Monday, April 30, 2007


A journey ends
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I like to look at - and take - pictures that have little mini-stories embedded within them (see here and here for similarly-themed images.) A photo, after all, shouldn't be just a simple and static picture. Rather, it should provoke thought, stimulate discussion and inspire action. We should come away from the experience changed in some basic way, no matter how small.

So as I strolled alongside San Francisco's ferry terminal in the shadow of the Bay Bridge and took pictures of incoming ferries, I noticed that each boat seemed to have folks on the bow, watching the docking. It got me thinking: if I lived in this remarkable place and had to take the ferry every day, I suspect I'd be on that bow as well - every single trip. The end of the journey is most certainly a time to remember, and I wondered what the anonymous folks in this image were thinking at the very moment I quietly tripped the shutter.

Your turn: So...what are they thinking?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

On a wing and a prayer, again

Upgraded wing
Somewhere over America, March 2007 [Click to make Jumbo]

The Boeing 757-200 has a maximum take-off weight of 255,000 pounds, which means the sinuously sleek sliver of technology in this image is holding up approximately 127,500 pounds of airplane, fuel, luggage, and me.

I understand at an intimate level how this thing works. I am fully conscious of the unbelievable resources it takes to design one of these things, and the frightening amount of strength and flexibility built into it. Yet it never ceases to be a magical moment when the throttles open up and the plane begins its takeoff roll. First we hit V1 (the point of no return), then VR (rotation of the nose off the runway) and then finally the entire bird hauls itself off the surface of the earth.

For all the noise and bluster of the engines, it's basic aerodynamics that takes over once you've got enough speed, the difference between higher pressure under the wing and lower pressure above it that provides the lift needed to get and stay in the sky. And as I stare out the window at the wing, I smile silently in the knowledge that it's doing its job so that everyone else on the plane can think about something else. Well, everyone except me.

Your turn: or magic?

One more thing: This isn't the first time I've explored a wing with my camera (click here and here.) I guess I'm certifiable when it comes to photos of this type.

Oops, make that two more things: I know what you're thinking; a 757 with winglets? (Come on, doesn't everybody?) Well, it turns out that the FAA has certified a retrofit kit for 757-200s that adds these vortice-reducing, lift-enhancing, drag-reducing and range-increasing devices to the original, conventional wingtips. For more background on these brilliant advances in the aviation state-of-the-art, click on the Aviation Partners, Inc. web site. Or e-mail me and I'll explain the theory. Either way, it's fascinating. Well, if you're an aviation geek.

Caption This 16

Please name this image [See below for details]
London, ON, April 2007 [Click for more power]

It's time once again for Caption This, a weekly feature here at Written Inc. where you get to name the picture (pause for a cheer. Good, now let's continue...) Haven't played before? Here's the deal:
Last week's winner was actually the first one to suggest a caption. Sophie wrote this:
The official San Francisco Fire Department frisbee
Sophie's got red hair, lives in Houston, and is still enjoying the newlywed newness. She writes wonderfully, too. Please drop by and congratulate her. I'm sure you'll stay for the literary dessert.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for the powerful image above. Submit as often as you wish, and feel free to send your in-laws in for a go as well. Written Inc. welcomes all creative souls. I'll announce the winner next Sunday, along with the next caption in our endless series.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Window in brick

Painted mortar
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Old brick speaks to me, especially if it's painted by a brilliant sun. I imagine bricklayers all those years ago putting the wall together, one painstaking brick at a time. I think about their attention to detail, their ability to keep it straight and level and strong. I wonder if any of them thought the wall would still be there all these decades later. Probably not: they were busy with more immediate matters, like putting food on their tables and finding that next wall to build.

I'm far from home on this bright Southern California afternoon. I'm on a trip that will hopefully allow me to continue building on my own ability to put food on my table back home. I have no ability to build brick walls, but I figure we all build our own unique legacies. Some are more tangible than others.

Your turn: What are you building for tomorrow?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Simply draped

Covered window
London, ON, April 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Window coverings aren't often a topic of conversation. Sometimes, they're used to keep prying eyes out. Other times, they're shunted off to the side when we want to take in the world outside.

But when we were over at our friends' house one evening earlier this month, my eyes drifted over to the closed shades and I couldn't help but notice how the light played on the fabric's surface.

It wasn't a major moment by any stretch of the imagination. But I'm learning that photography isn't about the big moments anyway. Sometimes, it's enough to record how the light of a single lamp seems to gradually dissipate as it works its way across the varying surface of the drapes.

Simple, really.

Your turn: A simple, yet worthy-of-a-picture moment for you might be...?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sign of the times

Peering in
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to peek more closely]

Some facades wear their age gracefully. Others don't. I'll leave it to you to determine the degree of grace inherent in this one.

Your turn: So, graceful or not? Why or why not?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Intricate facade

Windowed vista
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

On my way back to the hotel from shooting the Golden Gate Bridge, I sat by the window of a city bus and shot random snippets of the neighborhoods that slipped by. I was feeling incredibly nauseous - travel and I don't often get along - and was using every iota of willpower to keep from losing it in the middle of a crowd of strangers.

When the waves of green subsided, I picked up the camera and grabbed whatever images I could. I felt like I was watching a never-ending movie, and wondered why I never did the same thing when a much younger me rode transit in Montreal. Was that city genuinely less interesting or did I simply not take the time back then?

That's an answer for another day. On this day, San Francisco put on quite the unintended show for me. Each district seemed more vibrant than the last. All kinds of people were outside, enjoying the gorgeously bright sun. And the architecture seemed to reach through the window with stories of intensely livable neighborhoods and survival against a landscape that hasn't always been so friendly.

Your turn: When you're a passenger in a moving vehicle, do you look out the window and experience the surrounding neighborhoods. If so, what do you see?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pier 28

Waiting for delivery
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Right around the same time I was doing mock battle with a couple of stuffed and mean-spirited professional sports mascots (see here for more), I was also taking some serene pictures of a facility that almost no one takes the time to appreciate.

The pier is the kind of place that seems as if it has always been old and worn. On this gloriously sunny afternoon, no one's outside and the place looks abandoned. I walk by at precisely the moment that the low-angled sun begins to move past the midline of the building. I can almost see the shadow creeping across the white doors, so I shoot fast before everything descends into the shade.

It is lonely and sad. But I could look at it for a while. Which I do, as I lean against a fencepost and settle in for a few minutes of silent reflection as the shadow completes its brief journey. I wonder if I'm the only person in this pier's long history who's done this.

Your turn: Reflecting on a bygone relic. Please discuss.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Snowy face

Look what I dug up
London, ON, April 2007 [Click for extreme dog closeup]

In this part of the world, it isn't supposed to snow this much in April. But there's a wide gulf between what's supposed to happen weatherwise and what actually does. Mother Nature doesn't accept requests, after all.

So when an early-April snowfall turned the city into a winter wonderland, we took our dog, Frasier, to the nearby dog run and turned him loose. We're still admittedly nervous about letting him off his leash. He is, after all, an exuberant puppy who needs more than a little work in the training department. But he's so full of beans that we just have to let him run free when the opportunity presents itself.

We forgot that miniature schnauzers are hunting dogs. He spent an inordinate amount of time digging his nose into the snow, and likely would have continued to do so until the final meltoff if we hadn't eventually hooked him back up and brought him home for a very long nap.

The life of a dog.

Your turn: Why is a dog's life so charmed?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Caption This 15

Please help me name this photo
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I always take placeholder-type pictures whenever I go somewhere new. Signs, names, anything that can identify where I am and why this place matters.

I captured this while walking around San Francisco last month. I need your help coming up with a name or a caption for it. If you haven't played Caption This yet, you're in for a treat. Let's go...
Maggie takes it this week. Her caption was too cute for words: Telli-Po-rted!

Your turn: Suggest a caption for the abstract image above. Submit as many suggestions as you wish. Call your mother-in-law and encourage her to participate as well. I'll reveal the winner - and the life-changing prize package - next week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Jammed, encore

Cherries forever
London, ON, April 2007 [Click to enlarge]

This isn't the first time I've taken on a jar of jam (see here and here.) It likely won't be the last, because images like this remind me why I love hanging out at the kitchen table.

The colors and textures of the food and fixins are too much to ignore, and the experience is enriched by the surrounding sound of an awakening house. Kids skitter back and forth to the fridge. The dog jingles as he shadows whoever's carrying the most tantalizing morsel. The smell of fresh brewed coffee hangs in the air.

It's another one of those fleeting in between moments I wish would never end. Whenever I'm lucky enough to have one of them, I try to remember it with a picture.

Your turn: How do you remember a memorable in between moment?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sun fried green tomatoes

Translucent color
London, ON, April 2007

Sometimes, I take a picture because it is of a subject I hope to return to in future. To wit, my water cup. I drink water all day. The colder the better. It keeps me alert and, hopefully, somewhat healthy.

When I put it on the counter and it caught the sun, I knew it was something I wanted to remember. But I had no tripod. So the compromises resulted in an image with strong geometry, but somewhat iffy technicals.

I'll come back to this kind of composition in future. But for now, a slash of reflected green across a stainless steel surface will have to do.

Your turn: Reflected colors. Do they appeal to your eye? Why/why not?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More BlackBerry jam

In yesterday's entry on my latest BlackBerry/media adventure, I touched on the fact that our daughter was home sick from school. This added another layer of uniqueness to the day.

She's 9, so leaving her home alone while I zinged off to a television studio to be interviewed simply wasn't an option. Besides, our puppy hasn't taken the babysitting certification course yet. So, late in the morning, I sealed my nomination for the all-time parenting hall of fame by dragging her nauseous self out of the house and forcing her to sit quietly off to the side while I spoke into a camera.

OK, it wasn't that bad. By then she had had time to eat some toast, nap on the couch and play with the furball. She was looking a little more herself by the time we were ready to head to the studio.

Quick aside about the studio: It's a state-of-the-art facility that belongs to the journalism department at the University of Western Ontario. When it isn't being used to train the next generation of media wizards, it's used for remote feeds for BNN, CTV, and a bunch of American networks. It's the main remote site for pretty much anyone in London who's asked to do live television.

The usual routine when you get there is simple: you sit down in the chair, they hook you all up, test for sound levels and then, when the time comes, you speak into a disembodied camera to an anchor located hundreds of miles away. It truly is a fascinating experience.

My daughter sat quietly on the far wall, watching the producer/cameraman get her dad ready for his brief moment in the media spotlight. I kept looking back to her to ensure she was fine - thankfully, she was. My initial fears that she'd inadvertently share her breakfast with the floor faded as I saw the child's wonder in her eyes. She silently took it all in, blue eyes as wide as saucers.

As we got closer to go-live time, I continued to steal glances back at her, asking her whether or not I looked like a doofus, making sure she didn't want to do the interview instead of me. We gave each other a quick thumbs-up as the producer in faraway Toronto counted down in my ear.

In the end, our too-sick-to-go-to-school daughter had a unique experience hanging around with me, and I suspect she ended up with images that, like those from my childhood when the pleasantly unexpected happened and I got to spend bonus time with my parents, she'll carry forward with her. I hope she remembers the moment as happily as I do.

In related news: There's more media fallout from yesterday's frenzy. Major stuff...

USA Today - allow me to pause, calmly, as I contemplate its circulation of 2.6 million. There, I feel at peace now. Let us continue...

Michelle Kessler interviewed me and wrote this article: BlackBerry outage exposes RIM's 'soft underbelly'. The paper used my quote for the headline - how cool is that? This is my first time appearing in USA Today, and it's a significant milestone because of its sheer size and reach. Fingers crossed that I somehow make it onto their reporters' speed dials.

(Oh, one more thing: if you've got a copy of today's - April 19 - USA Today, would you mind holding onto it for me? I wasn't able to find it in London. Weird!)

The Los Angeles Times - I spoke with Times Staff Writer James Granelli for this piece: BlackBerry outage leaves users thumb-founded. The article also carries Alex Pham's byline. Here's what I said:
Some customers might well have "dodged the bullet," said Carmi Levy, an analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Canada.

The root cause of the outage, he said, was in the core network near Research in Motion's Waterloo headquarters in the province of Ontario. It caused a backup in e-mail that left the system unable to handle even the diminished traffic at that late hour.

"It raises questions about the robustness of the system," Levy said.
I spoke to David Friend from the Canadian Press for his followup piece, RIM keeps quiet as BlackBerry system appears to be returning to normal. I was a little on the judgmental side in this one:
Meanwhile, Internet message boards were buzzing with talk that some users still weren't receiving full service. Some were still reporting that old e-mails were trickling into the system because the outage was so large, according to Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at InfoTech Research Group.

"The company that provides proactive, real-time communications through its leading-edge smart phone devices seems to have dropped the ball," Levy said.

"This is the time you want to get in front of the media... to share your perspective with the world. They need to manage that messaging stream more effectively than they have."
This was also picked up by Newsday.

The Globe and Mail ran another story, RIM gets message from e-mail outage, in today's print edition (that's three separate hits in one paper, in case you're keeping score...happy dance time!) Catherine McLean got the byline, and what's cool about it is the graphic that accompanied it. I worked iteratively with Tara Perkins, and in the end she and her team on the business desk produced a unique illustration of how the service works. It's on the page that I've linked to above, and you can view it directly by clicking here. The full roundup from today's paper can be found here.

I think this covers most of the major hits. Over the next couple of days, I'll add links to any others in today's and yesterday's entries. If you're really curious, click here to see real-time search results on my name from Google News.

Your turn: A daughter's adventure with her dad. Please discuss why kids need to get a glimpse into their parents' work world every once in a while.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

About that BlackBerry outage...

Bad day for Research In Motion = good day for Carmi.

When millions of BlackBerry subscribers in the Western hemisphere realized their addictive little devices weren't sending or receiving e-mail last night, ths stage was set for a somewhat eventful day.

Step 1: My phone rings as I'm dropping the kids off at school. Business News Network (formerly Report On Business Television) wants to change the focus of an interview that had already been scheduled for later that morning. BlackBerry is now the top topic. Can do. I was interviewed by Lisa Oake on the Market Morning show. The interview can be seen here.

And because one TV hit is never enough, CTV Toronto pulls a clip from the BNN interview and drops it into a report by John Musselman. They misspell my name as "Karmi" because, well, I'm not quite sure. I guess the lack of BlackBerry service affected the old fact-checking desk. Or something like that. But it gave my friends in Toronto a serious laugh, so it was worth it in the end.

Step 2: My phone rings again. It's our PR team at the office. We're sending out a press release. From the school's parking lot, we confirm talking points as I get ready to drive back to the house to set up a command post on my kitchen table. It's shaping up to be a fun day.

Step 3: Pat the dog in the back seat for being such a good boy. We brought him in the car with us this morning, part of our strategy to get him used to being out and about. Open the sunroof, plug the iPod into the stereo and crank some Delerium (yeah, I'm odd) and kick the wondervan into drive. I've got my priorities, after all.

Step 4: Arrive home. The press release is out (News Brief: Service outage for BlackBerry email a rude awakening for users today.) E-mail and voicemail are already waiting for me from reporters eager to get my take on what this means to the future of the world (short answer: it's still spinning at the same rotational velocity, and the sun seems to be setting in the same place it did last night, so it certainly wasn't catastrophic.) Our daughter woke up looking as green as the just-awakening lawn outside our front door. So she hung out with me while I fielded enough journo inquiries to fill my beloved old Truman Show popcorn bowl. It's yellow and I'm never giving it up. But I digress.

Step 5: Look at my watch. It's well after 5. The wreckage of an insane day of BlackBerry jam hunting is strewn throughout the kitchen. I'm strangely at peace, likely because my own BlackBerry is powered off and stuffed deep in the bottom of my camera bag. I fetch the dog and take him for a walk. Priorities, again.

When all was said and done, I ended up being quoted in another bunch of incredibly cool places. Here are some highlights:
  • The Globe and Mail included two pieces with my input:
1 - BlackBerry service restored, RIM says. Byline Tavia Grant
2 - What went wrong? I wrote this Q&A on what caused the outage and potential consequences.
Oh, and I think they're running a graphic that I helped create in tomorrow's paper. Fingers crossed.
  • Other electronic media hits included live radio interviews with Jeff Allan of 570News in Kitchener-Waterloo (this is notable because it's an hour up the road from my office, and this is the hometown of Research In Motion. RIM-related stories take on an added significance to local media, and it's always a special treat to be interviewed by K-W media. I also did a live hit with Mike Stafford from 640News in Toronto.
There's more. Much more. Including some really significant American media breakthroughs. I'll post separately tomorrow once more of the fallout has a chance to, well, fall.

Your turn: So, what do you think about the BlackBerry outage? Big deal or not? Should I work from my kitchen table more often?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Curves and lines

Hold on
London, ON, April 2007 [Click to embiggen]

I continue to walk the neighborhood around my office. The alone time gives me a chance to think reflectively without the usual interruptions of life. It also allows me to return with ever-evolving views of this historic world. I can walk the same route every day, and somehow I'll always be hit by a unique scene that I hadn't previously captured. I have no idea why this is so, but I won't challenge fate either.

I found this little detail in front of a lovingly restored century home. Someone once told me that people who buy these homes don't really own them. Rather, they serve as stewards for these historic buildings, preserving them for the generations to come. I like that sentiment. So genteel.

In this case, I'm glad that whoever was responsible for this place was sufficiently moved by the geometry of the railing to restore it to such a pristine state. The subtle curves and shadows are enough to make me want to take another look the next time I'm in the area.

Your turn: Look around you and pick out the first small detail that comes to mind. What is it?

How much is that doggie in the window?

London, ON, April 2007

I'm posting this tonight because Carli is absolutely right: the world needs more wiggly puppies. Here goes...

There are so many really nice things about having a dog (see here for an early observation.) The one that stands out for me is the greeting. Coming home will never be the same now that there's a wiggling, happy, fur-covered animal on the other side of the door.

What strikes me is the unconditional nature of the greeting. It doesn't matter how lousy your day has been or the mood that you're in. Your dog will be just as happy to see you no matter how dark that cloud over your head is. When you get inside and hug the now-insane animal in a vain attempt to get him to calm down, you realize that whatever it was that got you down in the first place really doesn't matter so much after all.

Here, Frasier waits for his mommy to get to the door. Note the relative peace with which he sits. He hasn't seen her yet.

Your turn: Why does a happy greeting - pet, human, whatever - matter so much to us? Can a pet heal the world?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monsters among us

As news of today's massacre emerges out of the Virginia Tech campus, I'm left with a sick feeling of deja vu. I've been to two schools - Dawson and Concordia - that have experienced fatal campus shootings. I lived in Montreal when Marc Lepine mowed down 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique.

I have no words to respond to this latest tragedy, which stands to be the worst school rampage in U.S. history. Columbine, it would seem, was just another milestone on an ugly and worsening journey of senselessness.

Yet I feel compelled to at least make mention of it here, to add it to my ongoing life's journal. Because I worry that not saying anything might suggest an acceptance of this, that regular school shootings are a normal part of modern life.

They aren't. And I wish I had something more than words to offer up to parents who send their children to school only to have them never return home. This isn't how life is supposed to turn out. Then again, who ever said life followed any sort of script?

Your turn: Is there an answer to any of this?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Caption This 14

I need your help naming this image
Lake Worth, Florida, December 2007

This is Po. She spends her life hooked onto the strap of my old camera bag, and I take pictures of her wherever she goes. Here, she enjoys some time in the sun. For the uninitiated, she's a Teletubby, one of those annoying gibberish-speaking, freakish-dancing British imports with televisions in their tummies.

For the record, I've never been a Teletubby fan. I believe they are responsible for delayed potty training, excessive crayon-drawing on walls, and a decided lack of vegetable-eating among the post-toddler set. I think they have also touched off epileptic seizures in vulnerable TV-watching dogs, but I'm waiting for the research results on that one.

And for this reason, I'm not sure what caption this image should carry. Any thoughts? If so, read on...
And last week's winner? I couldn't pick just one, so I decided not to limit myself. Here's the short-list:
  • Anil P called it Bridging hope
  • Joel Reynolds suggested Bridge to the moon
  • Pat suggested Stairway to heaven
  • Theo submitted this lovely poem:
The Moon Shines
In Daylight
Upon the Strings
That bind humanity
They're all winners in my book. As are you for participating and turning Caption This into a weekly tradition that I always look forward to.

Your turn: Submit a caption for the Po pic in a comment. Fame, fortune and my everlasting gratitude will be yours if you play along.

An in between moment, morning

Looking out my hotel room window
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to embiggen]

In between moments come fast and furious when you're away on business. There's little free time to capture the spirit of this place, so you try to grab snippets wherever they present themselves.

It's early in the morning, and I'm getting ready in my hotel room. If you really want to know, I'm carefully ironing my shirt because, well, it's one of those on-the-road rituals that keeps me grounded. I've got a long day of work ahead of me. But I notice the soft glow of the morning sun reflecting off the front of the lovely old building across the street. My camera's right there, so I pick it up and take a quick couple of pictures before I get back to the serious business of eliminating creases.

Later on, I look closely at the picture I've captured of this genteel structure (click on it now, if you wish. No worries: I'll wait.) There's obvious decay in the corner, testament to its years of standing guard over this busy neighborhood. But it still looks regal, elegant, substantial.

Somewhere in this idle musing, there's an analog for humanity that I'm sure I'll be writing about before long.

Your turn: Maybe you want to take a stab at explaining the lesson this building holds for the rest of us. What is it saying to you?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Looking for home
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I touched off a bit of a discussion with my earlier entry on homelessness in this city, so I thought I'd return to the theme.

A colleague of mine pointed out after seeing the initial blog posting that vagrancy is illegal in San Francisco. Consequently, the city's homeless population is engaged in a constant battle to avoid arrest. They load up their carts and move around from place to place, never staying long enough in any one spot to attract the attention of the law. It's an endless quest for...well, not for anything, really. It's an endless quest to stay one step ahead of jail time.

This image haunts me. The look in this man's eyes speaks of a despair that I can't even begin to imagine. As he walked along the water's edge on the uber-trendy Embarcadero, legions of well-dressed city dwellers passed him by. He was completely invisible to them; a mini-drama of a distressed life on the move, taking place literally under the noses of his neighbors.

All I have is a lens and a pen. I can't fix this. All I can think as this man shuffles quietly past me is that I need to ensure such tragedy never visits my own family. I feel selfish for this, but my wife and kids have to matter above all. Then I shudder when I realize that life comes with no guarantees, that any one of us isn't so far removed from walking anonymously through the city, our worldly possessions stuffed into a squeaky-wheeled shopping cart.

These conflicting, dark thoughts echo through my mind as this nameless, homeless man slowly fades into the crowd before disappearing for good.

Your turn: As you watch a homeless person walk on by, what goes through your mind?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Here today...

Ephemeral ice
London, ON, April 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Monday morning. I really need to get to the office, but as I kiss my family goodbye and try to keep the wiggling dog from squeezing out the front door, my eye is drawn toward something that shouldn't exist. Huge icicles have formed on the front porch overhang, and they're capturing and reflecting the morning sun in ways I couldn't describe if I had all the words in the world.

It's April 9th, I think to myself. It makes little sense that the weather is this cold, this late. But it's not my place to question why the water has frozen in such a gorgeous, temporary form. It is my place to capture it before it disappears for good.

I know full well that this will be gone by the time I get home this afternoon. So I turn around, brave the wiggling dog once more and fetch my camera for an impromptu shoot. Once I'm done, a quick onscreen review confirms that I've got workable images, so I head off to work.

Sure enough, when I come home, the temp outside is quite warm, and the overhangs are clear. As I write this four days later, I can't get it out of my head that I was meant to record the ephemeral ice before it disappeared forever. Poignant, really, given the news that came our way later in the week.

Something tells me he would have found this a neat image, one that only I would take. Something tells he he would have been right.

Your turn: Please take the time to capture whatever it is that could disappear. I hope you'll share whatever it (italics deliberate) is in a comment.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The Old Testament says a good life should range somewhere between 70 and 80 years. Anything more than that is a bonus. The flipside? Anything less is a ripoff.

So when I received the news earlier today that a good friend of mine had passed away suddenly at 33, my first thought once the initial wave of shock rolled past my incredulous brain was that he was shortchanged. Worse, he was a superb writer who shared his gift with everyone who crossed his path, so the world was shortchanged, too.

I'm still absorbing the sudden loss of a friend with whom I could endlessly discuss the intricacies and difficulties of writing about technology. I find myself thinking about how easily I would pick up the phone and within seconds we'd be bantering about opportunities to use our writers' voices to shed light on the murky convergence point of technology and culture.

Writers often use small groups of trusted friends to "blue sky" their future ideas, to refine what they're going to work on and temperature-check whether an idea should ever see the light of day. When he called me at work for comment on a story he was writing, we would often end up batting around additional ideas for future work. If he was on deadline, the conversation would often continue that evening.

I was privileged to meet him when we were in Florida a couple of years back. When we realized I was going to be vacationing near his home, we arranged to meet for lunch. He came to my in-laws' house with gifts for the kids - stuffed animals that they cherish to this day - and we spent hours chatting about whatever it is that writers chat about. Ever since, we never spoke without him asking about my wife and kids. When I published a column about our youngest son, he sent a painstakingly created, framed four-color treatment of the picture I used to accompany it. He was empathetically kind in a way that most folks today are not.

I had always been a bit of a hybrid. Depending on one's perspective, I was either a journalist with a bent for technology or a technologist who could write. Either way, he got it, and speaking with him helped me realize that my skills were a gift and an opportunity, and not a curse. I became a better writer, a better person, because I knew him. It was just my luck that I got to cross his path and become his professional collaborator and friend.

His name was David Garrett. He was 33 years-old. He was ripped off. So were we.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Media fun on a global scale

My little BlackBerry addiction has come back to haunt me. By the time Research In Motion announced its year-end earnings earlier today, me and the media team at Info-Tech had already reached out to specific media contacts and were ready to provide perspective and commentary on the results.

So to make a long story short, Reuters picked us up, and now I'm quoted in a whole whack of fun places. Byline is Wojtek Dabrowski, a Reuters writer based in Toronto. Headline is:
RIM profit up sharply, says SEC upgrades probe
Here's my quote (lead quote, the only analyst in the piece, and quoted opposite RIM's co-CEO Jim Balsillie):
Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, said that although the stock-options investigation is a drag on the company, RIM continues to deliver solid results.

"The company continues to perform and perform strongly, regardless of the progression of the investigation," he said. "You have to ask yourself the question: Is this enough to bring down the company, or is this enough to severely damage them? And the answer on that is an emphatic no."
But wait, there's more...

Because TWO Reuters pickups in a given day are always better than one, I'm quoted in another Reuters piece on a totally different topic: blogging. I kid you not:
Web gurus want blog etiquette despite backlash
It was filed from the New York bureau after I was interviewed by reporter Natalie Armstrong out of their Toronto office. Here's what I said:
Meanwhile, some say it is impossible to have a universal code on the Web, which has proven difficult to regulate.

"It doesn't have a prayer of ever actually being followed universally, so it's not really going to accomplish a whole lot in terms of making the blogosphere a more civil place," said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst with Canadian-based Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

He added that there will always be people who will swear and treat others with disrespect and a code of conduct will not change that.

"Blogging will continue to survive just fine without it," Levy said.
This piece has also been reprinted in a bunch of places:,, CIOL India,

An article, carrying Stevie Smith's byline, has appeared on Monsters & Critics: Blogging code of conduct meets with resistance. Looks like the piece pulls the same quote from the Reuters copy.

Your turn: Should I be having this much fun at work? And a second question, because piece #2 was about blogging: what are your thoughts on the proposed blogging code of conduct? Is the blogosphere a civil place? Why? Why not?

Niner, waiting

Cruciform tail
Detroit, MI, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The windows at Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) have an annoying dot-like treatment that does horrid things to pictures shot through them. I understand the need to treat these massive panes of glass so that the poor souls inside don't bake in the intense Michigan sun. But when my optics become stippled in the process, I take exception.

Thankfully, I seem to have found the right exposure settings to have salvaged this moment. I was waiting for my flight out to San Francisco after my long lonely night in the terminal (see here for background). I saw the t-tail of this NWA DC-9 (wiki) in the window and thought it painted a soft image of this place. I find airplanes at rest to be poignant icons of travel. When they're working, they're loud, agile machines that spear through impossibly high altitudes at near-mach speeds. But when they're down here, they're elegant in a gossamer-fragile sort of way.

I could have sat in this place all day, staring out the dotted window. But my flight was starting to board at the other end of the terminal, and I needed to go. But not before I remembered this silent, transitional moment in a strange place far from home.

Your turn: Do you try to slow things down while you travel? How?

One more thing: The person who brought me into the world celebrates another birthday today. My mom doesn't have a blog of her own, but she's been known to read the occasional entry here. If you're up to it, feel free to send her a happy in a comment.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Green snippings

Blades of grass
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Chic restaurants have all sorts of stylistic flourishes to set themselves apart from the other chic restaurants. The San Francisco W Hotel's restaurant, creatively called XYZ, has little boxes of wheat grass sprinkled here and there throughout the space.

So when we happened upon the hostess carefully trimming the blades down to an impossibly uniform length, I just had to mark the moment with a picture. While she snipped, I snapped. I think she found it interesting that this supposedly routine aspect of her job was worthy of attention.

It most certainly was.

Your turn: Camera as conversation-opener. Please discuss.

Monday, April 09, 2007

An in between moment, in glass

Empty glasses
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Inspiration happens when you least expect it. Like after you've finished lunch and are heading with your travel group to the next event on the conference itinerary.

In this case, the stems caught my eye as we walked out of the restaurant. I composed this quickly before catching up with the rest of my colleagues. Over the next couple of days, they got used to my propensity to drop back momentarily to capture whatever it was that caught my eye as we went through the paces of our day.

I've taken to calling these my "in between moments." And I've learned that the most fascinating views of the world seem to present themselves while we're moving from one moment, one place to another. Maybe there's a broader lesson in that...I have to toss it around my head for a bit.

Your turn: What does an in between moment look like to you?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Caption This 13

Please provide a caption for this photo [See below for details]
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco is a massive piece of engineering that's often eclipsed by the Golden Gate Bridge. More popularly known as The Bay Bridge, it doesn't have the heritage, the lore, the history of its crosstown rival. This is, of course, unfair. In any other city, I suspect this structure would be an icon instead of an afterthought.

So in the belief that anything can offer up a compelling perspective if we look hard enough, I walked over to the bridge and tried to capture it in ways that defied its in-the-shadows reputation.

Now that I've taken the shot, I'd like you to name it. It's called Caption This, and here's how you can make it happen:
Minerva posted the first suggestion, and it was a keeper - as well as this week's winner:
It was a while before the shopkeeper noticed that his new advert for a male stripper was attracting rather a lot of attention.
Minerva is, quite simply, the most courageously eloquent writer you'll ever meet in blogland. She's a mom, a cancer survivor, and an honest observer of life and all its brutal realities. Her site, A Woman of Many Parts, has become a must-read on my reading list. Please drop by and congratulate her for having a sharp eye (check out the box under the table) and a sharp wit.

Your turn: Come up with a title, a passage, a poem, a whatever, for the photo above. Come up with two, three, ten...however many you wish. Leave your submissions in a comment. I'll announce the winner next week. If you want to vote for someone else, or send a friend on by, feel free to spread the joy.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

4 weeks on...

Someone to watch over me
London, ON, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

We've learned a number of things about owning a dog in the almost-four weeks since we brought Frasier home (see here if you're just learning about our new addition.) Here's a quick sampling, categorized neatly for your reading pleasure:
  • Play: A puppy will inevitably decide to play - and play hard - at precisely the late-night moment when you decide it's time to tuck in for bed. You're too tired to play along? Too bad.
  • Sleep: If you wake up in the pre-dawn murk to see a furry face staring at you from beside the bed, don't be afraid. Make sure you have your clothes already laid out so you can quickly get out of the house without waking everyone else up.
  • Wardrobe: It's OK to go for an early-morning walk in your one-piece gigantic red jammies as long as you're wearing a similarly long trench coat to hide most of it. It's NOT OK if it's too warm for a trench coat. (See previous clothes-layout suggestion.)
  • Instinctive behavior: Once outside, he will attempt to pee on every tree, bush, rock, stump, fencepost, or any other protrusion he can find. If he runs out of pee, that won't stop him.
  • Making friends, part 1: When he sees a stranger, he will bark loudly enough to be heard from a full city block away. He will pull hard enough that you will cross your fingers that you bought a decent enough leash and collar.
  • Making friends, part 2: When he sees a strange dog, he will bark loudly enough to be heard from the adjacent zip code. You hope you injected your steroids that morning as you strain against the leash.
  • Making friends, part 3: He will inevitably make a bee line for the person who either hates dogs, or is afraid of them. Eventually, said non-dog person will smile at least once.
  • Perpetual motion: Smaller dogs seem to have more energy than larger ones. I'm not sure why that is.
  • The front door: Homecoming is a delightful and frightening time. Delightful because you're thrilled that any being would be so happy upon your return. Frightening because you worry he'll scoot out the door and never be seen again.
  • The bottom line: You'll wonder what your home was like before you had him. They seem to weasel their way into the fabric of your family without too much difficulty.
More observations to come, I'm sure. We're just settling into the dog thing, and already I wonder why it took us so long to jump in.

Your turn: If you've got a pet, what observations have you made?

Administrative note: I've finally gotten off my duff and upgraded the blogroll in my sidebar. If I've missed you, please accept my apologies - it wasn't intentional. If you're a regular visitor here and you'd like to be added on to the 'roll, post a comment here and I'll add you in on the next update cycle. Thanks for your patience in helping me spread the bloggy love.

Water, still

Bottom of the bottle
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

A couple of relatively unadorned glass water bottles sit on a relatively simple surface under relatively subdued lighting. There isn't any real reason for me to capture this particular scene, but I take my camera out anyway simply because I like what I'm seeing. I don't always need a reason, after all.

I'm liking this photography thing more and more with each passing day.

Your turn: I've been delving deeper into the world of the lens in recent months. I know why I like it. Why do you like it? What is it about photography that turns you on?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Going vertical

San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

As I walk around this richly detailed city, I find my eyes constantly drawn to small elements of architecture and landscape that just don't seem to exist anywhere else. I want to shoot everything in sight, bring it home and arrange it in such a way that will allow me to replay my visit.

That, of course, is impossible. Photography necessitates a certain degree of editing, of cutting down the experience into a limited number of views that somehow manage to cover the bases. The folks back home don't have the time or the energy to sit through 1,200-image slide shows - indeed, it's nightmarish memories of endless slide shows that have helped me become an absolutely ruthless editor of both words and photos.

So I walk, and shoot, and walk some more, and shoot yet again, letting my gut decide when to level the camera and preserve the moment.

I don't often crop my images. I try to compose them as close to final-form as I possibly can. But sometimes, a scene just screams "crop" as soon as I spot it. In this case, the geometry of this fire escape is such that no conventional layout would accommodate it. So I'll pull out the crop tool when I get back home.

As I stand on the sidewalk, I wonder if anyone ever actually uses these stairs. And if they do, for what. I wonder if the architects who designed these utilitarian additions to the facade gave much thought to their fascinating pattern. I wonder if the San Franciscans who walk by this building every day - and there are a lot of walkers in this burg - ever look up at it and wonder the same thing.

Whether it's this stairwell or some other micro-aspect of their city, I sure hope they do. There's so much to see, so much to be inspired by.

Your turn: What do stairs say to you?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cartoonish facade

Reflective surfaces
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I have a habit of looking up at tall buildings. I've often written about this mini-obsession of mine (see here, here and here) and I suspect I've got many such stories left in me to tell. I think I do this because when I was a child and came across a large building, bridge or similar piece of engineering, I would tilt my head back and say "wow" with that sense of limitless wonder that only a young child can honestly pull off.

Yet, as an adult, I still find moments like this to be wondrous. I'm nowhere near as cute as I was when I was six, but I refuse to believe that just because I'm an adult, the experience should be any less riveting.
Quick aside: Maybe it's our adult reluctance to admit amazement and wonder that makes the world less than happy for so many of us. End digression.
So when I saw this building in San Francisco, I thought it would be neat to capture. It has a dreamy, cartoon-like quality that reminds me why sometimes I shouldn't overthink the picture. Rather, I need to pick the camera up and shoot whatever amazes me. I'll figure out the specifics later on. Until then, it's perfectly OK to say wow. Even though I'm an adult who's supposedly beyond that.

Your turn: It's been a while since I did a first-three-words challenge, so let's change that. What are the first three words that come to mind when you first see this image? Should I keep looking up at big buildings?

One more thing: After clicking on the picture to pull up the high-res version, scroll up and down really quickly. Let me know what you think of the resulting illusion. Cool, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Table for one

San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The scene: a chic Vietnamese restaurant near our hotel. Our group - better known as Team Canada - has come here for dinner after a successful day of learning how technology can turn small businesses into supercharged small businesses.

The conversation flows boisterously fast as this group of frighteningly high achievers debriefs from the day that was and chats about pretty much everything else under the sun. A good time is clearly being had by all as the server, quite possibly the best customer service-focused individual any of us has ever met, ensures that every last aspect of our evening is this close to perfect.

Before long, we're the last table left in the place. I notice the empty tables that surround ours, their perfectly arranged place settings casting perfect shadows under a seemingly perfect bright white light. It's the kind of micro-scene that begs to be remembered, because perfection isn't always framed so neatly and moments like this don't seem to happen as often as we'd like.

Your turn: A moment that made you reflect on the goodness around you. Please discuss.

Where Carmi gets told off by a mascot

Get the *&^%$#! away!
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Meet Luigi Francisco Seal, better known as Lou Seal. He's the official mascot of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. I'm not sure why there are two seals here. I would have asked, but as you can see by the gesture being directed at me by the seal on the right, the answer would likely not have been forthcoming. (If anyone knows the lore of these furry beasts, please feel free to explain in a comment.)

I happened across this scene while out on a walkabout. I was crossing a very large parking lot beside a very large pier - Pier 28, if I counted correctly - and I saw a cameraperson filming the two seals going through a range of animated zen/yoga-like movements. Cool, I thought, as I approached and shot off a bunch of pictures. At my closest approach - likely not closer than 50 feet - right-hand seal raised his arm and swore at me, punctuating his very un-seal-like greeting with a "no pictures" order.

Um, OK. I didn't exactly want to get into it with a couple of fuzzies and I already had the pictures I wanted safely stored on my memory card. But any plans to take myself out to the old ball game for some peanuts and crackerjack were immediately scuttled. Someone really needs to teach the stinking sea creature about the value of PR.

Still, the picture makes me laugh. Sometimes, I can't believe the things I see through my lens. Life is indeed good.

Your turn: Have you had a moment - good or bad - with a mascot? Please share.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

All the news that's fit to print

Ticky tacky boxes
San Francisco, CA, March 2007

You can tell a lot about a town by the media it keeps. When I saw this row of newspaper boxes, I knew their sheer number told a story that I wanted to remember.

Because I was sitting on a city bus at the time, doing my utmost to not lose consciousness before I got back to my hotel, I was feeling a little moody. I thought of the places in the world where such flagrant displays of free press are banned. Yet here, they're a part of the everyday landscape.

Imagine that.

Your turn: A free press means...?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wrong turn under a bridge to nowhere

San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

While walking through downtown San Francisco, I came across an elevated expressway that was midway through the process of deconstruction. The few sections that remained simply ended unceremoniously, awaiting their inevitable fate.

A homeless man lived underneath the last section. He alternated between lying under his plastic sheeting and checking his worldly possessions in his nearby shopping cart. I wasn't looking to capture him, but as I scoped the desolate-looking bridge, I noticed the lost soul living beneath it and thought that perhaps the more important message lay in the man and not the concrete that surrounded him.

I hesitated to take the shot at first. What right did I have to invade this man's privacy, after all? As I debated myself over the moral issues related to this one photo, he turned away from his cart and noticed me standing there. He immediately headed back to his sheeting and took shelter. I guess I had my answer.

But as I meandered elsewhere on the site, he kept eyeing me from beneath the plastic. I began to feel a little bolder, figuring that my taking his picture and sharing it might just prompt the kind of thought that could, in a fit of rose-colored hope, prevent others from meeting his sad and solitary fate. The greater good, I decided, lay in pushing his buttons. I further justified it by figuring someone in a public place has little expectation of privacy - yet another tragic consequence of a life few of us could ever begin to comprehend.

I walked away and gave him a few minutes to settle into his sheeting, then turned quickly and squeezed off three shots in rapid sequence before leaving for good. He never knew I took the picture, never knew that strangers around the world would soon get a brief glimpse into his anonymous life, would soon mull over the sad tragedy of one moment in a homeless man's day.

For a man whose every waking moment seems focused on holding onto what's his and maintaining a tenuous hold on a disappearing patch of concrete, it struck me as ironic that his image would be discussed and debated in an online world that he likely knows nothing about. Yet another tragedy of today's lost souls.

Your turn: What's the greater good in my having taken this image?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Under a blood red sky

View on descent
From a Northwest Airlines 757-200 somewhere over Michigan, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

The plane banks back and forth as it goes through the ritual dance of approach and landing. We're somewhere over the hinterland of Michigan, on our way to Detroit. Behind us is over 4 hours of flying from San Francisco. Ahead of us lies home, the end of a successful trip and a family that can't wait to see me again.

I sit in my seat, spellbound by the incredibly rich colors that play out in the painted sky before me. I don't think it's even possible to capture. The shuddering airframe makes a solid shot in this variable-light environment difficult to snag. Normally when shooting sunsets, I'd be planted firmly on the ground. Worse, I'd be shooting through a plastic window that's as scratched and pitted as any I've seen on a London city bus. It's the photographic equivalent of trying to win the lottery. Sure, you can buy a ticket. But you're virtually guaranteed a loser's trip home and a date with the celebratory bottle of flat root beer.

But I pick up the camera anyway. I have to try. Because not trying guarantees failure. Trying at least offers a hope, even if it's a glimmer. I get to work. Automatic exposure is useless. I flip to manual and ratchet off a few frames at one setting. Too bright. I dial down the aperture and try again. Better, but not perfect. I switch to a faster shutter speed, squeeze the shutter and check the results. Looks better, but I can't be sure. Was my focus OK? I won't know till later. The plane banks back left, so now I'm looking at a different patch of sky - with different light characteristics. I re-meter and try again.

As the plane dances in the air, I'm dancing with my camera beside the dollar store plastic window, working feverishly to come up with even one photo that allows me to tell the story of how I felt sitting up in the sky, watching magic unfold before my very eyes.

It's not often that a photographer gets to witness colors like this. I was privileged to have had exactly this experience on my way home Thursday night, and I was equally privileged to be able to snag it with a camera. I wish I could have had my family and friends with me so we could have shared the moment for real.

Your turn: Images and moments that move you. Please discuss.

One more thing: I'm framing this one for our living room. Please let me know if you'd like the full-res photo as well.

Caption This 12

It's up to you to name this photo [See below for details]
San Francisco, CA, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I captured this one in San Francisco's Chinatown earlier this week. I was captivated by the scene, as it's likely one that plays out with minor variations at every hour of every day. Some would call it a common, forgettable sight. I'd call it something else entirely.

But enough about what I think about this image. What matters is your opinion. That's right, it's time for you to get into the Caption This game. Here's the deal:
Speaking of last week's entry, the winner is...Em! His winning caption was:
Decision Landing.
If you haven't yet visited his site, Notes From My Corner, you're missing an inspirational view of life from a husband's and father's perspective. He'll make you think. Really.

Your turn: Come up with a caption for the picture above. Post it as a comment here. Post many captions, if you wish. Tell your friends - fame and wannabe-fortune await all who enter. It won't hurt. Promise.