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Archive for February, 2013

Hi everyone:

Once again I am “on the road”. It’s Monday and I am sitting here in a Starbucks coffee shop in Mississauga. It’s mid afternoon and like all coffee shops and cafes I have seen many people come and go over the past 90 minutes or so that I have been sitting here. When I first arrived it was jam packed with people (understandable given that it was the lunch hour). But within a few minutes things got a bit quieter to the point where I was able to find a seat, set up my laptop, tap into their wireless Internet connection, grab a coffee and get underway.  No sooner had I got all those things going than another crowd rushed in. And left again. Just seems to be the ebb and flow of places like this.

And while it’s tempting to write a blog entry about Starbucks and similar food outlets and the role they play in today’s society (especially since I am reading a book right now which discusses that very subject!), that’s not my topic for today. Instead, it’s mid February and while the Toronto area is wrapped in the cold embrace of a typical Canadian winter (especially given that we had a storm last weekend that dumped something like 30 cm of snow on the region), this time of year has many people longing for the coming of spring.  And in various places across the southern United States (especially in Florida and Arizona), this time of year means that baseball spring training will be here soon – later this week if one believes the media reports now coming out of Dunedin, Florida (where the Toronto Blue Jays have gathered every year since their founding in 1977). Before we know it the “boys of summer” will be honing their craft in preparation for another baseball season, with all the promises of a winning campaign that only this time of year brings. So in celebration of the upcoming season, I thought it might be fun to share with all of you some thoughts on what makes a winning baseball team, and some elements that will improve a team’s chances of appearing in the World Series – that annual contest for North American baseball supremacy that marks the end of each season.

There are, of course, many formulas and theories that baseball people out there debate for hours on end. For example, I know of one that says if a team wins two thirds or more of their home games, but only half of their road games, they will have an excellent season, with an equally excellent chance of making the playoffs. There may be some merit to this. Based on the standard 162 game regular season in both the National and American Leagues, equally divided into 81 home and 81 away games, this means that a team following this formula would win 54 of their home games, and 41 of their road games, for a combined record of 95 wins against 67 losses. When you look at the records of teams who qualify for the playoffs each season, whether they win their division or qualify as one of the “wild card” teams, 95 wins looks pretty good.

Another one comes into play if you use an “unbalanced” schedule that favours play within your division. Let’s suppose that you have your standard 162 games, but this time you play 18 games (9 home and 9 away) against your divisional rivals, and 10 games each against the other teams. The National and American Leagues both have 3 divisions with 5 teams in each division. If you win two-thirds of your divisional games, that’s 48 of a possible 72 victories. Now add to that base figure the victories awarded if you win only half of the other 90 games (the ones played outside your division). That’s another 45 wins, and when you add the two figures, you get a final total of 93 wins and 69 losses. And a better-than-average chance of making the playoffs.

These are just a couple of many such theories about how baseball teams succeed. As I noted above, there are many others out there, and it would take far too long to examine every one of them. Let me throw another one out there for all of you that yields a slightly different result, but could prove just as successful as the two I just talked about. It goes something like this. Every team, no matter how good or bad, should be able to win 1/3 of their games and lose 1/3. The key phrase in that last sentence is “should be able to win”. Sometimes you get a team that is really good (such as the 1984 Detroit Tigers, who dominated like few teams have, winning 104 regular season games en route to a World Series championship). Or they are really bad (such as many expansion teams in their first couple of years –  the 1962 New York Mets who won only 40 games in their first year may be the best example).  But examples such as the Tigers or the Mets tend to be the exception. The vast majority of teams tend to use the above formula, which means that your base record for a 162 game season is 54-54. That takes care of two thirds of the 162 games.

The key to success is the subtitle to this blog entry – what I call the “one third” rule. Simply put, I just mentioned above that every team should be able to win 1/3 of the games. But what do baseball teams do with the other third of their games? That’s what the “one third” rule is. The more of those games you win, the greater your chances of success. Let me offer a couple of examples of how this can work.  If you win at least 2/3 of the remaining 54 games (36) that gives you at least a 90 win season, which should give you a pretty good shot at post season play.  This theory may not be as reasonable as the other formulas I noted earlier (which yields 5 and 3 more wins respectively), but once you get to 90 wins or more, your chances of reaching the post-season improve. Especially if you are in a weak division, where 90 wins can practically guarantee a playoff spot either by winning the division champion or getting a wild card spot. And we all know that in every sport, once you make the playoffs, anything can happen and often does. On the flip side, however, if you only win half of those 54 games (27), then your overall record is evenly split between wins and losses (81-81).  While it’s not impossible to make the post-season with a .500 record, and it has been done before, the odds are certainly not in your favour.  If you split the difference between winning half your games and two thirds, you’re looking at something like 30 to add to your base figure of 54, and a final total of 84 wins.  It goes without saying that it’s a better record than the 81 we mentioned just now. But most baseball fans will tell you that in a 162 game schedule, you really need a minimum of 90 wins to give yourself a reasonable chance of hanging around for the playoffs.

That’s all for now.  I hope you enjoyed this lighthearted and fun look at the world of baseball, and a different “take” on what it takes to have a winning team.  If you like this “one third rule” idea, feel free to share this with anyone you like.  I have written enough for one day, so I think I just might grab another coffee from the gang here at Starbucks and carry on with some other work. As always, thanks for reading this blog entry. I wish you and yours the very best.

Until next time, or as they say at the local diamond – Play Ball!

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Hi everyone:

It’s February 2013, and as I write this blog entry I am spending time with an old friend. To be more specific, I am back at the Burlington Ontario Public Library’s Central Branch. This place is almost like a home away from home. And it’s not the first time I have sat at a study table and worked on something for my blog. As an example, if you read my most recent entry in which I outlined some minor changes to my blog as of February 2013 I wrote that one from here too. Along with a few others. But as I sometimes do when writing these things I am digressing. Hmm – is it too late to consider a New Year’s resolution? As in trying to stay on topic and be more concise? Not a bad thing to consider. But for the moment let me say that this is a great working environment. And if anyone from BPL ever reads this or any of the other blogs I have written here, thanks for giving me and thousands of others a wonderful location to get things done.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s mid-winter and my brain is freezing up because it’s cold out there, or if I just feel stressed out from some of the things that life brings us. Maybe it’s both and/or there are other possibilities. But I thought it might be fun to share with all of you a sampling of strange and unusual calls that have come into 911 phone centres that I hope will bring a smile to your face and a laugh to your day. As an aside, while 911 is the standard emergency phone number here in North America, I realize that other parts of the world use a different one. But regardless of what the corresponding number is, I hope you enjoy this collection taken from a variety of Web sites and representing a number of places across Canada and the USA.

My starting point for all this is an article found in the December 29 2012 edition of The Toronto Sun, in which the Chatham-Kent Police Services (located in southwestern Ontario) released its list of the top 12 silly 911 phone calls for 2012. From there, I decided to have some fun and do some research in order to see what has come into other North American jurisdictions. Of course this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the thousands of calls like these that are handled every year.

And lest some of you tell me that all this is in poor taste (I do apologize if that’s you), I also share this blog while also offering my highest respect and admiration for police, parademics, firefighters and other emergency response workers who do an astonishing job every day. They do such incredible work and can’t be thanked enough for their service to our respective communities. What follows here is meant to be light-hearted and fun and in no way should be seen as diminishing their work in any way. I hope this blog entry is understood and appreciated from that perspective, and that if anything I want to offer this as a way to pay tribute to these brave men and women. They are the real heroes of our communities. Now that I have offered some background details, let’s explore some strange, unusual and just plain funny (I hope!) 911 calls from across North America. Here we go!:

A man phoned the  dispatch centre wondering if anyone had found his lost dentures. He still has his tops, but the bottom dentures had disappeared.

Here’s one from the “it wasn’t just the police car that got her motor running” department. A woman called 911 shortly after a police officer had visited her home to investigate a complaint filed by one of her neighbours. Seems that she thought the officer was a ” hot hunk” and she asked the dispatcher to send the officer back to her home. Later that day he did return and after discovering that there was no emergency and that the woman was more than a little interested in checking his credentials (if you get my drift!), the officer charged her with misuse of the 911 system. If convicted, she could face a substantial fine and/or up to a year in prison. The Web site I found this one on finishes the story there and makes no mention of her eventual fate.

Another man phoned to report that his unlocked vehicle had been broken into. Turned out the only things stolen were his winning donut and coffee tab from the local Tim Horton’s shop.

A woman called her local 911 to complain that she was locked inside her car.  She went on hysterically for a couple of minutes about how warm it was inside and that none of the power mechanisms were working.  After calming her down, the dispatcher suggested that she reach for the door closest to her and pull up the tab. Which immediately unlocked the door and her ordeal was over.

A man reported that two girls had damaged his car. When the police sent an officer over to investigate, it turned out that the damage was nothing more than some white spots. Which turned out to be bird poop, and the two girls in question were innocent.

Someone called to report he had just been struck by a vehicle. He even give the dispatcher a rather detailed description of the car. But after investigating the matter, the guy finally admitted that he had been drinking, to the point where he tripped over a trailer hitch in his driveway.

Here’s one from the “nuts to you” department. A caller reported that there was a squirrel on her front porch acting in a suspicious manner.

A woman called the dispatch centre to report a large snapping turtle on the sidewalk in front of her house that was getting ready to jump into traffic.

Seems that someone confused 911 with those late night sexy ladies chat hot-lines.  A desperately lonely man called his local 911 dispatcher over 27,000 times. Seems that he wanted company and couldn’t think of anything better than to contact the emergency folks. Sometimes several hundred times a day. Police were finally able to track the calls via his cellphone and when asked why he was doing this, the man answered because making 911 calls were free of charge and he needed someone to talk to. The man now faces a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Just as with the woman mentioned earlier who had more than a passing interest in the local police officer, the Web site makes no mention of his eventual fate.

Another woman complained to her local dispatcher that the neighbour in the apartment above was harassing her. It turned out that the neighbour was doing nothing of the sort. He was watering his plants – but some water went over the brim of the flower pots and got her dog wet.

A teenager called to complain that her mother was not allowing her to do her own laundry.

It was mid January and a man called 911 to complain about the weather report he had just heard on his local radio station. The radio station reported that the area was getting slight flurries when in fact the man was driving in a snowstorm.

A woman called three times from her local McDonalds after learning that the restaurant was out of Chicken McNuggets and that instead of refunding her money, the cashier offered her another menu selection for the same price.  Needless to say when the police arrived a short time later she was arrested for misuse of 911.

In a related story from the restaurant world, a man called his local 911 from the neighbourhood fast-food joint to complain that the server did not put ice in his 26 ounce Coca-Cola.

Another woman reported an emergency – seems that her husband was watching too much pornography on their computer, to the point where she felt it was a dangerous obsession. When police arrived, they found her in an agitated state while her man was oblivious to the whole thing and continued watching the X rated offerings on his laptop via their Internet connection. Once the cops calmed her down, they explained that there was nothing they could do and instead suggested she seek professional counselling.  No mention of whether she was charged with misuse or how this affected the couple’s sex life. I’ll let all of you judge that one yourselves!

A man called 911 to complain that he could not get his car inside his garage because a moose was blocking the driveway.

Another man called to ask the dispatcher how long his 24 hour driver’s licence suspension lasted. Hey, I’m not making this stuff up, folks!

A woman called to complain about her drug dealer – who supposedly was tampering the cocaine he was giving her. Every time she used the coke she would start to hallucinate and hear voices. She wanted her dealer to make sure he didn’t tamper the coke anymore.

Speaking of drugs, seems that a man called to complain that he had been denied entry to his local nightclub because he was intoxicated.  The dispatcher explained to him that the nightclub had every right to do this, but the man was still as angry as ever. As a way of diffusing a potentially violent situation, the dispatcher sent police officers to the scene. Not only did things get resolved, but it seems the man had also been hiding cocaine in his socks.  I think we can all figure out the rest of the story!

A woman called 911 to report that she had just been attacked by an angry duck, who was now sitting in a puddle a few yards away watching her make the call. The woman was not seriously injured and of course the duck had disappeared by the time officers arrived on the scene.

A fast food restaurant was offering male and female bobblehead dolls as part of an advertising promo.  This prompted a man to contact his local 911 after he got home and opened the package containing the bobblehead to complain that he had asked for a female doll and was instead given a male one.

Officers responded to a 911 call in order to help settle a domestic dispute between a father and his 20 year old son. The father had insisted that his son brush his teeth, but the young man was not interested, so he called 911 to complain about his father. When the police arrived, they convinced the young man to brush his teeth right away and ended the dispute with no problems.

A four year old called 911 because he needed help with his math homework.  Fortunately for him the dispatcher was rather sympathetic and actually helped the poor kid.  Must have been a slow day on the desk, but kudos to the dispatcher for being compassionate and helpful.

To end off this selection, another example of how you’re never too young to call 911. A three year old called his local dispatcher while watching the animated Disney movie “Cars”. Turned out the young man was worried about the hero of the movie, Lightning McQueen, because another main character in the movie, Chick Hicks, was chasing him.

As I noted earlier, the above represents just a fraction of the many unusual, weird and just plain strange 911 calls received every year by dispatchers across North America. I could write for hours documenting other examples, but I think I have given you all enough for one day.  I hope all this gives you a reason to smile and inject some humour into your day.  And as always thanks for reading my blog. I always appreciate it when people take the time to read my writings. Feel free to share this with anyone you like.

So long from the the Burlington Central Library – until next time!!

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