Wednesday, December 20, 2006

O for Oxygen

I've covered 87k since my last post - the birth year of my ED. She got her 1st year Communications Degree results back this week: 2 passes and two credits. Good news. My son got his School Certificate results too - 1 x band 4, 4 x band 5, 1 x band 6. That is excellent, and unexpected. He was delighted, and wasted no time in pressuring ex-Mrs BB for an upgraded Ipod for Christmas. I think he'll do well in the business world.

Mrs BB spent two days last week in Emergency at Westmead Hospital with Acute Epiglottitis. For you laymen, this meant she couldn't breathe and required oxygen mask, steroids, antibiotics and a gaggle of attendants. Pretty scary, and our house was thrown into turmoil, but thankfully she is now okay but shaken. I enjoyed the role of Mr Mom for a few days but don't know where the time went. I couldn't do it AND hold down a job too, like many women...

I've done some long runs and short runs, keeping the goal in sight but really, I've been more concerned over her health and recovery. It freaked us all out that a viral/bacterial combination could wreak such havoc in five hours. At least her fitness and general health enabled her to swiftly respond to the excellent treatment. She has resumed walking in the mornings, and - most importantly - her positive approach.

Still, Christmas is coming and that's good news for most of us. If I don't post beforehand, Merry Christmas to everyone and a very Happy, Healthy and satisfying 2007 from the BB's...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Meet Max Buffett

We are pleased to announce a new member of the Buffett household: Max. He is a four year old Jack Russell, very good natured and still very nervous. YD has wanted a dog for some time, as has Mrs BB, so I saw reason and agreed. A puppy would take a lot of training, and YD is a little scared of dogs to begin with, so an adult dog it would be. We always wanted to help a dog who had no home and an unlikely future. We started with the RSPCA last weekend, saw one online but then in situ found it to be too large and - most importantly - like Superman: able to leap tall fences at a single bound. Tyson is a Foxy cross, and in the Last Chance Club, so we hope someone takes him.
The internet to the rescue again:
pointed us to Max (briefly named Joey, as the carer was simply working her way through the alphabet).
He was rescued from a pound in Canberra and transported to the JR carers in Sydney. It would appear he has been poorly treated by his previous owners; he flinches a little when we try to pat him, and is unsure of his surroundings at first. Still, we have time. He is currently sitting comfortably - and coolly - under the pergola, water dish filled and chilled to 4 degrees, Schmackos on call and toys galore to explore when he settles properly. YD is beyond excitement, Mrs BB is very pleased, and even Son likes the idea a lot. He has already phoned ex-Mrs BB requesting something similar. Oh dear!
Max will probably remain unsure of his surroundings for a while yet - just look at his track record: unloved somewhere in Canberra, dumped(?) and put into the pound, rescued and driven back to Sydney, boarded at JR rescuers' expense at Vineyard, and now relocated to Kellyville Ridge. He will no doubt soon discover the joys of being severely pampered and indulged, although sadly a quiet dip in the swimming pool remains verboten...
Running this past week has been unremarkable in its length, frequency or location. Still, enough k's were travelled to beat, on Wednesday, my 2004 all time record for a year. So, I have run more this year than any other year. My other challenges for this remain as per last post: beat Dec 2004 record k's, and complete the Hills Athletics Club 3k t/t on Wed 20/12.
65k last week:
* Clean Streets of KR: Mon 8k, Tue 9k, Wed 9k , Fri 10k all just before 6am - beautifully fresh and reasonably quiet, other than the peaceful sounds of builders commencing on job sites
* Sat Rouse Hill Clean Streets: 12k before 8am - noticeably warmer, with traffic flowing I decided to do the loop which leads to the new sports complex on Commercial Rd. Did a lap inside the perimeter on the bike path, watching the budding baseballers (about under 9s) while enjoying the sound and smell of the bushland nearby.
* Sun Home/Quakers Hill/Riverstone: 17k at 9am. Not a pleasant run, rather one Run With A Purpose. I decided to go a little later so the family could pick me up from Riverstone library and then head off to Vineyard, just up the road, to meet Joey, who quickly became Max Buffett.
Great. Unfortunately, I didn't check the forecast too closely today, and assumed the heat wouldn't arrive until lunchtime. In fact, it had caught an early flight and was waiting, fully briefed, at the front door. A gregarious entity, it accompanied me for each of the 17k's, whispering and cajoling, suggesting I should perhaps, in common lingo, "give it a miss". Runners are made of sterner stuff, so I manfully plodded on, and quietly collapsed in a shivering heap in the library carpark. YD studied me carefully, handed me a cold water, and immediately asked "can we see Joey now?"
So a new era dawns...
Book reading has resumed with a diminished intensity for now: Alys Clare's Girl In A Red Tunic (#8 in series). Set in 1193, it continues the story of Josse d'Acquin and his friend Abbess Helewise of Hawkenlye Abbey in SE England near Tonbridge, around the time of Richard The First's incarceration and ransom. There are a few series set in this time; the ones I read all manage to put a different perspective on the issue. I'm afraid the romanticised version of Richard the Lionheart, beloved monarch of the English, is a little twee for a ruler who didn't speak English, barely set foot in England and seemed to treat the English Treasury as some sort of on-tap dispensary. The old joke still holds true: Coeur de Lion was really no closer than Gare de Lyon.
Listening to music at home is following a familiar path: I am greeted by any number of Christmas CD's doing the rounds of the CD carousel. For a well-earned respite, I have "Space Oddity" by D Bowie in the car.
As a final segue: I will be picking up a new car in January, as the company car has done three years service and is being re-homed. Unless I want to take a Novated Lease (and I don't want to be the Fleet Manager of one car), the choice is simple: a Holden Omega, my choice of colour. Mrs BB likes Impulse Metallic or Vespers Blue, so they're in the running...
"Exit, stage left"

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ballina Beckons Buffetts (danger - long post)

As mentioned in my previous post, we recently holidayed on the Far North Coast NSW. Well... Ballina.

Since we had 80% of the family along, we decided to pace ourselves, and stay overnight at Port Macquarie outbound and homeward. Flynns Beach Resort got the nod. Friday 24/11 10am we headed off, stopping at Bulahdelah for a brief lunchbreak, and made Port by 3pm. After a refreshing swim poolside for YD and Son, we relaxed as I mentally prepared for an early Saturday run.

At 5:45am Minersrun hosted a special "welcome to Port" 10k run for the two of us, and I must say that his Bootcamp was pretty tough: lots of hills, sand and rough terrain. See his blog for more accurate details. The view from Harry's Lookout was most spectacular, although we did it the hard way GoGirl: from the beach steps up - no easy stroll in from the road with ice cream!

Miners is a veritable font of local history, and a great running companion too. Thanks heaps AL!

Heading further north, we lunched at Maclean (och aye), a picturesque Scottish town with beautiful views to the Yamba coast from Pinnacle Rock. Those watching the camera had great views. Note the Carlton FC top - true supporters stay true even when the team is going badly and their top player is a meathead who gets thrown out of Irish pubs (oh, and it's BUFFETT not Buffet - as in Jimmy Buffett, not smorgasboard. More interesting than a variation on Sunshine Money).

Arriving in Ballina and checking in to the Ballina Ramada Riverside, we were a little surprised to see a navy ship outside our balcony, although soon realised it was here for the 2006 Naval Reunion in Ballina, with a rather large function held a few doors up at the RSL. We waved goodbye a few days later.

While in Ballina, we did a few drives to check out Skennars Head/Lennox Head, and Alstonville to Lismore. The thing that sticks in my mind most about Lismore is that it was about 42 degrees and stifling. Inspected Xavier College High School at Skennars Head in preparation for YD's years 7-12 (shh.. don't tell her) and also found a new development called Ballina Heights, which is really part of Cumbalum. On today's pricing, it looks good: 10 min from Ballina with views across the ranges to Lennox Head, and a brand new 4br/study/pool air con house on 920 sq m is going for about $500k. That sounds good to me. I always like to get a lot of change.
We didn't go crazy driving up and down the coast though. Sort of hung out at the hotel a lot and swam in the indoor pool, watched cable and chatted. And had a couple of glasses of White Shiraz. We did make Shelleys Beach one day, and had it to ourselves, so I was able to
a. get Son to dive for the tennis ball in waves
b. help YD in her second-only experience of small surf

Ballina has many attractions. No Drop Bears, though, Marcia, but thank you for the timely warning!

I was hoping to get in a run with CR Lennox Loper, but our voicemails kept crossing and it never happened. Maybe next time Peter?

I still managed some good runs while there, and the courses were very motivating:
* 17k Ballina North Creek loop - just avoiding the Ballina Triathlon race series that Sunday. It's a great course, taking in Chickiba and Prospect Lakes, as well as North Creek. Best of all, most of it is bitumen bikepath.
* 18k Ballina Heights bikepath - northwest out of town, and it's how I found the new estate. A bit worried about the last 500m to the estate - it's steep!
* 8k West Ballina bikepath, taking in the Richmond River. Lots of nice views and good looking houses.
* 6k Ballina central recovery run in about 35 degrees heat.
I even did some weights in the hotel gym, along with Son, who is keen to join Fitness First Norwest and build muscles. His mother is against the idea. Give me strength (get it?).. looks like I'll be adopting the same plan as for ED two years ago - pay for the first three months membership and hope he likes it. Then Mrs BB and I will be happy if some small part of the child support I pay can continue the funding if he enjoys the sessions.

We left Ballina on Thursday 30/11 and moseyed back on down the coast, stopping at Valla Beach for lunch. Back to Flynns Beach Resort. Sadly, Port was hosting the NSW Touch Footy 2006 competition that weekend, with 250 teams entering. Many of the intra-state teams appeared to be staying with us, and only the loudest and most objectionable were permitted to rent the room right next door. Still, after enjoying the card-playing and drinking antics of these sports revellers until 3:30am, I rested peacefully for 75 minutes before arising at 4:45am for a planned 5:30am 10k run with Minersrun. I ran "miners" Miners. Again, full details on his blog, but it seems the score is technology 1 body clock 0. Disappointing, but hopefully we'll catch up at a race or in Sydney.
At 6:10am I correctly suprised he would be a DNS, so headed for a 10k into town. Again, some great views along the way, and a relatively easy terrain to negotiate.
Interestingly, Mrs BB walked the same way, and we overlapped, as we wanted to get away early. Two former Baulkham Hills neighbours saw us talking to each other and experienced an incredulous moment : "what are THEY doing HERE now?"
It seems like much of Port Macquarie''s citizens were out exercising that morning - even a Bootcamp was in full swing on Town Beach. It appeared to involve an exercise in moving heavy bags from point A to point B and then back again. Slightly futile, and only minutely more beneficial than the famous Government programme of the Great Depression, whereby men were paid to dig holes and other men were then paid to fill them in. Kept them fit, employable and out of pubs I guess. I doubt Bootcamp stopped this group from drinking that evening.

Heading home, we took the scenic route around Bonny Hills and Laureton, identifying that region as potential holiday material: quiet, near water, good shops and facilities, nice homes for rent, great tracks for running...

We got back home to a scorcher, and spent the next six hours unpacking, shopping and generally resuming normal life. The weekend provided contrasting weather: humid and hot winds Saturday, cold and wet Sunday.
That meant 10k easy run Saturday around the Clean Streets, folllowed by 18k M7 run Sunday - that comforting feeling of a well-known long run.
Next week I'll be trying out one of the three new pairs of Adidas runners I got at the Adidas shop Lidcombe ( around $90 each - bargain) and resuming the challenge of working in Australia's Grocery industry as a supplier to the wonderful and mutually-rewarding supermarket chains.

Funnily enough, I hardly read any books while away. I did listen to the new Cat Stevens album (sorry, the album by Usuf) called "Another Cup". It's his first mainstream release since about 1978, and there's definitely a bit of Tea For The Tillerman about much of it. Worth a listen.

Now this last bit is really for Tesso and Robert Song especially: we watched the Countdown concert on ABC last night, and some of it was pathetic. I'm thinking Keith Lamb of Hush especially. Plus, when did Cheetah deserve a gig?
Anyway for me the best part was Alex Smith doing "What About Me?" live. He still looks good (I say that not in a gay way) and put Shannon Noll to shame yet again. No prizes for guessing Mrs BB's favourite part... Sherbet and "Summer Love". I had to be VERY quite at the end for that one - kind of like being in any RSL at 7pm every night, but perhaps with even more tension in the air. She thought Daryl and Garth looked fantastic; I thought Alan looked like an overweight warfie and that Clive Shakespeare couldn't make it so his grandfather filled in. Also (IMHO) Tony seemed even gaier that last time. Harvey was on cruise control as always.
AND... whose bright idea was it to have Swannee do lead vocals in the ensemble at the end? Why not ask Acca Dacca themselves? It really was high voltage schlock and roll.

Enough... it was an enjoyable concert (not a "musical experience". Don't you hate it when people say "enjoy your dining experience". I have good meals. I'm also NOT moving forward, on a journey or even giving you a heads up on my next ideation session).

Back home... December running plans
* set another month's PBs by doing more than 284k.
* by Wednesday, I'll have done 64k this month and so beaten my 2004 year k's record. Not that stats mean much to me...
* finally, run the 3k tt at Hills Athletics Wed 20/12. I'm looking to do under 15 minutes...

"Exit, stage left" (WHEW)