Thursday, April 30, 2009

La la la la la

My letter was not published. But there were two other letters published, one who agreed with me and one who did not. In case the links don't survive for long, here are the letters in their entirety. First, the guy who agreed with me:

Thousands of biologists have confirmed on the micro scale that organisms change over generations.

On the macro scale, these observations have been confirmed in the fossil record, which shows both diversity and similarities among species that indicate a common ancestor. This has led to the theory of evolution.

Other scientific theories include the germ theory of disease and the theory of electromagnetism.

Creationism is not a scientific theory. It is philosophical speculation that an intelligent being created the universe. It cannot be tested and has no data to support it. As such, it has no place in science classes.

The other guy's letter is not available online (though the above letter is there twice) but it said:

Another left-brain-thinking scientist tries to tell us to look at the beauty of creation as one big accident.

I really hope that second guy is not a teacher. Yes, life itself is a truly remarkable thing, and intelligent life even more so. But you can't just ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that evolution has happened and is continuing to happen. Doing this in favour of a belief that cannot be proven (or even, as the first letter writer suggests, tested) is the scientific equivalent of closing your eyes and covering your ears and yelling "God did it! La la la la la I'm not listening to the evidence! La la la la la"

(Aside: The really ironic part of the second letter is that according to a Wikipedia article on brain function, the whole left-brain-vs.-right-brain thing isn't real science either.)

Maybe the building blocks of life were created by God. Since we don't know for sure how that happened, I have to admit that the idea is at least plausible even if I personally don't believe it. Maybe God created the first seeds of life and then allowed evolution to take it from there. Look at that, we're both right! Everybody wins!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Teach all theories? Yes, if it's actually a theory

There was an article in the Hamilton Spectator a few days ago about how evolution not being taught in Ontario schools until Grade 12 biology, a course which is not mandatory. As a result, we have students in Ontario universities that have never learned about evolution or natural selection and think that it means "people came from monkeys". In today's Spec, there is a letter to the editor in response to this article, which states:

Evolution may be a valuable lesson but it is still a theory. The title seems to imply that Darwinian theory equals truth.

The teaching of 'intelligent design' and 'creationism' are theoretically just as valid.

The teaching of all three in a science curriculum would help students to learn, analyze, discern and decide for themselves what data is relevant and to find their own truth.

Isn't that the best education?

I just finished writing a response and emailed it to the Spec. My response:

The writer is confused about the use of the word "theory" with respect to the theory of evolution. Evolution is a fact -- scientists have observed it happening. The theory of evolution describes why and how it happens, not whether it happens.

A scientific theory is not just a guess. The theory of evolution is no more a guess than the theory of gravity. We may not understand all the details of how evolution works, but there is no question that it is happening.

Intelligent design, on the other hand, is pseudo-science that is not supported by any facts, only religious faith.

We'll see if it gets published.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Burning question of the morning

Why do they put ProActive acne medication and Olay "regenerist" (or whatever) cream commercials on during The Smurfs?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NLL Playoff Picks – Round 1


Rochester vs. New York

Rochester started the season 0-4 and just looked really bad, but they fought hard to recover and beat Philadelphia in a must-win game to make the playoffs, which is a testament to rookie coach Paul Gait. They have survived the loss of John Grant and Scott Evans, plus Pat O'Toole for a few games. On the negative side, we all knew Gary Gait wouldn't be the multiple-MVP-winning Gary Gait from years gone by, but I think he was even less impactful than expected. Gait didn't even make the top 50 in scoring. He missed five games, but even if you extrapolate out to 16 games, he'd only be tied for 35th. After Williams (#6) and Evans (T12), the third top scorer on the Knighthawks was Jason Henhawk, tied for 57th. The Titans have six scorers in the top 37.

New York was in second place all year, but ended up tied with both Buffalo and Boston and won the East on tie-breakers. Matt Vinc is one of the best goaltenders in the league, and Casey Powell ended up 8th in the league in scoring despite only playing 13 games. Extrapolating his point total to 16 games you end up with 104, which would have tied him with Dan Dawson for second. The Titans took two of three from the Knighthawks during the regular season, but the first win was early in the season when a struggling Hawks team only allowed them 8 goals, so you could almost call the season series even.

Prediction: New York in a close one

Boston vs. Buffalo

Another toughie. Two strong offensive teams, two outstanding goalies. Boston has nothing to prove – nobody though they'd make it this far – but Buffalo lost their last two games (their last to these same Blazers) and with that, their lock on first place. The days of Buffalo losing games because they took too many stupid penalties are long gone, and I think the Bandits will be back with a vengeance.

Prediction: Buffalo


Colorado vs. Calgary

Calgary only lost four games all season, but one of them was to the Mammoth. (Another one, inexplicably, was to the lowly Toronto Rock.) King and Campbell have been the best one-two goalie combo in the league this year, and Josh Sanderson has made Calgary fans forget Lewis Ratcliff. Colorado, on the other hand, finished the season with a win over Edmonton but lost seven of nine before that and as any Star Trek fan will tell you, losing Seven of Nine is a very bad thing indeed. Leyshon and Palidwor played admirably, but the loss of Gee Nash was just too much. Calgary shouldn't have a problem getting to the west final again.

Prediction: Calgary

San Jose vs. Portland

I find it difficult to go against Colin Doyle's team in the playoffs. I've seen him step his game up a notch (or more) when the games matter the most too many times to think he might fold under pressure. His unprecendented three Championship game MVP awards are a testament to that. San Jose didn't have a great season, but they won four of five near the end of the season, at the same time that Colorado was losing five of six. I think San Jose will take it, but having said all that, they'll have trouble getting by Calgary.

Prediction: San Jose

If I was forced to make predictions on round two, I'd have to take Buffalo over New York and Calgary over San Jose, resulting in a rematch of the 2004 Championship – Buffalo in Calgary. I'll have to give Calgary the edge in another close one. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 NLL Champions, the Calgary Roughnecks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top ten reasons why being a Rock fan is better than being a Bandits fan

  1. Getting tickets to a Rock game is getting easier, while getting tickets to a Bandits game is getting harder
  2. No annoying cheering and yelling during games – much quieter while you are sending email on your Blackberry
  3. Orange shoes are distracting
  4. Same coach and GM for seven years? Where's the fun in that?
  5. No counting lessons ("1, 2, 3, ..., n, WE WANT n+1!") or spelling lessons ("B O X") during Rock games
  6. Rock fans can look back at the early years when Les Bartley and Jim Veltman led them to multiple championships
  7. Mark Steenhuis is greedy – keeps hogging All-Star game MVP and player of the week awards
  8. A Bandits player has the same last name as the coach/GM... suspicious. That would never happen in Toronto.
  9. Rock coach arrested for beating up an opposing player. Boring Bandits coach could beat up just about anyone on the planet, but doesn't.
  10. Weekends free in late April and May

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eight of Five

I have posted a couple of times in the past about J.P. Ricciardi and whether he should be fired. First I complained about a couple of stupid moves that he made. Then I decided that he definitely should be fired. The last time, I was questioning my previous decision. Then when they let Burnett go and did nothing else in the off-season, I decided (though I guess I didn't post anything to this effect) that Ricciardi's time was over. Now they've started the season (a season with zero expectations) at 10-4 and have looked seriously awesome. Lind, Hill and Rolen are all hitting above .325, while Overbay, Wells, Snider, and Scutaro are all above .280. Everybody listed above has at least two homers after 15 games, and everybody listed above except Wells was acquired or drafted by Ricciardi. Ricky Romero, another Ricciardi draftee, is 2-0 with a outstanding 1.71 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Shaun Marcum (also drafted by Ricciardi) and Dustin McGowan are out for the season because of injuries, but injuries aren't J.P.'s fault and if those two were healthy, the Jays would have a pretty impressive rotation. So maybe Ricciardi does know what he's doing.

Obviously this is really early in the season, and for Romero at least, very early in the career, so it may not mean anything. The Jays are on pace to win 115 games. Do I think that will happen? Not a chance, but I'm certainly enjoying watching them right now.

Then again, the only team with more wins than the Jays are the 11-1 Florida Marlins, and the World Series Champion Phillies are under .500.  Last year, Tampa Bay won the East and the Yankees didn't make the playoffs. All of these put together make a compelling argument that the end of the world is very close at hand. Sinners repent.

There's been a lot of talk over the last year or two among Jays fans, many of whom think that Ricciardi has had his chance and deserves to be fired, since the Jays are no closer to the pennant now than they were when he took over. J.P. originally said that he had a plan to make the Jays contenders in five years, and we're now into year eight. But has Ricciardi really done a bad job, or does it seem like that because he gave us a hard deadline that he didn't meet? What would we think had J.P. not said anything about how long it might take? Well, as I posted before, he's currently the longest-serving GM that hasn't seen the playoffs. And it's not like we've been close – the Jays haven't had a sniff of the playoffs since 1994. So I think that even if J.P. hadn't given any time deadline, we'd still be calling for his head. But given the awesome start to this season, I'm willing to give him just a little more rope. But unless the Jays get to the post-season this year, he's done. In fact, if the team isn't still in it by the All-Star break – and by "in it" I mean within 2 or 3 games of first place in the East – then that should be it for J.P., and the Jays should start looking for a new GM, preferably someone named Brian.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NLL season prediction results

The 2009 NLL regular season has come to a close, so it's time to look at the predictions I made at the beginning of the season and see how I did.

  Result My predictions
1 New York Buffalo
2 Buffalo Philly
3 Boston New York
4 Rochester Toronto
5 Philly Rochester
6 Toronto Boston
1 Calgary Minnesota
2 Portland Calgary
3 San Jose Colorado
4 Colorado San Jose
5 Minnesota Portland
6 Edmonton Edmonton

End result: one correct out of twelve. Ouch. But really, you could argue that I wasn't that far off. Five teams – Buffalo, Rochester, Calgary, Colorado, and San Jose – were all off by only one. As with my mid-season predictions, if you make two swaps my predictions are very close. Swap Philly and Boston (who predicted that they would finish tied for first?) and four teams miss by one and the other two miss by two. In the west, swap Minnesota and Portland and I get four off-by-one's and two correct.

I have a copy of Inside Lacrosse magazine from the beginning of the season, and Brian Shanahan made his picks as well, so let's see how he did:

  Result Brian Shanahan
1 New York Buffalo
2 Buffalo Rochester
3 Boston Toronto
4 Rochester Philly
5 Philly New York
6 Toronto Boston
1 Calgary Minnesota
2 Portland San Jose
3 San Jose Colorado
4 Colorado Edmonton
5 Minnesota Calgary
6 Edmonton Portland

Turns out that Shanny's ouch is worse than mine. None right and only four off by one. The best you can do with two swaps would be New York and Rochester in the east, giving him four off-by-ones and the other two off by three. In the west, you could swap Minnesota and Calgary and get two right, and you'd still have two off by one, but then Edmonton is off by two and Portland by four.

Shanny was more confident about Rochester and Toronto than I was and like me, he thought Minnesota would fare better than they did. But how he got Edmonton finishing ahead of Calgary I don't know. In fairness, Shanny's predictions were made before Chicago folded (he had them finishing 6th in the East, between New York and Boston) and therefore before Anthony Cosmo joined the Blazers. They were also made before Paul Gait was hired as Rochester head coach, and before it was announced that the Knighthawks would be missing Shawn Evans for the season.

Maybe Shanny should start reading my blog, instead of me reading his. <grin>

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wii Fit

Our "family present" this past Christmas was Wii Fit. The boys were kind of excited about it, but not thrilled. It wasn't like their reaction when we bought them Star Wars Lego for Wii – that game was a big hit. Since then, however, they've really started to enjoy Wii Fit. It's not their favourite game – that would be the aforementioned Star Wars Lego – but I'd say it's in the top three. Gail and I also enjoy it. There are basically three "modes" to Wii Fit. It can be:

  1. a fun game
  2. a workout that doesn't seem like a workout
  3. a real workout

The balance games may help your overall balance, but they certainly just seem like fun. Or, you can combine the balance games with a couple of the aerobic ones for a bit of a workout. There's a boxing one that combines throwing punches with step aerobics, or there are regular step aerobics and some running ones as well. Or, if you are actually in the mood to work out, some of the strength training and yoga exercises are quite difficult (the "dance" yoga one is the hardest one I've done yet).

Does it compare to an actual weight bench or going for an actual run, whether outside or on a treadmill? Well, not really. But there have been times where the boys are asleep and Gail is either asleep as well or doing something else, and I have some time to myself. Sometimes I read, blog, work, play my guitar, but rarely do I decide to go and work out for half an hour. However, on some occasions I have decided to play Wii Fit for a while and before I knew it, I had worked out for half an hour or more.

People have been trying to making exercising fun for non-fitness buffs for years, so kudos to Nintendo for finally succeeding.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CD Review: Pearl Jam – Ten Redux

I originally bought Pearl Jam's Ten album in about 1991 and have loved it ever since. It's one of my all-time favourite albums, is simply great from start to finish, and even contains one of my favourite guitar solos (on "Alive"). This past week, Pearl Jam released a new version of Ten which contains two CDs – the first is simply the album I have, the second (called Ten Redux) contains remixed versions of every song on the album, as well as a few bonus tracks. This basically means that I just bought two copies of an album I already had.

I didn't plan on buying this new version, figuring it was only for serious die-hard Pearl Jam fans. But Alan Cross talked about it on the Explore Music podcast a couple of weeks ago, and said that the new remixed version is simply amazing, so I ordered it from

Strangely, Cross said that the changes are "subtle, but obvious – if you listen to it off CD and NOT off a compressed MP3". So on the way into work the other day, I brought the CD with me and listened to it directly, rather than plugging the iPod in. (Ironically, the CD wouldn't play in the player at first. I had to eject it and try it again before it would play. I think the first time I put the disk in, it got caught in the cobwebs inside.) I was a little sceptical that I would hear any difference, given what Cross had said – I figured that if the differences were so subtle that you couldn't hear them from an MP3, then the $69 stereo in my car wouldn't allow me to hear the differences anyway, but it did. I'm not sure I agree with Cross's assessment, since the differences I hear are obvious enough (to someone who's listened to the album enough times) that even with a compressed MP3, you can hear them. I listened to the MP3 version from my iPod as well, and sure enough you can hear the changes. I rip all my MP3's at a variable bit rate, which means that the compression isn't as good (i.e. the files are bigger) but you don't lose as much sound quality. Maybe Cross uses a higher compression rate.

The Difference

Despite sounding oxymoronic, Cross's description of "subtle, but obvious" is exactly right. This not a "director's cut" – there are no new verses, no new solos, and none of the songs are any longer or shorter than the originals. Nothing has been added or removed, and most importantly, Han still shoots first. Most of what they've done is modify the relative volumes of the instruments. In most songs, the rhythm guitar has been turned up during solos -- in a couple of cases, it's been turned up enough that it's harder to hear the solo guitar. There were a couple of relatively quiet sections (like the first time you hear "Why go home?" in "Why Go") where the drums and bass have been turned up a little. In some cases, the background vocals have been turned down. The most obvious specific difference I found was that the "hoo hoo hoo hoo" high-pitched vocals on "Jeremy" have been almost removed. There are a few other smaller changes:

  • in "Even Flow" after the line "Where do I stand?", the echo of "stand" is gone
  • the bass at the very end of "Why Go" is a little louder, and is sustained just a touch longer, causing the segue into the brilliant "Black" to be a little less smooth than the original.
  • the opening guitar on "Garden" has a different tone

There are also six bonus songs included, some of which were previously unreleased. "Brother" and "Just A Girl both" sound like they could have been on Ten, and I might even have included "Brother" over "Deep". "Breath And A Scream" is kind of boring, and sounds like a bonus track, i.e. one that wasn't good enough to make the album. "State Of Love And Trust" isn't bad, and "2,000 Mile Blues" is cool - very Zeppelin-esque. "Evil Little Goat" is only a minute and a half long, but if Eddie Vedder ever sang for The Beach Boys, this might be what it would sound like.

Now if only Pearl Jam could remix their later albums (anything after Vs.) to make me care about them. I loved Ten and really liked Vs. as well but for some reason, I completely lost interest in Pearl Jam after that. No idea why. I have a couple of later albums (Riot Act and Pearl Jam) and I've listened to them a couple of times, but they seem kind of forgettable. But now that my interest in Ten has been rekindled, I'll give them another listen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mangled metaphors

Heard on a sports podcast today:

That's the golden slipper that Cinderella was looking for.

Um.... what?

First off, Cinderella had glass slippers, not gold. Secondly, Cinderella wasn't looking for a slipper. In fact, she wasn't looking for anything – it was the Prince looking for the person who fit the slipper.

