Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm FAST!

I have been watching The O'Reilly Factor on the PVR this morning. I watch it for at least three minutes every morning for a good belly laugh. That man is crazy! But this morning it's that annoying blonde woman filling in for him. I know, I know, there are several thousand annoying blonde women who appear in the O'Reilly show. Perhaps for some loofah. This particular one is Laura Ingraham though, and although she's actually more caustic than O'Reilly, she makes me laugh less. So I fast-forwarded through the whole thing. But at the end, they have a breaking scandal about Michael Phelps! And I was worried - what's it going to be? What's the news? Has he...tested poisitive for steroids? HGH? Some kind of banned stimulant? No. The controversy is about Phelps endorsing Frosted Flakes. You see, Frosted Flakes are not AS good for kids as Corn Flakes! And he's an athlete. He should be representing only the most healthy cereals. Like Shredded Wheat. And Celery-Os.

I for one, know for a fact that Michael Phelps does not eat Shredded Wheat. Or Frosted Flakes or Corn Flakes. Feeding a kid Frosted Flakes instead of Corn Flakes because Phelps' picture is on the box will put more sugar into them. Making them...slightly less healthy? Feeding them the breakfast Phelps actually eats would KILL them. I know this because I ate his breakfast yesterday. And it almost killed me. And I am four times the size of most kids. Three fried egg and cheese sandwiches with mayo. A five-egg omelete. A bowl of oatmeal. Two slices of French toast. And three chocolate ship pancakes. That's what he eats. Every morning. That's what I ate. Yesterday morning. And then I ran 200 metres.

The whole idea was to see how fast a regular person could run compared with how fast Usain Bolt can run. Watching him win the 200 metres on Wednesday was incredible. You would think, in a race that goes only 200 metres and lasts 20 seconds, that it would be pretty darn close at the end. And he won be seven metres. In fact, because the guy who finished second AND the guy who finished third were both disqualified, Bolt finished like twelve metres ahead of the silver medallist. Unreal. Even more impressive than his 9.69 world record in the 100 metres, he broke the seemingly-untouchable Michael Johnson world record in the 200 in 19.30 seconds. Not only is he the fastest man in the world, he instantly becomes one of the greatest Olympians of all time. More impressive than even Michael Phelps. And he makes it look completely effortless.

This is something I can't claim. I ran the 200 metres yesterday, and I did NOT make it look effortless. First of all, no person (outside of the elite athletes of the world) can move around after a meal like that, let alone run fast. Secondly, at about the 100 metre mark, my pants began to fall down. I shouldn't have kept my wallet and keys in my pocket. So I figure that affected my time somewhat. In the end, I finished in 40 seconds. More than double the time of the fastest man in the world. I figured that was about right - then Woody made a great point. I weigh twice as much as he does. Therefore, I should be half as fast. Which leads me to believe that if I lose about 120 pounds, I too could be the fastest man in the world. This put my mind at ease. I slept well last night.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympics...

I have been pretty immobile during my vacation, which means I have been stuck in front of the TV watching whatever Olympic coverage my girlfriend likes. Which is, apparently, almost all Olympic coverage. I like some sports - like waterpolo, because I played it. Or like the track races, because I have done that before as well. Running, I mean. Not competitively or anything, but you know. There have been moments in my life where I ran. So I get it. Also rowing. I have rowed before. So I like watching it. Let's see, what else...volleyball. I like volleyball. Not the beach kind, but the hardcourt kind where the crazy hard straight-down spikes happen. I've become a Logan Tom fan, even though she's American. I would enjoy watching basketball if we got games other than the American ones, or if any team in the world had a chance to win one of them.

But I don't like horse jumping. I'm sorry, Ian Millar fans. I AM happy he won a silver medal and all. But watching that is like watching paint dry for me. The whole idea is...not to knock over some fences? It doesn't really matter how fast you go? Then...what's the point? It's just horses walking from fence to fence, jumping them, and a guy with a silly hat. Or a girl with a silly hat. Come to think of it, is horse jumping the only co-ed team event in the Olympics? Where you can be a woman or a man or a teen or a grandfather? Oh, maybe sailling. Now there's a boring sport to watch. Look at how that guy...pulled that rope...and I have sailed before. And I still hate watching it.

The main problem I have is with the sheer number of events. Just "diving" isn't enough. You know, we could cram in another event here - let's do it synchronized. Just "gymnastics" isn't enough. There has to be a team event, a team all-around event, individual events, individual all-around events...if this business hadn't been going on for years, I would be throwing out conspiracy theories here. That it was all a way to crank up the overall number of China's medals. Nowhere is this more apparent than in race walking. I can accept some seemingly mutually exclusive events, like archery and shooting. Not that I like either one of those, but I get that archery has that classic event historic feel to it, and that shooting is the modern, easier equivalent of the same thing. But racewalking? There is, I am sure, no historic precedent for race walking. I'm certain that when people had to go a certain distance as fast as possible in the old days, they ran. Hence - marathon, from the Greek "Marathon". When did the idea hit people that doing something half as well for absolutely no reason could be an Olympic event? Isn't that kind of like adding a doggy-paddle event in swimming?

Actually, it's swimming that bugs me the most. The fastest way to swim is the front crawl. That's it. Nothing else. (OK, maybe, for some, the butterfly. Granted.) So why isn't that the "swimming" race? Why bother with the backstroke, or the breaststroke? They aren't as fast, so why would you ever use them? I used to play waterpolo. There is a lot of swimming in that sport. I never saw anyone use the breaststroke to chase down a ball. I did watch Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal of the games, and it was certainly exciting. And he is, definitely, the best swimmer ever. But people are calling him the greatest Olympian ever. And I can't get behind that. He just happens to be the greatest Olympian in the event that allows you to win the most medals. You can't win eight gold medals in track. You can maybe, if you're the greatest ever, win the 100 metres and 200 metres and the relay and the long jump and the triple jump and the 100 metre hurdles and the 200 metre hurdles. Which is a ridiculous stretch. No one would ever be entered in all those events. But even then it's only seven. Phelps won two medals for medley, three for butterfly, and three for front crawl, including three relays. No other sport allows you to even participate in that many events.

So here are some of my picks for the greatest Olympian ever:

Carl Lewis. In 1984, he won gold in all four of his events. 100m, 200m, long jump and the relay. In 1988, he won gold in two events, 100m and long jump, and a silver in the 200. And in 1992, he won two more gold. And then, in 1996, he won another gold, in the long jump, and a silver in the 200m. That is 12 years of dominance in track, a sport that generally has athletes that stay on top for two or three years, tops. And spare me any reference to Ben Johnson, please.

Paavo Nurmi. This man was the ultimate distance runner, likely the greatest of all time. Nine gold and three silver in the twelve events in which he competed over three Olympics. The 10,000 metres is much different than the 3,000. And he dominated in both. Also amazing in the steeplechase, the 8,000 metre cross-country.

Bjorn Dahlie. I remember watching this man in Nagano, and being amazed. Able to rack up an incredible 12 medals in cross-country skiing, in all kinds of disciplines. Winning gold in the 10km and the 50 km in the same year is like a runner winning the 100m and the 1,000m in the same year. Unheard of.

Jim Thorpe. My personal pick. The most versatile, and therefore in my opinion, greatest athlete of them all. How can you argue with a guy who won the first ever Olympic decathlon in 1912, setting a record that wouldn't be broken for the next twenty years? It was the first, and only decathlon in which he ever competed. And who competes in the decathlon AND something else in the same year? Well, they had the pentathlon as well in 1912. And of those five events, he won four outright, winning a gold medal in that event as well. So now he has done two events, winning two gold. Two events that really comprise a total of fifteen events. And he still had more events to go. He finished fourth in the high jump a few hours after he had won the pentathlon. And then he went out and finished seventh in the long jump. While at the 1912 Olympics, and busy competing in four events, which were basically seventeen events, he also found time to be a part of the American baseball team, which played two games as an exhibition sport. (It was later discovered that Thorpe had played professional baseball for two dollars a day in 1909 and 1910, and he was retroactively declared a "professional", and stripped of his medals. They were later reinstated when it was discovered that the protest had been filed too late.) Then he went on to play on a barnstorming basketball team, when he wasn't playing baseball in the major leagues and football in the NFL. Without a doubt, the greatest athlete of all time. But only in one Olympics. I still think that was the greatest single Olympic performance of anyboy in history.

Counted out: Larissa Latynina. The all-time record holder with 18 Olympic medals (9 gold), she is disqualified because she competed in gymnastics at a time where you could conceivably win six medals each year, with help from your team. Although the fact she won convincingly over eight years is amazing. Considering gymnasts apparently peak at the age of thirteen. In fact, of the top 14 medal winners of all time, nine have been either gymnasts or swimmers. So both are discounted.

I guess I HAVE to...

Now I have to write a post. Doc suggested that I would write like forty when I came back, because he's under the impression that I can't hold back. That the only catharsis I have in my life is through blogging. And he's probably right. So here is how I spent my summer vacation.

Friday: My best friend Kent was in town for a wedding. He was here for four days, but I only saw him for one, because the wedding had like thirty components. The pre-rehearsal dinner, the rehearsal, the after-rehearsal party, the wedding morning brunch, the wedding, the reception, the following-morning gift opening, and so forth. The one time I got to see him was when his wife was at the girls-get-together event on Friday. The idea of a wedding with more than one thing to attend stresses me out. The idea of this one made me frightened.

Saturday: My sister was in town since Thursday with a friend of hers. He had to come to Ottawa to get his Hummer fixed. Apparently they can't fix those in North Bay. I had made up my mind not to like him simply because he drove a Hummer. But then I did like him, anyway. He was funny enough that I was no longer the funny guy in the room. Which I must say was a relief, frankly, since by the time I go on vacation, I have no funny left at all. It was my sister's birthday, and although I had planned ahead, and had made a nice kebab dinner, and had a present for her and everything, I had forgotten to wish her a happy birthday on the phone on the actual day. So I purposely neglected to mention it the next day, even when I had remembered. That meant that by the time she got to my house, she was plenty sour at me, and then I had a birthday celebration all ready. And I reveled in the fact that she had to quickly get un-irritated. I saw her again on Saturday just before she left. To drive back to North Bay in a Hummer. Seriously, a Hummer?

Saturday morning: I took the kids to Silver City in Gloucester to see the sneak preview of the new Star Wars Clone Wars animated movie. It sucked. They loved it, but they were wrong. It sucked. The best part about it was the group of guys who came in dressed as every character from the Star Wars series. There was even a Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper, even though those characters were not in the movie. I spent much of the movie trying to figure out if they were there because of the sneak preview promotion, or whether they were just enormous nerds.

Sunday: It was my brother-in-law's birthday. We held that celebration at our house also, with his kids and our kids and my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law and so forth. I barbecued kebabs again. I remember several times my mother-in-law saying something, and then saying "this better not appear in your blog!" But it's been so long since last Sunday that I can no longer remember what those things were. But I'm sure she said something embarassing. No need to worry, mother-in-law! I forget.

Monday: I played Mario Kart with the kids on the Wii. I beat them both, once, in a little four-race tournament. And then I quit, retiring as champion. I will likely never play again, and I will continually remind them of the fact that I was the victor last time we played, and as such I am better at it than they are, for the rest of eternity. Then they had a friend over so they were fairly occupied all day.

Tuesday: I had to drop my youngest step-son off at daycare first thing in the morning, so I took my older one out for breakfast. And a haircut. When we go out together now, we get treated differently than we did a year ago. The waitress actually asked if it would be one bill or two! It took me a while to figure out that she assumed he was my buddy, and not my thirteen-year-old step-son. That is because he is now taller than I am. And I can only assume that in two or three years he will be six-foot-eleven, and my fist-shaking threats will no longer carry the weight they currently do. Well...they currently carry no threat at all. I am less intimidating than I imagine myself to be. Then we forced him to watch Bowling For Columbine even though he wanted to watch...something else. I can't remember. I think it was Alien Vs. Predator or something. But he liked it enough that he then asked to watch Fahrenheit 9/11. Soon, he will not only be a foot taller than I am, but also more informed.

Wednesday: I had been fighting an abscess all week, right in my stomach, that required me to take a whole pile of antibiotics and doing a bunch of gauze-packing and bandaging all the time. It had also made me largely immobile all week, which meant that I had no recourse when my girlfriend decided to watch gymnastics on TV. I couldn't even get out of my chair to fight her for the remote. So I had to sit and watch gymnastics. And I hate it. And I couldn't really put my finger on it until Wednesday night, when we went to check out (walking slowly) this Carnivale Lune Bleue in Kars. A fairly low-rent carnival, in the end, that has done itself no favours by locating itself on a high school field. The fair itself is less than impressive, but the shows are terrific. Especially the Cirque Maroc performance. Although it was sort of disconcerting in that it was almost like watching a high-caliber strip club show. There are five girls who do all kinds of really cool high-wire acts, and hula hoop acts, and the acrobatics are amazing. But they are constantly stopping in the middle of the act to strike sexy poses and touch themselves. And it really is a little odd. But this helped me realize why I hate watching gynastics. Because these girls are basically doing gymnastics too, right? But this show actually understands what gymnastics IS. Entertainment. The whole point of anything like gymnastics - ballet, figure skating, etcetera, is entertainment. Watching someone do it on TV, and then be judged for it, seems so impersonal and clinical and boring that it drives me crazy.

Thursday: We made it out to the Blues Boat for CHEO to see J.W. Jones. A terrific night, and one I hope we do again really soon. The blues cranking out from below, you can go downstairs to see it and rock out, and then you can go outside onto the deck and enjoy your beer. And because I didn't have to work the next day, I could actually enjoy a beer at a work event!

Friday: My girlfriend made me clean the house. I did at least eleven percent of the cleaning.

Saturday: I did a live commercial at Bank Street Hyundai. So I was still kinda working. But it came with free hamburgers. And the girl barbecueing liked me enough to give me the last one. I'm either charming or fat. Then I picked up some friends and took them back to my place to share a beer or two and watch Battlestar Galactica. My buddy Mark has been trying to get me to watch that one for a while, and I have been rather resistant. As it turned out, we barely paid attention to the show when it did come on, because we were too busy talking. But Mark has left the box set with me so I can appreciate the series on my own time. It'll be a while Mark, I have 21 movies to review by this Tuesday first. John and Karin are getting married soon, and I have had my RSVP card sitting on my desk for about six weeks. It was due yesterday. I meant to send it home with them, but I forgot that too. While there, however, Karin picked up the phone twice as I was elsewhere, and both times it was my girlfriend's two best friends calling. They are certainly good friends, however, because the second they talked to her again the first words out of their mouths were "there was a girl at your house when you weren't there!" And twice, she played a joke on them by freaking out about it and screaming at me. I played along, looking ashamed and sheepish, but both times I ruined it by laughing in the middle of the fight. But we got 'em both.

Sunday: We went up to the Thousand Islands to a friend's cottage. It's beautiful up there, and we really enjoyed it - driving around in the boat looking at the 25 million houses on the shore. You know what a 25 million dollar house looks like? Like someone had NO idea what to do with their money. And most aren't even 25 million dollar houses. They're like 25 million dollar third houses. I like seeing them though.

Monday: Out on the boat again. I don't really get boat trips. I get going out and looking at stuff, and I get waterskiing and fishing and all those things that you can do on a boat. But I don't get the pleasure in driving across the water on a boat. I guess I need a reason or something. But it was still a good time, and the company was good, so I didn't complain. Because that would have made me a jerk. And I didn't want to be that. On the way home, we were caught in that ridiculous thunderstorm last night. We had to pull over off the road, because we simply couldn't see in front of us any more. Cars went by us on the road with their four-ways on, going thirty.

Tuesday: I went back to work. And Doc made fun of my long-winded blogs.