Saturday, July 12, 2008

my little tea pot

First - and briefly along the theme that ended my previous post - a book by Edwin Black entitled ‘Internal Combustion’ was much better researched and written than any ‘true-conspiracy-type’ book I could have imagined. There is a lot to be said for dedicated investigative journalism. I am now a big fan of this Mr. Black. A link from his Wikipedia article also led me to a website called ‘The Cutting Edge News’ and two articles in particular: one describing the current status of electric cars, and one about a project developed by Honda specifically. I wish we could see this stuff on main-stream news daily – but we don’t. I suppose the internet can really prove its worth when you or I stumble onto a site like this one.

But enough about people I don’t know – today I’ll tell you a bit about my wife Kate. Lately, I’ve just been working, reading, and working but Kate has been very busy and much more interesting.

In another life, before I knew her, Kate was quite a dedicated track-star and cross-country runner. She and her teammates racked up countless successes in her local Niagara region of Ontario and across the Buffalo border in New York. Unfortunately, a combination of injuries and unfriendly older female athletes on Queen’s University's track-team ended Kate’s competitive running aspirations in her early twenties. It disgusts me when senior members of a team fail to grasp the importance of their role as mentors – especially as they are themselves succeeding only on the backs of their own role models. The same dynamic exists in a chemistry research group and – as I'm sure you have experienced – in any other organization that involves ‘learning from senior colleagues’. Good leadership should not be taken for granted because bad leadership really hurts.

In any case, here in Brisbane, Kate has joined a running club and has begun to compete once again. In recent months she has crossed finish lines in 5 km, 10 km, 1/3-triatholon, and half-marathon races. Her feet, knees, hips, and back have all ‘complained’ but not nearly loud enough to discourage her. The distances have been getting longer, and Kate has been getting more motivated. It is a great thing for me to witness. This coming weekend, she is undertaking a task that I openly considered to be ‘ridiculous’ when Kate first suggested it. She and her three teammates will walk-run together for 96 km in a non-stop cross-mountinous-country race expected to last upwards of 20 hours (with a maximum permissible time of 39). I have been recruited as ‘support-crew’ with the job of driving their food-water-supplies to designated checkpoints where they will eat, change socks, and maybe cry a little. Not every team that starts this race will finish, and those that do (based on reports from previous years) will most likely become physically ill in subsequent days and weeks - but all sacrifice is acceptable when done in the name of a children's charity :). If you would like more details:
here you go.

This is a picture Kate decked-out and geared-up just minutes before a triathalon run a few weeks ago.

And here she with a big first-half-marathon-finish inspired smile for you.

And there’s more: Kate and our friend Lib have asked me to teach them the devilish game of beach volleyball. To my surprise, they have formally agreed to trust me completely and do exactly what I ask of them in training. And in return (as cocky as this will sound) I have promised them a mind-bogglingly successful season. Already, after only twenty-or-so practices, they are starting to display occasional ‘winning’ symptoms. I consider volleyball to be a very difficult sport but not a very ‘complicated’ one. I have seen athletes and coaches fail because of a lack of appreciation for the elegant-repetitive-simplicity of this game. My own views are heavily influenced by those of my father. Often Ziggy would tell me that volleyball is, first and foremost, “a game of serving and passing”. This is a truth applicable to rec-leagues and Olympic Games – and a truth that no volleyball coach should ever forget. ‘Passing’ is the foundation that all winners must stand on. Also, my favorite coaches have always been those who believed that my time was better spent doing reps than ‘listening to them preach”. Most athletes are not born with ‘confidence’ or ‘mental strength’ and I have observed that these skills are much better learned through ‘repetition’ and ‘competition’ than through ‘conversation’. In any case, I have never had any desire to commit time to coaching until now. And I admit it is selfish - an opportunity to see my wife enjoy a game I love. There is a talent threshold that I hope she will cross later this year from which there will be no going back. It is much like riding a bicycle, once you can play – you can always play!

The final bit of fun news in Kate’s busy life is her upcoming holiday to distant Grimsby, Ontario. In Australia, asking for a month or two of ‘unpaid leave’ from work is as normal as asking for a double-double at Timmy’s back home. So my lil’blondie is leaving me soon to spend some much desired time with mom and dad in Canadia (as the Aussies sometimes call it). I would love to join her but, for many reasons, it is not in the cards for me. But I am very happy that we are able to send her back for a visit. I am informed that she has emailed Sandy an advanced list of ‘Canadian’ food she misses most which included: Kraft dinner, ‘normal’ mayonnaise, orange cheese, any ‘normal’ hotdogs (especially juicy jumbos), mince tarts, Hungarian sausage, non-pumpkin-containing-Campbell’s-canned-soups, and most importantly normal-vacuum-sealed-swimming-its-own-juices-Canadian-bacon!!!

I think Kate is ready for a trip home. I am impressed with how well she has been thriving here in ‘ssssstralia’. She is not an experienced immigrant like me. Australia is her very first extended-culture-shock-experience. I do not need a visit home yet, especially with some welcome guests coming here soon, but I admit that I am also no stranger to a bit of home sickness. As highly as I rate the Aussies and their wonderful country - ‘home is where the bacon is’.
Home is Canada.

...although I have good reason to be comfortable here too.