Sunday, February 28, 2010

Final thoughts

Yes, I realize that I am publishing this before the men's gold medal hockey game or the closing ceremonies even begin, but - for me - this is as it should be. Yes, I'll be watching the hockey game (after "The Sixth Sense"), but then that'll be it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the games. This will be my fifth post on them, and - if you have read the others - you already know what I liked most, what I found amusing, and what grated a little on me.

Rather than repeat myself, I thought it might be interesting to publish something a little different. And so, without further ado, here are my takes on ... ...

Pleasant surprises ... Not only watching (Via this wonderful link that Tammy sent me. Had to use it, because I was mentoring at the bridge studio Thursday evening, and was unable to view his performance live. Thank you, Tammy!) Evan Lysacek's gold medal-winning performance in men's figure skating, but realizing much later - during an interview with Bob Costas - that his hair did not naturally look like that, all plastered down, thank goodness. What a good-looking man! Adding to the pleasantness of my surprise was the calm and gracious manner in which he answered Bob's questions, including the one inquiring as to whether or not he intended to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. He replied (with a little wry grin on his face), "I'd like to, but I'm not sure they'll let me into the country!" (This comment, of course, a direct referral to Evgeni Plushenko's - not to mention the Russian premier's - very public criticism of his not performing a quad. I was a little surprised, actually ... glad, but surprised, to see the Russian perform in the gala yesterday.)

Another pleasant surprise was the amount of medals - and they started coming early! - the US won in the Alpine events. Unheard of, I think! Congratulations to all of our athletes who sacrificed, trained and worked so hard to compete in them. We appreciate you. I appreciate you!

Shocking things ... I don't know who was not shocked at the very unexpected turn of events in the men's speed skating event - 1500 meter, wasn't it? - when the skater from the Netherlands, easily on his way to Olympic gold, was mis-directed into the wrong lane by his coach and - rather than win the event - was subsequently disqualified. Since then, I have been searching for a word to describe this catastrophe. I have failed.

A Vancouverite's view ... Go here to read what Jo has to say about the Olympics being held where she lives and what she's been able to observe and take part in. Be sure to keep scrolling down to at least February 13th, where she talks about the opening ceremonies, which is one of my favorite posts of hers. Another of my personal favorites is this one, where she writes extensively about the White Bear People and the Spirit Bear. Fascinating stuff!

[I would like to add a comment or two about the gold medal winners' deportment during the award ceremonies. In my opinion, it is completely unnecessary that they sing - forget lip synching! - their national anthem. Is that how they got there, because they could sing their national anthem? No! They got there because of multitudinous hours of self-sacrifice, training and dedication to their sport. I can understand an athlete's inability to fully take part in the ceremony. I can only imagine - unless they've been in that position many times before, and very few have! - the euphoria they must be feeling and the blurriness of all the splendiferous activity going on around them. My most sincere hope is that someone has been recording this event for them, and they can relive it later when things have calmed down a bit. Standing at attention, perhaps with hand over heart, should be the maximum requirement. But, again, that's just my opinion.]

An epitomization of the best in all of us (we can only hope!) ... NBC has done a magnificent job showing us what our neighbor to the north - Canada - is all about, but in all of these really wonderful segments there is one thing that keeps screaming itself aloud - over and over - in my mind. The people, Goldenrod, the people!

And then yesterday, I was privileged to view - in its entirety - the premiere showing of Tom Brokaw's extended (30-40+ minutes) piece on the small town of Gander, in Newfoundland, and the part this extraordinary community had to play in the aftermath of early 9/11/2001. I am not the first blogger to write about this, no sirree. Check this site out for confirmation.

What a glorious piece! They broke for commercials a time or two during its airing, and I really didn't make note of the opening time (didn't know how long it would be!), so I can't tell you for sure how long it actually is from start to finish. I'll tell you one thing, tho ... ... it's well worth your time to view it (taping it, if possible, for future enjoyment) in its entirety.

So many heroes ... ... the airport controllers, who expanded from 3 to 14 (!) in a manner of minutes and landed (I forget the actual figure, but it was astronomical!) all of the diverted planes without incident. "It was an emergency," the chief controller said. "We train for events like these." ... ... the local bus drivers, who were on strike at the time, coming back to a man to assist in transporting the thousands of stranded airline passengers around ... ... the two local drugstores, who filled for free medicating prescriptions that had to be left on board with the checked luggage ... ... the thousands of townspeople (and those in surrounding communities) who quickly volunteered to step in and offer food, lodging and emotional support.

So many wonderful personal stories ... ... the stranded couple who actually met, married and then honeymooned there ... ... the parents of Kevin O'Rourke (sp? - cannot find the original article), a NYC fireman who was at first listed among the missing and later confirmed dead ... ... a passenger on Delta 15, who was instrumental in obtaining pledges for the citizens of Gander (who would not accept monetary contributions while the stranded passengers were there) in the amount of $15,000 (US) .. those monies were intended to establish a scholarship fund for graduating students in the area .. that fund has increased, btw, to nearly $900,000. (!)

There's a pretty fair writeup about Tom Brokaw's piece here, if you'd care to read further.

I'd just like to close by saying, "Thank you, Canada, for your hospitality and warmth during these past two weeks. I cannot imagine having a better neighbor!"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rules cats live by

Thought I'd go in a different direction from the Olympics for a post or two and share with you an e-mail that our friend, Jennie, sent me.

If you're a cat lover, you'll relate to it and have a few laughs (or moans and groans, as the case may be). If you're not a cat lover, you'll sneer and congratulate yourself that you don't own a cat.

Whichever you are, here it is ... ...

Bathrooms: Always accompany humans to the bathroom. It is not necessary to do anything. Just sit and stare.

Doors: Do not allow closed doors in any room. To get a human to open a closed door, scratch on it with your foreclaws or just sit and meow piteously until someone comes to your assistance. Once a door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. If an "outside" door has been graciously opened for you, stand halfway in and out and think about what you'll be doing next. It is particularly important to remember this during very cold weather, rain, snow, or mosquito season.

Chairs and Rugs: If you have to throw up, get to a chair quickly. If you cannot manage that in time, hurry to an Oriental rug. If your home has no Oriental rugs, shag will do nicely. When throwing up on a carpet, make sure you back up as you heave so your vomit trail is as long as a human's bare foot.

Hampering: If one of your humans is engaged in some activity and the other is idle, stay with the busy one. You are expected to help, even though some humans might refer to your helping as 'hampering'. 1) When supervising cooking, sit just behind the left heel of the cook. You cannot be seen and therefore stand a better chance of being stepped on and then being picked up and comforted. 2) If your busy human is reading a book, get in under their chin - as close as you can between their eyes and the book. Better yet, lie across the book itself. 3) If your busy human is doing paperwork, lie on the work, trying to obscure as much of it as possible. Pretend to doze, but every once in a while reach out a paw and gently slap (tap) the pen or pencil. 4) If your busy human is reading a newspaper, be sure to jump on the back of it. Humans love to be surprised! 5) If your busy human is working at a computer, jump up on the desk, walk across the keyboard, bat at the mouse pointer on screen and then lie on human's lap across arms so you can more easily be of assistance with any typing in progress.

Hiding: Every now and then, hide in a place where the humans cannot find you. Do not come out for three to four hours under any circumstances! This will cause the humans to panic (which they love!), thinking that you have run away, are lost or hurt. When you do come out, the humans will cover you with love and kisses and you might even get a treat.

Although Jennie's e-mail has been liberally edited by me, I hope you got a kick out of it. At the very least, you've had a little break in your day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

... ... continued

This post will be a smattering of thoughts and impressions. Guess I'll start with sponsorships.

Outside of the Mexican (I think! Don't remember for sure.) luge competitor who has his one and only (to my understanding) original sled, and at the age of 47 is still competing in the Olympics and loving every second of it, many many thousands of dollars are normally spent yearly in each sport.

Just think of the actual costs that must be involved ... ... the equipment (apparel/costumes, skates/skis/sleds/boards), the training (costs for trainer, not to mention hours and hours away from work/school/home), the travel (required to get to the training/practice sites), not to mention the costs involved just to get to the Olympics and have a place to stay and something to eat.

It's almost unimaginable to me, really! I have never been an official Olympic sponsor, although Coca Cola says in their commercials, "If you have drunk a coke in the last ---- years, you have been an Olympic sponsor." And so, if I pay strict heed to that, I guess I could consider myself an Olympic sponsor. :)

I remember years ago, when I was much more of a purist, thinking how horrible it was that an athlete born in one country was representing another in the Olympic games. Nowadays it's a much more common occurrence. I hate to say that it is all for $$, but that possibility certainly exists. I mean, who can afford (except for the very wealthy) the expenses that will be incurred, not to mention the hours and hours of training, dedication and abdication of any sort of personal life for who knows how long?

[In addition to the above-mentioned expenses, the top athletes in the world must now pay for body-guards. Can you imagine such a thing? In fact, some have even resorted to living in other countries and obscure places rather than be subjected to the seemingly never-ending barrage of people, cameras and questions. Sounds a whole lot like Hollywood, doesn't it? Grrr!]

I had no objection to the Michigan gal who competed for Georgia in pairs skating. She and her partner did not do very well, but I was glad that her partner had found a willing competitor and fellow skater. I didn't even care that her Georgian citizenship had been 'rushed through', according to the announcers.

I also had no objection to the young Japanese gal, who was forced to renounce her Japanese citizenship (Harsh!!!) in order to become eligible to compete in the pairs skating (for Russia, wasn't it?). The fact that she might never again be able to return to her homeland - criticism of her in that country has been loud and long, I understand - makes me very sad. I've tried to put myself in her place, tried to imagine having to give up my citizenship and having my name re-spelled in order to compete in a desired event, but have been unable to do so.

The only one that caused my eyebrows to rise was the native-born Canadian who was competing for Australia in the moguls. Why?!? Nothing against Australia, I hope you understand (I hope!), but that one got to me. I doubt very much that his decision had anything to do with money, and when the Canadian beat him out for Canada's first gold, I cheered like crazy!

OK. Let's move away from sponsorships, and go back to the Olympic schedule for just a moment. We are still involved in round robin sessions of the curling events, if you can believe such a thing. In a response I made to this post, I made mention of the fact that I HATE round robins! These round robin sessions (#s 11 & 12 coming up for the women ... they'll be playing against China and Switzerland) will mercifully end toDAY! Do I hear a hurrah? Hope so!

Semi-finals will be coming up for both men and women Thursday. (It'll take the officials at least that long to figure out who is advancing!) The medal games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday. However, as of this writing, it is anybody's guess who will be there. You'll just have to check your local schedules, huh?

I watched all three events in the ice dancing competition. My personal favorites (thought they had the most flair) did not win - came in second, but - all in all - I was not displeased with the results. I love pair dancing, do you? Mention was made of my personal favorites of all time - Torvill and Dean (Great Britain) - and hoped for a moment that I would be treated to a replay of their gold medal-winning performance of Ravel's "Bolero" from the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo.

It was not forthcoming, so I have spent more than just a few moments viewing various YouTube offerings, and would like to show you this one ... ...

It's not as good as what is in my memory banks, but we take what we can get, right? As you might have noted, "twizzles" (What a name!) and side by side steps were not included in the judging back then, but could you see what a pair they were? How they skated as one? Absolute and utter perfection, imo!

[I just finished reading about the current whereabouts of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, and was pleased to note that they are both still with us. They're now in their 50's. Kind of an interesting side note to this is that they were not allowed to perform again in the Olympics until 1994 in Lillehammer, after the rules for professionals competing in the Olympic games were relaxed. Do you remember those controversies? Oh, my!]

So what else am I watching? Well, I'm not watching - sorry, guys, but hockey is not one of my main interests - but have been very interested in following the progress of the US (both men's and women's) hockey teams. I see that a gold medal championship game has already been set up for the US vs. Canada (women) this Thursday. I would be surprised - shocked, actually! - if this game is not shown in its entirety on NBC. Our team and theirs have met going on twenty times this past year, and this ought to be a REALLY good game!!

The men's? Let's see, what's going on with them? Well, their gold medal game is not scheduled until Sunday. Playoffs - you're on your own for following who's still in the race and who isn't - are ongoing. Just not my 'thing', sorry about that.

Talk atcha in another couple of days, ok? Am still trying to decide whether or not I want to leave the (relatively) warm confines of my house and trudge over to McDonald's - there are two of them less than a mile from where I live - to partake "for free" (with the purchase of a large drink) one of their latest sandwich offerings ... either a turkey/bacon/cheddar cheese offering, or salami/turkey/provolone. Which do you think I should choose? Hmm?


2/25 ... morning ... Have just checked NBC's schedule of what's being shown today, and that gold medal game (women's hockey) isn't listed. (No mention of its being included in tonight's programming, either.) Women's cross country skiing will be aired this afternoon instead. Boo!

Also, a most peculiar thing happened Tuesday when I left the house (finally!) to get my 'free' sandwich. I went to both McDonald's. At the first one, the manager told me he had never heard of the offering and at the second - after I thought to ask the manager if those two sandwiches were new additions to their menu, he answered in the negative. You don't suppose I had not been paying close enough "attention" to the commercials, do you? My, my! Some other restaurant? Jack in the Box, maybe? Wrong date? And I advertised it wrong in this post, too. Shame, shame! How many of you did I send astray and were just too polite to tell me about it? :(

A little sidenote to the Torvill/Dean writeup. I watched a few more YouTube videos of their 1984 performance, and none is as good as the one I included above. However, there is a video of their medal ceremonies from 1984, and that quality is VERY good. You can find it easily by clicking on that selection at the bottom.

They last performed Bolero together in 2006. You can watch this abbreviated version - as above - by clicking on that selection at the bottom. After you watch this, I think you'll agree with me that you'll want to go back and enjoy once more their 1984 performance. Video quality is not as good, but you'll now have a much better informed opinion of how outstanding that performance in Sarajevo was.

Speed skating ... ...

I decided that I should put my personal prejudices against their clothing - in other words, stop focusing on the groin area - aside and watch some of the speed skating events.

What first comes to mind is what seems to me to be an almost 'free for all' type of activity when there are four or more skaters in the race at the same time. One of the more prominent examples of this, I think, is the race where Apolo Ohno* was in 4th place, his US teammate was in 5th, and three Koreans were ahead of them. On the very last lap, two of the Koreans took each other out. Apolo finished 2nd, luckily able to avoid the sprawled, fallen skaters, and his teammate 3rd.

[*I finally learned how to spell Apolo Ohno's name. Know how I did it? I always thought it was Apollo Ono, but his name was mentioned so many times this past week or so that I thought I'd better start paying attention. I said "Apolo", spelling it out over and over in my mind, until I got it right. And then, because it still seemed so wrong to me, it only made sense that his last name should be "Oh, no!" That'll work for me until the next unusual spelling of a name comes around. LOL]

I just called my daughter to ask if she remembered a lot of pushing and shoving when she competed in speed skating many years ago, and she denied any such thing ever happening. "At most," she said, " there was some gentle touching. I might even go so far as to call it 'nudging'." "It's really hard to pass on the corners," she added.

[She remembers going into the wall a bunch of times. "But it didn't hurt," she said. "Not like falling on those hard wood floors at the roller rink." Whaat?!? You mean to tell me ice isn't hard? :)]

It was while paying more attention to speed skating that I first came across the name Steven Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, whose group came to the sponsorship aid of the US Olympic speed skating team last November. Yeah, yeah, I can hear all of you cableites laughing now, but that's the truth. Anyway, I have thoroughly enjoyed his brief appearances on Bob Costas' show during the games.

He's funny! Upon concluding his first appearance, Steven asked Bob if he would mind if he (Steven) moved closer to the fire to warm up a bit. When Bob said, "Be my guest," or some such, Steven then proceeded to not only move closer to the fire, but spread apart the screen and climbed inside, laying with his back right next to the fire and closing the screen after him. Well, Bob couldn't stop laughing, nor could anyone else (including me!). "So much for realism," was one comment I heard.

For his second appearance, Steven came dressed as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A lot of fun was had with that one, as you might imagine! "How can you not love and respect a country where men dare to dress - and are admired for dressing - as women with child-bearing hips?" he asked. Lots of fun. Doesn't make me want to run out and add cable to my list of multitudinous programs to watch, but a little bit of his type of humor settles very well with me.

But going back to pushing and shoving, even gentle nudging, the judges - I think they call them 'referees' - in these events have been extraordinarily vigilant, it seems to me. I have noticed, many times, some competitors actually being disqualified and others being automatically advanced to the next round because of interference. Normally, these only occur when a skater in a qualifying or medal position is interfered with. Kudos to those judges! They have a difficult task and are handling it well, imo.

Have lots more to say about the last few days, but that'll do it for this post ... ... to be continued!

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Olympic impressions

I was going to watch the men's ice skating finals last night, but couldn't stay awake, so I missed Evan Lysacek's - what must have thrilling, even tho they say he didn't do a quad (Interesting!) - gold medal-winning performance. The first Olympic gold for the US since 1988, when Brian Boitano won it. Boy, I still remember his performance. Powerful!

I was all set to watch those finals Wednesday night, but they weren't on. Didn't the pairs events - short and long - follow each other on successive nights? So anyway, Wednesday found me checking the official Olympic schedule (Which I probably should have done in the first place, huh?).

I found a bunch of curling events, none of which is being shown on NBC, but did you know that the US has a curling team entered and did you also know that our curling team won a bronze medal in Torino four years ago? I knew none of that!

Brian Williams had a nice piece on curling and our team* last night at 6:30, I'm pleased to say, and then this morning NBC (segment sponsored by P&G - are you enjoying their Mom commercials as much as I am?) explained the skeleton event. I called my daughter to alert her that this was coming up. When we watched the opening ceremonies together, we both said, "Huh?" when they talked about skeleton. We are now better informed. LOL

*Just walking down the street, you would never in the world identify a curling team member as an Olympic athlete. In fact, one of the team said as much (with a huge gleam in his eye) during that interview. His comment drew big laughs, as you might imagine.

Did I watch anything Wednesday night? Well, yes I did. I watched most of the men's halfpipe (snowboarding), which normally would hold almost no interest for me except I wanted to see what all the hoopla surrounding Shaun White was about. I saw. Impressive! When it was obvious that he had won and didn't really need a second run, it was fascinating to listen to all of the discussion up top with his coaches.

"What should I do?" he asked. "Anything you want," they replied. "Could I just go down the middle of the ramp on my board?" (It was obvious that he wanted to just revel in the moment and scream and holler and jump up and down.) "No," was their answer.

And so, after a few more minutes (when everyone was waiting for him to do something!) of celebration, he started down the ramp, executing - at the very end - his never-before-seen-in-world-competition yellow banana triple split combination. (That's not what it's really called. I just made that up. I've heard several names mentioned. Make one up for yourself, ok?) What a thrill!

My overall impression of men snowboarders, outside of the fact that their pants all look like they're going to fall down around their ankles, was that wild hair must be a prerequisite for the sport. I use the word "was" because, in watching the medal ceremony later, two of the three medalists' hair were not wild. Wrong again, Goldenrod. Teehee!

I also watched some of the women's downhill, the event Lindsey Vonn won, and was moved by her tearful collapse into her husband's arms afterwards. "The waterworks just would not stop coming," she said later. When asked what she thought her chances were - think she's entered in two more Alpine skiing events, she said she really didn't want to even think about them just then. Good for her! Really, some of the questions these reporters ask!! Guess they're required to ask them, but still .. ..

I was just checking the official schedule for today and note that there is a US women's curling team entered. Boo, Brian Williams, for not even mentioning them! They're competing right now against the Russian Federation (but it's not being shown) in session 5 of a round robin. Go, ladies! Later on today, the men will be playing session 6 against France. Go, guys!

Will NBC be showing any of the curling events? Maybe the finals, I haven't checked that far ahead. This afternoon, I will not be glued to the television set. Women's cross-country skiing. Boring, at least for me.

Tonight, tho, is a little different story. They'll be showing compulsory ice dancing, which is kind of like watching Peggy Fleming do figure eights. I'll watch some of that, mainly to familiarize myself with the competitors, but won't be glued to the set.

Also tonight (live) will be the men's and women's skeleton finals. Now that my daughter and I are both somewhat better informed, we'll be watching.

More later.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympic impressions

I told myself I wasn't going to write about the Olympics before a Canadian won home gold for his country, and thank goodness - on the second day - someone did, in the moguls. The same event in which another Canadian, altho now competing for Australia - dual citizenship - was entered. Much was made of that by the announcers, and it looked for the longest while like the Australian was going to win the gold. A very exciting ending!

The moguls. Boy, I find them difficult to watch. Maybe it's because my granddaughter is having problems with one of her knees that I am so conscious of them, but that event looks awfully tough on the knees to me! How could it not be?

Did you watch the opening ceremonies? I was going to, but then found myself falling asleep before they even started! LOL I think (hope!) my son-in-law taped them for me. I'll have to get out to their house sometime this week to watch them. I won't expect anything of a spectacular nature, like what I saw from Beijing two years ago, but I've heard they were very nice and have seen glimpses here and there. Am looking forward to watching them in their entirety.

A life lost before the games even began. Terribly unfortunate. My take on all this is that, while it is tragic that a young man lost his life, he did it doing something he loved and in pursuit of a dream. How fine! A shock for his family and friends back home and for the entire Olympic community, some of whom had already gotten to know and admire his youthful zeal and tenacity for the sport of luge.

But really, folks, these Olympic athletes push the boundaries of safety and personal well-being every time they get on the ice, snow, gymnastic apparatus, track, or wherever in their never-ending quest to go faster, higher, or be more innovative. Very few of the Olympic sports offer little in the way of danger for the competitors ... curling and ping pong, to name two right off the top of my head ... much of the rest are fraught with peril, and we should not be too surprised when an athlete suffers an injury and goes down. Saddened, and perhaps gripped with the all too human morbid fascination of watching the accident replay again and again, but not surprised.

Yesterday, I found myself immersed in the Nordic combined, an event in which an American (to the best of my understanding) had never won a medal. This is an event that begins with a ski jump and start times for the continuation are taken from that. There were three Americans 1-2-3 in the cross-country portion for the longest time with a fourth gaining ground little by little to try and join the front pack of eight or so.

Ordinarily I would never watch such an event, but the novelty of three (and possibly even four) Americans being in the hunt was quite thrilling. I am not big on medal count. I am much more into personal stories, such as the one of the young man who came in third the other day in speed skating. Such courage and determination! And, an interesting side note to this story was that his doctor was Don Jansen* (???), the former speed skater who won (five, was it?) gold medals himself in the sport.

[*Was it Don Jansen, or was it Eric Hayden? I'll have to pay attention the next time his name is mentioned so I can come back and correct this portion. Sorry about that. I'm terrible with names. Just terrible!]

Anyway, getting back to the Nordic combined - and I think there's another, longer version, scheduled for later on in the Olympics (I might just have to watch some of that!) - it was exciting all the way to the finish. All the way! One of the Americans did medal, altho it wasn't the one who had led all the way. He finished just out of the medal picture. It was truly a sprint to the finish. A fellow from France, I think, won the event. All three of the medalists collapsed immediately after they crossed the finish line. Immediately!

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and NBC had a lot of wonderful little tidbits to share with us in honor of the event, but the one that most caught my attention was that of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, the Chinese husband and wife team who are entered in the pairs skating.

They have been skating together for 18 (!) years. A few years ago, he suffered what most would have thought to be a career-ending injury ... a "ruptured" (I think the term was) Achilles tendon. She was one of his mainstays during his recuperative period, and their relationship blossomed and deepened into marriage.

I watched them skate the short program last night. Flawless, to my (really) uninformed eye. To the judges', as well, because their score set a new record for the short program. However - there always seems to be a however, doesn't there? - the judges also found favor with some of the other competitors, and tonight's long program should see a near-record number of viewers, of which I'll be one.

I'll be rooting for China to win the gold in this event. How about you?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How the mighty have fallen

I am of the age when, years and years ago, Japanese auto manufacturers first came out with compact cars and were laughed at (for the most part, to my recollection).

It was only in the mid-80's, when I had become convinced their cars were among the best, that I purchased a Honda Civic wagon. It was perfect for my art business, and I took more than one trip to Big Bend National Park in it - "camping out", as it were, in the back. (Everything folded flat except for the driver's seat.)

Wonderful car! 40mpg, no matter what kind of roads you were on or how fast you were going, it seemed, and finding a parking spot was a breeze. Maintenance? Laughable. As long as you kept up with the grease and oil changes and drove it on a regular basis, there wasn't any!

It has been many years since I last owned a Japanese-made vehicle ... for quite some time, after I first started driving a taxicab, foreign-made vehicles were not allowed to be put "on line" as taxicabs ... and so I really had not kept up with what Consumer Reports had to say - or anyone else, for that matter!

I do know that foreign-made vehicles are now - and have been for quite some time - allowed to be put online as taxicabs. Don't remember when that changed, exactly. By the time it did, I was into Chevies ... in particular, the Caprice (until the manufacturing plant was changed over to make more trucks, doncha know - we're in Texas!) and then the Lumina.

Did it change because "foreign-made" vehicles are not always entirely manufactured in their own country? Did it change because this country - the USA - now makes some Japanese cars? I don't know. I'm just throwing out questions. However, I distinctly remember a time when - if you purchased a Japanese-made car - you were assured (at least I was!) that it was 100% up to speck and there were (and would be) no problems. At least, none of an immediate nature, such as floor mats, gas and brake pedals. Brake pedals????? Heaven forbid such a thing!

Just thinking out loud here, but the news - what little I've heard and paid attention to recently - has me wondering.

The Regional ... ... #2

Yesterday I read through the long, long list of winners in the Regional duplicate bridge tournament just completed.

[I'd have published this earlier, but the ACBL's office in Memphis was closed due to inclement weather. Nothing like what DC has been experiencing, but .. .. .. everything seems to be 'up and running' now.]

It was fun reading. Saw some names towards the bottom of the list who should have been much closer to the top (imo) and names at the top who had no business being there. LOL

It took a while to read through the list of winners. We had a successful tournament, attendance-wise. Over 3,000 tables total. Reading through the list made me realize how many very good bridge players we have here in the Houston area. We have a Unit that is alive, vibrant, strong and moving ahead in all directions ... membership, public relations and attracting new players to the game of bridge.

From the little bit of time I spent at the tournament, I thought it went very smoothly and showed the positive results of many hours of hard work and organization by co-chairs Pat Levy and Paul Cuneo, who were ably supported by a hundred or more volunteers both before and during the tournament itself.

I was particularly impressed by the streamlined way in which the meal was served between sessions Sunday. Not only were there no lines - boxed lunches - but the sandwiches with extra-fresh bread were delicious! I felt myself starting to sag a bit afterwards, tho, - I like to take naps after I eat - but I made it through just fine.

I played in two side games on Thursday and Friday evenings with pickup partners and placed both times .. section top in the first one and second on Friday. I hadn't intended to play two sessions, but I noticed - when looking at the results online the next day, that my points for a section top would be gold if I played more than one session in the same event. Don't need any points - gold or otherwise - but I thought, "What the hey!"

There were fifteen side games all told ... five each morning, afternoon and evening (Tuesday through Saturday), and you had to play in two of the five to qualify for the overalls or get gold points if you received a section top. Unfortunately, the second fact was not made known ahead of time nor during the tournament itself unless you happened to read about it online. One of my students, who just needs gold points to qualify for Life Master status, played in only one of the sessions. She got a section top, but no gold because she didn't play in a second session. She would have adjusted her schedule accordingly had she known, I'll betcha. I didn't realize what had happened until I saw her Sunday, and by then it was too late to do anything about it.

My pickup partners did not seem to be affected by my (what appeared to be a) contagious disease, that of revoking. I wasn't the one doing the revoking. No, no, it was my regular partners! SIX revokes !!! altogether, two of which were very costly.

[For those of you non-bridge players, a revoke is the term given when you do not play a card of the suit led. For example, a diamond is led and you play a spade. If it turns out that you had a diamond and didn't play it, that is called a revoke. Where this can become very costly is that -- in addition to perhaps losing a trick or two (depending on who won the revoking trick and how many tricks were won subsequently) -- the card played (in this case a spade) remains on the table face up as a major penalty card and must be played at the first opportunity. If revoker's partner happens to get on lead, then declarer has other options. The upshot of this whole thing? Don't revoke!

Btw, a revoke is impossible when you're playing BBO ... the programming simply will not allow it. That's why, when a diamond was led (above), I asked, "No diamonds, partner?" By then, tho, it was too late. A spade had already hit the table. No trick penalties on this, but possible lead penalties, as you have already read.]

One really funny story about one of my partners' revokes. I think it was the last one of the tournament. The card inadvertently played - and therefore a major penalty card - was the deuce of hearts. It sat there on the table until partner won a trick and had to lead. Out came the offending deuce, which won the trick. I think that's hilarious! Don't recall ever hearing another revoke story quite like that one.

Well, that's all from the tournament. Had a lot of fun, as always.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl thoughts

Polimom -among many others, I'm sure - is an avid Saints' fan, but as of this writing ... 2 pm on Monday, February 8, 2010 ... she has posted not one single word about the game yesterday. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What's THAT all about? Is she in a comatose state after their win? Is she ill? Is AC or someone else in her family ill, had an accident, or in the hospital? Has my son-in-law forbidden her from publicly crowing and screaming to the skies, "YESSS!" What's going on there, anyway??

Her lack of saying anything, particularly considering her last post in re the Saints in the playoff picture, has me nonplussed.

Did any of you watch? My sessions in the Regional tournament ended well before game time and I could have taken in the whole thing, starting with the kickoff, but I had some errands to run beforehand and then Stargate SG-1 came on.

However, I want all y'all to know that I was listening on the radio when the Colts were held - on their opening drive - to a field goal. I called Polimom and said, "I think that's a good sign." She agreed.

I called again after some extensive shopping, said I was on my way home and asked what was happening. Not too much, I was told. The Saints had been able to muster very little offense and the Colts had scored a touchdown on one of their next possessions.

By the time I got all of the groceries unloaded from the car and put away - television on the whole time, of course, so I could keep up with what was going on - I learned that the second quarter belonged almost entirely to the Saints. Hmm!

I sat down to watch for a bit. After all, SG-1 wasn't due to come on for a while yet and there'd been a time in my not that distant past when I was a football 'maniac'.

I called my son-in-law to try and tell him the Saints should have gone for the fullback up the middle when it was first and goal from the three-yard line. However, he misunderstood what I was trying to say and thought I was predicting the next play call. Noo, I wasn't.

I watched with absolute and utter glee and delight when the Saints led off the second half with an onside kick whose outcome - for several minutes, it seemed like - was undecided. I thought that was one of the funniest things I had ever seen, and hope they (my daughter and her family) were able to tape it so they could play it back again and again and again. Hilarious!

I called Polimom, who answered the phone with, "Hahahahahahaha!"

Later, during a commercial break for SG-1, I had the lucky happenstance to catch the interception that was run back for a touchdown. That was exciting!

Then today, while driving back and forth from the eye doctor appointment, I had sports talk radio on. Interesting, the comments. They varied greatly, depending on whether or not the caller was a Saints' or Colts' fan, as you might imagine.

What about you? Did you watch?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I have often heard it said that the dictionary defines one big word with another. In many cases, that seems to be true. It's no different with the word "poignancy", which is defined in my book as "the quality or state of being poignant". Rrvit! And then, of course, I had to look up "poignant" ... "deeply affecting the feelings".

There's really no one word that can adequately describe how one feels when a member of the family dies, one you have lived with and loved for many years. Poignant is as good a word as any, I guess.

Yesterday morning, Polimom wrote a beautiful post about the loss in her family. It moved me deeply. I was going to publish this in response before I left to play in the tournament, but I got caught up in reading some of my previous posts - the ones where I spoke of my love for cats - and there just wasn't enough time left to do it justice.

Why am I speaking of my love for cats? Polimom lost a member of her family!

Well, it wasn't a person who died. It was Pounce, her beloved cat. Cancer took him. I couldn't believe how fast he went! A really good thing. And he died where he knew people loved him. Polimom didn't have to undergo the horrendousness of taking him to the vet to be 'put down', thank goodness.

[She and I spent the better part of an hour in the late afternoon talking about him, about the other pets in the family and pets in general, and about feelings. I figured she needed the emotional outlet and was glad I was there to provide it.]

To honor Pounce - and especially in memory of my own Serendipity, who died fifteen years ago this Valentine's Day - I'd like to re-publish a poem I wrote for her that dreadful evening when I came home and discovered that she had somehow managed, in her terribly weakened state, to climb up onto my bed before she took her last breath.

My Valentine

Words cannot begin to describe how I feel
Now that my pretty one's insides have begun to congeal.

I cannot stop petting her -- her fur is still so soft
I suppose I'll continue to find fleas until summer -- even in the loft.

I hated to leave her this morning ... she wanted to lay in the doorway -- ajar
(I guess) so she could see what she had (seems like just yesterday) chased from afar.

Queen of the fence, rooftop, trees
She went exactly as she pleased!

Now my lovely has died on my bed, her head near my pillow, her mouth open, quite dead.

I don't want her to awaken ... there must have been pain
I wouldn't want her to have to go through all that again.

Tears shed on my bed. I've dug the hole, but will have to make it deeper ...
Can't stand the thought of yukky bugs and God knows what all getting at my beautiful sleeper.

Oh, Serendipity! My unexpected pleasure!
You were such a wonderful treasure!

The above poem was written the evening Serendipity died and was first published on this blogsite here, almost two years ago. I couldn't stop crying until I wrote it. It made me feel a little better to get all of my raw feelings down on paper. I imagine, if I'd been blogging way back then in 1995, I'd have written about it.

Anyway, perhaps - for those of you who have experienced similar losses - this post will help alleviate your pain. Hugs, Polimom!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Regional ... ... #1

... starts this evening at the Adams Mark Hotel.

How does one ever get it past their head that the Adams Mark is no longer the Adams Mark? (And hasn't been for a number of years.) It is now one of 89 gazillion billion Marriott Hotels worldwide. Never you mind. It will ALWAYS be the Adams Mark to me!

It's just up the street from here. What this actually means, in "Houston-speak", is that it is 'just around the corner', which could be anywhere from 1/2 block to a mile (or two or three or four - maybe even more). Teehee!

From my house to there, I go up to Beechnut, catch the Beltway heading north, exit Westheimer and I'm there. Well, almost. No more than ten minutes max (normal conditions).

Edna and I had our 'practice game' for Sunday's Swiss team session earlier today at Tracy Gee Community Center, which is just a touch closer to me than the hotel I was talking about. We had a very nice game ... not humongous, but nice. A few things came up that were worthy of discussion, and I'm feeling quite comfortable about our game.

Watching a former student's progression through the years can be almost as exhilarating and satisfying as watching your own child's. Geez, I hope we do well on Sunday! They - my former students - always seem so nervous when they play with me. Almost like they're expecting impossible things of themselves because they're playing with their teacher.

I've asked them - time after time after time - why they seem so nervous when they're playing with me. I always get the same answer, "Because you're our teacher."

Well, shuckeydurn and tarnation, anyway! I don't know what I can do about that other than try to play my very best and not make a mistake. (I always try and do that when I'm playing with a student - former or current - or mentee, but I'm not perfect. I'm not one of the 'big time pros' nor a robot. I make mistakes. I just try not to make any when I'm playing with them!)

Please wish us luck on Sunday?

Now, in re other events for the Regional, Julian and I will be playing tomorrow afternoon. Actually, it'll be round #3 of a knockout event, but Bill Breslin (Julian's regular partner) can't make the afternoon session, so I'm a replacement. Hopefully, their team will still be "in" the event and I can hold up my end of the bargain and help them carry on to the finals.

Friday night, Julian and I are scheduled to play in a "midnight Swiss" .. .. so-called because this event used to start around midnight. However, with earlier start times for the regular games, it's now advertised as starting at 10:30.

This brings to mind "pajama games", which were notorious at Galveston sectional tournaments in the 70's. My, my! I remember 'pajama games' there when, if you were in the lobby of the hotel just minding your own business, you could be pressed into service and be part of a hand where dealer bid, you sat on dealer's lap, someone else played the hand and you tried your best to sort your cards and follow suit. (Exaggerating only slightly here. Ask Jolie ... she'll tell you!).

That's all I have scheduled. I imagine, however, that when I show up tomorrow afternoon, someone will ask me whatall else I have going and would I be available for thus and so?

We'll see. Meanwhile, you have my schedule as of 7pm Monday, February 1st, 2010.