August 17, 2008

August 17, 2008
Welcome to my Sunday. I hope you are having a great weekend so far.

Today started off as another typical day for me. I woke up around 10am when my alarm went off. Gary was still at work but I knew I needed to get up and get my day started since we had decided to attend the picnic for a focus group called Healthy Relationships. Health Relationships is a study given by Nathaniel and NFAN that focused on individuals making better health choices in their lives. Nathaniel has always been so helpful with my projects that it was the least we could do to show our appreciation. So after getting my shave and shower, it was time for Gary to get home from work.

We ended up getting a ride with Gary's friend, Rene, to the event. Gary and I were standing at the bus stop when Rene and her boyfriend drove by and offered us a ride. It was great seeing Rene because she is such a card. It was great of them to give us a ride to Willowbranch Park which is next to our neighborhood library. There were about fifteen guys there when we showed up around 12:30pm. Nathaniel and Paul did a great job organizing the event. They had hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone to eat. Paul and Nathaniel also had activities and card games planned. Everyone seemed to have a great time. We did get sprinkled on a couple of times but no major rain or storm luckily. The picnic ended around 2:30pm and Tim was a sweetie and gave us a ride home.

The big news today is the hurricane that the experts are saying will hit Florida in the next four days. Flooding from Tropical Storm Fay killed four people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and authorities warned Saturday that the storm could reach hurricane strength as it barrels toward Cuba. Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency and said Fay threatened the state with a "major disaster." Forecasters said Fay could bring hurricane-force winds to the Florida Keys as soon as Monday. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that on Saturday night the storm was located about 60 miles southwest of Guantanamo, Cuba. It was heading west at about 14 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Cayman Islands, and a tropical storm watch remains in effect for the Bahamas and Jamaica. Cuba's government said hurricane watches were in effect for the provinces of Villa Clara, Cinefuegos, Matanzas, Camaguey, Ciego de Avila and Sancti Spiritus. Fay's path was expected to take it over the southern coast of the eastern Cuba late Saturday or Sunday and over the island's west near Havana on Sunday night or Monday. Officials in Cuba's eastern province of Santiago met to discuss ordering tourists to evacuate low-lying coastal hotels and camp sites, the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported on its Web site. Forecasters said Fay could hit the U.S. as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, with winds perhaps reaching more than 100 mph. The only saving grace is they expect the storm to only be a class 1 hurricane by the time it reaches us. So I will definitely be getting some food supplies this next week to keep us covered. So keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer for me as Jacksonville is right in the middle of the proposed strike zone.

Then we also had world news made today at the Olympics. Cheering from the pool deck, Michael Phelps won his record eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games on Sunday to become the grandest of Olympic champions. Jason Lezak held on to the lead Phelps gave him, anchoring the United States to a world record in the 400-meter medley relay against an Australian team that did its best to spoil history. But Phelps, with a big hand from three teammates, would not be denied. He eclipsed Mark Spitz’s seven-gold performance at the 1972 Munich Games, an iconic performance that was surpassed by a swimmer fitting of this generation: a 23-year-old from Baltimore who loves hip-hop music, texting with his buddies and wearing his cap backward. Debbie Phelps was sitting in the stands at the Water Cube, tears streaming down her cheeks, her two daughters by her side. After getting his gold, Phelps quickly found his family, climbing through a horde of photographers to give all three a kiss. Mom put her arm around his neck and gave him a little extra hug. Her son sure earned it. “The Beijing Olympics has witnessed the greatest Olympian of all time— Michael Phelps of the USA,” the announcer said as Phelps posed with his teammates.

Even though the Americans have never lost the medley relay at the Olympics, the latest win was hardly a breeze. When Phelps dived into the water for the butterfly—the third of four legs—the Americans were third behind Japan and Australia. But Phelps, swimming the same distance and stroke that he used to win his seventh gold a day earlier, powered to the front on his return lap, passing off to Lezak with the Americans in front. Australia’s Eamon Sullivan tried to chase down Lezak and appeared to be gaining as they came to the wall. But Lezak touched in 3 minutes, 29.34 seconds — Phelps’ seventh world record in his personal Great Haul of China. the Americans still had to wait a couple of tantalizing minutes for the official results to be posted. The fourth member of the team was backstroker Aaron Peirsol, who swam the leadoff leg. Finally, it flashed on the board. World record. Gold medal No. 8. A beaming Phelps slapped hands with his teammates and thrust his arms toward the Water Cube roof. The winning swimmers locked arms as if they were in a football huddle about to break for a play. Phelps, who won three relays in Beijing along with five individual races, gave each one of them hug and surely thanked them for helping him take down Spitz. Phelps set seven world records and one Olympic record, doing a personal best time in every event. Back in Baltimore, some 10,000 fans hung around after an NFL preseason game to watch the relay on the stadium’s big screen. Phelps won some races by ridiculously large margins, others with the closest of finishes—most memorably, his seventh gold by one-hundredth of a second over Serbia’s Milorad Cavic in the 100 fly. Along the way, he became the most winning Olympian ever and left China with 14 career golds—five more than anyone else with at least one more Olympics to go. After receiving his eighth gold, Phelps received another award from FINA, the sport’s governing body, as the best swimmer of the meet. Make it the best ever.

Ditto for Dara Torres, who capped her improbable comeback with two more silver medals, missing gold by one hundredth of a second in the 50 freestyle. The 41-year-old Torres, a five-time Olympian and the oldest American swimmer ever, also anchored the American women to a runner-up finish in the 400 medley relay. She got silver in all three of her races in Beijing, giving her 12 medals in a remarkable career that began at the 1984 Los Angeles Games—a year before Phelps was even born. Surely this is the end. Then again, never count Torres out as she will only be 45 for the London Games. The German swimmer nipped Torres at the wall to complete a sweep of the women’s sprint events in Beijing. The middle-aged American smiled, her head dropping back, when she saw a time of 24.07—just behind Steffen’s winning effort of 24.06. The German added to her gold in the 100 free. Torres received her silver, then hustled back to the locker room to grab her cap and a pair of old-fashioned goggles that were probably older than some of her teammates. She was trailing as she took the anchor leg and couldn’t catch Libby Trickett on a frantic sprint to the wall, with China claiming the bronze. Still, not bad considering she had retired a second time after the 2000 Sydney Games, then got the urge to compete again after having her first child two years ago. Not content swimming in the old-timers’ division, she set out to prove that age is only a number. Consider that point made. Torres got off to a good start in the 50 and appeared to be leading midway through the race, a frenetic sprint from one end of the pool to the other. As they came to the wall, Torres and Steffen were stroke for stroke. The German reached out with her left hand and Torres stretched with her right. Steffen’s fingertip got there first. So we should be very proud of the accomplishments of our athletes at these Olympics games. They have done us all proud.

Well that's about it for me today. I hope you are having a great weekend and doing something special for yourself.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab