Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's - Overrated?

We're coming up to New Year's Eve and I must admit it is not one of my favourite holidays. Don't get me wrong, I'm okay with it, but I have never gotten too excited about the countdown and the hype surrounding the beginning of a new year. In part, as I've blogged before, because it doesn't really seem January is the beginning of anything. It's more like the dog days of winter.

My fondest New Year's memories are probably from when I was a small child and never stayed up past about 9 pm, but on New Year's Eve at Grandma and Grandad's house my little brother and I stayed up till midnight (either that or we went to bed and then were woken up for the big countdown). When the clock struck 12, Grandma would step out on the porch and bang on a kitchen pot like there was no tomorrow. We would join in with the festive noisemakers she had provided. It was quite a striking event as it was quite out of character for Grandma to do anything flashy or attention getting. Unless you count hammering on a piece of beef liver to tenderize it for the cat.

As a younger teenager I first learned the true meaning of the New Year's event when I accompanied an aunt and uncle to a party on the Mt. Washington ski hill. This is where I learned that New Year's is a time when everyone drinks enough so that they can be uninhibited when it comes time to do the New Year's kiss.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Extra, Extra, Read All About It - Christmas Light Thieves Apprehended!

In this time of festive Christmas decorations adorning homes everywhere, I harken back not to hear the angels sing, but to my Dad's battles with the Christmas Light Thieves.

My father, when he was still with us, was always big on Christmas lights for our house. He would put them on all of the bushes in the front yard and on the house itself. Unfortunately, someone would keep taking bulbs out of the strings of lights. At first this not only annoyed, but confounded my dear ol' Dad. Confounded until he found evidence of light bulbs being smashed on the ground around the neighbourhood. Someone was getting a kick out of the popping sound they made when thrown on the ground. A lesser man may have decided that this was just the cost of doing business in the house decorating department, but my father was a man of action.
How do you catch a Christmas light bulb thief? It is simply really. You string up fishing line criss-crossing the yard and attach one end to a bell inside your bedroom. Then in the middle of the night when the thieves come on their rounds, they can't see the near invisible fishing line and ding-a-ling, you spring into action. This plan also requires you to have the skill to quickly get into your clothes and run outside, something Dad was adept at. He was able to track the ne'er-do-wells to what was known as the "Newspaper Shack", where the teenage boys who delivered the morning paper got their stack of broadsheets to deliver early each day. It was these employees of the local paper who were the culprits. And the light bulb crime spree was brought to an end by the efforts of one fan of Christmas.

Somewhere ex-paper boys are sitting around a bar drowning their sorrows and telling the tale of the time their promising careers in the journalism industry were crushed by some sports fisherman who tracked them down for stealing his Christmas lights.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Little Less Zoom-Zoom

While we're on the topic of vehicle safety, here's something that bugs me. Advertisements for cars that focus completely on how fast and racy the car is. Like we should be driving super fast in our cars.

We don't need to go any faster in our cars than a run of the mill car can go. Maybe you want a car that's a little more sporty than that, but the cars are being promoted as capable of unnecessary feats of speed. Then out on the roads you've got people racing along in an unsafe manner. Of course, as I've said before a lot of these people aren't in the "fast" cars, but in their SUV tanks that seem to give them a sense of invulnerability similar to NFL players who lead with their helmets.

According to a study by Transport Canada: "The number of victims killed and injured in speeding crashes is comparable to the number of victims from alcohol-related crashes. Drinking and driving is widely viewed as socially unacceptable, thanks to enforcement and public education. Considering the magnitude of the speeding problem, endangering road users by driving too fast deserves the same stigma as drunk driving."

So, at the risk of being an old geezer, I encourage you all to chill out and take your time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another Problem Solved

There seems to be quite a battle going on in our province and other places over the issue of drinking and driving. Here in British Columbia the government basically decided to tighten up the rules and effectively lower the legal limit from 0.08 % alcohol to 0.05%. There is some controversy over the end run they have done around the legal system by going to a fine and suspension system rather than battling drivers in court. I dealt with that in an earlier post. This time I want to look at a different facet of this debate.

The problem with these drinking and driving laws is that people don't really know when they are over the limit. If the rule was no drinking and driving it would be easy, but whether the limit is 0.05, 0.08, or something else, how do you know when you're over it? You guess. Cautious guessers won't go afoul of the law, but some will. Why the guesswork? It would be like if we didn't have speedometers in our cars but were expected to stay under speed limits. Would that be fair or even possible? So the answer is to have a way for us to know what our blood alcohol is before we step into the car and not to find out once we're at a road block. How expensive are these breathalyzers anyway?

Google it! I found this website:

Hmmm.... For a $100 bucks you can get one. $200 to get a good one. That doesn't seem like much given the importance of the issue. This should be promoted as a solution to the problem and breathalyzers should be in common use by all of us. Who wants to get me one for Christmas?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Who Else Wants to Fix the Calendar?

Tonight marks my 40th post of the year, which was my revised goal (see my post from July 3rd) once I admitted that 52 was not likely to happen. So quit bugging me about 52. If anyone other than my regular commenters is concerned about me dropping below one post a week, then I ask you to put in a little more effort yourself and make some comments. Nothing inspires Little Jackie like feeling he's being paid attention to. Now on with post 40 of the 2010 season.

We are getting near the end of the year and that makes me think of a bone I have to pick with the calendar. Two bones in fact. One about the year and the other about the weeks. Let's start with the weeks, because it is clearly the most glaring of the two annoyances when it comes to the calendar.

According to the calendar (I don't know who makes up the rules for calendars that we all follow so uniformly - and I'm all for calendars being uniform) the week starts on a Sunday and ends on a Saturday. How ridiculous is that? Everyone refers to the weekend as Saturday and Sunday, but on the calendar these two days aren't the weekend. Saturday yes, but Sunday is clearly the weekstart on the Calendar. Why doesn't the calendar week start on Monday like we really all think it does and finish on the Sunday?

This would work way better when planning weekend activities as well because, get this, the two days would be right beside each other on the calendar and not down one line and way over on the other side. Am I right? Can we fix this?

Meanwhile the year begins in January. Why? Well I'll tell you why. It is because that is the date that the new consuls in the Roman Empire took office. Seems like a great reason for us to continue doing it today. Probably just as good a reason for having the calendar week start on a Sunday. That reason? Inertia. Change is difficult. However, people, the time for a change is now!

January is not the start of the year in any real sense. It's the middle of winter in our hemisphere and the middle of summer in the south. Nothing is starting up then. I suppose that makes it hemisphere neutral, but since when have we in the North been worried about that. Let's move it to a sensible time. The start of spring comes to mind. Or how about the start of the school year which seems like the start of the new year in a lot of ways. And not just for the kids and teachers. Then we'd have two big celebrations at two different times of year, not two in a week like we do now. What do you all say? Are you with me??

Okay, maybe changing New Year's is not in the cards, but lets at least do something about the calendar week. Roman empire be damned!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Better Lucky Than Good

Warning: This entry is very hockey puckish.

The last five Stanley Cup winning goaltenders were: Anti Niemi, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastion Giguerre, and Cam Ward. What do all these goalies have in common? None of them are considered one of the great goalies in the NHL. Maybe some might say Cam Ward is a top ten goalie, but not better than Roberto Luongo of the Canucks of Vancouver.

When I say that Roberto Luongo is overrated, I don't mean it in the sense that he's not as good as people think (although with the difficulty in judging a goalie that may also be true - see this link: ). What I mean is that his value to the Canucks is overrated. Commentators seem to think you need a great goalie to win the Stanley Cup, but that clearly isn't the case. Then you'll hear you need a hot goalie to win the cup, but these 'hot' goalies aren't necessarily the best goalies. So why waste your money on a premium goalie? Just make sure you don't have a bad one.

Bottom line is I'm tired of hearing how Luongo is the difference maker. If the Canucks win the cup it will be because they play solid defensively and have enough offensive talent to beat a hot goaltender. And Luongo will have to play well enough not to lose games for them. Even Marc-Andre Fluery can do that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lay Off The Beiber

I vote for laying off Justin Beiber. You see it's not his fault that he's overrated. He's merely taking advantage of the poor judgement of one large sector of society. Same as Hannah Montana. The way I figure it these celebrities have done nothing wrong. All criticism goes to the people who think they are more talented than they are, not the celebrities themselves. What would you have them do? Call a press conference to admit that they aren't really all that good and that people should stop making a fuss about them?

So I say all the more power to Beiber and those overrated successes that went before him such as the Spice Girls, Harry Potter, Britney Spears, and Roberto Luongo.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick-or-Treating. Not Just for Kids Anymore!

Halloween night is almost in the books. I'd say it was, but just ten minutes ago something exploded across the street and caused a lot of smoke. All's quiet for now.

I'm on the fence on this post's issue, but I'd love to hear what my readers think. Tonight we got a fair number of trick-or-treaters. I'm going to estimate we had about 25. The thing is of these I'd say only five were under 12 years of age and at least half appeared to be high school students. When did trick or treating become predominantly for teenagers? Is this just a thing in my neighbourhood or is it happening everywhere? Is it harmless fun or is it inappropriate? Should we smile and enjoy these happy teenagers or scowl and tell them to grow up? I don't know. We recently made fireworks a lot harder for kids to get their hands on during Halloween (it used to be a big thing here), so maybe they've replaced that more dangerous and destructive activity with trick-or-treating. If that's the case then I guess it's a good thing.

What I do know is that Halloween has undergone more evolution than any of our other festivities during my lifetime with the possible exception of Boxing Day. Boxing Day of course has gone from the day to recover from Christmas to the day to go out and spend all your Christmas money and that's a big shift, but can you really count Boxing Day as a festive occasion? Christmas has gotten more commercial, but that's just a continuing trend that people have been complaining about for 100 years or more. Easter and Thanksgiving seem pretty much the same as when I was a kid.

Halloween meanwhile has undergone considerable evolution besides just the teenagers-as-trick-or-treaters phenomenon outlined above. Today I went for a walk in the neighbourhood and was amazed at the number of houses that were decorated for Halloween. That used to be very rare when I was a kid, but now there are lots of houses that do it. That's okay, but I'm not joining in. The other thing is the sexualization of Halloween costumes. That was pretty much non-existent thirty years ago (or at least it was waaaayyyyyy more subtle). This seems pretty strange and you`ll be happy to know I`m not joining in on that either.

This is nothing like the witches I grew up with.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Have You Heard the One About the Lawyer...

There has been a lot of talk in these here parts about a corruption trial in our province of British Columbia. Two bureaucrats were investigated for corruption and were found guilty. As part of the plea bargain they only had to pay back the money they accepted and they didn't have to pay their legal fees. A lot of letters to the editor in our paper have expressed outrage that the $6 million in legal fees will have to be paid by the taxpayers.

You know what bugs me. It bugs me that it took seven years and $12 million dollars in legal fees to get to the point that you could get these guys to take a plea bargain. If it takes that much time and money to prove they are guilty you have to question if it is worth the fight. Why not just fire the guys and move on. The real crime here is a legal system that can milk the taxpayers for $18 million between the prosecution and the defence. If these lawyers are so good at their jobs that they deserve this kind of compensation then they should be able to prove their case in less than seven years.

Our province has recently changed the way it deals with drinking and driving. Instead of trying to prosecute drivers with breaking the law of drinking and driving, fines and impounding cars are the new way to penalize people caught with a high blood alcohol content. The driving force for this change is the time and cost involved in prosecuting such drivers. In this case the lawyers priced themselves out of the job. Maybe the government is on to something and should see where else they can do an end run around our over-priced justice system.

My, that's way too serious waters for Little Jackie Showers to be treading in. By the way, I know this one lawyer, Sue L. Her rates are very reasonable.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Let Go of That Hand

By popular demand, or at least one person sort of implied I should, I have another sports topic. It has sports, but perhaps it is not so much a commentary on sports as on another of the problems with our society today. Nothing quite as annoying as when a cashier asks you if you have anything planned for the weekend (yes, it happened to me again today!!!!), but still a problem if you ask me.

I know what you're saying, "C'mon, Showers get on with it, what is your shirt all in a knot about now?" It's simple. Holding Hands Soccer. Yeah, that's right, soccer played while holding hands. I don't think it's officially known as Holding Hands Soccer, but it is definitely an outrage.

I accompanied a friend recently to his son's first soccer practice of the year. When we arrived the age group below my friend's son was on the field. These children were four and five year olds. They were having a little scrimmage, but much to my consternation the players were holding the hands of their parents. The parents would run along with the kid and the kid would play the game. A couple of problems here might immediately come to mind. What if your parent is slow afoot? You're at a serious disadvantage in this game compared to the players with perhaps younger, fleeter parents. "Damn it Dad, get the lead out, I'm trying to score a goal here." Secondly, what if one of the parents is a little too competitive and starts dragging his kid along behind him as he races down the field to get to the ball? The kid's all covered in mud and grass and bouncing along like a rag doll hanging off his pop's arm. Yet these obvious problems are not what I am here to take issue with.

The problem is, what the heck are kids doing holding their parents' hands while playing the game? It was explained to me that this was to teach them positioning and other fine elements of the game. C'mon. If the kids need someone holding their hands to play the game then they are clearly too young to be playing the game. At least at an "organized" level. Take your kid out and kick the ball around with him, sure, but don't drag him around by the hand to play a "real" game. Besides the beauty of little kids soccer even at the six and seven year old age group is the preferred strategy they use, which I like to call the beehive formation.

What are kids that young playing organized sports for anyway? It's because if they don't offer soccer to little kids then maybe one of the other sports offers a program for little kids and then they become hockey or rugby players instead. Soccer has to compete to keep the athletes coming to them because as I've already complained about in an earlier post, this has become the age of sports specialization (see today's Vancouver Sun for more on that) and once kids get into a sport it takes over their sporting lives and they don't get to try other things. If you don't get them first then you might not get them at all. Someone needs to step in and tell these sports to back off and let the kids reach a sensible age before slapping a uniform on them. That same someone needs to tell parents to give their head a shake and not sign up for Holding Hands Soccer.

And if you are one of those parents then let go of that hand and go kick the ball around with your kid. Then when you're done teach them how to hold a hockey stick and hit a baseball. Sure they might not make the pros in any one sport but they'll be really good in high school gym class while everyone else can only do one thing. Unless of course their parents show up to hold their hands.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Do You like your Kernels Burnt?

Are you like me when you step up to a microwave oven other than your own familiar one? Which button do you hit first. Some want you to put in the power level first, some the amount of time. Some want you to do who knows what. Can't we have a standard microwave operating procedure? Is that too much to ask? And trust me, you don't want to use that "popcorn" button, at least not for popcorn.

That's all I got. Anyone got a good microwave anecdote?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Good Enough for Bronze

Sit right back kids and you'll hear a tale, a tale that follows nicely on my crushing rebuke of the International Swimming Federation (or whatever they call their cabal).

You see, back in the day, Little Jackie Showers was once in a competitive swim club. Okay, perhaps not that competitive, but we did race. I was in my elementary swim club in grade three and I competed in races. Being the strategic type, even at that young age, I had a strategy for success. I sussed up this whole swimming thing early on and concluded that there was no way I could be the fastest guy in the pool. Fastest at swimming fast that is, but swimming as I've already explained has a loophole where getting there fastest isn't the only criteria.

What I figured out was that if I worked hard on one of the "other" strokes then maybe I could get decent at it even if everyone could kick my butt in freestyle. In fact if I just put my energy into practicing one stroke and tanked it when racing in other events in the three other strokes then I just might have a chance. So I became a backstroke specialist. I couldn't swim worth crap, but I could do a pretty good backstroke.

Yes, sports fans, you know the 3rd best backstroker in the grade 3 class at Willows school in 1972. Amongst the boys that is. A field of at least a dozen and I was better than most of them.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What next? Kickboard events?

This topic might not seem timely, but it was an interesting topic of conversation at the Showers' family dinner table the other night. It may also raise the ire of some of my not so loyal readers and maybe, just maybe, get them to post a comment. Here's hoping.

The topic of conversation that got us all in a tizzy was the sport of swimming. Namely the plethora of events in the sport of swimming. The swimmers it seems have discovered a way to give away more Olympic medals than any other sport. The gymnasts try hard to keep up with the swimmers in this department, but they still have a lot to learn. You see, these swimmers have the nerve to not just have a race to see who can go from point A to point B the fastest. They make up different ways you can get there and each way is its own event.
Sure, running races are run at different distance lengths as are speed skating races. I don't begrudge swimming the different events for different lengths of the race. I do take exception to there being four different methods of swimming with each being its own race and a fifth race thrown in called the "Medley" where you use all four. This would be like if running events were broken down into different ways of running. We would have the 100 metre backwards running, the hundred metres with hands clasped behind your head, the 100 metre freestyle, and the 100 metre duck walk.

Freestyle? It's called the freestyle because you can use whatever method you like, but everyone uses the front crawl. It's the fastest way to swim. Why have a race that doesn't allow you to propel yourself in the fastest way possible? That's called race walking and we all know how silly that is.

Imagine if when Dick Flosberry invented a new method to do the high jump, known as the Flosberry Flop, that high jump split into two events. One event for people using the "scissors" method and another for the floppers. No, high jumpers were not that silly. They realized the point was who could jump the highest and if there was a new way to jump higher then people should use it to jump higher.

Keep an eye on those cross-country skiers. They've been watching the swimmers and are making attempts to copy the swimmers medal hogging ways in the winter olympics. They've now got two methods used in separate events. There are events using the "classic" or traditional technique and ones in which you can use the newer skating technique (or essentially freestyle - whatever works best). Not only that but they have different events based on how the race is started. Some are called mass starts and others are pursuit events (staggered start with the best time winning). This is a disturbing development.

If swimmers or cross country skiers were running hockey, they'd have one league for players using curved sticks and another "classic" league with players using straight sticks. Basketball players would compete in games like we see today, but there would be other games that did not allow jump shots and players would have to shoot free throws underhanded. I could go on, but you get the picture.

As bad as I may be trying to make these swimmers out to be, it is in fact worse than this. You see, the swimmers started out with just freestyle events in the first Olympics. Then they weren't satisfied with just being able to win a few medals, so they started inventing new, get this, slower ways to swim so they could compete for medals in these one hand behind their back type races. I'm sure the international swimming federation is right now sitting in their boardroom trying to think of new slow ways to swim, so they can further increase their medal haul and have the next Michael Phelps dominate the Olympic coverage. Shame on you swimmers. Your Mark Spitz is no Carl Lewis.

Carl Lewis won his multiple medals by doing multiple things. He ran and he jumped.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Safety Fast!

This summer I had the obligation to ride an ATV around the dunes of Oregon. This was not an activity that I would choose to do, but I did not want to rob my teenage son of the joys of riding around the dunes and he required my presence to be allowed to ride. So ride I did. Yee haw!

In addition to needing my adult presence, there was also a requirement that we listen to a safety presentation. This safety presentation consisted of a five minute video and some additional information explained to us in person. We also had to read a sheet of information. This five minute video had enough information for about a twenty minute lecture and was delivered with breakneck speed. It was comical really. Clearly the intent was to meet the requirement of delivering the safety information. Whether we were able to take it in or not was not much of a concern.

My son and I survived our experience in the dunes that day with our bodies and manhood in tact. Well maybe that's a slight exaggeration on the latter point. Safety first after all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big Oil is Fairer Than Big Banks

Today I'm going to talk about something that's not really annoying, but just plain silly. I'm inspired to do so because I've noticed that the local Esso station has decided to stop the insanity and post a gas price of $1.12. What's so special about that you say?

Why is it that gas prices are posted to the tenth of a cent as in $1.11.9. I can think of nothing else that is priced to the tenth of cent. Why gasoline? It's craziness. On a 50 litre tank of gas the difference between paying $1.11.9 and $1.12 is five cents. I guess five cents a tank can add up. And you thought the gas companies were trying to rip us off.

At the same time that gas prices are posted in giant signs outside the stations in what is at least fair to the customer, the banks are being weasels by hiding the price of using their ATM's and THIS is annoying. Why is it that the service charge for using an ATM isn't posted on the machine or given right at the start of using the machine? Nope, they have you go through all the steps of taking out money, and then at the very end ask you if the $2.00 or $2.50 or whatever charge is okay with you? How annoying and slimy is that.

And is it just me or is the price of using ATM's going up. No, not all ATM's, but more and more ATM's are going for the $3 charge. The ultimate weasel and price increase move is being perpetrated by an ATM I visited in Safeco field in Seattle, home of the Mariners. It didn't even tell you what the service charge would be, it just had a sign on the machine telling you that you had to accept a service charge if you used the machine. It was a mystery service charge. It didn't even show on the receipt. When I checked my bank records it turned out to be $5. Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn't be using an ATM in such a place, but I tried it out to find out just how low the ATM business can get. And it can get pretty low.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Who's Your Mama?

During my trip south of the border this summer in the good ole US of A, I commented on the little differences between our two countries. One more difference I noticed but failed to pass along was with regards to the fast food chain, A&W. Our visit to the A&W in Oregon put us on familiar ground as the American establishment was pretty much the same as what we’d find in Canada, except for one glaring difference.

In Canada, A&W bills itself as “The Home of the Burger Family”. There is the Papa Burger, the Mama Burger, the Grandpa Burger, the Teen Burger, the recently introduced Uncle Burger, the Baby Burger and the Mozza Burger. I remember when my Mozza and I used to go for walks together on the beach, but I digress.

In the U.S., the home of family values, the only such burger on the menu was the Papa Burger. No mamas, teens, or grandpas. The other burgers had names like the bacon cheeseburger. What’s up with that? Why keep the Papa, but dump the rest of the family?

Good news is that no matter what side of the border you are on, you can get you’re A&W root beer in a frosty cold glass mug. How awesome is that?

Monday, August 23, 2010

What's Next? Instructions on How to Pee?

Way back on April 1st, 2009, my blog entry was a complaint about overly obvious or useless signs. You can look it up. Not quite in the same category, but similar, is my complaint for today.

Increasingly food establishments are posting hand washing instructions in their washrooms / restrooms / bathrooms or whatever they call it in your neck of the woods. Sure you might see this as helpful, but I just find it annoying. I suspect that it is a way to guilt staff members into washing their hands and who can argue with increasing the rate of handwashing amongst the staff in a food serving establishment. Not I.

Here's what bugs me though. Why does anyone have to be guilted into this or even reminded of it for that matter. I know that studies show that people will skip this step and that's just plain annoying. Not the studies but the people who do that. Especially if they work in one of these places.

Furthermore, why do these signs actually give instructions on how to wash hands correctly. Who is getting to the age when they can read these signs and actually learning anything? "Hey, who knew you should actually scrub your hands together?" Anybody who is too uncaring or rude to wash their hands is probably not going to take the time to read the instructions and seriously folks, does anyone really fail to wash their hands because they don't know the complicated steps to accomplishing this task?

Don't forget to vote in the poll to the right. Coming soon, a poll a week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Don't Get It

Well there's good news this week on the comic strip front. "Cathy" is retiring. Now I get that different people will find different things funny, but I also believe to some extent that funny is funny and as far as Cathy goes I find it difficult to believe that it is funny.

Truth be told I've given up on the comic strips to a great extent. It must be hard to come up with ideas and this is amply demonstrated by the low batting average of most of the strips. So, given that most days I won't get many laughs or even a chuckle, I don't read the strips. Except for Dilbert. That one I like.

Given all that, for most of the strips I understand why they exist and how they are sometimes funny and manage to stay in the paper. What I don't understand is the longevity and continuing existence of "Family Circus". A better name for this would be Lamely Circular. The creator Bill Keane has made a living pointing out what kids do and most of what kids do is not that funny. Observational humour I think it is supposed to be, but it's strong on the observational and weak on the humour.

I remember thinking when I was younger that maybe when I have kids I'll get it. Nope. Oh maybe he finds a gem now and then, but his percentage puts those in the diamond in the rough category. (I must admit to a perverse joy left over from my childhood - man this strip has been around a long time - when Mr. Keane does the Saturday comics where he shows little Billy's trail through the neighbourhood).

I know the daily circle is rarely funny because I am for some reason drawn to Family Circus even though I know my hopes will be dashed. When I decide to read it the thought that comes to mind is one of those wasp traps that has about one hundred dead wasps in it already, but still the wasps keep coming. Can't they see all the other wasps who have tried and failed? Why do they keep coming?

So, while I say good riddance to "Cathy", but I don't have much hope for the rookie strip that takes her place to be much better. After all, if there were good ones out there wouldn't Bill Keane be retired by now?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Observations from the Road - Part Two

In case you missed part one, I'm traveling in the foreign country of the United States of America. Perhaps not foreign to you, and not so different from my country Canada as to cause any real confusion for me, but it is interesting to note the subtle little differences between these countries.

For me, Trash is the place I send unwanted emails or computer files. I do not throw my waste in the trash. I throw it in the garbage. I know what someone means when they say "take out the trash", but I'd say "take out the garbage". At some hotels they advertise a "spa". To us that means a place you can get a massage or maybe even a pedicure. Here, sadly for the Missus, it means they've got a hot tub. Which is interesting since it is also clear that in the U.S. they use the term hot tub. Maybe there is a difference between the two here that I'm not clear on.

A lot of the products are the same on either side of the border, but there are some things you can't get north of the 49th that I always get when I'm down south. I had some Wheaties for breakfast for instance. Why we don't have those is a mystery, because the rest of the cereal aisle is almost identical. Perhaps the American's competitive nature leads them to keeping the "Breakfast of Champions" all to themselves.

In an aside on the topic of funny and unnecessary signs (a previous blog topic), there is a funny one here in our cabin. I guess there is a law that there must be a fire plan in rental accommodations. Our fire plan shows a diagram of the cabin and then the following two steps: Step One - Open door. Step Two - Go out. I'm not kidding, that's what it says.

One of the more interesting events for us when we are traveling is visiting the local Safeways (grocery stores). You see, Safeway has a club card that you use when shopping to get the sale prices. When they swipe your card at the till it brings your name up on the receipt. They will say thank you Mr. So and So as they hand you the receipt. For some reason, back home our card when swiped brings up the last name Pusey. When they hand us the receipt they either mumble a name or just say thank-you as they are concerned, I assume, about the pronunciation. My running joke is if they were to say thank-you Mr. Pussy, I would respond, in a French accent, "That's Poo-Say". The thing is for some reason south of the border our card doesn't come up with the name Pusey, we actually get the thank you Mrs. Showers from the cashier. How weird is that?!

In closing, here's a strange but true traveling fact. In Oregon you are not allowed to pump your own gas. Either that or the guy at the gas station was really protective of his job. He told me this was the law in Oregon and New Jersey. Are these two states right about this or are the other 48? I wonder what their thinking is?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Observations From the Road - Part One

Hello my loyal blogladites, I'm on the road in a foreign country today. The United States of America. Perhaps your very own country, but slightly different in mystical ways to Canada where I hail from. Let me recount the little differences I've seen, at least in this neck of the woods.

Expresso shacks. I've seen a couple of these back home, but here, in what Americans fondly refer to as the Pacific Northwest, they are ubiquitous. (Ed. note: I've always wanted to use that word so I hope I'm using it correctly). What they are is little shacks that you can drive up to and buy an espresso. I went for a mocha myself and I walked up. Seems you can do that with the shacks, but don't try walking up to a Taco Bell drive-thru (a story for another time).

Restrooms are where you go to use a toilet. We generally call them washrooms. Wonder whose got that right? Are they more for washing or for resting? Seems we're both politely ignoring the real use of these rooms.

What's the deal on grits? I mean I'm not anywhere near the south of the US of A and they're offering me grits for breakfast. These definitely seem to stop at the border. On the other hand vinegar seems to have difficulty going south through the border so you can put it on your fries like we do in Canada.

No exit or dead end is replaced here by "No Outlet". Salt water taffy abounds. If we did have it in Canada I think it would be toffee and not taffy. You can buy beer in the grocery store here and that's good or at the very least convenient.

One thing that's the same on both sides of the border: Right in the heart of the touristy area, near the t-shirt shops, there is always a place to buy fudge!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hold the Good Ideas and Pass the Machismo

Recently I got to watch an 18 year old Japanese knuckleballer pitch in a minor league game in the independent Golden Baseball League. This pitcher was a few years younger than any other player on the field that night and not only that, she was a girl. A lot of people came out to watch the spectacle of her pitching. She had a strong first inning getting our local team out in order (3 up, 3 out), but after that she struggled to throw strikes and ended up giving up a bunch of runs on only one hit (a grand slam) and was pulled in the third inning.

There are very few knuckle ball pitchers in the major leagues, but there have been some successful ones over the years. My favourite being Charlie Hough who is 82nd on the all-time win list for pitchers, despite spending the first seven years of his career as a relief pitcher (they don't get credit for many wins).
I once saw him pitch an 11 inning, 2-1 win against Seattle. I was sitting behind the Seattle dugout and was amazed at the frustration expressed by the Seattle batters as they returned to the dugout. It was then that I grew to love the knuckleball. I have since taught it fairly effectively to two of my youth baseball players over the years.

Now comes my point. In the articles about the female knuckleballer, "The Knuckle Princess", and even on the recent segment on one of our Canadian national newscasts, it is always mentioned how difficult it is to throw the knuckleball effectively. While I will grant that it is more difficult to throw than a fastball, I don't think it is so much more difficult than any other pitch (curve, slider, forkball, etc.). I think the knuckleball is the victim of too much machismo!

Sports is an arena that is full of machismo and there are certain things that get written off by the macho culture of sports. The knuckleball is one of them. It's slow and therefore wimpy. Another is the underhand free throw in basketball. Rick Barry was one of the top players of the 1970's in professional basketball and is one of the top scorers in history. His career free throw percentage was 90 and at the time of his retirement was the best in history. He shot his free throws underhanded, which was the style in an earlier era.

The underhand shot was known in my neighbourhood as "granny" style. Machismo killed the underhand free throw and nobody shoots it anymore. Rick Barry was a fierce competitor and he wanted to win more than he wanted to look macho. You're telling me that everyone else shoots overhand because it's a better technique? Nope, it's all about machismo!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Buildings Deserve Better

Recently I was in a shopping plaza that included some "Tuscany" style condominiums. I was just thinking that it seemed a bit silly to design a place to look like a place in another part of the world when I took a closer look and noticed that the balconies were not balconies at all. They were just railings in front of windows. There wasn't even room to put a potted plant.

This got me thinking how silly it is to have a decorative balcony. I bet the people in Tuscany wouldn't put up with such crap. If you're not going to build the balcony then put something else there, who needs a fake balcony? In fact let me go on the record as being against anything fake for decorative purposes. The other chief offender I can think of is shutters (sorry Mom). Why do houses have fake shutters? It's been a long time since anyone actually used real shutters in this neck of the woods, so why do so many houses have fake shutters? Ridiculous.

I encourage you the reader to add to this short list of two such offences.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Somebody Save Us

A recent onslaught of news stories regarding animals in my local paper has gotten me a little concerned. It seems the animals are fighting back. Can this be? Here are the stories:

1. A camper sleeping in a lean-to wakes up face to face with a black bear. The bear proceeds to attack him and his screams alert his buddy in a near by tent. They manage to beat off the bear and get themselves to hospital for treatment. The one guy needs a skin graft to replace his missing scalp. Bear attacks on the island where I live just didn't happen until recently. There are two in recorded history. The other happened just last year when a man was cleaning some fish on his boat. A bear swam over to the dock where the boat was and climbed in the boat and proceeded to take on the surprised fisherman. He survived with injuries thanks to an army of nearby and courageous gaff wielding fellow anglers. This is a new phenomenon.

2. Off the coast of South Africa a whale leaps out of the water and lands on a sailing boat. Imagine being at the helm when that happens. A fluke mistake by the whale you say? Maybe not. What whale wouldn't know there was a boat near it?

3. A woman walking her dog in my city is chased by a female deer. She runs behind a pick-up truck for safety but the deer persists and whichever side of the pick-up she tries to go around the deer moves there to cut her off. Then the dog gets loose and the deer lays a butt kicking on it (apparently the domestic animals are not part of the international animal conspiracy).

The animal apologists always respond to these incidents by claiming that it is because we have moved into the animals territory and there is less and less room for them. Have these people ever gone for a drive in Canada? There's a heck of a lot of space out there with no humans in it, so explain to me why my city is inundated with deer. And it's not just here.

We've also got rabbits so thick at the local university that you can't walk in a straight line through the field in the middle of campus without stepping on one (sure they move out of the way at the last second, but they aren't very scared of us humans). And don't get me started on Canadian geese.

The real reason this is all happening is because we've gotten soft. The animals no longer fear us because we never do anything on an individual level to hurt them. Even the guy being attacked by the bear said that when he was able to get ahold of his knife he took it and hit the bear on the nose with the handle. He didn't stab the bear because that would be mean.

Now I'm not the guy to fix this problem because I'm a big softy too, but somebody needs to call in the army and put these animals back in their place, pronto.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I enjoyed one of the planet's greatest culinary inventions today. Mini-Donuts! Why aren't these delights more readily available is what I'm wondering. Heck, what other food has both the entertainment of the mini-donut machine as the donuts are being made and then the yummy taste of the fresh hot confectionary delight that is mini-donuts. I cannot stress this enough. Mini-Donuts are awesome.

This got me thinking about other products that are not available in sufficient numbers in keeping with their tastiness. I mean, french fries are everywhere and in most cases they aren't very good french fries. Same with hot dogs, burgers, and pizza. Yet, mini-donuts are only available in very special locations. What else are we missing out on?

Have you ever tried lime cookies? Have you had them often? Exactly! What's up with that? They are delicious yet you can't buy them anywhere. Pssst... I recently found some in Costco. How about good quality tea. We've had tea for centuries. You can buy good coffee in the grocery store, but the tea bags, well they are the equivalent of frozen french fries instead of fresh cut and deep fried potatoes.

Do you know they make Pineapple Crush in Hawaii, but not here. I mean it's artificial flavour isn't it and even if it's not, we get the pineapples here fresh or in cans so why can't we get it as a carbonated beverage? Let me assure you it is quite tasty. And what's the deal on fudge? Why is it mostly available in tacky tourist locations? It's pretty good stuff. Why is there no fudge display in the candy isle at the grocery store? Why doesn't fudge rate, but chocolate bars, jelly beans, and licorice do?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mr. Bug, Bug, Mr. Annoying Bug, Please Fly Away from Me.

I went camping this week and enjoyed the great outdoors. The great outdoors sure has a lot of bugs though. The price to pay I suppose, but they sure can be annoying. Particularly the mosquitoes. I tried using "Off" for the first time and it is true that this kept the bugs off of me. I don't think I got more than a couple bites, but it didn't keep them away from me. The damn mosquitoes just hovered around me with their incessant high pitched whining trying to figure out what to do.

The thing I don't understand is why if we humans are so enticing to the mosquitoes, why are the mosquitoes living out in the woods? Why aren't they in the big cities where they can get their fill of human blood? Or are humans out in the woods like bacon near a vegetarian. Not something that's part of their regular diet, but difficult to resist when placed in front of them?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What if We Just Tweeked this a Little?

I'm a big believer in modifying rules to improve a game. I think I developed this in my youth when I used to make up games, such as backyard baseball, and my brother would find loopholes in the rules and I'd have to make up new rules. From his perspective and anyone else who has played with me, I make up rules as I go along. But really any new rules are in response to perceived flaws in the game. I organized a very successful weekly pick-up flag football game in which we developed the rules over time and ended up with a pretty darn good set. Same with a mini-golf tournament I organize. Yeah, that's right, mini-golf.

In this context there are two things to know about me. Firstly, when I watch a sport or game, I am often thinking of ways it could be made better. Secondly, I don't understand the reasoning that says you can't mess with the rules of the game. So with this in mind you can imagine my frustration as I watch the World Cup. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying these contests. The problem is that if you ask me, there are a lot of things that could be done to make soccer better.

First off let's fix the obvious problem. The timing. What's with the delay tactics at the end of the game. Soccer, unlike most timed sports (basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse) does not use stop time. The clock just keeps running and if a team is ahead they can take their sweet time putting the ball in play. This seems ludicrous. Easy fix on this one. Soccer should use the Canadian Football League's approach. Use run time until the last five minutes (or three or six or whatever) and then go to stop time. While they are at it, they should ditch this whole injury time thing. Why can't the referee just stop the clock when there is an injury or delay of some kind like would happen in any other sport? It's not that difficult.

Fixing the timing would make the game more fair. Now we just need to give the offence a better chance to score. Open it right up. Who needs 1-0 games determined by some fluke play. This is where soccer should adopt hockey's blue line. Get rid of the attack-preventing offside rule and say that players are onside as long as the ball goes over the 25 yard line (or 35 or whatever) before they do. Now that would create some serious scoring opportunities.

Finally, I think something needs to be done about all the fouls. Not sure what to do here, but I think maybe the penalty for a trip or shin hack is not enough. Sure if you do it near your own goal a free kick against you can be costly, but in most cases it is no big deal. The ref gives out those cute yellow and red cards (a system that could be useful in other sports) if it is flagrant, but for the most part players are getting hacked down and there is no real price to pay for doing it. Perhaps players should foul out like in basketball or have to go to a penalty box like hockey. If it was up to me, a player would have to run one full lap of the field after a penalty before they could come back into play. That would be fun.

I can hear the purists cursing and howling at me. But to you I say two words. Forward Pass! Those used to be illegal in football you know.

This is my 19th post, so my goal of 52 for the year is in serious jeopardy. It's looking more like 40. Who knows, maybe there will be a rush of inspiration this summer. Feel free to email me your suggested topics (if you know me well enough to have my email).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Round Pegs Not Welcome

I went to a high school graduation ceremony last week. It was really long, but it was pretty good too. Harkened back to my own grad ceremony that I'm sure was not near as polished as this one was. We didn't get to wear the graduation gowns and caps and even though our valedictorian has gone on to be a successful actress, their valedictorian speech was a one act play compared to our obituary. No knock against our fine valedictorians who impressed me at the time, but these kids today are slick. The grad class even sang a song together. At my grad there was nothing I had to do but shake the principals hand and sit there and I screwed that up by wearing white socks with my suit that were clearly visible from the audience (how was I supposed to know this was wrong, I think all I had were white socks - regular readers will know of course that most of them were of the tube variety).

Anyhow there was one thing that kind of bugged me and I know these are just high school kids with their forgivable low confidence neurosis to deal with, so I say this knowing I shouldn't be expecting otherwise. The non-participant participant is a pet peeve of mine in any situation, and it stood out on this night. One particular individual who (and I'm sure there were others less visible) was sitting right smack in the middle was a particular standout. She not only decided she wouldn't wear the cap, but she made no effort at all to join in on the song.

Now maybe there was some religious objection to caps and songs that I am not aware of, however if you're going to show up to take part in an event then you should take part. If you don't want to wear the cap and sing the song and do the little choreographed entrance then maybe you should just give it a pass. If you're too hip to be square then take your round peg and hang out in some other hole.
Another thing that's changed at some point is graduation has changed from a one night event into a series of events that start in May and end in mid-June. There's prom (which we used to think was just some crazy American thing), the grad ceremony and dance (which I think is referred to as dry grad) and then Wet Grad (which I think is referred to as getting drunk). We used to have to do all that in one night. We had to change out of our suits mid-evening so we wouldn't spill our drinks on them.

And by "We", I mean the collective pronoun, because as you well know, Little Jackie Showers wasn't much of a drinker back in the day. Which is a good thing because studies show that high school binge drinking can impair the growth of your frontal cortex. And if you don't know what a frontal cortex is then shame on you for drinking so much in your high school years. However if you did so just to be a keen participate in the grad festivities then you are forgiven. Just that once.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I Can't Feel the Music

I like music. I enjoy listening to a song. I particularly like the use of music in film or in an end of the year or Olympic montage video. Sometimes it even makes me misty. But music doesn't speak to me and I am a poorer man for this.

Perhaps you don't know what I'm talking about or maybe you think, "Jack ole buddy, you're being too hard on yourself." Or if you know me well, maybe you're saying, "You got that right".

While I like music I know that it doesn't speak to me on the same level that it does many other people. People like you, or at least some of you. I know this in the same way that I know that baseball speaks to me in a way that it doesn't speak to most of you.

When I look around me and watch people interact with music, listen to music and talk about music I sense a connection that I just don't have. I've tried to deny this at times, but the evidence is clear. I have an iPod. It's a hand me down. What do I do with it? I listen to podcasts. Spoken word podcasts. I haven't even added or deleted a song since it was given to me. A few times I've listened to the songs that are on there, but I'd say less than 2% of the time I've used it so far has been for listening to music. In my car, I usually listen to talk radio. If I do listen to music it's usually because I like the DJ's witty banter on that station and I'm willing to wait for the songs to end. Woe is me.

But at least there is baseball. I feel baseball. It's just a game to most people and I dare say a boring game at that. Not to me. For me it is so much more than a game just like to a music person a song is so much more than just a song. Me, I used to sing my kids to sleep by singing. What did I sing? "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

Apparently parades don't speak to many of you either as my follow up parade post didn't inspire any witty commentary. I would like to follow up the follow up with another update. I went to another parade today and like the one I saw earlier this parade season there were huge gaps at times in the parade. Gaps in a parade are not new, but they seemed to be much more common and bigger than I recall seeing in the past. I think this is emblematic of the general degradation of the structure and order in our society. Nobody has any respect for parade marshalls anymore, just like every other authority figure. In fact as near as I can tell, the parade marshall job is either gone by the wayside or changed. Used to be they travelled up and down the parade and put a stop to any poor parading and fixed those gaps. Now they are nowhere to be seen. Shame on us as a society for allowing such a travesty.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Parade Update Post

Hello parade fans, I have been to see for myself the state of parental blockage on the marching band front. Yes, I attended the 112th Victoria Day parade in our fair city along with an estimated record crowd of 65,oo0. If that estimate is to be believed then about one in five Victorians came out to watch what is a spectacle that may not be so bad as to be "ridiculous", as one loyal reader has tagged it, but is less than awe-inspiring.

However, the marching bands are fun to watch and do inspire. The youth giving it their all to put on a show is always great to see. I know for a fact that one other loyal reader who poo-poos parades is a big fan of high school musicals. I think the marching bands and musicals have some of the same positive characteristics. Enough about debating the merits of the parade itself though, as the real argument is why the heck are parents out there getting in the way of their children's performance?

I watched a good dozen U.S. bands and three Canadian ones go by on Monday. I am happy to report that the Canadian bands had no noticeable parental escorts. The U.S. bands too were mostly escort free. I did see one band that had at the back of the band a group of about fifteen parents, dressed in the same colours as the band and marching in step with the band while carrying water for when it was needed. While I still argue this is unnecessary, at least this was a cute way of dealing with it and didn't involve blocking the view.

There were two bands that had parents walking alongside and obstructing the crowd's view and enjoyment of their band. One band in fact stopped in front of me, so did one of the parents and there she stood directly in front of me as the band played. I mean she wasn't fat or anything so I could see most of the band, but still it was not very aesthetically pleasing. You've got these bands all gussied up in their marching uniforms to look sharp and here's this mom in a t-shirt and jeans standing between them and the audience with her water bottle at the ready. Now that's ridiculous.

Meanwhile, the 85 year old guy carrying the flag as part of the Canadian Legion marching group grinds it out to the end without any water at all. I guess that guy's mom is a neglectful parent.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Preemptive Strike Post

Hello A & A fans! Alert reader Guy has pointed out that I am falling behind on my posts. Have no fear, I've got plenty of annoyances left to regale you with. This time I'm hoping to head one off at the pass. It has to do with parades, and maybe if I get it off my chest now, it can prevent what is sure to rear its ugly head at my town's big parade this weekend. I can only dream that such is the power of A & A.

What's the problem with parades you ask? Well I'm glad you did. The problem is with the parents of high school marching bands. Or I should say the parents of members of high school marching bands. I have noticed a disturbing trend the last few times I attended a parade (which admittedly has been a few years now, so maybe somebody has fixed this problem - this weekend will be the test). This trend is new since my marching band days in the late 70's and early 80's.

The parents of the big American marching bands (which I quite enjoy watching) now walk alongside the band as it makes its way along the parade route. They walk between the band and the spectators. This not only blocks your view as a spectator at times, but completely detracts from the aesthetic quality of the band. And why are these parents there? Apparently to dole out water and mist the band members.

I admit it took some searching to find an example on Youtube, but here it is. Check out from 1:00 to about 1:40.

Now I know in this day and age everyone believes that hydration is important, but this is Canada in May. It is rarely hot, and even if it is, the parade route is not that long. For my American friends you can expect the temperature to be in the 70's if you are lucky and once in awhile it might make it to the 80's. Not exactly scorching and the route is a mere 1.8 miles. If these kids can't make it 1.8 miles without being spritzed and fed water bottles then something is wrong.

Before all you kidney stone victims write in to correct me about the pratfalls of dehydration, I offer the following compromise. If there really is danger to these kids and they need this kind of support, then how about the parents walk along behind the crowd and emerge at strategic points to disperse their life saving H2O.

I have one marching band anecdote from my days in high school. We were in the local parade and our drummer (who sets the pace) had to get to a tennis tournament. We were the first entry in the parade and he just had us bombing along. About halfway through the parade the marshall made us stop. We looked back and the military marching group after us were right behind us, but after that there as a gap that you couldn't see the end of as the rest of the parade was more than two blocks back and around a corner. We waited five minutes for the parade to catch up.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Put on some Pants

Well it seems my readers are not going to get inspired by the problems around the luggage carousel, so I'll move onto something perhaps more interesting. Girls softball and the shorts they wear. What's up with that?

I went to a game the other day and have seen several in the past. I've always thought the shorts were kind of silly for the girls to be wearing (or women for that matter) because they also have sliders that they pull up on their legs to cover the bare parts when they are sliding. Many of the players are effectively wearing shorts about the same way the hockey players are with the long socks and then sliders going right up the the short line. Why not just wear pants?

Now you might argue that shorts are more comfortable, but this is not the case for most of the season in these parts which is played in cool to near freezing temperatures. In the game I watched the other day it was raining and very chilly. The girls had about four heavy layers on top and shorts down below. Pure silliness. Nobody should be a slave to fashion. You need to keep toasty on the ball field.

Check out these girls. One team wears pants!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Luggage Trough

Picked my mother up from the airport the other day. Got to watch people in action around the luggage carousel. Interesting study in the human condition. The luggage came out on the left side of the U-shaped conveyor belt and then went back on the right. Before the arrival of the first bag the people gathered near but several feet back from the carousel.

However, once the luggage was traveling on the belt the crowd on the left side where I was moved closer and closer, so close they were actually hanging over the luggage to see up the belt to see if their bag was coming. I couldn't even see through the people let alone get in there to get Mom's suitcase. They were like pigs at the trough.

I decided I wasn't going to get in there and start elbowing people out of the way and Mom isn't known for her work in the corners either, so I figured I'd walk around to the other side of the U and see if there was any space to get near the belt on that side. Well when I got around to the right side the people over there were calmly standing about ten feet back from the belt waiting for their luggage to appear. It was an amazing contrast. Guess it's another example of the Type A and Type B people. In this case the B's had it right. Everyone could get see their luggage and easily get it once seen. The A's were like pigs at the trough fighting for the luggage and all just to gain about a 30 second advantage on the B's.

All this luggage talk harkens me back to my university days when I travelled for one season with the basketball team (not as a player, let me be clear on that). The team added a little spice to the drudgery of the luggage pick-up by each throwing in a quarter and the person whose luggage came out first got the pot. That's all I've got as far as luggage stories go.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where Have You Gone Chuck Connors?

I saw a notice the other day for spring soccer. Don't ask me why but that really gets me riled up. All sports these days are poaching on each other's seasons. Whatever happened to staying put in your part of the calendar?

When I was a kid I played soccer in the winter and baseball in the summer. Other kids played hockey and lacrosse. Judging by the photo albums there was even more opportunity to be a multi-sport participant in my Dad's days. In his teenage years there are pictures of him on soccer, hockey, football, and lacrosse teams and I know he played rugby as well. Nowadays by the age of 12, sports are trying to get the kids to specialize. Spring soccer? Yuck. Hockey teams that play tournaments all summer? Stupid. I say let the kids play! Let them experience the variety and spice of sport.

