Saturday, May 31, 2014

Looking into infininity

Water, water everywhere
Grand Bend, ON
September 2013
For more cloudspotting Thematic, click here
Do you ever stand on a beach and wonder what's out there beyond the point where the sky meets the water? Does it make you feel small? Refreshed? Inspired?

Because I'm gradually building up my bike legs and am going to attempt a ride to a place just like this before long. And when I get there I want to make sure I squeeze the most meaning from the moment.

On not getting what you want

"Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck."
Dalai Lama
Something tells me most of us have more experience with this than we'd care to admit. I kinda like his perspective.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Field of weeds

Hyde Park, ON
May 2014
Thematic. Cloudspotting. Here.
It's soccer season again, which means our daughter is back to defending her zone, harassing opposing players and taking no prisoners. It also means lots of evenings of sitting on the sidelines, cheering her on. It's a wonderful place to be - for her and for us - and we're already relishing the experience.

Well, maybe not so much this week, when the skies unexpectedly turned from warm and blue to cold and grey and threatening from the time we left the driveway to the time the game got underway. Keeping warm was somewhat out of the question, so I pulled out the smartphone during halftime and explored the weeds just beyond the pitch.

It's nice to know some things never change. And it's nice to know the world continues to serve up stuff worth looking at and thinking about, even if it doesn't necessarily merit inclusion on a magazine cover.

Your turn: Beauty is...?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

BlackBerry: Not dead yet

For a company with dwindling market share, BlackBerry manages to have a bigger impact on the collective tech/business radar than you'd otherwise expect. And sure enough, when IDC, a leading global research company, released numbers earlier this week that predicted BlackBerry's already-small market share would nearly vanish over the next four years, it prompted more than a tempest in a tech-infused teacup.

BlackBerry's CEO John Chen responded in his usual straightforward manner - which I rather dig - saying the company is far from dead. And since I never miss an opportunity to look beyond the headlines and dig into what's really going on, I wrote an assessment piece for Yahoo Canada Finance. Here it is:
BlackBerry set to prove market share doesn't matter

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On Maya Angelou

News just in that iconic American author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has passed away. She was 86. I can't help but think of what is likely her most famous qoute, because her words have resonated in me, and helped shape my own world view, almost from the moment I first heard them:
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
May her memory always be a blessing, and may we all carry her lessons forward.

About those self-driving cars...

My phone's been ringing a lot lately with requests for comment on tech stuff. Beyond the growing volume and frequency, I'm noticing a change in the types of things folks want to talk about. Tech isn't just hard core tech anymore. It's spreading into everyday life, and the topics I'm being asked to weigh in on aren't necessarily the same classic tech issues that once dominated my workload. Total coolness.

To wit, Google's autonomous vehicles, more commonly known as self-driving cars, or robotic cars. They hold the promise of one day freeing us from the scourge of breakfast burrito-munching, text-addicted distracted drivers, and indeed the prototypes driving around parts of California are truly incredible pieces of technology.

The company introduced a new prototype for an autonomous vehicle yesterday (blog entry, The Guardian story, Car & Driver article). While earlier prototypes were based on commercial vehicles, like Toyota's Prius or RX, this one's purpose-built from the ground up. It also has no steering wheels, no pedals, and no provision for human intervention. A little creepy? Probably. But it's another step along the road toward a very different transportation-based future.

Al Jazeera quoted me in an article posted this morning: Google close to unveiling self-driving carHere's what I had to say:
Technology analyst, Carmi Levy, told Al Jazeera that autonomous cars would be an "inevitable part" of the way people travel in the future. 
He added that the transition to autonomous driving would open up a "litany of legal, insurance and even ethical issues". 
Levy said that while there was a risk of vehicles being hacked, consumers and governments would have to accept that with any new technology "perfection may not be universally attainable".
Your turn: Would you step into an autonomous vehicle? Do you agree/disagree with me?

Stephen Orser. Once again, London deserves better

Last week I was privileged to give a talk to TechAlliance, a dynamic organization that supports and nurtures businesses here in London. I've admired this group from afar for years, so to be asked by them to speak at their season-closing breakfast was a real honour.

Both during my talk and in the hallway discussions afterward, we talked about what makes this city unique, how our business landscape is stacked with the right kind of talent, and why we need to do a better job connecting the dots and telling our story both inside and outside our borders. The experience galvanized me. Not that I needed any more reason to love this town, but I came away from it feeling even more committed to pushing our agenda forward.

Then I looked at my Twitter stream last night and noticed one of our city councillors had yet again stuck his foot in it. Stephen Orser represents Ward 4, and he's repeatedly exhibited behaviours that most reasonable individuals would classify as questionable, unacceptable or downright moronic - see my blog entry, Games politicians play, for a recent example where he posted a citizen's private information without his permission.

