curling breaking news: US skip John Shuster benched!

Friday 19 February 2010

First, here are a few places that confirm my information:
US Skip Shuster Benched for France Match
Men’s Round Robin Session 6 Results

That’s right — you heard it hear first (maybe), but the US mens curling team skip (captain/leader), John Shuster is benched after starting round robin play 0-4.  He wasn’t just demoted to a lower spot on the team, but taken out completely!

After winning bronze four years ago, Shuster has missed shot after shot so far this tournament, “choking” many would say, when given the change to score points and win games.  For this reason, it was decided by the coach to bring in the alternate to replace Shuster — the virtual team leader and captain of the team — and letting the alternate Chris Plys, skip the team.  Plys likely came in to this Olympics thinking he’d never get a chance, but here he is, at 22, getting an opportunity of a lifetime to lead a team that was virtually created by Shuster.  While it’s unlikely the US can come back from a 4 loss hole to make the medal round, this is quite the turn of events, to say the least.

It just goes to show you that you never know what can happen — and maybe my run for the Olympics as a curler in a few years aren’t as far fetched as I thought!

unemployment and bad places to live

Friday 19 February 2010

Continuing the website/article suggestions, a few quick ones about the economy.

First, a great, short multimedia presentation simply showing a county by county visual picture of unemployment numbers growing since the start of 2007.  It’s pretty eerie how the country gets darker and darker (representing higher unemployment) as the recession begins and continues.  And we’re supposed to have at least two more years of these high unemployment numbers?  Good luck!  The Decline: The Geography of a Recession

Second, Forbes magazine does a lot of “lists,” and I came across this one detailing America’s 20 Most Miserable Cities.  Of note, 5 of the top 20 are Northern Ohio cities (Cleveland, Canton, Akron, Toledo, and Youngstown), with another 5 coming along the same line in northern Illinois and Indiana (Chicago, Rockford, and Gary) and southern Michigan (Detroit and Flint).  Apparently the area between Iowa’s Quad Cities and Pittsburgh, PA is not a good place to live (even if I’ve enjoyed the approximately 23 of my 28 years living there)!

another issue with divorces: religion

Thursday 18 February 2010

This was an interesting article I came across a few days ago:
Dad Pleads Not Guilty on Violating Court Order For Taking Daughter to Church

The mom’s Jewish, the dad was Catholic but apparently converted to Judaism when the two were married (though according to sources from the article, he remained connected to his Catholicism).  The parents get divorced, the mom has custody with the dad having some visitation rights, and one weekend the dad goes and has the child baptized in a Catholic church.  Then, as if that wasn’t enough, the mom gets the judge to order an injunction so the dad was forbidden from “exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion,” as stated in the court order.

Was the judge (state) overstepping its rights of separation of church and state?  How is this to be dealt with, especially when the religions are as different as Jewish and Christian (as opposed to something like Catholic or Lutheran)?  Does the mom have to accept this, or do her legal rights of custody grant her other rights in what her child can or cannot be exposed to?


I doubt it will end here, but I wonder how far it might go.

a little diversity anyone?

Wednesday 17 February 2010

I came across this article about two weeks ago:
Vanity Fair’s “New Hollywood” issue completely lacks diversity

Basically, a Vanity Fair cover dedicated to new, young, Hollywood talent had a bunch of think, white women.  (See the link for a picture.)  This critique mentions a few women that could have been options to get some diversity (such as Precious star Gabourey Sidibe), and while that may be true, let’s put the blame where it really needs to go: Hollywood.

If you take a look at Hollywood and arrive at the conclusion that it’s a divers place, you must only be watching Madea movies (or other Tyler Perry fare), because that fact is, Hollywood is far from diverse.  Just take a look at this year’s Oscar race.  In the big four acting categories and directing, you have a predictable bunch: Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Penélope Cruz (Nine), and a trio from Precious (Sidibe, Mo’Nique, and Lee Daniels).
(For multiple lists on the diversity found in Academy Award nominations and winners, check out this list of lists on Wikipedia, including a list of black nominees and winners.)

But should I be so surprised?  TV and film have longs catered to white, middle-class America, and unless we as viewers demand something else, don’t expect much to change.

a math blog in the NY Times!

