Sunday, January 30, 2011

SPORTS: This And That ... Steve Simmons Style

I wanted to comment at the Toronto Sun on today's Steve Simmons column at the web-site. Turns out, you have to log into Facebook to comment. It's a cheap tactic to drive the Sun's Facebook site numbers. Well, nuts to that.

Steve takes on the lunacy of last man standing at the All-Star Draft, his expectations that the Blue Jays are due for a worse year than last and his hesitation to label Ben Cahoon a Canadian. Here's what I would have said ...

All-Star draft fix. Last six guys (all of whom have to be forwards) go into a bingo machine and get drafted that way. Pay off the last guy standing if you must, but it would reduce the embarrassment factor a whole lot ... Are the Jays throwing it in early this year? A good draft last year, the promise of a great one this June and even after spending big next off-season, a poor 2011 finish would represent a good haul in June 2012. Three top drafts would stock the farms and future Jay teams for a decade ... A rule change for the better in the CFL: Veterans with five years with the same team get Non-Import status, but only for THAT team. If you don't like five, make it seven, or four. Whatever. Keeps familiar names around, which won't hurt.


Had I been able to expand, I might have mentioned I still think the Jays will win into the mid-80's, which actually might NOT be Alex Anthopoulos' plan. Maybe he DOES want to sink into the lower half of the draft in 2012 and send any Type B free agent on to greener (American greenback) pastures. The Jays had a good draft last June, have ten percent of the top 70 or so picks this June and something like that in 2012 would surely make the Jays' farm system the envy of everybody, except Kansas City. To add that third year of bonanza picking, the Jays need a low draft position in the first few rounds, and another round of veterans to peddle or let go at season's end. Hmmmm, a veteran-laden bullpen is an easy source of Type B's. One-and-done contracts to the likes of Edwin Encarnacion and Corey Patterson. Even Aaron Hill's options could result in him moving on in certain circumstances. It's all sort of a worst case scenario when I spent much of a post last week extolling the sunnier view. But I bet the allure of being the draft star for three years running (although Tampa Bay is co-starring this June), has to have a GM dreaming. Plus he has the money to sign draft picks AND a warchest next off-season to build that contender Torontonians want so bad. Imagine having all the 2012 draft picks AND a pennant contender at the same time!!!!

And I really would like to see some landed immigrant rights for guys who get attached to a team in the CFL, but have to move along when somebody younger and, more importantly, cheaper comes along to replace them. It doesn't happen to Canadians, the gold standard of any CFL franchise. But every ex-pat Yank has to spend a lot of time looking over their shoulder. At a certain point in time, doesn't everybody deserve the right to stay in the city they've represented for so long? I mean, Pinball Clemons is a Canadian by choice. And that makes him better in my opinion than an awful lot of 'citizens' who are Canadians by accident of birth. There's a flow of young Canadians into the CFL because of controls that are needed. Unfortunately, there's also a talent deficit in some of those Canadians. If each city could put two or three more nouveau Canadien into their line-ups, maybe some of the kids could spend more time on the practice roster rather than making mistakes in games on TV. And with Ottawa (and who knows, maybe Nova Scotia or Quebec City) joining the CFL this decade, maybe it's time to up the number of Canadians available to fulfill those quotas. But I repeat, this revisiting of an old rule, ONLY applies to once city where the player has been a long-time veteran. If he exercises his free agent rights to move along, he does so as an American. And he has to restart anew building up his local exception rights.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

HARDWARE: Keyboards And The Letter N

I was reading a column by a noted SF writer who shall remain nameless because he's so right wing and idiotic about it, I feel constrained against giving him any publicity whatsoever. Plus, I'm more than a little ashamed of myself for reading his column during my Saturday stroll through websites I only visit once a week.

This week, he wrote about keyboards and his own family's keyboarding history. His mother was a typing speed demon on the typewriters I first met in high school and used for the first decade of my professional career (a sportswriting job). Like he, I earned my keep on a relic that would invoke spasms of laughter if AJ or Angela ever saw it. I really did love my old Underwood, which was old when Bramalea was first founded. I'd guess it was close to 30 years old when I used it in the late seventies and early eighties. I grabbed it as the one gift I really, really wanted when I left The Guardian. And I even used it for awhile post-newspaper life. But even then, I was into computers and had spent an ungawdly amount for an early Apple. When I finally got a shift-key adapter for the Apple (ah hunh, it only had capital keys initially) and a printer (another two grand for an early Epson dot-matrix), I was mostly done with using the typewriter.

I eventually sent it along with some other typewriters I cudgeled from friends, with a missionary headed for Costa Rica. Even got a letter from the young girl who ended up with mine.

I've railed against the development and placement of the various non-character keys on the keyboard. While I wasn't an IBM Selectric aficionado, the decision to NOT use its keyboard layout for the IBM computer that finally came out and overtook the desktop-computing world ranks as one of the most idiotic decisions ever foisted upon the working world. It wasn't the WORST decision ever. That one came with the iteration of the IBM PC that decided to move the function keys from the left-side of the keyboard to the top row, beyond the easy reach of people with normal sized hands. (or smaller ...). THAT was the WORST DESIGN DECISION EVER!! People who bring up the chiclet keyboard on the IBM PCjr are johnny-come-latelies with no standing. If you never used a keyboard with the function keys in the left place, then you are barred from commenting. You don't know what you're missing.

However, over the years, my supply of 88-key keyboards with the function keys placed correctly and the control key atop the shift key, with the alt key below it (that's right, the CAP SHIFT KEY WAS OUT OF THE WAY SO THAT YOU COULDN'T INADVERTENTLY START TYPING EVERYTHING IN CAPS, like that), eventually wore out and become unusable. I was forced to start buying, and buying and buying new keyboards. Because of another feature from user hell.

Embossed keys. It seems just about every keyboard maker saves the pennies and just inks on the character identifications. And for some reason, over the years, that means I have accumulated a spare room full of keyboards with the letter N missing. Or so unreadable as to be missing for all intents and purposes. The M key suffers to a certain degree too. But it mostly survives my ham-handed pecking. I am a ten-fingered touch typist. And I don't exactly rest my digits on N or M. Yet time and time again, the N goes the way of the dodo bird. It's a VERY common letter, but so are the vowels and they don't disappear. I tend to hover over the keys, so the so-called home row isn't in the process of constant touch. It's just the N. Or rather, it WAS the N.

I recently bought my one-millionth keyboard. It's life expectancy is measured in months. By the time I get used to it, it will be time to change again. It's a fact of life. An unexplainable fact of life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SPORTS: My Gretzky Story

With Wayne Gretzky, one of the two greatest hockey players who ever laced on the skates, stories are aplenty. Many of them were told yesterday on the occasion of the Great One's 50th birthday. So, I'm a day late with this story and best wishes for Gretz as he heads into his second half-century.

Gretzky was hardly unknown in these parts as he was growing up. He was a regular participant in the Brampton Atom Lions Hockey Tournament from the time he was five (purely a part-timer) until he aged out of the tournament five years later. He was an impact player for the Brantford Steelers for the last three years. He was worth the price of admission for a young lad to head over to the other side of town (I was a Bramalea brat).

Along about that time, Bramalea got a junior B team, the Blues. It was run by a bunch of people I knew, including Gerry Henderson, who was dad to one of my good friends, John. The Blues were inordinately successful almost immediately, winning a provincial championship and coming close a second time during my rookie year of cub reporting for the Brampton/Bramalea Guardian. That was the night of infamy when the Blues played Bert Tenpleton's Hamilton Red Wings and won the only game of the Ontario finals in a brawl-filled night that required more than a few police cars and resulted in the McMurtry Commission's investigation of violence in hockey. The Blues pulled out (the right thing to do), rather than continue participating in a series where it was hard to differentiate the animals on the ice wearing Hamilton uniforms and the goons in the stands. They all had that look...

At any rate, the Blues were a proud franchise already when Gretzky moved to Toronto to play with the Toronto Young Nats. Anticipation was high at Victoria Park Arena, just up the street from my house, as the Blues got ready for Gretzky's first visit to town wearing the red and white of the Nats. Many of the players on the Blues were classmates or brothers of classmates. The club was under new management because of suspensions dating back to the game in North York against Hamilton. But the pride was still there. No snot-nosed slip of a superstar in the making was going to come into Bramalea and embarrass the home team.

Three hours later, the snot-nosed slip of a future superstar had done exactly that. Bob McLeod summed it up best, when I carelessly asked him why he hadn't crushed Gretzky like he'd done so many other opposition players. The rock-hard defenceman, who was an helacious body-checker despite being a tad too slow to think of a hockey career past Junior B, looked at me like I was dumb as a rock. "I TRIED to hit the little #*)(#$*. We ALL did!"

That was the real story behind Gretzky. The vision. With the single exception of a night in Toronto when he got clocked by Billy McCreary, Gretzky demonstrated an uncanny spidey-sense. He was just never there at the moment of impact. He was elsewhere, with the puck, getting ready to make a fool of some other player. Whether he subsequently passed or shot, he was almost always going to generate a scoring chance.

And there was just about nothing Bob McLeod or any of a generation of other hockey players could do about it.

Gretzky and the Nats (later the Seneca Nats), personally escorted the Blues out of the playoffs in every year he remained in Junior B. I got a chance to see, and appreciate, the snot-nosed slip of a superstar and that made the losses a little easier to take.

Happy Birthday, Wayne.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

SPORTS: Let The Cackling Stop

Vernon Wells is gone and some idiots have hit the web, all demonstrating a complete and utter ignorance that brings shame to Toronto Blue Jay fandom. The common rant, replete with spelling errors, is that Wells was an overpaid bum, usually with a bunch of other scathing innuendo thrown in for bad measure.

Here's a fact. Vernon Wells has been fairly well underpaid in his Blue Jay career. I'd cite numbers, but most of the bozos posting all over the place are incapable of doing math. The many times cited 20+ Million yearly contracts only NOW start to show up in Wells' bank account(s). He took less for the first few years of the contract extension he signed in 2007 in order to afford Ricciardi a chance to buy a contender around him, that would coelesce into a perennial contender by the time the Jays were going to have to cut seven-figure checks twice a month.

Another fact? Vernon Wells happens to be one of those guys who you wouldn't mind your little Johnies (and maybe even Jills) throwing a little hero-worship at. He's been giving back to the community for years in all kinds of ways. A sort of anti-Charles Barkley if you will, in style AND substance.

Dumping on Vernon Wells is plain ignorant. He earned his money here in Toronto, and then some.

All of that said, what Toronto Blue Jay fan can't like this trade on its baseball merits. Wells WAS about to become vastly over-paid through a combination of age, injury and Ricciardi's idiotic largesse. Afterall, it was contracts like Wells' that gave birth to calling dumb contracts 'Ricciardis.' Wells said yes to the EXTENSION. And who among us wouldn't have? (Yes, I'm aware Godfrey had a hand in this Ricciardi too. But a GM with pride who disagreed with the contract would have resigned. Ricciardi cashed Blue Jay cheques to the bitter (for fans) end). The money no longer ticketed to Wells will bring good to great upgrades as early as next year. While next year's free agent crop doesn't exactly glow right now, time has a habit of improving vision as objects of lust come into clearer view.

Mike Napoli has a chance to be a very good Blue Jay. He'll be the third catcher (or more, if JP Arencibia proves to be a AAAA type), letting new manager John Farrell occasionally pinch run for Arencibia or Jose Molina without fear of running out of catchers. He can also split time with Adam Lind at 1B/DH, spending more time on the field if Lind runs into problems. His acquisition makes Edwin Encarnacion a bench player, which means the couple of million signed there might be a wash. But I've always wondered it Encarnacion might actually be a guy who runs with a chance at some point. He's still youngish and I think there's still a chance. I had HIM as my breakout guy last year, with a small nod to Jose Bautista's chances. Still time. And at least he gives the team a backup 3B, allowing Johnny Mac to concentrate on the middle of the diamond.