This time, Orser found himself in hot water after a graphic that was offensive to women was posted on his website. (The site,, is now blank. Because apparently an "under construction" graphic featuring a dog leering at a buxom woman was for a time considered by at least one elected official to be preferable to nothing at all. Seriously...unreal.)

His excuse - because he always has a convenient one - follows the now-familiar theme of blaming someone else. According to Orser, his webmaster, who according to reports also owns a porn site, screwed up. Orser added he doesn't know much about technology, and called the response an "orchestrated campaign" against him. (London Free Press story here: Coun. Stephen Orser in another online mess)

Sorry dude, but this one's all on you. If you wouldn't put your foot into it so consistently and instead behaved like a mensch, maybe your political opponents wouldn't find it so easy to go after you for being the kind of person I'd never want my children to emulate. You might also want to try finding better friends and associates, because your current bunch also seems to fail the mentor-for-my-kids test.

Coming on the heels of what I thought was a really great talk with some of London's most notable business leaders - Orser wasn't there, but Mayoral candidate Matt Brown was. Mayor Joe Fontana was busy preparing for his fraud trial that's currently underway - this latest chapter in Orser's political career disappoints me to no end, and I'm guessing I'm not alone in throwing my hands up in frustration.

Because yet again, our city is tarred with bush league idiocy by a city councillor who seems to bounce from one blame-everyone-else-but-himself incident to another. Yet again our agenda is hijacked while other cities, professionally led by civic-minded councillors who seem to innately know how to earn respect, race ahead of us. Orser's latest mess-up was, like all of his previous ones, no simple mistake. It's not remotely acceptable, and this city deserves better.

At what point does London say "enough"? At what point do we take the morons who discredit us and bounce them, once and for all, from office? At what point does this city decide to it deserves a better class of leadership?


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Learning from eBay's mistakes

By every definition, the eBay security breach - the one where hackers broke into the main database that stores personal information, including passwords, of the online auction company's 145 million users - is shaping up to be one of the most damaging in history.

Beyond the numbers, though, there's an emerging lesson of how victimized companies should never respond. And it's clear eBay is setting a new low thanks to its bumbling, stumbling response to the break-in.

I wrote an article for Yahoo Canada Finance that summarizes the kinds of behaviours other companies might want to avoid in future, and what's at stake if they fail to learn from eBay's dubious example. Here's the link:
eBay hack: Top 4 things the company did wrong
For what it's worth, this isn't strictly an eBay issue. You don't have to have an eBay account for this to touch you - currently or potentially - in some way. If eBay drops the ball, any company can drop the ball (cough, Target, cough.) Sooner or later, this compromises all of us.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thematic Photographic 296 - Cloudspotting

Something's brewing up there
London, ON
May 2014
It only seems like a lifetime ago that I was lying flat-out on my front lawn, staring up at the sky and trying to see shapes in the passing clouds. It seems like a world away, as well, and considering I have kids of my own who easily do the same thing on our lawn here in London, it may as well be.

As the temperatures finally begin to feel like spring and even sort-of summer-ish, we're starting to see what the meteorologists call "active weather". Which gives the kid in me lots of stuff to watch for in the skies overhead. And lots to think about as I wonder why more of us don't take the time to enjoy the never-ending show from above.

Your turn: Find some clouds. Any clouds. Or something that reminds you of clouds. Shoot it, post it, and comment here. Visit other participants and return through the week to see what everyone's up to and, if you're game, add even more to the mix. Head here for more background on how Thematic Photographic works. And enjoy. Because that's why we do this.

Keep your feet on the ground...

Big stretch
London, ON
March 2014
Thematic. Trees & branches. Here.
I'm not one to follow the lives of celebrities. There are, after all, so many more things to discuss and learn from, and it seems like such a waste of energy to devote brain cycles to the Kardashians or the Biebers of the world.

And yet here I find my interest piqued by the life of Casey Kasem, the legendary radio host whose decline - he suffers from dementia - has been garnering headlines of late after he was reported missing by family members. He has since been located, but the incident laid bare a rather nasty battle between various family members.

Illness is tragic. Illness plus family strife is tragedy compounded, and I do hope the man finds some sense of peace amid all of this. In the meantime, his tagline - keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars - always seems to come to mind whenever I find myself staring at the canopy of a tree.

There's no way in heck that tree will ever come remotely close to the stars. But it reaches for them, anyway. Somehow, not trying in the first place isn't an option. For the tree, and, I'm guessing, for anyone who chooses to look at it.

Your turn: What are you reaching for?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On critical thinking

"One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview - not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases. But people prefer reassurance to research."
Neil deGrasse Tyson
First in a very long series of quotes that individually and collectively reinforce why I believe Dr. Tyson is a voice we might want to be listening to.

Fruitography revisited

‎I spent my Saturday night not at some trendy club or a sold out show. No, nothing that exciting for me. Instead I went  grocery shopping. Because long after the umbrella in your overpriced drink has wilted and the curtain has fallen, you still have to eat.

The good news is I wasn't alone. I was with my wife and daughter, which very quickly turned the evening into something infinitely more exciting than any club or show ever could be.‎ In the end it's all about perspective. And it looks like I'm right where I need to be.

About this picture: I kind of went a little bonkers with the fruit-section photography - aka fruitography - again. It turns out that guerrilla photo bombing in the grocery store is easier to pull off when you're using a smartphone, as store employees think you're reading your grocery list instead of composing. Seriously, you can't buy this amount of family fun.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Telus, Mobilicity, Canada, the U.S., and you

In between throwing on a pair of cargo shorts, a t-shirt and sandals and walking the dog, I write. Wait, that's a lie. I often write after I walk the dog. Like late at night. Or early in the morning. Because that's the quietest time of day when the noise of the rest of the world seems to ease off and give me just enough head space to get some real think work done.

And so it was last night as I drafted an outline and threw together some disconnected snippets for Friday's deadlined article, then tucked myself in, only to wake up long before most other folks in our time zone so I could listen to the voices in my head churn various ideas and treatments. When the pieces finally seemed to start coalescing around something workable, I rolled out of bed and padded down to the office.

Before long, the article was done. It's about Telus's failed bid - actually, its third bid - to take over Mobilicity (think big wireless carrier fish trying to swallow smaller, flailing wireless carrier fish and you've kinda got it.) The Telus/Mobilicity flameout illustrates the challenges we continue to face in our rather expensive, less-than-optimally-competitive wireless market. For some bizarre reason, I find telecom-based stories to be infinitely fun to research and write, and I was particularly pleased with this outcome.

Here's a link to the resulting article on Yahoo Canada Finance:
Telus & Mobilicity: Why competitiveness hangs in the balance
Enjoy the read!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Don't auction this: eBay drops the security ball

Stop me if you've heard this story before: a big company reports being hacked, and millions of consumers are now at risk.

Surprised? Not so much.

This time, it's eBay's turn. The online auction company yesterday announced that hackers had broken into its systems sometime between late February and early March (nothing like a precise date, no?) and gained access to 145 million records.

A company spokesperson says the intruders copied "a large part" of that data, but could not confirm precisely how many users were affected. The records included email addresses, birthdays, mailing addresses and other personal data. They also included passwords, but the spokesperson said they were encrypted (all the other stuff was unencrypted.) You'll forgive me if I don't feel all warm and fuzzy here, as the company's reaction is, in a word, lame.

I ended up doing some pretty fascinating broadcast work around this story, including a visit to CTV London's studios that netted 5 interviews - 4 on this topic alone - by the time I was done there.
For funsies, this morning I was back at CTV London's studios for a live hit with Canada AM's Beverly Thomson (video here). Just before going to air, I did a phoner with John Moore on NewsTalk 1010 Toronto. The surreal journey continues, I guess. As long as I don't use eBay to unload my stuff.

Wishing for an Undo key...

I've been thinking a lot about the Undo key lately. It's a pretty powerful command that has bailed me out of more deep technological holes than I dare admit. On my Mac, hitting Command-Z lets me undo whatever mistakes I made. It gives me the ability to go back in time and pretend I never made the mistake in the first place. Then I can rewrite the moment as I had originally intended.

Pretty powerful stuff. I only wish it worked beyond the context of my laptop.

See, last Tuesday was a pretty charmed day in my life. I had scheduled a quick drive into Toronto to join NewsTalk 1010's Round 2 panel with morning show host John Moore. I've been actively working on growing my media brand and doing new and neat stuff on-air, and this was a perfect opportunity to meet the folks I've worked with remotely for so long, and see the new studios. I booked some meetings, as well, which made for a very early, very long, very challenging and ultimately very exciting morning.

I also arranged to meet a radio host from the Kitchener-Waterloo region who I've worked with for years but had never actually met. He has been a mentor figure to me since the first time he had me on his show, and I was looking forward to finally putting a face to the voice. I was going to pop off the highway on the way back to London, and we'd meet for an early afternoon bite and then chat for a bit.