<shakes head> Sports guys.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Boston 14 Toronto 13

Some comments on tonight's game:

  • Watson was a little shaky at the beginning but settled down, and made some very nice stops in the second half. Cosmo was great all night. It seemed that Toronto kept trying to go five-hole on him all night, but there just wasn't a five-hole. That's probably why they asked for the goalie equipment check.
  • Most games this season (the home games, anyway), the Rock have started out strong and then slowed down. They played a full 60 strong minutes in the last game, and tonight, the Rock's best quarter was the third, but the 4th was pretty strong too. Overall, other than refusing to shoot the damn ball at times, they played pretty well.
  • Like Rochester's Mac Allen in the last game, another bad moustache. "Boston penalty to #12, Jon Durno, two minutes for unruly facial hair."
  • After the last goal, I was reminded of the 2001 NLL Championship game in Toronto. The other team (Philadelphia in 2001, Boston tonight) is up by two goals, but the Rock is putting on great pressure. Toronto scores a goal to bring them within one, and I immediately look at the clock to see how much time is left. In 2001, about 1.3 seconds. Tonight, 0.9. Just not enough time and the Rock lose by one.
  • Nice to see Cosmo come out and congratulate Dan Ladouceur.
  • Jason Clark is new to the Rock, and obviously hasn't read the Rock 2009 playbook. A couple of times when he got the ball near the net, he turned and shot at the net. He doesn't yet know that the way Rock do things in 2009 is to pass the ball around ten or fifteen times, ignoring decent shooting opportunities, before (a) shooting directly at the goalie's chest, (b) dropping a pass, or (c) shooting and missing the net completely. I'm sure by the next game, he will have cleaned up his act a little and gotten with the program.
  • There were a couple of goal reviews, all of which were quite obvious on the replay. I thought for sure that McGlone was in the crease on his goal, but replay showed clearly that he was still in the air when the ball went in.
  • Rob Marshall is trying so hard to be Steve Toll, but he just can't score. I like him though, he works hard.
  • Cosmo twice stopped play when his team needed it by having the trainer come out to look at his equipment. Another skill he learned from Whipper while he was in Toronto.

Dialoguing about language weirdities

A bunch of mini-stories about the English language (about which I have previously opined):

There is no noun in English which cannot be verbed. I received an email the other day that contained the word "dialogue" as a verb: "we would like to dialogue with you...". Why not just say "talk" or "speak"? Or "we would like to have a dialogue with you..." Another example of how verbing weirds language.

Someone on a podcast recently was talking about seeing things from a different advantage point. Sigh.

Ryan asked me a little while ago, "Why can't I have my cake and eat it too? If you can't eat it, what's the point of having it?" I had no answer for him.

In recent years, a lot of people have started using the phrase "going forward". Why? For almost any sentence containing those two words, the sentence means exactly the same thing if they are removed. Same with "all told".

If "it goes without saying", why say it? I actually remember the host of some show like the Oscars or Emmys playing on something like this: he announced that the next presenter "is a man who needs no introduction" and then simply turned and walked off the stage.

Why is it that "I could care less" and "I couldn't care less" mean the same thing? I always use the latter, since the former makes no sense, but people use it anyway.

Cute kid story: When Ryan was very little (maybe two), we found that if we gave him a cup of juice when he bumped himself or fell or whatever, he'd "recover" faster. Not because of any medicinal properties of the juice, more because it distracted him. He'd concentrate (see what I did there? a juice joke) on the juice (apple juice was about the greatest thing in the world to him back then) and forget about whatever hurt. I guess we told him "some juice will make you feel better" one too many times, because after a while he started verbing it himself. He'd fall and then say between tears "Some juice will feel me better".

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Some people just don't think

The Guardian, a 188-year-old UK-based newspaper, announced today that they will be discontinuing their paper editions and publishing exclusively on Twitter. While I applaud them for their forward-thinking, I can't help but wonder at the wisdom of the timing of the announcement. I mean, it's April 1st, for crying out loud! How do they expect to be taken seriously when they make an announcement this big on April Fool's Day? Wouldn't it have been smarter to post this announcement yesterday or tomorrow?

People, you really should think before posting stuff like this. I mean, really.

Relation FAIL

I started to lose some confidence in the accuracy of the We're Related application on Facebook today, when I saw this: