Saturday, 27 February 2010

This is Not the End of Olympic Commentary...

...for me! There may only be one day left, but I'm only up to 2/20 and so I will have more to say about this amazing two-week period! So for those of you who actually can make it through my painstakingly long posts and find any of it interesting... you are in luck!

(Probably no one reads all this, but that is not why I post it. In 2014, I'll remember all of this and re-read it to recall it and compare it to those Olympics! Hey, there is some method to the posting madness.)

Thanks and good night!

XXI Winter Olympics - Men's Freestyle, Compulsatory Dance, Skeleton, Etc...

I finally saw the Mens' Freestyle skating program and wow! Evan Lysacek was incredible! He did an amazing routine, did flawless jumps, great music, everything was perfect! And he knew it - when he finished, he was grinning and then was pumping his fists and looked delighted. It was wonderful to watch.

I saw all of the skaters: Evan, who skated to Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade; Daisuke Takahashi, who skated to Rota's La Strada and had to have been heart broken when he fell on the first jump; Johnny Weir, who skated to various artists' Fallen Angel (I know I heard some of the music from City of Angels, which will rip your heart out - that, combined with excellent skating with so much feeling, was great; and Yevgeny Plushenko, who's music was okay and his skating was god, but he flubbed a landing and then went on to express some comments that gave away what a poor loser he is - not that a silver medal is losing! I was really disappointed with his comments after the medals ceremony.

And what made Evan all the more likable was how well he handled the commentary made by Mr. Plushenko!

I began watching the Olympic games of Friday, 19 February. Mens' skeleton was interesting, especially watching and hearing the chin piece on most of them scraping the ice as they sailed along the Whistler track. One guy clocked 90.5 miles an hour! What drugs must one be on to do this madness?! It was a hell of a competition to watch!

Then there was ski jumping, and now we have Compulsory Dancing. I'm not sure how this became an Olympic "sport". It is the same exact course, same exact music, same exact moves. The costumes were different. The skaters could vary slightly in the moves at the opening and the end of the number. But the commentator was unknown (I'm sure Scott Hamilton and the other two commentators for Mens' Figure Skating wouldn't touch this), the music was the same (GGGRRRRRRRRRR!) and this was dullsville. It was really quite dreadful.

Aaaahhhhhh - skeleton is back on! This is a sport I can completely enjoy! It is scary, amazing, death-defying (at least, we all hope so!) and speed-oriented. The only score is speed. If the rider flubs, well, that isn't good, but only because it slows the athlete down. This is an adrenalin junkie sport! I understand being an adrenalin junkie, so I understand wanting to do this. I wouldn't because my wussiness beats out my need for adrenalin, but I get it!

The women are not pushing 90 miles an hour, but even so, 86 miles an hour is close enough. I can't even imagine what this is like. For aerodynamic speed, you cannot lift your head too much... how does the athlete see where she's going? In fact, they are going so fast with almost no braking system, the Olympic person waiting at the stop point throws foam sheets out to stop the sledder. That is insane! Going 86 miles an hour in my car with excellent brakes is to me a little crazy!

They appear to steer with subtle body movements and some footwork. In luge it appears to be the opposite - the commentators find moving feet in luge to be quite offensive. I have no idea how they steer, but I suppose - except for the feet - it is the same thing. Little subtle body movements. Overt body movements will send the Olympiad off the track...

Wow! Gold for Great Britain's Amy Williams!

Tomorrow is the Closing Ceremonies. How disappointing. It is two weeks of incredible feats and amazing competition and just like that, it is over. I wonder how tomorrow's ceremonies will be. This year's Olympics were different all around... so many false starts, accidents, one fatality, acrimonious statements, poor sportsmanship, excellent sportsmanship, records broken and made!

WI-FI is Awesome!

I'm at my parents' house and I can actually connect to the Internet! That is cool.

I realise WI-FI is common but I had no idea my folks had a LAN, so I didn't know I could connect and blog from here, too. Neat. Not that I usually do much blogging or anything computer-related here, but this was a nice discovery. We checked out "Joy of Garlic" (www.joyofgarglic.com) and discovered the ugly truth about companies committing rape with shipping. They have a 24oz container of garlic spread that is $9.99 and the "shipping" cost was $11.50. Are you serious?! When has the cost of shipping exceeded the cost of product?! It was offensive. So he's going to get some at Whole Foods in Montclair, N.J.

Good thing!

All the Best Thinking is Done in the Shower Part 4,891

Always... I should say my best thinking is done anywhere I can't write it down. The shower? That is easily the highest qualifier... At least when I'm driving I can call the house number and leave myself a message with bulletpoints of what I'd like to write.

So here I am, witting in front of the home computer, which underscores the fact that I need to purchase another new monitor, wrapped in a towel with wet legs, not getting ready to go visit my parents... But if I don't do this now, I won't remember later.

I should move some money around and buy another monitor... But I will instead wait for Luis to return from far-away Omaha (he'll be on the 1400 flight out of Omaha to Houston, then wait a bit for his next flight out of Houston to arrive in New Jersey around 2200). Then he can come with me to Staples to select a new monitor that won't be broken.

Back to what I was thinking about in the shower... I was shaving something, and thinking about the social graces in the United States that lead women to do this sort of barbaric stuff. I am not by nature a shaver... not any more. This means I go to a professional and pay without thinking about it to have my armpits and legs waxed. (I go to the nail people in the mall to have my eyebrows done. That's only $8.) There's one place I don't have waxed and will do the barbaric razor thing... I suspect having that waxed would be a higher pain tolerance than even I have!

So. Social graces... I have not been to my waxing wizard now since December, so the resemblence I bear to our evolutionary ancestor the chimpanzee is really quite something. My armpits and legs are so hairy it defies the imagination. I need to go and have it done, but between the germ-fest the earlier part of the year was and the weather, I haven't yet made it. I really have to go soon - before 13 March! That means hair, legs and armputs for around $110. I'd better save for both (monitor and hair stuff).

Now, in this country, why is it that men are masculine for having body hair but women are not? I hate to disappoint any men who actually thought we come premade sans leg and armpit hair and any women who have put their heart and soul into keeping that myth alive, but WOMEN HAVE ALL THE SAME BODY HAIR MEN DO, just in (hopefully) lighter texture and quantity and not so much around our testicles (especially since we don't own those, either...). But for some reason I have to either 1. expose myself to a sharp edge and spend entirely too much time in the shower or b. I have to pony up the $60 to have my armpits and legs more quickly and easily denuded for the right to wear something other than long pants.

(In the winter I don't care if I look like a chimpanzee; it is cold outside and you will never, ever see my legs when it is cold outside. I wear long skirts with long underwear under them.)

Then I was thinking about other social niceties, like yawning. It's a natural reaction to your brain not getting enough oxygen. However, some people put their hands or arm or whatever over their mouths to yawn while others just expose all of their filings and crowns and food stuck between their molars - and why do I need to see this? Please observe some of the social requirements.

Somewhere in the midst of the hair removal process I was thinking about wearing cosmetics, which is not truly a social pleasantry but something way too many women do. With me, I refuse to have anything to do with cosmetics. It's not because I'm conscientously objecting to anything (i.e. animal testing, although I have my feelings on that) but because this is the face you get, like it or not.

About animal testing, since I did think about this, too: I am not completely against it for something such as cancer research. I don't want to know about it, but I do since I read way too much, but I can see the sense in it. Animal testing for cosmetics is an outrage. No one's lives depend on something so wasteful.

And back to social niceties, some I observe just because it is not really couth not to, but find the value questionable. The biggest offender of this is saying, "God bless you" after someone sneezes. I know where it originates. It comes from the belief widely held at least three centuries ago that the devil or evil spirits somehow dominated or got into your body and when you sneezed, you expelled them. So the polite thing to do was shore up that person by blessing them.

I'd like to think in this enlightened age, we've actually gotten past that. No, of course not. I don't want to say "God bless you", since I don't believe in god that way. So I use "geshundhight" (sp?) but I have discovered that it kind of means the same thing in German. So I need to find another phrase. One that is not religious.

I believe in spirituality but not religion.

Yes, I thought about all of this in the last 10 minutes of my shower. Thnking is much faster than reading and a hell of a lot faster than typing!

...And now back to our regularly scheduled programing...

ARTICLE: Huge Quake Hits Chile (Magnitude 8.8)

TALCA, Chile – A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, toppling homes, collapsing bridges and plunging trucks into the fractured earth. A tsunami set off by the magnitude-8.8 quake threatened every nation around the Pacific Ocean — roughly a quarter of the globe.

Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma said the most powerful quake to hit the country in a half-century killed at least 82 people, but the death toll was rising quickly. In the town of Talca, just 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the epicenter, Associated Press journalist Roberto Candia said it felt as if a giant had grabbed him and shaken him.

The town's historic center, filled with buildings of adobe mud and straw, largely collapsed, though most of those were businesses that were not inhabited during the 3:34 a.m. (1:34 a.m. EST, 0634 GMT) quake. Neighbors pulled at least five people from the rubble while emergency workers, themselves disoriented, asked for information from reporters. Many roads were destroyed, and electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas — meaning there was no word of death or damage from many outlying areas.

In the Chilean capital of Santiago, 200 miles (325 kilometers) northeast of the epicenter, a car dangled from a collapsed overpass, the national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged and an apartment building's two-story parking lot pancaked, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms rang incessantly.

Experts warned that a tsunami could strike anywhere in the Pacific, and Hawaii could face its largest waves since 1964 starting at 11:19 a.m. (4:19 p.m. EST, 2119 GMT), according to Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Tsunami waves were likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours of the earthquake. The U.S. West Coast and Alaska, too, were threatened.

A huge wave swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, President Michelle Bachelet said, but there were no immediate reports of major damage. Bachelet had no information on the number of people injured. She declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile.

"We have had a huge earthquake, with some aftershocks," she said from an emergency response center. She said Chile has not asked for assistance from other countries, and urged Chileans not to panic. "The system is functioning. People should remain calm. We're doing everything we can with all the forces we have. Any information we will share immediately," she said.

Powerful aftershocks rattled Chile's coast — 24 of them magnitude 5 or greater and one reaching magnitude 6.9 — the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

In Santiago, modern buildings are built to withstand earthquakes, but many older ones were heavily damaged, including the Nuestra Senora de la Providencia church, whose bell tower collapsed. A bridge just outside the capital also collapsed, and at least one car flipped upside down. Several hospitals were evacuated due to earthquake damage, Bachelet said.

Santiago's airport will remain closed for at least 24 hours, airport director Eduardo del Canto said. The passenger terminal suffered major damage, he told Chilean television in a telephone interview. TV images show smashed windows, partially collapsed ceilings and pedestrian walkways destroyed.

Santiago's subway was shut as well and hundreds of buses were trapped at a terminal by a damaged bridge, Transportation and Telecommunications Minister told Chilean television. He urged Chileans to make phone calls or travel only when absolutely necessary.

Candia was visiting his wife's 92-year-old grandmother in Talca when the quake struck.

"Everything was falling — chests of drawers, everything," he said. "I was sleeping with my 8-year-old son Diego and I managed to cover his head with a pillow. It was like major turbulence on an airplane."

In Concepcion, 70 miles (115 kilometers) from the epicenter, nurses and residents pushed the injured through the streets on stretchers. Others walked around in a daze wrapped in blankets, some carrying infants in their arms.

Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, is 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.

The quake also shook buildings in Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires, 900 miles (1,400 kilometers) away on the Atlantic side of South America.

Marco Vidal, a program director for Grand Circle Travel who was traveling with a group of 34 Americans, was on the 19th floor of the Crown Plaza Santiago hotel when the quake struck.

"All the things start to fall. The lamps, everything, was going on the floor," he said. "I felt terrified."

Cynthia Iocono, from Linwood, Pennsylvania, said she first thought the quake was a train. "But then I thought, `Oh, there's no train here.' And then the lamps flew off the dresser and my TV flew off onto the floor and crashed."

The quake struck after concert-goers had left South America's leading music festival in the coastal city of Vina del Mar, but it caught partiers leaving a disco. "It was very bad. People were screaming. Some people were running, others appeared paralyzed. I was one of them," Julio Alvarez told Radio Cooperativa.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center called for "urgent action to protect lives and property" in Hawaii, which is among 53 nations and territories subject to tsunami warnings. "Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated. It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts," the warning center said. It did not expect a tsunami along the west of the U.S. or Canada.

The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile on May 22, 1960. The magnitude-9.5 quake killed 1,655 people and left 2 million homeless. The tsunami that it caused killed people in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines and caused damage to the west coast of the United States.

Friday, 26 February 2010

XXI Olympics - Catching Up Slowly

I'm up to Womens Downhill track with Stacy Cook flying down the mountain (recorded on Thursday, 18 February). This woman is not... um... well... I don't want to say unlucky, but I can't help but wonder if she is a monumental klutz (I am, so there is nothing wrong with that) or unlucky or just has issues that no one's guessed at.

She has suffered more than one serious fall skiing, which I would imagine is endemic of the sport, ut then she sliced her thumb open while trying to open a bottle of alcohol (I can't recall if it was wine or bubbly). I'm guessing there are more accidents or incidents. I don't know. I walk into things, trip over my own feet and hate ice. I know I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to locomotion. I'm not sure if this skier has hit upon this knowledge.

I'm wondering if she has the beginning signs of muscular dystrophy, or worse, multiple sclerosis... That may sound really harsh and I certainly don't wish either condition or any condition on anyone, but that was how I figured out that something was not right with me - I was getting very klutzy and doing dopey things like tripping up the stairs in my house.

I'm not normally a big fan of the regular downhill racing... oops, the woman just racing (Maragetti?) lost both skis and flew down a large portion of the track on her face... yikes. Now, that makes the downhill a bit more interesting (sorry, folks). But this is not really my speed, so I am going to speed this along and find something more enjoyable.

(I do love this but between all the filler about different people and the constant adverts, the four hours recorded might really be under two hours of actual Olympic athletes competing! That is a little frustrating.)

Ah, mens speed skating relay races! This is so confusing to watch... there appear to be tons of skaters on the same track, it's a clusterf-- well, you know what I mean. OH! Something happened to the French and Italian teams - it's just Korea and the United States now! We're down to the last 3 laps. I'm not sure why we are a little behind the Koreans, but no one seemed to be in a hurry. I guess these are the qualifying races, so first or second it doesn't matter.

Italy was disqualified and France was advanced. I don't completely understand why that is, but Italy did something dopey, I guess.

Mens snowboarding...zip, zip, zip. I don't watch every single event. I have been watching a lot more than usual. But there are hours of recorded stuff, so I can't really follow all of it.

The women's speed skating was great! The skater from the Netherlands that had a terrible fall in the preliminary races on 2/16 rallied back BEAUTIFULLY!

And with that, it is time for bed!

XXI Winter Olympics - Men's Doubles Luge

More madness. I guess I don't remember or I did not watch this last time (I used to prefer Summer Games) but I had no idea that there was a luge with two men on it. This is much more bizarre than the regular luge! I've no idea how this is aerodynamic! This looks more klutzy than the regular luge. On the other hand, when you watch them racing, you can't really see the bottom guy - he's buried under the top man.

Austria took the gold on this. There was one accident - sort of - with the other two guys from Austria. They did not come off the sled but they were WAY too high on Turn 16 and crashed into the side of track coming out of it. And I don't know how the bottom guy felt, but his face shield popped off and the bigger guy was bouncing around on top of him! He was quite shaky when he got up off the sled.

It was interesting to watch the mens' doubles. Both are on the sled and while it looks like the bottom rider is behind the front man, once they are actively going, it looks like one man is on top of the other. In fact, it doesn't even look - from the front shots (feet first) as though there is even a second rider.

When they are settling into the top of track on the sled, checking the straps and the foot placement, there is a very weird off-key whistle that tells the men that they are ready to begin the run. It is a perfectly awful sound. I'm not sure why they use such a terrible noise.

Every race has its starting tone - gun shot for speed-skating, the off-key whistle for luge... I'm not sure what the ice skaters' cue is... but this one is not only audible, it's quite unpleasant. Well, maybe I can find an explanation. I noticed Dick Button's humongous clunkers, and someone else did, so maybe someone noticed this, too...

Unfortunately, when one types "luge" into the Google engine, all that comes up is the accident that occurred just prior to the Opening Ceremonies. Guess I will try a couple of more times to see if I can't find it.

No, I can't find it.

Well, it was certainly interesting, no matter what!

Smoking in Today's Culture

I'm rereading John Grisham's The Runaway Jury and enjoying it immensely.

The main focus is the jury that has been selected for a Big Tobacco trial and what the two sides of the case are trying to do to see the outcome they'd like. Personally, I have no trouble believing the bad things I hear about the tobacco industry. Including:

'The 1998 legal settlement between the states and the tobacco companies prohibited the tobacco companies from taking "any action, directly or indirectly, to target youth... in the advertising, promotion or marketing of tobacco products." However, since the settlement, the tobacco companies have increased their cigarette marketing expenditures by 125 percent to a record $15.1 billion a year, or $41.5 million a day, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Much of this marketing is still targeted at kids.

One of the tobacco industry's most outrageous new tactics is the introduction of candy-flavored cigarettes and smokeless tobacco (View advertising examples):

  • R.J. Reynolds - the same company that once marketed cigarettes to kids with a cartoon character, Joe Camel - has launched a series of flavored cigarettes, including a pineapple and coconut-flavored cigarette called "Kauai Kolada" and a citrus-flavored cigarette called "Twista Lime." In November 2004, they introduced Camel "Winter Blends" in flavors including "Winter Warm Toffee" and "Winter MochaMint" (see Campaign statement).
  • Brown & Williamson has introduced flavored versions of its Kool cigarettes with names like "Caribbean Chill," "Midnight Berry," "Mocha Taboo" and "Mintrigue."
  • The U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company is marketing spit tobacco with flavors including berry blend, mint, wintergreen, apple blend, vanilla and cherry.

Brown & Williamson has also promoted its Kool cigarettes with hip-hop music themes and images that have particular appeal to African-American youth.

There are several ongoing efforts to stop the tobacco companies from continuing to target our children. Several state attorneys general have sued tobacco companies for violating the state settlement's prohibition on targeting kids. In addition, the federal government is pursuing a lawsuit against the tobacco companies that, among other things, seeks to stop tobacco marketing to kids. Congress also needs to pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, including the authority to ban flavored cigarettes and crack down on other forms of tobacco marketing and sales to kids.'

How can that be good?

So I am reading about the heinous things tobacco companies do... again. They argue that smoking should be all about choice. I hate to say but you created and made all the cigarettes and then in the 1930s did a huge study determining smoking to be dangerous and cancer-causing and then did everything you could hide it! I remember smoking ads - vaguely on the telly but all too well in magazines. Don't tell me there wasn't all kinds of advertising and aimed at kids. I remember when Marlboro trucks for promotional things parked outside of stores with blaring music and radio hosts. Please tell me this isn't disgusting.

Bullies in Schools

Granted that People Magazine has its interest in sleaze, it also has its interest in public issues and affairs (outside of the famous people and their affairs) and one subject that has been getting more and more notice is school bullying.

When I lived in Wallington, NJ, I didn't love school, but it was okay. It was an onerous task with boring teachers and some wretched kids but it was just there. I prayed for snow days but in those ancient days (I sound the grandparents of any age, at 42) we had to go to school even when there were measurable inches of snow. But as much as I wasn't crazy about it, I usually had a couple of friends and did poorly in subjects I wasn't interested in and flew through the few that I was.

Teachers loved to say I wasn't attentive and this and that, but I have discovered that adults lie as much as children and when put to the wall, even more.

When we moved from Wallington to Wayne in 1981, I discovered what every kid dreaded - moving to a new town, new school, and having to refit into a different society. In this I would get very low marks.

The eighth grade is a time of torture, not just from your body and growing pains but from trying out a new mental fit with the body and growing pains. And in the midst of this, we moved from a poor - lower income class to a higher-than-middle to high income class.

Some of differences were apparent immediately. Kids in Wallington smoked pot; kids in Wayne did cocaine. Kids in Wallington had favourite outfits; some (not many but undeniably notable) kids in Wayne never wore the same outfit twice. Other differences became more apparent as the school year began - very early on - to wear thin.

Now, it's so easy to pass off your kids' complaints about school as trying to get out of it. I did not lie about it - I wanted to get out of it at every possible moment. I was very quickly pointed out as new and subsequently foreign and unwelcome at every moment in the new eighth grade class. Two teachers knew it and recognised it for what it was - bullying - but the rest and especially the school administration tried to sweep it under the rug and put the blame on me for it. I hated those people for many years and the kids that managed to artfully to do the bullying.

I got lucky - while I read about kids killing themselves because of it, I was never suicidal and never entertained the idea of offing myself. I was miserable and unhappy, but not to that point. And as much as I'd like to say it was my own internal fortitude and happiness... that would be wrong, too.

No, I lucked out - I have incredibly supportive parents; I did have the one or two teachers who understood; and I escaped Wayne and its horrors every summer and Christmas and Easter break. My parents also never pushed me to be anyone other than me. They also did not push the college thing. They knew I hated school and it would be unlikely that I would even entertain the idea of college - not knowing that college is not the insular experience that middle and high school was. I didn't and there was no explaining to me the difference. The fact was the moment I was out of high school, no matter what my grades were, I was not going to darken the doorstep of another learning institution ever again.

The first day in the Wayne George Washington Middle School I met Peter [some Polish last name] kid who was quite fat and decided that I was slime. I also met Lori Zeim [this is the lowest common denominator] who was a pudgy bully from way back who loved tripping me and twirling my locker combination at every moment to make me late to every class I had. She's probably still a loser and maybe she has kids (scary thought) and I can only hope that as a huge bullier, she has raised them to be human and humane.

I also had to take the bus to the school - the first and last year I had to do that, which was a relief. I hated to walking to school, but I hated the bus a lot more. Despite the fact that an adult drove the bus, the opportunities for abuse and torture of fellow students was rampant in the wait and the bus. (Unfortunately that horrible school was too far for me to walk to and from it.)

I can't remember Tara's last name any longer but if it comes to me I'll throw it in. Another typical fat kid, she was abusive clearly to take the onus off of herself for being enormously overweight. I wouldn't consider bullying others into being for or against you a winning argument but she seemed to be content with it. There were others at the school stop that I rarely saw in the school but still had the misfortune to see coming and going from the school.

I never set foot on the playground at the school. I read books or worked on different things after lunch and willingly sat where the kids in trouble who were barred from the play sat. Teachers sometimes tried to get me out there but most on some level understood it and stopped. The other thing I tried to get out of all the time was gym class.

The stupidest and least revered of forced teaching, gym class was the openly feared class of all those bullied. We know it was open season on us for the entire 42 minutes of class. When it came to the weird electives like archery I was interested and loved it, when it came to team sports (and I would imagine those who know me at all are thinking, "Ah, this is insightful!") I wanted nothing to do with it. Dodge ball is as bad for the bullied as it is for the actual target. So were all the other sports and after so many purposely planted bruised knees and stomped on feet, I wanted nothing to do with that.

Wayne's George Washington school met with my parents a multitude of times regarding this and never wanted to acknowledge or deal with this. It was much easier to blame me for being a loner or not integrating well or blame my grades, then deal with the ugly truth. So when I see schools getting the poor press of the bullied, I don't feel the slightest sympathy for them. I never will. However, I do feel more for the bullied students - not only do they have the same abusive kids that I had, but now there is the Internet and My Space and Facebook where you can publicly smear others.

I hope all the school administrators who still can't handle this are terminated and replaced with the properly caring people but I guess the big question is how many more teenagers will die before it happens?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Scary Weather

The wind is roaring, the snow is still coming down, the slush on the roads has turned to glare ice. And thanks to the wind, the snow is drifting...

The stairs were clear of snow this afternoon but the whipping wind has now dumped a lot of snow on the top two steps. The road has some bare spots that are slippery, and some spots with more than a foot of snow. There's been a lot of police chatter with lines down, a tree on someone's house, a lot of crazy things going on.

Most of the time I don't mind being home alone; but with the scary weather, I'd feel better if Luis was here. However, he was supposed to fly home this morning. I had called him yesterday and told him it was extremely unlikely that he'd be coming home. He wasn't sure, either. Well, I called him around 1000 and he answered his phone, something that would he wouldn't have done had he boarded his 0700 flight. He's still in Omaha, Nebraska and at first he wasn't coming home until Sunday morning. Nina called, pitched a fit (or at least was strenuous with the airline) and now he is coming home Saturday night. I'm not sure how big a difference this makes, but hey, why not?

We had been hearing back in March, April and May that this winter was going to be severe. I tend to believe the longer-range forecasts that are general, since day-to-day weather is extremely hard to accurately predict, but trends are easier. So when the models suggested 1977-78 winter, it sounded pretty bad. Not to mention that the summer panned out exactly as forecasted. Global warming? What global warming?

At first, the winter did not seem so bad. Yes, we did see some flurries in late October (I saw snow in mid-October in Vermont, but I was assured that this is not so crazy); yes, there'd been light snow in November and December, while it did not bring a white Christmas (I am not religious, but even I understand the value of a white Christmas), it did bring some snow, and substantial. (Was that the longest sentence or what...?) Just before Christmas we received several inches of snow. At this point I can't recall what we had. But January has brought some snow and February was nuts. The 10th brought around 16" of snow to the house and this... well, now I can't tell with the wind and drifting. However, the NOAA Web site is reading 8" - 12" tonight (for NOAA, "tonight" means the period of darkness) and 1" - 3" tomorrow (daylight). Tom is supposed to come over tomorrow to dig me out (quid pro quo) but I am not confident that getting out will be a possibility.

I am also not confident enough to drive. I drove a very sensible 20 miles per hour to see the doc and I was fine with that. When I had to go from a stop, I started slowly and with that layer of muck, there was no hitting the gas without sliding a bit. My heart stops when I feel hydroplaning. I know what to do when this happens, but it's me and my driving that scares the hell out of me, it's everyone else.

Luis vehicle, strangely called a "crossover vehicle" (I'm not sure, but I think the name is a guilt-assausing technique to make people feel better about their carbon footprints), is better - much better - than my vehicle for this kind of thing. But no vehicle is perfect at this and it is all the more maddening that people drive so much more poorly than ever and the SUV producers absolutely sell their vehicles on the idea that the driver and/or passengers will be perfectly safe no matter what.

No.

The answer is no. You can drive a Suburban or whatever ridiculously large vehicle you want, but this will only ensure that you will kill more people when you have an accident on the ice. I don't care what you drive - the ice is the great equalizer. And there is a whole lot of it right now.

OK. I'm hoping off the soapbox for now.

7-Day Forecast for Latitude 40.87°N and Longitude 74.39°W

7-Day Forecast for Latitude 40.87°N and Longitude 74.39°W

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

XXI Winter Olympics: Pleshenko's Round the Bend, Korea Blew It & What is Up with Japan?!

It seems that the modern world has forgotten the purpose and soul of the Olympic Games.

I had commented in my last post, "Round Three of the XXI Winter Olympics" (http://traislinge.blogspot.com/2010/02/round-three-of-xxi-olympic-madness.html) that Yevgeny was in the top place, with Evan Lysacek behind for silver. That night had been the Mens' Short Program and it was wonderful. It was a good show all around. Many skaters were brand-new to the Olympic skating experience and fell or flubbed landings but still did a good job - I should think them worthy of applause just to get up and continue their routines after such a fall. And the senior skaters even had their issues, but let's look at the bigger/biggest picture - they are all in the OLYMPICS! The highest standard of Olympic sportsmanship ever to grace the world!

Yevgeny Plushenko did a techinically adept performance but was not emotionally there for this short program. Any robot could have done this and been marked well, but Yevgeny did not really earn the 90.86 that he had in the Mens Short Program. The rest came in through the 70s and then Even Lysacek blew him out of the water! It was staggering.

So ever the sore loser, Yevgeny griped about it in a newscast. But, wait, there's more... This came out:

"In Plushenko's mind (and website), he's the platinum medal winner

Evgeni Plushenko's long, delusional journey continues. Just days after the silver medalist for men's figure skating denied that Evan Lysacek is the true champion of men's figure skating, he has apparently awarded himself a platinum medal. From his official website:

It reads, "Silver of Salt Lake, Gold of Torino, Platinum of Vancouver." What's impressive here is that not only has Plushenko's website team fabricated an Olympic medal, it designed a platinum medal, too. Bravo. That's commitment to a delusion.

Previously, Plushenko ripped gold medalist Evan Lysacek for not attempting a quad jump, and even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin weighed in on the controversy, saying Plushenko "performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice." Lysacek responded to the criticism with class, but Plushenko clearly hasn't come to grips with the fact that the gold medal eluded him in Vancouver."

From Another Article:
"Adding fuel to the fire that Yevgeny Plushenko has been a sore loser in his defeat to America's Evan Lysacek, on the morning of Tuesday February 23, the Russian skater's official website featured a brand new accomplishment.

The "platinum" medal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Widely regarded as better than gold, the element platinum hasn't officially made its way into the Winter Games as a medal yet. Although there are English and Russian versions of his website, it didn't appear to be a translation issue. The text above his Salt Lake City Olympic medal read "Silver of Salt Lake" while his Vancouver medal read "Platinum of Vancouver".

Plushenko's agent responded

to the story by saying the Olympic silver medalist isn't awarding himself a new color of medal and just wants to put the furor over the men's final behind him. Ari Zakarian says whoever did the "stupid thing" had no authority, and the figure skater isn't even aware of it. There were no labels below the medals as of Tuesday afternoon. "It's absolutely a mistake. Yevgeny has absolutely no idea about this. Absolutely no idea," Zakarian said. "Nobody from our team is awarding a platinum medal."

As for Plushenko's unhappiness with the final results, Zakarian says the three-time world champion has moved on and is looking forward to competing again. Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic champion, barely lost out on the gold medal in Vancouver to Lysacek. After the competition, Plushenko complained that Lysacek's program didn't feature a quadruple jump, and so the U.S. skater didn't deserve to win.

It was an upset the likes of which figure skating rarely sees. Plushenko, who ended a three-year retirement with the sole goal of winning gold, hadn't finished anywhere but first since the 2004 European championships. He was the defending Olympic gold medalist and silver medalist in 2002, and a three-time world champion. And Plushenko had the all-important quad, the four-revolution jump that's been a must-have for every Olympic men's champion since Ilia Kulik in 1998. "Quad is quad. If the Olympic champion doesn't know how to jump the quad, I don't know," Plushenko sniffed afterward. "Now it's not men's figure skating, it's dancing. That's my point."

"All I know is he's been really positive to me and been a really consistent skater through the years, and I've tried to learn from that," Lysacek said Friday morning, still basking in the glow of his Olympic gold medal. "I guess I'm a little disappointed someone who I saw as my role model would take a hit at me in one of the most special moments of my life.

"It's tough to lose. It's not easy, especially when you think, no matter what, you're going to win. It's a really tough pill to swallow," he added. "We'll just try not to take it out of context and give him the benefit of the doubt. And congratulations to him on his third Olympic medal."

Whatever color that medal may be."(It will be interesting to see if this is really a hoax...)

Well, this year, all b ets are off and the ugliest of all - disgruntled, poor, sore-loser idiots have suddenly come out of the woodwork to malign their fellow Olympiads. Openly, using the press to do it. It is disgusting.

The Koreans were the first to display what I would consider egregious unsporting behaviour. LEE Jung-Su made this statement after the 1500 meter mens race on Saturday (13 February):

"South Koreans are possessive and prickly about short-track speed skating, until now the country's best Winter Olympics event. The Asian nation of 49 million routinely churns out Olympic medalists in the short track, and two coaches on the U.S. short-track speed skating team were born and raised in South Korea.

At these games, the South Koreans have emerged as a surprise force not only on the short track but also on the long track. South Korea has five medals so far, one of them a gold to Ohno's silver.

The traditional rivalry between Ohno and the South Koreans flared up again in that race, the 1,500 meters. Three South Koreans were in the lead as they rounded the last turn, but two crashed out, allowing Ohno to slip across the finish line in second.

Incensed gold medalist Lee Jung-su criticized Ohno as "too aggressive" in a post-race news conference. "Ohno didn't deserve to stand on the same medal platform as me," he told Yonhap. "I was so enraged that it was hard for me to contain myself during the victory ceremony." South Korean broadcaster SBS posted a clip online from the semifinal with a caption saying it shows Ohno "pushing" Lee.

"I understand that in sports, you naturally want to win. But sports competitions should be won through fair play," Jung Kyung Kim, a 21-year-old college student, said in central Seoul on Friday.

Ohno called the final a "crazy race" full of bumping and grabbing. He also admitted he had been hoping to capitalize on a South Korean mistake. "At the end of the race, I was hoping for another disqualification, kind of like what happened in Salt Lake City," Ohno said. Still, Ohno later offered his congratulations to Lee in a Twitter post. "Wow Koreans are strong as always," he added.

The rivals will have a chance to put their trash-talking to the test this weekend. Ohno, Lee and the two who crashed in the 1,500, Lee Ho-suk and Sung Si-bak, will compete Saturday in Canada to qualify for the 1,000-meter final. If he wins, Ohno will become the most decorated American in Winter Olympics history.

But at least one blogger hopes to see him fall flat on his face: "He should fall down on the ice and have (figure skater) Kim Yu-na land on his disgusting face after she performs a triple axel."

This is beneath them, to take a loss that they caused so poorly. I saw that race - they were SO tightly packed that this accident was truly inevitable. Ohno was yards behind them and had the Koreans not all been knotted together in a tiny square of ice, they all would have won. No one would have cried foul then. For them to so when they were in the wrong is the worst kind of sportsmanship. Ever.

But welcome Yevgeny Plechenko to the stand. If the Koreans are unreasonable, Yevgeny is insane. As in, completely unstable insane. He was unhappy that he won silver to Evan's gold (and I would clearly agree that Evan was the better skater), so not only did he put out a statement showing open disdain for Evan's getting the gold, he now has his own Web site... and he awarded himself a platinum award. Welcome to Crazy-Ville.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Round Three of XXI Olympic Madness!

I love the more... hardcore sports. The speed skating is my favourite for the skate-related events. The luge is total madness and fun to watch. I'm trying to patiently wait for the skeleton (luge on steroids, if you can believe it.

On the other hand, the ice skating still has its appeal. However, and this sounds awful, I am seeing that the mens' ice skating isn't, uh, well... The skaters are so effeminate. I'm watching the other athletes and there is no mistaking the men from the women. Not so with the ice skaters. The pair skaters are a bit more delicate than your regular event men, but the single skaters are practically indistinguishable from the women. That is a little weird.

The top male skater was Yevgeny Pleshenko. Nice skater, technically very adept and good, but kind of uninspired; not feeling it. He was kind of flat to me. Luis saw it, too. But the Japanese guy, Daisuki Takahashi, was incredible! Very strong technically but put his heart and soul into the number. He was phenomenal - and he was very little and delicate. He also had a recent ACL replacement and to perform like that so soon after was incredible. But the judges scared him slightly below Yevgeny. I wasn't impressed with that. There is a lot to be said for an adept skater, but more to be said for one who clearly does this out of love.

So tonight I have been just watching Olympics - women's luge, women's whaddya call it... the snowboarding (not my favourite event to watch, but the accidents are cool. Before you say it, I found Olympic accidents fascinating before I went into EMS. Now I just find them more interesting...), men's ice skating... a mix. The best snowboarder has been Maelle Ricker, who really did an amazing job for the first run. In one of the qualifiers she had a crash that was pretty ugly (although they all seem to walk out of them, which is good), but she did an amazing job after. In every single race, someone goes down.

The announcers call them crashes, but most of them just lose steam or have small accidents that stop them. But Maelle wiped the place up! GOOD FOR HER! The Canadians are really doing so well - and I imagine there is a lot of great psychology to performing in your homeland - or the team that represents the host country.

Apolo Ohno, who I always found rather annoying, has really impressed the hell out of me. He has been head and shoulders above the rest. The one race was something to see when all three Koreans looked like they had it wrapped up but two of them wiped out just a hair before the finish line and Apolo was the silver winner. I'm not sure if he felt like this is a huge victory - he would not have placed at all had that not happened. And maybe I'm wrong - every single men's short race had at least one contestant wipe out.

We watched the women's speed skating, and the one woman, a very tall woman in orange (I don't remember her name or country of origin) but she really had a hell of a fall - crashed into the padding ringing the ice hard enough with her neck that I was sure she was injured. I know they walk off the ice, but some of them shouldn't. They should be boarded and collared just like we do with car accident victims.

I'm very happy I'm recording these and watching the Olympics after the fact. Most of them air either during the day (working) or in the wee hours of the night (sleeping). The prime time stuff is good, but I am adamantly opposed to viewing adverts so I'm happy to be two days behind and viewing them when I can blow through the ads.

(Last night I did not watch any Olympics. Greg and I went out for dinner and had a great time - as we always do. The man makes me laugh and we were fast friends from the moment we met. And I miss having a friend like that at work. I don't often get to make friends in the professional setting. He's the best.)

The Canadian skater, Patrick Chan, did a great job. Good skater... but the judges scored him poorly as well. But he made errors that were obvious. I wonder how these athletes stand the pressure. It has to be an outrageous amount of pressure to win.

I see a lot of competitiveness - everywhere - but this is not like normal-life competition. This is very intense, highly emotional competition. I don't know why I gravitate to the Olympics. I never watch any televised sports (I don't watch any sports full stop) but this is different. I've been watching the Olympics all my life. You can pack a lot of Olympics into 42 years, I'm surprised to say.

The first Olympics I can recall at all is the 1976 XII Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. The 1976 XII Summer Games was in Montreal, Canada. I've been to Montreal, gorgeous city (not as good a trip as it could have been - I was there years ago in January). The Olympics stood out, however, because of Bruce Jenner, who was amazing. And of course, Nadia Comaneci of Romania, who was every girl's hero. Hey, I know it is hard to imagine now, but I did gymnastics when I was five through eight - not the insane stuff like uneven bars, but the floor exercises and balance beam (stop laughing - I wasn't the physical mess then that I am now!).

Oh, I like the guy with the bones skating outfit! Who is this yummy specimen? And hey! Great music! I love, love, love Muossursky's A Night on Bald Mountain! It's slightly jazzed up (I'm a purist and don't like when they mess with the original piece) but it is still a great piece to skate to! This guy is really good - I like the skating and I love his face and not too bad a body! Kevin Van Der Perren of Belgium.

