Tuning Up in Victory Formation at the 100th Grey Cup. And the best picture ever.

Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of the 100th Grey Cup, when Canada’s most loved team, the Toronto Argonauts, defeated the Calgary Stampeders.

It’s also when we got the best photo of the band, ever.

So, the Argos win, seconds after the final whistle, the band sneaks onto the field through, uh, a door or two that we got tipped off might be open.

And hey, there’s Marcus Ball, #6 of the Toronto Argos! Gerry gets him to whack the drum a time or two …

Marcus Ball on the drum

and then I immediately started fumbling around, trying to take a picture of the band.

Marcus Bell, who may I remind you has JUST WON A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP, says to me “Here, give me your phone, you go get in the picture.” A scene captured by my cousin in the stands – here I am handing off my phone ….

The Band on the Field

And Marcus Bell takes this picture. Possibly the best photo of the band EVER. In retrospect, maybe we should have retired right then and there.

The Band, by Marcus Ball

This is why we love the CFL. A player steps out of his own celebration to do the band a favour, and I’m sure he’s not the only one who had done that.

Of course, moments later, we had a ritual to attend to. Tuning up! We would only tune up after the Argos won the Grey Cup; no point jinxing things by tuning up earlier in the season. May I present to you –

Tuning Up in Victory Formation

Remembering Linda Carson, and the Varsity Briefcase Drill Team

Update: Linda, pre-organized as always, set up a bequest at the University of Waterloo to establish two new student awards. Learn more or join me in donating here.

Let me tell you about my friend Linda Carson, who tragically passed away last week from ALS. She was known for an astounding variety of creative endeavours, but I want to mention one in particular – the University of Waterloo Varsity Briefcase Drill Team.

there’s video proof!

My thanks to VBDT member Ken Jones for hanging on to this video, which was shot by the basketball team’s videographer in 1987.
Here are two performances from 1987 – the inaugural, with six VBDT members and the UW Warriors Band, and a repeat engagement where the team had expanded to 10 and added a second number to the show.

Here’s the original team in 1987

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and a revival of the team in 1999 – with Linda in the middle and the Warriors Band scattered around the edges.

VBDT 1999

Linda’s passing comes far too soon, and it’s not fair, but I hope I can face a challenge like that with the humour she showed. Check out this Twitter thread where she announced the ALS news to us all – here’s the first part (but you should read the whole thing.)

I knew Linda multiple different ways at Waterloo. We were both Mathies, although she moved on to fine arts, which kind of left me agog. You can be good at math AND at painting and sculpturing and drawing? I had no idea.

FASS

We both wound up involved in FASS, too, Waterloo’s annual Faculty, Administration, Staff and Students show. This was a big original show, supposedly a musical “comedy” although I think a lot of the jokes were way more fun for the participants than they were for the audience. Linda was a theatrical jack of all trades. Actor, choreographer, director – and complete amateurs like myself were always welcomed into the production and somehow I even became Musical Director for the 1985 and 1987 shows. Wait, what? I get to conduct the band? in the orchestra pit? And it moves up and down hydraulically? COOOL.

I couldn’t believe that I got to hang around with actual creative and talented people like this! Surely there must be some mistake… but that’s one of the great things about university, how you can become friends with people with wildly different backgrounds and ideas and it’s all very welcoming and fun and somehow we all learned a little bit about math at the same time.

But anyway.

So one night, Linda, and Paul McKone, and I were hanging around in the University of Waterloo Grad Club – an old farmhouse on the middle of campus – and somehow a tremendously silly and amazing idea was born there.

the Varsity Briefcase Drill Team

Let me quote from the June 2 1997 issue of the UW Daily Bulletin, a decade after the birth of the VBDT when it was prepping for a repeat performance –

Hot dog! The faculty, staff and retiree “birthday party” for UW is set for tomorrow at Federation Hall, running from 12 noon to 2 p.m. The barbecues will be hot, the music will be cool, and the return of the Varsity Briefcase Drill Team is promised — what more could anyone ask?
Well, maybe an explanation of the Varsity Briefcase Drill Team wouldn’t be out of place. Linda Carson was in its founding “in 1987 or thereabouts”, and does her best to blame Paul McKone:

“We were sitting in the Grad Club,” Carson says, “Having a refreshing lemonade — as I recall — and bemoaning the dreadful conformity of the whole notion of cheerleaders. It just didn’t seem to represent the true spirit of the University of Waterloo. Paul said something flip about how the true UW spirit would be represented by a bunch of people in suits throwing briefcases about.
“It sounded like a great stunt,” Carson continues. “I’d done a lot of goofy choreography for FASS over the years. I got a few people together and we started working on weird stuff you could do with a briefcase. Paul was a member of the Warriors Band so he arranged to have them play for us. Steve Hayman came up with a musical arrangement and everybody got to work.

“The team rehearsed on the pavement outside the Math building. We had a rotten little tape deck and an atrocious recording of the Warriors Band. The team — all six of them — never heard the Band play live until they actually performed the number.”

The UW Varsity Briefcase Drill Team made its debut, unannounced and unauthorized, at halftime at a basketball game, November 1987, in the PAC. Nobody knew they were coming but the Warriors Band. They marched onto the court in suits and sneakers, and performed their signature piece: Nine to Five. “The crowd had never seen anything like it, but from the moment those six people entered that huge gym in formation, everybody got it. I think that’s still the greatest thing about it. UW knew right away what the team represented: ourselves,” Carson remembers today. “I’m very proud of that moment, when the University of Waterloo proved it can laugh at itself.”

I remember that first performance well! Six VBDT members marched out onto the floor as the Warriors Band played my arrangement of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. It brought the house down. And the VBDT was invited to return – only bigger!

Something possessed me, a two-left-feet uncoordinated klutzomatron, to join. The team expanded to about 16 people and returned to another basketball game for the same schtick, again, that you can see in the picture at the top.

There’s the band behind the VBDT.
I recall the game was telecast, and the cameraman was given instructions to film the shenanigans but he wound up filming the Warriors Band the entire time, oblivious to the synchronized briefcase drill going on behind him.

So there might be video out there somewhere. i’m still looking.

actual rehearsals

And I remember another writeup of a VBDT rehearsal, which was about the only time I was ever actually spotted in the UW’s dance studio. Oooh, this floor is bouncy. Hey, look at all the mirrors! What is this ‘bar’ for?

Linda sent me this photo from a 1987 rehearsal –

VBDT Rehearsal Feg 2017

Back row, L to R: Ken Jones, Dave Till? Heidi Leblanc? Peter Houston? And somebody of whom I can only see a shoe. John Sellens maybe?

Front row, L to R: Angela Yeates, Me, Chris Kitowski, Brian Dickson, Suzanne Langdon

and Waterloo’s Imprint student paper wrote things up –

Briefcase Drill Team Rehearsal

Photo from the UW Imprint, January 22 1988. Captioned: Waterloo’s varsity Briefcase Drill Team, fresh from its triumphant debut at the Naismith tournament, will perform again at halftime during the Warriors basketball game against Laurier January 30 at 2 p.m. in the PAC.
Shown here in a recent practice, the Varsity Briefcase Drill Team provides a brand of entertainment and team support uniquely suited to UW.

The Varsity Briefcase Drill Team encourages you to support Warriors basketball, and looks forward to seeing everyone at the game. Linda Carson is the team’s choreographer.”

Front to back, right to left, that’d be Angela Yeates, Ken Jones, me, Dave Till, Chris Kitowski, possibly Suzanne, Brian Dickson, Peter Houston, Heidi Leblanc?, John Sellens.

A photographer for the UW Gazette took what was probably the least flattering photo of me ever – not the one above, one even worse – for another writeup – and in that story, Linda mentioned that all the VBDT moves were named after computers on campus and the photo showed us `practicing the bruising wateerc manoeuvre’.

Gotta dig that article up.

Perhaps my strongest memory is that Chris Kitowski, who’s in the center in the light gray jacket in the photo, had a briefcase with a latch that would always pop open at the exact same point in the routine. Always. Every time. And Chris would click it back shut, on tempo, right on the beat, at the same point every time. Every. Single. Time. It was hard not to laugh.

successful dumb ideas cannot be stopped

I moved away from Waterloo, to Indiana for a few years, but the VBDT kept going, and appeared in a Santa Claus parade, and then, to my great delight, reformed and performed at my (first) wedding reception! (That particular marriage did not last; I don’t think it was the Varsity Briefcase Drill Team’s fault though.) And the team reformed for UW’s 40th anniversary in 1997.

I know many of us in the VBDT held on to our decorated briefcases for years, just in case we were called on to serve our university again.

That was just one thing Linda did for us all.
We can argue about who actually came up with the idea, but Linda made it happen. So many great endeavours are all due to someone who took the time to implement a silly idea, rather than just laughing it off and saying “yeah, that would be cool.” It was cool. And Linda is why.

Linda even had a law.

“There are fewer rules than you think.”

Thanks, Linda, for proving that.

We’ll all miss you, Linda.

On Getting Corrected by Ken Jennings

Yesterday: achievement unlocked. I was personally corrected (on Twitter) by Ken Jennings.

What an incredible honour!

Well, I’d always hoped to be corrected by Ken on the set of Jeopardy! itself, but still, a twitter interaction is a pretty cool alternative.

I mentioned to my brilliant colleague Tom that I’d been corrected by Ken Jennings, and Tom replied “Did he find a way to spell handyman without Hayman?” (good one, Tom.)

But…

I have reviewed yesterday’s Final Jeopardy answer and … Well, I’m not sure Ken Jennings was right to correct me after all. And what fun would the Internet be if we didn’t argue about minutia?

The situation:

Final Jeopardy Category: World Capitals

World Capitals
The answer is:

AN ANNUAL EVENT CALLED WINTERLUDE INCLUDES SKATING ON THE RIDEAU CANAL, A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN THIS CITY.

An Annual Event Called Winterlude Includes Skating on the Rideau Canal, a Unesco World Heritage Site in This City.

(Of course every Canadian immediately shouts “What is Ottawa?”)

what is Paris?

Ken gets to the 2nd place contestant. She has written: “What is Paris?”

Jennifer answers 'What is Paris'

here’s what Ken says

Ken says, and I quote:

“Jennifer, you were in second place, which world capital did you write down? ‘What is Paris?’

No, the name is French, but it’s not Paris, so that will cost you something.”

(Remainder of Final Jeopardy unimportant at this point, although Amy Schneider (who also got it wrong, with ‘What is Amsterdam?’) won anyway, her fifth win, congratulations!)

wait, what did he say?

So Cathy and I immediately started debating. When Ken said ‘the name is French, but it’s not Paris‘… what did he mean? Does he think “Ottawa” is a French name?

It isn’t, of course, “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word ‘adawe’, meaning ‘to trade.’

Now what do you do when somebody is wrong? You tweet about it, of course. I immediately composed a tweet, saying

And, a few minutes later – oh my god, I got a reply from Ken Jennings himself!

(Saving a screen shot for posterity in case either of us deletes something in the future)

Tweets between Steve and Ken

I better apologize

Suitably chastened – who am I to argue with Ken Jennings – I apologized.

And I then had to wade through multiple tweets from other people. Ken got way more likes on his reply than I got on my original. Apparently a lot of people read all of Ken’s tweets and some feel obliged to reply to me. This one was good.

Along with other tweets from Ken’s army of followers reminding me that he meant that ‘Rideau’ was a French word. And a few helpful but off topic responses –

but

This has been nagging at me.

It’s an honour to be corrected by the legend Ken Jennings.

But what actually did he say?

The contestant writes What is Paris? and Ken responds

No, the name is French, but it’s not Paris

I think I know what he meant but …. can you not argue that the name and it both refer to the same thing, the correct response (Ottawa) here, not another word in the clue (Rideau)?

It is possible that I actually am right here. Or that we both are.

Not sure I want to risk another Twitter firestorm though!

Ken, if you’re reading this

I’ve taken the Jeopardy! test multiple times. Why don’t you call?

Sing the Phone Number!

Here’s a collection of some of my favourite commercials where they sing the phone number. Have been meaning to collect this for a while. Enjoy. If possible.

Poison Control, 1 800 222-1222

On a work trip I was driving through upstate New York and this jingle came on the radio and I thought – wait – did I just hear that correctly?

Stompin’ Tom, PEI Tourism. 800 565-7421

Stompin’ Tom was a songwriting genius who could seemingly turn out a catchy tune on virtually any topic. Phone numbers? Sure!

Alfie Zappacosta and Syd Kessler for Pizza Nova, 439-0000

This one is epic. EPIC! Especially the bridge where they start singing not just the phone number, but singing ABOUT the phone number! Four Three Nine. Lots of Zeroes.

ITravel2000.com . 1 866 WOW DEAL

The IT Crowd, the new Emergency Number

just dial 0118 999 881 999 119 725 3.

speaking of emergency services

There seems to be a whole genre of emergency service commercials where they sing the phone number.

1 800 267 2001 Alarm Force

1 866 247 4999 The Monitoring Center

Clever phone number. I think the schtick was that you got 24*7 monitoring for $9.99 /month.

Geez I’m having trouble finding this one. Ah here we go. Skip ahead to about 1:50 in this informercial. Catchy!

And in Canada at least, the granddaddy of them all, a commercial that’s been around possibly 50 years (and which they’ve re-recorded as new area codes came online)

Pizza Pizza 967-1111

A phone number jingle so popular that they actually made commercials about how popular the jingle was.

Pennsylvania 6-5000

Actually I suppose the REAL Granddaddy of them all has to be Glenn Miller’s **Pennsylvania 6-5000″, the number of the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City, where the band frequently performed.

I’ll have to dig out the video from Waterloo’s FASS 1985 show where I was the pit band leader, and we warmed up the crowd by playing Pennsylvania 6-5000 except we altered the lyrics to include the university phone number, 885-1211, and of course. 967-1111. At the time it was hilarious. (Although if I watch that video again now, I realize the show was a lot more hilarious for the performers than the audience.)

Finally, I wonder

Back in Alexander Graham Bell’s time frame, I wonder if you’d go to a live performance by John Philip Sousa’s band at the bandshell, and some singers would come out, advertising a nearby restaurant and they’d sing the number…. “Four!”

Bobby Orr and me

Bobby Orr and me. An incomplete story.

Bobby Orr and me

50 years ago I – seen here, green striped shirt – got Bobby Orr to autograph his O-Pee-Chee hockey card.

49 years ago I misplaced the card. Somehow.

Just bought a replacement off of eBay. Now, to find Bobby and get it re-autographed. Also need to find a green striped shirt.

New Bobby Orr Card

so how’d that happen?

Someone told me in grade 7 that if you bought an entire carton of hockey cards, you’d get one of everything. I saved up $10, and bought the carton at the variety store. Richard and Kevin and I then opened them all up, and ate all the gum. And yes you do get one of each.

the gum, you’ll remember, tastes basically the same as the cards.

In the early 1970s, the Boston Bruins would hold their annual training camp in my home town of London, and in 1971 they were all playing at a golf tournament at the Highland Golf Club.

Back then, students in London got a half day off to visit the cows at the Western Fair. So… Richard and Kevin and I hatched a plan. We’d blow off the entire day of Grade 8 and take all our hockey cards – our complete set, wait, MY complete set, out and see if we could get any of them signed. Or maybe we could be caddies. We didn’t know how anything worked.

We got out there and somehow positioned ourselves at the 18th green, and all the Bruins eventually came by, and were mobbed by a small handful of 12 year olds. Esposito. Orr. Cashman. Cheevers. Sanderson. The defending Stanley Cup champs.

I had my cards ready. And a pen, I think. Really planning ahead there. Oh, and my camera, the same Kodak Instamatic 126 that took that Apollo XI picture that I won’t shut up about.

Like for instance here’s me and Derek Sanderson. Thanks Richard or Kevin or whoever took this.

Me and Derek Sanderson

look! it’s bobby orr! and phil esposito!

And the final foursome comes over. Bobby Orr. Phil Esposito. Wow. What are they doing here in my town?

here I am apparently ignoring Phil Esposito.

Phil Esposito and me
So – those trees in the background? One of them was an apple tree. Phil Esposito goes over to the apple tree to pick up a post-golf snack. Picks a couple of apples.

the apple

Phil Esposito hands one of these apples to Bobby Orr, who is in the middle of autographing my hockey card, as seen here in this not exactly perfectly composed photo.

Bobby Orr autographs his hockey card

Bobby Orr, the greatest hockey player of all time, then

• takes a bite out of the apple
• doesn’t like it
• turns to me
• hands me the apple core and says
• “Here, kid, would you throw this out for me?”

huuuuuh yes sir oooooh yes i will huuuuh

No, I didn’t keep the apple. I should have. Imagine what it’d be worth on eBay now. But I threw it out, because when Bobby Orr asks you to do something, you do it, no questions asked.

(Let me add that about 20 years ago I was in Tampa for work, and actually ran in to Phil Esposito at the airport, and told him this story about the apple, and he couldn’t have been less interested in it, which is something you and he probably have in common)

So anyways I got my hockey cards autographed by all the greats. And carefully set them aside, in the torn remains of the original carton from the variety store.

so what happened to the autographed cards?

ok I might not have ‘carefully’ stored them away.

I heard of a sports memorabilia store with a sign behind the counter saying “We charge $50 to listen to the story of how your parents threw them all away.”

i am not blaming anybody

i could have stored them better

i could have been more clear about what exactly was in the box

I still have most of that set. Somehow I set the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins autographed ones aside, intending, I’m sure, to store or display them properly.

I still have the Sheldon Kannegiesser card for instance, sadly, unautographed.

anyway it’s been bugging me for almost 50 years. In a sort of circle-of-life moment, one of the things I demo at work these days is an Augmented Reality app I wrote where I can point the camera at a hockey card, and it overlays some statistics on top. That’s kind of cool.

so … this week, I spent significantly more than that entire set cost me, just to get one slightly used 1971-72 O-Pee-Chee Bobby Orr card, as seen here. Now I just need to track down Bobby and the circle will be complete.

I hope he remembers the part about the apple.

the new Bobby Orr card

update

Update: Bobby’s team replies that he will happily autograph this card for US$100.

I don’t remember autographs costing quite that much back in 1971.

The John Davidson Show

40 years ago today, I was on The John Davidson Show.

Yes, me.

Yes, THAT John Davidson.

The John Davidson Show

“That’s incredible”, you’re thinking.

Yes I suppose it was, but not that show.

You know. The John Davidson Show. This one –

It woulda been mentioned in here. Well, I probably wasn’t mentioned, but that episode’s guest star Todd Bridges would have been.

TV Guide

Perhaps you’re wondering how I, Steve, happened to be interviewed by John Davidson on the John Davidson show, 40 years ago today.

Or perhaps you aren’t. Understandable.

S1Ep224. John’s guests are actors Danny Thomas and Todd Bridges, singer Bill Medley and Joan Embery of the San Diego Zoo. Highlights:Bill Medley sings “Hey Girl”.

It is our sincere hope that there is no video of John asking audience members trivia questions at the end of the show.

My 1981 Train Trip to California

So, OK. I was in California. Shortly after graduating from Waterloo, I took the train all the way from London to Los Angeles as part of swell grad present from my parents – A two week Amtrak pass. I headed first to Sacramento for the grand opening of the California Railroad Museum. That was great. A big pageant of music and locomotives.

Then, down to LA And beautiful downtown Burbank. I really wanted to see the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Stood in a long line for tickets. Eventually got to see his show that night. It was outstanding.

I got to take a tour of the NBC Studios, and while there, I actually met Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. As if this trip didn’t have enough highlights already.

Somewhere in there, somebody was desperately trying to get people to come to a taping of the John Davidson show, a daytime talk show that I think had been a replacement for Merv Griffin.

John was a singer of some repute, and also the host of “That’s Incredible.”

His daytime talk show, I was soon to learn, was not that incredible.

Well, the tickets were free, and I had time to kill before seeing Johnny Carson, so why not. Into the studio we went.

suddenly I’m in the audience

Now, when I saw the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, it was incredibly slick. They didn’t mess around. The band played right through the commercial break and the show picked right up again. No stopping. One take. Brilliant comedy. High production values. Carson, a total pro.

The John Davidson Show was not quite like that.

So, the show always started with John Davidson singing a song. He really was a good singer. And the day I was there, he announced to us ahead of time that he was going to do the Barry Manilow classic, “Copacabana.” Hey, this’ll be good. Descending some stairs. Fog machine. OK!

Show starts. Roll tape! Lights! Camera! Fog machine! Backing band! We are GO for Copacabana!

15 seconds later, song stops. Cut. John Davidson cannot remember the words. He confesses to the audience, off air, that he’s never heard this song before.

Srsly? Copacabana?

After a couple more takes, they have a complete version in the can somehow, and the show continues.

I’m sitting in the audience, halfway back on the aisle, looking at my watch, wondering how long this is going to go on, and when the Tonight Show taping that I really wanted to see starts.

(5:30. The tonight show taped at 5:30.)

Can I just add here that John Davidson struck me as an extremely nice guy, even if he couldn’t remember the words to “Copacabana”.

end of show trivia segment

So the show continues, mostly without incident, and they interview Todd Bridges, and it was getting towards the end of the episode And I suddenly remembered: Oh, doesn’t John Davidson ask audience members trivia questions at the end of show? And look at me, here on the aisle.

Here we go, final segment. Trivia time. Souvenir coffee cup prizes. John Davidson approaches a woman in the front row, and asks her a question. I don’t remember what it was, but he said the answer was wrong. Was it, though? (Foreshadowing.) He moves on to another contestant.

Now, I have seen a recording of this, recorded by pointing a Super-8 movie camera at the live TV broadcast.

Let me describe what happens, in an impartial observer kind of tone.

John Davidson looks around the audience for another trivia contestant, and makes a beeline for the nerdiest, geekiest-looking doofus in the crowd, and sticks out his microphone.

so of course I stand up.

the dorkiest thing I have ever said

He asked my name, and we have a pleasant little chat, and he asked me what I do, and I’m thinking that I just graduated from Waterloo with a particular degree and I’m not really sure what I do and I haven’t started my first job yet, but I blurt out “I’m a computer scientist.”

I really wish I could edit that part out.

Audience: “Ooooooh”.

40 years later, I’m still cringing about what a dork I must’ve looked like at that moment. On national TV no less.

But, no matter. The show must go on. John Davidson hits me with a trivia question.

I don’t remember what the question was, but I got it right somehow, and the band played a little “Ta-da!” and John Davidson handed me a souvenir John Davidson show coffee mug.

I should’ve just sat down.

But, for some reason, egged on by the director, John Davidson kept asking me trivia questions.

I think he asked me six questions. And I got them all right, somehow.

The only one I remember is this.

John Davidson: “Where are Panama hats made?”
Me, recognizing a trick question: “They are not made in Panama, they’re made in Ecuador!”

Tada, another coffee mug.

panama hats

I don’t know why I knew that 40 years ago, but now that I’m a grown-up, I actually own a Panama hat and I can confirm this.

My Panama Hat

six mugs

Anyway, show is almost over. John Davidson thanks me, I sit down, with my set of six John Davidson show coffee mugs — And the Director is frantically signaling to John Davidson about something.

“What? She was right?” John Davidson says.

Remember the first contestant from about 47 paragraphs
ago?

“She gets a mug too”, he announces.

And then, this might be the highlight of my television career (and let me remind you, that includes leading band at the world beer games opening ceremony)

the best part

John Davidson turns to me and says:

“We’re out of mugs! Steve, can we have one of those back?”

And of course I turned one over. I still regret that I did not ask John Davidson a trivia question in return for the mug.

So that’s what I was doing 40 years ago today. My sincere thanks to John Davidson . That really was fun.

epilogue

So you’ve still got those John Davidson Show coffee mugs, right?

Sadly, no. A few broke and the others eventually faded to pure white after multiple dishwashings.

I think I’ll order some more, somehow.

another epilogue

Hey, how about that –

John Davidson Liked My Tweet

What to do about the name “Ryerson Public School”? How about “Roger Penrose Elementary”?

Ryerson public school

I went to Ryerson Public School (kindergarten through grade 3), two blocks from home in London, Ontario. So did my siblings. And my mom. And many others in our Old North London family.

That’s not the only connection – my great-grandfather led the John Hayman and Sons Construction Company, who built Ryerson in 1916.

I didn’t know who “Ryerson” was at the time. It never came up. Nobody said anything about it that I can remember.

Now we all know a little more about Egerton Ryerson, who not only lobbied for public education in Ontario, but also was involved in the shameful legacy of the Residential School system.

It’s time to rename the school. You know what would be a perfect choice?

How about naming it after a young boy who

  • lived in London with his family during World War II;
  • was – probably – a classmate of my mother’s at the time;
  • learned basic arithmetic there
  • became one of the most famous mathematicians of the past 100 years, and
  • won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics (for “the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity”.)

Wait, what? A kid from Ryerson won the Nobel Prize in Physics?

How could you NOT rename it after someone like that?

Let’s call it Roger Penrose Elementary School. Let’s tile the floor with Penrose tiles – one of his discoveries of two tiles that can only tile the plane nonperiodically. (Us mathies get excited about things like that.) Here’s an example of a Penrose Tiling

440px Penrose Tiling Rhombi svg

And here’s Roger Penrose at Texas A&M where they’ve done the floor that way!

440px RogerPenroseTileTAMU2010

Those oddly patterned tiles might be tricky, but I know a construction company that would rise to the challenge.

p.s. I know you’ll all see it when your copy arrives on the doorstep, but I wrote a Letter to the Editor of my hometown paper, the London Free Press, about this. I would have written more, but their web form only allowed 500 characters.

London Free Press clipping.

People of Edmonton, I’ve got your back. Even if you don’t notice.

You might have heard that the Edmonton Football Team – until recently, the Edmonton Eskimos – has changed its name to the Edmonton Elks, and I like this change. It’s a great logo, it retains the historic “EE” abbreviation too.

Edmonton Elks logo

Plus Elks was actually the team name for a couple of years in the 1920s. Good choice!

The old name was unsustainable – you could argue, I suppose, about whether it was intended to honour the Inuit people, but it’s just not appropriate any more. I’m glad they changed it, and they did a great job with the big reveal this week. Check out the video!

Cleveland Indians. Atlanta Braves. Kansas City Chiefs. Washington “Football Team”. See? That was easy. They’re selling a ton of new merch. What’s holding you back?

i knew this would happen

here’s the thing: I knew this was going to happen. Six years ago, in fact.

I registered the Twitter account @EdmontonElks in 2015,just in case. The team had been using @Esks for their account, and seeing as how I’m a kind, considerate CFL fan, who wants the best for the league, and who knows that people sometimes hold useful Twitter names for unreasonable ransom, I wanted to make sure it would be available.

I fully intended to turn this @EdmontonElks account over to the team, if they decided to become the Elks; if they’d gone for Energy or Empire or one of the other suggestions, no problem, I’d just forget about @EdmontonElks.

Last summer the rumblings began that the team might change its name. I sent an email, offering @EdmontonElks to them.

Heard nothing.
Crickets.

This week they changed the team name, and for a while were still using @EdmFootballTeam on Twitter. I sent another note to the team president. Hey, you can have this account for free, no strings attached.

More crickets.

But the @EdmontonElks account was getting the occasional misdirected tweet from people who thought @EdmontonElks really was the team account.

Then – a couple of hours after the grand name unveiling – the team unveiled their new twitter identity: they had secured @Elks and that was their Twitter handle going forward. I don’t know who had that one before. The Elks Club, maybe? I bet they had to pay somebody for that name. Short, memorable Twitter handles are tough to come by.

I’ve still heard nothing – and @Elks is certainly a better account name than @EdmontonElks, so perhaps they don’t need it. But the offer still stands. Edmonton Elks, you can have this twitter account just for the asking. Otherwise, I guess I’ll just let it sit there, unused.

oddly enough, I had another edmonton twitter sports account

Incidentally at one point, a decade ago, Edmonton was bidding for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and I noticed they had registered @Edmonton2022 on Twitter and the edmonton2022.com domain name.

But – the city abandoned the bid and refocused on 2026. So guess who happened to register @Edmonton2026 and edmonton2026.com? This time, though, I did manage to transfer the twitter handle and the domain to the City of Edmonton, again, no strings attached.

People of Edmonton, I’ve got your back.

Elks, if you want that twitter account, just ask. (And if you wanted to send me a hat, I wouldn’t say no. Geez, the antlers. You could really make awesome hats.)

Edmonton 2022 logo

Canada/USA Border Trivia

The border between Ontario and the USA is 2,760 km long, from the Ontario/Quebec/New York end in the east to the Ontario/Manitoba/Minnesota end in the west.

2,760 km.

How much of that is over water, and how much over land? Well, let’s see. from East to West we’ve got

  • the St. Lawrence River
  • Lake Ontario
  • the Niagara River
  • Lake Erie
  • the Detroit River
  • Lake St. Clair
  • the St. Clair River
  • Lake Huron
  • the Whatever it is River in Sault Ste. Marie – excuse me, that’d be the “Saint Mary River”
  • Lake Superior

And then an amazingly convoluted 880 km route, initially following the Pigeon River between Ontario and Minnesota, extends all the way to the Northwest Angle.

Seriously you should look at how convoluted that route is. The 1789 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, defined the border.

The St. Lawrence/Great Lakes part was pretty easy – let’s just go right up the middle, let’s give all of Lake Michigan to the Americans but we only get half of Lake Ontario for some reason – but the route westward from Lake Superior must have been harder to define. Fortunately there were well-known routes that the voyageurs in their canoes had previously established.

But is it really all water?

Amazingly, no, it isn’t all water.

land borders between Ontario and Minnesota

I know of at least three spots where Ontario and the USA share a land border. Two of them are in northwest Ontario, where there is a brief portage between one lake and another. Here’s one.

Ontario-Minnesota

There’s another one up there. Go find it.

But how about this third one

land border between Ontario and New York State

I suspect most people think the border at Niagara Falls zips right down the middle of the Horseshoe Falls – but it doesn’t. It cuts REALLY close to Goat Island on the American side. 99% of the Horseshoe Falls is in Canada but if you look really closely at the border line itself …

Niagara Falls

See it? Right there at the base of the falls on the US side? The border cuts through a few of the rocks piled at the bottom of the falls, and assuming those are dry, THAT is a land border between Ontario and New York.

Good luck crossing at that point though.

while we’re at it

Everybody knows that if you go south out of Detroit, you get to Windsor.

Fewer people realize just how far Ontario stretches in a North – South direction.

There are places in Southern Ontario that are south of places in California, and there are places in Northern Ontario that are north of places in Alaska.

Every 4 Years. but not this year.

I’m sad today. But happy. In a nostalgic-sad-happy kind of hybrid way.

This is in my calendar right now. An event that repeats every 4 years, along with a message from me in 2017. I like leaving myself messages in the calendar to read in the future.

UntitledImage

So what’s going on?

We used to live 3 doors down from a little park and one day – specifically, May 28, 1997 – I took this picture of the lads on a bench there.

may 28 1997

1997

I liked that picture a lot. I still do. So 4 years later we strolled down to the park to take the same picture on the same bench.

may 28 2001

2001

The astute viewer will note that child #2 is wearing the shirt that child #1 was wearing in the 1997 picture. That was a complete coincidence, and somehow I forgot to continue this trend. But we kept returning to that bench, and taking the picture again, every four years.

may 28 2005

2005

By this point I’d started putting the series of pictures in a nice frame, and giving a copy to various relatives. And the photos continued.

may 28 2009

2009

Number 1’s in high school now and is wearing his Ursula Franklin Academy shirt. I think they moved the bench in the park by 50 feet so the angle was no longer quite right, but we kept going.

may 28 2013

2013

By this point I’m starting to become exceedingly grateful that they’re still willing to go along with this.

may 28 2017

2017

We’d moved to Oakville, but returned to Beresford Park to take the picture again, and the photographer may have been a little overcome with waves of nostalgia. (Along with regret that we didn’t continue the hand-me-down-shirt routine but these guys are getting all grown up now …)

may 28 2021

Today’s the day.

I have been staring at my calendar all week wondering if we can pull off the “Every Four Years” picture this year.

But I don’t think we can. For one reason – you know, global pandemic, nobody should be travelling, Ontario still in lockdown.

For another – both of the subjects have jobs and are working today and have moved away, one’s a two hour drive, one’s a four hour drive, and the logistics are getting too complicated.

Also it’s raining.

I think we might bend the rules a bit, what with there being a pandemic and all. The next time they’re both in town, I’ll see if they’re willing to take a little drive to Beresford Park and see if the bench is still there, and I’ll bring my camera, and take another 200 pictures in the hopes that 2 or 3 turn out well, and I’ll print Photo #7 and find an even bigger frame to add it to ….

but it won’t be the same somehow.

time marches on. Take lots of pictures of your kids. They grow up awfully fast.

UPDATE

well we managed this on the evening of May 28 2021, at least. In this pandemic year of craziness, it’ll do!

2021