Good Lord There Are a Lot of Weeds ‘Round Here

Yes, so it’s been a while. [Insert excuses here].

At the moment, I am sitting on the porch in the late Sunday afternoon sun. It is a gorgeous day in May, and there’s a soft wind blowing, just enough to rustle the trees. I can hear the birds chirping and…way off on the distance, Spouse and The Boy laughing as they fill the bird feeders.

Life is good.

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose – Revisited (okay, Republished)

Republished from March 11th, 2011 because this piece was linked to once by the estimable Puck Daddy and the content is kind of timely; also because this place needs to look like it has new content and I haven’t blogged at all for a very long time because of the perpetual plague that has descended upon Juniorvania ever since The Boy went to daycare and started hanging around with all the other little petri dishes.


I don't think whales smile like that, either.

Attention Mr. Cole: I don't think 8 birds can lift a whale out of the water, either.


Cam Cole wrote a ridiculous article today about social media and the National Hockey League trade deadline.

Cole mentions that during the intense discussions surrounding today’s NHL trade deadline, many people availed themselves of the opportunity to have a little fun;  some folk decided to create Twitter accounts that appeared to emanate from real hockey media personalitiesDown Goes Brown decided to spice up a dull morning by using the new media to organize the 21st century (ahem) grownup equivalent of a class clown prank.  Following the lead of an old high school classic, the  “co-ordinated, math-class-derailing pre-arranged 11:45 coughing fit”, DGB suggested that at 12:50, everyone should send the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Joffrey Lupul (@JLupul) a tweet that appeared to refer to his “trade” to Long Island (that trade being, of course, an entirely fictitious event which had not occurred).  The tweets were sent en masse.  Lupul appears to have played along with the gag, tweeting shortly afterwards that he was “Long Island bound. So I hear…”

I didn’t see it, but apparently the “Lupul trade” was, for a time, being reported by some as an actual event.  I saw some Tweets indicating that it was briefly posted on the Philadelphia Flyers’ website, and – according to Cole’s article – Gord Miller and TSN briefly fell for it too, relaying the information to unsuspecting viewers watching their Trade Deadline Special.

At first, Cole’s article reads like a more or less good-natured look at these virtual hijinks in the social context within which they occurred.  The first two thirds of the article, at times, read a bit like a barely concealed admiration for the inherent hunour in the Lupul prank in particular:

Fake Twitter accounts impersonating hockey reporters moved April Fool’s Day ahead by a month and pranked the National Hockey League’s massively over-hyped trade deadline, briefly duping both those trying so feverishly to be first with the news and those hungering to get it — and, in the process, greatly enlivening a day of sparse activity and mostly minor deals.

Got it?  The Twitterers “pranked” the NHL and lampooned the “over-hyped” deadline, “greatly enlivening” the day.  Pretty good stuff, huh?

In the end, though, Cole ends up clucking his tongue at those involved like a disapproving schoolmaster:

The actual Bob McKenzie (TSNBobMcKenzie) has 114,000 followers. BMcKenzieTSN and TSN—BobMcKenzie? They have fooled 957 and 549 gullible followers, respectively, by attaching McKenzie’s photo to their Twitter accounts, and yes, there ought to be a law against that.

But there isn’t. So they are free to live in their parents’ basements, plotting to bring the world to its knees with their cleverness, nibbling away at the social network’s credibility — as if it cared — one little white lie at a time.

Really?  Is there really a need for either (a) another “blogger in the basement” joke or (b) a law prohibiting the creation of  spoof Twitter accounts?
I don’t wish to position myself as a defender of mendacity, but if Mr. Cole and the rest of the world can’t stomach the thought of people lying to one another over the Internet, I sincerely hope he never has occasion to be made aware of Internet dating sites.  Also, he would be well advised to avoid taking up fishing for sport, as the ability to spin a tall tale, though far from rare, is very much a quality to be nurtured and developed among anglers.  Maybe it would be best to stay out of the “fiction” section of the library, and the cinema too, just to be safe.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that I understand why some people would get their jollies concocting fake trades to whirl around the Internet, and I’m not suggesting that DGB’s little prank is the comic equivalent of Newton’s contribution to calculus;  I can tell you, however, that people discussing things amongst each other, having fun, and taking the piss out of one another is probably nothing to be terribly alarmed about.  It’s been happening wherever people have gathered socially for thousands of years.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that somewhere, deep in an unexplored cave in northern Europe, there is a cave painting that is now difficult to comprehend, but which – back on the day it was first splattered on the rock – was the functional equivalent of a Star Wars Kid mashup.

My point is not that I think “fake Twitter accounts” are desirable and necessary, but rather that social media platforms represent a meeting place, not just another broadcast medium.  Twitter is a conversation;  the content may be partly based in the news, but it is wholly about entertainment.  Journalists who choose to rely on it and rebroadcast it unfiltered and without any value (such as fact-checking) added – in my opinion – do their readers or viewers a disservice.

Lastly, the final point about “nibbling away at the social network’s credibility” is so astonishing I honestly don’t know what the hell he’s talking about.  It’s Twitter; it HAS NO CREDIBILITY in the first place.

The logic is so confused in this article, it’s honestly difficult to follow Cole’s reasoning as to why he feels that the legislative process needs to be invoked.  It’s very hard, however, to escape the general feeling that the Cam Cole No Pissing Around on Twitter Law is necessary solely to protect lazy journalists who are in such a breakneck rush to report the news that they’re basically just reading their Twitter feed directly into the camera without doing some basic fact-checking first.

Evidently, the Damien Cox example didn’t take. You remember the Toronto Star (now also Sportsnet) columnist who broke news of former coach Pat Burns’s death in September, two months before it happened, because of an honest mistake? Oh, the copycats who leaped on the story that day and spread it without making sure it was true were duly apologetic at the time, and a little cautious for a while afterward, but that was more than five months ago.

All kinds of highly respected, earnest reporters were duped, if only for a matter of minutes, and a lot of effort was wasted trying to chase down the truth, revealing the mean-spirited side of the pranks, which all had one thing in common: none originated with mainstream media, but rather with those trying to make the MSM chase its own tail.

Do you follow that?  Damien Cox made an “honest mistake” when he wrongly reported Pat Burns’ death, but “highly respected” and “earnest reporters” were “duped” when they failed to do the minimal checks necessary to make sure @ForREELZESPN_LeBrun – the account reporting the trade of a puck moving defenceman for a bag of doughnuts – is actually related to the hockey journalist in question.  To review: Damien Cox makes an honest mistake, those engaged in that line of work fail to learn from it, and – by breathlessly reporting gossip overheard in a virtual barroom as fact – are victims of  “mean-spirited” and socially destructive users of the Internet.  Heads I win, tails you lose.

The part I have a very difficult time understanding is how Cole misses the point.  He actually points out, in the middle portion of the article, how easy it is in most cases to spot a fake Gord Miller Twitter account merely by reading the contents of the page on which the tweets appear (Gord Miller’s Twitter account has probably been around for more than two hours, likely contains more than eight tweets, and it’s highly likely the real Gord Miller has more than 52 followers).  In other words, Cole identifies the ease with which these “frauds” can be discovered, but swerves right past the legitimate target – so-called reporters relying on random stuff posted on the Internet for Christ’s sake as accurate – and instead delivers a confusing, poorly reasoned and somewhat startling conclusion generally indicting humans for just fucking around.

Good luck putting a stop to that.

Happy Birthday, Benjamin!

One year ago today, it all changed…and it’s all for the better.  Thanks for coming into our lives, little fellow!


The Art of Scouting: No Science and Precious Little Art Here

Jim Nill, Assistant General Manager, Detroit Red Wings, agrees that predicting how a player will develop, and if he will at all, is one of the toughest parts of amateur scouting.  The varying development cycles of prospects, not only physically but mentally and emotionally, too, all make amateur scouting a head spinner.

The Art of Scouting, Shane Malloy: John Wiley & Sons (2011), p. 17.

