Monday, February 28, 2011

The Cruelest Season

All week, the media were abuzz with the thrilling news that the Bay Area would see snowfall by Friday night. Even San Francisco residents expected to see a dusting of snow, setting off a flurry of homages to those rare snowy days of yore.

As expected, the Arctic system brought heavy rain and cold temperatures to the area for the week. Friday was to be cold, with the snow to fall that night. The rain arrived, the cold descended.

And then, nothing.

Friday night, temperatures dropped below freezing, but under crystal clear skies, each twinkling star a mocking beacon of non-precipitation. We awoke Saturday to a winter wonderland of temperatures in the twenties, sparkling frost everywhere, and the clearest of clear skies. Sunday was more of the same. Frosty morning and glorious sunshine.

The final indignity is that everyone we know in Burbank was raving about the historically rare and exciting snow they got. Our snow. What did we get? Gloriously sunny skies, perfect for baseball games and spring gardening.

Life is so unfair.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Distant Early Warning

A Silicon Valley startup (of course) has come up with an earthquake warning system. The device detects the "P" waves that humans cannot sense and sends out a warning, giving people a brief amount of time (less than a minute) to find cover before the slower-moving but destructive "S" waves hit. The amount of warning depends on the distance between the device and the epicenter. The system can be set up to automatically shut off utilities, send warnings to schools and turn on hospital generators. In view of the scenes of destruction and loss coming out of New Zealand this week, any amount of warning would be welcome.

There is no truth to the rumor that the device looks like this:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Time To Start Shopping For Scholarships

I am soon to be the parent of a high school student. If I seem distracted from time to time, if I occasionally sleep poorly, this graph may be part of the reason why:

Monday, February 14, 2011

These Are The Days We'll Remember

Our annual February heatwave hit its climax this weekend. Even though Saturday dawned below freezing, by midafternoon we basked in 70° weather under clear blue skies. We made the most of it.

Saturday started early with Michael's last basketball game for the season. We were up against a team that had annihilated us in the first game and which had gone on to an undefeated season. Our boys played extremely tough, keeping them from scoring through most of the first quarter. The other team played a difficult pressing defense, and we did not get the opportunity to run very many of our offenseive set plays, but we hung tough. We also made six free throws at halftime to pull within two points. The other team opened up a lead in the third quarter when we were unable to score and they got a few easy fast-break opportunities. We tightened up our play in the fourth quarter, though. Only a bad shooting day, affected in part by the other team’s tight defense, kept us from putting a real scare into the opponent. Nevertheless, we held them to fewer points and we scored more points than in the first game. More significantly, we played substantially better basketball throughout the game than we did in the first game. We played tight defense, we rebounded the ball, we had fewer turnovers, we made more than half of our free throws overall, we managed to run a few of our set plays late in the game, and I never sensed that the referees were calling the game unevenly to hold the other team in check or give us a boost up.

Michael was not feeling well the morning of the game, but gave his usual dogged effort at point guard and shooting guard. Other than a halftime free-throw, he did not score, unfortunately, but he had a positive effect on the game. He handled the other team's press well, consistently making long, accurate passes to the teammate left open by the double-team press. I have a fun photo sequence of Michael bringing the ball down the court after a steal in which he changes direction to throw off two of his three pursuers, eventually ending up surrounded by all five members of the other team. In one of the more remarkable sequences of the year, Michael was stripped of the ball while on offense, chased down the player with the ball in the opposite corner of the court deep in our defensive end, cleanly stole the ball back, and threw an outlet pass most of the length of the court to a teammate for a fast-break that led to a foul and two free throws. Great stuff.

Looking for the open man

Moving without the ball on a double screen

As parents, we were uniformly delighted with the excellent coaching our boys received and the success they showed on the court. I think nearly all of the boys came away from the season enjoying basketball far more than they did when the season started.

After basketball, Michael and I spent the quickly-warming early afternoon at baseball practice. Few sporting activities are as pleasant as two hours in the sunshine on a baseball field. It's not like you have to exert yourself much, you know.

Picture day two weeks ago

Weekday practice earlier this week

After bringing Michael home, I changed out of my baseball gear and took Kelly to a local park to prepare her for her volleyball league evaluation. We spent nearly two hours in a beautiful park enjoying each other's company and working out the kinks of a three-month volleyball layoff. Kelly's skills came back quickly as she hit serve after serve over the net in the sand volleyball court framed by redwood trees.

Taking a break from working out

On Sunday, Kelly's evaluation went very well, as she displayed excellent skills in all phases of the game. I then put my baseball gear back on and Michael and I headed out for another two hours of baseball practice.

My throwing shoulder is sore, and I wasn't quite able to finish pruning one of our trees in between all of the activities. Years from now, though, that's not what I will remember.