Monday, April 30, 2012

Deep Baseball

It's a miserable day here. Cold, wet, windy, dreary, dismal...and that's just the weather. A lot of varying degrees of bad and awful news has been coming our way in the past 24 hours or so and everyone around my neck of the woods is pretty morose today. So to try to give myself a bit of a lift, I've decided to write about two of my favourite intertwined spring things: baseball and baseball statistics.

This is not by any means a light read, like my ode to the sport of baseball from a couple of weeks back. If you're not really into the game, this may not be the post for you. If you are, however, then I would love to hear your views on what I will be writing here.

Blue Jays opening day lineup 2012
I consider myself to be a student of baseball. I used to play Fantasy Baseball to the point where I could name you the number of strikeouts the long-relief pitcher on the Kansas Royals had at any given moment in the season. One of my favourite baseball gurus was Bill James; I bought his annual Baseball Abstracts every year and pored over them like they held the Caramilk secret. I followed the Expos from their very first pitch to their very last one; I've been a Blue Jays fan since that snowy day in April of '77. I've seen virtually every conceivable batting order possible in my many years. And, in my opinion, there is something very wrong with the Blue Jays' batting order (the Opening Day version is pictured at the left) this season.

Last year John Farrell was a rookie manager. After many years as the Red Sox pitching coach, Farrell was hired on to take over from the fan favourite, Cito Gaston. Not an easy gig, I would think, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for much of last season while he got his feet wet. But he is showing no signs of progressing and learning from his experiences of 2011 and I am starting to find it troubling.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Community Environment Day in East York



It's that time of year again, time for the rotating Community Environment Days in the City of Toronto. (For a complete schedule of events by date and councillor, check here.) Today it was East York's turn (Janet Davis' ward) and, as usual, it was held in the parking lots close to our building by the rink and pool. Sarah and I headed down around 11:30 to check it out (it runs from 10AM - 2PM) because it's just such a beautiful day and it's a great excuse to get out and circulate a bit. I took a few pictures, too.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Petitions and Protests Galore

Today in the States it's "Unite Against the War on Women" day with marches, rallies and speeches all across the country. Great stuff and Twitter has been alive with reports from several locations. This is definitely something I can get behind; perhaps there will be a similar set of events in Canada if Stephen Woodworth's motion is passed. If so, count me in. In the meantime, there is this petition being sent around by the Federal Liberal Agency of Canada (registered agent for the Liberal Party of Canada). Although it says in the body of the petition that you only had 24 hours to sign it, I believe it's a good idea to go ahead and make your voice heard.


I have been sent or stumbled onto several other petitions and bits of information about protests in the past several days and I thought it might be a good idea to synthesize them all here. If you have other petitions that you wish to add, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

Friday, April 27, 2012

NHL Round 2


As promised, now that the first round of the NHL playoffs has been completed, it's time for me to make my second-round predictions. If you came here today for more cute photos or if you hate hockey, my apologies. Perhaps try again tomorrow. But thanks for checking in, at least!

In the first round the accuracy of my predictions took on a very strange geographical sway which I cannot explain. In the Eastern Conference I did very poorly indeed. Here are my picks, with the eventual outcome in brackets:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dora's Big Adventure

Well, the angst of yesterday has been washed away - for now, at least. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to make a more light-hearted post on the blog, so I went searching through some old pictures for inspiration. I think I've found a good subject!

Two summers ago Sarah and I made our more-or-less semi-annual pilgrimage to Kenora, ON. We drove each way - which we prefer to do, because that drive is just so beautiful and it gives us some time alone together - and when we were about to leave to return to Toronto we discovered that our little niece, Samantha, had left her "Dora the Explorer" doll behind when she and her family returned to Pickering a day or two ahead of us. So we offered to bring it back with us, which gave me an idea for an homage to Amelie. I decided that I would take pictures of Dora visiting some landmarks on her way home and, since we couldn't return the doll for about a week, I would send an email each day to Sammy and her parents "from Dora" with a picture of where she was spending her time. This is how that turned out:


Dora and Husky the Muskie, Kenora, ON
Dora and Husky the Muskie, Kenora












Dora and Maximillian Moose, Dryden, ON
Dora and Maximillian Moose, Dryden





Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Novocaine for the Soul...

"...before I sputter out." - The Eels

Today was not that great a day. It was one of those days where I felt trapped - trapped in this building, trapped in this city, trapped in this life. It happens to everyone (right?) but today it made it darned hard to get anything done. I'm afraid that these feelings have informed pretty much everything about today, including this blog post.

Sarah and I (well, mostly "I") have been talking about getting out of Toronto for quite some time, now. It's been years since I felt a kinship with the city I grew up in but every day I feel more and more out-of-step here. I imagine some of it is just me feeling my age and growing intolerance for things that bug me, but that's not all of it. And when we do go, there are several things I will never miss: the incivility, the traffic, the growing lack of shame and the horribly misplaced sense of entitlement. But there is one thing I will miss even less.

The noise.

We live in an area of town that, while not the suburbs, is not a high-traffic area. On top of that, we overlook a beautiful park system, a huge play area and ball diamond, and we do so from 20 storeys up. In the summer months that play area is alive with activity and it's great fun to watch from our balcony - especially on Canada Day (as this slightly blurry picture shows). And yet every day it seems a new bit of noise pollution is added to the mix and it's gotten to the point where there is not a moment of silence in my life at any point of any day. We need to keep various "white noise"-style machines going 24 hours a day; we've recently had to turn on a fan in our room and point it at the door (the fan would make us cold) because it's the only thing that will allow us to sleep through an intermittent buzzing that comes from the roof all day long. It happens about every 6-7 minutes, it only lasts 6-7 seconds, but it's quite loud and it sounds like a machine trying to start up and failing. Nobody in our building seems to be able to make it stop.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ridiculously Happy Cat

Our cat, Addie, is going to be 2 years old in a couple of weeks and I had thought that I was going to be able to hold out until then before I introduced my blog readers to her. Ha! As if. I took a couple of videos of her today that I could not keep to myself.

Keeping Daddy company
Blissed out by the keyboard
To explain the context: Addie loves to spend time with her people. She dotes on Sarah and me nearly all day long. If Sarah and I are in a room together, Addie has to be in that room. If we are in different rooms, Addie ordinarily chooses a spot somewhere between us so that she can monitor the situation. If only one of us is home (usually me) Addie spends most of her time close at hand, unless she's cold in which case she goes somewhere to seek out heat. She hates the sound of my razor because she knows it usually means I'm going out and she would do everything in her power to stop that from happening. Usually she demands to be picked up in my arms (on her back) and then proceeds to gnaw and chew on my hands for as long as she can to delay my departure. Sometimes she lies across the front door jamb. Other times she simply rolls around on the carpet and purrs (purring is rare for her) so that I will find her irresistible and not be able to leave. I have taken to allowing 15 extra minutes to get out of the apartment since Addie has come to live with us.

Monday, April 23, 2012

3 Weeks and Counting

I have had this blog up and...well, not "running", exactly....for a year and a half but it was only April 3 of this year that I finally sucked it up and made the decision to post every day for as long as I could. I figure the streak will end while I'm on vacation unless I put a couple of pre-posts "in the can" before I go away.

Anyhow, in honour of yesterday being the 20th consecutive day of my new-found resolve, I decided to make today's post a sort of "Greatest Hits". It will be terrific! I'll link back to my favourite posts and we can laugh and shed a tear and get all nostalgic. Ok? Well, buckle up!

..........

Ok, just kidding. Wouldn't that be just about the worst post ever?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Red-Tailed Hawk Cam at Cornell

The past couple of weeks I have been following the live stream from a Red-Tailed Hawk nest at the top of a lightpole on the campus of Cornell University (in Ithaca, NY). I don't let it run all the time (I could never afford the bandwith, for one thing!) but like to check in from time to time.

It's been "on" a little more often today on my PC, because at least one of the "hawklets" seems to have chosen Earth Day as a wonderful day to be born. It's been a real treat watching the progress of the hatching whenever the mom, "Big Red", deigns to get off of the eggs long enough for us to grab a quick view. It's at the point now where I can hear the peeping of the baby (or babies) when the eggs are uncovered.

Sometimes the dad, "Ezra", takes a turn on the eggs, although this has become far less frequent the closer we get to the actual hatching. Mostly he pops into the picture from time to time, bringing food or a little more material for protection for the babies.

Here is a screen shot taken earlier today by one of the site's moderators which clearly shows the imminence of the hatching of the egg in the foreground. You can also see a small pip starting to show in the farthest egg, while the middle one has no visible signs yet. The three eggs were laid a couple of days apart, so this makes perfect sense.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Happy Record Store Day!

Several years ago - in 2005 at the age of 44 - I was lucky enough to manage this record store in the Beaches in Toronto. It was a dream job and, even though I was only running things there for about 7 1/2 months, I will remember it fondly for the rest of my life. Music has always been my biggest passion and the opportunity to come in every day, choose the "soundtrack" for the store, talk to the music company reps and spend my time among people who shared this passion was the highlight of my wide-ranging employment history.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Healthy Skepticism Above All

A couple of days ago I was meeting with a business associate and at one point in our conversation I had the occasion to remark on how excited I am by the current free flowing of information on the internet (for as long as it may last). In particular, I appreciate how it allows intelligent, free-thinking people an opportunity to receive unfiltered information from all corners on all subjects so that they can make up their own minds about vitally important issues and not be spoon-fed by editorially-biased publications. In most cases, of course, the editorial biases are still there, but now they are much more nuanced and less insipid, it seems to me. One of the caveats I put forth, however, was that in all of this information overload it is now more important than ever to maintain a healthy skepticism and to due your own "due diligence" before accepting anything at face value, no matter how trusted a source you might be using.

This point was drilled home to me again today by a friend on Facebook (names withheld to protect the innocent!) who - with very good intentions - posted a link to the Facebook site "Cancer is finally cured in Canada but Big Pharma has no interest" and to the video at the top of their page taken from an old CTV National News broadcast, likely 5 years old or more. The claim is made that there is a "simple cure for cancer" that currently exists but that it is somehow being suppressed by "Big Pharmacy". This is a perfect storm of scaremongering: cancer, evil big business and doubt about the legitimacy of major charities all fusing together brilliantly. Unfortunately, as a quick check of Snopes shows, it is also completely misleading with gusts up to outright lies.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Itchin' To Travel

The Blue Jays are playing tonight down by the lake with the Dome open - the second-earliest date this has happened in any season since they moved there in 1989. (For trivia nuts - like me - the earliest was April 16, 2002. Thanks to @ShiDavidi for the information.) This is getting me excited for the prospect of getting out of town this spring and summer for camping, day trips, visits to see Sarah's mom in the Ottawa Valley and, of course, whatever long road trip we decide on (most likely it will be Kenora as usual, which is fine with me).

This, in turn, caused me to look back through some pictures I had taken on these trips over the past few years (at least the years I owned a digital camera!) and I am going to post a couple of my favourites here. Most (except the last two) may be found on my Flickr photostream in case you're not "satisfied" with the samples here.

The frogs of Fortier Pond
"What are you lookin' at?"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thanks for nothing, Bob Barker

I'm sure Bob Barker's heart is in the right place. I'm sure he truly believes that he's doing the best thing for the aged elephants at the Toronto Zoo. Heck, he's even offered to pay out of his own pocket to have them flown to California after the Zoo's elephant keepers said they didn't think the three ladies would survive the long trip if they went by truck. And it's not his fault that the merry band of nincompoops at Toronto City Council put more stock in the "wisdom" of an octogenarian ex-game show host than in the professional expertise of the elephant keepers themselves.

