Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dumb and dumber

So now you can't touch your stuff for the last hour of your flight.

Why? Because once someone tried to do something bad on a plane in the last hour of its flight. (Now, I'll bet that's happened before and it's simply slipped the TSA's minds. Then again, a lot of things have slipped their minds.)

Now, is this going to stop a terrorist? No, because most terrorists can tell time, just like about one-tenth of airline employees responsible for working out scheduling. They'll simply start their stuff 90 minutes before their flights land.

What it's going to stop is people like you and you from flying. (Not you and me. I gave up on the airlines a W ago.)

You'd think that people like Secretary Napolitano would realize this. You'd think they'd realize that instead of consistently staying a step behind most terrorists (notice that the last couple of guys trying this stuff were stopped in the act anyway?), they'd see that they need to be a step ahead.

But no. You can't bring liquids on a plane because someone might have had liquid explosive once. You have to show your shoes because someone had explosive shoes once. Now you can't get up because a terrorist got up once. (I can't wait for the lawsuit that'll follow someone with medical concerns being unable to get to the bathroom in the last hour of a flight.)

All this security theater doesn't prevent people from bringing explosives on a plane. Would it really be that hard to make the security at airports more reasonable (by hiring more competent people to work the lines, for one thing)? Would it really be that hard to put security people on planes to stop this stuff, because we're already relying on passengers to do this?

Look. The security theater isn't working. This latest jackass brought explosives onto the plane. And the entire show depends on catching people before they get on the plane.

I hate to say this, but Obama is failing in this area as badly as W did. The TSA isn't the answer. "Tighter" security isn't the answer. Better, smarter security is.

Then again, in a couple of years, it probably won't need to be better or smarter. There will be few enough passengers that the TSA can probably question each one in detail.

Update: Great minds think alike.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

XBLA review: Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers (1/10)

I was going to rant about how stupid this is and link to my earlier review when I realized I didn't post one yet.

So, in short:

a) This is not the ultra-cool version for the PC. This is an incredibly retarded version.
b) It's done so badly that there are threads about how to get around the broken control system. You can't even tap your own lands for mana.

Don't bother. This is a waste of money. You're better off finding the PC version, digging around to get the patches for it, and playing that. The PC version is 100 times better than this.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Microsoft + Verizon: tons of money, massive stupidity

So this Bing, I suppose someone out there is using it. (I saw one of the commercials once. Apparently Bing is for people who don't want to find too much online.) And it's Microsoft, the company that has been fined millions and millions on multiple continents and still doesn't learn.

Anyway, Consumerist says that the Register and the New York Times reported that searching via an app (do people really do that?) can now be done with either Bing or ... Bing.

Verizon gets $500 million. You get the least useful application on the internet.

Merry Christmas, everyone, from Ivan Seidenberg to you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Scrooge's links

Jump to conclusions.
Yes, that's right, before too long only Grandpa will be talking about old-school controllers. Project Natal will be the death of the control pad. In fact, I think it just happened.

Please. How many games on the Wii suck because they aren't suited to motion controllers? How many times do you catch yourself playing something on the 360 or the PS3 and thinking man, this would be so much easier if I could just wiggle or point?

Look, people still play PC games with keyboards, okay? Fifteen years ago, they were selling game peripherals for PCs like they were going to take over console gaming. Yes, you can still buy them. No, they aren't always necessary. They still make games that are playable entirely with the keyboard, and other games that work best with keyboard and mouse. Why? Because that's what the game requires. Want to play WoW with motion controllers? Hahahahahahaha.

Health care reform passes the Senate.
Despite the efforts of certain wealthy Republicans who already have excellent health insurance through Congress. Sure, let's let health care costs spiral out of control, watch normal people choose between bankruptcy and painful death, see people turn away from careers in health care because of the challenges they face fighting the current system, because we don't want to spend money to fix the problem. (How much did we spend trying to seize oil fields in Iraq? Oh, right, that wasn't part of the budget.)

Fortunately, the wealthy Democrats in Congress (plus a socialist and a grandstanding jerk) won a small victory, but I think it's fair to wait to celebrate. First, it's not even a bill yet, and second, even if it were and if Obama signed it today, those provisions wouldn't take effect overnight.

Still, it's a huge step.

Old media still doesn't get it.
They never have. Even new media outlets don't get it ... ever read ESPN The Magazine? (Even by its title, you should know it's dumb.) It's just print versions of online articles, sent to you whether you want it or not. Why? Who knows? Probably because some executive decided they needed to challenge SI.

Why bother with it? Look, news today is the same as 100 years ago: facts and opinions. The problem for old media is that now, everyone with an ... um ... opinion can share it in the same space they use, and plenty of places are sharing facts for free. If you aren't adding value, you're not going to make money, and if you're trying to make money, you're living on borrowed time.

You want me to pay for a magazine I can only read on the iPod/iPhone? What? It's a terrible reading device in the first place (small, small, and small), and now you want me to pay to read your crap? No way. I'm not even sure I want to pay to read books on a Kindle (although I do like the idea of owning a lot of books that don't take up space).

I get SI for the same reason I always have, because my grandmother extends my subscription for Christmas. It's all right, I guess, but most of its news is 3-7 days old, and most of the opinions are already available online; not only that, but some of the opinions are less informed than blogs I read. (ESPN? Don't get me started.)

Of course when old media thinks change, it thinks TALK RADIO change. (Case in point: the crusade by the Free Press to demonize Rich Rodriguez. Does it attract readers? I guess. Does it poison others against them? You bet it does, and there are all kinds of places to get Detroit sports news that have nothing to do with the Free Press.) That's not going to work. Hell, eventually ESPN will realize that Around the Horn is the worst show in sports history.

I'm rambling, but at least I'm having fun. Merry holiday season.

and get off my lawn!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sports links

Missouri is definitely not uninterested in the Big 10.
Well, to be more precise, they're tired of being screwed in the Big Texas Conference. (Profit-sharing in the Big 12 is 50% to everyone and 50% based on TV appearances, which means Texas gets more money and likes it that way. The Big 10 splits everything evenly.) Texas, naturally, doesn't want anything to change, and with a supermajority required to make changes (9 of 12 schools), Missouri and similar schools must sit by and watch as the Big 10 and SEC steam ahead. (Nice interview with Missouri's AD in this link: he is asked several direct questions and does not flat-out deny anything.)

Mark Shapiro is one of the dumbest men in television sports history.
No, not the Cleveland Indians GM. The guy that ESPN hired in the early 2000s, the one who decided to turn the network into MTV Sports. He failed miserably, leaving in 2005 to pal around with Dan Snyder. (The jokes write themselves sometimes.) 10 of the 11 shows on this list are ESPN-family shows (11 because the two "reality" shows on ESPN are combined), and Shapiro was involved in all but one. This was the problem with Disney's involvement: more people who have no clue about sports. (See Ducks, Anaheim.)

Fortunately most of the damage has been repaired, although for some reason Around the Horn is still on the air. If you can explain to me how this survived and Stump the Schwab didn't ...

By the way, the one show that wasn't a Shapiro failure? McEnroe, on CNBC. One week, the only show it beat was "How to Boil Water". No, really. (At least that's what the link says.)

Even gamers know that playoffs are better.
And not just because we remember the version of Bill Walsh College Football that let you choose between bowls and playoffs. (As soon as the NCAA name appeared, the playoffs disappeared.) Anyway, Kotaku gives you its take on a playoff for the 2009 season. Hint: Alabama doesn't win.

5th isn't bad.
Purdue's holding steady at 4th in the polls and 5th in Sagarin's ratings after knocking off Ball State on Saturday. SIU-Edwardsville and Iowa are next; the Boilers should be 12-0 when they host undefeated West Virginia in the Game of the Year a week from Friday. (That's a joke, sort of: a week from Friday is New Year's Day, so at that point, yeah, it'll be the game of the year.)

When is a win not necessarily a win?
Wow. So I guess they can't even correct it properly ... sorry, there weren't actually 1.8 seconds left when you scored. You should be watching the clock at all times because the clock may be wrong.

Oops, sorry. Background: Butler ball, down by 1, shot clock off. Xavier knocks the ball free, goes into backcourt, Butler recovers as clock stops briefly and restarts. Bulldogs lose ball twice, recover, put up a shot, score with 1.2 seconds left. Officials review sequence interminably (15-20 minutes, never mind that 10-15 they claim in the article) and decide that because of the stoppage, there would actually be no time left, so game over, Xavier loses.

Of course, the fair things to do would be a) give Xavier the ball with 1.2 seconds left because that's what the clock said or b) give Butler the ball in the backcourt with 14.7 seconds left and play from there. Wiping out time because the clock was run improperly is crap; in fact, at least in the NBA, you can go back to a point in time and replay if the clock is not run properly, at least if it's the shot clock. (1988 NBA Finals, Game 6, I think. John Salley has a breakaway dunk called back because a Lakers shot was ruled not to have touched the rim; the shot clock should not have reset, so the steal did not count. Lakers get the ball with 3 seconds left on the shot clock, I think, score, win the game, win the series. But don't worry, the NBA isn't fixed.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm far from a Xavier fan, but this is just wrong, and given that the NCAA director of officials is quoted in the article as saying there's nothing else they can do, then it needs to be addressed in the offseason.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A collection of links and minor thoughts

xkcd: Dreaming about school.
no kidding. Except these are my most common semi-lucid dreams. It's much easier to realize you're dreaming when a) you haven't been in a classroom in nearly 20 years and b) class wasn't that big of a deal when you were there in the first place. (I also dream about working in the cafeteria.)

Coding Horror: Even serious developers forget to back up their important stuff.
When Jeff Atwood fails, people listen. (It's okay if none of you know who he is. Just back up your stuff. Now.)

law: The FTC is after Intel again.
Intel doesn't learn ... or doesn't care to. Probably the latter. For the record, this is how the "free market" tends to solve things.

Yes, it's been a slow week at work. Not my fault. I have only one project with this client. If I were full-time, I'd be doing more with them.

stuff: Why most of what you see in movies is crap.
Of course you knew that already. Yeah, I'm the guy who points out stuff during movies like "um, things don't explode in space".

more stuff: Rocket Science.
No, really. What things ought to do, rather than going boom. I spent a lot of time here. Warning: interest in accurate sci-fi and/or knowledge of physics required.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

NCAA 10: Season 1 summary

Well, we started off giving up 22 points to a I-AA school (of course they're all generic in NCAA 10, so let's say it's Nicholls State, for no reason other than that I keep assuming they're in Texas and realizing they're in Louisiana) which wasn't a good omen. Next came thrashings by Kansas State and LSU ... at that point I was wondering whether or not we'd be able to compete in I-A at all, never mind the Sun Belt.

But we went into Lincoln and stunned Nebraska (apparently without their All-American DT - yes, the same guy in New York right now hopefully awaiting the Heisman), and suddenly things didn't look so bad.

Conference play next: lost our opener to North Texas, ran off five straight wins, and suddenly we're bowl-eligible. (Funny, I thought it was six wins because I-AA wins counted. I guess I know more than EA.) Sadly, that was the end of the line. Lost to Louisiana-Monroe, lost to Troy, finished fourth in the conference and were left out of the bowl picture. (One of the Florida schools won, FIU or Florida Atlantic. Naturally, we'd beaten both of them. ULM and Troy were 7th and 9th, respectively.)

Turned down an offer to join Conference USA (replacing UAB). No thanks, I'm in this for the achievement. (Not that I'll be able to win the SEC, but I guess you never know until you try.)

Signed a couple of three-star recruits during the season, then landed a four-star and a couple more three-star guys in the offseason. Added a pipeline state, too (but of course I can't figure out what it is because EA sucks). UPDATE: it's Georgia. You can't find out until the season starts. So now my pipeline includes Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida. You might think it's odd that Mississippi and Alabama aren't included, but it's a numbers game: the most populous states around me. With Texas and Florida, I probably don't need to try to get California or New York.

It's hard to recruit when everything other than location is C+ or worse, but easy when you know basically anyone two-star or better can come right in and play. I did redshirt a lot of players, including three wide receivers: we're already six deep at the position and have an 85 transfer from Florida State who'll play his senior season next year.

Our recruiting class was much better than the rest of the conference, so that's a good sign. There are three teams picked to finish above us, but they're all pretty much the same. We're C- overall (up from D), C on offense, C- on defense, B- on special teams (was D+/D/C-, I think).

I added rival Louisiana Tech to our schedule, which is a C- in strength again. I got one of two goals last year (finish .500 and get a bowl bid). This year it's beat ULM, get a bowl, and beat a 5- or 6-star team. The last one won't happen unless we meet one in a bowl: 4-star Mississippi is the team with the biggest rep on our schedule.

The only tough games should be the ones at Mississippi and Minnesota; we should be able to play with anyone on the schedule, but then again that should have been true in-conference last year and we went 5-3. We'll see.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


If you were responsible for a U.S. post office branch, and if you wanted to run a daily maintenance process on the self-service postage machines, would you run it

a) on each machine separately, or
b) on both machines at the same time?

Would you run these processes

a) late, late at night, say between 1:30 and 3:30 AM, or
b) in late evening, say around 10:30 PM?

If you guessed b) for both questions, you'd better be guessing, because if you're the incompetent fool who actually made these decisions, you're an idiot.

Because what's less effective than a "24-hour" self-service kiosk that is down for "daily maintenance" at the same time as the other one in the branch?

Besides Congress, that is.

Weigh-in: Week 36 through Week 40, +0.6 pounds

So I fell behind a little bit, as I tend to do on long-term projects, and rather than making up five weeks of paragraphs, here we are:

Week 36: +1.2 pounds
Week 37: +2.2 pounds
Week 38: -1.4 pounds (actually this was on Thursday, I forgot to weigh myself Wednesday)
Week 39: +0.2 pounds
Week 40: -1.6 pounds

Basically, in early November I fell into a trap of eating potato chips and stuff like that with lunch. Caught that, turned it around, and then later in the month as work slowed down, my weight began to stabilize. It was neutral the first week in December and has been dropping since then; as you can see, yesterday's weight was almost where I was back in late October.

With the slowdown in contract work, I may not be ready to purchase my reward if I do earn it; then again, I'm also eating more carefully in part because I'm at home, so there are good parts and bad parts to it.

I feel like I'm focused again, so we'll see how the next couple of weeks go.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I don't think that word means what you think it means

NCAA 10. New dynasty with Louisiana-Lafayette, aiming to take them to the SEC and win in the first year (for an achievement). This year they're terrible.

Playing Kansas State, K-State is up 30-0 in the third quarter ... and throwing. A lot. Naturally if I had the lead like that, I'd be penalized "sportsmanship points" every pass, but of course it's different for the computer. (There are also points for kicking on 4th down, also a joke: the computer goes for it all the time, which I support in principle, but it makes the standards they hold you to ridiculous.)

I'm down 37-0 now and have a 4th and 17. We can't hit any long passes, so I kick a field goal ... and get 10 points for sportsmanship for kicking on 4th down.

EA meant well, but as usual, made a hash of it. Did they set up kick return formations or allow you to tell whether or not your opponent is trying an onside kick? Oh no, they don't fix problems, they just add "features".

Of course, that's going to change as they put out fewer games with more quality. I'll believe that two years after I've seen it.


No, not the NFL kind. There's time enough for that ... what I mean are nonexistent playoffs, the I-A kind that we would have if idiots weren't running the show.

How it wouldn't work

Any form of four-team system: plus-one, whatever. First, that's not a playoff. That's old boys disappearing into the back room and declaring a champion. Second, really? Interest in the non-champion BCS bowls has been steadily dropping because people realize what they are now: consolation prizes. Besides, there are six BCS conferences. Tell me how that's going to work. Uh-huh, that's what I thought.

An eight-team playoff. Case in point: 2009. Six BCS conference champions – that's a given, as mentioned above. So that leaves two spots, and which team are you going to exclude?

a) Unbeaten TCU;
b) Unbeaten Boise State;
c) One-loss Florida. (Bonus: they're the only one-loss team in I-A football. Look it up.)

Exactly. Two at-large berths aren't nearly enough. Yes, I know, not every season will see five unbeaten teams heading into the bowls, but every season's going to have a number of qualified candidates from outside the power six, and remember, the old BCS was expanded under threat of legal action. They can't very well shrink the field back down now.

How it would work

Sixteen teams. First-round games at campus sites, quarterfinals at three permanent sites, say Tampa, Jacksonville, and San Antonio, with the fourth spot to one of the existing BCS bowls in rotation, then semis and final at the other three bowls in rotation.

I picked Tampa (Outback), Jacksonville (Gator), and San Antonio (Alamo) for a combination of longevity and geography. Ideally, you'd have a western site, a southwest site, a southern site, and a southeast site, but I don't know that there are enough bowls for that.

Anyway, the teams: 11 conference champions and 5 at-large teams. Oh yes, all 11. It's an NCAA championship, so that's how it works, and anyway if you think you're excluding any of the other conferences, you would be wrong.

What it would look like

Version 1: how the computers might see it
(16) Troy at (1) Alabama
(15) East Carolina at (2) Florida*
(14) Central Michigan at (3) Texas
(13) Penn State* at (4) TCU
(12) USC* at (5) Cincinnati
(11) Pittsburgh* at (6) Oregon
(10) Georgia Tech at (7) Boise State
(9) Ohio State at (8) Virginia Tech*

At-large teams marked like so*. Assumptions: no more than one at-large bid from a conference, and teams from the same conference may not meet in the first round. To avoid this, teams may be moved a spot from their original seeds. (In fact, at first I had a Pitt-UC rematch, a USC-Oregon rematch, and a GT-VT rematch originally.)

Troy-Alabama? Coincidence, plus the Sun Belt sucks. Florida as #2? That's how the computers see it, and we're thinking an RPI-style system, not the crap that currently puts human guesses above carefully-research systems.

I just don't think you can justify three teams from one conference when there are five at-large bids for everyone. With a 24-team playoff like I-AA has, I think you could allow four; with a limit of three, you might drop pretty far down to pick up other teams. LSU is 10th in both Sagarin and Massey and Arkansas averages 14th. Miami is 11th in both and Clemson averages 19th. If you draw the line at 4, that shuts out Mississippi ... but I think you kind of have to, no one wants to see a second-division power-conference team in the playoff. (Hear that, NCAA men's selection committee?)

Version 2: how the BCS might see it
?? at (1) Alabama
?? at (2) Texas
?? at (3) Cincinnati
(13) West Virginia* at (4) TCU
(12) BYU* at (5) Florida*
(11) Virginia Tech* at (6) Boise State
(10) Iowa* at (7) Oregon
(9) Georgia Tech at (8) Ohio State

Same notes for at-large teams, multi-bid conferences, and first-round meetings. So the first problem is that the BCS stops listing teams at 25, so we have no idea where Central Michigan, East Carolina, and Troy would fall. (A cynic would list them in order by wins because he'd say the BCS would understand anything more.)

No teams needed to be shifted. Iowa gets the Big Ten's second spot instead of Penn State (margin of victory being important in a real ranking system, but in the neutered version, PSU gets virtually nothing for whipping bad northeastern teams). West Virginia sneaks in ahead of Pitt (which has to hurt considering the Big East "championship" – makes you wonder if people even watched that game, but I think we all know the voters don't actually watch games).

BYU slips in ahead of USC, and to be honest I'm fine with that. In fact, in an RPI system, I doubt USC would get in, because they were tied for what, fifth in the Pac-10? They finished their season terribly. Maybe the conference was tough as a whole, but cry me a river. If you're taking a team from the Pac-10, it's Oregon State, right?

Of course in an actual BCS-based playoff, BYU wouldn't have a chance in hell (pardon the phrase), because they're not in a BCS conference, and the power conferences would always get the at-large bids.

Anyway, you see where this is going. TCU-Boise State is a nice matchup, as is Alabama-Texas and Florida-Cincinnati, but that will still leave at least two unbeaten teams, and if you think that doesn't matter, well, you were probably happy with the poll-determined champions.

The BCS is a limited system put in place by greedy fools who had no clue and updated by fools who still have no clue. It will be replaced by greedy people who have a clue. (Make no mistake, a playoff will be introduced for money, not because it's a fair way to determine a champion or because every single sport at every level of NCAA competition has a tournament except I-A football.)

Looking forward to that Troy-Alabama matchup? Too bad. Waiting to see if Cincinnati could make it to the semis or if the TCU-Alabama winner would trip them up? Keep waiting.

In the meantime, we'll have the Orange Bowl. Iowa-Georgia Tech. Mmm-kay.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Totally not screwed

The World Cup draw was held today. Normally, in these things, the USA is screwed, mostly because FIFA is really only concerned with distributing competition in geographic terms. (This is probably because of the heavy concentration of talent in Europe. Think of it as soccer's equivalent of the BCS: the current system strongly benefits Europe, and Europe has significant influence in FIFA, so it's not likely to change any time soon.)

What happens is that if you aren't the host country or a top team, you're grouped essentially by region, so you can't play anyone else in your region. Unfortunately, we end up grouped with other CONCACAF countries and usually the weaker Asian teams, so instead of being able to draw them, we draw a couple of European teams. In theory, this wouldn't matter for a top side: obviously to win the World Cup you have to beat a number of quality teams. In practice, we're not that good yet, so we could use a balanced draw rather than a geographic draw.

Well, this is what we got:
Pot 1) England. Well, it wasn't Brazil or Spain. Of course, given how we played Brazil and Spain in the Confederations Cup, maybe those would have been better draws. South Africa would have been the dream draw here. Instead, we get a difficult opponent.
Pot 2) USA. This is just to show where we came into play.
Pot 3) Algeria. Jackpot. Arguably the weakest team in Pot 3. They've not played in the World Cup in 24 years and were not a particularly strong qualifier from Africa. They do have some home-continent advantage, but I don't think it will be enough to threaten.
Pot 4) Slovenia. Another great draw, considering that France and Portugal were in this pot. Slovakia would have been a better draw, but Slovenia and Algeria should be enough to guarantee advancement for the US.

Will the US be strong and healthy enough to advance beyond the round of 16? There's no way to tell right now, but it should certainly be a consideration. This is a team that was a match from early elimination in South Africa this year, yet found itself at halftime of the championship match ahead 2-0 against Brazil.

On the flip side, we're strong enough that the Confederations Cup should be a disappointment rather than an accomplishment. In past World Cups, struggling with a draw like this would be unfortunate. Now, it would be a disaster.

The minimum expectation should be six points and a second-place finish. A reasonable expectation would be seven points and a tiebreaker for group finish (drawing with England, goal differential deciding the group winner). Winning the group? That would be good ... but not incredible. Incredible would be advancing to the semifinals.

I think we'll make the quarterfinals. In six months, we'll find out.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Virtual me (NCAA 10)

If you don't like reading posts about playing video games, skip ahead to the next post.

In my junior year at Georgia Tech as a MLB, we started off the season 0-2, and to make matters worse, both games were conference games (UNC and Virginia Tech). So after starting the season #3, we were down to #21. Amazingly, we won our next 10 games, finished in a tie for the division with Miami (whom we'd beaten), and got a spot in the ACC title game again. We'd also managed to work our way back to #2/#4 in the polls and #3 in the BCS standings, in part because we played something like 8 top-25 teams. Clemson was actually ahead of us at #3 when we were #4 in the BCS, but they lost to South Carolina ... I figured even if they didn't, we'd pass them anyway by winning the ACC while they were idle. Texas was #1 and ND was #2, so it seemed like a safe bet for us.

Well, Alabama beat Florida, who was ranked higher than BC (our opponent in the ACC Championship), and they vaulted over us to #2, dropping Notre Dame to #3 and us to #4. Instead of playing for the title, we're playing #14 Boise State. woo. Not as fun as shutting out overrated Notre Dame last year (oh yes we did), but it'll do.

Just a reminder that the BCS is crap. Sure, we screwed ourselves by losing two games, but you can't tell me that it's a good feeling to win your last game prior to the bowls and end up moving down. In this season, it was really Texas and everyone else; there simply weren't two teams that were clearly better than the rest, and that was the only reason the BCS came into play.

Guess I'll return for my senior season.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Rock Band 2 song difficulties

I admit it, I've been slacking on this. Of course they don't make it easy on you, what with DLC coming out every week and all. Now that there are more than 1000 songs available, well, it's a bit of a challenge.

Anyway, I've created a new Google Doc with most of the songs and Rock Band 2 difficulty levels. (Remember, RB and RB 2 have different systems for difficulty. Also, IMHO the RB 2 difficulties are less accurate. Take that for what it's worth.)

There are a number of songs with no difficulties yet because I entered only the song info, knowing I'd have to come back to them. This is still a work in progress. I'm down to the Rs with just the new Nirvana and Night Ranger songs to go back and fill in.

Finally, there are some songs in the game itself that I haven't marked, and then there are the songs from the first game that you can import. (I deleted some of those, so I may not have ratings for everything.)


Oh, one more thing: a few songs only use three instruments (one song with no drums, three songs with no vocals). For those songs, I removed the averages from any column with the part that is missing, so they'll be at the bottom of the list (because the full band can't play them).

Monday, November 30, 2009

I don't think they get it

The BCS just launched a website that basically says "nuh-uh".

Yeah, this is how they're fighting a playoff system, by walking around through the innernets and shouting "I am SO wearing clothes!"

Sorry, emperor. You'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NHL and joke suspensions, continued

Flyers forward Daniel Briere suspended two games for hitting Colorado's Scott Hannan after Hannan scored on Philadelphia.

Should have been: 15 games: 10 for the hit and 5 for the thug team. Philadelphia has a long, recent history of cheap shots. Until their players are penalized sufficiently, the Flyers will continue to goon the rest of the league.

Canadiens fighter Georges Laraque suspended five games for a knee-to-knee hit that knocked Detroit's Niklas Kronwall out 4-8 weeks.

Should have been: 40 games: 20 for the hit and 20 for the resulting injury. Laraque isn't necessarily a Bryan Marchment – yet – but this certainly doesn't help. Kronwall is known for hard hits, borderline hits, and occasional cheap shots of his own, but that doesn't excuse the hit on him. Idiotic frontier justice is one-third of what has made the NHL a minor league. (The lockout is one third and the NHL's unwillingness to deal with any problems is the other third.)

Once again, until you penalize cheap players for cheap shots to the point that they actually refrain from committing them, this kind of stuff will happen. Wait until Laraque slew-foots Alex Ovechkin or a Flyer cross-checks Sidney Crosby into the boards after a goal.

If some idiot fan tells you the current system works fine, ask him about Ace Bailey. That was more than 75 years ago and the NHL still hasn't learned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No, it wasn't

It really wasn't.

Look, the average person realizes a lot about the game. The problem is that the average person also forgets a lot about the game from time to time. I mean, it doesn't take very long to figure out that it's good to have the ball and bad not to have it ... but then in certain situations, suddenly that no longer applies?

It wouldn't be that bad if it weren't for the fact that most coaches usually make the decision that will assign them the least blame. Why is that? Well, most GMs seem to be like most fans: they may know what's best, but they don't always act that way, especially not when things start to go wrong.

So coaches tend to coach not to lose so that they don't get fired ... unless they are pretty secure, either in their job or in the knowledge that their GM knows what they're doing. I think the latter is increasing – there are more and more instances of coaches going for it in situations where others wouldn't have in the past – but this was definitely a combination of the two.

Belichick, more so than almost any other coach in the NFL, doesn't have to worry about decisions. He isn't going to get fired any time soon. In fact, he can probably write his own contract. So the decision to go for it shouldn't have been surprising.

After all, if you had to choose between your QB with the ball to win, or their QB with the ball to win, who would you take? (Especially with Randy Moss on the field. And Kevin Faulk, the guy whom Tony Dungy referred to as the guy who caused them the biggest headaches in those games, probably because of matchup problems. You know you're going to put two, maybe three guys on Moss the whole game, but who covers Faulk? A linebacker? A safety? A corner?)

Belichick was coaching to win. It didn't work out. But there was a lesson to learn here: the value of timeouts. First and 10 at the IND 47 ... I think the Patriots, along with the Colts and Saints, have the kind of offense that can recover from a first and 15 better than just about anyone else in the league. I think it's better to take a penalty there rather than use a timeout ...

Update: See for yourself. Cold, Hard Football Facts shows some mainstream media responses followed by blog responses to Belichick's decision. Guess which ones are rational and which ones cry out "STOOPID SUX0R!!!!!" No, guess again. (Thanks to mgoblog for directing me there.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

360 review: NCAA Football 10 (3/10)

So the "new" version of NCAA Football is out. I bought it because I'm a fool. As is typical of older EA franchises, there are about three new features in the game, a bunch of small new crap that nobody seems, and hundreds of bugs, most of which have been in the game for years and years.

New features? Well, one interesting one is an online/offline hybrid called Season Showdown. You register with the online site, pick a school, and then each week, you help your school win its matchup with its real-life opponent.

Each team's representatives compete in five categories: offline play against CPU, online play in general, online play against the current opponent, rivals voting, and trivia (a 10-question online trivia game, high score for each player counts toward the team total). One point per category you win, winner of most categories gets the win. For the voting, you can vote for up to five schools per day, including your own if you desire.

During NCAA 10 games, you get points for plays you make yourself (catches, big plays, tackles, etc.), and you get bonus points for underdog wins, classic games, and even strategy (see below) and sportsmanship (punting on 4th down). "Poor" sportsmanship can cost you points, although it's kind of silly in some cases: for example, passing at all with a big lead costs you points. whatever.

Strategy is another new aspect. Now, when you execute certain plays, you're setting up others, similar to how it happens in real life. These plays are indicated in your playbook with a percentage of setup; if you succeed enough with the right plays, you'll get another play completely set up and it will glow. Call that play and you get bonus Season Showdown points. I don't know if it's also easier to run or what. The "instruction" guide suggests that it is more likely to work, but it should be anyway, right?

What else? Well, video clips of Erin Andrews talking about your Road to Glory athlete. Nice, but there's a limited collection of them (obvious because they're actual video and not digitized). And, um, that's it. Well, you get to "look around your room" in RtG mode, which is pretty dumb considering that left-to-right also is supposed to be used for menu navigation, but like with a lot of other things, EA screwed that up.

Bugs/design flaws from last year and before? Where to begin ... how about Road to Glory mode?
  • The coaching AI is terrible: running the option inside your own 5 or on back-to-back plays when it was stopped, calling three- and four-deep zone defenses when down 21 or more late in the fourth, etc. etc.
  • The point system is not only skewed toward defense, but you frequently get points in practice for things you don't do.
  • The depth chart is based solely on overall rating, but preseason all-conference and all-American teams aren't. One season, I was first-string All-American in preseason and wasn't even a starter on my own team.
  • You get rating boosts for good practice sessions, but only until you're a starter. After that, no. Why? Who knows? So you develop faster if you're not a first-team player.
  • Intercepting a pitch in practice gets you no points at all: not for an interception, not for a fumble forced or recovered, not for a tackle, nothing.
  • You only get tackle points if you are the last one in on the tackle, so you can end up with something ridiculous like 7 credited tackles but 13 tackles in the box score. This sucks in practice.
  • Pass deflections don't count toward your career stats, which is kind of awkward if you're a defensive back.
  • The camera angles used are frequently terrible. For example, on any kind of kick play, the camera is a high sideline camera. Good luck figuring out how to block a kick or block on a fake. What's worse is that the camera in live action will spin around as the ball goes past you, which would make sense except that it's a third-person camera and so there's no reason to have it be so disorienting ... especially considering that at times, when the computer pretends to snap the ball, the camera will twist toward the sideline. Basically, this means you'll never catch someone who runs right past you. Sometimes, when you're in pass coverage or in a pattern, you'll actually be off the screen. I wonder if they even let the testers play RtG mode.
  • Your high school isn't referred to properly. If you enter your high school name, that's the only thing they use. This works for about one high school in 50. They should use the whole thing.
  • Of course, this could be avoided if they used real high schools, which, of course, they could. All they have to do is round up high school standings from the year before. Not hard. I mean, WIS has every high school in America in their database. EA could figure out how to get the ones that play football. If they cared.

Next: the game as a whole. Again, these are returning bugs/flaws.
  • Tackling a player so he goes out of bounds gets you nothing. No credit for a tackle, nothing.
  • There's nothing that tracks your best practice efforts, which I suppose is just as well given the flaws with practice.
  • There are no I-AA teams in the game, which means that a whole bunch of teams play these made-up logos: Cobras, Rhinos, etc. What is this, Baseball Stars? Take Erin out and put in real teams.
  • AI players chain moves together like crazy. If you try the same thing, you get tackled every time.
  • AI defensive players jump the snap all the time and are never offside.
  • In certain defensive formations/against certain plays, the AI covers the wrong man, which means that not only do you have to recognize this, you have to figure out who the jerk was supposed to cover and run like hell to get to him before the QB figures it out.
  • Kick and punt return teams only block for the AI, but will happily stand around and watch while you get crushed, fumble, and lose the ball.
  • The play selection screen forces you into Corso Mode on fourth down, which is particularly a problem when you are in hurry-up mode late in the game.
  • Offensive linemen still carry large electromagnets in their arms which activate when the ball is snapped. Even if you're going the other direction, if they get close enough to you, you're locked into position and can't break away. Naturally, this does not apply if you're blocking them.
  • The AI insists on moving you forward at the snap, even if you've taken control of your player by moving him a bit. Combine this with the magnetic lock-on blockers and you have real problems on defense.
  • Pre-snap movement borders on absurdity. It's simply an excuse to move your player out of position before the ball is snapped. Again, this doesn't happen when they're on defense.
  • When you're on defense and the other team is in hurry-up mode, you can't sprint to the line because you are crouching down. Why? Because you're focused on the ball that isn't set yet. Nice.
  • There are barely any penalties in the game, and I mean that two ways: penalties are rarely called and there are very few of them that can be called, which is a good thing, because I doubt they'd be programmed properly.

Okay, now the new bugs.
  • Sometimes Erin and Kirk Herbstreit will talk about you as Player of the Game even when you aren't.
  • One year, the Heisman was awarded to the player who finished second in the balloting. No, that player wasn't from Notre Dame.
  • Postseason practice is messed up: when you finish one session, it doesn't advance to the next day or to the bowl games that day. The only way to do it is to advance to the next practice, and that's not available on Friday, even if your week of practice didn't start Monday.
  • Defensive players have had their speeds boosted because ... because ... I don't know. Because EA sucks.

Overall, the lack of improvement the programmers were allowed to put into this game is shocking. It's not like they don't know about this stuff: there's actually a thread on their forums where you're asked to report bugs. So the only thing I figure is that of the time the team spends on this game (and remember, they've probably been programming for 52 weeks straight across all games: EA is notorious for overworking its programmers), about 20% is allocated toward fixing bugs, and that includes bugs from the new features that are forced into the game. Playtesting? Whatever the testers report is probably thrown out the window by management. I mean, who the hell could possibly sit through some of this stuff and allow it to go out the door, other than a clueless manager?

Screw release dates. Next year, take the time to get it right. Better yet, stop adding crap we don't need (like other "pressure" crap; give me a break, shaking my controller just runs down the batteries, it doesn't replicate the feeling of playing in Michigan Stadium or Neyland Stadium or wherever in front of 100,000 hostile fans) and spend one year just fixing bugs.

If you've never bought or played an NCAA game before, yeah, I guess you can pick this one up. Otherwise, rent it from GameFly or just stay away. Next year's game won't be much different.

zlionsfan's rating: a disappointing three first downs out of ten.

More bugs/design flaws I've uncovered:
If a penalty is called on the defense on an extra point (perhaps only on personal fouls), the point counts and the offense gets the ball again. In this case, it was a 15-yard penalty, so the offense got the ball at the 17. This bug has been around for years, and frankly it's a deal-breaker. When it happens, I restart the game.

Reviews are rarely initiated by the booth (have these people ever seen a real NCAA game?) and always result in a reversal. Granted, the plays they do review generally seem to warrant a reversal, but a) it isn't the "realism" they appear to be shooting for and b) it's always a tipoff that you'll lose the ball. (It seems the majority of the reviews come when you've forced what you think is a turnover.)

Extra points are called "field goals". Incorrect. They are both place kicks ... if you must use a generic name, then the formation is "place kick", but honestly you should be using specific names. After a TD, it's the Extra Point formation. Other than that, it's the Field Goal formation.

Play suggestion on fourth downs is abysmal. It's not uncommon for Corso to suggest a fake punt on 4th and 15 or more inside your own 30 ... even running out of a fake punt formation.

The field announcer sounds almost happy to announce touchdowns for the other team; presumably this is because he's trying to remain neutral, but then that's the exact opposite of what you'd expect. If my announcer called a touchdown for our rival on our home field like that, I'd fire him on the spot.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dear fans of other teams,

Please stop using hyperbole to try to make a point. Please stop exaggerating your teams' weaknesses and minimizing their strengths.

It is painful to listen to someone try to tell me how their defense is bad, or their offense is struggling, or blah blah blah whatever.

Look. You don't know squat. This is what my team did yesterday. It took what should have been a 24-0 or even 28-0 lead and made it 17-0; they failed on third-and-one, then missed a field goal on fourth-and-one, and settled for a field goal on another drive that started in Seattle territory. Of course, they only scored 3 points the rest of the way and lost yet again.

That's 1-24 over their last 25 games ... for reference, 2-24 in their last 26. The '76-77 Buccaneers went 0-26 over their first 26 games, won the next two, and played in the NFC Championship game two years later. The Lions will be lucky to make the playoffs in two years.

The offense is bad. There are about three good players on that side of the ball, and two of them have been hurt this season. The defense is bad. I don't know what to say about that. Even special teams, long an area of expertise for the Lions (which is extremely unusual; typically ST success is not sustainable), has been a problem.

Surprisingly, the Lions have one game left that is possibly winnable, at home against Cleveland. The rest of their schedule is against teams with .500 records or better: at Minnesota, at home vs. Green Bay, at Cincinnati, at Baltimore, vs. Arizona, at San Francisco, and at home vs. Chicago. Yes, Bears fans will say the last game is winnable. I say shut up.

My team is bad. They haven't had a winning season in 9 years, a playoff appearance in 10, or a playoff win in 18. (And that was the lone playoff win in the last 52 years.) They're coming off the only 0-16 season in NFL history. They will likely set a record for most losses in consecutive seasons; five teams lost 28 games over two seasons, and that shouldn't be a problem for Detroit to match.

And what's worse, they have plenty of company. Even with the 0-16 season, they didn't have the worst record in the last two seasons: St. Louis was 5-27 and Kansas City was 6-26. If the Lions hadn't lost to the Rams, St. Louis might well have exceeded Detroit's 19-game losing streak.

Cleveland isn't much better and may be getting worse. Tampa Bay has been struggling quite a bit. Neither Oakland nor Washington seems like a 2-win team.

Look, I understand the concept of not meeting expectations. Once upon a time, Detroit could actually be good enough to consider a playoff appearance, so I know what that's like. But don't confuse that with actually being bad.

And if your team is 8-0, don't complain at all. You'll sound like a Patriots fan.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dan Burton voted against health care for me

But it passed anyway.

Sorry, Dan. If this passes the Senate, you'll have to share. None of this keeping the best health care for yourself and spreading lies about what's available for the rest of us.

Liveblog: but why?

For some reason, I'm blogging while I watch the horror that is Purdue-Michigan.

12:05 - I show up in time to watch Purdue drive 80 yards in 4 plays. So it's the bad Michigan defense that showed up? We'll wait and see.

12:11 - Purdue intercepts a deep Forcier pass. Except no, it's actually caught. (Shared reception.) Purdue challenges and loses. There goes that one.

12:14 - After the not-interception, Michigan moves right down and scores a TD of their own. You'd think these teams have absolutely no defense.

12:23 - Dropped passes resurface, Michigan gets a little pass rush, and Purdue settles for a field goal. 10-7 Purdue.

12:28 - Special teams mistake 1: Michigan gets a huge kickoff return. However, Purdue's pass rush pressures Forcier, but Olesnavage drills a long FG. Tied at 10.

12:37 - First turnover of the game. Of course it's Elliott throwing an interception. sigh.

12:41 - End of the first quarter, tied at 10.

12:45 - Brandon Minor off to the races. Michigan 17-10.

12:53 - Purdue's offense stalls again. Punt back to Michigan ... not looking good.

12:59 - Bad coverage, missed tackle, 24-10 Michigan. here we go.

So then I miss some things, like another interception and stuff. But it's still 24-10 Michigan. sigh.

1:18 - Halftime, 24-10 Michigan. Yep, that's about what I expected.

1:43 - Michigan's first turnover, an option play gone awry. (Reminds me of about 20 plays in NCAA 10.) Next play, Bolden runs it in thanks in part to poor tackling. 24-17 Michigan.

1:50 - Michigan comes right back down and scores a TD, although it looked like Forcier got banged up on the score. 31-17 Michigan, but look for a Shoelace appearance on the next drive. I mean, 30-17. Guess they missed the extra point.

2:04 - Purdue answers back, a nice sustained drive. 30-24. Michigan fans are probably pretty nervous, especially if Forcier is injured. Uh, it's still the same not-defense out there for Purdue ...

2:08 - Oh, hello surprise onside kick. And first-play long pass. Touchdown, Purdue. 31-30 Purdue.

2:13 - Three-and-out on Michigan's next possession.

2:17 - Three-and-out on Purdue's possession. Guess these teams really are evenly matched.

2:19 - End of the third quarter. Much closer than I thought it would be at this point.

2:30 - Michigan misses a field goal, and on a third down, Purdue gets a really long completion. Too bad it was a TE, or he might have scored.

2:34 - Despite my attempt to jinx them by going to the bathroom before the end of the drive, Purdue scores to extend the lead, 38-30. Elliott looks pretty sharp now.

2:37 - Three-and-out, and on top of that, Michigan seemed to be caught in between going for a fourth-and-one and punting, so they didn't get the punt off in time. Fourth and 6. Of course the announcers said "good move" not to go for it. Um, no. Possession is always worth more than punting. Fourth-and-one is very makeable; the next one might be fourth-and-10, down 15, for all RR knows. Oh well.

2:43 - Purdue punts back to Michigan, the punt is muffed, Purdue recovers, but there's a flag on the field. Kick catch interference, 15 yards, Michigan retains possession.

2:46 - Nearly a touchdown to make it close, but a holding penalty calls it back.

2:50 - Reviewing a play on the field. Michigan RB is tackled, but the Purdue defender is underneath ... so he laterals to an OL who gets the first down. Except the Purdue guy is lying on the sideline. But the Michigan guy isn't out of bounds, right? The refs on the field say first down, but it's being reviewed. I have to admit, it was a pretty heads-up play.

2:54 - The review says illegal forward pass. No first down. Purdue ball.

3:00 - Purdue can't get out of their own end and has to punt. Long return, and all of a sudden Michigan is right back in the game.

3:03 - Minor scores his third TD of the game. 38-36. Here comes the two-point conversion attempt. Any bet it'll be a QB option?

3:04 - It wasn't. Shotgun, sack, conversion failed. (I've seen that in NCAA 10 as well. Should have run out of the I.) 38-36 Purdue.

3:06 - Onside kick, expected, Purdue recovers. Now to keep the ball and let the clock run out?

3:12 - Purdue punts to Michigan. 0:29 to play, probably 70 yards to get in FG range. Just don't screw this up.

3:14 - Last gasp for Michigan. Forcier scrambles, can't find anyone. Game over. Purdue pulls it out, 38-36. Wow.

Amazon funny

So I ordered a couple of things off Amazon, surprise, but I did it Thursday night. (Hey, I did need one of them for my consulting stuff.) So I couldn't do one-day delivery for sure and get them on Friday, because you have to do it earlier in the day, and for some reason I didn't get the two-day Saturday option (which is relatively new, meaning Amazon apparently is also using USPS or someone else who delivers on Saturday).

So I tracked my order tonight, and I got this funny:

 11/06/20091:51 P.M.ORIGIN SCAN

so ha ha. It's going to take four days, in a sense, to get something from Indianapolis to Fishers. It would have taken me about 90 minutes, max, to get it myself from wherever it is here.

Oh well. It costs me the same amount to get something shipped here from Las Vegas in two days through Amazon ...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Death by blackout

On, Greg Garber has a very interesting article about the viability of the NFL in Jacksonville. When a team flirting with .500 draws worse than the Lions and Raiders, you know there's a problem ...

and what makes it worse is blackouts. The blackout rule is a relic from the '50s, from a time where it really was the difference between watching on TV and driving down to the stadium for a game. Now, the only people who can afford to make that kind of decision could afford suite tickets if they really wanted to go: the general public is priced out of the impulse-buy market.

But professional leagues are very slow to adapt to the times: the NHL is stuck on a fourth-tier channel (thanks to its idiot commissioner) and still shows a significant number of games in SD, MLB as recently as last year was showing multiple playoff games at the same time, etc. Are they likely to realize that they're starving the golden goose? (I doubt the blackout rule is actually killing it, but it sure doesn't help.) Do they know what it means to Jacksonville that the Jaguars haven't been on TV at all this season?

With the spread of Sunday Ticket (a DirecTV exclusive because the NFL is stupid), fans are more free than ever to follow their favorite team no matter where they live, or to pick a new team if they can't watch their current team. A wise commissioner would work with the networks (who'd be more than happy to show all the games) and the owners (who need to realize what's happening) to rescind the blackout rule. Will Goodell figure this out?

Wayne Weaver, the Jaguars' owner, goes on to say that given time, they could be like Pittsburgh or Green Bay (smaller markets with avid fan support). But there's a big problem with that analogy: do you really think Green Bay would even get a team, much less support one, if they didn't have one now and were trying to land an expansion team? Hell no. The only reason Green Bay has a team is that they had one before the NFL was around. And yes, that's how old the Packers are.

How old are they? Check this out. It's the 1921 APFA standings. The APFA is the "league" that was the predecessor of the NFL. Items of note:

  • The Chicago Staleys, who moved from Decatur for the 1921 season. Those are now the Bears.
  • The Chicago Cardinals, who are now in Arizona.
  • And yes, the Green Bay Packers, who are now in ... Green Bay, approaching their 90th season there.

Also note the number of "baseball" teams ... football owners were not very original. The Giants kept the name of the baseball team long after it left for San Francisco (NY enters the league in 1925). The Boston Braves joined in 1932, changing their name to the Redskins in '33 and moving to Washington shortly thereafter, where the Lions have still never beaten them. (The baseball team moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta.) And in '33, the Pittsburgh Pirates joined the league, becoming the Steelers in '41.

So yeah, Wayne, you can be like those teams. Just wait 60 years. Oh wait, you don't have 60 years.

Look, Florida is a great football state, but as any NASL owner will tell you, passion does not always translate to money spent on professional events. Jacksonville simply can't support an NFL team and everyone knows it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 35, -2.4 pounds

Back on track. One week of behaving myself and I've undone the October damage. Now I just need to stay focused and get down to where I need to be. 160 is definitely possible by the end of the year.

I'm resetting my goal. 160 by December 31. Obviously August is well past. If at first you don't succeed, try again. Granted, 5.4 pounds in roughly 8 weeks should be easy enough, but the pounds at the end aren't always as easy as the pounds at the beginning.

Weigh-in: Week 34, +1 pound

This week was less acceptable. I should have done better. A gain of 2.4 pounds for the month ... take out the Virginia trip and it's a loss of 0.6 pounds, but if I did things correctly this week, I'd have balanced that out.

Time to refocus.

Weigh-in: Week 33, +3 pounds

Falling behind, so I'll make these quick. This week was understandable, somewhat: it was my four-day Virginia visit. Granted, two days were spent on the road, but still, I could have eaten quite a bit less. (Far too much sugar, quite a bit too much meat, not much in the way of vegetables.)

It's acceptable for a once or twice a year thing, but even with that, it's work I have to redo. However, it can still be done if you're careful the rest of the year. I'm not there yet.

Sounds about right

Here's what's on my DVR right now:

Surviving Disaster
Rams @ Lions
Lions @ Packers
Steelers @ Lions
Lions @ Bears

Sounds about right.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Some men you just can't reach

So the New York Times had an article about a poll they conducted recently about texting and driving. They found that 97% of the people surveyed believed that it should be against the law.

However, this line drew some attention on Gizmodo:
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Oct. 5-8 with 829 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Apparently some people saw the 829 figure and were confuzzed. "Number too small. All numberz bad. Survey bad."

I attempted to address the issue with a brief description of sampling, but it didn't do much good, and of course because this is teh innernets, stamping out ignorance is like putting out a grease fire with water: if you don't bring an incredible amount of water, you'll be overwhelmed by the fire, but either way, there won't be much left when you're done.

So I had my say, and now I'm moving on.

Not quite sure why the Times said 3 percentage points, though. I got 1.5 from this online calculator, but then I wonder if there is somehow a one-tailed vs. two-tailed issue here. Just curious ...

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I'm sure this will be entertaining.

This year, I dressed up as Joey Harrington for Halloween. Full credit goes to ems for the idea: we also know a Giants fan who has a Plaxico Burress jersey, so when all of us were out watching football, we had the opportunity to discuss how there should be some kind of cash-for-clunkers equivalent for jerseys. To ems, this was perfect. I'd have a use for the jersey that sat at the bottom of my closet.

At first, I thought it was silly, but as I considered it, I realized it was actually a pretty good idea. I didn't need much else to make the costume work, some people would get it and some wouldn't, and best of all, it wouldn't require a full mask. (Wear one all night. You'll see what I mean.) I had the jersey and cleats (from a flag football tournament we did once), so I picked up what was supposed to be a crew-cut wig (with a little modification, it worked all right) and some shoulder pads.

Apparently that part's pretty common, because when I explained what I needed, the guy at the used sporting goods store knew exactly what I wanted. "Take those children's shoulder pads, they're cheaper and they'll fit under the jersey, but you probably won't be able to strap them on or anything." Done. $15 + tax, I think.

So I'm changing into my costume while ems and her boyfriend are waiting (I didn't try it on first because as a guy, I know 95% of the stuff I buy will fit exactly as I need it to). Shoulder pads on. Jersey over the pads: a little difficult, but they're not big pads ... and on.

I look in the mirror. I look like a kid borrowing his brother's uniform.

I strap the shoulder pads on. They're still big. (As it turns out, I could have tightened them in front too, but not having any actual football experience, I didn't realize this until later.) Oh, by the way, these are marked for youths weighing 140-160 pounds. So I'm actually heavier than that (probably 7 pounds or so right now), and still they fit me easily. (It also helped that the jersey was one size too large.)

See, my shorter female friends think I'm average height. I'm actually a touch below average for men, and now I have the imagery to suggest this. Too bad there aren't any pictures ...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

DirecTV customer service helps out

No, really, it did.

But to start with, DirecTV was dumb. I get the Center Ice package (which is really the only way to watch hockey, and I don't just mean because of the Vs shenanigans; hockey in HD is the best, plus you get to pick the home or away feed, so you never have to hear Hawks announcers talking about the Wings), and I thought it would be nice to watch a little hockey tonight. So I flipped through the guide and saw that my HD channels were grayed out. Bad sign.

I turn to one of the games and get the "Channel not purchased" message. Oh ho, that's what you think? I'm a renewing subscriber, damn straight this is purchased. I check the website. Yep, still have the package. Check the SD channel. Yep, game comes in. So I reset the receiver. Nope, "Channel not purchased". Sigh.

I call the system and tell it 721. It says hold on, I'm going to try something. And sure enough, the first check it did fixed my problem. Amazing.

Of course, I couldn't explain to the system that I wanted to remove receivers from my account (old SD receivers, I never watch TV in the other rooms anyway), so I had to speak to an agent. However, it took only seconds to reach one, she was able to help me right away, and I also got three free months of Showtime because I'm a long-time suckercustomer.

So now I get some free movies (plus Inside the NFL), my bill dropped a tiny bit, and I got to give feedback on the website (let me drop receivers, fool). +1 for DirecTV

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The long walk

Note: spoilers for Oblivion included. If you haven't played this game yet, and you have any interest at all in RPGs, then you deserve to have secrets spoiled for you. If you aren't interested in Oblivion at all, wait for the next post. This one will not interest you in the slightest.

I was playing Oblivion this weekend because a) it's one of the best games ever, b) the next Elder Scrolls game is apparently somewhere down the line at some time, and c) one of my friends was playing. I rolled another custom class: Stealth type, focus on Agility and Personality, skills Armorer, Block, Light Armor, Marksman, Mercantile, Restoration, and Speechcraft. Speechcraft is a pretty good one so that you can start out with the skip option, otherwise it's a bear to build up. I always like Armorer so that I can get it up to Journeyman more quickly and repair my magic items. I think I'm missing one of the skills I usually put in there ... one thing I noticed is without grabbing all the stuff in the guilds and reselling it, I'm taking a lot of damage. No good armor's available yet, so I figure I should have included something that does damage so that I don't take as much.

Anyway, I was heading back to Anvil for the quest where I hide in the store and wait for thieves, but I forgot that somehow there was a bounty on me for something, so they wanted to arrest me (because I wanted to talk to a guard to get my Speechcraft up to 50). So they get me, and I offer to pay the fine ... but Baurus intercepts me on the way to the castle and insists that we walk back to the Imperial City. And on top of that, the bounty is still there.

I can't fast-travel, because he won't move. I can't talk to a guard, because I'll get "arrested" and Baurus will show up again. I can't even sleep, because Baurus will show up again. So now I am walking the whole way back to sit with the stupid Mythic Dawn tool. booooooooooooo.

Update: Baurus insists on running toward an Oblivion Gate and somehow getting himself knocked down a ravine from which there is no return. So now I have to prevent this from happening on top of all this other crap. I may just go back a couple of saves ...

Update 2: Got through that part, then discovered that I could speed up the trip greatly by running away from an enemy. Enemy chases, Baurus runs after the enemy ... very clever. Of course he loses his katana and doesn't pick it up, then tries to fight things with his hands before running off and grabbing a loose mace. We complete the Mythic Dawn quest, he dies (although I almost got him through it), and now I've joined the Thieves Guild and paid off my bounty. Back to normal play ...

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I disabled automatic updates in iTunes because a) I don't care to have iTunes merrily hogging my bandwidth just because there might be a new version, x.y.z.a.b+1, that allows me to get recommendations on one more thing I don't use on my iPod, and b) see a).

Of course, what that means is that when there is an update for the iPod, you can't sync any more, and you have to wipe your iPod and restore it to download the update, because it would be too easy to let you simply turn automatic updates back on. (And to prove a) and b), the iPod update is taking 10 minutes to download.)

Let there be no doubt: if the market positions were reversed so that Microsoft was struggling to keep the foothold Windows had eked out and Apple could make a profit simply by releasing a new OS, Apple would jerk people around exactly like Microsoft does, and anything i-related is proof of this. I don't have a jailbroken iPod, I want to control how it is updated so that it doesn't command my computer when it's synched (as iTunes tends to do ... funny how it reacts like programs did in the days of total system control). I do not need to restore 10 GB of music just because some jackass doesn't know how to distribute OS updates.

Update: As a bonus, now I'm in an endless restore cycle. Awesome. Naturally the support article that talks about restoring your iPod doesn't say boo about what to do when it doesn't work. Another one that talks about how to troubleshoot the restore process is the same blah-blah-blah as Microsoft's stuff: it's your fault, not ours, check all your own stuff first, can't be our fault. w.

Update: Hey, it was their fault. They gave me a restore file that wouldn't work. How would I know that? Well, I wouldn't. Why did it happen? Who knows? But that's okay, now my iPod is back exactly the way it was two days ago. Sorry about the track history for the three hours in the car in the mountains, and those saved games in Slay and AcidSolitaire. (Thank goodness I didn't have a saved game in Civ Rev.)

I guess I should be synching it more often. Oh right, I couldn't, because you can't do that if you've disabled automatic updates, but it won't tell you that. Ha. Very nice.

P.S. 10 GB of music back on the iPod. Wake me up when it's done. No, not literally. I have to catch up on my sleep.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 32, -1 pound

Not sure how to explain this one, except maybe that I've been adding too much salt to my diet and I've been retaining more water than I normally would, up until today, that is. The last week or so I was moving back and forth between 165 and 166, and then this morning it was 163.8, the lowest I've been to date and down a full pound from last week.

Unfortunately I was also that low about a month ago (but midweek so it doesn't count toward a weigh-in), so in essence I've held steady the last 30 days or so. You can tell I'm falling back because I'm down "only" 28.2 pounds in 32 weeks, and for a while I was right at one pound per week. So basically the good days (walking to lunch, etc.) canceled out the bad days (Shrimpfest 2009, Rock Band, and so on).

And now I'm going back to Virginia for a few days. The last time I did that, it took me a few days to get back on track. I'll have to be careful this time. And then there is another Rock Band night the following week, Halloween after that (yeah, no extra candy in this house ... kids are getting handfuls, I think).

Don't know how much longer I'll be working downtown. The contract is technically through the end of the month, we'll see after that ... I'm not saying I'll walk to lunch no matter what the weather is like, but I can certainly walk in the cold.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 31, -0.6 pounds

Pretty remarkable, considering that a) on Saturday we went to Red Lobster for my birthday dinner, and I had two Cheddar Bay biscuits (or three, honestly I forget), about 50 shrimp, mashed potatoes, rice, and most of a piece of key lime pie; b) on Sunday we went to the Ale for football (I had a burger with bacon and cheese, but chips with that), although I didn't eat too much the rest of the day; and c) with work I have not been spending a lot of time at home awake. Then again I've been walking to lunch almost every day, so that's probably a mile each day (about half a mile each way or thereabouts, at least on average).

Next week is the Virginia trip, well, next weekend, so it'll hit Week 33 and not Week 32. But this kind of thing happens every year. Part of maintaining a healthy weight is doing so no matter what time of the year it is. I think I'll be all right this time.

I like weeks where I think I've done poorly and I haven't. Usually it's because I'm worried about my habits (a good thing) and have been careful despite my fears (also a good thing). Occasionally it's an anomaly.

One of my friends suggested getting a bike trainer for the winter months. It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure I want to spend the money. I can't yet say that I would use it that much. I would probably get more long-term use out of some kind of lifting equipment ...

I'm just rambling now. Fini.


History is a funny word. Sometimes it means something is done or finished (that book is history), or maybe that it's outdated or old. Other times, it refers to something, usually a bad something.

For an example of the latter, I quote Bill James, one of the greatest statistical minds baseball has ever known, from his 1988 Baseball Abstract. Note that he uses "past", but it means the same thing.

The problem is that you acquire a past. In the beginning, what needs to be done is so clear, so obvious. When you have no players you must acquire the best young players that you can find. When they are ready you put them in the lineup because the people who were there before them are just a holding action, just waiting until the future is warm. When you have no past you have no loyalties, no debts. You know exactly where you are in the cycle. You have a memory of no yesterday's dreams which still might flower tomorrow, and thus there is no confusion of tomorrow with yesterday, plans with dreams or what is right with what is best for the team. On September 20 of 1987 the Toronto Blue Jays had a clean slate. They never will again.1

He is referring to the 1987 season, when Toronto and Detroit fought for the AL East division title for most of the season. Toronto took the first three games of a four-games series against Detroit in Toronto, September 24-26, and led by 3.5 games with 7 games to play for them and 8 for Detroit. Detroit won the final game of the series in Toronto, split four games with Baltimore and swept Toronto in three one-run games. Toronto was swept by Milwaukee before the Detroit series, and as a result, the Tigers clinched a tie for the division on Saturday and won the title on Sunday.

According to, Toronto had an 89.9% chance to win the division as things stood on the 26th, taking into account their remaining schedule, Detroit's remaining schedule, and other factors. (The site explains it in slightly more detail.) It was the 25th-biggest collapse in MLB history, at least prior to this season.

Prior to 2003, the Tigers already had a long history: one of the eight original American League clubs that began play in 1901, one of only four to have played in the same city the entire time (Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland the others), the first AL team to win three straight pennants (and the first team to lose three straight World Series), a team that went 52 seasons before first losing 100 games and finishing last ... but with only four World Series titles and no pennants since '84, Detroit's history was mostly history.

In 2003, they lost 119 games. That's not good. But they rebounded the next year to win 72, and then two years later, they won 95 games and stormed through the AL playoffs to capture their first pennant in 22 years before losing to St. Louis in five games in the Series. (One of the biggest jokes in history: David Eckstein getting the Series MVP.)

But wait: Detroit didn't win the division in 2006, even though on August 22, they had a 93.1% chance of winning the division (7.5 games up). They had a 78.3% chance of winning the division on the final day, but lost their fifth straight game, all at home, to fall into the wild-card spot instead.

In 2007, it was different, oh yes. On July 19th, they had an 88.7% chance of making the playoffs. This time, the collapse was bigger, and by the last week of the season, the Tigers were completely out of the race. That was collapse #28.

This year, on September 30, Detroit had an amazing 96% chance to win the division. They were in the midst of a four-game series in Detroit against the Twins, having arrived with a two-game lead with seven to play. With a magic number of 6, all Detroit needed was three of the four games to clinch. They lost the first game (the first half of a day-night doubleheader forced by a rainout on Monday), but won the next two, and when October arrived, all they needed was 2: 2 Tigers wins, 2 Twins losses, or one of each, and with a game left between the two, they could do it all at once.

But they didn't. I got no birthday present. Minnesota went on to sweep Kansas City, Detroit stumbled against Chicago, winning only the final game of a three-game series to force a playoff, and then you know what happened next.

The problem wasn't whether or not Leyland should have given Porcello the hook for Zach Miner (probably; Porcello was already overthrowing a bit) or whether he should have made Rodney the designated finish-up guy (probably not; no sense in killing your pen with a possible game tomorrow, but you do have to win for that game tomorrow to be yours) or whatever, but rather that the Tigers couldn't consistently beat Kansas City or Chicago. They went 9-9 against each team while the Twins went 12-6 against each team. That, my friends, is the problem. The Tigers made themselves have to win in the last week, and with a history of collapsing, they couldn't do it.

Sure, there are a number of franchises with a longer drought than Detroit has (the Cubs, obviously, but the Rangers came into the league as Senators II in 1961 and haven't won ever; the Indians haven't won since 1948 ...), but at some point there isn't too much difference between them. All you know is that you didn't win this year, you didn't win last year, and you can't feel like you can win next year.

However, the Tigers do have some good young players, and they have made a run at the playoffs three of the last four seasons. And at some point this will pass, and the Tigers will win again, and everything will be all right.

But right now it sucks.

1James, Bill, The 1988 Bill James Baseball Abstract, p.84.

Monday, October 05, 2009

no football posts this weekend

a) I'm busy with work. Very cool. kind of. well, it pays well.
b) terrible sports weekend. The Twins will win tomorrow and that will cap it.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

More blackout stupidity

ESPN football: blacked out. Supposed to watch ABC. F that.

NHL Network, Blues-Red Wings blacked out. Supposed to watch Fox Sports Midwest. whatever.

This is ridiculous.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 30, no change

ha. Every 15 weeks I've had no change from the previous week.

So it was nice to see this morning that Tuesday's weight was due to other circumstances and that presumably this is closer to my actual weight trend. (Of course it's still high considering previous progress, but at least it wasn't higher.)

My goal is to focus on better eating and exercise habits in October. I'm not too far from my goal, but it's not that close either (by which I mean there's more than a week's worth of work left).

focusing ...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 29, +1.6 pounds

Not such a good week last week. Okay, maybe a little of it was having people over to play The Beatles: Rock Band and eating some of the food they brought, but it was also not having the right foods around the house.

With Week 30's weigh-in right around the corner, I suspect I'll likely gain rather than lose this week too. Potentially I could still break even for September, but it's really just been one (or two) bad weeks. So I'll have to focus more on eating better and exercising more. (Bonus: my current contract is with a company downtown, so as long as the weather isn't terrible, I can walk to lunch.)

I need to restock my food here so that I'm eating better foods. I know that is part of it. I can feel myself hungry for the wrong things because I don't have enough good choices here.

Still, I've made a lot of good progress, and I need to keep focused on that. I just put a bunch of slacks in the Goodwill pile: basically everything that I bought when I was getting bigger is now big enough that I can't even keep them up well with a belt. And I saved the old ones, so really I just swapped the two piles. If I can put in a little bit more work each week, it won't be long until I can switch into maintenance mode ... and maybe go shopping!

What's the dumbest law you've ever seen?

I don't mean stuff that doesn't get enforced. I mean stuff like this.

I know, it's been around for a while, but like the security theater at airports, sometimes you forget why it's there in the first place. And sometimes it takes a case like that one to make you realize how stupid the law was in the first place.

Think about it this way. I own a bank and you're using my ATM. If you get your PIN wrong twice in a row, then it's obviously not your card and you're trying to hack into someone else's account, and you're going to jail, and not only that, but basically you've got pretty much no chance of escaping the charges because I got the law to say that intent doesn't matter. You got it wrong twice, therefore you're a criminal.

Most people would see that as stupid. The panicky Indiana legislature obviously didn't. Hearing the prosecutor talk about it made me think I was listening to a Cook County prosecutor. I'm just doing my job, that's the law, nothing I can do, and anyway it would be too much work to actually have to do my job.

This is one of those things about which Reagan was so clueless. You can't fight a "war" on drugs. If you want to cut down on drug use, you have to find out why people use, and you have to present or provide alternatives that are or become more appealing than using.

You'd think that by the huge number of drug users in jail, prosecutors would have figured out that the prospect of jail time doesn't work as a deterrent. You'd be wrong. Hell, there's probably no shortage of addicts who aren't entirely sure why they're using anyway ... expecting them to break the habit because they might get arrested is just plain stupid.

But who knows? Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Maybe it'll get a small-county prosecutor to use some common sense for a change ...

Monday, September 28, 2009

NFL recap, week 3

Dear announcers, it's better to keep the ball than to punt it. Pretty much any team can get one yard. Some coaches realize this. Too bad you don't.

  • Yeah, those are the Cardinals that we remember from the regular season last year. While conventional wisdom is wrong (you don't win by running the ball and stopping the run, you win by building a lead, typically with the pass, and protecting the lead, typically by running), there is something to the theory that you can't throw every down, but that's only true if you have a mediocre passing game, and right now that's what Arizona has.
  • Atlanta won't go 16-0, but I don't know that it says a lot that they were unable to win in New England. As long as they can keep pace with New Orleans, they should be in position for another playoff appearance.
  • The Ravens' offense is back again, and the defense looked pretty good against Cleveland. But then, what defense doesn't?
  • So T.O. may not make it to snow season in Buffalo, then. Because you know if he's having issues now, the first time he looks outside and realizes that there are six feet of snow in his driveway and no one else seems that bothered by it, he's going to really throw a fit when he doesn't catch any passes and Edwards doesn't keep throwing to him.
  • I didn't see much of the Bears, but it sounds like Jay Cutler doesn't really suck all that much after all. Patience, Chicago fans.
  • I'm not convinced Cincinnati is all that. On the other hand, they are winning games, and the defense is contributing. Of course, with Marvin Lewis in charge, any one of the main players could end up in jail by the end of October.
  • How can Eric Mangini be on the hot seat? Not that I like the guy, but hello? He just took over a bad team, a team which apparently has a lot of issues both on the field (can we maybe take a closer look at the idea that Brady Quinn is an NFL quarterback?) and off the field (not paying for hotel rooms? what?). Miami and Atlanta made progress in part because they added the right pieces and in part because they had talent there that maybe wasn't being used that well. Cleveland doesn't have either of those benefits. Give the man a chance.
  • Denver is not a 3-0 team. sorry.
  • One thing I liked from Detroit's game: late in the first half, Detroit was driving, Stafford completed a pass to rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew for a first down. Pettigrew was either winded or banged up, so as soon as the play was over, he ran back through the line and toward the Lions' sideline ... but Kevin Smith saw that Stafford was going to call a spike play, and fearing that there would be illegal motion, Smith caught Pettigrew and had him stand in the backfield (as he might in a fullback position) so Stafford could kill the clock. Great move by the second-year player ... hope he's not hurt too badly. How odd is it that Detroit hadn't beaten Washington in decades at one point, and now they top the Redskins to end the second-longest losing streak in NFL history?
  • Nothing can really be learned from beating the Rams, I'm afraid, but at least Green Bay fans have to feel relieved that they didn't play down to St. Louis' level like Washington did. Look what happened the next week ...
  • The Texans let one get away and it is going to cost them. Losing divisional games at home is never a good thing, and with Tennessee and Jacksonville struggling, this should have been Houston's chance to challenge Indianapolis for the division. Doesn't look like it'll happen this year.
  • The Colts are back to normal. Why do people blitz Manning and leave single coverage on receivers? I mean, you can do it if you overload one side and get there quickly, but otherwise you might as well just drop eight because if you show your defense, Peyton will pick you apart.
  • The demise of the Jaguars may not have been prematurely reported, but road wins are nice things to collect. The passing game still looks a bit ragged, though, and Jack Del Rio is going to have to get that straightened out if Jacksonville is to avoid double digits in losses.
  • Speaking of double digits in losses ... the Chiefs should be happy that Al Davis is crazy, because otherwise they'd be working on a fifteen-game losing streak. I'm not sure there are four winnable games on their schedule, and honestly I wouldn't be surprised if they lost 15 or even 16 games. This is a bad team. (Of course they can't lose 16 if the Browns do, and I'll bet that game in December is not a sellout, not even in KC.)
  • Time to test a former Michigan QB. Mr. Henne, that Brady guy got a permanent job thanks to injury ... Dolphins fans aren't expecting that much from you, but ... actually, yes they are. This Cinderella is probably going home in a pumpkin this season. I think Henne's had enough of a chance to show something in the NFL and hasn't done so, and the Dolphins need something. The Wildcat-style plays work a lot better when there's some threat of a pass.
  • BrettFavreBrettFavreBrettFavre. gah. Big win, though, especially with the Bears and Packers off to good starts. (Of course it doesn't hurt that the Williamses aren't ever going to get suspended. Discipline in sports is such a joke, it kills me that the players' association agrees to a system of discipline and then runs off and takes it to court any time there is a case they don't like. It's no wonder so many players cheat, why wouldn't you? You know the union will have your back no matter how big of a cheater you are. And never mind players like these two who might actually have taken stuff by mistake. Of course no one really wants to ask why it is that NFL players with access to better dietitians than pretty much anyone else in the world need to take weight-loss supplements.)
  • Tom Brady isn't 100%, and word seems to be going around that he won't be 100% for quite some time, maybe not this season. Karma for Spygate? No, probably just the inevitable decline of a franchise that's had a very successful run. QBs like Manning is and Brady was are the exceptions, not the rule; it's a very difficult position to play for years and avoid serious injury.
  • New Orleans may have had a fairly easy schedule so far (other than the Eagles), but they're dominating those teams, and that's a good sign. Great teams tend to blow out bad teams; good teams squeak past bad ones. Brees may not set any records this season, but if the defense continues to play well, he won't have to. Pierre Thomas had a nice game, and if he and Mike Bell can continue to be productive, maybe Payton will finally put Reggie Bush where he belongs, as a wideout and occasional third-down back. It should be clear by now that Bush isn't an NFL RB.
  • Same thing for the Giants: run over a bad team and that's a good sign. Plaxico who?
  • Mark Sanchez hasn't necessarily carried the Jets this far, but he's certainly helped them more than the average rookie QB would. It's still early, and he may not turn out to have a Ryan-type season, but right now I don't think Jets fans really care about much of anything other than 3-0. The defense deserves a lot of credit for that, but they should save some for the rookie from USC.
  • Oakland is bad. Baaaaaad. JaMarcus Russell is not an NFL QB. Al Davis is not an NFL owner. I'm not sure Tom Cable is an NFL head coach. But hey, they have a win.
  • Kevin Kolb wasn't terrible against the Chiefs, which really doesn't say much. Michael Vick wasn't effective in his brief appearances, which doesn't say anything at all. (The man was in prison, for goodness sake.) With Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Washington next, this team should be 5-1, and if they are, we still won't really know how good they are.
  • Pittsburgh's off to something of a rough start, and the NFC North doesn't look quite as bad right now as some people thought, so there are some tougher games ahead. Then again, the Steelers play the AFC West, so there are also some easier games ahead. And did someone say Cleveland?
  • The Rams are really bad. Steve Spagnuolo has his work cut out for him. I mean, the expansion Buccaneers lost 26 in a row in the '70s, the AFL nearly-expansion Raiders lost 19 in a row in the '60s, the Millened Lions lost 19 in a row just now ... and it's not out of the question for the Rams to match Tampa Bay this season. In their next six games, the only really winnable ones are games at Jacksonville ... and at Detroit.
  • News to Chargers fans: running backs are fungible. Of course, you might have realized this by now, as Darren Sproles fills in just fine for the injured LDT. Now, lose one or two linemen, and you've got yourselves a problem. P.S. Not worth the money. Well, unless it's an uncapped year.
  • San Francisco has to be kicking themselves after letting one get away in the Metrodome. (Can't wait for that stupid thing to be torn down. At least the Twins don't play there any more.) With Seattle and Arizona crashing and burning, there's no reason why the 49ers couldn't wrap up this division in November ... but to do that, they've got to finish off teams, even teams that don't have FavreFavreFavreFavreFavreFavre. Hey, that Hill guy isn't such a bad quarterback, is he?
  • Let's not talk about the uniforms. Let's talk about Jim Mora Jr. throwing his kicker under the bus. A) replacement-level kickers are pretty bad, so after you piss this one off, you're still screwed, and B), maybe you should be asking why it is that your kicker had to try to bail out the offense six times, Jimmy boy. You may not be aware of this, but kicking outside isn't that easy.
  • Raheem Morris, oh man. There's a reason why no one else was really looking for this job.
  • I think Jeff Fisher can probably write his own exit when he feels like it (or at least ought to be able to after what he's done in Tennessee), but do you wonder if maybe he's lost just a few too many assistants? Or maybe he just doesn't have the same fire that he used to, and his teams are losing those close games they used to win. 0-3 is not a good place to be, and at this point you can probably write off the division, which means you better start looking at the AFC East as your challengers for a wild-card spot. Get going, Titans.
  • Jim Zorn. Problems in Washington. A six-point loss to the Giants was very respectable, but then a two-point win over the Rams (ouch), a loss to the Lions (oh no) ... Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Kansas City up next. If the Redskins aren't at least 3-3 going into the Philadelphia game, the next head coach will have to deal with the same mess every other Dan Snyder coach has had to face: how to piece together a bunch of parts that don't fit. Someone on ESPN said it right, it's like Snyder is putting together a fantasy team. It's not just "talent", Dan.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

College football, Saturday viewing

12:00, Indiana-Michigan
It's hard to evaluate these two teams properly. Michigan's probably not one of the top 25 teams in the country, and Indiana's probably somewhere between sixth- and ninth-best in the Big Ten, but on Saturday they looked pretty even. Michigan's defense looked pretty bad for most of the game, and once again Tate Forcier had to finish off a late touchdown drive for the win.

Naturally, with Big Ten refs involved, there were egregiously wrong calls. I find it hard to believe that there are officials employed with the league who don't know basic rules like simultaneous possession, but apparently there are, and Jim Delany will crack down on that as soon as he figures out it's not 1970. Indiana fans should be justifiably upset about that blown call: the strides that the Michigan offense has made were noticeable, and this was likely IU's last shot at a win in Ann Arbor for a long time.

I think it should be clear that the version of the spread that Rodriguez has brought to Michigan is already paying dividends, and when you think about the type of recruits he should be able to get the next year or so, you may well see an offense like what Urban Meyer has at Florida. (Then compare that to what Jim Tressel is running at Ohio State. And smile.)

3:30, Western Kentucky-Navy
Blackout stupidity: Illinois-Ohio State wasn't available on ESPN because it was the local game on ABC. Two questions: why was it on ESPN then, especially considering that ABC and ESPN are owned by the same company, and why wasn't I shown an alternate game? I mean seriously, I have about eight games from which to choose and you think I'm going to watch ABC because you can "make" me? That's so '60s.

So I watched some old-style option football. Not much to say about this, other than they had an interesting thing on the sidelines where I think the Navy mascot was trying to toss cheerleaders' pompoms into the Western mascot's mouth. I love college football.

Also, it's hard to explain how difficult it is to defend the option when a) the team you're playing runs it well and b) you don't run it at all. Unless you have superior athletes (who can thus overcommit and still catch up on the play), you spend the entire game chasing the wrong guy with the ball. As Paul Johnson is showing at Georgia Tech, it can be successful to a certain extent against top competition (and perhaps not much more than that), but for lower teams, it's definitely a good, well, option, especially when you remember that Navy can't recruit just whoever they want.

8:00, Purdue-Notre Dame
To my great surprise, Purdue's defense didn't look nearly as bad against Notre Dame as they did early this season. (Then again, maybe they faced some tough offenses ... Idaho's win at Northern Illinois made that loss look a lot worse, but look at home Oregon shredded Cal in Eugene and it makes that loss look a lot better.) Special teams weren't bad (meaning Valentin didn't fumble), but then there was the offense. Let's be honest, Elliott is still the same guy who couldn't beat out Curtis Painter for the starting job last season; in some respects, he's the equivalent of Nick Sheridan, a caretaker who's the best option available. Next season, with Marve available and perhaps some recruits, Hope might have a guy better suited to the offense or perhaps to being a QB in general. Elliott just doesn't seem to make enough good decisions.

Notre Dame is starting to collect injuries at their skill positions and I think that might be a problem moving forward. They don't have too many easy games left on their schedule (only Washington, Washington State, and Navy really fit that category), and if they are struggling to put their starting offense on the field, it could be another tough year in South Bend. Of course, Weis always brings a tactical advantage to the field, isn't that what he said? I wonder what level of football he was referring to.

Late game, Texas Tech-Houston
I don't remember the last time I saw fans rush the field when their top-25 team beat a team they were expected to beat. I guess that tells you what it's like in Houston. It's been a while since they've been consistently good, and really the last stretch was probably the late '80s or so when Jack Pardee and John Jenkins ran up the score so people would think better of their teams ... as soon as teams adjusted to their run-and-shoot offense, that came back to bite them hard. The Cougars seem to be running a Big-12-like offense, and I'm still not convinced that the Big 12 actually has defenses to match, so this was an interesting game to watch.

Thoughts on other scores and games
Maybe JoePa needs to start scheduling better opponents early in the season. That stuff makes sense if you're rebuilding a weak program and trying to slip into a bowl, but it doesn't make sense if you're trying to win a "title", and even though the Hawkeyes have been struggling in most of their other games, Ferentz still seems to have the Lions' number.

California didn't even make it a week before tripping over their first-place position in the conference. But who knows? Maybe Oregon is really the team that's going to challenge USC's checkbook for the conference title, and their rough start against Boise State and Purdue isn't indicative of that team's quality.

The bloom is off the Spartan in East Lansing; maybe Mark Dantonio is focusing a little too much on big brother and not quite enough on the rest of the schedule. Two weeks ago, Michigan State could have been entertaining thoughts of a New Year's Day game, but now they could be in a position where another untimely loss or two might cost them a bowl bid. With Michigan and Penn State at either end of their remaining schedule and some potentially tough games in between, the Spartans are looking more like a middle-of-the-pack team and less like a contender.

I don't know why Kentucky fans were booing as Florida took them apart. Hello? You're hosting the #1 team in the country, and frankly, your team isn't that good. Settle down and be thankful you're not getting blown out by a bad team.
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