September 28, 2010

What Colour is Hockey?

Harrison Mooney over at hockey blog Nucks Misconduct pointed out that recently the Atlanta Thrashers have gone out of their way to acquire black players, and found it curious enough to comment on. I have thought about the subject before (specifically when most of the few black players were in Alberta - but that's not saying much, as there were only seven at the time!), so I wrote a response. Here it is:

Canada has one sport – hockey. In Sweden and Russia, soccer is huge and right alongside or even ahead of hockey for popular sport. The best athletes here are encouraged to get into hockey, period. In the US, the best generally went into other sports (unless they were from Minnesota, but who counts them? I kid! I kid!), and had plenty to choose from that had a high level of competition immediately: regional and national competitions and a high population base combined with huge visibility makes for an obvious target!

As for natives being in the sport, it’s not like they have been excluded: but few bothered talking about their race. Strangely enough, Johnny Bucyk’s nickname was “Chief”, to which he usually responded “Uh, thanks, but I’m Ukrainian”. For a while there was an unwritten rule about natives not fighting each other (both Gino Odjick and Chris Simon mentioned this); I don’t know whether that’s still in place or not… Guess a quick trip to HockeyFights is in order!

A part of the low numbers for any specific group (hello, Prab Rai!) could simply be, well, numbers. Getting to the NHL is damn hard!

Consider the numbers of kids in competitive hockey just in Canada (“junior A” leagues like the VIHL): to get past even that is hard enough, and by the time the CHL level is reached when US and International players get added it becomes harder still. Of those sixty teams, just 100 players were drafted in 2009 (about 5%), and of them only about half will ever see the ice, never mind play long-term. They are also seeing competition from other hockey nations, American colleges and high schools, and a vastly improved US developmental league.

Bear in mind there is a cumulative effect, as previously drafted players don’t simply vanish, but even so, to further specify a single ethnicity is going to start pushing the numbers into the vanishing point. Add to that the comfort level of the parents getting their kids to play hockey – it’s not a game many visible minority immigrants know when they first arrive! And many immigrants put a huge amount of pressure on their children to succeed financially, and playing games isn’t often a part of that! So it often takes a couple generations before that level of security (financial and social) is achieved.

I did mention earlier when this subject came up a time when Alberta had five of the seven black players in the NHL about ten years ago, but I don’t imagine they were “actively recruiting” them! They were just good players. I do think that Atlanta is actively acquiring blacks, and believe that their market is a very specific reason for it. However, I also hope they refuse to draft players because they are black, or they could end up with the misguided Ice Dogs experiment.

(Quick run down for those who don’t remember it: Don Cherry was the owner of the Mississauga Ice Dogs [before they went to Niagara], and decided the team should only have Canadian players. Frankly, the team sucked until he sold the team in 2003 and that policy changed. End of story.)

I do think this is one aspect of expansion that doesn’t get mentioned much: as the profile of hockey increased in non-traditional markets (there are around twenty professional and semi-professional hockey teams in Texas now as compared to “sometimes two” before the Stars moved in), there will be people from other regions trying to make the big leagues. The first round of this year’s draft had a couple of Californians get picked up, which I don’t think has happened before. (Really hoping Etem would have fallen to us, but hey – that’s the risk you run trading away draft picks.)

With the invention of roller blades, some skills can be picked up without ice, but more importantly kids can play it year-round all over the place, not just where there’s a rink. And far before anyone will play any sport professionally, they have to play for love. The kid you can’t get off the ice, the one who sleeps with his stick – that kid has the best chance of making it.

As for colour? Heck, Iginla looks green by the end of the season! Seriously, look at that guy after eight months of winter sun and rink lights.


posted by Thursday at 7:07 pm 0 comments

September 24, 2010

Stephen Colbert Steals $342.45 from America!

In case you haven't heard, Stephen Colbert appeared to the immigration subcommittee today and testified, in character, that farm work is
"[...]really, really hard."

Which I have to agree with. As far as I'm concerned, farms have animals: everything else is a glorified garden, and I'm not fond of gardening. But I also understand that it is a necessary job, and boy am I glad that someone else is doing it! Much like, I imagine, the vast majority of other people who have actually thought about where their food came from.

Colbert's appearance raised some hackles, with some members of the committee complaining that his appearance was a stunt, and did nothing but waste time. In fact, Senator Jason Chaffetz from Utah said
"What's sad about it is in the 21 months I've been on the immigration subcommittee, we have only met ten times. We have never, never looked at a substantive bill to deal with the immigration issue."

