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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We have won the league!.....

.....That is what I hope to be saying in April/May 2011 when we finish the marathon season. For now, I'll take the 7-5, plus our possible 2-2 last night and strive for the best. Dr. Surovell deserves accolades for his 200+ game last night! A feat still cherrished by the movements and thier faithful followers. And by the way, the movement faithful now number over 4,500! Oh, wait make that 450! No wait, make that 4 or 5. Anyway to all those loyal followers- let's get another season off on the right foot!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

They are risen

In case you have been having thoughts to yourself that go something like this, "I wonder where dem Movements at?", it's kind of a long story. Like the Easter Bunny, we've been in a semi-hibernation state, only to arise when the bell tolls marking the start of Memorial League of Bernaski. The bell has tolled, my friends.

Plus, I have a hard time getting to the computer over the stack of fan mail that had accumulated. Well, that might be true if I was 1 mm tall, but I'm not.

Truth be told, I am having an excessively difficult time finding the motivation to get into that USBC spirit. Sure, I like to show up on Monday night, knock a few back, and attempt, albeit poorly, to knock a few pins down, but bowling has lost its cache. Maybe the "sport" will regain it's shine in near time. It probably will. But I have been BUSY. I have been distracted. I guess I remembered that I have another life... one beyond bowling... if that is believable.

But worry not, amigos, the Report shall continue. As proof of that, let me attempt to summarize the state of the Movements in about three sentences.

We are three weeks into the season. We sit with a 7-5 record. Week one, we split with the Lazers, followed by a 3-1 performance against Vacant. Last night, we split with Lounge. Personally, my bowling is suffering big time. It is in part lack of practice and part lanes that are Arid Extra Dry. We'll see how it goes... Stay tuned.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Why don't you come to your senses? You been out sniffing glue for so long now. As if I didn't have enough reasons to not go bowling this summer until this happened. Memo to bowling: associating yourself with prepubescent pop icons is not going to help the sport in the long term. This is disturbing. Really disturbing. Only one phrase adequately describes this news: What the fuck?

So, we all know that bowling has a credibility problem. Some would chalk it up to score inflation from technological advancement. Others would say it's a cultural thing. So, there has been somewhat of an effort to change the image of the sport. One approach that is commonly used by the USBC is to point out that celebrities, like Chris Paul, actually enjoy bowling. I remain dubious of the effectiveness of this tactic, but who knows, maybe there's something to it.

Anyway, somehow I came across this unfortunate news item. I really don't know how to react. Well, yes I do. I'm ashamed. Very ashamed. Why should I even bowl anymore? Well, it gets worse. I went to the website for the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame and voted for my favorite celebrity. Why? I wanted to see the vote tallies. Here is what I discovered:

It's a tight race between Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Swift has a 4,000 vote lead out of nearly 800,000 cast. Meanwhile my candidate, Bill Murray, comes in at 6th with 628 votes. Damn it, people!!!! Vote for Mr. Bill. So, let me get this straight. Depending on which group of screaming tween girls wins the battle, either Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber will enter the Bowling Hall of Fame? That's fucking ridiculous. Why you ask? Well, Taylor Swift "has been frequently spotted and photographed hitting the lanes with celebrity friends like Selena Gomez and Cory Monteith." OMG!!!!! You go girl!!!!! Bieber? He did this.

So, let me ask you this Bowling Hall of Fame. I once took a dump in a bowling alley, does that get me a nomination? Let me put it another way. This little stunt is not going to get more people to bowl. It makes you look desperate for attention, desperado. Coupled with the recent Palin speech, the Bieber stunt betrays the truth about bowling- it is not cool, and you so wanna be. You want people to go the lanes? Here's an idea. Why don't you replace the old run down and out of date lanes with the smoky bars and rolling hot dog concession stands in the industrial part of town with places people actually want to go. If you get a group of 13 year old girls to go bowling this summer, I guarantee you that they will figure out in about 2 seconds that they aren't likely to see Bieber shuffling his feet around the hardwood.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bowl at your own risk

I'm going to guess that most of you have never considered the dangers of bowling. Sure, you might come down with a case of bowler's thumb, or tendonitis of the wrist. Perhaps you have seen someone cross the foul line and land with a hard thud on their back as their feet slide across a greased lane. Yes, my friends, you can be hurt in the bowling alley. But did you know that bowling can lead to death?

Consider the sad case of Samuel Dickey and George Fleming who met their untimely deaths on September 14, 1870 in Memphis, Tennessee. A fight broke out between Dickey and Fleming over a game of tenpin bowling. No doubt Dickey had hustled Fleming by misrepresenting his ability. Dickey left the lanes and went to a nearby store to buy a gun to go hunting. Shortly thereafter, Fleming walked in with a double-barreled shotgun and pulled the trigger. Dickey was hit, but still managed to get off a shot of his own, killing Fleming instantly. Both men died on the scene. And that my friends is why you shouldn't cheat at bowling. Don't believe me? You can read it yourself in the New York Times:

And if you got through that, you also now know why you shouldn't discipline other people's dogs.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Brooklyn Strike and the Optimal Pocket

My paternal grandmother was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I am well into my fourth decade, but I have only visited that borough once. Still, it seems familiar to me. You could hear Brooklyn in the way she spoke. Recently, I sat next to a woman on an airplane who reminded me so much of my grandmother that I instantly knew she was also a native of Brooklyn, although she had long since moved away. I guess I have some kind of strange cultural connection to the place. Maybe this is why my bowling ball is so happy to collide with the pins on the Brooklyn side.

