Wednesday, June 29, 2016

American/Canadian Cities With the Longest League Championship Droughts

     The Cleveland Cavaliers recently won the NBA title for the first time, ending the city of Cleveland's long period of suffering.  The last time Cleveland had a title team was way back in 1964, when their Browns won the NFL league championship.  So I got to thinking--who's next?  I decided to check into this.  I stuck with cities who have teams in the "big four" sports--Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL).  Since Canada has a team, or more, in the NBA, MLB, and especially the NHL, I'm including them, too.  And yes, the "big four" only applies to American/Canadian sports in part due to my lazy nationalism, I guess.  These are the sports I (and most Americans) care the most about.
     Also, as many folks know, teams often have stadiums/arenas outside the limits of the city in their name, or even outside the state in the case of some New York teams, which sometimes compete across the river in New Jersey.  I'm including teams with their associated name, and within a metropolitan area.  Meaning San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose are considered one metro area, and the New Jersey Devils (who play in Newark, NJ) are counted as a New York City team, etc.
     Finally, many cities have never had a league champion.  So this list will start with them, in order of how long they've had at least one team in these four sports.  Therefore, a city with teams starting in 1975 will count as a longer drought than one with a team starting in 2000, of course.  The parentheses after the city's name refers to how many sports teams the city has, or 1 through 4.  NBA and NHL seasons overlap years, so 1979-80 for example, instead of 1979 for a MLB and NFL team.  And I won't be discussing cities that had teams but lost them, and never got another one later.  Only those currently with a big four team.

1) No League Title Ever. (Tie) San Diego (2) and Buffalo (2), had at least one team since 1960.  (They each did win an American Football League (AFL) title in the years before they were absorbed into the NFL, though, with San Diego's coming in 1963, and Buffalo's in 1964 and 1965.)

2) No League Title. Vancouver (1), NHL team since 1970-71.

3) No League Title.  Salt Lake City/Utah (1), NBA team since 1979-80.

4) No League Title. Sacremento (1), NBA team since 1985-86.

5) No League Title. Orlando (1) NBA team since 1989-90.

6) No League Title. Ottawa (1), NHL team since 1992-93.

7) No League Title. (Tie) Jacksonville(1), and Charlotte (2), NFL teams since 1995.

8) No League Title.  Memphis/Nashville/Tennessee, (2), NFL team since 1997. (I realize Memphis and Nashville aren't in the same metro area, but the NFL team was called "Tennessee" and moved their playing field from Memphis to Nashville, so I'm counting them together.)

9) No League Title. Columbus, OH (1), NHL team since 2000-01

10) No League Title.  Oklahoma City (1), NBA team since 2008-09.

11) No League Title. Winnipeg (1).  NHL team since 2011.  (They had a team starting in 1979-80, but lost it to another city, and were then given another NHL franchise in 2011.)

12) No League Title. Brooklyn (1).  NBA team since 2012-13. If you want to count the Nets as separate from the other New York City teams.  Their Dodgers did win a MLB title in 1955, before they moved to Los Angeles.

The following cities have won at least one league title in their history.  Once again, in order from longest ago to most recent.  In the event of cities winning in the same year, I'll list it in order of the title game(s) which are played first, i.e., the NHL usually finishes up before the NBA, then MLB, then the NFL (whose final game is played in the next calendar year, technically).

13) 1970-71.  Milwaukee (2), whose NBA Bucks team won.

14) 1976-77.  Portland (1), OR, whose NBA Trail Blazers won.

15) 1988-89. Calgary (1), whose NHL Flames won.

16) 1989-90. Edmonton (1), whose NHL Oilers won.

17) 1990.  Cincinnati (2), whose MLB Reds won.

18) 1991. Minnesota (4), whose MLB Twins won.

19) 1991. Washington (4), whose NFL Redskins won.

20) 1992-93. Montreal (1), whose NHL Canadians won.

21) 1993.  Toronto (3), whose MLB Blue Jays won.

22) 1994-95. Houston (3), whose NBA Rockets won.

23) 1995. Atlanta (3), whose MLB Braves won.

24) 2001.  Phoenix/Arizona (4), whose MLB Diamondbacks won.

25) 2003-04. Tampa Bay (3), whose NHL Lightning won.

26) 2006.  Indianapolis/Indiana (2), whose NFL Colts won.

27) 2007-08. Detroit (4), whose NBA Pistons won.

28) 2008. Philadelphia (4), whose MLB Phillies won.

29) 2009. New Orleans (2), whose NFL Saints won.

30) 2010. Green Bay (1), whose NFL Packers won.

31) 2010-11. Dallas (4), whose NBA Mavericks won.

32) 2011. St. Louis (2), whose MLB Cardinals won.

33) 2011. New York (4), whose NFL Giants won.

