

Once I figured out the physics thing, I dug into the planes themselves. Plane spotting was my way of making aviation an everyday thing. I wanted to look up and know precisely what I was looking at. I wanted to know the story of the particular plane, the company that made it, the things that made it special. These weren't just flying examples of the most cutting edge science and engineering known to humankind. To me, they were works of art. So it was okay to stand on the ground and admire them for what they were.

Fast forward to today and I'm still standing on the ground in awe. And I'm still plane spotting. And sadly, many of the planes I spotted as a kid are no longer flying. The star-crossed McDonnell Douglas DC-10, for example, recently retired from passenger service. Its successor, the MD-11, continues to fly, but in dwindling numbers as airlines shift to increasingly fuel efficient twin-engine aircraft like the Boeing 777 for long-range routes.

So when I saw this particularly lovely KLM MD-11 taxi toward its gate at Toronto's Pearson International Airport last month, I knew it might be one of my last opportunities to record the moment. For all the wizardry of modern twinjets, they just don't have the panache of this near-relic. That third engine, stabbed through the vertical stabilizer, is iconic. The way this thing floats during approach also makes it easy to spot. So it was an easy call to drop my bags beside the bay window and start shooting. Belated apologies to the stranger with the Dell laptop who could no longer focus on his Skype call because he thought I was breaking the no-pictures-in-airports rule.

For the record, an MD-11 is based on the DC-10, with a stretched fuselage, winglets on the wingtips, more efficient engines, a smaller empennage, and a glass cockpit. It is the last remaining trijet in the skies following the retirement of the Lockheed L-1011 from commercial passenger service. An Air Canada L-1011 was the first plane I ever boarded - on of all things a winter day camp field trip to the airline's maintenance base in Montreal. The 7-year-old me didn't want to leave the plane, and I've been smitten ever since. Seeing an old bird like this reminded me of why I first thought flight was something more than just a way to get around.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On Hemingway's idea of fun

"When you stop doing things for fun you may as well be dead."
Ernest Hemingway
I do a lot of things that make people crinkle their eyebrows and wonder if perhaps I might have lost a marble or two at some point. For instance, sometimes I'll lie down in the middle of the sidewalk to get a closer look at something. I don't do this to deliberately get a rise out of people, but I'm willing to admit I find it funny just knowing that a little deviation from so-called "normal" behavior can make complete strangers stop and notice. And think.

I don't know who decided what "normal" is. But I don't think I'd want to spend any amount of time hanging around someone whose idea of fun is deciding whether I do or do not meet some arbitrary measure. I don't recall electing anyone to make judgment calls on my behalf, and I'm guessing you didn't, either.

It's the potential for stuff like this to creep elsewhere that really gets me: Today they might be judging me based on my horizontal sidewalk technique. Tomorrow, it could be because of a particular hat that I wear (yes, I have a propellor hat, and yes, I wear it proudly.) From there, it's a bit of a skip to falling out of favour because of my nose. Or my ethno-cultural background. Lots of slippery slopes here, and I'd rather not even get into it in the first place.

Hence these words of wisdom from the guy whose writing helped me decide to become a writer in the first place. We don't have unlimited time to do things that might appease the tastes of others. We have limited time, period. So I hope no one minds if I spend it trying to bring another smile or two to the universe.

Your turn: What do you do for fun?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

And then along came Polly

Why's everyone staring?
Montreal, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Birds of a feather. Here.

Click photo to embiggen
It's difficult to look at this particular bird and argue that the universe doesn't operate in strange and fascinating ways. I'm sure evolution can explain the blinding colors, but part of me doesn't want to know.

So instead I stand quietly among the crowds and reach in with my lens for this shot. I'll keep the mystery going for at least a little while longer. It's better that way.

Your turn: What's she thinking?

Rogers & Shaw: Shomi the money

Everyone loves Netflix. And what's not to love? For $8 a month, you can watch as many streaming movies and TV shows as your poor eyeballs can handle. Yes, Netflix addiction can cause you to bust the monthly bandwidth cap from your Internet service provider, and yes, it can be a chore to sift through kajillions of movies in a futile search for something decent to watch. And if you're Canadian, it bugs you that American customers have a much larger library to choose from. Welcome to the First World, everyone.

But there's no denying why Netflix has quickly become such a darling, and why it has succeeded in radically changing how we consume, and pay for, content. Call it the modern world equivalent of a cheap thrill.

So, of course, if you're a cable or satellite operator - or a telecom company that provides such service - you tend to view Netflix with equal parts envy and white-knuckled fear. Those cushy monthly bills you've been sending out for decades - the ones where you force customers to pay more money than they want so they can subscribe to a bunch of bundled channels that they won't watch, all so they can get the relatively few channels that they do want - are at risk as customers realize on-demand viewing is significantly more cost-effective and convenient than waiting around for Thursday at 8 p.m. to watch The Big Bang Theory.

Chord cutters, those folks who cancel cable and satellite TV entirely and get all their TV completely online, are a direct threat to the future of conventional cable and satellite distribution, and the carriers won't give up without a fight.

Enter shomi. It's an online streaming service that, outside its deliberately lowercase branding, looks, smells and feels a lot like Netflix. Canadian carriers Rogers and Shaw partnered up on it, and yesterday they launched it to much fanfare. Rogers and Shaw are two of the largest carriers in the country. They're ISPs. They're TV distributors. They own TV channels. They sell wireless phones and they build and own the networks over which all of this stuff flows. If they don't replace their old TV distribution business with something new, online, over-the-top upstarts like Netflix will be happy to eat their lunch. It's akin to leopards changing their spots, dinosaurs avoiding extinction, and the Titanic turning soon enough to avoid the iceberg, all rolled up into one.

Will it cause Canadians of all stripes to kick their Netflix addiction in droves and try the new guy?

Not so fast.

I wrote about it for Yahoo Canada Finance:
Why the Rogers, Shaw shomi streaming service won’t stop Netflix in Canada
Your turn: Are you a Netflix fan? Why/why not? Would you switch?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On kicking life where it needs to be kicked

"Sometimes life knocks you on your ass; GET UP! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them."
Steve Maraboli
I was doing a radio interview recently about my medical misadventure. At one point I touched on the fact that life isn't about what happens to you, but about how you choose to respond. The first thing we can't control, so there's no real reason to worry about it. The second thing, on the other hand, is absolutely within our control.

So if these words seem to punch a little harder, at least now I know why. In the meantime, if anyone's looking for me, I'll be over there in the corner figuring out ways to kick fate's ass and find the advantage along the way. Who's with me?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thematic Photographic 307 - Birds of a feather

Color me happy
London, ON
June 2014
After sticking closer to home for longer than I'd like, I've started wandering a little further out. It's a confidence thing, really, as for a while after this happened I was concerned about something happening while I was alone. I realize now I was worrying needlessly, but at the time it seemed to make sense to me.

So I headed downtown one fine morning this summer to meet a friend for tea. And on my way back I came across this bird standing on a railing on the riverside path. It was a delightfully peaceful place and time, and this very colourful animal cooperated by posing there for an overtly extended period of time. It's almost as if she (I'm guessing a she, just because) knew how lovely she was.

Your turn: With this week's theme, birds of a feather, I'd like to invite everyone to shoot a picture of a bird, or feathers, or ideally both. Share it on your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where they can find it. Visit other participants, and feel free to add more photographic fuel to the creative fire later on in the week. Hit up this link if you'd like to learn more about how Thematic works, and feel free to use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag, too. Most of all, enjoy being out and about with your camera. It's been cathartic for me, and I'm sure the same applies to you. Thanks gang!

They walk dogs in strollers here

I'd like to round out this week's Thematic theme, shooting strangers from afar (more here), with a couple of photos I took on my recent quick trip to New York. In the 2-ish hours of daylight that I was working with, I wandered from Central Park to Riverside and back. The goal was a simple one: Gather as many pixels as possible before the sun went down to ensure I didn't forget the fact that I was here.

Sure, we all want the luxury of time to drink a place in. But when real life dictates otherwise, you grab what you can in the time you've been given. On second thought, that simple photographic truth also sounds like a metaphor for life. Imagine that.

Photo 1 of the red-shirted man dragging his apparently stubborn beagle made me smile, because that could just as easily be me with my dog. Frasier is, to be charitable, not the most leash-disciplined dog. He wanders from side to side like an inebriated toddler who may or may not have gone off his meds. He has to sniff or otherwise investigate everything, and as a result even the shortest loop around the block always seems to take twice as long as it should. I always leave extra time for our walks, and pulling him in the right direction has become part of the yin and yang that makes him special.

In any case, I had to resist the urge to catch up with this gentleman and say hello. It just didn't seem like the kind of place to randomly smile at a fellow dog person and engage in spontaneous conversation. I contented myself with the cagey shot from the back and went on my way.

A little while later, I came across this lady with the pink-frocked, stroller-carried pup and it made me wonder about the whole act of walking your dog. First the word: Walk. It implies that the dog, you know, actually walks. I don't quite see the point of pushing a dog in a stroller. Maybe I don't understand the whole pet ownership thing, but I thought walks were about getting your dog some exercise and giving him/her and chance to, ah, use the loo.

The funny thing is I saw more strollers in this one walkabout than I've probably seen in my entire life back home. So maybe it's a New York thing. But by now, the light was fading and I was far from my temporary hotel-home. So I stole another quick pic and retreated from the pier before she even knew I was there. My misgivings aside, both pups looked incredibly well cared for, and very well loved. In the end, nothing else matters.

Your turn: Dogs in strollers. Please discuss.

Will the Burger King Whopper swallow Tim Hortons?

Here in the Great White North, you don't have to be a coffee lover to appreciate just how deeply ingrained Tim Hortons is within the Canadian national psyche. With a store on almost every other street corner, and terms like "double double" and "roll up the rim" now firmly embedded in the national lexicon, Tims has become integral to how we view ourselves.

So when news broke over the weekend that Burger King was in talks with Tim Hortons on a possible "merger of equals", it didn't take long for the news to dominate headlines here in Canada.

My take is fairly simple: Tims is more than a place to pick up a snack for the kids. It's part of who we are, and there is risk to its heritage by opening the door to a possible American takeover.

Moreover, we've been down this road before - Wendy's bought Tims out in 1995 amid great hopes of mutual cross-border expansion. That didn't work out as planned, largely because Tims just doesn't resonate in the U.S. as it does in Canada, and Wendy's sold its shares in 2006 before Tims was spun off as a standalone company in an IPO.

The Burger King deal, ostensibly being pushed because it would allow BK to move its head office to Canada and avoid higher U.S. corporate taxes, smacks of failing to learn from the mistakes of the past. President Barack Obama, fed up with U.S. companies pulling off "inversion" deals like this to avoid paying U.S. taxes, has pledged to crack down on the practice.

I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance that outlines the key winners and losers of a possible deal, and the factors that are driving it in the first place:
Tim Hortons, Burger King deal: Winners and losers
Your turn: Do megamergers benefit anyone beyond shareholders?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A conversation among friends

It's not polite to point
New York, NY
July 2014
To share your own stranger-themed Thematic, head here
I'm slowly working through the pile of pictures that I took during my all-too-brief trip to New York City late last month. I was in town for less than 24 hours, just enough time to allow me to attend the BlackBerry Security Summit* before jumping into a cab and heading back to the airport. Just after I arrived at the hotel the previous evening, I grabbed my camera and headed out for a long-ish walk. I figured I'd walk and shoot until there was no more light.

As I wandered past Lincoln Center, I came across these two women as they waited for traffic to clear at the crosswalk. I'm not sure what they were talking about, but the moment stands as one of my absolute favorites from a trip that, despite its brevity, offered up plenty of memorable snippets. More to come.

Your turn: What are they talking about?

* I wrote a couple of articles for Yahoo Canada Finance based on the summit:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lizard breath

Please take me home
Laval, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Shoot strangers from afar. Here.
Because no one ever said the theme was limited to humans.
It's been a rough week, so I wanted to drop a randomly crazy picture on the blog to give everyone a moment to disconnect from the heaviness of the world and to just smile.

We stopped at this pet store after a day spent wandering the city. It was just me, Dahlia and Noah, and it had been an epic day of hanging around strange-looking animals and enjoying life away from responsibility or schedule. Note to self: Do this more often. Because they seem to dig it. So do I.

