Saturday, June 30, 2012

Golf. Not the Volkswagen.

London, ON
May 2012

It's been such a crazy workweek (here and here) that you'd be forgiven for thinking I'd forgotten about Thematic. Well, perish the thought! It's been at the back of my mind all along: I just haven't had a spare minute to actually do anything about it.

Thankfully, I've got the best readers on the planet who have all stepped up with contributions of their own. The theme is "welcome summer", and whoever you are, you're also invited to toss your own vision of the season into the mix. Just go here.

Your turn: I'm not much a golfer - I worry too much about inadvertently injuring those around me when I play - but I do appreciate the peace and quiet of a round with friends, as well as the aesthetics of the game itself. I rather liked this one as soon as I took it. Do you golf? Why/why not?

Friday, June 29, 2012

iPhone turns 5. I write RIM's obituary.

Five years ago today, Apple started selling the iPhone. At the time, RIM owned the smartphone market, and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis at the time dismissed the new device as a toy, saying people wanted security, robust messaging and keyboards. Touchscreens and fun, he said, weren't what people wanted.

My, how five years can change empires. RIM is now sliding into oblivion while Apple is the most valuable company on the planet. Hmm, toy?

Anyway, the media storm that erupted yesterday kind of spilled into today. In addition to the two published articles (Toronto Star and Yahoo), I spent a lot of time either in front of a camera, in a radio studio, on a phone, or zinging myself from place to place as I counted every minute and prayed I wouldn't be late for anything. Here's the chronological order of events:

  1. CTV Canada AM - 2 interviews with Marcia MacMillan (video here)
  2. Newstalk 1010 Toronto - John Moore
  3. CBC Ontario Morning - Danielle Harder
  4. CTV Morning Live (Regina) - with Molly Thomas and Jonathan Glasgow (video here)
  5. 570News Kitchener - Michelle Dyer
  6. AM980 London - Jeff McArthur (Podcast Part 1, Part 2)
  7. CHML Hamilton - Bill Taylor
  8. CBC Ontario Today - Hallie Cotnam and a cast of phone-in listeners. Got to do this one from the CBC studios here in London, with Garry Ennett as always making me sound like I knew what I was talking about. (Audio here)
  9. CJAD Montreal - Weekly tech segment with Ric and Suzanne (Podcast here)
  10. Sun News Network - Caryn Lieberman (and, yes, I taught her to swim a few moons ago)
  11. CBC television cross-country newscasts - Aaron Saltzman
  12. CBC The National - Adrienne Arsenault

What do I remember most about the day? I left the house at 5:20 a.m. to get to the studio in time for my first Canada AM hit. As I stepped off the porch into the dimness of the slowly brightening sky, I felt like the 11-year-old me, delivering the Montreal Gazette before the rest of the world was awake. I could practically feel those early mornings with my stack of newspapers teetering precariously in my wagon. Then as now, the wind would blow just a little, the humidity hanging off the leaves, the shadows of the trees softly painting the ground below. You felt this time of day as much as you saw or heard it, and I hadn't realized, until this morning, just how deeply those memories were imprinted.

I got into the car and slowly eased out onto the street. Once again I found myself actively recording the journey. Once again I didn't want to forget what this experience felt like. I do that on days that feel like they're going to be significant in some way. I want to live them, feel them, remember why they were special.

Today was special. The news may have been challenging - especially for the thousands affected by the layoffs - but in my little world of tech journalism, something changed. For the better.


More links and video to follow. Will update this entry as I find more.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce. World weeps.

Just when you think you can believe in something again, Tom Cruise goes ahead and splits from Katie Holmes. While the optimist in me sees this as an opportunity for her to return to her Dawson's Creek days, the realist in me sees this as yet another example of celebrity silliness.

Many magazines will doubtless be sold, and TV entertainment shows (gawd, I hate them) will breathlessly try to convince us all that this is newsworthy.

Well, I guess it is if you have nothing better to do than track the lives of folks who live in front of a camera for a living.


What I really think of RIM

The Research In Motion roller coaster continues. I've been at it almost non-stop since before sun-up doing interviews and writing near and far. I'm running off to another wave of interviews, so won't have time to update much here for a few hours. But I wanted to get links out to the two pieces I published this morning, as they provide a solid overview of where I really stand on RIM, how it got here, and its prospects going forward.

I hope you enjoy the read, and would appreciate any thoughts you have in a comment:

The Toronto Star. RIM’s choice: revamp standalone strategy or disappear
Yahoo! Canada. RIM cuts jobs, reports quarterly loss

More soon...

Update...Here's a rundown of additional media work I ended up doing today. It was a packed one:

  1. Business News Network (BNN). Spoke with The Street host Pamela Ritchie. about the Google Nexus 7 tablet before shifting gears into RIM. (Video here) (alternate link here).
  2. CTV Kitchener - Spoke with Meghan Furman for their 6 o'clock newscast (this is RIM's hometown TV station)
  3. CTV London - Did a one-on-one interview with anchor Tara Overholt for the 6 pm newscast
  4. CTV National News - Clip included in Parliamentary Correspondent Richard Madan's report (video here
  5. QR77 Calgary. Chatted with Dave Rutherford
  6. CBC Radio One national news desk. Spoke with Meegan Read.
  7. 640Toronto. Spoke with Arlene Bynon (did the hit just as Telus's national voice network began to crash. Managed to get the interview done just before all inbound/outbound voice traffic went quiet. Missed another hit with CJAD because of it. C'est la vie.)
  8. Newstalk 1010. Chatted with John Downs of Friendly Fire fame.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

RIM melts down. Chapter LXIV.

Quiet day on the blog today, as I've been a little consumed with covering BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's latest, inglorious chapter.

The company announced its most recent quarterly financial results today. To no one's surprise, they were terrible. Huge, worse-than-expected losses, downward-trending sales of now-obsolete devices, and another delay in the release - to Q1 2013 - of the new operating system and smartphones, known as BlackBerry 10, that will supposedly save the company.

By the time they appear, there may not be much left to save, as today was something of an inflection point in the company's history, the day when, in the eyes of many, it passed the point of no return. As an analyst and a journalist, I understand the factors innately, and can write about and explain them in infinite detail. As a Canadian who lives just up the road from RIM's headquarters in Waterloo, this pains me to no end. There's no joy in watching one of Canada's brightest lights fall on such hard times, no pleasure in watching thousands of the brightest minds wonder what their future holds.

I've done a lot of writing, talking and interviewing, and it looks like it'll continue straight into tomorrow. I spoke with CTV Kitchener's Meghan Furman and CTV London's Tara Overholt for packages on the 6pm newscasts, and with Richard Madan for his report on tonight's CTV National News. I'll be on-air tomorrow morning on CTV's Canada AM, then back on-air for my regular weekly tech segment with CJAD Montreal's Ric and Suzanne. Articles for the Toronto Star and Yahoo! Canada will be live before long.

And I'll be holding my BlackBerry a little more carefully all the while. Because something tells me I may not be buying another one.

I take no pleasure in seeing these stark words on my screen. None of this had to happen.

On setting the bar just a little higher

"The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark."Michelangelo
So today I'm going to set the bar high. You?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Explosions in the sky. Not on the ground.

Light up the sky
Arva, ON
July 2010
Every street corner in town seems to have sprouted a fireworks kiosk. It seems to revolve around our Victoria Day (May 24) and Canada Day (July 1) weekends, and it always gives me a little chill as we drive past.

I'm willing to bet none of these vendors has extensive training in keeping munitions from munitioning themselves right there in the corner of the strip mall parking lot. I'm also willing to bet our resource-starved governments - municipal, provincial, federal, and any other level that may be out there - aren't sending waves of inspectors to these establishments to ensure all applicable safety standards are being rigidly met. (Truth be told, they're busy using Twitter inappropriately, but that's a story for another day.)

Of course, I may be stretching things with the use of the word, "Establishment". They're little more than hastily assembled groups of Ikea tables (the Alex model, I believe, with the trestle legs) with haphazardly piled boxes of rockets, firecrackers and bombs large enough to arm a small army of teenaged suburbanite insurgents. Hey, it could happen: Those cul-de-sacs can be nasty!

The long and the short of it is simple: They scare the heck out of me, and I can't wait until they leave so that the forlorn corners of our local strip mall parking lots can return to the grit-and-dust-covered broken asphalt deserts they've always been.

Still, fireworks look lovely, don't they?

About this photo: We're welcoming summer all week long, and what's more summery than fireworks? Click here to share your own.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bus bullies and Microsoft Surface

Last Friday was a good day for TV, as I managed to cram in three interviews into one studio session. The big story of the day was a video of Rochester, NY bus monitor Karen Klein. After the so-called "bus bully" video of students taunting her ruthlessly  went viral on YouTube, a Toronto man, Max Sidorov, started an online fundraising campaign to raise $5,000 to send her on a vacation.

By airtime, the figure was pushing $500,000 and coverage had gone global. I chatted about how online fundraising works with CTV Toronto's Ken Shaw. Video here. (Original report is here.)

I also spoke with CTV News Channel's Jennifer Ward right after I got off-air with Mr. Shaw. Then, because things are always more fun in threes, I chatted with CTV National News reporter John Vennavlly-Rao for his package on the Microsoft Surface tablet. Video here.

Fun stuff.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thematic Photographic 201 - Welcome Summer

London, ON
August 2011

The calendar says summer has just arrived. The pessimists among us say it's all downhill from here, as the days will get shorter and shorter as the humidity and bug density ratchet themselves up to epic, global warming-induced levels.

But I'm not a pessimist, and I'm guessing most of you aren't, either. So for the next week's worth of Thematic - our first step into our second bicentennial - let's keep it simple and fun. Scenes from summer. That's it. You in?

Your turn: Shoot a summer-themed scene, then share it on your blog. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, then drop in on other participants to share the photographic goodness. Participate as often as you'd like, and even bring in a friend - new folks are always welcome. For more background on how this Thematic thing of ours works, just click here. Otherwise have fun!

On following your destiny

"I am not afraid. I was born to do this."
Joan of Arc
This is going up in my home office, because I want it staring me in the face every time I sit down at my desk, flip on the computer and begin to string words together. Because the same thing applies to me. Not the warrior-princess/burned-at-the-stake thing. But the following-your-destiny one, the notion that we're all born to do something.

I now know what my something is. I'm doing it. Right now. I hope you are, too.

Your turn: What were you born to do?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On hearts, fears, and dreams

"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream."
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Your turn: What do you dream of?

Blazing a trail through the night sky

London, ON
June 2012

This is what a magnitude -3.4 pass of the International Space Station almost directly overhead looks like. Well, not quite. It actually looks like a simple moving dot in the sky, barely distinguishable from an airplane save for the fact that it doesn't have flashing lights. And we all know a small, dim dot in a dark sky wouldn't photograph all that well. So instead I left the shutter open for exactly 44.4 seconds and this is the result.

I didn't intend to leave it open for 44.4 seconds. But I was late running out the door, so I spent a little too much time fumbling with the tripod and camera settings. Which didn't leave me a whole lot of time to precisely meter and lock in a set shutter speed. Hence the photo improv job that had me standing on a darkened sidewalk pointing my remote control at the camera and, in the absence of a methodically planned shot, trying to count seconds (badly) as I tried to guess (also badly) how much light was enough, too much, or just enough.

In the end, I think the shot sorta worked. And thanks to Twitter, I got to share it with some other folks in London, who in turn told their friends (sounds like Suave shampoo commercial, doesn't it?) who also ran outside and saw the magical dance in the heavens. Neat.

I use this site,, to predict when the best passes will be in my area. If you're looking for a neat activity to share - with kids, friends, anyone - you could do worse than stare way up and wonder about the wonders high above us.

Your turn: What makes you wonder?

One more thing: What does this have to do with abstract? Everything. It weighs almost a million pounds, stretches a football field in length, flies around the earth at 28,000 km/h (which would get me to the TV station in, oh, 1.2 seconds) and is currently home to 6 astronauts/cosmonauts who stay there for up to 6 months at a stretch, protected from the ravages of space by some of the best technology humankind has yet devised. Yet from the average person's vantage point, it's a dot in the sky. As you stand alone on a darkened sidewalk, you have to squeeze your brain a whole lot to appreciate what it means as it silently marches through the sky. Sounds pretty abstract, doesn't it? Click here to share your own abstract Thematic vision.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Little planes. Big dreams.

I want to fly on this one
Miami, FL
January 2011

About this photo: Thematic celebrates its 200th this week.It's abstract all the way, and you're invited. Just click here.
You don't see too many model scenes like these anymore. They used to be everywhere, typically in public-facing buildings, put there by architects and developers eager to show off what they had built, or what they might build. Closer to home, there's a model in the lobby of London's largest building showing what the complex would have looked like had the second tower been built. We're still waiting for that second tower to be built, but in the meantime we can always walk past and dream a little.

Which is what my kids did as we checked in for our flight. Like moths to a flame, they were all over this airport model, and interacted with it in ways I doubt they would have had it been reduced to a picture on a Facebook page.

Maybe new media aren't always as effective as the old ones. Maybe there's virtue in things we see in three dimensions, and barring the presence of glass, could actually touch and feel.

Your turn: Where are the folks in the middle-foreground plans going?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The eyes have it

I rented a car a few weeks ago for a quick day trip to the Big Nation to the South. Along the way, I had to stop - Mazdas consume gasoline, apparently...who knew? - and as I walked back to the zoom zoom mobile, I noticed the otherwise weird-looking vehicle's lights. They looked a little buggy, like the oversized peepers tacked not-so-artfully on the head of an average Saturday morning cartoon character.

All I had was my BlackBerry, so I had to make do with what I had. What I ended up with was an abstract perspective of a car that passed into and out of my life in less than 24 hours. The lesson of the day, then, was a simple one: Grab memories of stuff, even if it isn't significant stuff. Because even the trivial is worth a quick signpost or two.

Your turn: Do you take the time to remember the trivial? Do tell.

On changing course

"Nobody's journey is seamless or smooth. We all stumble. We all have setbacks. It's just life's way of saying, 'Time to change course.'"
Oprah Winfrey

I'm hardly Ms. Winfrey's biggest fan. While I admire her tremendously for trying to improve our planet, I've never been entirely comfortable with her watered-down, magazine-glossy approach. It's pablum for the masses, and it can grate.

But this quote somehow hits home, and reminds me that, on occasion, we need to look beyond our initial conclusions. There's wisdom hidden in the weeds of populist pap. And as I ponder the meaning of life, the universe and everything, her words - these words - take on great meaning.

Your turn: So where are YOU headed? (Nothing like an open-ended question to shake up the day!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do the wave

Light bright
Shanghai, China
May 2012

Here's another shot from my somewhat misguided attempt to paint with light from the window of a moving bus. Click here for the backstory. (Or click here to share your own abstract-themed Thematic.)

The more I look at this series, the more I like it. Photography isn't always about capturing the obvious. Sometimes it's about capturing things that wouldn't otherwise be seen by the naked eye. Nothing obvious about that, which is as it should be.

Your turn: Does this picture remind you of something?

One more thing: I'm speaking about social media at the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police annual general meeting today. If you've followed the Occupy protests to any degree, or watched London's Fleming Drive neighborhood become ground zero for a student-fuelled riot, you may have noticed how instrumental SM has become for folks on both sides of the law. It's an honour to be asked to speak to this incredible group. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft Surface surfaces. I lose sleep.

Big news in the world of tech: Microsoft is introducing its own tablet. The Microsoft Surface. Actually, two tablets, one targeted at businesses and the other at consumers.

I have, um, issues with this dual-solution approach, and I wrote about it in an article for the Toronto Star:

Microsoft Surface opens two fronts in Apple tablet war

(Neat sidebar: The article has been trending as a top story in Google News for much of the day. What fun!)

