Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Playing the talking head

If you live in Ontario and have access to TVO, you can watch me live tonight. From 8 to 9 p.m. EDT, I'm appearing on The Agenda with Steve Paikin. Tonight's show is entitled Whither Industrial Ontario? and it'll examine this overall issue:
Ontario's 2009 recession budget - as notable for what's in it as for what isn't: protect the proven prosperity of the past or plan for the possible prosperity of the future?
The six-person panel includes three Members of the Provincial Parliament (one from each major party) and three analysts/experts. They are:
  • Tim Hudak – MPP Niagara West/Glanbrook and PC Finance Critic
  • Michael Prue – MPP Beaches-East York and NDP Finance and Innovation critic
  • Donna Cansfield – MPP Etobicoke Centre (Liberal) and Minister of Natural Resources
  • Jim Milway – Martin Prosperity Institute
  • Andrew Steele – Strategy Corp
  • And me.
This should be fun. More later...

Update: The video of the show is available here.

Green means go

Morning fog
London, ON, February 2009

I've been waking up at 4-ish lately, part of my deliberate plan to boost productivity and simplify things a little. The few hours before the house comes alive are remarkably peaceful: Telemarketers aren't calling, the dog isn't barking at squirrels through the living room window and I'm not staring at the clock, racing to finish some think-work before the kids get home from school.

I love the buzz of a full, vibrant house like nobody's business, but often I need deep quiet if I'm going to truly crank out something worth reading. That this little snippet of quiet time seems to be good for my soul, too, is a bit of an added bonus.

Never mind that today wasn't supposed to be such a day. I planned to sleep in to the usual 6:45 a.m. and take the munchkins to school. But my brain seems to have decided to make other plans. So here I sit, writing. Quietly.

Your turn: Why quiet matters. Please discuss.

About this photo: We're doing drab all week as part of the latest Thematic Photographic theme. New entry coming tomorrow, but you've still got time to submit a drab photo, too. Click here to participate.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Caption This 114

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Boynton Beach, FL, December 2008
[Click to embiggen]

I like being on the outside looking in. My journalist's soul prefers it that way because then I'm not part of the story, which is as it should be. I simply observe, quietly, and record, also quietly, what I see. More often than not, these spontaneous people-watching sessions of mine - go ahead, call me a voyeur - don't result in any kind of professionally sanctioned deliverable. But the experience changes me all the same.

On the surface, this is a drab photo (click here for more Thematic Photographic silliness.) Beneath the surface, I'm starting to think drab is anything but. No?

Your turn: There are countless ways to caption this photo, and I'm willing to bet you'll collectively come up with more than your fair share of zingers over the next week. Just click the comment link and give me your best. For more background on how Caption This works, click here.

About last week's photo of a wine glass: This is one of my favorite photos because it's one of those mini-worlds that only exists when you look through the lens and eliminate everything else around it. Maybe that's what I like about photography: the ability to block everything else out. Hmm...

This week's honorable menschens are:
  • Robin: "Shaken, not stirred."
  • PastorMac's Ann: "Wet but very very dry."
  • MissMeliss: "Moment of claret-y"
  • David: "Bait for a former president."
Pearl's "Teeny weenie bikini martini" takes top spot this week. Pearl's a Canadian (Ottawa...woo hoo!) author/poet who never fails to make you think a little harder. Please pop by and share a happy with her.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

So long, Chrysler

The big drama in Canadian business this weekend revolves around down-to-the-wire negotiations between Chrysler Canada and the Canadian Auto Workers, the union which represents its workers.

Long story short, the Canadian government, as a precondition of providing bailout funds to the major domestic auto manufacturers, is insisting they renegotiate their contracts with the union to slash labour costs. Canadian taxpayers, it seems, aren't all that willing to fork over billions of dollars to save companies too wimpy to take on the unions.

The government's saying no funds if Chrysler can't get the union to play ball. Chrysler's none-too-subtly threatening to pull all of its operations from Canada if they don't get what they want from the government. I say they're all morons.
To the unionistas: Your industry - or at least the non-competitive, domestic side of it - is dying. You'll all be out of work before long if you don't get off your high horses and agree to major concessions. The days of upper-middle-class standard of living on a barely-high-school education are over. Deal with it.

To Chrysler: Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers in 1981 when the union tried to play tough. You're telling me you can't find and train replacement auto workers from the legions of unemployed Canadians who would be eternally grateful to have a job? What is it about union labour anyway that makes companies like yours such scaredy-cats? Other companies just down the road from you - Toyota and Honda, namely - have managed to build motivated non-unionized workforces. Why can't you?

To the government: Call Chrysler's bluff. They want out? Let 'em. Considering how much it would cost to set up shop elsewhere, it's probably an idle bluff, anyway. Either way, it's high time you started focusing your efforts - and our money - on industries that have a future and companies that actually have a clue.
Your turn: Should we be getting tough with unions, and the old-style companies that can't seem to break them? Will this recession finally kill organized labour? Should it?

In related news: I've been invited to appear on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin program this coming Tuesday, and I suspect this very issue is going to come up. The episode is entitled Whither Industrial Ontario, and we'll be exploring the issues in the wake of last week's provincial budget. The panel includes three MPPs, one from each party, so it should be a lively hour of television. The fun starts at 8 p.m. EDT.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Crates Etc.

Seating for two
London, ON, October 2008

The modern suburb has more than its fair share of places that are easily forgotten. They're often found in and around the mindlessly designed and built strip malls that generically and ubiquitously dot the landscape and keep us from telling one town from another.

As an example, I present this spot. It's located right beside a Tim Hortons* built smack in the middle of the parking lot of the nearby local strip mall. The dumpster is located just outside the drive-through lane - another aesthetic wonder - and employees making garbage runs often hang out here for a breaktime smoke before heading back inside. Some enterprising soul left a couple of milk crates here, ostensibly to add comfort in a place that probably sucks it into oblivion.

It's been five months since I shot this, and the crates are still there. I guess even forgettable venues have their own sense of timelessness.

Your turn: Tell us about an otherwise forgettable scene near you (and if you want to discuss the irony of remembering something forgettable, have at it, too.) And when you're done, please click on Thematic Photographic - drab to share some more.

* Tim Hortons (wiki) is a national chain of coffee shops. The brand has become something of a Canadian icon, and its coffee is, to many, quite the addictive vice. Whatever gets people through the winter...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No welcome mat

Faded glory
Delray Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Just because something's drab (see here for more on Thematic...) doesn't mean it's always been so. Often, we see glimpses of past glory. But only if we take the time to notice.

No one takes much notice of this abandoned house these days. Part of me wishes they did, because it's easy to imagine the right person with the right capabilities returning this substantial piece of architecture back to its rightful place as a family's home and a center of their world.

If only...

Your turn: Who might have lived here? Can you paint the picture?

One more thing: Have you captioned yet?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thematic Photographic 42 - Drab

Crossed tracks
Toronto, ON, March 2009 [Click to embiggen]

About this photo: We're kicking off Thematic Photographic's "drab" week. Scroll down for more details on how this TP craziness works.
I deliberately took the early train because I wanted to have a little quiet time to walk around and get my head ready for the day that would be. I had come here to deliver a presentation, and the last thing I wanted was to be pressed for time. It turned out to be a good move, as it ended up being the least stressful intercity trip I had taken in ages.

As I rather softly strolled through parts of Toronto's downtown, I thought of the countless people who take similar trips every day. I hope each of them has the opportunity to slow things down and look back at the journey just completed.

Your turn:
For the next week, Thematic Photographic will be exploring the world of drab. If it's dimly lit, sad-looking, morose-feeling or poignantly-toned, I hope you'll post it to your blog and then paste the link here. For more background how TP works, read on (McDuff):
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...drab!
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.
One more thing: I was a talking head again last night. I chatted with CTV Newsnet's Marcia Macmillan about Google Street View and its potential privacy implications. Click here to watch the video. The Ottawa Citizen has this excellent article as well, Google has its eyes on your street; Do you care?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - So juicy

OJ...the drink, not the Simpson
London, ON, March 2009

About this photo: we're finishing off the Thematic Photographic drink theme (click here for more) and preparing for a new theme that goes live tomorrow. What will it be? Read on, McDuff...
I'm so not a morning person that I use every trick in the book to segue into the waking day with a little bit of happiness. This strategy includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the following:
  • Lighting - I sit in our south-facing kitchen with the table bathed in sunlight to chase the shadowy cobwebs of sleep out of my head.
  • Drinking - orange juice. Because anything this color can't be anything BUT bright and happy.
  • Listening - to the morning sounds of the house: kids pattering around, dog talking, kettle boiling...
  • Discussing - anything and everything with my wife and kids. Morning banter has a unique rhythm to it, doesn't it?
Sometimes I also pull out the camera and try to take a picture that somehow captures the spirit of this transitional time.

Your turn: How do you do mornings?

Oops, almost forgot: Our next Thematic Photographic theme will be:


Check back here Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET, as I'll be posting the first entry for this theme at that time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Turbulent tea

Storm's brewing
London, ON, March 2009 [Click all images to embiggen]

Remember this photo? After my I was finished shooting it, my wife came down to the kitchen and smiled at the realization that I had been playing with my camera instead of setting up for breakfast. She's used to my photographic tangents, and often offers to help me get the shot if it means she can get the kitchen back in order.

She offered to pour the milk if I thought it would help. But of course! So while she poured, I snapped away. And before long, we sat down to our soothing mugs of tea. Admittedly, mine had a little more milk in it that usual. The sacrifices we make for photography...

Your turn: Collaborating with someone who matters. Please discuss.

One more thing: These images support our latest Thematic Photographic theme, drink. We're still taking submissions. Click here to participate.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Caption This 113

Please caption this image
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]

As we continue to explore drink-themed photos (head over here to see where this Thematic Photographic madness began), I've come to realize just how obsessed I am with anything that can potentially hold liquid. I have no explanation for this, but I wanted to share it with you just the same because...well, I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the variation, or the challenge of pulling an optically neat image out of something that others find everyday and routine. Whatever it is, it brings me peace, and I hope it brings you some, too.

Your turn: Time to get captioning. Can you suggest a snappy title for this photo? If so, please click the comment link below and have at it. You may enter as often as you wish. I'll announce the winner next Sunday. And feel free to keep checking back through the week as we continue to share visions of drinks and drinking. For more background on how CT works, click here.

About last week's picture of our son cooking: So many of you shared your thoughts on our little kitchen helper. He's such a delight to have around, and it's a privilege to share a moment like this. I'm so pleased with everyone's suggestions. This week's honorable menschens are:
  • Hope Dangling: "Who says only GIRLS can add spice?"
  • Hilary: "Back to the old grind"
  • NJ: "Chef BOYardee!"
  • Pamela: "Tater tot."
  • Moments in time: "Mum always puts this in."
Jean's "Noah's Spark" reminds me why we named him Noah in the first place. He's a driver, someone who insists on doing things on his own, a kid who always wants to be at the helm. When he ambles up to my wife, booster stool in hand, and asks to help, it's because he wants to lead, not follow. Jean's a Bangalorean native who writes eloquently about life, motherhood, and her very unique take on the world. You owe it to yourself to pop in and read her fascinating blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'm a little green teapot...

Scene from a storefront
London, ON, March 2009 [Click to enlarge]

When your train arrives back in town a little early and you have a bit of time to kill before your lovely wife can pick you up, you can either drink yourself silly at a downtown bar, or you can walk the streets as the sun sets and hope you come across something worth shooting.

So I walked. Because I'm silly enough without any alcohol in me.

And I'm glad I did, because it allowed me to find this reflective teapot in an otherwise darkened storefront. Who says downtown has nothing to offer?

Your turn: Your last walkabout...what did you see?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Parked by the water

Please help me find the beach
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

I'll come right out with it: this picture sucks. Aside from the horrid lighting, the basic composition of a 4.3-inch GPS device isn't exactly the most compelling, unique or entertaining photographic choice. So what was I thinking when I took it? And why am I sharing it here?

I'm glad you asked.

Despite their somewhat cartoonish graphics, GPS devices often display neat things. I occasionally notice this out of the corner of my eye while I'm changing lanes in the middle of seven lanes of high-speed traffic, which explains why I don't whip out my DSLR to capture the moment. So I've started paying attention to the little wonder-screen when we're stopped. And this particular scene stood out for a few reasons:
  1. It reminds me of a moment when I was alone with my wife watching the waves roll in. It was one of those times we both cherish, and I wanted a somewhat different way to remember it.
  2. The little simulated car is HUGE. Seriously, look at that thing! Its width alone spans from the beach to A1A, which by my estimate is at least 2 city blocks. Everything's bigger in America, apparently.
  3. From the looks of things, I can park wherever I want. Gridlock? Not in this simulated world.
Your turn: Do you ever get silly with portable electronic devices?

About this photo: I'm parked virtually in the drink. I know, it's a lame connection to this week's TP theme. Sorry.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Waved off

Please don't drink the water
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008 [Click to enlarge]

When I'm juggling a bunch of writing assignments, I often get so sucked into the process of assembling words that I forget to give myself a chance to breathe. Today was such a day. The work actually went remarkably well. I'm working through a range of truly fascinating projects, partnering with diverse teams of incredibly skilled people who really are fun to work with. But after staring at the screen for hours at a stretch, I needed to let my mind wander elsewhere.

Hence the beach pic. If I could live closer to one of these neat places where earth meets water, I would. I suspect I lived a past life with sand in between my toes, because I'm constantly finding myself drawn back to these places. Port Stanley, barely 50 km from my doorstep, already beckons. Anyone who wants to join me on an early morning bike ride there is more than welcome (once I get my bike legs back, that is.) Grand Bend, just over 64 km in the other direction, is next. I'll bring my camera and my BlackBerry in either case.

Your turn: Places that bring comfort. Please discuss.

About this photo: We're exploring "drink" as this week's Thematic Photographic theme. Head over here to get started.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thematic Photographic 41 - Drink

London, ON, March 2009

We're burning through tea at a furious pace these days. Cyclical illness in the house means the kettle's almost always going, and a mug of something warm and comforting is never far away. This mug, in particular, is one of my favorites, because it's almost big enough to accommodate the backstroke, and it always invites conversation when we have folks over.

I hope this week's Thematic Photographic theme, drink, gives us a chance to explore the liquids that matter most. On the surface, it's a simple enough theme, but like so many others we've explored here, I know you'll find uniquely creative ways of sharing your vision.

Your turn: Time to get shooting. Please post a picture reflective of this theme to your blog, then paste the link in a comment below. For a peek at last week's TP, click here. For more info on how Thematic Photographic works, read on:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...drink.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Pancaked

What's for breakfast?
London, ON, March 2009 [Click to embiggen]
What's the deal with this picture? It's a kitchen week. We're kitchening (yes, I invent words) for the next day or so, so if you're still hankering to share a pic of something in your eating/food preparation area, click here. Keep reading for an important message from this Thematic Photographic sponsor.
My wife is, without a doubt, an incredible cook. It's hard for me to keep the kids entertained with my attempts at grilled cheese, omelettes and banana bread when mom consistently sets the bar as high as she does. The good news: we're well fed. The surprise in all of this? That I don't weigh 300 pounds.

To wit, behold her pancakes. I can't just eat them and be done with it. I have to explore them with the camera before I tuck in. Because pictures help me remember how it feels to walk into the kitchen when everything is right with the world.

Some folks will look at this picture and see flapjacks. They're missing out on the full story.

Your turn: Happiness around the breakfast table. Please discuss.

Ah yes, the Thematic Photographic thing: We're still taking kitchen-themed submissions, and will continue doing so until 7 p.m. ET Wednesday. Head here to take part in that. At that precise time, I will be posting the new theme for the coming week. What is it? Glad you asked...

Start thinking about how you want to tackle it, and please check back tomorrow evening for the opening photo.

She looks to the sky

Watching the heavens
London, ON, March 2009

Click all images to enlarge
See below for descriptions

The scene: My daughter asks me for help with a school assignment. She's supposed to go outside after dark, look skyward, and write her observations. Given the modern-day uber-protective parental views on kids going outside alone, she asks if I'll accompany her. But of course.

Over dinner, we discuss what she expects to see when she gets out there. The moon? Venus? The Big Dipper? She lists them all off as if they're endless opportunities just waiting to be discovered. She's excited. So am I.

As is her little brother, who begs to come along. She's not pleased at the prospect of an eight-year-old, a boy, no less, bouncing around her while she focuses on work. After much negotiation, some of it loud, she relents, but only after extracting a promise from him that he'll be on his best behavior. She turns to big brother and asks to borrow his telescope. Zach generously consents.

Because I'm never satisfied until I've completely saturated every experience with as much technology as I possibly can, I suggest we look up the ISS and shuttle orbits online. If we're lucky, we may see an overflight or two. Sure, they're just dots in the sky. But what dots they are, and I figure it'll make a routine assignment that much more memorable for her if all the figurative stars align.

As I pull the data down on my laptop, I realize tonight's going to be a great night to scan the heavens. The upcoming ISS pass is slated to be the brightest and longest viewing oppoprtunity for at least the next ten days. Dahlia bounces into my office and we review the numbers together, just to be sure. I explain what they mean, tracing the path with my hands as I try to contain my excitement. High fives are exchanged. The dog looks on quizzically.

We head outside 15 minutes early with all our gear. I preset the camera as best I can and the three of us banter about what we're about to see and what it means. We talk about the people living on board, how the shuttle Discovery (STS-119), which we'll also see about 20 minutes later, is chasing the mother ship and will be docking with it tomorrow. Noah skips up and down the sidewalk, counting down the minutes and asking if the ship makes noise when it flies by, and if the astronauts will be able to see him wave.

I use my BlackBerry to send out a tweet via Twitter, asking if anyone else out there is watching the sky. Within minutes, we're getting answers from just a few blocks away, and from across the continent. The kids keep asking me to check the time, calculating the minutes to 8:47 as if that's the only math problem that matters. Right now, it is.

Suddenly, the dot appears in the sky right where the prediction said it would be. They chatter excitedly as it arcs over our house and continues to brighten in the inky black sky. We double- and triple-check that it's not just an airplane - no flashing lights, and the coordinates seem to match up. Dahlia watches through the telescope. I work the camera to grab as many long exposures of the pass as I can before it disappears into the night. Funny how a ship that never lands is visible only for blinks at a time.

Noah waves and dances excitedly on the cold, dark sidewalk. Dahlia asks how many people are on-board. And then, as quickly as it appeared, it slowly dims, then disappears in the eastern sky. It's flown right over our house, and right into their imaginations.

Alternately chilled and excited by the experience, the kids head inside to share the news with mom. It may have been a mere dot in the sky, but as I gather up my equipment and watch for Discovery to fly over, I hope it helps them form a memory they never forget.

Your turn: Making a memory for the folks who matter most. Please discuss.

Photo list (from top to bottom):
  • Top - Dahlia takes to the telescope
  • Left - ISS appears over our house (all ISS photos are 13-second exposures)
  • Right - ISS passes the maple tree
  • Left - ISS winks
  • Right - Noah watches big sister at work
  • Left - A much dimmer orbiter, Discovery, flies by 20 minutes later. The chase is on

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Caption This 112

Please suggest a caption for this photo
[Click here for Caption This instructions]
London, ON, March 2009

About this photo: We're exploring the kitchen this week as part of our latest Thematic Photographic. Please click here if you've got some culinary-photographic inspiration going on.
Our kids have been spending more time helping out in the kitchen of late. While the messiness factor often shoots off the chart when they're emulating Wolfgang Puck, it's kinda neat to watch them try their hand at something that comes to their mom so naturally. The look on Noah's face and the pride in his voice made the potato dish taste even better than it usually did. The apples have apparently landed happily close to the proverbial tree. A good thing on so many levels.

Your turn: Please suggest a caption for this photo. You can be literal, witty, poignant, or any other emotion you wish. You may enter as many times as you want to because, frankly, we love to witness intense fits of creativity. Simply click the Comment link below to get started. I'll post the winner next Sunday. For more background on Caption This, head over here.

About last week's photo of an airplane at rest: I'll grab any excuse to snap a picture of anything remotely related to aviation. Thankfully, you're all just as into the flying thing. This week's honorable menschens are:
  • Terri: "Fly by the seat of your pants."
  • David: "Air head onboard."
  • Daryl: "Ground control to Major Tom..."
  • Moments in time: "Where did you leave your lunchbox?"
  • Mojo: "Good and Prop-er."
  • Anne: "Room with a view."
Linda's "Airline bailout" is as memorable as it is timely. Linda's not your average blogger. She has shepherded her military family across the planet, always managing to keep countless balls in the air no matter where they land. She's taught me that family and community can be just as deeply experienced no matter where you are, or for how long. Please drop by and share a happy with her.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vignette - they take to the road

The scene: the cul-de-sac in front of our house. Now that the snow's pretty much melted, the kids have been clamoring to get back on their bikes. So after hauling their dusty wheels out of the dusty garage and pumping up the tires, I've set them loose on an unsuspecting neighborhood.

Either the bikes got smaller or they grew over the winter, because their legs seem a little more bunched up than I remember from last year. It means we'll soon have to initiate a new round of bike-themed hand-me-downing, but for today, they seem content to take their smallish machines for a spin.

Their excited voices echo off the silent houses as they cruise longish circles up and down the empty street. The pavement is chaotically streaked with salt stains, crusty mud and patches of gravel and grit, signs of a hard winter that they know could come back any day and turn it all back into pure white.

But for now, they're happy to have been sprung from the house, happy to taste a little bit of the outdoors as spring tantalizingly beckons. This is, I suppose, what freedom looks like when you've been watching the world through a frosty living room window for four months.

Before long, the late afternoon shadows push the sun away and paint the street with increasingly blue-tinged light. They shiver in their sweaters and blow warm air onto their hands before deciding they've had enough for now. They make their way inside and pat the puppy who's been watching them patiently from the front door.

Tomorrow's another day, another opportunity to continue to expand their view of the world. I won't always be so lucky to stand beside the road and watch them as I have today.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two dog years

I know I shouldn't be here, but...
London, ON, February 2008 [Click all images to embiggen]

It's been two years since we brought our dog, Frasier, home. Eight months old at the time, he had spent the previous six months since being adopted from a breeder in the home of a family that either couldn't or wouldn't properly care for him.

We rescued him, hoping mightily that the experience hadn't damaged him in some way. Luck was on our side, because he's the sweetest thing we could have hoped for. He's helped our youngest son go from absolutely fearing dogs to loving the very ground his pooch walks on. He's added to the wild mosaic that is our family life in ways we couldn't have imagined when we brought his bedraggled, dirty little self home that first night and watched him wander through every room in the house.

He jumps on the couch, hogs the bed, eats garbage, barks too much and often smells like the proverbial smelly dog. But at the same time, he's helped us meet all the other dogs - and their families - in the neighborhood. Angus, Jewel, Simba and Zeus know when their bouncy new friend comes sauntering down the sidewalk, and it always seems to invite fascinating moments with our neighbors. He goes on playdates, too, and often rides shotgun when I pick the kids up or drop them off at school. He's become best buddies with his groomer, Jean, the kindest lady you could ever hope to meet. Indeed, it's difficult to remember what things were like around here before we had him. He's made himself at home and in the process, made our home whole.

I like to watch our kids play with him. Or not play, as the case may be. Often, they'll simply work alongside him, focusing on their homework, a book or a game while he sits quietly next to them. He brings them a sense of comfort, an unconditional kind of relationship that kids and dogs seem to form with innate ease. I'd like to think that his joining our family is helping them become better, kinder, more empathetic people. And as I watch them talk to him with a true gentleness that has to be seen to be believed, I've got to believe that he's helped them as much as they've helped him.

Thank you, furry little man, for allowing us to bring you into our family. I hope we have lots of happy, charmed years ahead of us, because you really have become an irrepressibly sweet part of our lives.

Now give me back my pillow, please.

Your turn: Pets, kids, families. Please discuss.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So long, Bernard Madoff

So Bernie Madoff, king of the ponzi schemes and perpetrator of the largest investor fraud in history, admitted guilt today and was immediately sent to jail. Yippee.

I know they call it justice. He will, after all, likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. But there are so many victims left behind that it's difficult to ever believe the scales will tilt back toward anything resembling a state of balance. The money, an estimated $65 billion of it, is, for all intents and purposes, gone. The victims, many elderly people, pension funds, charities, have nowhere to turn, nothing to do except sift through the wreckage and try to make it through another day.

He has ruined the present and future for so many people who must now fight to keep food on their tables and a roof over their head. Come to think of it, those are two basic needs Mr. Madoff will never have to worry about again. The irony.

Your thoughts: What do you say to someone like this?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thematic Photographic 40 - Kitchen

Let's get clean
London, ON
March 2009
[Click to embiggen]

There's a whole lot of coolness going on right under our noses. And since our noses spend an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, I'd like us all to spend the next week exploring the things that go on in this room.

Your turn: Please reach deep into your sense of creativity and/or your archives for perspectives on the most important room in the house (food...say no more.) Once you've posted your photo, click Comments here and share the resulting link. Repeat as often as you wish. Oh, and please make sure you have some fun along the way. That is, after all, the point of this otherwise off-center pastime.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Snowflake nation

Prettily frozen
London, ON, March 2009 [Click to create a blizzard]

When you wake up in the morning to find the wondervan festooned with the entrails of winter, you can either grumble about the deicing job you're about to be forced into or you can reach for your camera and take a moment to remember something that exists for barely a blink.

In the end, life's not about what happens to you. It's about what you're willing to do about it.

Your turn: The power of attitude. Please discuss.

Oops, almost forgot: This photo begins the wind-down of our "transparent" theme. It's not too late to share yours. Just click here and have at it. Next week's Thematic Photographic theme will be...

The first entry will go live on this site tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. EDT. I look forward to seeing what you come up with, as kitchens are such vibrant playgrounds for anyone with a camera and an idea. Even if it's half-baked (sorry, couldn't resist!)

Monday, March 09, 2009

We bring good things to life

Source of comfort
London, ON
March 2009

Thanks to the germfest that's settled on our house for the better part of the last month, our kettle's been working overtime. Some days, it seems like we've gone through enough tea to fill the hold of a Middle Ages-vintage trading ship. I'm thankful that the supermarket near our house sells the ginormous boxes of it, because otherwise I'd be in there every other day.

If I had to keep one kitchen appliance, it would be our kettle. It's the one I use every day, the one that doesn't annoy the bejeebers out of me with senseless buttons and sounds, the one those friendly blue glow reminds me that I'm mere moments away from having a warm mug of something in my hands, the one that lets me bring a little bit of comfort to whoever in the house needs it most.

Your turn: Unnatural attachments to countertop appliances and the people who form them. Please discuss.

One more thing: This photo supports this week's Thematic Photographic theme, transparent. Click here to participate. And if you haven't captioned yet, you're missing out on the most fun you can have with your mouse on. Head over here for that.

Oops, make that two: My most recently published TG Daily column, Kindle Shmindle, is currently the second most-discussed article on the site. No, I'd never shill for comments, but I hope you'll click on over and read it anyway. Just because. It'll make you smile.

Woz dances, Barbie turns 50 and U2 dumps Steve Jobs

Ed. note: It's been a somewhat hectic day in Pitkinville, so apologies in advance for the hodgepodge nature of this entry. I'm chewing through some deliverables and not having much luck. So I figured a quick bit of blog-writing might jumpstart my brain. Let's roll...
1. Steve Wozniak is going to be on Dancing With The Stars. Please make no mistake about my position on so-called reality television. It makes me ill. I'm saddened that the entire television landscape seems to have been wiped clean of actual writing, acting and producing and replaced with endless streams of derivative, staged and contrived tripe. Yet when the guy who built the first Apple personal computer and essentially turned what had previously been the domain of the hobbyist into the domain of all of us puts on a pink satin shirt and flails his not-quite-Jack-Lalanne-esque body around a dance floor, I feel compelled to watch.

2. Barbie turns 50 today. The queen of plastic, the meanie who dumped poor Ken, the character who, depending on your perspective, either freed little girls from a life of domestic hell or set back women's rights for decades, was "born" a half century ago. The CTV's Tom Walters - one of TV-dom's most erudite observers of the human condition - aired this unbelievably hilarious report on the national newscast last night.

3. RIM sponsors upcoming U2 tour. This matters because up until now, U2 had been shilling specially-branded iPods for Apple and will now be accepting sponsorship dollars from the BlackBerry maker. It's like a Hatfield marrying a McCoy. Or at least sharing his music collection with her.

Since I play a tech analyst on television, I've fielded a few inquiries from journalists covering the story. After looking at at all the e-mails I've been shooting out, I thought they'd make a nice consolidated blog entry. Here goes my Carmi's Analyst Perspective on the U2/RIM Hookup:

I was pretty impressed by the sponsorship announcement, as it further validates RIM's move into the consumer market. In the entertainment world, it doesn't get any bigger than U2. That RIM was able to seemingly wrest U2 away from Apple makes it an even bigger coup. This is a symbiotic relationship, and U2 would only sign on with a partner that can help it advance its own branding as well - something that bodes well for the future of the BlackBerry platform in the eyes of consumers.

It's significant on a number of levels. A few key points come to mind:
  • BlackBerry for all. RIM's been growing its consumer credibility since first crossing over with the introduction of the Pearl in September 2006. This continues this process, which in many respects represents the future of the BlackBerry franchise.
  • Better BlackBerrys to come*. All BlackBerry devices introduced since then have been multimedia-capable insofar as being able to surf the web, play music and videos and support multimedia applications, but it's fair to say that the user experience was and is far less rich and integrated than on pretty much any iPhone or iPod. The RIM/U2 partnership announcement speaks specifically to upcoming innovations on that front.
  • iTunes for BlackBerry? I would expect RIM to be actively working on the kind of tight hardware/software/online store integration for the BlackBerry that iPhones currently enjoy with the iTunes and online App Store. This will ultimately mean a form of software that seamlessly supports purchase, acquisition, synchronization and management of content.
  • Old U2 fans now wear suits. In going with RIM, U2 connects itself to another potential audience. After years of shilling for Apple, they've pretty much exhausted their message to the Apple-buying audience. The RIM deal shifts the rock band's marketing efforts over to an audience that grew up on U2 - average BlackBerry demographics skew older than average iPhone demos, after all - and is now primed for a more focused marketing push. Had U2 stayed with Apple, they would have simply been preaching to the already-converted.
  • All consumers. All the time. The U2 sponsorship reinforces and extends RIM's already-heavy investment in the Life on BlackBerry image marketing campaign. Major television ad buys - including for the Super Bowl and subsequently during prime time - have deepened the brand's visibility in the all-important consumer market. This latest announcement only solidifies this process.
  • Winning in two sandboxes. Among smartphone vendors, RIM continues to lead in its ability to remain credible to core enterprise customers while rapidly growing its consumer channels as well. This is a tough balancing act to maintain, and only RIM seems to be pulling it off these days. This is especially crucial as the economy continues to drag, as the resulting diversity gives the company yet another hedge against slowing subscriber growth.
  • Online store = the future. The upcoming BlackBerry Application Storefront will be crucial in turning this marketing halo into sustainable end-user interaction and revenue. Just like iTunes for iPhone and iPod-based music and videos and the App Store for the iPhone/iPod touch applications, the BlackBerry storefront will open up rich capabilities to a broader base of everyday or casual consumers who don't want to wrestle with multiple download services and applications to acquire, load and manage digital content on their devices. Apple's figured out how to deliver a seamless experience for consumers and developers, and how to generate solid cash flow in the process. RIM's ability to do the same is essential to turning the marketing promise of deals like the one with U2 into a sustained boost for its bottom line.
Even though the U2 tour sponsorship is only one element of a broader, long-term marketing campaign, it confirms that RIM is playing for keeps, and is more than willing to spend top dollar to connect itself with other brands that members of its core consumer target market also find aspirational. It's also consumer marketing on a scale that RIM previously hasn't done - which in and of itself is confirmation that the company understands and internalizes how important this space is to its future growth.

Your turn: Predictions on how Woz will do on DWTS?

* Plural BlackBerry is spelled with an s. I checked.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Caption This 111

Please suggest a caption for this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]
St. Thomas, ON, July 2007

When you fly commercial, you get a tiny, scratched, plastic porthole to see the world slip by below. When you're a pilot-in-training for the Canadian Armed Forces, you get to sit in a bubble. I guess it makes buzzing your mom's house a little easier.

Your turn: I need help naming this photo. Click on the Comments link below and suggest something funny, witty or just plain nutty. Enter as often as you wish, because multiples are always welcome. Mark your calendars for next Sunday, when we name the winner and post a new one.

About last week's photo of ice skates: Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions. The Canadian in me loves images like this, as they serve as reminders of the warmth one finds in the the middle of a prohibitively cold climate. It shapes us in many ways, and I'll keep snapping pics that tell that slice of the Canadian story.

But enough about my Canuckness. You want to know who won, right? First, our honorable menschens:
  • Terri: "Bladerunner."
  • TheMuddledMarketPlace: "Inline skating."
  • Cloudia: "The Swiss Army's crack guerilla units are ready for anything."
  • Mojo: "I tell you if it hadn't been for that French judge..."
  • David: "Slices of life."
  • Jill: "Go figure."
  • Anne: "Axel dreaming."
  • Robin: "Axel rows."
In the end, Jill's "Go figure" figures as this week's winner. Her blog, A bubble in the stream of consciousness, is a refreshing look at a family's life in southern California. She's direct, honest and funny - all of which makes her blog a great read. Please drop by and congratulate her.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Goggley eyes

Making eyes by the pool
Deerfield Beach, FL, December 2008

The scene: Early morning, poolside. I've come here to do some photo editing and shooting because there's nothing quite like early morning quiet-creative time when you're on vacation. That and sitting outside on a warm December morning is a welcome novelty for a pale-skinned Canadian.

I spot these goggles as soon as I arrive. They're sitting forlornly in the middle of a table underneath the sunshade that stretches over a good chunk of the deck. At first I wonder why they're here, then on closer inspection I realize the elastic band is snapped; its owner likely gone for good.

When I was a kid, I think to myself, I would have tried to fix 'em. "When I was a kid..." The phrase trails off in my mind as it dawns on me that I sound increasingly like the retired folks who live in this community. Uh oh.

Your turn: These goggles have a story. What might that story be?

About this photo: This week's Thematic Photographic theme is "transparent". Click here to dive right in.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wall of water

Toronto, ON, May 2007 [Click to embiggen]

I suppose this is more translucent than transparent, but I'm going to bend my own silly rules for once. (See here if you're not sure why I'm being this obtuse.)

Moving water has always been good to me. It calms me when I'm rushed, and gives me something to focus on when I'm uninspired. I found this fascinating sheet of it in the middle of an airport on my way home from far away. I probably could have put my head down and napped right in the middle of the swarms of strangers, but instead decided to get my camera out of its bag for an impromptu, middle-of-the-terminal photo shoot.

For some reason, post-9/11 security concerns didn't occur to me then. I'd rather apologize after the fact than ask for permission beforehand. That's me, photo-rebel.

Your turn: Do you take pictures where you think you shouldn't? Do tell.

One more thing: I'm live on-air tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET, doing my weekly tech guru chat with John Downs on AM640 in Toronto. Hit their website (http://www.640toronto.com/) and click the Listen Live button if you want to tune in.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I guess I was in a mood

I spoke with Wojtek Dabrowski from Reuters today and, as I read back the resulting story, ANALYSIS-BCE may need to lower costs, invest more in wireless (link to Forbes), I realize I must not have been in the happiest frame of mind at the time. Here's what I said:
"It's very hard to be competitive when you're selling yesterday's handsets on yesterday's network through a customer-service organization that's widely panned," said Carmi Levy, an independent technology and telecom analyst.


While the (failed privatization) deal's demise has devastated BCE's stock price, it has also let management refocus most of its attention on running the company once again.

"Once they shore themselves up ... I think they stand as good a chance as anyone else of overcoming the albatrosses that have been holding them back these last few years," Levy said.

Make no mistake: I believe what I said is fair and honest, and I'd say it again in a heartbeat. I just might have found a slightly friendlier way to say it.

The good news? I spent some alone-time with our daughter tonight. Her friend had invited her to a performance at her school - mind-blowingly professional, by the way - and we were privileged to be part of the experience despite the fact that I suspect we were the only non family members in the theatre.

There's something remarkably simple about spending an evening with your daughter. Makes the rest of life's silliness - and we have a bountiful harvest of it these days - seem irrelevant. Which they are.

Your turn: Simple pleasures. Please discuss.

One more thing: Thematic Photographic explores transparent themes this week. Head over here to participate.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Thematic Photographic 39 - Transparent

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
London, ON, March 2009 [Click to embiggen]

I've made no secret of my love for tea. There's a spirit surrounding the process of making it, then nursing the mug along for a while that appeals to me. When you're wrestling with the world outside and time seems to be spinning out of control, it's comforting to be able to set everything aside for a bit so you can sit at the table with a warm mug and just...be.

This photo kicks off our latest Thematic Photographic theme, transparent. Why transparent? Because we often see more when we see through something. We often see something different than we initially expected. We're often surprised. Pleasantly, even. And we all need a little more pleasant, right?

Your turn: Please point your lens at something see-through - literal, figurative, whatever floats your boat - and share the link in a comment below. Repeat as often as you wish, as we strongly encourage serial theming. To wit, I present my friend, Mojo (seriously, his work is unreal. But you knew that already, right?) Here's how TP works:
  • Every Wednesday evening, at precisely 7 o'clock Eastern, I post a new Thematic Photographic entry.
  • Each entry has a unique theme. This week's is...transparent.
  • You post a similarly themed image over on your blog.
  • You paste a link to your entry in a comment here.
  • If you've already posted something that fits (on a blog, Facebook, MySpace, wherever) simply post the link to the existing entry. Old or new, all photos are welcome.
  • You may post as many photos or links as you wish. For the next week, I'll be supporting this theme with a related picture/posting each day. I encourage you to do the same. This is all about sharing, so feel free to share to your heart's content!
  • Please share this link with friends, too, and encourage them to join in. The more, the merrier.
  • And please accept my thanks for your enthusiasm. Your participation has made TP a true highlight for me each and every week.

Can you hear me now?

I spoke with Kathleen Petty, host of CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning show, earlier today. Click here if you want to listen to the package, entitled Reaction to major cuts at A Channel*.

For more background on my recent media rants, click here, then here. And if you missed the Canada AM hit with Marci Ien on Monday morning, head here. This link also works.

*It's a Real-format (.RAM) streaming file. If you don't already have the software on your machine, head over here to download it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Crystallized

London, ON, January 2009

Sorry this is yet another not-quite-wordless entry...I'm a writer, after all!

This entry completes our week-long run of winter-themed photos in support of the latest Thematic Photographic. It's not too late to share yours by heading here.

Tomorrow at precisely 7:00 p.m. ET, I'll be posting the new TP entry. To give you a fair shot at brainstorming some great ideas, the theme will be...


If you can see through it, we want to see it (hmm, sounds obtuse, that...)

Media meltdown - the other shoe drops

Please accept my apologies in advance for a bit of a rant...

It's always hard to see hard times hit home. It's especially hard when such moves are driven by ignorance and shortsightedness.

Today's news is not good. 'A' Morning, the morning show that I've been occasionally appearing on under the Tech Talk banner, was abruptly cancelled this morning. Staff were informed in a hastily called meeting just after the show went off the air. No goodbyes, no advance notice...just sliced, just like that. This is a time-honored tradition in media, and something that's happening with increasing frequency on both sides of the border as the economic downturn's grip tightens its grip on already-suffocating conventional media organizations.

This comes a day after I spoke on national television (click here for video) about how conventional broadcasters have done themselves no favors by maintaining the status quo long after the Internet made their old strategies obsolete. They've kept their heads in the sand for so long that I wonder if they still know how to connect with today's audiences and advertisers.

In the morning show's place, they will now be running six back-to-back reruns of the half-hour news package from the night before. Yup, they'll serve their local community by running multiple repeats of old news. Please excuse my lack of enthusiasm for what's clearly a deliberate gutting of whatever's left of the station's business model. Can you see advertisers going for this? Um, not so much.

I'm selfishly sad because I really enjoyed doing Tech Talk with 'A' Morning host Cheryl Weedmark. But I'm massively more upset for the folks who devoted their entire careers to the station and the show. Cheryl and the morning team are some of the brightest, most focused people you'll ever meet in media. It blows my mind that they can be swept out the door without so much as a thank you.

I know the economy sucks. I know these stations have struggled under their national chain ownership. We've heard time and again that the model is broken, but no one in conventional media's ivory tower seems willing to break with conventional business practices to build a broadcast/narrowcast/Internet-embracing means of connecting with audiences and advertisers no matter where they are. They've let the online world take their lunch, and instead of fighting back they're choosing to walk away. Wimps.

Interestingly, CHCH just down the road from me in Hamilton, Ontario also finds itself under the gun. Newscaster Donna Skelly is spearheading a campaign in the community to get the station's license transferred from its current owners to a community-based board. Maybe it's time to turn back the clock on media conglomerates and return ownership and stewardship of local media resources to the communities that know them best. Maybe it no longer makes sense for leaders in glass-walled offices in distant cities to be making pivotal decisions about servicing regions they've likely never visited. Maybe it's time for folks who understand new media to take over from those who don't.

Just sayin'...

Your turn: Something tells me this discussion is only just beginning. Where do you stand on today's imploding world of media? How does it affect you?

This just in: I'll be speaking with Kathleen Petty on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:15 ET. I'm also chatting about it on my Twitter stream, and on Facebook.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Winter's overhead palette

Snow paned
London, ON, January 2009 [Please click to embiggen]

I wanted to thank y'all for your good wishes leading up to and following my interview on CTV's Canada AM this morning. It went very well - I had never been interviewed by Marci Ien before, but it felt as easy as a kitchen table chat...which is what you always hope for. And if you follow Marci's link, you'll see that she's a pretty inspirational person in her own right.

Cool tech fun: I found the video online! If you missed it here it is:
Tech analyst on the future of the media
The economic downturn has affected a number of industries, including media. The sector is feeling the pinch from companies pulling out advertising dollars, coupled with the shifting way in which people consume media.

This link also works.
After the interview was over, I had a very nice conversation with Murray, one of the 'A' television station producers who set everything up and run the camera whenever I go in for an interview. I wish I had taped that discussion, too, as for a few minutes in a quiet studio, we were able to peel back the layers of Canada's media landscape and figure out where everything was going, and why. I felt very much in my element this morning, so as I headed out to the frigid parking lot, I was overcome by a sense of calmness that's largely escaped me in recent months.

This photos reflects a similarly calm moment, when the blizzard outside was raging, but amid the chaos it was kind enough to paint the skylight of the building I was in in ephemeral, memorable patterns. Makes me glad I'm Canadian.

Your turn: You feel in your groove when...?

One more thing: We're still doing winter themes here. And if you haven't captioned, click here, too. I'm so bossy, I know!

Oops, make that two: The conversation continued later in the day...spoke with David Friend of the Canadian Press, who quoted me in this piece, Canwest Global likely close to making asset sales: analysts.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Caption This 110

Please caption this image
[Click here for instructions on how Caption This works]
London, ON, January 2009

I tend to wear my Canadian citizenship on my sleeve. As much as we like to whine about our long, cold winters, I suspect deep down most of us truly love living in this part of the world. Our unique meteorology has helped us build a national persona that just wouldn't be the same if we had it a little easier from Mother Nature. We hunker down, help each other, and use our strange Canadian sense of humour to make it through till spring.

And we skate. A lot. So when my wife and I took the munchkins for skates a few weeks back (their feet keep growing...imagine that!) I couldn't resist this shot just before we headed home.

Your turn: Please suggest a witty caption (or two, or three, or...) for this photo. I'll post the winner next Sunday, along with a new Caption This photo. For more background on the CT thing, click here. This photo supports this week's Thematic Photographic theme, winter. For more on that - come on, you're curious, right? - head over here. And have fun with both of them, as that's why we do what we do!

About last week's photo os a dilapidated old house: I often wonder if it'll still be there the next time we pass through town. I'll watch for it when we do. In the meantime, I was quite jazzed that so many of you shared your thoughts on this forlorn, forgotten home. Honorable menschens go to:
  • Tabitha In Bliss: "Is anybody home?"
  • Terri: "Cletus and Lurleen's house may not have been much, but when the tornado headed for the trailer park, at least they were safe."
  • Gary Rith: "May 15, 2012, a new B and B and antiques shop was opened this week by George and Jeffrey, who have just moved out from the city."
  • Tanya: "This just in: Ancient brothel slated for demolition."
  • Dana: "Sign of the times."
  • Jean: "Brilliance, before the crumble."
  • Robin: "Nightmare on Elm Street." and "Roof or consequences."
  • Vodka Mom: "Um, honey? You CANNOT be serious."
  • Stephen: "Cracked house" and "Reverse mortgage."
As you can tell by the unusually large number of honorable menschens, I had a tough time choosing this week. Haunting scenes tend to make for reflective suggestions. Deeply poignant, reflective suggestions. And this week you all raised the level of your game. Kcinnova's (aka Karen) "Bright eyes, shuttered doors" was, in many ways, reflective of a lost past coupled with a relentless hope for the future. I'd like to think that this house still has one. Karen's blog reflects her life as a military wife, a mom and an observer of the everyday things from an anything-but-everyday perspective. If you "get" me, you'll "get" her blog, too. Please pop by and congratulate her on her creativity.