Friday, September 23, 2016

7 years on...

I'm generally not one to dwell on the past, but today I'll make a bit of an exception, as it's been seven years since we lost my dad. I couldn't fall asleep last night, as I couldn't stop thinking about 2:23 a.m., which was when the phone rang and everything changed. Funny how our minds work.

Anniversaries, of course, don't change anything. They don't fill the yawning gap or take you back to those "before" days, when we simply didn't know any better and didn't - or wouldn't allow ourselves to - think about what lay ahead. They don't change the varied directions our lives have taken since.

Nor should they. If I've learned anything in the ensuing 7 years - and after my wife lost her mom - is that we have virtually no control over life-wrenching events. We can't stop them from happening in the first place, and we can't spend every day thereafter pining for what we did or did not do beforehand, during, afterward, or for what might have been. Regret means precious little, as does the concept of closure. For there is none.

Life can be ugly at times. It tests us, it drains us, it leaves us wondering what might have been. But it's also insanely beautiful if we allow it to be. It connects us, gives us moments of indescribable joy and accomplishment, and gives us the opportunity to spread all that goodness to those around us, to take what we've learned and make it live beyond ourselves.

It is, in a sense, the only thing we've got. We get one chance at it, with no returns, no give-backs, no sense of what else there might be. We take what we can, absorb as much as possible from the experience, and cherish the fact that we had that experience in the first place. We have no right to ask for anything more.

So rather than simply marking another sad milestone in a series of sad milestones, I thought I'd try to find some new way to grow from an experience none of us ever wants but all of us must experience in some way. I can't change what's happened because that's how life is supposed to work. You don't get people back.

What you do get is a responsibility to somehow apply those lessons forward. If I somehow carry what I learned in that house on Canterbury Street through today, tomorrow and every day in my own home, my own family, my own life, then perhaps that yawning gap of a life ended won't feel quite as yawning after all.

It isn't much, but it'll have to do.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

On taking Christopher Walken's advice

"None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you're carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There's no time for anything else."
Christopher Walken

I've long admired Mr. Walken for a whole lot of reasons, none of which have anything to do with the fact that he's a famous and freakishly gifted actor. I don't worship at the altar of celebrity, and he's always struck me as the quintessential anti-celebrity, the kind of guy who gets it and wants everyone around him to get it, too.

He posted this to his Facebook page last week, and it immediately struck me as something we'd all do well to follow. Not because he's a known quantity. But because he's a good soul.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

On Trump - and the media's responsibility

"We should be guard dogs, not lap dogs, and when the public sees Trump as more honest than Clinton, something has gone wrong. For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal. And somehow that is what our barks need to convey."
Nicholas Kristof
I don't often comment on politics, as it's a minefield with limited upside and limitless downside. But as the presidential campaign circus to Canada's south becomes more circus-like by the day, and as Donald Trump continues to paint the media - my profession, my landscape - as sharp-toothed villains solely responsible for his tarnished brand, I feel the need to raise my own volume a bit. If only to reflect my own responsibility to not remain silent in the face of conscious efforts to twist the public truth.

That this has gone as far as it has is a reflection of an entire country's gullibility to the kind of hucksterism I once thought was limited to old episodes of The Simpsons (monorail!) That there are enough idiots in the American electorate to turn this into a remotely close race makes me fear not for what happens the day after the election, but every day thereafter for a country whose collective intelligence isn't what we thought it was.

For the agenda of the country that brought us moon missions and science-fiction medical advancements to be hijacked by rubes and baskets of deplorables who vote with all the insight of a drunk armadillo is beyond tragic. Long after Donald Trump either wins or loses, America will still be filled with a lot more toxic, ill-informed thinking and barely-capable thinkers than I ever thought possible.

If ever there was a time for the media to consolidate its strengths for the very future of the society it covers - and for us to defend its integrity in the face of the rising political-moronic wave that threatens to erode its legitimacy - now is it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Seen and heard

It's been a while since I posted an updated list of the regularly scheduled stuff that I do on-air. Here's a list of what I've got going on through the week in case you ever have the stomach to go beyond simply reading my words. Links point to either the homepage or, where available, the live player:
  • CTV News Channel - Clicked In with Scott Laurie - Sundays at 8:20 p.m.
  • CFRA Ottawa - Tech Tuesdays with Rob Snow - Tuesdays at 12:18 p.m.
  • CTV News Channel - Tech with Todd (van der Heyden) - Tuesdays at 3:40 p.m.
  • CJBK London - Tech Tips with Carmi with Andy Oudman - Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m. (Show page)
  • CJAD Montreal - This Week in Tech with Barry Morgan - Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m.
  • CJBK London - Threefer Thursday with Al Coombs - Thursdays at 2:00 p.m.
  • AM1150 Kelowna - This Week in Tech with Phil Johnson - Fridays at 9:20 a.m.
  • Virgin 97.5 London - Carmi the Techie Guy with Jeff and Rachel - Ad Hoc
  • Newstalk 1010 Toronto - Ad hoc segments with John Moore (mornings), Jerry Agar (mid-mornings), Ryan Doyle (afternoons), Barb Digiulio (evenings), Ted Woloshyn (weekends) and the Motts (weekends)
Hooray for technology! And for the media magic that turns it into a grand adventure. Because this radio, TV and online thing is truly an adventure.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thematic Photographic 384 - Dirty

Don't tread on me
London, ON
August 2016
Quick note: Apologies for the late posting this week. Thematic typically goes live Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern, but it's been an action-packed week in Pitkinville, so I've been slow off the digital mark. Thanks for your patience! And happy shooting! Now, on with the show...

We live in a dirty world, and no matter what we do, there's no avoiding getting some of it on us. It isn't necessarily a negative thing: In fact, there's something cathartic about wearing it for a bit. Squeaky-cleanliness is overrated, anyway.

Your turn: Shoot a picture evoking, suggesting or reflecting this week's theme - dirty - and share it on your blog, website or social media presence. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic love, and feel free to pop by through the week if you've got anything new to add - we encourage serial photography around here. For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I get another year with her, too

Where I get the girl
London, ON
August 2016
Anyone who knows us knows that this is kind of a special week in our family. Come to think of it, this is a special week every year in our family. That's because today, which is Debbie's birthday, comes the day after our daughter's birthday (I wrote about her day here.) Or, conversely, our daughter was born a day before my wife's (ahem)th birthday. However you look at it, there's a lot of happiness floating around our house this week. And, no, I'm not divulging numbers. As if that ever mattered.

Anyone who knows us also knows how much I treasure her, us, this, everything we both have and, more importantly, are. Days like this serve as a handy reminder of that, of course, but it'll be just as important to remember that which makes us lucky when the day dawns tomorrow. And the other 363 days of the year. And every other day, month and year we've been gifted by the universe.

I'm lucky I met her. I'm lucky she put up with me on that first together-birthday, every birthday since and every day in between. I'm just lucky.

If you're in a happiness-sharing mood, feel free to drop by her Facebook page and share a wish for the coming year. I know she'll appreciate it.

Happiest of orbital milestones, my love. It's quite the journey we're on, isn't it?

Monday, September 12, 2016

19 going on...

All focus
Grand Bend, ON
September 2016
She is as tough as they come, a perfect mirror of her mom, the kind of daughter anyone would be proud to have. And 19 years ago today she came into the world.

As much as it seems like yesterday, and as much as her life seems to have gone from then to now in a figurative blink, I realize the reason it seems to have moved so quickly is because it's been a pretty charmed journey. She's gone from a bald-headed tiny person to a wild-curly-haired toddler to a very self-assured, whip-smart and incalculably kind young woman, and she's done so as the centre point of a growing orbit of friends and fans, all of whom adore her. Because with Dahlia, once you get to know her, adoration is pretty much all you'll feel.

As the middle child in between two brothers, I've always seen her as having a backbone of titanium. I worry about all of my kids, of course, but I don't worry about her. Whatever comes her way or crosses her path, she gets it. She figures it out. She makes it hers. She's always managed to touch those around her in ways that ensure they a) are better for the experience and b) they never forget the experience - or her, for that matter.

I know I'm biased because I'm her dad, but looking at how much she's figured out in her short 19 years on this planet, it's clear I'm not the only one who's proud of the person she's become.

I shot this a couple of weeks ago on our traditional last-day-of-summer trip to the beach. The two of us took a photo walk, and as I've done so many times when we throw our cameras over our shoulders and head out, I quietly drank in the experience of talking through the photographic process with a creative wizard who's already seeing and capturing the world in ways I never remotely approached. All parents want their children to find their footing, to pick a direction, and to soar wherever their dreams may take them. We're privileged to have a daughter who's done just that, and more.

We're so proud not only of who she's become and where she's headed, but of how she's done so, and how profoundly she's influenced the lives of everyone around her.

Happy birthday, Peanut Girl. We love you to the moon and back.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

A tree meets its end

I love having a dog for too many reasons to count. One of the major happies of being Frasier's family revolves around the leash that hangs just inside our front door, and the role it plays in the daily ritual of walking our pup.

While some folks see walking the dog as a chore, I've always loved that very focused moment when he knows we're about to head off on a low-speed adventure, and he bounces madly around the vestibule while I fetch the leash, get my shoes on and get ready to head out. Having a dog means a built-in connection to the neighbourhood, an ongoing excuse to get up close and personal with the streetscape in ways we just can't when we're driving off to work or cycling home from somewhere far away.

Last week, I noticed something odd on our late-evening stroll: The maple tree that once shielded the streetlight just down the street from our house had been cut down to the bare stump you see here. Its lovely canopy was gone, replaced with yawning, open space. Frasier didn't seem to notice as he sniffed the sawdust in the grass and wrapped himself around the now-decapitated trunk. But I noticed, and while I'm sure there was a logical reason for the tree's removal, it still saddened me.

I felt the need to take a low-light, badly focused, grainy and colour-imbalanced picture. Not because it was great photography. But because I simply wanted something to anchor how I felt as I stood there and remembered something that was no longer there. 

Lousy as this shot is, I'm glad I took it, because by last night the rest of the trunk was gone, too. London is known as the Forest City, yet we never seem to plant enough new trees to fill those holes in the sky left by the ones we lose.

I know it's just one tree, and compared to the very real losses incurred by very real people every day around us, it is deservedly trivial. But it still bugs me, and it'll continue to bug me every time I walk past it with my otherwise occupied dog. Something tells me he'll miss that tree, too.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Someone didn't read the sign

Grand Bend, ON
September 2016
For more disposable-themed Thematic, head here.
The public beach at Grand Bend is a impressively planned and cared for piece of real estate. A few years back, the regional government partnered with local community groups on a construction project that turned an otherwise ordinary stretch of sand into a showpiece. The boardwalk meanders alongside pristine beach, broken up by fenced off areas where native grasses are allowed to grow - just the thing to remind visitors that the environment matters far more than their ability to get their boogie board from the car to the water in the fewest number of steps.

And yet, as I stood on the rooftop observation deck and peered down, it became pretty apparent pretty quickly that not everyone got the memo, and we're as surrounded by boorish behavior here as we are anywhere else. Some people never learn. I hope the boogie boarding made their littering ways worth it.

Your turn: What kind of people do this? What can we do to change litterers' ways? And why do I sound like the old guy yelling at the kids on his lawn?

Monday, September 05, 2016

Thematic Photographic 383 - Disposable

They call it "pop" here
Cheryl Ann's, Grand Bend, ON
September 2016
So I'm sitting in the bustling courtyard of a walk-up greasy spoon in a lakeside resort town. It's Labour Day, and we've come to this place to mark the end of the summer. It's something of a family tradition, and as I watch our 16-year-old eat lunch, I find myself staring at his drink and wondering about how quickly these moments both arrive within and then disappear from our lives.

In other words, they're disposable. If we let them be disposable, that is.

So I didn't. Because life's too short to miss any moment, disposable or not. Which explains why I shot the drink you see here, and came up with a challenge for the rest of you. Let's get this pixel party started...

Your turn: Take a picture of something disposable. Or something that suggests disposable. That's this week's Thematic theme (disposable, because I love redundancy! And bold-red text.) What's Thematic? It's our weekly photo-sharing activity - exercise, extravaganza, whatever you want it to be - that's designed to stretch our photographic boundaries in a fun, collaborative way (more background on it is available here.) All you need to do is shoot a pic that evokes the theme, then share it on your blog or website. Don't have one? Social media or anything else online will work, too. Leave a comment here letting everyone else know where to find it, then drop by other participants to share the joy. Repeat sharing is also encouraged, because photography should always be limitless. Enjoy, and thanks!

But wait, there's more: I uploaded a photo set from the day to Flickr. Here's the link. Happy viewing!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

On teeth-kicking

"You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."
Walt Disney

Friday, September 02, 2016

Are you carrying a bomb in your pocket?

Just over 10 years ago, I went on my first media adventure when, as an analyst, I found myself in the middle of Dell's exploding laptop debacle. Although by then I had been getting quoted in trade publications for a couple of years, this was the first story that leaped out of the tech press and landed smack in the middle of mainstream media. CBS News picked the story up, and my name ended up in all sorts of crazy places.

Fast-forward to today and it's time for another media frenzy involving exploding and flaming hardware. Except this time it isn't Dell. It's Samsung. The company is recalling all of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones because a small number of them could potentially ignite under certain circumstances. The company has received reports of 35 fires related to a flaw in the unit's lithium-ion battery. Because it can't track down precisely which devices are affected, it's issued a global recall notice.

It's an unprecedented move that couldn't have come at a worse time for Samsung. The company had just begun to turn things around this year after a few years of challenged revenue and profitability. The Galaxy Note 7 is its new flagship model. It was introduced only two weeks ago, and there's a lot riding on its success. Although Samsung is the world's largest smartphone maker, Apple continues to squeeze far more profit out of each iPhone sold. The smaller Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, released earlier this year, had begun to turn the tide and the company's profits and revenues had improved last quarter. This recall could put an end to the turnaround. And as Apple prepares to launch its next-generation iPhones next Wednesday, Samsung's stumble puts it at a distinct disadvantage.

As you can imagine, media interest in this has been intense. Here's a rundown of who I've spoken to so far today:

Newstalk 1010 Toronto - John Moore
Newstalk 1290 London - Lisa Brandt & Ken Eastwood
AM1150 Kelowna - Phil Johnson
CTV News Channel - Marcia MacMillan
CTV News Channel - Beverly Thomson
Newstalk 1290 London - Al Coombs

CTV News also posted this piece: 'Almost like little bombs': Why do lithium-ion batteries explode?, byline Daniel Otis

So what do you do if you have a Samsung Galaxy Note 7? Get in touch with the folks you bought it from - visit the store or go online - to find out if your unit is one of the units with a defective battery. Samsung is preparing replacement units for customers, and says it will take approximately two weeks to get everything in place.

In the meantime, carefully watch where you charge it - on a hard surface, with no other materials anywhere near the unit - and monitor the phone as it charges to ensure it doesn't overheat. Do not leave them unattended, and pull the plug if the device, the cable or the charger become too warm.

Even if you use another brand of phone, follow these guidelines to ensure you don't become a fiery statistic. Don't assume that Samsung is the only company whose phones may have issues with hot and/or exploding batteries. It's an industry-wide issue (even Apple's Macs once had, um, issues.) The lithium-ion batteries at the core of virtually every mobile device sold today are, in effect, little packages of highly combustible chemicals. Defects in manufacturing, software or damage to the units themselves can quickly result in something known as a runaway thermal event - aka fire, explosion or both.

It's another example of just how unpredictable the tech world can be, and how careful consumers need to be about what they buy, and how they care for it once they're using it every day. Batteries are not to be trifled with, and now we have another, highly visible example.