Stocking Stuffers

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There is a tradition in my family of getting Christmas stockings. I assume it is the same with every family who celebrates the consumerist side of Christmas.  What I don’t assume is that the stuff in the stockings (which I call stocking stuffers, but MSWord seems do disagree with) is the same.  I have seen some stockings full of stuff that would be considered “big” gifts in my house.

In my case, most of the stuff filling the stocking comes from the dollar store, or is chocolate, lottery scratch tickets, or personal hygiene products. This year, amid all that stuff, I got some Panini stickers and the album to put them in.

Having checked their website, it seems like Panini makes a variety of products to entice collectors and fans of sports, comics, animation, and others. From my childhood, I mostly remember hockey, rock stars, and famous battles.  My students have told me that the World Cup (of soccer) is a guaranteed seller in their country.  I suppose they sell it here, but I have never seen it.

In this book there are 505 stickers needed. The book came with ten stickers.  With each pack containing 7 stickers, one would have to buy 73 packages of stickers without getting doubles.  It seems like a huge investment to me.  This seems rather unlikely.  According to the website in Canada, you could buy each card for 22 cents.  That means approximately 111 dollars.  Definitely cheaper than buying packages of cards.  Of course, you can only buy 40 of them….so they say.

In this age of collecting, there are lots of little frills; foil cards, all star cards, rookie cards, skills competition winners, and of course a break down of the Stanley Cup finals.  No trophy case, and not all team logos have stickers.  Some teams arenas have pictures….not sure why.

This would be a good job for me.  I would love to design some collector series.  Maybe cards.  I wonder how you get that job?  I will save this thought for another blog.

As for fun…..once a collector, always a collector. I still get a minor rush out of these things.  Opening the package, scanning through them…. feeling rewarded when I get a new card, or a special card….feeling disappointed when I got another double.

This was a fun stocking stuffer, but I don’t know if I will continue buying them, or even trying to complete the set. Maybe, when the season is over, there will be a drastic reduction in price.  Or maybe I will just buy some hockey cards…

 

My Thoughts on Tank Nation

What would Carelton say?
Over the last week or so, there has been a lot of talk about the imminent rebuilding of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Additionally, there has been a lot of talk of “tank nation” in which the Leafs would throw the remaining games to better improve their odds of getting  a draft pick.

Yes, I’d love to see him in a Leaf uniform.

While I certainly welcome a complete and sincere rebuild, I am not so sure about the idea of playing to lose.  As we have already seen, losing becomes a habit.  If we start lowering our compete level, can we get it back?
There are some other problems with this idea.
  • The “superstars” that we are going to be trading away will want to look good for their future team.  They want to be sought after by strong teams, not weak teams.  Playing to lose won’t improve their value on the trade market.  That’s a lose-lose proposition.
  • The team seems to have lost without trying to lose, so maybe we should just let nature take its course.
  • Once we have jettisoned our free agent talent, or older players, or overpaid players, or whomever we let go, I suspect that the team won’t be in any position to compete anyway.  Losing will happen, whether we want it to or not.
  • What kind of mood will be left in the dressing room by a team that gave up?
  • These players have been competing for their whole lives.  Can we expect them to unlearn that behaviour?
In the end, we will just have to see how things turn out.  I welcome your opinions.

On Hockey Pools

 
 
The first week of this year’s hockey pool is done.   By determination, research and skill (also known as blind luck) I am leading.  While this is no indication of future success, it makes me feel good nonetheless.

What I have found amazing over these past couple of days is the technology of it all.  Websites provide services that allow one to customize your pool in a dizzying array of ways.  Additionally, they provide real time stats.  The fact that it works so well is only blown away by the fact that it is provided for free.

What did people do before?  What poor soul had to sit down with a newspaper/many newspapers on Monday and work out everyone’s points?  Either pools were a lot simpler then, or that person didn’t get any “real” work done that day.

Having talked to a few people, it seems like the technology has not only made it easier to keep track of things, but somehow it allows people to be in a number of pools at once.  How they don’t get confused between players from one pool team to the next is beyond me–or maybe they don’t remember and have to spend a lot of time online checking and rechecking.   I guess that is what a smart phone is for, or is it?

Week one was fun.  Hopefully week two will be just as fun and just as successful.

Watching the Big Game

a great team effort
Watching the men’s and women’s gold medal hockey games for the Sochi Olympics was a great experience.  In the future, when we are reminiscing about these kinds of things (maybe because the professionals won’t be going to the Olympics) I can always tell people where I was.  However, it will be with a little regret because I was watching the game by myself while drinking coffee and eating cereal.

It isn’t overly profound to make the statement that “big games” are better when they are shared by a group of people, but it doesn’t diminish the truth of it.  Watching a big game with friends, or even a crowded bar of strangers is pretty amazing.

I remember when the Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series.  I was in a bar in London (Ontario) called the Governor.  We had a great time drinking, cheering and even dancing out on the street when it was all over.  I won’t ever forget it.

Fantastic work ladies
When they won their second World Series I was in Japan and had to read about it in the Japan Times.  I still cheered, but the memory is unclear.  They delivered the newspaper quite early in the morning, and I am sure the motorcycle delivery guy made a hell of a lot of noise bounding up my steps to deliver the paper.  Beyond that, I can’t really be sure.  Maybe I had made my coffee, maybe I had it after.  Maybe I went across the street to the vending machine to get the coffee.  It just isn’t that memorable.

Just like it was yesterday
When you think back upon big moments, including both the good and the bad, what do you remember.  I bet it was where you were and who you talked to about it.  I doubt the words you said were particularly profound, but the feeling should still be there.

Maybe it was the time difference, or maybe it was the effect the internet has had on news transmission.  I am in no way qualified to pontificate about that.  I do know that watching the game with friends or family would have been much better than it was.  I can only blame myself for not making that happen, but at such an early morning hour I don’t know many who did.
 
When the Leafs finally win their next Stanley Cup, I hope I am surrounded by my friends.
 

Hockey is Back!

Today, hockey returned to television.  It was only one game in the rookie tournament–hardly NHL quality, but hockey nonetheless.  I have been looking forward to this the whole summer.  I know I shouldn’t wish the tail end of summer away, but I can’t help it.  I am excited to watch hockey again.

I am excited to be overly optimistic about my team’s fortunes.  I am ready to dissect every play and referee call.  I ready to fantasize about unrealistic trades.  I am ready to live and die with every win and loss.

Welcome back hockey, let’s get the season started.

Spring Means Playoffs (finally)

 
 
Ah spring finally seems to be here.  You might expect that this blog would be about gardening or yard work or other stuff like that.  In years past, that might have been the case.  The last nine years in fact, that might have been the case.  This year, however, it is not the case.  This year I can focus on one of my true loves; hockey.  More specifically, my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.  They are in the playoffs, and I will be watching (although I am rather busy, and can’t afford to spend too much time in front of the TV, or blogging for that matter)

As a hockey fan, the playoffs are what really matters.  I watch every game I can, but the playoffs are what really matter.  In the playoffs, heroes emerge, the unbelievable happens, and highlights come fast and furious.  I can’t wait.

It might be spring, but Carleton only cares about the playoffs
For the city, and province, there will be a large economic benefit.  Not just in games played, but in beer drunk and merchandise hawked.  I am no economist, but even I can imagine how much money will be generated.  Of course increased TV ratings and ad revenue will follow.

None of that really matters to me.  What matters to me is that my team will be competing for what I consider to be the hardest trophy to win.  Other sports might play more games, but none can match the physical toll the game of hockey takes on an athlete.  Imagine a two hundred plus pound man, perched precariously on two thin slivers of steel, racing on a slippery surface at high speed being met by other 200 plus pound men wearing state of the art Kevlar body armour.  If you can’t respect the toughness of these athletes, there really is nothing I can do for you.
All that remains to be said is,

GO LEAFS GO!

The Inadvertent Collection: Part 3

 

There has been quite a lot of positive response to some of my previous posts entitled, The Inadvertent Collection.  I think its popularity resides in the fact that a lot of us have these collections, whether we know it or not.  Since I wrote that initial post, I have found many of these collections in my house.  The post has definitely changed the way I look at my stuff.

 

elegant
Today’s inadvertently collected object is the coffee mug.  My cupboards seem to be bursting with coffee mugs.  Where did the all come from?  Some were bought to drink out of.  Some came in sets of dishes, and due to their small size, or less than desirable design, were consigned to the back of the cupboard, or to the cupboard above the refrigerator.
promotional

 

More than a few are souvenirs from trips I or family and friends took.  It seems that whenever people go away they think the perfect gift is a mug.  It’s easy to see why they got that impression.  The whole tourism industry tells them this when they enter a gift shop.

 

classic throwback design
Of course, I need some to honour my favourite hockey team.  Sports devotion and coffee go hand in hand.  On those warm summer mornings I have to be reminded that my team will take the ice in a few short months. (The irony that this year, these things did not happen is complimented nicely by the bitter taste of the coffee.)

 

Sports and other
My sister doesn’t share the same fate as me.  She has few coffee mugs, despite having the same channels of acquisition that I do.  The truth is, she gets as many cups as I do, but is able to keep her supply limited by breaking them frequently.  I guess it is a fair solution to the problem.

 

 

Pessimism is Rising

I have officially joined the land of sceptics (on this topic, for most others I have held the presidency for years– I usually try to remain optimistic in this area)  I am pretty sure there will be another hockey lockout this year.  I am a big hockey fan and the thought of no Hockey Night in Canadafills me with a horrifying dread.

Could any good come out of a hockey lockout?  Let’s see.  Last time, instead of showing sports from around the world, we got Texas No Limit Hold’em pretty much 24/7.  A little bit of this was okay.  Granted it started a whole new industry and a large number of cheap, easy to produce TV shows.  It made several gamblers quite famous.  I don’t begrudge that, but every time I turn on the TV I see the same hand of poker being played.  (You know, the one where the guy in the pink shirt gets crushed by the pros)  Obviously someone is making money from this, but I am not sure who it is. 

I do like poker, and I admit it is TV friendly.  I even have the World Series of Poker software for my PSP.  I just don’t want to see it as much as I had to during the last lockout.  If it is so cheap to produce, I shouldn’t have to face multiple reruns.

Back to the point.  Could any good come out of a lockout?  Well, last time the players caved and we got a salary cap.  Revenues are up and the cap is still taking the same percentage as before.  Sounds like a recipe for financial stability.  Apparently not.  Some teams are still not making money.  Some teams are still in jeopardy of failing.  I lost a year of hockey, and nothing has changed. Go figure.

The sticking points seem to be revenue sharing and players’ salaries.  I understand that.  If my team were in a profitable market (mine is) then why would I want to give money to a team that can’t even fill the best seats in the house at rock bottom prices?  As for players’ salaries….. They took what they were offered.  Can’t blame them for negotiating well can you.  I certainly wouldn’t like it if someone came to my work and told me they thought I was overpaid (regardless of how much money I was making).

Maybe there are too many teams in the NHL.  Fewer teams would mean that there would be fewer professional players (the players union certainly wouldn’t like that) and that would mean the overall quality of each team would rise.  There would be glut of almost good enough players, so their salaries would probably decrease.

On the down side, there would be fewer games on TV and there would be fewer minutes spent discussing hockey.  I am not sure that would be a bad thing.

This year my team is scheduled to take part in “the Winter Classic”, but that could be shelved due to scheduling conflicts.  Irony is a bitter pill to swallow.

Time will tell, but I expect a lockout.  I expect owners who travel in Limousines and eat at five star restaurants with supermodels to tell me that they are paying players too much.  I expect players who drive exotic sports cars and eat at five star restaurants with supermodels or A list actresses to tell me how much they miss playing.  I expect both sides to say they just want to do what is best for the game.  I expect the various sports channels to find something new for us to watch 24hours a day–maybe darts, or competitive skeet shooting.

Hockey season hasn’t started yet and already I miss it.  Maybe I should take up jogging.

A Dollar Store Find

Although “reality TV” is trying to convince me otherwise, I don’t think poking around stores hoping to find some hidden treasure is exactly a hobby.  That being said, I do find it interesting, and occasionally I do find something hobby related.
One such find, years ago, was a box of hockey cards.  As a kid, I never had the financial ability to buy a whole box of hockey cards.  I bought them one pack at a time, carefully sifting through them while trying desperately to make that cardboard like piece of gum soft.  Sometimes I bought three packs in a day, going back to the store for each one.  A whole box was unthinkable.
This treasure find, in a dingy discount store in an even dingier mall,  involved a box of Original Six hockey cards.  The idea was to release a series of hockey cards,  some in black and white, of my father’s hockey heroes.  They probably weren’t a hit, based on the low price for the whole box.  I think the Sporting News did something similar with baseball cards (though I think they were all in black and white)  I found the black and white pictures to be wonderful, even more fascinating than today’s full car, holographic, multi dimensional foil cards.  Maybe it was the deep hues.
I called this a treasure find because I liked it.  Unlike reality shows, I didn’t (and don’t) expect to sell the cards for a profit.  I managed to get two complete sets from that box–the other, when organized into a quality album, made a decent Father’s Day present.  I think my Dad appreciated it because he has more than enough ties, and our taste in clothes differs on a scale I wouldn’t hesitate to call epic.
Someday, I will probably set the cards up in a couple of frames and hang them on the hobby room wall.

About Trash Talking in the Digital Age

Perhaps I am old fashioned, but taunting people about their hockey pool picks on facebook, or by email doesn’t seem as much fun.  I know that cyber bullying is a serious problem, but I am not talking about that.  I am talking about razzing your friends, giving them the business, busting someone’s balls… you know what I mean.
If you read my previous post, you’ll know that trash talking and boasting has been the most exciting part of the hockey pool I am involved in.  Game two of the Stanley Cup Finals happened on a Saturday, which meant that I didn’t have a day to bother, pester and annoy my fellow poolies.  I guess I am going to have to join twitter if I want to make this work.