Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blasphemy and irony

Note to those who might see "Hamilton Tiger-Cats" at the beginning and skip the rest, that this is not a sports article...

Last Saturday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats got absolutely smoked by Saskatchewan, 51-8, one of the worst blowouts in team, if not league, history. The headline in the Hamilton Spectator on Monday was "Oh My God!". This morning, there was a letter to the editor (not sure if you need to be a subscriber to see that) complaining about the use of this phrase. My first thought when I read the letter, ironically, was "Oh, good Lord." (I'm not kidding, those were the exact words that came into my head. I swear to God.) Is this really worth writing to the editor about? Do people really have nothing more important to do than complain about stuff like this? ** It's just a phrase. Nobody's calling to God, asking Him to fix up the Ti-Cats, or asking why He let such a thing happen. It's just a group of words that people say when something happens that shocks them. Next, people will be protesting the old Batman TV show because Robin keeps using the word "holy" in reference to things that are not, in fact, holy. Get over it.

** Before you ask, yes, I do see the irony in blogging a sentence like that...

A few years ago, someone at Sybase corporate sent a company-wide email out about something, and prefaced the email by saying "Good Friday morning!", since it was sent on a Friday. Someone else replied to that email (to the whole company), complaining that to Christians, the phrase "Good Friday" refers to a particular day, and not just any Friday, and should not be used out of context. Good God, For crying out loud, the guy was just trying to be friendly. Some people will complain about anything.

BTW, when I first typed in the title of this article, I was really tempted to add "live together in perfect harmony" to the end, but decided against it. Made me laugh though.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


We went to Fern last week, and as expected, we had a great time. The weather co-operated, for the most part; we only had rain on one day, and only for a couple of hours. We went to the indoor pool during that time, so we had fun anyway. The guys went golfing (9 holes) on Tuesday morning. I got one par, and missed chipping in for birdie (would have been my first one) by a fraction of an inch. I got to try my new driver out for the first time — the ball went left a lot, but it went a lot further than with my old driver. Obviously going further into the trees is less than ideal, but once I figure out how to hit it properly, it'll be very cool. I'm hopefully going to the driving range tomorrow evening with my neighbour (the guy who made the driver), so he can give me some tips on how to straighten out my swing.

Back to Fern; a summary of things we did:

  • pedal carts and bikes — Nicholas was big enough this year to get the carts going
  • Gail and I each tried archery (Gail did it two or three times; I think she's getting addicted)
  • I played 4-way volleyball twice (I think I'm getting addicted)
  • I had casino (blackjack, roulette) and Texas Hold-'em lessons
  • Gail went for a walk (2.5 to 3 km) every morning at 6:30 (I was very impressed)
  • Ryan and I played golf — Ryan did really well, for his second time ever on a (non-mini) golf course (his first time was last year), and I got two pars in five holes!
  • I made it to the top of the "vertical playground", which is a sort of obstacle course that you climb, consisting of rope ladders, poles with wooden spikes that you climb, and some tires as well.
  • Ryan went fishing and caught a minnow and a catfish

The vertical playground was actually easier than the rock climbing wall that I climbed last year. Next year, maybe I'll try the teeter-totter, which is just your basic see-saw, except that it's mounted at the top of a 40-foot telephone pole.

I didn't manage to get a ride on Jeff's jet-ski; whenever he had it out, I was busy doing other stuff. I also wanted to play tennis but never got a chance, and we didn't get the lacrosse sticks out either.

We then dropped Nicholas off at Gail's dad's place and Ryan off at my parents' place on Saturday, and drove home, stopping to see Pirates of the Carribbean in Barrie on the way. We also stopped at the Colisseum at the 400 and 407 to see Superman Returns, but the timing didn't work out, so we went home. Sunday we saw Superman Returns at the Imax theatre in Mississauga, and Monday we tried to go and see X-Men: The Final Stand, but the theatre had technical difficulties and had cancelled the movie, so we went to see that tonight. Since Saturday, we've also rented a bunch of movies, painted the bathroom and replaced the light fixture, installed a new cover on the bathroom vent (to keep birds from making nests in there like they did this past spring), and we're going to order a new garage door this week as well.

I'll post mini-reviews of all the movies we've seen this week a little later.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A couple of quickies

The headline in today's Hamilton Spectator is "New Weapons of Terror", along with a picture of various bottles: water, hair gel, shampoo, V8, contact lens solution, toothpaste, etc. This is in response to the new airline rules banning passengers from bringing any type of liquid or gel in their carry-on luggage. I'm all for security, and I have no problem getting x-ray'ed and searched before I get on a plane, but this is just getting silly. When we went on our cruise in 2001 (2 months after 9/11), our luggage was searched, and we were forced to break off the little nail file on our fingernail clippers. (Note that we didn't have to throw it away, we just had to break it off.) Nobody would have batted an eye at a 6-inch sharpened pencil, which is arguably more of a weapon than the nail file.

Here is a funny article about the next step in this "war on terror". The terrorists may not have succeeded in significantly affecting the Western economies or changing government policies on anything (which, presumably, is at least one of their goals), but I'm sure they're all having a good laugh at the stupid policies that have resulted from their activities.

On a completely unrelated note, I went out to Quizno's for lunch today. Man, do they have it wrong. Their food is great, that's not the issue; their ordering system is just silly. You get in line at one end of the counter and when it's your turn, you tell the guy what kind of sandwich you want, what type of bread and extras you want, and whether it's to eat in or to go. Then he makes the sandwich and puts it into the Magic Yummy Sandwich Making machine (aka toaster). You then get into a second line, behind all the same people you were in line behind the first time, and go to the payment counter, where you have to tell the person there what you already ordered. They handle the payment, then cut and wrap your sandwich and give it to you. Why do I need to give my order twice? This is the only restaurant (fast-food or otherwise) that I know of where I have to do this. What's worse - the first guy doesn't want your whole order, just the sandwich part of it. If you want soup with it, or a combo with chips and a drink, he doesn't care. Surely they can figure out a way to handle the customer giving their order once and once only. Every other restaurant in the world can do it...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How NOT to coach

On the drive home tonight, Bob McCown (my favourite sportscaster) was talking about an article by Rick Reilly (my favourite sports writer) in this week's Sports Illustrated (which I haven't received yet). (Here is a link - not sure if you need to be a subscriber or not to read it) It talks about the championship game in a kids' league (9- and 10-year-olds) in Utah. The home team is down by one, batting in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and the tying run on third. Their best hitter comes to the plate, and is intentionally walked to get to the next batter, Romney, who is the worst hitter on the team. He strikes out to end the game. The kicker (well, one of them) is that Romney happens to be a cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormone and has a shunt in his brain. The coach of the winning team defended his decision, saying that it's "just good baseball strategy". Well, sure it is, and I initially agreed with him. Cancer survivor or no, if he can't play at the level expected in the league, then he shouldn't be playing.

That's when I heard the second kicker — in this league, everyone gets to bat, there's a four-run limit per inning, and there's no stealing until the ball crosses the plate. Given those rules, it's obvious (or should be) that this isn't a rep league — the primary focus of this league is fun. There is no "level expected in the league". Because it's not a rep league, things like intentional walks shouldn't happen, and pitching to the slugger was the right thing to do. Walking him to get to the kid who could barely swing the bat made it all about winning. Obviously the winning coach never heard the old saying "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game".

Man, I love summer

Gail got me quite a cool present for my birthday this year: a custom-made driver. Our neighbour makes golf clubs, so one day last week, Gail told me that he had called, and wanted me to come over and give him a hand with his wireless router, which was giving him problems. So I went over, and he informed me that I was not there to fix his router, but to have a fitting for a custom driver. He measured my arm length and swing speed (85-90 mph), and we chose which type of head, shaft, and grip to use. (Well, OK, he pretty much chose all that stuff — he gave me some options, then told me what he would choose, and I gave him a lot of "sure, that sounds great".) He came by Tuesday night with the final product. I wasn't allowed to swing it, since the grip adhesive hadn't finished drying yet, but he said it should be OK by Wednesday evening. I may have a chance to go out to the range with it tonight (Thursday), but more than likely, I'll have to wait until next Tuesday morning when we go golfing at Fern (see below). I used to hate my driver because I simply couldn't hit anything with it. I entered a "longest drive" competition at Fern one year, and brought my three iron because I knew I could hit it farther than my driver (though I was completely smoked by others who could hit their drivers). I took some golf lessons last summer, and since then, I've had better luck with my driver, When I went out with my dad a couple of weeks ago, it was actually the best club I hit all day. But it's 11-year-old technology now (and that's assuming it was the latest technology when we bought our clubs 11 years ago, which it wasn't), so I'm really looking forward to trying this new one out.

We go to Fern for a week in August every year — this year it goes from this coming Sunday (the 13th) to Friday the 18th. We've been looking forward to this year's trip since, well, since last year's trip ended. Fern has a ton of stuff to do for the kids as well as for us. The kids love the Playvillage, where they have activities all day, as well as free time to just play. (Note that the kids don't stay in Playvillage all day, but there are always things for them to do.) There are also shows, where they bring in magicians and musicians as well as a group from the local wildlife center, and they have a hay ride every night, as well as a zip line, a couple of big climbing structures, trampolines, and mini-golf. For kids and adults, there are tennis and basketball courts, three pools (two outdoor, one indoor) and a beach, bikes, pedal carts, canoes and pedal boats, a 5-hole golf course, batting cages, a 4-way beach volleyball court (which is a lot of fun), a rock climbing wall (yes, that's me in the white shirt), and a few other extreme sports. You can borrow all kinds of sports equipment, and they have other sports-related activities; Gail really enjoyed archery last year. There are other programs as well, like a cooking demonstration with the head chef, a woodworking class with the head carpenter, mixology, scrapbooking, and blackjack lessons, an internet cafe (and apparently the pool area is a wireless hotspot now, though we don't plan on bringing our laptops anyway) and other stuff like that. Oh yeah, and all your food is included, and is excellent. Another advantage is that dinner time for the kids starts at 5:30, and for everyone else at 6:00, at which time Playvillage opens, so you can feed the kids at 5:30, then take them over to Playvillage, then come back and have a nice leisurely grown-ups-only dinner.

In previous years, we've rented jet-skis, but Fern doesn't rent those anymore. Luckily, my friend Jeff recently bought one (as I mentioned in in the camping entry), so we'll have that to play with next week as well. It's not terribly cheap, but it's not ridiculous either, and we have a great time every year. I can't wait.

The week after Fern will also be fun. We leave Fern on the Friday morning, and head north to Gail's dad's place in Sundridge. We stay Friday night there, and leave Saturday morning sans Nicholas, who's staying with John and Jackie for a week. On the way home, we stop in at my parents' place, where we drop Ryan off. So from Saturday afternoon until the next Friday, no kids. Now don't get me wrong, I love my kids, but the idea of going out to a movie without paying more for a babysitter than for the movie itself certainly has appeal, not to mention not making kids lunches every day, not fighting with bedtime every night, not worrying about making a dinner that the kids will actually eat, and so on. Gail and I will get lots done around the house, see a couple of movies, sleep in on Sunday and maybe play a round of golf. It'll be nice.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lunch at Harvey's with Nicholas

Me: There are four types of kids meals, Nicky. Do you want a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken fingers, or a hot dog?
Nicholas: A hamburger.
Me: A hamburger? Not a cheeseburger?
Nicholas: No, a hamburger.
Me: OK. Are you sure you don't want a cheeseburger? Just a hamburger?
Nicholas: Yes, I want a hamburger.
Me: OK.

A few minutes later...
Me: OK Nicky, here's your hamburger. What do you want on it? Ketchup? Mustard?
Nicholas: No, just cheese.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Queensryche Live

I borrowed a fairly new Queensrÿche album from the library the other day, called "The Art of Live". Kind of a self-aggrandizing title, I thought ("We're so good live, we've turned it into an art"), but they used to be one of my favourite bands (as I've blogged before), so I thought I'd give it a try. What a disappointment. Part of my disappointment comes from the fact that most of the songs are from the last few Queensrÿche studio albums, which I didn't really like, and not so much from the first 4 or 5, which I did like. Even ignoring that, there are other problems: the crowd noise is almost non-existent (a live album without crowd noise is just weird to listen to), and there are no backing vocals. This doesn't matter much for some songs, but for a song like Anybody Listening, it really loses something without the backing vocals. I guess Chris DeGarmo was the primary backing vocalist, since he's no longer with the band. Hey, maybe that's the reason I don't like as much of the new stuff — he wrote all the songs I liked too. Another weird thing is that on the song My Global Mind, it sounds like they've shut off the amplifiers, or at least turned the distortion way down — it's not quite an acoustic version, but it certainly isn't as heavy as the original version. I think if it was a pure acoustic version, it would be OK, but it just seems mixed up here. Operation: LIVECrime was a pretty good live Queensrÿche album, but this one just seems to continue the downward spiral of a formerly great band.

I also got a greatest hits album by Silverchair from the library, but I haven't listened to it yet. I will be sure to keep you, Constant Reader, informed. (Kind of a Stephen King thing there)