Friday, September 30, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Teen theatre

My wife and I don't have a whole lot of free time to go out. So when we do manage to get tickets to something and book the babysitter, we do our best to avoid the latest paint-by-numbers, forgotten-by-bedtime movie.

This week, we were lucky enough to attend a fundraising performance at London's major stage venue, the Grand Theatre. We attended our first high school project production last spring, and were blown away by the professionalism.

I was moved to write. Here's the result:

Talented young kids just ‘Grand’

Published Friday, September 30, 2005

The London Free Press

Halfway through this week’s opening performance of The Sound of Music, I closed my eyes and just listened. A full house had been brought to dead-silence by a troupe of 72 high school students, whose acting talents could easily be mistaken for professionals.

The Grand Theatre’s ninth annual high school project production continues a tradition that speaks volumes about the state of the arts in our city, as well as the state of our youth.

It’s easy for us to dismiss today’s teenagers as sullen and problematic. We focus on their failings – they talk back, get pierced and tattooed, and drop out – and completely ignore their sheer potential.

Their involvement in frontline theatre underscores how important our arts scene is in helping today’s generation lay down roots and build productive, professional lives.

As I watched this group of gifted actors make utter magic on the Grand’s stage this week, I felt immensely comfortable that a future world led by them would be in good hands. The kids are most definitely alright.

Update: I was elated to receive e-mail from a number of parents of kids in the show. The pride they have in their children practically jumped off the screen. I'm glad I chose to write about this, as it once again managed to touch readers. Cool stuff.

Another image of the mundane

I feel somewhat compelled to take pictures of routine items that are often overlooked as we go through the paces of everyday life.

Why I do this is more due to my lack of photographic skill than anything else: very soon after I got my first camera, I became frustrated at how long it took me to compose each picture. I was new to the world of photography, and as a result still wasn't comfortable with f-stops and shutter speeds. My camera had a zillion buttons on it, and each one of them demanded to be set just so before I could take the shot.

Needless to say, I was so busy fiddling with the thing that fast-action pictures were out of the question for the first couple of years. So I sought out stuff that didn't move - and wouldn't disappear in the minutes it would take me to set things up.

These days, I'm a lot more comfortable shooting quickly, and following our munchkins around has helped me become a much better fast-action photographer. But a part of me still enjoys creeping up on more sedentary subjects. They give me the time to come up with perspectives that might remain invisible if I didn't take a little more time.

In the end, the pictures still take that same fraction of a second to commit to memory or film. But I still enjoy the peaceful few minutes it takes to think about what - and how - I'm going to capture the scene.

Your turn: What other mundane images - aside from my minivan's tail light, of course - merit your - and my - photographic attention?

Click on the picture for a higher-resolution view.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Important, green news

It's comforting to know that some folks on this planet still have a sense of humor. The U.S. Postal Service has just released stamps honoring Kermit the Frog and the Muppets. Nothing earth-shattering, of course. But it made me smile, and I hope it does the same to you as this week starts its inevitable cruise into the weekend.

Your turn: Who - or what - else deserves a stamp?

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Cycling's future

I guess the high cost of gasoline is finally starting to hit home on all fronts. The city has announced it'll spend half a million dollars every year for the next five years on improving infrastructure for cyclists.

My take: it's a nice gesture, but it's not enough and it's long overdue. Even then, the middling support shown by some councillors is disappointing.

Cities everywhere are at a turning point in how they choose to help citizens get around. They can either be visionary or they can resort to the same old things that have gotten us into trouble in the first place.

I invited the councillor in question on a ride. Haven't heard from him yet. I remain hopeful that I will, but something tells me it'll take more pestering.

City officials should ‘pedal’ bicycle plan

Published Thursday, September 29, 2005

The London Free Press

Londoners should be proud that the city may finally take concrete steps to build infrastructure that actively encourages increased bicycle use.

On the heels of years of road construction that has consumed tens of millions of dollars to widen lanes and accommodate increased use of cars, the $2.5 million that has been recommended for bicycle-related spending over the next five years is nowhere near enough. But it's a start.

If we’re going to evolve our overwhelmingly car-centred culture to one that is more balanced, it’s going to cost us a lot more money and time.

Although I am saddened that committee chairperson Coun. Fred Tranquilli doubts the prudence of this investment, given our climate's four months of winter, I think he might change his mind if he joined me sometime on my own bike commute.

All journeys of significant change must begin with a single step – or pedal stroke. If the decision makers won't take the time to set the right example for the rest of us, who will?


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Quoted - on bigger BlackBerries

The very neat media adventure continues...

As part of the fallout from our earlier Microsoft/Palm announcement, I was asked to share my thoughts on Research in Motion's decision to partner with chipmaking giant Intel for its next generation of BlackBerry handhelds. Simon Avery was the reporter, and the piece was published in today's Globe & Mail:

RIM strikes deal to use Intel chip to power up BlackBerry

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Developers' recipe

I'm a bit tongue-in-cheek in today's column. But in all cheekiness there is biting truth. I suspect the cozy relationship between London's city hall and the some of the city's developers is similarly played out in cities just about anywhere.

I'm also trying something new with this column. Given the rapid-fire nature of the Ink Blog format, I'm hoping to get a bit more interactive with readers by actively drawing out their feedback for future entries. I'm not sure how it'll end up, but it's worth a shot.

Here's the text:

A new recipe for London developers

Published Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The London Free Press

It’s finally dawned on me how property developers get ahead in our city:

  • Take a formerly-glorious London mansion.
  • Rent it to students. Invest no money into it for almost a decade.
  • Let it sit empty for several months before the inevitable squatters move
  • in and promptly set the place on fire.
  • Leave it boarded up – for drug users, you know – for a few more years.
  • Complain to city hall that it’ll cost too much to restore the property.
  • Drop hints that the alternative is demolition.
  • Convince city planners that taxpayers should at least partly fund any
  • restoration.
  • Get the city to approve plans to build additional housing on the site.
  • Laugh all the way to the bank.

Am I the only one who thinks our elected officials are handing our money and our city’s future to folks whose only concern is their own profitability?

E-mail me your suggestions on how we can do better and I’ll revisit the issue later this week.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Quoted - on Palm and Microsoft

First Apple and Intel, now Palm and Microsoft. It seems some fairly longstanding rivalries in the tech industry are undergoing some major shifts this year. Cool by me. It makes it a more fun sector to cover.

We sent out a press release yesterday to comment on Palm's adoption of the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system for its next Treo smartphone. It's entitled, Treo on Windows marks an acceleration in the demise of the Palm OS platform. Here's the link on the wire.

Here's a quick list of who's picked it up thus far:
CNET News / ZDNet. (Missteps forced Palm’s hand)
Yahoo! Finance.
Tekrati (The Industry Analyst Reporter).
Digital Lifestyles.
Globe & Mail - interview done, publication pending.
CFRA Radio (Ottawa) - interview done, airs tonight.

Quoted - on Lotus Notes

I've been chatting with reporters lately about techie issues that appeal to the pocket protector-wearing set. Last week I was asked to share my thoughts on the decision by the State of Massachusetts to use only open source-compliant software on end-users' desktops.

What on the surface seemed initially to be a simple issue became a rather involved one by the time I was finished talking about it. It's the kind of thing that will have longer-term implications that extend well beyond the borders of one particular state. Definitely something to watch.

The piece, Massachusetts' OpenDoc Plan could boost Lotus Notes, IBM Workplace, was published yesterday by SearchDomino.

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Give 'em death?

I think I may have stepped into it a little with this morning's column in the London Free Press.

Our London - the Canadian one - has always been seen as a sleepy, mid-sized city that has managed to avoid the plagues that have besieged larger North American centers. Maybe it's just a perception thing, but we seem to have a lower crime rate, along with more relaxed neighborhoods. Some folks here still don't lock their doors at night.

It's the kind of atmosphere that first drew us here. Parents told us it was a great place to raise kids. We figured any town that managed to take the edge off of daily life couldn't be a half-bad place to lay down roots.

That was then.

A few years on, we're in the midst of a record-setting year for murders. Anecdotally, those easygoing Londoners who used to happily share stories of walking the streets at night seem to have become a quieter minority. Fear is slowly creeping into our formerly-cloistered little world.

So I wrote this piece in the hope that I could shake up readers' perceptions on crime and how a civilized society should address it. I realize I've opened something of a Pandora's Box by bringing up the dreaded death penalty - which means I'll likely have to batten down the hatches for a day or two - but I'd rather float it out there and see what happens than say nothing and wonder what would have been.

Otherwise, what's the point of writing?

Your turn: If the death penalty doesn't suit your fancy, what will, in your view, help society rein in violent crime? Can we ever truly be protected?

Note: Click on the image to view it in higher-resolution. Here's the text-form version:

Slayings may spur new look at noose

I find it difficult to believe that I could be the only one deeply disturbed that London has set a new record for homicides (13) in a year – and we're not even out of September yet.

I similarly find it tough to swallow that we’re supposed to assume that this is some sort of statistical anomaly.

It isn’t. And sitting on our haunches while the city’s leaders tells us everything will work out in the end isn’t exactly my cup of tea.

All that matters to me is keeping my little corner of the world safe. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel well-protected these days.

The same old approaches to deterring violent crime don’t seem to work anymore.

As we’ve watched ongoing gang wars turn Toronto into a mere copy of the typical American metropolis, we can no longer smugly claim it’ll never happen here. It already is.

Although we abolished the death penalty in 1976, perhaps we should consider reinstating it again to control this rampant acceleration in violent crime.

Nothing else seems to be working.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

It rained last night...

...and I found these two lovely images literally under our kitchen window.

Your turn: What is is about rain that makes an ordinary picture so extraordinary? Post-rain photography draws me in like nobody's business. Oh, and while I'm at it, what are the first three words that come to mind as you see these two images from our little garden?

BTW, as always, click either image for a higher-resolution version. Enjoy!

Sometimes, life just happens

When a clown pulling a carry-on bag on wheels happens to walk in front of your car while you're in the parking lot of the local grocery store, you have a number of choices to make:
  1. ONE - Pretend to ignore the brightly-colored individual.
  2. TWO - Lean out the window and frantically wave your left arm in giant woo-hoo-like motions while you lean on the horn with your right hand.
  3. THREE - Quietly follow her, pull up next to her and, without freaking her out in the process, politely ask if you can take her picture.
The kids were in the van with me, so I really couldn't pursue options 1 or 2. But I did have the camera with me - it's sorta become a permanent part of my being whenever I leave the house - so I just couldn't resist.

She was very kind and even stopped for this pose. The kids thought it was really neat that we met a clown and actually got her picture. I hope she realizes she made their day by simply saying yes. I know it's what clowns do, but you've got to figure that even clowns want to have a break eventually. And being followed through the supermarket parking lot by a guy in a silver minivan can't really be the highlight of a clown's life. But we got the shot and made some little people smile, which is pretty much all that matters in the overall scheme of things.

Your turn: When life happens spontaneously and right in front of your eyes, how do you capture it?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

She's going to kill me, but...

