Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Trade Deadline

Today is the trade deadline in the NHL, so teams have until 3:00 this afternoon to decide whether they are going to make a run at the playoffs, or trade away players that will become free agents at the end of the season, thereby getting something for them, instead of getting zilch later. This, traditionally, is the most frustrating day of the season for Leafs fans. This is the day when the Leafs management decides that they are going to take a run at the playoffs, so they need some kind of veteran help, and they trade away prospects and/or draft picks for someone past his prime. This year, there have been rumours of Gary Roberts returning to Toronto, and I love Roberts as a player, but the Leafs need to realize that they have no chance of winning the Cup this year, so adding someone like Roberts would serve no purpose.

There are also rumours about the Leafs getting Bill Guerin, but to do that, they'd have to give up — guess what? — prospects and draft picks. Once again, if this happens, the Leafs will be trading away their future for a hopeless shot at winning the Cup this year. All that giving up the prospects and picks will do is guarantee that the Leafs will be in the same situation next year, and the year after that, and the year after that...

I've said it before and I'll say it again — the Leafs need to blow up the team and start over. Signing the formerly somewhat-overrated and now vastly overpaid Bryan McCabe was a mistake. I like Kaberle, so I don't have a big problem with signing him long-term (especially since he's not getting McCabe-type money), and they just re-signed Darcy Tucker, but for only $3 million a year, so that's not bad at all. I love Sundin, but I think they need to trade him now, while they can still get something for him, and start stocking up on the aforementioned prospects and draft picks, rather than trading them away.

Heard on the radio this morning — the Leafs would like to trade Pavel Kubina back to Tampa. They don't want anything back for him; they'd just send him back to Tampa, with a note saying "My bad". :-)

I've only been really following basketball for a year or two, but it seems that Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is very well respected in the league, and with good reason — in less than a year, he's turned the Raptors from a laughing stock into a conference-contending team. They're not likely to win a championship this year, but they could be a serious contender within the next few years. Whenever I hear him being interviewed, he gives an air of not just confidence, but control. He is in complete control of the team, and has a plan for it. When I hear the GM of the Blue Jays, J.P. Ricciardi, talk, he gives me the same impression. The Leafs GM, John Ferguson, however, always gives me the impression that he's doing whatever he can to just stop the bleeding. He's not trying to make the team tangibly better, he's just trying to keep it from getting too much worse. Unless the Leafs turn it around in a big way this season (i.e. make the playoffs and win at least one round), they really need to get rid of Ferguson.

Update: The Leafs made one deal today — trading away 23-year-old prospect Brendan Bell and a draft pick for 35-year-old veteran Yanic Perreault. Same ol' same ol'. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Science vs. Faith


The calliope crashed to the ground

I just bought The Essential Bruce Springsteen from amazon.ca — $20 for a triple CD! There's a lot of great stuff on here, though I get the impression that I'm going to listen to disk one a lot more than the other two. The first song is 1973's "Blinded by the Light", which was covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1977. The Springsteen version is very upbeat, almost dance-able, but the lyrics are frequently indecipherable. The Manfred Mann version is much better known, and is a little more "interesting", in that there are more speed changes, guitar licks, and keyboard fills. The lyrics are obviously the same, but I can understand them a little better (in that I can hear the words - I have no idea what the song actually means). I've always loved the Manfred Mann version — this is one of the fairly rare times that I prefer the remake of a song to the original.

I've always been impressed with people who are creative, like songwriters and artists and such. I can't draw worth a damn, but I'd love to be able to. Gail says that writing software is creative, and I suppose it is (you could even consider it an "art" if you try), but it's not the same thing. I can play the guitar, but creating music rather than playing something that someone else wrote seems much harder. Just as difficult, I would think, is the ability to take a song that someone else wrote and re-work it, as Manfred Mann did on this song, or as Joe Cocker did on his version of the Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends". It's kind of hard to believe that this is the same guy that wrote recorded the bubblegum "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" twelve years before (according to Wikipedia, Manfred Mann didn't write that song either).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

You Suck

Went to the third Toronto Rock home game of the season tonight. They played pretty sloppy, and Watson was kind of shaky in the first half. They were down 8-3 at one point and went into halftime losing 8-4, but rookie coach Glenn Clark must have given them some kind of pep talk at halftime. They didn't exactly come out in the 3rd quarter guns-a-blazin', but they did score 4 goals in the third to tie it up. Whipper, and the defense in general, was much better in the second half, only allowing two goals, and the Rock won it 11-10. I love those Rock comeback wins — they had a couple of games last year, both against Philadelphia if I'm not mistaken, where they came back from 8-goal deficits to win the game.

One thing you see (well, hear) at lacrosse games that you don't hear anywhere else (at least, I never have) is the "Sucks" cheer. When the opposing goalie allows a goal, a bunch of people stand up, point to the goalie, chant his name three times, and then yell "YOU SUCK!". The Chicago goalie was Brandon Miller, so tonight's chant went "MILL-er, MILL-er, MILL-er, YOU SUCK!" I suppose it's a little juvenile, but it's all in good fun (otherwise you wouldn't yell it when a goalie allows his fourth goal while your own team's goalie has already allowed eight).

The fans in Philadelphia go one better — in Philly, everyone on the opposing team sucks. Before the game starts, they announce the starting line-ups for each team (don't know why they don't announce the starting lineup for the opponents in Toronto), and after every opposing player's name, the fans yell "SUCKS!" Some players, notably Portland goaltender Dallas Eliuk who played 15 seasons in Philadelphia, hear the "SUCKS!" cheer following their name, immediately followed by applause.

Note: I created all of the Wikipedia pages I linked to above.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The CENSORED Monologues

The popular play "The Vagina Monologues" ran into some trouble recently (I think this was in Florida somewhere, but I can't find the link), when a woman driving her niece by the theater was "offended" when the young girl (don't know how old she was) read the marquee and asked what a vagina was. She complained to the theatre, and they changed the marquee to read The "Hoohaa" Monologues (including the quotation marks). How stupid is this? It's not like "vagina" is some vulgar or dirty or even slang word. I know that if my son read a marquee that said The Vagina Monologues, he would probably just ignore it. If, however, he read The "Hoohaa" Monologues, he'd laugh at it and make a big fuss, and ask what a "Hoohaa" is. He already knows what a vagina is (well, I'm not sure he knows what one is, but he knows that girls have one and boys don't, and he doesn't consider the word dirty or taboo or anything), but I know that he'd never let go of the word "hoohaa", and we'd be hearing it all the time. In any case, any child old enough to read the word vagina is old enough to be told what it is and that it's not a dirty word.

This reminds me of one of my favourite "my kid is so cute" stories, from when Ryan was just two years old. Gail and I were going out, and we got a babysitter for Ryan (Nicky wasn't even born yet, so Ryan was definitely two). He was sitting at the table finishing his dinner, and Lindsay the babysitter came in and sat down next to him. She said hi, and he put down his fork, looked at her silently for a couple of seconds, and then said matter-of-factly, "You don't have a penis." Lindsay, to her credit, didn't even flinch, but confirmed his suspicion. He nodded and went back to his dinner, apparently satisfied with her response.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Daddy, what's public key cryptography?

I was working on an HTTPS issue today, and Ryan came to talk to me. While he was watching, I figured out what was causing the problem, which was related to the SSL handshake. Ryan asked about the handshake, and I tried to give him a laymans-terms overview of what it was. Before I started, I started to picture in my head what the conversation might be like:

Me: When an SSL connection is made...
Ryan: What's SSL?
Me: When you want a connection to be encrypted...
Ryan: What's "encrypted" mean?
Me: When two processes are talking...
Ryan: What's a "process"?
Me: <sigh>.

Here's how I described it:

Me: If I want to send a message to another computer, I write the message on a kind of postcard, with the address of the other computer on it, and then I send it. The postcard goes out, sometimes on a wire, in this case through the air –
Ryan: Like radio waves?
Me: Exactly. Then the other computer receives the postcard, checks the address, and figures that the postcard is for him. Then he reads the message. But, if there's another computer nearby, it can look at the postcard too, even though it's got someone else's address on it. So if I want to send a secret message to a computer that's my friend, I don't want that other computer to be able to read it. So, I take the data on the postcard, and mush* it all up, and change it, and make it look funny. My friend knows that it's mushed up, and it un-mushes it and gets the original secret message out. But the other computer doesn't know this, so it looks at the message and says "Huh? What's that mean?"
Ryan: <giggle>
Me: When we first start talking, I tell my friend "Hey, I'm going to mush up this data, and here's how I'm going to do it." and I give him some stuff that allows him to un-mush the message — that's called the "handshake".
Ryan: Like this? <shakes my hand>
Me: Yes, just like that. It's a way that two computers say "hello, I'm going to send you some mushed data, here's how to un-mush it".
Ryan: That's cool.

*Important note: Note that "mush" as used here rhymes with "bush" or "push", not "hush".

Then I gave him some examples of why you'd want to do this — when I order a book from amazon.com (I thought of this because I pre-ordered the 7th Harry Potter book today), I give them my credit card number. I don't want someone else to figure out my credit card number, or they might go to amazon.com and say "Hi amazon.com, it's me, Graeme. I'd like to buy 500 books and charge it to this credit card", and he gets the books, and I have to pay for it. Ryan has a fairly limited sense of the value of money, but he gasped at this, obviously realizing that this would be a Bad Thing. Either that, or I just gave him a brilliant idea for how to get free stuff, and started him on his way to being a career criminal. Heh heh heh... oops.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

This shouldn't be happening yet!

Ryan was working on some homework the other day, and asked for some help. (He's in Grade 2.) He was doing some logic puzzles, which I used to love as a kid. The first one was: There are four birds sitting on a fence. Colour each of them according to these rules:

  1. The blue bird is not last
  2. The yellow bird is between the green bird and the blue bird
  3. The red bird is first

"OK, this is easy", I thought. Yellow is between green and blue, so we have GYB somewhere. Since blue is not last, it must be GYBR. But the last clue says that red is first, so it must be RGYB. But that makes blue last, so that's wrong too. I must have looked at this for a couple of minutes before telling Ryan that there must have been a typo somewhere, since the puzzle is not solvable. He skipped it and went on to the next one.

Later, I was going to show it to Gail, and make some kind of joke about the fact that they gave Ryan an impossible question to answer, when I noticed that the birds had all been coloured in. I looked at the colours, and smacked myself in the head for being so stupid. Of course the question was not impossible. When it said yellow is between green and blue, I assumed that meant GYB in that order — it actually meant BYG. Putting red first (as clue 3 dictates) gives you RBYG, which fits all the clues. Boy, did I feel like a moron.

I knew there would come a time when I would not be able to help Ryan with his homework. I just figured I had a couple more years....