Saturday, April 30, 2005

The vanishing video store

Entertainment is rapidly evolving to the demands of an on-demand world. We no longer buy CDs at music stores and rush home to listen to our new find. Instead, we download a few tracks, then listen to them immediately on our PC before dropping them into our iPods, where they will promptly be forgotten.

Renting movies will also head in this direction before too long. Online-only models are already starting to make their first halting Web-based moves, while hybrid services like Netflix are off to a fast start.

It's easy to see the appeal: no more trips to the video store. No more bumping into rude customers while you look for a watchable gem in the middle of what always seems to be a pathetic set of choices. No more stooping to see the almost-invisible selections that are placed on the shelves closest to the floor. No more late fees (OK, Blockbuster fixed that one, but...), surly, lip-pierced employees, overpriced snacks, and any other come-ons that make the video store such a maddening place to shop.

But when the cold, wet weather dried up enough earlier today for me to get the kids out of the house, a walk to the Rogers video store was just what our munchkins needed to get some air and get ready for a Saturday night at the movies at home.

They ran straight for the kids section as soon as they got through the door and excitedly compared notes over what they were going to get. Normally-rude customers smiled and gave them room as they bounced from one aisle to the other. They changed their minds at least half a dozen times before settling on their final two choices. Explaining to them that the Family Guy wasn't appropriate for kids - despite its innocuous cartoonish packaging - took longer than I expected.

After patiently waiting in line, they proudly handed their choices to the cashier and waited quietly for Dad to pay for it all. Absolutely worth it, I thought as I watched their little faces waiting for the cashier to hand back their newfound prizes.

As we started for home, a few light drops of rain threatened to make it a miserable trip. But the heavens held off as they carefully examined the movie boxes and spoke about how much they were looking forward to watching them. We arrived home ready for a pyjama party on the living room floor.

I'm not sure any download service could ever come close.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Red Railing

I recently took our little guy to a birthday party here. While he was munching on pizza, I started observing the architecture of the building. I do that sort of thing all the time. When I'm standing around doing little else, I often stare at the most minute details of my surroundings to help pass the time and keep my brain churning. I usually come up blank, but every once in a while something grabs my eye.

This time out, I had the camera (duh), so I captured this simple composition on the staircase. Concrete block construction reminds me of elementary school. It takes me back to when I was small, and reminds me that interesting visuals can come from the most surprising places.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A couple of quick funnies

Trillian has a rather welcome habit of finding some of the funnier bits floating around the Internet. She graciously shares them, too. This one - What should I do if the Internet goes down? - resulted in one of those laughing fits that has so endeared me to my colleagues.

Mark Rayner is another comedically-gifted writer who never ceases to find a new way of looking at the world. This time out, he laments John Sloan' failure to win the papacy earlier this month. Even if you don't know these folks and weren't aware of the furious pre-conclave campaigning, it's enough to once again touch off a workplace-interrupting fit of laughter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Quoted - National Post (!)

The good news is I've been quoted in Canada's National Post newspaper. The article is entitled Abandoned buggies litter the Internet, and it was published last Friday (April 22nd).

In the article, I share my thoughts on web site shopping cart abandonment. It's one of those unseen costs that can really damage an organization's bottom line, and all because too little attention has been paid to the end user's/client's web site experience. You'd be surprised how easy it is to prompt someone to bail on an online purchase.

The bad news is it sits behind the paper's subscription wall. The link above will take you to the purchase page where you can read the headline and lead paragraph. To get it all, you can either buy the copy electronically, or find a copy at the library. I've done both, but I'm a bit too stacked up with work these days to spend the requisite time with my scanner. I'll try to get to it over the next couple of days so I can post snippets here.

Apparently, the coolness of a writer's life continues.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The legacy we leave

My wife and I attended a funeral today for a young mother who passed away very unexpectedly. It goes without saying that this is a tragedy beyond words. It also goes without saying that it leaves us all wondering about the worth of our own lives, and what we will all, individually and collectively, leave behind for the generations that follow us.

I had no answers as we walked back to the car to head home to our kids. All I could do was hug them, hard, when we came through the door.

At the end of the day, what we leave behind transcends the material. Our legacy lies in the spirit we share with those around us. If you are a parent, let your children know that you love them beyond words. If you're not, do the same with family and friends. Maybe that's all we can do to ensure our time here somehow serves a higher purpose.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pop cans...again

For some odd reason, lots of people looking for pop cans via the major search engines have been coming to the site. I realize it is not my place to question the inexplicable algorithms that govern how the words I write are parsed by a search engine spider. My sole response is to post yet another (not very good) picture of, yes, a pop can.

This one, incidentally, is the first picture I ever took with a digital camera (I know, such a thrill.) It's about five years-old, and was taken during one of those insufferable corporate/divisional picnics that we all hate, yet feel compelled to attend for the sake of our careers. This time out, I magically found myself saddled with official photographer duties. For some reason, the role follows me around like a magnet wherever I go.

Perhaps my new strategy the next time I'm "asked" to take pictures at one of these will be to fill the memory card with close-ups of the well-tended lawn, upside-down views of the BBQ, and photographic surveys of the potato salad and cole slaw.

Drink up!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

What season is it?

It's been difficult to tell these past few days. After we spent the early part of last week in shorts and t-shirts, Mother Nature decided we had used up our allotment of good weather, and promptly brought back some reminders of winter so that we wouldn't get too cocky.

Note to Ma Nature: you've made your point. You're the big meteorological kahuna. We get it. Now can you please turn the heat on again?

As I tap this out on my Palm (will sync it in the morning...it's too cold for me to find my slippers and go downstairs to turn on the router), my window is filled with a Norman Rockwell-esque scene of lovely, softly-lit architecture masked by blowing snow and dancing tree limbs.

Problem is, I'm not in much of a mood for Rockwell. I want to go biking with the kids and not worry about one of them coming home with fewer fingers than when we left. I want to not have to haul the winter gear back out and wonder where my left boot went. I want to stop shovelling my walk because it's late April!

If this keeps up, I'll be taking the car to work in the morning. I know, heresy.

There, I feel better. I guess I've been away from snowy Montreal for too long. I've succumbed to the Southwestern Ontario malaise known as weatheritis. Woe is me.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Losing our hair

It has become something of a tradition in our house for me to take the boys for haircuts. I do so with more than a little anxiety, however, for I still harbor a deep-seated fear that I will somwhow ask for the wrong kind of cut, and our two beautiful boys will return home with monstrously deformed heads of hair.

But it always seems to magically work out because the ever-changing roster of women (yes, just try to find a male barber in this town...not gonna happen) still manages* to understand my stylistically-challenged instructions.

A number of things dawned on me as we repeated the ritual:
  1. The lady at the front will manage to misspell all of our names, this despite my repeating them at least twice, and spelling them for her in that really...slow...voice...that you use when you realize the person on the other end of the conversation isn't tuned to the same station as you.
  2. The magazines will be older than your kids. They will be missing pages. The ones that remain will likely have crayon all over them.
  3. There will be one children's book on the coffee table in the waiting area. For an assessment of its condition, please see #2 above.
  4. Another child will be reading this book as you arrive.
  5. The only thing your child wants to read is, you guessed it, that book.
  6. Thankfully, you loaded some bedtime stories on the PalmPilot. Crisis averted.
  7. Your children will need to pee. At least twice. Not at the same time.
  8. They will need to go really badly, just as soon as the actual haircut begins.
  9. Your children will speak to each other, not loudly or rudely, but they will be heard.
  10. You will be glared at by everyone because of this.
  11. The only seat available will be immediately adjacent to the wall of overpriced hair care products with the cheeky-sounding names.
  12. The overweight woman whose coat sits on that one remaining seat will pretend to look away as your four-year-old son makes his way toward the seat.
  13. He will ask in his loudest, most innocent voice why that lady isn't being polite.
  14. He will then sit there anyway before smiling at her, speaking gently to her, and generally charming the pants off of her.
  15. You will be charged a crazy amount of money for 10 minutes of work with a cutter and trimming scissors.
  16. A ridiculously small fraction of said money will actually go to the hairdressers in question.
  17. They will each regale you with stories of how lousy it is to work there.
  18. On your next visit, half of them will no longer work there.
  19. On the visit after that, neither will the other half.
  20. You will return home with two freshly-shorn boys. Mom and sister will eagerly greet us all at the door, and we'll all be thankful that we have what we have.
I know, in the end it's just a haircut. But every experience in a child's life leaves a footprint. Don't forget to remember what those footprints look like, or what it felt to leave them in the first place.

---
* Yes, this is correct grammar.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Publish Day - Of Chinese ThinkPads

I wrote this piece for Processor Magazine after IBM announced it was selling its PC operations to Lenovo, a Chinese manufacturing giant. I've got a bit of a soft spot for IBM's ThinkPad laptops, because I went through more of them in my insurance career than I care to admit. It was always a bit of a cool thing to get the latest and greatest model - not that staid old insurance companies ever bought leading edge, but whatever we got was better than what our cubicle-neighbors had, and that was all that mattered.

I shuttled ThinkPads to and from the office on the back oy my bike, and toted them on planes, trains and automobiles. I even accidentally dropped one down the subway stairs once. Eventually, it became a normal thing for me to have a black slab of technology wherever I went.

So I felt I had to write about the significance of this iconic brand. I hope every market always has a ThinkPad somewhere to give everyone else something to shoot for.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A subtle shift of power

My week has been marked by two diametrically opposed concepts: fear, and support. First, the good stuff, because it matters more.

Support: Yesterday's column has unleashed a wonderfully warm flood of niceness from readers. I also continue to be deluged by calls from friends and family. Everyone's so concerned and so caring. That's pretty much all I need to know that the world is still a cool place to be.

Fear: I still find myself looking over my shoulder as I ride. Every car I see that matches the individual's vehicle causes my blood pressure to spike until I see the license plate and verify that it's not his.

But what stands out in my mind is how support must - and does - trump fear. I won't be cowed by anyone, much less a bully. He had no idea who he was dealing with when he decided to get out of his car and play the testosterone card.

On the off chance that he read the paper, learned my name, Googled me and found this site, I have this message for him:
Now that you know who I am, I hope you appreciate that I have no intention of backing down from seeing that every last option available to me as a victim of a violent crime is leveraged. You will pay for your mistake in so many ways, and you will do so simply because you chose to let your rage override whatever sense of logic you may have. Society finds this conduct unacceptable. Take some time to accept that, or find somewhere else to live.

Had it dawned on you when I read back your license plate number that I was going to legally nail your sorry rear end if you stepped over that line, you wouldn't be in this pickle now. I pray for anyone around you, for I'm certain your conduct was not an isolated incident. I hope your family members, colleagues and friends are safe in your presence, and I hope they, too, have the courage to charge you for whatever abuse you may rain down on them.

I very much look forward to seeing you in court, to staring you down and letting you see just where the power balance now lies. You thought you had power by virtue of your size and your anger. You were wrong. For the next few months, it will be your turn to feel fear; the fear of losing so much because you were incredibly stupid. I hope you'll learn something from this, but I doubt you're remotely capable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Publish Day - of bikes and idiotic motorists

I hope someone in London reads his newspaper this morning. He might be not-so-pleasantly surprised to discover he's made the Op-Ed page. My column, Add irate motorists to cycling dangers, is in today's London Free Press.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to e-mail me with your thoughts and kind wishes in the wake of this unfortunate incident. I'm happy to share with you that I'm perfectly fine, and am looking forward to seeing this individual be called to account for so violating the basic rules of society that are in place to protect us all.

This isn't even close to being over, and I'll keep you all updated as this moves closer to its logical conclusion.

Here's the published piece:
Add irate motorists to cycling dangers
Published April 20, 2005
The London Free Press

I ride my bicycle to work for a lot of reasons: save money on gas, preserve the environment, and get in shape. I hardly expect to be assaulted along the way.

But that's precisely what happened earlier this week, and that's precisely why I think it's time motorists and cyclists get real about their respective roles on London's – and any city's – roads.

My morning started out like most weekdays. I was cruising on a bike path, minding my own business and trying to keep out of harm's way. When I noticed that an approaching motorist was looking the other way while his car rapidly approached me, I yelled, loudly, for him to watch out.

Now, when you're on a bike, the first order of business is to ensure you are seen and heard. Drivers are surrounded by a few thousand pounds of steel, plastic and glass. Cyclists aren't. A minor fender-bender to a driver could be lights out for the cyclist.

The car braked quickly, and I continued past. The story should end here, except my newfound friend apparently decided I needed to be taught a lesson. He pulled onto the road, opened his passenger side window and began to berate me. Much of what he said can't be printed in this newspaper. But he did mention how he felt bikes shouldn't be allowed on the road.

I waved my hand and told him to go away. I am many things, but my lack of height, weight and musculature, combined with my general bookish nature have kept me out of fights for my entire life. Until then.

Things went from bad to worse as he exited his car, confronted me, and, after ignoring my requests for him to get back into his car, he punched me in the face and knocked my glasses to the ground. Note to Mom: this is why I always wear my helmet.

The police officer who responded was as professional as can be. What I remember most was how he gave me the option of letting this person off with a simple warning, or of pressing a charge.

I hardly have the time or the energy to put up with the hassle of going to court. Beyond my pride and some sting on my face, I wasn't really injured.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how differently this could have ended up. Had there been a weapon, or had this individual decided to continue his attack, I'd be writing this from a hospital bed. Or not at all. I decided the cycle that drove this individual to this point needed to be broken.

Clearly, I came across someone who doesn't think cyclists deserve their rightful place on the road network. I beg to differ, and Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, which defines a bicycle as a vehicle subject to the same rules as a car, is on my side.

But no amount of legislation can do you much good when a stranger threatens you with bodily harm. That there are those around us who would allow themselves to so rapidly lose control is frightening to my very core. And I simply cannot let it go.

All I'm trying to do is get to work in one piece. The fun factor is somewhat reduced by the number of Type A motorists who think nothing of yelling at me as they ride by. If I had a dollar for every time a driver has told me to get off the road, I'd have enough to buy a car. The intolerance saddens me, because I'd like to think London drivers are somewhat more enlightened than that. Maybe I was wrong.

Somewhere out there, someone sits and wonders if he could have behaved differently that morning. Perhaps the next time he gets behind the wheel, he'll give the cyclists around him a little more room to maneuver, and a little more respect.

-30-

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Paranoia

I'll admit I felt a bit nervous on the way into work today. As I rode my bike, I found myself scanning everywhere, looking for the guy's car and reading the license plates of any vehicles that matched the description. The idiot was nowhere to be seen, but I still worried. He can't be pleased that I'm letting the charges go forward. It'll cost him in so many ways, and I worry that he'll target me as the source of his newfound ills.

This got me angry. Why should I feel vulnerable? Why should the victim feel like he no longer has the right to safely wheel his way to the office?

Then I thought about the zillions of e-mails, calls and visits that I have received since the news broke. I can't thank you all enough for your kindness. It means more to me than I can say here. That matters infinitely more than the sour grapes of a dork who can't control his temper.

Physically, I'm fine. My face stung for a bit during the day, and I was ultimately OK. Psychologically, I'm a bit freaked by it all. I still can't believe that someone had the temerity to so thoroughly lose control, to wait for me, to leverage unmitigated power over me, and to physically assault me.

It bothers me immensely that this can actually occur, and I keep questioning whether passivity was my best strategy. As I was cycling home yesterday, past the spot where it happened, I thought to myself why I simply didn't accelerate into him while he stood in the middle of the path. A bike at 35 km/h would have sent him to the hospital, and I could have simply called it an accident. My blood pressure spiked as I visualized revenge scenarios, going back in time and being an even bigger SOB than my aggressor.

But then I realized I was being stupid. There's no sense second-guessing myself. I did the best that I could in a challenging, rapidly-evolving/de-evolving situation. There's no way I could have had any material influence on the outcome when this individual was so far gone. Taking the legal/moral high ground, and letting the justice system - and my very sharp pen - do its thing is the best thing I can do.

Time will render this yet another footnote in what has thus far been an interesting, rewarding life. My toolset of experiences grows thicker, and the chapter that was opened for me yesterday will continue to be added to over the course of the next few months. I'll be sure to share many of those words with you all on my site.

(Speaking of which, watch for tomorrow's paper...should be fun!)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Quite the adventure...

...on my way to work this morning. I made the mistake of yelling at an inattentive motorist before he turned me and my bicycle into a giant hood ornament. He stopped in time, and I continued on my merry way, satisfied that my "Hey, Watch It" had done its job.

Problem was, my new buddy wasn't finished with me yet. He lowered his passenger-side window and, while driving alongside, swore a blue streak at me (impressive vehicle control while ranting, I must say.)

He then sped ahead, turned into a driveway, got out of his car, and waited Clint Eastwood-like in the middle of the bike path. He stood nose-to-nose with me, ranting about what an [unmentionable body part] I was. After repeatedly - and, shockingly, in a calm voice - advising him to walk back to his car, it dawned on me that I was in trouble, and he was really going to hit me.

Which he did, knocking my glasses off and causing me to see red. Given the fact that he outweighed me by at least 50 pounds (hey, I'm a writer, so size has never been my thing) and I had never (before today, anyway) been in a fight, I stood pat while he turned away and walked back to his car before driving off. When the shaking subsided, I grabbed my cell phone out of my bike bag and called 911.

I recall a bizarre sense of disconnectedness as I told the dispatcher that I had just been assaulted by a motorist. Then my mind raced as I played the scene through my head time and again.

The officer who arrived was incredibly professional, and took me through the process with expert care. I hesitated when he asked me if I wanted to lay a charge. Part of me thought I should just let it go, that I couldn't be bothered to pursue the matter because little more than my pride had been injured. Then the self-righteous journalist in me kicked in: no one has a right to lay a finger on anyone else. Had he been carrying a weapon, or if he had decided to continue whacking me, things would have turned out a lot worse than a sting on the cheek.

People don't learn lessons if they're allowed to walk. People learn lessons when they're held accountable for their actions. This guy, apparently, will.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

What is cool?

I must be getting old and conventional, because what passes for entertainment in my life seems to be getting more mundane as the years roll on. Even more surprising is how little this disturbs me.

For example, we spent a quiet evening at home last (Saturday) night. After we tucked the kids in, my wife read a book on the couch while I propped myself nearby and wrote on my computer. At around 9 p.m., I tuned into NASA-TV to watch coverage of the Soyuz TMA-6/International Space Station docking.

For the next couple of hours, I watched the celestial show in the corner of my screen while I worked away on another piece of not-quite-award-winning prose. The lights were dim, and the peaceful, blissful quiet of the house was broken only by the static-laden chatter from Moscow, Houston, and points far above.

A couple of weeks ago, the kids danced around the kitchen when they came home to find our new dishwasher, installed and (silently) churning away underneath the kitchen counter. Our old unit had unceremoniously given up the ghost a couple of weeks earlier after years of increasingly cantankerous performance. If it wasn't waking the neighbors, it was returning load after load of still-dirty dishes. Those days are, thankfully, gone.

So this is what our life comes down to: a Saturday night devoid of anything remotely resembling coolness, and a family celebration around the arrival of a new appliance.

We wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Road rage redux

Imagine you're driving along, minding your own business, when a Type A personality comes out of nowhere, tailgates you, pulls out, cuts you off, and almost causes three separate collisions before disappearing in a cloud of tire smoke over the horizon. What ticks you off more? The fact that you almost got killed, or the fact that you're powerless to do anything about it?

The truth of the matter is aggressive driving causes injuries and deaths that really should never occur. Sure, no one really cares if the road rager himself (it's usually a guy, after all) wraps himself around a telephone pole and proves Darwin right by removing himself from the gene pool. But what if said moron takes an innocent victim with him? What then?

I've always wished recipients of road ragers' attention could do more than idly sit by and watch the fireworks display while their safety literally rests in the hands of an idiotic stranger. When a leisurely ride on my bike last summer was interrupted by a dangerously aggressive driver, I published the guy's vehicle type and license number here. Granted, it's just a blog that's read by around a hundred people per day. But the catharsis I felt at not being so powerless, at being able to zing back in some small way, was priceless.

Now, Calgary police are taking a similar approach. If you're victimized by a road rager, call the cops and give them the license number. They'll write a letter to the registered owner of the vehicle. It's no solution, for said owner can always deny he/she was at the wheel. But it turns the tables ever so slightly in favor of the victim.

The bleeding heart Alberta Civil Liberties Union has problems with this program, saying there are privacy implications associated with how this information is used and retained.

Boo hoo to them. I'll argue that when I've got my kids in the back seat and someone decides to play motorized chicken with my family's life, his right to privacy or any other control over his precious information can rightfully be tossed out the window. Road ragers, you've been warned.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Return to the produce aisle

It's been quite some time since I ventured into the supermarket, camera in hand, and grabbed some surreptitious shots of whatever was on the shelves.

Why I do this is simple: it's different. I learned from a young age that watching people as they go about their daily business can be a fascinating pursuit. My mother called it "people watching" and she introduced it to me while we would sit on a shopping mall bench waiting for my father to pick us up.

Over time, I noticed that most folks fall into fairly set patterns of behavior. People don't talk to each other. Their eyes are fixed forward, their smiles replaced by expressionless faces. They don't seem to enjoy - much less notice - what's going on around them.

So I figured carrying a camera into the produce aisle - or wherever else in this fluorescent-bathed pantheon of commercial activity - would shake people up a bit and force them to look at their own world a little differently. If I got some good pictures in the process, so much the better.

So I present the loveliest bunch of radishes I've seen in months. And I hope you find the time to do the same in a store near you. Your fellow shoppers might thank you.

One more thing: Click here to jump to another radish-themed post, published February 2007.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bedtime story

Zach was too excited to fall asleep tonight. After finishing his homework and taking his bike out, he successfully rode it up and down the street in front of our house. For anyone who knows where we live, he cruised from the mailbox to our driveway - about 6 houses worth.

He still has a bit of work to do on steering, but he'll get there.

After he came back into the house, he went upstairs to get ready for bed. While he was changing, he called down to my wife, proudly telling her he had "Daddy's after-bike smell." I'm going to hope he means that fresh-air-through-the-clothes scent, and not the God-awful grunge of a ride home on a blisteringly hot day. Over time, he'll come to appreciate everything about his newfound mode of transport. He's already off to a great, happy start.

We watched the Soyuz Expedition 11 launch while getting ready for bed. As I tucked him in, I propped the laptop on his desk and we watched the craft finish its burn and settle into orbit. The screen cast an ethereal glow over his darkened room as he wrapped himself in his blanket and watched the otherworldly scene unfold. He asked what seemed like a million questions about the craft, the mission, and the peope onboard. I love his curiosity about his world.

Finally, the coverage ended and I shut the laptop down as I gave him a last kiss goodnight; the end to a momentous day filled with what I hope will be lifetime memories for him.

Expedition 11 leaves the planet

As I write this, the Soyuz rocket carrying the Expedition 11 crew to the International Space Stations sits poised on the launchpad in Kazakhstan. I'm sitting in my rocking chair, watching my children not sleep, with NASA TV coverage of the launch running in a small window in the corner of my laptop screen.

My daughter alternates between playing on the living room floor and occasionally running over to breathlessly ask if the rocket has launched yet. Not yet, sweetie, but soon.

Somehow, the ability to bring this incredible event home like this is nothing short of magical.

If you read this in the next 10 or so minutes, the media feed can be found here. I suspect they'll have additional coverage from this address in the days to come.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

This media thing becomes odder, still

So I'm sitting at the office minding my own business, writing some tech stuff and generally making a pest of myself, when the phone rings. It's my parents. This can generally mean one of the following, related things:
  • Someone has died.
  • Someone is sick.
  • Something essentially bad has happened.
Yet, as my mother begins to speak, I notice a distinct lack of dread in her voice. In fact, she sounds excited. Phew, my heart returns to its usual spot in my chest from the temporary location deep in my throat.

She speaks rapidly, telling me about how the host of a talk show in Montreal (some 700+ km from my home base in London) is talking about my most recent column. He's asking listeners to share their own experiences of losing a pet. My father chimes in in the background as he tries to listen to the show.

All my parents' friends are calling them, abuzz with the news that my faraway words have, thanks to the convoluted interconnectedness of the media world, landed on the airwaves across the hall from where I used to work.

If you've got speakers, feel free to log into www.cjad.com to hear what the fuss is all about.

Neat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

He rides


The wind was blowing fiercely as Zach asked if we could go back outside after supper. Day after day, he's been doggedly trying to ride his bike. Time and again, he's been laboring back and forth on the road in front of our house, endlessly fighting against the pedals, gravity, balance, and his own frustration. He's ridden up on the curb, whacked his shin and ankle against the pedal, fallen on the ground, and shed a few tears along the way.

But he's continued to push himself to get back on that bike. To try again. To not give up. To finally get it.

My wife and I have watched in awe as he's fought to become a real cyclist. We've stood by as he's gotten his balance for a tantalizing few seconds, only to stop himself out of fear. We've caught our breath as he's kept the pedals turning for longer than he ever has before. He's there, only he needs a few more turns before he believes it himself.

That fear will soon fade as he realizes he really can do this, and do this well. Our son is on the verge of expanding his horizons, of discovering a world that no longer ends at the nearest corner. I can't imagine being more proud of him.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Another Dvorak link (!)

More happy media news this week: My new-best-friend, CBS MarketWatch and PC Magazine columnist John Dvorak has linked to the blog again.

This time, he's picked up the Forbes article, IBM in Denial Over Lotus Notes, in which I was quoted (see earlier blog entry.) He even source-linked me. I think I should have him over for tea next time he's in town.

The link to his blog entry is here: http://www.dvorak.org/blog/?p=1790

(Sorry for the exuberance. This is still so beyond cool!)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Vacation images - ducky revisited

When we drove to Florida last December, we did not deliberately set out to photograph ducks. For some reason, however, avian life seemed to cross our path with the regularity of a grandfather clock. In this case, we came across a family of scovie ducks cutely waddling across the road of my in-laws' development.

I was busy driving at the time, so I intelligently kept my hands away from the camera. Having my wife sternly repeat the phrase, "Keep your hands away from the camera," as I slowly drove our van past the happy ducks may also have had something to do with it.

But when I later came across the same family of birdies while on a morning stroll, I carefully approached and snapped away. Here, Dewey (he didn't run away when I called him that, so I'm just assuming that's his name) shows me his (her?) perching technique. For the record, this one didn't become our dinner. Not kosher.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Oddball headline

Often, while writing an article for publication, writers like to put cheeky headlines at the top of the page. It makes them smile, and it helps provide focus while they write, edit and shape the piece. When the article is finished and is ready for submission, the writers usually replace the headline with something a little more usable.

Sometimes, they forget. When they do, editors almost always pick up on this and change it themselves. This is not always the case, and the result looks something like this piece, published last week on the ARNnet web site: Software fingers workplace bandwidth hogs.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Quoted - Forbes

My two cents made it into a piece in Forbes (!) this morning. The article, written by Daniel Lyons, is called IBM In Denial Over Lotus Notes, and my analyst's thought is right at the bottom (because I always seem to get the last word.)

I'll be ducking to avoid the IBM-zealot hate mail.

Publish Day - saying goodby to a pet

My latest column, Pet's death teaches kids about life, was published in today's London Free Press.

Thankfully, the kids seem to have adapted well to Shadow's passing. My wife and I, on the other hand, still have pangs of missing him. When we returned home from a weekend trip, we missed his incessant meowing at the door. Sometimes we think we see him around a corner. I find myself getting up in the morning, half-expecting him to be waiting at the bottom of the stairs so he can lead me to his food bowl. I guess it will take a while before we adjust to the emptiness.

Zach is already working on us for a dog. I think we'd have to be nuts to bring home another pet anytime soon. I'll entertain a turtle if they can still be legally sold in Canada, but that's about as far as I'm able to go right about now.

Looking back at almost 13 years of having our cat, what sticks out in my mind is how much compassion our kids learned from growing up alongside him. The way they played with him, held him, and touched him was so gentle and caring that you have to know they're better people as a result.

Sure, when they were toddlers they also rode him like a rodeo bull and yanked enough fur off of him to make new pillows for all of us (I'm only being hypothetical here: tell PETA to go home), but they always loved him in a way I simply cannot describe - you just had to sit and watch in wonder whenever they were with him. I'm glad they had him at this stage in their lives, and I hope we can similarly fill their lives with another furry friend sometime soon.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Return to flight approaches

I've had a busy writing week, and as such haven't had a huge amount of time to update the site. Lots of good media things are happening, too, so watch this space for links and news in the days to come.

I'm still working on a secure comment solution for the site. Please e-mail me any suggestions of anything that's worked for you. Now, on with the show...


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I'm taking my own advice and am peering more closely at the neat things in life.

This is a close crop of a much larger picture. I did not take it, but am including it here as an example of how we can see new things by adjusting our respective levels of zoom.

As Discovery moves closer to the launchpad, I suspect I'll be staring at more pictures, looking for more images we'd otherwise miss if we don't look closely enough.