Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On kicking life where it needs to be kicked

"Sometimes life knocks you on your ass; GET UP! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them."
Steve Maraboli
I was doing a radio interview recently about my medical misadventure. At one point I touched on the fact that life isn't about what happens to you, but about how you choose to respond. The first thing we can't control, so there's no real reason to worry about it. The second thing, on the other hand, is absolutely within our control.

So if these words seem to punch a little harder, at least now I know why. In the meantime, if anyone's looking for me, I'll be over there in the corner figuring out ways to kick fate's ass and find the advantage along the way. Who's with me?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thematic Photographic 307 - Birds of a feather

Color me happy
London, ON
June 2014
After sticking closer to home for longer than I'd like, I've started wandering a little further out. It's a confidence thing, really, as for a while after this happened I was concerned about something happening while I was alone. I realize now I was worrying needlessly, but at the time it seemed to make sense to me.

So I headed downtown one fine morning this summer to meet a friend for tea. And on my way back I came across this bird standing on a railing on the riverside path. It was a delightfully peaceful place and time, and this very colourful animal cooperated by posing there for an overtly extended period of time. It's almost as if she (I'm guessing a she, just because) knew how lovely she was.

Your turn: With this week's theme, birds of a feather, I'd like to invite everyone to shoot a picture of a bird, or feathers, or ideally both. Share it on your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where they can find it. Visit other participants, and feel free to add more photographic fuel to the creative fire later on in the week. Hit up this link if you'd like to learn more about how Thematic works, and feel free to use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag, too. Most of all, enjoy being out and about with your camera. It's been cathartic for me, and I'm sure the same applies to you. Thanks gang!

They walk dogs in strollers here

I'd like to round out this week's Thematic theme, shooting strangers from afar (more here), with a couple of photos I took on my recent quick trip to New York. In the 2-ish hours of daylight that I was working with, I wandered from Central Park to Riverside and back. The goal was a simple one: Gather as many pixels as possible before the sun went down to ensure I didn't forget the fact that I was here.

Sure, we all want the luxury of time to drink a place in. But when real life dictates otherwise, you grab what you can in the time you've been given. On second thought, that simple photographic truth also sounds like a metaphor for life. Imagine that.

Photo 1 of the red-shirted man dragging his apparently stubborn beagle made me smile, because that could just as easily be me with my dog. Frasier is, to be charitable, not the most leash-disciplined dog. He wanders from side to side like an inebriated toddler who may or may not have gone off his meds. He has to sniff or otherwise investigate everything, and as a result even the shortest loop around the block always seems to take twice as long as it should. I always leave extra time for our walks, and pulling him in the right direction has become part of the yin and yang that makes him special.

In any case, I had to resist the urge to catch up with this gentleman and say hello. It just didn't seem like the kind of place to randomly smile at a fellow dog person and engage in spontaneous conversation. I contented myself with the cagey shot from the back and went on my way.

A little while later, I came across this lady with the pink-frocked, stroller-carried pup and it made me wonder about the whole act of walking your dog. First the word: Walk. It implies that the dog, you know, actually walks. I don't quite see the point of pushing a dog in a stroller. Maybe I don't understand the whole pet ownership thing, but I thought walks were about getting your dog some exercise and giving him/her and chance to, ah, use the loo.

The funny thing is I saw more strollers in this one walkabout than I've probably seen in my entire life back home. So maybe it's a New York thing. But by now, the light was fading and I was far from my temporary hotel-home. So I stole another quick pic and retreated from the pier before she even knew I was there. My misgivings aside, both pups looked incredibly well cared for, and very well loved. In the end, nothing else matters.

Your turn: Dogs in strollers. Please discuss.

Will the Burger King Whopper swallow Tim Hortons?

Here in the Great White North, you don't have to be a coffee lover to appreciate just how deeply ingrained Tim Hortons is within the Canadian national psyche. With a store on almost every other street corner, and terms like "double double" and "roll up the rim" now firmly embedded in the national lexicon, Tims has become integral to how we view ourselves.

So when news broke over the weekend that Burger King was in talks with Tim Hortons on a possible "merger of equals", it didn't take long for the news to dominate headlines here in Canada.

My take is fairly simple: Tims is more than a place to pick up a snack for the kids. It's part of who we are, and there is risk to its heritage by opening the door to a possible American takeover.

Moreover, we've been down this road before - Wendy's bought Tims out in 1995 amid great hopes of mutual cross-border expansion. That didn't work out as planned, largely because Tims just doesn't resonate in the U.S. as it does in Canada, and Wendy's sold its shares in 2006 before Tims was spun off as a standalone company in an IPO.

The Burger King deal, ostensibly being pushed because it would allow BK to move its head office to Canada and avoid higher U.S. corporate taxes, smacks of failing to learn from the mistakes of the past. President Barack Obama, fed up with U.S. companies pulling off "inversion" deals like this to avoid paying U.S. taxes, has pledged to crack down on the practice.

I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance that outlines the key winners and losers of a possible deal, and the factors that are driving it in the first place:
Tim Hortons, Burger King deal: Winners and losers
Your turn: Do megamergers benefit anyone beyond shareholders?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A conversation among friends

It's not polite to point
New York, NY
July 2014
To share your own stranger-themed Thematic, head here
I'm slowly working through the pile of pictures that I took during my all-too-brief trip to New York City late last month. I was in town for less than 24 hours, just enough time to allow me to attend the BlackBerry Security Summit* before jumping into a cab and heading back to the airport. Just after I arrived at the hotel the previous evening, I grabbed my camera and headed out for a long-ish walk. I figured I'd walk and shoot until there was no more light.

As I wandered past Lincoln Center, I came across these two women as they waited for traffic to clear at the crosswalk. I'm not sure what they were talking about, but the moment stands as one of my absolute favorites from a trip that, despite its brevity, offered up plenty of memorable snippets. More to come.

Your turn: What are they talking about?

* I wrote a couple of articles for Yahoo Canada Finance based on the summit:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lizard breath

Please take me home
Laval, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Shoot strangers from afar. Here.
Because no one ever said the theme was limited to humans.
It's been a rough week, so I wanted to drop a randomly crazy picture on the blog to give everyone a moment to disconnect from the heaviness of the world and to just smile.

We stopped at this pet store after a day spent wandering the city. It was just me, Dahlia and Noah, and it had been an epic day of hanging around strange-looking animals and enjoying life away from responsibility or schedule. Note to self: Do this more often. Because they seem to dig it. So do I.

This iguana almost seemed to be posing for us. And since we seem to have a habit of crossing iguanas' paths wherever we go - here's some evidence - it was a no-brainer to capture this particular lizard as it (I can never determine lizard gender) seemingly posed for us.

Thankfully the staff at the store didn't seem to mind the middle-of-the-aisle photo shoot.

Your turn: What shall we name him? Her? Whatever...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More stroke stuff...

It's been an interesting week around here, mostly driven by my decision earlier this month to write about the stroke that I had last year. Hit this link if you're just joining us. Then this one for the part 2 (which I guess makes this entry #3 in a series. Funny how that works. But I digress.)

I've received a ton of outreach from folks near and far, and it's been happily overwhelming to realize just how much goodness there is out there. It's often said you realize how great people are when the chips are down, and this is one of those moments: I'm amazed at how kind everyone has been.

At the same time, I've received a lot of attention from folks in media. I'm sure part of it revolves around the fact that many of them know me, and there's a certain appeal to the-tech-guy-had-a-stroke angle. I'm perfectly cool with that, because one of my goals in raising the volume was to help generate awareness, and give folks an opportunity to look at their own lives and perhaps lead them more purposefully.

For example, my friend Dan Brown wrote an article about me, Stroke survivor shares his story, that published in the August 20 London Free Press. Here's the link to the PDF.

I spoke with Susan McReynolds on CBC Ontario Morning on Aug. 21. She is an incredible interviewer, and she very gently, very deftly walked through the experience with me. Here's a link to the audio file of that interview. - or just click the embedded play button below. It's always a privilege to work with the CBC Ontario Morning team, but this was extra-special.

John Moore interviewed me on his show, Moore in the Morning, on NewsTalk 1010 Toronto on Friday (Aug 22) morning. Here's a link to the audio file, and the embedded player is just below. I often speak with John and his team about the big tech topics of the day, so it was a fascinating change of direction to talk about this.

Barry Morgan and I opened our weekly tech segment on CJAD 800 Montreal on Aug. 22 with a bit of a segue into my little adventure. Stay tuned to the end, as well, as a listener shared an incredibly moving - and sobering - experience. Here's a link to the audio file. Here's a link to the stream on CJAD's SoundCloud account. Or just click on the embedded element here:

I spoke with NewsTalk 1010's Adrienne Batra on August 8:

And CHED 630 Edmonton's Dan Tencer on August 11:

Related blog entries:
- So, about that stroke (where it all began)
- When even "thank you" seems lame (part 2)


Next up:

I'll be sharing my experience with CJOB Winnipeg's Dahlia Kurtz on Tuesday, August 26th at 3:30 p.m. ET. There may be more as plans continue to unfold. I'll update the blog accordingly, and will upload audio files as they become available.

Thank you, everyone. More to come - just writing that makes me smile, because I'm still here. It's a small thing, really, but the more I think about it, the more I realize nothing is small anymore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Luckiest. Cop. Ever.

The Department of Player Protection
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Shooting strangers from afar. Here.
I was tempted to ask him what lucky star he was born under to merit such a plumb assignment. Some beat cops spend their shifts rooting out drug dealers from the middle of urban ruins. Others sit in stale old Buicks sipping cold coffee and waiting for johns to appear on a nearby street corner.

And this guy gets to watch the Jays play. From field level.

As it was, I was a little too far away from him to have a conversation. So this geometrically bizarro view will have to do.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the worth of writing

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
Benjamin Franklin
Wise words. Please excuse me while I spend some up-close and personal time with my keyboard.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thematic Photographic 306 - Shooting strangers from afar

Where do we go next?
New York, NY
July 2014
We're going to try something a little different with this week's Thematic theme, shooting strangers from afar. Essentially, we're going to go outside our comfort zone and capture folks who we don't know. A long lens helps, but it isn't absolutely essential (here's another example of an even more distant longshot.) If they're out in public and worthy of a picture, feel free to roll the dice and see what you can come up with.

Yes, it's a little edgier than the usual theme. And I'm sure I risk the wrath of those who insist on never shooting identifiable pictures of folks they encounter while walking a city street. But the more I think about it, the more I realize public spaces are just that, public. And to not include the people who fill it, in any capacity, feels like a lost opportunity.

So here's our opportunity. Who's in?

Your turn: Take a picture of a stranger or strangers - safely and unobtrusively, of course. Post it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here to let folks know where to find it. Visit other participants through the week, and feel free to post again throughout the week - serial participation is not only allowed, but it's encouraged. Thematic Photographic is all about expanding our photographic horizons and learning from others. Here's more background on how it works. Thanks gang!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

30 years, in a blink.

Laval, QC
August 2014
Time has a funny habit of slipping away from us when we're busy focusing on everything else. How do I know? Thirty years ago tonight, a very pretty girl became my girlfriend.

Normally these things aren't worth remembering, but this particular very pretty girl stuck around and eventually became my wife. And my, am I glad she did.

I often find myself staring at her, just as I did then. I still pinch myself that someone like her would want to stick with someone like me. I still get that strange fluttering in my stomach when I think about her. You'd think that 30 years would take the edge off of what makes it - her, us - special. You'd think wrong.

She was my friend before she was my girlfriend, and before we started dating we would often spend long evenings just talking on her front porch. She's been my best friend ever since, someone I can still talk to for hours and never run out of things to share. Our kids are just like her, too. Engaging, empathetic, curious, kind. It still amazes me that we made them, still makes me thankful that fate ensured our paths would cross, and stay crossed.

I could listen to her voice forever, and I'm guessing the reason that 30 years seems more like 30 seconds is because she's made the journey such a joy. Neither one of us is perfect, and I'm pretty sure I'm far less perfect than she is. Yet we seem to have been gifted with a pretty charmed life despite the usual challenges that have been thrown our way. Putting our heads together and figuring it all out has always been central to who we are, and I can't imagine what life would have been like had she not found me.

I want a lot more than another 30 years, but I also realize the universe grants no guarantees to anyone. Just over a year ago, I learned first-hand how easily all of this can be snatched away. I'm here because of her. So tomorrow, I'll wake up and stare a little, and I'll be thankful that I've been given another day with someone who makes my tummy flutter as much today as she did then.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I'm almost home

We have liftoff
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Look straight down. Here.
My favorite part of any work-related trip is the trip home. Sure, I love seeing new places and enjoying the frenetic pace of life in a city I wouldn't otherwise get to see. The kind of brief trips that I take for work are perfect for sucking up as much of the experience as I possibly can, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity. Indeed, this most recent trip, to New York, was particularly epic (I wrote about it for Yahoo Canada here and here), and I'll upload more perspectives from the trip to the blog in the weeks to come.

Still, nothing tops coming home. And that last leg is always the one I treasure most, because I know who's waiting for me at the other end. So as my plane lifted off from Toronto and took to the sky for the quick final hop to London, I grabbed a few pics to remember what it felt like.

Your turn: What is it about coming home that appeals most to you?

Friday, August 15, 2014

On clarity

"Anything that can be said can be said clearly."
Ludwig Wittgenstein
I grew up surrounded by folks who wrote with a thesaurus on one side of the desk and a dictionary on the other. They loved big words, especially if they were strung into ponderous phrases that slowed readers down if they reached for their own thesauruses - thesauri? - to deconstruct the wordy ball of twine.

The same kind of thinking peppered their conversation, as well. They'd crack open a sanctimonious little smirk when they knew you couldn't follow along.

It was a literary pissing contest of sorts, a never-ending exercise where folks tried to prove how smart they looked by tossing in every chunky word they could dredge up.

I guess I was just too much of a simpleton to keep pace. Because to me, great writing was spare and clean. It didn't draw attention to itself. Instead, it faded into the background and allowed the core message to easily float into the reader's imagination. It wasn't about proving how brilliant I was. It was - and still is - about telling a story in an easy-to-digest manner.

I came across an old thesaurus in a dusty corner of my office last night, and as much as a writer should have the trappings of writing in plain view, I left it where I found it, confident that I'd somehow get by without its pompous assistance. Likewise, the thesaurus feature in Word will remain the most underused bit of code on my Mac. I can choose my own words, thank you, and I'd rather not force anyone around me to reach for their own thesauruses.

I guess I'm just not smart enough to know any other way.

Your turn: How do you define simplicity?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eat your breakfast every day

Shapes on a table
Laval, QC
August 2014
Thematic. Look straight down. Here.
There's a moment before every meal when I stare down at the table and ask myself if the scene needs to be remembered. Yes, we're supposed to eat three square meals per day and, yes, over the course of a lifetime that probably adds up to to a lot of potential photographic moments. Indeed, it's enough that pics like the one you see here aren't all that special anymore, because we can shoot them anytime, anywhere.

But this particular pic was taken on a particular morning in a particular place that my kids had been talking about for a while. It's just a breakfast place, a simple restaurant, really, a spot we've been taking them to since they were kids. It's called Allo Mon Coco, and whenever we make the long drive back to our hometown to visit family, it's high on their must-visit list.

So when I stood up and pointed my lens down at this decidedly geometric meal, I wasn't just capturing the sight of an apple crepe and coffee. I was trying to remember why this place was, and is, special to our kids, and what that experience felt like. Because sometimes I like to scroll through other mealtime entries here on my blog - exhibits A and B - because they take me back, like little time machines, to places, people and times that would otherwise vanish to history.

Looking at it that way, maybe I'm not taking anywhere near enough mealtime pics. What thinketh you?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On keeping the blinders on

"The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook."
William James
Inclusion. Exclusion. Aggregation. Not boiling the ocean. Makes sense to me.

One sleepy puppy

Wherever there's space...
London, ON
August 2014

Thematic looks straight down this week. You're invited, to do the same. Here.
‎I'm not sure why Frasier sleeps on the hard floor instead of on his comfy pillow right next to him. But if I understood the logic of dogs, I'm pretty sure I'd be writing about something other than technology.

I may not know what drives this little guy. But it's clear he's happy right where he is, and that's more than good enough for me. Sleep tight, sweet pup.

Your turn: What's your favorite place to sleep?