Saturday, June 23, 2018

Is It Too Late to Publish my Top 25 TV shows of 2017?

The answer is probably yes. Which I plan to ignore and put the list here.

No extended discussion as to the why's and how comes? I'm hoping to turn this annual (I'm LESS than a year late with this) write (sic) of passage into an eBook called "One Man's Guide to Binge-Watching TV: The Lifetime Edition." I plan to 'scoop' myself by releasing the list annually on my birthday. And that will continue next month with the 2018 edition. Check out Amazon in about five months to see IF I succeeded. After that, the book will be updated on my birthday and then the release here later in July of just the list. But here's the 2017 list, at least.

TOP 25 or close enough

  1. British TV Game Shows with scoring rules too complicated for me to figure out UK
    • QI
    • Duck Quacks Don't Echo
    • 8 of 10 Cats Countdown
    • Would I Lie to You
    • Big Fat Quiz 
    • Room 101
  2. Our Ex Wife UK
  3. Snatch UK
  4. Marvel's Luke Cage
  5. Amazing Hotels Life Beyond the Lobby UK
  6. Talk Shows with foreign-born hosts
    • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 
    • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee 
    • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah 
    • The Jim Jefferies Show
    • The Last Leg with Adam Hills UK
  7. Brockmire
  8. Orphan Back CDN
  9. Spies in the Wild UK
  10. The Good Place
  11. Bosch
  12. Gotham
  13. Madame Secretary
  14. Pain, Pus & Poison The Search for Modern Medicines UK
  15. Superior Donuts
  16. Good Girls Revolt
  17. Sweet Vicious
  18. Dark Matter
  19. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
  20. Sneaky Pete
  21. Startup
  22. Truth & Iliza
  23. Stitchers
  24. Tarzan and Jane tie Star Wars Rebels
  25. Designated Survivor
  26. Tyrant
  27. Newton's Law AU
  28. GLOW
  29. Girl Meets World
  30. Quarry
  31. The Last Ship
  32. Queen of the South
  33. DC Comics
    • Lucifer
    • Supergirl
    • Flash
    • Arrow
  34. White Gold UK
  35. Shark Tank US/AU
  36. Not Going Out UK
  37. Killljoys CDN
  38. The Night Shift
  39. Travelers
  40. Adam Ruins Everything
  41. Incorporated
  42. Real Time with Bill Maher
  43. Hack My Life
  44. The Secret Life of the Zoo UK tie The Zoo US


  1. Japanology JPN
  2. Chance UK
  3. Salvation CDN
  4. Rosewood
  5. I Love Dick
  6. Ideas, ideas, ideas ... TV shows that might have been genius
    • Pure Genius
    • APB
  7. Private Eyes CDN


  1. Anthony Bourdain - Parts Unknown (A truly tragic story)
  2. Toronto TFC (for Sebastian Giovinco) CDN
  3. Vanessa Gianfrancisco  on One World Kitchen CDN
  4. Downward Dog for the dog animation despite the horrible everything else
  5. Aisha Dee on The Bold Type
  6. The Catch (It's a caper show, 'nuff said ... here)


  1. CNN
  2. Gap Year
  3. Kevin Can Wait
  4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  5. Kim's Convenience
  6. MacGyver
  7. I Live With Models
  8. The Odd Couple
  9. Taken


  1. Time travel TV
    • Timeless
    • Frequency
  2. Notorious (how could you screw up having Piper Perabo)
  3. Westworld
  4. You Me Her (after a decent first season)
  5. Riverdale
  6. Powerless
  7. The Good Fight
  8. Imaginary Mary
(If you're counting, I think that's 78 good mentions to 17 not good mentions ... for a top 25 list)

Heinz Ketchup, Canada and Comrade Donald

I skipped publishing 2017's Top 25 (or so) TV shows last year because I got to the Worst of the Worst and ended up writing 1500+ words on CNN's aiding of the election of the UnGreat Pumpkin, his worst self. I was enraged that the TV channel had abrogated its journalistic responsibilities for the (easy) good ratings letting that overgrown Enfant terrible spout lie after lie, virtually unchallenged so as to ensure he would appear on the channel. Don Lemon, a guy I like and who I think IS a good journalist, didn't come to Jesus until it was too late. He lambasts President Small Hands regularly and doesn't let lies go unchallenged... now. 18 months too late. He wasn't the only CNN journalist to do this, just the one I was most disappointed in. Sigh, I'm stressing myself again just typing about it.

Thanks to CNN and the depressed Midwesterners reaching out for any lifeline in the absence of the belief in the Democrat promises, voters formed the opinion that a vote for Doofus J. Terrible was a case of "What have you got to lose?" Turns out, the American soul.

And moderately priced Heinz Ketchup here in Canada.

The Blithering Idiot-in-Chief has started a trade war. Reasonable to a certain extent if that war had been with China. But that was only Act II. First, he had to shove it up the backsides of the countries that have historically been American allies. You know, the GOOD guys, the neighbours boasting the world's longest undefended border, the folks that died in large numbers so that American soldiers could take Berlin eight decades ago. We've been the polite wingman, consumers of American media and goods and services. And that Tub-o-Turd has fouled this neat agreement amongst gentlemen and gentlewomen. It has been assumed that the Democrats will de-fang The Monster come November and then sweep him out with the rest of the garbage he institutionalized in his not-so-brief four years of Caligula/Nero-like rule from his bully pulpit.

But what if the damage he does is harder to overturn simply with Presidential fiat to sign orders decreeing the country forget everything the dog-whistling Racist has done to the country. One which I truly love, down to the single woman I've ever tried to complete a life with. I wonder if "Oops, we won't do that again," will be good enough for the rest of the world. Ask Germany how long international memories are. What if the Autocrat-In-Wanting won't leave? Bill Maher keeps reminding us he saw a victory for the Orangutan Look-A-Like and that he is increasingly alarmed at the idea that we might have an Emperor (with no clues) in the making. Hopefully, his Delphic Oracle impression is wrong. For the world's sake.

There will be a swell in Canada to stop buying made-in-the-US Ketchup ... really Heinz Ketchup. The tit-for-tat tariff Canada attaches to Ketchup in July to respond in part to this cowardly stabbing in the back trade war The Filibustering Fool started, will prompt MANY Canadians to look at the price of buying USA. Boycotting Heinz.

But not me. I consider the stuff ambrosia, the gift of the gods. I am addicted to the stuff. I eat a LOT of it. I have type II Diabetes. Those two things are not unrelated. Like most addicts, I have no control over how I spend my money. I MUST have Heinz Ketchup. Simple as that.


Sigh, I'm Canadian. I'm not allowed to complete the rant. Civility demands I recognize my own failings and stop blaming others for those failings. I will continue to buy Heinz Ketchup. In quantities that drive my doctors to despair and my bankers to lower my credit score. But without saying it, you REALLY know I'm thinking it. And I hope whatever he chokes on is covered in the red stuff.

Heinz red stuff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mr. Bergevin, Line 1 is for You

I'd like to call Marc Bergevin and tell him  how to go about his business because his business has been hurting. And when the Montreal Canadiens hurt, so do I. Don't quite have the chutzpah though.

Bergevin has managed himself and his team into a corner. There's a lot of talk about taking advantage of the third pick in the draft because the Habs went through all kinds of unhappy to earn the pick. Just as they did the year they made Alexander Galchenyuk their solution for the future and for the past unhappiness of THAT season. Galchenyuk never realized the potential he showed in his first year and was shipped off to the Desert Gulag of Arizona in return for Max Domi, seen by many as Galchenyuk-lite. I actually think the swap works out well for Montreal. I think Domi's determination makes him a better end of a "New Start" trade. I like the worker over the artiste most times. And maybe Max CAN play centre. Or maybe not. The evidence that Jonathan Druin can seems even more ephemeral.

So here's the off-season advice for Bergevin to stumble upon as he strolls through blog after blog telling him ... well ... stuff! I'll be more compassionate. Although if he FAILS to do EXACTLY as I say, I will join the chorus to have his hide astride a pole somewhere in the depths of Hell. Or worse.

I do NOT stake my whole draft on a reach for a kid from Finland who won't be in Montral Blue, Blanc et Rouge for at LEAST another season. The ticking clock on the careers of Shea Weber and Carey Price simply won't permit that strategy. So, I reach out and let Paul Statsny know he can come home to his home province of Quebec. I'm hoping 5.5 for four years gets his signature on a free-agent contract. If it's six by four, so be it. I have my second-line centre, a defensively-responsible defender who scores. And that's just too rare in Montreal this decade. I also bring back Tomas Plekanec for a year-by-year contract arrangement. He'll play the fourth centre spot and can cover up a line or two for brief periods of time. And he is a Montreal lifer, despite doing hard time in Toronto post trade deadline in the spring. We'll ignore that blot on his record, as most Montrealers ignore Toronto anyways. I'd think 2.5 for the season would get him, but I'd still buy in at 3. And by doing that, some of the pain over the loss of Andrei Markov before last season might be repaired. Montreal SHOULD honour those that honour it.

Montreal still needs a bit more help on defence and I'd like to take a flyer on John Moores, a three-year 2.5M kind of guy who might add some scoring back to the back-line and he's sneaky tough too. So, we are talking 10.5M annually for the three, which is less than John Tavares will get. Of course, I'd TALK to Tavares, but I think he stays in Long Island with (probable) in-coming coach Barry Trotz and the Lou Lamoriello touch in the head office.

Which STILL leaves a considerable bit of payroll space and I use it all up PDQ with a three-team trade that I think works for all three teams. Naturally, it resolves most of Montreal's problems and DOES include a division-mate who might not want to help Montreal all that much, but the Habs DO have some candy to deal and relatively new GMs in rebuilding situations have been told ad nauseum that draft picks are the King's Gold of hockey assets. So, here it goes:

Montreal gets Ryan O'Reilly and Risto Routsalainen from Buffalo, along with a third rounder this year from Vancouver and a seventh rounder from Vancouver next year.

Vancouver gets that third pick in the first round from Montreal, as well as Montreal's sixth rounder and Buffalo's seventh rounder next year.

Buffalo (the linchpin of course) gets Max Pacioretty from Montreal, Vancouver's first round pick this year (seventh overall) and the THREE BEST second round draft picks this year from Montreal (which starts with four).

Hmmmmm, the Habs get their first-line centre (or second, it's semantics, given Stastny) and a defenceman to add to the mix of bounce-back candidates, plus some lottery tickets. In losing the captain, Montreal takes on long term commitment of 12M a year, where as Pacioretty is on a sterling 4.5M for one more year. A net add-on of 7.5M. And with it, the remainder of the Habs' payroll. It also means Drouin is a winger. And so is Domi. And so is Brett Gallagher and Arturri Lehkonen and Paul Byron and Charles Hudon and Nicolas Deslauriers and Andrew Shaw. Phillip Danault gets the third-line centre spot. Not a great dozen, but one that makes sense in the NHL. Lots of speed, maybe a lack of proven goal-scoring. But a decent dozen. There's a BIT of disaster insurance in Laval, hopefully made better by new coaching. Can you imagine power plays with both Gallagher and Domi in front of the net?

As for defence, Ristolainen was highly thought of (just look at his contract) as recently as two years ago. If the Habs are selling low on Pacioretty, so are the Sabres with Ristolainen. But not too low. Buffalo gets a boatload of picks to make after the kick off the draft Friday with Rasmus Dahlin. The club clears the way for Casey Mittelstadt to play second-line minutes behind Jack Eichel. They add leadership and a power-play asset in Pacioretty, paving the way for a potential contract extension if the two sides think it's a good fit. If not, they are saving maybe lost dollars for Ristolainen and awkward dollars for O'Reilly. And the larders will be freshly filled with second-rounders plus that pick six picks after Dahlen and likely to be another defenceman. I think this makes enough sense for Buffalo to trade two roster players for one and to trade intra-division.

Vancouver now moves up and can draft the last of the B level players. Dahlin is alone in the A class this year, but the B class isn't much bigger with just the two players, Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina. Both seem gilt-edged. Now Vancouver will be able to claim one or the other. Not that having a pick from the next six or so would be unpleasant. In fact, I wanted Montreal to take winger Brady Tkachuk third, before hatching this trade and sign plan. But all of the six next best players have some doubts attached to their game. Adding two lottery tickets AND moving up into guaranteed slotting seems a good price to pay for their own pick at seven and a third this year, plus that seventh round swap next year.

This is a trade with legs. It has to be paired with the free agent signings. But if Bergevin wants to keep his job, something similar to this has to be done. Or else the trident is at hand.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Nice Guys Finish Last

Dwane Casey is a good man, bordering on being a great man. He was a black man playing on a still VERY WHITE Kentucky team when he was in college. He continued in the game after that by becoming an assistant coach. A good one. But he got falsely labeled as a coach who got caught paying off a player to come to Kentucky. The NCAA, in a rare moment of acting in the actual 'best' interests of the college game, kicked him out of avocation and passion. That the NCAA ended up being wrong is also par for the course. Outside of cashing cheques, there is little that the NCAA does right.

Casey was wronged. Exiled to Japan to continue his quest to coach back in America. Brought back to the States as an assistant coach in the NBA, Casey developed a reputation as a defence guru, and a good one at that. Everywhere he went, he was popular with the rest of the coaching staff, players, team support personnel and the media. By seepage, it also became something of a given that even the great unwashed masses, the fans, also liked him. He eventually got the head gig with Minnesota and then was dunkirked by an owner too new to the post-Kevin Garnett world to allow Casey to develop. His mistake ended up being Toronto's fortune as Casey was free to take over from Jay Triano who took over from  another Coach of the Year type, Sam Mitchell, himself a former Minnesota player and coach. The circle of the coaching life.

In Toronto, while in a historically good run, Casey has been exposed for what he's not. A good head coach. And his signature defence has failed to make the leap from good to great. Casey's rep has grown this year thanks to the revamped offensive attitude of the team, but Nick Nurse basically designed that change and it was ordered from on high by Masai Ujiri, the GM. Getting credit for extracting better offence from BASICALLY the same team as was available the year before ... when HE should have noted the failures and made changes... ANY changes... in the Raptor hero-ball offence where Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan pounded the ball before going solo waaaaaaaaay to often, seems like sneaking a peak at somebody else's paper and getting an A where only a B was deserved. NO, Casey didn't cheat, but NO, Casey doesn't get credit in this quarter for Nurse's work implementing Ujiri's command.

Coach of the Year? Ahhhhh, NO. Wouldn't even make my top three, with Brad Stevens, Quinn Snyder and Mike D'Antonio (hey, YOU try mixing two alpha dog ball-handlers on the same team and not have it blow up in your face). Nate McMillan also might be a better choice for the award.

Casey has proven, as a HEAD COACH, incapable of making the in-game adjustments winners have to make. He's won series, more than any other coach in Raptors' franchise history, but a lot of the wins were with better talent. He gets some credit for NOT SCREWING UP the better team, but too many of those games were too close to give him MUCH credit. His coaching, save for a single quarter in game 3 against Cleveland, rates as abysmal. His insertion of Lucas Noguiera, too often ignored because of his flaws and injury issues, suddenly put into that final game at a critical juncture ... with Jonas Valanciunas' dominating first quarter a seeming memory, ranks as one of the most curious coaching moves in recent memory. Casey, the fine man, and I'm NOT being sarcastic here, then LOST ME, when he explained the move as something the assistant coaches wanted. Under the bus is a bad spot to be.

Toronto will have to find a new head coach. And the irony that he MIGHT win the Coach of the Year in a sort of lifetime achievement sort of thing, is not lost on me nor on the Raptor management. The situation is similar to the one Golden State faced when they realized Mark Jackson had a limit to what he could do with the assemblage of young talent they had gathered. It was a bit of a tempest when they replaced Jackson with Steve Kerr. An announcer replacing ... well the future announcer. It was a trade of positions. Nothing I've heard OF Jackson or FROM Jackson since then makes me think it was a mistake. Ohhh, the World Championships MIGHT have occurred with Jackson at the helm. But I don't believe that. Jackson has a lot of supporters, not the least of which was because he's considered a good man. Where have I heard THAT before? Think, think, think ... yeah, right here.

In the best of times, Casey gets another job and maybe uses the experiences here in Toronto to learn and excel elsewhere. I actually hope that happens to him. Maybe in college, maybe in the NBA. He also could go back to the role that I think he's actually quite suited for: head assistant for defence. I think he KNOWS the game and can COACH defence. Just like players who range from sub-par to average to good to great, coaches have different levels of talent. Why would it be surprising that an expert on coaching defence might NOT be able to handle the subtleties of offence and of managing a roster of players? That's NOT the same expertise. And yes, many specialists DO learn other areas, but many just don't. But Casey is not a good enough head coach right now to lead a team on the VERGE of being GREAT into actually BEING GREAT.

I coached softball at significant levels. But I was flawed enough that the teams I was involved with that had the most success had me as an assistant coach. I knew the game and could teach it. But I was always stuck with the problem of thinking that I was a baseline as a player and that everybody should be able to do as well as me ... at a minimum. I didn't have talent, just a brain. And, yet, that brain could not assimilate that others couldn't think at the speeds I did. I still don't really get it. But it was true despite me ignoring the truth right in front of me. As a head coach, that flaw was magnified. As an assistant, my intensity was like a tool in a drawer. Useful in some places, not called for in others.

Reluctantly, I join the chorus to oust Casey. I've never actually been a FAN of his professional work, but I'm a fan of him, the person. Still, I place Raptor needs over his. The many rather than the few. The Raptors have to make changes. Somebody else, who won't ignore DeRozan's rather bizarre history of offensive improvements each season against a declining (from an originally pretty low intensity) interest in defence. The rationale? You can't practice defence all by yourself. All those hours DeRozan puts in the gym honing one offensive skill after another (his ball-handling and decision-making in crowds, shows even offensive skills that involve other players), can't be improved upon ENOUGH. A new coach, a new approach, might yet pull the complete player out of DeRozan. A new coach won't make DeRozan the principal ball-handler in pressure situations. That remains one of the most bizarre of Casey's decisions.

A new coach might not come from the obvious candidates, Nurse, Jerry Stackhouse or less likely Rex Kalamian. Tainted by association or too new to coaching (Stackhouse), makes any of them a risky choice. Me? I take Stackhouse in a New York second before he goes to Orlando. I wouldn't get too upset if Nurse is elevated. The coaching choices out there include a pair of Van Gundy's that I would be happy with. Jeff before Stan, by the way. NO to Jackson. I'm not sold on Mike Budenholzer as anything other than Casey redux. A guy to get TO the greatness line, but no evidence he'd bounce the squad past it. David Blatt interests me. A more experienced Jay Triano is available and Toronto has has sooooooo many reunions with players and coaches that I would hardly be surprised if he took a second tour with the team. Would Ujiri have the guts to pick Becky Hammon from San Antonio's bench? Hopefully, Jason Kidd's name doesn't float up to the top. I'm pretty sanguine about him as a person.

However, the time has come for Dwane without the Y to become EX-coach of the Raptors.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Answer to the Burning Question of the Day

Who's going to win March Madness. I dunno. And if anybody says THEY know, then start the comparisons to other pathological liars we know and don't much love. This is NOT a year for unequivocal predictions.

Who do I THINK is going to win? I entered in 13 pools at ESPN/TSN and picked EIGHT DIFFERENT WINNERS. But the one I entered in first had Virginia ripping down the nets.

I corresponded with my friend Frank last night and I had this to say: "It's going to be Virginia over Michigan State in the final. The Wahoos become team number four to go from unranked to the penthouse game, and will be the second to actually win the thing. ONE of the other three is the legendary Loyola Ramblers who beat Mississippi St in the first whites vs blacks game for an SEC team before losing to Cinncinati team in the final. Fitting that that team is back in the dance this year. 

Virgina has coaching, three guards, tough defence, three-point shooting and are coming in on a roll. Outside of NBA lottery draft talent, they check all the boxes. They DO have a chip on their shoulders. Unranked pre-season and all. Michigan State has coaching, tough defence, three-point shooting and a bigger chip. Having Miles Bridges get out of the spotlight by paying 40 bucks to charity takes ALLLLLL the mental pressure off of a school that's been nothing but bad news for six months. Their guard play will hurt them, but having two lottery picks sort of off-sets that. 

Arizona (coaching, three-point shooting, HUUUUUGE chip and lottery talent) makes sense for a final four, if Virginia wasn't on the itinerary. That said, the Wildgattos de Zona are my number two pick, NOT the Spartans. What about Villanova? The problem with THOSE Wildcats is the lack of a chip, which is odd for the normally junkyard dog Philly school. The 'cats won the whole thing too recently. And their draft talent is a lottery ticket AND Jalen Brunson. Not the other way round. I just think they are vulnerable to big teams and the Spartans are REAL big. Big enough to handle the Dukies before that.  

I'm leaning Gonzaga over North Carolina. Xavier doesn't impress me at ALL. The ONE GAME I want to see is the one that creates Xavier's vanquisher on the weekend. I am VERY interested in Missouri with Porter, Michael back in the line-up. I liked Missouri the last time I saw them and if Porter is the guy who people thinks he is (hopefully NOT the chucker from his first game back), then Missouri MIGHT be the story of the tournament. If not, Florida State going to the second week would qualify. But I BADLY want to see the Mizzou-Seminole game. "

I'm REALLY off first week upsets. Maybe Xavier, as I said. And that really depends on Missouri and both Porters being what people thought the Tigers might be at the beginning of the year. I think Florida State CAN beat Xavier, but I'm more hopeful it will be Mizzou. Texas is sort of in the same boat with the recent return of Mo Bamba, who I thought might be THE guy this year ... until I saw Deandre Ayton of Arizona. Put Texas as a maybe, along with potential one-guy star shows resulting in upsets for Oklahoma (Trae Young) and Alabama (Collin Sexton). But honestly, the only first-round upsets I see are #10 Butler over Arkansas in the East and #9 NC State as the obligatory 9/8 winner over Seton Hall in the MidWest. On the weekend, Florida and West Virginia feel like teams to go upsetting in the East. Beyond that, bupkus.

Which gets you to the second week of the tournament and sixteen teams with championship dreams, half of them legitimate. I'd be hugely disappointed to see Kentucky make it there, even with a good Canadian kid Shai Gilgeous-Alexander running the point. Oily John Calipari did his schtick on ESPN Bracketology Sunday night and reminded me how much I dislike the guy. Given his track record and Memphis and UMass, how in the world does this whole FBI investigation into bad things in college basketball game NOT INVOLVE HIM? Arizona is a team on a mission to finish out the careers of Ayton, Alonzo Trier, Rawle Atkins and coach Sean Miller with a vengeance. IF Miller's voice is matched against his real voice on that tape discussing money and Ayton, he's going to be cashiered out of the NCAA, probably for life. He'll get the Dwane Casey treatment in spite of being from coaching royalty (brother, father). That will be because he will be guilty of the one crime the NCAA can't overlook, getting caught by real law enforcement. And given Casey got five years DESPITE BEING INNOCENT, I figure the Miller penalty will be life plus a day. That is why I have Arizona as my number two choice.

The second and third week's of this year's NCAA will be the best in recent memory. THAT I PROMISE YOU.

Last thought: Jalen Brunson, Wendell Carter Jr., Miles Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Gary Trent Jr., Grayson Allen, Hamidou Diallo, Devonte Graham, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Atkins. Stars or pretty good players all. Not one of them is the player the NBA expects to call from their team FIRST when the draft goes this summer. One more reminder of why the pro game and the college game are so different.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

IF you write, they may come

Writing is a solitary experience unless you are at a newspaper covering a big story, too big for a single reporter, or you're experienced and understand the collaborative experience. Me? It's just me and my blank screen.

You should know that I've stopped writing my blog posts IN Blogger, the platform that this blog is hosted on. Nothing wrong with doing it there. But the process is too clunky to be comfortable to a 'wordy' wordsmith. Actually, the right word is pleonastic, which my editor at the paper I worked on a half-century ago said repeatedly was NOT a good thing (that was the unfortunate bit). I talk too much and I write too much. And my parenthetical style of writing would drive an editor daffy, these days.

Currently, I write in a product called yWriter. That's because, when I get the energy, I attack any of the baker's dozen of book ideas I have. yWriter is VERY novel-writing concentric software. It's got it's quirks. But I have a few HUNDRED thousands of words written in it, so it feels comfortable.

But it is NOT good for shorter stuff. Or for organizing notes. Or for a BUNCH of things. The chief charm of the program is that it is free. Well, free with the stipulation that you actually TRY one of Simon Haynes' books. Which I did. Not a 10 Kovids rated experience, but a decent time waster if you enjoy science fiction. And I do.

ONE of the other suite of utilities I use to TRY and improve my writing is a program called SmartEdit from Bad Wolf Software. It's like having an editor here that I have paid for and don't need to KEEP paying for. The program version I have is not the latest, but it does the job. I imagine the newer version would do an even better job, but I am a creature of comfort and SmartEdit is Editor enough for me. Although, if I win the lottery, I would definitely keep current. A SmartEdit licence is good through all minor revisions for a year.

I get a kick out of it because it's more of a checker than a changer. It asks me to review potential issues and let's me know when I've gone the pleonastic equivalent of going nuclear. For example, it checks for potential swear words and it noted I'd used Dick in the two chapters I turned in recently for Tales from Deep in the Hole, a Wishography loosely based on my career as a rep softball head coach at the ripe old age of 15. Now, as it turns out, Dick was the coach who ended my rep softball playing career. Well, in effect. He decided his son would be better than me as a second baseman (not even remotely close to being a fact) and sent me over to play third base. Now, you have to be two things to play third base at a high calibre of softball. Brave. And no, I don't possess that gene. And the possessor of a strong arm. The noodle attached to my right side never qualified for strength at any time in my life. So, I was out of softball as a just-turned teenager and into playing Box Lacrosse ... where bravery was ALSO called for. But I digress.

SmartEdit is a moderately decent over-the-shoulder post-writing nagger that is worth the price asked ($67US). I think it's worth the price if you think you have a book in you.

My Irish friend Darren, the man behind Bad Wolf, has also addressed a LOT of the inefficiencies in yWriter and, indeed, Microsoft Word. The world runs on Word and the world hates the experience writing on Word. It's big, slow and encumbered with a million things you don't want. There is a thriving business out there for apps that are simply blank screens with NOTHING there to deflect your attention as you beaver away writing your stream of consciousness. Darren's new program is Atomic Scribbler, which is a successor to Page Four. It's basically Page Four with a lot of sidebar tools for writers. Tools they will use. And if you want that blank screen, Atomic Scribbler can come decently close. It's a good implementation that will PROBABLY get better.

Page Four was a word processor with the personal likes of the software creator. So is Atomic Scribbler, but it's MOVING in the direction that seems most helpful for novel-writing. It has bits and pieces of such utilities as Persona and Contour (both of which I use) and has a Scrivener approach in the making (No, I don't use Scrivener, probably the pre-eminent piece of novel-writing software).  In concept, it's basically a less frantic Liquid Story Binder XE. Which I have tried to use. And failed.

I think Atomic Scribbler is a comer. Is it the kind of software I will plunk down my hard-earned dollars for? It helps that the product is on sale for 25 per cent off for the next week and a bit. That's $47US right now and it makes for an enticing package for purchase. Certainly worth investigating. The users support forum is nascent at the moment but is already showing signs of being a thriving idea-driven forum. That's extremely good news. Like Calibre from Kovid Goyal, this is a solo creator-driven product. How much Darren lets in the ideas of others is key for it's development. He definitely is writing a product a novel-writer would want. The question is, is that writer JUST him, or the legions of would-be Amazon catalog stuffers?

Lastly, while you are at Bad Wolf, check out All My Journals. Again, this product has the ability to fit INTO a set of writing tools. Especially blog-writing tools. Writing journals has kept my friend Brian sane for years. But he never blogs. He should, 'cuz he's got things to tell the world. But he seems immune to the need to spew verbiage, unlike me. Yet he probably writes more every month than I do in a year ... although I should get credit for programming code, since that IS how I make my money these days. I imagine that he could take his journal entries and PICK AND CHOOSE items to put out on the Internet. And that would be made easier by All My Journals. I point this out to readers (reader?) in case that impulse to write exceeds even Twitter's new 240 character limit. And at the same time, let's you use the program as your own therapist, one that sits there and listen (reads?) without comment or judgment. It's a good idea, well implemented.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Advice to Mark Shapiro, a LITTLE more publicly this time

When asked in May what I would do with the then-hot Toronto Blue Jays, my response was “Trade ‘em, all and rebuild for the arrival of Vlady Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette in 2019!” Obviously, Shapiro and Atkins failed to telepathically heed my advice and instead stuck with the group as is. So, what to do THIS off-season. Trade most of ‘em and rebuild for the arrival of Guerrero and Bichette in 2019. Obviously!

I start the off-season with the stunner, setting the stage for the re-emergence of the Philadelphia Phillies as a contender and acquiring talent, youth and payroll space in return. Marcus Stroman, one of the five best AL pitchers this year and controllable until the next decade, gets paired with what is PROBABLY JUST the Troy Tulowitzki contract (and eminence grise), plus ex-Pirate prospects and now ex-Blue Jay prospects Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire to bring back outfielder Nick Williams, 3B Mikael Franco and young pitching prospects Harold Arauz (gotta keep our Harold holdings consistent) and Austin Davis. Arauz is something of a comer and Davis is pure lottery ticket, code for left-handed. Having re-upped ALMOST Ex-Blue Jay Marco Estrada, the Jays would then also bring back Ryan Goins on another one-year deal.

I’ll explain why about the trades later. Now, Shapiro has to dial up St. Louis and get them to take Josh Donaldson, Roberto Osuna and Max Pentecost off their hands for SS Paul DeJong, catcher Carson Kelly and almost major-league ready pitching prospect Mike Mayers. The Cardinals would have to ship another mid-level prospect in the deal, but would hasten to acquire Donaldson, pairing him then on the Redbird's left side of the infield with newly- signed Zack Cosert, a free agent fresh from the Cincy Reds. Cosert, who was looking at slim pickings in free agency would sign so quickly, the pen would burn through the contract parchment. Toronto would respond by re-signing Brett Anderson. Hmmm, some ‘splaining to do on that one.

Lastly, the team management would then try for lottery team luck by sending Kevin Pillar, senior super-sub Steve Pearce and veteran bullpen lefty Aaron Loup to the New York Mets for unable-bodied pitcher Matt Harvey, prospect corner infielder Jhoan Urena (seems Urena’s go well in T.O.) and years-away pitching prospect Nabil Crismat.

Okay, here come the how-come’s/why-fors.

Stroman is the sole big long-term loss for the team. Simply put, he’s worth a lot on the open market and I think the Jays would be over-joyed to make the proposed Phil trade. His increasingly antagonistic attitude might bring back fond memories of Kyle Lowry, but do the Jays have time to wait for his maturing? The team loses Tulowitzki and his Goins-esque offence and par to sub-par defence, plus that massive locker-room presence would seem a loss. But that $20 million pay cheque for THREE more seasons is just a LITTLE TOO RICH for Canadian blood and bucks. And Stroman isn’t going to be cheap much longer, as he enters arbitration. Still, by giving up Stroman and the ‘seemingly easy to replace’ Tulowitzki’s field presence, the Jays get a starting outfielder in Nick Williams. Plus a starting 3B in Franco, although the mercurial Franco might end up in LF, 1B or somewhere other than in Toronto. Bluntly, Franco is a major-league lottery ticket who might be a reasonable Donaldson clone or Buffalo-bound or a trade dump to some OTHER team that thinks he still has potential. As for the pitching prospects, neither should see Toronto coming out of spring training this decade. Next decade? Maybe.

As for Philadelphia, the price here for Stroman appears to be Williams and an exchange of hoped-for comeback kids in Franco for Tulowitzki. Yes, there’s cash to pay out, but Philadelphia is out from under the horrid contracts that saw the once-powerful Phillies descend into irrelevance due to unmovable contracts. That day has ended, the new Ryan Howard, Rhys Hoskins, has arrived and a new TV deal lets the club acquire Tulo’s contract and not blanch. Ramirez probably doesn’t replace Williams, but the team will go for a big-name add in the outfield that already includes Oudebel Herrera and Aaron Altherr. Moving Williams creates space. As for the former Pirates headed their way? Organizational fodder, although McGuire fills a catching slot. For the Blue Jays, Arauz will probably make the bigs, Davis probably won’t. But that’s what prospect roulette is all about.

Now, over to St. Louis, who has a catching prospect ready for the big-leagues in Kelly, but is blocked til the next decade by Yadier Molina. And rookie phenom DeJong still has to outlive his sophomore season and the potential jinx (Aledmys Diaz anyone?). And the constant stream of Cardinal pitching prospects will barely notice a dip into the waters to lose Mayers. And in return, one of the three best third-baseman in baseball, Donaldson, plus their new closer in Osuna and a catcher to replace Kelly, but with a new best-arrival date of next decade, in Pentecost. In different times, Donaldson and Pentecost get the deal done. Probably. If the Cardinals can work out an extension with Donaldson first. But to NOT have the guarantee in place with Donaldson costs the long-term controllable Osuna. St. Loo might have to throw in another prospect, with Austin Gomber, a left-handed hurler at the AA level making some sense.

DeJong immediately fills the bill for Tulowitzki’s replacement, giving Richard Urena more time to mature with a full season in Buffalo. Urena, Bichette and Guerrero percolate for another year. And infield group of those three, DeJong and Delicate Devon Travis means having good, young talent, enhanced by one more year of Goins for some guidance. Plus, there’s Lourdes Gourriel en route and he’s an all-rounder who hopefully comes along at the plate, in which case, the Jays will have a LOT of interchangeable parts to man the infield and cover as fifth outfielders.

Carson Kelly jumps the Jays’ queue of catchers, giving Dan Jansen a season in Buffalo to get better. Once he proves his offensive dream season this season is sustainable, the Blue Jays could be looking at a Kelly-Jansen tandem with Russell Martin around for guidance, to act as a third catcher and do a little backing up at DH, 3B and maybe 2B, if necessary. Or, a Martin tandem with one of the kids might play for two or three years. The Jays also might be able to replace Stroman in the starting line-up with Mayers, or he might head to the bullpen to compete with the likes of Tom Koehler or he might be the plug-in starter awaiting problems in Buffalo. But he’s close. And that counts in the winter.

Which leaves me trying to explain giving the New York Mets three members of their starting 25 on opening day next year, without getting possibly anything in the deal. It’ll be tough losing Pillar, he of the Superman-quality catches. But all highlights aside, he’s NOT the gold-glove centre fielder he’s portrayed as. In fact, he trails Kevin Keiermayer again and has fallen behind Byron Buxton. Add in his in ability to get his offence going, and now’s the time to sell. Another season at the end of the Blue Jays’ batting line-up, with little reason to move him up, might leave Toronto with an untradeable, but popular, trade asset. And the Jays have outfielders in the pipeline. The same reason can be applied to Pearce, who’s rep is better than we saw this year, and to Loup, who is an example of the old Branch Rickey saw, “Better to trade a player a year too soon than a year too late.” Loup regained some of his mojo this year, and remember, it’s LEFT-handed mojo. Out now, before the trade idea starts to stink.

Harvey, the possible Stroman replacement and possible new Brett Anderson, is the lottery ticket here. He’s an ace a year away from free agency (and given who his agent is, it’s almost guaranteed free agency). A good year and the Jays recoup a prospect in the 30’s. Something less than a good year, then the Jays didn’t spend much money. C’est la vie. Jhoan Urena is a corner guy and Crismat a pitcher. Neither should show up before Russell Martin retires. But both are good bets to at least make The Show. But this whole trade is about selling declining assets for a shot at Harvey for a season and a draft pick. And who knows, maybe Harvey succeeds and likes Toronto enough to want to stay. Hey, ask Marco Estrada if that’s possible. 

So, what line-up does John Gibbons trot out in 2018? Martin will catch and Justin Smoak will play first base. Beyond that? Well, it’s nice to think Travis will man second all year long. Not a great bet, but a big winner if it comes true. DeJong will start at shortstop and Franco at third. The outfield will have Teoscar Hernandez in centre, with Nick Williams in right. In left? One of Anthony Alford, Dwight Smith Jr. or Dalton Pompey will be in that spot come season’s start. Pompey’s in a make or leave situation. The other two can be in Buffalo. Which means I think Pompey might have an inside edge, if only he can stay healthy. The DH will be Kendrys Morales. He was an asset this year, barely. Next year he won’t be. And he’ll finish his contract as a pinch-hitter. He is what he is, a mistake that’s nowhere as huge as has been portrayed, but a mistake indeed. His switch-hitting power doesn’t play given his slothfulness on the base-paths. The subs? Kelly to play 60 cames as catcher, Goins, Ezequiel Carrerra as the fourth outfielder (and possible LF starter) and a 3B-type free agent who might get at bats in a platoon with Franco. Or Urena, who would be better off playing full-time in Buffalo at every infield spot. But I’ll stick with a one-year free agent. That’s the 13 slots for offence.

The pitching staff will be J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson and Joe Biagini/Matt Harvey. The loser of THAT battle will battle Tom Koehler for the long-man on the relief staff. The new closer will be Carlos Ramirez. He’ll probably give up a run in 2018. Probably. Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes and Dominic Leone seem like a decent trio of righties. The left-handed alternatives are a little … young … in Tim Mayza and Matt Dermody. But having shown they CAN pitch in the majors this year, hopefully the bullpen will remain a strength. If not, bullpens can be rebuilt on the fly. The key is Ramirez coming in and doing a reasonable impression of Osuna at a fraction of the price.

In all, the Jays will lose the contracts of Donaldson, Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista, as well as Loup, Osuna, Pilar, Pearce and Stroman. That’s something approaching $80 million in 2018 potential compensation. The incoming players won’t total a fourth of that. The Shapiro-Atkins tandem COULD immediately start spending some of that money themselves. Getting sixth, seventh and eighth starters wouldn’t be a bad idea. The talent clock HAS been reset to 2019-2020, with enough pitching to make Gibbons feel comfortable about that. And the newly athletic and multi-postional capable squad would be fun to let run and rip.

In fact, what WOULD 2019 look like if Guerrero and Bichette over-achieve again? The catching duo would probably be Kelly and Jansen. If not, Martin would back-up there, at third, maybe at second and take the occasional turn through the DH spot. The 1B would be Smoak and Travis would still be at second. The left-side of the infield would be best buddies Guerrero and Bichette, with DeJong and Franco being delegated to back-up duties along with Martin. The OF would be Alford, Hernandez and Williams. The extra outfielder would be Gourriel. And Morales would pinch-hit. (Actually, Franco would probably be traded if both Kelly and Jansen make the team). The DH? Rowdy Tellez. The starting five pitchers would be Sanchez, (the perpetually re-signing) Estrada, Ryan Borucki, Mayers and Biagini/Anderson. The relievers would be the same set or some combination that includes about the same mount of talent and payroll. And one OTHER guy would be signed. Either a big bucks starting pitcher (or two) or a closer (assuming Ramirez fails in next year’s audition). As I said earlier, maybe Harvey likes Toronto.

And the pitching talent would be starting to arrive. Sean Reid-Foley, Connor Greene, Jon Harris, Tom Pannone, Justin Maese, Crismat, TJ Zeuch, Luis Perdomo and Arauz. Jordan Romano, Francisco Rios and Shane Dawson have their fans. The big bet on Ramirez is hedged by Nate Pearson, who merely turned in a sub 1.00 ERA in leading Vancouver to a title. He’s pitching starting pitcher innings right now, but profiles as a closer … if that position is open.

Logan Warmouth, Richard Urena, Jhoan Urena, Tim Lopes and Smith, Jr. would be potential backups. On a viable Major League team. With a payroll that beggars the addition of a big-time Free Agent. Or three. Alas, no spot for should be Blue-Jay lifer Goins. Sigh. But DeJong, Bichette, Warmouth and even Gourriel are shortstops by vocation. So's Richard Urena.

All for the price for a learning season this coming year. An EXCITING season.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I Think I Smell Tobacco Road Smoking

It's time for that most important time of the year, March Madness. It comes at a time when I need total immersion into something that isn't health-related and sitting around munching chips, guzzling sugar-free and sodium-free Mandarin Orange soda while watching what I hope will be a steady procession of exciting games is enough to put me to bed happy tonight.

And, it's a year where ANYBODY in the top THIRTY in this bracketologist's nightmare has a chance to get past this weekend. Win a championship? Well, that's another thing.

A week ago, I was all over Oregon to dark horse their way to the title. Admittedly, the Canadian content, including local kid Dylan Ennis, had something to do with that. But I saw an Oregon team that was ready for the NCAA's before the year turned over. Sure, the Ducks got bored to the point of losing to non-title contenders. But the talent and the 'arrogance' that a title team needs was in plenty evidence. But this past weekend dealt the Ducks a cruel blow. Chris Boucher out for the rest of the season with a blown-out knee. Quack!!!!

So, if not Oregon, who? The guard theory certainly made me immediately think of Kansas. Then Josh Jackson did whatever he did and Kansas lost in the Big 12. There will be extra motivation for Jackson to atone for his ... whatever he did. And Frank Mason III has been other-worldly this year. But here's the thing. Like my previous infatuation with Florida, Kansas tends to disappoint with the notable exception of Mario Chalmer's comeback kings back in the 'Aughts. I think it's time to move Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk back to the Bin of Dreams I keep in the attic. Oh, this undoubtedly makes them almost automatically the favourite, but over time, I think it's best not to let my heart get broken into even smaller bits.

Can Malik Monk go all Aaron Harrison on the tournament and play six top-calibre games? I'm guessing not. So, not Kentucky, which somehow got drawn into the Region of Death, the South, with heavyweight road-blocks in UCLA and (if I am wrong) North Carolina in the way. Besides, John Calipari (The Grayson Allen of coaching) is still coaching there and his in-game coaching is .... NOT NEAR A MATCH for his recruiting.

Defending champs Villanova, the team after a short man's heart? Again, save for the Florida Repeatin' Gators from earlier this century, defending champ means "which round do they lose in?" And I think I have the one Big 10/16 team that will be a surprise this year. Wisconsin doesn't shoot free throws all that well, which will be okay for the first 37 minutes of the second-round game between the Wildcats and the Badgers. I think the Wisconsin lead at that point will be large enough to survive the intentional foul onslaught. 'Nova is worthy of the top overall seed. But with the Curse of the Champeen hanging like the Sword of Damocles, I'm calling on Wisconsin to dispose of the Champs.

Hmmmmm, North Carolina? Certainly from the Tobacco Road neighbourhood in the dominant ACC. Experienced up and down the roster. Joel Berry II might only be two-thirds of Mason III, but he's been very, very good ... most of the time. Justin "I'm not Josh and was NOT going to be confused with him ... until THIS year when all things JJ were great!" Jackson gives the Tar Heels TWO honourable mentions in the coming Mason III coronation as Player of the Year. But North Carolina needs Isaiah Hicks to play six relatively foul-free games in a row. Well, make that five. Sorry Texas Southern fans, both of you. Hicks and the UCLA front-line are not a match in Tar Heel heaven. So that's, what, three number one seeds down?

The fourth to fall and the one to go the farthest (well, tied with Kansas for the farthest), is the "finally-respected by the Bracket committee" Zags/Bulldogs of Gonzaga. They have major league front-court talent, which will have the needed neutralizing effect on Arizona when they meet in the West Region final. But an unfunny thing will happen in Phoenix in the Final Four. The Zags will discover that height matters ... unless the opponent can shoot over that height.

Which means a Duke-UCLA championship final. Which feels right in this year of bad, REALLY BAD pre-season rankings. Sure, injuries had an incredibly negative effect throughout the nation, including taking Harry Giles out of the Player of the Year discussion. And off the starting five for Coach K's Dookies. He'd be smart to stay in school and earn an even BIGGER pay cheque in the summer of 2018. But, history keeps banging us over the heads to take the money when you can. Losing one season means that BIG free agent contract is just another year away. All that said, Giles HAS to play big for the ... let's call them height-challenged Blue Devils.

And that's because the UCLA front-line is NBA-sized. And T.J. Leaf and his NOT height-challenged teammates will have Lonzo Ball creating lay-ups. Ball, however reminds me of Chris Paul. And Paul's exit from the college game was messy piled upon messy. And that was despite having more experience than Ball. Plus, it's not really Ball that I have issues with. It's his lightning rod of a father who will somehow dominate the Final Four stage from off-stage by saying something bizarre thanks to a willingly complicit Media. In fact several somethings in an unacknowledged battle with Comrade Donald for attention. The task of staying focused amidst the pressure of "CBS' One Shining Moment in the making," along with trying to neutralize his father's fodder of foolishness will prove a step too far.

Which brings me back to Duke. The "why nots" for Duke are easy to figure out. A bit of a tallness issue. The issues with Grayson Allen. That swoon when Coach K left the team for pain-relieving surgery. And EVERYBODY in the country seems to have a long-term dislike for the confidence (read AIR-oh-gantz) that seems to permeate every Blue Devil once the kid accepts the scholarship.

To me, surviving the injury bugs (Allen, Giles and Amile Jefferson, as well as The Coach), the ACC tournament, and yes, the confidence, combined with the experience, makes me think the Blue of Duke will outlast the Blue of UCLA in an entertaining final, 81-77. Why? I love Luke Kennard's game. With Allen back, the Bruins cannot swarm Kennard to force the ball out of his hands. Allen is the release valve for that plan. (and yes, Allen's well documented dirty play difficulty will dominate the media scrums in Phoenix for the rest of the questions beyond Mr. Ball.). I wouldn't relish playing Kennard straight up. And that is why I think this is yet another banner/pennant to rise to the rafters at Cameron, Duke's Tobacco Road home.

So, beyond UCLA and Duke upsetting their ways to the Final Four, what other water-cooler upsets do I see making tongues wag? I honestly, rarely go against chalk on the weekends. But in this year of multiple teams getting to that top ranking, I think I have to throw away tired old ideals. It's also the year of the Virginia commonwealth popping up in near-record numbers.

I think that the sweetheart that gets past the first weekend will be Middle Tennessee (knocking off Minnesota in a 5-12 game, and then Butler. Wisconsin's weekend whacking of Villanova (an honorary V-school) will be the upset of most importance as the tournament quarters the field. Otherwise, there's a LOT of Virginia action that will make the wahoos proud of their state. Virginia getting past UNC Wilmington won't be an upset, but a win over Florida WILL be, albeit a slight one. Vanderbilt, an honorary V-School, will win the 8-9 West matchup with Northwestern.

Virgina Tech will be Wisconsin's first victim, falling to the Badgers in an 8-9 game. VCU's loss to Saint Mary's is expected in a 7-10 clash. But I think that game might be amongst the tourney's best in the round of 64.

I like Marquette to top South Carolina in a 7-10 pairing. That, and the Wisconsin toppling of Villanova accounts for all the East upsets. I'm passing on the popular picks of SMU to down Baylor this weekend and East Tennessee beating Florida because everybody picks on Florida ... including me. But not THIS round.

The West upsets are positively going to be rare. Vandy over Northwestern and then pfft! Maybe it's the Xavier Rathan-Mayes fan in me, but I can't see Florida Gulf Coast beating Florida State, although it'll be fun to watch. The FGC Eagles do have upset momentum in a LOT of brackets. Not mine.

Lots of opening upsets in the MidWest. Michigan State gets the 8-9 nod over the higher-seeded Miami for no other reason than picking against Tom Izzo is dumb. If they weren't playing Kansas in the second round, I'd like the Spartans to make a run. Michigan, not to be confused with Izzo's squad, will drop a decision to 10th-seeded Oklahoma State. And in keeping with the upsets that will dominate talk Saturday morning, will be Rhode Island taking out Creighton. I passed on the trendy Nevada over Iowa State 5-12 upset. Other-wise, it's Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk to the Final Four. Literally.

Now, the South is going to be uber-entertaining. Not only do the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee back their supporters in taking the 5-12 game, but also eliminate 4th-seeded Butler before succumbing to North Carolina. The last of the opening round upsets is the usual 8-9 pot boiler as Seton Hall stops Arkansas. I wanted to have Wake Forest in the 6-11 game with Cincinnatti, but the Deamon Deacons failed in a First Four matchup with Kansas State. So, I will take the Bearcats over the Wildcats. Lastly, I passed on another trendy pick, 10th-seeded Wichita State, which will be shocked by the 7th-seeded Dayton Flyers. Shocked, if you go by the Hail, Mary pickers who believe explicitly in the KenPom ratings. After the games Thursday and Friday, UCLA does the upsetting, nabbing 2nd-seeded Kentucky, top-seeded North Carolina and then ANOTHER One seed in Kansas. 

Duke wins, and I already have the shirt for that.