This iguana almost seemed to be posing for us. And since we seem to have a habit of crossing iguanas' paths wherever we go - here's some evidence - it was a no-brainer to capture this particular lizard as it (I can never determine lizard gender) seemingly posed for us.

Thankfully the staff at the store didn't seem to mind the middle-of-the-aisle photo shoot.

Your turn: What shall we name him? Her? Whatever...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More stroke stuff...

It's been an interesting week around here, mostly driven by my decision earlier this month to write about the stroke that I had last year. Hit this link if you're just joining us. Then this one for the part 2 (which I guess makes this entry #3 in a series. Funny how that works. But I digress.)

I've received a ton of outreach from folks near and far, and it's been happily overwhelming to realize just how much goodness there is out there. It's often said you realize how great people are when the chips are down, and this is one of those moments: I'm amazed at how kind everyone has been.

At the same time, I've received a lot of attention from folks in media. I'm sure part of it revolves around the fact that many of them know me, and there's a certain appeal to the-tech-guy-had-a-stroke angle. I'm perfectly cool with that, because one of my goals in raising the volume was to help generate awareness, and give folks an opportunity to look at their own lives and perhaps lead them more purposefully.

For example, my friend Dan Brown wrote an article about me, Stroke survivor shares his story, that published in the August 20 London Free Press. Here's the link to the PDF.

I spoke with Susan McReynolds on CBC Ontario Morning on Aug. 21. She is an incredible interviewer, and she very gently, very deftly walked through the experience with me. Here's a link to the audio file of that interview. - or just click the embedded play button below. It's always a privilege to work with the CBC Ontario Morning team, but this was extra-special.

John Moore interviewed me on his show, Moore in the Morning, on NewsTalk 1010 Toronto on Friday (Aug 22) morning. Here's a link to the audio file, and the embedded player is just below. I often speak with John and his team about the big tech topics of the day, so it was a fascinating change of direction to talk about this.

Barry Morgan and I opened our weekly tech segment on CJAD 800 Montreal on Aug. 22 with a bit of a segue into my little adventure. Stay tuned to the end, as well, as a listener shared an incredibly moving - and sobering - experience. Here's a link to the audio file. Here's a link to the stream on CJAD's SoundCloud account. Or just click on the embedded element here:

I spoke with NewsTalk 1010's Adrienne Batra on August 8:

And CHED 630 Edmonton's Dan Tencer on August 11:

Related blog entries:
- So, about that stroke (where it all began)
- When even "thank you" seems lame (part 2)


Next up:

I'll be sharing my experience with CJOB Winnipeg's Dahlia Kurtz on Tuesday, August 26th at 3:30 p.m. ET. There may be more as plans continue to unfold. I'll update the blog accordingly, and will upload audio files as they become available.

Thank you, everyone. More to come - just writing that makes me smile, because I'm still here. It's a small thing, really, but the more I think about it, the more I realize nothing is small anymore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Luckiest. Cop. Ever.

The Department of Player Protection
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Shooting strangers from afar. Here.
I was tempted to ask him what lucky star he was born under to merit such a plumb assignment. Some beat cops spend their shifts rooting out drug dealers from the middle of urban ruins. Others sit in stale old Buicks sipping cold coffee and waiting for johns to appear on a nearby street corner.

And this guy gets to watch the Jays play. From field level.

As it was, I was a little too far away from him to have a conversation. So this geometrically bizarro view will have to do.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the worth of writing

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
Benjamin Franklin
Wise words. Please excuse me while I spend some up-close and personal time with my keyboard.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thematic Photographic 306 - Shooting strangers from afar

Where do we go next?
New York, NY
July 2014
We're going to try something a little different with this week's Thematic theme, shooting strangers from afar. Essentially, we're going to go outside our comfort zone and capture folks who we don't know. A long lens helps, but it isn't absolutely essential (here's another example of an even more distant longshot.) If they're out in public and worthy of a picture, feel free to roll the dice and see what you can come up with.

Yes, it's a little edgier than the usual theme. And I'm sure I risk the wrath of those who insist on never shooting identifiable pictures of folks they encounter while walking a city street. But the more I think about it, the more I realize public spaces are just that, public. And to not include the people who fill it, in any capacity, feels like a lost opportunity.

So here's our opportunity. Who's in?

Your turn: Take a picture of a stranger or strangers - safely and unobtrusively, of course. Post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here to let folks know where to find it. Visit other participants through the week, and feel free to post again throughout the week - serial participation is not only allowed, but it's encouraged. Thematic Photographic is all about expanding our photographic horizons and learning from others. Here's more background on how it works. Thanks gang!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

30 years, in a blink.

Laval, QC
August 2014
Time has a funny habit of slipping away from us when we're busy focusing on everything else. How do I know? Thirty years ago tonight, a very pretty girl became my girlfriend.

Normally these things aren't worth remembering, but this particular very pretty girl stuck around and eventually became my wife. And my, am I glad she did.

I often find myself staring at her, just as I did then. I still pinch myself that someone like her would want to stick with someone like me. I still get that strange fluttering in my stomach when I think about her. You'd think that 30 years would take the edge off of what makes it - her, us - special. You'd think wrong.

She was my friend before she was my girlfriend, and before we started dating we would often spend long evenings just talking on her front porch. She's been my best friend ever since, someone I can still talk to for hours and never run out of things to share. Our kids are just like her, too. Engaging, empathetic, curious, kind. It still amazes me that we made them, still makes me thankful that fate ensured our paths would cross, and stay crossed.

I could listen to her voice forever, and I'm guessing the reason that 30 years seems more like 30 seconds is because she's made the journey such a joy. Neither one of us is perfect, and I'm pretty sure I'm far less perfect than she is. Yet we seem to have been gifted with a pretty charmed life despite the usual challenges that have been thrown our way. Putting our heads together and figuring it all out has always been central to who we are, and I can't imagine what life would have been like had she not found me.

I want a lot more than another 30 years, but I also realize the universe grants no guarantees to anyone. Just over a year ago, I learned first-hand how easily all of this can be snatched away. I'm here because of her. So tomorrow, I'll wake up and stare a little, and I'll be thankful that I've been given another day with someone who makes my tummy flutter as much today as she did then.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I'm almost home

We have liftoff
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Look straight down. Here.
My favorite part of any work-related trip is the trip home. Sure, I love seeing new places and enjoying the frenetic pace of life in a city I wouldn't otherwise get to see. The kind of brief trips that I take for work are perfect for sucking up as much of the experience as I possibly can, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity. Indeed, this most recent trip, to New York, was particularly epic (I wrote about it for Yahoo Canada here and here), and I'll upload more perspectives from the trip to the blog in the weeks to come.

Still, nothing tops coming home. And that last leg is always the one I treasure most, because I know who's waiting for me at the other end. So as my plane lifted off from Toronto and took to the sky for the quick final hop to London, I grabbed a few pics to remember what it felt like.

Your turn: What is it about coming home that appeals most to you?

Friday, August 15, 2014

On clarity

"Anything that can be said can be said clearly."
Ludwig Wittgenstein
I grew up surrounded by folks who wrote with a thesaurus on one side of the desk and a dictionary on the other. They loved big words, especially if they were strung into ponderous phrases that slowed readers down if they reached for their own thesauruses - thesauri? - to deconstruct the wordy ball of twine.

The same kind of thinking peppered their conversation, as well. They'd crack open a sanctimonious little smirk when they knew you couldn't follow along.

It was a literary pissing contest of sorts, a never-ending exercise where folks tried to prove how smart they looked by tossing in every chunky word they could dredge up.

I guess I was just too much of a simpleton to keep pace. Because to me, great writing was spare and clean. It didn't draw attention to itself. Instead, it faded into the background and allowed the core message to easily float into the reader's imagination. It wasn't about proving how brilliant I was. It was - and still is - about telling a story in an easy-to-digest manner.

I came across an old thesaurus in a dusty corner of my office last night, and as much as a writer should have the trappings of writing in plain view, I left it where I found it, confident that I'd somehow get by without its pompous assistance. Likewise, the thesaurus feature in Word will remain the most underused bit of code on my Mac. I can choose my own words, thank you, and I'd rather not force anyone around me to reach for their own thesauruses.

I guess I'm just not smart enough to know any other way.

Your turn: How do you define simplicity?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eat your breakfast every day

Shapes on a table
Laval, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Look straight down. Here.
There's a moment before every meal when I stare down at the table and ask myself if the scene needs to be remembered. Yes, we're supposed to eat three square meals per day and, yes, over the course of a lifetime that probably adds up to to a lot of potential photographic moments. Indeed, it's enough that pics like the one you see here aren't all that special anymore, because we can shoot them anytime, anywhere.

But this particular pic was taken on a particular morning in a particular place that my kids had been talking about for a while. It's just a breakfast place, a simple restaurant, really, a spot we've been taking them to since they were kids. It's called Allo Mon Coco, and whenever we make the long drive back to our hometown to visit family, it's high on their must-visit list.

So when I stood up and pointed my lens down at this decidedly geometric meal, I wasn't just capturing the sight of an apple crepe and coffee. I was trying to remember why this place was, and is, special to our kids, and what that experience felt like. Because sometimes I like to scroll through other mealtime entries here on my blog - exhibits A and B - because they take me back, like little time machines, to places, people and times that would otherwise vanish to history.

Looking at it that way, maybe I'm not taking anywhere near enough mealtime pics. What thinketh you?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On keeping the blinders on

"The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook."
William James
Inclusion. Exclusion. Aggregation. Not boiling the ocean. Makes sense to me.

One sleepy puppy

Wherever there's space...
London, ON
August 2014

Thematic looks straight down this week. You're invited, to do the same. Here.
‎I'm not sure why Frasier sleeps on the hard floor instead of on his comfy pillow right next to him. But if I understood the logic of dogs, I'm pretty sure I'd be writing about something other than technology.

I may not know what drives this little guy. But it's clear he's happy right where he is, and that's more than good enough for me. Sleep tight, sweet pup.

Your turn: What's your favorite place to sleep?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Robin Williams & being alone

"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone."
Robin Williams
These words haunt me today, because I can't help but wonder about how alone he must have felt in the moments leading up to his decision to end his life. I wonder whether he might have changed his mind if he could see the outpouring of reaction to his passing. I wonder if things would have been different had we all been somewhat more evolved in our understanding of depression and other forms of mental illness. Somewhat more darkly, I wonder who he might have been talking about, and whether their actions, intentional or not, pushed him even further down the rabbit hole.

I wonder...I don't even know what I wonder, but I do know whatever we're doing, as individuals, as a society, to better understand depression and other forms of mental illness isn't remotely enough. And every time I think that we're there - like Olympic hero Clara Hughes riding across Canada to raise awareness - I realize we're nowhere near there at all.

The sad truth of life in 2014 is we continue to stigmatize those who suffer from mental illness. Look no further than the headlines. They say Mr. Williams killed himself. They don't say he suffered from addiction and mental illness. They don't say he was sick, a victim. They don't talk about his struggle, or what it must have been like to try to maintain career, family, facade to the outside world while knowing full well what was consuming him from the inside.

No one ever really knows. Because society still expects victims to suck it up, to just get over it. Because those who suffer remain fearful of the consequences of going public. Asking for help just isn't compatible with our increasingly Type A society, where people hold onto miserable jobs because they fear the alternative, then search for years in the hope that no one will learn their terrible secret. Where we often assume the worst in someone before we take the time, if we take the time, to learn what truly drives them. Where we wear cancer survivor as a badge of courage but depression sufferer as an admission of failure. Where self-identifying as such would be the Digital Era's equivalent of a scarlet letter (seriously, put that on your Twitter profile and see if your phone continues to ring.) Where no one would ever admit to singling out a known sufferer and selecting them out of a job or an opportunity, but we all know we would do exactly that, ashamedly, if we were in that position.

Because risk aversion, and the mindset of those who sit at the top of the corporate heap and make the rules for the rest of us, ensure we'd never willingly go with someone who admits to such a fundamental weakness. Lest we ourselves get punished for making a supposedly sub-optimal choice. So the suffering continues in silence. Until it doesn't. Until this happens.

I grew up in a house where folks who sought help were looked down upon, where "going to a shrink" was something so-called "normal" people just didn't do. It wasn't so much what was said, but how. The tone said it all. And I learned the power - and the peril - of silence in avoiding confrontation.

Except silence gives those who suffer no way out. That feeling of being alone? We can do better. We need to do better. Or we'll keep losing those who still matter.

