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Earl Strickland & Johnny Archer pool-school review
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Peer
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Earl Strickland & Johnny Archer pool-school review - 04-27-2008, 01:13 AM

Although I did quite well in school as a kid, I was never a good student, i.e., 'good' as in quietly accepting everything the teachers served us. This might also relate to my distaste I had for authorities at the time -- whether it was my teachers, parents, police, or any "high-horse" person that tried to imposed things on me -- I had a hard time conforming and taking orders.

Well, back then, my billiards/pool instructors also had a hard time making me do their exercises. To me it felt too militant as they forced us kids to practice 3-cushion, snooker, straight pool, and also rented a gym every Friday night for the obligatory workout -- the idea was to get us in shape for the long tournaments. The instructions were so fierce that many of us just lost that fun factor of playing, and gave up -- including myself. (However, my buddy somehow stuck with it, and won the 2007 team nationals, so I guess our instructors knew what they were doing.)

So, fast forward to present time, now living on a different continent and in very different times and circumstances. I'm a bit older but not necessarily much wiser, so I've again picked up this silly sport... and again let it consume my life. Hence, I would jump on any chance to improve my game, which, admittedly, hasn't improved much since I was a kid. So when a once-in-a-lifetime super master pool school was offered, instructed by none other than two world champions, Earl Strickland and Johnny Archer, there was NO WAY I would pass on it.

My concern wasn't as much the cost of the class or how far I had to travel, but more about how much one-on-one time I would possibly get with Earl and Archer. But when the organizer, Mark Cantrill, more or less assured me that there wouldn't be more than 5-10 students, I instantly packed the cue and hopped in my roadster to head towards Phoenix Arizona.

The next day, at noon, Tuesday the 22nd, after 12 hours of driving, I stepped into Kolby's Corner Pocket in Tempe. Johnny Archer was already there, drinking beer (well, root beer). As soon as Mark introduced me, a pregnant conversation emerged between Archer and I. Right away I could feel that this day was gonna be a great experience -- Archer being very friendly and down to earth.

Not long after, Mr. Larger Than Life -- Earl Strickland -- walks in, just like a rockstar. Right away he attracts all attention from everyone inside the poolhall. Earl didn't wait long before unpacking his funky cue (sporting tennis racket wrap), taping his fingers and starting to warmup/perform on the front table. Unfortunately it didn't take long until someone made fun of him miscuing, and Earl blew up: "I did not fly across the country just to get heckled." Great, just ****ing great -- even before the class had started, someone had to set Earl off in a tirade. Luckily that person wasn't part of the school, as I first feared.

When the class started, the final tally of students was only 6. Just then I was thinking about all the pool-players in this area who must have heard about the event, but yet chose to stay home... were they all idiots..?!

Anyways, the six of us got divided into two classes, three in each. My fellow pupils were Little John and Garrick. The three of us started off with Earl as our instructor. The other three had Archer. Two tables for each group.

The first thing Earl did was examine our "equipment", and sure enough he found my cue quite curious. For some reason, I decided to bring my 10mm John Parris snooker cue. Anyone who knows me also knows that I have no filter between my little brain and my big mouth. This, combined with a spontaneous mindset, have put me in quite a few ignominious situations. And this day was no different, as I rhetorically asked Earl why he hates us Europeans. Well, I might be exaggerating a bit, but it felt like everyone around me suddenly shied away, anticipating Earl punching my teeth out. But instead of taking aim at me, he said "I don't know how you folks can play with those toothpicks, so where in Europe are you from?" As I was getting ready to duck, I told him that I'm a Norwegian. Earl cracked a smile and then told a funny story (at the expense of us Norwegians of course) about when he once played in Oslo. It was hilarious, and also a very good icebreaker. From there on I could tell that he was in a very good mood. Actually, the entire time, Earl was very helpful and patient.

After talking a bit about cues, including pitching his custom made cue, Earl wanted to see each of us shoot a rack so he could determine what speed we played at. First up was Little John who ran that rack like a pro. Next was Garrick who also played as a champ. As I watched them run the balls with ease, knowing that I was up next, I couldn't help feeling like it was my first day in school as a kid -- waiting for my turn to stand up and tell who I am -- something that always gave me the shakes. And sure enough, when my turn was up, I played like a Chihuahua in a blizzard.

Among the shot exercises Earl showed us were a fairly straightforward cut & throw shots for position. However, it was interesting to discover that you couldn't actually see where Earl's tip hit the cueball -- as he always seems to aim dead center but at the very moment the shot is fired, he applies the english. It baffled me to a point where he let me stick my head in between his arm and body to watch it really close up. Yet, after repeating several monster stun shots, even from this angle, it was impossible to figure out where the cue actually hit the cueball. It didn't help much that Earl couldn't really explain this either.

To me, the highlight of Earl's session was his pattern play instructions, as this gave me some new ideas on how to run a table. Having a world champion talking you through a rack as you shoot is certainly inspiring.

At one point Earl set up a very tight cut shot, carefully marked with chalk. The purpose was to show that the only way to pocket a cut shot like this was to apply outside english. After trying to make the shot, over and over again, Earl concluded that he must have set it up too tight. Well, I started to argue that it would perhaps be easier (and more precise) to use no english but just focus on hitting it as thin as possible and hard. My fellow student Garrick agreed. But when Earl insisted that there was no way to make this shot without outside english, to his dismay I stepped up and made the shot, with no english at all (and with my gnarly European snooker cue I may add). Earl wasn't too happy.

This led to a discussion on what would be the safest way to pocket a long cut shot when no position play was required. I would think a natural roll (e.g. center follow) would be the best shot. Earl emphatically disagreed, telling us that we should always put outside english with some draw on all long cut shots. Just as for the previous thin cut shot that he missed, I again argued that the more english you apply to a shot, the more factors are introduced that you somehow have to contend with. Whether it's squirt, throw, or swerve, those factors will also be compounded by, for example, different table cloths, or from one set of balls to another, etc. Earl, who actually complained quite a bit that the balls we used were too light, completely dismissed my reasoning and insisted that we should ALWAYS use english.

As an instructor, Earl isn't very analytical but rather intuitive. This is perhaps why I think the combination of Earl and Archer worked quite well, especially since Archer's approach is very systematic and precise -- i.e, very different from Earl. The only problem arose when there was some "de-learning" from one instructor to next.

The first thing Archer corrected was the high finger-tip bridge that Earl taught us. He also adjusted the stance and shortened my bridge.

Archer is what I would call a good traditional instructor, being very perceptive to the different needs each student has. Archer was also more open to discussion and very responsive to my (often) inane questions -- not only answering, but often rebutting me by setting up other scenarios related to my initial question. Very helpful and comprehensive. Besides, he's a funny fellow -- very easy to get along with. For instance, in the midst of watching me repeat some draw/position shots, he walked up and smacked my bridge hand with his cue. Apparently, I forgot what he had earlier showed me -- how important it is to keep my palm firmly planted on the table.

Another thing Archer helped me correct, was that I often looked around the table while already being set up to shoot. This urged him to talk in length about how important it is to prepare your shot and make all decisions standing up. Don't bend down until you are completely ready to shoot, and if any doubt arises, you should stand up again and rethink -- never recalculate or adjust while in shooting position. He also illustrated this by chalk-marking his bridge hand for a left-english shot, and then marked the same shot for right-english. To no surprise, the discrepancy between the bridge-hand positions was staggering.

During last portion of Archer's session, he had us pick any game of our choice and play one rack with him as he would tell us his thought-process while shooting. Since the tables had very wide pockets, I knew I could run an 8-ball rack on him, so I opted to lag for the break, that I won, which then set me up for a slow 2nd ball break shot. So here I've been driving 1,600 miles to get lessons from the greatest of the greatest, and when I finally got to show off my 8-ball game, on the break I smacked the cueball straight off the rack into the corner pocket. Yeah, nice going there, Peer. So it was Archer who instead got to run the table -- oh well -- hell. As soon as the ridicule had subsided, I instead persuaded Earl to make a video of us playing for his cue (as we had spoken about earlier that day). At first he agreed, but as I was getting my camera ready, he chickened out. He told me that I could still buy the cue and make a video of him while signing it, but he didn't wanna risk a video of me beating him in a one-rack 8-ball game. No pacifier was thrown.

