Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just one from Tonight

It wouldn't be right to have an October 31 blog post that didn't have a Halloween theme... just one tonight, will share more later. And it's of Bubba Jack the NO-eyed Arctic Pug Pirate!

Hope you had a happy haunting, or candy day, or whatever! We certainly did, though I am exhausted and shouldn't even be up still! Oy! Going to bed now ha ha! Tomorrow (in like half an hour) is NOVEMBER. Insanity!

30 Days of Me: Day Fourteen

Day 14: A Non-Fictional Book

I love a good autobiography. I'm nosy about people I admire, for one, but I also love to see their writing skills. The less the ghostwriter works the better. Since I'm on a girly kick I'll throw back to a true on-ice love story written by 1988 & 1994 Olympic Pairs Champion Ekatarina Gordeeva entitled My Sergei.

Katia's book is both romantic and tragic as it follows not only the author's life and career but that of her on and off ice partner, Sergei Grinkov, who died suddenly in 1995 at age 28. Published nearly a year after his death, the pain was still raw and it's very evident throughout the pages, yet through it all Katia is able to cherish and celebrate the life their shared, first as coworkers and finally as parents.

Because Katia was born and raised in Russia, there's no doubt that a lot of the stylized part of the writing was done by her ghost writer, EW Swift, who covered figure skating in its hey day for Sports Illustrated. However the story is heartfelt and very much Katia. There are some amazingly sweet moments throughout, and she also dives into the darker parts of the figure skating world - especially during the time she skated for the USSR before Russia's revolution.

Over all it's one of the best autobiographies ever written. I've owned the book since it came out -give or take a year- and even as a junior high student I was moved to tears. I'm so happy Katia and Daria have found happiness and a new chance at family with Ilia and Elizaveta.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chan-troversy surrounds Men's Event

Patrick Chan has received a large amount of criticism today as he found himself on top of the Skate Canada International Men's event. Chan came from fourth place in the short to first over all with a commanding lead from the rest of the field, which left many wondering why?

Chan's short could only be described as a disaster. Falling on three different required elements (the quad, triple axel, and in his footwork sequence), many - including Chan - were shocked to find him so close to podium placement. Chan beat out several men who were much cleaner and delivered the technical, and Chan was even awarded the highest tech score of the night... with THREE falls.

Home country advantage always seems to play a part of the judging, and is normally reflected in the program components score (the IJS's version of the artistic mark), however Chan received the highest hometown hero advantage to date, and for a program that didn't just have a slight flaw.

Fast forward to tonight's event, and, once again, Chan was hardly perfect. A fall on the triple axel (which is his trademark fall) and scratchy landings and spins throughout left, what many thought, room for others to seize the moment. The judges, however scored Chan to where he was ten points above the event's silver medalist, Nobunari Oda, who was clean in the short program, and had one fall in the long. Chan's long program score was not the issue, it was the blatant overscore in teh short that held him up and gave him the gold medal.

Chan's reaction was his typical one, pretend to be shocked and then go on to tell the media that he knew the judges wanted to give him those scores. Really, Chan? Maybe try skating well once and actually deserving them.

30 Days of Me: Day Thirteen

Day 13: A Fictional Book

A friend of mine gave me the Alaskan Quest series of books for my birthday a few years ago. She immediately thought of me when she read them because they were in Alaska. I will admit I was very reluctant to be enthused because I absolutely hate the stereotypical way authors (and tv/film writers) write Alaska. However, I was pleasantly surprised that Author Tracie Peterson took the time to try to understand the Alaskan way of life and thinking.

The series is written by a Christian novelist, and is in the "Christian Romance" genre. Again, not something I am normally into, but I was pleasantly surprised. What struck me most was how the main female character had the true Alaskan spirit - though she was a bit more delicate than I would have wanted. She is able to fend for herself, and I found myself identifying with her over many of her womanly fears.

