Monday, July 31, 2006

Radio Free Carmi

Apologies to R.E.M. for bastardizing the title to their classic tune. I had no choice.

The media circus that is my life seems to have taken on a life of its own.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) just after the 2:00 p.m. ET newscast, I'm going to be on Toronto's CFRB 1010 radio station. I'm talking about work-life balance, and the fact that the proliferation of mobile technology has made it increasingly easy for employees to take work home with them - and for companies to take advantage of that fact.

We're sending a press release on this topic to the wires first thing in the morning, so I'm hopeful that we'll generate even more buzz for this important issue.

The Motts (more precisely the husband-wife team of Carol and Paul Mott) will be interviewing me, and you can listen to the live stream by clicking on CFRB's home page, then selecting the big red Listen Now button at the top of the page.

I hope you can tune in. And if you're somewhere in Canada and want to call in to add some fun to the proceedings, so much the better!

Update, Tues. 8:30 a.m. The press release is now online: Employees Feel Obligated to be Available 24/7, Says Survey from Info-Tech Research Group

Your turn: Do you feel obligated to take work home with you? How do you set limits when your professional life threatens to bleed into your personal one?

Little Man turns 6

As I tucked our little guy into bed last night, it occurred to me that this would be the last time I'd be tucking him in as a five-year-old. Six years ago today, we welcomed Noah Mayer Gideon Levy into the world.

As I quietly kissed his sleeping head and tried to commit the moment to memory, I couldn't get over how fast time he has grown. He was, it seems, just born. He has always been our baby. The fact that I was tucking in an almost-six-year-old represented a pretty significant disconnect in my mind.

To mark this momentous event in a little guy's life, we filled our home with family and friends, then took him to The Little Gym nearby, where he and his friends ran around for a while before filling themselves up with cake and other complex sugars.

He wore that smile you see in this photo for pretty much the entire day. He's already a cuddly boy, regularly walking up to Mom and Dad for an impromptu hug or kiss. He'll whisper "I love you, Mom/Dad" with that sweet little boy's voice just before he throws his arms around whatever part of our body is closest.

As the baby of the family, his milestones are particularly tough on me and my wife (see my post from his fifth birthday.) We realize that we'll never have a five-year-old again. Last week, he protested for the first time in his life that he's not a baby. He's right. But still, a little part of us feels a tiny tug inside as we wish he'd slow down his headlong rush to catch up with his older brother and sister. Not forever, of course. Just long enough for us to enjoy and appreciate our youngest son for a little bit longer.

But time, as I've noted before in this space, moves in only one direction, and at only one velocity. We can't change this basic fact. We can only make the most of the journey.

I hope his party, surrounded by everyone who loves him, was a fun and memorable point along his charmed journey. I hope today, when he wakes up to a house decorated from top to bottom with balloons and signs by his Mom, that he continues to appreciate just how much he is treasured by everyone who knows him. May he enjoy countless more milestones as he grows into the person he is destined to be.

Happy birthday, little man.

Your turn: How do you uniquely mark a child's birthday?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A face in the clouds

I'm an inveterate cloudwatcher. Because my ride home is essentially westbound, I get the most dramatic views of the clouds. I am, of course, trying to avoid being pancaked by passing cars, so I can't stare at them too much. But because of where we live - lotsa thunderstorms rolling in off of Lake Huron - the spectacle of backlit clouds is often difficult to ignore.

Even when thunderstorms aren't threatening, the occasional image floats by and prompts me to wonder whether or not I've actually just seen something in those sorta-connected droplets of water. Thankfully, this time out, I had my camera with me.

Your turn: Do you see something in this image? If so, what?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cat's in the stable

On our journey to visit the horses (see this earlier post for background on Noah's interesting day at the stables) we came across this sweet little fellow. He lay quietly in the hay for the entire time that the birthday party kids were there. Only on the way out did we notice him in his solitary spot.

He didn't move a muscle. He simply looked at us until we quietly headed out for cake and swimming. Something tells me if I went back to the stables today, he'd still be in the same place in the hay, safely tucked away from whatever nasty things the world would otherwise do to a cat.

Your turn: Where's your pile of hay?

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Israel's perspective

As a Canadian Jew, it pains me to see Israel vilified in the media for its response to the latest round of attacks by Hezbollah terrorists. The same old uninformed perspectives - that Israel is a big bully, that its response has been out of proportion, that this is a simple bilateral disagrement - are trotted out. And we're supposed to sit idly back and let the wave wash over us.

Well, as a journalist, this kind of thing bugs me. Supposedly informed journalists routinely rant on the same old anti-Israel sentiment without taking the time to research the history of Hezbollah, and all the other state and stateless actors in the region who have repeatedly vowed to destroy the country and its people ("...into the sea is the common refrain, but I digress.)

That these folks had no personal stake in the region, had never been there, had never studied it, were simply responding to minute slices of coverage and using it as an opportunity to fill some space and provoke a reaction, bugged me even more.

So I published this piece in today's paper. I was initially concerned that it was too strong for the intended audience. Even publishing it here was worrisome. What would I do if visitors to my blog vehemently disagreed with me?

As you can tell, I got over my misgivings. This had to be said. And I'll say it again if necessary. Let the chips fall where they may.

Quick aside: I published this piece a couple of weeks back.
Sure, just sit back and blame Israel
Published Saturday, July 29, 2006
The London Free Press
By Carmi Levy

It’s easy to sit in an armchair in Canada and judge Israel’s response to a terror campaign that began long before the state was even founded.

It’s easy to say Israel has overreacted when you haven’t been singled out for elimination. It’s easy to blame Israel for causing the misery in Lebanon when you choose to ignore the context of its existence.

The facts are quite simple: Hezbollah, like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others, has vowed to destroy Israel and its Jewish citizens. It has engaged in a sustained cross-border terror campaign since its 1982 inception. Regular rocket barrages against northern Israeli towns have been punctuated by murderous cross-border incursions.

It has set up camp in the middle of heavily populated areas, knowing full well the consequences in the event of a counterattack.

While you sit in your safe, comfy armchair, the Jewish state fights for its very life against a shadowy enemy that has no interest in negotiation or compromise.

You’d be forgiven for having no concept if you haven’t spent your entire life living under this never-ending threat.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - City silliness

Our city plays host to a range of organizations whose major raison d'etre is to foster improved relationships between civic leadership and business. So imagine my surprise when one of the major employers in town announces a big shutdown, and the Chamber of Commerce says it was surprised.

Kinda makes you wonder why these entities exist in the first place, doesn't it?
TD-Canada Trust move no surprise
Published Friday, July 28, 2006
The London Free Press

News that TD-Canada Trust is closing its two regional support centres in London and carting 300 jobs to Mississauga and Montreal should not have come as a surprise to the London Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber’s general manager, Gerry McCartney, said he was surprised by the decision. He shouldn’t have been.

Gone are the days when a few large employers dominate the London economy. Industry-dominant players like TD-Canada Trust operate in a much larger economic playground than our city. They face global pressures to maximize profits and drive share values higher.

If they can realize additional bottom-line gain by combining large numbers of inefficient operations into a few more centralized ones, they will. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It is a foregone conclusion that the few remaining large-scale employers in London are also evaluating their operations on a regular basis. The city would do well to proactively work with them to identify efficiencies closer to home.

Perhaps then they won’t be surprised when the moving vans pull in.

Your turn: Do you have any silly-city-leadership stories to share?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Blogging at work

I know this is obvious to anyone who regularly reads or maintains a blog: Whether or not they choose to remain anonymous, bloggers always run the risk of compromising their careers - or, at worst, getting fired - because of what they may write online.

Increasingly, employers are paying attention to what employees publish on their free time. If they feel that the supposedly personal comments of an employee are painting the company in a negative light, they're only too happy to take immediate action.

I thought it would be cool to cross over, so to speak, by writing about the world of blogging in my newspaper column.
Fingers burned at a mouse click
Published Thursday, July 27, 2006
The London Free Press

Every few months, the blogosphere – the virtual, online world of blogs and bloggers – kicks out a story about a blogger who made the mistake of writing about work and ended up getting fired.

The latest celebrity victim is Catherine Sanderson. Publishing anonymously on her blog, La Petite Anglaise, the British secretary took online potshots at her Paris accounting firm bosses. She never named names, but when her employers made the connection, they sent her packing.

She’s doing the usual things a fired blogger does: suing her ex-employer and making noise about a book deal. Don’t lose sleep over her future prospects.

This incident illustrates the discomfort most businesses have with employee bloggers who can easily air the company’s dirty laundry with a click of a mouse. Most firms simply fire them when there’s trouble.

This gives me pause, because I work full-time and maintain a blog. I carefully measure every word before publishing to avoid compromising my career.

Then again, global publicity and a book deal sound like a fun combination. Hmm…

Your turn: Do you blog at and/or about work? Do you feel this puts your career at risk? Why/why not?

Going macro...

Macro photography intrigues me because you're never quite sure what you're looking at. Sure, you might have an idea, a notion, a general sense of the subject. But macro pictures often exclude just enough context to make the viewing a bit maddening for anyone who wasn't there when the picture was shot.

Come to think of it, the pictures are maddening to those who were around when the picture was shot. My wife can rhyme off countless times when everyone in the house had to remain absolutely still while I kept the shutter open for a ridiculously long exposure. Which is why I often do my shooting early in the morning. Or I use subjects that don't much mind the time and fuss needed to set up a given shot.

Your turn: I'm pretty sure this one's obvious. So I won't ask you to identify it (you can if you want to, of course.) Instead, how does this image make you feel? The art of photography is ultimately about feelings, so I'm curious as to whether this image evokes any in you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The CTV Video - Carmi on Canada AM

I did a live interview with CTV's Canada AM last week (read about it here and here.) It came in the wake of an interview with the CBC (click here to see it), and capped a week of pretty exciting national television exposure.

The interviewer/host was Brigitte Anderson. I've uploaded the CTV segment via Google Video. Here it is:

Your turn: So should I chuck it all and go into television?

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Centres of the community

My column in today's London Free Press deals with an issue near and dear to me: community centres. Two recent cases in two nearby communities have illustrated how important they are to the life of the community, and how contentious they can be when folks don't want to pay for them.
Community centres vital
Published Wednesday, July 26, 2006
The London Free Press

I practically grew up in a community centre. I learned to swim, attended day camp and had my first sleepover at the facility near my parents’ old house. Later on, it’s where I got my first job as a lifeguard and met the woman I eventually married.

City council’s approval this week of a $3.4 million upgrade to the North London Optimist Community Centre reinforces how important these facilities are to the communities they serve. They’re incubators for the kinds of activities that kids, teens, adults and seniors need.

In St. Marys, a controversy over that community’s $14 million recreation centre threatens to derail the entire project. One-sixth of the town’s 6,000 residents have already signed a petition against it. The issue: money. Opponents say the cost is excessive for such a small town.

The value of such centres is overwhelming. But at some point, the cost can be, too. Beyond the never-ending debate over dollars, the fact remains that wherever they live, all children deserve the same advantages I had.

Your turn: Do you have a community/rec centre story to share? Have such places played an important role in your life?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Tour de France lesson

Folks who know me know that cycling is an important part of my everyday life. I pedal to work, and pretty much everywhere else that I can. I resort to the car only when I have to, and even then I'm not happy about it.

What most folks don't know about me is that when I was a child, I had problems with my hips. They were developing wrong, and in the process were cutting off circulation to my legs. When I was 4 years-old, the docs diagnosed something called Legg Perthes, or more completely, Legg-Calve'-Perthes Disease (click here for more background.) I spent two years in a rather large two-legged cast, which was followed by ongoing physiotherapy.

In many respects, the cycling and other distance sports were my way of saying that I was fine. Indeed, better than fine. To this day, thankfully, I am. And I take nothing for granted, because you simply never know.

So when I started reading about American cyclist Floyd Landis's pursuit of the Tour de France, I was intrigued. Here was a guy who suffered from osteonecrosis - the same thing I had, only his resulted from a crash in 2002 - and his hip was quite literally decaying. His attitude struck me as inspirational. And I knew that, win or lose, I needed to write about him when I next picked up my pen.

He won the Tour de France on Sunday. My column in today's paper pays tribute to the kind of singular devotion that, if leveraged on a larger scale, might help make our world a better place. Here it is...
Deriving strength from affliction
Published Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The London Free Press

It's easy to be inspired by greatness. It's just as easy to miss it when it comes in a humble package.

Such is the case with Floyd Landis, who on Sunday became the third American in history to win cycling's greatest race, the Tour de France.

Landis's win is more remarkable because his right hip will be replaced later this year. After a 2002 crash, the joint began to decay and die. He is in almost constant pain, and can't cross his legs. Yet he views the pain as a motivator to drive himself harder.

Landis, 30, could have blamed his hip when he failed to perform in a crucial mountain stage last week. He could have used the pain as an excuse.

Instead, he fought back into contention the very next day.

In a world where we are quick to blame others and make excuses for our failures, it's refreshing when a champion takes the high road.

I suspect there's a lesson in there for the rest of us.

Your turn: Do stories like Mr. Landis's inspire you to push yourself further? Why? What's your next step after reading this?

Quoted - Toronto Star's front page

Yesterday's big news in the world of tech was the proposed buyout of leading Canadian graphics company ATI Technologies by the major processor manufacturer AMD.

Tyler Hamilton's article - Our hi-tech firms just U.S. farm teams? - is on the front page of today's Toronto Star. It's above the fold, too! I shared my thoughts on the future tech firms in Canada - and got to wave the maple leaf flag a bit in the process.

Your turn: Are acquisitions like this a good or a bad thing? Why/why not?

Monday, July 24, 2006

What the world needs now: a porn browser

Sometimes, I just have to shake my head and wonder.

Because current browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari were clearly unable to effectively manage the growing torrent of pornography, some geniuses decided to create a porn browser called Heatseek. Here's some background on this dubious technological milestone.

[Pause to consider the idiocy of this.....There, let us continue.]

What exactly is a porn browser, you ask? Good question. It offers a range of security features and, um, consumption enhancements to make it easier to view and manage all those smutty downloads.

Rest assured I have no intention of incorporating this new product into my docket for analysis at work. Something tells me enterprise IT managers wouldn't be too pleased if this started showing up on the hard drives of corporate PCs.

Try as I may, I'll never understand the world's addiction to pornography. Or why the technology sector seems to be such a focus of development for this utter crap. Oops, I swore. Sorry. It's a writing week - my next column publishes in Tuesday's paper - and I'm already wound up.

Your turn: Your first thought upon hearing about this product was...? Why does the mere existence of a pornography-focused browser upset me so?

But wait, there's more (and it has nothing to do with Ginsu knives): Written Inc.'s crack research team has discovered a Firefox extension known as Pornzilla that, in the words of its creators, "...make it easier to find and view porn, letting you spend more time looking at smut you like."


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chocolate or vanilla? Both!

I seem to have struck a nerve with my splooshy picture of water, so I thought I'd continue the theme with some ice cream. No, not ice milk. Not frozen yogurt. Not light. Not fat-free. Ice cream. The way it was meant to be.

The lines and texture pulled me in as soon as I saw this in the viewfinder (yes, I still use mine...I'm old-fashioned that way.)

Are these pictures having a cooling effect on your psyche yet? Or should I find something else to yammer on about? Do tell.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Giant spew

It's hot outside. Not just here, but everywhere, too. Even with a/c cranked way up - or is it down? I never know... - there's something psychologically draining about endless days and weeks of hot, often humid weather. It casts an overwhelming influence over our daily lives as it shapes schedules, behaviors and moods.

So I thought a little drenching might be in order.

Your turn: The first three words that come to mind when you first see this are...? How are you staying cool? Why is the weather such a dominant theme in our lives?

One last thing: Click the image to load the high-resolution version. The texture got me as soon as I took it. I don't have the words to describe it. Maybe you'll have better luck.

Green leaf, red leaf

We have a red-leaf hedge behind our house. It faces north, which means the setting sun casts interesting sidelong shadows through the fence - at least when I take the time to look at them.

When the leaves initially grow out of their buds in spring, they're quite a rich shade of red. Every year, I mean to capture them with my camera and, every year, I neglect to follow through. The ground is usually snowy and/or muddy, and as a result I never seem to get back there when the color is at its brightest. Sadly, their surfaces become more dusty-looking as we transition into summer. Eventually, there's little reason to meander over to the hedge for a closer look. The brilliant color has simply faded into a shadow of its former self.

Last week, while tending the BBQ and trying to avoid a culinary meltdown, I noticed a glint of red coming from the ground. I wandered over and saw this lone, fallen leaf in the parched earth. I'm not going to get metaphysical on you and say that it was a sign from above. But I ended up with a series of pictures of brilliant red that I wouldn't have otherwise had. I'm glad I took the time to look, and to wander.

The green leaf, the big brother, if you will, was a counterbalancing bonus. I silently debated whether I should include it in my little vision of red, and ultimately decided that it made sense to have it there. These two bright swaths of color just seemed to work so richly against the bare background with the slash of light through it.

Even better, our supper came out really tasty.

Your turn: Do certain scenes or images almost call out to you to be taken? Do you believe in photographic fate?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Multiple exposure?

Birds in Flight - Port Stanley, ON, July 5, 2006

This is, in fact, not a multiple exposure. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I may even admit to chasing the odd flock of seagulls on that day to improve my chances of bringing something worthwhile home.

Yeah, that's me: bird-chaser.

Your turn: Are you heading to the beach this weekend? If not, what's on tap?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The CBC video

If you weren't able to catch the CBC report on exploding laptops - where I managed to get the word "sexier" broadcast on Canada's national network - I think I may have some good news. I've been busy playing with YouTube in a rather convoluted attempt to get the resulting video content posted to the blog, and I think I sorta succeeded. Here it is:

Your turn: Were you able to view it from your end? What did you think?

One more thing: If this process works, I'll do the same thing with yesterday's CTV Canada AM interview after I get the original video file.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mission accomplished

Just got back from the studio. The interview went really well, and I'm really pleased with the outcome. I'm sure I'll have plenty of nitpicky feedback for myself after I review it in detail later on. But for now, I'm thrilled that it flowed as well as it did.

Thank you all for your clothing suggestions. I ended up wearing a rather conservative gray suit with a white shirt and a tie. I brushed my hair - Mom would be proud - and did my best to smile. Oh, and I shaved (thanks, Jeff!)

Interestingly, the power blipped a couple of minutes before we went to air. It seemed like the building had switched over to generator power. I looked at the on-site producer - I did the interview from a studio on the university campus, while the interviewer was in Toronto, where Canada AM originates - and we both shrugged.

Not three minutes after the interview ended, as I was getting disconnected, the power failed completely. As I exited the building, the fire alarm in building next door was blaring, and the street was filled with fire trucks and police cars. Fun!

I'm going to change and head into the office now. The day awaits, and I'm certain it will continue to bring new challenges and new opportunities. May your day treat you in a similar manner.

Your turn: Do you think I can have a nap around lunchtime? I'm tired!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Carmi on national television - again

The madness continues non-stop: I've been scheduled to appear on CTV's Canada AM tomorrow (Wednesday) morning to discuss the Microsoft-Nortel announcement.

CTV is Canada's largest private broadcasting network, and Canada AM is their equivalent of the Today Show or Good Morning America. I'm pretty excited about this.

The live segment should get underway at around 6:40 a.m. ET, so if you live in Canada and want to see me chat for a few minutes on tech stuff, I hope you'll tune in.

Your turn: What should I wear?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hard wood

Sometimes, the most sparse subjects make for the most worthy images. I'm not sure what prompted me to point my lens down at this simple composition. Come to think of it, I often don't know where the compulsion to take a given picture comes from.

I just knew from the moment that I first saw these plain wooden chairs on a polished wooden floor that this was something I'd like to remember. The bleakness of the composition spoke volumes, I thought silently as I toyed with my camera and pondered the ideal composition.

Beyond the image itself, I liked what it suggested; that these chairs were waiting for someone to sit in them. That something that this picture cannot explain was about to happen. That whatever the mystery event was, it would live in the imagination of the person who would ultimately see this.

And everyone's impression would be different.

Sometimes, the simplest of scenarios can be so much more. Which is why I love photography as much as I do.

Your turn: So what's your impression? What's about to happen here? Or has it already happened? Why do empty chairs capture the imagination?

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Little man was invited to a birthday party today. As it often seems to be with small folks, it wasn't your typical house party where Mom bakes a cake and the kids play games in the living room. This one was held at a horse ranch just outside town. The kids saw horses. They rode horses. They ate cake. They swam.

Well, most of them did. Noah took a pass on riding the horses. He's like me in that way: he'd rather observe from the periphery. The horses scared him, enough so that up until this morning, he didn't want to attend the party. Only after I promised him that I know how to "speak horse" did he smile and relent. I guess a little parental humor goes a long way toward allaying a child's fears.

So we watched, carefully and quietly from the back, as the stable attendants brought Ricky out for an equine meet and greet. Noah politely declined to touch, brush, or otherwise approach said horsie. He kept a close eye on me to ensure I was never too far away from him. After 15 or so minutes, he started to ask about the cake.

It was a hot and humid afternoon, and our little guy patiently occupied himself while the other children rode the horses. I was proud of him for being so clear about what he would and would not do, and so well-behaved in the process.

As we slowly walked out of the stable, I caught this rather mournful sight. I lagged slightly back and quickly snapped it before we lost sight of the rest of the group. It struck me then that, perhaps, a horse stable's sole purpose in life wasn't simply to house a bunch of majestic animals. It was also a quiet place that gave people - little and big - the opportunity to pause for a quick moment and appreciate being away from the rush of everyday life. Loneliness, after all, doesn't have to be a sad state of being.

Your turn: What does loneliness look like to you?

Seeing red

I'm more or less seeing this color these days, so I thought I should at least reflect my mood with a photograph.

(BTW, I'm touched by your comments following my last blog entry. It's heartening to know that I'm surrounded by such a supporting community of caring people. Please know that your words have inspired me. Maybe this writing thing can repair our world after all.)

Your turn:
Your thoughts?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - The personal price of war

My phone rang Thursday night. My mother was on the phone, and I immediately knew from the sound of her voice that she had terrible news. Read on...
Mideast conflict hits close to home
Published Saturday, July 15, 2006
The London Free Press

His name was Yaniv. I didn’t know him directly, but I might as well have.

His grandparents have been friends with my parents since long before I was born. I grew up thinking of them as family.

Before Yaniv was born, I taught his older brother, Eitan, to swim at the local pool. He and his parents lived in Israel, but were visiting Canada for the summer. I would chat with his grandparents about his progress when they came to pick him up.

For years afterward, whenever I went back to Montreal for a visit, I’d sit beside his grandfather and watch his face light up as he shared news about his ever-growing grandchildren.

Sgt. Yaniv Baron, 20, died Wednesday when his tank hit a landmine. He was entering Lebanon as part of the Israel Defence Forces effort to rescue two kidnapped soldiers. The other three soldiers in his tank also perished.

Nothing can ever possibly justify the loss of a child. But knowing he died trying to rescue his comrades and protect his country has to be worth something.

Your turn: What can anyone possibly say to parents who lose a child to conflict? Why are mere words so inadequate at a time like this?

One more thing: I often find the most idiotic commentary on pretty much anything is rendered by those who are most distant from the topic. Such seems to be the case with the current crisis in Israel and Lebanon. It's easy to write about what's going on from a 30,000-foot perspective, as every other columnist around me seems to have done in today's paper. More difficult is to depict the human cost of conflict when those close to you lose a child.

My columns are always published with a personal e-mail address at the bottom. As I often do when I write about Jewish- or Israel-related issues, I'm sure I'll hear from the usual assortment of ill-informed folks who are just itching for an opportunity to sound off on the big regional bully known as Israel (please note sarcasm.)

If only they understood the true nature of a conflict whose roots extend to the fact that Israel is surrounded by terrorists and sponsoring nations who won't stop their pressure until every last Israeli citizen is driven into the sea. If you're unschooled on the mideast conflict, start your studies with the concept of basic recognition of the State of Israel. You might be surprised at what you find.

In the meantime, I pray for the soul of a child whose life I heard about through friends, and for a family now grieving the ultimate and unspeakable tragedy of burying their son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin.


The tread of a bicycle's tire looks so reassuring when viewed close-up. It's beefy and chunky, and it's difficult to imagine it losing its grip on the ground below.

Which is a good thing. Because the couple of square inches of rubber that connect a cyclist to the road are the difference between a smooth ride and disaster. I rely on my tires - and the rest of my machine, of course - to get me home safely so that my kids can come tumbling out of the house to play with my bike's bell and use the water bottles to water the flowers in the garden.

To the uninitiated, it's just a tire. To everyone else, it's so much more.

Your turn: Can you think of any other otherwise-simple products that mean more to us than is immediately apparent? Why is this so?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Exploding laptops - the sequel

This is seriously turning into the story that will not end. Note, I am not complaining.

I'm scheduled to be on CFRB 1010 - Toronto's top News/Talk radio station - this afternoon at 2:45 ET. It'll be about a six-minute hit, and I'll be chatting with the Motts. Click on the "Listen Now" link at the top for a live feed.

And in related news, the Google Finance page for CHUM Ltd. seems to have spidered my site and is including a link to my little blog. It's a followup to the column I published in today's paper.

Can this media thing possibly get any cooler?

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Television wasteland

So I wake up the morning after, and it's still freaky-cool that I was on national TV last night. How ironic, then, that the piece I published in today's London Free Press is all about media. Here's the scoop...

The big media news in Canada this week was a $1.7 billion buyout offer of CHUM Ltd. by Bell-Globemedia. This continues the consolidation of Canada's boadcast media industry, and promises to further dilute a medium that's already been reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. Broadcast excellence has become the new Canadian media oxymoron.

London's sole broadcast television station, now known as A Channel - a name which will likely change yet again in the months to come - is/was part of CHUM, and its future is now in doubt. Maybe it'll be sold off by its new owners. Maybe it'll be turned into a media training lab for Weather Channel wannabes. Whatever...a whole lot of people are about to lose their jobs thanks to shareholder-driven decisions made by complete strangers in faraway places. In the process, television just got worse in our country.

So I published this in today's paper:
Media buyout bad news in London
Published Friday, July 14, 2006
The London Free Press

Competition is always a good thing. It forces players to fight harder to raise the level of their game.

Canada’s media landscape became a much less competitive place yesterday. Bell Globemedia’s proposed $1.7 billion takeover of CHUM Ltd. will further reduce the number of unique voices on Canada’s airwaves.

We’re now down to two major private broadcasters in Canada. CHUM had always been a leading edge, slightly irreverent voice. Soon, that voice will be silenced.

Yesterday’s announcement was followed almost immediately by news of 281 job losses across Canada. London’s A Channel will lose 32 employees as automation renders their production-related roles obsolete. Management claims these changes will enhance the quality of local coverage, but you’re forgiven for believing that viewers, employees or local markets aren’t the execs' top priority.

What ultimately matters to the conglomerates that consummate these mega-deals is shareholder value. Maximize profits, squeeze costs to the bone and hope no one notices.

Competition, diversity of opinion and broadcast excellence seem to be forgotten in the process.

Your turn: Is television turning into a vast wasteland? What's driving it? Do deals like this help or hinder? Tell us what you really feel about TV today.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

CBC News - The National - 10 p.m. tonight

I'm not one to count my chickens before they're hatched, but this exploding laptops story (see here and here for earlier entries) keeps growing.

The nightly CBC News program, The National, is sending a camera to interview me this afternoon. If all goes well, a clip of my yakking head may make it onto tonight's program.

The fun starts at 10 p.m. Eastern.

Update - 9:41 p.m.: CBC Newsworld - the all-news channel - carried The National at 9 p.m., and I was on! They picked a good clip, and they included footage of me demonstrating the backside of a laptop (I feel like Madge the Palmolive lady when I watch it.)

The main CBC network will carry The National at 10 p.m., and it will continue to be rerun by CBC Newsworld through the overnight period (11, midnight...) Damn, this is cool!

Another Update: If you don't live in Canada and want to see the newscast (or, heck, even if you do live in Canada), click on The National's home page, then select the "Watch The National Online" link just below the main logo. It'll connect you to a Real video stream (.RAM) format. If you don't have the player, click here to download it. Tonight's newscast will be available online after 11:30 p.m. ET.

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Save our schools

Education means a lot to me. When your wife is a teacher and you've got three school-aged kids, the issue becomes a frequent dinner-table topic.

This is the time of year when school boards around here are finalizing their budgets for the next school year. Inevitably, they identify deficits, a process which then triggers frantic searches for savings. At some point, you've got to figure it'll affect the quality of education. Death by a thousand cuts seems to be such a limiting way to run a school, no?

Here's what I published in today's paper. Disclosure: our kids don't attend this school board. But the issue, in my view, is universal. Tomorrow it could be - and likely will be - pretty much any other school.
Catholic Board cuts send ominous note
Published Thursday, July 13, 2006
The London Free Press

Parents of children attending London District Catholic schools have every right to believe that the latest round of budget cuts won’t be the last.

School boards in Ontario are legally barred from running deficits. So when the London District Catholic board identified a $3 million shortfall for the upcoming school year, it cut the number of supply teachers. The change means fewer supply teachers will be available to substitute for full-time teachers attending professional development courses.

It’s become an annual process: a shortfall is identified, which triggers furious activity to pare costs down without affecting the quality of education.

The problem with this educational funding philosophy is that it’s never-ending. Next year may well bring a similar crisis, as will subsequent years. We’re now cutting deep into the bone, raising problems for the long-term viability of the board.

Does our provincial government understand the long-term implications of its draconian deficit ban? Does it care that students ultimately pay the price for this short-sighted approach to educational funding? I doubt it.

Your turn: What's the answer to long-term education system viability? Why can't society seem to prioritize the future of its kids?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - privacy at work

I think anyone with even a basic understanding of technology recognizes that there is no privacy at work. When I worked for Mother Corp., it was pretty evident that the company owned all the equipment that the lilliputian employees were allowed to use.

We were supposed to be thankful that the benevolent employer saw fit to provide us with high-speed Internet access, a computer, a working telephone and a lovely brown-beige cubicle in which all this magic was installed. The generations-old burnt-orange carpet squares laid down directly on linoleum (no padding) completed the effect.

In exchange, the company reserved the right to record any and all traffic that coursed its way into and out of that cubicle. And if we logged in from home during evenings, weekends and vacations, we were just as likely to have our conversations tracked. So many of us can recall the threatening e-mail from the Proxy Police advising us that we had violated the terms of use policy because we dared send our parents risque pictures from our most recent family BBQs.

All of this is, frankly, not such a big deal. This is the state of the world today, and it is our challenge to understand and adapt to it. So it was with surprise that I read a report of a study that confirmed the degree to which companies in Canada spy on their employees. I couldn't believe that given all we know, stuff like this is still shocking to some of us.

So I wrote this for today's paper:
Common sense will thwart spying boss
Published Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The London Free Press

News this week that many Canadian employees are under surveillance in the workplace should hardly come as a surprise to any of us.

The Ryerson University survey, Under the Radar, concludes employers are recording phone calls, tracking e-mails, and gathering information from security passes. They claim to be protecting corporate interests and preventing employee abuses.

But it’s just as easy to see the potential for bosses to abuse all this power and access.

Policies governing how the resulting information is to be used are few and far between. Human resources personnel are often unaware of the full range of technologies being used to spy on workers.

A little common sense, however, can shut the spy-bosses down. Never use an office computer or phone for any questionable or non-business-related activity. If you have to think about it, wait until you get home.

Trusting Corporate Canada to behave in employees’ best interests is about as advisable as allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. Individual workers are ultimately accountable for protecting themselves.

Your turn: What's your perspective on employers monitoring employees' electronic activities? What's fair? What isn't?

Atmospheric drama

The day was hot and humid, with ominous black clouds threatening in the distance. My daughter was attending a birthday party at a local water park. I originally planned to drop her off and return when the party was done. But something told me I should stay close by. I guess it's the lifeguard in me: trust my own instincts instead of anyone else's.

So I walked the grounds, keeping an eye on our little girl, half an eye on the threatening clouds, and an ear tuned to the expected sound of thunder. Just before the first clap of thunder forced the lifeguards to close up shop, I pointed my camera straight up, dropped the aperture as much as the point-and-shoot digicam would allow, and squeezed off a few images. The sun was so bright that I could barely compose the shot. The LCD screen was washed out, and the viewfinder wasn't much help either.

Yet somehow the picture worked, right down to the atmospheric rainbow just above the cloud. Even a frightening scene can be inspiring to those who take the time to look up.

Your turn: Can you share a story of an extreme weather event? How did you feel just before things slid downhill?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - World Cup soccer perspective

My column in today's paper deals with my ongoing annoyance with some sports fans. Specifically, it bugs me that some fans are unable to put sports in perspective. It's a game, after all - and the ones who treat it as the most important thing in the world are often the same ones least likely to actually participate, and the ones most likely to sit on their duffs and drink beer while watching it.

Yes, I have issues with this apparent imbalance. Here's what I wrote - and here's the direct link to the piece:
Nothing 'tragic' in World Cup loss
Published Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The London Free Press

Watching coverage of Italy's World Cup victory over France on Sunday, it was easy to see how some folks miss the whole point of sport.

Italian fans spilled into the streets and justifiably celebrated their nation's shining moment. The sheer joy of the moment confirmed the unifying power of sport. Dejected French fans, on the other hand, used words such as tragedy and disaster to describe the outcome.

On a day when yet another Canadian soldier was killed in Afghanistan, it's preposterous that people would characterize a game where players kick a ball into a net as tragic or disastrous.

Tragic is a family whose son isn't coming home. Tragic is a country that can't seem to move past a fractured history of unimaginable violence and hopelessness. Tragic is not the outcome of a mere game.

France will have another chance in four years. No doubt soccer fans everywhere will be counting the days. But life goes on after you lose a football match. The real world isn't always as forgiving.

Your turn: Do people make too much of spectator sports? Would the world be better off if folks throttled their fanaticism back a bit?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Naughty or...

It turns out that Mom was right all along: It does pay to be nice. Crackers can't be wrong, after all. Not when their complex surfaces and sugary coatings do such wonders with light and shadow.

Your turn: Words embossed in food. Why?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Where Carmi and George Bush disagree

Some days, it's really cool being me.

As part of my day job - senior research analyst in the wonderful world of technology - I am often quoted in the media for my perspectives on technology and its impact on business. Some places contact me fairly regularly. The Chicago Daily Herald is one of my faves. This paper covers the full range of tech companies that are based in the Chicago area, including Motorola, Lucent and Tellabs, and I often get to go deep on some fascinating companies and issues.

Turns out the reporter with whom I often work, Anna Marie Kukec, was attending a press conference on Friday. President George W. Bush was presiding. That's cool enough.

Even cooler was that she got to ask the President a question. She wanted to know about the acquisition of Lucent by the French company, Alcatel - specifically, she asked about the national security implications of a major defence contractor being bought by a foreign firm.

Good question.

Bush responded by saying he was fine with it. The reporter contacted me for my perspective. I disagreed with Dubya, and I used the case of the proposed sale of a decontented F/A-22 Raptor fighter plane to foreign nations as the basis for my argument. (Yes, sometimes my sponge-like interest in useless trivia pays off.)

So in the end, I get quoted directly opposite the President of the United States - and I'm saying he's basically wrong.

