Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Injury sidebar - Part II

So, Jim is taking advantage of the volume going to his blog by just posing questions now and letting the viewers respond in comments, instead of posting original thought.

And Luke is busy trying to get his hit counts up by posting a bunch.

Meanwhile, I'm still weathering my daughter's freak 2nd degree burns on the soles of her feet.

Since we last spoke, we went to the pediatrician the next day after the accident so that they could change the dressings and monitor the progress. After she removed the dressing and exposed these HUGE blisters, she quickly gave the local Shriner's Hospital a call to see if they wanted to take over the care. Apparently, the Shriners are THE burn specialists, and let me tell, they are. They aren't just the filler in all the parades, there is a method to their madness.

We made an appointment for the following day at the Shriners, and in the interim, the pediatrician left the blisters in place and put a new dressing). At the Shriners, they decided to pop the main blisters and each big toe, while leaving the other 4 toes on each foot. As you can imagine, this was NOT a pleasant experience. Catherine was taking tylenol/codeine, which was already knocking her for a loop, but there was still a LOT of crying and screaming as they cut away the blisters and the dead tissue and all of the 'pulp' that had accumulated. They then reapplied a huge dressing, saturated with bacitracin, and we made an appointment for the next day to change out that dressing. Oh, and meanwhile, they also mentioned that it might be quite some time before she started walking again, with up to 2-3 weeks of healing time for the actual skin, and then possible scarring and rehab.

Well, that afternoon, Catherine was a changed woman. She was crawling around on her knees, moving around with no problem and what seemed to be no pain, and rejoining the world. Relieving the pressure of the blisters totally transformed her.

We went back in Wednesday morning and they finished cutting away one of the heels, and then applied a new type of dressing called Aquacell, which hopefully wouldn't have to be removed for over a week, and was a silver-impregnated material which was supposed to promote healing. Next appointment was TWO days later this time on Friday to check it out before the weekend. They had to swap out some of the aquacell, and they finally cut the blisters on all the small toes and applied aquacell on them also, and set an appointment for Tuesday.

Lo and behold, on Saturday morning, Catherine stood up for the first time as we sat there watching her and cringing. By that afternoon, she was slowly walking around as we attended a birthday party. As of this morning, she is walking somewhat easily, as any awkwardness seems to be more of a result of the size of the dressing than any pain she is having (she refers to her feet 'tickling' at times, but no real pain).

The doctors at the hospital said that they were not applying any limitations on what Catherine physically wanted to do, other than to make sure the dressing did not get wet or really dirty (they gave her these really cute sock/booties). It is truly incredible to see the resilience of children, as you will see from the pictures below. It is hard to believe that she was walking so soon after injuries that horrific.

And if you have a strong stomach, you can check out some pictures here.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Injury sidebar

No, not mine...

I will be a little distracted for a few days (not that my output was so huge recently anyway), as my 4-year old daughter just got 2nd degree burns on the bottom of both of her feet today. I had just brought the twins by the MIT fields to see Jim and his kid. We were there maybe 10 minutes before we decided to take off. As we get ready to leave, Catherine, who was barefoot (on grass, imagine that), starts screaming. I look over at her, and she is on her knees next to the fence separating the fields from the street. She is on a concrete footing, with metal plates on top, and a little concrete curb. I figured she had stumbled and hit her shin on the curb. I walk over to her, trying to downplay the pain, but she doesn't stop crying, and when I get to her, she tries to show me her feet. I take a look, and both sets of soles and toes look like somebody who had just gotten out of the water after 3 hours (all wrinkled up), but are also white. I immediately pick her up, and race to the car to head to the emergency room with her screaming all the way. Fortunately, Jim and company had ice packs, so I grab a couple of those and give them to her to press against her feet.

15 minutes later, park illegally in front of the Mt. Auburn Hospital emergency room (no spots) and race inside with the kids. Standing at the check-in desk with a child continually screaming "I burned my feet, I burned my feet." As you can imagine, they don't make us wait for more than 3 minutes before they bring us in to triage (and only because they had to page a nurse), and then immediately bring us into a room. Doctor comes in, takes one look at her still bare feet, which by this time have completely swollen into HUGE blisters, and decrees 2nd degree burns. Wipe-down, bacitracin, tylenol-codeine (and needing to know precise weight for the kid, so that they could figure out an appropriate dose of the hard stuff), wife shows up after hurriedly driving over from the house. Also, Catherine has burned the fingers of both hands, she says from grabbing her feet after(! there were blisters on her fingers...), so they end up putting dressings on both feet and both hands. We walk out of the hospital carrying our little mummy, bring her to the house, and promptly lay her down on the couch in front of the TV to try and distract her from the pain with her first Disney videos (largely no kid-TV household). In the meantime, she isn't supposed to put ANY wait on her feet for two days, much less walk, which means being waited on 'hand and foot.' Fortunately, as of 9:06PM this evening, she is still asleep. I will go in at 9:30 to wake and give her a final round of pain-killers that will hopefully get her through the night.

Oh yeah, went back to MIT later to get pictures, file a report with the MIT police, and just verify what I hadn't noticed before. The metal plates were actually on both sides of the fence (extending onto the public sidewalk), and a facilities guy measured the surface temperature at 165 degrees F!!! They promptly cordoned off the entire area, but it was a little too late for my wee bairn.

...As for Luke, I have no idea who he is talking about here.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why elite teams don't go to random tournaments

This trend has been gathering steam for at least the last 5 years or more. On the one hand, it saddens me a little, as I remember back in the 80's and 90's when all we wanted to do was to go to every tournament that we could. And if whatever team we were playing with at the time didn't have enough players express interest, then we took who we could, grabbed some random players, and put in a bid. We loved to play, we talked about ultimate all the time, organized our lives around the game, and partied hard on and off the field. On the other hand, I believe this represents a key evolution in the game, and shows that it is maturing and moving to the next level.

I still remember back in '94 in DoG's first year when I ended up playing in 13 tournaments that calendar year, winning 10 as DoG and playing in 3 summer tournaments (winning Hingham, being the best US team at Ow-My-Knee {losing to Ottawax in the finals}, and Corporate League). Last year, DoG went to maybe 8 tournaments, and one of the reasons is that we were merging with Boss Hogg, and required the additional tournament time to make decisions, but otherwise, we're down to maybe 6-7 tournaments a year, as the spring is especially fallow these days in the northeast. The establishment of Pike as a national contender can only help the East, as there is more incentive to go to tournaments knowing that is at least one more quality game than there was before.

As a non-neutral observer, let me point out that at my age, I like the fact that we have fewer tournaments every year, because that allows me to continue playing the game. If I had to get out for 10 tournaments every year

The elite field has definitely gotten deeper, with maybe 3-4 teams capable of winning nationals in any given year, and the top 9-10 teams capable of winning a game against any of the other teams (the reason I say only 3-4 can win is that only 3-4 can win ALL 3 elimination games, although any of those top teams could win at least one upset game).

The reason that the elite teams are cherry-picking a lot more now is multi-fold. First, they are ALL doing it (so there are fewer top teams going to the regular tournaments). But what it ultimately boils down to is that teams can no longer afford to just go to a bunch of cheeses tournaments because while they are doing that, their competitors are having intense practices, developing strategies and working on them, etc. The strategies have developed to the point where you aren't going to learn anything about them by trying them against a lower-tier team. You'll get the quickest evaluation of a new strategy by playing against the top teams, or by practicing against yourself. At DoG practice, this will typically occur where the D will get together sans O and prepare some strategy and work on it for a 10-pull. If it works, they will keep at it, and maybe ultimately they will share the spoils for the Offenses D. (Of course, the reverse usually doesn't help that much, because the D's O...).

One thing I am leaving out here is that this post is also a little East-centric. Because the balance of power has shifted west, and the most depth is west (with the east having Ring, DoG, and Pike as semis contenders, and the west with Seattle, Furious, Jam, Condors, Bravo). Back in the day, there was NY, Philly, DC, Ring, Port City for awhile, etc. within 8 hours of each other. Nobody flew anywhere to get top-notch competition in tournaments.

We never used to go to the West coast for a tournament, because we didn't need to. Now, we aren't finding what we need in the East, so we're headed to the Colorado Cup (whose competition I'm disappointed in, fortunately, I'm not going), and to the Santa Cruz tournament, where all the top teams in the country will be attending.

What this 'ultimately' means is that the sport is maturing and starting to become segregated into different tiers. Right now it is virtual, but I wouldn't be surprised if it developed into something like soccer, where you have different tiers, and you have teams that move into the A-tier based on performance, and teams that get relegated OUT of the top tier if they do badly enough. Scary thought, but I think ultimate is growing up...

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Brazil, part IV, Jericoacoara and a little slice of paradise

And now for the final chapter, 3 days in the primitive paradise of Jericoacoara, or at least it was 7 years ago according to Eduardo.

But before we talk about Jeri, since it is Brazil, we must needs talk about how we got there. Originally we had all had a nice simple flight to Jeri (albeit one with 2 interim stops) until TAM and Varig no longer code-shared, AFTER we had all purchased tickets. This meant either ponying up another $140 plus a person to get in a almost 9PM (on the same flight), or taking the new Varig flight through Brasilia (and a 3 hour layover) and getting into Fortaleza at midnight. Georgia and I stuck with the Brasilia flight, and Eduardo had charted out a great two hour taxi visit to Brasilia to see the highlights, so naturally when we got to the airport with our reservations guaranteed (I had confirmed before the prior flight), they no longer had room for us, and had us fly manaus-sao paolo-fortaleza, which was basically flying from Boston to Atlanta to Chicago, which was just the height of stupidity. And naturally our flight to Fortaleza was delayed, so we didn't get into until 1:20AM. Now, if you take the standard, cheaper way to Jeri, this involves taking a bus to Jijoca, and then another bus from there to Jeri, 7+ hours all told. Instead Edu had booked us our own 4-wheel drive, which took maybe 4.5 hours, the last 45 minutes literally on the beach (and then over some sand dunes to arrive in Jeri). We ended up arriving at the hotel at around 5:30AM, and getting to sleep at 6AM. Naturally, when we got up at 10AM to make breakfast, we were the first of the crew to get up (they had all gotten to sleep around 3AM).

Jeri is SPECTACULAR! It can't have a population of more than 1000, including tourists, and it is this little oasis in the middle of nowhere. Edu was saying when he was there 7 years prior, he had to go to the well at the beach and carry water back up the street to take a cold shower. When we were there, it had become civilized, and we stayed at a charming little hotel called the Pousada Recanto do Barao (www.recantodobarao.com) that had air conditioners, a pool, however, they did NOT want you to flush toilet paper, you were supposed to put it into a little garbage can next to every toilet. Naturally this means I tried to do #2 into the one next to the pool instead of the one in our room, but otherwise, it was very civilized.

SO, Jeri is right next to a huge sand dune which becomes the gathering place every night around dusk to witness the sunset. What seems like the entire town meanders up the dune to watch. Then they all scramble down the steep face of the dune to the beach below, walk back onto town, and begin drinking.

So, it is now Friday, and I have been up for over 24 hours. We meander down to the beach for a casual lunch, and then Ron (Feio americano) and I go for a long walk to the Piedra Furada, or the pierced stone, which is probably a 2 mile excursion over dunes, and sand while the ladies check out the local souvenir scene. We find the stone, which is a large stone stuck in the sea with a huge hole in the middle that the surf crashed through. Pretty cool. Long walk back, just in time to walk up the sand dune to meet up with everyone and catch the sunset. While we are there, people are sandboarding down the dune on a wooden plank with footstraps (yes, they also have goofy). More on that later. Also, some of the capoeira martial arts experts were doing consecutive backflips down the entire 50 yard expanse of the dune. Finally, after sunset, we churn down the dune, and on the way back to town, we stop to watch a free capoeira performance, which is a martial arts in the form of a dance. They were able to do some pretty incredible athletic feats.

Finally, back to the hotel, showers, and while we are waiting for everyhone to get ready, fortunately there is a bar across the street (when I say street, ALL streets were basically an extension of the beach, just sand), so we wait for the others while quaffing our caipirinhas. Once everyone is ready, walk back down to the beach, get a table at the Skye Restaurant physically on the beach (on the sand), have a great dinner, more caipirinhas, and unexpectedly the night turns into the one big party night that goes real late with lots of drinks, aided by the drink carts lining the beach serving 80 cent caipirinhas (?!?!?!).

We get up just in time the next day to make breakfast, and then we're off to the 'city' of Tatajuba, which is like 50 minutes away across the dunes. We saddle up in two sand buggies (with us riding on the external jump seats and holding onto the roof). We drive across several moonscapes, have to drive onto 1 car rafts to get poled across a 100 yard waterway, take a short boat excursion to see some seahorses (which are totally prehistoric), and then go sandsledding down this huge sand dune into a pool of water, which is a BLAST! As we are doing this, we can see a pitch dark wall of clouds approaching us, and it begins to rain as we race back to the cars, and then instead of taking shelter in the car, we stay on the jumpseats as the drivers race across the dunes (we can barely keep our eyes open) another 20 minutes until we reach a this isolated lagoon with shelter. After a meal of fried plantains or something, and some rice and beans, we hang out, swim a little, and then head back (the sun is out at this point). This time, at the huge dune that we were sledding down before, this time we actually rode the dune buggies down a steeper and longer part of the dune, which was very insane.

For sunset, this time Ron and I rented sandboards for the dune. Unfortunately, we couldn't share a board, because he was goofy. Unfortunatley, the video that was taken of me going down was on my first run, so I look pretty terrible. By the fourth run, I didn't look quite as terrible, but my feet were getting ravaged, because you had to do it barefoot, as shoes wouldn't fit under the straps. And walking up the dune after each run was a HUGE effort. I was able to get one picture of me where I was carving and touching the sand with my inboard hand. Woo-hoo! I tried to load it on this blog, but it wouldn't let me load another picture. After another sunset on the dune, that night was much more leisurely, as everyone was burnt out from the previous night.

Sunday was more of the same, as we excurted (yes, I know it's not a word) off to another private lagoon, one where we had to walk across an inlet up to our stomach to get to the actual area. Some kayaking, lots of swimming, more fried foods, lots of guarana, and then back to Jeri. Oh, forgot. On the way to this lagoon, Edu and his wife, who were on the other buggy, popped a rear wheel while we were cruising down the beach. Fortunately no one was hurt, and I got some good video of the wheel as it kept rolling and eventually sputtered to a stop. After makeshifting with a spare, we were able to continue.

Finally, the last night. We had a great dinner, and then off to bed. We had to get up at the crack of a** the next morning to catch another jeep ride into Fortaleza, and then we flew home, which actually went off without a hitch. Alright, I've been typing long enough, and I don't feel like error-checking. Probably back to ultimate posts now that I've got this recorded.

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Brazil, part III, Amazon, Ariau, and Manaus

For the Amazon portion of the trip, one number stands out. 40 feet. For the area we visited, Manaus and then 2 hours upstream to the Ariau Towers, that is how much the water level changes between the dry and rainy seasons. Just think about that. In Boston, what would that cover up? It is truly mindboggling!

The picture above shows the Ariau Towers eco-lodge we stayed at, about a 2 hour boat ride from Manaus (www.ariauamazontowers.com, www.ariautowers.com). Apparently, during Survivor-Amazon, this is where the film crew stayed during shooting. It had two helipads, and a rather extensive network of catwalks. We got into Manaus about midnight, and took a long bus to a very nice old-fashioned hotel (similar to the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe), but it was sort of a waste because we were leaving crack of a** the next day. But it was right next to the dock that the boat left from. After a couple of hours in the boat, we arrived at a dock, as seen above, replete with a scantily clad hostess (coconut shell bra and little else...) dispensing necklaces and a corny little band playing music. Loveboat, eat your heart out. From there, we met our guide, got lunch, and then got out of the furnace for a few hours until our first excursion.

After the beautiful weather we had in Sao Paolo, low 70's (because Sao Paolo is at a high elevation), the Amazon was a hot and humid surprise. It was a mistake to be out in midday up here. Our room was in one of the towers, which had a pretty cool setup. Basically, all the rooms were wedge-shaped, and opened onto a central meeting area. The doors were maybe 3 feet from each other. The room expanded out and there was a bathroom/shower and a little fenced in balcony (because of monkeys and other wildlife) which were effectively open to the outside. The bathroom was outside the air-conditioned environment, so you wanted to make your visits quick.

After familiarizing ourselves with the layout, we went out on our first excursion. Excursions always involved getting into a long narrow motorized dugout, and we were 10 people travelling in this group. The first excursion was piranha fishing. We took off from the dock, went out into a little river area, then turned off the river into the forest (which was flooded) and went into the forest some way before tying off the boat and getting ready to fish. We also stopped by a platform, which they said was used for one of the Survivor tests. The guides handed the fishing poles to each person, which was basically a lenghth of bamboo with a fixed length piece of fishing line and a hook on the end. They then distributed a bunch of small chunks of raw meat to everyone. You were supposed to put a piece of raw meat on the end of the hook, drop the hook deep into the water, and then when you felt the piranha tugging at the meat, give a quick twist and pull up the fish. The guide proceeded to hook a piranha reasonably quickly.

We didn't have too much success at this location, so we moved to another one, and then they started coming. I can't remember who was first, but Georgia ended up bagging the biggest piranha. She was sitting opposite me, and she pulled it out of the water and yelled. I look over, and the piranha is swinging over the boat towards me, so I quickly turn away and lunge, but fortunately she got it under control in time. The guide had already demonstrated the native biting instinct, so I was not psyched to end up with a piranha chewing on my cheek. I ended up also getting one (we threw them all back), but it was much smaller than Georgia's, as she was quick to point out. Strangely enough, the back half of the boat all caught them, while the bride and groom were stuck in the unproductive front half of the boat.

That night was video night. Eduardo (old roommate) had rented a video camera back in 1993 when I was about to leave to go drive around the country for 4 months in between jobs. We were hosting a celebratory party with my and his friends and he waltzed around into the wee hours taking video, interrogating people, etc. He had copied it onto a DVD and brought it on the trip. We took over a TV room (air conditioned fortunately), and proceeded to laugh uproariously for the next two hours. Funnily enough, most of the people watching were represented at some point or another, and 12 years younger. Boy, were we young. And Jim Parinella was there sporting some serious Italian banana curls and a big gap in his front teeth (this is a sop to the frisbee players that might actually make it this far) and looking very guidoish. Not caught on video, but another event at this party was a father/son gun, where Fid, my father, and I all shotgunned beers out on the back deck of our house. Ahhh, memories.

Each meal was a full-on buffet, including breakfast. I haven't eaten so much or so well in a long time. The place was all expenses paid EXCEPT for drinks (including water, naturally enough). There was a 'fountain' at the cafetaria, but otherwise, it iwas pay as you go for everything, including water, guarana (the Brazilian coke), beer, and caipirinhas, naturally.

So, the entire complex was sprawled over at least a square mile (or at least ringed by a track over a mile long). EVERYTHING was built on stilts here. We didn't truly understand why until we went into the souvenir store and saw pictures of what the place looked like during the dry season. And the ENTIRE complex was landbound, with these lodgings sitting 50 feet in the air on top of these wooden structures. Apparently to go on excursions, they had to walk a good distance from the hotel to get to the water and the boats. It was truly hard to imagine, given the water ALL around us. At the far end of the complex, they had set up a very cool pyramid, with air conditioning inside (triggered by a sensor if you entered), right next to a landing platform that basically said (welcome aliens we come in peace) in like 4 languages. But it was a good place to rest. No word yet whether any aliens have visited.

Other excursions/events:
Going to a floating house and feeding pink dolphins, which are only found in the Amazon. These were long-snouted dolphins that came up to eat the fish that you held over the water (while you were in it). We all got into the water, and a guide would swim up to us floating a bucket with chum, and give you a fish. You would splash the water with one hand and hold the fish a few inches above water with the other, and watch the dolphin appear from the murky depths and grab the fish. At times, you could feel them brushing against your feet and legs. It was VERY cool. Also, after awhile, even if you didn't have any fish, you could just splash your hand a few times and eventually one would show up for a few seconds.

Caiman hunting at night. One excursion involved boating into the middle of a side river, looking around with a flashlight, nudging up to a few trees, and then all of a sudden the guide on the end of the boat dove straight off the front into the water, much to our surprise. He swam around a little, and then got into the boat holding a caiman (alligatorish) about 1.5 feet in length. We all got to hold it and got the eco lecture on it. On the way back, they shined a light onto one copse of watery vegetation, and you could see 10's of eyes reflecting back at you, apparently from baby caiman.

We also went on a VERY long excursion to find gigantic lily pads. While the ones we eventually saw were maybe two feet in diameter at their largest (which was STILL very cool), we also saw pictures of these 7 foot bad boys, with children sitting in them. We also went on a jungle walk where the guide pointed out all these different trees, taking various cuttings, and finding a rubber tree, a tree whose sap tasted like mint, plants that had colorful dyes that he put on the women, etc. A little staged (you could see prior cuttings from other guides), but still informative.

Also a trip to a rubber plantation, where they showed us a guy curing rubber and making various things, including a rubber penis. And another location where they showed us how they make manioc flour (tapioca), which was a pretty labor-intensive process, and yet very tasty, for those of you who are gluten-allergic.

Finally, it was time to go on Thursday morning pretty early. Fortunately, we got a faster boat this time, so it was only 1 hour back to Manaus. After a quick health a dramatic union of a black-water stream and a white one where the Rio Negro flows into the muddy Amazon. For many miles the black and white waters flowed side by side in separate, clearly defined streams before they finally intermingled. It was wild to see the very sharp boundary and all of the tour boats that were visiting.

Finally, a quick bus tour of Manaus, and we were on our way to Fortaleza and ultimately, Jericoacoara.

Next: Brazil, part IV, Jericoacoara and a little slice of paradise

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