Thursday, December 31, 2009

So, More Trophies: Part III

This may be my favourite picture ever posted on this blog. That's Oxford University, in the white sweaters, taking on the Swiss national team in 1922. The Oxford player at the right front of the picture is Lester B. Pearson, who was apparently nicknamed "Herr Zigzag" by the Swiss fans. Click to see larger version!

Now, where were we, in our march through the origins of the names of NHL trophies? About halfway through the individual awards, you say? Well then, let us continue...

Sources this time around are, Hockey Reference, TSN, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Page, and Wikipedia.

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: This one is awarded to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey." It generally ends up awarded to someone who has come back from, or made a sterling attempt to come back from, serious illness or injury. The trophy was donated by the Hockey Writers' Association in 1968, and is named after Minnesota North Stars forward Bill Masterton, who died of head injuries suffered in January of that year during a game against the Oakland Seals. Masterton, who scored Minnesota's first goal ever, remains the only NHL player to have died as a direct result of on-ice injuries (knock on wood, toca ferro, &c.).

No Oiler has ever won the Masterton trophy, but if Fernando Pisani, poised to come back from ulcerative colitis for the second time, doesn't win it this year, an injustice will have been done.

The Lester B. Pearson Award: In the last post in this series, I mentioned an award won by a Nobel laureate, and, well, it's this one. The Pearson award is given to the NHL's outstanding player, as chosen by the players themselves, and was donated by the NHL Players' Association in 1971. It is named, of course, after the former Canadian Prime Minister, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his handling of the Suez crisis. Pearson was an active sportsman; in addition to playing for Oxford, with whom he won the Spengler Cup* in 1923, he played semi-pro baseball, coached the University of Toronto men's hockey team from 1926-28, and had a number of other athletic pursuits as well. In addition to, you know, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and being Prime Minister of Canada.

Gretzky and Messier are the two Oilers to have won the Pearson award.

The Jack Adams Award: First handed out in 1974, the Jack Adams Award goes to the league's best coach, as determined by NHL broadcasters. Jack Adams was a good player in the early days of the NHL (he was also a star in the rival Pacific Coast Hockey Association), but is best known for having coached Detroit for 20 straight seasons between 1927 and 1947, during which tenure his teams won three Stanley Cups. He stayed with the Red Wings as General Manager after his coaching career ended, and built the system through which Detroit acquired young guns such as Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio, to name but two. On a less positive note, he was involved, in the late '50s and early '60s, in a number of fairly shady attempts to bust the newly-created players' union.

Glen Sather is the only Oiler coach to have won the Adams Trophy, but if Quinn manages to haul that lot into the playoffs this season, that could change...

The Frank J. Selke Trophy: Awarded annually to the NHL's best defensive forward. The Selke trophy was donated by the league's Board of Governors in 1977, and pretty much belonged to Bob Gainey in the early years. Frank Selke was the long-time general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, and he probably deserves much of the credit for building the Habs team that won five straight Stanley Cups in the late 1950s; for one thing, he acquired Jean Beliveau (and Dickie Moore, and Henri Richard, among others). In all, he was an NHL general manager for about 35 years, during which his teams won the Stanley Cup nine times.

Unsurprisingly, no Oiler has ever won the Selke Trophy.

The William M. Jennings Trophy: The Jennings trophy is awarded to "the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it." Another trophy donated by the Board of Governors, it took over the Vezina trophy's earlier function in 1982 (the Vezina thereafter was awarded to the league's most outstanding goalie, as determined by vote). Jennings himself was the owner of the New York Rangers in the 1960s and 1970s. Although the Rangers never won the Stanley Cup during his tenure, he probably deserves quite a lot of credit for rescuing that team from the depths of awfulness it occupied during the 1950s. He was also an active booster of hockey in the United States.

No Oiler goalie, or goalie tandem, has ever won the Jennings trophy.

The King Clancy Memorial Trophy: The NHL's Board of Governors also donated the Clancy trophy, in 1987, and it is awarded to a player adjudged to have demonstrated leadership on and off the ice and to have made significant humanitarian contributions to his community. It is named after Francis M. "King" Clancy, one of the NHL's great early characters. Clancy did it all: he played, coached, refereed, and served as a team executive during his 65 years of involvement with the NHL. He is also, to the best of my knowledge, the only man ever to have played all six positions, including goalie, during the same game, which feat he pulled off during the 1923 Stanley Cup finals while playing for the Senators against the Edmonton Eskimos.

Oilers' captain Ethan Moreau is actually the current holder of the Clancy award, and Kevin Lowe also won it while playing for Edmonton.

The Maurice Richard Trophy: And we have arrived at the youngest of the major NHL awards! The Richard Trophy was donated in 1998 by the Montreal Canadiens, and is awarded to the NHL's top goalscorer each season. It is named, of course, after the rather good Canadiens player, cultural icon, and bane of Clarence Campbell's existence, but I'm guessing that you knew that. Anyway, here's his playing record, and below is a reminder, from the last game ever played at Le Forum, of just how popular Richard was.

No Oiler has ever won the Richard Trophy.

Stayed tuned for the final post in the trophies series, when we'll discuss retired awards and other oddities!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

*The Spengler Cup, by the way, is one of the great under-appreciated bits of ice hockey. Nowadays it is contested between a number of European club teams and a Team Canada comprised of Europe-based Canadian players. It produces lots of great "Oh, so that's what happened to Player X" moments (I was watching Canada vs. Adler Mannheim on Tuesday, and was interested to see that the Mannheim goalie was Freddy Brathwaite, who played for the Oilers in the mid-'90s. Sadly, this year's Spengler just wrapped up (hats off to Dynamo Minsk), so you'll have to wait 'til next December to see it again, but I'd highly recommend watching it if you get the chance.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The best of the holidays to all of you!

Regular blogging to resume next week.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Sorry, once again, for the lack of posting! I've been at the Bookstore all week, lugging textbooks around, and I haven't had the energy to do any blogging. More on hockey trophies soon!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Field Guide To Hockey Trophies, Part II

Great Lakes Bulk Carrier "James Norris"

Well, this thing is certainly taking on a life of its own! I had originally thought to do the major individual awards in one go, but there are just too many of them, so I'm breaking them into two parts. I've decided to discuss the awards in chronological order of inception, and, just because I can, I'll be mentioning any members of the Oilies who have held these awards.

Sources for this are, Hockey Reference, the Hockey Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and Wikipedia.


The Hart Memorial Trophy: Awarded to the NHL's Most Valuable Player, the Hart Memorial trophy is not, in fact, the oldest individual trophy in the league, as it was first awarded in 1960. However, I've decided to count it as such since it represents a continuation of the original Hart trophy, which was donated way back in 1923 by Dr. David A. Hart. Dr. Hart was the father of Cecil Hart, who coached the Montreal Canadiens for 9 seasons between 1926 and 1939, winning 2 Stanley Cups in the process, and is one of a smallish number of Canadians to be inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. There's a small measure of historical irony in the fact that Cecil Hart was a direct descendant of Aaron Moses Hart, an officer in the British army that took Montreal from the French in 1760.

