Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Power to the people

I get a charge out of you
London, ON
November 2014
Thematic. Faves of the year. Here.
It's a scene that's played out countless times over the past year: I finish up an interview in the local studio, then wander through the newsroom on my way out to the parking lot. In many ways this place has become a home away from home for me, a place where everyone knows me and always manages to connect with a kind word before I have to get back to the outside world.

It's also something of a toy store for grown-ups, stuffed with technology and tools that allow professionals - not the wannabes like me - to produce real television news, day in and day out. And every time I'm here, my eye catches something else that seems to beg for a little lens time.

This day is no different as I catch sight of something you don't see much of anymore. The classic 9-volt battery was a staple of my childhood, as it powered more kids' toys than you can imagine. More often than not, I had to fetch my dad to help me unscrew the battery compartment and, of course, fetch a fresh new battery from the store. Or wherever he kept them stashed in the house.

Today, we charge and recharge our devices. And my kids are just as likely to ask to borrow my adapter as they are to ask where I've hidden the replacement batteries. The world has changed. Yet here, where the news waits for no one, being caught without power, even for a second, simply isn't part of the equation.

I'm glad I stopped in here today. I'm guessing more optical delights await in this welcoming place in the new year.

Your turn: Have you had a blast from the past recently?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On seeing beauty

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see."
I sort of feel sorry for those who can't. Or won't. Whatever the cause, they're missing out.

Coffee is served

Mug filled
London, ON
October 2014
Thematic. Faves of the year. Here.
Our house is a chaotic place. We all come and go at different times of day and night. Boundaries between day and night are often stretched, with early-morning writing jags and lifts to choir offset by late-night walks with the dog or report card-writing sessions. I don't think this place has an off-button.

We often use notes - handwritten, on paper, just like the old days - to connect with each other. While we all have smartphones, and we use them constantly to stay in touch and keep everyone on-schedule and in the right place at the right time (yes, I'll be there at 5:25 when you're finished work...) there's something, I don't know, substantial, about a slip of paper on the kitchen table. Or in this case, tucked up against a mug filled with steaming-hot goodness on an otherwise cold and dark morning.

I love my life for a whole lot of reasons. A simple note on a simple mug of coffee reinforces the why. And reminds me why I'm as lucky as I am.

Your turn: Do you still write on paper? To whom? And why?

Monday, December 29, 2014

On why we're here

"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
Mark Twain
Which, of course, begs the question: Why do you think you're here?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

AirAsia Airbus, Flight QZ8501, is missing

Frightening news from the aviation industry, where an AirAsia Airbus A320-200 with a reported 162 people on board has gone missing. The aircraft, operating as flight QZ8501, had been flying from Indonesia (SUB) to Singapore (SIN) when air traffic controllers lost contact.

Reuters reports the flight crew had asked for an "unusual route" before the flight disappeared.

The Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based low-cost airline offers both domestic and international flights, and it flies to 100 destinations in 22 countries.

Indonesian Transport Ministry spokesperson Hadi Mustofa said the plane lost communication with the airport of origin - Surabaya Juanda International Airport - 42 minutes after taking off at 5:27 a.m. Sunday local time (4:27 p.m. Saturday ET). It had been scheduled to land at Singapore's Changi Airport at 8:37 a.m. local (7:30 p.m. ET).

The plane was carrying 155 passengers (138 adults, 16 children, 1 baby) and 7 crew. Reports indicate passenger nationalities are as follows: 149 Indonesian, 3 Korean, 1 Singaporean, 1 Briton and 1 Malaysian.

The flight vanished over the Java Sea between Kalimantan and Java islands. Aircraft's last known contact was at location TAVLIP, at 32,000 feet in altitude.

Update - 11:02 pm ET: AirAsia has just posted the following to its Facebook page:


AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24hrs this morning.

At the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available.

The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC.

At this time, search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service.
AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre that is available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number is: +622129850801.

