Wednesday, February 28, 2018

#SBRLLR: First Taste of Glory (Part 1)

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
― Thomas Paine
My mother drove me out to my first practice with the Vista Swim Team one afternoon a few weeks before I was set to start my freshman year of high school.  I stepped through a gateway cut into a twelve-foot chain-link fence and onto the deck of an unassuming six-lane public pool.  I felt as though I’d been transported into a bygone era of swimming lore.  The facility itself was ancient.  The pool area was a solid mass of flat yellow concrete, stretching maybe fifteen feet out from the pool’s lip, which overhung an eight-inch trench-like competition gutter, also cast from concrete.  I’d seen competition gutters previously, but only at collegiate competition facilities, which typically boasted newer pools, electronic timing systems, and gleaming sidewalls cast from shiny aluminum.  By contrast, Vista’s pool had the oldest competition-style gutters I’d ever seen and the only ones made from concrete.  Kids had been swimming for time in Vista for decades, and even back in the day, those kids had possessed the right swimming technology, probably since before East Carolina University had even had a swim team.

Friday, February 23, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: You Really Should Be Following Me on Twitter

Facebook instituted a new News Feed algorithm recently, and I hate it.  Ostensibly intended to cut down on the site’s 3rd party media manipulation and endless political arguments, what’s happened instead is that I’m now seeing the same posts over and over again.  Stuff that I would have glossed over in months past is now literally inescapable.  If anything, I’ve actually muted more people in the last month than I had in the previous twelve.
Usually just for 30 days, mind you.  I use the “Take a break from this poster” option because I still like my friends.  I just don’t need to read their political thoughts on repeat.  
Meanwhile, the algorithm’s effect on me has been to cut this blog’s traffic in half.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#SBRLLR: Tennessee to California (Part 3)

To eyes that had grown used to the flatly forested lowlands of Coastal Carolina, Southern California was an infinitely varied series of high desert steppes, rolling hills, and zooming concrete superhighways.  Where Carolina had been uniformly green and rural, Southern California was all rocky browns and tans, distinctly urban, and interspersed at irregular intervals with tiny patches of spindly trees and tumbleweeds.  As we drove north from San Diego Airport, the hills grew slowly greener and more forested, until at last we arrived in Fallbrook, a brilliantly green oasis in the desert of San Diego County and the self-proclaimed Avocado Capital of the World.  
This would be our new home.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Army Football Preview: First Look at 2018 (Part 2)

We mentioned last week that a slow start could potentially make it tough for Army to earn a post-season bowl berth in 2018.  That’s true.  First, because the team has two FCS games again this year, and only one of those potential wins will count towards bowl eligibility.  Second, because bowl invitations typically go out before the Army-Navy Game.  As a result, Army will need at least five FBS wins heading into the Navy game plus at least one FCS win in order to make it into the postseason.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

More Pics from Ski Butternut

Both girls have school play practice starting soon, and anyway, winter looks like it is rapidly coming to a close here in Coastal Connecticut.  That's not exactly upsetting -- winters in New England can be brutal -- but it does mean that our family's winter ski season is almost over. 

After years of barely getting out on the slopes, we've skied a lot this season.  As Sally put it, "Skiing is really the only good way to get through these winters."  That is especially true in December and January, when the days are so short and dark that we sometimes barely see the sun.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Crunch: Managing Weight Gain

I got into the gym a few months ago mostly because I needed a break from the pool.  I like swimming, and I will probably always feel more graceful in the water than I do on land, but it can be a grind.  Even if you’re swimming just two to three times per week, it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting trying to stay focused.  It’s not like there’s a lot of scenery.  You’ve got the little black line and whatever songs you can play back in your head.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#SBRLLR: Tennessee to California (Part 2)

My grandparents lived in a beautiful red brick ranch-style house on the south end of a small town called Tullahoma, Tennessee.  Though my mother had been born in nearby Shelbyville, it was this house in Tullahoma that had provided me with whatever sense of normalcy I knew growing up.  I’d spent summers there, fishing with my grandfather in his little aluminum fishing boat or just hanging around, especially before I started swimming seriously.  I treasured those times because they gave me a place to that I understand as “home”.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Army Football Preview: First Look at 2018 (Part 1)

Groundhog Day has passed, and so has National Signing Day.  And though Lacrosse season has only just started, I know there are at least a few of you out there who can’t wait for Army Football to open their 2018 campaign.  The good news is that the Black Knights look to have a pretty impressive class headed to the storied banks of the Hudson River this summer.  The bad news is that we have more than six months to go before we see the team back on the field for games that actually matter.
What’s next for Army Football?

Friday, February 9, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: A Tough Week

Happy Friday, folks.
It’s a somber Friday for me and a lot of my friends.  We lost a classmate this week, apparently from complications arising from the flu, and that is not an easy thing.  I didn’t know Jimmy particularly well, and it feels like a real shame because he was obviously a great guy.  Many, many of the memorials from those close to him have mentioned his ready sense of humor and easy smile.  Those things can be rare commodities in the daily grind at West Point, and sometimes, they are the only things that help you stay sane.  Guys like that are often the most important people in your class.  The guys who can make you laugh amidst all that stress, those are the guys that you never forget.
Jimmy was a former Army Football defensive back, a doting father, and a successful grad in everyday life.  He was clearly in excellent physical condition as well, so his passing will have hit his family completely out of nowhere.  I hate that.  I feel it like a physical blow.  His family noted in their announcement that he had chosen to be an organ donor, so someone else will live because of Jimmy.  That is cold comfort, but it speaks to the man’s character.
Well done, Jimmy.  Be thou at peace.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

#SBRLLR: Tennessee to California (Part 1)

“This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island. From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me.”
― Woody Guthrie
My father came home one night in the middle of eighth grade just as we were sitting down to dinner.  He was still wearing his uniform—along with one of the largest smiles I’d ever seen.
“What?” my mother asked.
I looked up expectantly.
“I got orders today,” Dad said proudly.  “We’re going back to San Diego!”

Monday, February 5, 2018

Mount Southington Ski Area

Mount Southington is one of our local ski areas, located just off I-84 about nine miles east of the town of Waterbury.  That puts it just forty-five minutes from our house, making it ideal for short day-trips when there’s snow, and the kids don’t have school.  

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Update: Book, TV, & Movie Review Archives

I spent yesterday's commute archiving the blog's various book and movie reviews.  This included an update to the Summer Reading List Project and even a couple of new inclusions into the Worth Reading list, all of which is now archived under the blog's catchall Sketches tab.

Holy shit!  I've done a lot of reviews on this blog.

Friday, February 2, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: SotU and Other Stories

Apologies up front.  I’ve been trying to do less politics on the blog, but with the State of the Union, that didn’t happen this week.  Worse, a lot of the best analysis has come out of the Opinion pages, so…  
Well, you will no doubt deride this week's piece as #FakeNews from a “triggered libtard.”  That’s fine.  I’ve been called worse.