Audio Ping at 30

Thirty years ago today I achieved my first mild dose of Internet fame, with this post to the old comp.sys.next Usenet newsgroup. Here’s the original post first – and let me tell you about what happened afterwards. Also it involves ducks.

Date: Sun 23-Jan-1991 21:15:24 
From: sahayman@iuvax.cs.indiana.edu (Steve Hayman)
Subject: NeXT "audio ping" for network debugging

The thinwire started messing up in the building where I work yesterday;  I was scurrying around with an ethernet terminator cutting off segments of the network to try to isolate where the problem was.   I have a NeXT and a Sun on my desk, and was trying to 'ping' the Sun from the NeXT.  Whether it worked depended on where I cut the network off.

ping is a good tool for debugging but it sure is a pain to have to run back to your office to see if any of the ping packets are getting through.  So I came up with this quick hack.

1) Use "sndrecord ping.snd", hit return, say the word "PING" into the mike  hit return again.  Try to make the recording less than 1 second long.

2) Run this script

#!/bin/sh
# audio-ping host
# output of 'ping' looks like this:
#    # ping porbeagle
#    PING porbeagle.cs.indiana.edu: 56 data bytes
#    64 bytes from 129.79.254.138: icmp_seq=0. time=3. ms
#    64 bytes from 129.79.254.138: icmp_seq=1. time=3. ms
#          ...
# one line per second.  no output is produced if the packets
# aren't coming back.  
# This script plays a sound whenever it sees a line with "icmp_seq" on it.
#


ping $1 2>&1 | while read line; do
    case "$line" in
    *icmp_seq*) 
        sndplay ping.snd
        ;;
    esac
done


Now start this up.  Crank up the volume on your NeXT to the max.  You can now wander through the building fiddling with the network, unplugging different machines and so on; if it's working you'll hear this voice saying PING ... PING ... PING; if it quits working the voice will stop.

If you wanted to get really fancy you could play a different sound for some of the other messages that ping might generate - sometimes ping says "network is down", for instance.

This script helped me find a faulty tee-connector in just about a minute.

OK it's a dumb hack.

Steve

ping? what’s that?

ping is a Unix tool that attempts to make a connection to a remote computer, and once a second, it will print a line of received data. It’s a quick way to check if your network is working. Ping a faraway computer, and if you get a line of information back every second, your network is working.

I still use this today.

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so what where you trying to do in 1991?

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I was working for the computer science department at Indiana University – we’d temporarily been relocated to, I think, this building –
while the main CS building was being renovated (and wow, did I ever wind up with a great office in the renovated building when it was done, Lindley Hall – corner office, top floor, overlooking the quad… and two weeks after we moved in, I quit to come back to Canada. I’ll never have an office like that again.)

Anyway.
The network in our little house wasn’t working. I was running this ‘ping’ program and had to keep returning to my desk to see if it was working, as I experimented with changing network settings and futzing with cables on other computers in the building. We didn’t have portable computers, that’s for sure.

So what I did above was to combine the sound recording tool on my NeXT cube on my desk, with the Unix ping program, in a way that my computer would play a recording of me saying PING once a second when the network was working, and it’d be silent otherwise. I could then wander through the building adjusting things and when I heard the PING sound from upstairs, I knew I’d fixed it.

I didn’t think this was such a big deal but posted the above writeup to the net.
A few people congratulated me.

and then what?

Somehow this little hack made it into the Jargon File, a legendary compilation of hacker terminology, and a subsequent book, The New Hacker’s Dictionary.. If you check the jargon file today, 30 years later, you can see this entry for ping

ping [from the submariners’ term for a sonar pulse] 1. n. Slang term for a small network message (ICMP ECHO) sent by a computer to check for the presence and alertness of another. The Unix command `ping(8)’ can be used to do this manually (note that `ping(8)”s author denies the widespread folk etymology that the name was ever intended as acronym `Packet INternet Groper’). Occasionally used as a phone greeting. See ACK, also ENQ. 2. /vt./ To verify the presence of. 3. /vt./ To get the attention of. 4. /vt./ To send a message to all members of a mailing list requesting an ACK (in order to verify that everybody’s addresses are reachable). “We haven’t heard much of anything from Geoff, but he did respond with an ACK both times I pinged jargon-friends.” 5. /n./ A quantum packet of happiness. People who are very happy tend to exude pings; furthermore, one can intentionally create pings and aim them at a needy party (e.g., a depressed person). This sense of ping may appear as an exclamation; “Ping!” (I’m happy; I am emitting a quantum of happiness; I have been struck by a quantum of happiness). The form “pingfulness”, which is used to describe people who exude pings, also occurs. (In the standard abuse of language, “pingfulness” can also be used as an exclamation, in which case it’s a much stronger exclamation than just “ping”!). Oppose blargh.

The funniest use of `ping’ to date was described in January 1991 by Steve Hayman on the Usenet group comp.sys.next. He was trying to isolate a faulty cable segment on a TCP/IP Ethernet hooked up to a NeXT machine, and got tired of having to run back to his console after each cabling tweak to see if the ping packets were getting through. So he used the sound-recording feature on the NeXT, then wrote a script that repeatedly invoked `ping(8)’, listened for an echo, and played back the recording on each returned packet. Result? A program that caused the machine to repeat, over and over, “Ping … ping … ping …” as long as the network was up. He turned the volume to maximum, ferreted through the building with one ear cocked, and found a faulty tee connector in no time.

I gotta tell ya, to have your name mentioned in the Jargon File certainly gives you an aura of street cred in certain strange circles!

not only that

Mike Muuss

The Ping program itself was written by a legendary Unix developer at AT&T Bell Labs named Mike Muuss. He tragically passed away in a car accident in 2000 but his personal web site lives on, and I was delighted to see his page titled, The Story of the Ping Program.

He tells the interesting story of the birth of this program and then – much to my delight – includes this anecdote, which is mostly accurate

The best ping story I’ve ever heard was told to me at a USENIX conference, where a network administrator with an intermittent Ethernet had linked the ping program to his vocoder program, in essence writing:

ping goodhost | sed -e 's/.*/ping/' | vocoder

He wired the vocoder’s output into his office stereo and turned up the volume as loud as he could stand. The computer sat there shouting “Ping, ping, ping…” once a second, and he wandered through the building wiggling Ethernet connectors until the sound stopped. And that’s how he found the intermittent failure.

Imagine my delight at stumbling across that, from the author of ping himself.

the best part

There’s a famous children’s book from 1933 called “The Story about Ping”. It’s about a duck, of course. A Duck! Ping, a spirited little duck who lives on a boat on the Yangtze River and gets into various misadventures. It’s about a duck. A duck named Ping.

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But Mike Muuss’s page mentioned this legendary Amazon review of the book which still makes me laugh today.

Customer Comments

A reader from Upper Volta, Uzbekistan, March 7, 1999

Excellent, heart-warming tale of exploration and discovery. Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix’s most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized.

The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).

The title character — er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear.

The book avoids many of the cliches one might expect. For example, with a story set on a river, the authors might have sunk to using that tired old plot device: the flood ping. The authors deftly avoid this.

Who Should Buy This Book

If you need a good, high-level overview of the ping utility, this is the book. I can’t recommend it for most managers, as the technical aspects may be too overwhelming and the basic concepts too daunting.

Problems With This Book

As good as it is, The Story About Ping is not without its faults. There is no index, and though the ping(8) man pages cover the command line options well enough, some review of them seems to be in order. Likewise, in a book solely about Ping, I would have expected a more detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure.

But even with these problems, The Story About Ping has earned a place on my bookshelf, right between Stevens’ Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, and my dog-eared copy of Dante’s seminal work on MS Windows, Inferno. Who can read that passage on the Windows API (“Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous, So that by fixing on its depths my sight — Nothing whatever I discerned therein.”), without shaking their head with deep understanding. But I digress.

A National Anthem Update: Some bugs fixed.

One year ago today I broke the news that the National Anthem of Canada contained some bugs. I’m grateful to report that at least one of the following issues has been addressed.

See last year’s post for all the nitpicky details.

Now just so you know, although I usually limit my complaining to blog posts and Twitter, in this case I actually went the extra mile by tagging the Government of Canada Canadian Heritage account.

So what’s changed after a year?

BIG NEWS

They fixed complaint #2 above. The official sheet music now shows the correct notes.

Previously:

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Now:

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You can see from the metadata in the PDF file that the change was made Feb. 17, 2020, no doubt in response to my tweet.

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(You can also see that this PDF was originally created in Adobe InDesign, which explains the generally sloppy typesetting, lack of barlines at the end of each staff, and other formatting errors that wouldn’t happen if it were created in a proper music typesetting application.)

so everything is OK now, right?

No.

Although I’m grateful for the above change, please note that in the new version the dot above the B♭ on “The” in the 2nd example has been shifted. Previously it was correctly to the right of the note, indicating a dotted-eighth note; now it’s above, indicating a staccato note.

This means the sheet music now features the exact same musical error as the National Anthem Act. The act, passed in 1985, includes this fragment of music notation.

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Let me remind you that the image above is the LAW in Canada. Bar 10 of the National Anthem is short one sixteenth note.

I realize that the government has had other things to worry about over the past year, but this is still wrong and I hope will be corrected some day.

also

it should be in E♭, the National Key Signature. And the last two notes should go up an octave because that’s how everybody sings it.

also also

we still have not designated “Taking Care of Business” as the National Rock and Roll Anthem of Canada. Perhaps that can be rolled into an Act to Correct the Music Notation Of O Canada.

also also also

Please, for the love of God, there is no apostrophe anywhere in the title O Canada.

I can see that my work here is not done. I’ll keep you posted.

The Christmas Potato Masher

here, for the record, is how what will probably be a future family running gag was born. A completely true story of the events of the evening of December 25, 2020.

The Christmas Potato Masher

A new fable for our times.

Christmas was quiet. Just me and my spouse.
All four of our children moved out of the house.
Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap
Had just settled down for an empty-nest nap.

When what to our wondering ears should appear,
But a phone call from Tyler. “Help me, Mama dear!
We’re cooking our dinner. Can you be here in a flash? er…
It turns out we don’t have a potato masher.”

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When your son needs some help, you must leap to the sky!
We found our lone masher, and got into the car
And drove to see Tyler. (It wasn’t too far.).

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We handed it over – a small ceremony
Took place. See the photographic testimony
But as we drove off, across the street, saw a store
Rabba Fine Foods. Open 7/24!

We thought they might have a small utensil section
Perhaps a new masher’d be in their selection
And lo! They had one potato masher there
For $4.99. ‘Twas the last one, I swear

“Thank you for this Christmas miracle”, I said
To the clerk, and he smiled and nodded his head
“That’s why we’re all here”, he declared, as I paid
And we drove back to Tyler, to offer a trade.

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“Give us back the old one”, we asked, “Make it quick.
It’s plastic, and all of OUR pans are non-stick.
I’ll trade you this new one from Rabba. It’s metal.
We’ll take one more picture, and that will be settled.”

A new running gag was created that night,
The mashers might now be an annual sight.
Get ready for photos on Facebook each year
More potato mashers will surely appear!

Sleigh Ride?

Blogging this for posterity. Anybody who’s ever played in a band or orchestra has probably done the Leroy Anderson classic Sleigh Ride a bunch of times – and if you have, I hope you’ll enjoy this incredible version.

Is this brilliant or terrible or both? It takes a lot of skill to produce a train wreck like this. I find something new to laugh about every time. The pianist arbitrarily changing keys, the other players rushing to catch up, the ending that goes on too long, the final guitar honk, and maybe my favourite bit – all the extra eighth notes the second time through the bridge at 1:02 or so.

It reminds me a bit of Argonotes. Talented musicians all acting as directionless independent contractors and nobody really following the leader too carefully, and everybody having fun.

The Youtube comments give us an explanation.

This was recorded in one take by Nashville studio musicians in 2007, during a recording session for a legitimate artist’s Christmas project. The artist intended to use this as a “hidden track”, but then decided their audience wouldn’t get the joke.

Well that would be me, Jerry McPherson, on guitar, Scott Williamson on drums, I believe it was Joeie Canaday on bass, and the always amazing Jason Webb on piano.

This is a new Christmas favourite for me.

Grey Cup 2001 (Montreal; Calgary 27, Winnipeg 19)

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Ah, Montreal. The band’s first overnight grey cup trip. In 1998 we’d come down for a regular season game at Molson Stadium – worthy of a blog post of its own, the team chartered 3 cars of a Via train to Montreal and miraculously offered the band a free ride – and we all remembered that so fondly, how could we NOT go to Montreal for the Grey Cup?

Plus it’s an eastern division cup. Those are easy. In all our history, we only ever managed to get the band to fly somewhere once (to a “home” game in Fort McMurray, Alberta) but hiring a bus to go to an eastern opponent seems simpler. And here’s Rick, our bus driver from Great Canadian, a great guy.
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(More to come, this blog entry more or less a placeholder.)

I’m indebted to Colin “Trombone” Leech for the photos on this page (and for showing up! As the Ottawa branch of Argonotes, we could always count on Colin to show up only for certain road games.)

Argonotes at the 2001 Grey Cup

Grey Cup 2017 (Ottawa; Argos 27, Calgary 24)

Part of our Ongoing Series of Argonotes Grey Cup Memories.

2017 Grey Cup

Wait, what? Argonotes at the 2017 Grey Cup?
Didn’t the band fold in 2017?

Well, yeah, it kind of did, the band packed it in after 22 years just before the start of the 2017 season (and reunited for one reunion performance in July) but that’s a topic for a much longer post. Or if you subscribe to The Athletic, you can read about it here…

However, Argonotes did actually perform on Grey Cup Weekend. Sort of! So it gets its own entry in the archives.

the eastern final

So I guess the Curse of Argonotes that we applied to the team didn’t work, because they won the Eastern Final and made it to the Grey Cup against Calgary.
I was delighted to take my dad (and brother (and one son)) to the Eastern final at BMO Field, and the Argos beat Saskatchewan.

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should I stay or should I go

Yours truly was kind of moping around that week, debating whether to go to Ottawa for the game.

I’d talked myself into Not Going. I can’t go. Not without my band.

But after some intense lobbying by basically everybody I’d ever met in my entire life, all saying “What, are you nuts? Go!”, and especially after an invitation to connect with the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band (who were making their 4,000th straight Grey Cup trip), I found a ticket and headed to Ottawa for the weekend.

hanging out with musical friends

The Roughrider band even let us hang around and play and possibly even conduct.

Drums

It was a fantastic experience, and I owe a lot to the Rider band for the invitation, and to my Argonotes colleague Jenn “Piccolo” “Or Bass Drum” Annis, because I think we both agreed that two people is, legally, a band.

two people are legally a band

Two Argonotes

And we found ourselves at the Argo bash. I had this informal plan to have the entire Riders band show up and I was going to give them Argos shirts if they’d just play Go Argos Go and pretend to be Argonotes, but that kind of fell apart when they said “Sure, we’ll do it, but wearing green”, which wouldn’t have been nearly subversive enough.

So, what the heck, whaddya gonna do, there’s a stage and a rowdy group of Argo fans and there’s beer and we had a trombone and a bass drum, what more do you need, and without further ado, here is a performance of “Go Argos Go” by Argonotes, the Until Recently Toronto Argonauts Band, at the Argos Ottawa party the night before the Grey Cup, and I promise you, there are much better recordings of this song!

My thanks to Spitzka for the video and all his support over the years.

Was it a great weekend?
Absolutely! Inspired, no doubt, by our performance, the Argos beat Calgary in an epic snow globe of a game, with some wild plays, an incredible finish, a great halftime show by Shania Twain (who arrived on a dogsled) and I had a great 2nd row seat surrounded by Ottawa REDBLACKS fans who couldn’t have been more gracious after the victory.

Was this our greatest Argonotes performance ever?
Probably not. Other than the part where it inspired the Argos to victory the following day.

Was it our final Argonotes performance ever?
Hey, you never know.

Grey Cup 1996 (Hamilton; Argos 43, Edmonton 37)

84th Grey Cup emblem

1995 was the band’s first year and at the end of the season, I think we were just too addled to even think about going to that year’s Grey Cup. But in the final game of 1995, there was some sort of Canadian identity crisis thing going on and as I recall, the team let anybody in to the final game for free if you brought a flag.

It was quite a sight in 1995, all those fans, and all those flags. It must have impressed the visiting quarterback, a guy from Calgary named Doug Flutie, because he wound up signing with the Argos for the 1996 season and led the team to a 1996 Grey Cup Victory.

Of course most of us had watched the 1995 Grey Cup on TV, and had probably seen the parties, and might have noticed some sort of green and white band from Saskatchewan in some of the media reports, and since the ’96 Grey Cup was in Hamilton, hmm. I wonder. We’d never played anywhere out of town. Could we make it to Hamilton?

As it turns out,

a) we did, and

b) there isn’t as much online record of it as you might like, because people weren’t yet carrying around cell phone cameras documenting every waking minute of their lives.

The 1996 season was notable for, I think, the first mention of the band in the Toronto Star. Dig the old URLs! People didn’t even think to get their own domain names.

Toronto Star, 1996:

ARGGOOSS: As the CFL playoffs get under way, you might want to check out the Double Blue’s official site in cyberspace(http://www.interlog.com/argos).
Along with the standard mix of schedules, results and statistics, the Argos’ homepage has a nice where-are-they-now feature called “Ancient Mariners”.
The latest one is on 1940s star Bruce Richardson, but you can also select one of several earlier Ancient Mariners from the archive provided.

For a look at the lighter side of the gridiron, take a wander into the home page of the Argonotes, the team’s official band

Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh, right, the 1996 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Here are a few memories.

the Ottawa party

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Somehow we’d heard that the city of Ottawa was hosting a party in Hamilton, and we got ourselves invited to that. It was a little awkward, because the Ottawa Rough Riders had either just folded or were on the verge of doing so.
I recall the band actually giving the organizer some money from the stage just to see if it would help. (It didn’t.)

We went on right after the Saskatchewan band. This was our first glimpse of our Western rivals –


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I remember thinking – Hmm. They seem to know what they’re doing. Perhaps I should contact them and see if we can, you know, do some Massed CFL Bands thing in future years? (Foreshadowing! Stay tuned.)

And I think this is us at one of the gigs that year – sorry, cameras back then did not typically embed detailed timestamps and latitude/longitude info in each picture …

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what else was going on

Hey, check this out, I never throw anything out, an email to the band outlining our plans for the weekend


From: Steve Hayman 
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 1996 20:03:06 -0500
To: argonotes@objectario.com
Subject: Quick Grey Cup Weekend Reminder!

Meet at 7:30 PM tomorrow (Friday) at the beer tent at King & Bay. At 8:30 we'll be at the Edmonton hospitality suite in the Ramada Hotel; at 9:30 PM, the Spirit of Ottawa show at the Royal Connaught Hotel.


Then on Saturday, meet at 10:30 AM at the Ramada Hotel for the Edmonton Klondike Breakfast, and we'll move on after that for the parade.

I have been unable to get tickets for the game itself on Sunday - although I did try; talked to the chairman of the grey cup committee, wrote to CFL chairman Larry Smith
too.  Oh well.



Any problems, give me a ring.  

See you tomorrow!
Signed,
"Still no baby."

“Still no baby” ? What was that about? Oh, I remember now (see later.)

the Grey Cup Parade

Hamilton wisely combined the Grey Cup Parade with the city’s annual Santa Claus Parade.
The Grey Cup part was a sort of pre-parade that went right down the main street of Hamilton, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, and when they all saw the Argos Band proudly riding on the Argos Float, they all said – if I remember correctly – “Boo.”

Here are a couple of grainy photos from the live CBC coverage. For the full effect, please yell “BOO” at your computer when reading.
That’d be me at the front holding the shield.

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Parade1

the MOB – the Massed Ontario Band

Somehow I thought it’d be fun to worry about not one but two bands in the parade, and put together the first and last appearance of the MOB – the Massed Ontario Bands, a combined entry from the marching bands of Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, the non-marching but game-to-try-anything Waterloo Warriors Band, and the Carleton University Band, which turned out to be one guy (thanks for coming, Peter.)

We sent out a few simple tunes to all 4 schools and everybody theoretically learned them – I think we were doing “Ca-Na-Da”, the 1967 Centennial song, “Hogan’s Heroes”, the theme from a TV show about – wait, can this be right? a world war II prison camp? people thought that was funny? – and “Scotland the Brave”, because of the large contingent of pipers from Queen’s.

This was so much fun, I hope we can do it again some time. Everybody enjoyed it, old rivalvies were set aside, the group some how self-organized into a marching band shape and proceeded down the parade route. That was pretty cool. I still have the MOB banner out in the garage.

Thanks to my cousin John Hayman – Warriors Band Fhorn – for the photos, which it turns out were actually taken by my brother Michael!

The 1996 Massed Ontario University Bands

The MOB on the march

the game

A classic. Argos win, in a snowstorm. Flutie, long thought by many westerners to have fumbled on a crucial late game third down, did not in fact fumble, because if he had fumbled, surely the refs would have said something.

did you get in

No. We faxed the league, and commissioner Larry Smith asking if we could get in, and got a reply a week after the game saying basically “Sorry, everybody was out of the office and we didn’t see this message” which is an easier reply than “No.”

later that same week

The Grey Cup was on Sunday November 24, 1996.
on Monday, November 25, I sent the following urgent email to the band –

Subject: ALERT!  ARGO VICTORY PARADE TUESDAY NOON!  BAND NEEDED!

12:15 (noon), Union Station. Parade up to Nathan Phillips Square. Possibly marching, possibly riding on a bus.  We will be right behind Doug Flutie himself.

I need people for this!  Can you come?  Please?  It'll be over pretty quickly.


BONUS: FREE LUNCH!  Seriously!  The city will buy us lunch if we do this.

I called the mayor's office - which is running the parade - and got us invited.  Somehow the Argos neglected to mention us as a possible entrant.  Figures.

Our first GREY CUP VICTORY PARADE

On Tuesday, November 27, the team organized our first Grey Cup Victory Parade, from Union Station to City Hall.
Gerry was whacking the bass drum pretty hard; an “E” fell off live on TV and by the end of the parade, the bass drum read “GR Y CUP CHAMPS”.

Here’s Global’s report on the victory parade, with the typical sort of downer woebegotten angle that too much CFL coverage of the day included. But they also included a brief glimpse of the band

On Wednesday, November 28, this picture from the parade was on the cover of the Toronto Star. Doug Flutie, Alexa Flutie, coach Don Matthews, the Grey Cup and … a glimpse of some guy with a trombone.

Flutie Parade

Later that day I took a copy of that day’s paper to the hospital and proudly showed it to a brand new baby. Nick, see that? Your dad’s on the cover of the paper today. Happy Zeroth Birthday. Maybe you’d like to join the band in 16 years or so. We could use some more trumpet players.

That was a pretty good week.

Grey Cup 2007 (Toronto; Saskatchewan 23, Winnipeg 19)

Part of our Ongoing Series of Argonotes Grey Cup Memories.

The 2007 Grey Cup was the first one in Toronto since 1992 (and, thus, the first home grey cup for Argonotes, since the band started in 1995.) We were so excited we even had special collector’s edition lapel pins made up. See above! No, you can’t have one, I think I only have this one left. They were pretty popular.

We were particularly pleased to be joined by the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band, who, of course, manage somehow to go to every Grey Cup, whereas in Argonotes we could only muster the strength to go to the East Division ones.

warming up

As usual we played at all the team parties, including the fabulous Spirit of Edmonton event and their legendary Saturday morning breakfast. I recall that we’d established an official band beachhead at the Novotel downtown where most of us stayed Thursday-Sunday. That sure made it easier to get around without anybody worrying about what anybody had had to drink, if theoretically that were happening.

In a post appropriately titled What we learned while killing our brain cells, the legendary Boatmen Blog had these kind words to say about our performance at Saturday morning’s Spirit of Edmonton breakfast. (The whole post is worth a read but, well, if I had to pick one paragraph it’d probably be this one.)

It’s never too early for Steve Hayman to bring his A-game. As always at the Spirit of Edmonton Breakfast (which, as you can see, is really a goldmine for material), we were treated to an MC making assorted jokes that range from the corny to the slightly blue. For a guy trying to work a room full of drunks on a Saturday morning, he did a fair job. But he had nothing on the leader of the beloved Argonotes, who came equipped with a dizzying array of one-liners – among them a solid one about Saskatchewan poised to match the number of Grey Cups won by Sarnia and Queen’s University, and…well, truthfully, we can’t remember the others, on account of the nature of the event. But trust us, he was very funny. And we maintain that the Argonotes’ cover of BTO’s Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet is genuinely more enjoyable than the original.

strolling around Toronto

I’m lucky I didn’t get fired for having the band play inside the Apple store at the Eaton Centre.

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The CFL Pep Band Summit

Just before the parade we hosted the Saskatchewan band for lunch at our favourite pregame hangout, Joe Badali’s which – what do you know – turned out to be the starting point of the parade. (Photos of summit to come, once I can find them.)

parade? what parade? who said anything about a parade?

There was no official Grey Cup Parade, which naturally caused a lot of sneering in western Canada about those high faluting Toronto hipsters who are too cool for the CFL etc etc etc – any Argo fan has been hearing this for decades – but that didn’t stop anybody. Naturally we got together with the Saskatchewan band, the Calgary Grey Cup Committee (who host the annual pancake breakfast and do the horse-in-a-hotel routine) and various fan groups and decided we’d all meet at the corner of Front and Simcoe on Grey Cup Saturday for the ..

the Not the Grey Cup Parade

The theory being that parade permits were super expensive, but protest marches were free, so it wasn’t a parade, it was a protest march objecting to the lack of a parade.

We started at Front and Simcoe, went west on Front (mostly on the sidewalk), turned south on John St over the bridge to Skydome, and wound up at the Convention Centre.

We may have tipped off the media in advance. Rob Leth of Global did a fantastic report.

June Trueman

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Right at the start of that report, and again towards the end, you can see a Winnipeg fan hugging a Saskatchewan fan named June Trueman, who was a delightful member of the Saskatchewan pep band and who, sadly, passed away last month. June was a founding member of the Saskatchewan band and seemingly everybody’s favourite alto sax player. It was always a pleasure to seek her out and say hello. Thank you, June.

I remember turning around during the parade and seeing this incredible mass of humanity following along, which was pretty amazing for a non-event that we only started “planning” a couple of days before.

post parade performances

Here are a few Youtube clips of band performances that day

Post-parade, Super Tequila at the Convention Centre

Grey Cup Sunday, Surfin’ USA in the fountain outside Skydome

Geez, that fountain was a good spot. I’m glad nobody found the switch to turn on the pumps, though. We got a nice picture there, and then moments later the fountain was swarmed by Saskatchewan fans.

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as a proud Canadian band, isn’t it a little weird that you keep playing “Surfin’ USA”

how about we call it “Surfin’ PEI.” Happy now?

did we get into the game?

Yes. The league graciously gave us some passes to get in, although we didn’t have any seats so we had to find obstructed-view unsold seats. The Saskatchewan band got in, of course; they always buy tickets. What? Buy Tickets? Who does that?

more photos and video

See more from 2007 on the band web site here.

was it fun?

are you kidding? it was the best. What’s more fun than getting together with your friends, even your friends from Saskatchewan, and making some music?

We never sounded better than we did playing in that fountain. I remember Dave Keith telling me “You know what, by the end of the season, we actually sound tight.”

Imagine what we would have sounded like if we’d ever had a rehearsal.

Remembering Grey Cups past

Part of the reason for this post is that I haven’t blogged anything in a while, but mostly it’s because the 2020 Grey Cup should have been played last Sunday, but wasn’t.

It’s all got me feeling really nostalgic about the Grey Cups I’ve been lucky to attend with Argonotes, from our first in 1996 to our last in 2017.

Some were road trips to Cups in Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal, and some were at home in Toronto, but they were all memorable, multi day festivals of fun and music and drinking and parties and camaraderie and fierce but good-natured rivalries with the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band, and occasionally a football game at the end, and at this time of year, past pictures, videos and posts keep popping up in my Facebook on-this-day-in-years-past memories feed.

I feel the need to write about each of them.

I don’t much care whether anybody reads this series, but I want to gather all my best memories of each one in one spot. And this seems like a good spot.

More to come.

In no particular order … ok in numerical order … with a few articles still to be written

  • The 1996 Grey Cup in Hamilton, our first road trip
  • The 1997 Grey Cup in Edmonton, which we didn’t attend but we got to play in the Victory Parade
  • The 2001 Grey Cup in Montreal, our first overnight road trip
  • The 2004 Grey Cup in Ottawa, where we discovered how easy it is to sneak onto the field if you look like you belong
  • The 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto, including the legendary Not the Grey Cup Parade
  • The 2008 Grey Cup in Montreal, where we stayed at an extremely swanky hotel by mistake
  • The 2012 Grey Cup in Toronto, where the Argos won it all at home in one of the all time greatest band moments
  • The 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto, our first (and last) at BMO Field
  • The 2017 Grey Cup in Ottawa, featuring Technically It’s A Band If You Haver At Least Two People
  • The 2021 Grey Cup in Hamilton because hey, you never know.

Hijinks on the Welland Canal

A couple of ships collided on the Welland Canal last weekend – the waterway that bypasses Niagara Falls, not far from here. The video is definitely not something you see every day.

I wonder what Gordon Lightfoot would have said. Hmm.

The legend lives on
From Ontarians on down
Of the shipping canal they call “Welland”

There’s room, they all cry
For two ships to pass by
If the captains are paying attention

When a load of black coal
Met a ship that was full
Of some windmill parts for Minnesota

And the beeper it beeped
As the other ship creeped
Closer, not changing course one iota

Bystanders, it’s known
Filmed the scene with their phones
As they shouted out, “She’s gonna hit ‘er”

The collision, it showed
Now they’ve got to upload
it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

Sing along if you like! Here’s a karaoke backing track!

update

People seemed to like this poetry when I tweeted it, even though I’m not going to win too many awards for trying to rhyme “welland” and “attention”. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I got a dozen likes between facebook and twitter.

And then my son tweeted a video he’d made, something to do with Super Smash Bros, and I totally don’t understand it but his has, so far, 1,983 retweets and 8,295 likes, which I think is more than I’ve got in total in 13 years of using Twitter.

I don’t understand it. But I’m a proud dad.