to Nelson, New Zealand

July 22, 2002

New Zealand is synonymous with tramps; Abel Tasman, Routeburn, Milford. I have a map on my wall with Great Walks highlighted.

I am too busy for hiking so far, but I did finally get a Sunday afternoon walking the volcanic Banks Peninsula near Christchurch. It was misty on those ancient crater rims. I learned all about NZ stinging nettle.

Christchurch-area_sm

The top of the South island is home of the Abel Tasman coastal track, undoubtedly and deservedly the most popular and crowded hike in the country. But I was not there to tramp. I was there for the TOTS gymnastics competition in Nelson, the biggest and most important invitational in New Zealand.

Our team had won the Shield for best all-around club in 2001 and we were determined to repeat in 2002 despite the fact that North Harbour from Auckland, by far the best elite program in New Zealand, was attending this year. Shield points formula credits participation as well as performance — we managed to win again by a combination of good results … and bringing 56 competitors!

Nelson, population 52,000, is a classic tourist town packed with bars, backpacker hang-outs and hiking gear shops. I stayed an extra night to wander the streets, eat Chinese takeaway and walk along the river to the Marina at sunset.

nelson2

We earlier took gymnasts to another competition in nearby Blenheim, a small town of 26,000 renown only as the centre of the most famous New Zealand wine district. We raced past the largest winery in the country, Montana.

Aside from good wine, we travelled to Blenheim as this meet is hosted by Marlborough man Tony Quirk — one of the great characters in NZ gymnastics. Tony is a lawyer but spends most of his time as volunteer administrator, judge and coach. He runs a great club where competitive coaches are still volunteers. We stayed at Tony’s house and I had a good chance to get to know him.

The competition venue was most excellent too. It goes to show what is possible in a very small town.

venue

The highlight of this trip for me was the drive back to Christchurch on twisty highways, snow-capped mountains in the distance. We stopped several times to admire the scenery and take photographs of seals. One had somehow washed up almost on to the highway.

seal_photo

Driving New Zealand is the best way to travel. Most of the many narrow bridges are one way only.

Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is a good read similar to, but not as essential as the autobiography of Gandhi. Everyone needs to read Gandhi’s book, My Experiments with Truth.

It is election time in New Zealand. The incumbent Prime Minister had her hands slapped when it was revealed that a painting she had donated to charity was signed but not painted by the politician. It seems certain she will be returned to power.

Voting with my feet.

– Kiwi Rick

New Brighton Beach – New Zealand

July 1, 2002

rick_mugI was housed in Christchurch by Bill and Rae Shae, the grandparents of one of our gymnasts. They have a comfortable home overlooking the Avon river.

Rae tried to fatten me up with amazingly diverse British meals. Cooked cabbage is a staple still in New Zealand.

One afternoon Bill and I strung catgut over the peak of the roof in an effort to deter defecating seagulls. No luck. Seagulls sit where they like.

Early on I was offered a flat up high on the hills overlooking Christchurch, rubbing elbows with millionaires and All Blacks.

hill

It fell through.

Later I found a small house 1 minute walk from the Pacific, 1 minute walk from the golf course, 15 seconds walk from the Rugby club pub. It fell through too.

Finally I moved into New Brighton Student Residence, a spanking new block of student cells catering to the Asian market. Of the 10 spots available, at least 4 were grabbed by non-students or non-Asians. The location is perfect and rent low — about $55 a week.

During the World Cup the two Koreans were in a tizzy. Even the Swiss chap was cheering for Korea against Germany — of course he was chasing the Korean girl.

I walk 5 minutes to the New Brighton pier every day via Jacksons Bakery.

new_brighton_pier

New Brighton Pier was built 1894, demolished 1964. One of many so far unsuccessful renewal projects, a new 300 metre long tourist pier was opened in 1997. The Pier Terminus building houses the modern New Brighton Library where you can sit and read overlooking the sea in a living room ambiance. I love it.

Fishers — including a student in my building — reel in Red Cod, Dog Fish and Mullet.

My first day in Christchurch I had happened on New Brighton — the closest beach to the gym. I immediately wanted to live there. I will look for a larger place nearby when the weather warms.

New Brighton beach is often deserted during the winter. I get the pier and the beach to myself in the evening.

The heart of New Brighton is a rundown pedestrian mall. It has a dilapidated charm. Eccentrics, Asian tourists and riffraff windowshop Two Dollar stores. Many businesses are out-of-business or possibly just emptied for winter.

We had a BLIZZARD on June 15th. Civic panic. Kids ordered home from the gym early. I did not actually see a flake myself but apparently there was avalanche risk in other parts of the city.

My disbelief regarding blizzards in Christchurch was dispelled when I saw a home video from 1992 — a foot of snow along the Avon river. Big snow fell in 1945 and 1918. The worst was 1867 when at least half a million sheep died.

estuary
view over the Avon River estuary

Ciao for now. Happy Canada Day!

– Kiwi Rick

Christchurch – New Zealand

rick_mugQuaint Christchurch is a very nice city. I expected Vancouver-like rain but this is one of the driest areas in NZ protected from moisture-laden Westerlies by the Southern Alps. Five metres of rain / year fall on the West coast; only .75 metres in Christchurch on the East coast.

Christchurch reminds me of Calgary when I see the snowy Alps in the distance as I cycle to the gym along the river, passing horses and large numbers of aquatic birds.

mountains

With a population 330,000 Christchurch is a relaxed place. Traffic is light. It is known as the most English of NZ cities; punts on the Avon river; Anglican Christ Church cathedral in the city square; Elizabethan-style riverside homes; massive Botanical Gardens. (Brits established these amazing parks all over the Empire.)

This is a city of single family dwellings. I have yet to see an apartment block. Many of the shops are converted homes. Kiwis are suspicious of big box stores (no doubt a losing battle). All the local Daries (convenience stores) are independently owned — 7-11 has not come to Christchurch.

Christchurch has fantastic bus service, the central bus depot better than most airports. Bus drivers are often called by their first name by passengers.

Christchurch is a popular tourist town. There is a good Museum and a unique International Antarctic Centre used to warehouse NZ, US and Italian Antarctic supplies. Christchurch is a centre of the Arts and audiences turn out en masse for just about any kind of entertainment.

There are good city walks in the Botanical gardens, along the river and even better on the hills of the nearby Banks Peninsula, a volcanic area. A visit to the French harbour town of Akaroa on the peninsula is the most popular day trip from Christchurch.

moorehouse

Christchurch is very white, very British. It feels more like England than Australia. All school children wear uniforms.

The largest minority is Maori though Asians are more visible. In my gym club we only about 10 Maori and Pacific Islanders out of 800+. We have many more Asians. NZ is tremendously popular with Asian tourists and students too.

New Zealanders pride themselves on being tolerant non-racists. I find them more racist than Canadians — though Canada is by far the least racist country I know, another reason for Canuck pride.

Crusaders Rugby

Rugby fans in Christchurch are known as one-eyed for their inability to see any other franchise than their own beloved Crusaders. The Crusaders finals win over the Canbera Brumbies in the Super 12 resulted in civic madness. Undefeated this season, the Crusaders shattered league records. When you speak to a Kiwi, make sure you don’t make the faux pas of confusing Rugby with Rugby League. (Wouldn’t your face be red!)

15 Crusaders were named to the All Blacks, the revered Kiwi National Team; to the Rugby World Cup. The Black Ferns (women’s Rugby) recently took the female World Cup in Barcellona. By the way, the National basketball team is called the Tall Blacks. I reckon we should call the NZ National Gymnastics team the Small Blacks.

ANZAC Day is equivalent to Remembrance Day. New Zealand military might is equal to Canada except that Kiwi peace keepers do a fierce Maori war dance which frightens away enemies without wasting ammunition.

Am I learning anything in New Zealand? Not a wee bit! Heaps I reckon.

Language barrier

I understand Kiwi english only haltingly. Kiwis flatten vowels, confusing me no end. They pronounce “Rec” (as in Recreation) as “Rick”. Every time someone mentions “Rec” at the club, I think they have called me. Kiwis call greasies, their national cusine, “Fush and Chups” (fish and chips).

Guide to NZ English:

buggered (means exhausted)
fanny (means female genitalia)
jumper (means woolen sweater)
tea (means tea)
tea (means dinner)
shagger Clinton (means Bill Clinton)
bach or crib (means a family cabin)
boozer (means bar)
metalled road (means gravel road)
flog or nick (means steal)
tramp (means hike)
judder bar or raised threshold (means speed bump)
wopwop (means remote)
lolly (means candy or any sweet)
drink driving (means drunk driving)
Mexican wave (means The Wave in a sport stadium)
My Roots clothing is a bit risque as to root means to shag.

I often wrongly use Australian or British slang further confusing communication. New Zealanders abreviate many words (Steinie for Steinlager) but not nearly as many as Australians.

I am a Pakeha (Maori for non-Maori).

New Zealand is a bilingual country — English and Maori. It is helpful to learn a few Maori words as many of the place names are in Maori including Taumatawhakat … ngihangakoauauotamate … turipukakapikimaungahor … nukupokaiwhenaukitanatahu (longest place name in the world?).

For example, Urewera is named for the words burnt (wera) genitals (ure). Kaitangata is named for eat (kai) people (tangata). Knowing some Maori is helpful, you see.

Food

Not long ago you could not find perked coffee in New Zealand. Even today instant coffee is standard fare everywhere.

Lest you be dissuaded to visit, know that Starbucks is down under. In fact at the world famous (locally considered boring) Cathedral Square, the hub of tourist Christchurch, you can buy an exotic bagel and drink Starbucks. Overpriced gourmet coffee is everywhere in fact.

Gymnastics in New Zealand

May 27, 2002

rick_mugGymnastics here is surprisingly similar to gymnastics in Canada. The sport is not much less evolved in NZ though the Kiwi population numbers fewer than 4 million. However there are not many modern gymnastics facilities.

My gym is BUSY — as we speak 840 members a week plus drop-in and over 600 kids each week in school programs.

We have over 140 competing; WAG (women’s artistic gymnastics), MAG (men’s artistic gymnastics) and a few Trampolinists.

In New Zealand many more kids compete than in Canada. Club revenue from those competing equals the revenue brought in by recreation. Gymnastics is a much less elitist sport here — I prefer the NZ model. It is much easier to get to Nationals here than it is to get to Western Canada Championships, for example.

Carla
Carla

I am Head Coach of all and personal coach of 19 girls age 11 to 17 as well as 3 male gymnasts age 15 – 22. I have no “partner” coach with the girls though I work with 4 or 5 other very experienced part-time coach / judges. There is never a dull moment.

Our upstart boys competitive program is rocking. We will need a dedicated men’s coach by next season latest.

splits

I arrived at the worst possible time — only a month prior to the start of the competitive season which runs May through to Nationals in September. Most competitions in our region are hosted in our gym as it is an ideal competition venue. I will not need to travel much.

Our gym is organized; the staff is dedicated and over-worked. Many nights we are short coaches. We are always looking to hire.

Our gym was the Pacific Alliance championships training venue and training facility for the Canadian team staging for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. There is a strong affection for Canadian gymnastics here. To my surprise there was another Canadian coach when I arrived, Kendra Wilke ( coached Rec at U of Calgary) who is in New Zealand as National Short-track Speed Skating coach. Kendra coached the Olympics Salt Lake City.

I did not get to meet my predecessor Alexander (Sasha) Pozdniakov.

Laura Smit
Laura Smit

Laura Smit is the top gymnast in the club, age 14, brilliantly artistic but still struggling to meet the very tough FIG requirements this code.

Laura is the only carded (National team) athlete from the South Island, ranked 6th in selection for the 5-member Commonwealth Games team. (NZ may only send 4 gymnasts or fewer.)

haley_doubleOther top gymnasts in the club include team captain Hayley (doing the double back) and Karry, a 17-year-old who has finished high school but who is going strong, still improving.

The gym has great potential. Obviously we have a great base. Other clubs in town do not train Senior gymnasts, sending them to us when the athletes outgrow their facilities.

There are far fewer overweight children in NZ than in Canada though no doubt Kiwis are making chase. Gymnasts here make no effort to hide McDonald French fry cartons when they arrive at the gym. Fish and chips is a staple for families.

The gym is in a marvellous setting between a park and a golf course / tiered driving range. We are part of the largest multi-sport complex on the South Island. I spend a fair bit of time at the nearby Academy of Sport which provides me all manner of high tech computer and video toys.

I have connected with coach education people at NZ Gymnastics and expect to be teaching courses by July. I have not judged as yet but am scheduled for the next competition. I really do not have much time to judge.

National Championships is concluded in Canada, but you are all invited to Kiwi Nationals in Christchurch, September 25 – 29th! See you there.

Ciao for now.

two_ropes2_sm
Getting fit, having fun in Christchurch

Leap of Faith – New Zealand

May 2, 2002

rick_mugWho was it that advised me to bite off more than I can chew … then chew like Hell?

