Sunday, November 30, 2008

Caption This 99

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
London, ON
August 2008

It's been a few months since a good friend's beloved family heirloom found its way into our living room. Our kids have since made it their own, often spontaneously sitting down and hammering out songs that they've learned by ear.

The piano has transformed our home in many respects, as it pulls everyone's attention away from things that plug in and isolate and toward something that involves us all. It's a nice change from the ordinary, and I'm so glad the kids have an opportunity to experience it firsthand.

As you can imagine, it results in moments like this that I revel in capturing.

Your turn: Please capture this sweetly-themed picture with a witty caption (see this week's Thematic Photographic for more sweet stuff.) Just click the comment link below and have fun. Enter as often as you wish: I'll post the winner next Sunday. For more info on how Caption This works, click here.

About last week's photo of the fast food garbage bin: Profligate waste is always a sad sight, and apparently one that prompts some serious reflection as evidenced by your captions. Honorable menschens go to the following good folks:
  • Barb: "Wasted."
  • Pamela: "I'm leavin' it."
  • Bob-kat: "Junk food."
  • BreadBox: "Junked food."
  • Anne: "Remains of the day."
  • Moi: "McWaist."
Rattling The Kettle's Garbage in, garbage out takes the cake this week. I'll admit it appeals to my geeky side, but there's a subtle lesson in there, too, and it speaks to me. RTK is a California-based husband, dad, hypermiler and fabulous read. Please drop by his blog and say hi.

The people in your neighborhood

I've learned a number of things since we became dog owners last year. First, no matter how ardently the kids promise that they'll take care of the furball's every need, they inevitably leave the heavy lifting to me and my wife. Second, when you walk a dog as often as I do, you learn a lot about the folks who live nearby.

As an example, there's a lovely woman who lives just around the corner. Her sweet little Bichon, Jewel, often sits on the porch when Frasier and I saunter by. Over the months, I've learned that she visits her Alzheimer's-stricken husband in a nursing home every day, that her son is a dog owner, too, and that she doesn't know what she'd do if she didn't have a dog.

She'll often come to the door when she sees us outside, and when she does we'll chat about neighborly stuff like the weather or the local headlines. In many ways, she reminds me of what life must have been like before kids stopped playing outside and before we entered our houses using remote control garage door openers.

This week, I took a break from writing around mid-afternoon and headed outside with the dog. Jewel was outside, and her mom just inside the screen door. Before I could greet her, she came outside, in slippers and no coat, and addressed me.

"I just heard from my son, and my heart is breaking. They just put their dog down this afternoon, and I didn't know what to say. He cried on the phone, and my son never cries."

Suddenly, I was the one who had no words. I told her I knew what that was like, that I had been there before. I tried to be as comforting as I could from my snow-covered spot on the sidewalk, hoping that a little bit of empathy from a neighbor would bring her a little bit of comfort.

We chatted for a few minutes as I tried to give her something to smile about. I focused on her dog, and talked about how in times of difficulty, our own pets become our security blankets. I knew how much hardship she was under, how difficult her life has been juggling a declining spouse while still being there for her adult kids.

I doubt I found the right words., but when she turned to go back inside, she smiled and said she looked forward to being outside again with Jewel tomorrow.

Maybe that was enough. As long as she keeps looking forward to tomorrow...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sweet, dogged sentiment

Sign of the canine times
Montreal, QC, August 2008
About this photo: We're continuing to plumb the depths of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, sweet. Please click here to add your photographic two cents to the party. I promise it's great fun. Cathartic, even. A new Caption This is coming tomorrow as well. There's still time to share your thoughts on last week's pic. Click here for that.
I've come to the conclusion that the we need to surround ourselves with more happiness. Not everyone's cut out for pet ownership, of course, but for those of us who are, few things can set things straight more quickly or effectively than a couple of minutes with a wiggling being who doesn't speak an identifiable language, can't operate an ATM or otherwise add to the Gross Domestic Product.

If anyone's looking for me, I'll be hanging with a certain slightly psychotic rescued schnauzer.

Your turn: Your most memorable moment with a pet or animal was...?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai through our children's eyes

I'll admit I'm having difficulty making sense of this week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. I can't wrap my head around the complete disregard for human life, the hatred that runs so deep within those who commit these acts that all else becomes irrelevant.

I felt the same way after 9/11, and virtually every other terrorist strike since. But this one had a certain rawness about it. I can't get it out of my head that the Chabad House, an oasis of Judaism in the middle of a massive city, a place run by a gentle family of emissaries who were following their calling to help others, was deliberately targeted, that Jews were killed as part of a larger, unfathomably immense tragedy whose victims all seemed to be hunted because of who they were. That a rabbi and his wife - so much like the rabbi of our city's Chabad House, and his wife, who teaches our daughter - were gunned down in cold blood.

We talked about it with the kids at dinner tonight, trying to make sense of that which makes no sense. Trying to explain why some people don't subscribe to the same fundamentals of humanity that they do. Trying to help them understand why now more than ever, they need to hold on to who they are and never let go.

On Friday nights, we welcome the Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath) in by saying Kiddush, a blessing on wine that give us a chance to reflect on the week and prepare for the day ahead. I'm not especially observant. I could stand to attend synagogue more often, and I figure I'd navigate the prayers more easily if I had more practice. But my wife and I feel strongly about raising our kids in a Jewish home. They know and appreciate the traditions that make us who we are. They understand how our history has shaped us, and why it's our responsibility to carry those lessons with us in everything we do.

