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Blue on black

The Blue Jays lost tonight, ending their season. I hated it. But really, they weren’t even supposed to be here.

Late in July, the Blue Jays were sitting at .500, well out of any playoff conversation. They had the hitting, a good team that was underachieving. They needed pitching. The first move was a trade for Troy Tulowitzki. An upgrade on Jose Reyes, sure. But not the one they needed, several games back of the division. He was a hitter, not a pitcher.

Soon after, they trade for David Price. There’s the guy, the pitcher they needed. A bunch of young prospects out the door, for a long shot at a division they’re eight games behind in.

I got caught up in the excitement. Even as the sober part of me agreed with the assessments: They probably wouldn’t make a difference. They might get into the wild card game, make the Yankees sweat, but they wouldn’t win the division. Not with only two months left, and eight games to make up.

It only took them two weeks to catch the Yankees and be ahead in the division. By the end of September it was “how much will they win by”, a conversation not even conceivable in late July, skidding along at .500.

The Flames in ’04 is the comparison here, and I kept coming back to it because it was apt, and it meant something for me. A moribund team, going nowhere, energized by an unexpected and sudden playoff run, galvanizing fans put off by years of irrelevance.

The Blue Jays were different for some, not as important or exciting out in the mountain city I live in. But it meant something. My friends and family were assaulted by my excitement, coming off me in waves.

And it’s gone now. They had their run in the playoffs, but the season is over, and they didn’t win it all. The sun rises tomorrow, as it always has, and will for longer than any of us will likely live.

Sports don’t mean anything ultimately, and maybe that’s part of why it means so much to us. To be a part of something communal, but irrelevant in the final estimation, maybe that makes it meaningful. Because we can invest that, without having any real stakes. It’s easier. It’s fun, and indulgent, and doesn’t change a whole lot, really.

I watched the game with my brother and another friend, and we were silent after it ended. There were no words, no comfort that made this ultimately meaningless pursuit worthwhile, with the ultimate goal of the team not made.

But we’ll be back in March next year, waiting for them to try it again.

Go Blue Jays.

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Making a case for Twitter

Before those who’ve already sworn off the flavour-of-the-week social networker click away, let’s start with the following premises:

Firstly, that I am a reasonably intelligent man.

This is a point of some debate, and I certainly won’t discourage that. However, in a random sampling of people, let’s assume I’d made a decent accounting of myself, for the purposes of this post.

Secondly, let’s assume that we like to make generalizations. That there are those of us- and I was among them- that assumed Twitter to be a short sighted, uninteresting forum for short sighted, uninteresting people. Let me assure you, ladies and gentlemen, it is much more than that.

I’m not here to lead a legion of people onto the flavour-of-the-day social networker. I’m here to change the way you look at it. So grab a chair, and lend me your ear. I’ll try not to waste your time (well, any more than usual).

*****

I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first.

My buddy Ken, who got me onto Twitter, wasn’t really either. And our initial forays proved this. But like anyone, we’ve adapted and changed as we’ve discovered what we like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t for what we want to accomplish.

What was this strange, connective, online bulletin board messenger thingy? Was it a “what we’re doing now” instant updater, for all to see? Was it yet another internet fad, to be passed around to others like ourselves, and discarded in favor of something newer and bigger and flashier? Maybe it is. Lord only knows what kind of server costs this sort of this is incurring, and Twitter doesn’t have Facebook’s now-invasive apps and advertisements to support it just yet.

When I talk to people who aren’t on Twitter about it, there’s some misunderstanding about what it is. Well, I think there’s some misunderstanding, for what I want out of it.

*****

There are those that use Twitter as a “what I’m doing RIGHT NOW” forum. And that’s fine. That’s one use for it.

There are those that use as a direct line of communication and marketing- my buddy Ken, for a while, had his Geekdad updates go right to his Twitter (which he, mercifully, moved to another account).   Bill Simmons, who writes for ESPN, seems to agree with this line of thinking. And I do, to a point- I’ve got my blog posts going directly to my Twitter, so anytime there’s an update, up goes a link to a new post, for everyone to see.

I had a fifth grade teacher, Ms. Russell, who had us keep journals of what we did at school from day to day. She always encouraged us not only to say that “we had French and Social Studies and recess”, but to say what we did IN that class, and what we thought about it. That’s something that always stayed with me- to not just mention the main points, but to get into the details. The how, and the why.

As someone modestly creative, the how and the why of things fascinate me. And Twitter gives me an immediate outlet for the how and the why of a particular moment. It’s what I’m thinking RIGHT THEN. The immediacy appeals to me, as well as the context.

I “tweet” (that’s what a Twitter post is called, for the uninitiated) about sports a lot, because I like being able to spout off what I’m thinking right at a particular time. As a fan, the emotions tend to run hot and cold, and being able to write right away about what’s going on in my head is something I’ve really enjoyed.

Certainly, there’s the potential for Twitter to neuter narrative detail, and that’s a danger, especially with the 140 character limit. But that’s also a challenge- you need to be creative to express yourself in small bursts, to get your point out sharper and quicker, as Simmons mentions in the link above.

But it’s not just what you give- there’s a lot to get in there as well.

Like a particular topic? Search it on Twitter- find people who are talking about it, respond to them, start a conversation. I’ve gained a few followers and followees that way, while ranting on something or other on a particular night.

Much has been made of “celebrities” who are on Twitter, and there’s no shortage of them now, with it gaining popularity of late. And there’s those who, as Simmons also mentioned, use it as a marketing vehicle and a subtle way to promote themselves. But there’s also some who use it as a direct line to fans and people, to communicate and debate and react to the people who are out there. The band Collective Soul, for example- usually, guitarist Dean Roland- often spends time “tweeting” back with fans. And while there are limitations in the Twitter format, there’s no denying the benefit of a direct line to those that support you. And the possible advantages in having such a line, rather than being forced to use handlers or publicists or media.

As someone following the evolution of journalism and media, Twitter is a fascinating study in that evolution.

Middlemen are being continually eliminated, with processes of communication becoming easier by the day. Anyone can have a blog, or be a self-published author. Podcasts can be made and produced in the comfort of one’s home, with nothing more expensive than a microphone. When media outlets were shut out of Iran during the protests over the election, Twitter became a way for people in Iran to get the word out. There was even a massive campaign to get users to change their location to “Tehran” to cover for legitimate Iranian protestors who were  really working against the government (think along the lines of  “I am Spartacus!”, for those wondering how that ever accomplished anything).

Changing the world? Nope. Greasing the wheels of the train? Sounds good to me.

****

This probably meandered off point. That’s not unusual for one of my posts.

But like I said, I’m not looking to lead a legion of followers to this strange, new-ish web meme(though, really, this guy’s pretty cool). Just looking to change the viewpoint on poor, picked on Twitter a little.

So stop on by Twitter sometime and see what’s up there. It won’t hurt. I promise.

Grey cup – blogged

4:03 – Ryan suggests liveblogging the Grey Cup between Calgary and Montreal, in Montreal. I approve of the idea. Mom thought it would be “boring”. Well, WE’LL FIND OUT, WON’T WE?

Got me, the folks, Ryan and Trisha… Trisha has come over the top, and brought a stadium shaped cake for letting them watch it with us. Seriously, that thing was awesome. Well, it will be when we get into it at halftime.

4:05 – Debate about the temperature on the field- Dad says Olympic Stadium has “the retractable roof that won’t retract”. Weather.ca says it’s a -5 with a few clouds, though Anthony Calvillo is wearing short sleeves. I’m confused.

As are the Riders fans wearing green to a game between Calgary and Montreal, as Mom and Trisha mention. Calgary gets the ball first.

Trisha mentions that Ryan had this nugget regarding Saskatchewan’s fans, on the way here: “Calgary is the largest city in Saskatchewan”.

