Monday, February 28, 2005

Go flight, GlobalFlyer

Inveterate explorer Steve Fossett has launched his pursuit of one of the last remaining major aviation challenges: a solo, non-stop, around-the-world flight. The plane's called the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. It was designed by Burt Rutan, the legendary founder of Scaled Composites who also designed SpaceShipOne (X Prize winner for the first privately-funded sub-orbital trips to space), Voyager (first around-the-world, non-stop flight), The Beech Starship 1, the VariEze, Long-EZ, and a list too long to repeat here, but clickable here.

The GlobalFlyer home page is here. Be prepared to wait a while for it to load, however, because anyone with even a passing interest in aviation is hammering the site as we speak. The site's real-time tracking page is here.

Web woes aside, Godspeed, Steve. The adventures of people like you - and the teams of experts who stand behind you - set a shining example for those who appreciate your exploits. It's more than just a flight.

Despite the winter storm moving over London, Ontario, I will wave as you cruise over our part of the world around the time we tuck ourselves into bed. The wishes of the world are with you.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The ties that bind

At the age of 10, our son, Zach, is at that tough age where he is no longer a kid, but not quite grown-up. Over the past few months, he’s been insisting we refer to him as a pre-teen. I’ve resisted because I still can’t get used to the fact that he’s already into double-digits. I don’t know where the time went, and I wish I could get some of it back so that I could do a better job of cataloging it all.

Earlier today, we attended a happy occasion – a baby naming for the newborn daughter of our longtime friends. As we were getting the kids dressed in the morning, Zach asked me if he could wear a tie.

He’s never asked for one before, and in this age of more casual clothes for everyone – especially kids – we haven’t had to put our kids in suits like our parents did with us.

I quickly sized up Zach’s button-down shirt and, with the expert fashion advice of my wife (you wouldn’t want me making these decisions, now, would you?) headed over to my tie rack for a look.

Time out for a quick primer on Carmi’s ties: for years, my father-in-law would have lunch with his friends. One of his “cronies” (I love that word, don’t you?) was a tie man (another lovely term!) So at regular intervals, my father-in-law would present me with a plain paper bag. Inside would be a tie or two (or three). And not just any ties: beautiful silk ones with lovely colors and textures. The kind you’d go out and buy when you felt like treating yourself.

Over the years, all these ties added up, to the point that I now have what must be the world’s loveliest collection. And even if it doesn’t rank with Prince Charles’s own set of cravates, the sentiment behind how mine came to be in my cupboard makes them more than mere strips of silk to me. Now, back to the story...

We picked a paisley tie with a very subtle Mickey Mouse head in the middle of the pattern. I leaned over his back and carefully began the voodoo-like process of tying it around his neck. I tried to explain what I was doing, not so much to teach him how to do it himself – that will come in time – but to ensure I didn’t forget this seemingly - but not - trivial moment in time.

My mind went back to an almost identical moment a generation ago, when my father did the same with me. He had just shaved, and I remember the way he leaned his shoulder over my back and softly folded the tie into its mythical knot, carefully pulling it snug and adjusting my collar. I didn’t understand how he did it, but I trusted him to get it right, to show me the way.

As my fingers repeated the same pattern that my father’s had traced so long ago, I suddenly felt as if the mantle of a generation had been passed down to me, and that I was perpetuating a time-honored tradition of fathers and sons. I know, weird, but strangely comforting.

I managed to get the tie done on the first try, and adjusted it from the front before turning his collar down and pronouncing him good to go. My wife and I must have asked him a dozen times that day if it felt tight around his neck. He repeatedly told us it was fine. He wore it proudly for the entire day, taking it off only as we pulled back into the driveway just before suppertime.

He may not yet be the adult he so very much wants to be. But in that brief moment on a Sunday morning while everyone buzzed around, trying to get out of the house on time, he moved closer to his elusive goal. And I gained another reason to tie myself – on so many levels that I can barely understand – to his ever-growing life. If I’m lucky, the seeds we planted this morning may one day bear similar fruit with his own child.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

I've made Dvorak's Blog!

More good news from Carmi's World of Journalism:

Award-winning technology columnist
John Dvorak (PC Magazine, National Public Radio, CBS Marketwatch, Tech TV, among others) , has picked up my last post.

[Pause while I vent off the excitement at being quoted by someone I've been avidly reading since the day I brought my first PC home in the trunk of my Mom's car.]

There, I'm calm once more. OK, not really. But calm enough to write.

Anyway, click here to read his thoughts on my thoughts. I also highly recommend you add Mr. Dvorak's blog, Dvorak Uncensored, to your list of regular reads. He's one of the few tech journalists who gets the cultural component, and he writes about it in a fascinatingly engaging way.

While you're busy with that, I'm going to make myself some hot chocolate. But I'll wait till it's cool before I drink it. My heart rate should be down by dinnertime.


Update: As of Monday afternoon, it looks like the conversation has exploded - in a good way, of course - on Mr. Dvorak's blog. As of this moment, at least 18 entries have been registered. Click here to see what the fuss is all about, and don't be afraid to add your two cents worth to the discussion. Isn't this neat?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Quote from an unhappy librarian

One of the most fascinating aspects of playing witness to the evolution of blogs has been watching traditional media adapt to the new and rapidly-changing landscape. Add Michael Gorman to the list of those feeling prickly in the presence of the interlopers.

He's the president of the American Library Association, and he apparently has some issues with those involved in the new medium:
"[The] Blog People (or their subclass who are interested in computers and the glorification of information) have a fanatical belief in the transforming power of digitization and a consequent horror of, and contempt for, heretics who do not share that belief ... Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs.'"
Carmi again: First, I guess I'm one of those so-called Blog People. Who woulda thought? Second, I find it sad that a person whose career has been built on opening the minds of all generations would so derisively dismiss an entire genre because of the limited writing skills of a few. I guess we now know that the ALA's elitism extends clear to the top of its leadership.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Click on this, really

My cynical and jaded persona means I'm not easily impressed by new technology. While reading through my daily RSS feed, however, I read a snippet about a unique news aggregator site called 10x10. After playing with it for a few minutes, I think I may need to re-think my caustic world view.

My challenge to you: click on over to this site and try to keep the silly grin from your face as you navigate this wildly innovative interface. Then come back here and let us all know what you think.

This one's going to stick in my head for a while. Neat stuff.

Round, magical, grainy confections

Montreal is a city of bakeries. Go for a walk through the neighborhood on a quiet Sunday morning and you're bound to be entranced by the hypnotic smell of freshly-baked bagels as you approach your favorite boulangerie. It's a signature of my childhood, and every time I return to the big French-speaking town, I always make a pilgrimmage. And we always bring home countless dozens of them.

We import them because London is decidedly not a city of bakeries. There are a few exceptions - a wonderful place called Angelo's comes to mind - but the people here seem to be content with the processed white bread that sits under fluorescent lights at the supermarket.

To ensure our lives don't become any more diluted than the Loblaws Gods would wish, I often take pictures of foods that look cool. And nothing looks cooler than this. Just try to avoid getting hungry.

What's next on your menu?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Publish Day - those thieving insurance cos.

Something tells me today's column in the London Free Press, Public sours on insurance firms' sweet deal, won't make me any friends at Mother Corp. You see, although this article isn't remotely close to being about my former employers, enough leaders there will likely see the words "insurance companies" and instantly pull out their Stick a Hole-a in the Ayatollah dartboards (remember those?) before quickly replacing the old guy's picture with mine and having a good old tossing session at my face.

That I'm writing about property, casualty and business insurers, and not the rather different financial and investment services sector, will likely be lost on them. Truth is, greed in all forms ticks me off, and I witnessed plenty of it in my past drone life (such as achieving 20% ROE, multiple consecutive quarters of record profits, followed by endless years of cry-poor budget and career management restraints.) So if the shoe fits, then I guess it has to be worn by someone.

Yup, I admit I'm a bit bitter. Constant exposure to greediness will do that to the best of us. The bitterness I feel is a good thing, however, for it focuses my writing and (hopefully) reaches people.

With this focused-bitterness-as-catalyst ethos in mind, does this latest consumerist-focused commentary of mine incite you to do something about the soulless corporate entities among you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Poetic loss

I don't want you all to think I'm being excessively morbid these days, what with my recent string of death announcements. Still, I believe strongly in noting passings because I think they leave traces of something behind for the rest of us. They speak to a continuity that goes beyond any one life, and is often difficult for us to see because we're so heads-down with the process of simply making it through another day.

With that in mind, I read obituaries ravenously. Even the little one-paragraph announcements in the paper have a story behind them. Sometimes the story lurks between the lines, while at other times it hangs out there, its pain obvious to anyone who takes the time to look.

The Toronto Star ran a particularly poignant one in yesterday's paper. Entitled A poet voiceless without his muse, it tells the story of a gifted poet, Richard Outram, who froze himself to death last week, two years after his wife passed away. It struck a very deep chord within me, for how he saw his wife, and defined his life by his relationship with her, is how I see myself and mine. I write today because of her. As such, my voice comes from her, and I have no idea what I'd do if she weren't there.

Reading this piece, I was suddenly afraid of what I'd do if I were alone. I felt a stark stab of cold that had nothing to do with the chill winds blowing past the gable on my house.

Read, then appreciate, then please come back and share your thoughts on how you would cope if you suddenly lost the most important pillars of support in your life.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Journalism loses a giant

I generally stay away from posting news stories, since my little blog can hardly do a better job of covering stories than the wire services.

But I would feel disrespectful, somehow, if I didn't at least mention that Hunter S. Thompson, the man who defined gonzo journalism and new journalism (PDF link), and to a large extent, defined how I felt long-form writers should impact their environment, died yesterday of an apparent suicide.

Beyond the omnipresent shadow of drugs, his shaping of the reporter's narrative form helped an entire generation of writers keep the feature genre not only alive, but vibrant and relevant.

Death is always sad. But it's somehow a little bit sadder when the world loses an influential voice.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A child grows too quickly

Childhood is all about milestones. They come at you fast and furious when you don't yet have a whole lot of history behind you. Think about it, in your first year, you learn to eat, roll over, crawl, sit up, and cruise. You might start to walk. You might utter your first word, or at least your first sort-of syllables.

Every milestone is greeted with awe by parents, grandparents, extended family, friends, and anyone else who cares about you. Folks stand aside and clap and cheer every time you do something new. If they blink, they miss it.

As you get older, the pace of your milestones stretches out. They don't come as often. Fewer people stand by and cheer.

Yet every time our children reach one of these one-way doors, I find myself looking back at the day they were born. I can still remember with razor-like detail what I saw, felt and heard as we welcomed each of our kids into the world. Each experience was incredibly different, yet they all ended up with us, at some point in the proceedings, holding a tiny little bundle of squirming newness. It's that tininess that stuck in my mind as I carried our seven-year-old daughter upstairs earlier tonight after she had fallen asleep on the couch, head tucked into my wife's lap.

She's always been petite, but in the past year, she's stretched out. She's not so much a little girl any more as she is a young lady. Her legs dangled as I hoisted her up to my shoulder and held her securely. Although she's as thin as can be, she was clearly not the tiny bundle that I first held in the hospital all those years ago. I had to focus as I labored up the stairs, trying hard to balance her and not wake her up in the process.

I carefully tucked her in and then sadly realized that in the not-too-distant future, I won't be able to carry her at all.

This is hardly new territory for us. Our eldest son is already past the point at which I can comfortably carry him. I can do piggyback rides, but that's about it. I miss our pre-bedtime cuddles. I used to scoop him up after we brushed his teeth. I'd then zoom him like an airplane into his big boy bed. Now, he does the brushing. He's too big to fit completely in our arms when we kiss him goodnight. It was a sad day when I realized I risked a hernia in picking him up, and it'll be a sad day, too, when I reach the same point with our daughter.

At 4, our little guy still has a few years of carrying left in him. But when I look at him bundled in his Arthur sheets and Buzz Lightyear comforter, I know every milestone we go through with him will be the last of its kind.

Kids inevitably grow, and we never lose sight of the amazing gift that we have been granted to simply be part of their journey. Yet a part of me always thinks back to the first time I held our six-pound bundles in my arms, and I somehow wish I had as much protective ability now as I did then.

Our daughter didn't wake up this time, and she's now warmly ensconced in her bed while a raging blizzard whistles just outside her window. I hope the carrying milestone can hold off for another little while.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A quick shot of color

It's another wintry afternoon among many wintry afternoons here in London. Lake-effect snow flurries are rolling off of Lake Huron and finding their way into the city. I'm sitting at the computer thinking of something - anything - to write, and all I can see as I look out the window is endless glum.

To jumpstart my brain into writing more articles that challenge readers, anger members of my extended family, and generally get society all hot and bothered, I thought I'd dig into the archives and paste this inspiring wave of color. Does this work?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Got comments?

Blogger is having a difficult time handling comments this week. For what we all - individually and collectively - pay for this service, you figure....wait, we don't pay anything, so I'll stop whining.

Be that as it may, the net impact is most folks have been greeted by session timeouts and other creative error messages when trying to comment here and on other blogs hosted by Blogger.

Truth be told, I miss everyone's thoughts. So if you've got something to say and the service threatens to chew it into oblivion, please feel free to e-mail it to me (writteninc AT gmail DOT com) and I'll post 'em to the appropriate spot when someone over at Google heads down into the data centre and kicks the bejeebers out of the comments server.

I'll now take off my techie hat (I really do hate wearing it here) and return to my usual whining about stuff that most of us really don't care about.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Hockey's past

Now that the NHL has finally called off its season, can we please remove it from its undeserved spot at the top of the news cycle? Surely there are more important things to discuss than this tarnished sport, its greedy players, and its equally small-minded owners.

Interestingly, the world continued to spin on its axis after the inevitable announcement. Life went on, as it shall whether or not a few hundred overpaid "heroes" strap on their skates. Would the planet really be worse off if the league never came back? Would we even care, much less notice?

BTW, I wrote this piece, NHL labour tiff lacks perspective, (and blogged it here) last September, and my perspective hasn't changed a whole lot since then. I still think all the constituents in the NHL lockout are morons for not seeing the forest for the trees, and society is moronic for perpetuating the ridiculous notion that professional sport still means something.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Unnecessary fear

My office is located at the edge of the downtown core, on a busy corner in a neighborhood filled with lovely century-old homes. At lunchtime, I often try to head out for a walk to clear my head and take in the ever-changing architectural scenery.

When I walk, I tend to drift in my own little world. I toss story ideas around in my head much more freely when I'm alone because I'm not being interrupted by phone calls and drop-ins every 30 seconds.

On my way back from a quick loop through the neighborhood today, I was startled by the sight of a strange man walking straight toward me. He was waving his arms as he rapidly approached, mumbling something that I could not understand. My quiet little zone of thought had been rudely interrupted by a total stranger, and I was afraid.

My first inclination was to stiffen up in fear. I grabbed hold of my keys in my pocket and squared myself to him as my head raced through attack/defense scenarios. Sure, I was being paranoid. But at that moment I thought I'd rather be unnecessarily paranoid than unnecessarily jumped.

As he got closer, it became clear to me that he was no threat. My would-be mugger turned out to be a balding, older, frumpy-looking man who spoke broken English. The thing he was waving at me was a hastily-scrawled note with the address and name of his dentist. It turned out the office was a block away. I offered to walk him there, since it was on my way back to my building. Frankly, I was so relieved that he wasn't going to mug me that I would have walked out of my way to get him to his destination.

I chatted with him for the two minutes it took to get there. I'm not sure he understood a word I said, but with a few broad arm movements as we approached his destination, I managed to convince him that, yes, this was indeed the place. He gesticulated grandly - arms seem to work well when language does not - in thanks. I wished him luck at the dentist and watched as he headed in.

As I later analyzed the encounter, I was struck by the fact that my initial, visceral response was one of fear and suspicion. Society conditions us to, by default, question the motives of those around us. We assume all are potentially guilty of something until they prove otherwise. It wasn't always this way, and I wonder why it has to be today.

He was just a man trying to get to the dentist in a city he didn't really know, using a language he didn't understand. And I doubted him.

What happened to us along the way from yesterday to today that so sadly changed the way we initially view each other? What will it take for us to get back to a simpler time when trust prevailed above fear? Am I being too much of an idealist to believe that this is even possible?

Mixed signals

I spotted this while walking to work a couple of weeks ago and couldn't not take a picture of it. I know there's meaning in it, but I can't, for the life of me, figure it out. Any thoughts? (Yes, feel free to be wildly's been a depressing few weeks, as evidenced by the sad arc of recent blog posts, so anything you can do to turn this melancholy into something brighter would be welcome indeed.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A life ends too soon

Back in September, I posted about Daniel Feist, Montreal broadcaster, musician, and educator with whom I had the privilege to work many years ago. The post was called Cancer: Compelling and Personal, and I wrote about my thoughts of a killer disease that has reached into far too many of our families.

I am sorry to relay the news that Daniel lost his battle last Friday.

If you're relatively new to my blog, I encourage you to click the link above and read this post. There were a lot of lessons embedded in Daniel's life that we would do well to emulate in our own.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Forever - the followup

Last July, I published a column in the London Free Press entitled Forever isn't nearly long enough. In this piece, I touched on a conversation I had had with our youngest son, Noah. He was three years-old at the time, and at the time I found myself struggling with how to explain to him that, no, his beloved cat would not live forever.

Fast-forward around six months and much has changed since then. Noah has had his fourth birthday and continues to expand his view of the world. And his cat has gotten older and less healthy. Time marches on.

Noah and I were heading out a couple of weeks back to run some errands. As I was getting him settled into his booster seat, it dawned on him that we hadn't talked about his cat in a while. Here's what ensued.
Noah: Daddy, you know I love Shadow, right?
Me: Of course!
Noah: He's my best cat.
Me: (Thought bubble - "He's his only cat, but even in the mind of a four-year-old, being the best of one is still a superlative.") I know, he's the best cat in the world, isn't he?
Noah: Yes, he is. I wish he could live forever.
Me: (Thought bubble - "Uh oh, we had this conversation last summer! I thought he was OK with the whole the-cat-will-die-someday speech. What do I say now?") Remember when we talked about how Shadow won't always be with us?
At that moment, something changed in our son. He looked right at me with a deeply serious look on his face, and slowly delivered his next line:
"I said, I wish."
He emphasized each word to ensure I understood him. He sounded like an adult, and he was teaching me the ways of the world, confirming to me that, yes indeed, he already got it.

I kissed his head, closed the door, and slowly walked around to the driver's side of the car. I took my time to let the tears that had welled up in my eyes subside.

How is it that kids can be so insightful and subtle and so amazingly worldly? Why can't we be more like them?

One more thing: Here's the text of the column as it was published in the London Free Press:
Forever isn't nearly long enough
By Carmi Levy
Published in the London Free Press
July 28, 2004

The beauty of childhood lies in an invisible bubble that protects our kids from the cruelties of the modern world.

They don't have to worry about taxes, wars, or careers. Meals appear right when their tummies start to grumble. They always have soft pajamas waiting for them after bath time. They can empty their toy box safe in the knowledge that Mom or Dad will always be there to help them clean it up.

Most importantly, everyone and everything important to them will always be there. Loss is supposed to be a foreign concept.

So when our three-year-old, Noah, threw his arms around our cat, Shadow, buried his little face in a mass of shedding black fur and told his feline friend how much he loved him, I didn't give it too much thought. He had, after all, done precisely the same thing at least a dozen times since waking up barely an hour earlier.

But then, as miniature people are likely to do, he looked right at me and said, "I want to keep him forever and ever, because he's my best cat. Can we, Dad?"

I was once again faced with one of those moments where I had no idea what to say to the little face looking to me for guidance on an incredibly important member of his world. They didn't cover this in the parenting manual.

Our kids are lucky in so many ways, particularly in that they haven't yet had to deal with loss. All four of their grandparents play important roles in their lives. My wife and I are (relatively) young and healthy. Major illness and death have, thank goodness, not yet directly touched them.

But as he looked to me for confirmation that, yes, his cat would always be there for him, I struggled with balancing the need to be truthful and my wish to keep that bubble of childhood intact for as long as I could. I had no idea what to say.

So I started slowly, my mind racing to find the right words. I told him how Shadow came to be part of our family: that he was born the day we were married, that we adopted him from the pound three months later, that he had just celebrated his 12th birthday.

I explained how we had him before he and his siblings were born. We talked about how Shadow's world changed as we brought each baby home, as we moved away to build a new life in London, as we spent more time out of the house because we were so busy with work. He smiled as he learned more about his beloved pet's history, amazed that his cat had been around way before he even existed.

But everything has an end. I told Noah that Shadow's not so young any more, and although he'll likely be part of our family for a long, long time, he will die someday, because nothing lasts forever.

He innocently asked if we could get another cat when Shadow dies. Almost as if on cue, Shadow sauntered past and Noah gently stroked his back. I answered, "Of course, but we'll all be much older when that happens," not wanting to believe that I would ever have to explain to my son that when someone – even a "someone" as seemingly trivial as a cat – dies, he never comes back.

He seemed happy with that explanation, and soon returned to seeing how high he could bounce the ball on the kitchen floor. I knew we'd be having this conversation repeatedly in the months and years to come.

I still may not be able to explain to him precisely how long "forever" is. But I know it's never as long as we wish it could be.

Which makes me wish I had the power to stretch it just a bit more for a little guy who loves his cat.

Carmi Levy ( is a London freelance writer. His column appears every other Wednesday.


The work-blog conundrum

I spend a lot of time writing about the interface point between technology and culture. I'm not so much interested in the inner workings of the technology as I am about the implications of that technology on the way we live. I think the tech press does a fairly thorough - if ultimately meaningless - job of the former. Its understanding and coverage of technology's implications, however, could be significantly improved.

The inevitable collision of personal blogs and the professional workplace stands as a relatively recent case in point. We have witnessed some fairly spectacular blog-related firings in recent months. Indeed, hardly a week goes by now that we don't hear of another bloger running afoul of the big bosses at work. Here's quick rundown of the higher-profile ones:
The nature of my blog - namely, that it is published under my real name - precludes me from digging any deeper into my 9-to-5 experiences beyond the most generic of references. This was part of the original intent of the site: I didn't think you wanted to listen to me whine about work. And even if you did, I didn't think I could write in that style with any degree of excellence.

I'm saving any juicy bits for my book, anyway (to wit, I'm dissecting my life at previous-employer Mother Corp. for a future authorly project. Names and some details are being changed to keep me from being sued, but anyone I used to work with will instantly be able to guess the object of my disaffection. Think Scott Adams/Dilbert in literary form and you're not far off. It's great fun!)

The Washington Post ran this story last week on the unfortunate Rachel Mosteller, whose anonymous rants about her newsroom resulted in her being shown the door. No offense to her (OK, I lie, maybe just a little offense is intended here), but you figure she and others would learn that there is no real anonymity when you go online. IP addresses are easily traced, and pseudonyms don't stay hidden for long. As stark as these realities of online life may be, it's a virtual certainty that many will fail to learn them. Consequently, Ms. Mosteller won't be the last. We all think we're immune, I guess.

Word to the yet-to-become-wise: absorb everything that goes on in your current organization, but don't post it to a publicly-accessible resource that is even remotely connected to the Internet. After you've had a chance to voluntarily find another source of income, feel free to go for the jugular by putting pen to paper and sending the results as far around the world as you please.

Key issue here: quit first, then write. Like most things in this brave new world, survival has everything to do with process and precious little to do with technology.

Okay, I've ranted. Your turn.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The blog family grows by one

I'm going to take a time out from all the controversy because, frankly, I'm tired of arguing. I'm still fielding e-mail messages from every facet of the spectrum. And as much fun as this debate has been, at some point I think I'm going to have to get back to my everyday life so that I can continue to pay the electric bill.

But what's really got me excited on this lovely evening is the fact that I'm no longer the only blogger in my house.

No, the cat hasn't miraculously learned to type - though he likely could with those polydactyl thumbs of his.

Brace yourself: my wife's got a blog.

It's called Adventures of Motherhood. She writes under the pen name of Morah Mommy. Morah is the Hebrew word for teacher. Mommy is the word that gets assigned to you after your progeny's first bout of self-directed projectile vomiting.

So what do you want to know about my wife that I haven't already told you? Well, I could go on and on about what a totally great person she is, not to mention her bottomless well of patience and the goodness of her soul. But instead, I'll simply direct you over to her site and let you read for yourself.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Got a letter

This morning's London Free Press came with a happy surprise: a letter to the editor. Yay! Looks like I have a new best friend.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The inspirational

Throughout the whirlwind of controversy that I seem to have stirred with my column, I have been struck by the outpouring of kindness from friends and complete strangers. Almost from the very moment the newspaper was delivered to people's homes, my inbox began to swell with messages. Last night I shared the myopic views with you. Tonight I'm pleased to share the more supportive words from the people without whom I'd simply be writing to myself: readers.

Folks from all walks of life shared their very passionate views with me. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, and immediate relatives of homosexuals all took the time to share some very poignant, well-thought-out words. I felt very humbled as I read them, as if I somehow didn't deserve to be mixed into this debate. All I did was write: they live this every day.

So as I scan through the words below, the comments you have all left, and the messages you have sent me via e-mail, I can't help but feel that my 638 words changed the world just a little bit. I'll keep your words in mind when I pick up my pen to write my next article. Everything I publish should be an opportunity to challenge, teach, and ultimately enlighten. Thank you all for confirming that this is the path I should take. Here goes (and, again, apologies for the length):

Thanks for your thoughtfully composed article on same sex marriage. I'm always moved by your ability to string words together into a heartfelt piece about important issues in the world today. You say so much but the deep feeling I always come away with is "love one another." A simple admonishment that isn't easy to practice.

I just wanted to send you a note to thank you so much for today's article on gay marriage!! I am so heartily sick of people arguing over issues they know nothing about and who assume that because they are RIGHT, they can say whatever they like with little regard for "the other side's" opinions, convictions or personal feelings.

I can assure the RIGHTS group that there are very few families who do not have at least one gay family member (in or out of the closet) within their extended clan. Before they get even more offensive about something that is really none of their business, perhaps they should speak to their gay relatives to find out what type of discrimination they face every day!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your column in today's Free Press. Your words are right on. I wish your column could be reprinted in newspapers all over the U.S. and Canada.
Wow - loved your column today! I couldn't of said it better. Religion in my opinion is for people who can't think for themselves. I live in an openly gay relationship. Most of our friends are straight married couples. Next year I will have been with my partner for 25 years. If we chose to marry - whose lives would be affected?
I saw your article in the London Free Press the other day. What an wonderful piece. You said it all. Amen. God Bless You and Your Family
Thanks so much for telling the truth, even when it's not the most popular viewpoint! How refreshing. It may seem obvious to most of us, that homosexuals have nothing to do with the downfall of marriage, but apparently, in this twilight zone that is our society, that's not the case.
Finally. Someone who has commom sense about this issue. Someone who also realizes that if straights could be put in jail for failing to keep their marriage vows, most of them would be inside rather than outside the bars.

Straights use the bible only as a convenience, only when it serves their purpose to pick and choose what they what to believe. Well let them throw their stones because there is a higher power that will pass judgement on their hate and discrimination.

Thanks Carmi. Well done.
Unfortunately you probably will not receive many positive comments to your column on same sex marriage, but here is one: "Well said ! Well written ! Good for you !"

I do not feel, nor does my wife, that our healthy, 42 year heterosexual marriage is in any way threatened by this legislation. Nor do we feel that our God supports the hypocrisy and strident whining from the closet homophobes who oppose it.

What you wrote needs to be said. Our thanks for a job well done.
Your argument involving religion and discrimination was very effectively written. I have never understood how happily married couples in a traditional marriage could ever feel threatened if their legal union was equal to a same-sex union. To drag religion into the equation is just poppy-cock!!

I appreciate your comment that building bridges rather than walls would bring us all closer together, and agree that is what God would ultimately want for us as a society. We finally accepted that the concept of unwed moms, legal common-law marriages with children, families not led by a mom or dad (children raised by other relatives) and married couples without children, by choice or infertility, are still considered families.
I find it impossible to swallow that some people can find a way to generalize an entire group of minorities and label them with falsified arguments. Ignorance is a tragedy that happens in many degrees and seems to be conditioned to human nature.
Carmi again: I suspect the debate doesn't end here. I invite you all to continue to use Comments, e-mail and any other tool you've got to share your thoughts, both with me and with each other. I'll be watching the paper in the days to come in case any additional letters to the editor are published. I'll share whatever else I come across in future postings.

In the meantime, I offer you all my heartfelt thanks for supporting me through this process. I am once again thanking my lucky stars that I decided to do this for a living. What an experience.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The ugly

I received two general classes of feedback from readers: the congratulatory and the, um, decidedly unhappy. Before I go on, I want to clarify that I am always thrilled to get any kind of feedback from readers. Positive or negative makes little difference to me. Yes, I like getting "happies". My ego likes them, too. But on another level, ticking someone off so intently that he/she takes the time to write a pointed response is also quite satisfying, albeit in a somewhat altered form.

Admittedly, some of the responses scare me. They exemplify the thinly-veiled dark side to which I often allude. They barely conceal the hatred that I believe exists in society, and they sadden me because they fall so short of the human ideal. Even if the words fall short of outright attacks on my person and/or perspective, I still shudder that such thinking persists in this world.

Then again, this motivates me even more to swing for the editorial fences my next time out. If I don't strive to reach every last reader that I can, I'm not doing my job, and I'm not being fair to my idealistic world view.

With that, I'd like to paste pieces of some of the more vitriolic messages that I received. Although my personal policy is to respond to all readers who take the time to e-mail me, I draw the line at a given level of nastiness. To respond to those who have no intention of listening would merely fan the flames of hatred that much higher. I want dialog, not senseless argument.

I hope this gives you a glimpse of the kind of response I get when I touch a nerve. I apologize for the length of this post: I snipped out much of the material, and still it runs orders of magnitude longer than the column that inspired it.

Read all the way down till the end...I've got a question for you when all is said and done. Here goes:


From your words in your column I could tell that you do not study God's word - the Bible, because if you had, you would not have written it.


Why is it that "unenlightened" individuals such as yourself pretend to know the will of God while telling others who claim the same, do not? "Pseudo-journalists" such as yourself continue to push the gay agenda down the throats of average Canadians who want no part of it. Funny how left-wing individuals who support this degenerate and perverted social agenda always manage to demean traditional marriage as a basis for their argument. Anytime the government intercedes in the affairs of Canadians, be it lax divorce laws, abortion and now same-gendered unions, family breakdown is not far behind. "At the end of the day" you're wrong.


I must admit I find your assumptions about "opponents of same-sex marriage" or "champions of the traditional concept of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman" to be somewhat inaccurate, rather generalized, sometimes stereotypical, and even harsh.

Just because someone supports the traditional definition of marriage (a tradition thousands of years old, and a definition that was endorsed just some seven or eight years ago by a large majority in the Canadian government to be maintained as the only definition--but our liberalist politicians seemed to have lost their moral and intellectual integrity these days) does not mean that he or she is hateful of homosexuals.


Same sex couples cannot naturally multiply and therefore cannot fulfill one of God's mandates because a same sex union does not have the capacity to reproduce.

God hates the sin homosexuals commit, yet offers them a way of escape if they repent and turn towards Christ as their Savior.


The issue of same sex marriage has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with what is right and wrong. Denying someone permission to do something wrong is not discrimination.

For a moment let's forget about same sex marriage and use another hypothetical example to illustrate my point. Suppose a bank robber goes to court to claim that he is being discriminated against. He alleges in his suit that the current law against bank robbery is interfering with his right to earn a living as a bank robber. I am sure a lawsuit such as this would be thrown out of court because what he asking to be allowed to do something which is wrong in itself. Society has chosen to forbid stealing and punishes anyone choosing to earn a living this way. This is not discrimination. You have to look at the act itself in terms of right and wrong.

The same goes for same sex marriage. Homosexual acts are wrong and are forbidden in the Bible because they are wrong in themselves. The Bible is not discriminating when it forbids homosexual activities, any more than when the Bible forbids theft.

If you are truly interested in finding out what God has to say on this issue I would urge you to read the Bible.


It is true that this present generation has helped to defiled the institution of marriage through adultery and divorce. That was not true of our parents generation and prior to their's or at the very least was not acceptable to the majority. It has only been in this generation that the break-down of God's laws especially those regarding family have been attached with tsunami force. What I am trying to tell you is that just because humans do not want to believe God's laws and obey them does not make them go away. Just as in sports when someone breaks a rule (law) of the game, you can bet that everyone wants see the penalty for that infraction given. So it is with God's laws. Each time we break his laws there is and will be a penalty.

We all have our cross to bear. Homosexuality may be yours and/or others. You have to seek God out and find a way to beat it! Just as the adulterer, the pedophile, the murderer, the thief, the coveter, the liar, etc, etc, etc, must. For like it or not, homosexuality is listed among those.

Homosexuality is a physical act. It is not a race of people.


I am one of those clergymen opposed to same-sex marriage so I read this column by Carmi Levy with interest. I do not hate gays and I am not proposing that they be discriminated against and denied rights. How can Carmi and so many others not see that marriage is not between two people of the same sex? Look at the way we have been made. Call their relationship whatever you want but not marriage.


Carmi makes it seem like all we do is picket outside MPs' offices. Pro-life, pro-family and pro-marriage persons in London contribute a great deal of good to our society. I believe that we have a right to make our views known and even a moral obligation to do so. There is no question that God has standards for society and our moral behaviour. The question is whether we are going to try to follow them or ignore them. God should be graciously dragged into every issue of life with respect still for those who do not believe in God.

Carmi here: I'll publish the more positive responses once I've heard back from the folks who wrote 'em. In my experience, the ones who try to burn me with words are typically hit-and-run operators. They blow their wad, and are never heard from again. The ones who are somewhat more in tune with the core of my argument tend to be more regular readers. I owe them the courtsey of a heads-up before posting their words in my blog.

Now that you've read these comments and have seen how I feel, it's your turn: how does reading this make you feel? Am I on the right track with my writing or am I simply provoking the yokels of society for no good reason?


Thank you all for your well thought-out contributions to the discussion surrounding my artice. As you can imagine, the blog has been but one forum of exchange. My e-mail inbox has been similarly inundated with messages from readers.

A little background: the article that's published online differs slightly from the one that appears in the paper. In the paper version, there's a little tagline below each column: Carmi Levy (carmilevy AT msn DOT com) is a London freelance writer. His column appears every other Wednesday.

I introduced the e-mail address because I wanted to add another dimension to the dialog that sometimes spills out of my columns - particularly the ones that touch deep nerves and incent people who otherwise wouldn't jump into the discussion to do precisely that. My goal is not to get people to agree with me. It is to reach people. Any feedback is good feedback, since typically even the person who vehemently disagrees with me was touched by my words in some way.

This article resulted in an unprecedented torrent of e-mail from readers from all sides of the spectrum. Some of the messages were amazingly warm and supportive. Others were from clergy who had a somewhat different view. Still others were from people involved in the gay-lesbian community who understood full well what it's like to live on the receiving end of hatred. And then there were the zealots. Even while spewing bile into their keyboards, they managed to validate the original rationale for the column.

I'm still snowed under with words, and I'd like to digest them before I do anything with them. My goal is to post some examples for you later this week, just to give you a flavor of what's out there. In the meantime, please keep your thoughts coming. Pro, con, whatever: I love to hear back from all of you.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Publish Day - taking on the same-sex marriage debate

My righteous sense of indignation kicked in again this week, and it's evident in my latest column in today's London Free Press, Why drag God into same-sex furor?

Up here north of the border, the government has proposed legislation that will make same-sex unions legal. Since the ruling Liberals form only a minority government, everyone and his/her dog has been mustering opposition to the proposed law. Most opponents use the old - and pathetic - "it's an abomination" excuse, and it's been bothering me immensely that society-scale discrimination can go on right under our noses.

The only abomination going on here is society's tacit acceptance of this. It starts us down the slippery slope to singling out pretty much any minority we wish. It's not like this sort of thing hasn't happened before, and it looks like we are letting it happen again.

So I wrote about it. I hope my words have an impact, any impact. I hope you are as moved by this issue as I am. I hope you'll share your thoughts - whatever they may be - with me and my readers here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Little boy sleeps

Ever since we first brought our first bundle of joy home - driving with the hazards on in the right lane the whole way because I was beyond nervous driving our newly-expanded family home - I've had a strange habit of taking pictures of our sleeping children.

I do so for a number of reasons:
  • They move incredibly fast when they're awake, so pulling out the camera while they sleep gives me a chance to actually get a nicely-focused and composed shot.
  • Looking at the results reinforces why I never want to forget what the innocence of childhood looks, sounds, smells, and feels like.
  • They're so darn cute, thanks to my wife's genetic influence.
I took this one of Noah in B&W. I feel happy when I look at it. I know he's not your kid, but how do pictures like this make you feel?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Balloon rising

London is home to a fair number of hot air balloons. On any given morning, you may very well see one of these giants of the sky floating over your neighborhood. While the physics are easy to understand, the magic of standing in one place while one silently cruises past is difficult to describe. I wrote about one particularly fun encounter here.

Every summer, the city hosts a major balloon festival during which mass launches are held each morning and evening. I grabbed this image around dinnertime a few years back just as the balloon was being inflated. As we slog through the most depressing time of the year, a little shot of color likely won't hurt our collective mood.

How are you dealing with the mid-winter doldrums?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Unloading Gmail invitations...

It looks like Google is opening up its Google Mail (Gmail) service. Many users (most? all?) have now been granted as many as 50 invitations to share.

For some reason, they've seen fit to add such functionality to my account. They obviously did not learn from their first experience with me (kidding!)

Seriously, please comment below if you want a Gmail account. Then dig into the comments on your own blog, pick as many folks as you want, and send them a comment on their own blogs with the following message:
"Carmi's giving away free Gmail accounts at"
I'm hoping you'll all help me get rid of them as soon as is humanly possible.

And, yes, this is a shameless attempt to boost traffic. I'll try anything - except acid and other mind-altering substances - at least once.

But that acid that cleans the oil stains off the garage floor is OK.

Sunset over Centennial Park

A long time ago, we bought our first house in a suburb of Montreal known as Dollard-des-Ormeaux. A couple of weeks before Zach was born (he's 10 now), I took my camera to a nearby park to waste a couple of rolls of film. I wanted to get some artsy pictures because I figured I wouldn't have enough time to do so after the baby was born. I was rather correct in that regard - but happily so, for having less time to shoot forces me to think about subjects and ideas a lot more.

The park was (and likely still is) known as Centennial Park. It was carved out of a pretty huge piece of land in the middle of the burb, and had an artificial lake as well as walking paths through the forest. The earth that was excavated to make the lake was piled up immediately adjacent to it, and became the town's tallest hill. I didn't bring my ruler that day, but I reckon I was at least a few storeys above the surrounding two-storey abodes.

It was early October. I stayed for a while, shooting right up until sunset. The last picture I took was the one I'll remember most. As I tripped the shutter on the tripod-mounted camera, all I could think was that our house was somewhere below my field of view. Somewhere, sight unseen, my wife waited at home for me to finish playing with my camera so we could get on with the rather more serious business of welcoming our little munchkin into the world.

Two adventures intersected at that moment: The sun was setting on my little photographic adventure, and was about to rise on a far more meaninfgul one.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A lesson in fog

We had an interesting driving experience on the way home from visiting friends today. As we headed out into the evening to get our little people home, we were greeted by a thick blanket of fog. The beautifully clear day that oversaw our drive in earlier in the day was just a memory.

This left me with a couple of hours of tension at the wheel. The 401 highway – Canada's busiest stretch of road and a notorious haven for idiots – is an intense place to be at the best of times. Rolling waves of fog and a transitional road surface only added to the fun.

As I settled in to the drive with a sleeping family in the darkened vehicle, I thought of the immense responsibility of shepherding everyone home safely. Living in a city with no family, we do a lot of inter-city driving to see grandparents, friends, and the like. Our kids are pretty used to the routine. But that little voice always hangs on my shoulder when we drive, whispering to me that it's not just about me, anymore. If I'm on a bike and I get hit (and I have…a story for another day), it's just me. My family, on the other hand, has no choice in the matter when I'm at the wheel.

On a nice day, this rarely comes to mind. When the weather closes in, the voice gets louder. My level of focus becomes even sharper than it usually is, and I count the kilometers until we get home.

This all begs the question of why we drive in the first place. Years ago, we were invited to a family get-together in a city a couple of hours away. It was an early-morning affair, so we found ourselves on the road before 5 a.m. As we closed in on our destination, the highway was dark, half-wet/half-frozen, and a scary place to be. I was cruising in the middle lane when I watched the car ahead of me start to lose control on the ice. It slid out and hit the car in the adjacent lane. It was like watching a real-life game of vehicular pinball. And whether you got hit or not was completely beyond your control.

Thankfully, no one was hurt, and we managed to avoid getting smacked in the process. We continued our drive to this cookie-cutter get-together. We weren't particularly close with these people, and we may as well have not been there for the warmth with which we were welcomed. As we headed home afterward, I kept thinking that I almost got my family killed for the benefit of extended family members who didn't care whether or not we were there.

The fog tonight was, in the end, a nice change. Most folks drove more slowly than usual, and I had a great CD full of tunes to keep me company while everyone slept. I loved the ethereal view of red lights disappearing in the murk ahead, puffs of fog wafting over the windshield, the muted yellow glow of streetlamps at the occasional off-ramp, and strings-of-pearl headlights gradually fading into view in my rear-view mirror. I spent much of the drive recording these fleeting images and hoping I'd be able to write about them later on.

This drive validated the "why" of this day. We had a lovely day with our oldest friends. All of our kids played until they were exhausted. We caught up, reconnected. I'd drive through much worse to do it again.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Hasselhoffian Recursion

Thought I'd lighten things up a bit. Why? Because I can. First, a couple of definitions to get us started:
  • Recursion: The facility of a programming language to be able to call functions from within themselves.
  • David Hasselhoff: Popular actor from the 80s and 90s. Starred in television's Knight Rider and, later, Baywatch. Although incredibly devoid of actual talent, he has gone on to become something of a worldwide star, especially in Germany. Go figure. Related references: William Shatner, Herve Villechaize, Scott Baio.
Now that we have the words worked out, I introduce you to view the Hasselhoffian Recursion, which has been slowly making the rounds below the collective bloggers' radar.

Does this add to our collective well of knowledge and culture? Um, that would be a resounding no. What about improving all of our tomorrows? Again, not quite. But I'm sure it'll make you smile, even if just for a second. From that perspective, a sliver of humor, no matter how moronic it may seem on the surface, is something worth sharing with others. Would you agree?

Warning: Before you click the link, please ensure you are not already feeling queasy. Even if you're a fan, it might be disturbing to those who are weak of stomach.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

An image from a stroll

The route I use to walk to work takes me through a neighborhood of beautiful century homes. They come in all shapes and sizes, and range from run-down all the way up to take-your-breath-away stunning. Whether or not there's a rusted pickup parked in the driveway, all are almost magnetic in their ability to captivate the passer-by's eye.

Strolling down the street affords me the luxury of appreciating why these buildings matter so much. Even the grumpiest soul has to be affected by everyday beauty like this.

Last week, the simple appeal of this composition just hit me as I trundled down the block. It was a depressingly dull morning, and I wasn't in the world's greatest mood as my head churned through the upcoming deliverables of the day. But I looked up, saw a sequence of triangles in perspective and knew I had to take this picture.

Why am I posting this particular picture? Simple: I hope you'll also look for the magic in the seemingly mundane. I hope you'll find an image that reaches out to you. I hope you'll post it to your own blog and let us all know here. Deal?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What's a word worth to you?

I started writing this as a comment in response to Rachel's response to this post from earlier this week. As I wrote more, I realized I had a really good rant going. So I pulled it out of the comments section and am posting it here for y'all to read.

BTW, if you're not reading commments on anyone's blog, you're missing out on all the democratic fun. It's even better than a Starbucks on a Saturday night - no eight-dollar lattes and too-dry desserts. Just good conversation. So gather up your courage, grab your mouse and scroll down just a little bit to that magical Comments link. I know you want to. C'mon. Go for it. I'm digressing again, so on with the post...

I've become tired of people devaluing what it takes to write for a living. They seem to think that I can whip off brilliant prose in a mere few minutes and, as a result, I should be perfectly content to simply give them the fruits of my labor in exchange for...nothing.

In truth, I often can whip off brilliant prose in a stunningly short amount of time. Yes, I know I sound arrogant. But I'm a writer. It comes with the territory...if you don't pat yourself on the back every once in a while, it's not like the world is going to spontaneously do it for you.

But just because I'm capable of it - and can make it look easy in the process - does not mean that the end result is eminently worthless. Yet, for some strange reason, many people - who clearly don't write for a living - still seem to believe just that.

For example, a couple of years back, a new magazine wanted me to write for them. I had a brief, informal conversation with the publisher, and was excitedly informed the next day that they really liked me. I was "in". Then the publisher played the poor card: "We're new, and we don't have enough of an advertising base to pay our writers. We're hoping to have some money someday, but for now everyone has to write for free."

Right. I wonder if she tried doing that with the electric company, the gas company, or with the folks from the city who collect business taxes.

Didn't think so. But for some reason, it's become acceptable to target writers as the one group willing to work for nothing.

Writers face this conundrum all the time. Many newcomers - and lots of oldcomers, too - are desperate to get their names into print. So they negotiate with themselves. They justify accepting no fee, giving their work away without question, as the price they have to pay to gain traction as a writer. They see it as the only way to break in, to get noticed, to build a portfolio and gain experience.

The problem is, if you do it once, you've set a precedent. And they'll never see any reason to pay you in future because you've already confirmed that your work is worth what they've paid: nothing.

There are other avenues to building a profile. Conventionally, newspapers have letters to the editor (my absolute favorite section, for this is the heart and soul of any paper, but there I go digressing again) and other reader-based guest columnist opportunities.

Interestingly, blogging provides a compelling new-age answer to this formerly Hobson-eqeue choice. It is publishing - admittedly, self-publishing, but publishing just the same - and it allows writers to build a profile without having to go through the traditional channels.

True, they're not getting paid when they begin publishing a blog. But it's different in that they make that choice - no publisher makes that choice for them. If they're savvy enough, they might be able to parlay that blog into a paying gig of some sort (think Wonkette as one classic example.) But the control remains entirely within their hands, just as it remains in mine to write these words, edit them, shape them, and click Publish.

I didn't simply hand the result of my educated labor over to someone who neither appreciates nor values what I put into it. And neither, in my opinion, should you.

If you're a writer, what's your strategy to educate others on the value of your work? Even if you're not a writer, what say you? You read this stuff, so do you think it matters if those who write get paid or not? Why? Why not?

Let me have Comments, of course.

Radio stupidity

Has anyone noticed the increasing irrelevance of radio as a medium? I have, and I believe it's due to a lot of reasons. Notably, programming wizards (word used with tongue firmly implanted in cheek) seem to think all of their listeners have devolved into complete airheads.

Disclosure: I once served as associate producer of a news and public affairs program for a major FM radio station in Montreal. I'm clearly biased when it comes to this topic, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Onward...

Example: a radio station from my childhood once ran a contest where you had to listen carefully for the sound of a jet. When you heard it, you'd call in to register to win a trip to some exotic locale. The sound would be mixed in any time, with no additional voiceover, and you had to really listen hard to pick it out of the soundscape. It was lots of fun, like a needle in a haystack. It actually demanded your attention.

These days, the milquetoast FM snooze station in my burg does something similar, with a few key differences: the sound of the jet is incredibly loud; it is played all by itself; and if that isn't enough for the brain-dead listener, a voiceover follows that explains that this was the sound of the jet.

The process means only the most brain-damaged listeners will not be able to follow through on registering for the contest. Like most of the pseudo-assembled musical sounds that pollute the airwaves day in, day out, it's a pathetic attempt to...well, I'm not sure what it's trying to accomplish beyond convincing us that we're wasting our time and electricity by continuing to tune in.

If this represents the best that broadcasting is capable of, we have a problem that extends well beyond Houston.

How can radio be fixed? Does it even deserve to be?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Our soon-to-be-ex ISP

Rescued this from my PalmPilot...

Our Internet Service Provider has had major system outages every day for the past five days. As I write this on my Palm's keyboard, I wonder why their tech support line no longer works, and why, when the service was restored last time, they had the gall to e-mail me an invoice the full amount owing for this month. No discount. No apology. No mention of the fact that I was paying 100% of the bill for, maybe, 80% of the service.

Eight years of being a loyal client means little in this day and age, as do all the folks I referred to them. I believe it may be time to move on.

At the very least, however, they don't pester me with telemarketing calls every other day. About the worst I got from them was a request to give them one of my articles - for free - to reprint in their monthly newsletter. When I asked if they could at least arrange a discount off my bill in exchange for the courtesy, I was politely informed that this was not their policy.

I politely informed them that it was not my policy to value my work at nothing and simply give it away to a company that didn't understand the concept of symbiosis.

They've been quiet ever since.