Monday, 21 January 2013

On the Olympics, thoughts, etc.

This post has been running around in the back of my mind for months, but I was never in the right mood to write it. Consequently, except for the last part of it, it is a little out of date.

On my earliest Olympic memory

When Raymond was here in Montreal, we chatted about the Olympics as it was the topic du jour. I recounted to him about how the lighting of the Olympic flame for the Montreal Olympics was the first world event where I remember where I was for it. I elaborated by saying I had been at the house of some friends in North Hatley, and I remember alternately playing on their steep front lawn and going in to see the progress of the torch relay on their colour TV, as neither my grandparents' summer house or the one my parents had rented had a TV.

Raymond noticed that I had specified the TV was distinct for me as it was in colour. He inferred that by implication my family had a black & white TV. The concept of people owning a black & white TV was somewhat odd to him, as he was only 21. That realisation made me feel somewhat old. Although colour TVs were quite common in when I was young, there were still many black & white sets out there. My parents had a black &white TV up until a fire in 1978, after which they bought a colour TV.

On Olympic biking sports

For better or for worse, I am pretty much the go-to guy at work for bike related questions. While I am not the only cyclist there, I am the most visibly devout cyclist. Consequently, I wasn't surprised when one of my co-workers asked me about some aspects of Olympic, indoor biking events. I can't quite recall the exact question, but the short answer was "drafting", i.e. there is a hole body of sports tactics in the various indoor biking events that have to do about how it is easier to ride just behind someone else. Once I mentioned drafting, she immediately got the picture as she follows car racing, and has regularly attended the Montreal Grand Prix among other events.

However, I still had to explain some of the arcana behind the keirin events. I was rather hampered by the fact that I knew only the basics. Also, what little I know makes me feel it is a needlessly complicated event.

On a useful comment by an Olympic cyclist

I was favourably impressed that Bradley Wiggins, who won the gold medal for the road time trial at the London Olympics came out in favour of a law requiring bike helmets. There are some absolute rubbish ideas about bicycle safety floating around out there. I am glad that Wiggins is prepared to refute them.

On less useful comments by an ex-Olympic cyclist and a library's reaction to it

On the other extreme, Lance Armstrong's recent "admission" that he used performance enhancing drugs, struck me as far too little, far too late. High-level, competitive cycling has been awash in various drugs for a very long time and everybody knew it, as least unofficially. I give the sport a vague benefit of the doubt in that it has made some noises about cleaning up its act in the last few years, but back in Armstrong's heyday, he was the greatest hypocrite of them all.

Now it seems he is trying to redeem himself with his "mea culpa". However, I don't put much faith in him. I keep on being reminded of  a "reformed" cardsharp in 19th century America who went on a lecture tour where he claimed all decks of cards were marked. He "proved" it with any deck the congregation brought to him. However, what he was actually doing was using the cardsharp technique of the "shiner" (a small mirrored surface) to see what the cards were without turning them over. In other words, he was still tricking people.

I therefore thought it was appropriate that a library in Australia put up a sign saying they were moving Lance Armstrong's books to the Fiction section! Of course, they were only joking.

Friday, 4 January 2013

On being 4 and 0

Well, I am now 4 and 0 with wishing my assorted nieces and nephew their very first ever happy new year.

Sort of.

I spent the New Year with Alice, Mark, Anna and Maria in Mississauga. Unfortunately, my visit coincided with that family being hit by colds to varying extents and to varying effects. Being adults, Alice and Mark took their illness in relative stride, whereas poor Anna and Maria being unable to understand what was going on were much more upset and very hard to comfort, to the relative concern of the adults around them, your humble correspondent included. Of particular concern was Maria who exhibited a "silent cry" which very distressing to us. I think she is recovering, but I am a total layman with regards to infant illness and will readily admit my ignorance to actual parents and/or medical professionals to which categories Alice and Mark both belong.

Partly in light of illness and partly in light of young age, Alice ordained that the family New Year be a "Newfoundland New Year", i.e. at 10:30 PM, Eastern Standard Time. At the appointed hour, I wished Maria a happy New Year. A little later, as she was still very restive, Alice and I, took out for a walk in a snugly and went to the town square of Mississauga where festivities of various sorts were happening as MC'd by "the star of DeGrassi High : the Next Generation". The bits we witnessed were some DJ wearing a boom-box on his head and "Lights", a performer of whom I had never heard of previously.

This was the second of three excursions for Maria that evening in the hopes of soothing her. I think she is better now.
Edward meets Maria for the first time

Stephen and Maria

My visit also included a trip to Margaret's folks in Kitchener and a gathering of cousins in Guelph, chez my cousin Elin. I had spent two years in Guelph working on a "useless" Master's degree in Scottish history and had got to know Elin moderately well. I am not sure if I had seen her since, but anyway, my sister and I organized a bunch of cousins on my Dad's side into showing up at her house on New Year's Day. It was a good, relatively quiet party. The main issue of concern was Elin's friendly chocolate Labrador retriever which had to be carefully introduced to Anna as well as Rachel's Charlotte. It is not that Jemma (the Lab) is an unpleasant dog. Far from it, as she is a distinctly friendly dog, but given the small size of Anna and Charlotte, it was important that the meetings be controlled as Jemma could easily knock either child over in her eagerness to greet them.
Anna and Jemma

Quintin, Ethan and Morgan
 In groups of attachment and in no particular order, present were your humble correspondent, Alice, Anna and Maria ; Stephen, Margaret and Edward ; Elin (daughter of my uncle Julian), her husband Rob, her daughter Madeline, her son Perrin and his significant other whose name eludes me for the moment ; Quintin (son of my aunt Isabel), his daughter Morgan and son Ethan ; Rachel (daughter of my aunt Rosemary), her husband Bill, and her daughters Abigail and Charlotte ; as well as Saskia, daughter of Anya (daughter of my uncle Julian).
Rob, Quintin, Elin and Rachel

(I have a large extended family and this represents only about a tenth of my cousins!)
Anna and Madeline

Anyway, Maria has learnt to smile since I last saw her. Anna has increased her desire to be read to, especially out of Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World, a "classic" of juvenile litterature that I remember from my youth. Interestingly enough, Alice doesn't remember it from her youth, suggesting that it was one of many books we lost in a house fire in 1978. Mark, in his slightly peculiar way, has the habit of substituting the word "caribou" for "reindeer" when reading "Happy Lappy from Finland" (page 74) from the book when reading it to her. I am not sure if she noticed the difference.

Mark has quite the collection of nature documentaries featuring David Attenborough, of which we watched a fair number of episodes. This led to a discussion of what is appropriate viewing for toddlers given the numbers of animal deaths and displays of whale willies. ;-)