Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Day 376-Baximum To The Maximum, Earlier Start Equals Better Finshes, The Bigger Pitcher, Fear Of Small Children, and Club Smithero-The Photo Tour

Hours of practice-338
Miles Walked On The Oche-287.3
Good afternoon; see? I told you I was back on it. And so to prove it, here's a blog update EVEN sooner than anyone anticipated, or more importantly, wanted. But humour me like you have been doing and you'll be finished before you know it, and can get back to something more important. What that might be, I can't imagine.

Happy new year first and foremost; you'll notice an increase in the practice hours, though not as many as I'd like. I was pretty badly ill, like many at the time, over Christmas, which put me on my ass for about a week since the last blog, then family time at Christmas, then busy with December gigs (busiest time of year traditionally, as opposed to January, which we'll come to shortly) so it's been tough to cram as much in as I'd have liked. Still, once new year was out of the way, I've been getting in a solid 4 hours per weekday. What's that you say? "Woah, woah, hold on there Straight Shooter; not that we ever think enough of ourselves to even CONTEMPLATE correcting you, but we remember very clearly in your last blog-as we always memorise ever word you bless us with-that you said you were going to drop you practice hours to 3 hours a day? Please don't exercise your wrath upon us."

Calm down. You're correct, I DID say that; I have simply approached the issue a different way. Let me explain.

I thought about it-the reducing practice to three hours due to time constraints issue-and decided I didn't like it. But the time issues simply weren't going to go away. So I used my usual, Alexander-The-Great-when-confronted-with-the-Gordian-Knot-esque technique of powerful, decisive action ("Fuck it!") and switched back to four hours. I was simply going to have to get up earlier.

Now, take a moment to be honest with yourselves. Those of you with daytime-based jobs; if you were suddenly confronted with the task of setting your own hour of getting up in the morning, I'm guessing 95% of you certainly wouldn't be up any time sooner than 9:00am. Those that say otherwise either are liars or people that love going to bed at 8. Personally, I always like to be up at about 9:00/9:30, seeing as I generally don't go to sleep til about midnight. As has been well documented here, I have a lot of trouble with sleep generally, so as you can guess, early starts and I don't always see eye-to-bleary, bloodshot eye. So I've been pretty pleased with myself for consistantly getting up at that time when a: I sleep like The Flash on crystal meth, and b: I don't HAVE to get up that early seeing as my work is all on weekends.

So, the solution to the four hours a day whilst having time to get anything else done, eat, exercise, walk the dogs and have any kind of life-i.e, get up an hour earlier at 8:00/8:30-was a fairly daunting one. But if I was going to stay serious about this, I would have to do it. Those of you scoffing at the idea of being nervous about getting up at 8:00 ("I get up at 6:30 every day!! Ha ha!!"-well done for having a job that makes you get up extra early to enthusiastically suck The Man's filthy cock. Have a congratulatory breath mint) try doing your day when you wake up 6 times a night. Then we'll discuss how wonderful you are.

And, so far, it's working. I had the genius idea of letting the dogs sleep in the bedroom floor, seeing as they'd wake up and get excited when Angela got up to go to work, and would be jumping all over the place thus keeping me awake and stopping me from hitting that snooze button. I have to tell you, all the willpower in the world counts for nothing when you don't have to get up for anyone else but you. The thought process goes like this:

You at 11:00pm the night before: "I can't wait to get up early tomorrow! Seize the day! Get loads done! Unstoppable!!" (Go to sleep really wanting to get up, physically excited.)


Unfortunately this genius plan backfired spectacularly with the dogs waking up even more reguarly than me, deciding that the square foot of duvet to their right was definitely more comfortable than the one they were currently occupying, or heading downstairs to the toilet via a click-click-clicking of claws on the laminate floor of the bedroom. This all added up to one of the worst night's sleep ever, and to two confused dogs being put back on their downstairs bed at 6:00am. My second solution was better; get Angela to leave the bedroom door open in the morning when she gets up for work, then to let them out downstairs after they've been behind their baby gate all night. No matter how sleepy I am, the sound of happy paws thundering up the stairs and wagging tails happily bounding onto the bed always makes me smile. And if it doesn't, the smell of dog breath and slavering tongues slopping noisily in my ear soon makes me get up just to get away from it. It's done the job so far.