As tragic as this loss is, it's the countless other non-stars who suffer in their own form of silence who scare me infinitely more. This touches us all, and that is as true if we choose to accept it as it is if we continue to ignore reality. Maybe the loss of a comedic legend will be the catalyst we need to stop paying lip service to the concept of awareness. Maybe we're finally ready to see it for what it is: Illness. And no one should ever feel ashamed for stepping out of the shadows and telling those around them what's going on. Ashamed for asking for help.

Yet, we still are ashamed. To ask for help, and to provide it. And I fear for the countless others we'll lose before we finally figure it out.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams dead at 63

News just in that Robin Williams has died at the age of 63. Preliminary reports suggest it was a suicide.

How incredibly sad, and what a monumental loss.

Maybe that's why the universe seems a little dimmer tonight.

Thematic Photographic 305 - Look straight down

Geometry below my feet
Laval, QC
August 2014
One of the small side effects of my medical misadventure last year - see here if you're just catching up - is I get a little dizzy if I'm not careful. It isn't remotely debilitating, and is certainly nowhere near the kind of vertigo that might stop other folks in their tracks. I think of it as a subtle message from my body that I need to slow things down for a few seconds.

It tends to happen when I'm either looking straight up or straight down (I can hear you now, "So, dummy Carmi, just don't look up or down!") Yes, I should do just that. But I really like to shoot pictures in all directions, and my journalist/photographer/endless-curiosity gene compels me to keep looking in all directions of the imaginary sphere that surrounds us all. I'll just have to deal with the minor consequences, I guess. Call it another adjustment to the new reality of a slightly altered life.

This picture is the scene 12 storeys below my father-in-law's balcony.The angles called to me, so I carefully braced myself six ways from Sunday and pointed my lens toward the center of the planet. I'm glad I did. I'm glad I still can.

Your turn: Point your lens downward at whatever tickles your vertical fancy. Post the look straight down-themed shot to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Remember, HOW you choose to interpret it is entirely up to you - there are no rights or wrongs here. The goal is purely creative and artistic. Visit other folks to share the fun, and please know you're welcome to share as many pics through the week as you wish. New participants are always welcome, too. For more info on how this Thematic thing works, head here. Otherwise, I can't wait to see what lurks under your nose. Happy shooting!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

All by myself

Where did everyone go?
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Please be seated. Here.
I like taking pictures that illustrate different ways of looking at the same thing. The launch photo of this week's Thematic theme, please be seated, is an overhead view of a crowded section of Toronto's Rogers Centre. It's as vibrant and chaotic a scene as you would expect when the hometown Blue Jays are playing and you point your lens to the middle of the action.

This scene, from a rather forlorn corner of the same stadium on the same day, paints a very different picture. I'm not sure why this guy decided to sit all alone, but I can understand why someone would choose to get a little distance from the craziness. Baseball, after all, is a game that often demands to be appreciated in studied silence. And the world is a neater place with folks who appreciate both sides of the in-stadium experience.

Something tells me this applies well beyond baseball. I'll have to mull that one over for a bit.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Friday, August 08, 2014

On believing in people

"You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible."
Anton Chekhov
Tom Cruise's title character in Jerry Maguire was right: We live in a cynical world. And within that context, it's easy to instantly assume that everyone whose path we cross is similarly cynical, equally deserving of our disbelief and mistrust.

We'd be forgiven for permanently keeping the shields up, for keeping our heads down, for not connecting out of fear of suffering some kind of damage in return.

But as Checkhov so deftly puts it here, life becomes pretty impossible if we choose to leave the trust thing at the door. And as I let his words sink in on this blessedly quiet summer's morning, I realize some of my favorite people, the ones whose very souls seem to inspire those around them, are indeed those who have chosen to take the shields down and trust in others.

Do they get hurt in the process? I'm sure they do on occasion. But I'd still rather be more like them.

So who do YOU trust? And why?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

When even a "thank you" seems lame

"Thank you" never seems to be enough when you're overwhelmed by the kindness of others. But right about now, it's all I've got, so it'll have to do.

A year to the day after I suffered a stroke, I finally felt able to share the experience in writing (original blog entry here.) It took almost no time at all for the responses and comments to begin pouring in. Emails from others who have been there, Facebook comments from friends who had no idea, messages from friends who were there that night and since, and tweets from others who wanted to ensure no one's eyes remained closed.

It's all a little overwhelming, but in an incredibly good way. And while I slowly absorb the reality that our impact on others can be even greater than I once thought possible, I feel an even greater responsibility to somehow take the experience and make it my own.

Someone asked me why I waited so long to share the news. I don't really have an answer to that. I didn't keep it a secret: Immediate friends and family knew what had happened. I also reached out individually to others as I felt comfortable doing so - often meeting for tea nearby or a phone call if they lived further away. It wasn't always easy: How do you just drop something like this on someone you trust and respect?

Even if there is a so-called "right" answer to that last question - note: There isn't - it wouldn't make a difference. In the end, every conversation was tough to prepare for, to have, and to mull over afterward. Make no mistake: I'm glad I approached them. But at the same time I wondered if I was burdening them with this, if I was causing them needless worry. I'm glad to be surrounded by the kindest, most caring support circle imaginable, but the last thing I ever wanted to do was add any more to their plates than they already had.

And as the year came to a close - I won't be calling it my new birthday or anything silly like that, but the day and time will always resonate in my mind - the writer in me felt a growing need to somehow turn the various verbal discussions into something more tangible, to take what had up until now been something abstract and make it, I don't know, official.

For reasons I'll never be able to explain, I feel better when I take major life events and wrap words around them. It makes them real, tangible, relatable, and I can then come back to them later on, which always seems to make me feel better.

In the end, I probably could have done a better job managing the communication stream around my stroke. But I'm guessing there is no messaging template for anything like this. It's not like I had a litany of previous sudden major medical events to learn from. And to a certain extent I have to accept that we'll be figuring this thing out, haphazardly, for the rest of my now-changed life.

But the thing that matters - indeed the only thing that matters - is that I have a life to begin with, one that isn't terribly different from the one I had before. Which means I should have enough days to pick up the proverbial pen and bite off another piece of something that will never stop serving up new learnings, new ways of doing this life thing a little better than I had been doing it before.

