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.