Monday, June 30, 2014

Thematic Photographic 299 - Critters

Happy bunny
London, ON
June 2014
I've been shooting animals again. To clarify, when I say "shooting", it's with a camera.

I haven't really planned the animal-theme thing: I've been toting my camera again, and in the process I've been running across random examples of the animal kingdom. In this case, a sweet little jackrabbit showed up in our back yard and, for some odd reason, stuck around for an inordinately long period of time.

The dog, whose schnauzer DNA typically compels him to a) detect rabbits from 2 km away and then b) chase after them at near-light-speed, must have been napping beside the patio door, because I was able to approach this little bunny in blissful silence.

I'll leave the naming to you. Thoughts?

Your turn: Grab a pic of an animal, insect or something that suggests critterdom. Post it to your blog or website, then share it here. Leave a comment here to let folks know where it is. Visit other participants and feel free to repeat-visit throughout the week. Drag in your friends and family, too, because more Thematic is always a good thing. For more info on how all this works, click here. Otherwise, have fun with it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mint chocolate chip, from above

This won't last long
London, ON

June 2014
Thematic. Summer. Here.
No special reason. Ice cream with your daughter never needs one.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

More help desk funsies

It's been an interesting week, as my reputation as the default technology help desk for everyone who knows me - and even some folks who don't - seems to be growing.

Two old friends who I haven't spoken to in years reached out to me via Facebook and asked for my guidance. One had apparently suffered some sort of data backup issue and wanted to know how to pull some settings out of Time Machine, while another was concerned that Google Maps didn't show his house clearly and he wanted to know how to get a better picture put online.

Yes, folks, I get 'em all.

So like the good little boy that I am, I drafted the best possible answers that I possibly could and sent them on their way. Neither one took a lot of time, but they consumed some time nonetheless that I could have easily allocated elsewhere. Like, you know, to my family, my career, or perhaps to just staring at the sky and pondering the universe.

Days later, nothing. Not that I do any of this for payback or recognition, but the slightest acknowledgment that these two old buddies of mine received my note would probably, I'm guessing, be the polite thing to do.

I could probably keep sharing case studies. Like the distant community acquaintance who felt comfortable enough giving my contact information to an old colleague of his. Because I love when complete strangers call my house out of the blue and ask for help getting rid of obscure Google references when they search for their name. Because I have nothing better to do with my time.

I was just about ready to give up on humanity when I got a call from a dear friend of the family who asked if it would be OK to have his son call me with a question. Of course, I said - because it's been ages since anyone asked, up-front, for permission to have folks contact me. Sweet.

And when his son called, I ended up having the loveliest conversation with one of the kindest people I've spoken to in a while. His question was genuine, his need was far more acute than a vanity search or fixing an obscured photo of his back yard, and the fact that he appreciated my time made me wish I could have done more for him.

I'll welcome his call anytime. The others, not so much. Maybe I should direct them toward my Help Desk Rules.

Something tells me they wouldn't bother to read them.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

10 times around the sun

This may seem a little hard to believe - it sure seems unbelievable to even write it - but 10 years ago today, I started this blog (first entry here.)

It was a pretty humble little thing when it started, and it's pretty much still a humble little thing today. Which is as it should be, because I don't think I've changed a whole lot in the ensuing decade.

Sure, I've gotten a little older. You can tell from the slivers of gray that our youngest son has confirmed now increasingly dominate my head. And the crows feet that splay out from the corners of my eyes. But they're both results of the fact that I lead a delightfully full life, and I smile a lot.

The blog has become a personal journal, of sorts, an open-to-the-public glimpse into the moments of my life that I've decided to share with y'all. We've lost my dad and my mother-in-law. We've put our cat down and added a dog, who then got sick but is still very much filling our lives with noise and joy. We've made friends and lost a few along the way. Life, in a word, happened.

A little thing called social media also grew up in the interim, and some of the discussions that used to take place in the comments section now seem to take place on Facebook, Twitter or whatever other platform has been deemed hot this week.

Indeed, blogging is no longer considered "hot", no longer considered a front-line, leading edge example of online savviness. Calling yourself a "blogger" no longer instantly identifies you as a member of the digerati. There are those who now see it as the next MySpace, as something that was once central but is no longer so.

And yet, I continue to write. Because unlike Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, this remains my little corner of the world. My sequential, virtual notebook that often invites me to dig into the archives for a sepia-toned look back in time. It takes me to moments when my kids were younger, when all of our parents were still alive, when I still had dreams of someday becoming a journalist who did meaningful work that I loved to do.

These days, I'm living that dream. When I started this blog, I was looking ahead to a day when I'd live by the output of my pen. I'm doing that now, and I now look back on the day when I decided to leave the traditional path behind. We'll leave existential discussions about career and life choices for another day, but through it all this blog has been the journal of record of this journey.

I still don't know where this journey will take me next, but I do know there's a lot more in me to share. And as long as there's someone out there willing to read, I'll keep sharing it here. Because writing is what I do. I knew that 10 years ago. And now that I've had a decade to think about it, I realize it's more than just what I do. It's who I am.

To a certain extent, so is Written Inc.

I wonder what the next 10 years will bring. If it's anything like the past 10, there's a lot of great writing ahead. I hope you'll all continue to be part of the journey.


Before I have a chance to kill them

Beauty by the front door
London, ON
June 2014
Click here for more Thematic summer
It's easy to look around and be cynical about the world we live in. Hardly a day goes by that some radical group isn't blowing up innocents, some corrupt politician isn't getting caught, and some messed up family isn't taking advantage of the kindness of others.

It's enough to make you want to become the cynical get-off-my-lawn-spewing old man who seems to be the centrepiece of too many childhood memories.

Or maybe not.

Maybe you can look down the next time you step out in the morning, see something as impossibly lovely as that flowering plant your wife brought home a couple of weeks ago, and realize that the universe may not be such a wasteland after all.

Take the time, folks. Take the time.

On doing what you love

"Take a chance and do what you love. Don't be afraid to ask the universe for what you want."
Jim Carrey
Inspiration often comes from the most unexpected of places - or people. And let's face it, you wouldn't expect Ace Ventura, Pet Detective to be a source of such wisdom. Yet he is. Which aside from the sheer force of these particular words, serves as a reminder that we should never judge a book by its cover, and we make final assumptions about others at our own peril.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

BlackBerry Passport - a phone unlike any other

A lot has been written about BlackBerry over the past few years. Indeed, I've written many of those words, and from the looks of it I've got more such writing ahead of me. Which, from my perspective, is a very good thing.

When I was in Waterloo last week for the company's AGM, CEO John Chen pulled out a couple of prototype devices and demonstrated them. The Classic is a basic update of the, well, classic BlackBerry design. If you've ever used a Bold, it's familiar territory.

But the Passport is an entirely different beast, and it was clear from the raised eyebrows that many attendees were deeply curious about it.

So was I. And I dug a little to better understand why BlackBerry would move forward with such an unconventional design. The resulting piece was published on Yahoo Canada Finance today. Here's the link:
Is Passport BlackBerry’s ticket to profitability?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thematic Photographic 298 - Summer

And in the morning, I'm making waffles
London, ON
June 2014
I'm a lucky guy for a whole lot of reasons. When the universe deemed me worthy of existing, I was given an amazing gift - I can write - which lets me sit on my duff in a home office (or on the deck, or on a beach, or...) and string words together. The universe then ensured I crossed paths with a remarkable girl (well, she's a woman now, but she was 16 when we met) who saw through my quirkiness and stuck with me. We then had three delightfully bright and unique kids who are already putting their own dings into the universe.

It all seems to coalesce on mornings like this when she makes waffles and we're all magnetically drawn to our seats around the kitchen table. The sound and the feel of these mornings is, in a word, delightful. As you can see, I'm manic about prepping my waffles, because the little squares almost seem to invite you to indulge in a little fun. Because what's the point if you can't have a little fun with incredible food made by an incredible woman?

Yes, it's just a waffle stuffed with a bunch of blueberries. But to me it's so much more.

Your turn: I'm thrilled to bring Thematic back after a bit of a break. Thanks to you all - especially Karen Sather - for your encouragement and support. For the coming week, I want us all to focus on summer, because I'm just enough of an optimist to believe that the arrival of a new season gives us all an extra reason to smile. If you're new to Thematic, read this. If you've done this before, you know what to do. So have at it and have fun. And please accept my thanks for keeping Thematic on your radar.

Returning to the fold...

I've been quite the blog-slacker lately. Posts here have been few and far between, and Thematic took a bit of an unannounced hiatus, as well.

London Free Press
Business Page
June 20, 2014
Click page scan to embiggen
Part of me needed a little break from the routine, and it was probably good for the soul for me to let things go quiet for a bit while I tended to the other things in life that needed tending*. Sometimes, you just have to shuffle your priorities even if it means leaving once-sacrosanct parts of your life behind for a bit.

The nice thing about vacations is they make you appreciate the everyday that much more when you return to it. Which is where I find myself now: Rested, energized, ready for whatever might flow out of my fingers next. Like you, I'm not entirely sure what that will be, but I'm looking forward to it all the same.

Thanks for your patience. It's good to be back.

Your turn: So...what's new with you?

* This is the scrum that surrounded BlackBerry CEO John Chen as he showed a prototype Passport device to journalists at last week's AGM in Waterloo (story here). Notice anyone familiar? Getting to meet him again was, in a word, inspirational.

Friday, June 20, 2014

On changing direction

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
Robert Frost
I've been on a figurative road lately, hence the relative quiet here on the blog. Nothing traumatic or worrisome: Just busy-life-work-family stuff, the usual ingredients of a life well lived. Most nights, by the time it occurs to me that I should be sharing the day here, I'm asleep.

Yesterday I spent the day in Waterloo. I was out of the house long before dawn, and as I cruised the back roads of southern Ontario, I realized just how divergent a road I've been on. And I smiled at the notion, because in what other world would I get to drop everything and work with some of the country's top journalists and business people? I may not have all the answers, but I'm starting to see the pieces line up in front of me.

Thematic will return, as will a more consistent posting cadence. For now, please know I'm out on some lesser-travelled road somewhere. And I'm enjoying the ride.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BlackBerry reports - is it a profit or a loss?

I'm in Kitchener/Waterloo this morning to cover the quarterly earnings announcement from BlackBerry, and to attend the company's annual general meeting later this morning.

The company released figures that, depending on how you read them, point to either a $60 million loss (which excludes special proceeds from a recent debenture issue and pre-tax restructuring charges) or a $23 million profit (GAAP-based net income.) Of course, the press release lists the profit number first, so that's the one everyone's running with.

I'm not much of a fan of creative accounting, so I'm leading with the pessimistic number. Call me a rebel.

I published the following article on Yahoo Canada: BlackBerry posts Q1 profit, stocks soar. I was in-studio with CBC Kitchener's Craig Norris, and the interview is available here. I also attended the company's annual general meeting, held later in the morning, and as in past years found it a fascinating venue to peek into the inner workings of one of Canada's most followed companies.

What I saw was encouraging. The company's CEO, John Chen, is an acknowledged turnaround specialist who's been nothing but frank about his plans for the company since taking over the job last November. He hit the ground running and has scored a number of early wins, including a landmark deal with hardware maker Foxconn to design and build handsets, and a just-announced partnership with Amazon to provide native access to the Amazon app store - and its 240,000 titles - to users of the upcoming BlackBerry 10.3 operating system. In person, he's incredibly sharp, personable and honest in a way other CEOs would do well to emulate.

The flailing of the past couple of years has given way to a more focused corporate attitude. Most of the fires of crashing market share and bleeding red ink have been put out. There's a strategic vision in place now to pursue the core enterprise business - the folks who loved BlackBerrys from the start - and exploit new business models in verticals like government, health care and automotive. The demos we saw of upcoming handhelds - including the Classic (kind of like an updated Bold for traditionalists) and the Passport (phablet-with-keyboard) were notable not necessarily because they highlighted new hardware, but because they showed the company is willing to take chances with new approaches and designs.

