The Casual Blog

Tag: butterfly stroke

Construction work, butterflying, golfing’s promised land, and some rough rugby

Demolition work this week in downtown Raleigh

This week there was a lot going on at the site of the gigantic fire of last March.  They’ve been tearing things down and cleaning them up, and I’m guessing we’ll soon see new construction.  This operation — knocking down the almost completed parking deck — was what we saw from our balcony on Tuesday, the day before we moved out.  

Since last May, when our dishwasher overflowed and destroyed part of the hardwood floor, our condo has been in disarray —  bare concrete underfoot and furniture situated in unusable places.  It took some time to get estimates, and more time to get the insurers to step up to the plate.  Then we had to pick new flooring and get on the contractor’s schedule.  Then we (that is, Sally — thanks,  Babe!) had to pack up everything that normally sits on the floor.  It’s been a trying time.  

Meanwhile, we got a new Korean  dishwasher that does its job amazingly quietly and has a charming trick:  when it finishes, it plays a few bars of Schubert’s immortal Trout theme.  Of the thousands of engineers at Samsung, there’s at least one who’s a music lover.  

Dragonfly at the pond at the N.C. Museum of Art, August 26, 2017

Anyhow, on Wednesday we packed our bags and moved out, and the construction got started.  We’re staying at a hotel in our neighborhood. It’s fine, but we miss Rita, our cat, and there’s no good way to eat out every night and not gain unwanted pounds.  It will be nice to be back home with Rita and the new floor.

On Saturday morning I had my fourth lesson on the butterfly stroke.  I’ve been practicing diligently, and was quite pleased when my teacher gave me an 8 on a scale of 10.  He challenged me to get more power from the dolphin kicks and make it less about about the arms.  We started working on improving my breast stroke.  There’s a lot more technique involved in good swimming than I realized.  It’s challenging, but also very pleasing to discover new ways to move through the water.  

I’ve also continued my project to improve my golf swing.  Gabe has made up his mind to become a real golfer, and it’s been fun practicing as a father-son duo.  He’s advanced quickly, and is now beating me.  In my search for the perfect swing, it may be that like Moses, I won’t make it to the promised land, but I could still have the happiness of seeing him get there.

But I’m not ready to throw in the towel.  I’ve changed my swing path substantially to come from inside to out and figured out how to get my hips moving separately from my torso.  I can hit a draw.  There are still some bad shots, but more of them are flying closer to my ideal.   

Saturday night we watched the Rugby League national championship game between the New York Knights and the Atlanta Rhinos.  We’re new to rugby, but learning fast, because Kyle, Jocelyn’s boyfriend, is a key player for New York.  The game was played in Atlanta.  It was streamed online with lots of technical difficulties (periods of loud buzzes, slowed video, no video, no sound), and the color commentator seemed heavily biased in favor of Atlanta.  And despite our best fan efforts, our Knights got beat.  

But hats off to Atlanta, which, from what we could see, played a strong game with excellent defense.  And congratulations to the Knights for a great (undefeated except for this game) season.  Afterwards we went to the Mellow Mushroom for some comfort food — a veggie pizza and beer.  

Learning new things, including the butterfly stroke and about our worst tendencies

It was brutally hot here in Raleigh this weekend, which made me consider breaking my commitment to getting outside with my camera at least once a week and trying to see something fresh in the natural world.  But I ultimately hung tough and did a short photo safari at Raulston Arboretum, which was not as miserable as I expected.  I was happy I got these pictures.

Learning new things is sometimes fun, and sometimes hard, but always important, to keep our brains from turning to mush.  And so I decided to take some swimming lessons, and had my first one this week.  As I told my teacher, a young woman named Deanna, I would like to try to learn the butterfly stroke.  It’s one of those things I’ve always wondered if I could do, and it would add another variation to my lap swimming.  My first efforts were awkward, but by the end of the lesson, I had a version of the dolphin kick going.  I found it hard and fun.  

In these tumultuous times, we’re learning a lot about our weaknesses and strengths.  Under a constant deluge of lies, vulgarities, and mad fantasies, it’s more difficult to be open and curious, to think rationally and critically.  Panic and anger seem natural, and at times overwhelming.  We’re seeing how some of our worst tendencies, like intolerance and bigotry, are unleashed and encouraged.  

It’s not exactly cheering news, but at least we have a more realistic idea of the extent of our ignorance, intolerance, and susceptibility to manipulation.  We’ve gotten these and other  problems out in the open where we can potentially address them.  Eventually we might figure out how to be better people.

In the policy area, we’re learning more about our health care system.  Repealing Obamacare somehow became a mantra for the right — a symbolic acid test for signalling membership in the conservative tribe.  It’s hard to feel great about the enormous waste of time, energy, and public funds from the repeal effort, and the failure so far to address pressing problems, but there is a slightly bright side.    

It’s looking like some delusions are getting cleared up.  We now know that the mantra of repeal had almost no relation to the real issues of our health care system.  Some who liked the mantra have belatedly realized that cutting off insurance means real humans die prematurely. It appears that even the most committed ideologues, or at least the majority, get uncomfortable once we reach a certain level of cruelty.    

This debate has cleared the landscape like a forest fire, and some fresh ideas are starting to germinate.  For the first time in a couple of generations, we’re starting to widen the discussion about health care.  It’s starting to be more widely understood that we pay way too much for it, and the quality of care is bad in comparison with our peers.  There’s a new openness to the possibility of a sensible single payer system, such as an expanded version of Medicare.  

It won’t be easy to get from here to there.  Even leaving aside our dysfunctional political leadership, there are powerful institutional forces supporting the status quo.  Here’s how the Economist recently put it:  If the amount the U.S. spends on health care were reduced to the level of France, Germany, or Switzerland, we would save a trillion dollars, or $8,000 per family.  “Much of that trillion dollars goes to enrich the owners and executives of drug companies, device manufacturers, and relentlessly consolidating hospitals.  This rent-seeking is supported by an army of lobbyists:  there are more than twice as many lobbyists for the pharmaceutical and health-products industry than there are Congressmen.”  

Indeed, there are quite a few other blockers, like doctors, many of whom would be resistant to having their incomes reduced, and insurers, with similar issues.  Real improvements don’t seem likely in the near term, but I’m not giving up hope that eventually we’ll make progress.