I won't ever say I'm glad this happened. It would, after all, be nice to live without that overriding fear that hangs over my every waking moment (and probably my sleeping ones, too.) But I'd be missing the point of it all if I failed to appreciate the blessings inherent in being given another shot.

Maybe we can't appreciate it until it's almost snatched away. Maybe we have to feel what it's like to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole before we truly value what we've been given in the first place. I'm not entirely sure I understand any of this any better than I did before a tiny tear in an artery caused so much upheaval for so many. But I promise to continue trying to figure it out, and I promise to continue to cherish those who've been part of this unpredictable journey.

Thank you remains inadequate. But please know how thankful I am. Both for simply being here, and for everyone who surrounds me and my family.

More to come...

Update - 10:50 a.m. - I'll be live on-air with Adrienne Batra on Toronto's NewsTalk 1010 at 11:45 a.m. to talk about my experience. I admit it'll feel a little funny not talking tech - and instead turning the lens inward for a bit. But I'm OK with it if it helps fuel the greater good. Maybe there was a reason for this after all. Hear y'all in a bit...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

So, about that stroke...

There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just come out and say it:

A year ago tonight, I had a stroke.

Just writing the phrase is jarring. Because folks like me - relatively young (okay, -ish), healthy, active - don't have strokes of any size, or anything life-threatening or life-altering. At least in the ideal world we don't. Except, in this case, I apparently did. Here's what happened:

I was barbecuing dinner for the fam just after 7 p.m. I had just tweeted from my iPad and was getting back to the very serious business of burning meat to a crisp. As I flipped the chicken and idly wondered about the dangers of either overcooking or undercooking fowl, I suddenly felt faint. Now, I think we've all had moments where we get light-headed. Perhaps we overdid it in the heat. Or didn't eat enough that day. Or sleep enough the night before.

I had taken a fairly intense bike ride that afternoon, and in that blink of an eye as I started to waver I figured I might have simply pushed a little too hard. But as I started my slow-motion descent to the ground, I realized that this one felt, um, different. I reached out to the grill to steady myself - apparently a bad idea when flames are leaping up from beneath. Somehow I avoided being burned as I seemingly rode an elevator down to the deck, twisting to the right as I tried and failed to keep myself vertical. I ended up curled around the BBQ as my wife, who had been working inside, saw me fall and rushed outside.

I still thought I had simply fainted, so I tried to get up. And couldn't. The more I tried to force myself off the deck, the weirder it felt. I seemed to be sinking. Again and again. To the right. My wife called my name. Asked me questions. Talked to me. I could hear her clearly, but I couldn't answer. Not coherently, anyway. Couldn't properly pronounce my name. Couldn't say my age. Couldn't say her name. Couldn't tell her her relationship to me.

My 'Ruh Roh' moment

The crazy thing was that I knew all of these facts. Inside my head, I was screaming the correct answers, but they simply wouldn't come out of my mouth. I could sort of say "yes", "no", "okay" and a few other, typically incorrect and terse responses. But they had nothing to do with the voice inside my head that was now seemingly spinning uselelessly, because the inside and outside voices were completely disconnected.

I did notice her watch, though. 7:08 p.m. That was all I could do: Remember the time. Stupid brain.

I couldn't control the right side of my body. My right arm was curled in, and my leg just lay in front of me. I tried to move them, and couldn't. The strange thing is I was completely aware of what was going on, as if I was watching it all in some incredibly detail-rich, super-high-def, slow-motion movie. I knew what this was, and knew consciously that it was really not good. As much as I panicked for myself, I panicked even more as I watched and heard my wife in front of me and couldn't do a damn thing to control what was happening. Couldn't just shake it off, get back up and return to normal. I've been in car and bike accidents before, but never had I felt more out of control than I did then. Falling down the rabbit hole backwards, looking up and seeing daylight get smaller and smaller? That was me.

Debbie had our son call 911 and wait out front for the ambulance. I remember hearing the siren approach after almost no time at all. I remember Jordan wore a dark uniform, and Michael was a district supervisor in a white, incredibly well-ironed shirt. They carefully hauled me off the deck and into a nearby chair. My leg dangled uselessly below me - I couldn't feel it, but I could feel its weight. They connected me up to telemetry and asked me a million questions. I wanted to answer them all perfectly, but couldn't.

My blessed little existence seemed to be slipping away. Fear is an understatement as my mind raced through what might come next, and what I'd likely lose in the process. Words are my life. They flow from my head, through my fingers and into a keyboard, and I bounce them back and forth on radio and television. I could feel my very writer's soul slipping away, and I wondered what I'd do if I couldn't get it back.

I learned a whole lot of things as we descended more deeply into a journey none of us in my family ever asked for:
  • I learned what it's like to be on the inside of an ambulance while you slice through traffic - note to motorists: please get out of the way, because you never know when it'll be you who needs the courtesy. 
  • I learned what it's like to bypass the lineup in the ER and go straight in - stroke protocol means everything happens Right Now.
  • I learned what it's like to be at the total mercy of others - I couldn't even move myself from one stretcher to another as I headed into the CT room. My right side was dead weight as I silently cursed what my brain was doing to the rest of me and my family.
  • I learned what it's like to be inside a CT machine. For what it's worth, it isn't as much fun as it looks on TV. The spinning machinery reminded me of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie where the cyborgs have to spin their eyes around just so before they either speak to you or open fire. Every time the thing stopped spinning, I tried to visualize what it was seeing as it peered into my head. The next day, my time deep inside an MRI machine made me glad I wasn't claustrophobic. Still, I worried my still-panicked breathing would throw the imagery off, and tried to match my breaths to the pulsing sets of magnetic energy. I hear those things are so powerful that they can pick up a bulldozer. I did not test that theory.
  • I learned that MRI machines make some really neat sounds, even at rest. Sort of like the beat to an electronic dance music DJ's latest tune. And when they stick you inside and flip everything on, the sets of tones are straight out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I held onto wonky/amusing thoughts like this the entire time, figuring humour was as effective a defense/coping mechanism as anything else.
  • I learned what it's like to skip from one piece of a seemingly never-ending assessment to another, where different members of the neurology team would share different snippets of information with me, and I'd do my best to a) answer their questions as best I could, out of fear of getting something wrong, b) ask my own questions along the way, c) absorb their responses and try to make sense of it all, and d) not let my rollercoaster emotions get in the way of figuring out what the hell was going on so I could work the problem and somehow get back to a semblance of the life I had before I fired up the BBQ.
  • I learned what it's like to be surrounded by the most knowledgable and caring medical professionals on the planet. I learned how lame "thank you" feels when their rapid-fire decisions were the only things keeping a bad situation from getting even worse, the only hope I had of getting back to where I was.
  • I learned what it's like to have friends. Not Facebook friends. Not acquaintances. Not talk-about-the-weather friends you wave to from afar at the supermarket. I'm talking about friends who dropped everything to come running to the hospital just to be there. Who picked our kids up, brought them home, and drove them wherever they needed, whenever that was. Who brought food to the house to ensure no one was hungry. Who brought Tim Hortons coffee and snacks to the hospital so my wife could have a quiet chat in a quiet hallway. Who ran over in the middle of the night and sat with her even though they had already been on call at the hospital for days, and who dove into my case and guided the medical team. Who have become our extended family since the day we first moved here. Whose insanely intense levels of generosity made me cry more than once. Because I'm not supposed to be on the receiving end of any of this. Because I'd rather be the one running and dropping off and picking up. But couldn't this time.
  • I learned what it's like to have kids who have inherited my wife's sense of grace under immense pressure and her balanced approach to life. Who called the ambulance, calmly explained every last detail and directed them into our cul-de-sac. Who didn't lose it as they followed Debbie's orders to keep everything moving ahead as it should. Who waved and smiled as I was wheeled between countless scans, tests, and consults at the hospital. Who somehow kept their own fears about what was happening to their dad under wraps as the event played itself out.
  • I learned what it's like to have a wife who managed to push past her own unimaginable terror as she deftly controlled every second from the moment I first went down. Who kept me focused every minute in the hospital. Who endeared herself to everyone on staff with her kindness despite what she was going through. Who has lost unimaginable amounts of sleep since this all started, ensuring I lack for nothing. Who magically manages to find new ways to make me love her more with each passing day.
  • I learned what it's like to unplug. I ended up blowing deadlines, missing interviews, and not answering emails. I dropped off the face of the journalistic planet as I pulled in and focused on the one thing we all need above all else: health. My BlackBerry stayed off. I couldn't even fathom spending any screen time. Because, in the overall scheme of things, none of that mattered then. Not to me, anyway. The world would continue to spin on its own without me. I could wait a while before jumping back on the merry go round. Assuming I'd ever be able to jump.
  • I learned what it's like to be thankful for not losing who I was, and am. Despite my whole need-to-unplug thing, at one point I felt the need to email a few critical folks - editors, producers, etc. - because not only did they need to know where I was at this week, but I also needed to know that I could still string words together on a page. Okay, screen. My wife let me send one email the following morning. I learned I could still thumb type, and the words still flowed. My heart raced and the monitor alarms went off. I was sweating. All from sending one email. But the voices inside my head were still there, still working as they always had. Satisfied, I clicked Send, powered the BlackBerry off and handed it back to my wife.
So what the hell happened?

They kicked me out after 26 hours and told me to chill out for a few weeks and give my brain a chance to rest. But beyond that, they said I was pretty much ok, as the stroke was relatively small, and they were able to treat me well within established timelines. I clearly dodged a bullet.

Despite some lingering issues with balance - minor and manageable - I'm not any more brain damaged than I was before all of this happened (and, yes, that's meant to be funny. I can still do funny.) Thanks to countless tests, consultations and analysis by more medical professionals than you can shake a stick at, we learned in fairly solid detail what had happened to me:

I had been out on my bike earlier in the day, exploring the agricultural hinterlands northwest of the city. At one point, I turned onto a road and soon came upon a roadblock. I initiated a u-turn to head back, and flipped my head around to keep from getting smacked by an errant motorist. My maneuver apparently caused my left carotid artery to tear. (I know, who knew?)

Just after I made the turn, I pulled over to the side of the road to check my BlackBerry and ping my wife. The day was hot, I was annoyed because the closed road now meant a significant detour to get home, and I suddenly had far less time to get home than I thought I had. My head started to pound right then, and it only got worse as I got back on the bike and continued on my way. I tried to sleep it off when I got home, and took some Advil to knock it back, but by the time I was cooking at the BBQ, the injury threw a clot into my brain and touched off my - and my family's - adventure.

My docs called it a "freak" event, as I exhibited none of the risk factors usually associated with this kind of thing. I was the last person you'd expect to collapse from a clot in his brain. But that's the thing: there are no absolutes in any of this. No guarantees. And the universe very nicely served up a stark lesson in just how precious life is.

I promise it's a lesson that's already reshaping my life, and the lives of my immediate family.

What's next?

I feel a responsibility to document what happened, largely because there's got to be some greater good here. I was locked in, and was unbelievably lucky to come back. Which makes me think there must be some reason I wasn't just left on the other side.

So I've written a book, And God Snapped His Fingers, and it focuses less on what happened to me and more on the ways we all can - and need to - lead better lives. It's written in chunkable, easily-consumable form - For Dummies or Chicken Soup books come to mind as structural precedents - and in my typical fashion, I'm spending way too much time tweaking it before I can call it done.

Next step: Find a publisher and bring this thing to life. Suggestions welcome.

I'll also share more on the blog about this journey we never asked to take, so watch for more on that. I'll talk about why I waited till now to out myself, what it felt like to get back in front of my keyboard, back on-air and back on-camera. I'll cover my never-ending worries about returning to the crazy tech journalist that I had always been, and all that other fun work and life stuff. But these are all conversations for another day, as I've probably written more than enough on this today.

For now, I'm thankfully still here, still very much myself, still able to drive my life, and still surrounded by the best support imaginable. I can't ask for much more than that. Call me blessed.

Your turn: Tell me what you want to know.


Related blog entries:
- When even "thank you" seems lame
- More stroke stuff...
- Coming up on Canada AM (lookahead to February 2015 interview)
- Winding down the day that was (includes like to Canada AM/Heart/Stroke Month segment)


Related interviews/articles:

NewsTalk 1010 Toronto, Adrienne Batra, August 08, 2014

CHED 630 Edmonton, Dan Tencer, August 11, 2014

The London Free Press, August 20, 2014
Stroke survivor shares his story
Byline: Dan Brown
Download PDF version here

CBC Ontario Morning, Susan McReynolds, August 21, 2014

NewsTalk1010 Toronto, John Moore, August 22, 2014

CJAD 800 Montreal, Barry Morgan, August 22, 2014

CJOB 800 Winnipeg, Dahlia Kurtz, August 26, 2014
Soundcloud audio link here

I'll add content here,, as I figure out how that part of works.