What Senator Chaffetz neglected to mention is that without Colbert's appearance at the meeting, no one would have known how many times the subcommittee had met. It's unlikely that Senator Chaffetz's appearance on "Washington Unplugged" would have even happened, or that it would have gotten nationwide advertising. His own profile would be that much smaller, and when you're a senator from Utah, let's face it, you need all the help you can get. The two things Utah is known for are Mormons and the highest on-line porn consumption in America: where can you go from there but up?

The advertising that the subject of immigration has gotten from the stunt appearance of Stephen Colbert's television pundit character did cost the American people, though. There is a cost for everything, even if the committee was already meeting and Colbert paid his own travel costs. But even so, the senators had to wait as he entered the room, listen to him talk, and then wait some more as he left the room.

Now then, given that a senator earns approximately $175,000 per year and there are 16 members of the committee (minus Sen. Chaffetz, who decided to miss the entire meeting because of the ten minutes given to Colbert's testimony, and consequently taking the day off). US senators "work" (it's a bit tough to define working days, and there is frequent communication between members outside official working days) anywhere from 130 to 190 days a year - let's call it 160 - and laughingly consider those days to be 8 hours each.

So, 160 x 8 = 1280 hours of work per year, giving an hourly rate of around $137/hour per senator, or $22.83 for ten minutes. Multiply that by the fifteen senators in attendance, and the American People were charged $342.45 for Stephen Colbert's appearance before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Membership.

I suggest sending a bill and seeing if that will do it. If he doesn't pay, threaten him with small claims court. Just be sure to reduce it by the free advertising Sen. Chaffetz received first.


posted by Thursday at 12:08 pm 0 comments

September 16, 2010

Girls Without Skin

There's a theatre right up Western, with seven X's. I mean, double-X, okay. Triple-X, eh... but seven X's. "GIRLS WITHOUT SKIN". That's all I could think... that I wanna see.

-Tom Waits, Big Time

Somehow, you know when something is just wrong. But that's an unscientific, and occasionally cruel, view; so let's say it differently.

There are warning signs that one can take advantage of, if you know how to look for them. In the forests of the West Coast, for instance, any berries that are blue or black are safe to eat; red ones have a chance of being toxic; green have a greater chance of making you sick instead of refreshed; and white ones are never good food.

Things are different with authors, especially ones writing on science. When they describe themselves as, for instance, being "like Abraham Lincoln, self-educated, and might be viewed as a polymath, left school young and commenced my real education", that's never a good sign. Or when the book they are writing, purporting to deconstruct the "myth" of evolution, has something that looks remarkably like one of the oldest (more than 200 years at this point) and most easily refuted arguments on its cover, that's not a good sign, either.

(It's actually cells in division, but it certainly reminded me of a pocket watch. And reading the text did nothing to dissuade me from the impression.)

And when any author uses seven - SEVEN - exclamation points on a single page when it is written in large, easy-to-read print? It doesn't matter what the subject is, does it? The writer is probably better suited in temperament for street corner chanting than access to a word processor. Yes, he provides 25 free sample pages from his book, and frankly, they don't impress. The chapter he donates to the public is all about the growth of a single cell into a human, and he doesn't understand how it happens.

That's not a criticism of the author: that's actually his argument.

He openly proclaims that he doesn't understand how it happens. It's too complicated, to intricate, and too involved for the creation of humans not to have been created. Hence the watch on the heath, AKA "Godiddit". (Oh, and atheists and agnostics are dead inside, but that doesn't come up until the last page, so no matter.) It's an old, old argument that has been occasionally prettied up, but never seriously changed and never much improved. Mutation, redundancy, and imperfection are all blithely ignored throughout the chapter, favouring instead the joys of a perfectly functioning, awesomely intricate (and delicate!) machine.

Any engineers out there want to talk beta testing? Or the horrors of "ship first, patch later" products? Well, no errors are mentioned in this book!

What John J. May, the creator of "The Origin of Specious Nonsense" (again, not an insult but the actual title of his work) and people like him all too often ignore is that by attacking Darwin - and Mr. Jay is very specific in his attack - they bypass the evidence of the everyday. Simply put, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. True in 1973, and even more so 37 years later.

But the evidence doesn't just come from biology.

Even in the seventeenth century when devout egomaniac Carl Linnaeus was inventing modern taxonomy, he realized that there was simply no way the Earth could be as young as current thought held (about 5600 years) when he discovered fossils. (Nothing in paleontology, geology, astrophysics, or any branch of biology has shown evidence for anything other than a very, very old Earth - somewhat closer to 13.65 billion years.) Plus this interesting little quote from the man who thought he was revealing God's Truth to the world (I mentioned he had a rather high view of himself, right?):

I ask you and the whole world for a generic differentia between man and ape which conforms to the principles of natural history. I certainly know of none [...] If I were to call man ape or vice versa, I should bring down all the theologians on my head. But perhaps I should still do it according to the rules of science.

The only reason humans are all alone in the homo genus, unlike every other animal on Earth, is that Linnaeus didn't need the headache of arguing with clergy. Starting from scratch, with the evidence we currently have, humans would be shuttled in with the chimps, but otherwise Linnaeus' system has stood up pretty well as the most useful means of classification available.

And here's the funny bit: you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who proclaims humans to be "more evolved" than other animals - or plants for that matter - who aren't also religious.

For all the complaining that people are "too complex" to have come about by chance, the fact that everything else is equally complicated is ignored. The "Seven Questions" Mr. May asks (then repeats, and repeats, and repeats...) in his sample chapter apply equally well to a human, a goose, or a cedar. The example he gives is human because that's what he so desperately wants: to be special. And he knows that the people who buy his book will want that, too. But by his own questions, he reinforces the idea that people aren't special, that we really are no different from a bird or a tree.

Which is what atheists have been saying all along. And I don't think that's the show that Mr. May expected to see.


posted by Thursday at 10:17 pm 6 comments

September 12, 2010

Humans, A Working Guide

Killing a bit of time while waiting for the Canucks vs. Edmonton Young Stars game to begin streaming, and an article by dating site OK Cupid caught my eye:

The REAL ‘Stuff White People Like’

What drew my attention was the sample size (526,000 people) and the fact that they're self-selecting. The words used in people's profiles were written because that is what they want others to see. If you're embarrassed about being the 2004 University Chess champion, you're not likely to mention it; or if you don't think other people like Creed, you're more likely to hide the fact that you do. On the other hand, if you think reading '100 Years of Solitude' is going to get you some action, it's in the profile whether you've read the thing or not!

The lists were divided by sex and by race (again, both self-selected), and there were some startling revelations in the choices made:

The top word/phrase for White people:

Men: Tom Clancy
Women: Red Sox

Revelation: Really? So the guys are 40+ with aviator's glasses and golden lab retrievers and the women are from Boston. And I've never heard of Jodi Picoult.

Top word/phrase for Black people:

Men: Soul Food

Revelation: While black men may like soul food, with black women it is possibly more important than their own blood. Both are also scared of God.

Top word/phrase for Latinos:

Men: Merengue
Women: Merengue

Revelation: Hispanics and dancing. Lots of it. The men mention three different dances in the first ten words; the women do the same, but also mention music, a musician, and 'I love dancing' made it to 11th place.

Top word/phrase for Asians:

Men: Taiwan
Women: Coz

Revelation: The men mention where they are from quite often, and emphasize that they are 'simple' guys. The women talk food far more, and emphasize that they are 'simple' girls. So, Asians like simplicity, and I have no clue what 'Coz' is.

Top word/phrase for East Indians:

Women: Bhangra

Revelation: Indian guys like their sport almost as much as black women like their soul food. Oh, and third for guys? 'A software engineer'. Indian Women go for the dancing first, but authour Jhumpa Lahiri second. Also high in their list? 'Interpreter' and 'my passport'. I'm guessing work's important to East Indians.

Top word/phrase for Middle Easterners:

Men: Arabic
Women: Different Cultures

Revelation: Huge difference here, as guys have 'Arab' or some variant listed four times in the top ten words, where women don't at all in the top 50.

Top word/phrase for Pacific Islanders:

Men: Hawaii
Women: Alicia Keys

Revelation: The guys are quick to mention 'ukulele' and 'Swingers', while the woman have 'kick boxing' and 'my girlfriends' in their top five. This tells me that the guys know to get their seduction game on, because Pacific Island women don't mess around!

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posted by Thursday at 4:49 pm 0 comments

September 10, 2010

How To Be In Favour of Book Burning

So the ageing Yosemite Sam (of COURSE he's in Florida!) has decided to call off burning however many Korans his 15-person ministry could afford - call it a dozen or so. If it weren't for the fact that clearly insane people in the Middle East would flip out even more than they normally do if he had gone through with it, the story would be a two-inch segment on "News of the Weird" and that would be that.

If we lived in a sane world, that is.

Unfortunately, we live in a place where symbols take precedence over the actual; where the Platonic means more than the real. In the same way that the cartoons of Mohammed changed Islam not a whit, the burning of a few Korans in Florida would have affected the faith in absolutely no way. None. Zip. Zero.

The American flag has been burned - repeatedly - in countries around the world. Sure, usually it's in the Middle East, but why limit your view? It's caught fire in every nation in existence. Hell, one's probably been burned for fuel by clumsy expeditionists in Antarctica for all I know. And the grand total of foreign policy affected by these burnings has been... (drum roll please)...


There was quite the little streak of puritanism in the United States (really? How shocking!) that led to an awful lot of book burning, album crushing, and drug banning, but somehow they didn't manage to crush out the ideas. Frankly, if you bought the book, why shouldn't you be allowed to do whatever the heck you want with it? It's YOUR book! If you're too stupid to read it, that's not my problem.

There's a reason why book burning simply isn't done any more - it's not effective. (For future reference: Though Kindles are appropriately named for burning, I really suggest you stick to the traditional paper format...) Trying to pressure schools and libraries from buying the book, now THAT'S more effective!

As for people getting their knickers in a twist about the "desecration" of a holy book, I'm afrraid I have some bad news for you: it's already happened. That's right!

There are Bibles that have been reduced to ash.
There are Korans that have been run through shredders.
There are Torahs that are rotting in compost heaps.

And all of it is happening RIGHT NOW! Millions of these things have been printed over the course of history, and that means millions have been destroyed in various and sundry ways. And if anyone, anywhere, can tell me how this has destroyed their faith, then maybe it was a good thing.

Because if that was all it took, you probably never had much faith to begin with.


posted by Thursday at 6:58 pm 0 comments

September 09, 2010

Truth in Advertising

So, the commercial for the Video Music Awards features the talentless Ke$ha not being smart enough to avoid falling out a window?

That sounds about right!


posted by Thursday at 12:14 pm 0 comments

September 07, 2010


Well, that's another one written, proofread, and sealed off. Better this year than most: 15,700 words, and no really, really glaring errors despite having to move the closing scene to three different countries when I realized that the first, then second, wouldn't work.

But that's it! Another 3-Day Novel done! Whoo!

I get to sleep now, right? And can ignore the computer for a couple of days?


posted by Thursday at 1:15 am 0 comments

September 03, 2010

N -15 Minutes

Come midnight, a new 3-Day Novel will be begun by yours truly.

I've got the characters (though who knows if they'll stay, or go, or someone else won't show up) and I've got the beginning of the story. As for plot...? Last year I had the plot well devised before hand, and my damn characters kept wandering out of it; this time, I'm following them. See how they like it!



posted by Thursday at 11:40 pm 0 comments


*What Would an Associate Chief Justice Do?

Well, in this case, she'd get chained up and on her hands and knees blowing her husband while a black guy plows her from behind.

Allow me to put a reminder out there for all those folks who are cool with a bit of photographic exhibitionism: once and internet porn star, always an internet porn star.

Personally, of course, I couldn't give a rip what she and her husband (and whatever other consenting adults who happen to be around) do sexually, other than to wish them good luck and hope they have fun. Let's face it, I'd rather the judge deciding my case be someone who is getting laid often and well than one who is frustrated and bitter. Wouldn't you?

The more interesting aspect of this situation is the apparent justification for doubts about Justice Lori Douglas' credibility, according to the University of Ottawa's dean of civil law Sebastian Grammond:

Grammond doubts that Douglas would have been appointed a judge if she had disclosed the fact that there were nude photographs of her on the internet in her application.

There is a question in the application that asks, "Is there anything in your past or present which could reflect negatively on yourself or the judiciary and which should be disclosed?"

"I think the facts are sufficiently suspect to warrant disclosure and to raise very important questions as to whether such a person should have been appointed a judge," Grammond said.

It's not that she is apparently into kink - specifically playing the submissive to a black man/men - but that people might know about it. Welcome to the brilliance that is Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

It's a double standard at the most basic point: if you're okay with someone playing Cops and Robbers in the bedroom, then why is it a bad thing when people find out about it?

What her husband did, pressing unwanted advances on someone who was also a client of his law firm, was certainly wrong. I've been hit on by women, men, and couples, and fortunately whenever I've said "no, thanks" they listened. They were polite and left the offer where it was and that was that. I've never had someone who was in a position of power over me make an advance, and I hope never to. Of course, it's not something I'm likely to have to worry about now that I'm hitting 40, but still!

So Justice Douglas' husband (lawyer Jack King) should be reprimanded, investigated, and, if deemed suitable, charges against him should be laid.

But it's interesting to see who the story leads off with, isn't it?

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posted by Thursday at 6:12 pm 0 comments