Olympic Fever

I’ve been following the Olympics for a while now, something my better half gets a significant amount of joy from watching.  Igloo-world is a winter Olympics country and we usually do pretty well.  Summer… let’s not talk about summer.  It only lasts 2 weeks here anyways.

The “traditional” medal sports here are hockey and curling.  Not that other events have not been medal contenders, but those two have for 20+ years been gold/silver conversations.

Hockey this year is a bit different, at least for the men. There’s no NHL players, so North American countries are a much lower caliber.  OAR and a few other european countries are in a better spot and taking Canada to town.  Women though, nothing much changed.  The US (gold) and Canada (silver) have dominated for 20 years.  There’s still a long way to go for parity.

Curling was dominated by Canada for nearly 30 years.  Just complete washes.  Over the years every country has gotten better, helpful for a sport that isn’t physical but mental instead.  The Canadian women played horribly, and the men just weren’t at the level needed to deliver.  Curling is measured by %shooting, or just rather accuracy.  Medal players shoot in the 90%s.  There were some odd shot choices, and mistakes that typically do not show up at this level.  That, combined with other nations consistently shooting above 80%.

With both of those traditional sports not delivering, it’s opened up eyes to other events.  Ice Dancing, moguls, downhill, speed skating, bobsled…lots of fun to watch events events with some interesting twists. The snowboard big-air competition was something else.   Watching Esther Ledecka win gold on downhill, and unable to believe it is my go-to story for this run.

It’s really something to see both the combination of athletic development (skill) and the ability to report on it (technology).  Some of the replays and art used is quite impressive.  We’ve come so far from tape and 10+ minutes of review.  Even Ice Dancing has a clear on-screen marker for technical score, updated while the skaters are on the ice.  Not to mention I can stream everything from my phone through an official app.  The exposure is great.

It’s also a nice thing to see the country being able to produce a record amount of medals (27 as of this morning) without the traditional ones.  Even those in 4th or 5th are better than the 7,600,000,000 other people on this planet.  Even qualifying is an achievement.

Hope other people are getting as much fun out of watching this as I am.

Outdoor Rink

I had built an ice rink last year for the little ones and that went over rather well.  They were outside for about an hour a day, skating around and getting used to the ice.  I made my own ice surfacer too.  There were a lot of lessons learned, primarily that my backyard is not level and that the ice takes a crap ton of water to get started.

This year I want to try something a bit different.  We had our first snowfall last weekend, so time’s a wasting before I can get something up.  Instead of just laying it on the ice and flooding (and losing water from the sides), I want to do a slightly better job.  Main points:

  • Set up boards and supports
  • Put a tarp to contain the water
  • About 20′ by 30′.

Boards can be simple or complicated.  A real rink is rectangular, with rounded corners.  I’d have to bend some wood to make that work, or get some plastic.  And I have a near full size outdoor rink about 5 minute walk from my house anyhow.  I need simple.

The thinking right now is a simple box, with side supports.  Figuring I’ll need those supports every 4′ or so, and at the above size, that’s 26 needed.  NiceRink has some brackets that I’ve used in the past.  They are quite expensive though – just over $250US.  I think this year I’ll just use some treated 2×4 and build my own 12″x18″ brackets.  That’s ~48″ linear per bracket, I need 26, and a spare or two… so 112′.  Or 10×12 footers.  Just under $100.

Then the actual boards.  Plywood seems the best option.  2′ height, 8′ length.  A full sheet is 4’x8′, given 2 lengths per.  At 100′ to cover, that’s 7 total sheets.   Prices are all over… but likely $250 all told.

I bought a tarp last year for $100 that will more than cover the surface.  Just need to make sure that when it’s all assembled, I don’t pierce it.

I’ve got a couple weekends to go before the real snowfall and freezing temperatures hit.  Let’s see what I can do.

Axe Throwin’

There’s something to be said about the zen in throwing deadly weapons at walls.

Friends of ours booked a spot nearby to throw some axes (Backyard Axe Throwing League).  Went in with rather open eyes, as a few friends had given it a go and reported some fun to be had.

We headed in, found a rather open room and walls of spruce with painted targets.  Our guide, Rick, took about 30 minutes to teach the 7 of us some basic throwing techniques.  A sports background helps to start, but becomes a hindrance as you move on.  Explain.

The axe has to be thrown in a specific line.  If you throw it like a ball, it will twist in the air and lack bite on the board.  It really has to be on a consistent plane.  Experience in sports teaches you the basic technique and you’ll pay attention at the start.  Aside from spin, the distance is key, so moving forward/back is important.  Once you’re at the correct distance so that the blade hits, and you’re on plane, then things just work out.

As you spend more time throwing, you become more relaxed, and fall into older habits.  I found that as time went on, I applied more spin to my throws, which caused misses.  I had to concentrate on keeping plane and modify my technique.

Did I mention there’s beer?  That didn’t help.  Or maybe it did.

There’s a lot of fun to be had throwing an axe on a wall, sticking a bullseye with a flush blade.  And then doing it multiple times. And cheering on the rest of the team.

Tech-wise, they use a mobile app to track points, assign random bouts, and eventually set a seed for an elimination tourney.  We were there just under 3 hours, and I’m sure I threw the axe about 100 times, all told.  Had a smile the entire time, and the body hurts more from the laughs than the throws.

Well worth it if you have one in your hometown.



Wrist Issues

I’ve been going to physio for a few weeks now, with a pain in the lower left part of the palm of my right hand.  It’s been nagging me for a few months, enough that push ups are too painful.  Anyhoot, a fair chunk of exercises and massages and treatment with basically more pain.

Last night I had a 2nd consult, from someone with a bit more experience with hand injuries.  It is difficult to describe the level of pain felt when he started some movements with my hand.  Sort of like stubbing all your toes at once and the body simply goes numb except for that single part flaring like fire.  He found some other issues at play and now I have a taped up wrist and a new set of exercises to do.  Apparently I have a month of rehab at least, then it may end up with surgery.  I am not looking forward to that possibility.

The worst part is that I play hockey and the injury is on the hand that does most of the work. And some of the exercises I do are limited by the movements of the wrist.  I’m told that as long as I have the tape, I should be able to keep doing what I was doing… but I’m now consciously aware of the issue more so than just living with the pain.  Ah well, cardio doesn’t really require the hands so maybe I’ll swap to that for a while.

I did order some gym equipment… and I think it’s being delivered today.  That should be interesting.


I’ve read a fair chunk of Hugo books lately, though the most challenging was the Rama series.  I really like Clarke’s style of sci-fi, a real knack for the future.  The first book is exactly this, an exploration into a new world, with great pace.  A solid pitch.

The next 3 novels in that series were not really from Clarke but from Gentry Lee.  They go back to the same spaceships and focuses more on the people than the science.  Gentry Lee is not a very good “people” writer.  It is littered with tropes and needless sexual descriptions.  It’s got to be every 40 pages that the characters are getting it on.  The science and underlying ideas are solid enough, minus the last 20 pages or so.

spoiler.  If your main character has spent 60 years cheating and avoiding death, yearning to stay with their family, I am not certain that they would have a sudden change of heart and just accept they are going to die in 10 hours, when a perfectly viable solution is available.  end spoiler

The first book was done in 2 days.  The last 3 took me nearly a week each because it was so hard to get into it.  Then again, I guess it’s like asking someone to take up Michelangelo’s chisel and make another David.

Are E-Sports a Sport?

I guess it depends on your answer to the following questions.

Is Chess a sport?  Go?  Scrabble?  Poker?

None of those require any physical skill but do require a substantial amount of mental and psychological skill to compete at top levels.

If you’re actually comparing time spent in the sport, then it’s a very interesting argument in favor of e-sports.  US football is only about 10% actual sport, the rest is posturing, cheerleaders and commercials.  I mean, you could watch an entire game in 15 minutes.  Baseball isn’t much better.  Soccer (or actual football) is at the top, naturally.  Hockey – my favorite sport – isn’t too far behind.

E-sports are more akin to baseball, in that there isn’t a time for the game, so much an end goal.  It could be edge of your seat for 30 straight minutes, or it could be junk for everything but a few rushes.  The quality of the match depends largely on the ruleset, the game being played and the skill level of the players (both reflexes and the meta).

I’ve watched a couple SC2 matches and while there’s less action than a MOBA or FPS, the strategy application in that game is impressive.  Macro and micro management is a very hard skill set to refine and does pay dividends after the competitive arena is closed.

While there’s certain financial benefits to pro sports as we normally see them, it’s hard to translate a good basketball skill set to another field.  Leading a raid, playing ladder ranks or hitting the stage in a MOBA final seems to me, to have a larger real-world cross skill impact than a physical sport.  Maybe that’s some compensation for the lack of money in field.  For comparison, in my super lack of depth google search, Messi makes more than all e-sport purses in a year combined.

Still, e-sports are a rather young field and with more time and a larger pool of players, I think there’s a pretty interesting future in line.  I’d certainly like to see more of the “thinking person’s” games available.

New Toys

You know me, always with the big boy toys. Mind you, they tend to be practical rather than superfluous! No different here. Hockey toys. All of em from www.hockeyshot.ca

First up, a hockey net. Not just any net but a foldable net.  2 inch pipes, regulation size, full net mesh and hecka solid.  The beauty of it all is that it folds up to about 4 inches wide.   I can set it up in about 30 seconds, alone and then store against the wall in the garage and it takes up as much space as a shovel.  Best part, about 100$ and the quality of a 400$ net.  Great.  And yes, it does come with the corner pockets.  Great for target practice.  I need more pucks though!

Next up, a shooting pad.  You’ve probably seen these before.  A white plastic pad to take shots on as it mimics ice surface.  Well, I saw one that was 2 feet by 4 and really, all you can do is shoot on it.  I wanted something to practice stickhandling, so I opted for the larger size.  4 feet by 8 feet.  Yes, that big.  I can use a stick (minus tape on the bottom), regular pucks and the thing slides great.  A stick with tape drags a bit much though.  I need to practice with a slightly smaller stick as well, since on skates I’m a good 3 inches higher off the ground.  Still trying to figure that part out.  The good news is it works great.  Bad news is that my arms are not made for stickhandling.  After 15 minutes, my left arm was dead.

Lastly, I picked up some stickhandling toys.  First, Sweedish Wooden Balls.  Stop laughing.  They were like 3$.  They are lighter, so I use them for quick movements and repetitions.  2-3 minutes of it before a game warms up the arms.  Second, I picked up a Green Biscuit.  These things are wicked.  A tad lighter than a regular puck but they work on cement and don’t stick.  They glide like crazy on the shooting mat and exagerate any stickhandling you do, so you have to be more careful with your hands.  Looking forward to trying it out in the spring/summer outside.  For now, the mat will do!

So far, really happy with the purchases.  I’ll try and get 15-30 minutes a day on it and see what happens.  I know it will help my hands out, we’ll just have to see how much.