Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Unrandom 9.

The house where I live now has a lot to recommend it. It is closish to where I work, it has a nice shady yard, the main living area is open and airy, it has a huge screened porch where the little furry ladies and I can luxuriate. It is spacious. I have a great study.

We are, in about a week, moving into an old quirky (read: not all the lights have switches and not all the switches are where they should be, etc.) house. It is an immensely cool old house. We learned yesterday from our new neighbor the architect (also a Tarheel!) that it is a Sears kit house--how cool is that? Two owners ago did many renovations and now it is a craftsman bungalow--with CLOSETS! And a master bathroom so large that the PP and I can share it. (And those of you who know me know that means it is IMMENSE.) It is in a very cool neighborhood and we believe, though we have not yet confirmed, that from this house we can walk comfortably to the neat little downtown of this small city. We have confirmed that we can walk to Gene's Country Cooking Restaurant (I highly recommend the country ham biscuits) and the public library, where they even have music and movies, which will be especially good on our new budget. But there are no storm windows or screens on the windows, it is going to be a big place to heat and cool, and we are about to embark on a massive roof repair.

So yesterday as we were driving back to the old house from the new one, the PP and I started thinking about things we will not miss. For posterity's sake, here it is so far:
1. Not having to replace the rotting railroad ties that line our driveway.
2. Not having to spend another six months or so trying to track down a tree guy to come cut down a few trees that need cutting.
3. In the winter, when the heater comes on for the first time of the year, having to go into the crawl space about six times to untrip the heater's breaker.
4. The orange clay that passes for soil in this neighborhood.
5. The ratty gray carpet that lines the bedrooms.
6. Needing to refinish the otherwise cool wood floors in the main part of the house.
7. The dishwasher.
8. The sliding glass doors to the screen porch which have clouded over with trapped condensation between their panes.
9. The 3-inch-deep "bathtub."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I only took what I needed, I guess.

Friends, I have good news: that house is ours.

And last night we slept in it. That means that many things went well yesterday:
1. The bank managed to remember I was their customer for a change, and happily issued me a cashiers check for the closing costs.
2. The seller's power of attorney, even though it looked questionable to the attorney at first, was accepted by the attorney's security office. WHEW!
3. Even though the seller did not hand over keys at the closing, he did meet us at the house as planned and gave us the key and the spare key there.
4. The seller moved the rest of his furniture out.
5. The gutter people came and looked at the gutter responsible for the porch rotting.
6. The gutter people came while the PP was already there, so it was not necessary for him to take additional time off work.
7. The mattress people delivered the new mattress, and even though one of the delivery guys dislocated his shoulder in the process of removing the plastic wrap, he and the other guy had it back in place in under 5 minutes.

But that does not mean it was easy. After all, the PP's last minute repairs to the porch happened during a real heat wave, and the seller got even wackier there at the end, and let's just say, we were real relieved.

Now it is strange to be back in the old house. We had originally planned to stay there tonight, too, amidst work removing the hideous kitchen wallpaper and repainting the guest room. We've set back the guest room to another time, but we made some headway removing old wallpaper today, all the time listening to the random function on the mp3 player. The first 4 tracks were all eighties but goodies--"Time After Time" (leftover from the Friday Random 10), "Egyptian Lover," "The Reflex." The made the PP wonder about the "random" function itself, and when the Spice Girls came up not too much later, he said, "Well, that shows you why not to play the odds."

But we made some progress: almost all of the offending wallpaper is gone. We discovered a layer of an older paper on some of the walls, which made clear which walls were added in the recent renovations and which were older. The older paper is frankly better--a cool simple single-color blue thistle pattern--but I hope we are going to be able to paint instead. This is going to require some significant wall repair in a couple of spots and some retexturing, but paint just seems to age better than paper in my not especially extensive experience.

So in anticipation of the retexturing and such, we stopped briefly at Lowe's for supplies, which of course turned into a not at all brief stop, and the Patient Formerly Known As Patient just about lost his mind. But now he is showered and beered and reclining in front of some drivel on TV, which is about all we can ask tonight. And that is where I am headed now.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday Random 10: Houses in Motion Edition

It's been too long since I've done this.

Wish us luck today. If all goes well--which it may yet--the PP and I close on our new house today. I am waiting until 8:30 when I can call the attorney to figure out how big a certified check to get today.

Meanwhile, I'm gonna talk so sexy, she'll want me from my head to my feet:
1. "Memphis Exorcism," Squirrel Nut Zippers (Hot)
2. "The Valley," k. d. lang (Hymns of the 49th Parallel)
3. "Red Jacket," Swåp (Nordic Roots: A NorthSide Collection)
4. "Attica Blues (Chief Xcel of Blackalicious Remix), Archie Shepp (Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked)
5. "Alphabet Street," Prince (The Hits & B-sides)
6. "Whatall Is Nice," Ani DiFranco (So much Laughter, So Much Shouting)
7. "This Charming Man," The Smiths (The Best of the Smiths)
8. "You're the Devil in Disguise," Elvis Presley (50 Worldwide Gold Hits)
9. "For Other Eyes," Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet (The Juliet Letters)
10. "Time After Time," Cyndi Lauper (She's So Unusual)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

If you are finding that now that the World Cup is over, you have entirely too much free time on your hands, then why not look to BigT, who is compiling quite an array of interactive football games over at The Azzurri. There are the Zidane headbutt games, which you should not miss, as well as "Where's Buffon?", where, while listening to an Italian tarantella, you try your hand, uh, I mean foot, against the greatest goalie in the world. And perhaps the tallest. And the most not leaving Juventus.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Summertime blues.

What I do not want to write about today is the current hold-up with the new house, which is supposed to be closing Friday. It seems that the lifetime-guaranteed gutter guards have been spewing water onto the big wood front porch, so that the porch boards in front of the door are a bit rotten. I had not noticed this in walking in and out of the house and looking around, but here is how they look:

They did not look that bad until the contractor and the owner and PP poked around at them yesterday, but apparently they looked bad enough to catch the attention of the termite inspector, who noted them in his report even though he was supposed to be looking for termites, for goodness sakes. Now the underwriter will not approve the loan until the repair has been made, and of course that particular contractor is not available and so pant, pant, pant, we will see if the closing happens as scheduled or not.

But as I already noted, I do not want to write about that.

So instead I will write something about swimming. "Swimming?" you may ask. "Do you still swim? I thought maybe you had given that up to be a soccer fan." You are very funny, you witster reader you.

Yesterday at practice we did a speed-oriented practice. After a warm-up and a backstroke drill set, which together totalled 1800 yards, we did a sprint kick set that went like this: 25 fast as possible kick, then 25 easy swim, then 2 x 25 FAP kick, then 25 easy swim, then 3 x 25 FAP kick, then 25 easy swim, then 4 x 25 FAP kick, then 25 easy swim. I did all the kick as fly on my back in streamline, which is much easier with all the ab work I have been doing in the weight room. Then our main set was a 25 sprint on 1 minute, followed by a 50 sprint on 2 minutes, then a 75 sprint on 3 minutes, and then a 100 sprint on 4 minutes. Even with all the rest, it was a harder set than it initially looks, because swimming the 100 fast after having done the other distances is tough.

But what this practice showed me is how de-acclimated I am to racing. The fast kick set went OK, and I even kind of enjoyed it with my new abs of steel and all. The swim set, though, which I did all breaststroke felt rus.ty. I felt like I did not have much power in my stroke or kick, like my stamina for swimming to the pain was gone, like I could not do an efficient turn anymore, like I had no air during the underwater pullout, and like I just could not swim fast.

This made me realize how different my summer has been from my regular season. During the months from September-June, I swam in at least one meet every month. I swam 4-6 days a week. I put a lot of focus into my breaststroke, knowing that that was where my goals were.

Now, on the other hand, I have been avoiding breaststroke, in part because I do not want to work that hard, and in part because I have needed the break. Also, I have been in the weight room 2-3 times a week, only swimming 3 times a week. In short, I have been in a recovery state for the last couple of months. It feels terrific to have the change of pace, but it is always a little discouraging to realize, oh yeah, being fast takes work. As our president might say, "Dur!"

Today we did another set that was a combination of distance and speed. We swam three rounds of (350 moderate freestyle @ 6:30) + (4 x 25 choice fast @ :40). For the middle round, I swam the 25s breaststroke, and my times were :19/:20/:20/:20. There was a time in late April when I was holding :17 in such a set.

Although I was a little discouraged yesterday, today I am not. I see this as a new baseline from which I will work to improve as I move back towards racing this fall.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Raspberry, raspberry, raspberry.

This morning for breakfast I crunched and crunched on fresh raspberry seeds. Even though I had not picked them this morning--they were not THAT fresh--the berries still looked like little jewels, all their berrylets glistening with the juice they could hardly contain. I felt silly crunching on their little seeds, like some whole foods version of that cereal commercial. But the PP only smiled at me and did not mock me. Partly this was because he had only just finished his own crunching session. But mostly it was because he could see that I was thinking about the day before and the collecting of the berries. On Saturday he and estaminet and I stood along a little country drive, picking the berries and collecting them into a special berrying pail. Each ripe berry would let go from the little cone that had harbored it, and there in your hand would a perfect small delicate thing. Try to harvest it too soon, and it would not let go, or it would only crush itself into your guilty fingers. But when the moment was right, it gave itself to you, allowed itself to be collected with the others. Admittedly, we only collected most of them: every so often one of us would emit that little crunching sound, revealing a theft from no one, a burst of pleasure. The others would protest the theft, only to emit their own little crunching sounds, saying that they too knew that pleasure, and that they forgave it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Shine on.


Zidane s'excuse.

You may already know that Zidane spoke on Canal+ this evening about the events in the last minutes of Sunday's game, saying that Materazzi insulted him with:
des mots très durs, qu’il a répété plusieurs fois. Des mots qui sont plus durs que les gestes. (Ce geste), c’est quelque chose qui se passe très vite. Ce sont des mots qui me touchent au plus profond de moi. Ca touchait ma mère, ma sœur. Je suis un homme avant tout. Il y a des mots qui sont plus durs que des gestes. J’aurai préféré prendre une droite dans la gueule (sic) que d’entendre ça. Ce n’est pas un geste à faire. Je tiens à le dire haut et fort. Cela a été vu par des millions d’enfants. Auprès d’eux, je m’en excuse. Auprès des éducateurs, je m’excuse (...) Mais je ne regrette pas. Si je regrettai, ca voudrait dire qu’il avait raison de dire ce qu’il a dit. Et il n’a surtout pas raison de dire ce qu’il a dit (…) Mais sans provocation, il n’y a pas réaction. Ca suffit de sanctionner la réaction. Est-ce que vous croyez que ça me fait plaisir de faire ce geste. Mon geste n’est pas pardonnable. Je dit qu’il faut sanctionner le vrai coupable.

The Guardian has a decent translation.

Meanwhile, an interview with Materazzi in Gazzetta dello Sport: "Non gli ho detto nulla che riguardasse razzismo, religione e politica. Non ho parlato neppure della madre. Ho perso la mamma a 15 anni e ancora adesso mi commuovo a parlarne. Naturalmente non sapevo che la sua fosse in ospedale, le faccio i miei migliori auguri". E su Zidane ha aggiunto: "E' da sempre il mio mito, lo ammiro molto."

Sports Illustrated translates.

If you want to get away from the he said he said, and you're a fan of Camus, you might read this.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

O, to be in Roma!

La Repubblica reports there were one million people in the Circus Maximus for the party celebrating the return of you know who. The Guardian said yesterday that there were more people there watching Sunday's game than there had been since classical times.

NCMarcus, who has been rather busy with rather important things lately, and so did not get to see the game, asked if I knew what Materazzi had said. If only. That question seems to be the big one. The family of Zidane has their theories about what Materazzi might have said to provoke such an outburst. Le Monde has excerpts today from an interview with Materazzi, where he said he neither called Zidane a terrorist nor insulted his mother. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says lipreaders are on the scene. Le Figaro has a lovely tribute to Zidane's career. Corriere della sera responds to the Guardian's allegations, and offers some theories of their own. Zidane is silent.

But back to the celebration in Roma. Check out the party bus!

On the back it says "campioni del mondo," with a "4" and four stars. Indeed.

You can see video here, and how perfect to have the Adriano Celentano song. I listened to that while I chopped veggies for dinner on Sunday night. And notice that while most in the crowd are waving the tricolore, there are still one or two partisans with Roma flags.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Not of brick or bamboo.

The PP caught up on my blog last night and said, "You haven't written about anything but the World Cup." Yow. He's right. Can we say obsession?

But now I need to move on, deal with reality, come clean about what else is new. Well, house stuff mostly, no surprise there. And how exciting exactly is it to read about someone else's anxiety? Let me tell you: not that exciting.

Now things are finally coming together with this house. Loan approval, appraisal, inspection, title search--they're all as they should be. (Which is more than I can say for the kitchen wallpaper, which we will need to change immediately.)

So we have a close date: 21 July. That is not even two weeks away!

In the meantime, I have turned our current house into a cardboard chaos. Just so you know, I am a true goddess when it comes to packing, and we are to the point where we almost cannot pack any more without packing things we use regularly. The cats are freaked by all the changes, but they also love perching on the towers of boxes.

And our present house is under contract, and set to close on 15 August. Amazing to think that all this might just be settled in time for the start of classes.

It is not easy to imagine this new lifestyle, where there will actually be some cool things within walking distance, where we will have steep stairs to negotiate, where there will be hardly any lawn to mow, where we will swim with a new team, where I will have a long commute, where we can luxuriate on our big front porch, where we could get the New York Times delivered to our door. No, not easy, but it is fun!

Now if only we could get through the rest of the packing, the move, the roof replacement, the changes of address, the de-wallpapering and repainting, the unpacking.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Veni, vidi, vici (in a way).

Well, that was a strange one. I cannot say it was a boring defensive struggle--or perhaps I should say that the first 19 minutes were not. When in the 7th minute Zidane scored the first goal from a penalty kick--an impressive PK, I might add, with how it bounced off the post barely inside the line--and then Materazzi knocked in a beautiful header in the 19th minute, it seemed like it was going to be an exciting back and forth.

But although Italy kept possession of the ball for a good bit of the first half, the score remained tied at 1-1 at the FIFA Hyundai Halftime pee break.

Then Italy seemed to fall apart, or more accurately, fall asleep. France kept nearly constant possession during the second half. Ditto in the OT.

But Zidane's headbutt in the second OT period was a real shock. I suppose he was playing in a lot of pain after the injury to his shoulder, and that probably made whatever Materazzi said to him that much harder to just swallow, but come on. He had been such a classy player to that point (or at least in what I've seen), and he had brought such good energy to Les Bleus, and then to end not just the 2006 World Cup but also his international career that way? I do not understand it. What did Materazzi say that could have made such a great player throw away his sense and his legacy?

And it was not as though it had been a dirty game to that point. Instead, I'd say both teams seemed to be treating each other with tremendous respect. When Thierry Henry went down early in the game, and seemed really REALLY hurt, everyone looked concerned, anxious. Nobody shunned an opponent who offered a hand after a rough tackle. The ref called a good game, not falling for each dive, but also taking seriously, for instance, trips from behind. Players seemed to respect and admire each other.

I do not need to tell anyone who follows the Italian national team how nervous I was going into PKs. (And again with the sportsmanship: Buffon and Barthez smacked chests and hugged each other before the PKs began, and their expressions showed that this was not some fake demonstration of mutual respect.) I kept hoping Buffon would put his enormous hands where they needed to be, but he did not need to. Although neither he nor Barthez touched the ball during PKs, Italy pulled it out.

I am happy that Italy won, but I come away from this game a little sad. I wanted to see Zidane be the champion he is, and he was for most of the game: from the 7th-minute goal, to playing through the shoulder pain that seemed at first that it might pull him from the game, he was poised to end his international career on a high note, whether France won or lost. I come away from this game less believing that Italy won, than that Zidane lost, and the game lost, and that just makes me sad, and a little sick.

Where will you watch?

T-minus something like six hours to the big game. I can barely sit down to type. BigT says Italy will take it by at least one. Joe says Italy will win, but in a boring defensive struggle. Damien has not updated his predictions since he (and I) thought it would be a Germany v. Brazil final. MK has not made a prediction. A francophile friend said, "Vive la France! Vive Zidane! Is it true Greg Louganis is the assistant coach for Italy?"

Fie! I pointed out to her that France is lucky not to be playing Senegal in this final game.

If I had my druthers, I'd watch the game at one of the two establishments in town that have been showing the games. One is the tiny but excellent Super Taco, where nary a seat was to be found for the Mexico games, but they are closed on Sundays. The other is the newly fashioned international sports bar attached to the local Thai restaurant, but thanks to the great state of South Carolina's blue laws, they too are closed on Sundays.

So it looks like I'll be watching the game from the comfort of my living room sofa. Alas, I do not have a blue Italia garment, but I'll wear my favorite AS Roma t-shirt and hope it will help.

Will you watch? Where will you be?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I've been so wrong...

...but not for that long. I did pretty well at calling the semi-finals, but boy did I miss the boat on the finals, which was, after all, what damien asked about in the first place.

So to all of you who placed bets based on my so-called superheroine predictions, I can only say I am sorry. I'm sorry for the things I've done. I know that I'm the foolish one. Now that I see who's to blame, I'm so ashamed, I'm sorry.

But I am not sorry for myself. Germany was impressive, it is true, but the way they fell apart at the very end of the Germany v. Italy game was amazing. Granted, that first Italy goal took them by surprise, and they let their guard down just in time for a run-away second goal. I am beginning to believe the hype about the Italian defense. (It would have been interesting to see how Buffon did in p-ks, but given Italy's past record in that realm, it might be just as well.)

France, though, managed to hold it together against Portugal, even though a few times at the end it seemed like they might give up a goal foolishly.

So we have a France v. Italy final. France was impressive against Brazil (moreso than against Portugal, really). No one has scored against Italy except Italy. Who do you think will win?