Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sins of Omission

Ladies Moguls – Silver. Speed Skating Ladies 3000m – Bronze. Speed Skating Ladies 1500m – Silver. Men's Moguls – Gold. Ice Dance – Gold. Men's Snowboard Cross – Silver. Ladies Ski Cross – Gold. Ladies Snowboard Cross – Gold. Speed Skating Ladies 5000m – Bronze. Speed Skating Ladies 500m – Silver. Short Track Ladies 3000m Relay – Silver. Speed Skating Ladies 1000m – Gold. Women's Bobsleigh – Gold. Women's Bobsleigh – Silver. Men's Skelton – Gold.

Not a bad list of accomplishments for the Canadian Olympic Team after 13 days of competition. So far we've seen athletes compete injured. Come back from severe injuries to win medals, and overcome devastating personal tragedy to put in personal best performances. Pretty amazing. Considering it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to become really good at something, to be able to step onto a podium to receive a gold medal at the Olympics must come with a huge amount of satisfaction. We should be shouting these athletes' names from the rooftops in recognition of their hard work and determination to succeed.

Last evening after a long day of herding cats (supply teaching), I was looking forward to sitting down to see some of Canada's best and brightest compete. Much to my amazement and frustration, I saw very little of the events I was hoping to see and very little presented to me in the way of athlete profiles for sports other than hockey. Sure it was a big night for hockey. Canada vs. Russia. Considering Canada has not beaten Russia in Olympic hockey in 50 years, I can understand the hype. But let's recap the accomplishments of the Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey team so far. A couple of wins and a loss. Gold medal yet? No. Silver medal yet? Nope. Bronze medal yet? NO! The hockey team is still advancing through the preliminaries to the finals. What's with all the coverage of players who get plenty of coverage for 10 months of the year?

I hear you saying that if you want coverage of the other sports go to the newspaper or online. Yes I agree, fine. I can search it out if I want it. But why are the accomplishments of our athletes who are WINNING bronze silver and gold medals being overshadowed by the fortunes of millionaire hockey players? Why is it when I sit down to watch coverage on television that hockey is first and foremost even when the team isn't playing on a particular day. Why, on what is supposed to be the flagship network for Olympic coverage, are we wasting time on hockey commentary instead of focusing on our Olympic Champions during what is prime time for most of the country? Why are we getting so up in arms over the failure of to 'Own the Podium' when apparently we don't seem to care (at least on prime time television) even when our athletes do win?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Excuse Me While I Have A Nap

Well once again, I'm ahead of the game. By doing something that seems natural and feels right I have come out on the winning side without knowing it. I speak of course, of the afternoon nap. Being a stay at home dad, I am often left with a few minutes just after lunch when I have completed my list of tasks and have a time before my youngest child arrives home from school. What better time to have a quick 40 winks and catch up on some sleep. Now it turns out that this is just what my brain needs to become smarter. I wasn't being lazy after all! Who knew?

Scientists have determined that basically your brain gets full of information and needs time to shift that knowledge from short term to long term storage. Apparently a nap is just the thing. Your brain basically goes into neutral and the long and short of it is that you get smarter. I guess this is why kids learn things so fast. I remember when my little ones were little-er and they would try something new and fail. Then they would try again and fail and so on and so on. Then they would have a nap or go to sleep for the night and the next time they tried whatever it was they were doing -- taa-daa! Miraculously they were suddenly experts at whatever it was they were attempting to do.

Thank goodness for scientists. They have now given me the excuse, uh, make that the reason, I needed to take that nap in the afternoon. Come to think of it I'm feeling a little sleepy right now…

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dog Ate My Computer

The month of February has been a busy one. By the time it ends I will have had only four days where I have not worked. Not bad for a substitute teacher. I have been lucky this school year to be able to spend quite a lot of time in the classroom with students. It's getting to the point where I know many on sight and am able to create some kind of teacher/student relationship with them. This familiarity also comes with increased responsibilities (most of which I place upon myself). I feel that when I am in a classroom, replacing the regular teacher, I should keep to that teacher's plan. I'm not there to be friends with the students. I'm not just there to baby sit. There is a job to be done and I take pride in doing it to the best of my ability. I can, and am willing, to do more than just press play on the DVD player. I especially enjoy those times when I can be in the same classroom for four or five days or more in a row.

I find that after about three days, you begin to really get to know the students. That also goes the other way too. They get to know you as well. I also enjoy helping them through assignments and deadlines. Of course, they get no sympathy from me if they haven't used their time wisely. If you spent your class time talking about the colour of your new iPod, instead of reading your novel or working on that essay that is due in two days… Don't come looking for extra time. You won't find it here.

I have to laugh though. I remember when I went to school and the big excuse for not having your homework done was to say in a pleading and pitiful voice that "The dog ate my homework!" I'm sure that at some time, in some school, somewhere, someone, actually had a dog that ate their homework. It was the perfect excuse really. Who in their right mind was going to check? If you didn't actually have a dog it became problematic , but it was worth a try.

Today, "My computer crashed," or "My printer broke," or "I e-mailed it to you," has become the new "the dog ate it." If you think about it, how can you disagree? We've all been there. You are just about to put something to sleep on your computer and just before you save it for the last (or sometimes the first) time -- poof! Gone. It happens. Everyday. If you think about it this is really a better excuse than the dog. You don't even need a computer, just access to one. Once you hit send on the e-mail… Gone. Who is to say that you didn't send it, or try to print it off or save it?

Whatever the reason, kids will always try to get that extension on the deadline at school. It's nice to know that no matter how much change technology brings some things will always be the same.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Book Has Closed

It is a sad day here in Canada for those of us who know our history. John Babcock, the last living soldier to serve in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War has died. He was 109.

Although Mr. Babcock never saw combat duty at the front during the war, he was too young at the time, he represented the last touchstone we Canadians had to the men and women who served this country so well during The Great War. Although I never knew Mr. Babcock, he was, for me, a connection (however tenuous) to those in my own family who served in the First World War. To those who came home and to those who did not. He has now joined the 650,000 other Canadian soldiers who served during those years. The living history book of the First World War is now closed. Rest well Mr. Babcock.

"…and at the going down of the sun, We will remember them…"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gold Medal for Desperation

As of today we are almost half way through the Apocalympics (not my original word, unfortunately). The whole thing seems to be plagued by one unfortunate event after another. Bad weather, protesters, training accidents, planning snafus and tragically a death. I'm thinking that the organizers are tipping back a few stiff ones in the evenings to get through it all.

On top of all of this, comes the national (or perhaps just media) hysteria over gold medals. For several years we have all been hearing about the 'Own the Podium' initiative that is supposed to funnel more money to athletes for training so that they can increase their chances of a medal (preferably gold, one supposes) during these and future Olympics. It doesn't help that Canada, up until a few days ago, had never won a gold medal at an Olympics that was hosted here. Leading up to the Olympics attention was focused on who could potentially win medals and when they would be won. What must it be like for these athletes? What happens, if for some reason, they don't perform as well as expected?

The pressure must be incredible. All for a sporting event that only happens every four years. Not to brag or anything, but I'm raising three children who, like every other child in the country, is the future of this country. As corny as it sounds, all of these kids will be the next teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians… the leaders of this country. Guess how many people are looking over my shoulder as I get them ready for life? I don't have commentators estimating my chances of raising the next Nobel laureate.

With these huge expectations it is, of course, the athlete who loses out. I enjoy a great come from behind victory as much as anyone else. I am, for all my nit picking, a proud Canadian. But let's keep things in perspective. Let's support our athletes by taking some of the pressure off them and results. Should we expect them to do their best? Absolutely. Should we get our knickers in a twist if they don't perform as well as we think they should? No. But never fail, every four years (every 2 years if you count the summer games as well), the national self doubt sets in. So instead of properly funding sports and recreation with ongoing support for proper training and preparation we panic, throw money at the 'problem' in bursts and hope that this will somehow solve things. That we will be able to 'Own the Podium'. Are we really so desperate for a small piece of medal to represent our worth as a country?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

All of the Goodness, None of the Flavour

I don't know what it is like at your house, but here at Rancho Relax-o I tend to do most of the meal preparation and baking. My bride can and does cook and bake well. But for some reason I do most if it. Don't know why or how it ended up this way but there it is. I just usually end up in front of the stove when it's time to cook something. Not all the time, but most of the time. I don't mind that. I actually enjoy preparing the meals and planning the menu. Cleaning things up afterwards – not so much. Most of the time things turn out well. Sometimes things go off the rails.

One of my recent successes was with an Irish stew. After browning the beef and adding the onions and garlic, instead of adding water to simmer the meat in, I pour in a bottle or two of stout (you know the super dark, heavy beer, like Guinness, only I use my own brew) and let it simmer away for a couple of hours and then add the rest of the veggies and such. MMmmmm. Delicious if I do say so myself. Even the kids like this stew and they eat like they've been cast members on Survivor whenever it is served.

Then there are those dark days when things don't go so well. The kids love to recount the one and only time the breadcrumb topping on the seafood casserole actually caught fire in the oven. To hear them tell it you would think that a fiery rain was pouring down from the heavens.

Just today we have another unexpected event to add to the annals of family gourmet history. My lovely bride, in an attempt to cut back on packaging and to try and keep us eating healthy made some cookies. They were the oatmeal, low fat, high fibre, chocolate chip, twigs and bark, non peanut butter kind of cookies. Looking at the recipe you would have thought that these cookies had it all. That's what we thought. Taking each of the ingredients on their own, these cookies should have been great. How can you go wrong with milk chocolate chips? They even called for a little butter! Great we thought! So off she went to make these gastronomic wonders.

Fast forward a couple of hours and the cookies were cooled and ready for eating. They looked great and so I took large bite of one and was overwhelmed with the lack of taste. They had the look of cookies and the texture of cookies and the weight of cookies but none of the flavour of cookies. They were like eating crunchy air, or warm ice or something. Lots of flash but no substance. Just kind of blah. So now we have these wonderful cookies that are good for us and the environment and no one will eat them. Not even my bride, who would usually eat them just to prove a point, won't go near them. They've been sitting on the counter all evening, like some sort of nutritious leper colony. I'm half convinced that even other food is slowly edging itself away from these things. All of the goodness and none of the flavour. Perhaps if we let them age like wine flavour will develop.

Maybe some cream cheese icing and chocolate sauce would salvage them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Six More Weeks Of Winter

Well, for those of us in the North America, what seems to be both the most eagerly awaited and the most dreaded day on the calendar has come and gone. I speak of course of Ground Hog Day. Yes, it is true. We base our hopes for an early spring on a rodent that is yanked from its burrow by some guy in a top hat and whether or not we think it sees its shadow. What a fool proof system. Thank goodness we haven't spent loads of money in setting up weather monitoring stations and developing computer programs for modelling weather systems. Oh, wait… D'oh!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the most eagerly awaited part. My youngest child, who is 6 years old, was incredibly excited about Ground Hog Day this year. All we heard from her for days was "It's almost Ground Hog Day," and many variations of this, several times a day and sometimes a couple of times an hour. Ground Hog Day hysteria was sweeping the house. My bride and I could not understand this whole interest in what is essentially a made up 'holiday', which if you care to look at your calendar, has no impact on the length of the winter. Any more excitement over this and we thought we might have to invest in a scale replica of a ground hog to set up in our living room.

So, anyway, the big day comes and my daughter gets home from school and wants to know "Did the ground hog see it's shadow?" To which I said, "Which one?", because there are about 10 or so different rodents who 'predict' the coming of spring. My humour was of course lost on her, so I broke the news that, yes, it saw it's shadow and that there would be six more weeks of winter. Her face crumpled in disappointment and I stood dumbfounded at her reaction this piece of ridiculous news.

After she got over her initial disappointment and some questioning on my part, I came to find out that it was not whether or not spring was going to come early that was her concern. In her mind she figured that if spring came early then so would her birthday! I don't know if she thought that the 6 weeks that lie between Ground Hog Day and the first day of Spring would just disappear or what, but… Needless to say that after the kids had hit the hay for the night my bride and I had a good laugh at the logic behind the desire for an early birthday.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Olympics Here We Come Pt. 2

Just about a year ago I posted a piece about the Olympics (see Olympics Here We Come 2/12/09) and how, inevitably, they are going to cost we taxpayers a fortune. Way back a year ago, the cost overruns were skyrocketing and the potential loss to Canada was huge. Now here we are a year later and guess what? Even more costs involved in the whole thing. Last year I predicted that snow storms would probably send the city of Vancouver spiralling into chaos like a 5 year old on one of those flying saucer sleds. Well, so far no storms (although I still have my fingers crossed). In fact, the exact opposite is happening. Vancouver is experiencing warmer than normal weather and the Whistler Blackcomb site is getting rain and warm temperatures which have melted the snow pack on the ski runs. Now, added to the cost of security, accommodations, travel, building venues and shuttling athletes and spectators from point a to point b, we have to add the costs for trucking in snow to the ski and snowboard runs so that the whole overblown show can go on.

This is a situation where technology can help. I know I usually bemoan the gradual slide of society into the technological commode, but in this case I think I have the solution – both to the weather problems and to the huge costs involved in this thing. Video games. Yep. Why not just pimp out a Nintendo Wii and hook it up to a giant big screen. Problem solved. Athletes no longer have to travel, they can compete online. Venues can be smaller and we could stream the whole thing on the internet so that accommodations are now people's living rooms. Weather ceases to be an issue and the whole thing goes off whether there is snow or not. Problem solved. Sure there are some technological hurdles to jump, but nothing is insurmountable. Get a few of the big brain computer people into the mix and wham bam there you are. Online Olympics and lots of cost savings.

Just remember you heard it here first Olympic Organizing Committees and make sure that the cheque is made out for $50 Million (one time idea fee, what a bargain). I'll keep my eye on the mail box.