Wednesday, January 05, 2022

The Forgettable 2021

Every year since I started this blog, I've made at least one post... until last year. And I didn't even realize it until today. The entirety of 2021 went by without a post. To be fair, it doesn't seem like much happens anymore... just one long ride on the pandemic express where there are no stops. We looked like we were getting out of it in the late summer / early autumn, but then Omicron happened. Is this Covid's last burn, or are we destined to see waves over and over again. Who knows?

But back to my utter failure to keep this personal and public journal updated at least once over the past year. Looking back through my photos, I suppose I did a few things over the year.

I went for a winter walk in the Pinery with the Walters.

I got my bathroom renovated.

Took a virtual Learn to Paint class.

Got my first vaccine shot.

Made a video with my niece.

Visited the AGO with the Greens.

Helped install the ice at the Granite Club.

Saw a Blue Jays game from a box.

Met the Graces' new kittens.

Visited a local trail for the first time.

So, I suppose a few things did happen... but keep in mind that was over the entire year. Here's hoping that the pandemic is over soon... or at least we learn how to live with it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Ghostbusters #1 Movie

Here we are... life in a pandemic. Stores are closed, people work from home, there's no sports, people should wear masks, idiot argue that wearing a mask is oppression, and my usual lifestyle of hanging out at home playing video games is really paying off.

But also, movie theatres are closed and there are no new movie releases. So that's why it's very interesting to see what movies are topping the box office charts (at least in North America) lately. Some places allow theatres to be open, but not many. And with there being no new movies, these theatres are relying on classic movies. So this past weekend (according to this article), for the 11th time, Ghostbusters was the top grossing movie. The first 10 times was back in 1984... a small gap of 36 years. Similarly, the past few weekends, Jurrassic Park was the top movie.

Imagine saying that at the beginning of the year without any context. Strange times these are.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Top 10 Simpsons Episodes

I've heard that The Simpsons is one of those shows that was so beloved, and has run so long, that you'd get a different answer out of most people when asked to name their favourite episode... and you'd get a different answer out of everyone when asked to name their top 10 episodes. I don't know why that piqued my interest, but I sat down and went through the list of episodes on The Simpsons Wiki, and came up with my Top 10.

10: Deep Space Homer (Episode 15 of Season 5) - where Homer goes into space.

Highlights: Inanimate carbon rod, Homer realizing the Planet of the Apes was Earth, Barney crashing into the roof of the pillow factory, and "and I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords".

9: Last Exit to Springfield (Episode 17 of Season 4) - where the power plant goes on strike after Homer becomes union president.

Highlights: "Dental plan... Lisa needs braces...", "Goons... Hired goons", "It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times?!", and "I had an onion on my belt, which was the style of the time".

8: King-Size Homer (Episode 7 of Season 7) - Homer gains weight to be able to work from home.

Highlights: "Gas, brake, honk. Gas, brake, honk. Honk, honk, punch. Gas, gas, gas", "Where's the Anykey?", "I just tripled my productivity", and "the fingers you have used to dial are too fat...".

7: Treehouse of Horror IV (Episode 5 of Season 5) - specifically Homer sells his soul for a donut.

Highlights: Flanders is the devil "it's always the one you least suspect", "Mmmm... forbidden donut", and "I watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn't on, but I think I got the gist of it".

6: Homer at the Bat (Episode 17 of Season 3) - Mr. Burns hires professional baseball players to play on the company softball team.

Highlights: "Hey! We know how to play softball", "that's impossible. no one can give more than 100%...", "get rid of those sideburns!", "You! Strawberry! Hit a home run.", and the closing song.

5: Homer the Great (Episode 12 of Season 6) - Stonecutters episode.

Highlights: "I'm going outside to... stalk... Lenny and Carl", The Stonecutters song, the No Homers Club, and  "For the love of God, somebody get the jaws of life".

4. You Only Move Twice (Episode 2 of Season 8) - Homer changes jobs and his new boss is a super villain.

Highlights: Essentially everything that Mr. Scorpio does that's super villainy that goes completely unnoticed, and escalates as the episode goes on... and the hammock discussion.