Many of my difficulties with Shane Malloy’s The Art of Scouting are in evidence in the passage from the book quoted above.  These criticisms relate to matters of both style and substance.  Malloy’s effort is stricken by so many technical issues, for example, that one might seriously question whether anyone at Wiley & Sons was tasked with editing the manuscript.  Proper names are – maddeningly and inexplicably – italicized throughout the book.   I know of no other work of literature in the English language that observes this convention.  Don’t even get me started on the haphazard manner in which punctuation is deployed; commas in the above-noted passage, typical of the work on the whole, appear to have been applied with the degree of care and precision that one generally associates with the use of a potato gun.  Content-wise, did I really just read a (tortured) sentence that struggled to relate to me a piece of un-information, namely that one of the hardest parts of amateur scouting is predicting whether an amateur player will be any good in the future?

The Art of ScoutingWhatever, right?  Nobody reads a hockey book for the writing.  It’s ultimately about the hockey content, isn’t it?  For the record, I disagree.  I can think of at least three hockey books off the top of my head that I consider to be enjoyable primarily on account of the writers’ craft.   The writing need not play a starring role, perhaps, but without skilfull storytelling and clarity of expression the reader’s immersion in any subject material is inhibited.   The importance of a certain amount of technical merit is underscored by its absence, when (as in this book) that is the case.  Frequently awkward and almost juvenile, Malloy’s  text is from an aesthetic perspective frankly something to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Obviously, though, the marquee feature of a book about scouting, especially one that is subtitled “How the Hockey Experts Really Watch the Game and Decide Who Makes It”, is the promise that a light will be shone on the obscure habits and arcane methods of the (mostly anonymous) bird dogs in scouting circles.  In this regard, it must be said that – as perhaps the passage quoted above might suggest – Malloy’s book fails almost as spectacularly and almost as completely.

The concept of the book is, in my opinion, a strong one;  it is in the execution of that concept that this book falters.  Malloy is, according to the jacket on the book, a columnist and broadcaster who has been covering hockey prospects “for the past decade.”  He is apparently a co-host of Hockey Prospect Radio on Sirius Satellite Radio, though I have never heard of either the show or the author.  I gather that he has been involved in scouting for some time.  His concept was to take what he had learned about hockey scouting and complement it with the wisdom of others;  as a member of the scouting fraternity, Malloy was able to interview his peers and hoped to get them to talk about what exactly it is that they do for a living.  I was very excited by the notes on the book jacket  (a work of “tremendous substance” according to Doug Wilson; an inside look at what scouts do, per Bob McKenzie); I thought that I might enhance my ability to watch hockey critically by reading about what exactly it is that the scouts look for when evaluating talent. Click here to continue reading The Art of Scouting: No Science and Precious Little Art Here

Can I Have a Nice Big Friendly Welcome to the Internet…

…for my friend Melissa?

If Al Gore and a dangerously uncritical way of thinking have taught me anything, it’s that he invented the Internet some time in 1994. Since then, people the world over have been amusing one another with LOLcats, hilariously awkward teenagers playing at being a Jedi warrior, and anonymously calling one another “douchebag”.  Oh, and looking at porn.  Lots and lots of porn.   You’re on your own for links to that last one.

Sadly almost entirely absent from all of those 17 years of e-hilarity, however, was my friend Melissa.  She was the only person I knew who didn’t have access to the Internet at her house.  Work blocks us out from all the educational stuff on the ‘Net – like this video of a baby laughing hysterically – so my friend missed out almost entirely on the finer things that teh Intarwebs have to offer.  It’s a wonder she was able to function in society, really.

Well, no more.  My friend Melissa is now hooked up.  I picture her sitting down at her newly installed home computer, freshly connected to the cable modem  in her house, clicking links furiously, trying like hell to catch up with the rest of us by reading the entire Internet.   Got an all time favourite Internet meme that my friend should have the pleasure of experiencing for the first time ever with Internet n00b eyes?  Drop a link in the comments!

In the meantime, let’s have some applause for my friend!


There Are No Words.

Team Picture of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl taken Days Before Plane Crash


My deepest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of all those who perished in the charter plane crash in Russia earlier today.  There are no words to express the sadness this tragic event has brought upon the hockey world;  no doubt players, coaches and team personnel throughout the NHL are thinking of teammates and friends gone too soon tonight.  Somewhere, there are young families grieving their own horrible loss as well.   A terrible day at the end of an awful summer for hockey’s extended family.

The Cacophony Society

If my boy Lothar is still out there reading: The Cacophony Society

Slogan: “You may already be a member.”

I believe this organization to be the only one superior to the Sydney Carton Society (still waiting for that Second Annual Meeting, by the way).

Storm Damage August 25, 2011

View of Turkey BarnSheared off No. 1Sheared Off No. 2Sheared Off No. 3Sheared Off No. 4Picture 020

Storm Damage August 25, 2011, a set on Flickr.

Those trees along the north wall of that turkey barn? They used to have tops.

We had quite a storm last night around 9:30. Very strong winds for a short period of time, and protracted lightning/thunder. This morning, we discovered that we had several large trees down on the property.

These pictures were taken just down the road from our house. Apparently, Environment Canada is investigating reports of a possible tornado that tracked from Cambridge to Burlington; if so, I think it went right past our front door.

Thanking our lucky stars no one was hurt, and that the house and cars weren’t damaged.

A Visit From a Ninja: Maple Leafs Annual 2011-2012

A Ninja

A Ninja, doing the hokey pokey

You may have noticed that this blog has fallen dormant over the last little while.  I am a ninja, and I am here to tell you about that.  Why has a ninja been sent to explain these things?  Fool! It is not the right time for you to ask questions.  When will that time be?  Sometime shortly after the next Atlanta Thrashers Stanley Cup parade will do fine.

The Junior, Lord and Master of the Juniorvanian Realm, has been a busy Lord and Master.  Not just “I need to fix the trailer tire” busy – as you have seen, he can find time to write while being that kind of busy – but Very Busy In A Work Related Way busy.  Also, you may have heard that there has come a child to Juniorvania.  So, Very Busy In A Work Related Way has also been augmented by Very Busy In An Emptying Diapers Way.  All of which is very busy indeed.

I would think it’s fairly obvious now why a ninja has been sent to speak to you.  Yes, that’s right, because of global warming.

I, the Ninja, will now bring the message to you.  It is in several parts, which I have not bothered to count yet, because I have been busy sneaking around instead.  You may not know this, but sneaking around is a major part of pretty much any ninja’s day.  I didn’t know, before I went to ninja school.  For some reason, I thought there would be a lot more singing and dancing, but I suppose I was mixed up and thinking of Broadway actors by mistake.

Maple Leafs Annual 2011-2012 from Maple Street Press

One thing James Reimer can't stop: the momentum of the Maple Leafs Annual

Anyway, here is the message:

  1. There has NOT been an unfortunate tire repair-related explosion;  The Junior is alive and well;
  2. The Junior does plan to return to regular – or what passes for “regular”around here, anyway – blogging, probably sometime in September;
  3. In the meantime, The Junior has written a something, once again, for Maple Street Press’ Maple Leafs Annual.  The book is available for pre-order online now ($9.99 plus shipping).  It will appear on newsstands throughout the GTA and in Chapters bookstores across Canada beginning August 30th.

It doesn’t take a Ninja to figure out that 112 pages of content  with no ads, for less than ten bucks, is a pretty good deal.  As Alec Brownscombe (esteemed editor of the mag and Resident Padishah of Maple Leafs Hot Stove) pointed out, you were probably going to spend that ten bucks on a crappy calendar anyway.

Anyway, I gotta get back to skulking around invisibly, or I’ll have to answer to my boss.  Ever had your work environment supervised by a Master Ninja?  Let me tell you, it’s no day at the beach;  you can’t get away with anything.   You can’t ever tell when he’s in the room.  At least I think my boss is a male.  Not sure, now come to think of it.

See ya!  You won’t see me, though…

Setting the Bead With Fire: A Tractor Story


The boy on the right may have a dangerous idiot for a father.

Had you seen me, ’round about six o’clock in the evening on Sunday, heading in the general direction of the People’s Lawn Tractor with a gas can, some matches and a distinct air of purpose about me – well, no one would have blamed you for feeling a little uneasy.  That vague sense of foreboding may just have gained some urgency, if you were told that just minutes earlier, I had been studying intently a page on the Internet that used words like “fire”, “explosion” and “gasoline.”  Let’s face it, there’s a certain gleam that a man gets in his eye when he’s fixing to blow something up, a gleam that you would recognize instantly though you’ve never seen it before.

