Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thank you

Thank you to all who have read this blog over the last couple of years. The BM Report gave me a way to dive deeply into a subject about which I knew little. It gave me a nice distraction from other things going on in my life. It was a fun project. I think I brought a unique perspective to bowling and one that the few people who found this little corner of the internet seemed to enjoy. Over the last few months, clearly my enthusiasm for bowling and writing about bowling has waned dramatically. I'm not sure what happened, but I think by some miracle I rediscovered the joys of my job. I am an archaeologist, a job that is supposed to bring satisfaction (it sure doesn't bring in much cash).

When this season rolled around, I tried to regain my blog footing on multiple occasions, but I could not. When the passion died, so did my creativity. I could continue to write sarcastic reviews of bowling murals or mustaches. I could continue to write weekly updates of our team, or bowling puzzles. I could continue to track our statistical progress, but I'm just not feeling it. A half-ass bowling blog is no better than a nonexistent bowling blog.

The greatest thing about this blog for me has been the relationships that I have earned through it. I now have a brother in Texas and another in Virginia (in addition to my real brother in Virginia), and for them I am grateful. They will continue to carry on the S.U.C.K. torch.

With that, I will quietly sign off. I'll keep rolling the ball in Bernaski, at least until I crack the 600 mark. We'll see what happens after that. Over and out. -Todd

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bowling Related Post

Last night, we faced Prairie Rose. When I saw Ev Sheffield, the most bad ass guy in the league, I started giving him all kinds of shit. The first game, we came through with a nice win, but that was the end of our good luck. For the second week in a row, we dropped three of four.

Now, to more important things. I have watched this like five times, and I can't stop laughing. I am, after all, a culturally sensitive anthropologist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On the perception and reality of bowling prowess

William Seally Gosset was a statistician who worked at the Guinness brewery in the first part of the 20th century. Gosset was interested in developing methods for comparing the quality of beer from batch to batch. Due to the lengthy nature of the brewing process, quality control methods were by necessity limited to comparisons involving relatively small sample sizes. Thus, Gosset worked to develop statistical techniques for comparing the properties of things with small samples.

Gosset recognized that the statistical methods he developed had broad applicability across the sciences, but because the work had been performed while he was employed by Guinness, the company considered his work to be the property of the corporation. Thus, Gosset published his statistical method, based on something he called the "t-statistic", under the ridiculously modest pseudonym "Student". And today, Student's t-test is still regularly used in scientific hypothesis testing. This is just one example of the good things that have been derived from fermented malt beverages.

One form of the t-test is used to explore a relatively simple kind of question. It is used to test whether the average value of some property of two groups of things is the same (or different). So, for example let's say we wanted to check whether the average stature of adult men in Texas and Wyoming is different. One way we could answer this question is to measure every man in each state and compare the averages, but obviously this would be an extremely impractical if not impossible approach to the problem.

Another tact we might take is to select 100 men from each state, measure their heights, and calculate averages. In almost every case, however, no matter which men we select, we will observe differences in those averages. For example, we might find that men in Wyoming average 69.23" in height, while men in Texas average 69.18", because, of course, everything is big in Wyoming. Given those values, however, the question will inevitably arise as to whether this difference is significant. The key word in that sentence is "significant". What does that mean?

If we assume that the average stature of adult men in each state is the same, and from each we were to draw samples of 100 , what is the probability that we would observe a difference in average stature of this magnitude? If the probability is really tiny, say less than 1%, then we could be very confident that this difference is real. If the probability is really high, say 90%, then we would have to conclude that there probably is no difference in average stature among the two populations as whole. Student's t-test allows us to calculate this probability. It is a way of telling us whether an observed difference is meaningful. It provides us with a way to quantify certainty.

So what does this have to do with bowling? Well, from week to week, month to month, and year to year, we perceive differences in our bowling ability. Last year, my bowling ability seemed to improve dramatically. Six weeks into the season this year, I feel like my bowling has been anything but good. In fact, I feel like I have been bowling a lot worse. My perception is that I am a worse bowler this year than last, but sadly perception can be a sorry judge of reality.

I did a simple t-test. I compared my average game score for 93 games last season to my average score for the first 15 games of this season. I ended last season with an average just under 164. I have begun this season with an average of just under 160. Here's what the t-test tells me. If you begin with the assumption that there has really been no change in my bowling ability, what is the probability of observing this difference in average given this number of games. According to William Sealy Gosset's method, the probability is about 53%. In science, we would say that this difference is not significant.

In other words, my bowling ability this year seems to be pretty much equivalent to my bowling ability from the prior season. Sure, my average game scores are a few pins less, but my underlying skills pretty much seem to be where they where they were when we left off last year. So, I should quit freaking out about it, and you should do the same. Why are you freaking out about my bowling ability anyway?


What about the rest of the Movements? Well, the same goes for all of us. As you can see from the graph above, two of us have averaged a few pins less and the other two a few pins more. The average of the team as a whole is remarkably constant. Last year, we averaged 149.7 pins per game. This year, it's 149.6. None of these differences are significant.

I shouldn't really be surprised by these results, except that I thought that the lack of summer bowling might negatively impact my game. That does not appear to be the case. I should also note that this finding should not be interpreted to mean that our skill at bowling is not changing. I think it is, but that change can only be detected over much longer time scales. What never ceases to amaze, though, is the human capacity for seeing causality and difference where there is none. Deep in my gut, I have felt like my bowling has been worse, but my gut reaction couldn't have been more wrong.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bowling like the Yankees

When we walked into the Lanes of Laramie last night, Game 3 of the ALCS was on the tube. Normally, I wouldn't have given this much thought. After all, our beloved Rockies did not make the playoffs this year, and I normally don't pay much attention to what's going on in the American league.

But upon seeing the Rangers battle baseball's royalty, my thoughts immediately drifted to my bowling writing brother in Texas, EB Holschuh. Despite our cleanup man being a longtime Yankee fan, I had to pull for the Rangers. Why in the hell would I root for the best team money can buy? Plus, due to my opening week actions, I feel personally responsible for the Rangers having one hell of a season.

We faced the Mighty Hucks. These guys have been killing us of late. I think the last time we had a winning night against them was last December. Last night was no different. In Game 1, both teams bowled like crap, but we came out on the bottom. In Game 2, we fought our way to a hard earned victory. As Game 2 turned to 3, the Rangers began to pull away from the Yanks. At this point, it was clear which baseball team we had decided to ape.

As Game 4 of the ALCS is coming to an end, I want to congratulate the Rangers on their 3-1 series lead. You're welcome. As for the Mighty Hucks, I would like to congratulate them on their 3-1 series victory. You're welcome.

There's always next week.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spare Change

Only a few short years ago, we first entered the Memorial Bowling League of Bernaski. In those days, we felt like strangers in a strange land. These days, we are more like old grizzled veterans. We have seen many teams interred in the great sepulchre of bowling mortality. We have also seen new men step foot on the field of Bernaski battle.

Having accrued many wounds in duels of bowling sport, we feel it is not only our right but also our duty to give new teams a hearty welcome, and by that, of course, I mean thorough ass kicking. Welcome to the league, chumps!

In reality, though, it never seems to work that way. It usually goes something like this: "Welcome to the league. You are now competing against the league's bottom feeders. Enjoy your first taste of sweet sweet victory."

Last night, we were determined to do things differently, and we did. Sorta. We started Game 1 on a tear. We were absolutely on fire. In the first frame, Johnebob converted his spare. So did I. Then, Gingy went 9-spare. JD followed that up with a split conversion: 8/. The next frame, we spared every frame as well. Then, Laughlin picked up a man spare. I struck my third. Ging followed with 9-spare, and JD with an X. We started the first game with 12 straight marks, easily a Movement record. We laughed and gave each other endless fist bumps and high fives, but those were perhaps premature.

Our opponent, known only by a name somewhat reminiscent of the days of Soviet communism, "Team 3", started very poorly but turned it on the 2nd half. By the 10th frame, it was mano a mano, and the outcome did not go our way. We lost by a single pin. One fucking pin! 895 to 894!!!!!! Damn you Team 3!!!!!

The next two games were also remarkably close. None was decided before the 10th frame. We bowled our asses off. So did they. We put up over 1900 pins. We averaged 160 pins per bowler per game. I could go on and on about the statistical oddities of this night of bowling. I could mention the four or five team records we set. Instead, I think I will just mention two.

Before I get to those, I will report that we went 2-2. On a night when we should have won all four, we came away with only two wins. I'll take them. Through five weeks of bowling, we have not had a losing night. That's a darn good start.

Ok. So, Daniele had another 500 series with a 517. He is brushing up against a 160 average. The most amazing team stat of the night goes to the Gingy, who just last year was a bumbling rookie. Last night he went 100% on single pin spares, converting all ten of his chances. This is the same guy who only converted 52.2% of his single pin tries last year.

The spare stats for the whole team were remarkable. Overall, we converted 58 spares. Our highest total prior that point was 51. As shown in the graph above, we picked up a total of 61.7% of our spares beating our old record by a large margin, approximately 7%. We went spare crazy. It was a good thing because the strikes were not falling.

So, we had one of our best nights of bowling ever, but we only won two games. Don't worry about us. We don't feel bad for ourselves. We just had a slight change in our spare game. What's that? You feel our pain? You want to help? You're feeling charitable? Well, we'd happily accept your spare change.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bowling Puzzler IX: Axial Rotations

It's time to bring back the bowling puzzler, and to inaugurate the new season, I decided to start with a relatively simple one. Let's begin with a couple of assumptions:

1) A bowling ball is characterized by the maximum legal diameter as permitted by the USBC.

2) That ball rolls across the foul line.

3) On its way to the headpin, it does not bounce or skid.

4) It strikes the headpin dead center.


Here's the question: How many rotations does the ball make from the moment it crosses the foul line to the moment it strikes the pin?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Feeling Grounded

As is obvious to the twoish people who read this blog, I have had a hard finding my mojo. There are a number of reasons for this, and I don't really want to get into them. But the good news is that I finally feel like I am ready to go. There are two things (I think) that will pull me out of my blogging slump: 1) strikes and 2) statistics.

This season started without fanfare. It was suddenly upon us, and I was not ready for it. I'm pretty sure none of us were. The lanes seemed super dry. I am accustomed to seeing stripes of grease across the surface of my ball, but I was seeing none. I was having a hell of a hard time getting the ball to stay on the pocket side. I needed to regain my bowling strength. This week, I finally started to feel like it was coming back.

The other thing that has kept me from writing is record keeping. Every week, I keep score by hand. Then, I come home and enter those data into my spreadsheet. I had allowed four weeks of data to pile up leaving an onerous chore on my desk with seemingly no time to care of it. Tonight, I have done so.

The bottom line is that it finally feels like there is gas in the tank, and keys are in the ignition. I have plenty to say, and I'm ready to let it out. For the time being, I just want to make a few comments on status of the Movements.

Through four weeks, we have a winning record, and we have done so without putting up insanely high averages. In fact, of the core Movements, two of our averages have dropped since the end of last year. John's has fallen by 3 pins. Mine is down the most from a 164 to a 157. Ging is up a a pair of pins, and Daniele is up one. Except for me, we all have pretty much picked up where we left off, and given the nature of the handicapping system, I am grateful for a seven pin decline to start the season.

We have all had very strong weeks. Week 1 belonged to Johnebob. He started the season with a 500 series. Week 2 was our worst week on record (a 1587 series). I am happy to say that I was absent that day. Weeks 3 and 4 have belonged to Daniele, who averaged 169 for the two. I also had a good week this week with a 500 series and a 200 game. The Ging Man, formerly known as "The Rookie", started the season with a 420 series, and we expect him to be in that neighborhood all year long.

We have already had two subs. In Week 1, Nathan hopped on board and contributed to a new team record, when we picked up 54.3% of our spares. In Week 2, K-Terk (aka Kafka) joined us to put up an 85 in Game 2 followed by a 164 in the 3rd.


So the Movements are off and running. For the sake of an olde tyme BM Report feel, I felt it was necessary to include a graph. This bar chart above shows individual averages of the core Movements after four weeks for this season and last. Although this shows that my start to the season has not been nearly as hot as last, it finally feels good to be back.