Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thematic Photographic - Delayed

Why is there not a new Thematic Photographic entry on this lovely New Year's Eve? Well, since I've got a rapidly discharging laptop battery, I'll use point form:
  • No wireless where we're staying
  • Search for wireless in swimming pool
  • Attract attention of one of the guys putting up decorative lights for tonight's big shindig
  • He asks if I can see his router
  • Turns out he's "Stan", whose router I surreptitiously borrowed this morning
  • Advises me he's turned it off for the evening
  • Apparently so have all the other residents of this decidedly non-geeky 'hood
  • I wander the parking lot looking for a signal
  • Find one...way down the street
  • Am sitting on a concrete block beside someone's parking spot, contending with a signal that drifts in and out
  • Would like to sit here and compose a thoughtful entry to end off 2008, but can't get past the fact that said concrete block is precisely one-third the size of my tailbone. An ergonomic workspace this is not
  • I suspect my wife's wondering where I've gone. Must get back inside soon before she sends the search parties after me
  • Will upload new TP entry when connectivity is restored. Morning, perhaps?
  • In the meantime, I'll share that this week's (indeed, year's!) kickoff photo has something to do with witnessing a beachfront sunrise with my wife, and why everyone deserves to start a new day feeling as good about the world as I did sitting in the cold sand beside her.
May the coming year be a blessed one for you and everyone who's important to you. Please know that your sharing in this little journey of mine has enhanced my own year, and I look forward to seeing what the next year has to offer us all.

All the best, and onward...


I've been sitting poolside for, oh, I guess the better part of the last hour. I've been trying to get some serious photo editing work done, but I can't because the very friendly residents here keep wandering over to the strange guy with a laptop and a camera to ask what the heck he's doing. Inevitably, long, meandering conversations ensue.

The schedule-driven me would be a bit annoyed that I'm being taken off task. After all, my world typically revolves around time, along with my ability to get the most out of what little I've been granted. But a funny thing happens when you've deliberately pulled yourself out of that deliberate world for a bit. Time suddenly loses its edge. You lose the watch on your wrist. You're kind of aware of when you need to be back, but you refuse to let it take over your existence.

So instead of being annoyances, the conversations turn into neat opportunities to connect in similarly neat ways with utter strangers.

One gentleman stops swimming laps to ask me about my camera.  He used to haul around bags filled with Konicas and Bronicas and now rhapsodizes about the Sony point-and-shoot that he takes everywhere in his pocket. Water drips down his bathing cap and onto his smiling, wrinkled face as he talks about how liberating it's been for him to have a tiny photo studio in his hand. He often shoots hundreds of pictures in a single day, just like me, and  thanks his lucky stars that he no longer spends an arm and a leg to pay for film and processing. Also, just like me.

A friendly woman with dyed black hair wanders over to me while I'm shooting closeups of moisture-laden lounge chair webbing. She stands between me and the sun, casting a shadow directly into my shot, and begins chatting before I can even remove my eye from the viewfinder. She suggests I shoot a nearby palm tree, then enthusiastically agrees with my strategy when I tell her what I'm really up to. She rubs zinc into her face as she tells me how happy she is that she gets to see pictures of her grandkids online, all thanks to digital and a daughter-in-law who loves her camera, too.

Before long, they head into the pool and I return to my still-waiting laptop. The work will get done eventually. The moment I've just had will burn itself into my memory for decidedly longer.

Your turn: Connecting with strangers. Please discuss.

One more thing: Thematic Photographic returns with a new entry tonight at 7:00, so I hope you'll take time out from your new year festivities to ring out the old year with a photographic thought or two. In keeping with the season, our theme for next week will be "new".

Monday, December 29, 2008


It dawned on me recently that the things that matter most are the things we cannot buy. I've known this all along, of course, but I guess I'm simply starting to realize the stark reality of it all. Life's precious, my kids aren't getting any younger and my wife deserves my undivided attention when we're on vacation. And the rest of the year, too.

So you may have noticed that I'm not posting every day. Or every second day. Or third, come to think of it. I'm not wearing a watch and I'm paying zero attention to my calendar. The BlackBerry sits silently and ignored somewhere deep in my camera bag. I use my laptop, but only to offload pictures from my camera - it helps me relive each day before we fall asleep. You don't want to see pictures of me, as I've lost track of where my razor is. I have no idea where my shirts, ties and suits have gone. And I don't much care.

Caption This, usually published on Sunday, is late this week. I'll get to it when the spirit moves me, I guess. Thematic Photographic? Same thing.

Don't worry, though. I'm not disappearing. I'll return to full-bore blogging in a few days, after we return to our regular life's routine. But for now, I've hit the pause button, and it feels cathartic. I needed this more than I was willing to admit. My family did, too, and I hope you and yours are able to do the same.

Your turn: How do you turn the volume down in your own life? What do you learn in the process?

Related link: Updated pics...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Little man, quiet moment

Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2008
[Click to enlarge]

About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is holiday. As you make new holiday memories with the folks who matter the most, I hope you'll pop over here and share a few with us. Whatever you're celebrating, please know I wish you only happiness, health and every other form of goodness.
I like to hang back and watch my kids play because I know all too well they won't be kids forever. Although logically I know there's no way I can capture or remember every little moment that comes along, the emotional me still wishes that could be true. So as a means of compensation, I often find myself standing around the perimeter looking in, trying to mentally snapshot the moments that seem to matter most.

This one struck me as soon as I took it. On his worst day, Noah seems to have more energy to spare than a nuclear power plant running full bore. He was born without a play button because he's strictly a fast forward kid. Yet every once in a while, he'll stop for a blink as he figures out his next move. He isn't still for long, so I've got to be ready when these rare moments - like planetary alignments and politician-initiated honesty - occur.

I don't know what was going through his mind as he sat poolside. But whatever it was, I'm sure it was flavored with that curious mixture of happiness and contentment that all eight-year-old boys - indeed, all children - deserve. May he always feel this way at moments like this, and may I always be around to drink it all in.

Your turn: How are you celebrating this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thematic Photographic 30 - Holiday

Twisting by the pool
Delray Beach, FL, December 2008

When a looming deadline conflicts with your kids' desire - need? - to get in some quality pool time, you thank your lucky stars that you work out of an office that's easily tossed into a backpack. You also thank your lucky stars when you get to said pool and luck into a plethora of open wireless networks. Yes, people are stupid. Yes, I'm perfectly willing to take advantage of their stupidity.

So after I hit the deadline and filed my piece, I thought a picture or two might help me remember what it felt like to have my cake and eat it, too. Those are indeed my toes. The little man is Noah.

Your turn: This photo kicks off our newest Thematic Photographic theme, holiday. It's something that can mean many different things depending on how you choose to look at it. Whatever you're celebrating, I hope you explore the holiday theme in detail over the next week, and I can't wait to see what you come up with. May your Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or whatever you're celebrating be a perfect opportunity to reconnect with the folks who matter most.

If you're new to Thematic Photographic, here's the lowdown:
  • 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
  • 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. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • 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.

Wordless Wednesday - Sleeping and homeless

Not quite sleepless in San Francisco
San Francisco, CA, July 2008

There are no words. At this time of year, I simply find myself thinking about those who must go without, who have suffered immense loss, and I wish the world didn't have to be so harsh.

This is the final photo in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, quiet. (We're still taking entries's certainly never too late!) At exactly 7:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday (hey, that's tonight!) I'll be posting the first entry in our next TP theme. To help you rev up your photographic creativity, I'm sharing the theme a little early here.

It will be...


Since I know you're all in a holiday kinda spirit, I'm sure you'll have tons of great perspectives on this very timely theme. Hope to see ya back online after 7 o'clock tonight!

Your turn: The first thing that popped into your head when you saw this photo was...?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Waiting to go out to sea

Boynton Beach, FL, December 2007

About this photo: All week long, we're sharing quiet-themed photos as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. The new theme goes up on Wednesday, so it's not too late to jump in with something from your own archives.
I've written recently about my need to spend time beside large bodies of water (here, here and here) so I wont belabor the point. But I did want to share this scene, taken last year, because it adds another dimension to the relaxation parade: night.

As I stood behind these peacefully moored boats, I wondered where they'd be going tomorrow, and I hoped that whoever was at the wheel derived joy from being out there. Before I turned for home, I wished them a safe journey.

Your turn: Where are these boats headed? Where would you take them if you could?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Caption This 102

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Laval, QC
December 2006

I take a lot of pictures at night. The peacefulness appeals to me on a number of levels. Things seem to move more slowly after the sun goes down, and that lets me work at my own pace, to think things through and suck a little more enjoyment out of the moment.

The cynic in me also appreciates not having to answer the inevitable suggestions from people who feel compelled to play a game of photographic one upmanship every time I take my camera out of the bag. You've likely encountered them as well. They always know a better way to shoot a scene, and they're never afraid to let you know it. Funny how we never actually get to see their work. Anyway, they're usually tucked in by now, which frees me up to become one with my shutter release.

Your turn: I'm hoping you'll do two things for me. ONE - We're exploring quiet-themed pictures all week long for Thematic Photographic. Please click here to share your own contribution. TWO - Please come up with a caption for this silence-tinged photo. Here's how Caption This works.

About last week's bathroom-themed photo: I'll stop at nothing to coax a smile out of my kids. This photo does it to them every time. Thank you all for your great caption suggestions. Honorable menschens go to these fine folks:
  • Steve: "I'm flush out of great ideas."
  • Magiceye: "Learn to aim right!"
  • Wendster: "... no no no ... point it DOWN please."
  • Sara: "We aim to please, you aim too please."
  • Moi: "Toil-ette happens!"
MW takes it with "The second word to learn." I laughed myself silly at the irony, given that this quite likely was the second French word I ever picked up. Thankfully I built on that somewhat dubious foundation of language, and eventually became fluent. The Mystic Writer blog is a gorgeously crafted mixture of writing and photography. If you've ever wanted to see the world through the eyes of someone who can see with wonder, you must visit this site.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the Boston grass

A moment in the grass
Boston, April 2006

Sometimes, even the most ordinary thicket of tall grass takes on a shape you'll remember when the wind blows just so. When you're far from home and missing the people who matter more than you can ever possibly quantify, pausing by the side of the road to reflect on quiet beauty like this is what sustains you until you once again walk through the front door.

Your turn: In yesterday's blog entry, I wondered what it was about being beside a body of water that brought such relaxation to the soul. Today I'm mulling over the grass. I guess before long, I'll have soldiered through every natural element on the planet. Any other suggestions?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bridge over troubled waters

Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Quick note: Thematic Photographic explores "quiet" all week long (click here to join in.) Which is appropriate given how quiet I'm feeling these days. I know everyone responds to tragedy differently (please see here and here if you're just joining us). In my case, I find it difficult to write. Which is why my word counts may be down in the days to come. I'm not disappearing, of course, but perhaps a little quiet from my keyboard is just what my soul needs right about now.
I can't quite explain why I derive peace by walking near or beside bodies of water. It's not as if I can swim in this particular one (well, I could. But then I'd grow a third thumb.) But regardless of how polluted said convergence of liquid is, I think differently when I'm standing on the edge of land and water.

Your turn: Why is that? Does being near water bring you peace?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sleepy boy

Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Without exception, this is the quietest, sweetest time of day in our house. If I've realized anything over the past few days, it is that I need to spend more time hovering over them as they drift off. Anyone looking for a definition of the word peaceful need look no further.

Your turn: We're still exploring quiet-themed photos as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Head over here if you've got something you'd like to share. Even if you don't, drop by never know when inspiration will hit, or where it'll come from.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thematic Photographic 29 - Quiet

Night vision
Laval, QC, December 2006 [Click to enlarge]

Welcome to the new theme: Thematic Photographic explores "quiet" for the next seven days. Please scroll down for instructions on how TP works.
Quiet can mean radically different things depending on how we're feeling at any given moment. Literally, it's usually seen as an absence of sound. More figuratively, however, I've always perceived the term as that sense of peace you get when you're left alone long enough to think.

Quiet to me is a long walk on a dark night, or a blistering bike ride deep into the farm-dotted countryside that surrounds my adopted hometown. Never mind the wind rushing past my helmet as my legs maintain a constant cadence and my heart beats at some insanely high rate. The world isn't intruding, and it's here, wherever that "here" may be, that I do my best thinking. I return to my family, my life refreshed and ready for whatever it is that comes next.

We're hoping to find some quiet around the Levy homestead in the days and weeks to come. The world has been a very difficult one of late, and it'll be nice to get some distance from it. Along the way, I hope to once again look through my lens and bring back moments like this that remind me why we all sometimes need to get away in the first place.

Your turn: Starting today and continuing for the next week, I hope you'll share quiet-themed photos on your blog, then drop a link into a comment below. Here's the lowdown on 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...quiet.
  • 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. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • 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, December 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - You say tomato...

Juicy fruit
Delray Beach, Florida, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

This is the final photo in support of this week's Thematic Photographic theme, bright. Between the color, texture and composition, I think this may be one of the brightest photos in my archives, and one of my favorites. I hope you like it, too. (And, no, it's not too late to go back in time and share your own brightly-themed image. Click here to get involved.)

Your turn: The ability of a brightly-shot photo to change one's mood. Please discuss.

One more thing: I'll be posting the first entry in support of NEXT week's Thematic Photographic theme on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Next week's theme will be "quiet", and I hope you can take some quiet time between now and then to think about how you'd like to interpret it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lights by the water

Laval, QC, December 2006 [Click to enlarge]

There are probably safer places to be on a cold winter's night than alone by a darkened river in a quiet corner of the burbs. Of course, this only occurred to me after I had taken a few long exposures on the riverbank near my in-laws' place. I guess I was having too much fun to worry about much else. Eventually, my fingers became too cold to hold the camera comfortably, and it was time to head in.

