Tag Archives: competition

where brains met brawn.



librarians have an olympics, too
brains met brawn in a bookish competition for the ages

think the athletic action is all in rio this year? you’d be wrong—dead wrong. though you might not think so, librarians perform feats of near-olympian prowess every day as they lug books back and forth, tame tortuous piles of information and sustain long hours and complicated reference requests. and as librarian katy kelly writes, they proved it in the university of dayton’s first-ever library olympics last week.

the “olympic” event showcased the prowess of librarians by turning the mental into the physical. it’s an olympics year tradition in many libraries that aims to get people more engaged with their local library. some libraries invite the public into the library to compete in fun, bookish games, but in this case librarians themselves faced off in what may be the ultimate game of reference skill and cataloging competence.


librarians competed in a vigorous game of “journal jenga” (stacking bound periodicals as high as possible and jumping out of the way when they collapsed. then they faced off in a circuit of different events, including balancing bound journals on their heads, running a book cart through a twisty course, and tossing journals toward a target. (all of those thrown journals were slated for recycling in a process librarians call “weeding.”)


brains had a place next to all that brawn, too, as librarians participated in a tricky speed sorting event in which they had to put books in order by their library of congress call number. to top it all off, they ran around campus finding objects that corresponded to different lo  call numbers. the winning team made off with the medal by a single point.
all of these antics sound silly, but librarian m. schlangen, who participated in the event, found deeper meaning in the exercise. “as I raced to put a cart full of books in order by the library of congress call numbers on their spine labels,” she wrote, “the very genius of this system occurred to me: without orderly cataloging of the world’s knowledge, even in this age of search engines and high-speed networks, information could easily be rendered obscure in an ocean of data, accessed by mere chance rather than intention.”


there’s another purpose for the games: as the university of dayton’s m. scheffler and a. black note, these olympics-like competitions don’t just test librarians’ knowledge, but highlight areas in which they might need more training. and the best librarians know that, like the most competitive athletes in the world, it never hurts to brush up on the basics.

credits: smithsonianmag.com, erin blakemore, katy kelly


“i’m the king of the gourd!”



last weekend, the residents of tualatin, oregon held its annual west coast giant pumpkin regatta—a quirky annual october event in which participants dress in costumes, hollow giant gourds into makeshift vessels, and paddle them across a local lake.

the oversized squash are generously provided by the pacific giant vegetable growers, a regional group of gardeners who promote the cultivation of “obscenely large, healthy vegetables.” (this year, one of their offerings tipped the scale at 1,794.5 pounds.)

after the pumpkins are measured in a “terminator weigh off,” they’re cut open, scooped out, and transformed into tiny watercrafts.

contestants climb into them, take to the water, and engage in a series of races—that is, if their boats don’t start leaking, which happened to at least one contestant.

twenty-one individuals attempted the 2015 regatta—a physical feat that, despite its whimsical nature, one frustrated rower described to as “brutal” and “exhausting.” now in its 12th incarnation, the regatta drew thousands of onlookers, who enjoyed pie-eating contests, costume competitions, and live entertainment while they weren’t watching others flail around in the water.

“i would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself,

than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

― henry david thoreau

credits: mental floss magazine, oregon live
















Sometimes, a winner is a dreamer who never gave up. – Unknown



while much of the globe is preoccupied with the world cup from june 12-july 13,

here is an alternative championship that could give fifa a run for its money.

the world toe-wrestling championships.


in 1976, when pubgoers in derbyshire, england grew bored with arm wrestling,

they began locking big toes and trying to pin their opponent’s foot to the ground.

rules state that competitors must yell out ‘toe much!’ if they want to throw in the towel.

competition is serious.

world champion, alan ‘nasty’ nash

has come home with broken toes nine times!

just play. have fun. enjoy the game.

michael jordan

credits: cameracrewgermany.com, bbc news, mental floss magazine


the hens hit it out of the house!


as some of you know, new york blogger/friend/sports/movie/life stories writer, mark (http://markbialczak.com) and i are engaged in a major friendly minor league baseball battle. his beloved syracuse chiefs have played my toledo mud hens for 4 games in his town, (with mixed results and home field advantage). and luckily they’ve made their way back and hens have come home to roost for a 4-game home stand.  see the results of yesterday’s game one below! the hens and chiefs will take to the field again this morning and we shall see who indeed rules the farm in the end)






laying it all out on the table



 on one of my thrice-weekly visits to the library, while milling around the film area, (one of my favorite things to do), i turned, and what should pop out, but the spine of a film sitting quietly on a shelf of random dvd’s, calling out to me with a movie title i simply could not resist – “Ping-Pong!’

my friend’s reaction was, ‘really? you’re kidding, right?’ au contraire, mon ami! i could not believe my good luck! i had absolutely no idea what this would be, but knew i had hit the jackpot and had to check it out and watch it right away, before anyone else discovered this gem, lest i be relegated to the wait list, anxiously awaiting my chance to see it. (turns out i was the only one who was quite this excited about it, so no real worries there)

weighing in at an easy 70 minutes long, ’ping pong’ is a 2012 british documentary, about the greatest event in the sport officially known as ‘table tennis.’ in this film, the director and crew follow eight players from 5 countries, (with 703 years between them), as they prepare and compete in the ‘over 80s world championships of table tennis’, in outer mongolia.

these athletes and their stories are extraordinary, each one over 80, each a happy eccentric, survivors of various life events, a tenacious bunch, who refuse to give up on life, and each with their own motivation for this visit to china, the birthplace of table tennis.

a brief snapshot of them:

les (89) – a living legend, was a sickly child who survived to become a weight lifter who still lifts, a former raf flyer, and the 7-time world champion. wears short shorts, and loves watching hours of old film of table tennis matches.

terry (81) – the reigning world champion, survived a collapsed lung, heart problems, prostate, bone, and kidney cancers. he has just found out that his cancer has returned and has been given one week to live. says, ‘it’s mind over body.’

dorothy (100), the oldest competitor ever, still drives, a mega celebrity in her own right, has been to the world championships 11 times, and has been given advice for this trip by her doctor ‘not to have unprotected sex and no iv drug use’. sent off by her whole australian town. says, ‘i feel like a pop star and i will give it everything i’ve got.’

rune (85), has 27 medals, and is a 3-time silver medalist. she is training by running every day and says, ‘i must go, this is my last chance to get the gold.’

sun (80), the inner mogolian current champion, once retired, he didn’t want to sit home all day, so he took up the sport. indulges in a combination of old ginseng roots, herbs, vitamins, rice wine, beer, and cigarettes to keep himself feeling alive, and smiles a lot. says,‘i’ve been looking forward to this competition for years’

lisa (85), a newcomer at the sport, survived wwII as an austrian in the french underground, married to a pistol champion many years her junior, has a medal room with 30 silver and 120 gold medals, and is determined to become the world champion. says, ‘my style is as irregular as my driving’, ’it’s not how hard you hit it, it’s where you put it,’ and ‘if i die at the table, it’s what i want.’

inge (89), used table tennis to train her way out of the dementia ward she committed herself to, survived a series of small strokes after becoming a widow, doing it to ‘retrain her brain,’ could not even pick up a ball at first, says,’now i can forget my sickness.’

ursula (89), the reigning women’s champion, going there to defend her title, has heart problems and can only walk 14 steps at a time, she has a press agent and reads her own headlines and clippings, says,‘young people are shitting themselves, i beat everyone.’

as they all assemble and finally arrive in china, their british guide gives them a bit of practical advice that will cover most any situation,’if people bother you, just tell them to ‘bugger off’ and i’ll try to find the chinese word for that.’

this is the real thing. they are at the 15th world table tennis championships. with 51 countries represented, in 5 stadiums, and over 2,000 competitors, they are here in mongolia, in spirit, in body, and in mind. there is an opening ceremony, and flags, and families, and coaches, and judges, and autographs, and fans, and followers, and bruises, and inhalers, and muscle pulls.

they work their way through the preliminary rounds, the eliminations, the knockouts, the semis, and at last, the match points of the finals. there is sabotage, (stolen ‘bats’), drama, medical issues, and even trash-talking, (‘I don’t care how good she is, she can’t move!’, ‘ your mother gave you the wrong milk, that’s why you are fat!’, and, ‘i can get this old girl!.’)

they each give it their all with various levels of success. win or lose, what they have in common, is their sense of fair play and a shared philosophy about it all -‘i’ve played for many years, so i’ve learned how to win and how to lose. tomorrow is another day.’ – ‘losing is an honor. i’m glad i came. i learned from them all.’

6 months later:  you’ll have to watch to see what’s happened. someone says, ‘i will play again, if i am still alive.’ 

this incredible movie, about a group of extraordinary people, who consider themselves ordinary, shows the unbreakable strength of the human spirit and the power of living a life true to oneself.

Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway. – Webb Chiles 

 image credit: banyak films