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.

Axe not the cheerleaders

The news broke today that the Montreal Alouettes have disbanded their cheerleading / dance group.

Citing financial concerns, the Montreal Alouettes have disbanded their cheerleading squad ahead of the 2020 season.
“This decision has nothing to do with the hard work (the cheerleaders) put in, or their popularity,” said Charles Rooke, the Alouettes president of communications. “In the current context of financial turnaround, difficult decisions must be made.”

This is sad. And weird, because they’re keeping the coach around (to work as Director General of the Alouettes Foundation) but axing a very talented group.

It’s also shortsighted, and wrong. Here’s why.

it’s a package

People have options these days. Watching a football game from the comfort of your own home in front of your 65″ TV in a luxurious armchair has a lot of appeal. The challenge for a league like the CFL is to get people to come to the games.

what if it was just football

Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose the only thing going on was the football game itself. No cheerleaders. No mascot. No live music. No T-shirt-tosses or other stunts. Just football. Montreal vs Toronto out there bashing in to each other.

How many people would come, if it was just football? You’d have 1,000 diehards, people who really know the Xs and Os of the game, people who are anxiously watching defensive alignments and discussing the minutia of pass interference. They would have a great time, but another 20,000 people would be fidgety, bored, confused, and, most likely, would actually be at home watching something else.

what you really need

There aren’t nearly enough “pure football” fans to make the business work. In 2020, the game isn’t enough. You need a full game-day experience. And that means having

  • a team with a reasonable chance of winning
  • cheerleaders and a dance team
  • a mascot
  • live music
  • giveaways
  • stunts
  • stuff going on before the game, outside the stadium
  • lots of loud and crazy fans contributing to the spectacle.

Now, for any item X on that list, you’ll find people who say “I don’t care about X.” Fine. But there aren’t enough of you! This has to appeal to everybody. And cheerleaders and live music and everything else are all part of the package.

I think the Alouettes, and their new owners, are making a mistake here. (The fact that the new owners are from Ontario isn’t helping, but at least they got off to a good start by proclaiming at an early interview that the Argos suck.)

money? it’s about money?

I have no idea what the operation in Montreal cost, although the Als did mention on Facebook that their cheerleaders are getting paid per game. That isn’t the only model that could work. Surely there are sponsorship opportunities. Maybe a volunteering model with fees for outside appearances makes sense. (I’m honestly not sure how it works in other cities, but I do know that every CFL cheer squad works hard to raise money to travel to the Grey Cup, which won’t be the same without Montreal’s excellent group.)

(Also as you might imagine, I have a little CFL game-day experience. Argonotes, the Until Recently Argonauts Band was completely volunteer-based and never got a dime from the team, although the Drum Line was being paid. Lots of different models can work. But as you might have heard, the Argos and Argonotes parted ways in 2017. I wrote down why, somewhere. I forget exactly.)

ditching the cheerleaders is not right.

If the new owners are that short of money that they can’t keep the cheerleaders going, maybe they aren’t ready for this.

Bugs in the National Anthem.

tl;dr There is a problem with the National Anthem as presented by Canadian Heritage, and also theNational Anthem Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. N-2, and Something Should Be Done. (Business should be taken care of.)

I was looking for a nice patriotic video of O Canada for an app I had in mind, and happened to come across the Canadian Heritage Ministry’s National Anthem site.

One of the links on that page lets you download the Sheet Music. Go ahead. Take a look. I’ll wait.

Notice anything strange? Here’s a list.

1) It is typeset really badly, almost as if it was prepared by someone who is not aware that there actually are music typesetting programs that know how the rules of typesetting. For starters, the treble clef here is a space too high.

First Bar of O Canada

2) It’s in F. I am obsessed with the key signature of O Canada. It is traditionally played and sung in E♭, and there are recordings on this web site where you can hear the Toronto Symphony Orchestra perform it – in E♭. Take a listen! Just don’t try to play along using the sheet music above.

3) The bar lines are missing at the end of each staff. That’s sloppy. NewImage

an actual issue

4) There’s a wrong note in bar 5!

NewImage

That C♮ should obviously be a B♮. My other complaints might be nitpicking but this one is inexcuseable. You can’t publish obviously wrong notes. My friend Guy pointed out that the C and D here should really be B♭ and C too. Come on.

NewImage

customs

And there’s another odd statement on that site.

Timing and etiquette for anthem use

There is no specific rule as to when it is appropriate to sing the national anthem at an event. It is up to the organizers to determine if “O Canada” will be sung at the beginning or at the end of a ceremony. If two anthems are to be played at the beginning of an event, “O Canada” should be played first followed by the other one.

Wait, what? Every sporting event I’ve ever been to that features two anthems plays O Canada second, not first. The home country’s anthem is the second one. Have we all been doing it wrong?

what does the law say?

Let’s consult the National Anthem Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. N-2.

It says

The words and music of the song “O Canada”, as set out in the schedule, are designated as the national anthem of Canada.

Here is the schedule. Take a look.
The sheet music in that schedule, as far as I can tell, is legally the official National Anthem of Canada, as passed by Parliament in 1985.

A BUG IN THE NATIONAL ANTHEM

Wait, what’s this in bar 10?
I’ll remind you this is the official music as passed into law in 1985.

NewImage

The B♭ above the word “The” has a dot, ABOVE it. Dots above a note signify that the note is to be played stacatto. Dots BESIDE a note indicate it should be 50% longer.

The dot was no doubt supposed to go beside the note, but as passed into law, it’s above the note.

As a result, this bar is short one sixteenth note. It is not a complete bar of 4/4.

Canada’s National Anthem Act specifies an anthem with 27 bars of 4/4 and one bar of 15/16.

The late Neal Peart would have no trouble with that time signature but the average Canadian would. You’ve been singing and playing it wrong your whole life, or at least since the National Anthem Act was passed in 1985.

What Should Be Done.

  • Parliament should amend the National Anthem Act to correct the error in bar 10.
  • Canadian Heritage should fix the extremely sloppy typesetting and obvious wrong notes in the Sheet Music pdf file on their web site.
  • Both versions should be transposed down a tone into E♭ to match the most common way the tune is played (and so that I can claim that E♭ truly is the National Key Signature.)
  • Clarify the rule about playing two national anthems before an event. Surely O Canada should go second.

  • Parliament should consider an amendment that says the last two notes go up an octave, especially after a Team Canada victory.
    NewImage

while we’re at it

  • Designate Taking Care of Business as the National Rock and Roll Anthem of Canada.

Mileage Runs I Have Known

A mileage run is this ridiculous idea that you buy a plane ticket near the end of the year and fly somewhere for no good reason, all so you can move up to the airline’s next level in their frequent flyer program.
At this time of year, the skies are full of frequent flyers making pointless cross country trips just to preserve their exalted airline status.

If you think it’s silly, I won’t argue.

I’ve been pretty close to Air Canada Super Elite a few times – which requires you to have flown 100,000 miles or 95 segments in the previous year.

That’s a lot.

But it seems to be worth it if you fly frequently – it’s a level where Air Canada seems willing to help you if there’s a problem. Super Elites get to use Air Canada’s concierge service, which gives you a supersecret phone number you can call for problems, and sometimes the concierge will meet you at the airport and sort out a problem on the spot. I have occasionally had some travel snafu where I’ve missed or almost missed a connection, and the Concierge will often be standing right there with your new boarding pass, or even better, they’ll open some secret doors and hustle you through the airport via a mysterious shortcut if you’re tight on time.

My favourite Super Elite perk is that if you manage to use some of your upgrade points to move up to business class – and every Air Canada traveller gets upgrade points, it’s just easier for Super Elites to turn them into actual upgrades – the flight attendant takes the biz class dinner orders in descending order of airline status. And everybody up there knows it. Whoever is the top-ranked flyer on this flight gets their first choice of chicken or fish. You can easily get caught up in looking around and thinking, hey, I’m number 3 out of 12, that’s not bad, but who are those other two people? What’s their story?

I have done a lot of travel for work over the past 30 years and have a little extra bonus status – I’m an Air Canada Million Miler. That bumps you ahead of the normal Super Elites when they take the dinner order. So that’s nice. Air Canada even sends you a model airplane with your name on it when you hit that level. They have other perks at two million and three million miles. I don’t think I’ll make it up there before retiring.

(And you probably think a million miles is a lot, but my just-retired second level manager finished his career with seven million miles on American.)

It’s hard to explain but once you’ve experienced Super Elite service, you’d really like to stay up there. I’m sorry. I like it. I travel a ton for work, and this makes it a little more bearable.

Everything about air travel is pretty miserable, and I wish they’d treat every passenger with respect (and a bigger seat) but at the moment that’s not how it works.

So anyway. Here are some dumb pointless mileage runs I’ve done. (Maps are from one of my favourite web sites, the Great Circle Mapper)

2011 Mileage Run

2011

In 2011 I was at 90 segments mid December and started scrambling to find the cheapest possible 5 segment itinerary on Air Canada or one of its partners (which at the time included USAir.) Wound up doing this out of Buffalo. A quick trip to Salisbury, Maryland for lunch, and right back.

first flightOn the first segment from Buffalo to Philly, I took a stab at the sudoku puzzle in the inflight magazine, but messed it up and wrote a note of apology to the next passenger.

On the fifth flight from La Guardia back to Buffalo, I thought I’d take another shot at the same puzzle, and opened up the inflight magazine to try again, only to see a messed up puzzle and this note of apology.

IMG 0121

2016

Map

In 2016 I was in the same boat. 5 segments short. A quick hop from London to Montreal and back. Much to the amusement of my family in London. Explain to us again why you are going to Montreal?

2017

Both of those were completely pointless itineraries where I never left the airport. But sometimes you can make an actual trip out of it.

Map

In 2017 I was a few hundred miles short, and Cathy and I made a quick hop down to Dallas for some actual sightseeing – including visiting the fascinating Texas School Book Depository museum. And this is one time that the concierge service really paid off.

Our connection coming home through Montreal was delayed, and I was worried we’d miss the flight to Toronto but much to my delight, the Air Canada Concierge was standing at the gate as we got off the plane.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hayman? Come with me.”

He managed to open a few doors that probably should have stayed closed, and hustled us past Canada Border Services and to the connecting flight.

this is stupid

If you think this is wasteful of time, fuel and money, you are probably right. You have to actually take the flight, you can’t just buy the ticket and not show up….

Airlines are moving towards a model where they care more about how much money you spent than how many miles or segments you flew, but we aren’t there yet. For now, it’s still based on flights. (and in Air Canada’s case, there’s also a minimum spend at each level.)

Sometimes, through some mysterious formula, the airline might let you “buy up” to a certain status if you’re close. I know people who’ve been offered lower Elite tiers. But the formula is a mystery, and although I might gladly take them up on the offer, they’ve never extended it to me.

So my big idea is that if you are close enough to consider a mileage run, the airline ought to let you donate that money to pay for a flight for someone that needs one. But so far Air Canada hasn’t taken me up on that idea.

I promise society that I will keep lobbying for Air Canada to revise this and eliminate the need to take these wasteful flights. If frequent travellers could donate to someone in need, that would surely be a win-win.

surely you’re not doing this again this year

Um…

Tempo!

Check out this showstopper performance by one of the world’s greatest brass bands, Wales’s The Cory Band.

wow

I tried but failed to get Argonotes to play every single piece at this speed, mostly because if it didn’t sound great, at least it would be over sooner.

In this performance please note

  • The tempo, which seems to be about a blistering ♩ = 180, or as P.D.Q. Bach called it, Come un pipistrello fuori dall’ inferno [Like a bat out of hell.]
  • The delighted reactions of the choristers in the back
  • The pure joy of the conductor Philip Harper. We should all aspire to enjoy our jobs this much.

my favourite movie conductor

Naturally this reminds me of the finale of one of my favourite films, Brassed Off, in which the (fictional) Grimley Colliery Band performs this piece at the national championship. They’re not going quite as fast though.

Things you might note from this film –

  • They’re not going quite as fast, only about ♩ = 150
  • Also an outstanding cornet solo
  • The conductor in this clip is the actor Jim Carter, later to find much success as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey. (In the film, he’s a tuba player temporarily filling in for bandleader Pete Postlethwaite, whose character is too ill to conduct the final scene, but he gave one of the all time great acting-conducting performances. Carter isn’t conducting quite up to that standard.)
  • On tenor horn, Ewan McGregor, later to find much success as Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • the band in this film is actually the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, posing as a different coal-mining-community brass band in a film that I think you absolutely should watch.

In Argonotes we used to joke that our slogan was Faster + Louder = Better.

The Cory Band is proving it to be true.

On the ninth Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: “Frozen II”

Two movies in two nights in the Twelve Dates of Christmas project! And we’re going to see Frozen’s 11, which I assume is a heist movie where they break into a cold-storage warehouse and steal some fish sticks.

Frozen Poster

Wait, let me read that again. OK. Apparently it’s actually “Frozen II”.

capsule review

You’re asking the wrong guy. I dozed off for the first 30 minutes. Woke to notice there was some sort of burning Pokemon character and somebody was singing about the unknown woods. Went out to lobby to get coffee. Checked phone. Got engrossed in Twitter. Did not return for rest of movie. I hear it was good though.

On the eighth Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood”

Time for the latest instalment of the amazing Christmas 2018 gift in which Cathy promises to go to one movie a month with me, and we are almost caught up now with 8 movies in 11 months, so December is going to be busy.

what did we see

Movie poster
Yesterday the Mrs. and I went to see the highly-anticipated biopic, a profile of an Esquire journalist named Tom Junod and a look behind the scenes at the magazine business.

who was it about

Tom Junod, known as Lloyd Vogel in the film and played by Matthew Rhys, is a crusading journalist struggling with personal demons. Here, by the way, is the actual Esquire article from November 1998 that we see him writing in the film.

who was it supposedly about

wait, what?

this is actually about beloved children’s TV host Fred “Mr.” Rogers? Played by the equally beloved Tom “Tom” Hanks?

You could have fooled me. It’s a lot more about a guy writing a magazine article and his personal struggles than it is about somebody that absolutely everyone likes (and that could be either Mr. Rogers or Mr. Hanks.)

where’d you see it

Cineplex Queensway VIP. The VIP concept, or at least the reserved-seat concept, is the best thing movie theatres have done in years. I love knowing that I’ll have a good seat. I also love knowing that you can look at the published start time of the movie, 7:45, and realize that means “This is when you should leave home.”

what time did you actually leave home

6:45. I am married to someone who really really likes getting there early. Just in case. Wouldn’t want to miss any commercials.

how many times did you doze off

One, I think. (The chairs were really comfortable)

did you get food delivered to your seat?

Yes. Fish and chips and a Stella. Not bad.

get to the point, did you like it or not?

I am going to say something mildly controversial here which is likely to provoke much scorn: I generally love Tom Hanks and have enjoyed everything he’s ever done. (That is not the scorn-provoking sentence. Here comes the scorn-provoker.)

I really expected differently but … I didn’t particularly like this movie.

It’s beautifully made, and Tom Hanks is believable in his role but this is

the

slowest

paced

movie

I

have

seen

in

a

while.

It is ostensibly about Mr. Rogers but is really more about Mr. Junod coming to grips with himself.

Tom Hanks will probably win awards for this portrayal; Fred Rogers is obviously a wonderful person and the film is beautifully shot (particularly the use of kid-scale city models) but you don’t really learn much about him here. What’s his background? Was he actually a navy sharpshooter? (answer: no, and that briefly is mentioned.) How’d he get started doing this show? What’s it like doing a children’s TV show? And where was the cameo by Ernie “Mr. Dressup” Coombs, who was once Fred’s assistant?

what’s up next?

We’ve seen lots of biopics during this film quest. Judy Garland. Elton John. Neil Armstrong. Laurel and Hardy. Don Shirley. I think I’m ready for a little more action. Cathy, howsabout we go see Ford v. Ferrari ?

Should you move down to a better seat?

It’s a question that theatre goers and sports fans have asked themselves for years. There’s a better seat over there. Why don’t we move down to it? What’s the harm.

We saw this happen several times at Saturday’s Argos/Redblacks game. For once we had pretty good seats, in the sixth row near the center of the field behind the Ottawa bench, and admittedly there were quite a few empty seats in the area (which is a problem that’s very hard to solve, apparently, but I am going to keep going to Argo games until this works!)

And quite a few people snuck down to our section – and a BMO staff person was politely shooing them away. Many were, I think, parents of the large dance group that was performing at halftime – and the staffer asked them to come back when halftime started when a lot of people leave anyway, just not right now while the game’s still on – but some were just fans wanting a better view than the one they’d paid for. I don’t envy the BMO staffer having to be the heavy, but they have a job to do.

