Sunday, 28 February 2010

On one hell of an Olympic moment

I know certain of my readers are rather against the Olympics, but I have to write about one of the few events I saw. It was one of the semi-final heats of the women's team pursuit speed skating, between the United States and Germany. For those of you who are in ignorance of the sport, (such as myself until this morning) it consists of racing as a group of three skaters rather than as an individual. Likely adapted from cycling, the team pursuit speed skating has the opposing teams starting at opposite sides of the track, likely to avoid congestion. There seems to be little chance of one team catching the other, so truly it is against the clock that they are truly going against.

In the heat I saw at my gym, the Germans were leading against the Americans by about half a second. As they were leaving the final turn, the last of the German skaters seemed to falter, almost tripping before recovering for a few seconds then falling forwards as her legs failed her. She slid along the ice trying to push up with her hands before crossing the finish line where upon she starting pounding the ice with her fists in despair, frustration and anguish at having failed so close to success. The shots of her face were heart-breaking. Then the results sunk in: they had won by .23 seconds! There was a few seconds of elation followed by what I saw as emotional and physical exhaustion at having been jerked from intense exertion, shock of falling, shock of losing followed by the joy of winning. At about that point, she more or less curled up into fetal ball on the ice. I was disappointed by the German coach, and indeed, pretty every one around that no one was seen to go give her a hug (at least on TSN's coverage) as to my mind that was what she needed. Doubtless she has been given one since, but in case she hasn't, Anna Friesinger-Postma (or possibly Anni Friesinger) I send you a hug.

I was wondering if part of her breakdown was the fear that she would have to pick herself up to compete in the final race. However, I see from the BBC's result table that the Germans spared her that trial. I gather that in pursuit, the team consists of four people allowing for a substitution to take place in such a case.

The raw and widely fluctuating emotions I saw on Ms. Friesinger's face will stay with me for quite some time. It was one hell of an Olympic moment and one which blows away all the bluster that has been running wild.

Monday, 22 February 2010

On my nephew, my niece and me

For no real reason except that I want show off my niece and nephew, here they are in North Hatley with yours truly in the background.On the extreme left is my sister Alice (who is getting married in June) and on extreme right is my eldest brother Stephen holding Edward who is being introduced to his cousin Désirée.

On a likely tour of Northern Great Britain

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships-- and sealing wax--of cabbages--and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot--And whether pigs have wings."

I probably don't need to give you the reference to that.

Over the weekend, I took the plunge and inquired of one of my Scottish relatives if I might impose upon his hospitality, and when it might best suite him. Cousin John (not to be confused with Margo's John or my uncle John to be discussed later in this in entry) seems very happy to receive me in May, so it seems May will be the month of my next jaunt.

My intention is ride from York to Glasgow, via Edinburgh and (this is sticking bit) Campbeltown, which is the nearest Scottish town to Ireland. This cannot be described as an even vaguely direct or possibly even sensible route as it takes in a certain amount of the Highlands. However, the scenery will be spectacular, and the Highlands are simply aren't as high as the Western Cordillera of Canada. One particularly un-sensible bit will likely be going out of my way to go via Glen Croe, a.k.a. Rest and be Thankful. Said route is steep, but spectacular. Also, you can stop at "Rest and be Thankful" which almost by itself makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

As I estimate it will only take me about two weeks to get from York to Glasgow via this "ridiculous" route, it is my intention to stop in to see my aunt Isabel, her husband John and assorted descendants of theirs near on my way back to London via a combination of train and bike. My aunt Isabel is, as have already discussed, quite possibly mad but has a marvelous joie de vivre that more than makes up for it.

Anyway, I have made preliminary inquiries with my superior about taking the time off in May and she seemed amenable. Here's to hoping.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

On one of the memorial images for the Castafiore

After a fair bit of running around, I finally created one of the memorial images for the Castafiore. I got someone at work to scan this image from a cover of the well known work.
I edited the image using a surprising amount of software to create this homage.
I cleaned up the image from some of scuff marks as well as the call number label (I borrowed the work from a library). I changed the title to refer a specific singular gem by erasing an "x" and an "s" and copying and pasting the "c". As well, I blotted out "Tintin" and wrote "Bikemoose" instead. Unfortunately, I couldn't match the font. I put my image over that of Tintin and Milou, partly to make it more about me, but also because their images were smudged with crud. Writing the name and dates of the Castafiore was quite easy. However, the detail I feel most proud of is the way I changed the publisher from "Casterman" to "La Randonnée". (The latter being the name of the store where I bought the Castafiore in the first place. It has since become part of the "Atmosphère" chain.)

I am rather pleased as to how well it turned out, even if I do say so myself. I have had it printed as a photo and a copy of it along with a shot of the Castafiore near Victoria is now being laminated. With luck, they will be ready by next weekend.

With more luck, Casterman and the Hergé estate won't come after me with lawyers for having violated their copyright.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

On the mystery mammals

A couple of days ago, I was mentally reviewing the various sections of AMUAM JuNITO completed to date, when I was struck by the fact that in all the major sections, there was an incident where I spotted a mammal whose species I could not precisely determine beyond reducing it to two plausible suspects. There was the coyote/wolf sighting on the B.C., the fin/blue whale sighting on the ferry to Newfoundland and the otter/muskrat sighting near the Breughel micro-brewery close to St-Germain de Kamouraska.

The land mammal sightings both involved favoured versus unfavoured species, in that I would rather that I saw a wolf and an otter than a coyote and a muskrat respectively. The former animals are far more "sexy" than the latter ones. Also, I know have seen coyote and muskrats at other times. Not so wolves and otters. (Incidentally, one of the times I have seen a coyote was from a train very close to Lester B. Pearson airport in Toronto!)

With regards to the whales, well, both fin and blue whales are bloody impressive animals. While fin whales are more common than blues, and thus "ordinary", as they are less well known than the superlative blues, thus giving them a certain mystique. Also, their asymmetric colouration makes them somewhat funky. (There is also an outside possibility that it might have been a sei whale, but apparently they are very rare in the Gulf of the Saint-Lawrence.)

Getting back to the point of this entry, I find it interesting that in the three out of four AMUAM JuNITO trips taken, I saw an interesting mammal that I could not definitive identify beyond two likely suspects. I wonder if there will be any such mystery mammal sightings when I go from Calgary to Winnipeg.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

On being a devout, but not fanatical, cyclist

Winter reminded Montreal what it can do last week. Not only was there a substantial (c. 20 cm) snowfall, but the temperature dropped below -20 C on the weekend. This is what I think of as "proper" winter weather.

Curiously enough, two different people asked me if I was still biking yesterday. They have been inspired by the sight of truly fanatical cyclists riding in the extreme conditions on the weekend and on Monday. My response amounted to that I was a devout but not fanatical cyclist.

I don't ride in the winter which I define as when there is snow on the ground. Back in my younger years, I dabbled in winter cycling but very quickly gave it up as it was both miserable and caused corrosion on the bike. During the years I was living in Guelph, Ontario, I sometimes rode during the winter, but only if there was no snow on the ground, which was surprisingly often. This culminated in a ride to the liquor store to get some Scotch ale on Robert Burns' day when the weather was -25 outside! But there was nae snow.

Living in Montreal, I have the BMW (Bus-Metro-Walk) option open to me year round, but usually only exercise it in winter. Unfortunately, exercising that option means I get less exercise.

Getting back to the winter cyclists that my colleagues found amazing/daft, I respect their devotion to cycling. However, I think they exceed mere devotion and are well into serious fanaticism. ;-) Each to his own, I guess.