Thursday, July 31, 2014

Noah. 14.

Taking on the waves
Grand Bend, ON
July 2014
He's our youngest child, the one who has the distinction of marking every "last" we'll ever have as parents. He was, is, and always will be our baby. And he knows it. Reminds my wife of that single fact as often as he can. Still holds her hand. Still holds my hand. Because he's just that kind of kid. Kind-hearted, makes every moment indelibly his, puts everyone else's needs before his own, puts smiles on the faces of those around him, looks out for those who others may have overlooked.

I'm supposed to be biased because, let's face it, that's a parent's job. But he doesn't come by it by default. He earns every word, every moment with every friend, every hug from a family that can't seem to get enough of him.

He turned 14 today. And as happens so often in his life, things didn't go according to plan. His dog, our dog, Frasier the wonder-dog, got lost after being left behind by the dog sitter following an outing, and after a frantic couple of hours finding the house of the kind-hearted soul who found him wandering the neighborhood and brought him home, we had run out of time to take him to a proper restaurant for a proper birthday dinner. Cake and candles? Presents? Those will have to wait for tomorrow.

But the little man - he will always be my little man even when he looks down on me - took it all in stride. We took in a movie later in the evening. We grabbed a bite afterward. We watched the rain paint the windows of the car incredible and ever-changing patterns. We came home to a very happy puppy, who wiggled his rear end with reckless abandon as Noah helped his sister wipe his soaking-wet body after his walk in the pouring rain.

Not scripted. Not perfect in the conventional sense, but oh so perfect in a Noah sense, in the way his spirit reminds you that the world is a lot better than it so often seems. Because he's in it. And 14 years in, it remains a privilege for us to be his parents.

Happy birthday, little man. The party continues tomorrow. Just because.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On living...well

"Every man dies. Not every man really lives."
William Wallace
I used to work in a place where the majority of folks around me knew exactly how many years they had left until retirement. Some of them calculated it down to months, while the most ardent among them were able to count the days.

Almost without exception, they came to work because they had to, not because they wanted to. Conversations with them were punctuated by sighs and distant stares. They hung their shoulders. They sounded defeated. Their faces reflected their voices, no spark, no hope. It soon became quite the chore to be around them without feeling the cloak of their dampened spirit around me.

I'm sure the decor didn't help. Faded, ripped brown and beige cubicles from the Nixon era didn't go well with the worn-down orange carpet squares laid straight over linoleum flooring. If you weren't depressed when you walked into the place, you stood a better-than-even chance of wearing your own dark cloud by the time you walked out.

I eventually decided to leave because I saw my future self reflected in these people. I didn't begrudge them - we all have our own challenges to deal with, after all, and who am I to cast judgment? Nor did I pity them. I simply wanted, nay needed, to avoid going down the same path that they had taken.

It's been a few years since I walked into my lead's office and handed over my resignation letter. It's been an interesting ride since then, complete with its own unique set of challenges, roadblocks and, yes, successes.

Yet at no point have I ever regretted not making the move. Because ever since then I've slowly learned the difference between simply surviving and truly living. I don't waste days counting how many of them are left until I'm done with work. Instead, I start each day with a silent thanks that I've been given another one. If only more among us - maybe my onetime-colleagues - could learn a similar lesson.

Your turn: How do you manage to live your life better?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Thematic Photographic 303 - What's your tech?

Welcome to the Mac Hotel
New York, NY
July 2014
It's been an interesting day in my world. After waking up early to send some words on their way, I pretended to be a plumber, attempted to speak dog, and then packed myself up and headed to the airport. After my lovely wife kissed me goodbye, I got on a plane and flew to a big city. Then I got on another plane and flew to an even bigger city. Which brings me here, to a hotel lobby across the street from Central Park.

I'm covering a pretty neat event tomorrow - more on that as the week plays out - and as I slurp up the free Wi-Fi in the lobby, it occurs to me that the technology that I brought with me is something of a lifeline. The Mac that you see here is my office. The iPad that I used to take the shot is similarly indispensable, and has been front and centre in the crook of my arm for virtually the entire trip here.

So it got me thinking: What tools do you use to get online and to stay connected? What do you use to update your blog and other social media streams? When you leave home, what goes in your pocket or your bag? How does your technology contribute to the story that is you?

For the next week, Thematic looks at your equipment, the technology you use to get yourself online. As you can see from my picture here, it can be anything, anywhere.

Your turn: Take a pic of your technology - computer, tablet, smartphone, whatever - and post it to your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting everyone know where to find it. Drop in on other participants, and feel free to return multiple times through the week to keep adding to the fun. If you're new to Thematic, click here and all will be explained.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Here's why Canada is losing the Internet war

Ordinarily, I'd be thrilled that the federal government is coughing up as much as $305 million to improve broadband high-speed Internet access for over 280,000 Canadian households. As the world goes digital, this is exactly the kind of thing we need if we're going to keep pace.

But closer scrutiny reveals just how woefully inadequate this number is, and how much further ahead other countries around the world are when it comes to equipping their citizens for the Internet Age. I wrote this piece for Yahoo Canada Finance:
Ottawa’s Internet plan: Dial-up funds in a high-speed world

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rainbows in the sky

Color from many sources
Port Stanley, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Temporary. Here.
While we were hanging out on the beach a couple of weeks ago, our very observant daughter saw two rainbow-like phenomena in the sky. At the back of my mind, I know there are valid scientific reasons for rainbow-like rings to appear around the midday sun, and for similarly colorful reflections to appear in high clouds. At that moment, however, I just couldn't explain it in detail. And as we stared up and wondered about the odds of simultaneously seeing two separate and distinct rainbows, I made a mental note to look it up when I had a moment.

On the one hand, I could have pulled my smartphone out of the bottom of our beach bag and surfed on over to Wikipedia right then and there. Like so many life moments, it would have been yet another example of technology helping us better understand the what and the why of it all. It answers questions Right Now, and in doing so gives us the tools to, if we play our cards right, lead better lives.

On the other hand, this was one of those times when simply taking in the sight with her was more than enough. On the beach, on that afternoon, at that moment, stopping what we were doing and fishing the smartphone out from under a pile of towels and swim goggles just didn't seem appropriate. There's a time to reach for the smartphone and a time to leave it well enough alone.

I smirked as I suggested I look it up on my device. She smirked right back and shook her head, an emphatic no from a girl who, like her mom, always seems to have the right answer.

I'll look it up eventually. For now, though, I'm rather enjoying the realization that not every moment needs technology layered on top of it. Sometimes it makes eminent sense to leave it all behind.

Your turn: When do you like to turn everything off and

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What 94 mph looks like

The windup. The pitch.
Toronto, ON
July 2014
For more temporary Thematic, please click here
I feel pain in my arm just watching a major league pitcher do his thing. Even though the extent of my throwing skill stops just short of getting the garbage bag into the big plastic bin in the garage, I can appreciate the intense skill and physical ability it takes to hurl a ball 50% faster than the speed of my car on the highway on the way to the ballpark. And he'll do it hundreds of times in a row, hopefully without the end result ending somewhere in the right field bleachers. Amazing stuff.

What makes this picture temporary? In the blink of an eye the ball will zip from his hand to the waiting glove of the catcher. Or it'll be smacked by a bat and sent sailing hundreds of feet in another direction. Either way, the physics of the thing are mind boggling. And if you so much as blink, you miss the temporarily spectacular show.

Your turn: Other things that are over in a blink...please discuss.

Apple revenue sets new record. But...

Apple had a good day yesterday. During the previous quarter, its third of the fiscal year, it took in $37.4 billion U.S. in revenue - a new all-time Q3 record - and made a $7.75 billion profit.

Other numbers, including gross margin (39.4%), cash-on-hand ($164.5 billion) and iPhone sales (35.2 million, another Q3 record), were similarly impressive, and underscored why Apple remains at the top of the tech pile.

Still, weak iPad sales - they were down 9% - showed a worrisome crack in the armor. I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance to outline where Apple goes from here, and what we can expect from them for the rest of the year:

Your turn: Do you do the Apple thing? Do tell!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Drew Barrymore's happiness/prettiness correlation

"I think happiness is what makes you pretty. Period. Happy people are beautiful. They become like a mirror and they reflect that happiness."
Drew Barrymore

Yep. What she said. Every word. Who's with me?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Thematic Photographic 302 - Temporary

Rainbow over Dundas Street
London, ON
July 2014
Click photo to embiggen
If we're being super-technical, everything is temporary. Even this planet has only a few billion years left before the sun swells up and incinerates whatever we haven't succeeded in already destroying. But some things are more temporary than others, and that's what I'm hoping we'll focus on this week.

This rainbow, for example, appeared over the main drag in London's downtown area late one evening a couple of weeks ago. I was walking back to my car, and the rain was so intense that I had to take cover in the tucked in area of an abandoned storefront. The storm cell blew out as quickly as it blew in, and I knew the brilliant sun that came out just as the winds died down would create some optical loveliness in the sky. I wasn't disappointed.

And a street that's seen more than its fair share of decay and controversy in recent years was, at least temporarily, a scene of intense beauty. If only we could always see it through this lens.

