Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Why some people should not be parents
After all, you need a license to sell hot dogs on a street corner, keep a dog or cat in your house, or broadcast your grandmother's dessert recipes via ham radio. But anyone with working biologicals can have a child.
Sadly, having functional parts does not qualify a person to be a parent. This story, Police: Parents gave crying baby vodka, underscores why some people deserve to be sterilized before being thrown in jail.
The short strokes are chilling - a three-month-old baby girl died after her parents gave her a lethal dose of vodka. She had a BAC of 0.47 - over five times the legal limit. As if should could have decided for herself anyway.
I hope they throw away the key when they catch and convict these monsters.
One small consolation: we needn't worry about these two selling us hot dogs on a street corner.
Your turn: Is it time to tighten society's rules around becoming a parent? Should this be licensed? Is it even feasible?
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Early morning at the breakfast table
Forget that it tastes good, it's relatively healthy and low-fat, and the kids really like it. What's most important is that it has a neat surface when it's first opened.
Your turn: Are you a hummous person? How do you pronounce it?
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Your turn: I can't put my finger on it, but these remind me of something. Anyone want to hazard a guess or two?
Quick aside: Why this pic? Simple: a new grocery store opened up in our neighborhood. So, without anything better to do on a Saturday night, we loaded the kids into the wondervan and went on an adventure. The place seemed somewhat overstaffed - typical for a new store, because they want customers to think the store will always have an abundance of folks prowling the aisles just begging to help lost customers....we know the truth, however. But I digress.
Zach and I set off in search of photographic targets of opportunity. We felt like kids exploring a brand new playground. It was all so fresh and clean. Pretty soon it'll be a depressing big box store, just like every other depressing big box store. But for a little while anyway, it was fun to wander the pristine rows and think about all the possibilities. Zach did the spotting and I did the shooting: he thought the nuts would be cool. I think his photographic judgment is better than mine.
Yeah, we definitely need to get out more.
Just a faucet?
Our typical intercity drive often has us spending oodles of hours on the 401. Canada's busiest highway cuts through Ontario from Windsor all the way to the Quebec border just east of Cornwall. All in all, it's a shade under 500 miles or 800 km long.
We've come to know this highway well in the years since we moved to London. It's the route we take to visit family back in Montreal, and in the dozens of times we've driven it, it's not a stretch to say that we've likely memorized every exit, curve, and geographic feature.
On our way home recently, we stopped in Belleville for a much-needed break. We parked beside the Quinte Mall - which despite the fact that it looks like any other indoor mall on the planet, is nevertheless a welcome refuge on a long, boring drive - and headed for the food court.
Little people have little constitutions. So we found the family washroom and were blown away by the pristine cleanliness, comfy chairs, lovely music and overall coziness of what is usually a disgusting facility that is ignored by management and reviled by those of us who care about such things. This place was different: we could have stayed there all night.
While the kids raved about how cool this loo was, I concentrated on the faucet and tried to get photographically artsy with it. This is a longer-than-handheld, flashless exposure, using the counter as a makeshift tripod. It may look plain. But it will forever take me back to a 10-minute slice during which my kids happily unwound with each other in a surprisingly warm place far from home, and I got to watch them be themselves.
Quoted - eWEEK
Here's what I said:
"This is the clearest evidence yet that Microsoft is getting Google's message," said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, a technology consultant. "Google has clearly shifted software towards a new, Web-based paradigm."I've been hoping to be quoted by eWEEK - a serious tech journalism heavyweight - for ages. This makes me skip a little more lightly on my feet.
That opinion, a popular one nowadays, would have drawn a snicker two years ago when Google was showing how free, advertising-supported Internet search generates billions of dollars in annual revenues. But now...
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Publish Day - Ink Blog - Suicide isn't painless
I wrote this because I wanted to ensure the discussion didn't stop here. I know so many of us have been brushed by it, yet haven't had the courage to discuss it in the open.
Your turn: Although it may be difficult for some, I hope you'll consider sharing a thought of two on suicide, depression, and the toll it takes on individuals and society.
Here's my perspective, published in today's paper:
Cloak of silence lifted from suicideMe again: My editor, Larry Cornies, today published a searing column, Suicide series touches many lives. Editor-in-chief Paul Berton ran a great journalist's perspective column - entitled Time to talk about suicide - in today's paper as well. As difficult as it is to talk about suicide, the all-stops coverage by the paper is encouraging, to say the least. I hope the dialog continues.
Published Saturday, November 26, 2005
The London Free Press
A lifetime ago, I was a 13-year-old learning to sail Laser-class boats at summer camp. My instructor, Robert, painstakingly guided me from neophyte to a confident captain who could easily command the boat in any situation.
He was barely out of his teens, but his maturity and wisdom made him seem so much older. He was a patient mentor who always seemed to have his hand firmly on the tiller on his way to a bright future.
A few years later, he killed himself.
This week’s London Free Press series on suicide has taught us how this disease of society thrives in dark shadows. We never talk about it for fear of offending. It has touched so many of us, but we keep it buried deeply.
But if the teenagers of tomorrow are going to have young mentors to guide them, someone’s got to shine the light on this silent menace, to flush it from the recesses of shame and into forums where we feel safe to talk about it.
Look inward, and don’t be afraid to start that conversation.
Here are the links to the articles in the Ending it all series that inspired this thread. Randy Richmond is the reporter who researched and wrote these articles. It's great, necessary reading.
Quoted - BlackBerry heads to the East Coast
They made the announcement on Friday, and this was big news in a region that has had more than its fair share of economic hardship.
The National Post is running the story, Research In Motion sets up shop in Nova Scotia; creates 1,200 jobs. Byline is Michael Tutton from CP.
Canadaeast.com is running two versions of the piece: here and here.
The myTelus site has it here.
Yahoo! posted it here.
The Brockville Recorder & Times (even small-town Ontario reads tech) has it here.
Here's my snippet:
Carmi Levy, a research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont., said the government money was likely key to the deal, but the major factor was Ontario's tight high-tech labour market.Update: The Daily News (in Halifax) is running this piece: High-tech RIM to create 1,250 jobs. Byline is Stephane Massinon. Here's what I said...
"Waterloo and Ottawa are talent markets that have been tapped dry by the major technology vendors in Canada and the United States," he said.
"For now RIM has Halifax mostly to itself."
The company said it expects to begin hiring through job fairs beginning in January.
Levy also said the company needed some good news after months of troubles in the U.S. courts in a patent dispute with NTP Inc.
The legal dispute threatens BlackBerry sales in the United States unless there's a settlement or an appeal victory for RIM.
"This is the perfect kind of good news announcement that diverts attention from all of the bad news that's been dogging the company for the past year," said Levy.
Carmi Levy has watched the growth of Research in Motion. The senior research analyst with Info-tech said the jobs coming to HRM will be coveted.
“These are not entry-level jobs at all. This is one of the highest of the high-tech companies right now,” said Levy yesterday.
Levy described the company as a significant force with international clout.
“This a high-flyer in the mobile-wireless sector; they are the acknowledged leader in what’s called push-based e-mail. The term BlackBerry has become synonymous with mobile e-mail.
“For a small, upstart Canadian company, they have become dominant around the world.”
RIM has thrived in Waterloo because of that city’s high level of people with post-secondary education. Levy said Nova Scotia’s reputation for universities was part of the decision to bring an office here.
But not all is well with the company. For years, it has been in an American court facing a patent infringement lawsuit from NTP Inc., a company based in Richmond, Va. The judge hearing the case has said recently that a decision would come soon, possibly any day now.
Levy’s read of the situation is that RIM could end up paying between a half-billion and a billion dollars as a result. “That money isn’t that much of an issue,” said Levy.
“(Paying) would give them the right to continue to use the underlying technology to drive their network and BlackBerry service until 2012, when the patent runs out,” explained Levy.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Publish Day - Ink Blog - More local politics
This one jumped out at me because it dealt with one of my favorite anti-democratic bodies, the Ontario Municipal Board. As a free-speech-crusading journalist, few things bug me more than government-sanctioned bodies that ram decisions down the population's throat - which the OMB has done repeatedly since I started writing about them.
For once, though, I think the OMB sorta got it right this time. So I felt somewhat compelled to get off my usual critic's chair and give them the writer's equivalent of a pat on the back.
I still think the OMB is undemocratic, and I'll still flay it when I think it has crossed a line. But for now, I'm smiling.
New ward system will drive change
Published Friday, November 25, 2005
The London Free Press
I’ve long criticized the Ontario Municipal Board for its heavy-handed rulings that have often gone against the will of the communities it supposedly serves. But I may become an OMB fan in light of its latest position on London’s municipal roadmap.
The OMB’s order to London to replace its current seven-ward system with 14 smaller wards has raised cheers from citizen advocacy groups. City councillors who oppose this ruling have said the new system will make it easier for special interest groups to hijack the city’s agenda. I think they worry too much.
This city needs a good shakeup. Tax rates have consistently outpaced the rate of inflation. Services have been cut. City hall has been rocked by one embarrassing and expensive controversy after another. Civic bureaucracy has steadfastly resisted calls for change.
Something needed to change, and like it or not, London’s new ward system will form the basis for driving that change.
Any city councillors who aren’t comfortable with this might want to find a new line of work.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Publish Day - Ink Blog - Canadian politics
If I'm being brutally direct, all of this kinda bores me. Political machinations never really change. The arguments are always the same, and the players are almost universally shallow and incomplete human beings. They are hardly the role models I thought they were when I was a kid, so I don't think it's worth my while to actively memorize every word they say on the evening news.
Still, it's democracy. So it's important to still know what's going on.
So I took out my pen and thought I'd muse on the irony of a pre-election spending spree by the ruling party. It always seems to work that way: the checkbook comes out just before voters go to the polls. It's nothing more than a blatant way to steal votes through bribery. And history shows that it works.
Of course, that's all our money that's being spent. I thought readers might want a little additional perspective on this.
Darn, I've become cynical and jaded.
Payback at polls for spending spree
Published Thursday, November 24, 2005
The London Free Press
I’m thinking of sending Prime Minister Paul Martin a card to thank him for the wonderful gifts he’s decided to lavish on us this holiday season.
All the things I’ve been wishing for – including a fleet of Hercules transport planes to replace aircraft that should have been retired decades ago, compensation for native Canadians who were sexually abused in church-run residential schools, and support for grain farmers so they can better compete internationally – will finally be mine. It’ll be the best holiday season ever.
I know that as a taxpayer I am footing the bill for this pre-election largesse. I know that none of this spending might ever actually happen if the government is not re-elected. Politics is, after all, a game of smoke and mirrors. And what better way to bamboozle the electorate than to wave gobs of goodies under their noses.
Still, it’s the season of giving. Taxpayers will have ample opportunity to give back what’s been taken when they finally go to the polls.
Happy holidays, Paul.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Publish Day - Ink Blog - Auto sector smackdown
Then I read the union response to the cuts, and I changed my mind. The leaders of Canada's largest autoworkers union trotted out same old themes. If it were up to them, we'd all go back to the days of guaranteed jobs, high wages, low education requirements, and a limitless future with no real-world competition.
Unfortunately for the Big Three, the cushy world they dominated fifty years ago is gone forever. They have failed to compete on the same playing field as their new competitors. They have become dinosaurs. And as much as we all - and I include myself in that "we" - pine for the days when we'd work for a benevolent employer until our retirement day, it's easy to see that the employment world is a much colder place these days.
So I wrote the following piece.
Your turn: After you're done reading this, I hope you'll share your perspectives on unions, and whether or not they've managed to adapt to the new realities of the business world.
Big Three, CAW running out of gasUpdate - Sat. Nov. 26. I've been getting some nasty e-mail from readers - obviously union members who believe in everyone's inalienable right to permanent, high-paid employment. I'm not upset by this. As I've said before and continue to maintain, any response is a good thing. If I force readers to sit up, take notice and get involved in the discussion, then I have accomplished my goal.
Published Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The London Free Press
It is both fascinating and sad to watch domestic automakers cutting their operations to the bone, while Honda and Toyota invest billions in new plants and people.
The only response Canadian Auto Workers union President Buzz Hargrove can muster is the same old rant about foreign manufacturers having unfair, reduced-tariff access to the North American market.
Domestic manufacturers, hobbled by aging products union contract limitations, can’t compete against their more agile competitors. Their products lag behind.
Consumers spending their hard-earned dollars on a vehicle expect efficiency, performance and reliability. Other automakers have figured out how to do it better, and they’re eating up the domestics’ market share.
The war is over, Buzz. The imports have won. Union contract and pension costs have become an albatross around the domestic manufacturers’ necks.
Stop whining about unfair competition. You simply can’t compete any more.
Beyond the e-mail, much of which is so rife with grammatical and spelling errors as to be hilariously pathetic, the Free Press published a letter to the editor in todays paper. Here it is:
Auto workers only want decent living standard
Regarding the Ink Blog, Big Three, CAW running out of gas (Nov. 23).
Carmi Levy argues that it is our unwillingness to be "competitive" that has led to the current dilemma of North American automakers.
He is misguided. All unionized workers have ever asked for is a fair shake. That means fighting for liveable wages, adequate benefits and secure pensions, so that workers can raise a family, purchase a house, send their kids to school and retire comfortably. Is that too much to ask?
One of the main reasons Asian autoworkers cannot unionize and aspire to the standard of living we enjoy in the West is that unionization is banned in many Asian countries (China, especially). Is that the type of undemocratic society to which we should aspire?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Publish Day - Ink Blog - Drinking to excess
I wrote this after reading another report on how problem drinking is an even bigger issue in this region than in any other part of the province. Holiday season always seems to bring with it an increase in the frequency of booze-related stories in the media. I know I'm contributing to it, but I don't have a problem shining the spotlight a little brighter or wider if it means even one person takes notice.
I thought of this piece last night as I drove my family home through a dark and rainy night. We were at the end of a 700+ kilometre drive from Montreal, about five minutes away from home, when an idiot in a blue Civic coupe charged sidelong through four lanes of oncoming traffic to get to the parking lot of an apartment building. I panic-braked to miss him, as did every car around and in front of me. My first thought was no sober person would consciously drive like that, and that had I been alone, I would have stayed at the scene, called 911, and had him charged.
Although my overriding parental instinct to get my sleeping family home in one piece prevailed last night, part of me feels guilty for not doing more - especially on the day that I had written this - to get this moron off the road. Decisions.
So without further ado, here's the piece. Please note the editing gremlin that seems to have crept into my byline. My family name is "Levy", not "Levi".
Drinking report needed wake-call
Published Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The London Free Press
It’s a sobering reality check to realize the rate of problem drinking in Middlesex County far exceeds the provincial average.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has just released statistics showing Middlesex residents report far higher incidences of drinking and driving, binge drinking, hazardous drinking and drinking-related problems than any other Ontario region.
If you’ve got a problem with booze, this is your wake-up call to get help. If you don’t, you are also accountable for fighting this scourge before you or those you love are killed by a drunk driver.
If a friend or colleague has hit the bottle too hard, we must all do anything in our power to help. Take away the keys, call Alcoholics Anonymous, rally some friends to intervene, do whatever it takes to stop the deadly cycle.
Christmas is just over a month away. Holiday partying season is already hard upon us. Consider this society’s long-overdue wake-up call. It is, simply, now or never for problem drinkers – and for the rest of us.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Cool shades on warm sand
I look outside the window and see nothing but a steel gray horizon and bare trees. I go outside and draw my coat tighter to ward off the bone-chilling cold that suddenly seems to dominate our days.
As winter begins its descent on this part of the world, I hold onto words and images that remind me of warmer days. It wasn't so long ago that my wife and I watched our kids frolic on the beach, wondering where they got the energy and how we'd be able to perpetuate the magic of days like that for as long as possible.
Hopefully we'll soon be able to give our kids the opportunity to let the warm sand ooze through their toes. Until then, I'll hold onto images like this one to keep the fires burning inside.
About this picture: I took this at the end of a great day at Grand Bend. As we began to pack everything up, I noticed our little guy's shades just sitting on the sand. I liked what I saw, so out came the camera.
Your turn: I hope you'll share a brief story in a comment about what brings you warmth. This time of year seems to be about keeping warm - in body and thoughts - and I'd love to see what y'all do to keep the cold - literal and figurative - at bay.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Young person's honesty
When he was done, he dutifully trooped over to the sink and I helped him stretch his little hands into the sink to wash his hands. It was tough for him, but he told me how much he likes washing his hands, and he always has to wash when he's done.
I thought he was ignoring the regular parade of men who were using the facilities, then nonchalantly walking out the door. As he proudly announced that his hands were all clean and rinsed, he turned to me and asked, loudly, how come that man wasn't washing his hands.
He: "Didn't he make a pee, too? He must have forgotten to wash his hands. Should I tell him?"Smart kid. It's amazing how so-called knowledgable adults could learn the basics from a five-year-old.
Me (quietly): "I'm sure he forgot...but we never forget, do we?"
He (still loudly): "We always wash our hands. Then we don't get sick."
Your turn: How do you respond when you see someone not washing in a public washroom? Does it disgust you as much as it disgusts me?
Friday, November 18, 2005
Ivy - dead and alive
Whenever I visit a new place, I always try to walk around a neighborhood or two if I can spare the time. I cart along my camera as well so that I can bring back images to illustrate what I was feeling as I drifted through the alien landscape.
On my recent trip to Boston (click here, here, here and here if you haven't seen the original entries) I was lucky enough to have had an hour or so to stroll and shoot. In the middle of a fast-paced business trip amidst a period of intense workload, it was an idyllic way to unwind and let my mind roam. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
I took these two images a minute apart as I walked through the Back Bay area. They are mere meters away from each other on the wall of a beautiful old apartment building. But they couldn't be more diametrically opposed in the stories they tell.
As an aside, I've always wanted to shoot pictures of ivy, but for some strange reason never managed to get around to it until that day (October 19, at 2:36 and 2:37, respectively). The plant's abilty to cling to a hard, foreign surface and survive through whatever nature can throw at it has always struck a poetic chord with me.
Strikingly, even when it loses its battle, it remains a compelling image.
Your turn: Two parts...
- Which one of these images is your favorite, and why?
- Please walk through a neighborhood - your own or a new one - with a camera and post an image to your blog. Feel free to share in words what you were thinking as you took the shot. Post the link here so we can all see the uniqueness of your vision.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Little man's nightmare
Last night was no different. We were in the living room. My wife was reading and I was rearranging words on my laptop. As the clock struck our almost-bedtime, we heard stirring from upstairs. As we have done countless times since we became parents, we looked at each other and wondered who it was, and why.
Little feet pattered their way down the stairs. It was our youngest, clutching his blanket, and he didn't look happy. He wasn't crying, but his face was pained.
He: "I can't sleep. I had a bad nightmare and it woke me up."
The last words weren't out of his mouth before he buried himself in my wife's arms.
We: "What did you dream about?"
He: "I dreamed that I died."
After my wife and I recovered from the kick in the abdomen that hearing something like this from a five-year-old can deliver, we scrambled to say the right thing to him.
Although we don't actively encourage them to sleep in our bed - not even the world's best sleeper would be able to handle it next to little people who flip themselves over almost constantly and steal the blankets - we felt an exception was in order this time.
So we trooped upstairs and tucked him in between us. Many hugs, kisses and calming words were shared. He drifted off to sleep in minutes and woke up the next morning with his usual cheery face.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I've been busy lately. Calls aren't returned. Voicemails remain in an eternal blinking red-light state. E-mails stay in my inbox until they are buried by the never-ending torrent of new messages. Even my wife often has to IM me from across the room.
Often, when fighting a deadline or otherwise juggling more things than I should, I tend to let the blizzard of papers get the better of my desk. Strangely, it doesn't slow me down any. I seem to thrive on the chaos that is my environment. It stresses me to that just-optimal point where I am most creative. Any more and I'd freeze up; any less and I'd be so relaxed that I'd spend too much time making the perfect mug of tea.
So this is a desk's-eye view of where I work. One the surface, it's pretty routine stuff: two-21-inch monitors, a keyboard (Microsoft...sorry), a set of headphones for the requisite drown-out-the-world soundtrack, enough paper to start my own recycling plant, and pictures of the people who inspire me. But it's homey, and I can't imagine it being any other way.
(BTW, those are indeed my hands. Madge - of dish-pan hands/Palmolive fame - would not be impressed. Typing is murder on my skin.)
Your turn: What does your immediate workplace look like? Is chaos the answer for you as well?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Quoted - twosies
InformationWeek is running a piece entitled Fixing Your Network's Five Worst Bottlenecks. This piece, written by Matthew Friedman, reflects my contention that most network administrators need to spend more time doing their homework.
The Globe and Mail is running another in a series on Research In Motion's BlackBerry mobile device: RIM's U.S. customers needn't fret, analysts contend: BlackBerry service shutdown unlikely over patent fight. Simon Avery, the paper's technology reporter, penned the piece, which was published in today's paper on page B6. Here's my bit:
Mr. (Jim) Balsillie (chairman and co-chief executive officer of RIM) has said the company has tested a "workaround" system that would deliver BlackBerry service but operate on technology independent of the patents NTP holds.
Some analysts dismiss his claim as a temporary public relations effort meant to ease concerns.
It would involve nothing less than the "complete overhaul of the hardware and software that supports the BlackBerry messaging service," said Carmi Levy, a senior analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont. "It's analogous to rebuilding an airplane while it's still in flight."
Monday, November 14, 2005
Live free or die? Not quite
Entitled N.H. Puts a Price on Panoramas, the article describes how assessors in the state made famous for banishing income taxes are now placing monetary values on the views from certain homes. These so-called bonus features are then used as the basis for increases in property tax assessments.
I have no quarrel with the basic concept of taxes. As I've repeated so often before, it's the price we pay for the standard of living we currently enjoy. I take issue, however, with blatant grabs for cash that violate every ethical contract between ratepayers and their democratically elected governments.
I know these things matter little to the porcine politicos we put into office and their civil servant cousins who collectively feed at the publicly-funded trough. But their indifference does little to reduce unfair taxation's impact on the rest of us.
Selfishly and somewhat sheepishly, I do admit I'm almost sorry that municipal governments closer to home haven't tried anything similar. I'd happily devote a column or two to this if it was ever floated for our part of the world.
Your turn: Now that they're taxing the view, I guess it's open season on all of us. What will they decide to tax next? Will this cat-and-mouse game ever really end?
Technorati tag: writteninc
Update: The Washington Post has picked up this link on its "Who's Blogging?" page. Click here to see who else is blogging about this story.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
With the return of cooler weather, I once again find myself wearing a trench coat during the day. This supports my somewhat odd habit of taking surreptitious pictures of things I come across in stores, because it makes it relatively easy to carry my little digicam in a deep coat pocket without being caught by the grocery store police.
Your turn: I never thought I'd see the day, but I believe I'm starting to run out of things to photograph in supermarkets. Do you have any suggestions regarding other retail environments which might offer interesting photographic fodder? Do tell...
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The sky has fallen
More on the movie itself later. I need to vent on a little public etiquette issue that seems to come up every time I choose to view a film in a theatre. Here are the key bullet points:
- Father brings young son - I'd guess around three years-old - to see the movie.
- As is our usual luck, he sits close to us.
- Midway through the film, there is a sorta scary scene. OK, it's not really scary. But everything is relative. To a little guy, it probably seemed more traumatic than it did to me.
- Little guy starts to cry. Dad attempts to calm him down by speaking in quiet tones.
- Dad's attempts fail. Cries turn to wails, which quickly de-evolve into outright screaming.
- Dad gives up. Screaming continues.
- I turn around and see him shushing the munchkin while he tries to watch a pivotal scene. He seems somewhat perturbed that the child is affecting his ability to enjoy the movie.
- I stare at him until he notices. My lack of smile must translate well, for he sheepishly scoops up the teary child and heads for the exit.
- He remains beside the exit. Screaming child now bothers a whole new set of moviegoers.
The same thing happened during the last film we attended in a theatre. Mom didn't want to miss the movie, so crying baby (aged under a year...don't get me started) had to wait - and wail - for at least 20 minutes while Mom enjoyed herself and the rest of the attendees fumed.
OK, now, about the movie itself...
Chicken Little represents Disney's first post-Pixar computer-animated film. Off the top, it's no Toy Story. But with some solid voice work by Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) and Garry Marshall (Happy Days, The Princess Diaries), along with a well-written script that scoots along at a pace that keeps kids engaged, it's a lovely way for families to spend a couple of hours on a weekend. The kids enjoyed it, and we even found ourselves laughing in parts.
Although it's not as adept as a pure Pixar product at playing to the adult audience with deeper meanings and messages, there are enough of them here and there to keep Mom and Dad from snoozing. The musical references alone were worth the price of admission.
But if I had to do it again, I'd wait for the DVD and watch it at home. Fewer interruptions..
Your turn: Is there room in modern society for manners in public places, or have they been lost to the ages? How do you handle something like this?
Quick admin note: commenting, updated
Effective immediately, I've made a couple of tiny changes to how comments are managed on this blog:
- I've activated comment moderation. When you click on the Publish button, your comment will go into a queue for review. Queued comments will appear on the blog after I've had a chance to review and publish them. I'll try to do this a few times/day so as to minimize delays.
- Anyone can comment. I used to limit commenters to registered users of the Blogger service. This kept anonymous nasties at bay, but made it difficult-to-impossible for users of other services - or, gasp, readers who don't blog at all - to leave their thoughts. With moderation, this issue goes away, so the doors are now open to anyone.
Friday, November 11, 2005
A tough day for a growing boy
So we were rather surprised when he came home from school this week brimming with news: he had decided to run for student council.
A year ago, he wouldn't have stepped forward. Even six months ago, he would have been content to remain on the sidelines. But not now. He came through the door rattling off ideas for boosting school spirit, and making his school a better place for students and teachers.
On a purely logical level, it was nothing I hadn't heard time and again during my own journey through elementary school. But now it was my son saying it. And the fact that he had never previously had the guts to step forward made this seem - at least to me - a defining moment in his life.
He sat beside my wife at the computer as she patiently helped him craft his speech. I chimed in with the occasional editorial suggestion to punch it up, but the ideas were all his. My wife made a couple of posters for him. After what seemed like an extended period of brainstorming and creative activity, his campaign package was ready.
We discussed best practices for delivering his speech, and coached him through a couple of dry runs. He had given a brief talk a couple of weeks ago in front of 350 people at the community centre, and I think it was that experience that may have lit the public speaking fire in him. We were immensely proud of him then, and we were immensely proud of him as he carefully packed up his stuff and left it in the front hall before heading up to bed.
Fast forward to today: the tears as he got home told all the story we needed to know. He wasn't elected. In a halting, hauntingly sad voice, he recounted how another child who hadn't prepared a speech or a poster was allowed to run. His teacher had earlier laid out the ground rules, one of which was the need for at least one poster and a speech. When Zach challenged the teacher after the fact, all he got was a set of shrugged shoulders.
Part of me wanted to undo the obviously unfair way it all played out. Another part of me wanted to go over to said teacher's house and share my unfiltered thoughts with him. Zach had done everything by the book, even taking the time to support other friends who were running for council. That's just the way he is; good to the core, always thinking about his friends before considering his own needs.
That the outcome wasn't fair was a given. That it was facilitated by a trusted teacher was - and is - in my view unforgivable. But it was what it was, and my wife and I couldn't change the outcome no matter how much we wished we could.
Pizza was hastily ordered as a form of pseudo-comfort food for a sad young man. I took him with me when we went to pick it up. The crying had stopped, but his voice seemed oddly fragile, as if he had gotten younger in the intervening hours. In the darkened car, I repeated, endlessly, how proud we were of him, how glad we were that he stepped forward, stuck his neck out, took a chance. We spoke about how some of the world's most spectacular successes were preceded by even more spectacular failures. We spoke about some of my own failures, and how I applied what I had learned from each one to whatever I did in future.
In the end, he enjoyed his pizza, and we tucked him in with still another reinforcing story and extra hugs for good measure.
Today, we watched our son get bruised by life. It won't be his last experience, and in that he's becoming just like anyone else on this planet. But he's our son, and it felt oddly unsettling to not be able to step in and just make it right.
He grew today, and we couldn't be more proud of him.
Note: Although I haven't identified any of the protagonists by name, I'm fully aware that anyone can read this and make the connection. That's one of the pitfalls of using my real name on my blog. If said folks surf on in and feel uncomfortable after reading this, so be it. I write for a living. My words get out there. And if it bothers the people about whom I (anonymously) write that their behavior came under the scrutiny of my pen, they're eminently free to comment here or start their own web log. I refuse to self-censor out of fear of offending those whose own conduct falls short of the bar we teach our own kids to target.
Your turn: If you're a parent, how do you cushion them on days like today?
Fireside chats: modern versions
For some reason, the past couple of weeks have been insanely busy at work. I spent most of my time talking to reporters and prepping for interviews with some pretty wide-ranging newspapers, radio stations and web publishers. I guess sometimes the stuff I write seems to coincide with what's going on in the broader technology world. So reporters, looking for folks to help make sense of it all, tend to call in bunches.
The net result is that I burned myself out thanks to lack of sleep and find myself home, trying to sleep off what feels like a major fatigue-induced hangover (sorry, don't do the alcohol thing.)
The cool thing about this week's pickups is that two of them were on the radio. My first job during j-school and immediately after graduation was working at a radio station. I produced content for the news and public affairs program, including on-air interviews and in-studio, full-show packages. It was an amazing learning experience that I carry with me to this day.
So being on the other side of the microphone after a few years has been a bit of a challenge. But I'm enjoying the process and hope to do more of it in the months to come. If you've ever wanted to hear me yak about technology, now's your chance. Feel free to laugh at my geekitude, and stay tuned for more...
Each package is available as a downloadable MP3 (CFRA) or WMA (RCI):
- CFRA News Talk Radio* - Business at Night with Rob Snow. Topic: The Microsoft Memo.
- Radio Canada International (RCI)** - Business Sense with David Blair. Topic: RIM's BlackBerry in China.
**RCI is the international broadcasting service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), our national broadcaster. The show is aired worldwide, which means I may have helped jumpstart BlackBerry adoption in Tuvalu. Frightening.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Nemo has been found
This little swimmer is named Nemo. I found him on a friend's kitchen counter, minding his own business and looking for his (her? One can never tell with fish) dinner.
I took the picture by setting the camera on the counter and using the self-timer. It took a few takes until the golden one cooperated and hit his (her?) mark.
Such is life in the fishbowl.
Your turn: Please share a pet story in a comment. Something's been missing from our home since we put our cat down. I still look for him when we come home. I find pictures and stories like this somewhat comforting, and hope you'll add your own experiences below.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Quoted - BlackBerries in China
I've been quoted in today's Globe & Mail. The piece is entitled RIM runs into China security syndrome, and in it I find myself quoted opposite Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty.
I've never met the man, but I understand he's quite the badminton player.
The piece is posted here, and is co-bylined by Simon Avery - the Globe's technology reporter - and Geoffrey York - who is tagging along on the premier's junket to the Far East.
In other news, The Chicago Daily Herald ran a piece yesterday on new Motorola Razr phones - pretty colors for Christmas. Anna Marie Kukec wrote the piece, entitled Motorola banks on pink, blue, and it can be found here.
I'm enjoying this immensely.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I can offer no tangible reason for uploading this beyond the fact that I like it. The banana has always been my favorite fruit: Self-contained, healthy, and so open to all sorts of interpretation at parties. Yes indeed, we have some bananas (sing that one a few times...it'll start making sense eventually.)
Between editorial deadlines, travel, and a relentless schedule this week, I guess I'm looking for things that bring me smiles, however briefly the fun may last. Kindly keep the banana sex jokes (now that ought to get the search engine spiders spinning) to a minimum.
Your turn: What are you eating now? What should you be eating instead?
Monday, November 07, 2005
I had almost forgotten what it's like to drive in rush hour traffic. It's been almost nine years since we left Montreal, and in that time I've come to enjoy London's total lack of serious congestion. I forget what it's like to have to stay late at the office in a ridiculous attempt to avoid getting caught in the worst of it.
I was reminded of this as I got closer to Toronto's downtown and the zillions of cars swirled around me like angry bees in a hive. I was reminded again when a really big pickup driven by a really aggressive person cut me off and forced me to miss my exit. Technically, I could have made the exit. But that would have put the entire passenger side of the car at severe risk. I have plenty of insurance, but little desire to actually have to use it.
In the end, I made it to the event with plenty of time to spare. I met some incredible people, learned lots in the process, and even got called for an interview on the drive home. Yes, Mom, I pulled off the highway and did the chat thing from the gravel shoulder of a side road somewhere in the middle of farm country. Red Herring published the piece, Microsoft Updates Biz Products, later this evening.
As refreshingly different as this day outside the office was, my favorite part was pulling into our driveway at the end of the day and coming into the house. The rhythm of our family sounded especially welcoming as I put my stuff down and heard about everyone's day. When I spend any time away from home, I miss that homey sense every minute until my return.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Catching up - Ink Blog entries
Wherever you're visiting from, I hope you'll read all of them and share your thoughts on this week's topics. If I've provoked thought and discussion, then I will have done my job.
Happy reading - and happy commenting!
Tue Nov 01 – Iranian presidential hatred
Wed Nov 02 – Can’t take the bus
Thu Nov 03 – Why I despise our ex-leader
Fri Nov 04 – Illiteracy is our national disgrace
Sat Nov 05 – Development slowdown is boneheaded
Read this - Dena's blog
Please drop in, say hi from Carmi, and let her know we have her and her family in our thoughts and prayers. As she has recently received some scary news, she has asked us all to share happies, funnies, and other uplifting observations of life with her.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Your turn: I hope you'll take a couple of minutes to share one of the following (or both):
- Three words that this quote makes you think of.
- Another inspirational quotation that you've come across and would like to share here.
Publish Day - Ink Blog - Don't stop development
This time out, I took the city to task for failing to hold up its end of the bargain. When they suggested that the city should slow down development because we could no longer afford the steep cost of initial infrastructure investment, I saw various shades of red.
If you can’t compete, get out so that someone else can come in and try. I wrote this in the hope that some of the folks who work in planning at city hall might read it and get this hint.
Development vital to continued growth
Published Saturday, November 5, 2005
Free Press London
The City of
’s call to slow down development is, to put it charitably, boneheaded. London Londonlags behind powerhouses like Kitchenerand in attracting new, forward-thinking businesses and the high-income residents who work for them. Cambridge
The city’s argument that it can’t afford to lay out the cash for initial development is a cop-out, an admission that
’s planners aren’t up to the job. London
It’s even more galling as homeowners face another year of tax hikes that outstrip the inflation rate. If development comes to a screeching halt, we’ll all pay more.
might want to consider a new approach to planning and partnering with developers. Instead of focusing on huge tracts of land at the city’s edge, why not urge developers to build infill projects toward the city’s core? London
And since developers profit from civic investment in infrastructure, could they not assume a greater share of the initial investment?
The same old ways of managing development no longer work. City planners must figure out new ways to keep-30-
from losing its competitive edge – without bankrupting the people who live here. London
Friday, November 04, 2005
Publish Day - Ink Blog - The shame of illiteracy
When I heard earlier this week that he has fought a lifelong battle to keep his illiteracy a secret, I immediately thought back to the woman my wife and I once interviewed to be our babysitter.
She arrived at our home with her daughter, and we were ready to hire her after she made an immediate connection with our then-baby son. When we asked her to write down her contact information, her daughter pulled out her pen and told her mother to take a rest.
We were immediately worried that she would be unable to safely care for our son. After all, would she be able to give our address to the 911 operator in the event of an emergency?
I was ashamed that we ultimately said no to a woman who was otherwise a loving caregiver. But in the end, we felt our son’s welfare had to come first.
Demers showed incredible courage coming forward, and he deserves our praise and assistance.
Your turn: I originally sketched the piece above as the basis for my column in Friday’s paper. I ultimately changed the focus and went with the text below. I invite your thoughts on both.
Illiteracy remains a national disgrace
Published Friday, November 4, 2005
Free Press London
How sad that former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has lived his entire life trying to keep his illiteracy a secret. How tragic for us that he is just one person in a national – and silent – epidemic.
World Literacy of Canada statistics indicate 22 per cent of Canadians have serious problems understanding printed materials.
This stunning figure comes with a steep cost to society: Those who can’t read and write will fail far more often in the job market. Canadians with the highest literacy levels have a four-per-cent unemployment rate, compared to a rate of 26 per cent for Canadians with the lowest literacy skills.
Our national shame lies in our inability and unwillingness to get help to those who need it – and to do so in a dignified manner. Perhaps Demers was right to keep his disability a secret. Surely no hockey team would have employed him if the truth came out.
But illiteracy should not be grounds for dismissal. We shame ourselves by perpetuating our silence and indifference.-30-
An unplanned evening
So I scooped the boys up, picked up our daughter from a play date, and did what any self-respecting Dad does when his wife needs a few quiet hours to herself: I took them to McDonald's.
I know, I'm a heathen on so many levels. But it made them happy, and I got to just sit and watch them be themselves.
When they were done eating, we went to the Play Place (Rule #1: the only fast food restaurants worth patronizing are the ones with attached play areas. Rule #2: see Rule #1.) I let them run themselves ragged while I sat on the bench inside and observed the chaos. They seemed to bounce from one spot to another, which I expected. What I didn't expect was how much they enjoyed being with each other.
Time out: we have three very bright, engaged, and intensively aware children. They can either fight like cats and dogs or be the most poignantly important people in their siblings' lives. And they can change from one state to another in mere seconds. End of time out.
Tonight, thankfully, they realized Mommy wasn't feeling well, and as a result they stepped up to the plate. Big sister Dahlia looked out for little guy Noah and shepherded him down the slide like a little doll, careful to make sure he didn't get hurt. Big brother Zach watched out for both of them and kept me updated on where they were within the giant 3-dimensional maze of plastic tubing.
When we were done, they all dutifully put their shoes on, grabbed each other's hands and headed out. We went to the Loblaws across the street to pick up some groceries. In the store, each of them helped out. Zachary fetched items from the list and brought them back. Dahlia counted prices (she's going through a serious numbers phase these days) and got bags for the fruit. Noah held my PalmPilot from his perch in the cart.
As we were walking down the frozen foods section, heading to the checkout aisle, Dahlia put her arm around her big brother's shoulder - pretty amazing given how small she is, and the fact that she never does this. Even more amazingly, he returned the favor. They walked arm-in-arm all the way to the checkout counter before turning back to help me unload the cart.
I'm not sure what these kids did with my real children, but it was a joy to watch this unfold in front of me.
I keep reminding myself that it's these little slices of time that our children will remember most.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Every window has a story
I took this on my walkabout during my recent trip to Boston. The street was a chaotic mix of construction and traffic, and pedestrians were ducking in between the chewed up chunks of the road, trying to avoid being flattened in the process.
As I waited for what seemed like a very long light to cross the street, I turned around and saw this unchanging surface of a massive office building. It didn't so much jump out at me as it simply loomed in the background. I first dismissed it as yet another endlessly-repetitive theme of the urban landscape, and one not worthy of capturing because it didn't scream Boston.
Then I looked more closely into the windows. Behind the variously-drawn window shades, I started to imagine that each one was connected to a person, a life, a story.
Suddenly, the picture didn't seem so unworthy after all. I raised my camera and committed that moment not only to its memory card, but to my memory as well.
Please note: A few other related posts from this trip can be found here, here and here.
Publish Day - Ink Blog - Go away, Jean
But there’s something about former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien that transcends the usual foibles of the politico. He’s a veritable animal of political life who typifies all the personality traits that would prompt the rest of us to stay out of public service. He is one of the most successful political operators in Canadian history precisely because he stopped at nothing to pursue and keep public office.
The Gomery inquiry rightly fingered him and his henchmen for creating an environment in which the public purse was effectively looted for years. He has claimed he didn’t know what was going on – which says he is either wonderfully gifted in the art of bovine waste, or he is the most clueless leader in our history.
Either way, he’s retired now. And his attempts to clear his name – at our expense – this week didn’t sit right with me. So I wrote this:
Note to Chretien: Just go quietly
Published Thursday, November 3, 2005
Free Press London
Why must former Canadian Prime Ministers have such thin skin?
When Brian Mulroney’s reputation was called into question following the Airbus scandal, he came out swinging. Now, Jean Chretien walks in his combative footsteps as he challenges the Gomery inquiry’s conclusions.
The federal Liberal party will go down in history as living larger than any other after it came to power. The Grits will also be remembered as the ones whose minions most regularly pigged out at the taxpayer trough. And it all happened on Chretien’s watch.
I’m not alone in wishing Mr. Chretien would simply take his lumps and ride off into the sunset. By bringing his complaint to Federal Court, he raises the cost of a case that has already sucked Canadian taxpayers dry.
In the end, Canadians really don’t care about the so-called Chretien legacy. They just want a government that’s looking out for their best interests.
Please, go back to your political retirement, Jean.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Quoted - Microsoft goes Live
I've been actively researching this because, well, that's what I do during regular business hours. We released a press release, Microsoft announcement signals end of the Shrink Wrapped, Software-in-a-box Era, late yesterday afternoon (it's posted to the wire service here, and Yahoo! Finance is running it here.) It's been a zoo ever since. Allow me to clarify: a happy, busy zoo.
Here's where we're being heard:
United Press International (UPI): Microsoft looks to Internet for growth
Major wire service. I get quoted opposite messaging legend and current Microsoft Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie Very neat! Byline is T.K. Maloy, UPI's Deputy Business Editor, based in Washington, D.C.
The Middle East North Africa Network is also running the story here.
Physorg.com is running the piece here. The site's slogan is Science, Technology, Physics, Space News.
IT World Canada: Microsoft goes Live with new Web-based offerings
This is Canada's major technology publication, and is part of the global IT World family. They're always great to talk to. Byline is Mari-Len De Guzman.
The Globe & Mail: Microsoft goes live with on-line software service
This is one of Canada's largest newspapers. Jack Kapica quoted me opposite Bill Gates in his column.
Agence France-Presse. Microsoft makes fresh move to Web, challenging Google, Yahoo
The French news agency. Like UPI, its articles are picked up by newspapers in some interestingly far-flung places. Byline is Matthieu Demeestere, who is based in New York.
The link above is from the Cairo, Egypt-based Middle East Times.
This one is from Singapore's TODAYOnline.
This one's from AOL's French service (headline: Microsoft se lance dans les services virtuels, pressé par Google et Yahoo!)
This one's from Belgium's Lalibre.be site.
This one's in Tageblatt in Luxembourg.
This one's from the Financial Express in Bangladesh.
Other miscellaneous links include:
The Daily Telegraph in Australia: Microsoft challenges Google, Yahoo.
There's more on the way. I'll update this entry as more links come in.
Publish Day - Ink Blog - Can't take the bus
But I realize public transit is critical to keeping today’s cities balanced and sustainable. We’ll all choke if we exclusively drive cars to get around.
So when I found out just how many areas of
(Click the thumbnail image to the right bring up a high-res version).
Your turn: Do you use mass transit? If so, why? If not, why not?
Commuters falling in bus service gaps
Published Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Free Press London
For a city that has registered a 43-per-cent increase in transit use since 1997, it’s disheartening that so many of its communities still lack bus service.
Lambeth is only one of at least eight areas whose residents can’t take the bus. It is unconscionable that a city of this size has so many gaps in service.
While various levels of government argue over who’s responsible for transit funding, many
children grow up never having ridden the bus. If they hit adulthood before transit reaches their neighbourhood, it’s easy to conclude they’ll never get into the bus habit. London
Although London Transit ran a test service in Lambeth in 1999, it was available only during off-peak hours and was, as a result, useless to residents.
Transit will fail unless everyone gets involved. The LTC must run a real test service that includes morning and afternoon rush hours, and residents must learn to leave their cars at home.
And anyone still living in a busless neighbourhood needs to start knocking on the LTC’s door.
Quoted - Growing BlackBerries
I was interviewed for the Globe & Mail, and the piece, RIM launches powerful new BlackBerry, is in today's paper. Paul Waldie is the reporter. They have cross-posted it here as well (the paper often web-posts pieces like this to the Business and Technology sections.)
I'll post other pickups here:
940 NewsTalk Radio, Montreal: MP3 file to be posted after air.
Station home page is here.
There's more going on in my media world, and I'll post more here later this week.
Your turn: Is there a BlackBerry in your future? Why? Why not?
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Publish Day – Ink Blog – My Iranian buddy
Lovely. I guess he won’t be getting a New Year’s card from me this year.
Seriously, every time I think the world is slowly moving past depthless hatred for others, along comes an idiot like this – a head of state, no less – to remind us that we are as in danger today of meltdown as we were in 1933 when the Nazis came to power and began their murderous campaign.
The biggest danger we face is that of complacency.
Your turn: What are your thoughts on this?
Iranian hatred cause for concern
Published Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Free Press London
Igot a chill down to the base of my spine when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called
a Zionist blot that must be “wiped off the map.” Israel
When the leader of a nuclear-capable nation that actively supports terrorism viciously attacks the right of another nation to exist, we are all at risk. As a Jew, it frightens me to my very core. Ahmadinejad has called for the end not only of the country, but of the people who populate it. It’s anti-Semitism raised to its ugliest level since the close of the Second World War.
A quick reminder might help clarify who truly deserves to remain within the community of nations: when the Iranian city of
Bamwas decimated by an earthquake in 2003, was one of the first nations to volunteer its resources and expertise. Israel
refused, and instead asked all nations of the world, “except the Zionist regime,” for help. Iran
would likely offer to help again. Israel ’s racist leader might want to ponder this. Iran