...I have to share this image of my wife. It's from our most recent trip to the beach, likely our last of the season. The day was almost done as she watched our munchkins enjoy their last few minutes of sandy playtime. I love this time because it's when I usually start to wonder about What It All Means.

As usual, I was taking obtrusive pictures of all of us. It's what I do! As this image loomed in the viewfinder, I stopped and stared at her, my finger resting on the shutter, but exerting no pressure on the little silver button. I felt lucky to be right there at that moment in time and space, watching her watch our children. I think it's a beautiful picture of a beautiful woman at an all-too-short magical point in time.

When our lawn is covered with snow this winter, I'll look back at this image and think how lucky I am to be able to witness tiny moments like this. Blessed only begins to describe the life I lead.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fear and parenthood

My bike ride into the office yesterday morning was a lovely experience. Sunny, not too warm, relatively little traffic. I got to do it a bike that’s evolved into the perfect urban machine: light, fast, smooth. I arrived at work with a smile on my face.

Coming home was an entirely different matter. The radar picture showed an angry line of huge thunderstorms rolling into the region, one behind the other. I shrugged and figured I’d be able to make it home before the worst hit. We do, after all, live in the thunderstorm capital of the continent, and I’ve seen and ridden through this kind of thing before (it builds character, I think.) So against the protests of my colleagues and multiple offers to bring both me and my bike home, I politely thanked them and said I’d be fine.

As I headed out of the building with my bike, two things happened:

The rain changed from a steady drizzle to a dump that turned the parking lot into a very large wading pool. Thoughts of Noah’s Ark came to mind.

My cell phone rang. Our kids told my wife that they were worried about me, and wanted to talk to me before I left the office. Here’s the discussion:

Noah (5 years-old): Hi Daddy. Is it raining there?

Me: Yes. Lots and lots of rain.

Noah: It’s raining here, too. And thundering. And lightning. I don’t want you to die.

Various little voices in the background: Yeah, we don’t want lightning to hit you. Don’t ride your bike.

Well, it’s one thing to get wet on the way home. It’s quite another to get fried. And it’s infinitely worse when your kids worry that their Dad could get hurt. So I accepted my wife’s offer to come and get me in the van.

The plot thickens

The rain, wind and electrical activity continued to intensify while I waited. By the time she got there, it was as bad as it’s been this year. I got soaked in the 10 seconds it took me to sprint from the front door to the car.

The drive home was a white-knuckled one for us all. The boys were afraid of the lightning. Noah wished the rain would be quieter and asked me to close the shade on the moonroof to keep the bright lights from bothering his eyes. Dahlia thought it was pretty, but admitted she, too, was a little scared.

I watched too many lightning hits – some frighteningly close to us – and scanned for trees and other debris out of fear that something big and heavy would fall on us. As I did so, I heard myself and my wife saying reassuring things to the munchkins. Which got me thinking...

Bringing Comfort

We spoke in calm, parent-sounding voices, sounding just like my parents did years ago when the roof on the house sprang a massive leak during a huge rainstorm. I remember water cascading down the walls and pouring into the basement, but my parents reassured us everything would be fine despite our kid-fears that the whole house would collapse in a sodden heap.

They must have been scared then, but they sure didn’t sound it. I wondered if I, too, was successfully masking my fear as I tried to let them know we were all perfectly safe in our wheeled cocoon.

I wondered if it was acceptable for parents to be afraid. Now that the storm has passed and all that’s left is a very damp lawn and some excitedly-discussed stories over breakfast, I’m not sure I have the answer.

Your turn: Is it OK for parents to be afraid? What about showing it in front of their kids? What do you do to shield them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Almost home

High-winged puddlejumpers - more properly known as Dash-8 turboprop commuter aircraft - don't often make for compelling photography. The layout of the wings and engines makes it hard to see anything of substance outside the window.

Except when you're sitting by the emergency exit in the front row (much better legroom in exchange for the mandatory safety briefing, which is just as well because I wouldn't trust anyone else with my safety, but I digress.) In that case, you're right next to the propellor, which gives you a pretty neat perspective on the world.

This is balanced by the fact that you're sitting right next to a piece of machinery that is spinning at a rate of approximately three bajillion miles per hour. And if that thing fails and flies through space in your general direction, you will be fileted in much the same way as a crayfish in Emeril Lagasse's kitchen. Ick.

But that didn't happen this time. Whew. Instead, I was able to enjoy this interesting perspective just as my home airport - London International, or YXU for you airheads - loomed on the horizon. It was a welcome sight for a pair of eyes that missed being home, and it reminded me why I love living in a city where the stunning patchwork of the country is a mere five-minute ride from my house.

Click on the image for a larger version. Let me know if you see any cows when you do.

Your turn: I'm suddenly inspired by farms. Shall we vote on possible cow pictures? Are you a fan of the almighty cow? If so, why? If not, why not?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Temporarily pink

I'm still hurting from the big room move over the weekend. To make matters worse, I dropped my bike on myself this morning while I was putting some air in the tire. It caught my elbow on the way down before landing on my other foot. Some days, it simply pays to take the car.

So to make myself feel better, I thought I'd dig waaaay into the archives and share this somewhat happier image. I took it years ago, and it's always been one of my favorites. I've got a thing for flowers because they're so beautiful for such a short period of time. So you either capture them while they're there, or you risk losing the image and the memory forever.

Your turn: What else fades quickly? (It could be something tangible...or not. Be creative!)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Moving day

The mathematics of our house don't quite add up: three bedrooms, three kids. Add a couple of parents in there and something's gotta eventually give. Yesterday, it did.

Our two youngest have been sharing a bedroom since Little Man first joined the world just over five years ago. When Dahlia was three, the logistics were fairly simple. Now that she's in the third grade and has a social life whose complexity matches the schematic of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the appeal of cohabitating with a younger brother wears off pretty quickly.

So we gave eldest son, Zach, what he's always wanted: his own room in the palatial basement suite. Noah moved into Zach's now-old room, and Dahlia got to call her room her own.

Of course, rooms don't move themselves. Mom and Dad do. Which is where the trouble begins. See, we're not all that handy. A teacher and a journalist can certainly educate and inspire. But hauling furniture down two flights of stairs really isn't our forte.

Which explains why we eventually found ourselves hot, sweaty (come on, stop it!) and cursing at the bottom of the basement stairs, standing on opposite sides of a bed platform that had become solidly wedged in the stairwell and simply refused to make the final turn into the room.

It is true we've hated the bed since we bought it oh so many years ago. We swore then as we swear now that we'd never again buy furniture from a mass market furniture store where the commissioned salespeople in really bad sportcoats practically beat each other up as they assault you upon your entry to the establishment.

Which made the final decision an easy one: we had to take the darn thing apart. With a hammer. And not a whole lot of - okay, NO - expertise.

It worked. More or less. We freed the bed. Sort of put the pieces back together in Zach's new room (don't worry, I saved the suddenly-leftover strips of "wood".) Moved Noah into his new room - his bed, purchased just last year, is made of actual wood, and comes apart rather easily, with actual lag bolts and not staples. Moved Dahlia's furniture around her room because we didn't want her to feel left out.

We spent extra time at bedtime with each munchkin, helping them all settle into their suddenly-new-to-them surroundings. Little Man seemed so much smaller as he climbed up the step stool into his bed. My wife and I took turns lying with him while he babbled on and on about how much he couldn't wait to play on his new floor. He finally fell asleep with his arm draped around my shoulder, his little face parked next to the mural of a road that Debbie had painted so many years before when we first moved into a new house in a strange city.

Zach at first wasn't sure about the strangeness of being in the basement, but he relaxed when he realized his room was bigger than those of his siblings. Dahlia simply enjoyed the relative silence and the gift of being able to listen to whatever bedtime music she wished. When morning comes, she informed us, she plans on doing some gymnastics on her suddenly-larger floor.

As for the parents who made it all happen, we feel as if we've gone a few rounds. My wife sleeps soundly beside me while I magically avoid sleep with my laptop. My toe, swollen and bleeding after I dropped the bed on it, reminds me why I drive a pen for a living. And a quiet and dark house - complete with a few more scrapes in its walls - marks another milestone in the lives of the constantly changing people who live here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Before I was old enough to coherently remember, my parents would take the family to a beach about an hour-and-a-half out of town. It was on a lake that was connected to the St. Lawrence River system, and although my memories of these experiences are quite fuzzy (I think I was around 2 or 3), I still have somewhat vague images of playing in the sand and chasing birds floating around my mind. Either way, the thoughts still make me smile.

Fast forward to today and my wife and I are sifting through the images and stories from our most recent trip to Grand Bend beach. It's around 45 minutes from our house, on the shores of Lake Huron, and the kids have come to love the wide openness of this place. Little man, Noah, still insists on calling it "The Ocean" because, just like the real ocean near his grandparents' winter place in Florida, the waves are big and he can't see anything else out there. I can't really argue with his logic, so "The Ocean" it remains.

As at most beaches, the seagulls are pretty aggressive. They walk right up to you and grab whatever unattended food they can find. They're scavenging, sometimes-mean-spirited birds who wouldn't be missed by most beachgoers if they simply disappeared.

Consider me the exception. I love watching them fly. Their grace in the air belies their sad reputation among us humans, which makes me wonder why more folks don't take a second or two to watch them glide in for a landing. It's rather inspiring. And considering the fact that we can't fly without $150 million tubes of technology, their accomplishment is all the more impressive.

So as I watched them do their thing in the stiff wind that marked this day, I thought I should capture them in pictures. Easier said than done, because they move fast, and they're not the most obedient animals in the kingdom. So I reverted to my childhood strategy: run after them and see what happens.

This, apparently, is what happened. I couldn't plan this picture. I kept my finger down on the shutter, and crossed the fingers of my other hand.

This bird doesn't have a name. I probably scared it half to death. But this image of this graceful animal's first nanosecond of flight will stick in my mind through the cold winter ahead as our kids look forward to their next visit to "The Ocean."

Good flight, my feathered friend.

Your turn: With your permission, of course, I'd like to continue the theme from yesterday's photo:
  1. What three words come to mind as you view this image?
  2. What else should I be shooting? I have been taking careful note of everyone's suggestions. Rest assured in the days, weeks, and months to come, that your words will become pictures as well. I can't thank you enough for giving me this photographic direction. I hope you'll keep these thoughts coming.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A watery ride home

I often use my bike ride home from work as an opportunity to decompress from the day. The 25-to-30-minute ride gives me a chance to toss ideas around my head without worry of interruption. It's my only "alone time" of the day, and I cherish it.

I always try to have a camera with me to capture whatever tickles my fancy along the way. Part of the ride takes me past the Thames River. This path is a little longer and a little hillier than simply sticking to the streets, but it's a whole lot more inpirational. The tree canopy totally blocks out the rest of the world. The hushed sound of the forest is interrupted only by the burbling of the water whenever the path edges closer to the water. It's hard to believe that I get to experience this a mere five minutes away from my office.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped next to the spot on the river where exposed rocks make for a gorgeous vista for anyone who takes the time to look. I'd been telling myself for years that I, too, should take the time to get off my bike and just appreciate it all. But I was always too busy or otherwise occupied to listen to myself.

As it was, I was late getting home, and I really shouldn't have stopped. I was feeling rushed after a busy day, and I was looking forward to a night of work as well. I didn't have the time, but something compelled me to get off my bike for a closer look.

I carefully walked out on the flat, dry rocks to the edge of the flowing water, and started shooting. As soon as I did, I felt relaxed for the first time that day. I just let my eye wander along the glassy surface of the river as I looked for images that would help me remember this moment. I wanted whatever pictures I got to remind me why water has such a calming effect.

I think this is the one image that manages to do this. I hope you agree.

(Please click on the image to see it in full-size.)

Your turn - a 2-parter:
  1. The first three words that come to mind as you view this picture are...
  2. What images can bring your blood pressure down? What things should I be looking for the next time I'm out on my bike with my camera safely tucked in my bag? You ask, and I'll shoot it and post it here.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Another look at Rosie DiManno

Longtime readers of this blog may already be familiar with my admiration of Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno’s writing. In case you haven’t seen her work, a quick visit to her home page should serve as an introduction to one of the country’s sharpest-penned journalists.

The reason I write about her today is to call attention to her recent trip to the U.S. Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. So much has been written and said about the tragedy and the country’s response to it. But few have managed to illustrate the scene so poignantly as she. Here’s a quick rundown of some of her dispatches from the region: Your turn: Who else are you reading? Whose words really move you? What is it about these folks that makes you want to read them?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Quoted - eBay, Skype, and some very exciting news

More cool news from my world of technology research: I've been quoted in the New York Times and the Washington Post.


It all started when online auction powerhouse eBay announced it was buying the Internet telephony firm Skype. I wrote up a press release, gave it to our seriously talented PR director, and before I knew it it had hit the wires and inboxes of oodles of media folks.
I'm still reeling from's somewhat surreal to see my comments in these papers which I have worshipped since I first picked up a pen and realized it was meant to be in my hand.

The NYT piece has been picked up in a bunch of other places, notably the Tuscaloosa News in Alabama, The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, and the Wilmington Star-News in North Carolina. Other pickups include the San Diego Union-Tribune, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, ,

The Washington Post piece has been picked up by Yahoo! News.

The original press release, Skype acquisition by eBay points to new end game in ecommerce, says Info-Tech Research Group, is saved on Info-Tech's site. Yahoo! Finance is running it here. Tekrati has it here. PR Newswire has it here.

I keep thinking that getting interviewed and quoted by media will eventually become old hat. I'm wrong: it's as neat today as it was the first time my words were picked up. I'm having fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More birthday fun

September is a very cool month in our house: Dahlia's birthday on the 12th is followed the very next day by her Mom's. Debbie's early birthday present means many things to us:
  • We eat a lot of birthday cake in a very compressed period of time.
  • The recycling box overflows with enough wrapping paper to attract attention from neighbors driving by on their way to work.
  • We can heat the house with the output from the candles (shh, don't tell my wife I said that!)
  • Two lovely ladies have something very special to share.
In case you haven't met her, Debbie has her own blog, Adventures of Motherhood. I hope you'll take a moment to visit her, wish her a happy birthday, and let her know her very smitten husband sent you.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Peanut turns 8

I remember the first time I saw her. It was an ethereal image on an ultrasound screen. As usual, I couldn't make anything out. The technician printed the image for us, and it looked like a peanut. I scanned the file - peanut.tif - to my computer and e-mailed it to everyone we knew. Before we even knew she was a girl, she was our peanut.

When she finally made her way into the world, I looked through tear-covered eyes at a tiny little version of my wife. When I wiped my eyes and held her, I remember thinking how small she was. I wondered what happened to the rest of her. At 5 pounds, 15 ounces, she was even tinier than her older brother had been. Miniature as she was, she squirmed when we held her and instantly became the addictive little person that she remains today.

We lived in a city far from home. We had moved there, in the dead of a bitterly cold Canadian winter, mere weeks before my wife became pregnant. Dahlia's arrival was likely the first piece of good news we had had in that strange city since, well, the day we found out we were expecting. Over time, we would come to call this place home. But at the time, it seemed so far away.

It took Dahlia a while to grow any hair. At first, we thought she'd be bald for a very long time. Thankfully, she started to grow something on her head by around her first birthday. As soon as she could, my wife, Debbie, put a sprout-like bow on top of her head to stop the "is it a boy or a girl?" stupidity at the grocery store.

She's been putting "pretties" (what we call barrettes and pins and other similar fixins) in her lovely blonde hair ever since, and I had trouble coping the first time we took her for a trim: I was worried she'd come back like a sheep.

Today, she bounces around the planet, turning cartwheels and backflips wherever she has enough room. Her pony tails bounce wildly as her little form blurs across the room, the lawn, the school playground, wherever. She's a bundle of energy who loves school, loves her friends, loves pretty much everyone around her. She's a little mother to her little brother, and never ceases to be the peacemaker whenever someone has a problem. Although I can’t believe it’s been eight years since Baby Dahlia came into our lives, as I watch her go through the paces of being her I often can’t believe that she’s still a little girl, so old is her soul.

Happy birthday, Peanut Girl. May your smile forever make those around you smile right back at you.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bumper sticker pulpit

I came across this bumper sticker as I strolled through Seattle's downtown core. I snapped this picture not five minutes after I saw a Hummer sporting the following vanity plate: RSKTAKR. I wonder if the owners of these two vehicles have ever met.

This got me thinking about the whole bumper sticker ethos that pervades the nation. Have you ever wondered why bumper stickers...
  1. ...are more likely found on dilapidated old cars? (To wit, check the condition of the bumper in this photo. The rest of the car was even worse.)
  2. ...always seem to follow similar themes: abortion stance (pro/con), religious conviction, anti-consumerist, stupid humor, spousal perspectives, etc.?
  3. ...seem to look ten years-old a mere three days after being applied to the vehicle?
  4. ...haven't been banned because they distract everyone who sees them?
As you can see, I'm not a fan of bumper-based media. The irony of the "Baby on Board" sticker has always struck me as somewhat sad: as if a car without such a sticker would make a better target for the rest of us.

Your turn: Do you do bumper stickers? Why/why not? What's your take on them?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Dead domestic automakers

Today's Ink Blog column focuses on something that touches many communities in the U.S. and Canada, namely the declining viability of the automakers that underpin their communities. We've got a relatively old Ford plant just south of town, and it bugged me when the head of the union representing its workers said job guarantees are the right of all workers.

Gee, I wish I could have the same cushy guarantees. But the world doesn't work that way any more. I wrote this as a reinforcement of this:

Ford plant fight makes little sense

Published Saturday, September 9, 2005

The London Free Press

The sad state of affairs at Ford’s Talbotville assembly plant should serve as a warning sign to union leaders pressing Ford to keep the plant open indefinitely: times have changed.

Customers no longer want the factory’s aging, inefficient cars. The Canadian Auto Workers Union, which represents the plant’s assembly workers, wants Ford to convert the facility to a more modern “flex” architecture to allow the company to change product lines to meet fluctuating demand.

Union officials who are trying to negotiate a new contract with the automaker want Ford to guarantee job security. That’s where they lose my vote.

Like all car companies, Ford has been closing its less-efficient factories as it struggles to compete – and survive – in an increasingly cutthroat market. As much as CAW leadership demands an open plant and guaranteed jobs, market realities make this a bit of a pipe dream.

Having a job is no longer an inalienable right, and guarantees simply make no sense. Union leaders and their members might wish to rethink their career management strategies in light of this harsh new economic reality.


Update: After publishing this, I bumped into an acquaintance who happens to work on the line at this plant. I expected him to haul me outside and let me have it. Instead, he said he understood my perspective. He wished he had more career options, but in the meantime it made sense for him to hold onto a job that offered him so much in terms of standard of living and benefits. I can't say I'd be any different if I were in his shoes.

Once again, I was amazed at how much of an impact mere words on a page can have.

Juice at altitude

Like most five-year-olds, Noah spends a good deal of his time eating and drinking. It's the only way his little body can find the energy to essentially be a blur on the landscape.

Our little guy's favorite beverage is apple juice. So when the flight attendant asked what I wanted to drink, I asked for a cup of my own. And I said please, of course.

(As an aside, the looks on the faces of my fellow passengers as I whipped out my camera and took this bizarro picture were priceless. I'll do it again in a heartbeat, and I heartily recommend you do the same.)

Even though I was far away from him and the rest of my brood, drinking his favorite drink somehow made me feel a bit closer.

Your turn: What (usually little) things do you do to close the distance between you and your close friends and family?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Mosquito bites

In the overall scheme of things, humans shouldn't be afraid of mosquitoes. Yet West Nile Virus has once again been top of mind in these parts of the world.

Compared to other threats to life, it certainly isn't the most onerous one on the list. But the dismissive attitude of friends and colleagues toward the issue prompted me to write this.

If it prevents one infection, it's worth it.

Here's the text version:

Don’t dismiss West Nile’s danger

Published Friday, September 9, 2005

The London Free Press

In our technologically advanced age, it’s easy for us to dismiss the repeated warnings about the West Nile Virus.

We assume only other people get it. We also assume it’s only a threat to folks who are already in poor health, or the elderly. We nonchalantly read about another infection or death in the paper before going back to our daily routine.

More folks die from motor vehicle accidents and other diseases, after all, so West Nile is easy to dismiss.

It’s an attitude we might want to reconsider in light of the city’s just-announced second death from this mosquito-borne virus. We are all at risk. Kids, adults, healthy or not.

If you do nothing else today, take a walk around your house to get rid of stagnant water (kiddie pool anyone?) and fix any lingering holes in screens, windows and doors. Wear light-coloured clothing with long sleeves and pants.

Put on insect repellent with DEET, and teach your kids that this is no laughing matter.

Better to be careful than sorry.


Update: This piece has an interesting history. I was in Seattle this week attending a conference. I filed my columns remotely before heading off to the conference site. The hotel where I stayed has free wireless (bless them) in the lobby. It's a two-level, funky-looking environment that is a highly cool place to get work done.

Which is precisely what I did. Rather than jack into the wired Ethernet router in my room, I'd head downstairs, plug in my headphones and work among the folks who work and stay here. At various times, I found myself in the middle of a DJ-driven party, a pre-wedding get-together, and a pre-breakfast business strategy session.

All told, it was inspiring to be in this place. Context shapes creativity, and this workplace certainly qualifies. I hope to return soon to see if I can repeat the magic.

I wrote this piece literally on the fly. As I was heading home today, I had to file this before I headed off to the airport - at just after 6 a.m. After getting my requisite 2 hours of sleep - I'd been doing my regular writing late at night to compensate for the fact that I'd been attending the conference during the day - I woke late, threw my clothes on, panic-packed and headed downstairs to check out.

I wrote quickly as I carefully watched the clock count down. I couldn't miss the shuttle to the airport. I filed the piece with about 5 minutes to spare. Another day at the office, and another reason why I love this writing thing so much :)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Old and new

The thing that stands out as you walk the streets of Seattle is how active its skyline is. Old and new highrises watch over countless construction sites where skeletal buildings gradually take shape and stake their claim on a new piece of the sky. It's fascinating to watch from a pedestrian's perspective, especially since I come from a city whose idea of a construction boom encompasses a bulldozer, two pickup trucks and a construction company sign on a temporary fence that surrounds the old gas station on the corner.

This was right near my hotel, and I was struck by the way the various buildings interacted with each other. I stared at it for a while because I found it strangely comforting: the old building with its soothingly arched windows holding its ground in the shadows of its larger glass-clad neighbor. Then I took this picture before the trumpet-playing guy on the corner asked me to double the size of his one-man band.

I flew back to London today, and am home now. But as I sift through the hundreds of images I took, I think of this neat and quite different place that I was privileged to experience for a tantalizingly brief time. I hope I get to return soon, and I hope I won't be alone when I do.

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Local schools

Community matters a lot to me, and I'm willing to bet it matters to you as well. Which is why I bristle every time our supposedly democratic layers of representation conspire against our ability to control our own destiny.

To wit, the Ontario Municipal Board. This body has in recent years been a convenient arbiter of last resort for developers who haven't gotten their own way at the municipal level. Like petulant children, they routinely appeal their cases to the OMB and, more often than not, the OMB rules in their favor.

Despite repeated assessments by everyone and his/her dog that this organization is anti-democratic and should be abolished, it persists.

And our ability to determine the fate of our neighborhoods is once again eroded.

Here's the text version. Queens Park refers to the Ontario provincial legislature:

Don’t take away local school control

Published Thursday, September 8, 2005

The London Free Press

Lately, it seems every announcement from the provincial government is a good-news/bad-news proposition.

For example, Queens Park has announced an additional $160 million in funding for publicly funded schools. That’s good news because it might allow the Thames Valley District School Board to build its first new schools in a generation.

But, as always, there’s a catch: local parent trustee boards could lose their power to determine which schools must close and when.

I worry when matters so vital to our local interests are handed over to provincial entities that know virtually nothing about the places over which they wield so much power. Our ability to shape our community’s future is gutted when decision making authority is yanked away from the parents who are so invested in our schools’ – and their children’s – future.

With three levels of government constantly fighting to increase their power over us, the day is fast approaching when we no longer have any say in how our kids are educated. This lesson frightens me immensely.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - On roads

Today's Ink Blog column focuses on my general distaste for unmitigated development. To put this position in its proper context, I am not opposed to growth or progress. Rather, I am opposed to growth or progress that is not intelligently managed and, as a result, leaves us in an imbalanced state.

This is where I fear today's cities are going. Which explains why I wrote today's column. It's a theme that touches readers precisely where they live. Which is why I chose it in the first place.

Click on the image to the left for a full-res view. Here's the text:

Faster, wider roads getting us nowhere

Published Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The London Free Press

I’m having a difficult time understanding why Fanshawe Park Road, just west of Wonderland Road, is being expanded to four lanes.

I don’t ever recall being stuck in traffic while heading to or from the Hyde Park area.

I guess the newly-widened road will allow bargain-hunters to get to the new mega-stores, just west of there, a few seconds sooner. It’ll also support increased traffic expected as low-density residential development gradually replaces the area’s farmland.

It may seem logical from a neighborhood perspective. But London’s pattern of building bigger roads to support single-family homes on the city’s periphery shows no signs of abating.

Is City Hall aware of other cities’ Smart Growth initiatives that encourage people-friendly neighborhoods closer to the centre of town?

No amount of cheerleading for downtown disguises the fact that our leaders’ mindless sign-offs on edge-of-town development will only continue to gut our core.

I’m sure we’d all like to hear their thoughts on this issue. Otherwise, the road to nowhere will keep getting wider and faster.


Odd view of Seattle

My hotel room is quite the place. It's in what I can best describe as a boutique hotel, and it traces a very large L shape around the corner of the building. This leaves me with huge windows almost everywhere I look, and some interesting lights and shadows as the sun moves across the highrise urban landscape.

I like how the stark lines of the blinds give way, if only slightly, to the muted streetscape below. I could have simply taken a straight-up picture of the street, but that wouldn't have been as much fun.

Your turn: Should I be uploading pictures to my blog at 2:15 a.m. or should I leave this fascinating Wi-Fi-blessed hotel lobby and get some sleep? I had a very productive work night, but now I suspect it's time to tuck the laptop away and call it a night. Yes?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Cuba's gesture

Today's column deals with some unexpected fallout from Hurricane Katrina, namely Cuban leader Fidel Castro's offer to help the U.S.

What struck me about this issue was its potential to rise above the petty politics that have defined the U.S.-Cube relationship for well over a generation.
Sure, Castro's offer was dripping with political meaning. And only the most naive among us would think that Castro's intentions were completely altruistic. Like all political animals, he wouldn't say no to the public relations brownie points that such a move would return to him.

But the optimist in me once again kicked in. Somehow, I hoped, the locked-in positions of dead-set ideological and political foes would take a back seat to basic humanity.

I guess I'm the naive one, for the U.S. government has to-date shown no sign of even recognizing the gesture. But how does our planet evolve if we simply accept the here-and-now and refuse to dream for the impossible?

Click on the image to see it close-up. Here's the text:
Castro’s gesture muted by media

Published Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The London Free Press

Lost in the torrent of coverage surrounding the unfolding disaster in and around New Orleans was this snippet of news from Cuba: Fidel Castro offered to send over 1,000 doctors to help relief efforts.

Since the U.S. has no official ties to the communist country, it’s doubtful that U.S. President George W. Bush sent a thank you note to his nemesis-dictator. Yet the fact that the offer was tendered at all is enough of a signal that not all Cold Wars are inviolable.

This does little to change the fact that Mr. Castro was and remains no friend of freedom. His regime routinely jails journalists who dare to question the state’s iron rule over the impoverished nation. He stubbornly clings to communism long after its original sponsors behind the Iron Curtain gave up and admitted it was a doomed political ideology. And his people suffer while the rest of the world moves on.

But change must start with a single gesture. One hopes American leadership has the courage to appreciate the Cuban message.


Puget Sound at dusk

I took this picture on approach to Seattle-Tacoma's airport. If I'm going to be marooning my wife alone at home for a few days while she works double-time to get her two classes - and our kids - ready for the new school year, then I should at least be rewarded with a nice view or two along the way. Right?

I must say, this is a most pretty part of the world. And they have mountains. Bless them.

More later...I've been busy with words and pictures since I got here.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Heading west

Cool news from my world of geekitude: I've been invited to the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA.


My plane leaves Monday afternoon. Well, not my plane, per se. A plane. On which I will be a passenger. Preferably eating pretzels.

Your turn: What should I do when I get there?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Life as a house

I recently flew to Montreal to be there when my parents moved out of their home and into a nearby condo. The primary goal of this trip was to help them through the process. My father, as I've written about online and in print, has not been well. So being there was one of those things a kid simply does because being anywhere else just wouldn't seem logical. Not after all they did to help me get where I am today.

A quiet, secondary goal of mine was to somehow record how I felt as the home where they raised me and my siblings - I have an older sister and an older brother - was emptied and left behind. Every time I was there, I found myself taking pictures of everything I could think of.

I didn't just shoot rooms, though. For example, I shot closeups of the window locks and the heating vents. Why? Because they reminded me of what it was like to be in my room on a cold winter's night. I'd double-check the locks to make sure the old-style windows were sealed as tightly as their pre-energy conservation design allowed. Then I'd wave my hand over the heating vents to make sure warm air was coming out. It was always warm, but the ritual never changed.

And so on. I captured images of all the little things in the house that stuck in my memory.

As I was doing this, I didn't feel overtly sad. It was more like really reflective. But I did want to tell the story of the house, because so much of our early lives had evolved within it. I kept wondering which picture would be the quintessential one; the one that would, in one simple frame, summarize what this house meant, and where we went from here. This picture hit me as soon as I took it.

It's the moulding in the living room. The story it tells is a simple one: in its beaten, worn-paint, imperfect form, it tells us that the house served its purpose. In just over four decades, a young couple brought home three children, raised them, then sent them off into the world. They opened the door on an ever-expanding extended family, and they always managed to find empty chairs at the dinner table for whoever dropped in. They experienced the loss of their own parents and other close friends and relatives. They became grandparents and welcomed us and our children on visits. They retired, and they experienced illness.

Even as they continued to evolve, life never stopped changing around them, and the house gradually began to reflect that with each faded stretch of wallpaper and traffic-worn passage of carpet. It was time to go.

To me, this image reflects all I felt as I left for the last time. It was time to say goodbye to a place that had been my home for so long. I haven't lived there in what seems like a lifetime, and my home is clearly the one my wife and I have built for our children. But it was all I knew for a very long while, so it only made sense for the pensive writer in me to reflect on what was, and what would come next.

Eeyore often says, "It's just a house." Maybe so. But it was my house. And it was time to close the door on it one last time.

Your turn: How do you define "home"?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Wasn't I just there?

Another in my continuing photographic survey of all things aviation.

My view of the runway as we took off was somewhat obscured by the large amounts of morning dew that suddenly streamed across the window as we accelerated. A few seconds after we rotated, my little plastic porthole cleared up and all was once again right with the world.

What we're looking at here is pretty much all of Toronto's Terminal 1 complex. The crescent -shaped building toward the upper-left is where you first walk in. It was designed by Moshe Safdie (Montreal's Habitat 67, Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada, and the Salt Lake City Public Library) and it's quite imposing even as you shake off the last cobwebs of sleep on the way to your gate.

I took this one because I thought my daughter (see this link for an explanation of why I was shooting so many pictures that day) would enjoy a perspective that she hadn't yet seen. I'm learning that photography can be used to share a vision that others have not yet had a chance to experience. If that opens up their world, then so much the better.

Your turn: How do you share your experiences with others? (It's the weekend...time for big blue sky thinking!)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The world wakes up

Airports are always rather interesting places, but never more so than early in the morning. There's someting hypnotic about this huge, alien world populated by loud, alien craft that captivates the imagination as light begins to bathe everything in sight.

The rest of the world may be sleeping, but thousands of people are rapidly coming together in the bluish shadows to get these winged monsters off the ground and on their way.

Early morning light is addictive in and of itself, but it becomes more so when it reflects off of the shapes and forms of an airport. Shadows mix with soft light to paint pictures that just don't happen any other time of day.

Before you know it, your plane leaves all of this behind. But for some reason the images of mornings like this seem to linger in my mind. I suspect I'm not alone in this.

BTW, happy new month, everyone. Don't despair that it's September already, as we still have three more weeks of summer in the northern hemisphere. (I know, there's always a bright side.)