If you think I'm overreacting then you probably haven't been near kid's sports in awhile. Keener parents are out there starting up "travel" teams in lots of different sports. These are like all-star teams that essentially barnstorm and look for tournaments to play in. No more just a bunch of kids from the neighbourhood playing kids from another neighbourhood.

I was reading recently in the 2007 edition of "The Best in American Sports Writing" that it has reached craziness south of the border. I'm not sure if the Canadian hockey community is taking it to this level, but here's what's happening in basketball and baseball circles in the U.S.

In basketball there are summer leagues and the teams are in some cases sponsored by the sneaker companies and the companies cover the expenses for the players and provide them with gear. Players as young as 12 are recruited to be on these teams in hopes that if they become the next Michael Jordan they will continue to wear the brand of shoes that sponsored them in their youth. There is a magazine in the United States that rates the top grade five basketball players in the country. Yeah that's right, grade five or as they like to say fifth grade.

In baseball there are travel teams that start at the age of eight. One team located in Florida won the national championship as 9, 10, and 11 year olds. The next year as 12 year olds they had a kid on the team who lived in Indiana and flew to wherever the team was playing their tournaments. There was another 12 year old kid who lived in Las Vegas, but spent the season playing for a variety of teams that recruited him to play with them in tournaments. He hoped on an airplane and played for teams from California, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nevada in one season. The Indiana kid not only plays on the Florida team, but one in Indiana and averaged 120 games a year from the age of 8 to 12.

Ahhhh, to be a kid. Chuck Connors must be turning over in his grave.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Best Place on Earth?

Came over the border the other day back into British Columbia after a trip to see the Raptors take on the Trailblazers (that's NBA basketball for you hockey pucks). After clearing the customs gates we passed a sign that said, "Welcome to the Best Place on Earth".

I've lived in British Columbia all my life and I believe it is a wonderful place to live. But the best place on earth? Really? According to who? Us? And by us I mean British Columbians who had something to do with the idea to put up that sign (and the campaign that goes with it) and by association the rest of us British Columbians who didn't have that idea. It seems more than a tad absurd, naive, or at worst conceited. Although stupid comes to mind as well.

I have not traveled all that much in my life, but I've seen some nice places. Oregon seems great, Cape Cod was pretty cool, and Yellowstone Park seems like a pretty special place. Where do we get off saying we live in the Best Place on Earth? Even if it is true, it's pretty rude to go telling everyone. Am I right? I say bring back "Beautiful British Columbia" or "Supernatural British Columbia", or come up with something new like "A Great Place on Earth", but it is time to put this current slogan on the shelf.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If You Don't Like the Weather, Then Step Inside

Little Jackie Showers is reporting live from Whistler for this post. What a wonderful place Whistler is. This week I've eaten waffles at 6,000 feet up in a small log cabin and goulash at 7,500 feet in another log cabin. I'm sure I should feel guilty about such consumerism, but that is for more principled people than me. Oh and the skiing is pretty amazing too!

One silly bit of decadence that I've decided I can't go along with is the restaurant patio heaters. I must admit they are kinda nice, but really people, I think either you want to be outside enjoying the weather or if you don't like the weather you should step inside and enjoy the climate controlled great indoors. Am I wrong?

I await the will of the people on this one, and I'm hoping to see a few more voices than "The Big Three" chime in on this one.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Own the Immodium

Well the Olympics are over and despite all those people who said Vancouver would be hell during the Olympics, things seemed to work out pretty well. In fact, it seems all the premature judging of everything Olympic has so far proven to be wrong. The last hope for the doomsayers to be right is that the Olympics lose a lot of money and the taxpayers get stuck with the bill. And my money says they'll be wrong about that one too.

Meanwhile once the media stopped covering all the pre-Olympic concerns, they got onto the job of telling us how the "Own the Podium" program was falling short of expectations. In the end Canadians did pretty damn good. Maybe we didn't own the podium, but we did get to hear Oh Canada played at medal ceremonies an amazing 14 times. The media response during the games was akin to the half-time show of a football game declaring one team the winner. Whatever happened to waiting for the final result before proclaiming something a success or a failure.The media needed to take a collective dose of immodium to stop the analytical diarrhea. Okay, I'll admit the mascots did suck.

All of this pre-judging negative analysis is not surprising, but it is annoying. The same thing happened in the lead-up to the games in Athens and Beijing. The weekend that the Vancouver games were ending there was an article in the paper saying how bad an idea it is to hold the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Does the media think its job is to be negative or are they just incredibly inaccurate prognosticators?

There is plenty to be concerned about when it comes to the I.O.C., but it seems a lot easier to write a story predicting certain failure of the local organizing committees than it is to dig into the questionable antics of the I.O.C. Just like it's easier for the media to cover polls and the popularity of leaders in an election than it is to dig into the issues and differences between the contenders.

Yes, that's right. I am annoyed at the media. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Live From the Olympics - It's Little Jackie Showers

Hello kids, I'm coming to you live from the Olympics today where I am the proud new owner of a red Roots Canada coat. Yes, Little Jackie is on the bandwagon and hoping to see Canada win the semi-final hockey game tonight. Not so on the bandwagon that I'd line-up to buy the official clothes at the Bay, clothes that were considered ugly when they first came out.

I had a quintessential Canadian moment on the trip over on our beloved B.C. Ferries. We were on the ferry during the quarterfinal hockey game between Canada and Russia. It marks the first time I agreed with B.C. Ferries decision to include TV sets on their boats. We were on a small boat and the TV set was in a relatively small passenger lounge that was packed to standing room only. We stood in the back corner and although we could hardly see the action, we did get to enjoy the atmosphere that is unique to watching a sporting event with a crowd all pulling for the same team.

Every Canadian goal was cause for much celebrating and the crowd even clapped at the end of each period. This was a lot of fun and had me harkening back to watching the 87 Canada Cup final game in the pub at university. I can still feel the energy in the room on the famous Gretzky to Lemieux goal. Should be fun again tonight, unless of course the dredded Slovaks find a way to spoil the party.

So overall I'm having a hoot and think it's a great event, but I do have one annoyance to report from the Olympics. You knew I'd find something. It's the automatic gratuity. Seems that's par for the course over here for the games. No word yet on whether it is a temporary measure. Generally speaking I believe in tipping well (at least 20%) unless there is some reason to be unhappy with the service (and I can't remember that happening much). My problem with an automatic gratuity is a tip is supposed to be voluntary and my choice to acknowledge good service. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of the concept of the tip and would probably be fine if we got rid of it altogether and just raised the prices and wages of the servers instead, but don't charge me an automatic gratuity.

Okay, I've got to go. Need to venture out into the Vancouver rain and soak up more Olympic atmosphere. Oh and speaking of tips, they're giving out free ear buds at the Bell Ice Cube!

Friday, February 19, 2010

May the Best Sled Win?

Recently at the Olympics there were some complaints about the German luge team. It had nothing to do with spandex or their positioning in the doubles event. It had to do with their sled.

Apparently those wily Germans had used magnets to somehow create a smoother ride for their sled than their competitors. I don't know how this works, but you know that German engineering. This brings up a beef I've had for years with sports.

I don't like it when the equipment plays a determining role in who wins. I've long thought that all competitions that involve equipment should require the use of a stock model. Tiger Woods and the rest of the gang should show up and be given a bag of clubs and balls. Slo-pitch teams should share a set of bats for each game. Those lugers should all use the same sled. Micheal Phelps should be handed a speedo off the rack.

Having said that, I've always had a soft spot for someone who has the creativity to find a loophole (in sports but not taxes). A case in point is Dodger infielder Maury Wills who used to drop pop-ups on purpose and turn them into double plays. This caused baseball to invent the "Infield Fly" rule, which is understood by less than half the players in any given game. And how about those Edmonton Oilers during the Gretzky years, who used to gladly take off-setting penalties and play four on four so their speed would have more of an advantage in all the open space.

My favourite personal experience with loopholes comes from almost 40 years ago. Of course it goes against what I said about equipment above, but it still is a good story. Back when I was a kid in the 70's, we used to stay at one of the many resorts in Parksville, B.C. each summer and were joined there by many of the same families each year. One year the men heard about an innertube race to be run on a local river and they decided to enter some teams. I guess the rules were written rather loosely and my father and his partner were able to win using two tubes lashed together so they could paddle canoe style (front and back rather than side by side on one tube).

The next year the rules were tightened up to limit competitors to one tube. The men at our resort were not to be deterred and wanted to give their team a chance to defend their title. One of the gang was a fiberglass expert and so they fiberglassed the bottom of an innertube. Dad and his partner skimmed along the surface while the competition had to paddle half submerged. I remember distinctly how they covered the first 50 metres of the course while the rest of the field had moved about ten. The race was over before it started. Good thing the German lugers aren't that smart.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Friends the Vigilantes

In my last post I jokingly referred to the pick-up truck drivers who take up two small car spots as vigilantes. It got me thinking back to my youth when we were all a little more idealistic. Some of my friends were "activist" idealists. They backed up their ideals with actions. They were true vigilantes. Now, Little Jackie Showers was no vigilante, so some of their methods were a little disturbing to me. So disturbing that I remember them to this day.

One friend was an ardent anti-smoker. This was back in the day when smoking was allowed in parts of a restaurant. These parts were known as smoking sections. Unfortunately the smoke didn't always stay in the section with the smokers. My anti-smoker friend took to turning over the ashtrays in the university cafeteria. Not sure what this did to the smokers, but I'm sure it didn't amuse the cleaning staff.

Another anti-smoking action by friends of mine involved the time a large team was travelling by plane. There were about 30 of us on the team and the "leaders" of the team saw to it that we had our seats in the smoking section of the plane. This effectively took up all of the smoking section and meant there was nowhere for the smokers to smoke.

Another friend of mine, I call him Vigilante Derek, was a man of action. Once while stopped at a light with him as my passenger, we saw a car in the next lane and just ahead of us jettison a paper drink cup with the lid still on and maybe even some pop still inside. Derek jumps out of the car, runs up to the cup, picks it up and chucks it back in the car window.

Now you might be cheering for Derek on that one as who likes a litterer. However, just so you get a balanced view on vigilantism I share one more story with you. One time while eating in a McDonalds, Derek happened upon a chubby pre-teen kid eating a Big Mac. Derek spoke up and asked the kid, "Are you sure you need that." Nice. The kid complained to his mom, but apparently didn't give a good description of Derek, because when the mom came over to our table it was me she gave heck to. I took the hit because that's what friends do. At least young idealistic friends. Nowadays, I'd rat him out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Where are All the Small Cars?

There is an epidemic in the parking lots of my hometown. For some reason more and more of the spaces are marked with "small car". And yes the spaces are smaller. Much smaller in fact. What's happening here? Is this phenomenon global or just a local thing?

Increased small spaces would make sense if there were more small cars around. Apparently the owners of the parking lots, mostly shopping malls and other businesses, have not noticed all the large vehicles on the roads these days. I'm all for encouraging smaller cars, but I don't even think this is some kind of social engineering project by the parking lot industry. It just makes no sense.

It would seem that large pick-up truck owners agree with me that this makes no sense because they have taken up the vigilante position of completely ignoring the "small car" signs painted on the ground. In fact they aren't just ignoring "small car", but the lines themselves. They can frequently be seen taking up one and a half of these "small car" spots. Sometimes the SUV and Mini-Van crowds join in on this protest, but the Pick-Ups seem to be more effectively organized in their outrage. No word yet on what stance the Luxury Sedans are taking.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Put that Stop Somewhere Else

A couple of posts back I was complaining about B.C. Transit. Well I'm back at it. B.C. Transit are you out there? Please think on this:

For some reason there seems to be a desire to strategically locate bus stops just past an intersection on four lane connector streets. This means that during busy times the bus stops just on the other side of the light and blocks one of the two lanes of traffic going that way. This means that some cars either have to wait on the other side of the intersection and miss the light or in the case of the more inattentive or oblivious drivers they end up stuck in the intersection behind the bus. Now they're stuck there blocking traffic when the light changes.

Now I understand that they are trying to locate the stop near major intersections where people are transferring from one bus to another. I also believe in having a good public transit system. I just don't see why the bus stop can't be another 40 metres from the corner, allowing the cars to at least get through the light before they have to wait behind the bus. Answer me that B.C. transit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Circus

Little Jackie Showers recently joined a lawn bowling club. Yes it is true and you youngsters out there can stop chuckling. I didn't sign up because of an urge to lawn bowl, although I suspect I may try out the game next summer. I became a member because of croquet, which of course is no laughing matter.

The thing about a lawn bowling club is they are very protective of their grass. The rules require you to wear flat-soled shoes whether you are lawn bowling or playing croquet. And they mean flat. No heel and no tread. Being a rule follower since my earliest days I decided that I best go get me some flat shoes. I hoped for some Stan Smiths, but these proved to be elusive. I mean, I'm sure they were out there somewhere, but it was Christmas Eve and I needed these for a tournament on Boxing Day. I only had time for visiting one mall.

The sporty stores and the old people's walking shoe stores didn't have anything that fit the bill. Having no success I began to realize my options were dwindling. Desperate times...

Call for venturing into "Aldo". Now for those of you not familiar with "Aldo" it is a shoe store for cool people. I do not belong there. Sure, sometimes I'll tag along while the missus looks at shoes and one time I even went in there alone to buy her a pair of shoes she had pointed out on a previous trip. But go into "Aldo" alone for myself was like going into La Senza to browse. It wasn't right.

Of course I quickly sensed that my discomfort was matched by the young, attractive and clearly hip sales girl that approached me. You see, guys like me and the "Aldo" girls don't cross paths. Our worlds are far apart. This fact was as obvious to her as it was to me. I was wearing sweat pants after all.

As it turns out there were several flat-soled products to choose from so she dutifully went and got my size each time I asked to try a different one. She would bring me the box and then drift off about twenty feet to cooly watch me out of the corner of her eye as I tried on the different pairs. I must give her credit for maintaining a visage not unlike those guards outside of Buckingham palace. Not a grin or eye roll escaped. But inside that head I know there was a pretty good situation comedy going on.
This is the shoe.

I ended up shelling out way too much for the shoes and then, dammit, most of the other croquet players showed up in their sneakers.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Where You Going Bus Driver?

Here's an annoyance with a solution. Anybody want to tell the people who matter?

Okay, so here's the deal. I don't know if this is specific to my hometown or not, but it seems unlikely. Here when a bus is on a street with two lanes going in its direction and is stopped at a bus stop blocking the right lane, the bus driver turns on the left signal when pulling out from the bus stop. The problem is that if you're coming up in the left lane you can't tell if the bus is just signaling it is pulling away from the curb to go down the right lane or if it is signaling that it is actually going to move into the left lane.

A bus signaling to move into the left lane makes sense, but signaling that it is pulling out from the curb seems unnecessary given that the bus is blocking the right lane and all it is doing is starting up and going down that same lane. The act of signaling this maneuver doesn't help anyone. It just causes confusion.

So here's my solution. When a bus pulls into the stop the driver should use the flashers. Everyone behind the bus will know the bus is stopping. When the driver wants to start again the flashers are turned off. Then we all know it is going to start moving. If the left signal then comes on we know it is going to move over one lane. No more guesswork, no more confusion, no more jamming on the breaks for no reason. Annoyance solved! Now if I can just get someone who matters to listen.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I'm Glad We Can Get Back to the Weather

Attention cashiers, yeah I'm talking to you again. Do we have to do the "have you finished all of your Christmas shopping" dance for the three weeks leading up to Christmas? This is only slightly less annoying than asking me what I'm doing for the weekend. Okay it is quite a bit less annoying than that, but still...

To be fair it is not just the cashiers, it might even be YOU! Do we have to treat Christmas shopping as if it is some horrendous task and all share our war stories. Oh the horror. I think you all know what I mean, even those of you who so innocently partake in this tradition of the festive season.

I like Christmas shopping. I don't see it as some chore that I'm dreading and can't wait to finish, but I usually don't start until real late. This makes the question "are you finished your Christmas shopping?", or its close cousin, "are you ready for Christmas?" rather amusing, especially when people start asking it two weeks before I even start to shop or get ready. I prefer the two day all out blitz just before Christmas. I go armed with my list and a wad of cash and get it done. And no, I don't want to be giving out no updates as I go.

My New Year's resolution is to do 52 blog posts this year. So keep me honest. Yikes, I just noticed that's how many I did last year. Here's to not backsliding.