Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Big Events Coming and Completed

As mentioned last week, son Jake went to the edge of the Pacific Time Zone in Northern Idaho to compete in an "ironman" triathlon event. He finished in about exactly the time he had expected (just over twelve hours!), then told wife Ember, "Don't let me do this again." Pretty good for a guy who used to do most of his running competing in ultimate frisbee games. He's also helped inspire two sisters to take up running distances. I only play games you can win with crafty lefty-ness.

Meanwhile, big sports events are unfolding all around us. The NBA playoffs ended on schedule, which means flying dunks and long jump shots in June. This time around it was the LeBron James-led Miami Heat finishing as champs. James had some monster performances, doing whatever the opposing Oklahoma City Thunder had to let him do to try to slow down his scoring. The guy rebounded like a fiend and even led the team in assists when he had to. Still, it seems to be one of those things in which the guy is mostly disliked as long as he's dominating. But it's OK. People will appreciate him more when he suffers a disabling injury.

The Olympic Games in London roll in about a month, so it's time to put the US team together using events we know as the Olympic Trials. I like these events, because the pressure to make the team is enormous even when the universe of competitors is small enough that everyone knows the competitor in the next lane. I was amazed to see the World decathlon record broken under wet conditions in Oregon, and found myself cheering on former Iowan and 29 year-old, self-proclaimed virgin Lo Lo Jones overcome an unimpressive spring to qualify again as a hurdler.
In fact, those women sprinters make up a very impressive group. Their bodies are so perfectly trained, and their outfits, while not immodest, are kind of, ah, skimpy. Many go the whole nine yards into fingernail and hair colors, studded belly buttons, dazzling running shoes and even eye shadow. But when interviewed, they are unfailingly polite and even religious. As a group, they're easy to root for - unless you're pulling for Jamaica.
Watching soccer is fun, though I can't pretend to really be any kind of expert. The UEFA competition going on gives you a chance to see the best European national teams go at it. Sure, you're watching the taped (not live) version, but, really, how bad can it be? Especially since they appear to have banned those awful one-note horns. Vuvuzelas? I wouldn't complain if there was a law that banned importation of the deafening things. I'd only own one if they were proven to keep bears away.  
The ESPN empire has now taken over Wimbledon. Things are just starting, and we have no reason to think it will be unlike other years yet. Still, it's hard to tear yourself away from watching the world's best tennis players go at it to see who will be hoisting the big cup at the end of next week. They still require the players to dress in white, but that's OK. What causes some people to tune out, though, is the sounds made by (mostly) women players which can border on the other-worldly. If it's really offensive, you can always mute the sound altogether, but I only do that when Mona's around since I know she has little interest in anything connected with Jockdom. Too bad. Life's more interesting when you have someone to root for.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One of Our Own, Part II

Jake, our younger son, has been reaching for the pinnacle of pain in his chosen sport of triathlon. He moves a step closer on Sunday when he attempts to complete the "ironman" version of the sport (the longest and most grueling) in Idaho. He expects to be in action for a full TWELVE hours. My guess is that he'll be wondering about the "fun" part of the event for about eleven and a half hours.

And Anna (daughter #2) is trying to squeeze all those stressful life events they talk about into a single year. Getting married, losing a job, moving to another city, getting a new job and moving AGAIN. Heck, it hasn't even been six months, though the second move hasn't happened yet. As far as I know, no baby is on the internal assembly line yet.

No one running for president is perfect, and no campaign is, either. For reasons I've already blathered on about, my feelings about Mitt Romney are mixed. I'm not anxious to see him fall on his face because, rightly or wrongly, he is now the face of Mormonism, at least to this country.
But there are things about Brother Mitt's campaign that make me want to scream, or at least raise my speaking volume. Poor Mona is doomed to be the major audience outside of this blog, which I dare not self-promote even though there's no money in it.
There's the issue of basic truthfulness. I know it's fashionable to sneer at all candidates as liars and leave it at that, but I don't think that's adequate. If it's a matter of fact, not opinion shading, and if it's something the candidate has control over, AND if it is continually used even AFTER the discovery of falsehood, then we have a problem. In fact, one of Romney's first ads features the voice of President Obama saying "If this campaign is about the economy, we lose." But what isn't mentioned is that the words were uttered in 2008, and Obama was quoting John McCain at the time. Many news organizations have pointed this out, but when asked about it directly, Romney only replied enigmatically, "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander". The ad itself? It's still being used.
Mr. Romney's press bus took a group of reporters to the former headquarters of the failed solar power equipment maker Solyndra. There, with the weed-covered site as a backdrop, he made an accusation involving payoffs for Obama friends and family which he said came form an inspector general's office. Trouble is, the accusation is untrue. It has yet to be withdrawn.
Romney supporters seem to be showing up more at events featuring Obama campaign officials to heckle the speakers. It's within the boundaries of free speech under the Constitution, but barely. Romney does not deny the involvement of his campaign in this preplanned chaos, but instead justifies it on the grounds that Democrats do it, too. Do you have an example, sir?
Then there's the matter of "the company you keep". Donald Trump's jaws keep flapping about an issue that should be long gone - the "birther" thing. Rush Limbaugh shows his loyalty by insulting women on the radio. Ted Nugent seems only about a half step removed from the wild man guitarist character that made him rich. John Bolton stokes the fires of war every day. How many of these has Romney disassociated himself from? You're correct if you said "none of them".
Here's the dilemma for the LDS faithful. Do we hold Romney to a higher standard because we know that HE knows what a higher standard should be? Or do we shrug and mutter that at least he knows "us" and won't do much that hurts "us", especially raise "our" taxes, even though he has adopted the Ryan budget , which would do exactly that for middle and lower class workers. Looking back, Mitt's best opportunity in life to have association with non-rich people came from his experience as a lay church leader. But that seems too long ago to even mention now.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

North of the Plaid Line

"Endurance is kind of like your spirit lifting weights."
Christopher De Loach, age 12

Up until last year, one of the things we had hoped to do while living near the ocean was to see a whale or two. Then we got lucky with a mama whale, which not only entered fresh waters, but passed slowly back and forth directly under a bridge on a highway we were familiar with. The story, as you might recall from previous entries, had a sad ending with the whale's death.
But when another chance came to head north and ply the waters of Puget Sound in search of more whales and at a discount (since we aren't quite in whale spotting season yet), we started packing.
This wasn't a quick trip. It's about nine hours by car if you're not stopping in Portland to see Leah (daughter #5) and husband Dane. We did stop, then went north again to Puyallup, WA, to where Allison (daughter #3), husband Scott and their two sons live. From there it was more north to catch the ferry going to the San Juan Islands, and finally to Orcas Island, where we were booked into a cabin just a stone's throw from the beach.
The island isn't just a jumping off spot for whale lovers. We saw a handful of bald eagles there and happened on a fawn which seem to have just been born. When we did hop aboard our boat, along with about 15 other folks, the whale watching wasn't anything that you'll ever see on Animal Planet, but we did spot a Minke whale at 200 yards or so, and perhaps a porpoise or two. Seals were sun bathing on rocky islands, and diving birds gave out clues as to where fish could be found. The cruise was over in a couple of hours, with no one seasick or feeling ripped off by the half price cruising sale. Another tiny highlight was in response to a question on tsunami trash. Sure enough, there was a what looked like a tent stake with Japanese writing on it, recently plucked from local waters.
Back in Puyallup, we took in a trip to the zoo. Marine animals were prominent: walruses, seals, polar bears and penguins. They also had an elephant, camels, monkeys, tigers, leopard cubs, tapirs, and others. The gorillas must have been on vacation. We were restrained in the gift shop since we're too old to look good in what they were selling, and we already have plenty of refrigerator magnets.
I had one slightly odd moment. Orcas Island has a mountain which rises just over 2,000 feet from the sea and affords a terrific view from its summit. This view includes a tiny corner of Canada. At the summit I later found myself trying to find a particular radio program. The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) came in pretty well, but how did I also manage to find some music with the unmistakable sound of....Mexico?