Saturday, December 31, 2005

Home again

After spending a week in the hospital for treatment of yet another hiccup in an already-difficult health care regime, my father came home yesterday. Like so many grown children of my generation, I strive to remain involved despite the fact that I live far away. We call daily, and we struggle to divine the meaning of the words he and my mother choose to share with us. But there's only so much that can be shared over a cable.

It's not easy being sick. Nor is it easy being an immediate family member of someone who is.

As we look forward to all the promise that a new year holds, I hope we take the time to appreciate the meaning of the phrase, "As long as you have your health." We take it for granted when we have it, then curse its loss after the fact. That's human nature, I guess.

If only we appreciated it while we had it. Then perhaps we'd try harder to hold onto it for just a little bit longer. And we'd prepare better for the inevitable day when the phone rings and everything changes. I wish I were better at this. Maybe in 2006 I'll learn the secret.

Welcome home, Dad. Be well.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Narnia rap

Saturday Night Live long ago ceased to be a beacon of our pop culture direction. I risk widespread disdain by saying it is no longer the factory of tomorrow's major comedic talent, nor is it the same favored Saturday night entertainment destination that it once was.

When I was a kid, however, it was an event to stay up late to watch it. If we were lucky enough to make it all the way through, we often ended up rolling across the floor, doubled over in pain from laughing so much. Many of the characters and sketches became personal cultural icons and happy memories of a time when great comedy was still a valued form of art.

These days, SNL is more like a 90-minute exercise in waiting for something funny to happen in between the 6-minute commercial breaks. In an age where Jon Stewart has pushed the envelope of funny intelligence on television, SNL seems a bit quaint and lacking in comparison.

Still, it is capable of hitting one out of the park on occasion. To wit, this recently-aired rap tune that parodies the Chronicles of Narnia. Here's the link. Crank the volume, and enjoy.

Your turn: What other old SNL - or related sketch comedy - favorites lurk in the dark corners of your personal cultural dustbin? How might we find them?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Kids' candy - leaded or unleaded?

News just in from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it will be tightening the amount of lead allowed in children's candy.

[Carmi pauses to shake his head and bemusedly mutter a three-word obscenity starting with "what the..." There, I'm over it. I'll continue.]

I simply want to know who allowed lead in kids' candy in the first place? What other noxious stuff is going into their - and our - food?

Please let me know if I'm the only one who finds this somewhat - OK, extremely - disturbing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Giving lawyers a bad name

I'll apologize in advance if you're a lawyer.

The Boston Globe last week ran a piece entitled, BlackBerry: A high-tech ball and chain for lawyers. A partner in a law firm sent an e-mail insisting that lawyers should keep their BlackBerry devices on all the time - evenings, weekends, and even vacations.

Nice guy. Makes me want to work there. OK, I'm kidding. Sounds like someone who truly contributes to the advancement of humankind. Or maybe he's just a tool.

Your turn: Have you ever worked somewhere where leadership made unreasonable demands on employees? How did you respond?

Monday, December 26, 2005

A rare image

When I need to know that all is right with the world, I find myself looking at images like this. These little folks who look strangely like me are a constant reminder that my wife and I are two incredibly lucky people.

The only gift I could ever ask for is right here.

Your turn: What are you thankful for?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The physics of Santa Claus - Redux

Just before Christmas last year, I posted a scientific analysis of the rotund red-suited guy - The Physics of Santa Claus - to Written Inc. In the interest of a new annual tradition, I invite you to click the link and re-read what has rapidly become a seasonal classic.

Your turn: Got any other holiday funnies to share? Either post 'em in a comment or drop me a link.

(And if you're celebrating this holiday, I'd like to wish you the merriest Christmas imaginable. No, I didn't wish anyone a generic happy holiday or season's greeting. I said, "Merry Christmas." I meant it, PC-zealots be damned.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Internet killed radio's star

It’s no secret that I like to listen to music while I write. It helps me focus on the task at hand, and it keeps folks from interfering with my work. I know it sounds anti-social, but it’s the only way to keep my output up. The alternative is to stay at home and work by myself all day. But that can be somewhat career limiting over the longer term.

So when the MP3s and CDs I brought from home started to pale after the zillionth listen, I began looking for new sources of music.

Pandora seems like a funky solution to an ages-old problem. Log in, give it an artist or song, and it builds and plays a playlist that should match your listening taste. You can create as many different streams – called “Stations” – as you wish. It’s part of something that Pandora calls the Music Genome Project, and it allows listeners to listen to music the way it was meant to be heard: without amped-up ads for discount mattress warehouses and car dealerships.

There’s a paid, ad-free version. But I’m cheap, so I registered for the no-cost, ad-supported one. Listening to the same song over and over is somewhat problematic – they want you to sample, then buy, after all. No worries: the sound is excellent, and I’m being introduced to artists I never knew existed. Definitely ranks high on the cool meter for folks who hate what commercial radio has become and are looking for an alternative.

Drawbacks: I shudder to think what this would do to a mobile device, and I feel sorry for network admins who might soon find themselves managing rogue audio streams. But such is life on the road toward multimedia nirvana.

Your turn - a 2-parter
  • Feel free to share any thoughts on cool tools you’ve come across that make work easier, or easier to take.
  • Do you think Internet radio, satellite radio and all its brothers (sisters?) will kill commercial radio as we know it? How can conventional terrestrial, commercial radio (regular AM and FM stations) compete?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Quoted - UPI

More media coolness: United Press International has incorporated my perspective from this week's press release into a write-through entitled Wireless World: Premature predictions?

The tagline on the writer is pretty interesting:
Gene J. Koprowski is a Lilly Endowment Award winner for his columns for United Press International, for whom he covers networking and telecommunications. E-mail:


Which begs the question: Why am I enjoying this so much?

This explains Rudolph's red nose

If you hang around long enough, you eventually see it all:

Drunken Santas go on NZ rampage

In retrospect, I always had my doubts about the jolly red guy when I walked past him in his little village in the middle of the mall. Now my lifelong suspicions have been confirmed.

Your turn: Do drunken Santas threaten the future of the Santahood?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I'm on TV

My surreal life continues. The interview that aired on Report on Business Television last night is now available online. If you've ever wanted to see me on television - or at all, since I realize I'm a bit of a disembodied writer to most folks - now's your chance.

The interview page is here: The show was broadcast Wednesday, December 21, 2005. Just click on the Play link below the graf to auto-load the media player. My interview runs from about 10 minutes into the 60-minute package, and lasts a touch over 5 minutes.

Your turn: If you're familiar with Research In Motion, I'd be interested to hear your perspectives on this case. If you're not, feel free to share your thoughts anyway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Quoted - BlackBerry refuses to die

I've waded back into the Great BlackBerry War of 2005 with a press release on the U.S. Patent Office's latest decision to reject the remaining patent claims by NTP.

I know that this is a terribly dry topic for most folks. But it means that BlackBerry devices are somewhat further from the brink of shutdown than they were at this time last week.

The press release is entitled U.S. Patent Office Ruling Frees Wireless Sector, Signals End of Frivolous Lawsuits. I'm somewhat opinionated this time out: I guess I'm tired of patent trolls hijacking the IT agenda.

