Monday, November 30, 2009

Highlights from comics 3

Well, it's a pleasure to find that the Goblins website has been redesigned - and it's a bit busy, but it definitely has all kinds of updated material on it, instead of just the comic page itself. You can read the blog, the twitter account and see the comic's ranking [Keenspot has their comics ranked each week due to voting] - so there's allot more info now. Plus the design is neat.

Here's the update for this week. You can also click at the top for the first installment of Tempts Fate 9 (which usually withdraws from regular updates to the original storyline). We'll wait and see what happens to this regularly scheduled comic.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
The bonus punchline to this comic was ... "Cause of death: Second hand smoke"




Explosm.net's Cyanide and Happiness
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

I think far more comics should end with a boss firing someone for some reason (black face is a good reason ;)

SMBC Theater

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What the Hell is wrong with Windsor? 3

It's no secret what's been going on at Indian Ave. just a block away from the University of Windsor in the west end of the city. It's right beneath the Ambassador Bridge. The rumours as I understand them go like this:

The Ambassador Bridge Company wants to increase traffic on an 80-year-old bridge because it's the busiest and most profitable international crossing on the continent. But there's no room on the Canadian side of the border to increase the capacity of the bridge. So, to solve that problem, the ABC has been acquiring property all along the Indian Ave area, with plans of eventually, in the future of the business, increasing capacity by doubling the bridge. Makes good business sense.

However, the city of Windsor and the provincial and federal Canadian governments have been resistant of an American-owned enterprise making such significant real-estate decisions that have significant financial impacts at the municipal, provincial, federal and international levels. That makes good governing sense as well - so the two parties are at an impasse.

In the mean time, there's no restriction for the ABC to be purchasing/acquiring property anywhere they'd like to acquire it - and in so doing they've turned the Indian Ave. area of the west end a simple ghost town.

So where does this take Windsor?

Windsor group fights for demolition of unsightly homes near Ambassador Bridge
Residents tire of Indian Rd. eyesores

WINDSOR, Ont. — A group of homeowners on Windsor's west side have hired a lawyer and will approach city council tonight to push for demolition of dozens of unsightly homes on Indian Road owned by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.

The billionaire Grosse Pointe transportation businessman has left the homes on the tree-lined street untended.

He is looking to construct a twin span that requires at least the east side of Indian Road to be cleared, but further expansion of the bridge plaza requires considerable property beyond that.

A group calling itself Boarded Up Houses Demolition Action Group led by former city administrator Hilary Payne -- who owns and leases homes in the area -- will ask council to tear down the homes.

"We want to tell council of the appalling conditions by refusing to allow demolition of these properties," Payne said. "It goes on and on.

"It's unacceptable. It's an incredible thing for people around there.

"It's not the bridge stopping this, it's city council."

Well, this is exactly what I imagine the ABC would want - to get those houses torn down - all the easier to transform that area into what they want - rezoned commercial / industrial property. It's difficult right now while it's covered in (condemned) homes.

BUT this is, in the long run, bad for the city, the province and the country. The domestic profits and net revenues to be generated in the long-run of the Windsor/Detroit international crossing have to be considered and acted upon now. There's no way Canada can let an independent foreign transportation businessman take all of those revenues - they HAVE to protect some of that income for themselves. There's FAR TOO MUCH at risk to let the bridge take it.

And tearing all of that down is a step in the wrong direction - the "group of homeowners on Windsor's west side" either are deciding to sell their properties for big profit to the industrialist in the near future, or are too dumb to realize that they'll be forced to sell their homes to the industrialist after their property value submarines deeper than the Titanic. Either their financial opportunists - or fools.

Council has resisted grant-ing demolition permits for the homes until Moroun provides clear information on his plans for the properties on Indian Road and beyond.

Moroun's blighted properties -- familiar by boarded up doors and windows -- have already expanded beyond Indian to include homes on Rosedale Avenue and Mill Street.

A large four-storey apartment building in the 700 block of Mill and adjacent to the Forster secondary school playing field is the latest to show signs of being shuttered and abandoned by Moroun.

An entire block of homes he owns on Edison Street has also been left abandoned.

Moroun used the same strategy of buying up homes and properties one by one through the 1980s and 1990s in Detroit to expand his bridge plaza there.

What this means is: Maroun's plans for the bridge are being kept secret. There must be significant international, Canadian, provincial and municipal roadblocks for Maroun to face if it out-and-out declares an intent to span the bridge. So they're keeping their plans undeclared, although there are tremendous indicators that he is planning on twinning the bridge for the future of the company.

The Canadian government has plans to build a major international crossing (one which the Ambassador Bridge Company doesn't earn money on) of their own further west through an area where there are no residences and few businesses (I think there's a gravel quarry out there?) and a golf course and some forest (forest reservists won't be able to picket loud enough to stop this, I'm positive).

Maybe they can plant a new forest where the Indian Ave. houses have been demolished? I think that'd be great!

So, I don't think it's a good idea to tear those buildings down for the sake of the future of Canada (and I think I've demonstrated the significance of this matter and the stakes involved) but the Demolition Group wants it their way or else...

West Windsor residents blast Windsor council over derelict houses [Nov. 24]

Windsor’s former top bureaucrat was escorted out of council chambers by security Monday night after hurling insults at politicians over the “appalling” state of a growing number of boarded-up houses owned by the Ambassador Bridge in the west side.

[Pictured is Dave Montgomery, President of the Local 1001 Representatives - he KNOWS how these things work. He should know better than to be so disappointed that their demands were not met immediately. I have a feeling that the rowdy ruckus that The Star has described might not have been as rowdy or ruckesed as we are led to believe - esp. with a veteran like Montgomery on the job.]

“Shame on you guys, shame on you all,” Hilary Payne shouted after he and a delegation of residents were refused the opportunity to address council.

The Boarded Up Houses Demolition Action Group had protested and picketed outside city hall prior to council’s meeting, but they were not on the night’s regular agenda and failed to get a necessary two-thirds vote of support to be added at the last minute.

Coun. Caroline Postma put forward a motion to have the matter heard in two weeks, but frustrated residents didn’t want to wait.

So, they're going to be heard, just not immediately - I know these guys have a sense of procedure (hell, half of 'em, I'm sure, are teamsters for a local union). They KNOW that you follow protocol with legislation, with propositions and with meetings - that's how unions work, how you file grievances, how you report to your union stewards, how you bargain for new contracts etc, etc. They KNOW this stuff - so why are they being so finicky about this?

They weren't on the agenda, and they weren't added to the agenda (2/3 of council don't care, though you'd think Postma and Jones would have voted in favour, as it is a matter for their wards to consider).

Then Postma even moved to add the matter to the next agenda. They're having their chance to be heard - but they just aren't getting it now. It's a good thing we don't live in a world of compulsive immediate gratification ... oh wait.

More on the subject?
My old literary stomping grounds has a timely video that showcases what we're talking about here.



On "somewhat" related notes - two more stories from November 23

Trips from U.S. through Windsor drop 15 %

Yes, traffic is down, but it's still this busiest international crossing around.

Car trips from the U.S. through Windsor border points dropped 15 per cent in September versus August, bucking the national trend of a modest 2.1 per cent increase.

Statistics Canada released a report last week for September 2009 travel between Canada and other countries, and it showed there were 105,333 car trips from the U.S. entering through the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge.

In August there were 123,863 trips from the U.S. through Windsor, a decrease of 14.9 per cent.

Nationally, the number of vehicle trips from the U.S. into Canada increased 2.1 per cent, with 1.67 million trips in September compared to 1.64 million in August.

So there's statistic evidence of how bad things are going down in Rose City.

