Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another one bites the dust

At least this time it wasn't a greedy corporation letting me go due to philosophical differences in company and Canadian policy. This time it was a greedy corporation letting me go so they could outsource my job to Pakistan where they're willing to work for significantly less than I am. How people on the far side of the planet are going to accurately cover NFL football and NHL hockey is beyond me. Which would you prefer? A crappy article written in poor English that costs 50 cents, or a piece written in better English by someone who actually knows the rules of the game they're covering for ten times that? If you're looking at the bottom line, like too many people are today, you pick the 50 cents option. The guys reading the articles may not be very impressed, but as long as 1% of them accidentally click on an ad while desperately trying to escape the page they stumbled upon though a Google search, the company that used to employ me will be happy. Yes I lost my job, and yes I probably could have been more to the point about it, but what's the fun in that?

I am pleased with the opportunity I had. I learned much and am glad to have professional writer as something I can now put on my CV. I'm more annoyed at the ridiculousness of farming out North American sports writing to Pakistan. Cricket I would understand, but not hockey and football (American style).

Anyway so I'm back on the hunt. I've got some sports writing prospects, but I think I'm going to take a stab at some fiction writing this winter. There are a number of sties that buy stories, once I polish a couple up I'll try to get some published, we'll see how that goes.

I have some good news, for me anyway, and Kate I suppose, I found a cheap gym so I'm back at it. Once my old membership ran out I didn't renew, it was 800 a year. But I discovered that the Concordia gym is only 60 a semester for students, so I went today and signed up. I definitely felt like I hadn't been in a while, the cardio mainly. I was surprised at how well the weights went for me. That part felt like I was picking up where I left off in July.

The two foster cats were spayed last week. One acted as though nothing had happened, the other, aptly named Princess, was obviously irritated for a couple of days. The Animal Rescue Network (ARN) employee that took her to the vet for us was not Princess' favourite. As the cat was walking up the stairs and I was getting the run down on how the surgery went, we moved over to watch her slow progress towards the bedroom. Princess saw me and stopped, gave me a little hiss, then she saw the ARN worker and a volley of hisses erupted from her, it was actually pretty funny. A couple days later Princess was back to her normal self.

They still make noise all night, but now instead of meowing and moaning it's the sound of Christmas ornaments breaking.

Not much else is new, gonna turn 34 in a couple of days, and football season starts in January. I think I'll be playing defence this season, mostly anyway. I still have to memorize the offence. I think I'll prefer defence. I think I react well, and there are lots of guys on the team that can catch, so I might be of better use on defence. We also got two new offensive players from another team, two of the best players in the league so there's less room on offence anyway lol.

So that's the crap that happened in the last couple weeks. One good thing about being fired is I can stay home for these 72 hour snow storms. The snow on my back deck is literally two and a half feet high.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The cat is 10

My cat, Brewski, is turning 10 this spring. I know he has a lot of life left, my last two cats made it to 18 and 19, but still he's getting old. He's older than me in that cat year  to human year ratio thingy. I'll have to start thinking of his retirement. I'll have to hire other cats to chase bugs for him and poo on the side of the kitty litter instead of right inside it. I would hire another cat to splash toilet water out of the toilet and onto the seat, but then I'd just have two cats doing that.

I didn't realize just how big he was until we started fostering young cats. They are much smaller than Brew is. I think he's just big boned, but Kate disagrees. Not that she is complaining, when we first got the rats she couldn't wait till they were big and fat. Now we have to keep cutting the holes in their boxes bigger and bigger so they can fit inside. They only live 2-3 years, why not give them as much food as they want. I couldn't imagine having a pet on a diet.

I recently found the original form that came with Brewski while looking for last year's tax stuff, I haven't done my 2009 taxes yet, but I'm working on it. The form, which also revealed Brew's true age of 10 (I thought he was seven), said the cat wasn't to have milk or fish. The milk I understand, if they drink too much of that they puke and then I've got to clean it up, but no fish? Did all those cartoons of yesteryear lie to us? It's especially funny that literally three days before I found the form we fed him six whole raw fish. He was the only one of four cats that showed any interest in them oddly enough.

Kate fried the fish whole in oil and we ate them with spicy mayo. They were pretty good for whole fish. I was skeptical at first, I've never eaten fish eyes and fish brain and whole fish skeletons before, but I barely tasted the grey matter at all so it worked out pretty well. Plus it was two bucks for 30 little fish or something. Much cheaper than the organic beef we buy. I guess anything fried in oil is pretty good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

CBC Fail

Am I the only one a little pissed off with all the William and Kate crap going on? I understand that following the Royal family is similar to following professional sports. The people involved provide very little service to the world while taking very large amounts of money in return.  It's like selling your old beat up shoes for 5 million bucks, it's not considered stealing, but maybe it should be.

I'm not annoyed that people are interested in the marriage, people can decide to be entertained by whatever they want. What I'm annoyed about is that it's considered huge international news. The National opened with a 15 minute segment on the pair, and then went back to it later in the show. What piece of news took second billing to this farce of a marriage? The deaths of five Canadians in an explosion in Mexico.

People watch The National to be informed, but what they learn is that princesses who have no real political power are the most important people in the world. No wonder most people have this desire to horde as much money as possible while people across the world are starving and dying in wars, they grow up watching rich people get married, or play polo instead of learning about what's actually happening on this planet.

I don't care about the Royal family, I want to know what the hell North Korea is doing, or what shenanigans the conservative party is up to, not who may be invited to a wedding that will cost enough to feed half of Africa.

Is it just me that thinks we have our priorities totally back asswards?

The National went on last night to explain how a family is looking for a lost son in Vancouver. They had concerns that the police weren't investigating all the leads. Mansbridge says the police claim to be investigating every lead as they cut to a quote of a cop making a statement. The statement, I kid you not, was this:

"Six [count them, six] physics AND the police have been in contact with the family." End of statement. WTF

I had to watch if five times before I believed it. Now one of two things is going on here. One: the police actually use physics to investigate disappearances, and possibly rely heavily on them, or Two: it's a mistake on the CBC's part, the wrong clip or it's taken out of context. After the statement the CBC said nothing to clarify what the police meant, they went on to something completely different.

I have a very tough time believing that the police believe physics are useful tools, well they are tools, I think it's more likely that the CBC screwed up somehow. But what does that mean? It means they put way more effort into talking about a useless wedding than they did about the ineptitude of the police and/or a hunt for a missing person. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. [Johnson] we don't have time to properly expose a police force with their head up their ass that may be at fault for the death of your son, we have to cover a bunch of insanely rich people get married.

I love the CBC, but last night's National was National Enquirer worthy, and it was crap.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Michael Vick

I was assigned NFL football at work a couple weeks ago and so far I've noticed the same guy coming up favorably in the news section of NFL.com. Michael Vick has slowly worked his way back into the limelight of the NFL. I write quite a few articles everyday, but I find myself returning to Vick over and over. Today was no exception after one of the best quarterback performances of the past 10 years.

