To The Thawing Wind

Come with rain. O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do tonight,
bath my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

– Robert Frost –

Thank you to the Vancouver Canucks for a great season, and the fun of the playoffs.  We didn’t get as far as anyone in Vancouver had hoped… but as always, we believe, and we look forward to next year.  We are ALL Canucks.

My first Hockey Jersey

This Is My City

There was a Hockey Game, and after the Hockey Game, as some of us feared, a few idiots found a way to make sure the spotlight shone on them… for all the wrong reasons.

I’m a Twitter Geek, and the first tweet that made me realize the seriousness of the situation was one from George Moen, who runs Blenz Coffee, who said that three of their locations had been trashed, and they were working to find out if their people were accounted for and unharmed.

I sent him a tweet, with my hopes that his people were okay, and asking if he needed a hand on Thursday or heard of anyone needing help, to please let the twitter community know.

Mere moments after that, it became aware to me that a LOT of people were going to need help… so I grabbed my shoulder bag, and started scouring the house looking for garbage bags, work gloves and other stuff I thought I might need.

By the time I got back to my computer, I heard that someone had started the twitter account @VancouverClean, and I was able to share this project, to try to raise awareness.

And countless others were doing the same.

At 1 am, I decided to call it a night.  I had a fitful night… never sleeping for more than a few minutes at a time… sad at Vancouver apparently becoming a “thug” town.

The next morning I got up at 5:30, prepared to join my wife on her daily journey from Pitt Meadows into town, uncertain what I would encounter there.

People on the West Coast Express all looked at me, as I got on in my Canucks jersey… I think a few may have thought I was mistakenly going to the game on the wrong day… but nobody said anything… just gave me furtive, grimacing looks.

On the way in, I sent an e-mail to my mid-morning appointment, apologizing for cancelling, and explaining my reason.

When I got downtown, I looked at Twitter, and the Vancouver Police Department had given @VancouverClean the go ahead to help the City crews that had been working all night.  (It was feared that there might be a delay, as much of the downtown core was a crime scene, but by 7:30, all investigation was complete.)

The morning started slowly.

Sterling Shoes - Canucks Riot - This Is My City - BobBlahBlah.comI started at Howe and Dunsmuir, worked my way East to Seymour, and up Seymour to Georgia.  There I met up with a few guys with brooms, and we traversed further along to Nelson, where they headed towards Cambie, and I continued towards Beach.  It was just after 8 am, and the few pedestrians that were out were giving me looks, as if to say… “You got caught, and are doing community service already?” So I started engaging them in conversation, as they passed me… smiling and saying “Good morning!”

About an hour, and an industrial garbage bag later, I ran into another volunteer, Sasha, who had also come downtown to help out.  We worked our way back through Yaletown, towards the downtown core, picking up everything…  Pizza boxes, bloody gauze bandages, blue EMT gloves, transit passes, and LOTS of cigarette butts.  Broken beer bottles.  Smashed plastic cups.  Lots of torn up plants.  Several different shoes… (each a single), and slippers (a pair).  Lots of half eaten food.  A lot of bags filled with sloshy liquids, that I didn’t want to investigate or guess the contents.

Swimwear Etc - Canucks Riot - This Is My City - BobBlahBlah.comAs it got later in the morning, the people on the street were more aware of the hundreds of volunteers, and many pedestrians were thanking us as they passed us by.

Several times we were approached by folks, who came by with backpacks filled with cold drinks for the workers.

After the ugliness of the previous evening, it was a beautiful, glorious, cleansing day.  The sunshine also helped to chase away the darkness of the previous night’s events.

Some people (mostly older) stopped us and asked us if we worked for the city, and were astonished when we said no… we were just pitching in, with a lot of other people, after the previous night’s chaos.  All then were quick to offer thanks and express appreciation.

Swimwear Etc - Canucks Riot - This Is My City - BobBlahBlah.comThe ONLY dissonant note we came across, was a tall, well dressed man, who walked by, and then walked over to talk to us… “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” “HOW CAN YOU EVEN SHOW YOUR FACES TODAY?” Well, sir, the REAL fans are NOT the ones who did this… the damage was done by drunken idiots, taking advantage of being anonymous in the crowd.” “ALL CANUCKS FANS ARE GOONS” “No, sir… we’re not. What you saw was sadly a very visible few” And then, the obvious flailing started… “YOU AREN’T GOING TO CHANGE ANYTHING.” “We’ll make the downtown area cleaner, again” And the final non-sequitor arguments… “YOU STRAIGHT GUYS CAN’T ROCK A JERSEY, ANYWAY!!!” To which I was so non-plussed, I said nothing…  “YOU SHOULD TAKE THAT %$#@ING JERSEY OFF… IT’S UGLY” “Sir, you need to go about your business, and try to have a good day.” He kept shouting, as he went away… and while initially angered, it became apparent to me that he was just traumatized, and saddened… and my Canucks jersey had become a symbol to him of the harsh ugliness of the night before.


But the Canucks and their true fans had no part in the chaos.  There were a few doppelgangers, who disguised themselves as Canuck fans, but were really there to wreak havoc, under the guise of a public gathering… thinking that in a large crowd, they could get away with something that they couldn’t otherwise.

Hudson's Bay - Canucks Riot - This Is My City - BobBlahBlah.comA lot of people are angry.  This gent had it triggered by the sight of me in my Canuck jersey.  Others have latched onto publicly berating (supposedly) identified vandals.  For myself, I felt it best to focus on the positive aspect of getting on with the cleanup, and leaving the identification and prosecution of those responsible to those who have it in their job description.  If I’m in a self appointed position, the job of sheriff wasn’t available… so I took the job of street cleaner.

As we worked through the streets of Gastown, up and along East Hastings, and back towards Robson Square, people from all walks of life and all levels of society were gracious and grateful for the efforts of the whole @VancouverClean team.

As we journeyed, along, crossing paths with other members of the clean up crew, we too would shout encouragements and whoop “Thank you’s!!!”

It was hours of very hard work… crawling on hands and knees, picking up shards of glass and cleaning the aftermath of a large unruly crowd. But it was also a GREAT day, right up there with my opportunity to run the Olympic Torch… because to me, there is a great satisfaction in working to right a wrong, and fix something that needs fixing… and this was a City working together to Exorcise a Demon.

And we took our city back from the Demon.

This is my city…

Our city…

And you will not take her over, again.



My 25 Cents Worth Of Hockey Talk…

I’m a big Hockey fan.

I have the Canuck games, scheduled into my Blackberry, so I get sent a reminder on Game Day, notifying me of game time, and where the game is being played.

I have been a Hockey fan, pretty much since I can remember.  Saturdays, when I was a kid, was the best night of the week, because the line-up on CBC was Bugs Bunny/Road Runner HourMaple Leaf All Star WrestlingHockey Night in Canada… and Don Messer’s Jubilee (usually joined in progress)

Bob Gray & Dad - Vancouver Canucks - Original Jersey - BobBlahBlah.comI remember being really excited when Aunt Beth and Uncle Gordie gave me a Canucks Jersey for Christmas, in advance of the Canucks’ inaugural season.

Before the Canucks came on the scene, my teams were Montreal, or if they were knocked out… Boston.  Even back then, I didn’t care for the Leafs… but I don’t remember why.

Jiffy Pop Popcorn came with iron-on decals inside the lid… and I ALWAYS got the Leafs, and never got the Canadiens !!!

Through the years, I have not changed much.  I’m not a hockey fan who can reel off rosters and stats.  I follow my team, and have a passing interest in who they are playing, and where the other teams line up.  I can tell you maybe one or two players for most eastern Teams, but because the schedule doesn’t allow for as many Conference Games (East-West) as Divisional Games (By Region) I know the players of the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers, better than I know the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals.

So, in a nutshell, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Canucks fan.  When cut, I bleed BlueI believe we are all Canucks.  But, more than that, I am a fan of the game.


