Friday, March 31, 2006

The view...

...out my hotel window in Dallas.

I always take my camera with me whenever I go on a trip. Originally, it was to serve as a roadmap to remember a strange and new place. But the first time I brought scads of digital pictures home, I discovered an even better reason: my kids thought it was really cool.

History repeated itself on my arrival home from Dallas: everyone gathered around the laptop as I offloaded the camera and ran the slide show. They listened to the funny stories attached to each image. They asked question after question about what it was like to be where I was. Suddenly, my faraway journey wasn't so distant for them.

Your turn: What stories do you tell your family when you return home from abroad?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Home again, looking forward

The interesting thing about flying home from a conference as large as Convergence is that even though you have left the convention centre, checked out of your hotel and officially left the conference site, the conference really hasn't left you.

This became fairly apparent when my cab pulled up to the curb at the airport. Every second person walking into the departures area was wearing or carrying the Microsoft backpack that the company had given to all attendees. On the surface, it's great marketing. Beyond that, though, it represents the challenge of all attendees to convert what they've learned into sustainable action for their businesses.

I ended up sitting behind, next to, and in front of other attendees, and the flow of conversation throughout the flight suggested I wasn't the only one who was churning lingering thoughts of opportunity in my head.

Over the next few days, I'll unpack, review my notes and give them the thought they deserve. I'll update my own action plan, figuring out how to best write about what I've learned. I imagine the other 10,000 folks are doing much the same thing. I guess a simple get-together of like-minded souls can have far-reaching implications to the way we run our businesses - and our everyday lives.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Doug speaks of community

Doug Burgum is a Senior Vice President at Microsoft, and he delivered this morning's keynote. He spoke eloquently about the meaning of community, and as is so often the case when he speaks, the discussion transcended the world of technology. Whether or not you work in technology, you owe it to yourself to watch the podcast to get a sense of what makes a person excel both in business and in life. (The link to the podcast is here. The transcript link is supposed to be here, but it seems to be down at the moment.)

He ended his talk with a quote that reinforced why we need to take the time to consider the perspective of those around us. It is from anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978). Here it is:
"Never underestimate that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
I'll explore this more in a later post. I simply wanted to let you all know that while I often write about the technological components of everyday life, it is with a broader view of how said technology can be used to change the world.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Gates keynote - quick thoughts

Just got back from the keynote address by Bill Gates. This is the second time I've been privileged to see him speak live, and each time I've been struck by his ability to relate the underlying technology to the everyday lives we lead at work and at home.

This year's Microsoft Convergence conference is focusing on the rapidly emerging family of Microsoft Dynamics software products. We've seen a range of gee-whiz composite applications that make it easy to implement complex processes. All of this points to a pretty bright future for anyone who uses a computer to get work done and stay on top of rapidly evolving business scenarios.

With all this magic around us, however, it's easy to get caught up in the technology angle of it all. It's easy to become so consumed by the wizardry of the code that we forget why this code exists in the first place.

Gates doesn't. There are over 10,000 people here, many of them the bread and butter customers who have businesses to run, as well as employees and family members who count on them to keep the wheels turning so they can put food on the table. The tools we're learning about here allow business people to get more out of the time they spend tending their business. These tools allow folks to compete more effectively in a cut-throat market. Then they let them get home in time to spend more time with their kids.

I get the sense from people I'm speaking to here in Dallas that technology matters to them at a fundamental level, but not because the interface is fancy or the clock speed is high. It's because it lets them be better people (read my sidebar...this is a pretty fundamental focus of mine.)

It's the kind of message that doesn't really come through in an e-mail or a webcast. It's the kind of message that hits home when you're informally chatting with a complete stranger in the hallway on the way to your next demo; when the lightbulb in your head goes off because you realize these people are getting ahead because ot it. It's the kind of message I'll keep in mind as I flesh out the reams of research that this experience will inspire in the weeks and months to come. This stuff matters to people: my words must reflect that somehow.

Incidentally, Mr. Gates is, along with his wife, the world's greatest philanthropist. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated well over $6 billion to education, health care and other causes. At the end of his keynote, he discussed his efforts in this often-overlooked area. He spoke eloquently about what it will take to reduce America's shockingly high dropout rate and rein in diseases that kill millions worldwide.

He showed that cool code has implications that extend far beyond the screen. Something else to keep in mind as I digest all I've learned thus far this week.

I've got to go get ready for my next session. More later...

To read the transcript from his talk, click here.

One more thing: I've had a link to this blog added to the Convergence Bloggers web site. Click on the Press link toward the bottom of the left-hand sidebar. You'll find a familiar link if you do. Posts from here are also being fed to the Microsoft page. Don't forget to wave.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Breakfast with a twist

It's been a quiet weekend on the blog thanks to my schedule here at the conference. I've been spending a lot of time in briefings and in sessions with vendors. I've picked up so much insight from everyone I've encountered that it seems as if I've been here for ages. Yet I've been in town for under 36 hours. Time does funny things when you're going flat-out.

There are about 10,000 folks here, but what really struck me was the breakfast I had with one particular person this morning.

He's a global vice-president of a really large software company that most of you know. We had a great discussion about what makes a mid-sized business tick. Since I work for a company whose technology research focuses on the mid-sized space, it was refreshing to speak to someone so accomplished who so gets the unique challenges these companies face.

Once I got past my starstruck phase, I was able to settle back into my role as a technology analyst who likes to write cool stuff and interview cool folks. I asked a lot of questions and shared my perspectives with someone who really wanted to know what I thought. I jotted down scribbly notes under the table so that I wouldn't forget these pearls of wisdom. My mind boggles when I think of the ideas that are churning in my head as a result of our discussion.

I was asked to have an hour of this top gun's time because someone somewhere thought it would be a worthwhile investment. Note to anonymous benefactor: it was. Many thanks indeed.

Sometimes, I wonder why they call this work. It doesn't feel that way to me.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Taking off

In a few minutes, I'm going to pack up my laptop, double-check that every important cable and document made it into my luggage, and carefully kiss my wife and kids goodbye before heading off into the dark night to catch an early-morning flight to Dallas, TX.

I'm attending the Microsoft Convergence 2006 Conference. In my real life, I'm an analyst with a technology research firm, and a significant portion of the research I do focuses on end-user computing - which means I read, write and speak about Microsoft rather often.

For the next few days, I'll be listening to and speaking extensively with many of the people at the center of this fascinating world. I look forward to learning more about the technology that makes everyday business tick. It may sound somewhat arcane on the surface, but when you realize just how much this influences daily life, you start to view it in different terms. It comes alive.

I hope you take the time to return during my journey to see what I've uncovered. I'll share thoughts and perspectives - and likely an image or two (or three) - before packing everything up again and heading home midweek.

Wherever you're travelling this weekend, have a safe trip. See you from the southwest.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Deerfield Beach, FL, January 3, 2006

The world around him brews with chaos, but Noah's focus on his own play is absolute.

I must have watched him for ages, and could have watched him indefinitely if we had had the time. He was so deep in his playworld that he didn't even know I was there.

May he always be able to find his own bliss wherever he is. May the rest of us have the wisdom to follow his lead.

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Addict's widow sues

This is the fifth and last column from my previous writing cycle for the paper. I'm still behind in getting my columns posted - life's just too jam-packed with work to spend the time scanning and posting - so, oddly, I've been publishing new columns in the paper all this week while I've been blog-posting my pieces from earlier this month. I'll catch up. Eventually.

I have immense respect for the police. They risk life and limb every day. And in doing so, they come in contact with crackheads and other troubled humans who, in the blink of an eye, can end a career or a life.

Sometimes, the folks they try to save from themselves end up dying in the process. And sometimes officers get sued.

This is one such case. If the world has any justice, the jury will take one look at this lawsuit and laugh it out of court.
Taser lawsuit wrong on all levels
Published Saturday, March 4, 2006
The London Free Press

I’ve heard of frivolous lawsuits, but this one should win some sort of prize. Many of us have heard the story of Peter LaMonday, a drug addict who died in May 2004 after police subdued him with a taser gun. It took seven officers responding to reports of a man breaking a window on Hamilton Road to take LaMonday, who was high on crack cocaine, into custody.

The cause of death was cited as “a cocaine-induced excited delirium while in a prone position.”

The province’s Special Investigations Unit subsequently cleared all officers. A coroner’s inquest led to new protocols for taser use.

Now his widow is suing the cops and the London Health Sciences Centre for $2.8 million, alleging negligence in the investigation, arrest and care.

This appears to be little more than a blatant play for cash from taxpayers’ pockets. Worse, it masks the larger-scale issue: Drug addiction is a tragedy that continues to eat its way into the core of society.

I feel sorry for LaMonday’s widow, but a lawsuit against those who dedicate their lives to fight this scourge is just plain wrong.

Your turn: Does this case have a prayer? Should it have been allowed to proceed at all?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Dying hospitals

Canada is blessed - or cursed, depending on your perspective - with a government-funded health care system that aims to deliver a basic level of care to all Canadians, regardless of their socioeconomic status. It's one of the hallmarks of the country, but it's been in severe financial straits for years.

When the province of Alberta - currently flush with cash and feeling very cocky because it hosts the majority of Canada's oil resources - began making noise about privatizing parts of the system and challenging the federal government's will, I began to see the roots of a counterproductive debate that would further undermine the national system.

A recent announcement to cut the budget of a local hospital gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Health-care policies ignore local needs
Published Friday, March 3, 2006
The London Free Press

While Ottawa bickers with Alberta over the legality of privately-run health care, hospitals closer to home are starving to death. St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital has just announced 56 job cuts as it tries to control its deficit.

Hospitals across the province have been forced to practise this nip-and-tuck approach to fiscal management since Queens Park ordered all institutions to balance their books. And when the money allocated by the government fails to keep pace with changing demand, hospitals have no choice but to cut to the bone.

These latest cuts will reduce the hospital’s deficit by $2.8 million. But they won’t eliminate it. Could additional budget-cutting lie in store?

However this plays out, the results are always devastating to the community: Patients fail to receive timely, high-quality care, doctors leave and the freefall continues.

The future of health care in this country won’t be secured by senseless territorial battles between different levels of government.

If anyone in the hallowed halls Parliament is paying attention, we’re dying here.

Your turn: Can society afford to have a minimum health care standard? Can it not afford it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lines by Dahlia

Be afraid, very afraid. My wife and I have apparently passed on our love of all things visual to our two eldest children. We bought Zach his first camera while we were on vacation, and he's been clicking away ever since. Dahlia, not wanting to be left out, has been clamoring for some shutter time of her own ever since.

So we started doing walkabouts: tours of the neighborhood where we simply shoot whatever occurs to us. On one walk with Dahlia, she spent more of her time looking down, trying to tease out the interesting scenes that we usually miss because we're busy looking forward. This is her perspective of parking lines, pavement and shadows. It's scary how much she thinks like me.

Your turn: Look down. What do you see?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Interviewed - ROB Television

I had one of those days at work when nothing goes as planned - which only made it that much more fascinating.

I got to chat about iPods, XBox 360s and Google Finance on live television. Report on Business Television's Pat Bolland interviewed me for his show, The Trading Desk.

We spoke about Apple's upcoming new iPods, Microsoft's strategy to beat off Sony's PS3 and Google's latest beta release. It was the kind of fast-moving interview that I used to love to do when I worked in radio. Now I get to sit on the other side of the microphone. It should be criminal to enjoy work this much.

Anyway, here's the link to the page. I wasn't able to find a direct link to the actual video clip, so you'll need to scroll down to the following block first before clicking the Play button:
3:33 PM ET
The Trading Desk with Pat Bolland
Tech, Tech, Tech
Carmi Levy, senior research analyst, Info-Tech Research Group
Duration: 6 m 38 s

As if to underscore the happily bizarre nature of my life these days, I went back to the office and did a live interview for 580 CFRA Radio in Ottawa. Some days, I have way too much fun when I go to work. Onward...

Curious about George

Curious George was always my favorite children's character - and remains so even as I move through adulthood.

When I was a kid, I loved the story about how he swallowed a puzzle piece and had to go to the hospital for an operation. I read that book religiously when I went to the hospital for my own brand of childhood medical fun. I always felt a bizarre kinship with this two-dimensional cartoon monkey because of this.

On my way home from Phoenix a few weeks ago, I bought Curious George stuffies for the kids in an airport store. They had just seen the movie, and my wife carefully reminded me that returning home with CG-branded goods would make them very happy munchkins. I also picked out a smaller George for my wife - can't come home empty-handed, after all. I left the gift shop and waited for my plane.

As I watched other aircraft come and go, I decided to have an impromptu Curious George photo shoot. I propped my wife's George on my knapsack and had the little guy look pensively out the window at the airplanes. I clicked away to the amusement of everyone who walked by. My stock response when they asked me what I was doing was, "Curious George goes to the airport." I think I made lots of new friends that day. (The blog entry is here, and the picture itself is here.)

On the surface, I was being silly with a stuffed monkey in a strange place far from home. But on a whole other level, I felt like I had reconnected with a little kid who long ago walked, scared, into a hospital, clutching a Curious George doll.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Ward politics

I don't often get political when I write on the op-ed page. But sometimes I get riled up enough to point my pen in the general direction of city hall. Municipal politics can be such a fun, soupy swamp that it's difficult to stay away forever. Every once in a while, I feel the need to come home.

So this time out I touched on the city's response to a provincial body's (the Ontario Municipal Board) edict that London move to a 14-ward municipal map. The city decided to fight the order, at great cost to citizens. In the end, it lost. We paid the bill. Suckered again.

But rather than focus on what had already come and gone, I hoped to turn the discussion toward the future. So I wrote about the ward thing. The city wards, not Ward Cleaver.
Vital to leard from ward appeal debacle
Published Thursday, March 2, 2006
The London Free Press

It would be easy to say I told them so.

Now that the Superior Court has upheld the Ontario Municipal Board’s decision to implement a 14-ward municipal electoral map within London, opponents of the city’s decision to appeal would be well justified in gloating.

Gloating, of course, gets us nowhere. Yes, we blew anywhere between $75,000 and $100,000 on the appeal. Yes, the $435-an-hour lawyer we hired to fight the decision has come out of this a winner.

But to look back and agonize over this silly affair will only perpetuate the pain. It’s time to learn our lesson and move on.

That lesson is simple: our civic leaders must learn when to fight the good fight and when to let things be. If it adds value to citizen’s lives, it’s worth pursuing. If it enriches some lawyer's bank account, they may want to let it slide.

I’m sure that many voters will remember this lesson the next time they vote. In the meantime, our 14 brand-new wards await us.

Your turn: $435 an hour! I don't really have a question here. I just had to repeat the figure. I'm definitely in the wrong business.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Quoted - National Post - DigiMemo

I received a nice surprise late last night when a friend e-mailed me and told me that I had been quoted in the National Post. The piece is called The Luddite's BlackBerry and the piece was written by Angela Brunschot. I was asked to share my thoughts on a new device called the DigiMemo.

Of course, it was approaching midnight, and the National Post is not one of the papers that arrives at my house every morning. So after sharing the happy news with my wife, I followed her suggestion to head over to the 24-hour grocery nearby and see if they still had a copy.

I disappeared into the night and managed to find the paper in question. When I went to pay for it, I was politely advised by the very helpful cashier that, since it was after midnight, she could no longer sell the paper. But she would give it to me for free as long as I accepted said paper without the masthead. (Like, sure!)

Out came the little scissors. Back went my money into my pocket. Home I went with my prize. Sometimes, the work that I do is cool beyond words.

Click on the image above to bring up the high-res version. Here's the full text:
For those few who have yet to master the art of thumbing their notes into a hand-held device, there's a low-tech, reasonably priced alternative.

The DigiMemo is a handwriting-recognition device that records your notes, scribbles and doodles, which can then be uploaded to your computer in the form of images or text files. You simply write on regular paper with the special Digital Inking Pen, then you plug the device into your computer's USB port to transfer your work. The files can be exported straight to Word documents or e-mails.

The technology is nothing new, says Carmi Levy, a senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research, in London, Ont., which provides IT research and advice to mid-sized businesses. He describes the DigiMemo as a "glorified electronic clip board."

Technically speaking, the DigiMemo uploads files in jpg or giff format. What that means is you get a digital picture of your notes. The MyScript Notes handwriting-recognition software transforms your notes from written to typed documents. The results are not 100% accurate, but you can train the program to pick up certain nuances of your handwriting.

"There is no such thing as perfect conversion yet. The human voice and the human hand are still too variable for computers to follow perfectly," says Mr. Levy.

The DigiMemo is manufactured by Selwyn Electronics, a U.K. company ( The starter package costs about $130 before shipping. The software is about $70, and spare pens around $30 each.

If you prefer to dictate notes into your computer, voice recorders with voice-to-text software are another option. Sony has a version that is priced around $400. It includes a storage feature that allows you to use memory sticks or media cards to store recordings (ICDMX20, Panasonic also has a voice recorder with voice-to-text software that costs about $200 (RRUS050,

© National Post 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Stinky sewage plant plans

Something smells in the land of London. I was clear across the continent when I wrote this, but through the wonders of wireless Internet access, I was able to remote-file from the lobby of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building.

Life is sweet sometimes. Unlike the topic of this missive.
Sewage plant plans need more study
Published Wednesday, March 1, 2006
The London Free Press

Any business owner knows that it costs money to make money. But investing in the future is a tricky game that has more questions than answers: How much should be invested? How fast should it be spent? Will it drive profitability enough to justify the outlay?

It’s a conundrum that London currently faces as it debates plans to build a new sewage treatment plant for the city’s southwest end.

On the one hand, we need to spend the $134 million on the plant and related services to support continued growth. This is how London competes against other cities for new investment.

On the other hand, we can’t spend ourselves into a debt-created fiscal prison.

The fact that so little is currently known about the returns suggests that city employees should be spending a little more time with their spreadsheets. Londoners deserve to know the full fiscal picture.

If businesses of all size follow the investment-return model, is it too much to ask that our city does the same?

Your turn: Does your city's management of projects like this cause your blood pressure to rise? What is it about Frank Lloyd Wright that makes me think of sewage?

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Champions of tomorrow

I've fallen behind in the effort to post my published work to the blog. I'm going to try to catch up in one fell swoop today. Otherwise, my last run of columns will descend into the dusty history of my hard drive. We wouldn't want that, would we?

This piece was written just as the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy were closing. Whenever a major milestone-type event occurs, I tend to reflect on the meaning of life. I guess I'm trying to figure out what it all means, and where we fit. Either that or I'm looking for an excuse to avoid real work.

Either way, while I was waxing poetic over alignment of the planets, I noticed some neighborhood kids (though, here in Canada, we add the "u" in a nod to our British roots) playing street hockey. A column was born.
Future Olympians start in the 'hood
Published Tuesday, February 28, 2006
The London Free Press

I watched some kids from my neighbourhood spend an entire Sunday afternoon playing street hockey.

Truth be told, they really weren't very good at it. They spent more time missing passes and fishing their ratty tennis ball out from underneath parked cars than actually playing.

But when the clouds rolled in and the snow started to fly, they stayed outside, missing passes and crawling under dirty cars.

Every once in a while, a grown-up would drive up, park the car, and hurry into a nearby home to escape the chill. These kids in their mismatched hooded sweaters and tuques kept playing, oblivious to the weather.

I watched this spectacle at almost the exact moment Canadian athletes were finishing up our country's best Olympic performance in history. They walked into the stadium in Turin as champions, yet each one of them had to start somewhere. I'm certain each one of them carried a memory of a childhood playground.

I wonder if I perhaps witnessed a future Olympian on that snowy afternoon.

Your turn: What's your story of sports excellence? What drove you to excel? (Note: you need not be an Olympian to respond. I'm sure your childhood t-ball experience would be just as poetic.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Droplets. Frozen.

Do you ever wonder what happens to images of water when they're frozen by a fast shutter speed and a flash?

So did I. So I (carefully) played in the shower and conjured up this image. Click on the picture to zoom in.

Something tells me my lenses and I will be spending more time around moving water in the near future.

Through the eyes of a child

My parents live in a condo that overlooks a bucolic little corner of town. A lazy tributary (under the railing) of the mighty Riviere des Prairies (toward the top of the shot) winds its way around their neighborhood. Their balcony overlooks an ever-changing kaleidoscope of color and texture as the sun paints the landscape on its daily journey across the sky.

This is our little man taking it all in. His Zaydie was still in the hospital, but he took time out from playing with his Bubby (grandmother) to step outside for a moment and scope out his surroundings.

What I'd give to know what was going through his active mind at that moment.

Your turn: What goes through your mind as you take in this vista?

Friday, March 17, 2006

To shoot or not to shoot

I was raised to believe that cameras are not supposed to be brought into certain places. Synagogues, hospitals and homes whose families recently lost a loved one are all places where cameras have traditionally been unwelcome.

I've kept my own camera out of hospitals out of respect for this unwritten rule. But as we walked into the hospital last week to see my Dad, I was struck by how deeply I wanted to somehow record that particular time and place.

But I didn't want to tick anyone off. So blatantly shooting flash pictures around the nurses' station was a non-starter. A subtle approach - honed, no doubt by years of vegetable-aisle shooting at the local grocery store - was more in order. A bit of humor went a long way toward getting everyone around me comfortable with the fact that the camera had come out.

In the end, I quietly shot close-in details of things I thought would resonate with anyone who's spent any amount of time in one of these places. I tried to capture the dim light, the curious mixture of sadness and hope that defines these places.

Your turn: What would you record if you could bring a camera into a hospital? Why?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Iced duck

My favorite pictures are often the ones that I did not originally plan to take.

Hovering over the edge of a small bridge near my parents' house this past weekend, I was doing my best to avoid looking like a potential jumper to anyone who drove by. I tried to keep the camera visible so that folks wouldn't run out of their cars and tackle me from the knees in their attempts to "save" me.

I had noticed some neat patterns in the ice when we drove by earlier in the morning. It seemed as if the water had frozen almost instantly, solidifying the waves in a semi-permanent image that I won't soon forget.

In the middle of composing what I thought was a relatively static image, I noticed some movement in the viewfinder. This colorful little fellow had wandered out from under the bridge. I thought how cold he/she must be from walking on the ice in the middle of a tributary on a cold, late-winter's day. I know it's just a duck, but at that moment I wished I could have thrown down a blanket so that the little bird could be warmer.

But I had no blanket. And I doubt the duck would have appreciated the gesture. So I took this picture instead.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Here's to vegetables

Guess where I've been again. (Pause while my wife sighs.)

I'm learning to shoot quickly before tucking the camera back into my pocket. It's easy during the winter when I wear a big trench coat (no Flasher Freddie jokes, please.) I'm still working on a strategy for the spring/summer months. Suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Familiarity in a strange and scary place

Between the ages of four and six, I spent significant amounts of time in a hospital. Last Friday, we returned to the same institution, Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, to visit my father. It was our five-year-old son who provided the most poignant reminder of what hospitals do to all who enter them.

When I was a munchkin, kids generally didn't visit folks who had been admitted. One parent would stay with the little people in the waiting room. We often didn't even go to the floor: we'd simply hang out in the lobby while our parents alternated visiting upstairs.

Times have changed. We felt it was important to give the kids a chance to see their grandfather. We felt they were old enough to understand that people get sick, that they go to hospitals to hopefully get better, and it's a good deed to visit them when they're there.

Little man clung to my wife when we first arrived. He was likely tired from the 9-hour drive. He was also overwhelmed by the strange sights and smells of this very alien place. By the time he got to his Zaydie's room (zaydie = Yiddish word for "grandfather") his very perceptive antennae were already up.

So he did what any little guy would do: seek comfort in the shoulder of the person who most matters in his young life - Mom.

After a few minutes of gentle prompting, he began to surreptitiously sneak peeks from his perch. His Zaydie told him a joke. He smiled and chuckled a little. His grip around my wife's neck loosened. His Zaydie told him another one. He laughed the laugh that only a little munchkin can laugh: from the belly. He let go of my wife completely, sat in the chair beside the bed and bantered with my father.

In the middle of a strange place, Noah managed to find a way to connect with his grandfather. By the time we turned to say goodbye, it didn't matter to him that he was in a drearily-lit hospital room. The packaging of where he was mattered less than the substance of who he was with.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Glowing spirits

Drinking wine really isn't my thing, but I couldn't miss the golden backlit glow from the wine rack at the restaurant on Saturday night.

As we sat down to eat, I made a mental note to go back later on and try to grab a quick picture. When our little man shared the inevitable news that he had to pee, I knew I had my chance. On the way back, I stopped and shot very quickly. I got some funny looks from nearby diners, but by now I'm used to that kind of thing. I didn't want to miss capturing this very different kind of light.

I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed taking it. Sometimes, the story of how a picture came to be is just as memorable as the picture itself.

Your turn: Ever shoot a picture where you were being watched by strangers? Did it influence how you took the picture? How do you handle photographic voyeurs?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Watch this - but not with your kids

Here's why managing SCM is so critical in today's interdependent economy.

OK, it's a funny-as-hell video from FedEx. Bless the wondrous people of YouTube for sharing such gems with us.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Quoted - BlackBerry's next chapter

Warning: geekfest pending. I promise it'll be fun.

I did two interviews from the road yesterday. Namely, from the parking lot of a very large shopping mall. No worries, I wasn't driving at the time.

The first was a live radio hit in Kitchener. I chatted with Gary Doyle of 570 News for eight-and-a-half minutes about Research In Motion's purchase of a cool company called Ascendent Systems. Live radio is always so much fun because there are no do-overs. You just roll with it and whatever happens, happens.

Then I spoke with Simon Avery, the Globe & Mail's technology reporter, as I walked back into the mall. The resulting story, RIM reinforces claim as top dog by expanding BlackBerry service, was published in today's paper.

Here's what I said:
"We often toss around the term 'convergence.' It's the great buzzword of the new millennium. But this is a true example of convergence," said Carmi Levy, a senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group Inc. in London, Ont. "It doesn't force employees to change their behaviour. Whether they are sitting at their desk or sitting on a beach in Tahiti, they can still co-ordinate the actions of their team as always."


Analysts say RIM is trying to fend off its bigger rivals by making the BlackBerry perform even more wireless tasks. "This shows RIM is in an intense effort to differentiate itself from competitors who are starting to creep into its space," Mr. Levy said.
I've always wanted to talk about Tahiti with a reporter. My dream has come true. Now all that's left is to actually go there to test out my theory.

Your turn: How do I get to Tahiti? Should I bring a BlackBerry?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Mars, up close

Today's the day that a robot spacecraft attempts to go into orbit around the red planet. I know it's far away and it doesn't have a direct impact on your life. I know we all have more immediate and pressing things to worry about.

I know it's difficult to get jazzed about the space program when soldiers are coming home in body bags, taxes continue to skyrocket and Britney can't seem to figure out how to stick her kid into a car seat.

But sometimes, a little faraway magic is just what we need to inspire us to do better closer to home.

Your turn: Am I being overly idealistic with this space thing? Can distant, almost-unreal things like this really make a difference on the home front. As Linda Richman would say, discuss.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Margarine sculpture

I've never taken to margarine. It's one of those artificial consumer-foods whose taste and texture constantly remind us that we live in a pre-fab, unnatural era where everything is manufactured and processed, and very little is simply grown and picked.

Who would have thought that I'd grow up to be a granola-crunching, tree-hugging zealot. But there you have it.

Still, I thought its untarnished state was worth a picture. It's been a couple of months since I took this, and I'm still wondering what that thing in the middle reminds me of. I think I'm perhaps afraid to find out.

Your turn: So what does that protrusion in the middle look like?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Out of the toothy mouth of one particular babe

Another interesting day in the life of an eight-year-old girl.

Young lady lost a tooth today after what must have been the longest loose-tooth experience in recent family history. It finally decided to permanently leave her mouth during school, and when I came to pick her up in the afternoon, she proudly presented me with the prize, carefully wrapped in a double layer of wadded paper towel. I gingerly deposited the precious cargo in my pants pocket and off we went.

Since my wife was working late tonight, I did the lazy-Dad's thing and took the munchkins to an unmentionable purveyor of really unhealthy fast food. I figured I don't often get to hang with them immediately after school, so letting them cut loose in the play place seemed like a nice way to spend some time together - and get them tired for an early bedtime. I'm nothing if not pragmatic.

On the way home, she rubbed her gums and complained that they hurt because the tooth was gone. Far be it for me to challenge the physiological issues related to post-baby-tooth-loss pain. I'm a journalist, after all. So I did the next best thing: I proposed some milkshake therapy.

All three of them cheered the suggestion, so we stopped off at the supermarket on the way home and picked up some neopolitan - because that way no one is disappointed by the flavor - and headed home.

While the boys stood patiently in front of the cupboard waiting for me to pull out the blender and get the shake fixins together, our little lady quietly headed upstairs and disappeared into her room.

I made shakes for the boys, then went upstairs to see what she was up to. I found her in the middle of a suddenly-immaculate bedroom.

"I'm cleaning my room to show the tooth fairy that I'm responsible."

I suspect the tooth fairy's going to be a very happy visitor tonight.

Your turn: How does the tooth fairy make her visits special in your home?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Priceless jewels

I'm snowed under this week, hence the relative silence on the site. Work is insane and I'm cutting into my sleep time to compensate. I know, bad Carmi.

I don't have a huge amount of time to write anything insightful, but I wanted to share this picture with you. It's a bracelet that resulted from a Sunday craft project a couple of years ago. On a dreary morning, my wife and I took the kids on a quest to pick up all the stuff needed to make these bracelets. After more stops than I care to remember, we got home and arrayed the chains and beads on the kitchen table. A couple of hours and two cases of carpal tunnel syndrome later, we all had bracelets.

As you can see, I'm still wearing mine. It's somewhat worse for wear and it certainly doesn't rank up there with diamonds and gold on the refine-o-meter. But I find it difficult to take it off. No matter how tired I get, I look down at my wrist and am reminded why I do the insane things I do.

It's a very grounding thing to wear, and a very humbling way to ensure I make it through the day.

I guess not all jewels are mined from the ground and cost a pretty penny. Some simply have no price at all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Images of a vacation - the chaos of thirst

Our poor minivan's suspension must have sighed in relief when we unloaded it at the end of our journey. En route, I couldn't believe how much, stuff the thing swallowed. I understand that matter tends to expand to fill a vacuum, so if we had taken a smaller car, we likely wouldn't have brought as much stuff with us.

But I can't imagine a long drive with three kids in anything else. It made for some interesting images: our box on wheels, surrogate home for two days each way.

Here, Noah helps us understand why he was, is, and always will be our Sunshine Boy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Why I write

I often wonder why I feel compelled to write. I'm sure lots of folks around me wonder the same thing. I've always assumed that I was struck by lightning sometime during conception. But even though I was born with a predisposition to stringing words together, I still marvel at the constant motivation to create new works for others to read.

Here's why I think it still jazzes me:
  • Nothing fulfills me as much as picking up a pen and leaving pieces of myself on the page.
  • Nothing validates my soul as much as sharing the above with people I care about.
  • I love knowing that I can make complete strangers smile, frown, cry, or otherwise commit to significant changes in their lives.
  • Every time I write, I remember sitting on my grandfather's lap as he rocked in his big old rocking chair and told me stories.
  • When I'm gone, what I leave behind will be a far richer legacy to my kids than a mere stack of pictures.
Your turn: Why do you write. How does it fulfill you? How do you use your writing to touch others?

Morning ritual

When we went to Florida just over a year ago, we found a magical little breakfast place nearby that the kids absolutely loved. It was called Bagel Dream, and it was run by a one-of-a-kind lady who rode a Harley and knew all her customers as well as we know family and best friends. The banter was fascinating to watch, and it reminded me of what we're losing as franchises and chains gradually pave over the small-time entrepreneurs who used to define the local retail landscape.

Alas, when we returned this past December, the place had closed down. We'll never know if it was the hurricane, retirement, or whatever. No goodbyes or forwarding addresses...just an empty storefront.

The kids were quite upset. So we set out to find a new favorite haunt. Shelby's comes close. Handwritten menus say so much, I think, as do servers who hover over the table and take the time to chat with their clients.

The banter isn't quite as boisterous as the old place, but the comforting charm of the folks whose names were written across back of the the manual cash register quickly won our little people over. We'll be back next time we're down there.

Until then, we have fleeting glimpses like this picture to remind us why places like this are special. And wherever the now-former-owner of Bagel Dream is, I hope she's found a breakfast place as welcoming as the one she ran for so long.

Your turn: Are there any Bagel Dreams and Shelby's out there in your neck of the woods? What makes them such captivating places to have breakfast?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The front door

I hate being away from home because it means fitful nights of sleep in strange hotels, food that doesn't agree with me and precious little time to hear the distant voices of the most important people in my life.

As hard as it is on me, I know it's infinitely worse on my wife and kids. My wife is stuck being a single parent, while our kids' routine is thrown off by my absence. It isn't fair, I know, but it's the deal we know we have to make if we want this career thing of mine to continue to grow. Still, it's hard to be a husband and a Dad when you're thousands of kilometers from home.

Every trip - this one was to Phoenix, Arizona for a symposium where I heard leaders of some of the top tech firms in North America share their vision with the investment community - always seems to generate an indelible image in my mind. This one was no different, but it came right at the end.

The taxi from the airport pulled up in front of the house. The temp was well below freezing, the sky was dark, and I shivered as I thought about the desert warmth I had left a mere few hours earlier.

Through the front window, I could see our daughter and youngest son turn their heads as they realized I was home. Their little forms quickly disappeared from the window and reappeared at the now-open front door. They danced in the doorway, waving at me and calling my name.

Taxi driver, apparently unfamiliar with the concepts of change and receipts, was taking his sweet time in the front seat. Still, our kids continued to dance, oblivious to the cold, happy that I was finally home.

By the time I finally made it up the walkway, they were hanging out the door and excitedly calling my name. It felt good to hold these squirming, happy little people as I came inside.

I wish the innocence of realizing that Daddy's home would never leave them, but I'm not so naive as to believe that time stands still for them, or for anyone, for that matter. As I stood in the hallway and listened to their excited chatter, I felt somehow blessed that I was able to enjoy even one moment like this with people who are so fundamentally a part of me.

Your turn: What does coming home feel like to you? If you wish, I hope you take the time to share your own coming home story - either here or on your own blog.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pining for home

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
March 1, 2006, 11:05 a.m.
A new addition wonders when he'll be going home to meet his family for the very first time.