Monday, 29 April 2013

This is a Blog Post

I had grand illusions of using this space to let everyone know how busy I am.  The truth is, that while I may have had a fairly busy week, the real reason that I am unable to produce a longer post is that my normal blogging time, the quiet of the early morning before the guys I care for have risen for the day, will be used for more important things.  Later today, we are doing our annual refresher course for Therapuetic Crisis Intervention.  It is required learning, and in the case of emergency at work, is beneficial to keeping myself and the guys safe.  I am lucky in that the guys I work with are general calm and jovial characters, and I have little reason to use any of the training.  That doesn't mean it's not worth knowing.  Having peace of mind is a nice thing for mind, body and soul.  I thought I would provide a quick update on the week that was, provided my time doesn't run out.

Last weekend, just over a week ago, I struck a deal with one of my competitors to "chop" our hockey pool.  Those of you who are poker players will know the term, but the "chop" is a splitting of the prize money reducing the gap between the finishing positions and reducing the variance involved.  We had 10 entrants at $100 each, and then 6 of the guys put in an extra $50 for a winner takes all side pot.  Both Cam and I were in the side pot and had run away from the other 8 teams.  We had 9 days left in the season, and I had closed the gap from 30 points to 8 points in the 2 weeks preceeding.  First place with the side pot included was scheduled to get $1000, and second was set to get $225.  I offered to make a deal, and within a couple of days, I recieved a response.  $600 for him, $500 for me, and we play it out for the last $125.  After doing some quick math, I decided to take the offer.  I then proceeded to close the gap to 3 points with a few days left, but never did get any closer.  I took second, and the $500.  All in all, a good result after getting dead last in the same pool last season.  My best picks?  They were Patrik Elias late, Jakub Voracek when everyone giggled, and Matt Moulson.

Having locked up a bit of cash in the hockey pool, I decided it was time to get back to the poker tables.  I made a few visits to the Treasure Cove this past week, and while mostly uneventful, I came out in the black.  10 days ago, on Friday after work I stopped in to play.  I visited with a friend while I waited for a spot to open up.  When I got in to play it was a quiet game, but I immeadiately started catching cards.  While most of my good luck was being wasted due to a lack of action it was a very encouraging sign to at least be hitting.  My luck had been so sour that anything positive was welcomed.  As we sleepily played a limp and call type of game, I found a big hand.  I played Queens for a raise in early position and got just one caller.  I flopped a set, with an ace on the board.  I got the call.  When a second club turned and I led out again, I was promptly re-raised.  I shoved for the rest of my stack (~$250) and managed to win when his A6 of clubs didn't hit.  I booked a solid win that night, which had me itching to return.  I played a few more times this past week, and while I broke even overall, I felt like I was playing really well.  My game gets rusty due to inactivity, but I also don't have a ton of time to play when I am juggling everything that life throws at me.  I have a couple more weeks to play, then soccer season starts which will cut into my free time quite significantly.

Speaking of soccer, I went and picked up the gear and schedules for Jasmine's team this past Saturday.  The season is set to begin in less than two weeks, and I'm getting excited.  I'm coaching with the same partner I had last year, and I really enjoyed hanging out with Steve.  We both had the same goal, to help our girls and the rest of the team have a lot of fun.  I think we were pretty successful last season, the girls all seemed to enjoy themselves, and we also won almost every game.  Most of the wins came due to hard work and effort, as the girls grinded out plenty of close games.  As I looked over the new team for this year, aside from Steve's daughter, I recognized only one other name.  I'm looking at this as a chance to get to know some different kids and see what I can do to help them along their soccer paths.  Enjoy the game, improve your skills while you are at it, and see where it takes us.  I'm anticipating the challenge greatly.

I'm still contemplating what I am going to do for summer sports myself.  I feel like I should play soccer, despite my annoyance over the escalating fees.  I have had a number of recent discussions with people asking me if I am going to play.  I bumped into a teammate from 2 years ago at the youth soccer office, and he asked me if I was going to play.  I ran into an old Quesnel acquaintance and found myself encouraging him to get back into soccer (he was damn good 20 years ago when we were kids).  I got together with my hockey pool buddies, and had a couple of them talking about playing.  The recreational league doesn't conflict with Jasmine's soccer so that excuse is out the window.  Just do it, right?

The hockey pool buddies only get together for one reason, and it was with that in mind that we met up last night.  I had to collect my cash from the regular season pool, then turned around and handed part of the money back over for the playoff pool.  Only 8 entries this time, we lost 3 guys and added 1.  I didn't prepare properly, and the end result was a team I don't care for.  Channeling all the powers of Nostradumbass I've expertly decided that Boston will meet and defeat Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final.  This will happen after they beat Pittsburgh and Vancouver respectively in the Conference Finals.  With that in mind, I tried to stick to those teams for my players.  The problem being that Boston is quite a low scoring team that spreads their offense around.  I didn't get my hands on the top Chicago guys, and the Pittsburgh guys went very quickly.  This left me with Vancouver and all their talented snipers.  Of course, I didn't get them, I got the second line guys.  If these boys win, we can all be shocked together.  I have Dave Krejci, Marian Hossa, Henrik Sedin, Patrice Bergeron, PK Subban, Tyler Seguin, TJ Oshie, Alex Burrows, Brendan Gallagher, and Jannik Hansen.  To make life more interesting, I took a bet that says Vancouver beats San Jose in the first round.  Yes, I hate the Canucks.  And yes, I will be stuck cheering for them to some extent as I have 3 of their players, and a sizeable bet to see them win in the first round.  Go me!

I think it's fair to say that I'm addicted to this exercise thing.  I know, I talk endlessly about it, but it's now reached a whole new level.  If I have an unproductive day, I feel off.  Having a solid cardio or weight lifting session makes me feel better for the rest of the day.  It frees my mind, and gives me a sense of accomplishment.  I managed to nicely fill my week with exercise, and I am pretty damn proud of myself.  I totalled 10 km running, 16 km biking, 9 km walking, 4 sessions with the weights, 2 hours of yard work, 2 trips to the swimming pool and as my Dad pointed out, spent plenty of time chasing a 2 year old.  I time my runs, and this week I managed a 5km run in 23:40, my second run in driving rain and gusting wind clocked in at 26:01.  I would be more then happy if I could run at that pace over the full 10 km next month when I race, but I am shooting for the more realistic goal of 5 minutes per kilometer.  I know there is a different feel on race day, adrenaline, other runners to keep pace with and so on, so I am going to set a realistic goal and look to out pace it.  I like they way the training is going so far.

I'm currently in the middle of two books. I usually like to read one at a time, but circumstances led me to having two on the go.  I will politely describe my friend as a non-reader, someone who only picks up reading material when he needs to drop the kids off at the pool.  When I visited him recently in Quesnel, I was chatting his wife up about reading and the books we have been enjoying.  Next thing I knew and my buddy was chiming in with a strong recommendation to read "Crazy Man's Creek" by Jack Boudreau.  My friend is an outdoorsman, loving all things that involve getting out in nature.  Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, tree sapping (is that the right term?), and mining are all interests of his.  He told me he likes to read about thing that are "real", not made up stories, and he especially likes to read about the local area.  He passed along his copy of the book, and the other day I dove in.  It's a fun read, and I can relate to the idea that local stories add some interest as well.  Most of the stories centre on the early half of the 20th century and the initial settling of the Prince George area.  Thanks Richie for the solid recommendation!  I'm also reaching the climax of another book on the Modern Library list, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers.  It's really good so far, another work from the Southern gothic genre, with a focus on black struggles against racism and opression.  It really focusses on the nature of humanity, and the power of listening to one another.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Last but not least, I found time to enjoy a few movies the past couple of weeks.  I got to the theatre 10 days ago with the guys to enjoy "42".  I loved it, and I think most everyone will enjoy it.  Baseball is the background for a great human rights story.  Harrison Ford pulls off an awesome performance as Branch Rickey the man who decided to take it upon himself to break the colour barrier in baseball.  If it wasn't for him, Jackie Robinson never would have got his shot.  At home, Sheila and I caught "The Adams Family", which neither of us had seen.  Meh.  Really, it was okay, but the unique concept could have been done better.  I got a kick out of seeing Christina Ricci again, as she was and still is one of my favorite actresses.  When I saw her in "Casper" as a pimply youth of 12, I fell in love.  Later, she cemented my crush with a steamy performance in "Buffalo 66" when I was 15.  I was smitten, what can I say?  I don't care for her looks much now, but nothing will take away that teenage attraction.  I also watched "UHF" starring Weird Al this week.  It was odd and quirky as you might expect, but it wasn't bad.  It was made 24 years ago and led to Weird Al getting zero other movie roles, so maybe it wasn't well recieved amongst those who matter in the movie industry.  All in all, I enjoyed it.  I also watched "The Foot Fist Way" starring Danny McBride this week.  Made on a whopping $78,000 budget, McBride is the 1st, 2nd and 3rd star.  Playing the lovable loser who runs a kung fu training facility, he is convinced that he is a really big deal.  No one else thinks so, and hilarity ensues.  I already liked McBride from his work in a "Pineapple Express", "Hot Rod", "Tropic Thunder", "Your Highness" and this just makes him even cooler.  Definitely, its worth a watch.

I have saved the most important bit for last, as my younger sister is set to celebrate a birthday tomorrow.  Erin turns 28 tomorrow, and as the world turns we just can't stop getting older.  I remember the days clearly in my mind when I would torment her endlessly.  Despite the hell I put her through my sister become an amazingly accomplished woman.  She holds a B.A. from McGill, a Masters from U.B.C. and she is currently keeping busy running a Compassion Club with her boyfriend in Montreal.  I am very proud of her, and often enjoy bragging about the things she has accomplished.  Happy Birthday Erin!  I hope you enjoy your day, and find some time to relax and celebrate.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Music For A Reason UPDATED: Now With a Working List

I don't know when the change happened, it's likely that there wasn't a date or time specifically.  But over the last number of years an evolution has taken place in the kinds of music that enjoy.  Truth be told, I have branched out, a lot.  I'm actually having a laugh and smile as I think about it, but as recently as a couple of years ago, I was still hanging on to my teenage ideas of what I thought was "good music".  I was a rap fan, and I still am.  I've just allowed other genres to reach my ears, and I am very glad that I did.  It's not that rap music sucks or isn't any good.  It's a genre like any other, there is good and there is bad.  The commercialized generic stuff I was told to like by media and advertising, I just went ahead and "liked".

Now, it has been about 17 years since I first started enjoying rap music.  Sadly, as I look back my choices were made for all of the wrong reasons.  See, I was a scrawny, little guy who had a ridiculous number of things for bullies to key on, from said tiny, short build, to my parents both being teachers, to my old sister being not only adopted but handicapped as well.  I had a small number of friends, and part of this is my personality.  I like an uncluttered life, and at the same time I am a bit outspoken, both things that lend themselves to keeping a small circle of friends.  As memory serves, I chose rap music as a way of "being cool" but because I was young and dumb, this just led to more teasing.  I am about as un hiphop as one can get.  I grew up in a middle class neighbourhood in a small city almost completely devoid of any African American people.  We had one black family in the city of 15,000, and a few other black kids who had been adopted by white families.  My parents listened to country music, and eventually my Dad gravitated towards the easy listening genre.  Today, I can't think of anything my Dad enjoys other then bagpipe music in all its splendor.  He has taken up the bagpipes, which is damn cool, but it's pretty far from urban.  I digress, but my point is, I had absolutely no reason to enjoy rap music, other then it being what the other guys on the volleyball team were listening to.  Now, don't take this as me denouncing the genre.  That's not my intention.  I have always enjoyed the beats and hooks more then the lyrical content.

I find a lot of similarities between rap music, and one of my new loves, electronica.  When stripped down, both rely on catchy, different hooks that get you into the song.  While rap lyrics are often hate-filled, spat out in an angry tone, the same hook with the generally upbeat positive style associated with electronica lyrics can pick up ones mood, something that most people can relate to.  I am eventually trying to get to a point here, and that is that while music can be many things, for me as I near the age of 30, it shouldn't be based on what other people think, and it isn't anymore.  It truly is a liberating feeling to know this, be aware of it, and embrace it.  I still listen to the rap genre, more specifically hip hop.  It's a slower style rap that I am often into, and when one looks at it, hip hop's slow delivery style has a lot of similarities to folk music.  I like a good story, be it a novel, a movie, a folk song or a hip hop song.  Capture my attention, and I will return that interest.  I find that I now listen to music for a reason.  My love of exercise has been well documented in this space, and I never workout without music playing loudly either on my computer speakers, or on my ipod touch.  Different genres serve the motivational purpose, but my tastes often differ with my mood.  When I want to relax, I gravitate towards folk, or my new interest, country.  I like a good R & B album, if I am in a reflective mood.  Heart rate raising music could be electronica, standard pop music, or my reliable rap music.  Rock albums get played too, but I am having a hard time pinning down what mood they best serve.  It really depends.  My music collection is huge, it really is big.  I know everyone says that, but between my numerous computers and hard drives, I probably have upwards of ~5,000 albums.  Not all are good, but through my meticulous research and sampling I have found some absolute gems that I never would have heard otherwise.  God bless the internet, bit torrent, mininova, pirate bay, metacritic, and most of all, my favorite website currently, wikipedia.  I've decided that I will provide a few videos below, giving my current favorite artists in each genre that I can think of.  This won't be forced, rather it will demonstrate my wide variety of tastes.  Perhaps I can help you find something new to listen to.

After compiling the list below I have a few observations.

-Yes, I have listened to the albums from every one of these artists.  These are my current favorites in each genre, not necessarily my favorites ever.  I have listened to all of these album at least once in the last month.

-I can hardly believe it myself, but currently my favorite album is by The Steeldrivers "Hammer Down".  I had not listened to any bluegrass whatsoever until 2012.  To round out my top 5, Hot Chip "The Warning", fat boy slim "The Greatest Hits", Corb Lund & the Hurtin' Albertans "Cabin Fever", and fun. "Some Nights".  That is 1 electronica album, 1 country, 1 pop, 1 house and 1 bluegrass album.  Perfect.

-Some of these albums are current, some most definitely are not.  I often will get stuck on an album for years, not even realizing that the artists has released new material since.  On occasion I can't find the new stuff, but usually I just don't realize it has been released.  Over the last number of months I have been more diligent about keeping up with new releases. 

-I love to try new genres that I haven't explored previously.  One of the albums on the list below is India.Arie's "Testimony Volume 2: Love and Politics" that she released in 2009.  I have been listening to it fairly regularly since then.  I haven't found many other artists in her soul genre that I have liked, but for whatever reason her album never gets old. 

-This list has a small amount of Canadian content.  For my international readers, the Canadians are as follows: Neil Young, Corb Lund, Dan Mangan, Tegan and Sara, Yukon Blonde, and Big Wreck's lead singer Ian Thornley.  Don't be afraid to give them a go, as a nation we aren't half bad at this music thing.

- In less than 3 weeks Sheila and I are going to see Corb Lund in concert.  I am very excited, as it has been a few years since my last concert.  My love for music has really grown in the last year, so my concert quota will likely rise.  Money is an issue, one that held me back from grabbing tickets to this week's Motley Crue concert with Big Wreck opening.  I have had some strong feelings of regret in the last few days over deciding to skip it, and am considering buying last minute tickets.  The choice comes down to replacing my worn out bicycle, or attending the concert with Sheila.  I'll let you know how that turns out.

-When the idea to compile this list came to me, I figured it would take some work.  Well, it most definitely did.  I had a lot of fun with it though, and a couple of tough calls in genres which resulted in two videos being posted. 

These are my current favorites in each genre, from A to Z.

Alternative  My Bloody Valentine

Americana  Neil Young and Crazyhorse

Bluegrass - The Steeldrivers

Blues - Ry Cooder

Country - Corb Lund & the Hurtin' Albertans

Dancehall - Elephant Man

Dubstep - Skrillex

Electronica - (a) Hot Chip (b) Pepe Deluxe

Folk - (a) Laura Marling (b) Jeff Bridges

Gypsy - Hawk and a Hacksaw

Hip Hop - (a) Rizzle Kicks (b) Kendrick Lamar

House - Fat Boy Slim

Indie Folk - Dan Mangan

Indie Rock - (a) Tegan and Sara (b) Yukon Blonde

Metal - Motley Crue

Pop - fun.

Punk - Propagandhi

Rap - (a) Hopsin and SwizZz (b) Glasses Malone

Rap Rock - Hollywood Undead

Reggae - Matisyahu

R & B - Frank Ocean

Rock - Big Wreck

Ska - Cas Haley

Soul - India.Arie

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Sea of Orange is Growing in Prince George!

I'd like to think that this blog has been fairly devoid of political rhetoric and partisanship.  I have written a small handful of editorial type pieces where I have made my views known.  For the most part, this space is reserved for bragging about how great my kids are, or spouting off about the last movie, book or television show that I enjoyed.  I did at one point last year write a piece about my support of legalizing marijuana here.  Earlier this year, I blasted the B.C. Liberals for their handling of the Wood Innovation Centre contract and bid process, here.  But, aside from those posts, I have kept it reasonably neutral.  I imagine those on any side of the political spectrum have a fondness for bragging about the exploits of their children.  People of all stripes and colors play hockey, soccer, and enjoy running.  These are topics that have little to do with what political party you support.  I take some pride in being able to support a party but at the same time keep an open mind to other points of view.  I really don't believe I could blindly support every last action by one particular party.  I am my own man, and I do reserve the right to think freely.  That said, the provincial election here in British Columbia is but a month away, and I have been busy preparing. 

On Saturday I stopped in at the elections B.C. office and after applying last month online, I was asked to work on election day as a Information Officer.  I thought it would be a relaxing way to make a little extra money, and a welcome short detour from my usual employment.  I then carried on to the other side of the Fraser River and stopped in at the National Democratic Party (NDP) office.  Alright, enough with the suspense.  I inquired about volunteering, then proudly asked if I could get a sign.  "Which candidate are you supporting?"  I proudly responded:

"This guy

is voting for


This is me, warning all of my international readers that this space will likely contain more political content then normal as our Province heads towards election day.  No apology offered, it is what it is.  Hopefully I don't lose all of the spam hits from Russia, Germany and elsewhere over this decision to go "boring" as I have heard politics called on a number of occasions.  It interests me, and really, isn't what this blog is all about?  

Sunday, 14 April 2013

My Week In Pictures

I'm in a really weird place this morning.  On one hand, I am really beginning to feel like a real blogger.  Having now posted more then 60 times since the start of 2012, and managing to post at least weekly since 2013 began I now regularly begin to think of ideas to write about as my free mornings approach.  Sunday and Monday are usually my writing days because I have significant time to myself in the morning on those days.  Today, while I am excited to share a few stories about what my family and I have been up to, I don't feel an overwhelming desire to actually type out the content.  In fact, I am not sure there is much to type up, and that is why I've decided to do something a little different.  I'm going to share some pictures and provide some commentary with each one.  Let's see how this goes.

The other night, the guys pictured above played their last game of the season.  That's my brother Ian on the left, and me on the right.  We had a decent season really.  We moved up to a tougher division, and while the scoring and puck possession time was down, it felt like we were solid contributors to our team.  The team was able to have a solid season, winning as often as we lost.  The season was capped off by beating one of the better teams (we finished 5th out of 8 for the regular season) and qualifying for the semi-finals against the best team.  The game started poorly for us and never did get any better.  We ended up losing 6-1.  That's that.

As I have already covered to the point of annoyance in this space, I have gotten myself pretty wound up about running this spring.  It's something I seem to do almost every year, but this year I am taking it to another level.  I have never had myself in this kind of shape, and I want to take advantage of it.  I'm signed up for a 10 KM (6.2 miles for my American readers) running race exactly 7 weeks from today.  While I'm not flush with cash I decided the benefits of having a new pair of running shoes made a purchase necessary.  After researching extensively, I settled on the Saucony Kinvara, and to save a few bucks I went with last years model.  I bought them Tuesday and put them to use that night.  I ran in a driving rain but all I could think about was the comfort my feet were enjoying.  No knee pain, no shin splints, no pain at all.  They seem to be designed in a way that gets me away from a heavy heel strike towards a more ball of the foot focus.  More stride feels more springy and I really like it.  It was week 1 of the 8 week program I am doing to get ready for the race.  I ran a 3 mile run Tuesday, then a faster paced 2.5 mile run on Thursday and I am already feeling the love for my new shoes.

Nearly 50 years before she met George W. Bush and recieved the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to American Literature, the woman pictured above wrote an engaging, thought provoking novel.  Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a great read that I finally got around to completing.  It is funny how that works.  I didn't realize how badly I wanted to read it until a friend by chance offered me a copy.  As soon I finished the book I was reading at the time I jumped into Harper Lee's work.  She put together an amazing book, focussed on what seems to be my favorite novel subject, black rights, segregation in the United States and what that entails.  The main character and narrator of the novel Scout Finch is on the best characters I've come across in a novel.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I always feel the need to get to know the author of the work I am reading.  Being that she was one of Truman Capote's best friends, and I have enjoyed everything he wrote I figured I might enjoy Harper Lee's work.  Harper Lee had this classic published in 1961 at the age of 35.  She is now 86 and in deteriorating health.  In the 51 years since her novel was published, she wrote nothing but a handful of short papers.  When asked why she never wrote again she said: "Two reasons: one, I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again."  What a great woman.

I don't watch a lot of golf these days.  In my teens I was an avid golfer, and for $200 a season I got an entire summer's worth of fun out of my course membership.  I always enjoyed playing more than watching, but there is a handful of tournaments that I still make a point of watching, namely the Major tournaments, specifically the Masters.  I've been relatively busy this weekend, but I will be watching golf this morning while I work.  While there are a number of guys in contention to win, my favourite story of the tournament is the golfer above.  Yes, the boy in the yellow shirt who could pass for 10 or 11 is playing the Masters golf tournament.  He is actually 14, which makes him the youngest person ever to compete at the Masters, the second youngest golfer ever to play a Major.  Amazingly, he didn't just show up, but was competitive.  He managed to overcome harassment from rules officials about his slow pace of play, even absorbing a one stroke penalty for it, to qualify for weekend play.  Dozens of other golfers were sent home after the second round including numerous former champions of the event and other major tournaments.  I was excited at 14 to golf a round of 85 on an easy local course.  An intriguing story that will have me watching today.

Sheila and I settled in and enjoyed a couple of movies this week.  I am always on the lookout for comedy movies as it seems we have seen a lot of them, and there is a limited number of good ones produced every year.  My research has been focused on older movies, often ones that were before our time.  The movie we watched Wednesday wasn't old, but it was one I had not heard of.  "Black Dynamite" was the result of incredible creative vision from Michael Jai White.  He wrote the movie after being inspired by blaxploitation films that rose to prominence in the 1970s.  He plays the title character himself, and incorporates his martial arts background into the role.  As a begin my rambling, gushing diatribe about this flick, I will put this out there, I flat out loved this movie.  Creativity oozes from every scene, Black Dynamite comes off as a bad ass hip hop Robin Hood type with witty lines and funny slap stick scenarios thrown in.  Black Dynamite's brother gets killed, and he spends the movie trying to avenge his death.  At the same time, I works to rid his hood of a new drug that has taken hold of the youth.  While he is so slick that he manages to both avenge his brother and take back his neighbourhood at the same time, I found myself laughing a number of times at the subtle understatedness of the whole premise.  Watch this film, find it any way you can, and sit back and enjoy.  You are welcome.

It took us a couple nights due to extreme fatigue Thursday on my part, but Sheila and I also enjoyed this classic Steve Martin film.  The Jerk was blatant in its use of stereotypes, the storyline is that Steve Martin's character, after being raised by a black family in the deep south goes out into the world not realizing that he is in fact white.  Hilarity insues as his ignorance and naivety get him into all sorts of scrapes.  My favorite may have been his attempt to halt a group of criminals who come to his gas station to fill up.  He attempts to apprehend them, but in the end he tears a church in half.  While not as awesome as Black Dynamite, Sheila and I both still enjoyed this one.

I really left this one for last because I wanted to appear modest.  Consider the above content, movies, running shoes, sports, and books as filler to get to this one.  You see these two above?  Asher Felix, now 27 months old, and Jasmine Rose just a week past her 10th birthday are darn cool.  This photo was taken by their Auntie Larissa, and I quite like it.  She watched them for a couple hours a few weeks ago, and Asher managed to get all sorts of treats and snacks out of her.  As you can see, he doesn't have just one sucker, but a whole bag of them.  Jasmine absolutely loves her little brother.  She looks out for him, and spends a lot of time entertaining him.  I appreciate how patient she is while giving her time to him.  It's hard not to love the little guy.  In general she is a great girl, who is quickly growing into a young woman as scary as that is for Dad. 

This week, Jasmine did a number of things that made me proud to call her my daughter.  On Tuesday, after coming home from school, we had decided to go for a walk.  Asher in his stroller, and me ready to go, she came running out of the house with garbage bags in hand.  We have taken a number of walks since the weather as started to warm, and during these walks we have discussed the litter problem in our neighbourhood.  Jasmine had mentioned a few times that she would like to pick up garbage so that we could enjoy our walks without seeing so much trash.  Also, she wanted to protect the animals around from getting sick or choking to death on the various things people had tossed on the ground.  She started with gusto, and as my pride swelled I joined in.  Before long, we were filling our bags, finding bottles and cans to help her get rich, and having a great time.  I was already getting emotional about how cool it was that she had taken this initiative, but when Asher started joining in it was almost too much.  He was riding along in his stroller, stopping constantly so I could grab trash.  He started to help out by spotting litter and calling out to us so we wouldn't miss it.  "Wawa!!!!  Look at dis!  Right dere!!" Pointing and smiling the whole time.  We filled out bags twice, then tossed them in a dumpster at the daycare around the way from our house.  Jasmine made plans to finish the rest of our walking loop next time.  "We need bigger bags Dad!"  I couldn't have been more proud.

Jasmine is nearing the end of grade 4 and lately has been faced with a grim reality of getting older.  Homework.  She has had occasional assignments to complete at home, but lately she has had to tackle school work more regularly at home.  Her teacher retired shortly after Christmas and she has a newer teacher, who assigns more work to do at home.  I like it.  It's going to help build a work ethic for school that Jasmine doesn't currently have.  She enjoys school, and she does reasonably well.  It seems to come relatively easy to her, but she doesn't handle adversity very well.  Anything tough leads to her giving up and getting frustrated.  Well, she got a doozy of an assignment on Wednesday.  She started on the 3 assigned pages of math work with her mom, but Sheila admittedly isn't very good at the subject.  I took over, and soon realized that Jasmine was struggling in large part because she seemed to have no knowledge whatsoever of the material.  I enquired about this, and we concluded that her teacher had gone over the material, but she had paid little attention.  While battling frustration, both of us worked for nearly 3 hours.  Staying up well past her bedtime, Jasmine struggled.  I explained the same concept to her dozens of times.  We would complete a question, move on to the next one that was in the exact same format as the previous one.  I would have to explain it to her again, as if she had never seen anything like it before.  She managed to complete 2 of the 3 assigned pages before nearly falling asleep with the books on her lap.  Jasmine got a good nights sleep, and while she was willing to go to school without finishing the third page, I encouraged her to open the books back up at 730.  She breezed through the last page in 15 minutes without help.  I double checked the answers, and gave her a big hug.  Proud Dad again!

