October 2004

Cup of Soup

Tue, Oct 5, 2004

Non Sequitor

Ooo! It's a zinger! The "Mission Accomplished" sign is a lovely touch.

Thu, Oct 7, 2004

Putting On A Clinic

I read in The Toronto Star today that the city's pathetically under-productive basketball team - the Raptors - attented a shooting clinic by a supposed guru of the art of jump shots, Dave Hopla. I am always skeptical about such things. What can a 5-foot-9 41-year-old man that was never good enough to form a professional basketball career teach to a group of pros? Basketball may be filled with too many over-egotistical blockheads, but still - these are professionals.

Then he sunk 195 of 200 shots from everywhere around the court. 97.5 per cent. Holy crap. The average NBA player shoots well under 50%. Then, Hopla goes and complains about how poorly he's done; how he's miffed that he missed those five shots. During the course of his touring clinic this summer, he has thrown 35,000 shots and missed a total of 409, for a 98.7% success rate.

Dear Lord, this man is a machine. And yet, he wasn't good enough for the NBA because he's not quick. This just gives me less respect for the televised professional game. If true talent and work ethic as displayed by Hopla is rejected, instead catering to the cry-baby whining and criminal behaviour of the spoiled brats that play in the NBA because they can dunk, then it just goes to show you that North American viewers aren't getting the quality basketball for which they're paying.

Also in The Star, Richard Griffin critiques what he feels would be the best and worst possible matchups for this year's World Series, listing five of each. I enjoy his comment for 4th-worst: "Yankees vs. Braves. Please, dearest God, no."

I would have to agree.

Wed, Oct 13, 2004

Who Didn't See That Coming?

For seven days, I had been tracking a particular item on eBay and had been the highest and sole bidder the entire time. I had lost this item the last time it appeared about a month ago in a bidding war I had conceded, so I was determined to get it this time.

eBay has a convenient "maximum bid" feature, in which you input how much you are willing to pay, and the system will bid the minimum amount necessary on your behalf up to your maximum. This is a very useful feature, but has one major flaw: whenever a challenging bid is made, the system auto-bids for you at the next highest value. When a challenging bid ties your max, a leading auto-bid is made on your behalf tying the other bid. While this still leaves you as the leading bidder without exceeding your maximum, it gives away the value of your maximum bid to other users; they now know that their next bid will indeed be the breaking amount, and all uncertainty is removed.

For six and a half days, the item stayed quiet, with my opening bid standing it's ground. Yesterday evening, however, the value started to climb. Bit by bit, a single person was raising the bid until the tie was reached, and then all was quiet again. The lurker now knew my max bid, yet did not exceed it so that I wouldn't get the dreaded "You've been outbid" email notification. I knew this ploy; he would wait until minutes before the auction ended before bidding the extra 50 cents so that I wouldn't have time to react and increase my bid. Two can play at that game.

Unfortunately, the item was in Singapore, and so, the auction was on Singapore time, which meant it ended at 3:30 AM EDT. I set my alarm for quarter after three so that I could beat the challenger at his own game and get my long sought-after disc. I left my stereo on high volume so that any notification of an early outbidding would wake me up, and left the browser open for easy access by a slumbering mid-morning me.

This is the point at which you can guess what's going to happen next.

As I was setting my alarm, I was for some reason reminded of the day I was supposed to wake up early to lineup for tickets to Toronto Maple Leafs games, and overslept, missing the necessary train downtown. I shook the thought and hit the sack. That night, I briefly dreamt of a half-dozen people outbidding me and rushing to secure my place in the lead.

I awoke to the sound of my alarm blaring and the distinct Monty Python clip I have set as my email notification. My first thought was "Oh, what timing! My alarm goes off just as the outbid notice is coming in. You can't sneak past me, Sneaky McSneakster!"

Somewhere in the distance, a faint cackle of laughter was heard, signifying that irony is not dead, as was previously assumed, but is in fact strong and healthy and out in full force.

