Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tour de Toona

Chris raced in Altoona, PA at the Tour de Toona (really!) this weekend. For the amateurs it is a three day stage race, for the professionals it is an impressive 7 stage race. This is the 20th year of this very big race with what appears to be at least 30 teams starting in the pro category. Chris did fairly well, espcially in the road racing category, but more importantly he had an opportunity to shmooze with the pros and their entourages (mechanics, managers etc.) We are especially rooting for the Navigators through the rest of the season, which thankfully isnt that much longer.

Chris has now started ten races this season as a Cat. 4. Next are the Centuries; Blue Ridge Extreme is near the end of August & we will take part as a family in the Smoky Mountain Wheelmen's Century (ok we ride the 25 mile ride, Chris hauls the children in the trailer so he can keep up with me) in October. Between now and then... who knows what races/rides will appear, already one popped up in Richmond for next Sunday.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Interview with City Parks & Rec Director

Last weekend was Weekend Without Echoes, I participated by traveling north to New Jersey to visit family and generally be away from the computer. Thanks to the family for the great time. I had a great idea for the WWE (tehe), I would interview the head of the Parks & Rec department in the City to get the real reason for the lack of pool hours I continually rant about. I nervously gathered my courage to contact the department head by asking a professional. Bob Gibson generously provided some hints (along with confidence) on how to proceed.

Michael Svetz is the Director of the Charlottesville Parks & Recreation department. He has been in the position for two years. Being director is a challenging job, especially for someone who is new to town. This community has a long history to contend with in addition to the normal bureaucratic issues. Mr. Svetz has heard an earful from the people in this town about the cut in pool hours. He would prefer to engage people directly, so he appreciated the opportunity to discuss the pool hours with me.

The current pool hours at the outdoor pools are Monday through Friday 12-6 (zero depth is open at 11:00 and closes at 7:00). Adult swim occurs at 45 minutes past the hour. The wading pool opens earlier at 10:30 but closes at 4:00. Weekend hours are indecipherable, but for my journalistic integrity I will try to figure it out (not really).

Washington Park- 11:00-4:00
Onesty Park- 12:00-4:00
Wading pools 12:00-4:00

I believe there is a free swim at the Washington Park for city residents on Saturday from 5-7 and on Sunday at Onesty Pool from 5-7. Cost of entry ranges from free (under 3)to $4.00 for adults. A season pass costs $125 for a household and one can purchase a 25 count punch card for about $75.00 (all these prices are for City residents).

Mike Svetz is frustrated by the pool situation. The facilities are all redundant - he does not believe there should be two of each type of pool. He cites Charlottesville's history of improper treatment of certain neighborhoods why the inefficiency continues to exist. He would prefer close some of the existing facilities and create a more central pool park. It is likely much of the City is not ready for such a bold proposal.

I mentioned to Mr. Svetz that some families could afford more than $125 a year for a swimming pass (given the private pool at Fry Springs costs about $1,000 for a season). Mr. Svetz cautiously explained many programs in Parks and specifically aquatics are priced for families with lower incomes (which, he mentioned is roughly equivalent to 20%-30% of the population). The programs and hours of the pools are also meant to serve families who have that income range. It makes sense, the pool rates and hours are designed to complement one another- unfortunately 70% to 80% of the population are left out of the calculus.

Every year the City Manager asks the Parks and Rec department (as well as others probably) to reduce its budget. Even with significant actual reductions, the budget remains somewhat stable because of the increase in fixed costs such as gas, health insurance, other utilities and the like. He cited a $10,000 a month natural gas bill at one of the indoor pool facilities as an example for the reduced level of service in the aquatics department.

Is there a way to balance the historic maltreatment of neighborhoods & the needs of lower income families with today's efficiency requirements & middle income families interest to use the Parks department to meet the aquatic needs of all its citizens?

Michael Svetz will present to City Council meeting on August 7. Clearly I will be discussing this issue more in the future.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tour Wrap Up

Bob Roll, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, the commentators for OLN's coverage of the Tour de France keep using superlatives to describe this year's tour- "the greatest one day performance ever" "the worst, one day humiliation ever" "the greatest tour ever".

In my five years of following the Tour, this year's certainly captivated and delivered. While my fantasy cycling team did not fare well, I did not really care because the drama kept me glued to the tv. After the Tour- what does one do?

