Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wanted: 2 new mayors

I'm not an HR specialist, but a little voice inside my head says a couple of plum positions in southern Ontario could be opening up in the very near future. Job-seekers, if you've ever wanted to be the mayor of either Canada's largest city or its 11th largest, it's time to start polishing your resumes.

Toronto the not-so-good

To the east, Toronto, where gravy-train-busting, onetime-football-coaching, texting-while-driving Mayor Rob Ford has been embroiled in one battle after another since being swept into office almost three years ago. Despite his reputation as a scrappy survivor, he may have just slammed headlong into the battle he ultimately cannot win. After months of speculation over the validity of a video of His Worship allegedly smoking crack cocaine, that reporters for the Toronto Star (disclosure, I write freelance for the paper) allegedly viewed, the Toronto Police now say they are in possession of said video (Toronto Star story here), and Toronto police chief Bill Blair says it contains images consistent with previous reports in the press.

Interpretation: The video shows the major smoking crack.

It won't be long before we, too, can watch the video, and rest assured I'll be making lots of popcorn before the first viewing. But if you've got issues with your top elected officials hanging around with drug dealers and murderers and potentially partaking in some consumption along the way - hell, even if you don't - the next few days and weeks should be rather entertaining. For now, Chief Blair says as a citizen, he's disappointed. I can't blame him.

My $0.02? Toronto deserves better than to be turned into an international laughingstock by its top elected official.

The other London

To the west, London, my burg, where career-politico Mayor Joe Fontana has spent much of the past year saying precious little about RCMP allegations he misused taxpayer money to pay for part of his son's wedding reception. He was subsequently charged with fraud, and yesterday a judge at a preliminary hearing ruled there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial. Fontana has steadfastly refused calls to step aside while the case proceeds, claiming there's so much work to do on behalf of Londoners that we would be ill-served by his absence.

My $0.02? London deserves better than a mayor who doesn't even live in the city, who can't remember writing a four-figure check for his kid's wedding, who refuses to put the city's well-being ahead of his own. We've become so mired in the affairs of our mayor that we've become completely distracted from the issues that could help this city achieve truly great things. It's time to get rid of the deadwood and all the other useless flotsam that accumulates around it. As long as you stick around, Joe, you're hurting this city. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Democracy can be a cruel mistress on the best of days. But on this particular day, I think anyone who voted for either of these gentlemen might want to look in the mirror and ask themselves what they might have been drinking or smoking before they did so. While everyone has the right to vote - which is as it should be - everyone should also have the obligation to educate themselves before they step into the voting booth.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When sun meets horizon

Say goodbye to the day
London, ON
June 2012
For more Thematic golden glow, click here
The end of the day, as the sun slips beneath the visible horizon and the sky slowly goes dark, carries with it a certain amount of sadness. While we all know our star will always rise in the morning, it's also pretty presumptuous of us to take that fact for granted.

What if, after all, we're not around to witness it?

The universe works in strange ways, and you just never know what might happen next. So when the sky begins to glow in that ethereal tone that makes you stop in your tracks, by all means take the time to stop in your tracks.

Drink it in. Enjoy the moment. Feel the soft light on your face before the sun, 93 million miles away, slips once more away from sight. Then hang around a little longer after sunset to watch the golden sky slowly morph into deep blue, and then, finally, black.

Because you just never know.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On the best kind of prescription

"My own prescription for health is less paperwork and more running barefoot through the grass."
Leslie Grimutter

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thematic Photographic 267 - That golden glow

State of the art
High over western Canada
February 2013
Stand in the same place from pre-dawn to post-sunset and you'll have a front-row seat to every kind of light imaginable. But some kinds of light are better than others. Deal with it, hazy midday sun.

My favorite times of day occur when the sun is super-low in the sky. It bathes everything in a surreal glow that can turn even the most mundane scene into something special.

Golden hour light makes me feel pretty damn lucky to have witnessed it at all. Because you get it for all of a few fleeting moments before it's gone.

It's a nice metaphor for life, and one I churned repeatedly in my head as I watched the low-angled sun dance on the perfectly curved and sliced facets of the wing on our Boeing 737-700 (aka Next-Generation). There are days when inspiration can be found by simply looking out the window.

Your turn: Take a pic that captures some kind of glow (remember, it's a pretty liberal interpretation, so pretty much anything goes.) Post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy, and feel free to return through the week as more scenes capture your eye. Tweet using the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag, and drop by here if you'd like to learn more about how Thematic works. Enjoy...and thanks!

Wonderland and 9 Mile Road

Paused at the crossroads
Middlesex County, ON
September 2013
I had come back to this intersection for reasons I don't quite yet understand. As I was driving home from a day's worth of meetings, I realized my path home would take me past this place where I had been just a couple of months earlier.

Like the whispered voices that often seem to pull us in one direction or another (shades of Field of Dreams, I'll admit) I soon found myself parking the car alongside the deserted road, reaching for my camera and stepping into the still-soft dirt of the unfinished roadway construction site.

I didn't stay long because my family was waiting just a few kilometers away, and I missed them. It had been a good day of opportunity-hunting and foraging, and I couldn't wait to get home and share everything I had seen and experienced. But before I got there, I felt the need to be here, to stand in the dirt, bathed by the setting sun, and drink in a place that, for reasons I'll someday share here and elsewhere, has become eerily significant to me.

Hard to believe a perfectly painted landscape in the midst of a facelift would mean that much to anyone. Hard to fathom the power of a geographic coordinate, and how comforting it can be to return to a place where life can literally go down one path or another. Funny how life works, sometimes.

On vision, defined

"Vision is the art of seeing things invisible."
Jonathan Swift

Sunday, October 27, 2013

And now for something completely different: BlackBerry. Funny.

I write a lot of stuff. No surprise, given that I'm a journalist. When I first started writing, I remember thinking that every article I wrote was incredibly significant and worthy of framing and mounting above the mantel. I assumed I'd remember every article forever.

It didn't take long for me to learn how naive I was. The daily grind of writing for a living means most of what you do is quickly forgotten. Some days you're writing so flat out that you've pretty much tossed the thing you just submitted into the rearview as soon as you hit Send or Publish. Sometimes when I'm researching story ideas, I often find myself reading older articles, only to realize after the fact that I was the writer. Memory, I guess, isn't my strong suit.

But some pieces stand out a bit, and this week, amidst a series of newsy pieces for Yahoo! Canada, I got to write one that does. Here's the link, headline and sub-head:
BlackBerry, BlackBerry, which suitor will you choose?
If she’s going to survive in anything like her current shape, BlackBerry needs to find a corporate buyer. Marriage is the only way out of this mess. Good news is there's interest...
I don't often get to "write funny". Most of what I do is fairly straightforward news or analysis, and I'm guessing readers looking for tech insight want the facts, not an impression of The Onion. But this time was different. It was something known as a gallery format, which is a relatively new thing for me, and my editor - bless him - gave me a lot of room to play with.

So I played. And the result is something I doubt I'll be forgetting anytime soon. Hope you enjoy the read.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mrs. Krabappel has died

Okay, the actual teacher from The Simpsons didn't die, but Marcia Wallace, who voiced Edna Krabappel's delightfully burned-out persona, passed away yesterday (CNN, Entertainment Weekly).

She was 70, and had also starred on the Bob Newhart Show and Murphy Brown as Carol Kester.

Virtually every death is cause for sadness. But the ones that remove a broadly shared talent from the world seem to sting just a little more. Sadness.

Dirty arteries

Don't worry, folks. I didn't eat these. A couple of weeks back while we were running some errands, little man's tumbly became quite grumbly - as little men's tumblies tend to do when they haven't been fed within the last 45 minutes or so. So I did what bad parents have been doing for generations. I caved.

Bad parent of the year. Yup, that's me.

For more dirty Thematic (no, not that kind of dirty), please click here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Refusing to let the dark forces win

"Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength."
Eric Hoffer
I keep coming back to this one because, if we're being brutally honest, I get the sense that too many people in too many places are too unkind to each other.

I don't know if I'm simply noticing it more often now than I have in the past, but I can't shake the feeling that a growing number of us have simply stopped caring how our conduct affects those around us. Some of us seem to have lost the ability to help, to empathize, to inspire. And it's a serious bummer given how little time we all have on this orbiting sphere.

Over the past week, I've had some crazy-incredible success (see here) buttressed by some of the best writing (here, here, here, here, here, and here) I've done in a while. It's been wildly diverse, incredibly fun and unbelievably fulfilling. And along the way, I've been lucky enough to work with some fundamentally great people who've inspired me to keep at it.

But then I crossed paths with a few folks who perhaps didn't get the memo. I've been told off, sworn at, and - my favorite - ignored. I've had to write less-than-happy emails and make some less-than-fun phone calls as a result, and the darkness I've felt as I've had to go through this process has been palpable. I don't much enjoy it.

Maybe I'm overreacting, and maybe I'm letting the dark souls win. But when the feeling persists day after day, I have to wonder if there's something to it, and if we need to rethink things a little bit. it just me? And how do you suggest we make things, I don't know, a little kinder?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's time to let your kids get dirty

He climbs
London, ON
March 2012
Thematic. Dirty. Here.
I don't think we let our kids get dirty enough. We don't let them take chances, take a fall, disappear from view, or experience the world without the bowling alley equivalent of bumpers on them.

I'm not entirely convinced that this is a good thing. I'm not entirely convinced that this helps them grow into the world they'll someday inherit.

After all, even cakes have to experience some beating blades and a hot oven before they're considered fully formed.

Your thoughts?

On simplicity and quality

"It's actually very difficult to make something both simple and good."
Paul Simon
What he said. Welcome to the struggle of my writerly life.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spray painting the countryside

Pounding the rails
London, ON
May 2013

For more dirty Thematic, please click here.
The broken window theory dictates that leaving just one broken window unrepaired in a neighborhood leads to increases in criminal activity. It's almost as if the appearance of degradation tacitly encourages the kinds of behaviors that drive further criminal activity - and additional community decline.

I'd include graffiti in that list, as well, because despite claims that those who wield spray cans are graffiti artists, I rather vehemently disagree with the notion. Indeed, some might have artistic capability, and some might indeed be seeking new means to express themselves.

But one quick look at the sad sprayings on the side of this train car suggest whoever wielded the can didn't graduate at the top of his/her graffiti education class.

I may sound like the curmudgeonly guy up the street who yells at hockey-playing kids, but it's vandalism, pure and simple. If these so-called artists wanted to legitimately practice their craft, they could make proper arrangements to secure an appropriate venue. Given the mad skills many of them (sorry, not here) apparently have, I think we'd all enjoy their work if it were done in a more respectful manner.

And get off my lawn.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Apple's new iPads and me

Had a bit of a busy day thanks to a certain fruity company's announcement of updated versions of its tablets. The new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display (say it 10 times fast!) will doubtless get the faithful all wound up in a lather because, let's face it, nothing matters more to some folks than the latest geeky gear.

From my analyst's perch here in London, I covered the day's events as best I could. I wrote an article for Yahoo! Canada Finance on the shifting winds of the tablet market - and why Apple's play-it-safe strategy of mildly updating its devices with each passing generation may not be in its long-term best interest. Here it is:
iPad Air's Android problem
Earlier in the morning, I spoke live with CTV News Channel's Jacqueline Milczarek (video here) from the CTV London studios near my house.
Little bit of trivia: this interview was mercifully fly-free. Last week during a live hit, we were about to wrap things up when I spotted a fly heading straight for me from a gap in between the studio lights. As I chatted away, I could feel him (her?) buzzing my head, and even caught a view of the little bugger in the monitor: whatever it was, it was clearly visible on TV, and it wouldn't leave me alone for the rest of the discussion. Maybe he liked my shampoo.

I also wrote a piece on LED lighting for's consumer blog. Here's the link:
What you need to know before buying LED bulbs
The rest of the thankfully flyless day included interviews with a bunch of other folks, too:
  • NewsTalk 1010 Toronto - busy day with Bell Media's flagship station. Spoke live with John Moore first thing in the morning, then chatted with Dave Bradley after the news came down. Then caught up with Justine Lewkowicz. I ended the day with one last chat with John Downs and Ryan Doyle on Friendly Fire. As far as I can tell, they're not sick of me yet.
  • CJAD 800 Montreal - updated Barry Morgan on Facebook's big week of announcements, and what to expect from Apple.
  • NewsTalk 610 CKTB Niagara - chatted with Larry Fedoruk during the afternoon drive.
  • News Talk 770 Calgary - talked about Facebook's privacy challenges with Angela Kokott as part of our weekly Tech Tuesday segment.
  • CBC Kitchener-Waterloo - spoke with Matt Kang for a package he's preparing on BlackBerry's launch of BBM for iOS and Android.
  • CBC Radio - did a quick roundup of hits with shows in Thunder Bay (Cathy Alex/Voyage North), Winnipeg (Ismaila Alfa/Up to Speed), Edmonton (Portia Clark/Radio Active), Calgary (Doug Dirks/Homestretch), and Ottawa (Alan Neal/All in a Day).
Tomorrow's shaping up to be another major day, with interviews already set up with CBC Kitchener (7:10/BBM for iOS/Android), CBC Ontario Morning (7:50/iPads and other tablets. Podcast audio here), News Talk 770 Calgary (8:15/Bruce Kenyon/isoHunt and BitTorrents) and CJOB Winnipeg (8:55/Hal Anderson/Bell tracks, BBM, and Apple). I'm guessing a lot of people really like to talk about - and hear about - tech. Fine by me!

