Monday, June 29, 2015

Thematic Photographic 339 - Aged

Bricks in the sun
Ingersoll, ON
June 2015
As I hinted in a recent entry, I've been carrying my DSLR with me again. Yes, it's heavy, and yes, it gets in the way no matter what I'm doing. But it gets me back to shooting in a way that no smartphone can ever match.

On this bright summer morning, I pointed my lens out the window of my train as we stopped in a small town on the way to Toronto. I was headed to Canada's largest city to shoot a television segment, and taking a few minutes away from reviewing my notes to grab some pixels was just what my mind needed.

I had forgotten how cathartic lens therapy can be, and despite the annoyance factor of dragging my equipment around, being able to bring home images like this makes it worth it. And then some.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme is Aged. If it looks old, feels old, or just reminds you of something that's old, please share it. Pop the photo onto your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants and feel free to ask friends to join in, too. Have more than one photo to share? We encourage multiple-postings: The more the merrier. Here's more background on how Thematic works. Thank you for keeping the photographic light alive!

On making the attempt

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try."
Beverly Sills
In the wake of yesterday's failed launch attempt by SpaceX, I thought this particular quotation was especially appropriate. Whatever the outcome, it's up to us to keep putting ourselves out there. Sitting still and accepting the way things are is simply not an option. At least it isn't for those who aspire to greater things.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fallen Dragon: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blows up

A bad day for rocket scientists in Florida today, as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a Dragon cargo capsule en route to the International Space Station as part of the CRS-7 mission, failed on launch.

SpaceX investigators are still trying to figure out what went wrong, and are in the process of securing all the data - telemetry, video, etc. - leading up to loss-of-signal 2:19 after the vehicle first lifted off. While this was an unmanned mission and no one was injured in the accident, it is the third loss of an ISS-bound cargo vehicle since October 2014. An Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo ship blew up just above the launchpad, while a Progress vehicle spun out of control in April after failing to separate cleanly from its Soyuz rocket.

This accident threatens to further compromise the supplies situation aboard the ISS, as the Dragon was loaded with cargo that at least partially replaced what had been lost on the previous missions.

More to come, including a contingency press conference that is expected to be held no earlier than 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

In the meantime we've just had another reminder that rocket science is hard, and there's no such thing as routine when you load vehicles with explosive substances and light them up. This, after all, is how we learn and advance our knowledge. Jarring as it may seem, it is a normal and expected outcome.

Related Articles:
Tweets from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk:

Launch video from SpaceX feed:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

On dealing with the peanut gallery

‎"Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs."
Christopher Hampton
Critics come in many shapes and sizes, but they all seem to operate on a similar level. Indeed, if I've learned one thing during my life as a writer, it is that everyone feels he/she can do a better job than I can. I often invite them to pick up the pen, yet they always refuse. Funny how that works.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The CN Tower, kinda

Funhouse view
Toronto, ON
June 2015
For more Thematic straight lines, head here
When I was in Toronto earlier this week, I threw caution to the wind and tossed my DSLR into the backpack. I'll admit that walking along hot, humid downtown streets with a ginormous camera weighing me down probably wasn't the best idea I've had in a while. The suit didn't help matters, either.

But as much as I'd like to think that I can get decent pictures with my smartphone, there's still something remarkably freeing about how a real camera feels in your hand, and how it opens up possibilities that no phone will ever match.

No, I couldn't live-share to Twitter or Periscope my adventures. But shots like this make me realize why I still schlep it along when every other logical bone in my body says to leave it home. I need to get back to shooting.

Real shooting. I've missed it.

Same-sex marriage gets green light in U.S.

The wires are crackling this morning with news that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex couples have the legal right to marry anywhere in the country. The long-awaited ruling seemingly brings an end to the ridiculous state-by-state hodgepodge that marked the on-the-ground reality of this contentious issue.

Why the state was ever allowed to legislate who can marry who will always be a mystery to me. Why anyone feels that same-sex couples somehow threaten the supposed sanctity of marriage is another ridiculous notion that I hope today's ruling finally puts to rest. Why anyone feels he or she has the power to dictate who anyone else can love and build a future with is also beyond me. It always saddened me to watch opponents of same-sex marriage justify their positions, as they reminded me of the segregationists and apartheid-supporters before them. They represented the worst in all of us, and it shamed me to know they lived among us.

I'm not so naive as to believe that today's ruling will end the debate. Nor do I believe - as much as I wish otherwise - that opponents to same-sex marriage will suddenly cease their relentless campaign against the legitimate choices of others, choices that deeply reflect the fundamental rights we all deserve. Key word: All.

Humanity has spent a good chunk of its history discriminating against those deemed "different" in some way. Whether it's religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or any other trait, it's high time all of us who inhabit this planet learned to stop meddling in the rights of others, and instead embraced what makes us all so chaotically unique, and so delightfully willing and able to make this planet a place worth living.

Today's ruling by the Supreme Court is another positive step in a journey that remains altogether too long and arduous. May we always continue to be inspired by the light of acceptance that flickers ever brighter ahead. May we continue to step past the voices that would keep us stuck in a darker, less righteous place.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pull on these

London, ON
May 2015
For more Thematic straight lines, please click here
‎There's nothing quite like that moment when the early morning sun paints an otherwise unremarkable piece of furniture with its low-angled, golden-hour-hued light. The effect will disappear if you take even a minute or two to fetch a so-called real camera. So you pull the smartphone from your pocket and hope it's good enough.

On this morning, I hoped it was. Because the sun doesn't always cooperate when you happen to be in that particular spot. And capturing moments that stick with you is little more than an exercise in learning to stop and appreciate them as they happen.

Key words: Stop and appreciate.

Your turn: What does your quiet morning look like? Got any words - or even better, a picture - to illustrate?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thematic Photographic 338 - Straight lines

I spent the day in Toronto today (more on that in future entries. Lots of exciting things going on in my media world.) And because I've somehow managed to get myself out of the habit of carrying a decent camera with me, I brought my DSLR along as a reminder to better catalog my day-to-day life.

Was it ridiculous to shlep a mondo-sized camera in an outsized backpack while I wore a suit on a humid summer's day? Um, you betcha. But did it feel somehow right to take said camera out of its bag and feel the controls beneath my fingertips as I walked through downtown like some kind of digital storyteller? Goodness yes. It felt good, indeed comforting, to be shooting again. I've missed it.

Every time I return to this place, the overwhelming rectilinearity (I don't even know if that's a word, but I like it, so it stays) seems to dominate my senses. Endless numbers of straight-lined buildings are joined by endless numbers of new-build structures that promise much the same thing.

So instead of giving into the straight lines, I've decided that this week's Thematic should celebrate them instead.

Your turn: I suspect you know what to do. But just in case, here's the short version: post a pic that supports this week's theme - straight lines - to your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants, then repeat through the week. Thematic  is a non-competitive activity that lets us stretch our photographic boundaries a bit. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Words from the podium

Last month, in this blog entry, I shared news of my upcoming speech to the graduating class of Fanshawe College's IT faculty, part of the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business.

This past Thursday, I was privileged to join an incredible group of dedicated educators, administrators and community members on the stage. With my wife in the audience, I delivered the following talk. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed being part of this delightfully surreal and deeply meaningful experience:

Not so long ago, I was just like you. Waiting in a crowd of fellow graduates, ill-fitting cap on my head, itchy gown draped over the rest of me, like the Batman poncho I used to wear on the way to pre-school. Like today, it was a late spring morning, and it was kinda hot in the auditorium. And like today, time moved a bit too slowly for me. I wanted to get there. Now. Throw off my poncho. And get on with it.

As I sat in the sea of almost-graduates, and fought back the heat, humidity and stickiness - and I’ll be brutally honest, some stage fright and nausea - I thought back to my pre-school days in the Batman poncho. As much as I loved Batman - face it, we all did - I could never get rid of that poncho fast enough when I got to my miniature classroom. There were cookies to eat, after all. Juice cups to drink, Lego castles to build. A little life to grow.

