Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not Just Balls

I have been making yo-yo string into braids and ropes and finding uses for them since... 2004~ish. This is one of the things that further convinces me that I am indeed a suitable fit for this Project.

For example, shoelaces that are more durable (and less expensive) than those found in stores. I make it a point to have at least one pair of shoes that has yo-yo string laces. I don't think I have ever gotten a comment about laces, but it's a personal thing. I know it's there, and that's all that really matters.

A keychain is the first thing I made out of used
yo-yo string. This was when I got my first
vehicle (a '95 Nissan "Matchbox" Truck), and didn't like the laniards that were sold in stores or given for free at events. I am also prone to losing things, so I wanted something unique that could only be mine (as nobody else in Topeka that I know plays yo-yo to this day). I could also call stores and easily describe the keychain in question that I lost there. Now that I think about it, I have neither lost these kind of keychains nor gotten a comment about them...

I can do some pretty baller bracelets and necklaces (given long enough string). This is the same design I learned for making hemp jewelry products. A cool yo-yo twist on a hippie classic. I think Ed needs about four of these (forget it, he's gonna open up a head shop and sell 'em).

I'm working on a single long string from the scraps I have collected. I plan to make some more shoelaces, and have this Project travel with me wherever I go. Gonna need about five meters, and have only two meters made during the last two months.

I also have about twenty strings in my ball... it's getting sizable. Ironically, making the ball is the most frustrating part of this Project. I couldn't ever imagine throwing these old friends in the garbage, but a ball just isn't what I want, I guess.

Note: Only one Cones-to-Balls string was sacrificed to the above-mentioned crafts. Other strings are unimportant enough to sacrifice to these things (of course, only after being lovingly played first).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Type Ten.

I totally forgot these cones were Type 10.

Apparently, Ed's observation about how I've been demonstrating so long that I can just pick up anything and use it and recover and such....guess he was right.

Now I kinda feel like some sort of weird, quiet, largely-useless-but-still-vaguely-impressive super-hero.


Woo hoo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

type TEN?!?!?!?!

so i was talking with j-deff yesterday, the pair of us glowing over The String's cosmic properties and commiserating over the difficulty associated with using it for 2-handed play. at one point, absolutely casually, jacob dropped a bomb on me. 'i didn't even realize my cone was type 10.'

... type 10?!?!

for the 2 months i've been playing it exclusively, i've operated under the assumption that the stuff was old 'industry-standard' type 8 (4x2) cotton. needless to say, i immediately cut off a small section and tore the stuff apart to count the strands: 5x2! type 10 indeed.

i've honestly never even heard of type 10 cotton. the only type 10 string i've played was some of the old 10x1 brazilian poly. but this explains a lot. it's pretty impossible to eyeball the physical distinction between the widths of 4x2 and 5x2, especially where it has the greatest impact (at the axle). however, the added width, heft, and rigidity of 2 strands of string bring along considerable surface area and friction. it's no wonder i've had a harder time hitting more complex tricks on wood with it, especially after the stuff breaks in. i thought i was going crazy.

it also explains the 2a situation. this stuff loops down like the dickens (the dickens, if you were unaware, do in fact loop down considerably). ordinarily, to bring loops up, you can widen your yo-yo's gap and/or shorten the string. i shimmed out the gaps on my 2a no jives to a degree that i thought bordered on the unreasonable, and STILL had to shorten the string to joseph harris-esque proportions to get it comfortable and consistent. knowing it's type 10 certainly does nothing to change the fact that it's decidedly thick for looping, but somehow it makes me feel more comfortable with it. i'm amused to realize that since switching to it this fall, i've been much more willing to go back to playing full-gap bearing yo-yo's (as opposed to slim, half-spec bearings). i wonder if the extra string width (which effectively reduces the gap by 2 strands) had anything to do with that.

anyway, i find it hilariously hypocritical that one can enter into a project like this with the intention of examining oneself and the way one approaches yo-yo... and yet not have the insight to examine the string itself so as to confirm its type. ah well.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

eddie would go

steve is sleeping in the next room. he, along with his kids and girlfriend, jenni, stopped off on their way back from his giant-sized, art basel art-show-spectacular in miami. i got them dunkin donuts coffee, and i put it in the oven to keep it warm... can you DO that?

btw, that means that TWO CONES are presently within about 12 feet of one another. i can FEEL the time-space continuum warping around my house as we speak. hopefully it won't mess up the foundation.

