Monday, June 27, 2005

Boston Invitational

Hooray! We actually won our home tournament for the first time since 2001, handing Pike their one and only loss of spring 2005. And talk about hellish weather. Greater than 90 degree weather both days with significant humidity. Unfortunately, this year's rendition was somewhat weaker than years past, as a few of the elite teams that normally have been coming out and making the elite division very competitive decided to sit it out, including Ring, B.A.T., and Machine. This coincided with the continued expansion to 16 teams, and the combination of the 2 resulted in a softer Saturday schedule than in years past. More details below.

Also, there were some questions going into the tournament on seeding. On a personal level, I was initially resistent to our #1 seed, only because it appeared to give us a really easy schedule on Saturday, and at this point in the evolution of the elite game, until Nationals, we are more concerned with getting good competition and good games in preparation for Nationals, rather than tournament victories (although they help...). At first blush, our Saturday schedule look REALLY easy, especially given Pink Pony's (NY, NY), early season performance. However, with some recent SubZero additions, including Masulis and Cooter and I assume a more complete roster than some of the early spring tournaments, they played a much better game against us. Of course, 90+ degree weather and high humidity also added to the equalization of the teams, and fortunately, we were not split-squad for this version, otherwise it would have been a far different story.

Game 1, Pink Pony. Reasonably close first half, pull away in the second for a 14-9 victory, for one of our rare capped games (although more than we used to have, unfortunately). Game 2, 15-6 over Philly Rage, who has still never recovered a shred of their former competitiveness, which is weird, given their status as a major metropolis. I'm assuming that some Philly residents are playing with Pike, but who knows. 3rd round bye spent in the shade (because the bar was closed, so no easy access to AC, but there was a sufficient breeze to make it comfortable). Game 3, Phoenix, who is sporting a HUGE roster. I guess I was expecting a better game, considering that we were still doing wide-open subbing (this is what I call subbing when I don't play most offensive points...and not because of poor play) as we were working out all of the tryouts that were playing with us. This definitely resulted in some interesting lineups on offense, and sometimes defense. However, Phoenix never really threatened in the late day heat, and we won 15-9. This was the first game that the team showed real energy off the field. While not the prototypical field rush and high 5's after goals, there was a LOT of voice on the sidelines, and a lot of cheers with minor field rushing after goals. I hate to say this, but it definitely works/helps the team (and I'm sure other teams) to do this, as it gets you mentally in the game. No more 90's DoG coasting on icecold emotions and confidence and blithely racking up the wins. Spend another hour watching Twisted have another huck/turnover fest and Pony have a competitive cross-over round with Double-Wide, but left before either game was finished, although apparently Twisted won the double game point against a Canadian team to advance this round (as opposed to last year's Regionals game to go). Wish I could have seen it, although I hear there was quite the crowd exhorting both teams on to greater heights of foolishness/turnovers.

Confirming my earlier concerns about an easy pool, we were the only team to make it out to the quarterfinals with Twisted coming out of the Pool of (D)eath (3 teams making it) to beat our 2nd seed Phoenix in the crossover. In what appeared to be a series of unexpected upsets (although we'll see come fall), 4th seed Bulge from Tampa beat both Double-wide AND Twisted Metal (and HOV) to take the pool, with Double-Wide beating Twisted Metal to get 2nd.

Then, of all the stupid things, they made the quarterfinals at 8:30AM the next morning, followed by a 2nd round bye. Much hotter in the early morning Sunday because of little letup from the previous day AND the fact that our welcome little breeze was gone. Quarters was against Potomac (DC), who was sporting a gaudy 2-1 record against DoG this spring, including 2 victories to eliminate us from tournaments (although conveniently I was not there for either one, sporting a 0-0 record...). Nothing really exciting in this game which we won 15-11 except for one offense hell point. I thought I had been called in, but Ted pulled me from the line, which was a little embarrassing, and then both teams proceeded to have at LEAST 5 turnovers apiece, many of which were comedic in nature after awhile, 3 timeouts (2 by DC, 1 by us), but it was not a runaway victory by any means. Then we had to sit for a bye and watch mixed (?!???!?!?!), and you can imagine how that made me feel.

Semifinals at 12:30 in high heat against Sub-Zero, who crushed Bulge 15-9. Since Sub Zero finally broke through and beat DoG back in 2000 or 2001 at Nationals, they have had our number. No matter how poorly they do against common opponents, we always have tough games with them, and are at best .500 with them in the last 5 years, including a loss in the finals of the Boston Invitational. Well, this game proved no different, as we pulled out a 17-16 squeaker, receiving at 16's and scoring without a turnover. This was the first of two games where we had the disc to score, failed, and had a game extend for at LEAST another half hour after that point. At 14-13, I had the disc on the right sideline maybe 15 yards from the goal. Josh McCarthy was sprinting for the cone, juked his guy out of his pants, and then made an away cut which I stepped out and floated the game-winner. But no, I was called for a push off because the guy was humping my leg. When I tried to stand back up straight after the throw, I basically had to push him off me. I bitched and moaned for about 10 seconds, and then stopped realizing that there was little to NO chance he was going to concede the weak call and just hand us a victory. So, stall 6, we call a play to get the disc off the sideline. My 2 handler cutters screw up the play, leaving me nothing, I look upfield for the usual hammer bail, NO ONE even flinches for it, I release a hammer at 10.5 seconds to Josh, who catches it and turns and throws the goal, and I scream 'You have got to be kidding me' (there might have been a swear in there also). My marker asks me if I'm contesting the stall, and I say no, I was pissed at my team. They ultimately score, and we battle it out to the 17-16 victory. Ugh! After the game, I limp to the sideline and worry about the next game with Pike, who has been hanging out in the shade for awhile after their dominating victory over GOAT 15-9 in the semis. I commiserate with Jim about whether this game will even be competitive, but I guess we have a surprise in the kitty.

After not that long a break, where I have gone to the pavilion to rest and get out of the sun, and somebody else flipped for shirts and lost (?!?!), we start the game on offense. Pike comes down in their zone transition, which I of course am psyched about. I believe we score pretty easily, and continue to do so for the first few points of offense. Eventually, they give up the ghost on the transition zone, and come down in straight man, which is unfortunate, but they only get one pull good enough where I am unable to get the first pass because of a streaker. The defense gets some early opportunities and fail, before they finally start scoring. They get a few breaks, the O gives one back, and we take half 8-6 with a break in hand. Lots of trading in the second half before the D gets another break, which the O eventually gives back. Finally, 14-12 and the D gets a turnover, ends up with Funboy on the right goal-line forced sideline with Zip streaking to the cone open, and he gets point-blocked with the force on a casual forehand release for the 2nd of two potential game winners that end up with a huge delay. Pike scores, the wind picks up, and it starts raining. They come down in zone for the first time in awhile, I promptly turf a 30-yard hammer (OK, blade) to Forch just out of reach of his hands. The second it came off my hands, I knew it was trouble. Awkward release, etc. This just after I told the team on the line that we don't want to let Pike score, and then have to score upwind (which is now significant) just to stay on server. However, Pike gives it back to us. Now we are in panic mode with everybody cutting, trying to end the game. I trip over my defender trying to get a dump just as Casey calls time-out. After confirming that I did NOT call foul (probably could have in retrospect, but whatever), and then they blow the horn to clear the fields because of lightning. After at least a 45-minute delay, we get out, warm up, and finally score after another 10 passes where I don't get the disc. Advantage and game, DoG!

On a personal note, I played a little tentatively on Saturday because I had missed the previous 3 weeks (NJ invite and 2 weekends of double practices) due to the travel in Brazil, and the wide-open subbing wasn't helping my confidence in my role on the team. However, I was something like 8-8 on hucks on the weekend (hopefully reminding the team that I used to throw those and that they should cut for them), although a couple of them weren't so hot and the receiver made great catches. I'm not counting the one forehand attempt in the semis (I think) to Zip because it didn't go far enough to be called a huck, although the fact that they other team quickly threw a swing out of bounds on the first pass meant it was a successful 30-yard punt. Can't remember when I had that many hucks without a turn, conceivable ever...:) Otherwise, I felt I had a very good weekend, proving that I can still provide some functionality with this 38-year old body.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Brazil, part II, Sao Paolo and wedding

The first part of the Brazil trip in Iguazu Falls was the only part of the trip where we would be travelling alone. From this point forward, we would be travelling with various groups. My old roommate had decided to organize a trip after his wedding for whichever out of town guests wanted to attend, including stops in the Amazon and the northern beaches. When he said jump, we said how high? After the success of our trip to India in February of 2004, also for a wedding and a large group tour after (with locals who knew there stuff), we were ready for another round.

Shockingly enough, given the status of Brazil as a quasi third-world country (easy Ariel), things went pretty smoothly from then on, except for a few minor flight delays. When we arrived in Sao Paolo from Iguazu Falls, we were met at the airport by a driver sporting a sign for myself and my wife. And it was a good thing, because it was a solid hour from the airport to my buddy's parent's house (where he was also living until after the wedding). For the uninitiated, Sao Paolo is HUGE (the worlds 3rd largest city)! Over 20 million people live there. When we were originally flying in, we flew over skyscrapers and urban sprawl for probably 15 minutes. It was very impressive. We got to the house around 10PM, gratefully hugged our lost bags that had arrived from DC before us, met a few of the other characters staying at the house, had a little food, and then went off to our room and crashed.

The next day was visit Sao Paolo day. After a leisurely wakeup and breakfast, we all jumped into a van and headed off to Sao Paolo. After another age just getting into the city, we disembarked in the middle of downtown and walked around for a couple of hours, around the Praca da Se, the Catedral Metropolitana, etc. Nothing truly exciting, but then we went to a large indoor market, and after walking through too many stalls, we went to the 2nd floor and had quite possibly our best and most unanticipated meal in Brazil, feasting on appetizer after appetizer of Brazilian specialties (most of which I can't remember at the moment, but manioc {tapioca} flour was a staple of a lot of them). A quick drive to a park for a walk and sunset, and then off to a bar which was a forested oasis in the middle of Sao Paolo. Many caipirinhas later (the national drink of Brazil), we fortunately caught the shuttle driver home...

The next day was wedding day, which was a lazy day. Hanging around the house, then it was time to get ready for the wedding, which mean the women went off to the beauty parlor, and Eduardo (groom) and I went with them to get 1 hour massages. Unfortunately, the massage was a little less aggressive than I would have liked, but it was still very relaxing. Finally, back to the house, showers, and dress up time for the wedding. My wife had gotten an amazing up-do at the parlor, and she had this very cool dress for the occasion, and let me tell you, she looked HOT! Cool church, nice ceremony, and then off to the reception.

The above picture is taken from the outdoor reception of the wedding.

This reception was quite possibly the nicest reception I have ever been to (barring my own, naturally). It was in this HUGE walled oasis in the middle of the city. First there was an outdoor reception, with what were clearly male and female models distributing hors d'oeuvres and booze, including a guy carrying a tray of Jack Daniels, ice, and glasses. Bottomless champagne bottles made for a very nice beginning (and Georgia and I drank champagne the rest of the night). On into the building, which had 3 or 4 seating areas to house the ~300 guests at the wedding. They had a running slide show on big screen TVs of pictures of Eduardo and Beatriz, most of which were Eduardo in his walkabouts all around the world. That guy has been EVERYWHERE! Included was a picture of me in our old house wearing a green hawaiian shirt, orange and black jacket, sunglasses, beer funnel wrapped around my neck, and other interesting accessories, in our old apartment. Ahh, those were the days... All of this to U2's Beautiful Day. Oh, I forgot, the wedding ceremony had an eclectic mix of music, including 2001 space odyssey just prior to the bride walking up the aisle, the hallelujah chorus when they walked back down, and other slightly jarring but VERY funny and appropriate selections, all played/sung by a church choir and band.

One thing that disappointed me a little was that after all my anticipation of seeing these awesome Brazilian dancers doing the Samba, capoeira (just kidding), and other smooth moves, those people were JUST as white as we were on the dance floor. The locals blamed the music, but c'mon. Naturally, Georgia and I were the last 'men' standing, dancing for hours to hold up the US side of the competition. The American contingent clearly won the party, as the entire group staying at the grooms house closed the party (kicked out some would say), and Ron got the number of one of the hot waitresses for later, when he was going to return to Sao Paolo after our other travels, to teach her English (yeah right!). They had also hired this group of 3 to move around the reception, dress groups in outrageous colored accessories, and then take pictures (hats, sunglasses, boas, condom heads, wigs). I think we rolled into the house around 4AM.

After a late wakeup the following morning, we grabbed the shuttle driver again (at our beck and call while we were in Sao Paolo, thanks Eduardo) and went to the suburb of Embu, which is the artists/tradesman enclave and had a HUGE outdoor flea market. We spent a couple of hours there loading up on ethnic stuff, and rued later when we went into the official stores in various cities and saw the same material for 2-3 times the price! We bought very cute jerseys for the twins, chowed on lots of pao de queijo (cheese bread), and had a grand old time. Back to the house for a huge buffet for maybe 15 of us, and then finally, off to the airport (another LONG drive), and we caught a flight to Manaus.

Other things to remember:
* Awesome picture light at the park during sunset in Sao Paolo
* 8 different kind of chocolate truffle desserts at the wedding. My favorite was the white chocolate, exquisite.
* Excellent meat dish at post wedding brunch.
* Silver statue guy at Embu flea market.
* Dancing for hours with my beautiful wife.
* Cool up-do.
* 2 HUGE dogs at the house we were staying, that were only let out at night for security purposes. Apparently this is the thing to do in Sao Paolo in the ritzier parts of town.
* Shockingly not taking a swim in the pool of the house we were staying at.
* Finally meeting the bride for the first time after the wedding.
* Drinking champagne ALL night during the wedding, and I mean LOTS of champagne, and yet barely feeling hungover the next day.

Next: Brazil, part III, Amazon, Ariau, and Manaus

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Brazil, part I, getting there/Iguazu Falls

So, I just got back from 2 weeks in Brazil with my spouse yesterday, and we had a GREAT time. First, huge props to my parents for coming up to our house for those 2 weeks to take care of the twins. For those of you out there, do NOT piss off your parents if you EVER want a chance of having this happen.

The trip was to attend the wedding of an old roommate of mine from the early 90's. We had 2 rooms in a 4 bedroom house for about 5 years. While the trip ended up being a blast, it started off most fitfully.

We were supposed to leave Monday night Boston/Chicago/Sao Paolo. The weather in Boston was great, I had confirmed the flights that morning, but lo and behold, when we get to the airport, we find out that our Chicago flight had been cancelled about an hour prior due to horrible weather in Chicago. After scrambling with the ticket agent (we unfortunately forgot to invoke the 'it's out honeymoon' routine), it was immediately clear that there was shitty weather up and down the east coast. Continental through Newark was having huge problems, a flight through JFK was bad, and we finally finessed tickets on United through Dulles to Sao Paolo.

We get to the gate, and sit there listening as the flight is continually delayed. Finally, they announce boarding Georgia and I look at each other, but we really don't have any alternatives. Finally, they board us and we wait some more. Meanwhile, I'm on my cell phone with United trying to track the progress of the IAD/GRU flight and I find out it is delayed coming into Dulles (good). But our captain is telling us that there is a 2PM and 3PM flight to Dulles still on the runway(!). Also, if we don't take off in the next hour, his 12 hour flying window will expire and we will have to go back to the gate.

Finally, the flight takes off and we fly to Dulles. Once we land at midnight, I'm on the cell phone with United trying to find the status of the Brazil flight. Naturally, it took off at 10:50PM. And there are no more flights to anywhere that night. The IAD/GRU flight for tomorrow night is overbooked, so instead they book us BACK to Chicago to pick up the original flight that we had been booked on this night.

Meanwhile, Dulles is complete chaos. There are huge thunderstorms, tons of flights have been cancelled, and they are completely unequipped. Huge line to rebook flights, they are handing out pillows and blankets haphazardly. They also announce that all hotels in the vicinity are full because of the flight problems. I get in touch with my AmEx corporate travel and find out that yes, everything is booked for the first 20 hotels they check. We finally crash out on some seats (fortunatly they didn't have armrests, so you could get a suite of 3 in a row) next to each other. Naturally, my wife falls asleep while I sit there with my eyes closed until 5:30AM. At 6, I promptly call the AmEx agent and get a rental car (the flight isn't until 4PM), and we drive into DC. At 7AM, we call some great friends of ours who had just moved to DC a few months ago from Boston and I ask them "So, where are we having breakfast?" We end up eating at their place, and then hitting the brand-new American Indian Museum, the Air and Space Museum next door, and then a nice lunch at Cafe Atlantico on 7th Ave, and then off to the airport.

Oh yeah, and my nice expensive SLR with 3 lenses decides to shit the bed after the first roll in DC. Fortunately, I had brought a digital backup from my parents, and promptly ran to a Radio Shack on the way to the airport and bought a 500MB card because this was now going to be the primary camera. We make the 4PM flight, I lose my wife's cool red Red Sox hat in Chicago because I am exhausted, we catch the 10PM flight to Brazil, and 11 hours later, and 1 ambien apiece (resulting in at least 6 hours of sleep on a plane where I am normally UNABLE to get any sleep), we are in Sao Paolo the next morning.

However, the story does not end here. When we landed in DC, we were given the option of picking up our bags, which would have taken about 2 hours, or booking them through to Sao Paolo with our new flight plan. Naturally, we wanted to get at least some sleep (who knew), so we booked them through. When we have them look in Sao Paolo, naturally they find them still in Dulles. So we fill out all the paperwork, and they will be shipped to the parents of the groom on the following morning's flight. Meanwhile, my wife and I have to catch another plane in about an hour to Iguazu Falls. We do. It takes off and lands reasonably close to on time, miracle.

After talking to the tourist office, we realize we don't have time to visit the Argentine side of the falls, so we have to settle for the Brazilean side that afternoon, with the Argentinean side the following day prior to getting our 5PM flight back to Sao Paolo. That night we stay in the Rafain Palace hotel in Iguazu ( which is really cheap, including like a $20 room service full meal with a bottle of wine for the two of us. Finally, things are looking up. Meanwhile, the Falls are GORGEOUS. We have been to Niagara, Gulfoss (Iceland), Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and all the Yellowstone and Yosemite Falls. These falls BLOW THEM AWAY! They are bigger, wider, longer, etc (not necessarily higher overall), and are just mind-boggling. If you ever get to Argentina or Brazil, you have to make them a stop.

Items of interest in Iguazu:
* Coati, and more coati
* Crossing the border (and bridge) into Argentina, much easier with a tour guide
* Taking the tiny train to the top of the falls and 1/2 mile walk across the water above the falls on the Argentine side on a steel catwalk, and wondering how hard it must have been to make it, given the countries infrastructure. We figured they barged the unmixed concrete down in barges and poured onsite, but pain in the butt.
* Getting soaked on both Brazil and Argentine sides
* Watching the boats come up the river and stick their noses under the falls and get soaked.
* Watching the falls from the veranda of the Hilton (?) on the property of the Argentine side of the falls while drinking coca light.
* Um, low-quality roads (to say the least).

So, because of the lost day, things that we missed: Bird Park in Brazil, crossing the border into Paraguay and ciudad del este (and checking another country off the list...), visiting the Itaipu damn, the biggest active (3 rivers not yet) dam in the world. Doing everything a little more leisurely. However, the one benefit was being able to visit our friends in DC, who we otherwise NEVER may have seen there, since scheduling a visit with the kids to DC is rather impractical.

Next: Brazil, part II, Sao Paolo

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Off to Brazil for two weeks

Well, since my output has been slowing down anyway, I'm going to take advantage and run off to Brazil on vacation for two weeks. Most awesomely, my parents are going to take over the kids so my wife and I are getting away kidless! For those of you with kids, you know what this means, and for those of you without, you'll realize it someday. So here's a shout out to my parents, and I'll let you know how it was when I get back. In short, Iguazu Falls, Sao Paolo (for a wedding), Manaus and the Amazon, and Jericoacoara for the relaxing beach portion of the trip.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

When should you start sports?

I was talking to one of my fellow pre-school parents on the playground, and she was talking about her 4-year old son was avidly taking to golf and soccer, with weekly lessons, etc. Meanwhile my kids were happily running around the playground climbing stuff and playing random games. Now I know that Eldrick was probably hitting in the 80s already when he was 4, but I think that is the exception to the rule.

When I was growing up, I think my first real organized sport was junior league baseball which started at the tender age of 8. I played 2 years of that, missed the 1 year of intermediate league because of a hernia operation did played 2 years of little league before bowing out of baseball and concentrating on silver spoon sports like tennis. With tennis, I think I did like 2 seasons of indoor lessons over the winter, then summers were spent hanging out at the, um, American Yacht Club in Rye, NY and playing tennis and swimming all day, and raising minor-league hell. The two years I played tennis over the winter did help my game significantly, instead of having to relearn every summer, but I never really stuck with that either. I ultimately made all-county in tennis my senior year, but had a rude awakening when I went off to Princeton, and quickly realized that I wouldn't even make the JV squad. Fortunately, I saw a flyer for ultimate frisbee practices during freshman week, remembered that I had enjoyed playing 10 on 10 a couple of times in high school where I sat back and hucked backhands to the tall guy (yep, I pigeonholed myself early), and figured I'd give it a whirl. Well, never missed a practice or tournament in 4 years (except for a heel injury early senior spring), made college nationals 3 times, and the rest is history. And I definitely found the right time window for getting into frisbee. I'm not sure I would have had the patience to work my up through B squads.

But enough personal history and back to the topic at hand. What I was starting to say before I got sidetracked was that when I was growing up back in the 70s (I'm 38 now), there was very little in the way of organized sports outside of high school. Now there is a whole panoply of sports and they are all available to kids at outrageously young ages. I know there has been a backlash recently about hyper-scheduling your kids, but what makes sense? I have no intention of living off my kids professional sports proceeds (unless they actually get them...), but what makes sense. I want to lead them pretty strongly away from hockey and swimming because I'm selfish and don't want to have to get up at 4 in the morning to get them ice and pool time.

The 3 sport star in high school also seems to be going the way of the dinosaur, as the highest levels of high school and lower now have travelling teams, etc., so the kid has to make a conscious effort to say NO to all of the single-sport opportunities and probably piss off some coaches to be able to play multiple sports at a high level.

The easy answer is to throw them out to the soccer wolves and see what happens. But when should I start that. I was embarrassed when I came home from work to find our 2-day a week nanny throwing the frisbee to my son, who was making a perfect pancake catch, and realizing that I hadn't even really thrown with him yet. Talk about sheepish guilt... Also, don't know about you guys, but when I was doing little league etc growing up, even when I was 8 years old, I don't remember my parents EVER coming to a game. I had to bike all over town to get to my events. So I'm also a little resentful now that parents seem to be a necessity at EVERY event of their children. Of course, when they actually start happenening, I suspect that I will want to attend, but am afraid of the recent soccer mom/dad mentality, and wonder how I would handle my kids being benched, not playing, sucking (hopefully not), etc.

Ah, the woes of parenthood. Anybody have any thoughts, suggestions, advice on what they did with their kids to wean them into sports? I have 4-year old boy-girl twins.

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