Sunday, 30 December 2007

Dinos Dominate in the Hopewell Holiday Hoops

My girls -- the nationally 8th ranked U of C Dinos Women's Basketball team -- won all three games of their holiday tournament, against Laurentian, Victoria and Carelton.

Friday saw a horrid game against Laurentian. "Christmas rust," Coach Harle called it. In the first half, we were terrible. Turnovers, flopped shots, it was a mess. Poor Ashley Hill, a great three point shooter, couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, couldn't hold on to the ball -- she started a mess, ending the first half with no points. The ever-smiling Whitney Haswell got two fouls in the first 5 minutes, and another in the 2nd quarter, so spent the majority of the game on the bench -- which was a shame, because she was an energetic spark the few minutes she did get. Courtney Coyle had an OK first half, with 10 points. And so we were basically even with Laurentian the whole half, going into the half up by 4 at 33-28. We sank exactly 1 of 14 3-point shots in the first half, and a miserable 35% from the field. The second half was only slightly different; Ashley came alive and got 16 of the Dino's 29 second half points, but the field goal shooting for the team dropped to 27%. Fortunatly, the 3-point shooting got better (up to 46%), and we eked out a win with a poor 62-60. Our saving grace? No matter how poor we played, Laurentian was slightly worse.

Saturday's Victoria game was was different. The Dinos were firing on all cylinders. At the end of the first quarter, the Dinos led 26-13, and the pace kept up with the final 94-77. Megan Lang had a great game; she had 5 of 7 field goals, 2 of 4 3-pointers and a perfect 8 of 8 free throws for a whopping 20 points, matching Ashley. Courtney was also up there at 17 points, and Whitney played 32 solid minutes. Jane Meadwell came off the bench for some awesome defensive play and 9 points.

Today's game against Carelton was expected to be a blow out, but Carelton really had their act in gear, especially in the first half. They controlled the Dinos offense well, and had a very well planned offense (shooting 50% from the field) that we had trouble shutting down. The score was tied at 18 at the end of the first quarter, and still tied at 32 at the end of the half. In fact, if it weren't for Courtney's last second buzzer beater, the Dinos would have gone into the half behind. But the Dinos came out for the second half fired up, and outscored the Vikes 31-18 in the 3rd quarter, and again 22-12 in the 4th quarter sealing the win at 85-62. I suspect what broke Carelton was Calgary's press. It started with Ashley, Megan and Whitney trapping, and was followed by Jane, Juliette Gonzalez and Michelle Wilson doing the same thing. Calgary forced 31 turnovers, while Carelton managed only 17. Ashley once again redeemed her first night with 24 points, with Courtney not far behind at 19.

Skiing Day 1

Vertical: 7,815 m Cum to date: 7,815
Runs: 14 Cum to date: 14

Our first day this season (due to many factors) was December 29th. Sunshine had record crowds on Friday (7,300) and word had it it was just as bad on the 29th. I'd believe it. We got there spot on time at just before 9, and there was a 6 km traffic jam to park. We were farther back in the parking lot than we have ever been, at Row 52, right at the end of Lot A. As we left, there was a line of cars 4.6 km long outside the gate on the road. Busy day.

And by the folks we talked to, they found crowds, but as usual, we didn't. We started at Goat's Eye, stayed till 12:15 pm, headed to the Creekside Lounge in the Parking Lot for lunch, then rode back up to Divide via the Village. The only line we stood in all day was for Angel. Divide and Angel were apparently a zoo, but there was hardly anyon eon Goat's Eye, and in the afternoon, Divide was empty.

The snow was great, best on Divide near the top of Angel, but early season coverage everywhere was very good. On Goat's Eye, Rolling Thunder had been groomed and was very sweet. Bye Bye Bowl, normally good, was moguled.

It was a bit cool, at -11 to -13, with the coolest on Divide where there was a little bit of wind. There was some sun, and viz was pretty good the whole day, with only the odd period of flat light.

Vert was very low for several reasons. First, the traffic jam to get into the parking lot. Second, the time it took to activate our Sunshine Cards. Between the two, our first lift ride at Goat's Eye wasn't until 10:15 when it's normally 9:30-ish. Finally, we had to bail early as we had to get home for a basketball game. We left the top of Divide at 2:50 pm, and with a pit stop at the base lodge, were home at 5 and made the game tip off at 6 with 10 minutes to spare.

All in all it was a great way to break in the season. And I'm sore, so it was a very good day.