The piece, Bush OK with foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies, can be found here. In total violation of every copyright law known to humankind, I'm pasting the text below because it'll be behind a subscriber wall within a week.

Your turn: How cool is that? Should I keep my eyes open for Secret Service visitors to my home?

Here's the piece:
Bush OK with foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies

Daily Herald Business Writer
Posted Saturday, July 08, 2006

When Lucent Technologies Inc. in March agreed to be acquired by Alcatel, the French company would get more than innovative technology.

Alcatel also would inherit several U.S. military contracts.

While the United States continues its war on terror in Iraq and elsewhere, Lucent is moving ahead with its merger and establish foreign roots.And such foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies with defense contracts doesn't worry President Bush.

"We have laws that prevent sensitive technologies from being transferred as a result of sale and or merger. And we watch that very carefully," Bush said Friday during a news conference at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

"On the broader scale, I have no problem with foreign capital buying U.S. companies; nor do I have a problem with U.S. companies buying foreign companies. That's what free trade is all about."

Bush said many Americans are already working here because of foreign investments.

"A foreign company takes a look at Illinois, they like the tax structure, they like the governance, they like the work force, and they invest," Bush said. "And when they invest, they create jobs. A lot of the jobs in America exist as a result of foreign companies investing here in our country. So I believe in opening markets."

However, some analysts believe Bush is dismissing too quickly the foreign ownership of U.S. companies. And the F/A-22 Raptor fighter aircraft is a prime example, said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group.

"The stealth aircraft incorporates a range of revolutionary technologies which, in the hands of a foreign operator, would be beyond the control of the American firm, Lockheed-Martin, that originated them," said Levy. "It's an easy stretch to ask similar questions about the Lucent-Alcatel deal: namely, will American national interests be maintained through the course of foreign acquisition of American defense contractors?"

Bush should consider the national security ramifications of these types of acquisitions and establish some dialogue or policy to ensure that American response to similar deals in the future is fair, and balances the need to maintain security while allowing American businesses to seek out partnerships that let them continue to survive and thrive, Levy said.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

5, 6, pickup sticks...

The lowly toothpick is one of those things that most of us can easily forget about. Like the coffee-stirrer and the now-redundant lighter in my car, toothpicks could disappear off the face of the earth and I wouldn't miss them.

Yet for some odd reason, this box of toothpicks seemed like a neat thing to shoot when I was looking for something different the other day. The light was working for me, and the composition seemed to be an odd mixture of randomness and symmetry. I know, I'm an artsy. Sorry.

I thought it would be the kind of picture most of us wouldn't otherwise take. So, being the contrarian that I am, I took it. I hope you like it. And I hope it prompts you to look at your own boxes of toothpicks in a new light.

Your turn: Is there nothing more mundane than the lowly toothpick? What other plain-and-ignored items can you think of?

Friday, July 07, 2006


I'm a big fan of texture. I like pictures that almost invite you to reach out and touch 'em.

Your turn: Hungry yet?

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I like this image because it represents functional imperfection. The crank is dirty, with little flecks of grease all over the place and a chain that begs for a good cleaning. It's scratched in places. The middle of the crank seems to be missing its covering. It won't win any cyclical beauty contests.

Despite the mechanical grunginess and ugliness on the surface, this is beautiful to me. It's a closeup of my so-called beater bike, the one I take to work, the one I ride when the weather's threatening, the one I ride when I don't want to get the "good" bike dirty or scratched.

I bought it about six years ago. I needed a bike I wouldn't have to worry about if I left it locked outside the office all day. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, yet it needed to be a better bike than the stamped-steel monsters found at the local Wal-Mart. Tall order. I needed a used machine, and I needed to be creative.

I took our eldest son, then five years-old, to a few local consignment stores (pause...yes, I went downscale. Surprised?) He spotted a purple mountain bike with yellow cables lurking in the shadows of a dusty old store. I looked more closely: it was a Miele - score! A good, solid bike in good condition, found by our little guy.

Because the store owners had no clue that this was a diamond in the rough, they let it go for a song. I said nothing as Zach helped me wheel the bike out the door and into the parking lot. When we got to the van, I popped my green water bottle into the cage, and Zach immediately dubbed it the Barney Bike, which it has been ever since.

It's got big, fat, knobby tires, and it's kinda slow on the road. But if I need to get to work and not concern myself with getting the vaunted "good" bike wet and mucky, this is my mode of transportation. I think of that afternoon every time I get on, and conclude that beauty can take on many forms. And an afternoon with our son scouring forgotten old stores certainly qualifies.

Your turn: Can you describe a unique day with an immediate relative or friend? What made it so special?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Save the last dance

Fourteen years ago tonight, I danced my first-ever dance with my wife. We had, of course, danced many times before, but never as husband and wife. That night, those two words were still a novelty to both of us. Within the blur that was our wedding, the newness of it all still hadn't sunk in.

According to Jewish tradition, we got married under the chupah. It's a covering of ornate cloth that's held up by four posts. The meaning is that you start with a roof, and you are now challenged to build a foundation and walls, and within them a strong home for your family.

I spent the day home from work today, an anniversary tradition that my wife and I have evolved in recent years. We went to the beach, another anniversary tradition, and spent a quiet day simply being with each other. We took the kids out to dinner to celebrate - they all do an excellent rendition of the Flintstones now-classic "Happy Anniversary" song - and as we came home, it suddenly dawned on me:

I watched our three munchkins stand on the porch of our home, and all I could think was this: we made all of this. We had them. We built that proverbial home. We carved out a life for us and for them. Everything arrayed before me at that moment hadn't existed when I danced with my wife that night.

Yet it all seems to have gone by in a blink.

Part of me feels I'm not doing a good enough job remembering the subtle thoughts and feelings of each day along our journey as a family. Another part of me says I shouldn't worry about the time-speed thing: time does, after all, fly when you're having fun.

And that's the bottom line in this magical adventure known as our marriage, our family, our life: I am quite obviously having fun. I can't help but feel that this is what I was meant to do, that this amazing woman and blazingly unique children were all meant to be part of my life; to in fact be my life.

The Yiddish word, bashert, is often heard in our home. It means fated; meant to be. She is. They are. We are. I am. Fourteen years in, I'm praying we have so many more years to appreciate everything we've built.

Your turn: If you've never e-met my wife before, you're missing out on an extraordinary individual, and I hope you take a moment to drop her a line. She makes me tick, keeps me focused and balanced, and inspires me to ignore what everyone else is saying and simply listen to my heart. Just what a writer needs if he's going to break paradigms and change lives.

On so many levels, I don't deserve all I have. Which makes me even more thankful that I do.

Quoted - Globe & Mail front page

Remember that little "exploding laptop" story that occupied my time at work last week? Well, dawn broke today with some good news: Canada's largest newspaper is running a front-page story on the issue. I'm quoted in it, and a competing research firm essentially confirms our original perspective on the topic.

It's called Laptops have been really hot lately. Byline is Alex Dobrota. I'll try to get a page scan uploaded later.

Fun stuff!

Your turn: Does your laptop run hot? Has this ever caused a problem or a concern?

Update: Other papers have picked the piece up: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Redding Record Searchlight

Pile of...


Your turn: What on earth would possess me to take a picture like this? (Go on, be creative. You know you want to...)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Green and cool

It's hot outside. Strings of early morning thunderstorms are doing little to break the sticky heat that has settled over the region. Because so many folks are taking additional time off around the long weekend, no one seems to be complaining much: it makes for a great excuse to load up the van and cart the kids to the beach.

So I thought I should post a picture that serves as a counterpoint to the weather. As you've likely guessed by now, I don't enjoy heat and humidity. Just about the only consolation surrounding southwestern Ontario summers is you don't have to take out the shovel.

For everything else, tall glasses of iced tea, an air conditioned house and kids who run through the sprinkler before they give us banzai hugs will easily help us make it through the next couple of months. Today's lesson, which I learned as I wrestled a soaking little munchkin off of my now-wet shirt, is that there's joy in pretty much everything, as long as you take the time to look for it.

Your turn: Can looking at an image help make you feel cooler? What kinds of pictures would bring you joy on a hot summer day?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Looking at myself. Twice.

I rarely show up in pictures because I'm not altogether comfortable having the lens turned on me. It's not that I'm some Frankenstinian freak show or anything, but I figure I draw enough attention to myself in so many other ways that it's OK to draw the line at photography.

But an interesting side effect of my comfort behind the lens is my inability to perfectly predict the outcome of every last shot. Despite having taken kajillions of pictures in my life, I still end up with the occasional surprise when I get my pictures back.

This is one of them. I thought I was taking a standard picture of little guy Noah as he ate birthday cake and contemplated a back yard full of friendly folks who were a lot bigger than he was. What I got was a unique father-and-son shot that illustrates why photography continues to enthrall me: because there's always something unexpected to look forward to.

Your turn: Please tell us about a picture that ended up way different than you expected when you first pressed the shutter. Can pictures still surprise you?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Resonant breakfast

I truly lead the life of Brian. My wife's ability to navigate through the kitchen is a thing to behold. Even better, she tolerates my annoying habit of pulling out the camera whenever she finishes a dish.

On this morning, the kids were waiting impatiently around the kitchen table for Mom to finish their pancakes. They bubbled with anticipation as they each prepared their plates for the feast to come.

But the sights and sounds were only the beginning. The house smelled like home. The sun's rays filled the kitchen with warmth and promise. All was right with the world during that small moment in time.

So the light that bathes this image served a greater purpose than simply making a picture possible. It hopefully painted a picture, a day, an experience, a moment that our kids will remember well into adulthood. It also makes that morning so real to me every time I look at this photo. Warmth, after all, makes itself known in more ways than one.

One last thing before you leave a comment: Click on the image to bring up the high-resolution version. I practically want to eat the pancakes off of my screen. Go on, I'll wait.

Your turn: Can you tell us about a particularly perfect morning in your life? Beyond describing what it looked like, what did it feel like? How can a seemingly ordinary moment become so special, and so worth remembering?

Let them eat...

A&P grocery store, corner Cheapside & Adelaide, London, Ontario, Friday afternoon, on the way home from work.

Initially, I was just going to take a picture of the black forest cake through the front of the cake display section. But as I approached the glass case, a friendly employee named Laura approached from behind the counter and asked me if she could help.

I thought she'd likely want to boot me from the store if I told her the truth, but I figured honesty was the best policy. So I took my camera out of its case, held it in plain view, and spilled my guts to her about my obsession with grocery store photography.

Amazingly, she seemed cool with it. She asked if she could bring out some of her nicest creations for me. Instead of wanting to kick me out of the place, she was inviting me in for a cake photo shoot. Bonus!

She brought a number of cakes out, and we chatted about how neat her work is - she does things with cake that make me sad that these lovely creations ultimately end up eaten and shmushed onto disposable plates by little people - and how cool it is that I take pictures of 'em.

This is my favorite image of the bunch. Her paw prints came out delovely, don't you think?

It was one of those little moments in life where you're thankful that you took the time to chat with someone. And you're thankful you crossed paths with someone who, like you, loves what she does and isn't afraid to let total strangers in on her secret. Neat.

Your turn: When's the last time you were pleasantly surprised by a stranger? Oh, and Laura says she's going to visit this blog sometime, so please say hi to her and let her know you like her work. And if you're Laura, please drop us a line to let us know you're here. We all look forward to more creations from you.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The unbearable lightness of green

Houseplants are just houseplants until you look at them funny in the morning light and decide that they're not so plain after all.

As I awake today, I'm thankful that I live in a country where I can take pictures of leaves, wrap a whole bunch of uncensored words around them, share them with friends everywhere on a blog, then open up the floor so that everyone can toss in a thought or two.

Freedom of expression. Freedom of the press. Freedom in general. I cherish it. And as the place that makes it all possible celebrates its 139th birthday, I hope you'll join me in celebrating it, too.

Wherever you live, I hope you have a happy Canada Day.

Your turn: What does your country's birthday mean to you? And while you're jotting down your thoughts, what is it about the common houseplant that fascinates us so?