Thursday, June 28, 2007

Steroids...how effective are they?

or a completely uneducated, uninformed narrative.

What can steroids do? First I'd like to tell you what they can't do. They can't enhance what you don't have. They can't make you a better baseball player unless you're already a good baseball player. They can't make you a Home Run machine unless you already have the skills to hit the ball. Any idiot can swing a bat, but it takes good hand-eye coordination to swing a bat and hit a baseball moving at 95mph; it takes even more skill to not just hit the ball, but hit it where you want it to go. Steroids cannot make you do this if you couldn't hit the ball in the first place.

This may sound like I'm advocating steroid use in sports, particularly baseball, and of course the first baseballer you're going to think of with respect to steroids and being a home run machine is Barry Bonds...or maybe Sammy Sosa. I'm not advocating the use of steroids in sports, and I'm not saying Barry or Sammy used them.

I was all ready to write a scathing article about Barry Bonds and how steroids have perverted the game and how there will always be a dark cloud hanging over Barry's head if/when he breaks Hank Aaron's all-time Home Run record, even though it's never been proven that he used steroids. But as I read about Barry on Wikipedia and checked out his Stats I came to the realization that all steroids could possibly do for Barry was make him stronger. They don't help him hit the 95mph baseball, they only help him hit the ball harder & further.

You may (or may not) be interested to know that while Barry may not (yet) be the All-Time Home Run King, he is still a current Baseball record holder, several times over.
  • He is one of only four players in the 40-40 club. That's 40 (or more) Home Runs and 40 (or more) stolen bases in a single season.

  • He's the only player to have hit 400 or more Home Runs and stolen 400 or more Bases in their career, in fact he's now in the 500/500 bracket. He's not just a dangerous man to have at bat, he's a dangerous man to have on base, too.

  • Despite this, he holds the record for the most walks in both a season (198), and in a career, having been walked 2,439 times, to date. He also holds the record for the most intentional walks in a season (68 times).

  • He went eight consecutive seasons with a .600 (or higher) Slugging Percentage (being Total Bases div. by At Bats). So the pitchers probably think it's safer to walk him to first and let him try to steal a base or two, than risk letting him hit a double, triple, or even a Home Run.

What does all of this say about Barry Bonds and his possible use of Steroids?

It says that with or without steroids (not saying he took them, that would be libel, being the written form of slander) that Barry Bonds is an amazing baseball player. As I said earlier, steroids don't help you hit a baseball, they just help you hit it further. You still need to be able to hit the damn thing, and no amount of steroids is going to help you there. Look at those 2,500 career walks and don't doubt for a minute that Barry couldn't have hit a lot more Home Runs than his current 749. Forget Hank Aaron's 755 career Home Runs, if it wasn't for the many intentional walks Barry would have smashed Hank's record several seasons ago and would probably have had close to 1,000 career Home Runs by now.

I disagree with sports stars taking steriods for anything other than recovering from an injury, but I also disagree with pitchers deliberately walking a batter, and despite their best efforts it looks like Barry will still succeed in breaking Hank's record. Now if Barry did take steroids or some other performance enhancing drug, those he is alleged to have taken were not barred by MLB at the time it is alleged he took them. The only thing illegal about them at that time was their use without prescription, but his use of them was not in violation of any MLB rules or policies. Intentionally walking a batter is also not in violation of the rules, it's a cheap tactic, it does not make for good TV, but it's also permissible.

Steroids may have helped Barry hit the ball further and thus hit Home Runs that may have otherwise fallen into the outfield, but the pitchers have also been working against Barry and denied him the opportunity to hit many more Home Runs. Two wrongs don't make a right but no matter how immoral or cheap we may think their actions were/are, neither Barry nor the pitchers have done anything wrong in the world of professional baseball.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Learning to dance

or I got rhythm but I don't got the moves

I can carry a tune and sing pretty well but I hate 3/4 time, it just seems...unnatural; It's like there's a beat missing, and theoretically there is, if you're used to 4/4 time in which most songs are written. I find it especially difficult trying to play a 3/4 song on guitar because the chord changes are usually on the 1st and 3rd note of each bar, so you might play a song like this:
A and 2 and C and G and 2 and D and A and 2 and C and G and 2 and D and so on, and usually I've lost it by then. In 4/4 time the chord changes follow a more natural rhythm. A and 2 and C and 4 and G and 2 and D and 4 and A and 2 and so on.

So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that I have trouble dancing the Waltz and other classical dances, which are almost all written in 3/4 time. Or at least I did have trouble until last night when Liz and I went to our first Ballroom Dance Class, and I learned a little secret about Classical Dancing. I learned that rather than dance a Waltz while counting Ooone Two Three, Ooone Two Three, and so on, it's actually easier to count Ooone Two Three, Foooour Five Six. This made a whole lot more sense for a very simple reason. On One you take a longer stride with your Left Foot, and on Four you take a longer stride with your Right Foot, and on Two, Three, Five and Six you take shorter steps. Now there's no confusion trying to remember which foot you're supposed to move on One this time, because if it's One it's your Left Foot, and if it's Four it's your Right Foot.

Of course this usually only got confusing when you performed what the Teachers called a Box Waltz, being one you perform on a crowded dance floor where you have enough room to turn on the spot but cannot move around the floor itself. So you'd step forward with your left foot (one), bring your right foot up and to the side (two), then bring your left foot across to your right foot (three). Now step back with your right foot (four), bring your left foot back and to the side (five), then move your right foot across to meet it (six), and repeat with left foot forward (one), and so on. A Waltz is not a three-step dance, it is, but not really. It's actually a six-step dance because you alternate feet with each longer step. As such, dancing a Waltz and counting Ooone Two Three Foooour Five Six, and so on, makes learning to dance a Waltz a darn sight easier.

They just might make a dancer out of me, yet.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Conserving Water

Or An Idea with Merit, but hardly Practical

Our Director sent out a Memo, basically restating what the Mayor had said about cutting our water consumption by 10%. I totally wanted to reply to it asking if that meant instead of drinking 5 bottles of water per day I should only drink 4 1/2, but I refrained. Probably a wise idea ;)

Seriously, how do they expect people who work in an office to reduce water consumption. Actually, here are a few ideas )

To: All Staff
Re: 10% reduction in Water Consumption.
Date: Today! Now!

Here are a few suggestions to assist staff with the Mayor's goal of reducing water consumption by 10%

* Drink 4 1/2 bottles of water per day, not 5.
* Only fill the 10-cup coffee maker to the 9-cup mark.
* Keep track of your trips to the restroom. On the 10th trip do not flush the toilet or wash your hands.
* Every 10th person who wants to wash their coffee cup or lunch dishes in the sink...cannot.

Please feel free to include other helpful suggestions of how we can all save water. Together we can make a difference.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Not a bad weekend

or I knew I should have turned left at Albuquerque

Friday morning after dropping the kids at school Liz and I had breakfast together at a local diner. Then we went shopping at Liz's favorite store where we purchased a garden storage bin. Back home, aided by my trusty rubber mallet, I put the thing together, loaded it up with "stuff" then parked it around the back. I then felt compelled to clean up the backyard, which included trimming one of the trees and replacing the latch on the gate. After lunch I waited for the Cable Guy, and waited, and waited, and around 3:45pm he finally arrived to install our DVR (he was scheduled to be there between 1pm and 3pm). With the DVR set up JE and I hit the local Par 3 golf course where he was ecstatic to be allowed to drive the golf cart around. They've done a bit of grounds work and it's not just a simple Par 3 anymore, now it's a little bit challenging. I made a few Pars, but I also had my share of triple Bogeys. I lost one hole to JE, and on another was thinking too much about the bunker guarding the front of the green, flubbed my tee-shot, and hit my ball barely 10 feet in front of me. Yup, on one hole my 7-year old son hit his tee shot further than me. I managed to scrape in with a +19 score. Liz picked us up around 8:30 and it was hometime and bedtime.

After breakfast with the in-laws (and leaving the kids with them) we headed east out to Ontario. I wanted to take Liz to Victoria Gardens, a mall I'd discovered on a site visit out that way, but I couldn't quite remember where it was. We exited the 15N at Foothill, which is the correct exit, but we turned right instead of left, so after a detour we wound up at Ontario Mills Mall which is where Liz wanted to go anyway.

We shopped around a bit then I finally convinced Liz to come in to Dave & Busters with me where we played a few games of Ghost Squad, or tried to. They have four Ghost Squad machines set up in the Ontario D&B, and it wasn't until we sat down at the third machine that we were able to get a game together. On the first machine the trigger on my rifle was jammed. The attendant appeared like lightning and set us up on the second machine with 10 credits. Liz burned through most of them because my rifle on the second machine didn't work properly either.

After that Liz and I had lunch, in D&B, and then decided to give another machine one last chance, because I still hadn't been able to play :( This machine and its rifles worked pretty good, and Liz and I were soon sitting side-by-side mowing down terrorists. We beat the first two levels and made it to the end of the final level, grenaded the boss's shield away, then promptly forgot we had grenade launchers and tried to shoot the final boss to pieces. He still had a tiny bit of health left when we ran out of time and I swear if we'd both just tossed a couple more grenades we would have beaten the game. Someone claimed she didn't like video games, but I think she enjoyed playing Ghost Squad ;)

Sunday afternoon we rescued the in-laws and went swimming in their pool. Our baby girl was a little scared to go in, but with a little bit of encouragement (and no, that doesn't mean we just tossed her in) she was swimming around with me. More to the point she was holding on to my shoulders, and kept afloat by her buoyancy vest she felt confident enough to kick her legs. Then it was all "Look at me! I'm swimming!". She even got a face full of water a few times but it didn't phase her, and when it was finally time to get out she had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the pool. It's a big change from last year when she'd cling to me for dear life and couldn't wait to get out.

All in all, it was a pretty good weekend.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carbs in coffee

Or Why you can't lose weight drinking coffee.

Actually you can, but how many of us drink straight coffee these days? I do, at home, but I also put in an ounce or two of creamer. At Starbucks or Gloria Jeans or a random coffee house I usually order a Latte. Now I've recently taken to drinking non-fat lattes in an effort to be a little healthier, but a recent trip to a dieting website to find out how many carbs are in my coffee revealed some startling news.

A 16-oz latte made with whole milk can contain approx. 23 grams of carbohydrates and 146 calories, while a non-fat latte contains approx. 24 grams of carbs and 86 calories. Less calories for going non-fat, which is good, but practically the same amount of carbs; not so good if you're trying to lose weight. That morning latte has almost 25g of carbs in it, which is 5g more than the recommended daily allowance of carbs for a starting Atkins' dieter.

Then you get another latte midway through the morning, and maybe a third after lunch to take back to the office. Midway through the afternoon, as you're struggling with a report the boss just dumped on you, a coworker suggests a Starbucks run and you're all over that like Whipped Cream on a Frappuccino. Congratulations. You've just consumed 100g of carbs in one day, and that's potentially your average work day. You cut out 300 calories going non-fat (which counts for something), but you're still snarfing down all those carbs.

Guess it's time to switch from Lattes to Cafe Americanos. After all, water can't have many carbs in it, can it? Can it?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Thank you, Dad

Or how we're shaped by our parents

I'm a fairly capable guy with my hands. When we moved into our house I tore up the downstairs carpet and laid down wood-laminate flooring. I replaced the dining area chandelier, the stairway light, the upstairs hallway light fixture, and all the light fixtures in all three bathrooms, as well as the faucets in the same. I took out the sliding glass door for the kids' bath and put in a shower rod and curtain. I completely removed the kids' toilet when it got clogged up, extracted the plastic, toy boat and reinstalled the toilet.

Today, after a trip to Home Depot, I removed the old tap & pipe leading from the wall to the toilet tank (after turning off the water to the house, which annoyingly doesn't turn off but still slowly runs so you have to turn on the downstairs taps and it's bloody lucky I was working in the upstairs bathroom) and...er...forgot where I was. Oh yeah, in our bathroom, replacing the old flexible but still fairly solid pipe with a considerably more flexible pipe so Liz and I can use our en-suite toilet again. Which I accomplished most successfully.

I have my father to thank for my handyman skills, but it's not so much handyman skills, it's an almost unshakable faith in myself that leads me to believe I can do almost anything around the house, and I probably could, with the right tools.

My father may have moved on to the next stage in his journey through life & death (or whatever happens after this) but he lives on through me. Almost all of our parents will live on through us, and through our children, both the good and the bad. We have them to thank for the positives in our lives, and we (usually) have them to thank for the negatives.

"When I grow up I'm never going to treat my kids this way," you might say to your mum, then lo & behold, what happens? You grow up, have kids, and find yourself treating them exactly the same way your mum treated you...often because your kids are treating you the same way you treated your mum ;)

Embrace the positive, and try to change the negative for the better, but don't worry (too much) if you can't, it's your nature.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One fine day in downtown

Or Fiction from the twisted mind of the Cap'n

"I like your ring."

"Huh?" I looked across at the man standing next to me, looked down at the ring on my left hand, then back up at the man. "It's my wedding ri...", the words tapered off as I stared down the barrel of the gun in his hand.

"Give me the fucking ring!" he yelled.

"I like your gun," I said. "Is it a Glock, or a Smith and Wesson?"

"Huh?" he said, confused, momentarily looking down at the gun in his hand. He looked up to see me stepping in towards him. I reached for the gun, twisting my body as he fired a round at point blank range, then my hands closed on the blistering hot metal. Who knew that a gun could get so hot after firing just one round?

I ignored the burning in my fingers and twisted the gun around and up and in a heartbeat the situation had changed and the gun was now pointing at him and it was his turn to look down the barrel.

I'd closed my hands over his so his hands were still wrapped around the gun and his finger was still on the trigger.

"I suggest you let go," I said calmly. "If you fight for the gun it's going to go off, and you'll get shot."

"FUCK YOU!" He screamed. For a second he pushed against me but just for a second, for like I'd said the gun exploded, along with the back of his head, and just like his brains all the fight went out of him.

I let go of his hands and the gun and stepped back as his body collapsed at my feet. I was feeling a little light headed myself, after-effects of the adrenaline rush, I figured. Rather than fall down I sat down and listened to the wailing of sirens that was getting closer and louder. In the heart of downtown the police were never far away, and within seconds a Black & White screeched to a halt with one wheel up on the curb, and two officers leaped out, their guns drawn and pointing in my direction.

I stood up and held out my empty hands, trying to be as non-threatening as possible, which can be tough when you're standing over a dead body.

"He tried to rob me," I said. "We struggled and his gun went off."

One officer looked at me and lowered his gun. The other ignored me and knelt at the body at my feet. I saw him check for a pulse but he stopped when the second officer, still looking at me, said "Don't bother, he's gone." To me, he added, "why didn't you give him what he wanted?"

"He wanted my wedding ring," I said, holding up my hand.

"How much could it be worth?" he asked me.

"My wedding ring? Priceless! Sentimental value and all that."

"What about your life? What value would you put on that?"

"Well, that's priceless too, of course."

"So you traded one for the other?" he asked me, sadly.

"Huh?"

He gestured to his partner, still kneeling at the body at my feet. I looked down at his partner but he wasn't looking back at me. He was looking up at the second officer.

I looked back at the second officer, too. "I don't understand."

"Look again," he said.

I looked down, this time at the body at my feet...my body...at my feet. The front of my body's shirt was soaked in blood.

I looked up at the second officer. "But...I..."

"I'm sorry," he said. "But you're dead. You traded your life for a wedding ring."

"Guess I wasn't as good at dodging bullets as I thought," I mused.

Then I noticed a speck of light out of the corner of my eye, growing brighter and brighter. The officer and I turned to look at it. The other officer just looked at his partner.

"How's it going?" he said.

"Good," replied the second officer. "He's been good; he's getting the light."

"Cool," said the first officer.

"Only I can see you," said the second officer, looking at me. "Or hear you. My mother was a witch, so was my grandmother, and her mother before her. I got the sight from them. You're lucky you're getting the light. See, the dark's got him." He gestured to the ground and I looked and saw my would-be mugger's body, covered in black ant-like specks. His dead body appeared to be glowing but the dark specks crawled all over him and they seemed to be eating his body's light because it got fainter as I watched.

"Oh look at that," said the second officer, and I obeyed, my eyes drawn to the speck of light which was no longer a speck but had grown brighter and larger and was now the size of a door. A figure appeared in the light and I watched as it stepped through. Gradually my eyes adjusted to the glare and I could make out the features of its face and my heart leaped, or it would have, if I hadn't been dead.

"Cathy! Oh my God! Is it really you?"

"Hi, Peter," said the voice that now, truly belonged to my angel. "I missed you."

"Oh Cathy," I said, "I missed you, too!"

I don't know how two spirits managed it but we embraced, and the years since death had torn us apart melted away into nothing.

Finally I turned and faced the second officer. I held up my hand, my left hand, which somehow wore a ghost of my wedding ring, an endless loop, a symbol of my never ending love for Cathy.

"I told you it had sentimental value," I said.

"Priceless," was his reply.

I nodded to him, and holding hands Cathy and I stepped into the light and were gone, together.

The dogsh name was Junior!

Or Shades of Indiana!

While strolling back from the local Starbucks I passed a lady I'd passed before (not today, another day, another "before"). I recognized her but I didn't recognize her, because I recognized her dog. It was a little rat dog Chihuahua with a t-shirt. You don't see many dogs in t-shirts around my office, most of them are in buns. So this dog stood out. I passed the dog in a t-shirt and its owner and was waiting for the pedestrian crossing when I heard a voice calling out, "Junior! Come over here! Get over here, Junior!"

I turned around and it was the lady I hadn't recognized calling to the dog in a t-shirt that I had.

The only reason I could think of for calling a dog "Junior" is a maternal fantasy, an unfulfilled desire to be a mother. Dogs might be family but projecting your non-existent child on to them is just scary. Which is a very apt description for this woman. A few hundred years ago we might have burned her, or dunked her in the local pond. Or both. Better to dunk them afterwards though, they don't burn so well when they're wet.

Monday, June 04, 2007

MTV Awards

Or What most people are probably talking about around the Water Cooler this morning?

And it's not who won what award, but, OMG! Did you see Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen kiss?!?!?

I'll confess, I have not seen either Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for make blah blah blah, or, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which narrowly avoids a blah blah blah of its own for an excessively long title. Will Ferrell has some classic moments, and I've seen some clips from Borat which I also thought were rather amusing, and I'd probably sit down and watch either movie if they were on and enjoy them, too.

I found last night's Kiss (which I think deserves a capital K) and the preceeding interaction between Will and Sacha to be hilarious, and brilliant off-the-wall comedy. By contrast, when Sacha came out to accept his award for Borat (the movie), and he apologized on Borat's behalf (Borat the man/character), I felt his acceptance speech was rather flat, especially coming on the heels of The Kiss (now with a capitalized The ;)

I think a better acceptance speech would have been if Sacha had thanked Will Ferrell, and stage-whispered an "I love you" to him, but while funny that would have had no relevance to Borat (the movie). Borat himself could even have made the acceptance speech, and perhaps Sacha should have gone down that road, instead. Perhaps pre-recording a segment as Borat (in Kazakhastan) then talking with him as if it were live footage. Sacha as Borat's straight man might have been a winner.

Grammer Gods, where are you?

Or And and Or. Which is correct? And when? And why not both?

While writing a letter I created a sentence where I stated that I was forced to choose between two alternatives, essentially I said:
Forced to choose between riding Public Transport for three hours or spending one hour in my car I chose to drive.

Now I tried adding a comma between car and I but it made no difference; in both cases Word's Grammar/Spellchecker insisted there was a mistake with the or. When I hit F7 it told me the correct word to use was and. Which makes sense, but or also made sense to me. I can choose one or the other, right? So why is it correct to use or in the sentence immediately preceding this one, but I must use and in my example?

Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm here, and not there

or Is coping through avoidance really coping? Or just avoiding?

Honestly, I don't know whether it's easier or harder having been here for the last 8 years.

Easier, because I've been living my life for the last 8 years without my father's constant presence, so the only day-to-day difference is that I'll never hear his voice on the other end of the telephone.
Harder, because I never lived with him for the last 8 years, so I never watched him die a little more each day, until at the end perhaps it was a relief to know his suffering was finally over.

In August I return to Australia for the third time since my father's death. The first time was to bury him, and the second time was barely a month or so later for the trip that should have introduced my daughter to her Pop. This time around I'll be walking my mother down the aisle as she marries the new man in her life.

Again, easier, because I don't have to live there and constantly see my mother with someone other than my father?
Or harder, because I was never there with her as she stuck to her vows until Death did her and my father part. So I never witnessed her depression as day-by-day she watched the man she loved slowly die, so I'm also not there now to see the positive changes in her, or share in her joy at finding someone new to love.

In September I will be doing one of the hardest things (I hope) that I will ever have to do in my life. I will have to walk down the aisle with my mother and give her away, essentially let her go to a complete stranger, a man I've never met. I know my mum loves him, I know he has the approval of my sisters and one of mum's closest friends, but that won't make it any easier. But I have to do it, anyway.

Bravery is not about being unafraid; it's about being terrified but doing the right thing anyway. The right thing for me to do is let my mum live her life. It's right to let her live, and not expect her to become a Miss Havisham.

In September I will have to really face the fact that my father is gone and that he's never coming back, and that terrifies me.