Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reflecting on a lost season

Summer's over in, by my count, 12 minutes. As I cycled home from work today, I passed by a city-run outdoor pool in a riverside park (Gibbons, for my Londonite readers), and lamented the fact that the lifeguards and swimmers were all gone, and the water level had already been lowered in preparation for end-of-season maintenance. I felt a moment of sadness as I cruised on past into ever-lowering sun.

I thought this simple view of color and light would reinforce why we seem to think about summer the other 9 months of the year. Funny, but the other seasons don't seem to be as memorable when they slip into the past.

Your turn: Why does summer hold such a treasured position on our collective psyche? How has it been special to you?

But there's more: You'll notice many of my recent entries and images (to wit, click here) are summer-themed. I guess it'll be a while before I let go of the season. Hope that's OK with y'all.

Summer's impending end

I notice by the little date thing in the corner of my laptop's screen that it is August 31st today. I think I'm suffering from a touch of psychological whiplash as I wonder where the summer went and why it had to whiz by so quickly.

(Quick aside: I know summer doesn't officially end until September 22nd. But we all know that September's arrival is pretty much the end of the season as we know it. The next three weeks are a mere technicality. Digression ends.)

In a bit of a timely coincidence, I was quoted by Dan McLean in today's Globe and Mail (page B6 if you're reading the print edition) in a piece entitled The PC at 25: Amazing innovation, with a dark side. Mr. McLean is also IT World Canada's editor-in-chief. He refers to our earlier press release on work-life balance (see here and here for background.) This is what I said (in context):
PCs, notebooks and PDAs (personal digital assistants) are the tethers that bind people to their jobs, wherever they happen to be.

Info-Tech senior research analyst Carmi Levy says there's a struggle to balance work with personal lives.

"This is the dark side of mobile communications," he said in a press release from the company.

"The reality is the lines are totally blurred between personal and private time because we now have the technology to virtually take the office on vacation with us. And no one wants to hear Donald Trump's classic phrase 'you're fired' because they took their eyes off e-mail to go to a baseball game."

Maybe we were so busy focused on the work world that we forgot to pay attention to the all-too-short summer season that's now rapidly giving way to chilly autumn nights and the rush to get the kids back to school.

Just thinking...

Your turn: Are we taking the time to smell the flowers? Or is technology out-accelerating our ability to keep the speed of life manageable? Can there ever be a balance? How?

Media update: Had a bit of a busy media day today. Here's a rundown of the other pieces that were published today:
In the first piece, I provide comment on the impact of the just-announced U.S. Department of Justice extension of some terms related to the 2002 antitrust settlement it enforced against Microsoft. In the second, I provide context on Ryanair's announcement that it will provide in-flight cellular phone service. I touched on Boeing's failed Connexion service to place this latest announcement in context. Funny how I somehow know about aviation technology, too. Cool!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sitting by the dock of the bay

Deerhurst is located smack in the middle of the Muskokas, a region of old mountains and lakes north of Toronto. Its topography makes it an ideal country playground for folks looking to escape the congestion of the city.

I'll quietly ignore the fact that these urban refugees create as much congestion up north as they do in the city. New fact of country life, I guess.

The Muskoka chair has evolved as a symbol of cottage country life. The design is immensely comfortable, and renders most occupants asleep within minutes of first sitting down.

I found this one on the dock alongside Peninsula Lake, just waiting to be captured in a cliche shot. Touristy as this image may be, it nevertheless makes me want to find a quiet place of my own so I can sit down and take in the view.

Your turn: What is your quiet place?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


My wife and I are just back from an idyllic few days spent at Deerhurst, a resort north of Toronto. It had been an insanely long time since we went anywhere alone for any period of time, so we counted ourselves lucky when I was selected to be a part of a top performers' group at work, and my wife's parents said they'd look after the kids while we were away.

I think it was good for all of us: the kids had a wonderful time with their grandparents, and we got to spend what we like to call "alone time". We didn't do a whole heck of a lot. We planned a few activities here and there, but mostly we sat by the water, walked along the paths and enjoyed the relative peace of a place far from the day-to-day treadmill that typically defines our days.

I took this image at breakfast. The resort's main breakfast-serving restaurant was called Eclipse, and it was a huge windowed space overlooking the lake. The sun poured in (see my egg photo for a real-world example) and made even the most simple scenes seem special. Every morning, we'd sit by the window and drink in the scene.

