Saturday, May 26, 2007

If We Could Really Capture a Moment

Well, tomorrow I have to hop on a train again and ride back north to Toronto.

The purpose of this trip is “knowledge transfer”. I am to transfer a portion of my knowledge to those taking over our contract in November.

I am to perform this knowledge transfer without the use of tin head covers strung together with curly wire and electric flashes bolting the knowledge from my brain to theirs.

Instead – I am simply to tell them. And they are to remember what I said. Maybe they will take some notes, write some stuff down - depending on the quality of knowledge I provide.

Kind of simple, don’t you think?

But it does bring to mind the device I hope to invent in my mad scientist laboratory one day.

If you’re a sports fan, you will appreciate this.

Imagine if you could put a cap on somebody that would capture all aspects of their brain – like Tivo-ing a live sports event.

Everything that person experienced would be captured in this recording.

Then you can take that recording and give it to another person. They put on their cap, hit the “play” button, and play back everything the first person experienced.

Imagine if you had this recording cap on Hank Aaron when he broke the Babe’s home run record. We have all seen the tape of when he did it. But imagine if you could actually see it through his eyes, feel the adrenalin pump through his veins and his heart beating as his hands felt the bat make solid contact and the ball fly’s over the fence, and the explosion of emotion that erupted in that moment of realization.

Imagine.

Imagine Tiger woods watching that magic chip shot that rolled down the slope and on the last rotation hang before falling in the cup in the 2005 Masters.

I know that I would pay most anything to play a round of golf like Tiger, even if it wasn’t me playing. Just to know what it feels like would be incredible.

Or imagine recording your own emotion as saw your newborn child for the first time. You could play it back like a home movie.

It would truly be remembering. Although some may argue that the memory is sweeter than when it happened.

Imagine how diplomats could use such a device to establish a common ground. “Oh, now I understand how you really feel about that”. Of course the political ambitions and the lies they inspire would also be captured.

And think of the way that the education institutions would be changed. A lecture from inside of Steven Hawking s mind. The greatest experts knowledge would simply be copied into your brain.

But of course, like all new technologies, there are darker ways this would be used:

Governments would use the device to find out their enemies secrets.

Military Intelligence would use the device to uncover enemy plans.

Of course, pornographers would use the device too. I am not so naive to not realize this would be the devices first immediate use. I believe this is how VHS actually beat out Beta.

But the sickest would be from those who would create “snuff” experiences. Killing themselves or someone else while wearing the device and capturing the experience.

But imagine what man could learn from such a device. Imagine how our collective intelligence would skyrocket. Imagine how our social barriers would tumble. Imagine how our ability to agree would be increased.

Imagine. Or would it better for some inventions to not be invented?

If only we were smart enough – disciplined enough to know what truly is best.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Hoe-Down with the Cardinals in Mo-Town

In Canada, we are celebrating what we call the “May two-four weekend”.


While the two-four does reflect the Bob and Doug McKenzie Canadian Philosophy of beer drinking here in the Great White North (beer is most commonly sold in boxes of 24 best known as two-fours), in fact this is the Victoria Day weekend to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday.


What is the best part of the May 2-4 weekend? Getting Monday off.


It’s also my cousin Ellyn’s birthday.


This year Darlene and I spent the Sunday at the Tigers game. They were playing the St. Louis Cardinals – in the third and final game of the 3 game inter-league series rematch of the 2006 World Series.


Last fall of course, the Cards beat our boys 4 games to 1. It didn’t make sense at the time, and it does not make sense today. Last year during inter-league play, the Tigers swept those Cardinals. They did it again this year.


Did I give away the ending? I don’t think so.


Going to a Tigers game for us means crossing the border by either the bridge over or tunnel under the Detroit River. No big deal, we do this all the time. Darlene does it every day.


The game starts at 1:05 PM. We drop the girls off at Grandma’s by 11:15AM. And we are in line at the tunnel at 11:30 AM.


Understand that if the border did not exist, we would be 5 minutes away from Comerica Park.


We chose the tunnel because the tunnel goes right down town and comes out underneath the Renaissance Center – the keystone of the Detroit City skyline from the Windsor side.


The Ambassador Bridge – even though we live at the Canadian end of it, forces you to use the Michigan expressways – which are mostly closed for repairs and various projects during the summer. Not a fun Sunday adventure.


But what we forgot was that the Red Wings were to play the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the all important game 5 of the Western playoff finals. That game started at 3:00 PM at “The Joe” (Joe Louis Arena).

And in Hart Square, they were having a hoe-down.


No, really. A hoe down. In downtown Detroit. Mo-Town.

No, I don’t think it was a play on the word “Hoe” either. For the first time in my memory, the downtown plaza was packed with Stetsons and cowboy boots. Shucks.

Anyway – we got in line at the tunnel at 11:30. At 1:30 PM, we cleared customs in Detroit. It took us an hour and a half to make a 5 minute journey. Most of which we could not even listen to the radio while in the tunnel.


Luckily when we emerged, we found out our boys had taken a 1 – 0 lead.


Yee-haw.


We found great parking for a sold-out game – two blocks away for only 10 bucks.


Yee-haw.


We entered Comerica park through the center field gates. There you will find a row of bronze statues for all the Tiger greats: Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, and Willie Horton. There are spaces for more. Spaces for guys named “Pudge”, “Kenny”, and perhaps if he decides to stay around – Gary.


Darlene had just met Willie Horton a couple of weeks before. She was really struck by the tremendous bronze tribute to this younger vision of him.


After acquiring two beers and four hotdogs – we headed to hunt down our seats.

Section 114, row 45, seats 22 and 23.


We found section 114. But it only had 43 rows? We found a park “usher?” who escorted us to the other side of section 114.


“We didn’t think you were coming” he said as he moved his newspaper and lunch for us.


Row 45 was the very back corner of section 114. Since this section wrapped around part of the pavilion, there were only two seats for Row 45. Seats 22 and 23.

The good news is that we wont have to get up every time somebody on our row wants out” I said to Dar. But the bad news was you couldn’t see the field for the steady stream of people passing by.


Yee – haw? Nah.


Gary Sheffield, for the first time this year, played right field. Maglio Ordonez instead was the DH. Sheff was brilliant out there. He made three great sliding plays, and one basket catch. Mags had an RBI.


You know, I might could live with Mags DHing.


Justin Verlander was the starting pitcher and lasted 8 good innings.


Yee- Haw.


In the end, The Tiger’s won, sweeping the Cards. What the heck happened last October?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

repost - The First Lost Tooth

I have received a lot of requests to re-post one of my own favourite posts. The First Lost Tooth was originally posted November 3, 2007.

Since then, many more loose teeth have been lost - a couple while eating pizza.


My eldest daughter Alannah lost her first tooth yesterday.

"Daddy, look at what I got!" she said with a big gapped tooth grin. There was a space where a bottom front tooth had been, and my pretty little girl now resembled a jack-o-lantern.

Luckily school pictures were taken the previous Thursday, while she still had a full head of teeth.

She went to bed and like every other little kid, she put the tooth under her pillow. The next morning she was excited because she had found a note under her pillow – and all the writing was in gold.

And attached was a $5.00 bill.

C’mon, it was her first one.

The note read:

Dear Alannah,

Congratulations on losing your very first tooth. You certainly are growing up to be a big girl.

All my love,
The Tooth Fairy.

When I wrote the note before going to bed the night before, I had a couple of drafts that I had fun with:

Dear Alannah,

I have taken possession of the tooth I found beneath your pillow. I am assuming on good faith that the tooth is indeed your own.

I have attached $5.00 CDN. The going rate for lost tooth pick-up is 75¢. Please provide a colour photo of both before and after you lost said tooth. Also please leave my change of $4.25 under your pillow.

I look forward to doing future business with you.

The Tooth Fairy

And

To Whom it may concern,

I was unable to process your dental claim as you are currently an unidentified recipient. Please fill out recipient claim form 34872-1B, unless you are the eldest sibling, in which case you are required to fill out form 32987-B Long.

Please take special care in section 128-C as these calculations can be difficult but are essential to my successful processing of this and all subsequent claims.

Sincerely,

The Tooth Fairy
Dental Removal Service Request Adjudicator and Processor
Fabled Service Provider Division
Email: tooth.fairy@heritagefolktales.gov

But of course, I didn’t send those.

As she unfolded the note she could not read – she was amazed that it was written in gold ink. This added a level of authenticity. But later in the morning as we were getting ready for school, she asked me "Daddy, did you write this note and sneak it under my pillow when you came home?"

"uh .. no? Why?"

"Because it looks your printing."

"well, … it’s not. Ok?"

"Ok daddy".

Fridays are show-and-tell days in Alannah’s class. She was going to take the note from the Tooth Fairy. As we were walking up to the school yard, she realized she left it at home. I offered to go back and get it for her.

Alannah turned and smiled, "That’s ok, Daddy, I can show them this instead".

I think that gapped tooth smile was the prettiest one I ever saw.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mothers Day Special - A Quick Comparison of Baseball and Golf

It’s Mothers Day again.

What an interesting time to compare golf and baseball.

“Why on Mothers Day?”

Baseball and golf are my Mom’s favorite pastimes.

Mom lives in Pensacola, Florida - on the twelfth green of a once proud course. Since we moved to Atlanta in 1975, she and my Dad became great Atlanta Braves fans. It is common for my Mom to spend a morning golfing, and an evening watching her beloved Braves on TV.

So Mom, here is my take on comparing golf and baseball, I hope you enjoy it.

Both baseball and golf involve hitting a ball with a stick

In golf, one person plays against himself, while in a field of other players trying to get the lowest score.

In baseball, one player tries to get the ball past nine other players, in an attempt to get the highest score for his team.

Baseball is the only game (aside from Cricket) where the defense has the ball.

Golf is the only game (aside from bowling) where there is no defense, nor any means to defend against the offense of the opposition.

In stroke-play golf, a player plays against only himself, Trying to better their score from their last. The only true opponent – besides the very course they are playing – is themselves. It truly is a game of inner struggles where a majority of the skill is indeed between their ears.

In baseball, one man is competing against nine others. The defense hold the ball and throws it with great force at the offending player or batter. The batter is trying to hit the ball into play to reach base. Once on base the runner is trying to steal the next base. The manager focuses on putting runners in motion and managing the batters – signaling their every move. The opposing manager is trying to place his fielders in the optimum position to field the ball, and make the maximum number of outs for their efforts in the process. Baseball is truly a game played with living chess peices.

Gentlemenly and not-so-gentlemanly

Golf is and always has been a gentleman’s game. Honor, truthfulness, integrity are some of the characteristics that golf aspires to instill in its participants.

Baseball started off as a game played by the uncultured, a waste of time that resulted in betting and game fixing by organized crime, with team owners ruling their teams like dictator tyrants.

In both golf, and baseball, the legend of the birth of both games are questionable

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland is regarded to be the birthplace of golf – led by the first known golfer, “old Tom”. St. Andrews still exists in much the same condition as when the game was first played. But this may be a myth as truly golf was invented by a person trying to hit a stone into a gopher hole in as few tries as possible.

Legend is that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. He wisely determined the ultimate distance between each base was to be 90 feet (or 30 yards). The field closed into a single point at home plate – and extended into infinity as the baselines down 1st and 3rd stretch to the horizon. However Abner Doubleday was actually a Civil War hero of that time period, and while his popularity was at its highest – was accredited with inventing a game he likely never even saw played before being killed in that same war.

The immediate perception of players of both baseball and golf are misleading

In golf, honor and integrity are imperative. Every swing must be counted, every rule must be followed, and every penalty incurred must be paid. The player assumes full responsibility for his actions while affording his opponents every coutesy. Ball marks must be fixed, sand traps raked when finished, and respect on the greens is mandatory. A player learns to “play the ball where it lies”, and to move on quickly from past mistakes or misfortunes – Great Life Lessons!

In baseball, every advantage one can gain on their opponent is taken – every blob of spit or dirt or scratch into the ball a pitcher can use to make the ball fly past the batter is used. Every sign an opponent can read from second base as the catcher sends them to the pitcher is relayed to the batter. Sliding into second with spikes high in the air to keep the fielder from also throwing the batter out at first. You are encouraged to yell at your opponent to distract him to misplay. A player learns to take every opportunity to create an advantage over your opponent – stretching the rules until you get caught.

It seems pretty obvious

Golf is synomonous with character and integrity, while baseball is synomonous with lying, cheating, bullying and stealing, right?

But let’s look closer.

For the last 100 years professional baseball players have worn similar uniforms, caught with leather stitched gloves, hit with wooden bats, and used balls covered in leather, stitched over tightly wound twine over a hard Indian rubber core. This equipment has improved over the years but not in any truly significant manner.

Golf was originally played with clubs made of forged steel, attached to hickory shafts. The woods were called woods because they were made of wood. The ball was originally made of a leather stitching as well. But the equipment has evolved as much as the aerospace industry has been inventive. Graphite and Titanium and surylyn. Woods made out of metals, and irons made out of graphite. The “Mashie Niblick is no more”.

Not including safety equipment, baseball equipment has stayed pretty true to its history (steroid use and corked bats excluded! – remember baseball is played by thugs!)

Golf on the other hand has not. Golf is played by people who want to better their game. When their skills are optimized, and their game is still poor, then the equipment must make up the difference. The woods and balls of today add far greater accuracy / distance than those of the 1920s. The irons are more forgiving. (Remember, golf is played by lawyers!)

Tennis is the same way. The heads of tennis rackets became bigger to be more forgiving in accuracy and strung to create more ball speed. Compare the aluminum racket that Jimmy Conners used to that of the racket used today by Roger Federer and the difference is as clear as the clubs used by Bobby Jones compared to those used by Tiger Woods.

My conclusion

Baseball is a game played by men confused with thugs – for a true ball player will work on their skills rather than buy equipment that makes the game easier.

Golf is a game played by gentlemen who may replace practice with more sophisticated equipment to increase their skill level.

But by and by, both are arguably the most beautiful games that god has ever inspired man to create.

and every man has ... a Mom.


Happy Mothers Day!

Monday, May 07, 2007

A True Tigers Autograph

When I was a boy, the Detroit Tigers were a very important part of my childhood.

Wherever we drove, Tiger baseball was on the radio, Ernie Harwell calling the play by play. There was no need for color commentators back then, because the announcers were talented enough to keep you interested in the game.

As you would drive out of Detroit on I-94 heading for Jackson, there was a Mobile Oil refinery that had one of its containers painted to be a baseball with the “Go Tigers” cheer painted on it.

When we would come home to Windsor to visit my Grandfather – Papa – we would often find him sitting in front of the radio – listening to the game – with every finger and toe crossed as the Tigers tried to comeback to win or close out a game.

It was magic to hear the game through the tiny speakers of the day – with the buzzes and whistles of AM radio. You could paint the whole game in your brain.

I still remember vividly sitting in old Tiger stadium with my Dad and Papa – eating hot dogs and watching my heros – Al Kaline and Willie Horton, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan and Mickey Lolich.

They won the World Series in 1968. I was 6 years old.
The next year, Neal Armstrong walked on the moon.

It has been amazing since I have been back in Windsor these last 6 years, how some of those memories come flooding back. It has been amazing also how Darlene and I have made new memories at Comerica Park – the successor to Tiger Stadium.

We still listen to the games on AM Radio. Dan Dickerson and Jim Price are almost as special to me now as Ernie was way back then.

“Maglio Ordonez – touch them all!” as the Tigers finished off the A’s with a walk-off home run to advance to the 2006 World Series.

But the other day, the most miraculous Tigers event occurred. Willie Horton signed my daughters T-ball baseball card.

While talking with my wife, she said as any proud mother would do: “Let me show you my little baseball player” and retrieved Alannah’s baseball card from her desk. He admired the card, and her stats on the back. He liked that her favorite team was the Tigers and chuckled that Brandon Inge (it really says “Brian” by mistake on the card) is her favorite player.

And then he signed it.

When Darlene showed me the card that night, I literally held it up to the sky to show my Dad, and Papa. “Look guys! Look who signed Alannah’s baseball card!”

A little bird should be by soon to get a peek for them.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Calm Day On A Stormy Sea

As I 've recently mentioned, my wife and I have stopped smoking. Yes, we both feel much better for doing so.

Well, sort of.

My mind feels clearer, and things taste better. I don’t stink of tobacco.

But I still find myself out of breath when running around with my daughters. And I still cough.

And my nerves are shot. Shot right to hell.

It's a stressful time right now. With our house closing approaching and a 13 year project closing down, my nerves would be frazzled anyway.

As the air traffic controller from the "Airplane" movie would say: "I picked a lousy time to quit smoking!"

Today though, is much different. Today, my nerves are not frazzled. Today I find life quite … mellow.

"How could this be, Fred? You have been so high strung lately?" you might ask.

Well, I made a mistake this morning.

This morning I woke up with a typical spring allergies sinus headache. And I thought since my allergens were not helping, instead I would take a Sudafed capsule.

So at 5:30am I got up from a not so well rested sleep, went into the kitchen, and poured a cup of coffee. I reached up in the medicine cupboard and found what I thought was a Sudafed, put it in my mouth, and took a sip of coffee. Then I and my coffee sauntered back into the bedroom where I sat up and watched the morning sport scores station.

A muffled voice arose from the pile of pillows next to me. "What were you doing in the kitchen?" asked my still sleeping registered nurse of a wife.

"Getting a coffee. Want one?"

"Nah … what were you doing in the medicine cupboard?"

"Getting a Sudafed"

"Huh .. I thought we were out of those", the clinical side starting to wake up in her.

"Well, I found one" I replied.

"What did it look like?"

Now I am starting to get agitated with the questioning. "2 part capsule, red on one side, pink on the other part."

"Uh … H E LL OOO" – said my wife in that tone that means she is about to prove to me that I am an idiot and I should not even try to deny it.

"That was not a Sudafed!"

"No? What was it."

"It was a Resteril."

"A what-er-il?"

"Resteril" she repeated. "You just took 15 mg of a potent sleeping pill. I guess you better call in sick today!"

Crap.

"We’ll see how I feel after a shower". The alarm clock went off several minutes later, and I shut it off, and got up to feed the girls. ‘Funny, but my knees feel like rubber – and man are my legs heavy?’ I thought to myself.

In the shower, I caught myself meditating – focused on a single spot of tile – several times. 35 minutes later I turned off the faucet.

"I feel ok" I said convincing myself.

Another 45 minutes later and we are scrambling out the door to drop the girls off at school and then head on the expressway to work.

As I pulled in the parking spot at the office I realized I did not remember driving there. But I am here, safe and sound. I checked the front seat to see if there were any traffic tickets I didn’t remember getting.

The rest of the day so far has gone very well. I have felt no nicotine related angst. Quite calm and serene! Quite nice for a change! In fact I have received a couple of nice compliments.

Now that I know what a Resteril looks like, I will skip those and resume my allergen prescription.

But it was nice calm for awhile amid the stormy sea.


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