Saturday, February 27, 2010

We'll have to wait another four years.

I am a weirdo. Never is it more apparent than when the "whole world" is doing something and I'm doing something else. The Olympics were a case in point.
While the rest of the world was watching Lindsey Vonn and her broken pinkie finger, Yoko Ono and his speed skating and the hockey; I was over on MSNBC watching curling.
It isn't like you flip this on and watch for a few minutes. Curling matches last 3 hours, and to some are as exciting as watching the clock move. I like the strategy and look of the game. Plus, it isn't like we see curling on TV a lot - which is exactly what I'm getting at here.
I was extremely disappointed (and even a little sad) to watch the Canadian women's team lose their gold medal match to Sweden last night. It came down to an extra end and one stone thrown by skip Cheryl Bernard that narrowly missed giving the Canadians the gold in front of 5,600 home country fans that would have probably cracked the ice with their cheers. It's been a while since I've been this distraught with the outcome of a sporting event and I'm hard pressed to figure out why.
I don't let sports affect my life, but this one really bothered me. Maybe it's because I put so much effort into watching the matches (using the DVR and altering my schedule) and it was over such a short period of time that the intensity got to me.
The announcers told us that the popularity of curling has spiked during the Olympics, and Google searches show that people are curious about the rules and interested in the players like Bernard and Susan O'Connor (above) of the Canadian team. I don't know if there is a marketing arm of the United States Curling Association, but if there isn't they should form one - quickly. They have an opportunity, but it isn't going to last very long. Soon, Americans will be watching baseball and working on their suntans. Keep us interested.
I suppose it is asking a lot in "this economy" to have a new league form and infrastructure spring up, but what's the point of teasing people with it? Aren't there enough vacant shopping centers with buildings big enough to hold a half dozen ice sheets, some seating and a locker room? Surely. You wouldn't even have to pay to heat the place.
If they are at all interested in taking advantage of this spike in interest they should immediately move to do something to keep people interested in something that at least a small number of us are interested in. But something tells me that they like their little niche sport and the privacy it affords them. The curlers will all go back to their day jobs where people will look at them at the shopping mall and wonder, "Gee - you look familiar." Cheryl said that she was amazed to go from having about 50 fans to having 50,000. It's overwhelming in a good way. I suppose she'll go back to something closer to 50 now that the spotlight is off.
What they need is a league, buildings and a TV contract so that those of us who enjoy watching the game can feed our need. Fat chance of that happening though, and I fear that the next time I will watch a curling match is during the 2014 Olympic games, which is why I've tried to temper my enthusiasm for the sport. It's like falling in love with someone three days before they leave to go to college in Europe.
Another unrequited love affair.
A curling haiku (a curliku):
i watched the curling
and thought it was really cool.
see you in four years.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stick your head out of the window.

It looks as though the weather people (the so-called "meteorologists") are going to blow this one.
It is 11:41pm, and all I'm hearing is a lot of wind, which is similar to what the weather people have been spouting about the so-called "Snowicane" that we were supposed to get these last couple of days. I have not boarded-up my windows.
It's nice when they're correct, and they tell us so. They run ads on the local TV telling us how they are "the weather authority" and they stand around in their suits and ties (the men, anyway - the women are conspicuously absent) looking authoritative and dignified, as though what they said has some bearing on their overall intelligence. It's nice when they say they are right, even if their version of accuracy is made-up.
The last couple of storms, they have called for a foot or foot and a half, and we have gotten between 18 and 28 inches. By my calculations, they are about 30% off - if you go by the 28 inch mark. Still, they say they are the "authority."
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia schools were closed in advance of what they said was supposed to be 2 to 4 inches of snow overnight. What we got was some rain and zero inches on the roads, which were wet from rain and above-freezing temperatures. So, the kiddies got to stay home and watch the flurries. I'm still waiting for the first inch of snow to fall on a street or sidewalk - where it matters. Meanwhile, they told us to stay home "if you don't have to go out" as though we randomly wander the streets aimlessly, and businesses lost money because people stayed inside waiting for something that never happened. We're still waiting.
We will not see any TV ads or hear any proclamations about how authoritative their forecasts were. What we will hear are a lot of reasons and excuses as to why the storm did not do what they told us it would do, which is that it would cause widespread havoc.
Back in the early 1970s I was involved in a weather club in my junior high school. We used to use things like sling hygrometers, mercury barometers and other such analog equipment to make our own weather forecasts. Part of my job was to watch The Today Show and sketch the latest weather map from the TV screen before I came to school. We didn't have the Internet or any fancy radar equipment.
I wrote this (among other things) almost 4 years ago:
What I've noticed is that the local weather people have been introducing themselves as "Meteorologist [insert name]" much in the same way as a doctor would use the term "Doctor [insert name]". It seems to me to be a bit smug, since I place the television meteorologist on the same level as the Subway Sandwich Artist rather than my local General Practitioner, who may hold my life in his hands. I wondered about it so much that I looked into what it takes to be a TV Meteorologist. It's not much, as you could imagine.
The American Meteorological Society [AMS]
Seal Program consists of at least 12 semester hours of study in the atmospheric, oceanic, or related hydrologic sciences from an accredited institution of higher learning, and a $600 fee. We're talking about four 3-credit courses in a related science and some money.
So, the next time you see that fancy seal on your TV screen and hear them call themselves "meteorologists," take it with the necessary grain of salt - or three. They aren't all that different from the guy who mows your lawn or changes the oil in your car - and not as accurate either.
Our schoolboy forecasts, along with those of Dr. Francis Davis of our local ABC TV affiliate (channel 6) were done with the aid of our brain cells and the information we gathered. I had the privilege of meeting him at Drexel University as a part of a field trip that our school group did.
Now, in spite of what the talking heads tell you, the forecasts are done by big corporate entities (i.e. Accuweather) with things like Doppler radar and 3-D fly-by's that look nice on TV but do little else. Plus, they have the added benefit of an extra 35 years of collected data. Dr. Davis was an actual scientist, unlike today's so-called meteorologists, who merely take a few hours of classroom study and are proclaimed "AMA certified," which is similar to saying they can do CPR. Is that whom you want telling your kids to stay home from school? Apparently. It's all about TV, and has been for many years.
Why aren't they more accurate?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow and animals are two things you cannot control.

I've been neglectful of this page for a little while. I've found that it takes great emotional energy to come up with a few hundred words about something over which I am passionate. Plus, after doing it for nearly 4 years it has become more difficult to come up with something I haven't already written about.
There is more snow coming. Just as the remaining two feet has disappeared to the point that we are starting to see the ground, another blast is coming from midnight until noon Friday. In case you're keeping score, that's 36 hours of snow.
I try not to stress over it, since I am powerless to prevent it. The only thing I can do is deal with it, but as this is storm number 4, it's getting a little (a lot) ridiculous. Having it fall over two consecutive work days is just adding insult to injury. At least now, I have a shovel. We won't re-hash that nastiness.
ORLANDO, Fla. – A SeaWorld killer whale snatched a trainer off a poolside platform in its jaws Wednesday and thrashed the woman around underwater, killing her in front of a horrified audience. It marked the third time the animal had been involved in a human death.
Distraught audience members were hustled out of the stadium immediately, and the park was closed.
Wednesday's attack was the second time in two months that an orca trainer was killed at a marine park. On Dec. 24, 29-year-old Alexis Martinez Hernandez fell from a whale and crushed his ribcage at Loro Parque on the Spanish island of Tenerife. Park officials said the whale, a 14-year-old named Keto, made an unusual move as the two practiced a trick in which the whale lifts the trainer and leaps into the air.
Go figure. A whale with the word "killer" in its moniker actually fulfilled its purpose in life. Elephants stomp people at the circus, bears attack, snakes bite and jellyfish sting. Hell, even people can kill you if you rile them up enough, so why do stories about animals killing people make the news? It's bigger news when the whale swims around, eats fish and makes that chirping noise. I'd guess that just pisses him off to the point that he figures "the next time one of those jokers gets near me, I'm going to make him pay for using me as an ornament for his pleasure. I am not a toy - I am an animal."
They'll kill you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

You need stones to play this game.

If the USA can't win the women's curling gold (and I suspect they cannot) then I'd find myself rooting for the host Canadians to do it. In fact, there's a pretty good chance that Canada's men's and women's teams will win gold this year.
Most of the reason that the Canadian women's team could win rests on Cheryl Bernard, their skip. She's hot in more ways than one, and yes, I'm writing about curling again.
Bernard's profession is listed as "curler/author." She co-wrote Between the Sheets: Creating Curling Champions, a curling book with Guy Scholz, currently ranked 14,486 on, seriously behind where the Canadian women's curling team is ranked.
I know, it's strange that I'm spending my evenings watching curling matches on TV. What is odd is that there are a lot of sports being shown over these two Olympic weeks, and none of them has captivated me as much as the curling. I'm not a skier, I can't skate and I have no interest in hockey or snowboardcross or those other X-games imports that have infested the games. There is something thoughtful and interesting about curling that I find intriguing, and the fact that women can play it on a par with men makes it even more appealing. Call me strange. Oh, you already do?
Ice dancing? Feh. It's Dancing with the Stars without the stars. The games that wind up on prime time TV are the ones that appeal to our short attention span or some judged event that the participants can whine about later. Judging is for sissies. Play a game and keep score.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A fiendish thingy!

Contrary to what you read in the newspaper or see on TV, there are a lot of different sports being played at the winter Olympics. It's more than just skiing, speed skating, hockey and figure skating. Those are the sports that get the prime time air, but there are others being broadcast on MSNBC and CNBC during the "off hours" that are kind of cool too.
One of them is curling. Yes, curling. The game the Beatles played in "Help" has been an Olympic sport since 1998, and I remember that I enjoyed watching it four years ago and I'm enjoying watching it now. I'll admit to not knowing the nuances and intricacies of the sport, but watching it helps me learn. Strange, but true.

The game has come a long way since Foot and Algernon and The Beatles played the game in 1965. It's played on fancy ice sheets with modern brooms and stones now, and almost none of them explode. Although, if they had a chance of an explosion it might get the games in prime time.
The American women's team has been losing more than they have been winning, but the commentators (two of them Canadian) say that they have a good chance of being in the playoffs regardless. So, check your local TV listings to find a curling match on TV. Chances are, you'll have to record it to watch later, since most of them are on in the wee hours or when you're at work. If you like strategic games like chess and you enjoy the thought that goes into baseball, you'll like curling - which, come to think of it, is probably why most Americans find it boring. It involves thought and a certain amount of mathematics, and that frightens some people. Don't be scared because it isn't popular.
Granted, there aren't any gay men in flouncy costumes, skiers complaining about sore legs that aren't sore, skaters who compete in dancing shows or games that aren't played in big arenas in America. The curlers are going back to their day jobs when the Olympics are over, which is kind of like what the Olympics used to be. Only lately did it become a giant marketing tool for professional athletes. Sometimes, the sports are played by people who love the sport. That's part of the charm.
Even though I don't know a lot about the game (yet) I'm enjoying the strategy and skill involved in curling. I probably know as much about curling as most people know about figure skating and its nuances, so I don't feel badly about being a newcomer to the sport.
Now, if I can only find a place to play.