Hey, look! The skater from the Czech Republic, Tomas Verner (I'm sorry, I still can't figure out how to get the diacritacal marks on letters on my laptop) is on! Oh, but not good. He took a spill while doing Zorba the Greek. He really lost his heart then. This is what I mean. It's one thing to play a sport all the time and throw the tools of the trade around (like a baseballer throwing the bat in a pissed off moment) but these guys are on once in four years.

I love Morgan Freeman. He's doing a voice-over for Visa. Probably the only advert I've watched the entire how many hours I've watched the Olympics since Saturday night. (Good gods, I never watch this much telly in a month, let alone five days!)

Oh, yoiks. Look at this one. Not the bastion of masculinity... I know it shouldn't matter, but seriously. He did a BEAUTIFUL triple axle, though! Evan Lysacek - good music taste, too - The Firebird by Stavinsky. I grew up in a musical family. Even though I can't play any other instrument than my iPod, I do appreciate great music! Wow! He cleaned up the place with his short program! Hey! He came in second with a score of 90.30! Pleshenko is still first with 90.85, but I still am not sold on him as a gold winner. Evan certainly had his heart and soul in it.

Jeremy Abbott is up now, with - oh, good choice! - A Day in the Life by the Beatles (but not as good as the original). And a very down-to-earth, normal looking outfit. Black pants, lavender shirt, purple vest. No flashy sequins or feathers or holes or floating pieces. Good music, good technique, good show! Unfortunately he had some problems executing the jumps.

Oh, more musical fun! Michal Brezina is skating to Puttin' on the Ritz - and doing an excellent job! He did a triple axle that was perfect! Of course, I'm cheering - he's from the Czech Republic, so I love him already! I'm not one to do that normally, but some places - like people - hold a special place! (Daniela, this one's for you!) GREAT JOB! He's 19! Damn. I couldn't do that when I was 19... I can't even stand up on skates now!

I could never do this if only because I just can't take myself that seriously. But I'd rather be me and laugh at myself than be so serious and well... uptight about this.

I'm not sure who Dick Button is, but the Olympics are interviewing him and he has on these freaky-big boots. I mean, they are HUGE. What are these gunboats? Why wear these humoungous clonkers that make his feet look enormous!? Okay, look (it's not just me):

"Have You Noticed the Size of Dick Button's Shoes?

Have you seen Dick Button's huge shoes while he sits opposite Bob Costas for Olympic figure skating commentary? His gigantic feet dwarf those of Bob Costas. And it isn't just huge feet; the boots are thick and very heavy looking. You wouldn't want to get kicked by one of Dick Button's gigantic feet.

Dick Button is a two-time Olympic figure skating gold medalist, having won in 1948 and 1952. Olympic figure skating during those years took place at an outdoor skating rink. Dick Button was born in 1929, and was the first man to land a double axel in competition (1948 Olympics), and the first man to land a triple jump in competition (1952 Olympics). He has been a fixture in figure skating analyses for decades.

But what's with those humongous shoes? Geez. Dick Button's shoes look like they each weigh 20 pounds. There will be plenty of Dick Button to watch with the 2010 Winter Olympics, as he periodically gives figure skating analyses in response to Bob Costas' questions."

It wasn't just me who noticed those clodhoppers! I was pretty sure if they popped out at me, they did to someone else, too!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

More Olympics!

Unfortunately, it is late and I need to go to bed! I've been staying up waaaay past my bedtime to watch the incredible prowess that is the XXI Winter Olympics!

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Start of the XXI Winter Olympic Games

I did not actually see the opening of the Olympics, but I'd heard about the luger from Georgia (not the state) who died, Nodar Kumaritashvili. It took a little hunting to find a video of the crash, but I did. I found it quite disturbing. These accidents happen very fast, but this seemed even faster than I imagined. The CLANG! of the helmet hitting the unpadded pole was appalling. The accident was quite horrible.

In 2006 I had only posted twice about the Olympics, surprisingly enough. But I did mention that guys sledding on a tiny fiber glass sled that barely fits the racer's body is just a little insane. It is more than just a little insane, really. And Ray remembered that I had said that I would have loved to be an EMT at the Winter Games - the accidents that could happen on luge or skeleton races would be really something. So he told me about the luge accident. Apparently it was aired at some point, because he heard and saw the clang... and there was no mistaking what had happened.

I did post here: http://traislinge.blogspot.com/2006/02/let-insanity-continue-more-of-xx.html and glossed over some of the events but I am feeling quite confident I can get a lot more mileage this year. For one thing, this is a constant source of amazement. These athletes are incredible, fascinating, disquieting, crazy as hell and dedicated to the gold, silver or bronze medals that are up for grabs! You have to admire anyone who can get that far, for one thing!

Luge is amazing, and I have always watched it. It's been 46 years since there has been a luge fatality. That is a lot longer than I'd have thought for an event as dangerous as luge (assume that when I talk about the dangerousness of this, that skeleton runs are inclusive. That is a little crazy, too...), where the rider is atop (no straps) a teeny fiber glass sled with long, sharp blades and moving at speeds over 80 miles an hour. The Whistler Track where the Vancouver Games are taking place was quite a bit faster - over 90 miles an hour - as if 85 miles an hour isn't fast enough!

(I just watched the first speed skating long race where the Canadian favourite was right in front - right there! He did not leave any openings for the guys behind him. He's very, very good. Of course, I saw the Qualifying Short Race and Apolo Ohno, who really is quite the amazing speed skater! I saw him in both the Salt Lake City races for the 2002 Olympics, and again at the Turin Games in 2006. He is not attractive (who cares, right) but he is a HELLACIOUS skater! And watching him now in the long race, I have every confidence he will not stay in third place - no, there he goes! YES! No - Lee is in front... There goes Apolo again! Shit! Korea came in first, second, third - HOLY COW! Two Koreans went down right ahead of Apolo and he came in SECOND! Seconds before the line!)

In case you are wondering, I'm watching the games from Saturday night. I had recorded every thing that has aired. Saturday night and all day Sunday I was on call and I was confident I would not be able to watch it. So I have the two TiVOs gasping for breath recording every bit of the Olympics. Apolo won the SILVER! And he has won 6 total medals and tied Bonnie Blair! Wow. I saw Bonnie Blair - when I was 20 years old - at the Calgary Olympics in 1988 - and the following two Winter Games - in Albertville, France and Lillehammer, Norway. Amazing! But Apolo Ohno - wow! He's really something else!

I have watched all of it so far - opening with the short mens' speed skating - that third race with Apolo Ohno was so exciting! He started out last, casually moved up to the fifth position, then stayed there until the last 4 laps. In a few seconds, he whipped forward on the outside turn into the first slot and was WAAAAY ahead of the pack when he easily crossed the line.

(Now I'm watching the Czech Republic's Nicola Sudova (from Jablonec Nad Nisou) on the Women's Mogul (skiing) and she looked good but has an injury - and landed poorly on the finishing jump. This is dedication - but at what price? She's had to have made it worse... She has an ACL tear - a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. I had a torn meniscus in my right knee that needed surgery and as whimpy as I am, it was a relief to have the surgery. That hurt like hell. Landing on it on skies with all of my weight would have left me curled in a ball whimpering. I don't know how they do it.

I have a special place in my heart for the Czech Republic, so I was disappointed to see the athlete Nicola land like that. I'd love to see Czech Republic take home the gold!)

Speed skaters are a constant source of amazement. I watch all of the skating events - the speed skating is incredible for the sheer speed (of course) and the ease that the skaters have. Gods know I couldn't do it, but they make it look so effortless, just casually skating with their hands behind their backs, la, la, laaaalaaaaalaaaaaa... then the clock is ticking and the laps are just disappearing and WHAM! they throw it into gear and zip, zip, zip along the ice, the left hands sliding easily along the ice with the tipped gloves.

Ice skaters come in different classes and styles. Couples skating is interesting, as they need to be in sync and that just cannot be easy. There's figure skating and pairs skating. Both are equally fascinating to watch, although I usually like the single skaters more. And it is nothing like speed skating. The body types, skates and outfits are completely different.

(The Canadian Chloe Dufour-LaPointe just finished her run for the Women's Mogul and WOW! She did a tremendous run - kept her ankles together and really raced down that hill!)

Speed skaters are huge - not fat - not even an ounce - but lean trim upper bodies and huge thighs, butts and hips. They are all muscle, but they have a very odd-looking physiques. The muscles in their legs do all the work, and it is, despite the easy look of it, hard work. Figure skaters look like gymnasts in cute little outfits, evenly muscled, no extreme behinds and upper legs.
Speed skaters have 18" - 24" inch blades, sharpened to a gleam, and the speed skaters wear special gloves on the left hand for when they take the turn. They all wear skin-tight uniforms for maximum speed. One of the U.S. speed skaters, J.R. Celski, had a really horrendous accident in September 2009, so bad he had 60 stitches from a gash made by his own skate (remember that description of the skates? No mystery how he got such a huge gash) and now he's racing in the Olympics - and he's one to watch. Right there with Apolo.

Figure skaters can get injured by their skates (although pair skaters are more likely to see that kind of injury) but their skates are not nearly as long, sharp and dangerous as speed skaters' blades.

Back to luge - the Swiss guy I'd heard about just ran - came off the sled and then came out of the second turn after and was on again! The commentator was right - forget the time! This guy survived the run and held onto his sled. The blades of the sled are a huge danger to the rider if he's come off.

These guys really are crazy!

Well, definitely an exciting start to the XXI Winter Olympics!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Snow, Snow, Snow!

Everything is shut down, the roads are all but impassable, there are wind gusts and some drifting of the perfect white snow falling.

We are not even in the thick of it yet...

It began snowing last night around 2000, but they were little tiny glittering particles, not the kind of snow that would pile up into staggering amounts of snow. I found myself thinking that once again they've botched the job and we were going to get nothing again, but at some point during the night the quality of the snow changed.

And then the phone rang... at 0530, an hour I never want to hear the phone ring. Fortunately I'd gotten the heads up that I'd be getting the wee-hours call should the snow get out of hand. So I didn't answer the phone with, "Who's dead?"

Instead, I groaned, "It's still dark outside."

At least the voice on the other end laughed. Good man, good sense of humour, definitely a great combination. Always need to laugh at these things. We both had a good laugh, actually.

Surprisingly, Luis actually stayed home. So not like him. Normally, he would go to work no matter what. It's good to see that there is - somewhere - a little voice in his head that said, "This would be a bad idea."

I would have said that if there were only 6" of snow. When the snow approaches double digits I am not going anywhere. At all. Period, end of sentence.

But it looks gorgeous. This is what winter should look like. Not the dull greys and browns of a dormant landscape, but the brilliant white of the snow swirling. If nothing else, everything looks so lovely, so fantasy-like. Sure, there will be a lot of clean up to do, but not for nothing, we live in NEW JERSEY. If you were thinking this area doesn't get snow, you were really, really misguided.

A friend of mine said to me yesterday, that snow storms should be all or nothing. Either nothing falls at all, or you get the whole nine yards. I had to agree with that. It should be all or nothing. Today... we are getting ALL of it! Up to 19 inches in Parsippany, 12" in Springfield, 15" in Wayne, 12" in Elizabeth, 14" in NYC... Let me see if my cousin is getting any snow - she's in Adelphi, MD and had gotten over 2 feet from the last storm (you remember, the storm where we got ZIP!)... another 7" for her. Good gods.

Well, we did not get that kind of snow, but hey, we are finally getting some. Maybe the fact that when I was a kid I would pray (as much as I can be said to pray) madly for snow to close school. I hated school. But back in those days the school systems were complete hardasses about closing the schools. They would not do it. I'd be promising the weather gods any thing I could think of, they would dump 8 inches of snow and the &#$*$*#!! school would not close. Now we live in a whimpy society that allows the schools to close if they see three flakes. Where was that when I was a kid?!

Well, I will take it. This is the first time this year I've been home without being sick! That alone makes it well worth it!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Crystal Balls Everywhere

That's my big thing right now, and has always been a thing, as I brought home many, many crystal balls from Ren Faire and other shows. Now I get them on e-bay, the most wonderful and evil of sites but what quality!

I just got a lovely clear quartz. In the sun, it sparkles and shines and is stunning... and out of the sun... it sparkles and shines and is stunning. Rainbows, sparkling planes, bits of golden flashes. I find these pieces to be so beautiful. I don't do anything with them. I don't proclaim any special properties about them. I just find it staggering that something this incredible comes out of the earth.

Amazing. If I were to believe in god the way others do, it would be for this. No mere mortal can do this.

I'm Sick... AGAIN

Everyone else might think I'm weak or useless or whatever, but in one year - from the first of January until now - I have been sick FOUR TIMES.

Week one - 1 through 6 January - I had the flu. Not swine or avian flu, just the flu, one of the 40% not covered by the shot. I was sick for the entire first week. Had I not gotten the flu shots (regular seasonal and the H1N1 shots) I would have been sick even longer.

Week three - 13 - 19 January - I had a sinus infection. Not enough to kill me outright, but immediately following the flu, much harder to kick. Not very enjoyable.

Week four - 23 - 27 January - I got a headcold. Regular, joe-headcold. Not fun, either. I blew my nose forever and a day. I had a raging headache. I tried keeping a distance but still missed nothing.

Week one in February - now - laryngitis and the colds/flu/sinus infection is in my chest. I'm bringing up all kinds of phlegm, which is normal, and watching the colour, also normal. I'm tired and still have no voice, which I'm hoping to have tomorrow (otherwise I'll have to scream hoarsely into the phone, "Don't hang up!" when people try to call me). Missed another day last week. Not fun at all.

I figure as long as the colour of the mucus isn't poor, I'll be alright. I'm watching that to make sure I don't have pneumonia. I don't want pneumonia. I also don't want to have to go to another doctor appointment, or worse, end up in the hospital. If I have pneumonia, that is the course that will be needed. That would really suck. So I blow my nose, avoid the human race and every weekend I've been home all weekend doing nothing.

It's finally turned yellow. The body's way of finally fighting the infection. It's been clear all along, and today it's turned yellow. That is actually a good sign. Hey, you are reading this. If you find it gross, move along. I don't always write about gross things. This might sound icky, but it is a naturally occurring process.

It HAS to get better than this. I have to get better than this!

Thinking About History & Things People Say

I'm watching a charming British movie, Kinky Shoes. I find these movies and they sound good. This one certainly did not look like anything else I've seen, but then, neither are Blow Dry, The Full Monty, Bridget Jones' Diary, and Calendar Girls. These are all wonderful movies and not so predictable as are American movies. (I will note that Bridget Jones' Diary appears to be an American made movie, but it is not. It did make a splash here, with American actress Renee Zelleweger, who did an excellent job in this movie and reprised the roll in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.)

The shoe company, which originally made mens shoes, was founded in 1895. Must have been a good year. I was in the loo, reading about the making of t-shirts, and there was a reference to James Dean wearing a skin-tight tee in Rebel Without a Cause, and I was thinking that I had a thing for James Dean many years ago. And people would say to me, "Oh, James Dean was before your time." So was Marlon Brando and (mostly) Paul Newman. (I remember well both Paul and Marlon, but they were much older for my lifetime. And Marlon Brando, who was HOT, HOT, HOT in the 1940s, 1950s, was FAT, FAT, FAT in the later years. I mostly recall him as Calel, Superman's father (played by Christopher Reeves, not the original Superman).

So what if something was "before my time"? I know a lot about the American Revolutionary and Civil wars, and those were not only before my time, but centuries (Revolutionary War) and a century (American Civil War) before I was around. Should I know nothing of those? They are history - but so are the actors named above. I never understand when people say that. And they say it all the time.

Maybe I read a lot more than most - which I do - so I understand most older references. But people consistently underestimate my understanding of older references by my age (and often people think I'm younger than I look, so they have a tendency to think I don't understand references to the late 60s/early 70s).

I find people can be so disappointing that way. But then, maybe I exceed the stupidity that I usually feel about myself by knowing references like that. I don't know current events, but at least I know something. Maybe I feel better because I know more than others think.

I don't know.

There is a lot of disjointed thinking in this post because I'm not outlining all the thoughts fully, but I know what I'm thinking. I suppose that is all that matters.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Buck Stops Here

From the book Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges into the Presidency:

"Guess who's the highest paid president. You might be surprised.

Congress has been given the president a raise only five times in history, but some presidents have made a lot more than others--thanks to inflation. We've done the math to find out what their yearly salaries would be worth, on average, in twenty-first century dollars. Here's the list of the well paid and the not-so-well paid presidents.

THE TEN HIGHEST PAID

President Salary in His Day What's It Worth Now?
1. William Taft $75,000 $1,445,454
2. William McKinley $50,000 $1,106,719
3. Richard Nixon $200,000 $1,084,831
$50,000 expense act
4. Woodrow Wilson $75,000 $1,048,379
5. Theodore Roosevelt $50,000 $1,015,151
6. Grover Cleveland $50,000 $1,001,093
7. Benjamin Harrison $50,000 $984,315
8. Dwight Eisenhower $100,000 $963,253
$50,000 expense act
9. Franklin Roosevelt $75,000 $915,013
10. Herbert Hoover $75,000 $903,458

THE TEN LOWEST PAID
President Salary in His Day What's It Worth Now?
1. Bill Clinton $200,000 $282,648
$50,000 expense act
2. Andrew Jackson $25,000 $300,446
3. James Madison $25,000 $321,110
4. George H. W. Bush $200,000 $334,554
$50,000 expense act
5. John Adams $25,000 $357,543
6. Abraham Lincoln $25,000 $374,518
7. Thomas Jefferson $25,000 $378,526
8. James Monroe $25,000 $395,184
9. Ronald Reagan $200,000 $424,609
$50,000 expense act
10. George Washington $25,000 $427,314

COMPENSATION COMPENDIUM
President Grant received the first raise from Congress at the start of his second term, his salary increasing from $25,000 to $50,000. The next four presidential raises are as follows: Taft had his salary raised to $75,000; Truman, in his second term, to $100,000 plus a $50,000 expense account; Nixon to $200,000 with a $50,000 expense account; and George W. Bush to $400,000 with a $50,000 expense account.

Sometimes Congress gives the president a raise, not because he is underpaid, but because they are: traditionally, no government employee can make more than the president. Yet unlike the president, many of them have built cost-of-living increases into their salaries. When their pay starts butting up against that of the president's, they tend to become more generous.

George Washington, Herbert Hoover and John F. Kennedy refused their salaries.

While many presidential expenses are picked up by other departments and agencies, not all of them are: Thomas Jefferson left office owing $10,000 just for wine.

Crime doesn't pay: the two impeached presidents, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, are dead last on the lowest paid list. But but maybe you just have to know when to get out: President Nixon who resigned before he could be impeached, is the third highest paid president.

The list does not take into account presidential pensions, which Congress began doling out in 1958. It started at $25,000 per year and included both an office and staff. The payment is now based on the annual pay of a cabinet secretary; in 2001 this came out to $161,200.

The vice president doesn't work for free either: in 2004, the salary for the second in command is $202,900.

Each president's salary was adjusted for inflation for every calendar year in which he held office. These adjusted salaries were then averaged. Presidents since Truman have had a $50,000 expense account that was included in the list as part of the presidential salary."

My personal comment: having the presidency has to be the MOST thankless job in the universe. I don't think they get paid enough no matter what. On the other hand, I'm not even slightly surprised at Congress. They are easily the most overpaid...and get crazy periods of time off, despite their general uselessness in office.

I love that three presidents actually refused their salaries. Amazing! Most of us need at least some of our salaries if not all.

That is a LOT of wine... isn't it? Does the president get any alcohol at all? I'd want a stiff drink after a day of that once in a while...

I wonder how the taxation system works for the President... does he get a break for doing the most thankless job in the world, or just pays through the nose like the rest of us? I still wouldn't hold it against him.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Probably the only animated movie I don't want to buy.

We got it from NetFlix and I managed to sit through it but this was not my kind of movie. It started out sort of okay and went (surprisingly) downhill from a rather inauspicious beginning. It got dopier. I normally love animated movies but this one was more for kids than adults.

Shrek was brilliant - kids could sit through it but this was definitely great for adults, too. The snide commentary fit in and wasn't obvious to children but allowed all age groups to find it entertaining. Certainly Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles and Cars fit into this category. In fact, most animated movies are geared to be appealing to all ages.

This movie did not make it into this category, at least not for me.

Bolt started out kind of boring, but once he arrived in New York City and met up with Mittens, the smart-ass street cat, it improved considerably and I will at some point own it. I will never own Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It was not the worst movie I've seen but it was not something I need to sit through again. I did not even sit through the credits, which is normally a sin - as much as I will ever believe in the word sin.

Well, we also have the first season of Castle, a telly series that I've grown to really like. I'm thinking I'll enjoy that. Right now I just finished watching Season 4 of Bones, which is really an excellent show, and now I am starting Season 9 of CSI: Las Vegas, my all-time favourite, which, despite William Peterson's leaving the show, is still really great.

I miss William Peterson, but Lawrence Fishborne really turned out to be an excellent hire. I can't call him a replacement for Mr. Peterson, but that is where the show did the best thing. When someone has been with a show for a really long time and then that person leaves, many shows try to replace the character. This is inevitably the end of the show. But the producers here did well - they looked for someone different and the choice made the show as good if not stronger for it.

I haven't usually been a fan of Lawrence Fishborne but that wasn't his fault. A lot of movies I saw him in he was the bad guy. Who likes the bad guy? But he is a good actor. And this has been a very different role than anything I have seen him in. It has really worked out very well.

This show still needs some work, however. I love the series, but I find it so weird that the police station and crime lab is so DARK. Ever been in a police station? Or any kind of lab? Even the place you go to for blood work - these places are always floodlit. And who can blame them? Scientists need to see what the hell they are doing (especially phlebotomists - would you want someone poking your arm for a vein in the dark?), and the police want to see anything that is coming. This is simple survival.

In all the CSI shows, the police station looks like the electric bill has been unpaid and service has been cut off. Same with the crime labs (although CSI: Miami went one step further and set up a super-unbelievable high tech lab... what city has this kind of budget? Total bullshit), they have been plunged permanently into darkness to make the show "scarier". A good show would not have to resort to this, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation IS a really good show. Someday I hope they cease resorting to this sort of cheap theatric.

Watch Bones - the two lead characters, Dr. Temperance Brennan and FBI Agent Seely Booth (oh, don't ask about the names - I can't explain that either), have a very atypical but fun to watch relationship. The lab at the Jeffersonian is floodlit and huge, with great people who are mostly scientist-types, so it isn't all that hard to believe. And the cases are interesting. I can't recall an episode I haven't liked. It is a fun, funny and serious show.

Occasionally, there is a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode I don't like, and I know why. The biggest reason is that there are a few episodes that are too dark. I understand that crimes are a dark subject, but people always are light at SOME point - our way of whistling in the dark and/or dealing with grisly stuff. But here the characters sometimes are ALL immersed in darkness in one episode and it is too much.

The second reason is sometimes the producers get out-of-hand with the violence. Some scenes are too much for me to watch, scensory overload. I've been to calls with violence. Rarely are they that crazy - and violence on the telly can inferred, not shown so graphically, and still be scary.

But it is still one of the top shows that I watch.