Nothing inappropriate in calls to CUPE's Fox, Jones insists

Now, along the lines of the West End, the Ward 2 Councillor Ron Jones (whom I've mentioned before on this blog) is being investigated for leaking information from City Council in camera meetings (where they were discussing contract negotiations on behalf of the city during that infamous outside workers' strike) to the head of CUPE, Jean Fox.

WINDSOR, Ont. -- City councillor Ron Jones has hired a lawyer to defend his interests against allegations of wrongdoing that may emerge from an investigation into hundreds of cell phone calls to CUPE union president Jean Fox during the 101-day strike by municipal workers.

Jones insisted repeatedly Saturday there has been nothing “inappropriate” in his relationship with Fox — either before, during or after the strike.

He has retained lawyer Craig Allen from prominent Windsor law firm Sutts Strosberg. The city will pay the first $500 of Jones’s legal bill and he will have to pay the rest, he said.

“There is innuendo that I did something inappropriate,” Jones said. “Once again, I know I have done nothing inappropriate.

“It’s a shame I have to get a lawyer to prove myself innocent. I am innocent. Am I having an affair? No.”

The number of calls to Fox on his city-issued BlackBerry during the strike were far less than the 500 suggested by council sources, who leaked that information to reporters after the city’s integrity commissioner Earl Basse allegedly discovered the calls between the two while conducting a parallel investigation, he said.

“To suggest there were 500 calls during the strike is inaccurate, far less than half that,” Jones said.

Ah, so ... it's "a shame" to think anything inappropriate was going on between Jones and Fox during the 100-day CUPE strike because they didn't speak 5 times a day, but rather 2.5 times per day, over 100 days, while the city and CUPE were in a severe CBA negotiation.

His calls and friendship with Fox date back years and many of the calls occurred around his prostate cancer surgery in February, while others focused on supporting Fox while she obtained a restraining order in court against an anti-CUPE protester, Jones said.

“If guilty of anything, maybe some stupidity for using city equipment, but I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said.

“I want to emphasize I did nothing inappropriate. She was there during the time of my cancer surgery, as were a couple of other friends.

“There were friends I confided with during that time.

“I don’t know how else to spin this, but to tell the truth.”

The two have always separated friendship and business, he said, and the majority of calls were less than a minute or two.

“I never talked to her about strategies or city business or anything privately about the strike — nor did she ever broach that subject. People can believe that or not. At some point all the facts will be known.”

Now here is where journalism gets tricky - very tricky. As a human being you must be significantly affected by the friendship between two people who dedicate their lives to serving their constituents during a period where one of them has undergone surgery to remove cancer. The human-being in you wants to actually support the man considering he's served as councillor for many years, as well.

But the journalist should ask the "hard" questions - not because the questions are hard to answer, but because they are hard to ask. There's an inhumanity to journalism, in a way. You have to operate outside of your emotions and empathy for others to get all sides of the story.

There are incredible books written these days about how the media responded during the Post-9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Everyone was so sympathetic and shocked regarding the events that they were willing to service the U.S. government in getting their message of hope, message of support and message of vengeance to the public.

The consequences were heavy - in those instances - as nations were invaded and civil rights were overlooked. Challenging questions on domestic security, sharing information between the FBI and CIA, and international relations were not asked - people were just too shocked. Again, there's something inhuman about journalism - you can't let yourself get caught up in the emotion of whatever you're covering, no matter what it is.

So - do you back off on Jones because he's had prostate cancer surgery? Probably. It's the only human thing to do.

... the follow-up to allegations such as this?

Coun. Jones may turn to voters in cellphone controversy [Nov. 24]

Embattled Coun. Ron Jones, besieged by questions about the propriety of making hundreds of cellphone calls to CUPE Local 543 president Jean Fox during the bitter civic strike, said he may ask voters to determine at the ballot box whether his actions were improper.

“I was discussing retirement after this term with my family. With these here things, my goodness, I may just have to run again — let the citizens decide,” he said after Monday night's council meeting. Council’s current four-year term ends next November.

Sort of tongue-in-cheek of him to suggest that this controversy might have refueled his interest in politics. Has his term been without criticism so much that he was tiring of the job? Hardly. A thoughtful, playful answer from Jones.

Editorial: Unreasonable .05 law hurts bars and restaurants [Nov. 24]
The Windsor Star released an editorial on the new maximum blood alcohol allowance: frankly they've missed the mark and likely only published this to stir the pot on debate for the legislation. Time is up - the legislation is passed, this debate is overdue. Where was the Windsor Star a year or two ago while this was being developed and pushed through? Well - timing aside, here are their thoughts:

The hospitality sector in Windsor and Essex County has been hit hard over the last year; a victim of the global recession and a drop in the number of U.S. visitors. [true, undoubtedly]

Bars and restaurants have been fighting to stay afloat, and the last straw for many owners came in June, when the provincial Liberals introduced legislation slapping drivers with a fine and licence suspension for blowing .05 on a breath test. The legal blood alcohol limit, as we all know, is .08. [but they were negatively impacted when smoking was banned (which Windsor was last to follow) and moreso when the tourism industry dropped out the ass of the country.]

Things could get even worse if federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson follows through on his pledge to give police the right to conduct random roadside breathalyser tests, even if there's no indication a driver has been drinking. [they have these - they're called Ride Programs]

[...]

Chris Ryan, who owned the successful Patrick O. Ryan's on Pitt Street, understands full well how hard it is for those in the industry to make a living. Now, as the new CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex and Pelee Island, Ryan is charged with finding ways to generate interest and bring visitors back to this area. [It's ALWAYS been hard to make money in the restaurant/bar industry - it's also the most susceptible to any change in any social norms - the restaurant/bar industry is the canary in the coal mine for any economy - and holy cow! Windsor's is in the shitter - it's NOT because of any legislation, it's because of the economy]

It will be a difficult task, and Ontario's unreasonable liquor laws will only make it harder to entice people to cross the border for their entertainment. [yeah, like foreigners make the best decisions while drinking on vacation, right? You'd better make changes for them.]

There's no reason to think otherwise, because the new rules have already had a detrimental effect on the law-abiding residents of Windsor and Essex County.

"You hear customers talking about it," says Nicole Sekela [whoop! my old boss!], who co-owns the Rock Bottom bar and restaurant on Sandwich Street [whoop! my old job!]. "People are afraid to even have a drink on their way home from work."

Exactly. These aren't your chronic drunk drivers, who don't know when to stop. These are responsible social drinkers, who are used to having one or two drinks with friends or cocktails with dinner.

I remember being absolutely pissed about this legislation when it came out, too. There are new rules that are made every year, and existing rules are made more strict every year. Frankly, in 100 years, freedom will be a relic from the "good ol' days when people were allowed to walk down the street in the night time."Honestly, each year the difference between how we live, and how we'd live under martial law gets a little bit closer. I don't want to see any more rules - I want people to be allowed to do things - and I fear that we won't be able to have things or do things in the future. People fear that the environment is being taken away so that the old pond we used to swim in when we were little is just going to be a roadhouse that serves great steaks? What about the freedom to simply go out and swim in public - the days are numbered, seriously. I can think of a dozen things that could happen while you're out swimming in public that could be restricted, criminalized and banned - and I'm sure you can, too. It's just a matter of time.

All of that aside - that was my initial reaction - but I can't possibly argue with a law that shows how very serious it is when someone is injured (or worse) in a DWI. There is too much at stake and too many loved ones out there to be affected on both sides of the wheel.

Drinking at the bar is fine, and trust me Windsor, you have enough that you can find a local pub in walking distance from where you live. You could live three kilometres straight up in the sky, and still be merely a block away from a bar. Just FIND ANOTHER WAY to get home after a drink. THAT'S ALL this legislation is saying.

And if bars and restaurants are closing everywhere because people are afraid of DUIs, that means one of two things (or both): 1) people are too lazy to walk a few blocks for a beer with friends or; 2) there was a dramatically high instance of Windsorites who drove after having a few drinks - and if this is the case, what are the odds that every once in a while, someone who only had a few, and one or two more than a few, headed out anyhow because they were just in the habit of it?

This law means only one thing: THINK before you get going and plan ahead. The Windsor Star should know better than this, and I HOPE that it's only a stunt to get people fired up and reading the paper some more. (it probably is).


Cigarettes taken during break-in [Nov. 24]

Two male thieves smashed into a Lakeshore business after hours and stole thousands of dollars in cigarettes, say OPP.

The crime occurred around 3 a.m. Saturday in the 1600 block of County Road 46.

Officers found the front window of the business had been smashed, drawers were ransacked and about $3,800 worth of cigarettes was missing.

A sign of the times. You're gonna see more and more of this, Windsor.

What a tough week! I want to only post about this subject once a week - but if I'm going to get monster posts like this because there are so many issues ... I may have to increase its exposure. But I don't want to become WindsorCityBlog (one of my links on the right) which seems to have enormous volumes of "What the Hell is wrong with Windsor?-type" material. So, once a week should be just fine. I always try and follow up with some highlights from comics.

Anyhow - more on the Ambassador Bridge and Moroun's company whom we've already discussed earlier.

Bridge sues state over blocked access ramps [Nov. 25]

The Ambassador Bridge filed a lawsuit Tuesday to force the state of Michigan to open key freeway access links to the bridge.

The Michigan Department of Transportation had piled large mounds of dirt the entire length of new I-75 and I-96 access ramps it constructed in Detroit as part of the new state-led US$230-million Gateway Project designed to improve freeway connections to the border crossing.

While the dirt has been removed, MDOT has continued to block the ramps with construction equipment, said bridge president Dan Stamper.

"If the ramps are done, then open them," Stamper said. "If there are disagreements let the courts decide, but don't use the travelling public as pawns."

This just goes to show how serious Moroun and the ABC are when it comes to putting traffic on their bridge. They want it, and they'll sue you to get it. But there's more to the story:

MDOT said Tuesday the ramps will open only when the bridge company lives up to its obligations under the Gateway Project agreements.

"We would love to open the ramps. All we need is for the Ambassador Bridge to follow their signed contract and build what they agreed to build," said MDOT spokesman Bill Shreck.

Opening the ramps would allow the bridge to avoid its responsibility to construct two bridges over 23rd Street, along with a dedicated truck road the bridge company agreed to build that takes trucks from the U.S. customs plaza directly to I-75 and I-96 and off local streets, he said.

"Prematurely opening the ramps would make it impossible for (the bridge company) to finish their agreed upon work," Shreck said.

During the project, the bridge company had also been accused of building on public and private land it does not own.

Oh, so this is a shoving match down by the sandbox? I see - I didn't think government could actually be this petty, but apparently they are. You'd think the MI state would just financially penalize the company until they "follow their signed contract and build what they agreed to build." Or financially penalize them for "building on public and private land it does not own." Isn't the Michigan government in a financial crisis? Why the hell aren't they fining the daylights ou of the bridge and recouping some of the operating costs they can't possibly withdraw from taxpayers? Move the piles of dirt, dumbasses, and send them a ticket - what's your deficit? Take that number and charge it to the ABC. Problem solved.

Are the Bridge's motives really so suspicious? Here's another video from The Lance on the subject:



afterward

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost news 3

Here's a new video for the upcoming season - it was released at ComiCon back in August, but apparently it's only making news now because - all of the material at Comicon wasn't to be released for a long while. No new footage for the upcoming season (because back then they hadn't started filming yet , of course) and also because the executive directors are intent on showing no new footage so viewers can't be spoiled by the network's commercials. Good idea!



Also, the official release date for the Season 5 has been set for December 8.

Bad news for Lost's hopeful successor - Fast Forward. Apparently the show is going on a short production hiatus.
Still, the news comes at a time when 'FlashForward''s ratings are beginning to fall off. The show debuted to an impressive 12.4 million viewers at the end of September; last week, the show fell to 8 million viewers total -- a series low.

A steady decline like this is something that is hard to recover from, but data also suggests that 'FlashForward' might be a popular show for DVR users. When you factor those numbers in, the show is still being watched by over 10 million every week. So, maybe it's not bad news after all.
I think all is well for the remainder of this season for the show. There's been a lot invested in it (including hope for the network) so don't worry if you're a fan of the show.

A New "Lost University" video
This video is on the mysteries of Lost. These are basically the big four or five that have been teased along since the first season. It would be rewarding to have all of 'em answered in the final season.


And that's about all of the good Lost stuff I could find this week - hope you like it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Leafs this week [21 - 27]

Weekly scoring statistics

Top Leafs this week:
1) Niklas Hagman - well, this isn't a hard pick. Everybody in the Toronto media is saying that Hagman is the man. They're in love with him. Hagman has always had a flair for scoring cool goals - but sometimes they come in bunches. Is he going to score 40 this year? Well, according to this week's pace, sure - but according to the previous 20 games of hockey before this week - no way. So ... he should be praised for what he did last week/this week, but let's hold off before we start calling him a "future hall of famer," okay?

That said, Hagman had four goals in three games against mediocre teams in the Islanders and Lightning and the top eastern team in the Capitals. Definitely had one of his best weeks as a Maple Leaf, which should be rewarded with recognition - but not expected game-in and game-out, of course. Thirteen shots and a plus-three rating were also very good indicators that his game was on the rise. Let's see how he keeps it up for next week. My recommendation is - stay high on him if he keeps up this awesome pace, but don't get down on him if he doesn't.

2) Matt Stajan - one goal and two assists for three points over three games is a consistent effort with a hard-fought game against the Capitals, and then good offensive output against the Islanders and a great goal against the Lightning. Three points for only six shots on net is high-value performance, considering a goal every six shots is pretty effective - that's hovering around 15% success - very good for shooting percentage.

3) Carl Gunnarsson - it's good to have a balanced series of top-stars in a given week. You don't want three forwards - you don't want all defensemen, and it had better not be three goalies. That being said, the rookie Carl Gunnarsson (2 "ns" and 2 "ss") looked awesome, and contributed greatly while looking so good. A plus-4 rating, 7 shots on net, three assists against Tampa and relied upon in the finals minutes of games when the Leafs are leading - high praise from a tough coach; esp. for a rookie. Gunnarsson is looking real good, and the Leafs should be excited to have a reliable d-man coming up out of the minors.

Notable(s) - good: Nik Kulemin, he only generated one goal to speak of, but he has performed very well in the corners digging out pucks and keeping the cycle low in the opposition's zone. That's good to see. He looks big and strong, and with some seasonsing, some coaching, and hopefully some success - his development could finally take a step forward. The Leafs have been waiting for him to grow into his first round pick status. Vesa Toskala earned a shootout win against the Caps - which helps the Leafs feel more confident with him in net. A shootout win for Toskala has been difficult since the shootout began - so it's good to see some success from him. Despite his poor performance (in which he was consequently injured from) his GAA was around 2.4 and save percentage was around 91.5 - these are marked improvements from his efforts in the past 1.2 seasons. Offensive possession - the Leafs averaged 45 shots on net per game this week, including a whopping 61 shot peformance against the Islanders - this is an indication that they are able to play a puck-possession game and control the offense. Bad: goal output - yeah the Leafs are controlling the play and getting lots of scoring chances - but they need to translate that into goals, which is a bit of a struggle. It's not good for them to average 45 shots, yielding only 2.6 goals per game. But the more they get used to having control, the more they'll get used to taking their time, and then ... that's when you should start seeing some better results. Jason Blake has struggled with only 1 assist, and a minus-1 rating. Not good for what's expected of a former-40 goal scorer. Tomas Kaberle was a team-worst minus-four for the week, and a deserved minus-four, as well. His turnovers were brutal, his defense wasn't nearly as sharp as it's been in the past; frankly, what made him a valuable addition to the team is not working for him right now - and that's got to be remedied or else he could be benched more often than he'd like.

