Saturday, April 29, 2017

When reflections outshine the real thing

Sunrise framed in a window
London, ON
January 2017
To share your own reflective-themed Thematic, head here
The scene: I've just dropped our daughter off at school. It's a cold winter morning, and the campus is quiet as I slowly point the car toward the exit. The brightening sky grabs my attention as I idle through the largely deserted parking lot. As much as I try to focus on the drive, I can't stop staring at that sky. It's calling me.

I figure I have plenty of time to get to the office, so I find a parking spot, grab my camera and wander over to a pile of snow to get the best possible vantage point. I grab a few pics, but they all make me feel somewhat meh, as if that little flash of an idea I had in my head when I first saw the sky doesn't seem to have translated all that well through the lens.

I decide I'm done for the day - can't force blood from an artistic stone, after all - and head back to the car. As I approach, I notice the reflection in the window and think I might have been looking in the wrong direction all along.

On the impressions we leave behind

"Whoever you are, there is some younger person who thinks you are perfect. There is some work that will never be done if you don't do it. There is someone who would miss you if you were gone. There is a place that you alone can fill."
Jacob M. Braude

Monday, April 24, 2017

Thematic Photographic 410 - Reflections

No longer alive
London, ON
April 2017
I took a photowalk the other morning, my way of killing time while our daughter was at work. I hadn't been out in a while, and I deliberately brought the wrong equipment with me - a lovely old 85mm lens that I almost never use because it lacks that do-everything convenience of a zoom.

Looking at what I brought back, I realize I've been missing the point all along because a fixed focal length lens forces you to shoot in a completely different way. You have to use your feet and your brain to pre-compose, and soon enough you find you don't much miss being able to zoom in and out with your fingertips. Photography isn't always about taking the easy way out, and this long-overdue walk turned into a nice reminder of that.

I also forced myself to shoot monochrome - another throwback to when I used to challenge myself to look at the world differently. More of this looms in my photographic future, as well.

Your turn:  This week's Thematic theme is Reflections. Please share a pic or three (however many you wish) of something that supports this theme. Be liberal with how you interpret the theme, as that's the point of the exercise - so mirrors, bodies of water, even car windows are all fair game. Post your pic(s) to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it/them. Head here if you'd like more info on how Thematic works, and feel free to drop by again later in the week - bonus if you bring a friend. Enjoy!

On questions vs. answers

"It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers."
James Thurber

Fitbit saves woman's life

Can a Fitbit save your life? Patricia Lauder would doubtless say it can.

The 73-year-old Connecticut resident originally bought the wearable device to help her keep track of her steps. Like millions of other people, her goal was to simply lose a bit of weight.

One day, she wasn't feeling well, and noticed that the Fitbit was showing consistently higher heart rate levels from one day to the next. After her heart rate spiked to 140 beats per minute and she felt short of breath, she decided to see her doctors. Good thing she did, as they quickly diagnosed two pulmonary embolisms - which, left untreated, could have killer her.

My $0.02: As wearables continue to (slowly) grow in popularity, we'll see more examples of how they benefit users in unexpected ways. Your mileage may vary, of course, but no one doubts that greater visibility into health-related data isn't good for us. It absolutely is. And in some cases, it can even be lifesaving.

Now please excuse me while I snap my Garmin into the bike and pedal off for home. If you're in the 'hood, you're always welcome to join me.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Facebook Killer: Who's responsible?

By now, everyone's familiar with the horrific story out of Cleveland, where Steve Stephens walked up to a random stranger last Sunday and shot him dead. What made the murder of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. stand out from all others was the fact that the gunman captured it on video and shared it on Facebook. A multistate manhunt for Stephens ended two days later he was cornered just outside Erie, Pennsylvania and shot himself as police closed in.

The incident raises significant questions about streaming online video. Its exploding popularity has exposed a dark side to the technology, with escalating examples of rapes, beatings, suicides, and now murder, and growing concern over the lack of tools that can quickly shut down streams that violate the service's terms of use and give law enforcement real-time guidance to respond to crimes broadcast online.

Right now, no such tools exist, and Facebook relies on user-submitted complaints - a process that is inaccurate and slow. In the Stephens case, the video remained online for over 2 hours after the murder was committed. In other cases, it's taken days and weeks for Facebook to process takedowns.

Facebook issued a statement - as they'd be expected to do - expressing its outrage, and is working on automated tools to monitor and address such abuses in real-time. But it's a major technical challenge, and it won't happen overnight. If and when these tools ultimately roll out, they'll come too late for the victim of this unbelievable crime.

Here's my $0.02: This is what happens when technology rushes too quickly ahead of the frameworks, rules and laws that would govern it's abuse and protect its users in the process. It also begs a number of wrenching questions:
  • Whether having access to Facebook Video and Facebook Live could have been an encouraging factor for the gunman.
  • What role the companies that make these technologies might be playing in the spread of an entirely new form of crime.
  • Whether it's time for Internet "broadcasts" to be regulated in the same way conventional ones have always been.
Your turn: What do you think? What responsibilities does Facebook have in ensuring its apps and services are used for good and not for evil?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thematic Photographic 409 - Stuff you find in the basement

Dirty old cables
London, ON
April 2017
Some folks see basements and storage areas as icky and dirty. They may be right. But that doesn't mean they aren't worth a little photographic love, as well.

Which brings us to this week's Thematic theme, stuff you find in the basement. This theme will work nicely if you actually have a basement. But in case you don't, any old storage area will do. Or a dark, dusty place with lots of old stuff hanging around. As always, there's lots of creative room here, so have fun with it.

Your turn: Take a pic that reflects the "stuff you find in the basement" 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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thematic Photographic 408 - Orange

London, ON
April 2017
This week's Thematic theme, orange, marks a return to the world of colors. My brain was having difficulty processing the scene you see above, because it never dawned on me that carrots could be anything but orange in color. I guess I need to get out more.

Your turn: Shoot something orange. Or something that suggests orange. Or makes you think of orange. Share it on your blog or website, then pop into the comments here and let everyone else know where to find it. Visit other participants and feel free to post more from your collection later in the week. For more info on how Thematic works, follow this link home. And enjoy! Because that's why we do this!

On the subtle difference between "won't" and "can't"

"A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read."
Mark Twain

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Lake Carmi, for real

My very own body of water
London, ON
April 2017
I have this thing about old t-shirts: I just can't get rid of them. Much to my incredibly patient wife's consternation, I keep them around long after they're no longer wearable. They may have yellowed with age, or simply been worn down to mere threads from overuse, but still I keep them in my drawer. I guess I do so because t-shirts can often be signposts of the lives we've lived so far, triggers to memories that would otherwise be lost to time.

Exhibit A, the Lake Carmi t-shirt you see here. I've had it for decades. I couldn't have been older than 5 or 6 when my parents detoured the car off the highway and found this out-of-the-way place that magically shared my name. As a child with an incredibly off-mainstream name, it was a mindblowing experience to get out of the car and walk across a dusty parking lot where all the signs pointed to me. Being the baby of the family, it was the one time I got something uniquely mine, not a hand-me-down.

I wasn't really a fan of my name when I was a child. It singled me out, gave bullies something to hang onto, and was even a point of contention for friends when we had our inevitable children's arguments.

As a journalist in the Age of Google, my attitude has softened somewhat. It's helped me build a brand in a way that simply wouldn't have been possible had I been given a more common name. Everyone knows who this guy Carmi is - and most of the time in my line of work, that's a pretty good thing. Except, of course, when they disagree with me. But it's a risk I'm willing to take - and it's all part of the fun of being me.

Sometimes I wonder if that moment in the parking lot marked the inflection point where I began to change my mind, where "Carmi" became more of a benefit than a liability. Either way, the t-shirt may be yellowed with time, and so small that is barely fits the teddy bear I bought my wife when we first started dating. But I just can't leave it behind.

Your turn: Got an old piece of clothing that you just can't bear to get rid of?


Monday, April 03, 2017

Thematic Photographic 407 - Picture of a picture

Lookin' at my shoes
March 2017
London, ON
Look really closely at the card on the wall. Our daughter took this pic of her very photogenic pair of sneakers, and this was one of four of her photos on display her school's photo exhibit last month.

Many things come to mind when I see this shot. First and foremost, she's really talented. She sees things in ways unique to her, and she has the technical and artistic chops to capture the scene and tell the story. Her portfolio is a delight, and I say that not as a biased dad, but as someone who appreciates this kind of creativity.

This is also a picture of a picture, which not all that coincidentally is this week's theme. Sometimes the context of a photo or a scene becomes the story, as it did here on this important night in the life of a young artist. I often think about where and how a given work is seen or otherwise consumed, and what goes through the minds of those doing the consuming.

For the next week, that's what we'll focus on, as well.

Your turn: Take a picture of a picture, then share it on your blog, website or social media presence. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, then visit other participants to share in the fun. Want to post another pic later in the week or bring a friend along for the ride? We'd love that, too. Thematic's rules, such as they are, are here. Otherwise, happy shooting, and thanks!

Related: Dahlia Levy Photography on Instagram

On the importance of maintenance

"Another flaw in the human character is that everyone wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance."
Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, April 01, 2017

The story behind these essential oils

Cook some memories with me
Thornhill, ON
March 2017
The scene: The Sobeys grocery store in Thornhill, Ontario. The store sits in an otherwise unassuming strip mall at the corner of Clark and Hilda, and it isn't exactly walking distance from our house. In fact, it's a 210 km drive. Why the hell would we drive two hours to fetch groceries? Good question. Turns out there's a story here.

See, London is a lovely town, and we love living there for a lot of reasons. The small, tightly connected Jewish community is one of them. We're not religious in the black-coat-wearing, long-bearded, memorize-every-last-prayer kind of way. By those standards, I'm a complete heathen. But the cultures and traditions of who we are? They're everything to us, and thanks to my wife, our home is filled with them.

Unfortunately, being a small Jewish community can sometimes make it difficult to find kosher food. In a small-j-Jewish-community town like London, you have to know where to look. Again, I'm never going to win awards for Most Kosher Jew of All-Time, but my wife keeps our home Kosher, and come Passover time - happens around the same time as Easter - we eat Kosher for Passover food for the duration of the holiday.

If finding regular Kosher food all year is a tough sled, then upping the Kosher game for Passover is an even more specialized art. Bottom line: some London grocers bring in Kosher for Passover stuff, but Toronto's relatively huge Jewish community means they'll have a lot more of it there.

So my wife and I have evolved an annual tradition of sorts: a few weeks before Passover starts, we drive to Toronto on a given Sunday morning and buy groceries we might not otherwise find in London later on. We make a day of it, often bumping into folks we know in the store before we load up the car and grab lunch at a beloved resto or bakery. It's one of those simple things we do that seems to feel right - mundane to the outside world, but uniquely ours.

Along the way, I take pictures, I muse openly about the strange products available here - Baby Fingers! - and I try to slow the day down so that I'll remember later on why moments like this can be so special.

I took this picture with an arguing Israeli family on one side, and a quietly-chatting middle-aged Toronto couple on the other. I figured while they were all busy with the Very Serious Business of Passover shopping, I had a few precious seconds to compose the scene and be done with it.

I wasn't fast enough. As I lined up the shot, I heard a sudden silence as they all stopped their conversations, turned toward me and stared. I guess they had never seen anyone shoot canola oil before. I finished shooting, then turned to them and smiled. "I'm from London. We take pictures there when we shop. Give it a try: You have lovely oil."

They laughed the kind of laugh that connects strangers who aren't really strangers anymore, and before I knew it, I was tucking my smartphone back into my pocket and looking for my wife. I found her a few minutes later, and by then the tone of the day was yet again fused into my long-term memory.

In the end, this photo is just another two-dimensional assembly of pixels captured by an optical sensor and stored on a memory card. But it's the story behind it - and every one like it that I've taken over the years - that reminds me why it matters so much to pay attention to the stories of our lives, and to take the time to share them afterward. Otherwise, all we're doing is looking at oil in a crowded grocery store.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Solving distracted driving, one idiot at a time

The scene: Wharncliffe Boulevard northbound, 6:10 p.m. yesterday. I find myself sitting at the front of a long line of traffic, at the red light at the Riverside Boulevard intersection. I'm in the right lane, and I can smell the Mexican-food dinners being cooked up at the beloved Under the Volcano restaurant that looms over the sidewalk across the road to the west.

In my rearview, an endless line of idling cars, plus one motorcyclist just behind my bumper. To my left, a middle-aged woman in a black, late-model Honda Accord, Ontario plate BWFY 954. Her head is in the now-obvious tilted-down position, and her hands are nowhere to be seen. She's either praying to an unseen god, or she's texting. Within seconds, I conclude the latter, as she starts smiling to herself, clearly engaged in a silent conversation through her fingers. I figure I'll have fun with her because, hey, what else is there to do at a red light?

So I keep staring at her, watching her facial expressions continue to cycle through smiles, laughs, crinkled brows and intense focus. It would be a fascinating observation of human behaviour if she was sitting on a park bench. But she isn't. She's in control of a 3,336 pound vehicle. And while she may think she's fine because she's sitting at a red light, research has already proven that red-light-texters are, in fact, compromised for up to 30 seconds after the light turns green. I think of the motorcyclist behind me, and how he doesn't deserve to be pancaked by anyone, much less someone who just couldn't wait to get home to text-chat with her BFF, and absolutely, positively, had to use her phone on the road.

I stare some more. It's always been a super-long light, so I know I've got lots of time to play with. Eventually, she turns toward me and realizes what I'm up to. Her shoulders jump in surprise. I smile impassively before I slowly shake my head from side to side. I say nothing - she wouldn't hear me through two panes of glass, anyway. She stares back with a blank look on her face, and it occurs to me that she may still not understand. I make a phone-to-my-ear gesture, followed by a down gesture. She turns her head back to the front of the car, puts both hands on the steering wheel and spends the rest of the cycle frozen in time and space, probably hoping I go away forever.

Eventually, the light turned green, and thanks to the yin and yang of rush-hour traffic, she ended up shadowing me for much of the next couple of kilometres before I had to turn off. From what I could see, she behaved herself, but I'm pretty sure I'm off her Christmas card list for good.

A few months ago, I was talking about distracted driving on-air with Andy Oudman, host of CJBK's The Live Drive. I was ranting about how rampant distracted driving has become, how we've become surrounded by driver-seat texters, that this has become our new, seemingly acceptable normal.

Except it isn't normal. And it should never be acceptable. So we vowed that day to go public every time we saw it play out on the roads. We've continued to discuss it on-air - because, let's face it, it's getting worse - and this blog entry is my attempt at escalating the campaign in a different way. Vehicle descriptions, license numbers, behaviours - if I see it, I'm outing it.

Whether you're this particular Honda-driving woman, or anyone else who texts at the wheel, your presumption of privacy disappears the instant you pull your vehicle onto a public road and decide to put everyone around you at risk. It may not bother you, but it bothers me. And I'm done being silent or polite about it.

Who's with me?

Update - March 29: If you'd like to contact the London Police Service's Traffic Management Unit, head here:

Update - March 30: I saw another offender on the way home today. Here's the lowdown: 5:29 p.m., Wellington northbound, corner Commissioners, in the left-hand turning lane. A 2015 of 2016 Honda CR-V covered from head-to-toe in Pizza Pizza graphics (I kid you not) with Ontario plate BXRT 553. Driver was busy on his phone at the red light. I stared a bit. He noticed. Texted some more, then thought twice. Placed the phone back in its holster in the middle of the dash. Smiled and waved at me as the light turned green and he drove away. Sure, he was friendly and realized the error of his ways. But he nevertheless put everyone around him at risk, hence my mentioning the incident here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Thematic Photographic 406 - Electrical & Infrastructure

What keeps this place alive
London, ON
February 2017
I have a number of odd habits, one of which revolves around looking into the shadowy corners of quiet rooms in the vague hope that I'll see something no one else has noticed. Sure, maybe we see this stuff all the time, but do we really see it? Take the time to think about it a little?

Probably not. Hence the photo above. I don't even know what it is, but I know it plays a role in my day-to-day life. It's a switchbox on a back wall in one of the studios I use at the TV station. I'm pretty sure if this thing wasn't here, I wouldn't be going on-air. So, thank you little ignored box of stuff. And thank you to the gifted people in this place who make it all work. I'd be nowhere without them.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme is electrical and infrastructure, because even the everyday and the forgotten can be photographically compelling. Take a photo that evokes, suggests or reflects this week's theme, then post it to your blog, website or social media account. Leave a comment here to let folks know where to find it, then drop by other participants to share the photographic joy. Bring a friend, and drop by later in the week to see what everyone's up to. For more info on how Thematic works, head here. Thanks gang!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

On cancer, knees, and feet

"Cancer didn't bring me to my knees, it brought me to my feet."
Michael Douglas
I'm pretty sure I think about health more than is optimally healthy. I always worry about it. About losing it. About not being here. Or, worse, about being here and not being able to truly live. I'm not ashamed to admit that this fear, this sense of worry, never really leaves me. It's isn't quite a Sword of Damocles. More like a constant awareness of how thin that margin can be. And it defines pretty much every waking moment.

As a writer, I often look for words - other people's words, or ones I craft inside my still-functioning brain - to hold onto. These, I'll hold onto. Because while many of us will find ourselves on the wrong end of some kind of major disease or health scare, it's what we do afterward that truly defines who we are.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

An in-between moment with a crossover

Made in Woodstock
London, ON
March 2017
For more Thematic Wheels & Tires, click here
I hold a lot of strange beliefs, and here's one of them: Life is filled with in-between moments, and it's up to us to take advantage of them lest we miss out. To wit, all too often we fail to engage in our favorite activities because we "just can't take the time" or we're "way too busy."

Enter the in-between moment, in this case on the way out to my car after work, I noticed my colleague's spanking new Toyota Rav4 in the parking lot. So I pulled my smartphone out and snagged a few pictures because a) hey, new car! and b) I thought it would make him laugh when he found out.

The results may not be earth-shattering, but the very fact that I added pixels to my memory card means I got out there. Which, looking at all the blink-of-an-eye in-between moments that we all have in the course of the day, means we're all about to be a bit busier than usual. Great way to live, isn't it?

Your turn: Describe a memorable in-between moment.

Friday, March 24, 2017

On holding onto our madness

"You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."
Robin Williams 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Thematic Photographic 405 - Wheels and tires

All-season goodness
London, ON
March 2017
Take a close look at the average tire today and you're looking at a marvel of computer-generated engineering. Every aspect of the design you see here was painstakingly crafted to meet a specific set of performance criteria. Tires have to be quiet, efficient, durable, affordable, and safe. A little bit of fun thrown into the mix doesn't hurt, either. Balancing these often-conflicting criteria isn't as easy as it seems.

These unassuming rubber rings literally hold your vehicle to ground below, and despite the fact that we ignore them in the day-to-day of zipping from one place to another, we really do owe them a little more attention. And thanks.

Your turn: You know the drill, right? Take a picture that supports, evokes, suggests or even merely hints at this week's theme - wheels and tires - and post it to your blog, website or social media presence. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants because nothing inspires great photography more than sharing. If you're new to the Thematic thing, check this link out. Otherwise, have fun. And thank you.

About this photo: My colleague, Andy Oudman, put new shoes on his car earlier this month. It isn't often that I get to shoot brand-new rubber, so before long we both found ourselves standing in the parking lot chatting happily about how awesome tires can be, and why they deserve more than a passing glance as we make our way home after a long day.

This photo on Instagram
carmilevy on Instagram
Where the rubber hits the road, Jan. 2016
Let's get dirty, Oct. 2013

Snakes can be friendly, too

Remember the turtle I met last week? The one I wanted to bring home but couldn't on account of the fact that I have a really smart wife who'd brain me if I even tried?

Well, here's the turtle's reptilian friend. And since I don't covet snakes as much as I covet turtles, no attempt was made to make this one a Levy.

That didn't stop me from trying to shoot the slithery thing on the only camera I had on me at the time. Pet potential or not, I can't resist that little voice inside my head that tells me this is a scene I won't want to forget.

Your turn: I don't think this snake has a name. I think we should correct that. Suggestions? I'd start the bidding with "Sammy", but that would be too obvious. I know you can do better.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

On the lesson of shoes, comfort, and life

"The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases."
Carl Jung

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The market after dark

This is the public square in front of the Covent Garden Market. I wouldn't be stretching things by saying this is a jewel in our city's crown, a public space so well thought-out and managed that it's become something of a model for similar projects elsewhere.

But that wasn't on my mind on this warm, damp night as I walked through the square on my way home from a photo exhibit where our daughter's work was on display. The light spilling out caught my attention, and I was once again reminded of architecture's ability to make us feel.

I need to spend more time here, partly to take better photos of a special place, but more specifically to just take it in. Sometimes, just hanging out in the right location is enough to recharge the soul.

Your turn: Do you have a place that makes you feel better?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Thematic Photographic 404 - Retail

Reflections from the checkout aisle
London, ON
March 2017
I'll come right out and say it: I hate shopping. As much as I enjoy getting out of the house and exploring the world near and far, watching someone count out exact change to the cashier, coin by coin, while the ensuing lineup stretches toward the back of the store, isn't exactly my cup of tea. Likewise the folks who smack their carts into you then blithely walk away without so much as an acknowledgment. On second thought, maybe it isn't the shopping I hate as much as the people who ruin the experience for everyone else.

Whatever the cause, there's never any shortage of things to shoot when we've got to hunt and forage to ensure our suburban survival. And for the next week, you're invited to share your shopping adventures in support of our latest theme, retail.

Your turn: I'm pretty sure you already know what  to do. But just in case, here's the short version: post a pic that supports this week's theme - retail - to your blog, website or social media account. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants, then repeat through the week. Thematic  is a non-competitive activity that lets us stretch our photographic boundaries a bit. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

10 years to the dog-day

Ten years ago today, we brought home a scraggly 8-month-old puppy. He was so scraggly, in fact, that the heavily matted, black furball who showed up at our door gave way to a silvery-grey sweetie once our groomer got her expert hands on him the next day. That transition from darkness to light seemed to define his life with us from that moment onward.

You never quite know what can happen with a rescue dog, and Frasier's life was never predictable or linear. He wasn't trained in the traditional sense - so there was never a hope of bringing home large trophies after jumping through hoops and charming the pants off of ascot-wearing judges with fake British accents. He never walked in a straight line, instead zig-zagging back and forth across the sidewalk as his nose searched for whatever it is the nose of a hunting dog searches for. Being the dog-dad-pushover that I was, I simply held onto the leash and laughed at him.

But he was a good dog in ways no best-of-show ribbon could ever approach. He knew when his people needed him, and always found ways to weasel himself into whatever it was that you were doing. He protected us fearlessly, played with us with all his heart, and made friends with everyone (and every dog) he met - but only after a deafness-inducing barking fit that let everyone within four blocks know who was calling the shots. Once he was your friend, he was your friend forever. His life with us was charmed, and we cherished every day we had with him.

From that first crazy day of Levyhood, it didn't take him long to make us his. And just as quickly he became an integral part of us, an indelible addition to our family.

Indelible, of course, isn't the same as permanent. As often happens with schnauzers, he was diagnosed with diabetes a few years on. And as much as we wanted him to hang around forever, we lost him in December. It still feels sad, with an emptiness in the house that grabs at us when we least expect it: As I wake up and head downstairs, only to realize he isn't curled up in a ball at the end of the bed. When I check my watch and realize it's time for his walk, except he isn't yipping at me from the front door or staring me silently in the face. When I hear a noise coming from around the corner and for a fleeting second think it's him. Only it isn't.

We've gone from being dog people to not being dog people, which feels somewhat off to me. For all the inconvenience and expense that comes with owning a dog, I always loved how all that inconvenience and expense felt in the chaotic fabric that is a modern-era family. I enjoyed having built-in walks every day, even if the weather outside was frightening, because I needed those walks almost as much as he did. I enjoyed how we became known to friends, family members, colleagues and even strangers as the family with that cool dog, Frasier. I enjoyed the fact that something with four legs and zero language skills - well, not English, anyway - had the power to temporarily remove us from life's treadmill, and remind us that kindness and unconditional love were, and are, precious resources.

Almost three months after we took him on that last ride to the vet, it doesn't suck any less. But the alternative - no dog to begin with - is unimaginable to me. I can't even begin to think what we'd be like if we had never had him in our lives. Losing a dog is sad, but you eventually figure out a way forward and, if the universe smiles on you, you bring another furball in need of rescuing into your family. Never having a dog to begin with? Well, that's worse than sad.

I'm glad we had him, because no one else could have taught us that last lesson as effectively. Thanks, buddy.

CRA website goes dark - Canadians should worry

It was an interesting weekend in Canadian government, and as often happens in my world of data, bits and nerdiness, it meant some news coverage. The story led the agenda during my Clicked In segment on CTV News Channel last night, and continued into the morning with live hits on Newstalk 1010 Toronto with John Moore, and Newstalk 1290 CJBK London with Lisa Brandt and Ken Eastwood. Whenever a major tech story breaks, I like to draft some high-level talking points to give the producers and hosts who I work with a sense of the story, and what I think of it. Here's what I've been using so far for this one...

Here's what we know: The Canada Revenue Agency (aka CRA, aka the folks to whom we pay taxes, aka The Tax Man) took down a large chunk of its online services on Friday afternoon, and they remained offline until Sunday night. The CRA's main website at featured the following message during the outage:
Upon becoming aware of an internet vulnerability that affects some computer servers used by websites worldwide, we took down our online services, including electronic filing, and are taking steps to ensure that all information and systems remain safe.
At this time, we are not aware that any personal information has been affected; however, we continue to assess and remedy the situation.
You can still complete your tax forms, but will have to wait before filing.
What we DON'T know: The CRA isn't saying precisely WHAT that vulnerability that prompted the outage was. Their handling of this matter has echoes of the Heartbleed bug, which was a vulnerability in open-source OpenSSL security code used on millions of websites around the world. In 2014, soon after Heartbleed was discovered in the wild, the CRA took its websites and online filing services down in response to the vulnerability.

We also don't know if an outage at the Statistics Canada website this weekend was related. No one there is saying much of anything, either.

Could it have been Cloudbleed? Without official confirmation from CRA officials, it's impossible to conclude at this time. However, the timing is unfortunate, as Cloudbleed has been a major tech story for the better part of the past 3 weeks.

What is Cloudbleed? It is a bug found in code operated by the Cloudflare web infrastructure company. Cloudflare provides security and hosting services for thousands of major internet sites - including  Uber, Yelp, Fitbit, OkCupid, the Pirate Bay,, Feedly, 4chan, and many more. Thanks to a tiny but significant error in some of Cloudflare's code, sensitive user information from some of these sites was being randomly inserted into web pages when visited by other people.

My $0.02: Whether or not it was Cloudbleed is almost irrelevant. What's crystal-clear is that almost 3 years after the Heartbleed episode, the CRA still hasn't learned its lesson. One would expect government IT personnel to be horizon-scanning constantly, to anticipate weaknesses in systems architecture BEFORE they go critical. Internet vulnerabilities are being discovered All The Time, and IT/security specialists are charged with proactively addressing them. Everyone else manages to deal with these issues appropriately, by installing security fixes, patches and updates on the fly, without having to close up shop for two days.

Yet three years post-Heartbleed (where the CRA was the ONLY major global website operator to actually SHUT DOWN its services) the agency continued to chase its tail, reactively downing the website and related services while it frantically tried to figure out what was going on. The only reason our tax filing services went dark for days is because the people running them are clueless, don't learn from previous mistakes, and no one's holding them accountable.

The Statistics Canada website was also partially down over the weekend, and again no one's saying much of anything, so we don't know if the two incidents are related, what's behind them, or what's being done to address the root cause and prevent them from recurring in future. Neither agency is telling Canadians the whole story, and given this is peak filing season for taxpayers, they deserve answers. And better government IT coverage than they've been getting.

No one's going to complain that the feds made it harder for them to pay taxes for a couple of days. But given the growing signs of IT ineptitude within at least two major departments in  recent days, it's entirely reasonable for Canadians to be concerned.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dreaming of blue turtles

Out for a stroll
Toronto, ON
March 2016
Thematic. Take a walk. Here.
A long time ago, in a childhood suburb far, far away, I had a pet turtle. She - we assume she was a she - was named "Turdle" because she wasn't mine first. I inherited her from an older brother who went off to school, and within a short period of time she grew from tiny-sized to large enough to outgrow two enclosures.

Even when she was living in a 25-gallon aquarium, she was rather adept at escaping, and my wife - who was then my girlfriend - still laughs at the memories of returning to the house and realizing she was gone. The floor was covered with a thick, shaggy carpet best described as what happens when a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle has a bad burrito for breakfast and hurls the result all over the floor. In other words, the perfect blue-green camouflage for a turtle.

So we'd get on the bed, hang ourselves over the edge and gently feel down to the floor as we quietly called her name. Good times, and not exactly textbook procedure to get the girl. But she married me, anyway, so it all worked out in the end.

Fast forward to last night, where we found ourselves at a large party with lots of folks we know. Not just a party, but a jungle-themed party. Cool, we thought, as we scanned the lovely decorations and reconnected with friends we hadn't seen in a while. Before long, smiling t-shirt-clad people emerged holding a variety of animals: A parrot named Elmo, a small crocodile-like lizard with a taped-up mouth, a ginormous snake with a very open and accessible mouth, and the turtle you see here.

Being the idiot that I am, I gravitated toward this beautiful shelled creature as he happily wandered the floor in the main lobby. The blue-green shag carpeting may as well have been gone for decades, but for a moment it felt like my teenaged self was hanging around my teenaged girlfriend in a faraway place where our biggest worry was whether the turtle had gotten stuck beside the shoebox under my desk. Life has a funny way of circling back on itself, doesn't it?

Your turn: This turtle needs a name. What should this name be?

Vignette: Turtle Diary

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Always look back at sunsets

The market says goodnight
London, ON
March 2017
To contribute to Thematic's "take a walk" theme, head this way
The scene: Downtown London. King Street, precisely. I'm on my way to meet my wife and daughter at a local art gallery. Our munchkin has a number of her photos on display at an exhibit, and we wouldn't miss this proud moment for the world.

I've parked in the lot underneath the Covent Garden Market, the jewel of a building that takes up most of the right-hand side of this photo. As I exit and cross the street, I notice this subtle glow around me and look over my shoulder. The sky is putting on quite the show.

I check my watch and realize I'm running late. No surprise, as that's the story of my life. I probably should be sprinting the last few blocks to the gallery. But a little voice inside my head (you hear them, too, don't you?) says I can spare 60 or so seconds to stop and shoot a fast one with my smartphone.

I waver back and forth before I give in to the voice and line up the shot. I'm done in closer to 45 seconds before I stuff the phone back in my pocket and double-time the rest of the way to meet two of my favourite people. Another moment created; another even richer moment about to happen.

Your turn: When's the last time you stopped what you were doing just to take a picture?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Monday, March 06, 2017

Thematic Photographic 403 - Take a walk

Overlooking the valley
London, ON
March 2017
I've been wandering the neighborhood a lot lately, and since I'm doing it in size-9 shoes and not on a pink-hued mountain bike, I see things I wouldn't normally see when I'm spinning the pedals at 30+ km/h. If you've been following my crazy journey for any length of time, I'm sure you know what that means: Pictures. Lots of 'em.

Hence this week's Thematic theme, take a walk. I was out for a photowalk with our daughter in the Medway Valley Heritage Forest when I snapped this. We had just decided to turn for home when I saw this particular tree standing sentinel-like over the valley below. I wondered how often we get to have quiet moments like this, and answered myself almost immediately: Not nearly often enough. I resolved to change that as I tucked my hands back in my pockets and rejoined our daughter for the cold walk home amid the lengthening shadows.

I'm hoping this week's theme will give us an extra memorable moment or two.

Your turn: Take a walk anywhere you wish. Near your house. Near your office. Or far. Or somewhere in between. As long as you're self-powered in some way, you're good (we don't really judge around here, anyway, so feel free to take liberties.) Once you've taken a picture on your walk, share it on your blog or website or social media account (again, whatever/wherever is easiest.) Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, then pop by other participants to see what they've shared, too. We like to share. More background on Thematic can be found here. Happy walking!

