September 27, 2013

2013 TV Post 1

Believe it or not, the wife and I still have time for television despite a 2 and a half year old occupying the majority of our time.  The little guy is quite a handful but once he's down for the night we like to spend a relaxing evening watching television (and eating lots of junk food).  I'll just go through some of the shows we've watched this week. 

The Blacklist
The premise of this show is a most wanted criminal shows up at the FBI's front door and surrenders and wants to help.  That's the gist of it.  The underlying theme is similar to Silence of the Lambs except the maximum-security criminal is not a sicko.  Like Hannibal Lector, this guy only wants to talk to one person who if I had to guess, is probably his long lost daughter that he abandoned at a very young age. Just a wild guess.

Bottom line: This show has potential.  James Spader plays the criminal and it's the perfect role for Spader because he is great at roles where he gets to talk a lot while everyone listens, or playing an a-hole.  Robert Downey Jr would also have done a good job here.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Marvel hits the tube in this one where it follows a team of people that I assume will search for less-powerful heroes and try to get them on their side before criminal organizations get to them first to make them into bad guys.  None of the real Avengers will show up because it probably costs too much to get them a guest appearance, but the show is very much in that Avengers' Universe and those superheroes are referenced often.

Bottom line: It's Joss Whedon and it's ABC.  If it were FOX, the network that cancels all my favorite shows I'd probably not bother watching but ABC is relatively safe.  They're also a network that does not have a lot of highly rated shows unless you count Dancing With Stars as a show.  They have a bunch of long-running series and are known for that (LOST, Grey's Anatomy) and they tend to stick with shows a little longer than some of the more trigger happy networks (damn you FOX).

Modern Family
Modern Family is starting to get old for me.  I loved the concept of how they interviewed the members of the family separately and the humor, but that fresh style has become old.  I'm finding more and more that I can sit through an entire episode and laugh only once or twice compared to laughing the entire time and chuckling to myself hours later. 

I think that MF is slowly falling into the trap that many other sitcoms fall into, which is where the characters slowly unravel because the writers get too focused on one aspect of the character.  It's like they become stereotypes of themselves, if that makes any sense. 

Bottom line: It's a super popular show and will continue to be that because there's really not much else on. 

Bones
I grew tired of this show because the cases aren't interesting enough at once Booth and Brennan got together it essentially killed the drama for the non-case side of the spectrum of this show. 

Bottom line: This show needs to end.  Even my wife is kind of hoping this show ends soon, and she's been a loyal follower since the beginning.

Revolution
Last year they ended it off with a bang.  The power came back on for a few minutes, someone launched a bunch of nukes and we were told that the President was still alive and was going to make his way back.  This season we found out that the nukes did detonate, taking out half the USA.  But the old crew survived and now were in another town dealing with some ruffians.

Bottom line: I don't think this show will last beyond this current season.  I've said this before -- this show is Walking Dead without the zombies.  It's a Western that is masquerading as a science fiction and their cover has been blown.


May 02, 2013

To tip or not to tip

Today we had a team lunch at Gabby's, the one at 309 King Street West.

We ordered at 12:20pm, and at 12:56, I saw our waitress with her back facing us, wiping tears from her eyes as an older woman rubbed her back.  I could only assume (given the way she took our orders) that she was relatively new at her job and had screwed up the orders and was now sorry for her mistake.  The older lady calmed her down and then came over to our table to explain (lie) about why are food hadn't arrived yet.

She told us it was because there a huge influx of people who had arrived at once and so the kitchen was backed up.  This of course was a blatant lie because we'd seen other people arrive 20 minutes after we ordered, who were already eating and getting ready to pay their bills.  But I mean, what else are you going to say.. you're not going to throw your employee under the bus.  I think that kind of lie is acceptable -- assuming that you're going to make up for the mistake. Free appetizers or coupons usually work when 11 people are sitting around for 45 minutes waiting for their food.  But we got nothing.  The food came 2 minutes after the manager walked away.

So I guess here's the debate:

When you get bad service, do you tip anyway or do you not tip?

Tip no matter what

Some people tip no matter what, they believe there is a minimum tip they should give regardless of service, and if the service was really good, then you give them a little extra.

Tip is a reward

Others believe the tip is the reward.  A waiter's job description is to take your order, enter it into the computer or give the order to the kitchen, and then when the time comes bring the food back out and serve it to you.  Later on, you might bring out the bills and take payments.  That's the job.  Failing to do this means you failed to do your job.  Successfully completing these tasks means you get paid, and anything above and beyond that job description earns potential rewards (ie: tips).  Therefore, only tip when such rewards are deserved.

==

Personally I fall in the former category where I feel the need to tip no matter what.  If I had really bad service I give them 10-15% (depending on the establishment), and bring that up to 15-20% if deserved.  The only places I've given lower than 10% is buffet's (where I did half of their job for them) or restaurants that I frequent often and some days I give more and other days I give less.  The amount often depends on how much I have in my pocket, and whether or not I need to keep some reserve for future purchase (bubble tea after lunch anyone?)

But I do think that tipping as a reward does make quite a bit of sense.  Tipping someone who has provided half-assed service only enables poor performance on the job.  What's their incentive to go above and beyond if they're going to get paid either way? 

May 01, 2013

BBQ Duck

I need a new place to get BBQ duck.  After literally years of searching for the best BBQ duck in Toronto, I found it in Markham.  Specifically a place called Van's BBQ inside the food court at First Markham Place. 

I went there steadily for 3 years and got to know the owner (or I assume he's the owner).  Never got his name (Van?) but we spoke regularly whenever I was there and he talked often about going to other places who offered BBQ duck to compare his product with others.  Having done the same, I would agree wholeheartedly that he had the best BBQ duck with a 100 kilometer radius.