So how do the Leafs sit now with a few points under their belt and three point-worthy performances?

Last in their division, eight points behind the Canadiens; second last in their conference, 2 points up on Carolina and 7 points behind the Florida Panthers (whom they play tonight); and 29th in the NHL, only 2 points behind the Minnesotta Wild - so there are a few steps they can take with a couple more points to climb from the depths they've fallen to; and they have to look at each game as something to prove instead of the standings, because they know where they are - perhaps with a few more solid games they can surprise themselves with tangible improvements.

----
Washing Capitals of Nov. 21
Probably the best defensive game we've seen the Maple Leafs play this season. In fact, there's no doubt that this was their best defensive game. However, this was also an apt example of how incomplete their game remains. They were absolutely absent of quality offense. There was a telling statistic put up during CBC's broadcast that showed the Leafs were 3rd in the league with shots on net, and 29th in the league in scoring. Obviously their "just get it on the net" strategy is not working out.

Seeing that the only reason the Leafs got any points in this game at all (which remember, was their best game all season) was a shot that redirected off of a defenseman's ass, then bounced up into the air onto Niklas Hagman whom had the puck then bounce off of his "upper body area" and then into the net. That's the Leaf's example of offense? Not good enough. This also demonstrates why this is NOT a turning point for the Leafs - because although this was a win against the top team in the Eastern Conference, it was a complete effort that demonstrates how anemic their offense is.

Scary, I know.

The good part is, this was Vesa Toskala's best game of the season, and I've heard some say his best game as a Maple Leaf. It was a first-star performance, and consequently, this win was a complete team effort. They outshot the Capitals (which doesn't mean much more than that they controlled the play - which they did) and contained the most "electrifying player in the NHL" in Ovechkin, who was terrible, yet still managed to score a goal. Goes to show how well he can shoot even when he's terrible.

Toskala absolutely has to have another strong outing against the New York Islanders on Monday - which we are all hoping for. We want to see what John Tavares can do at the National League level, but we have to see Toskala keep the pressure on Gustavsson. Again, the key to the Leafs is having a battle between the pipes that inspires and pressures both Toskala and Gustavsson to compete to their fullest potential game in and game out. Toskala has raised his game to its highest level since he became a Maple Leaf with three consecutive strong games, which only included 1 win due to the struggling offensive strategy of the team.

Second - we need to see some power plays that usual actual strategic offensive plays to score goals; and more importantly, we need to see some improvement on five-on-five offensive strategic execution. The "third?" line of Kulemin, Stempniak and Mitchell was dominating on Saturday - so perhaps they will build on their strong forechecking and deep cycling to keep their opposition pinned down in the corner for long shifts.

Ian White had another awesome game (where he and Beauchemin shut down Ovechkin and the entire Capitals team with apparent ease) and it has to be noted that there was a report that Beauchemin actually told coach Ron Wilson, "I want to be up against Ovechkin all game long." That's the attitude that makes me think that these two are going to be the cornerstone of the Leafs defense for the next two years. I guarantee you don't hear Tomas Kaberle saying that sort of thing.

While on the subject of the Leafs defense, there was a moment when I saw No. 36 execute an awesome toe-drag to break into the offensive zone, and I thought to myself, "Who's that? Is that Wayne Primeau? That was an awesome move." No, it wasn't Primeau, who's hardly played in the last two weeks, and I have no idea what number he wears (it's 18, FYI), but rather it was a rookie named Carl Gunarsson.

Gunnarsson did some amazing things during this game. That toe-drag was really cool, and there was another instance where he jumped into the play and took a great shot on net. He looks great out there and shows some promise of being a reliable offensive, puck-moving defenseman. The other cool thing about Gunnarsson, he can body-check like a mean SOB, as evidenced in the preseaon this year. A good and valuable all-around game. Looking forward to more from him, for sure!

- - - -
New York Islanders of Nov. 23
The kitchen sink was the only thing missing from this game - otherwise, the Leafs shot it at Dwayne Roloson - who made 58 saves during the game. He managed to take the Islanders into overtime - and that's when it only takes a moment to win a game, whereas it takes entire game to to make it to overtime. The Islanders were happy to win a game they had no business winning - and this served as an example of the type of performance the Leafs head coach Ron Wilson would like to see out of his goalies once in a while.

Toskala let in three goals on three shots in the second period, deflating the Leafs, but then pulled himself from the game with a self-diagnosed injury (which later kept him out of practice). Tough for him and the team - just as he was getting into form. Gustavsson filled in for relief, but the Leafs only faced six shots after Vesa came out - hardly a night's work in net to call it relief.

Tampa Bay Lightning of Nov. 25
A tough game against a team with a few game-breakers in their line (with Lecavallier, Stamkos and St. Louis) the Leafs took the lead, lost the lead, took the lead, lost the lead, and played like that until Stajan scored an awesome goal to put the Leafs in front for good.

Most notable was that Kulemin and Gunnarsson were out on the ice during the final minutes of the game for the Leafs. The coach hasn't put Kaberle out to finish a game for a long while, and it's likely because TK hasn't been sot hot lately.

Gunnarsson was awesome in this game - and Gustavsson was very good as well - giving the Leafs two more points to help them along their way up from the bottom of the NHL.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Extent 1.09 | Breakdown

Here it is, the long awaited and much anticipated next episode of The Extent. I hope you like it.



If you visit the homepage, www.youtube.com/extenttv, and click on the blog link on the right, I actually made a video appearance.

Dinosaur Roud-up 3

Crocodile ancestors found in Sahara

[Paleontologist Paul Sereno poses with models of his Saharan discoveries, clockwise from top right: BoarCroc, PancakeCroc, RatCroc, DogCroc , DuckCroc and, in front of Serono, SuperCroc. (Mike Hettwer/National Geographic)]


Those crocs are bad-ass!

A six-metre croc with three sets of fangs is among the five ancient relatives of modern-day crocodiles found in the Sahara Desert, scientists said Thursday.

Three of the fossils, discovered by researchers led by Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago and Hans Larsson of McGill University, represent newly named species.

The fossil remains were found in a series of expeditions beginning in 2000.

All of the prehistoric crocs lived about 100 million years ago in the southern super-continent known as Gondwana, when the region that is now the Sahara featured dinosaurs and grassy plains criss-crossed by rivers.

"These species open a window on a croc world completely foreign to what was living on northern continents," Sereno said in a statement.

Most interesting:

"My African crocs appeared to have had both upright, agile legs for bounding overland and a versatile tail for paddling in water," Sereno wrote in a National Geographic article.

"Their amphibious talents in the past may be the key to understanding how they flourished in, and ultimately survived, the dinosaur era," he wrote.

Another article from USA Today describes that animals thusly:

The study shows crocodiles came in all sizes:

  • •Kaprosuchus saharicus, or BoarCroc, found in Niger, was equipped with three rows of slashing teeth.
  • •Araripesuchus rattoides, or RatCroc, was a 3-foot-long, bucktoothed plant-eater found in Morocco.
  • •Laganosuchus thaumastos, or PancakeCroc, was a 20-foot-long, flat-headed fish-eater (judging from the teeth) found in Niger and Morocco.
  • The DuckCroc was a Pinocchio-nosed 3-foot-long fish eater and DogCroc, a galloping plant-eater with a short muzzle.
That picture was found at this site. It looks pretty awesome, I agree.

