Saturday, July 03, 2010

Prague - Club Worlds 2020

A billboard for the Worlds tournament that we spotted on one of the trams we take everywhere.

Prague. I can't say I have ever had a burning desire to visit Prague. I have heard great things about it, but it didn't merit a special trip for me. At least it didn't until they decided to hold the Club World championships here. Now, I'm here and I'm antsy. I'm writing this to wind down the time until my first worlds game tomorrow (Sunday, July 4th) against the Czech Republic's team. My early impressions are good, but they are all clouded by the ultimate to come. We play in ten hours.

Old Town Square meets modern techonology.

Old Town street.

An imported beach resort on the Vlatava River.

As I've toured around the Prague area, I've realized I could paint three very different pictures of life here. I could show the medievil part with Old Town, the castles, and tons of cobblestone streets. I could show the communist era housing projects and crumbling buildings. I could also show how modern and livalbe the city is. The truth is that Prague is truly a mixture of all of these elements. It is amazing how the modern blends in so well with the old. My first night in town, I went to watch the USA lose to Ghana in the World Cup quarterfinals. I grabbed some cinnamin sugared roll bread. My teammates grabbed some meat on a stick. We all grabbed the nearest cobblestone to sit on while we watched the game on the big screen. It was great to have so many different nationalities gathered in one place for the simple love of the game.

Looking east across the Vltava River at Old Town

Astronomer's Clock

After a couple days of practice, resting up, and puting my bike together in the hotel, it was time to get out and explore. I headed towards the bike trails that were supposed to be on the river. I eventually found them, but Prague isn't a biking city. A few guide books agree. The rivers are great. The drivers are respectful, but there are a ton of tram rails and cobblestone streets to be wary of. I don't know the city well enough, but I'm not sure you could cross Old Town without getting a thorough bone shaking from the cobblestones. It was great to see a little bit of the city, but I think the real joy was just to be on my bike for the first time. The Astronomer's Clock is beyond me. I listened to how to tell time it, but I think it will take a few more tries until I figure it out. Until then, I'll just look at the analog clock above it if I'm in the square.

Prague Castle

The roof tops of Prague from Prague Castle.

Grilled cheese at its finest (outdoor cafe in the other corner).

St Vitus Cathedral

The one major attraction I knew to visit before coming to Prague was the castle. It is great. Since the 9th centry, it has dominated any view of the city and is even more inspiring up close. However, my favorite part of the castle might actually be the view of Prague from it or the grilled cheese I got in the fancy cafe near the entrance. Hard to say. I'll know more about the castle after I visit it with my brother, Tait, who should be joining me on Monday.

Baby art?

Penguins seem to follow me.

On the more modern side of things, I found these novelties while biking up the castle. I have no idea why there are penguins along the Vltava river or why the giant baby statues (over 2m) look like they have had an iron pressed on their face. It definitely is a good sculpture. It gets people thinking and talking. The last picture in this blog did that too. Why? You'll have to figure that out for yourself.

One of the views from our hotel.

This week has been an interesting week. While I've loved the chance to explore, I haven't enjoyed it as much as I should. I'm focused on ultimate. I'm antsy to play. It is kind of hot. I'm excited to be with my team again. I can't wait until we start tomorrow. I hope it cools off a little by then. These 30C/86F days are making me wilt. A little piece of plastic should pick me right up. Game on.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Root Down

"Not only did they have no parents, few science fiction heroes seemed to marry and have kids. In short, the heroes of most science fiction novels were perpetual adolescents, lone rangers who wandered the universe avoiding commitments. This shouldn't be surprising. The romantic hero is invariably one who is going through the adolescent phase of human life. The child phase . . . is the time of complete dependence on others to create our identity and our worldview.

... The romantic hero is unconnected. He belong to no community; he is wandering from place to place, doing good (as he sees it), but then moving on. This is the life of the adolescent, full of passion, intensity, magic, and infinite possibility; but lacking responsibility, rarely expecting to have to stay and bear the consequences of error. Everything is played at twice the speed and twice the volume in the adolescent - the romantic - life.

Only when the loneliness becomes unbearable do adolescents root themselves, or try to root themselves. It may or may not be in the community of their childhood, and it may or may not be in the childhood identity and connections that they resume upon entering adulthood. And, in fact, many fail at adulthood and constantly reach backward for the freedom and passion of adolescence. But those who achieve it are the ones who create civilization."
-Orson Scott Card's Introduction to Speaker for the Dead, p. xvi

I have a separate private blog for quotes that I want to remember. I find that quotes that stick out often reflect conversations that I am having at that time in my life. I might not agree with them, but they do give me a different way of looking at things. This quote was something I read while in Denver, CO trying to figure out what my next move in life is.

I have applied to go back to the Ice, but it isn't necessarly my number one choice anymore (I haven't heard anything from them either). I would love to find something like McMurdo back in the states where I can hang out with Sabah. I've enjoyed the Ice more each season that I am down there, but I hate leaving my dog behind. That gets tougher every time. I suspect I have separation anxiety worse than Sabah, but we'll just ignore that for now. Am I lonely? Maybe. I do know the Ice community is one of the best I have ever lived in, but finding a community like that in the USA will be hard. Communities of 1,000 in the USA don't bring quite the same diversity.

The biggest issue for me is stability. If I had a setup like Rhoda and Lenny, where I went back to my house with all of my stuff unpacked every year, I might keep going to the Ice. If I owned a house with a disconnected garage apartment and had renters in the house pay the mortgage, but I moved back into the garage when I got back, I might keep going to the Ice. If I just had some base, some stability, I might keep going. Coming back this year to no set place to stay and all of my stuff in a storage unit just wasn't what I needed. I also think that if I was doing my travels with a brother, best friend, or girlfriend, that might provide enough stability. So what do I really need? Stability, but I'm not quite sure what form that will take. I do know that I feel I have a responsibility to Sabah since I adopted her so I suspect I'll have some geographic stability to start with, but we'll see. Only time will tell. I'm booked through October.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Antarctica in the news

A little Antarctica in the news

This first article shows abandoned bases around the continent:

This second article is about running at the South Pole. Running on the coast at McMurdo is easy compared to Pole. Running in the summer is easy compared to winter. It is all relative. I know that most of the running at the Pole takes place in a very small gerbil gym. Kudos to these brave, maybe frostbitten, folks.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

En Sabah Nur 2010

University of Pittsburgh men's ultimate team, En Sabah Nur.

Anyone who knows me well knows about En Sabah Nur. They have been a family, a community, a team, a program, the namesake for my dog, and so much more to me over the years. They have probably dominated my adult life more than anything. The only annual college series I have missed of theirs since 1998 was when I was stuck in Antarctica for the winter. My first two years away from Pittsburgh, I still went to over half their tournaments. These days, I have to settle with just two, regionals and nationals. Each year, I book a ticket. Sometimes I fly from the USA, other times I return home from traveling abroad to see the latest men represent En Sabah Nur. It is always worth it to watch the battle as they have taken En Sabah Nur from a team, to a program, and hopefully one day soon, to the tgtitg.

Tyler D. dominates the air.

This post is mostly an excuse to put up some of my favorite pictures from watching these guys play in May. They are amazing. They have more skill than I could ever have imagined. They have talent. I was lucky enough to coach them for one short practice and just three weeks later, I saw them using those same tactics to win their pool at nationals. They pick things up quickly. They aren't done learning yet and I can't wait to see where they go.

Ari wasn't the fastest or tallest on En Sabah Nur, but he worked hard to make up for it. He got the job done on heart. He transferred to Pittsburgh his fifth year and we were very lucky to get him, his flare for writing, and his dad's photos.

The story of the regional final as Cornell yanks down another stall 9 huck.

