Archive for December, 2009
Thursday, December 31st, 2009
People all over Ottawa are paying tribute to Constable Eric Czapnik, who was killed in the line of duty on Tuesday morning while sitting in his car at the Civic Hospital. Heather Auger has started a facebook page to honour Mr. Czapnik, you can get to that from here. She is suggesting a campaign to wear blue on Tuesdays in support of law enforcement officers.
There are a number of other ways you can pay your respects – a full list can be seen here.
Thursday, December 31st, 2009
I spent some time living with my good friend John Lindsay, in a tiny little apartment. I got the cold, dank room in the basement, and he got the slightly warmer but still dank room upstairs. That was really all the place was – two rooms. As it was his place and I was imposing, I was only too glad to take the frigid basement. The three or four months that I lived there were winter months, and getting up to go to work was a rather arduous prospect.
The big problem, however, was that there was only one bathroom in the whole place. And it was actually in John’s room. Which meant that when I got up early (I awoke at about 3:00 in those days to come in to work) I would wake him up if I snuck past him to pee. And I always have to pee when I wake up. So first thing, every morning, I would have no choice but to slip out the front door and pee off the porch. Few of our Flora Street neighbours were awake at that time to be offended, but I did occasionally attract the attention of a passing prostitute.
At any rate – the point of my story here is that after a while I became very good at writing in the snow. The snow in the front yard became a white-board of sorts. I could pass on a message to John “your mom called” or some such thing, and he would get that message on his way to work several hours later. Depending on how much I had to drink the night before, I could perhaps write something more extensive and deep “i sing of Olaf glad and big, whose warmest heart recoiled at war”, or some such thing.
I mention this because it came to my attention recently that, having been out of practice ever since I moved from John’s place to Kanata, my skills have eroded. Much like the snow on the Flora Street front lawn. I tried, just a few weeks ago, to write something erudite in my backyard. It was John’s birthday, and I was thinking of him, and wanted to pay tribute in the snow, you see. I tried to write a simple message “Happy Birthday John”. It looked like OOsuiOOsuiO. Nobody else in my family could even read it!
It was a bit of a sad day for me. I think my New Years resolution this year will be to practice, practice practice until I regain those skills I once had. Maybe I’ll take up the violin again too. Let this be a warning – if you don’t use your skills, you could lose them! Let it also be a bonus code – “peepenmanship” will get you some points.
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Yesterday’s killing of Ottawa Police Constable Eric Czapnik has led to an outpouring of emotion from many in the community. Books of Condolence are available to sign from 9:00 to 5:00 at Ottawa Police offices around the city at these locations:
4561 Bank Street 211 Huntmar Drive
3343 St. Joseph Boulevard
245 Greenbank Road
And 24 hours a day at the Ottawa Police Headquarters, located at 474 Elgin Street
Condolences can be passed on online as well. There is a facebook page dedicated to Constable Czapnik, and email messages are being accepted at email@example.com
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
This is true. In sort of the same way the vacuum scares my dog. I got this food processor from my wife for Christmas, you see. And it’s great – it slices and it shreds and it chops stuff up. Which is all great. A solid companion to my blender and a great time saver.
Sidebar – at Christmas time, it’s often a good idea to have a hobby. Mine is currently cooking, which meant that I got a bunch of cooking-related items for Christmas. And my birthday, which comes shortly before Christmas. I now have a pretty fully stocked kitchen. If I didn’t have this hobby, no one would know what to get me. Everyone seems to realize it’s a little pointless to get me books or movies, because I have all those already…call them a “completed” hobby.
Anyway. I tried to slice cheese with this food processor, as my family was in town and wanted some lunch. And the thing attacked the cheese like nothing I have ever seen. It was so savage in its brutalization of the cheese block that I leapt back in alarm. The cheese was utterly destroyed, obliterated beyond all recognition. And it took less than one second. The carnage was almost too much to bear. It took me longer to clean the thing up than it would have taken to just slice cheese with a knife.
And I had it on the “low” setting. Which means that had I turned it on “high”, I can only imagine that what would have resulted would have been something akin to the scene in Fargo where Steve Buscemi gets fed into the wood chipper. So I’ve got a food processor, which is nice. But I will be using it only when I need food to be destroyed. And I get over my trepidation. Right now, I fear that if I approach it the wrong way, it will take my fingers.
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Doc has been talking about channel 175 on the Rogers cable system for a while now. He watches the fireplace channel. It’s a fireplace, it sits on the TV, and it crackles and burns for your amusement. The rest of us felt that this was pretty lame. A fireplace channel? Try roasting marshmallows on that. It appears, however, that our corporate head office listens to Doc’s opinion more closely than do the rest of us. On the front page of our corporate website, for the past few weeks, there is a picture of a crackling fireplace, wishing us and our loved ones “a safe and joyous holiday and a happy new year”. How festive.
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Just before Christmas, I was in my wife’s hairdressing shop, Le Look in Barrhaven. I was picking up my stepson on the way home from work, and he was patiently sitting in the back of the shop playing a game. When I went to get him, he was reluctant to get up and leave the store. I figured that was just because it was cold outside and he wanted to finish whatever was going on in that game.
Then I realized that he wasn’t playing his game at all, but rather sneaking glimpses in the mirror at the man sitting in the chair behind him – it was Santa. An elderly gentleman with a massive white beard was getting a trim. And my stepson didn’t want to leave because he was still debating whether he was going to approach Santa. Part of him was thinking “that can’t be the real Santa…can it?” and another part was thinking “I shouldn’t bother him – I could end up on the naughty list!”
In the end, I think that he figured Santa had received his letter anyway, and to further press the issue with him could result in an awkward situation if not outright banishment to the naughty list. So he came home, albeit reluctantly. On Christmas Eve, he was a little torn. Although one part of him felt that he was likely too old to continue believing in Santa, another part felt that if he didn’t believe, and he was wrong, then he could be screwing himself out of more presents.
So, just in case, he put out cookies and milk. And a saucer full of sugar for the reindeer. I pointed out that in all the stories I had heard about Christmas, the reindeer never came down the chimney with Santa. But he insisted that although they may well not do so, that it was at the very least plausible, and better safe than sorry. His extra attention to detail paid off the very next day, you see, since he got a present from “the elf”. He had been certain the elf would think of him because he had always laid out extra cookies for him as well. Just in case on Christmas Eve he wasn’t confined to the workshop and was able to go with Santa on a ride-along.
Come Christmas morning, when all the presents were opened, he explained in some detail the story of Christmas. To my astonishment, it had nothing to do with the birth of Santa, but rather this “Jesus” character. I guess people have been believing in him even longer than they have been believing in Santa. At first we had difficulty reconciling the two – does Santa do Jesus’ work, or do they have different work, or did Santa just pick Jesus’ day to do his thing and as such is stepping on his toes every year - all good questions.
Then it occurred to me that they are pretty much the same guy. They both require blind faith and an unquestioning belief, mostly based on written texts and songs. And it’s easier to believe than not to believe. Either way, you’re hedging your bets…
Next week, I’m going to get a friend with long hair and a beard to sit in that same chair wearing a robe and sandals, just to see if he gets the same reaction from other customers.
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
All Sunday games this week. Last week I got hammered against the spread, and I fell from #12 to #59 in the CHEZ pool with my 13 point week. And Mrs. Woody has likely beaten me soundly. It’ll be another weird week in this final one, it might be worth doing this entirely randomly. I am picking some crazy upsets so I can have a slim chance at salvaging my season. Or, I will crash and burn and go down in flames. I’m 160-80 straight up, 129-109-2 against the spread so far this season. I’m at least guaranteed a winning record!
San Francsico (7.5) at St. Louis – The Niners showed character and pride last week against the crappy Lions, they should do the same against the even crappier Rams. Niners, 27-17. Verdict (Niners, 28-6). The Rams end the season officially the worst team in football.
Indianapolis at Buffalo (no line) - The Colts need to enter the playoffs on a high note after their first loss of the season. But they will rest Manning again in the second half. Or the second quarter. And half their defense. Buffalo has a chance. Colts, 23-21. Verdict (Bills, 30-7). I think the Colts needed to try a little harder. I guess they just don’t care about the end of the regular season at all.
Chicago at Detroit (no line) - The Bears won their Big Late Season Game last week. They are not a tough club, and might take this one off. Lions, 24-20. Verdict (Bears, 37-23). Both teams played surprisingly hard, and the Bears are just a little better.
New York Giants at Minnesota (no line) - The Giants are done. They quit last week, no reason for them to keep playing hard this week. The Vikings need to remember that they are a great team before the playoffs start. Vikings, 35-26. Verdict (Vikings, 44-7). They remembered. Look out, NFC!
Jacksonville at Cleveland (1.5) - The Jaguars have quit, they are terrible on the road and getting worse, and the Browns are all of a sudden feeling pretty strong. Cleveland could actually finish the season on a respectable win streak! Browns, 23-16. Verdict (Browns, 23-17). Oh, why couldn’t the Jags have missed one extra point? It would have been nice for me to close out the season with a perfect prediction!
Pittsburgh at Miami (no line) - The Steelers are not the same team they were last year. Neither are the Dolphins. Miami had their asses handed to them in a must-win last week against the Texans. With the pressure off, they should perform much better. Dolphins, 20-17. Verdict (Steelers, 30-24). Pittsburgh got lucky here. I think it was pretty clear that had Miami not been down to their third string QB at the end of the game, they could have easily overtaken the reeling Steelers.
New Orleans at Carolina (no line) - Carolina all of a sudden has remembered that they are a very good team. And the Saints have remembered that they are the Saints. New Orleans needs this one, if only for their confidence going into the playoffs, but the Panthers are fast and loose and tough. Panthers, 21-20. Verdict (Panthers, 23-10). The Saints are going to have some serious problems if they don’t use that bye week to figure out how they were so good in Weeks 1-13.
New England at Houston (8) - Houston is just better in December right now. Texans, 24-13. Verdict (Texans, 34-27). They didn’t cover the spread, but boy did they win this one! What a great comeback – intense!
Atlanta at Tampa Bay (8) - The Bucs are flying high after knocking off the Saints, but that was their shining moment at the end of the season. A letdown will allow the pretty-tough Falcons to post their second consecutive winning record. Falcons, 20-13. Verdict (Falcons, 20-10). Stupid field goal. Again, I could have had a perfect prediction!
Philadelphia at Dallas (3) - A possible first-round playoff preview? Only if the Eagles lose. But the Eagles are powerful, and will want to prove it in a beatdown of the Cowboys. They will. And they will end up with a surprising first-round bye. Eagles, 42-33. Verdict (Cowboys, 24-0). I’m speechless. Typeless.
Washington at San Diego (3.5) - The Chargers have nothing to play for, but the Skins have already packed it in. Chargers, 35-20. Verdict (Chargers, 23-20). Both of those statements were true. But the score was closer than I imaginged.
Green Bay at Arizona (3) - Another possible first-round playoff preview. Which means both teams want the win. I think the Pack is more consistently dangerous right now. And the Cards are up and down. The winner of this game could well lose a playoff rematch. Packers, 22-20. Verdict (Packers, 33-7). I think once Minnesota won their game, the Cards just packed it in right away.
Kansas City at Denver (13.5) - The Broncos are sliding out of playoff contention more and more every week. All they need here is a win for a playoff spot. I don’t think they get it – they are too tight and stressed. Chiefs, 14-11. Verdict (Chiefs 44-24). Apparently, WAY too tight and stressed.
Baltimore (10.5) at Oakland – The Raiders keep putting in great efforts against good teams and terrible efforts against bad ones. They just came off a bad effort against the Browns. That means they will be good against the Ravens. Probably. Raiders, 16-14. Verdict (Ravens, 31-23). They were good. But they still had that Russell guy calling the plays…
Tennessee (4.5) at Seattle – The Seahawks are a different team at home, and the Titans incredible second-half run is over. I think the Titans deflate a little, and the Seahawks put in a good effort in front of the home fans. Seattle, 23-20. Verdict (Titans, 17-13). Seattle packed it in earlier than the Titans did.
Cincinnati at New York Jets (10) - The Jets control their own destiny, and a win gets them in. I don’t think the Bengals are good enough to prevent them from getting that win, especially if they rest starters. Which they will. Jets, 18-17. Verdict (Jets, 37-0). I wonder if the Texans are pissed off that the Bengals avoided showing up for this one.
So far this week I am 10-6 straight up (170-86 overall) and 9-7 against the spread (138-116-2 overall). Week 17, bizarrely, featured three matchups that we will see again next week in the wild card round. I don’t see it going the same way for the Jets or the Cowboys, but I do see it going the same for the Cardinals.
Looking back on the season, I have done poorly with my pre-season picks. Well, not that well. I picked the Eagles to win the Super Bowl – could still happen. I picked the Patriots to win the AFC. Could still happen. But won’t. I picked the Colts, Chargers, Steelers and Patriots to win their divisions in the AFC – three of four isn’t bad. But I also picked the Titans and Texans to be the wild card teams. Close, but no. In the NFC I thought the Vikings, Eagles, Panthers and Cardinals would win their divisions. Two for four…and I said the wild card teams would be the Giants and Falcons. Wrong. I got six of the twelve playoff teams right. That’s not so good.
Monday, December 28th, 2009
Schedule’s getting weird now. Games are moving around and changing times. Which is fine, but how does that affect the way the grass points in the late afternoon vs. early afternoon? I need to know these things! So far I am 151-73 straight up, 126-96-2 against the spread, and ranked #12 in the online CHEZ pool. So far so decent. However, Mrs. Woody remains two spots ahead of me, in 10th. Two weeks to the wire!
San Diego at Tennessee (3): This will, I think, be the best game of the week. A win by the Chargers effectively ends the Titans hope for a crazy playoff charge at the end of the season. A win by the Titans doesn’t really affect San Diego in any way. The only way they can miss out on a first-round bye and the second seed is if they lose their last two games and New England wins their last two games and a bunch of other stuff happens. I like the Titans to eke one out against the hottest team in the league. Titans, 21-20. Verdict (Chargers, 42-17). And it’s over. The Chargers are simply a better team. But who would have thought they’d keep Rivers and Tomlinson and Sproles in so long? Not the Titans, apparently.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans (14.5): The Saints actually have to work a little to ensure they get that bye. And all they will need to do to defeat the Bucs is work. A little. Saints, 35-10. Verdict (Buccaneers, 20-17). This is a bigger deal than many think. This spells real trouble for the Saints heading into the postseason. Brees was in long enough to win this game if the Saints were playing well.
Houston at Miami (3): The Texans won last week, which means they ought to lose this week. Miami ought to have won last week. They will win this week. Both teams are 7-7 – but then, so are four others. And I think the Dolphins are just tougher and better. Dolphins, 27-23. Verdict (Texans, 27-20). No, the Texans are tougher and better. And in December, they are third behind the Chargers and Eagles in terms of dangerous teams. Dolphins are of course done, Texans could well make the playoffs.
Seattle at Green Bay (14): That winning streak came to a heartbreaking end last week against the Steelers, but Seattle is just awful and even worse than that on the road. The Packers can use this game to get back on track and head into the playoffs on a high note. Packers, 27-7. Verdict (Packers, 48-10). The Pack is in the playoffs. And with the Vikings and Saints faltering, and the Cowboys unproven in the playoffs, the Pack could be just about as dangerous as the Eagles – in fact, they could meet in the conference final now.
Carolina at New York Giants (7): Were the Giants for real last week, or did the Skins just quit? I don’t know, but it did appear that the Panthers were giving it their all against the Vikings. I think they will at least keep this one close. Giants, 23-21. Verdict (Panthers, 41-9). Now it was the Giants’ turn to just quit. Missing out on the playoffs is one thing. Getting hammered out is quite another.
Oakland at Cleveland (3): The Browns are on a two-game winning streak. Seriously. And Oakland has yet to follow up a win with a solid effort. I think the Raiders are a better team, but the Browns have Cribbs. Oakland has JaMarcus Russell. Browns, 14-13. Verdict (Browns, 23-9). I still think the Raiders are a better team. But it bodes well for Cleveland that they can win a game without putting up a couple of massive record-setting performances. JaMarcus Russell is still…JaMarcus Russell. Even when he isn’t playing.
Jacksonville at New England (7.5): The Jaguars looked pretty impressive against the Colts on Thursday. I think they travel badly, but they need to win to have a shot at the playoffs. They will give it their best effort against a Patriots team that is miles better at home than they are on the road. Patriots, 23-17. Verdict (Patriots, 35-7). I didn’t think that, this late in the season with a playoff spot on the line, the Jags would travel THIS badly. Now the Patriots are in the playoffs. Despite their recent troubles, does any team want to play them? I doubt it.
Kansas City at Cincinnati (14): The Chiefs proved they can find a million ways to lose a game last week. The Browns? Seriously? 41 points? Bengals, 37-9. Verdict (Bengals, 17-10). The Chiefs put up a really solid effort again, and again came up just short. The Bengals will scare few teams in the playoffs, but they won a really tough division and should be taken seriously.
Buffalo at Atlanta (9.5): The Falcons may well remember how to win, now that the Jets made sure they did so last week. I think they will seize the opportunity and win this one. Even though they are, for the most part, out of playoff contention. Falcons, 20-14. Verdict (Falcons, 31-3). Falcons totally out of the plaoffs, but they have a good shot at finishing with a winning record for the second straight year.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh (2.5): The Steelers win last week does not mean they are good again. They will not make the playoffs, Baltimore will. Ravens, 20-17. Verdict (Steelers, 23-20). Baltimore might still make the playoffs. But so too could the Steelers. And I don’t think the AFC wants that to happen.
St. Louis at Arizona (14): The Rams are bad, bad, bad. But they kept it really close with Houston. And they have kept it close most of the season against better teams. And the Cardinals make things much harder on themselves than they ought to. Cardinals, 16-14. Verdict (Cardinals, 31-10). Arizona is such a hot-and-cold team that there’s no telling who they’ll be when they hit the playoffs. That could mean a blowout loss in game one, or another run like last year. Don’t count on the latter.
Detroit at San Francisco (12): Both teams have nothing left for which to play. Niners, 26-21. Verdict (Niners, 20-6). Nothing left for which to play, except pride. The Niners still have pride. That bodes well for next year.
Denver at Philadelphia (7): The Eagles inexorable march toward a division title continues. The Broncos’ inexorable march to obscurity and missing out on the playoffs continues. Eagles, 42-21. Verdict (Eagles, 30-27). The Broncos are done if they lose next week. I think they will lose next week. I think they are done. The Eagles look very, very dangerous and might now be the best team in the NFC.
New York Jets at Indianapolis (5.5): The Colts want to be perfect. The Jets will want to help out. Colts, 26-20. Verdict (Jets, 29-15). I think it was a bad move. Taking Manning out with a 15-10 lead was a mistake. Freeney and Mathis, OK. But Manning is indestructible. And if the Colts lose again next week, they wil be in a bad way for the playoffs. Like all those other years where they did the same thing…
Dallas (7) at Washington: Always a tough game to call, because the Skins get up for Dallas. But I’m inclined to believe they quit last week, so I am not willing to go out on a limb and pick them to be victorious…quite. I do think they will cover the spread. Cowboys, 27-26. Verdict (Cowboys, 17-0). No. The Redskins have quit entirely.
Minnesota (7) at Chicago: The Vikings actually need this one to keep the Eagles at bay for that second seed. And they looked awful last week. They need to put one together here, and the Bears are just the patsy to let them do it on Monday night. Vikings, 30-21. Verdict (Bears, 36-30). Brett Favre still has that last-second magic. And had the Vikings not missed that extra point earlier…this was a huge loss though. Huge. Now, the Eagles just have to beat the Cowboys next week to get a first-round bye. And they will. And the Vikings will play either the Cowboys or the Packers. They better cross their fingers that it’s the Cowboys.
This week I went 9-7 straight up (160-80 overall), and a brutal, brutal 3-13 against the spread (129-109-2 overall).
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
We were talking last week about Tiger Woods winning Athlete Of The Decade in the AP poll, and throwing out some names who might be equally deserving of the honour. While I agree with the selection of Woods, it occured to me that there are a few others we never mentioned who deserve consideration. A short list:
Niklas Lidstrom: No other player in any sport (aside from Woods) was the best player in his sport at his position in every single year of the decade. Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2008. And was a finalist every other year. Add to that a Conn Smythe trophy, and he deserves serious consideration. Imagine a pitcher winning six Cy Youngs in a decade.
Albert Pujols: Three NL MVP awards and a World Series title are great. But Pujols has done something far more amazing than any single-season accomplishment. He won the triple crown – for the entire decade. No player in the National League had a higher average. None had more home runs. Nobody had more RBIs. His absolute worst season, repeated ten times, would still have kept him close in all three categories for the decade triple crown. Incredible.
Peyton Manning: There’s the Super Bowl win. And the three MVP awards. And all those passing records. The thing that makes Manning worth consideration for Athlete of the Decade is the way he did it. No matter who his receivers were, he made them great. No matter who was around him, he was going to win 12 games a year. The Patriots deserve the title of Team of the Decade, but without Tom Brady they still went 11-5. Without Manning, the Colts are not even a .500 team. Thankfully for them, he started every single Indy game this decade, becoming the Greatest QB Ever in the process.
Roger Federer: He did, in tennis, what Woods did in golf. That is, become the greatest player of all time and break all the records. Never the draw Woods is for the PGA, for some reason. But he did it all, and stayed classy.
Honourable mentions: Lance Armstrong (too many drug rumours, in a tainted sport, for real consideration), Michael Phelps (too bad there are only two real events to measure him by in the decade), Usain Bolt (also just two events), LaDanian Tomlinson (very close to Manning).
Saturday, December 19th, 2009
Is this the greatest mashup ever? Maybe. It’s certainly close.