Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hockey's back!

So the lockout's over, and hockey will return this fall. We've got the salary cap that the players insisted they would never accept, as well as the 24% salary rollback, although the minimum salary is now an insane $450,000, so presumably the lower earning players actually got a raise despite the rollback. Most interesting of all, however, are the rule changes, intended to make the game more entertaining. I'm not a big fan of the shootout, mainly because it seems unfair to decide the output of the game based on 3 shots by the best shooters - this is a team game, not an individual competition. However, there's no denying the excitement of watching a shootout, so I'm sure I'll get used to it. I like the new icing rule - if you ice the puck, you can't make any line changes before the ensuing face-off. So if you're killing a penalty, you have to actually work to get a line change - you can't just grab the puck and fire it down the ice. Tag-up offsides are back, and the red line has been removed for two-line passes, although I don't know the intricacies of the game well enough to know what effect that will have.

We took Ryan out to ride his bike yesterday - only about his 4th or 5th time on a two-wheeler (with no training wheels), and he's almost mastered it. When I last went with him, he could go maybe 10 feet, rather wobbly, and then put his foot down. Yesterday, Gail gave him a little push to start, and he was off - probably went by 5 or 6 houses before stopping. By the end of the route around the block, he was starting by himself, and not even wobbling as much as at the beginning. I'm impressed with how fast he's learned - his first time ever was the July 1st weekend in Ottawa.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Trial, day 3

It's over. We were told that there were some more "matters" that the court had to deal with without the jury present, so we waited from 10:00 until about 11:30 when we went into the court room. The judge immediately told us that there was a "matter of law" that forced him to discharge us - that our services were no longer required. He thanked us for our service, and told us that we were free to go. And that was it.

We were later told that it had something to do with something that we heard yesterday - something that someone had said, that the other side did not have a chance to rebut. We're not sure exactly what was meant by that, but we suspect it had something to do with the testimony of one of the witnesses. He started to tell us something during cross-examination, at which point the prosecuting attorney objected, citing hearsay. The defense attorney told the witness that he couldn't tell us what the other person had said, just what he did in response to it, but the witness ended up telling us anyway. Nothing was said at the time (though the defense attorney looked a little frustrated), but I think that may have had something to do with it. I certainly don't know the law well enough to know for sure, but that was the only thing that happened yesterday that was controversial in any way.

I really enjoyed my time on the jury, for two main reasons: I got to see the way our legal system works in great detail, and it gave me time to finish Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - all 760+ pages of it - in about four days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Trial, day 2

We had our first full day today. We started around 10:20, since there were some "matters" that needed to be dealt with, without the jury present. Again, I can't go into any details about the case, but the prosecution finished with the complainant (alleged victim), brought in two witnesses, and then rested her case. The counsel for the defense then brought in the defendant to testify, and that's where we finished off, around 4:20.

I'm finding the whole process rather interesting - not significantly different from what you'd see on Law & Order or any other trial show, though those ones are usually about murder or rape or something more serious than aggravated assault. Since it's not a high-profile case, they're not too worried about it, but we've been told not to read the local papers, in case there are articles about the case, and we're not supposed to watch the local news and stuff like that. Again, given the nature of the case, it's not likely to show up on the news, but you never know.

They don't call it a "confrontational" system for nothing though -- the defense attorney (I know that "attorney" is an American term, but I'm used to that term, having watched the various Law & Order series' religiously for several years) certainly pounded on the prosecution's witnesses pretty hard, asking the same questions over and over, and pointing out any inconsistencies numerous times, even making a few snarky and sarcastic comments, but was very nice and gentle (and quiet) when the defendent was testifying. We'll see tomorrow if the prosecutor is as sweet and friendly on cross as she was when addressing her witnesses.

So far, I'm enjoying this jury thing!

Monday, July 18, 2005

I, the Juror

I reported for jury duty this morning at the John Sopinka Court House in Hamilton. I was one of about 60 members of the jury pool for one of two trials - one criminal, and one civil. We were told to be there by 9:30, and were told at that time that they usually get started around 10:00. Well, we sat until about 12:15 (good thing I had brought my Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book, of which I read about 300 pages), at which point were shuffled into the court room to start jury selection for the criminal trial. First they got rid of people who knew the accused, or the complainant, or the lawyers, or any of the witnesses, then people who had vacations planned, or medical conditions, or other reasons why they couldn't be jurors. I had none, so I just sat quietly.

Eventually, they started calling people to be on the jury. They called 20 people, and I was about the 8th. One by one, we were brought up to face the accused, and the lawyers could either accept us onto the jury ("content") or "challenge" us, in which case we would sit down again, to rejoin the jury pool for the civil trial. I was accepted by both lawyers, so I became juror #4. We then broke for lunch, and the actual trial started around 2:45.

I'm not allowed to discuss the case outside of the jury room, so I'll just say that it's an aggravated assault case that took place about a year and a half ago. I'll post some more details once the trial's over, if I'm allowed. The trial is estimated to be about 3-4 days. Lucky for me that I was accepted into this jury -- the civil trial is estimated to be 6-8 weeks. Then again, I have two pre-paid vacations booked (OK, well, we haven't paid for Tyrolean yet, but we're booked) for that time period, so I probably would have been excused anyway.

Anyway, it's been interesting so far. We start around 10am, get a 15-minute break around 11:30, then lunch at 1:15 to 2:15, then another break around 3:30, then we're done around 4:30. We will only need to be sequestered during deliberations, otherwise we can go out for lunch and come home at night and stuff, and we don't need to stay together. I'm getting a good look at the legal system -- moreso than the last couple of times I was in a courtroom. Last time was earlier this year when I fought a ticket for running a red light - the cop forgot his notebook and the case was thrown out. The other time was during 2nd year university when I had to face the serious offence of violating the Retail Business and Holidays Act -- the drug store I worked in during high school was open on a Sunday back when Sunday shopping was illegal. I was charged along with all the other employees, but the charges were supposed to be dropped when the store paid its fine. The crown attorney screwed up and forgot to drop the charges, and we all had to appear in court a couple of years later (during finals in 2A), at which time the charges were immediately dropped.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

NHL playoffs and Roger Clemens

The NHL has apparently decided to add 4 more teams into the playoffs each year, for a total of 20 teams, and now 5 rounds. This is insane. Not only do we now have 2/3 of the league making the playoffs, but the regular season is 84 games, and now a team could have to play 31 games in the playoffs as well? The playoffs already end in mid-freakin'-June, why extend them? I could see it if the first round was best-of-3 (as it now is), then the second (and maybe even third) rounds were best-of-5, and the last two best-of-7, but FOUR best-of-7 rounds is just too much. All it means is that four extra teams will make big playoff dollars each year.

Roger Clemens has stated that he does not want to pitch in the All-Star game if Mike Piazza is catching, so he'll only pitch later in the game, once Piazza has been taken out. Pardon my French, but how fucking stupid is that? Should we have to tell a 41-year-old man to grow the fuck up? Apparently so.

I don't know what to think about Clemens. He's easily the best pitcher of the last 20 years (only Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux are even close), and is still a force to be reckoned with at 41. I respected him as a member of the Red Sox, and grew to like him even more when he played for the Jays (probably because he was just so damn dominant, and won 2 Cy Young awards in the 2 years he was here). Then he basically said "This team sucks, so I demand to be traded to a contender", which the Jays promptly did. I lost a lot of respect for him then, as did a lot of other Toronto fans. For whatever reason, I gained back some respect over the next few years, then lost some after the Piazza incident. In the last year or two, since he came out of "retirement", I've started to like him again, and now this. I think I've now decided that he's simply one of those people who is an outstanding athlete, but a total prick off the field.

Kids and safety

I was astounded yesterday when leaving work. I was driving down Hagey Blvd, just north of the University of Waterloo, about to turn left onto Columbia. On the right side of the road, there's a day care centre, and a woman on a bicycle came out of the day care centre ahead of me, and crossed over until she was on the left side of the left lane (she didn't cut me off, she was far enough ahead). The light was red, so I stopped, and she came up beside me (on my left), and turned sharply to the left and proceeded across the crosswalk. The thing that astounded me was that she had a child seat on the back of the bike, with a small kid in it. The kid couldn't have been more than 2. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I wouldn't have crossed over the street into the left lane with a kid on the bike.

I sometimes wonder if Gail and I are too paranoid when it comes to the safety of our kids, but I guess if you're going to be too paranoid about something, it may as well be safety. (I'm also too paranoid about other things too, like the kids making messes or lots of noise, but that's another story.)

The car seat thing is the biggest one, though. The car or van does not move unless the kids both have their seat belts done up -- I can probably count the number of times that they've been in a moving vehicle without seat belts on (backing out of the garage a couple of times, once at John & Jackie's place after I drove into a ditch, and of course various busses). We brought our own car seat when we took one-year-old Ryan to England because we were unsure of the quality of the car seats we'd get from the car rental company. And we get quite angry whenever we see any kid standing up in a moving car, or any kid that should be in a car seat but isn't. We watched a biography on Princess Diana recently, and there was some footage of her carrying the infant Prince William right after he was born - she got into a limo, carrying the baby in her arms, and the limo immediately took off. There wasn't enough time for her to get a seat belt on, and there's no way Wills was in an infant carrier. Gail, who was a big fan of the Princess, cringed.

When I think about all the security issues that we as parents have to deal with that our parents did not, it makes me wonder if our kids will grow up safer, or just more sheltered. Things like:

  • bike helmets - our kids are not allowed to ride bikes or scooters without one, and I never even had one. Actually, that's not true -- I did have one, as well as elbow and knee pads when I got my first skateboard (when I was about 8), but the first time I was laughed at for wearing it, I took it off for good.
  • car seats - I remember being annoyed when I grew too tall to stand up the back seat of the car, and I rarely wore seat belts
  • food allergies - we were certainly allowed to bring peanut butter to school, Ryan is not
  • strangers - we were told simply "Don't talk to strangers", but that policemen were OK. Now, we have to tell our kids who they can talk to if they get lost at the mall - don't look for a policeman or security guard, because pedophiles have been known to dress up for just that reason. We tell them to go to a store and talk to someone behind the counter, and let them get a security guard if necessary.
  • It's only been this year that we've let them play in the backyard without one of us being out there with them -- and if it were only Nicholas, we wouldn't.
  • When playing outside in front of the house, one of Gail or I must be there, and the kids aren't allowed to go far enough away that we can't see them. I'm sure that rule will get relaxed in the future, but not to the extent that Gail and I remember as kids.

Now they're coming out with cell phones aimed at kids as young as 9 - they can have something like 5 numbers pre-programmed, and can't call any other numbers. I'm sure we'll get one for our boys eventually because we'll want the security of knowing that they can get in touch with us at any time if they need to (or vice versa).

Are we too paranoid? Maybe, but I prefer to think of it as "safety-conscious".

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fun at Darien Lake

We went to Six Flags Darien Lake last weekend, and stayed in the hotel there, with the Wadsworths. This is our second time there with the kids (went two years ago with the Wadsworths and Scanlons), and they had a blast. There were lots of kids rides for them, and Ryan is big enough now to go on some of the bigger rides, one of which gave Gail and Kerri headaches. We also went to the water park and wave pool, which was a lot of fun as well, though the water was rather chilly. There are a bunch of cool water slides there as well as a new thing called the Tornado, which looks like a giant funnel, but Ryan was too small to go on those. Next year, we probably won't be able to keep him off of them...

Didn't go on any "grown-up" rides this year - last time, Kim watched all the kids while the rest of us went on Superman, which is this monstrous coaster, and Gail and I also went on the Boomerang (same as the Bat at Wonderland - goes forwards and then backwards). Quite honestly, the first drop of Superman scared me more than I thought it would, and I have no real desire to go on it again. I wouldn't have minded doing the Mind Eraser again though, and the Boomerang was fine last time, so I haven't completely lost my taste for coasters.

After the last few weekends (haven't slept in my own bed on a Saturday night for 4 weeks), it'll be good to do nothing (except entertain the in-laws, but that's not bad) next weekend.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Selling outside of eBay

So I've sold about 12 CDs on eBay up to now. The other day, a bunch of my auctions ended, and a few CDs ended up unsold. I then got an email from someone who wanted to buy one of the unsold ones for the $1 original bid price. I replied telling him that eBay doesn't allow selling of items unless they are won through an auction. His reply follows:

Thanks, I appreciate your responding quickly and your desire to be a good ebayer. Just to let you know, however, once an item goes through the auction process unsold, two people can always agree to buy and sell an item - it's called commerce. Ebay may not like it - saying 'it's not safe nor protected' but also because, having put people together, they cannot collect additional fees to relist - but they cannot stop it. We just communicate with each other using our respective emails and can pay via paypal if necessary. There is nothing immoral or illicit about it. I encourage you to broaden your horizons. Good luck with your auctions.

He's correct that the buying and selling of good is not controlled by eBay. The thing is, his reply is too "rehearsed" for this to have been a one-time offer -- sounds to me like he does this all the time. Sure, it's legal to do this, but it's against eBay policy, which both of us agreed to when we signed up.

The only difference between him offering me $1 for the CD and him bidding $1 on the auction is that (a) he won't get outbid if someone else wants it, and (b) I won't have to pay to relist the item, meaning that eBay will not get compensated for the sale. I guess it could be argued that eBay is getting compensated, since I had to pay to list the item in the first place. But then again, I could also be losing out here -- if I relist the item and other people want the it, it could sell for significantly more than the $1 he's willing to pay me. (One other CD I sold went for over $20.) If he wants it so much, he can bid for it, like everyone else. If he gets it for $1, then good for him. If someone else bids for it, then either he has to pay more, or not get it - either way, I get more for the CD.

I haven't responded to him, and I'm not sure I will. I'll just relist the item, like I told him I would, and see if he bids.

Everyone loves Marineland

We went to Marineland yesterday. Gail and I had each been there as children, but not for 25 years or so. We had a pretty good time, but I could not believe the admission charge -- it cost us $115 just to get in, and Nicholas was free! The boys liked the dolphin / sea lion / walrus show, and even got to pet and feed the beluga whales - that was very cool. There's also a deer farm, where they have hundreds of deer just wandering around (no fences). They're very tame, and very hungry. You can buy small ice cream cones with deer food, and the deer are happy to lick it out of your hands. They're kind of on the aggressive side, though, so the food was sometimes licked out of the air as we poured it into the kids hands.

There are a bunch of rides there too, but we didn't go on any of them - no time. They had a deal on where you can upgrade your admission charge to a season's pass for an extra $5 (which we did), so if we go back sometime this year, it won't cost us any more (except for lunch, deer food, fish food, etc.), so we'll do some rides then. We're going to Six Flags Darien Lake this weekend, and we have season passes for Canada's Wonderland as well, so we have lots of opportunities to do rides.

A couple of complaints - the park is just too damn big, and not signed very well. There are a couple of places where there's a sign saying "Rides and Attractions", with an arrow, but then you have to walk for 10 minutes just to see another sign. When we finished lunch, we had about 20-25 minutes to kill before the next dolphin show, but that wasn't enough time to get anywhere and back (with a 5- and 3-year old), so we just wandered around the games arcade. Also, there is ONE restaurant that serves anything more than just popcorn, which means that everyone is in the same place around lunch time. We luckily got there a few minutes before the previous dolphin show let out (the restaurant is right next to that theatre), so the lines were pretty short for us, but 10 minutes later, they were huge. There is another restaurant, but it's almost right next to the first one, and it was also closed. Kerri, who's been there a number of times, tells me that the other restaurant is always closed, or at least every time she's gone.

Anyway, aside from those issues, and the fact that the decor at the park hasn't been updated in 25 years, it was a pretty good day.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

EBay shipments

I've now sold a number of CDs on EBay, and have shipped to the following locations:

Ottawa, ON
Thompson, IA
Laval, PQ
Mt. St-Hilaire, PQ
Tomah, WI
Columbus, MI
Hope Mills, NC
Santiago, Chile
Fort St. John, BC (same guy bought 3 CDs)
Bessemer, AL
Oklahoma City, OK
Carollton, TX
Grimshaw, AB
Memramcook, NB
Oshawa, ON
Rochester, NY
Vancouver, BC
Beaverbank, NS
Quinto di Treviso, Italy
Brescia, Italy
Lisbon, Portugal
Lithgow, New South Wales, Australia

I'll update this list as I sell more stuff.

Update: Sold 2 more CDs!


My friend Ajai has quite the little home theatre set up in his basement. Big screen HD TV, a couple of DVD players, full 5.1 surround sound, and a couple of other components that I didn't even recognize. But the latest very cool thing he has is the Windows Media Centre PC. It's a standard PC running Windows XP, with an application called Windows Media Centre. He's got his digital cable running into the PC, and he can use it as a PVR. He's got the PC set up to "broadcast" throughout his house on channel 80, and you can then use the remote control to control the PC output - get live TV (including pause and rewind), or set it up to record stuff to the hard drive and then watch it at your leisure later. He's got tons of his CDs ripped so he can play any of them at any time, and even has tons of digital pictures saved on there, so he can do slide shows.

I don't have the need (or the money) for a brand new computer, but since most of the processing power is in the PVR card anyway, I don't need one. I can get a card and a new hard drive (one hour of TV is about 1 GB), and if I can get the PC to broadcast out over the cable, then all I need is a way to send the remote control signals upstairs to the TV, and I can do that with a remote control extender - about $40 at Radio Shack. This could be extremely cool.

Golf Lessons pay off

I took a few golf lessons last summer - Gail got me three lessons for my birthday. Mainly, the guy adjusted my grip and told me to stop moving my feet so much. He said I had an "open swing", like Ben Hogan, though I don't remember what that means.

Anyway, I went out golfing with my friends Ajai and Gordon on Saturday, and found that they really paid off. I shot a 51 for 9 holes, and beat both Ajai and Gord by 4 strokes! I think this was not only the first time I've won a golf game, it was the first time I'd ever beaten anyone who plays more than once a year! I was fairly consistent overall - mainly bogeys and doubles, with an 8 and a couple of 7's to bring me back down to Earth. I lost a few, and took a couple of mulligans, but generally, my driving was very good, my short game didn't suck as bad as normal, and my putting wasn't too bad. Thanks to the lessons, I don't hate my driver any more!

We also played 9 on Sunday at a shorter course, and I didn't have as good a day - shot a 54, while Gord and Ajai shot 45 and 46. My consistency was all over the map on Sunday - on one hole, I hit a huge drive off the tee into a sand trap, then drilled it from there into another sand trap beside the green, then hit it out of there pretty nicely, setting up a 15-foot par putt. Then I three-putted from there.

I borrowed a "Big Bertha"-type driver from Gordon for a couple of holes on Saturday -- way bigger head than my driver, and weighs almost nothing. Both times, I hit it dead straight down the middle of the fairway, close to 300 yards. I must get one...