Friday, February 29, 2008


Look to the sky
London, Ontario, January 2008 [Click to embiggen]

The scene: Westmount Mall on a frigid Saturday afternoon. I'm here with our two youngest munchkins to run some errands until it's time to fetch my wife from the hairdresser. It's about as forgettable a scene as an average family will have on an average day in suburbia. Well, forgettable in the conventional sense.

That's because I have my camera. And I've got some alone time with two of our kids. They won't be this small forever, so we head over to the Laura Secord for some ice cream (shh, don't tell my wife) and then plop ourselves down on a bench in the central square to munch, rest and observe.

I take pictures of them and of our surroundings, trying to tell this little story of this little moment on this cloudy afternoon. Because I never seem to take a normal photo, I eventually find myself leaning way back, shooting straight up at the massive skylight that bathes the nearly deserted mall with light. They laugh at me because I always end up taking nutty pictures with my camera. It's the laugh of children who take the same kinds of pictures whenever they pick up their own cameras.

It's a beautiful place to be, but they both ask why it's empty, why the fronts of so many stores are covered with paper. I briefly think about explaining how malls killed local stores, and now big box stores are now killing the malls. I want them to learn about the relentlessly restless consumer economy, the sense of place that marked my own childhood that now seems all but lost.

But that's a lesson for another day. For now, I get to watch our son eat ice cream with his older sister while we spend some rare quiet time together. Sometimes, just letting them enjoy the moment is enough.

Your turn: A quiet, seemingly ordinary moment that stands out in your life. Please discuss.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

You've been served

Memories of Tom Hanks
Grand Bend, ON, July 2007

I can't think of the word "Wilson" without hearing Tom Hanks personify his pet volleyball in the film, Cast Away. It's one of those movie lines that seems to have embedded itself into popular culture.

So as I saw this volleyball net on the beach last summer, Mr. Hanks's voice once again bounced around my head. I took this picture for no other reason than to remember my little movie moment in a peaceful place by the water.

I also liked the color, but that's a story for another day.

Yeah, I'm strange that way.

Your turn: Memorable lines from movies you've seen. Or haven't seen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Alice in chains

Inextricably linked
Palm Beach, FL, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Your turn: These chains are used for...?

One more thing: Caption This is still taking submissions. Please click here to see what all the fuss is all about (yes, even if you're dropping in from WW.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gone in an instant

The photographer in me can't not mark the passing of an era. Polaroid's recent announcement that it would stop producing and marketing its iconic instant film is as close to the death knell for the overall film industry as we're going to see.

I think we all remember our first Polaroid experience. Mine was at an elementary school track meet. (Quick aside: I'm old enough that I grew up firmly in the age of film. The only thing digital at the time was a digital watch, and even that was a bit of a novelty. There, now I've dated myself. Let's continue...)

One of the mothers brought this very large contraption. A crowd gathered as she explained what it was. She took a picture of her son, and we all stood around, jaws dropping open, as the photo slowly materialized on the print. Sure, it was always horridly expensive - a fact made even more obvious in today's digital age - and the photo quality approached that of a vaseline-smeared photo booth deep inside that dark, old mall that no one goes to anymore. But that didn't matter. It was our first taste of instant, and it tasted good.

So for a whole host of reasons, Polaroid has decided to pull out of the market that it created a generation ago. Which quite likely means the end of this now-niche form of photography. Aficionados are upset. Many are buying up whatever stock they can find. Others are taking Polaroid to task for daring to leave them high and dry. They make me laugh. Here's why:

Polaroid is a business. It exists by selling stuff for more money than it costs to manufacture, distribute and market. Like the consumers who buy them, most consumer products have a lifespan. When the end nears and sales go into decline - for whatever reason: technology, irrelevance, fatigue - companies often find themselves playing the business equivalent of Dr. Kevorkian as they wrestle with when it makes the most sense to pull the plug.

They owe their consumers nothing. Indeed, companies wouldn't have to kill products if consumers forever bought them in sufficient quantities. But life isn't like that, and instant film is no longer a sustainable market. And if the die-hards who now vilify Polaroid for doing the unthinkable had bought a lot more film in recent years, perhaps the company wouldn't be pulling the plug in 2008. More darkly, one wonders if conventional film isn't far behind.

Thank you, Polaroid, for having the guts to market a technology that made photography seem that much more magical, and for motivating so many - including me - to pick up a camera of any type and start shooting.

Your turn: Do you have a Polaroid moment from your past?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oil reflects the light

Toronto, ON, November 2007

It's been a dim couple of days, so I find myself looking in corners for little snippets of color and light that might lift my mood. I'm thankful that I have my words and images, because they often seem to bring comfort when life tries to do the opposite.

It's remarkably soothing when you can withdraw to your personal archives for a few minutes and reflect on the thinking that went into something as simple as a photo or a few paragraphs.

I wish more people could seek refuge in what they've created.

Your turn: Suggestions for feeling better. Please discuss.

One more thing: Caption This rages on. If you're still mulling over yours for this week, mull no more. Click here instead and join the fray.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Caption This 59

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, Ontario, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Our kids take art classes at ArtVenture, a local studio (see here for earlier entry.) I like to go in when I pick them up: sitting outside and waiting in the car just isn't my style. I like to connect with the folks who teach our kids, spend a few brief minutes chatting and reconnecting with them. It's the kind of quaint thinking that our supercharged, time-driven world seems to be losing.

Occasionally, I bring my camera along.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this image by clicking on the comment link below. The rules? Well, I'm not a big rules guy, but here's a quick rundown: suggest as many as you wish, involve your friends and even disgruntled neighbors, share this URL with your nasty in-laws and tell them you'll let them spend time with the grandkids if they play along... Okay, so I'm being a little obtuse, but I just want to spread the fun. I'll announce winners next Sunday, along with another all-new image.

About last week's photo of my laptop's keyboard*: Lots of people had lots of fun with this one. I was especially pleased when my friend, Darren, weighed in. Without outing him completely, allow me to share that he knows a great deal about my machine and others like it. The Teach takes it this week with the very appropriate Words escape me.

Lots of honorable menschens this week...and further proof that my beloved regulars and multiple-posters seem to always be in the thick of it.
  • JC: Untapped energy
  • Tiel Aisha Ansari: Key bored
  • Deni: Playing the keys like a sweet sonata
  • Lissa: Keys to writing well.
  • Jennifer: Don't push my buttons today!
  • Steve: Depress for success
  • Heidi: Unwritten Inc.
  • Robin: United we spell
  • BreadBox: Awaiting sticky fingers
Now...get colorful!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My ears are burning

My wife always says your ears are supposed to feel a burning sensation when someone's talking about you. This likely explains why my own oversized ears have been feeling so warm in recent days.

First, I was quoted on the Financial Post's front page yesterday (FP is the business arm of the National Post). David George-Cosh interviewed me for the piece, Microsoft vows to share its software 'secret sauce'. Coolness factor: they used my words for the headline. Even more coolness, he quoted me after Steve Ballmer and before Gill Gates. If you've got to be sandwiched, may as well be by them, right? The piece also published under the headline, Microsoft vows to share with developers. Here's what I said:
"It's like McDonalds releasing the recipe to its secret sauce," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc. "Getting that ‘secret sauce recipe' out there, it's enough to stoke interest of the developer community which ensures the viability of its technology going forward."
Next up, I was quoted in another article on page 3 of the same paper: RIM leaps 9% on bullish subscriber forecast. Here's what I said:
With no visible damage from the stormy U.S. economic headwinds, RIM is entering 2008 with its guns blazing and Main Street consumers square in its sights, said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc.

"A one-cylinder car only has a certain performance potential and at some point you have to diversify your offerings," Mr. Levy said. "In the last year and a half, [RIM] has done a masterful job diversifying themselves from an exclusively enterprise company to one that plays in both enterprise and consumer markets split between them."


Maintaining its close partnerships with carriers around the world has given RIM the clout of a telecom provider without the risk, said Mr. Levy.

"The more you can integrate the offerings, the easier it becomes for carriers to partner with you," said Mr. Levy. "If you can do that, it makes it much easier [for customers] to latch onto the BlackBerry brand."
Third, and quite likely the funniest pickup I've had in some time, Paul Thurrott, noted geek-blogger, ran this somewhat mis-targeted assessment on his Windows IT Pro site: WinInfo Short Takes: Week of February 25, 2008. Here's what he said, and it's a scream:
Best Quote about the Microsoft Announcement: Looking over the news stories about this announcement, which usually relied very heavily on quotes from industry analysts because, you know, tech reporters are apparently too dumb to come up with their own analysis, one quote stood out. What's funny about this, however, is that the quote is great reasons even the quoter probably doesn't understand. "These announcements are like McDonald's releasing the recipe for its secret sauce," said AR Communications strategic consultant Carmi Levy. Actually, it's exactly like that, because McDonald's "secret sauce" was a big deal in the fast food market 30 years ago, when everyone in America knew the words to the Big Mac jingle the company used in commercials. That we now have Microsoft sort-of embracing open software today, a full decade after the open source movement went mainstream, kind of shows how far behind the company is when it comes to the hottest trends in computing today, including such movements as cloud computing and mashups. You know, the types of things that pretty much rely on interoperability. So let's hear it for Carmi Levy. My guess is you don't know how right you are.
Looks like I managed to press some buttons this week. Neat.

Your turn: Did you push anyone's buttons this week? Did you enjoy the experience?

One more thing: The weekly Caption This entry will be posted later on Sunday. Start your creative engines...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Future photographer

Noah's blue vision
Palm Beach, Florida, December 2007

One of the joys of parenthood revolves around watching our kids discover what they love to do. Since they've grown up with lenses being shoved into their faces at regular intervals, our children have always understood that photography is an important part of remembering the little bits of life that might otherwise be forgotten.

As much as I love converting reality to two-dimensional assemblies of color-mapped pixels, I've been careful to avoid forcing a camera into their hands. My philosophy has always been non-invasive: I'll be there to guide them if they express an interest. But I won't assume anything beyond that.

Interestingly, they've all stepped forward on their own. Zach now has his own camera, while the younger ones are happy to borrow Mommy's point-and-shoot whenever we're out and about. When we went to the zoo, they slowly walked the grounds, thinking out loud about what they wanted to shoot and how they wanted to remember this day. I lagged back and watched them watch their surroundings.

Although at times I felt like I was looking in a mirror, I was piqued by how uniquely each one of them chooses to think through a particular scene. They're learning to take what they've gotten from us and make it their own. Amazing.

Here, Noah takes a break from the proceedings. He reminded me why my family remains my favorite subject of all.

Your turn: Following in their parents' footsteps or charting their own course. Mutually exclusive? Please discuss.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The icy bush in front of my house

Say hello to my three little friends
London, Ontario, February 2008 [Click to embiggen]

My wife and I were heading out of the house this weekend to run some errands. As I walked out the door, I noticed our bushes had been coated with ice courtesy of some freezing rain that had blanketed the region.

It had been a few days since I had taken a picture, and I was feeling a little antsy. If writers write and photographers photograph, then it's easy to conclude that they might begin to lose their edge if they keep their pens and cameras on the shelf.

