Saturday, May 31, 2008

Things I think about so you don't have to

Not to sound like a pessimist - because, really, I'm not - but I seem to be crossing paths with an unusually dense cluster of mean-spirited people these days. Rather than whine about it, I thought I'd try to look at the doofii (yes, it's a word. I invented it) from another perspective:
  1. Thank you to the mother in our car pool who, for the umpteenth time since we started the car pool, left my kid sitting at his art class. I hope his need to get home didn't interfere with your social calendar. You know that cell phone that you usually have stuck in your ear while you're ignoring the environment around your SUV? I'm puzzled why you didn't use it to, um, I don't know, call someone to advise us that you had once again come up with something more important to do than uphold your end of the bargain.
  2. A tip of the hat to the road raging motorcyclist who apparently didn't take too kindly to my refusal to let him squeeze by me on the onramp last week. While you were busy trying to bait me into a three-lane, high-speed game of vehicular chicken, you failed to consider two things. One: One bump from my four-wheeled vehicle would have turned your two-wheeler - and by extension, you - into a lifeless pile. Be glad I was in a good mood that night. Two: I have a BlackBerry, which I used to call the OPP, who seemed very pleased when they hauled you over. I hope you were polite to them. You man, you.
  3. The woman who neglected to say "thank you" when I held the door for her at the mall. I'm a door-holder (I know, it makes me a sap. Whatev) and it stuns me how many people will deliberately avoid eye contact and just keep on walking. I'm tempted to let the door slam in the next moron's face, but I know I wasn't raised to be a dick. I choose to use you people as lessons in politeness for our kids.
  4. The neighbors with two large dogs and an apparent allergy to using leashes. They've been warned countless times to hook them up. They've spent many nights driving around the neighborhood after their less-than-trained pets ran away. They've been visited by animal control so often that they're on a first-name basis with the officers. I'm the guy who called them in this week when one of them charged me, charged my youngest son and tried to get into my house. I'm the one with animal control on his BlackBerry's speed dial, and I'll keep calling them until you either learn your lesson - easy way or hard way, your choice - or they take these poor animals away from you for good. Rest assured that in the meantime, my kids are learning all about how not to raise a pet by watching you.
Your turn: Got anything you'd like to get off your chest? Feel the meantime, I'll edit some photos for the coming week's postings. Stay tuned for prettier views of the world around me.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sex and the City: Wanna buy an o?

I'm a little befuddled by the hype surrounding this movie. Sure, I get why the television show became such a huge hit: It touched a nerve among its target demographic in a way that no other show before (or since) had been able to replicate. Problem is I'm not a member of that target demographic, My wife is, yet she's also never warmed to the show. I guess that makes us cultural Luddites. Oh well.

So while I appreciate that lots of fans of the show are looking forward to seeing their heroines continue their exploits on a somewhat larger screen. I simply fail to understand why this one release has generated more hype than a Beatles reunion involving both its living and not-so-living members. I blame Entertainment Tonight and the ever-annoying voice of Mary Hart. We all know that that show is the root of all evil, after all.

So please don't mind if I duck my head below the pop culture radar for a few weeks until the Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda show runs its inevitable course. I'll be off in the corner, taking pictures of blades of grass and trying to keep the dog from eating my leftover Oreo cookies.

Your turn: Where do you stand on the SATC issue? Why do some films achieve mythically popular status?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Meadow lark

Where I want to be
Richmond Hill, ON, August 2007 [Click to embiggen]

Maybe it's the writer in me, but I cherish periods of peace and quiet. I hope you don't think I'm antisocial when I say that I often look forward to being alone. Not all the time, of course - I think I'd go insane - but an occasional break from our hurry-up-and-hurry-some-more world is a nice way to restore balance.

Getting away is usually a simple proposition for me: I get on my bike, point it toward the edge of town and keep spinning my legs until I no longer hear the traffic. Often, I'll seek out places just like the one in the photo above. I'll park the velo and spend a few minutes just absorbing the silence of the place. These are the times when I can actually hear myself think.

Before long, I have to return to reality, of course. But there's always a next time.

Your turn: How do you get away? What do you learn about yourself when you do?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A girl and her dog

Nose to nose
London, ON, October 2007

I often stop myself in the house and quietly watch the kids play with the dog. They're such unique little people, and each one of them seems to have developed a similarly unique relationship with our furry little man. I'm cooking up blog entries for each one of them, but I thought I'd start with Dahlia because she's appointed herself the role of dog-mother.

In recent weeks, she's been training him - not easy given his bouncy Schnauzer DNA - and he's up to sitting, staying and giving high-fives. Her voice practically sings as she works him through the process again and again, rewarding him with bits of food (he thinks it's a real treat. Shhh!) every time he succeeds.

Like me, she isn't too jazzed when she first wakes up in the morning. But a visit from Frasier returns the smile to her voice and gets her day off to a happy start. Same thing when she returns home after school, drops down to the floor and hugs her wiggly puppy. She asks him about his day with a tone that's strictly reserved for him, and that's when I like to hover by the walls and just take in the scene.

Sometimes, it seems as if he'll follow her to the ends of the earth. Which is yet more proof that bringing him home was the right thing to do. As life continues to throw less-than-pretty challenges at us, it's nice to know that a small dog can bring an instant smile to our little girl's soul.

Your turn: Children bonding with pets. Please discuss.

Wordless Wednesday - Java U

Beans, beans, good for the heart...
London, ON, March 2008 [Click to embiggen]

Your turn: What should I macro-shoot next?

One more thing: We're still taking caption suggestions for this week's Caption This contest. Click here to join the indescribable fun. No animals will be harmed. Promise.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dish network

Searching for life in deep space?
Montreal, QC, May 2008

The neighborhood surrounding the hospital is old, relatively densely populated and not especially memorable. Once upon a time, my parent's generation aspired to live there, but these days, it's clearly past its prime. Yet anyone who knows what tickles my photographic funnybone knows that it's just these kinds of environments that get my mind racing. It's easy to find something pretty when your canvas is new and pristine. It's a whole different ballgame when you're walking through a run-down landscape.

I wasn't in an especially good mood as we walked from the parked car up to the hospital. Visiting your hospital-bound dad is never a happy scene. So I suppose I was looking for very temporary relief through the friendly barrel of my trusty lens.

I found it here, in a nest of satellite dishes on top of an utterly forgettable apartment building. I dismissed thoughts of TV addiction and highway-robbery subscription rates and instead thought about the voodoo-like ability of a small dish to receive signals from a bird hovering 22,300 miles overhead. After watching the Phoenix lander touch down successfully on Mars last night, I seem to be looking at this picture from an even broader perspective.

Weird, I know. All from a walk through a neighborhood I didn't want to be in, on my way to a place I'd rather not have been.

Your turn: Something plain. Why do you look?

Wait, don't leave just yet! Please hang around and suggest a caption if you haven't already done so. Just click here. I promise you'll be amused.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Caption This 72

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

Montreal, QC, May 2008 [Click to enlarge]

It's ironic that the hospital where my father is is the same place where I was born and the same place where I spent so much time as a child. Soon after my own medical adventures there - 6th floor, paediatrics - they closed the ward and converted it to geriatrics. Time marches on, I guess.

So every time we visit my father, I feel this need to wander the halls at least once. I try to remember what it felt like when I was a child - and by extension what it's like for my father now that he's there, too. I walk slowly down near-deserted halls, trying to record everything with my eyes. But visuals are only part of the equation. Hospitals all seem to have a certain spirit to them. They're scenes of immense joy and even more immense tragedy, and everyone has strong feelings at the mere mention of the word. During these walkabouts, I try to capture that in my mind's eye as well.

This time, I took my camera. I know it's pretty much verboten to shoot in places like this, but I figured it's better to beg forgiveness after the fact than to ask permission beforehand (I know that makes me a bad boy. So be it. I wasn't shooting people, and indeed I didn't pull the lens cap off until I was sure there wasn't anyone else around. Which is a pretty easy thing to do in a place this big. The bigger they build them, the more empty they seem.)

Perhaps more than any, this image seemed to capture the mausoleum-like quiet of this place. I immediately knew it would make a great captionable photo. Now, over to you...

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this photo in a comment. You may leave as many as you wish. I'll post the winner next Sunday.

About last week's image of my daughter's eye: I'll never run out of different ways to photograph our kids, and I hope they never tire of my lens. This week's honorable menschens list is full of some great, thoughtful captions. It was a tough week to choose:
  • Barb: "Forward Focus"
  • Aol: "The eyes have it!"
  • Jacie: "The window to my soul."
  • Bob-kat: "Looking to the future"
  • Marcia: "Eye see the future"
  • Omykiss: "Eye full ...."
  • Terri: "My what big eyes you have."
  • Heidi: "See the world... but don't lose your soul."
  • Robin: "Eye on the prize."
Christine's "Limitless possibilities" resonated deeply with me this week. Her blog, Mommy Matters, has been one of my must-reads for much of the time I've been a blogger. Please drop by her place and congratulate her...and stick around for a bit of reading. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Much fun was had...

Quick note about yesterday's radio adventure in Toronto: It rocked. We chatted about a service called StubHub, the ticket broker market and the fact that even artists like Madonna are getting in on the act of ripping off their fans.

It wasn't about technology, which was a neat change. We just riffed, which made it even more fun than usual.

Being in studio is a totally different experience than phoning it in. Although I've done countless interviews with the host, John Downs, it was great to finally meet him and his production team.

My head's swimming from the experience. It reminded me why my first media job was in radio, and why this medium is so immediate, direct and vital. And why I find it almost addictive.

I'm working on more...hope to have news on that front soon.

Your turn: What jazzes you? Why?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Live on radio

I'm on the road today, spending the day in meetings in Toronto before driving back home tonight. If all goes well, I'll be a guest of John Downs this evening between 7:30 and 8:00 on AM640 Toronto Radio. You can listen live by clicking over to the stations web site - - and hitting the Listen Live button at the top of the page.

I'm sure John will open the phone lines at some point. So if you're in the mood to call in, you can do that, too!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Little boy in an overwhelming place

Montreal, QC, May 2008

It's a different world than the one in which I grew up. Kids didn't visit hospital rooms way back when. The rule was pretty simple: Nobody under 12 got to go upstairs. So we'd stay in the lobby and wait. Sometimes the nurses would wink at us and look the other way as our parents "snuck" us upstairs for a quick peek. But it just wasn't part of my reality to see my grandparents in the hospital.

Today, of course, no one bats so much as an eyelash as our kids quietly head upstairs and onto the patient floor. I'm a little torn by the experience: On the one hand, I feel it's important for them to understand what their grandfather is going through, to have tangible images and experiences to go along with what we've been telling them all along. On the other hand, I worry about whether this brings fear into their lives at too young an age, whether this accelerates the erosion of childhood innocence that every parents tries to keep at bay.

Whatever my misgivings are, it's clear that we've decided to make it as concrete as possible for him. And we have faith that he and his siblings are insightful and resilient enough to use it as another growth experience.

On this visit, I happened to have my camera ready as our son, Noah, turned to leave the room and head out. In that instant, I wish I could have seen the thoughts swimming around his head. Up until that moment, he had been playfully bantering, bringing sunshine to a room that clearly needed some. He used his 7-year-old's charm to make his grandfather smile, to show him why it matters that he gets better and goes home. He seemed to ignore the overwhelming mood of this massive institution for his entire visit. He was having fun with his Zaidy. Nothing else mattered.

But then this moment. There's something in his face that suggests deeper thought, almost as if he let the smile go for just long enough to betray what he was really thinking. I wish I had the power to understand it. And to talk to it. I wish I could shepherd him through this confusing time in his life better than I had been shepherded a generation ago.

Your turn: Helping your kids understand this. Please discuss.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Look up

Let there be light...
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Part of a continuing, informal series on the beauty that can be found in otherwise dreary places, like parking lots and downtown alleyways. I found this outside our local grocery store.

Your turn: Finding loveliness where at first blush there is none. Please discuss.

Wait, don't go! Have you entered this week's caption contest? No? Click here and see why CNN is calling this the best bloggy thing since sliced bread.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Teddy Kennedy, brain tumors and life

Today's big news: Senator Ted Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor. Whatever political stripes you wear, you have to feel some degree of empathy for what he and his family are now going through.

As I slowly edit the pictures I took in and around my father's hospital room, I find myself thinking about how fragile we all are, and that at the core, we're all just as liable to be struck down by some uncontrollable illness as anyone else. Power, it seems, can't protect us from the inevitable. Of course, what is power anyway if it can't stop the inevitable?

Whether you're from a political dynasty or an average working family, I hope you'll take a moment to head outside and breathe in the world around you. You just never know when even the simple joys will suddenly be taken away.

Your turn: If you could share one snippet of advice with Mr. Kennedy, what would it be?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quiet on the floor, please

Montreal, QC
May 2008

Just finished driving back from Montreal where we spent a glorious few days...hanging around the hospital. My father's been back in for yet another round of health care adventures and misadventures, so we loaded up the wondervan and pointed it east.

The good news is he's doing better. The bad news is the road ahead is twisty and very difficult to see. Whatever happens, happens, I guess. More to come, I'm sure. In the interim, I've relayed your wishes to him, and he's both amazed and touched that complete strangers from near and far would hold him in their prayers. Thank you for your continued good thoughts.

I took this picture in the hallway just down from his room. For all the time I've spent in hospitals in so many roles - patient, immediate family member of a patient, friend, whatever - I don't have any pictures of them. All of my images of this place exist in my head. So I decided on the drive to Montreal last week that I was going to try to record some of the spirit of this place with my camera.

Ironically, the hospital that currently cares for my father, Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, is the same hospital that cared for me when I was a child. I was born there, and I filled my own frequent flyer card when I came back as a 4-to-6-year-old. So every time we visit someone there, I find myself slowly wandering the halls, thinking back to what this place looked and felt like to the kindergarten-age me.

It was scary then. It's even scarier now, albeit for a very different and far more adult reason.

I'll share more glimpses of this world in the days to come. For now, it's good to be home.

Your turn: What do hospitals mean to you?

One more thing: This week's Caption This photo of my daughter's eye serves as a stark counterpoint to the experience of watching an aging parent in hospital. One speaks of a bright hope for the future, while the other speaks of an uncertain future. I hope you'll click here and share your own submission for this week's photo.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Caption This 71

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

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I love our kids' eyes. They all have blue eyes like I do, but looking into them, I see so much of my wife as well. They're expressive, bright, inquisitive, and I could look into them forever.