Unfortunately, I got a call after I was done doing the radio thing. A big tech story was breaking, and the folks at CTV wanted to know if I could comment. Given how close I was to CTV's national studios, I detoured there to do another quick interview (or two, or...) before heading home. Of course, all this took time, and it meant I'd have to postpone meeting my friend on the drive home.

The CTV experience was surreal. I met the team that turns my random ramblings into great television, and got to work out of the best equipped newsroom in the country. The most amazing thing was that folks who I've admired pretty much forever knew who I was. It was the kind of day that reminded me how lucky I am. It may not be an easy trek to carve out a career in the middle of today's media landscape, but Tuesday's experience sure reinforced that I'm on the right track.

My friend was understanding, and sent me a quick return message that I picked up on my smartphone just as I was about to go on-air again: "No time."

Fast forward a week and I get another message from him: "We should have had that lunch. Instead, I had a heart attack." He was in hospital, awaiting surgery, which by my watch is scheduled to begin in a little over a couple of hours.

Cardiac care being what it is in this country, I expect him to pull through with flying colours - but feel free to join me in a prayer or nine if you wish, because you can never get enough - but the sequence continues to play in my mind: Life happened and I had to shift gears. Work took precedence over personal. I get that. He gets that. We all get that. But still the thought remains: We didn't have that lunch, and then this happened. This happened.

I've had a this happen to me, and I appreciate the immediate sense of regret that washes over you as you think about all the things you didn't get to do, then the followup sense of fear that you won't get a second chance to actually do those things you haven't yet done.

I had the moment in my grasp, and I chose to let it go - a choice I wish I could now undo. Problem is there's no Undo key for this one. Only a yet-to-be-written script for my friend's story that I hope has a happy ending. Because lunch with him is something I can't wait to experience.

Refuah shlemah...only in health.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Major investor sells off BlackBerry shares

Interesting times in Canadian business after news broke that Fairfax Financial, which has long been one of the biggest boosters of BlackBerry, had sold off a big chunk of stock and was no longer the beleaguered Canadian smartphone maker's largest shareholder.

Because I'm always looking for the why behind the story, I picked up my pen - okay, keyboard - and started writing. Turns out there's more to this story than initially meets the eye.

The resulting piece was published on Yahoo Canada Finance this morning:
Making sense of Fairfax's BlackBerry selloff

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thematic Photographic 295 - Trees & Branches

Standing, for now
London, ON
March 2014
We're going with trees and branches as this week's theme because of a rather sad moment of realization I had just last week.
I was pulling into the parking lot at our son's school as I had done countless times before. This place has been our home away from home for more years than I dare admit - my wife teaches there, and our older kids studied there, too - so the entire campus is pretty much committed to muscle memory.

And something on this morning seemed off.

At first I couldn't quite figure it out. But then it hit me: The sky was a lot more open than I remembered it. The stand of old growth, delightfully tall trees at the edge of the parking lot had been partially cut down, leaving a gaping void where lush greenery once stood.

I immediately thought back to the photo above. I had taken it as part of a series this past March. The kids were attending an after-school program, and I was waiting in the parking lot with little to do beyond fiddle with my camera and stare. So I took a walk in the snow and shot the moment.

Little did I know that this would be the last picture I'd ever take of this particular tree.

And so we have this week's theme. Because they can disappear in a blink.

Your turn: Shoot a tree, or branches, or, as you can see here, both. Post the result - or results - to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants through the week to share the photographic joy, and feel free to invite a friend along for the ride. For more info on how Thematic works, click here. Thanks again for making this such a highlight. Enjoy...

On (not) growing up

"To grow up is to wonder about things; to be grown up is to slowly forget the things you wondered about as a child."
Henning Mankell
I think we all know what the lesson is here...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When light compresses the view

Comings and goings
London, ON
September 2013
Thematic. Landscapes. Here.
Long lenses can do some pretty amazing things to an otherwise ordinary scene. Perhaps my favorite trait is that of compression: a long focal length tends to squish the scene from back to front - or front to back, depending on how you look at it. It lets you see ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

And so it did on this sunny September morning as I stood on a hospital parking structure. I was feeling less than my usual shiny happy self - hence the visit to the hospital - and I was alone in this silent world of concrete. I probably spent entirely too much time slowly walking the abandoned slabs in between the cars, but something about this place begged me to hang around for a little while longer. I wandered over to the edge to clear my head, and when I looked through the lens I realized why I had come here.

I may yet have more visits to the hospital in my future, but as long as I have a camera in my backpack, I'll always have the potential for a moment to stare out over the edge of an otherwise ordinary place and see the neighborhood in anything but an ordinary context. To anyone else it's just a picture. But to me, the possibility of being able to have moments like this is something that begs to be held onto. Tightly.

