February 26, 2009

The ABCs of Curling - H

illum_h is for...well, H is for a lot of things in curling. For example, H is for:

Hack - Embedded in the ice at either end of the sheet, the hacks provide a piece of solid footing from which to push off in the curling delivery.

House - The rings to which the rocks are thrown is called the House. A rock in the rings is called, "in the house."


Hog Line - A thick line across the ice thirty-three feet out from the hacks, and fifteen feet out from the top of the house. During the curling delivery, the rock must be released by the thrower before it crosses the near hog line. A rock that is held past the line is declared "hogged" and removed from play for the remainder of that end. At the house end of the ice, a rock must be completely inside the hog line to be considered in play.

Hammer - The last rock thrown in an end. The team with the hammer is considered to have an advantage, although the importance of the last rock advantage has lessened significantly since the implementation of the four rock free guard zone rule.

Handle - Literally, the handle by which the curling rock is grasped during the delivery. Handle also commonly refers to the turn imparted to the rock upon release.

Hit - A curling shot played with increased weight, designed to hit another rock, and remove it from play.

Heavy - If the ice is 'heavy' it is slow, and the players must throw the rock harder to get it to the other end. If a running rock is 'heavy' it is travelling too fast. The delivering player has thrown more weight than intended.

And, of course, the 'H's of curling would not be complete without Hurry, Hurry Hard!

<- Start at the beginning.

February 25, 2009

Wooville, Ontario

   I live in a pretty affluent town. I'm not sure what the numbers are today, but at one time, Aurora housed the most expensive postal code (like a zip code for all you 'Mericans) in all of Canada. So, there's a fair amount of disposable income floating around town. And where there's lots of money, there's always lots of...Woo.
   Just as it doesn't matter if gas is a buck a litre, and their monster SUV gets three and a half miles per gallon, because they can afford it; it doesn't matter how unlikely, or far-fetched a potential health and wellness thearpy is, they can afford to give it a try. Here are a few photographs taken of signs of local businesses.










   Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Chiropracty, Astrology, Accupuncture, Matrix Repatterning (Matrix Repatterning! Sounds like something that would happen in a transporter buffer, doesn't it?) That last sign doesn't even say what they do. You've got to call them to find out.
   Note that these businesses are a but a drop in the bucket in my town. They are simply the ones within walking distance of my house. In fact, with the exception of one, every picture here was taken during a single walk with Shadow.
   "Yeah, but, so what?" I hear you ask. "You said the people frequenting these businesses have money to burn. So what if they waste it on dubious verging on useless therapies? What's the harm?" Somehow I knew you'd ask.

   Visit whatstheharm.net and find out. Remember, alternative medicine that is ineffective is not harmless.

February 24, 2009

Do you have biblical morals?

So, does this mean I have no morals...?

Your morality is 0% in line with that of the bible.

Damn you heathen! Your book learnin' has done warped your mind. You shall not be invited next time I sacrifice a goat.

Do You Have Biblical Morals?
Take More Quizzes

Or does it just mean I got my morals from somewhere other than The Bible?

Hey, what did you score?

via Pharyngula

Monday Photo Shoot

   Back when this blog lived on AOL, the community blogfather, John Scalzi, used to run regular participation memes, like the Weekend Assignment and the Monday Photo Shoot. Since the demise of John's AOL blog, By The Way (indeed, the demise of all AOL blogs), those two memes have been taken over by other former members of what we used to call AOL J-land. Karen, at Outpost Mavarin original took them both on, but eventually passed the Monday Photo Shoot on to Carly, at Ellipsis.
   My participation in the Photo Shoot was always occasional, as I'm not very active as a photographer, but once in a while Carly comes up with a topic that allows me to troll my back catalogue for images, rather than take new ones. Such is this week's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot: Hit me with your best shot. Carly invites us to consider what kind of photography is our personal specialty, and post our best example of that.
   I don't think I really have a certain specialty when it comes to photography. I'm lucky if the shot is properly exposed and in focus. The picture I consider my favourite all-time photo was a lucky grab shot:


   That said, in perusing my photo archives, it strikes me that I seem to take a lot of pictures of leaves. Like these ones:



   Why not visit Carly at Ellipsis and play along.

   At the bottom of that entry, Carly asks a question: What sort of camera was your very first? Do you still own it? I'm not sure if that question is attached to this week's meme, or to last week's, but what the heck, I'll answer it anyways.
   My first serious camera was originally my Dad's. It was a 35mm Kodak Signet 40 rangefinder. I used it to take many pictures, including this one:


   I do still have it, although I have not used it in many years.

February 19, 2009

The ABCs of Curling - G

illum_g is for Grand Match, an outdoor curling Bonspiel - sometimes referred to as "The Bonspiel" - that is held periodically in Scotland. The Grand Match has traditionally been a match between the North and South of Scotland, and often attracted several hundred teams. As curling was originally played on frozen rivers, there was not enough room to hold large scale events. Tournaments featuring more than a handful of teams required more sheets of ice in order to be played in a reasonable amount of time. A Bonspiel the size of a Grand Match required a frozen lake, or loch, or very large pond.

Winters in the British Isles are relatively mild, tempered as they are by the Gulf Stream, and large bodies of water there freeze over completely only on rare occasions. Not only must a lake or pond freeze over completely, it must freeze to a depth of at least seven inches in order to support the thousands of curlers and curling stones a Grand Match will attract. This happens so infrequently in Scotland that the Grand Match has only been played 133 times since 1847, and only five times since 1929.

Some sources say it has been played 138 times, but on five of those occasions, it was played on indoor ice rinks in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and The Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the world governing body of curling, does not recognize the indoor competitions as having been official Grand Matches.

The format of the Grand Match is such that an equal number of northern and southern teams play a single game against each other, with the winner being the side with the highest aggregate score. Play is timed rather than a fixed number of ends, with a shotgun start at 11:30AM, and a shotgun finish at 2:30PM. Teams are expected to bring their own rocks, brooms, and a crampit (an iron plate with spikes on the bottom on which to stand while delivering the rock).

The Grand Match was last played in 1979. Since that time, no winter in Scotland has been sufficiently cold enough for any loch or lake to freeze solid enough for play. Still, the RCCC plans the event, takes entries, and makes a draw every year...just in case. In the event that the chosen venue (usually the Lake of Menteith) freezes adequately, the call will go out, and curlers across Scotland are expected to drop everything, and attend. The rules state that any team that registers for the event at the beginning of the season, and fails to appear at the match when it is called, will be held responsible for the travelling expenses of their scheduled opponent.

<- Start at the beginning.

The ABCs of Curling - F

illum_f is for Four Foot. The rings at the ends of a curling sheet measure twelve feet, eight feet, and four feet in diameter. At the center of the four foot ring is the button. Because scoring in curling depends on having rocks closest to the button, the four foot ring is strategically important. This is demonstrated nowhere more emphatically than in a skins game format, where both teams spend three quarters of each end jockeying for control of that prime piece of frozen real estate. Common curling wisdom has it that any skip worth his salt should be able to draw the four foot at will.

Other important Fs in curling are the Free Guard Zone, and the Four Rock rule, both of which serve to inflate the importance of the four foot ring.


<- Start at the beginning.

February 16, 2009

OMG! WTF? im so 1337!!1

via Patrick's Place

You Are FAIL

You love the internet, but it sometimes gets on your nerves.

How can so much of humanity be so stupid? Wait, you don't even want to know.

While there are some good aspects to being online, you can't help but notice there's so much fail.

You liked the internet so much more in the good old days... before all the idiots found out about it!

The ABCs of Curling - E

illum_e is for Ends, of which there are eight (sometimes - see below). One 'end' of play consists of each team throwing eight rocks to the far set of circles. Rocks are thrown alternately - that is each team takes turns throwing one rock at a time. Once all sixteen rocks have been thrown, the score for that end is counted, the rocks are gathered, and thrown back the other way.

Scoring in curling depends on having rocks closest to the center of the rings. Only one team can score points in one end: the team to whom the rock closest to the center, or button, belongs. The scoring team counts one point for every rock of their own that is closer to the center of the rings than any of their opponent's rocks.

As mentioned above, there are most commonly eight ends in a full game. In some club leagues and bonspiels, games are six ends long, so as to fit more games into a shorter time. At high levels of competition, like the Brier, games are often ten ends long. In most instances, ties after eight (or six, or ten) ends of play are broken by playing an 'extra end.'

Much like Cricket, curling games used to be much longer. It was quite common, at one time, for in-club games to be twelve ends long. The first Toronto Single Rink Championship game, played in 1896, was decided after twenty-two ends of play. That game would have taken five to six hours to complete!

Eight is also the highest number of points a team can score in one end. 'Eight enders' are rare, and for that reason, special note is usually made of them.

<- Start at the beginning.

February 12, 2009

Safina has been infected

   In a comment to my last post, Vinny pointed to the New York Times article, Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live, by Ecologist Carl Safina, which says, in part:

Science has marched on. But evolution can seem uniquely stuck on its founder. We don’t call astronomy Copernicism, nor gravity Newtonism. “Darwinism” implies an ideology adhering to one man’s dictates, like Marxism. And “isms” (capitalism, Catholicism, racism) are not science. “Darwinism” implies that biological scientists “believe in” Darwin’s “theory.” It’s as if, since 1860, scientists have just ditto-headed Darwin rather than challenging and testing his ideas, or adding vast new knowledge.

   I was familiar with the article, as it had been referenced by Professor Myers, at Pharyngula, but I really hadn't paid much attention, until Vinny forced my hand, so to speak. So, I gave it a more in-depth read. It really only took me about thirty seconds, or so, to form an opinion. And that opinion is, of course, that Safina is talking out of his ass. Let me tell you why.
   Now P.Z., and Jerry Coyne, both Evolutionary Developmental Biologists, disagreed with Safina, but my reasoning is slightly different from theirs - although springing from the same basic ideal. Remember a few weeks ago, when I wrote a couple of articles about Fred - an occasional blogger whose writing I admire - and his reaction to the atheist bus ads in England? I pointed out that Fred, who was an intelligent, college educated, self-proclaimed agnostic, verging on atheist, repeated virtually every canard in the Creationist, anti-science propaganda bible. I lamented the fact that Answers in Genesis and their ilk had so inundated the public with their dishonest talking points that even Fred was unconsciously repeating them without even realising it. We see exactly the same thing in the Safina article.
   Safina harps on the overuse of the terms Darwinism, and Darwinist, in the description of the science of evolution, and suggests that we need to lose those terms in order to focus attention on the "real" science of evolution, and look less like we are following some sort of atheistic dogma. Myers and Coyne both speak very strongly about how important Darwin's work really was, and how, while the science has moved far beyond his original ideas, we need to note his contributions, and celebrate them for the revolution in the scientific community they created. But they both ignore the question of just who it is that is currently using the term 'Darwinism' today.
   Quite frankly, I have not encountered the term 'Darwinist' being used anywhere except by Creationists, and their more mendacious cousins, Intelligent Designists. They use the term 'Darwinist' and sometimes 'Evolutionist' almost exclusively when talking about evolutionary scientists in order to suggest that just such a dogmatic view is being held by them.
   But, when you talk to actual students of evolutionary theory, the term almost never comes up. Certainly, Myers and Coyne, in their blogs, never refer to their field of expertise as 'Darwinism.' In looking at the courses available at my local universities, I can find no mention of one called Darwinism, or Darwinian Evolution. But Safina, just like Fred, has been brainwashed by the constant whispering in his ear by the religious right, into accepting that 'Darwinism' is an actual scientific course of study. He's been fooled so completely that he isn't even aware that his opinions might be the least bit misguided.

   The next time you hear someone say, "Darwinism must die," just tell them: "don't be silly. You can't kill something that doesn't really exist."

Happy Darwin Day

   Today we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the most important and influential scientists in our history. Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin.

February 09, 2009

The ABCs of Curling - D

illum_d is for Draw, a curling shot in which the thrown rock comes to rest in the rings. There really isn't anything more to say about that. Better just to show you what it looks like. The following video also clearly demonstrates how the rock curls as it travels the length of the sheet of ice, and how the sweepers work the brooms to help control the distance it travels.

The word Draw may also refer to a set of games, as in a bonspiel or league series, and, the person who schedules the games and tallies the results for a bonspiel is called the Drawmaster.

<- Start at the beginning.

February 08, 2009

I'm no Sally Field

Gosh! So many best wishes messages, both here and via email and Facebook. My heart says, "thank you so much," although I cannot get my knees to concede to anything more than, "damn you all! Damn you all to Hell!" Also, I can now visually communicate my age by holding up a number of fingers on both hands without having to think about which hand comes first, and whether that's from my perspective, or yours. I do, however, have to worry about being mistaken for making some kind of gang hand signal, and inadvertently inviting a drive-by shooting. I feel much safer responding to questions about my age by gesturing with a single hand.

Dan took the time to publicly out me wish me a happy birthday on his blog, where he made a somewhat stunning admission: my blog was the first one he ever read. He credits me with prompting him to start his own. So, to those of you who have been reading The Wisdom of a Distracted Mind for the last few years, let me just say..."I'm sorry."

February 02, 2009

The ABCs of Curling - C

illum_c is for, well, Curling. It's what the rock does as it travels the length of the ice when you impart a spin, or turn to it upon release. The curl allows running stones to "bend" around stationary stones in order to hide behind them. Curlers use their brooms to sweep the running path of a stone in order to control how far it travels, and how much it curls. It also seems obvious that the curling motion of the rocks gives the sport its name, but that may not necessarily be the case.

The origins of curling are unclear, with both Scotland, and the Low Countries claiming genesis. References to a game played by sliding heavy objects on ice are found in both Scots and Dutch arts and literature during the fifteen hundreds. As there was much trade and cultural relations between the two areas during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the game may have originated in either locale and been transplanted to the other. The Dutch played a game on ice involving pushing large blocks of wood or clumps of frozen earth with a stick, called "kuting." In fact, many early Scottish curling stones were called "kuting" stones, and that word may have eventually evolved into the common name used today.

There is no question that it was the Scots who embraced the game, brought it to the rest of the world, and made it what it is today.

<- Start at the beginning.

February 01, 2009

A Rare Sunday Seven

From Patrick's Place.

I don't participate in Patrick's memes (the Saturday Six and the Sunday Seven) very often, but once in a while one of his topics piques my interest. Here is the Patrick's Place Sunday Seven for Superbowl Sunday, 2009:

Name your seven favorite sports-related films.

(in no particular order)

1) Field of Dreams - "Hey Dad? You wanna have a catch?" There was a time when Keven Costner could do no wrong.
2) Bull Durham - "C'mon Meat, throw me that weak-ass shit!" See above.
3) Rollerball - "There aren't any rules at all." The original, of course. No stupid Shaquille O'Neal remakes.
4) Rocky - "Ain't gonna be no rematch." Uh huh.
5) The Longest Yard - "I don't think the guards know this formation. It's called 'incidental punishment after the ball is blown dead.'" - Again, the original (although the remake wasn't a complete write-off).
6) Major League - "Heywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair." - Not the best movie ever, but it was this, or Jerry Maguire, and quite frankly, I didn't want to use that quotation. You know the one.
7) Slap Shot - "Look at that. You can't see that, I'm on radio." Had to have one hockey movie on the list, didn't I?

I know what you're gonna say. You're gonna say, "what about Men With Brooms? How can you not include the world's only curling movie on your list?" Simple really. I haven't seen it.