Yet as much as I adore this particular composition of her, I can't for the life of me figure out what to call it. So I'm asking you for help.

Your turn: You know the Caption This drill...please look into our daughter's eye and suggest a snappy caption or nine in a comment. I'll pick the best one - along with a few honorable menschens - and publish the winner next Sunday, along with a new Caption This photo. I will, of course, continue to share snippets of life in general every day until then, so check back during the week to see what's new.

Speaking of menschens, here's the lowdown on honorables from last week's photo of my friend the gator:
  • Ontario Emperor: "Mmm...Canadian."
  • Bob-kat: "I'm actually vegetarian but no-one knows".
  • Pat: "Hey Bud! You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours!"
  • Colleen: "I dare ya."
  • Jacie: "you looking at me......?"
  • Robin: "Lady in waiting"
  • Sara: "Giving a whole new meaning to the 'stealth fighter'"
  • Carletta: "I don't tread lightly in these Crocs!"
  • Catheroo: "Remember the game Hungry Hungry Hippos? Yeah. This is not that game."
  • Marmiteandtea: "Eat ya later!"
And the winner is...Terri, for "Human, the other white meat." Terri isn't your average Written Inc. reader (wait, are there any average folks here? Didn't think so!) She's a nurse who regularly sticks needles into my arm. No, I'm not an addict. It's all for a good cause: my regular blood plasma donation. I'm sure she'd be happy to poke a hole in your arm, too! Let me know if you're ever in the area and want to tag along with me. The more the merrier.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Annals of parenting - forgetting a kid

I'm far from a perfect parent, so I'm the last person who would sit by and tsk-tsk another parent for some supposed failure to be more like Mrs. Brady or Mrs. Cleaver. But sometimes I come across a story that just makes me want to go "huh?"

To wit, this piece from CanWest earlier this week: Parents forget toddler at airport.

I dunno. But I suspect I'd know if one of my kids wasn't with me on a long trip. It's not like losing a pair of nail clippers, y'know. Munchkins - especially 18-month-olds like this one - tend to be a bit noisier than carry-on luggage.

Thankfully this had a happy ending.

Your turn: Ever forget something really important in a public place? How did everything end up?

Friday, May 16, 2008

What lies beneath

The underside of Adelaide Road
London, ON, October 2007 [Click to enlarge]

I drive it almost every day, a nondescript stretch of four-lane road that monotonously drones from one forgettable neighborhood to another. Yet until I took a late afternoon walk on the path that runs underneath the road surface, I never gave much thought to what I was passing over.

As so often happens when I meander, it got me thinking: Crossing a bridge used to be an event. The road would narrow as the flimsy-looking truss loomed ahead. You'd watch out for oncoming traffic, and would often wait until other cars completed their journey before beginning your own. You'd drive slowly, deliberately across the span, quietly thanking the long-gone engineers who built this roadway through the sky.

Today, most crossings are basic decks, so much a part of the surrounding roadscape that most motorists have no idea they've just driven over a river. Another way in which technology insulates us from the world around outside.

So I wandered to a place that most people don't know exists and found...well, I'm not quite sure what I found. That's up to you...

Your turn: What did I find. What would you find on the path rarely taken?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Falling from the sky

St. Thomas, ON, June 2007 [Click to embiggen]

This remains one of my most memorable moments from our grand adventure at the St. Thomas Air Show last summer (see here, here, here, here and here for earlier entries.) As I lay on the ground and shot straight up, all I could think of was what must have been going through this guy's head as he spun crazily toward the planet.

Of course, there was nothing crazy about it. The SkyHawks are the parachute demonstration team of the Canadian Armed Forces. They're probably as well trained in falling from the sky as anyone on - or off - the planet. It was an incredible sight to see.

Your turn: What makes someone "the best"?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Drowning

Swirled texture
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen - you know you want to!]

Sometimes, you just want to reach out and touch it. Go ahead: I promise I won't tell anyone.

Your turn: Photographic texture. How do you achieve it?

One more thing: If you're new to Written Inc., I hope you'll stick around for a bit and read a few other entries. I promise you it won't hurt. We're still accepting submissions for this week's Caption This as well. Click here to kickstart the fun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BlackBerry Bold - I want one

Research In Motion (RIM) announced its all-singing, all-dancing handheld device earlier this week It's called the BlackBerry Bold (also known numerically as the BlackBerry 9000 - "bold" refers to the quality of the screen. Focus group testers called it "bold" and "brilliant", and "brilliant" wouldn't make such a great name, so...) I'm already planning to "accidentally" leave my existing 8830 under the left passenger-side tire of the family car to, um, facilitate my upgrade path to the new device.

Despite my rep as a bit of a geek, I'm not a gadget hound. Reading spec sheets bores me, and the fanboy arguments in forums and blogs over whose device has better features than all the others reminds me of the pointless exchanges we used to have in elementary school at recess.

But this one's a little different, because there's bigger news beyond the device itself. Specifically, it's RIM's first 3G device. 3G is the wireless equivalent of steroid injection, and shifting from our current, so-called 2G (or second generation) of devices to 3G will be like going from dial-up Internet to high-speed cable or DSL. Mark my words: the shift to 3G will open up entire new classes of services that just aren't feasible over today's pokey-by-comparison wireless handhelds and networks.

Oops, sorry for going a little overboard. This excites me...

I did a bunch of media yesterday, including a live radio hit with Gary Doyle on 570 News in Kitchener (RIM is based in Waterloo, which is part of the same Kitchener-Waterloo metropolitan area...thus this is pretty much RIM's hometown radio station.) Other print-based coverage included:

The National Post. Analysts, investors give thumbs-up to latest BlackBerry. Byline David George-Cosh. Also picked up online here, and by the Vancouver Sun.
However, as competition swirls, the challenge for RIM now is getting the devices into subscribers hands, said AR Communications Inc. senior vice president Carmi Levy.

"Anytime you can beat Apple to the punch is a good thing, but it's a small victory for RIM," he said. "It doesn't change the direction the market is going."

The release of the new BlackBerry model comes on the heels of an earlier announcement that RIM will co-manage a $150-million fund to spur the development of new applications for the smartphone devices.

"This is really the key to growing the BlackBerry franchise over time," Mr. Levy said. BlackBerry Goes Bold for Market Gold. Byline Judy Mottl
According to Levy, given the Bold's expanded features and enhancements, the next several months will be full of news about new applications. "Once it hits its stride, this device will rewrite how we use mobile infrastructure," he said.
Had a couple of other notable hits last week, including:

Unstrung. Verizon Opens LiMo Door. Byline Dan Jones. Motorola Looking to Lure Dev Talent. Byline Judy Mottl

Life's challenges notwithstanding, it's a kick to be able to do this when the wires start to crackle. Damn, this is fun.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brokedown Palace

Illusion of strength
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

It's been over a month since I brought this picture home, and only after all this time have I noticed what's missing from the scene. Go ahead, look closely. I'll wait.

On a day when China reels from a killer earthquake and Myanmar/Burma continues to suffer - mostly alone, thanks to its mentally challenged military leaders - scenes like this, flaws and all, seem to resonate a little more deeply than they usually do.

I wonder if this will ever get fixed, or if someone's decided that it's good enough in its quietly imperfect state. I wonder about all the other broken things in our world, and hope they'll get fixed someday soon, too.

Your turn: Flawed perfection. Please discuss.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Caption This 70

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

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

I took this image quickly because I couldn't stop thinking about what must have been going through his (her?) mind as he/she watched me compose the shot. "Lunch" doesn't seem far off. The other animals we saw that day (click here and here for a couple of other examples) seemed a little less menacing.

Your turn: Come up with the zippiest caption for this image and share it in a comment. Repeat as often as you wish. I'll post the winner around this time next Sunday.

About last week's image of our high-flying son: I love this shot because it so perfectly captures this little man's spirit. He enjoys being on this planet so much that he doesn't let anything slow him down. This week's honorable menschens include:
  • Melissa: "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."
  • Terri: "Look at Noah's arc!"
  • David: "Flight of fancy."
  • Jacie: "Barefoot in the Park."
  • Allison: "Barefoot and fancy free."
  • Robin: "Jump in, feet first."
  • Sara: "Look dad I can touch the sky."
  • Bob-kat: "Playing with gravity."
  • Lissa: "Happy feet"
And this week's winner: Me for "Someday I'll make it to the moon." When he first wiggles his bum onto the swing, Noah often asks how high I think he can go. When the moon is out, he'll challenge me to touch it...or whatever other elements we can identify in the sky, be they clouds, the sun, planes, birds, whatever. This kid's got hope, spunk and drive, and Me's entry encompassed them all. If you haven't visited her delightful blog, What's Up Spotty Chop, click on over and congratulate her.

One more thing: If you're of the motherhood persuasion, I hope you're having a lovely Mother's Day with your family. Although I'm quite the curmudgeon when it comes to commercialized excuses to build temporary sentiment and sell cards and gifts, I love taking moments to celebrate the things that really matter with the folks who really matter. I hope you do the same every day of the year.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Myanmar or Burma - stupid by any name

Bad: A cyclone hits the country, kills a huge amount of people, destroys entire regions and leaves over a million folks homeless.
Worse: The country's military rulers dawdle over whether to allow foreign aid and volunteers into the country.
Much worse: Those same rulers impound deliveries when they arrive.

By any definition, this is a crime against humanity. I'd hate to be there when these morons find themselves subject to a higher power.