Your turn: Take a picture of something that exists for a brief, temporary while. Even if it merely suggests temporary, we want to see it. Post it to your blog, website or social media stream, and leave a comment here with a link to it - that way folks can find it. Pop over to other participants, and feel free to post additional contributions through the week. If you want to pull a friend in, the more the merrier. Head here if you'd like to learn more about Thematic, our weekly photo-sharing and learning experience. Or dive in and get shooting. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Watching big boys play games

A sweet afternoon
Toronto, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Dirty. Here.
As luck would have it, this guy was standing right in my line of sight for much of the fifth inning*. At first I was annoyed, and briefly toyed with thoughts of asking him to sit down.

But then the polite Canadian in me prevailed - appearances aside, he could have been a black belt. Or he might have had a hidden Blue Jays cap that he had fashioned into a home-made weapon (those beaks are deadly.) Or his posse of ladies from the neighbourhood knitting bee could have been waiting in the shadows of Rogers Centre, giant foam fingers in hand, ready to pounce on anyone who so much as dared question the aisle-standing supremacy of their baseball-overlord master. 

So, no confrontation. But I still couldn't see the plate without leaning waaaaay over. After pondering my options for a few more minutes, the passive-aggressive Canadian in me emerged. I reached for the DSLR and decided to have some optical fun with him.

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

* We took the kids to Rogers Centre for a Toronto Blue Jays game yesterday. The good guys won 9-6 over the Texas Rangers. Yes, we live in London. Yes, it is nuts to drive 200 km to see a game. Yes, they had a blast. So did we. Life's about the experience, after all, inconsiderate aisle-standers and all. I've added pics to my Flickr site here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

From dirt grows great beauty

London, ON
June 2014
For more dirty Thematic, click here
Most people look at dirt, shrug their shoulders - if they can be bothered to shrug at all - and then return to whatever it was that they were doing. It's easy to write dirt off as not worthy of our time.

And yet, when you look at what can grow from it, you realize there are lessons in the gritty stuff that we might want to heed.

Perspective is a fascinating thing, isn't it?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Microsoft gets some unsolicited writing advice

When I wrote about Microsoft laying off 18,000 employees (initial blog post here), I had an inkling that it would become one of the top tech stories of the week. I wasn't disappointed. As it turned out, everyone wanted to know why such an apparently huge, invulnerable company would resort to one of the largest mass layoffs in the sector's history. And many of them wanted me to weigh in on it.

To help explain the unexplainable, I did a ton of media, and the topic will figure front and centre on my weekly Clicked In segment on CTV News Channel. If you're in Canada, it's on live every Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. Eastern. If you're elsewhere, hit up this link for archived videos from CTV News.

I also wrote this piece for Yahoo Canada Finance: Why did Microsoft go so wrong on mobile?

Beyond the obvious story, though, there's a brewing sub-theme around the somewhat disjointed way the company chooses to communicate.* CEO Satya Nadella sent out this message to all employees on Thursday morning, Starting to Evolve Our Organization and Culture. Earlier this month, he penned this equally weighty email, Bold Ambition & Our Core.  Now, Microsoft is taking it on the chin from a number of sources in media over the dubious effectiveness and perceived insensitivity of its messaging. Here's a sample:
The good news: Microsoft's communication style is serving as the basis for corporate messaging best practice and could potentially teach companies in future how to raise the bar. The bad news: I doubt Microsoft's leadership wanted to serve as the what-not-to-do example.

In the meantime, I'm headed to the studio. See y'all at 7:15.

* Disclosure: I worked there once upon a time, and multi-thousand-word emails from on high were a regular thing. Decoding the between-the-lines messaging was as popular then as it apparently is now, and it seems the folks who pen them continue to really like sending long, winding messages to lots of people. I'm not sure whether bonus size correlates to email length.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Microsoft lays off 18,000 employees

Big news in the tech space this morning, as Microsoft has announced it will be laying off 18,000 employees - 12,500 from the recently acquired Nokia devices division - as it grapples with a rapidly changing technology market that no longer blindly buys new versions of Windows and Office with every upgrade cycle. It is the biggest layoff in the company's history - in 2009 it terminated 5,900 employees amid the global economic meltdown.

Recently named CEO Satya Nadella made the announcement this morning (text, from, and in doing so confirmed growing rumors that something was up. Nadella sent a 3,000+ word email to employees last week outlining his roadmap. Analysts have said the company is seeking some $600 million in savings to justify its $7.2 billion U.S. purchase of Nokia's devices division. Whatever the number ultimately is, it's cold comfort it you're one of the 18,000 meeting with HR today.

More to come...

Related links:
Microsoft announces massive round of layoffs, including 12,500 Nokia employees (BGR)
Microsoft announces biggest-ever job cuts, 18,000 in the next year (The Verge)
Microsoft Cuts 18,000 Jobs as Nadella Streamlines for Cloud Era (Bloomberg)
- Microsoft to eliminate up to 18,000 jobs over next year (CTV/AP)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Little boxes, all made out of ticky-tacky

Creeping ever closer
London, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Dirty. Here.
A few years ago, Walmart came to the empty northwest corner of the city and built one of its massive, cookie-cutter stores in the middle of a parking lot large enough for aliens to see from space. Walking there was not recommended, largely because of the distance, as well as the decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly nature of this suburban/exurban landscape.

It didn't take long for the wizards of Benton, AR to like the numbers they saw on their spreadsheets, and after a couple of years the store was expanded into a full-blown Supercenter. Because lord knows we can't live without our badly made home appliances and cheap pink plastic lawn flamingoes. Other big box stores sprouted up around the Borg-like retailer, and texting, frapuccino-drinking suburbanites happily drove here in their SUVs and wore their credit and debit cards down with reckless abandon.

That it was miles from nowhere didn't seem to deter them. Driving culture was and is alive and well in this burg. Yet a funny thing has started to happen in the once-ignored hinterlands that separated this retail megalopolis - officially known as a "power corner" - from the rest of the city. Essentially, the city has begun to fill in the gaps. That miles-from-nowhere thing is slowly starting to crumble as developers gradually chew through the bush and make their presence known.

Last week, after meeting a friend for tea at a certain American chain coffee shop within the border of this heathen-ish retail complex, I decided to walk home. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking, as the landscape was as pedestrian-hostile as it had always been - zero trees, adjacent high-speed traffic, and a long, unbroken streetscape that clearly didn't have much patience for bipeds - but it was a nice, sunny day, and I figured the exercise would be good for my body and soul.

And as I walked on that desolate stretch of Fanshawe Park Road West, I noticed the subdivision creeping up on the horizon, and the vast stretch of once-wild fields that had now been bulldozed into submission. The developers were clearly here, and it took a walk for me to realize it.

So I snapped a picture - with my iPad, of all things - because this land probably won't look like this for too much longer. Unless the dirt is bagged, mulched, sold by the pound and trucked home in the back of the aforementioned SUV from the box box store just to the right of this scene, there isn't much room for it in today's suburban environment.

Funny enough, I'll miss the place when it's all built over.

Your turn: What's being built near you?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

London's former mayor Joe Fontana sentenced to...

It's not every day the ex-mayor of your town gets convicted. We experienced that last month, which brings us to today: Sentencing.

Justice Bruce Thomas has sentenced Joe Fontana to 4 months conditional and 18 months probation for breach of trust and fraud under $5,000. It amounts to house arrest - he lives in the lovely burg of Arva - with exceptions for work, religious events, or medical appointments. He must pay a $1,000 victim surcharge, and must repay the $1,700 to the government - the amount on the disputed, forged document that touched off this whole sordid mess. He will also have to serve 150 hours of community service.

Social media is already coming alive with community reaction to the sentencing, and from the looks of it, Londoners seem to think he got off easy. The Very Important Persons Act seems to be alive and well.

I'll use this entry to pull resources together in one convenient place. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment here or tweet me at @carmilevy

Let's go...

Hashtags: #LdnONT#Fontana

Journalists on Twitter: Nick PaparellaDaryl NewcombeCTV London/Windsor list, CJBK

Additional resources:
- Former London mayor gets four-month conditional sentence (CTV London)
- Fontana's statement to the court this morning
- Fontana tells sentencing hearing he was 'very, very stupid' (CTV London)
- Defence argues Joe Fontana 'would not fare well in real jail' (

Monday, July 14, 2014

Thematic Photographic 301 - Dirty

Many tiny bits
Grand Bend, ON
July 2014
The scene: My wife and I are on the beach, marking the symbolic end to a rather important day in our life together (more here). The sun is sinking into the horizon on the other side of the lake, seemingly being swallowed over there at the edge of the planet, yet still seemingly close enough to touch. Funny how that works.

I'm working my DSLR, fingers flying over the controls, trying to capture the fast-moving scene before it winks out for good. For reasons I still don't quite understand, I stop what I'm doing and pull my smartphone out of my pocket. Then I point it straight down at the sand and grab this one frame.

In retrospect, I'm glad I hauled out the smartphone, cruddy lens and all, because that subtle little glow in the sand speaks volumes to me about how it felt to be Right There with my best friend.

This photo reminds me that sometimes we just have to look at a moment from a different perspective. No reason required as long as it feels right.

Your turn: The world is a dirty place, so this week's Thematic Photographic theme - the first one of our next-300 adventure - celebrates all that is wonderfully dirty around us. Shoot a dirty scene - dirt itself, something covered with it, or something that suggests dirtiness - and post the result to your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it, then visit other participants to spread the photographic wealth. Want to share more than once through the week? Go for it. Want to invite a friend? The more the merrier. Want to tweet it? Use the #ThematicPhotographic hashtag. Need to learn more about how all this works? Head here. Otherwise, have fun with your shutter. I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Po gets some sun

She didn't wear any sunscreen
(But my wife and two youngest kids in the distance certainly did)
Port Stanley, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Favorites. Here.
I seem to be spending way too much time at the beach this summer, and as a result my photography is, for better or for worse, reflecting that. Apologies if sand and sun - or rain - aren't your thing, but this is a theme that could go on for a bit. My bad.

This pic has an interesting backstory. If you've been hanging around here for long enough, you might know that Po, the smallest Teletubby, has been hanging off of my camera bag and backpack ever since we first became parents. She came in a McDonald's Happy Meal and for some reason we ended up with an extra toy. So I did what any overgrown child would do and claimed her as my own.

I attached her to my camera bag with a carabiner and she's gone pretty much everywhere with me ever since, like a twisted, British-sourced, modern-era travel gnome. And everywhere we've gone, she's managed to get complete strangers to smile and open up. Because nothing breaks through barriers like an adult carrying a little stuffed animal.*

This day on the beach was no different. The light and composition near our seats wasn't quite right, so I dropped the camera bag in the middle of an open area not far away, then backed off to set up the shot. A couple sitting nearby noticed what I was doing and I could hear the woman excitedly tell her partner how happy she was to see Po. They were talking amongst themselves, but loudly enough that I could easily make out what was going on. Her kids were mad for them, while his kids were old enough that they pretty much missed out on Teletubbymania.

Undeterred, she cracked off detailed explanations of each member of the clan, as well as the Noo Noo vacuum-cleaner thing that, frankly, scared me back in the day. My fears notwithstanding, I was impressed. She knew her stuff, and my little picture-taking moment had opened up a memory for someone I had never met.

I was tempted to join in their conversation and share the background of my now-fading old Po, but it just didn't feel right to invade their discussion. So I kept shooting, then quietly returned Po to her spot below our umbrella when I was done.

* If you're digging the small-stuffie-on-the-road thing, here are a few snippets of Po's past adventures:
Your turn: Where should I take Po next?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cybercrime comes to Canada. Canadians yawn.

Online crime is a funny thing. It's getting worse, with more individuals and businesses being victimized every day. Beyond sheer volume, the severity of such attacks is increasing as hackers get better at their malevolent trade. A bad situation gets worse as we shift more of our everyday lives online and become even more vulnerable in the process.

Yet on the street, most folks will just shrug it off. They say it can't happen to them, that their little lives are of no interest to cybercriminals, that they fall below the radar of such activity and, as a result, need not worry. Others say they simply don't have the time, money or expertise to deal with it.

When I saw a study that suggested 1 in 5 Canadian businesses had fallen victim to cybercrime within the past year, I saw a huge disconnect between perception and reality. So I wrote this piece for Yahoo Canada Finance: Cybercriminals take aim at Canadian businesses

Your turn: Do you worry about being hacked? What are you doing to stay safe online?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rainy beach day

No swimming today
Grand Bend, ON
July 2014
Our kids inherited the beach gene from us, so as soon as the weather allows it, we pick whatever Great Lake tickles our fancy on that day and point the car toward it. Living smack in between two of them - Erie and Huron - has its advantages, and this is definitely one of them.

Last week, we chose Thursday as our beach day. I shifted some deliverables and deadlines around - one of the advantages of being out on my own - and we set off mid-morning. There was a chance of showers in the forecast, but we figured it was slight, and if anything it would keep the seething masses away. I'm not a crowd person, so the risk seemed worth it.

As you can see from the hastily composed windshield shot above, things didn't work out as planned. It was simply grey when we pulled up to the nearly empty parking lot and slid into a primo spot. But thanks to a driving wind, not even sweatshirts could keep the cold at bay.

Little man braved the elements and swam in the rough surf for a bit, under the careful eye of his hoodie-clad sister. I captured as much as I could with my camera before the occasional spritzes of rain became a driving storm. It didn't take long for us to call it: we were done for the day.

We wrung ourselves out in the car and headed for plan B - lunch at a decidedly warm and dry burger joint. Not the day we planned, but one we're glad we had all the same.

Your turn: A day that didn't go as planned, but still turned out memorable. Please discuss...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Today's office

His master's voice
London, ON
July 2014
Thematic. Favorites. Here.
I decided to work on the deck this morning. I didn't need much of a reason beyond, "It was there." Or maybe, "Why the heck not?" Or, "Life's too short, so grab the moment while you can." Whatever the case, I'm glad I did. The weather is beyond perfect, the dog is happily content to hang by my side, and the words seem to be flowing better out here than they were in my office inside.

Yes, I love my office (remember this?) But Mother Nature does a much better job keeping things pretty, don't you think?