The OLN team had this great graphic after the time trial on Saturday detailing a European cyclist's road to win the Tour (it was a fairly straight up climb from winning small circuit races to bigger races and finally winning the tour). Then the American's route- well it involved early success, "plunging into the depths of Hades" (as Bob Roll colorfully put it) and finally winning. Why do Americans make it so hard? I dont care, it is great drama.

The Vuelta is coming up, Jan Ullrich's contract with TMobile has been terminated (but his former team is so strong that another member won third place); Ivan Basso's team CSC put in a great performance although the time trial did them in and they landed in fourth. Discovery- a distant memory. I am hopeful that this Operation Puerto doesnt touch Ivan Basso and Tyler Hamilton and the both of them will be racing by the end of the season. A girl can dream. Vive le Tour!

Bloggers meet

I have an idea let's schedule a gathering two days prior to the event. Too bad because I wanted to meet everyone,alas I had plans out of town (I know no one cares about my whining). When is the next one? Perhaps we will get three or four days next time. I hope Waldo knows I am simply giving him a hard time.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Photos speak

CNN's homepage has AP pictures of the evacuation of civilians from Beirut and Lebanon. My need to protect my children is innate, whenever I sense any danger around my children I am immediately transformed into protector extraordinaire. The photos are dramatic, a newborn being carried by a soldier (I presume) to the relative safety of a helicopter and a mom holding her three (?) year old and the look of pure anguish on her face is terrifying. The innocents are victims on both sides. Can we really sit here and do nothing while the way of life of these mothers/fathers and children is torn apart?

Lesson Learned

With Carmen Electra and David Navarro separating and Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey now divorced, I realize what can really do a marriage in - reality tv. So I hereby declare I will never sign up for a reality series that proports to show my marriage to the masses on MTV (I will extend this to all of cable I think).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tour de France

After five hours of watching our Tivo'ed Tour coverage, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief that Floyd is real, Levi is somewhat real and now Americans truly have a place in world cycling outside of Lance Armstrong.

I could not turn away from this exciting but long stage. Five mountain climbs, a sprint finish, a wait for the yellow jersey to get in to see whether the Frenchman would still wear it on Bastille Day (no) and Team Discovery not in sight of the lead. Anything can happen, stay tuned, but please dont tell me what happens because I cant watch it until the evening.

$2.00 an hour to park downtown

Outrageous. How can people afford to park downtown? Why would you want to go to a movie downtown when you can go to the other theaters in town and park for free? I think the restaurants are doing ok but what about the shops selling books or beads? Those stores cant afford to give out validation for parking. What about the vendors? They rely on people who take a walk after their meals but have no real destination in mind (except for food maybe) but if you are rushing to get back to your car so you dont get charged another $2 then what?

I am all for a free market and certainly the parking garages have the right to charge whatever they can get for their spaces. What concerns me is at the same time the City seems to be limiting the number of free or reduces spaces driving people to the garages and/or driving people out of downtown.

Fortunately, I can walk or ride my bike.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Commitment

Floyd Landis is to have hip replacement surgery after the Tour de France. He is currently in second place in the general classification. Should he be committed? Or should we applaud him for his commitment to perserve through pain?

Admittedly, I am a bandwagon kind of girl. I read an article about Floyd in the WP Style section last Sunday and now I suppose I kind of like him. Since Levi flamed out in the Time Trial and Ivan is not there I am not that excited about the others (ok that isnt entirely true, Cadel Evans, Tom Boonen all inspire as well).

Well since Floyd can train for the Tour de France through all his pain, I can enjoy & be grateful for the work I do relatively pain-free.

Andrew's Fire Engine Cake


This cake is brought to you by Andrew's daddy. Mommy just doesnt have the patience for this sort of undertaking. I did make a great steak (good grilling by daddy) from a Bon Appetit recipe (think spicy rub and chimichurri sauce).

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sacrifices

Old Guy has an important post on Americans relationship with the wars. The post stemmed from an Op-Ed written by an Air Force captain stationed in Iraq published in the Washington Post.
Families of those stationed in war zones deserve a committed, supportive country, one that doesnt bury their collective heads in the sand when hard work is called for. Honestly I am not quite sure what would constitute support besides the obvious (send packages from home, prayers etc.), I think our leaders should be defining support instead of constantly politicizing the situation. I believe we want to help, its just a matter of being asked.