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Tag Archives: sports

  • We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance
    Recently I saw a quick video from F1 comparing pit stop from the olden days and now. Not surprisingly, changing tires and refueling the car is a lot faster now due to advances in technology and processes. It’s a lot like sports. However, this article says there’s one other factor – finding the outlier athletes.

    We find a similar story in the NBA with Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal was the first 7-footer in the league who retained the power and agility of a much smaller man. Neither a beanpole nor a plodding hulk, he would have been an athletic 200-pounder if scaled down to 6 feet in height. When Shaq got the ball near the hoop, no man (or sometimes even two men) could stop him from dunking it. Soon after his entry into the league, basket frames had to be reinforced to prevent being destroyed by his dunks. After the Lakers won three championships in a row, the NBA was forced to change their rules drastically—allowing zone defenses—in order to reduce Shaq’s domination of the game.

  • The weird world of kidnapping insurance
    A look at the world of kidnapping insurance, where a bunch of firms work in concert to keep fees low. It’s a strange life to tell yourself that you’re going to work every day so kidnappers won’t suffer inflation

    From Shortland’s perspective, that makes sound moral sense as well as sound business sense: By controlling the ransom payouts, you minimize the profits kidnappers make from each ransom, and thus minimize the money they can pump into their next kidnapping, or whatever other scheme the criminal or terrorist group they’re part of is working on. “If you left rich western families to negotiate these ransoms by themselves, they would probably do a lot more harm, and kidnapping would be a lot nastier, and more profitable for the kidnappers,” Shortland said. “Once you’re talking about multi-million dollar ransoms, then the people who can’t afford it — they get killed, or they just rot for years and years.”

  • Building a Cathedral
    I wouldn’t have picked this article if not for the fire at Notre Dame. But it raises an interesting question as to why cathedrals take so long to build. I guess the short answer is a slow trickle of money results in slow construction, and slow construction means dramatic changes can occur

    As Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote in The Black Swan, human lifetimes and the lifetimes of human projects seem to obey an opposite set of rules. For humans, “the older we get the less likely we are to live.” But once a project exceeds its due date, its estimated time to completion expands. While humans tend towards death, late projects become immortal. “The longer you wait,” writes Taleb, “the longer you will be expected to wait.”

  • Hand dryers v paper towels: the surprisingly dirty fight for the right to dry your hands
    While the article is about paper towels and air hand dryers, the deeper issue is that even in seemingly minor and trivial industries like this, there is a lot of lobbying and potentially fake science trying to make one side win.

    These were strange conclusions, because the Leeds study’s data was quite equivocal. The scientists sampled six different parts of the restrooms they visited. Only in two of these locations – on the floors, and on the surfaces of hand dryers or towel dispensers – did washrooms with dryers show appreciably more bacteria than those with paper towels. Even then, those higher numbers were half of those typically found on our own bathroom floors at home. Unless you were planning to caress the floor, it didn’t seem to matter

  • ‘We all suffer’: why San Francisco techies hate the city they transformed
    Every time I got to the Bay area, I think, wow this is a place where I wouldn’t want to live. Here’s some more reasons why.

    “It’s just not sustainable for a couple to live here,” he said. “A million-plus for a home with $300,000 down? Then when we have kids, $30,000 a year for private school? Who can afford that even making $300,000 a year? … There’s hundreds of other places in the country with the same restaurant culture or at least on par that cost half as much.”

  • The Improbable Origins of Powerpoint
    Jump back many years and learn how Powerpoint started.

    In April 1987, Forethought introduced its new presentation program to the market very much as it had been conceived, but with a different name. Presenter was now PowerPoint 1.0—there are conflicting accounts of the name change—and it was a proverbial overnight success with Macintosh users. In the first month, Forethought booked $1 million in sales of PowerPoint, at a net profit of $400,000, which was about what the company had spent developing it. And just over three months after PowerPoint’s introduction, Microsoft purchased Forethought outright for $14 million in cash.

  • Don’t worry, self-driving cars are likely to be better at ethics than we are
    This article argues that the philosophical Trolley problem is just a theoretical argument, and that the real life implementation won’t need someone to code a rule about which path to take. Wishful or prescient thinking? Who knows.

    Say you’re standing there, watching the trolley car approach, pondering whether to throw the switch and divert it (and kill someone). Then you notice, peeking out from underneath a nearby pile of junk, an old, discarded flagpole, and realize you could put it on the track to slow or stop the trolley car entirely before it kills anyone. Your perceptiveness has reframed the decision at hand; you’re now answering a different moral question, weighing different options.

    In philosophy class, that kind of thing is ruled out. The trolley problem contains no such details to notice. The situation is transparent; we know exactly what the choices are and what the consequences of our decisions will be.

  • Worst Roommate Ever
    It is probably hyperbole but this story about a horrible & manipulative roommate is just that, an interesting story.

    Often, the first signs of trouble were easy to downplay: In many cases, roommates came home to find a chandelier removed, a bookshelf filled with unfamiliar books, a couch or potted plant shifted slightly this way or that. These incursions, almost imperceptible, seemed calculated to unsettle. Suspecting Bachman was entering her room while she was at work, Acevedo once placed an empty wine bottle behind her bedroom door, so anyone going in would knock it over; when she returned, she opened the door without thinking and then braced herself, but the bottle did not fall, having been moved several inches away.

  • Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite
    Not sure if this is a nouveau cult, elitist clique, scam or a real movement. Some of it reads as if it came out from the Onion though.

    He tells me he’s open to the suggestion that his community is elitist – “these criticisms, there’s a truth to them” – and insists that he strives to make authentic connections with people from all walks of life. For example, he says, earlier in the day he met a worker at the ski resort who was taking guests on a tour. “I literally could have said, ‘All right, have an awesome tour,’ and instead I was like, ‘So, you’re here all year?’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m actually from New Orleans.’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’” Bisnow says he behaves the same way with servers in restaurants. “[When] you start to engage with these people you realise the humanity in everyone and how unbelievable they are.” Then he explains how he always sits in the front seat of Uber taxis, talking to dozens of drivers a week, hearing “the most remarkable stories”. He ends up hanging out “with a significant number” of his drivers. I ask how many Uber drivers he’s invited to Summit. He doesn’t say, but instead tells me an anecdote about a chef he invited to Summit after meeting him “at this dilapidated castle in England”.

  • Why Arsenal Star Per Mertesacker Is Happy to Leave Football
    A look at the emotional toil of a professional sports star. This is stuff that they never show as part of the “player story”.

    Then there’s the diarrhea he gets on the mornings of matches — looking back, he says it happened on more than 500 days of his life. Mertesacker looks down at his long fingers as he goes through the list. “I have to go to the bathroom right after getting up, right after breakfast, again after lunch and again at the stadium.” Everything he eats just passes right on through.

    For a while, all his body could handle was noodles with a bit of olive oil. He couldn’t eat any later than four hours before a game to ensure that his stomach was guaranteed to be totally empty when the nausea started. “As if everything that then happened, symbolically speaking, just made me want to puke.”

  • Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself
    Much of the tech industry is confused why Peter Thiel would back Trump. Here, he gives some concise (although not entirely descriptive) answers to some common questions. His responses are almost the antithesis of Trump in terms of being dramatic.

    He recalls that he went through a lot of “meta” debates about Mr. Trump in Silicon Valley. “One of my good friends said, ‘Peter, do you realize how crazy this is, how everybody thinks this is crazy?’ I was like: ‘Well, why am I wrong? What’s substantively wrong with this?’ And it all got referred back to ‘Everybody thinks Trump’s really crazy.’ So it’s like there’s a shortcut, which is: ‘I don’t need to explain it. It’s good enough that everybody thinks something. If everybody thinks this is crazy, I don’t even have to explain to you why it’s crazy. You should just change your mind.’”

  • India’s ‘Phone Romeos’ Look for Ms. Right via Wrong Numbers
    Interesting story about how India doesn’t use Tindr and that sort, but just dial (or hold on to) wrong numbers to try and meet potential mates.

    Umakanti Padhan, a moon-faced 16-year-old garment factory worker, tried to call her sister-in-law. She misdialed and found herself accidentally conversing with Bulu, a railway worker eight years her senior.

    She hung up, alarmed. At home, beginning at puberty, she had been prohibited from speaking with any adult man, including her brothers and cousins.

    Ten minutes later, Bulu called back and told her that he liked the sound of her voice. “When I hear your voice, it feels like someone of my own,” he said. “I feel like talking to you all the time.”

    So she agreed. Every night, she slipped out to the roof of her Bangalore workers’ hostel, where she shares a room with 11 other young women, and spoke to Bulu about mundane things: how their shifts went and what they had eaten that day.

    “He’s told me everything that ever happened to him from the time he was a kid,” she said. “I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but I trust him. I know he will not betray me.”

  • Would the Cavs Be Better off With Andrew Wiggins Over Kevin Love?
    This is my occasional dive into the world of basketball, with this particular article being of interest because the Raptors may play the Cavs in the playoffs, and Wiggins being a Canadian. Nothing startling in this – Cavs made a trade for Right Now vs Potential, but provides some background on the Cavs.

    Love was the guy in Minnesota, a post machine who could score and facilitate. Over the past three years, his primary role has been to space the floor, though he is occasionally force-fed post chances. He’s like a more talented Ryan Anderson — a better rebounder, interior scorer, and passer. Except, for the role Love plays and the money he gets paid (tied for 22nd most in the NBA), Cleveland could be getting more bang for its buck.

  • Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains
    The travel industry is cyclic and it looks like the advantage is back in the courts of brands instead of the aggregators. My own travel planning has started at hotel brands now too, although my flight planning hasn’t shifted yet.

    He’s right: The price control pendulum is swinging back toward the hoteliers. “It was really easy for the aggregators to gobble up all this business in the past because the hotels weren’t really paying any attention,” that West Coast CEO told me. But eventually, the aggregators cornered so much of the market that they jacked up their commissions high enough that everyone had to take notice. The CEO revealed that his hotels typically paid aggregators 20 percent commission—and in many cases even 30 percent.
    In past two or three years the hotel industry has been fighting the aggregators by offering deals that wiggle around the contracts they originally set with them. Let’s say, for example, your hotel chain has a set rate for a room. You enter in an agreement with an aggregator that says you won’t further discount the rate that is the “lowest price” a customer can find on the internet. But you can get around it by offering a potential guest an instant membership in your “loyalty” program. You can throw in additional “amenities” (parking, spa, and so on) that would normally cost extra and you would not be violating your agreements by undercutting the base price of the room. Tricky? You bet.

  • No, Trump isn’t the worst president ever
    While there is a lot of doom and gloom. Trump has a ways to go before becomeing the “worst president ever” (or even of the last century). Mostly the presidents in the 1800s and how they dealt with the pro-slave states made them horrible.

    In December 1860 — after the Electoral College affirmed Lincoln’s election — southern states started seceding. Belatedly, Buchanan briefly considered sending some reinforcements south, but he let his Secretary of War — John Floyd of Virginia — talk him out of it. A few days later, Floyd resigned to join his home state in secession and treason.

    Until he left office on March 4, 1861, Buchanan continued to appease the Rebels. In the end, he gave the Confederacy a four-month head start in the Civil War. He let the South seize federal forts, arsenals and naval vessels, which they soon used to wage war upon the very country he had solemnly sworn to protect.

  • What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
    What did Google find when it did research on finding the perfect that worked well together and delivered? I’ll save you the trouble of reading the article and quote the answer. However, I think creating teams that can foster these types of environment is difficult in practice.

    When Rozovsky and her Google colleagues encountered the concept of psychological safety in academic papers, it was as if everything suddenly fell into place. One engineer, for instance, had told researchers that his team leader was ‘‘direct and straightforward, which creates a safe space for you to take risks.’’ That team, researchers estimated, was among Google’s accomplished groups. By contrast, another engineer had told the researchers that his ‘‘team leader has poor emotional control.’’ He added: ‘‘He panics over small issues and keeps trying to grab control. I would hate to be driving with him being in the passenger seat, because he would keep trying to grab the steering wheel and crash the car.’’ That team, researchers presumed, did not perform well.

  • You won’t believe how Nike lost Steph
    There’s two stories in this article. How Nike lost Steph, and how Under Armor was able to convince Steph to come across to their world. Here’s a quote from the former:

    The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

    It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.

  • What it’s like when your Tinder date lives across the U.S.-Mexico border
    This is an interesting problem faced by people who live near borders. I guess Niagara Falls/Buffalo could have similar things. Although, in this example there are some cultural hangups as well.

    Like Daniel, Jesús can tell from a profile where a girl is from, but it isn’t about language. He says a Mexican girl typically has a profile pic that’s a selfie set in a restroom with bad resolution: “American girls, you see them doing something, like going outdoors or to the beach or going clubbing or having lunch with their friends.” The key difference: “In Mexico, it’s ‘How hot are you?’ In America it’s more ‘What do you do, what are your interests, what do you like?’”

  • World Heat Record Overturned–A Personal Account
    This is a bit esoteric, but I found this to be interesting and convincing. The world heat record used to be 58°C (136.4°F) measured on September 13, 1922 at Al Azizia, Libya. Now the record has returned back to Death Valley!

    In any case, Randy picked up the ball and created an ad-hoc evaluation committee for the World Meteorological Organization to evaluate the record for the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes ( After this positive response from Randy, I asked El Fadli if Libya officially accepted the Azizia figure. He responded that they did not. Since records like this are, to a degree, the provenance of national interest and El Fadli responded that Libya did not officially accept the colonial-era data from Azizia (measured by Italian authorities at that time in Tripolitania), this became the catalyst to launch an official WMO investigation.

  • ‘How Much Suffering Can You Take?’
    I’m never going to do a marathon, or a triathalon, or an Ironman competetion. But these people do five consecutive Ironmans within 5 days! Is that crazy? Their bodies think they are.

    Ultra-endurance athletes appear to have an increased rate of cardiac arrhythmias, or unusual heartbeats, most likely because of scarring of the heart known as fibrosis. But what, if any, danger that poses has been hard to pin down, Hoffman said.

    “Exactly why the fibrosis occurs probably isn’t understood, but seems to be an adaptive response to this sort of exercise,” he said.

    These ultratriathletes, however, tend not to dwell on the wear and tear of their bodies, at least once the race is done.

    “I know this is not good for my body,” said Jay Lonsway, a urologist who completed the quintuple. “But it is good for my soul.”

  • The Cycle
    Jose Bautista explains what it’s like to grow up in the Dominican Republic and become a baseball star. Sure, the money is great – but they are still behind in life. And if you’re not lucky, you go back to your life in your 20s with a 6th grade education.

    At age 12 or 13, you’ll be recruited to play at one of the many baseball academies across the country. “Academy” makes it sound like a school. Most of them are more like baseball farms. Your family signs a piece of paper for consent and you’re pulled out of school to go train at sparse facilities in the middle of nowhere. They’re not regulated. They’re private institutions run by guys called “buscones” — part trainers, part agents. You sleep in these big empty rooms filled with bunk beds. You do two things: You play baseball and you sleep. There are no books, no computers, maybe one old TV. Before you’re a teenager, your education is over.

  • Blockbuster Anatomy: Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos on the Tulowitzki and Price Deals
    Light story about the Jays’ deadline deals. Their record now is even better than when the article was written!

    Anthopoulos, though, said that questions over his job status didn’t influence his decision to be so aggressive at the deadline.

    “I’m always focused on both short term and long term,” he said, citing the $3.9 million spent to sign 16-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his refusal to give up dynamic (and injured) starter Marcus Stroman for more immediate help. “You do the job as if you own the team, and as if you’re going to be here forever, because that’s your responsibility.”

  • Elite Snipers 101
    Jonathan Quick talks about what it is like to face world-class talents aiming to score a goal on him, and how he’s able to prevent it.

    Most guys have a little tell. You look at where the puck is in relation to their feet, or the way they’re bending their knees to get ready to shoot, and you just know what’s going to happen before it happens. But the problem with Datsyuk is that he fools you with his intentions. He will be way out on the wall with his hands, feet, and eyes positioned for a cross-ice pass — and it’s the right decision. It’s what 99 percent of players will do in that situation. So you instantly start cheating your eyes over to where he’s going to pass. Next thing you know — what the hell? — the puck is behind you in the net. He shot it. Who shoots from there? Datsyuk shoots from there.

  • The Death of Cantonese?
    It starts with schools teaching in Mandarin (~70% of schools in HK already do this), and writing in Simplified Chinese. Although I’m actually more curious what

    The potential for the erosion of Cantonese is not without precedent. Shanghainese was once the dialect for the entire Yangtze region and, despite the fact it still has around 14 million speakers, the Central Government has actively been discouraging its use in schools since 1992. A 2012 survey by Shanghai’s Academy of Social Sciences found four in 10 school students in the city couldn’t speak Shanghainese at all.

  • The Mob’s IT department
    A story about how 2 IT professionals ended up ensnared in a gang’s operations to smuggle drugs into Europe. They’re still in front of a judge, but this article paints them as unwilling participants.

    He and Van De Moere discussed going to the police. They later explained they dismissed the idea out of fear. These were clearly men who didn’t resolve disagreements with the usual conference call or attorney’s letter. Calling the authorities would anger them more. They decided the prudent course was to let the whole bizarre incident go and hope Maertens never heard from them again.

  • The Burden of Being Messi
    It’s World Cup time, so that means more stories about Messi (previously: a visit to his hometown). Nothing too new here, but a reminder that we’re all waiting for him to succeed.

    “There’s less room for forgiveness for Messi,” Sottile said. They’ve built the team around him, all hopes are pinned on him and yet nobody outside his teammates has his back. Leading your team to a World Cup championship is hard enough to do in a team game, even when everybody in your country loves you. The bar for Messi is so high — it’s not just if Argentina wins, but how — that it’s basically impossible for him to meet it.

  • The Trouble With IBM
    I was still at IBM when Palmisano introduced the Roadmap 2015 plan, and thought it was really aggressive. Now that we’re a little closer to it and more details have come out how IBM is doing, I think it is a good idea that I left when I did.

    That phrase, financial engineering, is a catchall used by critics for the variety of ways IBM has made earnings per share go up even as revenue goes down. The spectrum of maneuvers starts with common practices like dividend increases and share buybacks, and extends to more esoteric tactics like designating major costs as “extraordinary” and devising ways to pay lower tax rates. The most transparent companies present their performance according to generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. IBM’s 2009 annual report didn’t use the phrase “non-GAAP” at all; the 2013 report used it 125 times.

  • Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar
    Is Stairway to Heaven a rip-off? It seems pretty likely. I didn’t know that Led Zeppelin had many other songs that were rip-offs though!

    Ultimately, the legal test isn’t what experts say. Under U.S. law, the standard a jury or judge would apply is whether the song in question sounds like a copy to an ordinary lay listener. To get an idea in this case, I conducted an informal poll of passersby on Los Angeles’s Venice Beach and Hermosa Beach, playing clips from Taurus and asking what song it sounded like. Of the 58 people surveyed, 18 named Stairway to Heaven, without being given any song titles to pick from. It was the only song anyone mentioned by name, with the exception of one young man who recognized it as Taurus.

  • Meet the godfather of wearables
    Title says it all – he’s led the field for awhile, and the lead on Google Glass was one of his students
  • Guys and Dolls: Veteran Toy Designer Wrestles With the Industry’s Gender Divide
    This article starts slow, but then goes into some interesting thoughts about how toys are being made now (especially for girls)

    So we came up with this line of girls’ accessories—they weren’t dolls—based on solving mysteries or going on adventures on your bike and solving puzzles and reading maps and finding hidden things. We came up with this whole campaign, the graphics and color combinations and everything. But the marketing people looked at this and they said, “We can’t sell these,” and we said, “Why?” And they said, “Because little girls can’t read.” And we said, “Well of course girls can read, they go to school.” And they said, “No, no, no. The little girls that we would be selling this to aren’t old enough to read,” meaning 5-year-olds.

    We were designing these toys for 10-year-olds, and it was such an eye-opener that they wouldn’t even consider marketing this type of toy to a 10-year-old. I was crushed to realize that we’re limiting a whole lot of play by only selling toys to girls who are so young that they can’t read. Any kind of feature that involves reading, whether it’s instructions or a special little book or anything like that, isn’t very marketable.

I went down to Skydome Rogers Centre to celebrate a friend’s birthday at the Jays game yesterday. It was my first game of a promising season (where we made several big acquisitions and were expected to compete for the World Series) that never materialized. Currently the Jays are in last place in their division (although they have won their last five – now six).

The Jays were playing the Rockies in inter-league play. It was a pitcher’s dual for most of the game, with the Rockies’ pitcher holding a no-hitter for almost half the game. Even though it was tense, it wasn’t that exciting. However, the game got exciting in the bottom of the 8th when the Jays scored two runs to gain the lead. The held on to the shutout in the top of the ninth to end the game early. 20,900ish watched our pitcher Josh Johnson throw 10 strike outs but get a no decision. It was a good outing though.

Going to the game also gave me a chance to use the MLB At the Ballpark app that was interesting to me. It’s basically an free interface where a fan can navigate around the ballparks in the league, while buying tickets and getting other relevant information. The best thing about it for me is that you can keep a journal (synced to the cloud) of which ballparks and which games you’ve watched. After downloading it, I went through my blog and found all the dates at which I went to a ball game and entered them in! Unfortunately, it only goes back to 2005 so I couldn’t put in my 2004 trip to Safeco field.

  • Airline baggage tags: How their brilliant design gets bags from Point A to Point B
    The history of the airline tag

    In the interconnected, automated, all-weather world of modern aviation, tags must be resistant to cold, heat, sunlight, ice, oil, and especially moisture. Tags also can’t tear—and crucially, if they’re nicked, they must not tear further—as the bag lurches through mechanized airport baggage systems. And the tag must be flexible, inexpensive, and disposable. Plain old paper can’t begin to meet all these requirements. The winning combination is what IATA’s spokesperson described as a “complex composite” of silicon and plastic; the only paper in it is in the adhesive backing.

  • How Companies Learn Your Secrets
    There truly is a reason to not use your credit cards (or coupons) at umbrella retailers if you care about your privacy.

    Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she’ll use it when she comes back again.

  • Making The World’s Largest Airline Fly
    You might be surprised that the merger of United and Continental is taking a long, long time. That’s because even the simplest thing to merge ends up being complicated and time-consuming.

    By mid-2011 there was a front-runner: a lighter roast Fresh Brew blend called Journeys. It was cheaper than the old United’s Starbucks, and it did better in the taste tests. When colleagues outside the beverage committee were asked to weigh in, they concurred. The new United’s chief executive officer, Jeff Smisek, dropped by the food services floor for a cup and signed off on it. Journeys was served at a meeting of the company officers to general approval. Just to be sure, food services took the new blend on the road, to Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, asking flight attendants to try it. Out of the 1,100 who did, all but eight approved. “We thought this was a home run,” says Pineau-Boddison.

    On July 1 the new United introduced its new coffee. Fliers on the “legacy United” fleet, accustomed to Starbucks, let out a collective yowl of protest. Pineau-Boddison had expected some resistance—Starbucks, after all, is a popular brand—but this was something else. Flight attendants reported a barrage of complaints. Pineau-Boddison received angry e-mails from customers, as did Smisek. The coffee, fliers complained, was watery.

  • Do We Really Want To Live With the Post Office?
    Like the US government, the US Postal Service is having a lot of financial problems. Here’s a look at why and what the interested parties are trying to do to keep the USPS alive and functioning.

    In the early days of Amazon, the postal service held top-level meetings with Jeff Bezos to see if they could corner Amazon’s shipping business. But according to Robert Reisner, former vice-president for strategic planning, they soon realized they couldn’t compete. UPS could break ground on a shipping center across from an Amazon warehouse in days, which the bureaucratic postal service could never do. And because the postal service is supposed to serve all without prejudice, even if it offered Amazon a better rate arrangement than UPS, it would then have to offer similar rates to Amazon’s competitors. Those special rates would then go before the Postal Regulatory Commission for public approval, which would offer UPS or FedEx the opportunity to undercut them.

  • Lionel Messi, Here & Gone
    A profile of Messi through an outsider’s visit to his hometown and discussions with local folk.

Of all the Toronto teams that can win a championship, the one I care the least about would be the Toronto Argos. Yet here we are in a year where there’s no hockey for the forseeable future, a Raptors team that still sucks, a promising but very far away Blue Jays season, a Grey Cup being held in Toronto, and the Argos hoping to win it all at home – that’s way too many reasons why I should start liking the Argos!

But, I still don’t care about the Argos, CFL or football in Canada. Although I don’t enjoy football in general, you would think I would jump on the bandwagon of the home town after hearing about all the festivities and events around the city this week. Nope, still don’t care!

I think the reason I’m not a bandwagon jumper in this case is because it doesn’t mean much if Toronto has the best football team in *Canada*. It already has a lot of things that are better than any other place in Canada, so it’s not a big deal if the football team is (or isn’t).

  • The Best Night $500,000 Can Buy
    A look in one of the largest clubs in Las Vegas and the superficiality behind it.

    Like how, as we drank more and more and it got later and later, three o’clock and then four, they began emptying the outer reaches of the club—the pool deck, the Library—and pulled everyone in toward the dance floor. So that from our high-priced bottle-service real estate we still had the valuable sensation that we were at a place where the party, like the music (or the Ecstasy), would never, ever end, where more and more girls could be fed in from still more flights out of Kansas City and Sacramento and you could start to think that the you who has a job back in Pittsburgh or Irvine doesn’t exist, and also that after this you’d better go find some coke or else deal with the reality that awaits you back in the rollaway suitcase in your hotel room.

  • My Life with Lance Armstrong
    Not dealing directly with his drug allegations, but more about the character who is Lance Armstrong

    The cash came from the post-Tour races that are an important part of the cycling culture in Europe, because they allow people in smaller French towns, or outside France altogether, to see pros racing on their local roads. All a rider had to do was show up, race for a while, and collect payment, which was made under the table. Russey told me how much it freaked him out to be handed tens of thousands of dollars in bills.

    In Spain, we often paid people with Euro notes worth $500, which Armstrong told me to pull from the pockets of a pink Chanel coat that hung in Kristin’s old closet. He kept the coat crammed with cash from his appearance fees. Whether he declared this as income or not, I don’t know. All I discussed with Novitzky was its existence.

  • For Violin Maker Howard Needham, a Rarefied World
    This focus piece on a local Washingtonian violin maker may hopefully boast his sales as he talks about how difficult it is to be successful in the business of hand crafting violins.

    Violin-world insiders familiar with Needham’s work might be surprised to see him peddling his wares to teenagers, since he’s considered by many to be one of the country’s best modern violin makers. But he’s an uber-independent in a relatively unregulated field. Unlike most top-tier American violin makers, or luthiers, he didn’t come up through the ranks of an apprenticeship system, which means he lacks access to the networks that could lend him more credibility. The violin universe is all about reputation: If you’re a violinist in the market for a new fiddle, you might spend a couple of years talking to colleagues about their instruments and trying out various models before buying. Almost wholly self-taught, Needham relies solely on word of mouth — and whatever marketing approaches he can devise.

  • Cheating Upwards
    While the story of Harvard students cheating at Goverment 1310 has been making the rounds, this article also focuses on the cheating scandal at the prestigious NYC high school, Stuyvesant.

    He got bolder. Turning to page one of his completed exam, Nayeem lifted his phone just enough to snap a picture of that page, then put the phone down again. Over the next few minutes, he photographed the whole test booklet—all fifteen pages.

    The night before, Nayeem had sent a group-text message to 140 classmates: “If you guys get this, I’ve got the answers for you tomorrow.” The students on Nayeem’s list included honor-roll students, debate-team members, and “Big Sibs” (upperclassmen deemed responsible enough to mentor incoming freshmen). There were kids who were also good at physics (to double check Nayeem’s answers) and a girl he liked. That list still existed on his phone from the text he’d sent the night before. He hit send fifteen times, once for each page of the test. When it occurred to him that some kids didn’t have iPhones, he went back to manually typing in all the answers and sent them too. The proctor never saw anything.

  • Moneyball 2.0
    While the article is titled Moneyball 2.0, there isn’t actually any secret sauce in it. It recaps another surprising Oakland A’s season and talks a pitching coach who just lets his staff do their thing. Revolutionary does not this strategy make.

  • Can Hospital Chains Improve the Medical Industry?
    A long but interesting article about how the medical industry can benefit from adopting practices form the food industries. It’s also interesting because they talk a lot about how the Cheesecake Factory works!

    I brought up the hibachi-steak recipe on the screen. There were instructions to season the steak, sauté the onions, grill some mushrooms, slice the meat, place it on the bed of onions, pile the mushrooms on top, garnish with parsley and sesame seeds, heap a stack of asparagus tempura next to it, shape a tower of mashed potatoes alongside, drop a pat of wasabi butter on top, and serve.

    Two things struck me. First, the instructions were precise about the ingredients and the objectives (the steak slices were to be a quarter of an inch thick, the presentation just so), but not about how to get there. The cook has to decide how much to salt and baste, how to sequence the onions and mushrooms and meat so they’re done at the same time, how to swivel from grill to countertop and back, sprinkling a pinch of salt here, flipping a burger there, sending word to the fry cook for the asparagus tempura, all the while keeping an eye on the steak. In producing complicated food, there might be recipes, but there was also a substantial amount of what’s called “tacit knowledge”—knowledge that has not been reduced to instructions.

  • Everywhere At Once: Chef Geoff Tracy’s Data-Driven Empire
    The last article was about how the medical industry can learn from the food industry, and this article is the reverse. How the food industry can improve by using a scientific approach.

    Did Elizabeth bring your Pinot Gris within three minutes of the time you ordered it? Were your appetizers delivered within seven minutes, entrées within ten, desserts within seven? Were these plates described at the table before they were set in front of you? Were napkins refolded when you went to the restroom? Was non-bottled water referred to as “ice water” (correct) or “water” (incorrect)?

    That couple sitting across from you picking at a plate of hummus might be catching a light bite before a movie, or they might be working secretly for Tracy. Once a month, he brings in anonymous reviewers from an agency in New York to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of each of his restaurants. One recent assessment noted ten small errors: A dessert recommendation was offered only when the customer asked, and the plate took ten minutes to arrive instead of seven; the sink in the women’s room needed cleaning; bottled water wasn’t offered. Still, the restaurant scored 93 out of 100 points.

  • Your Words Against Mine
    This is a Sports Illustrated article about…scrabble. Yes, just like chess, Scrabble is now a sport worthy of SI’s attention. Actually, this article was written in 1995, well before the Words with Friends craze and describes several of the eccentrics at the top of the Scrabble world.

    For at this level, Scrabble’s dirty little secret is that it is a word game in which words mean nothing. The dabbler comes to the board thinking definitions and word knowledge, and he gets swallowed up in showing that off; but the experts care for words only for their point value. The newest Scrabble dictionary expurgated some 100 offensive terms, but they’re all usable—no, welcomed—in tournaments. Black players don’t flinch when they see “nigger” or “darky”; women congratulate any smart play of sexual slang; and Joel Sherman, who is Jewish, didn’t blink when Gibson opened their second game with “yid,” because no one cares. “They’re nothing but scoring tools,” Sherman says. “One of my opponents used [a synonym for sexual intercourse] at the end of the game. He got 26 points. It was the right thing to do.” Understanding English isn’t even necessary; a group of top Thai players do quite well at major North American tournaments, and they barely speak the language.

  • Microsoft’s Lost Decade
    This is an unfair and one-sided article against Microsoft that cherry picks examples how it wasn’t as successful as it could be under Ballmer’s leadership. It almost smells vindicitive.
  • Teen Titan
    A New Yorker article on the man behind Justin Bieber, The Wanted, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

    Braun uses Bieber’s fame as a P.R. platform for his other clients as well. He makes it worth Bieber’s while: when Braun signed Carly Rae Jepsen, he gave Bieber a fifty-per-cent cut. Braun told him, “We’ll be partners. But you’re going to do your part, being a loudspeaker: put her on your tour, sing a song with her.” And Bieber obeyed. The homemade video of him horsing around to Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” got forty-eight million views and made the song catch fire. Last month, he tweeted to introduce the world to Braun’s newest client, Madison Beer, a thirteen-year-old singer who resembles a baby Megan Fox. Within minutes, her name was trending worldwide.

  • The Mysterious Disapperance of Peter Winston
    A promising US chess player disappears in the 70s, and this is the story about it, or at least it promises to be; but since they don’t know what really happened, the story is incomplete and a letdown.
  • Schmidt and Thiel Smackdown
    This is the transcript between the CEO of Google and Peter Thiel, an entrepreneur and investor. It’s an interesting read, although they don’t go into much detail or talk about tech that much.

    PETER THIEL: And I think that ‑‑ and I agree with you that technology is critical. It is the only way that things get better in the developed world. And I think we should distinguish the developed and emerging markets very sharply. In places like China, India, Africa, Latin America, there’s zero need for innovation. All they need to do is copy things that work.

    But the part of the world where technology is really necessary for things to get better is the developed world, U.S., Western Europe, Japan. And the part that I would challenge you a little bit on is just how healthy the state of technology generally is. There are obviously individual companies that do quite sell, especially if they have world-class monopolies like Google has in search.

  • Brian Shaw, the Strongest Man in the World
    New Yorker takes a look at the being the strongest man in the world; not the body building or Olympic weight lifting variety, but actually being the strongest. Promising and interesting idea, but I didn’t find that the topic reached its potential

    Earlier that day, Ortmayer and the others had completed two more rounds. First came an event called the Austrian Oak, in honor of Schwarzenegger’s nickname as a bodybuilder. This involved lifting a ten-foot log from a stand at close to shoulder height, then pressing it overhead repeatedly. Banded with steel and coiled with thick rope at the ends, the Oak weighed four hundred and fifty-nine pounds—it took five large men to carry it onstage. Four of the strongmen declined to try to lift it at all, and four tried and failed. That left Savickas, who managed one lift, and Jenkins, who did two. Shaw, his left arm in obvious pain, was among those who had to settle for a lighter Oak, of three hundred and ninety-three pounds. But in a display of incredible grit he lifted it seven times in a row—screaming himself hoarse on the sixth try—putting him in fourth place over all.

  • End Game
    Curt Schilling went from a brilliant pitching career to the business of making a MMO, and bombed massively. He lost a bunch of taxpayer money and his own money; here’s how he did it:

    Schilling knew he’d been treated well during his baseball career, and wanted his staff at 38 Studios to feel the same. That meant gold-plated healthcare, for which employees had no paycheck deductions, and top-notch 401(k)s, with the company matching to the legal limit. As 38 Studios grew from 20 employees in 2006 to 42 in 2007 to 65 in 2008, there were plenty of other goodies along the way: free gym memberships, two homes the company rented to temporarily house new out-of-state hires (though that perk was short-lived), and, one year at Christmas, new laptop computers for every employee. Gifts like the computers came out of Schilling’s pocket — he says he spent as much as $2.5 million on that sort of largesse over the years.

  • A man walks Into a Bank
    A teaser on how a man cashed a fake cheque for $90k+ and then his battle with the banks. There’s no conclusion, he wants you to go see his stage act to find out the ending!

    Knowing I had $95,093.35 locked in a safe deposit box that I’d obtained from a junk-mail cheque but which was, by three laws, legally mine, the San Jose Mercury newspaper ran the headline: “Man 1, Bank 0.”

    Of course, everyone knew that the bank wasn’t just going to forfeit the fight. Everyone sensed they’d come out swinging. The newscaster Diane Sawyer perhaps stated the public perception about banks best when she commented on my expressed desire for a pleasant resolve with the bank over lunch. She said, to all who were watching the evening news that night: “I wouldn’t count on that lunch, Patrick.”

I remember thinking, when I was smaller, how awesome it would be to be a sports athlete. You would make millions (or even tens of millions) a year, have a 20 year career and then sit around, for the rest of your life after 40, on a big pile of money. If you were lucky enough to have the right genetics, then that could be you!

Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, that is still somewhat true – if you are one of the bests then you’re going to have a huge pay day; but in reality you would have a better chance of winning the lottery than being a superstar. Let’s scale back our dreams a bit and say that you’ll just end up being a scrub or bench warmer, but on a major league team. The major league minimum is still more than a million a year!

It still sounds good, but then you realize that you have to invest your childhood and younger years into getting this goal, so after your (shorter) career (maybe 5 years?), you don’t have a lot of skills to draw from. You could be going from the top 1% of salaries to a median or a below average salary for the rest of your life. Hope you invested that $5+ million well!

And then there are all those people who never even make it to the major leagues after years and years of (wasted) effort. They end up spending their 20s shuttling around the continent in buses making < $100,000 a year. Then in their 30s, when they’ve been released by their teams, what skills do they have to fall back on to earn a reliable wage?

The investment seems to be a bad bet, especially because only a small portion of new players are added to a league each year (10%?). Your genes may give you a ticket, but you still need to win a lottery.

This all resonated with me when I read this article in SI about steroids, except this article was not about the stars, but about the fringe players in the junior leagues trying to win their lottery. Most of them don’t succeed, and the one that does was on steroids. In a way, they all lost.

In four years Naulty gained 50 pounds and added 10 miles an hour to his fastball. (He would eventually top out at 248 pounds.) His legs were enormous. His shoulders looked like cantaloupes, with the rounded, watery hallmark of steroids. He loved the way his body looked, loved to take his shirt off, loved the compliments he got from coaches and loved the way nobody in baseball asked, How? The Steroid Era was taking hold, made possible by a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. “Everybody is telling you how great you look,” Naulty says. “Nobody ever asked if I was using drugs. I never had one discussion about steroids around another baseball player. All my discussions about steroids were with bodybuilders.”

  • All the World is Staged
    Look into the shady world of bet-fixing being done on football matches by the Chinese triads

    As his network grew, Perumal signed legitimate contracts with national federations in countries unaware of who he really was, such as Bolivia and South Africa, paying them as much as $100,000 to arrange their friendlies, often pairing them against higher-profile teams that were just looking for ready-made exhibitions. Perumal would set up the matches, promote them — and select the referees. Many friendlies go off without FIFA sanctioning, so often all a fixer like Perumal needed to do to stage an international friendly was find a stadium and pay a day’s rent.

    The matchups would attract the attention of bookmakers and the international betting market — if also a curious amount of red cards, penalty kicks and offside calls. FIFA paid refs only $350 per match, almost inviting the fix. “Every member association is responsible for organizing and supervising football in its country,” says FIFA spokesman Wolfgang Resch. “The control of referees and officials falls into it.”

  • The Ultimate Counterfeiter isn’t a Crook – He’s an Artist
    Another story about a scammer, but this time it’s about a German who tried to create the perfect counterfeit US $100.

    In 2002, just back from a trip to Majorca, Kuhl met up with a sometime associate of his named Sinan Elshani, who was known simply as the Albanian. Kuhl began complaining about his never-ending debt. Elshani commiserated and said he knew a way for both of them to get rich: print counterfeit stamps. He was acquainted with the right people, who would not only pay for the machines and supplies but also buy Kuhl’s fakes. He even promised to cover Kuhl’s studio rent. Kuhl eventually agreed.

    But it quickly became clear that they couldn’t obtain the right inks for their fakes or make the perforations look convincing. At that point, Kuhl says, he tried to back out of the deal. Elshani told him it was impossible: The client had spent a lot of money on the equipment. Unless Kuhl could cough up 50,000 euros, Elshani said, the artist risked an unpleasant visit from members of the Albanian mafia.

    Kuhl didn’t think he could pull off the stamps, and he claims that Elshani told him he’d have to make dollars instead. In any case, the false start with the stamps got him thinking about ways to improve his fake banknotes. “It’s just how my mind works,” he says. With Elshani pressuring him to pay off their Albanian creditors, Kuhl agreed to crank up his printing press.

  • Hello, I Am Sabu
    The story of one of the masterminds behind Anonymous and LulzSec who happens to live in the projects in NYC.

    That one of the world’s most influential hackers was the denizen of a New York City housing project struck many as cognitively dissonant. It shouldn’t have. In many ways, he’s a product of the culture of poverty he was brought up in. It’s a culture that produces outlaws of many different stripes. Monsegur was born in 1983, when his ­father was 16. His mother deserted the family, and his father entrusted his son to Monsegur’s grandmother Irma, 40 at the time. Irma, born in Puerto Rico, never mastered English, but she was devoted to her grandson, a quiet, well-behaved child whom ­everyone called Bubi. But child care was not his grandmother’s only vocation. She was “a player,” as a family lawyer said, and her apartment was a stash house for the family’s heroin business. Sabu’s father was a lead distributor, as was his aunt, a long-haired beauty; Monsegur was described as a delivery boy. Heroin was good business, and for a time, “the family was really powerful in the hood,” said a neighbor. ­Sabu’s father led the life of a successful entrepreneur, seeming to change cars and women monthly. He liked to peel bills from a wad of cash and treat all the neighborhood kids to ice cream.

  • Newton, Reconsidered
    As the Apple Newton nears its 20th anniversary, Time magazine takes a look back at how that revolutionary tech fairs in the age of smartphones and post-PDA.
  • Welcome to America, Plese Be On Time
    I’ve been curious what visitors to Toronto would want to visit and this link is similar. What would people from other cultures need to know about America before they visit?

    You might say that global food cultures tend to fall into one of two categories: utensil cultures and finger cultures. The U.S., somewhat unusually, has both: the appropriate delivery method can vary between cuisines, and even between dishes, and it’s far from obvious which is which. Baked chicken is a fork food, but fried chicken a finger food, depending on how it’s fried. If you get fried pieces of potato, it’s a finger food, unless the potato retains some circular shape, in which case use your fork. And so on. Confused yet?

    The addendum is classic

To try out my new Kobo Touch, I started reading Moneyball. I’ve actually had it on my reading list for awhile now, even before the movie came out (which I haven’t seen yet); but I never got around to it yet. Also, my reading has been blocked because I’ve been struggling to get through this book for about the last half year (gave up some 30% in)!

Anyways, speaking of books I gave up on; I was also reading Bill Simmons’ book (The Book of Basketball: The NBA according to the Sports Guy) but gave up half way because I just wasn’t that interested in basketball. I’ve had much better luck with Moneyball, which I attribute to three reasons:

  1. I’m more interested in baseball, and its written during a point in time (early 2000s) where I at least still knew some of the players
  2. Michael Lewis is a more interesting writer whose writings on Iceland and football I have read before
  3. The writing is more person-focused, and spends time building up a character and telling their stories instead of just stating facts, observations or statistics

To a data geek, Moneyball just makes the other 29 teams in the league seem silly. However, as I was reading it; I realized that Brian Burke, GM of the Maple Leafs, puts a strong emphasis on a player’s character and community involvement (which results in many years and much money invested in players who may not be very good at playing hockey). He’s also very “moral” in his dealings, preferring to take the high ground. Of course, that’s just the persona that he portrays and I can’t know whether these attributes affect his decision making or not. I just hope not, because I don’t want to be one a fan of one of the “dumb” teams in the NHL.

I remember when I was a kid, watching TSN Sportsdesk in the morning, while eating breakfast and before going to school, and seeing homers being hit at Wrigley field, over its distinctive fences with ivy/vines growing over the top (and the occasional ball that gets hit out of the stadium onto the street behind). To me Wrigley field is unique and vintage, and this trip to Chicago, I had a chance to go visit it.

We went on the opening weekend to catch the Cubs play the Washington Nationals. We arrive a bit late (second inning maybe?) but was still able to get a seat in the bleachers (the area was GA). We found some seats about 5 rows back from the home run fence which was pretty fortunate too.

I don’t recall too much about the game, except that the Cubs were leading 4-1 heading into the top of the ninth, before the Nationals scored 2 runs to make it a nail biter.

After the game, we walked around the stadium a bit, and saw how old it actually was! There were steel girders visible in the narrow hallways, and exits that were a short walk away from your seats. Seeing a structure like this makes me feel like I’m watching a game in the 60s, when baseball was a highly entertaining sport.

  • The Grandmaster Experiment
    This is the story of three sisters from (and who are famous in) Hungry who are all grandmasters, one of which is the eight ranked player worldwide. It’s a bit about how women have it tough in the male-dominated world of chess, and a bit about how their parents raised them to be such a powerhouse.

    There exist some downsides to being a female chess player that Kasparov may not be aware of. “There were many times when I felt faint at matches because of menstrual cramps,” Susan says. “When I was about 16, I did faint. I fell off the chair.” A room filled with older male adversaries is a horrible place for a girl to experience Judy Blume-esque moments. Tournament games are often six hours long, and extra time for trips to the ladies’ room is not allotted. In a game where every point is precious, even one minute of discomfort could jeopardize a woman’s score

  • How One Man Escaped From a North Korean Prison Camp
    I’m a sucker for articles on North Korea, and although what is described in this article is not new, it’s still a fun read.

    Single men and women slept in dormitories segregated by sex. The eighth rule of Camp 14 said, “Should sexual physical contact occur without prior approval, the perpetrators will be shot immediately.” A reward marriage was the only safe way around the no-sex rule. Guards announced marriages four times a year. If one partner found his or her chosen mate to be unacceptably old, cruel or ugly, guards would sometimes cancel a marriage. If they did, neither the man nor the woman would be allowed to marry again. Shin’s father, Shin Gyung Sub, told Shin that the guards gave him Jang as payment for his skill in operating a metal lathe.

  • When Did Young People Start Spending 25% of their Paychecks on Pickled Lamb’s Tongues?
    This article summaries the culture of foodie-ism gone indie, whereby eating at the hippest restaurants is the cool thing to do. While I jest, I’ve participated in this hobby in the last few years too so I can’t make fun of it too much.

    Food’s transformation from a fusty hobby to a youth-culture phenomenon has happened remarkably fast. The simultaneous rise of social networks and camera phones deserves part of the credit (eating, like sex, is among the most easily chronicled of pursuits), but none of this would have happened without the grassroots revolution in fine dining. “You can now eat just as quality food with a great environment without the fuss and the feeling of sitting at the grown-up table,” says Chang’s friend Amy, who is, incidentally, a cook at the very grown-up Jean Georges.

  • How The Daily Mail Conquered England
    This article from the New Yorker is about the popularity of the paper, Daily Mail, in England; both the paper and online editions. I’ve never really visited the Mail Online aside from a few random articles, but it seems to have made itself quite popular by being filled with articles that the normal person would want to read.

    The Mail is the most powerful newspaper in Great Britain. A middle-market tabloid, with a daily readership of four and a half million, it reaches four times as many people as the Guardian, while being taken more seriously than the one paper that outsells it, the Sun. In January, its Web arm, Mail Online, surpassed that of the New York Times as the most visited newspaper site in the world, drawing fifty-two million unique visitors a month. The Mail’s closest analogue in the American media is perhaps Fox News. In Britain, unlike in the United States, television tends to be a dignified affair, while print is berserk and shouty. The Mail is like Fox in the sense that it speaks to, and for, the married, car-driving, homeowning, conservative-voting suburbanite

  • The Problem with buying Sports “experiences”
    It is worthwhile to pay a lot for a “better” sports experience? I’ve taken the approach of buying cheap tickets, so maybe I have already learned this lesson.

    A fan scans the upcoming schedule of his local (lousy) NBA team and has to pick an upcoming game — so naturally he goes for one featuring a star team or a star player. (Our editor-in-chief has been known to do exactly that when, say, the Thunder come into town to play the Clippers.) But more often than not, an unbalanced game results, one with little drama and that sees the star play only 27 minutes, much of it at half-speed. You expect a ticket agency to point that out before you shell out hundreds of dollars? Yeah. We thought not.

Surprisingly, I’ve never been to a Raptors game before even though I grew up in their demographic (i.e., asian, 20s) when they were good. To be honest, while I did watch basketball in the past, it just wasn’t as interesting as hockey so I never pursued it as a spectator (and you can’t really say it’s because the Raptors weren’t very good because, well, look at the Leafs).

This all changed this week when I went to not one, not three, but exactly two games! Why did I go to two? well I had a group discount that eliminated the fees (take that Ticketmaster), and because the Raptors have been doing so poorly at selling out, I received two free tickets for buying >2 tickets as part of the discount. Good deal, I love free tickets!

It was good for the Raptors because they ended up winning both games that I watched. The first was a Sunday evening versus the Washington Wizards which was great because I at least knew a player on their team (John Wall). The game wasn’t very close (Raptors were leading by 15 in the 4th quarter) but the Wizards made it interesting in the last minutes by coming within 3. It was also entertaining because there were several alley-oops! I don’t think crowd yelling DEFENSE had any effect really. The Raptors ended up winning 99-92.

I also went to the game after that, and it wasn’t so good because the Raptors were playing the Bobcats and I knew exactly 0 people from that team. I think the most interesting thing that evening was a TV timeout game where two people tied together via a bungee cord had to reach opposite ends of the court. The game itself should have been more interesting because the Bobcats were within 1 point in the dying minutes, but I just have no compelling in the sport. In any case, the Raptors won 97-82 for their first two game winning streak at home since 2010. I think they need to pay me to be their good luck charm in the future.

It’s only December, but believe it or not, we have already been skating three times this winter! Well the first time we went, it wasn’t winter yet, but it was indoors at the ACC so there was ice. We went again last weekend, to a nearby arena . The arena was already packed with kids, seems like we are a bit snow in starting to skate this year!

Finally, this weekend, we tried an outdoor skating trail in Etobicoke. We’ve gone to another skating trail in the past, up in Richmond Hill and that was pretty cool. It is different skating outdoors on a trail, because the ground is not inherently flat (although they try to make it flat, but it’s more difficult than a rink). You sometimes have to do a bit of work because the trail goes slightly uphill, or you might start going downhill (a bit).

The one in Samuel Smith Ice Trail in Etobicoke. It seems more flat, and a bit longer than the one at Richmond Green. There’s also a little bridge that you have to go over, which is kind of dangerous because if you fall approaching the bridge, you either hit the concrete railing on the bridge, or if you are lucky and miss that, then you plunge into the river!

On Friday night, I was watching the Maple Leafs/Sabres preseason game and learned that it was a home-and-home, with the second game on Saturday night. I asked Pauline if she wanted to go on Saturday night and she said yes. Great! but the only problem is that we didn’t have tickets…

I ended up using StubHub for the first time, which is a website where people can resell tickets to events. We got a pair of 3rd row 300s for $31 each, which is over a 100% increase of the face value ($15). That’s not too expensive because I had looked at preseason tickets at the ACC and they were $35 for obstructed-view tickets! What pissed me off is that StubHub is the same garbage as Ticketmaster. I had to pay a 10% fee (so $6.20) for using the service, and then a $4.95 fee for “getting my tickets over email”.

Having a game in Buffalo also gave us an excuse to do some cross-border shopping, which we did, and then drove through some unfamiliar and ghetto parts of Buffalo before arriving at the stadium. The event parking was only $10 which was nice as I was expecting $20 as per Toronto. There were A LOT of Buffalo jerseys (the more recent gold and blue ones, not the old black and red ones) and not as many Leaf jerseys as I thought there would be. Although I did find a pair of Leaf fans wearing jerseys with the name Miller (and numbers 1 and 35) – so they had Ryan Miller on the wrong team AND wrong number! Speaking of wrong team, I also saw full poster advertisements for Tim Connolley who is now on the Maple Leafs!

(I saw Elliot Friedman as he talked on HNIC)

We sat above the Leafs goal in the first and third, so I saw a lot of #51 (Jake Gardiner’s) impressive skating and first pass skills. Unfortunately, Toronto played most of their regular lineup on Friday so we only saw ⅔ of the second and third lines, ⅓ of the defense. Here was the starting lineup for Toronto (Buffalo iced a much stronger team, although they were missing Miller, Roy and Pominville from their regular lineup).

(Grabovski just got thrown out so Kulemin is taking the faceoff)

The game ended up being Buffalo PP 3, Mikhail Grabrovski Crosbovski 2. Grabovski scored a couple of nifty goals, deflecting the first one off his skate and then leaping to tap in a rebound. Our PK looked shakey (couldn’t clear the puck and gave up all 3 goals) and Gustavsson did not look confident in net. Buffalo has a very strong team this year, and they played a stronger lineup so it’s not too surprisingly we lost; but hopefully we’ll get our act together and be more competitive by the regular season.

I went to my second Toronto FC earlier this month because there was a deal to get $19 tickets. Not too cheap, but what convinced me is because that was the full price; there weren’t any taxes or Ticketmaster fees (even though you buy through TM). So it ended up being $38 for two tickets and then $10 for parking, not too bad!

I actually had a hard time getting tickets, because I wanted to get a group of tickets together, but by the time I went to buy, all I could find were pairs! It seemed like the game would be sold out, but when we got there it turned to not be the case.

The game is part of the CONCACAF tournament. I don’t know what that means, but it’s not part of the regular MLS season. Perhaps it’s for that reason that not a lot of people care/showed up and also why they charged a cheaper price. They might have also not played their regulars, but seeing as I’m not really a fan, I don’t really know!

In the end the Toronto FC beat the Tauro FC (whose uniform made them look like referees) by a goal. The goal was quite spectacular as the corner kick ball was juggled by 3 heads before beating the goal keeper.

The game got interesting in the second half as the play got chippy and Tauros FC seemed to start diving. The referee ended up giving Tauros FC 4 yellow cards in the half, and one to the TFC! It was exciting until the end because Tauros FC had a free kick from the top of the penalty area in injury time, but luckily they couldn’t score and Toronto won!

I started reading Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guys. It’s interesting but also not very interesting – I mean, I am piqued by the concepts he suggests, but not so motivated to read about all the basketball stories that he uses to illustrate his points. I’ll probably get tired of it and quit reading it.

But early in the book, there are a couple of points that kick around my head. First is his claim that sports is interesting because of the unknown element. This makes a lot of sense, in fact a few days prior, I also came across this link saying that it is almost entirely uninteresting to view a replay of a sports event because although you may not know the specific outcome, you know that no (super!)-heroic event took place. However, when you’re watching a live event, there is always a chance of a ridiculous play happening which is why real-time sports is exciting.

The second point is that The Secret of winning a basketball championship is basically assembling a team of team players (although that needs to include an elite star, a co-star and supporting cast members). But I got to thinking why being a team player is so important in basketball vs the other major sports (baseball, football, etc). Immediately I thought about hockey, which is also a strong team game, but I think it’s different because 20 people on a team participate in a game of hockey (and the minutes are not heavily weighted to certain players), so at any given moment the players on the ice are different. Meanwhile in basketball, a large portion of the game will be played by the 5 starters and so their chemistry and cohesiveness can greatly affect the success of the team.

In a Canada Day weekend tradition (as it has been two years in a row), I went to catch a baseball game. Last year I saw one at Yankees stadium but seeing as we didn’t go anywhere this year, I saw one at the Roger’s Centre Skydome.

Well we kind of went because we haven’t gone to a game in awhile, it was a nice day, and tickets are cheap. We just showed up at the gate and bought tickets for the 500 sections ($16), sitting behind the foul pole in right field. I think we were closer to CN Tower than the field.

The game was part of Roy Halliday’s visit to Toronto, although he didn’t pitch in the game (he would pitch the next day). I saw more Halliday Phillies’ jerseys than his jersey from Toronto! It wasn’t an exciting game, but we got to see two home runs – the second was a two-run shot by Jose Bautista to give Toronto the lead in the 7th inning! Unfortunately, our reliever could not hold the lead in the 9th and we ended up losing.

Apprently, the crowd likes to cheer on Bautista by singing the Montreal Canadiens’ Olé Olé Olé to José José José.

Going to the baseball game is not always about seeing the game itself. Beforehand, there was a street festival to celebrate Canada Day. They had activities for kids and gave out some freebies like flags and giant fingers (I don’t know what these things are actually called). The first 10k fans also received a free t-shirt, but we didn’t make it for the promo.

With all the fanfare, there were over 45,000 fans at the game! That’s pretty close to a sell-out.

I’ve been getting a lot of reading done recently, in fact my Instapaper queue is currently empty:

  • Why Wesabe lost to Mint
    One of the cofounders of personal money management startup Wesabe talks about what his company did wrong and how fellow competitor beat them in the market and eventually caused them to shut down.
  • A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years
    I started reading this and thought it would be useless, but there are some genuinely insightful points in this list. It’s authored by Douglas Copeland, author of Microserfs.
  • Confessions of a former NFL agent, Josh Luchs
    An inside look on how the NFL agent industry works. Hint: lots of payola.
  • I am Banksy
    The story of an Esquire reporter’s quest to find Banksy in London. I’ve “heard” of Banksy a lot, but I don’t know a lot about him. This article didn’t help too much.
  • The Long Nose of Innovation
    An argument that innovation also takes a long time to develop.

    Innovation is not about alchemy. In fact, innovation is not about invention. An idea may well start with an invention, but the bulk of the work and creativity is in that idea’s augmentation and refinement. The newer the idea, the coarser the granularity of most analysis, and the more likely people are to say, “oh, that’s just like X” or “that’s been done before,” without any appreciation for how much work and innovation is involved in taking an idea from concept to wide practice.

    I’ve been guilty of this knee-jerk reaction.

  • What will future generations condemn us for?
    Interesting not so much about the future, but the survey of what we’ve condemned in the past.
  • The Gentle Art of Poverty
    This is a story about a ~60 y/o American living in San Diego and how he can survive on an astonishing low income every year. Of course, it’s not entirely moral.
  • The case of the vanishing blonde
    The story of how a private detective resolved a rape when local enforcement nor insurance adjustment investigators made no headway.

October started really busy with the continuation of our move. We installed blinds, got internet setup, and continued to buy more things. We also had to pack for our trip to NYC on Thanksgiving weekend.

After we got back from our trip, it was more buying stuff for our home. Heading to Home Depot, Canadian Tire a few times to buy or return things. Aside from that, I can’t think of much that we did. Each week, it’s a matter of getting through work and then going shopping on the weekend.

On Xbox, I finished (or at least played as much as I’m willing) Lego Rock Band and Wet. In sports, the baseball playoffs started, which isn’t noteworthy except that Roy Halliday is pitching (but not for the Jays). He even got a no-hitter! I also watched a bit of the Leafs, and they went 4-0 to start the season, before plummeting back to earth (but not the basement….yet).