Your turn: Got any scenes nearby that beg to be compressed like this? Tell us about them.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Net neutrality is dead

Net neutrality is one of those things that nerds talk about at parties, but it never quite seems to cross over into mainstream discussion. After today, I'm guessing it probably should.

Long story short - and I'll apologize for keeping it short, because I'm supposed to be working on it right now - net neutrality means that when you go online, everyone can potentially have equal access to the same bandwidth. If I merge onto the highway, I can use any lane I want, and drive at any speed as long as I'm obeying the rules of the road.

In a ruling that just came down a few minutes ago, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission - better known as the FCC - opened the door to allowing companies, say Netflix, to pay carriers more for the privilege of higher-speed, privileged access. In other words, that big left lane over there? You're driving in it only if your car has a special sticker. That you paid a lot of money for. Don't want to pay the piper for faster service? Or can't afford it? Tough. Over to the slow lane for you, buddy.

The CEOs of some of the largest ISPs in the U.S., including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, signed a letter to the FCC that supported the creation of a so-called slow lane. Their reasoning? The government shouldn't mess with their business, and doing so would make it difficult for them to continue to innovate. As the major carriers continue a wave of unprecedented consolidation, the combination of market-dominant monopolies and the freedom to charge more to bigger fish who can afford it means their shareholders are happy campers today.

Web services companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix have a decidedly different perspective. They call the FCC's plan a “grave threat” to an open Internet because it would allow ISPs to discriminate against content providers - and it would add cost and complexity to their business models, which are all based on an open and free Internet. Not surprisingly, content owners, artists and other creatives have protested the move, as well.

Nothing changes today, of course. It's just one step in a very long process. Next up, a comment-and-review period, then a second vote, then a final FCC ruling later this year.

All of this is something of a slippery slope, with enough nuances to keep us all up at night for months. But the bottom line is the Internet as we once knew it will be changed irrevocably because of today's ruling. And it's only a matter of time before the U.S. policy decision influences policies in Canada and other nations.

More on this as it develops, but I wanted to at least get it out there for starters.

Your turn: Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The protectors around us

Keeping folks out of the ditch since 1924
Kilworth, ON
April 2014
For more Thematic landscapes, here here
I've been taking my bike out for shakedown rides to get a feel for the saddle and slowly work myself back into bike shape. I first wrote about it here, and since then I've gradually pushed the length of each ride up and allowed myself to get further from home.

Sure, it's just a bike ride, but this year it's somehow become something more, I don't know, meaningful. And I'm grateful for that. I guess you appreciate the seemingly mundane skill of riding a bicycle after you've come within millimetres of losing that ability. Mark another thing I no longer take for granted.

I'm still nowhere near setting any speed records, and strangely I'm absolutely fine with that. I've added a mirror to the bike and tossed my old, finicky Cateye Vectra (don't laugh) computer in place of a Garmin GPS unit, so I'm still getting used to the new gear. And as it becomes more normal to me, I'm incrementally pushing my average speeds back toward where they used to be. Will I get there? Don't really know and don't really care. For now, all that matters is that I'm out there.

I'm still stopping for rests along the way. Not necessarily because I need to, but because I feel the need to soak up more from the places I've been. I can't very well say I've "been" somewhere if all I did was roll through it at 30 km/h. So if I see a particularly scenic spot, I'm just as likely to stop and drink it in for a few minutes. And if I take a picture to remember the moment, so much the better.

Your turn: When you travel - on a bike, in a car, in a plane, whatever - do you take stops along the way? What do you see?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thematic Photographic 294 - Landscapes

London, ON
February 2014
I've chosen Landscapes as this week's theme because now that the snow's finally melted away, I've been getting out, both on foot and on my bike, and starting to take tentative steps back into the big world. I've also begun taking my camera along for the ride, because I never quite know when I'll be inspired to bring home a picture or two of what I came across.

On this late afternoon, it was a stretch of oddly shaped snow in the middle of the parking lot. It struck me as particularly desolate, and a perfect representation of the winter we thought would never end. On any other day, in any other place, there's almost no way of knowing what will grab my eye. And that's what makes it so rewarding.

Your turn: For the next week, I hope you'll all head out into the big world and grab a few landscape-themed pictures of your very own. I hope you'll then upload it to your blog or website, then leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other participants to share in the photographic fun, and head here if you need a primer on how Thematic Photographic works. Most of all, have fun with it. Because photography should be fun.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On never letting go of the funny

"Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat!"
Joanne Woodward
It cuts both ways, of course, and it largely explains why I'll never let go of the funny, and I'm glad I found someone who has always adhered to similar principles.