Another problem I have with news coverage of dinosaurs
Paleontologists moving bones from southern Utah

Associated Press - November 22, 2009 12:25 PM ET

CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) - Paleontologists have begun moving parts of a rich collection of dinosaur bones uncovered recently in southern Utah.

Bureau of Land Management paleontologist Alan Titus says the site found in 2007 is 1 of best so far at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

He says that among the fossils found at the site are remnants of a duckbilled dinosaur, an armored creature that had a clubbed tail and a type of small flying dinosaur.

Some of the bones were taken out of the monument by helicopter last week.

1 of the dinosaurs - identified as a new species two years ago - will be reconstructed and displayed at the new Utah Museum of Natural History under construction at the University of Utah.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

How on earth does something like this get published as actual news? First off, there's no way that this was a story from the AP (associated press) because it would mean this article saw at least three editors before it was published - which this obviously hasn't. How can I tell? First off, you absolutely NEVER start a sentence with a numeric character "1" nor would you WRITE the number "1" in numeric characters in a news article. Totally amateur.

Second: the article provides absolutely no information on anything. It doesn't name the dinosaurs - and only briefly describes a few of the fossils. Seriously, this is "newsworthy" because it contains dinosaurs in it - so why not feature them in the article? No idea what the hell is going on in this article.

Then again - Jack Armstrong on the Fan 590 always says that Utah is 20 years behind everyone else, so maybe that explains it? Shame on Utah - even the fossils are getting up and leaving.

Dinosaurs make great movie stars! Don't I know it. Now, it would appear, there's a museum where you can take them all in at once!

Dinosaurs have been roaming the movie screens ever since film has lived. And the Cine-Saurus exhibit at the Fullerton Museum shows how Hollywood was actually intent on depicting dinosaurs properly.

“The people involved in making dinosaurs movies wanted to do them as accurately as possible, so they followed the artwork by Charles Knight, who translated the science into artwork,” said curator Stephen Czerkas.

The exhibit opens on April 4, 2010 - way out in Los Angeles, CA. Hmmm?

Walking Among Dinosaurs

Apparently this guy has an awesome collection of fossils all over his property - so now he just gives tours around his place instead of farming - not sure what his communist government will think of that when it comes time to deliver his quota to the republic BUT at least he's got cool dinosaurs!

Sihetun is a nondescript village tucked into the dusty brown hills of western Liaoning province, in almost every respect indistinguishable from countless other farming communities of Northeast China. But it was here 13 years ago that Li Yinfang changed the course of science.

Li, a stocky, good-humored farmer with two children, was planting a tree when he noticed something unusual in the ground. With the help of three friends, he carefully unearthed what turned out to be a stunningly well-preserved fossil.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lefevre's Redemption update

Lefevre's Redemption continues to plod forward - albeit not full-time forward (like I was hoping a little while ago) but forward nonetheless. I've been spending a lot of time on blog posts lately (have you noticed that they've contained a lot more material in them than ... oh say, ever?).

That doesn't mean that I haven't been working (albeit slowly) on the novel, too. And good things are coming of it. In the last time since I've posted an update on the book, I have:

105 pages collated into the second draft, I'm up to the mid-way point in Chapter Seventeen, and have the next 13 story beats plotted out and ready to put in sync.

I think I was only at page 56 last time I made an update on the matter - so that's fair progress. The book ISN'T 200 pages - so I'd have to think that there's only another 50 (or so) more pages to go! Awesome.

So, still on the schedule:

Chapter 17, scenes 3, 4
Chapter 18, scenes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Chapter 19, scenes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Chapter 20, scenes 1, 2, 3, 4
Chapter 21, scenes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Chapter 22, scenes 1, 2, 3
Chapter 23, scenes 1

I've also realized that by taking the first part of the story, and the second part of the story, and basically shuffling them together like two parts of the same deck of cards, isn't quite an accurate way of how this story is going to be pieced together. When I was redesigning the plot points and scene outlines, I was basically describing the scenes as they existed, and synchronizing them in order in the narrative. Then I added some ideas to help blend them all together - but that's not quite how this is working out, either.

It's been a very interesting process, but one for the better, no doubt. I'm very eager to get this wrapped up. Will it be done by Christmas? By New Years? Any time soon?

Well, I'm closer than ever - and still have lots of time to dedicate to it, so we can only wait and see. And by we, I mean me. I'm sure everyone else is tired of hearing about this thing I've been working on (and thus mentioning pathologically) all the time. I think everyone's ready to hear that it's done. Believe me, I'm one of those people, too. Hey, we've got stuff in common.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Odd news

I had made mention of a Rambo Sequel in September, but it seems from this post that Sly Stallone realized that his fans out there might not enjoy Rambo vs. Monster-Rambo. No kidding, people wouldn't be into that? The site says:
No more monster, seƱor. Back in September, /Film connected the dots between the creature feature aspect of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo 5 and his rights to the sci-fi thriller novel, Hunter, by James Huggins. As one might expect, the idea of John Rambo tracking and being tracked by a genetically engineered “abomination” in snow country split fans like a coconut.

As a premise, it fell in line with Stallone’s previous statements about a new genre direction for the franchise, and the promo art above was even released to tease this aspect. Well, today the action legend confirmed that he’s scrapped the idea for the sequel and reserved it for a separate film outside the franchise. So, where will Rambo go next, and more importantly, who as opposed to what will he bludgeon? In his words: “There will be blood.”

So that's good news for everyone. He also, apparently, has Cliffhanger 2 in the works. He hasn't developed an original character in years. Why is he bringing back all his old work?

What would you expect to find in Loch Ness?
If your answer was "100,000 golf balls" you'd be absolutely correct. What did you think you were going to find in there?


You think people are going to quit using email any day soon?
Some brainiac thinks people may quit emailing one another within a decade?

The research showed that youngsters in their late teens or early twenties much preferred using the likes of Twitter or MSN Messenger. Only half of them used email regularly.

It isn’t too difficult to extrapolate that trend and imagine email dying out, especially if new concepts such as Google Wave take hold.

TalkTalk stated on its blog: “Email has been the dominant mode of communication over the internet for the past 20 years, but that doesn’t mean it always will be.”

“Increasingly people want to send quick, short messages reaching many people in one go, and there are now better ways of doing that than via email.”

I had no idea Seth Rogen wrote for the Simpson's

I watched an episode of the Simpsons last Sunday, like usual, and was a bit surprised to see Seth Rogen's name for the writing credit ( I believe there was another writer who was also given credit). That being said, I looked it up, and sure enough, he was the second ever guest celebrity writer for the show.

Seth Rogen has co-written the premiere of the 21st season of The Simpsons.

The Funny People star, who is the second celebrity to both write and act on the animated series after Ricky Gervais, has said that it was an honour to work with the cast of The Simpsons.

Rogen told The Huffington Post: "As a writer, it always just seemed like the Holy Grail. I can die a happy man now."

The 27-year-old actor will play a trainer hired to get Homer Simpson into shape in an episode titled 'Homer The Whopper'.

He said: "We wanted to comment on how Hollywood generally ruins these movies. The whole joke is Homer is cast to play a guy who's an everyman and they try to make him into this physically fit guy."

Rogen has also said that recording with the cast was "one of the highlights of my life".


Neat - plus I thought the new episode of the Simpson's last Sunday was absolutely hilarious - the pranks that Milhouse and Bart were pulling off were pretty classic - I laughed very hard when they were gassing the teacher's with nitrous oxide (breaking them into laughter) and then carbon monoxide (causing them to pass out). Man, risque!

Zombie Outbreak Simulator How do you do this? With Google Maps, Sim City and the undead
Basically, it's a zombie invasion in our nation's capital. You can change the details of the invasion in any way you choose: Zombie speed, infection rate, number of civilians, percentage of civilians armed, number of highly effective police, and more. You can play around with it to either defeat the zombies (boooooring), let them take over the city and pretend like some of their more gruesome kills are of your opposition politician of choice (take that, Michele Bachmann!), or try to make the odds even and see who really wants it more. Warning: Turn down your speakers if you're at work. The eerie post-rock soundtrack is accompanied by the expected array of flesh-hungry moans, which is the kind of thing that's sort of tricky to explain away as part of your quarterly PowerPoint earnings presentation. [Class 3 Outbreak]

Monday, November 23, 2009

Highlights from comics 2

After all of that crime and punishment in yesterday's post - here are some things that may make you laugh. I suppose the appropriate tag would be NSFW.

There's an update from Goblins, which moves the story no-where fast, but it's kinda funny.

Cyanide and Happiness
A movie review for the most popular film this weekend?

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net


Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
























As well as SMBC Theatre

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What the Hell is Wrong with Windsor? 2

Windsor continues to have some of the most ghastly news you're ever going to hear. Here are more reasons why I'm happy I got out.

Neighbour's investigation led to child porn arrest [Nov. 18]
This is a horrible story - and good for the woman neighbour who did what was necessary to get a guy like this not only off the streets, but off the Internet as well. Unbelievable material. Seriously.

The woman called police, but she had no proof of what had transpired.

She got software to capture the communications and contacted Slade again the next day.

Showing his face on camera while fondling himself, Slade gave the woman enough ammunition to get himself arrested.

Slade was sentenced Tuesday to three years in jail. Getting two-for-one credit for the six months he spent in jail, Slade was sentenced to an additional two years in jail.

After his release, he’ll be on probation for three years.

What Slade’s neighbour learned about him from the initial two online communications in the summer of 2008 was the tip of the iceberg. When police raided the Bruce Avenue apartment Slade shared with his brother, they seized computer materials chock full of child pornography — 568 images and 165 digital movies he’d shared on line. They also found chat logs so graphic and disturbing, details were entered as an exhibit in court to avoid being read out loud.

Arsonists knock out cable, phone, Internet to thousands [Nov. 18]

WINDSOR, Ont. — Arsonists who torched two garages and a car early Tuesday also destroyed several fibre optic lines, knocking out Internet, phone and cable service to several thousand people across downtown and the west end.

Police said total damage from the fires, which all happened in the same area in central Windsor, is estimated at $100,000. It appears trash was used to fuel the flames.

Kildare House closes its doors [Nov. 18]
I almost had a job there at the Kildare - good thing I didn't stay in Windsor for them! Frankly, I won't miss this place - although a lot of people seemed to think it was awesome. I lived just about two blocks away for a year - the only time I went there during that period we got chased out by idiot-regulars who thought they were being heroes.

My first impression of the potential local haunt has already been chronicled - and I leave it at that. Good riddence.

WINDSOR, Ont. — The sudden closing of a Walkerville landmark, the Kildare House, was greeted with sadness Tuesday as news quickly spread — on the streets and online.

"I think it's sad. It's a loss for the neighbourhood for sure," lamented Joan Charette, co-ordinator of the Walkerville Business Improvement Association.

She and association president Jake Rondot expect to assess the situation and see what can be done to recruit a new business on-site.

The closing follows what's been a successful run for the association and its efforts to attract new business to the historic district.

"It hurts to see a mainstay go," Rondot said of the Kildare.

Opened about 10 years ago, the Kildare House, located at 1880 Wyandotte St. E. at Kildare Road, became known for its Celtic attitude, entertainment, patio and signature menu items that included fish and chips and deep-fried Mars Bars.

Violence rising in teenage relationships [Nov. 20] Not good - and never good to hear about. At least all these bad things are being uncovered and penalized. But I know that Hiatus House is a busy spot - meaning that there's a lot more of this going on than makes the papers.

AMHERSTBURG -- A 16-year-old Amherstburg girl has told police she suffered beatings at the hand of her former boyfriend in what some experts say is part of a growing trend of teenage domestic violence.

On Tuesday, Amherstburg police arrested the former boyfriend — who’s now 18 — on four counts of assault, one count of forcible confinement and one count of assault with a weapon.

All the charges stem from incidents that the victim says happened in the spring, when she and the accused were at the height of their 11-month romance.

Police $1.5M over budget [Nov. 20]
WINDSOR, Ont. -- Windsor’s police force is about $1.5 million over budget, and a city councillor says the chief culprit is pay equity legislation.

“The bottom line is you don’t have any choice,” said Fulvio Valentinis, a member of the police services board.

“This piece of legislation has wreaked havoc on this city. I don’t think the public realizes the ramifications.

“The pay equity commissioner has a lot of power to make rulings.

“There are only limited ways to deal with that.”

Higher than expected costs related to equity payouts for civilian employees ($600,000), workers compensation claims ($350,000) and overtime ($150,000) were largely blamed for the department’s year-to-date overspending, according to the city’s latest budget variance report, which includes numbers as of Aug. 31.

[...]

Other municipal departments showing shortfalls so far this year include the city’s engineering and corporate projects ($489,000), social support services ($470,000), Huron Lodge ($340,000) and legal department ($320,000).

Overall, the city is running a budget surplus of about $3.9 million over planned spending for 2009 of $710 million, according to the report. Savings of $5.7 million from this summer’s 101-day municipal strike are said to be not included in the numbers. [Really? That sounds great! They're rolling in money! I wonder who gets a bonus for having a surplus at the end of the year?]

[...]

Other noteworthy figures in the report include a surplus in corporate financial accounts thanks to $1.2-million higher-than-anticipated revenues from interest and penalties on tax arrears. [Hmm, so, people aren't even paying their taxes, but they'll surely pay the penalties and arrears you've charged them? Yeah, I wouldn't label all of that money as "collectible." In fact, didn't the last property the city assumed control of due to $3M in owed payments wind up costing the city $6.1M just to get the industrial property clean?]

The city’s building permit reserve account has a deficit of about $5.4 million because of low permit requests. City leaders are studying whether to substantially increase those fees and development charges.

So how could this happen? Why are the cops running out of money so quickly? ...

... Cops probing murder sift through 2,200 white Escalades to find theirs [Nov. 20]
Oh - they had to find a needle in a haystack.

WINDSOR, Ont. -- The discovery of a white SUV could be the break police need to end a daunting murder probe that has involved combing through thousands of vehicles, interviewing several dozen people and scouring at least three cities.

Police said Thursday they’ve have found the Escalade that witnesses saw speeding away after Mohamed Mohamed Yusuf, 23, was shot in the back on Sept. 27. It was Windsor’s fifth homicide of the year.

“This investigation has taken us to London, Toronto and back again,” said Staff Sgt. Norm Burkoski, head of the major crimes unit. “It has been an in-depth investigation and we continue to work at it. It ranks up there with the more complicated cases that we do investigate here. It’s quite a daunting task when you arrive upon a scene that’s an outside crime scene and there’s nobody left in the area.”

I'm glad they've got their man, though. People shouldn't be shot dead on the streets of Windsor. That's too scary to imagine.

Woman who taped ammo to ankles jailed [Nov. 20]

I know what you're thinking - who does that? Well, weapons smugglers do. She was arrested crossing the border - it's scary to think that anyone in a Honda might be smuggling guns or ammunition.