Your turn: I'm thinking of wearing the flowery shorts to my next televised interview. Yes? No? Fashion suggestions welcome.

On not giving it all away

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."
Maya Angelou
Life is about choosing where to devote our time and energy, and Dr. Angelou's wisdom here serves as a reminder that we don't have limitless reserves of either to spend on those who are not worthy. Gotta focus on the individuals, companies and colleagues who see us as value-added partners and not as underlings.

Lesson learned: Run, don't walk, the other way as soon as you realize you're being looked down on. I'm building my own list, and humbly suggest you consider doing the same.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hey, let's have another wireless auction!

The telecommunications industry can be as dry as melba toast on a hot summer's morning. It is, to be charitable, not the sexiest of sectors, thanks to incomprehensible layers of government regulation and enough arcane technology to make an Amazon data centre look like a children's playground.

See what I did? I put you to sleep. That's my point.

Yet, for reasons I am unable to fully understand, I find it fascinating. Incredibly so. As an important pillar of the broader tech industry, telecom ensures that all those wondrous gadgets we line up to buy actually have a way of connecting with each other. It governs how much we spend to keep in touch. And how well all of this stuff works. If a country does telecom right, its citizens can lead better lives, both at home and at work. If it gets it wrong, we become digital era have-nots.

As ridiculously Byzantine as telecom can seem, it has huge meaning to each and every one of us. And telling that story has become an important part of my overall narrative as a technology journalist.

So news that Canada's conservative government decided on Monday to schedule a last-minute wireless spectrum auction, known as AWS-3, was like a thunderbolt. Governments don't just decide to hold a snap auction. These events are usually scheduled years in advance, with all participants taking similar amounts of time to review the reams of rules and regulations before deciding to make sometimes-billion-dollar bets on the future of the industry.

We just finished a pretty pivotal one, known as the 700 MHz auction, earlier this year, and the 2.5 GHz auction looms next April. The surprise of the bunch, AWS-3, will slot in early next year, and the decision to hold it is as radically let's-get-drunk-and-do-this-thing crazy as it gets.

I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance: Ottawa goes for broke with new wireless auction

I also chatted about it with a number of media outlets, including CTV News (Zuraidah Alman's report here) Winnipeg's CJOB and London's 1290 CJBK (audio here) and AM980, as well as a cross-country run with CBC Radio stations in a bunch of paces, including Edmonton, Montreal, Victoria, Kelowna, Whitehorse (audio here), Vancouver, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Saskatchewan.

I know it seems boring. But the mobile landscape is being rewritten in this country. And I find that almost too cool for words. Which means this is a story with more chapters yet to be written. Now where's my pen?

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

On loving what you do

"Love what you do. Get good at it. Competence is a rare commodity in this day and age. And let the chips fall where they may."
Jon Stewart
Most mornings, I wake up before the sun and wander down to my office. As offices go, it's a humble place, a smallish room with a delightfully huge and beloved l-shaped desk, a giant birds nest chair for thinking, and an office chair that I sit in and not on, that seems just comfortable enough to make spontaneous naps possible.

After flipping on all my screens, computers and tablets and the one desk lamp, I find myself in the middle of a small pool off light within a deliberately darkened room, a quiet place where I rest my hands on my beloved keyboard - Apple, wired, with keypad - and pull words out of my head that, if the universe cooperates, will find their way to some pretty fascinating places.

I don't think I'm wired to do anything but write. It never feels like work, but at the same time there's a certain hierarchy of difficulty within the craft: Some pieces seem to write themselves, while others are decidedly more stubborn. Even when it's a struggle, being in this solitary place, with the light that splays out over the weathered wood of my desk and the well-worn keys of my keyboard, always feels strangely right, as if I belong here and nowhere else.

Perhaps Jon Stewart is on to something. Maybe we'd all be better off if we went back to base principles, found what we love, and focused on it. Maybe we all need a quiet, dimly lit place where we have the luxury of finding out precisely what that unique-to-us competency is.

Your turn: What do you love to do? Why?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A dog's life, at 8

We're celebrating another milestone in our house today. It's a birthday, but there will be no cake, no candles, and no presents. We won't have a party for the birthday boy's friends, nor will we be taking him to a restaurant. Today is much like any other day in the life of our dog, Frasier, filled with naps, walks, barking fits and extended sessions of petting. Except today he turns eight years-old.

I haven't run the numbers, but if I had to guess, I'd say he's getting more than his usual amount of hugs, and as always he seems rather happy with the attention. Because every day around him, birthday or not, is special. He knows it, and so do we.

We rescued this psychotic puppy eight months after he was born and quickly taught him all the things his previous abusive family either could not or would not. The meaning of the word, "walk". How to sleep at the foot of the bed. What it felt like to be loved. Or over-loved, if there is such a thing.

As you can see here, he adapted rather nicely, and quickly became a central figure in our family. As is all too common within his breed - miniature schnauzer - he developed diabetes and now receives insulin shots every morning and night. Like clockwork, the kids have made the process their own, and what could have been a bad-news story instead turned into a critical learning experience for them.

He still barks entirely too much, smells up the joint on a rainy night and scares any jackrabbit within a 2-kilometre radius. His on-leash technique lies somewhere between downtown-drunk and a toddler on a sugar high, while every other dog owner in the neighborhood has learned to give him lots of room when they see him coming lest he make them summarily deaf.

But on this cake-free, candle-free birthday - seriously, would you want to eat a cake after he's had his way with it? - it only takes one look from this freaky little being to know how very lucky we are to have him. And how much we hold onto every day we're given with him.

Happy birthday, furry dude. Now please stop lying on my feet.

Your turn: Your birthday wish for Frasier is...?

Monday, July 07, 2014

Thematic Photographic 300 - Your Favorite Photos

Potential art
London, ON
June 2014
This marks the 300th Thematic Photographic, and to celebrate our rather chaotic weekly celebration of participatory photography, I wanted to choose a topic that was less about the topic and more about you. So asking y'all to choose your favorite photos seemed appropriate.

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank each and every one of you for stepping forward and making Thematic more - much more - than the sum of its parts. It's become a little community in and of itself, a place where like-minded folks share the best that they've got, and challenge themselves to see the world just a little differently through their respective lenses. It's become a highlight for me, and I hope for you, as well.

For funsies, here's the link to where it all began, just over 6 years ago. Crazy to think of how much has happened on our planet since then. I hope you've enjoyed the journey as much as I have. And I hope you'll stick around for the next 300, as well.

Your turn: Pick your favorite picture and share it on your blog or website. Leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. If you have more than one favorite, share as many as you'd like, or string 'em out through the week. Visit other participants to share the photographic happiness. And feel free to bring a friend, as new Thematicticians are always welcome. For more info on how Thematic works, head here, otherwise I'll let you get on with shooting and sharing. Enjoy!

What no longer is...

Today would have been my mother-in-law's 75th birthday. It's hard to know what to feel when the calendar serves up a day like today. What was once an occasion to celebrate is now an occasion to wonder about what, and who, we no longer have.

My wife was, and is, the kind of daughter every parent would want. The same traits that make her such an amazing wife and mother also make her something of a dream child. When her mom was sick, she was making the trip between London and Montreal, often not knowing what she'd find on the other end. Even from our home here, she managed to be more there than anything else, and that didn't change after we returned home from the funeral. To this day, she's there for her dad - on the phone, cooking for him, being a constant presence in his life. She has always willingly taken on the responsibility, worn it with grace, and has in doing so taught our own kids important lessons in doing the right things for those who matter.

And yet, every year will bring these days back to us whether we want them or not. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Any other special milestone. There's no escaping the numbing routine of days whose protagonists are no longer with us, no way to avoid the sting of dredged-up memory. I wish I had the answer, but yet again I'm reminded of how powerless we are to stop the process from playing out around us.

As bittersweet as this cyclical experience can be, I suspect it would be even worse if we hadn't had something - indeed, someone - to lose in the first place. I'd rather grieve over a lost life than live without ever having made these connections at all. It's a lesson my wife learned well from her parents, and it's a lesson I now learn from her.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

His name is George

Hey, are you looking at ME?
Grand Bend, ON
July 2014
Click photo to embiggen
Thematic. Critters. Here.
If you've hung around here long enough, you've probably seen some of my seagull pictures. Whether we're at the beach or just sitting in a parking lot, I have this annoying habit of shooting pictures of them (see here, here and here for past examples.) I'm keenly aware of the fact that most folks see them as hot dog-stealing urban scavengers, little more than rats with wings who manage to annoy everyone around them.

That may well be true, but I'm thinking I've annoyed plenty of folks around me, too, and I'd hate to think that they've lumped me into the same urban-scavenger category. It cuts both ways, folks, and I suspect if we sat one of these birds down for a chat, we'd hear a sad story of loss, hurt feelings and regret that they didn't get an invitation to last year's block party. Seagulls have feelings, too.

But since gulls can't talk, let alone sit down long enough for a chat, I did the next best thing when I was at the beach yesterday: I pointed my lens at them and had some fun.

Debbie says this one is a George. And, no, I did not bring him home with me. I'll just shoot him and his cousins again the next time we hit the sand.

Your turn: What's George thinking? That stare kinda scares me a little.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

22 years...

Today is a rather important day in the life of my little brood, as 22 years ago this evening my wife and I were married.

I'm a bit ambivalent about it, but not for the reasons you'd likely suspect.

On the one hand, anniversaries are always special. They stand out from the regular hodge podge of everyday days, the routine run of workdays, school pickups and soccer practices, the drudge of grocery shopping, laundry and post-dinner dishes.

On the other hand, I almost didn't make it to 22. I'll get into the details another time, but the unplanned speed bump that life threw at us this past year taught me - and us - that every day is special. That the morning rush to school and work is memorable in its own right, that grocery shopping is a tremendous excuse to go on a date, albeit an unconventional one, and post-dinner dish-washing gives you a chance to slow the day down and hold onto it for a little while longer

I've learned that time, in any form, is an incredibly precious thing. And when you risk losing the privilege of getting more of it, you tend to change the way you look at things that most others would simply dismiss.

So, yes, today is an incredibly special day for us all. For me, because I'm lucky she chose me and has put up with my obvious quirks for far longer than any human ought to. For our kids because they wouldn't be here otherwise, and I can't imagine a world without them, without their spirit. For Debbie because, chaos and all, I think she likes being the rock at the centre of the delightful adventure that is us, the little, tightly woven and never-boring family that we've created. Day by day. Day by special day.

As we have done previous years, today we're taking the day to And when tomorrow breaks, I know she'll find a way, routine and all, to make it special, as well, to make the time just as precious as she's made every other day we've been married.

Because of all the things I find amazing about her - too many to share here, but you'll have to trust me on that one - it is her sense of treasuring the little gifts of life and taking the time to drink in the small moments that never fails to stop me in my tracks, sigh, and wonder what I must have done to deserve all this. And her.

I may never know the answer to that one. But as long as I'm given more days with her, I'll continue to follow her lead by stopping myself and squeezing every last bit of joy out of every moment we've been given.

I've had 22 years of joyful moments thanks to her, and you'll forgive my selfishness if I keep hoping for more years, more days, more moments, just like them.

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

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Say hello to my little bee friend

Please don't sting me
Toronto, ON
June 2014
For more Thematic critters, please click here
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It allows me to ask my past-tense self what the hell I was thinking when I decided to flip the camera into macro mode and shoot this hideously ginormous bee from, oh, about 4 cm away.

I'm not even sure I was thinking much beyond the fact that I was pretty confident I could outrun the bee if he (she?) came after me. In retrospect, I might have been overconfident, as bees are rather accomplished insect-aviators, and I'm decidedly not.

In the end, I luckily avoided being stung. The silly bee didn't even budge from this spot at the edge of the BBQ. Maybe he (she? Bueller?) was looking for one last morsel before heading off to the flower bed. Maybe the little critter was hoping for a headshot for its new Instagram account.

Whatever the case, this ranks as one of the dumb-and-dumber moves I've pulled with a camera in a while. Yet if the same scenario presented itself tomorrow, I'd probably do exactly the same thing. My photographic stupidity seems to know no bounds.

Your turn: Ever do something dumb to get the shot? Do tell.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

On learning something new from a car guy

"There are lots of things you can do to make a car memorable, but first you have to ask yourself why you’re doing it. If you have no reason other than it’s a solution, it will look like everybody else’s solution. The big change will come if you want to do a different kind of thing. It’s the courageous people who put value into the system."
Chris Bangle
Disclosure: I'm fascinated by cars. To clarify, I don't bleed oil or worship the V8 engine. I don't cheer whenever a highly modified 1990 Honda Civic with an exhaust system big enough to fit a well-rounded grapefruit buzzes past me. I wouldn't know what to do with a socket wrench if you placed one in my hand, pointed me toward the engine bay and walked me through the steps of removing the oil pan cover. Or whatever that thingie is called.


Cars are the modern embodiment of technology, an ever-present affirmation of who we are as a society and, literally and figuratively, where we're going. They're art and science and inspiration all rolled up into one. So I read about them. Study the subtle nuances that separate one offering from another. Inhale every bit of data from every manufacturer and reviewer out there. Because it fits with my whole technologist's ethos: this stuff can, if we let it, help us lead better lives.

Chris Bangle used to be the chief designer for BMW. His designs, often called flame-surfaced, sparked huge controversy among the faithful. Some called him a radical. Others said he disrespected the brand's design heritage. Still others blamed him for ruining the certain something that made BMWs the so-called ultimate driving machine.

Yet years after he left this high-profile and polarizing role, he continues to influence the industry. And I continue to follow his work. In this case, he may very well be talking about cars, but his words ring true well beyond the automative space. Here's a guy who had the courage to follow his own path, and he ended up taking a lot of heat in the process. But he didn't let that stop him, then or now. Whatever anyone thinks about the cars he penned, it's hard to not be inspired by that sense of individuality.

After encountering more than my fair share of bottom-feeding followers out in the real world of late, I find myself wondering where all the courageous people are. If you've seen anyone who qualifies, say the word.