Saturday, July 31, 2010

A decade on

Thornhill, ON, June 2010

It's been ten years since we welcomed our youngest son, Noah, into the world. It doesn't seem like anything remotely close to a decade, but I suppose the calendar doesn't lie. Babies do indeed grow up, and parents like us are left wondering why time has to move as quickly as it does.

Before tuck-in last night, he came bounding - he doesn't walk as much as he lightly skips from place to place - into our room and proudly told me this was the last time I'd be hugging him as a 9-year-old. He threw his arms around me and squeezed for all he was worth. It wasn't any different than any other night, mind you: He's always been a cuddly, sweet child who never misses an opportunity to say how much he loves us. Still, I held him for just a little longer than usual, wondering how he got so big, and how long it would be before he'd be too old and independent to do the hugging thing with us.

Hopefully not for a while.

After his hug, he found the dog and gave him a hug, too. Frasier doesn't speak English, of course, but something tells me he appreciated the moment just as much as we did. Noah's like that, a connector, someone who finds a way to wind his way into everyone's heart no matter who they are. He's endlessly kind, sharing whatever he has to make sure those around him don't go without. He's a hero to his little cousins, too, the cool Big Noah from London who plays whatever they want from the moment he gets to their house to the moment he leaves. He's a good kid, a gutteh neshumeh - good soul - who reminds me so much of my wife every time I hear him speak.

Call me an inveterate optimist, but I believe good things come to those who are kind, and he is as kind as anyone I've ever met. I hope he carries his sunny nature - we call him Sunshine Boy - well into adulthood, because the world needs more people like him.

Happy 10th birthday, little man. May all your days continue to be happy, and may we always be together to share them with you.

Your turn: Happiness is...?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In the shadows of the night

Lonely light
London, ON, May 2009
About this photo: We're exploring shadows all week long as part of our latest Thematic Photographic theme. It's only a matter of time before your creative soul compels you to submit your own shadowy photo. And when you do, your mouse will find itself going here.
I love shooting at night. Despite the challenges of exposure - either stick it on a tripod and go long, or handhold it and learn how to make yourself very, very limp - this has always been my favorite time of day to shoot.

On this particular night I was in the parking lot of a nearby strip mall. I forget why we were there, but I remember deciding this forlorn stretch of sidewalk in between a couple of stores was worth remembering. Then as now, I wondered what went on in the shadows. To this day, I have no idea. And I'm thinking that may not be such a bad thing, because we all need a little mystery in our lives.

Your turn: Why does the night fascinate us?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thematic Photographic 108 - Shadowy

Eight ball, corner pocket
London, ON, June 2010

It isn't easy shooting artsy pictures in the middle of a busy collection of pool tables. Managers tend to want to know what you're up to. Players get annoyed if you get in their way. Even if you stick to the far-off corners of the room, it's the kind of activity that attracts attention, and not always the good kind.

But the late afternoon light slashing selectively through the room was too compelling to ignore. I knew I had about 15 seconds to get something before someone told me to stop. So I pre-set the camera as best I could, then walked up to the empty table and racked off a few frames before I chickened out and returned to the shadows.

Looks like I got away with it. This time.

Your turn: This photo launches our new Thematic Photographic theme, shadowy. For the next week, feel free to share shadow-themed photos on our own blog, then post a link here. As a bonus, visit other participants for more inspiration and sharing. Click here for more info on how TP works.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Barking up the right tree

Not-so-desolate landscape
London, ON, May 2009
[Click photo to embiggen. Click here to share your own closeup-themed pic.]

I was killing time while waiting for our munchkin's playdate to end. I had dropped him off just far enough from home that staying out and running errands seemed to be the more responsible, more eco-friendly alternative.

But you can only run so many errands before you run out of things to do. Before long, you're scraping the bottom of the reality barrel - did you really need to pop into the pet store to price out a replacement leash for the one the dog's threatening to chew through? That's your sign to break away from the madding crowds.

A nearby park offers a welcome refuge from the rush of Sunday afternoon shoppers. And before long, you find yourself standing, silent and alone, in front of a craggy old tree, wondering why you don't do this more often.

After what seems like hours of reflection, but is likely closer to 15 minutes, your watch alarm goes off (bless the Timex Ironman Triathlon) and it's time to fetch the little man and bring him home. As you set off on the closing leg of today's adventure, you think of the delightfully rich trunk of the sadly ignored tree in the middle of a suburban park. And you quietly tell yourself you'll be back again soon. And when you do, maybe you'll bring home another picture of a moment and place that, despite its humble, routine beginnings, you won't soon forget.

Your turn: Why we need to slow things down. Please discuss.

Monday, July 26, 2010

So long, Tony Hayward

Point break
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2009
[Click photo to embiggen. Click here for more Thematic closeup enlightenment]

Today's top headline was the announcement from embattled oil giant BP that its equally embattled CEO, Tony Hayward, was pulling the chord on the most golden of golden parachutes. The guy who presided over the henhouse while his minions played fast and loose with the basic rules of drilling safety is now getting his wish - he'll have his life back, along with a never-ending pipeline of big, fat cheques.

I immediately thought of the countless miles of once-pristine beaches that now sit under a deadly film of oil, of the countless plants and animals killed because a company was rushing to move its exploratory rig to the next drilling site. I know I oversimplify because I'm not an expert in drilling mechanics, but it's difficult to oversimplify the legacy of Mr. Hayward's lameoid leadership style. I'd like to say he won't be missed, but I suspect replacing him with another disconnected fonctionnaire won't do much to change the culture of a misguided leviathan at the core of a misguided industry that still thinks it can do as it pleases.

Your turn: What's your retirement wish for Mr. Hayward?

Have eggs instead

Hard boiled
Laval, QC, May 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic explores the closeup world. If you want to explore it, too, head this way.
Whether eggs are nutritious heroes or disease-causing villains is something that'll likely be debated until the sun swallows our planet a few billion years from now. But you don't have to eat (or not eat) something to appreciate what it looks like. So I present to you the humble hard boiled egg. Steve Martin would be proud.

Your turn: If you're looking for photographic inspiration, eggs in any form might be a fun place to start. If you want to get cracking, go for it. And while we're on the subject, what's your favorite kind of egg?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When Apples wore rainbows

Another classic
London, ON, May 2010

I have a thing for old computers. In the cruel light of modern-day technology, they don't deserve a second glance. Their specs can be beaten by the most run-of-the-mill cell phone, and they're so obsolete that getting data off of them can range from difficult to impossible.

To wit, this machine has a 3.5-inch floppoy drive, a full array of serial and parallel ports (all together now, "Oooooh"), and absolutely no way to jack in a USB flash drive. Its screen resolution hurts my eyes and listening to the hard drive crunch away while it loads Word documents reminds me of what it must have been like to crank-start grandpa's Ford Model T.

But sheer performance matters little when history comes into play. I found this machine in the far corner of the youth director's office after dropping my kids off at choir. I used one just like it way too many years ago, and never forgot how much I enjoyed the experience - and how much this humble little machine started me on the road to following and writing about Apple in my eventual career. I wasn't alone, either: In schools across the continent, machines just like this defined how students first transitioned into computer-based learning.

Laughable technology today, I know. But sometimes I feel we don't take the time to appreciate the history of an era where everything seems to be disposable and forgettable. Perhaps milestone machines like this Mac LC III deserve to be celebrated a little and not relegated to dusty office corners.

Your turn: Your favorite old computer was a...? Why? What made it special?

Thematic Photographic's closeup week continues here.

Orange petals

Life, in all its glory
London, ON, July 2010

I have no momentous reason for either shooting or posting this picture. I noticed it as I was walking past, so I stopped for an impromptu photo shoot. That's all.

I guess flowers do that to me on occasion. I guess we all need the occasional excuse to stop and smell the roses. Or whatever else is growing out of the ground that day.

Your turn: What attracts you to flowers? What's their appeal?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The blue flame

Waiting for the pot to boil
London, ON, July 2010

Despite my illogical fear of all things powered by natural gas - our furnace uses it, and it freaks me out every time I head down to the basement - I'm still game to record its existence in some way whenever the opportunity presents itself. So many thanks to our ever-understanding friend who, while we were all chatting in her kitchen recently, turned around to see me hovering over and around her natural gas stove. She didn't ask what I was up to: She just knew.

I like this photo because it reminds me of that neat little warm feeling you get when you hang around good folks. If the stars align, hopefully that glowing light of connectedness will continue to shine for us all.

Your turn: Flame. What's the appeal?

For more Thematic Photographic closeup silliness, please click here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Eat me

Brunch is served
Toronto, ON, June 2010
About this photo: Thematic Photographic goes closeup this week. If you're in a myopic frame of mind, follow your mouse here.
Buffet tables are funny things. When the covers are pulled off, the hungry masses descend on them, jostling each other for position before the freshest bagels are gone. Lineups snake out the door as plates clink, toes tap and tempers flare. It can easily become an ugly scene. Sadly, often it does.

I'm a bit of a lurker. I have no interest in lining up for food. It didn't work for Soviet-era Muscovites and it sure doesn't work for capitalist-me, either. Instead, I wait for the crowds to inevitably thin before approaching the now-depleted piles of food. I rarely eat anything, as the whole touched-by-the-masses thing gives me the heebie jeebies. But that doesn't mean I can't find a decent picture among the uneaten remains.

Your turn: Do you do buffets? Why/why not?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thematic Photographic 107 - Closeup

One scoop
Toronto, ON, June 2010

You see things differently when you position yourself closer than you otherwise would. While doing so may make you look a little funny - composing this shot in the middle of a busy brunch gave more than a few guests pause - it also lets you turn the ordinary into something a little less ordinary. In the overall scheme of things, the picture always wins.

I really need to spend more time sticking my lens within touching distance of stuff. Maybe this next week with give me ample opportunity to do just that. Maybe it'll give you a similar chance as well.

Your turn: Take a closeup picture - or two, or three, or... - of anything you want. The weirder the better. Post it to your blog or website, then leave a link in a comment here. For further fun and inspiration, visit other participants. Here's some background on how Thematic Photographic, our silly little weekly photo thing, works.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A butterfly pauses

London, ON, June 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

Technically, this doesn't qualify as a summery photo because I took it just a couple of days before the season officially began. But I'm going to stretch things - again - because these lovely butterflies usually migrate through this area at the beginning of summer. I'm guessing this particular one didn't enter the itinerary into his (her?) BlackBerry and ended up leaving a few days early.

Which makes me glad, because I happened to be Right There when a friend called me over from the kids' school parking lot and told me to bring my camera. Of course, I had it on me, and was soon shooting this enormously gorgeous example of nature's engineering. The context was all wrong - deep shadows and gusty winds - but I shot enough different scenarios that I just had to get at least one keeper. And sure enough, here it is.

Your turn: What name should we give him/her? Feel free to suggest something.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

After the rain

Wet and green
London, ON, July 2010

One of the simple joys of a rainstorm in summer revolves around walking outside after the skies have cleared. If you look carefully, you'll see all sorts of signs that the world around you has changed, subtly and temporarily, because of the passing storm.

But you have to go outside. And you have to look.

Your turn: The gentle appeal of summer rain. Please discuss.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Corvette summer

London, ON, July 2010
[Click all photos to enlarge]
About this photo: It's our Thematic Photographic summer-themed week all week long, and I'm hoping you'll click here to share your own. Click here for more info on the Gawd-awful movie from which I stole the title to this entry. Mark Hamill and Annie Potts, what were you thinking?
I'm a bit of a realist when it comes to cars. I believe the state-of-the-automotive-art needs to advance to the point that our vehicles do less harm to the planet. At the same time, I appreciate, deeply, the impact the automobile has had on modern culture. I'm not a car guy and I don't have motor oil coursing through my veins, but I spend a lot of time appreciating vehicles for what they often are: Rolling pieces of engineering-based art that happen to inspire a good number of us in a whole lot of ways.

So when someone parked a blue, early-70s Corvette in a nearby driveway on a brilliant July afternoon, I couldn't resist shooting it surreptitiously from afar. The curves and surfaces almost begged for some attention, even if your humble shooter was too chicken to step off his own lawn to capture them.

There are a whole lot of reasons I should not like this car. It's a two-seat, gas-sucking, emission-spewing hog that could probably be bested by a Hyundai Sonata 2.0T in a closed-course, only-for-professionals, head-to-head race. It's only marginally more reliable than the British Racing Green Plymouth Cricket (a rebadged Hillman Avenger) my mom owned when I was a kid (the one with the huge chunk missing from the dash; the one that spent more time waiting for parts at the local garage than it did in front of our house.) It's the poster boy for all that went wrong in the American automotive industry in the 1970s, now referred to, somewhat derisively, as the Malaise Era*.

Yet, it's a stunning piece of work to simply stare at. I know its fiberglass body is the purest example of form over function. But what form! My camera loves this thing infinitely more than it ever would the Sonata, and I could probably spend the better part of a day walking around it picking out new perspectives.

Alas, I only had a few minutes and limited angles due to my inherent desire to not be noticed. So these will have to do for now.

Your turn: Your favorite car to shoot is a...? Why?

* Malaise Era definition: Reference to the era after the 1973 Oil Crisis, generally agreed to be 1973-1982, when automobiles, especially American ones, experienced a perceived downturn in style, performance, and quality. [Source:]

Deep blue not-quite-ocean

Waves of reflection
London, ON, June 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic. Summer. Right here.
There's a certain hypnotic quality to watching waves, close-up, in a swimming pool. I first noticed this when I was a lifeguard way too many years ago. When things got quiet, I'd sit on the deck and just watch the shifting surface of the water. As my interest in photography deepened, I found the abstract, always-changing patterns to be great subjects for my lens. (Additional bonus: Water doesn't talk back.)

These days, I realize I haven't changed a whole lot from my younger, curly-sun-bleached-haired self. I still find myself looking down at the waves and I still wonder about the forces that create magically new compositions from one second to the next. If only more of us took the time to drink it in.

Your turn: What is it about waves that attracts and captivates us so?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

By the rocket's white glare

Arva, ON
July 2010
[Click photo to embiggen]

Few things evoke summer more powerfully than fireworks. So when our friends invited a bunch of folks over to celebrate Canada Day with some aerial explosives, it was an easy decision to make.

Before the first one was lit, I staked out a spot in the grass not too far from Ground Zero. I lay down in the darkened stretch and pre-set the camera as best I could (I've shot fireworks before - click here for that - and it was just as much of a crapshoot then as it was now.) My technique was simple: brace against the ground, get myself into a very still, Zen-like state, use long shutter speeds and other exposure variations, then hope for a few keepers.

This one struck me as soon as I saw it on the screen. I'm a bit of a spaceflight addict, and the y-shaped image with stuff zipping out and down from the right somewhat (okay, loosely) reminded me of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Perhaps I'm imagining it. Regardless, it was a great evening with great friends. And a great shoot with some memorable results. I'll post more if you wish.

Your turn: Why do you believe we're so fascinated by fireworks?

Temporarily defying gravity

Delray Beach, FL
December 2009
About this photo: We're sharing summer-themed pictures all week long in support of our latest Thematic Photographic theme. If this makes no sense to you and you find yourself strangely intrigued, please click here.
I'll apologize now for stretching things a little. I realize a picture shot in the northern hemisphere in December doesn't necessarily qualify as summer. But anytime we're privileged enough to remove our kids from the icy grip of winter and let them cut loose in 30-plus-Celsius sunny warmth, I'm willing to call it "summer" and leave it at that.

Whatever season we call it, few things make me smile more than watching our kids be themselves. And in this fleeting moment, Noah is doing just that. He's a dive-into-it-with-all-your-heart kind of kid who wears it on his sleeve and on his face. He has an energy in him that can't help but be contagious, and every time I look at this picture, I think about the lessons a nine-year-old munchkin can teach us all about enjoying the moment.

Your turn: What does "in the moment" mean to you?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Up, up and away

Straight up
London, ON, July 2009

About this photo: Our newest Thematic Photographic theme is summer. This is a summery picture. Do you have a summery picture, too? Click here and all will be explained.
London's a city of hot air balloons, and for that I'm strangely thankful. Our geography is compact enough that a hot air balloon that takes off from the middle of town can easily make it to the agricultural hinterlands that surround us before its propane runs out. Which means regular opportunities to stop the bike on the way home and watch them launch from the park in front of the Dairy Queen.

Even if I miss a launch, it's a routine thing to see one of these graceful craft in the sky while I'm out and about. This isn't an earth-shattering civic feature, mind you, and it isn't anything that would make me want to live here above every other place on earth. Still, it's one of those little things that seals the deal on why this place has become so comfortable, the kind of thing that makes me smile a little smile as I realize my day has just been ever-so-slightly brightened.

Which explains why my head turned skyward on a hot day last July when I heard the telltale sound of propane burners. I ran inside for my camera and re-emerged just as the balloon floated directly overhead. Sometimes, you just get lucky.

Your turn: Libro is a financial services institution - think small and personalized - here in southwestern Ontario. Should I submit this to their marketing department? Does balloon advertising work?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thematic Photographic 106 - Summer

In the bright sun
Delray Beach, FL, December 2009

We're now deep enough into summer that I'm betting most of us have at least a few pictures in the archives of sun and surf. And if we don't, I'm hoping the new Thematic Photographic theme, summer, gives us all a reason to go out and shoot some.

So what's your summer vision?

Your turn: Post a summer-themed picture to your blog and then paste a link to the entry in a comment here. If you have difficulty with the linking thing, just post a comment here - it's all about sharing, not geekery. For added fun, visit other participants and see how they're seeing the season. Here's more background on how TP works.

The iPhone 4 sucks

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't - and debate on that front will clearly rage for months, if not longer. But there's no doubt that Apple has a PR debacle on its hands, one it hopes to resolve with a rather extraordinary press conference tomorrow.

I touched on Apple's woes during an interview last night with CTV News Channel's Marcia MacMillan. We were talking about another beleaguered smartphone vendor, Research In Motion, and it was only natural that we segued into iPhone territory for a bit, too.

The video's here. CBC coverage of the RIM situation is here. IT World Canada published this.

Your turn: Why so much controversy over a phone? Isn't it all just a little silly?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Saying goodbye

Her Zaidy
London, ON, September 2009

My dad, pictured here hugging our daughter, Dahlia, passed away ten days after this photo was taken. As he and my mom were heading back home after a visit to London, this was the last time any of us saw him.

Almost ten months since our daughter and her brothers first learned what real loss felt like, it's still enormously difficult to look at pictures from this day, much less share them here. Yet as the all-encompassing darkness of grief slowly gives way to a longer-term, permanent form of emptiness, I find myself looking for ways to remember.

And this was a good visit, something I'm glad we had before we lost him. The kids got to spend enormous amounts of time with him, from wake-up to tuck-in, and were able to celebrate birthdays - Dahlia's and Debbie's - as well. We all got to talk, to share and to simply be. In so many ways, it was a poignant way to say goodbye.

But here's the thing: I've never been good at goodbyes. And as my father had been sick for years - he had his first cardiac bypass surgery when Dahlia was just 10 days old, and he met her for the first time in the hospital lobby the night before he went into the OR - I had been, somewhat morbidly, taking pictures of him, alone, with my mom, with the kids, with us, for years.

I always thought, "What if?" Deep down inside, I knew where his increasingly frail health would lead. But I didn't want to lose him without having at least taken the opportunity to capture these snippets of togetherness in some small way.

I'm glad I did. Not because it was easy. It wasn't. But because it left us with that much more to hold on to.

Your turn: How do you remember important members of your family?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Duck, duck, goose!

London, ON, March 2010
About this photo: We're sharing family-themed photos this week as part of our Thematic Photographic extravaganza. If you're feeling extravagant in a familial manner, click here.
Families take on many forms, and from where I sit, it is the height of arrogance for humans to assume they hold exclusive ownership of the concept. (I'll duck now, before the conservative nannies among us take me to task. There, I'm good.)

It was a cold late-winter day when I came across these Canadian Geese (yes, the same species that brought down Captain Sully's plane and then hissed at my kids at the park, though not necessarily in that order) wandering across a decidedly family unfriendly road filled with 18-wheelers and not much else. There was a certain poignancy to the way they never strayed more than a footstep away from each other, seemingly ensuring each other's safety. Even when they took to the skies, they seemed to share the same slice of sky, almost afraid to fly solo.

If they don't represent family, then I suspect we may need to revisit our definition of the term.

Your turn: Unconventional families. Please discuss.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spain wins World Cup...

Whoever you rooted for, I hope we all appreciate the just-completed uber-cool moment of global sporting connectedness. Sometimes, sports transcends what goes on on the field.

Something to remember as the planet gets back to its usual mean-spirited self tomorrow morning.

Your turn: Got any final thoughts on the World Cup?

Friday, July 09, 2010

Brood by a wall

We made them
London, ON, May 2009
About this photo: Thematic Photographic focuses on family all week long. If you've got a photo you'd like to share, please click here.
It isn't often that they end up in the same place at the same time. So when they paused at the edge of the parking garage after an appointment with their favorite dentist, I grabbed the camera and grabbed the moment.

They're rushing so quickly toward the future that I don't know how many more chances I'll get to capture them in the same frame. Well, at least without PhotoShop.

Your turn: Photography as a means of slowing down time. Please discuss.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Thematic Photographic 105 - Family

A girl and her dog
London, ON, April 2010

I've chosen "family" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because as time goes on, I realize little else matters beyond this. It's the one constant in most of our lives, the one foundation on which all the other good things - career, health, interests, etc. - are ultimately built. Many of us are lucky to be surrounded by strong families, while others, sadly, wish that could be the case.

Since I tend to wear the family thing on my sleeve, anyway, I thought it might be fun to explore it for the next week. As you both capture and choose which photos to share - and let's be clear, you're free to participate as often as you wish - please give some thought to the definition of family. Specifically, it doesn't always necessarily have to be someone directly related to you.

In this case, it's quite clear to anyone who knows us that the young lady on the right is a member of my immediate family. The furry being* our daughter is holding, on the other hand, has no genetic link to us whatsoever. Yet, Frasier has become an integral part of our family - and I'm sure you've got happy exceptions such as pets and friends who similarly qualify.

Your turn: Over the next week, pick a photo that relates to the family theme and post it to your blog or related site. Mosey on back here and paste a link into a comment here. Repeat as often as you'd like. Then feel free to visit other participants to share in the familial goodness. For more info on how Thematic Photographic works, please click here.

* There's a bit more method to my madness, as it's Frasier's 4th birthday today. He doesn't know it, of course, but I'm sure he's just as happy to receive even more hugs than usual from us, his human family.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Reflective no more

Disposable society
London, ON, March 2010
About this photo: We've been sharing dot-themed photos all week long, and this picture puts a somewhat dirty and forgotten cap on the week that was. I'll post the new Thematic Photographic theme Thursday evening, but for now you're still free to share your own dotted perspective by clicking here.
It's always a little sad to see garbage in a place where it clearly doesn't belong. That we've become a throwaway society is, by now, well beyond doubt. That we often fail to properly throw these things away makes it all seem just a little bit sadder.

Your turn: Beginning to turn the tide of often misplaced garbage. Please discuss.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Once in a lifetime

Eighteen years ago tonight, I danced with my wife for the first time. After months of planning, we found ourselves floating through the surreal experience of our wedding. Even now, it still feels somewhat unreal. In a good way.

For anyone who knows a bit of Hebrew, each letter corresponds to a specific number. The study of those numbers is known as gematria, and has spawned more books, debates and near-riots than any area of religious study has a right to. To make a long story short, the number 18 corresponds to the Hebrew word, "chai", which means "life". Because of this significance, the number 18 shows up rather often in Judaic lore. When we give gifts, they're often multiples of 18 to signify the importance of life. When we drink wine, we don't say cheers. Instead, we say l'chaim. To life.

And in our family, the number's become a powerful symbol of why this life thing is such a neat trip and why we need to treasure it. And as I look back at 18 years of marriage, my second thought - the first one is how the heck time manages to move so quickly - is how lucky I am that my path crossed my wife's. And that it stayed crossed.

Debbie's my best friend. She doesn't just complete my sentences; she echoes what I'm thinking. We don't always agree, of course, but we always manage to figure it out. Together. My writer's voice is what it is because of her influence. I can't begin to describe what it's like to travel through life with her. Suffice to say I'm luckier than I have a right to be.

As our kids bounced into bed earlier tonight and the house slowly quieted down, I looked around at all we've built in the lifetime we've been married. From the outside, we don't look much different than any other suburban family. But from where I sit, it's an extraordinary result of a magical night 18 years ago. I'm blessed to have had 18 years so far, a lifetime with my best friend. Call me selfish for wanting more of the same.

Your turn: Please pop over to my wife's blog and say hello to her. And if you have any suggestions for building lifetimes of your own, please feel free to share them here. The world, after all, needs more happiness.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Capture the flag

Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2008
[Click photo to enlarge]

It may seem redundant to be posting a picture of an American flag so soon after my homage to Canada and its flag, but hear me out, because there is indeed method to my flag-waving madness.

Although I'm not American, I've always admired how our neighbours to the south wear their patriotism so obviously and proudly. They fly the flag, they sing the national anthem, and they let their blood pressure rise whenever anyone challenges their nationhood. They exude a level of passion for their country that often shames laid-back Canadians into questioning why they, too, can't be more effusive.

Sure, things can tend to the almost-ugly side of jingoism on occasion. The uber-bravado can grate on the nerves of those who tend toward the more subtle side of the nationalistic spectrum. But all things considered, it's refreshing to see such love of country so deeply embedded in the national psyche. There's a lesson there for other citizens of other nations, and radical fundamentalists notwithstanding, those who don't get it don't need to join the party. Everyone else is, of course, welcome to bask in the glory of a country that still inspires its people to stretch just a little bit further.

Your turn: If you're American, what does your flag mean to you? Even if you're not, please share a thought or two on why flags are often so central in our lives.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Don't tread on me

Stepped on
Richmond Hill, ON, April 2010
About this photo: It's dot week here at Written Inc. If you'd like to participate in our latest Thematic Photographic theme, just click here and all will be revealed (it won't even hurt!)
Jungle gyms sure aren't like they used to be. Ever advancing safety standards have completely transformed the playground environment. Gone are creaky-looking structures built out of railroad ties (leaking creosote...yum!) and in their place are colorful creations designed to foster cooperation and physical fitness.

The photographer in me kind of enjoys the new park world order, as it offers up an almost endless parade of photo opps. Oh, and it's managed to keep my kids out of the ER (so far, anyway.) Still, I miss those climbing-rocket things that managed to put the fear of G-d into you from the moment you first set eyes on it. Being scared is something today's kids will have to learn somewhere else, because the playground is no longer the risk-prone place it once was.

Your turn: What was your best or worst playground experience.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Thematic Photographic 104 - Dotty

The 5-second rule no longer applies
London, ON, June 2010

I've chosen "dotty" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme because we seem to be surrounded by the little buggers. Everywhere we look, there are dots of varying sizes, colors and consistencies. The irony of the online age is that every electronic screen known to humankind uses arrays of dots - pixels - to display images and text. We just need to look a little more closely to see 'em.

So for the next week, I'm hoping you'll point your lenses toward anything remotely dot-like. The point (sorry, couldn't help it) of it all is to enjoy the photographic vibe and spread some creativity far and wide.

Your turn: Take a dot-themed photo - or pull one from your archives - and post it to your blog. Paste the link in a comment here, then feel free to visit other participants. Dotty goodness shall ensue, as will karma and early-summer photographic happiness. Please click here for more background on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo theme nuttiness, works.

FWIW, I didn't eat the yellow M&M. It sacrificed itself for photographic posterity.

Happy Canada Day, eh?

Maple Leaf Forever
London, ON, May 2010

News flash: I'm an unabashed fan of my country. Like any other nation on earth, it's got its fair share of warts. We whine about taxes - to wit, the HST that kicked in at midnight has instantly driven the price of many stapes up by ungodly amounts - and services (or lack thereof) and disappearing industries. We look forlornly to the border to the south and wonder why our American neighbours have access to so many more sugar-laden cereal brands than we do. Our geese even got blamed for bringing down Captain Sully's US Airways Airbus A-320 in the Hudson River last year.

Despite it all, there's a certain something about Canada and the people who live here that makes it easy to stay. Those taxes? They're a bit higher here than elsewhere because we seem to put more importance on the power of community than the sanctity of individualism. We're a little slower to judge, a little quicker to pat each other's back and a little more likely to shrug our shoulders during times of uncertainty. We're a little less likely to draw attention to ourselves, to seek recognition and to behave in ways that would embarrass our mothers. And we have a flag that, IMHO, rocks the house.

We can also be a little lazy about expressing our appreciation for this huge, diverse, rich and mostly accepting land of ours. We've had freedom for so long that sometimes it's easy to take it all for granted. Which is why I'm glad that every year we get to pause on Canada Day, our country's birthday, and think about why we're so lucky.

Joyeux fete, Canada. Here's to 143 more. And then some.

Your turn: You appreciate where you live because...?

One more thing: Thematic teaser...dots. I'll say no more. Until later tonight, that is.