Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Heartbeat of America

Bowties not optional
Delray Beach, FL, January 2010
About this photo: We're exploring branding this week. We call it Thematic, and it starts here.
Despite Tim Allen's claims that Chevy Runs Deep, I still remember when it was known as the Heartbeat of America. Commercials celebrating baseball, apple pie and anything else remotely jingoistic seemed to dominate the airwaves as a struggling GM tried - and largely failed - to counter a rising tide of better built imports. (That's because they also celebrated some pretty lousy cars, but that's a story for another day.)

Luckily for GM, the Chevrolet brand managed to survive a generation of uninspired design and largely absent quality control. And whenever I see a bowtie logo, I'm reminded of a time long ago when advertising made you feel something. Maybe we can have that kind of feeling again.

Your turn: Ads that make you feel. Please discuss

Media Storm - Another grim RIM day

It's been a somewhat hectic couple of days around here (see here for an early peek.) BlackBerry maker Research In Motion reported some disappointing quarterly results, and that touched off a bit of a media storm because when Canadian tech-business icons fall, they fall hard.

So it turned into a non-stop barrage of interviews and writing. No sleep, mind you, because from the moment I got into the car on the way home from work Thursday, my phone - yes, a BlackBerry - almost exploded with activity. The screen shot above is from today's Toronto Star. The lead article is mine. [Slight pause for a happy dance...]

Because I'm a little retentive about the work I do, I thought it would be fun to summarize the interviews and writing I managed to cram into just over 24 hours. Because I also work in an office during business hours, most of this somehow got done when the sun was on the other side of the planet. Here goes:

  • AM640 Toronto - The Arlene Bynon Show - They called me as I was in the car - on Oxford Street, if you're a Londoner. I wore my earpiece, Mom.
  • CFRB Newstalk 1010 Toronto - Spoke with John Downs and Ryan Doyle on Thursday evening - from the car, on Wonderland Road, still with the earpiece, as I jetted to the studio - and again with John Moore the next morning.
  • CHQR (QR77) Calgary & 630 CHED Edmonton - Chatted with Bruce Kenyon.
  • CJAD 800 Montreal - Spoke with Ric Peterson and Suzanne Desautels (my hometown, and the station where I started in radio. Podcast page here.)
  • 570News Kitchener - Spoke with Gary Doyle (this is the top news talk station in RIM's hometown.)
  • CBC As It Happens - Robert Harris interviewed me last evening. (Audio here.)
Damn, no wonder I couldn't get out of bed this morning.

Your turn: Can RIM turn it around? Why/why not?

This just in - Sat. Mar. 31, 12:53 pm - the Toronto Star piece is trending as the section's most popular.

And again - Sun Apr 01, 09:38 pm - the piece is #1 for the week, #2 for the month. Yikes!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where BlackBerrys fall from the sky

Don't have a lot of time to blog, as the news universe seems to have found a new gear, and it's insisting on pulling me along for the ride.

The bad news: Research In Motion had a very bad day. This was expected, of course, with analyst after analyst over the last few weeks weighing in with ever darker predictions of doom for the Waterloo-based BlackBerry maker. The quarterly results, reported after the markets closed today, were even worse. Then news broke that ex-CEO Jim Balsillie was quitting the board, and new CEO Thorsten Heins had begun to clean house, starting with the COO, the CTO and a whole whack of EVPs and SVPs. However you slide it, it's a dark day in Canadian tech.

Predictably, my smartphone - a BlackBerry, natch - exploded with all sorts of activity as I left the office today. Before I knew it, I was doing live radio in stop-and-go traffic, setting up Skype for a live hit with CTV News Channel, then zooming off to the studio to chat with CTV National News.

It's great, intense, soul-stirring fun.

I've got a long night of writing ahead of me, then a 6:30 date with Canada AM, so I'll hit send - again on the BlackBerry - and get down to work. Wish me luck...I think it's going to be an interesting ride.

Update: Here's a summary of how this all ended up playing out.

Industrial disease

Whenever I'm out for a walk or a ride, I try to avoid the main streets. Ostensibly, it's a traffic-hating, life-saving strategy, but beyond that there's a certain poignancy to quiet, commercial-industrial areas that have been around for what seems like forever.

As you can see here, sometimes they wear their years well and sometimes they don't. But the detour is always worthwhile, because you just know everything here has a story.