I know he had not tasted Vegemite! 🙂

Well those of you still duped by the myth of the Christian work ethic can sleep soundly knowing that I am working hard — 6 days / week, about 35 hours / week on the floor. The club administration is excellent so the focus of my job is working directly with gymnasts and coaches.

Christchurch School of Gymnastics
Christchurch School of Gymnastics

It has been good fun and an interesting challenge to connect with hundreds of new people Down Under.

We planned my arrival here in time for the big club trip to the hot spring spa in Hamner, 90 minutes out of Christchurch. We played gymnastics games in a park then raced up a mountain (I finished second). The hot pools are great, the most elaborate I have ever seen.

En route home some idiot jumped off the bridge. New Zealand claims to be home of bungie jumping and they love all manner of extreme adventure sport here.

My only other trip was to Dunedin, about 5 hours south of Christchurch. It is a University town like Saskatoon and a large percentages of Kiwis got educated there. It is famous for old architecture and student pubs. I arrived late on a Saturday night and the natives were restless.

Everyone likes Dunedin. It has character.

Locals confided to me that Dunedin is the one city in NZ where being eaten by a shark is a real likelihood. About one resident each year was devoured here until shark nets were strung to protect swimmers.

 walking the deserted beach in Dunedin
walking the deserted beach in Dunedin

Green and hilly, Dunedin is home to Cadbury’s and the world’s steepest roadway. Students were killed joy riding in a trash bin last year. It gets interesting here on the rare occasion when snow falls. Last winter the gravel truck slid down an icy steep hill wiping out all the cars parked below. The driver jumped to safety.

As Spring is sprung in Canada it is Fall here. August is the coldest month but days are shortest in June.

– Kiwi Rick

Rick bungie jumping (back layout 1/1)
Rick bungie jumping (back layout 1/1)

Rick in New Zealand

April 16, 2002

rick_mugEn route to my new job, I had a 1 day stopover in Hong Kong, one of my favourite cities; the famous Star Ferry, double Decker buses, fantastic high-rises and bridges begging the question what happens when the big Quake hits.

Hong Kong was a day filled with anticipation for me too.

After 60 hours en route I finally descended into Auckland. It is a spectacular city seen from above with much water everywhere. This was my first time to New Zealand.

I scooted through customs despite admitting that I had no work visa (yet) though I was arriving for a full-time job. The friendly and casual official waved me through.

One more flight took me on to Christchurch on the south island (mainland!).

It is a great adventure to be living and working in another country. I am thankful my eccentric lifestyle and philosophy affords me the freedom to do so. And the generous support of friends and family, of course. My brother Randy bailed me out in last minute banking confusion.

By the way, I was feted at thanks-for-leaving parties in both Saskatoon and Calgary. Thanks to everyone — especially for the awesome sheep cake in the toon!

In NZ I was met at the airport and whisked to the CSG (Christchurch School of Gymnastics). It is a terrific facility; about 12,000 square feet with an additional spectators gallery above, bunjie pit, excellent matting and new equipment. It is remarkably clean and spacious though the smell of stale sweat hangs in the air just as it does back home.

You might expect I would go straight to sleep then — nope — Rugby was on TV. Rugby is a religion in Christchurch. The Crusaders are undefeated! An infidel Canadian here must immediately be educated in the intricacies of the sport. (One stadium is known as THE HOUSE OF PAIN.)

New Zealanders as you probably know are friendly and down-to-earth. I have been very impressed with my welcome here. One of the gym families has put me up for the first 7 weeks in a guest suite with private entrance. The rumoured kayak transport to and from the gym looks not to be feasible. I bike or walk instead along the lovely Avon River which is crowded with ducks and rowers.

The gym is very well organized by the Executive Officer and my boss Avril Enslow who is one of the top judges in the gymnastics world. The competitive girls are fit and quite good. My predecessor, a Russian coach, has done a good job emphasizing basics.

He eventually came to grief coaching the teenage girls. This is an old story in gymnastics.

Everyone sums up the club with one phrase; great potential.

It is a good challenge for me and one I am enjoying a lot so far. (This after 9 hours in the gym today.)

We plan to build up the boys program this season and add trampoline sports and aerobics in the near future. We even offer Adult Recreational gymnastics. No doubt the club is on the way up and it is fun to be a big part of that progress.

See you down under?

purenz

I always have part-time work for visiting gymnastics coaches.

– Kiwi Rick

___

Interested in a gap year? In the process of planning a gap year? Loved your own gap year? Have no idea what we’re talking about?

The ‘gap year’ is (very) loosely defined as any amount of time taken out of normal life in order to whoop it up in different parts of the world.

There are no rules and the definition is broad to allow for all types of adventures.

Grown Up Gap Years by Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet author and co-founder:

Another gap year? Been there, done that. Mine is ancient history, almost 30 years ago, when I managed to reach Afghanistan on my early ’70s gap year. I’m far too old now, aren’t I?

Come to think of it, however, I have had another, more recent gap year. In 1996 I moved to Paris with my wife, Maureen, and our two children for a year. We’d kicked around the idea of living somewhere else for ages and finally decided to do it before the children got too far along in their school careers. We enrolled them in an international school, near the Eiffel Tower. With emails, mobile phones and so on, I figured I could work out of Paris just as easily as anywhere else in the world. It was terrific, none of us wanted to leave at the end of the year.

So why shouldn’t there be more gap years – even at my age? Not everybody can shift workplaces as I did, but these days more people can manage time off. Indeed, for many, retirement no longer means simply carrying on in the same place, as if nothing has changed apart from the daily journey to work. Gap years shouldn’t just be for the young, though being young at heart is probably a requirement. And these days people seem to be able to manage this long after their passports shout ‘slow down.’

A couple of years ago I joined a trek in Tibet. We faced a seven-day walk across Nepal simply to reach the start, yet one of our fellow walkers was 74 years of age. The trail, which included crossing a pass higher than the Everest Base Camp, didn’t faze him. I later learnt that his gap year travels have taken him from the Himalayas to the Kalahari.

After a lifetime of travel, I hate the thought of stopping in one place, and the idea of serial retirement villages has become a favourite conversation topic: a year in New York would be fun; we’ve always wanted to spend longer in Japan; and another year in France certainly wouldn’t hurt. House-swapping, renting a flat, even buying a Land-Rover and spending 12 months driving from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, have all featured in those dreams.

new.zealand.christchurch

to New Zealand

Mar 10, 2002

rick_mugI have been looking for work. I really need a Masters degree in Education in a hurry — preferably from a prestigious non-accredited University based on my present knowledge and life experience.

Anyone know where I can get one? …
Ian Wright’s job was not available.

I’m a sucker for the Olympics. You?

The Salt Lake City Games had some great moments. I loved the opening ceremonies. Curling was fascinating. (I must be a Canadian.) Skeleton was great. Cross country skiing was impressive.

The best was short track skating — no question. Madder than rollerball.

The hockey games were energizing. My favourite players were Wickenheiser and Fleury. There’s something primal about gladiators with sticks.

One sad line on this Olympics is the fall of the Soviet Union as a proud sports superpower. They are coming to grips with the beginning of the end of their world leadership in my field, amateur sport. Tiny, disorganized countries like Canada are starting to win more medals at the Olympics.

The media has this simplistic fixation on medal counts ignoring more important stats:

+ percentage of personal bests
+ performance / capita
+ performance / tax dollar spent

Besides the Olympics I have never been less interested in TV.

I’d watch more TV if only they had my kind of show on the air. Someone should broadcast nothing but bikini clad chicks posing in the surf for hours.

I heard Moby speak on copyright infringement — downloading digital media without payment to the artist. His interesting twist on this issue was to speculate that — if this kind of theft is inevitable in the future — only those musicians who can draw a live crowd will be able to thrive. Musicians must return to their roots as performers. He feels that many artists tour today only to boost CD sales & that many are not entertaining live.

I’m a digital artist too.

Check my latest page on my hiking site:

The West Coast Trail

Everything you NEED to know to hike the West Coast Trail. (Is it on your life-to-do list?)

WL recommended some great books, the Hyperion series by an amazing author, Dan Simmons. This is science fiction at least equal to Dune and the Azimov Foundation series.

The other significant book of late was given me by RS; Quest for Adventure, by Chris Bonnington, 1981. Bonnington, a famed mountaineer, compares 21 true stories of adventurers who challenged oceans, deserts, snow, mountains and space. The guy who first rowed across the Atlantic, for example.

The Golden Globe challenge was one of the best. Of the many who set out to sail around the world single-handed, a near impossible task, only one succeeded. One committed suicide. Another who might have won the race, came to despise our ferocious, competitive society — he kept sailing another half a world to Tahiti.

Me?

Looks like I am off to New Zealand in early April.

I will be Head Coach of the gym club in Christchurch, south island.

Christchurch peninsula
Christchurch peninsula

Come visit. 🙂

Enjoying Winter in Canada

Feb 1, 2002

rick_mugBetween intense bouts of job seeking I’ve been working on hiking hiking web sites. The Nootka Trail is the first in what I hope will be a series.

Farewell to Peter Gzowski, a hero of mine with whom I spent many hours.

I managed to squeeze in a trip to Parksville with my parents who have rented a rustic log cabin for 3 months of winter. They normally go to the States or Mexico but thought to try Canada this year. Parksville has amazing tidal flats — you can walk the sea bottom forever at low tide. They are at the
Tigh Na Mara resort.

We took a drive across the Island to Long Beach and Tofino where storm watching is the big draw in winter. We were impressed with the Wickaninish Inn — big glass windows overlooking the wild surf. Actually there are 2 Wickaninish Inns; the original which is now an interpretive centre in the National Park and the new Resort near Tofino.

RS & KZ hosted me in Vancouver. We saw the amazing Lord of the Rings (part 1) and went mountain biking on the rough trails of North Van. Within an hour we were on our way to the hospital for wrist surgery for Michael, the one experienced biker with us. But the biking was fun while it lasted!

More recently I joined in our (sometimes) annual ski trip. This year ET, WL, & SGL drove to the mountains via Calgary. We stayed on the hill at Sunshine so that Keiran (age 3.5) could take downhill lessons too. Amazing powder! Over 70 cm during the 3 days we were there.

Enjoying winter!

– Rick (-30 C)

skiing Sunshine. Photo by Warren Long
skiing Sunshine. Photo by Warren Long

Happy Holidays! – Canada

Dec 24, 2001

You know those infrequent mass e-mails veiled behind the Blind Carbon Copy feature feigning intimacy while delivering a self-serving update on Rick’s recent doings?

This is one.

(Disclosure: I stole this introduction from Dean Kalyan)

rick_mugFall in Saskatoon is a wonderful season. Beautiful. Unfortunately — it’s winter.

I’m living near the University again. I love the buzz and energy of the U of S. There’s always something happening.

I’ve been working a bit for Keith at Kinesiology. It’s rumoured that my office is Browser’s Internet Café at U of S.

I was impressed that the E-plant came off again this year. It’s symbolic of the glorious chaos that is the University phase of life. In this annual frosh ritual the Engineering students kidnap one of the Agricultural students; lock him up for a week, feed him only beer and pizza, then crucify him on a gigantic E in the centre of the University.

The Agros rally to rescue the captive. A sprawling melee ensues where the painted combatants (red agros and blue engineers) grapple, ripping each other’s clothes off. (Warriors duct tape their clothes as armour.)

This year, for the first time, the kidnap victim was a woman. At U of S, I run noon hours with Bill and Doug. We were hitting the shower post-run along with dozens of blue-painted naked engineers. In walked one lone red naked Agro student … I’ve got to admit, that guy had balls.

I’m coaching at Taiso — but not too many hours / week. It’s been nice after my burnout last season.

It may be time to find a paying job in 2002. Let me know if you have any suggestions for me.

Earlier this Fall I stayed up late to watch the Leonid meteor shower — amazing.

Good on Canada for honouring our hero Nelson Mandela with Canadian citizenship. (Which Alliance MP hinted that Mandela was a terrorist and refused to return his phone call?) There are some true freedom fighters … Mandela, Gandhi & the Dali Lama.

I took a trip to Kansas City in October to help document the Kansas City Royal Barbeque Championships. Attracting 50,000 people, this is the biggest barbeque competition in the world. Huge prize money.

My friend Ron’s team had qualified for KC by winning US$1000 in Oregon.

Barbeque competition is weird and wonderful. But why do people take a perfectly tasty activity — scorching dead beast — and obfuscate it with rules, alcohol and the most subjective judging scheme conceivable?

Odd.

The only thing odder would be to reward little girls for doing difficult stunts high on a narrow beam.

All the best to you and yours in 2002!

Rick

p.s.

Last time I asked for intelligent, left-wing spokespeople who might responsibly balance all the (high-paid!) right wing types. I got some suggestions:

Billy Bragg
Rick Salutin (Globe and Mail)
Rex Murphy
CBC radio
Peter Gzowski

Happy New Year!