Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Figure skating music: why won't that stupid CD play at the rink?

A big discussion in rinks where Ice Girl skates is what brand of CD-R works in the worst CD players in the coldest rinks.

It turns out that CD players don’t like cold temperatures. These players skip around on some music, or worse, refuse to play music at all. I know people who bring their own warm, reliable CD players to freestyle sessions in case the rink’s CD player won’t play their music.

Others have a system based on the CDs themselves. I burn multiple copies of Ice Girl’s music on whatever CD is cheapest at Walgreen’s. I’ve noticed that the music on the Maxell CDs is the most unreliable and anecdotal evidence bears this out. A person who often plays music for the skaters told me that if a CD fails in the rink’s player, it’s usually a Maxell. I’ve burned copies of Ice Girls’ music on Memorex, which my music-playing source says works pretty well in most rinks.

The best medium, according to my source, is Imation. Those discs will play in every player, no matter how cold the rink is, my source said.

That person also provided me with some strategies for getting music to play. The source said that warming a disk inside a jacket will often fool the player into thinking it’s warm and the music will play. However, there’s a risk that the music will skip, too. I’ve even heard talk of bringing a heating pad to competitions to warm the CDs.

Is this madness? I’ve tried reading up on CD players, but the only thing I found out was that some don’t play well in the cold. I found nothing on cold temperatures and the CDs themselves. Some CDs copy more faithfully than others. I read that Imation has a better BLER (block error rate) than other brands. Newer players forgive BLER more readily than older players, too. Unfortunately, it’s right about there that the articles I read became so filled with numbers that they were more data than prose and I stopped reading.

The bottom line: I don’t care if it’s all hooey. I’m going to run those Imation discs to ground this weekend and burn a few for Ice Girl. Heck, I’ll burn incense over the disc and give it a blessing, too. I'd do the hokey-pokey if I thought it would help.
However, I am not going to bring a heating pad to a competition, I swear. But, well, my back is starting to hurt. I guess loading the heating pad into the van isn’t nuts, is it? I mean, for health reasons.

What do you think? Do folks at your rink have rituals and rites for playing discs successfully? Do you know of an unbelievably reliable CD-R brand? Share the wisdom!
Update: I found the Imation CD-Rs at Target last night: a package of 10 for $3.99. I burned Ice Girl's music and it played fine at home. The real test will be the cold rink where she skates on Wednesday mornings.

Friday, January 9, 2009

How to: Promote a Figure Skating Event

Ice Girl’s coach, Ice Coach, is the Learn to Skate Director at a local rink and is hosting events for National Skating Month.

In my day job, I’m an education writer. I love a good press release and the local media are no different. The U.S. Figure Skating Association sent Ice Coach a packet with canned press releases for a media coordinator to send to the local media. If you’re ever the media coordinator for an event, here are my tips to help you get more people at your event than you know what to do with.

Develop a media list. Create this as a spreadsheet during the initial planning stages of the event. Make columns for checking off tasks that you have done: send press release, send news release, send calendar listing.

Write a donations letter. It’s wise to ask for sponsors for a community event like National Skating Month. Sponsors can offer you T-shirts and money for prizes and pizza. Look up your local Chamber of Commerce online for a list of area businesses and send out your letter. In your letter, stress the benefits of association with your family event. Offer to announce their business’s name during the event and include their logo on your event’s site and all published materials. Keep sponsorships accessible to your community’s budget and have levels of sponsorship for businesses to choose from. Be sure to write a thank-you letter after the event and include a photo of the many happy skaters.

Use e-mail. Send out press releases, news alerts, and calendar listings by e-mail. Be up front in the subject line. Write something like this: Press Release: free open skate or News Alert: National Skating Month Events.

Canned press releases. The press releases were pretty good, and the folks at USFSA even highlighted parts that the media coordinator should update with local events and times. I tweaked ours a bit to reflect more of the local nature of the events, but I left the last paragraphs (about USFSA as an organization) alone.

Canned news alerts. USFSA included these in the package, too. News alerts are useful to send to the media to remind folks that the event is taking place next week.

Calendar listings. USFSA didn’t include these in their kit, but make these a priority for your media campaign. Type up the basics (date, time, place, event, Web site, contact information) and be prepared to add it yourself to community events calendars or submit it to the general information e-mails. In the subject line of your e-mail write: calendar listing: something, something, something.

Suggest a news story. E-mail your local TV station and invite reporters to come for a free lesson. Can area reporters learn to skate? Find out!

Save as text files. Don’t send attachments – everyone is too worried about viruses to open them. Save your press releases, etc., as .txt files, open them using Notepad or something similar, and copy and paste into e-mails and online forms. Notepad removes your word processor’s formatting and sends more cleanly than copying and pasting from Word.

Prepare for a crowd. Holy buckets! I think we exceeded the capacity limit for the rink yesterday. We certainly ran out of skates for the free open skate.

Share what works for you! Drop me a comment!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Through the hockey glass: ice rink communication

Ice Girl tapped on the glass that separates the rink from the lobby this morning. I looked up from my book. She pointed to her eyes and then pointed to herself.

Yep! I’ll watch you! I gave her the thumbs-up.

That one we have: watch me. We also have I need some water and I need a tissue.

The rest? Not so much.

Ice Girl and I are terrible at rink communication. Just awful. She’ll skate to the glass and make a complicated series of gestures and I just don’t get it. Sometimes other moms translate for me, but more often than not, I’m trotting to the rink door to find out I want to stay for the second session or my back sit spin was great that time; weren’t you watching, Mom?

I know a mom who is very good at rink communication, but she denies her talent and responds to her kid with a hand wave that means go skate, kid, this ice is expensive.

My standard response is more along the lines of the chicken dance.

Ice Girl is 13. Her standard response to the chicken dance is rolling her eyes and skating away from me as fast as possible.

Wait! I know that one! It's Geez, Mom, you're embarrassing me.

I’m curious: are you good at rink communication or are you hopeless, like me? We’ve been doing this for over a year and my skills haven’t improved at all.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Figure skating pattern review: Jalie # 2675

I just sewed my first skating dress from Canadian pattern company Jalie. Let’s be honest: I always thought the skin-colored dip in the front of this figure skating dress was way too mature for my 13-year-old. However, when that nude bit is white, the dress is perfect for Ice Girl’s new James Bond music.

The pattern turned out well, but I thought I’d share a few things I learned along the way and save you the seam ripping that I did.

Pattern instructions. They’re available for download in .pdf format for free, which I really like. While you wait for the pattern to arrive in the mail, you can buy fabric using the pattern envelope measurements and review the instructions to see if the pattern is going to work for your sewing skills. They’re also available with the pattern, but they’re printed on the same big sheet as the pattern pieces, so the .pdf is the way to go.

Pattern. I really like how Jalie includes 22 sizes in its pattern envelope. The pattern is on heavy paper, too, so tracing it is easy.

Elastic measurements. Here’s where I ripped my first seam. I forgot that the .pdf instructions contain a table for elastic measurements. Duh!

Fit. Ice girl tried on the bodice before I attached the skirt and the neckline gapped so much that I ripped out all of the elastic, shortened it, sewed it, and had her try again until the neckline didn’t gap anymore. We were concerned about the bodice’s length, but I went ahead and sewed the panties and skirt. She tried them both on, bikini style, and we pulled the bodice and bottom together. Ah-ha! The neckline was now too tight. Yep. More seam ripping. I think I sewed that neckline three times.

Trim. The pattern instructs sewers to attach the neckline trim last, but when I was sewing the neckline for the third time, I thought it would be a much better idea to sew it on before I finished the back seam and attached the bodice to the skirt and panties. The trim I bought was much like the trim you see on the pattern picture – stretchy sequin trim. I’d never sewn sequin trim before and crossed my fingers that a narrow, but long zig-zag stitch would work. It did, sort of. I broke two needles on that trim, but I hate to hand sew, so the needles died for a good cause.

Bottom line: 3 out of 4 stars. I like the pattern, but the neckline was a dog. I wrote a note on my instruction sheet to sew in the elastic, but not to finish that neckline seam until I attach the skirt and panties. I think I’d baste the skirt and panties to the bodice, check the fit, tear out the basting, adjust the elastic and finish the neckline seam/trim, and then attach the bottom. My over all impression of Jalie remains strong and I’m very willing to buy and try another figure skating dress pattern.