Saturday, December 30, 2006

Old Year, New Year

I was hoping to get one last bike ride in this year, but this morning is my last chance...and it is kinda foggy out. This matters because I am fairly risk averse when it comes sharing the road with cars that are way, way bigger than my little Trek. With limited visibility out there, I would be a sitting duck (I say as I literally hear some geese squawking as they fly overhead...yes, I have the windows open...the temperature outside is great, for this time of the year..."The hole in the ozone layer is all right by me"...).

So rather than bike this morning, what I will do is...talk about biking! (I know, Des..."you can talk about it better if you do it.") For the year, I ended up pedaling 1356 miles. That's not a lot by serious biker standards, but, for me, it happens to be a personal best. I don't see myself adding too much to that total any time soon, because it would require a ratcheting up of commitment. As it stands right now, those miles mainly come from commuting to and from campus a couple of times a week, a well as regular weekend rides with Team Balla. To cover a lot more ground would require eating into our other leisure pursuits, which I just ain't willing to do at this point.

What I am willing to do is vary my training practices a bit. My current routine mixes bike rides with trips to the gym to work out and a little bit of running thrown in for good measure. I think the next thing to do will be to add some swimming into the mix. Why swimming? OK...here's my fitness goal for the new year...compete in a triathlon! As you might know, triathlons are a mix of swimming, biking, and running. After the first of the year, I will begin to follow some canned training regimen (mental note...need to pick one out), with an eye to completing a triathlon in late spring/early summer.

So there you have it...now that I have said it, maybe, just maybe I will actually do it...

Xin nian kuai le! (Come on...you can figure that one out...just look at the calendar...)

~Steve

Friday, December 29, 2006

Here Comes Duke...

According to Sports Illustrated, the 4th best venue in all of sports is Cameron Indoor Stadium. Now, Desi can tell you what I think of lists like this...Need I say it?...Not very much. But, for what it's worth, only Yankee Stadium, Augusta National, and Michie Stadium are ranked by SI above that little ole gymnasium on the campus of Duke University.


For Desi and I, Cameron actually ranks as numero uno (back me up, Desi...). Over the six years that we lived in Durham, we watched somewhere in the vicinity of 90 games on what is now known as Coach K Court. A few of our favorite moments:

Jeff Capel hitting that half court shot against the Tar Heels.

Bobby Hurley breaking the NCAA career assist record.

"Shaq can't dunk!"

And these were just the moments when there was a game being played in Cameron. We also watched, on a big screen, Duke win the 1991 and 1992 national championships. And we also saw one of the best live performances of any kind, when Coack K addressed the crowd after the team had lost to UConn in the 1999 Final Four. Coming out of that speech was like the aftermath of a vintage Springsteen concert...you felt glad to be alive, no matter what life might be dishing out.

Now, after all of these years, it is time for the next generation of Ballas to get their formal introduction to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Oh sure, they have been to Midnight Madness and to a practice or two, but soon Julie and Z will take in their first game at Cameron. (Thanks Pete!) Trust me, guys...it will be better than the MCI Center! And may it be the first of many...

~Steve

Monday, December 25, 2006

And Then There Were Ten

I'm thinking of a particular episode of Seinfeld where Kramer is entertaining some Japanese businessmen. At night he has them sleep in his living room in a large chest of drawers.

Where am I going to put ten people in my little house? Where's everyone going to sleep? Will they mind being hamsters like Steve and the kids and I are on a regular basis? A couple of hotel rooms are not an option since the point is to be together. And we have been for almost 24 hours now. Surprisingly, we have been successful so far at enjoying the peaceful splendor of the holidays.

The keys to hosting a party this size in a house this size are quite clear:
#1 Stagger bathroom trips and showers. In a house with one bathroom, this is a "must."
#2 Serve plenty of food. With everybody eating all the time, no one can complain when their mouths are full.
#3 Take a few "field trips." Getting everyone out and about provides relief from "cabin fever."
#4 Have a few good movies on hand. "Olive the Other Reindeer" is a particular favorite and it spans the generations in its humor.
#5 Make sure you are stocked up on paper products...no further explanation needed.
#6 A full wine rack may come in handy.

All in all, having 10 "good sports" in closed quarters makes for a wonderful, memorable holiday. The chance for all-important family bonding can happen in a variety of ways...some when you least expect it. There is no doubt that Martha Stewart would cringe at this situation and my suggestions but she is more than welcome to c'mon over and join our "cozy" Christmas extravaganza!

~Desi

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Feast for a (Moroccan) King

So as you can see from the picture, the 2006 Balla Family Invasion continues. Welcome Andrew and Allyson! For Grammy and Grampy, a nice treat...both kids and all three grandkids together. As an added bonus, it's Andrew's birthday. I'll tell you how many years, but only in Mandarin...san shi qi nian. As the birthday boy, it was his choice, from an array of top notch ethnic dining spots that Desi and I presented.

Wisely (right Grammy?), he chose Taste of Morocco, a cool place in downtown Silver Spring (Sprung?). Here was the package meal we selected:

Soup (Harrira or Lentils)
Royal Salad (Cucumber Salad, Carrot Salad, Eggplant Salad, Rice Salad, Hummus)
Bastilla
Veggie Couscous
Lamb with Raisin and Almond
Chicken with Lemon and Olives
Moroccan Mint Tea
Moroccan Pastries
Fresh Fruit Basket

Needless to say, we will be munching on leftovers tonight!

And all of this was in a setting of Moroccan wall murals and pottery, comfy sofas and pillows, Moroccan music, and...a belly dancer! Try balancing a sword on your head and belly...

All in all, quite an experience, food and beyond.

~Steve