4:07 – Mom’s first comment: “Look at all the cameras flashing,” as the 96th Grey Cup is underway. Trisha asks if they have special jerseys for this game- just the patches on the arms, I figure.

The Stampeders go 2 and out after one of the receivers has a brain cramp and runs backwards on second down, while we yell at him to go the other way.

4:11 – Two hideous tackles after a botched blitz on second down, and Montreal is knocking on the door after a huge gain. Not a good start for our boys.

4:13 – Montreal head coach Marc Trestman looks eerily like Tom Higgins.

The Alouettes fall short, and settle for 3. Good stop by Calgary, after a shaky start defensively. 3-0 Montreal.

We’re debating the merits of a chip shot field goal… Dad mentions the hash marks on a CFL field are wider than in the NFL, though the goalposts are shorter.

4:17 – Back from commercial, and Stamps receivers still having directional issues. Ryan mentions that he had to come back for that one, but… eeeeeeh.

Aaaaaand 2 and out again, with the Montreal tacklers driving back the receiver well short of the marker.

4:19 – THEY’RE GOING FOR IT ON 3RD DOWN… and make it. Not as much drama with the CFL rules, and the one yard neutral zone.

We also console ourselves about the Montreal tackling by mentioning that the ball is marked at the furtherest forward progress… which is good, because I think the Stamps would be back in their end zone otherwise.

4:21 – Ball comes out after a catch by Jermaine Copeland, but it was caused by the ground. Stamps punting away anyway, with 3rd down coming up.

4:25 – Montreal seems to be driving… showed a replay of the Browner near INT in the BC game… how he came down on his ankle does not look at all comfortable.

I think we’ve had two running plays so far.

4:28 – Calgary seems to be sending a lot of pressure… Montreal punts after a batted down pass.

Consensus so far from the men: Montreal’s controlling the play, but only up 3-0.

4:30 – Joffrey Reynolds sighting, after a fake end around to Ralph. Oh, those tricky Stamps.

And the next play is a first down- play action, bootleg, throw over the linebacker to Copeland. Nice.

4:32 – Screen pass on second down- Joffrey Reynolds makes a few moves, and gets the first down. Another great call, but Reynolds made it work. What a talent. I don’t know who Demetrius Summers is, but after breaking a few tackles on the play after that one, I think I need to know.

Apparently Burris is 8 for 8, but for only 60 yards.

4:34 – Whoever the colour guy is mentions that Montreal needs to get the crowd into it. The Stamps are down 3-0, and only at midfield, guys, don’t sign the game over.

Dad mentions a good point to that: With it technically being a neutral site, Montreal can’t use the scoreboard to encourage the fans. Neat.

The Stamps are apparently renting a touchdown horse for the game… Trisha mentions that they probably wouldn’t want to fly theirs out. IMPORTANT DETAILS.

4:37 – Trisha and Mom talk about a baby shower during commercial. I’m glad I’m busy.

4:40 – Ryan and Dad notice a TSN graphical error… it’s not the first quarter! Oh, those tricky sports networks (EDIT: Thanks to Dad for correcting that before it went to print, that would have been ‘tres dumb)

And we collectively decide that Nik Lewis’ personal foul penalty on second down was, to put it bluntly, stupid. Though the Stamps get 3, and tie it up.

4:46 – Montreal doesn’t hold the ball for long, and punt away. “No yards” is a dumb penalty… guys wait until the kick lands, and then pick it up when the opposing team start to crowd around them. There’s not any value in being different from the NFL just to be different.

Commercials have turned into opportunities for Mom and Trisha to talk about girl stuff. I think it’s fair.

4:48 – Calgary’s moving, I ask if Burris has missed a pass- Ryan and Dad don’t think so. CBC, I need a graphic!

Burris airs it out to Ken Yon Rambo, and misses long. I love the “whoooa…” from our assembled when a deep ball is launched.

Injury timeout- someone for Montreal, as we go to commercial.

4:53 –  Burris has technically not missed a pass (we think), though one has been picked off by a Montreal linebacker, Reggie Hunt.

Calvillo is carving up the Stampeders through the air, as Trisha mentions that “he should have played baseball” with that rocket of an arm.

4:56 – Avon Cobourne runs in untouched for a touchdown off a shotgun formation, ballsy call on second down. 10-3 Montreal.

4:59 – Stamps run it back, as I check on the NFL scores online- Oakland putting a beatdown on Denver. Micky is not going to be happy.

Brett Ralph alligator arms a catch… even Mom says he should have made that one. Wow, if that’s not an indictment…

5:02 – Stamps punt it away, and Montreal runs it back inside the 30… nice moves by Larry Taylor on the return. Not looking good for our heroes.

5:04 – Apparently Richardson has 100 yards receiving for Montreal already. That can’t be good. Montreal is driving.

5:08 – Montreal gets a field goal, they’re up 13-3. Still lots of game to be played, and the epic Molson Canadian commercial is on. Things are looking up, as much as they can while being down two scores.

5:12 – Burris suddenly can’t hit the broad side of an SUV. Lewis bailed him out the second time.

5:14 – Touchdown, Stamps! Burris to Ralph in the corner, with a cameraman as a casualty. Montreal up 3 now.

Apparently there was a foul on the play… Cox getting a little enthusiastic on the tackle. That would explain the cameraman getting taken out.

5:36 – Break for halftime and cake- halftime is Theory of a Deadman, some girl who’s a Lite 96 staple, and some other girl who probably is too, though on whatever station lite 96 is in Montreal. And the usual performers on the field, who perform valiantly and get mostly ignored.

Mom’s remark on the gymnasts: “I don’t think a body is meant to do that.” Agreed.

5:44 – Chris Schultz remarks that the personal foul penalty on Cox prevented Montreal from another score before the half.

Stats pretty even across the board, save for the one Calgary turnover that led to a touchdown.

5:51 – Interview with Stamps coach John Hufnagel, summarized: “We want to score more points than the other team.”

5:55 – Als punt after a two and out. Talking with Ryan about playing football after an Alouettes lineman almost runs with the ball after a tip… apparently the big guys get excited when they get to run with it.

5:58 – Calgary goes two and out into commercial… they could call that “five yards” penalty on every punt.

6:04 – Joffrey Reynolds stuffed behind the line.

Downside of the CFL: get stuffed on first down, no run game at all. Lewis catches to move the chains on second down, though, clutch play.

6:07 – Burris runs twice in a row, Stamps inside the 15… that’s his big advantage over Calvillo, he’s got the mobility as well.

6:09 – Summers drops one- not a great pass, but it would have tied it. Games tied, 13-13.

6:12 – Chris Cuthbert: “(Stampeders defensive lineman) Mike Labinjo is having himself a second half.”  Ryan: “As opposed to the other guys, who are still in the first half.”

6:13 – Montreal takes the lead on a single… punt into the end zone, 14-13. One of the quirky “We’re different!” CFL rules that is probably pretty stupid.

6:16 – Mom asks “What can I blog about during an injury timeout?” I don’t know. I really don’t know. Ferri’s limping around quite a bit, though.

6:18 – Joffrey Reynolds gets some yards on a fake throw, and draw to him… when he gets space, he’s dangerous.

Throw to Rambo for a bunch, then Burris runs the option- I love that play in the CFL.

6:21 – Calgary field goal, 16-14. First lead of the game, woot!

6:23 – Stats after the third quarter- Calgary starting to turn the tide a little in their favor, but unable to get TDs.

And Calvillo finally gets pressured, and is picked off by Dwight Anderson! Stamps get it back at midfield.

Shot of Anderson on the phone… Trisha asking who he’s talking to, probably the coordinator. Stamps moving the ball a little bit now through the air.

6:27 – Nik Lewis catches a pop-up off the chest of Ken Yon Rambo, but short of a first down, so the Stamps get three more. 19-14, though you wonder when not getting TDs will come back to haunt them. Montreal’s still too close.

6:31 – Football memories are exchanged… Trisha talking about learning to kick, being on the sidelines at a football game, Ryan going to different Stamps games. JoJuan Armour makes a tackle as I look up- I should probably watch this game.

Calvillo to Cahoon for a first down… those two guys might have done that before.

6:33 – Charleston Hughes and Mike Labinjo meet at the quarterback. Alright.

6:35 – Calvillo picked in the end zone by Shannon James… wow. I’m speechless. James had great position, though, that one wasn’t on the Als QB (the other one was)

Mom laughs as she asks if the commercials are the same for the Grey Cup as the Superbowl.

6:40 – Stamps bring it back to midfield- and elect to try for three with four and half minutes left- not sure what I thought about it, but it went through. Sandro Deangelis is as good as they get- 22-14, Stampeders.

Wow, when did it become four and a half minutes left?

6:44 – Discussion of american CFL teams… Alouettes can still move the ball, and they’re only one score down.

6:47 – JoJuan Armour makes a sack… a couple of cracks in the usually great Als protection the last little while, between the sacks and the picks.

Incomplete on second down, the Als probably punt… too early in a CFL game to be going for it, even with 2:19 left.

6:49 – Thank you, Cold FX commercial, for the slow-mo loogie. You are truly an inspiration to Grade 6-ers everywhere.

First play by the Stamps on the possible penultimate drive, and Burris zips it in there for a first down.

6:51 – Lewis for a first down, 1:16 left. Is this really happening? I’m not sure how to react. I didn’t expect us to actually win this. The defense was huge in the second half, started to get after Calvillo, took the running game out of play.

6:54 – They need a first down, and Burris calls his own number, getting smoked. Hmm….

Als get the ball back with around 30 seconds to go.

6:56 – Taylor gets a good run back… 14 seconds left for Calvillo. 2 picks today, but I’m still worried about him.

6:57 – 20 yards over the middle to Watkins… 9 seconds left. Colour guy (don’t know his name) says they might have three plays left. Really? How do you figure?

Next play, completion, tackle, game over. I’m… we won. Wow.

6:59 – Trisha is looking for the horse… I don’t know if we saw it today. Burris is being interviewed, he’s emotional… great win for him, for the entire team.

7:02 – Dad’s comment: “The prognosticators were saying that defense wins championships, and Calgary has the best defense.” Agreed. Now they’re interviewing Mike Labinjo, he’s surprisingly well spoken after an opening yelp that sounded something like a burp or a yelp. I’m not sure what it was.

Trisha and Mom are talking about knitting again, they’re getting to the presentation (by the Minister of Finance? Really?), so I’m done. Yay Stamps!

Jock itch (of a sort)

Got a few sports notes I need to get off my chest:

The Pistons traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson- thumbs up on this move from me. Might blow up chemistry wise, but Iverson is a true superstar, something the Pistons have never really had. And he’s hungry for a ring… and that urgency is something the Pistons have lacked the last few years. The dropped the first couple of games with him, but they’re rounding into form… they’re working the Lakers tonight, Iverson is tormenting Derek Fisher, and Kwame Brown is showing why he was once the #1 pick on the draft. Not that I expect that ever again this year, but if they can bring it out more often…

Watched the Thursday night NFL game… Jets won 34-31, great finish to the game. One thing both Dad and I noticed… Bill Belichick went for it on fourth down, late in the first half, down 24-6, well inside FG range… a very, very strange call. And the guys calling the game on the NFL Network don’t so much as mention it. The margin of victory for the Jets: Three points. If Tom Cable of the Raiders does this, he’s skewered in the media, and on the street the next day. Belichick did the same thing in the Super Bowl (going for it on fourth down inside FG range) without a lot of criticism… why is he getting a pass here?

The Flames are as consistent as bad mashed potatoes… goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff embodies this team, very Jekkyl and Hyde in their play. Thumbs up to most of the newcomers, though Jim Vandermeer and Andre Roy don’t seem to add any value. And I’d still be very happy with a Flames team that was less Mike Keenan and Todd Bertuzzi.

I need to drive my parents to the airport at an early hour tomorrow, so I will bid you good night/morning/whatever time it is where you are

Death of an Inspiron

This might be strange. Maybe you should leave now.

My laptop died sometime last week. I wanted to write about it. Some pictures of me attemping to fix it can be found here.

I bought the Inspiron 5150 somewhere between four and five years ago, depending on who you ask. It was shortly before Dennis and I moved out and our folks moved to Saskatoon, and I’d decided I wanted a computer of my own. And, somehow, decided I wanted a laptop.

(On a side note, that’s one of my few shopping weaknesses… if it’s small and technological, I’ll probably like it. ESPECIALLY laptops. I don’t usually care for Macs, but that Macbook Air where they put the thing in an envelope? Lord, help me, that thing is AWESOME)

So I found this “Dell” website, customized a bunch of different rigs (I LOVED being able to customize it), and settled on the trusty Inspiron 5150- right in the middle between “budget minded” and “liquid nitrogen cooled high end monster”. This was probably the first major purchase of my own (IE one that ran four digits), and I was excited, even after a couple of false starts trying to buy it with my low limit credit card.

The Inspiron was a faithful companion the last few years… I probably typed millions of words into it, between chats, blogs, schoolwork, and the other writing I did in my spare time. I don’t know what it says about me that I want to anthropomorphize it, but it’s hard not to, in this case. As someone who probably spends more time on a computer than is healthy, it saw all the sides of me, in writing and expression… I did feel connected to it, in a way.

It wasn’t perfect. You can google “Inspiron 5150 lawsuit” for an idea of just how flawed that particular model was… the flaw that may have eventually led to the downfall of mine, four-plus years after I purchased it. The heatsink was bad… as I discovered after playing World of Warcraft for a while, and started cleaning the fans with compressed air once a week. The CD drive eventually busted, forcing me to get an external drive. The wireless adapter was occasionally spotty. And it strained the definition of “portable”, at just over eight pounds.

None of that bothered me, most days, when I sat down to write or chat or work on it. It was always there.

That stopped about two weeks ago, when the display when black and the computer crashed, seemingly without any impetus. Perturbed, I restarted, only to see it happen again a few minutes later. I initially believed it to be a display issue, and shared that with my folks, as I resigned myself to the possibility that yes, my laptop was dying.

I knew it was coming, as I’d had it for a few years now, and rode it like a rented mule. But I’d hoped to keep it until the end of the school year, with graduation and job and reality finally beckoning to me. So the weekend before last came, and I researched like a madman, hoping against hope that it was something I could solve. The crashes were happening more frequently, and it was becoming almost unusable. I found the problem, instructions on how to fix it, and set about taking apart my laptop, piece by piece, to solve the problem.

It struck me as I was pulling off the keyboard on the dining room table for about the fourth time, wondering why I’d commited so much effort to it in the last few days. I hadn’t slept more than four hours per since the day it had first gone down. Schoolwork was starting to get backlogged. Other responsibilities were being ignored, until this could be fixed. Why was I doing this? Why not give up, and move on, get on with things that needed to be done? Was it Dave the student, trying to save a few bucks? Or something else?

I have a hard time letting go of things, and I expect this was such an example. I’d probably spent more time with this computer than most of my friends the last few years, and I had grown attached to it. It was busted, broken, occasionally slow, but I knew what to expect from it, and it served me well. I’d made friends with it, friends I couldn’t have met any other way, from all over the world. It helped me keep in touch with people, in ways I was comfortable with.

I ended up getting a new laptop last week (at a great deal), and am writing this entry on that now. I’m getting used to the keyboard, and the spiffy widescreen display, and Windows Vista, and the odd light-up buttons above the keyboard that amuse and delight me in new and exciting ways.

It’s a hunk of plastic and metal to anyone else, but in some ways, it was more to me. If that makes me odd, well, that boat should have sailed for the lot of you on how you perceive me already. So there.