I didn't see much of the game as I was in my photoshop class learning how to recreate the X-men cover. Photoshop people love the sci-fi stuff. I went to NFL.com on the break and saw it was 7-0 only a few seconds into the game, so I watch the highlight and saw Vick launch an 88-yard pass for a touchdown. I checked again later in the class and it was 35-0. Wow.

Normally I wouldn't write about sports on my blog, unless it's the Maple Leafs, or the CFL maybe, but I have to note how impressed I am with Vick's comeback, and it's my job these days so how can I not write about it, oh wait...

Now I'm sure these guys have people telling them exactly how to behave if they want people to like them, but it seems many ignore that advice. Not Vick, either that or he's actually a good guy. If you've forgotten, he went to jail for running a dog fighting ring.

I don't disagree with the league and the state punishing him for his actions, but I do question why Vick was vilified while other NFLers that play with guns or drugs get a slap on the wrist.

He came back last year and patiently sat on the bench while McNabb played all the Eagles games. This year he was second string behind Kevin Kolb. Kolb got hurt and Vick became the starter and hasn't looked back. Vick is going to win MVP, mark my words.

Speaking of the CFL, Montreal plays Toronto on Sunday at Olympic Stadium in the Eastern Conference Finals. Can't wait.

Also congrats to Russia for winning the FIVB Women's Volleyball World Championship. Volleyball is a very boring sport to cover, but tournaments are long and drawn out so at least there's some math involved to determine pool winners in the complicated system they've developed. I'm series, the math is the best part.

I've got only two classes left in my Concordia classes for this semester, tonight we go take pictures for Wedding and Portrait in a church, and next week I have a final Photoshop class. I expect to take Camera II and Product photography in January, and then Photojournalism and Sports Photography in the spring. 

Also Brewski will be ten this spring.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sports writing continues and a www.joedeclara.com update

Same old at the office, although now that the baseball season has ended there is much less to write about. The FIVB Women's World Volleyball Championships did start last on October 29th Japan though. Canada has already been eliminated so don't get excited.

The good news on the writing front is that the article I wrote for Pucklife magazine was accepted, and it should be published in the November issue. I will give another update on that when it's actually published. I will also facebook it for facers.

I've not exactly quit on my coverage of the Alouettes, although I haven't written on them since the ninth game of the season, and now they're nearing the end of the regular season. I do intend to try and get to the Eastern Conference Semi-final, and I should have plenty of time to cover the final regular season game, as well as add a playoff opinion article before their first playoff game. I will also update that on http://www.joedeclara.com/.

You'll see new photography posts on joedeclara.com as well. I finished my fashion photography class so I've added some of the pictures I used in my assignments. For the instudio shoot, a classmate brought a friend, and I used Kate in my final assignment. My photoshop skills are coming along, although they can certainly use some practice. I removed a few trees from behind Kate's head in one of the pictures, thankfully it was a blurry part of the picture.

That's about all I've got, the animals are well, the house is abnormally clean, and I'm all alone this weekend with Kate hading down to visit her friend in Washington DC. That means there will be a poker game on Saturday night.

Update complete.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October update

I've started two new photography classes, Photoshop II and Wedding and Portrait. Both classes are interesting so far, and once I'm done them I'll only have five more classes till I get my photography diploma.

I was also assigned baseball at work, which is a much better sport than greyhound racing, although the greyhound articles are pretty easy to write. With the playoffs on, and the Jays in the news lately it's been a lot of fun writing at work. I don't know what will happen when the World Series is over, hopefully I get hockey or football, but I'll probably get squash, or rowing.

After my post last time about Sudbury and my car being booted, I got an email from the CEO of Sudbury's Green Party, which was a nice surprise.

A couple weeks later we were in Ottawa for the  Spoken Word festival and the poetry slam finals. Kate and I were both disappointed with the poetry, although the Montreal team was good. It seemed every poem was about God, or how bad wars or, or other horrific things. It was the end of the competition so much of the artist's best work had already been used, but still. I'm not a huge fan of the poetry that centres around violence, or the evil of man, I'd rather read an essay about those things than hear a three minute piece of art on it.

I am writing for an online magazine called Pucklife (at pucklife.ca), so far I haven't actually written anything, but I did interview Ben Maxwell, a second round draft pick from the Montreal Canadiens who is playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs (their AHL affiliate). The issue with my article is scheduled to come out sometime in November, and I still need to polish it and get it approved, although I don't really think it would be rejected.
I've only read one issue of the magazine so far, but I thought the writing was pretty good, the ideas and voice of the magazine specifically. It was relaxed, but not ridiculous like some sports magazines.

I'm rather shocked that Rob Ford got elected in Toronto.  Here's a guy that was caught being physically aggressive with a high school football player when he was a coach, he got into a drunken argument with a couple at a Leaf game, and he was charged with refusing to give a breathalyzer test while driving. People usually do that when they're drunk. He's also insulted, the Chinese, the gay community, and he thinks bikes shouldn't be allowed in Toronto? What's next? No pedestrians? Anyway I'm sure Ford would fall over dead if he ever set foot in Montreal because of all the bike lanes and acceptance of other people, so I'm glad I'm here and he's there.

Our cat supply is down to four after the kitten was sent to another foster home. I would have rather returned an adult cat than the cute little kitten, but what can you do. One thing we can do is never sleep again as the mother of the kitten roams the house at night with incessant meowing and the other foster cat climbs on our bare skin with her claws out. Occasionally two cats will meet on the bed and a fight will ensue, or something will crash somewhere in the house. Generally it's pretty fun times at Cat Paradise.

Compounding the sleep issue is the coffee issue at work. I donated four bucks to the coffee fund, then I bought an 11 dollar tin, went to the bank to take that four out and whatever anyone else had put in only to find the money gone, except for a couple bucks in quarters and a boatload of nickles and pennies. It took two weeks for everyone to drink my coffee and not one looney has been put into the jar. Today I brought in my jar of instant coffee, that's my new coffee system, so far it's working pretty well.

So that's the crap I've done lately, most of it anyway. I had Thanksmas with my family, but since you are all 80% of this blog's readers I didn't think it pertinent to write about it since you were all there. I am enjoying my Montreal Canadiens set, it included a bucket, four glasses, a bottle opened, and some coasters. The bottle opener had a poor design that only Kate could use so we got rid of that. The bucket has become a tool used to clean up cat pee from the front hall, and one of the glasses helps me get the kitty litter from the bag to the litter. The other three glasses are among our best pint glasses now so it's a nice even split of how the pieces were used. The coasters will probably be broken out at the next poker game. Kate also loves her cooking pot.

That's all for now. Go Leafs Go.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sudbury: yeah

We got back from Sudbury late Sunday night. We drove up Thursday night to prepare for a conference that Kate's dad was giving. Kate and I did the food prep and the prep for the hall that the dinner was in. We supplied lunch on Saturday and Sunday as well, bagged lunches.

It was quite busy for us. It's remarkable how much work goes into cooking for 35 people. I barely even dealt with food and I was busy all weekend. My tasks included picking up items, carving pumpkins, delivering goods, setting up tables and chairs, cutting vegetables, putting together bagged lunches, and of course a lot of barbecuing.

Unfortunately one of our two barbeque's refused to raise it's temperature above 200 degrees, which made the cooking of 80 pieces of chicken and four ceder plank salmons quite difficult. But we managed to get get through it and over all the food was considered a success, although there was much stress involved.

One achievement that I think is particularly notable was that despite the hard work, long days, short sleeps, and a great deal of pain on my part from cuts and burns to my hands, we were quite chipper for the entire weekend. Except for one atrocity, and I am not exaggerating with my use of the word atrocity. We arrived in Sudbury at 2:30 am, Friday morning we headed out to get coffee and pick up a couple items. We parked in a TD bank parking lot, didn't use the TD bank, spent 20 min doing out thing and came back to a boot on our rental car.

Now I know Sudbury isn't having the best of times, Brazilians own their mine and they live in perpetual snow and many of it's inhabitants have a very limited education, but there is no doubt in my mind that they targeted our Quebec plates with the hopes of taking advantage of us. It cost 100 dollars to have the boot removed. Yes we parked on private property, but I don't put anyone who comes onto my property in handcuffs and force them to pay me 100 dollars to release them. We had no choice but to pay the stupid money.

There is something to be said about common decency, and the attitude of both the people who put the boot on the car and the people who answered the number posted if you wish to dispute the charge did little to help me accept the extravagant charge. They act as though we're committing some heinous crime. First of all, charge us something reasonable like 20 dollars and I would have slapped my own wrist for them, but 100 dollars and a Fuck You attitude really annoyed me. The people who booted the car were extremely unhelpful in explaining what had happened, and they insisted that it had nothing to do with the bank itself. The police, yes we involved them after the fact, told us that had we complained to the bank we may have gotten off without paying. So the booters, lied to us about the bank, probably knowing that there was a chance we could not have to pay.

I see it everyday at work. I work beside telemarketers who become angry that the people they're cold calling don't want to buy the product. They call them stupid, or ignorant, not to their face, but after they get off the phone with them. They are so gung-ho to be on board with the company that they completely disregard what the company is doing. They're part of the team so who cares if they're selling crap, they have to pretend it's not crap otherwise what do they do for a living? That's right: they sell crap. These booters are doing the same thing, they act as though they're the ones getting rich off people like me, even though they probably make minimum wage.

I've worked in environments like that before. The employees are so desperate to not be working for a immoral company that they just refuse to accept that the company they work for can do anything wrong.

Kate called the number on the 'ticket' to see if we could get our money back. The guy who answered claimed to be the General Manager. Kate asked why they charge 100 dollars, his response was they charged less than any other company in Canada (like that's easy for us to confirm). She asked again where the number comes from, he said the supreme court of Canada said they could do what they do. Not exactly an appropriate answer to the question but fine. Kate asked which case it was, he said it wasn't the supreme court, it was the court of appeals. She asked again which case, he said we should so our own homework, by now he's very agitated even though it's been about a 2 min phone call. Of course we have no intention of looking through thousands of case files for a file that may or may not exist, and the cops had already said that despite numerous complaints the company was legitimate.

Go Capatalism, if I can take money from you without stealing, it's not only my right, but my duty to do so.

So that's my rant about Sudbury, oh yeah later that day someone did a classic parking spot steal, I waited as a car pulled out and another car pushed it's way in front at the last minute. Great town that Sudbury, can't wait to visit again!

At least Kate made the General Manager of whatever the hell that 'company' was called, yell at her for essentially no reason. That almost made up for the 100 dollars. And we did not let it damper our spirits. Oh yeah, the conference was on Globalization and the Work Force or something like that. We were there to cater a conference that supports the workers of Sudbury, they very same people that screwed us six hours after arriving, and again in the Costco parking lot.

So that's the crap we had to deal with this weekend, the parking thing was crap, not the conference, that was a pretty decent experience, although next time we'll need more staff. I'm still exhausted from the work and the long drives that bookended the trip.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cats, cats, cats.

We have way too many cats. I still like playing with them, most of them, but we have too many. The spare room has become a cat condo, and I can't go anywhere in the house without one of them at my feet, or climbing up my leg, or rubbing thier head on my face. They're lucky they're cute.

The bathroom is no safe haven. Everytime I try to close the door to lock myself in, one of the cats is quck enough to slip in behind me. Even leaving the house is difficult with two of the cats literally putting thier bodies at risk to get out into the hallway. They try to squeeze out when the door is open two inches, I thought they had whiskers to know what they can and can't fit though. So we have to delicately open the door, let the cats out, then try to round them up in an organized fashion.

At least they're funny and provide significant amusement. Unlike Concordia who simply won't accept that I lived in Montreal from August '09 to October '09. A letter from my landlord saying I lived there wasn't enough because, aside from the fact that he's probably lying, he doesn't own the house anymore. Why does that even matter?

Of course it's my fault for not insisting upon a lease for that time I suppose. We were doing him a favour. He wanted to sell, the new owner would probably want to live in the place himself, so we stayed without a lease until a new owner was found. Serves us right says Concordia.

I shouldn't complain, I've proving I've lived in Montreal for the past two years so that I can get half off the cost of my classes, which is a cool concept, but man is it frustrating to deal with the buraucracy. It was easier to get my health card, which is enough proof for Concordia, but it won't come in the mail for another three weeks. Hopefully Concordia can wait till then.

Work is going well. With Delhi screwing up the Commonweath Games so badly I have much to write about. The Als are still going strong too. Maybe I can create a sport for the cats and kill to birds with one stone. I'll call it UFC (Ultimate Fighting Cats). Just like the real UFC it would be boring, boring, boring, then bam three seconds of excitment as the cats wake up and walk to the food bowl, then boring, boring, boring. At least that's the way it was the last time I watched an Ultimate Fighting Challenge fight, granted it was in 1993, and I do not intend to watch another one if I can help it.

Oh yeah and one of the new cats insists on using the bathtub as a kitty litter if we forget to close the door. So that's the crap I've been dealing with for the last couple weeks. Litterally.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Foster Cats and Sports Coverage

The writing gig is going well. As I learn about greyhound racing and track and field meets and athletes it gets easier to write about them. The greyhound race recaps come quick, the track and field articles less so because of the fact checking and name spelling, but I know I am improving my writing. Hopefully in the coming weeks I'll be moving on to hockey too. The track and field season is over this weekend, other than the Commonwealth Games, and hockey season is just beginning.

I've also kept up my Alouettes coverage for digitaljournal.com although as the season progresses I find myself fighting for a spot on the sidelines. There are more and more photographers every game it seems, and they're reviewing my access. If I do get pulled from the sidelines I am still hoping to attend games as just a writer.

It's been fantastic practice getting shots from the sidelines. I can't wait for my sports photography class, but that won't be till next year. This year I'm taking fashion photography, wedding and portrait photography, and photoshop 2. Fashion starts next week and the other two in October. Then I'll be looking to take Camera 2 and Sports photography.

Our foster cat situation has become interesting. We briefly had a cat named Tom that somehow broke it's leg. Not only did he break his leg, but he broke it in two spots and needed serious surgery to fix it. I spent a week going from vet to vet trying to figure out the best solution, money being an issue as well. I was actually ready to adopt the cat since he's so incredibly friendly, but the woman who rescued the cat in the first place decide to adopt him instead.

While Tom was still with us we took in a kitten that had some issues from the various pounds she was in. Her fur was gone from half her back, she had mites in her ears and very smelly diarrhea. The mites are almost got, her poos are normal, but still smelly, and her fur is growing back after two weeks with us. She's also in heat and very loud, all night, every night.

We also took in a mother and her six week old kitten, the first was a few months old. This little kitten is tiny, and scared of humans. Hopefully in the next couple weeks she'll adjust and we can find her a home. I don't really want five cats in the house, but when the other option is to 'gas them' as the people we meet put it, well I guess I just have a soft spot for the creatures. Even though I've sustained multiple holes in my skin from them.

I'll try to put up some pictures of these kittens and cats on my website, www.joedeclara.com, but in the meantime you can enjoy my recent football snaps. All of my Alouettes articles are linked to there too and you can always find them on www.digitaljournal.com, but my greyhound articles are sold to other websites, and don't contain my name so it's harder to find them.

The fall will be busy but I'll try to post all the crap I get around to doing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Job!

So I got a new job. After being unemployed for nine months and less than a month after my EI kicked in I got a job. It pays poorly enough that I can keep collecting some of the EI though so it's not all bad. I do have to be at work for 8:30 which is pretty early but I get to leave at 2:30 which is pretty good, and the office is right beside one of my gyms, the one I like the best. So all in all I'm quite pleased with the situation.

The job itself is a sports writing job for a content agency. That in itself is pretty great, even though I was assigned greyhound racing and European Athletics (Track and Field). I actually enjoyed writing about Athletics today, although I was told there's more money in the greyhound racing so I'll have to concentrate on that moving forward. There is much to learn. The biggest problem with writing about greyhound racing is figuring out what the big races are. There is no Wikipedia entry outlining the big races, or the big players in greyhound racing. It's very wide spread and there is no central source of information. The information I do find is on betting websites and it can be difficult to piece together something that's useful and has enough information to fill my quota. I do look forward to the challenge, this morning alone I made great strides in my athletics knowledge, hopefully tomorrow I can make similar strides in my greyhound racing knowledge. I did learn a fair amount this afternoon actually but I believe there is much more to learn about greyhound racing than athletics.

I'm still covering the Alouettes and plan on expanding that was well to cover more than just the games. I may try to add a pregame article the day before the games and I would like to spotlight some players. As the playoff approach I'd like to come up with some other ideas as well. We'll see how busy my day job keeps me.

I'm heading off to the Alouettes game tonight against Winnipeg. I have to get up pretty early in the morning to get to work and I have to get the article out tonight before bed since I have to work all day tomorrow so I may not have the time I'd like to have after the game to interview the players but I'll do my best. Either way I probably wouldn't actually ask any questions anyway but it's still fun to hang out while other people ask questions.

Sunday we go white water rafting. I wonder who's going to win the Irish Greyhound Derby, the finals aren't till Sept 11th but the third round goes this Saturday.

Anyway that's the crap I've been up to. Be sure to check out www.joedeclara.com for the Als game pictures and links to my Alouettes articles, among other things.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


So far I've written five articles on the Alouetttes. The latest one can be read here. It's been a lot of fun and recently I managed to get media accreditation to the games through digitaljournal.com. That means a number of things. For one I get to go to the games and stand on the sidelines with my camera. That's right now I'm one of those guys that has to dodge players that are being tackled out of bounds, it's happened once so far and on the replay I saw myself on the Montréal jumbotron. Such fun. It also means that after the game I get to wander around the field and take part in the player interviews.

So far I've been to two games. After the first one I didn't really know what to expect so being that I was pretty ecstatic that I was there in the first place, I just left. Last night I was a bit more adventurous and asked around where the players do interviews, it was on the other side of the field. The photographers generally stay on one side of the field, the other side houses the players. So I wandered out, took a few snaps of things, Chip Cox got the player of the game award so I took his picture and listened in on his interview. The Saskatchewan head coach came out of the dressing room and said some things. Then Calvillo (Montréal's all star quarterback) came out and I saw people leave the Sask head coach so I followed suit. I actually decided to film Calvillo myself with my camera, mainly so I could hear what he said later for my article, but it was loud. You can still hear him, but the background noise is louder. Now I need to buy a mic.

It's pretty funny on the sidelines. Everyone has these huge lenses, CBC, RDS, TSN, the Alouettes photographer, National Post etc..., and here I am with my semi-pro, stock telephoto lens. The other photographers have poles, (unipods?) to help them because their camera and lens weighs so much, I just use my arms, granted my left arm was quite sore by the 4th last night. I may be the only writer among the photographers so I don't mind, I use what I have to the best of my ability. You can see some of my better pics on my website www.joedeclara.com.

Hopefully after covering the Als this season I'll have some fodder to use to maybe get an actual paying job as a sports writer. In the meantime I'm plotting a way to get media accreditation for the Canadiens, I think it will be much harder than getting it for the Als but how can I not try?

In other life adventures we are slowly getting settled at home. The bedroom furniture has been organized, clothes are next. Then I've got some summer work to do on the back shed and maybe some drywalling, I'll have to question my brother-in-law about that before I begin anything.

We have a new foster cat named Tom (renamed to Huckleberry). He's the most affectionate cat I've ever seen, he's still a bit scared of us but he's always coming out of hiding to get pet and once you start petting him he won't let you stop. Brewski seems fine with him, Jedi hisses Huck just lays down when she does and she wanders off. She'll probably end up getting along with him better than she does with Brew.

I'm almost done my creative writing class. I have a final assignment due Thursday which is about half done. I've only gotten one mark back so far but it was an A-.

So that's about it. I made business cards so once I hand some out I'll be updating www.joedeclara.com more often. I'll also be putting up pics from all the Als games after every home game, and maybe a Toronto game.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nelson, British Columbia

So we're in Nelson BC, one major reason I've not been posting as much as I used to. Another reason is that I'm taking a creative writing class which requires much writing and I'm covering the Montreal Alouettes for an online media outlet called digitaljournal.com. So I have been writing just not here. We're just lazing away our Wednesday afternoon in the mountains and Kate managed to get us an Internet connection through her iPhone so I figured I'd read up on the Maple Leafs and post a blog entry.
Another house issue has come up, during a big storm I left the windows open to try and cool the condo down. The place certainly cooled down from 34 degrees to about 25 but also about two cups of water came in the house before I could get some towels down. The water quickly found a tiny crack in the wood, something that probably should have been repaired years ago, and eventually came out the ceiling above our dining room table one drop at a time. The damage is minimal: the paint is ruined, the table is totally fine, and the drywall is slightly soft. I also noticed previous damage though while trying to reduce the damage my leak was causing. So I'm going to pull the drywall down and see what's going on in the ceiling. Hopefully there will be nothing significant wrong, I can quickly replace the damaged drywall, repaint and put some wood filler in the cracks under the window upstairs and re-stain. Easier said than done I'm sure.
Our westerly vacation has been fun so far. We flew into Calgary, skipped the stampede and drove to Red Deer where we stayed for one night. Drove to Edmonton the next day for a quick lunch with Kate's sister and moved on to Jasper. Jasper is a great little town but we only stayed for a day and made the nine hour drive to Nelson on Friday.
The cabin we're in is old but nice, the water is freaking cold but the town is great and we've been having a lot of fun just hanging out with a tonne of mountains around us and lots of wildlife. We've seen: what I think are Ospreys, catch a few fish from the lake, an otter or something like an otter, a family of ducks, an elk and a dog. Tomorrow we go hiking in the Kootenays and while we're supposed to take bear spray I'm going to take my new machete instead. Just kidding I could never kill a bear, I'll just wrestle with it until it gives up and flees.
Somehow Kate us a pretty nice car. We were supposed to have a Ford Focus but instead we got a Nissan Altima. I don't know much about cars being the money sucking demon machines that they are but this thing is nice inside and it's got a fake manual gear shifter in it. I guess it's for people who don't know how to drive standard but like to pretend they do. I don't really use the feature but it looks pretty cool.
I've had a chance to do some work on the cabin. I burned some excess crap that was laying around, dug out part of the back of the cabin, bought a machete and cleared a path on the property to make a compost and I raked the beach. Then I skipped about a hundred stones.
Well I better go get some more crap done the beach is sunny and and I've got to find some worms to go fishing tonight.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Home Ownership Continues to Test

I would like to start by complaining about this heat but I should start this entry with things that occurred before this heat wave, but holy crap it's hot. The animals lay on the floor all day long and even chocolate can't stir them.

So we definitely are enjoying our new place, it's fun, I've enjoyed the work I've done on it and we're getting close to being settled in, just need a new desk and someplace to put our numerous garbage bags full of clothes.

We have hit a few money holes along the way though. The fridge has extremely poor light and it wobbled quite a bit. The previous owner had wedged a piece of paper under one corner of the fridge to righten it but I got rid of that and just extended the rarely used, in perfect condition leg instead. So now the fridge is straight but it still provides crappy light inside it and it generates a fair amount of heat, the edge of the door is more than warm so I assume this thing is crappy and an energy guzzler. It's also small. The dishwasher sucks too but I think all dishwashers may suck to some degree.

The doors were our biggest problem so far. Keeping in tune with the idea that jamming something like folder up cardboard or a stick into things that don't work the way you want them to, the previous owner liked jamming blocks of wood into the door frame to keep the doors open. We of course didn't know better ourselves and continued the ritual until one of the doors fell off the hinge. I should say broke off the hinge. These doors are European, whatever that means, and they open in two ways, like a door, and just the top can pop open for air flow. They're also supposed to be maintained every few years. Since 1988 they've been maintained, or adjusted, once, by us, two days ago.

So one door broke off, it's now fixed and properly adjusted. Another door needs the same work, we'll get that done later, and the third door has also now been properly adjusted. The third door had a broken seal and the windows was dirty and had water between the panes of glass so while doing the adjustment one of the panes shattered. The glass went everywhere. We managed to get most of the glass cleaned up and Kate has been picking up the tiny pieces we missed with her feet. She usually manages to find one a day and then we use the tweezers to get it out and in the garbage. We'll get new glass instaled probably before the winter.

Then the heat came, I actually like it, I feel comfortable and I can wear fewer clothes around the house, it's great. My concern is the animals, specifically the rats, they do not like this heat and I saw Brewski pant for the first time ever yesterday. So last night we turned on the A/C. We already had two fans blowing the air around the condo, now we have three. I've had the A/C on since 6:00 last night and the temperature in here right now is 28. I guess it's doing something but the animals are still lethargic and I'm sweating while sitting still. The unit is blowing cool air, sortof, it's probably just too small for this condo.

In other news school is going well, I got an A- in Camera 1 and I'm half way through Photoshop 1. I got a great student deal on Creative Suite 5 so now I have Photoshop at home and I do enjoy playing with it. I'm also taking a creative writing class which I'm enjoying and will surly enjoy more once we finish poetry and move on to the short story.

So that's the crap I've been up to this month.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's Been One Week

It's been a week plus a day since we got keys but half that time I was in Toronto volunteering on a tiny film project for a friend. I took a bunch of pictures that they should be to use on their website. The film was a hot to of how their operation works. No pay, and it cost me a few hundred for the car rental and gas but it was worth it.

Once I got back it was straight to work on the new place. First I had to kick out the old tenant. He's older and has a condition I forget the name of and could find a place to stay so I let him stay in the new place while I was away. Of course then he wanted another week but I put my foot down and got him out. Since then I've been painting and varnishing. Actually friends of ours did all the painting for us. It was only two walls and they're darn good at it so Kate and I worked on other things, varnishing and cleaning mainly. Thanks Gord and Lisa.

The varnishing has gone decently. Kate suggested I get a belt sander after I finished one set of stairs and it worked quite well on the main set once I bought one so I may go back and do the first set later. Not now though, I've had enough stair sanding for a while. I do have a coffee table that I've abused over the last couple years. I was going to throw it away but now I think I'll strip it and re-stain it since I know what I 'm doing.

Right now I'm waiting for the second coat on the main stairs to dry so I can apply a third coat, and I'm waiting for the second round of soccer games on the day. Germany is playing Ghana and the winner goes to the round of 16, maybe the loser depending on the other game.

The place is coming along well. We got an awesome new BBQ that we've used 3 times in 4 days, tonight I must part from my beloved though and go back to my old crappy Rona BBQ.Or Maybe Kate can use the oven.

We have no chairs in the new place yet but I do have my computer, that's how I watch the World Cup games. I have to sit on the floor yo use it but things could be worse. it's cool in the condo with the windows open which is nice, it means I don't have to run the old A/C unit.

We begin to move all our belongings this weekend, I am very much looking forward to getting out of the old place and into the new.

Next up is a new deck on our rooftop terrace.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Buying A House

So we're buying a house today. It's a bit anti-climatic since we don't actually get to go in it till the 15th. It's some strange Quebec thing (there are many) which allows the seller to get all the money a few days before the buyers get the keys and access to the house. This way they can pay the bank since it takes time to process or something, why don't the banks don't have some system in place for this? It's not been explained well and it's a bit disturbing to me but the notary (another Quebec quirk that you need to pay over a thousand dollars for a notary to do a few things) confirms it's normal so I guess I'm just going to have to trust that it is. It's been described to me as if the seller is renting from us for a few days, they just don't pay for that time. I tell you there are somethings in this province that just don't jive.

So we don't get the keys till the 15th. On the 15th Kate has an exam and I go to Toronto for 4 days. If I don't sound excited about buying a house I guess by now you can tell why. I'm half expecting some other Quebec rule to pop up and tell me that I have to pay some kind of welcome to the province tax, oh wait I already know about that tax, it's called the Bienvenue tax and it's 3,000 or something. Reminds me of the convenience charge banks charge to use their bank machines. I got two words for some of this crap: assholes.

Anyway I'm sure the excitement will worm it's way in eventually, probably after some packing is done or the painting is done or the re-varnishing of half the new place is done. I'm very sure once we've moved in a level of contentment will fall upon me and really it's not been a stressful process, at least not as stressful as I suspect it can be. There's been a bit of a language barrier, bilingual doesn't mean I know what the hell you're talking about, especially when technical things come up. I'm sure that will become much worse once I get my french to a point where I converse in it with francophones.

So I'm off this afternoon to give all my money to some guy and promise a bank I've never heard of an additional quarter million dollars over 35 years. On the plus side the interest rate is astounding and I do look forward to renovating the new place although I don't know how we'll afford that after all these additional fees, notary, bienvenue tax, convenience fees...

Yay home ownership!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quirk Classics, Awesome.

I've always liked reading novels. Of course over the years I've tended to enjoy books on the fantastical side of things, horror novels, apocalypse novels, books with violence in them. Same with movies, I prefer horror movies to all other movies. But I don't just watch or read these books for the violence, I like the stories too. I like the character development and how the characters interact. I'm the guy that is always trying to figure out what's going on. It took me about half of The Sixth Sense to know what was happening. I like the flow of the story and I'm disappointed when I see what appears to be obvious holes which is you can imaging is a common disappointment in horror movies and books.

I went to the University of Toronto and studied English. I of course had read some 'literature' books at that point, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fifth Business and a bunch of Shakespeare for example. It was University that I really began enjoying better written books, Hawthorne and Lovecraft were my favorites, of course the problem with them is they can be rather boring. Still, I enjoyed the style of writing, the intelligence behind it, even if they're describing some boring person trying to have a relationship with some other boring person and the most exciting part of the story is when there is a brief misunderstanding between them and one storms off in a huff.

After university I went back to fill in some gaps, you know the books you've heard of, that everyone seems to have read but you haven't. Cather in the Rye comes to mind, a book that should be read by teenagers by the way. So I read both types of books now and I'm rarely significantly impressed with any single novel.

One of the books I've never gotten around to reading is Anna Karenina. It's been touted as the greatest novel ever read, it's also huge and I know it would have me sleeping 15 hours a day if I tried to read it so I've never owned a copy. I guess a couple years ago it had a resurgence because suddenly I saw it all over the place, new editions, people on the subway reading it, and I mean I've seen over ten people with it on the subway in Toronto. So it along with many other books were on my to read list in the doubtful section, until now.

There is a publisher called Quirk Books and they've come up with a freaking awesome idea. I was in a book store around Christmas looking for gifts and books for me to read (I can spend hours deciding which book I want to read, I'm quite particular these days) when I noticed a book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Now if you know me you know I love zombies, they've my favorite monster and there is a good reason for that but that discussion is for another day. I've not read any Jane Austen although her books are also on my list under the category of doubtful. Who wants to read about some stuffy rich 18th century girls whose only concern is what to wear to the next ball and how much money the men who are courting them are worth. The writing style is fantastic but the story is incredibly boring, unless of course something like zombies could be added. So of course I bought the book and read it in a few days.

I've wikipediaed the Austen novel and I've spoken to a couple people who have read it and my best determination is that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just like Pride and Prejudice except with Zombies. The writing style is the type I like and it's got Zombies, it's by far one of the best books I've ever read.

You can imagine my excitement when I found Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, another fantastic book. Then a couple weeks ago I found a new version of the best novel ever written, Android Karenina. This version is much more up my alley than the original and it didn't sacrifice the great writing style of Leo Tolstoy. I feel like I'm still reading a classic but I'm much more thoroughly entertained. The only problem is that I read them too quickly, as is the case with all great books.

Android Karenina is actually the android of Anna Karenina who is still the main player in the book. Anna still has a human husband and still has an affair with a human but all these humans also have androids, it's a rich person thing. So it's the same story, same characters, but now there are androids involved too. They don't interfere of change the course of the novel in anyway, they simply add colour. Levin still lives out in the country as in the original but now he owns a groznium mine. Groznium is a metal discovered that allows for people in the Android Karenina world to build fantastic things like androids. In Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters the main characters travel to an underwater dome instead of London England. In Android Karenina Kitty travels to space instead of a health spa abroad.

I love these books and can't wait to see what else Quirk Books publishes. The content is fun and entertaining and I'm still looking up a word in the dictionary every few pages as I read.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

joedeclara.com Update

While biking along the canal here in Montreal looking for things to take pictures of for my most recent class assignment I noticed a fire atop the Five Roses factory. So of course I took some pictures of that. Then I decided to get closer and I took a couple more pictures. Then after some deliberation I decided to go right to the factory. I didn't know how to get there but every couple of minutes a firetruck would rush past me so I just followed the convoy. The fire was small and put out by the time I got there but I got some great pictures of the firemen. I posted some of the pics I took on my photo blog www.joedeclara.com.

I also got some great pics of a dragonfly in the backyard here. I took a video of it eating some other poor bug too. Now that I'm learning the ins and outs of the camera, as well as a few tricks of the trade from class I'm really beginning to see what the camera can do. And Photoshop for that matter, what a great program. I know I'm supposed to properly expose all my pictures, or under or over expose them should I specifically choose to do that for effect but Photoshop can also be a life saver. It can change the exposure of any picture you take if the camera is set properly, which mine is now. So I don't really need to worry about under or over exposing any pictures although I intend to try to get the shot I want without relying on Photoshop. Of course there are other things you can do to improve pictures that the camera can't do.

I only have the exam and a final assignment left in my camera class. I'm not sure what my final topic is going to be yet but after the dragonfly shot I'm thinking about taking pictures of insects. There are a tonne of bumblebees out back and I've been trying to get a good stop motion of one but it's pretty hard. The wings beat fast and the bees fly so erratically it's hard to get them in focus. I've got two weeks to get that shot so hopefully there will be some sunny days to make the attempts.

By the way I'm picking Chicago to win the cup, not because they're up 2-0 but because I hate Philadelphia and Chicago deserves it, they've had some bad management over the years and it's good to see an original six team back on track, now we need another original six team to get back on track. Ahem, Toronto.

On the house front it turns out we get possession on the 11th not the 15th. It was a screwup on some one's part because I picked the 15th as the date and everyone agreed, now there is confusion. I'm not comfortable with the change, nor do I like paying the four extra days but it will work out for the better as Kate has an exam on the 15th. This way we can both enjoy our first home purchase on the closing date together instead of her cramming and writing an exam.

I had another photo shoot for Distributel. I took pictures of all the departments. I did it for free, at least I wasn't paid with money, I did get some valuable experience though. I've also got an oppourtunity to be involved in a CBC film shoot in Whitby in June. I'm not sure of all the details yet but they hardly matter. An oppourtunity to learn from professionals and get some experience is all I need, yes this is also unpaid.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

School Update

I realized that I've gone a bit away from the intention of this blog which is to be an update on the crap I do in day to day life. Of course writing about my daily routine would be rather boring so I'm sure that's a pretty major reason I've deviated but I also suppose that from time to time I should return that that original concept.

Today I signed up for a couple new classes. Since I started this blog I've taken 3 French classes at Concordia and I'm currently in the middle of a photography class. I decided to postpone the remaining 2 classes in my French certificate, until I learn French ironically enough. Come September I intend to take full time French classes through the government who are gracious enough to be paying me to not work. They also like it when people learn French so not only will they pay me to not work, if I take French classes they won't even expect me to look for work. That's a pretty sweet deal I think. They also told me that because I'm such a superstar at being unemployed that they're going to give me 66 weeks of pay instead of the usual 52. Actually it's because I worked for long enough without collecting to get that 14 week bonus. Hopefully I won't be collecting anywhere near 52 let alone 66 but it's nice to know I have the option.

The photography class is going very well. I'm enjoying it as well as learning some great stuff. I have a final project due in a few weeks that I'll post on my other site www.joedeclara.com. The class is going so well I've decided to get a diploma in photography. It doesn't look like it will take me long and the courses are geared towards making money at photography. One of the 9 classes is Wedding Photography. Concordia wants their graduates to be employed! So today I signed up for Photoshop 1. Last Monday my Camera 1 class studied Photoshop, it was amazing what it can do. If you over or underexpose a picture it will fix it, it can remove moles and blemishes, it can even remove hydro poles and wires from in front of a church. I figure it's a good next step since I'll probably make a number of mistakes as a rookie photographer.

I've also signed up for a creative writing class although it's only an intro. The one I really want I have to submit a portfolio to and be accepted and the class is full till next September so the intro will be enough for now.

Kate tells me she needs my computer. I'll have to give it to her since I've delayed the purchase of a new machine for her until the Lenovo L Series comes to Canada. The machine is made from recycled office water bottle and recycled office furniture. Cool stuff.

From Hockey To Baseball

I'm not going to say the Habs are out of their series with the Flyers yet but being down 2-0 is certainly a hill to climb. I've not only seen many a team come back from 2-0 deficits but seen many teams lose two at home and still come back on the road. Montreal has two games at home next and while many players have stated that sometimes getting on the road and away from the home fans takes some of the pressure off that's not the case with this team. At least it shouldn't be.

The Canadiens have been a pleasant surprise so far in these playoffs and if they do lose to the Flyers I would still call this season a great success. So because the team has surprised many, including their fans I don't care what the fans actually say, they should be welcomed home as if they're up 2-0 in the series. Let's see how the Flyers react to a hostile home crowd.

Regardless, (did you know irregardless is officially a word even though it makes no logical sense?) if the Habs win or lose this series, when they do finally get knocked out of win the Cup there's another Canadian team that's doing some great things. The Toronto Blue Jays.

Every year in Canada the start of the baseball season is ignored for the NHL playoffs. It's fine it's natural but for the Jays it's not the greatest thing in the world. Here is a team that plays in the toughest division in baseball. They can put up great numbers and still find themselves behind the likes of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. This year they also have the Tamps Bay Rays to contend with. To put it in perspective the Jays are the fifth best team in the entire Major League. That's fifth out of thirty teams but guess what place they are in the division. Third. There are only four teams with better records and two of them are in the Jays division and one of them is not Boston who I would expect to get better as the year goes on and who has had the Jays number all year so far.

So people ignore the Jays for hockey. Hockey finally ends and the Jays are nowhere near first despite their 7 games above .500 record, that's what it is now anyway. I'm not saying we should ignore the Habs, not at all, but I think this Jays team may be one to keep an eye on. They may just parallel the Habs this season. I don't mean make a run for the World Series. In baseball late season runs for the last playoff spots are the same as the first couple rounds of NHL playoffs and the Jays could very well be contending for a spot come late August.

They also have a young core and it looks like they are only going to get better over the next couple of years. They're a team to watch and don't let the standings fool you. MLB has dropped the ball on allowing rich teams to stack their roster putting the Jays in a annual difficult situation facing off against rich teams all season. Still they are playing fantastic baseball and I don't expect it to end anytime soon so when the ice melts either for good or ill there is another Canadian team to keep your eye. The best part is that when the Jays are finished their season long show it will be time for a brand new NHL season.

I think the Habs (or perhaps our Olympic athletes did it) may be kicking off a great decade for Canadian sports teams, if you care about that sort of thing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

3rd Round

So let's see what's my record so far? I'm 7-5 going 3-1 in the second round. Not bad. Not as good as Philly and Montreal this year. Two extraordinary playoff runs. Which is funny considering it's the top two teams on the other side. Unfortunately I suspect the best series are happening right now, or have already happened. Chicago vs San Jose should be great, same with Montreal vs Philly. What's the final going to be though? A top ranked team vs a bottom ranked team. Yes I know the bottom ranked teams in the east have been knocking the top ranked teams off left right and centre but history does not favour the underdog in the finals. Remember the Minnesota North Stars riding Jim Carey to the finals to get decimated by Pittsburgh? Or Carolina vs Detroit, or Edmonton just a few years ago? Top teams do not go down easily after winning 3 rounds, they often go down in the first or second round though.

Of course on the flip side to that we're seeing a whole bunch crap we've never seen before, well that many of us haven't anyway. Philadelphia was the first team in 35 years to come back from a 3-0 series deficit and only the third team to ever do it. Montreal has knocked off the best team in the regular season coming back from 3-1 (that's only happened 25 times or something as well), then they beat the defending champs. Now it's the 7th ranked team vs the 8th ranked team in the conference finals, first time ever that's happened, granted the playoff format has only allowed the possibility in recent years.

We missed an entire season a few years ago while the NHL and the NHLPA duked it out over implementing a salary cap among other things. Since then the rules have been different allowing for the more skilled players to do more skilled things without worrying about getting hooked and pulled at from opposing players. Some players who used to score at a good pace had no place in the new NHL, they were too slow or unable to play solid defense without relying on hooking and holding. It was a quasi-reset for many teams. They had to deal with the salary cap and they had to deal with signed players that made a lot of money and suddenly weren't worth it.

Some teams prevailed better than others, I might site the Leafs as one of the worst teams in dealing with the changes. The then General Manager John Ferguson Jr signed a decrepit Ed Belfour to a long term expensive deal before the cap was in place. Maybe he was hoping it would be grandfathered in? Nope. Anyway some teams made bad decisions and some good ones. The teams that made bad decisions haven't seen the playoffs in 5 years but at the same time the teams that made good decisions aren't winning three cups in a row.

Teams have brief windows now it seems to have a collection of great players. Pittsburgh and Detroit went to two straight finals against each other, each winning one, another crazy playoff fact in my mind. The salary cap has evened the playing field considerably and opened the playoffs to allow the lower ranked teams to have success. Teams like Washington win many games in the regular season because the have guys who score lots of goals. When they get into the playoffs they need goals, goaltending, grinders, great defensemen and a coach that can exploit the other teams weakness and adjust when their own weaknesses are being exploited. Long gone are the days of putting Mario and Jagr on the same team and watching them win back to back cups with the help of an entire assortment of other super stars. Look at the early 80s Edmonton Oiler lineup. My guess is that team in this day and age could triple the salary cap. You just can't buy a championship anymore.

If you can't buy it then you need to not only build a great team with players like, shot blockers that get a million a year, but the team has to play well when it counts. I think we're going to see more and more upsets, different teams in the final four year after year. Sure some teams will make it back to back but there won't be anymore of the Islanders and Oilers winning every cup for 50 years straight.

The final four now is San Jose (never won the cup), Chicago (the longest cup winless drought in the league I believe) Philly (hasn't won since teams were built based on the Charleston Chiefs) and Montreal (hasn't won since 93). Who's it going to be next year? Toronto, St. Louis, Phoenix and Atlanta? That's my bold prediction for next year's final four.

I know I'm a game in already but I'm a busy man these days. I had much football to play yesterday (we lost and I was tackled in the endzone with no call on an easy touchdown catch) and Saturday I was at the Atwater Market for most of the day and then back home to cook the food we bought at the Atwater Market in the second half of the day. Pay no attention to the fact that I'm going to pick the teams that won yesterday.

Montreal (8) vs Philadelphia (7)
Tough call really. On paper both teams should be long gone from the playoffs but watching them play you wonder who can beat them. Obviously someone has to win. Personally I think that Philly coming back from a 3-0 deficit has given them the confidence they need to beat anyone. Montreal has been relying on great golatending and timely goals. Halak can certainly pull a Roy, he's proved it in the first two series, but he can also pull a Felix Potvin. If Halak can finish this series with a .950 save percentage then the Habs will win. If not, Philly. Philly in 6.

Chicago (2) vs San Jose (1)
I've been cheering for Chicago the whole way in these playoffs. They've got a great young team that got some good experience last year. I also like San Jose though although I like their players much less specifically Heatley. Chicago as a city has had some rough sporting decades of late. The Cubs haven't won since before Edison was born and while the White Sox did win recently it was the first time in 80 years or something. The Bulls were great for a while, a while ago, and the Bears haven't won a Super Bowl in a long time either. So I want Chicago to win, plus I always thought it was cool that the Blackhawks had a black blue line in their old stadium, that was cool. Really any team can win the series, San Jose with a full line from Canada's gold medal winning tea,, or Chicago with a great core of young players and from what I saw of game one some pretty awesome goaltending. Chicago in 7.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How Is It Even Possible?

That the Habs beat both Washington and Pittsburgh. If the next round is against Boston I think the city may blow up. I thought 'no way can they beat Washington, it's gonna be like last year, four and out'. Instead they showed up and with the help of some of the best goaltending I've ever seen, stole it from Washington in seven games. I was at game 6, I sat behind Halak for two periods, it was insane. He's not Hasek diving here and there with super heroics, he's always in the right position and he doesn't give up too many rebounds. The rebounds that do pop out are often cleared by the defense quickly. It's very solid goaltending.

I was equally sure that Pittsburgh would beat them but nope same thing. I've watched the Leafs go this far in the playoffs four times. Not always against such odds but close in the early nineties. There are always guys that drag the rest of the team with them, goaltenders are often big for that. Montreal has all of the new skaters they got in the off season playing some of their best hockey, Cammalleri at the top of that list. "Their goalie can't withstand fire power of that magnitude!" Sorry that was a bit Star Wars geeky but it just fits so well. This guy has 12 goals in the playoffs this season, in the second round no less, know who the last guy to score 12 in the playoffs for Montreal was? Guy Lafleur, yep, heard it on the radio just a couple hours ago.

So what's it like for a Leaf fan to be stuck in the middle of all this? It's difficult. My favorite times in Toronto, at least the times I felt the most in touch with the city was when sports teams did well. I remember working the night shift at the Beer Store warehouse and the entire floor would stop work for three hours and watch the hockey game. I remember the Jays getting runs while we were stuck in traffic on the 401 and the horns going crazy. There are fewer times better to be in a city than when a popular sports team is doing well. Even the girls are into it. Kate for the first time ever, cares about sports. Which leads me into one of the parts that sucks for a Leaf fan stuck in the middle of all this. My girlfriend is turning into a Habs fan.

Yep, which isn't bad really I don't think she's going to be buying jerseys and decorating the bathroom with les bleu, blanc, et rouge but I hope that when the Leafs do well she's as excited. The thing is we probably won't be living in Toronto when it happens. We may not even be in a place that cares about hockey at all. So how can she get excited when it's only me that cares watching it on my laptop? Even I won't be as excited because I won't be in the city to feed of the energy. But I'm in Montreal right now though for one of the craziest playoff runs ever and I can feed off that energy. In fact the first round was a lot of fun, I expected them to lose so it was easy to be involved, especially when they were playing competitively and I still expected them to lose. Then in the second round I figured lightening can't strike twice so it was easy to get involved again. Now they're in the semi finals and they may play Boston! A huge old rivalry.

So what do I do? I can't actually cheer for the Habs but am I going to cheer for Boston? No freaking way and everyone is excited around me for the Habs. Plus I'm loving the city right now, minus the after series violence. Even riding my bike past a construction crew, I could hear the laughs. They wouldn't be laughing if Pittsburgh had won last night. It puts the whole city in a good mood, except for the people that get looted after every series.

It's tough being a Leaf fan in Montreal right now but I'm going to have fun with it nonetheless. Hopefully I won't accidentally cough up a cheer when they get scored on in a crowded bar.