Saturday, February 14, 2009

Closing Maple Leaf Gardens: 10 years later

It was 10 years ago that I witnessed the final hockey game in Maple Leaf Gardens. I landed a seat in the Greens to witness a little bit of hockey history. The Leafs looked dismal losing to Chicago 6-2. For you trivia fans, Bob Probert scored the last goal in the Gardens.

The place must be dark and depressing these days. Most of the seats have been auctioned off. The doors have seldom been open to the public these last 10 years. Who can forget the crude metal urinal troughs, the voice of announcer Paul Morris, and Harold Ballard's bunker in the end Golds. It used to be a hockey shrine for decades but in the final 30 years its been a place burdened with futility, frustration and scandals.

But there 11 Stanley Cups won there, the 1972 Summit Series was played in the Gardens, both Elvis Presley and the Beatles performed there, Muhammad Ali fought in the Gardens and where even Winston Churchill spoke there. It was a cultural icon in its day. Something the Air Canada Centre will likely never achieve.

Hazel McCallion is 88 today

"Hurricane Hazel" has been mayor of Mississauga for 30 years. All the best Hazel!

Authorities put ankle bracelet on fake leg

I couldn't help this little item about some on the ball court officials. Bret Ravenhill was required to wear a monitoring device on his ankle for probation on a pot charge. Except Bret has an artificial leg and that was the leg they put on ankle bracelet on. He was given probation by a judge and barred for three months from going out at night and officials checked the device every four weeks. Still no one realized. In between checks he would just put on a spare prosthetic.

A court spokeswoman said: “We conduct our monitoring operation under rigorous procedures which include carrying out an assessment of the leg that is being tagged. It would appear that in this instance the procedure has not been followed.” Ya think?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Woman's life devasted by car crash

This is a tragic story. Lee Redmond's life was shattered by a car accident. Okay may not her life - but her nails were shattered. Lee is listed as having the longest nails in the Guinness Book of World Records.

She was thrown out of a 4WD vehicle and was taken to hospital. Her injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

Her nails measured a total of more than 28 feet long in 2008, with the longest nail — on her right thumb — stretching 2 feet, 11 inches.

I just don't know how this lady with be able to get her life together again.

Interesting picture of Danica Patrick

Somehow I doubt this picture has anything to do with car racing. But I would have to admit it's far more interesting than watching a car race. So thanks Danica.

Will the Montreal Canadiens make the playoffs?

I haven’t been impressed with Montreal this season but then I was also expecting them to slip back in the standings this season. I questioned whether Kovalev would be able to put together back to back MVP seasons – he has not. I wondered whether Price would be able play with consistency at such a young age – he has not. Price has been phenomenal at times but other times he has come unglued. Like last year during the playoffs or did you see him on Wednesday night? I was also thinking that some of their younger player might regress some rather than step up to that next level – Tomas Plekanec is one several key players that have disappeared.

Add to this mess is the incredible pressure to win in their 100th anniversary season. In Montreal slumps like this are elevated to the level of a national emergency. The Habs are in 6th place in the East but are now just five points away from falling out of a playoff position and will be on the road until the February 21. They have lost four games in a row and seven of their last nine. They've dropped two games in Alberta by a combined score of 13-4, including 7-2 to Edmonton on Wednesday night which was the kind of game you would expect from the Maple Leafs and not the “Stanley Cup –bound” Canadiens.

This team will still make the playoffs but is likely headed for a first-round loss to a top-ranked opponent. But they could also lose Tanguay, Kovalev, Lang and Komisarek to free agency in the off season.

But then again they could also fall right out of the playoffs unless Gainey can find a veteran goalie to stabilize their goaltending and some help at centre and the powerplay. How would Nik Antropov and Tomas Kaberle look in Hab jerseys?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nadya Suleman (the Octuplets Mom) has a website

Not exactly a shocker. Nadya Suleman has a website now where you can make donations. The story has captured everyone's interest. It's major topic everywhere from water coolers to talk radio.

The funny thing is that fertility treatment isn't paid by American health insurance plans. In Europe the treatment is covered and the plans limit the number of embryos that one can have implanted. But in North America you pay for the fertility treatment on your own and there is no one controlling the procedure. However, when you have 8 babies, the delivery and post natal care is covered. I bet those costs well exceed the cost of fertility treatment.

Police find 22 dogs in station wagon with owner

North Texas authorities seized 22 dogs found crammed inside a station wagon with their owner. The owner locked the car doors and refused to come out when a constable tried to serve her a warrant for the seizure of the dogs early on Monday, said SPCA spokeswoman Maura Davies.

Two puppies and 20 dogs were taken to a shelter until a judge decides who gets custody, the SPCA said. A hearing on the custody of the animals is set for Feb. 16 in Denison. The dogs were in the car along with a pot of water, blankets and waste.

"The car was soaked with urine and covered in faeces. The ammonia level in the vehicle was 23 parts per million even after the doors had been opened for several minutes. As a frame of reference, humans start experiencing health issues at 12 parts per million," Courtney Stevens, SPCA of Texas rescue and investigations supervisor, said in a news release.

The owner does not face charges, Grayson County constable Michael Putman said. She was not coherent and the SPCA said it has contacted Adult Protective Services about the woman.

Why Canada is doing better than the U.S.

Guess which country, alone in the industrialized world, has not faced a single bank failure, calls for bailouts or government intervention in the financial or mortgage sectors. Yup, it's Canada. In 2008, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system the healthiest in the world. America's ranked 40th. It's because the banking sector is properly regulated. In fact, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker was in Toronto this week and told an audience that he was studying the Canadian financial system.

Canada has also been shielded from the worst aspects of this crisis because its housing prices have not fluctuated as wildly as those in the United States. Home prices are down 25 percent in the United States, but only half as much in Canada. Why? Well, the Canadian tax code does not provide the massive incentive for over consumption that the U.S. code does: interest on your mortgage isn't deductible in Canada.

Oh and if you think that the lack of interest deductibility has hurt ownership well you're wrong. Sixty-eight percent of Americans own their own homes. And the rate of Canadian homeownership? It's 68.4 percent.

Canada has had 12 years of budget surpluses, and can now spend money to fuel a recovery from a strong position. The government has restructured the national pension system, placing it on a firm fiscal footing, unlike the American Social Security.

Fashion Disaster

Well at least this looks better than Tara in a bikini.

Man lets 8-year old drive

A father remained in jail after he allegedly let his 8-year-son son drive a van, which took out a couple of trees and nearly hit two pedestrians in a parking lot, according to Bradenton, Ma Police reports.

Witnesses said the boy crashed the van into a tree, shattering the driver’s side rear window, after the two pedestrians got out of the way. The boy then crashed a second time into a tree, damaging the car’s radiator, the police report said.

When police arrived, Mark Belanger fell to the ground after he dropped his wallet. When he fell, he slammed his face on the pavement, leaving a gash on the bridge of his nose.

The boy told police his father took “liquid medicine in order to feel better.” He pointed to an empty bottle of Canadian whiskey in the vehicle.

Belanger reportedly resisted arrest when officers took him into custody. He tried to kick out the windows in patrol car and was consequently pepper sprayed, the police report said.

Sure, I would need liquid medicine after falling on my face. What's illegal about that?

Livni wins Israeli election but will she be Prime Minister?

The results of yesterday's Israeli election is no different than previous elections because once again there is no clear cut winner. How it normally works in Israel is that after the election the government is created behind closed doors as smaller parties bargain with the larger parties to gain as much clout as possible in exchange for their support. Historically this process has made some very strange Cabinet partners. No wonder Israelis are so cynical.

Tzipi Livni's Kadima party has a razor thin edge in seats over Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party (28 to 27). Normally you would expect Kadima a centrist party to form the government but there are far more right wing parties (including Likud) so speculation is that Netanyahu will be asked to form the next government as serve as Prime Minister.

The chart below shows the the breakdown in seats between Centre-Left (in blue) parties, Right (in red) parties and Arab parties (in green). There are 64 seats for the parties on the Right and 44 seats for Centre-Left parties. The Arab parties have 12 seats. Arab parties are never asked to become part of the government but they can be expected to vote with the Centre-Left parties but that still leaves the split at 64 to 56 in favour of the Right.

The Centre-Left parties lost a total of 16 seats in this election. The parties on the Right gained 14 seats while the Arab parties gained 2 seats. Clearly the country has shifted to the right, likely in response to security concerns from Hamas in the south, Hezbollah in the north and more importantly a nuclear Iran.

So it's not surprising that most political pundits are betting on a right wing government. However, there is still a good possibility that Livni could be asked to form a government. Israeli President Shimon Peres determines who should form the government and it just so happens that Peres is a former Prime Minister under a Labour government. He also won a Nobel Peace Prize and is a strong supporter of making peace with the Palestinians. So it's not hard to figure out where his bias might lie. He will likely give Livni every opportunity to cobble together a coalition.

Both Ysrael Beiteinu and Shas are to the far right of the political spectrum but both are very pragmatic. If the right offer is made they would support Kadima. That would give the Centre-Left parties 70 seats and more than enough to govern. Well except that Shas and Ysrael Beiteinu hate each other. Shas is a religious right wing party while Ysrael Beiteinu is a secular right wing party so the two clash on religious policy (such as civil marriage). Putting together a coalition is a tough sell job.









Yisrael Beiteinu









United Arab List



United Torah Judaism



National Union









Bayit Yehudi









Hump Day Hottie

Bar Rafaeli

Iran's Islamic revolution was 30 years ago

It was 30 years ago this week that the Shah fled Iran and handed over control to Shiite Islamists led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

He declared an Islamic republic and was appointed Iran's political and religious leader for life. Islamic law was introduced across the country. His denunciation of American influence led to militant Islamic students storming the US Embassy in Teheran in November 1979. Some of the American hostages were held captive for more than a year.

Mastering a much smaller universe


Monday, February 09, 2009

BAFTA winners

Here are the major winners for the British Academy Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards for 2009:

Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Best Actress: Kate Winslet - The Reader
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz - Vicky Christina Barcelona

About time Goldie lay off the comestic surgery

If Supreme Court judges can smoke dope then why not Olympic athletes?

One Hit Wonder

Sniff 'n' the Tears - Driver's Seat (1979)

Don Sanderson's dad speaks out against fighting

There is a terrific interview in MacLeans magazine of Michael Sanderson who is the father of Don Sanderson, the Whitby Dunlop player who tragically died last month following a fight. The article vividly describes the anguish that this poor father is going through. He has harsh words for Don Cherry who has described Michael as a "buddy" and a "hockey guy".

So if you’ve been listening to Cherry on Coach’s Corner, it may surprise you to learn that Michael Sanderson would in fact love to see fighting eliminated from the game. You may be shocked to hear he supports measures that would suffocate the practice. Automatic ejections? “Helluva rule.” Requiring players to keep their helmets and visors on during fights? “Great. If they know they’re going to be punching plastic with their bare hands, they’ll eventually stop.”

Everything you wanted to know about Canada but were afraid to ask

Hey, it's Monday


Canadians take their hockey seriously


A-Rod: $252 million made me do it

So A-Rod comes clean after Sport Illustrated leaks his name as one of 104 ballplayers to have tested positive to steroid use in 2003. He claims to have been under enormous pressure to perform when arriving in Texas in 2001. And besides he was young and the culture was different back then. You would think he was talking about the 1960s but no it was just 2001-03. Has the culture changed that much since then?

Well give Rodriguez some credit for apologizing to fans and at least admitting steroid use after previously denying it. Can't same the same for McGwire, Clemons and Bonds. Maybe he is smarter than these other players. He will get to still earn his millions and might still survive to get voted into the Hall.

But let's face it why should a small few be scapegoats while the rest get off the hook. There were 103 other players that tested positive in 2003. It is obvious to all baseball fans that drug use is pervasive in the sport and that major league baseball has intentionally been ignoring the issue. Only threatened intervention by politicians and continual media coverage has created any incentive to act.

Still do fans really care? After all, major league baseball hit record attendance figures in 2008 so maybe it doesn't matter. Fans were captivated by the McGwire - Sosa race to break the homerun record.

Carole King is 67 today