WINDSOR, Ont. -- A young Windsor woman who duct-taped handgun ammunition to her ankles before coming into Canada is in jail after being convicted this week of smuggling.

Charaith Holley, 21, came across the Ambassador Bridge on April 21 in a silver Honda. Border guards were on the lookout for the car after receiving a tip that it was involved in weapons smuggling.

When searched, Holley had 50 rounds of .25 calibre Winchester ammunition taped to one ankle and 20 rounds of 9-millimeter Luger ammunition taped to the other. Lugers are restricted weapons in Canada and .25 calibre handguns are prohibited.

Holley is not licensed to own either kind of weapon.

“It’s a pretty serious matter, coming into Canada with bullets taped to your ankles,” Ontario court judge Guy DeMarco said before sentencing the young woman to 30 days in jail.

And without getting into too many further details, else this post will be enormous, U of W instructor quarantined with TB. I think my wife had TB once - she was tested for it, and then never heard back from her doctor's office (he was on vacation, so someone else did the test). Months later, she went in for a check-up and the doctor asked, "So, how'd that pneumonia clear up?"

.... oh that's right, it was pneumonia - not TB. Never mind then.

Many local restaurants 'hanging by a thread' [Nov. 20]
I will never open up my own restaurant - only because you can be the best manager, the best chef, have the best service and all of that - and if the economy sucks, you're losing money for no good reason.

That being said - since the Kildare House announced its closing - it should be mentioned that:

WINDSOR, Ont. -- The closing of the Kildare House this week is a sad but hardly surprising sign of brutal business conditions, say members of the local hospitality industry.

“There’s a lot of restaurants out there hanging by a thread,” said Rick Williams.

“This is as tough as I’ve ever seen it,” added Williams, who’s been in the business 30 years and owns Williams Food Equipment, a large, independent foodservice equipment supplier based in Windsor.

“I’m surprised at the number of restaurants that have held on,” said Chris Ryan. A former downtown pub owner and restaurateur, he’s CEO of the new Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island organization.

“I’ve heard a few other places are close to closing,” agrees Marc McAfrey, co-owner with Don MacPherson of Cramdon’s Tap and Eatery in South Windsor.

“Everything’s down” and the Kildare’s closing in Walkerville reflects just the way it is, McAfrey explained.

Tough times have taken their toll.

In recent months, several higher-profile places besides the Kildare have shut down. They include the former Chatham Street Grill and Three... a Tasting Bar, both in downtown Windsor, Tecumseh’s Chop House and the former Murphy’s on Windsor’s east side as well as chain locations, including a Montana’s and Hooters and Outback Steakhouse.

Two places were torn down a year ago, the popular Patrick O. Ryan’s on Pitt Street East for a downtown bank building and the former Sandhill Tavern for a new Detroit River bridge access route from Highway 401.

“These closings were considered successful businesses,” Nada Jahn, who with her husband Wayne operates Meadows by the Lake near Amherstburg, said of news of the Kildare and former Chatham Street Grill.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lost news 2 [looking forward to February]

The start of Season 6 has been officially announced as Tuesday, February 2 - which is a new night - and as far as I know, I don't usually watch something on that night anyhow.

As for a follow-up show each week that was alluded to last time I posted about Lost, apparently this is not only a good idea, but it's also common with cable shows? And if Lost were a sports program, you'd never notice how very common it is for there be hours dedicated to talking about what you're about to see before the show, and what you saw afterwards.

This has a lot to do with something my brother brought to my attention - Mark Cuban's blog (the obnoxious, outspoken, super-rich NBA franchise owner) - who had noticed that sports ratings are WAY up this year (or so he says).

It has trained us to assign two distinct values to content that is available to us, regardless of media. The 1st variable is participation value. The 2nd variable is shelf life. The two variables go hand in hand.

Every type of content has some quotient of participation value. At the bottom of the spectrum are games/shows/movies/events that you watch or attend by yourself, and you have no interest in telling anyone about. Those shows have zero participation value. They could be Perry Mason reruns (happened to catch one while I was working out on the road) or shows you watch when you have nothing better to do.

At the top of the scale are games/shows/movies/events that potential viewers have predicted to have high participation value. These are events that we look forward to not only watching or attending, but that we plan in advance how we are going to extend our participation. We may plan on tweeting about it or posting a facebook update because we know our friends are there and we are bragging to each other, while at the same time showing off to friends who cant be there. Think going to the opening of Cowboys stadium, or going to a concert or opening night of a movie, or watching the big game.

Or we may plan on going online and participating in discussion forums or chats. Or we may be planning on posting comments on our favorite websites where others have shared interests. For others it may be some version of gaming, ala fantasy sports.

Sports of course have high affinity engagement, and because of the internet, they have increasing participation opportunities. You may watch a Magic game just to be able to tweet to Dwight Howard what you saw while watching the game. You may watch the Giants Eagles game because your fantasy teams are stacked with players from those teams and your league allows first come changes. Or you may just want to see how your guys did so you can text your friends in the league and give them a hard time, or take a hard time. Its very, very common for fans of MMA (mixed martial arts) to stay up to the wee hours to watch our Dream Fights from Japan on HDNet , all the while online discussing the fight and then arguing over the outcome with others doing the exact same thing.

The higher the participation value, the shorter the shelf life. The role of the internet for high participation games/shows/events is not to show them, its to enable the participation. The explosion of Social Networking and social networking enabled games and applications has strengthened this as the internet’s role. Its improving TV ratings of shows with high participation value.

[...]

Which brings us to our conclusion. THe longer the shelf life, the more likely that there is a lower perceived participation value. Sure you may want to talk about your favorite TV show with others, but there is no rush. You can get to it when you get to it. More importantly, networks and production companies should work a lot harder at creating realtime participation around their content. If you can increase the value of participation, you increase the value of the show and the desire to watch the show at the same time as others. Which is exactly what is happening with sports in record numbers.

You cant stop people from recording shows on their DVRs, and you shouldnt try. But you should try to give them as many reasons as possible to take advantage of the increased entertainment value of participating with others. High participation equals high viewership. That is exactly what record ratings for sports are telling us.

He has a very good point - if you want people to watch what you're showing, you need them to feel like they've got to see it first, so they can participate with the product as soon as possible, before its shelf life expires. Very interesting - obnoxious, super-rich, outspoken, and probably really, really right.

I don't know a lot about Mark Cuban, but he could be a pretty smart guys, as well.

All of that considered - hundreds of thousands of people log onto social websites that are based in every country that watches Lost to share their thoughts about the last episode they've watched, to chime in on what they think is going to happen - and generally express their pleasure or distaste for what was happening in their favourite show.

This isn't uncommon - Fringe, Flash Forward and Heroes, for example - have tremendous amounts of online material for fans to interact with. This season Heroes actually has a parallel storyline that's only developed online, with an interactive choose-your-own-adventure style of moving the plot forward. Just before a commercial break "Slow Burn" will come on and national television audiences will watch a few instigating seconds of the story, and then they log in to watch the rest, and then vote as how a character should react to the story (popular opinion wins).

So there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Mark Cuban is bang on - but this business model to lure more viewers and fans into a show being based on the sports programming was well above my head. I would never have thought to connect these strategies with NBC's Monday Night Football - while in practice they're very much the same.

So - would it be possible for a live show (Q&A style?) for a half hour before Lost runs? Or perhaps a half-hour after? I'd watch it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Leafs this week [14 - 20]

Weekly scoring statistics

Top Leafs this week:
1) Ian White - 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, 11 PIM, and 6 shots on net - but most importantly, he was the only Leaf with a plus/minus in the positives, with + 1.

2) Vesa Toskala - a GAA of only 2.75 (way lower than his usual), he was solid against Calgary in a relief effort, and kept things close against the Senators. His save percentage is still a work in progress, though.

3) Colton Orr - had 2 fighting majors and only 1 shot on net - but he beat the bejesus out of some seriously tough mofos this week - deserving him top recognition. Let this indicate how poorly the Leafs were this week - that a losing goalie with only an 86.8 save percentage and a fighter who's second in +/- on the team (ranked even) are among the team's best players.

Notable(s) - good: Jason Blake had 3 assists, Matt Stajan has 2 goals and an assist, Francoise Beauchemin had a goal and two assists, Kessel had 15 shots on net, and Jamal Mayers had 17 PIM. Bad: Jeff Finger was a -4, Niklas Hagman was a -3 and mostly invisible all week, Lee Stempniak, although he scored, hardly looks like an NHLer out there, Luke Schenn has been all kinds of unreliable and inconsistent which is proven in his ice-time the coach is giving him and Gustavsson has the worst week of his life allowing a 6.44 GAA, and a stinky 84 sp. Not good.

Leafs record this week: winless with 3 losses - 1 point and they've fallen to last place overall. Overall record is 3-11-6, with 12 points leaving them in last place of their division and 15th in their conference and30th overall in the league. Only place from here is UP, so ... we can look forward to that. Do you think they can honestly finish the season in last place? Seriously? Oh man.

----
Calgary Flames of Nov. 14
The Leafers lost another game with a score of 5-2 against the tough Calgary team. They were fast, they were strong and they were able to score early to chase Gustavsson from the net. Coaches' Corner's Don Cherry didn't feel that Gustavsson should have been held responsible for the early goals -

There was a consistently poor defensive effort from the whole team, and almost every player had a negative plus-minus rating by the end. The whole team was struggling. It was unfortunate that the Leafs weren't able to carry some more of the same effort that brought them success against the Red Wings only a week earlier. Even a tight game against the Chicago Blackhawks was a positive to build on, but the defensive effort wasn't there.

On a positive note, the Leafs were able to carry the play for most of the second half of the game - the bad side of this was that they weren't able to score - which should raise some flags. Calgary's Mikka Kiprusoff was fantastic, though. Yet, the Leafs have to face NHL-calibre goalies every night they play - that's why they're in the NHL, so they'll have to learn how to generate opportunities that yield more scoring. A good example would be the game they played against Minnesotta, where the Wild were able to score dirty redirections with traffic in front of the net. The Leafs have some big bodies to get that traffic - they just need some more finesse with tipping the puck.

It should be noted that Colton Orr laid a serious beat-down on Chris McGratton (McGratton is a major heavy-weight, who usually destroys people!). Someone mentioned not long ago that when the Leafs get into fights, they don't win hockey games. I suppose if you look at their statistics, in those three wins they have, there weren't any fighting majors. I'm not sure that there's a relationship between not winning and fighting - seeing as how the Leafs lose all the time, not just when they're fighting - but it was interesting to mention. In any case, Colton Orr is one of the best in the league at fighting and he proved it.

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Ottawa Senators of Nov. 17
To carry on with the fighting = losing, there were lots of fights in this game (one which I didn't have the opportunity to watch), and the Leafs lost. While I still don't believe there's a causal relationship here, Colton Orr destroyed Matt Carkner (Carkner is wicked-strong and a tough bad-ass). Whooping Carkner is no easy feat, yet Orr pulled it off. I am disappointed that you can't find highlights of big fights on the NHL website. They show all the goals, but none of the fights, to my dismay.

I don't expect the Leafs to lose every divisional game this year - no matter how bad they are and how good the teams in their division are, it's rare that a team is swept through six or eight meetings. That's a lot of losses. So the Leafs will wind up beating the Senators eventually - just not on this night.

This was a better defensive effort - and the Leafs played with a lot more fight in them, but beating up the Senators shouldn't be a challenge. For the rivalry to grow the Leafs need to win some games. We've hit the 20-game mark of the season, and it's time to take all that the team has learned over the first quarter and start moving in a positive direction. This should be a middle-of-the-pack team, there's no excuse for what's happening here.

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Carolina Hurricanes of Nov. 19
So when the two worst teams in the league come together, you likely won't see a very good hockey game. This is what happened when the two worst teams in the Leafs and 'Canes took to the ice - what I didn't expect was for the NHL to send their worst referees along with them. More on that in a sec.

I didn't get to watch all of this game, but I flipped back to it a few times. The Leafs were fantastic in the first period, they lost some of their jam in the second, and it was a like a peewee game in the third. This would be the definition of the troubled inconsistency the team has been playing with.

But the referees blew a double-minor call on Ian White (who's become "my boy!" now - he might be my favourite Leaf these days) which allowed Carolina to tie the game. Well, no problem, just get White out of the box and BAM! He scores the go ahead with less than 30 seconds left in the game. Good job White, just rest yourself on the bench and we'll wrap this game up and head home.

WAIT - while White's on the bench waiting to hit the showers, the Leafs blow the lead with merely 3 SECONDS to go! Oh man! Then they lost in the shootout. Unbelievable. The Leafs shouldn't be the worst team in the league. They just shouldn't be.

Phil Kessel won't score a goal every night - we know that, but where the hell was he? just over 14 minutes in ice time and he only managed 2 shots on net? What? He usually shoots an average of 7 each night. What happened to him?

Anyhow - the blown high-sticking call and then in overtime the Leafs put the puck in the net, but it's called back because "the play had been blown dead" which ... everyone and their dog could tell you, it wasn't. This is the exact same thing that happened to Detroit the other day, which you can see here:



Thanks to my brother for the link!

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HodgeMail on TSN
This is a neat email/viewer developed segment on TSN where Hodge provides a question, and then the viewers can email in and participate in the programming - which is pretty cool. The question the other day was, "What can Brian Burke do to fix the team now?"

Well - I'm sure there were a load of answers for Hodge, but frankly there's only one thing Burke CAN do, and that's sign free agents at the end of the season - and the entire NHL will be watching him very, very closely after tampering charges were laid against the team for last season's meddlesome efforts.

Why not bring players up from the minors? The players that are going to come in and help next season won't be players that he drafted (except MAYBE Khadri, but maybe not - who knows? and the two or three guys he signed out of college last year - even then, are they first-line impact players? Likely not) so he can't use the minors to improve.

Why not the draft? He's got no first-round picks for the foreseeable future -so he can't use those.

Why not trade for picks or players? He has an admitted bunch of third-line players (with the exception of only Phil Kessel) so he can't trade up for players or picks. He has nothing of significant enough value to trade for anything he wants or needs.

Seriously, the only thing that Burke can do is wait for the end of the season and sign free agents - whichever free agents are left to sign, that is.

Even if there were a lot of good free agents, how many can a team sign all at once, especially with a shrinking salary cap? AND what free agents are they likely to sign? The likes of Chris Pronger, Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo (who's really sucked this year), Marian Gaborik and Jay Bouwmeester who were all supposed to be free agents, were locked up and kept away. Any player that's worth keeping will be kept - big free agents don't seem to come up any more. And franchise players stay with franchises - don't expect to see Crosby, Ovechkin, any of the Staals, etc, etc walking into free agency and leaving it at that.

So it's going to be slim pickings for Burke - but moreso than it's ever been, this is his mess now. This team is all his - and stinking it up (which usually helps teams invest in the future with high draft picks) will actually make the division rival Boston Bruins a better team. If the players that the Leafs currently have don't have what it takes to improve - there's no help on the way.

[My suggestion - bench Schenn. The Leafs played some of their best hockey of last year with Schenn out of the lineup due to injuries. You can look it up for yourself if you don't believe me. It still wasn't good hockey, but it was better than when he was in the lineup.]