But wait, there's more...

Wednesday did indeed turn out to be a busy day. The quad of interviews went exceptionally well (tip: a parked car in a garage makes a nicely soundproofed studio.) And the fun continued from there:

Published an article on the growing list of suitors lining up to take a run at BlackBerry. I don't often "write funny", and I am incredibly lucky to have editors at Yahoo! Canada who give me more than enough room to do just that. I hope you enjoy reading the piece as much as I enjoyed writing it:
BlackBerry, BlackBerry, which suitor will you choose?
Other coverage from the day included:
  • CJAD 800 Montreal - Shuyee Lee - report on Bell's plans to capture data from its customers
  • CTV London - Sean Irvine - report on a website,, that lets anyone say anything vengeful or spiteful about anyone else. Can we say libel? I knew we could. Video here.
  • NewsTalk 1010 Toronto - Scott Reid filling in for John Tory. Talked about Apple's iPads and the future of the company.
  • CJBK London - Mike Stubbs - talked about everything tech under the sun as part of our weekly segment
I ended the day with a clip on the CTV National News. John Vennavally-Rao reported on the Bell/tracking issue, and I weighed in. Video here - hang in after Obama and Merkel. Or just click here for the direct video.

Funny thing, though. For all the media-driven chaos of the previous two days, the highlights had nothing to do with anything I do at the keyboard. Our son got a job after months of trying - and we couldn't be more proud of him. And our daughter performed beautifully at her choir's first music night of the year. We couldn't be more proud of her, either.

Sometimes, you need snippets of real life to remind you what really matters.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thematic Photographic 266 - Let's get dirty

Don't tread on me
Grand Bend, ON
August 2013

Click photo to embiggen
My head was hurting when I was trying to come up with this week's theme. So I went the simple route because it probably would have hurt even more if I had tried to get all abstract on y'all. So here it is:

Let's get dirty

Easy, huh? And easy to shoot, too, because last time I checked, there was more than enough dirt and filth to go around in the world. So grab your camera and go. Let's make a mess this week.

Your turn: Take a picture - or many pictures, because we're greedy - of something dirty, or something that suggests dirtiness. Post it to your blog (or Tumblr, or Facebook, or other website/online resource), then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share in the craziness, and pop back in later in the week if you've got more to share.

If you tweet, feel free to use the uber-handy and oh-so-chic hashtag: #ThematicPhotographic. If you're new to the Thematic thing, click here and all will be explained. Oh, and most of all, have fun with it!

BBM for iOS and Android - finally here. Almost.

This is turning into quite the eventful Monday, at least from a geek's perspective. First, Facebook takes a bit of a siesta (don't worry, Facebookphiles, all is now well), and now BlackBerry announces its BBM for iOS and Android will be going live today. BB's Andrew Bocking has posted the lowdown on the BlackBerry blog:
BBM for Android and BBM for iPhone: Official Launch Details
I wrote about the company's aborted launch attempt last month - Could BBM save BlackBerry - and the industry's been watching fairly closely since then for signs that the ubiquitous software - 60 million regular users, and they send 10 billion messages a day - would finally be available on something other than BlackBerry-branded hardware.

The promise of true cross-platform instant messaging (and then some, as BBM also supports audio, video and collaboration) is something that hasn't quite taken hold yet. Today we find out if BlackBerry's shot positions it to be the first major vendor to stake its claim. Coolness.

Facebook down

Hold onto your social-media-addicted hats, folks, but Facebook is experiencing a major outage this morning. The service isn't down, per se. It'll still load up and you can still navigate the site. Mobile apps can still connect to the mothership, as well.

The problem revolves around posting anything new. Most folks are currently unable to post new status updates, comment on existing ones, upload photos or send messages to each other. Mashable's got a quick update here, and I'll add more as they become available.

Which, on balance, is pretty much the core set of reasons anyone would use the service in the first place.

Twitter, anyone?

Update - 10:24 a.m. ET: Yahoo! Canada has published my article: Facebook suffers global outage
I'll be updating the piece as this event plays out.

11:02 a.m.: The article has been updated with additional detail re. who's affected and how, previous outages, and what Facebook is doing to address the issue. More soon...

12:20 p.m.: I've updated the article again as the service is now back to normal, and Facebook has shared details re. what caused it. The piece carries a new title, as well:
Facebook back to normal after suffering global outage
Looks like we can all go back to our regular lives. I'll never cease to be amazed at how something like this causes so many to react so, uh, overtly. Chill, folks, chill.

