Friday, April 06, 2018

Take this snow and shove it. Or...

I live in southern Ontario, a part of Canada where the weather can be somewhat unpredictable. And since this is Canada, it should surprise no one that this winter has been a pretty crazy one. Tons of snow, lots of storms, and unrelenting cold long after the calendar ticked over into spring.

To wit, we woke up this morning, April 6th, to a few cms of snow on the ground. After I walked our silly little pup, Calli - she loves snow, and bounds through it with an energy that reinforces my belief in the goodness of all dogs - I came back into the house for a quick breakfast and peek at my phone before I had to head out into the real world.

I immediately regretted my choice to read my social feeds. I saw post after post in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about how awful the weather was, how unfair it was that Mother Nature decided to make it snow on April 6th, how terribly upset they were that they had to pull on their boots and woolies. The horrors!

So I picked up my phone and jotted this, because when I'm disappointed in the human condition, I like to write. Here's what I shared on Facebook:
Hey #LdnONT, it snowed last night. As much as I'd like to join the FFS-it's-April-6th-enough-winter-already brigade, I won't. I'll happily brush the car off, shovel the walkway and drive more slowly than usual on the office commute.
Because I, like you, got another day today. Maybe not the sunny, warm, picture-perfect day we all hoped for, but a day nonetheless. I'm not in hospital today. I'm not worrying about a loved one's - or my - next 12 hours. I can walk, talk, and write whiny posts on social media. I'm not redrawing the rest of my life based on a conversation I might have just had with someone who knows far more about medicine than I do. 
I'm just cleaning my freaking car and going to a workplace where I get to do neat things with neat people. A little snow doesn't change any of it. 
Happy Friday. Shabbat Shalom if you're into it.
I've been getting comments all day. Some funny, but all positive. And the word that keeps coming back to me is "perspective". Because the world needs more of it now than ever before, and not only when it comes to something as seemingly trivial as a little bit of snow this late in the season.

Your turn: Why do we care about the weather so much?

Monday, April 02, 2018

Thematic Photographic 418 - Trees

Where the fog paints the trees
London, ON
February 2018
Photo originally posted to Instagram
The world isn't always as clear as it could be. But if you peer through the murk, your path eventually becomes clear. Or so I'd like to believe.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme is trees, because it occurred to me as I was cycling to work this morning that they're about to put on something of a show - at least in the northern hemisphere. So I hope over the next week you'll get out there, shoot pics of trees, share 'em, leave a comment here letting folks know where to find your awesome work, and then visit other Thematic participants, because sharing and learning are what this thing is all about. Are you in? Still need convincing? Go here to learn more. Or just grab your camera and have at it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Thematic Photographic 417 - Dirty

Please wash me
London, ON
February 2018
Photo originally posted to Instagram
Canadian winters are notoriously hard on cars. Road grime makes them relentlessly icky, while road salt tries to return them to dust from whence they came.

And yet, dirt can make for a fun photo - but only if you take the time to shoot it in the first place. Which on this cold February day in the middle of my snowy, messy driveway, I did. Now it's your turn.

Your turn: Take a photo that celebrates, evokes or otherwise reflects this week's Thematic theme, Dirty. Post it to your blog, website, or social media presence, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy. Head here if you're new to this - and all will be explained. Most of all, have fun with it.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Shooting strangers...again

Doing just fine
Okeechobee, FL
December 2017
The scene: The Fort Drum Plaza in the middle of Florida's Turnpike. We've stopped here en route to our final destination a few hours south of here. We've been on the road for the better part of two days, and I've been trying to fast-shoot the fleeting moments of the journey when I'm not at the wheel.

I'm admittedly punchy as we finish our last meal of the trip and exit the building on our way back to the car. It's our final stop before we arrive, and we're all feeling pretty good about how easy it's been so far. I spot a lone woman ahead of us, and before my inner filter tells me to leave her be, I'm reaching for my smartphone and stabbing at the camera app icon. I've been doing this ever since we left home, stealing visual snippets of strangers without them even knowing I was there.

I realize I'm probably stretching the line of what is/is not photographically acceptable in this day and age. Sure, it's a public space, so anything should go. But still, I figure most folks would feel a little off if they knew they were on the receiving end of a spontaneous photo shoot from afar.

But still I take the shot. Because it's always been who I am and what I do. Because this moment is part of the story, and will become another memory among many that we're trying to lay down on this much-needed time away from life back home.

As I tuck the phone back in my pocket, I wonder who she is, where she's going, and how much gumption it takes to take on life when your body doesn't want to cooperate. I silently wish her a safe journey and a good life as we leave this place behind and continue on our own way. I hope her story, too, is a happy one.

Your turn: Do you take photos of strangers in public places? Why/why not?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

On ignorance and stupidity

Every once in a while, I like to share a quote that inspires me. I do so because I hope it'll inspire you, too. Yes, I'm just naive enough to believe that words can still change the world.

I find today's quote particularly resonant given the generally sad state of the planet. In light of the passing of Stephen Hawking, it's rather timely. And Dr. King, as he always did, nailed it.
"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Your turn: Got a quote you'd like to share? Let's start a QOTD collection!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

11 years on...

We brought this little guy, Frasier, home 11 years ago tonight. I've missed him every day since we lost him just over a year ago, and every time a milestone date rolls around, I ask myself if it's appropriate to keep bringing it up.

And almost as soon as I ask the question, I answer it. Indeed, it is appropriate. Because memory isn't merely appropriate; it's actually a fundamental basis of life. Because if we don't take the time to remember the stuff - and the people, and the moments, and , yes, the pets - that mattered, then what exactly was our purpose in being here, anyway?

I'm glad we had him. He was my first dog, and while I'll probably be accused of dog-owner bias on this one, he was a wonderful pup. He had a kind heart, always looking out for us, and he added a layer to our family that we'll always feel even though he's no longer here. And despite the fact that we now have Calli in our lives, I still often find myself looking at her through the Frasier lens, because everything I learned about a good dog's life I learned from Frasier.

Miss you, buddy.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thematic Photographic 416 - Water

Frozen in time and space
Jensen Beach, FL
December 2017
Originally posted to Instagram
I have a bit of a thing for water, especially when it's in an ocean and it rolls onto a sandy beach as a wave. Bonus points if it's especially windy, or around golden hour, or both.

If you're shooting water through a lens, you never quite know what you're going to come up with. And every shot is absolutely unique, never to be repeated. So you stand there with your feet dug solidly into the soft sand, planted just enough apart to fight off the wind as you scan through the viewfinder for the next wave, the next moment that'll present itself, then disappear, in less time than it takes to blink away the spray from your eyes.

If I lived here, I'd be here every day with a fully charged battery and an empty memory card. But I don't, and am only here for a blink before I have to rejoin the fam. So I shoot fast and try to remember as much as I can from this abbreviated experience. Because the sound of the pounding surf, the feel of the spray on my face and even the faintly salty smell of the crashing waves will have to live in my memories until I can return to this hallowed spot.

For this week's Thematic theme, water, my wish is that you can find that similarly special spot from which to shoot, and think about the stuff we don't always have time to think about. But should.

Your turn: Take a picture that evokes, suggests or supports this week's theme, water. Post it to your blog or social media account, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to further spread the photographic joy. If this is your first Thematic experience, head here to learn more about our weekly photo sharing insanity. Otherwise, grab your camera and enjoy.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

A sudden burst of at-work photography

Please take oneices
Toronto, ON
February 2018
The scene: I'm attending a work conference, surrounded by hundreds of colleagues from the eastern half of the country. The company has arranged a buffet-style lunch in the lobby outside the auditorium, and we're all lined up, plates in hand, waiting for the teeming, hungry masses ahead of us to load up and move on.

As you might expect when colleagues from near and far reconnect with each other, the noise level is off the charts. The line is moving slowly, which means lots of spontaneous discussions between strangers and friends alike. The line I'm in grinds to a halt near the drink section, and I find myself suddenly inspired to pull my phone from my pocket and line up a shot of the cans.

It doesn't take long for smiles to be cracked as good-natured questions and comments get tossed my way:

"Where's that shot going to turn up?"
"How do I find you on Instagram?|
"Want me to take the picture so you can get into the shot?"
"What are you doing?"

The discussion flows animatedly as I snag three fast frames and then tuck the phone back away. Almost as soon as the moment materialized, it recedes as the line begins to move again and everyone moves in to finish the original task at hand. I pick up the rest of my lunch and melt back into the crowd. I'm pretty sure more than one of my newfound friends thought I was more than a little weird.

I'm perfectly fine with that. Because if a hastily taken photo manages to make others smile, then it's totally worth it.

Your turn: How can photography connect people?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Thematic Photographic 415 - Junk Food

That's so twisted
London, ON
February 2018
I may have been silent here on Written Inc. these last few months, but I was out there almost every day with a camera. And as has long been my habit - or obsession, I'm not entirely sure which - I took many weird photos along the way. Like this pretzel at a London Lightning game at Budweiser Gardens. It was the last one they had, and for reasons I still do not understand I felt compelled to remember how it looked before I brought it back to our seat.

Yes, it had too much salt on it. No, I didn't feel guilty. Some days, you just have to enjoy the moment.

And speaking of moments, this photo kicks off this week's Thematic Photographic theme, Junk Food. What's Thematic? Only the most fun you can have with a camera and an Internet connection this side of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Thematic is our weekly photographic sharing and learning activity. Read on for instructions. Or head here for background.

Oh, and the good guys won the game. Must have been a lucky pretzel.

Your turn: Every Monday, I share a theme (this week's...Junk Food.) Then you take a pic and share it online somewhere (blog, Facebook, Instagram, wherever) and leave a comment here telling people where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy. Repeat as often as you wish throughout the week. Use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag and don't be shy. The only rule? There are no rules. Just enjoy.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Where we contemplate playing ball

You gonna throw that thing?
London, ON
March 2018
When we last posted, Calli Finnegan was barely a puppy, and she was just figuring out the subtleties of not peeing on the floor or chewing on furniture or waking up in the middle of the night. Thankfully, she's sleeping better, and she's pretty much house-trained. She wasn't the worst dog in our puppy training classes, and she's gotten pretty good with the sit, stay, come-when-I-call, give-paw thing - when she isn't distracted, mind you, which is often. But the furniture chewing and general mayhem-causing nature of a miniature schnauzer puppy are, shall we say, works in progress.

And yet. I find myself saying those words often. And yet. Also, "But still." And for good measure, "She's so damn cute. She's lucky she's so damn cute. And we're even luckier to have her.

The world can be a challenging, frustrating place sometimes. Working in media, some days it seems I spend much of my day witnessing more than the recommended daily allowance of unkindness. But then I come home to a puppy who doesn't know any better, doesn't know any different, just wants to play and slobber on and lie half-on, half-off her favorite people, her family.

Somehow puts things back in balance, doesn't it?

Your turn: What's she thinking?

Please Note: Thematic Photographic will return Monday evening, 7pm Eastern.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Is this thing still on?

Speak here
London, ON
June 2017
I haven't written here in a while. Come to think of it, I haven't written anywhere in a while. Sure, I still write. Largely at work. Mostly stuff that gets emailed to large groups of people. Or spoken on-air. Then forgotten.

That kind of writing is all well and good, but it isn't writing. This blog was always supposed to be that space where I could take a timeout from the work world and write whatever came to mind, whatever I was feeling at that moment. Until, sometime last year for reasons I still can't understand, it wasn't.

Sometimes the voice in your head goes silent, and I'm guessing that's what happened to me. I was still shooting pictures, still sharing them on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, largely). But it wasn't the same. I've always been a writer, yet for much of the past year, after checking all the creative boxes at work, then maybe dashing a pic or two into my Insta feed, I couldn't motivate myself to sit in front of a keyboard and write. Life gets in the way, I suppose.