Wayne Gretzky (8 times) and Mark Messier have won the Hart while members of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Awarded to "the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." I believe that the NHL is unique among major North American professional sports leagues in having an annual award for sportsmanship. Anyway, the trophy was donated to the league in 1925 by Marie Evelyn Moreton, aka Lady Byng, the Viceregal Consort of Canada (i.e the spouse of the Governor General) between 1921 and 1926 (the "Memorial" bit was added after her death). She was married to Julian Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy, who had commanded the Canadian Corps for a time during the First World War, most famously at Vimy Ridge. During his subsequent Governor Generalship, the Byngs were frequently to be spotted at Ottawa Senators games, and the donation of the trophy followed from that. After Viscount Byng's death in 1935, Lady Byng returned to Canada, and lived the rest of the her life in Ottawa. Sadly, by the time she returned, the Senators had folded.

The Oilers have had two winners of the Lady Byng Trophy, namely Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.

The Vezina Trophy: This trophy is now awarded to the league's best goaltender, as voted upon by NHL general managers (it used to be awarded to the goalie or goalies whose team allowed the fewest goals in the season). It is named, of course, after the legendary Georges Vezina, nicknamed "le Concombre de Chicoutimi" for his coolness in net, who tended goal for the Montreal Canadiens from 1910 until November of 1925, when he was forced to retire by the tuberculosis which would kill him a mere four months later. In the wake of his death, the Canadiens donated the Vezina trophy in his honour, and it was first awarded after the 1926-27 season (the first winner of the trophy was, in fact, George Hainsworth, Vezina's successor in the Canadiens' goal). There are a number of myths out there about Vezina, including that he didn't learn to skate until he was in his late teens (true), and that he fathered 24 children, 22 of whom died in infancy (false - Vezina had two sons).

Grant Fuhr is the only Oiler to have won the Vezina.

The Calder Memorial Trophy: The wording for this one is quite elegant as well; it is awarded to "the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." The trophy is named after Frank Calder, who never played hockey but was instrumental in the creation of the NHL and was the league's first president. He presided, ruthlessly, over the league's early growth and expansion to the U.S., and its subsequent emergence as the top professional hockey league on the continent. Calder also, in 1933, initiated the practise of rewarding each season's top rookie, although the trophy itself was formally inaugurated until after his death in 1943. As a final historical note, Calder was staunchly opposed to segregation in sports. He is reported to have said, at one point in the late '20s, "[p]ro hockey has no ruling against the colored man, nor is it likely to ever draw the line."

No Oiler has ever won the Calder trophy. However, Oiler fans will swear up and down that Wayne Gretzky was unjustly denied the award in 1979-80, when the NHL decided that Gretzky's brief pro experience in the WHA rendered him ineligible. Of course, that didn't prevent Sergei Makarov, who had a mere 13 seasons' experience in the top Soviet league, winning it in 1990. To its credit, the league has since closed that loophole.

The Art Ross Trophy: Awarded to the league's top point-scorer in each season. The trophy was donated to the NHL in 1947 by its namesake himself. Ross, who ironically was a defenceman during a hall-of-fame playing career in the pre-NHL days (Ross may have been hockey's original offensive d-man, a sort of early version of Bobby Orr), is probably best known as the long-time coach of the Boston Bruins, a position he occupied for 16 seasons between 1924 and 1945. He is actually credited with having chosen the name "Bruins." He also managed the Boston club from 1924 until 1954. Ross had reputation, throughout his involvement in hockey, for belligerence; while playing for the Ottawa Senators in 1915, he got into a fight with Toronto's Minnie McGiffin that ended with both players spending the night in jail.

Seven of Wayne Gretzky's ten Art Ross Trophy wins occurred while he was a member of Oilers. No other Oiler has ever won it.

The James Norris Memorial Trophy: Awarded to the league's top defenceman. the trophy is named after James Norris Sr., and was donated to the league by his children in 1953. The Norris dynasty, which accumulated vast wealth in grain and cattle in the 19th and early 20th centuries (it is hard not to imagine the word "baron" in connection with the Norrises) owned the Detroit Red Wings from the early '30s until Bruce Norris sold the team in 1982. James Sr. also had significant ownership stakes in the Rangers and Black Hawks at the same time as he owned the Red Wings, which you probably wouldn't be able to get away with today. And, as you can see from the picture above, he has a ship named after him!

Paul Coffey won the Norris trophy twice for the Oilers.

The Conn Smythe Trophy: This one's awarded to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and was presented to the league by Maple Leaf Gardens Inc. in 1964. It is named after Constantine Falkland Cary Smythe, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1927 to 1961. Smythe was no hands-off owner - he also managed and briefly coached the Leafs, and financed the construction of Maple Leaf Gardens. He also saw action in both World Wars, winning a Military Cross and doing time as a POW during the First, and being horribly wounded during the Second. And he is of course remembered for his famous summation of his hockey philosophy: "If you can't beat 'em in the alley you can't beat 'em on the ice."

Three Oilers have won the Conn Smythe Trophy: Gretzky (twice), Messier, and Bill Ranford.

Well, that's about half of the major individual trophies. Next time up: the other half! Stay tuned to find out which is the only NHL trophy to be named after a Nobel laureate!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Interesting Thing That I Had Not Known

Taking a quick break from hockey trophies here. Anyway, up until yesterday, I had lived my life in blissful ignorance of the reason why cats, when frightened or startled, will flatten their ears, spit, and hiss. Like so:

Well, this behaviour is apparently a form of mimicry. When a cat hisses, it is saying, quite deliberately, "oh no, I'm not a poor little cat at all! I'm actually one of these guys: I'm really much scarier than a cat, and you should leave me alone."

Ok, perhaps they're not mimicking the Armenian Viper specifically, but you get the idea.

Fez tip to Maru.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Field Guide To Hockey Trophies, Part I

Lord Stanley of Preston

An interesting little discussion came up on the CBC Saturday night, during one of the period breaks in the Maple Leafs-Bruins game (Game Story: "Brian Burke haz a sad"), concerning the idea of renaming some of the NHL trophies. Apparently, there is concern in some quarters that the names attached to the trophies are just a wee bit too obscure, and thus need replacing with some more recent, well-known, monikers. And so it is proposed the the league's leading scorer each year should no longer receive the Art Ross Trophy, but rather the Wayne Gretzky Trophy, and so on. Now, honouring the game's great names is an excellent idea, but to do so by relegating other great names to the back pages of history seems very very wrong to me.