Tuesday 16 February 2010

I’ve had a lot of web pages opened and saved on my computer for a few weeks I’ve wanted to share with people but just haven’t gotten around to it, but I want to try and use these next few days to share.  I hope you can keep up!

First, two weeks ago I stumbled upon the creation of a weekly featured blog entry in the NY Times related to Mathematics!  I was so excited to see it and read it and share it (so now I’m doing part 3).

There have been 3 posts so far, with 15 total planned, and while the idea was exciting first — with the declared goal “to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it.” — I’ve felt a little underwhelmed with the results thus far.  While the topics thus far have been somewhat interesting for me, I don’t know if they’ve done a good job sparking a “better feeling” for math itself for those so inclined.  However, I also am probably not the best judge of that.

So, three weeks in, my excitement and joy of sharing this with you is a little muted, but maybe I’m selling it short, too.  I do enjoy work by the author, Steven Strogatz (also often featured on a favorite radio program of mine, RadioLab), so there’s no telling where it can go and I continue to keep reading.

Whether you’re a math person or not, check out the first three entries (links below) and see what you think.  Maybe I’m totally off and they’re much more accessible and enjoyable to non-math people than I realize — or maybe not.  Either way, at least now you know about it and can decide for yourself!

From Fish to Infinity (about the idea of counting and why numbers exist — includes a Sesame Street video clip!)
Rock Groups (dealing with adding and patterns)
The Enemy of My Enemy (a bit on subtraction and the idea of negative numbers)

List of all blogs on NY Times by Steven Strogatz

Let’s get ready to curl!

Monday 15 February 2010

(Sorry I’ve been gone so long — hopefully I’ll be more on it this week!)

I’m guessing that most of the world is aware that the Winter Olympics are currently going on over there in British Columbia, Canada.  I’m excited to be around a TV with satellite capacity this week so I can watch my favorite Olympic sport: curling!

I’ve always been taken a bit by curling, even though it gets virtually no play here in the US (television coverage is only scheduled for cable networks).  And I actually spent about two months curling myself during the winter I lived in Milwaukee.  Plus, I figure if there’s any chance left for me to be an Olympian myself, it’s in curling (though I better get practicing again soon)!

Curing is a bit hard to explain for those who haven’t checked it out, but the object is a little like bocce ball or shuffleboard if you’re familiar with those.  There is a target at one end of an ice rink, and you use a strip of the ice similar to a bowling lane.  You have these large granite pieces of rock called “stones,” and you push them down the ice in an attempt to be the closest to the center of the target at the conclusion of an “end” (a bit like a baseball inning).  Teams alternate attempts so that each team shoots eight stones per end.  The stones may hit one another, knocking other stones closer or farther away, so there is strategy involved with an advantage of going last.  If a team scores, they go first to start the next end (similar to golf’s advantage), and if no one scores, the order is repeated.

Or, you can take the curling Wikipedia entry‘s explanation: Curling is a team sport with similarities to lawn bowling and shuffleboard played on a sheet of carefully prepared ice.  Two teams of four players take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones down the ice towards the target (called the house). Two sweepers with brooms or brushes accompany each stone and use timing equipment and their best judgment, along with direction from their teammates, to help direct the stones to their resting place. The purpose is to complete each end (delivery of 16 stones) with the team’s stones closer to the centre of the house than the other team’s.  The relaxed, turn-based progression of the game have led some to compare curling to chess and baseball.”

Perhaps one reason I like curling so much is that element of strategy.  Sure, there’s a lot of skill to get the stone where you want it to go (and the sweeping — though that’s maybe too much to comment on here), but it’s the combination of skill and strategy that make a team successful.

If you have cable access over the next two weeks, head to this website to see the TV schedule in your area (click near the top to change settings for non-Eastern time zones).  Watching some games will give you the best chance to learn and understand this exciting game.  More info about curling in the Olympics can be found here:

And if you live in a cold winter climate location (or not!), it’s likely you could be curling yourself come next winter if you’d like — check out this website to find a curling club near you, and maybe we’ll walk together in the parade of nations at the 2026 Winter Olympics!

(Oh, and I’m not the only one loving the curing these days: Rick Reilley of ESPN falls in love)