Saturday, September 7, 2013

Oh, what a relief, Burkie's back!

I needed to get this off my chest - Brian Burke has been announced as President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames. I am ecstatic! But before I start:

I am not a Flames fan.

I was not a Leafs fan (although I like to call myself a Leafs sympathizer - really those guys deserve some sympathy).

I am a big Brian Burke Fan.

Brian Burke is one of the most entertaining personalities in the NHL. I was disappointed when he was given a job in scouting with the Anaheim Ducks, and have been waiting anxiously for him to get a job with more visibility. And this is it. The Calgary Flames are introducing a new model of management where a President of Hockey Ops oversees the General Manager. Roughly translated, this means Jay Feaster has dodged a bullet.

Let's be frank, Flames fans: Feaster is a lawyer trying to run a hockey team. He has had some success - let us not forget the Tampa Bay Lightning's unexpected Stanley Cup win (Marty Gelinas hasn't). But we should not pretend that he has a long and storied hockey background. He could probably use a hand from a true hockey man like Burke. Why the Flames chose not to simply fire Feaster based on his abysmal record with the Flames and replace him with Burke is a good question with a straightforward answer. Obviously, it looks like Feaster has just been handed a lateral demotion.Think about Greg Sherman in Colorado, squeezed between Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy - do you think that guy is allowed to make decisions any more? Yet I suspect that Feaster will get to keep playing along in Calgary, one rung above an assistant GM, but needing  Brian Burke's blessing on any major moves.

This has to be good for the Flames. Because if anything can mess up a hockey team, it's interference from ownership - and everybody knows that this has been a problem in Calgary. I'm sure they're well-meaning, but subtle messages from ownership to management (when management is not strong enough to object) can derail the operation. If ownership like certain players, don't you suspect they will ask management to treat them favorably? Of course you do.

Enter Brian Burke. Someone who sets his own rules. Someone who tells it like it is. Someone who puts the needs of the organization above the wants of an individual. No owner will speak directly with Jay Feaster, but will instead go to Burke, who has no problem responding with, "That's not how you run a hockey team".

Brian Burke has his peculiarities. He imposes rules on his management organization that don't exist for the rest of the league: he refused to trade at Christmas; he refuses to use offer sheets; when they were legal, he refused to offer longer than 5 year contracts. But he more than makes up for these odd  opinions by simply running his teams The Right Way (TM).  Burke may not need to actually make all the hockey personnel decisions directly, he may simply need an option to veto in order to influence the course.

Detractors may point at the 4 seasons in Toronto without playoffs, but everyone who has watched the progress of that hockey club knows that the work Burke was doing was good, if not swift. (I weep to think of the damage that Dave Nonis has done in only one season, but that is for another time.) Calgary is in a similar situation to the Leafs the Burke salvaged, except the veterans and big contracts have already been pretty well purged. The team is ready to be built, and there needs to be a strong leader to steer the future direction. Brian Burke may be the best hope they have. And I will love watching every loose-tie, irreverent, grumpy press conference.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The shame, oh the shame!

Just a little housekeeping in this post (not my forte): for one, I added a template to the blog so that it looks a little more personal (thanks to and the Gimp for the background). It really has looked like a pathetic orphan of a blog, and since my post today actually received a few dozen page views I've been kind of embarrassed that you all had to see it like that.

Second of all, I'm hoping to add another post in the next day or so, since there is something else on my mind. I tend to get ideas when people post things on Facebook, but I often don't comment there since I want to get into detail. I've noticed another theme there lately, and I want to explore it.

Thirdly, I'm hoping to get my baby back soon. Here is a picture:
I love her and miss her. Isn't she beautiful? That has nothing to do with the blog, but hey, at least it's not a cat video, hmmmm?

They WANT you to think it's all a conspiracy.

"Just because you're paranoid / Don't mean they're not after you" - Nirvana

We all like to feel that we are in control. This desire is so strong within us that we often use superstitions, supernatural beliefs and conspiracy theories to rationalize an influence on the things that affect our lives. So then even if things are not under our control, there is something controlling them. If  some other agent is in control, even if they are hiding their actions from us, it leaves us with seemingly fewer unanswered questions.

I know I have been guilty of this. Now before I lose credibility, you need to know that I have never denied the moon landing, or claimed that ancient aliens made the Egyptian pyramids. But, there have been events that have happened when I thought that someone must be pulling the wool over my eyes. It is a compelling story, to believe that there is a group of people are responsible and I am part of a minority resistance to these "false" ideas. Ultimately though, if I can maintain my skepticism I will weigh the probabilities and find the real answers.

Truth is elusive. It has to be acknowledged that people lie, especially when there is something to be gained by keeping the truth to yourself. Sometimes people even believe their own lies. But it is also very difficult to have a second person lie on your behalf. It's exponentially harder to engage a third person, and so on. The bigger the circle gets, the less incentive there is for people at the fringes to keep it quiet. In the end, it is important to judge the likelihood that any story can be true when the facts weigh heavy on the other side.

I thought about this a lot when someone who is very close to me was spreading (on Facebook) the gibberish about a link between vaccines and autism. The truth is there is no link. The entire medical community agrees on this (with the exception of one dishonest doctor who published a flawed study and has been since had this article retracted and his license voided. He has made a lot of money, though...) I couldn't explain it better than to direct you to this post.. So why are we even having this discussion about it?

It's because if you have a loved one who is autistic, it is very disconcerting to imagine that we don't understand it, that we can't explain it, that we can't solve it. Someone will grasp onto anything that can help to understand it, and will accept any belief that gives hope, even if not for you but for someone else, that something can be done. Even if it defies reason.

We know that people don't listen to reason where their beliefs are concerned.

But if you are a health professional, what could be your motivation for lying about vaccines? Could you possibly want people to get ill? Of course not. Maybe you don't know what you're talking about? That's what medical school is for.

But when the common man doesn't understand medicine, is it reasonable to assume that the doctors also don't? If the common man doesn't understand climate change, can he also conclude that the climate change scientists also don't understand it? I hope you see where this is going.

I'm not saying that we just trust the experts or authorities. Sometimes these people are just self-interested. However, conspiracies are really difficult to pull off. Do you think there was a 9/11 conspiracy? Yes there was, as Michael Shermer points out; a group of Al Qaeda terrorists plotted to fly planes into buildings - that IN ITSELF is a conspiracy. But could it have been orchestrated by the Bush administration? Bill Maher jokes that it could not have been planned by Bush "because it worked!". This is a serious point, though - even a competent organization could not have carried out an operation of that magnitude without leaks, but for a couple of dozen terrorists it is possible. Yet believers are determined to find a way to prop up their beliefs.

I still struggle with apparent conspiracies. Is there a conspiracy between the food industry and the government to keep us unhealthy? No, but there is a conspiracy for them to try to make the greatest profit, and we need to keep on eye on things. And just because Monsanto is greedy and litigious does not mean that GMO food is bad for us (it's not) and that organic food is better for us (it's not). We need to look at the science - what do the experts say - and try to sort out the chains of self-interest to see who is being honest. And when we know that our government is doing things that are not in our best interest we need to stand up to them and set them straight.

In today's world there is so much information available that it's hard to know which messages to trust. Sometimes 30 seconds and Snopes is all you need to find out what is real, and most people don't even bother with that. Sometimes it takes more of your time to find out who is telling the truth, and the hardest part can be setting aside your preconceptions to be able to hear. But don't give up - be a seeker of truth, and be sure the things you say to others are well-considered.