Surprisingly, however, this appalling idea actually has some support. Glen Healy was all for it during the segment I saw on TV on Saturday (video included in the link above), much to the puzzlement of Mike Milbury and Ron MacLean. And today I discovered that Elliotte Friedman had pushed the idea on his blog a full year ago. And so, we here at De Koboldorum Rebus have taken up educational arms, and are doing something about it. We hereby present a sort of " Brief Field Guide to the Trophies of the National Hockey League, Especially the People After Whom They Are Named." Sources for this are variably, Hockey Reference, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Wikipedia. This thing will come into being in three parts, beginning today with:


The Stanley Cup: Awarded yearly to the champions of the NHL playoffs, which you probably knew. The Cup was donated in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, who was many things but most importantly for our purposes Governor General of Canada between 1888 and 1893. Lord Stanley and his wife became hockey fans after their sons took up the amateur game in Ottawa during his tenure there. And yes, he is the Stanley who dedicated the famous park in Vancouver that bears his name (apparently, Lord Stanley had a deep affection for western Canada). As far as I know, "Lord Stanley's Mug" is the oldest still-awarded professional sports trophy in North America, and one of the three or four oldest in the world, although I'm willing to be corrected on that.

The Presidents' Trophy: Note the apostrophe. Awarded to the team with the best overall record during the regular season. The trophy was donated in 1985 by the league's Board of Governors, and I'm not dead sure to which presidents the name refers. The presidents of the NHL, presumably.

The Prince of Wales Trophy: Now awarded to the champions of the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, the trophy has had a number of roles through the years, and was originally donated to be awared to the champions of the NHL playoffs. It is named, obviously, for the Prince of Wales. Ah, but which one? Well, the trophy was donated in 1924, and is thus named for the man who would briefly become King Edward VIII before abdicating to marry Wallis Simpson. I do not know if the Prince was particularly a hockey fan, although according to his Wikipedia entry he did own a ranch in southern Alberta.

The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: The Western Conference counterpart to the Prince of Wales Trophy. It was donated upon the NHL's expansion in 1967, although I have read (at the HHOF site and on Wikipedia) that the physical trophy was made in the 19th century. It is named, obviously, after Clarence Campbell, legendary president of the NHL from 1946 to 1977. Campbell must go down with baseball's Kennesaw Mountain Landis as one of the great, iron-fisted rulers of professional sports - fitting for a man who'd been an NHL referee in the 1930s and a war crimes prosecutor during World War II. Campbell suspended players Billy Taylor and Don Gallinger for life after allegations of gambling, but is probably best remembered for his suspension of Maurice Richard in March of 1955, and the aftermath of that. He was, generally speaking, a tough egg.

So there you have some little capsules on the major team trophies. Next up: The major individual trophies!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Appropriate Musical Interlude

...particularly, this weekend, the bit about "mon chemin".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Apologies for the lack of blogging around here. I've been back at the Bookstore, and will be through the end of this week, which is excellent!

Although I find that I dislike people who talk on their cellphones while they're paying for things at the till.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Советская музыкальная интермедия

Not sure why, but I felt like listening to the old Soviet national anthem today. Perhaps it's because it sounds like I've always thought a national anthem should, especially when the Red Army Choir gets ahold of it. In addition to having a beautiful melody, the song possesses a very "national anthem-y" combination of solemnity and arrogance. Anyway:

Bonus Red Army Choir, Comrades!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cavalcade of Randomness: The Sequel to the The Sequel!

"Propertius & Cynthia at Tivoli," by Auguste Jean Baptiste Vinchon

Without further ado:

  • Beginning with a bit of a soccer story: A Croatian goalkeeper rescued a cat which wandered onto the pitch during a game. Whereupon he was given a yellow card. All-in-all, it has not been a banner week for soccer referees. However, on the plus side, this blog does now have a "Medjimurje Cakovec" label!

  • I think Nefertiti is going to be an indoors cat indefinitely and probably for good. I am basing this on two things: first of all, although she loves to look out the window, she shows no interest in actually going outside. Secondly, when I stepped outside last night, there were what I would guess to be about four coyotes singing to each other in the ravine a whole two blocks away. I am all in favour of urban wildlife (indeed, I stood there for a time and listened to the coyotes), but I'd rather it didn't eat Nefertiti.

  • Last week saw the first meeting of a little Latin reading group that a former student of mine has set up. Although I was only able to be there for the first part of this session, I think it has great potential to be good fun! It's mostly former students of mine, with some friends and family along as well. We're reading Propertius, at least for starters.

  • Those of us who follow the Oilers may remember the whole Dany Heatley nastiness from this summer. Well, a couple of local businesses have got together to commemorate the trade-that-wasn't, and have found a way to make it into a charity event as well! It's actually quite a cool idea, and for a very good cause. And I think we are all happy that the Heatley deal, didn't actually happyen, in the end...

  • Speaking of the end, I think we have reached it for this post!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Which Satire Curls Up In Fetal Position And Cries

Flanders and Swann, 50-some years ago (audio link):

If the juju had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn't have made us of meat.

Sarah Palin, apparently quite recently:

"If any vegans came over for dinner, I could whip them up a salad, then explain my philosophy on being a carnivore: If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?"

Emphasis mine. Ok, we're missing some context here, and I'm willing to concede the possibility that Palin was joking. However, given her support for barbaric hunting practices, I also think it's entirely plausible that she actually believes that animals were placed on Earth simply for us to devour. Here's a bit of "bonus" Palin (link is to the same article as above):

"I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all Alaska's animals -- right next to the mashed potatoes."

Full Disclosure: I am not a vegetarian. That said, I don't revel in the fact of my meat-eating; I eat meat because I enjoy the taste of it, not because I think I have any divine right or duty to do so. And I occasionally feel guilty about it, although that and $2.26 will get you an extra-large coffee at Starbucks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Retrospect, Maybe They Should Have Seen That Coming...

Ahh, gargoyles - or at least, what we refer to as "gargoyles." Technically, only the ones that channel water are gargoyles; the others are chimeras. But anyway, for centuries they have gazed down from the heights of gothic architecture, frightening away evil spirits and, as mentioned, sometimes channeling away rainwater.

Back in the 1980s, the folks at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., discovered that they had a couple of empty niches where new gargoyles might be placed. In the interests of community outreach, they asked a number of schoolchildren for suggestions as to what sort of shape the new gargoyles should take, specifically pointing out the "scariness" aspect of gargoyles in general. And then, being good sports, they acted on the suggestions:

The other child-inspired gargoyle? A raccoon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Joyeux Anniversaire!

Fifty years ago today, on October 29th, 1959, the French comics magazine Pilote published its first issue. Defunct since 1989, Pilote would probably not be much remembered, except that one of its comics turned out to have quite a lot of sticking power, and if you've been over to Google today, you know which one it was.

Yes, today is the 50th birthday of Asterix, Obelix, and the rest of the village of indomitable Gauls, the brainchildren of Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. And anyone who appreciates humour, or ancient history, or any combination thereof, owes those two gentlemen a deep debt of gratitude.

