Saturday, November 30, 2013

Elan Gale has epic fun in an airplane

A couple of years ago I wrote about a relatively amusing experience I had with a man who, charitably, could win a bad-parent-of-the-year award with one hand tied behind his back. I wrote about the experience in this blog entry, The moron who slept on my shoulder. Go ahead and pull it up...we'll wait.

[Jeopardy theme plays]

Ah, glad you're back.

As you can see from the piece, my response to being stuck next to him in an aluminum tube for a couple of hours was to passive-aggressively not confront him while in flight. I simply wrote about it afterward and kinda forgot about it. Er, maybe not: If you pay close attention to the Google profile pic that I use to this day - posted again for your viewing convenience - you can see him after I've shoved his sleeping head off of my shoulder. Say hello to the doofus!

Fortunately, the world is filled with folks whose response is less polite-Canadian and more let's-have-some-fun-with-this. Enter Elan Gale, a producer for ABC's The Bachelor, who had a run-in this week with a whining fellow passenger known as "Diane". He live-tweeted the experience, and since then his story has gone delightfully viral as frustrated travellers everywhere cheer for a guy who deftly did what they've always dreamed of doing.

Here's the blow-by-blow, craftily summarized by the CBC's Lauren O'Neil (As an aside, she's another must-follow for the digerati. Her Twitter account is here.) Buzzfeed also has the lowdown, here, as does the UK's Daily Mail, here.

Kudos to you, Mr. Gale, for using humor in ways we won't soon forget. Well played.

Update: Aaaaand...he faked the whole thing. I suppose I could simply remove this entry from my blog and pretend it never happened. Or I could update this entry and keep it real. Since I'm not a big believer in deleting something once it's been posted, here it is. I guess we now know another brilliant-yet-deceptive way to boost your social media profile - he had 35,000 Twitter followers when this started, and he's now up to 176,000 or so. But credibility? Not so much. Le sigh.

On Charlie Chaplin's brilliance

"We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness."
Charlie Chaplin

Friday, November 29, 2013

Reaching out from the darkness

I often wake up early - 4 a.m. early - so that I can get a head start on the day's research and writing. I don't plan this. I'd frankly much rather be tucked into my warm bed and don't much relish the prospect of leaving it hours before most sane people are awake.

But I'm apparently not sane, and my brain works in weird ways. If my eyes snap open well before dawn and my head is already spinning with ideas, I have to go.

Yesterday was one of those mornings, and I soon found myself trundling through the quiet, dark house. As I wandered through the kitchen, I peeked out of the frost-covered windows at a landscape painted in thick powdered snow before heading downstairs to my office (note to self: how did we live before smartphone flashlight apps?) Before long, I was sinking into my office chair and powering on my laptop, external display and iPad.  I settled my fingers on the keyboard and kind of let them sit there for a minute - it's a writer's ritual thing - then got down to the business of filling a blank screen with prose that complete strangers would hopefully understand.

I churned through my first assignment, and by the time the sky slowly started to turn from black to deep blue, the first article of the day was done and I was well into my next piece. I heard stirring from above: time to drive our daughter to choir. As I headed upstairs and we pulled on our coats and woolies to prepare for the inevitable cold, we talked about how much we liked winter. how despite the cold it was still a neat thing to experience first thing in the morning, that crisp feeling you get when you first open the door and stick your head out.

Somehow, she inspired me. So when I returned home from dropping her off and headed back to my office, I found myself pulling up Twitter and staring at the blank Compose box. This is another early morning ritual of mine, a quick reach-out to the world to see who's up, to connect with other like-minded earlybirds or, further afield, with friends who live on the other side of the planet and who may be approaching the end of their own day. Less than 140 characters can have quite an impact if you string them together just the right way. This was what flowed through my fingers yesterday morning:

I closed Twitter down and got back to work. The rest of the day turned into the usual whirlwind of writing, interviewing and kid-shuttling. I picked little man up from school and got to spend a bit more one-on-one time with our daughter at the mall. In other words, a typical day in our decidedly atypical family. Just the way I like it.

So imagine how pleased I was when Dan Brown pinged me later that evening with news he had chosen this very tweet for the Tweet of the Day on page 2 of today's London Free Press.

Like the drive time with our son or the walking-around-the-mall time with our daughter, this wasn't a for-the-ages, life-changing moment. Rather, it was a small moment, a spontaneous happy thrown into the mix. But a moment all the same, and a much appreciated one given the kind of day his newsroom was having. 

See, longtime reporter Steve Coad, Dan's colleague and mentor at the paper, passed away suddenly (tribute here, obituary here.) As he and his newsroom family absorbed the unimaginable loss of someone who so deeply understood how precious the concept of community was, he continued to do his job, and continued to find ways to apply the lessons he had learned so well from Steve.

In the end, even the smallest gestures have major implications. And that tiny moment of kindness you share with someone when you hold the door for them in a store,  help them get into an elevator, or take a moment to shape their copy before it goes live, can make all the difference in the world.

I had no idea a tweet spontaneously tapped out in the pre-dawn murk would go on to have such significance by the time the sun completed its journey across the sky.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quoted in USA Today...

The nature of my work sometimes means my name, words and work can show up in some crazy places. I'm okay with that, as it keeps things interesting and puts what I do into some kind of perspective.

Today I was quoted in USA Today, in Peter Moreira's piece on Canadian social media dashboard pioneer HootSuite's rocket ride. 

I've followed this company's trajectory for some time, and even use their web-based and mobile products to manage my own social media activity. As a journalist, I need to use whatever technology I can to streamline my day-to-day workflow, and as a Canadian I always want to find some way to support the home team. It's quite the kick to have it all pulled together in one little quote.

Here's the link:
Hoot, hoot: Social media tool HootSuite eyes growth
If you live in Tucson, AZ, this special link from the Tucson Citizen (yes, we read them all) is just for you.

Seriously, though, some days in my admittedly chaotic world of tech journalism are especially neat, and today is one of them.


Bitcoin value spikes as its future gets cloudier

Big news out of the world of cryptocurrencies - so-called virtual currencies that are supposed to make paying for stuff online easier than with conventional dollars, shekels and euros - as bitcoin, the uber-cryptocurrency of them all, has rocketed in value, doubling in the past week and hitting an all-time high of $1,200 U.S. earlier today.

What does it mean? Well, lots, actually. As its value continues to rise, it becomes a target for hackers and thieves, with the number of recent thefts rising along with its value. If it looks, feels and smells like a bubble, chances are it probably is. And as exciting as it may seem for some wannabe-billionaires to ride the wave, the ensuing crash is going to hurt. A lot.

This may be a headline-generating, speculative investment, but it isn't a currency we'll all want to use anytime soon. Not yet, anyway.

I wrote this article for Yahoo! Canada - Bitcoin skyrockets into uncertainty - and would love to hear your $0.02 (or is it bitcoin?) on this.

Your turn: Bitcoin yes or bitcon no? Why/why not?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On being a little more open

"In the world of culture, it's more interesting to err on the side of openness as opposed to the side of restriction."
I love the man's music, but I'm thinking his way of looking at the world is even more resonant.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Celebrating Winglet Wednesday

Waving goodbye to the sun
Miami, FL
January 2011

Please click photo to embiggen
Please click here for more in-the-foreground Thematic
WestJet is a delightfully successful Canadian airline that seems to do both the big stuff and the small stuff with more panache than virtually any other modern-era airline. Considering how reviled most airlines have become, it's quite a pleasant surprise to see how many folks really enjoy flying with WestJet.

They fly Next-Generation Boeing 737s. If you're an AvGeek, you know that these planes, with the exception of some older -600s, come with winglets. These wingtip extensions don't just look neat. They reduce turbulence and drag, which improves aerodynamic performance and, consequently, fuel economy.

An additional benefit is easy to see here: it's a great surface for branding. And WestJet has done a nice job making its logo easily visible to all passengers. They've also created something called Winglet Wednesdays, where they invite passengers to share their winglet-themed pics with them every week. Maybe I should drop this one into the mix.

Your turn: I think that boat down there wants to race the plane. Who wins?

One more thing - okay, actually, two:

1. For more In The Foreground-themed Thematic, click here.
2. Winglet Wednesday resources:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thematic Photographic 270 - In the foreground

This old barn
Woodstock, ON
June 2013
I'm a sucker for ruined architecture, and fortunately I live in a part of the world that doesn't suffer from any shortage of it. The country roads that ring London are filled with so many examples of houses and barns that have lost their battle with the elements yet, for reasons I'll never understand, remain in place as reminders that nothing lasts forever.

As I pulled up to this particular barn, I realized getting a clear shot would be a bit of a challenge, as the roadside ditch was impassable. The flat, grey light wasn't doing me any favors, either, and the tall wild grasses sealed the deal. So I improvised a little and tried some different framing/composition approaches.

I didn't exactly make lemonade out of lemons, but I salvaged something out of an otherwise cruddy day with lousy sight lines. Maybe it's an allegory for life, that we shouldn't be disappointed when the script gets changed on our behalf by forces we can't even minutely control.

Whatever the case, I thought it would make for a fun Thematic theme. It's called in the foreground, and I hope you're into it.

Your turn: Take a pic that evokes this week's theme - specifically, with something prominently in the foreground. Share it on your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the photographic joy and learning, and feel free to share more photos as the week wears on. If you're new to the Thematic thing, click here and all will be explained. Have fun with it!

Whatever you do, don't spill it

Apples. Squeezed.
At altitude, somewhere over Canada
February 2013
For one last Thematic drink, click here
Years ago, I started a tradition when I travel for work. It involved taking pictures of whatever I was eating, drinking, seeing or doing, then sharing the photos with my kids.

It helped bridge the distance a bit, and helped them better understand why I had to be away every once in a while. It also helped me, because it gave me a reflective moment in the middle of an otherwise chaotic trip where I could quietly sit down and think of them.

Even now, I try to stick closer to home if I can get away with it. But on the odd occasion where I find myself in a car, train or plane, it usually doesn't take too long before the camera comes out. And on this cold winter's day somewhere over Canada's Rocky Mountains, I found myself drinking apple juice, and it didn't take long before the camera found its way into my hand. For some odd reason, apple juice has been a recurring theme, and I can't even begin to explain why.

Your turn: What's your favorite drink? Why?

One more thing: Stay tuned for the next Thematic theme, in the foreground, which we'll launch tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern. If you want to throw in a last-minute drink-themed pic, feel free to head here (it's always a good time, after all.) Enjoy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The day dawns grey in Cambridge

From one end of Ontario to the other, today was an unbroken string of fog, myst and rain. I know this because I witnessed it from the driver's seat of my car, and as much I willed the sun to come out, Mother Nature had other plans.

We're back in Montreal for a quick visit with my father-in-law. He turned 80 today, and as this is his first birthday since my mother-in-law passed away, we simply needed to be here. If I've learned one thing from my wife - okay, I've learned many things from her over the years, but please humor me - it's this: sometimes you just need to be there. Doesn't matter whether it's a celebration, a milestone, or even an illness. When it comes to family, she's taught me the unwritten rule. You go. No questions asked.

So here we are. And despite the darkened skies and rain-slicked roads, it was a bright day. Our car was filled with the unmistakable energy of a brood on a road trip. Our kids got a grandfatherly hug when we arrived. Okay, maybe two. And dinner was a dozen and a half members of his extended family filling the room with energy and warmth. 

Deb's mom would have loved it. At the very least, her spirit was felt, and for now that'll have to be enough.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On getting the most out of life

Life is short and often stingy; feast the heart with what it craves, short of cruelty, and let the world wonder.
Reynolds Price
Words to live by...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Because underdogs should always win

Betty, not Veronica
Mary Ann, not Ginger
Bailey, not Jennifer
Velma, not Daphne

Your turn: You know where I stand. What about you?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tea far from home

Keeping warm
New York, NY
November 2013
Thematic. Drink. Here.
There's something about having tea far from home that seems to take the edge off of being alone and disconnected.

As I write this, I'm surrounded by masses of strangers rushing in every direction imaginable, overwhelmingly bright lights that assault my eyes, and enough foreground and background noise to keep me deaf for my next three lives - assuming this whole afterlife thing isn't a crock. It's a lot colder outside than I thought it would be, and my decision to disregard my wife's advice to dress warmer is coming back to haunt me. She was indeed right.

So I grab hold of my holiday-themed cup and let its warmth slowly seep into my fingers. I don't necessarily need to drink it just yet. Just the feeling of it in my hands is enough to not only return feeling to my frozen digits, but also cut down the distance from the part of this world that matters most to me.

All this from a simple drink. Crazy how that works, isn't it?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thematic Photographic 269 - Drink

Tea is ready
London, ON
November 2013
I'll be quick. It's getting cold and windy outside, and winter is knocking hard on the front door. Some days, she comes right inside and makes herself right at home.

So we drink. Tea, coffee, whatever makes us happy. And for the next week, I hope we'll take pictures of what we're drinking - creative ones, wild ones, whatever you want - and share them online.

We call it Thematic Photographic, and everyone's welcome to pick up a camera and join in.

Your turn: Take a pic that supports this week's theme, Drink. Share it on your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic joy. Tweet it out using the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag, and feel free to return through the week: multiples are always welcome. For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Enjoy, and thanks!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

One final flash of red

I didn't get out as often as I had hoped this year to capture the fall colors. Like most folks, I had the best of intentions, but my could-go times never aligned with the right time of day or the right weather or the right light conditions. And by the time everything came together, peak color had come and gone. 

Bummer, I know. But no one ever said this life thing followed a consistent script.

But the universe has an interesting way of salvaging what might have otherwise been. As I was walking back to my car on a damp afternoon last week, I came across this scene that in one last blast of color made up for my complete lack of lens time over much of the previous month.

Sometimes it takes a little extra time for the moment to present itself. Sometimes you just have to have a little patience.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On telling the naysayers to stuff it

"I will never turn down my ambition because someone else is uncomfortable with the volume."
Yup. Sounds about right. I was never much of an apologist, anyway.

Eat your breakfast every day

I often joke about how social media can be such a wasteland because everyone uses it to take pictures of their breakfast and share them.

Yet here I am doing precisely the same thing. Which makes me wonder if I've joined the legions of the vacuous, or if I've simply decided the occasional snippet of a day well lived is worth sharing.

Call me conflicted. Interwebs, what say you?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The simple things...

Sometimes you just have to grab the fleeting moments to do stuff with your kids. Because they won't be kids forever, and they won't always want to hold your hand or hang around with you.

But today she did, so here I find myself sitting on frigid grandstands watching her school's team play. The temperature, of course, is irrelevant. The fact that I'm here at all, however, means everything.

Enjoy the moment, folks.

Batkid saves San Francisco

This week on Planet Earth, it's been all too easy to submit to the negativity, to give up in the face of overwhelming natural disasters and disasters of their own making. When you look around you and see so much grey, it often seems like the light at the end of the tunnel may never show its face again.

Thanks to a 5-year-old leukemia survivor, Miles Scott, in San Francisco, you might want to reconsider the hope thing. Try to read this story and not cheer. Or cry. Or both.
Batkid saves San Francisco in epic Make-a-Wish dream come true
And if you're the Twittering type, follow the #SFBatkid hashtag for the latest. This is what defines heartwarming.

Related links: ABC, Yahoo/AP, LA Times

On leadership and inspiration

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
John Quincy Adams
All this Rob Ford drama - and, to be fair, the ridiculousness surrounding London's own indicted-for-fraud Mayor Joe Fontana - has gotten me thinking about who leads, why, and why we look up to them. As I write this, Mr. Ford refuses to resign amid a growing movement to either convince him to quit or force him from office.

The rules, such as they are, do not include provisions for removing a sitting mayor, but the rules are painfully inadequate here. We're long beyond the point at which process and procedure are the only things that matter. Rather, we're well into the zone of what this says about us as a society, and what kinds of messages we want to send to our kids. They are, after all, watching and learning. And the complete absence of inspirational leadership sets a tone for the rest of us that almost begs for perpetual acceptance of mediocrity in the way we live.

Leaders must inspire. And if they don't, or won't, or can't, they should leave the stage and make room for others who will. Too many so-called leaders seem to forget this very simple fact. Pity that. Maybe that's why the planet is so mired in chaos these days.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Would you work for nothing?

Would you work for free? The answer isn't always as black-and-white as it seems. And as the debate over unpaid internships continues to rage, I can't help but think back to my own experiences working in exchange for no salary.

It's how I got my start, actually. A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away - okay, it was Montreal - I cold-called a news director at a rather large radio station, and was rather stunned when a) I got him live on the phone, and b) he told the naive, teenaged me to drop in for a meeting later that week. The meeting went well, I got the "job", and before long, I was spending an evening every week writing scripts, pulling clips, stacking carts and updating the on-air announcers with whatever news, weather, sports and entertainment they needed. There may have been the occasional coffee run, as well.

Making it real

The "job" eventually turned into a real job with a real paycheck. And I worked through my undergrad and after graduation, using it as an ideal counterpoint to what I was studying in class. After it turned into a real job, I'd often write the morning news run, then head over to campus for classes as I tried my best to not fall asleep. It added an amazing dimension to my education, and it set the tone for everything that came afterward. I wouldn't change a thing.

The goal of an unpaid internship, of course, isn't to simply be in a freakishly cool environment. Interns who stand at the studio door - or the reception area, or the VP's office, or anywhere else in the building - with their jaws agape because they've "made it" and are simply awestruck at the experience will, to be kind, usually crash and burn. You take unpaid work as an opportunity to become a known quantity to others, to prove your worth, and to convince Those Who Make The Decisions that the value you add to their lives makes you an essential - and eventually paid - addition to the team.

A place to start

An internship - or any kind of  a springboard, a steppingstone, a launching pad - is a window, with a defined start and end, within which you need to make something happen. And if, after years of toiling away, you're still waiting for your so-called big break, you may want to rethink what you thought an internship was in the first place.

I'm lucky in that I seem to have used the idea of free work to my advantage, and now that I'm somewhat established I'm long past the point at which I need to work in exchange for nothing. I've managed to build enough of a brand for myself that I don't have to do much cold-calling anymore, and I don't need to work for free in order to prove my worth. Yet, oddly, I still get requests for free. I'm often told that the work will bring me some great exposure, will help me build my brand, will help me invest in my future.