Your turn: Christmas lights aren't part of my reality, but every year we appreciate when our neighbors put them up. There's something warmly comforting about how these icons of the season cut through the night and make the cold seem just a little bit easier to take. It's always a little bit sad when they're taken down, because long winter nights go better with a bit of brightness and color.

Why this photo: Thematic Photographic zooms in on bright-themed photos this week. Have you shared yours? Either way, hope you'll head over here and share your own bright photo.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Caption This 101

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Laval, QC, August 2008
About this photo: We're exploring bright-themed pictures as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. After you've shared a caption for this photo, I hope you'll click here and dive into TP as well.
Everyone knows that when you begin to learn a new language, you tend to seek out profane and otherwise edgy words first. Swearing in another language is just so much more fun, isn't it? In many cases, that's all that's retained long after everything else has been forgotten.

This isn't a swear word, of course. But anything related to the bathroom makes the learn-first list as well. My kids, who laughed endlessly when they first saw this sign, would doubtless agree. I guess French-language signs pointing to the loo are more exotic than English ones.

Your turn: I thought we'd start off our second century of Caption This with a bit of word play. Can you come up with a witty caption for this photo? For more background on how Caption This works, please click here. Otherwise, hit the Comment link below and share one - or many - of your best suggestions.

About last week's water fountain photo: This is one of my all-time favorite pictures. Mike had asked if he had seen it before: and, yes, he had. Very, very occasionally, I re-post photos that I've previously shared. Although this is a rare thing for me, I do so when I want newer readers of my blog to see some of my favorite work. Hope that's OK.

This week's honorable menschens are the following great folks:
  • Mr. Althouse: "Firewater."
  • MW: "Fluid flight."
  • Robin: "Splash down."
  • Steve: "Streaming media."
  • Pagan Sphinx: "Fire and ice."
  • Awareness: "Captured glance of the waterdance."
  • Barb: "Stream of life."
Steve's "streaming media" takes the cake this week. It appeals to the geek in me, and it also gives me a chance to point you toward one of my favorite, most literate and visual bloggers. Please head over to his home page here and start exploring.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Endings. Beginnings.

Saying goodbye
Laval, QC
May 2008

I choose to look at a sunset from two perspectives. On the one hand, it signifies the end of the day, the closing out of a chapter for everyone who's been living under the sun's light, the beginning of darkness.

But that's the pessimist in me talking.

Like the steps of an escalator that disappear as you get off on your floor, the sun is simply going away so get ready for the next go-around. And there's always another go-around, isn't there? The sun will rise in the morning, and a new chapter will begin for everyone.

In light of all that's happened this week (my wife wrote about it here), I find myself idly wandering through my photo archives, hoping to find photos that remind me of new beginnings and brighter futures.

Your turn: New beginnings. Please discuss.

About this photo: I captured it from my in-laws' balcony. I seem to shoot the same perspective every time I'm there. And every time, I manage to see something different. The picture supports this week's Thematic Photographic theme, bright, and I hope you'll join in by clicking here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Auto bailout fails: the blind leading the blind

Quick note: I'm still feeling like the precise opposite of a shiny, happy person. To those of you who've shared thoughts with me in Twitter and Facebook, thank you for your kindness. Our community has had a very difficult week, and it likely won't improve anytime soon. In the meantime, I've posted a politically charged rant - rare for me, I know - because, well, just because. We'll return to more typical Written Inc. fare over the weekend. For now, Thematic Photographic and Caption This continue to welome new participants.
I probably shouldn't be writing this today, as I'm already being followed around by ominously dark clouds, and this won't help my mood. But I can't let the latest auto industry boondoggle pass into history without at least saying my peace.

First, everyone's spilling a lot of ink over the U.S. Senate's refusal to back a congressional bailout package for the Big 3 American automakers, so I'll spare you the gory details over how we came to be here.

But when hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs - and lives - hang in the balance, it's a discussion that has to happen. Here's how I see it - and as always, it's a multifaceted, likely overly idealistic perspective, so please buckle up:

1. It's the automakers' own damn fault

The U.S. automakers have no one to blame but themselves for their current predicament. For generations, they've produced products that have chased their bottom line instead of that of the customer. They've allowed bean counting management practices to fritter away customer loyalty and market share. All the while, they've arrogantly ignored impending, inevitable global economic shifts while they milked outdated business models for all they were worth.

To wit, they sold every last SUV they could in the 90s because consumers wanted them. Fair enough - any profit-seeking company would and should do the same thing. But at the same time, they fought tooth and nail against tightened federal fuel economy and environmental standards and failed to invest sufficiently in follow-on technologies that would have cushioned them when the end of cheap oil arrived.

Or to use a really lousy analogy: Little foreign ants had foresight and prepared for the inevitable change of season. Big domestic grasshoppers didn't. Their tough.

2. The unions share the blame, too

Once upon a time, unions served an important purpose in securing the rights of workers who would otherwise have been oppressed by capitalism-at-all-cost business owners. Those times are now over. The world has changed. Radically. Union compensation and benefits are totally out of whack with the value provided by the workers, and the economy can no longer sustain it.

The sense of entitlement that pervades today's unions is either laughably blind or pathetically sad - take your pick - but one thing's for sure: the concept of a middle-class or upper-middle-class lifestyle on a barely-high-school education is dead.

As we stand witness to this turning point in U.S. automotive history, I can't help but think that someone watching the dinosaur-era comet heading for the planet must have been thinking the same thing: change is gonna come, nothing's going to be the same when all the dust settles, and the dinosaurs who currently roam the earth will be nowhere to be seen. If the current crisis facing the industry is what it takes to finally bust the unions and force a little reality back into the industry, then so be it.

3. It's about ROI, stupid

If taxpayers are going to be on the hook for any bailout - financial services, automotive industry, small-animal-stuffing, choose your fave - then they should at least have the right to enter into the agreement with the same promise of potential afforded any business investor.

They have a right to ask whether this business is a viable investment, whether the business model will be flexible enough to accommodate tomorrow's needs. They have a right to shy away from investing in something that may die out regardless because it represents a model that no longer works. They have a right to ensure their investment is optimized, and that they stand a reasonable return. They have a right to veto anything that remotely smells like a blank check to continue operations as they've always been run.

Please park this old model vs. new model idea off to the side for a sec. We'll get back to it soon. Promise.

4. It's tempting to say, "Told ya so."

Many of us feel the automotive industry should rise and fall on its own merits. I'm one of them. Why should I be forced to fork over my hard-earned tax dollars to rescue a company that has repeatedly screwed itself into near-oblivion? Where's my bailout? Who's going to help me and my little company when I lose market share and run out of operating capital. Ooh, that's right: nobody. And worse, my pockets will be emptier thanks to this government sanctioned charity.

So, yes, I'd like to tell them to stuff it. But...

5. Any hard landing would really hurt

With that in mind, it's easy to smarmily wish them good riddance. But to do so without having some kind of strategy in place to soften the blow and set the stage for some sort of future-focused transition will cause untold misery across the economy - and by extension, in living rooms across the continent. You don't have to be an automotive employee to appreciate this, as the cascading effect of a sudden collapse would take down businesses, individuals and communities seemingly distant from any assembly plant.

6. So let's get back to that old model vs. new model thing:
  1. We can't afford to invest in the old model. It's like paying to repair an old clunker that will never be reliable. It needs to be pitched, and soon.
  2. At the same time, we can't afford to have nothing to drive. We need to get the new model off the ground as soon as possible. We need to shoot for a target state that leads and does not follow - i.e. don't build another Prius. Leapfrog it. And if you dare build another V8-powered Ford Explorer for the suburbanite set, I'm coming after you with pitchforks and chains.
Instead of investing untold billions in sustaining the same old, invest those same billions - or even more (heck, if financial services can balloon its payout from $700 billion to a trillion with nary a peep, why are we quibbling over $14 billion? What's a billion here or a billion there? But I digress) in radically new technology that changes the underlying basis of North America's mobility industry.

Allocate a portion of the assistance to keep the Big 2.8 afloat until such time that the market is ready to transition to new said technologies. Pull any assistance if any of them ever dares to defy government regulation to encourage cleaner, more advanced mobility technologies. Make them change. Really change. And pull the plug if they don't.

(I know GM's got its Volt project and Ford's going great guns with hybrids. These are great starts. But to really succeed, solutions like this must be mainstreamed - yes, I turned it into a verb - quickly, and they need to be supported by an R&D community that's free to create and push to production completely out-there technologies that make even a Volt look obsolete.)

This transition-the-industry-based approach - which differs from the write-a-big-check-with-no-strings approach - avoids the hard landing and prepares a little better for the future. Oh, and it opens the door to busting the unions in the process. Because they suck, and any player that isn't fully bought into radical change for a better tomorrow has no place in the game any more.

Oh, and if anyone up on either hill - Capitol in Washington or Parliament in Ottawa - is reading this (yeah, right...but I can always dream), please remember this: You were elected to lead. So please lead.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It's rare that I have nothing to say, but today's going to have to be one of those days.

I'll return to my usual Zen-like observations of the world in short order. But for a day or two, I need to lie low and be with my family.

In the meantime, if you'd like to make the world a brighter place, please go here.

Thank you for your concern and your kind thoughts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thematic Photographic 28 - Bright

Bright hand
London, ON
November 2008
[Click to enlarge]

After spending the past week exploring the shadows, I wanted to swing to the other edge of the spectrum with something a little, well, brighter. So this week's Thematic Photographic theme, bright, will hopefully let us shake off the gloom that's somewhat more overbearing this year.

To me, brightness is something that isn't always easy to find. Take this icicle, for example. I found it hanging off of the evergreen bush right beside our front door. I've had fun with this oversized plant before (see here and here) and it never fails to serve up something new. The difference: this time I had to get waaaaay down on the ground to find it.

I didn't care about getting ground-schmutz all over myself as much as I was worried about the light. Rather the lack of light. It was late afternoon and the sun was fading fast. Our house faces south, so we were already dangerously close to shadow territory. I stuck my head almost into the bush and shot kinda-backward to capture what little light there was through the ephemeral hanging stick of frozen water.

I'm not sure what the neighbors were thinking, but I haven't seen any For Sale signs go up since then, so I gather they're still not too worried about having me in their midst.

Your turn: For the next week, we'll be exploring bright-themed photos. Whether they're old, archival images or new ones that you're thinking of taking, I hope you'll share many in the days to come. Not sure how Thematic Photographic works? Here's the lowdown:
  • 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...bright.
  • 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. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • 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, December 09, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - A sign from above

London, ON, July 2007 [Click to enlarge]
About this photo: We've been celebrating shadows all week as part of Thematic Photographic and this photo will be my last of the series. Feel free to share your own shadow-themed pic (new, old, whatever you wish) by clicking here. Please scroll down for details on next week's theme.
I often take pictures of scenes that initially don't present themselves as anything special. Only later when I get home do I hear the Twilight Zone music and realize something surprising and neat must have been going on in front of my lens.

As you can guess, this photo is squarely in the so-called pleasant surprise category.

Your turn: Go ahead and click it to enlarge. Mull it over for a bit. What do you see?

One more thing: You didn't think I'd forget next week's Thematic Photographic theme, did you? Perish at the thought! At exactly 7:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, I'll be posting the new theme for the coming week. To get your brain in the right mood, I'm sharing the theme a little early. It is...bright.

(Why bright? Because the days are getting shorter and shorter in the northern hemisphere, and we just spent a week exploring shadows. So we may as well head in the opposite direction and see what we find. Happy thinking!)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Palm Pilot

Reach for the sky
Delray Beach, FL
December 2007

About this photo: We're exploring shadows all week long as part of our latest Thematic Photographic theme. You can play with shadows until Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET, at which time I'll post a new theme for the coming week. Hope you can share something from your lens. Here's where you can get started.
There's a neat time of night when there's still some light left in the sky, but it doesn't quite reach folks on the ground. The bluish transition in a clear subtropical sky is visually rich enough to make you wish you could freeze the earth in place, lie down on the ground and stare at that amazing color for as long as you wish.

But unless you live in a Star Trekkian (or is it Star Warsian?) future, you're pretty much stuck having no control over the passage of time. So when a scene like this presents itself, you point your camera skyward and hope you bring something memorable home.

Thankfully this time, I think I did. Because every time I see this picture, I think about the simple joys of taking in a quiet scene like this. It doesn't have to be any more complex than that.

Your turn: If you could turn back time... (please, no Cher jokes!)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Caption This 100

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Montreal, QC, December 2006

I'm generally not one for milestones, but I can't let the 100th Caption This entry go by without so much as a mention. It's been almost two years since a kind reader suggested I try a weekly caption feature. Since then, it's turned into a ritual of sorts for me, a chance to ponder just the right picture that will prompt just the right kind of reflection when someone drops in for a visit.

I've chosen this photo because it remains one of my favorites. We were attending a party in Montreal, a happy occasion that reconnected us with many members of our extended family. Our little man was thirsty, and decided he wanted to drink out of a water fountain. So off we went in search of one.

As he wiped his munchkin-face dry, he decided he liked how the water "was round". So as I stood in the middle of the hallway and explained how gravity worked on the stream of water, he asked me to take a picture of it "so Mommy wouldn't miss out." Who can refuse a request like that?

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this photo. You may suggest as many as you wish. I'll announce the winner next Sunday, as we get started on our second century. For more background, and a peek at how this all began, please click here.

One more thing: All week long, we're celebrating shadows as part of Thematic Photographic. So if you haven't shared yours, please head over here and have at it.

So who won last week's Caption This? I thought you'd never ask. Stefan Lombard wins with the elegantly simple "Promise." Stefan is an exquisitely gifted photographer. His deft touch with a lens has influenced my own style, and you owe it to yourself to see his work. Not just once, but often. Please drop by his site and see for yourself.
  • Strange Pilgram: "Finding his song."
  • Dana: "Sing us a song, you're the Piano Man...."
  • SPwriter: "Composing himself."
  • Bob-kat: "Rhapsody in Blue."
  • Lissa: "Beautiful boy."
  • Thumper: "I'll write the songs that make the whole world sing..."
  • Robin: "Songs in the key of life."
  • Anita Doberman: "Musica."
  • Ann" "Music to my ears..."
  • MorahMommy: "How long can I play this before I annoy my brother!"
Thank you all for helping Caption This make it to this momentous milestone. Here's to the next 100, and the next, and...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Pierce the night

Security, light.
Laval, QC
December 2006

1970s-era architecture won't be remembered well by history. Shapeless concrete and brick buildings showed just how much their creators had learned about controlling costs for themselves and stunting imagination for pretty much everyone else.

Yet even the most seemingly forgettable buildings - or snippets of them - deserve a little bit of lens time. While everyone's busy taking the same old pictures - head shots with stilted, predictable smiles, the kind of stuff even your own mother finds boring, etc. - I'm wandering parking lots taking pictures of things that attract attention from security guards.

And on this cold, silent night, said security guard isn't happy to see a strange guy pointing his lens toward his building. Thankfully, he - pause while I find a way to say this charitably - seems to have spent more time befriending the staff at the local Dunkin Donuts than becoming one with the apparatus at the gym. So it isn't hard for me to disappear before he can wheeze his way over and bust me.

Once again, the shadows of the night (this week's Thematic Photographic theme, don'tcha!) give me inspiration and protect me from baton-wielding rent-a-cops. Nice.

Your turn: Why don't security guard companies have better physical fitness standards for their staff?

One more thing: Caption This turns 100 tomorrow (all together now: yay!) Last week's is here. I'll post the triple-digit entry in the afternoon. Hope you'll drop by to mark the milestone.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Tea for one
Delray Beach, FL, January 2008 [Click to embiggen]
About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is shadow. If you have a shadow-themed photo, please click on over here and share what you've got . (Come to think of it, even if you don't, pop in anyway. It's about enjoying and sharing this crazy little collective photographic addiction of ours, and I hope you take that first step and join in the fun.)
In the greatest Canadian pre-winter tradition, the temperature is bottoming out just as the snow squalls move in from the Great Lakes. When I took the dog outside for his walk earlier this evening, the air was exceptionally crisp and clear, and the thin layer of snow crunched underfoot as I did my utmost to keep my head from rapidly accelerating toward the ground.

We took the long way around the big block because it felt good to be alone in the dark on a cold night. Frasier could have bounced over the snow covered lawns all night if I had let him. As we walked, I could feel the wind on my face, and it made me smile. I know a lot of folks like to whine about the weather. But when it gets cold and dry outside, there's something to be said for being right in the middle of it. When you sit in front of a computer screen all day, pulling words out of your brain and rearranging them until they make sense, getting out into the real world is a nice change of pace.

When I got back into the house, fresh coffee was brewing and a challah was baking in the oven. I can't describe what it felt like to transition from outside to inside, but there's also something to be said for coming back into a warm, loving home where everything smells good and a little man bounds to the door to give you a welcoming hug.

Life is good. I look into a mug much like this and realize little else matters at this very moment.

Your turn: Life is good because...?

Meeting, Greeting, Moving...

A long time ago in a blog galaxy far, far away, I happened upon Michele's blog. Unlike most blogs I had read up until then - and since, frankly - hers was different. The focus was never on herself. Rather, she turned the lens on her visitors, and encouraged them to reach out to each other. Her blogger's ethos was always about community-building, and it inspired me and a lot of others to incorporate similar thinking in our own online lives.

Every weekend, Michele would hold something called the Meet 'n Greet. It was through this avenue that I met a lot of the folks who've become must-reads. Most of my blogroll is populated by folks I've e-met this way.

Sadly for all of us, Michele is bowing out of her community-building role. Understandably, she's moving in a different direction, something all of us understand because we all wrestle with the same questions about balancing online and offline activities. At some point, it makes sense to leave the keyboard alone while you head outside for a walk in the real world.

Fortunately, Tanya, otherwise known as NetChick, has picked up the baton, and from here on out will be hosting the Meet 'n Greet at her site, This Chick's Life. Like Michele, Tanya is Canadian. Like Michele, she's also a generous, honest, literate and kind soul who throws herself into community-building on a number of levels (to wit, if you find yourself in Vancouver, you owe it to yourself to attend Third Tuesday, an event that wouldn't happen without her drive.)

If you haven't had the opportunity to cross her path online, you owe it to yourself to drop by and say hi. I suspect that you, like so many others, will hang around for the discussion that ensues.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Busy week in tech

It's been a big week on both sides of the border. While the CEOs of the Not-So-Big-Anymore-3 domestic automakers were fighting for their very lives on Capitol Hill (nice move ditching the executive jets and driving cars, guys) Canadians watched their federal government essentially implode. Lots of joy to go around...yay us!