While I drone on about my amazing girl, I must conclude with another big one.  Jasmine has also registered for the YMCA race on June 2nd and she is busy getting ready.  Her race is called "The Healthy Kids Marathon".  The idea is that she will complete 41 km of exercise, either walking or running before June 2nd.  On that day, all the kids registered will run 3 laps of the track at Masich Place to complete their marathon.  At my urging, Jasmine has embraced the idea.  In the first 2 weeks she has recorded 9 km of walking distance, not including a few shorter walks to and from school.  On Thursday, after some coercing from me, we set out for our first jog.  I mapped out a 2 km route for us, wanting to see what she was capable of.  We started out, I gave her a few pointers on running style and pacing and things were going well.  A number of times I was able to motivate her to keep going, as thoughts of quitting creeped up on her.  She did stop for a brief few seconds once, but started up again.  She was a little annoyed with me for getting her to finish and tiring her out so much.  Within hours she was bragging to her mom about it, and was happy with what she had accomplished.  We plan to jog together more often as we prepare for June 2nd.  Asher found it hilarious to have Jasmine jogging beside him, he enjoys his runs with me, but it seemed to be even more fun to have his sister along.  As proud as I am now, I can't wait to watch her run the race with all the other kids.  Hopefully, the future runs are a little easier on her and we can chat and visit while we get our exercise.

I could continue on about how great Jasmine is but I am going to call it her.  If she happens to read this her head will swell, but I don't want to risk permanent damage.  Sheila and Jasmine are off to the Mariannas Trench concert tonight, and both of them are at home bouncing up and down with anticipation.  A fitting way to end a great week for Jas, full of accomplishments that had her Dad beaming with pride.  I hope everyone has a great week!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Monday Morning!

It's a quiet morning at work, as they typically are.  Unless there is something pressing, my first hour and a half at work consists of me staying awake, waiting for an appropriate time to get the guys up and out of bed and ready to face the day.  I plan to make sausage and eggs this morning and I can already taste the sausages.  Despite my feeling pretty shitty this morning, I can't help but smile.  I just turned on my favorite album in the world right now, a killer bluegrass group called "The Steeldrivers" and am hard at work tinkering with my 3 fantasy baseball teams.  I feel like writing or typing or whatever, and this is the place I choose to do so.  Read away if it pleases you.

Yesterday was a blast.  I play hockey for fun and most importantly, the exercise.  Moving up to the "C" division this year has meant that every time I strap on the pads and play, I get to play hard.  No sandbagging it against weak opponents, there aren't any.  Even the teams that rarely won played hard and had strong players that you had to work your ass off to contain.  We are into the playoffs now, and as it worked out, our 3rd game yesterday was a must win game.  To ensure that we made it, we had to rack up as many goals as we could.  See, the team we were playing had been beat up badly by the other two teams, and to make it in, we needed to outdo their totals.  The game was in the late afternoon, which meant Sheila, Jasmine and Asher were set to come watch.  Uncle Ian came over before the game to give Jasmine her Birthday gift, then I rode with him and Larissa to the game.  The rink we played at is quite cozy, with the family and friends sitting right behind the players benches.  Asher loves this because he can wave and say hi repeatedly throughout the game.  We had a great turnout, probably 50 supporters altogther, lots of kids, spouses, buddies, grandparents and we rode that momentum well.  Ian and I are back playing together, with Rod joining us on our line.  While we aren't flashy, my brother plays a great defensive game, and I feel compelled to keep up with him.  We mucked a puck loose in the corner, I shovelled it to Ian who in turn found Rod in front.  He scored to open the scoring 1-0, and the floodgates opened.  10-2 was the score and the game was out of reach but that didn't stop Ian.  He dove in front of a shot from the other team, the puck bouncing off his shin pads and out of the zone.  This ellicited a huge roar from our bench and the crowd.  Ian is one of the only guys in rec hockey willing to slide in front of a blistering slapshot, and he gets a lot of love from his teammates for it.  After the game ended, we had to wait and see how the other game went before we knew if we were in the next round or not.

A bunch of us gathered for a beer in the parking lot, then came back in the rink to watch the game.  If one team won, we were in for sure.  If the other team won by a certain number of goals, we would also move on.  As we watch and cheer on the one team, he game ends up unfolding the wrong way.  The other team wins.  Adding to the drama, we are all guessing at what the scores were from the other games, no one can check because as it turns out, cell service is very spotty in the rink, we are on the outskirts of town and the rink is a dead spot.  The dressing rooms had service, outside of the rink had service, but no one bothered to go outside and check the website.  We just guessed, and then filed out of the rink disappointed.  When we got outside and looked, we realized that the score might have been favourable.  There was a math equation involving the goals scored for and against and after tinkering around on my phone I was able to tell the remaining couple of guys that yes, we had indeed made it in.  This means we get to play at least one more game, likely against the best team in the league Blades of Steel.  It's great to play for fun, but its even better when the games mean something.  We've beaten these guys before and played them close a few other times.  Who knows?  Maybe we have enough to get it done.

As hockey season winds down, I am getting excited for what the summer months will bring as far as recreation and fun.  I've signed on for my 7th season coaching Jasmine's soccer team.  It's hard to believe that she has been playing that long.  She celebrated her 10th birthday this past weekend and Friday night we capped the night by playing a game of soccer in the basement.  Jasmine played very well with the mini soccer ball, I was showing her how to use to her body to shield the ball and she was catching on.  We were tied, one goal needed and the winner was taking down the half eaten easter bunny as a trophy.  I had a chance to score and instead of pouting as she is want to do, she violently threw herself into her own net to try to prevent the goal.  Unfortunately, Jasmine's back crashed into the heap of Asher's toys that were piled up behind the net and she ended up injured.  After comforting her and helping her get an ice pack for her back, I was gushing about how hard she had worked, and what it meant for the season ahead.  Jasmine is built for sports.  She did quite well with soccer last year despite not always working her hardest.  If I can help her realize how good she can be, we might see a really great player develop.  I won't overdo it, I will use encouragement and enjoyment as a key, not pushing her to the point that she resents me. 

I had a few significant breakthroughs last year with other girls.  One of the defenders loved to hear praise and she seemed to get better with every compliment.  I continued to pile on the positive reinforcement, and by the end of the season I was convinced she was the best defender in the division.  I had been saying it to her for most of the season, and it's funny how a naturally shy girl takes that praise.  Before the season started she was completely oblivious to her talents, but when I began to point it out to her, it resulted in her working even harder.  I also had a girl on the team last year who worked harder then any other kid in sports that I have witnessed.  She had a game where we ended up tying the other team 3-3.  We were up against a great team, and most our players were struggling just to touch the ball.  This girl was the only one who had could dribble with any confidence.  Ultimately, we only had 3 shots on goal all game, and she put all 3 in the back of the net.  I still think about the third goal she scored, a lob over the goalies head from near midfield.  I lost my mind cheering on the sidelines, it just wasn't something I was expecting to see a 10 year old girl do.  It looked like a happy accident it was so good, but she reassured me afterwards it was planned.  I really do have a blast helping the kids get better at soccer, and last year was satisfying because I could see how much fun each and every one of the girls was having with it.  I'm looking forward to doing it again.

The other thing on my mind is the YMCA Road Race set for Sunday June 2nd.  The charge for the race fees has gone through on my credit card, I'm officially registered to run the 10 km distance that day.  I guess that means there is no turning back, right?  I spent time yesterday researching different types of running shoes.  I narrowed my choices down to a handful of different makes and models, keeping it reasonably affordable, and I will likely go pick up a pair tommorow when I have time.  I typed "preparing to run 10 km" into my google search bar, and after reading a few different pages I found one that seemed like it would work.  I settled on the advanced beginner approach.  I know I can run that distance, but I want to properly work my way up to it, so that I can run to achieve a decent time, not just run to say I did it.  As it turns out, nearly every program I looked at called for an 8 week build up to race day.  I checked the calendar and coincidently, I will be starting the work this week as I am 8 weeks from race day as of yesterday.  Preparing properly is serious business.  With just two rest days each week, the plan calls for moderate paced run on Tuesday, cross training exercise on Wednesday, a faster but shorter race pace run on Thursday, then a longer run on Saturday.  A slower paced recovery style run ends the week on Sunday.  I spent time last night on last night, a great site that you can use to map out different running routes.  It lets you know the distance, elevation changes and whatnot.  The plan I chose calls for a variety of different lengths of runs, so I was busy mapping out various routes.  My normal run is a 3km route, and when I was feeling ambitious last summer I would do a 4.5 km loop.  Neither of those runs are long enough for even the first week of my preparation.  I didn't sign up for this because it was going to be a proverbial walk in the park.  I'm getting excited about the challenge, and I look forward to bragging incessantly upon completion.  Get ready to hear about the race repeatedly over the next few months, :).

I have another busy week planned, and with the added excitement of a couple more hockey games I am really looking forward to it.  Lots of running, hockey, weight lifting, fantasy baseballing, swimming, maybe another bowling trip, perhaps a hike with the kids if the weather cooperates should keep us busy as a family.  I'm really enjoying my reading as I have plowed through most of "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.  If I can stay still long enough, I also want to watch "Django Unchained" with Sheila.  I caught it in theatre and was amazed.  I absolutely loved it.  Christoph Waltz puts on a performance for the ages.  I watched the first 20 minutes again last night, and it just has me itching to watch the whole thing again.  Maybe tonight?

Until next time, here is to a great day!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Jasmine is 10!

It's been a busy week at the Prosk/Theriault house.  Jasmine had been counting down to Friday all week because April 5th was the day she was to celebrate a full decade of being alive.  When I came home from work that night, Sheila and Jasmine were hard at work preparing the house for the sleepover party that was set for Saturday night.  The party theme was Hawaiian and the house had been transformed.  There were hula hoops ready for party games, there was a couple of pineapples set to be used as decorative appetizer holders (see photo below), and the cake was being put together.  Above, Jasmine and I decided to get goofy while we posed with the hula girl cake that Sheila created.

Unfortunately, or perhaps Jasmine was thinking otherwise, I was at work last night for the first half of the sleepover, and I am back at work this morning.  Jasmine and 4 friends have been having a blast from all accounts.  Jasmine's little brother Asher has also been partying, but he bowed out at 8 last night, long before any of the girls even thought about sleeping.  Jasmine's auntie Paulette also spent the day hanging out yesterday, though her enthusiasm for the loud music and excited screaming may not have been there.

Jasmine had a pretty good idea that she was going to get a concert ticket for her birthday, and she waited until her friends were with her to open the card from Sheila and I.  She found her ticket to the Mariannas Trench concert for next week, and Sheila told me she literally ran out of the house screaming to make sure all of the neighbours knew about her score.  I had given Sheila a ticket to the same concert for her birthday, and had kept teasing Jasmine about it leading up to her birthday.  She has never been to a concert (she doesn't count the Doodlebops anymore) so I am sure her and Sheila will have a blast next Sunday.  Jasmine also got a new bike helmet from her mom and dad, and her Grandma got her a couple of much needed new outfits.  Her friends loaded her up with toys that will get lots of use.

Sheila celebrated Jasmine's birthday by posting a few old photos of her as a baby and toddler.  I have been part of Jasmine's life for nearly 8 years now, but I missed out on her baby stage.  It's pretty hard to believe she was a baby only 8 years ago, when she is now over 5 feet tall.  Dear old Dad was tearing up when I saw these last night.

The last photo was likely taken right around the time I met Sheila and Jasmine.  That goofy grin has always brought me happiness, and she still uses it today. 

We kept busy this week, Wednesday being particularly action packed.  Asher had Strong Start in the morning, his mom joining him there for a bit as she worked later then usual.  Asher and I picked up Jasmine at 130 and went to the Swimming Pool as we usually do.  Fun was had, then we threw our bathing suits in the truck and walked a few blocks to the bowling alley.  As Asher walked into the building, he loudly exclaimed "Wow!!" which brought laughs from the only 2 people in the place, the staff.  We got set up, Asher wearing the smallest shoes they had, and the wooden ramp brought over to our lane.  I bowled for a couple of years when I was 12, and I still enjoy it.  Playing the Canadian version with the small balls and the 5 pins, Jasmine and I had a lot of fun watching Asher play for the first time.  He would pick up the ball, then Jas or I would pick him up so he could place it on the ramp.  He excitedly crashed the ball down, then stood leaning on the ramp as he watched the ball head towards it's destination.  Waiting until the pins had fallen he would then announce: "I did it!" clapping as he shouted.  Interestingly, Asher scored exactly 100 on his first trip to the bowling alley.

Jasmine is not usually competitive, but she seems to get very wrapped up in her score and how well she is doing when she bowls.  When she plays soccer or basketball she rarely worries about winning or losing, often needing to be redirected so she at least has some focus on the game.  At the bowling alley, maybe it's because your score is prominently displayed for all to see that gets her worked up.  It's too bad because I quite enjoy the game, and I'm sure Asher would love to go back.  We'll try again soon, and perhaps Jasmine will continue to improve her game, and her mood while she plays.

All in all, a great week and I enjoyed spending lots of time with Jasmine, Asher and Sheila.  I'm beaming with pride this morning as I took this little look at the lady my little girl is becoming.  I hope you enjoyed taking this look with me.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sick Call: A Poker Tale

I am going to allow myself to believe that my readers, yes all of you, are wondering what has been going on with my poker hobby.  Hi Mom!  Hi Sheila! And a big shout out to all of Russian, German and Japanese readers!  As I have documented in this space poker isn't just a hobby for me, I do need to derive some income from the endeavor as well.  So far, 2013 has been a complete bust, and I have found my zest for playing to be at an all time low.  I haven't had this little desire to play since before I discovered the game some 7 years ago.  My desire to play has been hampered in some part by my poor results in January moving into February.  I have also had little time to play with hockey taking up considerable free time, Oilers games and my own games, as well as hours and upon hours of research for fantasy baseball.  We have been visiting with mom and dad a number of times over Spring Break and the Easter holiday, and that has been very nice and quite refreshing.  With poker as with many things, play less, win less because you aren't at your best.  I really do feel like I need to be playing regularly in order to be alert and aware about what's going on around me.  You need these small advantages in order to put yourself in the best position to win.  When it comes right down to it, coupled with this "rusty" feeling, my luck has stunk and it hasn't helped.  Sometimes, you just can't overcome the cards. 

The year has been a wash for the most part, as I am sitting at about 5 bucks an hour income over 60 hours.  That's actually a decent number of hours played, but more then half of those came in January.  I started out great, and was scorching hot two weeks into the year, but then  promptly fell off a cliff.  I think that makes my struggles feel magnified, as I tumbled from the great start to one of my longer losing streaks.  Three weeks ago I did play a solid session, making a few decent plays, running into a gross cooler but not letting it derail my session, in general I walked away quite happy with my play.  I returned the next night, and although I played well again, the results played out a little differently and I gave most of the previous night's profit.  I know that part of the reason behind my poker decline is a change in priorities.  I don't eat, sleep and breathe poker anymore like I have at times.  Hockey has been a distraction.  Having fun with the kids instead of finding time to play cards is a choice I will make every time.  Lot's of my free time after the kids are in bed is spent exercising, or reading, or watching a movie with Sheila.  I don't itch to play at every free moment.  I need to find a balance though, where I am still devoting enough time to play a good game and be profitable.  Cutting back on my fantasy baseball commitments will be tough with 3 different teams to manage, but some of that time could be spent studying my large poker literature collection.  The other problem is I have been busy reading important works in literary history, and haven't had the desire to read hand examples or advice on tells from senior citizens.  I am currently plunging into "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, a book I felt I should read as it so significant in American literature.  Harper Lee was also one of Truman Capote's best friends, who I may or may not have stated here is my favourite writer ever, and I figured she must have written a great book if it grabbed his attention.  A friend tossed me a copy the other week, and I jumped at the chance to give it a read. 

Just by the above paragraph where I was supposed to be discussing poker but got distracting discussing everything but poker you can see that my poker focus has been suffering.  The poor results have led to me questioning my game and consequently contemplating my place in the local scene.  Am I good enough to hang with the small group of regulars that play way more then I do.  When my mind is rarely on poker when I am away from the table I fall further behind.  The other thing that is weighing on my mind was just how great 2012 was for me and my poker.  I can't expect the same again, not without dedicating myself to it.  I'm not really shooting for more of the same, but am looking to work harder to reach my modest goals for the year.  500 bucks a month.  Not ridiculous, is it?  When playing 20-25 hours a month its actually a pretty lofty goal.  One I plan to get back to chasing tonight when I sit down and play for the first time since last Thursday.  With that, I am going to leave you with a hand I played last Thursday, one that is a highlight of my 2013 poker year.

Sitting in early position, at this point I have ~$180, down ~$140 on the night.  I had been picking up very few hands and playing careful.  The game hadn't been too aggressive and had devolved into a lot of limping.  I hadn't been raising much either as I had been hitting very few flops and was being played back at constantly.  I look down at A3 of hearts and tossed 2 white chips in.  Another limp behind me, then one of the regular players, a younger guy with  ~$250 in front of him made it $12 to go.  He is quite aggressive and was in late position.  A call from both blinds and the early position limper, and I decide to call as well.  Some of this is out of frustration, I'll be honest.  I was getting tired of tossing away my 2 bucks every hand, and ultimately compounded my mistake by throwing another 10 bucks in with it.  The flop comes down 853 with 2 clubs.  Checks to me, I visibly considered a bet then checked, something I use on occasion to dissuade a continuation bet.  If the original raiser had gone ahead and continued, I would have had a very tough time putting him on a hand.  He checked behind.  The turn was a 10 of clubs, putting a flush on board.  When the 3 checks came to me, I decided to act on my interest from the flop.  A hand that would often think about betting the flop was indeed the flush draw so playing on the fact that I may have made my flush, I bet $25 into the pot of $55.  I got a call from the original raiser and everyone else cleared out. 

The river is an offsuit 6.  Sure, this could have given him a straight if he had raised pre flop with 79.  He could have made a straight with a 42 as well, but that's playing with too much fear if I am going to give him those holdings.  I don't want to lead out, because he will either call with a better hand or even worse, raise me off with a weaker hand.  I go ahead and check.  He bets fairly quickly verbally announcing $40 as he slides the bet in.  I almost made the snap call, as my read was specific.  He had played this like a couple of Broadway cards with one club.  No continuation bet because he didn't like the number of opponents.  On the turn he just flat called, not the move of a man protecting a hand that was made but vulnerable.  A thought when screaming through my mind though, I have been struggling at the felt.  I was already down on the session, but I would be down if I folded or if I called and was wrong.  $40 is nothing to sneeze at though, I work nearly half a shift to make that at my job.  I slid in my call, and heard some of my favorite words in poker, "well, you must have me then."  The chatter at the table didn't die down until I said, "okay, I have a three."  As the guys and gals at the table checked the board to see a ten, an eight, a six and a five ahead of the lowly three they grew quiet.  A couple guys murmured "nice call" type of comments.  I got to enjoy a period of time with a few people still bewildered.  "How did you know?"  Flush on board, straight on board, four over cards.   "You must have had some kind of tell on him, only way you can call."  I recovered most of the $140 I was down at the time, and went on to book a small profit.  These are the moments I most enjoy, when the game goes well beyond the realm of the casual player and I can take advantage of things I have learned over the years. 

That's my time, time to get going with my day.  I'm playing cards later, but first my son and I are off for a run after a workout.  Later, we will pick up Jasmine and maybe go to the park that she has been bugging me about, though it is still half buried in the snow.  I hope everyone has a great day!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Things You Might Care About or What I'm Up To

As the sun shines outside the window and a couple of birds chirp merrily in the trees in the yard I can't help but smile.  It's the first day of April and aside from a joke early this morning delivered by my co-worker, I haven't fallen victim to April Fools pranks.  I have fallen head over heels for the great weather that Mother Nature provided to the residents of Prince George over the past week.  As a life long resident of the great white north, where the winter season lasts closer to 5 months than the 3 months it is alotted on the calendar, it sure feels awesome when the weather finally turns.  People here have been walking, running, biking and otherwise soaking up sunshine like bears coming out of hibernation.  After gushing about my grand plans for exercise in one of my recent posts, I was no exception.  This morning, while the weather is quite nice again, I am in the mood to write.  I don't have a particular topic in mind, so let's meander our way through this one.

After gushing in the opening paragraph about the weather, I better have some evidence that I took advantage of it, right?  The kids returned home from Grandma and Grandpa's house on Monday afternoon, and the next day we spent time outside in the yard.  Asher and Jasmine played in the still ample piles of snow while I worked hard to chop away at the thick ice build up on the driveway.  In the afternoon we went for a nice long walk, a chance for Jasmine and I to discuss littering and the environment.  She told me she was going to talk to her Principal at school about putting a garbage can in the middle of the field.  According to her, the school field is always the worst for garbage, quite sad when you consider that it's kids doing all the littering.  I ended up having a really solid week exercise-wise.  I played hockey last Monday, our last regular season game.  Tuesday I went walking with the kids, Wednesday I jogged for the second time this spring, then took the kids swimming in the afternoon.  I managed to make it out for my second jog of the week on Saturday as well.  In between, I spent a total of 2 hours this week chopping away at the ice in my driveway and the driveway at work.  What I am most proud of was that I managed to get 6 workouts completed in 7 days.  Riding high on the back of all this exercise I went down to the YMCA on Thursday and signed Jasmine and I up for the road race on June 2nd.  I decided to go for it, and I jotted myself down for the 10 kilometer race.  Have I run that far in the last 4 years?  No.  Have I ran that for more than once in a my life?  Again, no.  Do I believe I can do it?  Yes, I do.  I have 2 months, but I will need discipline to keep myself in good shape, and I will need to build up my endurance so that running 10 km will not kill me come race day.  I will be sure to keep this space updated with progress reports.

As the weather warms and my mind turns to summer sports, that also means an end must come to the hockey season.  While the NHL season feels like it has just started, the local PG beer league has wrapped up its regular season.  Ian and I joined a new team this year, moving to the "C" division from the "D" division.  We joined a team that won 2 of 40 games last year.  We are part of a group of new players who joined about 8 holdovers from the year before.  While Ian and I struggled offensively this year after being in the top 5 in scoring last year in the "D" division, I still had a lot of fun.  Obviously, every game I played was a challenge.  Our team being one of the weaker ones had no easy games.  We had to work ridiculously hard for everything we got.  As the season went on I managed to find some offense, finishing with 9 goals and 7 assists in 24 games.  Best of all, our team is peaking at the right time.  We had a nice win streak around Christmas, then lost a few, before finishing with a solid run the last 2 months.  Our record ended up being 15-15-8 with 3 shootout wins.  That put us in 5th place in the 8 team division.  This week the playoffs start, and we find ourselves in a 4 team pool.  We need to be top 2 after this week to make the semifinals and I believe we can do it.  The 2nd, 3rd and 7th place teams are in our group and we have played two of those teams tough all season.  The 2nd place team has tied us 4 times out of the 5 meetings, so you can say we are evenly matched.  Should be a fun week with 3 games in 5 nights, including a Sunday afternoon game that my family can come to.  Also with hockey, the Oilers are shaping up quite nicely and find themselves playing meaningful games late in the season.  Some of this owes itself to the short schedule, but the Oilers are also playing decently.  A Saturday night drubbing of the hated Canucks put them one game over .500 and only a point out of the playoffs.  A game against the Flames tonight will keep me busy. 

As the calendar turns to April the Major League Baseball season starts anew.  While I enjoy watching my adopted favorite team Toronto in recent years have begun to get more heavily involved in fantasy baseball.  This year I have 3 teams to manage, which leads me to cheering for 80 or so different players.  Rarely is there a game where I don't have at least some rooting interest.  It makes the baseball season a lot of fun, and even when there isn't any games on the box, you can still have fun sweating the box scores on the computer.  I try to have guys on my teams that I like, it makes cheering for them even more fun.  I also split one of the teams with a buddy, giving us lots to yammer on about.  It's fun to taunt the other guys in the league or try to rip them off in a trade.  All in all, I have been looking forward to the season for weeks, and as of last night, it has finally arrived.

This past week I had the opportunity to watch 2 movies, both of which I enjoyed immensely.  During the week Sheila and I watched "Ghost World"  a quirky comedy released in 2001.  I had never heard of it until recently, and only happened upon it while scrounging for comedy flicks that neither of us had seen.  Starring Thora Birch I didn't know and a young Scarlett Johansson, there are many funny bits that stem from the most part from Burch's character's bitter cynicism.  Steve Buscemi also appears as the lonely middle aged guy that they meet along the way.  Produced on a modest $7 million budget, and directed by Terry Zwigoff, who's only other known film is "Bad Santa" (also good) Sheila and I both thought it was really good.  Different and good, my favorite kind of movie. 

On Friday night, my friend and I saw "The Croods" after having it recommended by Jasmine.  I had been looking forward the movie anyway, but Jasmine was raving about it and of course rubbing it in after she saw it with her Grandpa and her Auntie and I had yet to see it.  While the movie started I fought off sleep, nearly dozing a few times.  It's never a good idea to go to the theatre when exhausted, but when it's for work what choice do I have?  Pardon me for my lame attempt at making it seem difficult to attend a movie while working.  I forced myself to stay conscious and as the movie picked up steam, I am glad I did.  Clever as usual when it comes to Dreamworks films, I ended up getting caught up the feel good storyline involving the rock-headed dad and his blossoming young girl.  The movie was paced well, as the sprinkled in the heart warming bits with some very funny stuff from the grandma and the brother.  When the brainy love interest of the daughter tells them that the thing inside their heads is called "a brain" the brother tells his dad that he "thinks he's missing one of those."  My eyes welled up a little when the daughter told her dad, in response to his overprotective ways "Dad, that's not living.  That's just not dying."  I really enjoyed the balance this movie struck between family message delivery and humour.  Go and see it if you haven't.

After slogging through it for nearly a month, I finally finished reading "Native Son" by Richard Wright this morning.  Over 400 pages long I found at times that I couldn't get any momentum going with my reading as the subject matter was heavy.  Set in the 1930s, in a segregated Chicago, the novel examined racial issues through a unique direction.  A young, criminal black man commits murder of a rich white girl who had attempted to befriend him after her father hired him as a chauffeur.  The novel then covers his run from the law extensively, followed by his capture and subsequent public trial.  The book climaxes with a length monologue from the boy's lawyer that covers the reasons why the murder happened, and the significant role society had played.  I'm still digesting exactly what to make of the novel, and perhaps I will be back later this week with a longer review.  It's a work that I am glad I read as it holds great significance in literary history. 

I've lost my zest for writing today, and it's now time for my Oilers to take on the Flames.  I hpe everyone has a great week, that's my time.