Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Little About Scott

Scott is shooting up like crazy. He is now up to R's shoulder. He is thin as a rail, but you can tell when you grab his hand that he is so much thicker than Katie now. He is about 60 pounds or something like that. He is a total fiend for anything to do with sports. He is reading the Harry Potter books and he is onto the 6th one now. Last year he was just getting into chapter books and how he is blasting through 700-page novels. Wild.

I was running Scott's bball practice last night and it was soooo much fun. I had the kids doing this really complicated 5-man, full court passing and shooting drill and they were getting it. Crazy how much they have improved this year. After practice was over, a few of us lingered and did a 3-on-3 game of fast breaks. We had an adult on each team and the kids would tear off down the court after every rebound and we would lob passes to them for breakaway layups. We kept at it for about 30 minutes and Scott was beet red and exhausted at the end. I carried him up to bed. It was so great. Kids are great. So is basketball.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

First Triathlon Win!

[Aug 15 2015]

This summer we planned a family trip to Placid Lake in Montana with all R's family. We went down a few days early and met up with my brother and my parents. I noticed that there was a triathlon going on at the lake nearby, so I mentioned it to my brother. He said that he and his kids were already registered, even before he heard we were coming. but he had a health incident with his heart and would not be able to participate. I signed up my kids and arranged to race in the place of my brother. There were two races for adults, one with 600 yard swim and one with a 300 yard swim (but both had a 10 mile bike and a 3 mile run). I raced in the short swim version, because that is what they had already signed up for, but inside I was thrilled because I am a terrible swimmer. I bought myself a sweet triathlon outfit on sale for this event, which meant that I would only need to put on socks and shoes to do my transition, and I was ready.

SWIM
7:55 for 300 yards was 15 overall.

TRANSITION 1
1:42 was 8 overall

BIKE
30:08 for 16 km was 1 overall
(I passed everyone but the leader in the first half of the bike. Saw him coming out of the turnaround but never caught him.)

TRANSITION 2
0:36 was 12 overall
(would have been faster but I forgot to take my helmet off and had to throw it to a bystander.)

RUN
23:30 for 5.4 km was 3 overall
(I caught the leader in the first half and held off the challenger in the last half. Kaitlin beat my run time by 19 seconds.)

Although the morning was hazy and cool, the water was deliciously warm like a bathtub. It was a wonderful start. Plus, it was so shallow that in the kids race Scott walked most of his swim and I was able to walk next to Katie and make sure she was okay. I stayed with her for the whole time, including a very challenging 5km bike course that went through the woods for most of it. The path was narrow and the ground uneven, so bent over from behind Katie to grab her handle bars and help her stay on the path. Even if I hadn't just run my own triathlon this would have been exhausting. Finally we pulled back onto the road for the final stretch back to the transition. Katie was one of the very youngest competitors in the whole race and nearly everyone was finished by the time we returned, so her cousins all did the run with her, being kind enough to let her beat them to the finish line.

VIDEOS
Finish Line Video


Kaitlin at the finish line
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=20m59s

Becca at the finish line
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=24m9s

Krissy at the finish line
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=42m26s

KIDS
Katie transition to bike
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=57m40s

Dad chasing after Katie
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=58m20s

Connor winning the Kids Race
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=1h7m55s

Bailey, Scott, Afton & Cannon at the finish line
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=1h16m00s

Katie at the finish line
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNRt8QwTo_E&t=1h25m50s

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Books I Read in 2015

Extreme: Why Some People Thrive at the Limits - Emma Barrett and Paul Martin (Audio Book)
My reading list always has some bizarre titles on it. I this one was a recommended book on Audible, which is my service for audio books. The author's British accent is delicious and worth the price of admission, smoothly recounting harrowing accounts of explorers freezing to death at the poles or dying at crushing depths. The conclusions are fascinating, although it seems like the analysis is mainly based on anecdotal evidence, rather than clinical trials. Each story seems more like a plausible launching point for more research, rather than the basis for conclusions, but hey, I am no expert here. I think I still haven't quite finished it off, but there is no over-arching narrative here, so I don't think that I missed a surprise ending or anything.

The Rent Collector - Camron Wright
This is the second book I have read about a family that experienced great hardship in Cambodia (the other book was To Destroy You is No Loss about the Khmer Rouge's seizure of Phnom Penh). This book didn't have a harsh Marxist Dictator oppressing everyone, but life in the dump seemed pretty harsh on its own, and it was fascinating to think about how a family could adapt to this situation and have deep and meaningful relationships, despite the backdrop. Good book.

1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed - Eric H. Cline
This book discusses the causes of the end of the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean, which is a topic I previously knew nothing about. The book is perhaps more scholarly at times than I really required, but it was fascinating to learn how a sophisticated and very interconnected world like that could suddenly collapse in the face of a series of disruptive challenges, including drought, mass migration, and interrupted trade routes. The lesson is that nothing lasts forever, and because there really isn't one factor that causes this sort of collapse, it is hard to say what it might take to have another one.

The Martian - Andy Weir
I hadn't even heard of this book or the Hollywood movie that was based on it until a friend at work mentioned that he had just read it and really enjoyed it. I devoured the book in the course of just a few days and then watched the movie about a week later. My personal preference would be to have less cussing, but I have nothing but good things to say about this story. The bulk of the book, especially at the beginning, is just the protagonist's log entries of his effort to survive, and that is the best stuff. On a literary level, those parts read like a good friend of yours sending you a really long email, but that doesn't mean you can't love it. I wish more of my friends would send me gripping emails like this from Mars.

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie - Jordan Sonnenblick
My sister Allyson and I share a Kindle account and this popped up from her side of the library. It looked like something targeted at her teenager kids, but I am not above such things. I really enjoyed it. I think the author tried a bit too hard to have a teenager's voice, and I think the resultant word choices were sometimes distracting, but overall the story about being an awkward teenage boy coping with the family strain of a sick younger brother was compelling and heart-wrenching. I learned later that the author is a school teacher and the story is inspired by the experience of one of his students. I recommend it.

The Watch That Ends the Night - Hugh MacLennan
I had ordered a used copy of this book off Amazon and it sat in my bedroom for about a year or more, until I couldn't remember why I had decided to order it. It was published in 1959 and I had an old hardcover library copy that had been signed out only twice. I read the whole thing on our anniversary trip to Mexico and it is the best book I have read in a long time. I particularly appreciated the historical setting in English Montreal during the 1930s - 1950s, which happens to cover the short period when my grandparents lived in Montreal and my mom was born. There are a lot of symbols and parallels and I can't say that I quite grasped the significance of each one but the author spends some time wrapping it up for you at the end. Individual people, married couples, nations and civilizations all show the ability to have growing pains, crises of faith and ultimately a spiritual rebirth, but all this take place within an accessible narrative that was pretty engrossing. No wonder this book was twice honoured: 1) Canadian Governor General's Award for literature in 1959; and 2) A Tragically Hip Song in 1992 called Courage (for Hugh MacLennan). I am pretty sure that I was sparked to buy this book by reading about the lyrics of the Tragically Hip song, which paraphrases this passage: “But that night as I drove back from Montreal, I at least discovered this: that there is no simple explanation for anything important any of us do, and that the human tragedy, or the human irony, consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of actions performed under the pressure of compulsions so obscure we do not and cannot understand them.” This book is not even considered MacLennan's finest. There is more reading here for me to do.

Tunnel in the Sky - Robert A. Heinlein
In the Q&A at the end of The Martian, author Andy Weir said that his favourite book growing up was Tunnel in the Sky (published in 1955). I had never heard of it, but I figured that was a good enough reason to give it a try. Fantastic book. The futuristic setting is explained quickly but with enough detail that the rest story can stand alone without the reader constantly questioning the framework. The beginning reminds me a little bit of reading the book Hatchet when I was a kid, except in a much more menacing environment, with a Lord of The Flies dynamic going on. I learned later that this book was published just one year after Lord of the Flies. Really good. Highly recommend for young readers.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Tri-Smore 2015

[June 20, 2015]

Little Spectators


Alli Swimming


Scott & Hayden Swimming


Boys Onto Bikes


Katie Outside


Alli Running


Boys Running


Medals


D and Troy in the Pool


Fans Waiting for Dads


D Off Of Bike


Troy From Bike Transition


D to the Finish


Gareth to the Finish


Girls Getting Ready


Girls into the Pool


Katie from Pool to Bike


Adalia On Bike


Katie on Bike


Katie Running




Adalia Starting Run


Adalia to the Finish


She Makes Friends Easily

I got a call from Katie again yesterday. She said, "Hi Dad. I am near your building right now. I am on the bus with Mom." R was a parent-chaperone for a school outing to see the play "Legend Has It" at the Epcor Performing Arts Centre downtown, just a few blocks from my office. Katie told me that she had her lunch in a backpack and they were going to eat their lunch and then go watch the play.

When I got home for dinner I heard more details about the day. While waiting to leave on the theatre trip, R had seen Scott go past on his way to the library. Today Scott played the piano at school in a talent show of sorts. He had played the piano in this same event last year, but this time around he was a bit freaked out and kept saying he wanted out. In the end, R helped him figure out what he was most nervous about (standing and introducing his songs to the group) and made a plan to have the teacher introduce the songs for him. He played the Star Wars Theme and Rudolph. Everyone started singing along for Rudolph, which both surprised him and pleased him. Also, when the time came his teacher offered to introduce the songs for him but he was okay to do it himeslf. At home he told us that sometimes he doesn't want to do something but then he does it and he is glad that he did.

I learned more details about the theatre trip too. Katie said she made a new friend on the trip. A boy. Katie couldn't quite remember his name, but R said that they were walking and holding hands by the end. Katie told me that recently she'd had another new friend that was a boy for a few days, but not so much anymore.

The way things are going, this girl may need a chaperone to come with her to school every day.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Friendly Bagel Man

Yesterday I left the house very early to get to work. It was about 4:30am and stars showed brightly with no hint of dawn. A few blocks from home I turned a corner and saw the shadow of a figure running towards my vehicle, waving a hand to get my attention. Confused, I stopped, and rolled my window down a few inches. A young man came to the window out of breath and told me "Hey, I just hitchhiked all the way here from BC and I stashed my backpack over there and I haven't had anything to eat. Do you know where I could get something to eat?" In one instant my mind quickly evaluated a number of options that included him and I driving around in the dark looking for food, then I realized I was already chewing on a bagel, so I offered it to him. I had split the bagel in half and I still had one half sitting on the passenger seat so I handed it to him through the gap in the window and said, "I don't think anything around here is open, but does this help?" He said he had been starving and that this was perfect and amazing. I felt pretty good about it as I drove away, even later, when I was a little bit hungry. I told the story to a friend and he gave me a rice krispie square. People helping people get snacks.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Deck the Halls and Other Sad Songs

After Scott's rousing basketball victory at midday (where he scored his season-high 8 points), we spent the rest of Saturday decking the halls. First, Scott and I took the stepladder out to hang lights around the edge of the garage door, which is mainly a process of Scott climbing up and down the ladder and fastening zip ties to various hooks that I put in place in a previous year. There were no incidents, as he is a pretty careful ladder-climber and I hovered at his elbow at all times. He retreated to the house, citing the chills. I think it was because he was wearing thin warm-up pants over his basketball shorts and the pants are about 1 year too short for him now.

Katie came bouncing out the door with a big smile and her jacket unzipped to pick up where Scott left off. Katie was a wonderful assistant and we made rapid pace along the front gutter to the front door where Scott slid the window open a crack to play Christmas carols on the piano for our entertainment. All was well through very polished renditions of Jingle Bells and Rudolph, where Katie and I managed to wrap the lights around the railing and one of the trees out front, but then we hit a snag at Deck the Halls. Scott was struggling with the song and eventually R must have tried to give him a hint about the note that he was missing and he broke down in tears.

Later on it was my turn to break down, as we discovered that the new white lights that I had purchased at Canadian Tire for the Christmas tree were actually the wrong colour of white. I had purchased "cool white", while the pine & holly garland that we got for the railing had "warm white" lights in it -- even though both of lights were made by the same company and you would never guess they were different until you lit them up at home like we did. We had to strip the tree of its cool white lights and replace them with our old multi-coloured lights, since the stores had all closed for the evening and no one really wanted to put off the rest of the hall-decking, especially hanging up all the cool ornaments that the kids receive every year from the Dustan Family out in Ottawa.

Fa-la-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la.
[Sobbing]