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…do as the Canadiens do. Go curling!

Finally, after nearly a year of waiting, I had a second chance to go curling in Canada, and this time I was determined not to miss it. The last time I had a conflict and had to live vicariously through the pictures that my co-workers shared the next day.

This time, despite fighting a nasty sinus infection, I managed up the energy to get out on the ice without a pair of skates and a broom instead of a stick!

While I will admit to watching curling every so often during the Olympics and thus having a bit of an idea of the rules I realized quickly that there was a lot I hadn’t picked up by just observing. Such things as each of the four players delivers two stones during each end and that only two players are allowed to sweep that being reduced to one player after the stone crosses the tee line (line drawn through the target or house across the short width of the ice).

So, to give you a little bit more of an idea of what goes on during this game, here is a bit of a play-by-play.

Get The Stone

Set Up In The Hack

After selected the next stone and if in a real competition inspecting and cleaning it, the thrower dons a slider sole to be able to glide further with the stone during delivery (though many of us opted to not use the sliders rather keeping our bones in tact) and gets situated in the hack with the stone in their throwing hand and their broom (or brush) upside down in the other hand for balance.

Then the idea is to as you raise the hip on the same side of your body as your throwing hand to glide forward on the slider sole with the stone in your hand releasing it at just the right moment to obtain the desired velocity. And don’t forget about aiming in a pre-determined direction and gently twisting the stone one way or another to allow it to curl as it makes its way down the ice.

All of that without falling over.

Thankfully there are a few shortcuts for beginners, one being to not wear the slider as I mentioned earlier. Another is to gain the momentum lost by not sliding one’s body by sliding the stone for and aft before releasing it using its weight on one of the forward cycles to aid you in raising that hip.

It really is a lot harder than it looks on TV.

Anyway, at this point in time you should have a stone gliding nicely towards the house at the other end of the ice sheet.

Rise & Release

Slide & Glide

Wobble & Watch

Coach & Hope

Then it is time for the sweepers to take over and try to change the speed and/or direction of the stone and eliciting comments from one observer about how this is the most sweeping her husband has ever done.

In The House - Barely

One That Didn't Get There

Sometimes things go well and the stone winds up in the house, other times it has to be guided to the end of the ice having missed its mark by the proverbial mile. Yes, Virginia, sometimes no amount of sweeping is going to help..

Coming Up Short

Of course it is always best to use caution when walking on the ice because it is slippery out there.

Walk With Caution

Hey Aaron - It's Slippery Out There

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All in all it was quite a fun evening and I could see doing this again, maybe I will even get enough gumption to try using a slider sole.

For those keeping score, I think we are at 2-0 for sports tried for the first time in Canada with last year the win going to snow boarding and this year curling. I still hope that next up will be bobsledding.

Wendy

Now that I have been writing about my travels to my many destinations, I figured it was time to write something about home, after all I do live in Chicago which is a destination for many travelers. Don’t worry, I will have plenty more to say about other locations in later posts, and even a bit in this one. Especially since I am elsewhere these days more than Chicago.

One thing all of the travel has not been good for is my waistline. Partly because I tend to eat out more than I should and when I don’t I am often eating quite late and food that is quick to prepare and not always healthy. In addition, it always seems harder to work out on the road than at home, or at least to get to a gym.

Looking at all of this back in October I decided that it was time to start running again. I ran cross country and track back in high school and have run on and off since then, recently more off than on. So I looked around for training information and being in the mobile world now found an iPhone app that I could use as a guide. Then I picked a target race on New Year’s Day, figuring that would be a good way to force myself not to stay out too late on New Year’s Eve.

My first day out as I started my “Couch Potato to 5K” program was to walk 1 minute, run 3, and repeat until 10 minutes. I was so out of shape that that was hard and I really needed those 1 minute walk breaks to get through the work out. Little by little I built up my times and distances yet partly due to being sick over Christmas on race day I had yet to run 5K, so I wasn’t sure what would happen. Well, I was pretty sure I would finish, just wasn’t sure if I was going to have to take some walking breaks. OK, to end the suspense, I finished without walking, I wasn’t fast, but I didn’t care.

Since that race I have continued to build up my times and distances and have now ran for an hour without walking and actually consider a 30-45 minute run easy. I’m not ready for a marathon, I am actually signed up for another 5K and then might look at a 10K. I’m not saying I’m not tempted by the marathon concept, I am, I just think I need to build up to it slowly.

And the idea of having a way to exercise without a gym has actually worked quite well, despite living in two cold cities. Yes, there are days that it has been too cold or too snowy to get out and run, however overall between the chinooks in Calgary and a few warm weeks while I was just back in Chicago I have generally been able to get out a few times a week. This week may be a sad exception as the warmest day is supposed to be Thursday with a high of -9C. Brrr. Of course that might also mean that I need a gym option as well, sigh.

Wendy

Hopefully not a sign of more bad things to come, my second weekend in Calgary started off with a cancelled flight. And of course this particular weekend I had plans with a tight connection after reaching O’Hare, plans that of course changed.

Hoping to make it to the annual reunion of the Wisconsin Marching Band I had carted my saxophone to Calgary at the beginning of the week and to the office and airport that day.

Since I knew I had only about 40 minutes to make the bus from O’Hare to Madison after landing I was carrying the sax on which meant I had to pack very lightly so that even with the sax I wouldn’t have to check any bags and given that this was a business trip I also had my computer. One way that I achieved this was to wear the shoes that I would need during the game on the flight thus making it unnecessary to pack any shoes as they take up a lot of space.

So after sitting through a delay due to malfunctioning restroom that turned into taking a 3+ hour flight without said restroom (and the associated mad dash to make one last pit stop before boarding) that turned into them not being able to pressurize the cabin that turned into a cancellation I headed back through Canadian customs (in Canada you clear US customs before boarding flights to the US) along with the rest of the fliers to find out how we were going to get to Chicago.

While it was a little chaotic, United did a good job of accommodating their most travelled and I wound up getting on a flight to LA that night connecting to a red-eye to Chicago. It wouldn’t get me to Madison in time for rehearsal, but it would get me home.

So I headed back through US customs (my third customs clearance in less than the same number of hours), and security (for the second time that night). Now, remember those shoes, well – they were aerobic shoes that meant that they tied – what a pain, one I had planned on dealing with once that night, and now I had to take them off and get them back on a second time. Normally I wear slip-ons when I fly to avoid that very hassle.

Upon getting to LAX I was quickly reminded about what I hate about that airport. The Air Canada gates are in terminal 1 and the United gates are in terminals 7&8 and these locations are at least half a mile apart. Plus you have to leave security to catch the bus between terminals. So, for the third time in one day I was going through security once again with those gym shoes.

Given the distance that I had to cover and the third pass through security, I was concerned that the upgrade I had gotten texted about during the flight from Calgary would be given to someone else, so I really needed to move fast to get to the gate and get my new boarding pass.  Not that it was a great upgrade given that it was a red-eye, as it was a 757 so just had the slightly bigger seats, that is there weren’t even footrests to get your legs up to sleep a bit more easily. Nevertheless, after some food and wine I was able to get a bit of sleep.

With mixed blessings, the flight actually arrived in Chicago early, so it might have been possible to make it to Madison if I had a car available and had not checked my sax. Now, that was not possible, especially since while I was able to cover half a mile at LAX and make my flight, my sax was not and would be delivered to me at home later that day. However, it did mean that I was able to get a little bit of quality sleep before taking advantage of being home unexpectedly and going to my French class.

Actually, I went to two classes for a total of 3.5 hours of French, which I had not been using much in Brazil and was a bit too tired to focus on. My reasoning was that between the time I registered and this, the first day of class they added a class that was closer to the level I needed. However, the school was not open when I discovered this so I could not change before the class I had signed up for and thus wound up going to both that day to see which was the better fit. In the end I wound up changing, which was nice as that class is at 11 while the other one was at 0 so I can go to the gym before class and get to at least one aerobics class per week.

Early last week I saw an email come through from a co-worker who had an extra ticket to the Flames-Leafs game for last Thursday night and I figured what the heck, time to do something fun during the week and get away from my apartment.

Luckily my timing was perfect and I was the first to reply so I got the ticket.

This was quite a different experience than the Flames game I attended last year with a group from the office since it turns out that the co-worker had gotten the tickets from his sister who had gotten them from work and thus they were far from the cheap seats we had occupied the last time. Instead there were in row 9, just inside of the blue line of the Calgary offensive zone. Wow!

And…they each had a face value of CAD $252. Thankfully I wasn’t paying for this!

The craziness didn’t end with the price tag. When we got to the rink we also had access to the club level for dining and drinks before, during, and after the game, Since it was quite crowded we opted to eat standard arena fare and only get a drink at the bar prior to the game. I think that’s the first time I’ve actually drank wine at a hockey game,

We also could have ordered drinks from our seats and had them delivered. I was tempted to do it just to say that I did and opted against that since at the time I was ready to order it was intermission and a trip to the ladies room seemed like a good idea. And even that was a different experience. There were no lines.

Of course this whole experience did get me thinking a bit on how crazed the whole sports industry is that they can actually charge that much for a ticket to a single game, and in this case a game between two of the worst teams in the league. Spectator sports really aren’t for the family any more and days such as those that I enjoyed as a kid going to multiple NBA and MLB games each year are long gone.

I know there are many arguments for the high salaries and the high ticket prices that result from those salaries, but it is really very crazy.  Will it ever stop? Or will more and more corporations buy all of the seats so that the only way someone can go to a game is if they happen to work for the right man?

Will there be any positive side effects of this trend, such as minor league attendance increases? Or will losing teams begin to struggle to fill stadiums thus making the event even more out of reach of the masses as television broadcasts are cancelled?

Or perhaps we will turn to other more intellectual forms of entertainment and the various arts industries will be the winners. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously enjoy sports and had a great time at the game, but I do generally remember the details of a play I have seen much longer than those of a game. And the discussions afterwards are much more stimulating,

I had a very “interesting” Monday this week.

For my normal trek to Calgary, I had booked my flights a bit late and was not able to get my standard 10 AM direct flight, having to book a connection through Denver that left Chicago at the insane hour of 6 AM. I was definitely dreading this all day Sunday up until the time I went to sleep setting the alarm for 3 having scheduled a cab pick up for 3:45. Normally I don’t need to get to the airport 1 1/2 hours before a flight, but the 6 AM Monday time slot has so many business travelers that just about everyone has status and thus there are no short security lines.

Needless to say to anyone who has had to wake for such a flight, I was sleeping quite lightly that night worried that I would sleep through the alarm. So when my cell phone chirped with a text message at 1 AM, it woke me up.  I knew immediately that it had to do with my upcoming flight, and likely was not good news. In fact, my flight from Denver to Calgary had just been cancelled.

Now awake, I hopped on the computer to verify the information and simultaneously dialed the United 1K number to see of there was a better option than the 5:45 PM direct flight on which they had rebooked me. Given that Calgary is a hard market for which to find a flight, recall the reason I was connecting in the first place, I was not surprised that there was nothing earlier, even if I switched carriers.

So I got back online and tried to check in for the changed flight, tired being the operative. I wanted to complete this task given the cancellation just to protect myself from being bumped, not likely given my status, but better safe than sorry. And it took a bit of wrangling by various support folks to get me unchecked in from the Chicago to Denver flight and apparently waiting for system changes to propagate so that I could check in. So about an hour later I was finally able to call my cab company to change that reservation so that I wouldn’t be awoken again as they showed up at the appointed time.

The good side of all of this was that I was able to go back to sleep, and actually slept much better than before the wake up call, getting up at a more normal hour to start a day of working at home. Thus all in all the cancellation was probably good for me.

Yet that is not the end of the story. Given that I had been planning on leaving first thing in the morning I didn’t have a lot of food options at home for lunch so decided to call for delivery. A normally very reliable place messed up my order in two ways sending regular pop instead of diet and a large portion instead of a petite one (and charging me for it). I got a free meal out of that one though, so again I guess that worked out in the end too.

Apparently when I brought the delivery into my condo I tossed my wallet on my coffee table where it remained as I headed off to Calgary. Of course I didn’t realize this until I got to O’Hare and tried to pay for my cab. With not enough time to go home and back, I was very lucky that my driver was very kind and taking my address gave me his so that I could send him a check upon returning to Chicago.

Now I am just surviving the week without credit cards and a driver’s license, which those of you who have been following my blog since Brazil know is not a first for me. At least this time I know I will have everything back on Friday after one more trip through Customs without the advantage of Nexus since the card I am required to carry to take advantage of those privileges is in the wallet.

Sigh,

Wendy

Those of who who have been following the weather in Calgary recently know that it snowed for more than 60 hours last week, starting sometime Monday night and not stopping until mid-morning Thursday. And it is snowing again this week.

Now, having been here last year for the winter as well, I was not shocked by snow in November, actually it snowed much earlier last year, and I guess this year as well, it just didn’t stick around long that time. Suffice it to say, this is sticking for a bit, especially given the forecast for the next few days.

I was also not shocked when the streets were not continuously during or even immediately after the snow. And it got me to thinking about this difference between the US and Canada that I had been exposed to last year. OK, so my sample size in Canada is small, one city, not so much in the US as I have been in many cities there during the winter. Though I hope my inadequate sample size does not invalidate my impressions.

So, what am I referring to? It is the use (or lack of use) of salt in treating the roads during and after a snow. I am so amazed that here there does not seem to be the pressure to have clear and dry roads within hours of a snowfall and folks just drive through the snow, heck they even still have snow tires here, talk about a blast from the past for US folks. Yes, the commute times increase, and yes that is often the subject du jour in the office, yet I actually like it, for a number of reasons.

First, and foremost, is that road salt is bad for the environment, especially in Chicago where a very busy thoroughfare (Lake Shore Drive) is just steps aware from an environmental treasure (Lake Michigan). Anyone who lives in an area where excess salt is used knows first hand the damage it does to the roads, contributing to the plethora of potholes that seem to materialize out of nowhere every winter and to cars. Given that, one should be able to imagine what it can do to lakes and other watersheds.

In addition to that, I like the fact that the driving conditions make folks slow down a bit. Yes, some people still drive like maniacs, but in general folks are more aware of what is going on around them and more courteous to other drivers. I can’t exactly say why, but I do feel that the slower drive is somewhat rewarding. Maybe because I get to listen to a little more news than if I were moving full speed ahead, or maybe it is something more intangible.

Sadly, many of the folks I interact with do not seem to share my sentiments and would rather see the abuse of salt extended to Canada to make their lives easier. I have even gotten comments to the effect of how the environmental gains are offset by the spillage of gas during an accident. Seriously!

So please, save the salt for the margaritas, they might help you slow down and relax as well, and talk up the benefits of limiting the use of road salt.

 

Wendy

Many of you know that I spent last winter traveling between Chicago where I live and Calgary, Canada where I was on assignment for work. And anyone who has been reading my blog over the past few months knows that I spent April through August in Brazil, also for work. This meant of course that I went from winter in Calgary to winter in Brazil (don’t laugh it does actually get cold there).

Now here is the kicker, only a few short days after returning from Brazil I was headed back to Calgary for another assignment that would once again last though the winter. I was beginning to wonder who I had ticked off to seal such a fate.

Then again, maybe things weren’t that bad.

Despite that fact that it can get down to -30C in Calgary, having been raised in Wisconsin, and now living in Chicago I was familiar with cold and I have the right clothes and accessories to survive it, including my floor length down jacket that one of my co-workers refers to as my sleeping bag. And, winter does have a number of great sporting options two of which (curling and bob-sledding) I ran out of time before trying last year and one (snow boarding) that I tried and want to get better at. Not to mention skating which I actually know how to do having played hockey for a number of years.

And there is the location, the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, a most fantastic place, with Banff only a little more than an hour away by car, and plenty of other mountain attractions (Canmore and Three Sisters) even closer. Plus I had wanted to try to get to the Burgess Shale last year and also ran out of time.

Sadly, due to having been in Brazil for four months I have not been able to spend a weekend in Calgary yet as I have many domestic things that I put off that I must now attend to.

So while there was quite a sense of déjà-vu as I moved into an apartment across the hall (read mirror image) of one I had been in for part of the time last year and as I visited three stomping ground places within the first week (Basil, Nandos, Buchanans) there was also a sense of “did I really go to Brazil or was that all just an amazing dream.”

Speaking of Brazil, I know that I mentioned this in some of my blog posts when I was there, but yes, Virginia, they do have a winter, at least in Porto Alegre. And while you might not consider an overnight low of 0C very cold, consider that said low is accompanied by buildings with tile floors and without central heating. Also consider that POA is quite humid, so a chill can get into your bones that can be quite hard to shake.

Of course here again, the weather did not prohibit me from having a wonderful time as those of you know who followed this blog while I was there. Remember, I didn’t want to come home when I did, and that was before I knew that I was heading back to Canada.

Wendy

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