Friday, June 30, 2006

EXTRA: Isis sees future.

Well, it seems I am 1 for 1 on my quarterfinals predictions. This was the first time I have seen the p-k's this Cup, because I had to coach during the end of the last Ukraine game. And this was a fun thing, too. My father has been watching the World Cup largely on Univision. (For some reason he gets ESPN2 on his cable package, but not ESPN--whatEVer.) I told him he would probably learn a lot of Spanish soccer vocabulary, but he poo-pooed that, reminding me that he is not the greatest at language acquisition. But now, when he calls me to recap games I've missed or debrief after exciting finishes, he throws around words like "tiempo extra" and "octavofinal." English lacks a term for the round of eight--I like the Spanish, even if I misspelled it, and it is more graceful than the alternative I came up with, "hemi-demi-semi-finals."

Anyway, my dad called when the Germany v. Argentina game went to p-k's (or "final penales," in Spanish, pardon again my spelling), and suggested we stay on the phone during the kicks. This was great, because with the exception of the Mexico v. Argentina game, which the PP and I watched with a Hungarian guy at the bar connected to the local Thai restaurant, I've mostly watched the games alone. This is difficult, because often they are very exciting. By the end of Italy's last match, for instance, I was perched on the top of the ottoman in front of my chair, waiting to see if Totti would knock in the game-winning penalty kick.

Plus, my dad was watching on Univision as usual, so I muted my TV, he turned his volume up all the way, and through the phone I could hear "GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! GOAL!" after each successful kick.

And my father has given in to his heritage and is rooting for Germany now, after having been fairly neutral through much of the tournament, saying such restrained things as "I just love to watch the games" in response to my question of who he wanted to see win. But as Lehmann rejected an Argentinian p-k, instead of the "GOAL!" I could hear my father saying, "NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!" And let me tell you, when Lehmann kept out a second kick, insuring a German victory, the sound from the phone was deafening.

So I figure I had better enjoy the remaining WC games, since it is going to be a strange Tour. I've just got time to hit the bathroom and grab a snack before the start of the next game.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A rather dull couple of days.

There's something missing from my life
Cuts me open like a knife
It leaves me vulnerable
I have this disease
I shake like an incurable
God help me please

One day down of no World Cup games. One to go. By late last night I had the DTs.

But the time away gives one the chance to reflect. And Damien wants to know, who will be in the World Cup final?

Damien, I am glad you asked!

Here are my predictions, based (as I am sure you would assume about anything posted on this blog) on significant expertise, thoughtful reflection, gut reactions, and super-human powers.

On Friday, Germany will beat Argentina, much to the delight of hordes of German-flag-waving fans. Much non-Budweiser beer will be swilled in celebration.

Then, later on Friday, Italy will beat Ukraine, alas for the Ukies. (And sadly for me, I will miss most of this game, since it is scheduled during the last swim practice I have to coach.) Ukraine have been impressive, but no one has scored a goal against Italy--except Italy. Sure, I know: the same was true of Switzerland before they encountered the ultra p-k powers of Ukraine, but Italy has had a lot of international success and they have Thespianic Powers on their side. Do not underestimate Thespianic Powers.

Saturday will begin with a tight match between England and Portugal, recreating some of the New World colonizing battles of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A fan from Portugal noted in response to my question about whether any Portuguese players would be clear to play, after Ivanov's romance with red cards, that Portugal only needs 8 or 9 players to beat England.

Now them's fightin' words!

But that fan just might be right.

Then later on Saturday, Brazil will knock out France with energy to spare, I'm sad to say.

But the good news is that these results will make for an all-Portuguese-speaking semin-final on that side of the bracket, and how cool is that? But I fear that the new world team will prevail.

Meanwhile, Germany and Italy will trade all manner of nationalist slurs, and throughout the stadium in Dortmund fans will remark about trains running on time, good shoes v. machines that work, great wine and great beer, pasta and wurtzel. I would like to say that Italy would emerge victorious, scoring a victory for long lunches everywhere, but I fear the reverse will be true.

That will leave a Germany v. Brazil final. Brazil has been playing below its potential. Germany has been playing amazingly. Will Brazil's ultimate power come together in the final, proving why they are all over the nike commercials? Or will Germany's string of crowd-powered victories continue?

I do not have any idea. Technically, I have answered Damien's question, saying who will be in the final. But I'll take it a step further, and say that this is Germany's cup to lose, and I do not believe they will lose it.

So there you have it, World Cup fans. Go bravely forward and cheer for whomever you like.

Monday, June 26, 2006

What's a goddess to do?

Oh great: the dilemma I never thought would arise has arisen: Italy v. Ukraine in the next round.

And if you were not watching, it was an exciting day. Italy beat Australia in stoppage time of the second half, when they drew a penalty and everyone's favorite AS Roma player kicked a fabuloso p-kick. Then Ukraine beat Switzerland--who had to that point ceded no goals during the tournament--in a penalty-kick shoot-out after 30 extra minutes. (I did not get to see the end of the game: I was coaching at the time, and although I saw a guy walk through the natatorium in a Ukraine jersey with "SHEVCHENKO" in big letters on the back, I was in the middle of explaining the set to the girls and could not catch him to find out if he knew the result.)

What in the world am I supposed to do? Who do I cheer for? How do I not feel sad whatever the result, especially since this is an elimination round, so there can be no ties?

In all my roots there is this:

But there is also this:

How am I supposed to sleep at night?

Italy 1, Australia 0.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Valentin Ivanov.

Did anyone watch the Portugal v. Netherlands game today?? I have never seen such a soccer brawl in the World Cup. Was it just the officiating or am I missing something? Even if Ivanov was "throwing cards like confetti," the players seemed ready to go for it in the dirt, dirt, dirt. Will anyone from Portugal be able to play in the match against England next weekend?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Random 10: Then Spoke the Thunder Edition.

Please could we have some rain? Please? My yard has resumed its status from a couple of years back as the most arid microclimate in the Upstate. We have had less than three-quarters of an inch of rain this month. I watch weather maps show rain in adjoining counties, and even in this one, for goodness sake, but no. For the last two nights, I have heard thunder, watched the tree branches waving, seen the heavy clouds. But still clouds of dust arise when we mow what grass there is and my plants are raising a protest.

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amonst the rock we cannot stop or think

Friends, won't you join with me in this raindance?

1. "Isis," Frederique Spigt (unknown album)
2. "Feelin' the Same Way," Norah Jones (Come Away With Me)
3. "Pastoral," Fedir Nadenenko (Music for Ukrainian Instruments)
4. "Sophie Rose-Rosalee," Wynton Marsalis (The Magic Hour)
5. Beethoven: Quartet in B-flat major, op. 130: V. Cavatina. Adagio molto espressivo, Takacs Quartet (The Late String Quartets, disc 3)
6. "You Dropped the Bomb," The Gap Band (Old School)
7. "When It Hurts So Bad," Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill)
8. "Letting Go," Karsh Kale (Liberation)
9. "San Jacinto," Peter Gabriel (Shaking the Tree)
10. "Sleeping Bag," ZZ Topp (Greatest Hits)

This old house & this aging body.

Progress is happening on the house acquisition: loan paperwork in motion, inspection scheduled. Please keep your fingers crossed for us next week, that the appraisal goes well (else no loan, of course), that the inspection goes well, that the appraisal and inspection of our current house go well, that all manner of things go well.

In other news, I went back in the weight room today after a many month hiatus. I had been having some pain in my left shoulder, and decided that heavy swim training + weights might be too much. Now I have dialed back the swimming volume a bit, so it's back to the weight room. Got good directions from my coach friend (the same who helped me prep for nationals). It was a pretty moderate session, but given the shakiness of my arms, I know it will be a stiff weekend for me.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Materazzi e Inzaghi!

Cheers, Italy!

What a thrill to watch that team when they are playing well--like a team.

But my hat is off to Pavel Medved of the Czech Republic, who left everything on the pitch today, playing with seemingly endless energy, even when the rest of his team was flagging, having played the entire second half down a man and down a goal (and then down another goal).

Sorry to see that the USA is out, but I use "see" in only the loosest sense, having only seen the last few minutes of each half of that game, what I could see after time was up in each half of the Italy v. Czech Republic game. But really, you have to be happy for Ghana, with their surprising move into the Round of 16.

OK, now I can actually get some work done.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

If U ain't hip to the rare housequake...

OK, I can quit being mysterious now. I actually was not trying to be mysterious--it is just that I am too superstitious to write about something like this until it is a tad more certain.

The PP and I are moving. Not far, mind you. In fact, I will not even need to change the "Upstate, SC" marker on my profile. But we have decided that since he works in a smallish city that is about 45 minutes away from the university where I teach, and that since he has to be at work 9-5 every day, while I am not on campus every day, it makes more sense for me to do the commute. Furthermore, it is kind of a neat little city, especially in comparison with the little town in which we now live.

But really all that reasonable thinking is not what made up our minds: we found a house we absolutely love. It is an older house in a historic district, and the both the inside and the outside are gorgeous. It really is more house than we need, but we said what the heck. Because, after our, this new neighborhood has a walking tour.

Now we have a contract on it.

And, amazingly, today I go to sign the contract with the buyers for our current house.

All to say, it has been a busy and chaotic couple of weeks. Because, friends, we really got going on this process not even 2 weeks ago. Yes, I know.

So that is why I was not saying much about why I was not writing much. And here is an apology in advance for the house-centered turn that this blog may take, especially over the next couple of months, during which I hope I do not have to write the words "roof replacement" and "asbestos shingles" in the same sentence, except metalinguistically, of course.

Viva Ukraino.

If you've been following the Ukraine in its first World Cup appearance, you know it has been a joltingly up and down. Decked out in my blue and yellow, I was disappointed to see Ukraine get their arses kicked by Spain in their first game, making it seem like the team's first appearance was going to be brief at best, perhaps bloody.

But then they came back and trounced Saudi Arabia 4-0, proving that their presence in the tournament was not a mistake. That was a rather stressful time around these parts, for reasons I have already mentioned, but once I turned on the game, my whole mood lightened. And the moods of a number of other people with broad faces and thighs. Did you see the sea of Ukrainian flags in Hamburg? My goodness.

Maybe not the Saudi fans though. And unfortunately this photo confirms one of the PP's worst fears. Budweiser has been advertising itself as the "official beer of the 2006 World Cup." He wondered if that meant that all over Germany (ahem), the only beer available in the stadiums would be Budweiser. It appears so. I suspect that even if Saudi Arabia had been winning, these two dudes' expressions would be soured by the beer in their hands.

And if you liked the song that I treated you to in my previous post about Ukraine, you might be wondering about the performers. They are TNMK, which stands for Танок на майдані Конго, or "Dance in the Congo Square," and they are one of the most successful hip-hop groups in the Ukraine. Do not underestimate Ukrainian hip-hop. You can listen to more of their music here, even if you do not read or speak Ukrainian or Russian. One of their fans has been playing around with Propellorhead and TNMK: i doi doi doi.

Ukraine plays Tunisia on Friday. Wish them luck: they have a decent shot at reaching the round of 16.

Open Water Meet Addendum.

Results are looking official now for the Death Valley Open Water meet. They should be posted soon.

It looks as though I finished the USMS 3K National Open Water Championship in a time of :59.17. That put me 3rd in my age group: the two women ahead of me in finished in 51 minutes and change and my age group went 6 deep. I am pretty happy with this mid-pack finish in a distance freestyle race. There were 58 women in the race, and of them I finished 10th.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that my sinuses have settled down. FINALLY.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ukraine is not weak.

Guess who just scored their first World Cup goal EVER?

Hear the fight song here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Partial Meet Report: Death Valley Open Water Meet

Our swim team hosts the Death Valley Open Water Meet every year. I first swam it back in 2000, I think, when I was racing triathlons, and I thought, "Huh. I'm a pretty OK swimmer and it would be fun to do a swimming race. How about 5K."

Right. That was tough. It took me 1 hour and 42 minutes. I remember watching the shoreline change as I swam along. That was also the race where a very sore left shoulder helped me realize why alternate breathing is so important. I staggered out of the water, got some pizza, went home and passed out.

I have swum that distance a couple of other times, too, and it is always a killer.

This year we swam the 3K, partly because we did not want to endure the 5K, and partly because the 3K was the USMS National Championship.

The race started in waves: first all the people swimming in the open division of the 3K (including a bunch of very mighty 13-14 year-old kids); then the Masters men; then the Masters women. As the women's wave was treading water in the lake, waiting for the start, one woman said, "All right, ladies, let's go pass some men!" Then the starter yelled to us, "You get extra points for each one you catch," and someone in the water yelled, "of course you've got to throw them back."

The race started and off we went. They had big BEMA buoys every 500 meters, smaller BEMA buoys every 100 meters, and for the first 500 meters, there were milk jugs strung in a line, one jug every 10 meters. So the first 500 was pretty easy, because very little buoy-sighting was required.

The pack spread out very quickly. I deliberately chose a positions off to the far side of the start pack, so I never had interference with other swimmers. There were some absolutely amazing women who were off the front immediately and never looked back. But mostly the swim was a very solitary thing, apart from the occasional kayak or canoe patrolling the course.

Then, of course, it got a little trickier, especially since we were sort of swimming toward the sun. But I was able to find a comfortable "trail pace" with a two-beat kick pretty quickly, and with the exception of a few times where I had to pause and ask WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THE NEXT BUOY? I was able to sustain that pace. I worked very hard to concentrate on maintaining good body rotation and high elbows.

At about 1300 meters I passed my first man. Points!

The second half of the race, after the 1500 meter buoy (it was an out and back race) was pretty easy, because the sun was behind us and the orange buoys were easy to see. Until the 500-meter buoy floated away to shore, leaving a gap in its place and a random buoy way out of line: that made quick sighting pretty tough. But once we passed the point where that buoy SHOULD have been, the milk jugs were back, which made the last 500 meters so much easier. This was really lucky, because by then I was feeling a little tired (I had picked up the past at the turn), and a little less confident about what I was seeing.

I passed the last pair of BEMA buoys which sent me into the finish chute, and by then I was really kicking hard, trying to finish fast and strong, and hoping my coach would forgive me for the 2-beat kick I used throughout the race. (He is not really an open-water coach, and he does not believe in anything save the six-beat kick, which would have killed me by 500 meters.)

I finished in . . . . . . . well, I don't really know. I know I finished a couple minutes after the PP, but the results were not ready by the time we left the lake area to go home and watch the end of Ghana beating the Czech Republic. I think they'll be ready soon, though, and then I'll fill them in.

The bad news? I had a pretty bad allergic reaction to the lake water. I have had this before: my nose runs uncontrolably, my sinus passages close up, my eyes get itchy and swollen, my ears feel funny, and my throat is all tickly. But this was a particularly bad one, so it made the evening a bit miserable. But at least today there is air passing through my nose again, although I am still very congested and my eyes itch.

p.s. Did you see the Italy v. USA game? It was CRAZY, with three ejected players, a million yellow cards, very aggressive play, one bloody nose, and 2 legal goals (both scored by Italy, but unfortunately only one of them was in the appropriate goal).

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Random 11: Since those days I've changed my address Edition.

It appears that my crystal ball--I mean my mp3 player--is trying to send me a message.

It has been one of those times where if you can't find me, look up: I am likely hanging on to a wall or ceiling by my nails. Falling asleep at night seems nearly impossible, and when I wake up in the middle of the night, the crowd of anxieties and uncertainties huddled around the room can barely fit in the room, and who knows--maybe they are spilling down the hall, trying to jam in the room as if it were a mosh pit.

In other words, I need to change my soundtrack, because if I pump the gyspy punk and the ultimate haywire to fill up my house, I might just launch myself through the ceiling and roof, and let's just say that this is not a time that I could afford to add on such a big home improvement.

But this is the time a goddess leans on her mp3 player. It is my secret amulet, and it has spoken. It said, mellow out, Isis. It is time for you to recenter, to regroup, to do what you can to bring the blood pressure down. Not that I doubt the wisdom of my amulet, but just to see how forcefully it wanted to convey its message, I let the randomness go up to 11.

I hear you loud and clear, O Mighty Amulet!

1. "El Conquistador," Daniel Lanois (Plus from Us)
2. "Yes, I Am Blind," Morrissey (Bona Drag)
3. "Party of Two Parts," Frank Brettschneider (marke b05)
4. "Hey Pocky Way," Neville Brothers (New Orleans Party Classics)
5. "The World Turned Upside Down," Billy Bragg (Back to Basics)
6. "Asimbonanga (Mandela)," Johnny Clegg & Savuka (Third World Child)
7. Pärt: "Beatus Petronius," Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tönu Kaljuste (director) (Beatus: Choral Works)
8. "Surrender," k. d. lang (Tomorrow Never Dies soundtrack)
9. "My Funny Valentine," [I don't know] (Babes in Arms, City Center's Encores)
10. "I Looked All Over Town," The Magnetic Fields (i)
11. "I've Changed My Address," Diana Krall (The Girl in the Other Room)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A condo made of stone-uh?

So you are probably wondering why things around here have been so quiet. Does she have nothing to do now, after Nationals? you might be wondering. Or is she so distraught about the ass-whooping that Ukraine took from Spain yesterday that she can no longer write? Or is it that she has discovered that with her music software she can create private radio broadcasts?

Well, sort of. But not exactly.

Point is, there are some possible changes afoot here in the Old Kingdom, changes that require a lot of phone calls, consultations with experts, visits to new places, serious evaluation of bank accounts, extensive web searching, a few calls to the parents, lengthy dinner-hour deliberations, and things like that.

Details to follow, but in the meantime, can you cut a goddess a little slack?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Forza Azzurren.

In response to yesterday's anticipatory post, Joe said, "I guess you think Totti is a Hottie?"

Well, sure. But that is not the biggest thing--so let me explain my thing for Italian soccer.

Really, it is not so much Italy as AS Roma. You may know that there are 2 teams in the greater Rome area, Roma and Lazio. The two teams have an interesting history: Roma was founded during the fascist period to build civic pride. But still: the first time I went to Rome, I learned what a big deal Italian soccer really is.

I should back up a bit: I was fortunate on that trip to run into 2 other travelers who allowed me to tag along on their outings. I was there for a seminar, but it would not start for four days after my arrival. I had planned to do some wandering around beforehand, but Rome was intimidating, especially since I only spoke a little Italian. Very little. Like almost none. But I had enthusiasm!

Anyway, I was staying in a little pensione on the Gianicolo, and so were these other travelers. These two men had traveled together before, but this was their first time traveling together in Rome. One of them was a classicist, and he had taken hoardes of students around the Forum, and Campus Martius, the Palatine, and probably many many others. They were headed to the Forum the next day, they told me: would I like to join them? You bet!

Friends, this was the most amazing introduction to Rome that you could ever imagine. We met up with another friend of the classicist's, a Roman who was eager to get the real story on the Forum. Even in my hopelessly jetlagged state, I learned so much and saw so much. They let me tag along for the remaining days before my seminar began, and in addition to seeing amazing churches and piazzas, I learned more restaurant Italian.

So one afternoon we were walking around, starting to feel a little tired from the day and ready to look for a beer. We started to notice that every time we passed a little bar, there were cheers from inside. Even the Communist Cultural Center was emitting more than the expected enthusiasm. When we did find a little outdoor table to sit down at, we learned that Roma was playing Parma. Sure, the ham there is outstanding, but Parma's soccer team is nothing much. So we did not pay more attention. Except that the cheering kept getting louder and more intense.

Then Roma won, and people poured into the streets, waving their arms in the air and singing "Semo noi," or "It is us": the Roma song goes something like "i piu forti semo noi"--we are the strongest, and notice the Rome dialect there.

Why so much excitement over beating little Parma? Because that win secured the national title.

As we learned.

As the evening went on, people got more and more excited, and finally we followed a throng of red and orange wearing people--waving flags, singing, cheering--to the Piazza Venezia, which had filled with fans. People were hanging banners on the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument. They were singing in fountains. Fans on motorini waved flags behind them. Cars had flags coming out their sunroofs. The procession of fans was filled with little kids in Roma jerseys, and men and women and grandmothers and grandfathers. Everyone was so happy.

There were no taxis to be found, so our long walk back to the pensione was filled with wonderful moments of people driving by and singing, or people hanging off balconies. And this was not like northern European soccer revelry: there was no violence, just lots of happiness.

As I fell asleep that night, my open window meant I heard every motorino that went by, and half their drivers were singing the Roma song. It was not long before people had downloaded the little tune to their cellphones. There were flags and banners everywhere that read ROMA CAPUT MUNDI. Indeed.

It is not easy to keep up with Italian soccer in the USA without satellite TV, but I manage. And I always look forward to the World Cup as a chance to catch up with some of my favs, and watch them play, even if they are wearing blue instead of purple-red and gold.

On this year's national team there are 2 other players from Roma. Totti is perhaps the most famous, we also have centerfielders [scusa: I see that centrocampisti translates to "mid-fielders"]Daniele de Rossi and Simone Perrotta. Not as many players as Juventus or Milan, of course, or Palermo, but still. And yesterday, they won!

Today, no soccer for me: I must get some work done. But Wednesday? Ukraine!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Totti gioca!

Excellent news: Totti will play in Italy's match against Ghana this afternoon!

Which means your favorite superheroine will NOT be working, starting at 3 pm EDT.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Random 10: Do what you like with your groove thing Edition

No lake swim for me today--alas! But while I lunch, here is today's random 10:

1. "I Don't Remember," Peter Gabriel (Shaking the Tree)
2. "Shambala," Beastie Boys (Ill Communication)
3. "The Conductor (Thin White Duke Remix)," The Faint, (Muzik Presents...One Louder [Erol Alkan])
4. "Lifetime Piling Up," Talking Heads (Sand in the Vaseline, Disc 2)
5. "Even His Feet Look Sad," Leo Kottke (One Guitar, No Vocals)
6. "Can't Slow Down, TV Addicts," Information Society (Hack)
7. "Mambote na nje," Coro Bondeko (Besieged soundtrack)
8. "Fatso, Part 2: Yo Estoy Bien Asi (I Feel Fine the Way I Am)" The Story (The Angel in the House)
9. "Fiesta de la rumba," Afro-Cuban All-Stars (A toda Cuba le gusta)
10. "Shake Your Groove Thing," Peaches & Herb (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert soundtrack)

Crowning achievement.

New mix up at Art of the Mix. Enjoy, O My Subjects.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Go jump in the lake.

I am sure that you had all been going crazy, wondering how the textual editing was going, sad not to be receiving daily updates. I know that this is the blog that people come to for the cutting edge of emendation methods, for breaking news about the use of copytexts.

Well good news!

I can tell you that one of the real pleasures of textual editing is trying to make the text itself (apart from any annotations or apparatus) as perfect as possible (or "apap" as we in the business might say). Making a text apap is an endurance event. It requires proofreading, re-proofreading, getting your friends to proofread, paying your students to proofread, and then—everyone’s favorite—pair-proofing. That is when one poor soul looks at the text you have prepared while another soul (really and truly, on the precipice of purgatory) reads aloud from the copytext, being sure to note capitalization, formatting, page breaks, etc.

That task, my friends, is DONE, but it did take about 100 hours. (I am not making that up.)

But NOW, I am in the enviable position of regularizing terminology. You see, the text in question is a wacky one, having been produced by a poet known for his poor habits of spelling and punctuation, and then published by a small house which seems not to have sprung for a proofreader. Or a copyeditor.

So the question facing me was, how many of the erratic capitalizations should I emend? How many leave, in order to allow for expression? How many variations in whether a particular term—especially a term used in a specific, technical way—is capitalized, abbreviated, or italicized can I allow?

The answer (and I am sure you are dying to know) is that this specialized vocabulary is being regularized, but all the other craziness will stand!

So now I am doing search + replace + emend (in my fancy dancy table) on all those terms. And this process, friends, is why I get paid the big bucks. It is dizzyingly boring work, and yet I must use my ultra-super powers to keep focused and not let a single instance of uncapitalized or unitalicized Daimon get past me.

It makes me think of the difference between swimming in a pool with lanes and swimming in a lake. In the pool, especially when you are swimming for a coach, and especially if you are doing a set of technique drills, everything has to be apap. Like today: we were doing a truly sadistic drill for freestyle, where you recover underwater (kind of like doggy paddle) but also where you keep your hands in fists, so that you practice the difference between having and lacking a feel for the water. (Guess which one it is when you are swimming with fists.) This drill is TIRING, and it also requires tremendous focus because you are not supposed to allow your elbows to drop.

Compare this with swimming in your average lake, where you don’t have a lane line, and no one can really see what your hands are doing, and you really cannot be certain how far you have swum. The sky is blue with little fluffy clouds and there are birds flying around. You are inside some boat-excluding buoys, so you don’t need to worry about being run over. The water temperature is perfect, and the fish are not biting.

How I long for a good lake swim! Yesterday I swam masters in the morning (3700 yards) and then swam in the lake. The person who organized the swim speculated that the distance was about 800 yards. At each buoy we waited for everyone to catch up, and enjoyed just being in the lake.

Luckily, if I can get this search + replace + emend task done by noon tomorrow, I get to swim in the lake.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Meet Report: What were we thinking?

So what exactly were we thinking signing up for a swim meet that would happen almost immediately after we returned from the land of duck confit? But we did sign up for it, so we did go. The exciting news was that another member of our masters team joined us for this one--which made it much more fun.

This was the Classic City / Georgia Masters Long-Course Meet, held at the Gabrielsen Natatorium at the University of Georgia.

My principal observation is that racing in a long course meters pool (i.e., a 50-meter pool) is very different from racing in a 25-yard pool. Or training in a 25-yard pool, for that matter. There you are, swimming along, and you think, "Certainly I must be at the wall by now," and you kind of look up, but no no no you are nowhere near the end.

My secondary observation is that I am relieved it was only a one-day meet, because I just do not think I could race tomorrow.

The only good news is that we had the sense to sign up only for short races, and that was a relief, because after two weeks out of the water I don't think I could have raced a 200 meter breaststroke or even freestyle. Especially since it would have been 220 yards.

Anyway, despite my continuing belief that we were crazy to sign up for the meet, I am glad we went. For one thing, the facility was amazing, with three pools and a very impressive diving well where the stairs for climbing the diving platforms were hidden behind a wall. Furthermore, it was fun to be at a very low-stakes meet. This was our first long-course meters meet, so there were no times to beat or anything. And knowing we had recently been on vacation meant I could not even pretend to be in peak shape for it. So we went and swam and had fun. And because it was a very small meet, they mixed men and women together. Sadly, they reseeded the meet, so although it had seemed that the PP and I would swim the same heat of the 50 Free, we did not. Just as well: he kicked my butt. But it was fun in the breaststroke events to be in the fastest heat, just swimming with men (and beating most of them--heh). And I know I am a bit of a kid about this, but it felt good to come home with 4 first-place ribbons.

Oh yeah, and there was a nice hottub by the cooldown pool!

50 LCM Free :34.17
50 LCM Fly :38.73
100 LCM Breast 1:31.43
50 LCM Breast :41.17

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Random 10: How does this thing work? Edition

So how does a person who is completely bound to music make it for two weeks without it? Easy: change the location, and everything changes. I could hardly sit in my study and work or play on the computer or read without music. I certainly could not drive around in the car. But on that terrace in Vabre, all I needed was the sound of the cuckoo (not simulated by Mozart or Vivaldi), geese, and the birds I could not identify.

One exception? We visited the market in Castres one morning, and there amidst the stalls selling vegetables, fresh meat, fish, paella, and cheese, was a group of three guys making the ultimate haywire go nuts. They had a stand-up bass, a violin, and simple drums, and their hair was everywhere.

Now that I'm back, I can hardly remember how to work my mp3 player. What does this button do? OH! It plays ten random tracks!

1. "Órgano de Bayamo," Up, Bustle & Out, Master Sessions 2'
2. Bach: Prelude for Lute, Christopher Parkening, The Artistry of Christopher Parkening
3. Stravinsky: Epilogue (Anne, Baba, Tom, Trulove, Nick), Jayne West & Wendy White (sop), Jon Garrison (ten), Arthur Woodley (bar), John Cheek (bass), Orchestra of St. Luke's, Robert Craft (cond), The Rake's Progress (disc 2)
4. "Music Will Not Last," Jamie Lidell, Multiply
5. Josquin Desprez: Sanctus, Pro Cantione Antiqua London, Bruno Turner (cond), Missa "L'Homme armé super voces musicales".
7. "Jump," Paul Anka, Rock Swings (I ain't the worst that you've seen--can't you see what I mean?)
8. Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C, K551, "Jupiter": 1. Allegro vivace, Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Symphonies 34-41 (disc 3)
9. "Earth Sunrise," Meridian, Punjabi Lounge (disc 2)
10. "Yaar Dha," DJ H & Punjabi Outlawz, Essential Asian Flavas

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Joe asked, "How was Paris? Did you base jump off the Eiffel Tower?"

All I can say is no.

The biggest reason is that we were not in Paris, except when we madly dashed through the Charles de Gaulle airport on the way there and back. Otherwise, we were in the southwest, having flown into Toulouse.

But we did not stay in Toulouse either, except for one night at the end of the trip. The rest of the time we stayed in Vabre, in a partly-seventeenth-century-partly-nineteenth-century farmhouse belonging to a friend of the friends with whom we were traveling.

We spent two weeks in Vabre, a town of about 800 people. Unlike towns of that size in the USA, however, Vabre has two charcuteries, a decent baker, a newsstand, a pharmacy, two grocers, two bar/cafes, a 25-meter outdoor pool (not yet open, alas), a post office, a fabulous little stone bridge, a trout farm, a town hall, a gas station, two churches (one Protestant, this being the hotbed of Huguenots), and a really cool clock tower. The newsstand sells over 35 different postcards of Vabre, all different, some bearing historical photos.

The owner of the house had primed the people in the village about us, so the proprietor of one of the groceries welcomed us quickly. The next day, as the PP and I were walking up the street (I had gotten out of the car a little sick from the incredibly windy roads), two separate people walked up to us to ask, ah, are you the American friends of Mme X? and to say that if we needed anything we should get in touch with them right away. Now mind you: my French is not too bad, but it gets better the more I use it, and I have precious few occasions to speak French here in the upstate. And furthermore, one's abilities in foreign tongues do not improve when one is carsick, do they?

Our house had six bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms. When I say half, I mean that the ceiling and floor were exactly 5 feet 5 inches apart and that there was no sink in there. The back of the kitchen-diningroom opened onto a little terrace overlooking the back garden, planted with peas, fava beans, tomatoes, and salad greens. Up the hill from that was the chicken coop, with chickens (and, partway through our trip, a new chick) and geese. A neighboring horse grazed up the hill from them. One of the two living rooms had around its ceiling old framed photographs of family members and a plaster winged statue behind a sofa. The windows and shutters could block out all the noise and light, or, open, they let in beautiful (but often chill) breezes, and the honking of geese.

We were there with my parents and another couple: we all traveled together last summer, too. My mother, quite an outstanding cook, had been itching to cook in Europe, and visit markets and little shops. So each day she would see what looked good at the charcuterie/boucherie, or go to an adjoining town to visit a market, and come back with local strawberries (fraises and garriguettes), fava beans, fresh pork chops or veal or trout, beautiful breads and pastries, Norman butter, cheeses (both local and Basque, also fresh sheep and goat cheese), pates and sausages, pears and melons, and we would all benefit from her cooking. The stove was tiny and the sink and adjoining table (there was no counter, per se) were incredibly low, but she pulled together terrific meals, and no one complained afterwards when they did the dishes in the low little sink and came away with the world's most tired and sore lower back. Neither did the people who walked the trash and recycling down daily to the bins behind the gendarmerie.

Some days we went on little outings. Some days we went on hikes in the miles and miles of trails within a walk or short drive of the house. One day we hauled ass down the coast, seeing as we went the landscape change from craggy granite mountains, to rolling hills, to more mountains, to limestone landscapes complete with caves and canyons, to the Mediterranean coast. We sampled Gaillac, Minervois, and Collioure wine, and even had a bottle of Banyuls and some Pineau. Some days, though, we just hung out in the village, reading a little on one of the sunny terraces, playing with the neighbor's enormous sweet dog, taking a walk down to the Bar du Pont for a panache, visiting the geese or the newborn goats, or sketching the clock tower, or finding a little fingerling sausage (made of duck) at the charcuterie.

So we did not see Paris or the Eiffel Tower, but I can tell you this: that new viaduct they built near Millau, completing the autoroute from Paris to Barcelona, fucking rocks. Apparently it is now the tallest manmade structure in France--taller than the Eiffel Tower. But although we went to see it--and stood with mouths agape together with French people, Belgians and Swedes, all of us pulled off in little impromptu parking lots underneath it, since the hardcore tourist infrastructure hasn't settled in yet--there was no base jumping for me.

Enjoy the silence.

As Joe noticed, I have been stalling. I have been trying to figure out where to start with my exciting (but not overdone) tale of my time in France. And frankly, folks, I am stuck.

Perhaps here is why:
You know what they say—after a long layoff, you don’t want to jump right in with a big heavy post and maybe pull a muscle or something. We middle-aged bloggers need to take things gradually and rebuild our bloggering tolerance. It’s no use pretending we’re still 23 or 24, when we could just fall out of bed one morning after a three-week hiatus and blog a few thousand words before breakfast. Ah, those were the days.