Sunday, May 12, 2013

Playing Pool

 I had never played a real game of pool until last Thursday. The only experience I had before was playing on Wii console. This deficiency showed when I joined my colleagues for a tournament last Thursday night. When I picked up a cue stick to try to hit balls, the cue stick just wouldn't move the way I wanted it to move. Fortunately a young colleague Daniel walked to my table and showed me how to play. I learned some basic skills before the tournament started.

The organizer paired people up for teams - many people picked their partners quickly. As a newcomer to the event and an obvious novice, I was left alone at my table.  In the end, Jason, an employee who is new to my site, was paired with me by the organizer.

The tournament had a total of 11 teams, which were divided into two brackets. My bracket had only 5 teams, and since we had no opponents at my pool table - table 2, we got an automatic bye for the first round!! We played winners of table 1. While I was still not very consistent and missed some easy shots, I managed to hit 3 balls into pockets. Jason cheered on every point I made, and I did the same.  Hitting the ball into the pocket was really exciting. My team scored a surprising win over a more experienced team! Then we played winners of table 3 - which were the champions in the previous tournament.  I did not have very high expectation, we just went forward trying to take every opportunity to score. We won gain!

While waiting for the winners of the other bracket, I practiced a lot trying to sharpen my skills. Jason, my partner identified the root cause of my erratic cue stick movement - my upper and lower arms both moved when I move my cue stick. When I followed his instruction of locking my upper arm when moving the stick, I could hit the ball more consistently.

Finally the winners of the second bracket were decided, Jason and I would play against Joe and Karla. The two teams matched pretty evenly with slight edge to our team until Jason missed a couple "easy" balls.

In the end each team had one ball left, and it was Joe's turn. It seemed certain that they would beat us. Joe's shot missed the pocket. We had a sigh of relief,  we got a chance to win now because it was Jason's turn. Unfortunately  Jason's shot did not fall either. Karla's cue ball missed target. It was my turn. I checked the alignment of my cue stick with the ball and target pocket,  practiced moving the stick a couple times, and as I was about to make the play, Jason stopped me. We talked about how I should hit the ball, then I calmly hit the cue ball, which in turn hit our last ball. It seemed  that I hit the cue ball at just the right angle and with just enough force, our last ball rolled just far enough to fall into the target pocket. My cue ball stopped at a good position with respect to the "8" black ball as well.
For championship point, I was very calm, not excited, not nervous either, not thinking about anything except how to make the shot. Based on my estimation, I made a gentle hit at the cue ball, which hit the "8" ball. As the "8" ball rolled slowly toward the target pocket, I raised my arm with great expectation. When the ball fell into the pocket, I pumped my fists, and exclaimed a soft "yes" to myself. The feel of winning is ecstatic!

Jason high fived me. We shook hands with our opponents and accepted the championship trophies.

After taking a picture of the trophy at home, I placed the trophy on the meeting table in my office. It becomes a topic of conversation for my visitor and me.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

White Rock Creek

The campus of Children's Hospital at the southwest corner of  Hedgecoxe and Preston has become so beautiful this spring that I can not help looking at that direction whenever I pass by. One day I noticed people jogging on the east side of the campus. Is there a trail? I became really curious.

Sunday after lunch we decided to go and explore. I was surprised when we got there. The paved trail by the hospital runs both south and north directions, with no ends in sight. 

We decided to go south first. The trail is parallel to a creek which gently flows southward. Wild flowers were blooming on its bank. Many birds were flying around.  A unique black bird with red flower like patches on its wings caught our eyes. The paved trail stops at Legacy road; but an unpaved trail continues south across Legacy. I went further to check it out. The creek opens up wider and is more like a lake on the south side of Legacy. Perhaps there is a dam down south. 

Heading north on the trail passing our starting point, we crossed the creek over a bridge. There is a ranch. Three horses were munching and playing. The creek is really shallow now, white rock at the creek bed is visible. The trail follows the zigzagged creek, crossing Preston via an underpass, and continues going north on the east side of Preston. There it winds into a large wooded area, quiet but a bit desolated. Our curiosity to find the trail's northern end led us all the way to an underpass near Ohio. 

I've been driving pass the bridges near Hedgecoxe Road and Preston Road for years, yet I had never checked what the creek is beneath the bridges.It turned out that the creek is named white rock creek, which starts from Frisco, TX, and runs all the way to the White Rock Lake in Dallas. The trail is named Legacy trail, which starts at WH "Razor" Park in Plano, and ends on W Spring Creek Parkway. The trail is not continuous; the portion we walked on is a longer continuous portion of the trail.

In a densely populated area, right by a major south-north traffic artery,  white rock creek shapes this area into a truly urban wilderness, an oasis in concrete and brick. What a gem!