30 September 2006

Autumn Winds

So short this life, so quickly it is past
Spring's frolic and summer's gentle languor;
My friends and kin are gone, I am the last
Shock and sorrow soon give way to anger.

Time's no gentle river and 'tis no stream
It's a cold, damp hand tearing at my face
Stubbornly I resist and try to dream
Though I remain alone, last of my race.

Quivering, wind ripping through uncloaked limbs
I cling to my perch, forestall destiny;
No, I'll not be victim to Nature's whims
Standing at the abyss, I choose: to be.

Nature's last trick: I'm too weak to hold on
At the last I yield and soon I am gone.

28 September 2006

Chakra Zulu

Dude, your aura is totally pulsing out of rhythm today. Are you feeling alright?

26 September 2006

Rock me Amadeus

Seriously, who thinks Pinto could ever offend anyone?

A Berlin opera company cancelled a Mozart production over security fears because it features the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus.

I'm getting a wee bit tired of all this pussyfooting around the Prophet. We managed to get the Church off our backs sometime during the Renaissance, so let's agree not to let another church jump back on. That means if we offend someone, oh fucking well.

Muslims(1) are like that friend who just suffered a really bad breakup. You've got to be quiet and respectful and not bring up sex, or parties, or fun around him lest he start whining and moping about his one true love. At some point, you tell your friend to grow up and grow a pair. She wasn't perfect, she wasn't "the one", and she's not coming back. The Prophet wasn't perfect, he wasn't "the one", and he's not coming back.

1 Of course the same applies to all religious zealots, but for the moment we don't stop productions of "Jesus Christ Superstar" because we're worried about suicide bombers. I suspect we'll see that in our lifetimes, unfortunately.

25 September 2006

We can be Heroes

"Heroes" pilot on NBC tonight...despite the presence of Rocky Jr. - as whiny as he ever was in Star's Hollow - it was pretty good. Critics have been effusive in their praise for Hiro, played by the brilliant Masi Oka, and for good cause. He alone provided balance in a pilot containing the aforementioned Milo V., a heroin-addicted precog who keeps seeing death and mayhem, Ali Larter and her evil reflection, and a nigh-invulnerable rah-rah. Cheerleaders are scary enough without superpowers.

Here's the thing: while I had problems and can very easily start criticizing the pilot (what the hell, I will below,) there were still a few genuine chill moments. Some were ridiculously predictable, but well filmed...then, there's the big twist. That, I didn't predict. Totally blew me away.

Since it's major-network SF in the post-"X Files" era, there's a shadowy quasi-governmental conspiracy. And since show runner Tim Kring is the ad wizard who brought us "Crossing Jordan" and "Providence"...well, don't expect much from the women on this show, really. He's breaking new personal ground by not having the stripper-mom's power involve carping about how there are no good men.

In the previews for upcoming episodes, we'll find out just how interconnected all of the heroes are. There have already been some unsubtle hints about that. We'll also get to see if Greg Grunberg can finally get out from underneath JJ's shadow. I certainly hope so, otherwise I swear he's going to end up playing young Kirk.

22 September 2006

An Ulcer in America's Anal Area

"Calypso" Louis Farrakhan isn't feeling too good. Boo. Fucking. Hoo.

Stand on this X, Dick. Just wait. I'll be behind that metal wall...

You try to fall on a sword, and you end up getting thrown under a bus.

Bombed "back to the stone age" sounds right out of Georgie's limited gallery of verbal imagery, but whether he asked Richard Armitage to deliver that message back in '01, Cheney asked for it to be delivered, or Musharraf is rewriting history at the behest of the administration, this is bad for poor old DickArm. I suspect he'll be going away very quietly like another career diplomat with connections to the family - April Glaspie.

21 September 2006

Funny, she doesn't look Druish

Woohoo! Perhaps a reason to watch that weird G4 television "network". Spaceballs: The Animated Series.

Political Signs are Just Soooo Ugly!!!

Again with the crappy TV in the locker room. I really should just stop working out (again.) This morning, there'd been a local news story about the Scottsgrad City Council holding meetings to determine whether to ban temporary signs, such as political signs. Because that's a good use of tax dollars: getting into a protracted legal fight that they can't win.

I missed the story, but I did get to hear about the online poll results and the opinions of the "personalities". When they cut to the traffic/weather/whatever bimbo, she opined that she didn't like the signs, what with them being eyesores and all.

Then again, she hasn't voted since that unsuccessful junior-year pep squad putsch for the student council.

19 September 2006

Bill Frist on Ahmadinejad and Article III

Since I like my red meat prion-free, I rarely watch the jackholes on CNN, CNBC, MS-NBC, and of course FOX. If I want discourse at that level, I can hang around the playground. Hmm...I guess that could get me in trouble...good thing I never want to hear imbeciles rant and rave at one another. Still, it's sometimes difficult to avoid some of the inanity seeping into my life. Like this afternoon at the gym.(1) CNBC was on in the lockerroom, and some screaming ninny named Lawrence Kudlow was starting up his show.

Kudlow's first guest was Sen. Bill Frist, but before he could get into whatever free-trade mumbo-jumbo was planned, he had to ask about "breaking news". Brian Williams had an exclusive interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (seems to me that Brian Williams had the "break", whereas Lawrence Kudlow had the sloppy, synergistic seconds, but that's neither here nor there.) Here's the section of the interview that got Kudlow and Frist up in arms:

Williams: And you talk about children. You and I are both fathers. Recently in your country, thousands of people have signed up to be part of suicide brigades. How would you feel if your own children chose to do such a thing?
Ahmadinejad: Well, what is your feeling about that? Think if America is attacked. What would you like your son to do? Do you want him to defend America or not? I think you would like your son to defend America. It's the same with our son. When you don't have arms, when you don't have power, what can you do? You will sacrifice yourself for your country. It's not a bad thing.

Kudlow ranted and raved, Frist ranted and raved. Apparently, this statement makes Ahmadinejad a dangerous thug.(2) How these imbeciles got into college is beyond me. Didn't they have to take the SAT? Neither is that much older than I. I distinctly recall a reading comprehension section. If they were as bad at comprehension in high school as they seem today, they'd have had athlete-level scores.

Here. Maybe I can give them some examples of other interviews from history that might clear this up for them (Brian Williams has been around a long time):

Williams: Recently, many of your countrymen have vowed to defeat the Philistines, but they are led by Goliath. Would you send your son to certain death?
Jesse: Without weapons or power, my son will sacrifice himself for Israel, yes.

Or this one asked of Leonidas I:

Williams: Recently, many of your countrymen have vowed to defeat the Persians. Would you send your son, your troops, and yourself to certain death?
Leonidas I: Without numbers, my son, my troops, and I will sacrifice ourselves for greater Greece.

Hmm. Maybe these are too old for the boys. Let's try something a little more recent:

Williams: Mr. Prime Minister, your island nation has been under bombardment for years now. Recently, a plan has been formulated by the Allies to invade the mainland and establish a beachhead in Normandy, despite the fact that the Germans have the high ground, heavy artillery, and the geographic advantage. This suicide mission, if even successful, would require killing large numbers of Germans. How would you feel if your children chose to do such a thing?
Churchill: We will never surrender. We will never give up. We will fight them on the beach. We will fight them in the country. We will fight them in the city. We will fight them in the alleys. We will fight them to the edge of the empire, but we will never, never, Never, Never, NEVER SURRENDER!

Christ! How hard is it to figure out that a leader of a sovereign nation is compelled to defend his nation? You may hate him, his people, and the clothes his mother picks out for him...it's still his fucking job to defend his nation and his people. If Kudlow and Frist want to put an end to all war - all killing, all sacrifice of lives for nations - that's great. We can all sing Kumbya. But since Frist went on to threaten the sovereignty of Iran, I have to say the crazy man from Tehran doesn't sound that crazy.

Of course, this was really just prelude to a discussion on "clarifying" Article III of the Geneva Conventions. Because, the war on terror isn't just about Iraq, says Frist. Apparently, I infered, it's now about Iran as well. We need to be free to use "unconventional" interrogation techniques, otherwise we're going to take our ball and go home. Here's a very quick run-down of my thoughts on this.

  • The Senate already ratified the Geneva Conventions. Weren't those Senators smart enough to realize that Article III was "vague"? Apparently not as smart as Bill, whose comprehension was clearly shown above.
  • If only Bill had access to a videotape of the debate on ratification...he's shown a preternatural ability to see things on video that no one can detect in person.
  • Actually, what's the big deal about clarifying the language? First off, it's not like it will supercede our international agreement. Secondly, it's not like we pay attention to the repercussions of violating international law anyway.

I've meandered enough, so let me summarize: 24-hour news channels are shite; Bill Frist is a pandering lapdog; the Senate already ratified the Geneva Conventions, so this Senate had better come up with a good reason to "clarify" them; leaders (even batshit-insane ones like Ahmadinejad) are expected to defend their nations with whatever means they have at their disposal; and apparently the GMAT and SAT were once much easier for functional morons to pass.

1I know! Not only did I make it to the gym today, but I didn't blow off doubles last night! That's two days running I tried to stem the entropic expansion of my belly!
2 For the record, I find this douchebag to be somewhere between loon and demagogue.

99 little bugs in the code...

Maybe, just possibly, a tiny crack in the irrefutability of breathalyzers.

The lawyer for councilman Ross Hieb has filed a motion requesting the programming code of the Intoxilyzer 8000 the machine used when Hieb took a breath test April 23. Attorney John Jongeward filed the 11-page motion in San Luis Municipal Court.

The state will, of course, be bringing all its might to bear in this case to defend the indefensible.

Steve Butler, forensic alcohol supervisor for the Arizona Department of Public Safety Crime Lab, says having the code doesn't make understanding the intoxilyzer more clear. He said the code is just lines of information in programming language that tells little.

Well, I'm no "forensic alcohol supervisor" but I guarantee if I got to see the source code, it would tell me a lot. Maybe its bugs (and there are bugs - it's software) are harmless, maybe they're not. However, the last time I checked,

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

If I'm being accused by some hack programmer who couldn't get out of Kentucky to find a better job, I damn well better get to confront him, and his source code.

15 September 2006

Ballads of Baudelaire

Stephin Merritt + Lemony Snicket = Crazy Delicious.

Like the Beowulf story, this one also came from Neil Gaiman's blog...it's at least a small comfort to have this while waiting for the next Eternals and the release of Absolute Sandman.

Beowulf for the homeschooled child

What you won't learn in your lib'ral public schools. Beowulf is about T. Rex. And it's obviously not fiction...

Only one manuscript of the original poem exists. People found it, partly burned, in England about five hundred years after Beowulf lived. No one knows who originally wrote it. Many literature books say that it is fiction, one of the earliest examples we have of an English novel. But if someone were writing fiction, he would not name so many real people; he would invent characters as novelists do. And if someone wrote it long after the events, he would not know all those real people who lived in Beowulf’s time. It must have been first written at or near the time that Beowulf lived. All parts of the story hold together as though one person wrote it. It does not show evidence that bards sang it and added and changed as the years moved along.

Wait. I'm confused. How do we know the names of "all those real people who lived in Beowulf's time"? Isn't this way longer that 500 years later. Nevermind. That's not important.

Why, then, do so many literature critics say that Beowulf is fiction? It is because they do not believe that dinosaur creatures lived at the same time men lived. Their evolutionary worldview says that dinosaurs lived long ages before men evolved on the earth. Therefore, in their minds, this all must be fiction. But with a Biblical worldview, we can see that dinosaurs entered the ark with Noah—land species at least—and they lived on the earth again after the Flood. But the post-Flood earth was not so hospitable to large creatures and they eventually became almost extinct.

Phooey, I say. They've convinced me. I believe. Plus, on a recent archealogical dig, this cave painting of Beowulf was found:

Archie's Corrolary

Give me a planet puffy enough and a bathtub in which to place it and I shall float the world.

E(www) Coli

Laughing Jack today
Not a killer; no not me
Spinach salad death

If now he can "Die In Peace"...why doesn't he?

B-Walsh took his nasally voice onto Colbert last night. Deadspin's got video up. What pissed me off the most - 'cause something always pisses me off 'bout that wanker - was his comment regarding the Greek national team: "none of those guys could play in the NBA...not one of 'em."

Really? Because apparently there are GMs who disagree:

  • Sofoklis "Baby Shaq" Schortsianitis: drafted by the Clips with the 34th selection in 2003
  • Vassilis Spanoulis: drafted by the Mavs with the 50th selection in 2004
  • Antonis Fotsis: drafted by the Grizzlies with the 48th pick in 2001 - played 28 games in '01-'02

Are these stars? No. Does being called up in Russ Granik territory guarantee a future of Cristal, groupies, and bong? Hell no. What does it mean? That yet again, B-Walsh is talking out his ass.

14 September 2006

Anyone Can Luge

The modern pentathlon ain't no two-man luge.

ESPN is paying Kathryn Bertine to try to make it onto the '08 Olympic team.

For the next two years, Bertine will chronicle her Olympic quest for E-ticket. While finding a spot on the 2008 U.S. team is the ultimate goal, Bertine will take every opportunity along the way to stop and smell the sweat socks ... and to share the smell, taste, sound and feel of the experience with you.

A former competitive skater, she's been making her living as a professional triathlete (and part-time writer, babysitter, substitute teacher) for a few years now. She'll be trying to make whatever team she can, but insanely tried for modern pentathlon first.

For those who aren't familiar with the pentathlon, it's a five- (obviously) event trial of endurance: shooting; fencing; swimming; show jumping; and cross-country. The most famous American pentathlete, finishing 5th in 1912 due to his poor shooting ability? George S. Patton.

Bertine is off to try out for team handball next...but that sport's tough, too. With a breezy, self-deprecating style, I hope she catches on somewhere.

Is her Sleep Number 35?

Ridiculously cool. Claudia Mitchell lost her left arm in a motorcycle accident...and got a prototype bionic replacement (CNN video, don't blame me that it's so fat and crappy.) She immediately got a manicure for the hand. I like her thinking.

The only question I'd have is whether this, or this is looping on her iPod.

Interview with Daniel Ortega, Not

BBC correspondent Jonathan Beale snags an interview with Daniel Ortega...and doesn't write about it. There's talk of "the new colour scheme of the Sandinista movement - a garish pink" and "the Sandinista love of long political discourse", but no interview. I thought, for just a second, that the audio download from BBC4 might have the interview - no such luck. Just Beale reading the copy of the article.

Regardless of one's opinion on Ortega - Beale's seems conventionally negative - it might be nice to read this interview. Maybe next week?

A Massive Geek Timewaster

Wow. The Royal Society is putting its entire archive, dating from 1665, online through December.

Nearly three and a half centuries of scientific study and achievement is now available online in the Royal Society Journals Digital Archive following its official launch this week. This is the longest-running and arguably most influential journal archive in Science, including all the back articles of both Philosophical Transactions and Proceedings.

For the first time the Archive provides online access to all journal content, from Volume One, Issue One in March 1665 until the latest modern research published today ahead of print. And until December the archive is freely available to anyone on the internet to explore.

I know how I'll be wasting time at work for the forseeable future.

Via The Loom.

11 September 2006

Competitive Balance in Baseball vs Other Sports

More on "The Wages of Wins"...unlike my previous post, this will be mostly complimentary. :)

Chapter Four, "Baseball's Competitive Balance Problem?" attempts to establish whether commentators, owners, and Bud Selig are right to believe that "competition on the playing field has become acutely imbalanced."(1) The authors conclude that the imbalance, while fluctuating upward in the past four or five years, has remained fairly consistent over the last 50 or 60 years. The methodology is not completely original to them, but tells a compelling story. In particular, their comparison of competitive balance across sports inspired me to post.

They found that football and soccer have the highest rate of balance(2) relative to the other major sports, with basketball (the NBA and ABA) the lowest. They argue that one of the primary reasons for this is the relatively large pool of potential participants for the former. As they love to say, there's a "short supply of tall people", so basketball should be prone to imbalance; whereas soccer and football have very large pools of potential participants with the requisite physical attributes.

My only question is whether the authors took relegation into account when calculating the Noll-Scully for the various soccer leagues. It's much easier to maintain a high level of competitive balance when you toss your bottom three teams to the minors and bring up overachievers. It effectively creates an N-team league out of N+3 teams' worth of players.

1 Costas, Bob. 2000 Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball. From the forward by Andrew Zimbalist, referenced from Berri, Schmidt, and Brook.

2 30,000-foot view of the measurement used to determine balance: the Noll-Scully, which takes the idealized standard deviation (determined by schedule length for the league) and compares it to the actual standard deviation.

Madogga's Husband: Guy Richtoy

Let's discuss Twat

10 September 2006

Get your geek on!

BSG returns in less than four weeks...and the very kind folks at the Wrestling Network are providing us with webisodes covering the period between last year's finale and October's premiere.

Worst. Comic. Ever

I, um...well. What can I say. I know: at least it's not phallic!!!
There's a reason I don't read too many of the mainstream nerdbooks. Now I can put my finger on it. :)

If that's the Earth, I'm guessing the Moon is right around the G-spot.

09 September 2006

Buy some goddamn Retin-A, bitch...and lay off the 'roids!

Fuckin' Maria Sharapova. I'm finding myself in the awkward position of rooting for Justine Henin-Hardenne tonight. Hate the whiny Belgian. Wish nasty, terrible things upon her. But...she's opposite the pimply, 'roid-ragin' bitch. I've unfortunately got no choice but to root for JHH...other than rooting for them both to blow out ACLs, MCLs, tear hammies, and end their careers.

We just came back from a service change-over in the second set and Dick E., Mary C., and JohnnyMac were laughing and carrying on while showing replays of Maria getting coached during the changeover. Oh, but he was just telling her how many bites of food to eat and how many sips of each of her various drinks to consume, so it must be okay. It's not really a violation of the rules. I mean, it's Maria, right? Everyone thinks she's just so pretty, so the rules don't apply to her.

The rules are stupid. Coaching should absolutely be allowed during changeovers; however, until that happens, they need to be enforced for all. From Article IV, Section K of the CODE OF CONDUCT FOR 2006 ITF PRO CIRCUITS TOURNAMENTS

Players shall not receive coaching during a match. Communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching. Players shall also prohibit their coaches (1) from using audible obscenity within the precincts of the tournament site, (2) from making obscene gestures of any kind within the precincts of the tournament site, (3) from verbally abusing any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site, (4) from physically abusing any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site and (5) from giving, making, issuing, authorising or endorsing any public statement within the precincts of the tournament site having, or designed to have, an effect prejudicial or detrimental to the best interest of the tournament and/or of the officiating thereof.

Violation of this Section shall subject a player to a fine up to $250 for each violation. In addition, if such violation occurs during a match (including the warm-up), the player shall be penalised in accordance with the Point Penalty Schedule hereinafter set forth. In circumstances that are flagrant and particularly injurious to the success of a tournament, or are singularly egregious, the ITF Supervisor may order the Coach to be removed from the site of a match or the precincts of the tournament site and upon his failure to comply with such order may declare an immediate default of such player.
What is the Point Penalty Schedule? Here's Section R:
The Point Penalty Schedule to be used for violations set forth above is as follows:

THIRD and each subsequent offence GAME PENALTY

However, after the third Code Violation, the ITF Supervisor shall determine whether each subsequent offence shall constitute a default.

She got no warning. She just got coos and oohs from the fawning booth crew. Bitch needs exfoliation, not adulation.

Hey Hey! It's Andy Roddick!

Sittin' here, watching the Open. Roger cruised as expected, and it's 3-3 in the first set of the Roddick/Youzhny semi. Andy gave up a service game already in this set, but he just broke Mikhail at love. He looks vulnerable to me today, not like "the best man in the sport" as superfan John Macom of Binge sings. Yah. There's an Andy Roddick song. And it su-hu-uh-hu-ucks. Better than I could write, for sure...but, um, that's not an endorsement.

I do like the (un?)intentional irony of this line, though: "Hey Hey! It's Andy Roddick – Watchin' that boy play it's so hypnotic, exotic, quixotic." I certainly consider defeating Federer an impossible dream. Then again, is the watching quixotic, or is the play quixotic? I'm not sure.

It did bring to mind a "better"(1) sports-themed song from a few years back. If you click that, you can only blame yourself.

* * *

Andy lost the first set tiebreak, 7-5. However, he's up three breaks in the second and Youzhny has clearly conceded, with Andy serving at 5-love. Not that it really matters: this is a three-hour competition to decide who gets to jump into the Big Wu tomorrow.

1 In the song's defense, it is a parody song based upon a decent source song, as opposed to Macom's more...¿sincere? original work. Of course, Andy is a Slam winner and a top-10 player while my boy Double D is a journeyman with no lateral quickness.

08 September 2006

Logan-berry Surprise

A 'sploding cigar
Rover's smarter than Trooper
F Troop on the case

07 September 2006

The Gift of Good Data Analysis

A few months back, I bagged on some of the analysis I was getting second-hand from a Malcolm Gladwell review of this book. I did go to the website of one of the authors in order to better argue my points, but I hadn't read the book and was therefore treading on shaky ground. I picked up the book shortly thereafter and started reading it, but was distracted by other shiny things. I'm coming back to it today and re-reading the second chapter. Unless there's some serious scholarship being edited out for the sake of sales, I've already got big problems with the way Berri, Schmidt, and Brook do their jobs.(1)

Chapter Two is entitled "Much Talking, Little Walking". The issue is work stoppages, and, as should be clear from the title, the effect on attendence and viewership upon return to play. At least, it should be about that. Unfortunately, they made a crucial error in selecting their data which makes a hash of their conclusion.

