’tis the season.

Welcome to Winter Sports Week.

Not that either of my activities really qualify as sports, but it’s time to quit sitting around and get outside.

Winter Sports Week actually started Friday, when Annoyed Angel and Scottsweep organized a Yinz Team skating night at the rink in Schenley Park. I think my experience was similar to that of most of the skaters — with a couple of exceptions, none of us had been on skates for many years. And it showed. We did well, though, and had a blast — as pictured below with The Wife and Mindbling, and BurghBaby’s toddler, who seemed very pleased with the attention she got on Friday — both at the rink at while having a couple drinks at Ruggers Pub afterwards.

kelbling

toddler

Scott and I had talked a little bit about hitting Seven Springs together, and I looked at this week — this coming Friday specifically — as the right time to make my first trip to the hill. I dropped off my skis at Ski North on the day we went skating, so they’d be ready.

The hill will be ready too. You want it to be cold overnight up there, so Seven Springs can make the snow they need to fill in whatever spots Mother Nature has neglected. And, yeah — it’s going to be cold:

cold

I know – 7 degrees sounds brutal, but it’s not really that bad. And the snow they’ll be able to make all week, on top of the few inches they’ll get on Tuesday and Tuesday night, will make it worth the trip.

Actually, at this point, just enough snow to cover the ground would make it worth the trip. This s a very late start for someone who has a WordPress tag — winter obsession — devoted to skiing. In past years, I would be beside myself if I hadn’t managed the trip by now. The house stuff, however, has kept us busy enough that I hadn’t really had the time to think about what I was missing.

Until we skated on Friday. The thing my winter sports have in common is their ability to set me free from all the crap that we all have to deal with. Skating and skiing are like flying. It took few laps around the Schenley rink to feel comfortable, but once I did, I knew I had to go again this winter.

And I knew it was time to get up on the hill, as quickly as I could.
I’m a much better skiier than I am a skater, although I’ll be a bit limited, as I always am on my first day of the season, by lunchtime, it will feel like I never stopped.

Friday will be cold, but it will be liberating. When I come home in the late afternoon, I’ll be free. Even if only for a day.

challenge.

Each Christmas Eve, The Wife and I make a point of taking a quiet night for ourselves. The month to that point has been filled with shopping, decorating and other mandatory fun; the rest of the month promises to be just as insane, driving to various Christmases with our families and friends.

We both love all that stuff, but — December 24 is ours. We make something nice for dinner, and crack open those bottles of wine or beer we’ve been sitting on for a while.

This year was no different; I like taking the opportunity to make crabcakes, one of a handful of dishes in which I’m completely confident.

In fact, I was feeling so good about how things were going during this year’s preparations that I Tweeted something about thinking that my crabcakes were probably better than yours.

ClumberKim couldn’t pass up a taunt like that. And LadyD — @onedamnthing on Twitter — saw an opportunity. Here’s the exchange, starting at the bottom with Kim’s reply:

caketalk

So. I’m ready for a crabcake throwdown. We have two contestants and a judge, and I’m sure we could find some other volunteers to help eat up the scraps.

crabcakescook

Ladies? Can we make this happen?

action.

As promised: video proof that peer pressure can cause people to do really dumb things:

Did you see the perfect form on my cannonball? My toes were even pointed.

bearly.

A couple of days ago, I told you about my plans to kick off 2009.

I did it. WE did it. And, yeah, it was as excruciating as you would have expected.

clairebcar

It was a beautiful morning, sunny and 16 degrees when I left my house. I found later that the water temperature was 38.5 degrees. That’s Annoyed Angel in the foreground; Mindbling and her crew is in the car driving around the corner.

bshirt

Mindbling had shirts made up for the group: “I got involved in social media and all I got was this lousy hypothermia.”

chachwill

Chachi and DJ Lunchbox were ready. So were all those ambulances.

ow

As we were drying off, someone noticed I had scraped my leg while in the water. I don’t remember this at all; I just remember being colder than I ever had been in my life.

clairebar

When we finished up at the Mon Wharf, we headed to Rugger’s Pub on the South Side. Annoyed Angel generously opened the bar early so we could get some coffee. DJ Lunchbox generously cooked cheeseburgers for everyone. Mike Munz generously bought the first round.

The consensus? Cold. Wow, cold. Really, really cold.

But I think we’re all going to do it again next year.

(There’s a video, compressing as we speak, that shows all the action. I’ll add it here, maybe even tonight if I’m still awake when it’s done. One hint: I would have gotten about a 5.8 on my dive, but the East German judge was an asshole.)

2008 > 2009

It’s about 11:10 p.m. on Dec. 31. This won’t be posted for another hour, but I have some things I wanted to share about the past year, and I thought this would a good time to get started.

At the moment, I’m sitting on a bright red-orange couch in the middle of my new living room. On the television is a DVD of a 1987 Grateful Dead show in Oakland. The New Year’s Eve show was a tradition for GD for many, many years; it’s now a tradition for me as well, going back as far as the year we were skiing at Breckenridge and I badgered the DJ at KSMT to play an hour of Dead starting at the stroke of midnight Mountain Time. Maybe it’s a little odd, but that brief shot of weirdness always does a nice job of making me feel centered for the year to come.

Come to think of it, I didn’t really have to push the guy all that hard…

—–

In the five years, I’ve kept Uncle Crappy (the blog) alive, I’ve stopped nearly every year, sometime in December or January, and made some kind of statement about what happened the year before and what I was looking for in the year to come. I’m generally an optimistic person, and I usually made grand, but sort of nonspecific predictions about what was to come.

And I was usually wrong.

Last year, though, I was a little more specific, and as it turned out, I did pretty well:

  • I said that I wanted to start a podcast or two; I didn’t do that, although I did tape and edit a show featuring The Wife and me. Let’s go ahead and make this a goal for 2009.
  • I said I would do a better job at posting regularly here. I think I’ve done that, and I think it shows. In the last three months of the year, my daily page views have doubled; I’m not sure who I have to thank for that, but whoever it is: Thanks. That’s pretty cool.
  • I predicted I’d weasel my way into some additional new media projects at work. This has been mildly successful, even with the roadblocks erected by layoffs and other limitations at the paper. We have a 2-month-old Twitter account which already has about 70 followers. We’ve continued to do video, slideshows and audio presentations, even after the newsroom’s biggest proponent of new media tools was switched to a different department.
  • I said we’d buy a house. We did that, and we couldn’t possibly be happier about it. The purchase will mean we have less time and less money than we had before, but to have a place we own … it’s hard to describe, but it feels very good.

—–

There’s one other thing I accomplished this year, something that wasn’t on my list from a year ago. I’ve met a ton of people who have become very good friends in the past 12 months. I’ve always been grateful for the friendships I’ve kept over time, some going back to grade school. But I’m equally grateful for my new friendships, and I think they’re going to go a long way in keeping me young — OK, a little younger, maybe — in the years to come.

How cool are these folks? There may be as many as a dozen of them joining me in a few hours to jump in the Mon, as a commemoration of the start of 2009. No one is doing this because of me, but I asked the question a couple of days ago, and a surprisingly large number of friends — by which I mean idiots, just like me — responded. I may be a bit drunk at the moment, but I mean this with all the sincerity I can muster — I love you guys.

—–

I ended 2007 — and started 2008 — with a bottle of the 2006 version of Gratitude, the barleywine produced every year by East End Brewing. Other than a very small taste of the previous year’s vintage, I hadn’t had Gratitude before; I was not only blown away, but it seemed to set a nice, positive tone for the year that was just getting underway. I’m not particularly superstitious, but listen — Gratitude was my first beer of 2008, and that year turned out to be pretty good. So I’m doing the same thing this time around; it’s about 11:45 p.m. now, and I just cracked open the 2007 Gratitude I picked up a day ago at the brewery. Here’s hoping it brings similar results.

And here’s hoping 2009 is everything you want it to be.

mobile.

I’m writing this from the comfort of my living room, unencumbered by wires or The Wife, who swears she can hear me typing from three rooms away.

I’m able to accomplish this thanks to the new white box sitting on the desk upstairs — yep, I finally got an Apple base station and set me up some wireless in the house.

This is one of those things I’ve always thought about doing, but never got around to it. Now is the time, because as of Sunday, both our guest room and our third bedroom — otherwise known as my room — will be occupied, and I won’t have the kind of access to the computer I normally have.

Not that I couldn’t give it up any time I wanted to. I just don’t want to.

So. I got it set up last night and have been enjoying the speedyfast iPhone – and the plodding old iBook that can at least get me going on the internet. At speeds rivaling dial-up!

Ah. No matter. The point is: I’m sitting in my living room posting to uncle Crappy. And I’m happy about that.

* * *

photo2

In other news, the tree has lights on it. The ornaments will come tomorrow, followed by presents and probably a cat, although perhaps not in that order. See you then.