Um, I don't want to sound mean-spirited, but I've got all the "exposure" I need right now - here's just one example - so if it's just as well with the free-seekers, I'd rather focus on doing the kind of work that keeps the lights on, the writing that either generates revenue directly, or maintains my branding, visibility and image in support of direct revenue generation.

Because in the end, I can't pay the electric bill with "exposure". And I'm guessing you can't, either.

Rob and Doug Ford head to Sun News

Because you haven't heard enough of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford yet.

Or of his brother, Doug.

Or of the fine mayor's crack smoking.

Or of his sexual appetite.

Or of his drinking and driving.

The train wreck that is Mr. Ford switches onto another track with news that the Sun News Network - a subsidiary of Quebecor, the company that owns my city's paper, the London Free Press - will launch The Rob and Doug Ford Show. You might remember that the brothers hosted a show, The City, on Toronto's NewsTalk1010 radio station, until it was recently ended by "mutual agreement".

Disclosure: I do a lot of work with NewsTalk 1010 and other radio stations in the Bell Media family (including CJAD in Montreal and 1290 CJBK in London.) I have done a number of interviews with Sun in the past, as well. I'm immensely proud of the kind of work I've been able to do on Bell-related platforms, including CTV. Sun's decision to bring the Ford brothers on board at a time when the good mayor really should be focusing on getting rid of whatever demons afflict him smacks of media opportunism.

As a consumer, I don't want to watch because I don't want to encourage the obvious exploitation of someone who clearly lacks the ability and the will to help himself. As a professional journalist, I don't want my brand watered down by even the most remote association with a newsroom that so willingly crosses the line from coverage to being an integral part of the spectacle.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Power to the people
London, ON
July 2013
I've been remiss in posting a new Thematic theme. The rules stipulate that every Monday, I'll post a new one, and then we'll spend a week sharing our interpretations of said theme before another Monday rolls around and we begin anew.

And yet, here we are on a Wednesday, and still no new theme.

I offer no excuses. I'm just busy. And after putting the work stuff to bed this week, it's been a little tougher than usual to find the time to pull something together for the coming week. I figured either give it the time to do it right, or don't do it at all.

So for this week, we'll go themeless. Please accept this offer of a power-themed shot in support of last week's theme (here) as something of a peace offering. I'll post a new theme next Monday and we'll get things back on something approaching an even keel.

Until then, whatever the venue, happy shooting.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On learning to let go of the past

"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
Humans are essentially packrats. We seem to be most comfortable when we're surrounded by stuff - people, things, figurative structures - that are familiar to us.

Sometimes all that legacy comes with a cost. Like when it pulls you back, keeps you from seeing things from new perspectives, limits your willingness to take the unknown path.

I've spent too much of my time on this planet hanging around folks who seem intent on looking back. So I hope you won't mind if I yank the rearview mirror down and surround myself, instead, with folks who aren't so afraid to leave it all behind and trade it all for something truly impactful.

Please forgive me if I'd rather spend my future days striving for something better instead of settling for what once was.


Winter arrives. Deal with it.

This is what greeted us outside the kitchen window this morning. No surprise, really, as we'd been expecting snow squalls all day yesterday and by the time I walked the dog before bed, our burg was sporting a nice white blanket.

Facebook and Twitter have been predictably overflowing with complaints about the weather. It's too cold. It's miserable. We hate it. Make it stop. Blah, blah, blah. Frankly, it makes me laugh. We have as much control over the weather as, well, we don't. It evolves on its own terms, and thinking anything else is a waste of time, energy and resources.

As I walked the dog last night, I hung back and watched him romp through the snow. He repeatedly buried his snout in the snow, only to emerge with his face covered in white. I'm quite sure he was smiling, as his body language spoke of pure joy at this mysterious, delightful white stuff that dogs don't logically understand, but appreciate, in their souls, more than we ever could.

We stayed out longer than usual, and he still didn't want to head back when I finally tugged on his leash and pointed us toward home. Maybe I need to follow his lead more often. Maybe we all do.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

More gratuitous dog porn

Talking to the journalists of tomorrow

I had a neat experience this week that I wanted to share here. Dan Brown - an editor and columnist with the London Free Press whose work I've followed and admired for years - invited me to speak to his graduate program class at Western University. I'm lucky that Dan has also become a good friend, a trusted person who's been there, and always seems to make the time to answer whatever crazy questions I throw at him.

