Friday, October 31, 2008

After the shoppers have gone

London, ON, October 2008

I've never been into crowd scenes. The noise and chaos tend to throw my whole sense of balance off. Because of this, I avoid malls and other retail outlets as much as possible in the runup to the holiday season. And over the rest of the year, for that matter.

But that doesn't mean I won't peer through the locked doors of a mall at night and marvel at how the place is transformed by a total lack of humanity. If only these walls could talk, I like to imagine that they'd agree with me.

Your turn: Crowds or lack thereof? Please discuss.

About this photo: We're exploring the "night" theme all week in support of Thematic Photographic. If you've got a pic or link to share - and I sincerely hope you do - then please head on over here to dive right in.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Quick note: If you're looking for the latest Thematic Photographic entry (this week's theme: night), please click here. It's definitely not too late to share some nighttime perspectives.
Headlines like this scare me. Not enough Canadians are donating blood. Reserves are bottoming out and that has dire implications for the state of health care in this country. We've made extensive use of the ER in recent weeks, so it hits particularly close to home for us.

My wife, bless her, signed up to donate blood at a clinic this week. I hovered over her while she was in the chair and silently mused to myself that she looked even lovelier than usual. She's had more on her mind than any one person really ought to have, but she still took the time to give. And looked positively radiant in the process. I guess that's another angle of beauty that you'll never see in a magazine.

She's just like me: not a fan of needles. But she wouldn't let that stop her. I've always been proud of her for so many reasons. Yesterday, I added another one to the list.

One more thing: I'll be at Canadian Blood Services here in London tomorrow morning. If anyone wants to join me, cost of admission is a reasonable $0.00, plus all the cookies you can eat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thematic Photographic 22 - Night

Lots of parking
London, ON, October 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I've always preferred night to day. My eyes, like the rest of me, are weird: I have great night vision. Unfortunately, this light sensitivity comes with a bit of a cost in that I can barely see on a sunny day unless I squint severely or wear sunglasses. So I tend to spend more time outside after the sun goes down than before. I've learned to enjoy the peace and quiet that the darkness brings.

Night is a fantastic time for photography as well. Auto-everything goes out the window. You find yourself juggling with compromise after compromise as you try to sharply capture a scene without a tripod or place to brace yourself. Because you're usually alone - because most sane people are tucked safely and quietly away at home - you get to think through a scene in a place that, during the day, wouldn't offer you the same luxury.

Although photography revolves around the capture of light, and night offers precious little light to work with, it's this precise lack of resources that forces you to bring your a-game every time you decide to take pictures this late in the day. It wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun - or as rewarding - if the process was easy.

Your turn: Got a night-themed image (or two, or seven...)? If so, I hope you'll share it with us. Here's how Thematic Photographic, my weekly educationally enjoyable photo challenge, works:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...night.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
Have fun with this week's theme, and thank you for making Thematic Photographic such a highlight here on Written Inc. For last week's TP entry, please click here. For all TP entries to date, click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Happy potatoes

When dinner smiles back at you
London, ON, October 2008

About this photo: It's happy week all week long. There's still time to contribute to Thematic Photographic's happy theme (click here to get started.) I'll post a new entry with a new theme on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET (yes, precisely.) Scroll down to the bottom of this entry if you want a sneak peek.
We've done a fairly good job winnowing down the amount of fried foods that make it into our kids' tummies. But french fries still find their way on occasion onto the dinner plate. I guess if they have to have an addiction, it may as well be potatoes lovingly prepared by their mom.

The current favorite is the happy face fry. They swear they taste better than the conventionally shaped variety, but the cynic in me believes that's only because they're smiling as they chew.

Your turn: Can you not smile when this appears in front of you at dinner time? Got any other happy food experiences?

One more thing: Because you're all so special, I'll let you in on the secret a little early. Our next Thematic Photographic theme is night. The photo will be up Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET - hope to see you then!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Birthday cake delayed

I scream, you scream. We all scream for ice cream. Cake.
London, ON, October 2008

This is the Dairy Queen ice cream cake that we bought for Zach's birthday. I didn't spend my usual amount of time fawning over it with my lens. No tripod in the middle of the kitchen. No shushing the munchkins while I composed one artsy perspective after another. No collective holding of the breath waiting for the camera to finish doing its thing.

It was a bit abbreviated this year. Birthday boy was still feeling blue (see here for more) so I stuck to a few hasty pictures before my wife lit the candles and hurriedly brought it to our waiting, tired man-boy (boy-man?)

There's always next year.

Your turn: Make a wish. What is it?

One more thing: Thank you all for your very kind birthday wishes. He's quite tickled that you'd all take the time to share such sweet thoughts with him. He was home from school again today, still sick. A second visit to the doc netted a new prescription and an appointment for a chest x-ray tomorrow. I want to talk to the people who said this parenthood thing would be a snap.

Oops, I lied. Make that two: It's a happy birthday cake, which explains the rather tenuous connection to this week's Thematic Photographic theme, happy. Such cleverness, eh? Head over here to share your vision of happiness. And if you haven't captioned yet, please click here to roll the literary dice.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Caption This 94

Please caption this image
[Click here for ins
tructions on how Caption This works]
San Francisco, CA, March 2007

As we've seen with this week's Thematic Photographic journey, happiness can take on many forms. (Not sure what I'm talking about? Click here. I'll wait.) For me, happiness is knowing that I've had a good, productive day of churning and sharing ideas with really smart people, then turning those exchanges into something tangible and cool, like an article or an interview. It's an absolute gas, but often by the end of the day, I feel like I could sleep for a week.

So happiness could mean kicking back with the remote and resting the body and mind for a little bit. We don't always have to be "on", after all.

Your turn: Right? Wrong?

About last week's traffic-themed long exposure: I love these kinds of shots not only because the results are so weird-looking, but because of the process I get to follow in shooting them. There's a certain personal sense of peacefulness - a photographer's zen, if you will - that I get when it's just me, my tripod-mounted camera and a remote control in my hand. It's one of the few moments during any given day when I can completely control every element and ignore everything else. Not that I deliberately want to ignore folks, of course, but there's something to be said for unplugging for a bit every once in a while. I'll stop rambling now. Your turn...

This week, honorable menschens go to the following good folks:
  • Heidi: "Moving at the Speed of LIFE."
  • Awareness: "Life in the fast lane..."
  • Barb: "The River of Time."
  • Em: "Going nowhere fast."
  • Christy: "While I stand still..."
  • Craziequeen: "So, sir, did you get the registration plate?"
  • Bradley: "TRON."
  • Sarah: "Don't blink."
  • Salubrina: "Bended light."
But because there can be only one winner, PastorMac's Ann tops all with "Life went by me like a blur." Made me kinda sad, but it touched on what I felt as the cars whizzed by in the darkness. We need to pause more often, I think. Her blog, It's Always a Production, is a delightfully real peek into the very real, very full life of her family. Highly recommended. Have fun with this week's photo. And no jokes about my feet, k?

One more thing: I've noticed a few comments in recent weeks from visitors who've said they didn't post their own photos because they weren't "perfect" enough. This photo, a quick snap with barely-adequate lighting and composition, is far from perfect, and I'm sharing it here for a reason. Specifically, not every photo needs to be ideal. As long as it sends a message, or touches the eye and the brain in some way, then it's worth sharing. I think we need to get a little more comfortable sharing the merely adequate snaps as well, since photography is more about participation than perfection. I hope this encourages more people to post whatever they've got.

14 years, already?

Older. Wiser.
London, ON
August 2008

Our son, Zach, went to bed last night one age and woke up this morning another. It's been 14 years since he fought his way into the world and instantly turned us into parents. As I write this, I'm shaking my head at the sound of the number, 14. Has it been that long? The calendar says it has, but is certainly doesn't feel like it.

He's had a very tough week. A tenacious case of bronchitis has kept him home from school. He's still feverish, nauseous, exhausted and generally irritable, which is prompting a lower-key strategy to marking the day. Lunch with his grandparents is on hold for a bit, and although he'll certainly blow the candles out on his cake later, I doubt he'll be eating much of it. The cold rain outside probably isn't helping, either.

But this will pass, and when it does he'll still be a newly-minted 14-year-old figuring out his way through the world. He started high school last month, and has been beautifully settling into his very large new world. He's enjoying his classes and his teachers, and is bringing home marks that would make any parent proud. And we are, because all parents really want is for their children to be passionate and successful in whatever they choose. So far, Zach's doing an excellent job of that.

He's been quiet on the nag-my-younger-sister-and-brother front, but we know that'll pass as well once he feels better. Something tells me his younger sibs look forward to that moment, as well. Even the dog wants his big human brother healthy again: no one tosses a chew toy quite like Zach does.

May every milestone from now on be a happy one, Zach, as you continue to grow into the man you're destined to be. May we always be able to celebrate days like this as a family, and may you always be surrounded by the people who care, who matter, and who love you unconditionally.

Your turn: What does/did 14 years on the planet mean to you?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy Po

Teletubby waits in line
Toronto, ON, September 2006
About this photo: We're continuing this week's Thematic Photographic theme, happy. Please click here to share your own happy perspective.
At various times in my blogging past, I've mentioned that I carry around a little Po Teletubby doll on the outside of my beaten-up old camera bag (see here, here and here for archived entries of Po on her travels.) Why do I do this? Well, first, I'm a doof. But more seriously, I'm forced to stare at this slowly-fading and fraying stuffie every time I reach into the bag and grab my Nikon. Her blank little stare reminds me that sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and ignore whatever anyone around you might say.

And speaking of others, I notice that this tiny addition to my bag often causes complete strangers to smile as they realize this grown man is hauling around a four-year-old's plaything. To wit, as I stood in an impossibly deadlocked line of delayed travellers at Canada's largest airport and took this admittedly ridiculous picture, folks around me found a reason to smile amid the chaos.

Whether you call it Tikkun Olam or Pay it Forward, if it brings joy to the world around you then it can't be a bad thing at all.

Your turn: Do you do little happies, too?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The computer people are talking to me

Messages for me?
October 2008

A captcha is a computer-generated sequence of letters and/or numbers designed to ensure that an actual human being has just filled out a form on the Web. It's designed to prevent mass-scale robotic scripts - often used by spammers, scammers and other online malcontents and criminals - from overwhelming a site with junk. Many bloggers use them to control comment spam.

The sequences are supposedly randomly generated. But just as 1,000 monkeys typing continuously in a room will eventually put something coherent together (it may take a billion years and many generations of walls covered with simian-tossed fecal matter, but it'll happen), captchas occasionally resemble words that may or may not exist in reality.

So when this one, fooker, popped up on my screen, I was left wondering if it was intended as some sort of message to me, a silicon-infused warning that I'd better stop fooking with the world. Then, barely 10 minutes later, along came another one, outch. Weird, yes, but worthwhile noting as yet another milestone along the erratic journey through the jungles of modern Internet-borne life.

Your turn: What's a "fooker"? What does it have to do with "outch"? Should I worry?

About these images: They're funny. Or at least I think they are. And funny things make us happy, hence the connection to this week's TP theme. Don't know what the purgatory I'm talking about? Head over here for some answers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happiness is a warm puppy

Someone loves her dog
London, ON, October 2008 [Click all images to enlarge]

About these photos: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is happy. I'd love to see your happy-themed photos. To participate, please click here. If you've already shared one, why not share another? There's always another happy to share, right?
Frasier had a playdate with another miniature schnauzer a couple of weeks back. Roscoe's about the same age - 2 - and wears the same red harness, so if we squinted our eyes just so, it was easy to get the two of them confused.

Much to our relief, the two of them got along very well. Although Frasier's the sweetest dog on the planet - our biased assessment, of course - the breed isn't known as the most, um, calm. He wants to meet everyone he encounters on the street, and he'll bark, loudly, incessantly, until we either pull him out of sight or relent and allow him to approach. Once he has a chance to sniff said stranger out, he's happy. His bark is clearly worse that his bite, as he wouldn't harm a fly. But you can seriously go deaf - and get a great workout in your leash-holding arm - when he sees someone new.

So we were more than slightly concerned that he'd have issues with his newfound mirror-image friend. We needn't have worried. They played, hard, both in the house as well as in the fenced-in running area near our house. We let them run themselves ragged in the vain hope that they'd get a good night's sleep. Silly us: they're schnauzers. They convert the energy of the planet's rotation into the ability to leap wall units in a single bound.

But for the the entire afternoon, they were happy to be together. And all of us were happy to be a part of this informal festival of fur. Sometimes, life is just that simple and just that good.

Your turn: Simple things that make for happy moments. Please discuss.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thematic Photographic 21 - Happy

Into the sky
London, ON, October 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Happy means different things to all of us, and as this week's Thematic Photographic theme, I'm hoping you'll explore the different forms it can take. It can be the obvious - a smiling face, perhaps - or the not-so-obvious. Whatever it is, please have fun with it.

Your turn: Post a happy-themed picture, then leave the link to it in a comment below. For full details on how Thematic Photographic works, please read on:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...happy.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Choices

How much is that cookie in the window?
London, ON, October 2006
About this photo: This is the final picture in support of last week's Thematic Photographic theme, blur. On Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. ET (I know, I'm manic about time) I'll be posting the new TP theme. To give you a chance to churn on it, I'm disclosing it a little early. (Drum roll, please...) The upcoming TP theme is...HAPPY. See y'all Wed. night, right here.
Our kids inherited a lot of traits from me and my wife. One of them is the way they talk with their hands. And when Noah found himself in the coveted spot in front of the display case at the local Tim Hortons, he let his hands do the talking to ensure we brought home exactly what his little tummy wanted.

Your turn: Do you talk with your hands? As Seinfeld would ask, what's the deal with non-verbal communications?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lost in the fog of suburbia

Disappearing act
London, ON, August 2004

We live in a part of the world that has more than its fair share of foggy weather. I admit getting a little jolt of excitement when I wake up and realize the world outside is socked in. Sounds seem muted because folks either stay off the streets or choose to move more slowly on them. The soft light seems to take the edge off of the few things that are visible - it almost seems like the world is a blur (hence the connection to this week's Thematic Photographic theme...please click here to share your blurry vision.)

It usually doesn't take long before the sun comes along and burns it off, but for a short while, anyway, we get to enjoy a bit of nature-inspired peace.

I shot this photo down my street. The graininess is a function of low light, a pretty rudimentary camera and my inability at the time to coax anything better out of this very simple point-and-shoot. But considering that I was wearing my slippers and jammies when I first wandered outside, it turned into a memorable moment regardless. I'm already awaiting our next foggy morning wakeup.

Your turn: What's the first thing that comes to mind when you first peek out the window after waking up and see pea soup fog?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Caption This 93

Please caption this image
[Click here for ins
tructions on how Caption This works]
London, ON, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is blur. Please click here if you haven't yet submitted yours. We're accepting submissions for this theme until next Wednesday.
A funny thing happens in winter when there's little to no snow on the ground: everything feels colder. I discovered this as I waited for our kids' evening program to end at the community centre nearby. Standing on the sidewalk beside an arterial road with a tripod-mounted camera shooting long exposures of passing traffic, I did everything I could to not ruin every shot with my shivering.

That was when I wasn't smiling at passing motorists and pedestrians, vainly trying to convince them that I wasn't insane. Appearances aside, I need to spend more time shooting traffic scenes at night. They have a dreamy, ghostlike quality that reminds me of photography's ability to see things the naked eye cannot. I find that strangely fascinating, and hope you do, too.

Your turn: I need your help coming up with a creative caption for this photo. What would you name it? How does it make you feel? Suggest as many as you wish by clicking on the Comment link below. We'll be taking submissions until next Sunday. If you're new to Caption This and need a primer on how it works, click here.

About last week's photo of a fallen leaf: For reasons I can't quite explain, I love sad, evocative photos. Based on your collectively great submissions this week, you are, too! Honorable menschens go to:
  • Terri: "All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey..." (I love that tune!)
  • Lissa: "Leaf me alone."
  • Linda: "Leave me alone." (amazingly, Lissa's and Linda's entries were submitted one minute apart from each other. You know what they say about great minds...)
  • Sealaura: "I've fallen and I can't get up!" (Because we all love laughing at infomercials.)
  • Lara: "Summer move forward and stitch me the fabric of fall..." (Cool trend this week to quote song lyrics!)
  • The late, lamented Harold Ballard: "In the fall the Leafs hit the road. They will have no better luck than they do at their home games." (Ontarians understand this. Please leave a comment if you'd like more Maple Leafs background.)
  • Judy: "If I have to fall, I'm going out in a blaze of color!"
  • Robin: "Only the great will fall."
  • Heidi: "Transformation."
  • Moi: "There is Death in the air."
  • Anne: "Fell."
Linda's "Fallen beauty" struck a particular nerve this week. It's hard to articulate how images like this make me feel, but her caption came close. If you haven't visited Linda's site, you owe it to yourself to do so (click here). Please say hi when you do!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Media stuff

I've had a fun couple of weeks in medialand. As I do every so often, I try to share links to some of the more notable hits from TV, radio, newspaper and online media sources. One of the neatest was my appearance October 10th on 'A' Morning on London's main television station, 'A'. Host Cheryl Weedmark and I talked about cellphone rate plans. I've been invited back for the morning of November 7th to yak about smartphones.

Business News Network. On October 7th, I was guest judge for a new segment on Stars and Dogs. Anchors Kim Parlee and Andy Bell argued the bear and bull perspective on First Solar, a company that makes a new generation of lower-cost thin-film photovoltaic sheets. I listened in by phone and, when they were finished, I declared a winner and we briefly chatted about the issue. It was a very cool experience - so much so that I'll be doing it again November 3rd! Here's the link.

I was interviewed by BNN's Michael Kane on his morning show, The Street, yesterday. We chatted about Google, IBM and AMD in the wake of their quarterly earnings announcements. Click here to see it.

National Public Radio. Janet Babin interviewed me for her report, Intel processing in tight market, that aired on the Marketplace Morning Report last Tuesday. Click here to read the transcript and listen to the audio.

Canadian Press:
Reuters. Sep 23. Credit crisis may delay Canada wireless plans. Byline Wojtek Dabrowski.

The Montreal Gazette. Oct 11. Google's Android 'opens up' the smart phone. Byline Marc Saltzman.

Centretown News. Oct 9. Viewpoint: Don't expect to see new Google phones in Canada for a while. Oct 9. Byline Brendan Ross.

DPA/German Press Agency. ‘Mobile Internet’ creates a buzz. Sep 25. Byline Andy Goldberg.

Financial Post/National Post. Sep 26. RIM misses the mark for second quarter in row. Byline David George-Cosh.

Globe & Mail. Sep 24. Why can't Canadian parties connect with young voters like Obama does? Byline Brodie Fenlon.

BetaNews. October 14. Analysts: Will $999 MacBook have an impact? Byline Jacqueline Emigh.

IT World Canada. Oct 16. Magician sues Molson over iPhone app. Byline Nestor Arellano. (Where I rant on the silliness of mobile beer software.)

And if you want to listen to be chat about tech, I'm on Toronto's AM640 most Friday nights. John Downs and I talk tech, then open the phone lines up to callers. You can listen in at And if you're really feeling cheeky, you can even call in and try to stump me!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The best photography only LOOKS insane

After they change. Before they fall.
London, ON, October 2008 [Click all images to embiggen]

How to freak the other parents out at end-of-day-pickup from school in 8 easy steps.
  1. Get there a few minutes early. Park close enough for waiting parents to see you, but far enough to force you to walk for a bit. Go on, the exercise is always a good thing.
  2. Exit vehicle and make sure your camera is visible to all.
  3. Fiddle with said camera as you walk. Make it look like you're really into it.
  4. Walk up to the most colorful tree you can find and stare at it. For added effect, walk to a couple of different vantage points before you initiate your little one-sided staring contest
  5. Reconfirm camera settings - best bet is to flip it into manual, drop the ISO as low as you can, use a small aperture and the slowest shutter speed you can get away with. (I used f/32 and 1/8 sec and ISO 100 for this shot.)
  6. Hold camera up nice and high in front of you, well away from your body. Wave it diagonally up and down as you repeatedly trip the shutter. Bonus style points if you get a crazed look in your eyes and/or gyrate like an imbalanced gyroscope. Don't forget to put the strap around your neck, as a flying camera would be a Very Bad Thing.
  7. Back up. Repeat.
  8. Step forward. Repeat. (Alternatively, change your zoom settings between each set. If your camera has a continuous-shoot feature, use it.)
I swear the other kids' parents thought I had lost it as I waved my SLR wildly from the middle of the parking lot. No one asked me what I had shot after I closed up shop and fetched my munchkins. I think they may have been afraid.

For the record, here's what the tree looked like without the slow-mo shenanigans. Neat, isn't it?

Your turn: Have you ever freaked people - strangers or folks you know, whatever - out while taking pictures? Do tell!

Why the blur? My weekly optical challenge/extravaganza known as Thematic Photographic is zooming in on blurry pictures all week long. If you haven't yet shared something, please proceed here to get started. You've always wanted an excuse to share blurry photos. Now's your chance!

