Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - He sleeps

London, ON, December 2006 [Click to embiggen]

I love when our kids sleep. I admit I like to stare at them when they do.

Your turn: What's going on inside his head?

One more thing: New to Written Inc.? Then you're in for a treat. Click here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In extremely bad taste

I've occasionally written about how I read the obituaries from back home. It's not a ghoulish quest. Rather, it's one of the ways I remain connected to the place I grew up.

The site that hosts my hometown's obit notices also allows folks to sign a guestbook. Most of them seem to follow the same pattern, using the same programmed phrases to share condolences from afar. While perusing them recently, however, I came across one that stood out from the pack for all the wrong reasons. Critical details have been changed to protect the guilty:
Sorry to hear about [name of the deceased]; he was a nice guy. Have you made any plans about what to do with his aprtment? My wife and I always liked the location and would pay a handsome finder's fee to move in. We don't want any of his stuff; I'm sure you would want want to keep his junk as a keepsake. Please call us at [phone number of the writer] when you've cleaned up the place. Thanks.
I'm on the fence as to whether or not this was a joke. If it was, it's highly misplaced. If it's serious, then it's about as tacky as anything I've ever witnessed online.

Your turn: Thoughts? Have you come across similar funeral/death notice faux pas in your online travels? Do tell!

Update - May 14, 2008: I revisited the entry today to see if anyone had followed up on it. Clearly they had: the offensive guest book entry has been removed. Mercifully, two other visitors left somewhat more heartfelt - and conventional - messages. Sounds like someone who's missed. May his memory continue to be a blessing.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV sucks

I've said it before and I'll say it again: big game releases get under my skin. It's a scene we've seen so many times before (Halo 3, anyone?) as the whole world holds its collective breath waiting for the latest eight-figure production to hit store shelves. Reviewers beat each other up for the privilege of saying "wow" more loudly than anyone else, and consumers get hosed for whatever retailers can squeeze out of them. Local news programs air reports from the nearest big box store, interviewing t-shirt-clad adults who've skipped work to wait for hours - even days - so they'll be the first on their block to have it.

It's all so...I don't know, contrived.

It's a game, people. And despite its ability to provide the occasional break from news of massive job losses, record energy prices, impending food shortages, deepening recession and never-ending war, I'll argue that most folks would get more out of a nice walk around the neighborhood than a rampage through the ultraviolent virtual one served up in GTA IV.

(Before you train your pitchforks on me, allow me to clarify: I'm not anti-gaming. I've been known to fly the occasional simulated plane on occasion, and I appreciate the virtues of a spirited session with a joystick. It's the hype machine that gets me. End digression.)

I've apparently become the curmudgeonly old man who spent every summer's afternoon of my childhood on his porch mumbling under his breath about "those damn kids" and snapping errant tennis balls into his garage like a fast-reacting frog's tongue. Where's my cardigan?

Your turn: What say you of this ginormous game release?

One more thing: Captions for this week's contest are still being taken here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Caption This 68

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

London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Have you noticed how parking lot kiosks have been slowly giving way to automated ticket machines? In a way, it's sad. In another way, who cares? It's not like the now-unemployed, CO-breathing cashiers ever really added value to the parking experience. In most cases, I swear they were lookouts for the rings of auto thieves, and called in the tow trucks as soon as the owner disappeared into an adjacent building.

But I digress.

I couldn't pass up a shot of this forlorn booth in the middle of a pockmarked downtown parking lot. Assuming I'd ever park here - not bloody likely, but you never know - I wouldn't know which sign to read first.

Your turn: I'm hoping you can suggest a pithy, funny, edgy caption for this photo. As always, multiple submissions are encouraged and welcome. I'll name the winner next week.

About last week's image of Elmo: Lots of Sesame Street fans out there, apparently. Which is good. Sesame Street is, after all, a core pillar of North American culture. Except for Mr. Hooper's meth lab, that is. I always had my doubts about that guy. But enough about misguided geriatric Sesame Street alums. This week's honorable menschens go to:
  • Bradley: "Aaargh tickle me elmo, matey!"
  • R. Sherman: "Look! I only have three fingers."
  • Jacie: "..and I used all the money you lent me to buy this invisible box! Here - you have it..."
  • Heidi: "Elmo was inside Carmi's sofabed for THIIIIIS long!"
  • Anne: "Elmo can breathe again....Elmo thanks you."
  • Thumper: "...and the fish was THIS big!"
  • Killired: "The simple life"
  • Me: "My name is Elmoandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
  • Omykiss: "Now look at me ... I shouldn't have drunk all that carrot juice!"
  • Carli: "Elmo trapped under sofa bed long time. Elmo suing your @ss for emotional destress."
  • Robin: "Red Headed Pep Child"
  • Shoshana: "You got problem with that?"
  • Sister AE: "Elmo not sure that breathing lint is good for Elmo's lungs! Hee-hee-hee!"
And the winner is B13 for making me laugh so hard I ended up on the floor: B13: "I walked in on Uncle Grover and he was THIS BIG!" Please drop in on his excellent photo blog - I'm sure you'll come away inspired.

If you want to go risque with this week's photo, have at it. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Return to the playground

Little boy grows up
London, ON, April 2008
[Click to embiggen]

Abut five years ago, we took our kids to the neighborhood playground. Our youngest son, two years-old at the time, was initially afraid to follow his older brother and sister onto the climbing structures. I wrote about the experience here.

The kids were off of school this week, so we once again found ourselves back at the playground. I had to bring my camera along because that's just what I do. As I quietly followed them through the sandy landscape, I took this picture of our now-seven-year-old, climbing the same set of steps and looking a lot bigger and more confident in the process.

Made me a little sad when I realized how quickly they're growing.

Your turn: Other signs that time moves in one direction include...?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Sammy's era ends

Lunchtime's over
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Another scene from my find-beauty-wherever-possible tour of my burg. See here and here for similarly-themed entries.
For reasons that I often have difficulty understanding, Sammy's Souvlaki has always seemed to define our life in our transplanted hometown. Here's a rundown of why I think that may be the case:
  • After we decided to move here but before we actually sold our house and pulled up stakes, we spent six months shuttling back and forth, house hunting and job-transitioning. At the time, Sammy's operated one of the only webcams in the region. I used to check it online from Montreal, as if a real-time view of our soon-to-be home would somehow make the whole experience seem a bit more tangible.
  • After we moved here, I'd reload the page just to see the weather outside. It seemed cooler than looking out the window.
  • London is a city of summer festivals, and Sammy's always seems to have a trailer among the crowd of trailers, serving up its, um, not-exactly-healthy fare. The kids would always pick the Sammy's out of the misaligned rows of vendors.
  • Its street corner stands always stood out as uniquely belonging to this city, as original as a hot dog vendor in New York City.
The irony of Sammy's is I've never eaten there. But it's still managed to embed itself into my brain. Which is why I felt a twinge of sadness when they announced they were closing up their last corner stand in the downtown core. Increasingly health-conscious Londoners just don't flock there like they used to, so the founder is refocusing the business.

But we've got plenty of Starbucks, Tim Hortons and McDonalds to soothe our need for a just-like-anywhere franchised experience. At this rate, London should look like pretty much every other town between here and the Pacific before long.

Wait, it already does.

Your turn: Are we losing our sense of place?

One more thing: Lots and lots of media this week. And good stuff, too. I'm pulling together links as we speak, and will share them piecemeal in the days to come.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Old brick, new hope

Facadist riot of color
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Sometimes, inspiration is as close as the other side of the sidewalk.

Your turn: I often believe that buildings have stories to tell. What might the story of these buildings be?

One more thing: We're still accepting submissions for this week's Caption This contest. Click here to cue the fun. You know you want's Elmo!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The next telemarketer who calls me dies

I'll fess up: we have Call Display/Caller ID, and we're not afraid to use it to monitor inbound calls. We have so little free time as it is that wasting it on the phone with telephonic intruders just isn't going to happen.

Problem is, some telemarketers don't play nice. Like last week. The phone rings while I'm working. Call Display shows Private Name. The ring suggests it's a local call. I answer it because I won't take the chance that it's someone I know (we do have some friends with blocked numbers.)

After the pregnant pause of dead air during which I know I've been had, perky Mimi pipes up in a recorded voice: "We're calling with regards to your credit card account...blah, blah, blah...if you want to lower your interest rate, press 1."

They haven't identified themselves (duh!) but it's obvious this is a scam, and I want to get off their dial list. So I hit 1 (another big surprise, there are no other options.) Before long, I hear the telltale background din of a call center packed with yakking people. A slurry-speeched guy who sounds like he's smoked too many Du Mauriers gets on the phone and, without identifying himself (see a pattern here?) asks me again if I'm interested in lowering my interest rate. It degenerates from there:
Me: While I'm always interested in lowering my interest rate, what I really hope you can do for me today is help me get my phone number removed from your database.
Him: You pressed 1 to lower your interest rate.
Me: I pressed 1, but only to speak to a live person. Please remove me from your list and do not call me again.
Him [Getting nasty]: Look, buddy, you pressed 1 because you want to lower your interest rate.
Me: Who am I speaking to?
Him: Who I am doesn't matter.
Me: May I please speak to your supervisor?
Him: [Click...dial tone]
This outfit calls at least three times a week, always with the same idiotic come-on. During the day (great for us home-office types), evening (conducive for spending quality time with the kids), whenever. I'd like to taser them through my phone, but I suspect that might be illegal.

Your turn: Do telemarketers bug you as much as they bug me? How do you handle them? I'll keep y'all posted on how this plays out.

Monday, April 21, 2008

No Pope here

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

When you live in a smaller city, you accept that certain things will never happen where you live. You will not have a major league baseball team. Instead, you will have a succession of semi-pro clubs playing, virtually ignored, in really old and quaint riverside ballyard. Similarly, you will not attract Tier A musicians and bands. Instead, they will play your town 25 years after they were considered Tier A. Your mother will still think they're cool.

In a similar vein, the Pope won't be visiting here. Not that I'm terribly broken up about it, since to the best of my knowledge I've never been a Catholic. But it would have been cool to see him cruising down the hastily cleaned-up main drag in his popemobile, waving at the masses in ways that no rock star ever could.

The closest we've come to a papal brush with fame was when Pope Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, came to Toronto in 2002. He left hundreds of thousands of happy people in his wake, as well as a few dozen businesses covered in raw sewage after inadequate maintenance on the site of the mass rally caused a huge, um, backup.

So as I walked past this large and lovely downtown church a few weeks back, I took a picture of it. I thought that Pope Benedict, despite the mathematically remote possibility of him ever setting foot in this building, would appreciate this oblique view of the brickwork.

Anyone have his e-mail address?

Your turn: Organized religion. Pro or con. Please discuss.

One more thing: I'm not much of a sports fan - I'd rather participate than watch - but while growing up in Montreal, I was privileged to be at the shrine of hockey, the Forum, many times to watch the Canadiens in action. After moving to London, I was forced to endure the catcalls of Ontarians who, upon learning of my hometown, lambasted me for not being a true blue Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Sorry, I just can't do it. Maybe when they win something for a change (nah!) But I digress: the Habs just won their first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins in the do-or-die seventh game. It's kinda neat to see a city rally behind its team, even when you now live eight hours away. I guess I really am a fan when the team transcends the usually shallow world of mere sports.

Sorry, Toronto, maybe next lifetime.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Caption This 67

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

London, Ontario, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Elmo has always been my favorite Muppet, and not because he speaks about himself in the third person. He has a certain je ne sais quoi, a spirit about him that somehow reaches a little deeper into my soul.

Told you I'm odd that way.

So when I came across an old Happy Meal toy under the pillows of our sofabed (a story for another day, I promise), I couldn't resist taking out the camera and capturing the little plastic man-child for posterity.

Now, over to you...

Your turn: Please caption this image. Be as wackily creative as you wish and feel free to submit multiple entries. As you know, I encourage that sort of thing. I'll take submissions until next Sunday, at which point I'll announce the grand victor.

About last week's image of the red-jacketed lady walking through a run-down back alley: She may be anonymous, but she nevertheless garnered lots of interest. I wonder if, wherever she is right now, her ears are burning. Hmm, maybe I'll have to go back to the scene of the crime and stake it out. Whatever. This week's honorable menschens go to the following really neat folks:
  • Katya: "One lap down, another 5 to go."
  • Craziequeen: "My Life, in Ruins"
  • Bob-kat: "I'm sure I left my car here!"
  • Jacie: "I can't see the wood for the trees"
  • Michael Manning: "City Council to discuss Failed Urban Renewal Programs"
  • Sara: "My own personal art gallery"
  • Robin: "Familiarity breeds attempt"
  • Sara (no relation to the other Sara): Lost
  • Vanessa: "Crumble corner"
  • Moi: The opening chorus from Boulevard of Broken Dreams
This week's winner? Karen Travels for the lyrically influenced "This used to be my playground." Please cruise by her excellent blog and share your good wishes with her. And have fun with this week's image. Can't wait to see how you all riff on a little red Muppet.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A necessary jolt of color

Paint by numbers. Or not.
London, ON, March 2008

As I sit here alone in our dimly lit kitchen, I find myself reflecting on a week that, by all accounts, was challenging. There wasn't one big thing in particular that raised the suckage level. Just a lot of little, niggling things that conspired to make things seem a little more sombre than usual.

Interestingly, as I look back at my photographic output over the past week, I notice that the majority of my work focused on monochrome or near-monochrome scenes. Much of my output dealt with images of fairly distressed corners of the planet. I'm satisfied that I somehow found something interesting in all of these places, but the process was nevertheless a bit heavier than I'm typically known for.

So I figured a slight shot of brightness tonight might break the mood a bit as we bid the week goodbye and head into the weekend. I captured this at the local art studio as our kids gave us the tour and showed us what they've been working on all semester. More on that front in the days to come. They inherited their artistry from my wife (thank goodness!)

Your turn: How do you put a difficult period behind you?

One more thing: I was on television yesterday, a live interview with BNN's Pat Bolland and Linda Sims. It was earnings week in the tech sector, with most major publicly traded firms announcing financial results from the last quarter. We covered eBay and IBM primarily, with a bit of a foray into Google & Co. Click here or the logo to see the video.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cleanup in aisle 6

Reno gone horribly wrong
London, Ontario, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I came across this somewhat sad little scene as I walked around the edge of a half-demolished building a few weeks ago (click here for the original entry, Demolished). The original structure is now completely gone. The wrecking crews are now chewing through an identical - and identically past-its-prime and otherwise sad - building immediately to the east.

Same process. Different day. Different address.

My kids keep asking where all the people who used to live here have gone. I don't quite know what to tell them.

Your turn: Where did they go?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Not quite the grand staircase
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I'm sure back alley staircases like this one could tell all sorts of stories of the things they've seen. That is, assuming that steel can actually see, of course. I'm not being literal, but I did wonder about the kinds of things that happened in this incredibly quiet back alley when the sun was on the other side of the planet and the shadows were much darker, longer and more ominous.

Your turn: So what does happen on or around this staircase when the sun goes down?

Wordless Wednesday - Cool shade

Can you see what I see?
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

[Looking for the April 23, 2008 Wordless Wednesday entry? Please click here]

Your turn: What's perched on your nose?

One more thing: Caption This is still happening (I know, you must sit to contain your excitement. No worries. I'll wait. Tick. Tock. Tick. You good? Excellent. Let's continue...) Click here for your chance to win perpetual fame.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quoted - on software and free speech

The media circus continues...

Microsoft Midsize Business Center. Bringing workers closer together with ERP solutions. I chatted about Enterprise Resource Planning software and why it matters to smaller businesses. Advocacy Groups Seek Uncensored Text Messages. Byline Judy Mottl
As one industry analyst noted, the text access debate touches on everything from censorship to the First Amendment to federal rules relating to non-discrimination against people with disabilities.

"This is a slippery slope with signification constitutional implications," Carmi Levy, senior vice president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, told

"Their [carriers] role is to provide service, not to judge access. There is no way for them to come out of this looking good. This is the land of the First Amendment and messing with that is sacrosanct in any form."

Your turn: Do you get text message spam on your cell phone? Does it tick you off?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Look out any window

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I used to work next door to the green-blue building that you see reflected in the series of windows above. As I rode past it every afternoon, I'd thank my lucky stars that I didn't have to work there. After all, relics of really bad '70s architecture with knots of smokers hanging around the front doors don't exactly make for happy places to spend the day.

But as I walked down the street and saw the colorful reflection, I saw this otherwise sad-looking structure in a new light. I need to look into windows a little more often. Perhaps then I'd be able to appreciate their contribution to the streetscape a little better.

Please don't call me a Peeping Tom.

Your turn: A reflection that you remember. Please discuss.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Caption This 66

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

London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]
Quick note: If you're just joining us, I've been taking my camera to seemingly desolate places - parking lots, crumbling downtown blocks and other forgotten locales - and challenging myself to find either beautiful, memorable or otherwise compelling images. This photo continues the theme...
I came across this woman in a back alley during my downtown walkabout. I was using a longish lens, so I doubt she even knew I was there. While I was wandering around, there was a steady stream of folks coming and going - mostly to the nearby liquor store or bus station. I had no idea what this woman's story was, but as I took the picture, I wondered where she was coming from, where she was going, and whether she gave much thought to the tumultuous depression of her surroundings.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this image by leaving it in a comment. Enter as often as you'd like, as I encourage that kind of thing. As always, I'll post a new Caption This entry next Sunday. And lots of fun stuff between now and then, of course.

About last week's photo of a woman taking a walk: This photo touched a nerve in me as soon as I captured it. Awareness touched that same nerve with her caption, Spring in her step. She is a fellow Canadian, and an observer of the world around her who routinely inspires me to bring a little more introspection to my own. As worthy a read as you'll ever find in blogland...please click here to congratulate her, and don't hesitate to hang around her blog and explore. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Karen Travels: Just do it
  • Moi: Take a hike
  • Barbie2be: We all walk alone
  • Sara: Over the river & through the woods to grandmother's house we go
  • June: Solitude
  • Jenty: "Where is it? I've been walking forever!"
  • Dak-Ind: Sometimes, you just need to walk alone.
Thank you all again for making Caption This a highlight of the week. Check back often through the week for more photographic insanity.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

This week in tech

It was a fairly good week for me in medialand. The ongoing Microsoft-Yahoo takeover brouhaha gave me a few opportunities to share my thoughts. Here's a quick rundown of some of the more notable places I appeared this week:
  • 580 CFRA New Talk Radio in Ottawa. I spoke with anchor Rob Snow about the Micro-hoo issue. click here to download the MP3.
  • BetaNews. Scott Fulton is exceptionally adept at covering the meta-story, the story behind the story. He often reaches out when big stories need a few layers peeled back. This week's was one of the most fun thus far. His piece, Carmi Levy: Yahoo's options, now that it appears to have some, published on Friday.
  • Unstrung. Editor Dan Brown interviewed me about Google's upcoming mobile initiative. Here's the resulting piece: Opera Goes for Android. Note to self: mobile browsers will be huge. Watch this space.
I chatted with Toronto radio host John Downs on Wednesday night. My appearances on AM640 are becoming more regular, and usually include some open line time as well. I don't have an MP3 or a stream of the show, but I'll post updates - see my Twitter link at the top of this page - before my next hit. Agence France-Presse also interviewed me on the Microsoft-Yahoo issue as well. I'm having trouble tracking links for that one down, but in the past, I've ended up in publications as far afield as Algeria and Iran. I always laugh at the Iran thing.

I'm planning a podcast for work later this week, and will post details as soon as things are firmed up.

Fun, no?

One more thing: I'm still mulling over the entries from last week's Caption This. I'll post the new entry later on Sunday, so I hope to see y'all then, too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ancient concrete

London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Over three-and-a-half years ago, I took this picture of our two eldest kids next to a building that was in the process of being demolished. At the time, I called the entry Modern ruins. Unlike most demolitions, this one ended strangely: the wreckers eventually stopped wrecking, and a half-derelict structure of concrete, brick and emptiness stands to this day, casting featureless shadows over the adjacent pothole- and gravel-strewn parking lot.

As I continued my walkabout of the city in search of memorable scenes within conventionally forgettable landscapes (see here, here, and here for past entries from this series) I stopped in front of this structure and remembered the first time the three of us came across it. Like so many buildings in London's downtown, it slowly decays while absentee owners wait for the elements to inevitably render them irreparable.

Unlike this building, it doesn't seem to have much of a heritage to it. I doubt most of the downtown workers who leave their cars there during the week ever bother to give it a second look. But some buildings wear their uniqueness a little more subtly. It may not have arches, gargoyles, flourishes or art deco trim, but I'm sure it's got its own story, and may yet have life ahead of it if someone - the unseen owner, perhaps - decides there's money to be made by investing in renewal.

Ownership intentions aside, this seemingly derelict structure taught my kids an early lesson in the impermanence of the world around us. So despite its forgettable facade and its seeming disconnection from the urban flow around it, it still means something to me.

Your turn: What defines "heritage" anyway?

One more thing: My mother celebrates her birthday today. With my father ailing at home, she's celebrating quietly. May your future milestones be happy ones, Mom.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Faded, crumbling, defiant

Life amid the ruins
London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Note: This is another in a series on finding beauty where you least expect it. Previous entries can be found here, here and here.

The scene: I'm wandering around downtown London with my camera in my hand. It's a brilliant Sunday afternoon, and it's the first day this season that's warm enough for shorts. Which means it's comfortable enough outside for me to linger as I stare at everything in sight, searching for something to capture on a memory card.

I wander down an alleyway. Emboldened by the eerie silence that descends over me as I get further away from the busy street, I keep walking, deeper than I've ever been before. I know I should be even a little afraid, but this is London, after all. Small-city Canadians just don't have it in them to mug a guy for his camera in a back alley.

I'm surrounded by partially collapsed, graffiti-covered brick walls. The colors are faded, dusty. This might be because this place has been around for the better part of a century, but part of me suspects they were just as bleak when first built.

There's no life here. Indeed, nothing can grow in this forgotten place. Or can it? As soon as I complete the thought, I spot a thicket of naked ivy, just waiting for the springtime sun to kick it back to life. This spindly collection of branches clings to the crumbling brick as it defies everything around it, managing to stay alive in spite of its harsh, decaying urban environment.

No one walks back here except for surrounding business owners who take out the trash. I wonder what they think about this place. I wonder if they find this place as strangely comforting as I do.

Your turn: An alley? What the hell am I thinking?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What dreams may come

London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Continuing my personal challenge to find compelling images in places other folks might have written off (see here and here for the first two entries), I walked down London's Dundas Street and looked for inspiration. It's the main east-west road through the downtown core, the very faded shopping mecca that used to be ground zero for anything that happened not just in this city, but in the region.

It's fallen on hard times over the past 30-ish years, and despite little pockets of renewal here and there, it still gets more than its fair share of bad press.

But as I wandered along the sidewalk on a brilliant Sunday afternoon, I looked up and saw not a desolate building waiting for destruction, but something worth saving, something that could have life in it yet, if only someone would have faith in its future, and a bank account to match.

One wonders if the world has enough people with that kind of courage. One wonders if it need only apply to old buildings.

Your turn: Please look into this building's past. Or its future. Or both. What do you see?

Wordless Wednesday - Power to the people

London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to embiggen, otherwise you might miss something]

This photo continues my series from the local supermarket's otherwise-dismal parking lot. I challenged myself to find something worthwhile in this desolate place, and ended up bringing a bunch of neat stuff home. Click here to see the first image. I hope you'll check back through the week for more from this series.

Your turn: Lots of messages in this photo, if you take the time to look closely enough. Thoughts?

One more thing: Click here to submit your suggestion for this week's Caption This. Fame and fortune await the victor. Or my everlasting adulation, whichever you prefer.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Chatting with reporters

I'd like to catching up on some notable media work over the last week or so. If I don't post it here, I forget what I did, which would be a bit of a bummer given how much I enjoy this stuff. I spoke with LuAnn LaSalle from the Canadian Press on a couple of issues near and dear to the techie heart:

Move to hi-def video online means Internet's backbone needs more strength. Also picked up by the CBC and the Brandon Sun.
Analyst Carmi Levy said Internet service providers have invested huge amounts of money in their networks and need technology to increase bandwidth that can work with what they already have in place.

"The doomsayers have been warning about an Internet apocalypse for years and magically that has not yet happened," said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at AR Communications in Toronto. "Bandwidth will continue to grow to account for the increased demands of such bandwidth rich-applications like video," he said.
Upstart Globalive ready to take on Canada's big wireless players. Also picked up by AM1150 Kelowna, CFTK-TV Terrace BC and CanadaEast.
Analyst Carmi Levy said these companies have to project years forward how they expect consumers to be using their mobile phones.

As the phones become more multi-functional with capabilities such as being able to surf the Internet, listen to music and watch video, those with the necessary Internet bandwidth will have the competitive advantage, said Levy, senior vice-president for strategic consulting at Toronto's AR Communications.

"Canada needs the winners of this auction to bring something new and to bring something different - new technologies, new networks, new pricing structures that align more closely with the experience of consumers in other markets because we are still paying too much for too little," Levy said.

Your turn: Do you want to break the cell phone carrier monopoly as badly as I do?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Supermarket carts? Or jail?

Hanging out at the A&P
London, Ontario, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I found myself in the parking lot of the neighborhood grocery store yesterday. It had been a few days since I had given the camera some exercise, and my shutter finger was feeling decidedly creaky. I had about 10 minutes before my wife and daughter were finished inside the store, so rather than sit in the car, I decided to challenge myself to find something redeeming in this worn-down stretch of dirty pavement.

I found a few worthwhile scenes which I'll share in the days to come - may as well make it a series, right? I like this one because the fading sunset suggests the subjects' best days may be behind them. Yet, like the store that owns them, they soldier on, squeaky wheels, rusted carriages and all.

Your turn: Why do I always pick the loser cart? You know, the one with the balky wheel that locks up before I make it out of the vegetable aisle or the one that howls louder than the crying baby in frozen foods. Is it me? Am I not using the right cart selection criteria? Please help.

One more thing: See here and here for earlier visions of grocery carts. No, I'm not sure why I keep returning to them with a lens. My innate photographic oddness, perhaps.

Oops, make that two: We're still taking submissions for this week's Caption This extravaganza. Haven't participated in the extravaganza yet? Oh my, you're in for a treat: click here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Caption This 65

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

London, Ontario, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Do you ever sit quietly off to the side and watch everyday folks go about their business? One of the reasons I became a journalist was because I particularly enjoyed the process. It forces you to become a sponge for detail as you try to remember not just the things you see, but the inferences that connect them all. It's how storytellers start to build the stories they share with the rest of us.

I saw this walker from way across the river. If I were a cartoonist, I'd draw a big empty bubble above the image, then fill it in. But I'm not a cartoonist, and I'm hoping you'll fill in the proverbial bubble.

Your turn: Please caption this image. Enter as often as you wish. Pet input is welcome, too. I'll announce winner next Sunday.

About last week's image of an oil slick: I took this picture in the cold, damp parking lot of a tired old Wendy's across the road from a tired old factory (click here for photo) during a brief pit stop here on the way home from Florida. It was a miserable day, yet this little slice of pavement-bound color seemed to call out to me. I almost fell on my face while composing it, though - I failed to pay attention to the coefficient of friction of wet, oil-slicked asphalt. The drive-through lady seemed amused.

Honorable menschens were many this week, thanks to a really strong cross-section of submissions. Here they are:
  • Killired: Fallen rainbow
  • Robin: City Slicker and Tears of a clown
  • Terri: Pretty slick photography
  • Jennifer: Blazin'
  • Sara: Joseph's oil coat of many colors
  • Heidi: Toxic Rainbow
  • Awareness: Fatal Attraction
  • Tiel Aisha Ansari: Slick moves
  • JC: Apocalypse
  • Mike Wood: Gasoline Alley
  • Steve: Iridesecration
  • Linda: When rainbows cry
And the winner is...Moi, for Troubled waters. This was hard to judge, because there were so many fantastic suggestions. Moi is a gifted photographer who never ceases to see the world just a little differently - so I kinda relate to her work. Please drop into her blog and send her a happy or two for sharing this gem.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Winged miracle

London, ON, March 2008 [Click to enlarge]

While watching the Airbus A380 make its maiden flight a couple of years back, I paid particular attention to the shape and layout of the wings. (Why? Because I'm a geek.) Although aircraft are fantastically expensive to design and build, it's safe to say that the wings consume a disproportionately huge slice of the R&D budget. They're miraculous pieces of technology (and wouldn't ya know, I've written about them here and here.)

But as I reviewed the photos from my impromptu riverside photo shoot last weekend, my jaw dropped when I saw this one full-size for the first time. The complexity of this bird's wings puts anything Boeing or Airbus ever designed to shame. Score another one for nature.

Your turn: Nature's engineering. Please discuss.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hack the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Way back in January, I read a story on (click here) that explained how Boeing's next major passenger aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, had three on-board computer networks, all of which were physically connected. (click here for more background.)

Which means the potential - however remote - exists for someone to hack the flight computers. Was that a chill you just felt in your spine? You're not alone.

In the ensuing quarter, the FAA expressed concern, and Boeing has since said that it has fixed the problem. You'll pardon me for not believing them implicitly. I'm still waiting for a stable version of Windows, after all.

I'm kinda surprised that this issue flew under the radar. Maybe after a week where one major airline after another grounded its planes for one scary fault after another, the radar needs a little recalibration.

Your turn: I'm not an aeronautical engineer. But I know enough about computer networks to know that not physically isolating them is a bad idea. Sort of like leaving a caged tiger in the same room as a sleeping baby. Sure, it's in a cage and all. But do you really think it's such a good idea for it to be there? Would you fly this plane after its first flight next year?

One more thing: A couple of fun media hits this week...

BusinessWeek paraphrased me (I!) So Maybe Apple Was onto Something. Byline Cliff Edwards and Bruce Einhorn. Here's the paraphrased graf:
RIM has also signaled that it is preparing to do battle with Apple. The Canadian company says it plans to introduce at least four new handsets this year, though it won't provide details. Analyst Carmi Levy of AR Communications believes that at least one of the devices will have a touch screen.
Business News Network (BNN). I spoke with Michael Hainsworth on Wednesday afternoon, just before Research In Motion announced the results of yet another strong quarter. Click here to load the interview (yes, Mom, I brushed my hair.)

Update - April 6, 2008: Found this April Fool's joke that's worth a laugh for anyone who follows the aviation industry.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Keeping warm any way they can

Seeking shelter
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Here's another perspective from my little trip to the riverbank last weekend (see here for another watery view from that same shoot.) I felt a little sad for the birds because it was a cold day and they had nowhere else to go. I know that's a silly way of thinking, because they're birds, and they spend their entire lives outside, often in weather even worse than this. But I've got an illogical soft spot that rears its fuzzy head on days like this.

Despite this apparent disconnect - I blame the fact that by the time I shot this, I had already walked through a thicket of branches that had covered my trench coat with sticky burrs - I convinced myself that the branch-covered cove where these birds were congregating offered them some shelter from the elements.

If only it could be that simple.

Your turn: Where do you seek cover when life gets a little too rough?

One more thing: Today is the 35th anniversary of the first-ever cell phone call. I was interviewed by Vito Pilieci of the Ottawa Citizen. Here's the resulting article: How the cellphone has changed our lives, 35 years later. Here's what I said:
But not all of the change has been welcome.

"It's an example of mankind's ability to introduce new technologies, but completely miss the boat when it comes to understanding the implications of those technologies," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at Toronto's AR Communications. "In the past, you had to get someone live on the phone who was sitting at his or her desk in a certain location. They were literally tied to their location. Today, that limitation is gone.

"It doesn't matter if you are on your way to pick up the kids from school or sitting in an airport. The work continues to happen."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Impressionist liquid
London, ON, March 2008

In between shuttling little people from place to place last Sunday, I found myself with a little extra time on my hands. Before I left the house, my wife told me to take my camera, to take pictures, to take some time. She's cool that way. And not wanting to disappoint her, I popped the camera bag over my shoulder and headed out.

I ended up stopping by a bend in the river that winds it way through much of our burg. I didn't really have any predisposed ideas about what I wanted to capture. It was a gray day, with a cold sun burning through the clouds every once in a while. My fingers ached from the cold as I wrapped them tightly around the camera's grip and walked among the seagulls, ducks and geese flocking around the empty dock.

I chose this picture as the first to share from the series because we woke up today to some of the highest water levels in a generation. A snowy winter and a very rapid meltoff resulted in flooding that forced police to close roads and reroute traffic for much of the day. As I cycled by the corner where I took this shot just three days ago, my jaw dropped: the dock was completely underwater, and the water's edge, usually well away from the road, almost licked the sidewalk in places. Scary stuff, and yet another reminder that nature really does follow its own path, and we'd be wise to respect it.

Your turn: The first three words that come to mind as you look at this picture are...?

Wordless Wednesday - Navel gazing

Orange ya glad I didn't say banana?
My kitchen table, London, Ontario, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Your turn: What fruit should I shoot next?

One more thing: Caption This contest entries are still still being taken. Click here for some oil-slicked mayhem.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Look Mom, I'm on TV

Last week was a fun week in medialand. If you're just joining us, I periodically post little roundups like this to keep track of where I've been quoted. If you'd rather read a dad-centred entry, click here. If you want to play the weekly caption contest, click here. If you want to see where I've been stirring up trouble in recent days, here's a quick rundown of some of the more notable places I was quoted and interviewed:

Business News Network.
I spoke to Andy Bell on After Hours about Dell's new Blu-ray laptop. Click here to load the show, then once it loads, drag the slider to about the 29:30 mark and my interview should start about there.

InformationWeek. Shared my thoughts with Richard Martin on Motorola's plans to split itself into two. Motorola's Breakup Provides Opportunities For Competitors. Article was also posted here. Here's what I said:
"Motorola today is in the same situation it was in yesterday," said Carmi Levy, senior VP for strategic consulting at AR Communications. "It lacks a viable product map and continues to lose market share to competing vendors that are consistently bringing better products to market."


For Motorola's competitors, the news of the split probably looks like chum in the water. Nokia, which now has a dominant 40% market share in global mobile phones, "is in an ideal position to dictate the direction of the market as it continues its transition away from commodity voice-focused handsets toward more feature-rich converged devices," said Levy. I also spoke with Judy Mottl. Will Motorola Split Reverse Decline? Here's what I said:
"I'm surprised this took so long actually," Carmi Levy, senior vice president at researcher AR Communications, told "It's an effort for Motorola to hold on to whatever traction it still has. They're a fading No. 3 player, and the future is cloudy."


The company has been searching openly for a new head for its mobile unit since Brown stepped in at the end of January to personally direct everyday operations.

"They're going to have to find someone willing to swing for the fences, who's looking for a big career risk opportunity," Levy said. "If the person succeeds, they'll be a savior -- or they could flame out."

Retaining engineering and product development personnel is also a key concern, Levy added.

"This is a challenge and a big strategic issue," he said. "Google has proven that recruiting the best and brightest can pay off."

Light Reading. Did an interview with Unstrung site editor Dan Jones where I shared some views on the future state of the mobile world. Here's the piece: CTIA & the Invisible Handsets. Here's what I said (gee, reading back, I seemed so negative! What gives?)
"I think a lot of what in past years would have been released at a major industry tradeshow like CTIA is increasingly breaking beforehand," Carmi Levy, senior VP of strategic consulting at AR Communications Inc. "The era of major announcements being reserved exclusively for major tradeshows is drawing to a close. Blame the Internet for making vendors reluctant to embargo news of the next big thing until a show."


That doesn't mean that no big names will be making a splash in Glitter Gultch. Windows Mobile 6.1, the latest makeover of the Microsoft Corp. device operating system, is hotly anticipated.

"Everyone is counting the days until Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.1 release," Levy says.

"I'll be looking for specific product announcements from hardware vendors to accompany the Microsoft announcement. Those that bring WM6.1-based products to market sooner will gain competitive advantage... Expect the changeover to Windows Mobile 6.1 to be largely complete by early 2009."

"I expect Microsoft to make announcements," confirms Ken Dulaney at Gartner Inc. [Carmi here...kinda amazed that someone from Gartner AGREES with me! Mark this day in history, will ya?]


"RIM continues to deny rumors that its 9000-series devices will ship by midyear -- which likely means that we'll be able to touch, play with, and buy the first such devices by early summer," says AR's Levy. "This release is pivotal for RIM as it braces for an intensified battle against Apple for both enterprise and consumer smartphone supremacy."

Google's Android handsets and initial WiMax devices for Sprint Nextel Corp. network will be the wild cards at the show.

"We'll probably see some Android prototypes," suggests Levy.

"This will continue the trend we've seen over the past few months as members of the consortium try to maintain and grow interest in the still-evolving platform... It's vital for all involved vendors to keep their wares -- however half-baked they may be at this point -- visible to a buying public that's still trying to figure out where this offering will fit in the evolving smartphone space."

"We may see some WiMax device announcements, but they will hardly be from mainstream players," Levy adds. "The lack of a comprehensive national WiMax network makes such device announcements little more than inconsequential sideshows."

Your turn: What wireless device is in your pocket? Why does it matter, anyway?

One more thing: Happy new month. No, I don't do the April Fool's prank thing. The world is silly enough as it is.