Your turn: I'm at a loss for words here. What say you?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fishing for goodness

Aquatic peace
Atlanta, GA, January 2008 [Click to embiggen]

As I often do when things get a little nutty, I spend a little quality time with stuff I've created. Looking over old words and pictures seems to bring me a little bit of peace when all else fails.

I took this photo over our winter vacation, when we carted the little people to the Georgia Aquarium and turned them loose on the mostly unsuspecting water creatures. I remember what it felt like as I took this picture: I was surrounded by hundreds of people, peering into a huge watery world populated by countless fish. It was as chaotic, fast-moving a scene as you'll ever likely see - well, short of a downtown Shanghai street - and yet I still felt like I had found a little oasis of calm in the middle of it all. I heard nothing as I composed voices, footsteps, whining kids (other people's kids, of course.) It was just me and the fish.

Weird. But participating in the arts is supposed to take us places and inspire us, right?

Your turn: Escaping through the lens or the pen. Please discuss.

One more thing: Thank you all for your heartfelt wishes following yesterday's post. When I share this with my parents, they'll doubtless be touched - as I have certainly been. I do not have any news to report beyond the fact that we continue to wait. I hope to have happier news to share in the days ahead. Watch this space...

Thursday, May 08, 2008


On this day a whole whack of years ago, my parents welcomed me into the world. After a couple of days of de-gooping at the hospital, they brought me home. At that moment, my life was spread before me - and them. All potential, all forward.

Despite the fact that it's my birthday, I find myself not feeling particularly celebratory. That's because my father spent the day in the ER yesterday, and as I write this, is on his way back to the hospital after being tended to by paramedics after a particularly wobbly episode at home. Yet more milestones on a journey I know he'd rather not be on.

In the overall scheme of things, it hardly merits headlines. Earlier this week, untold numbers of people perished in a storm in a brutally-repressed nation and continue to suffer while their government puts up obstacles to rescuers at the border. Yet another Canadian soldier is coming home from Afghanistan in a body bag. Entire communities of people not too far from here can no longer afford to keep their homes. I get it: the world sucks on a grand scale. But my life isn't about overall schemes of anything. It's about my dad, and the fact that he just can't seem to get well. It doesn't have to make headlines to be significant.

All those years ago, he looked at me through the nursery glass and saw a life ahead of him. Today, I look into a detached screen from far away and try to erase thoughts about his own stage of life. As I fight to find comfort in looking back, I avoid looking forward because then I'd have to deal with whatever uncertainty lies ahead. That's right, I'm an avoider. Like all children, I fear losing my parents, facing life without them long after I ceased to rely so completely on them. I know it's a fact of of our very mortal life, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow.

So if I receive any gift on this somewhat sombre birthday, I hope it's news that he gets to go home, and that this latest chapter moves quickly to a happy ending for him. I'll deal with the bigger picture another time.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Fixer upper alley

Not quite home sweet home
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

I find this scene strangely comforting. I'm not entirely sure why.

Your turn: How do you find this scene?

One more thing: We're still taking captions for this week's Caption This photo contest. Click here to initiate the insanity.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Microsoft and Yahoo - still no joy

Everyone's got something to say about Microsoft's failed attempt to get Yahoo to the altar of online love, so I won't say too much more about it. Just wanted to share a couple of links to coverage from BetaNews. Scott Fulton's got byline for both:

Roundtable on Yahoo minus Microsoft: Who wins for losing?
I was quoted opposite a pretty heady range of industry heavy hitters including Burst Media CEO Jarvis Coffin, JupiterResearch VP and research director Michael Gartenberg and Directions on Microsoft lead analyst Matt Rosoff.

With the Yahoo deal nixed, the lawsuits pick up steam
Analyzing the deal's breakup and fallout yesterday, AR Communications senior vice president Carmi Levy told BetaNews that he believes Yang's conduct during the entire affair may bear scrutiny.

"As the chief executive officer of a publicly traded company, your primary accountability is to preserve and enhance shareholder value," remarked Levy. "One can very easily question whether Yahoo's actions in recent weeks have done that, or whether they've frittered away shareholder value in the process simply for an emotional, and possibly business-illogical, reason."

A few other recent media hits of note include the following:

The Toronto Star,
April 29: Aeroplan website recovers from crash. Byline Chris Sorensen.
At least one observer questioned whether the company had invested sufficiently in technology to back up its operations.

"This kind of outage, given the severity and length, is clearly unacceptable in any modern business," said Carmi Levy, the senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc.

He said that's particularly the case when you're supporting a customer base that includes a large number of high-income earners and other time-pressed business people who are on the road and might need access to the website to book flights or other rewards.
The Canadian Press, April 23: Crime Stoppers launches tips via text messaging to appeal to youth. Byline LuAnn LaSalle.
Analyst Carmi Levy said the program will reach younger people but will also give older demographic groups a convenient way of providing tips, he said.

Levy said texting is growing in popularity because people don't need to stop what they're doing in order to text.

"It's the right technology for today's multi-tasking era," said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at Toronto's AR Communications.

"More importantly, for the purposes of Crime Stoppers you can send texts in a much more timely manner because you don't need to wait until you get home," he said.

"So potentially if you've witnessed something while you're in transit, there's an immediate opportunity to act."
Unstrung, April 25: Is RIM Behind the Curve in 3G Handsets? and May 5, DT & Sprint: Bargain in the Balance?

Your turn:
Where do Yahoo and Microsoft go from here? Does it mean much in the overall scheme of things?

Dangling in the wind

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

This shot is a nice counterpoint to this week's Caption This entry (click here if you haven't tossed yourself into the ring.) Unlike the first image, this one is anything but active. There's no munchkin, no movement, not much of anything, frankly. Just a forlorn swing, quietly drifting in the wind alongside its companions.

I could see the other parents giving me funny looks as I composed this one. Coincidentally, most of them also had cameras with them, and they were all busy taking pictures of their kids on the slide, on the jungle gym, or in the sand. They tried to avoid staring at the strange dude who had wandered to the empty swing set on the other side of the playground and was crouching in the sand pit for what seemed like an age.

I'm used to it by now.

Your turn: The first three words that come to mind when you initially see this picture are...?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Caption This 69

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

London, Ontario
April 2008 [Click to embiggen]

We've been spending more time at the neighborhood playground lately. Now that the weather's warmer and the sun's sticking around until well into the evening, the kids are pushing to take their bikes out and explore a bit. Far be it for me to refuse 'em. Besides, there's something comforting about watching them make their way along the sidewalk, expanding their world view a little bit as they leave the cul-de-sac behind.

I've been carting my camera along (what, you're surprised?) just in case there's a moment worth capturing. Although one visit to the park can look pretty much like any other visit to the park, I find challenge in trying to find something unique from each trip. Thankfully I have cooperative kids.

This is our littlest man, Noah, being his usual boisterous, happy self. Notice the bare feet. The shoes "accidentally" seem to end up on the ground soon after he starts swinging. It seems not even a pair of Crocs can contain this munchkin's spirit.

Your turn: Please come up with an appropriate caption for this photo. You know the rules: You can enter once or you can enter a kajillion times. You can do it yourself or you can call your imprisoned Uncle Ned for inspiration. You have a week to come up with something neato before I announce a winner and post another Caption This entry next Sunday. Not sure what Caption This is? Click here for the lowdown.

About last week's image of on oversigned parking lot shack: Someday, we'll all zoom around in Jetsons-like flying cars and we'll be able to hover them just outside our office windows. Until then, we'll have to put up with parking lots. Or until Joni Mitchell's song (sing it with me: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot...") is proven wrong. This week's honorable menschens go to:
  • Alix: "Sign of the times"
  • B13: "If this shacks a rockin'... leave your money under the orange cones."
  • Thumper: "...signs, signs, everywhere a sign..."
  • Sarah: "So what is it I do again if the attendant is not on duty?"
  • Heidi: "Read sign for instructions."
  • Dana: "Hope you can read!"
  • Killired: "SIGN LANGUAGE!!!!!"
  • Omykiss: "Too much information!"
  • Robin: "Parking, lots."
  • Jacie: "Notice Bored"
Sara takes it this week with "Information overload". Please visit her delightful blog, Garnet's Life Adventures, and wish her a happy on her win.

One more thing before I go: I seem to have this thing shooting pictures of my kids on the swing. Click here for a photo from last summer.

Branching out

London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

A couple of weeks back, I decided to take a late afternoon walk. We live a couple of blocks away from some pristine walking trails, and I thought it was high time that I got to know these hidden treasures a little bit better. So I put on my coat, slung my camera bag over my shoulder and headed off for some unknown adventure.

My first thought as I turned left off of the sidewalk and carefully picked my way down the hill to the bottom of the steep-walled, tree-lined meadow: Sneakers were a bad idea for walking through the muddy bog. But I wasn't about to head home now.

As I wandered deeper into the forest, the sounds of traffic faded and were quickly replaced by the the burbling of a runoff-fed brook, the chirping of birds and a strange feeling of stillness amid the tall, bare trees. I stopped for a second, confused that stillness could actually have an accompanying sound, but eventually concluded that it was good to mull over weird oxymorons like this.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to capture with my camera. Forests aren't especially exciting places, and they lack big, iconic subjects. No headlines here. But that didn't matter. I wasn't looking for big and obvious. And I wanted to take the time to absorb the spirit of this place before I decided what was worth bringing home on my memory card.

In the end, taking my time made the difference between simply coming to a place to take pictures and having an experience I'd remember for a while to come. I slowed down. I didn't watch the clock. I let my mind and my eyes wander. I saw a land waiting for its annual reawakening. I would have missed it all if I had simply walked through the place under deadline.

I'll go back again soon. Since I took this picture, the leaves have seemingly come out of nowhere to blanket the sky with a lush umbrella of green. The brook has become smaller, quieter. The ground has begun to dry out as winter's influence fades. And as I walk through the same place I covered not too long ago, I'll once again enjoy the peace that comes from leaving everything behind and just enjoying the here and now.

Your turn: The joys of taking your time. Please discuss.

About this picture: I just loved the light here, especially the way the branch evolved from front-lit to backlit as it progressed from bottom to top. Simple and peaceful, which is precisely how I felt when I took it.

One more thing: I'll post Caption This later on this evening. Hint: swings.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Microsoft-Yahoo - no joy

This just in: Microsoft is backing away from Yahoo. No more Microhoo jokes.

I don't feel especially happy or sad. But I felt I needed to mention it in some fashion considering how much I've yapped about it since it first hit the geek-radar in January. I think we all seem to derive a small amount of comfort when big stories hover over the industry like ginormous, protective blimps. And when the blimps float away, we feel a little more exposed. Or something like that.

What does it really mean? Simple: The tech industry has hit another inflection point, and I'm left wondering how this particular event will influence the evolution of the space over the next few years. And I was home watching the hockey game with the kids when it happened.

Life goes on...

The Kentucky Derby Sucks

Please don't mind me and please don't be shocked by yet another blog entry with the word "sucks" in it. I'm playing with search engines on this rainy Saturday afternoon and trying to validate a couple of geek-theories. I don't actually hate horses.

At the same time, please don't ask me for the post time. I'd rather be petting horsies and not betting on them. I'm also pretty useless providing directions to Churchill Downs, or confirming the latest odds.

We'll return with a regularly scheduled entry - and a photo - in a couple of hours.

Your turn: If you want to know what the hell I'm doing, just ask...

Update - Saturday 11:24 p.m. - I'm immensely saddened by the passing of second-place finisher Eight Belles. She collapsed after breaking her ankle in the run-out after the race. It's times like this that convince me that this entire industry is unfair to the animals at the center of it all. At the risk of sounding like a freakazoid PETA member (which I'm not, but that's a story for another day), I hope that someday this ridiculous form of gambling is abandoned.

Big brother is watching you

The little people need to be fed, so I'll be quick before I sleep the laptop. I was on television again yesterday, speaking with Business News Network's Linda Sims and Patricia Lovett-Reid about the latest results from Nortel. Click here to see the video.

BNN Senior Producer Noah Zivitz also published a wide-ranging perspective piece on the Canadian wireless landscape, Stay tuned for more from wireless world. Here's what I said:
“Apple typically drives a very hard bargain with the carriers it works with,” according to Carmi Levy, senior vice president, strategic consulting, with AR Communications. “I would expect one of the reasons it took so long is that this is a type of negotiation Rogers has never had before,” Mr. Levy said.


“It [the iPhone announcement] is a form of sabre rattling in advance of a very intense period in the Canadian wireless industry,” according to Mr. Levy. “What Rogers is doing,” he believes, “is it’s getting out of the gate early and establishing its position.”
I also spoke with LuAnn LaSalle from the Canadian Press about Research In Motion's big announcement with enterprise software maker SAP. The article, RIM and software giant SAP want to change the way people work, published yesterday. Here's my shpiel:
Analyst Carmi Levy of Toronto AR Communications Inc.. said the software should allow people to do what they do in the office on mobile devices.

"If you can put that kind of capability into someone's hand via his or her BlackBerry, then it is a 'game changer' because it essentially changes how businesses can be managed," Levy said.

"It significantly raises the expectations of what we can actually get accomplished on a mobile device," Levy said.

RIM is trying to stay ahead in the corporate world with this announcement, he added.

"They're moving beyond push e-mail. This is RIM's next killer app (application). They're saying, 'We're not just going to help you communicate with each other, we're going to put sophisticated business functionality in your hand as well."'
Damn, this is fun! More media news soon...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Canadian iPhone, eh

A mere 10 months after Apple's iconic smartphone hit stores in the U.S., the Canadian carrier, Rogers, has announced that it's reached an agreement with Apple to sell the devices north of the border.

The announcement - which wasn't much of an announcement because it said nothing about when they'd be available or how much they'd cost - set off a feeding frenzy of discussion. Canadians, it seems, are just as crazy about their portable electronics as anyone else.

I did a lot of media as a result, including a Canadian Press piece by LuAnn LaSalle, Apple's iPhone expected to attract high-end consumers in Canada, an interview with CTV NewsNet's Marcia MacMillan and a chat with AM640's Mike Stafford (sorry, no live content yet.) I also blogged about it on our corporate blog.

Coming up, I'm chatting with John Downs on AM640 radio in Toronto tonight at 8:40 (click here to listen live) and Business News Network tomorrow morning at 8:15 (all times ET). Never a dull moment around here.

More to come...

Your turn: Happy new month! How will you make a difference over the next 31 days?