Your turn: Where else should I go walking next time?

For more brand-themed Thematic, please click here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On the impact of fear

"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear."
Bertrand Russell

Dear Syria,

Stop it.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Thematic Photographic 189 - Branded

Delray Beach, FL, December 2009

It would be an understatement to say we live in a consumer-driven society. We're surrounded by never-ending pressure to buy stuff, with advertisers and marketers finding ever new ways to get ever more aggressive messages in front of our eyes, around our ears and even inside our heads.

At the center of it all is the brand. Coke, Chevy or Apple...get comfortable with that brand and the rest of the process, as they say, is gravy (or, not, as is the case with the Hummer, and it'll, thankfully, disappear forever.) Brands are so central to our day-to-day lives that I'd like us to spend the next week exploring it as part of Thematic. Are you game?

Your turn: Please share a photo of a brand - logo, name, whatever you think qualifies - and post it to your blog. Similarly, if you've already shared something online, that's fair game, too. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, then skip around to other participants to spread the joy - and the word. Repeat, if you wish, because more is always merrier. Click here for more background on how Thematic works, and please accept my thanks for making this such a highlight for so many.

Bejeweled on wheels

Brilliance in motion
Delray Beach, FL
December 2009
About this photo: We're winding down this week's "lights on" theme. Head here to drop in your own contribution before our new theme, branded, launches tonight at 7 o'clock Eastern.
I thought I'd balance off the Buick LeSabre post with something a little more modern. Behold the tail lamp assembly of a second-generation Toyota Prius. If the LeSabre is the auto-tech equivalent of the Stone Age, the Prius is something close to sci-fi, minus the fiction.

You can see it in the lights: Complex, jewel-like fixtures that betray the hybrid wizardry going on underneath. In fact, no matter what might lie under the hood, auto vendors have turned formerly humble headlights and tail lights in recent years into fashion platforms, with ever more sophisticated designs and technologies being used to tell the world just how much you spent on your car.

It's a process that only promises to accelerate as even newer technologies take hold. LED-based lighting, in particular, promises to revolutionize how we see the world whether we're on wheels or sitting in a room. Low power, tiny footprint and freaky-cool sizes, shapes and colors - I suspect it's only a matter of time before the modern equivalent of the Yugo puts even this Toyota's design to shame.

We live in interesting, and apparently bright, times.

Your turn: Got a favorite car? Why?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Not not your father's Buick

The way it used to be
London, ON, March 2009
About this photo: Thematic, our weekly photo-theme extravaganza, explores "lights on" this week. Click here for more.
For reasons still not clear to me, I found myself staring at my car's headlights the other day. They're typical of today's technology: flush-mounted for aerodynamic efficiency, complex structures to give the vehicle a little bit of bling.

As evidenced by this picture of a '73 Buick LeSabre convertible, the state-of-the-art has advanced tremendously in 39 years. And as much as we can claim that today's technology - halogen, high-intensity discharge, LED, whatever - is light-years (sorry) better when you're sitting behind the wheel late at night trying to avoid deer, stray cats and smartphone-reading pedestrians, I still kinda miss the plain old round fixtures that lit the way for the land yachts of yore.

Nostalgia rears its head in strange ways, apparently.

Your turn: What triggers feelings of nostalgia in you?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

An early morning dance with words

I often wake up long before the sun rises. Not because I don't like to sleep. I do. Probably more than I should. To the point that some days I'd stay in bed all day if I could. Yet despite my apparent addiction to sleep, I still routinely find myself staring at the ceiling at 4 a.m. as words swirl in my head.

It isn't a process that I can seem to control. It just happens, and it's up to me to either get up and do something about it, or fall back asleep and lose the words for good. My late grandfather used to wake up in the middle of the night, too, also with words dancing in his head. His creative weapon of choice was a pencil and a stack of index cards, left conveniently on his nightstand. He'd scribble whatever came to mind, then go back to sleep. This process often repeated itself multiple times through the night, to the point that some mornings he'd awaken to a floor covered in a chaotic blizzard index cards. Of the many things I absorbed from him in the too-few years we had him, this is one of the most powerful legacies of all.

I use somewhat different tools these days: a MacBook Pro, a set of headphones, a beloved old Logitech mouse that just seems to fit me, and a mousepad with colorfully animated beetles all over it. I like to set up my little mobile office on the corner of the kitchen table before I tuck in for the night, ready for me in case I find myself awake a few short hours later.

While hauling myself out of my cozy bed is hard, actually getting down to work in the kitchen-cum-office isn't. Once I flip the laptop open, settle into my chair, get some tunes going and ease into the comfortable groove of guiding random synapses into tight, flowing text on a screen, I have to admit it feels really good. I don't bother turning on the lights, as the glow from the screen and keyboard backlight is more than enough for my nighthawkish eyes. I hate bright light, anyway, and will often work in dim or underlit spaces, much to my wife's chagrin.

There's a poignancy to writing this early in the day. The kitchen windows look out on a dark, still landscape. My email, Twitter and IM clients are silent, as pretty much everyone I know is dreaming for the night. Beyond the occasional ducking into a browser session for a quick fact-check, there's no surreptitious surfing the web for inspiration, no background online noise to clutter the process. Just me, a cursor and an idea that I need to turn into a finished, publishable article before the kids get up.

Most mornings, whatever I'm working on is done, read, re-read countless times and polished to a fine edge long before the kids are up. If there's enough time, I might sneak back upstairs and grab a few more winks, but usually I stay there, waiting for the windows to slowly brighten, listening for the telltale signs of a house rousing from the night. Eventually, someone - my wife, one of the kids, or even the dog - quietly pads into the kitchen and discovers me there. The inevitable question - "When did you get up?" - followed by a scrunched brow when I confirm some ungodly hour.

But here's the thing: sleep deprivation or not, I can't imagine doing anything else. I can't imagine not having this brief, precious time to myself, not having the ability to do something that isn't so much work as it is a calling, something that naturally seems to spill out of my head and into my fingertips.

I don't know how the hell I came to have this ability to write, but as long as those voices inside my head continue to buzz in the middle of the night, I'm thankful enough to appreciate the fact that I can. Rolling over and going back to sleep would seem like such a waste. So I don't.

Your turn: I haven't written like this on the blog in a while. Not sure why, as it's always felt, I don't know, right. More like this?

Friday, March 23, 2012

On Red Adair and project management math

"You can have it good. You can have it fast. You can have it cheap. Pick any two."
Red Adair

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Good as new. Almost.

Little man had a big day at the hospital today. Just over a month after breaking his finger (see here), he got the all clear from his doc to leave the splints and buddy straps off for good.

As we said a thankful goodbye to the team that's cared so expertly and gently for him since his accident, he happily peeled the straps off of his finger for one last time. My wife crinkled her nose at the now-discolored, very frayed strips of fabric, then crinkled a little more when Noah asked her to hold onto them as a memento.

He's missed a bunch of activities, including his class ski trip and a skating outing, so he's already looking forward to getting back to the typically frenetic life of a busy young man. First up: curling.

We won't be wrapping him in bubble wrap or otherwise keeping him from doing the things he so very loves to do. He has such a delightful, touch-the-world spirit about him that it just won't do to hold him back for fear of injuring himself again. Bumps, bruises and even the occasional broken bone or two are all part of the game when you're growing up.

As perverse as it may sound, watching this sweet, focused boy go through this experience was one of those privileges of parenthood we won't soon forget. No one ever wants their kid to get hurt. But when the inevitable happened to him, he managed to teach us a thing or two about finding the joy in something most people would simply write off as a negative experience. I'm learning our son doesn't think or act like those mythical "most people", and that's an entirely good thing.

Welcome back to the land of the unbroken, little man.

Your turn: What else should Noah do now that he has his full suite of digits back?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On never having it all

"Make lots of money. Enjoy the work. Operate within the law. Choose any two of three."
Jack Dee

Does this turn you on?

London, ON
December 2012
About this photo: It's Thematic's lights on week, and you're all invited to join in. Go here to get started. We promise it won't hurt a bit.
It's been said that everything has a story, and I'm inclined to believe that this old saw applies to even the most forgettable devices in our everyday lives.

This is the kind of light switch that dominated my world growing up and, despite the proliferation of fancier, smarter and, yes, more expensive switches, remains something of a staple pretty much everywhere.

For most of us, we usually have no reason to look more closely. But I'm not most of us, and I seem to have lots of free time on my hands. But seriously? A freaking light switch? I think I need to lay off the shutter for a bit.

Okay, maybe not.