3. Marge vs the Monorail (Episode 12 of Season 4) - the monorail episode (duh).

Highlights: The monorail song, "weren't you one of the little rascals?", "a solar eclipse... the cosmic ballet goes on", and "Batman's a scientist".

2. $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) (Episode 10 of Season 5) - Mr. Burns builds a casino.

Highlights: "I've discovered the perfect business. People walk in, empty their pockets, and scuttle off. Nothing can stop me now, except microscopic germs", "oh, nothing, Marge. Just a little incident involving the Boogie Man!", "You from the casino?" "I'm from a casino", and "we'll take the Spruce Moose... hop in!".

1. Cape Feare (Episode 2 of Season 5) - the Simpsons enter the witness protection program to escape Sideshow Bob.

Highlights: "Hey kids, want to drive through that cactus patch?" "yeah" "yeah" "no" "well, two against one!", Sideshow Bob stepping on the rakes, "not the elephants!", "Bart, do you want to see my new chainsaw and hockey mask?", and Sideshow Bob signing the entire score of the HMS Pinafore.

Tell me how I'm wrong.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Life and Times of a Jeep

This blog is so old, that I started it before I bought my Jeep way back in 2005 (Click here is the post I made announcing the purchase). So the events of last week are a great excuse to dust off Ye Olde Blog.

Well, all good things must come to an end. And last week, I finally sold my 15 year old Jeep TJ Sport. It had been sadly underused for the past few year since I bought my Focus. At first, I thought I would hold onto it and keep it as a "for fun" vehicle, and while it was a fun vehicle, I realized I couldn't justify keeping it when it mostly sat in the driveway, having the battery slowly die from under use. Also, it way in the way when I wanted to put my car in the garage.

So after procrastinating for about two years, I finally ordered the Used Vehicle Information Package. Then I took it into a shop to see if it could get its safety certificate without any work (or at least I would know exactly what needed to be done to it). It didn't pass safety, but it only needed a new muffler and some rust fixed on the front fenders.

My initial thought was to sell it for $3600, if I could get it safetied, but since I was going to sell as-is, I rethought and was going to lower it to $3200. Then I looked more closely at the other Jeeps of the same vintage on kijiji, and while most had lots of after-market work done to them, they were asking for much higher than I was thinking. So, I thought "what harm could it do" and went with the higher $3650. And, oh boy, did that make for a busy sales day.

So I wrote the kijiji post on Sunday evening, but apparently as a new user (I'd never used kijiji before for anything), the post needed to be verified before it went live. But I could still link to it. So I put it up on Facebook to see if any of my friends wanted it first. A couple signs of interest, but ultimately, no sale.  The kijiji post went live at about 5am on Monday, and by the time I woke up at 7am, I already had two messages waiting for me.  The first just asked if he could see it, and the second asked some more questions about the condition of the Jeep. The first guy just said he could meet me at 4:30 that afternoon and nothing else was said.  The other guy also ended up wanting to see it, but since I wanted to give the first guy the chance, I told second guy to come at 5:30.

Well, to make a long story slightly shorter, the second guy became a little more insistent, letting me know he was coming in from Toronto and was heading into KW early to beat traffic, so he could be here earlier. Not wanting to have conflicting viewings, I held firm to my original 5:30 plan. But eventually he said he could be there by 3:30, so I figured at this point it sounded like a sure sale and said ok to 3:30.  Then he hit traffic and Waze told him it would be about 4... then 4:15... then 4:20. It's at this point he offered $100 just to hold it for him to see and if he didn't end up buying it, the $100 was mine to keep. So, I promptly told the first guy (who I hadn't heard from since the morning) that I couldn't meet him until 5:30.

Keep in mind, at this point, I've had about a dozen other messages from the ad, ranging from "I'm very interested, call/text me at xxx-xxxx" to "what's your rock bottom price?" (that last one I didn't even bother to respond to... you aren't going to get me to negotiate with myself within the first few hours of the post being live).

To make a long story a medium story, the guy who came in from Toronto ended up buying with cash for asking price. So, I immediately message the first guy saying it was sold, and I get a angry message back from him telling me that he was also coming in from Toronto and he took off early from work and was bringing a friend to drive his car back. I felt a bit bad, but in the end, I wasn't going to hold it all day long while I had so many other offers coming in.

One of the lessons here is that Jeeps in reasonably good condition command a relatively high price in the used car market, and I could have gotten more, if I was inclined to play that game (which I wasn't). In fact, after I messaged one of the other people telling him it was sold, he straight up offered $4000 if it wasn't physically gone yet (it was by then).

In the end, I'm happy I finally sold it. I will probably miss it some days, but again, since I wasn't using it, I don't feel like I'm missing out. The guy who bought it was buying it for his son (who came with his dad to see it... he looked to be about early 20's), and they had a whole family of Jeeps... so that was kind of nice.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

How I Fixed The Stupid System Error in the Starbucks App

So, I recently got myself a new phone. Switched from Android to iOS (because I never tried an iPhone before). Now, having payment options and loyalty cards right on your phone is pretty handy. So, I downloaded the Starbucks app, among others. However, I could not log in. I kept getting a message that said "We're sorry, a system error occurred. Please try again later." No matter how many times I tried again later, I could not get rid of this error. Strangely enough, it worked on my old phone, and still worked on my work phone (both of which are Android). Usually a search with this phrase would bring up plenty of fixes, but unfortunately all could find was other frustrated people unable to get it to work. Looking at the reviews in the App Store, I could see some people having this problem, but mostly it worked fine for people.

Uninstalling, reinstalling, and rebooting didn't work. None of the fixes that I did find worked for me (one was talking about turning off and back on the automatic clock, for some reason). What finally got me along the path to fixing my issue was reading about how someone tried to make a new account instead of signing into their old account. So, I tried that on a whim... and it worked. Now I'm thoroughly confused. But something did stick out to me when making the new account, and it was the password requirements, which made it mandatory to have a lower case letter, upper case letter, number, and special character. On this dummy account, I wanted the password to be as simple as possible, so I just used a single special character. Contrast that to the password on my current account, which was a complex random password generated in LastPass.

That's a long way of getting to the point. But here's how I fixed the system error: I changed my password. I used a single special character in the new password, and it worked like a charm. I don't know why this was an issue... maybe it's something about iOS and special characters (because I had plenty... #, @, !, %, etc).

So, if anyone stumbles onto this page with the same error, I just wanted to suggest this fix and hope it works for you.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Predictions for Roar of the Rings

As the Canadian Olympic Curling Trial start this weekend in Ottawa, I just wanted to throw down my predictions, so I can point to them at the end and show everyone how right I was... or delete my post.

A month ago, I thought the men's side was a foregone conclusion. Brad Gushue's team has been lights out since the beginning of 2017. In fact, I was already awarding him the gold medal for PyeongChang (although Team Edin of Sweden hasn't been too shabby either in the past season). But at the previous Grand Slam, there were upsets aplenty with Gushue losing in the quarter finals and two teams playing in the finals for the first time (and neither of them Canadian). It just goes to show that any given week, some team can get real hot or real cold and anyone could win. The men's field is pretty tight with the Big Four (Gushue, Koe, Jacobs and McEwen) all being potential unsurprising winners (Big Five if you include Carruthers). I don't really have a rooting interest as none of the teams are really a favourite of mine (I need someone to replace the Glenn Howard shaped hole in my heart), but there are certainly teams I don't want to win.

After saying all that, I'm sticking with the favourite. Team Gushue to win. Dark horse pick is Team Morris.

For the women, the favourites are Homan or Jones. Going into the season, Homan was the hot team, but they've struggled so far this season while Jones has been on point. I look for Team Jones to be the first team to wear the maple leaf in two consecutive olympics. Dark horse pick is... oh I don't know... let's say Team Tippin. Because I like the teams that come through the pre-trials, apparently.

I would love to see lots of action in terms of the standings and have the teams moving onto the playoffs not to be clear until right until the end (including whoever finished first).

Also, I wouldn't mind seeing both national champions winning this thing (Gushue and Homan). With the inclusion of the wild card team at both the Brier and Hearts this year for the first time, it would add just that little bit of chaos to the tournaments if the Team Canadas aren't there (or at least be last year's runners up). I'm firmly on the curling version of #teamchoas.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Professional Curling is a Mess

Yesterday, The Curling News broke the story that the World Curling Tour and the Curling Champions Tour (basically the North American and European pro curling tours... more or less) were merging. I think this is positive news for professional curling, but it touched on something that has bothered me for quite awhile. Which is that the professional curling season makes absolutely no sense.
Curling is stuck in a weird spot that is halfway between being an amateur sport and a professional sport. For years, the biggest events of the curling season were national, continental and world championships... and they still are. In Canada, the highest watched curling events are the Brier and the Tournament of Hearts. But competing for your country, province, region, club, etc. are hallmarks of amateur sport. There's nothing wrong with that, but by its nature, it prevents a true best on best competition. For example, if two teams from Alberta were the best two teams in the world, they would never be able to play against each other for a national championship (notwithstanding the introduction of the wild card teams next year), let alone a world championship. This is where the professional side of things should step up. And while we do get bonspiels with the top teams in the world now, they fail to match the magnitude of things like the Brier and come across as a disconnected bunch of unrelated events. We have the Grand Slams, which is a great series of events from the perspective that it provides enough prize money that athletes can at least make a decent amount of earnings on tour, but while they're technically part of the World Curling Tour, it never really feels like it. Rogers (Sportsnet) runs the show and for the most part they treat them like separate events with little relation. And while there technically is a Grand Slam Cup and Cup Winners Cup, there's little emphasis on the former and nothing special about the latter. Also, it only considers Rogers' Grand Slams and not the dozens of other events on tour throughout the season.

I'm going to compare the curling season to three other sports: tennis, golf and Formula 1. All three, like curling, are a series of events that add up to a complete season.

Tennis, I think, has one of the best point systems in sports (the ATP World Tour anyway). There are 4 levels of events: the Grand Slams (2000 points for the winner), Masters (1000 pts), the 500 and 250 events. There's nothing complicated about how many points are at stake, there's no factoring for the strength of field (like curling's Order of Merit does now), and it's easy to follow. The point are highly important because it factors into world rankings and seeding for the single knockout tournament (and curling could do with more knockout style bonspiels, at least double or triple knockouts anyway).

Golf is a little more like how curling is now with more emphasis on events and less on season long standings, but there still is emphasis on the money list and earning point to get to the season ending Tour Championship. There's a clear emphasis on the 4 majors, and even casual fans know what the focus is on.

Now Formula 1 is the opposite swing of the pendulum from golf in this comparison. While there is a goal each weekend to win the race, much more emphasis is placed on the season-long drivers' championship. Again, there are consistent points and clear goals. The best part is that there is an easy to follow season-long story arc.

I think the best model that curling should emulate is the tennis model. Have a select few events be "majors" (Grand Slams and elevate some European and Asian events... which would require Rogers to play ball, which is easier said than done), have a second tier (events that right now fill the weeks between Slams that might pay out $40-$60k), a third and fourth tier. There can be more than one event scheduled each week, as there is now (and as happens in tennis), so all the current events can stay. I, of course, realize that much of the tour scheduling and field of teams depends on the prize money right now, and I don't know how that all fits into this plan (because some tier 3 events would be more attractive to players than other tier 3 events, for example). But putting a pin in that issue, the whole season can lead towards a tour championship event in May, after the World Championships and perhaps after a last chance major event.

The point is that right now, there's no real stakes to the current professional curling season, other than winning one of a number of nearly identical events. There's nothing that makes the "Masters" any different than the "Canadian Open" and the "Tour Challenge", etc.

Perhaps with the merger of Tours, something like this is already being worked out. I'm not sure... I have no inside information. One can only hope. But as it stands right now, there needs to be some sort of season long narrative that relates one event to the next. Otherwise, it'll turn into casual fans simply saying, "Oh look, curling is on TV again. Nothing special about this."

I will say one thing about the merger that I do know. They got the new name and logo right. The World Curling Tour is the better name, but the Curling Champions Tour had the much better logo.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

It Hate To Say It: Americans in the Right (World Curling Championships)

In the 3-4 playoff game between USA and Japan this morning at the World Curling Championship, controversy again reared its ugly head. Because after all the stuff involving brushes and sweeping techniques we've had this year, I guess we haven't had enough.

Watch the video below from the 1:40 mark. In the eighth end, Japan tries a double takeout. One of the USA rocks (yellow) jams on a Japan rock (red) and looks like it may be slowly going out.  But the red rock hits the side boards and bounces back, changing the velocity of the yellow rock, where it hung in the house... barely. Japan argued that the rock was going out, and USA argued that the rock actually picked up speed after being hit, so while the direction was worse, it may have stopped sooner.

In the end, because it was the responsibility of Japan to stop the rock that bounced from interfering with the rocks in play, it was entirely up to USA to decide where the rocks should go. However, the spirit of the game dictates that if it was going out, the American should remove their rock from the house.  They didn't, arguing that it would have stopped in time if it wasn't hit.  Japan was upset, the crowd booed them, and Twitter blew up.

When I saw it initially, I too thought the Americans should have placed it out of the house. But after watching the replay again and again, there's a solid argument to be made that while the angle is worse, there's less momentum and the rock might have stopped.

In the end, it's impossible to tell what would have happened, so I think the non offending team is well within their rights (both by the rules and by the spirit of the rules) to leave the rock in. So, while it's very unfortunate that this situation even came up, I don't have a problem with the call that was made.

Of course, the USA went on to lose the semi-final later in the day against Denmark, so they'll have to play Japan again tomorrow for the bronze medal.  So, after all that controversy, we get a rematch.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top 5 of 2015

Today I look back at the year that was for Matt's Blog is Stupid(ly Awesome) and list my Top 5 posts of 2015.  And unlike most top whatever lists, I start right at the top.

#1 - Oliebollen... The Traditional Way

I started the year with the latest installment of my award winning digital series "Cooking With Food", with special guest cook, Mom.

#2 - Cooking With Food Episode 10

I return to solo cooking with an epic webisode that whipped up a Rice Krispie Sphere.

#3 - Adventures in Winter Driving

A retelling of my harrowing tale of being stranded in Strathroy when a winter storm hit.  It's not a story I want to relive, but it certainly was one of the longest posts I've ever written.

#4 - Implication of an Extended Election

I get a bit political in this one, but I make what I think to be an interesting observation of the size of the budgets of each political parties in the context of Blue Jays playoff games.

#5 - Top 5 of 2015

This one made the list because I only made 4 posts this year up until this one.  So, yeah, I guess it was a slow year.  Or personal blogging is so far past being considered passé and I refuse to admit it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Implications of an Extended Election

The federal election is in three days. The election was called over 2 months ago by the Conservatives and is the longest in modern Canadian history (what constitutes "modern", I'm not sure), and the signs of the long campaign are showing. One of the reasons the Conservatives called it so early (whether or not they'd admit it) is that they have a whole lot more money than their opponents. An extended campaign will drain the Liberal and NDP well before the vote, unless they run budget campaigns. I'm not sure how the fundraising has gone since the election was called, but I've noticed the effects... and they're right in front of everyone's face. Well, everyone who's watching the Blue Jays' playoff games.

Take Game 5 of the ALDS on Wednesday night. Every inning, like clockwork, there was a commercial for the Conservatives and a commercial for the Liberals. The NDP was nowhere to be found. The obvious conclusion is that the NDP are out of money. Did that cause their drop in the polls? Did their drop in the polls affect their fundraising? Are those two things unrelated? I don't know, but I found it to be an interesting observation.

I will now return to muting all commercial breaks. Unless they actually made this commercial...