Sunday, February 28, 2010


In studies, by those who study such things, it's been found that just before an orgasm, muscles tense up, the brain receives pain signals, and the body spasms accordingly. This infinitesimal moment of pain allows the climax to seem even greater than it could from the elevated levels of pleasure already being experienced.

Canada came all over itself today.

Sitting in front of the TV, surrounded by dozens of fans in the bar, hundreds in the building, millions in the city, and tens of millions in the country, we all tensed in pain with but a handful of seconds left in regulation time. Team USA had scored the tying goal against the unbelievable Roberto Luongo and Team Canada. Suddenly, victory was seriously in question. Our 14th gold medal, and many would argue the most important, was now going to be decided in overtime, or worse... a shootout.

A pall fell over crowds from one coast to the other. Silence enveloped the country. Shock, awe, and pure disbelief stretched across our home and native land.

Then they came back on the ice. 4-on-4. And with them came hope. This was OUR team, at OUR games, and OUR sport. These were the best of the best on the ice. We could do this. We WOULD do this. 33 million fans started pounding tables, clapping hands, and cheering. Our hearts started to beat as one. The tension was still there, but now, instead of pain, it was anticipation.

And then, just over 7 minutes into the extra period, our superstar, Sidney Crosby, FINALLY scored. When it mattered most, the Kid came through. And he got the puck from the heart and soul of the team in Jarome Iginla. The eruption that occurred was 10x what it would have been had the clock just run down 20 minutes earlier.

And once we were all spent and collapsed in relaxed, joyful heap? It dawned on us that the whole damn thing was pretty good. Not just the amazing game that had transpired, nor the hockey tournament, but the entire games. We got that "first gold on home soil" thing out of the way early, and while our medal pace was slow at first, it picked up quickly in the second week. Sure, we didn't get the most medals in the game, as had been hoped by the "Own the Podium" group, but we got more than we've ever had. We broke the record for most gold medals by ANY country in the Winter Games. 14 golds, 26 medals, for a country of 33 million. If anyone can say that isn't a success, you can tell them I said they're a moron. Oh, and so much of that came after the pain of the first week, where disappointing finishes put us far off track for the success we desired. Again, making the wins that much sweeter.

I'm biased, sure, but this was the best games ever. Delays and glitches and weather happen everywhere. They got through them. And while there was tragedy, there was joy as well. The good greatly outweighed the bad.

And people watched. More than expected. More than hoped. Something about all this captured the attention of people all over the world. Canada was on display to the world, and I, for one, think they put on a hell of a show.

For those who aren't in this country, you can't possibly understand the effect it's had here. There's a sense of nationalism that has been missing for years. It stretches across the country in a way that I haven't seen before. Canadians realized it was okay to say that we're awesome. To brag about our accomplishments. To want MORE wins and MORE success. And to be PISSED OFF when we don't get it. Will it stick around? Definitely not at full force, but I'm sure it will constantly be bubbling just below the surface. It will be seen in the cracked smiles that appear when reminders of these last two weeks are encountered. And 4 years from now in Russia, it will erupt once again. Because now we know what we can accomplish, and looking at all those 4th and 5th place finishes will remind us that we can get way, way more.

These Olympics are a watershed moment for Canada. At a time when Canadians needed to be reminded who they were and how connected we are, this fueled a pride and patriotism unheard of in this Great White North.

It was so good, we'll be coming back for more. World, you're on notice.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

One Serving of Pudding

One of my earliest favourite recipes was microwave chocolate pudding. It was fairly easy, kinda cool to watch cook, and tasty. Plus - chocolate pudding in a matter of minutes. What's not to like?

I had the recipe written down on a round piece of paper that I tore off an old giant drawing pad I had on my desk when I was a kid. Every time I thought I'd lost it, it would pop up again. I can't remember the last time I saw it.

So I looked online, and lo and behold found the recipe again. Or at least one so similar that it might as well have been it.

And I reduced it to a single serving.

4 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cocoa (cocao, not hot chocolate mix)
2 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup milk

1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp butter

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl.

Add a splash of the milk and stir, creating a paste. Add more milk if needed, stirring until you have a generally smooth paste.

Slowly add the rest of the milk, stirring as you go. It should look like chocolate milk when you're done.

Put in the microwave, cook for 30 seconds on high. Stir. Cook another 30 seconds. Stir. One shot at 30 seconds.

Quickly add the butter and vanilla, and stir until combined and smooth.

Let cool a few minutes until skin forms. Or until cool if you don't want warm pudding.


You can also add mint extract for mint chocolate pudding, or any flavour extract you may have and like with chocolate. Raspberry, orange, banana, cinnamon, etc..

There, now it'll be easier for me to find.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Quandry

So SCOOP is starting up at Stars. I don't play nearly enough at Stars anymore. Then again, I probably have more money than is healthy in various sites around the world that I don't even have the clients installed for anymore. Cash-out? What's that?

And they're all "hey, why not write up 5 posts that includes a magic phrase and a link back to us and we'll totally give you a $22 ticket. If we REALLY like your stuff, we'll give you a $109 ticket!"

But that... that goes against my "I hate those fucking posts that are nothing more than screens to hide a link in for some paid advertising. They're a blight on my Google Reader!"

I see what I did there.

But it could be fun. I could write truly terrible and sarcastic posts that use their magic phrases in not-so-creative-but-I-still-like-it ways. And if they can take a joke or five, maybe I'll win a $109 ticket to a tournament I stand almost no chance of winning!

Because let's be honest - $22? Really? I know Bloggers are broke-ass degenerates, but that's $4.40 per post. That's a fucking frappuccino or some other shitty Starsucks "drink". $109 + $22 though? $131? That's gettin-me-some-ribs money.

I also don't like the words "required tasks". Makes me feel like Jigsaw is lording over me and there's a key behind my eyeball.

So... whore this space out for a chance at "why, yes, I'd love some extra sauce" cashola, or just ignore it all? Decisions, decisions...

Oh, Canada.

It wasn't Brodeur's fault.

Got it? Good.

Was Miller the better goalie last night? Maybe.

Was the US team the better team? Definitely.

People like placing blame on one scapegoat, but Marty isn't the right target here. Sure, he wasn't "Martin Brodeur", possibly the greatest netminder in the history of the game, but he was hardly a rank amateur flopping all over the place either.

The team let him down. The Canadian hockey ego said, as it did with Switzerland, that offense is the best defense. Sadly, Team Canada excelled at neither last night. Again.

45 shots. Whoop-dee-doo. 45 shots from the point, bad angles, or on the fly, on the ice. Could they not get the puck up? Could nobody position themselves to get a rebound or tip in? When you're facing a goaltender like Miller, who has been consistently solid ALL SEASON, and a US team that is hungry to beat you, then you need the ugly goals, and the opportune goals. You need to PUT THE PUCK ON THE NET and HAVE SOMEONE THERE TO MAKE SURE IT GOES IN. No screening, no grit.

No heart.

I'm not even going to get into the amount of dump-and-chase our guys played.

And in our own end? Please. Scattershot. Uncoordinated. A mess. Did they draw straws to see who would go in the corners? Did they sometimes forget to include a short straw? How about collapsing around your own net to protect the goalie? You know, like the US team did EVERY TIME THEY WERE IN THEIR OWN ZONE?!

Sure, having faith in your goalie lets you take more chances. But that doesn't mean you abandon him.

Marty had NO support. Not until Canada realized that they were in serious trouble and that another goal would kill them. THEN they started blocking shots and chasing the puck like it meant something.

Even then, Seabrook practically gifted the crazy empty-net goal to Chicago teammate Kane in the dying minutes. Kane literally breathing down his neck and his stick is OFF THE ICE? He should have stepped up the hustle and shot that puck away from the net instead of letting Kane flop down and knock it between the pipes. That's how you lose a game.

Maybe it'll be a wakeup call to the team. Maybe they'll remember that they aren't the only ones stacked with NHL superstars and quality goaltending. Or maybe they'll think the extra game they now have to play against Germany will be a cakewalk and get their asses almost handed to them again.

Regardless, it's better for them as a team to take this loss now and have to play the extra game. It SHOULD bring them closer together as a team and force them to face their egos and errors and right this ship.

If the outcry continues, expect Steve Yzerman to say or do something mildly controversial to draw the heat away from his guys.

It ain't over yet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Defended Champion

It's been far too long since I've written about poker here. That's largely because I've been stinking up the joint online with my play. Luckily, these seems to still indicate that I should be playing live.

Last night, I did. My regular home game series had their 2009 ToC last night, after around 4 or 5 reschedules to get as many of the top-9 in as possible. We managed 8 runners. The number of winners in the last season was smaller than previous years due to one one guy taking down the first two games, and the host winning three games himself. I won one, a newbie won another, and the rest of the ToC was made up of top money earners who garnered numerous 2nd and 3rd place finishes.

In short, numbers were down a bit this season, but those that did play, had some skill.

But I, of course, had to play, having won last year's ToC and needing to remind these guys WHY I was the champ.

Rebuy for the first 4 levels, as usual. First hand was KJs, which I took down with a J on the board. Next hand? A couple black aces. I managed to lure the host into shipping me his stack and I was off to a fine start.

I got a bit cocky a few times and gifted chips to people with cards that should never have seen a limp, let alone a bet or flop. After a couple rebuys and the break looming, I decided I had to play the ultimate in strategy - "What would that guy over there do?"

There's a regular at these games who plays decently enough, but is often the butt of our jokes because he gets so ridiculously emotional and eventually develops an Eeyore-like sense of self-pity. So my strategy becomes - do whatever he does. If he folds, I fold. If he calls, I call. He raises? I raise. He goes all-in? I go all-in.

I doubled through him.


I won a few more small pots by following his lead, and saved myself some chips by folding when he folded even though I had hands I'd normally risk seeing a flop with.

When the rebuy period ended, I was sitting in the middle of the pack and dropped the strategy that had worked thus far - ie.- I was now playing my game again, now that the ridiculous period was over.

Two hands are what kept me going in this section.

The first was nearly disastrous for me. N was playing, and also happened to be my ride. He was incredibly short-stacked and eventually went all-in UTG. I was on his left and looked down at K6s, 7-handed. I said, "I have a dilemma. If I call and win, I'm not getting a ride home. But this hand is bad enough that I could call to double him up to keep my ride around." So I called.

Then 3 more people called.

A6x on the flop. Q turn. 6 river. Trips for me. I cursed a bit under my breath. N had A4 for top pair, and he had everyone beat... but me. I took the whole pot, N stood up, shook my hand, and wished me luck in winning cab fare. Then he left.

It took about 20 minutes for everyone to clue in - "Wait, he REALLY was your ride?"


"So you have to cab it home?"


"Don't you live downtown?" (we were 41.7km, or about 26 miles away, in another city)

"Yup. It's not a cheap fare."



We kept playing. I had a stack now. I knew I could win my taxi driver's pay.

The next hand that came saw me looking down at AKh with a limp in front of me. I min-raised. Me+2 went all-in for another min-raise. The SB opted to call, the BB folded, and the original limper got out of the way.

The main pot was set, the side was dry.

One heart on the flop, 6-high. Check. Check.

Qh on turn. I bet around 1/2 the pot. SB thinks, thinks, thinks... and goes all-in over top, for an amount that I had to call. I call. A pittance left behind. Cards come over.

SB has a 6, I have a flush draw, original all-in has pocket tens. I ask for the heart... and it hits. TT is PISSED because he's the tightest player at the table and hadn't played a hand in ages. Guess what? When you wait for that playable hand to the point where your chipstack can't scare a smurf, you're going to lose more than you win.

I'd knocked out two more guys and we were down to 4 and the bubble.

And man, did these guys hang on to that bubble. Shorties doubling up more than a few times. One was my fault, as he'd gone all-in for exactly the BB, and I, in the SB, had missed that it was an all-in and not a limp. So I folded. The bubble would have popped had I called.

Eventually though, the host went down. Then I took out the 3rd place guy with some mediocre hand that was better than his mediocre hand.

I was at last heads-up with the guy I'd wanted to beat the whole game. He was aggressive at times, but mostly not as good as he thought. He was the newbie who'd won a game earlier in the season. I didn't like his game then either, and knocked him out the next game I saw him in.

This time, he'd managed to amass a stack during the rebuy period. Much of it from me. One or two decent pots in the second half of the game gave him chips. Which he proceeded to do nothing with. Other than the occasional blinds, or "have-to" call of an all-in, he sat back and donated. This was trend that continued when we got heads-up. Any aggression from me was met with a fold. Regardless of position, board texture, or bet size. This made it really easy to throw away cards when he'd play back.

Eventually, he let me in cheap and I saw trips on the flop. I slowplayed him, got him all-in, and then discovered we were chopping the pot as he'd flopped the same trips I had. Sigh.

A few hands later though, I saw 66, and decided it was good enough to go to war with him. His A4o caught nothing at all, while I had a flush on the river to drive home my victory with authority.

Cab fare won, and I remain the ONLY ToC champion on that trophy.

To top it off? The first guy out had stuck around to watch Team Canada take apart Norway in hockey, and happens to live a few blocks away from me. So I got a ride home after all.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Takedown Notice

Harbour Publishing has asked me to take down the poem I had up the other day. It's done. I get it... if you aren't vigilant about copyright, then eventually everyone gets in and it all falls apart. You have to defend. Sadly, that applies to my little space of the Internet as well.

Doesn't mean I can't rant a bit about it though. Which is now what's where the poem used to be.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Sensitive Man

Seems to be a lot of poetry in this blogger realm these days. I wrote some bad angsty teenage poetry back in the day. No, it's never seeing the light of day here. But here's one by Canadian poet Al Purdy that I first heard when Bruce Alcock did an animated short set to Purdy's reading of the poem. It was online briefly, but seems to be gone again. Well, there's this I suppose. There is a lesser live action version with Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip playing the role of the poet -- it lacks the artistic flair of animated one.

Regardless, the piece stands on its own, painting a picture of a tough-guy poet in a dive bar, contrasting images of yellow flowers with bloody fisticuffs, and lamenting the lack of understanding of this "sensitive man" and the value of a poem.


Sadly, it seems Mr Purdy's publisher is unhappy about any of the works of this great poet to be out there without permission and has asked me to take it down. So I've done so. It's shame, because it means that less people will discover how awesome this piece, and this author is. After all, just MY recommendation is hardly enough to spur sales or exploration of his other works, where a single poem posted as an example of his entire body of work could have a more significant effect. But who am I to tell old media how to get their clients' work to a modern audience and insure its continued popularity? There are enough modern authors out there who can make the argument more eloquently than I.

Go look for some books of Al Purdy's work, I'm sure they're readily available. Go search for the Gord Downy video of it. It's at least got the full text. The CBC archives also have some Purdy material worth a look/listen.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Superbowl Menu

Rumour is that a game of American Football was played yesterday in the fictional hamlet of Miami. I believe this rumour because I had half a dozen people over at my place watching burly men throw around an oblong ball and occasionally have a pile-on.

I'm told that's how it usually goes.

Okay, so I can't claim total ignorance of football. I don't really watch it, probably can't tell you the difference between a linebacker and an offensive lineman (seriously, there's a quarterback, a kicker, a receiver, and then a bunch of random positions as far as I'm concerned), but I AM a poseur, and therefore watch the Superbowl every year.

Sometimes, I host the party, other times, I let someone else do the work. This year it was on me. Why? Because I have the newest television.

But this is me, and parties are seldom about whatever the focus is. I do 'em for the people, the prep, and the hope that this will be the night that elves sneak into my place and clean up for me. I even left the door unlocked yesterday. No dice.

It's the Superbowl. That calls for wings, pizza, nachos, beer, etc.. Easy, right?

Well, as long as you don't buy 9lbs of organic raw wings from your local butcher and use a multi-step method of cooking them. Or make your salsa, guacamole, and chili from scratch. Or decide that variety is the spice of life when it comes to beer. Or get up an hour later than planned.

Yup, I figured it was high time I did my own wings. No freezer box or take-out option would do. So I bought 9 lbs of raw wings, and used Alton Brown's Buffalo wings recipe to prep them. That requires steaming, drying, chilling, baking, and coating, and around 2 hours. 3 types of hot sauce in the Buffalo sauce in my case too - because I wanted to get rid of 'em. 20 were done Buffalo style, 20 were done with a maple-bourbon sauce, and 20 were left unseasoned because they weren't needed and I'll make 'em something tasty soon. I did make a slight adjustment in the process though. They were all steamed with beer instead of water. Seemed like a great way to get rid of the shitty stuff that was somehow still in my place.

Oh, that maple-bourbon sauce? Maple syrup, bourbon, ketchup, worcestershire, onion, garlic, shallot, soy sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and whatever else I kept tossing in there to tame the sweetness. Turned out well.

I made the salsa Friday, knowing it would need time for the flavours to fuse. Chili was made last week and frozen. The guacamole was the biggest hit, and took about 5 minutes to make.

Avocados, tomato, onion, lime juice, cayenne pepper, chopped jalapeño, ground coriander seed, garlic powder, salt, and maybe a couple other things. Mash it all up and enjoy.

Cheese on the nachos? Mexican spiced cheddar, fresh mozzarella, and jalapeño jack. Oh, and fresh jalapeño pepper, tomato, and onion.

Easy stuff all around, and foods that everyone recognizes. But just the simple fact of being fresh and homemade made them so much better than picking up some jars of Old El Paso and a box of frozen "hot" wings.

And in case you forgot about me and beer... the selection in my fridge yesterday:

Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion
Blanche De Chambly
Fin Du Monde
Trois Pistoles
McAuslan Apricot Wheat
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
Mill Street Coffee Porter
Mill Street Stock Ale

I might have gone overboard...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

There Are Rules

Let's blow the dust off this here space, shall we? Proxy dodginess makes for infrequent posting it seems.

There are rules in life that we shouldn't need to be told about. We learn them from experience or common sense. If you spill the jar of candies, you deny it was you. Even if you're sitting in the middle of the confectionery catastrophe with broken shards of candy jar in your hand.

You don't tell your mom you were "playing doctor" with the girl next door. Although it becomes difficult to lie about when her parents call asking about the sloppy sutures and botched appendectomy.

And for guys, there's one we should all know - you stagger positions at urinals dammit. If there are 5 urinals on the wall, you take 1, 3, and 5. You don't stand next to someone if the ability to put a space between you exists. You don't take 2 or 4 as a first choice because it fucks up the system for everyone else. And you definitely don't compliment the guy next to you on his watch.