Bikes, sidewalks, and my slowly rising temper

Wheels off
Toronto, ON
August 2013
For more Thematic streetscapes, please click here.
As a cyclist, nothing bothers me more than folks who ride their bikes on the sidewalk. It's incredibly dangerous, and from where I sit the excuse that "the roads are too dangerous for me" is an absolute crock.

Aside from the overt danger you pose to pedestrians, you put yourself in even greater danger because you're constantly popping in and out of traffic at each intersection.

If you ride on two wheels, learn to ride with traffic. If you don't have the guts, get off your bike and walk.

I think I'll duck now.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is this dog happy?

We've been trying to entertain Frasier the wonderdog on this cold and miserably rainy Saturday afternoon. We aren't sure if it's working - his English skills are still lagging - but with a face like this, we can't not at least make the effort.

Friday, October 18, 2013

On making it happen. Now.

"Don’t wait. The time will never be just right."
Napoleon Hill
I often laugh at the prospect of waiting for everything to align before stepping off into the void. The world is such a random place that nothing will ever perfectly align, anyway. And if you choose to wait, you'll be left standing in the same place forever while life simply passes you by.

In fact, if I look at everything I've ever done in life, I was laughably unprepared for it before I dove in. Getting married? Yup. Having kids? Well, my wife was ready, but I'm still figuring it out. Doing crazy things as a journalist, like yakking for a while without a script or interviewing people I have no business interviewing? Same thing.

Today I rode my bike for the first time in months. It had been sitting in the living room for a while, taunting me, until my wife finally asked me to put it into the garage. And late this afternoon, as I was parking the car, it just hit me that I should pop my helmet on and ride. So I did. Not far, and not terribly quickly, either. But enough to convince myself that I could.

It felt...good.

Life is a funny trip, and we're never ready for whatever comes next. We learn as we go along, in some cases screwing up more frequently and spectacularly than we succeed, and the only way to get the party started is to hit the dance floor and see what happens.

Today I rode. Not spectacularly. Not the way I once did. But it was enough. For now. And I'll build on it the next time I step off of terra firma and dig into the pedals. No more waiting.

When photos get us into trouble

Rob Lurie is a reporter with CTV Montreal, and I was privileged to work with him on a recent trip home to visit our family. The topic was one that should scare us all to our very core: the ability of complete strangers to find us - where we live, where we work, where our kids go to school - by simply analyzing the data embedded in virtually every photo we take.

It's called geotagging, and as more of us take pictures with smartphones and then share them online on social media services like Facebook and Instagram, the privacy and security risks continue to grow. What's really frightening is that few of us are even aware that any of this is happening, or that we're even remotely at risk. Unfortunately, we are.

He put together a report, The Real Picture, that aired yesterday. The report's home page includes a direct link to the report, a link to the preview that Rob recorded with CTV Montreal anchor Mitsumi Takahashi, as well as the promo. As you'll see in the report, it took me 28 seconds to figure out, from a photo that he had emailed me, where his brother lives. As we chatted in my father-in-law's dining room (hats off to Zayda Irving!) it quickly became apparent how easily we're inadvertently sharing precise details of our day-to-day lives with...well, the entire online world.

If you do one thing today, please check the GPS settings on your smartphone and adjust accordingly. And if you're still not sure how it all works, leave a comment here or hit the Contact link and send me an email. I'll be happy to show you how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Your turn: What are you going to do next to tighten your own online privacy and security? (And, no, being tech-phobic isn't the right answer. As this report drives home, we all need to raise our game.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

At a crossroads

For the love of G-d, please look both ways
London, ON
September 2013
Thematic. Streetscapes. Here.
It takes a certain degree of wanton insanity to crouch down on a London street corner and shoot a low-angled shot in the middle of swirling traffic. Add in the usual mix of iPhone- (or maybe it's Android-) distracted drivers and it's a recipe for disaster.

I thought about it as I sized up the shot, but ultimately decided it was worth the risk. Because life's short enough as it is, and I'd hate to think I never even made the effort. Sometimes, you just have to toss all doubt aside and just go for whatever it is that's calling your soul.

On this day it was a picture, but it could just as easily have been anything else.

Your turn: What's calling you?

BlackBerry, Lenovo, and you

BlackBerry makes small electronic devices that fit into your pocket. Lenovo makes larger electronic devices that would probably rip your pocket if you tried to stuff them in.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this afternoon that Lenovo may want to buy BlackBerry. If this plays out, the Chinese PC vendor would join a growing list of potential suitors for the beleaguered Canadian smartphone maker. If you recall, Lenovo bought the PC unit from IBM a few years back: seems like someone in their executive suites likes icons.

