Friday, August 31, 2007

VoiceCon - Podcasts with Key Speakers

I didn't attend VoiceCon last week, but I heard a lot of good things about it. As you may know, I contribute when I can to the UCS portal - Unified Communications Strategies, which is a great resource for anyone following UC.

They were definitely busy at VoiceCon, especially Blair Pleasant and Jim Burton. Jim was telling me they had put together a number of podcasts done with key speakers, and they're now posted on the portal. Lots of good content there about trends in UC, including podcasts with Microsoft, Avaya, Intervoice, IBM and others.

I especially liked the IBM podcast with Mike Rhodin. In addition to elaborating on IBM's plans to build on their Lotus Sametime installed base for UC, Mike talks about why they just acquired WebDialogs. It's always great to see small companies with great technology being acquired by the likes of IBM, and it's a nice payoff for Lou Guercia who has taken WebDialogs to the promised land - hopefully. I've gotten to know Lou a bit through Andy Abramson, who does their PR, and WebDialogs is actually the second client on his roster to become acquired recently (the other is GrandCentral). Good news all around, and I'm hoping we'll all see other at the TMC Expo in two weeks time.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Odiogo - Listening to Blogs - Why Not?

I came across a post from Jeff Pulver the other day that really caught my eye, and I wanted to share it here.

His post was about a company called Odiogo, and they use text-to-speech to automatically convert your blog posts into audio posts. I think that's a great idea, and am going to look into this for myself.

Jeff provides a link where you can listen for yourself. There's also an audio sample on the company's website. The meter and cadence of the speaking is a bit robotic, but you can certainly follow the narrative. For people who don't have time to read your posts, or have a long commute, this is a great way to get your content out there and reach a broader audience. As with regular blogs, you can set up RSS feeds and subscribe to your favorite blogs who are using it. Download the files before hopping on the train or plane, and you'll never miss a post from your favorite bloggers.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. The website even tells you how to embed ads in your audio posts, so you can truly maximize your revenue potential, if that's what you're into.

Ideally, bloggers would voice record their posts so their followers can hear them in their natural voice, but who has the time to do that? Odiogo is an automated process, so you make a bit of a trade off in not having to do any extra work to extend your reach as opposed to strengthening your personal brand with your own audio posts. For most of us, the trade-off is a small price to pay.

I also like the fact you can do this with articles as well, so for people like me who write beyond the blog, Odiogo allows me to get a lot of content out there in a new format without a lot of extra work.

Thanks for the post, Jeff! I see that Odiogo is based in Jerusalem, and it looks like all your recent travels there are yielding some nice finds.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Next Stop - TMC IT Expo, Los Angeles

A few days ago, fellow blogger Ken Camp posted about the sessions he'll be moderating at the upcoming TMC IT Expo. Ken knows our space really well, and if you have time at the show, I definitely would urge you to seek him out - he won't be hard to find. And I can certainly help you do that.

Ken's post reminded me I should be doing the same, as I'll be moderating a couple of sessions as well.

One is on Innovative Applications, and is on Monday at 10am.

The second session, also on Monday is about one of my favorite topics, Telepresence, running at 12:15.

You can read more about the sessions on my website, as well as view my welcome videos for each one.

The show runs from Monday Sept. 10 through Sept. 12, and I'll be there Monday and Tuesday. As with Ken, I won't be hard to find.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

IPTV Middleware Webinar With Espial - Sept 18 - Registration Open

Just wanted to let you know about an upcoming webinar that I'm participating in. It's being sponsored by Espial, and they'll be presenting their position on the cost of ownership - TCO - associated with IPTV middleware, and its role in making for a successful and cost-effective IPTV deployment.

I've been invited to speak during the webinar, and if you're interested in this space, it would be great to have you join us. As with most all webinars, there's no cost to participate, and you can read all about it and register here. Hope you can make it.

