Thursday, 19 March 2020

Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress

In the spring, I love to warm up to the upcoming baseball season by reading a book about the sport. It could be of a player, team, league, whatever, just as long as it's about baseball.

This year, even though the season has been suspended, hopefully not cancelled, due to the Coronavirus, I still went ahead with this tradition by reading Baseball Americana.

Baseball Americana is a lavishly illustrated history of America’s favorite sport, compiled from the unparalleled collections of the Library of Congress, now available from Smithsonian Books. From baseball’s biggest stars to street urchins, from its most newsworthy stories to sandlot and little League games, Baseball Americana tells the history of baseball’s hardscrabble origins, rich cultural heritage, and uniquely American character.

The book follows baseball from it's earliest days, the days before it's supposed invention in 1839 by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY (yes, many years before that fabled story), to the 1970's.

Almost everything a person could think of is included in this book. What's remarkable and perhaps the most enjoyable thing about Baseball Americana, are all the photo's of people, fans, baseball cards, advertisements, and much more.

The book also points out some interesting facts which I never knew, such as the story of Jackie Mitchell, Jackie as in the female version of the name. Despite the fact there was a woman's major league in the 1940's, and smaller leagues around the continent, Jackie's story involves playing on a men's team.

Jackie was a 17 year old pitcher who, apparently, could throw a very nasty curve ball. On April 2, 1931, she was signed by the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts. On this day, after spring training, the New York Yankees visited Chattanooga for an exhibition game before the season started.

Jackie started the game for the Lookouts. The first batter she faced? The one and only Babe Ruth, who swung and missed on the first two pitches and was called out while watching the third strike fly by him. He tossed his bat in disgust.

The next batter? Non other than Lou Gehrig, who struck out swinging on all three pitches. She walked the next batter and was pulled from the game.

And that was it for her minor and major league career as two days later, the commissioner of baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, declared her contract null and void and barred woman from baseball. A disgusting decision to be sure. This is the picture shown in the book, before the game, with Lou Gerhig, Jackie Mitchell, Joe Engel and Babe Ruth.

For any baseball fan, this is a great read, one I highly recommend.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Reinvention: Changing Your Life, Your Career, Your Future by Arlene Dickinson

 My wife, Teena, read Reinvention: Changing You Life, Your Career, Your Future by Arlene Dickinson. She did a review of it and recommended it to me.

At fifty-seven, Arlene Dickinson’s life was turned upside down. Her company was on the brink of disaster. Her sense of herself as a strong, confident leader was in tatters. She was overwhelmed by feelings of loss, fear, and shame. Five years later, her business is booming, she’s never been happier or more excited about the future, and she’s raised tens of millions of dollars and built a whole ecosystem to help other entrepreneurs.

How did she turn things around? By following the process she’s always used to transform underperforming companies—only this time, she used it to transform her own life. Applying business principles to her personal life helped her figure out very quickly where she wanted to go and how to get there. Having a clear set of practical steps to follow kept her on track when emotions threatened to derail her progress.

In Reinvention, Dickinson shares this blueprint for locating your sense of purpose, realistically evaluating your strengths, assessing opportunities outside your comfort zone, and charting a bold new path. Whether you have a big career dream to achieve, or you need to rebuild after a personal setback, this step-by-step plan for reinvention will help you change your own life—for the better.

I thought it was good. It's not just a self help book, but a story of how Arlene dealt with a disaster in her life. She had to change the way she thought of herself, presented herself and surprisingly, how to build and keep confidence. I really appreciated a line near the end of the book: ""Don'y deny the world the contribution that only you can make. Whether that's being a better parent, or a better executive, or a better artist ... "

My hope, when I read a book of this sort, is to be able to get something out of it. I did which made it an enjoyable and worthwhile read for me.

About Arlene Dickinson

Arlene is a venture capitalist on the hit CBC TV show Dragons' Den, the co-host of  The Business of Life Podcast and the #1 bestselling author of Persuasion. Dickinson is the owner and CEO of Venture Communications, a company she grew from a small local firm to one of the largest independent agencies in Canada, and the founder of District ventures, Canada's top accelerator for entrepreneurs in the food, beverage and health sectors.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Dome by Suzanne Craig-Whytock

I just finished The Dome, a YA dystopian novel by Suzanne Craig-Whytock. It's a story I really enjoyed.

It is the year 2135, almost four decades since the Water Wars ended. Much of the continent is a desert wasteland, and the powerful Consortium rules Adanac, one of the few habitable areas remaining, with an iron fist.

Cee and Dee, 16-year-old twins who share a special, almost psychic bond, are runaways from a Consortium workhouse. Now living as Freeworlders in the largest tent city in Trillium province, they are determined to survive. Dee spends her days thieving with her best friend Rogan, and Cee makes a living selling his handmade woodcarvings to the Fancies, the wealthy elite. Like all Freeworlders, life is a struggle, made worse by the constant threat of The Dome, where punishments for the slightest offense are meted out by the Dome Master.

When devastating circumstances force the twins to become separated, all seems lost until the sudden appearance of Darv Bouchard, leader of an underground resistance movement, who reveals some shocking truths. Rumours become reality, enemies become friends, and old foes resurface. Dee and Cee are tested to their limits as they confront the demons of their past and try to save the future, for themselves and all of Adanac.

The story is interestingly told from two different viewpoints, Cee's and Dee's. Each chapter is told in first person and alternates between the twins. One chapter will be from Cee's viewpoint, the next from Dee's, then back again.

There are interesting twists throughout. It's a great read for anyone who enjoys dark tales from the future.

About Suzanne Craig-Whytok

Suzanne Craig-Whytok's love of literature and writing came at an early age and continued into adulthood, leading her to earn an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from Wilfred Laurier University. She has worked in education most of her life and was a high school English teacher in Ontario for over 20 years. 

She has authored both fiction and non-fiction works from short stories and poetry to academic documents and educational resource materials. She regularly publishes humorous essays focused on city life, politics, current events, and popular culture on her website. The Dome is her second published novel.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

100% Compostable Keurig Coffee Pods

There has been a lot of criticism over the Keurig coffee system. Although I do love it, I have felt guilty about the pollution it causes and the plastic waste they create. Especially true since I'll have three to four coffees a day. That's easily over a thousand a year!

Because of this, I bought a device, Recycle a Cup,  to help easily dissemble a K-cup, to send the inside for composting, and the outside cup for recycling. Only the lid needed to be sent to the dump. Some pods cut easily, some broke and the cutter would wear out or break.

There had to be something better and I found it. 100% compostable pods.

At the moment, there seems to be only Canadian companies who offer these. MacDonald's with Kraft Heinz and a Toronto company, Coffee Club, developed the pods. According to an article in Waste Today,  the pods are designed to compost in just five weeks. The pods are made from from plant-based materials, coffee bean skins and other biodegradable materials instead of plastic.

Other Canadian coffee producers are now also offering 100% compostable pods. Presidents Choice, a Loblaw subsidiary, offer a good variety of roasts and flavours. Muskoka Roastery Coffee has three roasts and a maple flavoured coffee in their line-up.

I admit, I don't do as much as I could to help the environment but I am getting better. This is one way I do it.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Stumptown Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Today I finished Stumptown Vol 4 which is the 4th and so far, last edition of the Stumptown series.

Portland's best private investigator Dex Parios is back, and this time, the case is a real grind. When she picks up a simple assignment to escort a package of highly-prized coffee beans, Dex has no idea that she's stepping into the web of the Barista Mafia and eccentric billionaires with no compunction about using force to get the most coveted coffee around. And to top it all off, her sister is in town.

Join Eisner Award-winner Greg Rucka and series artist Justin Greenwood (The Fuse) for the The Case of a Cup of Joe, the fourth case in the critically-acclaimed Stumptown series. This oversized hardcover edition also collects a bonus silent issue, as well as extra material such as issue covers, process pieces, and creator commentary.

This story, like the last, was drawn by Justin Greenwood. Greenwood took over from Mathew Southworth, who did the artwork for the first two of the series.

This story introduces Dex's sister, Fuji. It's no surprise that they don't get along. Dex may be flawed, but her sister is more so. I love Dex's character, but found Fuji rather unlikable.

Once again the story is a fast paced tale, told well by Rucka and again, I enjoyed Greenwoods artwork. A bonus story follows, listed as Chapter 5, but is a fresh tale. There is also a multi-paged interview with Rucka and Greenwood on how the story and art came together.

I hope this isn't the last of the series. Looking back, a new Stumptown came out in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017. Hey! What happened to 2019?

Hopefully, more of this series will follow.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Stumptown Vol. 3

I'm determined to finish all four Stumptown books currently available before the end of January. Today I finished Vol.3, The Case of the King of Clubs.

Greg Rucka's fan-favorite P.I. is back on the case in this new hardcover! When one of investigator Dex Parios's dearest friends is brutalized following a Portland Timbers match, Dex is determined to get to the bottom of the attack no matter who stands in her way! Join Eisner Award-winner Rucka and new series artist Justin Greenwood (The Fuse) as Dex kicks more than just soccer balls in her pursuit of the assailant.

One big difference is the artwork, which is now done by Justin Greenwood instead of  Mathew Southward. It's as well done as before but the panels are brighter. I would take either in any Stumptown graphic novel.

I enjoyed the story, although I wasn't quite satisfied by the ending. Dex is herself and is drawn pretty much the same. Despite all her faults, she is a loyal friend which drives her in this story.

Still hooked on the graphic novels and the TV show. Looking forward to Volume 4.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Chris Hadfield's Generator 2020

Tonight I went to see Chris Hadfield's Generator. This is the 4th year for it. 2018 was the first time I went but had to miss it last year. Damn! Made sure I didn't miss it this year as I bought my ticket in October.

Probably the best thing to happen to a Canadian winter since they invented the crazy carpet.

Generator remains the only show in Toronto where you can find robotic exoskeletons, stand up comedians, cyborgs, wunderkind, astronauts, musicians, celebrities, and spoken word artists seamlessly blended onto the same stage. It's unique. Let's face it, it's weird. But we love it, the audience loves it, and we can't wait to show you what we have in store this year.

Bring your friends! Bring your enemies! Bring whatever pets Roy Thomson Hall allows! Generator is back, and better than ever.

The show took place at Roy Thompson Hall.

So many people took the stage in the 3 hour show. What is unexpected is how comical scientists can be when talking about their fields. I laughed most of the night, while I learned fascinating facts and discoveries.

First up was the costumed band TWRP.

Robin Ince, a British comedian was the emcee for the night and was hilarious.

Brendan Frey was up first.  He spoke about how he and his team developed an artificial intelligence  (AI) to search for searching for the detection and possible treatment of genetic diseases and the teams successes.

I found it wonderful how Jae Rhim Lee and Shari Forbes could discuss death in such a meaningful and humorous way. Lee started talking about her admiration of sloths and worked it into the development of an eco-friendly mushroom burial suit and how much better it is for the world. Hey, not so far fetched. Actor Luke Perry was buried in one!

Forbes is the Research Chair in Forensic Thanatology and the Director of the Secure Site for Research in Thanatology. So what is that? She runs a body farm, Canada's first. What is a body farm? People donate their bodies so when they die, they are buried on this farm. Forensic scientist then can learn about decomposition of a body in the earth and to train dogs to search for bodies through their scent. Wow!

Second City was there showcase a little of their new She the People show.

That was a lot of show, and that was just the first half. After intermission, astronaut and man of many talents, Chis Hadfield, came out and with TWRP did a great job with House of the Rising Sun, After he spoke about the history of maps. He was funny and I learned a lot.

Never before had I heard of "Math Comedy". Well. Matt Parker is a Math stand-up from Australia and performs his full act around the world. He was so funny that I'll be heading out to buy his new book, When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World. Tonight he spoke about a 1970s British court case(s) where MacDonald's was taken to court over their claim their 8 item menu had 40,312 combinations. I couldn't stop laughing!

This was amazing. Adrian Owen, from a Professor at The Brain and Mind Institute, Western University in London Ontario, spoke about he and his team discovered how to determine in a person hospitalized in a vegetative state, not only has brain function, and is aware and thinking. Around 20% of those in this state, have that possibility.

He also found a way to communicate with them through yes and no questions. He put up a quote from a patient who awoke years after, which I can't find on-line. It said how the person felt now she was being communicated with and how she was knew she was now, even in that condition, being treated as a person, rather than an object. He won the order of the British Empire for his work.

Aaron Chen, a stand-up from Australia, did a great 10 minute set.

Finally, Simone Giertz, who had a U tube video show, Shitty Robots, showed a few of her videos, talked about her creation, Truckla, a Tesla she turned into an electric pickup truck. Then, while she built paper airplanes in a contest with Chris Hadfield, she spoke about her ordeal with the discovery of a brain tumour. That she was funny while talking about it was amazing.

After a fast 3 hours, the show was over. I got more than my money's worth for sure. I may have missed last year's show, but won't miss the next one.