Friday, August 22, 2008

Hiking the Shawangunk Mountains in New York

When I started the hike along the rock faced Shawangunk Ridge, I never imagined what I would see on the other side. A mountain lake, a mountain top castle, a lake side hotel so grand it looked like a Bavarian Castle. For a moment, I though I was back in Germany.
(click on picture to see it in detail - hey not bad for a cell phone picture)

The hotel is the Mohonk Mountain House. An exclusive all inclusive spa/hotel that caters to the wealthy NYC vacationers. Rates start at about $378 per night but include 3 gourmet meals.

This is a rock climbers paradise, known as "the Gunks." Even on a Monday, I saw at least 2 dozen climbers scaling the shear vertical walls. There are few passages over the mountain but the path we found was aptly named "Giants Path" which was a scramble across and under huge house sized boulders.

There were some ledges I walked on that were definitely "no room for error territory." (In other words, you fall - you die):

Overall, Giants Path was certainly not too technical, a walk in the park compared with the shear cliffs we saw the climbers scaling. A gorgeous piece of terrain near NY's Catskills and Hudson River Valley. The view from the top was awesome.

It was a different world in NY this time of year. The weather was awesome, 70's during the day, everything green and lush, it even hit the mid 40's one night. What a change returning to Middle TN... everything brown, dry, hazy and hot.

Looking forward to a long awaited trip to the Smokies soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Something the world has not seen the likes of before - Usain Bolt breaks the 200m WR (19.30)

There has never been a sprinter in history that has dominated the Olympic games like Usain "Lightning" Bolt. Bolt not only broke the 200m world record... but it was Michael Johnson's record (19.32) - the record that was set in 1996 by a miraculous 0.34 seconds, a record many thought would stand for generations ... and, Bolt broke that world record running into a headwind at near sea level, beating a field of the best in the world, by 10 meters!! To put it in perspective, the 200m time of 19.30 is a milestone - no man had ever run under 19.60 but Michael Johnson, and Johnson set his WR with a +o.4 m/s tailwind. Bolt set his record in a 0.9 m/s headwind - certainly a factor for a 6'5" sprinter. No 200m world record in at least 20 years has been set with a headwind of that speed. (When looking at the margin of victory in the photo above, note that the guy in red - Churandy Martina, was disqualified for running out of his lane as was Walter Spearman. USA's Shawn Crawford took the Silver and Walter Dix, the Bronze).

This is the first time any person has set world records in the 100 and 200m races at the Olympic games.

After Bolt's performance in the 100m, I predicted he would break this record but one has to wonder. Is Bolt at a place in a moment in time where he is at his physical pinnacle or is this guy capable of more? Is this just a freak occurrence, an anomaly? Bolt is just 21, much of this speed is natural, he simply hasn't had a long career of training.

Again, out of corporate greed, NBC has withheld coverage of the event that occurred at 10:30 am EST this morning so they can appease their corporate sponsor, Chevy, by showing it tonight - 12 hours after the fact. I picked up up a few bootlegs from Britain and watched it. Gives me chills - Watch it
As the commentators say, he is like "a man running among boys."

Absolutely extraordinary... undoubtedly the track event of the Games. Bolt steals the show. Lightning strikes twice... this time he ran through the tape unlike the 100m:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Usain Bolt - the fastest man in the world. NBC withholds coverage

Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world... not by a little but by a lot. Breaking the 9.7 mark for the first time in history, he won the Olympic 100m race in world record time 9.69, beating a field of the fastest sprinters in the world by 2 meters, celebrating 15m before the finish by beating his chest and cruising through the finish without even 'leaning to the tape.' He could have had a better time but nevertheless, a stunning display of top end speed. . I can't wait to see what he can do in the 200m. If any human is capable of breaking 19 seconds in the 200m, it is Usain 'Lightning' Bolt. I predict Michael Johnson's 19.32 record to fall next week.

This race occured on Saturday evening, Beijing time... about 10:30 am US EST. However, instead of broadcasting this race live on Sat morning in the US, NBC was led by corporate greed and advertising revenue. NBC waited until late Saturday evening to show the race - 12 hours after the fact. This was disturbing because by the time the race was shown by NBC, everyone knew the result. Watching events happen live is exciting. Watching an event knowing how it ends is anti-climactic. By late Saturday morning, video of the race started leaking out on to the net. Many of the videos became blocked shortly after they were posted. The motive was clear ... to commercialize one of the Olympic glamour events for maximum profit instead of covering it live. Shame on NBC!! Even now, NBC is working hard to "own" Bolt's performance ... the video is hard to find and most youtube posts have been removed.

Bolt is the real deal. If he stays focused, this guy will break every sprint record in the book and hopefully will continue to improve as his is just short of 22 yrs old. A true freak.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another awesome paella

A mid-summer's night paella.

This dish came out well. This spanish rice paella had 9 lbs of seafood: 4 lbs shrimp, 2 lbs scallops, 2 lbs cod, and a lb of mussels. I don't make it the traditional way in an open paella pan, I saute all the seafood in garlic butter with parsley before mixing it with the cooked rice. Garnish with mussels in the shell and slices of lemon and red roasted peppers. I think it makes for a tastier and less dry paella.


These pictures are becoming cliche'...

Josh turned 30, Sliviu prepares to leave for FSU ona full graduate assistantship.

After a while, most everyone got in the pool and hot tub.

Happy summer!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

It's that time again

Tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes!!!

Well, you know what I'll be eating for the next few months. I have a dozen tomato plants over 6' tall. Love 'em!!!

Tomatoes and and humus, tomato sauce, tomato salsa over roasted vegetables, gazpacho... the list goes on. yum....

Tomatoes contain lycopene and have been shown to fight ailments such as cancer and asthma. Good stuff.

Awesome spring-like weather comes to TN. Don't you love it?

Let the games begin

I love the Olympics. When can a true sports junkie tune in all night long to watch such a huge variety of international competition than during the Summer Olympiad? I'm totally thrilled to see the amount of TV coverage of the events, both live and recorded. Over 1400 hours of TV coverage will be available on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Oxygen, Telemundo, and specific digital channels for basketball and soccer.

Most people watch the condensed prime time NBC version but that will never include live coverage since the games are in Beijing, China. Live coverage usually starts at 1 am and runs all night long. Opening ceremonies will be broadcast on NBC tonight and live coverage starts Sat at 1 am with a wide variety of sports including boxing, soccer, fencing, shooting, badminton, and equestrian. The coverage will run all night long and includes a rebroadcast of the prime time show. I know this is odd, but I just love watching an unfamiliar sport contested live during the Olympics. You might find me up at 3 am watching the men's whitewater kayaking final, or the judo competition... heck, I'll even watch fencing, table tennis, handball or trampoline. I love it all.

T V schedule is on the NBC Olympics website.

Some of the highlights of USA athletes to look for:
  • USA swimmer Michael Phelps, arguably the best swimmer in history, could win 8 gold medals. His 8 event, 17 race schedule is one of the most ambitious athletic feats in Olympic history. The Speedo company is offering a $1,000,000 prize to Phelps if he can match Mark Spitz feat of winning 7 gold medals.
  • The USA Basketball team was defeated in 2004 in Athens, but this year with Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, they've made it clear nothing less than gold will be acceptable.
  • One of my favorite sports, track and field, will feature an incredible field of 100 meter sprinters. We could see a world record. USA's Tyson Gay just ran a 9.68 in the trials - which would have shattered the world record but was wind-aided. Nevertheless, the fastest 100m ever. He will face 2 Jamaicans, world record holder Hussein Bolt (9.72) and former world record holder, Asafa Powell. Both these guys have run in the 9.7's. The winner of this race usually can claim the title of "world's fastest man."
  • Being a "masters level" athlete (old guy that still competes), I'm particularly partial to the older athletes who have maintained superlative physical condition and are competing in the Olympics while in their 40s. USA swimmer Dana Torres (41) and USA polevaulter Jeff Hartwig (40) will represent the USA. Hartwig competed for the USA team in 1996. His personal best is 19'9 1/4".

These are the real athletes. Those who have the magic combination of being physically gifted, determined, and have been disciplined over the long haul to sacrifice whatever it took to achieve through dedicated physical training ... (not like the guys who drive cars round and round on a track). Let's hope for the best, these athletes have earned their moment in the spotlight