Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gooooooooooooal!

(with apologies to Andres Cantor)

As if there weren't enough going on in our life. . .

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This afternoon, I was the beneficiary of a completely gratuitous harmonic convergence of warm non-frigid temperatures, dry ice-free roads, no hardly any rain, and no other commitments on my schedule for just long enough to get in a 17-mile bike ride, bringing my total for the year to 1002 miles.  At last!  It wasn't all that long ago that I was pretty dubious as to whether four-digit miles was even possible.  But I made it.  A little good news, and a nice dose of endorphins, are much appreciated just now. . .

And of course, the year still has five or six more weeks to run, so we'll see if the tally runs any higher, or not.  But at least my 'basic goal' is securely in the books. . .

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7M's football team played in the state semi-finals yesterday evening.  The team they played had been winning their games by the same kind of lop-sided scores we've been, and they were clearly the best team we've seen all season.  Things didn't start out so well for our kids; they trailed, 14-0 at halftime, and looked flustered and out-of-sync.  But something clicked in the halftime locker room.  They received the second-half kickoff, and drove the field for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 14-7.  Their opponent took the ensuing kickoff and drove down to our 10-yard line.  They tried to run a Statue-of-Liberty play, but fumbled, and our kids recovered.  Another 90-yard drive, and the score was tied, 14-14.  Our defense held, and then the offense drove to another touchdown, with just over three minutes left in the game.  The defense held again, and then the offense ran out the clock, with the final score 21-14 in our favor.

It was an incredible game to watch, even if you didn't care who won.  The fact that my son was playing for the winning team made it even better.  It was good for them to realize that they could dig deep and win a game that hung very much in the balance right to the end.  They haven't had many of those this year.

So now, they get to play for the state championship at Ford Field in Detroit next Saturday afternoon.  What a thrill for these kids!  The team ee're playing is the defending state champion, so they won't be overawed by their surroundings, and they won't be intimidated.  As hard as the semi-final was to win, the final will surely be even harder.  But, what a run!  What a great ride!


(7M is number 33, just right of center)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Oh, Brother. . .

It was 10 years ago this month that Jenn's sister ended her own life.  She had been the 'black sheep' among Jenn's siblings, sort of the 'wild hippie child' type, and I usually enjoyed my own interactions with her.  Even so, for whatever reasons of her own, at 47 years of age, she decided that her life was not something she wanted to continue doing, so she ended it.

I immediately thought back to her when I got word last night that my brother (call him S; he was really my step-brother, but in our blended family, we quickly dispensed with any 'step-' designations, since we were effectively a new family, starting from scratch) had ended his own life.  He was 59.

I had a very, uh, complex relationship with S.  When his mom married my dad, he was the oldest of three kids that she brought with her into the new marriage, and I was older of dad's two kids.  To make things even more fun, we were only six months apart in age, and in the same grade in school; we were both 10 years old.  So, the first year we spent together was mostly engaged in establishing a proper pecking-order for alpha-hood.  And, at least at first, S was a better pecker than I was. . .

He had grown up largely on the mean streets of our hometown Up North (which, you might surmise, weren't all that mean, but you get the idea), whereas I had grown up as a pretty sheltered nerd-boy.  Most of the disputes between us devolved pretty quickly into him punching me repeatedly on my shoulder, until I cried and gave up.  But the long-term effect of our association, at least as far as I was concerned, was that I became less sheltered, more social, and more inclined (to say nothing of able) to physically defend myself.

At some point (probably around the same time as I had my pubescent growth-spurt), it dawned on me that I really didn't need to back down from him.  One time, when we had a group of neighborhood boys in our backyard for a pickup football game, he started teasing me, riding me pretty hard, and I decided that it was time to take a stand, so I chased him around the yard for several minutes, while our friends (mostly his friends, really) watched with amusement.  And I saw fear in his face.  Our relationship improved after that.

At the same time, we fairly quickly found a couple significant points of common interest - we shared a passion for the Detroit Tigers, and baseball more generally, and for the Beatles' music.  Together, we would stay up late at night, listening to a Tigers game from the west coast, or savoring the latest Beatles recording (33-1/3 rpm black vinyl, thank you very much).  We had some epic wiffle-ball games in the backyard.  And in those moments, we were brothers, and forgot all about who was pecking whom.

S was not a dumb guy, but school was never his thing, whereas I loved school, and excelled at it.  Our sister, next-younger than the two of us, one grade behind us, told us how one year, on the first day of school, her teacher, who had had both S and I the year before, called her name, and recognizing the surname, looked up, scanning the class, and asked, "Are you like S, or are you like Craig?"  Poor kid.

S always had a tense relationship with Dad.  Having spent most of his formative years without an effective paternal presence, he didn't take well to Dad's more, um, interventionist approach.  On the eve of our junior year of high school, S ran away one night, and never really came home after that.  He was taken in by a family a couple hundred miles away, who called Mom and Dad, and they worked out an arrangement for S to live there and go to school for that year.  The following year, he moved on again, lived on his own and got a job in the instrument-repair shop of a large music company.  Sports and music were the two large themes of his life.

Our family moved to a large metropolitan area in another state, basically simultaneously with my going to college.  Around the same time, S took a transfer to a place in the same metro area, so the family was, at least nominally, back in the same place together, and S re-integrated himself into the ebb and flow of the life of our family.

In his young adulthood, and really, into his 40s, S had a series of really interesting jobs, interspersed with periods of. . . less interesting jobs.  He spent time working in the sales/marketing staffs of both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs (a couple times, he got me tickets to games and got me into the clubhouse), and even went to LA for a while and worked for the Lakers (I live in Magic Johnson's hometown, but he got an autographed Lakers media guide for me).  He did some freelance journalism (he was a talented writer, his lack of schooling notwithstanding), and promoted a few concerts (off the top of my head, Arlo Guthrie is one of the bigger names he ever promoted).  Really interesting stuff, but somehow, none of it ever really took hold for the long-term.  He had at least one 'serious' girlfriend, but never married.  How shall I say it?  Ummmmmm. . . substance problems. . .

The last decade or so, things didn't go well for him; work became sporadic, then nonexistent.  He moved in with Mom and Dad, until Mom went to a nursing home, and Dad moved to assisted living.  His final crisis seems to have been triggered when his indulgent landlord finally decided that he couldn't afford to be quite so indulgent anymore, and homelessness loomed (and homelessness, with snow already on the ground and another hard winter in the offing, is not a happy prospect).

As when Jenn's sister killed herself, my first thought is, "What the hell did you go and do that for?"  I confess, I haven't lived his life; I don't know the despair that lurked in his soul.  I want to think that he was loved enough to have seen his life through, but then, I ask myself, have I done enough to make him know that?  (Ironically, the medical examiner found cancer in him that might well have killed him before too much longer, anyway, though he seems not to have known that)

It's a little late to say that I will miss him.  In his last years, he wasn't much of a presence in our lives; he would come to family gatherings, and mostly sit quietly in a corner, away from the rest of us.  So I never really knew the raw, unvarnished state of his life, until it was nearly over.

But I will miss him.  We shared an awful lot of our formative years together.  We fought.  We reconciled.  We came to respect, and, I daresay, love each other.  I am so sad that his life went so badly at the end, and I wonder if I should have done more to help it go better (though, at the same time, I doubt that I could have).  In the end, I am left with the sure knowledge of God's mercy, both for S and for me.  And I'm grateful to have shared such of my life with him as I have. . .

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Woolly Bear



Or, Science From Your Bicycle Seat. . . Sorta. . .

As I'm out on my bike during the fall months, one of the more common sights I encounter is a woolly-bear caterpillar wriggling across the road as I roll by.  I have no idea why the caterpillars like wriggling across the pavement; seems like a kind of death-wish to me.  But then, possums are vertebrates and mammals, and I see lots of them along the side of the road, also, but usually in a more, um, deceased configuration.  So, brain-mass-for-brain-mass, maybe the woolly-bear caterpillar is actually smarter than the possum, since most of the caterpillars I see are still, you know, actively wriggling.

Now, some of you will know that there is a folk-legend associated with the woolly worms, as to predicting the harshness of the coming winter (and if you didn't know that before now, you're welcome).  The woolly-bear features prominently in the Old Farmer's Almanac's winter prognostications.  The legend goes that, the more dark bands on the 'typical' woolly-bear, the harsher the coming winter stands to be (on the theory, I suppose, that the darker bands will absorb more heat, from the scarce amount that's available).  Just for totally anecdotal purposes, last fall it was not uncommon to see completely-black woolly-bears, which portended a hard winter.  And so it was.  Some years ago, I recall seeing several woolly-bears that were all-brown, or even orange, which indicated a particularly mild winter in the offing, and so it was.  The actual scientific basis for such predictions is, uh, a matter of some controversy, but there you have it; a peek behind the curtain at the Old Farmer's Almanac.

And in case anybody is wondering, this fall, the woolly-bears I've seen have been pretty nominally-colored, with about the middle third of them brown, and black on the ends.  So, at least here in Michigan, that would portend a pretty normal winter, neither harsher nor milder than usual.  In case, you know, you were wondering.  Just remember, you heard it here first. . .

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On a related front, I got in 25 miles on my bike yesterday (with temps in the mid-30s and a few very scattered snow flakes), bringing my total for the year to 985.  Just need to find 15 more miles before winter settles in for the duration. . .

This morning, there's a light dusting of snow on the ground.  It wouldn't be enough to keep me from riding, especially with 1000 miles looming so close.  But today is Opening Day of Firearm Deer Season in Michigan, and the light dusting of snow will be a boon to the hunters.  And those hunters are part of the reason I decided to ride yesterday, and not today.  And also why I wear a blaze-orange hoodie on my rides in November. . .

7M's football team won their third-round playoff game Friday night, 49-21.  They were behind, 14-12, just a minute before halftime, so the game was closer than the score might seem to indicate.  This win puts them in the Division 5 state semi-finals; one more win, and they get to play in the dome in Detroit.  Exciting times for those young men, for sure. . .

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Fans - Both of Them

I don't know that I've brought it up here before now, but a couple years ago, Jenn and I made the momentous decision to go off-the-grid, credit-wise.  Our credit card debt had hit an unmanageable level, so we just said the hell with it, cut up our cards, and set about running a zero-balance budget (including paying off the debt we had accumulated; we may be foolish, but we're not deadbeats).

The financial-types we consulted before taking this momentous step told us that first, and fundamentally, we needed to set up an 'emergency fund' of at least $1000, for things like repairs that come up, so we did that.  And almost immediately, the circus began.  Our washing machine went toes-up. Cha-ching. Tap the emergency fund, and then refill it.  Then our dishwasher died.  Cha-ching.  Tap the emergency fund again, and refill it.  My car got totalled, so we had to go back to the credit well to buy a not-too-heavily-used replacement, which put a fresh strain on the cash-flow, until the profit-sharing check came through.  And then the replacement car got rear-ended on a snowy/icy day.  I was nearly in a panic for a couple days, until it became clear that the damage to my car was merely cosmetic, and it was still fully drive-able.  Then Jenn's car woke up one day and discovered that it had nearly 200,000 miles on its odometer, and decided to call it a life.  So we scrapped out her car, and bought 4M's car from him, when he moved to Seattle.

By that point, we were starting to get creative about covering our bases.  One of the kids left the fridge door ajar overnight, and by the following morning, it was sitting silently, the motor no longer running, the milk starting to get warm.  So we moved everything to the 'reserve' fridge in the basement (which wasn't quite big enough to hold everything that had been in the 'main' fridge, so some stuff took up temporary lodging in the neighbors' fridge), and started making plans for how we were going to procure a new fridge with what was left of our emergency fund.  After a couple days, though, the main fridge had a change of heart, or caught its breath, or something, and began making happy electrical fridge-noises again, and making the inside of the box cold again, so we moved the food back upstairs, grateful for the reprieve (we didn't fully trust that the fridge had been 'healed', and we fully expected it to give up at some not-too-distant future time, but at least we could make use of the delay to refill the emergency fund once again; that was about a year ago, and the fridge is still running fine today, so thanks be to God).

We've had relatively few appliance-crises for that past several months (I hesitate to mention that the dryer and the stove have held strong, lest they hear me, and decide to join in the fun).  We live with a degree of low-grade dread that one of the kids will stick a tin can in the microwave, and when I discovered 7M downloading 'free' music onto the computer, I had an, uh. . . over-reaction (that's what he called it; seemed perfectly reasonable to me. . .).  But the emergency fund has been in decent health, all things considered, and we're mostly able to anticipate and plan for things like putting new tires on two cars, and straightening 8M's teeth (not, alas, as optional as I wish it were; if you saw his teeth, you'd understand), and stuff like that.

So a couple weeks ago, just as the weather (back to talking about the weather again. . .) was transitioning from air-conditioning season to furnace-season, we flipped the thermostat switch from cooling to heating the first day when the overnight low dropped below 50F.  We were sitting in our living room that evening, and heard the comforting electric hum that signaled that the blower-motor was coming on.  Only the hum continued for several seconds, instead of giving way to the 'whoosh' of the fan blowing warm air through the house, and then it quit.  No rush of warmth.  A few minutes later, it tried again, and again we heard the extended electric-motor hum as it tried to come on and failed.  Crud.  Jenn looked at me and asked how the emergency fund was doing.  Okay, I said, but a furnace repair might just about kill it.  We called a friend of ours who knows a little bit about furnaces, and he came over and poked around for a few minutes before telling us, "I think your blower motor's fritzed."  Double crud.

So the next day, Jenn called the furnace-repair guy, and he came, and gave a quote north of $600, which was just higher than the current contents of the emergency fund.  So she told him we'd get back to him, once we figured out how to pay him.  Later that same day, our friend who had looked at the furnace came by with a page he'd printed from an on-line home-repair site, offering the motor we needed for just less than $200.  "If you can buy this motor," he said, "I know a guy who'll install it for $100."  Sold!

So all told, we were without heat in our house for about two weeks.  The house was chillier than we'd prefer, especially at night (into the 50s, which is about what we set the overnight thermostat for in the winter), but still very livable; Jenn just snuggled closer to me in bed, so, you know, win-win.

Somewhere in those two weeks without a furnace-fan, I got into my car and turned the key.  The engine fired up, but something seemed odd.  There was no fan-noise.  I checked; the fan knob was in the 'high' position.  I turned it off and back on; nothing.  It was a weekend, so I was just driving across town, but still, the windshield was starting to fog up.  So I cracked the window open, and drove around that way, just so I could see the road ahead of me.  I was getting annoyed by all the niggling little repairs that were starting to pile up again, and noting the irony that both my house and my car were suffering from fans that wouldn't blow the warm air.  The air was there, and it was warm, but the fan wouldn't send it where it needed to be.

The next day, when I had a few minutes to think it through, I thought that I should at least check the fuse box before I committed myself to replacing the fan motor.  I pulled the cover off and figured out from the schematic which fuse was for the fan motor.  I tried to pull it out to look at it, but it was in too tightly, so I pushed it back in, and prepared to find a pair of pliers with which to pull it out.  I had the keys in the ignition so I could listen to the Spartan football game on the radio, and when I pushed the fuse back in. . . the fan came on.  So it was just a loose connection.  For a couple days, I would start the car, and the fan wouldn't come on, so I would go into the fuse box and give a push to the fan fuse, and all would be well.  After that, the fuse, apparently realizing that I was onto his game, just said the hell with it, and stayed engaged.  I've had to give it a shove a couple more times in the past couple weeks, but nothing too terribly onerous.  Even if I had to push the fuse in every time I start the car, that wouldn't be too terrible.  I suppose that, in the fullness of time, I'll have to give a closer look, and maybe replace the fuse box, but that time is not yet.

And the emergency fund is on its way back to wholeness.  Again.

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In other news, 7M's football team played their first playoff game Friday night last.  7M was, how shall I say it - geeked.  I don't know if he got any actual sleep the night before.  It seems that the team managed to channel their collective nervous energy in mostly constructive ways, pulling out a 61-0 victory.  The first round of the playoffs can be like that, as schools of similar size, that play vastly different levels of competition during the regular season, end up bracketed together.  Next week's opponent will no doubt be tougher.

The weather for the game was, um. . . brutal.  Around 40F, with a 20-mph north wind.  It was actually snowing just before kickoff, although it didn't snow (or rain) during the game itself.  Even so, it was merciful to the fans, as well as the losing team, that the second half was played with a running clock.

That nasty weather kept me indoors and off my bike yesterday.  Today promises to be sunny and a bit warmer, with less-than-gale-force winds, so perhaps I can get a few miles in this afternoon.  Onward and upward. . .

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Are You Ready for Some Football?

I don't usually post a whole lot about football around these parts, although in recent years, my Spartans have inspired me to wax rhapsodical from time to time.  But this weekend was a kind of football-ish harmonic convergence around here.  You would be very kind to indulge me. . .

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7M is a high-school junior, and a linebacker for his school's football team.  He's pretty darn good (if I may say so myself), and is usually among the leading tacklers for his team.  It never gets old, hearing your son's name called over the PA, I tell you.

His team has had a really good season so far, going undefeated, winning their league championship, and qualifying for the state playoffs, besides.  This Friday night past, they played another undefeated, highly-ranked team, and won, 27-22.  It was the only game all year that they won by less than 30 points.  It was actually kinda fun to watch a game that wasn't played with a running clock for most of the second half. . .

The team is sufficiently highly ranked that it wouldn't be a surprise for them to be playing in the domed stadium in Detroit over Thanksgiving weekend (ie, for the state championship).  There being four rounds of games to win before that comes to pass, I'll stop short of counting any unhatched chickens.  But it's been a fun ride so far. . .

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8M played football for the first time in his life this fall.  He hasn't been as athletically-inclined as his brothers, and I'm fine with that; he sure doesn't have to have athletic success in order to please me.  He has his own really unique personality, and his own set of unique skills and proclivities that make him a really interesting and fun person in his own very estimable right; we're glad to have him in our family, no matter how stunned we were to find ourselves expecting our eighth child deep into our 40s, all those years ago. . .

Anyway, it's been a lot of fun, watching him learn to play the game, progressing from "Where am I?  What am I supposed to be doing?  I have no clue. . ." to understanding his assignments, and making plays.  Last week, he got his name called over the PA for the first time (he made a tackle), and in today's game, he actually carried the ball a couple times.  Mind you, I'm not so much living vicariously through the success he's had (such as it is), as I am proud of him making the effort, and learning to do something that he started out utterly clueless of.  Very cool. . .

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And just for the sake of saying so, I have to mention the way my Spartans man-handled the hated Wolverines over the weekend, the sixth time we've beaten them in the last seven games.  Truth to tell, I didn't think that the Spartans played all that well, certainly far short of their best.  But even so, they dominated the blue-corn guys from start to finish.  It's a sign of how strong our team is, I suppose, that they can dominate their rival while still not playing their best.

I'm still getting used to this whole rivalry-dominance thing.  Our friends from down the road have had far more success against us, in my adult lifetime, than we've had against them (though we pretty much owned them in my childhood; just sayin').  I'm just glad (*shedding a small tear*) to have lived long enough to see the tables turned, at least for a while. . .

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And then this morning, the Lions played the Sunday Brunch Special from Wembley Stadium in London.  That's London, in the UK, not Ontario.  Five time zones to the east of here.  NFL marketing-types, gotta love 'em. . .

The Leos started out terrible, trailing 21-0 at halftime.  But they turned the tables in the second half and ended up pulling out a 22-21 victory on a last-second field goal (some real bizarre doings in those final seconds, which I'll decline to discuss in detail, but it did make things, um interesting).

I'm not quite ready to start calling them "MY Lions" just yet (6-2 and leading the division has gone down in flames too often, too recently, for me to jump on the bandwagon quite this soon).  But this could yet turn into one of the better years of my own personal memory. . .

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So, lots of football this weekend, all the way from middle-school, to high school, to major-college, to the pros.  And all of 'em went according to my own humble rooting interests, which was nice.

And the weather in these parts was spectacular this weekend - mid-60s, brilliant sunshine, cloudless azure skies. . . So I put another 32 miles on my bike, bringing me to 876 miles for the year.  Barring any nasty weather wiping out entire weekends, I should just sneak past 1000 before the snow flies.  But, we will see what we will see. . .

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Michigan Weather. . .

If you don't like it, goes the saying, wait five minutes. . . it'll change. . .

[This quote is actually attributed to Mark Twain, in reference to New England; I'm not sure Ol' Sam ever even set foot in the State of Michigan.  I'm also reasonably sure that pretty much every state not named California has 'borrowed' this quote for itself.

The meteorologist-types of my acquaintance tell me that the Great Lakes actually have a 'moderating' effect on Michigan's climate.  But the saying is common among my fellow-Michiganders (or are we Michiganians? I can never remember), whether justly or not. . .]

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My Tigers having finished their season early this year, I'm left to talk about . . . the weather.

No, not really.  I'll just revert to my other favorite autumnal blogging topic: tracking my bicycling miles.

This has been a tough cycling season for me.  First off, last winter was extraordinarily long and cold, and whereas I'm usually out on my bike in early March, this year the snow and ice and cold temperatures didn't abate, so as to allow me to get out on the road, until the very last weekend of March.  So I lost nearly a full month at the beginning of the season.

Then in April, I came down with a nasty respiratory virus.  My normal protocol in such instances is to get plenty of rest, and cut back on my miles (riding, say, 17 miles instead of 25 or 30; gotta keep the legs working, dontchaknow), and in the fullness of time, the virus runs its course, and I haven't lost too much of my conditioning edge (heck, sometimes, a ride can even have a 'blow-the-gunk-out' effect on my respiratory system).  This time, though, every time I put on even very modest miles, my lungs responded by getting even sicker, and threatening to fling small chunks of themselves through the air.  I finally went to see my doctor, who prescribed an oral steroid for me, and that, plus a couple weeks off the bike, finally brought me back to my normal, radiant good health.  But by that time, it was early May, and I was basically starting over at building up my miles, two months behind schedule.

And so it went.  My schedule seemed to conspire against me more than usual, as well. Events like funerals, or marriage-enrichment conferences (Jenn and I started working in marriage-prep classes for our parish this year) kept coming up, pushing my rides to a less-convenient time, and obliging me to ride fewer miles than I'd planned.  And then I had a mild relapse of the respiratory virus in August, so I had to skip another ride or two again.

So now, here I am, in mid-October, when I'd normally have something like 1200 miles on my legs and lungs (a couple years ago, I was over 1600 by late October), and wondering how many hundred more I'd be able to get in before the snow flies and the shoulders of the roads are covered with ice, relegating me to the stationary bike for the winter.  And I've got 811 miles in for the year.

My 'basic goal' every year is 1000 miles, and I've usually reached that by early/mid-September, so I can set my sights higher.  In recent years, I've averaged about 1400 miles a year, give-or-take, but this year, I'll have to be pretty diligent just to make my 'basic goal'.

Which brings us back to the weather.  Fall weather can be unpredictable in my part of Michigan, as the seasonal transition takes hold.  It is more prone to be rainy and windy during this time of the year, and the temperatures are trending downward.  For several years now, I've been blessed to have most of our 'Weather' happen during the week, while I'm at work, and can't get out on the road, anyway.  This year, though, the 'weather' has come on the weekends to a greater extent than usual, forcing me to consult forecasts, trying to work my riding schedule around the particular 3 hours when the rain will be taking a break.  And of course, that leaves me subject to the, uh, accuracy of the forecasts.

So, three or four times in the last few weeks, I've targeted a three-hour window in the rain pattern, and gotten out on the road at the first sign of non-threatening skies, only to find that, 15 miles out in the countryside, the weather had a different schedule.  Riding in the rain is not my favorite thing to do, but once you're out on the road, you don't have much choice.  One recent Saturday,  I was a little late getting out on the road, when I knew I had about a three-hour rain-free window.  So, when I was about five miles from home, the skies opened up, and the wind-machine turned on (20-25 mph, directly into my face, which seemed kinda over-the-top on Mother Nature's part).  It only lasted for a mile or so, but you can get awfully cold and wet in a mile of downpour, against a stiff wind.  Another time, I left the house under blue skies, with the promise of the weatherman that I had a good, solid three hours before the rain returned.  Within three miles, I was being pelted with sleet (SLEET!  add my normal 12-mph to the wind-borne velocity of the falling ice-needles against my face, and you have a distinctly unpleasant experience), all the while seeing blue skies off to the west.  For the rest of the ride, I was mostly riding under sunny blue skies, but as I turned onto the final 7-mile run back toward home, there was a large, dark, ominous-looking cloud directly ahead of me.  Nothing to do but keep riding, and by the time I was even with where the black cloud had been, it had moved off to the east, and I missed getting rained on, for once.  Which, you know, was just fine with me.

So anyway, as things sit, I'll have to ride some pretty aggressive miles, and hope that the weather stays ride-able into December, if I hope to make 1000 miles for the season.  Which is by no means given.

But then, in the last two weeks, the typically schizoid fall weather, driving rain alternating with bright sunshine, has meant that I've twice driven home at the end of a work day, under a stunningly brilliant double rainbow, so, you know, there's that. . .

Monday, October 6, 2014

Well, That Was Quick. . .

Recalling what I said in my previous post about frequency of posting during the baseball post-season month of October. . .  Yeah, well, so much for that.  My Tigers were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs yesterday evening.  It's not like I didn't see it coming, or anything, but, you know, we hoped for better. . .

Our three-game whirlwind tour (and I use the term 'whirlwind' both in the sense of 'brief and frenetic', and also 'getting slammed by a tornado') of the baseball post-season was really something of a microcosm of the entire season - the bullpen imploding, wasting creditable, if not spectacular starting pitching, and then the bats inexplicably disappearing when we did get solid pitching.  I mean, 12 FREAKIN' RUNS OVER CONSECUTIVE 8TH INNINGS?  Twelve!?!  Seriously?!?  But such was the quality of our bullpen this year; no lead was ever safe.  I'd be listening to a game on the radio, and the starter would be through seven innings with 110 or so pitches, and a nine-run lead, and I'd be anxiously wringing my hands, wondering if a nine-run lead could hold up through two innings of relief pitching.  (I don't recall if the bullpen ever actually blew a nine-run lead or not, but it had some atrocious meltdowns.  I know we lost more than one lead of three runs or more in the 9th inning)

And, for all the all-star caliber hitters the Tigers have, they were prone to mystifying offensive droughts, making guys with career ERAs of 5.86 look like Sandy Freakin' Koufax.  On paper, before the season, it looked like we should win our division by at least 10 games.  Our starting rotation included two of the past three Cy Young Award winners (and we picked up the third one at the trade deadline), and Miguel Cabrera was the two-time defending Most Valuable Player.  We even unloaded Prince Fielder's horrible contract and even more horrible defense; things were looking good.  We had some injury problems, but nothing terribly our of the ordinary (although both Cabrera and Justin Verlander were coming off off-season surgeries, and both of them were mystifyingly un-dominant for long stretches of the season).  We ended up squeaking out the division championship by one game, after looking up at the Kansas City Royals for a lot of the summer.  It was a frustrating season, but it seemed like were starting to get our stuff together just in time for the playoffs.  I guess not, huh?

But hey, the Los Angeles Angels, who by most all accounts were the best team in the American League, got similarly broomed out of the playoffs by the aforementioned Royals, and the Washington Nationals, who were likewise counted the best team in the National League, are on life support, having lost their first two games at home, and heading to San Francisco with no more losses 'to give'.  Which goes to show, I suppose, that once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. . .

The coming off-season promises to be tumultuous for my Tigers, in all sorts of ways.  Max Scherzer, our best pitcher the past two seasons, is a free agent, and I can't imagine that the Tigers will be able to match the money that teams like the Yankees will be prepared to throw at him.  Victor Martinez, who was our best hitter this year, is also a free agent, and it is not a given that we will be able to re-sign him, either.  Torii Hunter has given the Tigers a couple of solid seasons, even at 39 years of age, and he's a free agent, too.  We will see what we will see, of course (we always do), but there is a large sense that the Tigers' window of opportunity to win a World Series is about to slam shut.  It's been a nice run for the past 5-6 seasons, but they haven't yet won it all, and it seems about to become less likely, not more.

(*sigh*)

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The Lions also lost ignominiously yesterday afternoon, making it a dismally lost weekend for Detroit professional sports teams. . .

But at least, on a somewhat happier note, my Spartans won their game Saturday night.  Not, however, before they gave up most of a 24-point, end-of-the-3rd-quarter lead, having to intercept a pass on the 10-yard-line with 30 seconds left in order to hang on for a 5-point win.  In the last four minutes of the game, they gave up a touchdown on a punt return, and bounced a short filed goal off the upright.  I was seriously hyperventilating at that point.  Credit to Nebraska, our opponent, for not getting the memo that the game was over at the end of the 3rd quarter.  The mismatch in intensity between the two teams in the 4th quarter was glaring.  My Spartans will have to play hard for all four quarters, if they hope to contend for the kind of honors they aspire to.

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At any rate, given the end of the Tigers' season, things might be a tad less sports-oriented around these parts than I'd hoped (or some of my readers might have feared) this month.  So, who knows what stuff I might be posting about?  With a sideways tip of the hat to my friend Suldog, I can't promise that my next post will be soon, and I sure can't promise that it'll be better.  But, you know, eventually, with more stuff, of one sort or another. . .