So as we sat around the table, listening to them recite the blessings, we realized how blessed we were to even have this moment. That no one came into our house this week and tore our world apart.

But just the fact that they could have. That it could happen here as easily as it happened in Mumbai, New York, London, Istanbul, Madrid, virtually every major centre across Europe and so many other places. It sent a chill down my spine. Tonight we had to explain to our kids that there are people out there who will hurt them because of who they are. And the refrains of "never again" once again seem to be falling on deaf ears.

There are no words to explain how sick it made me feel.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

DQ me

Let's all go to the Dairy Queen!
Lachine, QC, August 2008 [Click all images to embiggen]
About ths photo: We're exploring "sweet" photos as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Please click here to add your photo or link to the party. And if you're joining us from 'A' Morning here in London, welcome. I hope you enjoy your visit. It's always a pleasure to welcome new readers from the region!
If you're from Montreal, you're familiar with "The Lakeshore". Lakeshore Drive runs along the city's southwestern edge and thanks to a string of linear parks and bike paths, has become a popular destination for fitness- and family-minded folks. I used to use it to commute from the city's West Island into the downtown core. A hefty ride indeed, but oh so pretty to behold.

The eastern stretch through Lachine is known as St-Joseph, but the Lakeshore label seems to apply to the entire route. On the corner of 32nd Avenue (map) sits an unlikely institution. Sure, it's easy to dismiss it as just another ice cream shop, a humble little tourist trap that looks and feels like any other humble little tourist trap. But there's something about this particular Dairy Queen that makes it memorable. It's just across the road from the park. There's a lighthouse and a boat launch. Cyclists meander on by, often stopping here for a mid-ride snack. It's a lovely place to just sit and watch people go through the everyday motions of life on the fringe of an overly large city.

When Zach was a baby, we came here to play. We've got pictures of him in his stroller here, frozen in a time when we called this place home. So when we came here this summer, it was only a matter of time before my wife and I took some time to revisit this not-so-forgettable corner of our old hometown. Sure, they serve sweet dairy products. But the real reward is so much more than a frozen confection.

Your turn: Places that matter to you, even years later. Why is that? If you've got such a place buried in your personal history, I hope you'll share it in a comment.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thematic Photographic 26 - Sweet

Mom's Danish
Laval, QC, December 2006
[Click to embiggen - you know you want to]

There's something delightfully sinful about a fresh danish from the local bakery. Thoughts of balanced diets and lean, healthy eating magically evaporate whenever one is in the room. The Dirty Bakery, so-called because it was, um, less than spotless at one point in its history, still stands at the corner of Samson and 2nd Ave. in my old hometown of Chomedey, and remains a mandatory stop when we're headed home from a visit with the parents/grandparents/in-laws. I grew up on stuff like this, and it's a wonder I'm not as wide as I am tall.

I've chosen this picture to kick off this week's Thematic Photographic theme, sweet, not because it's sickeningly sweet in and of itself - rest assured, it is - but because when I took it, the people who mattered the most to me were in the room, and they were happy and healthy. Amazing what a little piece of sugar-rich pastry can evoke.

Your turn: It's time to get thematic! Please share a sweet-themed picture on your own blog, then return here and paste the link in a comment so everyone else can see your handiwork. If you're new to TP, here's how it 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...sweet.
  • 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.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Unwelcome doorway

Sad porch
London, ON
November 2008

Sometimes, it's best that we simply don't know.

Quick note: This is the final shot in support of last week's Thematic Photographic theme, broken. If you'd like to submit something, it's not too late. Please click here. And while you're here, we're also taking caption suggestions for Caption

Our next theme, which will be posted here at precisely 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, will be sweet.

Why sweet? There's just too much sadness and mirth in the world. Every headline is gloomier than the last, and you can hear it in people's voices when they speak. Heck, I can hear it in my own voice. And it scares me a little.

So to combat the blanket of sadness that seems to be settling over the collective us, I'm hoping we can use pictures to tell a sweet story over the next week. It's a wide-open theme this time out. Are you game?

Your turn: Please begin mulling over your sweet-themed contributions to the upcoming TP. And in the meantime, want to hazard a guess as to what happened to this poor door?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Help Desk FAQ

A long time ago, I managed technology help desks for some very large companies. Although it's been years since I traded my headset for a pen, I continue to provide ongoing technology support - and writing help, and whatever else comes along - to a wide range of friends and family members. When the phone rings, I have a hard time saying no. Indeed, all I want to do is make things work for people.

Most folks I work with are overtly appreciative and kind. And make no mistake: I absolutely love helping this vast majority of people. The occasional person, however, still manages to tick me off. Since this is something I gladly do because it's the right thing to do, I thought now would be a good opportunity to review some fairly simple ground rules. Some folks, it seems, need the occasional gentle reminder:
  • Politeness. Kindly say please or thank you at least once. Similarly, if you call my house and my wife picks up the phone, please at least pretend to be glad you've reached her before you hurriedly ask where I am.
  • Effort. If I e-mail you an answer with some suggestions, please don't call me a day later without having first read my message.
  • Time management. If, after an hour of involved discussion, you're still not "getting it" after I've made a dozen different suggestions, please keep in mind that I might prefer to spend the rest of the evening (or Sunday afternoon, or whatever precious little free time I've got) with my wife, my kids, my dog, or alone. I appreciate when folks recognize the value of my time.
  • More politeness. If you've figured things out, please let me know. I like when folks close the loop with me and don't leave me wondering where things are at. (See previous "value of my time" point, as when you fail to do even this, it's clear that my time really doesn't matter to you.)
  • Prioritization. If you call me while I'm working and I can't immediately respond, don't be upset with me. At the end of the day, I have bills to pay, a career to sustain and a family to raise, too.
  • More prioritization. Per the above, if you are upset with me for failing to drop everything and move you to the top of my priority list, I really don't want to hear it.
  • Listening skills & respect. If I set boundaries around how or when to call me, please respect them. Don't keep calling my cell phone during core business hours when I've explicitly asked you to either call the home line or e-mail me during that time.
  • Limits. Know when to say when. I'm happy to share editing tips on your marketing plan and make suggestions on how to punch up that web copy. But if you ask me to make sales calls on your behalf or attend meetings with your marketing team - who you're paying for their time - then you're seriously pushing it.
  • More limits. Don't "hunt" me. What's hunting? It starts with an instant message, then becomes a voicemail at home, a voicemail on my cell, and an e-mail message. Leaving multiple messages in rapid succession will not accelerate my response to you. It will, however, force me to waste time retrieving said multiple messages, and it will accelerate the rate at which I get ticked off with you. Add bonus unhappy points if you try repeat-calling me while I'm in the middle of an interview.
At the end of the day, I'm happy to help. It's my nature to just say yes. But to the relative minority who consistently abuse that trust, please know that this really is a two-way street. I don't expect quid pro quo payback - if you think that's why I do this, then you really don't know me - but I do expect a little respect, empathy and appreciation. If you can't give me at least that, then you may want to find another help desk in future.

Your turn: Am I being too tough here? I'd love to hear your thoughts on your own "help desk" experiences.

One more thing: I know this entry may just upset some folks. I'm sorry about this. But if you're one of the righteous majority - and frankly, 99% of you are in that majority - you know this absolutely doesn't apply to you. If you're one of the 1%, you recognize yourself in this, and you hear what I'm saying, hopefully we'll have a new level of mutually respectful understanding. And if you're not hearing me, I've just gotten back some time to spend with the people who matter most.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Caption This 98

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]
The hinterlands of Southwest Ontatio
July 2007
Before we begin: This photo supports our weekly Thematic Photographic theme. This time out, we're focusing on "broken" and I hope you'll participate in this, too. Head over here to share your broken perspective - after you've left your caption, of course :)
The scene: July 8, 2007, 10:06 p.m. in a McDonald's at a rest stop beside the 401. We've just dropped Debbie off at the airport and are making the two-hour trip back home (thanks, Air Canada, for making it so convenient to fly out of our own city.) The kids aren't happy. They already miss their mom. But she's flying to Montreal to be with her hospitalized mother. Sometimes, life's just like that, and they're learning all too young that things aren't always fair.

Little man is especially sad. As the golden arches glow warmly in the distance, I ask if they'd like to stop for ice cream. Oldest parenting trick in the book, I know, and really cheesy to boot. But if it dries his tears on this night, I'll do whatever it takes.

Three soft vanilla ice creams later, we're sitting in the mostly empty restaurant, looking for happy things to divert our attention. We talk about the dog, whose nub of a tail will wag at light-speed as we pull into the driveway. We mull over what movie to watch for the rest of the ride home. We laugh at how Noah managed to cover half his face with ice cream.

It's a quiet moment at a time when the world around them is anything but, so we linger a little to make it last just a little longer. It meant a later bedtime by the time we got back to London, but it was worth the detour.

Your turn: I took this photo just before we headed out to the parking lot. Our daughter thought it was so sad that all the garbage was overflowing, and there was nary a recycling bin in sight. How right she was. In retrospect, this is a photo that just begs for a caption. Can you come up with one? Please click the Comment link and give me your best. I'll name the winner next Sunday. For more details on how Caption This, my weekly photo caption challenge, works, just click here.

About last week's photo of birds on a hot tin roof: This is one of my favorite photos from a memorable family day at the beach. As the snow gets deeper and the windows slowly glaze over, memories of experiences like this loom large for me. Thanks for coming along for the ride. This week's honorable menschens are:
  • Dana: "Little minds think alike."
  • Salubrina: "To line up, or not to line up."
  • Barb: "Tenhut! About face!"
  • John: "Beethoven said if we sat in exactly THIS pattern, he would make us into musical notes in his next symphony...what's a symphony?"
  • Terri: ""Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
  • Linda: "Climbing the bird ladder of success."
And our winner? Hilary's Gulls just wanna have fun made me laugh out loud. I've always admired Cyndi Lauper for being her own person no matter what anyone else has said, so this one played on a number of levels for me. She's a fellow Ontarian, and her blog, The Smitten Image, is nothing short of a great read. You owe it to yourself to pay her a visit.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

He sleeps, only not here

Little man's having his first sleepover tonight. He had been at his friend's house this afternoon for a playdate. By dinnertime, they were having so much fun that he called and asked if he could stay the night.

His older brother and sister each had a few false starts before they were comfortable staying out the entire night. More often than we'd like to remember, my wife and I drove out at some ungodly hour to rescue a crying munchkin from a friend's house.

They'll deny it ever happened, of course, and when they read this they'll have yet another reason to hate me. Be that as it may, they're both now well past that awkward stage, and can easily make it through till morning without a held hand.

Their younger brother didn't seem to have the same reservations. He just...went. No drama. No nostalgia. When my wife went to the house to drop off his jammies, he grabbed the bag out of her hand with a quick thank you before quickly disappearing around the corner. I guess he didn't want to miss any playtime with his buddy.

He called home at bedtime, and told my wife he missed us and loved us all very much. He wanted us to give his dog a special hug and kiss because he missed him, too. Sweetness remains his middle name.

He'll always be our baby, of course, but today he seemed to shed another small piece of his childhood. I hope I've done a good enough job holding on to all of those little pieces. I hope someday he knows how hard I've tried to hold on to them.

Your turn: You know they're no longer babies when...?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pain in the asphalt

Baked, not fried
Montreal, QC, May 2008

About this photo: We're still sharing "broken"-themed photos as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Click here to share yours. And if you're in a captiony mood,head over here for the latest Caption This. Barely two days before the next winner is named and fame and fortune visit yet another blogfriend's home.
Hospitals are, by definition, depressing places. The good stuff that happens there - namely little people coming into the world and sick folks heroically beating the odds - can't seem to push away the overwhelming gloom of illness and despair.

On this day, we had come to this hospital, where I had ironically been born, to visit my father. Today had been a pretty good day for him, relatively speaking, but I still left the building feeling uncertain about my family's collective state of being. No one likes when loved ones are ill, and we never really accept that our parents can get old and vulnerable.

And as we walked back to the car, I found myself looking down, wondering about things bigger than me over which I seemed to have little control. And all I could see was broken pavement. I'm sure there were nicer scenes down there: nicely mowed grass, perfectly tended gardens, and even the occasional bounding rabbit. But my eyes couldn't see them.

Your turn: Do you look down when you walk? What do you see?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smashed to bits

Deerhurst, ON, August 2006
About this photo: We're exploring "broken" scenes as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Please click here to get in on the action.
There's something to be said for glass that looks like it's been smashed to smithereens, then carefully pieced back together. Depending on one's mood, it looks either incredibly fragile or defiantly strong. Or maybe it can be both at the same time.

Whatever it is, I couldn't stop staring at this ornate piece of melted and styled sand when I came across it in a hotel lobby a couple of years back. The way it played with the light suggested it was anything but broken.

Your turn: Things that look better broken than whole. Please discuss.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thematic Photographic 25 - Broken

Dead end cart
London, ON, November 2008 [Click to embiggen]
About this photo: This entry introduces the new Thematic Photographic theme for the coming week. For the next seven days, we're exploring "broken" scenes. Please read on for more background on this evolving photographic project.
Way back when I was a wee teenager, I started taking pictures because I wanted to capture the beauty around me. I assumed that beautiful scenes were always perfect, dare I say flawless.

I was wrong. Beauty takes many forms, not all of them perfectly formed. That's because people, essentially, suck. They treat their environment with disrespect, they break stuff and they generally leave things worse off than when they arrived. I'm not sure why this is so - this isn't what I learned as a child, for one - but it saddens me when I come face-to-face with the aftermath.

But sad doesn't mean blind. And as much as many of us would rather turn away from scenes like this, I find them curiously lovely. I wonder how this place ended up like this, whether it was ever the kind of neighborhood that didn't give me the shivers, whether the people who live here feel as I do. Or whether they feel anything at all.

As I slowly walk through this dead silent corner of town on a bone chilling Sunday afternoon, I realize I can't answer any of these questions. But it doesn't mean I can't try to tell the story anyway.

Your turn: We're exploring "broken" as part of this week's Thematic Photographic, and I hope you'll take the opportunity to share your own visions of broken. Here's how TP 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...broken.
  • 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.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Bricked

Kinky wall
Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I love textures like this, especially when they're painted in a soft, early-morning light. I hope you do, too. This photo supports the most recent Thematic Photographic theme, rows (click here to submit yours!) I've always been intrigued by bricklayers' ability to build huge, incredibly straight structures. Which is why I never became a bricklayer. I stopped at Lego...for the safety of everyone around me.

Your turn: Our next weekly Thematic Photographic entry will hit the site Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. To get your minds churning, I'll share it a little early. It is...BROKEN! We hope you'll come on back once the new entry is up Wednesday evening.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Trust in humankind
Montreal, QC, August 2008

It speaks volumes about a storeowner who is confident enough to leave inventory sitting on an outside windowsill. It's almost enough to restore one's confidence in the future of the human race. Almost.

I came across this scene while walking through the McGill Ghetto. There's something about dusty old bookstores that just pulls me in. I fear the Chapters-Indigo (sorry, Barnes & Noble/Borders) generation will never get to appreciate the feel of a dog-eared literary retailer. Progress, they call it.

Your turn: Is it? What other genteel slices of life are we losing?

One more thing: Written Inc. hosts two kinda-fun, kinda-kicky weekly activities, Caption This and Thematic Photographic. Click the links to dive into both.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Caption This 97

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]
Port Stanley, ON, August 2008 [Click to embiggen]

As soon as I took this picture, I knew that Tennessee Williams would find it mildly amusing. What's your take on these rows of birds on a beachside rooftop? Have at it...

(And, yes, this photo continues this week's "rows" Thematic Photographic theme. Click here to avoid missing out.)

Your turn: All you have to do is click the Comment link below and leave a witty caption for this photo. For extra fun, pull in unwitting friends and family members. They'll be glad you did. And so will I. Thanks in advance for your contributions! Here's how CT works.

About last week's photo of my father: The picture still haunts me, but sharing it here proved to be a worthwhile, comforting experience. Thank you all for your contributions. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Awareness: "The Eternal Expos Fan."
  • Christy: "Butterfly Moments."
  • Bob-kat: "Fluttering thoughts."
  • Salubrina: "Pool of Reflection."
  • Robin: "If looks could feel."
Anne's "Reflections in the shade" was a standout, and takes it this week. She's a wife, a mom, a really great quilter, and a pretty compelling blogger, too! Her blog, Anne's House, is an absolute treat.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Free parking

London, ON, October 2008

About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores "rows" this week. Do you have a photo or a link that touches on this theme? If so, please click here to get involved.
No one will ever claim that a parking lot is a particularly nice addition to the landscape. From the moment the pavement is first laid down, it begins the inevitable process of deterioration. Eventually, its variable-gray, cracked surface becomes yet another example of urbanity - and it reminds us why it's all so forgettable. Or is it that we wish it were forgettable. Whatever.

As much as I hate these pedestrian-hostile zones, I must admit they take on a different personality at night. Emptiness gives them a reflective feel that just isn't there when the sun is up. Of course, it's hard to be reflective when you're dodging a 3,800-pound Dodge being driven by a cell phone-toting father of three whose only goal is to grab that parking spot close to the door so he can run in and snag that blue-tinted door wreath before they sell out.

At night, you can take the time to look around without fear of being mowed down by bargain-seekers. Peaceful.

Your turn: What night does to a scene. Please discuss.

Rounding up the bylines...

As some of you may know, I live on both sides of the pen, so to speak. As an analyst, I'm interviewed by journalists for content that focuses on the shifting intersection of technology, business and society. As a journalist, I write articles for a range of tech media, including Processor (mainly tech coverage) and Certification Magazine (monthly security columnist.) Here's a rundown of some recent bylines:

Certification Magazine
I'll share more here as more bylined work is published.

Your turn: I love this work. Interviewing people from pretty much everywhere and sharing their stories with a widespread audience is a total joy for me. I'd love to hear any thoughts/suggestions you might have re. who else I should write for. Be creative...I'm looking for more. Thanks!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stairway to heaven

Ascent to the arts
Montreal, QC, August 2008
About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is rows. If you've been wanting to stretch your photographic horizons just a little, head over here and show us what you've got. You'll be glad you did.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is a fascinating place. If you forget that it's home to some incredible works of creative genius, you're left with a complex of buildings that, on their own, are pretty darn artistic. On this day, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the exhibit - Yves St-Laurent - because the works didn't belong to the museum. Anything in the museum's collection is fair game with a lens. But when it's brought in from the outside, no shooting.

So rather than head home empty-handed, I surveyed the crowded entryway with my camera and grabbed as many perspectives as I could before heading upstairs. And in the end, it was the stairs themselves that grabbed me.

Your turn: When I was a kid, I had this alarming habit of falling down the stairs. I'm not sure why I was particularly gravitationally challenged, and I'm thankful I eventually became less of a klutz when manually changing altitude. But I still enjoy the optics of a neat set of stairs. Why the hell is that? What's so appealing about a set of stairs?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A bridge too far

London, ON, October 2007

About this photo: We're exploring rows as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. I hope you'll grab a similarly themed picture from your collection and share it with us. Click here to get started.
I cross over this bridge a number of times every week. The kids' school is nearby, and this structure routinely and silently gets us across the river that runs through our burg. As bridges go, it isn't much: just a flat, concrete deck that's maybe a hundred feet from one end to another. We never give it a second thought. It's just there, one of those forgotten chunks of urban life that, despite their utter invisibility, are critical to everyday life.

Yet when you look at it from an unusual perspective, it takes on a striking beauty that defies the way most folks see it. I think unusual perspectives like this are infinitely more fun than vanilla ones. I need to get out of the usual, you think?

Your turn: Please suggest an unusual way of looking at an everyday object. I'll try to bring back pictures based on your suggestions.

One more thing: I was on TV today, talking about Nortel's latest woes - possible impending bankruptcy and/or asset sale - on BNN's Trading Day. Click here to see the interview. I've also been busy on radio, speaking with CHQR's Rob Breakenridge in Calgary on Google Flu Trends, and Gary Doyle of 570News in Kitchener about the new BlackBerry Curve 8900.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thematic Photographic 24 - Rows

Waiting at the Golden Griddle
London, ON, September 2008 [Click to enlarge]

I'm hoping to keep things simple for this week's Thematic Photographic theme, rows. Basically, anything that lines up is fair game. As ever, I know you'll come up with neat, inspiring and thought provoking interpretations of this theme. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm apparently still working through my morose-themed monochrome phase. Thanks for putting up with it!

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is a little photo challenge that I like to hold every week. It's strictly a fun exercise that lets us explore the world of photography a little and hopefully stretch our skills in the process. It's about getting outside of our comfort zone and hopefully bringing home - and sharing - some neat results. I very much hope you take a shot this week. Here's how it 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...rows.
  • 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.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.
One more thing: Many thanks to my wife for suggesting this week's theme. She's a blogger in her own right, and is the reason I wake up every day and pick up my pen and camera.

Listening to my daughter

Dahlia's tree
London, ON

October 2008

Driving the kids to school is one of the neat things I relish about being a dad. In the overall scheme of life, it's a little thing, right up there with feeding the dog, clearing snow off the car, emptying the table after dinner and tucking in at bedtime. But like all of these supposedly mundane moments, it gives us a chance to just be ourselves and be a family.

So as we drove to school on this bright early autumn morning, Dahlia found herself spotting trees. They hadn't really begun to change colors at that point (it was Oct. 7), but this one stood out in a sea of surrounding green.

She gushed about it, talking about how ahead of the others it was, and how she wished it would stay this bright for a long time. She especially liked how various parts of it were shades of green, brilliant red, and yellow. She's got an artist's soul, just like my wife.

As luck would have it, I had my camera with me that morning. So after I dropped her off, I stopped and grabbed a few pictures of what had now become my daughter's tree.

Over a month later, the tree's branches are now bare, echoing those of virtually every tree in the area, and it luckily escaped damage during the freak blizzard late last month. Every time we pass by, I look for Dahlia's tree and think about that simple moment we shared on an average morning not so long ago. I hope she remembers the experience as softly as I do.

Maybe the little things aren't so little, after all.

Your turn: Are they?

About this photo: Thought I'd sneak in one last autumn-themed picture before introducing the new Thematic Photographic theme at 7:00 Eastern tonight. We'll be exploring "rows" next time out, and I hope you come back - tonight and through the week - to share your vision with everyone here.

One more thing: I've assembled a set of colorful images on Flickr. Click here for more.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Misplaced autumn

London, ON, October 2008 [Click image to embiggen]

I'm stretching things a bit with today's photo selection. This week's Thematic Photographic theme is autumn (click here to jump in now). This photo was taken the morning of Octtober 29th, when London awoke to a freak blizzard that dumped a huge amount of heavy, wet snow on trees that still retained a large proportion of their leaves. The result? Chaos. Everywhere.

The snow was pretty much gone after three days, but sidewalks and streets throughout the city remain littered with massive remnants of entire trees that were brought down. The kids, understandably, are quite upset at what's been lost.

So this is a perfect example of seasons not behaving as they should. Don't you hate when that happens?

Your turn: Three things, actually...
  1. There's still time to participate in last week's Thematic Photographic challenge. Click here to get all autumny.
  2. If you haven't submitted your caption for the latest Caption This, head over here.
  3. Start mulling over the next Thematic Photographic theme, rows. I'll post the first entry for the new theme at precisely 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. But it's never too early to start thinking about how you'll tackle it, right?
Oops, one more thing: For more photos of the Great Freak London Blizzard of 2008, head over to my Flickr set here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remembering why

For those who served
London, ON, November 2008 [Click all images to enlarge]

When the kids have playdates on weekends, I often stay out to avoid the need to make two round trips. I guess it's my small effort to drive less. Lame as this eco-thinking may be, it also gives me an opportunity to cart along the camera and spend a couple of hours shooting pictures of parts of town I'd probably never see. So after I dropped the young lady off, I played with the GPS before finding a nearby cemetery.

I'm not overtly morbid, but the day was as miserable an autumn Sunday as you can imagine: steely gray sky with the occasional wave of angry black clouds, off-and-on spitting rain, and a cold wind that cut through my many layers of Canadian-sensible clothes. But I was feeling a touch melancholy, so I thought a quiet walk in a graveyard would give me a chance to think. And if it resulted in some worthwhile photos, so much the better.

As I walked through the front gates, I felt self conscious, even though no one was around and my camera was still unobtrusively tucked in its bag. But as I got deeper in, I got a little bolder. Before long, I took the camera out, checked the settings and started capturing the scene around me.

I brought a bunch of images home that reflected this week's autumn theme (see Thematic Photographic for more) as well as the upcoming Remembrance Day ceremonies. Tomorrow marks 90 years since the cease fire that ended the Great War's (later World War I) hostilities. I also ended up with a tickle in my throat for my troubles. I guess there's a price to pay for surreptitiously taking pictures in a cemetery.

I still think it was worth it.

Your turn: Ever take pictures in a cemetery or similarly forbidden place? Do tell.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Caption This 96

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]
Laval, QC, August 2008

If it's easier to be healthy than it is to be sick, then it's also easier to have healthy parents instead of sick ones. But no one's life follows a set plan and the path we ultimately take isn't necessarily the one that's most fair.

As many of you may know, my father's path hasn't been an easy one in recent years. Even when he's home from the hospital - as he was during our trip to Montreal in August - he continues to have days, even moments, when the mishmash of overlapping illnesses that have come to define his life choose to make themselves even more obvious.

I was haunted as soon as I took this picture. I almost felt that, as his son, I shouldn't be taking photos that might upset him or my mother. I had been walking along the perimeter of the pool area, shooting inward as he sat quietly beside the water. It wasn't a good day for him. Yet I still shot. And despite an initial urge to delete the file off of the camera, I kept it. And still it bothered me.

Three months later, I've chosen to share it here. On the small chance that he ever sees this, I hope he understands that I capture the things I do not because the world needs to be depicted in airbrushed perfection - i.e. everyone from every generation lined up in neat rows smiling perfect if insincere smiles - but because sometimes things should simply be depicted as they are.

About this photo: I include this image as part of this week's Thematic Photographic autumn theme (available here) because his look suggests reflection. I wonder if, as he stares out at his grandchildren playing in the pool, he's wondering about the seasons, and how they don't just apply to the months of the year, but to our entire lives as well. We don't discuss these things in our family, so I use my camera and my pen to do the discussing for me.

Your turn: Please share a caption for this photo. Unlike past Caption This images, this one isn't funny or flip. Still, I hope you'll give it some thought and share your thoughts in a comment below. For more background on Caption This, please click here.

About last week's image of Frasier tucking Dahlia in: It's moments like this that reinforce why a chaotic house filled with kids and noise is the perfect place for me. Honorable menschens go to the following wondrous folks:
  • MorahMommy: "Tell me a story and then I'll go to bed." (I know she's my wife. She's also really creative!)
  • Moi: "Let sleeping dogs lie." (If only.)
  • Colleen: "A girl's idea of heaven on earth." (Couldn't agree more.)
  • Awareness: "Canine Comforter." (I think he sees himself as warmth personified.)
  • John: "Friendship is the most colorful place to be." (He's certainly become their best friend.)
  • Anonymous: "When Hairy Met Dahlia." (A fan favorite around here.)
David takes it with "Must LOVE dog." He creates wonders with his hands, and is an inspiring person on a number of levels. Please drop by his blog for a congratulatory word or two.

Kristallnacht + 70

Seventy years ago tonight, over 90 Jews were murdered and 200 synagogues destroyed in what has since come to symbolize the turning point in Nazi Germany's campaign to eradicate Jews from the face of the earth. Kristallnacht, or the "night of broken glass," was the flashpoint of five years of rising state-sanctioned anti-Semitism following Hitler's rise to power.

We all know what happened next.

I've already written volumes about my feelings surrounding the kind of institutionalized hatred that drove this darkest period in human history. So I'll resist the urge to add more (links below). But this anniversary, coming barely a week after the U.S. elected its first non-white leader, gives me - and hopefully all of us - additional reason to pause and consider the things that make us different, and the choices we make when we ponder the meaning of these differences.

In other words, it's up to us to decide whether those differences represent an opportunity to learn and advance, or an excuse to hate and destroy. Sadly, the world continues to be filled with too many individuals who would be just as happy rehashing Hitler's victim-as-scapegoat model.

Your turn: Never again. What does that mean to you?

Related blog entries:

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Defiant little buggers

Shades of red
London, ON, October 2004

I find inspiration in little things because, to be quite honest, looking for it in big things is too much work. Take this scene, captured on a long ago lunchtime walk. These leaves were pretty much doomed, but they were destined for one last show of brilliance before they winked out forever. Gotta love that sense of defiance in the face of the inevitable.

And all this from a seemingly lowly bunch of leaves. If only the same kind of thinking could be applied to, I don't know, humans?

Your turn: Little things that inspire you. Please discuss.

One more thing: Blah, blah, blah...Thematic Photographic's autumn theme. Blah, blah,'s the link to jump in. Blah, blah, blah...did you know it's not too late to submit a Caption This caption, too? Just go here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Into the night

London, ON
October 2007
About this photo: We're continuing to follow this week's Thematic Photographic theme, autumn. In this scene, the leaves had already begun their annual journey to oblivion, but were still mostly on the branches. The end was near, I thought to myself, as I shuffled through a few piles of leaves on the ground in search of workable pictures. Please visit here to participate.
There's something forlorn about the outline of a tree on a foggy night. Nothing's clear or well defined. Some branches simply fade into the murk. Others are bathed by streetlamps that glow all night even though no one's around.

It's a weird place to be, but you never know when the fog will roll in and turn an ordinary street just outside the front door into a bit of an optical wonderland. So even though it's late and I really ought to be in bed, I grab my camera and tripod and head outside.

I often wonder why I write and shoot. The closest answer, I think, is that I get to immerse myself in a process that's completely within my control. No one can tell me how to structure a story, for example, or compose a scene. All these things simply pop into my head - how they do this I'll never know - and I rather enjoy following through on that initial spark of...I'm actually not sure what it is, but it's definitely something.

So on this night, I'm working alone, trying to figure out how to expose a challenging light environment that's rather new to me. I'm a little too tired to think straight, but I feel right at home in this magical, temporary wonderland around the corner from my house.

Call me antisocial, but sometimes I'd rather be alone.

Your turn: The eternal sunshine of the solitary mind. Please discuss.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Impressionistic moment

Monet was here
Laval, QC, August 2008

Sometimes, autumn seems to come early. (Please see here for a similarly-themed photo from the same series.)

I captured this photo - which continues our weekly Thematic Photographic theme, autumn (please click here to participate) - while out on a morning walk by the waterways that meander through my parents' and in-laws neighborhood. As I took it, I thought to myself that I need to do this more often.

I've been taking my own advice in recent days, grabbing the camera for a quick walk around the block before I get down to the business of writing for the day. It's a nice break between where I need to be and where I'd ultimately like to be. The shutter, it seems, will always win. And for good reason.

Your turn: Peace by the water. Please discuss.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thematic Photographic 23 - Autumn

At leaf's end
London, ON, October 2008

As you approach this week's Thematic Photographic theme, autumn, I'm hoping you'll cast off our traditional assumptions of what that really means. By all means, I hope you'll share views of colorful leaves, increasingly bare trees and solemn, gray days. But there's more to autumn than leaves and colors. In so many respects, it represents closings, endings and goodbyes. Can you share photos like these as well?

I know you can.

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is our spin on a weekly photo challenge. No money changes hands, and there's no wagering (at least not that I know of), but it's a fun way to stretch your photographic experience and share it with others. Here's how it 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...autumn.
  • 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.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. You have all made this a highlight of my bloggy week.

Obama Nation, Day 1

So Barack Obama is now President-Elect and the U.S. is working through the hazy aftermath of a campaign that lasted almost as long as the previous leader's term (pause to consider. Isn't that fact just silly?) Just wanted to share a couple of thoughts before I forget them.
  • I'm Canadian. Yet I felt connected to this point in history more strongly than I did our country's own recently completed campaign. When political participation once again becomes the widely valued privilege that it ought to be, it behooves other nations - whose citizens long ago decided to opt out of the process - to observe and learn.
  • I fervently hope that the sense of hope that pervades a good chunk of the nation isn't temporary. I hope that the calls for change actually become change, and that our favorite neighbor somehow finds the mojo that helped it become a beacon oh so long ago. That shine has eroded somewhat in recent years, and it would be nice to have it back.
  • Ralph Nader plumbed new depths of divisiveness and reminded us that xenophobia is alive and well. First he used some very unsavory, racist language during an interview with a Houston radio station. Then, during an interview with FOX News, he refused to backtrack from his use of the language, leading the anchor to cut him off. The FOX clip has been posted to YouTube (here) and makes for fascinating, if more than a little disturbing, viewing. Your 15 minutes are up, Nader. Try to avoid hitting any Corvairs on the drive to oblivion.
Your turn: I hope you'll share a closing thought on the campaign that was and the future that will be. How does all of this touch you?

One more thing: The new Thematic Photographic will be posted tonight at 7:00 Eastern.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Brilliance in the dark

Shedding light
London, ON, October 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I've saved this picture as the backdrop on my BlackBerry. Every time I check my e-mail, I'm inspired to look for the wonder in the simple things around me. This may be just a tree. But it's our maple tree, the one that's been growing steadily on our front lawn ever since we can remember, the one that shades the big rock that the kids play on and that the dog tries to climb when he's chasing squirrels, the one that happily escaped damage during last week's freak snowstorm (see my Flickr set for more on that.)

This photo continues last week's Thematic Photographic theme, night. It's not too late to submit yours - we're always happy to have oodles of participants - by clicking here.

Looking ahead, I'll be posting the new TP entry on Wednesday evening at precisely 7:00 p.m. ET. Per our new tradition, I'm happy to give you a sneak peek at the next theme to give you a chance to mull over what you'd like to submit. Our next theme is...autumn!

Have fun...and thanks!

Your turn:
Got a picture that inspires you in some way? Do tell!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Differently abled parking lot

The decline of the American empire
London, ON, October 2008

I like sad pictures, and this is as sad as it gets. A broken sign (a story in itself) in a cracked and stained old parking lot in front of a run-down old discount store in a forgotten, half-empty mall. And it's a gloomy, near-silent night to boot.

The stories this place could tell.

Your turn: What story would you tell about this place?

What's the deal with this photo? We're taking and sharing night-themed photos right through this coming Wednesday. Head over here to dive head-first into Thematic Photographic. Our latest Caption This entry can be found here. Are you game?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Caption This 95

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]
London, ON, October 2008

About this photo: We're continuing this week's Thematic Photographic theme, night. If you want to share your own night-themed picture, please head over here to get started. (And, no, it's not too late. We'll be doing the night thing until Wednesday.)
Tuck-in time is a special time in our house, as it should be. There's something reassuring to a little person about the way we say goodbye to the day. The experience should be fun, happy and comforting.

Frasier's picked up on our ritual, and he often insinuates himself into the process. Our kids are only too happy to have him add his own unique sendoff before he, too, curls up and nods off for the night. It's always the little things that seem to matter most.

Your turn: Please click on the Comments link below and share the most creative caption you can come up with. Have two? Enter as often as you like! See here for details on how the Caption This thing works. I'll announce the winner next Sunday.

About last week's photo of my feet: Business travel can be a real drag when you're far from home, alone, and bored. So as you can see, I take oddball photos to keep myself amused. I was happy to see so many of you appreciate my somewhat stilted sense of humor. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Awareness: "Footloose." (Such a classic movie! The tune's dancing in my head as I write this.)
  • Sara: "TOEtally blocking the view." (Loved the play on words.)
  • Moi: "Happy Feet." (Another favorite flick of mine.)
  • Colleen: ""Toeing the line." (It's been a very music/movie-themed week!)
Christy's "Exhale" reminded me why we need to set aside more time to just relax. I felt like doing precisely this as I lay back in that oh so quiet hotel room. Her caption takes it this week. Please visit her blog, Paul Newman Shirt Days and wish her a happy from all of us. While you're there, I'm willing to bet she'll leave you thinking with her deft combination of prose and photography.

Who should I vote for?

Oooh, we're down to the wire and I've gotta admit I'm enjoying the rising adrenaline levels on the television news networks. Whether you're an Obama booster or a McCain groupie (can he even have groupies? Discuss), you've got to admit that this is a pretty cool time to be alive. Will Wolf Blitzer pop a cornea? Only his opthamologist knows for sure.

Sadly, I can't vote for anyone on November 4th. I'm Canadian, apparently, and I had my chance last month. I voted, of course, because I wanted to retain the right to whine, bitch and moan about the doofii who now claim to represent our interests on Parliament Hill in between expense account lunches and protracted heckling sessions with reporters in Centre Block.

And there's the rub. Loads of people didn't vote in the last Canadian election and it's a sure bet millions will stay away from U.S. polls as well. Maybe I'm super-naive, but it astounds me that anyone would willingly back away from participating in the democratic process. Whoever you support, this is your one shot to be heard.

And if you refuse to take that shot, please resist the urge to say anything about the elected officials you failed to either support or oppose. Kindly keep your opinions to yourself over the entire course of their subsequent term because, frankly, you don't deserve to have a voice at the table. Indeed, you voluntarily pulled your voice from the discussion when you chose to stay home on election day.

Your turn: What say you about folks who won't cast a ballot?