Friday, April 30, 2010

No coffee for you

Must be a tea drinker
Toronto, ON, December 2009

I deliberately avoid congested downtown streets for a number of reasons: Namely, I don't live or work near one, I get hives when I'm surrounded by too many people (yes, I'm antisocial that way) and the noise and icky air tend to darken my mood. But every once in a while, the regular demands of life dictate a trip to the very epicenter of urbanity, and when I do, I figure a camera is a worthwhile thing to have in my hand.

As often happens when I'm out of my natural element, I bump into moments worth recording. I almost stopped myself from grabbing this one because, as a general rule, I don't shoot strangers. I don't want to worry about potentially ticking them off, or worse, having them chase me down the street because I caught them doing something they really shouldn't have been doing. People are messy. Animals and inanimate objects are so much easier.

Still, this little moment of drama struck me as too rich to pass up. I felt kinda sorry for the poor guy trying to make a living delivering coffee supplies to nearby businesses. I also felt kinda sorry for this officer whose daily responsibility encompasses delivering one slip of misery after another to complete strangers.

I wonder if the subject of my photo unwound with a cup of java when he got off shift.

Your turn: I haven't done a Caption This in a while (hmm...) but I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for this pic.

One more thing: I wrote this while sitting on the large rock under the maple tree on my front lawn. It's 9:21 p.m., and as the last of the day's light ebbs out of the now-darkened sky, I swear every last neighbor who's walked or driven past while I've been tapping away in the glow of my netbook thinks I'm certifiably insane. I guess my being-different gene remains active.

Thematic Photographic returns soon

Thanks to everyone who has commented about the recent lack of Thematic Photographic. I put this weekly photo feature on hiatus a few weeks ago to give myself and you, my readers and blog community, a bit of a break from the routine.

Since then, I've received a steady stream comments, IMs and e-mails asking when Thematic Photographic will return. My answer: Wednesday, May 5.

The new theme will be "spring has sprung." Now that the season of renewal is well underway, I feel it's time to dive back in, and I can't wait to see what y'all come up with.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sun's so bright...

...I gotta wear shades
London, ON, November 2009

The scene: We're driving the kids home from school. My wife's at the wheel and I'm beside her. I'm fiddling with my camera because I'm in a bit of a funk and I need to occupy my mind and my hands. As we turn the corner and head west, the late afternoon winter sun almost blinds us all.

We're Canadian, so we should be used to this kind of thing by now. And to a large extent we are. But we've all got either green or blue eyes, and given our inherent sensitivity to light, we don't particularly appreciate the optical equivalent of a blowtorch.

I raise the camera and try to capture the moment as best I can (manual, as massively underexposed as the camera will allow.) I'm sharing the result not because it's a particularly great picture - it isn't - but because I don't want to forget what it's like to experience the day-to-day with my family. On this day, we were still in the shellshocked phase of early grief, and we grabbed at any snippet of normalcy. Sometimes, it comes in forms we can't anticipate.

Your turn: How does bright light make you feel? Why?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

HP buys Palm. Mobile wars continue.

So the big tech news of the day is that HP (aka Hewlett-Packard, the
leading maker of PCs) has bought embattled smartphone vendor Palm. The
$1.2 billion deal is expected to close in July, and it ends another
chapter in the life of the company that popularized the PDA, defined
the smartphone and subsequently faded into near-irrelevance.

(Seriously, I've lost count of how many ownership changes,
restructurings and rebrandings Palm has gone through. This must be
some sort of record.)

It'll be a slice of poetic karma - or is it karmic poetry? - if HP
manages to turn Palm back into a competitive player in this
increasingly treacherous market sector. Mobile isn't for the weak of
stomach, but HP, looking for opportunities beyond its core businesses,
didn't have much choice. We won't be buying PCs forever, so any
desktop/laptop/server vendor that isn't pushing a mobile strategy is
asking for trouble. Good on HP for recognizing the need now.

We live in interesting times, don't we?

Your turn: What kinda cell/smartphone do you carry? Why did you choose
that particular one?

Sent from my mobile device

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bad cereal!

I often use Twitter to muse about the uber-trivial things that often creep into my head. Yesterday was no different, as I was shepherding my brood home from a faraway place and found myself reaching for the BlackBerry during rest stops. I like the small break from the ordinary that a little bit of wordplay can offer.

So as the trip drew to a close, I tweeted this: Cereal mispellings bug me. Rice Krispies? Froot Loops? Is this the best way to start the day?

Said tweet, through the magic of social media, automatically became a Facebook status update (see here for my home page. It's too early in the day for me to figure out unique URLs of status updates.) Which then touched off a discussion among my readers. So I thought I'd bring it over here, too. Because I'm manic like that.

So, my point is that language is being eroded by deliberate misspellings like this. I recognize that language is under attack on a number of fronts - including the very tools like Twitter and texting that I use to keep in touch while I'm on the run - but there's something particularly galling when it's a major company playing fast and loose with the rules of spelling, grammar and clear communication.

Your turn: Got an example of deliberate misspelling? Does this bug you? Why/why not?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Off the grid? Or on?

Power to the people
Toronto, ON, December 2009

Every waking moment of every day presents us with two possible paths. Either we choose to follow the herd and accept the endlessly routine sameness of the world around us. Or we choose to look for the wonder within all that sameness. I like to think of it as forming our own herd. I also like to focus on the concept of choice. All of us have it, but sadly not all of us exercise it with any degree of frequency. Pity that.

As my wife has so painfully learned over the years, I'm a choose-the-wonder kind of guy. This likely explains how, when I arrived for a video shoot a bit earlier than expected, I found myself in a downtown Toronto back alley staring at a questionably connected set of wires. Not that I'm an expert in any of this, of course, but I still felt more than a little chilled at the haphazard look of it all.

My fears aside, I thought it made for a pretty neat composition as the late-winter's-afternoon light cast long shadows that threw the moment into stark relief. Not everything needs an answer, after all. Sometimes, I think it's worth shooting simply because it looks neat.

Your turn: What's behind the building that you're currently in?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

House of smut

Gentle what?
Brantford, ON, March 2009

You can't help but smile at the irony of the name attached to this dimly lit, run-down building hard by the tracks that houses a business that many would define as questionable. I've met many gentlemen in my life, and I'm willing to bet few, if any, of them would darken the doorway of a place like this.

But who am I to judge others' language choices? Folks who choose this line of work toss around words like "classy" and "discreet" as well, and no one seems to pay them much notice.

Still, when these "establishments" close up shop for good, few of us lament their passing. And as my train pulls out of the station, I'm perfectly content to leave this one behind as well.

Your turn: Oxymoronic language on signs. Please discuss.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Big Cat

Mud fight
London, ON, July 2009

I have a strange philosophy of photography: Absolutely every scene, even the ones that are beyond forgettable, contains at least one picture worth remembering.

So when I saw this tractor sitting in the middle of a horridly in-progress construction site, I decided the side profile - with its chunky, mud-covered tread and yellow steel hub - was kinda fun.

My wife disagreed, because getting this picture required a trek across said muddy site. She was not pleased that I returned with filthy shoes. Sometimes, photographers have to suffer for their wannabe-art. Sometimes, their wives suffer, too.

Your turn: Places other folks would write off - but you wouldn't. (I'll start: cafeterias, run-down K-Mart stores...) Please discuss.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Looking for Dino Flintstone

And we thought they were extinct
London, ON, February 2010

I've discovered that animal crackers aren't for kids after all. Sure, the packaging suggests they're as kid-exclusive as the Family Channel (ha!) and Fruit Rollups (not fruit and not edible), but a cursory glance down the cracker aisle on a recent Sunday afternoon revealed adults with no kids in sight stashing bags of crackerfied animals into grocery carts stuffed with salad fixins, pasta, balsamic vinegar and other decidedly non-kid fare.

They weren't fooling anyone: The only kids destined to eat these crackers were the overgrown ones trying not to look guilty as they sidled up to the checkout aisle.

I admit I'm one of them. I bring them home because I know our munchkins stay away from them - animal lovers, perhaps? - and if I keep a couple of bags in the shadows at the back of the pantry, edible salvation will always be an arm's reach away when I'm looking to both fill my tummy and inspire my somewhat off-kilter brain. I'm just that shallow.

Your turn: I rather prefer the dinosaur-themed crackers, as I don't feel the same degree of guilt eating them as I would, say, with zoo or farm animals. Are you a secret animal cracker eater? Why/why not?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Nailed to the wall
London, ON, February 2009

Just over a year ago, I was privileged to have my work exhibited by a local studio. It was a surreal experience to see my photos printed, matted and hung in a space specifically designed, from the paint to the lighting to the layout, for art.

I had never before thought of photography - nay, my photography - as art. But seeing and even feeling them on the wall made me realize that whatever we create can have a very real impact on those who experience it. I guess I had been sharing my work virtually for so long that it was easy to miss the real meaning of it all: It took the tangible act of printing, preparing and mounting everything to drive that message home.

When the show was over and I was finished taking the last one down, I stopped beside this one nail and stared at it for a good long while. On the one hand, I was somewhat saddened that it was all over. The experience was a thrill - made even more meaningful by the fact that I got to share it with my wife and kids and our friends from the community. I got to see my parents experience my work in a way they never had previously, and I'd like to think that my dad got an especially satisfying jolt of pride that his kid followed his voice and created something neat. I'll never know, of course, but the mere thought is a comfort.

Staring at the photo of the nail today, I'm reminded that the process of exploring, capturing, learning and sharing is a never-ending one. And as long as I am able, I'll heft my camera in my hand and head out on new adventures. And perhaps soon I'll find another nail much like this one, and I'll be lucky enough to once again hang something tangible on it for a whole new audience.

Your turn: What should be hung here?

Every day should be Earth Day

Different forms of pollution
London, ON
February 2009

On a bitterly cold, brilliantly sunny afternoon, I found myself standing under this rather interesting convergence of human-caused atmospheric phenomena. As I look back at this photo today, I find myself thinking that the concept of Earth Day may not be ambitious enough to fix whatever's broken in this frame.

Don't get me wrong: Earth Day is a great initiative and a wonderful way to raise awareness. I know that the yearly celebrations and activities at school have helped our kids become much more environmentally aware and sensitive than we ever were at their age.

But it's only a day. For most of us, the other 364 days of the year are business as usual. We go about our business, driving when we should walk, lighting when we can function just as well with less light, heating when we can pull on a sweater.

In my lifetime, I've watched Earth Day go from a faddish, feel-good event for publicity-seeking celebs to yesterday's news and, finally, back to a moment of relevance for our kids. I'm wondering what it'll take to make the next leap to everyday awareness. And action. I'd like to think that this kind of progress lies within our generation's grasp.

Your turn: How will you celebrate Earth Day? How will you celebrate the day after Earth Day?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lesson from a four-legged friend

I've decided I rather like having a dog to come home to. Although my wife and kids are usually pretty consistent about hellos and goodbyes - my wife believes in making these moments special - there are times when the only greeter at the door has four legs and a soggy Schnauzer beard. When everyone in the house is too busy to get to the door, I can always count on our silver-furred hellion to attack the door until I can get it open. In the truest guard dog tradition, he'll bark and howl until he realizes it's me. Then he'll bore in, nubbin-of-a-tail wagging madly as he buries his head in my chest and snorts repeatedly.

I'm not quite sure what he hopes to accomplish in the process. I can hear all manner of sniffing going on, and all I can come up with is he's following his instinctive hunting dog's DNA as he tries to figure out where I've been, what I've done and who I've done it with.

Before long, I'll have to get on the floor because that just seems to make it so much easier to enjoy this wiggling ball of fur. It's always the same, and it never gets old. I think it's the unconditional nature of it all that makes moments like this worth holding on to. He'll be there, drooling and happy, no matter what kind of day he or I had. He doesn't temper his excitement for anything - the world revolves around the two of us for those few first moments on reconnectedness. He's happy simply because we're together.

I keep thinking there's a lesson here, and all I need to do is listen to him a little more closely. I think I need to be a little more like him - unconditional, in the moment, simply happy to be together, and to simply be - whoever I'm with.

Good dog, isn't he?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tanks for the memory

Please don't explode
London, ON, March 2010

I've been surveying the new-to-me neighborhood where I now work, and I've been coming across some rather fascinating things. To wit, there's a petroleum tank farm located not a 10-minute walk from the front door. Although I'm not allowed inside - gee, I wonder why - it's still a fairly cool place to observe from the outside.

In our post-9/11 world, however, I suspect a stranger with a camera wandering around the street just outside the front gate isn't exactly the most welcome kind of visitor. Indeed, I'm rather certain my initial photo shoot has now been immortalized on some grainy black-and-white security video.

When I eventually find my name on the no-fly list, at least I'll know why.

Your turn: If these things didn't have to hold gasoline, diesel and other forms of dead dinosaurs, what would you want them to hold? Feel free to be as creative as you wish.

Gordon Lightfoot is still alive

I've been somewhat remiss about tracking my media work of late*, but I came across this particularly fun link from a couple of months back (Feb. 18, actually) that I wanted to share.

It's from an interview I did with CTV News Channel's Marcia MacMillan This time out, we spoke about the Twitter-started rumor that erroneously spread "news" that Canadian singing legend Gordon Lightfoot - his most famous tune is arguably The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - had died.

Imagine Mr. Lightfoot's surprise upon hearing this on the radio as he drove home from a dentist's appointment. He was very much still with us, and called a national radio program to share this happy news with the country.

The incident raised all sorts of questions about the impact of social media on the news gathering and dissemination process, and the fact that without checks and balances, it's only a matter of time before this kind of thing happens again. And again. And...

The interview's here. Other televised hits can be found here, here and here.

Your turn: The dangers of Twitter, Facebook and other tools of social media. Please discuss.

* If you've just joined us, I lead a bit of a double life beyond my 9-to-5 career path as a data management guy. Long ago, I became a journalist by education, then an analyst almost by accident. Like Superman, who often uses fast-disappearing phone booths to switch into his alter-ego, I occasionally find myself switching gears into media-commentator-analyst mode as the sun sets (or rises...those early morning hits are fun.) Journalists, producers and editors from various print and electronic media often call me to talk about why a particular tech/business/culture story matters. It's resulted in some fun adventures along the way.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Landlocked mouse

Nowhere to row
London, ON, April 2009

I know there's a story to this, and it probably has something to do with Storybook Gardens (our city-run theme park), some humorless staffers at City Hall and a lost memo that's kept this fading piece of everyone's childhood marooned in a city depot for the better part of the past couple of years.

However Feivel the Mouse (I don't think this little fellow has a name, but I've always liked the name of the main character from An American Tail*. But I digress...) came to be here, I always feel a little sad when I pass by and see him still wedged between the seemingly discarded snow shovel blades, going nowhere. Mind you, there's something to be said for little slices of happy popping up in the most unexpected places. So perhaps in that light he's right where he belongs.

Your turn: Where's he headed? Where should he end up?

*Feivel was my grandfather's name. He died a month before the movie was released, and it was a poignantly bittersweet experience to see the movie so soon after he passed away. The character's name in the film is spelled "Fievel", but I figure it's close enough.

The irony of a volcano in Iceland

I've got a couple of places to go and people to see this morning, so actual writing and blogging here at Written Inc. will have to wait until later today. But as the crisis in Europe widens over the erupting volcano in Iceland (for the record, the earth is spewing from a vent in the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. Say it 10 times fast. I'll wait. But I digress) I find myself thinking back to the contrail-themed entry, Painters of the sky, that I posted here early Friday.

When I first wrote it, the full extent of the eruption hadn't become clear. So I wasn't particularly focused on the near-full shutdown of western European airspace and the billions of dollars lost and incalculable inconvenience caused. Now I am, and I'm reminded that for all the technology in the world, we're still very much subject to the seemingly random whims of this incredible planet of ours.

Your turn: Got a power-of-nature story to share?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Apollo 13 + 40

Forty years ago today, the Apollo 13 mission came to an end with the safe landing of the command module, Odyssey, in the Pacific Ocean (NASA links: mission overview, interactive feature.)The mission riveted the attention of the world after an oxygen tank explosion 200,000 miles from the planet crippled the craft and threw the three astronauts' very survival into question. The mission, later dubbed a "successful failure" because the astronauts survived despite achieving the original objective of landing on the moon, became an icon of NASA's once-vaunted ability to pull proverbial rabbits out of proverbial hats.

As we've seen in the ensuing decades of budget-castrated human spaceflight programs, fatally flawed management practices and tragic losses that didn't have to happen, NASA's star has clearly faded. In the process, so has the national will to pay for it.

As I write this, Space Shuttle Discovery orbits the planet a mere few hours after undocking from the International Space Station. Her second-to-last mission, STS-131, is scheduled to end Monday morning with a landing at Florida's Shuttle Landing Facility (wiki), after which only three missions remain before the shuttle fleet is grounded for good. Despite President Barack Obama's rather significant speech* Friday calling for renewed focus on beyond-the-moon exploration, the fact remains that there is no post-shuttle U.S. capability to achieve low-earth orbit, and the very core of American human spaceflight knowledge is about to be scattered to the wind.

I got to discuss this very issue with AM640 Toronto radio host John Downs this past Friday (I chat with him live on-air most Fridays from about 8:30 to 9:00 p.m. You can tune in here) and as I did my best to explain why this stuff matters to a mostly uninterested public, I found myself wishing we spent more time focusing on this and less time on Kate Gosselin. Reality television washouts don't inspire our kids. I firmly believe that edge-of-the-envelope scientific achievement, on the other hand, does.

As a Canadian, the current space malaise hits an especially raw nerve. Anyone who was around for Canada's Avro Arrow (CF-105) debacle will understand what it feels like to have world-leading scientific capability destroyed by lack of political leadership and will. The irony that the suddenly-out-of-work Canadian scientists and engineers went on to join NASA's moon program in droves isn't lost on me.

Your turn: What inspires you?

* Additional links:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Painters of the sky

Why I look up
London, ON, March 2010

The scene: I'm dropping our two youngest off at school when I notice the contrails overhead. London isn't the world's largest town - with 350,000 people living here, we won't exactly be attracting endless lines of long-haul 747s to our airport - so it's clear these planes are just passing through. The best we can hope for at our own so-called international airport is turboprop commuter planes making the 45-minute hop to Toronto and Detroit, and 737s taking snowbound Canadians to luxurious resorts carved out of the coastlines of otherwise impoverished nations. But I digress.

The morning and evening ritual of a sky filled with the slowly expanding vapor trails of high-flying jet aircraft is a fluke of geography - we live under a large number of converging continental flight paths - and atmospheric dynamics. And I'll never complain. There's something quite humbling about standing on the ground while this ever changing kaleidoscope of human-caused meteorology plays out miles overhead.

Not everyone gets it, though. As I stand beside the parking lot with my camera, other parents stop and stare. One takes a moment to ask what I'm doing, then shrugs when I tell her I'm watching the contrails. The rest just drive off, some shaking heads, wondering why Dahlia and Noah's dad is staring into space again.

There are days when I wish they'd take the time to enjoy the scene. But today's not one of them. For now, alone is a good place to be.

Your turn: Do you stare into space sometimes? What are you looking for?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A week of relative silence

Back to the life of the bike commuter. First ride done. Now t... on Twitpic
It's been a heads-down week of work, evening meetings, more work and more evening meetings. As I walked the dog at 3 a.m. earlier today, it dawned on me that this week is a little out of balance and something's got to give.

So far, the "give" list includes this blog, as I've spent almost no time here all week. You may have also noticed that Thematic Photographic didn't get posted last night. I think I may give it a week's rest, as I want to see what it's like when I'm not following a theme for the week. Please feel free to suggest themes in comments below. I'll keep posting here, of course, but we'll keep it free-form for the next few days.

More later. I've got to button up some work before I get on the bike - yes, folks, I'm back to the bicycle commuting life, trekking across town and praying London's texting, coffee-drinking and car stereo-fiddling drivers don't turn me into a hood ornament. Another cool day of opportunity awaits at the office, assuming I make it there in one piece.

Your turn: What's the one thing you're looking forward to today?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Covered by a blanket

Snowed under
London, ON, February 2010

There are days when the only thing you need to do to find inspiration is to look out the window. I believe this may have been one of them, and I'm glad I took the time.

Your turn: So where are you going to find something inspiring today?

Sunday, April 11, 2010


London, ON, January 2009
About this photo: We've been looking back at winter, and will continue to do so through this coming Wednesday. Do you have something wintry to share? If so, please click here.
There are days where everything snaps into focus and there's little doubt about who you are, what you're supposed to be doing and where you're headed. Then there are days where things are just a little fuzzier then you'd like, where the gears don't feel fully engaged and things don't click into place as fast we wish.

On days like these, I think of this picture, shot on a brutally cold winter day not far from home. I've loved this photo from the moment I shot it because it plays with our sense of perspective. Without any points of reference within the frame, the sense of scale can be whatever your mind wants it to be. You could be looking at a scene a few inches across...or alternatively one miles wide, shot from miles high. I'll let you imagine

Oh, about that feeling of drifting? The good news is it never lasts forever. Eventually, the wind stops, the weather warms up and the drifting snow melts into a mere memory.

Your turn: When you're feeling a little lost, what gets you back on an even keel?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where's the Michelin Man?

Tracked changes
London, ON, February 2010
About this photo: It's a winter-themed Thematic Photographic week, so if you've got something white - or even something that in an abstract sense makes you think of winter - click here to participate.
I don't even want to think about what was going through the stranger's head as he watched me grab this quick moment in the shopping mall parking lot. In our paranoia-infused post-9/11 world, any behaviors that deviate even slightly from the so-called norm are increasingly likely to result in someone surreptitiously calling the police on you. To wit, my not-quite-a-body-in-a-garbage-bag experience earlier this week*.)

But I figured I had about 15 seconds to record this stark moment for posterity before either falling snow or, more likely, a parade of motorists rushing to the pharmacy for on-sale baby powder, turned this ephemeral scene into just a memory.

Something tells me my skeptical witness didn't much care about the big picture here, as I believe I was crouched between him and his baby powder. So as soon as I was done, I slung the camera back over my shoulder and disappeared into the dimming grey late afternoon.

Your turn: Ever behave oddly in public? How? Why?

* I've been watching the headlines since then. No reports of missing folks or recently-uncovered murders. So my conclusion is this guy was dumping garbage. Either way, a doofus extraordinaire. And next time, I'm calling it in.

iPhone, iCarmi, iMarcia

Every once in a while, the stars align and I get to appear on television. Last night was one of those star-aligning moments, as I spoke live with CTV News Channel's Marcia MacMillan. We were chatting about the latest Apple-related news, as it had been another big week for the company that Steve Jobs built.

On Thursday, Apple announced a new version of the operating system that powers most of its mobile devices. Known as iPhone OS v4.0, it brings new capabilities, such as multitasking, improved e-mail and an in-application advertising network, to the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Well, it will deliver those capabilities when it's released to the unwashed masses later this summer.

So I chatted with Marcia (or iMarcia, if you hang in till the end) and somewhere along the way gave myself a new name, too.

(And if you're in the mood to read, here's a link to my Betanews column, The True Cost of iAd, that zooms in specifically on the new advertising network.)

Your turn: Marcia asked a great question toward the end...what should Apple's next i-branded product be called?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Can I play, too?

Waiting his turn
Richmond Hill, ON, February 2010
About this photo: We're remembering the winter that was, and I'm hoping you'll share a wintry scene of your own. Click here to participate in our weekly photo sharing insanity, Thematic Photographic.
All Frasier wanted was to be off his leash so he could bound up and down the snowy toboggan hill with his favorite folks. But since obedience isn't his strongest suit, and since my luck would result in the bylaw enforcement officer coming around the corner just as he'd be chasing the neighbor's dog back into the next zip code, I kept him leashed.

Every once in a while, the munchkins came back to him and made sure he didn't feel alone. Made me feel a little warmer on this frigid afternoon knowing the sharing gene was alive and well in all of them.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Apple iPhone OS v4.0 - Quick Take

So Apple announced its upcoming update to the operating system that drives the iPhone, the iPod touch and, more or less, the iPad. Geeks everywhere salivated over the prospect of multitasking and a slew of other technical enhancements to the almost-three-year-old platform (ancient, I know.)

But the real news was the iAd mobile advertising platform. It's nothing less than Apple's attempt to out-Google Google with in-application advertisements. Google may own the desktop with context-sensitive ads that appear beside searches, e-mails and other Google-driven services. But Apple wants to own the mobile ad space.

Let the games begin.

< /geek>

In related news, I've been geeking out with reporters again - about Apple, and not:

Remembering a lost child

A year ago today, Tori Stafford disappeared from her school in nearby Woodstock and was never seen alive again. Her body was found last July, and two suspects are slowly working their way through the justice system.

Eventually, some semblance of justice will be delivered and the monsters responsible for her murder will become rent-free guests of the Canadian penal system. But an 8-year-old girl will forever be lost, and no amount of so-called justice will ever reverse this inconceivable reality.

If you've got kids nearby, hold them a little tighter.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Thematic Photographic 96 - Goodbye Winter

Arctic ice shelf?
London, ON, February 2010

[Click photo to embiggen]

I was hoping to do a spring-themed theme this time out, but I realized it was so early in the season that my archives didn't have a whole lot of relevant examples to share.* So I went with the next-best thing, winter. I'm hoping you've got pictures that allow us to reflect on the season that just was, and to bid it a fond farewell. For 9 months, anyway.

Your turn: Please share a winter-themed photo on your blog, photo sharing site or web site, then paste a link in a comment here. Simple, no? To add to the fun, visit other participants' contributions. I promise you'll be inspired. For more background on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo-sharing activity, works, click here. For all TP-themed entries, go here.

One more thing: I'll deliberately hold off on sharing the context/story of this photo. Feel free to guess, if you wish.

*This is a big hint for a future TP theme. Spring will definitely be here on the blog in the near future.

Years of experience

If these rings could talk
London, ON, March 2009
Quick note: This photo winds down our "In memory of trees" week (click here if you'd still like to contribute.) I'll be posting the theme for the upcoming week of Thematic Photographic tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern. What will it be? Not sure yet. What would you like it to be? I'm taking suggestions all day in comments below.
Old trees never fail to make me stop and think. I wonder what the world around them must have been like when they were young, and if folks like me often stopped nearby to wonder about issues bigger than them. I imagine the stories these trees could tell, and the lessons we could learn if only we had the ability to listen.

Maybe we do.

Your turn: What story does this tree tell you?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

That wasn't a dead body, was it?

Had the strangest experience on the way home from work today. I was driving Henrietta along one of the back roads not far from the airport when I noticed this blue, first-generation Honda Fit parked somewhat oddly alongside the road. It was at a spot approaching the bridge that crosses one of the smaller branches of the Thames River, and I'll charitably call this place desolate. Aside from a mysterious-looking, dust-covered, industrial-ish company nearby, there's nothing here. It's not the kind of place where you want to get stuck.

I felt a little bad for the guy as he leaned into the hatch. I thought he was going to fetch a repair kit. Or a tire jack. Or a flare gun. So imagine my surprise when he shlepped out a rather large, quite full garbage bag. Then I noticed what I thought was a shoe sticking out of a hole in the bag. My blood must have chilled by a few degrees as I figuratively - or was it literally? - shook my head and asked myself silently - or was it out loud? - if I had just seen what I thought I saw.

I slowed down because...well I'm not entirely sure why. If he was indeed dumping a body in this forgotten place beside a steep riverbank, logic dictated I should simply keep going. But the journalist in me was too curious. And I could always run the dork over if he came at me.

So I stopped on the shoulder and watched him. He saw me, and kept looking over his shoulder as he continued into the bush, obviously weighed down by the bag-I-hoped-didn't-hold-a-body. I didn't want to antagonize him by shooting him with my DSLR (carry it everywhere, folks) so I satisfied myself with this hastily taken shot from my BlackBerry. I figured the time stamp would come in handy if I ever got called into court to testify.

In the end, it could simply be my overactive imagination. But just in case, I'll be watching the local news feeds - including my handy Twitter list of Londoners - especially closely for the next few days. If anything remotely like a missing person or a found body comes up, I guess I have a call to make. And if not, I think I may have freaked out a guy whose biggest crime may have been dumping garbage in the bush.

Either way, another zing in this adventure called life.

Your turn: Have you ever witnessed a crime? Do tell.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Guess what grows on trees
Montreal, QC, August 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores trees through this coming Wednesday. Head this way if you've got some leafy goodness of your own to share.
My son, Zach, was having quite the afternoon, tagging along with me on a grand adventure in downtown Montreal. I had just done two televised interviews, one with CTV and the other with the CBC, and we were walking back to the car on a gloriously sunny early evening.

We weren't in a particular rush to get back - rush hour was still raging and we figured a little dawdling on our way to the parking lot would save us some traffic time - so we found ourselves taking in the sights of this alternately busy and gritty neighborhood.

We both stopped, speechless, when we came across the box of takeout hanging from the tree. It had clearly been left by a litterer with a sense of humor, if not much of an environmental conscience. We shrugged our shoulders at the silliness of it all, because a rather empty garbage can was just a few meters away on the sidewalk.

Your turn: The creative ways we litter. Please discuss.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

California quake - brought to you by Twitter

So as most folks on the continent now know, Mexico, Southern California and Arizona were shaken by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake earlier this evening.

Or do they?

Whenever a given news event is significant enough, many of us will almost automatically remember where we were when we first heard it. Because the very media that inform us are in an accelerating state of flux, we also remember how we heard it.

To wit, radio and newspapers dominated coverage of the end of World War II. By the time Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, it was television's turn to shine as the world's emergent medium of record. Many Internauts first heard of Diana Princess of Wales's death in September 1997 via the Web. These days, Web 2.0 is rewriting the rules and shifting our collective attention yet again. As a result, events like tonight's earthquake often break not via traditional media, but via Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

Every medium has its moment. One wonders if Twitter is having its moment now. And whether this means it'll still be our first line of recognition a few years down the road.

Your turn: Where did you first hear about this quake? What does that tell you about media today?

Another kind of tree

Software's (non) future?
London, ON, April 2010

In honor of this week's tree-filled Thematic Photographic (click here to dive in), I'd like to share this decidedly different form of tree. Personal computers - in this case, my wife's Mac - use a tree-like hierarchy to manage software and files.

I've been living with one form of computerized tree or another since I pried my first machine apart oh so many years ago. But only now did it occur to me that I could have some photographic fun with it, too.

Your turn: Can you think of other, non-standard kinds of trees?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Creepiness overhead

London, ON, March 2010

If trees are supposed to signify the very essence of life, I often find myself wondering why they keep showing up as ominous backdrops in literature and film. The visual of creepy-looking branches casting scary shadows over a frightened someone-or-other as he/she is set upon by some similarly creepy-looking bad guy has become an overused cliche.

And all this from something that nurtures and protects the entire ecosystem that grows up around it.

Doesn't seem fair, does it?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Sky falls down

At the end of the day
London, ON, February 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores trees this week. So if you've got anything branch-like in the archives, please head here to share.
I had taken our kids and their friends on a weekend afternoon playdate at an indoor gym. As we headed back to the car, they bantered happily about the experience.

I couldn't help but notice the sky. Even out here in the wastelands of a forgettable suburbia, it knew how to put on a show, and it called out to me. Our kids, of course, understand what it means when I ask them to give me a moment to pull out the camera. For their friends, however, this was a new experience. So while our daughter explained my weird obsession to them, I took a few quick pictures across the parking lot.

I tucked the camera away and got back into the car, surrounded by still-bantering voices reflecting on the adventure that just was. The perfect way to end a sweet day with a sweet bunch of kids.

Your turn: Can photography pause time? How?