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 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.

A New Home

Tatoo has a new home. A couple came by last night to see him and talk with us along with a representative from the Animal Rescue Network. They're cat people I'm sure Tatoo will be as happy there as he was here, minus Brewski, but the thinking is that he may become more affectionate towards humans if there are no other cats around.

It was surprisingly sad to see him go. We've only had him for a couple months and he was more work than the other two combined but still it was hard to let him go. I actually had to get hi min his cat box this morning. There were too many people in the house for him to come out. I tried to get him last night but he managed to cut my palm with his back foot, not attacking me but trying to run away. The gym today was terrible, the weights sat right on the cut and the sweat didn't make it feel very good either. Yes I'm still going to the gym, consistently too. It's actually surprising that it stops being a chore and something that you look forward to eventually. Didn't think that would ever happen.

So this morning I managed to get him out of the bedroom and shut all the doors so he had no place to hide. I followed him around trying to get into a position where I could grab him. Eventually the little guy just gave up and stopped for me to pick him up. He didn't fight or anything.

Kate took some video with her iPhone and put it on youtube. Here's the link:

So that's the crap I had to do today.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lost And Found

So we lost Tatoo the cat. It was all my fault, I left the window open. We have a few, more like a 80, stray cats in our back alley. So of course we decided to feed them, who wouldn't? So I put a bowl out for them and forgot to shut the window. A couple hours later I decided to find the cat because people were coming to see him but, no cat. I looked everywhere until I noticed the window was open.

The girls who live downstairs said they had seen him but there are a lot of cats and many of them grey. I hunted the alley and all the adjoining alleys shaking cat treats in my hand. We had quite a following at some points but no Tatoo.

The next step was to leave the windows open overnight and hope he came back. This was all of course after I called the Animal Rescue Network to tell them they couldn't come see the cat because he was gone, that was a fun conversation.

I felt both bad and good about the cat. Bad because these people wanted to adopt him and now maybe they can't. Plus I was responsible for him and the Animal Rescue people probably don't like me now. But I also kinda felt good for Tatoo. He isn't really a people cat and there are many strays out in the alley, I got to thinking he would probably like being an alley cat. The bad outweighed the good though and I was bent on getting him back.

First I made a lost cat poster and put them in people's mailboxes as well as the main convenience store window. I got three calls from those posters. The first was from a little girl that only spoke French, the conversation went something like this.

Little Girl-I found your number on the poster for the lost cat.
Me-You found the cat?
Little Girl-No
Me-You've seen the cat?
Little Girl-No
Me (long pause) The cat on the poster?
Little Girl-Yes
Me-You found him?
Little Girl-No

I actually have Kate on the other phone and she can hear what I'm saying and she says my French is fine, there must be some other confusion, have the little girl call her. Good plan right?

Me-Can you call my girlfriend who speaks French?
Little Girl-I have the poster of the lost cat.
Me-You found the cat?
Little Girl-No
Me-Can you call my girlfriend who speaks French?
Little Girl (silence)

Then I realize I have her number on the phone, caller ID.

Me-I'm going to have my girl friend call you ok?
Little Girl-I found the lost cat poster and called the number.

Kate tells me she's going to hang up and I can text her the number so I say goodbye to Kate.

Little Girl-Ok bye!

And she hangs up. Kate calls her and has a similar conversation, she called the number on the lost cat poster, not because she had the cat, or had seen the cat but because there was a number to call I guess? Trés bizzare.

The next call is from a woman across the alley who thinks Tatoo is in her backyard. I rush over to find 6 cats in her backyard, the most I've ever had on my porch is 3 and two of them were humping. None of the cats are Tatoo but one looks like him.
I get home, a few minutes later the third call comes in, guy down the alley thinks he sees the cat. I rush down while on the phone and see the same cat that the woman across the alley phoned about, that darn cat.

For two nights we slept with the windows open and the bedroom door barricaded shut listening to the remaining cats clawing at the door. The first morning I come out and the toy basket has been dumped over, the food in the cat's secondary bowl is empty and there are food bits all over the floor near it. Whichever alley cat spent the night in our apartment was a very messy one.

On the second morning Kate asks me when I think Tatoo will be back and I tell her I'm concerned he's not going to come back. She gets up to take her shower and I hear, "Tatoo is back!" Sure enough he's sitting on one of the dining room chairs so we close the windows before anyone can get out or in and we're back to normal.

The people looking to take him home are coming back tonight, hopefully I can manage to keep him in the apartment till then.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Round 2 Playoff Predictions

First a quick update on Tatoo the cat. I've been in Kingston building a greenhouse all week so I didn't have a chance to call the Animal Rescue people but it turns out I didn't have to. They called me and said they had a prospective taker for Tatoo. They're coming on Tuesday, I will grill them with questions and post the outcome.

So the first round was about as crazy as it gets and I went 4-4, better than most professionals I would guess, respectable at least although I was sure that I was going to do better. The three top seeds won in the east including the Habs historic come from behind win against the Washington Capitals. No 8th seed team playing the top seed of the conference has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. The Boston upset was less surprising although I am a bit surprised at how many goals they scored. I was very surprised to see Jersey fall but mostly because it was in 5 games. The other one I lost was the Detroit/Phoenix series and it was close, until game 7 anyway.

The second round may be just as surprising but I doubt it. I'll start in the east again.

Pittsburgh (4) vs Montréal (8)
Montréal beating Washington was pretty impressive but now they're playing a team just as good with boatloads of playoff experience. I'm afraid I'll have to say Pittsburgh in 6.

Boston (6) vs Philadelphia (7)
I flipped a coin for this one since I'm 50/50 anyway, it turned up Philadelphia in 6.

Onto the West.

San Jose (1) vs Detroit (5)
This is a pretty interesting match up. We have the most successful playoff franchise in recent history against one of the biggest playoff flops. I'm going to so against history however and call San Jose in 6.

Chicago (2) vs Vancouver (3)
This series will be fun. There's bad blood between two very good hockey teams. I can't wait and I think it could go either way so I'm going to pick the team I'm cheering for in this series. Chicago in 7.

They're late they're quick but I've got breakfast waiting so that's it for now.

Updates on greenhouse building coming soon.