Monday, May 30, 2005

Fire in the sky

London has the most consistently polluted air in the country, if not the entire continent. This is by virtue of our location downwind from a whole lot of nasty industry, as well as the geographic quirks of our land that conspire to trap the same dirty air in a never-ending soup of smog from spring to autumn - and beyond.

But it makes for nice sunsets, dontcha think? Everything has an upside, apparently.

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

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Weekend humor

I think after the week we've all had, now is a good time for a laugh or two. Humor always manages to put the flotsam of life into its proper perspective, and reminds us what really matters.

Your turn: If you have any gems in your archives, I hope you'll consider pasting them into a comment - or to your blog, and linking from a comment - so the laughter will continue.

Thanks to Trillian for sharing this. She has a laser-like ability to scrounge the funniest material from the Net.

Have you ever spoken and wished that you could immediately take the words back...or that you could crawl into a hole? Here are the testimonials of a few people who did....

FIRST TESTIMONY: I walked into a hair salon with my husband and three kids in tow and asked loudly, "How much do you charge for a shampoo and a blow job?" I turned around and walked back out and never went back. My husband didn't say a word... he knew better.

SECOND TESTIMONY: I was at the golf store comparing different kinds of golf balls. I was unhappy with the women's type I had been using. After browsing for several minutes, I was approached by one of the good-looking gentlemen who works at the store. He asked if he could help me. Without thinking, I looked at him and said, "I think I like playing with men's balls."

THIRD TESTIMONY: My sister and I were at the mall and passed by a store that sold a variety of candy and nuts. As we were looking at the display case, the boy behind the counter asked if we needed any help. I replied, "No, I'm just looking at your nuts.." My sister started to laugh hysterically. The boy grinned... and I turned beet-red and walked away. To this day, my Sister has never let me forget.

FOURTH TESTIMONY: While in line at the bank one afternoon, my toddler decided to release some pent-up energy and ran amok. I was finally able to grab hold of her after receiving looks of disgust and annoyance from other patrons. I told her that if she did not start behaving "right now" she would be punished. To my horror, she looked me in the eye and said in a voice just as threatening, "If you don't let me go right now, I will tell Grandma that I saw you kissing Daddy's pee-pee last night!" The silence was deafening after this enlightening exchange. Even the tellers stopped what they were doing. I mustered up the last of my dignity and walked out of the bank with my daughter in tow. The last thing I heard when the door closed behind me, were screams of laughter.

FIFTH TESTIMONY: Have you ever asked your child a question too many times? My three-year-old son had a lot of problems with potty training and I was on him constantly. One day we stopped at Taco Bell for a quick lunch in between errands. It was very busy, with a full dining room. While enjoying my taco, I smelled something funny, so of course I checked my seven-month-old daughter, and she was clean. Then I realized that Danny had not asked to go potty in a while, so I asked him if he needed to go, and he said "No". I kept thinking, "Oh Lord, that child has had an accident, and I don't have any clothes with me." Then I said, "Danny, are you SURE you didn't have an accident?" "No," he replied. I just KNEW that he must have had an accident, because the smell was getting worse. Soooooo, I asked one more time, "Danny, did you have an accident?" This time he jumped up, yanked down his pants, bent over and spread his cheeks and yelled, "SEE MOM, IT'S JUST FARTS!!" While 30 people nearly choked to death on their tacos laughing, he calmly pulled up his pants and sat down. An old couple made me feel better by thanking me for the best laugh they'd ever had!

LAST TESTIMONY: This had most of the state of Michigan laughing for 2 days and a very embarrassed female news anchor who will, in the future, likely think before she speaks. What happens when you predict snow but don't get any.... a true story. We had a female news anchor who, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn't, turned to the weatherman and asked: "So Bob, where's that 8 inches you promised me last night?" Not only did HE have to leave the set, but half the crew did too they were laughing so hard!

Friday, May 27, 2005

In other news... is running this story: Global Crossing Expands VoIP Offering to Europe. I'm quoted here:

Carmi Levy Senior Research Analyst at Info-Tech Research Group characterized the new Global Crossing offerings as notable, but not in an earth-shattering manner. "It's a worthwhile offering that gives carrier customers another option as they seek scalable, cost-effective and easily-implemented VoIP solutions," Levy told "Competition is by definition beneficial to customers."

However, in Levy's opinion, Global Crossing's European announcements aren't differentially unique relative to other services that competitors in this space have announced in recent months. "Everyone is already touting various flavors of robust, secure, and cost-efficient VoIP solutions, and this announcement sounds very familiar as a result," Levy said.

In the U.S. market,where Global Crossing has already deployed some of its VoIP services, the company is overshadowed by the incumbent telecom companies, in Levy's opinion. The incumbents in the US have been aggressively pursuing development and deployment of VoIP products and services. Currently, 85 percent of all subscribers are served by the following four carriers: Sprint Nextel, Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, and Vodafone.

"Global Crossing has traditionally not enjoyed a major brand presence in this market, and the recent wave of mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. doesn't leave it a whole lot of room for growth there," Levy said.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Quoted - on Microsoft

Attention: slightly geeky entry ahead.

Cool things continue to happen in my writer's world: I've been busy with press releases at work this week. I've written and released another one, and because it's about Microsoft, it's getting a bit of attention.

It's entitled VoIP Strategy Positions Microsoft to Compete in Telecom Market, Says IT Analyst Firm.

I'll post updates on fallout here:
  • CFRA News Radio in Ottawa, Ontario just did an interview with me, and it will be on their CFRA Business@Night show between 6 and 7 p.m. (Eastern) tonight. The MP3 of the show will be downloadable from the site afterward.
  • 7:00 p.m.: I just finished listening to the interview via streaming audio on my laptop. My Mom was on the phone - an interesting use of different communication technologies to bridge the distance. You can download the MP3 of the interview here. Scroll down to the entry entitled Biz @ Nite - Int. w/ Carmi Levy.
  • 7:30 p.m.: Tom's Hardware is leading with this story, Microsoft may enter VoIP telecom market - analyst.
May 27, 12:45 p.m.: News travels fast, and far: Telecom Paper in the Netherlands has picked up the release and is running it under the following headline: Microsoft MSS 2004 R2 to help penetrate VoIP market. Problem is, the site is subscription-only. But hey, the Netherlands! May 28
May 30, 7:35 a.m. - More links keep coming in...
May 31, 8:05 a.m.
June 1
  • Telecom Redux. Headline: More on Microsoft VoIP plans. This article is somewhat analytical in tone, and affirms Info-Tech's position relative to that of IDC. The PDF is available here. Here's the intro:
    • Second analyst says software giant is on the move. Watch out telcos...
    • A second industry analyst company is backing the recent finding by IDC that Microsoft is gearing up for a major push into emerging voice over IP (VoIP) markets. This time, though, the software leviathan is cast as a telco competitor rather than collaborator.
  • N24 (Germany).
  • (from China, I think.)
June 2
  • (Chinese? Can you read this?) ...Info-Tech高级研究员Carmi Levy认为,微软SharePoint升级版和即将发布的...
  • Computerworld Hungary. Headline: Távközlés: Óvakodj a Microsoft-tól!
  • (Germany). Headline: Microsoft mischt im VoIP-Markt mit
June 3
And Beyond...

Newsroom blog

Throughout my career, I've lived in two worlds: IT and media. When I first decided to forsake the world of journalism for that of technology, I thought the two were mutually exclusive. I saw myself as a bit out of my element no matter where I worked. In media, I was known as the geek. In IT, I was always "the writer" who didn't come from a pure tech background.

Over time, I've come to realize that the two worlds - and skillsets - are more closely interlinked than I ever thought. And as new forms of media - like blogging, for one - evolve in directions that cannot be fully predicted, we begin to see traditional media evolving as well to ensure they remain viable.

An excellent example of this comes from Spokane, Washington's Spokesman-Review newspaper. The editors there have just launched a blog called Daily Briefing, in which they share the results of the newsroom's daily editorial staff meetings.

Compelling stuff. Will this change the evolution of the newspaper? If so, how? If not, why not?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Music that plays in my head

John Schultz has tagged me with the following musically-themed questions. I normally don’t do taggings, memes, or any other interactive blogging thing. As much fun as they seem to be, I can’t seem to find the time to do them justice. This one was a little different in that I have been wanting for some time to write about the tunes that dance in my writer’s head. Thanks, John, for giving me that initial push.

The total volume of music files on my computer:

Um, lots. I have them backed up on CD, but I hate the noise the PC makes when the optical drive spins up. So I leave ‘em on the hard drive and play them from there. Best guess, 30 gigabytes and counting. I know, bad Carmi.

The last CD I bought was:

You mean you can actually buy CDs? Kidding! The last disc I bought was by Canadian singer/songwriter Amy Sky. In case you don’t know, our country grows female musical artists on trees. We are truly blessed.

Song playing right now:

Untitled (How Could This Happen To Me?) by Simple Plan. Beyond the fact that this band is from my hometown of Montreal, this song is significant in that it underpins Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2005 spring marketing campaign. As you know, we’re heading into the grad/prom season where teenagers will die in ridiculous numbers due to their inability to understand the simple need to separate consumption of alcohol from operation of a motor vehicle. They are, after all, immortal. This song proves otherwise in a poignantly-paced dirge.

Five songs I listen to a lot or mean a lot to me, in no particular order:

  • One of Our Submarines by Thomas Dolby a haunting tune of distance and loss. It proved to the world that the “She Blinded Me With Science” guy was a musical genius, and not simply a one-hit wonder.
  • Halcyon by Chicane it’s an instrumental trance tune, and in and of itself is not especially memorable. But it was the song I was listening to on the morning of September 11, 2001, and as such is indelibly burned into my memory of that day. Music has a way of doing that. What songs are tied to major events in your life?
  • Let Go by Frou Frou this song featured prominently in the (Zach Braff) Garden State soundtrack. It reinforces our need to chuck convention and simply live as fully as we possibly can.
  • Kissing in the Rain by Patrick Doyle & Tori Amos this song was lifted from the score of the Gwyneth Paltrow/Ethan Hawke remake of Great Expectations. Rarely does a song so perfectly match the storyline. This time, it does. And it soars as a result.
  • Ordinary Miracles by Amy Sky the one song that defines what being a parent is all about. When I hear this tune, I’m instantly able to see our youngest son picking his own clothes, getting himself dressed, and achieving all of those miraculous milestones of childhood for the very first time.
  • And You Thought I Was Joking by Color Theory Brian Hazard is a classically-trained one-man band whose music grows more compelling with time. In an age where overproduced non-talent rules the charts, it nice to see a great songwriter cranking out music of substance.

(I know that’s six tunes. Sorry about that: I had trouble editing the list down.)

I’m not quite sure what I do with this tagging thing now (I know, I need a life.) Your turn: If you’ve got a musical inkling to answer these questions on your own blog, please leave a comment and a link below so visitors here can follow your musical choices home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Quoted - IM in the U.K. is running this article, Messaging: Instant Profit, in which I share a thought on IM's place at work.

If my experience with Instant Messaging at home is any indicator, I'd just as soon turn it off. Let us reiterate the Golden Rule of IM once more: if you have something to say, feel free to say it, because IM is a wonderful way to close the distance. However, if you don't have anything real to say, then inane and repetitive messages - think four dozen variations on "Hey, how are you doing?" - do little to advance the cause of humankind.

Said he as he once again put MSN Messenger into Appear Offline mode so he could actually get a bit of work done.

Your turn:
What's your take on IM? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Discuss...

Monday, May 23, 2005

The journey begins...

We've all learned that every journey begins with but one step. In this case, it's the turn of a little guy's foot on the pedal. May all his journeys take him precisely where he wants to go. May he learn early on that you learn as much along the way as you do when you get there. And may he always have someone beside him to help show him the way.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

My one Star Wars entry

I will risk universal geek-wrath by stating my overall disinterest in anything related to Star Wars. Sure, when the original film made its debut in 1977, it represented a new benchmark in special effects. It was also a pretty good, if hopelessly simplistic story of good vs. evil. Just perfect for a kid of that era, and palatable, even, for tagalong parents (come on, Carrie Fisher with the danish on her never forgets that image!)

But time has moved on. And as George Lucas accumulated ever-increasing wealth, his focus on successive generations of CGI technology pulled him away from the simple stories that made the original such an enjoyable cinematic romp. In short, the stories got lousier with time.
Time out: I don't deny Mr. Lucas's positive impact on the technology of special effects. He has been extremely generous in making much of his groundbreaking work available to the general entertainment community. Regardless, his storytelling skills have eroded with time. These days, his storytelling is about as entertaining as a stuttering parrot's. I've digressed long enough. Back to our story...
Lucas's journey into mediocrity begat a whole new generation of satire flicks. The Internet has made it cheap, easy and fun to share the results with the rest of the world.

The latest example, Grocery Store Wars, is a rather bizarre take on why organic vegetables are better than frankenfoods. It's hokey film making - just like Star Wars used to be. And it'll make you think twice the next time you cruise your shopping cart through the produce aisle.

Pull up a cucumber and watch it here. Do it soon before the litigious Hollywoodites call their lawyers and have this site pulled down.

BTW, thank goodness this is the last flick in the series. The world can only take so much, wouldn't you agree?

Publish Day - thinking in 64 bits

Good news from the word world: Processor Magazine has published my latest opinion piece on technology, Are You Ready For 64-Bit Migration?

Now that I think of it, I'm actually not as ready as I thought I was. But more pressing matters - like getting ready to take my bike for an early morning spin - await. Sometimes, technology simply needs to take a back seat to the simpler things in life, like cruising along a riverside bike path, chatting with friends.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

This is CNN...

...and it truly sucks this evening.

Clearly, the biggest news of the day is the big Batman movie premiere. The world waits breathlessly for the release of yet another overhyped Hollywood blockbuster. The planet's truly important issues must be temporarily sidelined while hordes of fans who cannot otherwise get a date rush to the theatres so they can buy overpriced tickets, stuff themselves with overpriced (and really unhealthy) popcorn and watch a movie whose every scene was preordained by focus groups who were fed similarly unhealthy fare in exchange for their valuable opinions.

And if this isn't enough, they leave a glaring spelling error in the link to their "other" top story (see pinkish box on the right.) And don't even get me started about the next story, Mrs. Bush differs with White House message. Sorry, but since when does Mrs. Bush's political opinion matter? What constituency elected her? Oh yes, she was never elected. But to CNN, what she thinks seems to be news. Journalism at its finest, folks.

Yeah, James Earl Jones is probably rethinking his " CNN" gig right about now. And this is what half the planet turns to for news? Give me a break.

My question to you is: Am I the only one who sees the total lack of journalistic merit in what this self-proclaimed paragon of news coverage is putting out?

Please discuss...

(I'll leave Fox News for another day...this focus on CNN has polluted my brain and this site enough for one night.)

Friday, May 20, 2005

The week ends

Here in the Great White North (Canada, where we all live in igloos and have beavers for pets), the end of this week heralds the arrival of the Victoria Day weekend. Monday is a statutory holiday, except for Quebec, which celebrates the Jean Poutine Festival instead, where everyone who supports a sovereign Quebec eats a giant poutine for breakfast before heading off to the depanneur (convenience store to the rest of the planet) to play the scratch lottos and clean them out of their beer inventory.

Which is all well and good, but has relatively little to do with how my work week ended barely an hour ago.

I was busy trying to get through as much work as possible before leaving. Long weekends are great, but they simply mean five (plus) days of work crammed into four. So before I knew it, I was one of the last people left in the building.

When it finally dawned on me that it was beyond late, I went to get ready for the bike ride home. When I came back to grab the last couple of things from my desk, the message light on my phone was on. I hesitated for a second because I really wanted to leave, and didn't want to get involved in any more work. But I reached for the phone and logged into my voicemail box.

I'm glad I did, because a very small voice spoke very tentatively into my ear:
"Hi Daddy. It's Noah. I miss you. Bye."

I left immediately and rode straight home for a very cuddly hug from a sweet 4-year-old. Work will simply have to wait until next week.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Awaiting its fate

While cycling home from work yesterday evening, I passed four old homes that were in the process of being demolished to make way for, what else, an office building. After thinking the scene deserved to be captured before it disappeared forever, I remembered I had my camera in my bike bag.

I slowly walked around the fenced site and filled the camera's memory card, trying to capture tiny elements of the buildings that I thought I'd want to remember later on; things that today's architecture simply can't reproduce, even if it wants to. It occurred to me as I packed the camera away and started rolling home that soon, the buildings would exist only in that form. Although I was going to be late getting home, I was glad I stopped.

This window, looking out over the setting sun, was probably a good place for whoever lived there to curl up and read a book in the dying light of the evening. The light will always shine at that spot, only what's eventually built there will never have the same poetry or meaning as what's there now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Publish Day - hockey lessons

My column in today's London Free Press is entitled Knights make our hearts swell. I wrote it after the hometown hockey team won the Ontario Hockey League championship. In light of the NHL's cancelled season and uncertain future, I thought the London win was a refreshing example of sportsmanship and community involvement.

Given my longstanding cynicism toward team sports in general, I was pleasantly surprised with the direction that this piece took. I'm hoping it will be similarly well-received by proud Londoners.

I've got a few questions for you in light of this:
  • Does the Knights win change your perception of hockey in general?
  • Can a positive regional league experience influence the so-called big league to get off its duff and solve its problems?
  • Given the success of so-called smaller-market sports franchises, are we better served by having no "big leagues" at all?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I've been picked up (updated)

The writing thing gets cooler still...

CRM Today has picked up my analysis of last week's CRTC ruling. Click here to see it, here to see my original blog posting, here to see the release on the wire, and here to see it posted on Info-Tech's site.

Update 12:45 p.m.: The Lycos service has picked it up as well. Click here to see it. I'll add additional links here as they appear.

Update: May 18, 8:30 a.m.: Montreal daily newspaper La Presse is running this story - Téléphonie Internet: la compétition s'aiguise (Internet telephony: the competition sharpens) - based on an interview I gave yesterday. It's in French, and to get at it you might need to register on the site (free), but it's neat all the same. If you're in Montreal, please ask my parents to buy a copy of today's paper :)

And again...May 23, 2:12 p.m.: The press release was run here by CableCaster Magazine (yes, I read them all.)

And yet again...May 26, 12:30 p.m.: The press release was run here by ArriveNet.

Still more...Telecom Policy Report integrated the press release into this piece, Canadian Telco Says VoIP Ruling Won't Deter New Launch.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Literary quote

"A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you."
— Daniel J. Boorstin

So my questions to you are simple:
  • Is the book, as a physical form of delivering and consuming literature, dead?
  • Are downloaded ebooks going to take over from their paper-based ancestors?
  • Why? Why not?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Vacation images - Noah, relieved

Another in an ongoing series of pictures and stories from our grand driving adventure to Florida late last year.

I took this picture of Noah on our now-famous (well, for us, anyway) boardwalk walk through the wetlands (click here and here for my earlier entries on this.) What the picture does not capture is my immense feeling of fatigue after having to carry said little man from the absolute furthest spot on the boardwalk to a really distant portable bathroom beside the parking lot.

He picked that moment, when we were furthest from land, to inform me that he had to pee. Of course, I couldn't have him simply wiz over the side - that's kind of a no-no in a protected, ecologically-fragile area. So I scooped and ran, breathlessly asking people to make way as I desperately tried to get to the magical loo.

When we were done, I slowly walked back with him to meet the rest of the family as they made their way back. Before they got there, I captured him here. As I took the picture, a complete stranger passed us and oohed and aahed over him. "He's soooo cute," exuded she as she slowly walked past and stared at him. Noah smiled shyly in agreement, and another memory was made.

In those few quiet minutes while we waited to meet up with everyone, we chatted about alligators and how they wouldn't make decent housepets. I stopped at every sign and read each one to him. Even though they were technically meant for adults, I turned each one into a story, and he was enthralled. It was a really brief slice of time, and I wish there were more of them.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Security glass is stunning when it does its job, don't you think?

Now I'm an analyst

I don't often share the details of my 9-to-5 job in this venue because, frankly, I don't think you'd all be all that interested in my written perspectives on IT and mid-sized businesses. For the record, I'm a senior research analyst at a technology research firm.

I'm going to make an exception this time out because I like how it turned out, and thought you might like to have a peek at what I do in real life.

Here's the story: After spending Thursday afternoon and evening lying on the couch and trying to coax my insubordinate body back to health, I checked my e-mail after kids'-tuck-in and noticed that the CRTC (Canada's government agency that regulates all things in telecommunications, otherwise known as Big Brother) had handed down a ruling on VoIP telephony. It had been expected for a while, and represented a fairly significant piece of news for this market.

Our PR department had asked me to comment. I'm never one to keep quiet when asked to share my opinion.

I analyzed the decision and wrote up a comment on the announcement - to try to help our client base figure out what it means and how it may or may not affect their IT-related decision making. After reading it over, I really liked how the message resonated. It has been released to the wire here, and has also been posted here on the corporate web site, but I've included it here as well:

Attention Business and Technology Editors

For Immediate Release

CRTC VoIP Ruling Comment

Impact on Mid-Sized Enterprises Expected to be Minimal

London, ON – May 13, 2005 – The impact of yesterday’s CRTC ruling on the regulation of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will not have a direct, near-term impact on mid-sized enterprises, according to leading information technology research firm Info-Tech Research Group.

“The ruling is very clearly focused on residential, consumer services,” says Info-Tech Research Group Senior Research Analyst, Carmi Levy. “However, the ruling does set a precedent for delivery of business-specific services, and the regulatory environment that will evolve around these services in the months and years to come.”

“With that in mind, CIOs and IT managers would do well to examine the specifics of this decision,” says Levy. “It will serve as a harbinger of things to come as traditional telcos and newly-empowered upstarts turn their attention to business-focused offerings.”

Levy believes that anything that fosters a greater degree of competition will ultimately benefit whoever consumes these services. He says the CRTC decision’s core goal is to facilitate an optimal degree of competition between traditional telecommunications companies and newer competitors who are trying to establish a foothold in local telephony service.

“The CRTC decision will level the playing field by forcing the incumbent telecommunications companies to apply for permission to change rates – while newer competitors like pure-play VoIP provider Vonage and cable providers like Rogers will be able to charge whatever they wish without any regulatory approvals,” Levy says.

“In the longer term, the CRTC has made it clear that its goal is to pull back from regulation as each market becomes sustainably competitive,” says Levy. “This announcement represents a stopgap measure by the CRTC to give smaller competitors a bit of breathing room as they work to establish their own positions in the rapidly growing VoIP market. As competitive critical mass is attained, Info-Tech believes it will be in consumers’ best interests to let the market determine what vendors are able to charge.”

Without this announcement, incumbent telecommunications providers would have had more power to leverage their dominant position in the local telephony market. They would be been able to use predatory pricing as a siege tactic against the newer competitors. This announcement will tie the incumbents’ hands to a certain extent. It is hardly a fatal blow to their future prospects, as they possess the resources to creatively identify and pursue viable market opportunities in the wake of this regulatory decision.

About Info-Tech Research Group

With a paid membership of over 25,000 worldwide, Info-Tech Research Group is the global leader in providing information technology research and analysis to the mid-sized enterprise market. It is North America's fastest growing full-service IT analyst firm.


Carmi Levy is available for interviews at [snip] or via e-mail at [click the link on the blog, instead]. For general media inquiries please contact ... Info-Tech Public Relations.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Cool site of the day - ads etc.

A colleague sent me a link to a cool site, Topix. It uses a pretty freaky interface that may or may not blow up in your face if you're not using a pretty recent browser with all the Javascript goodies enabled.

Your challenge: visit the site, enjoy the experience, then pop back here and let everyone know what you think - how it works, how it navigates, how it feels. Also see if you can find the Pillsbury Doughboy/Got Milk spot. Very cute stuff!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Work in the news

My place of employment, Info-Tech Research Group, was featured in today's Toronto Star (Canada's largest daily paper, if memory serves.) The article's entitled How to spot a good thing and build on it.

I take a certain amount of silent pride in the fact that my research and writing contributes to this. OK, maybe it's not so silent.

Anyway, coverage is always a good thing. I'd best get back to cranking out more intelligent-sounding words so that this article is followed by additional ones. More later, I'm sure.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Annals of parenthood

While filling the car with gas this morning, I happened across a scene that saddened me immensely. I was taking our youngest, Noah, to a dentist's appointment when I realized two things: we were running ahead of schedule (frightening...I'm never early for anything) and the gas tank was approaching empty.

Cheapskate that I am, I also noticed the station up ahead was selling its horrifically polluting petrochemical product for around 4 cents/litre less than anyone else. I did the time/cost math in my head and pulled in.

Noah bantered to me through the open window as I topped off the tank. As I finished with the pump and went around the car to fetch him so we could go inside and pay, I heard a commotion as a father emerged from the little store/cashier's building. It played out like this:

Crying young daughter (around 5, I guess): "I want a toy."
Father: "We don't have time. Next time I might buy you one."
Daughter (not moving from her spot in front of the building): "You promised."
Father (walks briskly, alone, to the car. Calls another driver a 'shmuck' for accidentally opening his car door in his path. Other driver apologizes; shmuck statement hangs in the air): "If you don't come here right now, I'll let all these cars run you over."
Daughter: Waaaaaaaa.....

After a few seconds of this little standoff, the father walked back to the girl, abruptly grabbed her, walked her back to the car, deposited her roughly through the open front passenger window into the front seat, and went around to his side. No child seat, no booster, no seat belt.

I am ashamed that I did nothing. But my instinct to protect my own child won over my wish to possibly get involved with a clear-cut nutcase.

I held my little guy closer as we went inside. He hugged me back and kissed me. The cashier smiled broadly at us and commented about how sweet he was. Some blessings just can't be understated.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Webcam voyeurism

When you spend your days researching and writing, you end up devoting copious amounts of time to searching the Internet. Most of what is out there is pure, unadulterated fecal matter. Your mission is to sift through said sewage to identify the nuggets worth writing about. It's not glamorous work by any means - for that you need to know how to lip sync on past-their-prime sketch comedy programs - but it certainly beats sifting through the real stuff.

Sometimes you come across a resource that seems to have no logical reason for existing. But for some reason you find your eyes drawn to the screen like Lot's wife to the city of Sodom or, more recently, Uncle Duke to Daisy's, um, attributes.

As hard as you try, you simply cannot rip your gaze away from the surreal scenes unfolding before you, so compelling are they to your psyche.

Such is the case with this site. A colleague sent it around earlier today. I have no idea why it was built. Perhaps to showcase this company's fine assortment of network traffic utilities. Who knows. Who cares. The truth of the matter is it's fun to watch a series of webcams showing people at work.

The site includes some fairly extensive choices for cameras, angles, and other features. It's best viewed during business hours (the company's located in the U.S. Central time zone) because that's when the theoretical rats in the office maze are most active.

Watching the obese guy chomp down on a burger at his desk was especially priceless.

Warning: addictive.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Out of the mouths of babes

The scene:

Shopping mall parking lot this past weekend. I've taken the kids to pick up a Mother's Day gift for my wife. Their mission is to make sure we get something she likes. The side mission is, of course, to give Mom a bit of quiet time at home.

Little guy Noah is frowning as I help him out of the minivan. I know the look. It's the "I'm tired so you need to carry me" look.

Sure enough, once he's on the ground, he reaches his arms up toward me and says:
"I'm really not much of a walker."
He's 4. I pinch myself, then scoop him into my arms and carry him into the mall.

