Monday, March 31, 2008


Someone used to live here
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

While driving my daughter to a playdate last week, she noticed that an apartment building across the street from one of the synagogues in town was being torn down. She gasped audibly when she first saw the scene, and asked why this kind of thing had to happen.

I paused for a bit before I answered. It's not as if this building was any great prize. It was the kind of run-down structure that you'd probably forget you'd seen mere seconds after passing it. Three storeys, brown, old and very much the kind of place you hoped you'd never live.

I resisted the urge to express my satisfaction that this corner might finally become home to something nicer. After all, people had lived there once. Perhaps folks who were new to this country, building their lives, hoping for a better future. All gone now, of course, their former homes now slowly being consumed by giant machines that didn't have much patience for sentiment.

We talked about how everything has a finite lifespan, how even buildings eventually wear out and have to be replaced, how this transition opens up opportunities for builders and regular folks alike. Five minutes later, we pulled into her friend's driveway, and she was happy with the outcome of our discussion.

As luck would have it, I had brought my camera along for the ride, so I offered to take pictures on the way home. To remember not just someone's home that would soon be a memory, but a moment when our daughter learned just a little more about impermanence and supposed progress. She happily nodded as she bounced out of the van, making me promise I'd show them to her when I came to pick her up.

Your turn: Please look into this photo and try to see the home that once was. What stories could it tell?

P.S. We returned the next day. The machines were busy chewing through what remained of the structure. By midweek, the entire thing was gone.

One more thing: We're still taking your best captions for this week's Caption This contest. Click here to open up a photographic Pandora's Box. It won't hurt. Really.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Caption This 64

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Dayton, Ohio, January 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I find it somewhat amazing how a substance that can be so noxious on one level can be so frighteningly beautiful on another.

Your turn: Please come up with a compelling caption for this image and share it in a comment. Feel free to repeat the process as often as you feel inspired. I'll announce the winner next Sunday.

About last week's photo of the smokey smokestack: Hmm, now that I think of it, I seem to be stuck on an environmental kick. I'm not sure why. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Catheroo: Smoking kills...the earth.
  • Robin: Where there's smoke, there's mire.
  • Judy: We all need to blow off steam now and then!
  • MissMeliss: Steamed.
  • Carolyn: Pipe dreams
  • Awareness: Crime of the century.
  • Terri: Smoking gun.
And the winner is...Alix, for Gone with the wind. Please visit her excellent blog, DC Days, to congratulate her. And don't forget to have fun with this week's image!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bleak outlook

Post industrial
Dayton, Ohio, January 2008 [Click to enlarge]

We pull off the highway at the Edwin Moses exit. The irony that a road named for one of the greatest middle distance runners of all time can look as dreary as this isn't lost on me.

Each day brings ever more depressing economic news. Between mortgage meltdowns, financial sector failures, record energy prices and massive job losses, it's easy to lose sight of the individual. Somewhere within the megatrends, the gigantic numbers, the 8-second sound bites from smart-sounding think tank professors on the evening news, there's one person who works at a factory much like this one, walking to his car late on a bleak afternoon and wondering what this all means to him.

When I first took this picture, I thought it was empty. But the more I took in the scene, the more I realized it was telling me the story of so many anonymous souls around us, all fearful of what tomorrow may bring.

Your turn: Is growing speculation of economic storm clouds causing you to worry? If so, how?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

That friendly little glow

Little. Sepia. Round. Different.
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I'd like to play the three-questions game, if you don't mind. I hope you'll take a quick sec to whimsically answer the following questions in a comment:
  • What is this?
  • Where did I find it?
  • What does it remind you of?
Remember: This is supposed to be fun. Please, no wagering.

The lady with the potty mouth

I love walking our dog. It connects me with the neighborhood in ways that just wouldn't happen otherwise. Sometimes, however, I think I could do without some of these new connections.

Case in point: the lady with the two collies. Last month, I took the dog out for his nighttime walk as pea soup fog started to roll in (see this entry for a view of the next morning.) After a couple of warm, wet days, the rapidly cooling temps had turned the sidewalk into an ice rink. I half-walked, half-skated as I tried to rein in our exuberant puppy and keep myself from face planting.

A block away from the house, I saw a lone figure approach with two dogs. I stood well off to the side to allow her to walk past. Our dog is, um, very animated when he sees other dogs. He barks incessantly as he tries to meet his new furry friends. He's all noise and no fight - he just wants to say hi - but I'd rather not let him get near other dogs because you just never know how strange animals will respond.

Upon seeing me holding the dog close, the woman - an elderly lady who's clearly in love with her bottle of Miss Clairol - proceeds to stop and talk to her dogs. Then she talks to me. About the weather. I'm really hoping she just goes away because I want want my dog to stop yapping. But this woman wants to chat. And she's blocking my way.

Then she drops the f-bomb.

I think I'm hearing her wrong. A lady old enough to be my mother certainly wouldn't swear in front of a complete stranger, would she? As I mull this question over, she swears again. No doubt about it this time. She's really p----d off about the f----n weather and the f----n city that can't clean the f----n sidewalk properly. I politely nod agreement, then nod a few more times - with a few uh-huhs thrown in in feigned interest - before I finally motion that my dog really needs to finish his walk. She lets me pass and that's that.

Until this week. This time, she surprises us out of the dark (a senior citizen stalker. Great.) Frasier starts to bark. Her dogs growl. First word out of her mouth? "S--t." And loud, too.

This woman's a serious potty mouth. I look her straight in the eye, and in my most serious voice, say, "Well, it's lovely to see you tonight, too." I then turn, call the dog, and he obeys me perfectly as we walk into the darkness, away from this lonely, filthy-mouthed retiree.

I guess I've made my first dog walking connection. Ew.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Pac Man Found Dead

...Ms. Pac Man charged with murder
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I always suspected his philandering, eat-anything-in-his-path ways would get him into trouble. Who knew he'd end up in a watery grave in the parking lot of our kids' school. Rest in peace, little pie-headed fella.

Your turn: Video game characters who've gone bad. Please discuss.

One more thing: I'm still taking caption suggestions for this week's contest. Click here for more.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Scene from a train station

Little boy waits
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Before we begin: If you haven't captioned yet, click here. I promise you it won't hurt. There, let's continue...
We've been experiencing a revolving door of extended-family illness of late. My father, father-in-law and mother-in-law have collectively logged enough time in hospital these past few months to qualify them for lifetime patient-of-the-month honors. It's a status I'm sure all of them would gladly decline.

When my wife went to Montreal earlier this month to be there for my father-in-law's surgery, I hung back at home with the little ones and tried to avoid inadvertently poisoning them with my unique kitchen creations. By virtue of the fact that I brought three very much live children to the train station to pick her up, I believe I succeeded.

As is typical of Canada's lame duck rail service, the train was late. Via Rail trains share the tracks with freight trains. And since slaughterhouse-bound cows must take precedence over human cargo, my wife's train sat on a siding for an hour and a half while I tried to find ways to amuse them. Note to self: fabric frisbees work wonders in cases like this. SMS also works well: I was able to tell her more about what was going on than the staff on the train could.

This scene captured what it felt like for us to be there, waiting for a train that threatened to never come. If anything, it made her arrival that much sweeter.

(And, no, his socks don't match. He's got an entire life to match to perfection. For now, we're fine letting him pick and choose his footwear. It made complete strangers smile, which made him happy despite the fact that he missed his mom.)

Your turn: Waiting for someone who matters. Please discuss.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Caption This 63

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

This is the year of global warming, of carbon footprints, of realizing that we're on the slippery slope toward environmental oblivion unless we start making some very hard, very drastic and very expensive choices.

I recall when Earth Day was huge around 1989-90. It was a big fad to get involved, clean up a park somewhere on a Sunday morning with other like-minded do-gooders while local TV news crews shot b-roll footage of the volunteers in their snappy new t-shirts. Then it just vanished, another victim of pop culture burnout.

I hope we've learned our lesson in the intervening years. Doubtful, but you never know.

Your turn: Post a caption for this photo in a comment. You can be funny, serious, or whatever mood strikes you. Drag your friends into this nuttiness, miss work and stay up late. Anything to fill my comments box with good stuff. Still not sure how Caption This works? Click here for the really simple rules.

About last week's water bottle in a desert photo: I guess I can't get away from the eco-green theme. This week's honorable menschens are:
  • Tiel Aisha Ansari: It's perfectly clear
  • Robin: Abandonment issues
  • Awareness: Plastic apathy
  • Judy: North American oasis
  • Naomi: In The Shadow Of My Smile, I Drink
  • MissMeliss: Deserter
  • Omykiss: Waste water
  • Sister AE: Water, water everywhere! Now where'd I leave my drink?
And the top nod goes to Moi, for Message "with" a bottle. I can't get Sting's musical chorus out of my head, and for good reason. Her blog, Not By A Long Shot, is an absolute photographic treat. Go. You won't be sorry.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New head shot

Turning the lens on myself
London, ON
March 2008

I've often written about how I can't stand being in pictures. Life behind the lens is safe, quiet and controlled. Life in front of it is decidedly less so.

Video is actually easier than still. At least when you're being captured in full-motion, you can speak, move, animate yourself. Still photography, on the other hand, always seems to capture you in that blink of an eye when you're looking like a super doofus.

Problem is, I'm occasionally asked to provide a head shot to accompany any quotes that I might have shared with a reporter. I'd been using one taken years ago - click here to see it...don't laugh - but it was starting to get a little, I don't know, stale. So when I was asked a couple of weeks ago for an updated one, I had an idea: Take it myself!

That way, I'd control the outcome. So as I shivered in a windy parking lot taking pictures like this, I also set up my tripod, grabbed my remote control and took a few slightly offbeat self-portraits. It was kinda fun.

Your turn: How silly do I look? Any thematic suggestions for future self-taken head shots?

One more thing: I chatted briefly with Wojtek Dabrowski of Reuters Canada earlier this week, resulting in this article, Telecoms face new competition. Here's what I said:
But Carmi Levy, senior vice-president at Toronto-based ARCommunications, cautioned that the wireless-driven growth engine could sputter if more entrants arrive.

"If you're an incumbent player, this is not good news for you because your life is about to get more difficult," he said, adding that the top three firms will have to become more flexible and responsive, as well as more affordable to customers.

Make that two: I'll be posting the next Caption This entry tomorrow. Start your creative minds now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Naked branches

Trees meet sky
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

The scene: a bitterly cold, brilliantly sunny late afternoon. I've dropped my daughter off at a program and have returned to the parking lot. I hear the wind rustling through the trees, so I look up and feel very small in the process. The little voice in my left ear concludes that the resulting motion means I won't be getting any sharp pictures today. But that's why fast shutter speeds were invented, counters my right-eared voice.

The right side wins out. These branches will be full of leaves before long, and when they do they'll be telling a different story. Maybe I'll reshoot them at that time, but for now I can't take my eyes off the yellowish light painting the bare branches against an impossibly blue sky.

Your turn: This was one of the last pictures I shot before the calendar turned from winter to spring. How did you mark the changing of the season?

One more thing: Earlier this week, I was interviewed by Jonathan Montpetit of the Canadian Press for a piece on the declining fortunes of land line telephones. The piece published March 19th under the headline, Quebec study offers snapshot of rapid decline of the land-line telephone. It was also picked up in a bunch of interesting places, including the CBC, CTV, the Kingston Whig-Standard, the Calgary Sun and the Peterborough Examiner. Here's what I said:
Analysts see a trend sustained by a demographic shift hardly unique to the province.

"As Generation Y increases its influence on the market these numbers will only continue to grow," said Carmi Levy, a technology analyst with AR Communications.

"The understanding of what phone service is is very different among the generation that has grown up among the Internet."


Relatively small upstarts like U.S.-based Vonage Holdings are targeting consumers with offerings - from phone-number guarantees to responsive customer service - that the giants have difficulty matching.

"Their biggest challenge is inertia," Levy said of Bell and Telus. "They're so big and so entrenched that they can't move fast enough to bring innovative new technologies to market before smaller, more agile competitors."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Kentucky trucker

Where I'm going. Where I've been
1-75, Somewhere in Kentucky, December 2007

Big news here in Ontario this week, where our near-communist* government enacted legislation forcing all truckers to install speed limiters. This will cap them at 105 km/h, or about 64 mph. Works for me: speeding trucks scare the bejeebers out of me every time I drive my family on a highway.

* OK, Ontario isn't really a communist society. But our Liberal government, headed by Premier Dalton McGuinty, has broken countless election promises since coming to power a few years back. And in the long-lived tradition of Canadians getting what they deserve, the good burghers of this province voted the morons back into power last year - and they continue to do what they please, with no regard to citizen input. So we essentially have elected officials who are not responsive to the citizens we lead. Ergo, communism.

Your turn: Big trucks, and the small people like us who hate them. Please discuss.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In passing - Russell Shaw

The kind of work that I do brings me in contact with a lot of people. Of course, the word, "contact", is a little misleading. I rarely actually meet the people with whom I work. Journalists call from afar and get to know my voice. Clients often brief me by phone before I pick up my pen and write something. Other folks never interact directly with me at all: Instead, they pick up a quote they found online and incorporate it into an updated piece or blog post.

Bottom line: I touch a lot of people and a lot of people touch me. And that definition of "touch" is changing in the age of the Internet.

Russell Shaw touched me. The prolific tech journalist penned, among other things, a BlackBerry blog for ZDNet and, at a couple of points along the way, picked up on something I said and commented on it. No biggie for him, I'm sure, but a neat win for me because it's always fun to be noticed by a pro.

For a fun read, click here for his first comment on me. He basically ripped me a new one. Here's another one where he called me a clued-in analyst. Great fun! Years after these first posts hit the web, people still read them and then follow the link home to my blog. Sadly, there will be no more entries from Mr. Shaw. While in San Jose to cover an industry show last Thursday, he died in his sleep. He was 60.

Like a silent sentinel to a life cut short, his website speaks of all the projects he had on the go, unaware that he'd never be able to finish them all.

As further evidence that our ever-more-interactive world is changing the way we live and die, news of his passing is percolating through the blogosphere, allowing different people in different places to mourn and reflect in unique ways (Google News search here.) Tools aside, I find it sad when a voice like Mr. Shaw's is silenced, for we're all left to wonder what was left unsaid. And who will step into his shoes to keep the conversation going.

Your turn: Passing away in the Internet Age. Please discuss.

Update - April 6, 2008 - The New York Times is running this piece, In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop. Byline Matt Richtel.

Wordless Wednesday - Suck on this

Straw poll
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Your turn: Thirsty yet?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wienermobile crashes. No mustard spilled.

Something strange must be going on with the planet's rotation. Last week it was Gilligan's Mary Ann doing reefer. This week it's belated news of the world's largest wiener, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, crashing into a ditch. I swear I'm not making any of this up - and as far as I can tell, the two stories are not related. Join me for the ride, if you will...

The vehicle: The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile (homepage, wiki, photos) is a promotional hot dog on wheels designed to promote the company's, ah, products. No, I don't eat them. I only consume stuff I can identify. Ground up hog snouts don't qualify.

The scenario: On the way to visit Penn State university last month, the vehicle spun out on an icy highway and ended up stuck on the side of the road. No one was injured and damage was slight (smeared ketchup, maybe.) Autoblog wrote about the accident here.

The lesson: Giant hot dogs don't necessarily make the safest of winter vehicles (suggestion: all-wiener drive.) Too many men without brains have access to Internet-enabled computers (suggestion: snip.*) And giant hot dogs continue to roam the planet (suggestion: cardiologist.)

Your turn: The weirdest vehicle you ever saw was...? And you were doing WHAT at the time?

* If you read the Autoblog entry, you'll notice that a large number of cerebrally-challenged male readers commented - often rudely and crudely - about the fact that two women were piloting the vehicle at the time of the accident. And here I thought chauvinists who view females at the wheel in a disdainful manner went out of style right around the same time the preferred vehicle of these half-men - collectively, the AMC Pacer, Plymouth Volare and the Yugo - dropped their first (and last) transmission on their mommy's driveway. I guess I was wrong: Idiocy lives on in 2008.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A day ends in an ordinary place

End of a winter's afternoon
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to enlarge]

While driving to pick our daughter up from a friend's birthday party, I notice the consistency of the sky and decide I like it. I don't spend a whole lot of time staring at it, though. I'm driving, after all, and photographic composition can't take priority over piloting a kinetic vehicle at relatively high speeds.

But as I pull into the hotel where the party's being held, I find myself staring into a late winter, late afternoon sun that's painting the mostly cloudy sky with neato shades of yellow. It's not a typical sunrise/sunset scene, but it stands out just the same. I'm a little early, so I park on the deserted west side of the parking lot and get out, camera in hand.

At first, the antenna that brackets the left-hand side of the image bothers me. (As an aside, it's the aerial for London's A Channel, the city's main television station. Wait, make that only, because the little cable channel that "competes" against A Channel and features bored housewives trying to be Oprah just doesn't count.) But I realize without heroic Photoshopping - which violates my photographic voice - any picture I take is going to have this giant metallic , phallic-looking thing in it. So I roll with it. I find it ironic that some of my work has been broadcast from that very place. There, it's my antenna. So I'll shoot it.

I look around and realize how plain this place is: The back of a hotel parking lot overlooking a sea of suburban homes. It could be anywhere. I climb an 8-foot snowbank to try to get a better angle through the trees. I almost fall - how would that play with the insurance agent, I wonder - but manage to get off the shot before I destroy my equipment. In the end, I get an image of a memorable moment in a forgettable place, and then head inside to pick up one of the four treasures of my existence. Life is once again good.

Your turn: An extraordinary photo taken in an ordinary place. Please discuss.

One more thing: This moment reminds me of this old photo as well. Blowups available.

Make that two: I lied. It's not too late to submit your caption for this week's Caption This image. Click here to see what the fuss is all about. I promise it won't hurt. Much.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Caption This 62

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Deerfield Beach, Florida
December 2007
[Click to embiggen]

Few things tick me off more than people who litter. That they can't take a couple of extra seconds to clean up after themselves speaks volumes about who they are. There's something to be said for those who respect the environment around them. And for those who don't.

So when I came across this forlorn water bottle on the beach, I thought it made an interesting comment on a number of levels. Now I'll turn things over to you to divine a caption or two. Hang on...

Your turn: Please caption this image. As always, assistance from friends and family members - even ones you despise - is welcome and encouraged. Submit as many captions as you wish. Winner will be announced next week. Click the Comment link below and have fun!

About last week's candle-lit scene: I don't want y'all to think I'm a wannabe-arsonist or something. But I really do love the soft glow of a candle's flame. As always, all six of my regular readers failed to disappoint, coming up with the following honorable menschens:
  • Judy: "This little light of mine....I'm gonna' let it shine.."
  • Steve: "Paraffinity" and "Light switch."
  • Robin: "Just add cake."
  • Awareness: "It only takes a spark to keep the fire burning...."
  • MissMeliss: ""
  • Sister AE: "Baruch ata adonai." (Note from Carmi: this is how Jewish blessings all begin. It means "Bless you, God"
  • Anne: "Friday Night Lights"
  • Tiel Aisha Ansari: "Post tech light bulbs"
And the winner is...MissMeliss for the evocative A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Although this week's honorables mostly touched an emotional chord, Melissa's came closest to the story I think this picture is telling. If you're not already familiar with her work, click here to read her excellent blog and congratulate her.

For now, start churning on this week's picture and please return often to try your luck. I'll announce the winner next Sunday.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Branches on a foggy morning

Reaching out
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to enlarge]

The scene: Tuesday morning. I've just dropped the two munchkins off at school and have just begun the drive home. My head swirls with thoughts of the day ahead as I mentally pick through the work that awaits me on my home office desk. As I roll past the seminary, I silently remind myself that I've been meaning to take pictures of this very pastoral place for years. For some reason, however, I just haven't gotten around to it. Life gets in the way, I suppose.

But it's been a very foggy morning here, and as the sun begins to slowly burn through the murk, I decide that now's the time for me to take that picture. Or at least try. It doesn't seem to matter that a) I'm feeling like the shadowy bottom of my cranky old neighbor-lady's dungeon, b) the cold, damp air likely isn't good for my compromised state of health, c) I have a lot of work and life challenges to work through before the day is done, and d) the side of the road from which I'll need to shoot is an unbroken 20-foot-wide unplowed snowbank.

But those are just excuses. I have my camera with me this day - some people carry purses. I carry my camera bag. Because you just never know - so I decide on a whim that I can afford to take 8 minutes to capture the moment before Old Sol ruins it for good. Real life can wait for 8 minutes.

I feel like an idiot traipsing through the beyond-knee-deep snow, holding my camera up so students on the way to class at nearby King's College don't think I'm some sort of terrorist. I feel like an even bigger idiot as parents from the kids' school pass me and wave.

But photography isn't about what other people think. It's about being out there with your tools, feeling a moment that will be gone before you know it, enjoying a time when nothing else matters beyond trying to remember what it feels like to be truly alone and happy in your skin. I'm so glad I stopped and took the time.

Your turn: This image seems to have a lot of hidden meaning. What does it mean to you?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eliot Spitzer - paragon of misplaced virtue

The fall from grace of Eliot Spitzer, soon-to-be-former governor of New York and former Mr. Clean who crusaded for the better part of the decade to wipe corruption from every nook and cranny of Wall Street, is as spectacular as we're gonna get in this age of new media. A few things come to mind as I watch this modern-day tragic circus play out:
  • Stupid, stupid, stupid. Your wife's a Harvard-educated lawyer. You have a textbook family, with three teenaged daughters. Why would you risk a plethora of treasures that most people spend their lives dreaming of? On second thought, you're a Harvard-educated lawyer, too. What the hell did you learn while you studied there?
  • Arrogant, arrogant, arrogant. You prosecuted folks for corruption, wire fraud and other financial misdeeds for much of your career. Did you think that you were somehow immune to the same kind of pursuit?
I could go on for ages, but I'll keep this short because I'm miserably sick and I don't have the patience to write volumes about idiots. Truth is, folks like Spitzer are easy pickins after they've been exposed for the sad human beings that they are. I guess people in powerful positions really are just as warped and vulnerable as the rest of us.

What stands out for me is his reputation as a crusader against corruption. He relentlessly went after those who strayed from the path of righteousness, building a better-than-perfect persona for himself in the process. I guess it's only natural that the community that fell under his prosecutor's gun now feels a certain smug sense of satisfaction now that this holier-than-thou figure has been exposed as something less than divinely holy. Glass houses. Stones. It's all making sense to me now.

Your turn: Your first thought when you heard about the Spitzer case was...?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One dog year

Sit Ubu Sit. Good dog.
London, Ontario, February 2008 [Click to embiggen]

A year ago today, we welcomed a 19-pound mess of dirty, matted fur into our house (click here for the first entry, and click here for Act of Dog post category.) Frasier the miniature schnauzer was a rescue dog. He went from a home where he spent most days and nights ignored in a cage to one quite unlike anything he'd ever known in his eight months of life. Suddenly, strange little people were giving him hugs. He was taken for walks. He got to sleep in bed with his human mommy and daddy. He was constantly being played with. He was part of the family.

He's gotten quite used to his charmed life in the 366 days since. He's put a few pounds on his scrawny frame. He's calmed down - a little - but is still that bouncy-nutty puppy we know and love. His sweetness has rubbed off on our kids, who have become his best friends, and who have grown immensely in their own right now that they have a puppy to care for. As I write this, our daughter, Dahlia, is animatedly talking to him as he lies down by my side. The sounds in the room are nothing if not delightfully joyous.

I still have days when I wonder what the hell I'm doing with a dog in the house. He's not the world's greatest listener, he eats things he shouldn't and he makes noise at the most inconvenient times. Yet when he walks up to one of us and flops his head down like Finnigan the sock puppet on the old Mr. Dressup show (not Canadian? Click here) I know that all is right with the world, and it was meant to be that he found us and made us his.

Happy birthday, furry little man.

Your turn: A dog's life + 1. Please discuss.

Gilligan's Mary Ann: drug convict

I can't make this up. Dawn Wells, who played the plain-jane Mary Ann as a wholesome counterpoint to Tina Louise's Ginger Grant starlet in the old Gilligan's Island television series, has been convicted of marijuana possession after two half-smoked joints were found in her car last October.

Kinda funny on the surface. But I lost my smile as I continued reading. Seems she failed a sobriety test after she was pulled over. This snippet, blatantly stolen from an article in the New York Times, speaks volumes about how regular folks continue to pooh-pooh drunk driving:
[Wells' lawyer, Ron] Swafford also said several witnesses were prepared to testify that Wells had very little to drink at the party and was not intoxicated when she left. He said she was swerving on the road because she was trying to find the heater controls in her new car.
Yup, because we should all be surrounded by friends willing to lie on our behalf so we can get off when we're hauled in for driving under the influence (DUI). I guess celebs really do have a different legal standard, as the DUI charge was ultimately dropped. I think I need a shower.

Your turn: Let's talk about DUI, shall we? Does her friends' behavior scare you? More importantly, perhaps, does this swing the young-male-lustometer back into Ginger's favor? Has the bloom finally worn off the Mary Ann rose?

One more thing: The National Post is running this story, Investigation threatens RIM's India market (alternative link here.) Someone you know has been quoted in it. Even cooler: the writer, David George-Cosh, has a blog of his own, Strangehold. Great reading, and a must-have in your RSS feeds list.

CBC Radio in Montreal interviewed me yesterday morning on this topic as well. Very cool stuff!

Oh, almost forgot. Here's what I said in the National Post piece:
"It's dicey at the best of times, but that's the cost of doing business in a place like India where [there is] government intervention and telecommunication dwarves our own market," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc. "It makes Canadian government intervention look like child's play."


"Companies like RIM can't assume that governments outside of North America will take a hands off approach to allowing their technology to be used in the market," said Mr. Levy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Look into my eyes

Baby blues on a hot afternoon
London, ON, August 2006

Your turn:
As you look into my eyes, what do you see? (Please be polite, as my mother occasionally reads this.)

One more thing: Caption This is still taking submissions. Don't know what I'm talking about. Click here for eternal bloggy fame. Or something akin to it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Apple iPhone puts on a suit

I've been busy dipping my toes into media stuff again. Apple's iPhone announcement generated the bulk of some really cool coverage last week. But the coolness didn't stop there: A postscript to the DVD format war garnered some exposure in the New York Times. Here's a rundown of the fun stuff:

The New York Times, March 10. Another DVD Format, but This One Says It’s Cheaper. Byline Eric A. Taub. Story was also picked up March 9th by the Chicago Tribune under the headline Another contender emerges in DVD-format war, and again by the International Herald Tribune as DVD format battle attracts a new rival: HD VMD. Here's what I said:
The HD VMD camp “is pitching a solution at a market niche that does not exist,” said Carmi Levy, senior vice president for strategic consulting at AR Communications, a Toronto research firm. “And even if it is a niche, you will never sell enough to make it a business.”
Business News Network. Interview with Michael Hainsworth. Aired live March 6. I dare ya to watch it :) Bar none, one of the most fun interviews I've ever done. Also did hits with Gary Doyle of 570News in Kitchener, and John Downs of AM640 in Toronto.

The National Post
, March 7. RIM and Apple drop gloves in fight for each other's markets. Byline David George-Cosh. Also ran online March 6 under the headline Stakes get higher in Apple's battle with RIM., and in a range of other Canwest papers, including the Vancouver Sun and the Montreal Gazette.
"Apple's announcement was revolutionary, while RIM's announcement was evolutionary" said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc. "The more consumer friendly [RIM] can make the Black-Berry, the better it is for its long-term growth. It's another piece of what is turning into a very large and complex puzzle for them."
The Canadian Press, March 6. RIM may become much more of a social smart phone with consumers. Byline LuAnn LaSalle. Other pickups include CTV and CBC.
Getting the BlackBerry further enmeshed with the latest Internet communication trends is "one of the pieces of the overall puzzle that will make these devices indispensable to the way people communicate online and wirelessly today," said analyst Carmi Levy.

"The better they can integrate the lifestyle functions into the BlackBerry, the more they will be able to appeal to this new market," said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at Toronto's AR Communications Inc.

"Really what RIM is doing is positioning itself to be flexible and agile so that it can implement those services and partnerships relatively easily when it becomes apparent that they are indeed a hit."
Unstrung, March 6. Apple's Corporate Drive.

, March 5. How Open Will Apple Go With iPhone SDK Launch? Byline Richard Martin.
"A lot of developers are going to be watching this announcement, to see if the cost of development is low and if Apple is committing to helping them grow their business," said Carmi Levy, senior VP for strategic consulting at AR Communications. "If those messages aren't there, they'll yawn and wait for something else."
More to come. I apparently can't stop talking about technology. (This is too much fun for words!)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Caption This 61

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, Ontario
December 2007
[Click to embiggen]

It wasn't so long ago that open flame was how we lit and heated our homes. It's easy for us, in our technologically-driven sense of superiority over the basic elements of life, to forget that we're barely three generations removed from the turning point in history when electricity became commonly available.

Now, of course, we're useless without our Alternating Current fix, but that's a whole other area of discussion.

These days, we light candles to celebrate, to remember, and to set a certain tone. We may flip a switch to keep the cold outside world at bay, but we still find magic in the soft, flickering glow of a candle.

Your turn: Please share a caption for this image. Enter as often as you wish and don't hesitate to bug your in-laws for an idea or two. For all I know, they still remember using candles to study, or whatever else they did back in the Dark Ages. What would they call this image?

About last week's photo of a bunch of bananas: You never know when I'll pull a fruity photo out of my hat. Thanks to my aunt for loaning me the bananas. And thanks to Sage for penning the brilliant, The making of a republic. Lots of great honorable menschens this week:
  • Robin: "Monkey business" and "Yellow slick road."
  • Frankie; "And with the softening of this fruit, we shed the peels of our lives."
  • Lissa: "Global A-peel" (which also wins the groaner of the week!)
  • Marisa: "They call me mellow yellow."
  • Melissa: "Little. Yellow. Tasty."
  • Kismet. "Time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas."
Okay, I'll stop talking now. Start!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Let's talk about the weather

This afternoon's view from my window
London, ON, March 2007 [Click all images to embiggen]

Few topics have the potential to bring commonality to strangers as the weather. When you take a bunch of folks who have never met each other and stick them in the same room, chances are
they'll be sharing perspectives on Ma Nature before long. Inevitably, the air will fill with good natured bitching before they head back to their usual routine.

Or so I've been told.

I had grave fears about pulling the wondercamera out of its bag in the middle of a raging blizzard. So I did the next best thing: I got out my trusty bottle of Windex and walked around the house, shooting randomly out the window. Here's the pastoral scene in our back yard. Makes you want to break out the big wooly blankets, doesn't it?

Your turn: Look out your window and tell us what you see. Don't overthink it...

One more thing: My tax dollars support many things, including a bunch of unelected senators who travel the country, pretending to "consult" with important people on important "policy issues" when in reality they're just sucking on the public teat until they die. But sometimes, the government does something useful, like fund some funky weather services and make the super-detailed results available on the Interweb (you know, the thing made of tubes.) I've posted a screen grab of the radar picture from earlier this evening. Kinda looks like a ginormous hand, smacking the dickens out of the region, doesn't it?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Brightly lit steps

Blink and it's gone
Delray Beach, FL, December 25, 2007
, 16:12:21

There are two types of scenes:
  1. Those that will still be here if you return tomorrow
  2. Those that are gone in an instant
I've learned to take my time with the former, and strike while the lightning is hot for the rest.

Hovering over this scene, I thought about the possibility of coming back another day and pointing my lens down at the same patch of formed concrete under the swimming pool stairs. Same concrete, but I'd probably never be able to replicate the shape of the waves, the reflections of the light, and the way the two conspired to paint a never-to-be-repeated picture.

So I stayed. And blinked. And squeezed the shutter.

Your turn: A moment that's quickly lost. Please discuss.

One more thing: I was very busy with media stuff this week. The Apple iPhone announcement resulted in a quick blast of journalistic attention. I'm sifting through the pile now and should have some links to notable quotes and interviews posted here in the days to come.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Celebrating murder

I don't often get political on this blog. While my journalist's soul has, since a very young age, quite literally boiled over with opinions and perspectives on political issues, it was never my goal to turn the pages of Written Inc. into a soapbox for my political leanings. I'm going to make a bit of an exception to that today because my journalist's soul can't ignore yet another obvious example of humankind's lack of humanity

Disclosure: I'm Jewish. So I'll let you guess where I stand on matters related to the Middle East. Onward.

By now, you've all heard about the terrorist attack on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem. A gunman burst in on students in a dining hall and killed eight before he was shot by security personnel. In response to the shooting, residents of Gaza took to the streets and celebrated (click here for the full story.) I remember vividly similar scenes from Gaza and the West Bank in 2001, when people danced in the streets after hearing about the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.

Whatever your perspective, what kind of people celebrate the murder of innocents? What does it say about a society that glorifies death and nurtures those who see murder as a higher calling? It blows me away that an entire society revolves around nothing more than the elimination of every last Jew from the face of the earth. And their celebration of a "victory" in this "war" goes unnoticed by the rest of the world.

I wonder if the deafeningly silent response would be different if the same thing happened in, say, Paris. Or London. Or New York.

Unreal. My belief in the goodness of humankind has taken another hit today.

Surrounded by dumbth

By now, we've all heard the same phrases of collective, absolute wisdom enough times that they should be easy to spot in three-dimensional relief toward the front of our cerebral cortex:
  • Don't do drugs
  • Stay in school
  • Don't drink and drive
  • Safe sex
  • Blah, blah, blah...
Common sense might dictate that we've by now learned to translate these well-known bits of wisdom into, you know, real action that enhances our lives and the lives of those around us.

Common sense, unfortunately, seems to have taken a permanent vacation. Drug abuse is rampant, STDs are as popular now as they've ever been, and DUI continues to kill more American innocents in a month than have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Here in my burg, we've been getting flogged repeatedly by Ma Nature. Snow, ice, wind, bitter cold, you name it and she's been tossing it our way for months. By now, you'd think that people who drive cars in this mess would get a clue. You'd be wrong.

Not a day goes by when I don't see idiots take to the streets with windows completely covered in snow (no worries, moron...we'll all watch out for ya) or folks who think you can drive just as fast on ice as you can on bare pavement (the laws of physics don't apply to you, apparently.)

If I get home from kidlet-carpool duty without having had at least one close call with a motorist moron, I consider myself lucky. Yet I live in fear of a time when my luck runs out, when my path fuses with that of someone who never bothered to appreciate the stunning responsibilities associated with piloting a vehicle on a city street.

On his way home from school last week, our son saw a car on a typical suburban side street lose control, jump the curb and smack into a street sign. There's no reason a reasonably driven vehicle should have gone off the road on that stretch, but reason often doesn't enter into the equation when Type A drivers are too busy fiddling with cell phones, GPS devices and stereos to pay attention to annoying things outside like traction, traffic and pedestrians.

I've thanked G-d more times than I dare admit that our son wasn't Right There when it happened. I remind him every day to watch out for drivers and be prepared to run or jump if one of them comes toward him. It bothers me immensely that we all have to adjust our lives because of the reckless stupidity of others.

Your turn: Has society really become as reckless and stupid as I think it has? What say you?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Bananarama

Fruity pebbles
Toronto, ON, November 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Yes, I know I'm in a bananariffic mood these days. Click here for more recent banana-ish fruitography.

Your turn: Favorite fruits. Please discuss.

One more thing: Quick media hit from the Canadian Press - Business software used on iPhone developed at SAP in Montreal. Byline LuAnn LaSalle. Here's what I said:
Analyst Carmi Levy said that SAP is positioning itself to be ready for business demand for the iPhone.

"If the iPhone never had a hope or a prayer of being adopted by enterprise, I doubt that SAP would be devoting resources to it at this point," said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for Toronto's AR Communications Inc.

"There's no question they see something," he said of SAP.
More news on this front over the next couple of days, including a possible TV interview. If you want to see me be a talking head, check back here later tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The road less travelled

The scene: Atlanta, about 10 p.m.-ish. We've been on the road all day and are cruising the last few miles to a waiting downtown hotel. The brilliantly lit skyline peeks in and out as we carefully navigate the twisting interstate highway. The GPS unit is helping a bit, which is a good thing, because the road has a dozen lanes and countless intersecting ramps threatening to take us to Alabama if we're not careful.

Alas, technology isn't infallible. I mis-hear Lola's* soothing voice as I approach one particularly complex web of offramps. I take the wrong one and am quickly curving in a direction that I think, coincidentally enough, will ultimately take us to Alabama.

At that moment, things begin to happen. Our daughter's keen ear picks up on the change in tone coming from the front seats. Our youngest stirs, thinking that because we're off the highway, we're already there. The GPS quickly recalculates our route just as it occurs to me that we're somewhere near the end of the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. How do I know this? I spot a descending aircraft's landing lights as they rapidly fill the windshield. I open the sunroof and the windows as we excitedly explain what's about to happen to the kids. Wows and oohs and aahs fill the car. No one's stressed and no one's afraid. We can drive around all night as far as they care: this is fun!

Not 15 seconds later, the GPS is correctly pointing me to an alternate offramp and I finally get it right. We slow down and stop at a red light, facing a big blue sign pointing right back to the familiar, correct highway. It's a long signal, and as we sit there, gigantic lights from above once again descend on us from the heavens. This time, we can practically see rivets on the plane's skin as it roars overhead on its way to reconnecting with the planet. We smile as the light turns green, the jet wash slowly recedes behind us and we continue on our way.

As I merge back onto I-75, I wonder if perhaps we were meant to take that wrong turn. Maybe it wasn't wrong after all.

Your turn: Missed directions that took you somewhere different or surprising. Please discuss.

*Lola = the name we have assigned the voice on our GPS navigation device. Bad family habit: we personify appliances.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I don't like Mondays

Up, up and away
London, Ontario, August 2007 [Click to embiggen]

I've never been particularly fond of Mondays. I enjoy the quiet of weekends, and as much as I love the work that I do, there's something daunting about standing at the precipice of a new week, with all those days of potential hanging out there.

I know that compared to others, I have it ridiculously easy. I don't work a seven-day week and I don't spend my days thousands of feet below the surface of the earth, breathing coal dust and wondering if I'll ever again see the light of day. I press spring-loaded keys for a living, assembling words on a screen and occasionally talking to people far away to get the information I need to keep assembling those words. The most laborious part of my day involves walking the dog or heading down to the gym for a workout. My workweek isn't backbreaking, so I shouldn't shun Mondays as I do.

But I'm a creature of habit, and I don't enjoy going to sleep on Sunday night, knowing what lies ahead of me when the sun comes back up.

So to help ease the transition back into a higher gear of life, I look for little snippets of brightness, color and perspective.

Your turn: Bob Geldof and his Boomtown Rats notwithstanding, where do you stand on Mondays? Why?

One more thing: We're still captioning. Click here to dive in head-first without a helmet.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Caption This 60

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Delray Beach, Florida, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

I've always been a bit bananas for bananas (or simply bananas, depending on your perspective.) Beyond their nutritional goodness, they have an aesthetic that most fruits can only dream of. They also seem to do well in front of a lens (see here and here for earlier examples of banana fruitography.)

Your turn: Please suggest a caption this image. Family-friendly, profane or not-profane...whatever works for you! I'm a sucker for repeat-visitors and friend/family-referrers. Click the Comment link below to start the fun.

About last week's paint-splattered image: I loved the colors as soon as I saw them. Apparently, you all did, too! Colleen's 52 flavors takes it this week. Other honorable menschens include:
  • Anne: "Brush off"
  • Steve: "When pigments fly"
  • Lissa: "Remains of the day"
  • The teach: "Do you want Mint Chocolate Chip or Caramel Crunch?"
  • Robin: "The start of something beautiful" and "Coats of many color"
  • Omykiss: "Fingered lids"
  • Tiel Aisha Ansari: "Stir crazy"
Submit as many as you wish...and extra kudos go to those who refer new folks into the fold. Have fun!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Carmi speaks

I've been talking to reporters again. Here's a quick snapshot of some of the more notable hits from the last week. The first two are television coverage of the latest rounds of cuts at Nortel:
The price battle proves "data is the new voice" and that "today's cell phone is tomorrow's smartphone," Carmi Levy, senior vice president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, told Both trends, he said, bode well for corporate mobility needs.

Enterprises should call their providers and begin negotiating better price point and data service plans.

"It's time to crack open that existing deal and realize some cost savings. IT leaders should be asking their providers 'what are you going to do for me?' And they should be prepared to jump to another carrier as it could prove very cost-effective," said Levy, who expects prices to keep dropping.

"IT needs to be proactive and get the biggest bang for their technology buck. Mobility is a critical business tool," he said.


Levy compares this type of strategy to the initial ISP approach when the Web came into play. At that time most ISPs offered minutes-based pricing plans. The industry, Levy said, finally realized that charging per minute wasn't the best business strategy.

"That was a ridiculous approach -- using a meter to charge people -- and it's the same now with data minutes," he said. "Providers need to offer an 'all you can drink' data plan for the enterprise."

And given Sprint Nextel's "brilliant" marketing move, the analyst expects such changes could come quick.

"Competitors can't afford to stand on the sidelines at this point," Levy said. "They all have to balance marketing efforts with better data plans and expanded coverage as mobile workers expect to have service wherever they are."
"How you get information into these devices and how you get the info out has been the Achilles heels for cellphones," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president for strategic consulting at AR Communications, a Toronto-based communications firm. "That is, the clear limitations of (cell) phones are its keyboards and displays - two areas we will see significant change in over the coming years."

Rather than having to use the keyboard, Levy said you'll be able to talk to your phone - like the way Captain Kirk from Star Trek interacts with the U.S.S. Enterprise's onboard computer - thanks to advanced speech recognition.

"Rather than learning shorthand to type text messages quickly, and even beyond the current trend of 'touch,' the long-term solution is to bypass keyboard altogether with your voice" Levy said. "Increasing power, such as the new mobile Intel chip, and better software, can together convert speech into text quickly, smoothly and accurately."


Carmi, a technical expert and writer about the telecommunications field, said this will happen on two fronts: One solution is a dime-sized projector built-into the phone that can splash a 16-to 25-centimetre (7-to 10-inch) video on a nearby blank wall. (A Soeul-based company, Iljin Display, already has licensed the technology to fellow South Korean companies, Samsung and LG). "While this technology has been around for a while, one day you'll be able to incorporate a small-scale projection system into a phone as easy as it is to implement a camera in one today," said Levy.

A second and more private solution, however, will be a "virtual screen" that we could view on the lens of glasses. "Just like that IBM commercial a few years ago, with the guy on the bench," said Levy, with a laugh. "These may look a little odd at first, but they'll come to a point where they could be seamlessly integrated into everyday prescription glasses."

Over past couple of years we've seen phones becoming more connected, including high-speed 3G wireless technology (such as HSDPA, led by Rogers Wireless's Vision network), integrated Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS for in-car or on-foot navigation. But soon it will all come together, including RFID (radio frequency identification), said Levy. It's a trend he calls "teleconvergence."

"Imagine you're walking down the street one day, and you're hungry for lunch - not only can you do a quick search of local restaurants, but your phone will know your preferences, it will tell you how to get there and show you the menu," said Levy.

With embedded RFID information, which communicates to a wireless sensor in the area, you could be walking into a department store and a digital coupon might flash on your phone's screen for a Blu-ray Disc you were previously interested in.

Google's Android project is a huge "driver" of this wireless integration and innovation, Levy said. "They're the king of integrated online services right now, and I believe their mobile platform could fundamentally change how we use our cellphones, too, combining maps, search, documents, mail, and so on."

This glimpse into the future is fascinating, but Levy said don't trade in your current cellphone just yet.

"Battery power has been the major limitation so far - in fact, it's getting worse, as phones continue to get smaller while the numbers of features are going up," Levy said. "As a result, if you forget to power your phone in the morning, you might have a doorstopper by lunch."
I'll post more media hits in the days to come, because the phone keeps ringing.