One more thing: I've got a Flickr page (I know, please contain yourselves.) Because this is the season of color, I've saved a set known as "Color" (creative, eh?) You can find it by pointing your browser to Hope you enjoy 'em!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber? Nah, just my kid

Impending splash
Laval, QC, August 2008
About this photo: We're exploring blurry pictures in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Got a fuzzy image (or seven) to share? Head over here to get started, as the party's just getting underway.
He plays with a spirit that can't help but make those who watch him smile. Whatever he does, he gives it his all. At moments like this, I find myself learning important lessons from him.

Your turn: Where do they get their energy?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thematic Photographic 20 - Blur

Metro, departing
Montreal, QC, August 2008

For this week's Thematic Photographic theme, blur, I wanted a chance to share some pictures that might otherwise not make it out of the virtual shoebox. We've been conditioned to believe that only the sharpest pictures deserve to be kept and shared. Anything remotely fuzzy or blurry is either tossed out entirely or relegated to the dusty shadows of the archives.

That's kinda too bad, because blurs can be fun. We spend much of our day moving around, so it makes sense to reflect movement in our photography.

Then there's the perfection thing: As much as I try to achieve perfection in every shot I take, the bad angel on my other shoulder constantly reminds me that the world isn't a perfect place. And since photography is supposed to more or less reflect how we see things, then it's easy to conclude that not every picture needs to be tack sharp either.

So as you decide which pictures to share this week - and I do hope you'll share many - please focus on the ones where focus may have taken a back seat, where motion tells the story in ways that would have made your parents' generation cringe.

Your turn: Give me your best blurry pictures. We've got a week to explore the dickens out of this theme. I know you're up to the challenge. If you're just joining us, here's some background on Thematic Photographic:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...blur.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Beached

Not quite lost at sea
London, ON, October 2008 [Click to embiggen]

A beautiful afternoon at the playground with our kids. An unknown child's lost toy, abandoned in the middle of the sand. Ignored by everyone. Except me.

Strikes me as a little sad. You?

Your turn: This photo continues last week's Thematic Photographic theme, grounded. I hope you'll click here and join in before I post the new entry for next week's theme. That theme will be blur. Do you have a blurry shot hanging around? We'll be softening the edges and celebrating blurriness all week, starting Wednesday evening at precisely 7:00 p.m. ET. Until then, look back and share a grounded-themed picture.

Monday, October 13, 2008

He grounds her

Comforting shoulder
London, ON, October 2008
About this photo: Another in this week's Thematic Photographic theme, grounded. Have you submitted yours yet? No? Please consider this link (right here) your personal invitation. It won't hurt a bit. I promise.
I'm surrounded by pet people. These folks - often called dog people, cat people, or whatever-animal-floats-your-boat people - are different. They seem to exhibit a little more kindness, a little more gentleness, and little more empathy. Pet people reach out to beings who can't possibly repay the favor. At least not in the tit-for-tat, payback-focused way that seems to underlie many human-human relationships.

Pet people don't expect anything in return from the animals around them. The payback, such as it is, is simple: a wet nosed kiss when you're feeling alone, a curled-up nuzzle when the world's been just a little rough, a spirited game of catch in the living room when you need a quick happy.

Dahlia needed a little comfort the morning this was taken, and Frasier was there for her. He gives hugs. Cuddly ones. And for a little girl who woke up on the wrong side of the bed, all she needed was a quick moment with her beloved dog to get her smile back. She gets the pet people thing. So, apparently, does our dog.

Which is my long-winded way of saying how happy I am to share a home with a wiggly, 20-ish-pound ball of fur who never ceases to keep us all grounded.

Your turn: Animals don't speak any recognized language. Nor do they earn a paycheck, help with the mortgage or drive the kids to school. So, why do - or would - you have one in your own home?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Caption This 92

Please caption this image
[Click here for ins
tructions on how Caption This works]
London, ON, October 2008 [Click all photos to enlarge]

Quick note: This photo continues our Thematic Photographic theme, grounded. Have you shared yours yet? If not, please click here to get in on the fun.
Autumn has always struck me as an incredibly poignant time of year. On the one hand, the leaves blaze with color that can render even the most hard-hearted person breathless. On the other hand, the glory lasts for all of a blink before said leaves fall ingloriously to the ground and decay into messy, forgettable shreds of compostable material. Few seasons offer such a contrast between high and low.

Oddly, I spend more time looking down than up - I guess I find the sad stories a little more compelling. This forlorn sight of a single leaf on an otherwise featureless stretch of pavement will stick in my head through the upcoming months of snow and ice. I guess it's one last reminder that we have the smallest slice of time to capture moments like this before they're gone forever. Or until next year.

Your turn: Please come up with a caption - funny, sad, whatever you wish - for this image and share it in a comment. You may submit as many as you like, as we encourage multiple-captioners. I'll announce a winner next Sunday. For a bit more background on how Caption This works, please click here.

About last week's image of our youngest son watching the toaster: Of all of us, Noah has been enjoying the new toaster the most. Must be his waffle phase. Or his bagel phase. Either way, he's happy. So we're happy. I'm also happy with the following honorable menschens:
  • Judy: "A watched toaster never pops."
  • Christy: "Toast Whisperer."
  • Bradley: "After having put all of his bread into the small appliance market, Dougie was dismayed to find that his investments were toast!" (So appropriate given the week we've just had!)
  • Sealaura: "Quiero mi eggo"
  • Pinky: "I'm not gonna jump, I'm not gonna jump!"
  • Chezchani: "A Toast! To Breakfast!"
Carli takes it this week with her subtle submission, "Bread from anticipation." Noah's at an age where patience doesn't always play as large a role in his day as perhaps it should. He's a light-speed kind of kid, so later always takes a back seat to now. Carli's caption fits him - and this moment - perfectly. Carli has just launched a new site, The Present Professor. As holiday season looms, use it to guide you through the Byzantine process of finding just the right gift for whoever you're stuck buying for. She's someone you'll really want to know.

Have fun with this week's caption!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Turning the lens inward

You meet some really neat people when you choose to maintain a blog. I count Melissa Bartell among them, so when she asked me if I would agree to be featured in the September-October edition of the All Things Girl online magazine, I knew it would be a neat experience.

The piece, Man of the Moment, has been published here. If you ever wanted to know a little more about who I am and what makes me tick, now's your chance.

My thanks to Melissa for turning a nugget of an idea into something I'm quite proud of. Sometimes, you really do open your eyes a bit more when you turn the lens inward.

Related links:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Viper's den

Ground effects
London, ON, September 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I'll admit I'm playing fast and loose with this week's Thematic Photographic theme, grounded (see here to participate. It's the most fun you can have with, um, your clothes on.)

The Dodge Viper - I found this one sitting near our van on a grocery run to Loblaws last month - is one of those cars that polarizes. Either you get it, or you don't. If you get it, you're okay with its outrageously powerful V-10 that sucks back gas at a criminal rate. If you don't get it, you're thinking something that expensive really ought to have lower door sills that don't burn your legs as you try to pull yourself out of the vehicle.

That's because the car's very hot exhaust pipes run inside those shapely lower panels from under the Viper logo to the side-turned exhaust tips just in front of the rear wheel. Rocker panel extensions like this are often called "ground effects" bodywork because they, in theory, clean up the aerodynamics in this highly transitional zone.

On a car like this, I don't fully buy the technical explanation. Simply put, it's supposed to look outrageous, which is the entire point of this vehicle. And because I can stick a "ground effects" label on this pic, and because there is a tiny bit of ground still visible here, I'm voting for inclusion in this week's "grounded" theme.

Yeah, I'm OCD that way.

Your turn: Got any other out-there interpretations for this week's theme? What does the word "grounded" mean to you?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Shoeless Joe

Fill these, please
London, ON, September 2008
Photographer: Noah Levy
About this photo: Thematic Photographic is exploring the "grounded" theme all week long. Head here to see where it all began. Today's picture was taken by our son, Noah. If you're joining us from 'A' Morning, I'd like to welcome you aboard, and hope you enjoy your visit here. It's always great to have neighbors drop in to say hi.
This is what happens when you give your camera to an eight-year-old. Aside from the heartstopping insanity of watching this little being hold this rather large, expensive camera (explanation for my insanity: it's insured) I had the privilege of watching him compose each picture. Scary thing is, he gets the same look in his eye that I do! And as you can see, he's similarly, um, different in his compositional style.

Chalk up another joy of parenthood, and look for more photographic output from all our kids - they've all been bitten, it would seem - in future entries.

Your turn: Kids taking after their parents. Please discuss.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Thematic Photographic 19 - Grounded

Sidewalk crush
London, ON, September 2008 [Click to embiggen]

This week's Thematic Photographic theme, grounded, deals with something that we literally touch almost constantly, yet hardly ever give a second thought. It's often a dirty, unkempt place. We don't dare get close to it because everyone around us seems to find that odd. Don't believe me? Next time you're in a public place, sit on the floor. Then look at the faces around you for a reaction. I do it all the time, just because.

So for the coming week, I hope you'll take a moment - or many moments, because we encourage multiple participants - to get down and view the world below our feet. Point the lens down, put the camera down and point it up...whatever comes to mind. As you think about what you'd like to shoot, please keep in mind that the goal isn't necessarily a literal picture of the ground. Rather, I hope you'll continue to freely interpret the theme. What does "grounded" bring to mind?

Why do I do this? Because photography should be about going outside what you've already done, to seeing the world around us from a slightly - or not-so-slightly - different perspective. If you get to cover some new ground along the way and share it with others, then Thematic Photographic has achieved its goal.

Your turn: If you're a TP vet, you know what to do. If you're joining us in progress, here's the quicklist of instructions:
  • Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...grounded.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
To see past TP entries, click here. I hope you have a great time with this one!

One more thing: If you live in London, I'm scheduled to be on the 'A' Morning show on our local 'A' television station (formerly A Channel, formerly The New PL, etc.) Here's the Web site. Host Cheryl Weedmark will be interviewing me Friday morning at about 7:15. Topic: saving money on your cell phone rate plan.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - The sky's the limit

Swing kid
London, ON
July 2008
Attention Thematic Photographic folks: This picture is the last in our kids theme first posted last Wednesday. If you'd like to share a kid-themed photo, please click here to dive in (and, yes, if you're here for Wordless Wednesday, you're absolutely welcome to join in the Thematic insanity.) If you're curious about the new theme, coming Wednesday night, please scroll to the bottom of this message.
The sun was fading behind the treeline as I gathered up the kids from the neighborhood playground and we began the short walk home. They slowly dragged themselves away from the swings and the climbers and chattered amongst themselves as we made our way out of the park.

A group of older kids - tweens or early teens, maybe - had arrived and one of them seemed to be attempting to break free of gravity. I could hear the rusty chains protesting the abuse as the group faded into the distance. I wheeled around and grabbed this last silhouetted image before we continued on our way.

