Thursday, May 31, 2012


It's been a zany week filled with all sorts of neat little twists and turns. I'm a little sleep deprived, so in lieu of a snappily written new blog entry, you're stuck with this lame piece of tripe from my BlackBerry (yes, I still use mine, and yes, I still really like it, and no, that doesn't make me a tech-prude, but anyway...)

In the meantime, I have a favor to ask of you all: Please leave a comment outlining one nice thing you've done for others over the last day. (Yes, there's a purpose to this. All will be explained. Eventually.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Every once in a while I like to catch up on some of the notable media work I've done. Had a couple of interesting ones earlier this month. Spoke with the CBC's Kevin O'Leary and Dianne Buckner on The Lang and O'Leary Exchange. The topic is a neat one: smartphones that double as electronic wallets, and their potential to take over from plastic credit and debit cards when we all go shopping. It's coming faster than we think, and it turned into a great discussion. Video here (my segment starts at about 39 minutes in. A more direct link is here.)

Other neat interviews thanks to my old friends RIM and Facebook:

CTV National News. Scott Laurie's report on the Facebook IPO. (May 17)
Same report embedded in part 1 of the newscast: video here.

CTV Toronto. I spoke with Ashley Rowe about the potential for SmartData to protect us from hackers and scammers. It's a great example of Canadian scientific research and leadership. The piece aired May 15th, but I haven't found the video yet. Will post it when I do.

CTV National News. John Vennavally-Rao's package on investors suing Facebook over its IPO (sense a theme here?) They included a clip of me in the intro to the newscast (video here). The package itself is here. (May 23)

CTV Kitchener. Max Wark's report on RIM's impending layoff announcement. Video here. CTV London also ran a similar report. (May 27)

CBC's The National. Havard Gould's report on RIM's latest troubles (layoffs, bank hire, operating loss, CEO's mother bought an iPhone...) Okay, I'm kidding about the CEO's mom, but the video is real, and it's here. Oh, and Havard's upcoming surgery is real, too. Get better soon, Mr. Gould: journalism needs you.

CTV Toronto. Colin D'Mello. Report video here.

CTV Canada AM. Chatted with Marci Ien about RIM's prospects. Video here. (May 30)

There's writing and other stuff, too, with articles in Yahoo! Canada and the Toronto Star. I'll post those tomorrow, because I figure there's enough video here to put most of you to sleep. Sorry about that: I guess it's been a busy time around here.

Oops, I lied: One more thing. I shared a bummer of a tweet yesterday. Now I'd like to swing the pendulum and share one of the nicest ones I've ever been privileged to receive:

Lucky me. I work with some of the kindest people anywhere.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

RIM hires bankers. Investors bail. Again.

So the big news out of techland today is a familiar one: BlackBerry maker Research In Motion had another bad day. It announced it was hiring bankers J.P. Morgan Securities and RBC Capital Markets to help it investigate all strategic options - including partnerships, licensing, or even an asset sale.

I spoke with some folks on the way home from work, and as a result was late for dinner (totally worth it.) Havard Gould included a couple of clips in his report on CBC's The National. Video here.

I'll be up before sunup tomorrow to speak with CFRB Newstalk 1010's John Moore just after 6:20 a.m. (livestream here), CTV's Canada AM at 7:10, and CBC Radio's Metro Morning in Toronto at 8:10.

Between now and then I have to crank out a lot more words than I already have on my too-white laptop screen. It never ends. Nor would I want it to.

When Twitter users go bad

I received an interesting tweet this morning. Not the nicest tweet, mind you, of even the most polite. But I'm used to the occasional sniping from the peanut gallery, as that's the deal I made when I decided to go into media. Usually, I ignore it. This time, I won't. Here's what showed up in my tweetstream:
@carmilevy Do you ever work, or have you become another talking head?
I had tweeted earlier in the morning that I was going to be doing a radio interview. I'm guessing this missive from someone who likely ought to know better was in response to that note.

Here's the deal: Anyone who knows me knows that I do interviews like this - on radio, on television and in print - fairly frequently. Doing so helps raise awareness among editors and it makes it easier for me to secure writing work. Oh, and I love the process. Live radio and television is like working without a safety net. You're totally on, totally in the moment, and totally in the hands of professionals hundreds of miles away who you may have never even met. It's as unreal an experience as you can imagine, and I get to do it on a regular basis. And not a day goes by that I don't count my lucky stars that this is what I do, that doing so opens doors to me and my family that would otherwise have remained slammed shut.

So, to answer your question, oh misguided tweeter, yes, I do work. Fairly often. Fairly hard. Fairly non-stop. Like now, as I settle in for a long night of writing before tucking in for a few hours, then waking long before dawn for another round of pre-breakfast interviews and research. Then it's off to the office for the day before I return home and start the cycle again.

Because this is how I market myself, build my brand, build my future for me and my family. I'd invite you to look over my shoulder and see just how much I work, how far beyond "talking head" this work is, how much effort it takes to achieve any of this and how profoundly I enjoy the privilege of journalists across the country calling me - silly, backward ballcap-wearing, bike-riding, irreverent me - for my opinion, but I'm guessing its easier for you to zing the occasional slice of snark into my tweetstream because I figure this is infinitely more entertaining for you than, oh, being nice.

I can probably go back into the archives and pick out at least a dozen or so similarly themed messages from you. I've ignored them all to-date, probably because, shockingly, you're a friend of my extended family, because I figured it wasn't worth raising a fuss over. But today I've chosen not to. And I realize I'm probably overreacting, probably making more of it than I should, probably missing the brilliance of your apparent humor.

Or maybe you're just being a dick. Either way, stop it. Because considering how little free time I have these days - working, you know - I have absolutely no patience for dicks.

Coming home

As much as I love getting on a plane, flying far away and soaking in the experience of being in a radically different place, coming home is always my favorite part. There's a comforting feeling when the return flight pulls into its gate and you know who's waiting for you on the other side of the terminal,  a feeling that all is right with the world, that you always have a place to return to. And, more importantly, you always have people, family, to return to.

I realize not everyone is so blessed, that some travellers return home alone. So I hug my family that much more tightly when I first see them.

Please see here for more far from home-themed imagery. New Thematic theme will go live soon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Who has a death wish?

Waiting for the light to turn
Shanghai, China
May 2012

Head here for more Thematic "far from home"

Pedestrians take their lives into their own hands in this city of 19 million souls. The rules of the road so often seem to be mere suggestions, with cars stopping for nothing or no one, drivers leaning on their horns for the sake of making noise, streets filled with traffic coming from whatever direction makes the most sense at any given moment. It's frightening to watch, and even scarier to be in the middle of. I can't imagine walking and texting at the same time, as it would almost be an invitation to becoming someone's hood ornament.

So you can imagine my surprise when I came across this scene at a typically busy intersection. I'm not quite sure how chilled the blood in these people's veins was, but I'm guessing it was colder than mine. I guess you learn how to survive when this is all you've ever known. Either way, I said a little prayer for them all. Just in case.

Your turn: What's the woman on the right talking about?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Snickers Satisfies, Anywhere

Connecting with the familiar
Shanghai, China
May 2012
For more far-from-home photo-madness, head here.

I'm not the world's most adventurous eater. My can't-eat list is pretty restrictive, so travel always makes mealtime a fun experience as I pick my way through the menu and look for things that won't send me off the culinary deep end.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I cruised past the snack-and-go counters at the conference and came across a pile of Snickers bars. Please don't ask how many of them made it into my backpack. Of course, the moment had to be remembered with a picture. And, of course, the get-on-the-floor technique seemed to make the most sense.

The bottom line on finding something familiar far from home is this: They do taste better. I'm sure it's the psychology rather than the chemistry, but there's something about having something dear as opposed to something that's easily attainable. And far from home, you hold onto what's dear just a little more tightly, and savor it just a little bit more.

Your turn: Does the five-second rule still apply here?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Everywhere a bird

Shanghai, China
May 2012

It doesn't matter where I go, I'll always find a way to bring a bird photo home (like here and here.) I don't even know what kind of bird this is, but there's something wondrously universal about staying close to the things that bring us comfort even when we're thousands of miles away from home.

More more "far from home"-ness, click here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

On destiny and the pen

"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."
Leo Rosten

And so I can't. Which, on reflection, makes me one very lucky soul.

Dragon, meet ISS

Knock, knock
Somewhere in orbit
May 25, 2012

Pretty historic day a couple of hundred miles above our heads, as the SpaceX Dragon capsule, loaded with clean laundry and tasty treats - and, possibly, some of Scottie's ashes - docked with the International Space Station.

This is a big deal, as it illustrates that private industry is eminently capable of getting into orbit, doing critical work, and getting back down. Still ticked that the Space Shuttles have been retired? You might be looking at the next generation human-capable spacecraft, as SpaceX plans to stick seats in these puppies and fly real astronauts on them within the next three or so years.

Enjoy the peanut brittle, Expedition 31. More on the way, I'm sure.

Strangers in a strange land

Shanghai, China
May 2012

This scene struck me as particularly poignant. In a city where nothing ever seems to really stop, I saw example after example of people trying to carve out a slice of quiet for themselves wherever they could find it.

I think I could learn from them. I think we all could.

Your turn: Where do you find quiet in the middle of it all?

Please click here to share your own "far from home" vision in support of this week's Thematic.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On tech being good or bad. What say you?

"There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology - the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good."
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

In the best Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey tradition, I've been doing a lot of thinking this week about the meaning of technology. I always seem to hear stories from folks who feel, deeply, that technology is either a force for extreme good or extreme not-so-good. There never seems to be an in-between.

I don't have an answer beyond this: technology is neither positive nor negative. It just is. It is a benign, passive platform that ultimately becomes what we make of it.

How's that for an answer?

Living on the margins

Shanghai, China
May 2012

About these photos: Thematic is exploring "far from home" this week, and you can, too, by clicking here. We promise you'll enjoy the ride.
I never presume to know all there is to know about a given person's situation. I would never judge, either. As a journalist, my role is to simply observe and share the facts as clearly as I possibly can. The members of my audience are always intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions.

That doesn't mean I'm not affected by what I see. And everywhere in this crazy-busy place, I see people living on the margins of society. They clean the steps of public buildings, panhandle in the street for whatever scraps they can find, or, in this case, scour garbage bins for recyclable materials. And my heart hurts a little bit every time I see them. I silently hope they find what they're looking for, hope they find a way to keep on keeping on, to survive in this place that seems content to ignore their very existence.

This particular lady was looking through a bin outside one of the top hotels in the city. At one point as I tried to capture the unfolding scene, she looked up at me and briefly caught my eye. I wondered if my observing her was upsetting in any way, and hoped it wasn't. I didn't have long to ponder that thought, however, as soon enough a suit-clad, walkie talkie-carrying concierge emerged and shooed her away, staring at me with particular suspicion, likely pegging me as yet another know-it-all tourist with no appreciation of the subtleties of life here.

He was probably right: I don't have a clue how so many in this apparent emerging land of plenty can apparently be pushed to the margins. I wish I understood more of the dynamics that make this country tick. I quietly think that perhaps if I got under the covers here, I'd learn more about life back home, too.

As she dejectedly wheeled her bag-laden bike into an uncertain future, I realized my heart still hurt a little.

Your turn: What do you learn when you're far from home?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On technology and experience

"Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn't have to experience it."
Max Frisch

This one made me ponder a bit, as I think there are two sides to this equation. Sure, we can use technology to isolate ourselves - hiding behind our inbox, for example, or spending every waking hour poking each other and writing on the virtual walls of so-called "friends". But we can also use it to reach out and connect in ways that wouldn't otherwise be possible.

The choice, in the end, is ours. Neat how that works, isn't it?

Your turn: What thinketh you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A moment in Hong Kong

Otherworldly view
Hong Kong, China
May 2012

Please note: These photos support this week's Thematic theme, "far from home." If you'd like to share your own vision from far away - and we hope you do! - just click here.
The scene: A glass-enclosed airport terminal - one of the largest ever built - halfway around the world from home. We've been disgorged into Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok Airport after a 15-plus-hour flight from Toronto. We're 12 time zones ahead of the folks at home, so it's already the next morning.

We've got a few hours before our final flight takes us to our final destination of Shanghai, so our little group settles into the almost-deserted, too-comfy-for-words place. This is how all public spaces should be built, and I think a few hours isn't nearly enough to enjoy this stunning piece of architecture built on reclaimed land in the middle of a bay, surrounded by some of the most unreal topography we've ever seen. I pinch myself a few times to make sure it's all real.

Thankfully, there's ample power - thanks, Apple, for making the power adapter thing super-easy - and free Wi-Fi, so we all pull out our laptops and connect with the world we left behind. Once I boot up and get back online - sweet, sweet connectivity - I ping my wife all those miles away and, sure enough, she's there. In a few minutes, she's gathered the munchkins around the webcam and we're talking via Skype as if I'd never left. At one point, our daughter fetches the dog and holds him up for a cameo. It feels like I'm home, my inability to reach through the screen and touch them the only tipoff that so much distance now separates us.

As we idly chat about what I've missed since I left home and what the kids have planned for the rest of the week, I slowly circle the terminal to give them a sense of what it's like here. It doesn't take long before the kids have to get ready for bed, but already I feel as if they have, at least in spirit, gotten to experience some of this journey with me. Before we sign off, we decide technology is a truly miraculous thing, but I still wish we could reach through the screen.

Your turn: When you're far from home, what little tricks, techie or not, do you use to stay close to those who matter most?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thematic Photographic 197 - Far from home

The open road
Somewhere on the I-75 in Kentucky
December 2009

I've been spending more time than usual of late away from home. For the most part, it's been for reasons that make me look forward to the journey, and in every case I've grabbed a camera and tried to capture not just what it looked like, but also what it felt like to be away.

Which is what I hope we'll all do for the coming week, as part of our new "far from home" Thematic theme. Basically, if you took it while you were away, it's fair game. Are you in?

Your turn: Share a far from home-themed pic on your blog or website, then drop a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants through the week and feel free to return if you'd like to share more. We encourage photographic promiscuity here. For more background on how Thematic works, just click here. Enjoy...and thanks!

Topped out

Elevated flourish
Shanghai, China
May 2012

I'd like to wrap up this week's "look up" theme (click here for some last-minute up-ness) with another perspective on two of Shanghai's tallest buildings. I originally posted a night-time shot of these two (here), and was amazed at how simply waiting for daytime, then shifting a few blocks over, could result in a totally different view of these two. I kinda dig how they almost look like they're touching. Optics can be so grand, no?

The last time I was here, the building on the right was still under construction (photos here). That gigantic hole, which hadn't been completed when I shot the building in 2007, isn't just a cool architectural flourish. It was also at the middle of a civic controversy: It was originally supposed to be a circle - a reminder of the sun - but opponents complained it reminded them of Japanese imperialism. Architects eventually changed it to what you see here. Cool beans.

Your turn: Looking at the same thing from two perspectives. Please discuss.

One more thing: We hope you'll pop back in at 7:00 p.m. - OMG, that's tonight! - when we launch our new Thematic theme, "far from home".

Stairway to heaven - or just the 2nd floor

Sometimes, all it takes to change your perspective on life is a simple hike up the stairs.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Looking up to mom

Don't let go
Shanghai, China
May 2012
Click here to share your own "look up" moment

I was on my last walkabout of my visit here, a quick loop through the sweltering city before I headed back to the hotel, checked out, tossed my luggage in the back of a Buick minivan and headed for the airport for the inevitable gauntlet of check-in, security and still more security.

As I walked toward the hotel, I randomly shot people, any people, on the crowded overhead walkway that encircled one of the main intersections of this sprawling, often overwhelming city. This was the first truly nice day after a string of grey, rainy ones, and it seemed everyone had emerged to take it all in. This little girl stopped me dead in her tracks, as in that one tiny moment on a muggy afternoon, I saw a connection in that little hand that reminded me why we have kids in the first place.

She won't always hold onto her mom's hand as she's doing here. But for that brief window of childhood where the world revolves around her parents to an almost complete degree, I'm sure mom appreciates the handhold as much as little one does. Because it's only a matter of time before she walks on her own, too old/cool/independent/distant to make the connection to the person who shepherded her from munchkinhood to adulthood.

On this bright Shanghai day, it taught me that we're all more alike than not, and no matter how old we might be, we all need each other, hands and all, more than we'd like to admit.

Your turn: What's this little girl thinking?

Friday, May 18, 2012


I thought I'd share a silly riff on this week's "look up" theme. Hey, at least I tried to be funny, right?

Cast a giant shadow

Boeing Eclipse
Chicago, IL
May 2012
More Thematic can be found here

Half a world away from the point where she last touched land, our 777 prepares to land in Chicago. Am I the only one who finds all of this rather miraculous?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On perfection and excellence

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence."
Vince Lombardi

Teletubby in the sky

If you've known me for a bit, you know a small Teletubby doll hangs off of my camera bag, and it goes pretty much wherever I go. It never ceases to make strangers smile, which is entirely why I keep it with me.

This last trip was no different, and Po managed to make connections wherever we went. Here's a pensive moment far over the northernmost reaches of the planet.

Your turn: If she could think, what would she be thinking here?

Please click here for more on Thematic's "look up" theme.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On desirable imperfection

“I like flaws. I think they make things interesting.”
Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
Your turn: What's your favorite flaw?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Touch the sky. Twice.

Light up the night
Shanghai, China
May 2012

There's something humbling about standing at street level and peering up, way up, toward the tops of buildings that sometimes literally disappear into the sky. The Shanghai World Financial Center (left) and Jing Mao Tower are easily capable of humbling even the most casual passers-by.

This is a city of skyscrapers. These giants of that connect land and sky are an ever tangible sign of this city's and this country's emergence onto the global economic stage. The forest of cranes that fill in the spaces confirm that the building boom is far from over. When I was here last time, the building on the left was still under construction, and a year removed from completion. If you look carefully in the middle of the photo, that little nubbin at the bottom is the rising form of the Shanghai Tower, which will eventually top out at 121 storeys (2,073 feet) and easily dominate its neighbors.

As I stared at this impossible-to-fathom scene, I quietly thought a return trip would be in order a few years from now, if only to see what other wonders had been added to the skyline.

Your turn: Can you think of one building that stands out in your mind? Why?

On what makes light light

"You can't have a light without a dark to stick it in."
Arlo Guthrie
(Forgive my quotational indulgence, but I love this one. Hope you do, too.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thematic Photographic 196 - Look Up

Goodbye, Chicago
Chicago, IL
May 2012

I'm going to make this week's theme really simple because right about now I'm too jet lagged to think too deeply. The theme, look up, is as straightforward as they come, and can be interpreted any number of ways. I know you'll have fun with it.

I know I did, too. I was sitting at the very back of a United Airlines 777 that had just taken off from the Windy City. The thick haze made shooting out the high-quality (cough) plastic windows a challenge, as did the unpredictable light shooting through the thick clouds. As the plane climbed in an eastward-curving bank, I leaned as far forward as I dared - hello, neighbor-in-front-of-me - and angled the lens back. By this point I wasn't even using the viewfinder. Just shooting, confirming in the screen, adjusting angle, then shooting again. I think I managed a couple of repeat cycles before I realized we were about to bust through the cloud deck.

I held my breath and shot one last time before the window turned grey. This is the result, and by virtue of the rays peering down from on high, lighting up the abstract scene, I'm thinking there's more going on here than just a high-angled peek at a receding shoreline. Sometimes, you just get lucky.

Your turn: Shoot a pic in support of the theme, post it to your blog, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Repeat as often as you wish throughout the week, and feel free to use stuff you've posted previously, too. Bring a friend, if you wish - we'll award bonus warm fuzzies for newbies. For more background on how Thematic works, please click here. Otherwise, enjoy the show. I most certainly will, thanks to all of you!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Roadside smoker

Nicotine fix
Shanghai, China
May 2012

I didn't have the time to do any empirical research when I was there, but anecdotally I couldn't help but notice how many smokers there were in Shanghai. It reminded me of my own childhood, where the majority of adults around me smoked, and a house filled from the ceiling on down with a choking blue cloud was a normal thing when the parents had friends over for a party.

I used my longish lens to capture a few random in-the-street shots of complete strangers, and this one stood out as particularly unique to this place. I didn't stick around long enough to observe what he did next, but when I reviewed the shot later on I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking as he idly puffed away by the side of the road.

Your turn: So what is he thinking?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Staring down at the Arctic Ocean

From Cathay Pacific Flight 829, 34,000 ft over the Arctic Ocean
May 7, 2012

Before I leave home on a trip, I like to talk to the kids about where I'll be, what I'll be up to, and how I expect things to play out. I figure if they can't be there with me, they can at least have a sense of what I'm going to be experiencing.

I realized somewhere along the way that the major leg of the trip, the 15+ hour hop from Toronto to Hong Kong, was going to take the polar route. I made a big deal of it to the kids because, well, it is a big deal. It's a place few of us ever get to see up-close, yet one I suspect we'd all like to experience at least once. I jokingly promised to wave to Santa as we flew over, and said I'd take a picture if the light conditions allowed.

Well, when we got there I was challenged on a number of fronts, primarily the fact that there isn't a whole lot to shoot down there. "Whole lot of nothing" kept running through my head as I peered down at a seemingly endless stretch of white. It was a lovely white, mind you, but still, not terribly photo-worthy. Oh, and Santa's Village was nowhere to be seen. Then there was the photographic impossibility of shooting anything decent through pockmarked plastic windows, through the exhaust stream of a GE90-115B high-bypass turbofan engine (the largest-diameter, highest thrust such commercial engine in history) in the precious few seconds I had before my flatulent, barefoot, privacy-challenged, bathing-challenged seatmate returned from wherever he had gone.

But I promised them a glimpse, and I wasn't about to miss out on the opportunity to connect with them even though I was literally at - and beyond - the ends of the earth. Home, after all, is as close as you imagine it to be,

Your turn: The most isolated place you've ever been is...?

Friday, May 11, 2012

On coming home

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it."
George Moore

...Which is my rather inelegant way of saying I'm so glad to be home. I missed this place. More importantly, I missed these remarkable people who form the centre of my world. As I wait at the airport for my wife to pull up and for our brood to come spilling out of the car, I'm reminded of just how charmed life can be.

Your turn: what does "coming home" look or feel like to you?

Look in the trunk

Bark on a hillside
London, ON
March 2012
Click photo to embiggen
Click here to share more Thematic 
I should be somewhere over some huge ocean by the time this entry auto-posts to the blog. Thanks to the magic of technology, I've been able to stay connected throughout my journey this week. From receiving emails from the kids - including every last detail of the dog's bat-hunting adventure - to sharing the skyline with them via Skype, there hasn't been a moment here where I didn't feel some kind of tangible piece of home right at my fingertips.

What a sea change from the way it used to be, when the Internet was limited to scientists, educators and the military and phoning home from overseas meant quick, staccato-paced discussions as you kept half of your mind focused on saying everything you needed to say and the other half on the ever-ticking clock to avoid a massive long distance bill.

Indeed, for all the writing I do about technology, it often takes an experience like this - where I'm forced to eat my own dog food for a while - to really appreciate the significance of an otherwise benign-looking gadget. A laptop, for example, barely gets noticed these days because virtually everyone has one. But when it's your main link to a life you left far behind for a few days (or longer, as the case may be) it becomes a lot more than a sliver of metal, glass and plastic. It's a lifeline, a window, an extension. I'll never look at my own laptop - one of kazillions of MacBook Pros just like it both here and around the world - quite the same way again.

So what the heck does this view of a tree-filled hillside near my house have to do with a faraway adventure? Well, it's actually quite simple: Roots. Wherever you go, know where home is, and never forget where your roots are planted. It's a powerful way to get the most out of your time away, and it reinforces why coming back home is so very good for the souls of those who have gone and those who have waited behind.

Your turn: Can you share one example of how tech transformed your life?

Say it...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Life comes from the sky

Feed me
London, ON
April 2012
Click here for more Thematic bushes and trees
I've always used photography as something of a milestone marker for my life. We can't freeze time in place, of course, but we can grab a moment through the lens and preserve it in some way for later recollection. If we shoot just the right way, the occasional picture will be so powerful that it'll take you right back to the moment it was taken.

For me, this is one of those pictures. Our little guy had been especially good, helping out around the house without being asked and generally being his typical sweet self. He had earned a special treat, which we decided was dinner out with dear old dad. As we sat in the restaurant and chatted over our meal, I noticed the gorgeous sun setting in the window. Like everyone else in our family, he's learned to spot that look that I get in my eye when I start to think about a scene. He said the sunset looked nice enough for picture, and asked me if I thought it was worth taking the camera out.

He didn't have to ask twice. I pulled the camera from its bag and composed through the plate glass window. He noticed the just-budding trees in the distance and said it would be neat if I could get those into the picture, too. I was only too happy to follow his suggestion, as the end result was a poignant reminder of where life comes from, and where it goes. I watched Noah munch down the rest of his well deserved dinner and thought to myself that, like the tree using the sun's energy to grow and thrive, he was doing a pretty good job absorbing the energy and opportunity around him, as well.

Soon enough we finished up and slowly began making our way home. As we walked across the now-darkened parking lot, I hoped he'd always find ways to turn himself to the sun, and to grow. Part of me knew I'd never need to worry about this one.

Your turn: What three words first come to mind when you see this pic?

A Chinese media adventure

I'm having a good time seeing what I can and cannot do technologically while I'm away, and as it turns out I can do pretty much whatever I want from my perch here in my hotel room. Skype and Facetime have given me a view into my family's world back home and, just as importantly, have allowed them to peek over my shoulder at what it's like here. Various other technologies, from email to BBM, Facebook and Twitter, have amplified the conversation no matter where we are or what we're up to. Technology is an amazing thing - I know I've said it before, but this week has reminded me yet again of its transformative power to connect us no matter where we may be.

As an example, Research In Motion named a new Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer this week. I wrote this piece, Frank Boulben joins RIM, solidifies its future, for Yahoo! Canada, and also turned my desk into a makeshift studio:

  • I spoke live with CTV News Channel's Jacqueline Milczarek. Don't ask what time of night it was - it'll upset my mother. Video here. Alternate link here.
  • CTV Kitchener's Nicole Lampa interviewed me for her report on the 6 p.m. newscast. Link here.
Sometime late tonight my time - 1:00 p.m. Eastern Thursday - I'll be speaking live with CJAD in Montreal (tune in here.) No exotic technologies for that one: we're sticking with the tried-and-true telephone.

Update: Thanks to the cross-planetary wizardry of CJAD producer extraordinaire Sheldon Fried, who sent me the aircheck of the episode even before I was finished dismantling my studio-in-a-hotel-room, you can listen into the show by clicking here.

Your turn: Does technology make the world smaller?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

On destinations and vision

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Henry Miller
I'm having a crazy-busy time here in this city of unfathomable size. I almost feel as if I'm drinking from a firehose of experience, and that if I don't focus hard enough I might miss something along the way. I still pinch myself every once in a while to make sure it's real, and to remind myself what a privilege it is to be here.

More soon...just wanted to share a thought from the road as it popped into my head.

Your turn: Wherever you are, how do you get yourself to see it in new ways?

Arches Not-Quite-National Park

Twisted by the elements
London, ON
March 2012
Click here to share your own vision around this week's Bushes and Trees theme

Nature can be so random in some ways, yet so methodical in others. I have no idea how a bunch of unseen forces acted together over time to shape these branches in this way. I'm not entirely convinced we really need to know, anyway. Maybe it's enough to simply stand at the end of the path and admire the end result.

Your turn: What's your favorite tree? Why?

One more thing: I'm managing to hold my own here in Shanghai. Taking lots of pictures and trying to remember every last iota of this incredible place. Blog entries to come...just didn't want y'all to think I had dropped off the face of the earth (though I'm sure there are some who might applaud that...)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Return to the cathedral

Reach for the skies
London, ON
March 2012

About this photo: Thematic celebrates Bushes and Trees week, and you're all invited. Really! Just click here to get involved.
I've been in this spot before - see link from last October, A cathedral where nobody prays - and just as I had done last time, I stood on the soft ground and felt tremendously small as I stared skyward. I couldn't hear a thing as the air was perfectly still, yet there was an energy to this place that kept me absolutely riveted.

I know that life can get so busy sometimes that we don't have the time to spend in places like this. But every time I manage to tear away and find myself enveloped by the Zen-like spirit of this place where trees meet sky, I realize how important it is for us to make the time, anyway.

Your turn: How do you make time for quiet?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Thematic Photographic 195 - Bushes and Trees

Brushed by the hand of G-d
London, ON
March 2012

This week's theme, Bushes and Trees, should be an easy one for a whole lot of reasons. On the surface, they're everywhere. So if you're looking for reasonably pretty subject matter, a bush or a tree - or both - shouldn't be too hard to find. They're also incredibly diverse, so you can shoot them six ways from Sunday and never come up with the same thing twice.

Besides, if you don't shoot them today, tomorrow you'll come back to find they've changed yet again. They grow, they add leaves, shed leaves, lose limbs, change in the light...I think it's going to be an interesting topic to explore, and I can't wait to see what y'all come up with.

Your turn: Thematic is our weekly photo sharing/learning/partying extravaganza. It isn't competitive and it isn't remotely stressful. Just shoot a picture that supports the theme, post it to your blog, then leave a comment letting everyone know where to find it. Already got something online? Share that, too! Want to share a bunch of stuff? Have at it! If you're new to this nuttiness and want a primer, just click here. Otherwise, have fun!

Saying hi to Santa

At first glance, it's a lousy smartphone pic shot out of a scratched-to-smithereens and annoyingly reflective plastic window at the very back of a 777-300ER.

On second glance, it was what my little world - and the world of around 300 other passengers - looked like a few hours ago as we flew the polar route from Toronto to Hong Kong. I didn't see Santa, but I did crack a smile as I thought about where we were and where we were headed.

Your turn: Who's down there? What are they up to?

Talking Head(s)

I've fallen a bit behind on sharing some of my recent interviews. Granted, not everyone wants to see a goofy-face-challenged analyst-geek prattle on about the forces behind today's tech headlines - I'm looking at you, my esteemed 8th grade English teacher - but for those of you looking for a bit of a chuckle, here they are:

CTV News Channel
  • Ebook lawsuits - Apple's being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations of price fixing. And a class action lawsuit here in Canada. Bad Apple!. I spoke with Jacqueline Milczarek.
  • BlackBerry 10 and the future of RIM - The company held its big annual BlackBerry World event in Orlando - and gave attendees a glimpse into what comes next for the beleaguered company. Why does this matter? If this plan fails, so does the company. Amanda Blitz and Todd van der Heyden walked through it with me.
  • How Samsung is beating Apple - The iPhone may get the headlines, but Samsung has quietly emerged as the world's largest smartphone maker. Now, it's just-announced Galaxy S III is upping the ante in the superphone wars. Should Apple be worried? I discussed it with Jacqueline Milczarek and Dan Matheson.
CBC News Network
  • Google Drive Concerns - So Google released its long-awaited cloud-based storage service, then immediately ran into a storm of controversy over its terms of use that make it clear you no longer own your own data. Scary? I spoke about it with Carol McNeil.

Light, interrupted

Transient reflective illusion
Fort Lauderdale, FL
December 2011

I thought we'd wrap up our week-long exploration of straight lines - click here if you've got something in mind - with something a bit different. Clearly, this is not a picture of straight lines. Thanks to a little water, a slightly breeze and some late afternoon southern sun, the reflected image you see here hardly qualifies as remotely straight or orderly.

But look up and the actual building you see reflected here is pretty much all straight, all the time. Which is a subtle reminder that things are not always as they seem, and sometimes we have to look through a few overlapping lenses to appreciate things not as they are, but as they could be.

Your turn: Who lives here? Why?

One more thing: Our new Thematic theme, bushes and trees, launches tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern. I won't be here, as I'll still be flying in a tube a few miles above the earth, but I hope you'll play along all the same. See ya from the other side...

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Up in the air

Safe flight
Delray Beach, FL
January 2012
Click here for more Thematic strong lines

If the invisible little people who run the Internet are doing their jobs correctly, this post will automatically go live a little while before I lift off the runway on my little adventure (see here if you're just tuning in.) Now that I think about it a little bit, it'll go live just as the latex glove-clad security folks are laughing at my body scan in their new uber-tech machine. Glad I could bring them joy...but I digress.

I'll apologize for the technical meh-ness of this shot. I grabbed it while standing surfside. I had been following the kids around, trying to freeze their freneticness for eternity, when I looked up and saw this little aerial coincidence beginning to play out. I reset the camera as quickly as I could and semi-intelligently swung everything skyward and hoped for the best.

I won't be putting this on our walls anytime soon - heck, I'm probably stretching it by posting it here - but as a marker, a placeholder of a moment when I stared up and wondered hopefully about what comes next, for me and for my family, this will do quite nicely.

May all of our journeys, wherever they take us, continue to be safe, rewarding ones.

Your turn: Do you ever stare at the sky? What do you see? (I mean, really, what do you see?)

One more thing: Here are some handy links to the flight trackers for my flights. Some good geeky fun:

Outward bound (May 6-8)
Air Canada AC 7724 - CYXU (London) to CYYZ (Toronto-Pearson)
Cathay Pacific CPA 829 - CYYZ (Toronto-Pearson) to HKG (Hong Kong) - polar route(!)
Cathay Pacific CPA 368 - HKG (Hong Kong) to PVG (Shanghai-PuDong)

Homeward bound (May 11)
United Airlines UA 836 - PVG (Shanghai-PuDong) to ORD (Chicago-O'Hare)
United Airlines UA 843 - ORD (Chicago-O'Hare) to CYYZ (Toronto-Pearson)
Air Canada AC 7725 - CYYZ (Toronto-Pearson) to CYXU (London)

The perfectly imperfect leaf

Naturally somewhat straight
Delray Beach. FL
January 2012

Quick note: This photo supports our latest Thematic theme, strong lines. If you'd like to share your own - and we very much hope you do - please head this way.

If you put a ruler up to your screen - just be careful to avoid scratching it...on second thought, maybe you shouldn't - you'll probably notice these lines aren't perfectly straight due to the natural curve of the leaf. It's also not a perfect example of a leaf, as it sports little nicks and scratches here, there and pretty much everywhere.

I'm good with that. I'll admit I wrestled with whether to PhotoShop - oops, Aperture - this picture to within a millimeter of its life. I could have easily spent some quality mouse time massaging the imperfections until they disappeared. In doing so, I could have easily turned this view of imperfection into the leafy equivalent of a magazine cover: Perfect in every way, except for realism and soul.

So the leaf stayed as is, just as it was when I first shot it. Because photos, like life, aren't always perfect. And I'm good with that, too.

Your turn: Is perfection overrated?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Stepping off the edge of the planet

I'm going to change things up for the next week or so because, um, I'm taking a little trip. An opportunity's come up for a quick visit to Shanghai, China to attend a tech conference, to write about it, to comment on it, and generally predict the future of technology and its impact on our lives. And since life is short I've decided to say what the heck and do it. My flight leaves tomorrow (Sunday) eve.

I know. I'm insane. Go ahead and say it. Because I know there's a good chance you're thinking it.

I've been there before*, and a return visit, however brief, will give me a chance to see things I might have missed the first time around. And as much as I hate being away from home and the folks who matter most to me, I think it'll be good for my soul to wander the planet for a few days before returning home to where I belong. It's been a challenging few months in Carmiland**, and a different perspective, however brief, will give my soul the tweak it needs to refine my direction over the next little bit.

If my last experience on the other side of the planet is any guide, my ability to administer the blog will be severely compromised. So I've advance-posted a bunch of stuff and, if time/tools/accesses permit, will weigh in from there, too. If you're a journalist hoping to do an interview, please know I've turned the BlackBerry off and will not be checking voicemail. I'll be reachable via email, and I'll be able to chat via Skype, Google Talk and FaceTime. Given the 12-hour time difference and the fact that I don't sleep when I'm away, I'll be eminently available for all sorts of live work, all from an exotic perch high above a big, smog-choked city. Sounds like fun, no?

The flight from here to there will see me skipping across 12 time zones on 4 flights, with a possible high-up peek at Santa, his village and perhaps his elves. I'll be back on Friday following a similar game of reverse-aviation-hopscotch. Somewhere in there (Tuesday the 8th) I'm supposed to have a birthday. I'm sure I'll lose stuff in crazy places and pick up a few more strands of grey hair along the way, but when life offers up opportunity, walking away is the last thing any of us should do.

I hope you'll check back in through the week - here, on Twitter, and on Facebook - to see what the heck I'm up to way over there. Safe week, everyone. 

Your turn: I'm taking requests for photos/ideas. Can't promise I'll get to all of 'em, as free time will be decidedly limited, but let's see if we can make this social media thing work to our photographic advantage regardless. Have at it in comments here.

* In 2007. Also over my birthday. Also for a conference. Also life-changing.
** Challenging doesn't mean bad. It simply means I have a huge amount on my plate, with lots of change swirling about, and lots of things demanding attention and, perhaps, decisions. A little distance sometimes helps me sort out the resulting melee of factors into something a little more manageable. It's how we survive and grow. Or so I've convinced myself to believe.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

On the greatness of small things

"If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way."
Napoleon Hill

So...what small thing will you do next?

Nazi-inspired councillors and charging mayors

Tall half-caf, no milk
London, ON
February 2012
Please click here to share your own straight-lined vision

The world can be a pretty chaotic place. No surprise there, as disorder seems to be the norm. I don't lament that fact, as disorder can be pretty damn entertaining. To wit, Toronto's mayor, a guy known as Rob Ford, continues to stumble from one unpredictable life event to another. Last night, he apparently came charging out of his house and threatened a Toronto Star reporter who was trying to take pictures on public land (story here).

It somehow makes me glad I live in London. Not that our elected officials are much better, mind you - one of our city councillors, Stephen Orser, surreptitiously distributed a leaflet containing Nazi imagery to other members of council (story here). He opposes water fluoridation, and thought some good old Hitler-inspired imagery would help him make his point. Um, right.

My point, then, is we're surrounded by the unpredictable, including the behaviour of our elected officials. Who should know better, but don't. So it's nice to look up every once in a while and realize the buildings that define our cities are a little more orderly. At least that's how they seem on the surface.

Your turn: Do your elected officials embarrass you? How?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

On the path to perfection

"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials."
Chinese Proverb

Columns in the sky

Yellow steel, blue sky
London, ON
April 2012
Click here to join this week's Thematic
There's a certain joy associated with spending quiet time with the kids. They're still young enough that a walk to the playground remains on their radar. I know this won't be the case for too much longer, so when they say they want to go, I grab my camera and head out with them.

When we get there, I no longer need to watch them like a hawk, or stand under them to ensure they don't fall. They can more than hold their own, and they don't need me like they used to. On the surface, of course, it seems a little sad, but that's the deal with parenthood: We raise them until they no longer need us. This is all simply a sign that we're doing our job, and the world is evolving as it should.

So I content myself with wandering around this familiar place as I look for perspectives I may have missed on my countless previous visits here. I enjoy the challenge, because it's easy to get snap happy in a new venue. But it's a much more intense mental exercise to squeeze some new out of the old.

I can't believe I've been missing this railing fo all these years.

Your turn: How do you find something new in the unfamiliar?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

On recognizing the extraordinary

"In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary."
Aaron Rose
Funny how some words, on some days, resonate more strongly than they might on others. Today, Mr. Rose's words hit me like a ton of bricks. In a good way.

Your turn: What does extraordinary mean to you?