pergamond: ([Futurama] Bender // Applause)
By my quick assessment of the sea of red jerseys the other side of the score keeper's box, I would estimate our opposing team had at least three lines of players.

We had two.

Players, not lines.

To be totally fair, our first line was on the ice, so we had one complete set of players and two substitutes. For those not glued to the NHL, in ice hockey a line consists of five players; two defence, two wings and a centre who both attacks and defends. For novice hockey, an ideal team would have at least two sets of defence players and three sets for the wings and centre; so a total of 13 players plus the goalie.

Seven players was therefore slightly short-handed.

Apparently, people went away in the summer; a shocking lack of commitment to this predominately winter sport! In the end, we managed to capture three extra players from teams that had played earlier that evening, making our bench a cheerful rainbow of coloured jerseys. Just don't pass the puck to anything in red.

One of the fun things about playing slightly short-handed is everyone tends to play their absolute best. After all, there is no point in leaving the leg work to someone better than you if your only substitute has collapsed from exhaustion a mere 30 seconds previously. This works until the third period where no one can move any more.

In the end, we lost but narrowly by a goal scored quite late in the game. I ate nachos with my team. Then found I couldn't stand up. It rocked.

Orders

Dec. 12th, 2010 12:39 am
pergamond: ([Toy Story] Buzz // wibble)
"Why aren't you on the ice?"

As one, we turned on the bench to see the director of our ice hockey league walking up behind us, carrying a clip board.

"We're not allowed until the referees get here," volunteered one of my team mates. "Last time we went on before them we got into trouble."

Helmets nodded in agreement. In truth we had been gathered up and lectured at length about skating before an official rink attendant was present. It was pointed out to us that no one was going to rush to take responsibility if something HORRIFIC and AWFUL happened during warm-up. Like ... a mass pile-up in the goal .... or a puck rebellion.

"That is wrong," our director told us crisply. "You are not minors."

Blank faces peered at her from behind wire helmet cages. We totally were a minor league team. If there had been a mistake and we were this night facing a team from the pro league .... oh my.

"You're over 18," the director explained patiently. "You don't need to wait for a referee to warm up. Get on the ice. This will be resolved tonight."

There are some people you argue with and some people you really don't. Unfortunately, both our league director and the referee were examples of the latter case. Still, since the referee wasn't here ... We pulled open the door and pushed out onto the ice just as our captain appeared.

"Hey! How come we're on the ice?"

"She told us to!" At least five arms shot out to point accusingly at the director, who had moved across to talk to the other team.

Yes, we're clearly twelve.... That was probably where the confusion arose from in the first place.

pergamond: ([xkcd] Canada)
It was Sunday night and I was watching a game of American Football on TV.

Actually, no, that is a complete lie. For a start, I wasn't really watching the game since a large plate of nachos had appeared which was commanding my attention. Secondly, this was Canadian Football. Prior to that evening, I wasn't aware that Canadian Football differed from its southern counterpart. It appeared to be an equally inaccurately named sport in which players with incredibly padded upper bodies manipulated a non-ball like object without their feet. Fans around the room assured me however, that not only did the Canadian Football League (CFL) have different rules from the National Football League (NFL) in the USA, but that they both came into being quite independently at around the same time.

The story goes that in the mid-19th century, McGill University in Montreal learnt a variation of Rugby from the British Army who were garrisoned in the city. Over the border, meanwhile, Havard started playing what was known as the 'Boston Game' which was similar to football (ok, ok, 'soccer') but allowed the ball to be carried. In 1873, Yale University invited Havard (among others) to a convention to produce an official set of rules for college soccer football games. Harvard boycotted this, since Yale refused to consider the variations used in the Boston Game. Yale returned the favour by declining to play this mutant game with Harvard the following year and Harvard, in a huff, invited down McGill to play instead.

When McGill arrived, it became obvious that there were many differences between the Canadian game and the Boston Game, the latter of which still retained many of the features of soccer football. A hybrid of rules was mashed together for the tournament, but the Harvard team liked the new tactics so much that they adopted purely Canadian rules for the second half of the game. In 1875, Harvard managed to convince Yale this newest variation was a great idea, although Yale attempted a show of authority by insisting on a round ball for their match. This was almost certainly singularly pointless since people had lost interest in kicking it.

Nowadays, there are several subtle differences between the sports on either side of the border. The CFL have an extra player, giving 12 men per side, who plays a backfield position. The pitch is larger, being 110 yards long by 65 yards wide, compared to 100 yards long by 53 1/3 yards wide. The ball is also a slightly different variation of not-round-and-ball-like. I was assured there were also some rule differences, but the basic concept of men wearing tight Lycra over their oversized pads while wrestling with one another seems remarkably similar.

The particular match that I was being instructed on was the 'Grey Cup', the championship of the CFL and equivalent of the USA Super Bowl. Having watched both, I would say there were some very noticeable differences that had nothing to do with the number of players or pitch size. For a start, the outside temperature measurement seemed to consist of the same digits, but with a minus sign in front of them. Players wore long sleeved shirts under their padding and mist rose from their mouths. The half-time musical act were forced to wear fingerless gloves and the necessity of layers made the chance of a 'costume malfunction' considerably lower. Oddly enough, the coach of the winning team still got covered with Gatorade.

Bizarrely, the CFL had a brief splurge where it expanded to include a number of teams from America. Since the two versions of North American football are still very similar, it is not entirely obvious how they sold this idea. The incorporated teams weren't even from confused border towns --perhaps angling for hospital as well as stadium access-- but from places that included California, Las Vegas and Baltimore. This USA invasion ran from 1992 - 1996, after which the league became entirely based in Canada once again, although this was in part because the only non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup, the Baltimore Stallions, moved to Montreal.

So the game that started off being the same as real soccer football in the USA, was corrupted by the Brits teaching Rugby to the Canadians. Of course, we may yet come around full circle since interest in soccer is rising in the USA, who even bided to host the 2018 World Cup. Undoubtedly, this enthusiasm is due to their success in the last world cup in their match against England, which was summerised so perfectly by the New York Post:

World Cup Shocker: USA WINS 1:1

pergamond: ([Disney] Sleeping Beauty // rooting for)
I shot down the ice. My blades cut into the smooth surface in steady strokes. Ahead of me, the small black disc slid towards the far end. The referee was probably going to blow his whistle, but that didn't mean the defence shouldn't give chase. It was like flying.

Either that, or the fact our game hadn't started until 11:30 pm was addling my brains.

In my league, there are three time slots for games on Saturday night: 9:15, 10:15 and 11:15 pm. A balance is attempted so that no one team gets landed with all the late games, but those slots that we do get are universally hated. This week was a 'make-up' game, due to us missing a match last month because of a tournament. It resulted in a bizarre ice time and, in a strange twist, playing the exact same team as we did the week before. To top it all, this rival team was the one I was on the previous season so I had only the haziest idea of who was friend or foe out there.

Plus, I was exhausted.

Coming off the ice, I decided that next shift I would simply take a nap in front of the goal and hope this was disconcerting enough to cause the other team's shots to all go wide. I was just falling into a light doze on the bench when someone smacked the puck so hard it shot over the barrier. It ricocheted off the wall behind me with a loud bang and flew over my helmet to land by my skate. I picked it up with narrowed eyes and threw it back onto the ice.

"Are you awake now?" asked my team-mate, grinning, as she exchanged places with me.

Oh yes, this had gone too far. I had been hauled out in the middle of the night to play a confusing game against my old team in a surreal parody of the week before. Then to top it all, someone tries to kill me with a puck. I was tired, shocked and suffering from deja vu in which I played on both sides of this match.

THEY WERE ALL GOING REGRET THIS.

Of course, given the previously listed problems, it wasn't obvious who 'they' were going to be.

The puck shot towards the opposition's net and I hung back to mark their right wing player. He was hanging by the blue line, ready to take the puck back down the rink towards our goal. But I had his number, I was on him like a fly on jam --an appropriate analogy since he was wearing a red helmet-- slamming on that pressure that was bound to cause him to make a mistake. Assuming that was, he noticed: he was the size of a bear. I consoled myself with the fact he'd probably trip over me if he turned.

The puck shot out the other side of the zone and I moved for a more prominent position, skating rings around the pursuing player. Literally so, I should add. He looked unsteady on his feet and I thought it might unsettle him. I then played a few rounds of hockey tennis, bouncing the puck toward the opponent's goal as it came my way three times in a row. I think I wasn't the only person having deja vu.

Then we won.

By 'we' I think I mean my current team. Either way, I credit my own awesome defence for the victory... or attack, if it was the other team that came out on top. That'll learn them for waking me up.
pergamond: (Hyoutei cult)
During the entire season of softball I have never once made a successful catch. This was partly because I was lousy at determining where the ball would land, equally bad regarding the dimensions of my GIANT HAND and vain enough to like my nose the shape it was. Because of this, my team kindly placed me on short field when we weren't batting, meaning that I had back-up both behind me from the outer fielders and in-front of me from the basemen.

In the last game I was to play in, this successful set-up was changed and I was put as catcher. This was because I still couldn't run well after my fall in the previous game and everyone was kindly pretending that would make a difference. The catcher stands behind the batter as a backstop and doubles up as the forth basemen on home. While it is considered advantageous to have competent people on all the bases, the catcher is not as vital as the first basemen, who has the chance to get out every single player. For me, the batter has to have got past three of my friends first before I have a chance of getting them out.

Unfortunately, the other team were rather good at this. I was doing my best. Enthusiastically, I stepped forward when the batter ran and put one foot on the base, indicating that I was here, ready to stop all those home runs and hoping by now everyone had more sense than to take me up on this offer.

Half-way through the top of the seventh inning, and the other team had two people on the bases. Then the batsman hit far into the outfield and went for the home run. The guy on third base dashed past me, hotly pursued by his two teammates. Our outer fielder threw the ball towards the diamond, where it was caught by a baseman. He turned towards me and I held out my glove, thinking...

'..... oh crap.'

The ball landed squarely in my hand.

"Out and out!" shouted the umpire. "Three outs."

I stared at the yellow sphere. One season. One catch. But it was the right one.

PMA

Aug. 18th, 2010 01:13 am
pergamond: ([Bleach] Shinigami)
"We can do better than last time! Or the same! Or worse! Those are our three options and I feel we should be positive about all of them."

This bold, upbeat yet pleasingly accurate statement was issued by a teammate halfway through our softball game. Its quantitative nature also served to remind our rival team of historians that we were physicists and therefore, regardless of score, just harder than they were. Period.

Proof of this statement came minutes later when a ball smacked the same teammate in the arm and bounced into her face. I also fell before first base and skidded along the ground, neatly bruising everything from hip to ankle. Somewhat ironically, I wasn't even batting but running for another player who was injured. Good deeds don't always pay off; remember that. Yet we carried on! I have to say, not being able to walk made no noticeable difference to my fielding.

It might have been a tough game but you can always find satisfaction. Mine came in knowing that I could use all the hot water up that night and prevent my upstairs neighbour taking a shower. Poor boy. He was on the other team.

Hardball

Aug. 13th, 2010 11:52 pm
pergamond: ([Random] Look kawaii)
There are four great North American sports that Brits largely fail to understand. Ice hockey (we don't really do 'ice'), basketball (too much like netball which is played by women), baseball (exactly like rounders which is played by small girls) and football (where do I even start?).

That said, the popularity of these sports means I often take opportunities to go to games, because it is something I wouldn't get to do at home. Hence, when a friend said she could get tickets for the baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox, I jumped at the chance.

I didn't know much about the Jays, but the Red Sox name was familiar from being regularly cursed through the streets of New York. It turned out that the two teams were fairly close in the league, but that the Jays were suffering from some form of psychological block that was causing them to repeatedly loose spectacularly to the Red Sox. I couldn't help but feel that being sponsored by the Bochner eye institute probably wasn't doing much for their self-confidence.

It is hard to deny that baseball is a slow game. Fortunately, there are plenty of distractions in the form of adverts flashing across the big screen. "[American] Football is amazing" blazed one, implying that if you were bored here you should try that instead. This was followed by a clip from the previous Jays game proving that it was possible for them to get a home run. Then there was "David Roberts; the freshest name in nuts" (no witty byline required) and finally the "Dave Stieb bobblehead day" on August 29th, when you could own your own grossly proportioned nodding head version of the Jays player.

Meanwhile, the action on the pitch was heating up. The Jays were batting and there was a player on each of the three bases. This loaded configuration was made more tense by the fact that 3 out of the 4 allowed pitcher screw-ups and 2 out of the 3 "strikes" or batter screw-ups had occurred. In short, the batter had to hit this ball or he would advance to first base (if the pitcher messed up) or go out (if he messed up). In the movies, this would be the moment where our underdog hero would twack the ball into the stands, kill six spectators and get an automatic home run, causing all three of the players on the bases to also complete their circuit. The Jays would be saved!

In reality, he got to first base. I forget the details. The lack of a body count made it too much of a let down to remember.

The Red Sox, however, were going on a home run spree. Two home runs were achieved by the same batter hitting to exactly the same spot in the field. Evidently, the Jays didn't believe that lightning could strike in the same place twice. Another guy then got a home run that also enabled the two players on the bases to get runs. That last move ended up making it a tidy 5 runs for the one inning and rather sealed the fate of the Jays that day.

The final score was 10:1 and the casualties were a single broken bat. Disappointing for some fans perhaps, but at least they can go get a bobblehead at the end of the month.
pergamond: ([HP] On the list)
Many questions arise when you approach a softball field to find your team-mates apparently in the process of digging a grave.

Had the previous team left a high body count for us to deal with? Or perhaps the umpire was so unreasonable he was lynched? Was it a failed PhD student's last wish to be buried in the place he spent most of his time? Was it truly necessary to bury the body on first base? Wouldn't the pitcher's mound be a better option, or the zombie graveyard just one field over?

Upon closer inspection, it appeared that the digging was an attempt to disperse the rain water that had formed small lakes on the diamond. Progress had been made in turning said lake into something approaching quick sand with rakes and a shovel.

It was a decent attempt, but evidently it looked too much like a tomb for the umpire not to see the potential death toll from our match. Accidents meant ambulances. Ambulances might mean helicopters. Helicopters meant the zombie graveyard would be awakened. You could see his thinking. He left, telling us we were welcome to play as long as he wasn't a witness.

At this point, I was planning to head off home but half my team (plus a guy we adopted/kidnapped from the other side) were staying on for practice. I thought of my nice, dry office. Then I thought of my fielding skills. I spun my umbrella around a few times. Finally, I remembered I was British and therefore impervious to water. I reassigned my umbrella the task of keeping a pair of shoes dry and picked up my glove. I didn't really have an excuse.
pergamond: (zombie (oh my))
There are four softball fields next to one another on the corner of campus where we play. The one furthest from the University is right by a zombie graveyard. Surprising, but true nonetheless. Within this fenced off square of ground, a series of low-level orange lamps glow eerily out of the grass and are clustered irregularly together like a mismash of tombstones in an old graveyard. Zombies, I tell you. Perhaps we should have asked if they could help us field.

The team we were playing had opted for the unfair advantage of matching jerseys. They also liked to keep the catcher busy by not bothering to attempt to hit the first two pitches but twacking the third one beyond all outfielders. It was dirty play.

Despite this, by the end of the game we were motoring... or at least running. I even got a run! Sadly, this was not until the 7th innings so we still lost by a rather unfortunate amount. Our bold attempts made no headway with the umpire who looked up at the bright blue sky to comment how we had ten more minutes of light, max. This changed to two minutes once the other team started batting. Perhaps this was her addition to the mercy rule. Perhaps the last team she umpired for had their brains eaten.

When the optimistic call to our fielders to 'let her know when they couldn't see the ball anymore' yielded no results (unsurprising since sunset wasn't for another hour and we are masochists when it comes to the score), she let us complete the innings and then insisted we packed it in. Maybe she had heard stirrings. We picked up our bats and left.

Later rumours marked the zombie graveyard as a helicopter pad for the hospital. It doesn't sound likely.

Zombies.
pergamond: (it's gonna be me)
When I was eight, my favourite computer game was a 2D shooter called 'Gauntlet'. In this game, you advance up the levels by finding the exit, denoted by a square marked with the letter 'E', and killing anything that moved. It was a pleasingly simple concept that I feel prepared me well for life; fight like a hero when you have to, but ultimately your goal should be to run away.

Due to the sheer number of levels, it was possible to skip through the early numbers by finding an exit marked by "E8". This was a short-cut to level 8 and saved you fighting the bad monsters individually and allowing you to advance to them attacking you all at one. Who wouldn't opt for that?

Until last Friday, I always thought real games did not have such short cuts. I was wrong. Softball totally has an E8 option.

It was my turn to bat, an event with marginally more potential than my attempts at fielding due to the fact we self-pitch. My team mate threw the ball, metal connected with .... whatever material non-soft softballs are made from, and I ran to first base. The referee called 'safe' (which was easy for him to say) and I braced myself to make an siege on second base, as soon as my next team mate batted.

Then oddly, inexplicably, the referee called out that I was to advance to base 3, do not pass go, do not connect $200. Did I drop a $20 bribe on the diamond when I batted? Did my attempt at a home run look so completely pitiful that the referee thought putting me on base 3 would actually make no difference? Maybe he thought it would be better for everyone if I were tucked out the way. Perplexed, I trotted across the diamond and completed the circuit a moment later.

Wow, the score sheet looks like I'm a useful player! How misleading.

Evidently reading my baffled look correctly, the referee came over after the inning to explain that it had been an 'overthrow', which entitled the runner to two extra bases. Since I had surprisingly successfully reached first base on my own, that put me at base 3. I actually still had no idea what this meant but attempted to look informed for the face of my team. Later interrogation of google suggested that one of the other team's out fielders had overly zealously thrown the ball, causing it to overshoot anywhere helpful for their team.

Sadly, after this momentous event, it became the other team's turn to bat, which proved to be entirely consistent with being attacked by all monsters on the level 8 of Gauntlet.
pergamond: (zombie (oh my))
Naturally, every softball game should begin with a positive mental attitude. Why, we could be set to steamroller through the first seven innings, causing our rivals to plead the mercy rule because their muscles had atrophied from sitting on the bench so long.

It is more difficult to maintain that attitude when you arrive at the pitch to find the other team in matching jerseys. With their names sewn onto the back. Even less promising was the fact they used a portable mesh screen to protect their pitcher from a fast returned ball. (They asked if we wished to use it. We felt able to politely decline). I found this last point particularly concerning when I was placed in short field, worryingly close to the action. I adjusted my fielding glove and wondered if it would noticeably affect my game if I wore it as a face protector.

Shocked as we were by this indication of strength, our defense during the first inning progressed as BP's oil clean-up efforts; slow and ineffectual. Nevertheless when no one died, our confidence picked up and we moved onto a spate of knocking out the first two batters. Sadly, we always followed this by allowing subsequent players a free range of the bases. Perhaps this was because we felt sorry for them. Perhaps it was because we got cocky. Or perhaps it was because we were physicists and there is no exact solution to the motion of more than two gravitationally interacting particles.

Our batting also showed promise. One of our players smacked a strong shot that sent the ball way into the outfield. This was bound to be a home run, no one could catch that. Well .... except maybe that guy.

"Damn you! We have your number!"

We meant that literally. It was sewn on the back of his team jersey along with his name.

Half-way through the game I was put on third base. This was fun for me, but a probable disaster for our score sheet. Still, I gamely walked across the pitch to take my place. Just behind me stood the base coach for the other team. He was a large guy and I felt briefly apprehensive until:

"Peanut?"

"What?!"

I looked back to see a hand extended to me containing a fist full of unshelled peanuts. It was tempting but I had this GIGANTIC HAND with my fielding glove. I didn't think it would do my popularity any good if I was trying to negotiate a snack when the action came my way. One base along, the batter smacked the ball into the earth. It bounced, rolled towards me and I scooped it up in my glove. I had the ball! It hadn't cost me a limb! How exciting.

Or it would be if I I had any kind of contingency plan for this eventuality.

Seriously, I had never expected to catch this. It had never happened before. Either I dawdled long enough or there was nothing new to be done for a shout reached me of 'Keep it!' followed by the pitcher holding out his hand. I lobed it at him. Hot potato!

Since that was quite enough excitement for one day, I retreated in the next innings to the outer right field. Two of my friends took centre and short field. A deer took outer left field. It meandered out of the bushes and started chewing nonchalantly on a tree.

"Someone get that deer a glove!" came the shout from a team mate.

Apparently though, the deer was reluctant to take sides. Either that, or it had seen us bat and deemed there was little need for a catching glove so far out. It snacked on the sidelines, TV dinner style, until we were back to batting. Our matches might not be quite making cable, but it is pleasing to know they are still reaching an audience.

Roll to me

May. 14th, 2010 11:15 pm
pergamond: (Momo)
I have always found feet a disappointment. I mean, they work and everything but life is so much more exciting when you have alternative transportation as footwear. It seems I am not alone in this desire and with the snow and ice gone, many Canadians have switched blades for wheels. Skaters pass me on the way to the University, around town and along the tracks surrounding the lake. Since I possess a pair of roller blades (two actually, for various reasons) I am totally up for joining them ... except for the fact I haven't the foggiest how to stop.

On ice, the sharp sideways pivot hockey stop can bring you to a direct halt almost instantly. On wheels, such a maneuver would result in full body contact with the ground which, while technically fulfilling the intended purpose, lacks a certain something. This restriction is reflected in the rules of roller hockey where the game is played four-on-four, rather than five-on-five, and with no off-side rule. Recreational skates have a back break, but how do you use this without falling on your arse?

This issue is exasperated still more by the difference in intended skating location. In the rink, if I didn't stop I ended up crashing into the barrier or a member of (hopefully) the opposite team (did I take out your ringer? My bad). Here, I would likely end up sprawled in the middle of the highway. Not cool, free health care or not.

There was really only one thing for it and I signed up with a competitive roller blading guy who was offering lessons in Toronto. The class I joined was for beginners and he did warn me over email that they might not get onto stopping in the first lesson. But, he said (and I quote):

"I can make you more confident and stable so stopping won't seem quite as important."

Yeah! If I'm confident I can just go play chicken with those cars! Bring it on! .... I dug out my helmet and pads from the basement.

There were five of us in the class ranging from raw beginners to people lacking in confidence and needing a bit of advanced instruction. It was actually very good and I learnt a bunch of techniques for stability over rough surfaces. I also found that I could stop slowly; when approaching a wall, I stepped inwards to slow myself down. One of the other girls in the class noticed and commented:

"You stopped. How did you do that?"

".... I don't know."

"I think you know more than you realise."

Possibly she was right and it's probably likely that a few years ice skating plus a few more on quad skates helps with the learning process if not technique. I am still, however, going back next week. Life is full of surprises, but I'd rather mine didn't involve a dog's leash (horror story from our instructor), a small child armed with a bicycle (horror story #2) or a large truck (what I'm trying to ensure isn't horror story #3).

Mudball

May. 11th, 2010 07:31 pm
pergamond: (too British)
Canadians, it transpires, have a similar stiff-upper-lip attitude to weather as their British counterparts. Given their notorious winters, this perhaps isn't surprising and the upshot of this truism found me in ankle deep wet grass, weighing up whether it was really needful to remove my hands from my jacket sleeves as the other team came up to bat. I would have been feeling less hard done by if every day when I wasn't outside, it hadn't been gorgeous sunshine. For the last four weeks, mind. Still, I could hardly complain; I am British after all. I was also keeping a wary eye on a flock of geese that seemed to have taken over the right outfield. I found this somewhat unnerving since rumour had it that, should these fowl be involved in play, there would probably be two loosing teams.

By the time we had reached the forth innings, I had concluded there must be a more civilized way to settle our differences. A coin flip perhaps? I was even prepared to weight the coin to allow for their indecently competent first baseman. A friend suggested we put in an offer of 12 to 14 and call it a day. Admittedly, it would have been rather generous to us but then it was our suggestion. Instead though, I was left to peer through the netting and wonder why the umpire had not invoked the mercy rule as the other team went on a batting spree. The answer to this turned out to be because the man in question had a second game after this one and wanted company while he waited. As a result, we played all nine innings although our sodden score sheet is only testimony to about the first six. After that, it was home runs from everyone all the way....

..... >_> ..... <_< .....

There is nothing water resistant to prove otherwise.

Thwack

May. 5th, 2010 09:58 pm
pergamond: (Hyoutei cult)
First softball game of the season after, uh, two practices one of which I didn't make. But I was unperturbed; I had all that extensive rounders experience under my belt and well, I promised nuffin' when I was conscripted for this team. I felt I fulfilled this obligation when I showed up with a glove stolen from my office. It was a great start.

The team we played were from material engineering. This, someone suggested, surely meant they were unlikely to be any better than us. That cheerful, brash assumption transpired to be entirely false. The game is governed by basic projectiles and as physicists we could all calculate the ball's trajectory to within three decimal places. Unfortunately, as engineers, our rival team could actually hit it to within 1.  It was revealed somewhere around the fifth innings that the other team has actually won the league last year. The person with that knowledge had kept numb on the subject until he thought it might sooth our lack-of-home-run pride.

Nevertheless, the weather was warm and it was great to be outside. I discovered that catching with a GIANT HAND is not easy. For a start, I really had no idea where the extent of this mutant appendage was, so getting the ball to hit the glove centre was hard going. It was also difficult to bend the glove, so the ball tended to drop from it rather like a marshmallow from the mouth of a stunned spectator. After determining this, I was put to be a rover (woof!) which involved standing between the diamond and out field where most balls that come your way will be rolling.

About half way through the game, someone asked if us on the bench wanted to know the score. We all cheerfully declined. I did hit the ball when I batted though. That was almost useful and I felt like a cool baseballer on TV.

I need a cap.

pergamond: (it's gonna be me)
Spring has sprung and in the wake of the shock that followed the melting of snow and ice, the Physics department has formed a softball team. Softball, fellow Brits, is exactly like rounders except not socially confined to small school girls in gym skirts. The ball, also, IS NOT SOFT. This horrifically inaccurate misnomer is doubtless there to lure innocent postdocs away from their desks with the thought 'Eh, what's the worst that can happen?'[*]. On a plus side, I did get to wear a mit so I had one GIGANTIC hand. It was ace.

Despite being reassured that it was fine to play with only one day spectating the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team as way of recent experience, I was mildly apprehensive about batting. I mean, my memories of outer fielding told me that, positioned carefully, I could probably play solitaire on my iPhone inbetween pitches (except I had this GIGANTIC hand, did I mention?). Batting, on the other (smaller) hand, puts you front stage. There's even a diamond to emphasise this. Fortunately, I didn't turn out to be as big a failure as I anticipated. Metal hit ball frequently. Sometimes the ball even went somewhere. This was almost certainly due to our skilled pitcher, but hey! If he plays with us in the games who's to know? The bat, incidentally, is way heavier than the little wooden rounders bats I used to swing. My wrists got quite sore after a few.

Returning to fielding, I discovered a clash with my game play in other sports. I had an unpleasant habit of stopping the ball with my shin or shoe. I do this with the puck in hockey all the time; stopping it on the side of my ... padded ... skate or, um ... shin pad. Ah yes. That would be why it didn't hurt then. A friend commented I 'took one for the team'. I grimaced and tried to pretend that I was just hard like that.

Next practice, I'm going to stop staring at my GIGANTIC hand and catch a ball in the glove. Small goals. It's going to be great. 

[*] The answer to that quandary will doubtless be covered in future posts.
pergamond: (totoro)
So canoeing? Way harder than I was led to believe. Okay, so trip was might have been entirely partially my idea; a celebration of the fact that water is in liquid form in Florida. I also had a short wooden paddle but, if I was strictly honest, I doubt it affected my technique all that much.

We rented canoes on the Silver River in Ocala; a pretty route that wound through thick greenery packed with wildlife. We saw turtles (huge ones), alligators (huger ones) and monkeys (less huge but made up for it with quantity). I'd previously only heard rumours of wild monkeys in Florida; largely from a friend who also tried to tell me that the British bird population had turned carnivorous and was eating the cows. I believed neither story but am now casting a suspicious eye on our sparrow population.

There are some that is, all of our canoe trip who might argue we were utterly slightly optimistic about how far we could paddle in one afternoon. (This might have been partly because we rented boats at a place further down from our original port of choice.) However, the fact I am having some difficulty moving my fingers from the top keyboard row to the bottom speaks for itself is coincidental. The weather was beautiful, the wildlife stunning and the injuries ... well, I at least I have free health care again.

The only blip on the trip was the presence of a large number of motor boats whose engine exhausts are basically at the level of a canoe. At first, I was irritated by these creations; the noxious environment-damaging metals beasts! By the time I was heading back, I was furious. Damn it all! Why wasn't I on a boat with a BBQ, eh?

The distance of the trip is a subject for debate. In my personal opinion, an unfortunate wrong turn caused us to bag half the coast of Florida. Length-wise.


Ewoks

Mar. 7th, 2010 07:20 pm
pergamond: (Eiji)


I went skiing and found an Ewok village. This picture totally isn't doing it justice because I only had my phone camera with me, BUT! There were ramps, and ledges and tunnels all up in the trees.

Ewoks I tell you.

Or maybe a tree top trekking course, but I prefer to think it was ewoks.

Soft heads?

Mar. 4th, 2010 11:07 pm
pergamond: (Atobe)
A noticeable difference between downhill skiing in Canada and when I last went in France (admittedly 7 years ago) is the donning of helmets. Not just the kids but the adults too. I would estimate well over 50% of the skiers were wearing hard hats and they were also available to rent, along with the usual skis, boots and poles.

It's perhaps likely that this difference between the sides of the Atlantic is a product of the over-safety conscious north America. Although, one cannot rule out the over-fashion conscious French or it being a resort-specific phenomenon due to the vindictive nature of the ski lifts. Not that I am saying it is an idea without sense; in Alpine skiing the risk isn't so much your own skill, it is the buffoon who is barrelling down from above you. I particularly dislike snowboarders period since they tend to go down straight whereas skiers traverse the piste. They also have less control and frankly, they pose too much in their cooler outfits. I vaguely remember attempting to take them out in Europe with my ski poles.

As for a helmet, I was so taken aback by the question at the rental desk I said no. Evidently, I am all about fashion. I stuck with my tuque.

Downhill

Feb. 27th, 2010 11:41 pm
pergamond: (Tezuka)
... skiing that is.

Despite the local name for the escarpment around Hamilton, there are not any mountains in the Toronto area. There are, however, a few places where enough of a gradient exists to set up an Alpine ski resort. My adviser suggested a trip to Horseshoe Valley and, optimistic that the week had not gone so badly for him to seek my demise, I piled into the car with a couple of his kids.

I had not downhill skied since I was an undergrad and I have to say .... it's terrifying.

No, wait, let me clarify; the skiing is fine. Ski lifts are terrifying.

The first one we went on was bad enough. The chair moved at a fair speed up the slope and reminded me inescapably of the "hello Kitty" ferris wheel in Tokyo. It rapidly transpired that is was also the most modern and gentle of the contraptions at the resort. The next one we went on took particular pride in creeping up on the waiting skiiers and then setting off with a violent jolt, sending them rocketing into the air. Swinging wildly, the chair would then ascend, leaving its passengers to claw their way back onto their seats and pull the flimsy safety barrier down. Due to its predisposition for skiier-destruction, the lift stopped multiple times on its heinous journey, leaving its passengers swinging with an amplitude a baboon would envy. 

Shocked by such robotic evil, I failed to jump fast enough when the lift reached the summit and would have been trapped on-board, had I not thrown myself clear, loosing a ski and leaving the lift to rattle off with a squeak that formed echoes of a disembodied laugh. The only aspect of the decent I recall was that it was far less blood curdling that trip to the summit. I refused to go on that lift again. It was evil and this was no time to preach repentance.

The actual skiing was mild after that. It transpired I was roughly the same standard as my advisor's son.... he's eight, but since he has two younger siblings, I consoled myself with the knowledge the comparison point could have been so much worse. As we descended, I let him carve the tracks. I just followed. Mature adult overseer; that's me.

As I handed my skis in and left the cabin, I had to stop to allow a man on crutches to make his way down the steps in front of me. He still had his ski boots on. I wondered if that would still be the case in April.
pergamond: (it's gonna be me)
I am currently sitting sprawled on my floor watching the semi-finals of the men's Olympic hockey. My TV is only able to get one channel on its internal aerial but, since this is Canada, there wasn't any doubt that I would be able to catch this game.

The women's hockey team have already won the gold; they beat the USA team last night. There was nothing odd about the game until the commentator mentioned the USA players were all wearing heart monitors so that their coach could see who had the freshest legs. The two thoughts this produced were both mildly concerning; either the coach totally didn't believe a word his players said regarding their fitness or he considered them all duracell bunnies (or maybe energizer bunnies -- did anyone else not realise there were two?).

The men's team, meanwhile, are taking the scenic route onto the podium since the only thing they were able to put into the goal when playing the USA last week was one of their own players. That particular game saw the public screens in Vancouver removed for fear of riots. In fact, it transpired that there was nothing to fear; Canada went into complete denial the game had even occurred, including the reporter on that night's news. (Although this picture made me laugh a lot.)

By the time Canada were playing Germany, a cautious allusion to the previous .... thing ... occurred on the radio where the DJs speculated the serious question of whether the whole Olympics would be a disaster if Canada didn't place in hockey. Meanwhile, our lunch table at work discussed the likelihood of anyone turning up to Friday's game if Canada were knocked out. Would Vancouver simply decide the hockey was over and the players would show up to an dark and empty rink with no TV crew? It was possible. And no, in case anyone was wondering, the acquired gold in figure skating didn't quite hit the spot.

Still, the worrying was for nothing. Canada has now won the semi-finals (you can all speculate whether I wrote this before or after the end of the 3rd period) and we will discover whether it's because these bunch of stars have started working as a team (I'm going to come out and say the women's team - WAY better at this) or if the USA team are just that hot. They are now guaranteed a silver although (and I quote the sports commentators) that is not the colour anyone in this country wants to see. Whether they will or not probably depends on if [livejournal.com profile] crazy_marik stops jinxing the team.

Either way, it seems likely that Lacuna, Inc will not be needed for every Canadian.

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