Monday, August 31, 2015

Thematic Photographic 348 - Monochrome

Life awaits
London, ON
August 2015
I did something yesterday that I haven't done in a while: I grabbed my DSLR and after dropping the kids off at choir, instead of heading home for the couple of hours until they were done, I took a long photo-walk around the bike paths that wind through the area.

The humidity was well into icky territory, and I had rather stupidly not prepared well for the experience - no hat, no water. But I had a camera with lots of battery and free space on the memory card, so I figured I could tough it out in the interest of some long-overdue exploratory photography.

It didn't take long before my brain shifted into a delightful Zen-like state as my eyes wandered from scene to scene and the squishy grey matter struggled to process it all. Nothing else mattered as I absorbed the lovely scenery around me and tried to turn the experience into workable pictures.

I found myself digging into the camera's menus as I realized it had been ages since I shot in monochrome. The woods may have been offering up a blizzard of color, but for some reason all I cared about were the textures and shapes. It felt good to be off the beaten path, literally and figuratively, and I felt sorry that I had let this part of my photographic life lapse for as long as I did.

Which brings us to this week's Thematic theme, monochrome. Because we haven't deliberately shot and shared monochrome for a while. And it's time to get back to the basics that prompted us all to fall in love with this photography thing in the first place.

Your turn:  Take a picture that evokes or otherwise supports this week's theme, monochrome, and post it to your blog or website. Leave a comment here to let everyone else know where to find it. Visit other participants to elevate everyone's collective sense of fun. Feel free to share additional photos throughout the week, and everyone's encouraged to bring a new friend along. If you're new to Thematic, head here to learn more about how it works. If you tweet, use this hashtag: #ThematicPhotographic. Otherwise, enjoy, and thanks!

On leaving the past behind

"Your past is just a story. And once you realize this, it has no power over you."
Chuck Palahniuk

Sunday, August 30, 2015

On the power of the mind

"Knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think."
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Wouldn't it be neat if we could hack into the "crawl" that scrolls horizontally across the bottom of most newsy television broadcasts and add quotes like this one into the mix?

I'm sure there must be an app for that.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pink bike in a blue studio

There's only so much fossilized leftover dinosaur juice to go around. And even if the planet had an unlimited supply, burning it contributes to global warming and a host of other eco-unfriendly side effects.

So I try to take the bike whenever time and logistics allow. You have to plan a bit - leave extra time, prepare and pack clothing, ride less aggressively so you don't arrive in a puddle of sweat - but with a few minor adjustments, it can easily be done.

Except when I'm doing a televised interview. Between the clothes requirement, the timing and the distances involved‎, biking to the studio isn't usually much of an option.

But I've been throwing caution to the wind more often lately, and as part of it I thought it would be fun to take the bike, anyway, and see what happened. As it turns out, two wheels beat four: riding the bike recharges the brain and it felt better to be in the chair after cruising the 10-ish km on the bike.

I'm pretty sure bringing my bike into the studio breaks a few rules, and I'll bet it's only a matter of time before this entry nets me a stern phone call or email. But no one ever said choosing two wheels over four would be the easiest path. I've never been a fan of easy, anyway.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yay dogs!

I'm a dog person. I'm married to a dog person. Our kids are dog people. I like dog people: I think they're nicer than non-dog people. They'll get down on the floor for a cuddle. They'll speak dog - or at least attempt to. They'll stop what they're doing to connect with an animal who has no ability to speak, yet knows how to communicate better than most non-dog people. They'll speak in that empathetic tone common to all dog people. Their hands will subconsciously pet the dog - indeed any dog - whenever he or she is nearby.

It isn't logical, this dog-person thing. But you're either born with it or you're not. And I choose to hang around folks who were born with it. Who get it. Our dog, Frasier, would rather hang around with them, too. And if you're a dog person, I'm pretty certain he'd be happy to hang around with you, as well.

Your turn: The Twitter tells me it's #NationalDogDay, and I'm guessing that when The Twitter says "national" then it's including the Great White North. And even if this isn't the case and it's an official American holiday, I'm going to assume it applies to us, anyway, because my dog doesn't speak English and he wouldn't know the difference one way or the other. So if you're a dog person, tell us a dog story.

They kill journalists now, too

There's no doubt we live in a world surrounded by depraved individuals. Our headlines are filled with news of ISIS fundamentalists destroying ancient ruins while engaging in mass kidnappings, rapes and other atrocities, children being abused by those they had trusted most, and opportunist hucksters robbing innocents blind. And Donald Trump. Can't forget him, either.

After a while, all those headlines can have a numbing effect, as if the torrent of depravity somehow dulls our ability to process it all.

Yet news this morning of two journalists being gunned down while in the middle of a live on-location broadcast just outside Moneta, Virginia somehow seems to strike a nerve I didn't know I still had. Alison Parker was doing what reporters have been doing for ages: a live interview for her local morning news program about an issue of relevance to her community. Her cameraman, Adam Ward, was capturing the scene at around 6:45 a.m. when someone walked up to them both and started shooting.

The TV station cut back to the studio. By the time it was all over, Parker, 24, and Ward, 27, were dead, and police were hunting a suspect who Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, says might be a disgruntled ex-employee of WDBJ, the television station where Parker and Ward worked.

Being on-location with your cameraperson is a unique privilege. You work as a team to overcome the challenges associated with doing live television from the middle of nowhere. You use the landscape around you to tell the story, and in doing so you learn to trust each other innately. While it isn't unheard of to be heckled or honked - I've even had a friendly dog say hello during a live interview - you always know your partner has your back, and between the two of you you'll always manage to bring back something good.

Parker's and Ward's assailant had other plans this morning, and their deaths make the rest of us in media wonder about the risks we face when we simply want to do what we were born to do.

I have no answers, but given what I do, and my connection to a wider media family both here in London and elsewhere, silence didn't seem to be an option. We tell stories, and despite the unexplainable rage of a still-unknown dark soul this morning, I'm willing to bet those of us still standing have no intention of putting our mics and cameras down.


Update - 12:10pm ET - Police now confirm that the suspect, Vester Lee Flanigan, who went by the name Bryce Williams, has shot himself and is in critical condition. Williams was a former WDBJ employee, and had reportedly posted video of him shooting the victims this morning before Twitter suspended his account. I'll be discussing the implications of social media in cases like this with host Eric Drozd on 570News Kitchener tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 10:05.

Update - 2:15pm ET - Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton has confirmed to reporters at a press conference that "the suspect in Wednesday's killing of two WDBJ journalists died at about 1:30 p.m. at a hospital of a self-inflicted gunshot wound."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Thematic Photographic 347 - Grocery store finds

It's been a while since I ventured into the grocery store with a camera. Sure. I pull the smartphone out of my pocket every once in a while when piloting the big orange cart becomes overwhelming, but it's not the same. Phones make it easy to fly below the radar, while going to town with a full-on camera in the fresh fruit section is bound to stop complete strangers in their tracks. Ah, the fun we can have!

So while I charge up my DSLR's batteries and get ready for my next optical adventure at Loblaws, I thought I'd pull this one out of the archives and use it as the launch photo for this week's theme, Grocery store finds. Who's with me?

Your turn: If you shop for food - and I'm guessing you do - then I'm hoping you'll join in on this week's Thematic. The theme is Grocery store finds. So if you've got a pic that fits, post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here to let everyone know where to find it. ‎Visit other participants to spread the photographic goodness, and feel free to share more photos through the week. If you're new to Thematic, here's a primer. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The forgotten newspaper

I came across this rather forlorn site in front of a downtown office building a few months ago. Yes, the concrete stones are indeed as cold as they look, and the newspapers had indeed been piling up for three days straight.

I still remember delivering the paper when I was a kid, long before the commercial Internet rewrote the rules of how news was gathered, sold, distributed and consumed. I still believe there's room in some niche-like manner for paper-based media, even if it's only a small slice of a much larger electronic distribution strategy.

But on this day, in this place, it was hard to ignore the elastic-bound papers, forgotten by someone who had probably subscribed months earlier and then never bothered to pick them up.

It made me a little sad for what we've lost. Because as convenient as it may be to read the paper on a tablet, we lose a visceral sense of connectedness in the process. It may be a more efficient means of delivery, but it's nowhere near as rich. And to whoever paid for these papers and never bothered reading them, wherever you are you're missing out on a time-honoured experience.

Your turn: Paper or electronic? Why?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

On learning to dance

‎"We can all dance when we find the music we love."
Giles Andreae

Your turn: What music do YOU love?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Not quite Anchorman

Looking down
London, ON
August 2015
Thematic. Where You Work. Here.
I tend to be a bit of an itinerant worker. Wherever there's space, power and hopefully an open Wi-Fi network, I can pretty much go to town as long as I've got my backpack full of technology with me. We always knew that mobile technology would eventually free us from the static confines of immovable offices. I live that reality every day, and it makes for an interesting, if somewhat unpredictable, life.

What you're looking at here is a downward view of CTV London's anchor desk. While most of my on-air work originates from another studio in the same building, every once in a while I get to do a hit from the big chair. Which, I won't lie, was a little intimidating when they first pointed me toward the hallowed desk on a very large pedestal. I'm just an interloper, after all.

The desk has a lucite top that covers an open space below. It's actually pretty slickly designed, as it allows all sorts of workflows to happen - check the laptop below - without any of the doodads of a typical desk showing up on camera. The studio is packed with lots of other seemingly small examples of ingenuity that contribute to the magic of live and edited television. Like that string of lights that curves around the top of the image? LED Christmas lights to provide better coverage of the anchors' faces. And for the record, that's not my makeup.

There's something comforting about having my own laptop and iPad with me when I sit here. I never actually read what's on them while I'm on-air. I don't read scripts or teleprompters: Once the red light goes on, all we're doing is chatting. But having my stuff nearby makes what might seem a little stressful at first glance significantly less so - and it gives me something to focus on in the few minutes before things get busy. It's a psychological thing, but I've learned how important these little fundamental touches can be, and how powerfully influential they are to the final product.

Indeed, over time, this remarkable place far from home seems to have become more like my home than I ever thought it would. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Your turn: How do you bring a little bit of home to a remote or office workplace?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On filling in the blanks

"As human beings, we have a natural compulsion to fill empty spaces."
Will Shortz
Which reminds me: I have some empty spaces to fill today. Do you?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ashley Madison data hits the Dark Web

‎Not too long ago, some hackers under the name of "Impact Team" busted into the Ashley Madison website and stole confidential data associated with millions of clients. Given the goal of the website is to encourage folks to have affairs, I'm pretty sure it's a bad thing if that data ever gets out.

Well, the other shoe has dropped, and bad things either are, or are about to, happen. Reports are emerging tonight that the data has been dumped onto the Dark Web, and folks who know how to navigate this cobwebby place where Google does not go (you'll need a Tor server, and Onion router, and a hefty dose of Dark Web knowledge) are already digging through the data.

My spidey sense (Peter Parker was a journalist, too, so I call dibs) tells me this has the potential to be one of the larger tech stories of the week. It's going to be a fun ride.

Well, if you're not an Ashley Madison client, that is.

Related media and interviews:
What a ridiculously busy day. Which is, perversely, the way I like it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Thematic Photographic 346 - Where You Work

Speaking to the country
Toronto, ON
August 2015
I want to try something a little different with this week's Thematic. The theme, Where You Work, is my way of trying to personalize the process a bit, to turn the lens inward and share a little more of what life looks like in the otherwise unseen places where we live and, yes, work.

So I'll start with mine. Well, one of the places where I work. I have a home office where I do most of my writing, pitching and fretting. But I also get to work in all sorts of rather insane places, mostly television and radio studios in London and further afield. Last week, I got to spend the day working out of this one, which was in the middle of one of the coolest buildings I've ever seen, CBC's Canadian Broadcast Centre in Toronto.

I don't tend to get starstruck by people or places, but I have to admit on more than a couple occasions on this day, I kinda had to pinch myself that I was doing radio from this incredible place. The good news is I'm heading back to Toronto tomorrow for another round of radio hits, and I'm sure I'll be taking a few more pictures along the way.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme is Where You Work. Please share a pic or three (however many you wish) of the place where you get work done. Be liberal with how you interpret the theme, as that's the point of the exercise. Post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Head here if you'd like more info on how Thematic works, and feel free to drop by again later in the week - bonus if you bring a friend. Enjoy!

I'll be anything you want me to be

Reflections at day's end
London, ON
October 2014
I took this picture last autumn while on a walkabout with our daughter. Note to self: Take more walkabouts.

The funny thing about water is it has no inherent colors of its own. Yet it'll happily take on whatever reflections happen to be present in the immediate environment. I'm no expert, but it sure seems to have happened in the scene you see above.

I know there's some sort of higher-order lesson in there, but I'm too dogged by heat, humidity and fatigue to figure it out. Maybe later. For now, I hope you enjoy the pic.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The place where he sleeps

We bought Frasier a new dog bed earlier this summer for a number of reasons. First, his old one had become ratty and worn. Second, he almost never used it, often preferring to sleep on the hard floor immediately adjacent to it. Third, it was too small for him, so even when he did use it, he'd hang half-on, half-off. Fourth, it was his birthday and even though dogs probably have no concept of calendars, milestones, gifts, numbers or even age, we wanted to create a happy moment‎ for him all the same.

So when Debbie and the kids brought it home, he greeted them at the door with his usual deafening concerto of howls, accompanied by the frantic shaking of his posterior end and no small shortage of jumping and hugging. He skipped at our heels as we carried the dog bed into the house and put it where the old one had been. He immediately bounced into the new bed like a sugar-fed child on Christmas morning, digging his paws into the cushy fabric and rubbing his nose in it. Doggie nirvana.

The happy moment was short-lived, as he soon returned to sleeping on the hard floor right next to the new bed. No amount of us picking him up and plopping him into the middle of it seemed to make much of a difference: Eventually he wandered off.

A couple of weeks ago, however, he started tucking himself into the new addition, as if he needed a bit of time to discover it for himself.‎ Now, while he still camps out on the ceramic floor when we're on the other side of the house, he's all-bed, all-the-time when we're in the living room.

So this morning, as he chilled in the air conditioned comfort and tried to ignore the heat and humidity just on the other side of the window, I thought I'd steal a few pixels of him. Not for any grand reason, mind you, but because everyone, even a dog, should have a comfy spot to call home. And that should make us all smile just a little.

Your turn: What's your comfy spot?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

On making a difference in the world

"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."
Jane Goodall

So, over to you: What kind of difference do you intend to make? I'll start: By making sure that the very next person I run into ends up smiling.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Published: A BlackBerry Reflection

I was asked by the editors of the Waterloo Region Record to write an essay on BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion). As the onetime-darling and dominant force of Canada's tech scene, the company has been a central focus for my own career as a journalist/analyst, and it's fair to say I likely wouldn't be where I am if this company hadn't grown - and imploded - as it did.

The piece is longer than anything I've written in a while, and it's a lot more personal than my usual writing. To say I enjoyed the process would be an understatement: It was an honour to be asked, and it's an honour to see it in print.

Here's the piece if you want to give it a read:
How BlackBerry changed everything: RIM revolutionized communications and put Waterloo Region on the map
Your turn: Do you have a BlackBerry memory?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Please fix this roof

Woodstock, ON
June 2015
Thematic. Retro. Here.
Original photo on Flickr
The roof of the train station in Woodstock, a town about 60 km east of London, seems to have more than its fair share of structural issues. Or maybe this was the way buildings like this were built way back when.

I'm not entirely sure why it is as wavy as it seems in this photo, but I've been through this place a few times in recent months on my way to assignments in Toronto, and I always seem to be on the proper side of the train whenever we stop here. So I shoot it. Because I like when the other passengers look at me funny.

The neat thing about this place isn't really the roof. It's what happens on the platform below it. Because this isn't a controlled, staffed station. It's just a building, an open-to-the-world crossroads for people leaving for and returning from faraway places. And the people there to see them off and/or pick them up.

And it's those transient moments that always seem to happen here - more so than in any other city or town between here and the big city to the east. Friends and family members regularly gather on the platform waiting for folks to get off the train. Kids wave to parents, significant others give last-minute hugs to significant others, and grandmas and grandpas hang out for a while on shaded benches to watch the trains go by. No matter who the characters may be on any given day, this little dance in a quiet community plays out just as it has for years.

I don't know what it is about Woodstock that makes this unassuming train station such a temporarily vibrant place when so many other stops along the way are just...stops. This place, for reasons I may never understand, seems to wear its train station mystique just a little more proudly than any other, and I'm already looking forward to my next time here.

Your turn: Do you like - or dislike - goodbyes? Why?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Thematic Photographic 345 - Retro

The way it used to be
Laval, QC
July 2015
I think one of the reasons I love photography as much as I do is because every once in a while it lets me escape back into a past life. I think it's healthy for the mind to call an occasional time-out on the world so we can pull out a photo album and just journey back to an earlier period. It puts our todays into a proper context, and helps us better face whatever comes next.

I've got a lot of "whatever comes next" moments looming, and as the day-to-day intensity piles up and weighs more heavily on me, photographic trips in the opposite direction help prepare me for whatever life has in store. Pictures as prep: Who knew?

Which is why I've chosen retro as this week's Thematic theme. Because I want us all to use our lenses to peer back - either through pictures taken a while ago, or photos that suggest a time that no longer exists, or simply scenes that remind us of all of that good old stuff. Kind of funny how looking back can become a powerful tool for moving forward.

Sound like fun?

Your turn: Grab a retro-themed photo and post it to your blog or website. If you've already posted something, feel free to use that, too. Leave a comment here letting folks know where it is, and visit other participants to share the joy. Feel free to add additional contributions to the theme as the week goes on. If you're new to Thematic, head here for more info. Otherwise, I can't wait to see what you come up with. Enjoy!

Life in the media circus

Tomorrow is an interesting day in an interesting week in an interesting life. I'm headed to Toronto to fill in for the CBC's technology columnist. I'll be on the train first thing in the a.m., and will be on-air with CBC Radio stations across the country all afternoon. Our topic: next-generation ultra-high-def Blu-rays, and whether or not you've already bought your last-ever disc.

Wednesday morning, I'll be talking live with Canada AM on CTV about the risks of drone culture, and then I'll zing to the other side of the Bell Media media landscape as I fill in for Al Coombs on CJBK's London At Large Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Big shoes to fill. Little me. Yikes!

I still pinch myself that I get to operate in these places, at this level, with these people. If you've ever worked in media, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, take it from me: This industry is stuffed with some of the smartest, kindest, most dedicated people you'll ever meet. I've got to focus super-hard to keep up, to not lose lock, to sound just as smart as the folks on the other side of the studio, mic or camera.

I've made headway this year in taking my career in media to that elusive next level. I'm doing work in places that I previously wasn't, and I'm being approached more often than ever before for yet more work. Even better: it's cool, fun, challenging and fulfilling work that makes me feel that all is right with the world.

Maybe this branding thing of mine is paying off. But it's still a journey, it's still unpredictable and stomach-churning, and it still doesn't let me sleep completely peacefully at night, if at all. But I'm thankful to be married to a woman who against her better judgment has always been in my corner, who despite the craziness of my journalist's life (4 a.m. wakeup? You bet!) still tells me I need to pursue my dream when anyone else on the planet would have told me to give up ages ago.

No, I don't deserve her. And I'll be forever thankful not only for being able to do the crazy things that I do, but for the best friend who gets me and won't let me let go of the things that make me whole.

Your turn: What's your dream?

Rice, steamed

Too pretty to eat
Laval, QC
July 2015
There's a reason that being a chef is considered to be part of the culinary arts, because choosing, preparing and presenting food is indeed a form of art.

Sadly, it's a form of art where the creation lasts mere minutes on the table before it's gone. When everyone has left the table and the noise has died down, all that's left of the artist's toil is a bunch of‎ dirty dishes and some faded memories.

Which largely explains why I often feel the need to remember the scene before it fades into history. If someone slaved over a particular dish, then wouldn't it make sense to freeze it in pixels so that others can enjoy it, as well? Well, I think so, hence this pic.

Looking at a picture and tucking in with a fork are widely divergent experiences, and I assure you that this rice ultimately tasted much better than this photo would suggest. But I'm glad I snapped it all the same, because it now serves as a reminder to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Your turn: What's on tap for your next meal?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

On the power of a single smile

"It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living."
F. Scott Fitzgerald
So who will you be smiling at today?

Friday, August 07, 2015

Spiders from Mars. Or Montreal.

Come into my web
Laval, QC
July 2015
For more spontaneous Thematic, head here.

The scene: Dahlia, Noah and I are out on a photo nature walk in the neighbourhood around my father-in-law's place. It's tucked away on a small island in the river just north of Montreal, and getting lost in nature is as easy here as opening up the front door and stepping out.

As we're crossing one of the bridges to the adjacent island, the kids notice a juicy-sized spider hanging in the breeze, its intricately built web neatly dividing the line between the sidewalk on one side and a very long drop to the river on the other. This is one gutsy arachnid.

Since all I have is my smartphone, I'm stuck doing the best I can with the camera I've got. But I grab the moment, anyway, because I want them both to remember the time we came across a giant spider on a nature-photo walk. Trivial? Absolutely. But still no less important in the lives of two fast-growing kids and the spider-sympathetic dad who wishes he could stash moments like this in a bottle.

Your turn: If you could name this spider - and why wouldn't you? Just look at that sweet face! - what name would you choose?

Thursday, August 06, 2015

On living with our eyes wide open

‎"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware."
Henry Miller
Sometimes, when I'm doing something insanely cool, like interviewing in a studio I've wanted to see since I was a kid, I find myself in what I like to call a hyper-aware state. My eyes are wide open, and it seems like they're not blinking. Because to blink might mean I'd miss the smallest detail, and that simply wouldn't do.

At moments like these, time seems to slow down, and I become aware of the tiniest details. The reflection of traffic lights on the pre-dawn, rain-soaked intersection, the sound of the wind as the winter storm outside picks up, the feeling of settling into my office chair, fingers on the keyboard as my brain spins up for a day of writing and prepares to make something out of nothing.

I find myself holding onto imagery like this, because I know later on I'll want to revisit it, and I never want to forget not only what it looked and sounded like, but what it felt like, as well.

The notion of being alive has shifted for me. As I touched on in yesterday's entry, it's no longer about simply being on this planet. Rather, it's about squeezing as much as possible from the proverbial bottle before someone calls it empty. And if we're not squeezing for all we're worth, I'm not entirely sure if there's even a point to it all.

Your turn‎: How do you squeeze more out of your own life?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Two years on...

Today is a special day of sorts around here, as it marks two years since I had a stroke*.

I could look at it as a crappy thing. After all, I still deal with a bit of background dizziness/light-headedness that makes me feel like I've had half of a beer on an empty stomach. I also tend to freak out every time I get a headache, wondering if it's just a headache or something worse. Come to think of it, I freak out over everything, because you just never know.

Despite it all, I simply can't look at it as crappy at all. Sure, big health scares decades before the actuarial tables say these things are supposed to happen to you aren't something anyone looks forward to. They rock your world and make you feel like you're done, like you're compromised from here on out. They colour your life going forward and take away another chunk of the kind of worry-free life we all had as kids and had hoped to hold onto in adulthood.

But the universe has other plans. And while I had no control over the accidentally torn artery that prompted my little life's detour, I could certainly control how I behaved after the fact.

So, the good news:
  • I appreciate life a lot more now than I did before. Maybe I took days, moments and people for granted before this happened. Not now. I try to squeeze more happiness out of whatever I may to be up to at any given moment. Sometimes it looks silly to others - like when I decide to explore the cheese section at Loblaws - but that's all part of the live-and-don't-just-survive ethos that now dominates my life.
  • I prioritize things better. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about what others would think - even if they never returned the favour. Now, I focus on the important folks and ignore everyone else. I hug my family a lot more, and often find myself just staring at them and drinking in the fact that I still have them. It's rather freeing, as deciding where to spend time, and with whom, is now much simpler.
  • I've been able to spread the word about stroke prevention and awareness. I used my work as a journalist to veer off from the tech beat for a bit and talk about the things we should all know. Because a little knowledge can make a huge difference, and if it plays a part in one person's life, then it's worth spending the rest of my own life continuing to shine the spotlight.
  • I'm better at what I do. This may sound a bit odd, but I'm pretty sure this experience turned me into a better writer and journalist. Maybe it's because I came so close to losing the basic ability - which was probably the scariest aspect of all - but I now find myself thinking about stuff longer before I pick up the pen or turn on the mic. And when I do get going, it somehow feels better, as if I'm more on my game than I ever was before.
  • I'm happier. Sure, I'd rather not have this fear lurking in the background, but that's the deal we all have when we're mortal. I'll take this over the alternative any day.
I have no idea what comes next. I eat right and do everything I can within my power to minimize my risk factors, but I'm not so naive as to believe that I'll ever be completely out of the woods. But I'm not the only person on this planet whose been through stuff. Everyone has something to worry about, some amount of craziness that they've got to deal with, and whining about it never did anyone any good. And if you look around, there are always plenty of people around you who are infinitely worse off than you'll ever be.

Which begets the way I choose to live: Say thank you for what you have, stop complaining, put your head down, and move on with the business of living.

So today, as I celebrate two years gifted to me by forces infinitely more powerful than I'll ever understand, I'll do what I've done every day since that warm summer night when everything changed: Suck it up, move forward, just be.

Your turn: What are your suggestions for leading a more purposeful life?

* If you're just joining us, this entry explains what happened. This one explains a little more. As does this one. I also shared my story with Canada AM (video here). What a crazy experience.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Lost pink sock

The scene: We were on our way to Montreal, and had stopped at an OnRoute rest stop in Port Hope east of Toronto to top off the tank as well as ourselves. It was a perfect day, with great weather and not a lot of traffic. The kids were happy and the mood was rather chill as we got back into the car and prepared to continue on our way.

I noticed a pinkish sock outside the car and thought it looked so sad just lying there in the gutter. One quick, spontaneous* snap and I was back in the car.

Fast forward a few days and our daughter was reviewing the pics on my phone. When she came across this one, she exclaimed, "Hey, that's my sock!"

Oops. Had I known, I would have picked it up after I took the picture. Instead, I left it in the gutter, assuming - wrongly - that it was some stranger's footwear.

At least it'll live on in pixels.

* To share your own spontaneous Thematic, head here.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Thematic Photographic 344 - Spontaneous

Beauty by the front door
London, ON
August 2015
‎Sometimes, photographic moments seem to materialize out of nowhere. So you grab whatever camera is closest, shoot as quickly as you can, and hope for the best.

When my wife noticed the butterfly climbing up the front wall of our house as we stepped outside to walk the dog, my only thought was to reach for my smartphone and capture this lovely creature before she disappeared back into the night.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme, spontaneous, celebrates those surprise moments when we weren't otherwise ready to take that picture. When you don't have the luxury of time to consider, compose, expose and shoot a given scene, what do you do? Please share a spontaneous shot on your blog or website, then leave a comment here to let everyone know where to find it. ‎Visit other participants to spread the photographic goodness, and check back through the week in case you've got more to share. If you're new to Thematic, head here to learn more. Thanks, and enjoy!

Letting her take the reins

‎We were far from home (this week's Thematic theme: head here to share yours) visiting extended family when our daughter asked if we could take a photo walk.

We've done this before, and I smile a little smile every time she brings it up. Because there are few things I enjoy more than exploring a new place with the kids, and seeing it through their eyes.

I handed my DSLR to her and my wife's superzoom to our youngest son, and we set off on this sunny/hazy morning to explore the paths by the river.

I only had my smartphone, ‎which allowed me to simply hang back and watch them do their thing. And what I ended up seeing made the entire trip worthwhile. They're significantly better at composition at their respective ages than I was at least a decade later. They're destined to be far better photographers than I ever was. Isn't it every parent's wish for their kids to exceed them?

I don't know how many more photowalks we'll get together before they decide they're too old to hang with their dad this way. But I'll hold onto moments like these for as long as they allow us to have them.

Your turn: Where should we wander next?

Sunday, August 02, 2015

On treating others properly

‎"The best index to a person's character is how he treats people who can't do him any good, and how he treats people who can't fight back."
Abigail Van Buren

I think we've all come across individuals who have failed this simple yet crucial test. I know I have.

It's on: Canadian election called for October 19

It's the holiday long weekend here in most of the Great White North, a time for Canadians to kick back with beer, iced tea or whatever it is they drink and ponder the realities of life in one of the greatest countries on the planet.

And yet this morning, on a Sunday morning in the very middle of a long weekend, our prime minister, Stephen Harper, has just met with the Governor General and asked him to dissolve parliament. The GG agreed - wimp! - and we're now headed to the polls on October 19th.

Do the math and the numbers are painful: We're in for a 78-day campaign, one of the longest in Canadian history and the longest in over a century. Most campaigns last for about 37-ish days, or just over 5 weeks, and the early call is widely seen as a cynical ploy by the ruling and cash-rich Conservatives to force the other, less well-financed parties onto the fiscal ropes before the campaign is done.

As I listen to our PM trot out the usual litany of excuses designed to scare us into submission - it's a scary world, filled with Jihadists and ISIL, and badly-behaved nation-states like Russia, and weak-willed economies like Greece, and rude tourist traps like Venice (OK, maybe not) - I can't help but think that he's hoping we're so scared of the Gawd-awful-risky alternatives that we'll be fear-mongered into voting him and his party back into office.

Welcome to the realities of politics in 2015, where the knives are unsheathed almost from the very moment the election is called. I love everything about Canada, everything we stand for and everything we have achieved as a nation. I love that we are seen as a light among nations for achieving global leadership without sacrificing our humanity and kindness. Yet I wonder how long that reputation will last if political opportunism and cynicism at the very apex of our power structure is allowed to persist.

I bristle whenever I'm asked to publicly share my political choices. Truth be told, my journalist's DNA renders me unable to fully trust any politician. Wherever we may live, there are too many pigs at the trough in the political space, and I've always seen a massive gulf between those who will sell their soul and the souls of their mothers to achieve and retain power, and those who tell the stories that hold them to account.

Maybe this election will give Canadians the opportunity to express their disgust with politicians who subvert the public agenda for their own selfish aims - provincial Liberals and gas plants, anyone? I'd like to say I'll hold my breath and hope this election campaign will finally turn the tide on political corruption and opportunism. But with 11 weeks between now and election day, I'd suffocate in the interim.

We've been played with by our supreme leaders yet again. Only this time we're the ones paying an even bigger bill for the privilege. Plus ca change...

Your turn: Why don't we trust our politicians?

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

When your engine fails

A couple of months ago, I found myself on a country road just north of town. Despite the blue skies you see in the picture, the skies to my back were angry, with rain-laden clouds moving in faster than my early-bike-season legs could get me back home.

Mind you, I didn't help my case by continuing my originally planned big loop when I probably should have turned for home two concession roads back. But I'm stubborn that way, and I didn't want to cut the ride short.

Bad move. Because I had just turned south, headed back to town, and was about as far from home as I would ultimately be on this ride. And although up until that point I had been riding in blissful ignorance of the weather, the turn for home brought me face-to-face with reality. Unless I rode like a madman, I was probably going to get wet. Which I hate. Because riding in the rain is miserable. And dangerous. And then miserable some more.

So I accelerated into the crosswind and began the long fight against time and Mother Nature.

Until I felt that little twinge in my left calf. And ignored it. And then felt it again. Bigger this time. No ignoring it anymore: It hurt! I eased back on the pedals and tried to coast it out. No go. I had to stop. So I pulled onto the shoulder and tried to walk it off.

While I was busy trying to fix myself so I could get back to racing the approaching storm home, I figured I may as well shoot the moment for posterity. Which explains this picture. I'm not sure what passing motorists thought.‎ Not that their opinion mattered.

In the end, five minutes of pacing took care of whatever temporary boo-boo I had, and the rest of the ride home was fast and dry. The first drops started to fall as I was two blocks from home.

Some days, you just get lucky.