The story takes place in North West Alaska Coast. North of Nome. It follows the story of adult siblings Jacob and Leah Barringer. Orphaned during the initial gold rush they've now set out on their own, vowing to stay by each other until one marries. Leah is the one having the most trouble as she nears 30 and does not have a husband and family of her own. Then, someone from her past reappears and old feelings come welling back.

Romantic fairytale elements aside the series is good for a variety of reason. You have a bit of mystery, a bit of adventure, and romance, but most importantly it's clean. There are no sex scenes in graphic detail even when it's a married couple, though it's obviously suggested. Later in the series there is a rape, but the author does not shy away from answering the tough questions like "why did God allow this to happen?"

I own the series, and the series before it, as well as Robinson's latest Alaska series. Why? Because she's one of the few authors in this time period that GETS Alaska. It's not Jack London quality, but I don't expect that out of someone who does not live here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Getting ready for my vacation!

As you may have seen, I've changed this blog's layout. It's not the best, but I'm juggling several things at once so I wasn't totally paying attention to the blog. It will have to do.

Anyway in the spirit of Disney I used a photo I took from our January 2009 trip and used it as a background. For now it's fine.

9 days and counting, oh, yes, I am excited.

Phaneuf takes lead in Ladies Short

Phanuef celebrates after her short program.
 The ladies opened Skate Canada International this year, and fans were not disappointed. Most ladies came with their game faces on and it was an actual Short Program competition. American new comer Agnes Zawadzki openned the event and proceeded to hold the number one spot until Russia's Ksenia Marakova took the ice. Veterans 2009 US Champion Alissa Czinsy, who has a habit of winning Skate Canada, and Fumie Suguri had issues with their jumps, but Czisny's program components held her up to a fourth place.

Canada's biggest contender going into this season is Cynthia Phaneuf, and she made the statement she's ready and willing to step up and fill the void left by Canadian Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist Joannie Rochette. A confident, sexy Phaneuf skated with power and experience to hit the top of the standings shocking US commentator (and Olympic Champion) Tara Lipinski who believed the more technically strong Ksenia would hold on to first. It seems experience beat out the newcomers, for now.

The competition is far from over, however, as there is less than a point between each of the top four skaters, and only half a point seperates the two American ladies. Watch out, skating, the ladies have returned.

30 Days of Me: Day Twelve

Day 12: Whatever tickles your fancy.

Perfect! This will be short and sweet - NINE DAYS TILL VACAY! I am so excited I could burst.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

30 Days of Me: Day Eleven

Day 11: Photo taken of you recently

Considering I'm normally behind the camera it takes a while to find something recent that is worth sharing. I went all the way back to last year! ha ha! This was taken by my friend and co teacher Bailey in our sunday school class.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Video Series Review: Phil Vischer's What's In The Bible

VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer is back with an all new children series focussed on the Bible. Entitled "What's In The Bible with Buck Denver", Visher has once again made important Biblical principles accessable to children and adults in a fun family friendly format. Instead of Vegtables bringing familiar Bible stories to life, a cast of puppets are answering the tough questions that surround The Word of God.

The host of the "show" is Buck Denver "Man of News". He's a semi bored little news reporting puppet, and relies heavily on Vischer for guidance in each show. His costars include Sunday School Lady, Pastor Louis, Pete the Pirate, and Michael a little boy puppet on his way to grandma's house driving cross country with his mom (we never see or hear her) and his little brother Pierre (we never see him, but he does throw things from time to time at Michael). There are other characters who bring in information as well as random bits of humor as Buck, Phil, and Sunday School Lady basically work most of the meat of the shows.

Like VeggieTales, Phil is starting out small and voice many of the characters within the show. He is also featured in each "episode" to help keep the puppets in line or to help Buck answer the tough Biblical questions like "How old is the world", and "Why did God want people to die"? Phil does a very good job at explaining what we understand and believe about God and the Bible in a way that everyone can follow.

The format of the show is very similar to that of Sesame Street and other children's puppet shows, short quick segments, but it never talks down to the kids. There are lessons upon lessons and it's not just the same stuff you get year after year in sunday school. It bolsters those teachings with a deeper understanding.