The stark reality of blog-as-writing-space is that things have changed. Virtual spaces that were hugely active in 2004 when Written Inc. first went live have largely fallen silent as bloggers shifted their attention, energy, and time toward burgeoning social media platforms. As audiences drifted, then stampeded, into Facebookistan and Instagramville, blog posts, and the communities that sprouted up around them, became the digital era equivalent of ghost towns, complete with virtual tumbleweed rolling erratically down the main drag.

If the audience moved to another platform, I figured, I'd follow them there. And let's be honest, it's a heck of a lot easier to throw together a photo post on your smartphone with a snarkily-written graf or two, plus some well-chosen hashtags, than it is to sit down at a real keyboard and compose something thoughtful here. I guess I got caught in the world of low-friction creativity and chasing likes.

Yet here's the thing: I still kinda like the idea of a blog. As retro as it now may seem, it still feels like the only tool that lets me do what I've always loved to do, namely write, share, and just be.

I won't abandon my social channels - everyone is now there, after all - but it's time to reclaim my writer's voice. And the best place to do it is here. I hope you agree.

Your turn: Do you still blog? Why? Why not?

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Watching Falcon Heavy...from the anchor desk

T+3, as Ron Burgundy might see it
London, ON
February 2018
Photo originally posted to Instagram

I lead a somewhat surreal life. Not predictable. Not conventional.Not remotely normal. But all that weirdness sometimes leads to cool moments. Like today's.

Most Tuesdays, I participate in a live segment called Tech With Todd on CTV News Channel. The anchor, Todd van der Heyden, hosts it from Toronto, and I join in from the CTV London studio. Erin Bury and I spend a few minutes touching on some of the more notable tech stories of the week, and it's always great fun.

The segment usually runs at 2:40 p.m. Eastern, but given the realities of live, news-driven TV, can sometimes get bumped into later slots if breaking news comes along. As you can imagine, delays happen fairly regularly, and represent another neat aspect of life in media. Stuff changes, so you roll with it. No biggie.

The Falcon Heavy rocket was originally supposed to launch at 1:30, well before our scheduled 2:40 airtime. Then two things happened: A press conference bumped us to 3:40, and unpredictable upper-level winds in Florida kept pushing back the launch time. Eventually, it became apparent that SpaceX's schedule was about to align perfectly with ours.

And sure enough, the rocket lifted off while we were on the air. So when the big moment came, we shifted gears from what we had planned to talk about, and simply talked about the vehicle's significance as it rose into the sky.

It seemed surreal: Sitting at the anchor desk on live TV, providing play-by-play of the biggest milestone in U.S. space history since the Columbia first lifted off. I was a kid on that day, and I watched that first space shuttle leave the planet on that day, too. Then, as now, it felt like something had changed, like we'd ended one chapter and started in on the next.

Some days you just get lucky, and this day was one of them.

Your turn: Did you see the launch? Starman? Is this as cool as I think it is?

Switched off

Old school electric
Deerfield Beach, FL
December 2017
Photo originally posted to Instagram
You don't see light switches like these much anymore - at least not in new-build homes. But my father-in-law's condo, like all the condos around it in this cookie-cutter-concrete retirement development, is delightfully reminiscent of the style that reigned when the place was first built in the 1970s.

So during our recent visit, I found myself taking photos of the small-ish details that jumped out at me. While everyone else chatted and chowed down on snacks, I wandered around and quietly recorded scenes like this one. Life at the fringe isn't always glamorous, but it is memorable. To me, anyway.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Ivy on Kipps Lane

Life, defiant
London, ON
January 2018
Photo originally posted to Instagram
I took a walk in one of London's toughest neighbourhoods this morning. Just before 5 police cruisers screamed past, I captured this snippet of defiant, dormant life. Funny how this nature/urban thing works.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

On the passage of time

"Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to."
Bill Vaughan