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April 26, 2010

Bowling Revisited

I went to my first Canadian bowling alley and tried out 10-pin Candlestick bowling for the first time. As an ardent 10-pin "big ball" bowler for years, it was very different.

First, the ball is very light and about the size of a softball. Because I'm used to throwing my 15 lbs ball, I wound up chucking the little, light ball more than halfway down the lane on my first throw. It took a few throws before I was consistently throwing on the boards. With it being that light, I felt like I was really hurling the ball down the lanes. Not a bad thing, in this version, except I was very naturally putting a hook on the ball, so frequently missed all the pins and went into the gutter at the last moment to the left. It took awhile before I got the hook somewhat under control.

The pins are tall, narrow, and light, making the standard pins I'm used to look large and heavy. In between throws, the fallen pins do not get cleaned-- one of the challenges is using the fallen pins to help you get the remaining pins. This really threw me for the first game or so.

Because of the sizes of everything, you get three throws each frame. You can only score a strike on the first throw and a spare on the second throw, but you can still get 10 points (but not a "mark") by knocking down all of the pins on your third throw.

The scoring is a bit different, too. I'm not sure I can explain it here, as I'm not completely sure I was doing it right, but you seemed to add both forward and backward when scoring a spare or strike. In standard bowling, you only score ahead. Again, not certain I have the scoring fully grasped yet.

All in all, it was a fun trip. I think I could pick it up in about 20 hours of play, if I decide I want to. The good thing about it is that, with the ball so small and light, my arthritis issues didn't really come into play.

April 23, 2010

Sports Winners and Losers

Football, Draft Part 1:

All I'm reading today is that Tim Tebow, one of the all-time winning college players, was an absolute failure of a pick by Denver in the first round. Fans are moaning over the pick. Pundits are saying that Josh McDaniels has basically picked himself out of a job after this season.

I don't know much about Tebow, as I don't follow college football at all. All I know is what I see on game tape and what I read and see at the college combine and pro workouts.

Tebow, by all accounts, is a very smart guy. His football IQ is quite high. He is extremely coachable. He is hardworking and dependable. He's a great leader. He's physically gifted with size, strength, and speed. In other words, he has the body, mind, and intangibles needed to succeed at any profession, anywhere.

I have often said that I would rather have a whole team of Wes Welkers than even one Terrell Owens. Yes, because I don't have the most talented players, I may lose a few games. But because I have people who are smart, love the game, and play every down 100%, I'm going to win a lot of games I "shouldn't." Tim Tebow seems to fit that mold of a guy who will learn and do what it takes to succeed at the pro level.

Will Tebow start in five months for the Broncos? No. And that's a GOOD thing, people! It is exceptionally rare that any new QB is successful in their first season (I point directly to Peyton Manning's first season). More often than not, even if they are successful, it has a lot more to do with the team around them than their ability in that first season. Tebow will need time to adjust to the NFL, be coached, learn the system. I think that Kyle Orten, who by all accounts is a smart and professional guy, will be a great person to learn under. I think that Quinn is a great person to both teach and put pressure on Tebow to succeed during QB competition within the organization.

I am fairly certain that each of those sports pundits and all of those fans decrying this heinous pick will be choking on their words in a season or two.

Football, Draft Part 2:

It really looks like the Detroit Lions (my team) have finally got a coach and front office staff who know what they are doing. In their first draft last season, they got a starting TE and DB, and what may turn out to be a franchise QB. This season, they did the smart thing and drafted a DT who many considered the best overall prospect in the draft. They then traded back into the first round and got what may be an electrifying RB.

Now, with their next few picks, if they can shore up a leaky Offensive Line (a deep position in this draft) and draft for some depth in the defense, this will be two straight very good drafts after the Millen years.

Of course, they have a really tough strength of schedule again. The other three teams in their division are all tough customers (Bears, Packers, Vikings), and they play the AFC East this season, which has three tough opponents (Patriots, Dolphins, Jets) and another team that, even if it isn't so great, has a tough venue (Bills). Then they also have to see the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, and Redskins, each of which is a tough out even when they aren't playing well.

I see the Lions coming in somewhere around 5 wins this season. Since they have gone 0-16 and 2-14 the last two seasons, five wins is a good turnaround and shows a steady progression toward relevance once more.

Basketball, Lakers playoffs:

I am a Lakers fan, so I am biased. I realize this. But by any stretch of the imagination, the current series versus the Thunder has been poorly refereed. While I have seen bad calls on both sides of the ball, it sure seems like the Lakers are getting the short end of the stick.

In the last game, for example, Gasol went for a rebound. The Thunder player behind him went over his back to get the ball (no call), the player in front of him reached out to swat at the ball and scratched down his face leaving marks (no call), and when the whistle blew, it was Gasol who was somehow charged with a foul (I guess his head got in the way).

In another instance in the previous game, Fisher had multiple fouls. He didn't want to get called for another one. So he stepped away from the Thunder player and retracted his hands, hoping his teammates could stop the drive toward the basket. Sure enough, the whistle blew... foul on Fisher (I guess it is a foul to avoid contact).

In the last two games Kobe has been frequently double- and triple-teamed. During those moments, you see his jersey being tugged, you see his arms moving from the force of the blows raining down on them. In a couple of instances, I watched his head get hit repeatedly. So far, the only whistles I've heard blown were on Kobe (I guess for being in the way). Most egregiously, you have Durant getting calls his way with the slightest (and phantom) contact, and getting his stroke going at the free throw line. You have Kobe getting mugged by multiple players each time he drives to the basket, and yet he didn't shoot a free throw in the entire game.

The discrepancy in foul shots between the two teams is telling, as well. The Thunder have shot more foul shots than the Lakers in each game by a fairly large margin (in basketball terms), even when the Lakers were at home.

The Lakers are not what they were last season. The bench has not been as strong and consistent, Artest has not been an improvement over Ariza, Fisher is not the same player he has been, and Kobe simply has so much mileage on his body that all the little injuries have slowed him down. They also stop playing the winning formula of getting it inside to Bynum and Gasol and kick it out when needed too often. The Thunder are up-and-coming fast. Durant is a phenomenal talent and Westbrook is making a name for himself. They are a tough matchup for the Lakers at any time, but when it is 5 on 8, it makes it that much tougher.

April 21, 2010

Body Snatchers and Other Invasions

My parents let me watch the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers perhaps when I was too young; I understood the movie just fine and that was the problem... the bleak ending with McCarthy on the highway trying to warn people scared and stuck with me.

Then came the Donald Sutherland remake, still considered one of the all-time best remakes ever. This movie frightened me even more, as the ending is so much bleaker-- the aliens appear to win.

As one who has had trouble sleeping since a young lad, the fact that the aliens in these movies "got" and copied people while they slept was particularly telling.

Each of these movies was fairly successful for their times (50s and late 70s).

In 1993, a new vision of this classic story came to the screen. While many of the effects were pretty good, I remember it most for the few nude scenes showing me a young Gabrielle Anwar. This movie went with a more ambivalent ending, and you are not sure if the main characters attacks on the pods is the end of it, or if Marti's stepmother's comments foresee the pods spreading all across the world. The movie didn't even make a million dollars at the box office, and was not particularly well-received by the few critics who reviewed it (but it was not horribly reviewed, either).

I just finished watching the 2007 reimagining of the story starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. The general concept of the film was decent (spores instead of pods), but Kidman looked horrible and showed no spark or imagination in her portrayal of the main character. I found myself actually rooting against her. Craig, an actor I generally admire and like, was wooden throughout; his best scene came once he was a pod-person, as that called for a more wooden delivery.

They also chose to go with a happy ending; Kidman saves her son, who happens to be immune from the infection, and a vaccine against the spores is developed. The director tried to add some ambivalence into the story by showing that, while under the effects of the pods, the world signs peace treaties. Once everyone is cured, it is back to wars and tribulation. While I realize the original story by Jack Finney actually ended with the pods giving up on Earth and floating away, the precedent has already been set by the first two that having the pods "win" (or, at least, not be defeated/discovered/done away with) makes for a richer story and a more horrific, lasting movie. Some could argue that this was the first "twist" ending horror film, as most of the 50s horror flicks ending with the hero triumphing.

There was a good film here. The change of the pods to spores and the way in which the spores got to Earth was interesting. From there on, however, the movie started to lose its imagination.

The casting of Kidman was the first major mistake made. I haven't seen her truly "lead" a film yet; she's much better in an ensemble or with a strong male lead or two to play off (the closest she comes in my mind is her role in The Others, a far superior classic horror/ghost story).

Secondly, having her son be the cure changed it from a horror movie into an action flick, as she raced to save her son (who was strangely absent from most of the meat of the film with little explanation as to why) and then raced to get him to the people who it just so happens can make an inoculation from his blood.

Third, having the "happy" (or non-ambivalent, non-horror) ending where everyone is cured and doesn't remember anything that happened to them while under the influences of the pods leaves a rather poor taste in the viewer's mouth. The whole concept is that the spores are rewriting human being's DNA -- a simple inoculation can rewrite it back? This is, at best, bad science and at worst a huge cop out by the writer/director. In the first three, when the pod is functional it somehow kills the host. But those films were going for horror, not action/suspense, so the deaths make more sense, I guess.

Fourth, many of the special effects and CGI just didn't look very good. Each time Kidman went to sleep for brief periods, we were accosted by too-glossy, fake-looking images of the spores inside her attacking and blowing up her blood cells (why they did this when it was expressly said earlier that the spores attacked and rewrote our DNA I don't completely understand). These scenes were so laughable as to completely take me out of the viewing experience. Add to this Kidman's lackluster performance during the "freak out because you nearly fell asleep" scenes that followed each of these effects, and this viewer was not impressed in the least.

This is a good story concept that has worked very well twice, okay once, and failed miserably another time. Hopefully someone who understands the horror of this idea will take the ball and run with it; I think today's technology can make for a truly horrific story of people being replaced, the fear of going to sleep (when human beings are at their most vulnerable to begin with), and the horror of finding out you are one of the last "real" people left on the planet.

April 14, 2010

Birthdays and Other Thoughts

Most people get excited over their birthdays. I have, however, had enough negative things occur on and around my birthday that I approach it cautiously and with trepidation these days. It is not that I mind getting older -- not at all.

Let's see, I've had some wickedly awful birthday parties when I was young. Chernobyl; enough said. I've had two major "reorganizations" occur right around that week. I've had some health issues crop up on or around my birthday. And I was last fired the week of my birthday (my (now) wife was visiting and got to participate in that one).

I've probably had a number of good things happen around that time, too. However, the bad has stood out and been memorable, so that is how I approach the day.


On the road to Fredericton on Saturday I saw my first, live, up-close moose. It was just on the other side of the moose fence (thankfully), and was bent over eating leaves off a tree. If it had stood upright, it would have been close to as tall as the fence, though. You know in your head that they are big creatures, but seeing one live really impresses it upon you. If I had a camera, i would have pulled over and taken a picture of it.

Driving home from Moncton on Monday, I saw a huge eagle. While its head was lighter in color than its neck/body, I don't think it was an American eagle. It was on the very top of a denuded tree, and there were some crows and smaller birds nearby acting all agitated to really give it some size comparison... and it was big! The slightly curved beak looked like a pair of tin snips and the huge, curved claws looked like they could rip through steel.


Sent my resume to an American company that may be interested in having some tech writing done. *Fingers crossed. They were very impressed with my work history; I'm hoping that my salary interests as a 15 year veteran don't scare them off. But I'd like to get what I'm worth, and according to the salary comparison, I'm asking for the 50th percentile (median) for the region, so I hope not.

April 8, 2010

That Time of the Year Again

Last night, got tired finally around 3-3:30am. The night before, 5:30 am. The night before that, 5 am. The night before that, 4ish.

As I get older and feel like I need more consistent sleep, these 2-3 periods of the year where I can't sleep well are dragging me down much harder. And I'm not young enough to bounce back and pretend to not be running at half capacity any more. I slept from about 4am (took a bit after going to bed to fall asleep) until my alarm at 8:30, got out of bed at 9:30 after an hour's fitful sleep, and feel like utter crap now at 11:15.

On top of it, if you aren't feeling well, the lack of sleep can make you feel even worse. I had a touch of a bug last week and now I'm feeling really bad because of the sleeplessness. My body hasn't had its time to fight it off and get better.