I'll be watching this one closely. I'll also likely be commenting on and writing about it, because Canadians can't get enough news about the state of this once-storied Canadian company. I'm especially interested in the federal government's response if this goes any further: national security concerns in the event of a Chinese takeover bid will weigh high on politicians' minds.

I think my life's going to be busy for the next couple of days. Seems like a recurring theme, which is absolutely fine by me.


On having the guts to see beyond

"Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses."
Yet most folks who have the ability to see beyond will nevertheless plow ahead despite the naysayers. It takes guts to go against the wind. But that's how ships sail and planes fly, so maybe the so-called heretics among us are onto something.

Either way, I'm with the challengers. Much more fun to be on the outside no matter what everyone else might say.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The long and winding road

London, ON
For more Thematic streetscapes, click here
Funny things happen with optics when you point a long lens at a particular scene. Things tend to look a little squished front-to-back - or is it back-to-front? - thanks to the optical properties of the telephoto lens.

It's really quite neat, and if you're aware of the phenomenon, you can have a little fun with it when you're out and about.

On this bright morning, I needed a little bit of fun. This was shot from the parking deck of a nearby hospital, which is as depressing as it sounds. I was feeling less than my usual lovely self, and I looked to my camera for a little spontaneous enjoyment. As I wandered around the concrete decks in search of a scene that made me happy, I came across this view in the distance and thought it would fit the bill rather nicely.

I drive on this road often, but have never seen it from quite this perspective before. I'm guessing the next time I find myself here, I'll be looking at it through a fresh set of eyes.

Photography as optical therapy. Who would have ever thought?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thematic Photographic 265 - Streetscapes

One oblique man
London, ON
September 2013
Most of us live in cities, so chances are fairly good that we'll spend at least part of our day on a street.

The numbingly repetitive mixture of asphalt, concrete, signs and painted lines can make it easy to simply overlook. Your mind often goes into numb-mode as you move through the paces of your day, barely paying attention to the details of an environment you've seen so often before.

Or you could try something a little different. Which is what I'm hoping we can do with this week's new Thematic theme, streetscapes.

Simply head out to whatever street tickles your fancy. Take pictures of whatever you find. Share here.


I can't wait to see what y'all come back with.

Your turn: Take a pic - or many pics - reflective of this week's theme, then share on your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to keep the fun going, and repeat through the week if inspiration strikes again. For more background on how Thematic works, click here.

BlackBerry's open letter

Here's what I love about being a journalist: news happens anytime. Like today, Canada's Thanksgiving. While everyone's either eating turkey, cooking turkey, discussing turkey, thinking about turkey or sleeping off the turkey, I've been doing the writer thing. Which, as you've probably guessed by now, totally rules. Here's the lowdown:

BlackBerry just released an open letter to customers, carriers, developers, stakeholders, and pretty much anybody else who's interested (Link here]. The goal: let everyone know they're still in the game, still focused on the things they need to do to survive and thrive, still fighting.

The cynics among us might call it too little, too late. From my observer's perch, it adds another dimension to what's become a very human story of business success, failure and hoped-for renewal. There's no telling where this will go next, but today's move by the company adds another wrinkle to one of the most fascinating - and, to be honest, wrenching - corporate stories in recent memory.

I spoke to BlackBerry's Andrew MacLeod, BlackBerry’s regional managing director for North America, and published this piece in Yahoo! Canada:
BlackBerry open letter tries to set the record straight
I'll also be live on CJAD 800 in Montreal with Dan Delmar at just after 5:40 p.m. (tune in here), and will be discussing this with anchor Brad Giffen as part of my weekly Clicked In segment on CTV News Channel, tonight just after 7:15 p.m., all times Eastern.

For the record, here's the text. I'll post the link to the original posting once it goes live on [Update: here it is]:

To our valued customers, partners and fans,

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.

We have one important message for you:

You can continue to count on BlackBerry.

How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.

We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.

These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.

One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.

And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.

Best in class productivity tool.

We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Best in class security.

Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.

Best in class enterprise mobility management.

We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.

This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.

And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.

Best in class mobile social network.

We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM launch for Android and iPhone.

There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.

We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.

You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own: You can continue to count on us.

The BlackBerry Team

Gravity is indeed the law

Not covered under warranty
This photo begins the wind-down of Thematic's week-long exploration of all things reflective. There's still time to share yours here. Stay tuned, as we'll be launching our next theme, streetscapes, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's tonight...I'd better get cracking! 
In this era of smartphones and tablets, everyone's got a hard luck story of unplanned, uh, loss. And I'n betting that it usually goes something like this:
  1. Start with an electronic device with large slab of exposed glass
  2. Mix in a rushed schedule and a little distractedness to set the stage
  3. Add some clumsiness to get things in motion
  4. Let gravity do the rest
  5. Make sure there's a hard surface below it all to put a rather abrupt stop to the gravity thing
  6. Stand around and watch for the inevitable reaction: sick feeling in the pit of the stomach, quick pickup, futile - and potentially dangerous - rubbing of the glass in the vain hope that it's just dirty, followed by the sickening realization that the $700 to replace your once-pristine device will have to come out of your own pocket.
Thankfully this particular tablet wasn't mine. And I'm guessing whoever dropped it has since either moved to a marshmallow-rich community or bought an armored case. Either way, we're stuck with it until flexible plastic replaces rigid, finicky and fragile glass. Fortunately, salvation is on its way.

Your turn: Ever destroyed a device? How did you feel afterward?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Freshly shorn puppy

Ready for his cameo
London, ON
October 2013
Thematic gets reflective this week. You can, too. Here.
Schnauzers are great dogs for a lot of reasons, including sweet temperament, over-the-top loyalty, high energy level and major cuddliness. They're also great for folks with allergies, as their fur doesn't shed and doesn't set off the sneezies.

All this comes with a downside, as their coats need regular grooming to maintain that magazine-like puppy-loveliness. Key word: regular. And since it's been anything but regular in our household for a while, taking our not-quite-so-mini miniature schnauzer, Frasier, to the groomer had kind of fallen off the back of our family's priority treadmill. I know, we suck.

So with each passing day, he ended up looking more and more raggedy. A little less worthy of that ever-elusive magazine cover. Who are we kidding? He'll never make the back pages of that magazine let alone the cover, but we still love him to bits and pieces. And scruffy fur or not, we still got on the floor with him and smothered him with affection whether he wanted it or not (I'm guessing he wanted it, but he hasn't said so in so many words. Still...)

But the fur covering his eyes was beginning to bug him. And the mattes on his legs were starting to take on a life of their own. So today was the day to take it all off. And by the time our beloved groomer, Jean, was finished with him, he seemingly lost half his size in fur alone. And he looked a heck of a lot like the pup he was the day after we first rescued him (see here for his day 1 photo, and here for the cleaned-up version.)

Either way, he'll always be our puppy. He'll always be that crazy dog who adds that certain je ne sais quoi to our family's life. And we'll always cherish each day that we get with him.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sunset approaches

When the day ends
London, ON
October 2013
To share your own reflective Thematic, head here.
The next time you get out of the car and rush to whatever it is that you're about to be late for, try something a little different:

1. Stop
2. Turn around
3. Look around (up, down, left, right, wherever)
4. Remember the moment

Once you're done, feel free to continue your frenetic quest. But the very fact that you'd stick a pause into the middle of life's craziness suggests the forces of speed haven't completely won. Not yet, anyway.

Don't cry over spilled pasta

No dinner for you
London, ON
August 2013
Thematic. Reflective. Here.
I promise you I'm not the one who pancaked a weekend's worth of pasta onto the floor of the local Loblaw supermarket. But I still couldn't say no to a quick photo of the aftermath, because there's something so evocative about haphazardly dumped spaghettini on a brilliantly polished floor.

I admit It's making me a little hungry.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On making your unknown known

"Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing."
Georgia O'Keeffe
So what's your unknown? And how are you planning to make it known?

On the bright side of sickness

"Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity."
I've always believed that even the darkest of life's moments can have a bright side, as well, but only if we're willing to make the effort and look for it. It may suck to either get sick or be sick, but we may surprise ourselves if we think about the ways illness can change us for the better.

I know it seems preposterous, because no one ever wants to get sick. But we don't always choose when G-d might snap his fingers. And the pulling-good-from-not-so-good thing is resonating with me for some reason.

Am I simply being wishful or is there some merit to this?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Rogers goes down cross-Canada

Interesting evening in Canadian telecom, as Rogers is experiencing a widespread outage - er, what they call "voice service interruptions affecting wireless customers in Ontario and Quebec."

Other reports say it's nationwide. I'll believe the others. Because.

This all happens on the day that Rogers bowed to customer pressure to carry BlackBerry's new Z30 phone. The carrier last week said it wouldn't sell the flagship device at retail, which I called a slap in the face mere months after the CEOs of both companies were best buds at the BlackBerry 10 launch.

