Monday, June 25, 2007

Jays, potholes, and a long journey ahead

The first weekend of summer! And how do I celebrate it? By getting a sunburn, of course. I went with my dad to the Jays game on Saturday, and we sat down the third base line. The roof was open, since it was a glorious warm (but not hot) sunny day, and I forgot to put sunscreen on. Since I wore shorts, the tops of my legs got burnt, though the rest of me was fine. It was a great game — the Jays won 11-6, and Matt Stairs and Frank Thomas each had four hits including a home run. One of Thomas' hits should have been a long single, but he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second by about five steps. The second baseman actually had to wait for Thomas to get there before tagging him.

After the game, we met up with my mother and sister and had dinner at a nice restaurant on King St. called N'Awlins, where I had alligator as an appetizer, followed by some amazing blackened catfish.

Sunday, we went to Rockwood Conservation Area east of Guelph for the Sybase company picnic, which was a lot of fun. There was a beach, paddleboats and canoes for rent, and of course a BBQ lunch was served, but we spent most of our time there hiking through the woods with the help of one of my friends on the doc team. She has been to the park many times before, and acted as our guide and photographer (since we both surprisingly forgot our camera). We visited the ruins of an old factory and some pretty cool caves and potholes carved out of the rock. In this context, a pothole, for those of you as geologically-challeged as myself, is basically a cylindrical vertical cave, as if someone had taken a 10-foot-wide drill and drilled straight down, anywhere from two to twenty feet. We were amazed at how smooth the edges of these potholes were, and almost perfectly round. All in all, we probably hiked for about 5 miles, so the kids were good and tired when it came to bedtime last night. Gail and I were pretty tuckered out as well — Gail fell asleep on the couch around 10:00, and I woke her up around 11:00 when I went to bed. She said she'd be up in a minute, but fell asleep again, and I don't think she actually made her way upstairs until around 3:30.

This weekend, we're going up north to visit Gail's dad's wife's son Rolly (Gail's stepbrother, I guess, though she never really uses that term for him). Rolly is a police officer up in Manitouwadge, which is a little town about half-way between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. We're driving up to Gail's dad's place on Thursday night (about 3 1/2 hours), then from there to the Sault on Friday (about 6-7 hours), and then up to Manitouwadge on Saturday (another 3-4 hours). According to Google Maps, it's about a 1200 kilometre trip from home each way. Rolly is apparently lining up all kinds of things for us to do, including sailing and probably some canoeing (I know Rolly loves canoeing and has even built his own canoes in the past), and I'm sure there will be lots of hiking as well. I'm really looking forward to this trip — I've never been this far north in Ontario.

We'll be up there for a week, returning home around the 8th of July, so blogging will likely be light (i.e. nonexistent) during that time. I'm sure, faithful readers, that you can find something productive to do during my absence.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Who would have thought... it figures

Alanis Morissette has a song called "Ironic", in which she sings about a bunch of supposed examples of irony: "rain on your wedding day", "a black fly in your Chardonnay", "a death row pardon two minutes too late", "ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife", the story of a man afraid to fly who finally gets on a plane that ends up crashing, etc. The funny thing is that none of the things she sings about are actually examples of irony. Rain on your wedding day isn't ironic, it's just a drag. Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife might be ironic if you're a knife salesman, but otherwise it's not. The bit about the plane crash might be ironic if the man is travelling to a visit a doctor or therapist who is going to help him get over his phobia.

So we have a song entitled "Ironic", which contains no examples of irony. That's pretty ironic. Don't you think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Proud papa moment

Ryan was given a special award yesterday at school. From last fall until late January, he was part of a four-student team working on a project called Exploravision. It's an international science competition, where students have to research current technology and then use their imaginations to design some kind of future technology, outlining things like what it will do, why it's better than the current technology, what other sorts of technology need to be invented / expanded in order for this to work, that kind of thing. A parent of one of Ryan's classmates wanted to enter both of his daughters in the contest, and decided to be the team's coach. He recruited a family friend to be on the team, and then asked his daughter's teacher (who's also Ryan's teacher) for a suggestion on a fourth person, and she recommended Ryan. The team met after school and on weekends, and the idea they came up with was a system to more efficiently apply sunscreen using nanotechnology. They researched the history of sunscreen, skin cancer, the light spectrum, nanotechnology, and other related topics on the web, and even visited McMaster University to visit with some nanotechnology researchers. They got to visit a clean room and laboratory, and use one of the most powerful electron microscopes in the world. It was an amazing experience for all the kids — the whole project, not just the visit to Mac.

Ryan and the team had a lot of fun with this project, and out of thousands of entries from across the US and Canada, their team placed in the top 10% and was given an honourable mention. They each got a framed certificate and a prize (a pair of compact binoculars) from Toshiba, who sponsors the event. Ryan was very excited about the award (we wanted it to be a surprise, so didn't tell him about it, though I'm sure he was wondering why we were at an assembly at his school), and Gail and I are beyond proud (I'm even misting up a little writing this entry, but don't tell anyone). Many thanks to the team's coach Greg Hodgins and Ryan's teacher Barb MacLeod for all their hard work.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Steve Simmons from the Toronto Sun wrote an article today on the same thing I wrote about last week — how the Leafs ownership is all about profit, and not about winning the Stanley Cup. Sometimes it sucks to be right.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the father's out there! I, for one, had a great Father's Day; actually, it was a great Father's Day weekend. On Saturday, I took Nicky to his soccer game in the morning, while Gail did some basement cleanup with Ryan. After soccer, we did some more cleanup while the boys entertained themselves with the Wii for a while and playing outside for a while. After lunch, Gail and I decided to "divide and conquer", so Nicky and I went to do something fun and Gail and Ryan went to do something fun. Nicky's choice was bowling, so we went to a 5-pin place in Waterdown and played a couple of games. After that, we met Ryan and Gail at a bookstore in Burlington, and swapped kids. Ryan decided that he wanted to go bowling as well, but he wanted 10-pin, so we went to a 10-pin place in Burlington. When using the ramp, Ryan did pretty well — at one point, he hit two strikes in a row and then knocked 9 out of 10 down on the next shot. My second game was easily the best game of my life — I bowled a 183, and left a grand total of 2 pins standing the whole game. I shot 5 spares in a row, then a strike, then 9, then two more spares, then a strike, and I got 9 on the last two throws. Could be that Wii bowling has improved my real bowling game! Guess I should be playing Wii baseball more often, considering how I'm hitting in my baseball league this year...

Anyway, on Sunday, we went to see Shrek the Third, which I enjoyed, as did the boys. After, we went for dinner to a place in Burlington called Tony Roma's, where I enjoyed some very fine back ribs. Tomorrow I'm home with Nicky, since his babysitter is on vacation, then I have baseball tomorrow night, Ryan is getting a special award at an assembly Tuesday afternoon, my parents are coming on Wednesday for Grandparent's Day in Nicky's kindergarten class, then they're staying to babysit Nicky on Thursday, and I'm going to a Jays game with my dad next Saturday. Oh, and Ryan has soccer on Monday and Wednesday nights. And Gail's going to the grade 8 graduation on Thursday night to present an award to some graduating students (she's chair of the school council). And the cable guy is coming on Thursday to fix our cable which has been flaky for a couple of days. And I have another baseball game on Wednesday which I can't make it to, and I'll have to cancel my guitar lesson on Thursday night too. All in all, not far from a fairly normal week at our house.

Apparently, I Rock

Someone at work brought in an XBox the other day, and we played Guitar Hero II at lunch time. I had heard a lot about this game, but had never played it. It's kind of like Dance Dance Revolution, except that instead of stepping on a particular part of the floor pad, you hit buttons on a "guitar". Holy crap, was that a lot of fun. I did three songs: You Really Got Me (Van Halen's version), Message in a Bottle by the Police, and finished off with a tougher one, Iron Maiden's The Trooper. After every song, it came up and said "You Rock!", though I'm not sure if that's a rating of my performance, or just what it says when you're done. A couple of people were watching, and they said I did really well — I hit over 90% of the notes on all three songs, got 100% in numerous passages (though I only did about 75% during the solo in The Trooper), hit 160 notes in a row in Message, and ended up with over 100,000 points in The Trooper, which, apparently, is very good.

I don't have an XBox, and I doubt I'll buy one just for this, but if this game comes out for the Wii, I'm there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Big Decision

I am at a crossroads, considering making one of the most critical decisions of my life. Do I stay the course, continuing something I've done for many years and that I'm comfortable with, or have I had enough of the status quo? Am I ready to make the life-altering decision that will have lifelong consequences for me and my children?

I'm talking, of course, about my allegiance with the Toronto Maple Leafs and my position of "lifelong fan". I've been a Leafs fan as long as I can remember, having been brought up in Toronto. I remember watching Leaf games as a kid with my dad and saying dumb things like "Wow, if that guy was a Maple Leaf, we would have scored!" when the opposing goalie passed the puck to one of his defensemen. I weathered the storm in the 70's when the team sucked, though I don't remember most of it. I was there in the 80's when the team sucked; I even coloured my hair blue during the playoffs one year (when all my friends said they were going to do it too and then chickened out — not that I'm still bitter about that). I was there in the 90's and 2000's when the team didn't suck as bad most of the time, and I've been there the last two years when the team sucked. But over the last couple of years, as I pay more and more attention to the team (thanks to listening to sports radio during my commute every day), I grow more and more frustrated with the way the team is run:

  • John Ferguson has done a lousy job of building the team into a winner, and they just resigned him to a long-term contract.
  • Nik Antropov was supposed to be a top prospect, but has been a total bust. After six full seasons and part of another, he's certainly had enough time to make the most of his supposed potential, but simply hasn't, and yet they just resigned him as well.
  • They signed Bryan McCabe to an insanely large contract, with a no-trade clause — he's a good offensive defenseman, but is not that great defensively, and certainly doesn't deserve to be paid as if he is among the upper echelon of defenseman.
  • For years, the Leafs would sign past-their-prime players and pay them as if they were still in their prime. (One notable exception is Eric Lindros, who was definitely past his prime, but they didn't pay him a ton.) The only reason they don't still do this is the salary cap. Even if they didn't pay them big bucks, they'd trade away prospects and draft picks to get them. They are still doing this (see Yanic Perreault last year).

MLSE is making money hand over fist on the Leafs, and it has been projected in the media a number of times that if the Leafs ever did win the Stanley Cup, public interest in the team might actually drop in subsequent years (I've heard the same thing about the Chicago Cubs, though it didn't seem to happen when the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series). So MLSE has no real incentive to put in the effort to win the Cup, and it's been painfully obvious that they have no particular interest in doing so. Hence the hiring of a inexperienced (i.e. cheap) GM that they can control. This would explain the signing of popular players to rich contracts, rather than trying to sign players that might actually help the team win. Tie Domi and the aforementioned McCabe come immediately to mind. (Though the Antropov signing puzzles me, since he's neither useful nor popular.)

They just resigned the very popular Mats Sundin to a one-year deal, which I don't have a huge problem with. I wouldn't have been too disappointed, however, if they had decided not to resign him, as long as they used that money to sign young players with some upside, rather than doing something stupid like signing Alexei Yashin. I've heard rumours on the radio that the Leafs are interested in signing Yashin, and I cannot imagine a dumber move for the Leafs than signing him, unless they get him for some bargain-basement price and have the ability to trade him or send him to the minors at any time.

