Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Am A Genius… Or Should Be Anyway

To some of you who know me the title of this blog will come as a surprise. I can hear the snickering now. For those of you who don't know me, I want to assure you that yes, in fact, I am a genius. Don't believe the snickerers (see, I can even make up words!). "How can he say that?" What makes him think he's a genius?" Well, I have a question for you – Why not? Have you ever taken the time to think about what is stored in your brain? The information about yourself, your memories, the ins and outs of your workplace and the day to day minutia that you have to remember just to make it through the week without falling off a bridge or something? Take a minute… I'll wait.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about the Top 10 Guilty Pleasure songs of the 1980s. I found it amazing that I not only remembered the tunes for these songs but also the words (all the words) to these songs. Think about that. All of the words and the tunes to 10 songs from twenty years ago, some of which I haven't heard since they were popular. Why do I remember this? Who knows. Especially, why do I know the words to 'Tarzan Boy' or, God help me, 'It's Raining Men'.

When will I ever need to know that the little dangling thing at the back of my mouth is called a uvula? For what reason will I ever have to know that the Templars were wiped out on October 13, 1307 (the origin of the belief that Friday the 13th is a bad luck day). Why? Why do I know this? I guess this information might help me when it comes to playing Trivial Pursuit or other such games, but usually I have no use for it day to day.

I can remember information about incidents and funny things that happen to people in order to tease and torment them at later dates. Those of you who know me, know this to be true. If only I could use my powers for good instead of evil. If I could only fill my brain with useful information like how to make clean water or energy, the potential is limitless. Sometimes I think that perhaps I could solve the world's problems if only I could remember the formula for making a baking powder volcano.

So you see, we're all geniuses – or we should be. All we have to do is learn to remember the information that is important. Too bad that's easier said than done.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here We Go Again

We got the good news this morning! After years of trying and waiting and praying and begging, it's happening again! The New York Yankees are going to the World Series! YaHoooo! This will be the Yankees' 40th appearance in the fall classic.

To be honest, I don't watch a lot of baseball anymore. What with all the scandals involving steroids and strikes and such, the shine has kind of come off the whole sport for me. I'm one of these people who prefers baseball for the pure enjoyment of the sport. The fact that one small error can affect the outcome of the game. One light tapper into the gap can win a championship. I love the crack of the bat against the ball. You don't even have to be watching the game to know when a home run is hit – it has a special sound all it's own. Those are some of the reasons I like baseball. If my favourite team wins, even better.

I know that some people out there are cursing and swearing about the Yankees trip to the World Series this year. Any year for that matter. That's fine, not everybody is a Yankees fan. But why rain on the parade of those of us who are? I'm not a Detroit or a Boston fan but I don't begrudge them their wins when they happen. Every time the Yankees win a spot in the American League Championship or in the World Series the same old whining begins. 'They bought the wins that got them there.' 'Why wouldn't they be there, they pay their players the most.' I even saw one post on a sports site this morning call them 'The best champions money can buy.' I hate to break it to you folks, but money doesn't always mean wins. Especially in professional sports.

It really rattles my chain when people talk like this. I agree, absolutely, that professional sports 'stars' are paid entirely too much. No one needs, or is worth, upwards of $15 or $20 million. Come on! You're playing a game for Pete's sake! But like I said, high salaries are no guarantee of wins. Let's look at the Yankees for a minute. Sure they have the highest payroll in baseball. Have had for years. They have won 26 World Series and have been American League champs at least twice as many times. But for all of their appearances in the championship series' why have they not won every time if payroll was everything? Why did they not win the World Series last year? Or the year before? Or the year before that? The same people who point out that the Yankees have the most money and spend it on good players to win ball games, conveniently forget that the Yankees have had long dry spells when they spent more time in the basement than on the top of the field. (Check out the stats for 1981 to 1996. Not much to brag about there.)

If money was everything, why don't all of the sports teams with the most money always win? Let's look at hockey. (Gasp! Don't badmouth hockey!) Of the 31 teams in the NHL, the top 15 teams have a payroll of $45 million or more. Of those top 15 teams, the worst team in hockey (not even the least paid) comes in at $46,445,180 – Toronto Maple Leafs. They, as of right now, have a record of 0 – 8. That's NO wins and 8 LOSSES! Sure you say but they don't have the highest payroll this year. Fine. Please step into my time machine. Oh! Watch your head! In the 2002 – 03 season The Leafs were among the top 6 teams in regards to payroll ($65,054,900). The team who won the Stanley cup that year was not. Why then, if money can buy championships, didn't one of the top paying teams win? Perhaps money isn't everything after all. Ever heard of the 'underdog'?

As in life, it's often the small things that trip us up. A dropped ball, a missed catch, an untied shoelace. Sometimes things happen that can be explained and some times things happen that defy our ability to accept them. Our mental game is often just as important, if not more so, as our physical skill. Perhaps the Yankees just have the right mix this year. Does money have anything to do with it? Sure. Is it the only reason they are in the world series? Nope. We won't know for another week who will win the series, but one thing is for sure -- I've got a long week ahead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The End Is Near

Well, there has been a lot of hype about the new disaster movie '2012' in recent weeks. Previews show a spectacular CGI special effects movie with some real people acting in the middle there somewhere. The whole premise of the movie centres around the idea that the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. That this is the predetermined end of the world. There have, of course been end of the world predictions for thousands of years. People thought that the turn of the first millennium was going to bring the end of the world. There have been predictions that the world would end in fire, or ice or that the rapture was going to occur. This doom and gloom continued into present day with the whole Y2K scare back in 2000, when all the computer systems in the world were supposed to shut down and end life as we know it. So these predictions about the end of the world are nothing new, it's just that the special effects are getting better.

I have to admit that there is a slight fascination with the disaster movie. Some people like to place themselves in the position of the hero of the movie. Kind of a 'better living through living vicariously through an action movie' thought process. Others are apparently just fascinated with the death and destruction involved. Maybe people like to be depressed, who knows. Just in the relatively few years that I've been alive, the world has ended (in the movies, not really) by asteroid collision, flooding, earthquake, alien invasion, giant monster attacks, disease, zombies, zombie virus, computer virus, regular war, nuclear war, global climate change and in the case of some of these movies, boredom as well. Every time a new calamity or public outcry about something happens, a new disaster movie involving that particular scenario arrives at the box office. I fully expect to see movies about N1H1, avian flu, the common cold and the scourge of male pattern baldness in the near future.

Every time I teach a history class, I have to go through the whole "Why do we have to study history?", "You study history because it's important," debate. You know, it's the whole "Unless you know your history you are doomed to repeat it" routine. It's important to know the how and why things happened in the past. The other thing that history teaches us is perspective. When a movie like '2012' comes out and the whole idea of the movie is that an ancient civilization predicted the exact day and year that the end of the world would occur, I have to think about what history teaches us happened to the Mayans. Here was a civilization that was very advanced, ruled their little corner of the world for hundreds and hundreds of years and (if you can overlook the whole sacrifice and barbarity thing) were probably the most advanced people in the western hemisphere. Things were going well for the Mayans until the arrival of the Spaniards and a little bug that caused small pox. Within a very few years they were gone.

My own theory on the whole 'Mayans predict the end of the world' debate is that the guy whose job it was to carve the calendar got up one morning and went to work. He carved for the day until he got to the date of December 21 2012 (the natural end of a calendar cycle in the Mayan tradition) and thought 'Here's a good spot to stop for today,' and went home for supper. The next morning he got up and wasn't feeling well so he stayed home to protect his co-workers from his cold and then he died. The calendar never got finished because his co-workers had the same problem and they all died too.

I have to smile at the whole end of the world thing because if it is going to end there's not much I can do to stop it. All I can do is wait and see what will happen. Hopefully the special effects will be good.




Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown

Well it is upon us again. That time of year when family and friends gather to eat huge amounts of food and give thanks for the birth of the Easter Bunny, who went on to grow up during the cold winter months and emerged from his burrow in time to deliver chocolate effigies of himself to us in the spring. Wait, what's that… I'm sorry, I've just been informed by my kids that what I just stated is not true and is not what Thanksgiving is about at all. Thanks for setting me straight guys. One thing is for sure though, it is the time of year when we all get together to eat great amounts of food and are able to do so without feeling guilty about it. (At least that's something for my brain to give thanks for at the very least, although my behind might disagree.)

I like the whole feast idea, whether it's Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving. The smells of the kitchen with baking pies and the turkey and the smells of the vegetables… MMMmmmm. Over the years it has become my responsibility to bake the pumpkin pie. In my head I have a memory of what pumpkin pie was like when I was small and I have been trying to reach that pinnacle for years. Each year I get closer to that ideal but I'm not there yet. What I have succeeded in doing is making a pie that is so good that even my kids, who usually try to find ways to get out of having to eat things that come from a garden, will willingly tuck into with no complaints and even ask for more.

I, of course, make my pie from scratch (for those of you with no baking/cooking experience that means no pre-mixed industrialized store bought items, except the flour, sugar, eggs… etc.). My kids don't even know that you can buy pumpkin pie filling at the grocery store. They just think that this is the way it's done. Most often I even grow my own pumpkins and then harvest them, cook them and freeze pre-measured quantities so that when the time comes to make a pie that part is done. Lots of work to be sure, but the finished product… WOW! (If I do say so myself.)

'Well let's have this fantastic recipe', I hear you say. 'What makes it so good?' Do you honestly think that I am going to give away at least ten years of toil and sweat so that you can make the same pie that I do? Not likely.

Anyway, whether you have pie this weekend or not, enjoy your time with family and friends, have some wine and some good food but above all – Give Thanks.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hit and Miss

Sometime I really have to wonder about the people we elect and the civil servants that are hired in this province. Their actions seem to be a combination of brilliant moves and semi-comatose fumbling. Every so often they come up with things like lower taxes for small business and the like that make all kinds of sense because most of our population is employed by small business. So the less taxes these business pay, the more they can pay their employees and then these employees have more money to spend on other things for the government to collect taxes on. But at other times it seems like these people have their heads stuck in some kind of hole. Take for example a few years ago. The provincial tourism department approved a series of ads which were supposed to (I would guess) draw more people into the province as tourists. These ads were so terrible that every time I saw them, they made me want to move somewhere else.

Then the provincial government decided to change our provincial slogan to the terribly ambiguous 'New Brunswick. Be… in this place.' Be what? What are we supposed to do with this? What is the point? I don't even want to know how much money we paid for this incredible piece of creative writing. What was wrong with 'New Brunswick. The Picture Province'. At least Picture Province provides us with the image that there is something in the province that we might want to remember. Perhaps the scenery is worth capturing for posterity at the very least.

Then last year the province decided that there was money to be made by producing and selling their own brand of beer. The reason for this brilliant decision was all of the money supposedly leaving the province to buy cheep beer in other places. Really? Is there really that many people travelling to other provinces to buy beer? If so they really have no concept of economics. Lets say that a case of beer is $14 here in N.B. and $10 in a neighbouring province. By the time you drive there, purchase the beer and drive home again (factoring in the time, gas and possible overnight costs) that $10 beer is more expensive than if you had just spent the $14 in the first place. (Maybe these people travelling to buy 'cheaper' beer are the ones coming up with the wonderful provincial slogans and tourism ads.)

It turns out that this new 'Select' beer is not selling as well as the people in charge thought it might. After the initial rush of people trying it out, sales dropped off significantly. Now, the provincial liquor corporation is going to try a bundling promotion (to test their new computer inventory software. Sure!) in which if you buy a case of this 'Select' beer you get a 200ml bottle of whisky as well. Wow! Fantastic! Not only do we get a lower priced (and to my palette, a lower quality beer), now we get a lower quality whiskey to go with it. (You don't really think they are going to give away the good stuff do you?)

For some reason, my bride and I have, in our book collection, a copy of the Bartenders Guide to Making and Mixing Drinks. How we got this and where it came from is now a mystery lost to the ages. In this book there is a recipe for a drink called a boilermaker. Basically you pour a glass of beer and then pour a shot glass of whiskey. Take the full shot glass and gently drop it into the glass of beer. Enjoy!

Perhaps the new slogan for the province should more correctly read 'New Brunswick. Boilermakers in this place'.