I’ve recently come in contact with a door that’s got me thinking.  It’s the sort of door that requires a key to be in the lock and turned 180 degrees to open the door.  This normally isn’t a problem at all if the door is a push, or if there is enough friction between the key and the tensioned locking mechanism to let you pull the door open with the key.  This particular door requires one hand turning the key and another hand on the handle pulling the door open.  So when I arrive with something in my hand I have to put it down, open the door, wedge the door open with my foot or shoulder, pick up my package, and go inside.

Why am I talking about doors you might ask?  Because I live in a discordant world.  How can I be a minimalist and a consummate consumer?  How can I admire tradition and progress?  How do I worship engineering, technology, and, science, robotics, nano-technology, quantum computing, and everything science has given us and yet admire the beauty of a hand forged nail, a hand hewn beam, a beautifully made class-A amplifier, or a perfectly tuned petrol engine?

Well lets go back to the door.  Doors have more-or-less been perfected.  They’ve been the same for a while now.  I admire a good door, a door that works well and that never gets in my way, and especially a door that has been doing it for decades.  This is why it’s such a failure of human intelligence to have a two-handed door.  To this point I have the utmost admiration for design and engineering.

What about an automatic door?  Is it necessary or good to take something as simple and functional as a door and install a motor so that it can be opened with no hands?  In my mind this is one step too far.  This is taking technology and making life so much more complicated than it needs to be.

For almost every application, there is a point where simplicity, minimalism, and longevity is maximized and perfect convenience is almost maintained.  Consider a bicycle.  Besides very small improvements, they haven’t changed much in 40 years.  Or consider a stove-top kettle.  It’s cheap, it lasts for decades, and it whistles when it’s boiled.  How much has the electric kettle improved your quality of life?  Did you bemoan the fact that your car windows had to be rolled down before power windows were standard?  Just think about all the tiny little conveniences in your car!  Imagine if all the time and money spend developing and installing gizmos was spend designing an efficient and reliable engine.  Imagine if all the engineers who develop hair driers, coffee grinders, electric blinds, touch-screen central air controllers, GPS enabled smart-phone cameras, and every other gadget you own were working on a clean energy source for the planet.

I suppose what I’m proposing is a cost/benefit analysis for technology.  If you had to pay for it, would you install an automatic door at the grocery story?  Would you employ an engineer to invent such a machine, and a mechanic to install it?  I think not.

The collective human genius would be better spent solving problems bigger than the minor inconveniences in your life.  Bigger problems, or fixing my door.

IMG_8409While out walking the Thames Valley Trail this week, there were ample macro subjects to shoot.  Macro photography is fun for one main reason: even if you don’t have super fast glass you can get a nice shallow depth of field and play with tasty Bokeh.  Here are a few shots from my walk:

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IMG_7378IMG_6847IMG_7567Top Tip for broke-ass street togs:

Can’t afford a soft-box?  Find a big backlit sign with a white background, the kind of thing they put on store fronts like the Gap, and you’ve got yourself a nice soft light for night portraits in the city!

I’ve written a guest post for a fantastic blog that i’ve been following for months called sixty7architectureroad.  It looks at Toronto’s condo boom and imagines a Blade-Runner-like future where the rich live many stories above the poor and the streets become ghettos.  Click through the link below to read the full text.

http://sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/08/06/torontos-condo-boom-class-segregation-by-elevation/

Yesterday was my birthday and I was forced, as I am every year, to consider how much less concern I have for my own birthday than the people around me.  Since I don’t put much stock in age, it’s  practically meaningless to me.

There is one thing I like about birthdays in general.  I think celestial events should be celebrated to connect people with the solar system we are a part of.  Solstice and Equinox are my festivals of choice, and they come at convenient intervals.  In my mind, birthdays are just a more self-centered version of the real celestial festivals.  Oh everyone look at me!  I went around the sun one more time.  Why wouldn’t we all celebrate together?  It a way, birthdays are divisive.

And as I said before, I don’t care much about age.  If you are smart and interesting, what care I if you’ve done 16 or 60 rotations?  I think most people agree that ageism is a bad thing, yet when we go round once more we expect a special day?

And yet I’m forced, as usual, to swallow my own words.  As with all the holidays I don’t care about, this random, meaningless occasion gave me cause to spend time with the friends and family.  That is, I contend, the real meaning of birthdays, valentines day, christmas, easter, thanksgiving, and on, and on, and on.  IMG_7837

There was a story in the news recently that was so stupid it was undeserving of my attention or that of anyone else.  Then the story got even more stupid: so stupid that I feel compelled chime in and add to this circus of stupidity, this black hole of journalism and intellect.

Justin Bieber got into the kitchen at a bar, peed in a bucket, and cursed former US president Bill Clinton while spraying cleaner on his photo.  This is the kind of dumb stuff that stupid young people do.  It’s not surprising and it’s not newsworthy.  But it’s Justin Bieber.  When he farts it makes headlines, so it had to be discussed all over the entertainment rags and the internet.  Then something even more pathetic happened.  Someone thought that the kind of person who pees in buckets has some sort of responsibility not to insult a former US president.  The topic of respect was discussed at length, as if an immature pop star should be held to a standard of public political discourse.

Bieber called Bill Clinton on the phone and he actually answered!!!  This moron who pees in buckets said mean things about a former president, called to apologize and he actually answered!  What is wrong with these people?  There is no scandal when stupid young people do stupid things.  The only outrage is that the restaurant didn’t call the police.  Doesn’t Bill Clinton have something better to do?  Can’t the public realize that Justin Bieber is a young pop star and lose their expectation that he make socially and politically responsible decisions?

This kind of thing doesn’t deserve a response, especially from Bill Clinton.  A stupid person did a stupid thing.  It’s not news.  A world where the public demands that stupid youths don’t disrespect politicians, yet don’t notice when politicians have the time to take personal calls from stupid youths, is a world with its priorities all messed up.

I don’t get out of Toronto much these days.  As a kid, I would cruise through Toronto wide eyed, astonished by the height of the skyscrapers, the stylish and eccentric fashion, and the bright signs and lights.  With an unbelievable speed my amusement has shifted.  On a recent visit to rural Ontario, I found myself charmed by the quaint storefronts, religious billboards, and the general lack of stuff

This shot in particular seemed to catch the attitude of the place.  Coming from a city where most people live without cars for want of space, it’s odd to see a place with so many cars they have to park them on the lawn.  This particular lawn didn’t just have cars, it had airplanes.IMG_7021

One of the things that I enjoy most about film photography is that you have a limited number of frames.  When I step out into the street, I usually only have one or two rolls of film with me and I almost never use more than one.  Knowing that you have to pay to process each frame forces you to be highly critical of your technique, composition, and to prioritize your subjects.

Digital is the opposite.  I recently bought a 32GB memory card for my camera.  My RAW images are about 20MB.  That means I can put 1600 images onto a card, and I have several cards.  Furthermore there’s no processing cost to worry about.  You can shoot ten frames and delete all but the best one in camera.

Film photography better suits my temperament, but having nearly unlimited frames does open up the opportunity to explore some cool techniques.  One such method is sometimes called “shooting from the hip”.  Like a cowboy draws his six-shooter and shoots from the hip, you take photos in the same way, and without looking in the viewfinder.  Most of the pictures are very badly composed, but when the pieces fall in the right place, the perspective and angles can be really different from anything you can find in your viewfinder.  Here are a few shots from the hip:IMG_7078IMG_7080IMG_7084IMG_7083To check out more of my photos, view my flickr photostream.

We recently decided to try a cool adventure activity that people all over the world can participate in together: geocaching.

If you’re not familiar with geocaching, basically what you do is go to http://www.geocaching.com and find a cache in your area.  Once you’ve found an appropriate cache, you record the GLS coordinates, put them into your GPS or your smart phone, and go find it.  The caches themselves are normally waterproof containers containing a log book, which you must sigh, and a few trinkets that can be traded.  The rules of geocaching dictate that if you take something from the cache you have to leave something of equal or greater value.

One of the coolest features of the hobby is trackables: small coins or other items with a serial number on them that can be picked up by in Toronto and dropped in a cache somewhere else.  When the number is registered on geocaching.com, you can watch your coin travel around the world from cache to cache.

Laura and I had a great time in High Park looking for caches.  Some were too hard for us to find.  We looked for six and only found two.  But we had a great time and we’ll definitely be going back to find more, and to place our own caches.

Check out the video of our adventure:

And of course I had my camera with me so I had to snap a few shots of nature.  What a treat it was to get out of the concrete jungle for a day.  I hope to get out to high park or one of Toronto’s other major parks at least once a week for the rest of the summer.  Heck I’ll go all winter too.  Here’s some pics:IMG_6789 IMG_6793 IMG_6818

On the last Sunday of every month between May and October, the streets of Kensington market are closed to car traffic and fill up with food, music, and people.  This month alone there was a rock band, a reggae band, a latin band, and a jazz quartet.  Check out some pics:IMG_6644IMG_6645IMG_6649IMG_6688IMG_6701

When the freaks and geeks are out in force, it’s good for taking street photographs.  To see more of my street photos, click here.