every time i get to watch steve throw for a few minutes, i'm reminded of how good he is at yoyoing; the kind of casual skill that is really only born of years spent doing it for a living. last night, we were talking about one of the skills he's mastered: recovery. performing -and more specifically, performing on wood- has ingrained within steve an unnatural (or maybe absolutely natural) ability to 'save' a trick-gone-bad. you know when you're playing a responsive yo-yo, and you commit to a huge flyaway dismount... and you're just WAITING for the yo-yo to return... and a few seconds later, you're still waiting... and you have time to wonder whether it's going to respond at all or just land with a thud upon your palm, the string draping impotently from your fingers? yeah, steve makes all of those. difficult tricks are cool and all, but it's always been the ability to save them, and to make it look EASY that has enamored me.

speaking of making the difficult look easy, the eddie was on last week. if you don't know what i'm talking about, i guess i'm not surprised... and yet... i can't help but feel a little pang of pity for you (i'm sorry - i know how obnoxious that sounds, but it's a reflex).

eddie aikau was a hawaiian waterman - in some respects he was THE hawaiian waterman. he did it all; surfed colossal waves, saved hubristic foundering haoles, dove for turtles and coral... and died while paddling his surfboard miles to shore in the dead of night in the effort to get help for the stranded traditional canoe, hokule'a. either directly or indirectly, he has influenced essentially anyone who has stepped on a surfboard in the modern era, and represents the roots, venerable traditions and aloha spirit of hawaii, the birthplace of 'the sport of kings'.

after his death, a contest was established in eddie's name. and just as eddie aikau was no ordinary man, so the event named after him is no ordinary event. most pro surf contests are held once a year over an assigned 'waiting period'. within a two week stretch when it 'usually' gets good, the competitors are 'on call'. this means that if there's no great surf, the contest will still eventually run in sub-optimal conditions. not so with the eddie. since aikau, himself, was larger than life, the contest that bears his name ONLY runs when oahu's biggest, most formidable break, waimea bay, eclipses the 20-foot mark consistently (which by hawaiian standards often translates to 30-40 foot faces). likewise, this contest doesn't just involve the top hot dog tour surfers. it's invitation only, and the contest is directed by george downing, one of a handful of guys who literally INVENTED big wave surfing. thus, the invitees range from standout 20 year-old competitors, to hawaiian big-wave specialists, to peers and family of eddie, himself. yesterday, i got to watch as eddie's own brother, 60 YEAR-OLD clyde aikau, got pummeled about the head, neck, and bodice by 12 foot shorebreak in the effort to make it outside to the reef. not only did he make it out, he also made the drop on a giant 25-foot wall, seemingly delivered to him straight from eddie's eternal spirit.

surfing at waimea is a really simple thing. at the same time, it's the antithesis of EASY. you have to make it outside through the currents and lethal shorebreak. you have to catch a wave (which frequently breaks at about 25 mph). you have to survive the 20 foot elevator-drop. and then you have to outrun the liquid mountain chasing you. it's not complicated; just near-impossible. and like steve recovering from a trick from which he's milked every ounce of energy, the eddie invitees make it look easy... like it's something that's meant to happen. that's how i want to play yo-yo. that's how i want to do ANYTHING... as though it were meant to happen. as though my own energy and contribution to the act seem natural and cohesive, rather than obscene. i think it's part will, and part knowing who you are. watching a man somehow right himself freefalling from the height of a house, as a thousand olympic swimming pools explode all around him underscores that recovery is, itself, an art. and (i'm sure you'll forgive my tacky, outmoded perspective) it's one that the newest, fanciest, yo-yo's often allow us to neglect.

another thing that i would love to see yo-yoing borrow from the eddie is the spirit of brotherhood. beneath the battle lines we draw between this or that company or this or that style, yo-yoers are fundamentally a tribe. the eddie surfers always seem to keep the contest's namesake in mind. everyone shares. no one gets snaked. no one focuses on the scores. it's an honor to BE THERE, and if you happen to win it, so much the better, but having been invited, you're already a champion. i think yo-yoing needs an eddie. i think that there's certainly a place for a world champion, and if there's ever any money in it, i'd love to see a yo-yoing world tour develop, like surfing's wct. but unlike most contests, which primarily divide the competitors, the eddie really serves to remind surfers that they're connected, and remind us that the most uncanny abilities in the most terrifying conditions are worth celebrating. i think yo-yoing needs an equivalent, which i guess would be a contest where dale oliver, steve, and zach gormley all threw down together... not to one-up each other, but to celebrate how rad yo-yoing is, each in his own way. who wouldn't want to watch upstarts and legends share the stage like that? now that i think on it... 'wheel of penalty' might be the closest thing we have to the eddie, which is pretty frickin' cool, though its zaniness may distract from its meaning.

i've compared surfing with yo-yoing before. i'm sure my tendency to do so betrays my own desperation to try to link my passions, but at the same time... both just express the manipulation of simple energies. i hear an awful lot of yo-yoers and surfers talk about being 'lost' in their respective passions. and though the lexicon and jargon may differ, the 'serious' yo-yoers and surfers i've met tend to remind me of each other, both in their general persistence and their ability to 'accept' life's complexities. the two things that set yo-yoing and surfing apart, however, are enormous. 1.) there is simply no fear of death inherent within playing yo-yo. if you're scared to play yo-yo cause you might hurt yourself or die, you need to be slapped. 2.) doing it is as easy as digging through your pocket. no need to travel. no need to await special conditions. just throw. while comfortable and convenient, these two differences make it somewhat more difficult to view and appreciate yo-yoing as a way of life, which was the real gift of eddie aikau, as is the contest that bears his name. the virtues of courage and patience have to be instilled and honed within the yo-yoer from other avenues. that said... yo-yoing can still teach us plenty. it teaches us to deal with the ephemeral; that our spin is destined to run out. it teaches us that innocence and art are not mutually exclusive, and that the capacity for both dwells within each of us. it teaches us to recover, and to make it look easy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


That's what I yelled out loud. I evidently don't know enough four-letter words to express myself.

My 2A strings (the same pair I made in my last post) were giving me trouble, and I was tuning my wood axle Team Losis until I found a good setting. Tried seemingly everything, but they evidently just needed broken in.

Funny way to word it...

So I have to scrap both of these strings (they are a unit), measure and tension another, get the kinks out, all the while keeping my cat from eating them, then get them wound up, and after that find the proper length and gap width and all the other settings that I just made for the last pair of strings. Freaking mess, I just want to play with toys.

Ed made mention that making 2A strings is hard. Steve loops with Russells, and demonstrated for a billion years, so nothing's going to phase him. I'm finally finding out how hard and frustrating it really is for myself.

These cotton strings are wonderful for all of my other yo-yos. But I just cannot get them to work in my wood axle 'da Bombs. To make sure it was the strings and not just me... I cheated. Got a cotton string from my pile of leftovers, cut it, and tried some hops (what I have had trouble with recently). Yeah, it's these new strings.

I suppose it's because this string is so stiff, it doesn't start wrapping around the axle as readily. And ohhhhhhhhhhh, it's frustrating. I was double-looping the axle for a while, but that just wasn't working.

But these new strings are OK... maybe I didn't make the last ones right? Too much tension?

Nah, forget the excuses, I just am not good at looping and need practice. Gotta get on it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

fake trees and net lights

it's christmas-time! it's christmas-time!

i recognize that geeking out over the holidays may potentially diminish my cool-factor, but i continue to do so annually... without - as yet - incurring any apparent ill effects.

after awakening from our collective post-thanksgiving somnolence, one of my family's favorite pastimes has got to be 'griswolding'. we cruise through the various local cookie-cutter neighborhoods in search of quality holiday lighting. much like any serious endeavor, it's kind of a zen art. any schmoe can pull their buick out of wal-mart with an 8-foot plastic tree and 12 giant-size inflatables and a skein of extension cords and strew them about their lawn (and/or roof).

the ever-present 'fake tree' phenomenon seriously chafes my mental thighs. 'i'm protecting the environment by using this plastic tree every year.' a.) how many fake-tree people SERIOUSLY use the same fake tree year after year? b.) how environmentally-conscious is it really to buy a ginormous monstrosity, crafted in laos and sold in a discount superstore, composed of plastic, wire, and fiber-optic cable, and destined to end up in a landfill? is it really more environmentally-conscious than chopping down a tree which has exhaled delicious oxygen for a decade, and which will seamlessly biodegrade, leaving space on the mountain for a new sapling? anyway, beyond that, i just don't want to be a person who communes with plastic trees (or plastic string, for that matter). that's in your living room though, and honestly, not even MY discerning holiday-eye is so well-trained as to be able to spot a fake tree from the street.

regardless, as far as christmas decorations go, i tend to be impressed not by quantity, but by quality. just like in yo-yoing... character is important.

our character is revealed (or if you prefer, made manifest) in every step we take. it's revealed in the way we sign our credit card receipts and in the choices we make at the store. it's in the art we create, in the yo-yo's we play, and in each string we twist (or in the ones we yank out and then casually discard). i get inordinately cheesed off by people who want to have xmas lights, but don't feel like it's worth 20 minutes of effort. to my mind, the most egregious crime against 'seasonal authenticity' is what i will term 'Effing Net Lighting'. i'm not sure if this phenomenon existied when i was growing up in the 80's; maybe i just didn't notice it... but sweet christ[mas], those bush/tree-lighting arrangements that have been conveniently pre-braided into pristine nets are just aesthetically awful.

like every facet of the convenience that our society has come to worship, net-lights have become ubiquitous. driving through the neighborhoods, we amble past houses where no light seems out of place. the bushes and shrubs are like perfect little luminous checkerboards... and yet... the rub is that there NEVER seems to be just the right amount of net to cover ALL of the shrubs. inevitably, there will be an area to the side or the top that falls suddenly black, bringing the laziness of the homeowners into glorious relief.