No, no photos. Why not? I'm still looking for a small camera to cary while skiing.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Palm-Z Indoor R/C Airplane

This is what I got for Christmas. I'm getting good, and have only chipped a wing and broken the elevator so far. My longest flight is about 90 seconds in my pool room (oh, for an empty gym...). Jello hates it.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

The Happy Death of Becks and Ash

It is a Christmas Eve tradition in my house to kill some fresh lobsters. This is because we don't kill a tree, and killing things is such an integral part of Christmas.

We started, though, with some baked mussels and an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

Then it was time to meet the kids. We decided that all animals alive before you eat them had to be named, and since I can't tell the genders of lobsters apart, the names chosen must be androgynous. Please meet Becks and Ash.

Generally, they don't like going in the pot. Becks and Ash were no exception.

They're cute, in a cockroach type way.

Steaming in the pot, they turn a nice red.

After cooking comes prep and plating; I usually just do the tails and claws, and save the legs for later.

And of course, Champagne. This year, a Laurent-Perrier. Nice; light, not very nutty.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Trees are my life

My frequent friend and occasional enemy is dying, and I don’t know what to do.

He’s a crab. Tree, that is. He’s gnarled and bent, has fungus and dead branches, and he’s almost as tall as my house. His long slow demise started before we moved in in 1999, and has accelerated despite the best efforts of our arborist, who, on an annual basis, diligently tries to get him to eek out yet another year. A main branch broke in a windstorm a few years back, rotted to the core. Pruning back deadwood has only resulted in more deadwood showing up. Last year’s healthy branches are this year’s kindling.

I really have a love-hate relationship with him. For one week in the year, about mid-May, he is just glorious, covered in an explosion of fantastic white and pink blossoms that scream to me “spring is over, and summer’s here!” The air is filled with the perfume of paradise, and the bees flourish. A better celebration of a season’s change I could not imagine. Then, at the end of the week, just to remind me of the season going away, the flower petals all drop in the space of 2 days in a literal pink snowfall. My deck collects white and pink drifts, and I am tempted to shovel.

Sadly all those flowers turn to pesky and annoying little crabapples. Branches that once soared to the sky are now bent to face height and are a pain, due for more trimming. The apples ripen, though their tough skins and nasty bitterness make them inedible to us, and remarkably, no birds or animals seem to like them either (wonder why?) until they are overripe. Once overripe, they start falling to the ground in October and November, staining concrete and deck, making the pathways a goopy mess of a game I call “shoe-care hopscotch.” They get so thick shoveling is necessary. They fill the grass, killing it and making messy lumps, which in the spring turn into numerous little treelets growing in my now damaged lawn.

On the bright side, his role as “privacy provider” and “variety bird habitat” is superbly executed, and his shade is very much appreciated. Yes, he provides my neighbour more shade than me, and his cool green space in my yard has been enough to make growing grass under him a challenge (but the ferns like it). Nuthatches and woodpeckers seem to like the bugs he attracts. Sparrows find him a great place to sit and watch me eat my dinner outside. The waxwings always show up once a winter and massacre most of the tree-resident fruit, leaving an amusing pile of detritus on the snow. The spring sees robins and the occasional squirrel getting the year old fruit still on the tree or ground. Some chickadees built a nest at about chest height inside a dead branch that had been cut off a few years back, which we only found long after they had abandoned it. You would think we would have noticed the 2” hole walking past it three times a day, but it somehow escaped us. And since the he sits right in front of two of our windows, he is built in free entertainment for our cat.

His north side is basically dead, and he leans precariously towards the house, so he is not long for this world.

But as with all late life decisions, this is a tough one. We planted an ash tree near him as an eventual replacement, but he is not there yet. So we mull the benefits of him staying with the costs of his leaving, the benefits of him leaving with the costs of him staying. When is the right time to pull the proverbial pin, grab the chainsaw and do the deed? I don’t know.

Perhaps the City struggles the same way, whether it is with the poplars along Memorial Drive or the wonderful shade tree that used to stand next to the pool in Rotary Park. For everything, there comes a time. If we let nature take its course – an idea that has struck me from time to time with some of the trees the City cuts down – I suspect we would have more broken bits, more diseased bits, more rot and more unsafe mess on our hands. This, after all, is nature’s way: “survival of the fittest”. I don’t always agree with the City’s approach to this, but my crabapple has made me realize such decisions are not as simple as we would like to think they are.

My tree is not yet dead, and in fact, may be with me for years. When he goes, I will remember the birds and the flowers. In the meantime, I will enjoy the shade, enjoy the green, and be thankful for the reminder of the cycle of life he represents.