So as I stared intently at this little mini-world of ice balanced gingerly on the spindly leaves, I got the urge to capture it before the gradually warming temperatures rendered the scene a mere memory. I quickly went inside, scooped the camera up and took a few really fast photos while my patient and understanding wife waited inside.

By the time we got home, the ice was almost completely melted, the scene now existed only as bits on my memory card. Precious bits indeed.

Your turn: Why do we feel the need to capture?

One more thing: Quick peek at some neat media coverage today:
"These announcements are like McDonald's releasing the recipe for its secret sauce," said AR Communications strategic consultant Carmi Levy.

"This announcement signals that Microsoft is finally ready to commit to an entirely new business model. This is a radical shift from Microsoft's traditional bull-in-a-china-shop strategy."
  • BetaNews. Dialog: The final format war. Byline Scott Fulton. Coolness factor: We discuss at length the implications of Blu-ray's DVD format war victory.
"Going to court is expensive, and both these companies are facing their own challenges in the market and need to keep their eye on the ball if they want to stay competitive," Carmi Levy, senior vice president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, told

RIM, Levy explained, has faced increasing competition from large players capable of "swamping the company" if the vendor loses focus.

Motorola, he notes, is already battling to stay in a leadership spot amid rumors of selling its handset unit. The company "needs to focus on regaining traction," amid recent significant losses, he adds.


One thing both Levy and Hughes believe is that neither company can afford a long legal battle like the one RIM fought with patent holding firm NTP. That lawsuit, which RIM lost, awarded $612.5 million to NTP.


For his part, Levy described the legal action as "little more than a tempest in a teacup," noting that neither vendor has the "luxury of fritting away precious resources" on legal action.

While Motorola claims that the patent dispute is not tied to its recent announcement that it was "exploring the structural and strategic realignment of its businesses to better equip Mobile Devices to recapture global market leadership and to enhance shareholder value," Levy acknowledged that patent hurdles could thwart any potential sale.

"A potential buyer would discover this kind of issue in due diligence, and the legal action also sets a tone that Motorola likely doesn't want in play if it's looking to sell," he says.

"Motorola is by far the biggest loser in all of this," says Carmi Levy, senior VP for strategic consulting at AR Communications, "because at a time when its leaders need to be focused on turning the company around, they instead choose to divert their attention to a lawsuit that promises to sap precious resources away from more important activities."


"A drawn-out intellectual property-based lawsuit will take years to resolve if Motorola doesn't politely resolve its differences with RIM," adds Levy, "by which point the mobile landscape will look very different than it does today."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Night of the iguana

A visitor in the garden
Delray Beach, Florida, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

The scene: my aunt and uncle's driveway. It's a sunny afternoon and everyone's outside soaking in the day. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, this magnificent lizard materializes and nonchalantly makes his (her?) way across the driveway and into the dense bush of the front garden. I run to grab my camera - thankfully nearby - and summon anyone within earshot to witness this incredible sight.

By the time I get back, my wife and daughter have named this iguana - Iggy, of course - and are intently watching it climb up a tree. I shoot as quietly as I can to avoid freaking the poor thing out, hoping to capture this unique moment in the life of our kids. Eventually, he climbs down, walks around the side of the house and is last seen headed toward the inland channel behind the development. And we're left with a memory card full of incredible images and a bunch of stories to tell everyone back home.

Your turn: Unexpected surprises. Please discuss.

Wordless Wednesday - An owl's stare

Palm Beach, Florida
December 2007
[Click to embiggen]

When I'm taking photos of animals, I'm a complete sucker when they stare right back at my lens.

As I composed this shot, I feared he would lunge right at me if I stuck around any longer. So I tucked my camera away and headed back to my waiting - and ever-patient - family.

I got to meet this amazing bird at the Palm Beach Zoo. (Other zoo scenes are here, here and here.) I think there are more trips to the zoo in my future. Who says they're just for kids?

Your turn: Your favorite zoo animal is a...? Why?

One more thing: Caption This submissions are still being accepted. Click here and see what all the fuss is about. And if you want to see the next freaky-animal picture from my lens, click here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blu-ray beats HD-DVD

The gravitationally challenged female has sung. The hi-def disk format war is over. Sony's Blu-ray has vanquished Toshiba's HD-DVD and, in doing so, has evened the score after its spectacular Betamax flameout a generation ago.

Big news in technologyland often gets my phone ringing, and this time's no exception. Here's a roundup of some of the hi-def coverage I've had of late, as well as a smattering of other media hits (alas, no one's asking what I think about Fidel Castro's resignation or the future of Cuba now that he's solidifying his role as an Adidas track suit salesperson):
Analyst Carmi Levy said HD DVD players will make good DVD players because the average DVD will still look better when played on an HD DVD player.

"Technically, it's a very good device and it will do the job but it is essentially dead-end technology," said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at Toronto's AR Communications Inc.

"This will not be the centre of your future hi-def television."
"A format war is not good for anyone," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc. "It slows the evolution of the market down and forces people to the sideline when they really want to dive right in."
It's believed to be one of the first times that a social networking web site has been used in such a fashion in Canada. "This is the first time I've really seen individual investors or small investors using Facebook for a business related issue or goal," says Carmi Levy, senior vice-president, strategic consulting, at AR Communications Inc. in Toronto.

"This is where grassroots organization takes place today, on sites like Facebook. It allows you to rapidly assemble large groups of like-minded people in ways you simply could not accomplish using traditional tools such as email or instant messaging."
Throughout, there was speculation the site was a viral marketing tool for a movie or video game, something industry expert Carmi Levy said would likely backfire.

"At some point, a line is crossed," says Levy, a consultant with AR Communications. "Using suicide would likely be seen as going too far."

Tod said the same would likely apply to art.

Within days of the site being launched, other bloggers began linking to it and opening their own discussions about it.

Once something begins to take off on the Internet, Levy says, others jump on board to generate traffic to their own sites as a way to boost revenue.

"There's a self-serving aspect to a lot of the comments, the forum post and the blog posts," he says.
Perhaps the only real alternative is leaving the BlackBerry for another type of device and provider.

But the practicality of adopting an enterprise-wide backup in case of a RIM failure isn't a viable option for many, said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at AR Communications.

"Think of the cost of the device, another service subscription, the application work and integration work," Levy said. "That's a pretty steep price to pay to have a backup system for when and if RIM service takes a dip. It's like using a jackhammer to nail a picture on the wall."

It's necessary that security measures be holistic, encompassing software, process and behavior, said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications "It's one thing to implement the tool, it's a quite another to make sure all employees at all levels of the organization understand all the threats that expose the organization to unnecessary risk."


Monday, February 18, 2008

Hana's Suitcase

As part of her school's Holocaust awareness curriculum, our daughter recently read the book, Hana's Suitcase. Studying the Holocaust has always been central to my identity as a Jew, to the sense of righteous indignation that guides my life as a writer, to the themes of becoming responsible citizens of the world that we hope to instill in our children. So it was with great excitement that I took her and our eldest son to see George Brady, Hana's older brother and the only survivor of his family, speak to a packed audience in London earlier tonight.

I could likely write thousands of words on this. This book has become a centerpiece of tolerance-based educational programming for countless children around the world. It's available in dozens of languages. Here in London, the play has been playing to packed houses at the city's main stage, the Grand Theatre. A colleague of my wife at the school has built an entire curriculum around this work, and has made it available to every school in the region. Because of her efforts, thousands of students from all backgrounds have learned Hana's story, learned why the Holocaust isn't just a lesson for world Jewry, but for the world, period.

George Brady was Hana's brother. He was 13 and she was 10 when their happy world of family and togetherness in an idyllic Czech village began to come apart at the seams. After their parents were deported to a Nazi death camp, he took responsibility for his little sister, doing everything in his power to keep her safe. In the face of brutality and cruelty that continues to defy understanding, he couldn't.

Yet he survived, came to Canada and built a life of honor, family and achievement. He succeeded in spite of what he had been through - and in doing so reflected a trajectory shared by so many Holocaust survivors. When I think of the millions of stories like this one that remain untold, that risk being swallowed by a history that's all too willing to forget, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. We need to do more.

Listening to him share stories was nothing short of incredible. Watching our children absorb his message, respond to his voice, learn his lessons...well, that made it incredible-squared. Maybe even cubed.

If you haven't yet experienced Hana's Suitcase, I urge you all to follow the links below. Tolerance, after all, is a universal human need, and we all have a part to play in spreading its light as far as we can:
Your turn: Hana Brady wanted to be a teacher. George likes to relate how she now teaches countless people around the world lessons in tolerance and humanity. What is your next step in widening Hana's reach as an educator?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Caption This 58

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

London, Ontario, February 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I took this picture of my laptop's keyboard for a work-related project, but decided I liked the perspective so much that I'd upload it as a Caption This photo, too.

First thing every morning, I stare at these keys for a few seconds and think about all the words I'll be cranking out through the day. A comfortable, well laid-out and fast keyboard is critical to me. I'm a bit OCD about these things, so I'm thrilled that this new laptop of mine lets my fingers fly.

About the only thing that comes close to this is one of the new Mac 'boards. Maybe there are more keyboard pics in my future. Yes? No? Do let me know where you want my lens to do the walking next.

Your turn: Please name or otherwise caption this decidedly abstract image. As always, have fun with it. You may submit as many captions as you wish. You may enlist the help of friends, family members and pets. You may be as wackily creative as you wish. I'll announce the winner of my everlasting gratitude around this time next Sunday.

But wait, let's talk about last week's image of my rented Ford Focus by the side of a rural road: Judy takes it this week with Roadsidia. Judy (aka Kenju) is a florist who puts any other florist I've known to shame. She taught me that florists use the word "roadsidia" to describe things that grow alongside the highway. That word is so appropriate here! Have you seen Judy's blog? Please go there now and congratulate her.

My honorable menschens (no, that's not a typo...if you know the Yiddish word, mensch, then this refers to the plural form.):
  • Craziequeen: "Notes from the Hard Shoulder."
  • Mike: "Should have bought the Chevy."
  • Tiel Aisha Ansari: "Cold-shouldered."
  • Omykiss: "Grounded."
  • Robin: "Out of Focus."
  • Steve: "A Ford able office space."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Parent of the year? Not so much

The scene: It's early morning. I'm not a morning person. I prefer sleep, or the quiet time when you've just regained consciousness and are lying in a cozy little ball of comforter and dog. I awake to a lovely voice in the distance. It's my wife - who is quite lovely - telling me that our youngest offspring, Noah, is sick and will be staying home today. No surprise there, as he was bottoming out the previous night, the last of all of us to succumb to this nasty cold/virus/ickiness that's already done a couple of cycles through the house.

That's one of the joys of working from home. Child care worries? What child care worries? Just prop the little man up on the couch with a remote control, a stack of DVDs, his Buzz Lightyear comforter and a very sympathetic dog and you're all set.

So just as soon as I get the plan in place, I notice the friendly flashing red light on my BlackBerry. Do I check it before I wake myself up with a glass of juice? Of course I do. Because I'm addicted. And CrackBerry addicts need their little handheld jolt before making the long trip to the kitchen for juice.

It's an interview request. Even better: television. Cool! I love television. It's more fun than...well, having my area rugs steam cleaned. The problem you can see building is this: I'm going to be home alone with an under-the-weather 7-year-old. How can I do an interview?

I quickly discuss my conundrum with my wife. She agrees it makes sense to take him with me if I want to do the interview. Which I do: it's a great topic, a great interviewer and a great producer. A perfect storm of journalistic goodness. Even better, our son thinks it'll be neat to hang out with his dad at the television station.

So when it comes time for the interview, I load my pyjama-clad little man into the wondervan and off we go. He falls asleep a couple of blocks before we get to the TV station ( London's A Channel), but is easily awoken when we get in. Dwayne meets us at the front and takes us in. I can see his eyebrows go up at the sight of a kid in skateboard-themed jammy bottoms and a big winter hat with ear flaps, holding his dad's hand and trying not to trip as he takes in the wonder of this place. But Dwayne doesn't skip a beat, introducing himself to Noah and inviting him into the control room to watch me as I get set up in the adjacent studio.

It doesn't take long for me to do the interview - it rocked! - and thank Dwayne for being so generous with our son. Noah seems to forget that he's sick as he happily parades back down the long hall and down the stairs into the lobby. We're surrounded by decades of local television memorabilia: posters, old cameras, and probably an unseen skeleton or two. He asks to sit in the waiting area for a minute so we can "look around at all the cool stuff." I take his picture to remember the moment. I think he'll remember this even without the photo. I know I will.

Your turn: Unexpectedly memorable hanging around experiences with Mom or Dad. Please discuss.

One more thing: Almost forgot...I couldn't locate the link to the interview because it seems to have expired from Google's cache. But I did find the interview I did with Kim Parlee for BNN's Outlook 2008 program. We spoke about RIM's prospects in the coming year. Click on this link only if you're not afraid of seeing my hideous form in living color.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My friend the egret

Bird brain
Palm Beach, Florida, December 2007 [Click to enlarge head]

He stood on a post and patiently waited while I captured him from every angle imaginable. I guess zoo animals are used to having lots of loud and obnoxious humans close by, but I still found it neat that he was so calm for so long.

I was always taught that patience is a virtue. I guess some birds got the same lesson.

Your turn: Why patience matters. Please discuss.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

1.1 seconds

Spreading my wings
Deerfield Beach, Florida, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

If you click here, you'll see an entry, Avian Flight, featuring a photo (creatively named DSC_6787 by my camera) of this same bird. Above, I present DSC_6786. Time stamps are as follows:
  • 6786: 15:12:33.2
  • 6787: 15:12:34.3
  • Time difference: 1.1 seconds
What I find neat is how in 1.1 seconds, this bird moved far enough in the sky to completely change the tone and feel of the image.

Your turn: Life moves pretty fast. Please discuss.

One more thing: The commercial festival known as Valentine's Day has arrived. I view "holidays" like this with great cynicism because, frankly, nothing you buy in a store today is going to offset being a relationship weenie for the other 364 days of the year (well, 365, given that this is a leap year, but I digress.)

So I believe in small, subtle messages, spread throughout the year. I believe in being my wife's friend, someone she trusts implicitly. I want her to smile as much when she thinks of me as I do when I think of her. I want whatever gifts we share with each other to be about more than a price tag or a moment of bragging at our next get together with friends.

I don't want to wake up tomorrow and think that I've done all I need to do until next Valentine's Day. Today, then, is another gift of a day, like every other one I've been given since she first spotted me so long ago. We'll celebrate tomorrow, too. And the next day. And...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Framed ocean view

Come sail away
Deerfield Beach, Florida

December 2007

Global warming, career and my everpresent love of all things Canada aside, I decide as I stand at the top of the beach that I need to live closer to the water.

Scenes like this, where you get to look into the distance through a tiny shelter of calm, captivate my imagination weeks after I first stood here. I'm thousands of kilometers away now, surrounded by a cold, snowy landscape. But still I find myself thinking back to this quiet moment when I was alone by the water, looking.

I'm generally not one to envy, but I'll admit I envy people who live close enough to the sea. I envy that they can visit it more than a couple of times every year or two, and linger for as long as they wish, not having to worry about counting the minutes until they need to head back to a real, colder world. It would be neat to live in a place where the beach is never more than a drive, a bike ride or a long walk away.

But for now, reality prevails. I'll set aside those pesky practical things for a bit. I'm just dreaming is all.

Your turn: Dreaming of somewhere else. Why?

Monday, February 11, 2008

I is a media whore

It's been a busy time around here mediawise because no one told the folks in the tech sector that they're supposed to hibernate in winter. Instead, they've cranked up the activity levels - to wit, the Microsoft-Yahoo buyout offer and the Motorola-Nortel joint venture talks. I feel as if I've got a front row seat to the best show in the house. Bonus points that Disney themes are nowhere to be seen.

My hatred of all things Mickey notwithstanding, here's quick rundown of some of the key places I've been popping up over the last little bit. No real need to share a comment unless this kind of thing really turns you on (if you really want to share a thought - and I hope you do - voting is still open for this week's Caption This. Click here to skip on over.)

I post these tech roundups to the blog mainly for future reference. Otherwise, I forget how much I really do talk about this stuff. Here are some of the notable recent hits:
But Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, said service reliability is a serious concern for companies like RIM, because if problems become routine, they can turn customers and prospective buyers away.

"It's a big issue and it's a growing issue," he said, adding that huge outages can prove to be "a major Achilles' heel" for RIM.

"Any time you have an outage of this scale, that receives the headlines that it does, it certainly is a cause for concern," said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications. "RIM has to figure out a way to avoid single-point-of-failure type of outages and minimize the impact."

Levy did commend RIM for informing corporate clients quickly.

Although RIM was quick to redeploy its service, the outage illustrates the company's vulnerability whenever an upgrade goes bad, said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting with AR Communications Inc.

"This will happen when all of your traffic goes through a choke point in your network," Mr. Levy said.


"At some point, architecturally, it makes sense for RIM to move to a more distributed model like Google uses, where they have data centres all over the place," Mr. Levy said.

Technology consultant Carmi Levy said another crash could damage the BlackBerry brand with users.

"From the CEO all the way to IT managers and the average person walking into a wireless store at the mall, they are all going to ask the question," Levy said.

"Isn't that the device that's always going down? At some point, it is potentially damaging to the brand and RIM wants to squelch that now before it gets worse," said Levy, senior-vice president of strategic consulting at Toronto's AR Communications.


The concentration of RIM's BlackBerry service at a single network operation centre in the Ontario city of Waterloo, through which traffic such as e-mails are routed, exacerbates such problems and leaves it open to more crashes, said Levy.

"Clearly an architecture where all of your traffic is routed into a relatively small choke point is not sufficient when you are responsible for servicing tens of millions of customers," Levy said.

"Imagine if Google were suddenly unavailable - the hue and cry that would result from such an outage.

"It's not an apple-to-apple comparison because Google is a search engine and web services company and RIM is a wireless messaging company, but still imagine if Google were unavailable."


"RIM needs to look at distributing what is essentially a vulnerable, centralized architecture. It needs to decentralize that to reduce those vulnerabilities," said Levy.

He used the example of Google, which rose from obscure search engine to one of the hottest Internet companies in the world in just a few years.

Google's infrastructure is decentralized, with multiple so-called "server farms" located in different geographical areas. If the main system fails for whatever reason, traffic can simply be routed and processed at another server.

That would take longer than the nine or 10 months that have elapsed since the last outage in April, Levy added, and is also very expensive.
Reuters dug up an analyst Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at AR Communications to warn that if problems like this become routine, they can turn customers and prospective buyers away.

He said that huge pendulous outages could be "a major Achilles' heel" for RIM.

More media roundup stuff...

Thought I'd split things up a bit - the BlackBerry outage seems to have taken on a life of its own, so to ensure things don't get unwieldy, I figured two shorter entries might be easier to swallow than one big one., February 6: iPhone Grabs Market Share, But Not Yet in The Enterprise. Byline Judy Mottl.
One analyst believes that if Apple spurs greater application development and solves some minor form-factor issues, such as adding a keyboard, the vendor could become the mobile work device of choice.

"All new devices come in the back door of a company. That's how the BlackBerry came into the enterprise," Carmi Levy, a senior analyst with AR Communications, told While the iPhone doesn't have the street credibility of RIM's device, the iPhone could become the mobile computer in business. Apple just has to address some issues."


Levy said the market statistics support his contention that today's mobile phones will all be smartphones within three to five years.

"It's a no-brainer as what we view as a cell phone today will be gone as everyone wants a computing device and not just a phone," he said.


Hopefully, Levy said, Apple will get busy with its design activity as well. In addition to the necessary keyboard, the vendor has to address battery life issues and revamp its stylish screen for a more business-fitting form factor.

"All the issues preventing it from truly being an enterprise smartphone can be addressed," he said. "None are showstoppers."
InformationWeek, February 8: Year Of The Rat Could Be Mousy For Mobile Handset Makers. Byline Richard Martin.
RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) could be protected as consumers and enterprises move toward increasingly sophisticated devices, said analyst Carmi Levy, senior VP for Strategic Consulting at AR Communications Inc. "As a smartphone-only vendor, RIM is not as vulnerable to the falloff in demand for conventional handsets," Levy said.


Hardest-hit could be Palm, which as Levy points out "was in freefall even before the economy started to turn toward recession." With 75% to 80% of its sales in the North American market, Palm could be more vulnerable to an economic slowdown than any other handset vendor.


Nokia's market strength allows it to leverage economies of scale that no other vendor can match," notes Levy, enabling the company "to maintain margins through the year."
Canadian Press, February 8: Mobile phone use will keep growing because of device's many functions. Byline LuAnn LaSalle. Also picked up by the Ottawa Sun on Feb. 9 under the headline A 'digital Swiss Army knife': As cellphone capabilities expand, so does usage.
Analyst Carmi Levy said mobile, smart phones help boost productivity.

“Wherever you are it means you are not comprised by the kind and volume of work that you can do, said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at Toronto’s AR Communications. “The term digital Swiss Army knife really speaks to the utility of these devices and the fact that what you can get out of these devices is limited really by your imagination, which is a pretty powerful comment considering these things slip in your pocket,” Levy said.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caption This 57

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Somewhere near Hamilton, Ontario, October 2005 [Click to embiggen]

The scene: I'm zooming home from Toronto after attending an industry "event" at a too-cool-for-mere-mortals club. Suddenly, my phone rings. A journalist wants to talk to me about the neat things I just saw. Not wanting to emboss the Ford logo from my rental car onto the back of that 18-wheeler just ahead of me, I ask if she can give me 10 minutes to get off the highway and find a safe place to stop. She happily agrees - live analysts give better quotes than dead ones, apparently - and I eventually find this lonely spot in the hinterlands just west of Hamilton.

When I'm finished chatting with her, I snap this shot because it strikes me as odd that I could be so productive while surrounded by little more than fields and cow pastures. The cows don't seem to mind my temporary intrusion.