A while back, I asked, "What's wrong with Brooklyn?" I find it interesting how bowlers are often apologetic about getting a Brooklyn strike because it was an unintentional and accidental good outcome. You screwed up, and yet you were rewarded. Hell, I think that's something to celebrate. Anyway, in that post, I wrote the following of the Brooklyn pocket:

What is interesting, though, is that it is my impression that if I hit the 1-2 pocket, I have a better chance of getting a strike than if I hit the 1-3 (I am right-handed). Still, I always aim for the 1-3 because that's what you're "supposed to do". Conventional wisdom is a funny thing. There are many forms of knowledge derived from many places, but conventional wisdom grows from consensus. If a large majority of people believe something to be true, many other people will simply accept it as truth without much thought. The conventional wisdom in bowling is that for right-handed folk, it is better to hit the 1-3 pocket than the 1-2. Is this true? I have no idea.

Well, during the last bowling season, I decided to investigate this question. It's not a very difficult thing to do. I simply recorded outcomes of ball that struck the 1-2 or 1-3 pockets to ask the question, "What percentage of pocket balls resulted in strikes for the normal and Brooklyn pockets?" I was simply trying to determine what is the optimal target for bowlers, or is there even a difference between the two? I should note that I considered any ball which first struck the 1 pin and then the 2 or 3 be in a "pocket". Ok, here's what I found...

I recorded a grand total of 353 balls in the pocket. Of those, 261 connected with the "normal pocket", and 92 found the Brooklyn side. Of those that hit the normal pocket, 138 resulted in strikes, or 52.9%. On the Brooklyn side, 39 resulted in strikes or 42.4%. In other words, in this case conventional wisdom appears to be correct. It is optimal to aim for the "normal" pocket because your chances of getting a strike are approximately 10% better than on the Brooklyn side.

That said, I think it is important to note that in the case of every one of these 353 balls thrown, all were intended to connect with the normal pocket. When they did connect with the Brooklyn side, it was accidental. So, it is possible that the lower percentage on the Brooklyn side could be attributed to less accurate strikes. It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with intentional targeting of the Brooklyn pocket to see if the result holds. In the meantime, just keep doin' what you're doin'.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bowling Crime: The ATM Bandit

One common method for enhancing the profitability of bowling alleys is to install privately owned ATM machines. This way, bowling alley owners can charge you fees for accessing the money you are going to pay to them anyway. Thus, it is a convenient way to turn your $20 into $22 for the lanes. It also gives incentive for the lanes to refuse credit cards, which not only establish a clear paper trail of gross proceeds (thus making tax cheating difficult), but also cost businesses a fixed percentage for every transaction made. In other words, having a cash only business with your own ATM machine has many benefits for the slimy business owner.

Well, slimy business owners, meet slimy ATM thief. David Pendergrast cleverly learned how to reprogram certain models of ATMs to dispense $20 bills while recording $1 transactions. To do so, he looked up default passwords on the internet and punched them in. By this technique, he is known to have stolen some $40,000. One of his targets was Hudsonville Lanes in Hudsonville, Michigan. Here's a tip to all you bowling alley owners charging patrons a couple of bucks to get their money: change the password on the machine before you fill it full of money.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A mild itch

In Laramie, Wyoming, summer is a cherished time. It refers to the time between June 28 and July 21 when you leave the windows open in your house. Well, not wide open. You don't want to let the mosquitoes in, do you? Anyway, the 19 days of summer are the only days when you can be outside. Accordingly, on these days, the Movements take advantage of the opportunity to do other things, such as trout fishing, golf, nude speed walking, and yard work.

Still, I can't help but hear a whisper in the wind. Something calls me from the north. You see, I have not placed a 14 lbs ball into my hand in nearly two months. On the way down the mountain from slaying the trout on Saturday, I mentioned to the other two senior BM's my interest in rekindling the bowling flame. Johnebob said, "I'm not bowling again until Week 1 of the season." I replied, "You don't even want a warm up after the informational meeting?" He said, "Remember when Joe and I were out of town, and we needed you to go to the informational meeting, and you said, 'Hell no!'." I said, "Really?"

The point of that pointless dialog is that I think I need to hit the Lanes of Laramie. I think I need to let the Black Stallion out of her stable. I think I need to punish the pins once again. If my dream of dreaming about being a PBA bowler is ever to come true, I need to unleash my black and green balls from their sack. This week I will do so. The question is, what will I bowl? Only Pinnius knows.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I remember my mom bowling in 1972

For those of you who missed it, Sarah gave her big speech at the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America's International Bowl Expo 2010. I'm sure the BPAA got what they paid for... a well thought out, folksy analysis of the state of the sport coupled with her views on the macro- and microeconomic context of bowling and how it relates to the changing demographics of both the country and the game.

My favorite moment was when Sarah recalled fond memories of her dad's bowling league in Idaho, memories that formed when she was an infant less than three months in age. Similarly, some of my fondest in utero memories were of my mother bowling in late 1972. Snuggled up in her womb, I recall hearing the muffled sounds of balls rolling and pins crashing down.

Of course, there was also this moment at the expo when some dude seemed way too excited to meet the quitter governor.

Now I shall retreat back to my bowling hibernation cave.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chapter 5: The Information Age

In real life, I am a scientist. Ok, I'm a social scientist, but I like to think that I'm a scientist. I study the prehistory of our species. It is my job to teach in the Fall and Spring and to excavate archaeological sites in the summer. Part of this job involves collecting, organizing, storing, and analyzing huge amounts of information. For example, at the last site at which I worked , we collected and analyzed somewhere around 75,000 artifacts.

I like big data sets. I like searching for patterns and trying to explain them. I think data analysis is probably one of my greatest skills if not my greatest. I see the potential for study and analysis in many mundane things. I'm not sure exactly when I saw the potential to study bowling, but it was around the beginning of December 2008 that I started doing so.

Here is how I remember it. One Saturday morning, I was screwing around with Microsoft Excel. This is a bad habit of mine. I decided to figure out the formulas for scoring a game of bowling. They are not simple, and I like such challenges. It took me an hour or so, but I did it. Here is an example of one:


From there, it was pretty simple to begin building the rest of my spreadsheet, which allows you to track all kinds of bowling statistics.

