A New Season

Melting Ice Rink

"no more ice rink" from CZTURUBO's Flickr

Starting off this post, I have to apologize to my friend Mich, who shared with me some of her blogging wisdom when I began this project. I’m sorry for letting you down, Mich. My last post, I realize, was in violation of a cardinal rule: don’t apologize for not blogging enough. However, I think I can semi-justify my actions. I wasn’t really apologizing for not blogging enough as I was writing an awfully short and uninteresting post to eek by on my post-a-week commitment to myself. I cheated a little, fellow post-a-weekers, and for that I am sorry.

 

But enough of this boring apology mumbo-jumbo! No reviews this week, just some observations of a season gone by.

 

Before this winter season ever began, I decided that this would be the year I would play hockey for the first time. Being a young, Canadian adult who had never played hockey never bothered me for a long time. Actually it never bothered me any of the time. I was not a terribly sporty child as a… child. I think I had played one too many games with the kid who took the game way too seriously and was so interested in every sport that his enthusiasm, for me, translated into “if you’re not this interested in sports then why bother?” And so I didn’t really. I had coordination, and I was never the worst player out there, but I was never the best.

 

This also meant that I never went out of my way to play sports as a child. I think I played baseball up until I was 12, at which point I realized I didn’t enjoy it all that much and quit. And getting a little more on topic, I learned to skate as a child, but never terribly well. I could go forward and I could tactfully slow down with some decent turns before stopping… with the help of some well placed boards.

 

As I got older it started occurring to me that although my teenaged metabolism seemed to have kept me in decent shape considering my level of activity, there was a pretty good chance that it wouldn’t stay that way. I started biking, and playing squash for a few years. Eventually  I threw out my back playing squash, though. Apparently twisting and bending at the same time is one of the worst things you can do to your back, and unfortunately that basically describes the sport of squash. My back is better now, but not perfect, and I’m not eager to become re-injured. I think squash will stay on the back burner a little while longer.

 

Fast forward to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Oh Canada’s and eh’s abound. The Red and White spirit was omnipresent, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Every day of the olympics I made sure to find a friend or two to watch any event. I actually made friends with my neighbours across the hall this way. And the hockey games had some of the best excitement in sports watching I’d ever experienced. I’ll never forget driving back to Montreal from a skiing weekend in Mont Tremblant, listening to the first period on the radio. We arrived at our destination just as the first period was ending. We got to see the next two periods and the epic Crosby overtime goal on the TV. What a rush!

 

It was either the patriotic spirit laid on thick for the olympics, or the super-exciting hockey games, or the always running Canada-is-hockey *insert product here* ads, or maybe a mix of all of these. But somewhere along that olympic ride, I caught the bug and realized that hockey was pretty cool, and I wanted a piece.

 

That winter I made a few trips to the rink, and it made me realize just how much work I needed to do on my skating (but it looks so easy on TV!). Unfortunately, by the time the games ended, winter was coming to a close. I realized I’d need to do some off-season training if I was going to play some half-decent hockey this year.

 

I brushed off my rollerblades (or fruit-boots as a former roommate liked to call them), and headed to a nearby ice rink-turned-roller rink almost every morning for two months of the summer. When I started I could only go forwards, and with much pain from my lazy muscles. By the end of those two months, with the help of some instructional youtube videos, I could go forwards, cross over, go backwards, cross over backwards, and switch from back to front and vice-versa. Some friends were skeptical that this training would carry over to skates. Their points were valid, but I stuck with it. Rollerblading and skating are pretty similar. The amount of force you need to put in to keep moving is different, and the kinds of turns you can make are different, but the basics are the same. When this winter season came around there was definitely a learning curve that went along with moving from wheels and pavement to blades and ice, but the training helped a lot. The only thing I was really missing from my roller-training was stopping.

 

Yes the dreaded hockey stop. Everyone says that it’s just like stopping on skis, and they’re right. But only if you know how to do it already. Until you get the feel for it, it’s nothing like stopping on skis. Skis are on snow! They don’t get stuck in a rut of ice like skates do! And until you get the confidence and muscle memory to give a good push with the inside of your blade, you’re either making a quick turn or connecting the ice to your face.

 

It took many weeks of work, but I got it eventually. I was also attending some adult beginner’s hockey clinics which were very helpful for someone who had never stick handled on ice before. Road hockey is way different from ice hockey. Think of how unbalanced you feel on skates sometimes, and then try to imagine reaching away from you with a stick. It takes some getting used to.

 

I think I can safely say now that I’m in the upper echelon of beginners now. I can skate, I can pass, and I can carry the puck for a little while. I’ve come a long way from not being able to stop and not having owned a pair of skates since I was 10 years old.

 

And now just as I feel like I’m hitting my stride, the season is ending. It seems like a shame, but there are summer leagues out there, even for beginners like me, and I think I’ll be trying one out. I have to say that I much prefer the simplicity of shinny. Not having a huge bag of equipment to lug around is a big plus in my books. But I’m going to give league play a try. I haven’t played in any real league sport since I was a kid, so I’m interested to see if I’ll still enjoy it.

 

To finish off, here’s a short list of some memories from my first hockey season:

-the sound of skates scraping the ice

-the sound of a puck hitting your stick when you receive a pass

-coming off the ice for a breather, watching steam drift away from face into the cold

-playing in my t-shirt only a few weeks ago during a nice February warm-spell

-watching the falling snow lit by the rink’s lights – it looked like a snow globe or one of those images you might have seen of the deep sea where there is only dark mixed with little motes of dust

 

This winter season has been one of my most memorable , and that’s been in no small part because of taking up hockey. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and is definitely something I’m going to keep up for years to come.

Thanks for a great season, Hockey!

I’m a bad blogger

This is another cop-out (incidentally, a movie that I want to see). Apologies to any of my readers that came here looking for a legit post to read. I’ve just done so many errands today that I’ve been meaning to get to for so long. I feel commitment-ed out. The thought of writing another word is nauseating. I’ll make it up to you. Promise.

Better than iTunes?

Music Notes

posted July 27, 2008 on http://blogs.voices.com/buzz

I’ve been itching to write this post for weeks now. When I discovered these musical services I was dumbstruck with their awesomeness. Now granted, none of them are perfect, but check them out, and then think back to the mid to late 90’s. Remember Napster? We’ve come a long way.

For the music-streaming beginner, Grooveshark will feel the most familiar assuming you are familiar with Windows Media Player or iTunes. Grooveshark is essentially a database of music from tons of different artists, and interface is very familiar to the desktop music player crowd. You go to the site, look up an artist, song or album, and you can stream it from wherever you are. You can build a library, pick favourites, and make playlists. I remember first encountering Grooveshark a few years ago and not being very impressed with its music selection, but now it seems you can find nearly anything you could want. But say there are some choice albums in your digital collection that you can’t find on Grooveshark, what to do? Give back to the Grooveshark community! You can cross-check your computer’s music library with Groovesharks, and any songs it doesn’t already have, you can allow it to upload from you. Now keep in mind, you cannot download any songs from Grooveshark (which might have something to do with why it seems to be less copyright infringe-tastic than our old friend, Napster). Grooveshark is all about live streaming. No matter where you are, or who’s computer you’re using, as long as you’re connected to the net, you can click over to it and listen to your favourite tunes.

One downside I’ve encountered though has to do with album completeness. If you’re a stickler for wanting whole albums, you might be a bit disappointed. Probably due to the different ways people will label their music files, there is plenty of duplication and even some missing songs from some albums. And in some cases, completely mislabeled albums so that you think you’re playing one, and you get another. It ain’t perfect, but still, it’s pretty shiny.

Then there’s Blip.fm, the way cooler, funky, social-butterfly cousin of online music. With Blip.fm you are an online DJ (in the very loosest sense of the word you can think of). Basically you search a song, choose one of the many options that Blip.fm pulls from around the net (some come with video, courtesy of youtube) and then you blip it. Blipping a song is like tweeting, except that the string of continuous blips that’s created by all of these ‘DJs’ make a constantly updating playlist. So you blip your song, it plays, and then when its done, Blip.fm takes you to the next blip. Now instead of listening to just anybody, you can find people that blip artists and songs you like, add them to your favourites, and just listen to the DJs you like. Or you could make a filter with the tuner so that Blip.fm will only play songs that meet certain criteria. You can also show your appreciation for your fellow DJs by giving them props, the blip equivalent of liking a post on Facebook.

Now you might be thinking that this is kinda neat, but why would you want your music selection to be left up to a bunch of people you don’t know? Well, if you know exactly what you want, you might not prefer the blipping option. Fair enough. But I’ve found blip.fm to be a really great way to rediscover awesome songs I’d forgotten about, and to discover new artists and songs for the first time. Once you find some DJs that blip songs you know and love, check out what else they blip, and they might introduce you to some new music you would never haver heard otherwise. Another neat feature in Blip.fm lets you publish your blips (which can also include a short twitter-style message, by the way) to other social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. So even your non-blipping friends can benefit from your musical promiscuity.

Lastly is the aptly named Last.fm. Last.fm can connect to your iTunes and Blip.fm for free (and your Grooveshark account too if you’re a Grooveshark subscriber) and track what you’re listening to. It uses this information to create customized ‘radio stations’ where you can listen to your favourite music. However this feature is only free for the first few songs, and after the trial period you need to subscribe. But don’t worry, even if you don’t subscribe there’s another (free) reason to keep using Last.fm anyway. Last.fm is really good at making recommendations on new artists to check out. And on top of that, it can keep you on top of the gigs being put on by your favourite artists – a very worthwhile feature I think.

Anyway, check all this out and enjoy some easy online listening. And if you try out Blip.fm, my username is nibudd. Props are always welcome.

 

Oh, and I almost forgot. A way-too-smal shoutout to JB, and his suggestion of Spotify. It’s like the European version of Grooveshark, but apparently way better. Unfortunately for us North Americans though, it hasn’t hopped the pond yet. Apparently it still has some copyright issues to work out or something. But if you ever spend some time in the Old World, be sure to check it out. It’s pretty bangin’.

A Little Lame, but…

This post is a little lame. But I have an excuse! I need to write a post today, because I made a commitment with the post a week challenge for this year. It seemed at the time like it would be easier than it seems right now, but alas. Circumstances change.
I just started a new job (my first full-time one at that), and I just finished my first week of training. Which might sound lame, but the people who are training me are really great, and the things they’re training me to do are really interesting. I now know a thousand times more about domains, DNS and zone records than I did when I started on monday. OK, so that may sound as lame to you as my post seems to me, but I swear it’s really cool. Essentially, it amounts to having a much better understanding of how the internet operates, which seems like a pretty great thing to know, considering the internet is becoming more and more useful every day.
So to bring this full circle, I’ve been really busy training at my new job and haven’t had time to write here, because at the end of every day this week I’ve been exhausted. This is due to 1. waking up early for a change, and 2. getting sick.
I’m over the hump now, so next week I’ll hopefully be back to writing about some interesting things on the net you should check out.
Bear with me.

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