Tuesday, July 31, 2012

He grows. Further away.

Almost 12
Toronto, ON
July 2012

Noah turned 12 today. To celebrate his big day, we sang him the happy birthday song, went out for dinner in his honor, and swapped stories about how big he's gotten in the last year. Those puppy feet my wife always speaks about? He's growing into them. Fast.

What made this birthday different from the 11 previous ones is that he wasn't here. He's in camp. First time. We dropped him off in Toronto early yesterday morning, then waved as he and his friends - some from school, lots more new - headed off in a convoy of busses. Hard? Sure. But if any kid was ready for this kind of adventure, it was him. We have no doubt he'll suck up every minute of the experience and figure out ways to bring some of that spirit back home to us. Knowing how much he'll enjoy being there makes missing him a little easier to manage. Just a little, though, as the house is really quiet without him. Even the dog senses a change, and he'll occasionally wander into his room, then wander out when he doesn't find his buddy.

The camp policy is that kids who celebrate their birthdays during their time up north are allowed to phone home. So he called us around suppertime, and we all gathered around the phone while the voice of this happy, tired, slightly changed boy filtered through the distance.

Before he left, he wrote letters to all of us, including the dog. He thanked us for sending him, told my wife she's his favorite person in the whole world, hugged us time and again, just because. He's still our cuddly little man, still more sweet than anything else, still empathetic in ways that make me want to be a better person.

He took a big step away from us yesterday, and I have no doubt when we pick him up at the end of camp, he'll be filthy on the outside, filled with stories and experiences on the inside, and a little bit bigger, a little bit more worldly in every other way. We can't stop time from turning him into the adult he's destined to be, but we can try to freeze-frame the moments along the way of what's already been a remarkably charmed journey not only for him, but for us.

Happy birthday, little man. Always know we're here for you, wherever here happens to be.

On fate and family

"Fate chooses your relations, you choose your friends."
Jacques Delille

I laughed out loud when I first came across this one. I'm still smiling. You?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thematic Photographic 206 - Cloudy

Icarus flew too close to the sun...
London, ON
July 2012

Click photo to embiggen

Every once in a while, I like to stop whatever it is that I'm doing and just look up. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I'd lie on the lawn for what seemed like an eternity, just staring into the sky and wondering about whatever it is that kids wonder about. Now that I'm a supposedly responsible adult, having an occasional time-out is a great way to catch my breath before I dive back into the next set of stuff on my plate. Life, balance, you know what I mean.

Sometimes, I see neat stuff when I look up. Like the other night. I'd taken Noah for a celebratory ice cream after his soccer game. He played so well, with such heart, that we just couldn't go straight home without some means of marking it. In the overall scheme of things, it's a small moment. In his life, I'd like to think it's something more. I guess I'll know - or maybe I won't, because one never really knows - years from now when the adult Noah and I chat about what he remembers.

As we parked the car in front of the ice cream shop - Marble Slab, just because - the skies glowed through threatening clouds. And the seagulls, taking a timeout from dive bombing the dumpsters behind the takeout restaurant on the other side of the parking lot. decided to head for the sky, almost as if they knew it was time to strike an aerial pose. Noah waited patiently in the car while I tried to hold onto yet another fast-disappearing sliver of his childhood. Maybe this was more than just a picture. Or maybe I should stop overthinking every shot.

Your turn: Please take a photo of clouds. Or something that abstractly reflects the cloudy theme (go nuts with it...that's the only rule.)  Pop it onto your blog and leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants throughout the week to share the photographic fun and inspiration. Bring friends along, if you wish, and feel free to jump back in if inspiration hits you more than once - we encourage promiscuous shuttering here. For more info on how Thematic Photographic works, click here. Otherwise, have fun!

Fitting the puzzle back together

Broken or not?
London, ON
February 2009

I'd like to round out this week's exploration of "broken" (click here to get yours in before we launch a new theme tonight) with an existential question: What is "broken", anyway?

Seriously, who defines that something is broken. And do we necessarily need to subscribe to the notion that something that is broken is, by definition, not somehow worthy? For example, shattered glass can either be something to be swept into a recycling bin and shipped to oblivion, or something to be incorporated into a stunning work of art.

Or this puzzle. It started out life, I'm guessing, as a single piece of cardboard before being carved up and broken up into its current form. Is it truly broken? Or is it merely something in transition, just waiting for folks like you and me to come along, pick up the pieces and figure out what to do with them.

Sometimes the process is as simple as fitting the pre-formed puzzle pieces into each other. Sometimes, it's a little more involved than that. In any case, it's always a process of exploration, and I'm glad we were able to explore it this past week. Thank you.

Your turn: So, what's the deal with this puzzle? Broken? Not? Something in between? As Linda Richman once said, talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

When you come across a broken man...

Please leave me alone
Montreal, QC
July 2012
Please click here for more broken-themed Thematic

I came across this tragically lost soul as I walked through a neighborhood on downtown's eastern edge, a place that couldn't seem to decide whether it wanted to gentrify itself beyond its currently gritty reality.

When I first noticed this man, a woman was standing over him, asking him repeatedly in both English and French if he was okay, if he needed help, if he wanted her to take him somewhere safe. After a few verbal attempts, he finally waved her off, telling her he didn't need anything from anyone. I'm guessing he was sleeping off the last of that afternoon's beers - that's a can of Old Milwaukee beside him - and felt safer where he was than anywhere else.

Eventually, she realized he wasn't budging, and she disappeared back into the late afternoon crowd, leaving him to roll back over and return to whatever passed for rest in a life that seemed to offer none.

I don't come here often, but when I do I seem to have this habit of crossing paths with society's lost souls - here's Exhibit A. I'm not entirely sure why. I don't necessarily seek them out, but when I do see them, I can't help but raise my camera and record the moment. Exploitative? Perhaps. Should I have followed that woman's lead and made an attempt of my own? Honestly, I still feel guilty that I didn't even ask.

But I realize the world can be a broken place in so many ways, with enough broken people in it to overwhelm even the most tough-minded Good Samaritan. We pick our battles, choose where we can do the most good, decide when it makes the most sense to dive in, and when to save our efforts for another day, for someone else. I wish we all had enough reserves to help everyone, in every way. I wish resources were limitless. I realize life doesn't work that way.