As a much older me sat next to my classmates at our graduation ceremony, I remember waiting for my eight-second walk across the stage, trying to not forget to pause somewhere along the way so my parents could take a long distance picture - very blurry, tiny little me, in the middle of a huge stage - as I received a very special piece of paper and prepared for whatever came next.

I remember staring at that piece of paper when I finally got it into my hot little hands. Lovely calligraphy. Impressive-sounding title. A great achievement. I figured that was it. The end. That perfect piece of paper defined who I was, and everything from that point forward would unfold as it should, for a newly minted graduate.

You know where this is going, right?

I don't want to burst your bubble, but nothing ever unfolds as it should.

But that shouldn’t scare you in the least. Because you’re not just graduating from Fanshawe College. You’re graduating as IT professionals ... from Fanshawe College. Not only is this a pretty special college. But the faculty is pretty special, too. So are the administrators and staff who made your journey possible. And as you head off to the big, bright world, you’re going to encounter some pretty special people as well - brilliant, dedicated people who define the profession you’re about to enter.

And as you meet these incredible people, I want you to keep one thing in mind: Technologists don’t define themselves by the jobs they have or the titles they hold. Sure, we all want that elusive job. And as you end one chapter and begin another, some of you already have jobs. Some don’t. Many of you will continue on in school. Others may be wondering what comes next. It’s perfectly OK to wonder. Because life would be boring if we never wondered.

But here’s the thing: What you do next, where you do it, what you’re called….all that won’t matter as much as you think it will.

That’s because Information Technology isn’t like any other sector. In IT, probably more than in any other career path, it’s never been as much about an individual job as it is about what you bring. To a company, to a role, to the people around you.

Technology is literally reshaping the world around us. In less than a generation, the commercial Internet has destroyed old economies and created entirely new ones. It has erased vast distances and accelerated the pace of business to near-light-speed. It has opened up opportunities that couldn’t even be imagined before the era of high-speed broadband and wireless. Virtual businesses started in Mom and Dad’s basement. Or a college dorm. Or a Tim Hortons. Got an idea and some connectivity? Congratulations: The world is now your oyster.

And who's driving that change? All of you. You dream up what comes next. You figure out how it all works, how the complex pieces are supposed to fit together, how the impossible can become not only possible, but mandatory - and all in less time than it took you to finish your final-semester thesis.

You’ve learned a lot of things in your time here, but what I’m hoping you really take away isn’t so much the mechanics of being an IT professional. The world has plenty of that, and Fanshawe has clearly done an amazing job creating an environment where you learned those mechanics.

While you were here, you did far more than attend a bunch of classes, write some exams, go on co-op placements and learn some theory in a textbook. You learned how to apply all that knowledge in a real world that no longer knows how to stand still. You learned how to adapt, how to collaborate, and be greater than the sum of your individual parts. You didn’t simply memorize theory: You learned how to think.

The tech space needs thinkers, doers, dreamers. Starting today, your goal isn’t just to settle for a title and call it a day. Today, you begin to decide what kind of story you’re going to tell, what your contributions to this incredible tech roller coaster ride will be.

Because in the end it’s your story to tell. Your narrative.

You matter more than the place you live, the car your drive, the clothes you wear. Thanks to your time here, you’ve got your hands wrapped around some of the most mind-blowing tools humans have ever created. You have what it takes to change the world around you. You can make technology real to the everyday folks who need to find a better way. What you do is special. Who you are? Special, too. You can indeed change the world, and not to put too much pressure on you, but everyone in this room expects you to.

Technologists don’t just build science-fiction solutions. They ask why. And then they build an answer. And then they help everyone around them squeeze more value and benefit from it. Take the time to appreciate why nerds do what we do. Tech matters. It changes lives. You ... are about to change lives.

You’re about to get your hot little hands on a pretty impressive piece of paper. But your story isn't done. It’s only just beginning. If you do nothing else today, ask yourself what that story will be. And then take that first step, knowing everything you accomplished in this remarkable place, with the help of some remarkable educators and administrators, prepared you for this moment.

Thank you, and congratulations.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On the divisions between us

"There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people and those who don't."
Neil deGrasse Tyson
In light of this week's massacre of 9 people at a Charleston, SC church, these words are especially resonant to me. If only we spent less time focusing on our differences and more time opening up to - and learning from - each other.

If only.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Water + Light =?

Get a handle on yourself
London, ON
June 2015
For more Thematic dinner tables, head here
I've never been overly fond of big parties or similarly crowded scenes like concerts or large public gatherings. Too much noise, too many people in close proximity, and either too much or too little light. I know this makes me sound like a whiner, but I'd generally rather find a quiet spot and just chill.

I realize‎ these moments serve an important purpose, though. You can't spend your entire life sitting by the sidelines, and metaphorically as well as literally, you have to get up and dance every once in a while. You can't stay home every night of your life: Sometimes you simply need to dive in and connect with folks you haven't seen in a while.

Two opposing needs. What to do?

Whenever I'm in the middle of an overwhelming wave of sound, light and humanity, I look for respite in the details. I grab my smartphone and take a little photo siesta while everything and everyone buzzes around me. I don't make it obvious. Rather, it's like a quick little sanity break before I put my smile back on and rejoin the party.

Because sometimes you just need to find a quiet moment amidst the chaos.

Your turn: How do you find peace in the middle of places where there seemingly is none?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Do you HAVE to take our picture?

In a word, yes.

Because today is the last day of classes at our kids' high school. Which makes today our daughter's last day of high school, and our son's last day of ‎ninth grade. A bittersweet day, because as much as Dahlia has enjoyed her high school experience - and as much as we've loved watching the two of them share the year, his first and her last - it's now time to ‎move on.

In September, she starts college, while he begins his second year in high school, and navigates the landscape without his big sister. As parents, we know all too well how quickly time can slip away, and how much our kids grow when we're busy keeping the day-to-day pieces of our lives from crashing into each other.

But on this morning, the last such morning where I'll drive both of them to school and drop them off at the side entrance just at the top of the hill, it's reasonable for all of us to stop for a moment to reflect on why seemingly routine mornings and transitions matter as much as they do. Because life is built not from big moments in the spotlight, but out of countless small-ish moments like this that get lost to history if we don't savour them a little along the way.

I'll miss moments like this. I'm guessing they will, too, photos notwithstanding.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thematic Photographic 337 - Dinner tables

Make it special
London, ON
June 2015
‎There's a certain artistry to the way a properly set dinner table looks and feels. The careful placement of silverware, linen, glasses and plates can easily turn an otherwise ordinary meal into an event. It makes those who sit there feel special. It makes me think the world would be a happier place if we played dining-room-table-dressup more often.

Until that happens on a mass scale, we can just as easily snap off a few table-focused scenes and share 'em online. Who's in?

Your turn: Take a pic of the dinner table‎ - or find one you've already captured/posted - and share it on your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Drop into other Thematic participants and feel free to share additional photos throughout the week. Bonus points for bringing a friend along. Want to learn more about how Thematic works? Head here. Otherwise have fun - and thank you!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

On sorrow. And joy.

"Joy and sorrow are inseparable...
Together they come and when one sits alone with you...
Remember that the other is asleep upon your bed."
Khalil Gibran

Friday, June 12, 2015

Finding protection among the trees

Barely there
London, ON
March 2015
I have a nasty habit of taking weird pictures whenever I'm in a studio or otherwise doing what a journalist does. I find these pictures ground me a bit, and remind me of the meta stories, the things that happen when we're busy working through the minutiae of our day-to-day lives. They strangely bring me comfort, because they take me back to the moments that I try to hold onto when life threatens to spin out of control.

I took this at 7:52 in the evening in the CTV London parking lot. I had come to this place on this cold, breezy night to do a live interview with the good folks at CTV News Channel. And when I was done, I hung around the newsroom for a few minutes to chat with the producers and catch up on the news of the week. In many ways, this place has become something of a home away from home, and I find myself moving a little more slowly, deliberately even, every time I come here. It's the best way to soak it in and appreciate what makes it special.

The skies were good and dark by the time I headed back outside, and I somehow got it into my head that I should take a picture of the tree canopy over the big deck. It would be the "before" shot, and I'd subsequently grab spring, summer and autumn photos from the same vantage point.

So with your indulgence, we'll start with winter as the first shot in our extended series. Even without the leaves, the sheer size of the tree stand makes it seem like nature's protecting us from whatever blows in from the west. May we always find places like this that feel like safe harbor. May we always have the wherewithal to stop and remember what safe harbor feels like in the first place.

Your turn: What does safe harbor feel like - or look like - to you?

On technology's greatest failing

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."Albert Einstein

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Thematic Photographic 336 - Stuff that grows

London's metal trees, revisited
London, ON
May 2015

It's been a while since I posted a new Thematic theme. As you might have guessed, my schedule has been taken over by early-morning, mid-day, late-night and weekend trips to studios and other fascinating media-ish places. While I clearly love the work - and relish the opportunity to do this kind of pinch-me-I'm-dreaming work each and every day - it takes its toll on basics like free time and sleep.

Which is my way of saying when I finish prepping my notes after midnight for a 6am interview that comes with a 4am wakeup call (I'm just that paranoid) I simply don't have enough gas in the tank to keep the blog updated. I know, my bad.

So thank you for sticking around. And for putting up with the sporadic nature of Thematic Photographic. I'm working on it.

Your turn: I'm hoping you can do me a favor with this one. In addition to posting your own themed pic - head here if you're new to this and want to learn how Thematic works - I'm hoping you'll reach out to someone you know and invite them to join us. This kind of thing is more fun when more folks join in. If you're Twittering or Facebooking, leave links here so we can make a little noise and generate some Thematic goodness. Thanks!

On the true definition of PC

"Political correctness is tyranny with manners."
Charlton Heston

Monday, June 08, 2015

On knowing when to call it quits

"Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end."
Igor Stravinsky
I'm guessing he was referring to more than mere tunes.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

On living dangerously

"Being on the tightrope is living; everything else is waiting."
Karl Wallenda

Barking up the wrong tree

Did you ever notice how quickly trees in springtime can go from absolutely bare to completely, delightfully stuffed with leaves in what seems like a blink?

As if to underscore the point, my wife and I were out for a walk early last month when she noticed how empty the trees looked. I thought a "before" picture might be in order, so out came the camera.

The very next day, shoots of green appeared in the once-empty spaces above us. And a new season was underway. Yet again, she had taught me to look closely even if it seemed like nothing was happening.

Life has a funny way of exerting itself, of reminding us that it's always there, always on, and always ready to burst forth even when we've given up on it ever returning.

There's a lesson in there somewhere. Maybe I'll write about it another day.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

On democracy

"Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity."
Irving Kristol

Friday, June 05, 2015

On the difference between writers and editors

"Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers."
T. S. Eliot

Watching TV in the morning

I haven't been getting a lot of sleep lately. Lots of reasons why, but one of the good ones revolves around my double-life as a talking tech head.

I've spoken to Canada AM a couple of times this week, and as always the experience was delightfully eye-opening and pinch-me-now fun. In case you missed the segments, the good folks at CTV posted them online. Here they are:
.sucks domains, and how companies can protect their reputations online
Monday, June 01
Interviewer: Beverly Thomson
Apps, Dark Web, Deep Web, and keeping your data safe
Thursday, June 04
Interviewer: Marci Ien
And, yes, I still find it a little surreal that I said the word "sucks" on national television and regulators didn't show up at my house afterward. I lead a crazy life.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

On (not) having it all

"I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better."
A. J. Liebling
If only I could figure out how to do both simultaneously. I'll keep working on it, as I'm just that much of an optimist.