It amazes me how even the hardest obstacles in life are rendered surmountable with a laugh and a smile. Try it and let me know how it works out. I'll be over here continuing to try to make my wife laugh. Because life without laughing isn't much of a life.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On friends and numbers

"As we grow up, we realize it is less important to have lots of friends and more important to have real ones."
Amanda McRae
I was never the popular kid in school, and even now I don't have a lot of friends, but the ones that I do have, I treasure. I see it as a quality over quantity thing in that I don't have time or patience to maintain large numbers of relatively shallow relationships. I'd rather have a smaller number of connections that really matter.

After all, it isn't a game, and I don't feel an overwhelming need to impress anyone. And when push comes to shove, the folks who really matter always seem to find a way to be there. Everyone else? Immaterial.

Your turn: Thoughts?

One more thing: Hat tip to my wife for finding this one. FWIW, she's my best friend. Hands down. No one else even comes close.

Friday, May 09, 2014

The sorry state of wireless in Canada

J.D. Power released a survey yesterday that suggested Canadian wireless consumers are increasingly satisfied with the service they receive from our national carriers. The more I dug into the numbers, the more I started to wonder. If things were really so peachy, why was it impossible for me to find one friend, colleague or family member who was happy with his/her wireless service?

Canadians love to complain about everything. While we tend to do so politely - often apologizing for our curmudgeonliness - we also tend to leave our best (or would that be our worst) whining for our wireless carriers. We spend too much, get too little, receive lousy customer service and little loyalty. We need mobile devices to survive in today's world, but we feel hosed every time we walk into the store.

So to bridge the apparent gap between this survey's conclusions and my own experiences, I did some research and wrote this opinion piece for Yahoo Canada Finance: Canada’s wireless industry isn’t as rosy as it seems

I think I need some tea to calm down. And where's my smartphone? Kids, get off of my lawn!

Walking the dogs with my printer

Following dad
London, ON
February 2013
Thematic. Pets. Here.
This scene is a bit of a fluke, a shot that happened not because it was planned, but because I happened to be in a certain spot at a certain time. Sometimes you just have to shoot whatever's around you. You can always figure it out later. Or not.

I'm not sure why this guy was carrying a printer box through the park on a bitterly cold winter's day, or where he had come from, or where he was headed. But at the time I didn't think it made much sense to overthink the moment. I needed to shoot and get my fingers back in my mitts before I could no longer feel them.

I had been shooting landscapes of the park while the kids played in the adjacent playground - part of my attempt to cheer them up on this otherwise sad day - and the sight of two dogs following their human papa through the park seemed to spark something in me. They were pretty far away, so I used the long reach of the lens to fake it, and hopefully fool him into thinking I was shooting nearby.

As you can see, I failed on that front. Oh's not as if I'm tagging the guy on Facebook. Wherever he is today, he has my thanks for helping signpost a day that ended up being significant to us for all the wrong reasons.

Your turn: What's the guy thinking? If you could add a caption bubble to him, what would it say?

A quick thanks... the hundreds of folks from every corner of the planet for making my birthday yesterday a day to remember. I didn't have much time during the day to spend with Facebook or Twitter - most days I'd get nothing done if I didn't turn both of them completely off - but when I popped in before bed I was blown away by the sheer number of good wishes. I am indeed blessed on a whole lot of levels.

Of course, I didn't need technology to realize how blessed I am. My amazing wife and beyond-incredible kids stopped at nothing to make the day special. I still don't know what I ever did to deserve them, but I'm thankful the stars aligned as they did.

May we all continue to have much to celebrate, and may we all continue to be surrounded by remarkable people who manage to make good things even better.

Thank you all!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Another year...

The calendar tells me that today is my birthday, a day where I get to celebrate another trip around the sun, another year since I made my way into the world and started putting my own ding into the universe.

It's been a year of dings. I've expanded my footprint as a journalist and have managed to get some really cool work done in the process. I've been able to build a personal brand while still finding ways to be in the parking lot when my kid finishes school, or walk the dog with my wife so we can debrief the day and reconnect with each other before we tuck in for the night.

I've done interviews from the beach and I've written entire articles with my thumbs while sitting in my parked car in the middle of a blizzard. I've done live television from my living room with the dog at my feet, and then toddled into the kitchen to make some tea and watch the sun come up.

I got to feed my personal and professional soul this year. It wasn't and isn't easy - flying on your own isn't supposed to be - but that's entirely the point of what I do. Challenge makes it meaningful, and I'd have it no other way.

I was able to pursue, and to a certain extent achieve, balance. And for that I'm profoundly thankful.

