Tag Archives: The Misadventures Of

Welland’s Got 99 Problems, But The Joys Its Local Paper Brings To My Heart Ain’t One

Frugal Friday

Frugal Friday

Growing up in the thriving mecca of Welland, Ontario was a fascinating and bizarre experience for me. It was basically like living in an industry and scenery-free Twin Peaks. (I can’t confirm that Welland has a Black Lodge, but I’m assuming that’s the case, given all of the melting grandmother mummies and other wild happenings that have happened there over the years.)

One of the most the most impressive and consistent bastions of Welland’s rather unique charm is the city’s paper, The Welland Tribune. I love The Trib. The paper does its best to cover local issues in the face of what I’m assuming is a tiny-even-by-abysmal-industry-standards budget. And they gave me my first taste of fame when one of their photographers picked me out of the crowd at a 1989 craft show and got me to pose with a bear (they also erroneously described me as a “lover of poetry” in a 1997 story, but I forgive them for that).

I also consider the paper a trailblazer, in a sense, because it eschewed that silly and overrated thing called copy editing long before the bigger and more reputable papers even considered outsourcing it.

This is why The Welland Tribune is often called The Welland Turbine by locals, and why spotting its bold typos and mistakes (and its utterly perplexing editorial choices in general) has become a rather popular hobby for the locals and the homesick.

Up until tonight, I considered the following some of The Turbine’s Greatest Hits:

  • Their intense coverage of Ontario’s controversial “Pit Pull Ban,” as the headline read
  • The time someone decided that “Leave The Roasting To Chestnuts” was the prefect headline for a story about children being burned in Christmas fires
  • This:

deathbycooking

But none of that compares to the amazing promotional email that my mother just received.

turbine

Here are two things I love about this message:

1. It’s addressed to my grandfather, who has been dead for nine years.

2.  Everything else.

So keep up the good word, Welland Turbine. Who needs an industry or a functional economy or any hope for the future when I have you?

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How To Make Cheesy Blasters That Don’t Suck

Cheesy Blasters

Cheesy Blasters

Early last year as the show 30 Rock was nearing its final days the Risky Fuel household began experimenting with trying to recreate one of main character Liz Lemon’s favourite foods — Cheesy Blasters.

The recipe was simple:

You take a hot dog
Stuff it with some jack cheese
Fold it in a pizza
You’ve got Cheesy Blasters

We tried to copy this recipe. It did not turn out very well.

Undaunted, awhile back we tried to make Cheesy Blasters again, this time modifying the recipe with one major change: Instead of buying pre-made frozen pizzas and wrapping them around hot dog wieners, we bought a bag of pre-made pizza dough and used that dough instead.

It was… AMAZING. By using the real pizza dough it not only tasted better, but you could structurally engineer something that had better wraparound/pigs-in-a-blanket qualities.

So, to recap, here’s what you do to make rockin’ Cheesy Blasters:

1) Buy a bag of pre-made pizza dough, some hot dogs, a can of pizza sauce and some shredded cheese.

2) Cook some hot dogs.

3) Open a can of pizza sauce.

4) Make a canoe out of the pizza dough for the hot dog, put the hot dog in there.

5) Throw some pizza sauce and cheese into the canoe.

6) Close that canoe’s edges together so the hot dog is sealed right in there.

7) Sprinkle a bit more cheese and pizza sauce on the top of your Cheesy Blaster.

8) Throw it in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the dough starts turning golden brown.

Voila, Cheesy Blasters.

Thanks Meat Cat.

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I Drove The 24 Hours Of Le Mans And Kept A Diary Of It

The Red Bull x2010

The Red Bull x2010 in the main stretch.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most grueling, historic auto races in history is happening again in Le Mans, France this weekend.

For a full day some of the best drivers will push some of the toughest and most sophisticated race cars around the high speed Circuit de la Sarthe track.

It’s a contest that few can ever claim they’ve won at.

I can.

Granted, I did it on my Playstation 3 while playing Gran Turismo 5. And it took me 26 days to complete. And I used a fictional future-car that was 30 per cent faster than my competition.

But still.

It was a major grind, nonetheless. And for reasons I still haven’t entirely come to terms with, I kept a diary of the whole experience.

So, in honour of all the real drivers who’ll be zooming around this weekend, here’s my experience driving 24 Hours of Le Mans…

The grandstand at Le Mans

The grandstand at Le Mans.

My opponents at the starting line for the race would be:

J. Greer in the McLaren F1 GTR Race Car ’97
H. Emerson in the Speed 8 Race Car ’03
W. Houston in the R390 GT1 Race Car ’98
N. Nagai in the GT-ONE Race Car TS020 ’99
A. Mendoz in the Viper GTS-R Team Oreca Race Car #51
J. Niemi in the Courage C60 Peugot Race Car ’03
R. Juarez in the V12 LMR Race Car ’99
S. Sheppard in the Audi R10 TDI Race Car ’06
J. Callahan in the CLK-LM Race Car ’96
E. Robinson in the Viper GTS-R Team Oreca Race Car #51
J. Yasuda in the C60 Hybride – Judd Race Car ’05

I was driving the Red Bull x2010 Vettel. It’s Gran Turismo’s ultimate vehicle, a fictional creation designed by real car engineers who were tasked with creating the ultimate open-wheeled race car, which the video game developers then unleashed into a pool of otherwise real historic automobiles.

Selecting the Red Bull x2010 secured me an insurmountable mechanical advantage. I knew I was going to win this race — if you’re going to play a video game for 24 hours straight, you don’t want to lose — and there was a certain amount of guilt in knowing that I was all-but cheat coding my way to victory.

Saturday, Nov. 26

The race begins…

Looking back on my notes, I clearly didn’t have this idea for a diary right from the start and it must have come about from trying to map my pit stops or something because my first note is…

“Raining.”

That’s it. In GT5 rain is the worst. I must have thought it would blow through quick because I kept racing.

Thursday, Dec. 1

75 laps
3:44 completed
Sky starting to go a bit dark
Best lap: 2:36.874 on #74

One of the things Gran Turismo 5 introduced on one of their game updates last year was to allow mid-game saving during the endurance races. This had been a massive point of contention for GT5ers because prior to that people who wanted to run these distance races would just have to play, then put the game on pause for hours/days/weeks if they had to switch off and play “life.”

On a personal note, I’m convinced trying to do Circuit de la Sarthe this way some months earlier was what drove my first PS3 to Yellow Light Of Death.

Most of the notations I’ve taken are from when I go into the pits to save/suspend the race.

83 laps
Best lap 2:36.168 on #82

Circuit de la Sarthe boasts three separate gigantic straightaways which allow some super-fast racing. If there are cars ahead of and you play your drafting game right you can get some amazing speed.

Drafted off someone on #84. Hit 458 km/h.

Double draft on the same straight on #87. Hit 472 km/h.

90 laps
Suspending the race. Here’s where my top opponents ranked:

2. J. Yashuda in the C60 Hybride – Judd Race Car ’05
3. H. Emerson in the Speed 8 Race Car ’03
4. R. Juarez in the V12 LMR Race Car ’99
5. J. Niemi in the Courage C60 Peugot Race Car ’03
6. N. Nagai in the GT-ONE Race Car TS020 ’99
7. J. Callahan in the CLK-LM Race Car ’96
8. S. Sheppard in the C60 Hybride – Judd Race Car ’05

Friday, Dec. 2

91 laps
4:26 completed
Darkness is descending
Best lap: 2:36.874 on #74

94 laps

My headlights come on. I’m about to spend the next eight hours racing a car in the dark. Which if it was real would be a crazy challenge. Because it’s for the purpose of playing a video game it’s mostly just ludicrous.

First lap during the dark times is 2:54.542.

98 laps

Just discovered there’s a “lights on” indicator. Also, a precipitation indicator.

106 laps
5:13 completed

Driving in almost full darkness. Since the sun set I’ve done no lap under 2:46.

SHIT. DIDN’T SAVE PROPERLY. JUST LOST #92 – #106… starting over from last save.

Second time around I have a much better “first lights on” lap… 2:39… though I follow that up with a 2:49.

107 laps
5:17 completed

111 laps
5:29 completed

I’m getting worse in the dark. Also, when you drive around the course there are now intermitted fireworks going off in the background. They’re very distracting. On #113 I do a 3:05.

116 laps
5:43 completed

Fireworks still going off all over the place. Going to suspend the race.

The long straight

The long straight.

Saturday, Dec. 3

125 laps
6:08 completed
Driving through deep darkness
Best lap: 2:36.874 on #74

Hit 2:44 on #123. Then a 2:41, then a 2:45, then a 2:43. I appear to be reaching a breakthrough in the night driving.

Hit 2:39.712 on #129

Don’t want to use the word “in the zone,” but not focusing on the track anymore. It’s more like the distant focus you use to look at those 3D pixel photos you find in the mall where there’s secretly photos of eagles or whatever hidden in the matrix of dots.

132 laps
6:32 completed

Sunday, Dec. 4

139 laps
Complete darkness

I do a 3:11. Feel disinterested. The tedium of doing this ridiculous race is setting in.

Not paying attention. Run out of gas on #141. This is super-annoying because the game limits you to 80 km/h while you drive your way back to the pit. I guess that’s better than being DNFed, which, in their quest for realism and genuine reluctance to allow mid-game saves, was undoubtedly something game developers discussed at some point.

I’m passed by 8 of 11 opponents by the time I hit the pit. I’ve lapped them all multiple times so I’m still in first, but it’s a slap to get passed.

149 laps
7:24 completed

There’s no change in the opponent top standings.

2. J. Yashuda in the C60 Hybride – Judd Race Car ’05
3. H. Emerson in the Speed 8 Race Car ’03
4. R. Juarez in the V12 LMR Race Car ’99
5. J. Niemi in the Courage C60 Peugot Race Car ’03
6. N. Nagai in the GT-ONE Race Car TS020 ’99
7. J. Callahan in the CLK-LM Race Car ’96
8. S. Sheppard in the C60 Hybride – Judd Race Car ’05

Friday, Dec. 9

Took five days off and having hard time adapting to the speed of the Red Bull x2010 after the layoff. It really is an unreal fast experience. The first few laps are ugly, unclean. I get down to 2.41, but then do a 3.01.

157 laps
7.49 completed
Best lap: 2:36.874 on #74

Actually went past pit and realized too late so I had to double back and couldn’t find the entrance in the dark. That was awkward.

163 laps
Do a 2.38.092.

At some point the stupid fireworks stopped… have no idea when that was. Also, the very earliest signs of dawn are beginning… lightening of the pitch black has started.

165 laps
8:12 completed

Do another 2:38 lap, a few low 2:40s and getting in the groove.

173 laps
8:35 completed

Saturday, Dec. 10

181 laps
9 hours completed

37 laps ahead of the competition at this point.

183 laps
Do a 2.35.939, a new best lap. It’s still dark

186 laps
2.32.442. Another new record!

189 laps
9:21 completed

Multiple under 2:36 laps. Best cycle yet. Still dark.

197 laps
9:44 completed

Sunday, Dec. 11

206 laps
10:07 completed

42 laps ahead ahead of the closest competitor.

208 laps
New record! 2.31.502.

Get a great draft on the straightaway of #213, hit 473, highest in hours.

213 laps
10:30 completed
Best lap 2.31.502 on #208
Fastest speed 473 km/h

218 laps
Do another best lap 2.30.419.

225 laps
Do 2.30.179, a new best lap. Hitting most laps under 2.35 this cycle.

229 laps
11:14 completed

235 laps
2.28.159 new best lap.

I saw weird flecks earlier, but now reflecting against the light it’s clear that it’s starting to rain. Also the precipitation gauge flickering up to 1 per cent proves it… 11h35 into the race, in the dark still, it’s starting to rain

237 laps
11:36 completed
3% rain
Best lap 2.28.159 on #235
Fastest speed 473 km/h

More straightaway.

More straightaway.

Monday, Dec. 12

245 laps
11:59 completed

Halfway done. Still raining and dark. The conditions are having surprisingly little effect and I’m still doing mid-2.30s laps.

Tuesday, Dec. 13

Not paying attention during a stop and thepit crew put on rain tires… they’re slower and generally unnecessary in this game. I always drive on Race Soft tires.

Yep, these Rain Tires are definitely slower. Get one 2.38, a couple 2.40, but I’m generally running far slower now. It’s also really raining, need to brake longer on every turn.

253 laps
12:22 completed

260 laps

Precipitation gauge at 100 per cent. The driving is awful now, having done multiple 2.50+ laps. On the bright side, sky is starting to lighten incrementally in the east.

261 laps
12:46 completed

By #266 the sky’s mostly an ugly grey, still raining 100 per cent.

The sun’s rising so there’s a light change. The weather’s still bad. It’s all disorienting. Averaging 2.50s.

269 laps
13:11 completed

Thursday, Dec. 15

277 laps
13:36 completed

Sun is up, but it’s grey, overcast and still raining. It required greater concentration to go slower in this rain. It’s not fun and I’m not enjoying the experience.

This is when it dawns on me… I’m 61 laps ahead of my competition right now. That’s at least three hours of “parked time” I was planning for the very end of the race.

Well, instead of racing through the rain, how’s about I park now, while it’s raining? Sure I’m basically cheating the game, but whatever, this is feeling like a ridiculous exercise right now, so I’m just going to let the car idle just outside the pit for awhile. At 13:38 I exit the pit and let the car drift to a guardrail. I’ll check it in a bit…

Some time later.

Wife: “Has your car crashed or something?”
Me: “No, I’ve just parked it for awhile.”
Wife: “This is the stupidest game ever.”

15:22 completed
Decided to return to the race. I did 1 hour, 46 minutes of idling. Still have a 37 lap lead.

286 laps
15:48 completed
Best lap 2.28.159 on #235
Fastest speed 473 km/h

Monday, Dec. 19

Four day break. Having a hard time getting back to it… just can’t be bothered. Went back to Command And Conquer in the last few days and watched a bunch of Bones on Netflix. Gotta get this over with, though.

At lap 290 I decide to park the car again. Forty laps ahead.

Return to the race at the 17 hour mark, after a full hour of parking the car. Twenty-five laps ahead.

294 laps
17:17 completed

Resolve to park the car again. This is SO boring.

Start up again at 18:03.

After the latest parking the sky got more grey and the rain harder. It’s like I’m being punished for engineering the guaranteed victory.

303 laps
18:30 completed
Best lap 2.28.159 on #235
Fastest speed 473 km/h.

Tuesday, Dec. 20

312 laps
18:53 completed

Still raining, still boring.

319 laps
19:17 completed

Decide to park it for another hour.

Gave it another hour, now at 20:23 completed. Starting up again. Still raining, eight laps ahead.

327 laps
20:47 completed

Still raining. Got a 10 lap lead. When I start again I’m going to park it for another 30 minutes.

Wednesday, Dec. 21

336 laps
21:11 completed
Best lap 2.28.159 on #235
Fastest speed 473 km/h

Still raining. Built up a 13 lap lead. Going to park the car again.

Shaved off another 45 mintues… now 21:56 completed.

I’ve got a three lap lead and there’s blue sky on the horizon. It’s still raining, though.

Going for it. Gonna try to aim for a best lap before time runs out… Score a 2.36, the best since the rain started raining a full 10 hours earlier.

343 laps
22:19 completed

Still raining.

351 laps
22:42 completed

So close to being done. I figure I have the room, so I decide to park the car for another 15 minutes or so.

Finally. It’s here… the last hour… and best of all the rain has started to slow down after 11+ hours of downpour.

Rain’s down to 72 per cent. Going for it again but because of the wet track doing mostly under 2:40s.

360 laps
23:25 completed

Here’s where my opponents are at:

2. J. Yashuda – C60
3. H. Emerson – Speed 8
4. R. Juarez – V12
5. J. Niemi – Courage C60
6. N. Nagai – GT-one
7. S. Sheppard – Audi R10
8. J. Callahan – CLK

Somewhere along the line Sheppard jumped ahead of Callan. Who knew?

I’m now dealing with the bummer realization the track’s still too wet and clearly it’s not going to dry in time for me to challenge for my lap score.

368 laps
23:48 completed

This is pretty much the last run.

And done.

Ended up doing 372 laps. Best lap was a 2.28.159 on #235 and fastest speed was 473 km/h. Glad that’s over with, even if I only raced about 15 hours of the 24 hour race.

Ferris wheel at Le Mans.

Ferris wheel at Le Mans.

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NXNE 2013 Reviews And Photos

Mickey Avalon

Mickey Avalon

The 2013 edition of NXNE has finally ended and I can say with a certain sense of shock that I didn’t end up developing my annual case of paralyzing bad back from it (though I do appear to have a cold).

Over the course of NXNE I ended up seeing the following acts: Brendan Croskerry, Calexico, Santiago x The Natural, Sunfields, Brendan Canning, Wordburglar, D-Sisive, Elaquent, Sunclef + Peroff, By Divine Right, Hayden, The National, Blowfly, Brave Little Toaster, CTZNSHP, Weaves, The Lytics, Catl, White Lung and Mickey Avalon.

Some of whom I wrote up about in the NXNE wrap story for Huffington Post Music Canada. You can read that by clicking here.

I also took some photos of varying quality. Check those out below.

 

 

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Stompin’ Tom Connors: Punk Rock Hero

Stompin' Tom Connors postage stamp

Stompin’ Tom Connors postage stamp

When Canadian country hero Stompin’ Tom Connors died earlier this week one of the subsequent discussions was about how Tom fearlessly did what he wanted. For someone who created folkie songs about ketchup, hockey and potatoes, he was essentially… a true punk.

As such, I wrote about the life lesson I learned the one time I had the opportunity  to spend a day drinking in the Connors’ family rec room. The story, called “Stompin’ Tom Connors Was More Punk Than You: A Memorial,” can be found here.

In related Tom tributes, over at my other workplace the Polaris Music Prize I also wrote an article collecting the many tweets from various past Polaris nominees who were also touched by Tom’s music. You can read that article here.

 

 

 

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