After a couple of weeks of entering our team's bowling scores, my eyes were opened. It is one thing to know that you are bad at bowling, but it's another to know exactly why you are bad. I took some heat early on for tracking our statistics, but in the end, I think the the other Movements were happy I did.

I cannot tell you what helped my game more, throwing a hook or tracking my stats. I started doing both around the same time. But since then, my average has been climbing steadily. I ended our 2nd season with a 128 average. By December 1, 2008, when I started tracking statistics about 12 weeks into the season, my average had only climbed three pins to a 131. From that point until the end of the season in April of 2009, I managed to add another 16 pins to finish the season with a 147.

I find it helpful to analyze my game down to its most fundamental components. Most bowlers measure their ability by one simple statistic, the average. Of course, there are many things that go into that average. Many bowlers only see it's most obvious component, strikes, and it is easy to become focused on strikes. Nothing will bring you high scores like stringing together a bunch of X's. After a couple of months, however, it was clear to me that at my skill level in the middle of last season, it would have been a miracle if I recorded more than 15 strikes in a series. Clearly, I needed to hone my spare game. But what part of it? I figured that if I could master the single pin spare, I could probably add 20 pins to my average alone.

This realization is not necessarily something that you need a spreadsheet to tell you, but it is typical of the type of realizations that derive from introspection or self study. Once you realize something like this, it is a relatively simple matter to focus on solving that problem. So, a lot of things clicked around December of 2008, and it is no coincidence that the birth of this blog dates to the same time.

By the end of the 08-09 season, my third season bowling competitively, I really felt like I was gaining ground. I was throwing a weak hook that seemed to often be around the pocket. I was picking up spares. My average was climbing, and I got my first 500 series.

One weekend in the Spring of 2009, Johnebob and I went down to the lanes to practice. We were bowling next to four young college guys. They were watching us throw with hooks, and a couple of them started trying to do the same. Eventually they started chatting with us saying that we bowled like we were pros. You must bear in mind that at the time, John averaged just over 150, and I probably averaged 145. So, it was clear to me that I was no longer one of those guys who just bowls on a Saturday night. To the average bowler, I looked like a skilled bowler. I had clearly crossed some threshold and was well on my way.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bowling Alley Mural Reviews: La Flotilla

Today we review the mural La Flotilla by Anonymous. This week's piece was submitted for review by Ken Pomeroy who had the great privilege of bowling in its shadow at Sandills Bowling Center in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Dominating the composition, a flotilla of pins carefully navigates a tightly spaced planetary system of bowling balls. The bluish purple night sky is spattered with stars and nebulae. One pin fires its rocket to adjust its course. The imaginative author of this great work of bowling space art takes a sarcastic jab at the sci-fi and stellar genres of kegel expression in which pins are often depicted as stationary while balls are on the attack. In contrast, in La Flotilla (pronounced with the soft "y" of "tortilla"), a small group of pin frigates traverses space to attack a group of unforeseen enemy pin craft. Rather than viewing the warfare of bowling as a battle of balls versus pins, Anonymous asks whether pins can be viewed as being in a constant state of internal conflict while bowling balls are little but conscientious objectors.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A bowling season in a nutshell

Bowlers: 5
Games: 384
Wins: 59
Losses: 69
Expenses: $1,536
Frames: 3,840
Pins: 57,313
Strikes: 1,097
Spares: 1,215
Open Frames: 1,626
Regrets: 2,232
Cherished Memories: 0

So long, Bernaski

Because we wanted absolutely no distractions, such as driving, on the last night of Bernaski bowling, we were dropped off at the lanes. This had nothing to do with the desire to down way too many pitchers of sweet golden bowling juice. This is not the first time we have attempted this trick. We rolled against the Fatties, who have dominated us all season, but last night belonged to Los Movemientos. We absolutely destroyed them. Sorry, Fatties, but it's the truth. Let our 4-0 performance haunt you all summer because when Bernaski fires up again in the Fall, odds makers are saying that the Movements are easy favorites.

Here are some brief highlights. I finished the season with another 500 series, a 516 to be precise. As far as the USBC is concerned, I have a 164 book average. I took down my first nine single pin chances. All I needed was one more to set a new record and go 10 for 10, but I missed a 3 pin by a hair. The team averaged over a 150 despite knocking back about six pitchers of bowling juice during competition. Johnebob finished the season with a nice 467 series. The Rookie, who is a rookie no more, led the team with 14 spares, and impressively converted 51.9% of his leaves. Our cleanup man contributed 11 strikes on the night. He finished the season with a 154 average, twelve pins better than last year.

It was a good night. It started when Nathan of Little Caesars showed up with pizza for the whole league, like eight or ten pies. Thanks Nathan and Little Caesars! The last night of league is a position round. We had a one game lead over the last place team, Overrated. We bowled against the Fatties, who had a four game lead over us. Overrated had a bye and could have easily put us into last place. Instead, they decided to gulp rum all night. I'm fairly certain they didn't win a single game. The funny thing was that they won the first half of league, so after getting totally sloshed, they had to bowl the championship game against Laramie Lanes Lounge. Needless to say, it was not an inspiring performance.

We made fun of the Briefcase as we made our way to the Lounge because the Lazers had no part in the championship this year. It was an off year for the dominators of Bernaski as well. We put down a few more pitchers of juice as the stools were put on tables and the carpets were vacuumed. We just about closed down the lanes. It was a good night, the kind you remember the next morning when you body just feels off.

Next week, we collect our winnings and magnets. We finished the season 10 games under .500 at 59-69, five fewer wins than last year, but it was a good year.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the birth of the first son of our anchorman JD. Accordingly, prior to bowling we convened at his house to eat some fried trout, knock back a few cold ones, and celebrate the start of Luciano's fourth year. Coincidentally, it was also the birthday of Megan Bilotte, the wife of the captain of Team Pizza Pizza, so Nathan missed Bernaski last night. Two weeks ago the Gingman, aka "The Rookie," made the mistake of taking his significant other out for drinks prior to bowling on the occasion of her birthday, after which he formed his own club, by shooting an 80.

Can you keep all of this straight? Well, these plot lines are strangely tied and a skilled writer could make them converge for some exciting conclusion, but I have no idea how to do that. In short, the veteran Movements probably had a couple too many beers prior to bowling because we were celebrating a birthday (a rookie mistake). Simultaneously, the Rookie matured as a bowler, atoning for his past sins by rolling the first 500 series ever bowled by a BM rook.

So, congrats to Luca, Megan, and Ging for having special days. As for the competition, we took the 1st game and lost the next three. We didn't bowl badly. I consider anytime we crest 1800 pins scratch a decent night, but the Wolfpack bowled even better.

On a personal note, in the 9th frame of Game 3, I lost the ball on the back swing and it dropped it behind me with a huge thud. That new trick may have cost me my fiver, but given the concentration of ethanol coursing through my veins, I was happy to average over 160. With last night's 1-3 performance, the chance of reaching the .500 mark for the 2nd half has all but evaporated. One more week to go!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chapter 4: The Avocational Hooker

With the start of Season 3, I had no more excuses. My injuries had been professionally mended with two titanium screws inhabiting the bones of each knee. As soon as NASA read that I had become more machine than man on my astronaut application, they tossed it directly into the trash. My only choice was to return to bowling.

The third year of Bernaksi began with two changes. First, we were scheduled to bowl the entire year instead of just the 2nd half. Second, we added a new four man to the lineup, Gee-Off the Canadian. Another major change had yet to come... the tracking of bowling stats and thus the evolution of the BM Report. That will come in the next chapter. In this one, I want to focus on the process of learning to throw a hook.

At some point in the prior year, both John and Joe started hooking the ball. My recollection is that they would occasionally bowl during lunch breaks in Cheyenne. On one of these trips, they witnessed someone throwing a hook with their thumb removed from the ball. By aping this technique over several weeks and months, they became somewhat proficient at it.

By contrast, I was left behind. I was the only guy of the original three Movements who was still chucking straight. With the addition of the Canadian, I noticed in comparing the two of us that there wasn't much of a difference between a two year veteran and a rookie. At one point, the guy with free health care told me, "My goal for the year is to end with a higher average than you." At the time he said it, it seemed doable. But in general principle, I would not recommend saying such things to me because I use them for motivation, serious motivation.

The first step in putting the Canuck back in his place as the lowly rookie was to learn how to throw a hook. There are a million ways learn the shot... read books, internet, take lessons, watch people, etc. I chose the last one. I had seen many people throw hook shots over the last two years, and of course I had tried it myself. When I tried to spin the ball, it would somehow move down the lane with a vertical axis of rotation. It looked like the Earth. We called this the "gyro" ball. In short, I could get the ball to spin, but I could not get it to spin in the direction needed for it to break.

I have always felt like sports have come fairly easily to me ( except for those involving skates). So, if there is a technique I want to figure out, trust me, I will spend the time to do so. After watching a number of bowlers throw hook shots, I was finally able to accomplish a shot that deviated from a straight line in the right way. The shot I was throwing was far from the "conventional technique", but it was effective. I immediately noticed that my ball was much more often in the area of the pocket.

Without getting into the fix, I will explain what I was doing wrong. In a well thrown hook shot, the hand stays behind the ball, and when it is released, the ball rotates at a 45 degree angle to the lane's axis. By contrast, I was releasing the ball with my hand on the side of the ball, and sometimes on its front. Thus its spin was either perpendicular to the lane axis or often, it even had backspin.

Still, with this one simple change, my average quickly started climbing, and I left that poor cold Canadian in the dust. With time, my hook shot was coming along nicely, and my confidence in it grew. Still, if you are going to attempt to learn this on your own, I will strongly recommend that you seek advice from someone who knows what they are doing. Approximately 8 months after I started throwing the hook, our "pro shop" guy Adam saw me bowling and mercifully gave me a lesson on how to do it correctly. It has probably taken me a year to kill all of those bad habits.

Some might say that a hooker is a hooker. I say no. If you want to master your hooking skills, you need to learn the conventional way to do it very early on. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of time trying to "unlearn" those deeply ingrained muscle movements. By whatever pathway you get there, you will find that it is a huge relief to join the ranks of hookers. It feels like a major step up in your bowling social life.

Suck it Will Shortz

On Thursday, I posed to the tiny bowling world which peruses this blog a problem that I thought might lie dormant for some time. Yet, upon returning from slaying some rainbow trout this afternoon at North Crow Reservoir, I found an email awaiting me from Garrett Boni of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Garrett has proven to me that he also deserves the title of "Puzzle Master," which prior to this moment had been reserved for Will Shortz.

The problem I posed concerned the 3-9 "sleeper" leave. In essence, I asked what is the margin of error in picking up this shot if you attempt to collect the spare by driving the front pin into the back. I set it up as a problem in geometry. According to Mr. Boni, he was able to complete the solution in about 1 and 1/2 hours. Up to this point, I had not attempted a solution myself. Thanks to Garrett, I found myself in the position of having to do trigonometry on a Sunday afternoon, a misdemeanor in Wyoming. Here is Garrett's work:
Garrett used an elegant geometric solution; click on that image above if you are interested in the details. In short, he found that you could miss the center of the pin by up to 0.5496 inches to the right and still pick up the spare. In theory, you could also miss by that amount to the left. So, according to his calculation to pick up the 3-9 by driving the front pin into the back, you have to place the ball within an area approximately 1.1" in width.

I should note that if one measures the margin of error perpendicular to the long axis of the lane, it is reduced to 0.546", a difference of less than 1%. So Garrett, congratulations. In addition to having earned the much coveted title "Puzzle Master", you have also won a free subscription to the BM Report.

[And congrats to HCLC Doc, who arrived at the same solution independently.]

UPDATE: Upon further review, I wonder if we are missing part of the solution here. I think we have solved for how much margin of error there is in striking the pin, but this is not necessarily the same thing as the margin of error for the shot. In other words, I think it is possible to still pick up the spare if the center of the ball misses the center of the pin by more than 0.6". The factor left out of these solutions is the curvature of the ball.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bowling Puzzler XIII: The Sleeper Cell

As the season is winding down, I am going to start winding down the blog as well. During the off season, I don't post with much urgency. During May, June, and July of last year, for example, I only had three posts. The summer is so short up here that it cannot be wasted away on a laptop. So, I am going to make Puzzler No. 13 the last one of the season. I will bring it back in full force in the fall. For the grand finale, I thought I would put forth a real ball buster. In fact, I have yet to solve this problem myself. If anybody out there wants to give it a go, I welcome the attempt. If the answer is too onerous to post as a comment, send it to me as an attachment to an email using the address listed above and to the right. I'll post all serious attempts to solve the problem. If nobody can solve it, I'll figure out the answer in due time. Ok, here's the problem.

The 3-9 spare leave is one of those non-split leaves that behaves like a split in that it is very difficult to pick up. The 3 pin stands directly in front of the 9, with the latter usually referred to as a "sleeper" pin. Two other leaves have identical morphology, the 1-5 and and 2-8. There are two ways sleeper leaves can be picked up. One method is bring the ball into the front pin at an angle, striking it obliquely. If the ball has enough momentum and/or spin, the ball will also strike the sleeper pin. In this type of shot, the ball takes out both pins. The other way to complete this spare is to strike the center of the front pin, so that the sleeper pin is taken out by the deflected front pin. This puzzler concerns the second approach.

If you have ever missed one of these shot attempts, you know that there is very little margin for error. It seems as if the front pin must be struck dead center in order for it to take out the back pin. So, let's start with a couple of facts and a few assumptions:

Fact 1) At its widest point, a bowling pin has a diameter of 4.766".
Fact 2) The center of the 3 pin stands 20.7846" from the center of the 9 pin.

Assumption 1) When a bowling ball strikes a pin, it strikes it at its widest point
Assumption 2) When a bowling ball strikes a pin, the pin is deflected in the direction perpendicular to the tangent of the pin edge at the point at which it was struck.
Assumption 3) When a bowling pin is deflected, it does not rotate but remains standing vertically.

With these assumptions, what is the margin of error for collecting the 3-9 spare leave measured in terms of inches perpendicular to the long axis of the lane?

Here is the essence of the question. We can agree that if you hit the front pin directly on its center, it will take out the back pin. We will probably also agree that if you miss the center of the pin by a millimeter to the left or right, you will still get the spare. What if you miss by an inch? I'm not sure. So, I am asking what is the total width of the portion of the front pin that can be hit by the ball so that it still will take out the sleeper.

I told you it was a ball buster. Have a great summer!

Here's a link to the solution.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Things were not looking up for the Movements. With three weeks to go, we were sitting 12 games below .500 in sole possession of last place. For the sixth time this year, we faced the Lazers. Yet, by some twist of fate, we shut them out and took all four. I think I'll chalk this one up to climate change.

The inconvenient truth was that the lanes were on the dry side. How dry were they? When we arrived, a horned viper was slithering across Lane 14. After the 2nd frame, a sand storm delayed play for ten minutes. In Game 3, I thought I could see oases with belly dancers at the end of the lanes. If you stepped up to bowl without an ample supply of water, there was a good chance you would not make it back. On my first practice ball, I lost it to the right, it neared the gutter, and then broke all the way across the lane beyond the Brooklyn pocket. I'm telling you, it was Taklamakan dry.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that bad conditions favor bad bowlers. The Lazers had a rough night, especially the Kid Wonder. By Game 3, Cody was so dejected that I actually felt bad for him, not so bad that I stopped talking smack, but almost that bad. I have watched him bowl at least two perfect games this year, yet in Game 3, he did not crack 140. I'm certain he'll be back again to kick ass next week. So, we had a bit of good fortune in that that Lazers had an off night, but the Movements actually had a decent night.

Everybody was having a hard time finding the pocket, so we only had 30 strikes on the night as a team. On the flip side, this gave us many chances to pick up spares, and we took advantage of them. In fact, we set new team records for spares with 49 and pickup% with a 53.3% effort. Everybody was over 50% on the night except Johnebob who missed the halfway mark by one (11 for 24).

The Rookie had a very nice night with a 465 series, and I continue to be a follower of the HCLC Doc method because I don't think I've dropped below 500 in Bernaksi since I started using it. Last night was no exception. Two more weeks to go.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bowling Puzzler XII: The Half Perfect Woman

The lovely lady in the poster to the left may have gone straight to DVD, but that is not her only alluring quality. When she goes bowling, she has a perfect game exactly 50% of the time. That's right, every time she begins a game, she has a 50% chance of rolling 12 strikes in a row. Given this amazing body of bowling work, what can we infer about her strike percentage? Specifically, I would like to know:

On average, what percentage of frames does she strike?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mad Max IV: Welcome to the Palin-Drome

So, on Monday night, I look over a couple of lanes, and I see Nathan of Little Caesars kickin' it in a pi shirt. Yeah, I'm talking about 3.14159. From a distance, it was the Greek lowercase pi, so I called him out because it's just not the kind of thing I expect to see floating around Bernaski. Not only does he appreciate the dorky recognition, but he points out that the pi on his tee is built from nearly 5,000 digits of that irrational number in like 4 pt font. Furthermore, he directs me straight to the source, where I waste too much of the day browsing all kinds of stuff I don't need but desperately want.

I wonder if Nathan feels the same way I do about US Bowler magazine, which can pretty much be summarized as "WTF?" So, where was I? Well, I was born with a bizarre affliction, the kind where you can spend hours contemplating not only why the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of every damn circle in the universe is the same number, but also why it is equal to 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582097494459230... etc, or how there can be no end to that chain of integers following the decimal. For some people, that proves the existence of God. For others, it is not worth a nanosecond of thought. For others still, it puts you in awe of nature and makes you question whether pi has the same value in every universe.

So by this point, you have either stopped reading or started asking yourself where is this dude going with this Wednesday rant? Well, if you don't give a shit about issues of pi (if you are thinking apple vs. rhubarb, it is definitely time to change the channel anyway), change the channel. For quant types, patterns and numbers are just interesting beasts. For example, last time we bowled against Caesars, Nathan and Clark bowled identical games for something like five straight frames. I told Nathan that I would give him $1 million if they did it all the way to the end. All they had to do was chuck ten straight in the gutter each to call my bluff (and lose to the Movements). I could tell Nathan was engaged by the problem as I have been before, but it was obviously a fool's bet.

Numbers people are just fascinated by such patterns and symmetry. I don't know why. Also, people like me, animals who like math, enjoy unusual aspects of language. We are not the most skilled writers in the classical sense but we like grammar (did you catch that?). We tend to be exceptoinal spellers (that one?). Also, we will attest to loving little letter patterns on tattooed cattle eating cluttered lettuce (if you don't get that, you definitely don't have the curse). Thus, my interest in palindromes. Here are a few of my favorites:

He lived as a devil, eh?
Race car
Able was I ere I saw Elba
A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!

So, for the past six months or so, I have had bowling palindromes on my mind. If you have ever tried to create a palindrome, you know it is not easy once you get beyond the "wow, mom, wow" stage. If you don't know what a palindrome is by this point, I have no idea how you got this far into this post. Bowling has a fairly limited lexicon, and for the most part, when you put those words in a mirror, not much comes out. Similarly, I have been obsessed with bowling scores. Ok, maybe there's no relation, but when you're in my line of work, you are paid to try to find connections among all things.

So, I started wondering if a Bowl Movement had ever bowled a palindromic game. Consider this. In any game of bowling, you have 21 scoring opportunities. That means that in frames 1 through 9, you will roll up to two balls and in frame 10, up to three. It is theoretically possible to have the same game forward and backwards. The geometric center of a game is the first ball in the sixth frame. There are many theoretical games that could be symmetrical about that frame. Here is a hypothetical example:

Read that game from start to finish or finish to start, and it's the same thing. I have no idea how many palindrome games are possible in bowling. If I spent about eight hours on the problem, I could be the first person in the history of the world to answer that question, but I'll leave that to some kid who needs to write an MA thesis in math (or maybe the most difficult bowling puzzler ever). Instead, I just wanted to know if a Bowl Movement had ever pulled off the feat.

I wrote a little program to check the 612 games on record, and the short answer is no. The closest thing we have ever had to a palindrome game was bowled by Johnebob less than two weeks ago, when he had his high game, a 230. In that game, 15 of 21 scoring opportunities were symmetrical (those shown in yellow):

So, if you have read this far, you might be waiting for the grand philosophical conclusion, but there is none. I am impressed if you have pulled off the feat without skipping to the end. In short, my guess that is that a palindrome game is bowled about once in every 2,800 tries. As such, I propose that the USBC add it to their special achievement patches if and when they reinstate them. After all, it has "Palin" in it. Bowlers seem to like anything with those five letters in that sequence.

The Opposite of Walker Texas Ranger

Back when my wife and I were poor graduate students in Tucson, we used an artifact of television reception known as "rabbit ears". Accordingly, we had only one channel, KOLD CBS 13. If you ever find yourself in this situation, and you are a TV watcher, you might become intimately familiar with programs that normally you would not touch with a ten foot pole. Here is a small sample of the shows with which we (shamefully) became very familiar: Touched By an Angel, Judging Amy, Diagnosis Murder, Yes Dear, Early Edition, Relic Hunter, and Walker Texas Ranger.

An episode of Walker goes like this. The show starts with the most awesome theme song in the world, sung by Chuck Norris himself. In the beginning, somebody wrongs Walker, Walker's girlfriend, one of Walker's acquaintances, or maybe they just commit some heinous Texas crime. Then Walker and his trusty sidekick, Trivette, do some investigation, and very likely some minor ass kicking. The episode culminates with Walker beating the crap out of the bad guy (major ass kicking) and locking him up. Here is a 40 second taste:

So, what's the point? Well, this is the inverse of what happened to us last night. We came out and dominated the first game. Then, Laramie Lanes Lounge came back for some major ass kicking. In the end, we only managed to take one of four. There are two ways to see this. Either, it was the opposite of a Walker episode, or we were the bad guys, and the Loungers were Walker and Trivette. That might make sense, except that in paying the WTSBMBC wager I was clearly a Texas Ranger:

And congrats on an opening day win! The Rox pulled out the victory yesterday as well.

So, aside from getting the Walker beatdown, the other big news of the night involved the Rookie. He made the thoughtless mistake of taking his lady friend out for dinner on her birthday, getting a few drinks in him, and then abandoning her for Bernaski. Showing up to bowling half in the tank is never a good idea, and he paid dearly for it (probably also when he got home). Back in January, I calculated that there was approximately an 80% chance that he would either join the Fightin' 88's, a club reserved for those who tie the lowest BM game score ever, or create his own club. Last night, he did the latter by shooting an 80 in the Game 2. Ouch. To add insult to injury to beatdown, this was the first BM game on record lacking a mark. Here it is:

In other news, I had a nice night. Using the HDZT (HCLC Doc Zen Technique), I bowled a solid 548 series with a high game of 218 and a low of 164. There is something magical about that method. The rest of the Movements were well below average, but it ain't no big thang. It's just bowling, right? And when you're in Texas, look behind you...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Three Personal Goals for the End of the Season

Somewhere among the oaks of north central Texas, lives a man who goes by various names. Some call him Mick. Others call him Doc. He can often be recognized by the tag worn on his lapel, which reads, "Hello my name is HCLC Doc". He is the yoda, gandhi, and oracle of bowling wisdom. From others, I have received a fair amount of advice concerning positioning, feet, marks, aiming, follow through, angles, equipment, etc. But this Texan, whom I have never met, has given me what has been the most useful tip I have ever received. The Shaolin Master of bowling said unto me, "Just make your next shot a good one."

The statement is so simple that it almost seems stupid, but when one engages in battle with that string of words in a meditative state, you find that it will embrace you like a benevolent maternal anaconda. The meaning I have taken out of this utterance is this: Forget about everything. Forget about the shitty shot you just threw. Forget about the last game. Don't worry about whether you are going to get a 250 game. Don't worry if you have an 800 series in sight. Worry about nothing except making my next shot a good one. The rule applies equally to ten pins standing firm, to a solitary five pin, or to an 8-10 split. Armed with this mental dagger, I am now ready to finish the season with three goals in mind:

1) Make the next shot a good one. Words are meaningless if they are not practiced. My first goal is to free myself from the mind games that have plagued me, and the simplest way to do so is to just focus on making a good shot.

2) More strikes than opens- If I can tackle the mental aspect of the game, accomplishment should follow. The entire season, I have bowled roughly equivalent numbers of strikes, spares, and open frames. After 78 games, I have 272 strikes, 260 spares, and 273 open frames. For the majority of the season, I have bowled with more X's than -'s, but over the last few weeks, I have been flirting with equity. I currently stand with one more open frame than strike with only four weeks to go.

3)A 600 series. I have shot twice in the 590's, but I have yet to reach the promised land.

Now, before I am called out for contradicting myself, let me clarify. I am going to do my best to put on blinders to all other distractions. I fully intend to focus on making a good shot. I am not going to worry about the 600 series. I know that if I can simply achieve the first goal, the others will easily follow.

Bondage and Bowling, or Tit for Split Reciprocity?

A few days ago, when I wrote the most inappropriate post ever, I had various inspirations, although I am not sure what exactly was my intent. Perhaps, as I commented to one commenter, it was a warning shot. As much as I know it would be unwise to speak of the unspeakables, after a recent news event, I decided it was time to write about bowling, sex, and politics. As Kafka says, if you want to maximize your audience, it would serve you well not to voice opinions on matters of controversy or importance, but as I have said, this is my greatest flaw. So, off we go...

Last week, Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee were in the news for using party funds to reimburse members for $2,000 spent at a bondage-themed topless nightclub in Los Angeles. What people do for fun and how they spend their money is absolutely none of my business, so I am not going to pass judgment whatsoever on GOP party workers who enjoy being entertained by half naked lesbians in black leather. After all, I like bowling by myself in the middle of the day. Who am I to judge? The humor in the story, however, is that those individuals who patronized said club felt that a reimbursement was in order. This was a "business expense" that should be covered by donors to the Republican Party.

I feel sorry for anyone who does the bookkeeping for a large organization. I am sure there are fraudulent reimbursement schemes that happen all the time, and I do not think this behavior is indicative of Republicans as a whole. Still, when mud is slung by one side, you know that there will be return fire of mud.

How did the Republicans respond? Well according to CBS news, "The RNC has responded to the latest reports by distributing a list of Democratic National Committee expenditures, such as paying one catering company at least $297,708 over the past 15 months and spending at least $13,316 at the Washington, D.C. Lucky Strike bowling alley in January of 2009." As Fox News reports, The DNC rented out the lanes for a party for Howard Dean when he vacated his position as party chairman.

Now, as humorous as this "tit for tat" or "tits for splits" finger pointing is, I find it slightly amusing that the leasing of a bowling alley for a party is viewed somehow as equivalent to going to homoerotic bondage nightclubs. Like I said, I like to bowl by myself in the middle of the day. Hope I don't go blind.

Chapter 3: The Lost Year

[continued from Chapter 2]

Bowling had started again, and the Green Lady was primed for action. In our second season, we had lost our fourth team member. Z finished up is MA at the university and headed to Albuquerque to start his adult life. Likewise, our sub Jimmy Jazz went back to Tucson to finish up his PhD. We were left high and dry, and that year we had a rotating group of fourths; most consistently Woody took the spot. To compound the problem, I missed something like six weeks of bowling due to injury.

I am often an early arriver to the office. I like to get there by 8 AM if not 7:30. Where I work, there aren't many people around at that time except for janitors. One of them, like most janitors, is a really friendly, easy going, and talkative guy. During one of our conversations, he brought up his basketball team and how they needed another player. I grew up playing ball but had not done so in years. Here I saw the opportunity to play competitively at the rec center against other folks my age. It sounded like fun. I told my friend I'd be there that night.

Around six o'clock on a cold Wyoming December or January night, I showed up to the Laramie Recreation Center. It is only about 10 years old, and it is a marvelous facility. It has something like four full basketball courts, swimming pools, weight rooms, cardio fitness machines, a track, etc. In my opinion, it is an awesome expenditure of public tax revenues. Our team, named something like "Bernie's Mexican Restaurant", was facing a bunch of young and energetic early 20-somethings who all seemed like they were 6' 2". On the first possession, the ball was passed to me around the right side of the free throw line. I was unguarded. I took two dribbles, pulled up for a 12 foot jumper, and it went cleanly through the rim.

It was a minor victory, the kind I had not experienced in a long time. "I can still play," I thought. What I didn't realize was that my amazing basketball comeback would only last six minutes. About five possessions later, I went up for a rebound among the trees under the rim and came down with the ball. Going straight back up would have meant certain rejection. So, I jumped under the rim with an outstretched right arm, trying to pull off the old up and under move. I never saw where the ball went because when I came down on my right foot, I felt my knee bend the wrong way, or as the orthopedic folks say, it was "hyper-extended".

If you have ever ruptured a ligament in your knee, you know what a strange feeling it is. For one, you can feel it pop, like a rubber band breaking. If there is not a lot of other noise, you can even hear it go. Given the feeling and the sound, you would think it would be painful, but the pain is not severe. It is just uncomfortable. After about 30 seconds, I got up and tried to keep playing. The knee felt like jelly. It felt like it wanted to dislocate, like the femur was trying to twist on the tibia.

If you ever find yourself in an argument with someone who is a proponent of intelligent design, simply point out the "design" of the human knee, which if designed is an excellent example of "retarded design" (sorry, Sarah). The two distal condyles of the femur simply sit on top of the proximal condyles of the tibia with little articulation. The two bones are held together with a bunch of ligaments. It would sort of be like attaching the ends of two 2x4's with rubber bands. Contrast it to the much more dependable joints in your hips or elbows, and you will quickly realize that evolution has done its best with the raw materials with which it had to work. You must remember that our species has only been upright for about 4 or 5 million years.

I limped out of the Laramie Rec Center knowing I had just ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. The cold harsh wind was blowing snow into my face, and I hated life. A few years back, I had blown out the same ligament in my left knee, and the road to recovery after surgery is slow and painful. I knew that this injury would shorten my bowling season.

I managed to bowl with a braced knee in the three or four weeks leading up to surgery. Thankfully, it was my right knee. I think the left would have been much more problematic since being a righty, I plant and twist on the left. My surgery happened in February, and it put me out of commission for a while. I do remember returning to bowling well before I had the green light from my doctor and physical therapist. The guys needed me. There were nights when they were struggling to even find a 3rd man to make our team legal.

In our second season, John and Joe made huge strides. John increased his average 12 pins from a 128 to a 140. Joe added 20 pins, a 118 to a 138. By contrast, my averaged dropped seven from a 135 to a 128. I had gone from the best Movement to the worst in one season. Sure, I can blame the knee, or the awkward start to my relationship with the Green Lady, but I don't want to make excuses. In Year 2, I just plain stunk. But you know, on a trampoline, before you go up, you gotta go down. Maybe I needed this dip to get a big bounce because the next year, in the 08-09 season, things were looking up.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bowling Puzzler XI: Equilaterality

I normally reserve these posts for Thursdays, but yesterday's puzzler was a total bust. Maybe it was too difficult. Maybe folks are losing interest. Anyway, this one is a bit more tractable. At first glance, it seems pretty simple, but once you think you have it solved, spend a bit more time with it to make sure you have it down. So, here it is:

By some strange coincidence, in ten pin bowling, ten pins are used. Those ten pins are arranged in the form of an equilateral triangle, a triangle with three equal angles (60 degrees each) and sides of equal length. Each row of pins is comprised of one more pin than the previous row, beginning with one and ending with four. The 1,7, and 10 pins form the corners of the triangle, but within that largest triangle, other triangles can be formed. The question is:

How many total equilateral triangles occur within the pin deck in ten pin bowling? To qualify, the entire triangle must fit with the ten pins and each corner of the triangle must be marked by a pin.

Click on the icon to the right for the answer

The Back 5 in Bowling

There's a common saying in golf, "There's always the Back 9." It is whipped out to make your buddy feel better about his awful performance on the first nine holes. Starting on the 10th tee, he has a chance to redeem the round.

The same concept applies to bowling with a couple of differences. A game of bowling last about 20 minutes. A round of golf is about four hours long. There are 10 frames in bowling versus 18 holes in golf. In bowling, the two halves of the game are not entirely independent because you may still be completing your Front five frames as you roll your first ball in the 7th. Still, the point is that even when you have an absolutely disastrous Front five in bowling, the game is far from over.

A couple of weeks ago, our sub K-Terk suggested that I look at the greatest comeback games in Bowl Movement history. Seeing as how were are in the midst of an attempt to make a massive comeback to reach a .500 record, it seemed like an apt thing to do. Keeping in mind that as many as 30 pins can be added to frames 4 and 5 while bowling in frames 6 and 7, the maximum number of pins that can be attained in the Front 5 is 120. In the Back 5, you can get as many as 180.

Here are some of the greatest comeback games of all time by bowler:

The choice of a game for John was easy. It happened last week, and it represents his personal best. He started the game with a gutter ball followed by a six. He marked every frame afterward to end with 230. He recorded 138 pins on the Back 5 vs. 92 on the Front.

My best comeback game occurred almost one year ago on April 13th of 2009. In that game, I opened up on three frames in the Front 5 and was sitting on a strike and a score of 56 as I turned the corner. I started the Back with four strikes to complete a five-bagger and end with a 203. That game was in fact my first 200 game in league, and what a comeback was required to get it.

For the Ging Man, I went back to December 14, 2009. The Rook had opened his first three frames, but finished the Front with a spare-strike combo to sit on a 55 as he turned the corner. In the Back 5, he stayed clean and put up a beefy 129 pins to finish with a 184.

For Daniele, I had numerous games from which to choose, but I decided to select the one with the greatest differential between Front and Back scores. On November 23 of 2009, he had this strange game. He opened every frame of the Front 5 except the 2nd, which oddly was a man spare. He began the 6th with a score of only 47 pins and despite badly needing a mark, he only got nine pins including only one on his first ball. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Mr. Erratic recorded a 4-bagger in frames 7 through 10, to add 106 pins to his score. JD finished with a respectable 165 after struggling the entire game.

May the end of the 09-10 Bernaski season be as inspired as the end of these games.