So should you move down?

No.

Well, let me modify that. You could try, but if someone calls you out on it, you should move back to your original seat.

It seems tempting, doesn’t it. What’s the harm if I sit in that unoccupied seat?

This is strong language, but you are cheating and stealing from the team if you do that.

Try this the next time you’re on an airplane. Can I sit in that empty business class seat? We’re all flying to the same place. It’s going to take the same amount of fuel whether I sit in the back or not. Forget the fancy meal, I just want to sit here. Can I? I suspect they’d say “no.”

People often wonder why a team with lots of empty seats doesn’t give away a billion free tickets either. Both things have the same answer: It cheapens the product. If people know they can pay $20 for a cheap seat and move to a $90 expensive seat later, why would they buy an expensive seat? Or why wouldn’t they just wait for a free ticket? You’re sending the message that the experience is only worth $20 or less.

It’s bad for business, IMHO, and we all want our team to succeed, we need all the seats filled with paying customers.

Randy Cohen, the former New York Times Ethicist columnist, wrote about this years ago. I like Randy – former Letterman writer – and I bought his books, but I think he’s wrong. (He was also wrong about whether you should recline your seat on the airplane, but I think I straightened him out on that one.)

Seeing the unusual sights of New Mexico

Business took me to Albuquerque this week and I made great use of one of my favourite apps – Roadside America.

Roadside America screenshot

This app shows you various strange and unusual tourist attractions near where you are right now, and it has been great fun using it in my travels and seeking out an interesting spot.

(Once while in Bangor, Maine, the app directed me to Stephen King’s house, which looks exactly like you’d think Stephen King’s house would look. Another time it directed me to a piece of the Berlin Wall just steps away from where I was in Hawaii.)

So I gave it a shot here in New Mexico today and I am very pleased to give this brief report on four different sites it recommended.

One of the recommended sites you’ll see on that list was a place that sells blue candy which was actually used as a prop representing Crystal Meth in Breaking Bad… I’m sure that might cause a few questions from the TSA or Canada Customs so I decided to skip that one.

The Birthplace of Microsoft

Microsoft

Microsoft got its start in Albuquerque in 1975 in this very unassuming strip mall, and there’s a historic plaque on site. What ever happened to that company? You don’t hear much about them any more.

Walter and Skyler White’s House

Breaking Bad house

Fans of Breaking Bad will surely recognize this house.

The current owners have put a fence around it since the show was filmed, removed pizza from the roof, and there’s a sign saying “Take your picture from across the street. Do Not Disturb Us.” I did, I hope I didn’t.

The Singing Road

Amazing. A stretch of historic Route 66 / Highway 333 with grooves cut in the pavement so that your tires play an excerpt from America the Beautiful as you drive over. Apparently this was built by National Geographic, of all people, in 2014 but the signs pointing it out seem to have been removed, and the sound was pretty quiet and I only heard a few bars, which makes me wonder if the thing is wearing out and needs to be refreshed.

It’s still wonderful though and you can hear a fragment of the tune at about 0:35 in this video I took, and before you jump all over me, no, I wasn’t holding my phone while I was driving.

More places should have this. I want highways entering Ontario to play Ontari-ari-ari-o.

another version of America The Beautiful

I love the Singing Road version, and I’m torn about whether it is now my favourite setting of that wonderful song. It is hard to top this one:

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences, NM

I’ve always wanted to visit here! The town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, was persuaded by Ralph Edwards, host of the radio (and later TV) show Truth or Consequences, to change its name and in return, the show broadcast an episode from there. And Ralph Edwards even returned to the town’s annual Fiesta every May for 50 years.

We used to watch the TV show with Bob Barker. (If you never saw it, the general schtick was that you would be asked some dumb riddle, and if you didn’t tell the Truth (which you never did), you’d have to pay the Consequences (undertake some stunt.)

I imagine not many other towns tried this; at the very least I haven’t been to Deal Or No Deal, Manitoba or The $100,000 Pyramid, Pennsylvania but maybe they’re out there.

You should totally get the app. What will it steer you to on your next trip?