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Month: March 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Figure Skating Friday: Pairs and Ladies recap

How about that program from Medvedeva?  She is a force of nature, and rumor has it that she wants to do a quad next year.

While the rest of the medal favorites struggled, two Canadian girls rose to the occasion and found their way to the podium.

Click here for ladies videos.

In Pairs, things were messy as well.  No one had a truly clean program, and the winners (Sui/Han of China) even had a fall.  Mad props to the silver medalists, Savchenko/Massot of Germany, for going for the triple Axel through.  While she did put a foot down, Aliona Savchenko did prove that age is just a number and a 33-year-old skater can still push the boundaries in the sport.


Weekly Wednesday: Episode 7


Reading: Finished Shadow of Night and started The Book of Life.  Still loving the All Souls series, but I haven’t had much time to read because of writing obligations…more on that later.

Watching: It’s all about the World Figure Skating Championships (SPOILERS AHEAD) and Evgenia Medvedeva.  She’s a goddess in this sport, my goodness — the jumps of a jumping machine, but she’s no machine.  Here’s hoping she does as well in the Long as she did in the Short.  She may not have topped her own world record score, but she came close (and the judges were likely leaving a bit of room since she was the first one to skate in her warm-up group).

Listening: Haven’t done much of that this week…too busy.

Doing: After a very successful #PitMad experience (4 agents and an editor requesting materials!  and a partial manuscript request!!), I had quite a lot to send out.

Planning:  I feel much more confident to continue querying in general because of #PitMad, so I am now developing my “plan of attack” going forward.

Writing: Revising my alternate history short story.  Finished up sending out the stuff agents requested during #PitMad.

Obsessing Over: Besides Medvedeva?  :p  As anyone who knows anything about On Thin Ice knows, pairs skating is my first love.  And there are SO many good teams this year.  But more on that later… (Figure Skating Friday and some extra stuff too.) Also, the above ad for US Figure Skating is awesome.  And as someone who skated in high school, it’s very true.

Monarchy Monday: Behind THE CROWN Episode 1

This is the first in a series about The Crown on Netflix.

It is an impressive show, and an entertaining one at that.  But how accurate it is?

This series will go through Season 1 of The Crown, episode by episode, and talk about the details.  What’s true?  What’s false?  What’s completely unknown?

And so, we begin with Episode 1: Wolferton Splash.

Of course, spoilers will abound.


-The Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and Prince Phillip were really very much in love, and got married a good deal of sentiment against him in royal circles.  For more about this, Netflix has a great documentary about Phillip, called “Prince Phillip: The Plot to Make a King.”  However, for all Louis Mountbatten’s scheming, they did really fall in love.

-King George VI was a heavy smoker, made worse by the stress of the war, and he really was diagnosed with a tumor in 1951.  And yes, he really did have an operation in Buckingham Palace.  His eldest daughter did have to take his place on the Commonwealth Tour.  He really did go to the airport to see her off, as seen in the video below.

-The King’s stammer, dramatized in The King’s Speech, was a very real thing.

-The King’s love of dirty limericks was also a very real thing.  The actual ones used in The Crown, however, were chosen by the production staff.

-Prince Phillip really did have to give up his Greek and Danish titles to marry Princess Elizabeth.  He was given the title Duke of Edinburgh but was no longer, properly speaking, a prince — at least not until Elizabeth gave him the title of Prince after she became queen.


-Prince Charles and Princess Anne are shown in Malta with their parents while their father was stationed there.  In reality, they remained in the UK with their grandparents.  Here are some photos and info about Princess Elizabeth visiting her husband at his post.


-Was the King really coughing up blood as early as 1947?  Probably false, but I’m being nice and putting this in the unknown category.

-I can’t find any confirmation of his wearing makeup to meet with Churchill, either.

-It’s also unknown when various people became aware of the true nature of the King’s illness, etc.  Of course, the writers need to fill in these gaps for the audience and so it should not be considered an inaccuracy, but rather a needed fabrication in order to have a detailed show that flows properly.

-Similarly, while we know that Princess Margaret met Peter Townsend when she was a teenager, we aren’t sure when their affair began.  We do know that it became public AFTER Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, but more on that later.

-And, of course, much remains unknown about the relationship between the King and his son-in-law.


-Here’s an article about the great pains that were taken to keep the show as accurate as possible.

Figure Skating Friday: 2017 Worlds Preview

Pairs: The absence of Olympic champs Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov will definitely be felt.  It’s shaping up to be a battle between Duhamel/Radford and Tarasova/Mozosov, but Savchenko /Massot should never be counted out.

Men: This is wide open.  Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu  and 2016 World Champ Javier Fernandez will have to fight for this one — and Nathan Chen has a ton of quads, but not much international experience.  BUT he did beat Hanyu at Four Continents last month.  It could be his to lose.

Ice Dance:  2017 could be one of the most exciting years in Ice Dance in a very long time.  France’s Papadakis and Cizeron, Canada’s Weaver and Poje, and the USA’s Sibutani siblings and Chock and Bates will all have to face the return of 2010 Olympic Champs (and 2014 Olympic Silver Medalists) Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Ladies: With the withdrawal of Satoko Miyahara, the second highest ranked lady in the world, Evegnia Medvedeva has this one in the bag.  If she stays on her feet, she will be on top of the podium.  Her compatriot Anna Pogorilaya has a good chance at the podium, as does Italy’s Carolina Kostner.  The US ladies could sneak on to the podium if they keep their heads in the game.

Weekly Wednesday: Episode 6


Reading: Shadow of Night while continuing to read Queen Marie’s autobiography and some research material for my short story.  Not much time to read this week, unfortunately.

Watching: Dancing with the Stars started up again this week.  I’m rooting for Nancy Kerrigan — it’s good to see her in the spotlight again.  I hope she gets her wish of becoming known primarily for her two Olympic medals rather than for being the victim of an attack — but it doesn’t seem likely (especially since the attack was basically the first thing they mentioned in her intro).

Listening: Still on an Irish music kick following St. Patrick’s Day.  Celtic Woman and The Dubliners for the win.

Doing: Getting the cable company situation all switched over before the World Championships start — after the storm during Nationals, we’re ditching the dish.  Also, expect skating related posts during Worlds!

Planning:  Finally done planning my #PitMad pitches.  Wish me luck!

Writing: Finishing up my short story for the anthology to bring it to my critique group tomorrow night.

Obsessing Over: The All Souls series (A Discovery of Witches, etc), even though I’m not completely finished.  I even signed up for the livestream of the convention in September.  I can’t make it to New Orleans, but I still get to hear all the presentations.  🙂

Monarchy Monday: HIH Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

On 30 July 1904, the prayers of millions across the Russian empire were answered with the birth of His Imperial Highness, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

However, this blessing came with a secret curse — that of the hereditary and deadly disease known as hemophilia.  The young heir’s blood would not clot, and he ran a constant risk of deadly internal hemorrhage.  This illness was treated as a state secret, but there were often rumors about the boy’s health.

His hemophilia shaped his entire childhood.  While the disease itself caused him much suffering, it also changed the way he was raised. His parents were, by necessity, extremely careful that he not injure himself in anyway, and even had two sailors follow him around to protect him from the bumps and bruises inherent to being a lively boy.  This extra protection led to him being a bit spoiled, but he was still known to be a happy boy and he was often a prankster.  His tutor, Pierre Gilliard, did eventually convince his parents to give him a bit more autonomy and to learn self-control.

However, it wasn’t just his childhood that was defined by his illness — the destiny of the entire empire was at stake.  When Alexei’s condition worsened and he nearly died at Spala in Poland, his mother turned to the faith healer (often incorrectly called a monk) Gregory Rasputin.  Rasputin seemed to be able to comfort the boy and slow the internal bleeding that threatened to kill the young Tsarevich.  How, or even if, this worked is still not understood to this day, although some have suggested that it was a kind of hypnosis.

The focus that the Empress had to give to her son’s illness, as well as the questionable influence of Rasputin, played not a small role in the breakdown of the empire itself.  The strain of ensuring the heir’s survival ended up being part of the demise of the entire imperial system, though of course it is an over-simplification to imply that it was the only factor.

Outside of the ravages of his illness, Alexei was an enthusiastic boy with a love of all things military.  He accompanied his father to Stavka, the military headquarters, during the First World War.  He enjoyed his time there, living and eating like a soldier.

During the family’s captivity after the revolution, Alexei’s condition worsened.  By 1918, he was unable to walk, and, the night of the shooting, his father had to carry him down into the cellar where their lives were to end.

Alexei only lived to be thirteen — he was killed alongside his family in Yekaterinburg in 1918.  The only survivor of the shooting was Alexei’s spaniel, Joy, pictured below.

Nota Bene: This is the fifth in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.


Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

Figure Skating Friday: Worst Costumes Part 1

Last week, I covered some of my favorite skating costumes.  Today, I am going in the opposite direction — which might end up being even more fun, and will certainly be more funny.

I feel the need to say that these opinions are my own, and that I don’t wish to offend anyone.  I will also be sticking to covering only elite international competitors — I don’t intend to make fun of recreational skaters with limited budgets or anything like that.  In fact, these costumes are generally custom-made — just in a rather displeasing mold.  😉

Welcome to the outrageous, funny, and over-the-top world of figure skating.

firebirdworstJana Khokhlova & Sergei Novitskionto, Ice Dance, Russia, Firebird, 2010

Firebird is one of my favorite pieces of music for skating and is a joy to behold.  This dress isn’t.

That is, if it can even be called a dress — though they didn’t get a costume deduction, and Ice Dance requires that the lady wear a dress “suitable for athletic competition.”  I would argue that her costume fails on both counts, but perhaps I’m just a meanie.


Truthfully, there were some good ideas here.  I like the idea of the flame wings and, yes, even the tail.  But the huge mass of illusion fabric that doesn’t exactly match Yana’s skintone ruins it completely.  If the “dress” featured more of the red and less of the skin tone, the pops of blue would actually look really cool, and the eye would have somewhere to rest.  As it is, there is just too much to take in, and the whole effect is exactly that — too much.

Generally I only include one photo, but in this case, you really need to get a good look at Jana’s tail, so I am including both the front and the back.  You’re welcome.

Alexei Yagudin, Men, Russia, One Banana, 1997

I couldn’t find any good (perhaps good is the wrong word here, but alas) pictures of this exhibition.  So, here’s a video.

Now that you’ve let that sink in a bit…

It’s hard to believe that this is the same Alexei Yagudin who, just five years later, would win the Olympics with some of the best programs ever in Men’s skating.  He is still my favorite Men’s singles skater, but even a fan like me can make fun of One Banana every now and then.  This program — and the costume that goes along with it — makes me very thankful that Alexei switched coaches to the legendary Tatiana Tarasova, who shaped him into the skater we know and love.


Natalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat, Ice Dance, France, The Little Prince and his Rose, 2014

I’ll admit it — green is far from my favorite color.  However, in this case, it is made worse by the fact that it makes their skin look a little, well, un-well.  There is also just too much going on with these costumes, and it’s hard to know where to look.  In addition, the only thing tying his costume to hers is the repeated green of her tights, which just look like sickly skin at first glance.

ilia giraffe

Ilia Kulik, Mens, Russia, Rhapsody in Blue, 1998

Usually, skating to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue comes with a boring costume in, you guessed it, blue.

Ilia Kulik didn’t want to be confined to such norms, and so he decided to skin a giraffe.

There isn’t really much more I can say about that.

caroworstbestCarolina Kostner, Ladies, Italy, Tango Lorca, 2009

This dress has a lot going on — and a lot of things that look like they are growing from it.  It’s a bit too 3-D for my taste, and the skirt is shredded in such a way that it looks like limp, wet algae strands hanging there.

Like many of these costumes, this is yet another example of too much going on and not really having a good focal point. Carolina usually has a decent look going, even if it isn’t always my favorite look, and it suits her.

This dress, however, really missed the mark.

One Hundred Years Ago…Tsar Nicholas II Abdicated

After riots in the streets of St. Petersburg (then Petrograd), the Tsar was on his way back to the city from the front lines of World War I to deal with the uprisings.  With the army turning against him and backing the strikes in the capital, a provisional government was formed.

They demanded the Tsar’s abdication.

Far away from his family, in a train car on his way home, Nicholas II was forced to abdicate.

He initially planned to give the throne to his son Alexei, but changed his mind because of his son’s severe illness, hemophilia, which meant that the boy was unlikely to survive into adulthood.  In the end, he abdicated on behalf of his son as well.

That left his brother, Michael, in charge, but Michael never really took the reins, so to speak, and the monarchy was effectively over.  The provisional government wouldn’t last very long, either, falling to the Bolsheviks in the November Revolution.


Weekly Wednesday: Episode 5


Reading: I finished A Discovery of Witches and now I’m reading the sequel, Shadow of Night while continuing to read Queen Marie’s autobiography.  The All Souls Trilogy definitely shares some DNA with Outlander, but not in a bad way — and I much prefer the romantic interest in this one. (I never really got on the Jamie Fraser train until after the time jump, when he grew up considerably.)

Watching:  The return of Designated Survivor was very thrilling — we’ve jokingly called the mid-season cliffhanger “Who did JR shoot?” for a while…and it was very nice to finally get an answer.  And, of course, I watched the Iditarod finish, as always.  Nice to see two records broken at once (fastest time, oldest winner).

Listening: The soundtrack from VOEZ. I’m not usually hugely into J-pop, but it’s a fun change of pace. I’ve also been playing VOEZ for the Switch.  I’d played the mobile game a little to see what it was about, but the Switch version is a better buy, since all the songs are unlocked.  It’s a rhythm game that’s a bit like Dance Dance Revolution for the fingers.  Lots of fun.  Really loving the song “Run Lads Run.”

Doing: Still playing the Switch, doing some pet sitting…nothing TOO interesting around here.

Planning:  Research for the new short story (see below) and jumping back into the world of The Lion and the Eagle soon.

Writing: I’m abandoning, at least for now, the short story I was writing for the anthology.  Another idea popped in my head, and it just won’t leave me alone.  And this one is Alternate History, so that’s good.  But it’s nothing like The Lion and the Eagle.  As for what it is like, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Obsessing Over: #1917live has been very interesting this week.  It’s really heated up and it does a good job of showing just how quickly the Russian Revolution actually unfolded in the end.

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna

anastasiaHer Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, the fourth and youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 5 June, 1901.  Her name means “resurrection,” something that was often pointed out in conjunction with legends of her survival.

Her birth was a bit of a disappointment to her parents and relatives — everyone had hoped that the Tsar’s fourth child would (finally) be the longed-for son and heir.  Because Russian laws differed from laws of other monarchies (such as England), the Tsar’s daughters would never be allowed to inherit the throne and producing a son was of paramount importance.  Upon finding out that his wife had given birth to yet another daughter, Nicholas had to go for a walk to compose himself before seeing the Empress and newborn Grand Duchess Anastasia.  But compose himself he did — Nicholas was a loving father who adored all of his daughters, despite the succession issue.


The prankster of the family, Anastasia was often called “shvibzik,” meaning “imp.”  She would often refuse to come out of trees that she had climbed or play pranks on her tutors and family members.  Anastasia is often credited as having taken the first “mirror selfie,” but the reality is that there is no way to know who came up with this idea first (and there are examples older than Anastasia’s).  Even so, the picture — indicative of her personality and of the family’s love of photography — is shown here.  It proves, if nothing else, that there is nothing new under the sun.

Like her sister Maria, Anastasia was too young to be a nurse during the war.  However, she went with Marie to visit soldiers, play games, write letters, and otherwise cheer them up.  She also had a cheering effect on her family during their captivity with her sunny personality.  Even the guards described her cheerfulness.

Because of the well-known impostor who went by the name of Anna Anderson and the media surrounding that woman’s decades-long claim to be Anastasia, the youngest Grand Duchess is the most famous, especially in the West.  In fact, I discovered the Romanov family via the (very inaccurate) 1997 animated film, Anastasia, as did many other Romanov followers I know.  The real Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna was killed along side her family in 1918, but many people still believe in the myths of survival.  Some people still believe Anna Anderson’s claims, despite DNA evidence to the contrary and despite the discovery of Anastasia’s remains.

Nota Bene: This is the fourth in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.


Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

The Fate of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

The Resurrection of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson