Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's A Trap

Since we are on the subject of ESPN’s “It’s not crazy.  It’s sports” advertising campaign, I have to highlight the cream of the crop which plays more like a documentary than a commercial.  The great disappointment of this ad and the real life events that inspired it is that real life (and copyright law) interjected itself into the delightful story of an internet meme’s attempt to turn the self-righteousness of the Southern football “tradition” on its head.  Wouldn’t it have been great if those prim and proper dance squad ladies that think it is appropriate to celebrate a legacy of slavery with the nickname of their past it's prime ball team had to  now wear a shirt with a prune-faced alien to their Saturday tailgate party.  Ahhh…what could have been.

Solitaire Update

The updates keep coming.  Not much new to report at this point.  I am beginning to pile up some sizable N's for what my normal rate of success is.  Before I can really appreciated  whether any potential strategies that I mentioned in that first Solitaire post has an impact on success, I have to understand what success looks like.  Right now we are settling in on a number of approximately 1 win for every 6 hands of cards.  Although the almost 200 hands played seems like a lot, there still seems to be some real movement in the numbers.  I think to get a true stable baseline, I need to go a total of 1000 hands.  So that is my goal right now.  1000 hands of solitaire with the standard straight ahead strategy.  Then we will see where we are and go from there.

Day 12 - 1 of 10 (203.5)
Day 13 - 1 of 12 (203.5)
Day 14 - 1 of 1 (203.5, 3.52, 48.34)
Day 15 - 1 of 8 (202, 3.49, 48.16)
Day 16 - 1 of 5 (203)
Day 17 - 3 of 7 (202.5, 3.55, 48.05)
Day 18 - 0 of 9 (202.5, 3.53, 48.05)
Day 19 - 3 of 5 (201.5, 3.56, 47.94)
Day 20 - 0 of 5 (200.5, 3.76, 50.58)
Overall Success Rate - 30 out of 191 (15.7%)

This blog post is sponsored by Allinol.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The World's Most Famous Piece of Terry Cloth

Is it any wonder that ESPN made a commercial that celebrated the fanship of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the single greatest and most successful NFL franchise in professional football history?  To be fair, ESPN did make “It’s not crazy.  It's sports” spots for other teams but none of the others were as genuine and real as the Steeler one.   In fact, the Philadelphia Eagle one was just downright sad for the contrived, artificial nature of it.  Whereas taking the Terrible Towel to the far reaches of the earth is completely natural and expected.  Watch any Steelers’ game and it seems like it is a home game, regardless of where they are playing.  I still remember a Monday night game a couple years back at Washington, the home of a once proud franchise with a supposedly devoted fanbase.  Yet, the Black and Gold dominated the screen and it was the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons quarterback that had problems shouting out signals over the roar of the crowd, not the Steelers.  It wasn’t like they were playing in Jacksonville.  This was an NFL town, yet they couldn’t muster up enough hometown fans to make a decent showing against the invading hordes of the Steelers’ Washington D.C. sleeper cell.  This is not uncommon.  Steeler fans don’t just travel well.  They are in every town and in great numbers.  But why is this?  It isn’t because the once polluting steel mill smokestacks created generation after generation of ex-patriots that infiltrated every corner of this country.   Pittsburgh was just never big enough to have that many former residents.   The truth of the matter is the opening statement of this paragraph.  The Steelers are the most successful NFL franchise of all timeOne for the thumb plus another finger on the other hand (you can pick which finger that is).  Eight Super Bowl visits in all.  The Steelers are proof positive that the specter of league wide parity and the death of the dynasty is one big myth perpetuated by college football apologists who still think anyone still cares about their sham of a “sport”

If we just look back at the last 10 years of NFL playoff history, yes you will see that almost the entire league did make the playoffs at one point or another (Sorry Houston, Detroit, and Buffalo - no playoffs for you in the last 10 years).  And the system is certainly set up to give better odds at a payoff than any slot machine you will see in Vegas.  Firstly, there are only 4 teams in each division.  So right off the bat you have a 25% chance in making the playoffs.  Not bad.  Once you add in the wildcards, you have over one third of the league participating in the post season every year.  During the last decade, if true parity were in place, you would expect every team to make the playoffs 3-4 times.  Instead, the majority of playoff visits are cluster amongst the a few privileged teams.  The NFL’s 1%.  In this elite group, you are making the playoffs, at worst, every other year.  The 10 most successful franchises (Indianapolis, New England, Phliadelphia, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York Jets, Seattle, New York Giants, and San Diego) account for 56% of the playoff spots grabbed in the last 10 years despite only making up only 31% of the league’s teams.  The bottom 11 teams (Houston, Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, Washington, San Francisco, Oakland, Miami, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and Arizona) captured 12.5% of the playoff spots (about 1 per 10 years on average) with 34.5% of the league’s teams during that same time frame.  People love to point to the yearly turnover of playoff teams as proof of the league’s parity.  But this myopic view misses the larger trends that are obvious with a more macro view.  One that shows that in fact there are dominant teams that over the long term continue to succeed again and again, while the one year wonders quickly return to obscurity.  If you live in Cleveland you can hold onto the dream of parity and the promise it brings to deliver your once in a decade playoff visit.  Or you can face reality and become a fan of real winner of a franchise like Indianapolis that gave you a rooting interest in January for nine straight years.  And that folks is why there are more Steeler fans in Jacksonville than Jaguar fans (The Jaguars really only have themselves to blame for this – they could have drafted TIM TEBOW!).

Solitaire Update
One of the stated goals I had for doing the solitaire update was to encourage more frequent writing on this blog.  Given that it has been over a month since my last blog post, you might say that I missed that goal by a country mile.  Well, yes and no.  I have been dutifully keeping track of my solitaire success and failures and the presence of that card playing log has been a constant weight on my conscience.  A tell-tale deck of cards whispering in my ear to post an update.  The quickly accumulating backlog of solitaire data has in many ways done exactly what it was supposed to do.  It has provided me with the prompt I need to finally get my fingers to the keyboard and start reporting.  And really only 30 odd days between posts is pretty good for me.  So I declare “Mission Accomplished”.

Day 6 - 2 of 13
Day 7 - 2 of 13
Day 8 - 2 of 14
Day 9 - 3 of 12
Day 10 - 3 of 11 (204, 3.5, 48.22)
Day 11 - 0 of 10 (203.5, 3.41, 47.47)
Overall Success Rate - 19 out of 129 (14.7%)

This blog post is sponsored by Merlotte's Bar and Grill.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Unfortunately this year, we weren't able enjoy a White Christmas. But that doesn't mean we can't imagine all the fun we would have it the white stuff did come down. (Still miss you Calvin).

This blog post is sponsored by Trundle's Clock Repair.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Battle of the Snow Whites

Mirror, Mirror

Snow White and the Huntsman

I have already stated my clear and strong support for the repurposing of Disney Princesses.  Therefore, it is likely not surprising that I have no problem what so ever with two, that's right two, live-action reimaginings of the Snow White fairy tale.  At least in principle.  But now that the trailers for both of these endeavors have surfaced, I can resoundly say two additional takes on the costs of extreme female vanity is one too many.  

The two Snow White  movies could not have taken more different approaches to the source material.  Snow White and the Huntsman did the en vogue thing and took the whole thing to a dark place while transforming the heroine into a fully empowered warrior princess.  The whole thing looks like a high concept actioner where the princess stops wishing for the one to love and becomes the latest iteration of Buffy, the wicked witch slayer.  The only glaring negative with this version is the actress charged with bringing Snow White into the flesh.  Somehow, someone in Hollywood decided it was a good idea to give our nation's worst living actress a career outside of the Twilight series.  Just superficially, Kristen Stewart fails to live up to the standards of a beauty greater than all others in the kingdom.  A beauty worth killing for.  And that is before she opens her mouth and makes everyone in the audience wish you can have a Snow White movie without Snow White.

But the other option, Mirror, Mirror, is trying exceeding hard with its trailer to guarantee there is no audience even in the theater to question why they spent good money to see it.  This thing looks absolutely awful.  It is fine that they decided to go light hearted in this one.  It differentiates it nicely from the Batman Begins-version of Snow White the competition is selling.  But maybe if it is going to be a comedic version of the story, maybe some of it should be actually funny.  This Grantland piece does a nice job of pointing out many of the ways this trailer went horribly wrong.  Let me just add a couple more nails to the glass coffin.  The production value of this looks low rent by the standards of high school musicals.  The casting is down-right dreadful.  This Snow White not only makes Kristen Stewart look like the fairest in the land, she makes miss Stewart seem like someone two super-powered, immortal beings would fight over.  And Prince Charming is just as bad.  The Winklevoss smarm still oozes off of old Arm and Hammer.  He was born to play bad guy from the rich, snooty frat house in a college set comedy.  Not the man of virginal girls dream.  Julia Roberts, you are better than this.

Solitaire Update - Things picked up a bit after my involuntary shut out a couple of days past, included a personal best of 3 wins in a day.  I still have resisted applying any real strategy yet.  That is still to come.  But in the meantime I was also think that there needs to be some cool lingo to go along with certain events in solitaire.  This will be a critical step in setting it up the mainstream competitive sport it was always meant to be.  Just like in bowling, three consecutive strikes is called a turkey and four strikes is a hambone.  Solitaire needs its own hambone.  What do you call it when you lay out a hand and you can't make a single move.  No cards can be brought down from the stack and none of the cards below can be flipped.  This phenomenon seems like it should have a name.  For that matter, the different areas of the solitaire playing field need names. How is any one going to be able to follow all of my great insights into the practice of solitaire if they don't know if I am referring to the stacks or the triplets (my first attempt at some names)?  So, top of my list of things to do in my solitaire sojourn - develop some cool jargon.

Day 4 - 2 out of 13
Day 5 - 3 out of 12
Overall Success Rate - 7 out of 56 (12.5%)

This blog poster is sponsored by Gen Sys Research Laboratories.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All By Myself

As I have well established through this blog, I am a world-class procrastinator.  Despite the best intentions to use this as a means to practice my "writing", I have been lucky to average a single post a month.  Mainly because important tasks like sleeping, reading someone else's incredibly insightful blog, or determining that House's latest patient doesn't have lupus always gets in the way.  Most recently though, my diversion of choice (no, choice is the wrong word - it is more like unconscious compunction) is electronic solitaire.  It is quick, always accessible challenge that calls out to me the moment my attention wains from the task at hand.  Often I use it as an incentive to drive me through unpleasant tasks - if a finish this section, I can play a quick hand.  But all to often it turns into a bad case of Civilization - One more turn Syndrome.  Compulsively clicking through to the next deal in hopes that that one will bring me the proper alignment of cards to take the day.  And when I do win, that just fuels the fire to try again.  It is the same compunction that gives the success of the minimally rewarding games like Farmville and Angry Birds.  Success in it doesn't prove any particular skill or ability.  It is just a time waster that eats at your day while every so often patting you on the head and telling you that you are a good boy.

But at the same time, I have begun to think there must be a strategy to this.  A way of playing that increases your odds of winning.  That if you play closer attention to the order of the cards as they are revealed in sets of three, you can make more intelligent decisions on which cards to play.  Actively passing up options to move cards from the deck in order to get a more favorable card later.  Choosing to move the card that frees up the space for the king instead of the card from the biggest unturned column of cards.  There is in fact skill and strategy to solitaire and once I figure it out, I can increase my rate of winning.  It isn't just luck.  Why aren't their competitive solitaire tournaments out there to allow the true kings of solitaire shine?  There has to be, right?  This card game is no more luck based than poker.

So with that in mind and with the hope that I can turn my procrastination technique into a driver for posting on the blog, I will start today to track my rate of success in solitaire.  If I am right.  If there is any skill what so ever, I should get better with time (unless of course my prior work in this area has already delivered me at my peak solitaire playing ability).  Who knows, maybe I will become the greatest solitaire player of all time.

Day 1 - 1 win out of 10 hands
Day 2 - 1 win out of 10 hands
Day 3 - 0 wins out of 11 hands (the first shutout and the low point of the monitoring so far)

Be sure to check back often to see how a progress on this thrilling adventure.

This blog poster is sponsored by Better Lawn Service and Pool Cleaning.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In memorium

An incredibly important date past the world by last month with surprisingly little fanfare or ceremony  Despite it being the 30th anniversary of an event that singularly provided for the ultimate triumph of good over evil.  It was on October 31st, 1981 that a young mother and father were faced with the ultimate nightmare of many a new parent. As most of the world slept, a malevolent intruder entered their home with the sole intention of taking the life of their dear infant son.  Despite the fact that this notorious mass murderer had already left a pile of bodies in his wake, the dedicated parents did not flee the premises.  Instead their declared their homestead the Alamo, digging in to make a final stand against the reptilian sociopath that sought to claim the life of the child.  After a fierce battle that culminated at the very edge of the crib that held the young boy, the invader was successfully repelled but not before leaving the mother and father dead and the child with a disfiguring scar on his forehead that would torment him with memories of what he lost that night for the rest of his life.  Of course it would be other 17 years before the force of pure evil responsible for the systematic execution of hundreds to thousands of individuals (accurate counts are still not clear) not deemed "pure" enough to be part of his new world order was finally defeated for good.  But that defeat happened at the hands of that same boy who lived that night (after a short stop over in Heaven's Train Station and Mutant Day Care Facility).  Without the sacrifice of these two brave souls, millions of more might have died.  So, next year, when Halloween rolls around, remember these two individuals and what they did to help secure the freedom and safety we enjoy today.  Well, maybe just eulogize the mother.  The father was a bully, an entitled prat, and all around horrible individual that probably deserved to die.

The Death of James and Lily Potter - October 31, 1981 (the actual date)

This blog poster is sponsored by the Umbrella Corporation.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Anything They Can Do, I Can Do Better (or at Least Equally Poorly)

Predictions are cheap in every sense of the word. There is no risk to one's bank account or reputation because predictions are forgotten almost as quickly as they are thrown off. That is probably why we have become a culture of meaningless predictions. Entire networks have been built around talking heads with dubious credentials predicting the end of the world, the next Enron, or (most importantly) whether Chris Johnson's holdout will result in him rushing for 92 yards or 105 yards in the season opener. And yet, despite all of the super, secret insider knowledge possessed by TV's many Nostradamuses, the great insights spouted by the know-it-alls of the world are almost always wrong. Of course that fact doesn't stop them from being ultraconfident that there next forecast will be right on the money. And why should it stop me as well. I am almost guaranteed to as good as the best ex-jock on ESPN family of networks and if I actually do hit on anything I predict, I can immediately point back to it as evidence of my pure genius. If I am wrong, well no one will ever see this post anyway. So without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2011 NFL season. And yes, I picked Green Bay over New Orleans in the opener (trust me - I am always right).

AFC East
New England       13-3
New York Jets    11-5
Miami                  4-12
Buffalo                 4-12

AFC North
Pittsburgh            14-2
Baltimore              9-7
Cleveland             7-9
Cincinnati             4-12

AFC South
Houston              9-7
Indianapolis         8-8
Tennessee           8-8
Jacksonville        3-13

AFC West
San Diego          13-3
Denver                7-9
Kansas City        6-10
Oakland             2-14

NFC East
Philadelphia             13-3
Dallas                      11-5
New York Giants    10-6
Washington              4-12

NFC North
Green Bay              14-2
Minnesota                8-8
Detroit                     7-9
Chicago                  3-13

NFC South
New Orleans          13-3         
Tampa Bay             10-6
Atlanta                     9-7
Carolina                  3-13

NFC West
St. Louis                 9-7
Seattle                    8-8
San Francisco         7-9
Arizona                  5-11

With a Super Bowl of San Diego over New Orleans.

This blog poster is sponsored by the Nucleic Exchange Research and Development.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Hindsight is Impeccable

The problem with taking months off between writing blog entries, is that all those absolutely brilliant predictions you make never get recorded so that when you are inevitably proven correct there is a lack of a record to prove your brilliance.  Luckily, I included my feelings about the Green Lantern movie in my last blog posting spree well before Ryan Reynolds proved me one hundred percent right.  I was able to successfully call both the miscasting and awful look and feel of the movie from the trailer.  I particularly enjoyed the io9 review of the movie that referred to GL as the floating of head of Ryan Reynolds.  The movie looked silly and amateurish by direct-to-DVD standards and only succeeded in killing off a franchise that the studio was willing to keep alive even in the face of losing over 100 million dollars on the original.  My childhood installed in me a deep fandom for Green Lantern and G.I. Joe and I was thrilled when it was announced that both of those properties would be turned into movies.  And then Hollywood went and destroyed both of them (we won’t even get into Transformers 2 because at least the original Transformers is a pretty entertaining movie if you edit out all the parts with John Turturro and Sam Witwicky’s parents).  At least G.I. Joe is getting the Rock.  And the Rock does not disappoint.

But one prediction that I didn’t get down on silicon in time was my the strong feeling from the trailer that Cars 2 was going to be the big letdown that breaks Pixar’s streak of instant classics (Personally I consider Ratatouille to be the first blemish on their reputation but I will go with the critics here and pretend that it was a classic).  It didn’t play like a Pixar movie.  It felt like a Dreamsworks’ movie.  A shameless grab for the easy money that comes with a quicky sequel and a built-in merchandising franchise.  And the full length thing just proved all of those concerns to be on target.  The wafer thin plot and a nonsensical twist ending (it made absolutely no sense in retrospect or in immediate inspection) had the stench of Disney’s fine tradition of sequels like Aladdin: The Return of Jafar or Cinderella II - Dreams Come True.  This movie clearly existed only to get their branded toys back on the shelves and drilled into kids’ cerebrum’s.  The Toy Story sequels had made us think Pixar was different.  They weren’t wearing the Katzenberg albatross that gave us Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch as a Glitch.  But it is clear now.  The only 2 Pixar movies to get sequels to date (Monsters Inc. 2 will soon make this statement out dated) were the ones that spawned successful toy lines.  The announcement of a fourth Toy Story movie, despite the artistic crescendo of Toy Story 3 (should have won the best picture Oscar last year but an animated movie will never win) that provided one of the best trilogy conclusions ever only, only underlines, bolds, and italicizes the swallowing up of the Pixar vision by the Disney marketing monster.  Oh well, we will always have WALL-E.  

Oh and here is one more of my outdated predictions for the road.  3D movies are an overpriced fad that tries to convince people to pay premium pricing for a diminished movie going experience.  It will soon pass.  Also, we will one day fly like the birds, walk on the moon, ride around in horseless carriages, and tame the mighty power of the open flame.  Man, my ability to predict the past is amazing.

This blog poster is sponsored by the Four-Five-Six Laundry.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Big Bad

It is a well known rule of cinema that villains are much more interesting than the heroes. The actors like to play them and the audience loves to see them get their come uppence while secretly rooting for them.  Keyser Söze, Anton Chigurh, and the Joker won Oscars, Batman wasn't even considered and most people wouldn't recognize the names Llewelyn Moss and Dave Kujan even if they were tacked up on the bulletin board directly behind them.  The bad guys are just cooler.  For me, my favorite all-time (off the top of my head) bad dude is Agent Smith from the Matrix.  Sure he got a little less awesome as the trilogy progress but then so did the entire trilogy.  But the steely menace he exuded as he pursued the whiny/nancy Neo really drove the action of the movie.  In fact while I am at it, here are my top ten movie and television bad guys.  Again, this is completely off the top of my head so I expect to revisit this topic once I stop and expend a neuron or two on it.  There are no criteria or metrics for the order and make up of this list other than my own personal whim.
  1. Agent Smith
  2. Keyser Soze/Verbal Kent
  3. The Thin Man
  4. Hans Gruber
  5. The Joker
  6. Q
  7. Ivan Drago
  8. Ben Linus
  9. Thomas Gabriel
  10. Russell Edgington (Russell earned his spot on the list with this exceptional scene)

 With this said, is it really any surprise that this little girl bows down to one of the most iconic baddies in movie history (he didn't make my list because I am a Star Trek guy, not Star Wars - Yoda wants to bring balance to "the Force" when "the Force" was out of balance in his favor.  Yeah that makes a lot of sense).  I mean Darth Vader once slaughtered a whole school of little Jedi's in training.  Is it really smart for an untrained tyke to stand up to him? I think Mace Windu is the real villain in the video below.  Sending a child to certain death and then rudely escorting her off the stage when she won't be his willing sacrifice.  The girl was just being prudent in joining up with the dark side.

This blog poster is sponsored by the Drunken Clam Tavern.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Goliath Wins One for the Little Guy

Most of the corporate logos that represent the sponsors of this blog have been scavenged from around the internets.  But a select few of them - Bailey Brothers, M&M Enterprises (Everyone has a share), Bromley Marks, Encyclopedia Brown, Ferris Aircraft, and Home Plus -  were created by me on spec for the representative companies.  Yet one of these creations stands above all the rest as a crowning achievement of this blog.  It seems that my logo for Goliath National Bank, famous as the employer of Barney Stinson and, until recently, Marshal Eriksen, has become the de-facto logo for GNB on the internets.  Unlike almost all my other blog posts, which successfully achieve the goal of complete and total obscurity, the one that bears the GNB logo actually draws noticeable levels of web traffic.  If you search Google Images for "Goliath National Bank", my version of the GNB logo is in the top line of results.  This apparently leads to a few deluded souls to click through to the blog entry that bears the picture.  Certainly, the amount of traffic that the GNB logo generates is just a fraction of what a high quality blog like People of Walmart or dominant search engine like Infoseek does.  But to me, this is as exciting as when my G.I. Joe post garnered comments by people who weren't my sister.  So, yeah,  we have now achieved the lowest possible level of internet success.  Come for the Goliath National Bank logo, stay for my insightful ruminations on the awfulness of the now defunct R.J. Gator's.

This blog post is sponsored by Royal Diner.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Collateral Damage

I was watching Knight and Day, Tom Cruise's failed attempt to regain his standing at the top of the summer blockbuster hill, the other night and in between the wacky hi-jinks and intricately choreographed gun-play, a thought occurred to me. Even though Tom Cruise is our movie's hero (he's TOM CRUISE, could he be anything than our wise-cracking hero), the people he is killing, maiming, and generally laying waste to with a broad Tom Cruise smile on his face are actually good guys.  The plot of the movie hinges on a betrayal by Tom Cruise's CIA partner.  The always theatrically evil Peter Sarsgaard decides to go rogue and frame our good man Tom Cruise for his crime.  This sends Tom Cruise on the lamb as a gaggle of law enforcement and federal agents attempt to bring him to justice.  The problem is the evil conspiracy does not seem to extend beyond the always evil Sarsgaard.  So when Cruise takes out several agents, he is taking out good men just doing their job in defense of God and country.  Essentially, the subtext of this movie is that it is OK to be a mass murderer of our nation's law enforcers and espionage agents if you believe you have been treated unfairly by "the system".  Can't imagine that is what the film makers where going for but it is there none the less.  Not that this a completely novel element to the modern action movie.  James Bond commonly lays waste to random security guards and soldiers that just happen to have the bad luck of being assigned to work the night shift when Bond breaks in to steal the secret science project from the penthouse office of an evil mastermind.  A secret science project that no minimum wage security guard just trying to get a few bucks into his 401K would have any knowledge of.  They are just trying to see why the alarm is going off on the 16th floor and a man with a license to kill puts a bullet in their head.  Again, not much different from The Matrix that shed no tears for the mindless drones put out of their misery because they couldn't accept "the reality" that select few unplugged knew.  The heroes are not so heroic if thought of from another angle.

This whole diatribe does bring to mind one of my favorite scenes from Clerks (embedded below) where they discuss the morality of killing the contractors that were likely hard at work on the Death Star when the rebels blew it up for the second time.  I still argue that the Knight and Day federal agent isn't in the same category plumber on the Death Star or the roofer working for the mobster.  But it probably does work for the employees of the Rupert Murdock-analog in Tomorrow Never Dies and his Fox News-like organization.

This blog post is sponsored by Cybus Industries.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Your Tax Dollars

Question : "Would the state’s highest-paid employee consider taking a pay cut to help with the ballooning deficit?"

Jim Calhoun : "Not a dime back"

Congrats to an egomaniacal coach with a shady history and documented recruiting violations on winning the ugliest national championship in decades with a bit of basketball that looked like it was being played by

How about we all agree that we can make due with a state college basketball team that doesn't necessarily win national titles every now while still meeting the lofty standard of hitting 35% of your shots (and your best player is considered to have an outstanding game by going 5 for 19 shooting) and save us all a bit on our taxes by clearing the 1.6 million dollar salary of the untitled Mr. Calhoun and the additional dollars of his very costly coaching staff from the public rolls?

This blog post is sponsored by Acme Corporation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bowl Season Round-up 2011

This being the night of the NCAA basketball championship, it makes complete sense to me to post my recurring NCAA football bowl season standings.  Actually, there is a very good reason to pair these two events.  The underlying theme of all of my bowl season posts is that the little guy is being unfairly kept down by they man.  The "experts" that heavily influence popular sentiment insist on repeating the same nonsense year after year that only serves to prop up the status quo and ignore the facts.  Yet once again the Mountain West Conference showed they were just as much a power conference as the SEC and Pac-10 and absolutely shamed the ACC and Big 12.  Despite the best efforts of the talking heads to marginalize these teams and the power brokers to lock them out of the big money games, the mid-major football conferences produced a that rightly deserved to be called national champion.  Numbers don't lie.  Kurt Herbstreet does. 

Then of course this years NCAA basketball tournament did more to make the Sportscenter yakkers look bad than Boise State ever did.  First, the major conference backers were apoplectic at just the thought of the 8th best team in the ACC or Big 12 didn't make the tournament and that the lowly VCU Rams did.  How could the tournament not reward a mediocre team with a vast recruiting advantage in favor of a team tried to get in by winning basketball games?  Shame on VCU.  But it didn't matter, because the tournament organizers banished VCU to the hinterlands of the play-in game.  Unfortunately for Dick Vitale, VCU won that game and then 2 more.  All against the talking heads preferred talking heads.  Their was nothing better than seeing Vitale eating crow after VCU made the Sweet Sixteen.  But even then he wouldn't admit he was wrong.  He claimed that many teams in the ugly step sister NIT tournament could have done what VCU did and predicted they would soon loss.  Only problem is they didn't.  They kept winning.  Virgina Tech and Colorado couldn't make the Final Four of the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament.  So much for all the insider knowledge Vitale possesses.

The real question I have is why anyone ever listens to these guys?  They are never right.  They don't even seem to be pay attention to what is happening on the field/court (See Joe Morgan).  Why does ESPN pay these guys millions of dollars when I guy off the street would do the same talking head job for $10 and be just as right in predicting games as "The Swami". 

Final College Football Bowl Standings

Conference W L GB
MWC 4 1 -
Big East 4 2 0.5
Ind 2 1 1
Sun Belt 2 1 1
SEC 5 5 1.5
MAC 2 2 1.5
Pac10 2 2 1.5
WAC 2 2 1.5
ACC 4 5 2
Big Ten 3 5 2.5
Big12 3 5 2.5
C-USA 2 4 2.5

Bowl Season Performance - 2007-2010

Conference W L GB
SEC  24 13 -
MWC  16 5 -
Big 12  16 12 3.5
Pac-10  13 9 3.5
Sun Belt 5 3 4.5
Ind.  4 3 5
Big East  12 13 6
Big Ten  14 17 7
C-USA  10 14 7.5
WAC  5 11 8.5
ACC  13 21 9.5
MAC  3 14 11

This blog post is sponsored by Massive Dynamic.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bad Medicine

In the wild, the natural enemy of the PhD student is the Med student.  Or even worse, the pre-med student.  The two species mix as well as a mongoose and cobra, or the Jets and the Sharks, or the Channel 4 news team and reporters from all of the other San Diego local stations.  Actually, the relationship between PhD students and Med students is much more like that between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.  The PhD students are completely annoyed and constantly hating on them while the Med students are so self-involved that they don't even notice that anyone else in the world exists, let alone the PhD students.  So it is not surprising then that a big smile came across my face when I rediscovered an old article on Wired's website that spelled out a few of the reason's why those training to be haughty, patronizing quacks are such a hate-able species.  After teaching a couple of laboratory courses filled with pre-meds, I can personally vouch for all of the Wired characterizations of pre-med students.  It also helped me understand why it is so hard to find a good doctor.

Top 5 Reasons to Dislike Pre-Med Students by Aaron Rowe

5. They haggle with their teachers for extra points.
4. They use questionable tactics to get good grades..
3. They horde leadership positions and then run organizations into the ground.
2. They game the system to get good grades.
1. They are not motivated by curiosity.

This blog post is sponsored by Veridian Dynamics.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One More Way Newspapers Have Moved Online

While we are on the topic of nerdy web-based comics that amuse me, I have to mention my favorite of the bunch,  xkcd.  I forgive the fact that it favors physics and mathematics over biology and genetics for its humor  Egg-head humor of this quality is hard to come by.  But all of this talk of comics reminds me of my favorite part of the Sunday paper growing up.  Calvin and Hobbes. Far SideBloom County.  Despite the fact that the paper was think enough to kill Alvin and the Chipmunks if it were to land on them, this was only section (other than Sports) that I would make sure to read (well I may have also made sure to review the Best Buy flier).  But as the newspapers began to die so did the comics section.  It became thinner and thinner.  Soon the only things left were the milquetoast strips like Beetle Bailey and Family Circus which are the humor equivalent of Orange you glad I didn't say Banana Knock Knock joke. Thankfully, the thing that killed the comic strip is saving it again.  The internet has a flourishing comic strip community.  Some blogs are even assembling their own Sunday comic sections with only web-based comics.  They aren't terrible.  And they are definitely better than Hagar the Horrible.

This blog post is sponsored by Kabletown.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mine. All Mine.

Just when I was sure that the only person to ever see the words that I type on this blog was me, my little sis went and left a comment on the last post.  Despite my claim that the humor in the Lady Gaga in a labcoat video was mainly for the lab rat set, she was there to let me know that it did have a more broad appeal.  Well, this can't be.  I have failed the most sacred tenet of this blog.  For just a brief moment, this blog brought a smile to the face of someone that is not me.  I will not let this stand.  If the last post was not sufficiently nerdy or dorky enough to turn off 99% of population, then I will make sure this one is.  And for that I will turn to the comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD).  It is based entirely around a group of poor, struggling graduate students and their eternal struggle to get there degree and move onto a job market that can't support them.  Now that is insider humor.  Try to enjoy this Teen.  A comic strip about how what we publish in scientific journals gets hopelessly twisted by main stream media and the average lay person (insider and elitist - now we are talking reader repellent).  Of course most people publishing articles in scientific journals would consider themselves lucky someone even read their work let alone have it wildly distorted by the main stream media.

This blog post is sponsored by Lunar Industries.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Love Lady Gaga's New Back-Up Dancers

I have now been forwarded the Lady Gaga in a lab coat video enough times that I just have to go ahead and archive it here.  It doesn't hurt that no matter how many times I receive the "You have to watch this" e-mail, I can't help but do just that.  It is addictive.  It is hilarious.  It is the lab rats of the world taking something cool and dorking it up for their own amusement.  The fact that those who haven't done time in a lab can only shake there head at is they say, "Why would anyone make this" only makes it that much better in my mind.  Best use of NIH grant dollars yet.

This blog post is sponsored by Veidt Enterprises.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Big ... Meh

You would think that if a show you watched every episode of a television show over the course of five years, you might actually care.  But when it comes to "Big Love", the best I can do is a big shoulder shrug.  It was a soapy sudsy tail of family.  A psuedo-Morman, polygamous family but still if fashioned itself as a story of family.  Unfortunately, it was an extremely hatable, stunted family that was almost impossible to route for.  In fact, it was the kind of family that could only exist on television, regardless of marital status.  The middle wife of the group, Nicolette Grant, is shrewish individual that noone would stand to have as a college roommate let alone a life partner.  Yet, the horrendous, self-centered, navel-gazing characters were not the worst part of the show.  The writing was.

There so many nonsensical turns and unbelievable happenings on the show but instead of listing them all, let's just stick to escape from Mexico by dismemberment as the best of the worst.  Somehow a whole army of armed goons can't both shoot the people who just chopped up their prophet and make a phone call for an ambulance.  I guess crazy polygamous sects are multitaskers.  As bad as this was though, smaller but much more regular failures by the show runners were much more annoying.  The characters never grew during the entire five year period.  Despite everything that happened, they never changed.  Their character defects at the beginning of the show where the same at the end.  An episode would end with the wives reconciling, bonding, and vowing to be BBF's only to return to the exact same argument the very next episode.  Groundhog's day, everyday.

Well, it is over now.  Likely to quickly be forgotten and buried in the TV graveyard next to Evening Shade and Amen.  And how did it die.  Like it lived.  Illogical and irrational behavior on the part of the family members, the wives hurling insults at each other and doing things to deliberately get at each other, and a trying to hard to be shocking ending that somehow left the wives living happily ever after with no real income to speak of.   At least bug-eyes got to come back for a 5 second cameo before it ended.  And at least it wasn't the Lost finale.

This blog post is sponsored by Hendrickson's Home Plus.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We Will Live Forever Through our Cartoons

One (of the many) great thing about pop culture is that it gives us a common language. Something that we can bring up at your local church, school, gin joint, malt shop, or disco and everyone immediately recognizes, identifies with, or at least as an opinion on. And it sure beats talking about the weather again. But pop culture has always carried the black eye of being the snack food of society. Eat it up your Ho-Ho but ten minutes later your hungry again and go in search of some deep-fried Oreos. That just isn't the case anymore. Pop culture has transcended it mortal confines and now lives eternal within our greater cultural gestalt. We no longer sit around the fireplace listening to grandfathers tales of his days of ducking the draft or hear about how our grandmother's grandmother ventured out on the Oregon Trail, got dysentery, and died. Now, instead of handing down stories of Paul Bunyan and John Henry, we revel in the chance to expose our kids to the Transformers, Strawberry Shortcake, and Scooby Doo. This is our new oral tradition. These our generational touchstones that will be referred back to again and again. As a result our media and art are changing to reflect the entrainment of these characters on our permanent consciousness. Where art used to center on religious imagery because it was a nearly universal reference point. But our pop culture heroes are now replacing the Madonna inside the gilded frame. We decorate our walls with pictures of them. They cover our children's bedrooms. And mark the cubicles of every IT worker. Take for instance the Disney Princesses I discussed yesterday. Because everyone, young and old, knows these characters, knows their history, their backstory, one can give new significance to their visages by layering on top of it any popular trope. Or one can attempt to engage in societal commentary by placing the Princesses into modern environs. Luckily enough I have examples of both. One giving the Princesses a nice zombie make-over and another giving the Princesses a less than happily ever after.

This blog post is sponsored by Mario Brothers Plumbing Services.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Every Girls Wants to be a Princess (trademarked)

Royalty as viewed in modern culture is not based in reality. With the faux-excitement of the commemorative plate buying set for the William/Kate pairing excepted, the monarchy has lost all romanticism and exist only as a useless burden on the European tax payers. Instead, in today's world, there is only one royal title that has any real value and it is branded. Unless you wear the crown of a Disney Princess, your run of the mill king or queen can expect about the same level of respect from the general populace as guy who tries to predict the college basketball teams that will make the NCAA tournament for a living. But if you happened to spring from the loins of the Lord of Atlantis or utilize rodents as your clothing designers, you will have a good portion of the XX individuals in this country spending the first 10 years of their life ready to sacrifice their brother for the chance to be you. That's were the cache is. Forget Princess Grace. The only princesses that most generations from here on out will know by name are Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. Most times I have a complete detachment from reality in favor of world view shaped by primary colored animations. Yet are these really the role models our daughters should have. Airheaded nymphs that believe what ever they are told. 16 year-olds ready to run off and marry the first man they meet in the woods. Disney does many things well but providing positive role models for young girls. Maybe not.

This blog post is sponsored by Vandelay Industries.