Thursday, April 30, 2009

Officially official: Chrysler bankrupt

Looking for Thematic Photographic? Click here...

Quite the week for tumultuous news. First a bug from a pig on a Mexican beach causes worldwide panic, then an American automaker declares bankruptcy while another, once deemed to big to fail, teeters on the brink.

We live in exciting times, eh?

What I find fascinating about the throes of the domestic auto industry is the fundamental shift in accountability that will result. It's fair to argue that at least some of the woes that currently afflict the formerly-Big 3 took root in generations of less-than-stellar labor relations. Leaders of the unionized workforce managed to carve out quite the power niche for themselves as they virtually guaranteed well-paying jobs for workers who, in any other economy, would most likely have been sweeping floors at the local pizza joint.

Unfortunately for the automakers, their adversarial relationships with their unionized employees prevented them from responding in anything remotely approaching an agile manner to fast-changing market conditions. Byzantine union rules that prevented certain classes of workers from doing anything not directly tied to their mandated position - sorry, sir, I'm qualified to install door handles on the Cutlass SE, not the LX - hampered their ability to change with the times.

Lest you think I'm myopic, there's plenty of blame to go around, Leadership certainly must shoulder much of the blame for becoming so unable to see which way the world was going, it didn't help that their hands were tied by workers more interested in their own self-interest and not the company's or, heavens, the customers.

So as taxpayers on both sides of the borders pump countless billions of dollars into these former leviathans of industry, they have every right to expect that the organizational structures, processes, attitudes and relationships that resulted in today's monumental botch job will be tossed out the window and replaced with something reminiscent of an actual business plan, where various stakeholders - leaders, workers, supply chain members, customers - partner up to create a market that can create value and sustain itself.

Damn, I sound so idealistic. Still, I'm encouraged by the fact that the United Auto Workers will own a decent-sized chunk of the Chrysler that emerges from bankruptcy. Maybe once the unionistas are on the other side of the business coin, they'll appreciate something beyond the culture of entitlement that has guided them for so long.

If we're lucky, the same kind of sea change will flow into GM, Ford and whoever else is left standing when this storm is done blowing itself out.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thematic Photographic 47 - Musical

Strings at rest
London, ON, April 2009

Although I'm not a musician (thank your lucky stars for that!) the photographer in me finds musical instruments, recording and studio equipment, and even an old radio, to be endlessly fascinating. They almost beg to have their picture taken, as if they wish to be heard through a medium that, at least in the traditional sense, does not incorporate sound.

But who thinks in a traditional sense, anyway?

Your turn: For the next week, we'll be sharing musically-themed photos. Since music touches our lives in so many different ways, I'm looking forward to seeing how you all choose to interpret the theme through your lenses. If you're new to Thematic Photographic, here's a quick primer:
  • 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...musical!
  • 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.

Fun with pandemics

Today's big news sounds pretty spooky: The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert level to 5 on its 6-level scale. What does this mean? That the swine flu outbreak that started in Mexico is nearing widespread human infection.

Is it the end of the world? No. But should we be concerned and do whatever it takes to protect ourselves? Absolutely. The key, frankly, is balance and knowledge.

I've already discussed this at length in an earlier blog entry, so I won't belabor the point. But the more coverage of this huge and continually breaking story in both conventional and social media, the more disappointed I become at the tendency for professionals and non-pros alike to descend into hyperbole.

So, long story short: take the time to educate yourself as best you can. Go to the WHO web site, talk to people in the field and to people you trust. And try to filter out those voices that are doing their darndest to garner attention by spreading panic.

To wit, the local radio so-called-newscaster may like the sound of his voice as he repeats each line ever more deliberately to ensure the great unwashed appreciate his every syllable. But when listeners are finished having the bejeebers scared out of them, I hope they'll seek guidance from more rational sources.

Your turn: Where are you turning to to learn more about this? What comes to mind as you watch the news?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Shellshocked

Garden variety
London, ON
April 2009
[Click to embiggen]

About this photo: It's round. So is every other photo we've been sharing this week as part of our latest Thematic Photographic theme. If you're a WW fan, I hope you'll click here and check this out, adds an interesting twist to the usual photo meme.
Sometimes, you find the neatest things in the garden. My lovely wife happened across this critter while weeding out front, and after the kids oohed and aahed over the little critter, we decided some pictures were in order to remember the moment.

On the surface, it's a silly little snail with an obvious affinity for greenery. In the overall scheme of things, it's fairly trivial and almost always forgettable. Yet as I listened to our youngest son's voice buzz excitedly about a real snail in his garden, and as I watched our daughter lean in and provide a play-by-play as the snail wrapped itself around a leaf, I figured it was anything but trivial to them.

So out came the camera. Judging by the funny looks I got from passers-by, I know they were wondering why a grown man was creeping around his lawn on his knees. But it made the little folks happy, and until the bumble bees came out and scared them back inside the house - a story for another day - it reminded me yet again why being part of a family like ours is such a privilege.

Your turn: Spontaneous family moments. Please discuss.

What's next? Every Wednesday at exactly 7:00 p.m. EDT, I post the first Thematic Photographic entry for the coming week. To help get your head ready for the new theme, I often share it a bit early. With that in mind, next week's TP theme will be...


And if you're still hankering on some round-themed submissions, it's not too late to share your own by clicking here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

An OJ memory

Gibeau's Orange Julep
Montreal, QC, May 2008
About this photo: As part of our most recent Thematic Photographic, we're exploring - and sharing - round-themed scened all week long, and it's not too late for you to take part. Click this link to share your own.
There's a place in Montreal that anyone who lives there simply knows as "OJ". It's a gigantic orange on the corner of Decarie and Pare - think in-transition commercial-industrial meets traffic-clogged sunken highway - that's been attracting generations of teenagers since, well, long before I came along.

When we first got our driver's license, it was the place to go to pick up an overpriced cup of orange juice mixed with what we think was egg and a greasy grilled cheese or hot dog. The food was immaterial: this had been one of the last places in the city to offer service on rollerskates. And while these days you have to get out and walk, the circular parking lot that surrounds
this aging icon of multigenerational nostalgia still celebrates the dominance of the car more than any stretch of asphalt outside a Tim Horton's ever could. If Montreal is a city of unique venues, this place ranks among the most unique of them all.

We had come into town to see my father, who was back in the nearby hospital. My parents live just north of Montreal, in Laval, so a visit to the hospital is a 15 km slog each way. Considering the general bleakness of our reason for being here, it was a blessing to find this storied slice of an earlier life on the way home from a particularly trying visit.

For a few minutes on a sad afternoon, it felt good to sit in this urban oasis and remember what it was like when life was a tad more simple, and a lot more innocent.

Your turn: Oases in life. Please discuss.

Swine flu - the real pandemic

I don't mean any disrespect to the folks getting sick with - and dying from - a particularly virulent form of Swine Flu. Any bug that has the potential to end life is, frankly, scary.

I do, however, take issue with the breathless tone of too many media types as they try to get us all to listen to them - and only them - tell us about this story. I woke up this morning to a radio newscaster (term used lightly) who repeated the word "pandemic" in an ever more strident voice, as if I hadn't heard it the first time. By now I'm used to it - this guy loves hearing the sound of his own voice, and I often wonder why a city the size of London tolerates amateur hour antics like this - but I nevertheless fear for those listeners who take this kind of thing at face value.

I don't doubt that Swine Flu is a Very Bad Thing, and I don't doubt it isn't causing suffering and loss. But journos who editorialize their output without taking sufficient time to understand how pandemics work - or how this particular event fits into the broader context of public and global health emergencies - do their audiences a grave disservice.

Perspective please, media folks. It's your job.

Your turn: I would love to see your response to coverage of the unfolding Swine Flu story. Do tell...

One more thing: If the never-ending stream of bad news on this Monday is getting you down, click over here for a brief time out.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Caption This 118

Please caption this photo
[Click here for background on how Caption This works]
London, ON, October 2006 [Click to multiply the cholesterol]

Why eggs? It's a round week, all week long. Wondering what this is all about? Head here.
I've always been fascinated by modern society's apparent love-hate relationship with eggs. Depending on one's perspective, the egg is either a wonder-food that can do no wrong, or is the root of all culinary evil that can singlehandedly drive someone's cholesterol level into the stratosphere and quintuple the chances of early-onset cardiovascular disease.

I tend to believe that anything in excess is probably bad for you. Even too much water has been known to explode the cells of some unfortunate lab mice. Maybe when we learn to stop making black-and-white, blanket assessments of foods and instead internalize the concept of balance, we'll all lead healthier, lower-stress and happier lives.

Just thinkin'.

Your turn: Please caption this eggheaded photo. Just hit the comments link below and submit as many as you wish. We'll take suggestions all week long before naming a winner next Sunday. If you're new to Caption This, click here to see where it all began.

About last week's photo of a fly on a flower: Lots of great suggestions for this one - though, strangely, no one tried to name the insect. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Terri: "Fly on a wall flower."
  • Jinksy: "Humph! I'm fed up with being a Fly by Night - makes me exhausted the next day!"
  • Dana: "Common meets beauty."
  • Mel Fraase: "Phlegmatic Fly Finds Frond Fun."
  • Moi: "Bee Happy, honey!"
Wendy's "Layover" will ring in my ears every time I find myself at an airport, waiting for the next flight to bring me home. The irony that this fly need not wait for anyone to take to the skies is not lost on me. Wendy blogs from LA about her life as a mom, and manages to inspire us to push a little harder in the process. Please head to the left coast and congratulate her.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Breaking through the glass ceiling

Luminously curved
Toronto, ON, May 2008 [Click to enlarge]

About this photo: It's curved. Which means it fits our latest Thematic Photographic theme, round. Don't know what I'm talking about? Click here and all will be explained.
I often look up when I probably shouldn't. More often than I'd like to admit, I end up walking into things as a result. But it's a small sacrifice, because sometimes I see things that I'd otherwise miss.

To wit, Toronto's Eaton Centre. I generally hate malls and all they stand for. Hang on, please belay that. My issue with them is that they often seem to stand for nothing of any consequence. But that's a rant for another day. End digression.

Despite their origins as temples of conspicuous, shallow and often unnecessary consumption, malls are not incapable of causing little moments of architectural delight as you walk through them. This mall, considered a showpiece mecca in the middle of Canada's largest city, is covered from end to end by this curved glass roof that turns every visit into a unique experience depending on what time of day you walk through.

If you choose to look up, that is.

Your turn: Something neat you've encountered at a mall. Please discuss.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The wireless drunk

Looking for your Thematic fix? Head here. Otherwise, please read on.
Big news in the happy land of Ontario this week: Bill 118* was passed into law. It mandates fines of up to $500 for anyone who talks on a handheld device while driving. Police will begin enforcing the law, which also bans fiddling with DVD players, handheld video games (!) and MP3 players, this autumn.

You won't get a ticket if you're using a headset. Nor will you get a ticket if you're using a GPS device. I looked for mention of hot plates, toaster ovens and automatic Kleenex dispensers. Alas, couldn't find 'em, so I suspect those are still OK, as is changing a baby hippo's diaper in the front seat.

As happy as I am that our government has taken time out from soaking the citizenry to make our lives safer, I'm pretty convinced the roads will be just as dangerous as they are now. Here's where I stand:
Any conversation while you're at the wheel reduces your concentration on the task at hand - namely keeping your vehicle from violently fusing with other movable and/or immovable objects around you. Study after study shows a driver's ability to focus on driving is just as compromised whether he/she is talking on a handheld, talking on a Bluetooth headset, talking with a significant other or simply yelling at the kids.

Some research has even concluded that cell-phone yakkers are just as lousy at the wheel as drunk drivers. I'm not inclined to disagree.
So, our dear all-powerful leaders, if you're truly intent on cleaning things up on the road, I invite you to consider enacting a law that bans ANY interaction at all while driving. And that includes talking to yourself. Obtuse and ridiculous? Sure. But it might make an actual difference where the current swiss cheese law will not.

Your turn: Are you sick of almost being wiped off the face of the earth by someone too busy ordering pizza to keep his/her eye on the road? If toothless legislation doesn't do the trick, what will? Vigilante justice? Please vent.

* Because governments aren't happy until they've confused us all with unnecessarily ponderous language, the official name of this thing is: Bill 118, Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act, 2009. I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Chrysler goes bankrupt?

Ornamental no more
West Palm Beach, FL, December 2007
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores round photos all week long. Head over here to get started. You'll be glad you did. So will I!
The drumbeats heralding the possible impending end of the North American auto industry as we know it are beating more loudly with each passing day. Tonight's headlines spoke rather breathlessly about what a Chrysler bankruptcy would look like. Ugly only begins to describe it. (Sadly, GM doesn't seem to be far behind.)

I'm not judging, folks. Simply relating reality. I live within easy driving distance of Chrysler's Brampton (LX ) and Windsor (minivan) plants, so it's almost part of the landscape to see one of those massive car carriers on the 401. Our region, so deeply rooted in Ontario's manufacturing belt, has already taken it on the chin, and the auto sector's worsening condition promises to ripple out even more misery in the months to come. It's difficult to watch, especially when you realize that no one is left untouched by chaotic change on this scale.

I'll save my coulda, shoulda, woulda speech for another day. Right now, I simply want to reflect on a scene I captured in a much happier, warmer place. We were at the zoo, and our youngest climbed into an old Dodge pickup truck parked outside one of the exhibits. While he happily pretended to drive the thing, I found myself quietly taking in something that had been built long before I was born. If only the lore of this still-redeeming old machine could reach forward and help the company now.

They really don't make 'em like they used to. Soon, they likely won't be making them at all.

Your turn: I think the world needs some good news. Got any?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thematic Photographic 46 - Round

London, ON, April 2009 [Click to embiggen]

This week's Thematic Photographic goes simple. If it's got a curve to it, I hope you'll share it. Simple as that. Are you in?

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is a weekly activity designed to let us explore our photographic boundaries and share in the results. I hope you'll play along, as it's great fun! The rules, such as they are, are as follows...
  • 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...round!
  • 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, April 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - A rose is a rose

Red rose
London, ON, March 2007 [Click for extreme closeup]

About this photo: We're winding down our exploration of floral as part of this week's Thematic Photographic. There's still time to submit yours, if you wish. Just click here. We unveil the next TP theme tomorrow eve. Want a sneak peek? Read on...
My wife's got a thing for red roses. There's something about the way they open up to reveal a multi-layered world of absolute perfection. It's inspiring when you realize nature can create such loveliness from, well, nothing. A silly little plant, basically, becomes...this.

I need to bring these home more often. She deserves no less.

Your turn: What do flowers mean to you?

Ah yes, our next TP theme...You didn't think I'd forget, did you? It will be:


Tune in tomorrow (Wednesday) at precisely 7:00 p.m. EDT when the first round-themed Thematic Photographic entry goes live on Written Inc. Looking forward to seeing what you've got!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Memorably yellow petals

Touch of yellow
London, ON, April 2009

There's an underlying sadness to a flower's existence. Sure, it's lovely to look at and oh so closely connected with happiness, togetherness and love. But that beauty and meaning is tinged with a sense of loss, because it lasts so briefly before it's gone for good. Inevitably, time turns even the most perfect examples into crusty shadows of their former selves.

It's why I use photography to capture what they look like at their peak. And what it feels like to bear witness to it.

As I fiddle with the camera, my wife looks over at me and smiles. Suddenly, it all seems just a little more clear.

Your turn: As part of the latest Thematic Photographic theme, we're sharing floral photos all week long. I hope you'll pull one out that isn't necessarily perfect, but it evokes a memory, however mundane, that you don't want to lose. If you're just joining the scary-nutty world of Thematic Photographic, please head over here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Caption This 117

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]

London, ON, August 2006

A common picture of a common flower being visited by a common housefly. Yet somehow I've kept it in my archives for the past couple of years because I remember sitting on a friend's deck for at least 15 minutes wondering why this fly wasn't flying away. And for some silly reason, I didn't want to lose the thought to oblivion.

Stupid, I know.

As I continue to meander through this journey called life, I'm learning, albeit slowly, that I don't always need to take pictures because they're mind-blowingly spectacular. Or because there needs to be some rational reason for doing so. Sometimes, it's enough to take a picture to remember a moment.

Your turn: I need your help to caption this shot. Are you game? Click the comment link below and share as many as you can come up with. I'll announce the winner next week. (Click here for more background on Caption This.) Speaking of winners...

About last week's moldy cheese pic: It isn't often that you encounter a full-on biology experiment in the cheese section of your local grocery store. So when it happens, I hope you'll have your camera at the ready. I'm glad I did. This week's honorable menschens include:
  • Thumper: "It's not easy turning green..."
  • Moments in time: "Growing mould gracefully."
  • Terri: "Blue cheese special."
  • Mojo: "Spore Loser."
  • Judy: Goldy Moldy.
Hilary's "This Cheddar is no Gouda" made me laugh out loud. Which was somewhat challenging given the fact that I was drinking tea at the time. If her photography - in a word, stunning - doesn't grab you, her very honest, real perspective on the world around her will. Reading an entry on her blog, The Smitten Image, is like taking a journey. Best give yourself time to enjoy the'll certainly be back for more.

Your turn:
As we share floral photos this week, I hope you'll pull one out that isn't necessarily perfect, but it evokes a memory, however mundane, that you don't want to lose. If you're just joining the scary-nutty world of Thematic Photographic, please head over here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring has sprung

London, ON, April 2009

It's a sure sign of spring when these tiny flashes of purple first poke their hopeful heads above the desolate lawn. Noah noticed this one, and hovered over it, protecting it from the dog, while I fetched the camera.

We spent a good chunk of the day outside today, riding bikes, playing on the lawn and otherwise drinking in the kind of weather we've been looking forward to for months. You could hear the happiness in the kids' voices as they ran outside in shorts and sandals and drank it all in. Their voices echoed through the house, and more than once I thought to myself that it sounded like music.


Your turn: A sure sign of spring is...?

About this photo: We're exploring the floral theme all week long as part of Thematic Photographic. Head over here to dive right in - you'll be glad you did!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle, your story has grown tiresome

By now, everyone and his/her dog has heard of Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old, never-been-kissed Brit who got on the Britain's Got Talent stage in front of a sneering Simon Cowell and blew him and the audience away with her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream. Not that she needs the spotlight to shine any brighter, but here's the video in case you haven't seen it. Go ahead and watch. I'll wait...

Call me a curmudgeon, but this doesn't fully sit right with me. The only reason anyone's paying any attention is because she's, um, not supermodel material. It's completely outside our collective bell curve that a homely, never-been-kissed homebody can blow an audience away with her voice. So when it happens, we pay attention only because she's homely to begin with. The patronizing tone that underscores most media coverage makes me more than a little uncomfortable. I can virtually guarantee that no one would have batted an eyelash if she had been better looking by society's admittedly shallow and unfair collectively subjective definition.

I'll be discussing this with John Downs on AM640 Toronto tonight a bit after 8:30 EDT. (Click here for his show's home page, then the Listen Live link from there.) I suspect I'll still be feeling curmudgeonly when I do.

Your turn: What thinketh you about this whole Susan Boyle thing?

Oops, one more thing: We're having quite the barnburner week with Thematic Photographic. The theme's floral. Got some petal-like perspectives? Click here to share 'em.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eight days gone

It's been just over a week since Victoria Stafford walked out of school and into thin air. The police have wound down their intensive ground search as they continue to follow every lead and turn over every figurative rock in their search.

Woodstock's your typical small town - 36,000 people, closely interlinked communities, rumor mills that churn more intensely than anything Facebook could ever manage. Some of the snippets that have resulted are, on the surface, disturbing: the mother's boyfriend is known to police, has a rap sheet with words like "drugs" and "theft" on it, has a possible $20,000 drug debt that may be connected to Tori's disappearance.

It's difficult to be so close to Ground Zero - London's 60 km west of the town, and everyone here seems to be connected to Woodstock in one way or another - and not hear the undercurrent, to not be affected by this entire sad ordeal in some way.

And as much as we'd like to find a villain, to identify who took her and bring her safely home, I can't help but wonder if mob rules is really the answer. The police are doing everything they can, looking into every figurative nook and cranny because that's how investigations are run. You never want to look back and wonder if you did everything you could. And as you're burrowing into private places, you occasionally come across some not-so-nice things, elements of people's lives that they'd just as well keep hidden.

That's life, too. This is ugly business. And it's necessary. And it's important for the cops to have the room they need to get the job done. And it's just as important to not second guess them. Because as hard as it is for the general public to stand by and watch, it's infinitely more difficult on her family and on the law enforcement professionals charged with solving this case and hopefully bringing her home.

Your turn: Please say a prayer for Tori's safe return. And if you have a link to an online resource, please feel free to share it in a comment, too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thematic Photographic 45 - Floral

Red petals
London, ON, February 2009 [Click to embiggen]

My earliest experiments with artistic photography - way back in the Age of Film, no less - revolved around flowers. They didn't move and they didn't talk back, which made them ideal for a neophyte. Most of my pictures sucked. I didn't have the immediate feedback of digital, and learning with film was more expensive than my starving-student budget could afford. But I kept trying because the occasional keeper made the pursuit worthwhile.

I realized a couple of months ago that it had been a while since I focused on petals. So as an incentive to get myself back into the groove, I've chosen "floral" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme. As you think through your own floral contribution, please keep in mind that the themes are mere suggestions. If you want to share a flower pic, go for it. If you want to interpret it a little less literally, that's cool, too. The idea here is to expand our photographic horizons a little. Interpret your heart's content, k?

Your turn: Time to get shooting and sharing. 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...floral!
  • 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.

Talking geek...again

I lead a very entertaining life. Aside from a wife I adore, kids who amaze me and a dog who defines sweetness, I'm privileged to do some very cool things during the workday. To wit, I often get to go on television. It's something that always offers a new challenge and will never get old.

This morning, I chatted with BNN's Michael Kane. Intel had reported its quarterly earnings the previous evening, so I dropped by to dig a little deeper behind the numbers. As ever, I enjoyed the experience immensely. The video clip is here.

I've been busy with other media work lately, too. Between Canwest melting down, Nortel being carved up and Apple introducing yet another new wonderproduct, I always have neat things to talk about. Coolness. Here's a quick rundown of some of the more notable recent hits:

The Canadian Press
Mar 31. Canwest debt troubles affecting Corus, Astral stock, industry observers. Byline David Friend
Apr 1. Sabia earns $21 million golden handshake after leaving BCE. Byline Ross Marowits
Apr 5. Canwest faces Tuesday deadline for restructuring debt agreement. Byline David Friend
Apr 10. Telus warns of first-quarter wireless revenue drop as economy takes bite. Byline Lauren Krugel
Apr 15. Telus to invest $700M in Alberta network. Byline Brenda Bouw

Apr 6. Blackberry success with consumers defies recession. Byline Wojtek Dabrowski World Canada
Apr 7. Why the channel should get into the DLP space. Byline Maxine Cheung
Apr 14. Malicious attacks are recession-proof: Symantec. Byline Maxine Cheung
Mar 27. Would Bill C-285 outlaw BlackBerry in Canada? Byline Rafael Ruffolo

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Muffins

Why they're even better than yours, Wanda
London, ON, March 2009
Quick note: This photo completes our week-long journey through the wonderful world of edible goods. If you've got the stomach for it, you can see where it all began - and share your own - by clicking here. Otherwise, read on...we unveil next week's theme at the bottom of this entry.
I am married to a woman who has an almost mythical MacGyveresque ability in the kitchen. Whenever the kids are hungry - a virtual constant these days - she conjures up magically tasty dishes and meals, often seemingly from nothing.

It's a given that these muffins were delicious, as we all quietly picked at the pile until there were no more. But what I remember most isn't just how good they were. It's the quiet patter in the kitchen as she showed the kids how to make them. Little man fetched the ingredients, our daughter oversaw the recipe to ensure nothing was missed, our eldest son watched the timer like a hawk.

Sometimes, the reward has little to do with the food on your plate.

Your turn: Collaborative cooking. Please discuss. (And if you want to take a crack at guessing the origin of the caption under the photo, go for it.)

Ah yes, about next week's Thematic Photographic: Spring is in the air, so I thought we'd go...

At exactly 7:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday (hey, that's tomorrow!) I'll post the initial entry for next week's theme. What can you share? It could be literal pictures of flowers, or something more abstract - as long as you use your imagination and have fun in the process. For now, you have some time to mull over your shot.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fresh baked bread

London, ON, March 2009

About this photo: We're doing edible all week long. Don't know what I'm talking about? Click here to find out.
Sometimes, we take pictures that seem to have a texture all their own - this despite the obvious limitations of a strictly two-dimensional medium.

When faced with a limitation, we can either accept it at face value, or we can choose to find some way to overcome it. To wit, if you touch this photo on your screen right now, you obviously won't feel the pillowy soft surface of this long-munched hamburger bun. But if you close your eyes just so, maybe you can imagine it.

As the economy continues to spin off large- and small-scale destruction, as children disappear without a trace, as so many of us face overwhelming waves of difficulty and challenge, something as simple as a moment like this can make the difference between surviving and living.

Go ahead and give it a try. I'll wait.

Your turn: So, what did you imagine?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Caption This 116

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
London, ON, February 2009

About this photo: Thematic Photographic has gone edible this week. Although this particular photo may not ostensibly qualify, feel free to head over here if you're feeling particularly hungry.
This spontaneously witnessed biology experiment almost certainly goes down as one of the more icky scenes I've come across at the grocery store. To protect the guilty, I won't come out and identify said store, but anyone with a bit of research chops should be able to narrow it down based on the clues in the pic.

Your turn: Please come up with a snappy caption for this photo. You can be as funny - or gross - as you wish. As ever, you may enter as many times as your poor keyboard can handle. The only stipulation? Have fun with it. For more background on how Caption This works, click here.

About last week's photo of a gentleman browsing at an old McGill Ghetto bookstore: This is one of my favorite photos from that morning's walkabout. You never know what you'll find when you head out with a camera in your hand. It's that sense of not knowing, of potential, that makes finds like this so satisfying. I'm glad so many of you had fun with it!

Our honorable menschens include the following fine folks:
  • Craziequeen: 'Yay! I finally found the Little Shop Around the Corner!'
  • Robin: "Pondering."
  • Terri: "Little Bookshop of Horrors."
  • Mojo: "Are you absolutely sure this is how it worked in You've Got Mail?"
  • Robin Pensieve: "Judging a book by its cover."
  • PastorMac's Ann: "Choosing his words carefully."
Jean's "In search of lost time" wins the virtual prize this week. There was something timeless about this dusty old store, and her caption captures that feeling quite nicely. Jean is a Bangalore native whose perspectives on life in India - in both words and images - will change forever how you view this incredible place. I hope you'll drop by her blog and send her a happy or two.

Where are you, Victoria Stafford?

I find myself hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Barely 60 kilometres east of here, the city of Woodstock, Ontario reels four days after an eight-year-old girl went missing. Not a stone is being left unturned as police and search teams do everything in their power to find her, yet despite their best efforts it seems as if she's vanished off the face of the earth.

I'm left wondering about the monsters among us who would take a child. I'm left wondering why not even a small city is safe enough to raise a child. I'm left watching our own children, wondering what I'd do if they suddenly vanished. I'm left afraid to even consider that possibility any further.

Tori's aunt has set up a Facebook page here. Volunteers, police and emergency responders from Woodstock and the entire region, including London, continue to scour the area 24/7. Her father's vowed to not sleep until she's found. Everyone else continues to pray for a happy ending, where a missing child comes home safely and her family continues on unbroken.

The world, after all, is broken enough as it is.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Witnessing Jehovah

It's early on Saturday morning when the doorbell rings. It's the first morning in a while when we've slept in and enjoyed the sound of a quiet house. Until now.

The dog runs to the front door, barking madly through the windows at the visiting strangers. I peek through and see a well-dressed elderly man and woman. Not the kid next door. Not the gas company warning me of imminent explosion. I open the door, if only to let the dog get his head out and scare the interlopers away. Before I get the door open, the man is shoving a copy of the Watchtower through.

Um, no thanks. I'm more a daily newspaper kind of guy, and despite my history of finding nice, polite ways to say no thank you to Jehovah's Witnesses intent on converting me, I find myself more than a little angry that they consistently fail to heed the "No Soliciting" sign on the door and the mezuzah - which indicates a Jewish home - on the door jamb.

He jokingly refers to my dog as "cross". I tell him our dog is anything but, that all he wants to do is say hello to anyone who visits, that I'm the one who's cross, because our visitors have yet again failed to read the signs on the door and have chosen to violate our privacy.
"But we're not soliciting," he says.
"You're selling something, and it's not something I wish to buy," I counter.
"We only wish to discuss Jehovah," says he.
[I point at mezuzah] "Do you understand that this means we're Jewish? That we're quite comfortable within our faith and that we have no interest in being converted?" I ask.
"Some of you people do like to speak with us," he answers.
I think this is the point where I lose it. It isn't just his "you people" choice of phrasing - it's his tone, condescending and paternalistic, as if it's his G-d-given right to redirect me onto the so-called righteous path. Sorry, but this conversation needs to end, and now. I firmly explain what "No Soliciting" means to me. I firmly ask to be removed from consideration for future visits. I firmly rebuke them both for violating my Sabbath before sending them on their way to harass my neighbors.

Later, as I head out with the now-calm dog for a walk, I see them get into their car (metallic green Ford Five Hundred, Ontario plate AMWX 956) and drive off. No conversions today. And if they return, next time I won't hold the dog back.

Your turn: Doorstep missionaries. Pro? Con? How do you get rid of 'em.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Peter piper picked...

Fruit of the earth
London, ON, March 2009
About this photo: It's edible week this week. To join in on the Thematic Photographic nuttiness, click here and hold on tight.
My wife and kids know what's coming when I get The Look in my eye. I hold whatever it is that attracts my attention up and analyze it from every angle possible. Sometimes, disaster ensues. More often than not, though, they sigh that knowing sigh - a curious mixture of permission and exasperation - that results in my fetching the camera and taking a picture. Or two. Or more.

And so it was when I spied this red pepper. Debbie had to wait a couple of minutes before it met its inevitable fate in the salad bowl. She's sweet like that. So are her salads.

Your turn: Your favorite food(s). Why?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Don't shoot Bambi

The big news out of our exciting burg these past few weeks revolves around a few dozen deer, the environmentally sensitive bog in which they live, and the plan to shoot them, Bambi-style, to keep the cute, furry beings from permanently destroying their habitat.

The issue's been burbling for years. The deer, innocent-looking as they are, have multiplied to the point that there are too many of them. Residents who live around the Sifton Bog often complain that they eat out of their gardens. The bog, once a pristine jewel in the middle of nowhere, has been under threat for years from rapid development that now hems it in on all sides. Non-native species have invaded and conservationists fear it'll never recover.

Various solutions, including relocation and sterilization, have been proposed. But the one that's been getting everyone's knickers in a knot has been the cull. Supporters call it the most humane and cost effective avenue. Opponents have taken to the streets with placards. They say you can't kill Bambi. Or Bambi's mom.

Here's where I sit: I'm not a deer expert. A few years back, I came across one while cycling home from work and admit feeling blessed to have witnessed this gentle animal grazing quietly in the grass. But I also didn't own the lovely heads of lettuce - or was it cabbage? - in the adjacent garden that the stately being subsequently munched, so I may have been slightly biased.

While I appreciate the position of those pleading against hauling out shotguns and going hunting, I can't get past the fact that the most ardent protesters don't fully understand the complexity of the issue, and simply don't want to see Bambi get gunned down. Continued overpopulation of an environmentally threatened area will likely result in its complete destruction, at which point the sweet little deer will either starve to death or get run over by cars as they wander the nearby streets looking for food.

There are no easy answers here. I only wish those doing the protesting would do more research beyond watching a heart-tugging Disney flick.

Your turn: So what should London do about its deer problem? Anyone got some extra lettuce growing out in the garden?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thematic Photographic 44 - Edible

On ice
London, ON
March 2009
[Click to embiggen]

This week's Thematic Photographic touches on something near and dear to my heart: food. If you can eat it, I'm hoping you'll shoot it, then share it on your blog, then paste the link into a comment here.

I've chosen this topic because I need to get back to something I enjoyed long ago. It's been a while since I ventured into the grocery store with a camera. I had stopped my grocery store adventures after the Wal-Mart incident, and it was with great trepidation that I pulled the camera out again and risked the wrath of the fishmonger behind the counter.

My wife pretended she didn't know me. Smart woman, she.

Your turn: I see two fish who need to be named. Suggestions? Oh yes, almost forgot: please share an edible-themed photo, too. 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 is...edible!
  • 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, April 07, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Automotive reflection

Drop top
London, ON, March 2009 [Click to enlarge]
About this photo: We're rounding out our most recent Thematic Photographic theme, reflective. Feel free to add your own. The new theme hits the blog tomorrow at 7 p.m. What's it going to be? Scroll down to find out.
The '70s won't go down as a high water mark in the automotive industry. Strangled by soaring energy prices and tightening regulatory requirements, domestic automakers struggled to stay afloat. Hmm, sounds familiar.

This period is often called the "Malaise Era", and it produced a string of forgettable excuses for transportation. I'd argue that this car, a '75 Buick LeSabre convertible, would not be among them. It was, at least temporarily, the last of its kind as Detroit soon got out of the convertible business for a while. And as it loomed in the parking lot, my daughter and I stopped to admire this piece of thoughtfully restored rolling history.

Your turn: A car you remember...why is it significant to you?

Next up in Thematic Photographic: The theme for next week will be...


Please start thinking about what you'd like to share, and come on back after 7 p.m. Wednesday to participate.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Birthday boy

Make a wish
London, ON, July 2008

I tend to view life in terms of moments. Most of them are small, and they seem to disappear almost as quickly as we realize how precious they are. Yet they somehow stay stuck in our memory long after they've faded into the past, their vivid images reminding us why we need to try so hard to remember them.

We all make wishes before we blow the candles out. It's quite possibly the most cliched modern tradition in existence. But there's something about watching your child experience the moment that makes it anything but mundane. In that blink of a moment, I saw a child for whom nothing was impossible, who was surrounded by the people who mattered most, who knew he was loved limitlessly, who was content with his place in the world.

That won't always be the case. As Noah moves from 8 to 18 to 28, he'll be ever more responsible for his own destiny. He'll experience challenge and loss, and much as we wish we could be, we won't always be right there to cushion him. But at this moment, as he moved from 7 to 8, none of that mattered. And as he reflected on the ideal year ahead of him, I found myself wishing alongside him that his every reflection would be similarly charmed.

Your turn: What did he wish for?

One more thing: We're still taking submissions for Thematic Photographic - Reflective and Caption This.

Make that two: Noticed many of you have wished the little man a happy birthday...which isn't until July (the pic is dated July 2008, but I realize it's easy to miss. I'll word it more carefully next time. Apologies for the confusion.)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Caption This 115

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Montreal, QC, August 2008 [Click image to enlarge]

Dusty old bookstores in densely populated inner city neighborhoods can be treasures no matter what you're looking for. For this potential customer, the payoff was a long lost book. For me, walking through the very same streets long ago frequented by my own parents, the image was the thing.

Whenever I come across scenes like this, I often wonder how much longer they will exist. The relentless march of so-called progress seems intent on wiping the concept of quaint cleanly off the urban landscape. I feel compelled to capture them while I still can.

Your turn: Time to get captioning. This image, reflective in so many ways, needs you to come up with a snappy, witty or otherwise creative title or caption. Enter once or enter countless times - your only limit is your imagination. Bring friends along, if you wish - I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. Click the comments link below to get started, or head over here for a Caption This primer.

About last week's scene from outside a restaurant: I always feel a touch sorry when I shoot complete strangers without their permission. Had they been identifiable, I could have approached them and asked them to sign a release. But I'm more interested in spontaneous, real scenes. It isn't real after you've shoved paper in someone's face.

And so I shoot. Let the optical chips fall where they may. Getting back to business, this week's honorable menschens are:
  • Anne: "Almost finished."
  • Pamela: "Bootlegging."
  • Robin: "Age & Panes."
  • PastorMac's Ann: "Night Panes."
  • Carli: "I never thought I'd get down on one knee to ask this, but, George. . . gosh, I'm so nervous. . . George, will you go to the inter-county tractor show with me?"
Robin's "Closing time" takes the cake this week. I lifted my camera in the first place because the scene through the window seemed like such a peaceful way to end a long day of work for these no-longer-young employees. Robin's caption reflected what I was thinking as I took the shot. If you haven't visited her blog, Around The Island, you're missing a unique experience. She shares vivid vignettes of words and photos of her family and life just outside Tel Aviv, and has quickly become a favorite read of mine.

One more thing: Don't forget to share your reflective-themed photos here.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Here's looking at you, kid

Reflective maidel
Laval, QC, August 2008 [Click to age her]

She's 11 going on 21, but still enough of a kid that she still asks to tag along anytime one of us head out on an errand. This morning was no different, as she hung out with me while I donated plasma. Not exactly the most exciting place for a kid to spend part of Saturday morning, but something tells me that isn't what drives her anyway. The cookies we shared afterward tasted especially sweet, probably because I didn't have to eat them alone.

Someday, we'll inevitably run out of moments like this. For now, however, I'll hold onto them like the fleeting treasures they are.

Your turn: I hope you'll reflect on your own life for a moment before leaving a thought in a comment. And if you've got a reflective picture - literal or figurative - I hope you'll click here and share it with us, too.

Friday, April 03, 2009

World on fire?

Sometimes, it seems like the world is indeed on fire. After watching the events unfold in Binghamton, NY earlier today, I find myself wondering what 13 everyday people in a quiet upstate town did to deserve having their lives ended by a freak.

I have no answer, of course, because there is none. No one ostensibly deserves to be murdered, yet it happens. My fear, frankly, is that this kind of thing is becoming pervasive enough that we risk being numbed to it all. When this becomes somewhat normal or accepted as the price of living in a modern society, that's when I begin to lose that much more hope.

I find myself praying tonight that it never reaches that point.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Reflecting the sunset

London, ON

March 2009
[Click to enlarge]

About this photo: The latest Thematic Photographic theme is reflective. We're literally and figuratively getting reflective all week long. Click here to get involved (you know you want to...)
One London Place is our burg's tallest building. It's also one of the most interesting thanks to its mirrored facade and London's famously rich sunsets - the upside of air pollution, I guess.

I've shot it before and it's since become one of those subjects that keeps pulling me back in. So whenever I find myself downtown toward the end of the day, I always look up just in case there's something new dancing in the sky.

Your turn: Why do you look to the sky?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Thematic Photographic 43 - Reflective

Look out any window
London, ON, March 2009 [Click to enlarge]

I'm not sure why taking the train makes me feel more reflective than usual. Maybe it's because of its genteel nature: Unlike other forms of intercity transport, you don't really have to do much to take the train. There's no airport security, no maddening battling with highway traffic, no stress. Just find your seat and watch the countryside roll by. I can't understand why more people don't get on board.

This image is reflective in a number of ways. Literally, it reflects the platform as I got off the train. It was late evening, and I was coming home from a long, eventful day in the big city a couple of hours to the east. That's where the figurative reflection comes in. I felt very at peace at that moment, as I had done my best and knew the day would result in better times ahead. Sometimes, all it takes is a photo of a moment to evoke a memory that resonates.

Your turn: This photo kicks off our new Thematic Photographic theme, reflective. If you've got a photo already - or are hankering to take one that fits - simply post a photo to your blog, then paste the link in a comment here. Here's more background 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...reflective!
  • 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.

Windows not by Microsoft

Two by two
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

I often wonder what folks think about when they sit beside a window and look out. This picture makes me wonder even more. I hope they're not as sad as the tone of this image would suggest.

Your turn: You're looking out your own window. What are you seeing? Thinking?

About this photo: This is the last in this week's drab series. If you'd like to submit your own, feel free to click here. Looking ahead, the next Thematic Photographic theme goes live tonight, at precisely 7:00 p.m. EDT. To whet your photograaphic whistle, the topic will be...


The fun starts tonight. Are you game?