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Monday, 30 July 2012

The Power of Halves

One of my golfing companions (let's call him Dennis) had a set of goals this year that he called "The fourth power of halves". (Anybody that uses mathematical terms like "power" in normal everyday conversation is bound to be an engineer, and Dennis is no exception.)

The goals were:
  • To play half as much as Martin
  • To play half as well as Paul
  • To be half as competitive as John
  • To be half as negative as Rick

Let's look at each of these in turn.

Your humble author is the subject of Dennis's first goal. With another month and a half left in the year, I've played 210 nine-hole rounds. (Lots of times I play 18 holes, but then that would go on my list as two nine-hole rounds.) For some reason, Dennis seems to think either that a) he doesn't want to play as much golf as I do, or b) he aspires to increase his playing time significantly, and half as much as me is all that he can conceive of. Either that or he's secretly making fun of me for spending too much time on the golf course... Hmmm... I may be on to something...

"Paul" next. Paul is not actually a bogey golfer, which makes him a bit of an anomaly in our group. Paul actually has sub-par rounds every now and then. Dennis's goals here are a bit clearer. He wants to become a better golfer, but Paul is so far ahead of the rest of us, that to try to be actually as good as Paul is unrealistic. Hence the goal to be half as good. What does "half as good" mean? Good question. Half as many pars, maybe?

Now for John: John likes to have a game going on, at all times. The stakes don't have to be high -- dimes and quarters are just as good as dollars or fives (not that I've personally ever bet that much). The game can be best individual score, best team score, best ball with teams, rotating teams, the three little pigs, bingo-bango-bongo - it doesn't matter, as long as there's a game on. Even when John's not playing with us, we're usually trying to figure out how much we would owe him if he was. What's half as competitive? Maybe winning half the time -- even if that doesn't capture the true spirit of being half as competitive, I'll bet it would make Dennis happy.

And finally Rick: Rick is a believer in that old saying, "Always expect the worst and you won't be disappointed." If he hits a ball into the rough, he'll grouse, "Probably rolled in the water." If he hits it in the sand, he'll predict, "I'll bet it's in a footprint." If he hits it down the middle, he'll predict "It's probably in a pile of goose poop." Pretty soon we're all chiming in, "At the bottom of the cliff...", "... with a rattlesnake coiled around it", "... right where lightning is about to strike!" Half as negative? Maybe not predicting a triple bogey on every hole...

So how's Dennis doing?
  • He's right on track for half as many rounds
  • He's nowhere near half as good as Paul (although he is improving)
  • He's nowhere near half as competitive as John (and he's still losing bets)
  • He's struggling in the negativity department too, despite the fact that Rick once said "I like it!" after hitting a good drive last week.
Well, as Robert Browning famously said: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

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