Juan Rivera is a big-league outfielder, and a good one just two years ago. If he repeats 2009, the trade turns into something really, really great for the Jays. If he repeats last year, well, his $5.5M comes off the books at the end of the year and he can watch Encarnacion play third while Bautista goes back to right field. Something in the middle can be expected. But a Jays' fan can be forgiven optimism. Rivera seems to play well in contract years.

And that's part of what makes this trade grow in expectations as the year passes. At the end of it, Napoli and Rivera could very well be Type B Free Agents. And Type A is not out of the question, after Napoli comes to the Rogers Centre for 81+ games. Alex Anthopoulos will offer arbitration and the Jays will reap benefits come draft time in 2012. That's who he is. And that's how the Jays will become relevent in the Big East of the AL, where they play in the same sandbox as the free-spending Yankees and Red Sox. Call it the Tampa Bay Plan. And, as long as AA doesn't settle for safe backup infielders and back of the rotation starters from college (like his mypoic predecessor), the plan has a distinct chance of working.

In the meantime, Toronto does have an interesting conundrum. The starting outfield of Snider, Rajai Davis and Rivera is scary defensively. The club needs to think of acquiring an actual flyhawk to cover the Wells-to-Anthony Gose transition years. I fear Davis isn't the guy. But he will be, all of this year as the Jays go into full-blown tryout mode. Which might mean a step back in the win column. But it's important to know which pieces are going to back in 2012, to be combined with some newly-bought Jays to take a run at making the playoffs for the first time in three decades.

So, the Jays will field a starting lineup that will have Davis leading off, followed by Aaron Hill, Bautista, Napoli, Lind, Snider, Rivera, Arencibia and Yunel Escobar. The offensive bench will include Johnny McDonald, Molina, Encarnacion and likely Corey Patterson. How will that offence stack up against last year's bombers? Wells is gone, but Napoli rates to equal his homer total. Lyle Overbay is gone, but it has to be assumed that both Lind and Hill have bounce back years (They WERE Silver Slugger winners in 2009). Rivera seems like an upgrade over Freddie Lewis power-wise. The only decline will probably be at catcher where Arencibia will be hard-pressed to match John Buck's all-star numbers a year ago. But, if the lone remaining JP connected with the Jays DOES stumble, Napoli at backstop and Encarnacion at DH means that power deficit reverses. And lastly, I'm in the 'Bautista's for real' camp. I see a slight dimunation in his power numbers, not a dramatic dive from 54 down to the 30 area.

With about the same power potential, some improvements and/or reversion to past batting skills from the average standpoint of view and a manager willing to play small ball a little more, the Jays might very exceed last year's offensive numbers. Farrell's in charge of combining with Bruce Walton and Pat Hentgen to get the same kind of bullpen performance (which was slightly less than good last year) and some improvement out of the kiddie korps on the pitching mound. IF all that happens, the Jays are a mid-to-high 80's win team. But that's secondary to the questions 2011 will answer.

Is Snider an illusion or on the verge of breaking out? Is Davis the bridge to Gose or 2012's fourth outfielder? Can Rivera became a Type B Free Agent? Is Bautista an illusion or on the verge of a long-term Blue Jay career with a big contract go with that? Is Escobar the guy everybody thinks he is, or the same guy who disappointed everybody for the first two months in Atlanta and the last month in Toronto last year? Can Hill bounce back? And is Hill the 2B or 3B of the future? Can Lind bounce back AND learn to play 1B? Can  Napoli find enough at bats to make fans forget Wells? And can Napoli get enough time at catcher to qualify there and become a Type B Free Agent, or daresay a Type A? Is Arencibia a big leaguer or do the Jays have to await the arrival of Travis D'Arnaud? Can Encarnacion tap that offensive power potential if not burdened with playing 3B regularly? If any of the various corner infielders, DH's or corner outfielders falter, can uber-offensive prospect Brett Lawrie beat a path to major league stardom?

That's a LOT of questions that need answering on the offensive side of the slate. A series of positive answers would make the Blue Jays a contender a year early, with LOTS of money to spend come July. But we all know some of those answers won't come out in Toronto's favour. I've never been a Snider fan. Despite Don Wakamatsu (and the titleless coach, Molina), I fear for the catching, And the defence, on the whole, is a major step down from last year. I think Toronto will miss Overbay more than they realize, The bench is a little thin. But no Clarence Gaston while keeping Dwayne Murphy is a plus. No allegiance to a set line up, no matter how poorly some Gaston favourites are playing is a plus. It's hard NOT to be optimistic.

And when you think of the extra 75 million bucks Toronto had budgeted for and now finds free to spend in other ways, the future's so bright, AA has to wear shades.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

SOFTWARE: Surprise, I'm Sticking With Firefox 3.6

I tried, I really, really tried. But I just can't commit to using Google Chrome as my main web browser. I have a fully tricked out Chrome 8 working and portable test versions of Chrome 9 and Chrome 10. But there is just TOO much missing to make me switch. And as for Firefox 4, coming out next month, the answer is nooooooo.

Let's figure out why I'm not making the switch to FF4. First, if I wanted a reasonable facsimile of Chrome, why wouldn't I just use the original? The design decisions to slavishly imitate the Chrome interface means I don't have much of a choice. FF4 is really Chrome with a sidebar of bookmarks. Now, that happens to fix a particular itch that I have with Chrome, the lack of a sidebar of bookmarks, but it sure isn't a deciding factor in making Mozilla's implementation of the information-less Chrome interface any better.

FF4 got rid of the status bar, assuming all we peons did with it was watch load times and which links hovering over a link would lead us to. Ahhh, NO! My status bar has weather, reminders and status indicators for 15 various extensions. And load times and link info. Taking that away was arrogance. And, although Status 4 Evar returns a LOT of that capability back, it doesn't enforce a consistent uniformity on the placement of items. It's sort of a first come, first serve basis, most of the time. Not good enough, but at least a kludge against designer foul-up.

Admittedly, FF3.6 is getting long in the tooth and is more resource hungry and slower than any of the Chrome versions or FF4 will be. I SHOULD like faster. But when I ran Chrome and exposed it to my mass load folders of bookmarks, I discovered that the savings time-wise was less than a half-second PER tab. Loading 119 tabs in all was about 39 seconds faster in Chrome. Daily variations and time of the day issues might have made that difference five or seconds faster (or slower). So, the speed pickup wasn't worth it. Chrome loaded everything but about six tabs in my daily commenters group. Not surprisingly, it loaded GMail, Google Calendar, Google Reader and Google News, which often time out during my mass load in FF 3.6. But like I said, it seemed like Chrome just substituted a half-dozen other sites to force me into clicking re-load. FF4 was only slightly faster than FF 3.6, but then again, it's still in beta. All together, speed is NOT a reason to switch, at least for me. Resources? I have 4G of memory in Popeye and will have 12G in Quincy. So, the resource issue is a non-issue for me.

Security isn't the anti-Chrome factor it once was. Chrome DOES have noscript. Well, a clone of it. And that means you can avoid drive-by script infections. But, and here's a but that really, really hurts, making those changes on the fly is a very destructive act, if you happen to have, oh, say, a Blog entry in progress when you change the settings. Settings changed and everything gets wiped out. ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!! And yes, I am RE-writing this blog entry in FF 3.6 after losing an earlier Pulitzer Prize-winning version that I started in Chrome.

On the other hand, there are things I like a lot, and Chrome doesn't have versions of those things yet. I like in-place picture zooming. I like right-clicking and picking which folder to save a picture too. I like being able to nuke page elements in an everything selected or everything BUT selected manner. I can duplicate a fair bit of that thanks to Printliminator in Chrome, but there are times where NukeAnythingEnhanced in Firefox is just a better choice. I LIKE having a close button at the end of the tab row and a go button in the URL box. Yes, there can be a close button in Chrome, but it goes on the upper URL box row. And the go button is reload button. To the LEFT of the URL.  Niggles and nits? Sure. But I like comfort and familiarity. Not so nitty is Chrome's inability to session save with doing it manually first. I use Firefox's ability to save sessions automatically and I get more use out of that feature after crashes than I would like. It's comforting to have 40 tabs open, just close FF, restart it and have the option to have those 40 tabs back.

Making Chrome cover up the lack of a sidebar requires running Chrome across most of a 2000 pixel wide screen. That results in an amusing situation. Some sites run their content in the middle of the screen. Some run it flush left. Go from one tab to the next and you can feel like a tennis match spectator. Uncomfortable.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like Chrome for some things. And surprisingly, it isn't for interfacing with the Google tools that are an increasingly larger share of my on-life work. I use it for videos. I use it for CNet and for some of the Revision3 offerings. I haven't turned off auto-play in Chrome and, although videos won't keep playing at full monitor size if you insist on working on another window on another monitor (Except for YouTube and Vimeo), it does a good job of playing any videos I take it too. I have a lot of auto-play turned off in FF. There are better auto-paging features (which work MOST of the time). It's also nice that adding extensions doesn't require a reboot all the time. In fact, most of the time it doesn't, allowing for testing things out. But there ARE a few here and there that behave like Firefox. Lastly, scrolling is VERY, VERY smooth in Chrome.

The Pros-Cons list in switching to Chrome is not even close. It's Firefox by a mile. And that means FF 3.6. FF4 has its own issues, even with general release just a few weeks away. A LOT of the extensions I swear by are not ready for the major update. And a couple, TAB MIX PLUS I AM TALKING ABOUT YOU, seem unlikely to make the update for the update. That's really troubling. Really, REALLY troubling. So, I'm going to do what I mostly always do. Let the early adopters have all the fun, while I hang back and await for the first major fix to the new release. At least. I figure I'll be adopting either Firefox 4.1 or Chrome 13 about a year from now. Or more likely, TWO years from now.

After all, I'm writing this on a computer running Windows XP SP3.

SPORTS: The Logo STILL Stinks!

One of the last vestiges of the Ricciardi/Godfrey regime of the Toronto Blue Jays is the atrocious logo and those awful, let's do black like everybody else, uniforms. And it's just not me that decries the logo. Jim Caple, the ESPN Page 2 columnist, ran down the logo's in an article at ESPN yesterday. And he has particular scorn for the Jays' logo. Read all about it at ESPN.

Now, I have to say that I agree with most everything he had to say (Giants' over-rating aside). Cartoon(y) bird, a phrase he uses for the Baltimore logo too, is a bit harsh for the beloved old double-blue Jay with the Canadian maple leaf detail. But it's not a corporate monstrosity, as Caple so capably refers to the current incarnation.

Ricciardi is receding into our memories and Godfrey's name elicits a "Who?" in most quarters these days. Isn't it time to bring back finery as a feature of the Blue Jays' uniforms? And I'm not talking about the Red Texas T version of the bird with the Maple Leaf tattoo. Toronto is blue. Double blue most of the time. And admitting the Jays are Canada's team isn't the worst thing ever. So let's give our guys a chance to represent the city they play in. Return us to the days when the logo didn't represent somebody's wet dream of an overly-muscular angry bird. (No insult to the popular game). 

And get rid of the funeral suits. Just regular blue and grey get-ups for out-of-town games, bright whites for home games. And if you have to have a special occasion set of togs, NO BLEEPIN' BLACK uniforms. Go red, go powder blue throwback, but black is NOT a Toronto colour. And the sooner the Jays (and even the Raptors) learn that, maybe we can get back to seeing some winning teams on local TV.

The home team that is.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

LIFE: One Last Observation

I continue to be utterly contemptuous of the decision-makers at Molson's and HydroOne that created this idiotic attack on citizens from Hamilton to my backyard and beyond in the middle of winter. The lack of forethought on DOING the transfer of these humongous vats to the Molson's facility in Etobicoke at this time of the year has to rate high on the scale of stupidity run amok. And the inability to keep people informed in a timely manner was shocking. I might have dealt with more morons than normal trying to suggest several ways to do it better. Before finally giving up after developing a headache banging my head against the wall separating us from whatever reality the bozos live in.

All that said, the workers from HydroOne and the Challenger company and the local constabulary did a yeoman's job, at least as far as them moving the vats past my backyard. They did it so quick, I didn't even know they were doing it. Mind you, I didn't camp out on the East side of the house awaiting the procession. But I expected problems and they never materialized. And that's because of some hard work by people who were told it was a four-day job and it's turned into a four-week effort, including two weeks of 9pm-6am shifts in pretty bad weather.

Hosannas to each of them, the grunts that had to make the idiotic decision work. Sure, it went slower than the suits thought. And I'm sure the suits are complaining already. But it's getting done and might even meet the latest hoped for finish time on Sunday. Today's snow storm will probably put paid to that. But they'll probably give it a try.

And given the work I didn't see last night, they might even succeed.

LIFE: Tonight WAS The Night

A month of psychological terror has come to an end. No longer will I wonder if tonight is the night HydroOne, the gawdforsaken travesty of an electrical monopoly will suddenly, and without adequate warning, turn my power off, leaving me without light and warmth. All so Molson's, the brew king, can haul their gigantic overseas-made vats past my backyard while travelling from Hamilton to Etobicoke.

I knew it was going to happen 'early' last night because yesterday morning, the procession of the trucks hauling the vats was parked four blocks away at the corner of Bramalea and Steeles. Having a doctor's appointment in the morning, I went and did a drive-by to see them. Big is always a relative term. I'm a short little dude compared to Shaq O'Neal but I tower over the youngest kid next door. So, when I say these vats are BIG, let me try to put it into perspective. I think, on the truck, they might be taller than my two-story house. Each. And I can understand why they needed at least two-lane (both ways) roads to travel on. Got the picture? As I drove back to my house, I looked at the over-head wires on Bramalea and said to myself, "No way they get through here without cutting the power to let them pass." Actually, it was more of a mutter of outrage, but the feeling was one of pessimism.

Somewhere between 8pm and 10 pm, the trucks would come thundering down the incline at the corner they were stopped at and race down Bramalea's straightaway, headed for Queen St. It would come while the Raptors-Pistons game was on. I expected it to happen in the closing minutes, cuz that's what these twits would do. So, I turned off all the electrical equipment I could, especially the UPS's I've attached to many of them. I left just the newest UPS running, because I wanted to test it in a power outage, especially the "silence the alarm" button. (To me, worth exactly 84.6 percent of the purchase price). I sat watching the game and it managed to finish, with a disappointing loss by Toronto. A HA! The lords of power had futzed up. I got the game in, and turned to reading, to await the inevitable screech of the power going out. I had a reading light for the Kindle eReader. I was fully prepared.

Then the phone rang. And rang again. And again. And yet again. Clients with a problem regarding my Point of Sale software. The problem was fixed. Each phone call included the message that if the line went suddenly dead, it wasn't me, it was them, the meisters of power, HydroOne. Then, one final call. I was, to put it mildly, surprised at how popular I was. Furthermore, the content of the phone call was different. "Did your power go out?" I was asked. No. "Then it's not going out. The vats are all the way to Clark Blvd."

The procession had indeed sneaked past my backyard in record time. AND WITHOUT TURNING OFF MY POWER!!!! The stated possibility of an outage of from one to six hours was nothing more than a boogie monster, meant to raise stress levels, repeated, ad nauseum for the last month. The cretin in charge of public information, the guy who delivered a mailing last week that said it would happen in the Monday to Wednesday time frame ... on Tuesday afternoon .... could stop testing my blood pressure. His clumsy, perpetually wrong, threats are no more.

I was prepared for him to be right. That he proved be completely and utterly wrong in just about everything, should have come as a relief. But it bothered me that the power DIDN'T go off last night. It would have been a stress reliever and I would have turned the darkness a deep shade of blue, listing all of the genetic anomalies I'm sure contribute to the bozo's utter lack of ability to do his job.

But in the end, I just turned off the light and went to sleep.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

LIFE: Hmmm, Maybe Monday Night

The Big Move To Alienate Molson's Customers In Ontario (Trademark pending) has started. The out-of-date by the time it arrived communique from the hapless Hydro One information twit(s) arrived Thursday of last week. The move started in Hamilton on Friday evening and is slowing winding it's way through the Golden Horseshoe along Lake Ontario's border, inconveniencing all along its way. Currently, I'm going to be cursing the gods of mead sometime on Monday night/Tuesday morning. But that's a guess. I'm not a civil engineer, an engineer or somehow connected to this project. In other words, uninformed. Yet, somehow, these mental midgets figure I CAN do all the calculations and figure out when to 'protect' myself from the ravages of my monopolistic energy supplier and their companions in compassion-less, Molson's and the moving company.

I'd almost be willing to take up drinking JUST so I could ban Molson's from the house. That's how mad I am. I'm verging on questioning my near half-century of loyalty to the Montreal Canadiens. That's how mad I am. I wonder if somebody will go all right wingnut crazy on the decision-makers and wonder if I would feel any sympathy ... for the crazy. That's how mad I am. But being mad only leads me here to vent. At least I let the doubly-cursed dummies know there are better ways to keep we, the people, better informed. So I posted this comment to their site for collecting such comments:

While it would be easy to launch into an invective-filled rant about the idiocy of an operation that will result in the loss of electricity in the dead of winter for thousands, if not millions of people ... without any recompense, to do so would be the electronic equivalent of spitting into the wind. My main problem all along has been the fact that Hydro One and the Movement team have operated under the delusion that they are keeping the victims of this move updated information-wise.

In fact, the only thing all of us in the impact zone want to know, is when (and ideally for how long), we will be without power. Will we be freezing for one hour, six hours or are our wires so well-placed as to not all affected? Or will we get cold and without the comfort of our favourite TV programs or access to a computer?

Vague "here's where we will start and end" projections don't cut it. And keeping everybody up to date via twitter assumes an awful lot. Twitter is nowhere near as ubiquitous as apparently somebody assumes.

But, given that the move now seems destined to last well into the week, having almost doubled in projected length, there's time to at least partially correct the lack of foresight regarding our needs. What you SHOULD do is to immediately calculate the following night's projected impact zone when you finish up at 6am. Break the impact into halves, thirds, quarters ... whatever granularity you can. Detail APPROXIMATE times of electrical and travel impact in a simple letter and print them out for delivery to the affected homes. Then employ some of the gazillion unemployed willing to do leg work and get those letters out to homes by lunch hour, supper hour at the latest.

A prepared victim is a lot less cranky victim. Yes, I'm talking about an expenditure that I assume won't be small. But on the night that I get a little frost-bite on my nose from a house that's gone without heat for a few hours, I'll find myself wondering if it would have been possible to crank the heat up ten degrees in the knowledge that soon there wouldn't be any, would have been a good idea.

That and wondering why Molson's ever thought this inconveniencing of potential customers wouldn't cost them the sales they hope to gain from these new vats. I know there will never be a bottle of their brew in this house. Ever again.

I'm starting to rant, so I will sign off. But I urge you to forewarn people in a manner that will be useful to them and not rely on these cryptic tweets and a map/guide that seems out of date by the time SOME of us can read it on the internet.

Gary M. Mugford

Is there a chance in hell that they will listen, accept and act on my advice? Nope. Dopes on parade will continue without regard to the citizenry. But I tried. And that makes me feel a little better now.

Won't matter a nonce come Monday night when I can't work on the computer or watch any of the accumulated hours of TV I've been saving for a snowy night ... with power. I'll probably be mumbling myself to sleep uttering a single mantra.