i'm not actually that bitter about it. stacy and i actually enjoy these drives, calling out 'NET-LIGHTS' when we see them poorly employed, and 'OOOOOOOH' when we see a house that was clearly well-decorated. she's way nicer about it than i am (although she DID some up with the idea of just buying a few links of net lights and, as a sort of statement, draping them miserably over a section of the lawn for the season - frickin' brilliant!). i don't mean to be draconian about seasonal lighting, but my dad taught me to really rejoice in the effort. it's NICE to spend an hour or two in the lawn, first untangling the gordian knot i inevitably left myself the previous year, and then enduring twigs to the eyes, ears, and throat as i battle the japanese maple in the attempt to encircle it. my house isn't winning any awards for Most Glorious, but at least i work for it. i'm not just casting a net out like a balinese fisherman, watching it drape haphazardly over the shrubbery, plugging it in and calling it a day.

to me, it's just like yo-yo, which is fundamentally an exercise in expressing sincerity. this project sets itself apart from the attitude of convenience, and taking the time to twist string these past few months has made it much more clear to me. i had spirit bomb pretty well dialed on my no jive a few months ago. for a year, going from that trick to shoot the moon was my barometer for whether my yo-yo's were set up right, and whether my skill-set was up to snuff. using this new-old stuff, which is thicker, stiffer, and less forgiving than any cotton i've played in the past (minus, perhaps, the stock tom kuhn strings, which feel like steel cable), i find spirit bomb pretty near impossible. i maybe hit it once every 4 tries now, and ONLY with a newly-twisted string. to be certain that my skill hadn't decayed, i dug out one of my old pre-twisted strings and had it first throw (and yes, i put said string back away immediately).

at that point, i remembered that using this string isn't about being better 'technically', so much as it is about improving 'emotionally', or maybe even 'spiritually'. it's about recognizing that while certain tricks may be out of range for me, others are delightfully obvious. for example, this string stalls better than anything i've played (EXAMPLE), and it's enabled me to come up with new and ridiculous stuff (like THIS - lol) that i've never really considered. it's truly Responsive, as in it links me fully with the yo-yo, and enables each of us to Respond to the other. and the stuff positively SINGS on wood. i've found myself playing my no jives so much lately that the smell of scorched maple feels as familiar as my mother's voice. and when i want to do something 'tricky', even things that were automatic on lighter string, like mach 5 or triangulation... i have to work for it. i have to earn it. and when i can fight through the initial angry reflex that treats that fact as an inconvenience, i recognize it for what it is: a pleasure. it's PLAY, dammit.

sometimes you have to put blinders on to see the big picture. sometimes you have to limit yourself to appreciate your own limitless nature. the limit may be a thick cotton string, or it maybe the inconvenience of slowly arranging your holiday lights. for the effort you put into either (or anything), you appreciate the fruits of your labor that much more. i don't want to be a douche about fake trees and net lights. i'm really no one to judge; i just know what i like and try to express what i feel. as my wife explained to our daughter during our most recent drive-by, "people don't really decorate their houses for others. they decorate for themselves. whether they work extra hard on it or not, they light their houses up, and it's beautiful and meaningful, and they like it."

people don't really yo-yo for other people. they yo-yo for themselves. whether they work extra hard on it or not, they play how they want to play, and it's beautiful and meaningful, and they like it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

2A Strings: Half of a Whole

I make strings intended for dual-yo-yo play differently than strings for single-yo-yo play. I don't know how I got the idea to do this, but it just seemed right.
Here is the process:
First, I measure the string (nothing new). This one is twice my wingspan (it turned out a little short: remembering this for next time).

I add More tension. I am stepping on one of the ends, and twisting the other between my forearms.

I'm not sure if Ed and Steve do this step, but it immediately gives the string the tension I like. No UFO needed to tighten it, and it feels better than having a string with too little tension.

I then knot the two ends together. Adding more tension does put kinks in the string, so I have to twist those out now (the most time-consuming part of my personal string-making process).

I center the knot so that I have two equal-length strings on each side. John Huber taught me this at Worlds when t
here was an A-squared workshop. This is the same technique he uses to put two yo-yos on one string.

I let the tension in the string twist itself, a few inches at a time.

I finally tie knots and cut the strings now. This separates the one string I made into two entities.

I play them, until one breaks. I don't
have a reason for doing my dual-strings like this, but it just makes sense.

This face is to explain how I need to use a razor instead of biting the string. My front teeth don't come together (seriously), so I need an implement to do it for me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dude, you change that string and I'll smack ya.

At my regular yo-yo club meeting this past Sunday, I had an interesting moment...

One of our regulars asked to use my Boss, which I'd twisted a string for about an hour prior. I said "sure" and then he picked up the yo-yo and said "I'll change the string..." and I actually jumped up and yelled "NO!"

He was being courteous, because he knows that I've always been weird about using the same string as someone else. Particularly since kids are grubby little beasts and they always hand back my yo-yos with the most indescribable gunk on the string. And as a smoker, my strings get nasty to begin you can only imagine what kids must do for me to actually balk at using the same strings as them. Eep.

The thing that was interesting was that I've never in my life made any effort to protect a string. They've always been the pinnacle of disposable. And here I've started this project to completely counteract almost 15 years of habit.

I guess I don't have any better way to explain how weird that moment was for me, but there it was.

I've twisted two strings so far. Haven't been playing a whole lot, due to being just generally busy with life and other such messy endeavours. One is on my Boss for 1A, the other is on a raw blasted Skyline I've been using for counterweight.

Damn these strings feel good, though. Nice and stiff. I swear they last longer...but maybe I'm just paying more attention.

Monday, November 9, 2009

So what's changed?

After playing with the new string for a week or so, I wanted to look at what was different already. The most noticeable thing is my fingers are not as damaged, especially considering how much I have been playing yo-yo (which is more than usual).

The fissions in the skin that are usually on my index finger have all but healed up. This is just what has happened over lots of throwing freehand, and how I hold the string while the yo-yo hits the bottom. The marks from 2A (and 1A) on my middle fingers are only noticeable after lots of 2A. My hands were nothing comparable to those of Augie Fash, but the damage on them has gotten less severe, nonetheless.

I have found that having an extra layer of string in the slipknot helps not only lengthen the string life, but also reduces the pressure exerted on the finger itself. This is possibly working against me: I have had the same strings (four different ones at the same time: a long 1A, a short 5A, and shorter yet 2A strings) for this entire time. The texture is divine, and the thickness is what I have been wanting for years. It is a joy to play with these strings, and totally worth the hassle to twist them up.

As far as making progress with tricks, I have tried "harder" simple tricks (goal met). No really new stuff, but I did smoothen out some old stuff I was working on already. I will show this in a new video soon enough ;)

I have seemingly made reverse progress for 2A (goal failed). Maybe I need to change the strings: the tension has leveled out so there are no more kinks, but it just doesn't feel right. I did a Tangler and got both yo-yos up to my hands (I still consider that a 3A trick, so no real progress).

I have not tried much 3A (goal failed), but I did freshen up on Velvet Rolls and Blueline mount stuff. Even did a Double trapeze. I heard about a two-handed hook, and realized how hard it actually was when I gave it a go. I don't have an idea of what I want to do, but I do enjoy just exploring all the simple maneuvers that 3A has to offer. I did do a wind-up that I have not seen before... maybe that's worth something.

Non-yo-yo related things have not changed much. I'm eating more fruit and vegetables. But that's just because meat is expensive. I have been riding my bike around town and to work so that I avoid using irreplaceable fossil fuels, but that's what I did all summer. I'm talking to people more... but it may be just because I want a break from school for twenty minutes.

Imma gonna go study. I will share my bit about 2A strings soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


my cats have been puking a shit-tonne today. just realized that and thought you should know.


i was doing a regen trick i call "sub-dural hematoma" (on account of its tendency to hit me in the skull). the regen snagged a bit and then when it released and hit bottom, KABLOOIE. that was actually the sound of my soul rather than the string. i was beginning to think these suckers were as invulnerable as they are organic. ah well.

here's the ball so far. 9 dead strings. i'm still loving them, although i will admit, getting my wood yo-yo's dialed for 2-handed with them has been a giant pain. i've talked to steve. talked to dale oliver. changing the way i set my no jive gaps has helped, but man... getting them just right takes WAY more work than pre-twisted. gives me that much more respect for guys like barney akers and bob rule, who would have had to pull up to a demo, twist a pair of strings, and make it look effortless. connecting myself to them in any way feels totally obscene, but going through this process is an education.

i'd also like to note that i scored some new pants yesterday. i bought a pair of levi's shrink-to-fit. not as cool as "good jeans" but they were cheap and seemed of better quality than the levi's i'd bought in the past. i hate fashion (though i seem to really like a lot of guys that are all about it), but i love the idea of buying a pair of jeans and watching them grow with you. it kind of reminds me of this project, maybe because there's some reciprocal interaction between the person and the object; both kind of reflect each other. playing a string until it just can't take the strain... you've put a lot of yourself into it. all the dirt in this string ball is the dirt of my life. these 9 strings (i know cause i keep a tally - yes that's my kid's dinosaur sock) are permeated with crud and schmutz i've accumulated while watching caitie at her ballet... while trick-or treating... while watching the sunrise this morning...

it's garbage... but it's also sacred to me.

anyway, steve is the guy to ask about pants. dude knows, and i'm sure he won't mind if you hit him up. i did my hot soak, and now i'm just going to wear these suckers until they snap like this string.

anyway, much love from bulk-string world. i'm hungry. who wants to bet me i can't eat 64 gorton's fish sticks?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Hi everyone, my name is Jacob. It doesn't say, though...

Introductions are in order, I guess...

I live in Kansas, far away from much of the yo-yoing community. This isn't so bad, with the Internet and all, but I also think isolation is important in coming up with original trick ideas. I have not won any yo-yo contests, but I scored well enough to get my name mentioned. I made a couple of videos, but they were not a big investment compared to Sector_Y stuff and some of the newer stuff coming out. Can't Stop took six hours to film and edit, and then a bit to export and upload. String Appreciation (funny how that I did that a year ago, now) is another noteworthy video. It also acts a monument to the first time I took an idea and just sprint forward with it. I got a lot of really great feedback on it, which gave me the courage to make progress on being who I wanted to become in a wider scope than just concerning yo-yoing. Oh yeah, and if you ever got fresh-brewed tea from somebody at a yo-yo contest, it's good to see you again.

But onto the subject of this blog: as soon as I heard about Project: Cones to Balls, I was intrigued. I was looking forward to following the posts and seeing some of the journey these men were going on. I then heard that I was being invited to go along with these esteemed fellows on the same journey that already had me hooked... heavens, what karma did I cash in on to deserve this!?! I told everyone I thought would care about the great news, and soon made plans to give away remnants of my bundles of pre-twisted string to some friends. I didn’t want unnecessary temptation later (now), and I who doesn’t like receiving gifts?

At the same time I was basking in my good fortune, I also found myself asking "why me?". I really don't know what Steve and Ed were thinking when my name came up. Sure glad it happened, but I'm still unsure as to why. I'm really not anybody special. I was asked, seemingly out of the blue, by Steve to join Ed and himself (two very influential and “famous” people in yo-yoing). They have lives, kids, careers, and a history of making yo-yoing cool. Me, I’m a kid with a cat, half a college degree, the same part-time job for five years, and little (if any) “public recognition” in the yo-yo world. And I got asked to do this wonderful project?! Simply flabbergasted.

I have been wondering what I would do if making my own string becomes too tedious. I couldn’t think of much else that I liked to do. I would either be bored, or be studying. I guess that makes me lame.

I have a strategy to enjoy this cone to it's fullest: dual yo-yo play. I have dabbled in 3A, and I already jumped the first big hurdles of 2A. I intend to be able to do Warp Drive consistently, develop better transitions, and get comfortable with cross-handed loops and punching bags. I am not merely wanting to blow through this whole cone really quickly. One of the reasons I want to play two yo-yos at once is that I find I am focused more, and I am always pushing the limits of what I can do. I feel like I really do learn something with every individual throw, two at a time. I believe this echos the intention of making "every throw count", just like the project is supposed to do.

Two strings were made by me today (visible above, along with other string I took off of my yo-yos): one full-length for 1A, and another string (that I split into two) for 2A. Thus far, this string is what I have been wanting to play for years. Soft, thick enough to offset the enormous gaps in yo-yos today, boring-white colored, and I even get to put my own personal touch into each and every one. The 2A string(s) are about six inches too short, and have little kinks that probably mean I twisted the string too tightly to start with. They have mellowed out in an hour of play, and these cotton strings are stiff and sturdy enough to last for a good, long time. And I have a whole cone of them waiting for me!? (squeak!)

I expect the tricks I choose to do will change towards harder, and paradoxically less-complex tricks, much like Ed has alluded to before. I think Steve really liked my Punt Start, and that is kinda where I want some of my tricks to keep going towards. I also do some hubstack-freehand tricks, for which Steve is unrivaled. More of those would be fun.

I will be updating with my thoughts on this journey, and keeping in touch with Steve and Ed better than I could have ever imagined.


Jacob Deffenbaugh

Jacob Deffenbaugh is our Third Man for the Cones To Balls project!

He received his cone today, and will be starting shortly.

I've been waiting to start until Jacob got his cone so I'll be starting mine, officially, today. Ed is already rolling with his.