AirAsia will release further information as soon as it becomes available. Updated information will also be posted on the AirAsia website,

The airline also reset its logo and cover image on its Facebook page to grey.

Update - 11:05 pm ET: Satellite imagery from around the time of the plane's disappearance shows significant thunderstorms in the area. Aircraft had requested permission to climb from its assigned FL320 to FL380.

More as it becomes known.

Related Links:

Thematic Photographic 322 - Favorite Photos of the Year

Sunset with my best friend
Grand Bend, ON
July 2014
I'd like to end the year off with a bit of a photographic bang. Instead of picking a theme, I want you to look into your own photographic archives and pick your favorite pictures of the year. Photography matters to me, and I know it matters to you - which is why we do the Thematic thing in the first place, right?

I'd like to throw in a bit of a twist, too. Instead of simply posting the picture, please let us know why it's your favorite.

I'll start: Say hello to my lovely wife, Debbie. We took this selfie on our annual, now-very-traditional trek to the beach to celebrate our wedding anniversary. (This is what it looked like in 2005.) Living so close to two Great Lakes, it feels right to grab a day and just spend it quietly together in a place that's always held extra meaning for us both.

While every year's sojourn is special, this one resonated more deeply than usual given my little medical adventure last year. When you come close to losing moments like this, you learn to cherish them more than mere words can say. That, and just look at her. I'll never get tired of just staring.

Your turn: Take a picture or choose one that you've already taken. Pop it onto your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit others to share in the photographic goodness, and feel free to share additional pictures in the days to come. If you're new to the Thematic thing, click here and all will be explained. Otherwise, please accept my thanks for continuing to make Thematic such a highlight for me and everyone else who participates.

Parking structure, 6:24 a.m.

Before the day begins
London, ON
November 2014
Now that I work downtown, my daily routine has undergone a fairly radical - and welcome - rethink. The 30-second commute in my jammies to my home office has been replaced by a relatively short, 7.2 km drive to a parking structure in the middle of town. For the record, I do not wear my jammies, but I do my best to get in early because that quiet time before the rest of the office awakes can often be my most productive time of the day. I can't guarantee I always keep my shoes on, though.

While I'll be cycling to the office as often as I can when the weather gets warmer, the realities of a Canadian winter mean I'll be taking my car for the next few months. And since I believe in embracing even the most routine aspects of day-to-day life, I've been trying to cover the experience with a camera.

That often means some impromptu parking structure photography as I make my way from the car into the adjacent building. The place may be a brutalist example of 1970s-era urban design, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its own kind of aesthetic worth. Now that I'm lucky enough to pass through this space every working day, I won't pass up the opportunity to share at least part of the story of this place.

I know, I'm strange like that. Tell me what else you want to see. I've got lots of room on my media card.

Friday, December 26, 2014

On taking the time to learn

"One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview—not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases…but people prefer reassurance to research."
Neil deGrasse Tyson
For years, as I've scrolled through Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter streams, I've often wondered why so many members of the online community seem to content themselves with simply cutting, pasting and forwarding whatever it is that crosses their path, all without giving it a second thought. Dr. Tyson's always been great at many things, and pressing people's buttons is one of his many skills. This time out, as he so often does, he nails it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Are you a defender of the status quo?

I don't know who originally wrote this passage, but I knew as soon as I walked into an office and saw this hanging on the wall that I needed to capture and remember it in some way.

See, the office where I found it was a corporate lab, an attempt by a company many of you likely already know to break the mold of legacy and come up with fresh, new ways to think and act. The company, a large financial services org, recognized the only way to accomplish this was to set up something completely separate from the mothership, in the region's leading tech incubator, and to set its people loose.

I spoke with the lab's leader for the better part of an hour, and came away inspired in ways I'm still having difficulty putting into words. He gets it, and he's surrounded by people who get it, as well. The world is, apparently, in very good hands when folks like him are leading the way.

Here's what the members of his team look up to. Now, you can, too:
"The defenders of the status quo will hate your idea. They don't like anything bold or fresh or daring. They are quick to dismiss the passionate, creative and resourceful who venture courageously forward. They have a distaste for heretics, catalysts, innovators, outliers, linchpins and people who make it happen. They don't even like the taste of coffee. The defenders of the status quo live in a neat and tidy nine to five world. They love to say "That's the way we've always done it." They put the kibosh on possibility before it's ever seen the light of day. The defenders of the status quo are perfectly happy milking their cash cows to death. They are terrified you'll put your creative idea into action. Quit waiting The defenders of the status quo are no match for you."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Keys of opportunity

That warm glow
London, ON
November 2014
This is my laptop. I'm generally not one to wax poetic about the "stuff" that I own, because life isn't so much about what you have, but about what you do with it. I could probably rip this thing apart and put it back together by the end of lunchtime, but at the same time I could never be bothered to look up how fast the processor is, and precisely which graphics board the machine came with. Specs mean little. It's what those specs let you accomplish...that's the ticket.

The reason I share this now is because when I look at it, I see not the object - an Apple MacBook Pro - but the potential embodied within that object. This is my writer's tool, the thing that I use to take the chaotic electrical pulses flipping through my rather convoluted brain and turn them into words that make some kind of sense and, if I play my cards right, inspire others to perhaps look at the world just a little differently.

When I'm in the middle of nowhere, it is this simple device that lets me research anything, anywhere and come up with "stuff" that reads well, helps others, and feeds my family. So much rides on this one slice of technology, and in the process it has become a veritable extension of who I am.

I know this makes me somewhat of an oddball. I'm strangely okay with that.

Your turn: A piece of technology that means something more to you is...?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thematic Photographic 321 - Where you work

Where the magic happens
London, ON
December 2014
I'm a little slow getting this week's Thematic posted. Life, as they say, has been busy this week, and as workload has cut into sleep a little more than usual, I've decided to let my need to sleep win over my wish to blog. My bad, I know, but I can always write more once I've rested myself up. Thanks for your patience.

Given the reason for the two-day delay - Thematic is supposed to be a Monday thing - I thought it might be appropriate to zoom in on the reason for the busy-life thing. So welcome to my office. As you can see, it's admittedly minimalist to allow me to focus on the very monkish act of writing. The fewer distractions the better, so my little cocoon of creativity has a minimum of "stuff". In its place, a  ridiculously comfy chair, a similarly  ridiculously comfy desk, and an insulated stainless steel water cup courtesy of my lovely daughter.

Somewhere out of frame is a pile of chocolate chip cookies. Because I'm addicted. Please don't judge me.

That keyboard? I'd buy ten of them if I could, just to ensure I'll never run out of them. And that iPad is stuffed with countless hours of writing music. With enough tea in me, I could hang out here for a very long time, and I'd enjoy every minute of it. Indeed, I already do.

Your turn: Point the camera at your place of work and post the resulting pic to your blog or website (or Facebook, or Twitter...pretty much anywhere online will do.) Leave a comment here with a link back to it. Visit other participants to share the photographic happiness, and pop additional pics into the fray later in the week if you wish. Head here if Thematic is new to you. Or simply start shooting if you've done this before. Can't wait to see where you work, and to hear the stories behind it.

On character vs. reputation

"Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are."John Wooden
I never played competitive basketball, but everything I've read about Mr. Wooden suggests rather strongly that I wish I had, and I wish I had played for him.

Your turn: Who inspired you to become who you are? Pick one. Why?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On little things that aren't so little

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."
Robert Brault
The only thing I'd change here - as if I could ever change someone else's quote, but humor me for a moment - is the "may" part.

Indeed, little things are big things, but most of us seem too preoccupied to pick up on that subtle cue. When you run out of "things" - or, to be more precise, time - you quickly realize the smallest moments are, in the end, the only things that matter.

Your turn: What's the most important little thing that's happened to you - lately or ever?

Monday, December 15, 2014


After the breakup
London, ON
December 2014
Thematic. Homemade. Here.
I wanted to end off this week's homemade theme - head here to share yours - with the somewhat sad sight of shattered eggshells.

In many respects, the egg is one of those perfect little structures of nature and biology, a self-contained engineering masterpiece that even mighty, tech-forward humans couldn't have invented. It's somewhat humbling, then, to come across an egg and think about how it came to be, and how little we truly understand about its origins and evolution.

I get weird like this every once in a while. Okay, perhaps more often than that. Thanks for indulging me.

Your turn: What other seemingly routine everyday objects make you stop and wonder?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hostage taking in Sydney, Australia

News is breaking now from Sydney, Australia, where an apparent hostage-taking by a suspect - or suspects - who has/have unfurled an Islamist flag in the central business district is underway. News organizations and social media describe a major police activity in the downtown core, which is near the state parliament building.

Reports indicated at least 13, possibly as many as 20 hostages, may be inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe which is part of the Martin Place shopping complex. Reports are also circulating that the Sydney Opera House (map) which is only1.2 km from the site (map) of the hostage-taking (directions), is being evacuated as a precaution after a suspicious package was apparently seen on-site. The airspace above the city has also been closed to air traffic to allow law enforcement helicopters to operate unfettered.

My already-scheduled weekly CTV News Channel segment, Clicked In, with Scott Laurie, was quickly restructured to instead focus on the events unfolding in Sydney. We spoke about the role that technology plays in events like this, and how social media both helps and hinders law enforcement's efforts to bring things to a safe end.

[Deep breath.]

Update 1: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has released the following statement:
"New South Wales Police and the Australian Federal Police are currently responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place in Sydney.

I have spoken with NSW Premier Mike Baird and offered him all possible Commonwealth support and assistance.

The National Security Committee of Cabinet has also convened for briefings on the situation.

This is obviously a deeply concerning incident but all Australians should be reassured that our law enforcement and security agencies are well trained and equipped and are responding in a thorough and professional manner.

We will provide regular updates as further information becomes available."
Update 2: The PM will be holding a press conference at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 12:30 p.m. local time. Key comments from the press conference:
  • We don't yet know the motivation of the perpetrator. We don't know whether this is politically motivated, although obviously there are some indications that this could be.
  • The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves
  • Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that, and that's why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.
  • This is an unfolding situation and as the situation unfolds there will be operational updates provided by the NSW Police.
  • I want to assure people that the ordinary business of government must go on. And it will go on.
  • This is a very disturbing incident. I can understand the concerns and anxieties of the Australian people at a time like this.
  • I do urge everyone to exercise caution in their reporting.
Update 3 - 8:45pm - Reuters reporting the U.S. consulate near the cafe (map, directions) is being evacuated and an emergency warning has been issued to U.S. citizens urging them to "maintain high level of vigilance."

Update 4: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has shared his thoughts via Twitter:
Foreign Minister John Baird has also weighed in:
Update 5: Mashable reporting Uber has implemented surge pricing in Sydney. Can we say ripoff?
Related Links:

On inspiring greatness in others

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
Mark Twain
My challenge to myself today, then, is to look for ways to make those around me feel that they, too, can become great. How will YOU inspire those around you, as well?

Shooting the mysteries of the night

Tree, mist and light
London, ON
December 2014

Click or tap photo to embiggen
As soon as I stepped outside the door with the dog last night, I knew it would be an interesting walk. The air looked foggy, that surreal mistiness that brings to mind bad old movies and similarly hackneyed old movie soundtracks. The cold, clammy, almost touchable scene seemed to be a character in and of itself.

I'm not sure Frasier appreciated the moment - he was a little busy charging around the corner of the house as all of this was dawning on me - but already my mind was racing. I wanted to get a picture of it, but shooting at night is a challenging proposition at the best of times. Even if you have the right camera, a tripod, and all the time in the world, low-light shooting in variable conditions like we encountered on this particular night is a recipe for failure, a virtual guarantee that most, if not all, of what you bring back will be fodder for the recycling bin.

And on this evening, I had none of the so-called "right" stuff with me. DSLR? Nope. Tripod? Ah, no. Time? Not with a perpetually antsy 30-pound miniature schnauzer yanking at the leash as he wandered aimlessly from one side of the darkened road to the other. I shouldn't have been shooting anything on this night. And yet...

The trees seemed to beckon as I walked past and caught their silhouetted forms in the diffused light of the sodium vapor streetlamps. The trunks seemed an ominous as any I'd ever seen on old episodes of Scooby Doo, while the smaller branches on the extended canopies glinted in ways I had never seen before.

Which was kind of odd given how many hundreds of times I've walked these very streets since we first brought Frasier home. Even now, the seemingly familiar landscape offered up something new. And as much as I tried to keep walking, that little voice in my head kept telling me I needed to record the moment in some way.

So I used the camera that I had, my BlackBerry Passport, and tucked the leash as tightly under my arm as I could while I calmly begged our now-curious pup to sit quietly while I composed and shot. It wasn't easy - more than a few images blurred out as the little furry man decided to dig his nose into some nearby bushes or explore the magic of a parked car's front passenger-side tire - but in the end I think everything worked out.

I'm guessing there will be more spontaneous smartphone shoots in my future. And I'm guessing Frasier will just have to get used to being outside for a little while longer.

Your turn: Ever take a picture with your phone or smartphone that made you go, "Whoa"? Do tell - or even drop a link to it in a comment.

Related links:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On sharing happiness

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
Gautama Buddha

Comfort food to start the day

Warmth on a plate
(Homemade by my lovely wife.)
London, ON
October 2014
For more homemade Thematic, head here.
If breakfast is the most important meal of the day - and I have plenty of anecdotal, unscientific proof that says it most certainly is - then it's probably not a bad idea to record it somehow for future generations to see.

At least that's what I tell myself every time I break out the camera to take pictures of whatever it is that I'm about to consume. I am nothing if not predictable.

Your turn: What do you love most about breakfast?

Friday, December 12, 2014

On using your gifts

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me."
Erma Bombeck
Wise words from a wise - and very much missed - individual.

Your turn: We were all born with a unique talent, something we were destined to use in our day-to-day lives. What's yours? And how are you using it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Artist in Residence

Seeing the forest for the trees
London, ON
December 2014
All works by Debbie Levy. Click or tap to enlarge.

I've spent a lifetime working my way up to being able to create stick figures, so it's quite an experience for me to live in a house with a wife and daughter who can sketch, draw and paint circles - and virtually anything else - around me.

Aside from the practical applications - homegrown art throughout the house - it's the kind of thing that so often makes you stop in your tracks and wonder about where this comes from, and how some people seem to be gifted with it, while others not.

I find it inspiring when they carve time out of their lives to get into the creative groove. There's never enough time for any of us to get to all of our wants because we're often so busy focusing on the needs. Yet art feeds the soul, and no one has ever had to explain that to the two most important ladies in my life.

So my wife took art classes at a local studio this semester, and as much as she came home each week bubbling from the experience, I hadn't had a chance to see what she had created until the end-of-term open house over the weekend. All the students' works were up on the wall as friends and family members slowly circulated through the space. I politely appreciated everyone else's creations, but let's be frank: The only ones that truly mattered to me were these. Hers.

Whether she's wielding a brush or simply talking to our kids, my wife amazes me. As lovely as she is to look at, it's her soul - artist, wife, mom, friend - that's always set her apart and drawn me into her orbit. And thanks to her being struck by creative lightning when she was born, I'm not the only one who sees it. Enjoy.

Your turn: I believe everyone has some kind of creative gift. What's yours?

Monday, December 08, 2014

Thematic Photographic 320 - Homemade

Yeast, evolved
London, ON
October 2014
My favorite home appliance is, bar none, the bread machine. Which says something, because I'm also rather enamored of our kettle (tea) and microwave oven (oatmeal, endless rewarmings of soup.) But fresh-baked bread is such a staple of our wintry existence that I can't imagine our house without it.

On second thought, maybe it isn't the bread machine as much as it is my wife's ability to make the bread machine do all sorts of magical things. It's one of the things that, in her hands, makes our house a home.

So for the coming week, I'm hoping we can focus our lenses on stuff we make at home. Because despite our pre-processed, tech-forward existence, I'd like to think there's still room for the simple things that aren't manufactured or bought elsewhere, but made right where we live.

Simple, no? I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Your turn: Take a picture and post it to your blog or website - or use one you've already taken and/or uploaded - that evokes this week's theme, homemade. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it, and visit other participants to spread the photographic joy. Feel free to visit and contribute again throughout the week. And have fun, because Thematic is all about fun. For more background on how Thematic works, head here.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The king at rest

Silver dog, in black and white
September 2010
London, ON
To contribute your own animal-themed Thematic, click here 
I'll apologize for being so Frasier-centric this week, but I've been lingering over our walks a little bit longer this week, so I'm going to assume the universe is trying to tell me something. I'm not entirely sure what that "something" is, but if it means more focus on the little furry guy, it can't be all bad.

I'm sharing this picture for two reasons. First, it reminds me that I need to shoot more black-and-white. I'm not sure why I've strayed away from the form, but every time I come across a series in my archives, I wonder why I'm not shooting it more. So there you have it: More monochrome to come. (Here's what I've already shot.)

Second, Frasier has an interesting habit around bedtime. He'll plunk himself down on the upstairs landing just outside the kids' bathroom, where he'll stay while they get ready for bed. He lies there quietly, not really doing much of anything except watch them wash, brush and do the usual things that kids do before tuck-in.

It's comforting, in a way, to know that he needs to be around "his humans" as much as he does. He truly hates being alone, and the fact that he deliberately stays close to us as we move through the house and the day speaks volumes about how fused he's become to us since the day we rescued him.

I think he knows we've become fused to him, too, and I'm sure just knowing their little furry friend is watching over them while they move through their nightly ritual brings as much comfort to our kids as it does to their beloved dog.

May every moment in all of their lives be so charmed. Night night, Fray Fray.

Your turn: What's your night-time ritual?

Related: More Frasier-tagged entries

Friday, December 05, 2014

Orion flies. Hope comes along for the ride.

I woke up early this morning so that I'd be able to catch the scheduled 7:05 launch of the Orion test flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida. For anyone who thinks the U.S. got out of the human space flight business after it retired the Space Shuttle in 2011, Orion - and its upcoming Space Launch System mega-rocket - is all the answer you need to know.

Unlike the commercial crew vehicles - SpaceX's Dragon 2.0 and Boeing's CST-100 - which are being developed to serve as taxis to low earth orbit, where the International Space Station flies, Orion is designed for deep space exploration. This thing is designed to go to the moon, an asteroid, a Lagrange Point, and ultimately Mars. While regular Earth orbit is a major deal in its own right, deep space flight presents a vastly expanded range of challenges, and the ship's got to be built to handle them. I don't think we really appreciate how monumentally capable Apollo was.

Since SLS won't be ready to fly until 2018, and NASA needs to test Orion's complex systems sooner than that, a special unmanned flight, known as Exploration Flight Test 1 - or EFT-1 - was scheduled atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket. That's what today's flight is all about: Get Orion into orbit, boost it to a delightfully high orbit, test all its systems in a deep space, high-radiation environment, then dive it back into the atmosphere at 20,000 mph - 2,500 mph faster than a vehicle flying in LEO and roughly as fast as a mission returning from deep space would be flying - and test the heat shield, parachute and recovery systems. Lots of stuff to cover in a 4-and-a-half-hour flight, and the data collected in the process will be crucial to shaping the continued development of the vehicle and the program.

All of which brings me back to the shuttle era. I remember what it felt like to watch Columbia first lift off, an otherworldly sight that in an instant reinforced that something had changed. I stayed glued to the TV, refusing to leave the room until I knew she was safely in orbit.

I got those same chills this morning as the three RS-68A engines lit up and the vehicle took flight. Something changed this morning, too, as the U.S. once again pulled the best of the best together, told them to develop something ridiculously cool, and then let them go fly it.

I'm no rocket scientist, but it's easy to see how what's playing out high above our heads this morning is already inspiring so many others - space-connected and not - to raise the level of their own game.

Your turn: What inspires you?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

When a puppy naps

And dream of sheep
London, ON
October 2014
Thematic. Animal Planet. Here.

Say hello to our dog, Frasier. He doesn't speak English and I don't speak dog. So when I get down on the floor and stick my face right up to his, I'm not entirely sure what's going on between those floppy ears of his. At various times, I like to imagine that he loves the attention. Other times, the pessimist in me figures he's just tolerating me as he awaits the next trip to the treat bin. When you're a scnhauzer, after all, it's all about the treats.

Which is perfectly fine by me. Because a dog's life is full of all sorts of moments. Intense play, intense napping, intense cuddling, not to mention the part where he stands just inside the front door and howls relentlessly while I get my winter gear on. He's quite adept with time, as I apparently don't move fast enough for him.

And as he tries to rush me out the door, I find myself trying to slow the experience down. Every moment is worth remembering, worth committing to memory somehow.

Because we don't get enough of these moments in the first place.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

On never settling

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."
Steve Jobs
Your turn: What do you love to do? How do you know when you've found it?

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Merci, M. Beliveau

I admit I'm more tech-addicted than I'd like to be, and I have difficulty turning it all off. To wit, the first thing I do every morning is reach for my BlackBerry and quickly read off the morning's headlines. I don't even have to unlock the phone to see what I missed while I was sleeping, as the lock screen displays snippets of key tweets, messages and other data bits that may or may not shape the day to come.

This morning's screen was filled with news I had been dreading for some time: Montreal Canadiens hockey great Jean Beliveau had passed away at the age of 83. He had been sick for some time, but still, it's hard to believe he is gone.

Growing up in Montreal, it's difficult to escape the ethos of the Canadiens. It isn't just a hockey team. It's a dynasty, a generational marker, a near-religion for some. You don't simply watch a game. Instead, you're part of the experience, the Bell Centre arena - as the Forum before it - serving as something of an altar to those who worship. You feel it more than you see it, and it becomes part of your personal fabric, inextricably woven into your character no matter where your life may ultimately take you.

And Jean Beliveau exemplified the gentlemanly class of an organization that has no peer. Long after he retired from the game he so defined, he was the team's goodwill ambassador. He was a fixture at community events, and countless Montrealers have stories of him moving crossing their paths and leaving an indelible impression. You didn't have to be a hockey fan to appreciate what an giant of a human being he was.

They don't make them like him anymore, and the world is that much dimmer with his passing. Thank you, M. Beliveau, for never losing sight of who you were, and for setting the bar so incredibly high for the rest of us.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Thematic Photographic 319 - Animal Planet

Love me
Laval, QC
August 2014
It's often said that folks who "get" animals tend to gravitate to one another. After spontaneously finding myself in the middle of a number of dog-, cat- and miscellaneous pet-themed discussions over the past few days - must be something in the air - I believe I'm inclined to agree.

For what it's worth, I have no desire to bring this iguana - it is an iguana, right? - home. But I'll admit staring at it for what seemed like an age, flanked by my kids, was a moment worth remembering. So I did. Here.

Your turn: We're going to celebrate all things animal with this week's Thematic theme. To participate, just take a photo that suggests or evokes this week's Animal Planet theme and post it to your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants and feel free to share more pictures throughout the week. If you're new to Thematic, here's more info. Otherwise, have fun behind the lens: I can't wait to see what you come up with.

On refusing to be normal

"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."
Maya Angelou
Normal is boring, anyway. No sense wasting our time here sticking to conventionality.

Who's with me?