Alas, about 2 months ago I went as usual to find that it had been locked up.  The metal door and been closed.  At first I assumed he'd gone on vacation but after repeat visits week after week, to my chagrin, it never reopened.  Two weeks ago, it had the conclusive For Lease sign in front of it.  The horror.

There's another place 2 spots over that just plain sucks.  For some reason they always had a long lineup throughout the years, but their duck is just terrible.  It's basically plain duck with some kind of sauce they've poured over it to simulate the proper taste of BBQ duck.  So disappointing.  Perhaps they have better product of other BBQ items which might explain the lineup.

Sad times indeed.

On the plus side, Van going out of business probably decreased my chances of a heart attack by about 20%..

April 22, 2013

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April 02, 2013

Beef


            Cuts of Beef
           

                Cuts of Beef infographic by visually.
           

           
           
           
       

December 17, 2012

Social experiment

Debates about violent video games and right to carry arms will rage on forever and nothing may ever get done other than a lot of quibbling.  The bottom line is, are you willing to give those things up, lets say for 5 years, on the chance that this sort of thing will stop happening?  I am.

Ban all violent video games.  Remove the right to carry a gun, or even own a gun.  Wait 5 years.  Count the number of mass murdering that goes on.  Then, go back if it didn't work.  If it did, we all win.


December 11, 2012

Repetitive strain injury

I twisted my neck earlier last week and as a result of overcompensating for that injury, I've started to notice some other issues with my muscles and joints.  As for the neck injury, it's the 3rd time in my life that I've had this and perhaps something I need to be concerned about down the line.  But.. this post is more about the muscles and joints.

As a gamer-turned-parent, (who still enjoys regular gaming in non-work/parenting hours). not to mention a person who sits in front of a computer for all hours of his working day, I've begun to invest a bit more time researching ways to prevent repetitive strain injury.

You can read all about RSI on Wikipedia, or proper ergonomics and posture.. but what I've found so far on the internet are ways to slow down RSI rather than ways to strengthen yourself so that it won't happen.  The latter being more important to me because I have no choice but to sit in front of a computer and keyboard and mouse 8-9 hours per day.  

You can find any number of different exercise to prevent your muscles from cramping up or bunching together during a prolonged period of hunching over your computer desk, and those are all very helpful.  But sitting in front of the computer for 10-12 hours out of 24 per day and doing stretches and exercises is no different from eating junk food and trying to exercise it off.  Sooner or later it's all going to catch up to you.   

I'm not going to lie -- I'm not exactly the person you go to when asking about exercise because I barely do any myself.  And furthermore, due to medical reasons I have very little chance of building up any kind of muscle mass.  This I can get into some other time.  So really what it comes down to, right now, is how I can build some muscles up in my body so that I can sit for (accumulated) long hours in front of a computer/screen.

This is my new quest.

July 26, 2012

Yea it happened

I was back to 150 yesterday afternoon.  So yea, it's pretty easy.

July 23, 2012

Update

From past Thursday, here are my meals:

Thursday lunch: standard drumstick lunch
Thursday dinner: Pho
Friday lunch: standard drumstick lunch
Friday dinner: BBQ (95% meat)
Saturday lunch: All You Can Eat Sushi
Saturday dinner: one drumstick, and some Kraft Dinner
Sunday lunch: Pho
Sunday dinner: Ramen

All in all, a whole lot of carbs.  I didn't weigh myself on Wednesday but I had been hovering around 152.  This morning I was 157.  So 5 pounds gained on the weekend from two pho's, a lot of sushi rice and ramen. 

My understanding is that in 2-3 days I'll be back to 152.  We'll see.

June 26, 2012

Other people are doing it too

They call it the Slow-Carb diet:


http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2012/06/24/how-to-lose-100-pounds/

Here's their rules, pretty much the same as what I did.  I wish I had before and after pictures.

Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.
Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.
Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday.

I didn't do Rule #5.

June 20, 2012

151

I don't really understand the science behind it anymore, but I'm still losing weight.  I've gone back to eating pretty much everything I ate before except for rice.  Burgers (with buns), hot dogs, chips, candy, even soft drinks and beer -- pretty much the same I ate before the diet.  The only major change is we pack our own lunch now so I'm only eating out for lunch once or twice per week. 

I've also been exercising perhaps a tiny bit more than before, but only as product of having to clean the house and getting everything ready as we increase our family size.  I'm wearing clothes that had been tucked far back in the closet and a lot of my shorts don't work anymore without a belt.  I've lost at least 1 inch on my waist, closer to 2.

Lunch we bring is no longer just the two drumsticks but a whole bunch of other stuff -- pork chops, steaks, etc.  I'm still eating vitamins every day and at least 1 apple, and about 1L of water also per day.




June 07, 2012

152

Just to update, I got to around 152 lbs a few weeks ago, and I've been in maintenance mode ever since.  I've had to purchase new belts and several new pairs of pants while also being re-introduced to some old pairs that I nearly threw out.

What maintaining entails is basically that you eat enough carbs that you don't lose weight, while still managing your intake so that you don't end up gaining weight.  This means around between 100-150g of carbs, which is pretty easy to do. 


April 27, 2012

What I've been eating

It seems to take me a lot of effort to remember to write posts.

Anyway, as promised before, here is what I've been eating for the past month or so.

Breakfast/Snack: One apple (21g of carbs)

I don't always eat one, it depends on how hungry I'm feeling at the time.  I've read a bit about intermittent fasting and starving yourself between dinner and lunch is actually just fine.  I drink a ton of water each day, at least 1.5 to 2 liters worth and a lot of that is to suppress hunger.  I find I usually eat the apple on a Monday or Tuesday because on weekends I'm usually a lot looser with the diet and end up spoiling myself, which then leads to earlier hunger on M/T, whereas by W/T/F I'm back to normal again.

Lunch (16g of carbs):
2 Chicken Drumsticks (0g of carbs)
1 cucumber (4g) occasionally
3-4 cauliflower florets (3g) occasionally
5-6 broccoli florets (4g)
1/2 red bell pepper (5g)

The red bell pepper is the golden boy of this lunch.  The reds are the most nutritious in terms of all the little goodies they contain.  Red peppers have about 8 times as much nutrition as the green ones, and maybe 2-3 times as much as the orange and yellow ones.


Dinner (11g)
2 Chicken Drumsticks (0g of carbs)
Mushrooms (1g)
Onions (6g)
Broccoli (4g)

For the most part my protein has been dark chicken meat.  Remember, I'm not looking to boost my protein levels so I can maximize my exercising because I'm not exercising at all.  I'm not looking to avoid eating fat either (as there's no linkage between gaining weight and eating fat).  This is strictly a no-carb diet so I don't have to eat chicken breasts or tuna, etc. 

I've had a few steaks, pork chops or lamb chops on occasion to replace of chicken if we ran out. 

The vegetables are usually cooked in this case, as opposed to raw like for my lunches.  It's nice to eat a nice warm meal at night and that's really the only reason I've been doing that instead of eating it raw at lunch time.  I'm pretty firm about not cooking peppers because those things (especially the red ones) are so chock full of nutrients that it would be a travesty to cook it all away.  But mushrooms and onions have a lot less and taste so good sauteed that I can't resist and I don't mind losing the bit of nutrition that they have.

Dessert (on occasion):
Frozen Yogurt (30g)


Supplements:
Vitamin C
Multivitamin


Some levels of hunger can also be suppressed by eating multivitamins and in all honesty, you should be eating these if you're on any kind of diet.  You can eat a multivitamin and least you know that even if you feel hungry, you're not damaging yourself in any way.  I eat a Vitamin C every day purely out of habit because of not wanting to catch an illness on public transportation. 

Putting it all together, you're thinking OMG he's eating so little.  Truth is I'm stuffed by the time I've finished my dinner most of the time, which means my stomach has likely shrunk a bit over this past month.  I'm eating on average 53g of carbs per day; studies have shown that you lose weight when you eat less than 100g of carbs per day, so I'm in a pretty sweet spot right now.

As of this morning I'm 153.8 pounds, so I've lost a total of 12 pounds in 5 weeks.

April 17, 2012

Diet update

Here's what I've learned over the past few days about my diet, or rather, how insulin works.

This is going to be severely dumbed down and simplified, so if you have a good understanding of insulin, don't read this.  Here's my quick understanding of it and how it relates to dieting.  Insulin is a hormone, which regulates carbs and fat breakdown in the body.  It helps your body either store the sugars and carbs as fat, or gets it to turn it into energy which is then used up.  Basically what you want to do is eat just enough sugar (carbs) so that your body is turning it into energy and not storing it up as fat.

Hence the low or no-carb diet where if you intake little carbs, it'll all turn to energy and you will lose weight because your body will start looking for other fat to turn into energy because you're not eating enough of it, and so you'll lose weight.

The way to do this is to make sure your body doesn't build up its insulin resistance because if it does, it'll just ignore what it's supposed to do and just start storing up more fat.  You don't want that.

A perfect example is this past weekend where I engorged in really bad food.  Saturday morning I was 154 pounds, but by the end of the weekend as in Sunday night, I was 160.  Pastries, beer, battered wings, cookies, pop.  Everything that I didn't touch for the past 4 weeks.  Ina and I attended a course over the weekend and they had free food and who was I to reject free food, right?  That and we didn't have time to cook so we had to eat out.

So during the weekend I put on a fair bit of weight because of the sudden influx of sugars and carbs.  But then as of this morning I was nearly back to normal.  This shows how the insulin kicked back into gear and with no resistance, was able to convert any excess carbs back into energy.  The example of insulin resistance is how my wife also gained as much weight as I did, but that weight didn't go back down as easily as mine did.  That's because she's been drinking pop and snacking throughout my diet (she's taken part in it when it's been convenient for her but hasn't gone out of her way to avoid carbs).  So her resistance is higher (this is also because of a health issue she has, btw) and therefore her weight hasn't gone back down the way mine has.

I'm currently at 156.5 lbs.

I'll get into my daily intake and meals with my next update.

April 16, 2012

the problem with St. Louis Wings

Here's the problem with St. Louis Wings --

Person A: says "I feel like having wings tonight."

Person B says: "How about St. Louis Wings?"

Person A: "St. Louis Wings sucks and they're overpriced."
Person B: "That's true."

Person A: "But man I really want wings.  Tonight."

Person B: "Where should we go?"
Person A: "I have no idea.."
Person B: "Err.. how about St. Louis Wings?"
Person A: "Fine."

What St. Louis Wings has going for them is that when people think of having wings, they think of them.  And they can't think of anywhere else.  The problem is that they suck.  They really do.  The sauce is always way too thick that you can't even taste the chicken, they have a limited selection of flavors, and everything in the restaurant is overpriced. 

Ina and I used to go to Puck N Wings but the one near us closed down.  We went to All Star Wings on Saturday.  Very good.  New go-to place for wings and beer.

April 11, 2012

The Diet

I started a diet about 3 and a half weeks ago.  Actually it's probably exactly 3 weeks ago. 

I've cut out all white carbs (please excuse me if my definitions don't make any sense).  Basically what that means for me is that I've stopped eating rice entirely, and no more bread.  I've also stopped drinking pop and beer.  Actually pop and beer was what I had given up for Lent but ended up extending that as part of my diet.

The results have been great.  I haven't exercised a single day yet, which means it's been the diet alone that have showed results.  I started the diet at 166 pounds and as of last Friday I was 156 pounds.  My goal throughout this time has been to reach 150 or less.  That will probably require some exercise on my part.

As I mentioned as of last Friday.  The reason is that Saturday I went to a wedding banquet and ate more than my fair share, and then Sunday my in-laws took us out to a seafood restaurant (where I couldn't eat most of the food now that I'm allergic to shellfish), but they ordered a couple of dishes just for me and I ate it all, quite happily.  I still managed to stay away from the white carbs but the portions were massive.

As of now, I'm 158 pounds.

What I've been eating is mostly vegetables high in fiber but loaded with good stuff.  Red bell peppers has been my main 'snack', just several slices of them per day, usually about half a bell pepper per day.  Costco sells 6 of them for $7 which includes 2 yellow, 2 orange and 2 red.  Which is a shame because the red ones are actually the best from a nutritional standpoint.  They're also the best tasting ones.  For protein we've been buying, in bulk, chicken drumsticks.  We marinate for a day and then we bake them.  I tried to do chicken breast for some time but considering how little fat I'm eating these days I figured it's safe to eat drumsticks. 

I'm also eating a lot of broccoli, cooked and uncooked and occasionally I'm also have cauliflower raw and cooked.  I started eating a mini-cucumber each day in the beginning but stopped when I realized there wasn't that much nutrition in there and I'd rather fill my stomach with only good stuff.  Occasionally we treat ourselves to some pork chops or beef/lamb, but for the most part we're eating chicken.

I also sautee some onions and mushrooms from time to time to eat with either broccoli or cauliflower. 

That's about all I've eaten over the past 3-4 weeks.

February 03, 2012

Today's thoughts

Superbowl forty-six


I know I haven't really been commenting much on football ever since the wildcard round.  I actually have a few posts drafted but by the time I remembered to publish it was already too late.  Suffice to say I did not expect to see the Giants in the Superbowl, nor did I expect them to be facing the 49ers.  Everything else has fallen into place as expected.

In this rematch of one of the most electrifying Superbowls I've ever seen, it's a less talented Pats team against a much more talented Giants team, and yet I can't help but think the Patriots will win this one.  Throughout this years' playoffs I've taken note of the difference in coaching, and this is one where I think Pats have a significant advantage.  Despite my continual mocking of his name and what he's done in the past, I have a lot of respect for Bill Belicheat.  I think he's the best situational coach because of the preparation he puts his players through.  He's certainly smarter and craftier than Tom Coughlin.  So on the coaching side, it will come down to whether or not Belicheat can make use of his versatile players to outsmart the talented Giants.

Defense always wins championships, and on the outset it seems like the Giants should win because of this.  The Pats defense was terrible during much of the regular season, but since about week 14 or 15, Belicheat has gotten his defense to play, I want to say -- better, or perhaps to their potential.  They started out the year with a lot of young guys who have matured throughout the year and now understand the system.  I think the Giants have a better defense overall, but I don't think the Pats are that far behind compared to what most people think.  I think you give the same group of guys one more year and when you redo the odds in Vegas, the Pats will be favored by more than a touchdown.

Offensively, the Pats are just better, hands down.

For the Pats to win, all they need to do is protect Tom Brady, which they've usually been able to do for most of his career.  Let's face it, giving an average quarterback 5-6 seconds of unhurried protection will allow you to execute your offense 65-75% of the time.  Giving a laser-eye/laser-arm (Tom Brady) 5-6 seconds of that protection will allow him to execute almost all the time, especially when you factor in guys who always find ways to get open like Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Aaron Hernandez.  Then you factor in Rob Gronkowski who isn't always open but might as well be because he's taller and stronger than everyone else around him.

For the Giants to win, they need to get to Tom Brady.  I keep reading about how tough Tom Brady is, but anyone watching games where teams get to Brady know that he's not tough on the field, at all.  He's got a laser arm, and one of the best on-the-spot vision in football.  He is able to look at 5-6 options downfield very quickly, a skill very few have the ability to do.  However, when someone is bearing down on him, he's not able to scramble away and for the most part usually ends up on the ground without anyone even hitting him.  He's not a tough guy.  If the Giants can reduce that normal 5-6 second window to 1-2, and actually hit him a few times, Tom Brady goes from top QB in the league to an average guy who makes all kinds of mistakes and lies down or takes a knee when he sees someone about to deck him.  He's no Eli Manning, in that regard.

Peyton Manning's next team


By no means am I insisting Peyton will end up on a new team, but if I managed the Colts, I'd let him go.

I love Peyton Manning, likely more that a heterosexual man should care to admit.  I plan to name at least one of my kids after him.  But for the Colts to have any kind of future, they need to allow Peyton Manning to become a free agent.  The Colts, despite a pretty solid record over the past 8-10 years are a team that is bereft of talented positional players.  Yes there's a few standouts like Reggie Wayne, and we had Marshall Faulk for awhile, but everyone else is just average.  The Colts have benefited from having the best quarterback, quite possibly in the history of the sport, and have pretended for a near decade to be a great team.

Bill Polian has squandered pick after pick on draft busts, that the average fan don't notice because you see Peyton turning these below average guys into superstars.  On the defensive end, not being on the field for long helps.  We all saw what happened to them this year when the Colts' time-of-possession was worst in the league.

The Colts, if possible should try to re-sign Peyton Manning to a more management contract, and then trade him away and acquire as many quality prospects and draft picks as they can possibly get.   Here is a list of teams that will be looking to acquire him either as a free agent or via trade: Washington Redskins (no thanks), New York Jets (pass!), Miami Dolphins (okay), Tennessee Titans (yes please), Arizona Cardinal (umm..).

Houston Texans are not a possibility, but I'd love to see Manning playing in the same division as the Colts with a far superior team.  Strong defense, great offensive line, several key talented positions.  

January 11, 2012

Today's thoughts

OWNit365 NT+
My wife and I started this bible reading program last night, which we'll attempt to follow so as to bring some regularity to our bible reading.  It's got a neat app for both iPhone and Android.

NFL Playoff weekend
Let's take a look at the matchups coming up this weekend.

New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers.  What impressed me a lot with the Saints last week was their ability to run the ball.  Pierre Thomas ran through tackles and Darren Sproles ran like he was 24.  It was impressive, but I've been to a Lions game before where I saw Michael Turner earn his nickname as the Burner.  They just aren't very good at stopping the run.  And the 49ers are, so that will change things for the Saints.  I don't know a lot about the 49ers passing defense but I know for a fact that they have stopped the run for the most part all season long; which is why I've always felt like their defense would have been better suited in the AFC.  All the powerhouse offenses in the NFC are aerial attacks: Detroit, Green Bay, New Orleans.  While New England is the exception, Pittsburgh, Denver, Houston and Baltimore are all grind-it-out offenses that rely on the run.  So anyway, what I am saying?  I think the Saints take this one.

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots.  The Broncos surprised everyone, including me last week.  While I thought there was a potential for an upset, and though I actually predicted it, deep down I didn't really think it could happen.  John Fox outcoached Mike Tomlin, but I think it seemed more like an underestimation on his part.. like Tomlin was looking ahead, to the Patriots instead of looking at the hear and now.  Bill Belicheat won't do that.  He won't underestimate Tim Tebow, and he'll study hard and he won't get outsmarted by John Fox.  Plus he just hired the guy who drafted Tim Tebow.  I'm not going to say much about that the hiring of Josh McDaniels, except that it feels like something Phil Jackson would do.  Even if McDaniels provides no additional information they already have, already he's getting into the mind of John Fox.  And that's all he really needs.  My pick is the Patriots, in a blowout.

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens.  Throughout his career, I've always felt like Joe Flacco has gotten by behind his superstar running back Ray Rice, and Baltimore's traditionally staunch defense.  I think in this matchup, for the first time in many years, Joe Flacco will be called upon to win this game.  If he performs, Baltimore moves on.  If not, Houston moves on.  Defensively both teams are strong in the same areas; stopping the run, getting to opposing QBs, capitalizing on turnovers, etc.  Offensively, they're both great at protecting their QB, and running the ball.  I think for the Texans to win, they need Arian Foster to hang onto the ball, and they need TJ Yates to outplay Joe Flacco.  I think it'll be close but the Texans have a pretty good chance so I'm picking them to take this one.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers.  To me this is the marquee matchup of the weekend.  We all know about the Packers.  Their offense is nothing short of spectacular.  Aaron Rodgers is fearless.  They have almost no running game but they do have talented runners in Starks and Grant.  Their pass rush is passable but has not played to the same standards as last year.  The Giants have a good pass rush, good pass protection, their offense is hitting their stride and peaking at the right moment.  The talent has always been there, but their runningbacks are both healthy.  Defensively they are okay, not great.

This should be a great matchup.  The Packers barely beat the Giants over a month ago, but it was a very close game and this is a very different Giants team who had lost 3 straight going into that game.  Since then they've won 4 of 5.  The Giants will be able to keep Rodgers off the field.. in that last matchup the Packers had the ball for 8 minutes more than the Giants, so it's going to be a lot closer this time around.  I think the Packers take this one, but it'll be close and I would not be surprised to see the Giants keeping this one very close. 

Cool Firefox trick for images
I discovered this by accident today.  If you right-click and hold on an image in firefoxt, and then move the mouse wheel, you can resize any image.  Pretty useful.

January 09, 2012

Today's thoughts

Wildcard weekend
I got 3 out of 4 in my predictions and strangely enough it had nothing to do with Tebow.  I picked the Broncos to win and win they did.  What a finish!  Congratulations to the the Bronco's for the playoffs first upset win. 

The impression I had in the Broncos-Steelers game was that the Steelers' defense didn't prepare for any kind of passing offense for the Broncos.  They pretty much went with the "I dare you to throw" defense and they got burned for it time and time again.  As a co-worker pointed out, the safeties cheated throughout the game trying to cover the run so the Broncos dealt with one-on-one matchups, which were easily picked apart. 

A lot of focus will go on Tebow's performance but the reality is this game was won by great coaching.  Dare I say it -- Mike Tomlin was flat out out-coached by John Fox.. which is actually kind of sad.

The Saints are playing better than I could have imagined.  They went for it on 4th down over and over and converted them.  Their running game was dominant -- Detroit could not tackle their runners, I was particularly impressed with Pierre Thomas.  Their matchup with the Lions ended up being more of a blowout than a shootout.  The Lions played great in the beginning but the mistakes started to pile up and the Saints played perfect.  I suspect the Lions would be entirely different if they had a decent running game -- i.e: a healthy Jahvid Best.  It's remarkable that Matthew Stafford is only 23 -- Detroit has a bright future ahead of them.

The Falcons' coach Mike Smith watched the Saints game and mistakenly thought his team was just as good.  Twice they tried to convert 4th downs and were stopped cold.  There wasn't even any creativity in their 4th down tries.. one of them had Matt Ryan trying to back his way through the pile.  That's not going to work!  Look at the way Brees jumped the pile with his arms stretched forward -- that's how you do it!  Meanwhile, as I mentioned in my previous post, the Giants' rushing offense is far better than what everyone thought.  Bradshaw and Jacobs carved up the Falcons D and led the way, and Eli played solid mistake-less football.

The Bungles were the only team to disappoint me.  I really thought they could take down the injured Texans, but they didn't.  It was pretty boring game, I didn't really pay much attention to it.

January 06, 2012

My Review of Freestyle Netbook Messenger

Originally submitted at Timbuk2

Classic Messenger Bag with netbook, Kindle and iPad with Smart Cover protection.


Useful and practical bag

By ebrian from Toronto, ON on 1/6/2012

 

4out of 5

Pros: Comfortable Strap, Stylish, Rugged, Good Protection, Lots Of Pockets And Features

Cons: Not Weatherproof, Uncomfortable Strap, Velcro is noisy, No Handle

Best Uses: Commuting, Light Protection, Heavy Duty Protection

Describe Yourself: Stylish, Bargain Hunter, High-End Shopper, Practical

Primary use: Personal

I'm big on slingpack types of bags, but when you walk into a board room you look like a kid. So this bag suits me well for work purposes. It'd be good to have a handle at the top so I can carry it like a mini-briefcase.

In terms of size, it was smaller than I thought it would be, but there's enough volume to fit my lunch, a small drink box, and some fruit, as well as my Kindle and a notebook. There's a ton of pockets as well for your various knick knacks, although I'm sad there's no narrow pocket for a pen.

I wish the connector for the strap-to-bag wasn't so bulky. There's this tightening mechanism and a click connector which seems kind of redundant and take a fair bit of space. The main bag flap is a bit narrow compared to the width of the actual bag (there's maybe 1/2 inch open on each side, which means if it's pouring rain your stuff is going to get wet). But I'm just getting nitpicky at this point.. it's a good bag.

(legalese)

January 04, 2012

Today's thoughts

Revisiting my NFL Predictions
Pretty much the only scenario that can still happen is an NFC championship game between the Saints and Packers, as well as the AFC championship between the Patriots and Steelers.  Several months ago I thought the Saints could win it all, and I still think this is quite possible.

Predictions to actual matchups
Steelers at Broncos.  I'm going with the underdogs here, despite my early season projections.  I've underestimated Ben Roethlisberger in my fantasy leagues on several occasions this season, but considering that he is actually limping, and the fact that Rashard Mendenhall is out, leads me to believe there is a small chance here for an upset.  How great would it be if Tim Tebow can gut this one out in his first playoff game?

Bungles at Texans.  I can't think of any reason why the Bengals don't win this one.  They have a solid defense, and their offense is all healthy.  Houston is just getting Andre Johnson back but they've got TJ Yates as their QB and (I think) Arian Foster is hobbled, even if he does still play.  This one will come down to Houston's pass rush and pass protection.  I think the Bungles win.

Falcons at Giants.  I like the Giants in this matchup.  I think all the talk about the Giants being unable to run this year will be erased by the end of this game.  They still have healthy guys and a decent line to break holes, and Eli Manning has been playing well.  I think the Falcons are fully capable of the upset though, it'll be a close game.

Lions at Saints.  Since I have the Saints going to the Superbowl, they're obviously going to have to win this one.  I think they're just too good, and the fact that the Lions couldn't stop Matt Flynn last week says to me that despite the crazy amount of adjustments they'll make to react from last week's blowout, they won't be able to stop Brees, at all.  Although he's not as elusive as Rodgers, he's equally fearless and will get the job done.  Btw, I'm happy for the Lions finally making the playoffs.

December 19, 2011

Today thoughts

Skyrim - Quests
I've never played a game with so many quests.  The minute you turn in a quest, 1-5 more pop up.  It's crazy.  Maybe I'm just being anal but I prefer maybe 8-10 open quests at any given time.  Right now I've got about 25!

Tebow vs Brady
I watched some parts of this game before it got out of hand.  Tebow's mechanics are not as bad as people say.  Yes, he's not so great at throwing a perfect spiral.  Another issue is when he throws on the run, he's often doing it off his back leg instead of stepping into the throw, which likely accounts for most of his too-short passes.  He should work on that. 

Championship game!
I've made it to the Championship game in my Flag Football fantasy league.  That's the one run by some people at my old church.  My season ended early in my other league, the one I actually care about, as usual.  I finished the year 4-9 and it was pretty much a disaster from the get-go, so many injuries.

December 16, 2011

Today's thoughts

Toronto Raptors 2011-2012
I think the Raptors will win between 13-15 games this year, which should be good enough for dead last in the NBA.  Nothing has changed from the last game of the season to now, except a coaching change, while other teams equally as bad as we were last year have made some strides.  The only team that could conceivably be worst than us are probably the Charlotte Bobcats, who traded away their two best players in Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson.  They have the potential to be worse than us.

Churching the unchurched
What does it mean when someone says they want to church the unchurched?  Well, essentially it means they want to do what we as Christians have been called mandated to do. It's not a choice; it's a lifestyle.

Recently a friend of mine quit his pastoral job at a big church to follow this mandate.. all I can say is: Right on, brother! 

Best Buy
I do not appreciate the way they do business.  I ordered something online and at the time, it said there were 2 left in stock.  After I completed my order, I went back to the site and it said the product had 1 in stock.  That was 3 weeks ago.  I still haven't heard anything, and when I called in to ask, they said the manufacturer would get back to me on an ETA.  Why would they need to call the manufacturer unless they lied about how many products they had in stock?

...and don't make the excuse that maybe someone else ordered at the same time as I did.  It's not hard to update your database when someone has purchased something and show real-time values. 

Terra Nova
One thing that I don't get about this show is why the kid Josh doesn't make a move on his female friend Skye.  Apparently in the future, teenage boys don't care about teenage girls. 

Granted he's got a girlfriend 'in the future', but she's far far away.  Move on dude.  Move on.  

November 30, 2011

Today's thoughts

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
I've been playing Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for the past few days and I'd like to dedicate this post to my newest nemesis, the Hagraven.  But before we get into that, I have a hard time whenever I play the types of games where you design your character right down to the little details like length of bridge of nose, and how angled I want his jaw to be. 

I'm all for the customization, but I could literally spend a week designing my guy if I really cared that much about it.  I selected a Wood Elf, because it just makes more sense in terms of what I usually like to do in most games, which is control animals, and frolic through the forest with a long range weapon.  But the Wood Elf male is extremely ugly, so I spent a better part of Sunday afternoon and evening trying to make him look human -- no easy task.

Being sneaky
In all games such as these, I always feel like aside from trying to win the main objective, my secondary goal is to try to attain ALL of the money in the entire game.  In order to do this, you have to level up your character to the point where I'm able to sneak around so well that I can steal anything I want, and then be able to barter well enough that I can sell items for more than I paid for them.  The idea, is to be able to pay people for services and then, wait til it's dark, and steal all the money I paid them back, and then do it again until I've exhausted their use.  Further, I need to be able to steal every item in a store, and sell it back to the store owner, then buy his good stuff that I can't steal, and then pickpocket him so I can get all my money back. 

If for whatever reason I'm unable to beat the game, I'd at least be satisfied that I stole and plundered to my heart's content. 

The Hagraven
Like pretty much any game I've ever played, my biggest weakness has always been forgetting to Save my game.  Yesterday, I traveled pretty much across half the "world" to get to this Hagraven, from which I needed some ingredient that I could use to save a really big tree in White Run, one of the towns.  Don't worry, this story gets better.  So I'm riding up to this big hill and I notice this weird looking old lady at the top.  Easy pickings for my "Jon", who is an expert archer. 

So I got off my horse, and me and Lydia (my bodyguard aka mule) go to work.  As I approach, I just see her head bobbing up and down so I just take a few shots with my trust bow and arrow, and then BLAMO!  A huge fireball hits me and takes me down to a sliver of health.  So I started running towards the hill, thinking I can cut off the angles so she can't hit me.  Wrong.  BLAMO!  If it weren't for me scarfing down a bunch of tomatoes and apples, I'd have been dead.  I quickly (without really thinking about it) I press F5 to save the game.  Big mistake.  BLAMO!  I'm dead.  So I press F9 to load, and when the game comes back up, BLAMO! F9, while pressing the run key.. BLAMO!  F9, while pressing the strafe key.... BLAMO!

Then I look up to see if I can load an earlier game.  The next most recent save game was from 5 hours ago.  Damn it.


November 17, 2011

Today's thoughts

The Toronto Star
These guys called my house and asked me if I'd be interested in a trial of free newspapers for about a month.  I said no.  A few days later, someone started delivering the Toronto Star to my house.  It was annoying, because we don't get mail delivered to our door, so now suddenly I needed to go up to the front of my house (we park our car in the garage so I rarely go in through the front door) to pick it up.  

Newspaper delivery doesn't make sense to me.  For one thing, there's the internet and as far as I know, all or most Canadian publications offer their content free online.  I know it's all recycled materials, but still seems like a waste to me.  Second, I don't read the Toronto Star. 

TV in Canada
We were in Chicago this past weekend, and during one night when I'd had some caffeine later than I should have, I sat in front of the TV in our hotel and flipped around.  What I realized was that in Canada, we really get the raw end of the deal.  There is not a single show exclusive to Canadian television networks that I desperately need to watch, which means that really we don't need CTV, CityTV, Global, etc.  They're completely pointless other than to deliver Canadian advertising.  Seriously, when basic cable offers NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, what possible reason do viewers have to tune into Canadian networks, other than to watch the occasional Leafs game and a Leons commercial?

What's worse, here we have to pay extra for the good stuff, for networks like HBO, Showtime, FX, USA, AMC.  That is just not fair at all.  CRTC: You suck.

Chicago
I've already said this to a few people, but Chicago is basically Toronto in 75 years, if we get some decent city planners in charge.  Someone with vision.  David Miller kind of got us started before Transit City was abruptly ended by an overly conservative anti-visionist.  Chicago has basically the same climate as we do, but their downtown core is massive and there's transit going everywhere.  They cherish their arts and culture just as we do, only they put them on a pedestal whereas we kind of just appreciate it.  We don't have a river to worry about building around.  They have a hockey, basketball and baseball team just as we do.  And football, if you consider the Argos a world class football team. 

So yea, pretty much the only thing keeping us from becoming a great city is leadership.

November 04, 2011

Today's thoughts

The halfway mark of the NFL season

Here's a few of my notes:
- The Bengals have already won 2 more games this year than I had predicted they'd win all year.  This is due part to the emergence of rookie QB Andy Dalton, who has put together a solid first half.  He's developed a pretty good on-field relationship with fellow rookie A.J. Green, who is leading all rookie receivers with 33 receptions, 516 yards and 5 touchdowns.  That actually puts him amongst the top 15 receivers in the league.
- Barring a major setback, the Bills are going to far outweigh my expectations as well, though I can't see them doing much in the playoffs.  They have a very opportunistic defense that capitalizes on mistakes, but good teams don't make a lot of mistakes in the playoffs.
- The Colts haven't had great D for as long as I can remember, but now with Peyton Manning not playing all year, they've been exposed for being even worse than most fans have feared all along.  They're surrendering up a mind-blowing 31.5 points per game.
- The wildcard race in the AFC should be interesting.  I assume they will both come out of either the East or North, and it'll be between the Jets, Bills, Ravens and Bengals.  

- The biggest surprise in the NFC has been, for me, the 49ers.  I had them pegged for a horrible season but they're defense has been shutting everyone down, particularly their run defense.  They also have, as a result of several mediocre season recently, an incredibly easy schedule which could easily have them finishing the year 11-5.  The West is terrible though, the 49ers are 6-1 and the next closest is Seattle at 2-5.  The 49ers do not face the Packers in the regular season, but I could see this being an interesting matchup in the playoffs, because the Packers simply don't bother to run the football.  
- I thought the Saints would be better than they have been.  They're 5-3, but something seems off.  They're not as good as I thought they'd be.  Could be due to Mark Ingram not being nearly as good as I'd hoped.
- The Lions are a strong team, but it feels constantly like local fans are waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Detroit, as a city and community, needs the Lions to succeed after falling into some pretty hard times.  One thing that is encouraging though, is that they have a strong young nucleus of guys that could see them being competitive for the next 3-4 years.  

- The biggest surprise from a player perspective has been Cam Newton.  I thought he'd be a bum.  He's actually quite good.  Things will likely change for him next year as teams will have more tape on him, but he's shown to have a big arm and has great mobility.  Younger QBs tend to excel with the help of huge receivers but Steve Smith is tiny and Cam hasn't missed a beat

November 03, 2011

Today's thoughts

A note to Google:
It's one thing to change some stupid social network site that you might log into once or twice a day to check on some goofy pictures of your friends' drunken orgy.  The makers of Facebook routinely change the interface of their website without a care in the world causing minor complaints and annoyances across the globe.  But you get use to them, because at the end of the day, it's just some social fun site that doesn't matter. 

Gmail on the other hand, is the center of the universe for me.  For one thing, I have it open at home and at work ALL THE TIME.  While I might check Facebook for about an hour every day, I have Gmail on 24/7.  I also have GReader on 24/7.  

Google+ -- not so much because as a social networking tool, it's unavailable to me throughout my work day.  By the way, guess what happens when you're using GReader and Google+ is blocked?  It becomes a generic reader like every other reader available online.  And unfortunately, with all the GUI changes, this one looks like SHIT. 

So the next time you decide to make significant, sweeping changes to the interface that we've all come to know and love, and stare at 24 hours per day (Yes, I dream in Gmail), think again.  Think AGAIN.

October 19, 2011

Today's thoughts

Ashton Kutcher is not winning
I don't know my motivation, but I am trying really hard to like the new Two and a Half Men, sans Charlie Sheen.  This show just doesn't work without him.  And it seems like either Ashton Kutcher or the writers, or both, are confused about who his character is.  In the beginning he seemed like a very dark and sad character, but highly intelligent and successful.  Later it became more apparent that he's quite immature and almost child-like.  Now, it seems like he's a college frat boy. 

I get that they're trying to feel things out but it's kind of getting out of hand.  Top that off with Berta who they've kind of forced a larger role upon, but she's always only been good at snide remarks and one-liners.  Thrusting her into a more prominent role seems really forced.. there's no reason for her to be any more involved than before.  They should have started "Walden" as a dumb frat boy who inherited billions, rather than a self-made man.  

Minka Kelly should return to Parenthood
Clearly, the relationship between Crosby and Jasmine is never going to be fully reconciled.  Why not just bring back Gaby and give the guy a romantic interest?  Minka Kelly is way too good looking to not be on television.  Since Charlie's Angels directors/writers refused to take my advice, the show's been canceled and Minka needs a new job.  Do the right thing.

October 18, 2011

Today's thoughts

Don't just 'occupy' something
I think that the people who are occupying Wall Street have good reason to be doing it.  However, the ones doing it in Toronto.. doesn't hold a lot of water with me.  First of all, we have health care.  Our financial institutions didn't receive a bailout.  We have very good welfare services, community housing, etc.  Unlike the Americans, the marginalized are pretty well taken care of here in Canada.  So don't occupy Bay Street just because you want to be part of something cool and meaningful.  Understand the issues and then act accordingly. 

Razing the roof
Our roof started leaking last week.  It's no fun, and on top of that, fairly stressful.  In all honesty it's not like my 'things' are in danger of getting wet, it's just the idea that water is coming through the roof into my house that bothers me.  And perhaps the potential danger of mold.  Another thing that concerns me is despite what I've read on Wikipedia and other DIY sites, I really don't know a whole lot about roofing.  Chances are, when I hire whomever to fix it, I'm going to get ripped off.  

I don't like getting ripped off.


October 07, 2011

Today's thoughts

Almond Butter
I've always wanted to try almond butter ever since I heard about it.  Almonds are good for you and they taste great.  Peanuts are good for you and they taste great.  So it makes sense that almond butter is good right?  Wrong.  Almond butter sucks.  We tried some at Costco the other day, and it was not good at all.  It's like eating peanut butter without any taste.


Provincial Politics
Last night, Ontarians voted to get Dalton McGuinty back again as the provincial leader of Ontario.  To put this into perspective, this is the guy who came up with the 13% Harmonized Services Tax.  Thirteen frigging percent.  Kind of gives you an understanding of how bad you have to be to lose to this guy.  I don't know anyone who enjoys paying taxes, let alone 13% taxes.  Why did he win?  Because of Stephen Harper and Rob Ford.  No one wants to see a three-level Conservative government.

I don't like Dalton McGuinty at all, but thank you Jesus.