Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hospital by the numbers

After our trips to the UK and France, I posted articles listing some interesting numbers from the trips. My hospital stay was certainly no vacation, but I thought some of the numbers from that whole experience might be interesting as well.


Nights spent in the hospital during 2010 63
Nights spent in the hospital when my kids were born 2 (one each)
Nights spent in the hospital during the rest of my life (not including my own birth) 0
Number of hospital rooms I spent at least one night in 7 (plus a couple of nights in the ER and one in the TV lounge)
Number of roommates 10
MRIs 1
ECGs 2
Ultrasounds 3-5
X-Rays 5-8
CT scans 10-15 (including three since discharge)
Units of blood received at least 7
Units of fresh frozen plasma received at least 13
Number of drains in my body at one time 4
Number of drains total 7
Number of different tubes stuck up my nose 4 (one at a time, thankfully)
Amount of dead tissue and fluid removed from my abdomen during surgery 4 litres
Weight when admitted to hospital 178 lbs
Weight at discharge 151 lbs
Weight two weeks after discharge 141.5 lbs
Number of doctors assigned to me (total) at least 6
Number of nurses assigned to me (total) at least 25
Number of nurses who offered me backrubs 1 (but more than once)
Number of backrubs I accepted 0
Number of nurses who asked me to look up cheap flights to Poland (since I'm a "computer guy") 1
Number of nurses who spoke Zulu 1
Number of scheduled daily injections (i.e. needles) as many as 6
Number of staples holding my incision closed 43
Cost of having a phone in my hospital room $14.69/week
Cost of having wireless internet in my hospital room $20.95/week
Cost of having TV in my hospital room (with "premium" channels) $90.40/week
Cost of having cable TV at home ~$60/month
Watching Sidney Crosby score the gold medal-winning goal for Canada Priceless


This is likely the last thing I will write on my hospital experience. I don't want to turn this blog into a series of "feel sorry for me, I was really sick!" articles, but the fact of the matter is that I was really sick, and sicker than even I realized at the time. I spent more time in the hospital in two months than anyone else I know has in their entire lives, with the exception of one person – and my experience doesn't begin to compare with hers. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles

For Father's Day, Gail and the boys got me tickets for a show in Toronto called Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles, which we went to see this past Sunday afternoon. It was partially a gift for Gail as well, since just me and the boys went, so she had a day to herself. Given the events of the past few months, she hasn't had a lot of time to herself, so it was nice to be able to give her a day to do whatever she wanted.

Anyway, I was a little concerned that we were paying quite a bit of money for a concert by a tribute band. Even if the band was really good, $100/ticket is pretty expensive for a concert. I saw a band called 1964 at Ontario Place a bunch of years ago (for free!), and they were pretty good as the early Beatles. But they were basically recreating a Beatles concert from 1964, and so they only played early Beatles stuff. Rain played songs from the entire Beatles catalogue, including many songs that the Beatles never played live. They changed costumes several times, and they had video screens to enhance the whole multimedia experience. It was much more than just a band playing Beatles songs.

The guys in the band kind of resembled the Beatles, though we were in the fourth row of the balcony so we weren't all that close. I did notice that while they had video cameras showing the band, they never had close-ups of any one person. When they changed costumes, they changed hairstyles and facial hair as well. There were a couple of anomalies:

  • John Lennon has a full beard on the cover of Abbey Road, but the guy playing John did not have any facial hair while wearing his Abbey Road outfit
  • the guy playing Paul McCartney was not left-handed (though I imagine finding a left-handed musician who can play bass, guitar, and piano and sing like McCartney is rather difficult)
  • the guy playing Ringo was a decent singer. Obviously he didn't do enough research.

During one costume change break, they played a few TV commercials from the 60's which were quite funny; did you know that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble smoked Winstons?

The first half of the show consisted of songs from albums up to and including Sgt. Pepper and at least three different outfits for each "Beatle". Ryan was a little disappointed that they did not play "Help!", his favourite Beatles song. The Sgt. Pepper songs were done in full Sgt. Pepper costume, which was very cool. They finished the first half with A Day In The Life, letting that awesome final chord shake the floor for a while before bringing the lights up.

The whole second half consisted of songs the Beatles never performed live, the only exception being "Get Back", which was recorded when the Beatles played live on the roof of Apple Records.  They did a bit of an acoustic set, playing "Girl" and "Mother Nature's Son" (I was waiting for "Blackbird", but no such luck), and shortly thereafter cranked the amps up to eleven to play Revolution. From the Abbey Road medley, the only song they played was "The End" – I would like to have heard "Golden Slumbers" and "Carry That Weight" as well.

Just before the show started, an announcement was made saying that no pre-recorded music was used during the show, but that's not quite true. The band certainly played their instruments, but they made heavy use of the synthesizer for some songs. Parts of Strawberry Fields Forever and the orchestra swells and final chord in A Day In The Life would have been difficult to play live even with a synth, so I suspect there was either some sampling or at least those pieces were pre-recorded. Also, the seriously distorted scream at the beginning of "Revolution" sounded exactly like the one on the recording. The weirdest part was during Eleanor Rigby. The only instruments in this entire song are strings (violins, violas, cellos), none of which were played by anyone on stage. I'm sure they used the synth for this one too, but the weird part was that both "Paul" and "George" appeared to be pretending to play their instruments during the song. Seeing as how there is no bass or guitar in the song, I don't know why they'd be doing this.

The three of us loved the show, and judging by the standing ovation at the end, the majority of the crowd did as well (one exception was the grouch sitting a few seats down from us, who never stood, clapped, sang, or even smiled through the whole show). It wasn't the cheapest concert ever, but the musicians were really good, the music was obviously fantastic, and we really enjoyed ourselves, so it was a great day all around.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Top Ten Funny Song Lyrics

Not necessarily brilliant or insightful, just lyrics that always make me laugh. I left out comedy musicians like Weird Al or Jonathan Coulton (though I always laugh at "one bad-ass fucking fractal"). These are in no particular order.


  1. Paul McCartney, "Sally"
    When you're away there are grey skies
    And when I'm away there are even more grey skies than the grey skies I told you about before
  2. Gin Blossoms, "Cheatin'"
    You can't call it cheatin', cause she reminds me of you
  3. ZZ Top, "TV Dinners"
    I like the enchiladas and the teriyaki too
    I even like the chicken if the sauce is not too blue
  4. A few self-referential songs, grouped together because they're similar:
    1. Def Leppard, "Me and My Wine"
      You know I'd like to get to know you
      but I ain't got the time, and I'm
      I'm finding it harder and harder
      to make this damn thing rhyme
    2. Alice Cooper, "School's Out"
      Well we got no class
      and we got no principles
      and we got no innocence
      we can't even think of a word that rhymes
    3. Primus, "Mr. Know-it-all"
      They call me Mr. Know-it-all
      I am so eloquent
      Perfection is my middle name
      and whatever rhymes with eloquent
  5. Led Zeppelin, "Travelling Riverside Blues"
    Squeeze my lemon til the juice runs down my leg
    Squeeze it so hard I'm gonna fall right outta bed...
    I wonder if you know what I'm talkin' 'bout

    The same lyrics are in "The Lemon Song" as well, but the funny part is Robert Plant wondering if we know what he's talkin' 'bout. Right Robert, that's a tough one. I'm not sure I can see through the layers of complicated symbolism there.
  6. Tom Petty, "A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own"
    I've been over to your house
    And you've been sometimes to my house
    I've slept in your treehouse
    My middle name is Earl
    (Important note: Tom Petty's middle name is indeed Earl)
  7. Autograph, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me"
    Don't remember any lyrics, I just like the title of this forgettable song from a forgettable band from the mid-80's.
  8. Matchbox 20, "Long Day"
    I'm sorry 'bout the attitude I need to give when I'm with you
    But no one else would take this shit from me
  9. Dire Straits, "Industrial Disease"
    Two men say they're Jesus
    One of them must be wrong
  10. Cake, "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"
    The whole song makes me laugh. It starts off with a guy singing about what kind of girl he wants. He wants "a girl with a mind like a diamond", "is fast and thorough and sharp as a tack", "with a voice that is dark like tinted glass", that kind of thing. Of course, he also wants a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket. Then it gets a little weird. Now he wants a girl "with uninterrupted prosperity, who uses a machete to cut through red tape" and someone who's "touring the facility and picking up slack". And who wouldn't want a girl with "a smooth liquidation" and "good dividends"? Finally he gets really specific:
    At Citibank we will meet accidentally ["Meet accidentally!" yell the backup singers]
    We'll start to talk when she borrows my pen...
    She's changing her name from Kitty to Karen
    She's trading her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's not the humidity, it's the Heat

So LeBron James is joining the Miami Heat next year with his buddies Dwayne Dewayne Dywane Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. A lot of people have gone completely apeshit over his decision to leave Cleveland for South Beach, which I don't quite get. The Cavaliers negotiated a contract with James which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2009-2010 season. Having fulfilled his contract he earned the right to become an UFA, and by playing as well as he did he earned the privilege of choosing where he wanted to play next year. I can't blame James for making the decision he did, especially after Wade re-signed and Bosh announced he was heading to Miami as well. It's not like he asked for a trade or asked the Cavs to let him out of his contract or something. Do Cavs fans have a right to be disappointed about LeBron's decision? Absolutely, just as Raptors fans are disappointed about Bosh leaving. But I don't get the hatred and talk of "disloyalty". Players just don't play their entire careers with one team anymore, so expecting LeBron to is just not realistic.

What I can blame him for is the ridiculous way he announced his decision. Seriously LeBron, you needed a one hour special on prime time TV to say "Miami"? Chris Bosh announced his decision with a two-word tweet. I do have to say that I did watch part of the special - up until LeBron announced where he was going. I did feel almost guilty about watching it though like watching a train wreck.

Adding to the whole circus, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote an open letter to Cavaliers fans lambasting James, calling his decision to leave Cleveland "cowardly betrayal" and a "shocking act of disloyalty". This letter might be the most childish and least professional thing I've ever seen in pro sports. However narcissistic and self-promotional the TV special was, Gilbert added a level of immaturity to this whole episode that wasn't there before. Don't forget, Shaquille O'Neal plays for the Cavaliers now (or did last year, anyway). Shaq was drafted by Orlando, won Rookie of the Year with them, and led them to the finals (though they didn't win), and then left as a free agent. Sound familiar? Cavs management didn't seem too concerned with his lack of loyalty when they traded for him.

I don't watch a lot of basketball on TV (the occasional Raptors game and the Finals are about it), but if the Heat play in Cleveland next season, I might check that one out.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ryan tells it like it is

Nicky is in a summer camp this week called Fossil Hunters, run by a private school up on Hamilton Mountain. On the way home today, I asked him what they had done today, and he said that they made a fossil. Being the amusing father that I am, I asked him "Did you find a dinosaur, bury him in sand, then wait a hundred million years and dig him up again?" Nicky said that this is not, in fact, what they did but laughed at the idea, while telling me that they couldn't do it that way because we'd be dead in a hundred million years. Thanks for that bit of insight, Captain Obvious.

Anyway, as my children often do, they took the idea of burying a dinosaur and ran with it. The conversation went something like this:

Nicky: Maybe we could bury something...
Ryan: Yeah! And then we'd tell our kids where it is, and they'd tell their kids...
Nicky: Yeah! And after a hundred million years, they could dig it up and have a fossil!
Ryan: Yeah! That'd be cool.
Me: What happens if one of our descendants doesn't have kids?
Ryan: Then we're screwed.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Oh Canada! Ribfest

Ribfest Waterdown held its first annual Oh Canada! Ribfest this past weekend. There were six "ribbers" selling not only ribs but chicken and pulled pork, and each one sold bottles of their custom BBQ sauce as well. Some had other sides like beans, cole slaw, and corn bread. There were other places selling Bloomin' Onions and Spiral Spuds, as well as pitas, roasted yams, corn-on-the-cob, and your standard nachos, burgers, dogs, and fries. And don't forget the ice cream and mini-donuts. And the beer! They had beer and coolers from a local micro-brewery, Nickel Brook. I tried the Green Apple Pilsner on Thursday, which tasted kind of like beer mixed with apple cider. Doesn't really sound that good, but I liked it. It's kind of like Corona for me - I wouldn't buy a case of it, but once in a while, on a hot summer day (like today), it's very nice. On Sunday, I tried their regular pilsner, which I wasn't too thrilled with. But I also tried their draft root beer, which was very different from regular A&W or Barq's root beer – almost had a black liquorice taste to it. That stuff was good, and surprisingly Gail, who likes neither black liquorice nor root beer, liked it too.

I'm on a horse.Besides the food, there was a stage where kids from local dance schools showed their talent, a bunch of local bands played, and at night on Thursday, they dropped down a huge screen and showed How To Train Your Dragon. There was a little midway with kids rides, and a bunch of local vendors set up booths as well. On Canada Day, they had a mountie present for a "Citizenship Court", as a number of local people became brand new Canadian citizens. Nothing says Canada like a mountie in full uniform, except maybe a mountie in full uniform on a horse. Holding a Tim Horton's cup.

The ribfest was held at Memorial Park in Waterdown, which is about 1½ km from our house, so we walked there and back – three times. (Well, two times. We drove on Sunday when it was 35° outside.) We went for lunch on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. There were ballots for voting on the ribbers, and we wanted to be informed voters, so we made sure we tried them all before voting. Plus the ribs were so good, we just had to keep going back. Good thing dental floss is cheap – I've gone through an awful lot of it in the past few days.

There were six ribbers showcasing their wares, and you could vote in each of two categories: ribs and sauce. The ribbers were:

Fire Island – Ribs: pretty good. Sauce: excellent. The sauce was more smoky and had a bit more of a bite than the others. All four of us chose this as our favourite sauce. We had BBQ sauce on the ribs, but we had a sample of their honey-garlic sauce as well (zingy!), and it was so good that we bought a bottle.

Boss Hog – Ribs: Awesome. Sauce: sweet. The meat just fell off the bones, and even the ribs near the end of the rack weren't dry at all. My vote for best ribs, and Nicky's too.

Silver Bullet – Ribs: Very good. Sauce: tangy. Gail's favourite ribs.

Camp 31 – Ribs: Very good. Sauce: tangy. Similar to Silver Bullet. [Warning: web site plays music.]

Bone Daddy – Ribs: Awesome. Sauce: excellent. For me, these guys had the second-best ribs and the second-best sauce. Ryan's vote for best ribs.

Hawgs Gone Wild – Ribs: not bad. Sauce: sweet. The ribs were OK, but kind of dry. Their corn bread was very good and we got two big pieces for $1 (or more accurately, we got eight big pieces for $4). We had the ribs on Thursday, but went back on Sunday for more corn bread. [Warning: web site contains no information whatsoever. Interestingly, it was designed by the same people who did the Camp 31 site. Hmmm...]

The ribfest had its own web site, which could have used some more work – lots of typos and spelling errors. Also, when some pages contain things like "check back later to find out more information" or "we will have a list of events here" during the event, you know the web site people haven't been keeping up. There's a list of the ribbers, but it's not up-to-date either – two of the ones listed on the web site aren't there, and Camp 31 and Hawgs Gone Wild aren't listed at all. But if my biggest complaint about an event is that their web site isn't up to snuff, that's not too bad.