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Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Elliot Katz - Microsoft Vista

This week, my guest was Elliot Katz from Microsoft Canada. Elliot is the Senior Product Manager, Windows Client, and I invited him to come speak about Vista and Office 2007. With Microsoft being so ubiquitous, I don't mind devoting a podcast to a company's product offering, since almost everyone uses it.

Elliot provided a rich perspective on the "four pillars" behind Vista, and we focused mainly on two - security and mobility. There certainly was a lot to talk about, and being a user of both products, I found this particularly interesting. Definitely a lot of security challenges when you're such a big, tempting target for all the bad guys out there, and Elliot also talked about some of the Vista features that protect corporate data on notebooks that get lost or stolen.

We also touched briefly on the Canadian experience in adopting Vista, which not surprisingly lags the U.S. Elliot also talked about the roles and contributions Microsoft Canada provides in developing Vista.

You can download the podcast here, as well as read more about Elliot.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

MetaSwitch Article on Unified Communications

I've been a fan of MetaSwitch for a long time, and they're a great example of a company that's focused on their market and their customers. They don't make a lot of noise, but they get their share of business and are constantly innovating. All the hallmarks you want to see in a successful company.

MetaSwitch started publishing an e-Newsletter late last year, which is something I think all vendors should be doing. They asked me to contribute an article for the current issue, and I wrote about Unified Communications. The August 2007 issue went live a few days ago, and I just wanted to pass the word on - not just about my article, but for their newsletter as well. If you like what you see, then sign up - am sure they'd be happy to add you to their list.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

VoIP Supply Makes Inc. Magazine's Top 500 List

I just love these good news stories, and it's too bad more people aren't picking up on it. Fellow blogger Garrett Smith is a mainstay at Buffalo-based VoIP Supply Inc., one of my favorite VoIP companies.

Yesterday he shared the news with me, although it's not posted yet on the company website. In short, Inc. Magazine has ranked VoIP Supply 359 on its list of 500 fastest growing U.S. companies over the past three years. As Garrett notes on VoIP Supply's company blog, the company has achieved cumulative growth of 738% over that period.

Now, THAT's the kind of growth we've been looking for in the space - whoo hoo! And it didn't come from Silicon Valley, or Silicon Alley, or MIT Labs. Nope - from Buffalo, home of chicken wings, the almost-ready for prime time Sabres, the never-ready for prime time Bills, and a lot of really cool Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Way to go guys! When's the IPO?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cisco Networking Academy - One Way of Giving Back

Most companies are in the business of making money, but giving back can take many forms. One of the ways Cisco does this is through their Networking Academy, which will be marking its 10th anniversary this October.

The Networking Academy is Cisco's way of providing education and certification programs to encourage and prepare people for careers in IT and networking management. Their program is well established with over 500,000 students participating worldwide across more than 165 countries.

I got to learn more about this during a briefing on Tuesday down at Cisco Canada's Telepresence facility. So, not only did I get to learn about something new, but I got an extended taste of their Telepresence experience.

Our briefing was led by Amy Christen, out of San Jose - via Telepresence, of course - and supported locally by Anne Miller, Cisco's Canadian Education Marketing Manager. They did a great job, and I had no idea how extensive these programs are and how valuable they can be for getting people - both kids and adults - on tech career paths - either right out of school or even as second careers.

I was personally interested, since my oldest son, Max is attending SATEC, one of the Toronto-area high schools participating in this program. He's very focused on getting his CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), and now I know a lot more about what that really means.

Pretty interesting stuff, and globally, it was quite fascinating to learn how active this program is in emerging markets, which account for roughly 1/3 of all their students. In fact, only 20% of their enrollment comes from the U.S. and Canada. Within Canada, there are about 7,000 students right now, and to date has produced just under 50,000 graduates.

Canada is certainly producing its share of success stories, and this was covered off nicely during the session. If you want to learn more about this, give me a ring, or visit the Cisco website for Canada's Network Academy. With programs like these, I'd have to say it's a pretty good time to be considering career paths in tech and IT.

Switching hats for a moment, I wanted to share some photos of the session to give you a flavor of the Telepresence experience itself. This was my first time using Telepresence simply as a medium, so I was truly just an end user. We weren't there to talk about Telepresence, but I couldn't help thinking that way.

It really is very life like, and after a few minutes, it feels totally natural and not virtual at all. The image and sound quality was great, and the video was very real time. Eye contact was the only area that needed work. When looking back at those of us not sitting dead center, Amy's gaze was actually one person too far over from where we were. Am not sure why that was happening, but she pretty quickly got the cues, and after that, was able to make direct eye contact with everyone.

Have a look - courtesy of my Nokia N93...

One cool thing about Telepresence is that it's actually a phone call. To initiate a session you simply call in from the Cisco phone - just one button to push, that's it.

Also, notice the projection image just underneath where Amy is sitting - on the white background. That's where we watch the slide presentation she's giving from her location back in San Jose.


I really like this photo, as it shows how seamless the video experience is, even when split across two screens. There are 3 panels in total, and in this shot, I captured how Amy's hands cross from one screen panel to the next while typing on her PC. It's not quite The Matrix, but I thought it was a pretty cool proof point of how well this works.


For perspective, I wanted to get a shot to show how our conference table blends in with the virtual conference table where Amy is sitting, 3,000 miles away. From where we're sitting, it very much looks likes everyone is at the same table.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Skype's Outage - Raising Questions About P2P

I was under the weather when all the Skype problems came up last week, and it's been done to death by now. One thing, though, I'd like to draw attention to is the topic of supernodes, which has been picked up by a number of other bloggers. This is a pretty technical aspect of the peer-to-peer architecture, and I really only understand it at a basic level.

However, that's enough to know that it's an important - and proprietary - part of what makes Skype work so efficiently. On the other hand, many believe it has a lot do with why Skype went down last week, and of course, raises all sorts of questions about the P2P model as a serious alternative to conventional telephony.

SightSpeed is a company I've followed for a while, and while their core offerings are similar to Skype - P2P text chat and video - they do not use supernodes in their architecture. The point here is that Skype is not the only - or definitive - model for P2P, and we all know that its reliance on proprietary technology for its secret sauce does not make everyone happy in the Voice 2.0 world.

I'm mentioning them here because their CEO, Peter Csathy, has a good blog, and this morning, he published a guest post from his CTO, Aron Rosenberg. I highly recommend it if you want a better understanding of the pros/cons of supernodes, and in contrast, how SightSpeed relies instead on standards and SIP-based elements for their architecture. Aron also explains the advantages of their model, especially for business/enterprise applications, with the implication being that what happened to Skype would not have happened - and did not happen - to SightSpeed. Read it and tell me what you think. I just want to make sure their voices get heard - it's an important message.

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Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Mark Farmer and Mobile Email for the Masses

For some reason, I seem to do podcasts with a lot of wireless companies, many of which are in Toronto, which otherwise is not really a VoIP hotbed. Tons of new media and video for sure, but it's a little lonely here otherwise. So, I always enjoy doing podcasts with someone in my own area code.

This week's guest was Mark Farmer, making his second appearance with me. He was previously with another wireless company, and has stayed in that space, but with a different focus. Recently, he went over to OceanLake Commerce, who has just launched meemo, a new offering of mobile email service to consumers using their existing handsets. It's not exactly the BlackBerry experience, but it's a very economical alternative that makes mobile email much more accessible without changing your handset or provider.

Mark and I talked about the broader market opportunity for consumer-based mobile email, which is still pretty much untapped. Solutions like meemo open up some interesting new markets and we explored what the end user experience is like as well as some possible business models that may emerge.

You can download the podcast here, as well as read more about Mark.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Good News for Jajah; Bad News for Skype

Considering how much the paths of Skype and Jajah are crossing lately, there was some interesting news about each today - one good and one bad.

First, the bad news, as this is the one that has received the most attention for obvious reasons. Early this morning, a number of bloggers started commenting about an outage of service for Skype, something that hasn't happened before. As I'm writing now at night, it's still down, so this is a pretty big deal for Skype users.

I've been offline most of the day with a head cold, but will steer you to some of the blog coverage to read more - Tom Keating, Andy Abramson, Skype's Heartbeat webpage, and of course, Phil Wolff's ongoing coverage on Skype Journal.

Not the kind of news Skype users - myself included - want to hear, and of course it raises all kinds of questions about reliability, security, quality control, etc. Let's hope it's not serious, but there are certainly parties out there that revel in news like this.

On the upside, Jajah had some news of interest to my home market. It hasn't been widely reported, and it's not cited yet on Jajah's website, but they issued a press release today announcing the availability of Jajah in Canada. Basically, they've reached the point of recognizing Canada is a good market for them, especially in large urban centers like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, which have very cosmopolitan populations and lots of overseas calling to friends and family back home.

Canadians could make Jajah calls before, but now they're catering to our market by allowing callers to pay in Canadian currency. That's nice to see, and I'm sure it will help boost usage of their service. This is good for users of the service, but I have to say it adds complexity and even some risk for Jajah. The Canadian dollar has been very strong lately, and has been close to par with the U.S. With the recent stock market woes, our dollar has been plummeting and will probably be volatile for the foreseeable future. In a world where profits are made and lost on pricing increments of less than a penny, Jajah will have to be more mindful of these currency swings when setting rates for Canadian $ payment. That aside, it's good news for Canada - I just hope the word gets out! I haven't seen much evidence of that yet, but I'm sure the message will get out eventually.

I wasn't planning to say much about this news (even though I'm quoted in the press release), but the confluence of events with Skype's outage on the same day was too good to pass up.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Teen Tech Review - XBox 360

I'm not a gamer, but virtually all teenagers are. Max had a chance to review Microsoft's XBox 360, and that's what we talked about on this week's Teen Tech Review. So, not much here about telephony or VoIP, but if you're an XBox fan, I think you'll enjoy it.

As usual, if you're based in Canada, you can watch the review directly from the site here.

And, if you're outside Canada you probably won't be able to access this link, but the embedded link below should work just fine. Hope you like it!


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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thomas Howe Company on the Move

Industry colleague and mashup master, Thomas Howe is on to a good thing, and I'm glad to see he's making some noise about it.

Today, Thomas Howe Company announced a partnership with ProgrammableWeb, which looks to be THE place for the mashup developer community. I've been hearing about this for a while, and it's great to see things coming to fruition here. Thomas is carving out a great niche in the mashup space (you may recall he won the Mashup Competition at ETel), and this news should really help get the word out and accelerate his progress. If you're into this space, this will be a good partnership to follow, and if you're not sure why, let Thomas and the press release tell you more.

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Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Mike Fox and High Tech Recruiting

On this week's podcast, I spoke with Mike Fox, who runs a local recruiting firm here in Toronto, Brightlights Inc. I really try to mix things up on my podcasts, and I think recruiters are a pretty important part of the tech sector ecosystem. After all, we can't all be startups and indies, and when you least expect it, a call from a recruiter can be the best thing that's ever happened for your career.

Mike knows the local tech recruiting market pretty well, and he shared some pretty interesting insights on what companies are looking for, and the realities faced by startups in landing senior level people. He also had some good words of advice for people starting out and looking at tech as a career option.

I should also add that Mike's a pretty good marketer, and I recommend his monthly e-newsletter, especially if you want to stay current on the Toronto scene.

You can listen to the podcast here, as well as read more about Mike and his company.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Cooperstown - Will the Holy Grail Save the Sox?

I don't often do a baseball-only post, but I think this one has merit for any baseball fan. My sons and I visited Cooperstown this weekend, and it sure was fun. I can now check that one off the father/son bonding checklist, but something tells me we'll be back.

The Baseball HOF is camera-friendly, and I'm just going to post a few photos here, courtesy of my Nokia N93. Got lots more if anyone's interested.

In case you're wondering, the Holy Grail - at least for Red Sox Nation - is the "bloody sock", and we found it alright - see below. I can now say that I've lived a full life - seen all 4 Boston teams win championships, and now I've seen the sock. I can die happy now.

Oh - Cooperstown is very much Yankees country, and it's not hard to tell with all the New Yawkers there - can't miss them. I can report no incidents though, while wearing my Red Sox cap, as there were tons of New Englanders there too. And Max wore a vintage Toronto Blue Jays jersey, which registered about zero on the attention scale there.

Aside from being Yankees country, this part of NY state is classic small town America. I just can't get that Arlo Guthrie song out of my head - "City of New Orleans". Good morning, America how are ya?....


Baseball heaven - literally and figuratively...


The Phil Rizzuto "Holy Cow"; Dean in a staring contest with Christy Mathewson


Everywhere you look around Cooperstown, it's Yankees-Red Sox...


Yankees-Red Sox....


You get the idea. They sure know their market (tons of Mets stuff too). Pretty tough to be a Jays fan around here...


And to give you a warm fuzzy feeling while waiting in line to buy your tickets to the hall, you're greeted by these 2 guys....


The Red Sox Holy Grail! We finally found it - in a rather inauspicious corner, but it's there. The sock...


The shoe...


The ball...


The Holy Trinity of Red Sox Baseball...


As much as I hate to say it, the Red Sox are very much in a pennant race, thanks to their indifferent play the past 2 months, and the Yankees catching fire - and you knew they would. There's a huge NY logo in the Red Sox rear view mirror, and all of a sudden, things are looking scarily like 1978. We were up 14 on the Yankees then too, but I'd rather not complete that sentence.

So, while far from being a practising Catholic, I needed to see this Holy Grail to restore my faith that the Red Sox can hang on, and find a way to play like they were earlier in the season. They did beat Baltimore the day we were there, so that was a good sign. And the mojo from seeing Schilling's sock here sort of carried over to his start yesterday. He only gave up 1 run, so he did his job. The bullpen didn't though, and the O's won again. It's 4 games now, and Yankees look upstoppable. Better focus on something else... (but how can you?)...

Well, I will shift gears just for moment. Aside from Max's Blue Jays jersey, there were 2 visible references to Canada at Cooperstown. First, of course, is Fergie Jenkins. As far as I know, he's the only MLB player inducted to both Cooperstown and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, which we visited the week before. Are my kids, lucky, or what?

Anyhow, the second Canada siting was a rather obscure plaque outside the hall commerating a maple tree planted to recognize our links to the game, and the fact that we have a HOF too. We only stumbled across this by accident, but I can at least say Canada is part of Cooperstown. Sure hope that tree grows big and strong.


Lunch! Could there be a more perfect spot to go? As American as apple pie...


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Friday, August 10, 2007

In search of the bloody sock...

Heading off to Cooperstown today with my sons for the ultimate American father-son bonding experience. Been planning this for a while, and we're good to go. Should be an interesting visit in the wake of all the recent milestones - Bonds, A-Rod and Glavine - esp Bonds, of course.

Red Sox are still in first place, but it's very tenuous now, so I'll be looking for Schilling's bloody sock for some inspiration. Sox play 19 road games in August - by far their toughest month of the schedule, and if they're still playing .600 ball after that, then I'll feel a lot more confident that they'll finally win their division after the Yankees incredible run at the top.

Photos coming when we get back....

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Nokia N95 Blog Coverage

Just a quick note to say that the recent reviews my son Max did for the Nokia N95 - both written and video - have now been posted to the Nokia N95 Blog.

As mentioned in previous posts, this is a terrific program put together by Andy Abramson, and it's a great way to track all the reviews from people in the Nokia blogger relations program.

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Teen Tech Review - LG's DVD Player

On this week's Teen Tech Review on, my son Max reviews the LG DVD player. We're just back from a road trip, so he's had the benefit of using it both at home and in various vacation settings.

If you're based in Canada, you can watch the review directly from the site here.

Note - looks like has made some changes to the Channel selections. Until now, Teen Tech Reviews was listed under the Technology Channel, which is where it belongs. Well, they've dropped this channel - guess not enough people are watching, and/or there's not enough people contributing relevant content. Now we've been slotted into the "Miscellaneous" channel, which isn't hugely encouraging. I guess it's a bit like being bumped from a Thursday night slot to Monday at 11pm. So, I'd say our reviews are going to be harder to find now, but you'll always be able to see them here.

Remember - is basically a social networking experiment. There's no advertising, and very little stuctured, regular content to speak of. Not surprisingly, most of the content is what 20-somethings are into - dating, About Me, lots of guitar playing and silly pet tricks.

If you're outside Canada you probably won't be able to access this link, but the embedded link below should work just fine. Hope you like it!

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Canadian IP Thought Leaders Series - Dave Dobbin and Toronto Hydro Telecom

On this week's podcast, I spoke with Dave Dobbin, President of Toronto Hydro Telecom. I've been wanting to do this for a while, as THT has a pretty interesting WiFi offering in Toronto's downtown core. Downtown Toronto has plenty of broadband as it is, but not so much on the WiFi front, and Dave provided some very interesting perspectives on how this is going for them. He shared some of the realities of providing service as well as the usage patterns of the service among different types of subscribers. Dave also made a point of mentioning that THT provides some of the fastest bi-directional WiFi broadband speeds in North America.

More broadly, Dave provided an overview of the events that led up to THT coming into existence, and the rationale behind Toronto Hydro's fiber optic buildout that runs over their power line infrastructure. We also made the distinction between their fiber based capabilities for voice and data service, and broadband over powerline, which instead relies on the power grid for transmission. Dave explained that regulatory issues, more than anything keep them out of the BPL market, and for now, WiFi is their technology of choice for offering broadband services.

You can download the podcast here as well as read more about Dave.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Back to Work

Well, all good things must come to an end, and one has to work to make a living. Takes some time to get back into the swing of things, and to ease into blogging again, thought I'd share some fun and cool photos from our driving trip through Southwestern Ontario. It's summer, and I'm sure these are images we can all enjoy. Burgers, ice cream, cool cars, the beach and baseball. Am I missing anything here?

Photos courtesy of my Nokia N93, and I'm just flashing a few here. Lots more if anyone's interested. Enjoy, and then get back to work!

Classic burger joint at the Leamington ferry landing for Pelee Island. Looks like something out of Happy Days....


Such a charming, quaint place....


I know what you're thinking...

Not those Cone Heads --- these Cone Heads...


RM Classic Cars. If you're into vintage cars, you'll probably know about them. This is truly one world-class operation, right in the heart of Blenheim, Ontario. Huh? Who knew? Incredible place, and well worth the visit. Here's just a taste of what we saw on display. They sure don't make 'em like they used to, but if you have a couple of million to really impress your friends, you've come to the right place...





Sunset on the beach at Grand Bend....


Last stop - the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys. I'll bet you didn't know we had one, eh? It's pretty small, but worth the visit. They're actually fundraising now to build a bigger facility, and they're waiting to take your call now. I'll also bet you didn't know that the first recorded baseball game took place nearby in 1838. Learn something every day.

Oh - next stop - Cooperstown this Friday. So in the space of a week, we'll have visited both HOF's. The main difference? No way you can get a parking spot under a shady tree 10 feet from the front door of Cooperstown --- but you sure can in St. Marys, pretty much any time of the day.

Babe Ruth display. Did you know he hit his first professional home run here in Toronto?


Vintage Blue Jays and Expos jerseys...