Anyway, back to MLSE, which also owns the Toronto Raptors. However, the way they handle that team is vastly different than the way they handle the Leafs. MLSE paid big bucks to hire a stud GM for the Raptors, and make that team into a winner. This makes sense — the Raptors have been around for less than 15 years and to a large extent, they're still trying to create a long-term fan base. If the Raps suck for years and years, it's logical to think that interest will decrease, so they want to make that team into a winner to keep the fans interested. MLSE is a business, attempting to make a profit, nothing more. If winning a Stanley Cup will significantly increase that profit, then that's what they'll try to do, but it won't. But Toronto fans have shown for 40 years that they will pay to watch the Leafs and buy jerseys and stuff even if the team doesn't win, so why bother paying for a stud GM or putting in any significant work to help the team win when there's no significant financial advantage to doing so?

I lived in Ottawa in 1993 when Ottawa was awarded an expansion franchise, and I've had a soft spot for the Senators ever since. But Senators coverage on the local TV and radio stations is minimal unless they're playing the Leafs (or in the Cup finals), so I'd have to work pretty hard at being a die-hard Sens fan. Now, along comes Jim Balsillie, attempting to be my saviour.

If Balsillie moves the Nashville Predators to Hamilton or Kitchener-Waterloo, my prayers are answered. Balsillie isn't buying the team to make money — he's a hockey fan, so he (presumably) wants to win a Cup, which means he might be willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish that goal, which MLSE is not. I'll have a local team to cheer for that might actually be interested in winning, and actually has the talent to do so. Tickets for games might be easier (i.e. possible) to get, and I won't have to take out a second mortgage to go to a couple of games. Copps Coliseum is less than 15km from my house, so if they play there for a year or two while they build an arena in Waterloo (where I work), that would be perfect.

I'm sure I will always be a Leaf fan to some extent, especially if the Predators don't move to southern Ontario. But until Leaf ownership changes their tune and actually tries to put a winning team on the ice, my passion for the Leafs will wane.

Update: Just thought of a cool song lyric that I should have used as the title of this post: "We said our love would last forever, so how did it come to this bitter end?" from "Kayleigh" by Marillion.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stanley Cup Champion Ducks

...boy does that sounds weird. So I ended up 11 for 15 in my NHL playoff picks. As I said before, I wouldn't call Ottawa's defeat "choking" - in previous years, they've had great regular seasons and then lost to inferior teams in the playoffs, while this year, they beat the inferior teams (and you could even argue that Buffalo wasn't) and then simply lost to a better team. Can't fault them too much for that, though the fact that Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley are now appearing on milk cartons all over the National Capital Region certainly didn't help them.

We did the Walk for Miracles this morning. It was indeed 5km, same as the Run for the Cure, but was a little more leisurely, and seemed less hectic. However, the main reason for that was the fact that there were way less people there. I don't remember the actual numbers, but I think the Run for the Cure has something like thirty thousand people walking through the closed streets of downtown Burlington. Today, there were a maybe a couple of thousand walking along sidewalks through downtown London. No streets were closed; actually, I don't think the path they chose even crossed any streets. Anyway, both boys walked the whole way (no wagon!), so I was pretty impressed with that. We had lots of fun, and will probably do it again next year.

Edited to add: Here are a couple of pictures from last year's Walk for Miracles. There are three pictures from London — the little girl cutting the ribbon is Sarah, and her mom Cindy is helping.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wal-Mart Walk for Miracles

This coming weekend, the four of us are walking in the Wal-Mart Walk for Miracles in London, Ontario. The walk will raise money for the Children's Hospital in London. As some of you may know, our friend Sarah had multi-organ transplant surgery there in August of 1997 at the age of six months, and is now a happy and healthy ten-year-old. We are walking with Sarah, her mother, and a bunch of other friends and family. We would like to help the Children's Hospital continue the wonderful work that they do.

If you would like to sponsor us, please go to the team page. Any donations are very much appreciated. To be honest, I have no idea how long of a walk it is - 2km, 5km, 10km, ... but however long it is, that's how long we're walking. The next step is to convince the kids to walk, and not ride in the wagon like the Run for the Cure last year.