I did a bunch of interviews in support of this story, and others, including:

  • Newstalk 1010 radio in Toronto: Spoke with Matt Gurney last night, and again with John Moore this morning. In between, I chatted with Friendly Fire's John Downs and Ryan Doyle about a guy who peed on his passport and flushed it down the toilet. I lead a bizarre existence.
  • CBC Ontario Morning: Chatted with Wei Chen.
  • CTV Regina: Spoke with Jonathan Glasgow and Molly Thomas on the station's morning show.
  • CTV News Channel: Spoke with Jacqueline Milczarek and Dan Matheson - well, until Skype decided to flame out in the middle of the interview. Technology failing the tech journalist: I love the irony. Here's a link to an interview last week - in-studio, no tech-flameout - where we explored the growing war between Apple and Google over mapping software in iPhones and iPads.
  • AM980 London: Chatted with Jeff McArthur.
  • 1290 CJBK London: Spoke live with Mike Stubbs.
  • CJAD 800 Montreal: Chatted with Margoe Edwards about the never-ending tit-for-tat wars between cybercriminals and law enforcement. If you missed my most recent Friday tech segment on the Ric and Suzanne show (Dan Delmar was sitting in), here's the link.
Oh, and they're opening an Apple Store this Saturday just a few minutes away from my house, at the Masonville Place mall. I spoke with Hank Daniszewski of the London Free Press for his article, Apple debuts in London.

Happy sigh...I love this stuff.

Not Microsoft Windows

Feeling reflective
Shanghai, China
May 2012
Please click here for more abstract-themed Thematic

You can walk past the same spot time and again, and every time you look at it you'll see something different. Maybe it's the time of day. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's your mood at the moment you choose to look up. Whatever it is, the scene is never static, and it's always worth a second look.

Your turn: What's going on here? Have fun with it...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Thematic Photographic 200 - Abstract

Curves in the air
London, ON
June 2012

Welcome to our new Thematic theme, "abstract", where if it's weird and disconnected from reality, we want to see it.*

This particular shot was an interesting one to capture. My son had been attending an after-school youth program. Since it was a hot day, they were outside playing in the sprinkler when I pulled up to pick him up. Given the complexities involved in convincing a playful 11-year-old to break away from his friends so he can dry off and head home, I found myself waiting. A while.

The program leader asked me to take a few pictures of the kids, which I was happy to do. But even that got old after a few minutes when I realized there were only so many interesting ways to capture little people frolicking in a sprinkler while their parents begged them to finish up.

So I wandered off to the periphery and thought about ways of shooting the water, instead. I sat down on the grass and calculated how I was going to handle longish exposures in bright sunshine without a neutral density filter (must. add. to. list.) In the end, I settled on 1/5 of a second as a baseline, which made for some interesting patterns as I blindly tried to view the results on the sun-washed screen of my camera. Not a very elegant shoot, by any means, but I managed to snag a couple of useful frames by the time little man, now all nicely dressed and dry, found his way back to me.

Your turn: Thematic is all about shooting pictures that support the theme, posting them to your blog, leaving a comment here, then visiting other participants. It's all about exploring the theme for the entire week, participating as often as you wish, and hopefully introducing this insanity to someone new. Because photography wants - nay, needs - to be shared. And this is the best way I know to accomplish just that. Are you game? (If this is all new to you, click here and all will be explained.)

* This isn't just a very special Blossom. It's a very special Thematic, too, our 200th. Thank you to everyone who's participated over the past few years, who's helped make this a highlight for me and for everyone who visits. It's been a wonderful journey, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Attention K-Mart shoppers: Blue light special, aisle 4

Fogged in
Shanghai, China
May 2012

I thought we'd end this week's "got the blues" theme (head here if you'd like to squeeze in one last entry) with something lighter. The scene was a common one: a crowd of conference attendees, all headed toward the floor where all the new stuff was on display. But first, they had to make their way over the stage and past the podium where the models were having their pictures taken.

Needless to say, everyone stopped to gawk at the models - a geek thing, perhaps? - and the shiny new laptops and other devices behind them were left to languish under the spotlights for a little while longer.

For some reason, I didn't bother shooting the models. It seemed more than a little crass to do so. I had flown halfway around the world to learn about new devices and, more importantly, the world's largest PC maker's very future. Filling my memory card with pics of booth babes just didn't feel right. So I didn't.

But that didn't stop me from grabbing this quick shot of the floodlight-through-fog-machine as we initially made our way into the knotted crowd. Everyone was looking ahead. I looked to the side. Not the first time I've avoided following the herd, and I'm willing to bet not the last time, either.

Your turn: What do you see when you follow your own path?

One more thing: Our new Thematic launches tonight at exactly 7:00 Eastern. It's a special one - #200...yay! - so I'm hoping you'll pop in and share a pic or two. I thought we'd do "abstract" to mark this milestone. Are you in?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On fatherly advice

"Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice."
Charles F. Kettering

A Father's Day request

I've written all there is to say about Father's Day - please see last year's entry for a suitably comprehensive and not-altogether-positive roundup - so I'll spare you a repeat performance.

Suffice to say, not everyone fits the ideal. Not everyone has a dad. Kids lose parents, parents lose kids, life doesn't always follow a set script. And I'll admit more than a little discomfort that a holiday invented expressly to sell more greeting cards and tchatchkes can cause so much legitimate stress to those whose lives don't fit within the neat boundaries delineated by Hallmark's marketing mavens.

So here's my deal. Tomorrow's another day, as are the other 363 (or 364 in a leap year) we'll have this year. However you choose to define "family", find some way, on each of these days, to tighten your connection to each other. Don't buy a card and assume that's enough for another year, because none of this has anything to do with cards, and once-a-year is never nearly enough. Figure out ways to bake small gestures into each and every day. Figure out how to let fathers, mothers, siblings, cousins, friends, colleagues, dogs-next-door or whatever/whoever know that they matter.

None of this needs a special day. None of this needs a special anything. None of this needs to be bought.

There, I'm done.

Your turn: So, what will you be doing tomorrow?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On cliff jumping

"First you jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down."
Ray Bradbury

Hmm...this one touches a somewhat personal chord. In a good way. You?

Frozen wonderland, lost to time

Blue sky, white ice
London, ON
February 2011
Click here for more "got the blues" Thematic

Here in the Great White North, Mother Nature has ordered up a glorious day to celebrate, among other things, China's most ambitious human space launch, Shenzhou 9, the arrival of another weekend, and the impending arrival of Hallmark's second-biggest business day of the year. So I thought an icy vision from a long lost winter would provide a refreshing perspective.

Or make us realize that nothing lasts forever. So it behooves us all to hold onto it, whatever "it" may be, as tightly as we possibly can. Before it melts into a memory.

Your turn: How do you remember what's lost?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Nik Wallenda makes history, hopefully

Television was very different when we were kids: relatively few channels meant most of us shared similar experiences when we flipped the set on. At school or the office next day, we all tended to talk about the same show. It was a collective experience that a world of 500 channels, PVRs, iTunes and Torrents has rendered obsolete.

Consumption is now relatively singular, solitary, isolated. We're just as likely to watch our individual, downloaded shows on an iPad or smartphone as we are a big screen. Water cooler conversation rarely centers around one specific show because so few of us are watching the same thing. Indeed, the water cooler itself is no longer a recognized gathering spot, and merely mentioning it around my kids draws blank stares.

So it's interesting that tonight we sit around the set watching Nik Wallenda attempt to cross Niagara Falls on a highwire. I can't help but think that this is the way it was in the early days of television. And before that, when barnstormers turned county fairs into spectacles and everyday folks could still be wowed by performers whose veins seemed to be filled with ice.

It's easy to feel nostalgic for a simpler time, and in many respects it's comforting to see history through the lens of what's playing out tonight. It's easy to wonder if, perhaps, we still retain the ability to be wowed, and if, perhaps, we retain the ability to share experiences that technology and time have rendered obsolete. Maybe they're not so obsolete after all.

Your turn: What makes you feel nostalgic?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Light dancing on a winglet

Smooth flight
Minneapolis, MN
February 2011
Click here for more "got the blues" photography

Have you ever noticed how light tends to shift toward blue after the sun sinks below the horizon? It's my favorite time of day, those sometimes-fleeting moments between sunset and full darkness. It makes me wish I could hold onto the light for a little bit longer, because soon enough it'll wink out completely.

Then again, night isn't forever. And it'll be morning soon enough. Gotta love how the planet - and life, come to think of it - moves in circles.

Your turn: What's your favorite time of day? Why?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On change and time

"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."
Andy Warhol

The end of the big blue ocean

Delray Beach, FL
December 2012

Click photo to embiggen

I'm a bit color-blind*, so please accept my apologies if this apparently blue-tinged scene** is more green than anything else. But I couldn't resist sharing this one, as it reminds me just how transient the world around us can be, that incredible things are happening all the time. The problem? we miss them if we're not looking for the incredible. We miss them if we don't open our eyes wide enough.

Your turn: Are you looking for the incredible? Are you opening your eyes? What do you see when you do?

* A great trait for a photographer, isn't it?
** We're celebrating all things blue as part of this week's Thematic, and we're hoping you will, too. Click here for more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thematic Photographic 199 - Got the blues

Blue hoodie
London, ON
April 2012

We're a bit late with this week's Thematic. Workload's been a little, um, overwhelming. For a writer, it's a good problem to have. But it means the blog had to take a very temporary back seat to the kind of writing that otherwise keeps the lights on around here. Thank you for your understanding.

This week's theme, got the blues, is an easy one to follow. If you've got a picture with blue in it, or one that even suggests it, post it. That's it!

Your turn: Post a blue-themed pic to your blog. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other Thematic participants. Rinse. Repeat. Enjoy. Click here for more background on Thematic, our weekly photo exploration/sharing thing. And please accept our thanks: You all make this intensely enjoyable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

On swimming in the great big sea

"Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean."
Christopher Reeve

I vote ocean. You?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dead seals don't talk

So the City of London hastily called a news conference at 4:30 this afternoon. The news? It's sad: Two of the four seals that used to live at London's Storybook Gardens died while en route to their new home in St. Louis. A third seal is in serious condition, while the fourth made it OK.

The seals were being moved to the St. Louis facility after it was determined that the theme park here in London was inadequate for their needs. Storybook, if you've ever been here, is a venerable institution that time, sadly, seems to have forgotten. Attendance has been dropping for years, and plan after plan to rejuvenate it has gotten mired in the muck of small-town municipal politics. The seal move was yet another milestone along a path no one seems willing or able to reverse.

The Twittersphere is ablaze with discussion over whether or not this news merits a high-profile, late-weekend news conference, and whether or not there may be other higher-priority stories worthy of similar coverage in our town. The seals may be gone - sad in its own right - but the discussion over how effectively the folks who run the place are doing will continue for some time to come. Something tells me this kind of exchange is a good thing.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Oops, before I forget, here's a quick resource rundown:

Hashtags: #LdnONT and #sealgate
CTV London - goes live at 6 p.m. with the latest. Follow on Twitter here. Facebook here. Web here.

Trending on Yahoo...

I noticed this little snippet on Yahoo! Canada's website just now: The top two trending pieces, Should I buy now or wait for Windows 8? and Facebook's phone folly are mine.*

So I gather Canadians want to read about next-gen operating systems and overhyped, misbehaving, underperforming social media companies than, in order, Canada's response to the deepening Eurozone crisis, Iran's continued pariah-state-hood and Spain's spiralling fiscal disaster. Works for me.

The Iran thing fascinates me. I'm never one to pass up an opportunity to stick it to Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because he's the least likely person I will ever invite to my family Chanukah party. So there you have it: tech over despots and fiscal wipeouts. Happiness and hope continue to prevail. All is (mostly) right with the world.

So, Mahmoud, if you're reading this, here's your takeaway: Outside your autocratic, Holocaust-denying, sabre-rattling, nuclear-threatening, life-sucking world, there's a whole planet where folks can write - and do, and think, and speak - whatever they wish. I'm guessing you don't Yahoo much. Or Google. Must suck to be you. I think I need to keep on writing, as this is way too much fun.

* I write for Yahoo! Canada's Insight blog. Here's the link.

Lights out in the midwest

Sunset from United 843
Somewhere over Lake Michigan
May 2012
Click here for more natural world-themed goodness

Before I go anywhere, I ask my family and friends what I should bring back on my memory card. I want to know what they want to see, and I try to grab some pictures that fit their themes. It's a neat way to step outside my usual box, to look for things I might not otherwise see, and to make my experiences a little more real for those around me.

Before this last trip, Kalei's Best Friend (she blogs here. You must read her) suggested a sunrise or a sunset, which based on my previous experiences in the smog-choked far east, might have been a challenge. As it turned out, it was: we were socked in with grey skies for much of the trip, and the hotel we were in didn't offer much potential for early-morning sunrise-hunting (last time, however, was a different story.)

But the photographic gods have an interesting way of working, as I happened to be perfectly situated - left-side, right at the back of the plane - as our flight covered the last few hundred kilometres home. The skies almost seemed to beg for a shot, so I was only too happy to oblige. I thought of my faraway friend as I squeezed the shutter, glad that she had suggested the scene.

Your turn: What do you like to bring back from a trip? (I'm guessing it could be anything...have fun with it.)

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Days in the life of a tech-journalist...

Sometimes I get to the end of the week and forget what I was up to. Note to self: stop that. I'm going to try to do a better job capturing some of the more notable stuff I've been up to because otherwise it just slips into history. Here's a quick peek at some stuff I wrote this week:

The Toronto Star
LinkedIn, eHarmony breaches prove the password era is long gone. (June 07)

Yahoo! Canada
Should I buy now or wait for Windows 8? (June 08)
Facebook's phone folly (June 04)

I was also quoted in a few places:

Globe & Mail
Startup puts online ads within reach of smaller operations (by Grant Buckler)
RIM junks low-end 16 GB Playbook (by Omar El Akkad)

The National Post
RIM kills 16 GB PlayBook, will still make higher-capacity models (by Christine Dobby)

The Canadian Press

London Free Press
Some retailers remove self-checkout aisles (by Dan Brown)

To round out the week, I was a little busy on radio from my studio-in-a-driveway, including hits with:
  • QR77 Calgary's Angela Kokott on the dying landline and Rob Breakenridge on Google's new ad-based approach to shopping
  • Newstalk 1010 Toronto's John Moore and News 91.9's Tyler McLean on the LinkedIn debacle
  • 1290 CJBK's Al Coombs on Facebook-for-under-13s, Transit of Venus and data-only mobile plans (they're coming)
As it is, I ended up with audio for only one of them*, my weekly Friday chat with my favorite hometown radio station, Montreal's CJAD 800. I was on-air with Dan Delmar (sitting in for Ric Peterson) and Suzanne Desautels, and the episode audio is here. Podcast page is here.

What's on tap for next week? Lots. Apple's WWDC promises to spin off a lot of news, and I'm already planning my middle-of-the-night writing agenda. Ideas, as always, are welcome. As is tea. Lots and lots of tea.

* Many thanks to Sheldon Fried ... the nicest producer you could ever hope to work with.

The new new Spiderman

Figure eight
Delray Beach, FL
December 2009

Please accept my apologies if you're an arachnophobe, but this picture struck me as particularly evocative of this week's natural world theme (head here for more.) My logic is simple: What's out there isn't always neat, clean or otherwise perfect. Sometimes, brushing up against it - or even seeing a picture of it - makes us feel more than a little uncomfortable. But as wondrous as it can be, the world isn't a perfect place, and wishing otherwise isn't going to change reality.

Besides, spiders eat all the other icky stuff out there, so they're kinda like helper-beings. I thought this one looked somewhat worth shooting despite my wife's insistence that I crush it like a, um, bug. This particular critter was already outside, so I figured I could skate with a quick shoot followed by a gentle coaxing-into-the-bushes session. Jarring as it was, I just couldn't squish it.

Your turn: Spiders...splat or save? Why?

Friday, June 08, 2012

On lives not lived

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Hmm...makes me wonder...

Have eggs instead

London, ON
April 2012
Please click here for more Thematic "natural world"

Let's leave the whole cholesterol/general health debate for another day. For now, I just want to focus in on the aesthetic of the humble egg. I keep coming back to these things as photographic subjects (here and here) and I honestly have no explanation beyond the simple fact that they're neat-looking. And they're elemental in that whole what-came-first context.

The chicken may have indeed come before the egg. Or not. But I don't much care. Sometimes, you just have to take things as they are without worrying too much about the things you cannot see or control. Because simplicity, like the eggs to see here, can be good for the soul no matter what we choose to have for breakfast.

Your turn: How do you keep things simple?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On Fahrenheit 451

"I've had fun all of my life. I've never worked a day in my life. I've done all these things, and then I go onto the next thing. Each one of my books is a special love. All these things are a reward for me now, and it's wonderful. But thank God I behaved unconsciously, and didn't try to intellectualize my career. Just me, the typewriter and the future."
Ray Bradbury

I never met the man, but I already miss him. Funny how writers can so profoundly influence the lives of so many. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.

Venus transits the sun. Time stands still.

Heavenly rarity
London, ON
June 2012

About this photo: We're continuing Thematic's exploration of the natural world. You are, of course, invited. Just follow your mouse here. And enjoy.
As I write this, the planet Venus has now completed its six-ish hour trek - aka the Transit of Venus - across the surface of the sun. It didn't really crawl across the sun's surface, of course. It only seemed that way, as the smog-choked planet made its second of a twice-in-a-lifetime trips directly between our planet and our nearest star. It was like an eclipse, only way the hell cooler.

I was out for dinner with our little man, and we were excitedly talking about how history was taking place in the skies over our heads Right Now. I pulled up some live photos on my BlackBerry and we oohed and aahed for a bit. I'm sure the elderly couple out on a date beside us thought we were a little imbalanced. We smiled meekly at them as we continued our discussion. We looked up the world's oldest folks online - 115 years-old - and figured somewhere in the world there are babies and young children out there who will also lead super-long lives and live to see the next transit in 2117. He thought that was cool. So did I.

Eventually, we finished up, headed home, made nice to the dog, and then I headed to my office to string together a bunch more words, as heavenly show or no heavenly show a deadline awaited me. Then the phone rang: Our friend was a few blocks away, watching the show in the sky. As the sun was going to set in about 15 minutes, it was either now or never. We dropped everything and scooted the few blocks to meet him. Yup, that's me: Responsible dad and journalist. But that whole once-in-a-lifetime thing resonated in my head. So we went.

Admittedly, shooting the scene was a bear and a half. Even at minimum aperture (f40), minimum shutter speed (1/4,000 sec), minimum ISO and minimum exposure compensation (-5 stops), it was still overexposed. So we waited. And waited. And waited some more for the sun to drop toward the horizon. I figured it would soften as it got lower. And I was shockingly right.

Little man excitedly watched the scene through filtered glasses. I rather stupidly composed, focused and exposed the camera away from the sun, then blindly pointed it toward the ginormous gasbag, said a little prayer and tripped the shutter. I kept my eyes closed because going blind would have likely ruined the experience for all of us.

Why did we do this admittedly irrational thing? Because sometimes, you just have to drop all semblance of responsibility and just enjoy the moment. Because had I been a good little soldier and stayed home for the 30 minutes it took us to watch history, it would have been just another night for our son. Thanks to a friend who thought differently, it ended up being a night he'll remember for the rest of his life. May he live long enough to see it again.

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

Related: Watching our son watch Venus (the meta-photo) - August 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Where waves go to die

Pure energy
Delray Beach, FL
December 2011
Please click here to share some Thematic "Natural World" goodness

I know getting to the seashore isn't always practical for most folks. If, like me, you live in the middle of the continent, there's the not insubstantial issue of getting yourself to a coast. Then, once you're there, you've got to contend with madness-level parking, a beach packed with Archie, Reggie and Moose wannabes, and a bathing suit full of sand. Seriously, it's an ugly process just to get here.

But once you do ge here, oh my. You get to stand in the surf and feel the immense energy of a wave that probably originated thousands of miles away, that contains enough oomph to knock you - and all those Archie, Reggie and Moose wannabes, too - off your feet if you're not careful. And you get to experience that feeling as many times as you want, for there's always another wave behind the current one.

And if you stand in this spot long enough, you'll feel the very rhythm of a planet most of us have managed to distance ourselves from in our everyday lives. Yes, I'm being metaphysical. But few things feel as pure as being here. Every sense is alive with input. And you can't help but feel that your soul's been recharged in the process.

I can't wait to go back. Indeed, I've wanted to go back since I first walked out out of the surf on that perfect vacation day. Getting there may be hard. Leaving is even harder.

Your turn: What other places can do this to you?

Monday, June 04, 2012

Thematic Photographic 198 - The Natural World

Rocky Mountain High
Somewhere in Alberta, Canada
May 2012

Oops, looks like I missed a week of Thematic. Sorry about that: Life got busy (here and here). Thanks for your understanding, and thanks for continuing to participate in this admittedly zany little pursuit.

I wanted to get back to basics for this week's theme. It's come to my attention that the world can be a pretty spectacular place. Despite humankind's best efforts to trash the place, our planet can still stop us dead in our tracks with its beauty. But only if we take the time to notice. I'm glad I looked out the window and noticed the Canadian Rockies below. They seemed to reach right up to the sky, and made me wish we could circle for a while to take it all in.

So for the next week, I'd like us all to look for similar moments: Take the time to notice the natural loveliness all around us, and shoot it if you can. Easy. And eye-opening, I hope.

Your turn: Take a pic (or two, or ten) in support of this week's theme. Post it to your blog or website. Leave a comment here so folks know where to find it. Visit other participants. Repeat and encourage friends, family members and complete strangers you meet on the city bus to join in. Just because. (For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Otherwise, enjoy...and thanks!)

Arrest made in Eaton Centre Shooting

Toronto Police have announced, via Twitter, that an arrest has been made in the case.

Wave the flag

Stars, stripes, inspiration
Ocala, FL
December 2009

Since the world can be an ugly place on occasion, I'm going to start my own one-person campaign to de-uglify it: Every once in a while - whenever whimsy strikes me, I guess - I'm going to pull a picture that moves me out of my archives, and I'll share it here. Just like that.

I'll start with the American flag. Because unless you're an effigy-burning terrorist in some part of the world that celebrates death more than life, this is a symbol of striving for a better life. And it always makes me feel a little bit better when I see it.

Your turn: So, are you going to join my yet-to-snowball de-uglification campaign?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

On leading a musically iterative life

"Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on."
Samuel Butler

Life in the big city

Somewhere down there...
Toronto, ON
March 2011

To steal an old cliche, there are a million stories in the big city. Today, somewhere down there, there's one story, one question, that needs an answer: Who?

Who walked into a mall yesterday, pulled out a gun and opened fire? Police say it was a targeted shooting, but who would do so amid a packed food court? Seven others, including a 13-year-old boy now fighting for his life, were caught in the crossfire. Who is this person (or persons...the police have yet to release descriptions of a suspect or suspects) and where is he (or, admittedly, she) hiding? Somewhere down there, I guess.

I suppose there's another question: Why? Sure, someone may have had a grudge. But this?

The Eaton Centre shooting - add that one to our vernacular - took place mere steps from the Boxing Day shooting in 2005. Jane Creba, 15, got caught in between rival gang members taking shots at each other on a crowded Yonge Street.

It never ends, and it makes you wonder when and where the next one will occur. Because, cynically, we all know this is our new normal.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Eaton Centre Shooting...

Reports emerging out of Toronto that there's been a shooting at the downtown Eaton Centre mall.

I guess now we see how social media impacts an in-progress crime. I'll paste resources below, as well as on my tweetstream - @carmilevy

Feel free to share your own in comments.


Update from the Toronto Police 8:50 pm

Constable Victor Kwong has just confirmed the following:
  • At 6:23 pm, police were called in to shooting at food court, lower level, north end of the mall.
  • 8 victims have been identified, with injuries of varying severities. 1 pronounced dead on-scene. 2 in critical condition, 1 life-threatening.
  • Shooter not currently in custody
Update from Toronto Police - Mon. June 04 7:10 a.m.
TPS has announced, via Twitter, that an arrest has been made in the case. No further details released at the time. CTV story here.


Bridge the gap

Wires in the sky
Shanghai, China
May 2012
I'm sure we all look back at periods of our childhood and cringe a little at the things we used to do and say. In some cases, we never live it down thanks to friends and family with elephantine memories.

My private shame is this: When I was about 11-12-ish years-old, I was fascinated by bridges. Couldn't read or learn enough about them. Gave speeches about them, incessantly, at a public speaking course at school. Wrote essay after essay about different designs, engineers, and projects. Became known as "the bridge guy" because it's all that ever came out of me for a few months. Probably scarred some of my friends for life in the process, as they never fail to remind me, to this day, about my long-ago love for bridges.

Despite the fact that tech journalism has, um, nothing to do with the study of long-span structures, I still get a little zing of geekitude whenever I see one looming on the horizon. And as we get closer, I instinctively reach for my camera as my mind dissects the possibilities of capturing the spirit of a massive structure in a tiny photographic frame. I guess the fascination never fully left me.

And as we made our way home from the conference on a smoggy/cloudy late-afternoon in traffic-choked Shanghai, I couldn't resist an out-the-window shoot to try, in some way, to bring this one, the Nanpu Bridge, home.

If we're being honest, cable-stayed box girder designs rank among my personal faves. I'm not sure why: Perhaps the 12-year-old kid in me would be able to explain.

Your turn: Ever been obsessed?

More bridge pics here, here and here.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Painting with light
Shanghai, China
May 2012

In many respects, this is a city of light. Almost every building seems to wear some form of neon or LED embellishment. Even the tallest towers carve their place in the sky with exotic swaths of lit-up color.

And I can't shoot any of it from a moving vehicle. Because the basic limits of optics and motion make it impossible to compose and shoot with anything remotely approaching sharpness. Or even somewhat defined fuzziness. It's a photographic train wreck waiting to happen.

So I try to make friends with the blur. I set up for long exposures, and experiment time and again by waving the camera across the window, trying to grab whatever light I can, bend it in some sort of memorable way, seal it on my memory card for review later. Other passengers look at me funny. I think they think all Canadians are this odd. I smile to myself and keep shooting. Or painting. Whatever.

As you can imagine, most of the pictures that result are laughably bad, the kind of thing that looks like a first-person webcam mounted on the head of a wandering toddler. But a few of them are keepers, reminders of the night I switched gears and found a way to remember an otherwise unmemorable moment.

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