Big kudos and many thanks to the Rotary Club and all the volunteers for all their hard work! This event was not only a lot of fun for our family, but great for our community, and we hope to see it return next year and for many years in the future. Gail volunteered on Saturday night for a few hours, and next year we're all planning on volunteering for various shifts. Unfortunately, it's likely to be at Joe Sams park next year, which is much bigger than Memorial Park but further north. It's not walkable from the Waterdown core, so parking will be a much bigger issue. Perhaps there will be shuttle busses available from "downtown" up to the park. They couldn't get a license to have fireworks at Memorial Park but they should be able to at Joe Sam's, so hopefully there will be fireworks next year. I'm already looking forward to it!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Ole Ball Game

I was watching a Jays game a few nights ago, and they mentioned Roy Halladay's 8-6 record, as well as both Shawn Marcum and Ricky Romero, both of whom pitched very well at the beginning of the season but got no run support and therefore have fewer wins than they really deserve. I already knew this (as do all baseball fans), but it became clear to me once again that wins and losses are a rather meaningless stat for pitchers. It seems to me that a pitcher is not out there to help his team win, he is out there to help his team not lose. There's a subtle but important difference there. To win a baseball game, you have to score more runs than the other team, and (ignoring the occasional NL miracle of a pitcher hitting) the pitcher can't help do that. All he can do is try to minimize the number of runs the other team gets. Short of throwing a perfect game and hitting a home run, a pitcher cannot win a game by himself. But he sure can lose one.

How many times have you seen a pitcher throw a complete game with no walks, a handful of hits, give up one or two runs, and lose because his team scored nothing? Happens all the time. Hell, there have been pitchers who have thrown no-hitters and lost the game. And yet who, according to the pitching stats, is responsible for the loss? The pitcher – the only guy on the team who did his job.

It's even more interesting when you consider relief pitchers, particularly closers. I remember a year when Tom Henke had a great season but finished with an 0-6 record, and some baseball journalist said that this wasn't nearly as bad as it sounded because wins, for a closer, are generally a bad thing. This seemed incomprehensible to me until he explained: closers generally come into the game when their team is already winning. To get credit for a win, the pitcher would have to allow the other team to tie the game (or go ahead), and still be the pitcher of record when his team comes back to win it later. This means that to get the win, you have to screw up your save opportunity. But if wins are bad for closers, how do you explain Henke's 1989 season, where he went 8-3? Using this logic, 8 wins for a closer should be terrible but he had a 1.92 ERA and 20 saves, which ain't bad. And Mariano Rivera, arguably the best closer in the history of the game, has had W-L records over .500 in 10 of his 15 complete seasons including two seasons with 7 wins and one with 8. Once again, we see that wins are meaningless.

There are other pitcher stats that don't necessarily indicate the skill level of the pitcher – ERA for one. If you have Tony Fernandez and Roberto Alomar as your middle infield, you're going to have a lower ERA (and possibly more wins!) than if you have just average defensive players there. If you have a catcher that throws out 95% of runners attempting to steal a base, you can concentrate more on the batter and less on the speedy guy on first because you know he's less likely to run, and if he does your catcher will take care of him.

Similarly, RBIs are meaningless for hitters, because they depend greatly on who's hitting ahead of you. If you're the team's cleanup hitter and the #3 hitter is having a bad season, you're likely going to see your RBI total drop – not because you are having a bad season, but because someone else is. Or say the guy hitting in front of you last year was a great base stealer, but the guy hitting in front of you this year isn't. Even if his OBP is about the same, you're likely going to have a drop in RBIs as well, since the new guy will still be on first when the old guy would have been on second. Unless the new guy doesn't have to steal bases because he gets more extra-base hits than the old guy, then you might get more RBIs. Unless a lot of those extra base hits are home runs, and then you might get less.

I suppose these types of things are the reasons they come up with new stats like OPS, WHIP, and ERA+, in the hopes of measuring a players skill level while attempting to filter out external influences. There is even an Adjusted OPS, which takes into account the park that the player plays his home games in, as does ERA+. Pretty soon you're going to need a degree in statistics to be able to understand all these things.