Friday, October 21, 2011

Because impatience is my middle name

I love Halloween. I mean, who doesn't? Everything about it is so much fun, the costumes, the candy, the parties, and every now and then a haunted house (no we didn't know those people). 

I think my absolute favorite part is carving jack-o-lanterns. I have carved one every year (except last year) for as long as I can remember. Now of course, since I am a perfectionist and not good with advance planning, they never turn out as cute as I want them to. I usually just start sawing away with one of those cheap little pumpkin carving knives until it turns into a smiley face. There are also a lot of pretty awesome jack-o-lanterns out there to compete with, which honestly I don't see how they do it. So this year I decided to get a smidge more complicated, and do a little copyright infringement.

Say hello to Pumpkin Kitty! Okay so her bow is a little lopsided, which probably no one but me would ever notice. Other than that, I think she is pretty cute. And believe me, it wasn't easy getting her to actually look like the real Hello Kitty (for me, anyways). First there was a paper sketch. Next, the dry erase markers came out, which I think was Shane's idea. I usually just use a pencil, which as it turns out doesn't erase well from pumpkins.

 Is that ear bigger than this one? Wait, I think her whiskers should be lower...

Even with that, she didn't turn out 100% as planned (stupid tiny pumpkin knives), but that's okay.

Shane was going to go for one of the paper designs they include with the pumpkin carving tools, but couldn't choose one he liked. I think he was having more fun taking pictures of his rock crawler anyways... he ended up with a cute jack-o-lantern face instead. He probably could've carved six of these, and roasted all the seeds, by the time I got done with mine. 

So here is where the impatient part comes in. That was all two weekends ago. I got so excited about Halloween that we carved those stupid things on October 1st.

This is what they look like today, October 21, with 10 days to go til Halloween: 

Okay a little gross and rotten, but she's holding in there. 

Shane's isn't holding up so well, but I think it gives him some character. 

But wait, this is the best part! 

Since we've had so much rain here lately, this is what they look like on the inside now: 
The little $3 strobe light has now turned into pond decor. Lovely. 

Maybe I'll learn a lesson and wait a bit before we carve them next year. But knowing me, probably not. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The true gentleman's sport

Forget football, soccer, and even fencing. If you want to see a real sport, something with full contact, speed, and lots of strategy, rugby is the way to go. It was an Olympic sport until 1924, which the US dominated. In fact, Charles Doe, a member of the last US team, once said about their win over France: 
"Our victory in '24 made the hockey win against the Soviets look like an everyday occurrence. If we had that kind of coverage rugby might be the great American pastime today." read more here
Rugby, despite its popularity in the rest of the world, fell out of style in the United States for a little while, but has been gaining followers since it's reemergence in the 1960s. Some famous players, also called "ruggers," from around the world include (in no particular order) George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Prince William and Prince Harry, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, Daniel Radcliffe, Chris Farley, Daniel Craig, Russel Crowe, Che Guevara, John F. Kennedy, and Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata

Shane started playing rugby at our high school when they formed the Powell High Rugby Club, and he loved it from day one. It was the perfect way for him to get lots of exercise, let out any aggression, and have a great time. Rugby can be dangerous and violent (imagine tackling people without any padding or helmets), but the players always strive for the highest level of sportsmanship. In fact, many teams celebrate by going to the pub with their opponents after a match. Shane never seemed to have time to go to a practice in college, and I could tell that he really missed it. Now that he has a little bit of free time, he has finally gotten involved again! 

This season, Shane joined the Baltimore Chesapeake RFC (aka the Brumbies). They were the first team south of the Mason-Dixon line, founded in 1960. They are a Men's Division I team and compete in the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union, or MARFU.

If you're new to rugby, you should know that watching a game match can be very confusing.  Their cleats are called 'boots,' the field is called a 'pitch,' and lots of odd-looking things go on during a match. Keep in mind that my knowledge of the rules is very limited (I told you it's confusing), but I will try my best to explain it, with a little help from Google of course. 

Regulation matches have two 40 minute halves with a 10 minute halftime. Unlike football, they don't "stop the clock" in between plays. There are also no time outs. The only time the clock stops is if someone is seriously injured and needs to be helped off the pitch. Each team has 15 players on the field, and each position has a name. Also, players don't choose their numbers at random. The number on their jersey (usually) correlates to what position they are playing. 

Here are some examples of things that happen during a match, again in no particular order that makes any sense: 

This is called a line out, and it's what happens after the ball goes out of bounds. 

 Wanna see that closer up? Yeah, they have to lift a guy in the air by his shorts/legs. Doesn't that look fun?

One of the fundamentals of the game is that the ball must always be passed backwards/sideways, never forward, as demonstrated here by the Old Boys team (35 yrs old and up)
Fun fact: the guy who is about to receive the pass is Shane's coach.

Sometimes the ball goes forward, whether it's because a player gets tackled or just drops it during a pass. That is called 'knocking-on.' To remedy this situation, a scrum occurs. 
In this picture, Shane is performing the role of loose head prop, which is position #1.
Both teams get into formation and bind together. The other team (the one who didn't drop the ball) throws the ball into the middle of the scrum in between the two front lines. The front line is made up of three people, a loose head prop, a hooker, and a tight head prop. The two props bind push against the other team's props, and the hookers try to kick the rugby ball behind them and out their side of the scrum.

Loose head prop is what position Shane played in high school and the one he has the most experience with. However, that particular day, several team members had gone to New Zealand and the team was a bit short on players, so he had to fill in for tight head prop at one point, and he also played on the second row a little bit. 
Shane is the one with the black socks in the very middle of the picture. 

 He doesn't particularly like second row, mainly because it's a dangerous place to be. If you're in the middle, your head goes in between the prop and the hooker's butts. Common injuries include cauliflower ear, and worse, getting your ear ripped right off. In fact, one of Shane's high school teammates got his ripped halfway off just during practice. Some players wear a scrum cap or wrap tape around their heads to prevent this.

Hey look! Shane has the ball! 

 Their attempt at tackling him.

 And he's down.
This is a ruck. It is used to gain possession of the ball, like after someone has been tackled and the ball goes to the ground. It's kinda like an informal scrum.

And what about tackling? There is definitely a method to the madness. The player tries to lead with their shoulders, aiming for the midsection of the person carrying the ball. Aim too high and they could get a penalty, too low and they might end up getting hurt. Next, they wrap their arms around them, squeeze, and try to bring them to the ground.
This is Shane's friend Sam (the one tackling). Can you believe that was his very first rugby match ever?

I don't have a good picture of it, but when they score, it's called a 'try.' The person carrying the ball has to take it into the try zone and then touch it to the ground. Each try is worth 5 points. After a try, there is a conversion kick for an additional 2 points. You can also kick for a goal at any time for 3 points.

You got all that?

And no, those aren't all of the rules. Just the ones that I know about.

Coming up this Saturday, October 8th, is the Brumbies' game for breast cancer awareness against Raleigh. Check out the website for more information, and then I will have some pictures up after the game of the guys decked out in pink!