It's also been a rough year, and if we're being brutally honest - sorry, as I don't really know any other way - I'm especially glad that I made it to this particular May 8th to celebrate this particular birthday. I probably shouldn't be here at all, yet here I am. Lucky, I guess.

I've had some time to let this insane chapter sink in, and I've come to the realization that too many of us seem to forget that every day is a gift. I was reminded of this very simple fact rather starkly last summer. It's a reminder that sticks with me every moment of every day, and as a result I won't take this day, or any other, for granted again.

These days, I take more time to walk the dog, to enjoy being on the other end of his leash, to talk to my wife, to listen to the sound of Canadian Geese as their wings slice the air above, to suck in whatever is going on around me, however trivial it might seem on the surface. I humbly suggest you consider doing the same. Because nothing is ever really too trivial. Because you just never know.

So as I float through a special day dictated by orbital mechanics, biology and a bunch of ancient scientists who dictated our present-day planetary math, please forgive me if I seem a little more reflective, a little more careful with my words, a little less into the typical celebratory-ness of the typical birthday. Because today's isn't typical. No day is anymore. And from where I sit I figure that's a perfectly fine way to live.

Your turn: What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Is Twitter dead?

Provocative question, I know. And a valid one considering the rough ride its stock has had over the past week or so. The company announced its quarterly financial results last week - its second since going public last November - and while revenues continued to grow, so did expenses and red ink. Stagnating user growth also spooked investors, who promptly sold off their shares en masse.

Fast forward to this week and the selloff continued as the first lockup period expired - and early investors headed for the exits. As I write this, the stock is testing all-time lows as speculation grows over what Twitter will do next to turn its fortunes around. Scary times in the Twitterverse.

For what it's worth, I am a huge advocate of both this company and the service it provides. It is a true innovator that, perhaps more than any other social media service - including Facebook - has transformed how we connect online. But it's hard to ignore the obstacles it now faces as it tries to connect with users who may not always "get" the latent power and sophistication it brings to the online space. A bit of a rethink may be in order.

I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance: What Twitter needs to do next

Your turn: Do you use Twitter? Why/why not? (And while I'm in shameless-plug mode, my handle is @carmilevy)

One more thing: Yahoo Canada Finance launched its new Facebook page today - link here. Feel free to like it because I know how much y'all love reading what I write.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Swimmers no more

London, ON

January 2014
For more Thematic pets, please click here
I'll fess up now: I'm not a fish person. Sure, I appreciate them very much given their critical position within the ecosystem, and I enjoy watching a pond full of koi just as much as anyone else. But I can't seem to cross the great divide and have them as pets. Not anymore, anyway.

See, I have a dismal track record when it comes to keeping goldfish alive. Some people have brown thumbs. And although I'm not sure what euphemistic color my digits would otherwise be, it's entirely fair to call me an inadvertent pet fish killer. As soon as they see me through the sides of their glass bowls, I'm quite certain the countdown clock begins ticking.

Perhaps to atone for my bad-fish-owner vibe, I shoot them at the grocery store. Maybe there isn't really a reason beyond the fact that they just look so bizarre on that bed of ice. I've never actually bought fish to bring home for supper - personal rule: no eating anything I can recognize - so I'm not sure what might compel a shopper to pick the left-hand fish over the right-hand one. But as photographic subjects, they pretty much top everything else in the store.

Your turn: These fish need names. Suggestions?

Monday, May 05, 2014

Thematic Photographic 293 - Pets

Hanging out on on Frasier's pillow
London, ON
April 2014
There's something to be said for having a pet. Whatever that something is, it isn't about convenience, or keeping the house clean, or enjoying peace and quiet before dawn, or leaving inordinate amounts of money at the vet. Sometimes I think about the logic of having a dog in the first place and wonder what the heck we were thinking when we brought his bedraggled, rescued-from-an-abusive-home little self home all those years ago.

But then I see moments like this and realize it isn't about the inconvenience, the messiness, the noise or the money. It has nothing to do with logic, or order, or anything remotely approaching the visual perfection of a Good Housekeeping-worthy home.

My late step-grandmother - who I'll say as gently as possible was not the world's nicest woman - had the most pristine living room. Mirror-glass coffee and end tables, plastic-covered velour couches and carpet that was vacuumed to a microscopically even surface, and you left footprints in it when you walked on it. Perhaps to counterbalance her meanness, I revelled in leaving foot-dragging trails in the carpet, smudges on the tables and whatever else I could muster for the sofas. I'm sure she whipped it back to perfection mere minutes after we left. But she could never make it a home. And I'm guessing the mere thought of a dog gave her hives.

Our carpet isn't anywhere near as immaculate as my late step-grandmother's, and our end tables, when they're not buried with everyday messes, don't blind us with their reflection. Frasier has contributed more than his fair share of scars to this place. Yet our house, imperfect and zoo-like as it is, is home, and that's in large part due to his being right in the middle of it. And one look at our daughter's face is all I really need to justify the moment we decided to make him a part of our family. I'll take that any day over Bubby Fanny's eerily vacuumed carpet.

Your turn: If you've got pictures of pets - yours, a friend's, a stranger's, whatever - I hope you'll share it on your blog and leave a comment here letting folks know where to find it. Visit other Thematic participants throughout the week and feel free to share as many pics as you can muster. If you're new to the Thematic thing, click here for instructions. And be sure to make nice to whatever animal happens to cross your path. They really are cathartic.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

On tenacity

"Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire."
Patti Smith
Because the moment you do, it's over.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Reflecting where the water meets the sea

Watching the waves
Grand Bend, ON
September 2013
For more reflective Thematic, please click here
The day was windy and not altogether ideal for being at the beach. But this is Canada. And as long as it isn't snowing, we'll be out there (and even then...) Because you can't choose the weather, and you never know what the next day will bring. Or the next.

So you take advantage of it now. And if you have to put on a hooded sweatshirt as the wind whips the sand in your face, so be it. It's what being alive is all about.

I'm guessing this gentleman was having similar thoughts as he sat at the end of the pier and watched the crashing surf. I'm also guessing the swimmers in the distance reached the same conclusion. Live for today. Suck up as much as you possibly can. Because you never know.

Your turn: What's he thinking?

Friday, May 02, 2014

On the brilliance of friends

"I am doing the best I can with the equipment I have to understand this crazy thing called life."
Dan Brown
I often post quotes to the blog because, let's face it, we all need as much inspiration as we can get (click here for all quotes-tagged entries.) The quotes I choose are usually things I've found online, typically said or written by relatively famous people - usually strangers, too.

I was chatting online with my friend, Dan Brown, last night, when he shared this gem. And I realized that great quotes don't always have to come from afar. So I'm going to do my best to include perspectives from folks I know.

Your turn: Got a quote from a friend? Or your own? Do share!

Ontario Budget 2014: Nowhere near enough

One of the privileges of being a journalist is you get to do gratifying things with some pretty brilliant people. Yesterday was no exception.

Our provincial government here in Ontario released its latest budget yesterday afternoon. Premier Kathleen Wynne is hanging on something of a thread as her minority Liberal government's future sits in the opposition NDP's hands. If they support the budget, it's business as usual. If they oppose it, we're going to the polls.

As Finance Minister Charles Sousa walked Queens Park through the budget document, I tore through the PDF and looked for perspectives on what it could mean to the province's tech sector. After quickly pulling the key talking points together, I popped on-air with Mike Stubbs on London's 1290 CJBK and we quickly talked it out. For what it's worth, I did this from my wife's classroom, using my laptop tethered to my BlackBerry, as I sat in a desk that was about three sizes too small for my not-overly-large frame.
Mobile technology rules.)

Mike had been quarterbacking fast-response coverage of the budget with a team of folks ranging from the CJBK newsroom to CTV London reporter Cristina Howorun to Candice Malcolm, Ontario Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The audio package is available here, and yet again I'm reminded how lucky I am to do this.

Update - May 02, 10:18 a.m.: It's official. Ontario is headed to the polls after NDP leader Andrea Horwath announced her party would vote against the budget. The move signals the beginning of the end of the minority Liberal government.

Her tweet says it all: We cannot support a budget that is irresponsible and a gov't that is unaccountable. We will not being voting for this budget. #onpoli

Ladies and gentlemen, start your lawn signs and robo-dialers. Here we go...

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Internet Explorer - businesses pay the price

This Internet Explorer weakness thing gets more fun by the day. PwC yesterday released the results of its 6th annual Digital IQ Survey, and the numbers highlight a significant problem in Canadian business: Companies want to be more tech savvy, and they recognize the need to do so. But they fail to act on it. Which leaves them uncompetitive. And exposed.

Periodic upheavals like the Heartbleed bug and the IE vulnerability don't help matters. So to illustrate the risks and the costs, I wrote a piece for Yahoo Canada Finance:
IE vulnerability exposes growing Canadian knowledge gap
I'm guessing this is all fun and games until someone hacks you into the Dark Ages.

This just in: At 10am PDT today, Microsoft released the fix to patch the known vulnerability in IE (CNET, blog entry from Microsoft's Dustin C. Childs). Surprisingly, it includes Windows XP. Download it immediately. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.