Personally, I think my favourite is Le Tour de Gaulle d'Asterix, mostly because it's the one in which they acquire Idefix, but that's just me...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Which Chunklets Takes Up New Media

Yes. Yes, I did. And now back to work.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I V vi iii IV I IV V

Hmmm, we haven't had a musical interlude for awhile! So, what to play, what to play... Ok, here's a classic from a few years ago:

Now, even if you're not a Green Day fan, the melody-line of that song may sound just a tad familiar. There is a reason for that, said reason being that Billie-Joe Armstrong borrowed the chord progression from a certain well-known canon:

You fools! Go back and count the "n"s!

Much better. We will overlook for now the fact that the man pictured in the video is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, not Johanne Pachelbel. So yes, there you have it - the strange connection between Baroque chamber music and late-20th-century pop-punk.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

All The Best To You, Theo

Some years ago, when Theo Fleury first started getting himself into trouble, I remember having a conversation about it with a friend of mine. We noted Theo's difficulties, and the fact that he'd played for Moose Jaw under Graham James, and we did wonder a bit if those two things weren't connected. Well, we wonder no more.

Oh, and if you're having warm and fuzzy thoughts about humanity today, a saunter through the comments section of the above-linked story should fix that right up for you! Why do I read those things, anyway?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yet Another Cavalcade Of Randomness!!

Because the first one was such a hit!

  • Open House at the U this past Saturday, which is always good for my fitness, since the Department and the Open House booth are in opposite corners of the campus. The most encouraging sign, on a day that went really well anyway, was the number of high-school students who came up to our booth asking not "So what is History & Classics, anyway, and what kind of job can it get me?", but rather things like "this is where I come to learn about the ancient world, right?" Good stuff.

  • On a related note, I had coffee this morning with the husband of the Director for the archaeological site in Tuscany upon which I have worked. We discussed many things, including which bits of the upcoming site publication I should expect to find myself writing, and the general state of the preservation/conservation business. It was extremely productive...

  • On a completely unrelated note, I went, along with brother and nephew, to see the Major Junior team in action on Friday night. The local boys won 3-2, despite a hairy finish, and afterwards we got to and clamber around on the catwalks up above the arena. Fun!

  • Speaking of hairy finishes, that was not how the Oilies wished to commence their season, I believe. Sigh. On the bright side, overall, the team looked pretty decent.

  • I believe that I saw a beaver swimming in the river last week - spotted him, in fact, from the bus as we were crossing a bridge. Alternatively, might have been muskrat, but it was a little big for that, I think.

  • And a neat little piece dealing with light pollution, accompanied by an absolutely stunning video, is located here. Go watch!

And that's it 'til next time!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Opening Night!

And hockey is now back, or at least will be in a couple of hours, and questions and storylines abound! How about that Tavares kid? Who's going to be worse: Phoenix or Colorado? Will the goonification of the Toronto Maple Leafs bear fruit? Will Chicago take the next step, or be undone by bad goaltending and off-season unpleasantness? Who is this season's Great Canadian Hope (it's Vancouver, BTW)? And, most importantly, who's going to be skating around next June waving an enormous silver flowerpot over their heads? And the answer to that last is... wait for it...

The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yes, we're going with the repeat winner. They've got top-drawer talent, obviously, and now they've got the experience to match it. The WKS brigade foresees them knocking off the San Jose Sharks in the final, simply on the grounds that one of these years the Sharks are going to have stop sucking in the playoffs, and it might as well be this one. However, any of Detroit, Vancouver, Washington, Chicago, Boston, or even Philadelphia could decide to have their say as well.

As for the Oilers, who get things underway on Saturday night, well, expectations are a bit subdued, despite the arrival of highly experienced coaching.* The general consensus out there is that the Oilers had a pretty good draft, and then spent too much of the summer swooning around after Dany Heatley, resulting in them going into training camp with too many big holes in the lineup. Although the defence is world-class, especially when attacking, there are questions about the size of the forward corps. The return of Mike Comrie, and his solid play, have been positives, but the Oilers are going to need it continue, and then some, if they're going to go anywhere this season. In net, the Oil acquired Mr. Khabibulin, and that's excellent just as long as he doesn't go off form or get hurt. In short, it's going to be a tough, tough year, especially with a deadly schedule right out of the gate.

The following four numbers, however, give some slight cause for optimism, however: 21, 23, 31, 27. Those are the numbers of points by which Quinn-coached teams have improved in his first full season in charge. Now, it is probably a stretch to expect that sort of thing from this year's Oiler team, but those are still very impressive figures, and can't all be due to roster changes. So maybe, just maybe, and with some additions somewhere along the line, the boys can find their way into the second season. And if they can't, well, at least we've got Jordan Eberle and Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson to look forward to.


*The official De Koboldorum Rebus opinion on the hirings of Pat Quinn and Tom Renney is as follows: it was a very very very very good thing to do. There are enormous hockey brains in those two men, and I am very much looking forward to what they do with the team. Furthermore, adherents (and there is a distressingly large number of them) to the "Pat Quinn has won nothing in his career" school of thought need to be slapped upsides the head and reminded that, for a coach, an Olympic gold medal, World Cup, U18 World Championship, World Junior Championship, and 657 FLIPPIN' NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE GAMES pretty much amount to "something." To put it another way, the only men who've won more as NHL coaches are named Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Dick Irvin, and Mike Keenan, and Quinn will catch Keenan this season, having coached five fewer seasons than Keenan to boot. There's a solid possibility that he'll catch Irvin this year as well, in seven fewer seasons. In short, I think it was a good hire.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Bookstore Anecdote

As promised below, here we have the first in what will probably become a short series! And this one deals with the Comparative Literature section of the Bookstore. Unfortunately, the signage in said section employed a perhaps unfortunate and anatomical abbreviation, one which I'll let you bright sparks figure out on your own. Thus it was that a couple of days into rush, the floor manager tasked me with removing all of the offending signs, and replacing them with something a little less controversial. I assumed that there had been complaints; however, it actually turned that somebody had taken a picture of one of the old signs and posted it on a widely read internet site. The only real shock was that it took as long as it did for this to happen, since the old signs had been up for years.

The funny bit occurred a few days after the signs were replaced, when a young fellow, accompanied by his girlfriend, stopped me and asked for directions to the Comparative Literature section. "Follow me!" I said, and they did. However, when we hove in sight of the section and its new signs, both their faces fell, and they stopped. I must have looked at them quizzically, because the male half of the couple muttered something about it being "far too complicated to explain," and then they scurried off, out of the store.

So yeah, we actually had tourists making trips to the Bookstore expressly and only to look at the funny Comparative Literature signs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Return, And A Departure

* Blows dust off blog, again *

I'm back! And where have I been for the last month? Well, toiling in the University Bookstore through the September textbook rush, for the most part. The scene below is a reasonable facsimile of the sort of job it was:

Trust me, there will be anecotes, oh my yes!

However, it is not the goings-on at the University Bookstore that concerns us today, but rather a somewhat odd news story that cropped up last week. Here it is:

Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on
Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:54pm EDT By Simon Rabinovitch

LONDON (Reuters) - About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

And so, farewell, noble hyphen! Well, not entirely "farewell," as the article goes on to point out that hyphens will be hanging around in situations where confusion would result otherwise (the word "twenty-odd" is cited as an example). Furðermore, one must recall ðat ðere are æt least a handful of letters which have been þrown out of þe English language, so perhaps þe partial removal of a piece of punctuation is not such a big deal (For the record, the three obsolete letters used in that sentence are, in order, eth, ash, and thorn. We've also lost yogh and wynn). Still and all, I think I'm going to miss the ice-cream.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lack of Knowledge of Local History! It Burns!

There are days when I don't know why I read the "Venting" column in the Journal. Generally, it serves as a forum for the city's knuckle-draggers to display their ignorance, passive-aggressive tendencies, and horror at the existence of people with interests different from theirs. And every so often the dumbassery gets taken to new and impressive lows.

Last weekend saw the annual dragon boat races on the river here in town. In the wake (hah!) of that, one Venter revealed its displeasure at the entire concept:

Instead of dragon boat races, why don't Edmontonians celebrate our own history and culture and use voyageur canoes?*

To be fair, the Venter has, like the proverbial blind pig, found a truffle; a voyageur canoe race on the river is an awesome idea. That said...

For those of you who do not know this, in the late 19th century something like 17,000 Chinese labourers came to Canada to work on the Western expansion of the railway. Sir John A. MacDonald is reported to have said that without them there would have been no railway, and as the writer of that link notes, without the railway there might not have been a country. Early Chinese Canadians were not treated well (just google "head tax"), especially in economically tough times.

The first Chinese Edmontonian seems to have been a fellow named Chung Gee, who arrived in 1892, the very year that Edmonton officially became a town. His reasons for coming here are not known for certain, but there had been anti-Chinese rioting in Calgary, and it is possibly that he was fleeing from that. Whatever, the case, the Chinese population of Edmonton increased steadily from that beginning. The city's Chinatown, in roughly its current location, was firmly established by 1911, when the Chinese population of the city numbered in the hundreds.

So, just in case anyone is still missing the point, the dragon boat races in Edmonton do in fact have a very strong historical and cultural basis. And some people need to do a little bit of research before beaking off to the newspaper.

*The link will probably die in a couple of days, since the Journal does not seem to archive the Vents. Here is the hard-copy citation:

Anonymous. "Venting." Edmonton Journal. August 25, 2009, p. A14.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In Which Chunklets Previews A Sporting Event Before It Actually Begins...

Ah yes, on to Serie A, which gets going this weekend! Here are some questions to ponder for the upcoming season, along with possibly true answers:

So, who's going to win it?

Inter Milan


Um, you need to say a little bit more, I think.

Oh. Well, as the offseason transfer market got going, I not only had Inter down as champions, but thought they would probably have the title in the bag by about Christmas. Unlike, well, every other team in Serie A, they had actually succeeded in bringing in some major talent, in the person of Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o. Now... I still think they'll win it, but they may find themselves pushed by Juventus, who've very quietly made some good acquisitions this summer.

Ok, what about the other Champions' League spots?

This is where it gets exciting! Much though I don't want to, I've got to put AC Milan down for third place. Yes, they've lost their best player, as Kaka betook himself off to Real Madrid. Yes, Philippe Senderos went back to Arsenal. Yes, their owner is a lunatic who's prone to public criticism of his coaches. However, they've got too much talent, and too much money for reinforcements.

After that, though, things get really interesting, as a large handful of clubs will have their eyes on the last Champions' spot. Fiorentina, Roma, and Napoli probably have the best shot at it, but if those three stumble then Udinese, Sampdoria, Lazio, and maybe even Genoa and Palermo will all be looking to take advantage. I think, in the end, that it could be Roma's turn this season. They're still relying too much on Francesco Totti, but Fiorentina didn't do much in the transfer market, and Napoli, who did make some useful pickups, are involved in acrimonious wrangling with their top striker.

Passing lightly over the middle of the table then, who's going down?

Bari, for starters. The newly-promoted Puglians did nothing to strengthen their side, and just plain look over-matched. As for the other two... well, it saddens me, but I'm once again looking at Siena as relegation fodder (Note that I was wrong about them last time, though). And I've got a bad feeling about Bologna, who are experiencing some chaos behind the scenes, and who's centenary season may turn out to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

And here's the prospective final table:

1Inter Milan
3AC Milan
17Chievo Verona

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I am rather glad at this moment that Nefertiti is an indoor cat.

Many posts ago, I referred to my occasional habit of grabbing on-the-bus coffee at the local Quik-E-Mart, and I have in fact been doing that this week. Now, it is not at all unusual to find the odd "Missing Cat" poster taped up at the bus-stop outside the little convenience store, but I was a bit depressed to discover two of them yesterday. And then there was a third one up this morning.

There are, of course, all kinds of possible explanations for this sudden eruption of MIA cats. It could be simply coincidence. All three of the missing cats are young toms, so another possibility is that they simply chose the same week to head off on their travels. Or, on a grimmer note, it's possible that somebody in the neighbourhood is up to no good; they are out there, after all. However, I have my own suspicions, and they revolve around this fellow:

Canis Latrans

Apparently there several hundred of the critters dwelling in the city, which is one of very cool results (and I do mean that sincerely) of having an undeveloped river valley which serves as a wildlife corridor all the way to the Rocky Mountains, not to mention a significant rabbit population. Furthermore, the neighbourhood wherein these cats have gone missing is very close to the river valley, as well as to several wooded ravines. So I do rather wonder if there isn't a new den somewhere down there.

In any case, if I were the owner of an outdoors cat, I would think very hard about keeping it under supervision while it was out there!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Yes, it is that time again! Or rather, it was that time again last weekend, when the 2009-2010 Premiership season actually began. However, it's not too late to take a look at what's likely to happen over the coming months!

The top of the Premiership table is likely to look a lot like it did last year. In fact, I think it's probably Manchester United's title to lose again, despite the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo et al. They're too well-managed, and none of Liverpool, Chelsea, or Arsenal significantly strengthened their teams over the summer.

As always, one big question revolves around whether anybody is going to be able to catch one of the big four, and this year's prime candidate is Manchester City, who are now the richest soccer team on the planet (yes, seriously) and have been throwing the money around in a meaningful sort of way. I have heard some speculation that Arsenal are vulnerable, but I just don't think that Manchester City are quite ready to make the jump just yet. It's pretty much a given that they will qualify for the Champions' League one of these seasons, but it's probably not going to be this one. Other teams with European aspirations will, as always, include Aston Villa, Everton, and Tottenham.

At the other end of the table, the general consensus is that Hull City and Portsmouth are dooooomed, and I tend to concur. Hull City were dismal towards the end of last year, and Portsmouth are in deep financial trouble. The third relegation spot is far less certain. It's always tempting here to include one of the newly promoted sides, and I'm afraid that this time the finger of Fate points at Burnley. It's their first season in the top flight since 1976, and it's likely that they'll need a couple of tries to establish themselves among the big teams. The other two teams who came up, Birmingham City and Wolves, have recently experienced Premiership soccer, and should be better prepared.

And what of Millwall this year? Well, it's going to be very tough. There are about five clubs in League 1 this season who really should not be there on the basis of their resources and fanbase, and it's tough to see Millwall getting by enough of them to earn promotion. That said, nobody thought we'd come within 20 minutes of going up last season, either...

Anyway, here's your predicted Premiership table:

1Manchester United
5Manchester City
6Aston Villa
8Tottenham Hotspur
10West Ham United
12Birmingham City
13Bolton Wanderers
14Wigan Athletic
15Blackburn Rovers
16Stoke City
17Wolverhampton Wanderers
18Hull City

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Newses & Noteses

I have been reacquainting myself with the Benny cat this week, and I am pleased to say that he is in fine form, despite the presence of workers doing renovations on the house. Benny's general comfort level is steeply and inversely proportional to the number of people around him at any given moment. And, as we discovered the other night while cooking dinner, he's not a huge fan of the smoke detector; its triggering resulted in him betaking himself to the back of the closet for a couple of hours.

I also managed to get together for dinner last night with some old friends, some of whom I had not seen for a decade or more (Facebook is a nifty thing!). Cue much reminiscing about archaeology-related adventures abroad! One of the people at the gathering is involved in museum work, so, in light of recent decisions, I was happy to be able to bend her ear a little bit about the field. To make a long story short, it appears that I am on the right track at least in identifying which programs are worthwhile! I'm trying to find programs that concentrate on the conservation/preservation side of things (I'm particularly interested in doing that sort of work on-site, basically as soon as the artifacts come out of the ground), rather than those whose emphasis is on museum management and the like. Anyway, the food and company were both excellent, and I imagine that there will be more get-togethers like last night's when we can manage it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pitch Invasion

In which a last season's tense Ligue 1 match between Bordeaux and Nancy is watched, and participated in, with apparent enjoyment:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Soccer Notes

A couple of wee tidbits:

  • England lost a one of the good ones today. A genuinly classy individual, as well as a very fine manager. He also was known to employ an interesting turn of phrase, every once in awhile...

  • The Canadian men's national team just returned from the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and I actually think it went pretty well. Canada faced as tough a group as they did during the WC qualifiers, but the boys defeated Jamaica and El Salvador, and managed to tie Costa Rica, thus in fact winning the group. The Canadians then bowed out at the quarter-final stage, losing to Honduras on a very debatable penalty call (aren't they all!). Most impressive of all, in the games that I saw, there was actually evidence of forward-thinking tactics, something that was too often lacking during the Dale Mitchell era. Oh, and Ali Gerba's goal against Jamaica was truly a thing of beauty:

  • The new manager of the Canadian men's team, Stephen Hart, has enjoyed a fairly bright beginning (well, it's not really a beginning, since he was interim manager before Mitchell got the permanent job). Under Hart this time around, the team's record is: Played 6, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 1, 8 Goals Scored, 3 Conceded. Pretty good, I'd say.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Latin Choices

Page from a 15th-century manuscript of Augustine's City of God

As this summer's Latin class surges towards its completion, we're once again reaching the point in the curriculum where I need to start coming up with some things for them to read. I do not believe that students should escape Latin 102 without reading at least some unedited ancient works, warts and all. Interestingly, and encouragingly, I've actually had some requests for things to read this year, in addition to my usual choices. So, what are they going to get? Well...

  • Catullus 3. A yearly tradition! I send them away for a couple of weeks to come up with a really nice translation of this poem, in consultation, if they wish, with other scholarship on it.

  • An excerpt from Tacitus' Agricola. Of the "big guns," there's probably not a tougher Latin prose author than Tacitus, so if they can handle him, they can handle anything. I generally roll out some part of the speech of Calgacus before the Battle of Mons Graupius (in addition to being fairly translatable, for Tacitus, it's really good).

  • Something, still undetermined, from St. Augustine. This was actually one of the requests that I had this year, from the philosophy student who's working on Augustine. I still haven't decided what I'm going to give them; something from City of God is tempting, since it's full of fun bits of Roman history and mythology. However, Augustine does not take a postitive view of Roman history and mythology (Paraphrase from Book 2: "So Sallust thought that 'the good and right' in Rome derived from the character of the inhabitants rather than from legal coercion? Excellent! Let's discuss how the rape of the Sabine women fits into that notion."), and the above-mentioned speech of Calgacus probably fills this course's Rome-bashing quota. So perhaps I will go back to The Confessions, and find something there.

  • I've also had a student ask to learn how to scan Latin poetry! I have never before taught that, so I'm working now at getting myself back up to speed on the topic. I'll at least get them introduced to the notion, and walk them through a couple of the more common forms of Latin poetry. I'm leaning towards elegaic couplets, which will also serve to show them how to scan a line of dactylic hexameter, and the from generally known as Phalaecean Hendecasyllabic (hello, Catullus 3!), which sounds horrible but is actually really easy to work with.

Given time constraints, I doubt we'll be able to do any more than that and still cover the required grammar. However, it should enough to get them thinking about how to do translations (and scan poetry), and that's more or less the point!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hat Fail

I had to look at this one for a moment before it dawned on me, and then I snorted coffee through my nose.

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Ok, you want to know who just made The List? It's the guy who changed all the keyboard macros on this lab computer, so that, for example, when I try to embolden highlighted text by hitting ctrl-b, the text is deleted and replaced with a single, solitary, "ß". That's who just made The List.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Nostalgic Musical Interlude!

Have you ever had one of those moments when, for no particular reason, you suddenly though: "Hey, you know what artist/musician/band/&c I haven't listened to in a long time?"

I had forgotten what a voice Karen Matheson has!

Monday, July 20, 2009

We Need More Headlines... this:

Just When You Thought It Was Safe… Giant Squid Terrorise Californian Coast!!!
Divers spooked by tales of assaults as swarms of aggressive jumbo flying squid invade the shallows off San Diego
Associated Press in San Diego, Friday 17 July 2009 15.25 BST

Yes folks, "aggressive jumbo FLYING squid" (my emphasis) have apparently risen from the depths, and are tormenting anyone who ventures into the waters off San Diego. And that, of course, means that it's only a matter of time until this fellow shows up:

For you see, at the same time that tenticular doom was descending upon California, here in the Warrens, hundreds of miles from the sea, strange phenomena were at work. On Saturday night the sky turned a sort of nasty greenish-grey, thunder rolled, high winds threw things around and tore strong limbs from trees, and all the lights went out for awhile. Oh, and there was hail. Coincidence? I think not.

Anyway, as we await the arrival of the horrid denizens of R'Lyeh, here's a bit of a look at their advance guard:

Friday, July 17, 2009

You Know What Seems Silly?

So, I actually got out and attended a professional sporting event last night, as I went down to watch our Eskimos host the boys from B.C. (Canadian-rules football, in case you're wondering). Now, as has become commonplace at sporting events, scores by the home team are greated with pyrotechnics, and, in the case of our particular team, the sight of a vintage fire engine, painted in the team's colours, driving around the running track with its lights flashing (just to add to last night's spectacle, it was '60s night, so the players were wearing smart-looking retro uniforms, the cheerleaders were wearing go-go boots, etc. It was quite something).

Anyway, during the second half, the Eskimos found themselves on offence, but pinned way back on their own 2-yard line, with their backup quarterback in. In other words, they were in deep trouble. But, lo-and-behold, they drove the ball 108 yards down the field, scored a touchdown, and then followed that up with a two-point convert! And the fireworks duly went off, the fire engine drove upon its appointed course, and the cheerleaders and mascots leapt around gleefully.

Now, here's the bit where the silliness arrives. You may remember how I mentioned that this occurred during the second half? Well, to be specific, there were exactly 12 seconds left in the game, after the touchdown. And the touchdown made the score 40-22. For B.C. And I thought that it would be a bit of an idea for the folks running "the show" to say: "At this point we are 100% likely to lose this game badly, and maniacly celebrating the fact that the margin of defeat will be 18 rather than 26 points is not only silly, it's kinda pathetic."

Just a thought, anyway...

Monday, July 13, 2009

So, How Did We Do?: Part 2

Back again, and looking at how we picked Serie A over the last season! Here's the chart:

Ye Olde Scrying CauldronReality
2AC Milan2Juventus
3Fiorentina3AC Milan
16Chievo Verona16Chievo Verona

Well, then, kudos to the Seers for a) correctly picking the champion, and b) correctly picking one of the relegated teams (poor, poor, Reggina). And hey, we succesfully nailed the final positions of three teams (Inter, Lazio, and Chievo Verona), one better than we did in England! Beyond that, there were some real shocks, as a number of teams were well away from where we'd picked them.

Genoa versus Juventus back in April. Genoa (in red and blue) won 3-2.

First of all, the good. The big story of the season was Genoa, who amazingly came within a lick of overhauling Fiorentina for the last Champions' League spot. Tiny Siena, whom we'd picked to finish dead last, not only survived but for once did so comfortably. And, even though they finished only three spots above where we'd picked them, Juventus had a far better year than I foresaw.

And now, that bad. I would think that the season's biggest disappointment had to be Napoli, who started very brightly, and then basically stopped getting results around Christmas-time. Of their final 21 games, Napoli won 3, although one of them was a fine victory over Inter, and so a club that maybe had an outside shot at the Champions' League won't be playing in Europe next season at all. Bologna, as well, didn't live up to expections. We mentioned them in the prediction article, saying something like "keep an eye on Bologna," and keep an eye on them we did. We watched as they strolled into Milan on opening day and beat AC, and we felt very smart. And then we watched as they nearly got relegated, and we didn't feel so smart anymore! Torino somehow managed not to avoid relegation. And finally, Genoa fans had two reasons to celebrate, as their cross-city rivals Sampdoria had a dreadful season, and finished well in the bottom half.

Yeah, it was kind of like that for Napoli in 2009

It's going to be very interesting to watch Serie A in the next few seasons. At this point, for the first time in decades, the big talent is flowing out of Italian club soccer, not into it. This has also been happening in German soccer recently, and the result this year was that the Bundesliga had a first-time champion in VFB Wolfsburg. It's also been a feature of Dutch soccer for about the last ten years, and there too we are seeing lesser-known clubs (AZ Alkmaar, this year's champion, for example) mounting serious challenges to the big boys. So, it is just possible that we may see the big four in Italy coming back to the field a little bit, which would actually be rather fun!

Friday, July 10, 2009

So, How Did We Do?: Part 1

Quite some time ago, prior to the somewhat recently completed soccer season, the wizened Kobold seers speculated as to how the Premiership was going to turn out. And, given that the 2009-2010 campaign is just around the corner, it's probably time to see how they did. Here then are their picks, along

Wizened Kobold SeersReality
2Manchester United2Liverpool
5Tottenham Hotspur5Everton
6Aston Villa6Aston Villa
8Manchester City8Tottenham Hotspur
9Portsmouth9West Ham United
10Newcastle United10Manchester City
11West Ham United11Wigan Athletic
12Bolton Wanderers12Stoke City
13Blackburn Rovers13Bolton Wanderers
15Sunderland15Blackburn Rovers
17West Bromwich Albion17Hull City
18Wigan Athletic18Newcastle United
19Hull City19Middlesbrough
20Stoke City20West Bromwich Albion

Some observations. First of all, the seers didn't actually do too badly, especially in the top half of the table (on the other hand, picking the top four teams in the Premiership is hardly a chore these days). They even managed to pick exactly the correct spot for Arsenal and Aston Villa! Well done seers! However, they also learned a valuable lesson: Tottenham Hotspur will always disappoint you.

Newcastle contemplate life outside the Premiership

There was less success with the bottom half; none of the teams picked to be relegated actually were. Fulham, Stoke, and Wigan all greatly exceeded everybody's expectations, and nobody really foresaw Newcastle's annus horribilis. Of the three teams selected by the seers to go down, Hull City actually came closest. They had a wild season; Hull were in the top five early on, and then completely collapsed, only securing safety at Newcastle's expense on the last day of the season.

And what about Millwall? Well, Millwall had a brilliant year, up until the last 20 minutes of it. The Lions finished fifth and qualified for the promotion playoffs, wherein they defeated mighty Leeds United in the first round. With 20 minutes to go in the playoff final against Scunthorpe, Millwall were leading 2-1, but they couldn't hold on and ended up losing 3-2. And so face another season of League 1 football, but this time there will be some big names (Norwich, Southampton, Charlton, and - heh,heh - Leeds) to keep us company.

Harris puts Millwall in front against Leeds

Next time: How did we do with Serie A?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blowing Off The Dust

Wow... nearly a full month's worth of absence!

So what's new, you ask? Well, I have a new crop of Latin students, possibly as many as 12(!) when everything gets settled and sorted out. So far, they seem to be quite promising, and willing to participate, and all those good things!

And, of course, the big news. I have decided to switch gears academically, and pursue more closely the technical side of archaeology. So, there's a lot of research being done right now on Museum Studies and related programs. Not much to report on that front so far, but there's a promising looking program at the University in His Majesty's Town (the one by the big river out East). We will see what transpires with that; it will require me to bone up on my organic chemistry and, interestingly, learn "darkroom techniques."

Anyway, expect more here! There's lots to get caught up on...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Game 7!!

Well, we're less than an hour from the opening faceoff of what will be, one way or the other, the last NHL game of the season. Of course, it's Pittsburgh at Detroit, and it's always rather fun to see one of the Old Six in the finals, and most of my acquaintances (me too, for that matter), are leaning towards pulling for the Red Wings.

There's a certain amount of irony there, for NHL hockey was played in Pittsburgh before its arrival in Detroit. The first NHL game played in Pittsburgh took place on December 2nd, 1925, between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Americans (New York won, 2-1, in overime). Notable players for the Pirates that season included defenceman Lionel Conacher, starting goalie Roy Worters, and coach/forward/backup goalie Odie Cleghorn. The Pirates were actually decent (i.e. a regular playoff team) for their first three seasons, before tailing off. Their final season in Pittsburgh, 1929-1930, was abysmal; the team won only 5 of 44 games. They moved to Philadelphia for the next season, and were worse (4 wins). After that season, the Great Depression put an end to NHL hockey in Pennsylvania until 1967. If you're interested, there's much much more about the Pirates, and Pittsburgh hockey generally, here.

The first NHL game in Detroit took place on November 22, 1927, between the hometown Cougars (later the Falcons, and subsequently the Red Wings) and the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa won 2-0. The Cougars, who got their name from the fact that most of their players had been purchased from the defunct Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League, had actually been formed the previous season, but had played all their home games in Windsor. Unlike the Pirates, of course, they survived the Depression, and began winning Stanley Cups in 1936.

So, in fact, it's a very old-school matchup tonight!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From One Extreme To Another...

So, this past weekend, within 14 hours, I saw Rancid in concert and attended a church service with HRH the Countess of Wessex. Some observations, starting with the Rancid gig:

  • Large Hockey Arena = Not A Good Punk Rock Venue.
  • Despite all kinds of problems with the sound (see immediately above), Rancid did very very well (again). They've been at it for the better part of 20 years, and you can tell.
  • Weirdly enough, Rancid were one of the opening bands for this thing. The actual headliners were Rise Against, who may want to rethink the whole "having-a-ginourmously-popular-band-open-for-us" thing. A good many people, we included, left after Rancid's set.
  • Rancid's set list was mostly old favourites, with a couple of new songs tossed in. They went all-acoustic (bongos!) for one number ("The 11th Hour"), which was rather fun.
  • The opening band, The Riverboat Gamblers, were pretty much unlistenable, although that really wasn't their fault. It wasn't until their last couple of numbers that the sound system started cooperating, and when it did, they actually sounded pretty good.

Here's one of Rancid's new songs:

And, moving on to the Royal Visit:

  • I'd say it pretty much went off without a hitch, despite a minor rebellion on the part of the plumbing the day before.
  • I did not actually get to meet Princess Sophie, but I am told that she is the soul of graciousness, especially when dealing with the little kiddies!
  • The sermon rocked.
  • The reason HRH was in town was to inspect the South Alberta Light Horse, of which regiment she is the Colonel-in-Chief. So, there were a lot of dress uniforms about the place on Sunday morning, some of them liberally festooned with medals.
  • The regimental band provided entertainment during lunch, prompting one small child to sit approximately five feet in front of them, watching raptly, with her fingers in her ears.
  • All-in-all, I think it was a memorable morning for the right reasons!

Semper Alacer

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Paging Mr. Darrow!

Homo Erectus: Not Welcome in Alberta

Ok, maybe that's a bit of an over-reaction, but still...

Alberta passes law allowing parents to pull kids out of class
Written notice required when sex, sexual orientation, religion are covered

Alberta legislators passed legislation early Tuesday that will give parents the option of pulling their children out of class when lessons on sex, religion or sexual orientation are being taught.

And at first glance, it doesn't sound too bad. No sane person would argue that parents shouldn't be informed about the curriculum, nor even that they shouldn't have some say in it. This is not an issue (the old straw man that is the idea of "sexual orientation being taught in school" is far too tedious to address here). The issues, and indeed the screaming bloody problems with the bill, begin with this statement from Premier Stelmach (despite political disagreements, I've never particularly had a bone to pick with Stelmach, and I've been reliably informed that he's an intelligent and pleasant man in person. The whole Bill 44 controversy is exposing a side of him that's, well, not very edifying):

If [Bill 44 is] passed, parents will be able to pull their children from lessons on evolution, Stelmach confirmed.

Ah. Well, this is a problem. For you see, Bill 44 is not a mere tweak to the School Act. It is a piece of human rights legislation (more on this in a moment). Therefore, if you, as a teacher, bring up evolutionary biology to your class without having informed the parents, then you have violated the parents' human rights as much as if you'd fired them from their jobs because you didn't like their skin colour (significantly, exposing a child to ignorance by dragging him or her out of science class because of his or her parents' personal beliefs is not held to be a violation of the child's human rights...).

The government's reaction, when this problem was pointed out to them, was to haul out the world's teeniest band-aid and slap it over the offending section of the act. Classroom discussions that occur spontaneously, outside of the actual curriculum, were exempted from the bill. This, of course, will in no way prevent people from complaining about spontaneously-raised topics which are offensive to them, and thus putting the teachers through the hell of dealing with being accused of human rights violations. As for the rest of it, the government rather huffily denied that the parents' rights clause could ever possibly cause any trouble for teachers whatsoever:

"The intention of this bill was never to have undue fear, undue duress put upon any members of the teaching profession," [increasingly surly and petulant Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett] said Monday.

Mr. Blackett's statement is what we refer to as "a lie." The entire, deliberate, intended reason for enacting the "parents' rights" section of Bill 44 is to instill fear in teachers and to place them under duress. Bill 44's primary purpose is to write sexual orientation into Alberta's human rights legislation, the government having been ordered to do so by the Supreme Court. And so, having lost gays as a legal target for petty thuggery, the troglodytes of the religious right have been given teachers as a replacement. It is every bit as simple, and as shameful, as that. And you had better believe that said troglodytes are drooling with the anticipation of being allowed to make mischief against a group they have always viewed with contempt and fear:

Brian Rushfeldt, co-founder of the Calgary-based Canada Family Action Coalition, thinks the proposed human rights provision can be more widely interpreted.

“It’s up to the parent to make (the legislation) as broad or as narrow as they want,” said Rushfeldt, who welcomed the proposed changes.

And there you have it. At this point, anything that is taught in a classroom is fair game. Want to talk about the fellow whose skull is portrayed above? Well, that's evolution, which, as we have seen, counts as religion, so you'd better make sure that everybody's been told you're going to do it. A class unit on ancient Greece? You can be accused of teaching polytheism. You just know that somebody will use this bill to start beaking off about the contents of school libraries; after all, library time is part of the curriculum, is it not? And don't get me started about classtime spent on math! As we all know, math textbooks destroy values and cause drug use.

Anyway, it's not a good day for Alberta. And I'd feel better about it if I weren't fairly sure that our federal government approves deeply of all this.

Monday, May 25, 2009


It is indeed my birthday today, and I am thrilled to discover that I'm sharing it with this fellow, who's turning 30: