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Serenity Now… 100,000 views of The SDC Blogs.

October 21, 2013 Leave a comment

The ol’ blog punched in it’s 100,000th view today. Wowzers.

While this is surely a far smaller page view count than some big time bloggers, I am very proud of what my little corner of the internet has done so far.

Since starting this blog in 2009 simply as a means of getting thoughts out of my brain, the thing has been quite the launching pad for my writing career. I’ve written for three newspapers and appeared on two radio stations between Canada and Korea, had numerous writers pen guest posts, started mentoring aspiring young writers, appeared on one podcast and started my own, received piles of free stuff promotional material and did my best to promote the heck out of it all, interviewed NHL stars of past and present, local talent, a TV star, and even a political figure. I even got interviewed myself one time.

Amazingly, this blog has pulled in views from 160 countries. Which makes my head spin. Top of the heap? The true north, strong and free. Thanks, Canada. Honorable mention to the US, UK, India, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany for rounding out the top ten in that order.

blog map

Where The SDC Blogs has been, according to WordPress. So far.

 

My top read article has been the one denouncing the Mayans’ so-called prediction of the end of the world in 2012. Also appearing in the top ten were my post on free online hockey game links, one of my Vancouver 2010 Olympics articles, a piece venting my frustrations with Air Canada, a tribute to my late friend Colin Burritt, and a mixed bag of some other solid pieces and some good old fashioned total non-sense.

All in all, the only thing I can do is give thanks. Thanks for reading, everyone. Special thanks to my wife for her support while attempting to transition into a new career, to my friend Justin Bourne for his inspiration and example, and everyone else who has supported me by reading, listening, or in other ways. You know who you are.

I suppose the next milestone would be 1,000,000 views, but at this rate that’s gonna take 36 more years, so one step at a time.

Thanks again, everyone!

5 Years Already?

June 8, 2012 2 comments

Five years ago today (June 9), I married the most beautiful girl in the world. Since then, we’ve been all over the world together, had many adventures, and made many new friends along the way. What a ride, and what fun it all has been…. and so much more yet to come! Our wedding day is recognized by both of us as one of the funnest days of our lives. Thanks again to all of you who were able to share and take part in it with us in one way or another! Happy 5th anniversary to my wife, KarmaLee Cunning. I love you. Can’t wait to see where we are in another 5.

Blackhawks Breakdown, Torres-Seabrook, Rule Confusion, & The Elements Of A Championship Team.

April 19, 2011 5 comments

Ok, back to me :)

I’m not even an official Chicago Blackhawks fan, but I hate seeing what’s happened to them.

To see last year’s Stanley Cup champions reduced to backing into the 8th seed playoff spot via hopes of others’ misfortune, and now having their asses handed to them by their archrivals is really quite stark in contrast to the Hawks club that celebrated curbing the greatly publicized Chicago Cup drought not so long ago. 

There are two things that strike me about the situation.  One is that it really speaks to the team aspect – how many “cogs” working in harmony it takes to win a championship.  When you think about the Chicago Blackhawks, the names that come to mind most often are probably Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  Obviously they have other strong players, but those two are largely painted as the poster boys for that franchise; and rightfully so.  When the team’s “gutting” unfolded last season, the optimistic ones surely felt that as long as those two were on the roster, they’d be ok.  It’s right about now that the (at times) overshadowed, and perhaps underappreciated necessity of now delinquent Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, and Anti Niemi (the latter few got their share of attention, mind you) would be welcomed in their lineup.  Even with guys like Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, heck even coach Joel Quenneville, they just can’t pull it back together to what it was. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those dealt away are the secret to success, because with four of those players on teams not even in the playoffs this year, clearly that’s not the case.  The point I want to make is to show another example of how a team will not necessarily survive on talent alone – look at Montreal again in these playoffs for example – and how necessary it is for the “stars to align” to bring that just-right mix of guys together who can truly function as a working unit and accomplish an ultimate goal.  It’s a lot easier said than done; just ask Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya about their conspiracy to both take less money to play together in Colorado to try and win a Cup in2003.

Better days in the Madhouse.

 I really wanted good Canadian kid Jonathan Toews to come out on top, and prove everyone wrong by winning again.  I sort of get the feeling Patrick Kane’s content with scoring the Cup winning goal last year (I would be too) and is more worried about looking cool while chewing on his mouthguard/negating it’s entire safety function in an era of hockey where the league is trying to reduce head injuries.  Anyways, long point short, this year’s Blackhawks seem like a band that used to be really awesome, split up to do solo records, and never really recaptured the glory they once had; better together than apart.  Unless there’s some miraculous 7-game comeback, we’re going to see a new Stanley Cup champion this year.  I wonder if Dustin Byfuglien thinks now that taking less money to stay on a good team might have been a better idea now?  They sure could use him in front of Luongo.      

And since we’ve dipped into the head injury topic, my thoughts on Raffi Torres’ hit on Brent Seabrook are that the initial penalty called was correct – Seabrook did not have the puck.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a suspension, but I’m not upset there wasn’t.  There were just so many intangibles to factor in to the result though; Seabrook has a concussion history (and it’s insane that he doesn’t wear a new-era memory foam concussion padded helmet), Torres has a suspension history, and the NHL gets eyeballed by the world every time a bodycheck is thrown.  Torres is a role player that is, quite frankly, doing his job: blowing guys up with bodychecks and creating puck turnovers.  The new NHL has been phasing out the fighter position for a while now, and the latest revelation seems to be the big-hitters are the next queued for extinction.  You can see it right in Raffi’s facial expression to the referee after the call was made; while some would read it as a “I didn’t do anything ref!” look, I saw it as a guy who legitimately is unclear as to what he is and isn’t allowed to do anymore in terms of body checking anymore. 

I really think that’s a huge notion to consider, especially in the playoffs.  The quest for a championship requires such a level of focus and perfection that for a player to be second guessing his limitations on the ice will most certainly at some point be the difference of a player that would normally get hammered by Torres instead get around him, make him look ridiculous, and probably earn Raffi a spot on the pine, or worse, on the healthy scratch list next game.

It reminds me of one of my first games playing in France.  Prior to playing there, I had largely defined my style of hockey as quite physical, because that’s what had brought me the most success at every other level.  In fact, I had that style drilled into me since the age we were allowed to run into each other in minor hockey.  We were playing a game on the road, and I went to finish my check on a guy into the boards who had just released the puck in enough of a time frame that I felt I was in the right to complete the hit, which I did; a pretty routine play back in North America.  Whistles, a stoppage in play, and an escort to the penalty box later, I assumed I had done something wrong (though I couldn’t confirm it because everyone was talking in French).  A teammate then joined me in the box.  I asked him what was going on.  He relayed to me that I had been assessed a 10-minute penalty for a “vicious” hit (I’ve hit guys a lot harder with worse results), and he was there to serve an extra two.  When I finally got out of the box and back into the game, I played very tentative because I couldn’t understand what I was allowed to do (the language barrier didn’t help), and I was largely ineffective from there on in. 

So that brings me to my next point – for the sake of the players, and everyone’s general understanding, the NHL needs to clearly define some rules.  No more shades of grey; whatever the ruling is, just tell us and the players, so they can go about figuring out how to play correctly, and we can all stop squabbling about it.  The North American style of hockey is largely physical, and that’s what we were all raised on.  There’s already (nearly) non-contact hockey in Europe.  That’s their style and that’s fine and dandy for them.  Over here, players run into each other and get blown up (as well as scoring goals periodically).  This monster that’s been created by the new rules is something the league needs to learn to manage better before the NHL decides to introduce touch-football rules.  Whether the game is supposed to be full of clutching, grabbing, and fighting, or speed, finesse, and concussions, please someone just let us all know so we can keep up  and eliminate all the second-guessing for the sake of the game we all love.    

 

The Captain’s C: The Heaviest Letter to Wear in Sports.

September 20, 2010 3 comments

 

So the “C” has officially been removed from Roberto Luongo’s che… err, chin.

“Lu” cited that carrying the title of team captain was a “precarious position to be in”, and perhaps “a little bit of distraction”; which are not exactly traits a person with the job description of stopping 100mph slap-shots needs to be worrying about while trying to catch a glimpse of the next slap-bomb coming from the point off of a wound-up one-timer through the 8 pairs of legs in front of him.  That plus an entire hockey culture scrutinizing his selection as captain, and nit-picking all the pros and cons of it every night, maybe he’s better off without it.

Here’s the thing about being the captain of a team.  Though the only literal privilege that comes with wearing it is being able to converse with the referees, it is a constant mental distraction.

In my minor hockey days, I had the “C” voted on my jersey for three consecutive seasons, and an “A” in my senior year at college.  Every team has their own similar-but-different criteria for a captain to meet – skill, dedication, respect, inspiration, and plenty of other admirable traits.  Sometimes it’s done by a team vote, sometimes it’s appointed by the coaching staff, and sometimes it’s a mix of both.  Our college team had a neat tradition of having the current team’s captain choose a successor for the following season at the conclusion of the current one.  Personally, I prefer the team vote – I think in the end, those are the guys that the captain is really leading, and I think that the players should be able to select who does that the best, in their opinion.  I don’t like having the coaches pick the captain – I think that can create an unnecessary divide between team and coaches.  Obviously there is a natural divide there already as coaches don’t compete on the ice (they just yell and tell players what to do), but when the captain is selected by them, and the assistants by the team, a we-chose-them-but-not-you mentality can develop, which can threaten the integrity of the captain, who may then be viewed as being a bit of a coaches puppet and remove some of the team’s respect that he desperately needs.  But then again, none of that can happen as well, and everyone can get along just fine.  It’s just a precarious selection process is all I’m saying.

There’s something very empowering about that letter “C” when it’s stitched on your jersey; it just makes you feel a cut-above – not in a pompous way, but in a humble way, as you know you’ve been entrusted with a very deep responsibility.  You now have the task of not only being (and being expected to be) the best player you can be individually, but also getting the best out of your teammates every night in hopes of success.  And you also have the duty of carrying yourself with class and respect off the ice.  While you do your best to emulate the leadership characteristics of great captains like Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman, Messier (while you know you’re not as good as them, it’s cool to consider that you do share one thing in common with them), and perhaps former captain teammates as well, everyone else is busy scrutinizing your leadership style, and how effective (or not) it is.  People who know me (or knew me during those days) know that I’m a pretty mild-mannered guy; so especially when I was younger, I constantly heard things like I was “too quiet” as a captain, and I took my share of heat.  In the end I didn’t care what they said too much.  I just did my best to do my job, which was mainly to produce on the ice and hope my teammates would follow by example, which I believe I did well.