Apparently, little people do speak like adults more often than we suspect.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Flowers for Mother's Day

It's unfortunate that the calendar only has one day set aside to thank Moms for all they do and all they are. They really do deserve more.

So no matter when your browser happens to come across this entry, give your Mom a call just to say hi. Or someone else's Mom: they're all worthy of a little TLC in return.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Another oddball headline

Thank goodness for headline writers with senses of humor. I posted this on the blog last month. And now comes another juicy collection of words, courtesy of CNN: Woman beats off burglar with gnome.

I won't even begin to discuss the possibilities.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A family, destroyed

The Detroit Free Press ran this article in yesterday's paper, Swerving SUV wipes out promising lives, and this in today's edition: Man charged with murder in car crash. A mother and her two young sons were killed when a man whose alcohol was tested at 0.43 (no, that's not a typo) drove his SUV at 70 mph into the family's Honda. He didn't brake; just ploughed into them and ended three lives in the process.

The tragedy has left a husband and a father wondering why - his life and his world shattered.

I can't begin to understand what motivates people to drink and drive. But I have written about it in the past, that every time I kiss my wife and kids goodbye as they drive to school in the morning, I worry about what someone like the now-charged drunk in Michigan might do to them.

I have no words. Only a deep-seated anger against the people who commit these monstrous crimes, and the laxness of society that allows the carnage to continue. I only hope there is justice beyond this world, for nothing the State of Michigan can dole out will ever reconcile what this man did to this family.

Update 05/07/05: Media outlets in the Detroit area continue to run followups to this tragic story. I'll post them here as applicable:
Update 05/08/05: And more...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Never forget

Zach and I attended a ceremony at our synagogue this evening to commemorate Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He sang with his school choir while other children read off the names and ages of some of the victims. Never mind that the sheer number of victims, 6 million murdered by the Nazis, would take years to read off. The numbers are too enormous to comprehend, and time does nothing to change that.

What stuck in my mind was that each child had a story, a life, a world. In all cases, they were brutally cut short by individuals who, driven by hatred, decided they had no right to exist.

It can happen again if we let it. But by continually shining the light on its roots, we stand a fighting chance of avoiding the mistakes made two generations ago, when thew world stood by for too long and did nothing.

Tonight, Holocaust survivors and their families participated in the ceremony, no doubt opening old wounds as they recalled their own experiences during that time of incomprehensible hell. But I couldn't help but feel encouraged that my child and his friends were learning the lessons of the past so that our future will be somewhat less stained.

Update - Readings: The Toronto Star's Rosie DiManno is in Poland to cover the 60th anniversary commemoration ceremonies. As always, she is riveting in her prose:

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Wirelessly blogging the space station

I'm sitting on a rock a few meters from my front door, staring into the inky black sky at a dot that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. I say "seemingly" because I knew precisely when and where it would appear.

See, I'm watching the International Space Station fly over my house. I periodically go outside when the NASA tracking software says viewing opportunities will be favorable, crane my neck skyward and hope I didn't misread the data.

There's no logical reason why I'm doing this. Already a couple of neighbors have driven by and given me weird looks, wondering what a guy in a trenchcoat is doing outside with a glowing notebook computer on his lap and a similarly glowing PalmPilot beside him.

The fact that I am sitting here on a lonely rock, typing this as the craft zips 350 km over my head at some 28,000 km/hr doesn't accomplish anything tangible and doesn't contribute to the advancement of humankind. But it makes the unreal seem somewhat more real and the distantly magical somewhat less distant - but no less magical. It's one of those little non-routine things that you can do over the course of an otherwise routine day, one of those things that makes you stop and mumble "cool" under your breath.

I hope you find similarly neat little things to fill your days as well. Life wouldn't be the same without them.

Publish Day - following your dreams

I got to do something really cool in my latest London Free Press column: I interviewed a former colleague who's building a musical career while still managing to work full-time - and balance a family life as well. Her pursuit has always struck a parallel chord in my mind, probably because words are a lot like music, and the folks who create both tend to share a deep-seated wish to get them out there where they can do some good.

The column is entitled Shelly Rastin living her musical dream. It's not often that a chat on a park bench with a friend leads to something that's not only publishable, but inspiring. Lucky me.

BTW, her web site can be found here. Further proof that following your bliss is a good thing to do.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Have these instead

My long-suffering wife has had to deal with my habit of taking pictures of food practically since the day we met. I feel for her - I really do - but I can't seem to shake this photographic-culinary addiction. Food is simply too much fun to not capture in pixels.

There isn't anything scientific or planned about this one. I thought it was neat how the eggs bunched themselves together at the bottom of the bowl. We always think of them as uniformly round, but the way they're arranged suggests a more complex, straight-line-formed shape.

I was also able to capture this without risking my grocery-aisle shopping privileges, which is always a good thing. Still up in the air is whether she'll allow me near the kitchen with a camera in my hand. Time will tell.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The New PL - not so new

This just in...

London has one broadcast television station*, known as The New PL. Its title is a bit of a joke given that it's had this title - or brand, as the televisionaries like to say - for years. Its newness wore off long ago, yet the ridiculous name persists. Worse, affiliate stations in sparsely populated outposts sport the same idiotic branding, right down to the logo. Way to save money at HQ, folks.

So it comes as something of a relief that the Big Bad Owners in the Big Bad City have announced plans to rebrand their TV properties in this part of the world.

Sure, the news will still be a joke, staffed by reporters who have difficulty enunciating and wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in purgatory of succeeding in any other market. And, yes, the schedule will still be populated by Dukes of Hazzard reruns and anything with Pamela Anderson (Lee? Who cares anymore?)

Here's the announcement, pulled off of Canadian Press - Canada's real newswire service. I've taken the liberty of sharing my thoughts in embedded editorial comments. Enjoy:
Six stations in Ont., B.C. to take A-Channel name

TORONTO — CHUM Television will rebrand six local stations in Ontario and British Columbia as A-Channels for the fall 2005 television season, officials announced today.

The company said the five southern Ontario stations slated for revamp included The New VR in Barrie, The New RO in Ottawa/Pembroke, The New PL in London, The New WI in Windsor, and Wingham's The New NX; while The New VI [can you see a pattern here? - ed.] in Victoria, B.C., would be the sole Western station included in the plan.

The stations' local mandate would remain unchanged [so we can continue to run them as cheaply as possible - ed.], officials said. However, in rebranding them as A-Channels, they would share a common name and creative elements, allowing CHUM to take full advantage of promotional opportunities [and save incredible amounts of money so we can spend more on limos and cheese for our execs in Toronto - ed.]

"Using a single brand name for the stations [has allowed us to slice six creative positions at our headquarters, opening up more budgetary flexibility for the aformentioned cheese and limos - ed.] opens tremendous national cross-promotional opportunities across our media assets [blah, blah, blah...your PR/hack instructor would be so proud that you came up with that on your own - ed.] that are unavailable when operating under six separate station names," said spokesman David Kirkwood in a release. [He forgot to mention the colors in the current cross-chain logo were starting to give the chairman migraines - ed.]

The reformatting would give the company a total of six A-Channel and five Citytv stations [and would also give viewers in all affected markets even less choice than they had before. Did anyone notice that not once are viewer benefits mentioned here? Bless the 500-channel universe!]

CHUM Television, a division of CHUM Limited (TSX: CHM.NV.B), owns and operates 33 radio stations, 12 local television stations and 21 specialty channels across Canada [and would own even more if the draconian Canadian government didn't constantly stick its fingers into Canada's cultural industries. Damn them - ed.]

* I realize Rogers Television also has its own hometown cable access channel. But it's not technically a broadcast outlet because it's cable-only. Oh yes, and the book lady weirds me out when she interviews people. So I try to avoid watching. Besides, who has time to watch television anyway?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

What passes for news

By now, the entire world knows about Jennifer Wilbanks. They know she faked her kidnapping because she was nervous about her wedding. They know she lied until she could lie no more. They know she was the only person to fly the friendly skies on Saturday with a multicolored towel on her head.

CNN led with this story for much of the day on Saturday. Her sad tale occupied the coveted top spot on the snooze network's web site. They even ran a Big Red Breaking News banner at one point. On the telly, they repeated the same inane walking-through-the-airport video for the entire day while everyone and his/her dog called in to comment. As if she hasn't milked it enough already, she's already booked on Jerry Springer (hopefully not after the chair-flinging, vertically-challenged circus acrobats with really bad haircuts.) Oh yes, she also received donations from some of the law enforcement folks who helped her. Wow, such news.

Some perspective might be in order:
  1. This wasn't headline news. Not even close.
  2. This shouldn't have even been a kicker on the local fake news.
  3. Real resources were wasted while more worthy problems in the world remained unsolved. This commentary touches on some of the fallout.
  4. America wouldn't be America without race popping into the equation. This commentary rightfully touches on a true disappearance involving a young woman who happens to be African-American.
  5. It does make for funny satire. To wit this piece from the site Unconfirmed Sources.
Finally, her now-famous fiance, John Mason, has some thinking to do. Perhaps this, this, and this might help him navigate the coming days.

I hope they donated the food from the cancelled 600-person wedding to a worthy charity. That's pretty much the only good that could come from this pathetic affair, and this ridiculous show of misplaced journalistic priorities by the media who covered this so-called story.