Category Archives: Hobbies

paying off a bet

Yesterday, my father and I went to see the Mariners play their next-to-last game of the season.  I’d not been to a game since the day before my bicycle accident.

Oddly, yesterday’s game was an occasion to pay off an unusual bet.  Seven years ago, I placed a wager with my longest-time friend Doron, who resides in New Jersey and has been a Yankee fan as long as I’ve known him (when we were 3!).  I don’t like the Yankees, having been a Mets fan for about as long.

You’ll recall in 2001 that the Mariners won 116 games, and they played the Yankees in the ALCS.  I traveled to New York on business just before the series, and bet Doron that whoever’s team lost would have to wear the headgear of the winner’s team for a full day.

Now my plan was to purchase an attractive foam letter ‘M’ for Doron when I won the bet.  As you may remember, the Mariners lost, so I lost the bet.

When I was in the hospital back in July, Doron was in Seattle and came to visit me – which was great!  However I was obnoxious (and foolish) enough to remind him of the bet, and invited him to provide said headgear, fearing what he might choose to do.

It turns out Doron is a much nicer person than I am.  He had a nice Yankee cap shipped a few days later.  I’ve worn it going out a number of times.  When we spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago, he told me that he wanted me to wear to it the ballpark.  That is, the SEATTLE ballpark.

While it would have been fair to wear it to a Yankee/Mariner game, I didn’t get to go see the Yankees when they were here several weeks back.  So I wore it for the mop-up A’s/Mariners game yesterday.

Mariners'_09-27-2008_with_Paul_002

I agree that it would have been sweeter payoff for Doron if I had worn it for a Yankee game, and I would have loved to have gone.  In any case, none of the 37 other fans attending yesterday’s game said a word about it.  Oh well.

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little league season is over

Today was the end of season picnic for the little league team I helped to coach.  The weather cooperated, and everyone seemed to have a nice time.  Several of the moms made all of the arrangements.  They happened to pick one of my favorite nearby parks, we were close to the playground, the food was great, and the kids ran around and had fun.

My friend Landy, who managed the team handed out trophies, and said something about each of the kids.  It was very nice, thoughtful stuff about how each had improved in some big way, how they picked their teammates up, how they made a great catch sometime, had gotten better at hitting, or how their attitude made everyone a better player.

Then they gave the coaches some great keepsakes too.  There was a ball signed by all of the players, as well as a framed team picture (also signed).  Some of the people made a big deal about the fact that my dad and I helped to coach even though we didn’t have kids on the team. 

I have to say it was a really nice experience.  The kids were all nice kids.  The parents were all reasonable people, many of them pitched in, and many of them made all of the practices.  It was a chance for my dad and I to try something new, and have some fun playing baseball.  And I learned quite a bit watching my friend manage the team.  He’s an expert motivator, and does a great job at eliciting a best effort from everyone.  We practiced regardless of rain or mud, and usually had a good time.

You hear about a lot being wrong with youth sports today.  Hypercompetitive coaches, micromanaging parents, kids with bad attitudes … and there really was none of that.  Granted, the kids are only seven, and there’s plenty of time for these things to surface later.  But you have to think that it was a well-adjusted bunch.

Lots of fun!


spring in the northwest

In the springtime, the definition of cruddy weather changes.  Gradually, it ceases to mean that it’s thirty eight and rainy.  Right now, cruddy seems to mean it’s fifty with sun breaks.  And when the weather’s good, it might be seventy and beautiful.

Last weekend, I got away for two good mtn bike rides on Tiger Mountain.  It’d been a good fourteen years since I’d done any significant amount of biking.  That was before I got the distance running bug, and I used to do one longer ride per week up in the hills above the Santa Clara Valley.  I’d hit Montebello Open Space Preserve, and ride out to Saratoga Gap.  It’d be a fair bit of singletrack, some of it fairly technical.  I was never very good on the bike, but I had fun.

Well – since I’m still not running long, and because the snow on the cross country trails is melting, I’ve dusted off my mountain bike and am rediscovering my biking muscles.

So last Friday, I did a nice out and back ride from the Tiger Mountain summit to Poo Poo Point.  Amusing name, but the point is where parasailers take flight.

The ride was great, and involved some good climbing going both ways.  It was all on logging/fire roads though.  The weather was great – probably sixty, sunny.

Then on Sunday I braved a steady rain to try a loop ride on Tiger.  NOt as much climbing, but a few detours along the way.  I also vaulted over a stump on the way back (a two  mile stretch of singletrack).  I felt completely inept, only partly in shape, and had a blast.


shopping for a bike

One of the things I’ve really struggled with since being injured is the absence of fitness-related goals.  It’s hard to plan for a race when my leg hurts.  So I’ve been doing more biking and cross-training.  Cross-training is tedious (using the various machines at the gym), but biking has been kind of fun.

I’ve been riding my old Stumpjumper on the trails around here.  Nothing terribly technical, but some good mileage and good climbing.  Meanwhile with Kris’ encouragement, I’ve been shopping for a road bike.  I’ve considered a number of bikes in the $1000-$2000 range, including some made by Trek, Specialized, and Giant.  We have some great local bike shops (including Gregg’s, Redmond Cycle, and Sammamish Valley), so shopping can be kind of fun.

As I look, the discounted 2006 models disappear, and things get more expensive.  On the other hand, I’m still learning what I’m looking for, so don’t feel ready to buy.  And for this kind of money, I want to feel like I’m getting what I want.

I wasn’t too excited about the Specialized Tarmac I rode, but that may have been my inexperience riding.  Then I rode a nice Fuji Team Pro, with an Integra drive train (nice!).  Last week I rode (and really liked) a Trek 5000 with an Integra drive train.  Kris suggested I try an aluminum frame just to see whether I really preferred the more expensive carbon frame.  To that end I tried a Giant OCR1 yesterday.  Nice bike, but didn’t handle as nicely as the Trek.

I’m planning on riding an Orbea, a carbon frame Giant, and trying out the Trek again.

On the other hand, I can’t decide whether I am enjoying looking and learning too much to actually buy anything.  And who would have thought I could find a bigger money pit than photography?!


mudball

Today was the first day of practice for the Orioles, the little league baseball team I’m helping to coach.  It was a perfect spring day in Seattle.  For staying inside with a nice cup of tea and a crossword puzzle.  But that wasn’t on the agenda, because 12 7 year old boys were ready to play baseball!

Because it was raining, we spent about twenty minutes warming up under a small shelter, throwing balls around.  Have you ever gathered a bunch of seven year olds, armed them with hard objects, and asked them to hurl said objects at each other?  Wow!

Things got a lot safer when we had them start out about ten feet apart from one another.  Then we had them back up a step, if they were able to throw the ball back and forth three times without dropping it.  After about five minutes, it was just like a real spring training session.  On a concrete platform, ducking balls cruelly heaved at your "teammate", that is.

We got bumped out of the shelter when two other teams showed up.  Since it was so wet, we decided to start out by dividing into two teams and playing a game.  Some of the kids could hit the ball pretty well.  Almost no one could catch the ball or throw accurately.  We livened things up by looking the other way when they ran out of the basepaths, sometimes avoiding the bases entirely.  We drew the line at fielders tackling runners however.  It was just about chaos, no one got hurt, and we got a glimpse of what the kids know how to do, and what they don’t know how to do.

We’ll need to work on some fundamentals.  These include not turning your back to the batter to chat with your friend in left field, not absentmindedly walking into the batter’s box when someone else is just about to swing at a pitch, and not humming the ball to your teammate at an impossible-to-catch speed or trajectory.

Once these things are well in hand, we can work on fielding ground balls, catching a fly ball, and throwing to the correct base to get a runner out.

I noticed a couple of other things too.  These kids react about the same to being told what to do as my kids.  They’re already wise to me.


the little league adventure begins

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Landy asked me whether my dad and/or I might be interested in helping to coach a little league team.  It sounded like fun, so we said yes, just before finding out what kind of commitment is required.

Turns out that there’s a lot to this little league stuff.  Each manager needs to rally volunteers for things like trips to see the Seattle Mariners play, to staff the concession stand, prepare the field and umpire their home games.  It’s two practices a week, plus one game and runs from mid-April until about the time school lets out.  It’s a bit intimidating, especially after seeing how other coaches are balancing jobs, multiple kids in the program, and the rest of their lives at the same time.  It’s a lot to think about.

I don’t really know how to coach kids, nor am I necessarily any good at baseball anymore.  I think the last time I swung a bat was in a softball league game about fifteen years ago.  I suspect these smart seven year olds will notice I’m a bit rusty (incompetent).

I kind of feel like I should be spending this time in ‘spring training’ to make sure I won’t embarrass myself completely.

The girls and I spent this morning helping to prepare the fields for practices.  Rachel spent the time finding slugs with some friends, and Kayla helped clear weeds.  It was very muddy work, but a lot of fun too. 

Afterwards we went up to a sporting goods place and ordered my team shirt and got a cap.  It was a big hit, mostly because there’s a big orange bird on it.


unexpected hazards of winter sports

 

I took a mental health day from work yesterday, and headed to the Stevens Pass Nordic Center.  It had been three weeks since I took my first and only skate ski lesson, and the rust definitely showed.

I spent about ten minutes trying to get things to fit properly, and then went out.  The trail (yes – the easy one) climbs a steady uphill for the first 2.5 K from the center.  I looked a bit like a mouse trying to scamper up the side of a bathtub.  Funny to watch, but frustrating to be sooo incompetent.

After working up a considerable sweat doing something that really shouldn’t be so hard, I turned onto the Side Track, which is a more challenging trail, but has the advantage of some level and downhill stretches that would allow me to get into a rhythm.

Skate skiiing is all about form.  Well – I spent the first 90 minutes trying to reclaim the modicum of form that I’d gotten during my first and only day skate skiing. 

I skied the length of Side Track, detoured onto the biathlon range, and then came back on the Main Line.  During one particularly pathetic stretch, I spent 10 minutes climbing a 25 meter hill.  In the end I herringboned up, supporting myself with the poles (bad!), which is as exhausting as you’d expect.  I was literally trying to push myself up the hill relying on the strength of my tricep muscles.

After reaching the end of the Side Track trail, I returned on the Main Line.  It was mostly downhill, so I pretty much aimed the ski tips down and coasted.  I worked on v1 on the level stretches, and sort of got into a rhythm.

I rolled into the center, and ordered a bagel and cup of tea.  One of the instructers asked me how it had gone – so I told him "badly".  Being a helpful chap, he suggested that I watch a DVD of XC skiing while I ate.  When the DVD started another instructer came over to watch too.  After about two minutes of watching the two of them were embroiled in a big argument about proper polling technique.  They were so loud, I couldn’t hear a thing from the DVD, and they didn’t show any signs of cooling it.  So, I quietly picked up my stuff, and headed back out. figuring on spending another hour or so.

This time, heading uphill was much easier.  I was able to use v1 98% of the way, which was much better than the first time.  All told, I spent another 90 minutes out there, with much more success, and having much more fun.

The other surprise of the day was that I fell victim to the weather conditions in an unexpected way.  Because I worked up a sweat on the way up, and then skied into the falling snow on the way down, my beard became encrusted with snow and ice.  I didn’t notice until I went to scratch my face on the way down.  Then I realized I couldn’t move my face normally.  Very odd.  I snapped the picture below with my phone … eldest daughter suggested I photoshop a smaller, less "beak-like" nose in :

By the way, you can’t break ice out of your beard.  You have to let it melt.  Anything else is painful, because you’re basically pulling your face off.