In the world of tech, we lost telecom pioneer Ted Rogers (I wrote about it here) and BlackBerry maker RIM made headlines when it pre-announced that its upcoming quarterly results would again fall short of guidance. And because our lives aren't entertaining enough, RIM then announced a hostile takeover bid for Certicom, a wireless encryption firm. I chatted about RIM's prospects with BNN's Michael Kane on his show, Lunch Money. If you're not afraid of seeing me yak on television, click here to see the video.

On the print front, I spoke with the Globe & Mail's Matt Hartley (RIM not alone in hunt for Certicom and RIM focuses on security)and David Friend from the Canadian Press (RIM faces investors after slashing earnings outlook, pushing Certicom deal). The CP's LuAnn LaSalle also chatted with me for a piece on cell phone myths (Cellphones still best for talking, not for cooking eggs or popping popcorn).

What does it all mean? Lots. And I'll probably be sharing more insight on these and other geeky issues in the not-too-distant future. It's what I do!

Speaking of which, if you live in London, I'll be appearing on 'A' Morning tomorrow (Friday) at 7:15 a.m. As part of Tech Talk, I'll be digging into cheap tech gifts for the holiday season.

More soon...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thematic Photographic 27 - Shadow

Shadowy wave
Port Stanley, ON, September 2008

Shadows have always challenged my photography. They're rather difficult to expose properly: meter on the dark areas and you blow the highlights; meter on the highlights and you get dark, featureless shadows. It's a no-win situation made even worse by the fact that digital has even less dynamic range than film.

Doesn't mean I won't try, though. You don't learn by shooting what you already know. And in the age of digital, it's kinda fun filling up a big card, then replaying the experience in your mind as you review and edit the results back home.

As you've guessed, this week's Thematic Photographic theme is "shadow." As in past weeks, how you interpret the theme is entirely up to you. Feel free to be literal, figurative, abstract, or any combination thereof. TP is all about getting out there and enjoying the process of capturing the world around us. Are you in?

Your turn: Please share a shadow-themed photo or link on your own blog, then be sure to leave a comment here so other folks can find it. Here's the Cliff's Notes version of how Thematic Photographic 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...shadow.
  • 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. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • 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, December 02, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Sweet spread

Citrus goodness
London, ON
September 2008
[Click to embiggen]

We're still taking submissions for this week's Thematic Photographic theme, sweet. It's most certainly NOT too late, and you can share your photo by clicking here.

Next week's theme is shadow, and if you come back at precisely 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the first shadow-themed pic will be up. I've begun posting the theme a little early to give you a chance to mull over how you'll explore things over the coming week.

Your turn: Favorite jam. Please discuss. And what would you say if you met Mr. Smucker in person?

Ted Rogers dies at 75

Here in the Great White North, we get our telecommunications services from relatively few large carriers. Rogers has become, over the course of my lifetime, the nation's largest telecom company. Cable television, cell phones, home phones, Internet access, even movie name it and Rogers will be happy to sell or rent it to you.

Because we have so few choices, we tend to really dislike our carriers. We may be known around the world for being polite in that easygoing Canadian-eh way, but tune into talk radio when listeners are whaling on their phone carrier or Internet provider and it's a whole different ballgame. Since Rogers is the biggest of the big bad carriers, it's often the most widely slagged brand.

Rogers the company is/was named after Ted Rogers (wiki), the billionaire Canadian entrepreneur who redefined the landscape. Like the company that's named for him, Mr. Rogers wasn't the most adored person at the party. He was a hard-nosed businessperson in a market sector that eats people and companies for breakfast. Mr. Rogers passed away this morning, and I can't not mark his passing. Love him or hate him, no one can disagree that he changed the way Canadians communicated with each other and built on this country's legacy as a global telecom innovator.

I've often spoken about Rogers the company and Rogers the man. I've studied the innards of this firm and the man who built it since I first became interested in the tech sector. I trust that whoever takes over from him has at least a fraction of the vision that he brought to a market and a country that lacked both all those decades ago.

May the Rogers family know no further sorrow.

Media note: I've been quoted by Reuters reporter Wojtek Dabrowski here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A girl and her dog

Sweetly connected
London, ON, May 2008

I've never actually discussed the matter with our dog, but I suspect he knows how lucky he is that he found his way into our family. We're lucky, too.

Your turn: If Frasier could speak, what would he be saying to our daughter?

One more thing: We continue to explore sweet-themed pictures as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. Head over here to dive's most definitely not too late to get involved, have some fun and stretch your photographic bounds a little.