It wasn't as much about what we saw than it was about appreciating the new spirit, feel and culture of the company. The transition isn't anywhere near done yet, but we saw ample evidence that a very significant corner has been turned. Which, if you're a fan of Canadian tech innovation and the regions of the country that support it, is very good news.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Joe Fontana resigns as London's mayor

It's official: Joe Fontana has announced that he will step down as Mayor of London, Ontario. The embattled Fontana, convicted last week on three charges - fraud, uttering forged documents and breach of trust - released a statement earlier today and will hold a news conference on Thursday.

More soon...

Copy of statement released by Joe Fontana earlier today:

Please be advised Mayor Fontana is announcing he will resign as Mayor of London. He will hold a Media Conference on Thursday, June 19, 2014.

Mayor Fontana says, “I am taking this step out of respect for the office of the Mayor, the people of London and our judicial system. Over the next two days I will be speaking with fellow Council members and City staff to ensure a smooth transition for whomever takes the interim Mayor’s position.”

Details regarding time and location of the Media Conference will be provided on Thursday morning by email.

Mayor Fontana will not be taking interviews prior to Thursday.
Related resources:
This just in: I'll be discussing this live on-air with 1290 CJBK's Al Coombs just after 3:00 p.m. Tune in here.

ICYMI - Tech Talk w/CJAD's Barry Morgan

Every Friday between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m. Eastern, I jump on the phone with CJAD 800's Barry Morgan and we chat about the biggest stories in tech from the past week. It's a bit of a homecoming for me, as Montreal is where I grew up, CJAD was where I first went on the air, and Barry was a mentor to me in journalism school.

So it's quite a treat to end off each week with a fun romp through the geekiest topics I can dig up. Knowing family members and old friends are tuning in only adds to the enjoyment factor. Seriously, radio is an absolute kick to do.

This past Friday was an especially fun one, and I noticed the podcast has been posted online. If you weren't able to tune in, now's your chance. Here's the link.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Casey Kasem dead at 82

There are no more countdowns: famed radio DJ Casey Kasem has passed away following a long battle with Parkinson's Disease. He was 82.

It may be hard for kids to day to appreciate, but in the days before the commercialized Internet and mobile- and social-enabled everything, his syndicated radio show, American Top 40, was as close to online connectivity as it got. The product, pop music, may have been ephemeral and shallow, but he packaged it so artfully that you felt like you were part of something bigger, something that mattered.

Little did I know how tuning in on whatever AM radio I happened to have close at hand would plant the seeds for my eventual career. Even as the teenaged me sometimes laughed at the apparent 1950s-era idealism of his delivery and scripting, deep down I knew that this was a masterful example of mass communication best practice. And indeed, even as the technology has continued to improve, we haven't yet seen another like him. And sadly, we likely never will.

I hope he keeps reaching for the stars. And I hope we all hold onto his simple, yet still relevant lessons for leading a better life.

What about the other 364 days?

Today's been a really sweet day in a house that typically gets more than its fair share. This being Father's Day (I know, such a surprise), I was allowed to sleep in while some very quiet folks who share my last name fed the dog, walked the dog, gave the dog his insulin, kept him from barking (much) and made a breakfast I'm pretty sure I don't deserve.

Wonderful gifts weren't just handed over: they were artfully presented by kids who scripted a game show episode and had me answer a series of skill-testing questions before I was deemed worthy of opening the gift bag. Our youngest even dressed up in his suit to play the game show host.

Coming so soon on the heels of Mother's Day, which itself was just a heartbeat after Valentine's Day, this troika of Hallmark-built days always leaves me wondering.

Don't get me wrong: I love the sentiment. I love the excuse to stop what we're doing and just appreciate whatever it is that makes us, our families, our circles of friends, special. I love our ability to stop the everyday for even a few hours to celebrate folks who've played a central role in our journey. Whether it's a significant other, a mom or a dad, everyone deserves a moment to be recognized, honoured, cherished.

And yet, tomorrow's another day, too, one of 364 supposedly "other" days that stand between now and the next Father's Day. Largely thanks to practicality and fiscal priorities, there understandably won't be gifts, cards and quiet mornings of specially-prepared breakfasts. But that doesn't mean the folks who matter most don't deserve some kind of recognition and honour on every one of those days.

It could be a single flower from the supermarket on an otherwise grey Monday, just because. Or it could be a simple thank you for being there. Or an extra hug. Or a quick call or text. Or anything that lets you stop the everyday and mark the moment, even if that moment only lasts a few seconds. If you're lucky enough to have a mom or a dad or a significant other, by all means, go for it. But don't think it stops there: Anyone in your life who's influenced who you are and how you've evolved is fair game, too.

Hallmark doesn't need to be there to make a day special. And we shouldn't be saving it up until the calendar tells us. Every day matters, especially one of the other 364. Please don't wait to tell the folks who matter most.

But wait, there's more: This isn't the first time I've written about this. My 2011 post, On why Father's Day sucks for some, now ranks #3 on Google when you search for "father's day sucks." I know, you're so proud.

On thinking

"Knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think."
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Friday, June 13, 2014

Furry man rides shotgun

As you can see, it's been a quiet week here at Written Inc. For some odd reason, the days have seemed more stuffed with things to do. More words to write, meetings to have, calls to make.

In the middle of it all, my daughter needed a lift to an after-school program. Nothing out of the ordinary or otherwise different than any other dad's-taxi run on any other day. But on this day, I suspected she needed a little happy, an otherwise-illogical reason to smile amid her own week of compounding end-of-school-year pressures.

So as I headed out the door, I asked our dog, Frasier, if he wanted to go for a ride in the car. Now, it may seem silly to speak to dogs, but ours knows a surprising number of words, including walk, treats, his name, and car. I barely got past the hard c sound and he was already at the front door, rear end wiggling uncontrollably, abbreviated whining noises coming from the other end. Frasier doesn't do subtle.

This pic is of him settling in for the ride, my ever-reliable wingman craning his neck in every direction as he wonders how he'll stick his head out the open sunroof far above. Sorry, kiddo, not on my watch.

When we met up with Dahlia, the smile was worth the small amount of residual drool on the seat. Her best, furry friend was along for the ride. And for at least the next 15 minutes, nothing else mattered.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Obsolete and fading

Please fix me
Grand Bend, ON
September 2014
For more Thematic signs, please click here.
In life, some things are timeless, while others never seem to break out of the decade when they were created. You can easily tell when something doesn't "age well", and this delightful town with a delightful beach has plenty of examples up and down the main drag.

I don't say this negatively. Because "didn't age well" doesn't mean uninteresting. And it doesn't mean it isn't vital, either. I can't imagine a world without references to our past, without history, without reminders of where we came from. It doesn't always have to be pretty, or perfect, or even classy. Because I'm not sure who defines "classy" in the first place, and I'm not sure I'd agree with them even if I knew who they were.

And as I look at this tired old sign with the hyperbolic message, the missing letters and the ripped-from-the-70s color and design, I think the world would miss out if places like this ceased to exist. They wear their history in plain sight, and they probably wouldn't be anywhere near as memorable if they were updated to fit a more modern design ethic or ideal. Some things deserve to be left as they are, and I'd argue this is just such a place.

Your turn: When older is better...please discuss.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

On raising children right

"We spend the first year of a child’s life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There’s something wrong there."
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Friday, June 06, 2014

Dear RCMP New Brunswick...

You don't know me, and we've never met. But I was privileged to watch you work through this week's unimaginably tragic shooting of five of your members. Like most Canadians, I watched through a combination of gritted teeth, tear-filled eyes, knotted stomach, and balled-up fists. Also like most Canadians, I couldn't even begin to imagine how you held it together and worked the problem while you mourned your loss.

Thankfully, and thanks to your expertise and heroism, the suspect was arrested without further bloodshed. Thankfully, you lived up to, and exceeded, the RCMP's storied history of always getting their man, and of doing so with respect and pride. There are a lot of reasons Canadians love you, and I'm willing to bet the snappy uniforms rank low on the list.

So when my phone rang today, I was happy to hear a Canadian Press reporter on the other end. I was similarly happy to share my thoughts on how you leveraged social media - a delicate balancing act on a good day, and an impossibly challenging one when things turn bad - to keep the public informed while simultaneously managing to avoid tipping off the apparently mobile-carrying suspect.

In doing so, you set new standards for using social media to manage a crisis, and your experience will become a case study that will teach other law enforcement agencies a range of online best practices for years to come. The article, New Brunswick RCMP masters at social media management, by Michelle McQuigge, can be found here.

I know none of this fixes what happened, or eases your grief. I know you all wish this had never happened in the first place, that you were never presented with this moment. But the universe doesn't always work as we wish, and despite it all, you managed to shine in an indelibly dark moment.

Your actions didn't only save lives in Moncton this week. As the lessons you laid down are absorbed by law enforcement agencies across the country and beyond, countless lives will continue to be saved, thanks to you.

May the memory of your fallen constables, David Ross, Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, and Douglas James Larche, always be a blessing. And may we always remember the leadership and courage you showed in bringing an end to the madness that so senselessly ended their lives.

Thank you seems inadequate, but it'll have to do for now.

Canadians are stupid*

Do you share too much online?

It's a valid question, because a quick peek at a lot of Facebook timelines and Twitter streams suggests a lot of folks don't know the meaning of "enough".

Canada's ex-top spook seems to agree, and while speaking to a Senate committee last week, he called Canadians "stupid" in how they approach online privacy. John Adams once headed up the Communications Security Establishment Canada, which is responsible for all national electronic intelligence gathering, and is like our version of the NSA. So when he talks, people listen.

But "stupid"? Them's fighting words! So I wrote an article for Yahoo Canada Finance that explores the issue and hopefully gives folks a way to start reducing their exposure.
When sharing becomes ‘too much information’ online
I'm pretty sure the people who should be reading stuff like this are too busy posting about their latest blowup with their deadbeat spouse. But one can always hope they'll eventually get the message.

Will they?

But not for me

No free pass
London, ON
August 2013
Thematic. Signs. Here.
In a quiet corner of the Budweiser Gardens - the big arena complex that's one of the anchors of the London downtown renewal - there's an elevator reserved for, as you can see here, staff and media. I didn't think London was big enough to have a facility large enough to have a dedicated staff/media elevator, but obviously the architects thought differently.

Of course, since I'm not the right kind of media, I'm apparently not allowed to ride this particular elevator. I guess being a geek has its limits.

So it's off to the publicly accessible escalator for me.

Moncton: it's over

The RCMP in Moncton has just confirmed the suspect in the fatal shootings of 3 officers on Wednesday has been arrested. Justin Bourque was taken into custody at 12:10 a.m. Atlantic Time, and area residents have since been advised that the lockdown is over.

I'm amazed at their professionalism and restraint, and wish more of us appreciated what they sacrifice so that we can live our lives as we do.

We'll leave the discussion of justice - as if there could ever be such a thing in the wake of this unmitigated slaughter - for another day.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Moncton shooting - social media takes centre stage

By now all of Canada has been galvanized by the shocking shooting death last night of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in Moncton, New Brunswick and the subsequent manhunt for the suspect, Justin Bourque (Facebook page. Warning: disturbing content.) Two other officers were injured in the shooting, and the suspect remains at-large.

As much as there is so much to say about this latest example of senseless violence among a string of similarly senseless cases, I find myself struggling for words. I'll never understand what goes through the mind of someone who would swing a rifle over his shoulder and head out with the express intent of ending the lives of others. We can try to explain acts like this until we're blue in the face, but there can never be a rational reason for any of this.

Still, the journalist in me needs to write. Needs to understand. Needs to explain. Because deep amid the chaos of what's playing out in Moncton today, there's opportunity for us to learn and carry forward. And as much as it might seem odd for a technology journalist to weigh in on a criminal case, it turns out there's ample opportunity to discuss that angle, as well.

Yahoo Canada just published my article, and I look forward to your thoughts after you've had a chance to read it:
Moncton terror: When a shooting goes social
Additional resources:
Dear RCMP New Brunswick... (blog entry)
Moncton: It's over (blog entry)
New Brunswick RCMP masters at social media management (Canadian Press story by Michelle McQuigge)

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

On daring to live

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult."
So...let's dare.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Thematic Photographic 297 - I saw the sign

Grammar is dead
London, ON
January 2014
If there's such a thing as optical pollution, I'd like to politely suggest that our cities suffer greatly from it. It seems that every exposed surface has some kind of sign warning us against something, trying to shoo us away, or attempting to sell us something. I'm guessing empty spots are somehow anathema to our modern sense of order.

Eventually I guess the bombardment is so complete that we just shut our brains down and don't even realize how all-encompassing it has become.

So for the next week, let's look for signs and share what we find. I have a feeling this one will be a little like shooting fish in a barrel. Not that I'd know what that's like, mind you. Poor fish. They can't even read their own signs.

Your turn: Shoot a photo that interprets this week's I saw the sign theme, post the pic to your blog, website or social media stream, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share the photographic awesomeness of it all, and feel free to pop in again through the week to add to the fray. Bonus points if you bring a friend. Here's how Thematic works. But the only thing that really matters is that you enjoy the ride. Thanks, and happy shooting! 

The view from my handlebars

Call me an inveterate idealist, but I believe in the power of technology to enhance the way we lead our lives.

The cycling side of me has long embraced this world view, and one of my earliest geek experiences was attaching a bike "computer" to my handlebars. As laughably limited as that old Cateye Vectra was, it allowed me to know how far and how fast I had gone. I think the thing captured 4 or 5 basic metrics, but it was more than enough for me to grab the data after every ride and toss it into a spreadsheet.

Over time, that spreadsheet grew, and it served as a roadmap of the season. It made me want to ride more. It got me out the door on days I probably would have otherwise kept the bike parked. Because the numbers - and the technology that captured them - mattered.

Fast forward to today and the technology is a little more up-to-date. The Vectra is gone, replaced by a GPS-capable unit that records my rides in real-time, then syncs to a cloud-based service afterward so I can see where I've been and build a portfolio of routes.

Of course, if one doodad is good, then two of them would be even better. So last week I added a GoPro camera to the mix because rides are always more fun when you can return home and share them.

Sunday morning's ride was a proof-of-concept of sorts. Stick it on, get a feel for it, see what it'll do, learn the limits. I started with this short spin down a lonely stretch of London's bike path. If it makes you as nauseous to watch it as it does me, then we're onto something. Yet, I find myself looping it again and again - because being able to experience the moment again is a pretty magical thing.

In many respects, I'm right back to where I was when I was just starting out on two wheels: Capturing the data, sticking it into a spreadsheet, trying to remember what it felt like. The tools, courtesy of a wife and kids who know what moves me, may be far more sophisticated these days. But that relentless force that pulls you out the door when most sane people would be lounging in bed is, to put it none-too-subtly, burning as brightly in me now as it did then.

Let's ride...

Life in the Cloud

I lead something of a charmed life. At the core of it, I wander around the house with a laptop and, when the synapses in my brain are firing just right, my fingers type a whole lotta words, which become articles and stories which folks then presumably read.

Sometimes I camp out in coffee shops to change the view. Or the school parking lot while I wait for our kids to be let out at the end of the day. It's an interesting way to make a living, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the heck out of it. I do, and most days I have to pinch myself because none of this ever seems like work.

Well, I'm pinching myself again today, because my first article for Connections+ Magazine was just published. The publication focuses on ICT professionals, and my piece, Life in the Cloud, is the cover story for the May/June 2014 edition. You can access the digital issue here.

This new gig complements my writing practice rather nicely, as it allows me to dig deep into the technical side of the business. I spent a lot of years working in IT, and having the space to talk to some of the smartest folks in the field, then write about the transformative work that they do, is a real treat for me.

I hope you enjoy the read, and I hope you take the time to read the rest of the issue, as well, as it's chock full of great industry insight. This is the kind of editorial content that, when I was running helpdesks and managing IT projects, I always wanted to read. I'm already working on my next assignment - it's about robotics, and it's already rocking my editorial world. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you think about the cloud piece, and about the issue.

Happy reading!

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Wheels up

‎There's no telling where you'll end up when you roll out of the house and point this curious collection of alloy and rubber toward the horizon. Maybe you have a set destination in mind. Or maybe you'll go wherever the winds and your ever evolving whims dictate.

None of that really matters, though. Because you're out there. And the journey is about to begin.

Your turn: I think I know where I'm headed today. What about you? Where will your next journey take you?

On life's most important lessons

"The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock.
"The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.
"For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you."
Neil deGrasse Tyson