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Archive for 2008

Novice hockey

Quebec adjusted the ranks of its minor hockey leagues over the summer. For example, Novice previously consisted of kids in grades two and three – in other words, the age cut off roughly matched the age cutoff schools use, of September or October.

The province moved the age cutoff date to January 1, so that novice this year consists only of players born in 2001 and 2000. All kids born in the last third of 1999 move straight to Atom after one year of Novice.

My Novice B team from last year, 14 kids, is returning only three kids to Novice. Child Three is one of them, and he’s the most veteran goalie remaining in NDG at the level. Last year, NDG had seven Novice teams: two A, three B, two C. Each A team had a goalie and each B team had two. Of those eight goaltenders, six have moved to Atom and one is now a skater. Child Three alone remains.

Novice this year has many fewer kids. We’ll only have four teams (one A, two B, one C). On top of that, the quality of the skills at the Novice level seems to have dropped. I hope that trend holds citywide, or it’s going to be a long year for NDG at this level, especially considering the league championships we won last year at A, B, and C.

The winnowing of the kids into the levels is more secretive this year. Even the coach selection has become bureaucratic. Last year, we had a big happy meeting of volunteers. This year, some board has to approve all requests to coach. I asked to return as a head coach, but I don’t know the status of my application.

Although I’m not privy to the process of grading the kids, from what I see on the ice, there are two goalies in the running for the A team: Child Three and another goalie in her first year of novice. They play different styles and are about equivalent prospects. The other goalie makes more stops right now, but Child Three is more dynamic and I think will be the better goalie by the end of the year. Still, it’s a tough call, and one of these two goalies will be on the A team. Another consideration is that I think the other goalie has a temperment better suited more competitive hockey. Child Three gets too frustrated and discouraged at times.

I’m concerned by the goaltending quality. I hope it’s a byproduct of the change in age-ranking and of what we see among the skaters, but none of our goalies are as good as the ones we saw on any team in Novice B last year. I hope it’s the same in other regions.

I have mixed feelings about Child Three’s prospects for other reasons. If he makes the A team, I have a feeling I won’t be the head coach – other volunteers have been asked to rank the kids and I have not, mostly because this year’s Novice brain trust is a clique of parents who know each other and not me. Yet I excel at head coaching, I think. I could be an assistant, but I want to teach a team of kids my way. My team improved so much last year and I want to succeed at that again. That’s a possibility if Child Three plays in Novice B, a better possibility than were he to make A, for sure.

All should be resolved by the end of the week.

Tuesday at the Canadian War Museum

I’ve been debating posting about my Tuesday because the events as they happened could embarrass Child Three, but I’ve concluded that the humour of the situation trumps his feelings. It’s no wonder they call me Superdad.

The kids had Tuesday off for Rosh HaShanah – even Child One at the non-Jewish school – and in a surprising development, I knew that ahead of time. Two weeks ago, I hatched a plan to take Child Three and possibly a friend and siblings to Ottawa to spend the day in the Canadian War Museum. My girls had no interest (freaks!) and the friends we asked couldn’t make it so just the two of us went.

I had told Child Three the day before that we should probably leave around 9:30. He woke me at 9:31. We packed a knapsack with snacks and a reference book, and I took along a plastic cup with my lukewarm morning coffee. That will become important.

The first two hours of the drive passed uneventfully. We chatted, we listened to the radio, Child Three used the iPod. About 20 minutes from the museum, still in a rural environment, Child Three said he had to use the bathroom. I asked him if he could hold it and he said he thought he could. I told him that if he thought he couldn’t, to tell me and I’d stop to let him pee.

We drove a few minutes more and the boy started to rhythmically repeat, “Good… good… good….”

“What does that mean?,” I asked.

“It means that I’m good and don’t have to go to the bathroom.” I drove on with “Good… good… good…” coming from the seat behind me.

The boy piped up again, “OK, now when I say ‘good’ it means that I have to go.”

“That’s confusing. Just say ‘pull over, I have to go’ and I’ll know I have to pull over to let you go.”

“OK.” About 20 seconds passed, then: “Pull over, I have to go.”

I think Child Three had been waiting until we passed some fields and got near some trees that would hide him better. I pulled off the road, and he could see that the trees, which look close to the highway at speed, were actually about 50 meters away and that grass twice his height grew closest to the shoulder.

He took a look at the grass and told me he was fine, we could keep driving. I told him to get out of the car and pee on grass. No one would see and it was just like the trees. He got out of the car and meandered to the grass, then meandered back to the car. “It’s OK, I’ll wait.”

