Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30, 2009

I wasn't able to watch this week's episode of The Amazing Race until Monday night, so I apologize for the delay in my recap, but here goes...

- Brian and Ericka started off the night by declaring that it was to their advantage that they were in last place, because they had been there before and knew how to claw back up. Nice try on the positive spin, but if I had to chose between "not in last place-then in last place-then not in last place" versus "never in last place, I'm going with the latter.

- I'm still not sure what the deal is this season with making the teams strip down to their underwear constantly, but this challenge takes the cake. It was bad enough that the other strip-down challenges gave the racers a chance at hypothermia, but now they just force them to go into a chamber that is -160 degrees Celsius. Yes, you read that right, MINUS ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY DEGREES CELSIUS. How is that safe? According to Cheyne, it was "gnarly." I would have chosen a different word: INSANE!

- And while we're throwing caution to the wind, why don't we get one team plastered on absinthe as a speed bump. Did I really see that correctly? I know I've said in the past that they need to make the Speed Bumps a little more difficult than "sitting on a bus for 5 minutes", but maybe getting a team liquored up on a drink that is illegal in most places probably isn't the best way to go. What if they had a recovering alcoholic on the Race, would they still have used this Speed Bump? Very odd.

- The phone challenge was interesting, although I thought it would be ridiculously simple once you got the letters. (On a side note, I thought it was hilarious watching Brian answer the phones and saying "Hello" into each one) And Meghan's declaration that questions like "what is your last name" were designed to confuse you and make you forget the letters was rather laughable as well.

Of course it's an English word, you fools! Let's break it down: you have 5 letters, A, F, Z, N, and R. Clearly the A is the 3rd letter in the word since you're not going to have 3 of those consonants in a row in a 5-letter word. That means you've got 2 consonants before the A and 2 consonants after the A. The only 2 consonants that can logically go together before the A are 'FR', which mean your word is either FRANZ or FRAZN. Seriously, how hard is that? Honestly?

So Sam and Big Easy 'worked together', and then once he got it, Sam left Big Easy high and dry. I guess 'working together' means something different in his world. An absolutely classless move, and between this and the cab-stealing incident from last episode, they have now earned themselves a spot on my 'Most Reprehensible Teams Of All-Time' list.

The choice to take the 4-hour penalty was a bad decision, keep trying until Phil comes to get you. Don't take the 4 hours unless you know for sure there is an airport stop coming up before the next Pit Stop.

- Lugging that Golem around Prague was painful to watch, both for Sam and Dan's incessant whining and yelling at each other, and Cheyne's constant grunting. I thought I was watching a Monica Seles match.
- Nice to see that the final leg is in Las Vegas. I saw them rooting through a giant pile of poker chips, that should be interesting. I wonder if they'll run into the Top Chef contestants...

- So the final three is set. I'm rooting for Meghan and Cheyne, because I can't stand the brothers or Ericka. Who are you cheering for?

November 30, 2009

Christmas is coming, and that means it’s time for Christmas shopping. With the Canadian dollar as high as it is right now, we figured it was a good time to head across the border to Niagara Falls, New York to do some shopping at the outlet malls. The day started off innocently enough, with a smooth ride along the QEW to the Queenston-Lewiston bridge. Unfortunately, that’s where the smooth ride ended, as we wound up waiting in line at the border crossing for just over an hour.

While we were waiting in line, I saw something I’ve never seen before in all my years of border crossings (and there have been many). We were sitting in the car, listening to music and talking, when suddenly we saw a man get out of a silver Cadillac and start walking between the cars towards the Border Guards’ booths. We were about 10th-to-12th in line at the time, and I said simply “That’s not going to end well.” We tried to see what happened to the Happy Wanderer, but we lost sight of him based on the cars and vans blocking our view. I’m not sure what would ever compel someone to get out of their car at this point, much less to actually walk between the cars and approach the gate. It seems like it would just be asking for trouble…and sure enough, after we passed through the border crossing about 20 minutes later, there was a police/border cruiser, lights flashing, with the Silver Cadillac. Gee…who could have seen that coming?

When we got to the mall, one of the first stores we passed had a New York Yankees championship T-Shirt in the window, so I went in to check it out. As I walked in, I saw the shirts folded on a rack on the side wall, so I walked over there, and as I got to the display, I saw that the shirt on the top of the stack was FIVE XL. That’s right…XXXXXL. A quick glance revealed 2 XL and 3 XL nearby, and I silently reminded myself how nice it was to be back in the Unite States of America.

When we went into second store, Eddie Bauer, I was re-introduced to the beauty of the Western New York accent, as I heard the manager barking instructions to her staff on where to find the “Blayck” sweaters. Childhood flashbacks of Irv Weinstein or Don Postles teasing the 11 O’clock news with the top story of a “Cheektowaga house fire!” came flooding back as my ears struggled to comprehend. Although the most entertaining thing in the Eddie Bauer outlet wasn’t the accent, it was the item we saw at the check-out, simply called “Fog-Off” (see below). I can’t decide what was more entertaining, the actual name of the product, or the person in line who saw me taking a picture of it and asked what it does.
The rest of the day was a comedy of errors, with cars stalking people in the parking lot waiting to nab their spot, and frustrated shoppers not wanting to deal with long lineups at the cash registers. The Bass shoe outlet had a ridiculous sale on where if you bought one pair of women’s boots, you got two pairs for free. That’s right, THREE pairs for the price of one! I had to laugh as I walked in and saw a number of men standing there holding two boxes each as their respective significant others looked for that third pair. Soon enough, I found myself holding two boxes as well…Murphy’s Law.
I was looking at dress shirts in one store, and overheard the following exchange between an employee and a customer:

Employee: “It’s just a job, sir.”
Customer: “Well, maybe you should get one you like.”
Employee: “I’m just doing my job, sir”
Customer: Well, I’m just a customer trying on a shirt. I don’t need your attitude because you hate your job.”
Employee: “Here’s your shirt, sir” (hands him shirt, clearly seething)
Customer: “Thank you.” (snatches shirt and goes into change room)
Employee: “Asshole.”

Christmas shopping really brings out the best in people, doesn’t it? Now, that’s Christmas spirit! Get those two some Egg Nog!

One great thing we saw was in the Tops Supermarket where there was also a Tim Hortons inside. The shopping carts had a cup holder attached to the top tray so that you could put your coffee in it while you shopped. We need those back here! Very smart, and surprising to see across the border but not here.
On the way home, as we were waiting in line once again to get across the border, we were laughing about the situation earlier in the day where we saw the man get out of his car and end up with the police. Sure enough, we see another man get out of his car and start wandering around…smoking, no less. And ANOTHER guy who was only a few cars from getting through the border gate who got out of his car, popped open his trunk, and started re-arranging items. Not the brightest people…

Getting back across the border into Canada is always a relief. Now my ears could stop being on guard from that wonderful accent. We went out for a nice Italian dinner at Mama Mia’s, a restaurant I used to go to when I was a kid, and the portions of food we got were gargantuan. Seriously, look at the size of this bowl of tortellini!
Needless to say, I couldn’t finish it, and even the leftovers for lunch today were too much! But it was a great meal.

Turns out I didn’t actually get a lot of Christmas shopping done. I did some, but I ended up just buying a few clothes for myself and a few other things for Lucas. All in all it was a great day, another adventure in beautiful Niagara Falls, New York. (lock your doors!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 27, 2009

My Star Wars fan geek-dom knows no bounds. That's right, Star Wars Facebook status updates, from

November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

November 26, 2009

The latest in the ongoing series of adventures that is my local Tim Hortons.

This morning as I’m waiting in line, I hear the man behind say “Now that’s what everybody should be wearing!”, so I obviously turn around to see what he is referring to. I see that he is talking to two city workers who are dressed all in orange with yellow reflective tape. The man who made the comment is a bus driver wearing a city transit jacket, and he’s a large, pear-shaped man with a thick head of black hair and a bushy moustache. He looked like he might be the love child of Ralph Kramden and Super Mario.

So, he continued by saying, “If everybody wore that, I’d never miss anyone. It’s the ones that dress like a telephone pole, and then stand right in front of a telephone pole…and then wonder why I sail right by them!” I think it’s funny enough that I’m listening to a bus driver explain how he misses passengers, regardless of the second part of that statement. I’m no expert at the intricacies of being a bus driver, but with all due respect, it doesn’t seem like that hard of a task to look if there is a person at a pre-determined spot on the side of the road. I understand that there is a lot more to the job, and I’m not trying to paint the job as menial at all, but it seems like a pretty big part of the job description to be able to see your passengers waiting, even if they’re not wearing a bright orange outfit (which I can’t think happens that often, but what do I know?).

But then to hear him say that he misses the ones who are “dressed like a telephone pole” nearly made me laugh out loud right there in line. First of all, I’m not sure exactly what that means. Do they wear wooden-patterned jackets or pale-grey solid shirts? Maybe someone once stood there with a concert flyer taped to his chest and old staples sticking out of his shirt. (Come to think of it, that would be a good Halloween costume.) Do people actually get up in the morning and while figuring out what they are going to wear for the day, think to themselves, “I’m going to go for the ‘telephone pole’ look today.” Highly unlikely.

So, I had my own little laugh as Super Mario/Ralph ordered his steeped tea while I waited for my coffee, and then left for work. In my naiveté, I just assumed he was on his way to work, but as I was pulling out of the parking lot, I saw that he had just parked the bus on the road with the hazards flashing, blocking an entire lane of traffic while he went in for his tea and commentary on rider apparel. I was going the opposite way, so I didn’t see if there were passengers on it, or if it was even in service, but I have to think (hope) that it wasn’t. Independent of that, in a morning rush-hour, this guy decided that blocking that lane of traffic was ok, as long as he got his tea? He couldn’t pick it up before work? I wish I had a camera with me to actually take a picture of the bus blocking the road.

It’s amazing to me the ridiculous things I see at this Tim Hortons on a regular basis. For those of you that haven’t read the other posts, check out this and this.

And if you want some consistent laughs and head-shaking moments, it’s on the corner of Northfield and Davenport in Waterloo. Trust me, it’s worth it.

November 26, 2009

I was reading the story of the armed prisoner escape in Hamilton yesterday, and I couldn’t help but notice a couple of things. First of all, at the end of the article, in The Globe and Mail, they noted that the prisoner “stands six-foot-one, weighs 163 pounds, and was last seen wearing an orange jumpsuit.” Look, I’m no criminal psychologist, but I have to think that if this guy and his accomplices were smart enough to co-ordinate a brazen daytime escape in a hospital, that included them using a stolen vehicle and switching to another vehicle a few blocks away, then they probably were smart enough to think that it would be a good idea to ditch the orange prison jumpsuit.

Maybe I’m wrong, because after all, we’re talking about someone who got into a shootout after robbing a Tim Horton’s with a shotgun. Let’s examine that, shall we? First of all, you’re using a shotgun in an establishment that is more often than not populated by teen employees. Why use a shotgun when you can probably achieve the same result with a stern tone of voice?

And if you’re going to plan an armed robbery, why on earth would you choose a Tim Hortons? I know they’re busy, and the lineups can be long, but how much are you really expecting to get? And do you want it in change and five-dollar bills? Did this guy waltz in with a potato sack and a wagon, and say “Fill it up!”…and was then planning on spending the next few months rolling coins? I actually researched and checked out the location of the Tim Horton’s that he robbed back in January, and it in the same parking lot as a Swiss Chalet! I don’t have a template for the ‘ideal robbery’ scenario, but I have to think that would have been a better option if the goal was to get the most money possible.

I’m not sure whether to believe this guy is a criminal mastermind, or just an idiot. Maybe pointing out the orange jumpsuit wasn’t a bad idea…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009

For my whole life, one of my favourite bands has always been Queen. My mom used to listen to the albums when I was young, so I can remember being as young as four years old and listening to A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, and other classic albums. When I was a kid, that big robot on the cover (and fold-out inside) of News of the World gave me nightmares, with the lifeless bodies in his hand and blood dripping off of one finger. But it didn’t steer me away from the music in any way.
As I grew up and learned to love music, Queen stayed in the forefront of the bands that shaped my youth. My mom gave me all of her old Queen LP’s, and I still own them all to this day. One of the first albums I ever bought with my own money was The Game in 1984, primarily because of the track Another One Bites The Dust. It’s astounding to me 25 years later, that my son absolutely loves the same song, and when we play it together on our Rock Band video game, it’s a pretty amazing moment.

My mom took me to concerts at a young age, and it was always one of my lifelong dreams to see Queen in concert, but alas, I never did. The last time they were in Toronto was in 1986 for the Kind of Magic tour, and I was only 13 years old. I just assumed I would see them the next time they came, but they never came back. A couple of years ago, I was at a friend’s house sitting on the back patio talking with her uncle, who was visiting from B.C., and he told us about a time back in the 70’s when he wanted to see a concert in London, Ontario, and he hitch-hiked all the way to see Queen performing with Kiss as the opening act. Wow.

So, my love of the band grew and sustained over time. Working at a music store for almost 10 years was great in the sense that I had access to so many great things, like a 13-cd box set of Queen singles from Japan, with Japanese liner notes. At last count, I think I had 37 Queen CD’s. When Bohemian Rhapsody was re-released after being featured in Wayne’s World, it was great to see a resurgence of the song and the band, and that scene in the movie may be one of my favourite of all-time, simply for the fact that my best friend in high school and I used to drive around with Queen blaring and singing full-out without a care in the world. (Paul, whatever happened to those days?)
I remember going to Toronto one night a long time ago to see Les Miserables with my girlfriend at the time. After the show, we were driving home late at night, and just as we approached the Bridgeport Road exit in Waterloo, the news came on the radio that Freddie Mercury had died.

That was 18 years ago yesterday, November 24, 1991, and that’s why I write this post today.

I had known, along with the world, that he was sick, and that it was just a matter of time before he died, but still, hearing the news was a huge moment. In my young life (18 years old at the time), it was the predominant ‘remember where you were’ moment. Even 18 years later, I remember it clearly like it was yesterday, driving a Blue Honda Accord and just putting my signal on to merge right onto the off ramp as my girlfriend slept with the passenger seat reclined.

Shortly after his death, The Concert for Life was planned, and when it happened on Easter Monday in 1992, I locked myself in my room and watched for five solid hours as all of the top artists of the day (and Def Leppard) performed the songs of Queen (with the remaining 3 band members) live from Wembley Stadium. Some of the highlights for me were George Michael singing ‘Somebody to Love’, David Bowie and Annie Lennox singing ‘Under Pressure, and a very emotional performance from Seal singing ‘Who Wants To Live Forever.’

Queen has seen a resurgence in recent years again, after touring with Paul Rodgers, releasing a new album, and being introduced to a whole new generation with the Rock Band/Guitar Hero craze. There is a new Greatest Hits album that came out this month, as well as new YouTube sensation video of the Muppets performing Bohemian Rhapsody, with over one million hits and counting. I’ll post it another time, I don’t think it fits with the tone of this post.

Eighteen years after Freddie Mercury’s death, I still love Queen as much as I did as a child. When Lucas was a baby, we used to play Queen’s Greatest Hits and Classic Queen while he was in his crib, and he would always get excited. As a dad now, it’s amazing to see Lucas love Queen, as well as learning to love his own specific bands. I have to wonder if 30 years down the road he’ll be talking about the music he listened to with his dad when he was kid.

I sure hope so.

Rest in Peace, Freddie. You are missed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009

I was announcing a basketball game at the University of Guelph on the weekend, and I was having a conversation with one of the students who works at the scorer’s table. Jon is a very pleasant young man who generally works the 24-second clock during Gryphons games, and is clearly a big basketball fan. He and I were discussing NCAA Basketball and the topic of my beloved Duke Blue Devils. Jon said to me that “Duke only recruits white guys,” and I took umbrage with that statement.

Now, let me preface this rant by saying that I don’t want this post (or this blog) to turn into a place for racial commentary, but I felt I had to defend this point once I heard it from Jon. This is about correcting Jon on the facts, not about the merits of black basketball players vs. white basketball players.

Now, back to the point. It’s a common criticism to accuse Duke of anything and everything under the sun (Bring it on Tar Heels fans!), but at least get the facts straight. My initial response was to point out that some of the best players in Duke basketball history--Grant Hill, Jason Williams, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Johnny Dawkins—are black. And so many other big names within the program as well…players like Corey Maggette, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Tommy Amaker, Chris Carrawell, William Avery, Antonio Lang, Gerald Henderson, and Shelden Williams.

Now, I’ll give you that it doesn’t get much “whiter” than Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Mike Dunleavy Jr., and J.J. Redick, but it’s absurd to say that this team recruits only white players. And it’s insulting to even suggest that a world-renowned coach like Mike Krzyzewski would ever consider such a ridiculous practice.
Let’s take a look at the roster on the 2001 Duke Blue Devils, which is the last Duke team to win the National Championship. On this roster of 16 players, over 50% of them were black (9). On top of that, eight of the top nine players (Jason Williams, Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, Dahntay Jones, Nate James, Casey Sanders, and Reggie Love) and 80% of the starting five were black.

I’m sending Jon a link to this post, and I’ll be interested to hear his response. Comments are open, but please keep it on topic.

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009

Vince Carter returned to Toronto yesterday and lit up the Raptors in the second half, as he has been doing with some regularity in the past few seasons. As usual, every time he touched the ball, a chorus of boos rained down on him from Raptors fans. I had to laugh at this quote that I read in the paper this morning.

After the game, Carter said he doesn’t know why he’s still portrayed as the bad guy in Toronto. “I don’t know why they are booing me to be honest,” Carter said.

Really, Vince? You don’t know? You can’t fathom why these people still can’t stand the sight of you? After being a hero in Toronto, and becoming one of the biggest names in the NBA…a perennial All-Star and an NBA Slam Dunk champion…and arguably putting the Toronto Raptors on the map…you don’t think the breakup was a little bitter?
Between the constant ramblings of your crazy mother in the media, and your incessant whining about wanting to go to “a contender”, you don’t think things were bound to leave a sour taste in the mouths of Raptors fans? Add in the element that we got jack-squat in return for you in potentially the worst trade ever made by a candidate for the “Worst GM of all-time in ANY sport” (which admittedly wasn’t technically YOUR fault, but I still blame you for forcing Rob Babcock’s hand), but then you came out and said publicly that you stopped trying in Toronto.

That’s why you get booed every time you touch the ball. Not because of all that other crap…but because you quit on us. You flat out quit. And that’s pretty despicable.

Now, having said all of that, I’m not sure it’s the best course of action to keep booing him every time he comes back, because he clearly uses it as motivation to play well and bury us every time he plays the Raptors. But…as Raptors fans know, and now Nets fans know, and Orlando Magic fans are soon to learn…Vince Carter is an arrogant prima donna who is no longer relevant in the NBA. What bigger message can be sent than getting traded for Tony Battie, Courtney Lee, and Rafer Alston. Rafer Alston!

Have fun fading away in Florida.

And say hi to your mom for me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22, 2009

Finally, for the first time in a number of weeks, a good episode of The Amazing Race. I was surprised to see that the 4 teams were only 22 minutes apart in terms of when they arrived at the last pit stop, but even more amused to see Flight Time and Big Easy's shock that Brian and Ericka arrived at the airport at the same time as them. "How did they get here so fast?" they asked. Well, my guess would be that they only left TWO minutes after you.

Is there anything funnier than someone scoffing at someone and correcting them, and then being wrong themselves? Upon hearing that they were going to Prague, Gay Brother #1 asked "Do they speak Spanish there?", and Gay Brother #2 responded disdainfully, "No, Prague is a country." I once worked with two women who were arguing about what Tofu was (this is 100% a true story), and one of them said it was chicken...and the other one scoffed at her, "No, it's not! It's cheese."

Brian and Ericka - NEWSFLASH! Separating from the other teams is always a bad idea. If you see 3 teams getting in taxis and driving away, don't get on the shuttle bus to the train. Even if it's not faster, at least you're staying with the other teams. And then when Brian admitted it was a bad idea, and specifically said "I'm not blaming her" with regards to Ericka, she snapped at him "Don't blame it on me." That man has the patience of a saint. (more later)

I have to say, it's rather anti-climactic when you have a team attempting a challenge, and the editors flash up a graphic of "1st Attempt." It's so clear that they fail on the first try when you see that. Why not start the graphics with the second attempt. Very bad in terms of foreshadowing, and for a show that thrives on manufacturing drama, it's very disappointing.

When I first saw the zipline challenge, I thought it was a bad idea for the Globetrotters to pick it simply because of their size. And that was confirmed when we saw Big Easy's feet actually in the water at one point. I thought he was going to kick Sam and Dan in the head when they paddled by, as retaliation for the elbow/non-elbow from last episode.

For the zipline challenge, the thing that looked the most uncomfortable was the gear they had to strap into for the ride across. It appeared to be very snug in the crotch region, and looked like it was causing the men some discomfort. And in the season-long continuation of Ericka saying inappropriate things, she commented that "It's going to be good for me!" Really, Ericka? You've got a handle on the black-white comments, but now you're going to sexual pleasure from harnesses? What's next, asking the cab driver to hit the rumble strips on the side of the road so you can get one more joyous moment before the next pit stop?

Sam and Dan stealing Brian and Ericka's cab was definitely not cool, but not nearly as lame as Brian yelling "Game On!" after it happened. You're on the 10th leg of the race, and you would assume that this is the leg to decide the final three, but THIS is the time for "Game On!"? Plus, it's the least intimidating statement anyways coming from Brian. He's been so helpful, I felt like there was a pretty good chance he would have just offered it to them anyways.

I didn't understand Cheyne's logic of looking in every room and then leaving the door open. What better way to say to the teams that are looking later "Hey, I already checked this room!" And when the clue says that you need to look for a 'mini-mandolin', do you really think that means 'full-sized guitar.' And even if you do...why are you carrying TWO of them around and not even taking them to the singer on the stage?

If Dan (or Sam...I still don't know who is who) was a Vocal Performance Major, then how come, upon arriving at a clue box outside of an opera house that they asked to be taken to, they didn't think it might be in their best interest to pick him? And also, upon reading the clue "Who is compsed under pressure?", how on earth did Brian think that Ericka was the logical choice? Did you see her face? Even she thought it was an idiotic decision. Did he not see her trying to count bells?

I loved the comment from Brian and Ericka when they arrived at the opera house at the same time Sam and Dan were leaving. Brian was offended that they wouldn't even look at him and instead "acted like they were reading their clue." Did you ever think that maybe they were just reading their clue?

I just saw a great shot of Prague Castle earlier this week (see above), and looked it up because I didn't really know anything about it, so it was kind of neat seeing it as the pit stop on this leg of the race. Disappointing to see that it was yet another non-elimination leg, but it should provide some drama for next week with the stolen cab situation.

It's tough to root for Brian and Ericka, even though Brian is upbeat and positive and optmistic and supportive. Ericka is just such a witch. They're rapidly becoming the new incarnation of Flo and Zach from Season 3.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20, 2009

This story was one of the top stories in today’s edition of The Record. (for those of you not from the area, that’s our local newspaper) As you can see from the underlined portion, the first thing that jumped to my mind when I read it was that one man was hit with a sword and wasn’t injured. Well…that doesn’t really seem like a very good sword now, does it? By definition, “a sword fundamentally consists of a blade and a hilt, typically with one or two edges for striking and cutting, and a point for thrusting.” (Wikipedia)

How on earth does someone get hit with this thing and not get injured? Either it’s the dullest sword in history (and even then, you’re still getting hit with a big, long, piece of metal, aren’t you?), or the 17-year-old shaggy “swordsman” is not very aggressive. And you would think if you’re walking around town at night in a black trenchcoat carrying a sword, it’s probably in your best interest to know how to swing the damn thing.

Let’s get past the fact for a moment that some guy is walking around town with a sword, (or maybe just a big, long piece of metal with a handle) and revel in the awesome-ness of some Lord of the Rings geek who can’t even wait until the next Renaissance Fair to break out his costume.

And if he didn’t get anything in the attempted robbery, should the story still be referring to him as a “robber?”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19, 2009

The Countdown Is On

ABC confirmed today that the season premiere of Season 6 of Lost will be on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010. As usual, there will be a one-hour recap show from 8-9, then the two-hour premiere. It has also been moved from Wednesday nights to Tuesdays.

I know it's not 108 days like the classic picture above, but I think that image signifies pretty well that the countdown has begun...

74 days until Season 6!

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009

I had to bring my car in for some service this morning, and I took the courtesy shuttle to work after I dropped the car off. I’ve always been fascinated by the driver of the courtesy shuttle, just as a general concept. At any point I’ve ever taken one, it always seems to be an older retired man who may be bored around the house and is just looking for a way to spend a couple of days a week getting out and doing something. (As a matter of fact, just by typing “courtesy shuttle” into a Google image search, I found the picture above.) It seems like a perfect job for someone in that situation, “Hey, here are the keys to a company vehicle. Can you just drive people to and from work today?” I’ll tell you, if I was retired, I would gladly work a couple of days a week as a driver.

But there’s a bit of a conundrum in the sense that you’re partway between taking a taxi, and riding with someone you know. I mean, at the end of the day, this guy is getting paid to drive you somewhere, to chauffer you to your destination. But it’s also just a guy in a van (or SUV, or maybe even a car)…there’s no meter on the dashboard, and no uniform. So what’s the proper protocol? Do you sit in the front or in the back? Either one can send the wrong message, depending on the individual.

If you sit in the back, does it say to the driver that you are viewing this as just a taxi, and that you are just being transported, period? Conversely, if you sit in the front, is it an invasion of his space if he’s expecting you to sit in the back? I generally sit in the front, but I’ve had a couple of occasions where the driver looked at me like I was crazy once I got in.

The driver I had today was rather interesting. He was one of those guys who always knows “a quicker way.” You know the guy I’m talking about…the one who can’t possibly take “the shortest way”, because he knows a quicker way on the back roads or side streets. Today, as soon as we got on the expressway, he got off at the very first exit and said to me “There’s a slowdown up there. This will be quicker.” He then proceeded to take us on a back road through auto wrecking yards and took us to another entry point back onto the expressway. A five-minute detour to avoid a “slowdown” that would have taken about a minute.

Then after we get back on the expressway, rather than getting off at the exit that he should have, he instead goes one exit further and gets off there. The funny thing about this is that if he would have gotten off at the earlier exit, it’s just a gentle merge onto a street where you proceed north for a couple of blocks and then turn right. By taking the second exit, he now has to turn left across 3 lanes of traffic just to get on the road, and then turn left again just to get to the same place he already would have been minutes earlier. Two left turns instead of a merge into traffic. Very confusing.

On top of that, he further complicated it by turning left a street early and roving around the back roads in an industrial area where he introduced yet another stoplight he could have avoided, and instead of being able to turn right at the lights, like we would have been able to do on the “original” route, we now had to wait for the light to cross the intersection. So, a direct route became a convoluted back-road adventure, all in the name of “saving time”. Oh, the irony.

I didn’t say anything. This is his gig, and how he likes to spend his days. If he believes this is the best route, who am I to rain on his parade as he spends his days ferrying people to and from the auto dealership?

But it certainly was a scenic adventure.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 15, 2009

Since I took last week off from a full Amazing Race Recap, I thought I would do one this week, although it will be a short one.

I mentioned that last week's Switchback challenge featuring the hay-rolling was anti-climactic since nobody was eliminated, but it was interesting to see the departure times of teams this week, and understand just how long it took them to do the challenge last week. From the time the Globetrotters arrived at 2:23 to when Gary and Matt arrived at 6:29, it was over 4 hours separating the teams. That's a lot of hay-rolling.

I've never been a fan of the non-elimination legs to begin with, but the carousel of punishments is even worse. First it was taking all of their money. Then it was their money and belongings. THEN, it was everything but the clothes on their back (that certainly was interesting at times). And now, the Speed Bump seemed like a great idea, but when they only make them complete a task that takes 5 minutes, it's kind of redundant, isn't it? Although sitting next to that attractive Estonian lady in just a towel was clearly enjoyable for Matt. I'm surprised he was able to stand up in his own towel when the 5 minutes was up.

What the hell is up with the producers making contestants compete tasks in their underwear or various states of undress this season. A couple of weeks ago, the teams had to play that ridiculous Dutch golf game in their underwear, and in this episode we had the SaunaBuss (soooo weird), and the mud volleyball challenge which required them to strip down again.

In the volleyball challenge, of course we needed the obligatory comment from the gay team that the competitors were "Estonian hotties", but were they really so hot that Gary and Dan were getting aroused while playing? That's the only explanation I can come up with since they were blurring out the crotches of their boxers shorts during the task. It couldn't have been more obvious...was it the necessary blurring of boners? At one point they talked about how volleyball was fun, and they "really enjoyed playing it." Apparently!

I don't think there was any sort of elbowing or malicious intent by either team in the footrace at the end. It just appeared to be incidental contact on a very narrow boardwalk that didn't really allow for passing. It'll be interesting to see how that situation evolves, and if it will be anything like the Margie & Luke vs. Jen & Kisha drama from last season.

Sorry to see Gary and Matt go, but they ran a good race. At this point, there's nobody really to root against, all the teams are still quite likable.

November 15, 2009

We’ve all had the discussion before. It was even made famous in an episode of Friends. If you were able to pick 5 celebrities that you had the green light to sleep with, who would be on your List?

I’ve had this discussion with a number of people over the past 15 years, even prior to that episode of Friends that introduced it to the masses. When I was married, my wife and I even discussed it, and just for fun, had our respective lists. The lead singers from two different bands were on her list, and we got to meet one of them backstage when we were at a concert…and the other one, I actually had over for a dinner party in our house! Maybe subconsciously, I was trying to green-light it…who knows?

My list has evolved over the years. Meg Ryan used to be a mainstay, but she’s no longer on the list. Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Garner, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Aniston, and a few others have all spent time on the list. I used to have such a crush on Kimberley Williams (waaaaaay prior to the travesty that is According to Jim) after seeing her in Father of the Bride, that I bet my roommate in University that I would marry her within 10 years. Oh, the confidence and arrogance of being an 18-year old! Alas, things never worked out with Kimberley and I (Damn you, Brad Paisley!), and I think I still owe Darren $10.

So, here’s your newest discussion topic. Who is on YOUR list? Feel free to explain and expand, or simply list the names.

Let’s fill up the Comments section and get a good discussion going. It’s been a while. Leave it anonymous if you want, but please be honest about your list.

And for the record, my List is (in no particular order): Jennifer Connelly, Evangeline Lilly, Kate Beckinsale, Megan Fox, and Kristen Stewart. (Honourable Mention to Carrie Underwood)

Let’s hear yours…

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13, 2009

Before getting involved in poker more seriously in the past 10 years, Poker Night for me was generally a night of low-limit Dealer’s Choice games. It started with nickels and dimes and quarters, and the odd Loonie mixed in. Later on, we wanted a more authentic feel, and we worked in a felt cover for the dining room table, and plastic poker chips. The beauty of a night of Dealer’s Choice is that we could draw upon dozens of different games to choose from, or just make one up on the fly. Five Card Draw, Seven Card Stud, Anaconda, Fiery Cross, 7/27, Follow The Queen, Mexican Seven-”Roll Your Own”, and so many more.

We had so many variations that we would re-name the game for the person who “created” the parameters. If someone called “Yeske 7” (named after the player, Sean Yeske, who always called it), we all knew that it was a standard game of Seven Card Stud with 5’s and 10’s wild, but if either of them came face-up, you owed a quarter for the first one, 50 cents for the second one, and doubling going up. It was great having a regular group that knew all the games, and we had always had a great night without ever having to explain the games. If someone new joined the group, you spent some time explaining the games, and they would generally pick it up pretty fast.

The most frustrating thing about these poker nights, though, is that there was always at least one or two players who would not think ahead to what game they wanted to play. When it was my deal, and my turn to pick the game, I would always know a few hands ahead what I was going to call, as most people did. But there would always be someone in your group who would take the cards, gather them up, and start methodically shuffling, and say, “Hmmm…let me see. What do I want to play?”

Seriously? You’ve had 20 minutes since your last deal, and you haven’t even considered what you’re going to call until now? And not only are you going to slow the game down, but you’re going to have a conversation with yourself…that you DON”T KNOW THE ANSWER TO…while you’re doing it? It used to (and still does) drive me nuts. So, sure enough, whoever is “thinking” takes forever, and then finally comes up with a game, starts to deal…then stops and says, “Wait! I have a better idea!”, and gathers the cards again and switches up the game again.

I was reminded of this indecisive-ness this morning on my daily stop at Tim Hortons on the way in to work. The guy in front of me had ordered a dozen muffins and was deciding which ones he wanted. The woman behind the counter was standing there waiting for him to tell her, and for every choice, he would actually put his finger on his mouth like he was deep in thought (see picture below), before saying, “Ummmmmm….” And then he would tell her his choice.
And he did this for all 12 muffins.

“Ummmm…Chocolate Chip.”
“Ummmm…2 Fruit Explosion.”

And so on…

But here’s the kicker…there were only 8 different kinds of muffins! And he eventually picked all 8! So he spent all this time contemplating…deliberating…legitimately struggling with his choices at times…and then picked one of everything. And had to go back and re-select flavours after he had picked one of everything and 2 of a couple, and then she told him there were still 2 more to choose. “Ummm…ok…then…one more blueberry…” he said, “And…ummm…oh…hmmmm…I guess…just throw another chocolate chip in there.”

Just as with the poker situation above, did this guy not consider his order before he came in the store? Was he in his car, knowing he would order “something”, but not knowing what…and then it evolved into a DOZEN muffins? Unlikely. He knew he was getting a dozen muffins, and when waiting in line, he didn’t consider what he wanted? It seems so absurd to me.

It didn’t hold me up, there was another till open and the lineup kept moving very well, so it’s not like I’m ranting because I was late due to this guy. It’s just so confusing to me that people will waste their own time without any forethought.

He’s never going to be invited to Dealer’s Choice night at my place.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12, 2009

Gotta catch up on a few things, so let's go back to the classic Random Thoughts format:

- Other than a picture and a brief mention last week, I've done nothing to commemorate the New York Yankees winning the World Series last week. As a lifelong Yankees fan, it was nice to see another title for the first time in almost a decade. And before any of you accuse me of being a bandwagon-jumper, and cheering for the Yankees once they started becoming successful in the mid-90s, I'll point out that I was a Yankees fan in the lean years...the Andy Hawkins years...the Kevin Maas years...the last place in the AL East years. 1994 was my first sniff of the playoffs, and that was ruined by the strike. 1996 was the first time I had seen them win the World Series, so it was nice to see them get back to the peak again.

Everyone talks about the Yankees' payroll, and I'll admit that it is out of control, and has been for a number of years. But let's remember the players that are the core of the unit that has won championships in the past 15 years: players like Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams. These are the guys that were drafted and groomed in the minors by the Yankees.
Congrats on the 27th World Championship. I'm thrilled that they won again, and I really enjoyed watching the games this year (more than other years). Since I don't like Alex Rodriguex, it's a tad bittersweet since he now has the World Series ring I hoped he would never get. Aside from the fact that he's everything that's wrong with baseball, and a cheater...he's orange. I mean, he's FREAKING ORANGE! He looks like an Oompa Loompa!
- I didn't do a recap of The Amazing Race on Sunday for a couple of reasons. First of all, because it was a pretty lame episode. Why on earth did they bring back such a great challenge like the hay bales if they weren't even going to eliminate anyone? Second of all, I wanted to just enjoy Josh Wolk's final recap at Entertainment Weekly. I've mentioned Josh and his writing numerous times on this blog, but he has left EW and is now the editor at, the Entertainment blog for New York Magazine. While I'll miss his humour (Canadian spelling!) at EW, it's just a short click away for another thing to read. I'll put a link up on the sidebar for those of you that have become fans. Good luck, Josh!

- Survivor has been pretty good the last couple of weeks. Eric's blindside was rather entertaining considering how arrogant he was being at Tribal Council, and when Russell found a second immunity idol this week (again with NO CLUES!) , it put his alliance it a great position. Two weeks ago, they went into the merge down 8-4, and now with Shambo flipping, the two sides are even 5-5. Should be a great finish.
I love how CBS and Jeff Probst built him up prior to the premiere as "the biggest vilain in Survivor history." It seems like they may have been trying to throw us off the trail of just how strong a player he would be. I may even argue that he's the best player in the history of the game.

- I read today that they're making a Saw VII. Really? The first one was great, and very original...but the sequels have been horrible. Is a seventh one really necessary?

- I went to the Toronto Raptors-Chicago Bulls game last night and had a great time. Enjoyed a great day with great company in Toronto, had an awesome dinner on Front Street, and a blast at the game, which saw the Raptors come from behind in the fourth quarter to win. Fantastic day!

The most confusing thing though, was that on not one...but two occasions, I saw somebody wearing a Jose Calderon jersey. Seriously? Who the $%@# wears a Calderon jersey?

And no, one of them wasn't actually Jose Calderon...

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 9, 2009

Just a few laughs for today's post. Don't forget to scroll over the pictures for captions.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 8, 2009

With the new Weezer album and the Foo Fighters Greatest Hits both coming out this past week, I didn't even notice that a new best-of double CD was coming out one week later from Snow Patrol. I know I featured Snow Patrol a couple of weeks ago, and put the Cover Versions on hiatus, but new CD features a track that I had first discovered a couple of years ago, a nearly-impossible-to-find version of Snow Patrol covering Beyoncé's Crazy In Love. It's truly fantastic.

November 8, 2009

I wrote a post in February to discuss the topic of abuse at the scorer's table during OUA Basketball games. If you missed it, you may want to read that article first as a refresher for this post.

Friday night I was announcing the Carleton-Guelph men's basketball game at the W.F. Mitchell Centre in Guelph, a thrilling game to say the least. At one point in the second half, Guelph's Matt Howlett picked up his fourth personal foul, and the person working the player scoreboard inadvertently put up that it was his fifth foul. Now, even though I had announced that it was the fourth personal foul, and the official scorer had noted that it was the fourth personal foul for Howlett, the scoreboard was incorrect.

We worked at the scorer's table to try and fix the problem, but for some reason, we weren't able to clear the board and correct it. We tried, but we didn't know how to correct it, and with the furious pace of the game and energy of the crowd, it was difficult to keep up with the current happenings while trying to correct the problem.

Sure enough, a Carleton supporter on the opposite side of the gym started yelling and furiously waving his arms. "Five fouls!" he yelled over and over, holding up his hands with his fingers spread wide, appearing to be looking for a mystical high-five that would never come. He was so demonstrative and out of control that I felt compelled to do something I've never done before in 12 years of announcing. I got on the microphone at the next whistle and indicated that while the scoreboard indicated that it was a fifth foul on Howlett, it was indeed only his fourth, and that the scoreboard was incorrect.

The thing that astounds me is that this man, clearly a Carleton fan, thinks that a 6-time National Champion and 3-Time National Coach of the Year like Dave Smart, arguably the top coach in Canada, and his coaching staff, could have missed something like this. This guy thinks that HE'S the one who is going to save the day for the Carleton Ravens basketball program because the coaching staff is too dense to record fouls on the bench?

And just for a frame of reference, when a player has 5 fouls, the scorer will IMMEDIATELY notify the officials of the situation, and in the event that the officials don't hear the scorer's table, or don't notice that we've indicated the fifth foul, the horn is buzzed and the game is NOT started until the player is removed from the game. This is standard procedure, and to think that an official of the game would not notify an official is completely absurd.

But even worse than the spastic convulsions of Mr. Carleton High Five, was that after the announcement had been made to indicate that the board was incorrect, a Guelph fan started yelling from his seat on the baseline under the basket. He yelled at the scorer's table repeatedly, and specifically loud enough for the entire arena to hear, "Change the scoreboard! Fix the scoreboard!"
This is what I don't understand. The announcement was made, loudly and clearly, and if anyone were to be actually looking at the scorer's table, they could see TWO people working to try and fix the scoreboard. But this "gentleman" still decided that it was appropriate to yell from across the floor at the scorer's table to fix the problem, as if we were just going to leave it and not worry about it. Another cranky old fan to save the day, once again.

Here's a newsflash for those of you that don't know this...the player board, that indicates the number of points and fouls that individual players's just cosmetic. It's not official. It's a courtesy to the fans in the arena to keep them up to date on the game. It's a human operating the scoreboard, it's not a magical program that senses when a basketball goes through the net, or recognizes the official's voice to indicate who the foul was charged to. And if something gets punched in incorrectly, that doesn't mean that it is wrong in the official scorer's book. If a player is listed on the board with 81 points instead of 18, there's no need to yell and scream. Rest assured that the official documentation is correct.

As I mentioned in the initial post last year, "Fans interacting with the scorer's table only interferes with their ability to focus on their job for the game, which in turn could lead to more errors. Nobody, including you, wants this." Keep that in mind before you make a scene at the ball game.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 5, 2009

27th Championship - Awesome.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 2009

Earlier this year I was emceeing a Football banquet in Guelph, and the event was being held in The Italian Canadian Club. At our table, there were four Italian men, and 3 of us knew each other from growing up in Guelph, with the 4th being from Hamilton. After a few glasses of wine, the stories began, and we reminisced about how many times we had been in that banquet hall. Growing up in Guelph, you were there for any number of weddings, christenings, birthday parties, high school dance, and the local Italian Festival. It was like a second home. One of the guys at our table actually worked there during high school, serving for weddings and other events.

The non-Italians at the table were watching and laughing as if we were performing a comedy show for them. At times, we were all laughing so hard we were actually crying. The best part was when we explained that the biggest difference between the Italian kids and the other kids at school always came at lunch. Most of the kids would pull out their lunch and invariably have some sort of sandwich, maybe ham or bologna in a paper bag or Saran Wrap, along with a Coke or Pepsi. Then the Italian kid would pull out a sandwich crudely wrapped in waxed paper, and when it was unwrapped, it would likely be a cold veal cutlet on two giant thick slices of bread, along with a Brio. And I mean giant…like ‘can’t-open-your-mouth-wide-enough’ thick. You would have to fold the crusts backwards onto the sandwich itself just to be able to take a bite.
Last night’s blog post elicited some Comments, and it got me thinking of that night. And just last week, I was sent an email with a funny list of differences between Italian Kids and American Kids. Obviously we weren’t ‘American’ kids, but insert ‘North American’ or ‘Canadian’ wherever you see ‘American’ and you’ll comprehend it just fine.

Italian kids vs American kids

American kids: Move out when they're 18 with the full support of their parents.
Italian kids: Move out when they're 28, having saved enough money for a house, and are two weeks away from getting married....unless there's room in the basement for the newlyweds.

American kids: When their Mom visits them, she brings a Bundt cake, and you sip coffee and chat.
Italian kids: When their Mom visits them, she brings 3 days worth of food, begins to tidy up, dust, do the laundry, and rearrange the furniture.

American kids: Their dads always call before they come over to visit them, and it's usually only on special occasions.
Italian kids: Are not at all fazed when their dads show up, unannounced, on a Saturday morning at 8:00, and starts pruning the fruit trees. If there are no fruit trees, he'll plant some.

American kids: Al ways pay retail, and look in the Yellow Pages when they need to have something done.
Italian kids: Call their dad or uncle, and ask for another dad's or uncle's phone number to get it deal. Know what I mean??

American kids: Will come over for cake and coffee, and get only cake and coffee. No more.
Italian kids: Will come over for cake and coffee, and get antipasto, wine, a pasta dish, a choice of two meats, salad, bread, a cannoli, fruit, espresso, and a few after dinner drinks.

American kids: Will greet you with "Hello" or "Hi".
Italian kids: Will give you a big hug, a kiss on your cheek, and a pat on your back.

American kids: Call your parents Mr. and Mrs.
Italian kids: Call your parents Mom and Dad.

American kids: Have never seen you cry.
Italian kids: Cry with you.

American kids: Borrow your stuff for a few days and then return it.
Italian kids: Keep your stuff so long, they forget it's yours.

American kids: Will eat at your dinner table and leave.
Italian kids: Will spend hours there, talking, laughing, and just being together.

American kids: Know few things about you.
Italian kids: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.

American kids: Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on soft mushy white bread.
Italian kids: Eat Genoa Salami and Provolone sandwiches on crusty Italian bread.

American kids: Will leave you behind if that's what the crowd is doing.
Italian kids: Will kick the whole crowds' ass who left you behind.

American kids: Are friends for a while.
Italian kids: Are friends for life.

American kids: Like Rod Stewart, and Steve Tyrell.
Italian kids: Worship Tony Bennett, and Sinatra

American kids: Think that being Italian is cool.
Italian kids: Know that being Italian is cool.

American kids: Will ignore this.
Italian kids: Will forward it