As I slowly lowered my camera and walked toward the Metro (subway) entrance mere steps away, I wondered if on this day I had made the right call. I'm guessing I'll never know.

Your turn: How do you decide when to help and when to leave it for another time, another person? Does it ever overwhelm you?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

On Olympic spirit - as it should be

"I wanted no part of politics. And I wasn't in Berlin to compete against any one athlete. The purpose of the Olympics, anyway, was to do your best. As I'd learned long ago from Charles Riley, the only victory that counts is the one over yourself."Jesse Owens
Thank you, Mr. Owens, for articulating it so perfectly. If only the IOC had the courage to follow your example. Alas, they don't.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Putting the cart before the horse

No shopping here
London, ON
March 2012
Please click here to share your own Thematic broken vision

I'm guessing this shopping cart, and the dozens just like it that were scattered haphazardly around the parking lot of the Masonville Place mall on this unseasonably warm March afternoon, is now somewhere very far away.

That's because the store that used to own these red wagons of retail destiny, Zellers, closed here a few months ago. The former anchor location has been completely emptied out and gutted, and now sits behind cladding as it undergoes extensive renovations in advance of its reopening next year under the Target banner. From the looks of the heavy equipment they've brought in for the job, I'm guessing they're bombing the tired structure back to the middle ages before they rebuild it as something more relevant to current-century buyers.

Further afield, the Zellers chain itself is well on its way toward oblivion, a victim of changing economic times, tough competition from the likes of Walmart and other big box chains, and, if we're being brutally honest, years of death-by-neglect at the hands of managers who had no business being in retail, and staff who couldn't care one way or the other whether you shopped there or not.

It was clear long before the press releases were issued that this entire brand was broken, and had no hope of recovery. That's what happens when you take your eye off the ball. That's what happens when the passion for what you're doing evaporates.

Your turn: What are you passionate about?

When the red light goes on...

...I end up talking about geeky things. It happened again this week, and I thought I'd share a few notable links with ya:

CBC's The Lang & O'Leary Exchange. I spoke with Kevin O'Leary and Dianne Buckner about Facebook's underwhelming earnings report. Investors freaked, and I tried to explain what it all meant. Video here. My bit starts about 5 minutes in. I also spoke with CBC Radio's Meegan Read for her national report package. Interestingly, the web team pulled a quote from the interview and included it in this story. It was deliciously provocative (check the graphic, too...right in the sub-head!):
"Growth is still at the low end of acceptable," independent technology analyst Carmi Levy told CBC News. "We still don't know whether or not this is a one-trick pony, or if Facebook really has a plan to drive consistent growth quarter after quarter."
CTV News Channel. I chatted with host Todd Van Der Heyden and fellow panel member Elias Makos on the weekly Talk Talk segment. We spoke about, among other things, Apple missing profit estimates and getting beaten up as a result. Video here.

CTV Regina. I talked about an innovative Internet broadcaster called Aereo with CTV Morning Live co-host Jonathan Glasgow. I haven't been able to find the video, but here's a recent one I did with them on RIM laying off 5,000 employees. Video here.

CTV London. When a huge storm lit up the night, social media channels cracked to life. I chatted with Celine Moreau for her report. Video here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Broken wave. Or not.

The end, for some
Delray Beach, FL
January 2012

You can look at a wave from one of two perspectives. Either it's broken, a collapsing heap of energy well on its way to oblivion, or it's a thing of beauty that exists, to the fullest extent possible, in this moment and it doesn't much matter what comes next.

I subscribe to the latter notion. It's spectacular now. It's inspirational now. It's resonant now. So may as well enjoy it in the moment that it lasts and not worry about what happens afterward. There's probably another wave on the way, anyway. In fact, it's pretty much a given.

Your turn: Waves...broken or not?

For more on Thematic's broken theme, and to participate in this week's insanity, please click here

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On belief and gratitude

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."
Meister Eckhardt

What I really think of Apple...

Big day in techland yesterday as Apple reported its latest quarterly earnings (Q3 2012, if you're into that sort of thing.) I wrote this piece for Yahoo! Canada:
Apple earnings down on flat China sales
I'd love to hear what you think. Happy reading!

I don't wear short shorts. But...

Under the sea
London, ON
March 2012

When I was a lifeguard way, way back, I built up a collection of some of the weirdest shorts you could ever imagine. There was method to my madness, as a wacky pair of shorts was often a great way to get a scared little munchkin to crack a smile and dip a tentative toe into the water during swim instruction. I had shorts with polka dots, animals, unidentifiable shapes and, as you can see here, psychedelic sea creatures. They made people smile, disarmed tense situations and generally made things a little more chill, a little more human.

Somewhat unbelievably, I've continued to wear this style of clothing. I don't dare wear 'em to the mall or any other place where I might run into someone I know. But for sleeping, walking the dog or washing the car - assuming I ever actually get around to washing my car before the next millenium - they're just the thing.

Sadly, clothes don't last forever. I know, such a surprise. And given my sentimental way of looking at the world, I've tended to hold onto some of my old faves for far longer than I should. I wouldn't wear them - too tattered for that. Instead, I'd leave them buried deep in a drawer because I couldn't get myself to ditch them for good. Same goes for many of my old, now ratty t-shirts: each one has a story, and it's hard to let go.

I've come up with a strange idea to help me work through this eccentric form of separation anxiety: I'm taking pictures of them before I ditch them for good. We'll start with these. Natty, eh?

Your turn: Clothes may or may not make the man, but do you think they hold sentimental value, as well? Or am I just being weird?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On technology & silly people

"If the human race wants to go to hell in a basket, technology can help it get there by jet."
Charles M. Allen

Too much radio?

Some days, I look back before tuck-in and realize I spent a heck of a lot of minutes talking into telephones and microphones. Here's a rundown of what I've been up to today in radioland in between, you know, writing for a living:

6:23 a.m. - Ted Woloshyn of Toronto's NewsTalk 1010 re. the IOC's draconian-seeming social media policy
10:30 a.m. - Jeff Macarthur of London's AM980 re. the IOC thing
12:30 p.m. - Tom Olsen of QR77 Calgary re. the CRTC's scrapping of the LPIF
4:15 p.m. - Mike Stubbs of London's 1290 CJBK for our weekly tech roundup (this was in-studio)
6:10 p.m. - Aaron Rand of Montreal's CJAD 800 re. the IOC thing. Podcast here.
9:45 p.m. - Ryan Doyle of NewsTalk 1010's Friendly Fire re. Apple's earnings

(That's six hits, half of them with various properties in the Astral Media chain.)

This is on top of yesterday's tally that had me speaking with CBC Ontario Morning's Mike Ewing on water safety (podcast here) and 570 News Kitchener's Gary Doyle on taking technology for granted. Tomorrow is already shaping up as a busy one, too, with a couple of chats with CTV in the morning and again in the afternoon. I don't say any of this because I'm impressed or looking for a pat on the back or a congratulatory cookie. The numbers simply blow me away sometimes when I stop and review them a little more closely.

As I continue to grow the media component of my career, I often find myself having difficulty convincing the powers-that-be that there's value to this work, that listeners, viewers and readers dig it, that at some point they might want to consider bringing me in and making it official. I'd like to think that my rather oddball view of the tech world has struck a nerve and might help some newsrooms out there in ways they can only begin to imagine. I'd like to think there's one decision maker in media out there who I've yet to meet, who gets it, who's willing to roll the dice. Just one is all I need.

Days like these convince me that I'm on the right path, that the only real response to the silence on the other end of the email or phone trail is to just keep answering the phone, picking up the mic, heading into the studio, talking into the camera, pushing my story forward. Because there's no sense giving up now, is there?


Monday, July 23, 2012

Thematic Photographic 205 - Broken

Alignment, please
Montreal, QC
July 2012

We live in a throwaway society, where we no longer even go through the motions of deciding whether something is worth fixing. Instead, we measure how long we've owned something against some arbitrary number corresponding to the number of years of expected service. Then we rationalize to ourselves that we've gotten decent enough value from it before we pack everything up and head out in search of a shiny new replacement bauble. Welcome to the endless upgrade treadmill.

I still think of the analog clock-radio - white with a black face - that sat in my parents' kitchen for virtually my entire childhood. It was old by the time I came along, but it nevertheless occupied the same rectangle of real estate on the counter for decades. Until it finally stopped working and we brought it to the appliance repair shop to be fixed. A few years later, it went silent again, except this time there were no appliance repair shops left.

The replacements never lasted more than give years, and they never imprinted themselves in my mind as that old analog one had. I hope a better fate awaits the sadly trounced bike above.

Your turn: This week's Thematic theme, broken, should make it easy to find inspiration, because we're surrounded by things that are long past their prime. Already, I'm lining up photos for the entire week, and I invite you to do the same. Just post a broken-themed pic to your blog - remember, how you interpret it is entirely up to you - then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Feel free to participate as often as you wish through the entire week, and bring a friend if you wish, too. For more background on how Thematic works, just click here. Otherwise, enjoy!

On sticking to the KISS rule

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein
Words to live by.

30 minutes or it's free

Mobile food
Shanghai, China
May 2012

It's been a delightfully orange week (there's still time to share. Just go here) but, like all good things, it must eventually come to an end. And I thought I'd end it with a shot of something we just don't get here at home. Oh sure, we can have any kind of food imaginable delivered to our door. But it usually gets to us in a beat-up 1995 Toyota Tercel with mismatched body panels and racing stripes on the hood.

I didn't get to sample the gourmet fare on offer here, but if the food quality correlates to the beautifully cared for scooter/trailer combination pictured here, it might be worth a shot next time I'm there.

Your turn: What did you have for dinner? Was it good?

One more thing: New Thematic launches tonight at precisely 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Theme? Ooh, good question. Got any ideas?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The ex-lifeguard interview

Last week, I posted a piece to the blog - link here - in the aftermath of a double drowning in Port Burwell that claimed the life of a 7-year-old boy and his 10-year-old sister. Neither could swim, and I ended up getting into a bit of an exchange with someone on Twitter after he said I had no right to comment, and my posts were in poor taste.

Needless to say, I disagreed. And I haven't heard from him since. Whatever.

Fast forward a bit and I'm scheduled to speak with CBC Radio's Ontario Morning tomorrow (Monday) morning at 7:10 am ET. I'll be chatting with Mike Ewing, and although the interview represents a bit of a departure from my usual tech fare, it'll give me an ideal opportunity to talk about water safety from my perspective as a former lifeguard.

I look forward to all of my on-air work, of course, but this one stands out just a bit more than usual. I hope one person listens, and feels the need to change. I hope one person realizes how important it is to hover over a child whenever they're near water. I hope this interview spurs additional discussion, thought, awareness and learning. I hope you're able to tune in, too.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Update: the interview is available here.
Direct link to the audio is here.

Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France, maybe

The cyclist and cycling fan in me is tickled by the fact that Bradley Wiggins has won this year's Tour de France - the first Briton to ever pull off the feat. The cynical realist in me is saddened that we need to append a "for now" to his victory.

Nothing against him, of course. But with the sport - indeed, all sport - wracked by drug-fuelled controversy that's led to riders being stripped of their titles,others being hauled off the course after testing positive, and still others being dogged by accusations for virtually their entire careers, every victory now seems to come with an asterisk until the athlete in question proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he/she competed clean.

As the Olympic games in London get set to open under a phalanx of anti-doping protocols that make a manned space launch seem simple by comparison, I have to wonder if we still understand and appreciate what the spirit of true competition really is, and why we compete in the first place. Something tells me we may have lost focus on the greater good of fair competition.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Boy on a walk

Rest area
London, ON
March 2012

It was one of those innocuous things you do on an otherwise quiet afternoon: We decided to take a walk in the ravine near our house. The weather had been unseasonably warm, so we figured this would be the perfect opportunity to explore.

As you can see, little man needed a break as we turned for home. All that climbing and descending took it out of him. This sliver of an experience is all anyone needs to know about the joyous spirit that drives him. I can't help but look at this pic - and think of this day with him - and smile. I hope you do, too.