This should be interesting. ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

what i ate yesterday

yep. i'ma tell you.
first, you should know that i don't always eat this ridiculously badly. i mean i'm 5'10, 203, so it's not like i'm wasting away on rice cakes or anything... but yesterday was pretty crazy.

i don't count calories; don't keep track of what i eat. that's part of why i composed this list, which accounts for everything i ingested yesterday in order. i also did it because it occurs to me that, as a society, we rarely consider where our food comes from. how many people in the developed world hunt for their food? how many are subsistence farmers, or grow even a substantial portion of what they consume. where did your lunch come from? most people couldn't tell you. i'm conflicted as to whether i think that's a 'huge problem', but this blog is kind of about metacognition; about questioning the processes we take for granted, whether they pertain to pulling string from a skein or the way we live our lives in general.

so here you go... yesterday i ate:
• 8:15 am: half a chiquita banana
• 8:15 am: the last 6 oz. of a minute maid orange juice carton (no pulp)
• 9:00 am: toast with honey from a bee farm (do they call them 'bee farms'?)
• 11:45 am: a shit-ton of nacho cheese doritos dipped in tostitos queso 'cheese sauce'
• 11:45 am: carolina blonde ale
• 12:19 pm: marshmallows and graham crackers in chocolate fondue
• 12:37 pm: another carolina blonde
• 1:45 pm: a nathan's hot dog
• 4:49 pm: a reg. jersey mike's roast beef sub
• 4:49 pm: a tall glass of water
• 8:18 pm: a giant margarita

... you know... in text, that isn't nearly as bad as i thought. the queso and fondue back to back was decidedly NOT a winning combination, but i actually expected it to be worse. of those items, i have a pretty good idea where the banana, the honey, the beer, the chocolate, and the water come from. the other stuff (especially the "cheese", the hot dog stuff, and the doritos)... i have no idea. it's hard to eat something with reverence and gratitude if you have no idea where it comes from, you know? when i eat an animal, silly and antiquated though it may sound, i try to 'thank' the animal. i feel uneasy when i eat a nathan's hot dog, not because it's gross or anything (it's delicious)... but because what am i thanking? 12 animals? for bits of their feet or eyes or intestines?

i LIKE that when i twist a string, i know i pulled the thread off the spool, and that the thread was made ages ago from cotton fibers. i like that it's simple, and i can trace it to the earth in just a step or two, unlike most processed foods where the effort feels like the 'kevin bacon' game. i really don't know how to connect the Disodium Guanylate in my doritos to the earth, or to anything more simple. and yet, i love me some doritos.

since this project started for me 2 weeks ago, i've spent 4 strings. 4. never in my life have i gone through strings so slowly, and i don't think it's the inconvenience that's doing it. i think just the simple knowledge that i'm TRYING to make them last - that that's the POINT - has made it much easier. when they get too gross, i discard them (i guess i could launder them), but the standard of 'too gross' has definitely started to shift, and it occurs to me again that i'm gonna be on this journey for a good, long time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

ed's first dead string

"it's so haaaaaaard... to say goodbyyyyyyyye... to YESTerdaaaaaaaayy..."
when i was 12, i went to see jodeci, boyz 2 men, and mc hammer live in concert.

so i killed my first string. it didn't break; i just played it into total ickiness... i'm not squeamish, but when a string is so gross and frayed that it starts to impact play, i have to switch out. that first one was good though, and it now forms the core of the ball which will, in time, come to envelop it.

the stuff plays great at first... after i twist it, the string settles into a level of tension that is just TOO low. i have to throw a 5 second ufo to get the consistency that i like. but then, obviously it kinks up all crazy until it's broken in. the trials of figuring out the tension has led me through every imaginable response setup on my flying v's. it's hard to be 'ok' with the idea that this string is harder to play than slick-6 or poly, or even pre-twisted cotton. i'm just not consistent with it yet. my yo-yoing isn't anything special, but some of my 'harder' tricks are all but impossible with this stuff (at least insofar as i've tried). it's difficult to temper yourself and say "that's not the kind of yo-yoing that's appropriate for me right now." we kind of train ourselves to hold onto the mindset that the longest, most kinked and complicated combos have the greatest value. playing old, thick, rope-like cotton starts to dissolve those assumptions away, and it's a little scary (because why did i even LEARN that hard stuff?) i'm led now to do simpler, shorter tricks, and as it turns out... yo-yoing is just as fun and just as meaningful that way.

it's gratifying to recognize that string is not 'just' string. it's kind of like when your power is out and you realize for a few hours how pathetic and useless we've become as a race. i'm used to treating the string as if it's 'extra', as in 'not really part of the yo-yo'; just an expendable little doohickey that, though it enables play in the first place, has no real value. having to twist it and fight it and maintain it in order to play, however, has already made me realize that it's pretty important, and easy to take for granted.

i have a closetfull of string; all sorts. i've put it all into a big box and i've moved that to a very high, very inconvenient spot in the attic, just so i won't be tempted. i'm not actually afraid that i will be, but this is a project i mean to really commit to, and i felt that putting my string away was a nice ritualistic gesture.

i've also started a log. within, i'm just going to keep track of how many strings i wind, and which yo-yo's they go on. i have a lot of yo-yo's, and a lot of cotton string. even though THIS cotton feels rougher and stiffer than most, i don't want to 'accidentally' cheat, so i want to know which yo-yo's have this string. i'm also curious as to how many strings the cone will produce. so far i've twisted 7.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

rogue 5 standing by

good god.

i received my cone a few hours ago, and i am... underway.

the box was small and apparently insignificant, but i really wasn't prepared for its contents. i'd told myself 'oh sure. i'll play cotton for a year.' upon ripping open the box and hefting the spool however, it became immediately obvious that this is A LOT of string... and twisting it is going to be ENORMOUSLY inconvenient.

bear in mind, i'm not saying the latter with a sad, burdened heart. i want to be inconvenienced. i signed up for it. my whole life (and probably yours, too) is built around convenience. it's become a god of sorts, and we're all idolaters. between our cars and dishwashers and our pills and our cheeseburgers... every aspect of our lives is dominated by the theme of convenience.

what do we do for ourselves anymore?

you might say that twisting my own cotton string isn't a big way to shrug off that mantle, but i'm a yo-yo player. string is a necessity, and the more you play, the more you consume. i wouldn't say that i'm overly wasteful, but this project isn't so much about waste as it is appreciation. am i really too busy to twist my own string? there's a lot of fat i can trim from my days when i look at it honestly. yo-yoing is important to me; it's worth a few extra minutes here and there. during those minutes, every day, my pledge (or intention, anyway) is to remind myself that playing yo-yo is the reward. it's worth it.

i've twisted two strings so far. i actually videoed the first one. the process took me 03:53. the string i ended up with was a little short, but certainly playable. the texture of this string (when twisted) is divine. far stiffer and thicker than the pre-twisted cotton you get from the online stores, it feels similar to the string that comes on the tom kuhn yo-yo's i've bought. managing tension is going to be one of the main travails. i'm pretty sure i can refine my technique to get strings twisted pretty quickly.

i think i'll be especially concerned with making the strings last. every throw is one step closer to the string's demise, and that's brought into staggering relief when you have to measure, twist, cut, tie, adjust, etc. the hope is that by the end (or at this rate by the beginning), we'll have a deeper appreciation for the throws to which we commit.

this string is not easy to play. it will NOT respond like highlights or your favorite 'boutique' type 6 poly or even pre-twisted cotton. nailing the tricks i love to nail is going to be a challenge, but again, all the more rewarding for that. if i were really concerned with 'progressing' along the extrinsic lines of learning faster, longer, harder tricks... this project would constitute an egregious error. anyone who knows me though knows that's not really what i'm about. i think this project is going to drive my yo-yoing deeper 'inside'. i think (or hope) it'll make me less concerned with what tricks i can do, and more concerned with what the tricks i do mean to me.

enough typing. i'm gonna go play, otherwise this thing'll last for damn ever.

Plus One

Ed received his cone of string today, and while I was digging around in my attic I made an exciting discovery:

I have a third cone of untwisted yo-yo string.

Ed and I spoke and we have an idea for a Third we just need to see if he's into the project.

Thanks for your patience with this....we'll be getting underway shortly!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cones To Balls: Introduction

Back in the "glory days" of yo-yo play, pre-twisted string was something of a luxury. The original yo-yo demonstrators simply had large cones of untwisted string, and would make their own as they needed them. 

These are cones of untwisted yo-yo string:

Back in 1999 on the Vans Warped Tour, Mark McBride & Steve Brown decided to collect up all the used string from the tour and wind it into one giant, stinky ball. 

This is a ball of used yo-yo strings:

One of these cones is being shipped off to Ed Haponik in North Carolina. The other will remain in Ohio with Steve Brown. Once Ed acknowledges receipt of his cone, Project Cones To Balls will begin.

Both Ed and Steve will ONLY use yo-yo strings they hand-twist themselves from their cones for a period of one year or until their cone runs out....whichever comes first.

Both players will be allowed to pre-twist strings for themselves to use later, but no more than 15 at a time.

The purpose of this:

We are a disposable culture. We use things and throw them away and never think twice about them. We rarely use anything to it's fullest potential or to the true end of its life-span because it's cheap and easy to just toss it and get something newer or fresher. Yo-Yo string is an object which, by it's nature, must be replaced often. They are used and thrown away without any thought given other than "Oh, time for a new string" and off they go. But if the act of replacing a string becomes tedious, and the act of throwing away a string becomes important, then it forces the player to make every throw count. If every time you throw your yo-yo it places you one step closer to having to sit down and twist, measure, cut, and tie-off a new string for yourself then you are far more likely to place greater value on each throw and try a lot harder to make each throw count.

So, for one year or until they run out, Ed & Steve are going to make every single throw count. This blog will serve as their running journal of the process, the pitfalls, the insights, and general musings on the state of yo-yo play as they attempt to do it the hard way for a very long time.