Songs for the Spring

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Watching most of you down in the Lower 48, I can’t help but to chuckle (or chortle, because that sounds like a funnier word).  Once again the weather has flipped on it’s head.  While y’all struggle through another bout of cold and snow in the middle of what bored news reporters are calling “The Worst Winter In History of the Month”; the temperatures in Anchorage have climbed to the mid to high 40s.  Yesterday we set a record high, and that trend could continue.

So, as I pulled out my spring jacket, I thought maybe it’s time to pull out my spring music too.  Songs that make me feel like it is spring.  So it’s time to share some of those.

 

Fresh Grass of Spring: Uncle John’s Band by the Greatful Dead

No, I wasn’t some pot junky or stoner back then.  But when I was freshman in college I fell into a Dead Greatest Hits CD for dirt cheap.  During that spring, I would relax after a class by plugging in that CD and try to beat a video game my roommate had before the album was over.  As the days got warmer, we started opening the windows and the relaxed sounds of this music seemed to mix with the first smell of grass (not the first time you connect Greatful Dead and ‘smell of grass’).

 

Warming of the Heart: Black Balloon by Goo Goo Dolls

Spring is the time of year that … well, how do I say this and keep things clean … the heart takes more control than the mind we should say.  It seemed so often that I seemed to start chasing after a woman or two once the warm air wafted through.  Typically for me, there was some connection to a song specific to whomever I seemed to chase.  When that time came when Spring turned to Summer, things didn’t work out, and I carried on like I did before – the song remained.  Black Balloon was just an example of one complicated Spring (No I won’t tell you who she was, hell I don’t even know what happened to her, so quit asking), but it is just one of many.

 

Hope Springs Eternal:  Waiting for My Real Life to Begin by Colin Hay

Spring is always about hope.  It’s when we enact change.  We clean the house, we buy new clothes, we ready for all the good things to come.  Just as much, it’s that time we come out from the dark cloud of winter and put all those things that dragged us down behind.  During some of my own tough times, from when I came out of my own winter, Colin Hay showed up.  The ex-lead man for Men at Work (see also: “I come from a land down under”), he put together a more acoustical album about 10 years ago including this gem.  It’s not just about hope, but it’s about surrounding yourself with people who can carry you there.

 

The Springtime Masterpiece:  First Circle by Pat Metheny

This is a nine-minute song, which is worth noting because I could talk about this song for three times as long.  It is one of my favorite songs of any kind, simply because it is masterpiece of both technically aesthetic complexity and unstopping emotion.  It begins unassuming enough with minimalist clapping and single tones suggesting no melody to come, but that is forgotten quickly because it becomes apparent quickly that if feels like it is off a beat.  It’s written in the insane 22/8 meter (that’s a 123 123 123 12 123 123 123 12, until it switches on you), it keeps you comfortable just long enough to grab you by the nose and pull you forward every couple of bars. By the time you realized that this is a song with more than it seems, the melody starts showing up, or what seems like a melody.  Once it has your attention, it cools off and calms for a nice guitar solo.  It’s soft and careful, but it remains the foundation for something like the foothills of a great mountain range.  Just when you realize the slope is heading up, it gets back on the road again pumping the gas and pulling you forward.  It reaches this crescendo of emotion, building from different lines and different sounds — then it smacks you back to that original melody like a long lost friend.   It’s at that point he takes you by the hand and just goes for it all, running you back up to the heights where you feel as free and energetic as a song can take you – and that’s when the clapping reprises to finish you off.

I first started getting into this song through drum corp, which always was alive in spring with new music coming out of camps.  But it was my time as a DJ in college when I got my first few deep listen.  I would wander around campus or heading back to my room running the tape of it over and over again.  What always amazed me was that no matter my mood, this song could lift it up, and no matter what was on my mind this song grabbed my full attention.  It excited me like no song could — and that is what spring is all about.

 

Happy Almost Spring Everyone!!

Team Strugglebus and the Dream That Was …

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Molly: “So Mitch, if We Win the Bracket, are you taking us all to Disneyland?”

Me (in part stunned silence): “Ahhhhh”

Molly: “How about Vancouver”

Me: “How About Eagle River”

Molly: “How About Sitka, that’s still pretty close.”

Someone Else: “It’s probably cheaper to go to Vancouver”

Me: “How about a discount on a train to Seward?”

Molly: “Deal!”

And so the ‘Dream that was Seward’ was set. 

—-

This weekend as part of the Fur Rendezvous (or Fur Rondy) activities, the Anchorage Curling Club held a bonspiel (Curling for Tournament – or more accurately, curling for drinking a whole weekend eating soup, chili, sandwiches, & vodka-soaked-gummy-bears, and occasionally curling a few stones).  This is not my first bonspiel, and in fact is my one year anniversary of my first bonspiel.  ((See also: Magic Curls T-Line Weight as Lead at the Speil))

Now remember – curling is a four person team sport, you have to have four people on your team.  Depending on when they throw their rocks, they are called the “Lead” (because they lead off the end), Second, Third, and the Skip (who is generally the team captain and the one calling the shots).

During last season, I fell under the category of being “still a rookie”, most of which, including myself, weren’t confident enough to test the speil waters at first.  But once we got a taste we wanted to keep doing bonspiels.  The problem was trying to fit ourselves into a spiel team.  It seemed most the time, you ended up with good people but since you didn’t typically play on their team or play the position you got.  Bonspiels are different than normal games as well, since they are longer, faster, and more competitive.  Even when we tried to put a team together in the off season with the purpose of playing in spiels, that fell apart (schedule conflicts, injuries, etc). So when you didn’t have regular people around you, it was easy to have your game fall to pieces.  So much so, of the four people on our spiel team this weekend, in all our previous spiels (most of them separate from each other) we averaged less than a win in our whole Spiel history.

Let me emphasize that.  You get a minimum of three games per Bonspiel.  Between the four of us we probably had played around 20 bonspiel games, and have three wins.  We’ve been skunked in more bonspiels than we won a single game in.

This time was a bit different.  For Fur Rondy, we got a good team together of friends with the sole purpose of … well .. being a good team of friends.  With me as the “Skip” and my league night 2nd (who instigates everything for some reason), we decided for a Lead to bring in a friend we started off with last season – the aforementioned Molly who is more widely known to Bearfeeders as “Strugglebus”.  We wanted to play with her, so we forced her to play with us by even naming ourselves “Team Strugglebus”.  The third was someone we have played with a good deal, and we knew she could fill in nicely.  While it was a fun team, we still knew that we weren’t that good – so we set the really really low bar (though historically really really high bar) of “Winning One Game”.

On that first game – that goal was reached.  In the end it wasn’t that close, but from a nerves standpoint my clenching stomach and anxiety would have told a different story.  After the win, and after the time when it was clear we had been sportmanlike, courteous, and very curling-appropriate respectful to the other team, I kinda started celebrating like we just won the whole spiel.

We went on to go 2 wins & 3 losses, which is not only double the wins we thought we would get but had us playing more games then we could imagine.  We kept playing deeper into the tournament and until we started missing when a good team started hitting were the favorites to take the Squirrel (aka the C-Rank … the lower talent level) Bracket.

Our matches were 8 Ends, and it is typical that if another team has the lead on you, you “shake hands” and call the game early – which means if you are really bad, you not only play just 3 games, you don’t get past the 5th End all that often.

We played really well as a team – and at times we were playing out of our minds good.  Yes we only won twice, and both of those went to seven ends.  But in our three losses we went all 8 ends twice, and six in the last.  That includes a game where we had a shot (albeit a nearly impossible shot) to tie in the last shot of the game.  One game we played a team that was won of the overall winners, with two of the best players in the club and two very capable team mates.  I honestly believed playing beyond the 4th end would be a victory for us, yet we lead after 5 ends and were still solidly in it until the 7th End — while still a loss, was the best game I ever curled (or skipped for that matter).  We became this team that wasn’t just fun to play with because we are fun people, we were fun to play with because we were a challenge.

It really was a blast this weekend!  Without getting too girly (give me a break, 3 women on my team, some of that rubs off), I think I could have lived with one win and be done early – because that team was something special.  We were friends, good friends, and that was first.  We played together because we were together first.  While we can spend hours moaning about this shot or that shot but we stuck together and supported each other for every end of every game.  That was worth every win we could put on the board.

Even if the dream of Seward is dead.

Winter Is Back!!!

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From early January until just this past weekend, Anchorage agonized through a long stretch of insufferable Lower-48ers who faced moderate cold and snow like my dog facing the threat of a bath.  During the last six weeks, we saw temperatures in 40s & 50s and rain heavy enough to melt most of what we built up during the depressing part of winter.  Snow machines were fitted for wheels, skis were left unwaxed, and Alaskans contemplated spending their vacations in Colorado instead of Hawaii.  Worst of all, the state had been flood with doomsayers pointing at slush puddles and declaring Global Warming killed every fish in the ocean.

Seriously, as long as the winters are up here, to live in Alaska is to embrace what you can do in Wintertime.  That’s why skiing, snowshoeing, snow machineing, skating, and yep even curling is embraced and loved in our state.  This is the time of year to really love it too, because not only are the temperatures usually in a comfortable 20s or 30s, snow still remains white & powdery, and you get 9 to 10 hours of sunlight to play in it.  When it came to any outdoor activity, this “Polar Vortex” put a hamper on the fun winter activities, and began to threat what would be the best time of the winter season.

This past weekend was the start of the  Iron Dog race, a 2000 mile endurance race of snow machines (don’t call them snowmobiles in this state) from Big Lake (just north of Anchorage) to Nome to Fairbanks.  They still set off as schedule on the planned route, but less than 48 hours into the race there were reports of open water along the Bering Sea coast and one rider having to get his machine dragged out of the ocean.

Yet Iron Dog was just the start of the great part of winter.  This weekend starts Fur Rondy including the World Open Sled Dog Sprint Championships, the famous Running of the Reindeer, and a whole mess of other outdoor winter fun.

The biggest fear was an announcement two weeks ago that the Iditarod, the greatest sled dog race in the world, would have to be re-routed majorly.  Instead of having the official start in Wasilla  just outside of Anchorage where it has always left from, unless trail conditions improved and snow & cold returned to the mountainous sections of the trail, they would have to move the start to *gasp* Fairbanks.  Let’s face it, nobody wants that!  Fairbanks would end up to be as insufferable as anyone in the Lower-48.

Our hopes of a last fleeting grasp of winter was filtering away slowly.  Over the weekend we started to see a dusting of powder.  It was nice, but it had yet to be all that impressive – let alone enough to warrant shoveling the sidewalk.

Then Tuesday happened.  Over a four hour period Tuesday night, we received over three inches of snow, much more in other parts of town.  It was still coming Wednesday morning, but now has tapered to clear air.  Anchorage, whom for so long had been covered in half melted dirty ice chunks and salty grit, now is blanketed in fluffy whiteness hanging from every tree and covering ever rear windshield.

So that means we return to our Winter Wonderland.  Fur Rondy is set to be epic.  Iditarod leaves from South Central Alaska as it should.  And finally we can stop complaining about the lack of Winter for a few weeks.

At least until we can start complaining about breakup season.

 

Wonderfulman Part 2

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Once upon a time, I told my old friend Nick Jacobs I was going to a weight loss class that I was going to call: “The Fat Mitch Class.”  Nick stomped her foot and said she wouldn’t accept that.  Instead, she said, call it “Wonderfulman Class.”

That was in 2009.  At that time, I was embarking on a program using medically managed high protein diets, later combined with meal supplements, before slowly guiding us back into the world of normal food and healthy eating habits.  I went through the program and stages changing with the amount of weight loss I garnered, until I lost over half my body weight.  No seriously – in September 2009 I weighed 405 lbs, and by summer of 2011 I reached my low point of 192 lbs.  From a few people, I proudly took the nickname: “Half-ass”.  While on that program, I had loads of support from nearly anyone I knew.  In all honesty, while it was tough at times, it was a lot easier for me to lose all that weight than you think – because the way I am built, losing weight is easy.

Yeah … losing weight is easy … but guess what, gaining it is just as easy.

From that low point in 2011, I started creeping upward slowly.  By the time I moved to Alaska in 2012, I had already put on 40lbs; another 20 or 30 more came on before I settled down.  Then, away from the program, the accountability, and the day to day support; it came back – in addition to being surrounded by great pizza, beer, and months where the weather isn’t worth going out in (not the winter mind you, but the rainy seasons); not all of it but enough to say “all of it”.  As tough as it was to deal with the changes that dang near brought me back to the top the 400 mark, I knew I wouldn’t have the same program that helped me before and was jaded by many of the standard “it’s easy, eat less exercise more” programs that exist.  I had to find something.

My doc recommended the Alaska Premier Health Clinic.  In essence, its the same kind of concept.  Diet & exercise using a liquid based fast start program with weekly weigh-ins and meetings.  One difference that stands out, instead of group meetings – it’s a one-on-one session with the person who defines the plan specifically for you.  It is seemingly more behavioral based, my behaviors.  At this point of time I am only 2 weeks, and doing well, feeling better and fitting into clothes more often.

That being said, this time I want to change things.  A key one is what I just mentioned — that I am focused on behaviors first and foremost.  I know how to make lifestyle changes, I know how to lose weight, and I know how to exercise.  The problem is, I don’t know why I overeat.  For instance, part of this program I am on allows me to leave my liquid diet if I am having urges to have leafy greens or light veggies, and to treat them as nothing calories – which is good & healthy.  But what I don’t get is why I felt the need to eat three salads Saturday night … sure it’s healthy and good for me, but replace the word “salad” with any other edible food and that is a typical behavior of mine.

Another thing I want to do this time is to change the conversation I have with others.  Last time, I was swarmed by support.  I loved it.  It was awesome.  In time, every conversation began and ended with something to do with weight loss.  After awhile, I was defined by my weight loss.  It drove me to lose more and more, and applied more of my own personal stress to find the answers keeping me from gaining it back.  The problem was, life threw a lot of issues at me at once – and as I slowly lost grip of the weight control, I lost control of my identity.  In a way, I want to lose weight this time, but I don’t we to be “that guy who lost all that weight” either.  There is a reason for that, but it’s hard to capsulize in just a couple quick sentences.

So I mentioned in a previous post that this blog is going to change somewhat with the work on improving my health.  This is the kind of thing to expect.  I am facing a long road ahead, but not one that is new to me.  The thing is, I am not one to ask for help because I don’t expect help – if I am doing it, I can get it done.  Any and all support is always welcome (even if it sounds unwelcome) but truth is some parts of this road need to be walked alone.  Wonderful man or not.

How is it Different for You?

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And it took me less than 24 hours to do a follow-up to my first curling post of the Olympics, can you believe it?  I have some other terms I will throw out there for you, but for starters there is a question I got that needs to be understood —

How is the curling I do different from what the Olympians do?

Well, in theory, it isn’t different.  In practice, there are three ways where it is way different:

The Game Difference: It’s slower for us.  Olympic teams are required to throw all ten of their ends in 74 minutes, which is just over a minute per rock (and that includes the 20-30 seconds it takes for the rock to actually reach the house).  The whole of the game takes less than 2-1/2 hours to finish.  We aren’t timed on our rocks, ever!  Usually we are given a 2 hour block to play, and however many ends (usually 6 or 8) we get in is good to go.  So they get nearly 10 ends in the time it takes us to get in 6 ends.

The Gamesmanship Difference: Competitiveness is way friendly.  Curling and Golf can be compared similarly here.  Most of the rules are based on it being a “friendly sport” – like it is customary and expected to shake hands before and after each match and to wish each other “Good Curling”.  All the rest of the rules are on the honor system, where you call your own fouls, agree on the scoring between teams, and generally respect the other team to the point where an argument is as rare as a snowless winter in Alaska.  That isn’t as obvious on TV, but its moreso where we play.  Points matter, but games don’t.  Most our leagues don’t keep records, and most the time winning and losing isn’t as important as having fun.  So many times we are cheering each other on, socializing across teams, and skips even helping each out with calls.

The Big Difference:  Olympians Drink Water – We Drink Beer — Seriously!  At the local level, curling is done in curling clubs, like our’s the Anchorage Curling Club.  Many of them, including ours, is complete with two sheets of ice and a fully stocked bar.  Going to the club for me is just a few steps short of my days when I was a regular at a bar in Wisconsin.  You meet up with your friends, hang out, drink beer, and … curl.  This is party why the game is so friendly, because drinking makes a fun game funner.  This is also why it takes longer for us to curl … because … well … beers run out and you need more.

