Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Truth From the Red Line

After over 30 years of playing hockey, the game's truisms are finally taking philosophical root in my mind. "Keep your stick on the ice" is really a missive to stay tuned to the world around you and to remain prepared. "Make yourself available, skate to the openings" may be sound offensive advice but it is truer still in life where the only way to take advantage of opportunities is to be opportunistic (is that Kafka, or Warren Buffet?) Likewise, on defense, look for where no one else is – where coverage is weak, that's where you could get caught. This too could be derived straight from Warren Buffet's motto, "When others are timid, be brave, when others are bold, be cautious." Back on the ice, you'd say, if your teammate has the puck carrier pinned, overload the position, double the puck carrier to force the turn-over. Defense partners should call to each other as to who should cover the shooter or the pass – not too different from the common corporate mantra, "communication is key." "When racing an opponent to the puck, don't be the first one there, rather, be the first to gain position." Again, it reads like a business tip (as in "being first is more important than being good.") "When retrieving the puck, take a shoulder check before you reach it. See where everyone is. Know your options first." That one doesn't even sound like a hockey tip as much as a real estate training guide. "On a break, be decisive, make your deke before you're in the defender's range. If he takes the bait, you're gone before he can make a correction." Be decisive, make your move early, make others over-commit? That could be from Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Of course, my favourite would be, "keep moving your feet" (harder than it sounds) which could be an Oprah slogan for never giving up on your dreams.

Lenny Dykstra, the former Mets and Phillies star who wants to parlay his business acumen into a magazine that advises athletes how to invest – where was Lenny when Mike Tyson needed him?
If you doubt me, read Nails Never Fails, and see how every business situation seems to have a baseball counterpart. Baseball may have catchier expressions such as calling a turning point a "one-and-one count" (which may beat "overloading the zone") but hockey is not without it's Canadian character. Could there be anything more Canadian than, "dump and chase" (sounds like a strategy for shorting a stock) or "working the cycle"? Maybe the Red Wings should give business seminars.

Update November 24, 2010: Lenny "Nails" Dykstra isn't quite the investor he claimed. This from MercuryNews.com, "Dykstra filed for bankruptcy protection in July [2010], saying he owed more than $31 million and had about $50,000 in assets."

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New Wheelz

"I got a brand new pair of roller skates, and you've got a brand new key..."

Hey, wait a second. I think I just got that?

No matter. I didn't get a new pair of roller skates. I'm not really a roller boogie kind of guy. But I did get a new bike – well, a used bike, but new to me. Only problem is, this bike is built for speed and my body isn't quite up to that yet. I'm working on it though. It's funny but I've noticed a cavalcade of cyclists in the city, and not your courier-road warrior or activist vegan type of cyclist. Just people on bikes. A recent movie we just rented, Monkey Warfare, really captures the kind of cyclist that you often see in T.O. I could go on to describe a lanky guy in a Western style shirt, riding a cruiser, unshaven, looking for a pot score or you could just watch the movie. It's not the best film you'll see this year, but it's one of the only films I can think of that shows Toronto as it really is, and actually makes it look good. I'm not sure how they did it, but you get the feeling that it's a nice place to ride a bike (bikes play an important role in the plot). Oh, and it was apparently all filmed minutes from our house (Queen and Roncy, Wabash Park, Parkdale etc.)

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

I, the Jury

Twelve Angry Men – now I know why they're so angry

My name is Peter Rogers and I'm being held against my will. Lawfully, but against my will. Prisoner number 25253, sorry that's juror number 25253, occupation: Graphic Designer, Toronto.

I'm not really sure where or how they get your name, number, and occupation but I was called, and I served. It was incredibly, unbelievably, mind numbingly dull. Probably more than 500 citizens gathered in a large, bright, airless room. The only constant seemed to be the white noise whoosh of the air exchange. In three days, I was called upon once, as part of a group of about 120, from which 60 of us were chosen and asked to wait in successively smaller rooms. Out of the 60 I was the 59th person called. They comprised their jury from before reaching the 30th person called (I know all this by the numbers assigned to us).

So little happened over the course of three days, that you might believe you were captive in some sort of psychological experiment.

Test Condition 39456 – Keeping Subjects in a Large Bright Airless Room for 21 hours.
Goal: To discover, if requested by an authoritative source, to show up at an assigned place and at an assigned time, will people stay without use of force and how will they smell?

If this experience has taught me anything it is that if you're given an opportunity to be tried by a jury of your peers... maybe you should take a pass on that.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Sarah in gallery, originally uploaded by rowdyman.

Before Sarah stayed with us this weekend, I did a lot of hand wringing over what exactly we could do and see in Toronto. I live here, I don't visit here. Plus, I really wanted Sarah to see something other than the usual suspects of the CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame, Eaton Centre (there's a triad of concrete tourism for you). What we did do made for a noteworthy list and probably a good template for anyone coming to visit Toronto. So here's a list of spots to hit in the city (this is as much a reminder list to myself as it is a list for anyone else).

