Thursday, December 17, 2009

LIFE: Don't Come A-Knockin' On My Front Door

It's that time of the year, where even a Grinch like me attracts visitors. Visitors I want. And Visitors I don't want. Dead of summer, start of winter. Every year. About a month ago, I had, in order, a wandering real estate would-be mogul, a gas salesperson and our friendly friends of the Church of Latter Day Saints. I was somewhat sympathetic to the latter, although I sent them on the way as quickly as possible, was polite to the first guy and slammed the door on the insistent lady in the middle.
Then I made up this sign. Since then, I have had three people ask for copies. It isn't perfect, but it gets my sentiments over pretty well. Do with it as you will.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SPORTS: Is Double-A Going to Remember December Fondly?

Alex Anthopoulos certainly felt sick at the Winter Baseball Meetings. He was contending with a cold AND with the need to give Roy Halladay the Christmas present of a new home address. He left Indianapolis early and all indications were that Doc was going to have to wait until the new year for moving instructions. HE wanted to go to Philly, but the Phillies seemed to have a case of the shorts, both in money and in willingness to empty out the rest of a pretty good prospects holdings.

So, it had to come as a bit of a surprise Monday when the news broke. Halladay to the Phillies, "Almost World Series Hero" Cliff Lee to the Mariners and some prospects to both Toronto and Philadelphia. A LOT of names were bandied about. In fact, a fourth team joined the group hug. Oakland wanted one of the former Philly farmhands. A four-team trade is a pretty good way to break your maiden, although, ultimately, if the trade is as has been speculated for the last 18 hours or so, it's actually a series of three trades. Still, an interesting start. And isn't that an easy segue into the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!"

The apparent haul for the Jays stands at uber pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, who's dad Doug toiled for years in the majors, catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud and the peripatetic Brett Wallace, a third baseman, who's a bat wanting some place to hide on the field. First base according to some, no place according to others. A DH in everybody's opinion.

Wallace must share some sympathy with Michael Taylor, the Philadelphia prospect who didn't even cross the border on his way to Oakland. While Taylor's doing his three teams in a single day thing, Wallace did his in less than six months. He originally went to Oakland this past summer in the Matt Holliday deal with St. Louis. Hmmmm, Holliday and Halladay together at last!

Did Double-A get enough for Halladay.? He could have kept Doc, given him 15+M this season to win a lot, tutor his young charges for one more year and then show up in Boston or New York at Christmas, with a freshly signed four-year commitment to beat the Blue Jays about five times a year for the length of the contract. Toronto would get a late first-round draft pick and an extra one between the first two rounds in the 2011 Summer Draft. OR he could save about nine million smackers right now, get the three players he got and forego the anguish over drafting, then signing, then hoping the draftees make an impact before he's shown the door as GM. Hmmm, door number two appears a WHOLE lot more appealing, considering the stock scouts have in the newly-minted Blue Jays.

Drabek might see September in Toronto. My bet is that he comes up mid 2011 for a long stay in Toronto. He's about a year away from arm surgery now, and whatever arm injury-itis that's been floating around town these last three years might need another season to dissipate. He MIGHT be good enough to force his way onto the big league roster earlier than that, but I believe the Blue Jays will be careful with him. Luke Schenn anyone? (For non-puckheads, Schenn is the young defenceman that is looking clueless in his sophomore season with the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs. It's been a historical trend with the Leafs to rush defense prospects to the big league ... almost always being a mistake to do so).

D'Arnaud is the mystery man. I've heard glowing stories and some not-so-glowing stories about him. The Blue Jays signed THREE catchers last week and have (supposedly) top prospects at AAA and AA. So, a catcher at A ball has to be something really special, right? Especially since the Phillies offered either relief pitcher Phillipe Aumont or OF Tyson Gillies to replace him in the deal. Both the former Mariners are Canucks. Aumont has already pitched in the majors AND in the World Baseball Classic where he showed potential closer stuff against the Americans. Gillies has a distinct Juan Pierre rep, but with a better glove. And that's something the Blue Jays need, given their absolute poverty in terms of outfield prospects. But no, Double-A wanted D'Arnaud. It has to be a scout thing, because D'Arnaud's numbers don't back up the claim by more than one wag that he might be the best of the three prospects!

And that includes former top draft pick Wallace, who now presents problems, as well as possibilities. If Wallace is to get onto the field, it has to be at 1B. He can also DH. But DH is something the Blue Jays don't have to offer right now. Adam Lind won the Silver Slugger award at the spot last year. He's a left fielder they were GOING to turn into a first-baseman. That's because LF is the only spot you want to see Travis Snider play 140 games in. He's barely adequate in LF and a no-hoper in right. And there's the one-year, 7M contract-owning Lyle Overbay holding down first base, being the best actual defender of the lot. What to do, what to do? There was some hope of sending him to the National League for a catcher. Seattle were supposedly interested in the Seattle native.

But it says here, the best thing the Jays can do is to leave Wallace to get a year's worth of playing first in Las Vegas. I think Overbay for Atlanta's Derek Lowe would make a LOT of sense, considering the difference between the two's contract is just about that nine million saved on not having Roy around. And old pro Lowe has pitched in the AL East, so he won't melt. And he's an innings eater AND he might have some mentor in him. But even on into 2011, the Jays aren't on track to win and it will probably be best to have his 200 innings to give to young, cheap pitchers. Toronto will have enough. Then, in 2011, Wallace and Lind can share 1B and DH. Lind can then be the emergency fifth outfielder. He's not a LOT worse than Snider.

None of the three is likely to spend more than September with Toronto this upcoming season. D'Arnaud's two, maybe three years away. Given the bandiment at various times of major-leauge names like J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, BJ Upton, Wade Davis, Clay Buccholts, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Eric Aybar and more 'top' prospects than JP Ricciardi can say no to, the fact that we'll need the Internet to know how the trade haul is performing this year is really quite astonishing.

It says here the whole deal rests on young Mr. D'Arnaud's shoulders. I assume Drabek becomes a starter, maybe even the number two some think he can be. A solid, cost-controlled middle-of the rotation starter is valuable. Maybe Wallace becomes the second coming of Carlos Delgado, may he becomes Russell Branyan. Somewhere inbetween would be good enough ... IF D'Arnaud is a ten-year starter in Blue Jay Blue and White. Otherwise ...

Five year's hence, just how to YOU think Alex Anthopoulos will be remembering December 2009?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

INTERNET: The Funnies As They Are Now

It's been three months since I last had a newspaper delivered to my door. It's the first time in more than 40 years that I haven't paid for the Toronto Star to arrive sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Check that, it used to come in the afternoon, but it's been a morning paper since before Al Gore invented the internet.

One of the things I have done to replace the daily reading ritual that was the Star, is to gather together a folder of bookmarked comic strip sites. Fourty-three, currently. And I've amassed them from a wide variety of places. I started with the Star's comic strips, which weren't complete. Can't remember which ones weren't on the web, but I missed a couple. So I went looking. And the list grew and grew.

And none currently are Toronto Star links!

There's a reason for that. I read a LOT of Toronto Star content and I use Firefox to do so. Further, I have Adblock and NoSquint installed within Firefox. The former stops a lot of ads from showing up on the page while the latter allows me to magnify the page. The problem with NoSquint is that it's site based. And if I magnify the Between Friends strip to be as big as possible on it's page, suddenly I only get a paragraph or two on Doug Smith's basketball blog. So, I sussed out other papers that carry King Features' syndicated strip service, Comic Kingdom, and now use those other papers strictly for their comics. In fact, I went one step further. I go to the Albany Times Union for mostly strips and San Antonio Express News for panel cartoons. I've got each sized 'just right.'

And, by not adjusting for maximum comics size, the Toronto Star news features and blogs can be sized just right for what they provide ... the words.

One other thing. If you run the NoScript add-on for Firefox, make sure you enable both the newspaper site AND the originating comic syndicate sites. Many papers make use of Comics Kingdom. Others use, which, if memory serves, is a brand from United Features. The Washington Post is the other paper site I use a lot. I also enjoy UClick gocomics and what's a list of comics without Dilbert, which I know get directly from There's also and, which both have delightful layouts and rich, vibrant colours. I wish more of my strips were available from their services.

As for the individual strips, which I start reading with Family Circus and then end with Zits, there are some omissions that people might find surprising. I've never been a Doonesbury or Berke Breathed fan. Garfield? Mehh! I'm a dog guy, which accounts for Buckles, Fred Basset and Marmaduke making the list. You could make a case for mistaken species in Mother Goose and Grimm, but I still claim it's a canine strip. I used to include Tarzan, Spider-Man and The Phantom, but the glacial pace of the daily adventures made them unenjoyable, despite some gorgeous art on all three. Oh, the same goes for Prince Valiant reprints, which is counter to what I remember when I was a youngster. Still, I think I have an eclectic group of strips. The only ones I'm surprised I'm admitting to are Love Is... and Six Chix.

If I had to pick five strips I'd pick Family Circus, Crankshaft, Fred Basset, Shoe and Working Daze. Judge me as you will.
Daily Strips
ArcaMax - Family_Circus
UCLICK- Adam@Home
Creators- Archie
WaPo- Beetle Bailey
SA - Between Friends
ComicsCom- Big Nate
TU - Buckles
Creators- Chuckle Bros
UCLICK- Compu-toon
TU - Crankshaft
ComicsCom- Drabble
TU - Edison Lee (The Brilliant Mind of) F Minus
WaPo- Fastrack
UCLICK- The Flying McCoys
UCLICK- Fred Basset
UCLICK- For Better or For Worse
WaPo- Hagar
UCLICK- In the Bleachers
WaPo- Hi and Lois
ComicsCom- Lola
UCLICK- Love Is...
ComicsCom- Marmaduke
ArcaMax- Mother Goose
UCLICK- The Norm
ComicsCom- Off the Mark
Creators - One Big Happy
Creators- The Other Coast
SA - Pardon My Planet
ComicsCom- PC and Pixel
UCLICK- PreTeena
TU - Pros and Cons
TU - Retail
SA - Rhymes with Orange
ComicsCom- Ripley's
WaPo- Sherman's Lagoon
WaPo- Six Chix
UCLICK - Tank McNamara
TU - Tina's Groove
ComicsCom- Working Daze
ArcaMax - Zits

Saturday, December 12, 2009

LIFE: This Year's Christmas Tree Raising

A little late. This year's ceremony was Thursday night. The mob was reduced to just two industrious workers this year, and somehow the tree continued to seem full when they finished. Kudos to Angela (right) and Megan (left) on a job superbly done. (I put the angel on, six tries only this year!!!!, otherwise I just sit back and watch).

Monday, December 07, 2009

COMPUTERS: And The Next Day...

The switch to GoogleDNS results: Better. Yep, BETTER!

I roused myself from slumber around noon and decided to sit around and check out the time for the full load of tabs. Last night, I timed the full set at 81 seconds. Today at lunch hour EDT, when things should be booming on the internet, I timed it at 36 seconds for all 143 tabs. I was actually reading the text of the last tab loaded after 22 seconds. Hmmm, another two-fold increase in speed over the 18-fold increase from last night. I think GoogleDNS is a keeper.

Now, it wasn't perfect, as was the download last night. One site, where I download two different pages right off the bat, wouldn't load. And for some reason, the tab right after them failed to load completely. A two percent failure rate. Betcha won't happen tomorrow. But even still...

Also, Patrick installed GoogleDNS and didn't see much of a big improvement, although he said it felt quicker. Mind you, he samples the web one bookmark at a time. Even my parents now load their morning news all at once, fergawdsakes! But he was using Netscape Navigator as recently as last year, atavist that he is. So when he says it 'feels' quicker, then you can be sure it's a darn sight quicker.

I'm a believer. Try it out. What have you got to lose? Other than time spent fiddling your thumbs and clicking on re-load button-developed calluses?

Sunday, December 06, 2009


That wasn't the question until this past week.

Then, Google announced its own DNS server product (Free, with strings, of course) and suddenly I started wondering whether I should make a switch. Really, it wasn't a long discussion. Fact is, that the DNS server at has been ... well, lousy for awhile. For the unaware, the DNS thingy I'm talking about is called a Domain Name Server. It's the telephone-book like service that lets you put a name, such as and get back the numerical address equivalent. I can't remember what that is, but it looks like four sets of numbers separated by periods. This directory searching service is a necessity and your internet service provider provides you with one by default.

Until about three weeks ago, rogers' DNS was performing adequately. Every morning (well, sometimes afternoons) I wake up and schlep into the office and middle click on a few folders in Firefox. Together, the four tabs I click on load about 142 tabs (it goes up and down periodically). I then finish the ritual of waking up and come back, expecting to spend the next 90-120 minutes perusing the sites I have bookmarked. By clicking on various links, I probably hit 200-250 page views in all. Having gone through all the trouble of pre-loading those tabs, I expect to get through each site with a minimum amount of effort. That effort should NOT include re-loading the tab because it timed out nor should I have to re-load the tab to have the page finish fully loading, rather than a bit here and a bit there showing.

Lately, I haven't been getting what I wanted. Where I could be happy with, say five pages timing out and five others not finishing, say seven percent unhappy, the failures have risen dramatically of late. Regularly, I was hitting failure rates of SIXTY percent when loading the tabs en masse. Even loading just a section, say the computer programming folder, resulted in more than half of the 14 tabs in that group not loading correctly. And what did, did slowly.

Then I lost the internet completely from Thursday late afternoon to mid Friday afternoon. A reset of the modem got back intermittent support, but for only one connection at a time. No web-browsing while checking email. Forget newsgroups and other stuff. Time to call rogers tech. A technician came out on Saturday and found some rusted out connectors on the outside box (I have two lines coming into the house). He fixed it all and suggested, upon finishing, that I would once again have happiness. I would be getting a big increase in performance, maybe close to what I pay for, the ULTIMATE package. What I DO get is a little less than 10Mbps download and between a half-meg and 1Mbps of upload speed. Rogers rates a 3.1 out of 5 for actual performance, according to

So, imagine my utter disappointment to discover the hardware fix, didn't fix Firefox. I tried upping the disk cache to twice what I had before and boosted the memory cache by 50 percent. No big improvement. The Toronto Sun Sunshine Girl page was still taking 49 seconds to load. Well, mostly load. A second re-load page was required to finish the job, meaning it actually took 54 seconds. I called Patrick to palaver over options.

I had read about GoogleDNS and knew about OpenDNS, two publicly-available DNS replacements for your ISP's version. I had tried OpenDNS, but was unfamiliar with the product and gave up on it. It allows for more filtering of sites and I obviously ran afoul of a few filters I didn't know I could turn off. So, I ditched OpenDNS back then and went back to the local product. A series of columns these past few days in ComputerWorld touted both of the DNS alternatives. OpenDNS has a greater attraction amongst parents and corporations, for the ability to pre-filter spots. Google had the charm of being totally agnostic. It didn't do anything but serve up the sites you ask for, as quickly as Google can manage it. And Google equals fast in most things internet these days.

And GoogleDNS is not going to ruin that operation. With some hesitation, I changed my DNS settings in my router to and I flushed all my caches with Crap Cleaner. And then I put Firefox through the whole load test. All 143. And all 143 loaded in 81 seconds. ALL of them. Completely. No timed out errors. No mishmash of pages with some elements loaded and some not. The 40 Comic Strips I visit daily were all there, even the ones from the Toronto Star, which hates loading correctly at the best of times. I shut down Firefox, ran Crap Cleaner and then went back and loaded just the Toronto Sun Sunshine Girl page. Less than three seconds.

Now, anytime you do something that gets you an 18-fold increase in performance, you have to try to look behind the curtain. Somebody HAS to be yanking your chain, don't you think? My caveat is that this happened on a Sunday night when, as Patrick put it, everybody was watching Desperate Housewives on TV. Not me, I have taste. But most folks. The Internet bandwidth probably looked like the Autobahn to my computer that time of the night. But I do check a LOT of European sites, as well as ones in China, Australia and Russia (Delphi programmers can be found all over the world). Those came up lickety-split quick too.

So, I'll await the sun's rising here in Brampton on the morrow and see if the speed increase holds. Heck, if even half of it holds and the completeness remains true, then I become a whole-hearted Google evangelist for this product.

In case you want YOUR internet to perform like greased lightning, check out GoogleDNS!

NOTE: The strings. You were wondering about the strings. When you type in a non-existent site, you frequently get a message saying your site can't be found. When you use GoogleDNS, you end up at a site saying so ... WITH ads Google has sold companies. PLUS, potentially Google gets a track record of every place you go on the internet, which it currently doesn't keep. Some of the more paranoid (Yes, Irwin, there are people even more paranoid than me) of you out there will balk at that. On the other hand SOMEBODY gets that data. Do you trust rogers more than Google?