Your turn: What should his next adventure be?

Click here to share your own orange-shaded Thematic.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A sign full of reminders

Post no bills
Montreal, QC
July 2012

Click here for more Thematic orangeness

Say hello to my lovely wife, she of limitless loveliness and goodness (really, she's lovelier than I deserve, but we'll leave that debate for another day.)

As you can see, she's patiently waiting for me to take the shot so we can continue on our walkabout. With a doof like me in tow, she has developed bottomless wells of patience over the years. Again, I don't deserve it. Again, we'll leave it aside.

Neither of us was sure why this particular street sign was plastered with parking stubs. Was it a Montreal thing? Did the Occupy protestors or student demonstrators have something to do with it? Were we being secretly filmed by the descendants of Allen Funt for a Candid Camera reboot? I suspect we'll never figure it out, but it was one of those neat mysteries you uncover only when you st your screens aside and find a new part of the planet to explore.

Your turn: What are you going to explore next?

Beginnings & endings

I guess if you add up all the big events in space history, you can probably have a significant anniversary of something every day of the year. But this one, coming a day after the Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary, is especially poignant:

It's been precisely a year since the Space Shuttle Atlantis returned to earth for the final time to close out the 30-year shuttle program. Funny how the passage of a year hasn't made the lack of leadership or vision any easier to swallow.

(Don't worry. I'm just getting all this space geekery out of my system. We'll return to our regularly scheduled blog programming momentarily.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Apollo 11 + 43

Landing zone
Shanghai, China
May 2012
Please click here to share your own Thematic orange moment

I read somewhere that 43 years isn't a nice, even anniversary like 50, 45 or 40. Yet, still, it's a milestone, an opportunity to stop and wonder why the day is significant in the first place. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon's Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, and in doing so set a standard for the generation. Whatever year it may be, it's worth remembering.

On a day when the world absorbed news of an unimaginable mass murder at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, it seemed appropriate to think back to another day in history when achievement, not depravity, ruled.

Not quite recycled

Left behind
London, ON
March 2012
Click here for more Thematic orange

It's been this kind of day, so let's leave it at that.

As we head into the weekend, go find someone who means something to you and give him/her a rather large hug. Cherish what you have, because you simply never know.

Your turn: Who gets the hug? Why?

They shoot moviegoers in Colorado, too

By now the global headlines are screaming after a gunman walked into a movie theater in Aurora, a Denver suburb, and opened fire. Latest reports put the death toll at 12, with dozens more injured.

Seriously? Is this kind of thing so frequent now that we've simply become numb to it? Is our reaction to this emerging form of senseless urban violence a quick log of the body count and confirmation that the city where it happened isn't too close to home? Does this represent the new normal?

I hope not. Because if it does, we've all got problems greater than a simple inability to see the latest flick at the local cineplex. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost the script, and that saddens me beyond words.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A marmelade moment

The day starts brightly
London, ON
April 2012
Please click here to share your own orange vision

Ever notice how the breakfast table offers up some of the most vibrant colors of the day? I'm not even sure the colors themselves are the reason for this: Perhaps it's the light, that low-angled, soft-hued early-morning light that barely manages to make it past the shutters. Maybe it's the fact that we've been sleeping all night (well, some of us, anyway) and our eyes are still adjusting to the reality of a brightly lit day. Maybe nothing's different at all, and we simply notice these things more acutely because the rest of the house is so blessedly quiet.

I don't have all the answers. In fact, I have none. But I do know when my head's spinning and I need clarity, I like to reach for my camera for a little optical therapy. Somehow, setting up for a shot like this, while the dog silently waits for me to finish up so we can head outside, is good for the soul. Somehow, I suspect having - and taking - pictures like this one has become an important touchstone for me as I navigate from one part of the day to another.

Does that sound right?

The myth of online anonymity

You've heard this story before:
  • Moron, typically a restaurant worker, does something gross.
  • Moron posts evidence of grossness, usually a photo, a video or some description, online.
  • Moron does so anonymously, thinking he/she (though, who are we kidding, it's usually a he) will never get caught.
  • Some intrepid souls online, bless their geeky, crowdsourced hearts, use Scooby-like sleuthing skills to zero in on said moron.
  • Moron is found.
  • Moron is fired.
The only things that tend to change from one of these instances to the next are 1) method of edible defacement, 2) the restaurant where said infraction took place, and 3) the city where it's located. Today, it's some doofus stepping on lettuce intended for customers in a Burger King in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The main story link is here. The real fun sub-story of how the social-savvy Scoobynauts caught him is here.

Yes, he was fired. No, he was decidedly not anonymous. And, no, I have no intention of eating at a Burger King anytime soon.

Seriously, you'd think people would learn. But I'm guessing if you're going to play this game in the first place, you're not predisposed to learning much of anything.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Home of the golden arches

Lupu Bridge
Shanghai, China
May 2012
Click here for more orange-themed goodness

I make no attempt to hide my fascination with bridges. The obsessive 12-year-old I once was spent enough time talking about them that, to this day, I bump into friends from elementary school who ask me if I still talk about bridges.

Some things never leave you, I guess.

The convention center where the conference was being held happened to be build alongside the Huangpu River that meanders through Shanghai. We were also in the shadows of this bridge, the second-longest arch span on the planet. I know, such a thrill.

While we waited for our next breakout session to start, I was able to grab this late afternoon scene through one of the center's windows. It's not a frameworthy shot by any stretch of the imagination, but I share it here because of the irony that I had to go halfway around the world to connect with a chapter of my childhood. Here's to the bridges that connect us all.

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

More bridge-themed entries here, here and here.

Is Microsoft still cool?

I think so. Call me contrarian. The Toronto Star just published my latest article:
Microsoft lost its cool with its Rolling Stones Start Me Up to Windows 95 launch. Is it regaining mojo?
Somewhat coincidentally, I wrote another Microsoft-themed piece for Yahoo! Canada earlier this week:
Microsoft Office: Latest updates enough?
Your turn: So is Microsoft cool or not? Why/why not?

On the complex relationship between success and failure

“No man ever achieved worthwhile success who did not, at one time or other, find himself with at least one foot hanging well over the brink of failure.”
Napoleon Hill

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Industrial disease

What does this building do?
London, ON
June 2012
Please click here for more Thematically-themed orange

The scene: a newly-opened paintball facility on the edge of a gritty industrial stretch on the east side of town. The parking lot is an uneven, gravel-topped mess, the insides are post-skateboarder punk and I stand here on a hot, hazy afternoon wondering who would have a kid's birthday party here.

Yet this was where my son's friend wanted it, so this was where I found myself. Half-expecting the experience to be visually rich, I toted my camera along. I'm glad I did. The orange building you see here is next-door. I'm not sure what goes on inside, but the outside was more than enough to attract my attention. Chops to whoever chose the exterior color.

You see some neat things in the not-so-big city when you go outside your comfort zone.

Your turn: What kinds of things do you see when you go outside your usual comfort zone?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Scarborough shooting - here we go again

I've got to stop checking Twitter late at night, as it only brings bad news. This one's especially hard to swallow: a 12-year-old girl is among the victims after gunfire rang out at a house party in Scarborough earlier this evening. (CTV Toronto story here.)

Police now confirm at least one dead among the multiple shooting victims. Numbers are't confirmed, but some reports say there are 10 shooting victims. Twitter's lighting up with reports of a second death. We'll see how this plays out. Update: 2 dead - including a teenaged girl and a man in his 20s - and 19 injured. A toddler is among the injured. Police confirm a person of interest is in custody. Please see below for latest links.

Either way, unreal.

(Feel free to post updated info in the Comments section. I'll do the same here.)


Morning roundup:
CTV News, Toronto StarNational Post, Globe & MailCP24
Late night:
12:08: CityTV.
12:06: Shooting location - Danzig Street, in the Morningside Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East area. Police asking people to avoid the area. CP24.
12:05: Global.
Midnight: National Post story. Newstalk1010 story.
Toronto police asking anyone with information to call (anonymously) 1.800.222.TIPS or tweet @TorontoPolice

Thematic Photographic 204 - Orange

Saying goodbye to the day
London, ON
June 2012
This week's Thematic theme is an easy one to remember: the color orange. It seems to be a predominant color throughout the summer, and as the temperature and humidity both head well into triple-digits, I find the entire day often seems to be orange-tinged, as well.

Weird, I know, that I think in colors. But I'm guessing I'm not the only one. I'm also guessing you'll have plenty of photographic ammunition over the next week to keep the orange pics coming. Are you in?

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is our weekly photo-based participation/learning/sharing activity (here's more background on how it works.) To participate, simply post a pic in support of this week's theme to your blog or website (previously posted stuff will work, too.) Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Pop into other participants and feel free to pop back in here and play again throughout the week. It's non-competitive, and hellishly fun. Enjoy!

The Malibu Under the Sea

 I'd like to round out this week's transportation theme with a couple of shots I grabbed in the middle of a sunny parking lot over lunch with colleagues. The vehicle is as conservative as they come - a Chevrolet Malibu, a sensible, efficient family sedan. The wrap that this particular example was sporting, ostensibly for some kind of promotion, was anything but.

It reminded me of a mixture of Return to Atlantis and some warped Disney-esque tribute. And it stopped us in our tracks.

The funny thing about this car is that we couldn't figure out what it was advertising. It looked like some sort of booze, the kind of thing that one would expect to troll the streets of a university/college town like ours all summer long. But there wasn't an identifiable logo, an aha-type graphic that would prompt us to pull out our smartphones and email the company for being so brilliant.

As it was, the concept was brilliant. The marketing execution? Less so. Still, it was delightful. Anytime someone drives around with dolphins on the rear fascia of a vehicle, you've got to figure all is right in their world. Whoever you folks are, good on ya for breaking the mold.

New theme, orange, goes live at 7 p.m.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The plane that ate Pennsylvania

At altitude
Somewhere near Pittsburgh
January 2011

About this photo: It's Thematic's transportation week, and there's still time for you to share your own photo. How? Here.
I often wonder what we did in the pre-historic era when we flew without moving maps, in-flight Internet and all the other touchstones of a connected planet. I'm guessing we read books, looked out the window or, horrors, spoke to each other.

I'm as much a fan of the moving map as anyone else, but I've got to admit the graphics on some of them are a little funny-looking. Is the 737-700 really this large? I swear at one point it looked like it could darken most of the eastern seaboard with its shadow.

I know, I'm being silly. But keep in mind this was the flight when I had to deal with this idiot. So I hope you'll forgive me for indulging a little in the seatback technology.

Your turn: How do you pass the time when you fly?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The bike by the side of the road

At rest. For now.
East of London, ON
July 2010

I've been meaning to get out on my bike more. Meaning and actually doing, however, are two very separate things. It's been hard to carve out the time for a good ride when I've been writing non-stop, jamming out prose in between one interview after another and trying to stay on top of a burgeoning workload.

It's a great challenge to have, of course, as everyone who flies solo always wants the phone to be ringing, always wants to be in demand, always wants to have a full plate. But while I stare at my idle bike, I realize I'm at greater risk of becoming the person I always said I wouldn't: sedentary, slow, unhealthy.

Scary stuff. Tomorrow, I ride. Who's coming with me?

For more transportation-themed Thematic, click here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two drown at Port Burwell

I'll be quick. Two kids - a 7-year-old boy and his 10-year-old sister - drowned at the main beach Port Burwell earlier today. It's obviously too early to know precisely what happened, and I'm sure details on this accident will filter out in the days and weeks to come. But the pattern is already depressingly, tragically familiar.

So, as I often do when the world seems to spin slightly off its axis, I posted to Twitter:

And before long, I received this reply:

To which I responded:

And the conversation descended from there:

I'm guessing I was a little frustrated by the end. And I'm guessing by the time all is said and done, I'm going to have one less Twitter follower, as we clearly don't see eye to eye on this one. But here's the deal: I was a lifeguard for most of my teenaged years. I spent my days watching over kids whose parents and caregivers would either drop them off and leave them there, alone, all day, or would stay on-site while their kids ran roughshod throughout the pool area. Their attitude: Someone else will take care of my kid.

My apologies if I disagree with that attitude. It isn't the lifeguards' responsibility to take care of your kid. It's yours. Sure, guards have ultimate responsibility for the safety of the area and everyone in it, but if you think it's acceptable to simply walk away and let them be solely responsible for ensuring your kid stays alive, you're mistaken.

My kids are all excellent swimmers. Yet every time we go to the beach, I'm watching them like a hawk, because you never know. My eyes don't leave them, because strong as they are, a rogue current or wave could easily throw them off. It's unfathomable to me that I'd leave that sole accountability in the hands of someone in a tower who's also got to watch thousands of other people in a crowded, chaotic environment. So I don't.

Already this year, drowning stats in Ontario and Quebec are headed for record highs. A two-year-old died this week in a backyard pool, another toddler was pulled from a fish pond...and they were always out of sight for "just a second." My Twitter colleague may think I have no right, that my words are in poor taste, that speaking about it won't change anything.

But I remember full well what it felt like to pull a vital signs-absent four-year-old from the bottom of the deep end, then try to keep myself from coming apart as I worked on him for what seemed like forever before he finally came back to us. His instructor had turned away for "just a second". His name was Kirk, and I'll never forget how that so-called accident happened, and what it did to all of us when it was all over. It changes you - and this one had a happy ending. What happens when it doesn't? Like today?

I dont care how impolite Mr. Matthews thinks I am: Something needs to change. Now.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Update - Sun July 22: I'll be on-air live with CBC Ontario Morning's Mike Ewing tomorrow (Mon July 23) at 7:10 a.m. Eastern to discuss this issue. Hope you can tune in. Link here.

Update - Tue July 31: My handy dandy Twitter Unfollower Tracker feature confirms that Mr. Matthews has unfollowed me. I know, such a surprise :)

RIM meets. I talk. A lot.

It's been an eventful week in my little media world. I headed down to Waterloo - about an hour east of London - for Research In Motion's annual general meeting on Tuesday. What resulted was quite a storm of activity that continued through much of the rest of the week.

For starters, I published two articles:
Then I spoke to all three national Canadian evening newscasts:
I spoke live with Nicole Lampa and BNN's Kim Parlee on CTV Kitchener's noon newscast, and was included in a report by Frank Lynn (video here). Nicole's package is here.

The next morning, I was up early to chat with CTV Canada AM's Marci Ien. The full interview is here.

In between all of that, I did a bunch of radio interviews - including one where I artfully dodged a street cleaner - with the CBC's Mike Hornbrook, John Moore on Newstalk 1010 in Toronto, Andrew Carter on CJAD in Montreal, Al Coombs on 1290 CJBK here in London (coolness factor: I did that one right in the studio...love when I can do that!), Gary Doyle of 570News in RIM's hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, and London's own Journalism program at Western U/CHRW Radio.

At one point, I was cruising through the hinterlands of Ontario, sunroof open and music playing, thinking how lucky I was to get to do this. Somehow, I ended up doing some of the neatest work I could have ever imagined. Somehow, it felt as if I was exactly where I belonged. Neat.

I'm guessing there's more in store. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

About the frog...

When I posted this photo of a sweet frog - or is it a toad? I can never tell the difference - that scampered across my path during a meeting earlier this afternoon, it was accompanied by a couple of paragraphs of random thoughts.

Not that a hundred or so words mean a whole lot in the overall scheme of things, but I was slightly surprised when the post published as a photo only - no words in sight. I dug into every interface I could find - the app, my mail client's send folder, Gmail, the little space beside the porch under the evergreen bush where I sometimes hide randomly picked dandelions - and every reference to this blog entry was wordless. My thoughts were lost to the ages. Odd, that. Some days, technology hates me (I know, ironic given what I do for a living. But still.)

This was my first attempt at posting a photo from my iPad - first photo is actually here - and up until I hit the Publish button on the touchscreen, I was all pleased with myself at how easy it was to shoot, write, edit and upload from Apple's uber-tablet. I'm thinking I've got a bit of app-tweaking to do before we can call this thing functional.

Your turn: What do you use - hardware, software, related tools, whatever - to maintain your blog? I'm interested in seeing what tools are out there, and whether they're doing the job for you.

Little. Green. So not coming home with me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Business London Magazine - and me

I was recently asked by Business London, our city's top business-focused magazine, if I'd like to be featured in their Questions segment. That's where they fire a bunch of questions at notable locals and see what they can come up with.

I'm still not entirely sure what makes me notable above anyone else. I write and I talk, and that's just about it. But it was - and is - nevertheless a huge honour to be approached.

The segment has just been published here, and I'll post a tearsheet of the printed version once I get a copy in my hot little hands.

Man, what a journey this is turning into...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On technology and the IVR

"For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three."
Alice Kahn

Monday, July 09, 2012

Thematic Photographic 203 - Transportation

London, ON
April 2012

Moving yourself from one place to another is pretty fundamental to a life well lived. It can be across a room, across the street, across town or around the world, but at some point having that freedom to displace and change your physical reality becomes pretty key.

So for the next week I'm hoping we can explore transportation in all its glory - or not, depending on how you choose to see it. Which is why we do this Thematic thing in the first place, because we all see a theme so uniquely. And I'm thankful to you all for taking the time to share your unique visions, week after week.

Your turn: Take or choose a transportation-themed photo, then share it on your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the fun. Repeat as often as you wish throughout the week - this theme runs through next Monday - and feel free to bring a friend along for the ride. Thematic Photographic is our weekly non-competitive, highly enjoyable photo sharing/exploration activity, and more background is available here.

DNS Changer Day - It's here

Today's the day. The FBI has turned off its so-called ghost network, and the 9,000 or so remaining computers in Canada that are estimated to be infected with the DNS Changer malware will no longer be able to connect to the Internet.

Of course, those 9,000 are, in all probability, the least likely to know about DNS Changer in the first place, and the least likely to make the connection when they flip the switch. I'm guessing they're running an eight-year-old PC running Windows XP (not updated, of course) with no security software installed, and no clue that any of this is even an issue.

I wrote about it here. I was also on-air this morning with CBC News Network's Nancy Wilson (a great discussion!) and will be off and on through the day - mostly on my BlackBerry - if you have any questions.

Fun stuff, no?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Six years. Old.

Happy Frasier
London, ON
March 2011

The expensive, loud and highly inconvenient ball of fur chewing on his buddy Hudson's chew stick in the photo above turns six today. Well, in human years. In dog years, he's kinda middle age. Or given the year that he's had, with the diabetes, the perpetual cone of shame and enough infections to give him his own frequent flyer card at the vet, perhaps older than that.

Truth is we don't really know how much time we've got with him. I'm guessing you can say the same thing about all of us, too. And if he's taught us one thing since we rescued him, it's that every day is a gift. Our kids have learned that lesson in spades, and if there's a silver lining in having a dog with, ah, challenges, it's this. Watching them change to accommodate him has been a tremendous experience for us. They're better people because of him, more caring, more empathetic, sweeter - if that was even possible.

I wouldn't wish illness on anyone or any animal, of course, but if I had to go through it all over again, I'd choose this critter in a heartbeat. Happy birthday, furry guy. I'll even let you sleep on my feet. Because I like you.

Your turn: Do you have a pet memory to share?

More Act of Dog entries here.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Po, the CBC, and me

You get a lot of interesting looks when you walk around with an enormous and serious-looking camera bag hanging off your shoulder, and said bag in turn has a fairly well-worn Teletubby figurine dangling from the handle.

This is the scene from the chair at the CBC in Montreal. I had come to the epicentre of our national broadcaster's Quebec operations yesterday to talk about the DNS Changer malware threat with teams from The National and News Now, and a little bit of Po seemed to be the perfect way to relax and get into the groove before the red light went on.

I've often been asked why a grown man channels a gibberish-spewing, psychedelic little being with a screen in her tummy. Here's why I do it:

1 - It keeps me from taking life too seriously.
2 - It keeps me from taking myself too seriously.
3 - It makes strangers smile.

I scaffed this particular one from our eldest son a whole lot of years ago, a cast-off remnant of a Happy Meal. I don't know what possessed me to start carrying it around, but since I adopted it (her?) as an ersatz travel gnome, she's been everywhere with me, and I've never missed an opportunity to shoot her in all sorts of fascinating places. She's a little tattered and faded now, but over the years she's become an important part of our family's landscape.

Today, we're taking her to the hospital. She - along with the kid from whom I scaffed her so long ago - is going to try to coax out another smile from a day that otherwise has none. Not sure she'll manage the feat, but at least it's worth a shot. Because tikkun olam - repairing the world - starts with the smallest of gestures, and it only grows from there.

Your turn: How do you keep life from becoming too serious?

Friday, July 06, 2012

What happens when you write the CEO?

I wrote an article for the Toronto Star - Dear Thorsten Heins, please throw the faithful a bone, yours truly, Carmi Levy - that created a bit of a storm on Twitter and in email after if went live yesterday.

It's been fascinating to see the response. The vast majority of readers were supportive, while a few were, um, more than a little nasty. But that's the amazing thing about what I do: Whether or not people agree or disagree with me is virtually beside the point. What matters is that they read the article, were moved in some way by it, and responded in some way to it.

In some parts of the world, people don't have the right or the technical ability to engage in any of this. In some cases, they die to have it. So it's no big deal to grow a slightly thicker layer of skin so I can wade into the gloriously rich media world that surrounds us.

I hope you'll give it a read, then join in the discussion.

DNS Changer Malware: What you need to know

Long story short, there's a fairly significant piece of malware making the rounds that threatens to cut tens of thousands of infected computers - and their owners - off of the Internet on Monday, July 9. It's called DNS Changer, and it's getting a lot of media attention in advance of Monday. The hackers responsible for the infection have been caught and charged, but the network that the FBI set up allowing infected users to continue to use the Internet will be shut down on Monday - hence all this attention.

I've put together a quick list of helpful links here - and will be speaking about this issue with a number of radio stations today, including Newstalk 1010 in Toronto and CJAD in Montreal. Please feel free to suggest your own in a comment, or tweet it to me at @carmilevy. Or hit up my Facebook page at facebook.com/carmi. Thanks! Here goes:

Thursday, July 05, 2012

20 years on...

Hard to believe two decades ago tonight I married my best friend. Part of me wonders how 20 years can go by in a blink, while the other part of me feels like I've known her forever, and forgets what life was ever like without her.

I know I don't make life easy on her. I'm forgetful, often losing keys, GPSs and phones between the kitchen table and the front door. She knows that look that I get as I wander the house looking for whatever it was that I lost. Inevitably, she finds it. And finds me, too. I sing. Badly. I often disappear spontaneously when some tech company has a bad day, and she smiles that understanding smile as I head into a studio, disappear into my darkened office, or wander out to the car in my jammies to do another interview. She listens intently when I read back something I wrote, unsure whether it's remotely readable. She'll tell me if it sucks, then tell me how to fix it.

She finishes my sentences, reads my mind and eases my conscience. She shows me the way when I'm blinded by fear, calms me down when I get overwhelmed and makes sure I don't starve no matter what I'm up to. She's there when I awake in the early morning darkness and again when I crash out long after any sane person should have tucked in. She sees me off in the morning before I drive into the pre-dawn murk, with an encouraging "kick butt" and a tight hug to help ground me before I sit in front of a camera in a darkened, tomb-quiet room and talk to countless strangers about stuff that sometimes seems too complex for words. She helps me find those words, gives me the confidence to do what I do, gives me the room to make it happen. She makes my soul come alive, convincing me that anything is possible even if everyone else outside our amazing little family has already shared otherwise. She makes me believe. She makes me want to be better.

She is an incredible mother, a constant force in our kids' lives, the very center of their respective worlds. They adore her, emulate her, never miss an opportunity to spend time with her. They've learned to cherish the intangible gift of time by simply following her example. They are mirrors of her as a result, and every time I watch them move, listen to them talk, hold their wiggling forms in my arms, I'm reminded of her.

I'm far from perfect, yet she sticks with me. Because she gets that imperfection is part of the deal, that the fire we have deep inside matters more than the warts we may wear on the surface. She's beautiful inside and out, as anyone who's privileged enough to call her a friend already knows. She's taught our kids that inner-beauty thing, too, which is another reason why I love her as much as I do.

I've become who I am because of her, and know that my life's journey would have been a whole lot different, and a whole lot less fulfilling, if I hadn't been on it with her. She chose me, and not a day goes by that I don't thank my lucky stars that she did. Thank you is inadequate, but it'll have to do for now. Along with a wish for another 20, and another, and however many more years the selfish me can get with her. Because as incredible as these 20 have been, I'll always want more. She's just that kind of person.

Happy anniversary, sweets. Love you more than words can say.
"If you want to be happy, be."

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Those little feet didn't stand a chance

Deerfield Beach, FL
January 2012

These are my son's footsteps (a series, get it?*) that lasted for, I'm guessing, four waves before they were forever wiped from the face of the earth. Not long after we left this place, any evidence that he had been here had vanished.

Sure, the picture freezes things somewhat, renders them a little more permanent. But even then, it's a virtual process, eventually doomed to similar disappearance when the web server is taken offline, when the power fails, when technology inevitably leaves this platform behind. We've learned, sometimes the hard way, that nothing lasts forever, so we're left to cherish whatever somethings we have for as long as we possibly can. And even when they're gone, they're still ours to remember if we try hard enough.

The waves may have taken his footsteps away. But when I close my eyes and remember that day we all spent together, it's as real as it ever was.

Your turn: How do you hold onto fleeting moments?

* Head here for more Thematic series.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Short flight of wonder

London/Toronto, ON
March 2011
Click all photos to embiggen
About these photos: Thematic explores photographic series all week long. Head here for the launch entry, and here for more background on Thematic itself. It won't hurt. Much.
For as long as I have the ability to get on a plane and travel elsewhere, I'll continue to find the experience to be magical. Sure, overwhelming security procedures and onerous fee structures - I have to pay to sit next to my kid? Seriously? - have cut into the glamor that once defined air travel. But once you finish being felt up by Gene the ambiguously dressed security agent and ripped off my a smarmy airline agent, all that's left is to board the plane itself and strap in for the ride.

And what a ride it is. From the moment the engines open up and you hurtle down the runway, it's all about the physics, baby. And what cool physics they are, incredibly simple principles being applied in real life by some of the best engineering humans have yet invented. Yet most passengers are too preoccupied flipping through the SkyMall catalog - I admit that genuine bamboo tiki bar is positively divine, but let's get real, shall we? - to even notice.

I kind of wish more of them would. Because life's pretty short, and we miss most of the fun stuff if we're too busy being busy. (Shades of Bueller, no?) We all need to take a time out - or six - to appreciate the simplicity - or complexity, your call - of being held up in the air by nothing more than a few well-worn principles of aerodynamics. Or anything else we might find magical.

Your turn: What do you find magical? What makes it magical in the first place?

Monday, July 02, 2012

Thematic Photographic 202 - Series

Pelican flyby
Deerfield Beach, FL
January 2012

For this week's Thematic series, I'd like us to try something a little different (I know I say that all the time, but this time I really mean it.)

In all seriousness, I'd like to shift our perception of photos themselves. We tend to think of them as individual entities, or unique memories, but I'd like us, this week anyway, to think a little bigger. So instead of seeing them as unique photos, I'm hoping this theme will let us see that as part of a larger continuum, snippets of life that we can, if we wish, assemble together like puzzle pieces to see the bigger picture.

So, for the coming week, the Thematic theme is series. I hope you'll think about a series - two or more pictures makes it, and that's the only real rule - that you'd like to share. Whatever that series may be, topically, is entirely up to you. If you think they're connected and they tell a wider story, we want to see 'em. That's it!

About these photos: The kids were playing in the late afternoon surf while I stood at the water's edge and did my best to shoot the chaotic scene. Our daughter saw it first, a pelican flying low over the water, parallel to the shoreline as they always seem to do. I was so busy shooting that I didn't recognize our daughter's gesture for what it was - notice the pointing in shot 2 - until Noah picked up on it and started yelling.

Now, a word about pelicans. They don't live here in the Great White North, so the only time we get to see them is when we're down south. My late father, who spent so much time on the beach with my mother and their friends, was fascinated by them, and always enjoyed my own efforts to hunt them down - photographically, of course - and the pics that resulted (like this one.)

The thing is, they're hard to get. They usually fly in leisurely packs, high and slow, wings barely moving, up and down the beach. You can be there every day for a week and not see one, then see the same bunch cross the sky - back and forth - multiple times in an afternoon, but never on anything like a set schedule. Unless you're sitting on the beach with your camera at the ready, they're really hard to capture.

So it was quite a surprise to see one lone bird flying not high over the top of the beach itself, but low over the water, dropping down at points to capture the ground effect (story for another day: It takes guts to fly so close to disastrous contact with the water, but it's so awe-inspiring to watch.) I reset the camera as quickly as I could to capture the sole pelican's flyby, then followed it as it swept on past before dropping to sea level for one last skim.

I was sure I had so little time to shift gears that I was going to botch something - exposure, composition, focus, probably all three - yet in the end, somehow I was able to record its passage.

Then, just as quickly as it had arrived, it was gone, the kids left bubbling in its wake about how they could almost reach out and touch this incredible bird, how it almost seemed to aim right for them as it made its way down the coastline. Dahlia remembered how her Zaidy liked pelicans, and wondered aloud about the connection.

To this day, I wonder if the flyby was perhaps a sign that on so many days much like today, in this very place, my dad sat right over there and enjoyed similar spectacles. I'm glad I was able to record the moment with his memory so close at hand. There's no way to know, of course, but the sense of connectedness made it much more than simply watching a bird fly past.

Your turn: Thematic Photographic is our weekly photo sharing-participation-learning activity. All you need to do is share a photo series on your own blog or website, then leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Visit other participants to spread the joy, and feel free to pop back in through the week to see what everyone else is up to. Repetition is highly encouraged, as is a general sense of fun. If you're new to the Thematic thing, click here. Otherwise, have fun with this one...I know I will!