They don't get into denominational battles, where the denominations differ is not so important as the basic Truths we all believe. This is pushed heavily throughout the series.

Over all this is a must have for any family, sunday school, or children's program. It's a fantastic resource, and I've learned several things myself! Be sure to order the DVDs and check out their side website for Jellyfish Labs.
The series is still in the works, with a planned 13 one hour DVDs in all, so far they've released the first four which takes us from Genesis through Ruth.

30 Days of Me: Day Ten

Day 10: Picture taken of you over 10 years ago

This was obviously taken over 10 years ago, try like 24 years ago or so! Taken in my grandparents old motorhome, those little pink bathtubs were all the rage. Had a great picturesque view in all my nakiness! I love this pic ha ha! If I ever have kids I'm recreating it for each one of them!

Figure Skating 2010/11 - NHK Trophy

The Figure Skating season has officially started. This weekend skating fans turned their eyes towards their computer screens and Japan as the Grand Prix openned with the NHK Trophy. It's a new Olympic Cycle, and while there are still many familiar faces, it's a whole new era in the making.

The events seemed to be evenly matched between the well knowns of the last few seasons, as well as those primed to make their mark in the next four years on their way to Sochi 2014. World Medalists met Junior World Medalists in each field, and some surprising results happened in each disipline.

Most surprising was the rise of 15 year old Japanese dynamo Kanako Murakami. She states that Mao Asada is her idol, and yet there were no stars in the girl's eyes as she laid down an impressive senior debut. Her short program was fun and upbeat, a perfect match for a 15 year old. Her long program - set to the soundtrack from The Mask of Zorro (I believe?) - had some rough patches, but as far as making her mark, she's done so with flying colors. She won bronze and it was well deserved. If she can keep herself protected from the mounting expectations, and survive any growing she may have yet to do, she just might topple Mao Asada's plans for gold in four years.

Not that Mao needs any help toppling those dreams. The world champion had a rough outing ending up well below the standard. Asada has changed coaches, again, and is now taking from Mr. Sato (1994 World Champion Yuka Sato's father). This should help Mao is several ways, mainly that her coach will be in the same country she is and will be hands on and available at every practice and competition, something Asada did not have with Tarasova. They are also "going back to basics" and reworking a few of her jumps. It worked for Joannie Rochette, but it does take time. Time that Rochette had as ladies skating in Canada is not as deep and competitive as it is in Japan. Asada cannot afford to have a rough few seasons to make it to Sochi. There are too many girls nipping at her heels and are willing and ready to knock down doors to get there.

World Medalist Carolina Kostner has had an up and down career, and at NHK it was up again. A confident, happy looking Kostner won the event, and has the message boards buzzing. Is the spirit back in this skater? We haven't seen such an energized performance out of her in quite some time. While some believe Murakami should have won the Short Program and not Kostner, there's no mistaking that whatever demons Kostner faced last season have at least decided to take a break for the opening of the Grand Prix.

Kostner has also been working on her artistry and in both programs it shows. She's taking her time in and out of each element, which can only help her consistency as the season progresses. Her programs suit her, and the style is subtle yet completely her. It seems to be a new leaf for her, and it's a welcome one. Will she keep the momentum through the grand prix, or are we headed for more up and downs? Time will tell, but here's hoping we're seeing the emergence of a new and improved Carolina.

US Champion Rachel Flatt put the naysaying to rest last weekend when she put down two strong performances to capture the silver medal in Japan. Sporting a new bob, she gave off a Dorothy Hamil vibe as she ticked off elements. She allowed time in both programs for a bit of her personality to show, especially in the footwork sections. Her long program had moments of flirtation and fun, which will only shine more as the season progresses. She looks like a national champion, and the few flaws throughout the programs will be worked out before the season kicks into high gear. This was the perfect jumping point for her as she decides what to do next. She is taking a year off of school - she's been accepted to Standford University, as you may recall - to focus on skating. Looks like it's paying off. She fills her downtime tutoring and playing piano.

Caroline Zhang was also on hand in Japan. She, like Kostner, had an up and down season last year. Unlike Kostner, however, Zhang's season debut was not a good one. She's had several coaching changes, growth spurts, and is retooling her jumping technique. Her confidence is shot. She was touted as the next big thing when she hit the scene just a couple of seasons ago, and now she's being written off by just about everyone in the skating fandom. She doesn't appeart to enjoy skating anymore, it shows on her face, and one has to wonder why she's still in the game.

Jeremy Abbott and Daisuke Takahashi were in a league all their own with their refined skating styles. Both vied for gold, with the Japanese World Champion making it to the top of the podium. Takahashi's programs look better than ever, and more refined than one would expect for the start of the season. Daisuke knows how to perform and knows what it takes to stay on top. He hit his first quad in a very long while, and, should he stay healthy, there's no reason to doubt that he will retain his world title next March.

Takahashi has gone with a tango theme this year, and it really works. He's sultry, passionate, and holds the character well. He's got the good to back up the technical, but still allows himself the freedom to express the character of the music within the program. This is what makes the skater great, as well as the sport. It's masculine, artistic, and just good. This is not to say that he is the only one who grasps that. It seems that the crop of skaters we have in this Olympic cycle are the perfect blend. There are a few others thrown in for good measure, but the medal contenders are a good balance of athletiscm and artistry.

Two Time US Champion Jeremy Abbott is trying out a new look this season, and so far it's working. Yes, there's a bit of negative critiquing going on by fans of the sport and skater alike, but over all Jeremy's season has started off just like it always does. A solid performance, a silver medal. What remains to be seen is when he will peak. Normally, we see Jeremy top the Nationals podium with a passionate couple of performances and then he has a lackluster - if not embarassing - showing at the World Championships. We saw that disaster happen last season where he defeated himself in the Olympics.

However, Jeremy's change to Yuka Sato for a coach has emphasized the need for calming himself before a competition and going through one thing at a time. It seemed to work here as Abbott seemed more focussed and in control as ever. Never before have we seen the skater without a look of terror on his face as he took center ice. If this is a permanent change of attitude for Abbott - watch out world. He's ready to take you on!

Michael Jackson inspired Florent Amodio to a third place finish with his entertaining, if not a bit odd, long program set to a medly of the late Pop King's hits. Amodio channelled the legend with several crotch grabs, weak moonwalks, and other Jackson-esque moves in his footwork sections. Amodio is someone this sport needs, someone who isn't afraid to be entertaining and yet still get the job done. He has four years to get polished to make it to an Olympic podium. As long as he has fun, he'll have the crowd behind him, but it remains unclear if the judges will take to his style.

Sadly, Kevin Van Der Perren's decision to stick it out one more season has not started off well. He appeared to be distant from the competition and his programs. That disconnect let down to a very sloppy competition on his part. It remains to be seen where his season will lead, if anywhere.

Not surprisingly, the pairs and dance events had clear champions set out from the start. The competive field was horribly one sided with more new faces and up and comers than there were seasoned champions. So it was no surprise who hit the top of the podium.

World Champions Qing Pang & Jian Tong won the event easily with their new, more romantic style. They let it be known after the Olympics that they are a couple off the ice and now feel free to share it with the world and in their skating. They have their sites set on the 2014 Olympics, but it looks like they may have some challenges in the next season or two for staying on top.

American teams Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett and Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin skated well for a seasonal debut. Denney & Barrett switched coaches and training centers this summer and are currently working with US Pairs Champion (and hottie) John Zimmerman. They've decided to take a new approach to their skating, a new direction for their choreography, all in the hope of building better chemestry on the ice. David Wilson supplied their choreography, and while the Short Program seemed to work, their Long Program has a long way to go. However, this young pair has a lot of expectation riding on it, and they've not been skating as long as some of the other countries' champions. It takes time to build a rapport, four years is more than enough time.

Yankowskas & Coughlin are looking to build up momentum leading into US nationals where they should rise easily in teh standings. They had a good debut this weekend, skating a touching tribute to John's mother in their long program. John's mother passed away earlier this year, and so they have dedicated this season's long program to her memory. As they finished the program, John was obviously emotional. If they keep refining their programs they will be a force to reckon with in January.

Russia has reason to celebrate with their new to seniors pair of Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larinov taking silver in their debut. They are the classic Russian pairs team. Channelling classic Russian ballet, this team harkens back to the greats of Russian skating. If their senior debut is any indication of what is to come, we can be sure that Russia will not be off of the Olympic podium in their home country. After a dismal outlook for pairs and dance last year, Russia seems to be finding a foothold to reclaim their dominance. Hopefully it isn't too late.

The Ice Dance event saw Meryl Davis & Charlie White win gold easily. It's obvious that they are hungry for the top spot of the World podium and their new programs do not let them rest on last year's success. Their season debut sent a message to the rest of the world class field that they are ready to take that next step. They are well on their way to doing what Belbin & Agosto couldn't - win a World title. With their main rivals Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir out with an injury - Tessa recently went through surgery and is out for the Grand Prix - they have the perfect opportunity to lay claim to the season.

The NHK also was the senior debut of the new "Short Dance" which is a combination of the Compulsary and Original dances. Admittedly, when the news broke that CDs were being done away with, many were upset with the change - while many of the ice dancers, especially from Igor Shpilband's camp, like the change. However it seems that, so far, the Short Dance is a success and blends much more seamlessly than many thought possible. It did not throw the seasoned skaters at all, and Meryl and Charlie won that portion of the event convincingly.

American siblings, Maia & Alex Shibutani marked their senior debut with a bronze medal finish and hope for a still growing still prosperous American Ice Dance program. They are the latest senior team from the stables of Igor Shpilband & Marina Zoueva out of Michigan. The brother sister pair created buzz around 2008 as being the next IT team, and so far the predictions have been true. After a freak fall in their footwork in the Short Dance where Alex's blade got caught in Maia's skirt, tearing the fabric, they came back to skate a beautiful waltz in their free dance. The duo grew up a lot over the summer and offer a light and mature look to the ice. They're looking to make a huge splash at nationals, and with Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates out due to a freak accident that ended with Evan going to the hospital for surgery and stitches in his foot, Maia and Alex are an almost lock at this point for a podium placement, and it's well deserved.

Overall, NHK was a successful debute of the 2010/11 season. Skate Canada is up next, with another batch of skaters looking to take hold of the new Olympic Cycle. It's a great post Olympic season!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

30 Days of Me: Day Nine

Day 9: A Picture You Took

Once again I am remiss in blogging. Scrapbooking is taking up all of my time! I swear it's awful and wonderful all at the same time. I have decided there's just no way I will get the book done before my trip that starts in 12 days. I have so much to get done before the trip that I can't just focus on the book. I have to get the snow tires put on the truck (made an appointment for thursday, better late than never!), an oil change, I have a dental appointment next week (November 2) which I'm thinking of moving back till after Christmas. Fundage is tight and this is just a teeth cleaning - I think - so it's not a total need to have at the moment. But then again I probably SHOULD so I don't know. I also have a hair appointment the day before I fly down to Seattle and it's going to be a bit of a change.

I'm headed over to my grandparents' house in an hour or two with the two pugs. I haven't been over there in ages due to the fact that, well... yeah. They have a third wheel that not only knows how to push buttons, but I truly feel works for evil instead of good. He considers me the spawn of Satan because of my dad and former Pastor's teachings. Which tells you something right there: Pastor Dean preaches the Truth unashamedly. This third wheel has never heard him preach but has a hatred for him. Interesting. How do you know he is dangerous to you when you've never met the man much less heard him preach? I've felt the very real need to stay clear of this family member when at all possible and that means I don't go over to visit the people I love dearly. It's a catch 22. I convinced my parents last year to help with the Iditarod mainly because I did  not want to be in the situation I found myself in a couple years ago where he physically came at me. God stopped him from hitting me, but my reaction to the whole thing scared me more than the violence. I cannot be alone with him, period.

Anyway this all has nothing to do with the actual subject line, so I will now share a photo I took (which is what I did with the other two posts, but whatever!). This photo was taken a couple of weekends ago during the KCHS vs SoHi Small Schools State Championship game. Despite best efforts, Kenai did not defend their title. But I still got some great shots. I am loving my new 100mm-400mm lens! You can view all of my photos from the semi-finals and championship games in this facebook album -  - please feel free to tag anyone you recognize as I am 7 years out of high school and know next to no one on the field!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

30 Days of Me: Day Eight

Day 8: A Photo that makes you angry/sad

First off, sorry for not updating regularly. I have been busy scrapbooking, trying to get on top of the mountain of memories. So far I haven't even made a dent! UGH! This is what I get for being a slacker for six years.

Now, onto the topic. This photo was taken in Nenana, AK this year in their little walk through mueseum (which is in the old railway station). I never knew these plaques existed, but they were commissioned after the winner of the Iditarod each year and only 500 (I think) were made. Not sure how one acquired one. This plaque is of 4time Iditarod Champion, Susan Butcher. Susan was every Alaskan girl's hero in the 80s and 90s. She was the second woman to win the race (Libby Riddles was the first winning in 1985, after which Susan took over), and was loved by just about everyone who followed the race.

Susan died just a few years ago after a long and brave fight with cancer. I never got to meet her, though my grandparents were huge supporters of her and received many cards and letters from her throughout the years.

Just makes me sad, I suppose, but also proud of a true Alaskan woman.

Friday, October 8, 2010

30 Days of Me: Day Seven

Day Seven: A Picture That Makes Me Happy

Oh there are so many photos that make me happy, photography is my passion! So I will grab my randomizer and have one pop it up...

This was taken last year. It's in Kenai King. 40lbs of awesome, baby! It was so much fun, and a great memory to share with the family! I tried to hold it up for the picture but she wasn't dead and my mom was none too quick to take the picture and she started thrashing around and I dropped her. Hence the reason my daddy's holding her and I've got my fingers extended with fish goop all over them. I was sooooooo excited about my "big fish". It was my first King out of the Kenai River and my fourth King in my entire life (caught three at age nine and then couldn't get another one to save my life until age 24!). It was a great day, had a lot of fun. Actually that whole week was a great break from work and life and just like old times (minus Erin).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

30 Days of Me: Day Six

Day Six: Whatever Tickles Your Fancy...

Oh yay! A theme where I just get to ramble on (for 18 pages... FRONT AND BACK!). Not too hard on most days, but for the last month or so I've had massive writers block. So I will try to do an update on what is going on at this point.

Last week I was in Kenai hanging with the family (as much as possible, they are busy people). The first night Mom, Ms Joy and I went to see "You Again" the new movie starring Kristen Bell, Jaime Lee Curtis and Segourney Weaver (Bette White,Victor Garbor and Kristen Chenoweth are in supporting roles). It's a sweet film, completely clean (SHOCKING) and had some funny moments. Though most of the laughing I did was not so much at the movie but at Joy as she is a riot! She's one of those people you HATE having sit behind you in a film because she talks at the characters, but sitting next to her was a blast!

The rest of the week was spent watching movies, tv, and playing games as the weather was horrendous. Saturday I had two photo shoots, which went fairly well. A toddler who was not interested in sitting still for family photos made the day a little difficult, but I ended with a senior photo shoot which was a blast. Drive home was uneventful, but the weather was icky so no fall photos in the mountains. Sad day.

Now I'm just counting down the days until our trip! So excited!

Monday, October 4, 2010

30 Days of Me: Day Five

Day Five: Favorite Quote

I have a link at the top of my blog with a lot of my favorite quotes. However I will highlight the one I used for my senior quote, because it's one that I fail to live by, but want to. It was first quoted in 1997 by figure skating champion Scott Hamilton after he was diagnosed with cancer. After all of the trials that guy's gone through, the idea that he still lives by this mantra speaks volumes.

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude."