Talkin’ Bout a Revolution, it Sounds Like a Twitter

Will Tweet For Food
Will Tweet For Food

There’s a revolution coming, people. Not the “We’d like to sell you some mutual funds by incorporating music that used to be subersive into our otherwise non-threatening and highly establishment-based  television ad” kind of revolution.  Not the kind that requires a lot of marching with torches, either (which is good, because it’s been a wet summer, making serviceably dry torch wood difficult to find, and quite frankly, I’m just a little too bushed to be marching about prattling on about brotherhood and equality while singing full-throated anthems and such).  No, not that one either;  that happened, it was fun, and we all got nice t-shirts out of it.

Not to go all Tracy Chapman on you, but I’m talking ’bout a revolution that sounds like a twitter.

The new media, and in particular Twitter, is going to change the way that large organizations communicate with individuals.   It’s going to have serious implications for the way teams like the Maple Leafs – and their players – relate to the fans.

In and around the free agency period, for example, I had a feeling that Brian Burke would be signing Francois Beauchemin.  Incidentally, it is entirely possible that I picked up on that idea at least somewhat by reading Leafs-related chatter on Twitter, I don’t know; I can’t say for sure.  In any event, though, using the excellent interface TweetDeck (basically a supercharged Twitter client/browser that allows you to open multiple Twitter streams at once), I kept tabs on a number of potential Leaf-related developments by opening columns designed to stream tweets containing certain words.  One of these was a search for “beauchemin“.  The columns continually updated as people from all over sent out their thoughts and information concerning the big defenceman.  For a day or two, much of the chatter was simply conjecture about the possibility of  Happy Trails signing with this or that NHL team;  there came a point, though, when the information being exchanged started strongly suggesting that he would imminently become a Leaf.  The tweets began to fly fast and furious, and not very long after, I learned – via a 140 character (or less) tweet – that Beauchemin was coming to Toronto.

In seconds, I was “re-tweeting” the information to the folks who were following me, and watching the information disseminate further like concentric circles on a pond as my tweet alerted others on the network of the news.  fascinating stuff, and a definite game changer when you consider that only 40 years ago, the interested consumer of this knowledge would have had to wait for the morning paper to arrive on his or her doorstep.   Not long after that, Brian Burke was confirming the signing at a press conference.  My point is that because of Twitter, there doesn’t need to be any newspaper or conventional news gathering organization involved in the dissemination of this information.

enough already

The implications for large organizations wishing to push their message out to the populace are stunningly obvious.  Well, stunningly obvious that is, to every organization except MLSE, which has had certain well poorly documented problems in the past with Twitter.  Quite apart from the “Brian Burke” fiasco though, MLSE has now apparently hired HAL 9000’s autistic cousin to robo-tweet, in hyper-annoying fashion, the same repetitive and dated messages over and over again to the increasingly exasperated masses.  This is the approximate digital equivalent, in old media terms, of sending Mr. Whipple to your house to berate you for squeezing the Charmin, pee on your floor and punch your dog in the face.

It’s probably safe to assume, then, that the suits at MLSE aren’t exactly ahead of the curve on integrating a medium like this into the daily life of the team, and  it remains to be seen how the team will handle it once that robot is given a proper sendoff.

Even more interesting will be watching teams like the Leafs deal – or attempt to do so – with the players in the locker room tweeting away, communicating directly with fans via a service like this.  This is an issue that the Leafs will have to deal with this year, as Mike Komisarek is a Twitter user.  Komikazi tweeted tonight that he had received some good medical news and expected his shoulder to be fully recovered in time to begin training camp.  Reading this tweet left me with a sense of some connection, some almost direct connection with the player.  I didn’t read a quote from Komisarek about his shoulder that had been chosen by a newspaper writer who had decided to write about the subject;  Komi told me, matter of fact.  It’s the next best thing to him calling up and leaving a message on my voicemail.

I wonder, though, whether there will be a struggle to come between management and players about the use of a service like this.  MLSE is an organization that labours mightily to try and maintain control over the message being disseminated about the Maple Leaf brand, and it is an organization that is very well positioned to do so, having access to the video production and broadcast facilities of Leafs television, on-air talent on staff, etc.  It remains to be seen how tolerant the NHL in general and Leaf management in particular will be about tweets emanating from the dressing room;  I suspect that it won’t be long before a fun-killing directive or policy is developed on this.  The potential for problems, or at least things that have in the past been perceived as problems, is enormous:  consider a player warring with his coach tweeting from the locker room during an intermission, complaining to his fans about not getting icetime on the powerplay.  Imagine the fans getting behind their disgruntled hero and chanting for him as the next period begins.  Tensions between the coach and player go up as the coach has to decide whether to give the fans what they want or keep the player riding the pine.

Even in the absence of conflicts such as the above, the simple fact is that – as more and more players begin  talking for themselves in this way –  fans will become less and less likely to care what the “official” MLSE website, spokesperson or twitter feed says;  why would we spend time digesting that content when we can get our information fix directly from the horse’s mouth?  Perhaps more than any other single factor, this dynamic – driving interest to player accounts rather than team/organizational outlets – will provoke a reaction from NHL teams.  These teams, after all, are in the entertainment business;  sooner or later, they will realize that their audience is generating traffic that’s going “off campus” and by definition isn’t helping them sell tickets, sweaters and bobbleheads.  Expect the “twitter” issue to be part of the next CBA negotiations.

It’ll be a shame for the fans when the orders do come down for players to cease and desist.  In the meantime, imagine the fun of sitting in the seats at the ACC and getting updates on your mobile phone from one or more of the players in the locker room during an intermission: “Interview with HNIC a godsend;  Kabby’s shinpads stink” or “Stajan just took a wad of tape in the face,”  or “Holy crap, Wilson bitch-slapped Jamal Mayers.  I am hiding in the shower.”

Popeye is Watching

Popeye has a habit of standing at the top of the hill behind the house, just over the property line so that he’s technically all four feet firmly on the neighbour’s property.  Next door to us, there is a fairly large farm, and the edges of the fields – as you might imagine – get somewhat overgrown with tall grasses, wildflowers and weeds.  

Popper likes to stick his head through the grass that’s grown up along the edge of the property and perform surveillance:  looking left, then straight ahead, then right;  back to the middle, back to the left;  back to the middle, back to the right….you get the idea.  Well, maybe you don’t – but this picture should give you a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.

Popeye on surveillance_8352

He’s Resting.

I’m not the only guy to suffer an injury around the ol’ homestead this weekend.  The little fellow pictured below flew headlong into the window on the east side at the rear of our house.  He seemed to be stunned (beautiful plumage, eh?) for a little bit, and Spouse and I stood nearby to make sure he didn’t get scooped up by any wandering cats or foxes whilst lying in the garden, no doubt pining for the fjords. We were more than a little worried he was going to shuffle off this mortal coil and join the choir invisible.  Spouse said she felt like a murderer, so I pointed out that the sum total of her ignominious crime was “owning a window”, but she still felt like a monster.

Tired and shagged out after a prolonged squawk?

I took the opportunity to snap off a few pictures at very close range. After twenty minutes of resting or so, he gathered himself together and flew off to the top of the tallest tree in Juniorvania, fresh as a daisy.

May Day: Let the Chores Begin

Saturday was spent recuperating from the demands of another work week in my usual fashion:  in the manner of a cultured and intelligent philosopher king.  Specifically, I was camped out on the couch in front of the television soaking in about seven hours of NHL hockey.

Dedicating myself to torpor and sloth meant for the most part eschewing the pleasures of the great outdoors;  it also meant eschewing (temporarily) the coincident burdens of the surrounding environment, such as the requirement to cut the grass.  Careful readers will recall that cutting the lawn – an inconvenient recurring nuisance for some – has, in the past been more of a life-threatening spirit quest for me.

The Juniorvania Blue Jays 7698
Sunday's Taskmaster

But (news flash) Sunday dawned, and after a morning cup of tea, there was a jay in the tree outside the window sounding a call to action.  Against the aforementioned backdrop of timorous langour then, I ventured out into the Wide World and saddled up for 2009’s Maiden voyage aboard the JMV Eradicator.  I am pleased to report that Mission 1-09 successfully and safely achieved its primary objective, the ensmallinating of the grasses.  All systems were operative aboard the Mowing Vehicle, with one exception:  the People’s Engineers will be receiving a request to review the Eradicator’s musical delivery systems.  In order to avoid angry legal entanglement with the kind folks at the John Deere Company of Moline Illinois, I hasten to point out that these systems were added on an “after-market” basis.  In particular, the system consists of the operator wearing an iPod and earbuds.  Actually, the system consists of the operator wearing and iPod and ATTEMPTING to wear earbuds because – as every iPod user knows, iPod earbuds do not under any circumstances remain inserted in one’s ears.

A Snake in the Grass 7702
Is that Dick Cheney?

Spotted and photographed on the scouting perambulations prior to climbing aboard the Eradicator:  the charming little fellow pictured at left. This specimen was located using Top Secret and patent pending Juniorvanian Reptilian location technology:  an unsuspecting and somewhat foolhardy individual with a pair of Crocs carelessly slipped onto his bare feet is dispatched into the surrounding flora armed with a camera and tasked with obtaining a photograph of a bird – perhaps a nearby blue jay.  In this way, the collector is encouraged (by way of diversion) to keep his head up and his line of accordingly elevated and most decidedly NOT fixed upon the ground.  The large holes in the aforementioned footwear will automatically, if somewhat alarmingly, assist in locating the desired reptile.  Potential side effects may include the emission of a somewhat embarrassing and decidedly little girl-like yelp as contact is literally made between our startled naturalist and the disgruntled fauna.

Sunday also featured a lovely visit from my folks;  my Dad brought a can of paint he had hanging around the house for my grandfather’s old porch rocker, now adorning our front deck.  The name of the particular tint:  “Cleveland Brown.”  The marketing department at CIL must be one crazy hilarious place to work;  what a bunch of slapstick knuckleheads they must be.

At the end of a long Sunday of yardwork, I found myself stiff and aching.  Nevertheless, the grass was green, the sky was blue, and I was tickled pink to be spending time outdoors again.  Hey, CIL guys – how ’bout giving us a few knee-slapping monikers to represent those colours?

Rocket Bye Baby

Artist's Depiction: Juniorvanian Sleep Lab

We had a little bit of excitement around the ol’ homestead last evening.  Well, more properly, “early this morning.”

Please understand that I can relate much of what follows, of necessity, not by way of a clearly-remembered first hand account, but rather by way of a careful post facto reconstruction of events worthy of the efforts of the FAA aviation accident investigation team.

It was approximately 2:30 in the morning.  Spouse and I were tucked away in our bed.  Spouse slumbered peacefully, recuperating from the trials and tribulations of another work day.  Meanwhile, I was having some sort of a nightmare.  I cannot now tell you the nature of my nocturnal torment;  perhaps I was under attack by a horde of irate rabbits; it is possible that I was being stalked by a murderous piano tuner; maybe, I dreamt that Curtis Joseph was going to start the next game in goal for the Leafs.   Whatever the particulars of the threats presenting themselves to my unconscious mind, I was clearly on edge and sleeping fitfully.

In an unfortunate confluence of timing and coincidence, it would seem that – at the exact moment, mind you, of some critical importance and mortal threat in the midst of my nightmare – either Spouse shifted in the bed or Henry jumped on top of me.   Something living touched my legs, and this event in the real world, taken in the context of the horrors unfolding inside my troubled little skull, was sufficient to provoke an immediate, determined and physical response.

In a flash, I sat bolt upright in bed and began literally shrieking at the top of my lungs.  At the same time, I whipped off the covers and began to physically bolt from my designated place of repose.

Poor Spouse was like a firefighter.  She went from snoozing quietly to emergency response in a heartbeat, grabbing me by the arm and holding firm to prevent me from sprinting out of the room and down the darkened hallway, yelling “What’s wrong?” to me and – it must be said – attempting to wake me up.  I have to confess that I more or less slowly became aware of the fact:

  1. that I was hollering bloody murder as though my hair were on fire;
  2. that I was attempting to flee down a darkened hallway for no apparent reason;
  3. that I had apparently been engaged in this process for some period of time prior to waking up; and
  4. that there was no way to pretend that the above-mentioned events had not occurred.

In case something like this ever happens to you – in case you ever suddenly and involuntarily begin shrieking in full throat while in close proximity to your gently napping partner or spouse – let me give you a piece of advice: in the aftermath of this incident, when your spouse or partner is attempting to gather together what little remains of her shattered nerves, clutching her heart and hyperventilating, do NOT attempt to consider the comedy inherent in the circumstances.    It may be somewhat insensitive of you to begin giggling about the whole affair until after your loved one’s recovery is full and complete and she too can begin to appreciate the extraordinary humour that one might perceive in these events, when safely removed from imminent danger by an appropriate length of time.

One little bonus feature of last night’s events:  Spouse and I now have reason to believe that, as a sprinter, I am remarkably quick off the line.

Field and Fountain, Moor and Mountain

I meant to post about this right after Christmas, but I kept forgetting to take the necessary photograph.  Once I finally took the picture, the immediacy of the holiday season had passed and  I found myself hemming and hawing about whether this was still of interest.  Better late than never, says the old aphorism, so here ’tis:

One of the many Christmas gifts that the Spouse/Santa connection secured for me this year was the following:

Frankincense IMG_6237
Frank's Incense

I am still awaiting the delivery of the gold and myrrh, and the arrival of any Oriental kings.  Perhaps therein lies a message.

Winter Sports Department

super slider label
How to slide

What does it say about the litigiousness of our modern world when a Krazy Karpet – a flexible slab of low friction plastic designed to function as a high-speed/low-safety vehicle for suicidal northern children – comes with a warning label affixed to it?

Lawyers know how to bleed the fun out of absolutely fucking anything, I swear.  I mean honestly, a label on a Krazy Karpet ought not to read, under any circumstances, “Do not use…on steep slopes or in icy conditions.”  Also, the fact that the sentence “[u]nder certain conditions the product will develop high speed which may cause loss of control” proves that the author of said label either fails completely to understand that this is in fact the very purpose of the Krazy Karpet or is just having some shits and giggles.   Also amusing are the mis-spelling of “injury” and the apparent exhortation to “do NOW tow with any vehicle”, which gives some (I suspect) unintentional urgency to the commencement of daredevil sliding, whatever the available means of locomotion.

Spouse and I purchased a couple of these little deathtraps at the local Canadian Tire.  Our purpose was to navigate the previously uncharted (well, previously unslid) slopes of Mt. Popeye, in the northern portion of Juniorvania.  Spouse attempted the first run.

up the hill without jack
Going up the hill. Note the lack of helmet.

Maybe we should have chosen an area with fewer trees. Except there is no such place.

watch out for that tree
Watch out for that tree.

Despite the proximity of the native flora, Spouse walked away unscathed from her initial run. We later designated this area as the “bunny hill.”

go again
Spouse heads back for more.

Feeling confident, I attempted a voyage down the eastern face;  it’s a “black diamond” run known locally as “The Widowmaker”.  Spouse’s aspect visibly brightened when she learned the name of the run;  funny, that.

jr top of black diamond
The ski patrol was on alert.
ccorrect upside down jr tobogganing
Junior experiences operational difficulties.

Most of my attempts looked like that.  Whatever my skills as a tobogganer though, I was dedicated;  Spouse and I were at it for the better part of forty minutes, I would say.  Then, at the end of an arduous session of play, I headed back to the house with a song in my heart.  And sixteen pounds of snow in my underwear.

back to the house
The key is to bring the fun home with you.

Saturday Night: A Photo Essay

saturday night redux
No one is admitting to finishing the chips.

Please note: This post has been modified since its initial inclusion on the site.  In the place where there now appears a lovely artist’s rendering, there used to be a photograph.  One of the subjects of that photograph complained – I’m not saying which of the two individuals depicted it was – but, in order to keep the peace, I have taken down the offending photograph and replaced it with the sketch above.  In order to understand the balance of this post, just replace the line sketch in your mind with an incredibly crisply focussed photograph.

I love this photo for two reasons:  one, it tells the whole story of Saturday night just before dinner (at least ’round these parts);  and two, it was taken using no flash, a tripod, and a whopping twenty second exposure.  That tells you everything you need to know about the amount of movement that was going on around here in the hour or two just prior to Canada’s semi-final meeting with the Russians in the World Junior Hockey Tournament (a game which Canada ultimately won 6-5, but only barely – in a shootout, after tying the score with 5.4 seconds remaining in the third period).

Technical Note: Over the last couple of days, I’ve had occasion to visit this site with a number of different browsers – I generally use Firefox (v. 3.0.5) on The Digital Overlord, but Spouse’s new HP notebook has a Vista-friendly version of IE Explorer and Spouse’s other new toy, an iPod touch, uses a version of Safari to access the ‘Net.  I have noticed with both of these devices that – at times, anyway – photo captions entered seem not to be handled very elegantly, or at all.

I’d be grateful if anyone visiting the site would let me know – in the comments below – what type of browser they’re using, and whether the caption on the above photo came out as planned:  the picture itself should be centred in the middle column, with a brief caption centred below the picture.

We’re Ready Now, Santa!

Did you know that Santa has some helper elves in Florida?  And did you know that Santa’s sun-worshipping assistants are in charge of ensuring that all power yard equipment is properly prepared to celebrate the Yuletide festivities?

It’s true.

On Saturday the 13th, Spouse and I hosted the office Christmas party.  What preceded the party, of course, was a massive clean-up/decorating binge to get the entire nation of Juniorvania ship-shape and ready for its most extensive influx of visitors in recorded history.  Some consternation briefly ensued while Spouse and I debated the most appropriate means of providing a suitable repository for the cold refreshing BEvERageS accompanying our guests to the party.  I am no engineer, but if I do say so myself, I think I resolved that little dilemma with some flair (not to mention ten bags of ice and a couple of strands of lights) in the following manner:

XMAS Tractor IMG_5327

Trailer of bounty IMG_5335

Somehow, word of this festive little piece of power equipment seems to have made it to Santa’s southern associates. Apparently, St. Nick himself was impressed by the tractor’s display of holiday verve, but saddened to learn that the little implement lacked one crucial piece of Christmas gear; he put his Floridian designates on the case and voilà, the tractor is ready to receive Santa’s bounty on the Big Night.

Please Santa Put Oil in My Sock IMG_5530

The Day is a Fresh Sheet of Ice

Community Centre - HPIM0789
South Dumfries Community Centre

Both Spouse and I had the day off today – the first of a few in a row over the holiday season, I am pleased to report – and we started things off with a bang by getting up early and heading over to the local community centre for a free skate, courtesy of no less significant a Canadian institution than Tim Horton’s.   It’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition for everyone’s favourite donut-and-coffee provider to provide free public skating on a number of days over the holidays in little rinks across Canada.

It’s a great idea, the perfect marriage of community-minded goodwill with a marketing opportunity made in heaven.  Those most likely to partake are those who already spend a fair portion of their lives haunting the ramshackle rinks in the little places across this frozen country;  travel team Dads, figure-skating circuit Moms and pickup hockeyists of all ages, shapes and sizes are the ones likely to see the signs and to bring out their loved ones for a free turn around the local sheet.  They are also, of course, the folk most likely to be sitting rubbing their hands together in the frozen blue light of a cold Canadian morning that hasn’t quite arrived, desperately trying to warm the car up before heading off for their scheduled game, lesson or competition, and the folk most likely to drop in to the Horton’s drive thru for a cup o’ joe to try and stave off the chill for just a little while.

Crossovers?  Better to stand and glide.
The Author in a Resting Phase

For me, the skate was a welcome opportunity to get out from under what Spouse assures me is a very powerful Christmas jinx that is certain to cause all manner of calamity. The particular jinx involved arises, I am told, when one has failed to use a Christmas gift prior to the next ensuing Christmas Day. As it happens, I have a brand spankin’ new set of CCM Tacks, a lovely Yuletide gift from Spouse last year that – with last winter’s search for a new home and our eventual move, among other things – didn’t get taken out for a single spin.

Needless to say, the boots were feeling a little stiff. I laced them up, pulled as tight as I could and knew I was in trouble when I had essentially run out of laces when it came time to tie the knot; this suggested very strongly to me that the skate boots were not drawn nearly as tight as they should be on my foot, a fact that was quickly confirmed when I took my first tentative steps out on to the ice. It was the difference between wearing the skates and having them tied to your leg; between standing in them and standing on them. I lasted only a few slow and technically undemanding laps before I retreated to the seating area for another attempt at tightening the laces much more substantially, an effort I am pleased to report was fruitful.

Spouse too was facing challenges;  her own skates were a gift from her parents more than half a dozen years ago, a stoutly constructed pair of figure skates that are still rigidly unyielding and far from broken in.

Today’s skate was early:  the session started at 8 o’clock and ran ’til 9:30.  We arrived fashionably late, and were pleased to find that – on this day, perhaps because of the early Monday morning start – the sheet of ice was relatively empty.  We turned our laps in the company of perhaps twenty other people, at most.   We briefly tried a little ice dancing – Spouse is a brave soul to get into that kind of close quarters with a fellow whose two left feet and uniquely spastic rhythms have had their usual level of hazard augmented  by the attachment of freshly sharpened blades to the bottom of his flailing limbs.

After forty-five minutes, our extremities were telling us we’d had enough and we headed back to the little dressing room with smiles on our faces. Skates removed, pins and needles buzzing in the bottoms of our feet, we headed out of the rink and were greeted warmly by a stranger coming in with an armload of hockey gear for an oldtimer’s game of some description. The rink is truly the hub of small town Canadian community, and you feel it very palpably as you stand in the lobby near the concession stand, smell the arena popcorn and french fries; you haven’t ever been in this building, but you have very definitely been here before. We headed out into the brilliant blue morning, rosy cheeked smiles on our faces, off to do our last minute Christmas shopping, or whatever else lay ahead on the snowy road in front of us.