Friday, February 28, 2014

Revisions and Options

Well, take a look at this!

I have no idea where I am!

What is this place?

After the Olympics wrapped up, I decided to refresh the website a little bit. I don't know if it feels any more professional than it did before, but it seems a bit less 1998 than it did before.

I also changed the website's name to reflect a bit more about future posts. When I began the blog four years ago, I was going to spend time writing about Michigan sports. Unfortunately, it's a bit hard to write about Michigan sports when I don't get to watch as much as I did when I was in Wisconsin. Plus, many events in Michigan take place early around here, so I don't get as much chance to watch them as when it was just over the lake.

The new name takes my Olympics outline and expands it a bit. You'd be surprised how many Blogspot blogs have the word "blurb" in them. "theblurb"? Taken. "blurbsandmore"? Yup. "blurbalicious"? Well, I didn't try that one, but that seemed a bit Kardashian for me.

Luckily, "blurbmusings" wasn't taken, and it really reflects well on what I'm going to try to talk about.

It was harder to target what I'm going to be writing about. When I was writing about the Olympics, I knew that a majority of the people of this Earth would be watching it, or at least know about most of the things going on in the Olympics. Now, everyone has returned to their respective interests, which mostly don't interact. Some of us still attach ourselves to sports. Others indulge in great TV and movies. And still others create pools and fantasy leagues...for the Oscars. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that last one.

So I am going to write about what I know best - my interests! It may cross with yours, and it may reveal things of which you have absolutely no idea. But I'll try my best to be entertaining nonetheless, so that you can get excited for whatever I'm writing about, or relay to me what you think I should be writing about.

Speaking of comments, you can leave a comment at the end of my posts if you login with your Google account. Or, if you came from Facebook, you can always comment there. I always appreciate the recommendations and critiques.

So if you enjoyed reading the Olympic Blurbs, hopefully you'll continue to enjoy my Blurb Musings!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

It's a Wrap!

Well, it’s done! The Russians dominated in the end and took their hometown push to 13 medals and 33 overall. The Americans started strong, but whimpered at the finish, winning just a bronze in the final two days of competition.

It was a lot of fun to stay up late, wake up early, postpone viewing any other television shows (and all programming from ESPN) to devote all my time to the Olympics. I enjoyed explaining events to my students and seeing things click in their head.

These two weeks are two weeks of nonstop action, and it’s difficult to fit everything in. But it’s also two weeks that usually guarantees excitement every day. There’s always a top story, or a controversy, or a surprise coming out of the Olympics. New faces are discovered every day, and old faces either live up to expectations or fade into the background.

Now begins the Long Wait. The time between the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics is about six months longer than between the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. 

Did you see the NBC promo for the Rio Olympics? It made me so excited, and it always will! Throughout those 893 days, there will be countless reports of Rio de Janeiro's facilities not being ready, of security issues, of whether or not Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will be competing, and how much live coverage NBC will air. (Hopefully a lot!) There’s also some World Championships in swimming and track next year, and a lot of excitement for the premier of golf!

I’m now going to curl up in a ball and watch the Closing Ceremony, where I’ll probably be moved to tears as the Olympic flame is extinguished.

Whenever I have a bad day, I’ll be sure to que up my phone and watch the lighting of the flame, and remember all the awesome things I saw these past two weeks. I hope you enjoyed it too!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 16: So How Did I Do?

It’s time to go back to seventeen days ago and revisit my Bold Predictions Blurb. It’s interesting to see what interesting things I thought would happen that ended up being total duds. I was right on a bunch of things, though! (I am that good.)

Russia will win hockey gold
Nope! They didn’t even make it to the semifinals, losing to eventual bronze medalist Finland.

The tandem from Canada will beat Charlie White and Meryl Davis in ice dancing.
Happily, this was untrue. They did meet expectations!

However, they will win gold.
I said they’d win in the team event, but they did win gold in their own event. I kind of was right.

SJ Shaun White won’t medal.
Right on all counts! He finished fourth in halfpipe and didn’t compete in slopestyle.

Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold will falter.
Well, this is true in the fact that they didn’t medal. Gold finished fourth and Wagner took seventh, even though Wagner skated clean (no falls) and Gold fell in the free skate. But the top three - Adelina Sotnikova, Yuna Kim, and Carolina Kostner - were so stellar that they would have needed way more in their routines to medal.

U.S. Snowboard will wish they took Seth Wescott back to the Olympics and not Lindsay Jacobellis.
Alex Diebold was the only American to medal in snowboard cross, and he got a bronze. Jacobellis wiped out again. Would Wescott have medaled? He definitely has the experience, and I think I think he would have done well had he competed. So I’m going to say I was right!

Jeremy Abbott...will medal?!
Well, kind of. I meant in the individual event, but he did medal in the team event.

Something amazing will happen in the sport of curling.
If the “something amazing” was Norway’s curling outfits, then yes, I was right. Everyone was talking about it.

Lauryn Williams will win bobsled gold.
Soooooo clooooooose!

Cross-country skiing will bore me yet again.
This was less of a definite outcome than I thought. But there are so many events in cross-country skiing and biathlon that it’s hard to see the difference in every one. And the only one with an interesting premise - mixed biathlon relay - was barely covered by NBC.

No U.S. women will win gold in ski jumping.
Correct! I knew overhype when I saw it.

The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Spain will double their previous win totals.
The Netherlands blew away their 2010 total (8) and are at 24. The Czech Republic had 6 in 2010 and are currently at 8. Spain still stuck with zero. If Spain had stepped up for me, I would have won my medals competition! Alas, I didn’t go with my Number One Rule: the home country wins.

NBC will treat Mikaela Shiffrin like Lindsay Vonn...and she’ll hate it.
She definitely looks a bit awkward in the interviews (she’s only 18), but has some snark that will be better over time. The comparisons will only increase if Shiffrin takes on more than slalom events in the next Olympics - like Vonn.

Canada will keep up the medal count from 2010, but Russia will win the overall title.
Canada came roaring back in the second week with medals in hockey (men and women) and curling (men and women) and other sports. They are at 24 (in 2010 they ended up with 27) and men’s hockey still has to decide which medal they’ll get tomorrow.
Russia took on the home mantle with pride and are currently leading the medal count. They’ll probably win. I was right!

I will wake up at least once in the middle of the night to watch some event online.
I did, especially at the beginning. Then I realized most of the events I was watching were going to be on that evening anyway, so I only stuck with the important stuff.

My kiddos will be sick of this whole thing by the end.
I do think a couple of them were glad when I mentioned yesterday was our last Olympics day. But I did get a few addicts out of the bunch!

Mini Blurbs

Today’s roundup: women’s cross-country skiing, women’s snowboard parallel slalom, men’s biathlon, figure skating, men’s ski slalom, men’s bobsled, men’s and women’s speedskating

Today Bob Costas is reporting from… the frozen location of Aang, the last Airbender!

Czech balance: No medals today. There was some contention in the men’s biathlon relay, but not enough to medal.

Didn’t we already do this? I swear that I watched parallel snowboard slalom a couple of days ago (remember when the husband and wife Russians won gold and bronze?), but today they were showing parallel snowboard slalom! I checked - I did watch parallel giant slalom snowboarding on Wednesday!

The difference is that parallel giant slalom has been contested since 2002, and regular parallel slalom is new this year. The differences are like alpine skiing slalom differences. It sure confused me!

Did anyone else cry when Jessica Long met her biological parents? I got tears in my eyes. It was pretty amazing. I couldn’t even imagine that happening to me.

Speedskating fun: I enjoyed speedskating these Olympics. I know lots of people are disappointed in the United States’ performance, but I wasn’t even rooting for the Americans! I was all about the Dutch in speedskating. I kind of knew that the Americans weren’t going to perform, and to my delight the Dutch really performed! I think even without my medals competition I would have been rooting for the Dutch.

Dan Jansen said it right, “It’s time to stop talking about those who didn’t perform here, and start celebrating those who did. The Dutch team performed like no one in history before them, and quite possibly no one again to follow!”

I loved Team Pursuit - you don’t have to watch twenty skaters go to know who won the event: whoever crosses first wins!

By the way, did anyone else notice the high-pitched screeching noise that wasn’t made on the ice? I think it was either an audience noisemaker or some mechanical thing with the camera. I’ve heard it at every speedskating event - it was really annoying!

Hair flair: I find it hilarious that Terry Gannon was given some “Sochi flowers” from Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir and he put them on his lapel. It would have been great if he’d put it in his hair, too. (Oh, and Saturdays they wear flowers? Priceless.)

Lyrical flair: Watching this Skating Gala, which has skaters doing original (and not rule-oriented) routines, it makes me excited to see what kind of routines we’ll be seeing in competition in the next couple of seasons, since they will be allowed to use music with lyrics (like we saw tonight!).

Oh, and the fact that they have a “gymnastics gala” in the Summer Games is silly. They try to make gymnastics like figure skating, and in some ways, it just isn’t. This is one of those things.

Rabid kid skaters: One of the flower girls raced in front of an unsuspecting Yuna Kim as she was going off the ice and totally freaked her out. Watch out for those flower girls - they’re deadly!

Slalom dominators: The women skied last night, and it was pretty graceful - as graceful as slalom can be. Tonight, with the men, they are annihilating the course. They run down like an out of control car in Grand Theft Auto. Run over a fire hydrant? Who cares? Just gotta be the fastest!

Nerd alert: I know I just said that the slalom skiers annihilate the course, but their outfits make them look like an overprotective mom got them ready for their first day of middle school: “Here, honey, put on your leg guards! Oh, and don’t forget your protective ski poles with the plastic knobs to protect your hands! And you know you can’t leave the house without your headgear or your teeth won’t grow in straight!” (Ted Ligety doesn’t wear headgear - he’s too cool for that.)

Adults not showing their age: I love watching Cyndi and Bill Ligety wear hats that say “Shred” on them. It’s very similar to seeing Maddie Bowman’s grandma wear a shirt that said “Badass Grandma” on it. Funky, and a bit weird.

Just proving my point here: While the US hockey ladies made us miserable, the US hockey men just faded into the background, not even trying to win bronze. My post from Thursday is even more valid than before.

ERA, Olympics style: Why is there no 4-woman bobsled? Why is there no women’s Nordic combined? I mean, really.

Let’s give him some credit: This is not his home track, yet Steve Holcomb has driven this track very well in the 2-man and 4-man bobsled events. I’ve seen crappy sliding this year (Elana Meyers?), so I am impressed when I see good sliding going on.

My Olympic sport: I think if I did any Winter event (which I'd never do, so I can dream like this), I’d do bobsled. They just seem like the coolest people (pun not intended), and have great support of everyone in sliding, from luge to skeleton. It’s a big team family! I’d enjoy that.

I see a trip to Salt Lake City in my future: Apparently the Olympic sliding track in Salt Lake City is available for tourists to slide down in a bobsled. Pardon me, I’m going to book my flight right now…

...until I saw Canada's crash. Yeowch! How long do they slide on their side like that?

One more Blurb tomorrow, guys, and then it’s another 893 days till the next one! (Oh, I found this website, and it’s like it was made just for me!)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 15: Catching Up on Thank-You Notes

It’s Friday, so that means one thing: Thank-You Notes, Olympic style!

I’m not Jimmy Fallon or anything, so these aren’t going to be funny. Probably not. It’s just a good way to have an alternative format!

*cue music*

Thank you...2009 HP Laptop...for not sucking it up like I thought you would. You did a relatively admirable job at showing live sporting events at school for the kiddos, without too much hassle. It shocked me, and now I want to throw you off the balcony less than I did before.

Thank you...God...for putting Lent in March this year. I couldn’t imagine doing all of this while being overloaded with church stuff.

Thank you...Internet...for showing me events live as they happened (even at 3:30am!), but no thank you for spoiling events I wanted to watch in Primetime by putting up the results on the sidebars of pages!

Thank you...NBC...because you may not know how to tread the line between revealing live information in your news shows (Today Show, NBC Nightly News) and keeping it under wraps on tape delay, but at least you try to give us the best coverage possible. Can’t blame you for that.

Thank you...students…for putting up with my obsession for three weeks. We did lots of work related to the Olympics, culminating today in some Internet research on Olympic information, and bringing in the K-2nd graders to watch the men’s 5000m short track relay (which was nuts!). I don’t know how much information you retained, but at least I know you can name lots of different countries’ flags! (“That’s Australia!” “That’s Canada!” “That’s France!”)

Thank you...Reading A-Z...for being a great educator’s website for Olympic information. You provided me with my Integration booklet and a fun book on the Olympic games. If you’re a teacher for elementary grades, Reading A-Z is worth the price!

No Thank you...Viktor Ahn...for taking so many gold medals for Russia and causing me to lose my lead in the medal count. If only you’d stayed in South Korea and skated for them!

Thank you...Bob Costas...for stating the predictable: “The Sochi Games have gone much better than many feared and predicted.” Bob, haven’t we figured this out? It’s like the media has its own Cycle they deal with: Worry about the huge price of the Games, report that venues and other places aren’t complete, worry about security, have the Opening Ceremony, enjoy the sports, and then report at the end that it wasn’t so bad. It happens EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Can’t wait for the Cycle to start up again...roughly June of 2016.

Thank you...slalom...for being that one ski event that boggles my mind. How can they see those tiny blue and red poles and know what route to take? (I love those shin guards and headgear the skiers wear.)

Thank you...Rio de Janeiro...for only being an hour ahead of Eastern Time. I am looking forward to watching lots of LIVE events August 5-21, 2016. (I’m really sick of being 11 hours ahead.)

Thank you...short track...for being completely unpredictable...except for the fact that someone from South Korea, China, or Viktor Ahn will win. (At least it finally got some Primetime love tonight.)

Thank you...Johnny and Tara...for emerging as the biggest winners of the Winter Olympics. NBC took notice of their popularity and started inserting them into their Primetime coverage in the second week. I approve. Although most of Johnny’s outfits are whack. (Honorable mention: Apolo has been great in calling short track! Fun fact: Terry Gannon works with all three of those commentators. Coincidence…?)

Thank you...Sleeping Bear Press...for writing such an informative and colorful ABC book about the Olympics. I enjoyed reading that to the kids this week.

Thank you...Michael Phelps...for also writing an incredibly entertaining children’s book about winning gold medals that the kids enjoyed today! (See you in 2016.)

Thank pole clapping...for making skiers look so cool before they set off in their runs down the hill. When I ski for the first time, I’m going to clap my poles together, too. But I’ll look like a complete dolt.

Thank you...Mikaela Shiffrin...for bringing front bangs back in style.

Thank you...speedskating team pursuit...for showing more than two skaters on the long track. I love team pursuit. It’s so different from other speedskating events, because it’s match play and not time trial. Taken from the pursuit in cycling - which is cooler, because watching those bikes shoot up the incline to go into last place is sweet.

(Why do they stay behind each other? Drafting!)

Thank you...all y’all...for reading the Blurb!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 14: Gold Medal Deja vu

It’s always hard to not meet expectations. However, there are times when expectations can be quietly shut away, and other times when expectations are stopped in their tracks.

This Olympics, it seems like when the male athletes don’t meet expectations (Shaun White, Shani Davis, Bode Miller), they do it quietly. They end up off the podium completely. It kind of feels okay when they lose. You’re disappointed, but it’s not going to ruin your day.

When it comes to the women, however, they ruin your expectations like a sucker punch.

Last week Hannah Kearney was riding high in women’s moguls, and everyone knew she’d do it again. Then she consistently couldn’t handle the first moguls after the first jump. Just like that, she was getting bronze.

Sucker punch.

Yesterday the bobsled ladies came so close to gold, and then had a cruddy final run to let the Canadians slip in.

Sucker punch.

Today, the US women’s hockey team was THIRTY SECONDS away from gold, and just like that, Canada tied it, and then won in overtime. Gold gone. Just like that.

Sucker punch. Suckerpunchsuckerpunchsuckerpunch. (Let’s just call it the Shoryuken of the Winter Olympics)

There have been times when men have let us down hard, or the ladies just fade into the background. However, when I look back on these Olympics, the most disappointing moments (right now) are those of the ladies that just couldn’t finish it off.

Now let me tell you a story:

The hockey game started at 10am Mountain Time. My kids started watching the first period during snack time, when the score was 0-0. They didn’t watch much (it snowed last night and they wanted to get outside), but I kept it on the computer, glancing at it while they had quiet study time. Right at lunch time, the second intermission was going on, so I let them eat in the lunchroom and not in the classroom.

A Wonderful Mom volunteered to take the kids for lunch and recess, so when the third period began, I was correcting papers from the morning, printing out some coloring sheets for free time work, and eating my lunch. I was excited, because if it timed out just right, the kids would be coming back in from lunch recess as Team USA was celebrating the gold.

With 3:30 left to play, Canada scored. I had an inkling in the back of my head. Wouldn’t it just suck to see Canada come back and win? I shook off the thought and continued preparations for the afternoon. I quick ran to pick up some copies off the printer with about 1:30 left to play, and as I came back in, I watched the final minute of play intently. Team Canada pulled their goalie, and they were giving it all they had.

My worst fears (about the game) were realized with 26 seconds left. Team Canada found a hole in the middle and got it past Team USA’s goalie. I audibly yelled “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Unreal. I was so ticked off. I knew my dad would be ticked off too. (And he was!)

After the kids came in and had their DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read, for you non-educators), I asked them if they were interested in watching any of the overtime. Most said yes, so I put it on and explained that the next goal wins gold.

I made a deal with my kids - if Team USA won, I’d let them run down the hallway in a victory lap. If Team Canada won, they’d have to mourn in the comfort of my own classroom. After Team Canada won, the roar of indignation from my classroom was so loud the principal came in to see what was going on. When I told him what happened, he went, “Oh they lost?” He was also disappointed.

I really want to show my kiddos a live event of the US winning gold, but every time I try, they blow it! If I’d just picked ski halfpipe instead, the kids would have seen an American gold medalist in Maddie Bowman. Instead I chose the “sure thing.” Clearly I have much to learn about the Olympics. Blah.

Mini Blurbs

Canada can’t always win: In ski cross, the Americans were a no-show (again), and in the final were three Frenchmen and a lumberjack- er, Canadian. I think all Canadians should have plaid in their uniforms, and it’s a crime I only saw it in ski cross. Well, the French swept, and the Canadian was medal-less. Yay!

Sarah Burke’s memory: I had heard a lot about Sarah Burke in my viewing of the X Games this January, and NBC did a package on her. She was a huge supporter of getting freestyle skiing events in the Winter Olympics (she had done ski halfpipe in the X Games, which she also lobbied to get in that competition). Unfortunately, she died in practice two years ago. The fact that the entire ski and snowboard community still talks about her and has her name on various pieces of their paraphernalia is very inspiring.

Tonight Maddie Bowman - only 20 year old - won the inaugural women’s ski halfpipe, and she talked about Sarah in her post-event interview. It’s very sad she couldn’t be around to see this event today.

Biathlon outrage? Is it wrong that I’m peeved that the mixed biathlon relay was limited to about 20 minutes during Late Night coverage? I was pretty excited to see men and women working together, but the only thing they showed was the last group of men going around and shooting. It’s a new Winter Olympic event; I want to see more of it - even if it’s during the daytime coverage!

Today Bob Costas is reporting from… the planet Midnight. (the planet Midnight.)

Integration! We had some Fun With Math today. We had six word problems (one of them involved Yuna Kim, crazily enough), and then they had to fill in the missing medals in a medal chart from 2010.

We also watched the first six runs of men’s ski cross, and they began to form an outline for a Sequence of Events chart that they are going to finish tomorrow. I noticed that when they tried to do this for other things, they would overload at the beginning and put in way too much little stuff, not leaving enough room for the actual important points. I’m hoping that they can find the important points in their notes and give me a good Sequence.

Tomorrow is my last day of Olympics viewing. Pardon me if I don’t do too terribly much in the Integration! category. This has been fun, but tiring!

Your 2018 Ladies Figure Skating Champion: Yulia Lipnitskaya. I’m calling it now. Think about it: Yuna Kim, Mao Asada (such a sad performance), Carolina Kostner, and Ashley Wagner will not be back. There will be many new upstarts, but Yulia and Gracie Gold will have Olympic experience. That will be big!

Czech balance: This is actually from Wednesday, but I didn’t watch it till this morning: in the mixed biathlon relay, the Czech team won silver!

Bolero: This is my favorite classical piece of all time. I heard it live at Orchestra Hall by the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, and it was absolutely incredible. (It was also my first live orchestra performance, so it’s been very hard to top - though the Milwaukee Symphony’s version of Symphony No. 3 by Copland came veeeeeery close.)

But I digress - I don’t like it in figure skating. With all due respect to Torvill and Dean (and Carolina Kostner), it doesn’t sound good chopped up. The biggest effect of Bolero is that huge buildup. If you shove the buildup into four minutes, you don’t necessarily get the full effect.

Sorry - music nerd moment there.

Overhype, begone! Although it was a Russian, I was actually kind of pleased that Adelina Sotnikova won gold in figure skating, if only because no one was talking about her before or during these Games. Though I’m not sure her performance was eight points better than Kostner’s.

Today’s roundup: Mixed biathlon relay (from yesterday), women’s hockey (live), men’s ski cross, women’s ski halfpipe, women’s figure skating.

The Princess Jasmine line: Clearly Ashley Wagner and Meryl Davis shop at the same figure skating store.

Wagner had a great performance - this was a heck of a free skate for many ladies - though I’m not sure Gracie Gold deserved to be in front of Wagner when Gold toppled over and Wagner stayed on her feet.

I have something fun planned for tomorrow’s Blurb. Enjoy the events!