March 8, 2008

"Save the Ta Ta's"

One of those Races
To explain, the title of this post is of a sign I saw today as I was warming up for "The Rouge's" Race for the Cure. In typical Louisiana style, the atmosphere surrounding this race and event was like a pink Mardi Gras parade created to stomp out breast cancer. This gentleman who's wife (according to his shirt) had survived a battle with breast cancer and he was holding a sign with some "questionable" depictions of breasts with the saying "Save the Ta Ta's" on it. I did the usual double take and busted out laughing! I give him and his wife props for using humor to break through the shell that can surround "Save the Ta Ta's!"

The event held a survivors walk and a 5K run, which I decided sort of spur of the moment to run. I was just going to use this as another workout on my week and not register, but at the last minute changed my mind. Boy was I glad I did. I had a good race (for me) and it was a good 5K race to boot.

I started the race well and was in second most of the race until Sam Mapes (a rather good older gentleman here in "The Rouge") passed me at around mile two. I stayed on his pace about 5 feet behind him for a couple of minutes. We caught the lead runner and at this point I was about to just say "Zac, settle for second" cause I was hurting good. But about that time Sam gave a grunt, (a noise at least) and I knew that he was hurting more than I was at that point. So, in a "Saving the Ta Ta's" surge, I pulled even with Sam and held it till the end. Came across at around 17:30, which was a new road pr for me. I've run 15:50 before, but that was in XC back in the day (HS). So it was a good race, though I know that the big guns of "The Rouge" did not show up for this race, but a win is still a win.

Oh, did I mention that it was in the 30's (F) when this race started and there was a dusting of snow on the cars when I woke up? "The Rouge" March? I think Al Gore was lying, wheres the global warming? :-P (just wait till summer, I'll take that last comment back!)
Have a good rest of the weekend

March 7, 2008

Stilettos + Pancakes = Women Racing

"The Rouge" in which has seen some crazy weather, with a tribute to the female athletes out there. First, a quick recap of this weather...Yesterday I ran our 6x400m workout in just shorts. It was about 70 degrees (F) and was gorgeous out, thought slightly humid. During the course of the night the temperature dropped and continued to drop. Today, there is the possibility of snow and the high temperature was this morning at 1 A.M. This is "The Rouge" its not supposed to snow here!

Flat as a Pancake
No, I'm not talking about my home state (Kansas) in which I have recieved so much grief from mewalt and Kwags this week. All in the name of good humor I am told...haha. Anways, back to the meat of this blog in which is a tribute to the female runners who partake in some crazy running events.

I'm going to admitt that women have some racing traditions that are just crazy. Earlier this year, Liberal, KS held its annaul pancake race. This race is an annual event that pits the top time from Liberal against the top time from Olney, England. The particpants run a 415 yard (~400 meters) while carrying a frying pan (usually with a pancake in the pan) over the course.

The tradition originally started in England, where the day was known as "Pancake Day" which was usually held prior to the Lenten period. Liberal challenged Olney in 1950 to a friendly trans-Atlantic race after seeing pictures in a magazine. A Liberal teen won the race by three seconds with a winning time of 1:03.

Shopping IS a Sport!
This next race takes the cake as what might just be the ultimate fashionista girl race in the world. It is definantly the race that is the worst on your ankles! Today, in Amsterdam, the third annual Stiletto Run was held on the famous Amsterdame fashion street PC Hooft street. A 125 racers lined up to race the 350m race with a grand prize of what I believe is 10,000 Euro's. The racers must wear a minimum of a 9cm heel, the rest of the outfit is up to them. Now I will say I have never wore high heels and have never done a run in a pair, but I commend these girls for having ankles of steel. If you check out the video below (from 2007) these girls run like they are in racing flats, not 3 inch heels. My ankles just hurt watching this race. Hurt I tell you! Crazy what women will do for shopping money...crazy! Have a great weekend!

March 6, 2008

All Things Dominica

Today is a quick recap of some little bits and pieces coming out on the news wires from Dominica. I was hoping to get a transcript or a recap on Skerrit's speech a week or so ago, but no such luck. Anyways, if you have anything of interest, hit me up!

Heritage and Ecology Center
This week, the government of Dominica presented a cheque to Dr. Lennox Honeychurch to help in the establishment of the Carbits Heritage and Ecology Center. This was the first installment of the estimated $2 million dollar project.

Built between 1765 and the 1820s, the Cabrits Garrison was constructed to defend Portsmouth harbor. It was abandoned in 1854 and lost to the forest until restoration began in the 1980s. Carbits is designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The Cabrits Garrison was built between 1765 and the 1820s to guard the Portsmouth harbour and the north of Dominica. It served as a battleground between British and French forces in the 18th and 19th centuries for control of Dominica. It was abandoned in 1854 and the forest reclaimed the volcanic headland until restoration began in the 1980s.

This phase (courtesy of Caribbean Net News) will include"
  • Completion of Officers’ Quarters
  • Repairs to Guard House and storage shed
  • Restoration of Powder Magazine for displays and exhibitions
  • Restore Troops Barracks to create camp facilities for Heritage and Ecology Center
The north part of the island, where this is located, is the part of Dominica in which I ventured the least. I have been to Portsmouth once, but it rained the entire day and I took up shelter in a local bar to wait out the rain. If you ever get a chance to visit Portsmouth be sure to take a boat ride up the Indian River, absolutely amazing trip!

Not Flying High
The one thing that is both a blessing and a curse to Dominica is its lack of an international airport. Its a blessing as it limits the total number of people who can visit the island in any given year. This also limits the number of tourists that can contribute to the economy, but those that do arrive on the island, contribute a significant per capital input of capital while on the island.

I believe that there is now only one, maybe two, airlines that services the small Caribbean islands such as Dominica, LIAT. I was unaware, until recently, that Caribbean Star and Caribbean Sun airlines had sold out or merged with LIAT, essentially giving LIAT a monopoly on all flights two and from Dominica. Recently, LIAT has been suffering a shortage of pilots, staff, and maintenance crews, creating a backlog and severe delays and cancellations. Dominica, and many other countries are voicing their concerns about the operations at LIAT, wondering if they are fit to hold up their end of the tourism chain. Its a shame that you can't have a reliable service in the Caribbean without having a major international airport. If you have any information or horror stories about LIAT, let me know!

Dominica the Next "Terror Island"
Finally is an interesting article that has generated a moderate amount of spin on some regional news sites. Coming out of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (whatever that is???) is an article looking, what the author says, is striking resemblances between Dominica and 1980's Grenda. In the 1980's, under the Regan administration, Grenda was invaded militarily to overthrow a leftist government under the guise of protecting U.S. students (which was a joke). The author tries to make the claim, that in the event of a McCain win in this years presidential election, Dominica would be a ripe candidate for some sort of strong arming or military mission of the U.S. government.

The articles arguments hinge on the close relationships between Dominica and leftist countries Cuba and Venezuela, who's presidents are staunch (to put it lightly) critic of US foreign policy. Yes, one could surmise that these relationship does have its interesting quirks, but to state so boldly that Dominica is the next "Terror Island" is an utter joke. I take offense at the authors statements of "grinding poverty" and the islands lack of "natural resources." So if you don't have gold, oil, or diamonds in which rich white countries (I'm white by the way) can come and exploit for their personal gain, you have no natural resources? I guess having potable water right out of the majority or streams is not a valuable natural resource. How about Dominica ranking in the top 5 countries of whose population is happiest?

Dominica should take caution in who they deal with, but this is the case for any country. To make the assumption that Dominica is in the next Axis of Evil is overblown, who else would be in that new Axis of Evil, Martinique and Canada? One good thing this article does point out is how Roosevelt Skerrit came to power and some of the hardships Dominica has faced. But one thing Dominica does not have is "grinding poverty," instead, to quote Steve, Dominica has Grinding Greenery!

March 5, 2008

Sad Carib Day

On my very first trip to Dominica in March of 2006, I was able to meet several Carib Indians, the indigenous tribe on Dominica. One such individual was Martin Etienne and his wife Queen and their son Leon. Martin was one of those individuals that when he smiled you could not help but know that he genuinely cared about anyone who stopped to say hi. He was full of knowledge and the workings of life. During the time we had with Martin, he took us up this twisting river path to a set of waterfalls that few people outside of Dominica have seen. Not only was he generous to have cleared the path of debris and overgrowth ahead of our visit, guide us to the waterfall, he also carried Little O (my professors son) on his shoulders back down the trail for a good long distance without breaking a sweat. More than I could have ever done :-)

Martin passed away today, unfortunately I do not know more around the circumstances of his death. He will be missed and to any of you who have met the Carib people, you know how generous and nice these people are. My thoughts go out to Queen and Leon and wish them the best in these troubled times. And to Martin, we'll miss you. Peace man!

March 4, 2008

"Spring" in my step...

Spring is in the air here in "The Rouge" and the weather has been as predictable as the price of oil. Monday it was 80 degrees (F) and the high today was 58 degrees (F) at midnight. The daytime high was in the 40's and the wind had a slight chill. Its been that way for weather lately and it makes for wardrobe choice for the day very difficult. However, spring truely is around the corner. The hardwoods down here are sprouting their new leaves, wildflowers are blooming, and many of the migratory birds that were around have started to migrate back north. So all of your northern folks be ready, warmth and spring time is right around the corner!

Up a Canal without any Water

The Panama Canal is a modern human marvel that was finished by US in 1914. It is a vital node in world trade, with nearly 4 percent of all commerce in goods passing through the locks in a given year. As more manufactured flood from overseas, the need for bigger, more efficient ships has been met with a roadblock.

The Panama Canal, built in the early part of last century, simply cannot accommodate these super ships. Earlier this year, Panama began an renovation of the canal by building bigger and deeper locks to accommodate these larger ships. But, it appears that mother nature may have a trump card before all is said and done. The canals links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans across Panama. But the system depends on gravity, meaning that the locks used to raise and lower ships, depend on freshwater lakes at higher elevations to supply the water needed. The locks use between 50-55 million gallons of freshwater to transit one ship from the Atlantic to the Pacific and uses roughly 3 times more water than the city of Los Angeles on a given day.

If scientists are correct, the influence of climate change on El Nino could affect the amount of rainfall that occurs in these lakes catchment area, drastically lowering the amount of available water. El Nino's typically bring drought to the area creating shortages of water needed for the canal. The new locks however, will use a new system that recycles roughly 60% of the water used for each lock, reducing the total consumption of water to lift or lower a ship. But if El Nino's do occur at greater and more prolonged intervals (as predicted) ships really could be up a canal without any water...

March 3, 2008

Jaded Olympics and the Vladinator

Summer Olympic Medals
This summer, as many of you know, the world will converge on China for a couple of weeks of intense competition of endurance, strength, grace, and a little bit of luck. I am stoked for this years Olympics with my hopes riding high for the distance events for the U.S. We should be sending a strong delegation, aimed at winning multiple medals in several events in which we have suffered as of late. *cough* 1500 meters anyone? we're not here to discuss how well we will do as a team at the Olympics, but about the bling that we will be bringing home.

This years medals will have inlays of traditional Chinese jade, and I find the design of the medals very striking. I am impressed with the intricate details of a modern Olympic medal that keeps with several Chinese traditions. Each medal will have an inlay of gem quality jade on the reverse side of the medal. The world renowned jade has just been finished being carved and will be sent to the Shanghai mint where the medals will be cast in June. White jade will be used in the gold medals, a light white-green jade for the silver, and a solid green for the bronze.

Overall a very striking look for what will hopefully be a great Olympics, better than the Torino donuts of 2 years ago. BUT if I were good enough, which I'm not, to have a shot of winning a medal, it could look like a lump of coal, I'd still sing the Star and Stripes and wear it around my neck!

P3: Rise of the Putin
I know I know, Putin is no longer going to be the President of Russia, but I just had to say my piece on the elections of this past weekend. Vladimir Putins hand picked successor to the Russian presidency, Dmitri Medvedev, won in a landslide. And, just like a village below a landslide, there was no chance of Russia escaping a Medvedev victory.

Medvedev should have won easily with all of the media he was able to grab. Its not like the state run media favorably gave Medvedez preferential treatment or anything. I give Putin credit for pulling Russia out of the doldrums when the Ruble was worth about as much as toilet paper. Bolstered by rising energy prices and smart economic management (aka government strong-arming) Russia is now reemerging from its shadow of the super power it once was and becoming a big time power in world politics. Hopefully Medvedev will work on ties with the West and when he takes term, he will embrace Obama (I know, getting hopeful here) as a friend and set many wrongs that have been had between our two great nations!

March 2, 2008

"The Rouge" Weekend Update

I decided to forgo yesterdays blog and just join into one weekend round up blog for today. The focus is on some developments that are happening in and around "The Rouge." The leading picture is of Snugs (Short for Snuggles) who, a few weeks back, was my tool runner and companion when I was working on my car. She would sit on my stomach and ride the cart under the car with me and make sure I put the oil plug back in. She is mewalts new addition to the family but Snugs' sister, the sun worshiper, Chiquita is not pictured.

Redlight Camera Program
The Baton Rouge Red light Camera program started recently and is netting offenders left and right. I noticed yesterday (Saturday) that there was another camera being put up on the main road I use to commute into work (Airline Hwy) , so no more risky runs through that intersection for me. These cameras capture an image of vehicles that enter the intersection with a steady red signal. If the offender is caught, the person receives a ticket in the mail for $117 (US). One camera is operational with an additional four to follow. It will be interesting to see how much money is generated from these tickets and whether or not the Parish will use that money to time our lighting better. Congestion is a big problem during commutes and the lights are timed so poor, that it only helps to exacerbate the problem.

Google StreetView Car Runs Rampant
There has been some recent spotting of the cars that run around cities snapping GPS points and pictures for Googles StreetView program in Google Maps. Apparently mewalt has seen the car that is patrolling "The Rouge" several times, but I just recently spotted it. Its the not the best looking vehicle, but the odd alien antenna on top of the car makes it much more impressive. If you have not played with StreetView yet, I recommend it. Its some pretty impressive technology and I see lots of potential applications of it. So if you see these strange looking cars driving around, don't worry, we're not being invaded...yet! (Picture from Anthonut)

Apple in "The Rouge"
For all the Apple fanboys here in "The Rouge" their prayers have been answered. Apple announced the the Apple Store will open on March 6th in a soft opening for the Mall of Louisiana's new addition, The Boulevard. It will be nice to have a good Apple store around, may they will run some sweet promotions to get us in the door, then again, maybe not. But nonetheless, it means easier access to all things Apple, or for me, all things Ipod.
Finally, I participated in the Tortoise and Hair 5K on Saturday here in "The Rouge." It was a perfect running morning and a good turn out for the cause. The run is used as an awareness and fundraiser for the autoimmune disease Alopecia areata (al-oh-PEE-sha air-ee-AH-tah) that results in partial to complete hair loss. There is a local girl here in "The Rouge" that has the disease and is an avid high school runner and it is her family and friends that help to put on the race.
The race went well, but I have not been training consistently at all since my last half marathon of 2007 in December. Its just been really hard trying to be consistent in a manner that will allow me to run fast! Andrew Huston is running well, very very well down here. He blasted a course record in 15:38 and improved his road 5K PR by several seconds. I on the other hand came in a meager 18:19, but was fast enough to win my age group. It makes me realize that I need to get in better 5K shape, as its roughly as fast as I have ever ran for 5K on the road. On the flip side, my fasted 5K is ~15:50, so I need to get in gear. Hope you all had a great weekend and I'll catch you on the flip