Beet it

It came from the earth
London, ON
March 2017
Thematic. Purple. Here.
The scene: My wife and I have come to Farm Boy, a delightful new grocery store that's been opening locations all across Ontario in recent years. The food is fresh, the store looks like you could eat off the floor, and the staff are friendly and helpful.

As we finish filling our cart and slowly turn toward the checkout aisles at the front, I lament the fact that I haven't taken a picture yet. "I feel as if I'm missing something," I tell her as she smiles sympathetically and tells me to go find something to shoot.

She's amazing in so many ways, the photo thing merely being one of them. So off I go and find these crazy-textured beets. I'm gone for maybe three minutes before I rejoin my best friend and show her my pixel-based prize. Some moments really can be as simple as this.


Friday, March 03, 2017

Facebookers: For the love of God, get a life

I'm a big believer in social media's potential to improve the human condition. I'm likely way oversimplifying this, but tools that enhance communication on a mass scale can also help break down the barriers that have traditionally fed the ignorance and xenophobia that makes the planet seem like such a messed up place.

At the same time, I'm not so naive as to believe that tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat don't also introduce a few flies into the ointment. Not everyone gets the memo, and as a result not everyone will figure out how to best leverage the power inherent in these sophisticated pieces of disembodied software.

Sometimes, the feeds that fly across my smartphone serve up jarring reminders of just how wide the gap between effective and ineffective use can be. To wit:
  • Facebook user #1, whining about how sick and tired she is of everyone around her, because someone had the audacity to cut her off during the drive home from work. She's woven four similar bitchfests into her timeline in the past week, in between shares of puppy photos, cat videos, vicious rants about how her life is over because her favorite sports team keeps losing games, and her successive high scores in Bejeweled Blitz.
  • Facebook user #2, recently diagnosed with cancer and facing a long, uncertain and unimaginably terrifying battle, having the guts to walk his friends through the last 48 hours of his journey. No bitching. Just the facts.
I'm not judging. It's a free country - well, for now - and we've got ample runway to use the tools as we see fit. But given the potential to use Facebook for good, it amazes me how so many choose to squander the moment, to use Facebook (and, let's be fair, other platforms) for the trivial instead of the inspiring.

In conversation with friends, family members and colleagues, I often jokingly tell them to "use the technology for good, not evil." But the more I think of it, maybe I'm not joking. Maybe deep down I secretly hope more people would think twice before hitting the Send or Publish button.

I wish I could introduce Facebook user #1 to Facebook user #2. She might learn something in the process. In the meantime, it's another reminder of why I'm spending less time in Facebookland. The dearth of perspective is starting to get to me.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

On deciding when to bloom

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Anaïs Nin

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Concert-goers are getting hosed. The law won't fix it.

Being a tech analyst means I get to track the hottest stories in the space, then explain them in plain English because I'm too brain-addled to do it in any other language. I've been talking about this one on-air all week, and I thought I'd share it here:

In the bad old days before the Internet came along, devoted fans of a musical act - or a sports team, or a play, or a whatever - would line up outside their favorite venues, sometimes for days, to buy tickets and avoid the eternal disappointment of missing out.

Then technology came along and did what it always does: Made it easier, faster, and cheaper, and saved us from the tyranny of lawn chairs on cold city sidewalks. An improvement. In theory.

There's a but coming. Because while it may indeed be infinitely more convenient to sit at home in your jammies and buy tickets through an app or browser, removing the physical box office from the equation also made it open season for scalpers. High-tech scalpers now rip us off by using "bots" - sophisticated computer programs and algorithms that can snap up huge numbers of tickets mere seconds after the first go on sale, then almost immediately list them for sale on secondary ticket-selling sites at double, triple (or more) the original face value - to pad their pockets.

If you've ever logged onto a ticket buying site only to be told mere minutes after go-live that they were sold out, this scam has already happened to you.

While major ticket-selling companies like TicketMaster claim to have invested millions in technologies and platforms that give regular fans a fair chance, the sad reality is we're still getting hosed. If we really want to Be Right There, increasingly our only choice is to suck it up and pay scandalous prices to electronic scalpers.

But salvation could be at hand. Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is asking for public input into the problem of "bots" He says the eventual goal is for the province to introduce new laws that would outlaw the practice and give consumers a "fair shot" at snagging concert, sports and other event tickets without getting ripped off.

Sadly for the province, this isn't an easy problem to fix. Like so many online battles, this is a cat-and-mouse, cops-and-robbers-type affair, and the concept of a "bot" that snaps up tickets before we can get at them tends to greatly oversimplify what they are and how they work. This isn't a case of some optionally-legal losers hitting "Send" on their smartphones and beating us to the punch. The villains in this fight are slick, well-funded and persistent. They roll with the punches and seem to survive like Whack-a-Moles, popping up in another place no matter how many times they get smacked by the good guys.

It takes the best of everything - brilliant coders, and ultra-fast networks and computers - to be a large-scale scalper in the online age. Unfortunately for us we're competing against a well-resourced, highly sophisticated enemy, as well as an industry that doesn't seem to care that its fans are getting hosed.

Venues and artists pay lip service to the problem, often expressing disappointment for their true fans. But only when pressed. And let's get real: Once the show is sold out, it really doesn't matter to them what happens to the tickets afterward. A sellout is a sellout: And if the tickets are resold at increasingly scandalous prices later on, they can easily pretend a) they had nothing to do with it and b) they're mortified. But we all know they kinda don't care because they get paid either way, so there's no real incentive for them to do more than throw fans a quick verbal bone at the post-concert press conference.

I'll give the Ontario government an A for effort. They're trying to tackle an issue that's been bugging many folks for years. It isn't quite on the scale of immorally high electricity rates or health care access, but it still strikes a nerve because it's a craven example of fraud that takes place right out in the open. As much as I wish the government could fix it with a law, the sad truth is we've seen this dog and pony show before, and if other jurisdictions can't solve it, we won't either.

Your turn: Would you pay above-face-value for a ticket?

On authenticity

"If you seek authenticity for authenticity’s sake, you are no longer authentic."
Jean Paul Sartre

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

YouTube TV set to blow up the industry

You're forgiven if you felt the earth move a bit today. YouTube's announcement that it would enter the live online TV space with its YouTube TV offering could be one of the more significant media announcements we've seen in a while.

The online TV service isn't available yet. Google-owned YouTube says it'll come "soon" to the U.S., and is being decidedly mum about other countries. So Canadians are out of scope for now.

Regardless of the fact that you can't get it yet and it won't be available everywhere for a while, YouTube TV represents quite likely the most serious threat to-date to traditional cable and satellite TV. By including most of the big TV networks in the U.S. as well as lots of live sports, YouTube erases another major reason that had been keeping some TV watchers from cutting the chord. This is a seismic shift, and the beginning of the end of conventional TV just got another shove toward the cliff face.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Consumers get access to their favorite shows and sports events for less. They can interact with content on any device, using a rich set of tools (including an unlimited-storage online DVR), all for the low-low price of $35 U.S./month. It simply reflects the shift in delivery method away from conventional cable and satellite subscriptions and toward IP-based platforms. We watch more TV than ever before, but not necessarily on a big old TV through a coax cable.

I'm sure an announcement of this magnitude will keep conventional cable/satellite distributors awake at night (disclosure: I work for one of these telecoms), but they'll do fine if they continue to expand their offerings - like intelligent, interactive online packages that connect their rich content ecosystems to an increasingly digital/mobile/social audience. Google/YouTube's entry into the space legitimizes it and opens the door to an even more vibrant and innovative marketplace. It's hard to see any downside in that.

Your turn: Have you cut the chord yet? Why/why not?

On awareness. Always.

"Just let awareness have its way with you completely."Scott Morrison
Sure thing. The alternative is a lot less interesting.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Thematic Photographic 402 - Purple

Eggplant extraordinaire
London, ON
February 2017
Continuing with the color theme - last week's was yellow - I wanted to share a delightful scene from the fresh produce section of the local grocery store. I wasn't planning on taking any pictures that day, but a flash of purple in my peripheral vision (say that 10 times fast!) changed my mind fairly quickly.

I hope you're feeling as colorful as I am. And I hope you've already got something purpley in mind.

Your turn: Take picture of something purple. Or something that suggests purple - we've got pretty loose standard re. what does and does not qualify for a Thematic entry. Basically, anything goes. Once you've posted the pic to your blog, website or social media account, leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants, as well, because sharing is always more fun. Click here if you'd like to learn more about how Thematic, our weekly non-competitive, boundary-expanding, photo-sharing activity, works.

On listening to your inner voice

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway."
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, February 26, 2017

If a tree falls in the forest...

No passage
London, ON
February 2017
Thematic. Yellow. Here.
Like most of the rest of the planet, we've been getting some seriously weird weather here in Ontario. While the calendar says this is supposed to be a Canadian winter, record-high temperatures for much of the last week had many of us wandering the city in shorts and t-shirts.

Until Friday, that is, when a cold front swept into the city around rush hour and unleashed a violent thunderstorm that left intersections flooded and wind-tossed debris all over the place. Never a dull moment around here.

I came across this sad sight the next morning, on a bike path through campus that I'd normally be crossing at speed on my pink wondermachine. I'm glad I was walking on this morning, because the combination of blind, hilly curve and large, downed tree trunk would have made for a panic-induced emergency braking session had I been approaching from the opposite direction. My heart skipped a beat just thinking about it.

As I sized up the scene, the skies opened up and brought my photo walk to a premature end. Mother Nature has a schedule of her own, and all the whining in the world won't change a thing. May as well enjoy what we can, when we can.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

On putting away the damn smartphone

"Wherever you are - be all there."
Jim Elliot
The man responsible for these words may have died in 1956, but the sentiment resonates especially strongly in this mobile age, where we're often so buried in our devices that we fail to appreciate the in-real-life world around us.

I was talking about this on-air yesterday, and the subject of my own walking-and-texting addiction came up. See, I often wander the halls of the office with my head buried in my smartphone. It's how I catch up on reading as I head from here to there.

That's all well and good - productivity is a positive, after all - but it also makes me a slow-moving obstacle to my colleagues who may be zipping in and out of offices and studios and don't much appreciate having to deke left and right to avoid me.

Which is my way of saying my name is Carmi and I have a smartphone addiction. Maybe this "all there" think is a decent place to start as I figure out how to wean myself off.

Your turn: Are you smartphone-addicted? How would you suggest I break this addiction?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

4 years...

Laval, QC
July 2011
My wife lost her mom four years ago today. It's as hard to believe the stark black-font words on a white screen as it is to write them in the first place - and it's no more believable to write, read or think today than it was on Feb. 22, 2013.

Time constantly increases the distance between then and now, but it does little to erase the feeling that your world has been irrevocably redrawn. You don't recover from loss as much as you figure out how to go on in a very different manner. And you don't return to life's routine, either, because there's no such thing as life's routine in the first place. You get changed, and you have no choice in the matter.

As many of you know, I shoot a lot of pictures. In our family, I'm the guy sticking his lens into everyone's face, at times and in places that normally wouldn't be considered appropriate for picture-taking. At the table, in the kitchen, even before everyone gets out of or into the car, there I am, clicking away.

My mother-in-law used to complain to my wife about it, asking her why I took so many pictures. Like many of us, she didn't like having her picture taken, especially by a photographically-insane son-in-law who seemed to pop out of every corner of the house with little notice. I'm pretty sure it annoyed her a bit, but I shot, anyway, because I felt the need to freeze time, to capture moments that I knew, deep down, weren't permanent. It became a yin-and-yang thing between us, and somehow despite her external annoyance, I think she somehow enjoyed it and was glad I took the time to tell the family's story in my, ah, unique way.

Like my father, my mother-in-law spent the last few years of her life facing a growing mountain of health-related challenges. And as they each got sicker, I found myself reaching for my camera more often. I took it into places I probably shouldn't have, like the hospital, but I wanted a visual record because I thought it would do all of us some good.

I still believe that, because four years later I can't take any new pictures. I couldn't freeze time then, and I sure can't freeze it now. But at the very least I can look back at those frozen images and remember to be glad I crossed her path in the first place. Looking at a photo lost to time doesn't change much, but at least it gives you a place to go when you're still feeling adrift from loss long after the rest of the world says you should have gotten over it.

The rest of the world is wrong. And I'll keep carrying my camera into places where it probably doesn't belong. Because telling the story is how we honour the lives of those who have helped shape us, and I'm glad I got to tell at least part of my mother-in-law's story.

My wife's Facebook post today
There are no words (Feb 23, 2013)
Even the skies know (February 27, 2013)
Temporarily dormant (March 7, 2013)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Let there be light

So much brightness
London, ON
January 2017
For more yellow-themed Thematic, head here
Sometimes when I'm bored, I stop what I'm doing and stare around the room. I look for the tiniest details - the color of a wall, the texture of a fixture, or even the feel of the light coming off of a bulb. It almost doesn't matter what it is: Simply being able to drink it in in all its mundane glory is more than enough to satisfy the itch.

This explains the otherwise strange-looking photo you see here. I noticed this spotlight lurking in the rafters of Budweiser Gardens. Far below, the London Knights were busy winning another game. While everyone else's eyes focused downward, mine were in a decidedly different place. I'll likely never understand my need to diverge from the crowd, but you won't find me fighting the urge, either. Some of us were meant to follow a different path.

Your turn: What do you do when you're bored?

On finding enough room to live

"Time and space - time to be alone, space to move about - these may well become the great scarcities of tomorrow."
Edwin Way Teale

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thematic Photographic 401 - Yellow

Toronto, ON
February 2017
It's been a while since I chose a particular color for a Thematic theme, and given our collective need to find brightness amid all the greys, I thought I'd start with yellow.

This particular yellow-themed shot would be a happy pic under any circumstances. But it's the context that makes me smile almost a week after I took it. I was at a conference, and a colleague and I arrived a bit early to the breakfast buffet in the brightly lit hotel corridor just outside the actual conference room where the event was about to be held. I'm pretty sure we were too early, and in retrospect I think the hotel staff members weren't anywhere near finished setting up by the time we walked into the nearly empty area.

But the carefully scooped balls of butter were beckoning my lens, even if I shouldn't have been there in the first place. One staffer, in particular, stood just across and watched quietly as I composed and took the shot. He smiled knowingly at me as I put the phone away and reached for the fruit plate. Sometimes, rules were made to be broken.

Your turn: Take a picture of something yellow. Or something that suggests yellow. Or simply evokes this week's theme, yellow. Post it to your blog, your social media page, or wherever you hang out online. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, and visit other participants to spread the yellowy happiness far and wide. We'll be celebrating yellow all week, so feel free to play again - or even bring a friend - if you're so inclined. For more info on how Thematic works, head here. Happy shooting and sharing!

On making the first move

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity"
Amelia Earhart

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blue morning in Brantford

Trackside, 7:22 a.m.
Brantford, ON
February 2017
Using a smartphone to shoot first light through the smudged windows of an early-morning train isn't exactly a recipe for photographic perfection. But photography - and life, come to think of it - isn't as much about perfection as it is doing the best with what you've got.

So as I stared out the window and wondered what it must be like to live beside such a busy railyard in a southern Ontario town best known as the birthplace of both the telephone and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, I thought less about the photography thing and more about the feel of this place. And in the blue-ish early morning light, I realized this was the photo I was supposed to take all along.

Your turn: Who lives here?

On fear of living

"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live."
Henry van Dyke

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Waiting for her train to arrive

Catching up
Toronto, ON
February 2017

Thematic. Favorites. Here.
The scene: Toronto's Union Station. We're in the waiting room of this sprawling, crowded, chaotic place. At least I think it's the waiting room, because the station has been under construction forever and you're never quite sure where they'll stick you as you wait for your train to arrive.

I've come here with some colleagues, and we're all on our way back to London after a work thing. While the rest of my team quietly sits and waits for our boarding call - aka normal behavior - I restlessly pace the area, looking for things to record with my smartphone's camera. Why the smartphone? For all its limitations - no zoom, the horrors! - I figure it's a lot less obtrusive to shoot in a public place than the full-on, "real" camera I have in my backpack. So smartphone it is. Gotta love spontaneous shooting.

I can't help but notice the people around us. Each one has a story, and I try to avoid capturing their attention as I stare around the area and try to read the scene. I keep coming back to this woman with the large-ish headphones on her head and the time-worn, taped-up laptop perched expertly on her lap. What's she listening to? Death metal? Post-punk? Hip hop/jazz fusion? What's she doing on that laptop? Emailing her board of directors? Setting up lunch for her team? Breaking into the White House email server?

Whatever she's up to, she's clearly got this Via Rail/road warrior thing down, and as much as I risk crossing the line by surreptitiously pointing my tiny lens toward her, I can't resist. This is the signature memory of the 15 minutes spent here with my colleagues, so I line up the shot and take it.

She never even knew I was there.

Your turn: A photo that pushed your personal comfort zone. Aaaaaand...go!

This same photo in my Instagram
Two ladies chat (January 2007)
A stranger's sojourn by the sea (January 2007)
Strangers among us (December 2011)
A conversation among friends (August 2014)

On remembering to laugh

"The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed."
Nicolas Chamfort
So let's laugh, shall we?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thematic Photographic 400 - Favourites

Soaked, for now
London, ON
July 2015
This entry marks the 400th Thematic Photographic since it all began right here, on June 4, 2008. We've covered a lot of photographic ground in the ensuing 3,172 days (or, if you will, 8 years, 8 months, and 5 days) but one thing has remained fundamentally clear - why we do it in the first place.

Thematic isn't a competition. It isn't formal. It isn't rigid. It's a simple excuse to get out into the world and shoot stuff we wouldn't otherwise have shot, then share it with others. It's designed to help us push our own photographic bounds, to encourage others to do the same, and to have some fun along the way. Life is serious enough as it is, so a little pixellated fun makes as much sense today as it did then.

Thank you for coming along for the ride: I can't wait to see what everyone has in store for the next 400 weeks.

Your turn: This week's very special Thematic theme is favorites. Or, if you're Canadian, favourites with a u. However you spell it, I hope we'll use the coming week to share our favorite pictures. Comment here letting everyone know where to find your work, and drop by other participants to share your own thoughts. If this is all new to you, here's a primer on how Thematic works. Otherwise, have at it, and thanks again.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On the difference between opinion and fact

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Friday, February 10, 2017

Jammed again

Scraping the bottom of the jar
London, ON
February 2017
We all have comfort foods, and one of mine is, strangely, jam or jelly. I think it derives from when I was a munchkin in the hospital and they served it in those plastic-and-foil disposable packets at mealtime. I especially liked the marmalade, and for some reason these little packets became something to look forward to every time the food cart rattled it way across the overwaxed floors into the 6th floor paeds ward.

Strange what we remember, no?

So to this day, I seem to linger over jars of jam at breakfast. I'll often take a couple of jars out of the fridge and plop them on the kitchen table, only to ultimately choose to shmear something else on my bagel. But eating it isn't necessarily the point: Somehow, the mere act of having it nearby is enough to bring comfort before I finish off and head out into the world.

Eventually, however, every jar reaches the bottom. A photo before it hits the recycling bin is a lovely reminder of why a seemingly innocuous breakfast treat deserves to be remembered in the first place.

Your turn: What's your comfort food? Why?