25 Sep 2009

The 2009-10 Sweet Leafs

Note: If you are not a hockey fan, skip this update. You won't get it. My wife doesn't

Our annual Seattle Fantasy Hockey draft was last Thursday and it was a magnificent success. We did it on-line this year, with myself here on the East Coast, GM Hinds in Australia on an 18-month hiking trip and GM Chekan stuck baby-sitting. We usually do our draft from a pub over beers with group smoke breaks every four rounds to talk about how great we are doing. Unfortunately there was no way to "pause" the Yahoo! draft (despite GM Chekan asking every 15 minutes). Everyone who had research was flustered as it went pretty fast - I blame our dictatorial Commissioner Kevin Tracey (pictured below)



Still, I was able to draft the best team and am locked in for my second championship.

Note: Chris Harvey the Fantasy GM is brash and cocky, unlike the other Chris Harvey, who is humble and pleasant. Also, The Sweet Leafs players must be cool, ideally Canadian or playing for a Canadian-based team, and bonus points for being part of the initial Canadian Olympic invite list. All this essentially excludes teams from the South-East, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix. Exceptions are made for Anaheim, as they play a good tough game, and Florida because two of their players were begging to join my team and promised to deliver PIMs (an important category)

That said, let's look at The Sweet Leafs (The team name being a cross between Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" and, of course, The Toronto Maple Leafs).

Categories are Goals (G), Assists (A), +/-, Penalty Minutes (PIMs) and Power Play Points (PPP). Goalie categories are Wins (W) and Save Percentage (Sv %). For the season, you need 2 Centres, 4 Wings, 3 Defensemen, 2 Utility (Center, Wing or even Defensemen if you suck as a GM) and 2 Goalies. There are 3 open Bench spots as you see fit.

Centres
We are allowed to protect up to two players from the prior season; my one protection was the game's elite player, The Pittsburgh Penguins's Evgeni Malkin. The reigning NHL Scoring Champ. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy Winner. Stanley Cup ring. Great in every category. I expect great things. Here he is doing what he does best





My second center is Jason Spezza - Canadian (Mississauga), Olympian, and plays in the nation's capital, Ottawa. Big Assist guy. Here he is for Team Canada scoring against the evil Russians. Preview of 2010 in Vancouver



Jason will also be one of The Sweet Leafs's leaders, probably an alternate captain, definitely someone who will speak to the press



Wings
Last year I had his twin Henrik, this year I look to Daniel to put up his usual 80 points / strong + rating, and unexciting PIMs. Still...playing for Vancouver is a bonus. This pic exemplifies the Sedins - it was the most exciting pic on Google - no crazy celebration, no fighting, no girls, just efficient and reliable



Next is Bobby Ryan. An American (not a bad thing) playing in California. However, he plays on a line with the uber-cool Ryan Getzlaf from Saskatchewan (and whose brother plays in the CFL) and the uber-cool Corey Perry from Peterborough. One of the best lines in the game. I got a little grief from the other jackass GMs ("too early") but, as I said, they are jackasses. This guy will score 40





Next is the Fonz of Hockey...the man...Alex Kovalev. People don't understand him. He is a great fit for The Sweet Leafs, he will be an example for "the kids" and he will be a strong candidate to be the team's captain (past captains have included Chris Pronger and Keith Primeau)



Lastly is Milan Michalek. Talented and still young, he is now free from the oppression of San Jose and is now in the nation's capital with Jason Spezza. I expect all-around good numbers from the native of Jindrichuv Hradec, Czechoslovakia. Here he is with his realtor in Silicon Valley before he was traded



Defensemen
Always a puzzle - when do you draft your first D? And can Lidstrom still put up insane numbers at 37 or 39 or whatever he is? I waited. And I got great guys, no weaknesses at all. First up is the elite PPP quarterback for Les Habs, Andrei Markov. I do feel bad having 3 guys from Team Russia who will be sad after they lose the gold-medal game to Canada in February, but they'll still have the silver



Next up is Kevin Bieksa. I needed PIMs and this guy can deliver. Plus he plays for Vancouver and is from Grimsby, Ontario, home of my last junior team (The Grimsby Peach Kings - yes, "Peach Kings"). And, as you can see, Kevin is popular with the ladies, another characteristic of The Sweet Leafs



Lastly I decided to keep the PIMs coming with the legend, Bryan McCabe. Poor guy, no one ever needed a trade as bad as him from Toronto. He was soooo bad by the end and the fans were just giving it to him. He had a habit his last season of scoring in his own net, falling down in overtime, and taking slap shots that would hit teammates in the neck...it was terrible...



But Bryan is talented, he played for Team Canada in 2006, and he's from St. Catherines, Ontario. And he can fight - win or lose, does not matter. 5 minutes is 5 minutes either way...hang in there, Bryan



Utility
Essentially open spots for two talented guys. First up is young Nathan Horton, the perennial under-achiever. But he's only 24 and from up the road in Welland, Ontario. Plus he has extra value as being designated both a "C" and a "W" so he can fill-in at either if an injury happens, God forbid. And he can fight. I expect 30-30-80





Next up is Brandon Dubinsky. He's from Alaska and he plays in NY. Yes, he delivers PIMs and maybe even 50 points, but why was he drafted? Actually, it was an accident. I was thinking about it, but next thing I knew he was on the team. That's ok - but anything less than 100 PIMs will be a disappointment



The Bench (non-Goaltender)
Important early - you need to either waive them soon or if they are off to a good start maybe give them a starting role. One key guy who will start many games for The Sweet Leafs - and may even wear the "C" - is Sean Avery. He needs no introduction



Next up is the under-rated and unknown Marek Zidlicky. Cursed to play for boring Nashville and now boring Minnesota, the guy is money - 40 points in 4 of his 5 seasons and at least 63 PIMs. Plus an above-average PPP guy. Given McCabe and Bieksa will likely be injured at some point, this guy will be very valuable as D on the waiver wire is generally weak (i.e. Craig Rivet is as good as it gets)



Goalies
They brought me my title and they have doomed me. Last year Carey Price stabbed me in the back many times. This year...greatness...

Mikkaa Kiprusoff was once the 2nd or 3rd best goalie in the world. Since then Calgary has overused him and there are bad people out there who say he sucks. Those people are clowns and that will be proven in 2009-10. And for frick sakes, the guy led the league with 45 wins last year. In fantasy, though, his below-average Sv % can drag you down...not this year...look how focused the man is - especially the second pic, look at his focus





Next, my other starter, the guy who I need to come through to win this title...Ray Emery. One thing I loved about Ray - he never denied when he messed up and always answered questions when he was creating all that turmoil in Ottawa (before he essentially got the boot from the NHL to Russia). I have faith. I mean, the guy is from Hamilton





Lastly, you need a 3rd goalie as no goalie plays all 82 games. I have Vesa Toskala. At one time he took the starting job away from Nabakov in San Jose. As expected, my fellow jackass GMs ridiculed the Vesa pick, but with Beauchemin and Komisarek added, Toronto will be much stronger and so will Vesa's Sv %. My plan is to play him on Saturday nights (Hockey Night in Canada)



Conclusion
The Sweet Leafs will win the 2009-10 Championship

20 Sep 2009

Hudson Smart, Chris Dumb

The only other views I've had as good as these from a house was on Pender Island (busy channel for BC Ferries between Victoria and Vancouver plus whales plus Canadian Geese loudly letting you know it was 4am). These are from Friday morning:





So the title. Funny. Friday night I was talking with The Missus, who is still back in Bothell wrapping up our real estate transaction. I had asked the owners of this house how AT&T coverage was - before booking. They said it could go from 4 bars to none standing still. I thought "They obviously don't understand what they're talking about - I work in the industry, that doesn't make sense." It's totally true. I'll drop with 2 bars. Believe me, out here it is not a capacity issue.

Anyways, talking with The Missus, maybe 9pm EST. I did find where there is perfect coverage - outside the front door. It was pretty cold. Very windy. Dark, no light at all.

Windy.

Whoooooooooooooooosh

Slam!

Shoot.

Locked out.

No problem. I immediately thought "What would Bear do?" (if you've never seen Man versus Wild, never mind).

Looked around, checked every window. Shoot, double bolted. Shoot.

Went out to the unlocked car, to see what things I could find to pick the lock (which I've never done, and I've tried). Nothing in the car.

Went to the back door to double check. Locked. And this is what I saw when I looked in the house:



Thankfully, The Missus eventually spoke to the owners and there was a back-up set of keys in a lock-box. All was good.

Saturday was perfect fall weather and it was time for my long run. On MapMyRun.com someone was kind enough to post an 11.6-mile run in the Bretton Woods area. Headed up and was pleased to realize that I was only 30 minutes from the Mount Washington Hotel:



Anyways, the run turned out to be on the bogus side as it was on a state road with plenty of cars at 55mph and no real shoulder. I decided to just head off into the woods on the many cross-country ski trails. Your ankles can take a beating, especially when the trails are pretty chewed up by horses walking. That and all the trails seemed to either end or ascended off into the sky. I've been doing miles of hills ever since we entered Colorado, was looking forward to a nice flat run. After an hour I called it a day and cruised around some before heading back to try and wrap up some consulting work (finished Sunday). Here's a cool looking church:



The Missus returns to the trip late Wednesday night, when the pictures from the car-in-motion should improve. She thinks I'll be picking her up in Boston - which is 3 hours away - at 11pm.

HAHAHAHAHA!

I have my Fantasy Hockey Draft the next night, I need my sleep. Have a nice walk, wife.

HAHAHAHAHA!

Another incredible fall day today. I tried to upload a video of me and Hudson playing his favorite game, tennis, but no luck.

I'll post a pre-draft update Tuesday followed by the unveiling of my 2009-10 Championship Team after the draft...

17 Sep 2009

Moose and Bears

Well, left the beautiful Berkshires today. Spent the drive through Massachusetts on a call with my good friends at France Telecom. I am lucky that there are times I love my job.

Crossed two more state lines - twice again risking my life to get photos for The Missus (who was back in Bothell watching Soap Operas and eating bon-bons, no doubt)




Much of the driving today was in Vermont. I was surprised - I assumed if I was on any Interstate, I would have flawless coverage. Not in Vermont. I remember there was something about Vermont and a deal we did not do with Rural Cellular that frustrated my boss's boss. Too bad, had to pull over twice as I was on another set of calls with a buddy in Denmark. We were negotiating a set of deals and the first time I dropped I was making a specific offer. When I talked to him a few minutes later he tried to quote back a different set of numbers, HAHA! Good times!

Vermont was beautiful and the leaves are starting to change colors.




I tried to get more incredible shots, but every time I got the camera out *poof* road signs or State Troopers. I had better luck crossing into New Hampshire. This was the view as I crossed into the state:



Yes - Moose Crossings. Never seen a moose, that would be cool.

The house I am at does not seem haunted and has the most incredible views at any place I've stayed at. Unfortunately the photos don't come close to how spectacular it really is:




Obviously the owners are nice people, they left a little gift basket including Moose Dog Cookies - I guess so when they see a real moose they'll think "Hey, that's a big cookie, MMMMM!"



Aside from moose, I guess there are bears too:



As many may know by now, we are days from selling our house. I won't bore you with the details of why real estate agents are the biggest jackasses, Hudson perfectly illustrates how we feel about them. Good boy, Hudson!



One week until my Fantasy Hockey Draft...

15 Sep 2009

Don't Trouble Yourself Coming To My Funeral...

That's what me and my brother agreed to a few weeks back, that we didn't want the other to go to the hassle. We also thought it would be funny if we made a multi-hour self-tribute on DVD to be played at our funerals, assuming that most folks would be too respectful to get up and leave. On a long run the other day I wondered who would be the first to get up and leave mine - my guess is my old boss Bob Stokes, who would eloquently be able to justify himself over a pint. Anyways, if I don't make it out of haunted New England, no need to trouble yourself coming to my funeral - except Pa Harvey, who downplayed the risk from ghosts.

I'd have gone crazy by now with the complete darkness and all the strange noises - including occasional deep growls from Hudson at who knows what - if it weren't for that Peter Lynch book. I have maybe 10 books on the trip - 9 of which are collections of "true" ghost stories. The other 1 is Lynch's book, with chapters such as "Taking Union Carbide to Lunch" and "If It's Tuesday, It Must Be The Belgium Fund". I also switch the iPod to Celtic music. Nothing bad happens during a jig or a reel, right?

See, if Maureen were here, at least I know I could outrun her and they - Satan et al - could catch her instead. But, as she is in Bothell, this is who I have to protect me from the legion of undead:




If we do make it out of here, we'll be doing a 5k person-dog race this Saturday in Vermont. Sunday we did a 1-miler together and today 2.3-miles in good time:

http://www.dogrundog.com/race-locations/092009-norwich.html

I'm not sure why having another person around is calming. According to many of the horror movies I've seen, the wife would be the first to go anyways, probably walking into a dark cellar where the noises were coming from, scantily dressed, saying "Hello, what do you want with us" before shhkkkkkkttt! (at least per the dumb slasher movies, not the classics like "The Exorcist" or "The Changeling" filmed in Tacoma).

I blame the Catholic Church for being scared of ghosts, with all the rituals and superstitions, like "All Souls Night" and "All Saints Day" and "Halloween" (ok, that's not theirs). I also lived in a haunted house in college for three years. I even have a photo from Nashville with two ghosts staring out a window - at a historic home where The Battle of Nashville was fought. I showed it to Pa Harvey - the Nuclear Physicist - and he said "Balderdash" (which is why he is required to attend my funeral). So yes, I do believe in ghosts.

One night here Hudson got spooked for some reason, jumped off the bed and went upstairs (we usually move downstairs about 4 or 5 in the morning). I didn't want to go back to sleeping on the small couch:

"Come here Hudson"

"No"

"Come on boy"

"F*ck off"

I had to use bacon to entice him back down stairs.

There's really nowhere to run to in the middle of the night - nothing but more dense woods:




And if all this night activity isn't enough, these three came out of nowhere today, startled the heck out of me while I was on a call. Who expects to see turkeys? No wonder I'm so edgy at work...

13 Sep 2009

Scary Monster

Since The Missus is back in Bothell, thought I'd share some pics of of The Hud in our Berkshire yard...