34) 2012. Baltimore (2), whose NFL Ravens won.

35) 2012-13. Miami (4), whose NBA Heat won.

36) 2013. Seattle (2), whose NFL Seahawks won.

37) 2013-14. Los Angeles (4), whose NHL Kings won.

38) 2013-14. San Antonio (1), whose NBA Spurs won.

39) 2014. Boston (4), whose NFL Patriots won.

40) 2014-15. Chicago (4), whose NHL Blackhawks won.

41) 2014-15. San Francisco (4), whose NBA Warriors won.

42) 2015. Kansas City (2), whose MLB Royals won. (Current MLB champs)

43) 2015. Denver (4), whose NFL Broncos won. (Current NFL champs)

44) 2015-16. Pittsburgh (3), whose NHL Penguins won. (Current NHL champs.)

45) 2015-16. Cleveland (3), whose Cavaliers won. (Current NBA champs.)

     So, if we're considering one of the 13 cities which have all teams in all four sports, (some, like New York, actually have more than one team in one sport, even) the longest drought is Minneapolis/Minnesota, which last won in 1991, followed closely by Washington, D.C., who won their last title later in the 1991 season (Super Bowl played in early 1992).
     But, of course, the longest title futility for a team, not a city, is the poor Chicago Cubs of MLB, who haven't won one since 1908.  (Although they're much improved in the past couple of years, so that might change soon.)


























Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Cameroonian Soft Drinks

     Back to the Union Market treasures, after a brief hiatus.  But first, some information about the African nation of Cameroon.  Cameroon's name is the English version of a Portuguese word, camaroes, which means "shrimp river," as its Wouri River apparently impressed the Portuguese sailors with its large numbers of the tasty creatures.  Since the country is a combination of former English and French colonies, these two languages are the official ones.  However, at least 230 other languages are spoken within its borders, or over 1700 different linguistic groups!  It's one of the wettest nations on Earth, averaging 1028 cm. of rainfall every year.  Moving to sports, Cameroon was the first African country to make it to the quarter finals in the World Cup (Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 equaled this feat).
     However, the interesting (if disturbing and tragic) fact that struck me the most was that Cameroon has two of the three suffocating lakes in the world.  Literally.  A limnic eruption is when carbon dioxide emerges from the deep water of a lake, sometimes in amounts that can kill surrounding animals and people.  One such incident, in 1986, from Cameroon's Lake Nyos, killed 1700 people.  The other two lakes are Cameroon's Lake Monoun and the Democratic Republic of Congo's Lake Kivu.  These lakes are associated with, or even atop, volcanoes that leak the carbon dioxide into the water.  Small volcanic eruptions, landslides, or earthquakes can then cause huge amounts of carbon dioxide to erupt suddenly and blanket the countryside.  Fortunately, for Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun, a possible solution has been tried, which seems to be helping.  Pipes have been placed in the lakes, extending down into the deep water, and causing small amounts of carbon dioxide at a time to be released safely.
     Enough about this, let's get to the beverages.  I was able to get three soft drinks, all from SABC, (or Les Societes Anonumes des Brasseries du Cameroon), which controls 75% of the Cameroon soft drink and beer market.  As I often do, I'll rate them using the U.S. scholastic system of "A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, and "F" for failure, with pluses and minuses as needed.

Top Anana (pineapple) flavor:  C-.  Had a pale yellow color.  Very disappointing, as its flavor was very weak.  Not bad, exactly, but too bland for me.

D'jino Fruit Cocktail flavor (or Cocktail de Fruits, in French):  B.  Was a cloudy pinkish-red color.  Enjoyed this one.  Fruity as advertised, and had a more juice-like quality than most soft drinks do (although there isn't any actual juice in it).  Pretty good.

Top Grenadine flavor:  B+.  My favorite of the bunch.  The flavor was printed in small letters, so I didn't realize what it was until much later.  To me this red soda tasted strawberry-ish.  Much better than its anana sibling, with more flavor.  After looking it up, I learned grenadine is usually pomegranate-flavored.  Which I clearly didn't recognize here, but, as I said, I liked it anyway, so who really cares?

     Therefore, I enjoyed two out of the three.  To be fair, I don't generally like pineapple-flavored drinks, candies, etc. so that one was a bit of a stretch.  The bottles were distinctive, too--20 ounces for the D'jino, 22 ounces for the Tops.  Glass, too, which I'm not used to seeing in the U.S. for sodas much anymore.

     Below I've included a photo from the store I got these (the photographer was my friend Keith once more).  Notice the large, scary-looking dried fish!  Alas, I didn't have the cooking skills to really do these up, so I didn't buy them.






















Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Reindeer

     Christmas is still over six months from now, but I thought I'd talk about reindeer anyway.  This one came about when I finally did something obvious--I put "exotic meats" in the search bar at Amazon.  (I know, I know, why it took me so long I'll never know.)  Reindeer was one of the canned/precooked types which appeared that I hadn't had before.  (And as a tease, I purchased one other, very exciting one--you'll read about this one in a week or three.)  The source was Indian Valley Meats, Inc., out of Alaska.  A seven ounce can set me back about $8, plus shipping and handling.
     First off, I was surprised to learn that reindeer and caribou are the same--they're just different names for the same animal.  They and their various subspecies live in the very cold, often Arctic areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.  Reindeer have a few unique characteristics.  For one, they're the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light.  Which is quite helpful when you're trundling over mostly featureless tundra and snow fields.  Additionally, they're the only cervid (deer, moose, etc.) species in which females grow antlers as well as males.  The females' antlers are usually smaller than the males', but still, at certain times of the year it can be quite tricky to tell a large female apart from a younger male at a glance.  Also, to recap, "horns" are growths which are permanent, while "antlers" are grown, and then shed, every year.  Caribou hoofs are well adapted to their home.  When the ground is wet and muddy in the warmer months their hoof pads are soft, which get better traction.  Then, as it gets colder and there's snow and ice, the hoofs tighten and harden, revealing the hoof rims, which then helps prevent them from slipping.  Even their knees do something weird.  They give off a clicking sound as the animal walks, which in turn reveals that individual's weight and size, and thus their relative rank in the herd's dominance hierarchy.  The herds themselves can get ridiculously huge.  The subspecies that migrate usually join many smaller groups together  Which in extreme cases has resulted in throngs of 500,000 to 1,000,000 reindeer!  One final odd thing about caribou is that while they're normally typical herbivore (vegetarian) ruminants, in a pinch they'll branch out.  They sometimes eat bird's eggs, lemmings, and even fish if they're sufficiently hungry.
      Getting back to the animal as food, my can was simply reindeer, water, wheat flour, tomato powder, spice, caramel color, and flavoring.  It consisted of small, shredded chunks of reddish-brown meat in a sort of gravy.  Given their family, I fully expected reindeer to taste similar to elk (see October 16, 2012 post) or venison (see July 16, 2012 post), or perhaps a combination of the two.  But no, it reminded me most of beef.  It was decent, no more and no less.  To be fair, it was canned--perhaps a fresh reindeer steak would taste as great as venison and elk.  When I checked into it, I discovered that reindeer is a common food in Scandinavian countries.  And it's very healthy--it's very lean, and contains significant amounts of Vitamins B-12, essential fatty acids, and Omega 3's.  Although caribou liver should probably be avoided, as it has high levels of cadmium.
     So, to sum up, I ate one of Rudolph's kin folk, and rather enjoyed it.  On that note, I wasn't aware that there is evidently a disagreement over who first wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas,"(later called "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and others).  This was the story which introduced the eight famous reindeer which pulled Santa's sleigh, namely, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner (nee "Dunder"), and Blitzen (nee "Blixen").  Clement Clarke Moore is the leading candidate, but some think that Henry Livingston, Jr. really wrote it (both back in the 1820's).  Rudolph himself dates back to a 1939 book by Robert L. May.  He wrote it for the Montgomery Ward department store, since they were in the habit of providing children's books around Christmas.  (As a final thought, I always disliked the message in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."  The other reindeer hate and ostracize Rudolph simply because he's a little bit different, and Santa doesn't really step in and put a stop to this.  They only grudgingly tolerate Rudolph when they find out his mutation can be exploited for their benefit.  If I'd been Rudolph, I would have told them to jump up their own asses.  But I guess this wouldn't have worked well for a store's children's book, or in a children's cartoon, etc.)








    




















Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Halvah

     I'm going to take a rare break from foods that I got at the Union Market in Washington, D.C. this week.  This one I found in the ethnic food section at the local Hannaford grocery in the Burlington, Vermont area.
     Halvah is a sweet confection.  While it's eaten across large swaths of Asia, much of Europe, and parts of Northern Africa, it's most associated with Balkan, Jewish, and Middle Eastern cuisines.  Its roots are lost in time.  Some say it's hundreds of years old.  Others say 3,000 years old.  The websites I checked seemed to agree that it was probably first made in either India or Turkey.  Because it's consumed in so many parts of the world, it correspondingly, goes by many names  Halvah, halva, helva, aluva, chalva, and many others. Even "halva" comes from a Yiddish word which is itself based on a Turkish word which is then derived from an Arabic name.  I'm using the "halvah" spelling because that's what was on the product I bought and ate, and this has become the most common American rendition of the name.
     Halvah's form is also fairly diverse.  There are two main types.  Flour-based and nut butter-based.  The former is usually made from semolina, while the latter is usually made from sesame seed paste (tahini), or sunflower seed paste.  But folks don't stop there.  Some make versions of it which are based on lentils, nuts, yams, pumpkins, squash, and beans.  Even carrots are occasionally used as the main ingredient, which, given my opinion of that repulsive orange food, seems like a terrible, terrible idea.  But getting back to the two most common kinds, the flour-based one is gelatinous in texture, while the nut butter-based kind is usually dry and crumbly.
     Even a brief look around the internet revealed plenty of recipes for making your own halvah.  I, of course, chose the lazy route of picking out a pre-packaged kind.  I was able to find two flavors, both from Joyva Corporation, which is the main U.S. producer (it's based out of Brooklyn, NY).  I had both the original flavor and the chocolate-covered sort.  The packages I purchased were the "King Size" bars--3.5 ounces (99 grams).  (The regular sized ones are about half that.)  They weren't terribly expensive, being about $1.75 per bar.  The original flavor one looked like a light brown candy bar.  The texture was slightly flaky, but it also kind of reminded me of fudge.  It was pretty good--nicely sweet.  Not as tasty as a top-level candy bar, but good in its own right.  Not surprisingly, the chocolate-covered one was much the same, only a little better.  Encasing sweet foods in chocolate usually yields positive results, and the halvah was no exception.  I recommend either of these, and will buy them again if I get the chance.  Also, I'll be on the lookout for the flour-based type, to compare and contrast.
     Despite its popularity, halvah has acquired some negative cultural connotations.  In some Middle Eastern countries it's a traditional food served during burial ceremonies and anniversaries.  In Egypt it's apparently a common food brought to prisoners when relatives come for visits.  Finally, if a Greek person says, "Ante re halva" to you, it's probably meant as an insult, alleging that you're a coward and/or chubby.  I suppose they have a different mean saying if you're both wimpy AND thin.

















Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Anthology Update and Some Info About Writing Scams

     Last week I received good news from Grinning Skull Press.  They sent the edit copy of my story "Cruel to be Kind" for me to review, which I did.  Evidently the anthology it's in, "Cranial Leakage:  Tales From the Grinning Skull, Volume 2" will be out very soon, probably within a few weeks.  As usual I'll include further information as I get it, such as a look at the book cover, author list, and of course the release date.

     On a less positive note, last week I also received an odd email.  It went as follows:
         "Dear Paul Stansfield,
               I just saw your book, "Creature Stew."  I would love to post about it and list it on my website.  (Here they listed their address.)
               One more thing, if you are running a promotion for "Creature Stew," then you can use our service called "Book of the Day" to promote "Creature Stew" to more than 700,000 readers across the globe.  Check it out here (another link to their site.)
                Thank you and all the best."

      This was from some outfit with the curious name of Book Blow.  I did check the original link, and saw they offered a service where they would supposedly use their Facebook page, a Twitter blast, and a special Book of the Day Facebook page to promote my book, all for $29.99.
      I was a victim of an agent scam many years ago.  From this bitter experience I learned to be a lot more suspicious, and do more homework about writing services, publishers, magazines, etc.  Anyway, just googling "Book Blow" brought up quite a few posts from writers who received the same email (I think, aside from their names and book titles, it was word-for-word, even) in the past year or two.  These folks smelled a rat, given the grammatical errors on the website, the lack of information for the link "For Readers," and even the lack of a "Book of the Day" Facebook page.  One writer investigated even further.  He paid the fee, and took readers through the process.  You can read about it at http://raymondclarkeauthor.wordpress.com    Long story short, it had every appearance of a scam, and he didn't see any sales from it.
       So to my fellow writers out there, if you receive this email, be forewarned that it doesn't seem legitimate.
       On that note, thought I'd pass along some sites which give helpful information, both about potential scams, and general writing tips.  Writer Beware, which can be found at:  accrispin.blogspot.com is one such site (Ms. Crispin is a successful sci-fi/fantasy author) .  Also, fantasy writer Piers Anthony's site at: www.hipiers.com/publishing.htm/#publishers      has some useful news too.  (He doesn't seem to update it as regularly as some of the other sites, but still, some good stuff here.)  Similarly, Predators & Editors at: pred-ed.com    has lists and ratings of publishers.  (Some are outdated, but once again, some useful things to check.)  Finally, I find the Absolute Write forums to be beneficial as well.  Before I submit to a publisher I type in its name along with Absolute Write in Google, and see what comes up.  Sometimes the publishers in question respond to the writers' posts, and it turns into comically vicious fights, which can be morbidly entertaining.  Obviously, all these sites have their detractors, who claim unfair biases against the publishers, agents, etc.  I'll leave readers to decide which sides seem to be more correct.
        Hope this helps.  Good luck!