Monday, August 30, 2010

Ted Williams, the Splendid Splinter


Hey Sixteeners, I have a little challenge for you today. Check out the Language Corner below.


To my knowledge, there are four words in the English language that end in “dous". One of those words is “tremendous". Do you know the other three? I will publish the answer in my next blog entry.


Baseball great Ted Williams was born on this day, 92 years ago. The “Splendid Splinter” was born in San Diego, California on August 30, 1918. It is interesting to note that his team, the Boston Red Sox, won the World Series the same year as his birth, particularly since they failed to win another World Series until 2004.

Ted Williams enjoyed a lengthy career. He played for the Boston Red Sox from 1939-42 and from 1946-60. During World War II, he served in the United States Navy. The magical 1941 season was a special one for Williams and it was one for the ages for baseball fans everywhere. That year, Ted finished the season with a batting average of .406 and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees thrilled fans with a 56-game hitting streak. The accomplishments of those two players live on. Ted Williams is the last major leaguer to have batted .400 or more and no player has equalled DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

Ted Williams ended his playing career with a bang, literally and figuratively. He hit a home run in his last at-bat at Boston’s Fenway Park. He died in July 5, 2002 at the age of 83.

Click the link below to watch Ted Williams’ appearance on the old game show What’s My Line? in 1954.


Yesterday was Dave Stieb day at the dome as the Blue Jays celebrated the 20th anniversary of Stieb’s no-hitter against Cleveland on September 2, 1990. Unfortunately, the Jays lost 10-4 to split a four-game series with the Detroit Tigers.

Stieb looked well and fit. I noticed the moustache is gone.

- Joanne

Saturday, August 28, 2010



We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
From Spruche in Prosa

There is strong shadow where there is much light.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
From Gotz von Berlichingen (1773)

Today I have presented you with two quotes from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The great German author, playwright and poet was born on August 28, 1749.


It was on this day in 1963 that Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Forty-seven years have passed since Dr. King made that speech.  It ranks with Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" and John F. Kennedy's inauguration address as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, orations in American history. 

President Barack Obama, a keen student of Lincoln's political strategies, also delivered a speech at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2009, two days before his inauguration.  Obama was just a two-year-old toddler when King spoke so eloquently and masterfully about his dream.


Singer Shania Twain was born on August 28, 1965 in Windsor, Ontario. She shares the same birthday with Paul Martin, the 21st Prime Minister of Canada from 2003 to 2006. Martin was also born in Windsor, Ontario on August 28, 1938.

Actor Charles Boyer was born on August 28, 1899 in Figeac, Lot, Midi-Pyrénées, France. The romantic Frenchman’s most famous film role was opposite Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 suspense/thriller Gaslight. Boyer died in Phoenix, Arizona on August 26, 1978, two days before his 79th birthday.


It’s good to see the Detroit Tigers in town. The Jays and the Tigers had a tremendous rivalry before Detroit moved out of the American League East. I’ll never forget the 1987 pennant race between those two teams. It was heartbreaking for fans of the Jays but it certainly was exciting. I also recall how one reporter at the Toronto Star wore a Tigers cap in the news room just to create a stir.

The Blue Jays won the second game of their home series against the Detroit Tigers. The Jays prevailed in extra innings. Aaron Hill’ hit a RBI single in the 11th inning and the Jays won by a score of 3-2. Jose Bautista hit another home run in the game. That’s 42 and counting.

- Joanne

Friday, August 27, 2010



If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.
- Kahlil Gibran
From Sand and Foam (1926)


Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was born in a farmhouse near Stonewall, Texas on this day in 1908. Although LBJ became mired in the unpopular Vietnam War, he can be credited with some impressive achievements. He had a vision of making America a “Great Society” and it was he who put his signature to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The war in Vietnam led to Johnson’s political downfall and his decision not to seek re-election to the presidency in 1968. The earthy Texan died on January 22, 1973. He was 64 years old.


Ricky Romero had a poor start yesterday as the Jays were beaten at the dome by the Detroit Tigers.  The final score was 7-1.  The good news is that Jose Bautista hit his league-leading 41st home run.

- Joanne

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



The subject of space aliens has been in the news of late. This month, a scientist in the United States declared that proof of extraterrestrials could come within 25 years. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountain View, California, said, “I actually think the chances that we’ll find ET are pretty good.” He told the young people in the audience at a SETI convention that there was a “really good chance you’re going to see this happen.”