After my third consecutive run as team captain, I didn’t receive another letter until my 4th year in college.  To be honest, it hurt not having it, and my jersey always felt just a little naked without something sewn on the front left shoulder; it made me a little jealous of the guys who did get it instead.  I spent a lot of time over the following years wondering what changed, what I had done wrong, and what I would have to do to get it back someday, some year.  I heard a lot of the same “you don’t need a letter to be a leader” rhetoric over the years, which is true.  I was always hopeful that my teammates would see me as a leader when it came to team voting time again though.  At some point, I did just say “the hell with it” and tried to focus on my game, though it never really left the back of my mind.  I think not having a letter and not caring about it did afford me the opportunity to focus on simple, individual tasks as a player, instead of a broad spectrum of responsibility that comes with worrying about leading everyone else as well.  By my third year at college, and 8th year without a letter, I was my team’s leading scorer,

proud of that "A".

and probably playing the best hockey I ever had.  By my fourth, I had an “A” voted onto my jersey, which meant a lot more to me than surely any of my teammates realized.  To me, their scribbles of my name on a torn-off piece of paper pulled out of a hat, was them saying, “yeah, we do want you to lead us, we do think you’re worthy of it,” which, although it wasn’t the “C”, it was the recognition I know I  had been looking for for such a long time.  Our captain that year did a great job, but when I looked back on it, I much prefer being voted a leader by the boys than having it as an appointment.  I always had the romantic idea of wearing that “C” just one more time in my career, and perhaps having that team be the last I would play for; but alas that opportunity hasn’t come yet.

tough to justify their replacement, in my opinion.

So whether you’re 15 years old, or an Olympic gold medalist; if you don’t have thick enough skin to separate the mental battle from the actual game, then being a captain may not be for you.  It’s something that can really mess with your head, if you allow it to.  It’s not a responsibility that just any player can handle either.  Franchise players like Mike Modano and Brett Hull were given the “C” for only a few seasons until they were replaced by other players in the role, as their coaches felt their leadership style didn’t “jive”, let’s say, which the coaches expectations (click the links to read the rabbit hole stories about them).  I played with one player (who is probably the most skilled player I ever played with) who outright requested not to be given a letter at all.  As much as I hate the Vancouver Canucks, I do respect and empathize with Luongo for enduring as long as he did, and all the other great captains who take their share of abuse for not leading their team to the Stanley Cup every year.  Roberto did what was best for the team, which may be the best move he made as captain.  Like most scenarios, critics seem to know exactly what a captain is doing wrong and all the things he should be doing in order to be a better captain; without a doubt, putting those same people in that same role would yield further incompetence in the eyes of other critics.  Everyone seems to know how to do something better than the person they’re criticizing, and that’s just a fact of life.  The best leaders find a way to lead despite all the negativity.  Unless you’ve had a “C” on your jersey, there’s a lot more to it than you likely realize, so keep that in mind next time you think it’s such an easy job!

 

Jeremy Roenick, Larry Fitzgerald, and The Terrible Trouble of Toppers.

March 13, 2010 15 comments

You stay classy, JR.

Sometime back in November ’09, I was sitting in a Kelowna pub, waiting for my boss to drop off a cheque to me.  He clearly wanted me to drink the money away with him right then and there, but I vowed to keep it, and my immediate debts clear.  Amidst my time biding, a man with an odd familiarity, though seeming out of place, caught my attention.  I puzzled to put the pieces together… finally assembling that it was former loud-mouth agitator showman NHL’er, Jeremy Roenick.  Once I put it together, I opted not to bother him (he was a good player and all, but I just didn’t seem to care that much).  He seemed a little perturbed, as if someone had just called him spoiled for getting paid to play “a game” for a job.  I found out later he was in town for the Kelowna Jaycee’s Gentlemen’s Charity Dinner… go figure.    

I still thought it was cool that I saw him, so I texted my friend, Justin Bourne, who resides in Arizona, about who I’d just seen.  A few minutes later, I got a text back saying something to the tune of, “Oh yeah? Well I just walked past Larry Fitzgerald.  Take that.” {editor’s note: verbatim may be exaggerated for effect}  He included the following picture:

My immediate reaction was to accuse Mr. Bourne of being a “Topper”, and of attempted topping, while under suspicion of conspiring to top.  He refuted the charges. 

Now you may be asking yourself, “But SDC, what is a Topper, or topping for that matter?”  Well, I’m glad you asked, and I’ll be happy to explain.  Or better yet, I’ll let Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comics visually explain:

So basically, a Topper is someone who always seems to conveniently have a better story than someone who is currently, or has just finished telling a story; generally for the purpose of garnering attention and admiration of others in earshot of the happening. 

Now, to be fair to, and in defence of Bourne, this definitely was an isolated topping incident, and I hold no other claims to current or former toppings.  But there are definitely people out there who do this on a regular basis, quite purposefully. 

The other side of this scenario is that, at the time, I had no idea who Larry Fitzgerald was (apparently he’s good at that game with the weird shaped ball that’s hard to throw, and a super guy) as I don’t watch football, but Bourne definitely knew who Roenick was (was good at hockey, and apparently a huge jackass).  So Justin may have a claim to innocence based on the fact that his topping criteria was not necessarily of topping magnitude, considering that I was not aware of Larry’s level.  But one could also cite that this point is irrelevant, and nullify the claimed innocence.  So what do you think?  Does the evidence speak for itself, or is topping relative to the participants?  Did Bourne (try to) top me? 

My conversational provoking query to you is: Do you know a topper?  What is your best topper story that you’ve seen or heard of?

Also, enjoy some more Topper comics, my favourite character in the Dilbert series.

My Encounters With the Hitman / Bret Hart Comes Full Circle.

December 30, 2009 4 comments

Hell has frozen over, and the swine have flown to Mexico for the winter.

The term “Never Say Never” has, well, never, been more appropriate.  Bret Hart is coming back to WWE TV. 

We all had childhood heroes, and Bret “Hitman” Hart happened to be one of mine.  Though I would find out much later in life through his 2007 autobiography, “Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling”, that he cheated on his wife a lot and dabbled in steroids; I looked up to the guy, or at least his on-screen persona, for most of my adolescence.  The “Hitman” character was a great role model (as far as wrestlers go); always standing up for what was right, never backing down from a challenge, the pursuit of excellence, teamwork, national pride, and all sorts of other BS that plenty of parents have a difficult time instilling in their children.  He even took a verbal stand against the sexual content appearing in WWE programs, knowing full well how many children tune into the show.

Though I saw him perform on TV plenty of times, I only ever got to see him wrestle live once at a non-televised “house-show” in Vancouver’s Agridome when I was in 7th grade.  We had seats pretty far back, but when I heard his entrance music start, I rushed up to the ringside barrier and was quite surprised how easily I got right to the front.  He was the WWF Champion at the time, so when he was coming around high-fiving all the fans around the ring, he had the title belt draped over his shoulder.  I remember as he drew closer to me that I was going to have to make a split-second decision over whether to slap his hand or touch the belt.  Citing in my elementary school educated mind that the belt had been with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, and other legends, I elected to touch the belt.  As Bret moved onto the next fans beside me, I sort of remember getting a bewildered look from him.  Immediately, I knew I had made the wrong decision, and I’ve regretted it ever since. 

I encountered Bret again at the Molson Indy Vancouver in 1998 or 1999.  I can’t nail down the date for certain, but I remember I was still in school, and he was signing 8×10” glossy’s of him posing with the WCW US Title belt, which he held in both of those years.  My dad had gotten tickets to the race nearly annually through work.  While in the hotel, I caught on the news that Bret was at the event signing autographs, and starting the race, or something celebrity-ish.  After quite literally racing down to the track (pun) from the hotel with family in tow (actually, I couldn’t drive yet, so they were effectively towing me), I got to the end of the dwindling autograph line.  The security guard told me that he had already been signing overtime and was about to leave.  I tried my best to be a good, well-behaved fan for as long as I could, but it was to no avail.  My hero eluded me.

Right in between those encounters is where an event took place that makes this pending return to WWE TV so incredible.  The whole series of events is documented in a 1998 film called Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows, a movie that accidentally uncovered the most dynamic real-life drama in the history of the wrestling business.  Around 1997, Bret’s contract was set to expire.  He resigned a 20 year deal with the then WWF to secure him in the company, and away from competitor WCW that had taken Hogan, Savage, and many other past-prime wrestlers and edged them out of the ratings war with.  Later in the year, McMahon informed Bret that the company was in “financial peril” and he wasn’t going to be able to make good on the contract.  Vince helped Bret negotiate a deal with WCW to commence at the expiry of his current contract at the conclusion of 1997.  There was concern on McMahon’s side that Bret, the then world champion, would bring the title belt to WCW TV and exploit it the way Alundra Blayze did when she took the WWF Women’s title to WCW and threw it in a garbage can during a live broadcast in 1995.  As Bret was given “reasonable creative control” of his character for the remainder of his contract, he and Vince worked out an “amicable” finish to his WWF run (Bret wore a “wire” in a backstage meeting), which would have him drop the belt gracefully on Monday Night Raw, the night after Survivor Series 1997; as he was having issues losing to his storyline and real-life nemesis, Shawn Michaels (yes, actually real fist-fights off-camera) in Canada as Bret’s character was currently a overtly Pro-

A moment of infamy.

Canadian one.  The Survivor Series match went down and concluded with an entirely different finish than was discussed; Shawn “beat” Bret after the referee said he submitted (he didn’t) and Vince himself ordered the bell rung.  After the match, Bret spit in Vince’s face, and destroyed a bunch of monitors and TV equipment.  A further backstage confrontation between Bret and Vince turned into McMahon walking out of Bret’s locker room with a black eye, woozy from being knocked out, and limping from a sprained ankle.  Needless to say, Bret hadn’t just left the company on friendly terms. 

In the last 12 years, Bret has still remained in the WWE realm.  The very next night after SS ’97, Shawn brought out a little person dressed as Bret to further humiliate him, and gloat about his title win.  A few years later, Shawn “apologized” on-camera for his part in the “Montreal Screwjob”; though he didn’t really say he was sorry.  Bret smelled a rat and declined his apology on his website.  Bret’s brother Owen died in 1999 while performing a ring entrance stunt that went wrong; Bret and his family sued the WWE, and seemingly further divided the already strained relationship. 

In 2005, Bret and WWE jointly produced a DVD collection chronicling Bret’s

A relationship on the mend.

 wrestling career.  It was a large success, and some would say that this partnership paved the way for Bret’s WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2006, where Bret appeared live, and gave a speech.  He declined to appear in front of the live audience the next night at Wrestlemania, citing that he wasn’t comfortable with it.  Interestingly, he stipulated that he didn’t want Shawn anywhere near the event or he would walk out.  Michaels obliged, and there was no incident.  This year, WWE teased a Hitman appearance at a Calgary event; they played his entrance music and introduced him, but the Canadian crowd was greeted by “American Hero” Sgt. Slaughter waving “Old Glory” instead.  And this brings us to the latest incident, where after Raw guest host Dennis Miller teased Bret’s return again, amongst internet rumors of Bret signing an on-camera contract, McMahon himself (with the aid of Michaels) announced that Bret will return to WWE as Raw’s guest host next week.  With his contractual obligations speculatively lasting until Wrestlemania, a Bret/Vince/Shawn storyline seems unavoidable.

So now I’m emotionally torn.  I’m thrilled that my former hero is returning to TV, but I’m concerned about the motives behind the comeback.  Bret suffered a career-ending concussion while in WCW, and a stroke while in retirement; so the odds of him actually involving himself physically are ultra slim.  He made a lot of money over his career, and I doubt he’s hurting for a payday.  So what’s the motivation?  He could be in it to help out his relatives of The Hart Dynasty.  But after all the years of sticking to his guns, and saying he’d never forget what happened to him or do business with WWE again, here he is.  Bret has been criticized for years about not being able to “move on” or “let it go”; is this maybe just simply the way to bring closure to a legendary, but expired, issue?  Has he finally been able to forgive and forget?  Should his fans do the same as well?

To those who follow wrestling, it’s no secret that Hulk Hogan is making his debut for TNA Wrestling on the same night; so clearly Bret’s return is in hopes of thwarting a ratings shift.  But contrary to the last few years of haphazardly tuning in to WWE due to uninteresting storylines and over-played feuds, I’m going to be absolutely glued to my TV come Monday.

How To Save $5000 in College / My Hatred of Reading & Love for Writing.

December 5, 2009 12 comments

It’s a marvel that I’ve even gotten myself into writing. 

I truly enjoy creating stories in the written format, especially in blogs.  Writing whatever I want, without having to adhere to providing “research”, or “structure” in addition to other guidelines imposed by a professor is a phenomenal feeling.  After all these years, I can finally use all the slang, jargon, fragments, run-on sentences, and general Format Guide rule-breaking I want.  Peer proof-readers can go fly a kite; I edit my own stuff now.  No more shall my writing have its content value be equal to its formatting correctness, and have my grade be brought down because I couldn’t follow simple directions outlined in a readily available and accessible guide a professor had their T.A. mark my paper, and look for formatting errors above substance.  No more shall my writing have red pen ink rivalling the amount of black printer ink on my papers (mostly due to the fact that you can’t shouldn’t be writing on a screen.  If one of my old prof’s gets cheeky and prints a copy of this, marks it up with red pen, and sends it to me, remember, I likely know where you live, if you’re still teaching at the same school).

I only ever had one teacher ever think I was anything above average at writing.  My 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Thompson, at Mount Boucherie Secondary School, gave me the only English award and English “A” that I ever received in my entire secondary and post-secondary career.  So in the unlikely event that she’s reading this, thanks for believing in me, Mrs. Thompson.  I have always, really, appreciated that.

So, all that to say, me in writing is amazing, mostly because I hate hate HATE writing’s necessary and evil equivalent: reading.  Oh, how I loathe thee, reading.   

A writer requires other people to read what he’s written, so it’s an interesting paradox that my labour beckons the very enemy I’ve fought to resist; only now it comes from a mass audience (more than 2 people could be called a mass, right?).  It’s not that I’m no good at reading; my cognitive system is capable of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving and/or constructing meaning just fine.  Silent or aloud reading; no problem.  I just don’t find it fun.  I have no idea how a people can pick up fictitious stories, involve themselves on an emotional level over a lengthy amount of time, and then repeat the process upon completion.  Isn’t that exactly what you do when you watch a TV show or movie, only in a fraction of the time?  Oooo, I had to create the images in my mind instead of seeing them with my eyes on a screen…big deal.  I can watch TV faster than you can read books, any day.  In the age of convenience and info-on-demand, getting the exact same information quickly (TV) rather than slowly (books), is a no-brainer.   If I want to stimulate my imagination, I’ll draw a picture.  Isn’t your imagination’s engagement from books only limited to the author’s vague and open-ended descriptions anyways?  I really feel there’s better ways to get that part of your brain going, if that’s that side of  the argument is for.   If I’m going to read anything, it’s going to be something not made-up (non-fiction).  A good autobiography by someone I like usually works (see: Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Wayne Gretzky, etc), or else something tangible like astronomy, history, or current events will arouse my interest. 

School never helped either.  When you don’t enjoy reading to begin with, being forced to read with the threat of assignment failure if you don’t, is probably the worst thing a non-reader could encounter.  Reading became work, and work isn’t fun.   Once you’ve had to develop the ability to “skim”, you know you’re too far gone.  If you have to skim a book for information, that automatically means the 95% of the book you did not draw information from belongs straight in the trash, does it not?   Obnoxiously large textbooks, research, citing sources, and extended visits to the libra…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The other problem with forced, educational reading is the absurd prices they make you pay to obtain the books that you are required to derive information from.  My first encounter with this screw-job was at Okanagan University College in Kelowna, BC, while enrolled in the Fine Arts program.  I had to take a course called “Visual Forum”, that required me to purchase a 2-inch thick, $200 textbook (that’s $100 per inch, for you math students).  “Well, they said I need it, right?” said the naive freshman that I was, after freshly receiving my parents’ hard-saved college tuition money that was supporting my first year.  A semester later, I swear to you, I passed the class without doing anymore than removing the plastic covering from that book.  I went to return the squandered capital to the bookstore, who denied me and sent me to the used bookstore, who then told me they would consign the book at around a ¼ of my original purchase price.  Upon haggling with the same story I just told you, I found there was no way I was getting that $200 back.  I put that book up for consignment, and to this day, have not seen the money for it.  Reading was dead to me.  I told myself, “Never again.”

The continuance of my post-secondary education was dependant on student loans.  Though some people like to believe their loans being deposited in their bank account is somehow the equivalent of winning the lottery, I was well aware that I would have to repay every dime eventually (National Student Loans likes to remind me of this every month now).  So my college years carved some financial responsibility out of me.  As you’re now aware of my personal vendetta against costly required/unnecessary reading material, textbooks were first on my chopping block.  I vowed never to let the man put the screws to me again, and in 4 years of college, I never spent another dime on a textbook.  Seriously.

 Many people amass a bookshelf’s worth of textbooks after their college days.  Such a display usually at least creates the illusion that you had or currently have some level of intelligence.  My bookshelf is nearly bare; beyond the elementary school book-fair books that my parents bought for me that are still as unread as they were 20 years ago.  Make your own jokes, but read the rest of this post, and then tell me who’s smarter out of 2 people with the same degree;  the one with or without a pile of books collecting dust on a shelf that he’ll never read or use ever again? So if you share some of the same sentiments that I do, you may want to pay attention to the next few things.  Here’s how I did it:

1)      Some people aren’t that great in social interactions, which is fine.  But if you have the necessary social skills that are required to make friends with other humanoids, then you’ll likely be able to do so with some fellow students who have already taken the classes you are enrolled in, and be able to borrow their old textbooks, as they’ve probably found them to be quite useless outside of the class.  Just don’t be-friend people only on this basis, most people find this to be “shallow”.

2)      This is by far the payload of advice on this topic, so if you pay attention to only one thing in this whole post, let this be it.  To thwart your enemy, sometimes you have to march right through the gates of hell, and enter the dwelling place of the beast itself.  That’s right, you’re going to have to go to the library.  As soon as you get your Course Outline, find your required texts, and take that list to your school’s book repository.  You’re likely going to find every single one of those books on file.  As long as you have a library card, and don’t have outstanding fines, simply sign out every book you need for the term.  If something’s not available, reserve it, and hold out until it comes back in (now that I’ve made this information public, you may want to hurry, as others may have caught on before you).  Once you get the books, keep renewing them all semester.  You’re home-free.  It’s a proven, effective, corner-cutting method.  You’re welcome.  “Genius” comments are welcome at the bottom of this post. 

So there you have it, a tale of woe that comes full circle and presents you with invaluable information.  Learn from my mistakes.  Use this information to stick the screws right back to the people holding the drill.  Take away some lessons from your college experience that have nothing to do with the classroom, besides where you can buy the cheapest ramen noodles.

My Like/HATE Relationship with Air Canada.

October 6, 2009 7 comments

 

There was a time where commercial air travel in Canada was quite good. There were at least 2 or 3 major airlines (Air Canada, Canadian Airlines, etc…), there was great in-flight service, friendly staff, competitive pricing, and everyone’s bags always came out of the baggage chute when their plane arrived. 

 One time, I had a flight that was delayed 15 or 20 minutes, which was of no consequence to me at all. The next week, I received a letter in the mail from Air Canada apologizing for the delay, and letting me know I had been credited 500 Aeroplan miles for the trouble. Nice touch.     

Then, something happened, and the face of the Canadian airline industry took a turn for the worse. Airlines began to go bankrupt, and Canadian Airlines was bought by Air Canada.  This  left Air Canada, privatized and fresh out of bankruptcy protection, as the dominant force in Northern North American flying. Perhaps they got cocky.  Perhaps they just stopped trying because they knew they had no major competition anymore. Maybe there was an actual, legitimate reason to what happened next. 

Suddenly, without warning, the complimentary in-flight meals disappeared, and were replaced with miniscule bags of nuts (or something resembling them). Ticket prices doubled, at least. I learned that the dreamy Aeroplan miles that are supposed to accumulate rapidly and fly you everywhere for free, expired if you didn’t use contribute to your totals once a year, and were nearly useless to me; as I am not a frequent traveler. The free headphones to watch movies suddenly had a price tag on them.  Bags started not showing up on the carousel; causing major headaches and worry, until they were delivered 1,2,3 or 4 days later, if at all. I almost had to make an insurance claim for my entire bag of hockey gear when I had to miss team practices and was in danger of missing games because my equipment didn’t show up after I flew back to college after Christmas break. Even the demeanor of the attendant staff seemed to drop off.  Smiles and assurances of a safe flight were replaced by cranky, angry looking old women informing me that I could NOT have another bag of cookies on the flight, and that I should just go back to my seat and buckle my safety belt. 

 

One time I was delayed over 4 hours in Calgary while trying to catch a connection home. I, and the other plane’s worth of passengers, sat and waited, and waited, asked questions, grew agitated… and waited some more. We eventually learned that the pilot was tired and didn’t want to fly. Then we found out that there was no replacement pilot to finish the trip. It wasn’t the most welcomed message a group full of weary travelers wanted to hear over the airport PA system (you should’ve heard the groans and mutiny plots after that one). We were finally allowed to board the plane well after midnight. One may think that boarding a plane means that the flight would be taking place. In this situation, they would be wrong. We sat in our assigned seats for at least another hour, while more maintenance and de-icing were performed. Eventually we did take off, and we arrived home nearly 6 hours later than we were scheduled to.

 

I figured that if they rewarded me 500 miles for a 15 minute delay before, I must be in store for something substantial this time. So again I waited, and waited…and waited. No mail. No letters. No bonus miles. Not even a sorry. So, I wrote my own letter to them instead.  I told my story, laid it out respectfully but firmly, and awaited a response. Sometime later, I received a reply. Air Canada was indeed sorry for the situation, but regretted to inform me that everything was part of routine and policy ( or something to that tune), and that there would be no compensation of any sort. Huh???

 

Since then, a magical little company named Westjet emerged, offering cheap flights, comfy, leather (?) chairs with TV’s built into the back of them, and a friendly attendant staff that oddly seems to enjoy their jobs, and is able to make passengers enjoy their flights. It was a huge breath of fresh air. It must have rattled Air Canada. Westjet began to increase their presence across the country, and all of a sudden, Air Canada recognized they had better play catch-up. Not run-past-and-beat mind you, just simply catch-up. All of a sudden, SOME Air Canada flights had TV’s in the back of chairs. The LONG flights started offering meals again, and SOME of the attendant staff seemed a little nicer. You absolutely must take an

maybe if you'd worked a little harder...

maybe if you'd worked a little harder...

intercontinental flight on Air Canada now (Boeing 767, and 777’s), just to walk past first-class and see what they get. There are, literally, cubicles for each seat, with footrests, and a whole pile of unnecessary things that only high tax-brackets can afford.

 

I will give Air Canada some credit though, even through their stubborn policies of luggage weight, quantity and size, they recently waived at least $500 worth of charges for my wife and I for extra baggage and over-weight penalties on an inter-continental flight.   They did make us repack four suitcases and redistribute the same amount of weight however, but hey, I’ll take it. Incredibly, all 5 bags showed up when we got off the plane.   

 

It’s still a far cry from what you’d find on Thai Air (oddly, they are members of the same Star Alliance), that offers free everything, all the time, whenever you want it, friendly staff that bow to you as you arrive and leave, and gets your bags out when you arrive at your destination. Also, Horizon/Alaska Air offers a free ticket to anywhere in North America if you offer to bump yourself off an overbooked flight and take a later plane (Thanks for sponsoring my honeymoon, guys). Tough to compete with I guess, but I think I see a glimmer of an effort somewhere deep down.

             

               I still would choose any other airline if I could, but Air Canada seems to have a headlock of a monopoly over some major destinations still.  Nearly immediate failure of upstart competition doesn’t help either, but obviously someone recognizes there’s a problem and is trying to offer a solution. With any luck, the big-wigs will fly to Ottawa on private Air Canada jets, and ask for a bailout sometime soon. 

 

Out With The New, On With The Old: The Senior Citizen Strata Squabble.

September 13, 2009 6 comments

What is it about the human aging process that makes regular people turngrandpa-simpson-shakes-fist-at-cloud into “Old People”? Not just people who are ahead of you in numerical age; I’m talking about the porch chair rocking, cane waving, youth denouncing, old bags that hate everything that isn’t familiar.  It’s not all of them (my grandparents have a cell phone, can email, and are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet), but it is a startling and unfortunate majority.  Is it the progress? Is everything just moving too fast nowadays? Is everything just too loud?  Why do we always have to speak up around you then?  Are rock n’ roll, and backwards hats really signs of the apocalypse?

I’ve had some experience living amongst old people.  Shortly after graduating from high school, I lived with my friend Jeff (http://jeff-bourne.webs.com/) in a “Retirement Castle,” as I liked to call it.  Jeff has Spina Bfida, a condition that confines him to a wheelchair.  The facility was the best option for his accessibility.  It required enough arm-twisting for them to allow him to live at this place; you can imagine what hell had come loose when word got out that a perfectly healthy and able-bodied young person was moving in as well.  The stink-eyes, the glares, the turning and hiding of purses while passing women in the hall, and the all too constant reminders of resident rules would’ve been enough for Milton from Office Space to burn down the building and then retreat to Mexico, were all daily encounters from day one.  

Probably the most insane incident at this place occurred in the games room.  A nice, typical, old person’s game room; it included shuffleboard, billiards, and the likes.  I used it from time to time, and one day I had a friend over to join me for a game of pool.  We broke, got a few shots in, and were having a good time, when all of a sudden, Marshall (the Strata President) walked in.  I greeted him, and introduced my friend.  Marshall had no time for my pleasantries.  We were promptly presented with a verbal declaration of strata rules, chapter 6, section 2, subsection ix, paragraph 16 (I think that’s what it was) that clearly stated: The games room is for residents only.  No guests are allowed to participate in activities that the games room provides.  With all due respect Mr. President (a formality, my due to him in the respect category was zero), HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND? Unfortunately I only made this a mental statement.  So for the next few minutes, while no one else but the three of us were in the room, Marshall watched us while I played the rest of the game, and made sure that my friend was not participating in pool, or anything else.  I swear to you, I am not making this up.

After my wife and I got married, we rented out my older brother’s condo, in a Strata-complex.  Though not an official retirement home, you’d be hard pressed to prove it based on the residents.  There were a few nice folks, but the general consensus was pretty much the same as before.

One of the paranoia progressions this place had made was the lobby and underground parking security cameras; and the ability to watch them from one of the digital cable stations, in the comfort of their quintuple locked, shades-drawn, homes.  They also felt the need to post a minion resident in a chair by the doors that the cameras viewed, just for added security, and likely, gossip.

The main entrance of the building featured foyer style access.  There was a primary door that was always unlocked, and then a second set of doors that required key card admittance.  From time to time, I did not have my key, for whatever reason.  And also, from time to time, there would be one of these old people, sitting in the chair, minding the door.  More than once, I asked for some assistance from the person to simply grant me admission; in lieu of calling up stairs and waiting for the buzz in.  It’s not exactly sound proof glass, and anyone could have figured out the pantomime motions I was making.  On pretty well all of these occasions though, the person I requested aid from was… less than helpful.  The cold glares that came through that glass towards me, and the pretend reading they would be doing while I politely asked for probably the lowest level of assistance available… it was infuriating.  I heard this same story from a few of our visitors as well. 

In the wintertime, salt and sand naturally collect on a person’s car while driving on any city roads.  When this same person parks in their underground parking spot with said accumulation, their spot is, of course, going to be dirty.  One day after returning home, I got a whole earful quoted to me from the resident rulebook (probably the same one from the other place) that stipulated in another rabbit-hole of strata code, how clean my parking space was to be kept at all times.  According to the book, I was required to sweep my spot regularly, or I may lose my spot altogether.  I may have verbally agreed with the given citation, but I’ll have you know I never touched that broom from that day on (nor did I before).

Our condo did not have a working dryer, so we dried our clothes either at the Laundromat, or out on our deck.  When we took them outside, we put our clothes on hangers and drying racks.  After the very first time we did this, we received a note under our door the next day; stating that we were in violation of a Strata rule that said nothing was to be visible from decks that could be seen by anyone, so people wouldn’t think less of the strata as a result of it.  First of all, it’s not like they were bad clothes.  Second, there was one sliver of the highway visible from our view.  There’s NO WAY anyone was seeing them, and/or reporting on the trashy looking disposition of our “great” condo.  That warning found its way into the recycling bin quite quickly.   

I think the Strata arrangement gives old people the last grip they have on any responsibility and expectation.  They’re either assigned to, or volunteer for a job, and they do it to the best of their abilities.  They may or may not even want to be living there.  Perhaps their independence was taken away before they believed it should have been.  That’s unfortunate if that’s the case, but it doesn’t mean that they need to make people younger than them miserable while they attempt to co-habitate in the same building as them.  Like I mentioned, there are some really great seniors out there, but man are there some awful ones too.  Now if I could just get our next door neighbours to turn that music down…

The Only Thing That “Goes on Clear” Is The Lies.

August 23, 2009 14 comments

There are very few moments in a man’s life that in which he will clamp onto his firm decision for life without any hope of wavering.  One such moment is when a man discovers the deodorant that is able to keep him not just dry, but smelling good as well.  It’s like hacking through a jungle trying to weed through all the different brands in search of “The One.”  Some are deodorants that make you smell good, but don’t necessarily keep you dry.  Others are anti-perspirants that keep you dry, but don’t necessarily keep you smelling good.  Others are failures on both fronts.  Some still promise to apply a magnetic coating that literally pulls attractive women from all directions towards you, and has them become attracted to you.  After enduring seemingly endless test subjects in my teen years, I finally concluded that Old Spice High Endurance clear blue (not sure how those 2 work in tandem, but they deliver) stick was the product that did the job the way I needed it to be done. 

The other day, my wife made the honest mistake of purchasing Old Spice “Invisible Solid” instead of my normal clear blue stick. 

The Deciever.

The Deciever.

It was still Old Spice, so I decided to give it a shake.  I was skeptical of how a white, flaky stick was going to not get all over my clothes, but the label did promise invisibility after all.  Now, I know words take on new meanings over time (as gay changed from happy to homosexual), but I don’t recall reading the memo that said “Invisible now means Not-Invisible, and as visible as day is to someone who is not blind and is outside during daytime.”

Here’s what my “Invisible Solid” has left behind for me: 

shirt stain 1

shirt stain 2

Now, it’s one thing to get white crap all over my clothes, but it’s an entirely larger ball of wax for someone I’ve invested both my trust and dollars in to lie to me so blatantly.  Why Old Spice? Why? I know I got the wrong product, but why would you punish all of us by selling such an inferior product?  When you’re testing stuff in the lab, and version 1.9 does everything except one very important thing, and version 2.0 does, you DON’T SELL BOTH PRODUCTS, you sell the one that does everything.  At least label it as, “White, flaky stick that will more than likely make you look like a duface when people see the white stains it leaves on your shirt that you didn’t notice in time to change clothes first and are now stuck in public with people noticing your poor selection of deodorant.”

Old Spice, you owe me one.  My dry cleaning bill’s in the mail.

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