Here’s the thing:  Spouse, Furious G and I have been residing beyond the borders of little Juniorvania for about a month, or rather we had been away, living at my parents’ place, up until Saturday afternoon.  The reasons for the exodus are complicated, but boil down to the serious strain placed upon the People’s Treasury as a result of paying for electricity to heat the house when it gets cold outside, which is “always” on account of Juniorvania’s extreme proximity to Canada.  Accordingly, the People’s Department of Public Works, Heatery and Assorted Mechanicals contracted with an external provider to bash a bunch of holes in the walls of the house, install duct work and hide the workshop by placing a giant furnace on it.   This arrangement, of course, has caused the People’s Treasury to ratchet up the level of complaining to “jet engine” volume levels, as the People’s Minister of Finance is incapable of understanding how such an enormous expenditure could ever “save” money, and is instead convinced that this is all some sort of preposterous and grotesque joke perpetrated at the expense of his fragile nerves and anxious bowels.  In the silver lining department, however, this hugely destructive and horrendously unaffordable and unsightly project brings a bonus: air conditioning!

Where was I?  Oh yes, explaining how Spouse, The Boy and I made like Jed Clampett and Clan, packed up the truck and moved to Beverley in order to avoid being demolished along with the walls and ceilings.  Did you know that walls and ceilings are highly offensive to HVAC contractors?  Well, based on the nature and extent of the destruction I have seen, I can only assume that walls and ceilings have an unfortunate habit of making intemperate comparisons between HVAC contractors and uncouth and unattractive individuals with small penises, because the walls and ceilings really do seem to take a walloping from these fellows.

Our month long banishment from the premises thus allowed the stainless steel behemoth to take root and grow within the house;  outside the four (or fewer) walls of the house, however, also growing and taking root was an enormous rainforest where the front lawn used to be.

Now, I don’t want to say that the lawn was a little overgrown, but just this past weekend, scientists discovered three heretofore unknown species of snake, two tribes of nomadic peoples and a dinosaur roaming among the densely packed vegetation on the front forty.

If you look closely, you can see the dinosaur peeking over the top at left.

The long and the short, but mostly just the long, of the problem.

The lawn needed to be cut, but this was not going to be just any mowing; in musical terms, whereas the usual lawn mowing is a three-chord doo wop tune,  this particular excursion was going to be a Wagnerian opera with a side discharge chute.  There were many technical problems to be confronted – how to keep the engine from stalling when asked to chop down the giant trunks of the grass trees, how to illuminate the path of the mower (with the dense canopy of the lawn blocking out the sun from above), how to keep the Operator’s beer cold for the prolonged Mission time – but chief among these worries was the Problem of the Clippings.

When you cut large amounts of long grass, you create a commensurately large pile of clippings on the lawn, which pile must be moved, because if you don’t move them then you have essentially just piled a bunch of dead stuff on your (now shorter) lawn, thus depriving the living part of it entirely of sunlight and making the whole damn thing dead.

Complicating the problem, it’s been raining continuously here since August 6, 1942, so the clippings were a little wet.  Huge piles of wet grass clippings that need to be moved by means of manual raking means that the People’s Lawn Tractor Trailer must be utilized.  Patience, I’m getting really close to explaining the bit about fires and explosions and such now.

The trailer was banished outdoors from the relative safety of the garage this past winter, and there was one casualty: the left tire on the People’s Trailer lost the bead on its rim and came up flat.  The bead needed to be reset, and the tire re-inflated.

Like any reasonable person, I turned to everybody’s most trusted technical advisor: random and completely anonymous people with no verifiable credentials whatsoever.  They taught me this trick:

I didn’t have ether, so I used (a VERY little bit of) gasoline instead.  It took three attempts, but each one featured a very satisfying “thwumpf” sound, and enough of a fiery flourish to excite all but the most finicky of pyromaniacs. Still have all my limbs, didn’t set the house on fire, and did not launch any exploding fiery wheels through the upper story windows of the house either. Time elapsed: maybe five minutes (including time required to fill a really big bucket with water as a precaution measure, lest there be any unfortunate incidents).

Trailer’s working like a charm.