Your turn: Our next Thematic Photographic theme is grounded. If it has anything remotely to do with the ground, we want to see it. Considering it's something we stand or sit on pretty much constantly, I'm sure you'll all once again come up with some neat interpretations of the theme. Entry will be posted at 7:00 p.m. ET sharp Wednesday. I invite you to come back then and share a photo or link. In the meantime, we're still accepting submissions for last week's kids theme.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Shaina punim

Levy faces
London, ON
October 2008
Click all images to enlarge

Quick note: We're dealing with kids all week long as part of the latest Thematic Photographic theme. Click here to jump in with both feet. Head over here to participate in the latest Caption This. Either way, you'll smile.
If you ask my kids, they'll tell you I probably take too many pictures of them. Even though I've never been a fan of the posed shot, and shudder at the prospect of ordering people around to fit my perception of reality, it's not too difficult for a child to become a little self conscious when dear old dad is snapping away at the oddest moments. I get that. I also get that sometimes they want it to be turned off.

But they have so much of my wife in them - the way they look, talk, walk and carry themselves - that I often can't resist picking up the camera and risking their kid-wrath. They'll thank me for it eventually, I tell myself. They don't appreciate the historical value of these pictures, I continue. Then I add a little whipped cream for good measure: they'll make great slide show material when they get married someday.

Okay, let's not go there for a couple of decades, shall we?

About these photos: Zach's on top, Dahlia's next, then Noah takes us home. Sometimes I think I've evolved into the storyteller that I am because we had them, that I wouldn't be anything like the person I am if we hadn't become parents.

Your turn: So, will the grandparents be pleased? How long till they start asking for the next batch of pictures?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Caption This 91

Please caption this image
[Click here for ins
tructions on how Caption This works]
London, ON, October 2008 [Click all photos to enlarge]

Quick note: This week's Caption This supports the latest Thematic Photographic theme, kids. Got a kid-related pic? No matter how bizarre, we want to see it! Click here to get started.
Our toaster oven died this week. Unfortunately, it chose to not go quietly. Its timer failed, which resulted in it swiftly and thoroughly igniting itself, its contents, and very nearly our house. Two days after it sent flames shooting up the front of our kitchen cabinets, I'm still smelling smoke when I walk into the house.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the filming of this Levy family vignette. Unbelievably, there isn't so much as a mark anywhere near where the old toaster once lived. We're incredibly lucky, and we all know it.

So we decided it was time to give up on the toaster oven form factor once and for all. I've lost count of how many we've had since we got married (I know, I kill small appliances. Report me to the authorities. But I digress...)

Since we only use the thing to toast bagels and bread, we decided to replace it with a conventional 4-slice toaster. After an intense bout of online research and extensive family discussions around the kitchen table, Debbie and I picked up a lovely, retro-style unit with a working timer. I checked. Twice.

Breakfast this morning was a memorable event. I swear if I had known that a $60 toaster would get our slowly recovering son so excited about toast, I would have bought it months ago. Here, he waits for the first slice to come out of his flameless new toaster. As ever, I need your help naming/captioning the photo of our son and his new appliance (I included the other pics for context only.)

Your turn: Please suggest a creative caption for the photo at the top of this entry. You can enter as many times as you wish over the next week. I'll announce the winner next Sunday. Wagering isn't permitted, but pestering your in-laws for an idea or two certainly is. Most importantly, have fun with it - that's the whole idea of Caption This! The rules, such as they are, are here.

About last week's self-portrait shadow pic: I don't take many pictures of myself, so when I do, I try to make 'em stand out a little. It was the end of a late afternoon with the kids at the playground. I was letting them run themselves ragged in the vain hope that they'd sleep well that night. Didn't happen - and, frankly, never does - but it was worth a shot. While they played in the sand, I played with light. Here are this week's honorable menschens:
  • Terri: "A shadow of your former self."
  • Melissa: "Stilted?"
  • Lissa: "Bigger than Life."
  • Andrea: "Ho Ho Ho...Green Giant" (I loved that commercial as a child!)
  • Sister AE: "Walking tall."
  • Salubrina: "Human sundial."
  • Sara: "Stretch of the imagination."
  • Judy: "Do these pants make me look taller?"
Christy takes it with the lovely play on words, "Sanding on the Shoulders of Giants." I can almost hear the music playing as I read it! She paints, she writes and she shoots - incredibly well. Please visit her blog to congratulate her. Thanks, everyone, for playing along this week. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with for this one. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

OJ found guilty. Steve Jobs isn't dead. Or dying.

More kid-themed pictures coming soon (no, it's not too late to submit something for Thematic Photographic.) But a couple of newsy stories have infiltrated my brain today...

1. The Juice heads for the slammer

So OJ Simpson was finally found guilty of something. Thirteen years to the day since he was found not guilty in the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman (justice, eh?) he was convicted in a Las Vegas court of robbery.

I can't help but think that karma is a cast iron b---h, and she'll eventually catch up to you if you've chosen to lead your life in a way that would make your Kindergarten teacher shake her head in shame.

My enduring memory of the fallen sports "hero" (we've got to stop overusing that word, but that's a topic for another day) is how he vowed after his initial acquittal to do all he could to find the real killer. If "doing all he could" involved playing countless rounds of golf and shielding his income to keep the Brown and Goldman families from collecting the judgment awarded them in a subsequent civil suit, then I guess he lived up to his commitment.

2. Steve Jobs not dead yet

A so-called iReporter (think a regular Joe who provides "reporting" to a CNN-sponsored site in exchange for...nothing) posted a fake story yesterday that said Apple's CEO had suffered a heart attack. This precipitated a huge selloff in Apple stock, dropping share values by 10% before it was revealed that the posting was a fake and Steve Jobs was, in fact, fine.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating, trying to find out who this anonymous poster, known as "Johntw", is so they can nail his proverbial tail to the wall. Were I him, I'd be in Tahiti by now. Quick lesson for the rest of us: Anonymous posters = zero credibility.

This will doubtless reignite the blogger vs. journalist argument that's been raging, uselessly, for years now. Bloggers are not subject to the same checks and balances that govern traditional media, so why anyone would equate the two is beyond me. This should serve as a textbook example of why unvalidated "news" can be a minefield for producers and consumers alike. And traditional media's drive to turn regular folks into wannabe-journalists is, at best, a joke.

Your turn: Haven't seen a whole lot of headlines on either of these stories. What gives? What think you?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Up past his bedtime

Late night by the water
Boynton Beach, FL, December 2007

About this photo: The Thematic Photographic theme, kids, continues. It's not too late to submit your own, as we're accepting submissions right up until the next theme is announced next Wednesday. Have you shared yours yet? Click here if you haven't. Come to think of it, click the link even if you have! And if you haven't captioned, head here to take your best shot at wordy glory.
When my uncle took us for a nighttime drive to the Boynton Beach Inlet - a lovely waterside facility that on this evening played host to a colorful group of fisherman, Iraqi and Vietnam war vets and a friendly bunch of retirees hanging out in the fluorescent-lit veranda by the Coca Cola machine - I saw it as an opportunity for Zach to (figuratively) shake off the cast he'd worn on his leg since his accident in September and spend some time away from his younger siblings. He needed a change of scenery, and this was just the place for him.

We could hear the ocean waves crash ashore across the road. In the picture above, Zach looked over the channel between the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterway. Behind him, we could hear little pockets of activity underneath the yellowish light. We wondered if this place would be as cool during the day as it was on this night. We agreed a return visit under the sun was in order.

Your turn: A place that sticks out in your mind as particularly memorable. Please discuss.

One more thing: Thank you all for your words of kindness and support toward our son, Noah. Got him into the doc this morning, and she diagnosed bronchitis. As my wife and daughter are just getting over their respective cases, it's only fair that Noah continues the family tradition. Zach and I will be hiding in the garage until this all blows over (kidding!) He started taking his antibiotics - like a champ - today and we're hopeful they'll kick in soon. Anyone want to see my additional strands of gray from this past week?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tough week for a little man

He plays
London, ON
September 2008

About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is kids. Got a kid-like pic to share? No matter how remotely related it is to the theme, I hope you'll head on over here and join the TP party.
Our youngest son, Noah, has spent a lot of time hanging out at home this week. Not by choice, mind you. He's been running a fever since Monday, and since he absolutely must follow the most treasured traditions of our little family - we run very hot when we're sick - he's routinely topped 104 and even touched 105. I guess you're not a parent unless your kid scares you now and again.

When his temp wouldn't come down on Tuesday night, I loaded him into the wondervan and drove through the rainy darkness to the ER. (Note to G-d: I know it was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I know I did A Bad Thing by driving on this High Holy Day. But I've always been taught that health takes precedence over holidays. And even if it doesn't, he's my kid. Revoke my membership if you must.)

Typical Noah, he chattered all the way down and charmed the pants off of the triage nurses and doctors when we finally got there. I guess they were relieved to treat a sweet kid in blue jammies who politely answered their questions through huge blue eyes.

He hung out in a bed just a couple of curtains down from the bed where his older brother's broken leg (see here, here and here for more) had been treated just little over a year ago. And after a while, when the friendly doc said it was probably some sort of infection and discharged him, he picked up his blankie, said goodbye to the docs and nurses, grabbed my hand and walked with me back into the damp night. Another adventure for a little man who probably just wanted to be at home, in bed, healthy and comfy.

We kept him home from school today, and tomorrow's a likely sick day, too, while I try to get him back to our family doc for something hopefully more definitive than "some sort of infection." No parent ever wishes for a child to be sick, of course, but I'll quietly admit to liking this unplanned time with him just a little. It's another chapter in his life that I'll remember in technicolor as he continues his rush toward adulthood. I hope he'll remember our grand adventure to the ER, too, and smile at the memory as well.

Your turn: Making sick folks - of any age or size - feel better. Please discuss.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thematic Photographic 18 - Kids

Dahlia's balloon
London, ON, September 2008 [Click to embiggen]

While driving home from a friend's birthday party, Dahlia spotted a hot air balloon launching from the park in front of her favorite bowling alley. When she asked if we could stop and watch it, I had to hide my own excitement as I carefully pulled over and turned into the parking lot.

By the time we got out of the car and I had my camera in hand, the balloon was too far away for a decent close-up. But our daughter is always game for a little fun, so she gamely pretended to squeeze the snot out of the balloon as I crouched down and tried to line up the scene. Will it win an award? Probably not. But it managed to capture the kind of simple moment I wish more parents could have with their kids. Even if I hadn't gotten the picture, I'd treasure the experience anyway. I know she will, too.

Your turn: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is kids. Do you need to take an actual picture of a kid? Absolutely not. How you interpret the theme of the week is entirely up to you. I once again look forward to seeing how creative you all are. As a reminder, here's the lowdown on how this weekly insanity works:
  • Every Wednesday evening, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
(Oops, almost forgot: happy new month, everyone! Please pay it forward, if you can. Either that or call your mom.)