I turned on my monitor and clicked the refresh button on my web browser. It was slow reloading the page (or at least seemed so at the time - perhaps time slowed in preparation for the dramatic climax) and as I waited, the realisation of what actually happened began to sink in. The little blinking mail icon indicated two waiting messages. "Why are there two?" I thought. "There should only be one. There would only be two messages if..." and then I looked at the clock and the walls collapsed around me. The Earth shook and volcanoes erupted as the wrath of the Titans vented their rage. It was quarter to four in the morning. I had slept through my blaring alarm for half an hour. What had actually woke me was the delivery of the mail indicating that I had lost the auction. Mr. McSneakster had crept past the sleeping lion, and the lion now bellowed with rage.

I was so rage-y that I couldn't get back to sleep again. I was too tired to open my eyes but my gut was so filled with fury over my blunder that the Sandman was too frightened to pay me a second visit. When I finally did return to sleep, I dreamt of being back in school, showing up for an exam I didn't know I had to write, a brief encounter with a girl that once stood me up, and then an afternoon visit from Jim and Andrea Corr themselves. I forgot to ask them for the CD directly.

Now I go to work largely underslept and underpowered, and - in very stereotypically Canadian fashion - I am most worried about how my fatigue will affect my hockey game this evening. Mr McSneakster cost me a rare CD, a productive day of work, and an effective effort as goaltender. The fury rages on.

I'd buy the CD if I could, but it seems I can't, so if there's anyone out there with better luck (and is a lighter sleeper) than I that wouldn't mind sending some MP3s, it would ease a frustrated soul a great deal.

Tue, Oct 19, 2004

In A Land Far Far Away

The Toronto Argonauts have secured yet another new home. After U of T pulled out of a new Varsity Stadium plan, and a brief flirtation with a new Exhibition Stadium, the Argos have secured plans at York University so they can finally get a proper open-air stadium and move out of the cavernous SkyDome.

I am in complete agreement with the idea of a new stadium, since SkyDome's atmosphere is just not condusive to football. You need that up-close, tightly-packed, open-air, I-think-my-nose-is-going-freeze-off environment for football to be at its best. The location, however, simply couldn't be worse.

What has been the main mantra of municipal leaders in the Toronto area and urban experts all over? Centralise. Enhance public transit. Discourage traffic. Halt urban sprawl. The newly proposed location takes each of those directives and in one fell swoop spits on them all. With still no subway that far north, there is no choice but to take a bus through the already incredibly congested area, or compound the problem even further by driving yourself. Not to mention the fact that one of the country's most historic - though often overlooked - sports franchises is moving out of the original city it calls home.

The pundits behind the operation claim that most people attending events drive anyway. Air Canada Centre is in the best location conceivable, yet 60% of people still drive to get there. Well, for one, that's still 40% less than what the new stadium will require. It also shouts of "everybody's doing it, so why can't we?" The stat showing that most people drive is not a reason to shrug and say it doesn't matter. The idea is to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto public transit.

Dave Perkins from The Toronto Star writes "Those who feel duped into buying season tickets by the promise of a downtown stadium will act accordingly. Those who look at the distance to York and relative lack of easy public transit will stay away, too. Lack of attractive hospitable surroundings - unless you're buying a mattress - also will enter into the discussion."

With all the talk of improving the city, and claiming that the new stadium will attract so much more business and people and events, it shocks me that they so easily overlook that biggest obstacle in making that happen: People don't want to go through the hassle of getting there. I live in Mississauga. I go to events at the Air Canada Centre and SkyDome by taking the train straight into the downtown core. No traffic, no gas, no worries. Once the Argos move to the boonies of York, I doubt I'll ever go to another game again.

Thu, Oct 28, 2004

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

The fundamental laws of the Universe changed overnight, as something impossible happened: The Boston Red Sox won the World Series. They were down 3-0 to the Yankees and were one out away from being swept in the semi-finals, and then they stormed back to win 8 games in a row and won their first World Series in 86 years. The Curse has been lifted and a new age has begun.

I'm checking my bible... I'm certain this is mentioned in Revelations somewhere. Somewhere among the four riders. Pestilence, war, famine, and Bambino? Something about the mark of the Sox appearing? The second coming of Johnny Damon?

On a similar note, there's a possibility that next Tuesday something else will happen that really should be downright impossible: George W Bush could be re-elected as the American President. I have a personal message for my American brothers and sisters to the south:

"Please. Don't do it. I beg you."

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