Thursday, July 28, 2011

Doing the Impossible

The FINA World Championships are on TV every day this week (NBC Universal Sports). In between sessions in Shanghai, Universal Sports has been playing a lot of highlights from the Beijing Games. Last night, exactly one year before the London Games begin, the channel showed a two-hour long special on Michael Phelps, which included all eight of his gold medal-winning performances at the Water Cube.

Like I hadn’t seen them before, I glued myself to the television for all eight races, reliving the moment when I watched them live in Milwaukee three summers ago. I sat at the edge of the couch. I jumped, clapped, and cheered like I didn’t know the outcome. But I did reflect more this time around on the impact of Phelps’ accomplishment and the difficulty of it, no, the impossibility of it. It just doesn’t seem possible. There were too many close calls from the 400 free relay in which Lezak swam the fastest 100m free in relay history to run down the trash-talking French in the last 10m to the 200 butterfly in which Phelps’ goggles filled up with water and then, to the ultimate, .01 victory over Milorad Cavic in the 100 fly. The 7th gold was the most impossible. Cavic and Phelps could have tied and they would have both received gold, but that wasn’t good enough. Fate had other plans and Phelps just had to win by .01.

Being as unbiased as possible, Phelps’ accomplishment is the greatest in all of sports history. The only thing in my mind that comes relatively close is Lance Armstrong’s string of seven Tour de France victories. And one thing Phelps certainly has going for him that a lot of great accomplishments in sport suffer from, is that his accomplishment isn’t covered in a shroud of doubt. Whether you think Armstrong doped or not, enough people have come forward saying he has that it gets you thinking and, if you are like me, it gets you worrying because you hate to see any great victory in sports be called into questions because it was achieved by unnatural means. Phelps’ eight gold medals aren’t spoiled by that.

Never again will Phelps or any other swimmer attempt 17 races in one Olympic games. Never mind the schedule being too grueling, there just aren’t swimmers out there as diverse as Phelps. The only one that could come close now is Ryan Lochte, but for him to win the 100 and 200 lengths of backstroke, the 200 and 400 IMs, the 200 free, and all three relays it would take some incredible turnaround swims in London and that is just not going to happen. I don’t think Phelps’ record will ever be broken or tied.

Can you think of anything more impressive? I am trying to view Phelps’ victories through an objective lens and I still just shake my head in disbelief every time I see one of those swims. Everything aligned in 2008. It’s not going to be the same in 2012. Phelps will get more gold, but Lochte is going to be closer, having now defeated Phelps at Worlds this week in the 200 free and 200 IM. But I’m ready. One year from today, it begins again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Shrinking Avenue to Readership

I suppose, like some of you, I have made a special trip to Borders this week to see if there are any good deals in their clearance sale. That’s right, ironically, if you don’t read, you may not have heard. Borders is going out of business. I have always enjoyed going into large bookstores. Outside of Portland, that leaves you with Borders and Barnes and Noble for the most part. When I was younger I flocked to Borders. I even worked there for five days, but that’s a different story. As I have aged (a little bit), I prefer Barnes and Noble. It seems more astute, more bookish. Maybe it’s the interior. I think it’s a little darker with higher bookshelves and I feel more likely to run into someone reading or writing some great tome in the corners of a big Barnes and Noble than in Borders.

I digress. I am getting way off point here. I go to Borders at least once a week since there is one in the building I work in. However, I did pay a special visit on Saturday to see what kind of deals could be had. There wasn’t much to be found, at least not yet. Those might come a little later with just days to go before Borders shuts down forever. But I did notice the people. They were everywhere. The place was packed. The last time Borders saw this much traffic was when the last Harry Potter book came out. My first thought at seeing the crowds was how much better the world would be if bookstores were always this crowded. And, how sad it is that it takes a closing of a bookstore to bring out the throngs. There were clearly a lot of readers there, snatching up armfuls of books that must have been on the “to buy” list, but had never made it to the “bought” list for some reason or another. Perhaps, in this economy, they were just too expensive.

What stores are left after Borders? How long will Barnes and Noble last? I don’t know, but I pondered those questions as I strolled through the aisles while making mental notes of the things people were grabbing at. A lot of DVD boxed sets, 2012 calendars, and board games. I stopped at an oft-ignored display of Moleskine journals, found one my size, and joined others in line. A $5.99 copy of Kindergarten Cop tempted me right before checking out. I could take it home and watch it and perfect some new Arnold lines. Not enough work. I settled with the Moleskine and it’s pliable leather cover and blank pages.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Touch Snow

We took our niece up to RMNP and Trail Ridge Road so she could see and touch snow for the first time. The scenes were amazing, minus all the dumb people from Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, etc. We just drove over or around them. No worries.

Right before I took this picture Brooke had no concept of snow. Snow was an empty word with no memory attached to it and no feeling. Now she knows many things about it, its shocking sting, the numbness and its glare.

Here I used the miniaturize setting on my camera. It's sort of cool. It would look better on different subjects, but from the day this was the best option. Some guys, desperate to ski in July, couldn't pass up this half-mile run at the top of Trail Ridge.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Instagramming Summer

...Courtesy of my wife's iPhone...

Our niece and nephew share a hug.

Prior to dinner at the Chart House.

Larimer Square.

Nate at the park.

The view from dinner at the Chart House.

We just had to go.

South Beach, CA.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Introducing Root Down

I am introducing some more lucky people (my sister and brother-in-law) to Root Down happy hour today. Kate and I have been in Denver for almost a year. We went to this restaurant for the first time with Wes and Marissa. We had been in town less than a month and we instantly latched onto this place. Having been to a lot of restaurants all around Denver now, we have a hard time getting away from Root Down for more than a month or two. Two months…we may have never made it that long. I lied.

I have been contemplating writing a lengthy review of Root Down for a while now. I feel I know the menu pretty well, from brunch to dinner to happy hour. But this is not that review. No, this is me sharing my shock at finding a review of Root Down by someone writing for Westword magazine. This author’s headline: The food at Root Down gets a thumbs-down. Now, moronic headline aside, this review was written in April of 2009. I don’t know how old Root Down is, but in April of 2009 I was busy sampling Milwaukee’s dining scene. This isn’t a joke. There is a dining scene in Milwaukee and it is very, very good. Check out La Merenda, Carnevor, or Lake Park Bistro (to name a few).

Recognizing that more than two years have passed since this review was written, it is conceivable that Root Down has drastically improved. However, it was August of 2010 when I first went there and from that point on it has been a great place to dine. The prices are reasonable and the servers have always been the most courteous and timely servers one could hope for at a restaurant of this caliber.

However, recognizing that there are a scary number of people out there who love Qdoba more than Chipotle just because the former has queso sauce, I have concluded that these same people are writing negative reviews of Root Down. Having also factored in the awe-inspiring crap that is contained within the pages of Westword, it is not surprising that its followers are anything but discriminating epicureans. So, if you stumble across this review, take it with a grain of salt, drop what you’re doing, and head over to Root Down to find out for yourself.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Maybe not quite The Best American Nonrequired Reading, but close to it.

I am reading some books off the recommended reading list for the graduate program I will be starting in the fall. I finished The Looming Tower last week. Lawrence Wright wrote it and I had started to read it in the fall and was distracted by several things, maybe applying to grad school and taking the GRE, but I finally finished it. It’s a great work of research and an accounting of the United States’ earlier attempts at killing Osama bin Laden. It details bin Laden’s earlier life and his progression from extensive farmer to infamous terrorist.

There are countless passages I would like to share and discuss on here, but I thought one in particular was telling of what knowledge so many of those who wish to attack America lack. It’s astounding how ignorance is such a strong characteristic of both sides of this battle. To give you some context, this was immediately after 9/11 and a 9/11 conspirator (Abu Jandal) was being confronted by an agent (Soufan):

“Abu Jandal was confounded by Soufan and what he represented: a Muslim who could argue religion with him, who was in the FBI, who loved America. He quickly consumed the history that Soufan game him and was shocked to learn of the American Revolution and the passionate struggle against tyranny that was woven into the American heritage. His worldview depended on the assumption that the United States was the wellspring of evil in the world.” – Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower : Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, p. 365.