So it was, of course, a huge honor to be asked. At the same time, it was daunting: what, after all, could I have to share with a bunch of folks I've never met before? I didn't want to let Dan and his students down.

I remember full well what it was like when I was in journalism school and guest speakers would drop in. Some were, ah, forgettable. They almost read from a script, telling us what they did and did not expect as we dropped resumes at the reception desks of their Large Media Organizations. Almost as soon as class was over, they disappeared from memory, and for the most part I don't recall crossing their paths later on.

Other speakers, on the other hand, resonated. They'd tell you about themselves. About what it was really like to fight their way into and through a profession that's never been easy to navigate. They weren't afraid to let you in on some of their secrets. While they knew full well we might be competing against them in the open marketplace someday, they also knew that sharing always adds to both sides of an equation, that you don't lose something by letting others learn from your experience. It was a level of kindness that deeply influenced me.

I am the journalist that I am today because so many of these generous souls took the time - and had the courage - to give us everything they had. They turned the classroom into a workshop of media management best practices. They spared no detail and let us peer into what it was like for them to be where they were - and how they got there in the first place. They stuck around long after class and answered every question we could throw at them. They answered our calls months later when we bugged them with what must have been an endless stream of lame, newbie questions. They never made it seem as if we were imposing. I've remembered each and every one of them, and their lessons continue to push me to this day. I owe them more than I care to admit.

So when I got the call, I thought of them. I thought back to what made the good ones so memorable. I asked myself what newbie-me would want to hear. And what he wouldn't want to hear, either. I thought about how much more difficult it is to gain a toehold in this market today thanks to the implosion of conventional media models and their replacement by ever-changing, often-confusing new ones. As an industry, we're all in the middle of figuring it out - indeed, that pretty much defines my career path - so I can only imagine what it must be like to be just starting out.

So I outlined some approaches, bounced 'em off of Dan, then bounced into class and started talking. The neat thing was it didn't take long for the questions to start. And the talk became a discussion, one where I had my eyes opened just as widely as everyone in the room. I wish I could have captured that groove, that feeling you get when things are flowing exactly as they were meant to, so that I could visualize it for you here.

Dan, who I wish I had had as an instructor when I was first learning, often says, "When one teaches, two learn." And he's absolutely right. On this night, I learned. From him, from his students, from an experience I won't soon forget. I hope everyone else who was there feels similarly. And I hope I get to do stuff like this more often, because who are we if we're not constantly learning?

Your turn: Your most memorable lesson was...?

Friday, November 08, 2013

On setting the world on fire

"If you are what you should be, then you will set the world on fire."
St. Catherine of Siena
I'm not usually a TGIF kind of person. I don't loathe the workweek for five days as I count the hours until the weekend arrives.

To be fair, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking back to times in my life when I drove a cubicle for a living and may have, ahem, seen things a little differently than I do now. But that was then and I can't very well go back and change it. What matters is today. And today I was lucky to do the kind of work that feeds my soul. I researched stuff. I wrote stuff. I interviewed some really smart people. I did some radio. I wrote some more. I planned for next week.

It was a non-stop day, yet luckily amid the chaos I was able to drive our son to school and, later, our daughter to a program. I hugged the dog while waiting for my tea to steep, and I sat on the front porch for a few minutes to feel the approaching-winter's wind on my face.

And then I went back inside, settled back into my office, put my fingers on the keys and let them fly. I've got to admit it felt good. Better than good. Indeed, it's the place where I probably feel most alive, where I have absolute control over this unpredictable thing called life. Where I feel if I keep at it long enough, I will indeed set the world on fire.

If only I didn't have to stop when Friday turns to Saturday.

So maybe I just won't.

Your turn: How do you set the world on fire?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The power of water to heal

London, ON
July 2013
Thematic. Power. Here.
The scene: the banks of the river that flows through our burg. I had come here on this muggy, cloudy, July night because I had some time to kill (I know, happens so often, but I digress) and wandering around a giant park with my camera in hand seemed like the most inspirational way to spend it.

I didn't have high hopes for the Thames River riverbank. Okay, truth, any hopes. The optical pickings seemed mighty thin, with deep evening shade and fast-moving water conspiring against my wish to get anything sharp.

So I went the other way, spun my camera's dials toward super-slow and got into that loose-bodied, Zen-like state that lets you shoot long exposures with no tripod.

I can't tell you what the river looked like because this shot looks nothing like it. Long, blurry exposures will do that, I guess, by making the real look somewhat unreal. But every time I look at it, I feel like I'm looking into a dream, and I'm being reminded yet again that wandering around and looking for inspiration through a lens is spectacularly good for the soul.

Note to self: Do this more often.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Counting the BlackBerrys

Anyone who's followed my career knows I've spent a lot of time writing and talking about BlackBerry. The Canadian smartphone maker, formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM), had a bad day on Monday as a deal to buy the company out fell apart and its CEO, Thorsten Heins, headed for the exits. It's actually had a lot of bad days lately, and it's kept me spinning out the stories and insight on a fairly consistent basis.

For the record, I don't just cover this one company, but you'd be forgiven if you thought I was the BlackBerry guy. I can easily understand why.

Thought I'd run down some of my notable media activity over the past couple of days, as in between writing to deadline - the stuff that pays the bills around here* - it's been a pretty hectic time. And a fun one.
  • CBC Radio Kitchener-Waterloo - Spoke with host Craig Norris about the day ahead, and the news broke as we were wrapping the interview up. Coolest media moment I've had in a while.
  • CTV News Channel - Spoke with anchor Todd van der Heyden.
  • CTV National News - included in a report by John Vennavally-Rao. (Video here.)
  • CTV London - quoted on reporter Talia Ricci's report. Video here.
  • CBC Ontario Morning - Spoke live with host Wei Chen.
  • CBC Television - spoke with Havard Gould for a report he filed with stations across the country.
  • Global National - spoke with Kieron O'Dea
  • News Talk 770 Calgary - Spoke with Angela Kokott for our weekly Tech Tuesday segment
  • News 91.9 Moncton - Spoke with Tyler McLean of McLean in the Morning
  • CJOB Winnipeg - Chatted with Charles Adler. Audio here.
  • 570News Kitchener/Waterloo - Spoke with host Gary Doyle.
  • Business News Network (BNN) - Joined a live panel with Rob McWhirter and hosts Pamela Ritchie and Paul Bagnell. Video here.
  • CHED Edmonton - did an in-depth interview with Andrew Grose and Dan Tencer of the Tencer and Grose show. Showpage here.
  • The Waterloo Region Record - was quoted in Terry Pender's piece, here.
  • Canadian Press - spoke to reporter Romina Maurino a piece she wrote with David Friend. As CP is a wire service, it ended up in some interesting places, like CTV, the Huffington Post and the Ottawa Citizen, and the Globe and Mail's Michael Babad pulled a quote here, as well.
* Here are the pieces I wrote for Yahoo! Canada Finance:
More fun coming up, as Twitter goes public tomorrow and my inbox is already filling up. First up, an early interview (6:00 a.m. ET) with CTV's Canada AM. Gotta love this life thing.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Rob Ford admits he smoked crack

So it's official. After months of denying it, and after months of claiming to be the victim of a media-led witch hunt, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has finally admitted that he smoked
crack cocaine.

The CBC is reporting he admitted it in the middle of a media scrum, and as you can see from the graphic, CNN is now leading with it:
“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Ford said.
“But, no — do I? Am I an addict, no? Have I tried it? Um, probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”
What really ought to happen now is the guy should do whatever he needs to do to fix himself. Between the drinking, the drugs and the questionable behaviours around questionable people, it's clear to everyone - except him, apparently - that he needs help.

Everything else is superfluous. It's truly sad to watch an implosion in the harsh light of public scorn. It's even sadder when the person in the middle of it fails to realize change is needed.

Once he does, we can all go back to dealing with issues that are a little more relevant to our everyday lives.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Related links:

Monday, November 04, 2013

Thematic Photographic 268 - Power

Electricity near and far
Laval, QC
August 2013
This week's Thematic theme, power, can either be interpreted literally - as I've done here - or somewhat figuratively. Your choice, and every choice is correct.

I'm not entirely sure what power actually looks like. But as I walked around the neighborhood the other day, I realized there was evidence of it everywhere. Should be a fun one to shoot this week, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Your turn: Take a photo that evokes this week's theme, then share it on your blog, website, Facebook page or wherever else you hang your hat online. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. For bonus points*, tweet is using the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag. For more details on how Thematic works, click here.

* Um, we don't actually give out bonuses, or points, or anything remotely akin to prizes. But the rewards of a photographic life are priceless, right?

BlackBerry bombshell - Fairfax deal dead, CEO out, for-sale sign down

You can't make this stuff up, folks. The Fairfax Financial tentative offer to buy out smartphone maker BlackBerry for $4.7 billion is reportedly dead. CEO Thorsten Heins has been let go. BlackBerry is no longer actively for sale, and will instead try to raise $1 billion in capital.

I've written an article for Yahoo! Canada here: BlackBerry bombshell:
Fairfax walks away, Heins out as CEO
Needless to say, life in Waterloo just became significantly less predictable.

More as I know it. It's going to be an insanely busy day.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

On Ayn Rand and righteous defiance

"The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me."
Ayn Rand
I wanted to segue into the workweek with a few deliciously defiant words. Who's with me?

The things we learn in a parking garage

Boca Raton, FL
December 2009
Thematic. Golden glow. Here.
The Scene: We're on vacation in a faraway place. We've been out running errands in a rather large and entirely chaotic outdoor shopping mall. And as the late afternoon sun starts its inevitable dip toward the horizon, I head back to the car because I suddenly forget whether or not I locked it when we left, and I don't want to have to explain myself to the car rental folks.

Yes, I'm odd like that.

As I wander around the multi-level parking deck trying to find one forgettable vehicle in a sea of forgettable vehicles, I notice the shafts of low-angled light dancing on the stamped concrete deck. It's about as vanilla a spot as you can imagine, a piece of urban architecture that no one bothers to appreciate because its designers never appreciated its potential. No one ever comes into this built-to-a-purpose structure to take in its beauty. Rather, their goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible. The less seen the better.

Yet here I am, stopped in my tracks by the sun-painted concrete surface. I look both ways to ensure I don't get creamed by a pink Cadillac-driving grandma - this is Boca, after all - then compose and shoot.

Life's filled with tiny little scenes and moments that present themselves when we least expect them. Never again will I dismiss the unassuming parking garage. Or, come to think of it, regular folks who may initially seem unassuming and forgettable, but whose stories are worth hearing if only I have the patience and foresight to stick around and give them a chance to share them.

Your turn: Ever have an epiphany in a surprising place?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Another birthday without dad

My dad would have been 79 today.

I once thought that the feeling of being ripped off by the universe would subside with time. And to a certain extent the sting of it all feels ever so slightly more manageable the further removed we get from the day we lost him. But it never really goes away, either. That gap-like feeling, that you don't simply "return to life's routine" (hands down, the dumbest thing anyone can paste into an online condolence book) persists. Everything changes when you lose a parent, and it keeps on changing for as long as you, too, are on this planet.

I admit I felt a little ripped off by it all. Okay, significantly ripped off. Angry, even. His illness wasn't some random thing that emerged out of nowhere and struck him without warning. He didn't take care of himself, full stop. Didn't eat right. Didn't exercise. Spent entirely too many afternoons eating bags of chips while watching football games from the couch instead of playing the actual game with us outside.

I remember as a child begging him to be more active, asking him to join us on our bikes, to walk or swim with us. And whenever I raised the issue, he'd look to the floor in a way that continues to haunt me. As if nothing I said could ever change his mind, or alter his trajectory.

So when we received the "sudden" call that he was in the hospital and was going in for his first cardiac surgery - to repair six blockages, in total - I admit I wasn't surprised. I had dreaded this day seemingly forever, and now the inevitable had finally arrived. We packed the car and drove 9 hours through the rain, straight to the hospital, so our 10-day-old daughter could meet her grandfather for the first time.

Life and death, of course, are hardly so black and white. Scared by what happened to him, I vowed early on to lead a very different kind of life. I rode my bike, ran, and ate right. If I could leave the car at home and pedal instead, I would, even if it meant ridiculous adjustments to my and my family's schedule. Because riding dozens of kilometres through the countryside became a defining thing for me, a defiant statement that I would lead a very different life than my sedentary father. I was probably an arrogant little twerp at times, too, so defiant in my desire to not be like him that I was a little less than kind at various points along the way. But fear makes you do silly things, I guess.

The universe, of course, always has other plans. And I learned this year that you can ride all you want and it may ultimately never matter. You can get zapped because of your lifestyle. Or in spite of it. I learned that you can spend your time being angry over something your dad could - should - have controlled. Or you can find a way to accept that none of us is remotely perfect, that the day-to-day of life, or raising a family, can change us in ways no one else might understand. Who was I, after all, to question his wanting a quiet afternoon watching the game?

I also learned that anger adds a layer to the everyday that takes away from every current and future moment.

Speaking of moments, we aren't given enough of them in the first place, and we can't get any of them back after the fact. Can't go back in time and change behaviors. Can't fix the unfixable. Can't undo loss. Just...can't. Because like it or not that's how time is supposed to work.

But we do have today. And being ticked off at what we no longer have, and the reasons we no longer have it - and them - would be counterproductive. The simple truth is we've been given a today in the first place. So today I'll celebrate that I had a dad once, that he taught me well, that thanks to him I was able to follow a path that allowed - and continues to allow - me to pursue a life that others can only dream of.

I can celebrate the fact that the universe made him possible in the first place. No sense lamenting anything else.

Friday, November 01, 2013

On living with passion

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."
Emily Dickinson