This year, Sabah was up and down. After winning the Wilmington 8's, they built a lot of expectations and hype. At their first tournament in the spring, they under performed and dashed those away. However, the next tournament they built those right back up with another great performance, only to dash them away again. A lot of people weren't quite sure what En Sabah Nur would show up at Metro East regionals. The team that showed up only allowed five points a game until they played Cornell in the final. Cornell scored fifteen and won the game. Pittsburgh was playing great defense, but Cornell kept putting up these stall nine bombs and converting on them. No single bomb was a game changing play, but collectively they won it. Once again, Pittsburgh was regulated to the backdoor/2nd Place game to qualify for nationals. After doing it for so many years straight, it has unofficially been renamed the Pittsburgh Cup. They won it easily.

Danger qualifies for their first college nationals

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the Pittsburgh women's team did win their region and earned their first ever bid to nationals. They were very, very excited.

After a month of wandering, it was time to head to the USA ultimate college nationals. Last year, En Sabah Nur made it to quarterfinals for the first time before falling to Carleton, the eventual champion. This year, Pittsburgh came out firing. They were able to win their pool for the first time ever with huge wins over Colorado and Michigan. During the Colorado game, I saw them use their smarts and composure to best a team that might have been able to over match them athletically.

M. Plunkett gets up for the goal.

E. Peters get one of his many layout D's. I have so many blurry shots of him zooming through getting the block. Eddie's desire and work ethic will be missed next year.

Captain G. Zettel is interviewed by CBS College sports. I don't know much about Geoff, but through talking to the team and seeing his captaining style, I came to respect him. He has led this team to new heights.

Chowder manages to spend an entire game out hustling one of the best defenders in college ultimate, Matty on Colorado. Before the game, I would have said that Chowder might be over matched. He wasn't which shows just how far this team has evolved since the previous year.

Bob Liu brings down the game winning and pool winning score to chants of B-O-B from the crowd. I can't think of a better person to haul that goal in. Bob spent four years working his way off the B team to play on A for moments like this.

Bob, Isaac, Jay, and Colin celebrate. Right beside Bob on the B team was Jay Huerbin. Jay works. I remember playing an alumni game against Jay and the rest of the B team. Jay took it seriously. Jay took it personally no matter how badly his team was outmatched. His desire was bound to take him to the A team and I was glad to finally see it happen.

Winning the pool gave En Sabah Nur a bye to quarterfinals where they faced California. They handled California well. After Pitt pulled ahead, I'm not sure if the game was ever in doubt. Pitt seemed to control it from the beginning even if California was fighting for every inch. It felt like some of the big games that I have been in where even if you are leading, you are always worried about the other team making a late run and California was certainly capable of it. In the past, En Sabah Nur was certainly capable of letting teams do it too. This year, they seem to have learned how to really close out games. It was impressive.

Brad Bellinger gets up for the goal in his last College Nationals. His dad is in the background in yellow and, with his mother, will be sorely missed next year. The Bellingers have been stalwarts of the program for eight years, starting with Brad's older brother Brent.

A. Thorne gets up big against one of California's quickest defenders.

Captain Colin Conner celebrates their win over California and the program's first trip to semifinals.

Team celebration after the California game.

The afternoon after beating California, Pittsburgh found themselves matched up against Carleton in the semifinal. Carleton, the reigning national champion, was able to knock Pittsburgh back on their heels and score a series of quick goals. While Pittsburgh was able to recover and start trading points, even getting a few back, it was too little too late. Carleton advanced to finals where they lost to Florida. I'm really curious to see what the big game experience will give En Sabah Nur next year. I think that it, and a few adjustments, will allow them to stay composed and on the attack for the entire game. We'll know in May 2011. I can't wait.

En Sabah Nur at 2010 USA Ultimate College Nationals.

En Sabah Nur's graduating seniors. Somehow, I didn't get a picture of Chris above here. Chris does things with the disc I can only dream of. He is so good, that he was in the top 10 vote winners for this year's Callahan Award (the MVP in college ultimate).

Road Trip

When I returned from Antarctica, I embarked on a brilliant road trip, mostly around the northeastern USA. It was time based on watching En Sabah Nur play in the college series and fitting in as many friend visits as I could. A big thank you goes out to each of those friends who took time to visit me during their busy days or hosted me for a night or two. Big kudos to Dave W. for putting me up for a full week! That made my stay in Denver a lot better.

My trip started out with an entirely too short of a visit with my mom who took care of my dog, Sabah, so well while I was gone. My reunion with Sabah was brilliant. She gave me the eye for a couple seconds before poucning all over me and then following me around. I think we spent the first 10 days straight together. Yes, I do spoil her, but I missed her a ton. I was hoping for a week long visit with my mom, but that got cut short when Metro East Regionals in Princeton, NJ were moved up a week. Sabah and I got to sleep a night and then bee line it to Pittsburgh for five hours sleep and Maple Blondie ice cream compliments of Stu and Acadia before heading over to Regionals.

For some reason, I can't get the map to load of my road trip. Click here if you need a visual.

My sister, Jen, and I on a hike.

Regionals was amazing and tough. I loved meeting the new guys on the team. It was great to see them roll through their pool and play well. Unfortunately, we, En Sabah Nur (University of Pittsburgh men's ultimate), always seems to get jitters in semifinals or finals and drop a game we could or should win. En Sabah Nur lost during finals to Cornell. They were playing great D, but Cornell just kept putting up these stall 9 hucks that they also came down with. They were game changing big plays. En Sabah Nur claimed the second bid to nationals by winning the Pittsburgh Cup for the sixth year in a row. I believe they are only one of four teams to have qualified for nationals that many years in a row. Someone with some more free time, please correct me.

After regionals in Princeton, NJ, I was off to Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia to visit Phil, Sam, and my brother. We ate good food, ran Sabah on the Forbibben Drive, and enjoyed some down time after moving too quickly for too long. Then, I hit the headed for New York City, my favorite big city in the world for a visit with the one and only B-E-double tizzie, as B-Nelson calls her. I was also able to sneak in a quick reconnect with a friend from my Baltimore days. YES, I do keep in touch with a couple. New York was good, but too rushed. Sabah definitely wasn't resocialized to new people and dogs after being with just my mom and her pups for so long.

After NYC, I bolted off to Northampton, MA to see my sister. It was really good to hang out in the woods after so many days in cities. It also was down right cold there, which I loved. Everywhere else had been a bit hot for my liking. We ate well, hiked, rested, and took a timeout before a brilliant moment of serendipity.

I had a date with my high school friends in Danville, PA, but before I left Northampton, a Stadlin twin contacted me about visiting and it happened to be on my way. I stopped in, surprised his twin, and met an ex-Ice person. It was kind of random, but definitely a treat to share a common bond with someone even though we had never deployed together. The twins are running an organic farm summer camp, Eden Village Camp. When I was their resident assistant in college, they would have made the perfect camp counselors. I would never have put them in charge of the entire camp. They have matured. They have evolved and are doing a fantastic job with the camp. Their kids get there in two day and I can't wait to see how well they do. It is amazing, so amazing.

Eden Village Camp

The Stadlin twins, original En Sabah Nur members.

After getting distracted at Eden Village Camp, I scooted down to Danville, PA to have dinner at the Old Forge Brewery. Who knew that my hometown of 15,000 was hip enough to have its own brewery? I didn't because I haven't really been back through there in over 5 years. I wasn't there nearly long enough, but it was great to be there and I hope to get back soon. From there, I bolted to State College, PA to see Kat and Matt. They were about to burst with their first born.

Sabah in Baltimore.

From there, I was off to see Jay and Karen in Baltimore. Somehow, he is still in the same apartment that we shared. He still doesn't like it, but he loves how close it is to his job. I look forward to visiting him when he finally gets to commute from home. I suspect he'll live in the woods with a horse shoe pit that can be thrown into from his living room couch. I also got to see my old coworker Yee when I was there. She might be coming to Europe while I am here, but she has trouble finding directions for her daily commute so I'm not sure she'll actually make it.

Next up was a run down to DC to visit a Tim Tam lover and then I reconnected with a Semester at Sea friend. It was pretty neat to reconnect with her after six years. If she is reading this, she is going to be making herself miserable as I have adventures and she heads back to school.

Sabah checks out the Washington Monument.

The countryside in Ohio.

Bamma and BNelson in Ohio.

When I left DC, I cut through western Maryland and stopped at my favorite spa near Uniontown. It is always a treat to stop there. It set the tempo for a great week in Pittsburgh. So many old friends. So many good memories. I might move back there some day. I think the biggest part of my week was trying to get the bathroom at Swinburne in order. The fan had died. Mold had gone wild. We had to strip everything and with Dave and Ben's help, we did it. It wasn't pretty. I'll know better for next time about what goes into wall paper stripping, spackling, surface prepping, and priming. It still needs a coat of paint. It is messy. It is a pain, but I'm glad I learned. My favorite part of my Pittsburgh visit was being introduced to Oh Yeah ice cream or getting the chance to coach and play against the current En Sabah Nur team with a bunch of alumni and other Pittsburgh all stars. For one short day while in Pittsburgh, B-Nelson and I booked it out to Ohio to see Bamma. Bamma rocks. Simple as that.

Sabah wants inside in Detroit.

Flowers at my dad's new place. What are they?

After Pittsburgh, I headed up just north of Detroit to see my dad's new place and hospital. It seems like a temporary fit for him since it is so far from the sea he loves to sail in. My visit back to my mom's afterwards was a bit longer, but interspersed with trips down to Madison to see En Sabah Nur play at college nationals. They made it to semifinals. Best finish yet and I think they are hungry for more. The week was a bit rushed, but it was great to have all my brothers and sister in one place for a change. We couldn't remember the last time the four of us had hung out. It was long overdue and we might just need to do it again in the future, if I ever stay put long enough.

The Brotman kids by firelight along the Wisconsin River.

Sabah goes merry go round at Lake Wazeecha.

The Wisconsin River

Jen and Greg at sunset on the river.

Sabah prepares to attack the dragonflies.

A bald eagle on the St. Croix River.

On my way to Colorado, I stopped along the St. Croix river to visit an Ice friend who took me and Sabah canoeing to a bald eagle's nest. Very cool. From there, I visited a very old friend, Chedd's, the gourmet grilled cheese shop. The one in Denver closed, but while I was gone a new one opened up in Sioux Falls, SD. Yum! Now, I know to stop in South Dakota for Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Badlands, AND grilled cheese. However, the white prairie dogs I ran across in the Black Hills were pretty cool too and might warrant a sunny day visit. Sabah definitely wants a chance for an up close and personal visit.

Sabah helps paddle.

Chedds in Sioux Falls, SD

The Corn Palace in South Dakota.

White prairie dogs near Badlands National Park.

My next stop was in Sheridan, WY to see the Rhoda and Lenny, two of the warmest people on the Ice. I look to them as a model about how to balance stability and the traveling life style. Sheridan is just big enough to give a little variety, but small enough to foster community. I really liked it and while I was there I realized that the future of my traveling depends on finding a situation similar to what Rhoda and Lenny have. I need a home base, but more on that soon.

Sabah tries to play with a bison in Sheridan, WY.

The mountains near Sheridan, WY.

Sabah in Evergreen, CO.

After Wyoming, it was back home to Colorado. I visited friends, mountain biked, hiked, played ultimate, ate good food, got ready for my bike tour, and generally ran myself ragged. Except for one small hiccup, my trip home was great. I realized more what I want from the community there. It might have helped that I was in such a different place than when I was last in Colorado. I broke my visit up with quick visits down to Colorado Springs, up to Fort Collins, and over to Summit County. Man, I miss it. I'm not sure if Denver will be home anymore unless I can commute by bike because of the traffic, but Colorado is still in the running. Love those mountains.

Sabah and me at Boulder Creek

Sabah at a very high water Boulder Creek.

One of Sabah's favorite games, bite the water out of a sprinkler in Colorado Springs, CO.