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.

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.