Coincidence? We'll never know. But the forces of the universe may not be all that pleased with Canada's largest wireless carrier this evening.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Monday, October 07, 2013

Thematic Photographic 264 - Feeling reflective

Heavy metal
London, ON
September 2013
Each week, Thematic Photographic celebrates a specific theme designed to get us to spend some time outside our photographic comfort zone. The whole point is to try something new, connect with other like-minded folks and get back in touch with why we fell in love with photography in the first place.

If this aligns with your world view, I hope you'll join us.

This week's theme is "feeling reflective", and I chose it for two reasons. First, I dig mirrors and other reflective surfaces. Second, I've been feeling more reflective than usual lately, and I'm thinking this seemingly simple theme may offer up some surprising ways to interpret.

As ever, how you choose to do so is entirely up to you. I can't wait to see everyone's creativity with this one.

Your turn: Pick a photo that evokes, suggests or otherwise aligns with this week's theme. It's totally up to you. Post it to your blog - or website, or Facebook page, or anyplace online really - and leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants and invite a friend along. Use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag in Twitter if you're into that kind of thing. Most of all, enjoy the experience, as that's why we do it here. For more background on how Thematic works, just click here. Thanks!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sitting by the pool

Have a seat
Laval, QC
August 2013
Thematic. Multiples. Here.
Sometimes I take pictures not because the subject matter is staggeringly beautiful, but because I think the images captured within them will eventually take me back to this place and time when, years later, I come across the photos in some dusty album (or, if we're being modern, the digital equivalent of same.)

It was a warm, sunny afternoon, and my kids were in the outdoor pool with their cousins. They don't get to see each other very often, and the little folks look up to our kids in a way that makes you wish we lived a little closer. While the whole extended mishpacha* watched them from the side of the pool, I wandered to the other side and scoped out these throwaway plastic chairs.

Clearly one of them had been soaking in the sun for a bit longer than all the others - kind of like a Sesame Street song, come to think of it - and I thought that despite the thermoplastic-injected shock of poolside color, they looked a little sad.

Either way, years from now I'll look at this shot and remember not the temporary-plastic-ness of it all, but the rollicking moment playing off to my immediate right, and how simply being there made me feel as I lined up the shot, metered it and tripped the shutter.

Your turn: Sad? Happy? Or something in between? How does this shot make you feel?

* Family.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

On Steve Jobs + 2: how time flies

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."
Steve Jobs
The world lost Mr. Jobs two years ago today. Since then, I've learned an additional thing or two about how quickly life can be snapped away from us.

And while I shaped this very blog entry on a tablet that he created, I can't help but think that his ultimate contributions to humankind may have less to do with the devices that made him famous than the philosophy he followed as he created them.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Pick a direction, any direction

Toronto, ON
August 2013
For more Thematic multiples, please click here.
Scenes like this make me wonder who's crossed these rails, where they've ended up and what their stories might have been. Traces of humanity are constantly passing through this otherwise inhospitable place, and the only way we can ever know more is by looking deep into our imagination.

Maybe it's just as well to not have everything documented for us. Maybe some stories are best left unshared with those who observe from the sidelines.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Counting the things that cannot be counted

Wave at the horizon
Grand Bend, ON
July 2013
Thematic. Multiples. Here.
I stood on the shore and watched the perfectly random waves repaint the surface for as far as the eye could see.

I stood on the shore and wondered how many waves there were, if it was even possible to calculate such a thing.

I stood on the shore and realized some things are best left to the imagination. For now, it was enough to just close my eyes and feel the breeze.

Your turn: What do you think about what you stare out at a scene like this?

On the power within us

"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."
Ferdinand Foch
This one's going up in my home office. Because we all need the occasional reminder that nothing can stop us if we have the will to push on, no matter what (or why, when, where, who, or how.)

Indeed, the power lies within all of us.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

When life serves up lemons...

London, ON
September 2013
For more Thematic multiples, just click here
The grocery store continues to beckon, and I continue to flirt with disaster every time I pull a camera out and start shooting.

I'm guessing there's some rule, documented somewhere, that says you're not allowed to photograph the produce. Or anything else in the store, for that matter. But call me a rebel, these lemons were calling me. They were just so...yellow.

I pretended to look something up on my iPad as I loaded the camera app, confirmed settings and prepared to compose. One quick shot later and it was back to picking fruit.

The nearby store employee pulling the cart loaded with bananas never had a clue.

Your turn: What should be my next fruit of opportunity? I'm taking requests.

P.S. Wave to my wife. She's just behind the topmost lemon on the top of the frame. I know she's deep into the bokeh, but she's lovely all the same.