Images like this take me right back to that very simple place where I got to enjoy a quiet breakfast with my best friend.

Your turn: What's your ideal way to start your day? Why?

Monday, August 28, 2006


I like texture, I like light, and I like patterns. This one combines all three. It isn't earth-shattering in its uniqueness, but I figure since these blinds are often in view while I work at the kitchen table and stare out at the neighborhood, I may as well capture them for posterity.

Your turn: Windows and the doodads that surround and cover them can present all sorts of photographic challenges. What are you seeing out your windows right now? Bonus points if you snap it and post the link in a comment.

One more thing: Here's a hint for the most recent photographic mystery (part 1, part 2). Mme. Tussaud.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Photographic mystery revealed

Earlier this weekend, I posted a picture as part of my ongoing and occasional photographic mystery series. Many readers made some pretty fascinating guesses in the comments section, but I regret to inform y'all that no one has come remotely close to getting it.

Rather than simply blurt out the response, I thought I'd post another image of the same subject, taken at the same time, only from a different angle. This should make it a little more obvious (I'm sorry they're so off the charts sometimes...I hope you're having as much time wondering about them as I have taking them.)

Your turn: So, now that you've seen this hint - and the original - what is it? What three words come to mind as you see this? Should I continue to share these image-based mysteries?

Eat up

I've learned an important lesson over the years: buffet-style restaurants lose money on me. I don't look like I could eat people under the table, but for some reason, I've always had a relatively huge appetite that betrays the fact that I could stand to gain a few pounds.

So while we're away from the craziness that is suburban life, I find myself eating. A lot. To wit, here's part of yesterday's breakfast.

I think it's time to head out for some more.

Your turn: What's for breakfast in your neck of the woods? What do you really want for breakfast?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Today's photographic mystery

I'm writing this from a place far away from home. It's early morning and I'm about to set out with my wife on a quiet walk beside a quiet lake. Our kids are so busy with their grandparents that they've probably forgotten that we're not there with them.

I'm taking lots of pictures, and aside from occasionally firing up my laptop to check the weather (and, of course, post a new blog entry), I am blissfully disconnected from the technology that typically occupies me.

Life is good around these parts this weekend. I hope it's good around where you are, too.

Your turn: What on earth is this?

Update: Go here if you're stumped and need a hint.

Friday, August 25, 2006

My future's so bright, I gotta wear shades

I've always thought that brilliant sunshine on a bright floor or similar surface can instantly brighten the mood of anyone in the immediate area.

I can't explain why this is so. But I thought this image drove the point home.

Your turn: Does it? Do bright compositions like this lift your mood? Any thoughts re. why/why not?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Exploding Apple Mac laptops. The sequel.

I love when I'm right. I sleep better at night knowing that I accurately predicted the course of events. I'm not being smug...I just have a journalist's sense of black and white, right and wrong. And I like being on the happy side of any issue.

During last week's media circus around the exploding Dell laptop and battery recall issue (see here if you're just joining the fun), I predicted that the Dell recall wouldn't be the last of it, that another manufacturer would soon make a similar announcement.

Well, the other shoe has dropped. Apple has announced that it's recalling 1.8 million laptop batteries. It affects iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 units - which I've long contended could get hot enough to cook breakfast, but I digress.

We published this press release: Apple Computer Recall Another Industry Wake-up Call – Don't Hit Snooze says Info-Tech Research Group.

CNN's leading with it. I should give them a call...

Update Friday @ 4:57 p.m.:
  • The San Jose Mercury News (the major daily in the Silicon Valley, a must-read for anyone in the tech sector) ran this piece, Laptop batteries: too hot to handle, in today's paper. Byline is Dean Takahashi. I got lead quote. Here's my snippet:
For the companies involved, the recalls raise the delicate issue of how to reassure customers during a peak shopping season, even as pranksters stoke fears by posting fake videos of exploding laptops on the Internet.

``We hear anecdotal cases of back-to-school shoppers who are wary of Dell machines,'' said Carmi Levy, an analyst at Info-Tech Research in London, Canada. ``Apple has to deal with that, too, since they are so much stronger in the educational sector. This announcement couldn't come at a worse time for Apple.''


Vending machines are the bane of parents everywhere. Storeowners place them strategically where children are most likely to see them. Parents grasp their kids' hands tightly as they try to accelerate their pace in the vain hope that the little people won't see these beacons of tooth decay.

Fat chance. Every child I've ever met has vending machine radar. There's no way that he/she will pass up an opportunity to beg at the foot of these eye-level altars of sweetness.

So it was on a recent foray out that I came across one selling this particularly dentist-cringing gum (or is it candy? Who knows...) Our kids swarmed it. We refused to relent. They countered by saying they were just looking. The cynic in me says they were simply plotting their strategy for the next visit.

Still, it made for an interesting image.

Your turn: Is the vending machine an icon of childhood or is it something for parents to avoid at all costs?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More press stuff - this time, terrorism

We sent out another press release earlier today. This is our response to the recent arrests related to a suspected plot to blow up ten planes en route from Europe to the U.S. Because security regulations have been significantly tightened and seem to be changing on an almost daily basis, we thought it made sense to advise folks how they could reduce technological uncertainty associated with air travel.

It's entitled, Businesses Must Adapt as Terrorist Threats Impact Travelers' Laptop Usage, says Info-Tech Research Group. We released it via PR Newswire, and it can also be found on Yahoo! Finance and on our corporate site.

This one differs from other such releases in that it went out with a freely-available research note that provides more detailed advice. It's entitled Change Mobility Strategy Due to Terrorism. I wrote it, and it is similar to the kind of writing I do for Info-Tech every day.

More updates on this topic as they are available. In the meantime, this might be a good read if you're going to be flying anytime soon.

Your turn: Will the latest twist in our response to the threat of terrorism change your flight plans? How should the world deal with this seemingly never-ending litany of threats?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Diner memories

Nostalgia in a glass
Ottawa, Ontario, August 2006 [Click to embiggen the refreshment]

On our way home from Montreal last week, we took the kids to Ottawa because they had never been there, and we felt our little family needed an adventure.

We stayed at a lovely hotel. We explored the city. We did the touristy things that tourists do, and we had a wonderful time (my wife has written about it here.) On our last night there, we took the kids to Zak's Diner. Even though Zachary's name is shortened to Zach and not Zak, we figured it was close enough for us.

It also reminded us of the beloved Five and Diner restaurant that was a beacon of normalcy when we first drove into town with a hungry two-year-old almost a decade ago. We knew no one here, and it was the only place that was open on a snowy Christmas Eve. It quickly became his favorite eatery, and he was very upset - as were we - when it closed a few years back.

Looking around Zak's, it was hard to ignore the atmosphere of the place. Pastel-ish blue, accented by a riot of old signs, chrome and vinyl. The light was comforting: dim, soft, and entirely reminiscent of American Graffiti. I tried to take pictures of my drink that evoked the warmth of the light.

I could see why people liked to eat there: it was a welcoming place to be.

But it was late. Noah fell asleep toward the end of our visit. We skipped the free ice cream that came with their meals and instead promised them we'd make an ice cream date back home. As we scooped up our kids and walked out, I couldn't help but think that every town needs a diner. And every child needs a place that will stick in his/her mind for a long time to come.

Your turn: Do you have a fond diner memory? What makes places like this so appealing?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Almost six

This is the last picture taken of our little man before he turned six. As I watched him snooze on the living room couch the night before his birthday, I thought how neat it was that he could look so little and so big, all at the same time.

I was able to freeze time with the camera's shutter that night. But I recognize that even now, three weeks later, he continues to change, to grow, to leave the little boy behind as he grows into a much bigger one.

And as he does, I stand quietly nearby, trying to remember every last detail.

Your turn: What things stick in your mind as your kids - or kids near and dear to you - rush toward adulthood? What do you grab onto as you try to remember what it was like when they were really young?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blue chill

When I go to friends' houses, I tote my camera along. If they're so-so friends, I might take a few standard pictures of people and places. When they're really good friends, however, I take pictures of the oddest things imaginable.

See, really good friends know me, and accept that I was struck by lightning as a child and rendered unable to keep my finger off the shutter. They laugh along with (and sometimes even good-naturedly at) me as I compose scenes in their homes that cause them to furrow their brow. We share in the experience, as friends do.

So now you know that we spent a lovely day with great friends yesterday. I'll share the photographic results in the days to come. This should get your thirst going.

Your turn: Does this make you thirsty? Do you find that being around the important people in your life fires your creative soul?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Atmospheric magic, redux

If you've been following along on my blog, it's been an intense week of work, media coverage and deep topical discussion. So I thought I'd slow things down over the weekend by getting back to the things I do when life gets quiet. In other words, it's time for a picture. Or two. Or...

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to witness some really neat clouds in the evening sky. (I wrote about it here.) I took some additional images at that time, and thought I'd share another one of my favorites.

When I look at pictures like this, I think of all the magic-looking scenes that kind of happen in the background without anyone paying attention. There's no way to capture them all, of course. We have lives, and we're often too busy keeping them in the air to be able to rush outside at a moment's notice to snap whatever it is that merits our attention.

The photographer's lament is that so many scenes are relegated to oblivion because of this. But every once in a while, we are indeed in the right place at the right time. And we've got the time to appreciate the experience - and to share it with those who matter.

So today I'm sharing. If you read this, you matter. I hope this inspires you to think about the folks in your respective circles who matter, and to wonder what kinds of glimpses into your lives you'd like to share with them.

Your turn: So...what will you share?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Homelessness: the followup

This is the second of two related entries. If you haven't read the original column on homelessness that I published in yesterday's London Free Press, click here first.

I always love hearing from readers. Even if they're vehemently, diametrically opposed to my published position, the very fact that a total stranger would take the time to let me know what he/she thinks about my writing is very cool indeed.

Being a journalist in a free and democratic society is a blessing and a right that others have fought and died for. So when my inbox shows e-mail from a reader, it makes my day.

A reader wrote me this morning in response to my piece on homelessness. I normally don't cross-post reader comments to my blog - I would rather they visit my site on their own volition, where they are free to participate or not participate as they see fit. But I'm going to make an exception this time out.

Why? Well, firstly, the person wrote anonymously. This is incredibly rare. Most readers have the courage to attach a name to their words. I know who I'm dealing with, just as they do. It strikes me as cowardly to write to a columnist without saying who you are. Maybe it's just me.

Second, the message was so devoid of empathy and caring that I truly wondered if this person understood how pervasive homelessness can be. It touches even those who think all street people are self-inflicted alcoholic bums (overtly obtuse language deliberate.) Your comments underneath the original posting are ample and eloquent evidence of this.

Here's what my reader wrote:
ummm .. yeah .. anyone of us could be Colin ... if we were irresponsible ALCOHOLICS, who had no regard for our jobs, spouses, and children. Colin's problem is not housing. Colin's problem is that he is a substance abuser who did not bother to straighten himself out when he hit rock bottom. What about Colin's family? They lost their home because of his reckless behaviour. Perhaps THEY would have qualified for the affordable housing you discuss in your article. Maybe his son would be raised in a stable environment, and find the resources and confidence to enjoy a post secondary education. Maybe one day that son would become a tax paying contributor to our society.

Canadians are famous for cleaning up the dirt others leave behind. When will we get serious about circumventing our problems and spending more time and
energy on intervention?

Simply putting more roofs over the heads of alcoholics, crack addicts, schizophrenics, and deviants is not the answer. Our tax dollars fund their homes, do they return the favour? Do they devote any of their time to community-based services? They should, they have nothing BUT time.

How much sympathy can one conjur up for members of society who offer nothing, but expect all the creature comforts that we tax-paying citizens
work hard for.

Hope his son turns out better than his deadbeat dad. For all our sakes.
Here's how I responded:
Thank you for your note. I always appreciate hearing from readers.

You write as if he became an alcoholic by choice. Children of alcoholics - which Colin was - are at significantly greater risk of becoming alcoholics as well. There is a genetic predisposition to substance abuse that has been rather thoroughly documented by the scientific community.

My entire point in writing this column was to illustrate how precariously close so many of us are to homelessness. It doesn't take much to slide from the world of the haves to the world of the have-nots. Colin's tragedy was alcoholism. Yours could be something entirely different.

I invite you to follow the discussion on my web log ( As you can see from the comments, regular folks from all walks of life all admit having been precariously close to - or over - the homelessness edge at some points in their lives. I hope you have the courage to share of yourself in this forum, and I invite you to do just that.

I hope you're never in need of assistance from the broader community. And if you do, may those who sacrifice of themselves to help you have more empathy than you seem to exhibit in your anonymously-penned note.

All the best,

Carmi Levy
Your turn: I know I was a little more harsh in my response than I normally would be with someone who disagrees with me. Do you think I was out of line? How would you respond to a letter like this?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Homelessness

Amidst the craziness of the week (read this entry and this one if you've been away for a bit...I was on the CBS Evening News, among other crazy and amazing news resources), it's been easy to forget that at the beginning and end of the day, I am a writer. And as someone who scribbles for a living, I occasionally write things that I really like.

Unlike parenthood, where no parent can ever truly prefer one child over another, writing comes with no such taboos. I can thoroughly prefer one piece over another without worrying that I will offend any of my articles. They have no feelings, after all, so it's perfectly acceptable for me to play favorites.

It's been an "on" week for my newspaper column in the London Free Press. The short-form, op-ed format doesn't always allow me to easily personalize my pieces. But I still try whenever I can because I think that's what connects strongly with readers. I published this in today's paper, and I like the feel of the words. I hope you do, too.
We could end up homeless, too
Published Thursday, August 17, 2006
The London Free Press
By Carmi Levy

Not so many years ago, I stood in a bitterly cold doorway of a men’s mission in a forgotten corner of downtown Montreal, chatting with a gaunt-looking resident named Colin.

I was barely a teenager, working on a university journalism class reporting assignment. I asked how he came to be there. His eyes blazed out of their hollow sockets as he answered.

“I had a wife, a job, a house, a son,” he said. “All the things that most people have, I had, too.”

It started as a small drinking problem that eventually worsened. The job went first. Then his wife and son. Finally, the bank took the house. And Colin took to the streets.

London New Democrat MP and housing critic Irene Mathyssen is calling on federal Human Resources and Social Development Minister Diane Finley to ensure continued funding for London’s homeless. Her appeal comes amidst conflicting reports of federal cuts across the country.

Ottawa would do well to listen to her. Any one of us could be Colin.

Your turn: How close do you think any one of us is to homelessness? Why does society marginalize the issue?

One more thing: There's a followup to this entry, posted Friday, August 18. Click here to read it. Thank you all for your thoughtful contributions to this important discussion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I am a camera

I found myself back in the television studio today. This time out, I was chatting about blogs in China with Amanda Lang from Report on Business Television (ROBTv).

The link to her entire hour-long show, Taking Stock, is here. My segment starts right around the halfway mark. I'll apologize now, but you may need to scroll a bit back and forth until you get to it.

Your turn: I'd love to know what you all - with enough collective experience in blogging to write a book - think about this topic. I hope you'll watch the interview, then share your thoughts with me in a comment.

One more thing: I've been sick all week. That should explain why my voice sounds a bit rough. Suggestions for remedies are welcome. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More exploding laptop craziness

Busy day at work, so I don't have a whole lot of time (the fact that I'm even posting this while I'm at work should be illuminating.)

There's a chance that I'm going to be on the CBS Evening News tonight (OK, pause to let impending wave of hysteria pass. There. Let's continue.)

Dell announced it was recalling 4.1 million laptop batteries, which set up a perfect storm of followup for our media activity last month (see here, here, here, here, here and here for more background.) We released an updated press release - Dell Computer Battery Recall Highlights Need for Action by Computing Industry says Info-Tech Research Group - and then the fun began.

In addition to the CBS hit (!) I've been interviewed by the New York Times, the L.A. Times, CTV, CTV NewsNet, and CFRB, among others.

I'll post links and stuff later on. Back to interviews...

Update @ 8:40 p.m. OK, it was on CBS. It seemed somewhat surreal to be watching a clip of myself on American network television. I've been on television before, but this seemed completely otherworldly. Does that make sense?

The piece is available from the CBS News web site. Click here to go to the Video Archives page, then scroll down to Computer Battery Recall. Click the Play button - I suspect you'll need Real Media playback software installed on your PC.

More web content on CBS: the network has uploaded an extended clip of me talking about the issue. From the link above, select CBS Evening News, then scoll down to Laptop Hazard. The original report by Cyntha Bowers, Computer Battery Recall, is also available from this list.

The CTV NewsNet piece with Dan Matheson aired late this afternoon. The article on CTV's site is Dell recall stems from production flaw: experts. An updated link is here. The link to the video can be found here. I've added the video link to the sidebar as well, and will add more as they become available online.

Update @ 9:05 p.m. Marketplace - an American Public Media program - aired a piece entitled Is your laptop safe? The previous link is to the script. The link to the sound file (Real Media format) is here. The reporter was Janet Babin.

Update @ 11:18 p.m. CTV News has aired the piece by reporter Jed Kahane. The direct link is here. They've also placed a link to it on the article page and consolidated their content with the NewsNet material. They also tossed in a picture of me. Isn't that neat?

More stuff...
I'll keep adding as it hits the Net, so check back soon. I promise I'll make it fun.

Tin cup

Up until a few weeks ago, I had gone an entire lifetime without stepping foot on a golf course. I never much saw the point of the game, frankly. Whacking a little ball around just didn't seem like a worthwhile way to burn five or so hours of my life.

So when the opportunity to hit the links came up, I wasn't sure what to do. After chatting it through with my wife, we concluded it would be a neat way to spend the day.

It was a corporate event. I had a late interview at the office, so I had to join my foursome in progress (please, no jokes.) I arrived at the course, and quickly found a golf cart. I drove around in the heat and humidity for about a half hour before I found the other three members of my foursome. (Those carts can really fly, BTW.)

The day was a hoot. Most of my shots sucked. Big time. But I had a couple of good drives and putts - admittely more from luck than anything else - and in the process was able to understand why people enjoy the game in the first place. I don't think I'll become a golf addict. But I now know enough about the game that I look forward to my next outing.

More important than the game, though, was the fact that I got to spend an afternoon with three really intriguing and fun colleagues. Something tells me the whole intent of the game of golf has precious little to do with the actual game of golf. Or at least that's the way it should be.

Oh, and I took my camera with me and got some neat pictures. Like this one.

Your turn: Do you golf? Why? Do you not golf? Why? Why does this game seem to generate such obsession in some folks.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Over the line

730 km of seemingly endless white lines between home and our destination. Hundreds more kilometers of the same scene on the way home before we arrived safely back in our driveway last night.

I took this out the passenger-side window somewhere near Kingston, Ontario last week. We were en route to Montreal for a bit of a summer vacation with family and friends. I was idly shooting out the window, thinking that I didn't have a shutter speed fast enough to capture the scene without a tremendous amount of blur.

Then it dawned on me that the blur was the whole point. That a tack sharp image wouldn't tell the story of movement as well as one taken with a woefully inadequate shutter speed. That even if I had a camera that could manage such a fast shot, the result would be just as static as an image of the gutter in front of our house.

In the end, imperfection made a blurry image worth remembering. I'll have to keep that in mind as I twirl dials and adjust settings to capture the world around me. Sometimes, the image as it appeared isn't the story that needs to be told.

Your turn:
Do you keep so-called failed photos? Why?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The mirror knows where you've been

Highway 401, somewhere in Ontario, Saturday, August 5, 2006

Sometimes, we need to see where we've been to better understand where we're going.

Either that or we simply need to take the time to appreciate the view.

Your turn: What other truths can apply to an image like this?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Little green petals

I haven't shot flowers in a while. I go through phases where I tend to focus on the same themes for weeks or months at a time. I'm not sure why I go through these phases, though; they just sort of happen.

Eventually, it occurs to me that it's been a while since I last touched on certain topics through the old lens, and I get back into the old groove. For a little while, anyway.

I guess we can only pay attention to so many things at a given time before other things drop off the back of the priority list for a while.

It makes me wonder if there are more flowers in my photographic future. Hmm.

Your turn: Do you go through creative cycles?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Aged wood

In much the same vein as my previous entry, this image once again finds me looking way back at things that were in their prime long before I came along.

I cycle past this fallen tree quite regularly. It sits on a quiet curve between the river and the bike path, and like the shattered building I wrote about yesterday, has been on my want-to-capture list for quite some time. So on a stinking hot afternoon on my way home from work a couple of weeks back, I parked the bike and observed it from a number of angles.

On the surface, it's little more than dead wood, something that no longer contributes to the world around it.

I'd like to think otherwise. Wouldn't you, too?

Your turn: How can an old piece of wood inspire those who stop in on their way past? Why would you stop to observe something like this?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Shattered windows on a quiet street

There's a building on a quiet street near where I go to donate blood plasma. It used to be a factory, and is now partially occupied by an indoor volleyball venue. The majority of the building has been left to rot, as you can see here.

I pass by this decaying hulk at least once or twice a month, and every time I do, I think that I ought to return here with a camera to capture its decline. I have a thing for ruined architecture. The castoffs of urban life seem to tell poignant stories of better times, of people and experiences that no longer exist. I often wonder what they would tell us if they could speak, what lessons they would share with those of us too busy to stop by as we rush off to another appointment.

So last week, as I cycled to my appointment with the dreaded needle, I realized I had a bit of extra time and my camera was loaded in my bike bag. So I stopped and thought I'd grab some images of this otherwise forgotten piece of architecture.

As I clicked away, it slowly dawned on me that the real story wasn't simply the broken windows or the weeds growing out of the brickwork. The morning sun shining through the trees and reflecting off the bricks told me another story: that inspiration exists even here.

There's a reason this old building still stands. Perhaps it is to remind us that we need to look deeper into the wrinkles of our existence and realize that even an old, broken-down building can be captivating in its own way.

Your turn: Have you come across urban ruins that inspire? Why do they inspire us?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Duck, duck...

Bumped into this little fellow while out for a walk this morning. He (she? I can never tell) was paddling along with a group of about a dozen duckies, enjoying the stillness of a sunny summer's day.

It's precisely the kind of peaceful image I'd like to keep in my figurative back pocket, saving it for the day and time when the comings and goings of the a world too busy to stop and notice would otherwise render me unable to appreciate a simple, quiet scene like this.

I hope such a day never comes. But if it does, I'll have a duck to thank for teaching me that there's a better way to live.

Your turn: What lessons have you learned (or could you learn) from a duck? Don't limit yourself...ducks can be great educators if we let them!

Quoted - San Jose Mercury News (!)

As part of my day job, I am often asked to share my thoughts on all sorts of technology-related issues. From BlackBerry lawsuits to Microsoft Windows Vista, reporters looking for an analyst's perspective often give the analysts at my firm a buzz. As part of this process, my company often sends out press releases that also shed light on tech issues we feel matter to today's businesses.

Every once in a while, we get quoted in some really, really cool places. I've been in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Houston Chronicle. I've been on radio and on television. Yesterday, I was quoted in the major daily in the middle of the Silicon Valley: The San Jose Mercury News.

To most folks, this is a yawner. To a geek, it's a bit more exciting. The piece is called 81% of you: Have a fun vacation, but stay in touch. The piece is bylined by a range of SJMN columnists: Dean Takahashi, Michelle Quinn, Elise Ackerman and Matt Marshall. It's part of the release we sent ot last week (read about it here.)

If I'm doing a happy dance, please forgive my exuberance.

Your turn: You're on vacation...are you checking your e-mail and voicemail? Are you afraid if you don't?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Put on a happy face

For as long as I can remember, I've been drawing happy faces on buns with the nearest condiment. Mustard, ketchup, even relish: if it can be squeezed out of a bottle, I'll play with it at the dinner table.

Never mind that it inevitably ends up squished mere seconds after its hasty creation. Never mind the odd looks I'd receive while playing with my food. If I get even one smile from someone, it's worth it.

Life is, ultimately, too short to spend splattering the same patterns in the same places every time we pull up to the trough. A little variety makes it all taste just that much better.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Your turn: Do you play with your food? How? And why? What kind of reactions do you receive?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Garbage, man

I hate taking out the garbage. I hate how it smells, and I hate the feeling of neverendingness (yes, I invented another word) inherent in this incredibly lonely, more or less weekly pursuit.

So it isn't surprising that I was in a decidedly foul mood as I added some last-minute material to the recycling bins this week. I wasn't feeling particularly reflective at that moment: I simply wanted to finish off this unwelcome chore so I could get back into the house and wash my hands like the good little OCD addict that I sometimes am.

But I looked over at the garbage bags that had been set out the previous night and had spent hours and hours soaking in the thunderstorms that slammed the region while we slept (see here for a picture of the oncoming clouds, and this set for more images) and noticed they were still covered with water. Even better, the droplets looked kind of interesting on the industrial green plastic background.

So I ran in, washed my hands (of course), grabbed the camera and returned to the curb to capture this. If you remember my thoughts about there being no such thing as mundane (see earlier entry) you'll be pleased to know that I've begun to learn from myself. It doesn't get more mundane than a soaking wet garbage bag. But despite my otherwise-glum mood, I captured a unique scene that was soon rendered history by the garbage truck's arrival.

Beauty does indeed flourish in the most unexpected places.

Your turn: What's the ugliest place where you have found a worthwhile image? What made it worth capturing and remembering? Is it available for viewing online?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Lunar landscape?

This is another one of those pictures that just begs the mind to wonder what it is. One of the things I love about photography is its selectiveness: when I compose an image, I can choose to include or exclude whatever context may be surrounding the scene. This seemingly simple decision can totally influence the viewing experience.

It also keeps some folks up at night after experiencing my bizarre world view. But that's a story for another day.

Your turn: A 2-parter:
  • What do you think this is?
  • What came to mind immediately after you first saw this image?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Contrarian avian

I relate well to the one in back. I was never one to follow the crowd.

Your turn: Do you lead? Do you follow? Do you blaze your own trail? Why?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tools of the trade

I originally took up photography because I figured if I was going to write for a living, I should also be able to take the images to accompany my words. As I've honed both skills, I've learned a number of truths that apply to both skillsets:
  1. Everyone has a story to tell. Similarly, there is a story in just about everything we see and encounter.
  2. Simple compositions allow the power of that story to bubble to the surface.
  3. In contrast, overly complex ones tend to bury the meaning and fatigue the reader/viewer.
  4. What often appears simple at first glance is revealed to be much deeper upon further observation.
  5. There is no such thing as mundane.
  6. Metaphor can be a powerful tool.
  7. Imagery applies in both a graphical and a psychological sense.
  8. With that in mind, words can often paint more vivid pictures than the camera can.
  9. In the end, it's all about connecting with your audience - readers or viewers - in a way that is uniquely meaningful to them.
  10. Emotional messages can be extremely powerful and life-changing.
  11. Creative endeavors carry with them an accountability to inspire.
So there you have it: Words and images are meaningful to me, so much so that I've built a professional life around them. I can't tell you how lucky that makes me feel.

Your turn: Take the time to look, again, at the image above. What do you see when you look more closely at it? What story does it tell?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sky shadow

Approaching storm, London, ON, Wednesday, August 2, 2006, 8:39 p.m.

While cycling home from a dinner party with my colleagues, I did my best to ignore the fact that the weather was still insanely hot and humid. I had filled both water bottles on my bike with ice water. But as I approached home, they were almost drained, and what was left was sickeningly warm.

I looked up and saw something odd in the sky: one of the clouds in the distance seemed to be spawning a bit of a mohawk.

I'm no meterorologist, so I can't explain the intricacies of what I was witnessing. My best guess is a combination of a low sun and a band of clouds was causing elongated shadows to be thrown into the roiled, late-evening sky. The weather forecast was ominous: severe thunderstorms were about to cross the entire region...this represented the atmospheric equivalent of foreshadowing.

Despite my inability to explain it scientifically, I know that I like pretty pictures, and I thought it would make a nice photo. So I stopped the bike - I magically had my camera with me - and watched in wonder as the shadows continued to extend across the sky. Lots of people walked or cycled past me. Everyone looked at me funny, but no one stopped to observe the unique scene unfolding above.

Consider this a two-part lesson learned, again. First, always have a camera close at hand to capture those unique moments that disappear almost as soon as they present themselves. And second, never be afraid to be the only one stopped by the side of the road to take it all in.

Your turn: I'd appreciate your thoughts on this image. What feelings does it evoke?

One more thing: I've got more pictures from this series on my accompanying Flickr page to the right. Or simply click here for more.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sheets of water

Cascading rain on our front porch, Sunday, July 30, 2006

After Noah's birthday party, we came back to the house to spend some quiet time before dinner. The forecast called for thunderstorms to roll in. So I checked the radar, calculated that I had between 45 minutes to an hour before the rain would begin to fall, and headed outside to start the BBQ.

Either my math was off, or the clouds accelerated, because the thunder started almost as soon as I dropped the burgers and hot dogs on the grill. It was still far off, but I cranked up the burners just in case.

I cooked like I had never cooked before, hoping that I'd be finished before the skies opened up. Angry black clouds began their march from the horizon. The thunder grew louder.

Quick aside: I'm intensely afraid of lightning storms. Standing outside with metallic cooking utensils in my hands is not exactly my ideal place to be when lightning threatens. But I had a house full of hungry folks and a little birthday boy. Finishing off the cooking in the microwave just didn't seem like a viable option.

As I was getting the last of the food off of the grill, it started to rain. Hard. I sprinted into the house and headed to our kitchen, now delightfully full of friends and family. As everyone tucked into dinner and the room filled with the banter of happy folks, I quietly ducked out, grabbed my camera and headed for the front door. The intense rain coming off of the overhang over the porch seemed almost curtain-like. I knew it wouldn't last long, so I snapped off a few quick images before rejoining the party.

Your turn: What is it about falling water that almost begs for a photograph?

One more thing: Here's a link to a picture I took long ago. Similar theme, different place. I hope you like it.