Your turn: Is there a story in this shot?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On treasuring what matters

"Health is not valued till sickness comes."
Thomas Fuller

Thematic Photographic 188 - Lights On

Light from above
London, ON, June 2010

This week's "lights on" theme - launched a bit late because life doesn't always follow an expected schedule - is a simple one: If it lights up, or has anything to do with things that light up, we want you to share it. Because the world is dark enough as it is.

Your turn: Please share a photo that supports this week's theme by posting it to your blog. Alternatively, you can share something that's already online. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Feel free to repeat the process as often as you wish, and don't forget to visit other participants to spread the good juju around. Because it's all about learning and sharing. And, apparently, light. Enjoy this one!

For more info on how Thematic Photographic, our weekly photo-sharing-learning feature, works, please click here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On perpetual immaturity

"You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely."
Ogden Nash

End with a splash

Where wave meets land
Pompano Beach, FL, December 2012
About this photo: We're wrapping up our week-long exploration of all things watery. Click here if you'd still like to drop something into the fray. Otherwise, pop back in at 7:00 (Eastern) tonight for our new theme, lights on.
It's been an ugly weekend here in Pitkinville thanks to a rowdy mob of rioters who once again managed to turn our burg into something of a national laughingstock. I managed to make lemonade from lemons, though, with a live interview on CTV London's 6 o'clock newscast last night*, but it still stings when you realize you live in a town known more for banana throwing and news truck burning than job creation, global competitiveness and overall excellence.

Which is rather unfortunate, because London is filled with folks doing some incredible things. They just keep getting eclipsed by morons with too much beer, too much time and not enough sense of personal accountability. Time to change the narrative, I think.

To counter the bad juju and get everyone's week off to a happier start, I thought a slice of nature-created prettiness would be just the ticket.

Your turn: Turning lemons into lemonade. How do you do it?

* I also spoke with CHCH TV (Hamilton), CBC Radio and CFRB Newstalk 1010 (Toronto). Because journalism never sleeps. And, apparently, neither do I!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Students riot near Fanshawe College. London cringes.

It's beginning to sound like a broken record: Students living on Fleming Drive, right behind Fanshawe College, have rioted again. This time, they burned a television station truck as well as another vehicle, and once again succeeded in painting this city with a broad brush of shame.

It gets tiring after a while that this kind of thing is our new normal. My first gut reaction: Enough.

So, here's the deal: I propose we use social media to find the morons responsible and bring them to the attention of the cops. I'll use this entry as a central data store for tips and related date points.

I'm tweeting here, and my Facebook page is here.

Your turn: Know anyone - or anything about - last night's riot? Have a piece of information to share that could lead to forcing those responsible to face the music? Leave whatever you've got in a comment.

More soon...

Key links:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

On seeing the clouds for the trees

"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky."
Rabindranath Tagore
I kind of thought this was appropriate given yesterday's shot. I remember feeling supremely disappointed as I first stepped onto the beach and set eyes on the horizon that morning. My goal was to capture a glorious sunrise, not stare at a thick blanket of fun-squelching clouds. But I stuck around because I had nothing else to do - glorious vacation - and I wasn't going to be back here anytime soon. Sometimes you just have to make do with what you've been given.

I'm glad I hung back, as I ended up seeing something I couldn't have otherwise imagined. The forces of nature still retain the ability to surprise and delight, which is something I keep in mind every day I wake up to grey skies.

Please click here for this week's Thematic watery theme.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Looking through a crack in the sky

Touched by the sun
Pompano Beach, FL, December 2011
[Click photo to embiggen]

Sometimes, it's enough to stand by yourself and feel your breath get taken away by scenes like this. So I think I'll leave it at that for now.

For more watery goodness, please click here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Top of the news

I've fallen behind a bit in posting links to notable media work, like interviews and published articles. Life's been moving at a pretty fast pace lately, so I just haven't had the time to give the archiving/sharing process the attention it deserves.

Doesn't mean I haven't been having a good time, though. Because I have, and it's been a really great couple of weeks.

First, a clip of mine was used right off the top of last night's CTV National News. I spoke with Seamus O'Regan for his report (video here) on the demise of the paper copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and they ended up grabbing a quick bit of me for the show opener. Here's the video. Crazy neat.

Other hits include:
  • March 9 - Canada AM interview with Marci Ien on the Google getting caught with its hand in the cookie jar. Video here.
  • March 7 - CTV National News report by Washington bureau chief Paul Workman on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and the global viral video campaign designed to bring him down. Video here. Alternate link here.
  • March 7 - Canada AM Skype hit with Beverly Thomson live from my living room on Apple's big iPad day. Video here.
  • March 4 - CBC The National report, Tablet explosion, with Havard Gould. Video available on The National's Technology & Science page, click Featured, then click Next (it's currently on page 3) till you get to "Tablet Explosion" (sorry, no direct link.)
I've got a few more neat things in the pipeline. In the meantime, I'll go pinch myself a little, because I still can't believe I get to do this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On what life means, to Jim

"Life is a long lesson in humility."
James M. Barrie

Your turn: How else would you define this undefinable thing we call life?

(In)justice for Tori Stafford

It's been almost three years since an eight-year-old girl, Tori Stafford, was kidnapped from in front of her school in Woodstock, a small town just 60 km east of here. The trial of Michael Rafferty, the man accused of taking, sexually assaulting and murdering her, is now taking place here in London because authorities feared he wouldn't be able to receive a fair trial in Woodstock.

His one-time girlfriend, Terri-Lynne McClintic has already pleaded guilty to murder and is serving a life sentence. She's the star witness for the prosecution, and her testimony, which began yesterday, has been nothing short of gut-wrenching, a first-person view into how monsters destroyed the life of a child and, by extension, her family and her community.

I'll leave it to you to decide whether or not to seek out additional coverage online. Suffice to say it is graphic and heart breaking. I keep wishing the world could be a little more fair, that monsters didn't live among us, that those who choose to take the lives of others could somehow - on this plane or another - meet something approaching justice.

I know many of the journalists who are sitting through the trial and trying to make sense of what can never make any sense. How they tell the story without becoming sick to their stomach is beyond me. How Tori's family goes on from here I will never know. There's just no way to put any of this into words. Maybe if more of us hugged our kids a little more often, they wouldn't grow up to be killers.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On letting ourselves die

“While we have the gift of life, it seems to me that only tragedy is to allow part of us to die - whether it is our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness.”
I often find myself wishing I had had the chance to talk about stuff like this with her. She so obviously got it.

Your turn: How do you keep yourself from slipping away?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thematic Photographic 187 - Watery

Splish splash I wasn't taking a bath
Detroit, MI, December 2011

I've been staring at water fountains since I was a wee munchkin. I remember rating shopping malls by the variety and quality of their spritzers, and would often fake being tired just so I'd get to sit alongside and stare. They're such calming additions to public spaces that sometimes I wish I could meet whoever was responsible for them to say thanks.

Yes, I'm odd like that.

Also odd is this week's Thematic theme, watery. We're going to spend the next week shooting water. If you're into getting wet, here's the deal...

Your turn: You take a picture. You share it on your blog. You leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. You visit other participants to share and learn and feel joy. We all have an awesome week. You game? (If you're new to the whole Thematic thing, just click here. Otherwise, have at it.)

The last picture show

Off the air
London, ON, January 2012
About this photo: We're winding down Thematic's "past its prime" week, and it's not too late for you to share your own. Click here to get in on the action. New theme, watery, launches tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Welcome to my dirty little secret: Up until about two months ago, I had a CRT-based television in my house. I know how disappointed you must be. You probably figured a geek-journo like me would have been the first on my block to have a flat screen. No, TWO flat screens. Wait, COUNTLESS flat screens, each strategically wall-mounted throughout the house in such a way that I'd never have to strain my neck to catch the latest bit of Big Bang Theory banter.

Well, truth be told, I like it old school. And despite my love of being ON television, I don't much WATCH it when I'm home. So we soldiered on with our beloved (okay, not so beloved) 32-inch tube-fed Toshiba long after our friends stopped snickering at us. Or maybe they were snickering at us, except while they weren't in our company. Whatever.

Perhaps the poor set heard the snickering, as it began its slow decline last year with a line of distortion that began to appear toward the top of the screen. No biggie, as it made newscasters look like they had Gumby-like haircuts. I figured it made the bad news seem funny, so we kept it.

Well, the line kept getting worse, descending down the screen to the point that watching hockey games - with their computer-generated graphics across the top - became annoying. You couldn't tell the score, the time, or anything else remotely salient to the game. I'd use Twitter to keep the fam live-updated during games, but I could tell they weren't amused. It was time.

So we've joined the new millenium, with a television that uses a lot less energy (yay for green!) and displays a full picture from one edge to the other. No more Twitter during hockey - unless I want to. And even the kids have stopped snickering.

I didn't want to miss the transition, though, as even an old, busted TV deserves to be remembered in some way. Curbside seemed poignantly appropriate, though even now I'm not entirely sure why.

Your turn: Do you remember stuff you're tossing out? How? Why?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vandalism or art? Your call.

Caution to those who enter
London, ON, February 2012

Graffiti is an interesting thing - a blank wall in an urban setting will typically soon be covered with the stuff. But paint a mural on it and so-called graffiti artists (sorry, just can't give vandals any more credit than that) keep their paint cans to themselves, almost as if they respect the fact that it's a mural.

London's been experimenting with murals for a while, and the downtown area is now dotted with them. The optimist in me would like to believe that with enough commissioned art out there, there won't be any room left over for the talentless taggers who ruin the landscape for the rest of us. But we all know what optimism gets you these days.

For now, I'll grab them photographically whenever I can. Because art can happen anywhere, and you never know when today's graffiti "artist" will graduate to one without the quotation marks.

Your turn: I'm guessing this alley has a story. Care to take a shot?

(Click here for more Thematic past-its-prime.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Just another brick in the wall

Window on a lost world
London, ON
February 2012
About this photo: Thematic. Past its prime. Here.
It''s been a while since I slung my camera over my shoulder and headed to the sometimes-crumbly centre of town. Our burg's downtown has taken its fair share of knocks in recent years, and despite over a decade's worth of investment and debate, it still has enough rough spots to merit continued attention.

Part of me wonders if it'll ever move beyond being a work in progress, if this city has the will to stop talking and start doing, if urban life in this place has moved irrevocably beyond the point where the downtown can ever recover from suburban flight. I'm still not sure we get it here, and looking at the quality () of leadership here, I'm not sure we ever will.

Be that as it may, I had a couple of hours to kill while our daughter attended a program downtown. So off I went. The light was meh and the weather was just cold and windy enough to make me wonder if I was slightly deluded that I'd bring anything memorable home.

But that's the thing with photography - and life, I guess: You can't always wait for perfection. You have to go with what you've got right now. Because you just don't know when you'll next get the chance.

Your turn: Who's behind the window. What's his/her/their story?

Someone's shattered dream

London, ON, February 2012
About this photo: Thematic explores the "past its prime" theme this week. To participate, just head here.
A simple sign taped to a shattered window facing a downtown street signals a not-so-simple story that I found myself wishing I knew. Somewhere, someone's dreams of making a go of it here had been dashed. Somewhere, someone else was working toward making another set of dreams come true. Intersecting stories of failure and hope, both hinted at on this poignantly presented slip of paper.

We can choose to read words. Or we can choose to read the untold stories that lurk between them. How would you read a story like this?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Shuttling the shuttles

If you're not going to shoot them into space at ungodly speeds, anymore, you may as well take them out for some fresh air and let regular folks like us get a furtive peek.

That's what NASA did today, and G-d bless them, they had cameras on hand (here's the photo set.) As retired shuttle orbiters Discovery and Atlantis make their way through preparations before being shipped off - slowly - to their final destinations, it's kinda nice to see how the old birds are doing.

I wonder what will inspire the next generation of kids to want to grow up to build stuff like this.

Pothole season begins. Or not.

London, ON, March 2009
About this photo: Thematic. Past its prime. Here. Just because.

Normally around this time of year, the winter-worn streets in the Great White North begin to sprout potholes large enough to swallow and small-to-medium-size child whole. But this hasn't been a normal winter, so the city is gleefully celebrating all the money it saved because the mild season saved its pothole-refilling budget a huge wad of cash.

Never mind that they'll probably take that money and blow it all on a temporary outdoor light show for next year's skating championships. Or smartphones for city councillors who think Twitter is something birds do. It's still nice to come in under budget, no matter the reason.

But since I'm Canadian and I'm genetically encoded to cringe whenever I'm in a car in March and I think we're about to go in and never come out, I'll post this as a ritualistic Canadian celebration of the hardships we endure. Because life's just a little bit richer when the road is a bit bumpy.