If you are still reading this, I may catch one or two of you saying “man, that sounds like fun, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try”.  I say to you … TRY IT!  Curling has taken off the last few years that there are curling clubs all over the country, including warm weather states (Los Angeles has at least two clubs).  If you are in the mid west, they are all over the place — Minnesota & Wisconsin especially.  Every club will offer “Learn to Curl” sessions, either advertised and open to the public, or as part of party rentals.

Before I leave this, a couple terms I forgot to include for you in the last post.

There is a shot called “Raising” or a “Raise“.  This is similar to a take-out but not quite.  The situation for a raise begins when your team has a rock in front of the house in the way of a scoring position.  Instead of getting rid of it, you hit that rock on the nose (similar to a nose hit) but light enough that you tap it back to that scoring position.  When done right, the rock you threw ends up guarding the rock you raised back.  It’s a tough shot because it requires precise hitting the front rock and a weight that will only send the raised rock back without taking it out of scoring position.

There was talk about the “7 Ender” the US Women’s team gave up to GBR.  That simply means they gave up 7 points in one end.    It’s also very bad for any level of curling.  Giving up 7 points means the other team put every rock but one in the house and you couldn’t remove them or get your rock inside of theirs.  To put it in perspective – I don’t play on good teams, and if we give up more than 2 its a bad end, four is a big problem, and five or more basically means you lost the game on one end.  To get a 7 Ender, there is a balance between one team shooting lights out good, the other team shooting horribly, and set-ups that just allow rocks to get into the house without takeouts or guards.  A 7 Ender is equivalent to a pitcher throwing a no-hitter in baseball or basketball player scoring more than 50 points – it can happen but its rare and you need to be great and the other team to be off.  The 7 Ender the US Women gave up was the highest score any curling team scored in a single end in Olympic history.  There is, of course, an 8 Ender, when a team scores all 8 rocks. If a 7 Ender is a no-hitter, an 8-Ender is a perfect game.  Every 8 Ender on Televised curling for the last 15-20 years can be found on YouTube, and it really isn’t that many; and the USA Curling Magazine will publish your team’s name if you get an 8 Ender in club play (and I usually see 4 or 5 published every quarter), it’s that rare and that difficult.

 

Good Curling Everyone.

Learn to Curl Already

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Okay – Heard the complaints, so now its time to give an overview of curling that should give you the basics of the game enough to enjoy the Olympics.  The one letdown of the games so far (besides the fact the two USA teams are now a combined 1-7) is they haven’t been all that great at giving the basics.  So maybe I can help.

The Sheet:

The game is played on a sheet of ice, usually called a “sheet“.  “Rocks” or “Stones” made of granite with a handle attached are slid down the length of the ice.  They are aiming for a target on the other end called “The House“.  The house is actually a set of four rings, that are generally named for the diameter: “The 12 foot” is outside of the largest colored ring, “The 8 foot” the middle white ring, and the “4 foot” is the inside colored ring.  The very center of the target is called “The Button“.

The other parts of the sheet have names too:
Closer to the shooter is called the “Front of the House” and the other is “Back of the House”.
The line that splits the front and back of the house is the “T Line“.
12 feet in front of the house is the “Hog Line“, which all rocks must get past if they are to be in play.
The line going down the center is the “Center Line“, duh.
And the place where the shooter stands to make the shot is like rubber starting steps called “The Hack”
The “Sides” or the “Boards” is the sides of the sheet, and any rock that touches the sides is immediately out of play (no bank shots).
The rock is also out of play if it goes over the line at the back of the house, called the “Back Line”.  Unlike the sides, where touching is enough to be out of play, the rock has to completely go over the back line to be out, which can look odd when a rock is just touching the back line but most of it is hanging out the back.

The Ends:

Games are played in “Ends” with scoring calculated at the end of each end.  Two teams of four players play each other – alternating throwing two rocks per team member.  To tell which is which, each team is assigned a colored rock (red and yellow – which is not based on their country’s colors, it’s just selected as part of the round robin).  In total each team will throw eight rocks.  Team members are given titles corresponding to their order in play:
Lead” throws the first 2 rocks for a team
Second” throws the second 2 rocks
Third” throws the third
And the “Skip” (who is basically the team captain) throws the last two.
And it alternates between teams, so the order is like: Lead Yellow, Lead Red, Lead Yellow, Lead Red, Second Yellow, Second Red … etc
The skip also has to call the shots for the other team members, standing on the target end and using their broom to show where they want to go.  The third will take the skip’s place when the skip is throwing, and otherwise if anyone isn’t throwing they are sweeping.  That’s why you always see one person throwing the rock, two people sweeping, and the Skip standing at the end and calling commands.

At the Olympics there are 10 ends — though I usually play in 6 or 8 end games.  If the score is tied after 10 ends, they keep going until someone scores.

Scoring:

Okay – this can be tricky when you first look at it & unless someone points it out to you it can be confusing on TV, but it is actually quite simple.  Scoring goes like this:

  • Scoring is only based on the position of the rocks after the last rock comes to a rest
  • Only the team with a rock closest to the Button can score
  • The score is the total number of rocks that are inside the house AND inside of the opponent’s rock closest to the center
  • Only rocks in the house count to scoring – touching the outer most ring (or “biting the house”) counts as being in the house

In other words:
If there are two rocks in the house – one red one yellow – and red is closest to the center, the score would be: 1 Red because only the closest rock to the button scores
If there are five rocks in the house and from inside out they go – yellow yellow red yellow red – the score is: 2 yellow because only the closest scores and there is two yellows inside the nearest red.
If the red team has all eight of their rocks in the house, but yellow is on the button, the score is 1 yellow since only the closest scores.
If there are rocks all over the front of the house but none of them are actually in house, the score is a Blank (or zero-zero) since only rocks in the house count.

One more term you might here.  At any given time during the end, the closest rock to the center is called “shot rock“. Even though they know points don’t count until the end, knowing what is shot rock is important to know for strategy. 

The Hammer

Ok, this is a bigger deal than it looks on TV, but the Hammer is critical.

Because the points don’t count until the end of the end, having the last rock to throw in the end is important.  Ultimately, you can take out scoring rocks, add another point to your score, or put the entire end on it’s head with just that last rock.  The last rock is called “The Hammer“.  Besides the first end where the team with the hammer is decided before hand (we do a coin flip for our games), the team without the hammer is the team that scored last.  So if you scored in an end, the other team will have the hammer in the next end.

If you have the Hammer, scoring is expected (at the Olympics, scores of 2 or more are expected).  If you don’t have the hammer, you’re trying to either score points of your own (called “stealing” points) by screwing up the other’s team’s shots, or force the team to only score one (called a “force” or a “cheap hammer“).  On the Olympic level, these teams are trying to break out with a high scoring end, and you won’t do that without the hammer – and if it’s close you want the hammer in the last end so you can control your team’s destiny.  This is why you may see the last rock get thrown through the house and out the back to blank an end (score zero-zero) since it is better to keep the hammer than to score only 1 point.

Throwing, Sweeping, & Yelling:

Chances are the sweeping got your attention, as well as the yelling.  To explain that, I need to tell you about the throwing and the sheet itself.  The ice used for curling is not like ice on a skating rink, rather than being smooth it’s rough.  On top of the sheet of ice, a “pebble” is applied – which is basically droplets of water showered along the surface.  This pebble is the building block to what gives Curling it’s name.

When a person is throwing the rock down the ice, the put a very light spin on the rock (only enough for it to rotate 4 times down the length).  This spin combined with the pebble will cause the rock to turn or “curl” down the ice. On some sheets I’ve see a rock curl up to 8 feet left or right from where it was heading.  So when someone is throwing a rock, they are thinking about three things:  direction of the throw, distance to throw it (or “weight”), and the spin (or “handle“) they put on the rock.  You may hear them talk about the direction of the turn as either being an “in turn” or an “out turn“.  That’s based on the direction your elbow moves.  If you throw with your right hand, your elbow will turn out from your body when you put a handle on it to the left, a right turn and your elbow will turn in.  A rock without a turn is said to have “no handle” – which is bad.  The rock is going to curl one regardless of your handle, but by putting one on you at least can control it.

On the direction, shooters will aim for a broom positioned as a target by the skip.  If the thrower misses the target (not counting the curl) away from the center line it’s called being “wide“.  You miss it towards the center line it’s called being “narrow”.  But if you release the rock on target toward’s your skip’s broom it’s called “hitting the broom”.  This is why when someone said to be careful on Anchorage streets after an ice storm because it was like a curling sheet outside I said, just stick a broom in the snow drifts, because I would never hit a broom.

So the person released the rock and now the sweeping and yelling begins.  This sweeping melts the ice lightly in front of the rock and does two things: 1) it makes the rock go further, and 2) it makes the rock go straighter.  Because the level of players in the Olympics are so high, sweepers almost have as much to do with the rock position as the person throwing it, and can even effect direction by pinpoint placement of their sweep.  The skip is making the call on how hard or easy to sweep with voice commands — that is what you will hear non-stop.  Part of that communication is calling out the perceived weight of the rock too.  I just love yelling “Haaaarddd, Hurrry Hurrry HAAAAARD!!”

For what it’s worth — A team can sweep their rock at any time, even if the other team is throwing their rock (you may see that on big hits).  You can’t, however, sweep your opponents rock UNLESS they are past the T Line, and then only one person (usually the skip) can do so.  You’ll see this when someone is drawing in and is too heavy, so the other team will sweep that rock out of play.

Types of Throws:

There are basically Three types of throws but variations come in different names:

Guard” – A shot thrown in front of the house intended to block the other team to getting to rocks thrown behind (guards are usually thrown before the rocks they intend to guard, if that makes sense).

“Center Guard” – Is a Guard along the center of the sheet, and tends to block the button from scoring.  Bad if you have the hammer, because putting a rock on the button with the hammer is ideal.
“Corner Guard” – Guard away from the center.  Teams with the hammer like this because it protects scoring rocks without guarding the button.
Free Guard” – Any rock thrown by either lead (the first person on each team) that ends up in front of the house is called a “Free Guard”.  These can not be removed by the other lead by a take-out.  This is a recent rule (last 15 years) and before that the first four shots were: guard, take-out, guard, take-out.  Now they actually come into play.

“Take-out” – Rock thrown hard down the ice intended to ‘take out’ the opponent’s rock.  The intention is to send the other rock out-of-play either to the side walls or out the back. These are fun because the rocks make a lot of noise.

Peel” – Take out along the sides which sends both team’s rocks out of play.  This is done mostly to guards, since it would suck you take out their guard and leave your own.
Nose Hit” – As it sounds, smack the other rock on the nose, so it goes and you stay.
“Hit and Roll” – As it sounds, you take their’s out and yours rolls a little further away.  The goal with this is to take out their’s and put yours behind a guard.  It’s a lot tougher than it looks.
Double” or “Triple” or “Quad” – This is the coolest shots to watch.  You are not just taking out a rock, but taking out multiple (2, 3, or 4 as the names imply).  This takes a geometric mind because you have to hit your circular object into another circular object to strike a 3rd, or 4th circular object in the direction you want … and with the force to get it out of there.  The force is the fun part, because it takes a heavy throw

Draw” – A shot thrown intended to go inside the house without hitting anything.  It’s also the shot that the curl is most obvious, because it tends to be around guards or other rocks.  You can actually see it move left or right as it comes around those other rocks.

Freeze” or “Freeze Up” – This is when rocks are drawn into the house and stop just in front of other rocks.  The two rocks tight to each other would be tough to take out, since you hit the front one and it probably wouldn’t move.  This is really nice if there are rocks deeper into the house, because freezing up to them will get you closer to the button.  Plus if you are a little heavy they act as a back-stop.
“Draw to the button” – It’s the perfect shot, sending a rock down and landing it on the button to take the point.  Think of this like a clutch moment in sports.  The skip with the hammer rock has to make a shot through a mass of guards that unless they put it right on the center their team will either lose points or lose the game.  It is one of the hardest shots to make, and is brimming with the torture of the moment.  Huge crowd around you, two teams on their seats, and you have to put this rock on the broom with controlled weight.  That’s Pressure.

Alright.  Did I miss anything?  Did you hear something that I didn’t mention?  Let me know and I will do what I can to help.

‘Splainin to Do

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Two weeks ago, I made a post on Facebook that rambled on quite a bit, but hinted to health issues that I was facing.  While I know not every one of you are on my Facebook, I received loads of comments and messages since then full of concern.  At the time I wasn’t ready to talk about it and left some of you in the dark.  Now that time has past, some of you are sitting there tapping your foot and saying “Mister … You Gots Some ‘Splainin to Do”.   Well, here’s your time.

Let me start by saying this is a Two Part Post — One about what Happened, and One about what’s Going to Happen.  All of this will be tied into a bit of a new direction for my blog, which I will get into later.

For starters, let me share the post the first half of what I posted on Facebook on January 21st:

Ok. I’m kinda drunk now so I can post this with more honesty than I normally show. The last couple of days I had a minor (emphasize minor) health scare. I shared the issue with very few people, but they still were able to remind me I am mortal, I need to make changes, my demons won’t go away unless I do something, but more than anything I am not alone. Before y’all react and make a pity party here; I have a plan, my doc likes my plan, and I know my life will get better – make no mistake of that. 

Here is the story behind that post.  Since November, I have been having an on again, off again cough that was nagging me.  It kept me from doing some things when I was in Hawaii in December and came on pretty hard over the holidays.  I began to believe I had pneumonia, something I knew would take more than just some cough medicine and rest to clear up.  After a late Friday night of curling a few weeks back, I woke up and the cough was as bad as ever, and I was through with it.  Thinking my doctor’s clinic was closed on Saturdays, I just found a walk-in urgent care place.

Instead of pneumonia, the clinic doc focused on high blood pressure, possible anemia, and was concerned about heart congestion.  He began taking tests, confirmed the pneumonia but gave an initial diagnosis of heart issues requiring immediate evaluation by a cardiologist.  He referred me to the local heart institute, emphasizing that I should get there as soon as possible.

Before I would take a step like that, I chose to see my own doctor for a second opinion.  While I had only seen my doctor a few times, never had he even suggested I needed to see a cardiologist.  Instead of making confirming the need for a cardiologist, my doctor told me quite the opposite.  That visit ended up to be one of the best (and actually funniest) visits I ever made to a medical place.  My doc and I had made a plan, and were just starting to work on it at that time.  His thought was that even if the test came back showing heart concerns that if I work on my weight, my blood pressure, and my sleeping that the rest of it will come back in line.  Since then, the testing performed by the clinic has come back negative, and even an EKG run recently shows I show no evidence of heart risk at this time.

But let’s face it, that’s only the “clinical” side of the issue.

I refer to that visit to the clinic as someone dropping “the little c” on me: “cardiologist”  People only go see a cardiologist if they have a bad heart.  People with bad hearts, quite simply, die.  Suddenly, the idea that the clock that is my body is ticking, and ticking quickly, hit home.

The truth of the matter is that I DID have a plan, a plan that as of today is fully in swing.  While I know I could have used the support, I didn’t want to have people telling me what I should do or making promises that either they couldn’t keep or I wouldn’t let them keep.  So, I only let a very few people know what was going on for those couple of days.  Yet as much as I resisted in myself to talk to anyone or even to suggest I needed help, I was shook by how heartfelt that help was and how trusting they were to accept my attempts to keep anyone / everyone at arms length.  In that moment of realization – and with the help of an awful lot of beer – that Facebook post came out.  With it came the primer for what, at the time, was what I was willing to accept for anyone considering to attach themselves to whatever issues I had.  That was the second half of the post, which read:

That being said, I am still who I am – I am needy but don’t want help; I need accountability but don’t want to be told what to do; I show love by being a real asshole; I let my demons win because we deserve what we tolerate; most of all regardless of your opinion of me I will reject it – even if it means I will push you away. God doesn’t ask us to handle anything more than we are capable of; so don’t accept when it seems I am asking anything more (if that makes sense).

Much of that still holds true.  In the months to come, my “Plan” will be in full effect – and expect me to reveal more an more of it as it goes along.  The most obvious one will be in the follow-up post tomorrow; yet like I mentioned this blog will now become just as much about living in Alaska as it is about me wanting to live.