Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Green Riders prevail

So the Saskatchewan Roughriders are the 2007 Grey Cup champions. This despite the fact that they tried - really tried - to lose the game.

Yes, this year's Grey Cup was a comedy of errors, with only two offensive touchdowns in the entire game.

Twelve men on the Field have a great rundown of the game itself, as well as links to the mainstream sports media coverage. Extra points to them for invoking the most excellent Northern Pikes, too.

(Hey, the Pikes are touring! They were in Grand Prairie last weekend!)

Anyhow, the CFL is finished for this year. I think it was a lackluster ending, to be honest.

Now I can spend more time watching hockey and keeping a third eye on those Patriots, who almost got beat by the Eagles and a second-string quarterback on Sunday.

Final note: word today that the B.C. Lions have released Dave Dickenson. Whose got a thought on that move?

LUNCH: Carrot soup and a tuna sandwich

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Crosby Count

So the Kid had his point streak halted at 19 games. Pretty good for a twenty-year-old hockey player in his third NHL season.

After one game kept off the scoresheet, though, he was back on it, and last night he picked up a goal and a helper as the Pens shut out the Atlanta Thrashers. 

I wonder when we'll have to stop calling him the Kid. Any ideas on when that will become inappropriate? Or is it okay for him to be a 33-year-old kid someday?

On a related note, read this story from The Onion: Sidney Crosby's One-Goal, Two-Assist Performance Saves Hockey.

Games played: 23
Goals: 12
Assists: 21
Total points: 33

BREAKFAST: Just some Corn Flakes, as I'm keeping my appetite ready for a day of grazing; it's Grey Cup Day, fool!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

England's out!

Did not expect this to happen: England has been knocked out of Euro 2008 because of a loss to Croatia.

The English were two points up on Russia in their group, and only needed to not lose to Croatia.

They didn't need to win. They just needed to not lose.

But they lost, and as a result, Russia moves on, and England will watch the games on the telly.

Beckham's reaction says it all, doesn't it?

Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland all finished third in their divisions, so are also out, as is Wales, which finished fifth.

So in Euro 2008 there will be no teams from the United Kingdom/British Isles.

Who will you be cheering for? Netherlans? Greece? Germany? France? Spain? Portugal? Italy? Maybe the Czech Republic? Let me know in the comments.

EDIT: English coach Steve McLaren has been fired. "This is one of the saddest days of my career," said McLaren.

"Qualifying for a major tournament is probably the minimum requirement," said one of the executives of the Football Association.

You think?

BREAKFAST: Slice of ham and an egg on toast

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

TiVo in Canada!

I've heard - from a reliable source - that TiVo has started exporting their boxes into Canada. What's more, electronics retailers across the country have started ordering the Series 2, 80-hour, dual-tuner boxes and you can expect to see them on shelves within days.

They'll likely be priced at around $200.

This is excellent news, actually, as TiVo is the best DVR available. Even if you have digital cable from a provider, send their crappy DVR back to them and get a TiVo box instead.

Then you'll understand why people who have used a TiVo go on and on about it, and why people really do love their TiVo.

My Christmas shopping just got a whole lot easier.

I've started a thread over at the Future Shop Community Forums to track the latest on this.

Anyone other than me excited about this? Comments, please.

Mmmmm, TiVo.

LUNCH: haven't eaten it yet, but I'm looking forward to having a tasty pulled-pork sandwich

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bigger bang for my buck

I travel a lot on business, and I end up in the United States almost as much as I'm in Canada, so I'm pretty aware of things like currency rates.

And I have to tell you that what's happened with the Canadian dollar in the past month has really surprised me.

Keep in mind, too, that it's only been in the past month - and a few days - that the loonie and the greenback have flipped positions, with the Canadian dollar worth more than the American. That's never happened before in my lifetime.

As a consumer, the strength of our dollar excites me, especially when I'm in the U.S. all the time. Prices in the U.S. are usually cheaper, so with our dollar worth more than theirs, it means I can get even more bang for my buck.

But I'm not going too crazy making big purchases south of the 49th.

A friend of mine asked me the other day why I wasn't buying cars and big-screen televisions in the States, and I guess if you weren't back and forth across the border all the time, you might not realize why that's not always a good idea, even with our dollar being as strong as it is.

First of all, the reason things are priced differently in the States and Canada is not just because of the value of our currency. The prices of things up here also has to do with duties - taxes - that our federal government imposes on products coming into Canada, and the GST, and a bunch of other market forces that I can't always get my head around (so much for those economics courses in university).

So if you want to buy a car in the States and bring it back to Canada, you still have to pay the duties that the government would have collected if the car was brought in by a dealer, and you still have to pay the GST, and any other taxes. So those "savings" can disappear in a hurry.

Unless you want to try and smuggle the car across the border. But I wouldn't recommend trying that.

More importantly, though - especially with big-ticket items such as cars and massive flat screen TVs - is that importing the products to Canada - which is what you are doing when you buy products down there - you can invalidate any warranty. Sure, you saved $10,000 by purchasing that Ford Focus in the States, but what happens if the transmission goes at 10,000 clicks? That would cost you a dollar per kilometre. There goes any savings you made when you purchased the car.

There are two businesses that would be tricky to be in right now. One is any industry that exports to the U.S., because they are making about 20 percent less on every unit sold at this point. The second is retail, because the public outcry about consumer pricing has been so loud.

Of course consumers want prices to come down because our dollar is strong. And the sticker prices of many items are being reduced.

Those companies that manufacturer their own products and operate worldwide have been the quickest to respond. Apple and Sony and many electronics manufacturers have dropped their Canadian prices to get them in line with the currency rate.

Retailers such as Future Shop have already cut prices on things like flat-panel televisions, MP3 players, video-game consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The longer our dollar stays as strong as it is, the further I expect prices will fall.

Remember: this has all happened in just over a month. It takes time for adjustments on prices to work their way through the system. Plus, the currency markets are so volatile that our dollar could be back down to US$ 0.90 in another month. Businesses are waiting to see how stable our soaring loonie is going to be before they lock in any lower prices.

Yesterday, the dollar was back below $1.02.

But I don't think retailers in Canada will ever have the exact same prices as retailers in the U.S. because of the reasons listed above, and also because Canada isn't the U.S.

We're twice the size of the U.S. but have a tenth of the population. Those realities alone mean that prices will be higher in our country because the individual buying power is reduced because there are fewer of us clamoring for the same product and because when things are shipped from one place to another, they have to travel so much further. These factors make prices higher in Canada.

But the other thing I'd say is that if you want U.S. prices, move to the U.S. Then you can have U.S. prices. And with those cheaper prices you can have a weaker economy, a slumping dollar, a country at war with the world, skyrocketing health care costs, and all the rest.

And you'd be missing Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night.

The Crosby Count

The Pens snapped a four-game losing streak last night when they beat the Islanders 3-2.

More importantly, Crosby extended his point streak to 18 with an assist on George Laraque's game winner.

Next up are the Rangers, again, for the second time in just over a week. But this time the Kid and crew are at home. Here's hoping for an offensive explosion.

Games played: 19
Goals: 10
Assists: 18
Total points: 28

BREAKFAST: Cheerios and a banana

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

At the game: Oilers at Canucks

A client gave me tickets to the Canucks game for tonight, so I got a rare chance to see a game live.

I always forget how fast the game is; you lose that sense when watching games on television.

It was, all things considered, a boring game. The Oilers took the shootout win on the final shot. Hemsky roofed one on Luongo.

The Canucks came out strong in the first, but by the second period had started to lag, and in the third, the young Oilers team simply dominated.

Gagner and Cogliano are as fast as you've heard, and excited to be playing in the NHL, too.

Can't say the same for the Canucks. Well, not all of them, anyway.

Kesler and Cooke had the fire in their eyes, but Naslund and Morrison seemed like they would rather have been somewhere else.

What has happened to Morrison? He looks deflated.

Luongo was composed tonight, and made a couple of great stops that kept the Canucks from getting overwhelmed by the Oilers.

Like I said, the game was a bit boring.

But I'm glad I was there. You forget how fast they are.

LUNCH: Deli-style sandwich, heaped with pastrami

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Crosby Count

The Penguins have lost their last two games, but Crosby has points in both games, extending his streak to 17.

On Saturday night, the Pens lost 5-2 to Philadelphia, their second lost to the Flyers in four nights. Tonight, they lost 3-2 to the Devils. Against the Flyers, Sid notched an assist, and tonight he figured in both Penguins goals, scoring one and assisting on the other.

They get a couple of days off now, and host the Islanders on Thursday and the Rangers on Saturday. They must get sick of playing the same teams over and over again, don't you think? I don't care how much it costs or how tired the players get, I'm all for playing every team in the league twice every season, once at home, once in the other team's arena.

Games played: 18
Goals: 10
Assists: 17
Total points: 27

LUNCH: Lasagne with a side caesar salad

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A couple of doozies

I was glad that the Patriots were on a bye this weekend, because it meant that I could virtually ignore the NFL in favour of the free-for-all CFL divisional semifinal games. (Although I did watch some of the Packers against the Vikings, and damn did that game surprise me. And I have to say that I called the Colts losing to the Chargers.)

Both the East and West semifinals were fantastic, wide-open games.

It was near freezing and windy in both Winnipeg and Regina today. Perfect football-playing weather.

In Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers started the game well - scoring a touchdown on their first possession - but the Alouettes scrabbled back and actually controlled most of the rest of the game. The trip to Toronto to play the Argonauts next week in the East final came down to a clutch field goal kick made by Bomber kicker Westwood with only four seconds left in the game.

And that play was set up by the Bomber defense's second line-of-scrimmage stand that forced the Als to turn the ball over on downs. An earlier wall of Bombers at the goal line prevented the Als from scoring a touchdown. The boys in blue owe their win today to their defensive linebackers.

Final score: Blue Bombers 24, Alouettes 22.

In the West semifinal, the Saskatchewan Roughriders started strong and stayed in control for the entire first half. The Green men scored an early touchdown, faked a field goal to keep another drive alive, and left the Calgary Stampeders gasping. The only spark the Stamps showed in the first half was an exhilarating defensive play near the end of the half. A pass from Kerry Joseph to Andy Fantuz at the Stampeder's end zone line bounced off the receiver's shoulder and into the hands of Stamps D-back Dwaine Carpenter, who scampered three quarters of the way down the field and, as he was about to be tackled, lateraled the ball back to Trey Young, who clambered in for the TD.

I thought that the Stampeders would have put in a better effort, but I suspect they needed an extra game or two with Burris back in the lineup to have been truly ready for today's game. Too many mental errors by the Stamps, too, who seemed a bit arrogant about it all. Not good when you're headed into Regina - and having to face those fans - for a playoff game.

I also wasn't sure that the Roughriders would play as well as they did. While they started the year gangbusters, they were a bit off in the second half of the year, and seemed like they were only able to win games against teams who were starting their backup quarterbacks.

Final score: Roughriders 26, Stampeders 24.

So next Sunday it'll be the Bombers in Toronto to play the Argonauts and the Roughriders in Vancouver to play the B.C. Lions.

That means by Friday, the streets of Vancouver will be flooded with a bunch of drunk prairie folk. Watch out, Vangroovyites.

LUNCH: Hot dogs and potato chips. Hey, I was watchin', like, eight football games.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Gift buying gets easier

Everyone loves technology, right?

Wrong. That's why your dad just gave you a funny look when you gave him those VR googles for his birthday last year.

Future Shop has this new feature at their website that will help you come up with nifty gift ideas for everyone on your list regardless of how tech savvy they are.

It's pretty slick.

They are calling it the "Gift-o-Meter." It's a candy-cane coloured slider that ranges from "Tech shy" on one end of the spectrum, to "Tech wild" on the other.

What you do is slide the switch until it describes the person you are gifting, then click the "enter" button.

Dad, then, is a "Tech flirt": a guy interested in an iPod but not concerned about the specific type of iPod.

Mom, though, is "Tech social": she loves technology because it makes her life easier.

And cousin Alfie? The guy who everyone in the family turns to when they've fried their operating system? He's "Tech savvy."

For each level of the continuum, you'll be provided with a list of gift ideas, from TV and video to phones and PDAs to tech accessories. It's like getting expert advice without having to talk to a clerk!

It's a fun little tool at the Future Shop Web site, directly under the big image at the top of the page. Check it out.

The Crosby Count

Sid's point streak is now 15 games because he wrangled an assist against the Rangers last night. They've had a bit of a busy schedule the past while, playing six games in eight days. Good thing they're in the Atlantic division.

Now Sid gets ready for Saturday's scrap against rivals the Philadelphia Flyers, who handed the Pens a loss on Wednesday. Time for some sweet revenge, Sidney. Time for another multi-point night, I think.

Games played: 16
Goals: 9
Assists: 15
Total points: 24

LUNCH: A massive burrito smothered in mole sauce

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Crosby Count

Coming off a pretty hairy road trip last week, the Penguins were at home last night, hosting the Flyers, who didn't win a game against the Pens last year.

The Flyers flipped that losing streak on its head, beating the Penguins 3-1. The Pittsburgh offense seemed a bit skunky, but the biggest problem was goaltending, as Dany Sabourin let in two goals on the first three shots of the game.

Suddenly, it becomes clear that whatever you might say about the Pens offensive production, goaltending is the real problem for Pittsburgh this year. I wonder if The Sieve has something he can add to my analysis on this.

Crosby maintained his streak, though, with an assist on the Pens' lone goal. He's got points in every game this season, except the opener on October 5.

Games played: 15
Goals: 9
Assists: 14
Total points: 23

LUNCH: A big bowl of chicken noodle soup with about a thousand crackers

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Patriots still perfect

Well, I didn't get to the computer to post after the big game on Sunday. Blame the excitement of a second half comeback and a few too many pints during the celebration for my absence.

After a breakfast meeting Monday I was off to the airport to get on a plane back home.

So I'm only now getting a chance to reflect on the game.

I'll admit that I wasn't the most positive of monkeys at the half. The two pass interference calls made on the Patriots nearly killed me, and I mistook Brady's steely glare for frustration, when I should have known it was resolve.

Next time I'll know better.

At the end of the game, Peyton Manning didn't even bother to take off his helmet. Trying to hide tears, maybe?

Now for a week off, before coming back to round out the season with another string of victories.

16-0 here we come!

The Crosby Count

The Kid notched a couple of nice goals against the New Jersey Devils last night, moving him into a tie - with Jarome Iginla - for second spot at the top of the NHL scoring chart.

You go, Sid! Keep getting Nate those sweet fantasy draft points!

Games played: 14
Goals: 9
Assists: 13
Total points: 22

LUNCH: Chicken pot pie

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's B-Day

Yes, I know there were CFL games this weekend, but other than the Argos locking up the East Division title, the games didn't mean much.

This weekend, though, is all about the NFL, and more specifically, all about the New England Patriots and the Indianpolis Colts. That game starts in just under an hour.

I'll report back after the game.

BTW, "B" is for Brady.

LUNCH: A big, coronary-inducing plate of chili-cheese fries

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Canucks sucking: discuss

I'm just not even sure what to think about the Vancouver Canucks. I can say I've been watching more Flames games and Eastern teams, because I just can't bring myself to tune in to a Canucks game.

But other people are talking about why they think the Canucks are off to such a bad start.

  • Canucks Hockey Blog: "It was a mess, and unfortunately for Bieksa, Salo and the Canucks' 'D,' it was a bloody mess."
  • Canucks and Beyond: "It’s hard to really work up a good head of insults about my least favorite team in the NHL [Colorado Avalanche], when my Canucks are currently flailing around like a beached whale searching for dinner."
  • False Gods: "This team is in disarray both on and off the ice."

What is really going to hurt the Canucks is the loss of Kevin Bieksa to a "lacerated calf muscle," although some are saying it's his Achilles tendon that got sliced.


EDIT: The Canucks put together some offense against the Avalanche on Saturday night - six points between the Bobsy Twins - but I've gotta wonder if they are going to trade for a defensemen. Soon. With Bieksa and Salo both out, they are looking weak back there.

What ever happened to Fleury?

There was a time when Theo Fleury was the heart and soul of the Calgary Flames. He had a never-say-die attitude that belied his small stature. And he was a member of the Flames during that golden era when Lanny won them a Stanley Cup.

Oh, how he fell from grace.

The last I heard, Fleury was playing hockey in Ireland, of all places. But Eric Duhatschek caught up with Fleury in Calgary a few days ago, and fills in some recent history.

The Crosby Count

The Penguins lost to the New York Islanders tonight and it was another low scoring affair: 3-2 in favour of the Isles.

Crosby picked up an assist, which isn't too bad when your team only scores two goals.

Games played: 13
Goals: 7
Assists: 13
Total points: 20

LUNCH: burger and fries in the pub, watching the last regular season CFL games

Friday, November 2, 2007

Countdown: Tom versus Peyton

Despite the fact that these guys don't like each other, they are surprisingly civil about it.

In fact, they are both going out of their way to compliment each other, as the quotes in this article prove.

I almost wish there was some trash talking going on, but you're never going to get that from guys like Tom and Peyton. Their mothers taught them manners.

The Crosby Count

I think maybe it's begun. I think Sid the Kid has settled in to his new job as captain of the Penguins, and is about to take off in the game of goals and assists.

Unless by saying that, I'm jinxing him. Hope not.

Stay tuned to Giga Byte Me for daily updates on Sid's prolific output.

Games played: 12
Goals: 7
Assists: 12
Total points: 19

LUNCH: Chicken noodle soup and a ham sandwich

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Getting some Leopard in here

I haven't had a chance to install the new version of Mac OS X, yet, as I've been on the road for a bit, but I am looking forward to getting home and giving it a go.

As I wrote earlier, the Time Machine backup feature alone is worth the fairly minor price tag.

And for those of you who are like me, and always seem to have one hitch or another when installing software, here are a few threads that will help you along:

Good luck. I think we're all gonna like this plenty good.

LUNCH: Philly cheesesteak sandwich, dripping in cheese and onions