Although I could have easily written a short novel about this day, I think I'll bag it here. The omitted stuff we talked about during the class were mostly interwoven anecdotes from the Mosconi Cup, jump shots vs kick shots, Earl hand pressing his Elkmasters, etc, etc. Even though some of the drills/instructions were less spectacular, I must emphasize that all-in-all it was a very inspiring event that I will most likely carry with me for the rest of my life. Many thanks to Earl and Archer for being so classy to do this, and special kudos to Mark Cantrill for arranging it all -- I wouldn't mind a rinse and repeat. (Btw, hope your wife likes the wine.) It was also fun meeting Jay Helfert (oh man you are old... you must be like... 50 or something..? just teasing ;^)

Other than that, here are a few things that I also learned from this trip:

When my speedometer shows 148 mph, the GPS indicates that it's only 142 mph.

An excessive amount of Starbucks ice-coffee can save me some motel overnighting.

Sushi tastes best when shared with a hot Asian pool player.


-- peer
  
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04-27-2008, 01:30 AM

pics or it didnt happen!!! just kidding. It looks like you had a fun time, I enjoyed reading your book report! Is this lil john you speak of from hattisburg mississippi??? I cant imagine him taking lessons.
  
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Hot Asian?
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Hot Asian? - 04-27-2008, 02:09 AM

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Originally Posted by Peer
Sushi tastes best when shared with a hot Asian pool player.


-- peer
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04-27-2008, 02:58 AM

Looks like you had a good time but it also looks like you're still the stubborn little butt head you were when you were in school. Why would you stand in front of a multiple time world champion and challenge what he says or toss your advice into the ring? For someone that looks around while they're down on a shot and pops the CB into the corner off the break in 8-ball that's pretty bold.
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04-27-2008, 03:04 AM

Interesting about the english usage, no pun intended -- well, maybe no pun intended! "All in all" is not hyphenated."

When I was being taught by better players than myself, they also told me the less english you use on the cueball, the better. According to them, if you get good position after every shot, you don't need to use english.

Interstingly, today, some pros I have spoken with do use quite a bit of english. My boyfriend uses a lot of english. I cannot envision him playing in a tournament not using english.

I think maybe beginners should not use english in order to allow them to get comfortable with the fundamentals of the game. Once you know the fundamentals, the english should be easier to learn.

I think my favorite english shot was drawing my rock when I used to play pool. I used a lot of low english for stopping the cueball. I knew how to apply low english well, but left, right, middle left, middle right, high left, and high right were not englishes I was comfortable with.

In a lesson setting, such as with Earl and Johnny, the students are players of all caliber, and I guess they have to adapt their instructions from student to student, separting the lions from the lambs.

JAM


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04-27-2008, 03:09 AM

Well, as far as using english goes I recall Buddy Hall saying somewhere that most pros use outside english on cut shots. They call it helping english because it allows you to hit the contact point and roll off of it rather than have the friction and push of the CB passing with center ball.
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04-27-2008, 03:15 AM

with the english issue, it's all down to the style in which you play the game. earl has bags of it, and he plays the game so fluid and naturally and outside english is condusive to that style of play. spinning balls in and applying outside english on cut shots makes the balls collide more naturally. It's pool at it's most pure arguably, whereas the polar opposite of this would be stuns and centre ball hits on everything which is what's used in snooker.

mike sigel also comes to mind - in his instructional dvd he advocates ALWAYS using at least a tip of outside english on a cut shot. EDIT: and apparently buddy hall too.

you shouldn't have argued with Earl however - you were there to get as much information and instruction out of Earl as you can and learn from the way he plays the game. trying to convince him that something he does is wrong won't achieve anything.




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04-27-2008, 06:17 AM

For the same reason many players stroke the CB a little firmer to mitigate crappy equipment, I think pros use outside to lessen the chance of a skid from dirty balls. I understand Earl's perspective... all things being equal, if you're just as accurate with english vs. without, outside english is the higher % play. I think he's trying to say "become proficient in using it."
  
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04-27-2008, 07:46 AM

Peer, Check out Bert Kinister's "Deflection" tape. It mentions Earl and explains how he and others aim in the center and apply english on the final stroke. I have just started practicing this tecnique , and while difficult at first, I am slowly getting the hang of it. Start with small amounts of english and work your way up.
  
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04-27-2008, 07:54 AM

I enjoyed reading your post about lessons from 2 of the best players in the pool world. I can understand why you went to the trouble you did to learn for Johnny and Earl and I hope that you learned something from both of them to help your pool game in the future. Thanks for taking the time to post this story and for passing on some of the tips.

James


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Bob Jewett
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04-27-2008, 12:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by vaplaya
Peer, Check out Bert Kinister's "Deflection" tape. It mentions Earl and explains how he and others aim in the center and apply english on the final stroke. I have just started practicing this tecnique , and while difficult at first, I am slowly getting the hang of it. Start with small amounts of english and work your way up.
It's also called backhand english and aim-and-pivot. We have had several discussions of it. As a documented technique, it seems to be over 150 years old.

If you are just taking it up, it's important for you to learn the many places that it can't be used so it doesn't let you down on critical shots.


Bob Jewett
SF Billiard Academy
  
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04-27-2008, 01:10 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Jewett
It's also called backhand english and aim-and-pivot. We have had several discussions of it. As a documented technique, it seems to be over 150 years old.

If you are just taking it up, it's important for you to learn the many places that it can't be used so it doesn't let you down on critical shots.
I have seen a lot of people argue against BHE, and swear that the parallel-english method is more consistent. I do know one thing. A very good player from Washington state taught me BHE, and demonstrated it on a shot that you would swear he could make the ball do what it did, with such a soft stroke.

He did it though, and ended up embarassing the hell out of a strong shortstop in the process.

Russ


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04-27-2008, 01:21 PM

Nice report, Peer. REP to ya.

Now let's talk about that hot Asian chick. Oh wait a minute.... What did you think about the hot Asian chick's game?

Ok a little more serious, can you now run more balls than before the school?

Thanks,
JoeyA
  
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04-27-2008, 04:45 PM

Thanks for the report. Sort of odd that you took a snooker cue to a pool lesson but hey, whatever works for ya.

But re: the guy who ragged on Earl for miscueing, you didn't recite exactly what was said but if I owned or managed the room the guy would have been told to not let the door hit him on the ass on they way out.

Totally disrespectful and out of line. Earl must have have been TOO offended because if he was, the guy certainly would have left the room...one way or the other.

Regards,
Jim
  
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Classmate Reaction - 04-27-2008, 08:49 PM

[QUOTE=Peer]Although I did quite well in school as a kid, I was never a good student, i.e., 'good' as in quietly accepting everything the teachers served us. This might also relate to my distaste I had for authorities at the time -- whether it was my teachers, parents, police, or any "high-horse" person that tried to imposed things on me -- I had a hard time conforming and taking orders.

Well, back then, my billiards/pool instructors also had a hard time making me do their exercises. To me it felt too militant as they forced us kids to practice 3-cushion, snooker, straight pool, and also rented a gym every Friday night for the obligatory workout -- the idea was to get us in shape for the long tournaments. The instructions were so fierce that many of us just lost that fun factor of playing, and gave up -- including myself. (However, my buddy somehow stuck with it, and won the 2007 team nationals, so I guess our instructors knew what they were doing.)

So, fast forward to present time, now living on a different continent and in very different times and circumstances. I'm a bit older but not necessarily much wiser, so I've again picked up this silly sport... and again let it consume my life. Hence, I would jump on any chance to improve my game, which, admittedly, hasn't improved much since I was a kid. So when a once-in-a-lifetime super master pool school was offered, instructed by none other than two world champions, Earl Strickland and Johnny Archer, there was NO WAY I would pass on it.

My concern wasn't as much the cost of the class or how far I had to travel, but more about how much one-on-one time I would possibly get with Earl and Archer. But when the organizer, Mark Cantrill, more or less assured me that there wouldn't be more than 5-10 students, I instantly packed the cue and hopped in my roadster to head towards Phoenix Arizona.

The next day, at noon, Tuesday the 22nd, after 12 hours of driving, I stepped into Kolby's Corner Pocket in Tempe. Johnny Archer was already there, drinking beer (well, root beer). As soon as Mark introduced me, a pregnant conversation emerged between Archer and I. Right away I could feel that this day was gonna be a great experience -- Archer being very friendly and down to earth.

Not long after, Mr. Larger Than Life -- Earl Strickland -- walks in, just like a rockstar. Right away he attracts all attention from everyone inside the poolhall. Earl didn't wait long before unpacking his funky cue (sporting tennis racket wrap), taping his fingers and starting to warmup/perform on the front table. Unfortunately it didn't take long until someone made fun of him miscuing, and Earl blew up: "I did not fly across the country just to get heckled." Great, just ****ing great -- even before the class had started, someone had to set Earl off in a tirade. Luckily that person wasn't part of the school, as I first feared.

When the class started, the final tally of students was only 6. Just then I was thinking about all the pool-players in this area who must have heard about the event, but yet chose to stay home... were they all idiots..?!

Anyways, the six of us got divided into two classes, three in each. My fellow pupils were Little John and Garrick. The three of us started off with Earl as our instructor. The other three had Archer. Two tables for each group.

The first thing Earl did was examine our "equipment", and sure enough he found my cue quite curious. For some reason, I decided to bring my 10mm John Parris snooker cue. Anyone who knows me also knows that I have no filter between my little brain and my big mouth. This, combined with a spontaneous mindset, have put me in quite a few ignominious situations. And this day was no different, as I rhetorically asked Earl why he hates us Europeans. Well, I might be exaggerating a bit, but it felt like everyone around me suddenly shied away, anticipating Earl punching my teeth out. But instead of taking aim at me, he said "I don't know how you folks can play with those toothpicks, so where in Europe are you from?" As I was getting ready to duck, I told him that I'm a Norwegian. Earl cracked a smile and then told a funny story (at the expense of us Norwegians of course) about when he once played in Oslo. It was hilarious, and also a very good icebreaker. From there on I could tell that he was in a very good mood. Actually, the entire time, Earl was very helpful and patient.

After talking a bit about cues, including pitching his custom made cue, Earl wanted to see each of us shoot a rack so he could determine what speed we played at. First up was Little John who ran that rack like a pro. Next was Garrick who also played as a champ. As I watched them run the balls with ease, knowing that I was up next, I couldn't help feeling like it was my first day in school as a kid -- waiting for my turn to stand up and tell who I am -- something that always gave me the shakes. And sure enough, when my turn was up, I played like a Chihuahua in a blizzard.

Among the shot exercises Earl showed us were a fairly straightforward cut & throw shots for position. However, it was interesting to discover that you couldn't actually see where Earl's tip hit the cueball -- as he always seems to aim dead center but at the very moment the shot is fired, he applies the english. It baffled me to a point where he let me stick my head in between his arm and body to watch it really close up. Yet, after repeating several monster stun shots, even from this angle, it was impossible to figure out where the cue actually hit the cueball. It didn't help much that Earl couldn't really explain this either.

To me, the highlight of Earl's session was his pattern play instructions, as this gave me some new ideas on how to run a table. Having a world champion talking you through a rack as you shoot is certainly inspiring.

At one point Earl set up a very tight cut shot, carefully marked with chalk. The purpose was to show that the only way to pocket a cut shot like this was to apply outside english. After trying to make the shot, over and over again, Earl concluded that he must have set it up too tight. Well, I started to argue that it would perhaps be easier (and more precise) to use no english but just focus on hitting it as thin as possible and hard. My fellow student Garrick agreed. But when Earl insisted that there was no way to make this shot without outside english, to his dismay I stepped up and made the shot, with no english at all (and with my gnarly European snooker cue I may add). Earl wasn't too happy.

This led to a discussion on what would be the safest way to pocket a long cut shot when no position play was required. I would think a natural roll (e.g. center follow) would be the best shot. Earl emphatically disagreed, telling us that we should always put outside english with some draw on all long cut shots. Just as for the previous thin cut shot that he missed, I again argued that the more english you apply to a shot, the more factors are introduced that you somehow have to contend with. Whether it's squirt, throw, or swerve, those factors will also be compounded by, for example, different table cloths, or from one set of balls to another, etc. Earl, who actually complained quite a bit that the balls we used were too light, completely dismissed my reasoning and insisted that we should ALWAYS use english.

