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.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bowling Puzzler X: The Dutch 200 Game

Does anybody know why paying individually on a date is called "going Dutch"? Likewise, what is the etymology of the Dutch 200 game? These are interesting puzzles in and of themselves. I'm going to send EB down that path if he is interested in continuing his work on Holschuh's Etymological Dictionary of Bowling.

Anyway, today's challenge is about the Dutch 200 game. According to last year's USBC Rulebook, a Dutch 200 Game is "A game of alternating strikes and spares with a game total of 200." If you were fortunate enough to bowl one of these last year, you would have received a patch for it. However, the special achievement awards appear to have been eliminated from the most recent rulebook.

A game of alternating strikes and spares will always result in a score of 200 because 20 pins will be garnered for each frame, and it does not matter whether the first frame is a strike or a spare. This is a very rare occurrence in bowling, and today's puzzler concerns that rarity. Let's assume that we are dealing with a very skilled bowler. So, assume this:

1. The probability of getting a strike on a given frame is 50%.
2. If that bowler does not get a strike, the probability of picking up a spare is 75%.

For a single game bowled, what is the probability of this bowler getting a Dutch 200 game? Or put another way, how many games on average would have to be bowled for one of them to be a Dutch 200 game?

[Good luck. You're gonna need it!]

Click on the icon to the right for the answer.