Little Italy
Go for a meal on the patio of Café Diplomatico and people watch while you eat. On that same strip you could check out one of the best CD shops in the country, Soundscapes, or even one of Toronto's better used book stores, Balfour Books. Then cap a stroll along corso Italia with a stop at Sicilan Café for some home made Gelato. If you're still up for more entertainment, make your way to Dundas West and Lula Lounge for a night of latin music and maybe even a dance competition.

Try to Find China Town
The next day, hit the streets for a walking tour through Kensington Market and China Town. A quick subway ride up to Bloor and you can take in an exhibit about Shanghai, or see an incredible display of minerals and crystals at the recently renovated Royal Ontario Museum. Still in the museum mood? You could walk across the street to the Gardiner Ceramic Museum - actually, it's worth the walk even if you can only spare 10 minutes to peruse the tiny but beautifully stocked museum shop. Hungry after all that? Head North on Avenue Road then hang on a left on Prince Arthur Avenue until you come to the Bedford Academy. The fare is typical pub food, but the patio and the street are what make this spot special (oh and if you're visiting during the Film Festival, it's a star spotting hot spot).

Take to the Lake
Heading to down to Queen's Quay you can usually find a free performance or exhibit at the Harbourfront Centre. If you're lucky, you'll see glass blowers or ceramic artists at work in the craft studios. There are usually 3-4 exhibits on at Harbourfront at any given time. From December through February there's also a public skating rink (like the one at Nathan Phillips Square). In the summer there are regular concerts, or outdoor movie screenings, or food festivals. Nearby, as part of the Harbourfront is the contemporary art gallery the Powerplant. If the weather is good, it's great to take a bike on the ferry to Toronto Island and spend the afternoon exploring.

In our Hood
Of course, if you're visiting us, by default you'll be visiting Roncesvalles. Basically, you can work off all those Polish donut calories by walking to High Park. Or you could head to Queen West to go antique shopping or head down to the Lake and see the Toronto skyline from the Western Lakeshore. Which ever you head you're bound to run into some part of Toronto you've never heard about before.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This Animated Life

Chris Ware & John Kuramoto bring you this animation featured in season two of This American Life.

There's something fascinating to me about the foibles of New York life. It is a city both real and imagined, in which intellectual and whimsical pursuits seem equally valid and rewarding. In recent years, I think I've become aware that I participate in one of the many brands of New York. There exists a tribe of foreigners who somehow feel an affinity to Fairytale NYC that we can't quite explain. It might describe your politics, cultural aspirations or material desires but I'm going to just start calling it "New York" the way a font is called New York. NYB – New York Brand. I say a "brand" but it could just as well be an "attitude" or a "feeling" but whatever this is, it seems to be encapsulated by certain media or personalities that you can easily group together. That's how I feel about this cartoon. It's as though, this is my wish; I want to be walking in Manhattan, on a lovely spring day, discussing some celebrity I spotted. Unfortunately, that happens to be the height of my ambition at the moment. I think films made me want to desire this. Maybe this guy is right.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Momma's Day!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

All in a Day's Sleep

Device for treating vascular malformations
Today I went for another Bleomycin injection. When you get up at 5AM, you don't need a very strong anesthetic to put you under. Still I was grateful to be in the skilled hands of Dr. Atul Prabhu. I know it sounds strange to mention your anesthetist but this was my sixth time going in for one of these injections and the clumsiness of the last anesthetist left me battered and bruised (feeling incredibly hung over with raccoon eyes and bleeding nose). So when I awoke feeling refreshed, bruise-free it was Dr. Prabhu I had to thank. I want this guy to swing by the house and tuck me in at night with a shot of "tonic" and a few blasts of pure oxygen, sweet sweet oxygen.

I should mention too that the doc who did the injection, Dr. Peter Howard was good enough to send me home with a prescription just in case complications should arise (pain, swelling, possible infection, you know, the usual).

Grant Achatz
Since these injections into my tongue began I've learned that there are some crucial senses that make us who we are. For me, taste has been something I completely took for granted – until of course, I was missing it. Which is why I take greater care to grill my meat and NOT over cook my veg. There's a remarkable profile in this week's New Yorker of Grant Achatz, a Chicago based chef running a restaurant while battling tongue cancer. Some time ago when surgery was considered an option, I met with a surgeon who had a lot experience with tongue cancer. People who lose part of their tongue suffer lose of taste, speech and have difficulty eating. The times when my tongue has been swollen have given me a sliver of insight into how hard something like that could be so check the article to see how this innovative chef hasn't let his disease slow him down.


Monday, May 05, 2008

The Real Great Lake Swimmers

photo: Bernice Iarocci
When you've called during the past year, and I've said Angela was busy – this is what I was talking about. Over 2000 students, educators, artists and designers have been brought together through Project Fishnet to create over 1200 textile fish now exhibited at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Angela and Claire have been working at a pace that would make James Brown look like lazy. That pace hit a fever pitch in the last two weeks as volunteers were culled from every corner, photos were Photoshopped, graphics were printed and fish were strung. The show opened last Friday and from everything I saw it was a hit. I think some of the hard-core art folk were a little taken aback by the presence of so many kids, though that didn't stop them from polishing off the punch bowl (oh yeah, ol' skool punch bowl).

Check out the Fishnet Web site, and gallery of fish crafted by artists and kids alike (including your humble author).

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