Monday, January 29, 2007

Australian Open Tennis - the end for 2007

As I expected, Gonzalez didn't quite come through. He lost a quite tight 3 setter against the world's #1 Roger Federer.

I think both these guys probably would have beaten any other players and certainly did a good job with the other contenders.

It was an OK match, and the first set was really close with Gonzalez leading by a break for part of it (Federer broke back immediately). Until that point, I had hopes that it would actually be a great match.

Still, except for the first set, Federer was holding serve more easily (lots of love games) and threatening more on Gonzalez's serve. Except for the odd point, we never quite saw Gonzalez open up as he did in so many other matches. We knew it would be different against Federer, and Federer's speed, somewhat under rated meant that he was getting to balls that a lot of the other players wouldn't have. 7-6, 6/4, 6/4 was a little better than Roddick's semi-final of 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

Ah... my best news is that a Canadian got a title this year at the Aussie Open. Daniel Nestor got through a solid 6/4, 6/4 win with his partner Elena Likhovtseva. I've followed Daniel Nestor since he was 19 and played Davis Cup for Canada. Ranked 400+, he beat the then #1 player in the world Stefan Edberg in 5 sets. Good day for Canada. :)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Australian Open Tennis - a great year

I'm been a tennis fan since the late 80's and the first match I remember seeing (just as I was starting to play) was the 1989 French Open final. Michael Chang versus Stephan Edberg.

This year has been very interesting with the injection of Fernando Gonzalez into the mix. Sure, sure, he's been around a while, and he IS #10, but no one, and I mean no one expected him to roll over Hewitt, Blake, Nadal and Haas the way he did. It was almost like they weren't on the court with him.

We expect this kind of thing from Federer, after all, check out the semi against Roddick. It was painful to see such a dominating performance, especially against a guy as good as Roddick.

Still - that means we get a final with Gonzalez and Federer. Gonzalez is the only guy playing well enough to challenge Federer at the moment, and if he can continue playing the way he is, it will be a fantastic final. I'm expecting Gonzalez to go away, but in last night's semi-final, just as Gonzalez wins match point, the Australia day fireworks go off - a sign maybe? Here's hoping for a match that goes down in history, no matter which way it goes. I'll be cheering for Gonzalez.

Unfortunately, the women are nowhere near as interesting, with Serena Williams playing only 4 tournaments all last year and yet comes along and beats everyone, including Maria Sharapova, the world's #1 - and in one of the most dominating wins in the last decade. It's sad that there is so little depth in the woman's game.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mr. Jingles - a follow-up

It seems that Mr. Jingles owners have allowed him access to his cat door again, and he's wandering the neighbourhood.

He showed up 2 days ago and said hello, got some pets and left again. We were happy to see that he wasn't cooped up in his house any more.

We've seen him every day since then, but he never stays long, he's in to say hello, rub up against us and leave again. The longest we've seen him for it probably five minutes.

It's a huge relief that he's allowed to wander again.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Neighbour's cat, Mr. Jingles - the saga

Back in October, when we moved into our new place, we got a neighbor's cat visiting. I remember the first night getting up at 4AM and carrying this cat outside under my arm because he'd gotten into the house through the window we'd left open for our own cats to get in and out of (we used to do that at our last place).

Since then, we've installed a cat door, and while I tried all kinds of things, chasing him away (once when I chased him away, he circled around me in the dark and went back to our door), locking the cat door (it takes about 5 minutes before my cats get annoyed at that), hiding the cat food (he jumps up on the counter top) and so on and so on.

In the end, after a few days of these things, we gave up and accepted that this little guy was going to be a regular visitor. He has a bell on his collar and we took to calling him Mr. Jingles (not related to the mouse of the same name from "The Green Mile).

Well, Mr. Jingles became a regular visitor at our place and was over almost every day. He eats our cat's food, but at the same time, he was not particularly intrusive, so it could have been worst. AND, he is adorable. A little gray, English short-hair with a lovely personality.

After a few days of Mr. Jingles visiting every day, Una found a pamphlet in the mail box, "MISSING CAT - we haven't seen him for a week". Of course, he was sleeping on our bed. AND, his name is Cyrus, which isn't as cute as Mr. Jingles, but everyone can't have the perfect name.

Una called them and chatted and said that we'd seen their cat. Someone came over to get him and take him away. Cool - it's always nice to reunite a missing cat with their owners, even if they weren't really missing.

So - weeks go by, and we haven't seen Mr. Jingles at all. We were expecting him to at least be around in the yard or something - no, not at all. It seems like his owners have decided to keep him inside and not let him out again.

For a cat that has always been indoors, this isn't an issue, but for one who has been an outside cat, it seems awfully cruel. It also wouldn't be as cruel if someone was always at home to keep him company, but we drive by that how every day, multiple times and there is almost never anyone home. It's a very odd thing to do, and is hardly the act of a loving owner.

We worry about Mr. Jingles regularly and hope that he's not going insane in his house now that he isn't allowed outside.

We noticed that our cats missed him too, since Fred has been meowing for no real reason. She really enjoyed Mr. Jingles, since he didn't beat her up like Gordon does (Fred is short for Winnefred).

So - what to do? I guess we can't really do anything, it feels like we should do something, but no idea what. Does anyone have any suggestions? They would be appreciated. :-)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

English, plurals and why foreigners go a little crazy

English, I remember being young enough to think that English was a great language, and so much better than French, since there are fewer exceptions. Hahah... it's funny when I look back.

While I still prefer English to French, I realize that it's just because I know it better and spend more time reading, writing and generally working with it than I do with French. The French generally have it right when they go back and revise once every few years.

English speakers' general take on English is one of apathy, and we'd rather let the language evolve than try and fix it - anyone who tries to "fix" English comes across as pretentious. Not that you'd know what to fix anyway - there are many, many places where English is the first language, and there will always be a few who wouldn't want to speak any differently anyway. And, if enough people speak a certain way, it becomes the normal way of doing it and the new standard (try pronouncing the "t" in often, and then realize that you don't do it in soften - ever)

Think about this - how do you make a word plural? Sure, you can just add an "s", but then you have:

child - childs
sheep - sheeps
woman - womans

These are all wrong.

Of course, then there are words that have two plurals, like brothers and brethren, people and persons (not to mention peoples).

Then there are the words that imply plurals, but are actually singular, like "stuff" - there is no such thing as "stuffs", since stuff implies a group. Just like "beef" has no plural (cows maybe?).

This isn't even getting into weird words like through... which somehow sounds like "threw", or "throo" (which isn't even a word, but the only one which looks correct phonetically).

How about words that are pronounced differently depending on how they are meant to be used - "It was a minute amount of time, maybe a minute or so.". "Sewer" is a place where sewage goes, or something who sews with thread and needle. "Address" is pronounced differently if you are writing it on an envelope or if you are addressing someone. In isolation, these words are impossible to pronounce - think about "polish", "tear", "lead", "produce", "present" and so many more.

I had a boss who is Brazilian, and thus speaks Portuguese. She said that two Portuguese speakers looking at a word that they'd never seen before would pronounce it exactly the same way - that sounds reasonable to me.

Of course, everyone talks about the problem, but no one does anything about it. I would like to say that I'm solidly in this category as well, and will probably do nothing to fix English, but I like to complain.

I do one thing regularly, and that's use the American spelling of color, flavor, neighbor and so on. I get a lot of flack for this, since I'm a Canadian, and I'm living in New Zealand, neither country goes for the American spelling, and generally aren't warm to Americans anyway. The thing is, it's fewer keystrokes to write "color" rather than "colour", which no one pronounces that way anyway - all the Brits in the office say "callah" anyway. And the Canadians say "color" just like the Americans. It's shorter and I hear that these shorter spellings came first too. It isn't very often that Canadians side with Americans, but I'm doing it on the spelling.

Of course, if I ever write a book that sells overseas, I'll have to go and do a massive search and replace on all the words that I spell differently from everyone in the non-American world... it could happen. I look forward to the opportunity.

Anyway, while English is screwy, I still like it. I regret not living long enough to see English change in the various countries, so that the Americans and the English won't understand each other any more - that would be funny, since they barely understand each other now.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Summer in New Zealand

I would like to think that it's summer here in Wellington, but it's hard to feel that way when it is EXACTLY like winter outside. We're running the heater the same as we do in winter, we're getting all the same kind of cold wind we do in winter. My cats are even eating more, like they do when winter starts.

I heard on TV the other day that it's the coldest winter in NZ in 50 years. That's amazing. But, then I look on TV and there is tennis on in Auckland, the ASB classic, and all the women playing are in short skirts and don't seem to be freezing. AND, the people in the audience are also dressed for hot weather.

If anyone has any ideas about what to do with my summer, I would love to hear it. AND, I've already thought of leaving the country, or just moving to a warmer part of New Zealand - this is a brutal summer. Summer in Wellington is usually warmer than winter, but not this year.

I don't mind the odd cold day, but weeks and weeks of it are hard to take. I'm sitting at the computer now and my hands are cold... my hands are COLD! In the middle of summer! Who has heard of such a thing?