Bob Gray - Vancouver Canucks - Latest Jersey - BobBlahBlah.comIn my forty something years of fandom, I have seen Hockey evolve.

The first player I ever became aware of, was Yvan CournoyerNumber 12 on the Montreal Canadiens.  When I ran across the basement, of my parents’ house to the strains of the Hockey Night In Canada theme-song ?  I was “the RoadRunner”Yvan Cournoyer.

Again, not being a stat guy, I couldn’t rattle off Goals, Assists, Time on the Ice, Penalty Minutes or any of the other stats that flew from some kids brains… I just knew he was a talented hockey player who was small and fast.  And being one of the smallest kids in my class, I appreciated that.

Throughout the intervening years, there were many times where it became apparent that the game was changing, and players were bigger, faster and tougher… but none so much as the recent 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Game.  After Canada won the game, and as Team Canada stood there, getting their medals, the camera panned slowly, left to right, as each player was recognized.  One player caught my eye, because he was substantially shorter than the rest.  I wasn’t sure who he was, as I hadn’t caught his name, but I made a note of his Jersey Number, and afterwards, looked him up.  Dan Boyle. He WAS the shortest guy on the team, by quite a bit.  He was 5′ 10″  Most players seemed to be 6’4″ or 6’5″

The reason I bring this up, is that the game I love, has been tainted, of late, with mentions of thuggery.

Hits to the head, and hits from behind are becoming the norm, and far too commonplace.  The words “season ending injury” have been spoken too much, and too often.

There have always been fights, and there have always been agitators.  However, the technology has advanced, the players are bigger, faster, more athletic and their equipment is made of light, but rock solid components.  The rinks, once reserved exclusively for Hockey, are now serving multiple purposes, and not all arena walls have the same “give,” to allow the absorption of an impact.

I believe that the NHL Players Association, in conjunction with the Team Owners, have a responsibility to the fans like me.  I love Hockey, but I don’t want to see ANYONE carted off the ice on a stretcher, and it is only a matter of time, at this rate, until someone gets carted off in a body bag.  This is not Afghanistan, and no one should die, chasing an iced puck.

Accidents and injuries have always happened… Again referencing Yvan Cournoyer, he had serious back trouble, and missed a whole season because of it.  However, the types of injuries, and the severity of the injuries, in my opinion, requires immediate action.

If I was in charge, I would like to see a Three Strike Policy. 

Again, as I’ve already stated, I acknowledge that there will be accidents, and with the speed at which the players are moving, and how the game is played, those accidents are unavoidable.  This is the reason for the Three Strike Policy.

Some players, lacking in skill, make the team because they are big, tough, and are a physical, visible deterrent.

Some players, are fast and ornery.  Quick with a stick in the ribs in the corner… and just as apt to bring an elbow up when checking, as they are to breathe.

Those players have to be kept in check, and if they cannot control themselves, must be expunged from the game itself.

For the first two strikes, the standard rules should apply, as being discussed currently.

On a Third Strike, when a player is injured, the person causing the injury should have to sit out, as long as the person he injures.

Matt Cooke, for example, has had more strikes that most, so if his hit on Marc Savard causes Savard to sit out the rest of the season… so should Cooke.Yvan Cournoyer - 12 - Montreal Canadiens -

Alexander Ovechkin, arguably one of the most skilled players, currently in the Game, and a marquis draw whereever the Washington Capitals go… is also a player who is said to play with a lot of “edge”.  His hit on Brian Campbell, breaking Campbell’s collar bone, was another in a long line of similar incidents.  But, because he is a star, he gets dealt with, in a different manner.

Steve Downie, another goon, recently laid a hit on Sidney Crosby, wrenching his knee.Hockey Night In Canada - Old School logo -

Colin Campbell, the NHL Executive, who has the unenviable job of  trying to equitably hand out justice, in context with the past, has to wipe clean the slate, because in the past, there has been no context.  Sean Avery, who made some crude and vulgar comments in a press briefing, was thrown out “indefinitely” for an admittedly crass comment… but injuring an opponent, and ending their season only gets Ovechkin a two game suspension ?  Nothing even-handed there !  The ruler, against which past transgressions have been measured, has been broken for a while, and should be discarded.

Colin Campbell has to start fresh, with a mandate from the Players’ Association and Team Owners, to get rid of the “intent to injure” hits that can destroy a team’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup.

In that way, a small, fast player, like Yvan Cournoyer, could again take the ice, and play with passion and talent, knowing that if someone tries to remove his head from his shoulders, that there will be a fresh, even-handed approach to punishing the player causing the injury, and the Team that player plays for… regardless of their “star power.”

And then let me get back to watching my Canucks win the Stanley Cup !!!



Ripples, Puddles and Google Analytics…

I’ve just been awoken by Statistical Analysis… Yes, I’ve graduated to a WHOLE new level of web geek.

It’s Monday morning, and a little after 2 am.  I’ve been awake for an hour, and, having been unable to get back to sleep, have been trying to look at, review and understand the various statistical breakdowns that are supposed to be critical to a Blog’s success.

I believe that much of the traffic that is drawn to my site, comes from Twitter.

So, I turned to a Twitter Analyzer with the thought that perhaps my Tweets are driving the traffic.  I have recently been talking with people about the use of Hashtags (#) as a search device, and so I find it not surprising that 51.9%of my Hashtag comments are #Canucks related, with a further 16.5% being attributed to mentions of #Canada, after the #WJHC(World Junior Hockey Championship) in December, which contributed 4.7%.  With the Winter Olympics imminent, and the inherent NHL Break, I expect #Canada to do some serious catching up !

While the Hashtag stats are interesting, I saw nothing there that would give me any aid or guidance, in being a better Blogger… So, moving on.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics – Starting from Zero…

Google Analytics tells me that 54% of my traffic comes direct to my site, while 27% gets referred, and 19% from Search Engines.  I guess this is a baseline, and I can see what the relative numbers do, going up or down.  On an unrelated note, I think it’s interesting that the 5th highest source of visits is Facebook, although I haven’t pushed my Blog there.  Hmmm !

Owen Greaves on his Blog,  has written a number of thoughtful and insightful articles, and says that he has found that the best time of day to Post a blog is between 5 pm and 10 pm.  I’m not able to grasp that level of detail, but there are some revealing stats, and being a bit of a numbers geek, I am looking forward to reviewing this again, sometime soon.

But what has awoken me just recently, is mind-numbing in its simplicity… elegant in its mathematics… and daunting in its implementation.

I think more than anything else, I view my Blog… like one of the science experiments we did in Elementary School.  I’ve got a bunch of seeds, (my postings) some get sunshine, (viewers) some don’t… some get more water, more fertilizer (multiple mentions) others not.  And at the end, we get to see on a very organic level, what works… and what doesn’t.

I was getting bogged down in minutiae.  Stuff that doesn’t matter.  So what if I overuse the word “Awesome” in my Tweets, and use the salutation “Cheers” too many times ?  (Other than perhaps being minorly annoying…  It doesn’t matter !!!)

What DOES matter, is the resonance of your message, and the distance it carries.  Thus, the ripple and the puddle analogy.

On Twitter, my account @BobSongs has 750 followers.  Owen Greaves has 15,200.  Jaff Jarvis has 34,000, and Gary Vaynerchuk has 846,000.

Even if EVERY single one of my followers reads one of my Blogs, I will still get less hits than @GaryVee gets in an hour.

Scale of economy.

This should NOT have been mind blowing to me… except for some reason, I believed something different.

I have a music website, that I don’t tweak or overtly promote… and it smacked me in the face to know I got NO TRAFFIC !!!

In the drop of water that is that puddle, my Music website has no ability to create a ripple.

And similarly, with Google Analytics… I can’t get bogged down in the very fine print… yet.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get a bucket, and find a tap… because my puddle needs to be bigger !!!

Cheers !!!