Friday, August 28, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 25, -1.8 pounds

SO ... here we are. August 26 (not today, silly, obviously I rarely end up posting on weigh-in day; I blame volleyball), the "target date" for the original plan. If there is wiggle room, it's this: in the contest, there are two sets of prizes (for which I'm no longer eligible), one for percentage of body weight through the 26th, and one for percentage of body weight through the incentive meeting in February. (Also possibly auxiliary prizes for anyone hitting their goal and maintaining through the February meeting.)

On the other hand, I'm very good at aiming high and shooting low, so perhaps I should get less credit. Anyway, for this "final" weigh-in, I weighed 166. Total weight loss: 26 pounds. Not bad for 25 weeks. Goal to lose: 38 pounds. (Remember, the 160 was "work weight", roughly translating to 154 at home.)

I chose the "safer" route, using a plan that would be sustainable long-term; other people chose to hit it hard, lose the weight first, and then go back to maintenance mode. Either way is cool, mine just worked better for me, I think, based on what I've tried in the past (and obviously failed to maintain).

To hit my reward goal, I need to lose 6 pounds. To hit my numeric goal, 12 pounds. (Compromise, my friends. Compromise. As a famous tiger philosopher once said "Hold fast when you can and compromise when you have to.") That will probably be around Thanksgiving, although I do seem to eat less when I'm working at home. I may very well hit 160 by my birthday, so maybe a Kindle will be a good "birthday" present for me, we'll see, but I am going to keep working. Honestly, 160/154 was an arbitrary number. Realistically, I'd like to reach a point where I'm carrying a healthy weight and can sustain it with a reasonable lifestyle. Whether that's 155, 150, or what, I don't know ... in part because I haven't been this light since ... well ... I don't know. Probably college. I'm fairly sure I dropped to the high 160s during the Discovery Health Challenge we did a few years back, and the other weight loss times were in college and just after.

Then there was high school, but when I weighed 145 I could barely lift 40 pounds and carrying it was obvious effort. We don't need to go back to those days. (Thus more uncertainty about a good weight. I'd like to add a reasonable amount of muscle, in part to help with metabolism, and of course that may add a few pounds back on.)

We shall see. I'll keep logging until I hit 154. After that, who knows?

But enough about me. Can I tell you about my soccer team? You see, I manage Cambridge City, and they've just been promoted to Conference South, and ... hello? hello?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Conquering the sectional

This is a story of a blogger who is somewhat mechanically incompetent, a piece of furniture, and a helpful company.

About a year and a half ago, I bought a piece of furniture. (This is highly unusual: in my adult years, I have bought exactly one piece of furniture that can be used for sitting. Well, real furniture. I do have card table chairs. And generous friends who've upgraded their own houses.) It's actually pretty nice ... I figured if I was going to spend money, I should invest it well. It's a Palliser Regent sectional, a three-seater with power reclining on all three seats and wedges in between with cup holders and storage. Of course, shortly after I bought it, I found myself with much more free time than income, but it all worked out in the end.

So, one day a couple of months ago, the center section (my seat) stopped reclining. I played with the wand a bit (the ends have the reclining controls on the outside, but with no outside in the middle, you have a corded control) to no avail. Contacted the company and explained my situation.

They wrote back and said that the wand might be locked ... I immediately pictured a cat with a paw on one of the buttons for an extended period of time. Possible. However, the instructions for unlocking the wand involved a power button. I do not have a power button, just arrows. No help there.

No problem, they said. We'll look into getting you a new wand.

A couple of weeks pass, and they get one from the manufacturer; a couple more, and it arrives. Two pieces: the wand and an extension cable.

Now, when the contractors came to install it (kind of like with satellite, where they contract with local providers to set you up), they explained how the cord worked, and if I had problems with it, I should check under the recliner cushion for the wand cord. Done. (I tried unplugging it and the power brick; didn't reset it.) So I knew where the cords were supposed to go. I took the wand and fed the other end underneath the recliner, went around the back (yes, this is why I have the recliner two feet from my back wall; that, the need to get back there to clean up hairballs, and the shorter length of the 360's play-n-charge cord were all factors), got the end, went to plug it into the power brick ...

... and saw that it did not go there. Uh-oh. Checked both cables. Checked the model on the wand I had. Yep, that's the right wand. Surely they wouldn't send the wrong extension cable? Checked the packing slip. Seems to be right.

Time to get the flashlight. Pulled the new wand back up from the side of the cushion, got down in back again, shined the light in, followed the existing cable from the power brick to underneath somewhere, followed the existing wand cable down to the existing extension, moved the loose end out of the way to ...

... what?

oh ho.

There is a cable not plugged into anything. I believe I've just found the problem. Maybe I don't even need the replacement. So, let's test this theory. I'll just reach underneath and plug it back in ... except that the distance from the back of the recliner to what I think is the plug is almost exactly the distance from the inside of my shoulder to the tips of the fingers on my other hand. If I were swimming across the carpet to touch the plug, I'd be set. However, that doesn't help here. No choice but to go around the front.

Fortunately, the foot of the recliner is spring-loaded and can be pulled forward (otherwise we have to lift out the sectional pieces, no problem with two people but you may notice there is not another person mentioned in this story). I pull forward enough to see the loose end, what I suspect is the hole, and not much else. Josie, naturally, wants to see what is going on. (She is the prime suspect for the whole thing anyway, as she has actually gone underneath the sectional before. Calle does not care to try.) She watches as I line up the cable and the hole and then play the safecracking game ... at what angle does this fit? No, no, no, no, no, no ... yes, that works. Pull arm out from under sectional, plug in wand ... buttons light up.

aha!

Reclining once again, and with an added bonus: extra parts in case something really does break! Also, better knowledge of what I have. If I'd known better, I would have been able to fix it much earlier (knowing that there are actually three cords: wand to extension, extension to chair, chair to power brick). Of course, I'd also have bet on the Pirates rather than the Orioles in the '79 World Series, and I'd have understood what Shannon was saying when she ... anyway, you get the point.

The moral of the story is that cats unplug things and then place bets on how long it takes you to figure things out.

Weigh-in: Week 24, +0.8 pounds

Sorry, busy week, plus I had to get the right amount of gaming in, and honestly I'm still not a big fan of talking about myself (which makes the idea of a blog somewhat ironic until you realize I really don't post that much about myself). So anyway, up only a little bit, which actually is a major accomplishment considering that on one of the days in question I went to an all-you-can-eat churrascaria, although honestly it was more accurately all-they-care-to-bring-us, because we were served much more slowly in the past. (Fine with me, I wasn't overly full when we left.) Now, I did walk quite a bit, but then I also sat a lot, and I ate food that wasn't always that good for me.

So a little weight gain is understandable, although less than desirable when you realize that the six-month weigh-in is the 26th (which, of course, is "tomorrow" as I am writing this). Then again, I deliberately chose a long-term, maintainable plan rather than a short-term, high-weight-loss plan. I have to say I like the results so far, even if I'm not going to lose 7.8 pounds by tomorrow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wrigleyfest, day 2

7:00: Got up on time again. I always wake up early on vacation when I have to be somewhere. (Actually, that's true at home too. If I'm traveling, I will be on time.) Wrestled with the time to get up before I went to bed, though ... decided on 7 because 6, while getting me close to Murphy's around 9, would get me there early. Not helpful. Plus, even though the gates open at 10:05, we don't have to be the first in line, or even in line, as long as we get a section.

Back to the station, confirmed the first lot is 4-hour parking all the time, parked close by, waited for the train ... 10- to 15-minute delay ... and got on board. Finished the book, off the train, out to Adams Street (which puts you on the block of State where the entrance to the Red Line is; Jackson takes you to the exit), and up toward Wrigley.

10:00: Into Murphy's, greetings to the other people there, and a brief wait during which we saw Captain Morgan and his party taking his chest ... somewhere. (Rather a desultory group, but then I would guess hanging around with a liquor mascot is not a high-paying job.) A few people go in and mark off our section; shortly thereafter, they ask for reinforcements, so a couple other guys head in with me.

For those who don't know, bleacher seating in Wrigley is general admission. Saving seats is expected – nay, encouraged, because after all you don't want to go with a group of 20 and sit all over the place – but there is a certain code. Most people abide by it, and the staff will generally support it. You need a reasonable ratio of people to seats, and if people don't show up by the first inning or so, the staff will make you bunch up and make room for those who are there. Now, once you have the seats, they're yours for the game, and it's rare that people will try to poach your seats when you're up getting beer or food or whatever (beer vendors do not visit the bleachers any more, which is probably a good thing).

We had 39 people, I think, so we took a block 11 seats by 4 rows, with one corner of 4 seats going to people who beat us there. (It was funny when two of the guys whom we had yet to see were making their way down to the front. We were trying to explain that we had this section, and they didn't say anything because they already had their stuff there ... it was cleared up quickly, and they were cool about it, but it was still funny.)

12:05: First pitch. With overcast skies, there were no paratroopers and no pregame flyovers. (In fact, the air show made very few appearances due to visibility issues.) Fortunately for light-skinned people whose sunscreen ran out in the middle of applying it, the clouds would last most of the day, thus preventing even more sun damage.

Cubs take an early lead, albeit 12 runs smaller than Friday, and hold on for another win. They're now 7-0 in official (Saturday) Wrigleyfest games.

3:00: We head out of Wrigley and west ... the street fair we visited last year is on again, so we figure we'll hit that. There's a cover band there, Wedding Banned, that some people really wanted to hear. I figure I'll hang out for a while, then head back to the hotel and crash.

3:45: Apparently the street fair is farther away than we realized. (The locals knew about where it was, but not exactly.) We stop outside a bar in some confusion ... a manager/waiter/employee overhears us and confirms that the fair is up ahead on the right a couple of blocks. This was farther than some people planned to walk, so we stopped in for a quick drink. While in the bar, we find out that some of the group who'd headed off in another direction are already there, so we finish up and go to meet them.

4:30: The street fair is much smaller than last year. Instead of three blocks, it's barely one. A few food and drink tents, a few merchandise tents, and the stage, and that's it. We eat (pretty good food, and cheap too: $4.50 for a half an 8" pizza and a can of Diet Coke) and wait.

5:30: The band is pretty decent. As you'd guess from their name, they play a lot of popular rock and assorted other songs, so basically just the stuff I like. I think there was maybe one song I didn't know that well, and I still knew what it was and who sang it.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a fan. A few people were making noise about heading out early to the next stop (a private club where one of the locals is a member), but they stuck it out. A few other people head back to their hotels, some to return later, some not.

Some people go to the stage (and apparently on the stage at some point); I stay with the conversational group. We've commandeered a tent that was apparently for some kind of health club/spa/something. Hey, nobody was using it ... at one point, I'm talking to one of the women in the group (friend of a friend; not many women play online sports sims) and discover that she thought I was 25 or so. As Ice Cube once said, today was a good day.

7:15: The encores are done, the party regroups, and the next step is planned. Remembering that trains are every two hours now, I get advice on the best way back toward downtown and head for a Brown Line train. Luckily, there's a stop just a couple of blocks away, and a few minutes later, the train shows up. (That was actually slow for me this weekend: today, I got to the Jackson Street station just in time to get on the Red Line.)

8:00: The advice was excellent. The Brown Line runs closer to Union Station than the Red Line, so I'm there in plenty of time. Of course, so are 200 other people who've been downtown and are heading home. Fortunately, our train boards before the other one. As a "veteran", I head almost to the end of the train and get a car all to myself. (Most people who are unfamiliar with the train will get on as soon as they can, particularly if they're accustomed to the L. Those trains take off quickly; these don't. You've got plenty of time to board.)

Naturally, the car fills up eventually, but it's not a big deal. I wait, and eventually we're in motion.

9:25: The train arrives in Itasca. I wave goodbye to my good friend Metra, exchange smiles with a pretty blond on my way back to the car, and head back to the hotel. Clean up, take care of things, and it's off to sleep.

I'll leave reasonably early in the morning, but for now I'm just enjoying another busy weekend in Chicago. I'm very comfortable visiting ... if things had turned out differently, I probably could have lived here, but I'm happy where I am now.

I spend a little time working on staff for Cambridge City, and then it's off to sleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Baseball and feeble discipline

Buster Olney has a column (subscription required) about the activity between Boston and Detroit this week, and sadly I don't mean the actual baseball that was played. I mean the stupid "you hit my guy, I hit yours" crap that has been "part of the game" for far too long.

Of course, MLB likes to crack down on this by suspending the offending pitchers, well, pretty much never, unless they're rookies. (Got another explanation for Porcello's suspension? Me neither.) So it keeps going, which isn't really a surprise, because somehow baseball has this stupid-ass policy that if you're suspended, you can appeal right away, and then not serve the suspension for weeks, until your team is in New York so your appeal can be heard. Unless you're playing Washington or Pittsburgh or someone, and then you can suddenly drop your appeal and start serving it. Of course, most appeals go through, and then a 7-game suspension becomes 3, or some crap like that.

Anyway, Olney's point is that Bob Watson, the head of MLB "discipline", should have a consistent set of rules to apply. That part he gets right. What he doesn't say is what really needs to happen.

First, you need to start enforcing the batter's box. (What?) Yes, the batter's box. You know, that chalk line that is painstakingly marked before every game and then immediately removed by the first batter on each side of the plate. (What a joke. Can you imagine this in any other sport? Besides NASCAR, that is.) Touch the line, you're out. (There are actually already rules on the books that cover most of this, and of course they are not enforced, because umpires don't do that. They make their own rules.)

So now hitters don't stand on the plate and glare menacingly at the mound, so there's no need to brush them off the plate. Now you can start penalizing pitchers for hitting batters. Something that takes into account a certain lack of control, but also the danger involved in hitting a guy. (Like the first one in a game is free, a second one gets you the day off, and then exceeding X in a season brings suspensions ... hitting someone in the head is an automatic 7 games ... that kind of thing.)

Now the good stuff. Charge the mound, you're out for 30 games. Do it again the same season, you're out for a year. Don't like being hit? Nobody does, that's why there are rules about it. But try to take things into your own hands and you're done.

Bench-clearing brawls? Be creative. Maybe fine each team 1% of its payroll, cumulative during the season (four brawls means you're paying 10% of your payroll).

It's stupid, it's not part of the game, and it needs to go. MLB is a joke for not protecting the players and not taking the crap out of the game, and the MLBPA is just as liable for doing whatever they can to prevent discipline. (Ever notice how players' associations don't represent everyone, only the superstars and the ones in trouble? Funny, I thought the victims were members too.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wrigleyfest, day 1

8:00: Got up on time, left the hotel with plenty of time to spare. Completely missed the $1.50-per-day signs in the two good parking lots, saw only the "reserved parking" sign in the third, and ended up driving around for 20 minutes until I found parking outside the commuter zone (4-hour limit). No big deal, but I'll know for next week year. (The 4-hour limit is Monday through Friday.)

Got my ticket, hopped on Metra, read the first half of my book, reached Union Station. On to the street, east on Jackson, onto the Red Line and north.

11:00: Met the first person at Murphy's. (This trip is so different when you aren't drinking.) Next guy shows up, then the last two, and we go in. Mental note: put contraband in your pockets. If you have a bag, they don't bother with the rest of it. (I had my trusty Xbox 360 messenger bag, primarily for two things: sunscreen and aforementioned book. I'll get burned this weekend, but not without a fight.)

11:40: Seated in left field with plenty of time remaining in Pirates BP, and it was worth it. Several balls hit onto Waveland, a few in the bleachers in each section. None very close to us, which was good. On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of protection, the people in front of us were about a 2. (A 10 means there's a guy who used to play outfield, so he's catching line drives for you. A 1 means that you're actually better off with no one in front of you, because this person will either deflect the ball into your face or duck at the last minute. No possible chance of catching it.) I know enough not to catch line drives, but I don't want a fly bouncing off my head.

1:00: Paratroopers. One first, then six later. Very cool.

1:20: Flyovers. Many of them. Also very cool. I love it when the air show is in town.

Cubs put 4 up in the first, 7 more before an out is recorded in the second, 3 more after that. Yeah, 14-0 after two, I think it's in the bag. 17-2 was the final. There was really no suspense. The scenery was decent, and I shared a bit of conversation with a woman who sat down next to us in the third or fourth inning. (Probably about my age, definitely a fake fan: they stayed about three innings and moved on, either to find younger guys or to find the party they were heading to after the game.)

4:30: Back to the Red Line, which was very much not crowded, surprisingly so. One guy gets off early for his hotel, the other one stays on til Jackson with me, and we walk back to Union Station. I head for the Metra counter and he heads back to his hotel; we'll reconvene tomorrow.

4:55: I get my one-way ticket (sigh, weekend passes are good only Friday and Saturday) and make a crucial mistake. I do not check to see which trains stop in Itasca. Sadly, the one I catch does not. I find this out by listening to the list of stops. At this point, it's started to move, so I can't get off. I hit the Metra website and determine that it's about 2.7 miles from Roselle to Itasca. No biggie, I'll walk. Lesson for next time.

6:45: Back at the hotel room; of course no tickets on my car. Chicago and surrounding area is pretty good at telling you where you can't park. No signs usually means no problem. (I did have to instruct one driver on the meaning of a green arrow. Apparently he felt that because there were two lanes, he could turn right into his lane and I was to turn left into mine. I pointed out that I had a green arrow and therefore he could either stop or hit me. He chose to explain his point of view, complete with gestures ... but apparently his wife/girlfriend/better half/conscience pointed out the error of his ways rather quickly, because he slowed down immediately and stayed well back of me. Normally if they think it's your fault, they speed around you. Yeah, I had the arrow, so suck it. And yes, that's how I drive in Chicago. Who doesn't?) Time enough to get cleaned up, check Facebook (what, it's down? Oh, there it goes), change clothes (jeans and nicer tennis shoes – hey, the rest of the gang just got done golfing) and map out my route to Texas de Brazil.

8:00: Strangely, none of the golfers are here. I make a trip through the mirrored dining room (always a weird experience), confirm this, and wait in the lobby. One comes in and recognizes my shirt (a What-If Sports shirt; I'm no fool, they'll recognize me even if I don't recognize them). Then the rest of the party shows up, and Meatfest begins.

9:45: We win, as usual. After three or four good passes, the servers slow down, then eventually disappear. Just as well, I probably ate half as much as I did last year and don't feel bad at all. (I intended to eat less this year anyway.) Check is paid, we go our separate ways. Back to the hotel for a few more days of WSM, a few checks on Facebook, and rest for tomorrow. (9:00 at Murphy's? Try 10. All I need to do is be there early enough to help wait in line.)

Redemption

So, I didn't try to go out on Thursday and play trivia ... by all accounts, most sites were up and running. (The fix involved pushing code out to all sites, so if your site was having connection problems, well ...)

Anyway, they sent out $10 gifts.com GCs to all qualifiers. I thought that was pretty cool. I'm not saying they didn't need to do something, but honestly few of us had a shot at winning anyway. The GCs might actually buy them some goodwill, though ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 23, -2.0 pounds

So, another successful week. Yes, the first few days I had a cold or the flu or something, and I dropped weight right away, but then my appetite came back on Friday, and I fed it, and I did not regain the weight. (And we played volleyball for two hours on Sunday. That helped a lot. My monitor estimated 1800 calories burned.)

I think I misinterpreted something that ems mentioned this week ... anyway, she pointed out that being unemployed is actually a good thing when it comes to weight loss, and she's right. The biggest thing that changes is that you no longer have false cues for meals: it doesn't matter that it's 11:30, or noon, or whenever "lunch hour" is. You're hungry, you eat lunch.

Plus you don't have people always saying "let's go out and eat" (and to be honest, I am one of those, although at least now I eat more sensibly), so you can save some cash too.

My corporate membership at the Y is gone, which is just as well because it never really was something that worked well for me. As much as I like working out (sometimes), it just doesn't seem to integrate easily. I'll have to add some muscle, I think, so I'll have to clean up my weight room or do some smaller exercises in the living room. Maybe I need to revisit Wii Fit. (My "deadline" on it passed without me reaching my goal, but I am getting down toward that nice little 25 BMI.)

I may actually end up pretty close to 160 in a couple of weeks. Of course my target should be 154 (the "work weight" thing, you know), but I think it's just as reasonable to celebrate losing 32 pounds. I'll keep working at it until I reach a stable weight, so we'll see if that's something with a 5 or a 6. I haven't been this light in a long time, so I'm not sure exactly how much lower I can go.

Wrigleyfest, day 0

4:30 or so: Arrived at the hotel. Got a room on the top floor, very cool (it's a Starwood Preferred Guest floor, don't you know). The exercise facility is on this floor, not that I will need it. I gots walking to do.

I looked for vending machines (none on this floor) and guests upon whom I could look down. None so far.

Spent about 45 minutes not planning my itinerary for tomorrow and Friday.

Google: Hey dude, you should totally do this: take Metra to here (but ask the conductor to let you off), then catch this bus, then that bus, and you're like there. But on the way back, take this other bus first, then this other bus, and then go back from this other station. Cool, k?

Me: How about I take the Metra to Union Station, walk a few blocks, and take the Red Line north?

Google: oh. right.

See, Metra is the key. Buses and trains come by often, but Metra only runs hourly during the times I'll be using it (unless I miss the 6:40 again and spend two hours in Union Station), so it doesn't really matter if I try to knock 15 minutes off my trip by taking buses. I'll arrive in plenty of time by taking the Red Line, so that's what I'm doing.

I might have to check out this new Chicago Card thing. My CTA card expires in December anyway ... have to remember that there is an agent on Friday at the Itasca station. (It's $2 more if you buy on the train when you could have bought from an agent. Last year, I didn't take the train on Friday.)

7:30: Headed out to grab a sandwich and stuff, back to the room, but up the stairs, oh yes. 22 flights. (12th floor, remember.) Short flights, but flights nonetheless. So that justifies my Spicy Italian rather than Oven Roasted Chicken Breast. (I did not get cookies, either. I did, however, pick up three of my protein bars for breakfast Friday through Sunday, and at only a slight markup from the prices at home.)

Two wedding receptions in the hotel this weekend. Interesting. Too bad I left my "perfect for attracting guests attending a wedding reception at a fancypants hotel" outfit at home. However, if they like baseball caps and shorts, I'm in.

8:05: Footlong sandwich gone. Guess I was hungry. (I hadn't eaten since lunch ... when away from home, I tend to ignore hunger unless it's convenient to eat. Saves money that way.) Now off to Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009 to finish the current season. The ungrateful sods at Hyde fired me with less than a month to go because I couldn't assemble strikers out of soda cans and glue. My replacement has led them down one more spot in the table, including a loss to a rival whom we beat when I was in charge. Good luck, guys ...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rejected

No, this is not about a failed attempt at dating. Really? You should know better. I don't post personal stuff on here because I'm not good at sharing, even with my internetfriends, not that any of you really are. I suspect I know all six of you in RL.

It's about a contest, to which I shall not link, and wasted time, and me being not happy, but in a very controlled fashion and not in a raging I-might-still-be-20-years-old fashion.

Today my schedule broke out in a fashion other than that which I'd planned, so instead of playing volleyball to my little heart's content tonight, I found myself pulling into the local BWW at 8:45 or so, just in time to grab a box and sign in for the 25 Years of Sports Trivia finals. (Long story short: play once, qualify for finals. Three nights, top scorer in each of four regions plus next two wild-cards win trips to Bermuda.) On top of that, the Millercoors girls were there doing a Madden 10 promo (yeah, the sexism in beer sales does bother me on some levels, but I can't say it bothers me to have attractive women asking me questions as part of their job), so I got a $5 coupon and free shipping for Madden 10. nice.

Anyway, 9:00 rolls around, the game goes up on the board, and my playmaker says

"Sorry. Buzztime sucks, so it locks you out. go home."

Actually, it said something about not being qualified for the finals, which was a flat-out lie, since a) I made damn sure I qualified and b) Buzztime even sent me an email saying so. I decided to play at BWW tonight in part because I didn't trust their new system to confirm my participation out of state. (You can now use your forum login and password to sign on at the bar, and it actually looks up your Players Plus info and connects you properly. Buzztime, meet the 21st century.) Instead, I got to go home right after dinner.

Because most of you probably don't know about them, I'll explain. Buzztime has a reputation among trivia players for three things: a low-quality network, poor equipment, and very poorly-run contests. Basically, they're not given nearly enough people and money to do their jobs well, and their business model is flawed anyway because their customers are the bars, not the players ... several good people I've "met" do the best they can, but it's not nearly enough.

So there were many predictions of doom and gloom on the boards in advance of this competition, particularly with respect to the idea that non-qualifiers would be locked out so that qualifiers could focus. (Not a bad idea: apparently the problem the playmakers have with freezing out answers has to do with someone logging in while you are trying to answer a question. Yes, one person logging in on one box can prevent any of the other boxes from responding for a few seconds, or so I hear. I believe it.) Some people believed that it wouldn't work properly. Guess they were right.

Well, it's not like I would have won ... I barely cracked the top 100 during qualifying games, and I'd have needed a top-5 finish to feel good about a shot at a prize. Plus there's something awkward about winning a trip for two when you aren't two. (Hi there ... want to go to Bermuda with me? It's another country and everything, you know. Hey, where are you going?) No worries about that now.

Ah well, time to pack. Wrigleyfest, here I come.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PayPal sucks even more

It should be common knowledge that when eBay bought PayPal. it was like crossing the streams ... eBay was already changing for the worse and spreading their evil to PayPal ruined that service as well. (They're still tolerable as long as you only use a credit card, IMO ... at least that way you can simply initiate a chargeback when you get screwed.)

Well, they're at it again and again. Apparently they're not aware that this is kind of a bad time to be screwing users. (Or, more likely, they are aware and they don't care. After all, they're not a "bank", so they're really not regulated, which is obvious if you've ever had a dispute with them.)

Beware.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Weigh-in: Week 22, -1.2 pounds

A decent week, although I am wondering if perhaps some of this is coming from whatever I may be coming down with ... nonetheless, I'll take it. Weight under 170 for the first time in a long time. My waist is shrinking reasonably well, and my clothes are fitting better (well, some of them are going in the other direction and will be replaced by smaller clothes).

I'm really not doing much weight training, though, so I need to start on some of that. It'll be easier to maintain a lower weight if I can get my metabolism up in part by adding muscle. Not much, just a reasonable amount ... I don't care to look like a weightlifter, but I would like to have reasonable upper-body strength.

Weight training would slow the weight-loss process and perhaps raise the "floor" (the lowest reasonable weight I could maintain), but that's fine. 154 was a number I picked out of thin air. If I can maintain a healthy weight at 164, that's fine too.

Weigh-in: Week 21, -0.6 pounds

As predicted (a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course), not quite on that pace to lose 10 pounds in a month. Still, 170.2 at the end of July is good - 21.8 pounds in total.

I should probably work on posting regularly, though. It makes it difficult to remember why I might be above or below average for a week.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Linkasaurus

Pat Forde points out yet another massive flaw in the BCS, although he isn't as harsh about it as I would be: coaches don't even fill out their own ballots. Of course this shouldn't be a surprise, and really wouldn't matter anyway – coaches have no way of accurately estimating the change in relative strength of 20+ teams they couldn't watch on Saturday because they were, you know, coaching (remember you don't have all week to fill out your ballot) – but it's still an indication of how deluded BCS backers are. And remember that this is the part of the formula that gains more weight when the "title" game isn't fought down to the wire, because of course it's the computers that are wrong.

Jim Delany doesn't think the Big Ten has to worry about recent, um, lack of performance. In the original article on AnnArbor.com, Delany also points out (quite accurately) that many of these bowls are, for all practical purposes, road games for the Big Ten, and in that context, sure, struggling a little bit is to be expected. Then again, if this came from someone other than a man who may be singlehandedly preventing a I-A playoff system, you could put something more into it. After all, wouldn't it be easier for the Big Ten to regain national stature if Penn State beat, say, Alabama, Florida, and USC to win a real national title?

Way back when I had time on my hands (before the innernets), I wrote a little baseball sim for Full Impact, an old, old spreadsheet for the Mac. It generated line scores, estimating runs per inning, hits, and errors based on frequencies I gathered from a season's worth of box scores from the Sporting News. Years later, someone took the same concept and ran with it, creating an actual model to predict the chances of scoring X runs in an inning given Y runs scored per game. Very cool, and most likely you all have just fallen sound asleep.

Apparently owners are spending too much money on players. Not in baseball (this time), but rather in soccer. UEFA, Europe's governing body for soccer, is concerned that more teams will seek to emulate Manchester City and Real Madrid, spending as much as they can to sign as many top players as they think they can get without worrying about the future. I suppose their concerns are warranted: too much debt can force a club to list its valuable players to pay off the debt, and in some cases it can even cost the club points in the standings. See, for example, last year's League Two standings, where four clubs, including the two relegated clubs, were penalized for being in various stages of insolvency. (Consider that the club earning the stiffest penalty, Luton Town, played in the Championship in 05-06 and has since been relegated three times, now playing in Conference National.) So clubs are made to force consequences for terrible management, unlike here, where they simply go into bankruptcy or get pity money from the league or sometimes even give their players apologies instead of paychecks.
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