Your turn: Where does this road lead?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

On life, challenge, and discovery

"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."
Bernice Johnson Reagon

In today's Toronto Star - the big iPad miss

If you live in Toronto, today's Toronto Star includes a piece I wrote in response to yesterday's big reveal of the new iPad. The article is here:
iPad: A Jobsian upgrade, not Apple’s crucial big bang
I wrote it because I'm a bit of a contrarian. And a cynic. Beyond the name - "New iPad"? Seriously? - I see niggling signs that the Apple party bus won't always be as magical as it currently seems to be.

As much as I recognize what Apple brings to the party, I'm not too drunk on the Kool Aid that I fully buy into the Apple-forever argument. Because nothing is forever in business, and there's just enough going on in Cupertino to suggest that Apple's reign at the top has a shelf life, and the clock is ticking.

Your turn: Apple yay or Apple nay? Why?

One more thing: I've been busy not sleeping because writing and talking about this stuff is kinda what I do. I'll add additional Apple-related links to this entry as they go live online.

This just in: Yahoo! Canada has published the following piece:

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

On Steve Jobs, 5 months on

"Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is everything around that you call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again."
Steve Jobs

I thought today would be an especially appropriate day to share this. I was writing an Apple-themed article just before, and in between bursts of wordy goodness I found myself musing on the company's prospects since he passed away, and its longer-term future as new CEO Tim Cook continues to settle into his role.

I realized this quote held the answer. For as generationally unique as Mr. Jobs was, he wasn't the only one capable of making his own mark on the world - or dent in the universe. We all are. As he reminded us with his words, we just have to realize we have that power. And then we have to act.

Your turn: So...what are you going to build?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Rotting in plain sight

London, ON, March 2011
About this photo: It's Thematic's "past its prime" week, and you're invited to participate. Just go here to get started. There will be no quiz, and you will not be required to sit through a timeshare sales pitch.
We can choose to look at this scene from one of two perspectives:
  1. A sad collection of now-dead trees, decaying into oblivion.
  2. Nature's way of reclaiming, reusing and recycling, a necessary step along the never-ending life cycle that governs the planet.
I'll take what's behind door number 2, Monty. It's a much nicer way of seeing things.

Your turn: What three words first come to mind as this photo loads?

Monday, March 05, 2012

Thematic Photographic 186 - Past Its Prime

No gas at the Majestic
Delray Beach, FL, January 2012

There's a certain degree of poetry associated with things that may once have been pristine, but no longer are. Sure, shiny and new has its merits, but so does time-worn, beaten down, faded and crunched. Scenes like this one - a gas station that had been closed for over two years - make you wonder what happened here, where everyone went, and why. They almost beg you to wander around the drink in the obsolescence.

What will you find when you do? Well, that's what this week's Thematic theme, "past its prime", is all about. If it's no longer as lovely as it once was, shoot it and share it. Because the world isn't getting any prettier.

Your turn: Take a photo of something decrepit - or well on its way - and share it on your blog. Alternatively, find something you may have already posted online. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Then visit other participants as we collectively explore the theme throughout the week. Repeat as often as you wish, and have fun with it. There are no rights or wrongs - just interpretations.

For more info on how Thematic works, click here.

On the mystery of life

"The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced."
Art Van Der Leeuw

Letter or legal?

A question of degrees
London, ON, November 2011
About this photo: We're wrapping up our exploration of all things greyish. Click here to share yours. Tune in tonight - 7:00 p.m. Eastern - for our new theme, past its prime.
You don't see a lot of these around, anymore. I'm guessing the humble paper slicer (morbidly known as a guillotine) is another one of those pieces of equipment increasingly pushed to the margins by the relentless march of technology.

The parent in me won't be upset, as these things, with their huge, unprotected blades, always gave me the willies. But the photographer in me might miss the visuals, or the sounds, or the reminder of a time when getting work done didn't necessarily mean plugging it in and booting it up.

Your turn: What other things is technology slowly - or not-so-slowly - slowly replacing?

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sinking back in...

London, ON, September 2010
About this photo: It's Thematic's greyish week, and everyone's invited. The fun starts here.
Every once in a while I like to wander through my archives. Looking at things I've shot or written is almost a temporary refuge from the chaos of today. And given how chaotic my todays have been lately, it feels good to put the present on pause for a bit so that I can enjoy some quieter moments from my past.

Your turn: Do you ever do the same? Do tell!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

On life. Simply.

"Life is just a chance to grow a soul."
A. Powell Davies

Water, water everywhere. Not a drop to drink.

Wave energy
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008
[Click photo to embiggen]
About this photo: We're exploring and sharing greyish-themed photos all week long. Click here to join in.
Anyone who takes a closer look at my camera realizes fairly quickly that it's had a bit of a hard life. It's body is festooned with all sort of nicks and scratches, evidence of the many trips its taken - distant vacations and business trips, as well as hour-long jaunts to the park, grocery store or walking path. I bought it to use, and it gets used. Happily.

So before I stepped into the pounding surf to shoot this picture, I thought for a second about whether this was a smart or a dumb thing. I'd be exposing the camera to salty spray, potentially risking a full, electronics-killing dunking in the process. I knew it would need a good cleaning after the fact to get all the corrosive gunk off.

I walked in anyway. Because I didn't buy the thing to sit on a shelf and look pretty. I bought it to bring home pretty images. So, I'm guessing it was both a dumb and a smart move: dumb from a keep-your-stuff-clean perspective, but a smart one from a live-it-or-miss-out one.

Whatever. I got the shot I hoped for. Which is all that matters.

Your turn: A time you threw caution to the wind. Please discuss.

Friday, March 02, 2012

On Dear Abby & bullying

“The best index to a person's character is how he treats people who can't do him any good, and how he treats people who can't fight back.”
Abigail Van Buren
This particular sentiment has served me well over the years, as it's allowed me to decide who I really want to spend time with, and who I don't. Funny how those who would bully others typically don't realize they're being watched.

Your turn: How do you deal with a bully?

Walking along the edge of the planet

Man on a beach
Pompano Beach, FL, December 2011
About this photo: Thematic. Greyish. Here. Because you know you wanna.
I had come to the beach, alone, ostensibly to shoot the sunrise. As it was, Mother Nature had other plans. The thick cloud deck and a driving wind - complete with sea spray and sand - made the whole sun thing a bit of a challenge. So while I waited for things to rearrange themselves in the sky (no worries, they eventually did here and here) I focused on other things. Like strangers walking along the surf - something I wish I could do every day.

As I tracked this lone soul, I found myself wondering what he was thinking. Walking with your feet surrounded by pounding surf must be the ultimate form of early morning catharsis. I toyed with calling out to him, but felt some things are best left unanswered, some people best left undisturbed.

I'll just have to take my own walk in the surf the next time I'm down there.

Your turn: Where do you walk? Why?

In today's Toronto Star - Windows 8

Not a day goes by that I don't realize how lucky I am. Married to my best friend, father to three great kids, comfy house in a quiet burb, dog who sleeps on my pillow...all the apparent trappings of a life well lived.

The topper is the work thing. I write for a living. Sometimes, I can close my eyes and almost feel the words form in my head, all by themselves. All I need to do is get to a keyboard so I can capture them. I'll often wake up early - like I did today - and let the magic happen before the rest of the house comes alive. Then using technology that's little short of magical, I'll send the results far and wide, and then wait.

More often than not, my words end up in some amazing places. And sometimes, I'll read them back because as much as I hate looking inward, it's good practice to learn for next time. And sometimes when I do this, I get a feeling that this was a particularly sweet piece of prose.

My inbox tickled with an alert just now. The Toronto Star just published my assessment of Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8. The company released a consumer preview the other day, and here's my take on what it really means:
Microsoft needs Windows 8 to keep it in the game. Here's why
I hope you enjoy the read. I'll have more to share later. For now, I've got to go high-five some people.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

On finding your path

"The best way out is always through."
Robert Frost
I've always loved the sentiment of this particular quote. Seven words, infinite power. I close my eyes and imagine that anything is possible. Because it is. Thanks, Mr. Frost.

Your turn: What's your path?

Dark corner in the big city

Post no bills, please
Toronto, ON, December 2009

Ever notice how a given scene tends to shift toward monochrome as night falls? I'm not immersed deeply enough in the physics of it to understand how it all works, but when I look through the viewfinder, it all seems pretty neat to me.

Your turn: The first three words that come to mind when you see this photo are...?

One more thing: For more greyish-themed photography - and to share your own - please click here.