As an instructor, Earl isn't very analytical but rather intuitive. This is perhaps why I think the combination of Earl and Archer worked quite well, especially since Archer's approach is very systematic and precise -- i.e, very different from Earl. The only problem arose when there was some "de-learning" from one instructor to next.

The first thing Archer corrected was the high finger-tip bridge that Earl taught us. He also adjusted the stance and shortened my bridge.

Archer is what I would call a good traditional instructor, being very perceptive to the different needs each student has. Archer was also more open to discussion and very responsive to my (often) inane questions -- not only answering, but often rebutting me by setting up other scenarios related to my initial question. Very helpful and comprehensive. Besides, he's a funny fellow -- very easy to get along with. For instance, in the midst of watching me repeat some draw/position shots, he walked up and smacked my bridge hand with his cue. Apparently, I forgot what he had earlier showed me -- how important it is to keep my palm firmly planted on the table.

Another thing Archer helped me correct, was that I often looked around the table while already being set up to shoot. This urged him to talk in length about how important it is to prepare your shot and make all decisions standing up. Don't bend down until you are completely ready to shoot, and if any doubt arises, you should stand up again and rethink -- never recalculate or adjust while in shooting position. He also illustrated this by chalk-marking his bridge hand for a left-english shot, and then marked the same shot for right-english. To no surprise, the discrepancy between the bridge-hand positions was staggering.

During last portion of Archer's session, he had us pick any game of our choice and play one rack with him as he would tell us his thought-process while shooting. Since the tables had very wide pockets, I knew I could run an 8-ball rack on him, so I opted to lag for the break, that I won, which then set me up for a slow 2nd ball break shot. So here I've been driving 1,600 miles to get lessons from the greatest of the greatest, and when I finally got to show off my 8-ball game, on the break I smacked the cueball straight off the rack into the corner pocket. Yeah, nice going there, Peer. So it was Archer who instead got to run the table -- oh well -- hell. As soon as the ridicule had subsided, I instead persuaded Earl to make a video of us playing for his cue (as we had spoken about earlier that day). At first he agreed, but as I was getting my camera ready, he chickened out. He told me that I could still buy the cue and make a video of him while signing it, but he didn't wanna risk a video of me beating him in a one-rack 8-ball game. No pacifier was thrown.

Although I could have easily written a short novel about this day, I think I'll bag it here. The omitted stuff we talked about during the class were mostly interwoven anecdotes from the Mosconi Cup, jump shots vs kick shots, Earl hand pressing his Elkmasters, etc, etc. Even though some of the drills/instructions were less spectacular, I must emphasize that all-in-all it was a very inspiring event that I will most likely carry with me for the rest of my life. Many thanks to Earl and Archer for being so classy to do this, and special kudos to Mark Cantrill for arranging it all -- I wouldn't mind a rinse and repeat. (Btw, hope your wife likes the wine.) It was also fun meeting Jay Helfert (oh man you are old... you must be like... 50 or something..? just teasing ;^)

Other than that, here are a few things that I also learned from this trip:

When my speedometer shows 148 mph, the GPS indicates that it's only 142 mph.

An excessive amount of Starbucks ice-coffee can save me some motel overnighting.

Sushi tastes best when shared with a hot Asian pool player.

AS YOUR CLASSMATE WITH EARL AND JOHNNY, I MUST DISAGREE WITH THE DESCRIPTION THAT JOHNNNY "CORRECTED" THE HIGH BRIDGE EARL HAD PRESENTED TO US. JOHNNY MADE IT CLEAR TO ME AND I THOUGHT TO THE GROUP THAT HE WAS NOT CORRECTING EARL'S GRIP BUT MAKING IT CLEAR HE DOESN'T TEACH THAT BRIDGE BUT THAT DOESN'T MAKE EARL'S WRONG. STEVE MIZERAK TOLD ME THAT WE ARE THE BEST COACHES AND SHOULD TRY EVERYONE'S APPROACH AND SELECT THE ONE WE PREFER. I THINK THAT IS WHAT EARL AND JOHNNY PROVIDED. NICE TO MEET YOU AND I ENJOYED IT AS MUCH AS YOU DID.HOT ASIAN PLAYER IS GREAT WITH ANYTHING

JOHN
  
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