I have several questions for Mr. Shostak. What is we find a creature that is nothing like ET? What if this extraterrestrial life is hostile to us? What if it is too weird for us to understand? What if its intelligence is so far above ours that we can’t relate to it or communicate with it at all? Then what?

Here’s another item I came across. There were reports of an unidentified flying object hovering over Cultus Lake in Chilliwack, British Columbia on the night of Tuesday, August 17th. A Vancouver radio station, The Fox 99.3, broke the story. During the following morning’s Open Phones segment on The Fox with host Jeff O’Neil, a man called to say that his girlfriend noticed some lights flooding the pitch-black sky over the lake. The radio show also received a text from 'Wally' in Chilliwack, saying he also saw the lights on that Tuesday night.

For human beings, the existence of intelligent life on other planet is both an intriguing and frightening proposition. When we think of extraterrestrial beings, we conjure up images of bald little green people with flying saucers or we visualize a friendly, benevolent creature such as ET. We tend to anthropomorphize space aliens. On television and in films, we portray them as quasi-human beings. They have mouths and eyes and they walk upright. In some Hollywood movies or in cartoons, they even speak English and ask us to take them to our leader. They understand us when we tell them to “phone home.”

Humans tend to portray extraterrestrials as either very menacing or very cute. Without a frame of reference, we have to use our imaginations. When something is beyond the scope of our comprehension, we tend to conceptualize it in human terms. Yet, if we are not alone in the universe, if there are beings on other planets, it seems doubtful to me that they would resemble us at all. They may be radically and entirely different from human beings in every shape and form. Their character and their external appearance may be beyond human comprehension and who knows how they would communicate with each other and with other species. I’m not sure I’d ever want to meet an extraterrestrial. Still, there is still a certain fascination about the idea.

NOTE : On the right side of this blog page, you will notice a poll asking your opinion on the existence of intelligent life on other planets. I invite you to express your opinion and let me know what you think. Just click on your mouse. I have to say I would vote “Maybe. It’s a possibility.”


The Blue Jays were clobbered by the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium last night.  The score was 11-5.  Starting pitcher Mark Rzepczynski had a bad night.  He just didn't have it.

- Joanne

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Internet and False Information


There is a week left in the month of August.  Before it draws to a close, I'd like to share with you some quirky trivia about August 2010.  Take a look at your calendar.  August of 2010 has 5 SUNDAYS, 5 MONDAYS and 5 TUESDAYS, all in the same month.  I'd like to point out that there is some incorrect information circulating on the Internet that this occurs every 823 years.  That simply is not true.  It's not such a rare occurrence.  In fact, the next time we get five Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays in August will be August 2021.  Your intrepid researcher has checked and double checked.  If you want to see for yourself, look at the perpetual calendar for the year 2021.  Just click on the following link.

I want all you Sixteeners to know that I will continue my battle against false or misleading information on the Internet.  This is a reminder that inaccurate information does not just appear on one particular site on the web.   Don't believe something just because it appears on hundreds of Internet sites.


On this day in 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted. The Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum (near modern day Naples) were destroyed. These flourishing towns were buried in ashes and never rebuilt. Thousands died.  I visited the ruins of Pompeii in 1996 and was struck by the expressions on the faces of the mummified victims.


The Blue Jays are back in the win column again.  The defeated the Yankees at the Bronx Zoo last night by a score of 3-2.  It's great to win those games by one run, especially against the Yanks.  The best news of all is that Jose Bautista hit his 39th and 40th home runs of the season.  This guy is having a season to remember.

- Joanne

Monday, August 23, 2010

Photos of Presque Ile State Park in Pennsylvania


I'm back from Erie, Pennsylvania.  On Friday, I took a water taxi to Presque Ilse State Park.  It is quite picturesque as there is a wooded area and a beach there. The park is located on a sandy peninsula that juts into Lake Erie.

I did some shopping at Macy's on Saturday afternoon.  Saturday evening was cool  and rainy.  We went to the ractrack/casino in Erie.  It is called Presque Ilse Downs.  On our return home on Sunday, we had a very easy time crossing over the border.  The customs officer just asked everyone on the bus to hold up their passports.  Then he inquired if anyone in our group wasn't Canadian.  Finally, he wanted to know if anyone was carrrying an illegal weapon.  That was it.

Here are some photos from Presque Isle Park.


To my absolute delight, the Blue Jays trounced the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday night.  The lopsided score was 16-2 in favour of the Jays.  Did  I crow about that one.  You bet I dud.  By the way, Jose Bautista hit his 38th home run.  Saturday It wasn't a perfect night for Toronto teams.  The Argos lost to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 16-12.

On Sunday, the Jays lost 5-0 to the Red Sox.  The game was delayed twice due to the rainy weather in Beantown.

- Joanne

Friday, August 20, 2010

More Greetings from Erie Pennsylvania


Greetings again from Erie, Pennsylvania.  Here is a picture of the boat we went on yesterday for a luncheon buffet.  It is called "Victorian Princess."  I have also included photos taken from the boat.

- Joanne

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hello from Erie, Pennsylvania


Hello from Erie, Pennsylvania. I am here with a thoroughbred racing fan club. There was a welcome party for us at the hotel last night and we are going on a boat ride this afternoon. The temperature here is comfortable 20-25 degrees Celsius.

We arrived by bus yesterday afternoon in time for a late lunch at the Cracker Barrel, a nostalgic country style restaurant/store. It has all kinds of trinkets and games and toys from the past.

Pennsylvania is known as the "Keystone State." It has great historical importance to Americans because it is the birthplace of American independence and the United States Constitution. Its origin goes back to 1681 when King Charles II of England granted William Penn, a Quaker, a large area of land that includes modern Pennsylvania . Penn and his fellow Quakers sought to escape religious persecution by moving to the New World. In exchange for the land, they were required to send the English king two beaver pelts a year. That was a pretty good deal for Penn, don’t you think?

One explanation as to how Pennsylvania acquired the moniker "Keystone State" is its geographic location. It is located right in the centre of the original thirteen colonies of the United States.


The name "Pennsylvania" was specified in the land charter given to William Penn by Charles II. The Latin word "Sylvania," meaning "woodlands," was added to Penn's name. Therefore, Pennsylvania means "Penn's forest" or "Penn's woods."


The Blue Jays lost to the Oakland Athletics yesterday afternoon by a score of 5-4. They rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning but it wasn't enough. They have a day off today and they head to Boston where they play a series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

- Joanne

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

By the time we got to Woodstock


By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song
And a celebration

And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.

From WoodstockLyrics by Joni Mitchell

On this day in 1969, the Woodstock music festival was in full swing and the Age of Aquarius had reached its apex. The festival was billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music.” It was held at Max Yasgur's dairy farm near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York, from August 15 to August 18, 1969. Bethel is 69 km (43 miles) southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York.

During this somewhat rainy August weekend, Yasgur’s 600-acre farm became a hippie’s paradise and a rock and roll heaven. Thirty-two acts performed outdoors and entertained 500,000 concert-goers. The Woodstock festival was one of the defining events of the 1960s and Rolling Stone listed it as one of the "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll."

Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock" commemorated the event and became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Whatever happened to Max Yasgur? Well, In 1971 Yasgur sold his farm and moved to Florida. A year and a half later, on February 9, 1973, he died there of a heart attack at the age of 53.

Forty-one years have passed since Woodstock and I was reminded of this fact by a Six Chix cartoon that I read this past weekend. In the comic, two bespectacled older women are standing on the site of Yasgur’s farm. One of the women looks at a sign and informs the other woman that this year’s Woodstock Reunion will be held on Facebook. The other woman replies, “Bummer.”


The Blue Jays keep rolling along. Last night, they defeated the Oakland A's and Shaun Marcum pitched a gem of a game. He had a one-hitter. Jose Bautista hit his 37th home run, but he didn't slug it over the fence. It was an inside-the-park homer.

NOTE : Tomorrow I will head to Erie Pennsylvania where I will stay until Sunday. I'll report to you from there.

- Joanne

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer and Elvis Presley's Concerts in Canada in 1957



How are you enjoying these “dog days” of summer? For me, however, they are truly the “dog days” of August because I associate the expression with the month of August rather than July.

Webster’s dictionary defines “dog days” as

1 : the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere

2 : a period of stagnation or inactivity

What is the origin of the term “dog days?” The answer lies in the stars, dear Sixteeners. It’s a celestial matter involving the brightest star in the night sky - Sirius of the constellation Canis Major (the big dog). The ancient Romans believed that the earth received heat from Siruis. In the summer, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. The ancients thought that its heat, in tandem with the heat of the sun, was responsible for a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They called this period of time, (20 days before and after the conjunction of Sirius with the sun) the “dog days” after the “dog star.”

The Old Farmer's Almanac lists the traditional timing of the "dog days" as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the rising of Sirius at sunrise. The 1552 edition of the Book of Common Prayer cites "Dog Daies" beginning on July 6 and ending on August. 17. The Romans extended their "dog days" further into August and I'm with the Romans on that.


The Death of Elvis Presley

On this day in 1977, Elvis Presley was found dead at his Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee. The "King of Rock and Roll" was only 42 years old. Not long before his death, I recall my cousins mentioning to me that Elvis hadn’t looked very well lately, that he seemed bloated in his most recent photos. On the day Elvis passed away, I went bowling with another cousin and I remember listening to Elvis music on the radio on the way to the bowling alley.

Elvis' Concerts in Canada

Here’s some Elvis trivia. In 1957, Elvis Presley performed in three Canadian cities. On April 2, he did two shows at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The next day, April 3, 1957, he did another two shows in Ottawa. On August 31, Elvis put on a concert in Vancouver. These five concerts in Canada were the only ones he performed outside of the United States.

Graceland's origins

The Graceland property was originally established as a farm during the American Civil War by Memphis newspaper owner and publisher Stephen C. Toof. Toof named it after his daughter, Grace. Elvis Presley purchased the property in March of 1957 for $102,500.

The Anniversary of Babe Ruth's Death

Baseball legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth died in New York City of cancer on August 16, 1948. The Bambino was 53 years old. And no, I don’t remember the day Babe Ruth died (ha ha). The Babe was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 6, 1895.


It wasn’t a bad sports weekend for Toronto fans. The Toronto Argonauts defeated the Montreal Alouettes decisively by a score of 37-22. The Argos are now tied for first place with the Als in the CFL East.

In Anaheim, the Angels romped over the Toronto Blue Jays by a score of 7-2 on Saturday. However, the Jays came back to beat the Halos 4-1 yesterday. Ricky Romero was the starter and he pitched seven solid innings to lead the Jays to victory in the finale of the three-game series. Speaking of Romero, the Jays have him locked up for the future. He accepted a five-year, $30.1 million deal with the team.

I’m not as big a tennis fan as I am of hockey, baseball and football. However, I was hoping that Roger Federer would defeat Andy Murray in the Rogers Cup here in Toronto. It was not to be. The Swiss master lost to the dour Scot.

- Joanne

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fear, Superstition and the Number 13


Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
- Bertrand Russell
An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1950)

How superstitious are you? I ask this question because today is Friday, August 13th. It is a day associated with the lore of black cats and broken mirrors, a day that superstitious people absolutely dread. We like to think of ourselves as enlightened and knowledgeable. Yet many of us carry good luck charms and many buildings do not have a thirteenth floor. According to London’s Daily Mirror, more than 60 million people worldwide claim to be affected by a fear of Friday the 13th and some will refuse to drive or go to their jobs on that day.

Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky? One theory finds its roots in the Christian Bible. There were 13 people at the Last Supper and Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, is considered to be the thirteenth guest. Jesus was then crucified on a Friday. Another theory is that the phobia originated when King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307.

The sports world is rife with superstition. Here are a few examples. As a pitcher gets closer to pitching a no-hitter or a perfect game, some fans and broadcasters are reluctant to mention the possibility for fear of jinxing the pitcher. Former baseball manager Sparky Anderson would never step on the white lines when he walked onto the field. Relatively few professional athletes have worn the number 13, although that has changed somewhat in recent years.

Here is a short list of some well known pro athletes who did not shun the number 13.

* Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain wore number 13.

* The great NFL quarterback Dan Marino sported number 13 on his Miami Dolphins uniform.

* Former Toronto Maple Leaf captain Mats Sundin wasn’t afraid to wear 13 on his hockey sweater.

* New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez has number 13 on his pinstriped jersey.

Only one bad incident has occurred in my life on Friday the 13th. On Friday, August 13, 2004, I stood across from my husband as he was robbed of his wallet and passport on a subway escalator in Barcelona, Spain.


Fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia. The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia.

There are a couple of notable birth anniversaries today:

Acclaimed film director Alfred Hitchcock was born in London, England on this day in 1899. I am a big fan of Hitchcock’s films. Leave it to the “Master of Suspense” to be born on the 13th.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro was born on this day in 1926. Castro turns 84 years old today.


The Blue Jays won the last game of their series against the troublesome Boston Red Sox. They defeated the Red Sox by a score of 6-5 and Jose Bautista socked his league-leading 36th homer. The Jays rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to overcome a 5-2 Red Sox lead. Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save ever against the Blue Jays.

- Joanne

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile


Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her: that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.

- William Shakespeare
From Antony and Cleopatra

I wonder how the historical Cleopatra measured up to Shakespeare's vision of an endlessly fascinating woman, a woman of great allure. The romantic in me likes to think the real Cleopatra was an ageless woman of "infinite variety." We know that Mark Antony was certainly enthralled by this "Queen of the Nile." We also know that on this day in 30 B.C., Cleopatra VII Philopator took her own life.

"Cleopatra" is Greek for "father's glory," and her full name, "Cleopatra Thea Philopator," means "the Goddess Cleopatra, Beloved of Her Father." Cleopatra VII was co-ruler of Egypt with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes, her brother/husband Ptolemy XIV, and later her son Caesarion (by Julius Caesar). After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., Cleopatra formed an alliance with Mark Antony.

In 30 B.C., Antony and Cleopatra faced military defeat at the hands of Octavian (Antony's rival and Julius Caesar's legal heir) whose forces were poised to invade Egypt. As Octavian approached Alexandria, Antony's armies deserted to the enemy and a distraught Antony and Cleopatra both committed suicide. According to legend, Cleopatra used an asp to kill herself. The New World Encyclopedia says that the term "asp" actually pertains to a variety of poisonous snakes, but in the case of Cleopatra, it "refers to the Egyptian Cobra, which was sometimes used to execute criminals."

Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, was killed by Octavian. The three children of Cleopatra and Antony were spared and returnd to Rome where they were raised by Antony's wife, Octavia. Mark Antoy's rival, Octavian, later became known as Caesar Augustus, the first ruler of the Roman Empire. The month of August is named after him.

It is also noteworthy that Cleopatra was a rare female ruler in a thoroughly male-dominated world. In fact, I can't think of another woman who held such a position of power and influence in ancient history. Can you?


The Blue Jays certainly have had their problems with the Boston Red Sox this season. They were thumped yesterday by a score of 10-1 in their second game of a series with the Red Sox here in T.O. It was a game that starting pitcher Shaun Marcum would like to forget. For that matter, so would I.

- Joanne

Wednesday, August 11, 2010



Regular readers will notice that Number 16 has been redesigned. I have tried to give it a fresh look and more vitality. My hope is that you find the new design bright, lively, and above all, easy on the eye. Number 16 has also introduced a new feature. I will be polling you on various topics and on your preferences. The first poll appears on the right side of your screen and its subject is musical taste. As always, your feedback is most welcome and strongly encouraged. I would also like to point out that this blog now has a search box. If you are wondering what I have written on any topic, you can find out easily.


Are there some words and expressions that especially annoy you? Do you cringe when you hear them? Would you like them banished from the English language? You're not alone. Here are a few words and expressions that annoy me. They are used far too often and as fillers in speech.

"Like I said" is an expression I would banish. In addition to being used far too often, especially by athletes, it is incorrect. The correct expression is "As I said."

A word I would banish is "hopefully" - but only when it is used in place of "I hope." Unfortunately, I will never get my wish. It has entered the language and some people use it incessantly and in every second sentence. "Hopefully" is an adjective and should only be used to mean "with hope" (e.g. I looked at him hopefully as he handed me the results of my test). Yes, language is constantly evolving, but there should be boundaries and limitations or else words lose their meaning.

If there are any words or expressions that annoy you, write me about it and I will publish your thoughts on my blog.


The Blue Jays began began a series with the Boston Red Sox last night. They lost by a score of 7-5. Starting pitcher Ricky Romero was not at his best, but he left the game when the score was tied 5-5. Reliever Shawn Camp could not hold back the Red Sox. When closer Jonathan Papelbon stepped on to the mound, it was game over. He is a fantastic closer. His performance made me more convinced than ever that the Jays should really focus on acquiring a good closer. They need to find the type of closer that they could send confidently to the mound in a playoff series. Kevin Gregg does not fit that description.

There's quite a fiasco going on in Hamilton over the location of the new stadium. Bob Young, owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is threatening to move the team to Quebec City. Hamilton's mayor, Fred Eisenberger, and its city council favour a downtown east harbour site, a much more central location than Tiger-Cats and their owner prefer.

I agree with the mayor. I favour a downtown or central location for large sports facilities. The alternative usually results in urban sprawl. A downtown stadium can revitalize the city's core.

As for a team in Queabec City, I hope it happens some day. The Canadian Football League needs another team in the East Division - but not at the expense of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Tiger-Cats belong in Hamilton.

- Joanne

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Gretzky Trade


"Never, though, has there been a sports transaction of this magnitude. The Great Gretzky, 27, is just at the peak of his almighty powers. Handshakes all around and the Los Angeles Kings are made a championship contender in the National Hockey League, complete with a personality who'll give them a high profile in a metropolis of celebrities and star-worshippers. The Oilers, in return, get playing talent that'll keep them strong for years to come, plus (and this was critical) a staggering sum of money."

- Jim Proudfoot
Toronto Star, August 10, 1988

My former colleague at the Star, the late Jim Proudfoot, wrote those words about one of the most unforgettable days in Canadian sports history. For many Canadians, it was one of the saddest. It certainly was a day of broken hearts in Edmonton.

On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded superstar Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski to the Los Angeles Kings in return for a rising American star named Jimmy Carson, Martin Gélinas, three first round draft picks and an enourmous amount of money. Peter Pocklington, the cash-strapped owner of the Oilers received $15 million (U.S.) in the deal. Many disgruntled Edmonton fans considered it blood money. Pocklington and Gretzky's new American bride Janet Jones were cast in the role of villains in this sporting drama.

With tears welling in his eyes, The Great One bid farewell to the city of Edmonton at a press conference. I'll never forget how he looked that day. His locks were bleached blond and he was wearing a striped shirt. This Canadian hockey icon, this native of Brantford, Ontario, was already transforming himself into a California surfer.

Twenty-one years have passed since that fateful day. Wayne Gretzky certainly succeeded in making hockey trendy in L.A. during his time there. Although he spent many years playing in Los Angeles, he never brought a Stanley Cup to the city. After twenty seasons in the NHL, Number 99 finished his career in a New York Rangers' uniform. He retired as a player in 1999 (how appropriate) and has kept active in the game until recently. Gretzky, now 49 years old, was Executive Director for the champion Canadian national men's hockey team during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2000, he became part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise of the NHL and later spent several frustrating years coaching that struggling team.

The Edmonton Oilers, after winning four Stanley Cups during the Gretzky era, won a fifth with Mark Messier as captain in 1990. Last season the Oilers finished at the bottom of the NHL standings. However, their future looks more promising since they obtained Calgary-native Taylor Hall as their first round draft pick. The star of the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League is expected to be a good one.


How about those Blue Jays! What a memorable weeked it was for Toronto's baseball franchise! On Saturday, they went on a home run rampage and defeated the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 17-11. The Jays slammed 8 home runs, but the talk of the town was rookie catcher J.P. Arencibia. In his major league debut, Arencibia homered on the first pitch delivered to him. He then went 4-5 in the game, adding another home run and two doubles.

Yesterday, young Brandon Morrow pitched a gem of a game and almost had himself a no-hitter. He lost the no-hitter in the 9th inning, but the Jays went on to a 1-0 victory. Morrow posted 17 strikeouts in the game. The only fly in the ointment waa Vernon Wells' injury during a spectacular catch. In his valiant attempt to preserve the no-hitter for Morrow, Wells dislocated his toe.


My niece turns 14 years old today. Happy birthday, Victoria!

- Joanne

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lewis Carroll, words and Sarah Palin



"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

- Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Chapter 6


Sarah Palin coined a word recently. At least, she claims that she coined the word "refudiate." The truth is she confused the word "refute" with "repudiate" and ended up with "refudiate." The former Alaska governor asserts that the English language is always evolving and changing. She certainly won’t get any argument from me on that. Language is fluid and it does constantly change. I fully agree that neologisms are a necessary and inevitable part of the evolution of language. However, "refudiate" is one non-word I can do without. It will never enjoy popular usage. I don’t anticipate anyone other than Sarah Palin using that word.

While we are on the subject of neologisms, allow me to mention a delightful word that was coined by Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Carroll was a master of linguistic wit and he coined the word "chortle," a combination of "chuckle" and "snort." The word "chortle" appears in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It has entered the English language and can be found in dictionaries. Sarah Palin, you’re no Lewis Carroll.


Last night was a great night for Toronto sports fans. The Blue Jays defeated Tampa Bay at the dome by a score of 2-1. Brett Cecil pitched seven innings and only allowed four hits.

The Argos defeated Edmonton by a score of 29-28 for their fourth victory of the season. Given that they only had three wins last season, that's progress.

- Joanne

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Horror of Hiroshima


Today marks a sombre day in the annals of human history. On August 6, 1945, an atom bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. For the first time, a nuclear weapon was used to wage war. Three days later, on August 9, a second atom bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, Japan.

Apologists for the use of nuclear force against Japan argue that it ended the war sooner and that more lives would have been lost if Japan had been invaded by land. Dissenters counter that the war had already been won and that Japan was prepared to surrender. Some dissenters even argue that the military-industrial complex of the United States was determined to use the atomic bomb at some point because of the large amount of money spent on its development.

In defence of his decision to use a nuclear weapon on Japan, President Harry Truman stated, “We faced half a million casualties trying to take Japan by land. It was either that or the atom bomb, and I didn’t hesitate a minute, and I’ve never lost any sleep over it since.” I find Truman’s words difficult to believe. He must have done some tossing and turning in his sleep. It's not that I doubt Harry Truman's conviction that he made the correct choice. It's just that he was faced with such a heart-wrenching decision and he knew that innocent human lives would be lost. I have to question how anyone with a conscience could make such a momentous decision so easily and remain so unfazed by it.

Sixty-five years have passed since the atom bomb was unleashed on humanity. Whether one agrees with Harry Truman’s decision or not, it is indisputable that a terrible force was unleashed on that August day so many years ago. The United States remains the only country to have used the atom bomb as a weapon of war. The atomic bomb has never been used since. Nevertheless, a genie was let out of a bottle that day. The world has never been the same since. Once can only hope and pray that it never happens again.


The Blue Jays had a day off yesterday. On Wednesday, they lost the final game of their series at Yankee Stadium to the Bronx Bombers. The score was 5-1. A-Rod hit his 600th home room. It had to come sometime, but it's too bad it happened during a game with the Jays. Tonight the Blue Jays begin a new series against the Tampa Bay Rays at the dome. I still prefer to call it "SkyDome" rather than its bland, corporate moniker - Rogers Centre. If they had to use the Rogers name, at least they could have named the stadium "Rogers Field" or "Rogers Dome." "Rogers Centre" sounds like the name of a shopping mall or a hockey arena. Wait a minute! That's not too far off the mark. It is a shopping centre for Rogers products.

The Toronto Argonauts play Edmonton tonight in the Alberta capital. The Argos need to recover from their loss in Montreal and get back on track. Coach Jim Barker is intent on defending the play of quarterback Cleo Lemon. Okay, Jim, but he had better get that offence going soon. One more thing, Jim. It's not the smartest move to knock the media so overtly and so strongly.

- Joanne

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Barack Obama and Tea Party Xenophobia


U.S. President Barack Obama turns 49 years old today. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii (YES, HAWAII, the fiftieth state to enter the union) on August 4, 1961. I can not believe all the paranoia and the xenophobia among extreme right-wing Republicans and Tea Party types regarding the president's birthplace. They don't like the president and want to label him an illegal alien or a foreigner. It's just ridiculous! John McCain was born on a military base in Panama and nobody questions his patriotism or his credentials as an American. Nor should they, solely on his place of birth.

Had the Tea Party gang lived during the 15th or 16th centuries, they would have argued that the Earth is flat or that it is the centre of the universe. Instead, these 21st century Flat Earthers deny the reality of global warming and climate change.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Mr. President!


I have always had an aversion to the term "alien" with regard to legal or illegal immigrants. This is not an unconditional defence of illegal immigration. It is merely to state that whatever one thinks of illegal immigrants, they are human beings - not aliens from outer space. By the strict definition of the word "alien," the usage of the term "illegal alien" technically correct. The Oxford Dictionary defines "alien" as "from another country or society; foreign." In brackets, Oxford points out that the word is "often disapproving." I would like to emphasize that Oxford, also defines "alien" as "strange and frightening; different from what you are used too."

It's the connotation of the word "alien" which I find objectionable. It sounds as if immigrants and illegal immigrants are of another species or from another planet. When someone is not considered human, it is easier to be hostile and cruel to them. That is why it is a good thing that the term "alien" with regard to immigrants is not used as frequently in Canada as it is in the United States.


Oh Happy Day! The Toronto Blue Jays entered the Bronx Zoo and they won two games in a row from the New York Yankees. Last night they defeated the Pinstripes by a score of 8-2. Ricky Romero pitched a coplete game (shades of Roy Halladay) and Jose Bautista bashed his 33rd homer.

A-Rod still hasn't hit his 600th home run. That can wait until the Blue Jays leave town, thank you very much.

- Joanne

Monday, August 2, 2010

John Graves Simcoe and the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada


Today is a civic holiday in the province of Ontario. In Toronto, this day is officially called "Simcoe Day" in honour of John Graves Simcoe who in 1791 beame the first lieutenant-governor of the newly created province of Upper Canada, now modern day Ontario. Although Simcoe was instrumental in the shaping of Ontario and Canada, I doubt many school children can identify the man or his achievements.

John Graves Simcoe was the founder of Toronto. It was his decision to move the capital of Upper Canada from Niagara to Toronto (then known as York). He also established Yonge and Dundas Streets as major north/south and east/west thoroughfares and named Dundas Street after his friend Henry Dundas. Furthermore, he was responsible for introducing English common law to Upper Canada.

Perhaps Simxoe's greatest accomplishment was banning the importation of slaves to the province. Prior to assuming office as lieutenant-governor, Simcoe codemned the practice of slavery and called for its abolition. He said, ""The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns. The moment I assume the Government of Upper Canada under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America or Europe."

Although Simcoe proposed to abolish slavery outright, he was opposed by the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. As a compromise, Simcoe passed legislation allowing for the gradual abolition of slavery in the province. The Anti-Slavery Act of 1793 forbid any new slaves to be brought into Upper Canada and children born to female slaves were to be freed at the age of 25. As both an Ontarian and a Canadian, I am proud to say that this act was the first act to limit slavery in the British Empire. It remained in effect until 1833 when the Emancipation Act abolished slavery in all British holdings, including Ontario. From the perspective of the 21st century, this may not seen like much, but given the temperament of the times, this was very progressive legislation.

Enjoy this holiday Monday and spare a thought for John Graves Simcoe.

Alexander Graham Bell, the great inventor, scientist and aviation enthusiast died on this day in 1922 at the age of 75. Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847. In July of 1870, he immigrated to Canada with his parents and settled in Brantford, Ontario. His wife Mabel, the daughter of a Boston lawyer, was born at Cambridge, Massachussets. Bell died an American citizen, but loved Canada. He died at his estate in Victoria Country, Nova Scotia. The name of the estate is Beinn Breagh which means "beautiful mountain" in Scottish Gaelic. In the summer of 1994, I visited the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia but did not get an opportunity to see Beinn Breagh. The property is privately owned and there is no public access to it.


The Blue Jays did zilch, absolutely nothing. They made no moves before the July 31st trade deadline. As the 4:10 p.m. deadline approached, I listend attentively to the car radio on the way to Walkerton on Saturday, There was no news. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos stated that he didn't want to make a trade just for the sake of making a trade. The right deal did not come along. Meanwhile, the Jays lost the rubber match of their 3-game series with Cleveland by a score of 5-4. Now they have to enter the Bronx Zoo for a date with the New York Yankees.

- Joanne