But today Toronto Council's decision to move the elephants to an unaccredited sanctuary in California has resulted in the Zoo losing its AZA accreditation for at least the next year. This could pose a serious problem to the many wonderful and important breeding programs at the Toronto Zoo; hopefully they will regain their AZA standing (which they've maintained since 1977) next spring and things will return to normal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

MRI Day

I had my first-ever MRI done very, very early this morning at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Last year I had a series of health issues that all piled up one on the other until ultimately my lower back and pelvis just kind of gave up for a while. My doctor at Synergy Sports Medicine Clinic in the Junction area of Toronto ordered up a few tests and one of them was the MRI I had today. I guess I should be pleased that someone finally decided to have a look to see if I actually have a herniated disc after all these years of on-again, off-again back woes (instead of just guessing all the time), but I have to say that I am never pleased at having to get up at 4 AM on a day that doesn't end with Sarah and me sipping coconut-flavoured drinks on a beach somewhere hot and sunny.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Stupidity is Insipid

So, like, I live in Toronto? And we, like have this mayor? And he has a brother? And, like, they have this radio show? Where they just make stuff up all the time? And have their goofy friends along to chime in?

Sigh.

Even though they have been the subject of many of my Facebook rants over the past 18 months or so, I have tried to avoid talking about the Tweedle Brothers (Rob and Doug Ford) on my blog for as long as possible.

Photo: torontoist.com

Well, it all ends here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Odds 'n' Ends

Try as I might, I can find no single overwhelmingly exciting subject to post about today, so I'm going to just go with the random musings idea. Hope that's ok with everyone; if not, well....yeah, I've got nothing.

***************************************

Foggy day in East York as seen from our balcony
Terrifically foggy day here in East York. Makes me feel like I'm in the Maritimes and that's never a bad thing. I sense that the East Coast is where I am destined to wind up in life; for some reason, a lot of people in my family seem to feel that pull later in life and nothing in our lineage really explains why. Sarah and I have often spoken of resettling in Halifax; if we still desire to live in a city once we leave Toronto for good, it seems the most likely candidate. I'd still like to get to someplace smaller, but we may have to do that in stages. In any event, it's quite a wonderful view from our balcony - and the lush Spring-like smells are especially captivating to our cat as well. Now if we could just get that guy with the RC car in the parking lot right below us to run out of power we might actually have a completely idyllic situation.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Brunch with Dear Friends

Never a bad way to start a weekend. Sarah and I met with my long-time friend Louise and her partner (I was going to say "boyfriend" but Weezie hates that word and I'm kind of afraid of her, a bit...) Michael downtown today for some conversation and nosh before Michael had to hop a flight back to the old sod. It's always terrific to see him, which we don't get to do often enough. To be fair, though, it's exactly the same with Weezie and she lives nearly 6,000 km closer. Life's like that, isn't it?

Weezie and Michael at my 50th birthday party last spring

Friday, April 13, 2012

Paraskevidekatriaphobia




Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! Because I am a born contrarian, I love this day - precisely because so many people are so afraid of it. I do prefer a different term for the "fear of Friday the 13th": friggatriskaidekaphobia; this is because it has the word "frigga" in it and also because I am 12 years old.

The etymology of the two "technical" terms (according to Wikipedia):

friggatriskaidekaphobia where Frigga is the name of the Norse goddess for whom "Friday" is named and triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number thirteen;

paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen") attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning "fear").

In either case the important part of the word is the suffix, "phobia", which in English has come to mean irrational fear.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hockey's "Second Season": Part 2

Well, I have to say I have mixed feelings about last night's games. On the one hand, I was oh-so-close to all three teams I picked to advance winning their opening games....but on the other hand the spectre of the worst officiating of all major professional sports once again raised its ugly head in the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia game.


Seriously, how does this happen? How can someone be this far out of position in a playoff game? While, as coach Dan Bylsma said, this didn't cost the Pens the game it sure had a direct impact on the outcome since they lost in overtime. It was a game-changer, maybe even a series-changer. And we were told that the officials that worked this series would very likely be the ones working the finals because this series was just that big. If that's the case, heaven help us in the finals.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hockey's "Second Season"



I love the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I don't think there's a more exciting event in sports than an overtime hockey game and if it happens in Game 7 and/or the finals, well.....let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if the sales of portable defibrillators went up every year in mid- to late-May.

For most of my life I have spent some time in the days between the season and the opening game of the playoffs studying the matchups and trying to predict winners. Usually it's because I am in a pool of some kind; other years I just do it for interest's sake. But the past...oh, I don't know.....let's say "seven" years I have paid more attention than usual to the overall playoff picture rather than just the games I really care about. I don't even know why.




What's that? You think you know why? Well, keep it to yourself, ok?




Sigh.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Role of Family



I am going to get a little personal here today and as I begin this post even I have no real concept of where it will end up. I guess we'll have to see when we get there.

I posted a link on my Facebook page this past Sunday to a very short video of an Easter basket which I gave to my partner a couple of years ago. (I posted the same link on Sunday's post on this blog if you wish to check it out.) The basket is a lamb which says "Happy Easter! Baaaa... Baaaa..." when you press on its front hoof. As a salutation with that video, I posted...well, I posted exactly what the "lamb" says in the video. Well, my goodness - you'd think I had completely tarnished the entire 2000-year history of Christianity to read the comments from one of my family members.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Kid




Gary Carter would have been 58 yesterday. Sorry I'm a day late with this, but I wanted to share this amazing video put together by Montreal rapper Annakin Slayd.





Gary Carter, AKA "The Kid": one of my favourite ball players of all time.

A Week of Anniversaries


Today is the 95th anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday, April 9, 1917. The four day battle, in which all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together for the first time, has long been considered - rightly or wrongly - to be one of the moat important elements in the forging of a true Canadian identity in the early years of the 20th century. The battle itself may have had a relatively small impact on the outcome of The Great War, but the myth and mystique of the efforts of the men of the young country had a tremendous impact on the spirit of our nation.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Non-Secular Chocolate Bunny Day

What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole?


Original bunnies can be found at Bella Sofran's Deviant Art gallery


Hot Cross Bunnies.

(Well, somebody had to do it....and Gary Dunford is long retired.)

Whether you celebrate Easter, Passover, Spring Fever, Painted Unfertilized Chicken Embryo Day or absolutely nothing at all, have a great long (if you got Friday off) weekend.

Whew. Those were a lot of conditional statements.





Saturday, April 7, 2012

Baseball in the Snow


It's 12 degrees and brilliantly sunny here in Toronto on this April 7th, a Saturday afternoon in 2012. Our windows are open at home and I am looking forward to settling in shortly to watch the Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians in the second game of the season.

But it wasn't sunny or warm 35 years ago today. Not by a long shot.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Full Moon Rising

I'll admit it. I am a lunatic. Although I mean it in the late Latin, lunaticus form of the word. For as far back as I can remember I have been profoundly affected by the waxing of the full moon, each and every month. No, I don't grow grotesque quantities of hair and suffer from an overpowering urge to slaughter lambs but I am affected nonetheless. I can usually tell you that it's the night before a full moon without looking at a calendar simply by the otherwise unexplainable surge of adrenaline in my body and sudden uplifting of my spirit.

I used to wonder, when I first worked out the cause of this phenomenon within me, whether that was the reason I was so fascinated by the Apollo program when I was a young boy. Perhaps it was the other way around, too, but I find it difficult to imagine that such an effect on my psyche would be "man-made" and not sublimely natural. In any event, I hung on every bit of information I could get about every single moon launch NASA ever made and all I wanted to do as a young man was become an astronaut. I now think this was not because I wanted to go into space (although that was certainly part of it); rather, it was more likely that I craved an opportunity to walk on the moon. (This would likely also explain why I never really paid that much attention to the Shuttle Program.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why I Love Baseball: For Those Who Don't "Get It"

I was asked by a friend last year to tell her what was so wonderful about baseball. This is what I came up with.

I love the mathematical perfection of baseball and its field of play. How is it that 60' 6" was arrived at as the perfect distance from the pitcher's mound to the plate so as to strike the proper balance between favouring the pitcher and favouring the batter—and how is it that that balance is still there 160 years later? That's not true of other sports; as athletes have changed over the years they have had to tinker with their balances quite a bit. How is 90' still the perfect length for a baseline, allowing a normally-struck ground ball to be caught and thrown to first base in almost exactly the perfect amount of time to JUST retire the batter? How are (most of) the outfield fences positioned so that no matter what the quirky dimensions of an individual park is there really isn't that big a variation from the mean in the number of homers hit there?

Let's Play Ball!!



Well, another opening day is upon us - a day that is in my top 10 favourites of every year. The Blue Jays, fresh off an incredible spring training record of 24-7 (beating their old club record by 3 wins), have some incredible depth in their organization now. Will that translate into wins at the top level, in the majors? We'll find out come October; a 162-game grind can be punishing. There is an extra playoff spot available in each league this year, increasing the club's chances somewhat of reaching the post-season for the first time since their back-to-back World Series wins of 1992-93. In fact, this is the result of the very last swing the Blue Jays have taken to date in the post-season:


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Last Saturday Was Funked Up

I realize I'm kind of being anti-chronological here, but I wanted to give a couple of shout-outs to some friends of mine for events of the past weekend.

First of all, I posted last spring about the tribulations I was going through while coaching in the East York Minor Hockey Association (where I had been doing so for 9 years). Things became so bad that I decided I had had enough and took this year off. (Well, in point of fact I said "I am not returning if the convenor isn't replaced"....and pretty much had to keep my word when the old guard all returned.)

My coaching partner, Jeff Seccull, was able to see past the nonsense and did return, coaching the Philadelphia team of 11- and 12-year-olds once again. There were finally some changes made to the way the EYHA "balanced" the teams during the season - ironically, changes that were brought about specifically because of my diligence a year earlier which cause some strife in the league and which the convenor grumpily alluded to in an early meeting this year (according to my sources!) - and as Jeff is easily the best coach at this level the league has had in years, of course his team won the Little Stanley Cup last Saturday. Here's a shot of Jeff with the Cup - the first time he has ever won it!


I very much missed coaching this year and especially working with Jeff. Congratulations to him and the Philadelphia team for winning the championship - and I greatly appreciate him letting me know they were in the finals so Sarah and I could make our way over and cheer them on the past two Saturdays.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zoo Therapy

So I have been working with a wonderful group of people at The Challenge Factory and we have finally reached the point where I need to do something called a "Sweet Spot Statement". The whole purpose of my work with them has been to get me to a point where I can find something to do with myself in the "next chapter" of my life that is enriching, satisfying and - hopefully - monetarily rewarding. I've been having some trouble with this part of the programme, mainly because I am afraid of tricking myself into an incorrect "sweet spot" based on values I don't really hold for myself. Of course I have been tossing around ideas like writing about music or politics, mentoring youth, some kind of teaching....or animal welfare.

And yesterday - before Sarah and I were to sit down and work on that Sweet Spot Statement for me - we decided to go to the Toronto Zoo.

Now, being more or less fatalistic I don't believe that it was an accident that yesterday was not only a day that Sarah had booked off just to recharge but also one that turned out to be so absolutely incredible for walking around outside while working out just where that "sweet spot" might be. When we realized - at 10AM - that we were in for something special from the weather, we got ourselves together, fueled up at Timmy's and headed out to the Zoo - ostensibly to see the new baby penguin chick (born in late January but only on display since March Break or so).







Because I am a bit of a cluck (see what I did there?), I forgot my "real" camera at home so I took this picture of the chick through the glass of his enclosure with my phone's camera. Still, I think it came out fine - and the cool thing is you can see Sarah and me reflected in the glass! The down on this little guy is almost gone and he seems to be just about as big as the adults in the colony already, but he still appeared to be very, very sleepy. What a cutie!




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