Monday, July 24, 2006

Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out

Hoo boy. I have skiied at Thredbo in late July almost every year since 1999 and this is the least snow I've seen. The natural snow line is up very high, and it's only because of extensive snowmaking (a whole lot added just this year, luckily) that you can actually ski to the bottom.

Okay, the photos above are not representative; we found the worst part. But this was part of an actual, open run. J and I were falling over ourselves with the hilarity of it all. The sound of a board or boards scraping into that mud and just coming to a stop is ... special. No one else seemed to find it funny! Hey, if life gives you lemons, laugh at a snowboarder.

Oh, come on, those of you who know me know I wouldn't do that in a mean way, and we were also very kindly trying to warn people to stay high where there was a little bit of 'barely-there' snow to slide on through.

See? Pretty snow right at the top.
So some of the weekend was a bit of a trial: slushy snow, out-of-condition legs, areas of rocks and mud to ski through. And some was completely entertaining, including J racing after a toboggan thief with the rightful owners! Gradually starting to get my ski legs back, but it still feels a bit like hard work. I do have a sweet pair of demo skis, 2007 model, never touched the snow before. (It's so nice to have a friend who knows a guy.) Oops, they have some scratches now.

Today it all got so much better, with just one magical ingredient: frozen flakes of water. It started snowing in the late morning and just came down heavier and fluffier for hours. It didn't take much at all to improve some of the runs, and get that feel of what snow is supposed to feel like. Beautiful.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

ain't got nothin' in the world these days

At my Grandma's birthday party, she and I were telling one of her friends about our trip to Poland together five years ago. How I went along with Grandma as her travel companion to help her out. The friend looked at me quizzically through this exchange, and finally said, with some surprise on her face, 'so, you would only have been about 16 then?'. I laughed and explained that since I am 31 now, that was unlikely. She thought I looked about 21, which is flattering, but also disturbing.

I'm not quite old enough yet to be glad that people often think I'm younger. It doesn't matter much at a family party, but it's a different matter when it comes to work. I recently was sent interstate to attend a symposium. Heh, I have so much trouble writing the word 'symposium' without inverted commas, and have been pronouncing it so whenever I talk about it. I wasn't going to be speaking formally, but was aware that I was representing my organisation and ought to make some attempt to circulate and schmooze talk to at least three other people in the room during the breaks. This sort of thing is really not my strong suit.

When I got to the venue in the morning - Parliament House, no less - I went first to put my hair up. It had still been damp when I left the hotel, and I wanted to look a bit more professional and less student/hippy. But as soon as I pulled my hair back from my face, I resembled a walking corpse. The shadows beneath my eyes leapt out to become deep dark hollows. No, I hadn't slept too well the night before. I stood there before the mirror deliberating (painfully slowly, with my usual pre-9am speed of thought) and finally came out on the side of looking a bit young and unkempt, rather than undead.

Then I was too honest at lunch. I admitted to my nearby table mates, who were all a bit on the quiet side (I really picked the wrong table for my networking ability level) as I headed off before everyone else left, that I was going shopping, not racing back to the airport or to another meeting. Such a go-getter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

He's got all the things you need and some that you will never

Recently (ish) finished: a scarf for E who was leaving town for a somewhat less sunny place. I started with this gorgeous skein of 4ply handpainted New Zealand merino. These photos don't capture the colour very well: it was actually quite dark, with black, and various dark to light purple shades. E actually visited while I had it out on the table, winding it into balls, and confirmed that she liked the colours (I knew she would), without knowing I intended to make something for her.

I kind of learned the hard way how not to handle a skein when winding it into balls for knitting. I ended up with a large tangle of wool for quite a while, but I persisted and got it tamed. I concluded that you really need to wrap the opened-out skein around something and not just sit it loosely on a table as you pull from it to wind a ball. To be honest, I kind of knew this was a bad idea, but it was the kind of bad idea you just have to try to be sure.

I used the Clapotis pattern for the third time, this time on a much smaller scale and with the kind of self-striping yarn that it was intended for. I loved watching the stripes come out and especially watched for when the a section of one colour would land on top of the same colour in the previous row. A mini- kind of pooling, I guess. I guess my brain really likes patterns - hence the satisfaction from knitting even pretty simple boring things - and watching for such little variations is
an extra kick.
When it came off the needles it was quite narrowly twisted in on itself. Luckily, as I had hoped, simply washing it and gently pulling it into shape while drying was enough - I didn't want to have to block or steam it, as I didn't want it totally flattened. What I love about Clapotis is the lovely texture, and the contrast between the 'right' and 'wrong' sides, both of which look great.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It ain't that in their hearts they're bad

An Australian man has been arrested in Italy for an assault on a local man following the football match between Australia and Italy.

Witnesses say the Australian man was 20m away when the incident

The victim suffered a fractured skull, cardiac arrest, and has
developed diabetes as a result of the incident. He is expected to
recover in a few minutes.

(From my inbox last week)

When kids start to play competitive sport they are taught to respect the referee or umpire. To shake hands with their opposition after the game. Maybe even to thank the ref. Aren't they? Professional and representative players are expected to be acutely aware that they are role models for younger players. When they stuff up (especially off the field) this is meant to be the source of their shame.

In broader terms, 'sport' is often connected with honour and fairness. Think about the terms 'a good sport' and 'a sporting chance'. Sportsmanship. We consider the organised, rule-bound, fair-go systems of sport to represent and important part of our civilised, evolved life.

I find myself complaining about certain of my opponents in soccer, the ones who seem able to run at least as fast as me, but still like to use a heavy hand on my shoulder or a strategic grab of my arm to get ahead if it looks like I might beat them to the ball. Anything goes if you want to score a goal. When I complain about this it sounds so lame... considering there are much worse hacks and dirty tricks that can go on. I wonder if I'm the foolish one, striving to beat them with speed and position alone, using only my legs, and maybe some bodyweight but within the rules. A striker is usually a faster sprinter than me and I think what really offends me is: why wouldn't she take pride in outrunning me cleanly?

In the course of the Australia vs Italy World Cup match, each side received one yellow card for diving. My (biased) (also sleep deprived, so make of it what you will) view was that the Italian instance was much more obvious, as the replay revealed he fell over with absolutely no contact from anyone else, in fact he had quite an air cushion around him.

It has always been one of the big criticisms of soccer among people I know, that the players are wusses and are always looking for a penalty to be called. Even when there is genuine contact, most everyone has observed that the player often seems to clutch the wrong body part. Most of the times I have seen someone injured in the sports I've played, they don't tend to grab the injured part anyway. They are too busy wincing and trying not to increase the pain. It must be a strategy to influence the ref, and it must work to some extent.

The presence of pain or injury really shouldn't correlate completely with the decision that illegal contact was made. It is possible to foul someone without bothering them much at all, and it is also possible to come out of an perfectly legal clash with one person in a lot of pain. But the ref only has one brief chance to see what happens and I guess they can't help but take some cues from the condition of the player on the ground.

So I can understand why it happens. But where is the honour?

I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring to watch the kind of players who get knocked down and jump up as quick as possible to fight for the ball again, rather than the ones who stay on the ground and clutch a random body part in hopes of a call.

What I really can't get my head around is the totally fabricated dive. Do some top-level coaches actually condone or encourage a bit of this? I know that the teams watch the video of their games later. Could there be anything that looks lamer than an obvious dive in slow motion replay? How can they sit there and watch that? Is this considered a good attempt at getting a penalty - do they get a pat on the back? Or maybe it's a snigger but not outright disapproval. Is anything worth it for a win?

Where is the honour?

Here is my (naive?) view: it's sport, not war. You should take pride in winning or losing based on your honest strengths. These international players are full of talk about pride, honour, and examples for young players. But their actions don't back this up.

I intended to write this right after watching the Australia-Italy game. Now I've let quite a bit of time pass, probably too much time to think about it and for cynicism to creep in. I almost concluded that I was being too naive, and let it go. Am I?