Superdad knew this would not end well. “Are you sure? I’m telling you, if you pee in my car I will be livid for the rest of the day. You asked me to stop so you could pee, so you should pee. If you get back in the car, you better be absolutely sure you can hold it in the rest of the way.” He got in the car.

As we entered urban Ottawa, I heard a rhythmic thumping behind me in the car. I asked and the boy explained that he was kicking to take his mind off his bladder. I asked him if I should stop somewhere and he said that I really should.

We drove around what seemed to be the Chinatown area of Ottawa and we saw no gas stations or fast-food places with easliy accessed bathrooms. Nor were there any alleys or trees to pee in or behind. I told him the museum was just down the street and asked if he could hold it. He said he thought he could.

With the museum in sight, Child Three sounded worried. There was still no place for him to go, so I offered him the cup that had held my coffee. He accepted it because he couldn’t last those last three blocks.

In case you were wondering, and eight-year-old boy’s bladder holds about half a cup of urine. He didn’t spill a drop. He wanted to hand me back the cup, but I told him to hold on to it and make sure it didn’t spill. He put it in his cupholder.

I spilled the pee down the sewer drain in the parking garage and Child Three washed it out in the bathroom. It stayed in the car while we toured the museum, reference book in hand because they don’t allow backpacks in the exhibit.

If you visit the museum, do bring a reference book. Ours added much value to our visit. The basement gallery is filled with guns and vehicles that the museum explains only briefly, often with only a name. Fortunately, I have enough knowledge of the small arms and heavy weapons (machine guns, mortars, grenades) that I didn’t need a book for those. If you’re driving in from out of town, you might also want to bring a cup.

Bonus war story:

There’s a video on YouTube of an interview with Jack Cohen, whom I also interviewed by proxy several years ago. My interview was conducted by my late friend, Michael “Burbank” Hyde, who was also a gracious host to my brother when he toured Australia.

Here’s Jack:

Ladies and gentlemen, your Irrational League champions

I won it this year with 58.5 points, finishing ahead of the flying Cavallaros by 4.5 and 8.5 points, with Frank in third. Since 2004, I’ve won outright twice, tied for first, tied for second, and finished seventh.

Remember my predictions? Let’s see how I did, team-wise first, before the individual players.

I have the team pegged for a .280 average and 265 HRs – probably good for third place. I expect to finish near first in RBIs. I’m below average in steals. I have four starting shortstops, which gives me some trade bait….

This staff will be near the top in wins (about 95), ERA (3.80), and WHIP (1.25). With one Proven Closer, I won’t be last in saves.

My actual team stats:

.2801 batting average (1st)
283 HR (tied 1st)
1021 RBI (1st)
135 SB (4th)
3.979 ERA (2nd)
1.260 WHIP (2nd)
72 wins (9th)
22 saves (8th)

I nailed that batting average, eh? Overall average was down, so mine was good enough to take the category, as were my RBIs, as predicted. I slightly underestimated the homers, thanks to Ryan Ludwick (37!) and pick-ups Russ Branyan and Casey Blake (9 apiece). Yes, you’re always going to have overperformers and underperformers, but these are extreme overperformers that put me up the extra 18 homers.

I finished fourth in steals because the season ended. I was losing ground quickly to the two teams behind me. Two more weeks and I could have landed in sixth.

I pretty much nailed the WHIP and the ERA should naturally follow that, but it’s not a constant. The biggest discrepancy was wins – I was off by 20+. Although I picked up Jamie Moyer in May and traded for Dave Bush soon after, their combined 24 wins (for me, not in life) could compensate for injuries to Chris Young (out three months), John Smoltz (out five months), Orlando Hernandez (out all year), and Pedro Martinez (a mere five wins in 19 starts).

Let’s segue into the pitchers (these are stats accumulated while active for my team, not in real life). The stats in brackets are my preseason predictions.

Dave Bush: 9 W, 3.65 ERA, 1.06 WHIP (acquired in May for Andy LaRoche)
Justin Germano: 0 W, 5.98 ERA, 1.53 WHIP (10 W, 4.05 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)
Derek Lowe: 14 W, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP (15 W, 3.90 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Greg Maddux: 8 W, 4.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP (15 W, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Pedro Martinez: 5 W, 5.45 ERA, 1.57 WHIP (a bench player originally, and terrible)
Jamie Moyer: 15 W, 3.66 ERA, 1.27 WHIP (picked up May 1 and compensated for Smoltz, essentially)
John Smoltz: 3 W, 2.57 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (15 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Chris Young: 7 W, 3.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP (15 W, 3.20 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Orlando Hernandez: did not play (10 W, 4.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Yusmeiro Petit: 0 W, 12.27 ERA, 2.45 WHIP (one bad week, then benched)
Jon Lieber: 2 W, 3.43 ERA, 1.37 WHIP (10 W, 4.75 ERA, 1.35 ERA)
Cla Meredith: 0 W, 4.09 ERA, 1.46 WHIP (5 W, 3.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Jon Rauch: 18 Sv, 4 W, 4.14 ERA, 1.19 WHIP (5 Sv, 5 W, 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)
Chris Sampson: 3 W, 2.54 ERA, 0.97 WHIP (picked up July 1)
Manny Corpas: 4 Sv, 2 W, 4.34 ERA, 1.43 WHIP (30 Sv, 5 W, 3.95 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

I told the room when drafting Germano that I would regret it, and I do. Derek Lowe made up for the crappy pitching but not the wins. Maddux pitched about as well as expected, but couldn’t grab wins in front of a weak San Diego team. Lieber got one start, gave up four homers, and disappeared.

One thing I wrote in April was “Rauch is a wildcard and might become a full-time closer if Chad Cordero is traded or hurt worse than thought. I can dream, can’t I?” That dream came true, but Corpas lost his closer role, and then Rauch went to Arizona to help nail shut the coffin on that team’s playoff hope.

There were simply too many holes to fill, and Cla Meredith not gaining a single win in relief didn’t help. Had Young and Smoltz not been injured for a combined eight months, I could have added 20 missing wins easily – and 92 wins would have finished second.

The hitters?

Ronnie Belliard: 11 HR, 46 RBI, 3 SB, .287 (15 HR, 65 RBI, .280)
Carlos Beltran: 27 HR, 112 RBI, 25 SB, .284 (30 HR, 95 RBI, 20 SB, .275)
Lance Berkman: 29 HR, 106 RBI, 18 SB, .312 (30 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB, .295)
Casey Blake: 9 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB, .230 (picked up August 1)
Russ Branyan: 9 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, .241 (picked up June 1; I love those Ken Phelps/Rob Deer types)
Mike Cameron: 25 HR, 70 RBI, 17 SB, .243 (20 HR, 60 RBI, 15 SB, .260)
Jorge Cantu: 29 HR, 95 RBI, 6 SB, .277 (15 HR, 60 RBI, .260)
Rafael Furcal: 5 HR, 16 RBI, 8 SB, .357 (10 HR, 60 RBI, 30 SB, .285; hurt for five months)
Gabe Gross: 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 SB, 0.176 (bench player dropped early)
J.J. Hardy: 24 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB, .283 (25 HR, 90 RBI, .275)
Scott Hatteberg: 0 HR, 7 RBI, .173 (5 HR, 50 RBI, .290; I wasn’t expecting much, but still…)
Matt Kemp: 18 HR, 76 RBI, 35 SB, .290 (20 HR, 75 RBI, 25 SB, .290)
Ryan Ludwick: 37 HR, 113 RBI, 4 SB, .299 (bench player originally but active all year)
Bengie Molina: 16 HR, 95 RBI, .292 (20 HR, 80 RBI, .290)
Miguel Montero: 5 HR, 18 RBI, .255 (10 HR, 35 RBI, .275)
Wily Mo Pena: 2 HR, 10 RBI, .205 (20 HR, 60 RBI, .270 – blech)
Miguel Tejada: 13 HR, 66 RBI, 7 SB, .283 (20 HR, 85 RBI, .305)
Ty Wigginton: 23 HR, 58 RBI, 4 SB, .285 (25 HR, 80 RBI, .270)
Jack Wilson: 1 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, .280 (10 HR, 65 RBI, .280)

Berkman stole 18 bases? His previous career high was nine. That was even more unusual than Ryan Ludwick’s alleged breakout year – Ludwick has always had 30-homer power but not the playing time to show it. Cantu was another pleasant surprise.

Overall, I’m pleased with the accuracy. As noted above, the pleasant surprises compensated for the disappointments.

And for those of you who are bored by my baseball posts, you have six months ball-free, starting… now.

High-school reunion

Saturday, three enterprising women with whom I graduated high school 25 years and three months ago hosted a reunion of our class. I’m not sure exactly how many we were back in 1983, but the mean of the estimates I heard over the evening average is 91. Of that 91, about two thirds showed up Saturday night (plus Bram, who spent the last three years of high school in another school but is nonetheless one of us).

Our group was not a typical high-school class – the number of students is an immediate clue. Bialik was a small school. Another atypical characteristic is that we’re all Jews. Bialik is a Jewish school. You’ve seen one of us reporting for CTV (scroll down to Sherwin) and another in the endless Lasik MD ads in the Gazette. And I blog.

We had cliques here and there and some students were outsiders, but for the most part we were unified, especially the boys. A subset of the boys continue to play hockey together twice a year. Classmates came from San Diego, Florida, and Amsterdam for our get-together. Is it odd that our grade produced no intra-class marriages? I don’t think so, not for the size of our class and for our youth compared to everywhere else in North America (we in Quebec graduate high school in grade 11).

Most of us look about the same, if you overlook changes in style and amount of hair. I did not recognize only two people, both of whom grew up within two blocks of me (Elana and Randi).

The evening could not have gone better. Even the music worked. I picked up conversations with people as if we’d last seen each other last week. Jason, my old wargaming buddy, and I talked about wargaming, and how our sons seem to have inherited that same interest. I spoke more with some people than I had throughout the entire five years at Bialik. This may surprise you, but I can a bit introverted, often for decades at a time. The open bar helped.

The party took place in a room any bar would envy, a party room called Le Loft in St. Laurent. That preposition is important; the place was in St. Laurent, not on St. Laurent. Cutting edge inside, it was located east of the airport in the heart of the industrial nowhere land. Once the party closed at 1:00 a.m., a dozen of us decided to go get pizza at Tasty Foods, but that was closed so we crossed Decarie and went to Harvey’s.

I got to bed at 3:00 – and woke up at 7:30 because our alumni hockey game was scheduled for 9:00 out in the West Island. I did not feel like playing at all, but I swallowed some ibuprofen and survived by pacing myself. I felt better after the game than I did before.

The reunion weekend had one last event to go, so I showered at the arena and headed to Tiffany’s for breakfast. (It’s your typical breakfast place – think Chez Cora with a menu expanded to less breakfasty fare.) The group I’d been led to believe I would be meeting was nowhere in sight and the place was crowded, so I went home. As I walked in the door, Bram called me – the group was gathering. I dumped my hockey equipment and headed back.

Breakfast was as entertaining as the evening before, more of the same – but without an open bar, I wasn’t as talkative. We spent nearly three hours at the table and upon leaving, I rushed home to ready Child Three for a 90-minute hockey practice. He needs a refresher in goaltending technique, but I was in no condition to take to the ice.

I fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. last night, woke at 2:00 a.m., fell asleep again at 4:30 and woke for good at 10:30 a.m. I feel human, even without an open bar.

Bonus wishes:

Happy New year y’all!

DRM follies

Did you buy music with embedded digital-rights management (DRM) from Wal-Mart? Unless you’ve obtained a basic level of computer geekery, you better listen to it enough to get sick of it by October 9.

Wal-Mart, which began selling DRM-free music exclusively this year, no longer has a financial incentive to maintain the DRM system that allows you to listen to the music you bought and will turn it off on that date.

In order to listen to that music past October 9, the company warns, you must burn the songs to a CD. No, Wal-Mart will not reimburse you for the cost of those blank CDs.

(A side note: Wal-Mart does not violate the DMCA in this case because a temporary exemption allows a party to break DRM if the DRM is obsolete. See item three here.)

Cory Doctorow has an awesomely sarcastic comment:

But don’t worry, this will never ever happen to all those other DRM companies — unlike little fly-by-night mom-and-pop operations like Wal*Mart, the DRM companies are rock-ribbed veterans of commerce and industry, sure to be here for a thousand years. So go on buying your Audible books, your iTunes DRM songs, your Zune media, your EA games… None of these companies will ever disappear, nor will the third-party DRM suppliers they use. They are as solid and permanent as Commodore, Atari, the Soviet Union, the American credit system and the Roman Empire.

I think I’ll stick to finding music on peer-to-peer networks, as long as Canada keeps it legal.

Baseball follies

Lance Berkman is a hoot, and I suspect that I would appreciate him just as much even had he not followed my example and attended Rice University. He had an awesome first half for the National League’s Houston Astros (and for my Irrational League’s Angels with Crystal Balls), but has tailed off since the all-star game.

Berkman explains in the Houston Chronicle:

“I was very pleased with May,” said Berkman, who hit .471 with nine homers and 22 RBIs in May.
Berkman has hit only seven homers since the end of June and has slumped in September. But Berkman’s overall numbers are still solid — .314 average, 29 homers and 104 RBIs entering Friday.

“The numbers look pretty good, but remember that scene in Vacation where Chevy Chase has his pants on his head and he’s staggering towards the filling station out in the desert?” he said. “That’s what I feel like right now. I’m staggering towards the finish line.”

He has a future in the booth.

There was more entertainment to be found in San Francisco Friday night. Check out the box score and see if you notice anything odd. I’ll wait.

Dum dum, de dee dum dum.

Done? Did you notice it?

Check out Bengie Molina’s line. (He’s another Angel with Crystal Balls.) He whacked a homer but scored no runs. How’d that happen? Molina hit a ball that was originally ruled a single off the top of the wall. His manager replaced him with a pinch runner, Emmanuel Burriss, and after that the hit was ruled a home run upon review. Burriss officially scored the run.

With two, maybe three, days to go in the season, my first-place Angels have a creaky four-point lead. A championship is no sure thing, but I’m more confident today than I was mid-week.


Child One’s friend found my keys smack dab in the middle of the front lawn.

Maybe I should mow more often.

Media notes


Let’s start with “Heroes”, the new season of which premiered Monday. A few people have told that the show lost them, and I can see why. It was… – well, dull. The show had to clean up after last year’s mess, a result of the writers’ strike.

Given an entire season to recover, the first order of business was to straighten out the story lines. Things had gotten muddied and it took an episode and a half to clear the waters.

The plot for this year was established with the jailbreak on Level 5 – unfortunately, that only came after an episode and a half of cleaning up last year’s mess.

And the “Sprint” line in the African desert was the best product-placement bit I’ve ever seen.

Don’t give up on this new season yet.

The other premiere I caught was “House”, which maintained its standard of excellence.


When the BBC’s Les Ross interviews Hardeep Singh Kohli without conducting due research, he gets what he deserves, almost. The Guardian has a brief description and, even better, an audio file of the disaster.


The Genius function of iTunes 8 is genius. I signed up for primarily for the music recommendations, but those are hit or miss and are tedious to work with. The 30-second clips of Genius just work in an easy interface. It’s so Apple. A dozen songs in, I have a list of 100 songs to get.


I spent most of yesterday looking for my keys in the house and I doubt they’re here. I remember taking them from their hook and it must have been when I was either picking up Child Two from a friend or Elvi from Alex’s. I took Elvi’s van, though, and used her keys. I might have put my keys in her car or left them at Alex’s, but they’re not showing up in those places either.

Pardon me

Has anyone seen my keys? They may be recognized by the non-functional green LED flashlight on the keyring.

Shooting trouble

I spent a good part of the last 24 hours troubleshooting and solving (mostly) problems with Alex’s home network.

Much of it was standard wireless fiddling, with some odd crunchy bits here and there.

I’m proudest, however, of getting the Xbox 360 updated.

I figured out that the Xbox won’t work with a WPA network, and that the firmware was sufficiently up to date. I set up a WEP network and got the Xbox online to the point where a test of the Xbox Live connection requested permission to perform an update.

I got to that point about a dozen times. Every time I asked the box to download the update, it would flash to a gray blade (I think that’s the jargon – it’s like a large tab on one side of the screen) on the left, then return to a gray blade on the right that told me, “Update Failed”. That happened every time.

Now, here I write for the Googling masses who are looking for help with the same problem. Us old guys used to call that “posterity”.

What I did was shuffle a few blades left from the System blade, where you play with all the settings, and try to join Xbox Live from another blade called Xbox Live (see image at right). Once you try to join, that blade too warns you that you need to download an update, only from that blade it works!

Stupid Microsoft.

Bonus pain of the week:

Just as all traces of rib pain were fading, my lumbar muscles got jealous and have started to spasm. It first happened on teh drive home from Alex’s yesterday. The excruciating spasm itself only lasted five seconds or so, but I had medium-grade pain the rest of the night. I took some ibuprofen to get to sleep. The soreness had been getting better until I started this bonus text – another spasm pulled my chest down to my desk for a few minutes. It really hurts and I can’t straighten my back completely without severe pain.

That sucks. Novice hockey practices start tonight and there are four sessions between now and Saturday. I play hockey Friday night and Sunday morning this week. And I have a high-school reunion Saturday night.

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