Frightening update: I'm scheduled to be interviewed live on television by Report on Business Television (ROBTV) this evening at 7:10 p.m. Eastern. The hit will be rerun tonight at 11 p.m. (ish). I'll post a link to the streamable file once it's on their website. OMG.

Another frightening update (9:20 p.m.): The interview went really well. I don't think I embarrassed myself too badly. It was quite the experience, and I look forward to doing it again soon. The interview will be available for streaming from the ROBTV web site at this address: It's not up now, but it should be available by tomorrow. More soon...

Your turn: Do I deserve a BlackBerry for Chanukah? How about a Treo 650? Bueller?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The agony of the feet

This is what happens when you coop kids up in booster seats for too long.

(Draped over Noah's shoulder is his beloved blanket. It goes everywhere with him, and brings him comfort when the world spins a little too quickly for a five-year-old. Looking at this picture makes me wish I had a blanket, too.)

Monday, December 19, 2005


Now that we’re right in the middle of office party season, I’m sure we’ve all had ample opportunity to witness the consistent ability of colleagues to leave their sensibilities at the door before they proceed to embarrass themselves and threaten their future careers. To wit:

  • Young man has been employed as a low-level employee for a whole week. He loads up on wine early in the evening, then introduces himself to his new colleagues by draping his arm around their shoulders and lecturing them – with slurred speech and brewery breath – on why he loves being a part of the team.
  • Young lady (oops, now I sound like my father, but I digress) shows up alone, plastered into a dress that wouldn’t be out of place on a Vegas street corner. Spends her time eyeballing co-workers who took the time to come with dates. Said dates don’t look too pleased.
  • Longtime employee takes off his tie, wraps it around his head Bruce Willis style, and proceeds to show us all why he’s such an excellent dancer. Maybe when he’s sober. But right about now, he looks like an idiot.
  • Ex-employee shows up either hammered or stoned – sorry, I’m no expert in these matters. Gives the “I love you” speech to some, and the “you b---h, you got me fired” diatribe to others. Is eventually ordered off the premises, and thankfully hasn’t shown up in those crime summaries in the newspaper.

I like to use the CLM acronym to describe these. It stands for Career Limiting Move, and it amazes me how, year after year, people continue to make the same laughable – or maybe not so laughable – mistakes. It would be easy to say it’s because of excessive alcohol consumption, but someone’s gotta make the boneheaded decision to head down that road in the first place. Stupid is as stupid does.

The Boston Globe ran a great piece on this over the weekend. Entitled, Caution: Employees celebrating, it may save some grief for those who still understand that even office parties have rules that should never be broken.

Your turn: What's your worst office party story?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

More testing needed

On my way home from Boston a couple of months ago, I came across a departure screen that didn't look quite right. I had to laugh when I realized that JetBlue's systems integrators missed this one.

I hope their coding for the airplanes themselves is a little more evolved.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Faces in the stone

Some pictures are mere snapshots that are taken quickly, viewed quickly, then added to the growing visual anthology of my photographic life.

Others are decidedly different in that they kind of evolve over time. It's not that the photographs themselves actually change. Rather, they might be inherently complex or initially cryptic in their composition, and as such do not fully reveal themselves on first viewing.

So I set them aside and come back to them periodically in the hope that time will give me a somewhat different perspective on the original result.

Most of the time it just gives me an excuse to look at older work and enjoy it again. Sometimes, I see things that I totally missed soon after I first took the shot.

I captured this image three months ago. Initially, I wanted a picture of bricks. I took a bunch, and they didn't do anything for me. But now that I look at this particular composition, I swear I'm seeing faces in the crumbling facade. There's something about the surfaces to the immediate right of the big crack, toward the top of the middle brick. I can't quite put my finger on it...

Your turn: Can you see anything in this picture? (Click on the photo to load the high-resolution version.)

Publish Day - Ink Blog - yet another drunk driver

The leadup to the Christmas/New Year/[insert policitically correct holiday reference here] season seems to raise the profile of impaired driving-related stories. I sense that we see more of them, and the ones that we do see are more likely to be printed closer to the front page or run toward the top of the newscast.

This one's no different. The story of Charly Hart's latest conviction was a doozie. This guy's been drinking and driving for longer than many of us have been alive. And despite dozens of convictions and at least one death, he continues to get behind the wheel. Amazing - and frightening.

His latest sentence - six years in prison - is believed to be Canada's stiffest penalty to-date for a drinking and driving offence that did not result in injury or death. Either way, my gut tells me to watch myself in six years (or actually, less than three the way things work in this country, but I'm digressing) because people like this don't seem to ever learn.

Sadly, the law-abiding citizens among us are the ones most likely to pay the price for these idiots' inability to take responsibility for their own behavior. No one ever said life had to be fair, after all.

Your turn - a 2-parter:
  • How can society ensure repeat-offenders like this one are never allowed to threaten others again? What's the answer?
  • Do you have your own experience with impaired driving (either side of the coin)? How has this issue touched your life or the lives of those you know?
Drunk drivers threaten us all
Published Saturday, December 17, 2005
The London Free Press

Advocates against drinking and driving got some good news this week when Watford’s Charly Hart was sentenced to a six-year jail term for impaired driving.

The bad news is Hart’s been drinking and driving for 35 years, he’s already been convicted in connection with one fatal accident, and he’s been convicted nearly 60 times, including 39 verdicts for drunk driving and related offences.

Call me naive, but a justice system that allows this degree of blatant, serial lawlessness to continue doesn't make me feel remotely safe.

How many other Charly Harts are out there? How many times will they be turned loose to threaten the lives of the rest of us who have already gotten the message about drinking and driving? How obscene must the list of offences become before society hits its breaking point and decides to fundamentally change the way these people are dealt with?

It’s something I wonder about every time I buckle my kids into the car. It’s something I wish Mr. Hart would think about as he finally receives the punishment he so richly deserves.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - officer down

It's hard to say anything unique when a young police officer is gunned down on the job. It happens with such alarming regularity that we're almost numb to it by now.

The city where I grew up, Laval, Quebec, has never experienced it. Until this week. Even though it wasn't a technically local story, I felt it had universal impact, that no matter where we live, we all rely on police forces that we largely take for granted. Until something like this happens, of course.

Wherever you may live, I hope that after reading this you'll thank an officer as well. It's easy to see that these folks truly are heroes.

Your turn: I hope you'll share a positive experience you've had with an officer. I'm sure we've all benefitted from their help at one point or another.
Constable's death a tragedy for us all
Published Friday, December 16, 2005
The London Free Press

Laval Police Const. Valérie Gignac was 25 years-old when a single shot from a high-powered rifle ended her life on Wednesday.

Gignac was the eighth Canadian officer to be killed in the line of duty this year, and only the second female officer to be shot in Canadian history.

Statistics do little to mask the tragedy or set things right. She was pursuing a career of helping others. Helping someone in need cost her her life.

I grew up in Laval. My parents moved there because it was a place where things like this didn’t happen. But they do, and no place is immune.

Think of what it must take to risk your life every time you head out to work. Police officers, even in seemingly genteel London, Ont., are willing to sacrifice it all so that the rest of us can lead our routine lives.

If you see an officer today, take a moment to thank him or her for taking that risk on our behalf each and every day.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Fire!

Today's column is all about priorities. Or the fact that sometimes it seems as if government doesn't know how to set them.

London's north end has grown so fast in recent years that fire protection services have not kept pace. Response times up here - yup, I'm a northerner, too - are well below provincial averages, and firefighters have been raising the alarm for years.

The city has studied the issue for as long as we've lived here, but shows no signs of actually moving ahead with building a new fire hall.

Sure, it's a seemingly trivial local issue. But it ceases to be trivial when the safety of your family is at stake. I thought lighting a little fire of my own might help matters along.
Fire hall delays put people at risk
Published Thursday, December 15, 2005
The London Free Press

Our city is playing with fire.

While London’s north end experiences tremendous growth, the city has failed to provide adequate emergency services to the area. Consequently, wait times there are dangerously elevated.

It’s old news that the area needs a new fire hall. While we all appreciate the city’s diligence in pursuing the lowest-cost solution – namely, a temporary house-style facility on Trossacks Avenue – numerous delays are raising the temperature for residents who must live with the additional risk.

Ideally, critical emergency services should anticipate urban growth – not lag far behind. It’s time to take the money budgeted for a full-sized fire hall on Fanshawe Park Road and just build it.

The province has announced that as of March 1st, 2006, all homes must have at least one working smoke alarm on each floor.

If you live in north London, you might want to go smoke-alarm shopping a little early, since you’ll need all the additional protection you can get.


Quoted - Microsoft resignation

I keep popping up in all sorts of fun places. I was interviewed for a piece in IT World Canada about the sudden resignation of Microsoft Canada's President and the appointment of his successor. The article, entitled New chief, new prospects for Microsoft Canada, was published today.

Here's what I said:
Over the past year, Microsoft has been "making a lot of noise" about putting more resources into partner programs, said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont. With his track record, the new Canadian chief would be effective in enforcing that.


Levy said Sorgen's initiative in establishing the Microsoft Certified Solution Provider Partner Program at Microsoft's South Central District makes him the ideal candidate to lead the software company in further building relationships with Canadian partners.

"This is a very strong sign for the company that they are going to continue in this direction and they really do value who they do business with as they drive products into the market," the analyst said.


Simplifying its licensing structure is also another area where Sorgen should focus on as he takes over the reigns at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont., said Levy, adding that many companies are still struggling to stay on top of their licensing situations.

He said Microsoft's Software Assurance (SA) – a software maintenance program – is a great step in that direction, but the software company needs to "continue that significantly because licensing still remains an area of confusion for many companies."

"Microsoft has started (improving its licensing structure) over the last year, but there is huge opportunity to educate its client base on proper licensing, simplifying how its offerings are structured and on keeping that educational volume up so the level of confusion continues to come down," said Levy.


Another area that Sorgen could focus on in 2006 is establishing the company's position as a services-based company. This remains to be the biggest threat to the future of the software company, said Levy.

He said Microsoft has merely played catch-up while its "more agile" competitors have already established leadership in Web services applications, developments and deployments in recent years. "Microsoft needs to move very quickly here to establish its own position in the market."

The Info-Tech analyst acknowledged, however, that the company has started to recognize this threat and have made some strategic movements toward responding to it.

He cited Microsoft's recent announcement on its new Web services offerings, such as Windows Live and Office Live, speak well of that realization.

He cautioned, though, "in 2006 and beyond, Microsoft needs to cohesively deliver on this strategy," and how Canada plays in that strategy will soon be in the hands of its incoming president.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Carmi swears

I have always had little patience for people who pre-judge me even when they've never met me. They'll make assumptions about my behaviors and motivations based strictly on my ethnicity. They are rightly classified as racists, and they're very good at manipulating the system to support their destructive activities, at using a democratic society's freedoms to protect themselves.

But I've got a pen, and even though I fear raising the anger and attention of some of these people, my greater fear is if I don't write about people like this, I worry we'll all forget how insidious their influence can become. After all. termites don't go away from underneath the floorboards if we ignore them. So for today's column, I thought I'd lift up the floorboards and leave no questions about where I stand.

I even used profanity - "bastard" - a first in my writing career.

Your turn: Where do you stand? What do you do when confronted with such out-and-out hatred of others? Do you hold back out of fear of reprisals?
Free speech a lame defence for hatred
Published Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The London Free Press

Imagine if your neighbor took issue with the colour of your skin. If he published hate-filled material on the Internet and routinely encouraged anyone who would listen that you and your kind should be extinguished from the planet.

What should you do? Ignore him because he’s a crackpot? Invite him in for tea? Call the police? Is there even a right answer?

As a human-rights tribunal in Toronto finishes hearing the case of Londoner Tomasz Winnicki, the rest of lawful society is challenged to decide how to deal with those who toss hate-filled grenades before retreating behind the tired defence of free speech.

By Winnicki’s definition, I’m a Jew bastard who shouldn’t be allowed to live.

By my definition, Mr. Winnicki’s views serve no viable purpose in an otherwise civilized society. Canada should have no tolerance for intolerance of any kind.

People such as Winnicki are entitled to their pathetically held beliefs. Those they attack are equally entitled to bully them back into the dark hole from which they came.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Diabetic stupidity

Diabetes is one of those diseases that has touched many of us in multiple and personal ways. It runs in my wife's family. When she was pregnant with our two youngest children, she developed gestational diabetes and had to inject herself with insulin until she gave birth. She now lives with a significantly higher risk of becoming a diabetic.

Here in Canada, our federal politicians have been out-screaming each other to see who can promise us the most before we go to the polls next month. I thought it was kind of silly that they're throwing around funny-money, yet folks who suffer from diabetes are deliberately not taking care of themselves because they can't afford to do so.

This struck - and continues to strike - a chord with me. It seems like society can't get its priorities straight, especially when the current system will willingly fund the expensive surgeries and procedures these people will inevitably require because they didn't have the means to control the disease up-front.

More cynically, maybe this works in the country's favor because these folks will die younger, and as a result won't be clogging hospital beds in future. I know, it sounds harsh, but I wouldn't put it past a politician for thinking it. Here's the piece I published on this in today's paper.

Your turn: What other unfair funding practices have you come across in your neck of the woods? Are our elected leaders completely unable to logically and morally set priorities?
Diabetes skimping will cost dear later
Published Tuesday, December 13, 2005
The London Free Press

While candidates for federal office make billion-dollar promises for everything under the sun, diabetics across Canada are being crushed by four-figure annual expenses that aren’t covered by medicare.

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, almost one-quarter of its members can’t afford to purchase all of the supplies they need to keep themselves healthy – and alive.

When the resulting years-long game of poverty-inflicted Russian roulette pushes sufferers into premature heart disease, amputations and other diabetes-related afflictions, medicare will pay the bill. Too late, unfortunately.

All of this could be prevented if government truly believed that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But everyone’s too busy distributing holiday season electoral candy to notice.

Our penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to health care – namely skimping on critical preventative measures such as diabetes care and eye exams – ultimately costs society a tremendous amount in both dollars and pain.


The newspaper of tomorrow

I admit I've got a bit of an extreme interest in how newspapers continue to evolve in this era of new media. I've written about this on a number of occasions (see here and here) and I suppose a part of me will always be tracking this issue. I am, after all, professionally selfish: if I fail to understand how newspapers are changing, I may eventually find myself out of work.


Monday's Toronto Star had a couple of companion pieces on the topic:
Both pieces do an effective job in adding to the ongoing discussion. The evolution of newspapers looks like a necessarily long-term process, so I'll continue to share links and thoughts in this space as I come across them. I hope you'll do the same.

Your turn: Is the so-called electronic newspaper a mere pipe dream? What's the one thing that you think newspapers must do to survive?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Quoted - twice in interesting places

My tech comments keep showing up in all sorts of neat places. This morning brings news on two fairly large fronts: Forbes and the Globe & Mail. Here's the lowdown:

Forbes: Help Wanted In Silicon Valley. Byline is Rachel Rosemarin. I spoke about current trends in hiring. Here's what I said...
The tech industry is expected to grow by 167,000 new jobs in 2006, according to, with high-tech employment rebounding to levels higher than that reached during the tech bubble's peak. But a severe drought of tech talent is imminent.

"The very survival of these companies is at risk," says Carmi Levy, an analyst with Infotech. "If they can't find that talent to keep them innovative, their competitive edge will erode." He points to the fact that two of Google's most popular products--Google News and Gmail--were the brainstorms of individual minds.

Many mid- and small-size companies won't be able to compete at all. Because of this human-resources weakness, Levy believes about half of all existing small and medium-size companies could stagnate and go out of business.

The ones that survive will figure out ways to tempt workers with stock options and guarantees that individuals will have large roles to play in shaping business, he says.


...finding enough quality talent has been challenging.

But what's bad for the big portal companies is worse for startups and midsize enterprises. "[The portals] are skimming the cream off the top and leaving the lesser talents to the companies that can't offer the same salaries and exposure," says Infotech's Levy. "Google's barrier for entry is so high."

Many point to Google as the primary impetus driving the talent war.


Despite the current frenzy surrounding technical talent, experts aren't willing to see this as a sign of a bubble mentality returning to Silicon Valley.

"We've learned our lesson," says Levy. "As a society, there is a lot of tempering going on with these hiring increases. We say, 'Wait a second, let's think our way through this.' In the late '90s, business cases weren't even bothered with."
The Globe and Mail: Downloadable audio books heading to libraries - But electronic collection in public system won't be compatible with popular iPods. Byline is Joe Friesen, and the article appears on page A11 of today's print edition. Here's what I said...
More than three-quarters of the MP3 players sold at the moment are iPods, according to Carmi Levy, a senior research analyst at Info-Tech research group.

"They pretty much own the market right now," Mr. Levy said.


At the moment, iPod-compatible audio books can be bought through Mr. Levy said Apple may be trying to expand the market for audio-book sales before proceeding with any deals for libraries.

Your turn: Does it make sense for Toronto's library - or any library, for that matter - to implement an audio book/reader solution that doesn't support the 800-pound gorilla - Apple's iPod - of the audio player market? Do you think they're smoking crack?

Update: Computing in the U.K. has picked up the Forbes piece here. IT Week (also in the UK) has it here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Let them eat...

I despise most birthday and anniversary cakes for the same reason that I hate marshmallows: too sweet. But that doesn't mean I won't pull out a camera and take a closeup picture of the icing on the side. I don't eat seafood, either, but that doesn't stop me from harassing the lobster tank at the supermarket (more on that in a future blog entry.)
Oops, I'm drifting off-topic. Sorry. Sunday evening brain fade. Let's realign, shall we?
This picture represents my somewhat lopsided way of looking at an otherwise forgettable item of food - which in a few short days will transform itself into a stale hunk at the back of the fridge.

Pity my wife for putting up with this kind of thing at mealtime. She never knows when I'll become intrigued by another element of the mundane, and she is ever gracious when trying to explain my obsession to friends and acquaintances. We've learned that some people kinda get it, and others kinda don't.

Your turn: Would you risk the strange glances of friends and family to take pictures like this? If you were the one holding the camera, do you think the end result would be worth the potential embarrassment? Should I find a new way to express my creativity?

Technical note: Click on the image to open up a higher-resolution version.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

From color to monochrome

Since my last picture was full of color, I'd like to share one that's decidedly devoid of it.

The question is, what is this?

Friday, December 09, 2005

What we wish we could see

Thanks to a series of lake effect snowstorms, our city has been transformed into a veritable winter wonderland. It makes for wonderful walks to work in the morning and cozy nights under a couple of comforters.

I rather enjoy the blanket of white that in such a short time has repainted the landscape, but I always think something is missing when I look up and see bare, forlorn branches backing against a graying sky.

I took this picture in October - just a sliver of time in the overall scheme of things - while out for a walk to the park with our little guy. He hemmed and hawed while I took out the camera. He wanted to get to the playground, and didn't much care that his Dad was once again being a photo nerd.

Even though it's not in my nature to deliberately tick off our kids, I'm glad we stopped on that day. Looking at the colors on my screen reminds me that the monochromatic view out my window isn't permanent, and that color will return to the landscape soon enough.

I hope little guy reads this one day and comes to a similar conclusion.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Take to the skies

In the end, it's just a seagull. Or is it?

(Yeah, I'm feeling photographic this week. I'm raiding the archives and tossing some of my faves online. Hope you don't mind.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Reach out and touch someone

Come on, you know you want to. Ten little buttons, pressed in unique sequences, can instantly connect you with anyone you wish. Sure, there is cost involved. And some people might not appreciate being called while it is still dark outside. But it's the thought that counts.

Your turn: Who you gonna call?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another little man enters the world...

Sometimes, it's nice to share a happy.

Oliver Lucas Levy-Jones made his grand entrance at 9:13 a.m. EST in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He weighed 7 pounds even, and he's as healthy as can be.

Why am I writing this? His Mom is my sister, Shira. Mazel tov to Shira, Dave and big brother Ben as they welcome their newest bundle of joy and opportunity to the planet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The future of newspapers

I think it’s now pretty clear that newspapers are being buffeted by forces that promise to reshape their very future. The good ones will evolve and thrive, while the not-so-good ones will falter and die.

For perspective, it helps to remember that this is hardly the exclusive domain of print media. Traditional news institutions are all in the middle of adjusting to the new world order imposed by the arrival of the Internet.

I’ve written previously about it here, and continue to look for examples of media organizations that get it. The Boston Globe’s Ombudsman, Richard Chacon, published this piece, The Globe’s future in WiFi, in yesterday’s paper. It’s fascinating reading because it reflects some creative thinking about how newspapers interact with their readers, and how they will need to leverage new technologies to maintain relevant relationships with them into the future.

Disclosure: it’s in my best interest to write about tomorrow’s newspapers because my career is increasingly dependent on the existence of a thriving media-based community. Call it job security.

Your turn: What other creative things are newspapers in your part of the world doing to thrive in the Internet age? What would you suggest they do?

More search engine madness

Written Inc. continues to grow in popularity with the freaks of the world: the site is now the #1 result for the following search string on Google:
Injects random swear words over VOIP
Lovely. My mother would be so proud.

Your turn: As part of my ongoing quest to understand how oddballs and weirdos find your sites, what bizarro search terms have been showing up in your stats? Come on, don't be embarrassed; we all have 'em.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

The marshmallow is another confection that I just don't get. It's too sweet, too artificial, too nausea-inducing when you consume too many. Yet I've always loved marshmallows for their not-found-in-nature texture.

As a contrast to the bold colors of my last posted picture, this one, with its monochromatic tribute to the color white, couldn't be more different.

Your turn: What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the simple marshmallow? What memories does this most processed of foods conjure up?

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Sometimes, the most photogenic images at a party can be found in the unlikeliest of places. I don't really drink all that much pop - carbonation is a harsh way to make a drink seem more "refreshing" - but the colors and textures in the cooler just got to me.

Your turn: Does this make you thirsty? Am I nuts for shooting these kinds of pictures?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Morning: Grosvenor Lodge

The landscape now sits under a thick blanket of snow. But on this morning a couple of weeks ago, these trees kept watch over a simple stretch of grass. I'm always amazed how a little bit of time and weather can so radically change the view.

I don't know what inspired me to stop my bike that morning and take this. I think it was the stark shadows on the grass.

Whatever it was, the view no longer exists; testament to why it's so important to capture the image before it disappears forever.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cancer, humanized

I can barely hide my admiration for the Toronto Star's Rosie DiManno. I've often written about and linked to her work. She never fails to make readers think, and she always manages to reach in and change their perspective on virtually any topic.

She writes columns on both general issues, as well as sports. To be completely frank, I'm not a big fan of the sports side of the house. I find all sports "news" so, um, pedestrian. While I agree that there is indeed drama in so many aspects of sport, I find the way most media outlets package it to be repetitively boring.

Not so with Ms. DiManno. Her writing often jumps beyond the sports pages and deftly delivers messages more subtle than some lunkhead's assessment of how he put the puck in the net. Her piece on Pat Burns, entitled Ex-Leafs coach Burns battles cancer, does just that. If you read it, you will be moved.

Your turn: Does this writing inspire you? How? Who else can move you with mere words?

In passing...Stan Berenstain

I must admit I'm not the world biggest Berenstain Bears fan. Like most early-childhood literature, it's almost too antiseptic. Plots unfold in predictable, saccharine fashion. Conflicts are glossed over. Everyone smiles too much. It's about as far from the real world as one can possibly get.

Then again, who says early-childhood needs to represent the real world? I'm not an early-child - despite what some folks who know me might think. I'm no expert on what children really want to read. Given the fact that little man often asks for a BB book to be read to him almost every night, it can't be a bad thing. And when his big sister reads a BB book to him, the scene is almost too precious for words.

So I've developed a grudging respect for this genre of kid-lit. It's often the first reading a child will do. It represents a gentle introduction into the world of words, and it brings comfort when the real world around them may seem decidedly uncomfortable for them (school yards can be tough places, after all.)

Stan Berenstain passed away this week. He and his wife, Jan, started drawing their famous characters in 1962, and worked with Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) to get it right. One thing sticks in my mind as I think of his passing: Stan and Jan started drawing together over 20 years earlier, when they met at art school. Poignant.

I can't help but think that so much of them was wrapped up in these characters that kids so very much admired. A love story that began two generations ago still manages to touch my own children today. Nothing boring about that. I owe you many thanks, Stan.

Your turn: How has children's literature changed your - and/or your kids' - lives?

One more thing: The Hartfourd Courant's Kathleen Megan puts it all in its proper perspective in this piece, Berenstain Legacy: Cozy Memories.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why some people should not be parents

No one ever said life was fair or balanced.

After all, you need a license to sell hot dogs on a street corner, keep a dog or cat in your house, or broadcast your grandmother's dessert recipes via ham radio. But anyone with working biologicals can have a child.

Sadly, having functional parts does not qualify a person to be a parent. This story, Police: Parents gave crying baby vodka, underscores why some people deserve to be sterilized before being thrown in jail.

The short strokes are chilling - a three-month-old baby girl died after her parents gave her a lethal dose of vodka. She had a BAC of 0.47 - over five times the legal limit. As if should could have decided for herself anyway.

I hope they throw away the key when they catch and convict these monsters.

One small consolation: we needn't worry about these two selling us hot dogs on a street corner.

Your turn: Is it time to tighten society's rules around becoming a parent? Should this be licensed? Is it even feasible?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Early morning at the breakfast table

Forget that it tastes good, it's relatively healthy and low-fat, and the kids really like it. What's most important is that it has a neat surface when it's first opened.

Your turn: Are you a hummous person? How do you pronounce it?

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Your turn: I can't put my finger on it, but these remind me of something. Anyone want to hazard a guess or two?

Quick aside: Why this pic? Simple: a new grocery store opened up in our neighborhood. So, without anything better to do on a Saturday night, we loaded the kids into the wondervan and went on an adventure. The place seemed somewhat overstaffed - typical for a new store, because they want customers to think the store will always have an abundance of folks prowling the aisles just begging to help lost customers....we know the truth, however. But I digress.

Zach and I set off in search of photographic targets of opportunity. We felt like kids exploring a brand new playground. It was all so fresh and clean. Pretty soon it'll be a depressing big box store, just like every other depressing big box store. But for a little while anyway, it was fun to wander the pristine rows and think about all the possibilities. Zach did the spotting and I did the shooting: he thought the nuts would be cool. I think his photographic judgment is better than mine.

Yeah, we definitely need to get out more.

Just a faucet?

Our typical intercity drive often has us spending oodles of hours on the 401. Canada's busiest highway cuts through Ontario from Windsor all the way to the Quebec border just east of Cornwall. All in all, it's a shade under 500 miles or 800 km long.

We've come to know this highway well in the years since we moved to London. It's the route we take to visit family back in Montreal, and in the dozens of times we've driven it, it's not a stretch to say that we've likely memorized every exit, curve, and geographic feature.

On our way home recently, we stopped in Belleville for a much-needed break. We parked beside the Quinte Mall - which despite the fact that it looks like any other indoor mall on the planet, is nevertheless a welcome refuge on a long, boring drive - and headed for the food court.

Little people have little constitutions. So we found the family washroom and were blown away by the pristine cleanliness, comfy chairs, lovely music and overall coziness of what is usually a disgusting facility that is ignored by management and reviled by those of us who care about such things. This place was different: we could have stayed there all night.

While the kids raved about how cool this loo was, I concentrated on the faucet and tried to get photographically artsy with it. This is a longer-than-handheld, flashless exposure, using the counter as a makeshift tripod. It may look plain. But it will forever take me back to a 10-minute slice during which my kids happily unwound with each other in a surprisingly warm place far from home, and I got to watch them be themselves.

Lucky me.

Quoted - eWEEK

Damn, I can't believe I missed this one: eWEEK published a piece entitled Microsoft Sees a Google Future on November 2. Byline was Ben Charny. I was commenting on Microsoft's Windows Live and Office Live announcement.

Here's what I said:
"This is the clearest evidence yet that Microsoft is getting Google's message," said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, a technology consultant. "Google has clearly shifted software towards a new, Web-based paradigm."

That opinion, a popular one nowadays, would have drawn a snicker two years ago when Google was showing how free, advertising-supported Internet search generates billions of dollars in annual revenues. But now...
I've been hoping to be quoted by eWEEK - a serious tech journalism heavyweight - for ages. This makes me skip a little more lightly on my feet.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Suicide isn't painless

My paper has been running an excellent series on suicide all week. Entitled Ending it all, it has lifted the veil, so to speak, on a problem that at once touches us all, yet is deliberately not discussed by the very same people whose lives it darkens.

I wrote this because I wanted to ensure the discussion didn't stop here. I know so many of us have been brushed by it, yet haven't had the courage to discuss it in the open.

Your turn: Although it may be difficult for some, I hope you'll consider sharing a thought of two on suicide, depression, and the toll it takes on individuals and society.

Here's my perspective, published in today's paper:
Cloak of silence lifted from suicide
Published Saturday, November 26, 2005
The London Free Press

A lifetime ago, I was a 13-year-old learning to sail Laser-class boats at summer camp. My instructor, Robert, painstakingly guided me from neophyte to a confident captain who could easily command the boat in any situation.

He was barely out of his teens, but his maturity and wisdom made him seem so much older. He was a patient mentor who always seemed to have his hand firmly on the tiller on his way to a bright future.

A few years later, he killed himself.

This week’s London Free Press series on suicide has taught us how this disease of society thrives in dark shadows. We never talk about it for fear of offending. It has touched so many of us, but we keep it buried deeply.

But if the teenagers of tomorrow are going to have young mentors to guide them, someone’s got to shine the light on this silent menace, to flush it from the recesses of shame and into forums where we feel safe to talk about it.

Look inward, and don’t be afraid to start that conversation.

Me again: My editor, Larry Cornies, today published a searing column, Suicide series touches many lives. Editor-in-chief Paul Berton ran a great journalist's perspective column - entitled Time to talk about suicide - in today's paper as well. As difficult as it is to talk about suicide, the all-stops coverage by the paper is encouraging, to say the least. I hope the dialog continues.

Here are the links to the articles in the Ending it all series that inspired this thread. Randy Richmond is the reporter who researched and wrote these articles. It's great, necessary reading.

Quoted - BlackBerry heads to the East Coast

It was a good media day for me yesterday. I was interviewed by Canada's national wire service, Canadian Press, for an article on Research In Motion's decision to open a technical support centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

They made the announcement on Friday, and this was big news in a region that has had more than its fair share of economic hardship.

The National Post is running the story, Research In Motion sets up shop in Nova Scotia; creates 1,200 jobs. Byline is Michael Tutton from CP. is running two versions of the piece: here and here.
The myTelus site has it here.
Yahoo! posted it here.
The Brockville Recorder & Times (even small-town Ontario reads tech) has it here.

Here's my snippet:
Carmi Levy, a research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont., said the government money was likely key to the deal, but the major factor was Ontario's tight high-tech labour market.

"Waterloo and Ottawa are talent markets that have been tapped dry by the major technology vendors in Canada and the United States," he said.

"For now RIM has Halifax mostly to itself."

The company said it expects to begin hiring through job fairs beginning in January.

Levy also said the company needed some good news after months of troubles in the U.S. courts in a patent dispute with NTP Inc.

The legal dispute threatens BlackBerry sales in the United States unless there's a settlement or an appeal victory for RIM.

"This is the perfect kind of good news announcement that diverts attention from all of the bad news that's been dogging the company for the past year," said Levy.
Update: The Daily News (in Halifax) is running this piece: High-tech RIM to create 1,250 jobs. Byline is Stephane Massinon. Here's what I said...
Carmi Levy has watched the growth of Research in Motion. The senior research analyst with Info-tech said the jobs coming to HRM will be coveted.

“These are not entry-level jobs at all. This is one of the highest of the high-tech companies right now,” said Levy yesterday.

Levy described the company as a significant force with international clout.

“This a high-flyer in the mobile-wireless sector; they are the acknowledged leader in what’s called push-based e-mail. The term BlackBerry has become synonymous with mobile e-mail.

“For a small, upstart Canadian company, they have become dominant around the world.”

RIM has thrived in Waterloo because of that city’s high level of people with post-secondary education. Levy said Nova Scotia’s reputation for universities was part of the decision to bring an office here.

But not all is well with the company. For years, it has been in an American court facing a patent infringement lawsuit from NTP Inc., a company based in Richmond, Va. The judge hearing the case has said recently that a decision would come soon, possibly any day now.

Levy’s read of the situation is that RIM could end up paying between a half-billion and a billion dollars as a result. “That money isn’t that much of an issue,” said Levy.

“(Paying) would give them the right to continue to use the underlying technology to drive their network and BlackBerry service until 2012, when the patent runs out,” explained Levy.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - More local politics

I seem to be in a bit of a political mood this week. I didn't set out for it to be this way: I'm never fully sure what I'm going to write about until I sit down and start writing. I often start writing through a couple of story ideas before I let them battle it out. One wins, the other (or others, as the case may be) will simply wither on the screen.

This one jumped out at me because it dealt with one of my favorite anti-democratic bodies, the Ontario Municipal Board. As a free-speech-crusading journalist, few things bug me more than government-sanctioned bodies that ram decisions down the population's throat - which the OMB has done repeatedly since I started writing about them.

For once, though, I think the OMB sorta got it right this time. So I felt somewhat compelled to get off my usual critic's chair and give them the writer's equivalent of a pat on the back.

I still think the OMB is undemocratic, and I'll still flay it when I think it has crossed a line. But for now, I'm smiling.
New ward system will drive change
Published Friday, November 25, 2005
The London Free Press

I’ve long criticized the Ontario Municipal Board for its heavy-handed rulings that have often gone against the will of the communities it supposedly serves. But I may become an OMB fan in light of its latest position on London’s municipal roadmap.

The OMB’s order to London to replace its current seven-ward system with 14 smaller wards has raised cheers from citizen advocacy groups. City councillors who oppose this ruling have said the new system will make it easier for special interest groups to hijack the city’s agenda. I think they worry too much.

This city needs a good shakeup. Tax rates have consistently outpaced the rate of inflation. Services have been cut. City hall has been rocked by one embarrassing and expensive controversy after another. Civic bureaucracy has steadfastly resisted calls for change.

Something needed to change, and like it or not, London’s new ward system will form the basis for driving that change.

Any city councillors who aren’t comfortable with this might want to find a new line of work.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Canadian politics

Here in the Great White North, we're on the verge of a call for a federal election. The ruling minority government is on its last legs after being hit with a corruption scandal, and the opposition parties are already circling their prey, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

If I'm being brutally direct, all of this kinda bores me. Political machinations never really change. The arguments are always the same, and the players are almost universally shallow and incomplete human beings. They are hardly the role models I thought they were when I was a kid, so I don't think it's worth my while to actively memorize every word they say on the evening news.

Still, it's democracy. So it's important to still know what's going on.

So I took out my pen and thought I'd muse on the irony of a pre-election spending spree by the ruling party. It always seems to work that way: the checkbook comes out just before voters go to the polls. It's nothing more than a blatant way to steal votes through bribery. And history shows that it works.

Of course, that's all our money that's being spent. I thought readers might want a little additional perspective on this.

Darn, I've become cynical and jaded.
Payback at polls for spending spree
Published Thursday, November 24, 2005
The London Free Press

I’m thinking of sending Prime Minister Paul Martin a card to thank him for the wonderful gifts he’s decided to lavish on us this holiday season.

All the things I’ve been wishing for – including a fleet of Hercules transport planes to replace aircraft that should have been retired decades ago, compensation for native Canadians who were sexually abused in church-run residential schools, and support for grain farmers so they can better compete internationally – will finally be mine. It’ll be the best holiday season ever.

I know that as a taxpayer I am footing the bill for this pre-election largesse. I know that none of this spending might ever actually happen if the government is not re-elected. Politics is, after all, a game of smoke and mirrors. And what better way to bamboozle the electorate than to wave gobs of goodies under their noses.

Still, it’s the season of giving. Taxpayers will have ample opportunity to give back what’s been taken when they finally go to the polls.

Happy holidays, Paul.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Auto sector smackdown

Today's column deals with the fallout of the General Motors retrenchment announced earlier this week. I was originally going to write about something else. I figured enough ink had been spilled over the unfortunate loss of thousands of Canadian and American jobs.

Then I read the union response to the cuts, and I changed my mind. The leaders of Canada's largest autoworkers union trotted out same old themes. If it were up to them, we'd all go back to the days of guaranteed jobs, high wages, low education requirements, and a limitless future with no real-world competition.

Unfortunately for the Big Three, the cushy world they dominated fifty years ago is gone forever. They have failed to compete on the same playing field as their new competitors. They have become dinosaurs. And as much as we all - and I include myself in that "we" - pine for the days when we'd work for a benevolent employer until our retirement day, it's easy to see that the employment world is a much colder place these days.

So I wrote the following piece.

Your turn: After you're done reading this, I hope you'll share your perspectives on unions, and whether or not they've managed to adapt to the new realities of the business world.
Big Three, CAW running out of gas
Published Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The London Free Press

It is both fascinating and sad to watch domestic automakers cutting their operations to the bone, while Honda and Toyota invest billions in new plants and people.

The only response Canadian Auto Workers union President Buzz Hargrove can muster is the same old rant about foreign manufacturers having unfair, reduced-tariff access to the North American market.

Domestic manufacturers, hobbled by aging products union contract limitations, can’t compete against their more agile competitors. Their products lag behind.

Consumers spending their hard-earned dollars on a vehicle expect efficiency, performance and reliability. Other automakers have figured out how to do it better, and they’re eating up the domestics’ market share.

The war is over, Buzz. The imports have won. Union contract and pension costs have become an albatross around the domestic manufacturers’ necks.

Stop whining about unfair competition. You simply can’t compete any more.

Update - Sat. Nov. 26. I've been getting some nasty e-mail from readers - obviously union members who believe in everyone's inalienable right to permanent, high-paid employment. I'm not upset by this. As I've said before and continue to maintain, any response is a good thing. If I force readers to sit up, take notice and get involved in the discussion, then I have accomplished my goal.

Beyond the e-mail, much of which is so rife with grammatical and spelling errors as to be hilariously pathetic, the Free Press published a letter to the editor in todays paper. Here it is:

Auto workers only want decent living standard

Regarding the Ink Blog, Big Three, CAW running out of gas (Nov. 23).

Carmi Levy argues that it is our unwillingness to be "competitive" that has led to the current dilemma of North American automakers.

He is misguided. All unionized workers have ever asked for is a fair shake. That means fighting for liveable wages, adequate benefits and secure pensions, so that workers can raise a family, purchase a house, send their kids to school and retire comfortably. Is that too much to ask?

One of the main reasons Asian autoworkers cannot unionize and aspire to the standard of living we enjoy in the West is that unionization is banned in many Asian countries (China, especially). Is that the type of undemocratic society to which we should aspire?

Mike Hurley

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Drinking to excess

It's another publishing week for me at the newspaper, so from now until Saturday I'll be posting my daily quick missives on whatever's coursing through my mind. I invite you all to share your thoughts - agree or disagree, it's all good - and personal stories in the comments below.

I wrote this after reading another report on how problem drinking is an even bigger issue in this region than in any other part of the province. Holiday season always seems to bring with it an increase in the frequency of booze-related stories in the media. I know I'm contributing to it, but I don't have a problem shining the spotlight a little brighter or wider if it means even one person takes notice.

I thought of this piece last night as I drove my family home through a dark and rainy night. We were at the end of a 700+ kilometre drive from Montreal, about five minutes away from home, when an idiot in a blue Civic coupe charged sidelong through four lanes of oncoming traffic to get to the parking lot of an apartment building. I panic-braked to miss him, as did every car around and in front of me. My first thought was no sober person would consciously drive like that, and that had I been alone, I would have stayed at the scene, called 911, and had him charged.

Although my overriding parental instinct to get my sleeping family home in one piece prevailed last night, part of me feels guilty for not doing more - especially on the day that I had written this - to get this moron off the road. Decisions.

So without further ado, here's the piece. Please note the editing gremlin that seems to have crept into my byline. My family name is "Levy", not "Levi".
Drinking report needed wake-call
Published Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The London Free Press

It’s a sobering reality check to realize the rate of problem drinking in Middlesex County far exceeds the provincial average.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has just released statistics showing Middlesex residents report far higher incidences of drinking and driving, binge drinking, hazardous drinking and drinking-related problems than any other Ontario region.

If you’ve got a problem with booze, this is your wake-up call to get help. If you don’t, you are also accountable for fighting this scourge before you or those you love are killed by a drunk driver.

If a friend or colleague has hit the bottle too hard, we must all do anything in our power to help. Take away the keys, call Alcoholics Anonymous, rally some friends to intervene, do whatever it takes to stop the deadly cycle.

Christmas is just over a month away. Holiday partying season is already hard upon us. Consider this society’s long-overdue wake-up call. It is, simply, now or never for problem drinkers – and for the rest of us.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Cool shades on warm sand

I look outside the window and see nothing but a steel gray horizon and bare trees. I go outside and draw my coat tighter to ward off the bone-chilling cold that suddenly seems to dominate our days.

As winter begins its descent on this part of the world, I hold onto words and images that remind me of warmer days. It wasn't so long ago that my wife and I watched our kids frolic on the beach, wondering where they got the energy and how we'd be able to perpetuate the magic of days like that for as long as possible.

Hopefully we'll soon be able to give our kids the opportunity to let the warm sand ooze through their toes. Until then, I'll hold onto images like this one to keep the fires burning inside.

About this picture: I took this at the end of a great day at Grand Bend. As we began to pack everything up, I noticed our little guy's shades just sitting on the sand. I liked what I saw, so out came the camera.

Your turn: I hope you'll share a brief story in a comment about what brings you warmth. This time of year seems to be about keeping warm - in body and thoughts - and I'd love to see what y'all do to keep the cold - literal and figurative - at bay.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Young person's honesty

While driving along the highway yesterday, our youngest announced his need to use the washroom. His timing was impeccable: the exit to the rest stop was just coming up.

When he was done, he dutifully trooped over to the sink and I helped him stretch his little hands into the sink to wash his hands. It was tough for him, but he told me how much he likes washing his hands, and he always has to wash when he's done.

I thought he was ignoring the regular parade of men who were using the facilities, then nonchalantly walking out the door. As he proudly announced that his hands were all clean and rinsed, he turned to me and asked, loudly, how come that man wasn't washing his hands.
He: "Didn't he make a pee, too? He must have forgotten to wash his hands. Should I tell him?"
Me (quietly): "I'm sure he forgot...but we never forget, do we?"
He (still loudly): "We always wash our hands. Then we don't get sick."
Smart kid. It's amazing how so-called knowledgable adults could learn the basics from a five-year-old.

Your turn: How do you respond when you see someone not washing in a public washroom? Does it disgust you as much as it disgusts me?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Ivy - dead and alive

Whenever I visit a new place, I always try to walk around a neighborhood or two if I can spare the time. I cart along my camera as well so that I can bring back images to illustrate what I was feeling as I drifted through the alien landscape.

On my recent trip to Boston (click here, here, here and here if you haven't seen the original entries) I was lucky enough to have had an hour or so to stroll and shoot. In the middle of a fast-paced business trip amidst a period of intense workload, it was an idyllic way to unwind and let my mind roam. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

I took these two images a minute apart as I walked through the Back Bay area. They are mere meters away from each other on the wall of a beautiful old apartment building. But they couldn't be more diametrically opposed in the stories they tell.

As an aside, I've always wanted to shoot pictures of ivy, but for some strange reason never managed to get around to it until that day (October 19, at 2:36 and 2:37, respectively). The plant's abilty to cling to a hard, foreign surface and survive through whatever nature can throw at it has always struck a poetic chord with me.

Strikingly, even when it loses its battle, it remains a compelling image.

Your turn: Two parts...
  1. Which one of these images is your favorite, and why?
  2. Please walk through a neighborhood - your own or a new one - with a camera and post an image to your blog. Feel free to share in words what you were thinking as you took the shot. Post the link here so we can all see the uniqueness of your vision.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Little man's nightmare

I always look forward to quiet evenings at home. After the kids are in bed, calmness descends on the house as my wife and I enjoy an all-too-brief respite from the craziness of the day.

Last night was no different. We were in the living room. My wife was reading and I was rearranging words on my laptop. As the clock struck our almost-bedtime, we heard stirring from upstairs. As we have done countless times since we became parents, we looked at each other and wondered who it was, and why.

Little feet pattered their way down the stairs. It was our youngest, clutching his blanket, and he didn't look happy. He wasn't crying, but his face was pained.

He: "I can't sleep. I had a bad nightmare and it woke me up."

The last words weren't out of his mouth before he buried himself in my wife's arms.

We: "What did you dream about?"
He: "I dreamed that I died."

After my wife and I recovered from the kick in the abdomen that hearing something like this from a five-year-old can deliver, we scrambled to say the right thing to him.

Although we don't actively encourage them to sleep in our bed - not even the world's best sleeper would be able to handle it next to little people who flip themselves over almost constantly and steal the blankets - we felt an exception was in order this time.

So we trooped upstairs and tucked him in between us. Many hugs, kisses and calming words were shared. He drifted off to sleep in minutes and woke up the next morning with his usual cheery face.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chaos, close-up

I've been busy lately. Calls aren't returned. Voicemails remain in an eternal blinking red-light state. E-mails stay in my inbox until they are buried by the never-ending torrent of new messages. Even my wife often has to IM me from across the room.

Often, when fighting a deadline or otherwise juggling more things than I should, I tend to let the blizzard of papers get the better of my desk. Strangely, it doesn't slow me down any. I seem to thrive on the chaos that is my environment. It stresses me to that just-optimal point where I am most creative. Any more and I'd freeze up; any less and I'd be so relaxed that I'd spend too much time making the perfect mug of tea.

So this is a desk's-eye view of where I work. One the surface, it's pretty routine stuff: two-21-inch monitors, a keyboard (Microsoft...sorry), a set of headphones for the requisite drown-out-the-world soundtrack, enough paper to start my own recycling plant, and pictures of the people who inspire me. But it's homey, and I can't imagine it being any other way.

(BTW, those are indeed my hands. Madge - of dish-pan hands/Palmolive fame - would not be impressed. Typing is murder on my skin.)

Your turn:
What does your immediate workplace look like? Is chaos the answer for you as well?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Quoted - twosies

The never-ending geek parade remains never-ending. I've been quoted in a couple of neat places over the past couple of days:

InformationWeek is running a piece entitled Fixing Your Network's Five Worst Bottlenecks. This piece, written by Matthew Friedman, reflects my contention that most network administrators need to spend more time doing their homework.

The Globe and Mail is running another in a series on Research In Motion's BlackBerry mobile device: RIM's U.S. customers needn't fret, analysts contend: BlackBerry service shutdown unlikely over patent fight. Simon Avery, the paper's technology reporter, penned the piece, which was published in today's paper on page B6. Here's my bit:
Mr. (Jim) Balsillie (chairman and co-chief executive officer of RIM) has said the company has tested a "workaround" system that would deliver BlackBerry service but operate on technology independent of the patents NTP holds.

Some analysts dismiss his claim as a temporary public relations effort meant to ease concerns.

It would involve nothing less than the "complete overhaul of the hardware and software that supports the BlackBerry messaging service," said Carmi Levy, a senior analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont. "It's analogous to rebuilding an airplane while it's still in flight."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Live free or die? Not quite

In the never-ending search for content to read over breakfast oatmeal, I came across a rather provocative piece in The Washington Post.

Entitled N.H. Puts a Price on Panoramas, the article describes how assessors in the state made famous for banishing income taxes are now placing monetary values on the views from certain homes. These so-called bonus features are then used as the basis for increases in property tax assessments.

I have no quarrel with the basic concept of taxes. As I've repeated so often before, it's the price we pay for the standard of living we currently enjoy. I take issue, however, with blatant grabs for cash that violate every ethical contract between ratepayers and their democratically elected governments.

I know these things matter little to the porcine politicos we put into office and their civil servant cousins who collectively feed at the publicly-funded trough. But their indifference does little to reduce unfair taxation's impact on the rest of us.

Selfishly and somewhat sheepishly, I do admit I'm almost sorry that municipal governments closer to home haven't tried anything similar. I'd happily devote a column or two to this if it was ever floated for our part of the world.

Your turn:
Now that they're taxing the view, I guess it's open season on all of us. What will they decide to tax next? Will this cat-and-mouse game ever really end?

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Update: The Washington Post has picked up this link on its "Who's Blogging?" page. Click here to see who else is blogging about this story.