Your turn: Please concoct a caption for this photo. I'll choose the most creative one and post the winner, along with a new image, next Sunday. As ever, I'm whoring myself out. So if you want to submit billions of comments, have at it. Bring along a group of drunken friends? Absolutely: the more, the merrier. Encourage your elderly parents to join in? Sure thing. We welcome all generations.

About last week's image of a parking lot line badly in need of resurfacing: Sad scenes often make great photos. Thankfully, you didn't disappoint with your suggestions. This week's winner comes from Linda: "This is your road, on crack." I can still hear the Dragnet-like music in the background. Honorable mentions go to:
  • Sister AE: "I go to pieces."
  • Kenju: Unplanned obsolescence."
  • Tiel Aisha Ansari: "Pave meant less."
  • Rainbow Dreams: "True colors exposed."
  • Steve: "What lies beneath."
  • Colleen: "You can't judge a crosswalk by its cover."
Thanks, everyone, for playing along. Have fun with this one!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Guard duty

Waiting. Watching.
Deerfield Beach, Florida, December 2007

Hundreds of people spread out haphazardly before him. Most are blissfully unaware of the basic risks of life at the edge of the ocean. Some can swim well, others can't, still others think they're better swimmers than they actually are. The latter group is always the most dangerous.

Waves relentlessly pound the sand while the sun bleaches the scene from above. Hour after tedious hour, he watches the ever-shifting scene, waiting for the trigger of activity that announces, awfully, that someone's in trouble. Not "I-was-stung-by-a-jellyfish" trouble, but drowning trouble. Missing trouble. Life-threatening trouble.

I stand to the side of his chair, watching him watch everyone else. I can almost feel the distant echoes of my first job as a lifeguard, remembering what it felt like the first time I had this kind of weight on my shoulders. I'd like to say thank you to this unsung hero for simply being there. But I don't want to disturb him. So I take this photo and quietly return to my family.

Your turn: The unsung heroes among us. Please discuss. Or sing, if you will.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Little boy's playground

Energy meets sand
Deerfield Beach, Florida
December 2007

[Click to embiggen]

At my age, I'm too old to even think of trying to keep up with our youngest son, Noah. He's seven years-old and I'm...not. Yet as I stand well behind him and watch him run back and forth along the beach, I remember what it felt to be his age, running around with not a care in the world.

As a child, all that mattered to me were moments like this. Did I catch the frisbee? Did I build a decent sand castle? Did I run myself so hard until I felt dizzy and had to sit down? Was my tummy delightfully full? I left the big stuff, like getting everyone home safely, paying bills and keeping the car tuned, to my parents. The world could wait.

Today, my parents' mantle of responsibility has passed to me. And my long-forgotten mantle of just being a carefree kid has passed to him. He's making great use of it, and that makes me smile a little smile as I trip the shutter and continue to take in the scene.

Your turn: Your inner child. Please discuss.

My daughter's light

Simply light
Atlanta, Georgia

January 2008
[Click to embiggen]

It was our daughter who noticed it first. Staring at the lamp in our hotel room (see here for more), she talked about how interesting it looked beside the simple surface of the wall. She liked how it painted the wall with soft light, how the curvy base offset the straight shade. She suggested I take a picture of it, smiling the knowing smile of a little girl who's grown up seeing her dad take countless pictures of oddball scenes. Who was I to disappoint her?

So we stood there for a bit, staring at this very ordinary lamp in this temporary place far from home. I watched her as she watched the lamp, furrowing her brow as she realized that sometimes the simplest scenes aren't so simple after all.

I decided then and there that I need to spend more time asking my kids what I should shoot next. When I look at the world through their eyes, I'll see things I might otherwise have missed.

Perhaps there's a deeper lesson in that.

Your turn: What children see that adults do not. Please discuss.

One more thing: I'm still whoring for captions. If you haven't already submitted your caption this week, click here to find out why I'm being such a nag.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Underwater flight

You can call me Ray, or...*
Atlanta, Georgia, January 2008

I swear he's smiling. I suppose anyone would be happy living in a $250 million state-of-the-art facility, cared for 24/7 by some of the top marine biologists on the planet, staring out all day at thousands of people who adore you.

It's the watery equivalent of a rock star's life. Too bad I lack gills.

Your turn: Life in a bowl. Please discuss.

Wait, I'm not done: Still accepting captions here. And still giving away a free iPod here.

* Does anyone remember the old commercial from which this line is shamelessly cribbed?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Big fish in a small pond

One fish, blue fish...
Atlanta, Georgia, January 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Your turn: What should this fellow's name be?

One more thing: If you haven't voted in this week's Caption This contest, you're missing all the fun. Click here and dive right in. You'll be glad you did!

I lied - here's another thing: My company's giving away a free iPod. Click here for more.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Publish Day - Globe & Mail

Good news on the Carmi-as-a-writer front: a piece I wrote has been published in today's Globe and Mail, a very large Canadian newspaper. It's here, and I promise it's geeky-neat:
Business technology trends to watch in 2008
Your turn: We've built the following page on the corporate web site to kick off our drive to share all this knowledge with the world. What's in it for you? A chance to win a free iPod. No, not mine. A new one. You wouldn't like my taste in music, anyway. Click here to dive in.

Monday, February 04, 2008

You say tomato, I say...

Juicy fruit
Delray Beach, Florida, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Nothing out of the ordinary here. Just some tomatoes before they were cut up and eaten for breakfast. Yet as I look at these perfectly textured and colored examples of natural perfection, I'm reminded of warm sun and a quiet morning spent chatting with folks who matter. Ordinary? Perhaps. But definitely worth remembering.

Your turn: The perfect morning starts with a...?

One more thing: Did you submit your caption for this week's Caption This? If not, click here and get creative. Even if you have, click here anyway and try it again. Extra points if you refer a friend.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Caption This 56

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]

Lake Worth, FL, December 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Parking lots in the southernmost state in the continental U.S. don't have it easy. If they're not being battered by hurricanes, splattered by gang-related shootouts or ripped to shreds by legally blind octagenarians spinning donuts in their rusting metallic green 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cieras, they're being slowly baked into oblivion by the relentless sub-tropical sun. The sunshine state isn't so sunshiny, apparently.

So as I headed back to the car one fine afternoon, my eyes lingered on a patch of pavement that had clearly seen better days. I would likely say the same thing about the surrounding neighborhood, which is why I was happy to get in, lock the doors, open the sunroof and head back to my family.

About last week's image of an obese man napping in a beach chair: This one touched a nerve, generating more comments than any Caption This entry I've ever posted. [Pause for big collective cheer. There, let's continue.] I still don't know who he is, and I still pray he doesn't stumble across himself while searching the Internet for sunburn ointment at the local CVS pharmacy. Clearly, he'll need it.

Two submissions made me fall off my chair this week, so once again it's a tie:
  • Robin's "Beached Male"
  • Marko's "Wake-up Captain Highliner - they shaved yar beard and stole all yar fillets."
Mind you, so many of everyone's submissions almost accomplished the same thing. This was a rich, rich week for Caption This, and I am so thankful for your enthusiastic participation. Good on you all!

Tons of honorable mentions this week, including:
  • Linda: "Sleeping Beauty, after hours of sun exposure."
  • Shephard: Beached."
  • Anne: "Ol' Leo dozes easily in his chair oblivious to the fact that a half of a woman's body lies behind him. Maybe if it was the top half, he'd feel differently."
  • Sarch: "Life's been good to me sooooo faaaarrr....."
  • Steve: "Belly glancer" and "Wet(suit) dreams" and "Great White" and "Not to be used as a flotation device" (note from Carmi: frequent fliers rock.)
  • Robin: "Six shades of wrong."
  • Mary: "All Tuckered Out"
  • Scrappintwinmom: "Looking for that someone special to enjoy long...naps on the beach"
  • B13: "It would be 72 hours until they realized Mr. Sanderson wasn't just napping by the sea."
  • Jadedprimadonna: "Look Ma - I think Uncle Hubert has our beach ball!"
  • Carli: "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."
  • Beccadink: "One of the lesser known side effects of NOT turning over while tanning - inflating!!
  • Sara: "Sun bathing beauty is all in the eye of the beholder."
  • Awareness: Prince of Tides.
  • Paige: We grow 'em big in the U.S.
  • Joyismygoal: burnin' the fat at both ends:>
  • Braincheese: "Does this chair make my a$$ look big?"
  • Vanessa: "basking robbins"
  • Whit: Ma'am, please put a top on.
Your turn: Tell all your friends to drop in and take a shot at a caption. I'm a sucker for multiple-submitters and folks who pull friends, family and complete strangers into the mix.

One more thing: Although the reward is little more than something funny you share with your family at the dinner table, I've gotten more than a few suggestions to consider adding prizes to the mix. Working on it...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Cactus world news

Palm Beach, FL

December 2007
[Click to embiggen]

We were at the zoo (see here and here for more.) I was supposed to be taking pictures of the animals. And of the kids looking at the animals. But the trees and plants that defined this place kept distracting me. In a good way, of course.

I imagined what the grounds would look like without the dense woods that shaded each habitat and guided us from one exhibit to another. I decided the zoo would be a pretty depressing place without all that luscious green.

As I walked away from this one shoot of cactus, it occurred to me that this kind of thinking applied well beyond the gates of the zoo. Indeed, the world needs more green. Given the rate with which it seems to be disappearing, it's a message that not enough of us seem to be internalizing.

Your turn: Making the planet a greener place. Please discuss.

One more thing: The next Caption This entry will be posted later tomorrow (Sunday). Theme: depressing pavement. Start your creative minds spinning now - and feel free to bring a friend. I encourage that sort of thing.

Microsoft pursues Yahoo. The tech world pauses

Big news yesterday in the geek world as Microsoft announced an unsolicited offer to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion. I shared a few perspectives on the proposed deal. Here's a quick look at some of the notables:
  • The Toronto Star. Microsoft Yahoo bid about Google. Byline Chris Sorensen. Coolness factor: The article focused on the transition from computers to services that's at the heart of this offer - and indeed the entire tech industry. There was otherwise relatively little focus on this issue yesterday, which surprised me.
Your turn: Any thoughts on this proposed megamerger?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Screen within a screen within...

Delray Beach, Florida, December 2007 [Click to enlarge]

Remember when you were a kid and you placed two mirrors opposite each other? Remember how you could see dozens of images of yourself trailing off into oblivion? Wasn't that just the neatest thing?

Well, I never outgrew that phase of my life. Come to think of it, I didn't outgrow many aspects of my childhood. But that's a topic for another day*. So when I was noodling around with my toys of adulthood last month, I thought I'd have some fun with pictures within pictures. It's somewhat like the high-tech equivalent of the old mirror trick.

For the record, I would have continued to add iterations to the series, but my wife eventually said I was being silly.

Your turn: Do you do silly things with a camera? Do tell! Even better, show!

*For some photographic examples of recursive scenes from my adult life, click here, here and here. And because we're talking about recursions here, another look at the Hasselhoffian Recursion is definitely in order. As an aside, Canadian actor-comedian Norm McDonald continues to tell anyone who will listen that Germans love David Hasselhoff. I'm still not sure why.