Feel free to check back periodically - or subscribe to the RSS feed - for the latest content as it goes live.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Thematic Photographic 304 - Please be seated

Take me out to the ballgame
Toronto, ON
July 2014
This week's Thematic theme, please be seated, reflects the fact that we spend a good chunk of our respective lives sitting on something. It could be an uncomfortable hunk of overpriced, foldable plastic, a lovingly crafted dining room chair, or something in between. If it's something you sit on or in, or even if it merely suggests the concept of sitting, this week represents our chance to explore it with a lens.

This shot? We took in a Toronto Blue Jays game with tens of thousands of our closest friends. The good guys won, and the kids had a day they'll never forget. #LifeIsGood.

Your turn: Take a photo that suggests or reflects this week's please be seated theme. Post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy and learning. Feel free to post followup pics through the week, and don't be shy to pull in a friend or two: it's way more fun when it's shared. For more info on how Thematic Photographic works, click here. Can't wait to see what you have in store.

On John Lennon's view of happiness

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life."
John Lennon
I still think the universe got ripped off when he was murdered.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The view from my GoPro

Honking makes you feel big
London, ON
June 2014
This week's Thematic takes a closer look at the technology that we use to go online and share our respective views of the world (head here for more.) The shot above was made possible by two pieces of technology critical to my online-ness: My beloved pink Specialized StumpJumper Comp bike, whose left bar end is creeping into the shot on the left, and the GoPro camera bolted to the handlebars that captured the moment the Dodge Caliber you see here as the driver honked at me for kicks.

It's a rite of passage for moronic drivers in this town to scare the living crap out of cyclists with their horns for no other reason than to tick them off. I've been beeped at and sworn at, I've had passengers lean out the window to smack me as they pass, and I was even assaulted by a motorist with compensation issues (see here for part 1, here for part 2, here for the newspaper column I wrote, and here for the postscript.) It's the urban equivalent of cow tipping, and when the first doofus of the season came out to play, I realized the GoPro is an even more incredible device than its inventors ever imagined.

That's because it records everything. And it lets me grab stills from the sequence to further identify the guilty. And cover my behind if I'm ever hit along the way (it's happened, and as Russian drivers have already discovered, a camera is the ultimate legal weapon for any driver, two wheels or four.) The camera also lets me draw some fun conclusions about the kind of sad folks who spend their time road raging complete strangers as they speed their not-quite-fully-assembled cars to the nearby Walmart.

Exhibit A: The red Dodge Caliber SXT in the photo above. While the vehicle was mercifully pulled from the market after the 2012 model year, this particular example is either a 2007 or 2008 by virtue of its black door handles and the fact that the "Caliber" name is on the left-hand side of the tailgate (it was moved to the right in 2009.)

Its license plate, BTWN 741, tells a story, as well. Here in Ontario, as in other provinces and states, license plates are distributed more or less sequentially. Plates beginning with BTXX indicate the vehicle was purchased between approximately January and April of this year. Combine the model year and the purchase date and you have someone who bought a 6-year-old used Dodge within the last few months.

So I'm guessing when he - definitely a he - decided to buzz me despite the fact that I was minding my own business quite lawfully by the side of the road, he was possibly ticked off that he was driving a Dodge Caliber, which was little more than a loose assembly of parts when it was new, and is likely even less enjoyable to own and drive now.

Enjoy your time at the Walmart, Caliber Man.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Late night snack run

Starbucks, Broadway & W 63rd
New York, NY
July 2014
Thematic. What's your tech? Here.
I love my iPad, but anytime someone wants to have the tablet-replace-a-laptop discussion, I have to laugh. Like pretty much any other tablet on the market, my beloved iPad just doesn't have the technological heft to handle all of my work. It's terrible at multitasking, it has so little memory that its browser forces a re-load virtually every time you switch to a new tab, and editing text on a touchscreen is an exercise in frustration.

It's incredible for lightweight pieces of work - quick writing, easy research, catchup-type reading - but anything bigger and I'm switching back to my laptop.

Scene of the crime
Courtesy: Google Street View
Still, when you're walking the streets of New York in search of a friendly Starbucks, it's the perfect machine to reconnect with the world when you finally get within Wi-Fi range. As a complement to the full-blown PC (oops, sorry, Mac - I have my limits) experience, it's become an essential tool. But I can't see myself ever dumping one for the other. Peanut butter, meet chocolate.

Travel recommendation: Google Hangouts + Free Wi-Fi = free phone calls anywhere in North America. Best. Combo. Ever.

Your turn: What technology goes in your bag when you travel?

#FacebookDown ... and the world holds its breath

The big news in tech today really shouldn't be news at all. Facebook suffered an outage. Not a complete meltdown, mind you. More like an intermittent, inconsistent thing, where you'd try to post a status update, and it would fail. Five minutes later, though, it would work just fine. Some folks didn't even notice it at all.

The rest of the world, however, noticed it. And they took to social media - Twitter, natch - to share their deep disappointment that Facebook had somehow let them down. #FacebookDown was a trending topic for a while, and as I write this it's still way up there.

My $0.02: It's a freaking free service, people, so kindly get a grip. Do not call 911 looking for help. Do not complain bitterly to your friends. Do not slam your keyboard repeatedly in the modern-era equivalent of ripping your clothes like someone in mourning. Do not blame Facebook for ruining your life.

Because if a simple outage bothers you to that degree, you might want to reconsider your relationship to a service that most of us have only been using for a few years. You lived nicely without Facebook in 2003, and you'll live nicely without it today, as well.

Facebook doesn't owe its users much of anything. We voluntarily sign up to use it, and we don't pay for the privilege. When it has the occasional, inevitable hiccup - just like Twitter, Google and lesser lights have experienced in the not-too-distant past - this should serve as a reminder that placing that much weight on a blue-tinged social media service is more than a little ridiculous, and going off-grid every once in a while might be good for the soul.

There, I feel better.