Fantasy over Tuesday, Dec 24 2013 

Another season down the drain. This time around it played out that I had my best team and best season ever but no hardware on the mantle. When I think back, there was one pivotal moment in week 13 just before the playoffs where I entertained the idea of tanking my last week to avoid playing in the 1st round what I believed to be the best and hottest team.

Of course, my skewed interpretation of ethics kicked in and I played my best players and naturally I scored my season high on this meaningless week. And of course, I end up playing the one and only team that could possibly beat me….and of course it happened.

As the playoffs worked themselves out it is possible to gauge how I would have fared the rest of the way. It turns out I would have won the championship handily.

Alas, this is how things play out sometimes. Justice doesn’t get doled out on a regular basis. Sometimes the best teams are weighted heavily towards one division. Our division, all six teams ended up being .500 or better. On the other side: only one team was above .500…..and of course this is the team that ends up winning the title!

This plays out in the real football world too: the NFC is packed with much more talent than the AFC. And I’m guessing the Arizona Cardinals are thinking life isn’t fair right now. They are sitting at 10-5. Even if they go 11-5 they need help to make the playoffs. Meanwhile in the AFC, there are teams locked into the playoffs that are sitting at 10-5 or worse.

For me, time to rework the team and make some deals in the off-season.

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Superbowl prediction Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

I have a theory this year, and I will back it up by putting my money where my mouth is.

This year, the Superbowl is going to be held outdoors in a cold weather city (New York) for the first time in a very very long time. I think this is the single most critical factor in determining who is going to win it this year. When I look at the playoff picture as it stands today here’s how I see it:

NFC: All roads go through Seattle, so I just can’t see any team other than Seattle getting to the big game. Maybe, MAYBE SF can pull off the outset. Regardless, neither team is a cold weather team.

AFC: There are a LOT of teams on this side that can play well in the cold: DEN, NE, BAL, CIN, KC.

So I predict an AFC champion. And when I peer into my magic ball, sadly, I see Baltimore repeating as SuperBowl champs. And since I despise the team, you know I don’t make this decision lightly. Plus, the odds are way to good at this point to not take them. From what I see, they have as good a chance as any AFC team of getting there. The funny thing is, they aren’t even guaranteed a playoff spot as it stands today! But I see them getting there. And I see them beating a team like Cincinatti on the road (which is the likely matchup). Then, it’s not hard to see them beating NE on the road as well as DEN in Denver. Honestly!

Then with the weather being sour and cold in early Feb, they will come out on top in a low scoring affair against a SEA team that will be depleted by injury by the time they get to the Superbowl.

Take it to the bank!

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Duelling Banjos Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

I have a Banjo. Let’s just leave it at that for now.

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Craps baby Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

I can’t believe I didn’t make it to Vegas this year! Wow.

But at least I was able to get my fix. We went to Detroit over the weekend braving the Snowmaggedon to get there (and it was tense to say the least).

I haven’t been to Detroit in years. How shocking. The casino is about 5 minutes across the border right ‘downtown’. Well, the ‘downtown’ might as well be a ghost town. The weather was horrible so I’m sure that contributed, but it was just dead. Initially I was concerned about staying downtown Detroit due to what I remember from the past: crime, danger. But you can’t have that if there are no people!

Actually, the area we stayed was quite nice. At the DoubleTree on Lafayette halfway between the MGM Casino and Joe Louis Arena. We went with our neighbours Bryon and Kim and some of their friends. Bryon has been to Detroit several times over the past few years. Including a trip specifically to do some touring of the abandoned neighbourhoods. Apparently that is quite the surreal experience. He mentioned on this trip how alarming it is to see fewer and fewer buildings each time he goes through the area around the casino.

We went all the way to Detroit because there just isn’t anywhere to play craps in Ontario. Niagara has a couple of tables but they are always packed to the gills on a Saturday and the minimum is $25. It was very nice to see 8 tables at the MGM with varying minimums that started at $10. And since it was bad weather, it wasn’t busy at all.

I was able to employ my Don’t Pass strategy and it paid off handsomely.

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Kids update Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

I blog more frequently on my kids private blogging area. But maybe it’s time to add a few comments here to bring people up to speed.

The year was a healthy one for the kids. No broken appendages! Christien finally decided to grow a bit faster. He’s not the smallest kid in the school! This fall, he has made leaps and bounds on his reading ability. And his conversation skills are advanced for his age. To be honest, this is the year he went from preschooler to a kid right before my eyes. A little sad since this is the last time I’ll go through that experience with my kids. Academically he is making leaps and bounds. We were a bit concerned early in the year because we were getting feedback from the teacher that he was struggling. But we put our heads together and came up with a plan to figure out why. It turns out he was a bit introverted resulting in anxiety at school. Leading to attention problems. Working with the teacher we figured out that Christien learnt best by rephrasing the scenario and enabling him to figure out how he can solve problems instead of forcing him to do things. For example, he had problems getting to the carpet on time. Instead of pushing him and ’staying on him’, it was a matter of practicing at home and having him contribute to how he was going to solve the problem of getting to the carpet on time.

This opened the floodgates and he hasn’t looked back since. He is a smart kid and that is fortunate for him or else he would be in trouble living with his sister.

Sports/activities-wise, Christien has been playing soccer, doing some pre-Can skate, and lots and lots of swimming (as you’ll find out in my next post). We are hoping to get him into some hockey and skiing over the winter. Looks like a snowy winter so this will be nice.

Olivia is growing way too fast. It is getting close to the time when Dad is no longer the coolest person in the world. We are battling over what is good music. She still likes most of my stuff but the ratio is swinging to the other side. We bought her an iPod this year and initially I stuffed it full of songs that I like and that we used to listen to since she was a kid. Daddy songs. But recently I’ve been co-erced into adding more songs to her device such as Katy Perry, Karlie Ray Jepsen, New Direction, etc. And sadly, this musical taste bleeds into the everyday listening in the car for all of us….well…in the truck that is. My car is off-limits to all except the music I want to listen to. No exceptions.

Olivia has continued in gymnastics and swimming. She’s a very good swimmer and is in one class ahead of what her age should be in. She has dropped soccer as a sport, skating is on hiatus, and baseball was an indifferent attempt that maybe will get revisited. But she is still busy. She’s focused on piano and is making strides there. And that is fortunate….since we now have 2 pianos in our front room. We are babysitting a antique Mathushek baby grand piano in addition to the upright we already had.

Just a brief timeline of summer events….we didn’t do too much in the way of travel since we had to be near home for the various projects around the house. But we did go to some traditional destinations: Port Elgin, JellyStone Park, MacGregor Point with the Millers. We also spent some time reconnecting with some old friends at Point Clark a couple of times.

We’ll be making things up in the travel department over the winter as we are planning for a trip to Disney. That’ll put us back in the A+ category.

Christmas is just around the corner. This is probably the last one where Olivia still has some belief in Santa….she has already asked a few times if he is real. I can see the doubt in her eyes….but not completely. Christien is still 100% all-in on Santa. I’m going to be very very sad when this stage in life passes by.

Anyway, life is great with the kids. Mornings are brutally loud. I can’t remember the last time I slept in.

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Goings on about the place this past year (Part 1) Thursday, Dec 19 2013 

So, I just noticed the last post I had here was on April 12th about losing our beloved tree. Fittingly, this event more or less is the cause of why I haven’t posted in quite some time. Since that day for all of spring and the better part of the summer we have been busy in a domino of events.

The tree was cleaned up and opened up the backyard considerably. At about that time we started to notice an undesirable aroma in the house (a.k.a septic smell). We located the source of the smell which was coming out of the sump area. So naturally we took the least cost approach. We scoured the pump area with bleach, etc. Seemed to work for a couple of days. But coincidentally it was cold outside so not a lot of water was flowing into the sump.

Then the spring thaw happened and the odour picked up. It was at that time I noticed that the exit pipe from the sump had sprung a leak just outside the house by the foundation. So I dug the area up and inspected the damage…not bad but beyond my capabilities as some plumbing tools were required.

So after that was fixed, I figured this might be what solves the problem. Perhaps some ground water was flowing back into the sump. Nope.

So I then called the septic guy to take a look at the main pipe from the inside. Fortunately, the tank wasn’t backfilling into the line as far as he could tell. He then recommended calling an engineer to come in with an optic hose camera to snake it into the tanks and inspect the walls for cracks….maybe there was some seepage.

After spending a few hundred on that project, it came up negative. The house was becoming quite uninviting at this stage. So, next step, have the tank cleaned. Which is a pain in the ass because it sits under the deck. So I pulled up the necessary boards and unscrewed the lids for the septic guy. Unfortunately he was backlogged (heh heh) so I had to wait 2 weeks with a half exposed deck.

Finally after cleaning, the guy noticed that the area around the lids were crumbling. The tank was the original tank made of concrete and apparently in this area they only last so long. On this street alone in the past few years he mentioned that at least 10 or 12 tanks have been replaced. And the state of this one….it was on it’s last leg and was definitely leaking out the top. Time for a new tank.

So at this point….a couple of plumbing jobs, some engineering investigation, a tank cleaning, inconvenient aromas in the house. About a months headache but not too much $$ spent. Things were about to change quickly…..

Stay tuned.

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Lost our favourite tree Friday, Apr 12 2013 

The big ice storm of April 2013 caused one big casualty on our property. Fortunately no further damage but we will be sad to see this tree gone :(

BooHoo!

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The Who – Quadrophenia Live Wednesday, Feb 20 2013 

The weather was bad yesterday. But that didn’t stop Bryon, Pat and myself from heading to Hamilton to see The Who perform Quadrophenia (plus more!). For $150 a pop, a blizzard couldn’t hold us back. Floor level seats!

The concert was absolutely fantastic. Quadrophenia, although not there top-selling album, was a great mini-opera album that showcased all of their talents in their prime. It was certainly a treat to hear it from start to finish uninterrupted. And then followed by some great favourites.

I’ve said it a million times. I can’t think of a more talented guitarist than Pete. And he was definitely ‘on’ last night. Roger looks incredible and his voice still has that trademark power. Pat took some seriously good video and I will treasure it forever. He captured the entire version of Baba O’Riley. Crazy!

Sadly, I can say with virtual certainty that this was, and will ever be, the only time I saw The Who live in concert. Knowing this, I savored every moment and appreciated every second of that performance.

Take a Bow Boys!

Set List:

1. I Am The Sea
2. The Real Me
3. Quadrophenia
4. Cut My Hair
5. The Punk and the Godfather
6. I’m One
7. The Dirty Jobs (Simon Townshend on vocals)
8. Helpless Dancer
9. Is It in My Head?
10. I’ve Had Enough
11. 5:15
12. Sea and Sand
13. Drowned
14. Bell Boy
15. Doctor Jimmy
16. The Rock
17. Love, Reign O’er Me
(followed by band introductions)

Encore;
18. Who are You
19. Behind Blue Eyes
20. Pinball Wizard
21. Baba O’Riley
22. Won’t Get Fooled Again
23. Tea & Theatre (Roger & Pete acoustic)

Notes:
The concert lasted from 8:00pm to 10:50pm – 2h 50m !
The multimedia was well used. The screens were HD and syncronised. They highlighted the musicians playing the instruments. But more importantly 2 things:
1) The backdrop continually showed themes, images, footage of the band over the years and inspirations to the songs (mods, sods). An excellent montage of historical moments during both the overture and the finale….climaxing in the fall of the World Trade Center. Very emotional.
2) There was an homage to John (5:15) and Keith (Bell Boy). The band interacted with the video of the two performing the song. It really was as if they were still alive playing with the band. A wonderful touch that really signifies a closing moment. A good way to end it all.

When Pete and Roger performed Tea & Theatre it really hit home that this is the last time I’ll see these guys live. And it was such an intimate moment when i think back on it. Too bad I didn’t capture that moment on video :(

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Chicken Pox Thursday, Feb 14 2013 

Olivia has the pox. Yay. Greg is up for Wonderboy, not sure if he has had them. Whoops.

Other than that life is good. Looking to buy a BlueJays package this year now that they finally spent some money and brought some talent in.

Also have season tix to the Rangers. Playoffs are coming soon.

Sonia’s 40th bday coming up. Not really a surprise….but should be fun

Learning Italian via the Rosetta Stone. Mamma Mia!

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Bacon Chicken Recipe with White Wine Mushroom Sauce Sunday, Dec 30 2012 

Stuffed Chicken (Can do without if you make enough sauce)

6 or more chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded.
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces portabella mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces onions, diced
2 -4 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces fresh spinach
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
salt and pepper
2 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2 Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Saute mushrooms, onions, and garlic for 4 minutes. Add spinach and wine cook until wine is evaporated.
3 Season with thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper and allow to cool.
4 Place chicken between plastic wrap and pound thin.
5 Season both sides of breast with salt and pepper.
6 Add egg to stuffing and place half the stuffing in each breast.
7 Fold over to encase stuffing and tie with butcher’s twine to hold the stuffing in place.
8 wrap with bacon and use toothpicks to secure to the chicken

heat oven to 400. Top with foil for 20min. Remove foil, drain juices and cook for 20min. Drain again and then broil for 10min.

For White Wine Mushroom Sauce:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup semidry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Use cornstarch and water to thicken instead of flour. Add more wine to taste.

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