Where Cue Balls are Flat

It has been a while since my last entry. What has happened in the interim? Well, scientifically, quite a bit, and you can catch some highlights on the JOIDES Resolution facebook page.

As for the day-to-day business of living, I have to report that my goal of taking a picture of every sunrise has failed. Not so much in that I missed one, but in that the novelty of stunning open ocean sunrises has (predictably) diminished. And there was rain once. The core lab was briefly invaded by a shark (sadly not in a tornado), but he was easily defeated.shark

In lew of fending off fearsome fish, sunrise anticipation and photographic organization thereafter….and science…what else is there to pass the time? The JOIDES Resolution houses 113 residents: 50 Scientists and IODP Technical staff plus 48 personal responsible for operations and drilling and a catering crew of 15. It is these last 15 that have introduced one of their favorite pastimes: pocket pool.

Pool…on a ship? How does that work? A very good (if obvious) question. The crew has devised a one-of-a-kind ingenious ‘pool’ table. I can only describe “pocket pool” as a mixture of pool + air hockey + pinball. Every cruise this particular crew sails on has a pocket pool tournament…which I entered.

I am very glad I had a quick practice before my match.

It looks like pool. The rules are essential those of normal pool. A pool cue is used. That is, however, where the similarities end. The “balls” are smallish air-hockey style disks that grip the wooden (and admirably flat) table. The cue ball is a hockey-puck sized disk.

First and foremost pocket pool is fast. Too much weight on the shot and the pinball phenomenom fully takes over. Second, the pockets (only corners – no side pockets) are unforgiving. Perfect angles are required.pool

I played my best of 3 games in the first round of the tournament. I lost 2-0 against Glenn, the lead steward, but I think I conducted myself with some measure of dignity, even making a shot that resulted in surprised murmors of approval from veterans crew players (everyone has a bit of dumb luck). And all this after my 12 hour shift. A decent accomplishment.

A final special mention for my shipmate Claire, a paleomagnetist with whom I have sailed before. She provided a chocolate treat every time I sunk a…disk. However, I certainly was not full after the match so my training must continue. I wonder if she will yield similar treats for my well-honed skills of ‘sit’ and ‘speak’. I have 5 weeks left to convince her.

22 August 2014.

 [Many thanks to Marie Python for permission to use her action photos]

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