Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Vegetarian's Guide to Centretown Brunch

In which a.m.k. raids the neighbourhood for the fourth-most-important meal.

I'm in my mid-twenties, so I like brunch. I'm not sure what it is about brunch that has hipsters my age so excited -- maybe it's because all the best foods can be eaten for breakfast/lunch. Or it's that brunch works for every occasion. You can meet mom for brunch, or perhaps an old friend.

That girl/guy you brought home from the bar last night, the one that kept your roommates up until four with the bizarre sounds they made? What better way to break the ice after an awkward good morning than brunch. Breaking up with the long-term partner? Brunch. First date? Brunch. Business proposal? Brunch. Post-wake family gathering? Brunch.

As you can see, there are many times in your life when brunch is the perfect, civilized means to spend time with other people. Or just to read. We're busy people, but probably not that productive at 11am on the weekend, and hell everywhere has wi-fi so you can even bring your laptop and get work done while settling down for some delicious french toast and coffee (two teaspoons of raw sugar).

Monday, 19 November 2012

Why I'm moving to Colorado (or Washington)

a.m.k looks in on marijuana laws and changing times.

Almost two weeks ago, the United States re-elected President Barack Obama, much to the dismay of old rich white American men. Initially lost in the intense battle for US presidency was the fact that three states -- Colorado, Washington and Oregon -- all had a vote to legalize marijuana. When the news finally reached me a few days later, I was astounded: how come this hasn't been all over the news? Is the US becoming more socially-progressive than Canada? How fast can I get a holiday visa?

After finding this out, I immediately considered applying to MFA programs in those two states and was very upset that I hadn't initially decided to apply to the University of Washington or Colorado State. My writing could be very improved with legal access of mind-altering substances, and though I'd probably get very fat eating Miss Vickies Sea Salt and Vinegar Chips, I wouldn't be tempted to spend time away from writing to do some mundane activity like going to the gym or cleaning the bathroom.

I think many of us take for granted that Canada is more socially-open than our southern neighbours -- and I still think most places in Canada are ahead of the US with things like gay rights -- so the news that two of the three states, Colorado and Washington, voted to approve the legalization of marijuana should turn some heads.

That's right. Marijuana is going to be legal in parts of America now.

It didn't pass in Oregon, but in Oregon I believe there weren't any proposed restrictions on how much one could buy, which might have freaked some people out enough to vote against it.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Lockout spotlight: the start of the OKC Barons' AHL season

a.m.k. has 9,000 words to share with you about the Oilers' farm team.

It's a few weeks into the North American pro hockey season, and with the NHL lockout dragging on perhaps for infinity, the spotlight is on the AHL. For you non-hockey lovers out there, that's one step below the NHL as far as  North American professional hockey goes.

Average turnout at a Barons game.
The AHL operates very similarly to the NHL and in fact is attached to its parent league: each NHL team owns an AHL team, which they use to develop their prospects and replacement-level players. Most minor league teams will have over half their players on NHL contracts, meaning they can be called up to the NHL at any time (some of the older guys have to clear waivers). For a young team like the Oilers, though, almost every single player on their farm team has an NHL contract, and since the lockout is on, they were able to send many of the young guys who would normally be in the NHL to their farm team, the Oklahoma City Barons (which, as you might have guessed, doesn't exactly sell out the building, even when giving a freakin car away every Saturday). You see, when your parent club, the Edmonton Oilers, is as bad as they've been for as long as they've been, they get a lot of high draft picks, most of which are still pretty young and are thus eligible to play in the AHL during the lockout.

Now, OKC is supposed to be tearing up the minor leagues because of the skill players they have down there: two first overall NHL picks (Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent Hopkins), an NHL all-star (Jordan Eberle), one of the most prized young free agent acquisition of the offseason (Justin Schultz -- currently leading the AHL in points, which is especially ridiculous because he's a defenseman), a few young players with NHL experience still developing (Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander), and the normal array of promising young prospects that haven't quite made the jump to the NHL yet.

The difference between the OKC Barons and the other AHL teams is that most other AHL teams only have an array of talented young prospects, replacement NHL players and AHL vets. Some teams have a couple NHL players because of the lockout, but none have the number that OKC has. In fact, it'd be tough to argue that OKC doesn't have the top four players in the whole AHL, or at least four of the top ten players in the league.

Barons looking like Oilers.
As an aside, the level of play in the AHL has been a lot higher than I thought it'd be, and I think most of the guys on those rosters wouldn't look especially out of place as bottom six NHL players. There is definitely not as much skill on the ice, but it's still good hockey.

So, on paper, OKC should be tearing up the league. After 10 games, they're 5-4-0-1 (one shootout loss), which adds to 11 points and is good for a tie for seventh in the Western conference. If the postseason started today, they'd barely squeak into the playoffs.

The season is only 1/8 done so it's obviously quite early, but the 10-game point is about the time where I like to start collecting impressions and getting worried/excited about the individual and team performances. Since is this is the minor leagues, I don't care nearly as much if the Barons win or lose (though I prefer they win). I'm more concerned with how the players are doing, developing and projecting into NHL roles. 10 games is a small sample size, but for a team that's supposed to be dominating, being a middling team is not good enough. Now is the time they need to turn it up.