Friday, February 17, 2012

T-kun The Urban Warrior

Our hairy (first) son's name is T-kun... we've talked about him before - and indeed he's been a constant companion throughout our marriage. He's now just under 8 years old, and he's definitely a funny old fella. How to describe him? Well, Energetic... Heroic... Clever are all words that might be used... by someone that didn't know him well, that is. He is a gentle soul however. Satisfied with the gentle ebb and flow of the world and it's many mysteries. He may well be a philosopher, but if he is, it's of a particularly somnambulant variety. Then again, he often assumes a somewhat thoughtful gaze as he dozes off to sleep.

And his thoughtful gaze is almost invariably done laying on his back, which he does for hours on end. I'm not entirely sure if it's not because he can't get up, or because he's just one lazy cat. I wouldn't say that he's fat, just gravitationally challenged. Of course, it could be that he's just exhausted from all the running around he does...

As deep down in his chest, there lies the heart of a tiger. Beating strong with the desire to hunt on the plains, the soft beat of drums echoing through the heat haze....

Unfortunately, there's only one small problem with this vision. In our backyard, he's often the one being hunted....

Now T-kun is not entirely an indoor cat, but he is a backyard cat (given that he can't jump to save himself, he rarely goes out the front). He's also been, how shall I say, enhanced in a surgical way.... er... downstairs. As a result, he's never shown any interest for actually catching anything he hunts, and therefore, being a quite rational realist has never really seen much point in hunting at all. Suits us... the thought of him bringing in his sporting trophies is not something that makes us shine with pride.

Now there's a particular type of bird in Australia known as a Willie Wagtail, actually a distant relative of the crow... and what it lacks in size it makes up in complete kamikaze abandon. They are, to put it bluntly, VERY crazy birds. Especially come spring when they get all territorial... but even then, they seem to actually enjoy the teasing part more so than the warning part. It's times like these that I kinda wish that T-kun would revert just a little to his primeval instincts... if only just enough to muster just a little bit of pride.

Then again... he can't be spending his time worrying about such things as pride; not when there's thinking to be done. After all, there's only so many hours in the day.

He may not be the urban warrior of his dreams, but we love him all the more for it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

L-kun's Setsubun Adventure 2012

Note: For the observant amongst you... you might realise that L-kun's actually fighting off a tengu (rather than oni)... one of the many elements of poetic licence available when you export a tradition overseas, and when you don't have an oni mask.

Hope you enjoyed your setsubun, 3rd February, wherever you are, and however many oni you had to fight off!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tour Down Under 2012... Adelaide in Hot Pants

I've actually been struggling a little of late to dedicate time to the blogs... not least of all due to preparing our house (and lives) for the arrival of our new baby. However, life isn't all about babies. Still, it's hard to get time to not only do blogging, but also do things to blog about. One thing about Adelaide is that whilst it's a relatively small city, come the warmer months of Jan - March in particular, there's lots of things to see and do. One of those things is the Santos Tour Down Under. For those that aren't into cycling, I should perhaps explain a little.

The Tour Down Under is the first (Australian) leg of the UCI World Cycling Tour... It started in 1999 - not long after Adelaide lost the Grand Prix, and since that time has grown from strength to strength, and has become the biggest cycling event in the Southern Hemisphere. That sounds impressive, but the reality is that the world tour remains dominated by the European countries.

It's run over 7 days (the first day being a warm-up act on the first Sunday). Each day there's a different leg that features beautiful Adelaide countryside, and also some harsh Adelaide weather. The race features:

  • Day 0 - 51 km  (East End)
  • Day 1 - 149km (Clare)
  • Day 2 - 148 km (Adelaide Hills)
  • Day 3 - 134.5 km (Victor Harbour)
  • Day 4 - 134 km (Barossa Valley)
  • Day 6 - 151km (McLaren Vale)
  • Day 7 - 90 km (North Adelaide)

A Total of 857.5km over 7 days, or approximately 120 km per day. In the scheme of the Tour de France (which covers about 3,500km) it's only a baby event... but what it lacks in distance, or alps, it makes up in temperatures... with some riders experiencing 50+ degrees on the roads.

But I don't get a chance to watch much cycling these days, but I was able to pop into the city to see the last stage on Day 7 (on Sunday, the 22nd January).

It was a hot day (around 35+ degrees celsius), and the riders were initially taking it easy. In this sort of criterium racing there's little to be gained by trying to race too hard, except for points in the sprints (or if you're brave, in a breakaway). The race itself runs down King William Road, before bearing left down War Memorial Drive then up through Montifiore Road and then through North Adelaide until it returned back on to War Memorial Drive and on to the start/finish straight on King William again.

I won't discuss too much about the race, but I will say that it's a fun event with lots of people and lots of colour. Perhaps it was the heat, but this year it felt like the crowds were down a bit (and I still find it hard to believe that many of the shops in Adelaide's city centre didn't open on such a busy event day.... still, that's Adelaide for you). The good news was that this meant there were still quite a lot of good vantage points to find, though they weren't always the best for photography.

I won't write too much, but please check out the Tour's official website (linked above) to find out more...

It was good however for me to practice a different type of photography... the sports action variety. Not something that I normally do, and not something that's particularly easy to do. Very hard on cameras to focus when there's so much in frame, going so fast, and all over the shop distance wise. Still, I managed to take a couple of ok shots.

Even though riding in the peleton (the large group of cyclists that form naturally in such races) is not as difficult as it might appear averaging around 45km/hr... it's still hard work negotiating corners en-masse. 

I have to say, it was hard work out there on the bikes... and a lot of the riders were working quite hard.

And some looked like they were in real pain...

Others were doing all they could to keep it going...

And others were just gritting teeth and getting on with it.

The thing about cycling races is that it's rarely ever a solo effort. Whilst the attention almost always goes to the sprinter, or the climber, or their lead rider, it's always a team effort to get that rider where they need to be. Domestiques, or servants are there to do just that... to provide support, slip-streaming, intelligence, morale, covering breakaways, and even to use themselves like two-wheeled battering rams to clear a path to the desired place in the peloton if needed.

 In a race like the Tour Down Under, their role is less critical (than say the Tour de France), however, it remains very much a team focus. Something that can often be the difference between success and failure. But at the end of the day, it's the big guns that win tours.

And the winners, after about 2 hours of riding... well the stage was won by André Greipel (from Germany... a sprint superstar) ... but the overall general classification win, over the 6 stages, was won by Simon Gerrans of Australia in Team GreenEDGE. This is the first Australia World Tour team, and it was amazing that they should win their first tour event, at home! Well done team, and well done Simon!

Overall, it was a hot day outside, but not too bad (you could always find a shady spot), and I had a blast. You don't need to be into cycling to get sucked up by the atmosphere either. If you were in/around Adelaide at the time, I hope you enjoyed some of the racing... otherwise, there's always next year.