So generally I stagger up at about half 8, then have a nice slow breakfast, and nurse my morning sugar free Red Bull (there's nothing like the first one of the day) til about 9:15, then make sure I'm on the Oche for half 9. I do an hour, have a short break for a very little snack (if I don't, about an hour and a half in I get pretty light headed. Only happens in the morning session. Wierd)
then get the second hour done. On a good day, the morning session is all wrapped up by 12:00 midday. Then a nice bit of dinner, take the dogs for a half hour walk, then back to crack on with whatever I'm working on for a few hours, then the afternoon two hours. Hopefully all sorted by about half 6, then tea with Angela, and whatever I'm doing that night. I find the whole thing strangely comforting; I'm in control of each day, and it's all achievable. The massive, massive downside is a distinct and rather crippling lack of human contact. This is something I'm attempting to address, and I'll let you know how that's going when I have more news. The dogs are very smart, but their conversational skills don't extend to much more than letting me know when they want a belly rub or need a shit.

But the consistent, lengthy practice has paid off; my previous record number of darts to checkout on 501 was 17. I smashed that in practice against the computer by pulling a 14 darter, much to my delight and the surprise of the dogs at my girlish, shrill scream of delight. That featured a 180 followed directly by checking out 107 in two darts (treble 19, centre bull.) And I put this down to an important adjustment to my technique.

After some horrific play recently, with my online league game against my strongest opponent yet featuring such staggeringly bad darts from myself that I was genuinely stunned and left wondering what the hell was going on. So I had a little look at my throw and realised what the problem was; I was throwing too low. I was aiming AT the lipstick, but my natural throw has a drop to it. I much prefer to use heavier darts than lighter ones, as I feel without the weight I have no control. To compensate for the weight you either have to throw harder, or allow for the drop (the 'parabolic path' of the throw, to use a wonderful term I picked up from Mr Silberzahn) and somewhere down the line, when I made a conscious effort to focus more into the treble merely than the 20 (see previous blog, if you can take more punishment) I'd forgotten this. I needed to pitch up more, allow for the drop to stop the dart dropping short of the line and landing agonisingly in the 5 or 1.

It worked; my average shot up into the 70s over the next few practice games. I felt great, hit the aforementioned 14 darter, and headed into my first tournament since last summer feeling very positive. In a last minute decision upon a bit of a search of the darting forums, I decided to attend the Cotgrave Open in Nottingham.

A much better atmosphere than the one listed in the last blog; a nice mix of people there for the craic and people focused on their darts (and I'm delighted to say I witnessed the general approach being one of making a point of not only thanking a player, but shaking their hand. Nice to see) and generally it was a positive vibe in the room (photos of the event to give you an idea can be found at this link: I'm in one. See if you can spot me tucked away.

I stood in the warm up board queue, and my heart began to sink as, despite my breakthrough the previous day, my darts had reverted to awful. To add to my horror, a 13 year old kid was ahead of me in the queue comfortably throwing darts. He wasn't playing in the tournament was he?! Playing the way I was, I had horrific visions of being shown up in front of a baying crowd by the darting equivalent of Dougie Howser, MD. The only thing that could possibly worse was...

...confirmed as I glimpsed to my right. No word of a lie, a 12 year old girl was throwing in the queue opposite. The announcement over the pa of the start times for the juniors' and ladies' competitions could not have been more welcome when it came.

The poor form continued into my game. It was EMBARRASSING. It wasn't until the end that I realised what I was doing; I was trying so hard to 'focus and throw properly' that I was succeeding. Succeeding in producing the incorrect throw I'd been producing recently, and not adjusting for the higher pitch needed that currently feels unnatural and requires a deliberate effort to produce. I lost, and lost heavily, but knowing where I'd gone wrong and knowing how to fix it took a lot of the sting out of it. Onwards and upwards.

Anyway, to close out this installment of everyone's second favourite blog about trying to become a darts professional by a musician, comes the massive news of the official date of The Future Of Darts World Championships XII-February 26th, more on that nearer the time-but also, due to popular demand (4 people) I'm finishing with some photos ("Fuck me, SSLS! The blog has photos now too?! When do you stop GIVING?!??" The answer is 'When there is no more love in the world...') of my own home 'dream' darts throw and bar. Long in the planning, fumbling but successful in construction, wasteful in expense, crippling in debt, devastating in impact (when it collapses, as it doubtless will.) A guided tour, if you will, to give your a greater understanding of the world in which I find myself rattling around in all day going slowly insane. Let's
start with the external fluff:

This is the kitchen pool table...obviously. At Club Smithero, we don't just believe in darts. We believe in pool, too.

This is the living room oche. This isn't the main event; all the bells and whistles are in the bar, of course. But this is a nice, bonus oche should it ever be needed. Note the Eclipse Pro Trainer board-as mentioned in previous blogs-on this throw to give more training variety if needed. 60 to make this setup, including light and surround (not including board though.) Took about an hour, and I am CRAP at DIY. Very easy to do. If you want to know how, ask me.

This is the bar I built in the actual darts room (The Snakepit Lounge.) I must stress-HEAVILY-that that isn't me behind that bar. That's a friend of mine. I know you're looking at his hair and dress, and thinking 'FRIEND, eh?' No. Not that kind of friend. And that's not his purse on the bar stool either. Note the surround sound speaker built into the side/holding the whole thing up. Pretty proud of that.

THAT'S me behind the bar, in this not-at-all-posed shot. This kind of thing happens 24 hours a day in Club Smithero. Just with dogs. As mentioned last blog, The Snakepit Lounge also incorporates a hi-def 1080p projector with surround sound that provides us with a home cinema:

It can obviously also be used for Xbox Games too:
(That's Angela being forced to pose by the screen to give you an idea of it's size. She's 5'5".) And also can display the Sky TV feed from the living room:
And can be combined with the disco light box and mirror ball with some visualisers from the pc feed to switch it to club mode:

Actually, before we get to the main event, here's a picture of Club Smithero's other much-loved residents, sat in The Snakepit Lounge:

Angela, with Jeff and Lynne. Speaking of the latter, here's a close up:

This is where they sit and watch when I'm practicing.

This is them getting bored of watching and command me to feed them. This photo hasn't actually been touched up in any way.
So's my pride and joy.
The first shot is with the tv as a monitor; as it's rigged to a pc, with a wireless keyboard that sits nicely on the bar, it runs n01/Dartpro and is also a fantastic scorer: The second is with it in TV mode. Here's a better shot of the scorer:

And a few close-ups of the Circumluminator/F.O.D.atron 5000:

So there you go! It took a lot of work, but let me stress as I did last time; a lot of it was done on the cheap/smart, and the only things that really cost were the projector and the FODatron. And they were only after a long period of saving, so this isn't me trying to be flash. It IS stuff I'm very proud of, but not in a look-what-we-can-afford kind of way, because these are all one-off, much saved for purchases. All those 'special favours' in back alleyways were all worth it in the end. If only I could stop brushing my teeth.

Anyway, as usual, thanks for reading; it's genuinely appreciated. And hey-HEY-if you've enjoyed this installment, why not leave me a comment? I'm regularly surprised by the amount of people that have mentioned they read this shit, given that I only have 6 followers (HINT) so let me know you're out there. Let's call a spade a spade-I'm an attention whore, and STAGGERINGLY needy. Anyone who has a blog is, didn't you know? Love me. LOVE ME.

Until next time darts fans,

Stay Hungry,

The Straight Shooter