Monday, September 30, 2013

Thematic Photographic 263 - Multiples

Got a light?
London, ON
July 2013
It's Thematic's multiples week. At the risk of sounding redundant, I'm guessing you know what to do. If you don't, please click here.

Please also accept my thanks for making Thematic Photographic such a highlight for me. At the end of the day, these are just bits, arranged just so on a hard drive in some faraway data center. But shared and pondered just so, they become special for a rag tag global community of like-minded people.

I find that pretty neat, and I'm glad to be a part of it. Thank you for being part of the journey.

Onward...

Radio days

I had a few really rewarding radio interviews recently that I wanted to share with you. (Ideally I'd share them all, but things have been a little busy lately, so I'll have to pick and choose the ones that are easy to find.)

Craig Norris of CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. We discussed the internal strife at BlackBerry that led to the crisis the company faces today, and what might have been had different roads been taken. Audio here.

NewsTalk1010 - Jerry Agar. We spoke last week about a report that cars will increasingly sprout Wi-Fi capability. I'm not impressed with the prospect of more driver distractions. Audio here.

NewsTalk1010's Moore in the Morning. I spoke with John Moore about the new California "erase-me-from-the-Internet" law. Lovely in theory, but laughably behind the times. Audio here (scroll to about the 32:30 mark.)

I'll post more as I can find 'em. Would love to know what you think!

Making a grand entrance

Arched
Toronto, ON
August 2013
About this photo: We're winding down our tour of large structures - you can still share yours here - and will be launching a new theme, multiples, tonight at 7 pm Eastern. Hope you can join us!
In the middle of a busy day of zinging between meetings, I found myself staring at the arched ceiling of an indoor walkway I had sought out to escape the summer heat and humidity.

A long escalator at one end gave me enough of an angle to almost shoot down the length of it, which made me rather pleased.

I'm that shallow that something as simple as a camera angle can make me happy. Come to think of it, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Your turn: Is it?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Let's blow the Gardiner up, shall we?

Urban decay
Toronto, ON
August 2013
For more Thematic large structures, click here.
There's an interesting dynamic playing out in cities of all sizes all over the world. To be blunt, they're crumbling.

And since I like to oversimplify, here's why: Because politicians and donors alike would rather fund sexy new buildings and structures than invisible sewers, roadbeds and underground electrical conduits. So while the former get funded, built and feted with ticker tape parades and grand opening ribbon cutting ceremonies, the latter continue to slowly rot in silence.

Until, of course, they fail. We all pay attention when a huge sinkhole opens up, a geyser turns a downtown street into a raging river, or, as seems to be ready to happen here, a major chunk of concrete falls from the sky.

This is the Gardiner Expressway, a crumbling relic of 1950s- and 1960s-era traffic-think that everyone loves to hate. If the cash-strapped government wants to raise money, fast, I'd suggest holding a lottery where the big prize is getting to press the dynamite plunger or swing the giant wrecking ball. This thing needs to go. But until it does, I'll walk under it and stare up the entire time. Because you never know when gravity will decide to remind us that boring. ugly and crumbling old infrastructure matters more than a gleaming plaque ever did, or will.

Your turn: How do you protect your head when walking under this thing? Let's be creative, shall we?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

On living like Steve Jobs

"If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement address, 2005
Something tells me his biggest contribution to the canon of life extended well beyond fashionably sleek electronic gadgets.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Let's play peekaboo

Hiding in plain sight
Toronto, ON
August 2013
Thematic. Large structures. Here.
Heads-up: I'm about to date myself. I grew up in the age of film, in the land of photographic scarcity. Every shot was precious, finite, deliberate. Every finger-stab on the shutter cost you film, processing and time.

So before you took the shot, you pondered the scene, metered it, debated it with yourself, justified to the optical gods why this very scene deserved to be committed to silver-halide permanence, why it was worth waiting days for processing, not to mention a good chunk of your lawn mowing money.

All of this had an impact on how you chose your subjects and how you chose to document them. It meant you couldn't just choose anything. There had to be a distinct reason for it. And unless you had an especially good reason to do so, you didn't tend to return to the same scene over and over again. I grew up around folks who wouldn't return to the scene of the photographic crime because "we have that picture already."

So, based on this logic, one picture of the CN Tower would have been enough for the photo album. Because the world had plenty of other things worth remembering, and there was only so much film to go around.

Digital has, of course, changed the very nature of photography. The land of scarcity has been replaced by the land of plenty - some might say over-plenty. You're limited only by the how much space remains on your memory card and how much battery you've got.

On the one hand, it means you can return to the same place time and again, and challenge yourself to find new ways to explore it and tell its story to others. You can focus on the creative storytelling. You need never worry about frittering away your lawn mowing money again. Which is kind of what I was thinking as I headed to a meeting in Toronto and saw the CN Tower peeking out from behind a condo tower.

I've seen this iconic structure countless times since childhood, yet on this otherwise humid, light-challenged day, it seemed different. The condo towers sprouting up like steroidal mushrooms have begun to encroach on the tower's formerly wide-open slice of sky. Toronto is filling in, and this one shot speaks to what it often looks like from the ground.

Having the freedom to work in this way is, of course, a good thing. On the other hand, digital's blessings may be overly abundant. The flip side of photographic plenty is that we seem to have lost that sense of preciousness. There's no reason to be so deliberate before tripping the shutter, so we often shoot without giving it much thought. We'll fix it in PhotoShop, or weed out the losers when we get back to our workstations. Or we'll simply dump them all onto Facebook and let the masses decide what stays and what goes.

I admit I'm torn. Part of me loves the freedom to shoot at will and find new ways to revisit old friends - yes, even buildings can be old friends. Another part of me misses what it felt like to go deep before I committed the moment to memory. I rather enjoyed approaching a shot in my mind, constructing the process for what seemed like an age I wonder how the the removal of our film-and-processing shackles has influenced the way we shoot, and whether or not that actually results in better pictures, storytelling and sharing. I'm not entirely convinced it has.

Your turn: Digital...blessing or curse? Why/why not?

--
For more Thematic large structures, and to contribute your own, please click here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tweet from The Agenda | TVO (@TheAgenda)

The Agenda | TVO (@TheAgenda)
After our interview with @gregobr, watch this interview w. @carmilevy with his take on #Blackberry: theagenda.tvo.org/blog/agenda-bl… #AgendaTVO ^dk

It's been a cool - and somewhat intense - week in my crazy little world of tech-infused journalism. As an example, Hers's a tweet to a neat webcast I did with Daniel Kitts of TVO's The Agenda.

Because I'm feeling particularly nerdy tonight, I thought I'd mail it to the blog right from my iPad. Let's see how this works out. Here goes...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thematic Photographic 262 - Large structures

Convergence
Toronto, ON
June 2013
I've decided to go big this week because big stuff's been dominating my own agenda and, let's be honest here, I like big stuff.

Like this building. When you walk right up to it and stare up, you can't help but feel a resonant "whoa" moment. Of course, it comes at the expense of sidewalk-walking corporate drones looking at you incredulously, but I'll take that if it means I can be truly moved by an inanimate object.

As far as I'm concerned, we don't stop and smell the roses - or stare at the big buildings - often enough. We should. I hope this week's theme gives us the perfect excuse.

Your turn: Take a picture of a large structure. Or one that evokes largeness - whatever, just have fun with it. Post it to your blog (or related online resource) and leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants, return as often through the week as you wish, and feel free to bring a friend along. If you're a twitterer, use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag. For more info on how this photographic lunacy works, click here.

Live on CBC Live Online...

I'm going to be doing something really neat tonight: CBC Live Online is a an innovative online chat series from our national broadcaster that brings together guest panelists to discuss - with participation from you! - the biggest stories of the day.

As you can imagine, the big Canadian business story this week is BlackBerry. So I'll be joining host Lauren O'Neil and CBC Kitchener-Waterloo online host Andrea Bellemare tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern to talk through the issues. To participate - or just watch - click here and watch for me, live from my living room.

They spoke with Canadian media megastar George Stromboulopoulos last week. Here's what his segment looked like.

Dog. Walked.

I decided the furry being and I should take an especially long walk this morning. There was no special reason, nor did there need to be. I've just been so busy lately with geek stuff that I forgot to slow down and enjoy the little things. Like Frasier.

This morning was the right time, and now that we're back from our grand tour of the neighborhood and he's found his favorite spot for his morning nap, I suspect he would agree.

For all the times this week I've dashed out of the house without getting on the floor with him, playing fetch or otherwise grabbing his wiggly form and holding on for dear life, I'm guessing he deserves a little extra TLC. Come to think of it, so do we all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On holding on to your own pen

"When writing the story of your life, don't let anyone else hold the pen."
Harley Davidson

I'm pretty sure no one else is going to get remotely close to my pen. I know we all learned to share in Kindergarten and all, but this is something I have no intention of ceding to anyone else.

The last couple of days have proven, to me, anyway, why this apparently simple mantra matters as much as it does. Your destiny belongs to you, and it makes no sense to let anyone else call the shots.

So don't.

Note: Thematic will return tomorrow. A little late, I know, but sometimes the world has other plans.

Monday, September 23, 2013

BlackBerry sold

This just breaking now: Fairfax Financial has offered to buy Waterloo-based BlackBerry. The offer, pending completion of due diligence, is for $9 U.S. cash per share, which values the transaction at approximately $4.7 billion.

Fairfax currently owns 10% of BlackBerry's outstanding shares, and is the company's largest shareholder.

More soon.

Update 12:46 a.m. - Apologies for not filling anything in for the past, oh, almost-12 hours. It's been a pretty intense time around here, and while the fun is seriously cutting into my beauty sleep time, I've been able to rack up some pretty exciting wins in my tech-journalism quest for whatever it is that tech journalists want to be when they grow up.

Here's a quick rundown of the damage:
  • I wrote an article for Yahoo (Canada and global) outlining the deal and its implications:
BlackBerry buyer: Fairfax Financial emerges as possible saviour
  • Earlier in the day, before the deal was announced, I had also filed this piece for Yahoo Canada. It was also picked up globally:
Could BBM save BlackBerry?
  • Even earlier in the day, I had spoken with Marci Ien on CTV's Canada AM about BlackBerry's big day on Friday. Here's the video.
  • Also still before sun-up, I spoke with Matt Galloway of CBC Radio's Metro Morning in Toronto, CBC Ontario Morning's Wei Chen, and Tyler McLean on News 889 Saint John and News 919 Moncton.
  • Spoke with Peter Akman for his report on the CTV National News. Video here. Somewhat cool fact: they included a clip of my talking head in the opening sequence of the show (I love when that happens!) Video here.
  • Chatted with CTV London anchor Tara Overholt for the 6pm and 11pm newscasts. Video here.
  • Spoke with the BBC's Wake Up To Money program on BBC Radio 5 Live.
  • Closer to home, I spoke with 1290 CJBK's Don Landry (summary link here) and AM980's Jess Brady. I chatted with AM980'S Devon Peacock for his show, The Pulse. In Waterloo, I spoke with the 570News team for their afternoon newscasts.
  • In Toronto, I spoke with Gill Deacon from CBC Radio's Here and Now (the CBC.ca story is here), AM640's Jeff McArthur, and Scott Reid on NewsTalk1010. Apparently I was yin to Kevin O'Leary's yang.
  • Deborah Yedlin from the Calgary Herald interviewed me for a piece she's writing.
I'm sure I'm missing some along the way. But as I write this, I've just finished my last interview of the night, and I've got to grab a few hours of sleep before I hit the ground running again before sunrise. I'm back in the studio to speak with CTV Canada AM at 6:30, then CBC Ontario Morning at 7:10, CJOB Winnipeg at 7:45 and Gary Doyle on 570News Kitchener at 10:05 before grabbing the keyboard for my next wave of writing. No rest for the wicked, nor would I want there to be. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ducks unlimited

Stranger in our midst
London, ON
February 2013
Thematic. Strangers. Here.
These are the ducks that hang around the park where I took the kids on a bitterly cold winter's day.

These are the ducks that took a rather enthusiastic shine to the kids I had taken to the park on a bitterly cold winter's day.

These are the ducks that we placated with bread in the park where I had taken the kids on a bitterly cold winter's day.

This is the goose who crashed the party with the ducks who were hanging around with me and my kids in the park on this bitterly cold winter's day.

These are the birds who made my kids laugh and smile for the first time in a while. Because when life turns grey, sometimes the answer lies in the middle of a scrum of birds in the middle of a park on a bitterly cold winter's day.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

On making a (small) difference

"I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people who are convinced they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another."
Ellen Goodman
Small stuff. Not so small after all. Works for me.

Your turn: What small difference will you make today?

Friday, September 20, 2013

BlackBerry shares halted

Seeing reports that trading in BlackBerry shares has been halted pending a news announcement after trading closes later this afternoon.

More soon....

3:21 pm ET - The company has confirmed it is laying off 4,500 people, and will record a net operating loss of $950 million U.S. Its $1.6 billion in sales for the quarter will fall substantially short of Wall Street targets of $3.06 billion. It will reduce operating expenditures by 50% by 2015. [BGR]

7:13 pm - It's been a zoo of a time around here. As soon as I first posted this, my BlackBerry (natch) exploded with calls and emails. This is now the top piece of news in Canada, and everyone wants to talk. First things first, I wrote this piece for Yahoo! Canada:

BlackBerry confirms layoffs, Q2 loss of nearly $1 billion

I also drove, um, quickly, to CTV London's studios to talk to Peter Akman for a report on the CTV National News, and Amanda Blitz in a live interview on CTV News Channel. I spoke with Tara Overholt in a package that aired on the 6 o'clock news, and was included in a package aired by Nicole Lampa on CTV Kitchener - BlackBerry's hometown station.

Somewhere along the way, I spoke with AM980 London as I zinged back to the studio on campus at Western University. I recorded clips for CBC's The National (Havard Gould) and Global National (Jennifer Tryon), and did a live hit with CBC Radio Toronto's Gill Deacon on the Here and Now program.

There's way more to come, including a live hit with Newstalk 1010's Friendly Fire program directly from the site of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's Ford Fest, and an interview with BBC Radio just before tuck-in.

OMG, some days I need someone to pinch me. Then thank my wife, who literally makes all of this - this unbelievably cool media world of mine - possible.

Bad news for BlackBerry = busy week here

It has been an epic week in my little world of media, dominated by two main - and unfortunately very challenging - stories:
  • Rumours of impending mass layoffs at Waterloo-based BlackBerry; and
  • News that a photo of Rehtaeh Parsons - a 17-year-old girl from Dartmouth, NS who committed suicide in April after she was raped and photos of the assault were widely distributed via social media - was inadvertently used by an online dating site in an advertisement on Facebook.
Because of BlackBerry's status as Canada's top and most visible tech company, the rumors have sparked major headlines as everyone tries to figure out what this could mean for the firm's future. I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance to try and answer that very question:

BlackBerry reported layoffs darken already-murky future

I also did a ton of media through the week in support of both stories, including:

CBC News Network. Spoke via FaceTime with Heather Hiscox on the national News Now program.
CBC Radio. News reports by Tracy Johnson at the national news desk and Matt Kang of CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. The two main stories ran on the CBC website:
Radio Canada International. Interview with Lynn Desjardins for worldwide distribution. Story here.
Global National - report by Jennifer Tryon. Video here.
CBC Radio. Interviews with CBC Radio stations across the country, as part of the Syndication unit:
Newstalk 770 CHQR Calgary. On our weekly Tech Tuesday segment, Angela Kokott and I talked about this week's iOS7 rollout.
AM640 Toronto. Spoke with Bill Carroll about the next stage of Canada's wireless spectrum auction, and how new limits on roaming fees might - or might not - benefit Canadian consumers.
News 889 Saint John and News 919 Moncton. Spoke about the Twitter IPO with Tyler McLean of the McLean In The Morning show.
CJAD 800 Montreal - Andre Carter, and my regular Friday weekly tech segment with Barry Morgan
570News Kitchener - Gary Doyle
CKNW Vancouver - Phillip Till
AM980 London - Craig Needles

There were a few other stories mixed in through the week, including an appearance on CBC's The National newscast in a report by Aaron Saltzman on AdTrap, a device that promises to block all online ads before they get to your computer (video here), a discussion with 570News Kitchener's Gary Doyle on how annoying technology has become, and CTV News Channel interviews with Jacqueline Milczarek on the hype surrounding the new iPhone 5s/5c (video here) and Todd van der Heyden's Tech Talk segment (video here).

I also guested on Devon Peacock's weekly Roundtable on AM980 London - notable because it had nothing to do with tech. Devon, former city councillor Roger Caranci and I spent much of the lunch hour Monday solving London's municipal and community woes and building a shiny, happy future for everyone who lives here. It was a great discussion that apparently ticked more than a few Facebookers off. Good: nerves were meant to be pinched a little.

My weekly tech segment, Clicked In, with anchor Scott Laurie on CTV News Channel, aired Sunday night with a closer look at Apple's iOS7 (video here). If you missed my chat with Canada AM's Todd van der Heyden re. the Twitter IPO, here's the video.

More to come. I think I need to build a clone.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Which way to the circus?

Urban miniature cyclist
Toronto, ON
August 2013
Thematic. Strangers in our midst. Here.
I don't even know how this thing didn't collapse under his weight. Or how he managed to transfer any power to the pedals given how little room he had for his adult-sized legs.

But here's the thing: he was out there, using two human-powered wheels instead of four internal combustion-powered ones. He seemed to be enjoying himself, and, most important of all, he made pretty much every urban-downtown-drone around him smile whenever they looked his way.

A smile always makes it worthwhile, doesn't it?

On contentment. Or the lack of it.

"Nobody got anywhere in the world by simply being content."
Louis L'Amour
I guess that makes me a malcontent, because staying put just isn't in my genes. Are you content?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

He never even knew I was there

Waiting for his ship to come in
Toronto, ON
August 2013
To share your own vision of strangers in our midst, click here
As you can see from Monday's entry, I'm a fan of shooting from behind to keep from betraying a subject's identity. I like having the freedom to compose without worrying about someone recognizing me, and then posing for the occasion.

This guy had no idea I was ever even there - bless my long-reach lens - so I was able to capture a fairly unblemished, quiet moment.

Your turn: What's he doing on his BlackBerry?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On writing, silence, and fear

"Writing is a struggle against silence."
Carlos Fuentes
As a writer, I've come to appreciate the quiet moments of reflection where the ideas begin to coalesce in my head. But I've also come to dread the moment where I might sit in front of my keyboard and screen and the words fail to materialize. I don't even want to imagine what that would be like, and I'm thankful I haven't experienced it thus far.

May the struggle continue for all of us whose lives revolve around the written word.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thematic Photographic 261 - Strangers in our midst

Willy Loman was here
Toronto, ON
August 2013
Photography in a public place is an iffy proposition on the best of days. The risk of shooting - optically, of course - strangers in an identifiable manner is always there. And in today's litigious world, it's all too easy to end up being sued by someone for capturing them in a compromising or embarrassing pose.

Sure, we're Canadians, and we're not supposed to be sue-happy. But it happens.

Still, I couldn't resist pulling the camera out as I followed this man north on Toronto's Bay Street, right near the Air Canada Centre (home of the Maple Leafs) and Union Station. His gait was as close to a shuffle as you can get in sneakers, and he seemed to carry his fatigue on his shoulders. I'll never know who he is, but we've all seen people like him.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme is strangers in our midst. Find creative ways to shoot (again, with a camera, please) strangers, then share the photo on your blog or related web resource. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find your masterpiece, then visit other participants to spread the joy. Use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag in Twitter for further awareness-building - I'd like to build participation a bit, and every little bit helps. For more info on how Thematic works, please click here. Thanks y'all!

On breaking all the rules

"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
Pablo Picasso

Saturday, September 14, 2013

This old house

Home, once.
Laval, QC
August 2013
About this photo: Thematic celebrates treasures this week - please share yours here - and this place is about as treasured a building as I've ever known. Enjoy.
This is the house where I grew up. It's been years since my parents moved out - I wrote about it here - and even longer since I've lived there. These days, it looks a lot different after the new owners changed the siding (it used to be green), removed our beloved old silver birch tree from the front yard, added a Virgin Mary statue in the garden, and put in windows that presumably keep more of winter's wrath where it belongs.

As you can see, it isn't a mansion, doesn't stand out from the countless other suburban houses on countless other suburban streets, doesn't have thekind of so-called curb appeal that makes visitors go wow when they first see it from the street - or when they stalk it on Google Street View.

But that's not what a home is supposed to be, anyway, and there's a wide gulf between the concept of house and home. And while this isn't the McMansion of the dreams of so many, it was arguably more of a home to me than any other structure would have been. My entire world revolved around this nurturing place, and for the longest time when I was a kid, I would ask my parents if I could always live there with them.

Fast forward to adulthood, and clearly life doesn't work that way. We were staying barely five minutes away from here, as we always do when we return to the old hometown to visit family. For the longest time I had been reluctant to return here, hesitant to see what had become of my childhood home. But on this visit, a quick drive-by and photo-shoot was in order because the kids needed a happy and on this day at this time it finally felt right.

In the end, the things that made it a home are no longer here. The remarkably tight-knit community that surrounded this otherwise unassuming house has, for the most part, moved on. All of my childhood friends have migrated elsewhere, leaving a barely recognizable context in its wake. When I walk the streets here, no one knows who I am. Home is now an eight-hour drive west.

Still, I'm glad we did this, if only to remember well what we once had, and how we came to be who we are today.

P.S. I'll apologize for the smartphone-ish tone to the pic: I needed to shoot fast, then scoot, before the sight of an Ontario-plated car in the middle of the street creeped out the current occupants.

Your turn: What does "home" mean to you?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Her best-ever birthday present

My bashert
Laval, QC
August 2013
Anyone who knows our family knows that Dahlia was born the day before Debbie's birthday. This makes our Peanut Girl the best birthday gift my wife ever received. Yes, the Super Bass-o-Matic '76 put up a valiant fight, but in the end the little pink bundle of joy won out.

So while the fish-mixer gathers dust in the far corners of our basement, Debbie celebrates her birthday today. Do I dare divulge the number? Ah, no. But here's the thing about my lovely wife: she hasn't changed all that much since I first met her. Despite my years of stressing the daylights out of her, she's managed to look as lovely now as she did when I first met her. I'll apologize in advance if I can't stop staring.

She'll call me blind. She'll say I have no taste. I'll politely disagree, because from where I sit, she's beautiful in ways I will never be able to describe in words. That kindness and empathy that I wrote about yesterday? Our kids get it from her. You can almost feel it when she speaks to you, and you find yourself wishing more folks would learn from her example.

I'll never know how I came to deserve her as my wife, but I won't quibble with the forces of the universe - they always win, anyway. Instead, as I sit in the middle of a family we created and listen to the sounds of life in a house that she's made a home through sheer force of will, I'll say a quiet thank you that she picked me, that I get to celebrate milestones like today as well as ordinary days when we have nothing overt to celebrate, but we celebrate anyway because we were given another ordinary day in the first place. I've been given these days with her, and I have no intention of wasting them.

As special as today is in the life of an amazingly special woman, tomorrow is the first of 364 over the course of another year that will be just as special simply because we get to share it - and them - with her. Happy birthday, sweets. To 120 and beyond...

Your turn: Your birthday wish for Debbie is...?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet 16 and counting

Our soccer warrior
London, ON
July 2013
Click photo to embiggen
It's been exactly 16 years since we first met our daughter. Dahlia came into the world a tiny, scrunched up little thing - a beautiful little person who's since grown into a beautiful, capable, accomplished, confident young woman. She's someone people love to hang around with simply because of who she is. I selfishly admit to doing the same thing, because she is the kind of kid parents always hope their kids grow into.

When I first met my wife all those years ago, the thing that first struck me about her was her kindness. She looked out for the needs of others before considering her own. She smiled with her eyes. Her voice was gentle. She cared. She listened. She laughed from the inside. She had a clarity of soul that set her apart. She still does, of course.

Spend any time with our daughter and it quickly becomes apparent she's exactly like her mom. She helps others before helping herself, if she helps herself at all. She watches out for the new kid at school. She loves our dog. Fiercely. And cares for him as if his entire world depends on it. She is tremendously nurturing with kids, and has become a leader in the community, a trusted summer camp and programming counsellor. She is insanely creative, as comfortable with a guitar as she is a sketch pencil or a camera. She protects and guides her little brother and is always there for her big brother, too. Being the middle child, she's grown a sense of self that I wish I had had at that age.

I drove her to choir this morning, and lingered in the car as she walked into the school. As I watched her saunter into the day that will be, I wondered how 16 years could flash by so quickly, and felt a little tug at the prospect of time moving faster than we'd like. But just as quickly I was reminded that the past 16 years, blink-like as they've been, have given our daughter the time and space she needed to grow into the remarkable person that she is.

I can complain about time all I want, but it makes far more sense to be grateful that we have her, and that she's already making her mark on a world that needs more like her.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. I know you know how much we love you, but we'll say it anyway, again. Because your mom taught you that lesson well. And your future is so bright because of it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

From generation to generation

Hanging with Zayda
London, ON
April 2013
About this photo: We're celebrating treasures all week - click here to share yours. Here, our kids enjoy their treasure, Zayda (grandfather) Irving, on a recent visit to our house. I know they treasure him as much as he treasures them, and I'm glad they've got him in their lives.
I've been hanging out with our kids a lot more than usual lately. Time isn't slowing down - imagine that - so either I grab the opportunity while I can or look back with regret later on. Since regret isn't something I prefer to do, we hang.

I was out with our youngest today. We had lots to do, including running everyone to and from activities, and replacing the phones in the house after an unfortunate near-flameout on-air earlier this week. Nothing extraordinary, mind you. Just the typical day-to-day of a typical family.

In between dodging intense thunderstorms that spawned tornado warnings, hail and torrential rains and winds, the little man got hungry. So we stopped off for a bagel and some juice. As we sat on the high-ish stools at the front of the bakery, I found myself resting my head on my arm as he shared the news of his day with me.

It wasn't a day for the record books. We didn't mark any major milestones, nor did we dress up and rock the world. It was just a day. But it was a day I got to spend with him. I got to watch him enjoy a bagel he called the freshest he'd had in a while. I got to watch him clean the cream cheese off his oh-so-squishable face. I got to hear his voice.

Sounds trivial, I know. It isn't. Not now. Chalk up another treasure - of a son, of a day, of a life - for one very lucky dad. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Your turn: What will tomorrow bring...for you? Go ahead, dream a little.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Apple iPhone a day...

...keeps the tech pundits away.

Or something like that. I'm not entirely sure what that ridiculous line is all about: it sure never did me any good. Apple computers and devices, on the other hand, are a different story. And today is a pretty big day in Apple's world as the company gets set to unveil its latest iPhone, its latest mobile operating system (iOS7) and a possibly cheaper version of the iPhone known as the 5C.

Rumors are flying in every direction, and we'll only really know once the announcement is over and the dust settles. Such is life in the Apple vortex, and such is life as I churn the words out in anticipation of this day.

If you want to watch the event live, it starts at 1 p.m. and the following websites are either carrying the feed or liveblogging it, or both:
I'll update this entry as we go along, but so far here's the commentary damage:
Coming up, I'm working on a few articles that should go live later today, and will be back on-air this afternoon with CBC Radio stations across Canada, and again tonight at 6:15 pm Eastern for my weekly Tech Tuesday segment with Angela Kokott of Calgary's News Talk 770.

Never a dull moment. Which is exactly as it should be.

Your turn: Will you buy a new iPhone? Why/why not?

Monday, September 09, 2013

Thematic Photographic 260 - Treasured

Listening to history
London, ON
April 2009
Photo by Zach Levy
After a couple of weeks of sombre reflection, I wanted to get back to something of a happier place with this week's theme, treasured.

As you can imagine, treasured can be anything that makes a huge difference in your life. It can be a person, an inanimate object, or something in between. Or, as is the case here, both: our son, Zach, took this shot of me leaning close to our city's beloved Blackfriars Bridge. On this day, Zach took my camera and made the scene his very own.

Seems like a treasured moment to me, and one I think we'll both hold onto for a while.

Your turn: Please choose or take a photo that evokes something treasured, and post it to your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, essentially anywhere on the web. Then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Share the joy by visiting other participants, and don't be shy to bring a friend along, as we're always happy to welcome new folks to the Thematic family. For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Thanks!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

A new weekly TV segment

Some neat things are happening in my sometimes-tumultuous world of technology and media, including a new weekly segment on CTV News Channel. It's called Clicked In, and it'll air every Sunday at about 7:20 p.m. Eastern on the national news network. Scott Laurie is the host, and he and I will talk through the most newsworthy tech stories of the week.

We launched it last week - here's the link to the video - and we spoke about rumours of the PC's demise. We're back on-air tonight*, and we'll be exploring the smartwatch, and whether or not it makes sense for us all to rush out and buy one right now.

The short answer is no, but I promise we'll have a lot more to say about this and every topic we cover. I'll post new links after each show airs, and as always, suggestions are welcome in comments.

More good news is coming up, too, so please continue to watch this space. I can't believe how much fun all of this is.

--
*Here's the link to the September 08 segment on smartwatches.

On Scouting's long-lost lessons

"Leave this world a little better than you found it." 
Robert Baden-Powell
I was a Cub and a Scout back in the day, and of the many things that stuck with me from my great experiences within the Scouting movement, resonant respect for its founder, Lord Baden-Powell, rose above them all.

It was far more than simply running around with other kids my age. It was an opportunity to learn about leadership, respect and values. Baden-Powell's framework set the tone for everything we did, and gave us something to shoot for. Sure, on the surface we were learning new skills and trying to achieve beyond what we had previously achieve. And yes, we got badges when we reached those milestones.

But what I remember most is how we took guidance from our leaders, then applied their lessons within our respective units. They actively worked with us to give us the tools to figure it all out on our own. And as I became a leader of my own little unit of kids, little did I realize I was building interpersonal, leaderhip and independence skills that would last me a lifetime.

Pretty heady stuff in retrospect, because at the time I simply thought it was fun. Now, though, it's a lot easier to understand Baden-Powell's logic, and the true meaning of his words here.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Verizon says no to Canada. For now.

Big news in telecom last week, as Verizon confirmed what we'd long suspected: that despite months of speculation that they were about to cross into Canada and take on the big 3 wireless carriers, Rogers, Bell and Telus, they had no intention of coming here. Not yet, anyway. Instead, they were buying the 45% of the Verizon Wireless partnership they didn't already own, and paying soon-to-be-former partner Vodafone a staggering $130 billion U.S. in the second-largest deal in corporate history.

Then, because long weekends should always end with a bang, Microsoft announced its $7.2 billion U.S. buyout of Nokia's mobile division at 11 p.m. Monday, just as I was tucking in for the night. I learned about it via am email from a producer on my BlackBerry and immediately knew Tuesday was going to be fun.

And it was. I wrote the following articles for Yahoo! Canada Finance as I juggled deadlines, phone interviews and quick trips to and between television studios:
Verizon megadeal challenges Ottawa’s quest for wireless competitionMicrosoft’s Nokia deal crucial for Ballmer’s legacy
As a tech journalist and analyst, this is what I do. I make sense of stuff like this and turn it into content that, hopefully, folks understand. I had ample opportunity to do just that on Tuesday. Here's the rundown:

TV:

CTV Canada AM. Spoke with Beverly Thomson via FaceTime from home about the both stories. That's our rogue's gallery of pics and artwork behind me on the mantel. I think we need to get serious about framing and hanging our stuff. Oops, I rambled. Story video is here, interview video is here.
CBC The National. Spoke with Havard Gould for his report on the newscast. Report video here.
Global National. Chatted with Kieron O'Dea for his report. Newscast video here.

Print/Online:

Toronto Star. Verizon not interested in Canada after all. Byline: Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew
Canoe.ca/QMI/Journal de Montreal. Verizon: l'industrie soulagĂ©e, le client en attenteByline: Michel Munger. Alternate link here.

Radio:

NewsTalk1010 Toronto. Spoke to John Moore, host of Moore in the Morning. I'm still hunting down the audio from this hit, but here's audio from a June interview with John when Verizon first began kicking the tires.
570News Kitchener-Waterloo. Spoke with Gary Doyle.
CJOB 680 Winnipeg. Spoke with Charles Adler.
CBC Ontario Morning. Spoke with Wei Chen.
CBC Radio. As part of my work with our national public broadcaster's Syndication unit, I spoke with radio stations in sequence across the country, including interviews with the following:


Newstalk 770 CHQR Calgary. Discussed Verizon with Angela Kokott as part of our weekly Tech Tuesday segment.
AM640 Toronto. Spoke with Bill Carroll
News 889 Saint John and News 919 Moncton. Guest of McLean In The Morning with Tyler McLean

I'll add more links as I find them online. Happy viewing/reading! More to come...

The saddest patio ever

Would you eat here?
Montreal, QC
July 2012
For more Thematic sadness, click here
Old Montreal is one of the loveliest places you could ever hope to visit. Buildings that are hundreds of years old hover over narrow, cobblestoned streets. As you wander through the shadows, you can easily imagine what it must have been like here long before Canada was founded. History comes alive in a place like this, and we were pretty lucky to have grown up so close to here.

Not everything is ever perfect, thought, even in beautifully preserved enclaves, and here's one example. I can't imagine anyone willingly spending time back here, yet whoever owns the establishment to the left clearly thought it was worth investing in patio furniture and cheesy Christmas lights.

Keep in mind that this was taken in July. No, I still don't get it.

Your turn: Who would eat here? What would their story be?

Friday, September 06, 2013

We're going back to the moon, kids. Tonight!

I'm not kidding.

No, we're not dusting off the old Saturn V, popping an Apollo capsule on top of it and lighting the ginormous candle. We're not pulling the space shuttle orbiters out of their museums and filling their cargo bays with extra fuel so they can make the longer trip to the moon (but, hey, wouldn't that be a rush?)

We are, however, reusing rocket segments from decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles (or for those of you who like to geek out on Cold War trivia, these were once known as the MX, or more formally the LGM-118) to launch a tiny, 844-pound satellite known as LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) into lunar orbit to study the moon's atmosphere. Yes, it has one. No, it won't support life. But it's still a pretty neat trick to send machinery there to study it.

The bird, sitting on a Minotaur 5 rocket, leaves the planet tonight (Friday) at 11:27 p.m. Eastern from its Wallops Island, Virginia (Virginia!) launchpad. You can watch it live here. More background on the mission is available here on SpaceflightNow, and the mission's homepage is here.

I'll be watching because, well, that's what geekfolk do late on a Friday night. Who's with me?

On the two most important days in your life

"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
Mark Twain

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

On trust. And Google

"In a networked world, trust is the most important currency."
Eric Schmidt
Mr. Schmidt is Google's Executive Chairman, and I've followed him since his Sun Microsystems and Novell days (it's a geek thing. Tech sector rock stars interest me way more than Bieber and Lady Gaga ever will.) If you're looking for a tech pioneer, he's as pioneering as they come given his role as mentor to Google founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page. So when he talks about trust, I think I'll believe him.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Lost in the concrete

Staring into the unknown
Toronto, ON
August 2013

Thematic, Sadness. Here.
Right by the water in downtown Toronto, there's a waterfront walkway that attracts more than its fair share of on-break office workers and local residents. It's the perfect example of a small thing that isn't small at all to the people who use it.

Someone painted this amazing mural on one of the concrete walls, and as you can see here, it's evocative enough to stop you in its tracks. It stopped me on this day, and while I composed this shot, I found myself struggling to come up with words to describe how I felt.

So I'll ask you...

Your turn: The first three words that come to mind as you see this shot are...?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Thematic Photographic 259 - Sadness

Rest where there is no rest
Toronto, ON
August 2013
I admit I often taken pictures I probably shouldn't take. From the IV drug user to the man lying drunk on a sidewalk, whenever I'm confronted with a jarring scene of human tragedy, my first inclination is to point my camera and shoot.

I realize the journalist's instinct to record when most everyone else would avert their eyes is somewhat baked into my DNA, and more than one person has criticized me in the past for not simply letting it be.

But I've always calculated the ROI of the decision this way: The world is an ugly place, and shunting the ugliness under the carpet doesn't help us make it any better. Only by sharing the stories and driving discussion can we ever hope to fix whatever it is that ails us. It may not be pretty, but the fact that we're talking about it has got to be a good thing.

So, for the coming week, let's talk about the sadness that touches us - and more importantly, about how we plan to deal with it.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme is sadness. Post a photo (or four, or ten...whatever you've got) to your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, stream, website, etc. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it and visit other participants to spread the photographic goodness. This isn't a competition, and there are no rights and wrongs, so have fun with the process. For more on how Thematic works, click here, and follow the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag, too.

St. Jacobs Farmers Market Burns. A community rallies.

We woke up to some jarring news this morning: the main building at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market had burned to the ground overnight and was declared a total loss. Damage estimates exceed $1 million, as the 60 vendors who had storefronts in the building scramble to determine their next steps.

The market is a central player in the economy of this delightful community, a jewel that attracts visitors from the entire region and supports the local economy in a way that defies today's big box, superstore-dominated, detached retail landscape. It is difficult to put into words how profoundly this loss is being - and will be - felt.

On the plus side, no one was hurt. Buildings can be replaced, but people can't. And from that perspective, I am hopeful. What looks like an unspeakable tragedy today is already serving as the foundation for an inspiring story of community cohesiveness and gumption. The market has already confirmed it will rebuild, and intends to continue to do business in its other buildings and on its outdoor site. Local media outlets - including 570News Kitchener and CBC Kitchener-Waterloo - are up and running with special coverage that will doubtless allow citizens and leaders alike to begin pulling together their rebuilding plans. 570News host Gary Doyle has summarized his thoughts beautifully here on Facebook.

In other words, this is a hiccup. And a big one. But what comes next will teach us all a number of important lessons about what matters most. And when the building is inevitably rebuilt, that's what we'll carry forward.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Coming home

The road ahead
Highway 401, near Trenton, ON
August 2013
About this photo: We're winding down this week's muted colors theme (click here for a last-minute submission), and getting ready for tonight's launch of our new theme, sadness.
This is what the drive home from Montreal to London looks like. Don't worry: I wasn't driving. And while I hung out in the passenger seat, I played with my iPad and tried to entertain the kids in back. I'm not sure if I succeeded (I'll let you judge by the selfie I've posted here), but I'm glad I tried.

It had been a tough trip back to the place where we grew up, a tough experience to cap off a month that had served up more than its fair share. It had been been six months since Debbie lost her mom, and we were back in Montreal for her unveiling - the dedication of her gravestone. As part of the prescribed rituals around Jewish grieving, it's an important, logical step in the process, a critical milestone for the family. None of this makes it any easier, of course: it still stings, we still miss her immensely, still struggle with the day-to-day, still wish we could just go back to the way things were. Before.

But we can't. And some journeys are a little more grey than others. But at least we get to take them together.

Your turn: How do you turn sadness into something brighter?