Economics(2), like all applied math fields, is data driven. Moreover, it is data-sensitive. A very small change in a constant can play havoc with results. Choosing inputs poorly can have similar effect. (I just started to write the formulaic "far be it from me to question..." and decided to avoid the hypocrisy. Of course I'm going to question. Of course I'm that arrogant.) Here is their conclusion, summarized in their own words:

To hammer home this point, consider one last piece of evidence. Population since 1980 in the United States and Canada has grown approximately 30%. In this same time period, average attendance for Major League Baseball teams grew from 1.65 million in 1980 to 2.43 million in 2004. A bit of quick math reveals that this represents a 47% increase. Despite repeated labor disputes people are coming out to the ballpark in much greater numbers. Given these numbers it is hard to believe the conventional wisdom that the repeated fights between owners and players dramatically harm professional sports.

Although we can go back and forth on the 1994-95 experience, we should not lose sight of the larger picture the data are telling. In our study of the NBA, NHL, NFL, and the 1981 strike in baseball, the data speak clearly. Again, we began this research believing that fans did respond negatively to strikes and lockouts. Despite our prior belief, we go where the data take us. And the data clearly take us to a very different answer. Consumers of sport may publicly talk, but the data show no evidence that many fans choose to walk.
In the endnotes for the chapter, the authors give us their data sources:

For our published academic articles, the attendance data were taken from a number of sources. For MLB, the attendance data were obtained for the years 1901-2000 from The Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book (2001). The NFL data began in 1936 and concluded in 1999 and were obtained from The Sporting News Pro Football Guide (2000). Finally, attendance data for the NHL were obtained for the period 1960-2000 from Total Hockey (2001). Updates for these series, as well as the NBA attendance data employed, were taken from the web site of noted sports economist Rodney Fort. www.rodneyfort.com/SportsData/BizFrame.htm.

Did you see it? What negates the conclusion?

The datasets chosen look at a very special, self-selecting group of fans: those who attend games in person. Lori and I have season tickets to the Suns. We go to a lot of games. When we can't go, we make a very big effort to get someone in our seats because there's a financial incentive to do so.(3) Besides that, we're basketball fans and enjoy going to games. On any given night, there are about 16K fans in the stands. The number doesn't really vary much. What does vary is television viewship.

Here's a quick example of the sort of ratings data that should have been included, from Baseball Almanac. I'm not qualified to analyze the data; in fact, I'm not sure I can even correctly define how it should be analyzed(4) but I can say a few things: the drop-off of 7.4 ratings points from 1998 to 1999 ('99 being the lockout year) in the NBA finals (roughly 8.1 million households(5)) was probably not just because of the Jordan Effect; and compared to the roughly 12.4 million households who did watch in '99, the 16K or so who can fit into a given arena on a given evening (at approximately .1% of total viewers) probably represent less than the margin of error in the Nielsen measurements.(6)

Again, I'm no economist. Frankly, I don't know my ass from a Laffer curve, but I do know quite a bit about measurement and data analysis. If the analysis in this second chapter is indicative of the type of work in the rest of the book, I may be boring y'all some more in the next few days. This is just sloppy scholarship.

1No, I do not expect serious math in a book directed at the mass market; neither do I expect sloppy, indefensible logic based on incorrect or incomplete suppositions.
2Did I study econ? No. I studied math, physics, and software engineering. The relationship? I know all too well the problems of inaccurate measurements and incorrect inputs. While I am not accomplished with the specific tools in the Economist's Utility Belt, they bear striking similarities in both intended effect and side effect. Aim that Econo-rang a half degree off and you don't stop Doc Stagflation.
3Because it's in the team's best interests to have sell-outs - good for PR and concessions - they give us a rebate on our following year's ticket package (typically in the 5-10% range) if our seats are always occupied.
4I want to be clear: I know these World Series ratings are almost useless, so don't bother pointing that out to me. Ratings for televised sports are most impacted by the teams (and maybe matchups) involved, so except in cases where teams repeated in the WS in pre- and post-strike years, there's not much to be gained. I wanted an example of ratings data and this was readily available. I'd think the authors, given a few hours effort, could do much better. Besides, the fragmentation of television viewership due to the increase in entertainment choices over the past two or three decades most certainly is the biggest factor in the downward trend in these ratings.
5A ratings point, in 2005, represented approximately 1.1 million households.
6Sorry for relying on Wikipedia data for the so much of this paragraph. I got lazy in tracking down more reliable and definitive sources.


Taking my morning constitutional (as opposed to my morning ablutions, morning glories, or morning wood,) listening to this week's Contrast Podcast, I found myself for some very odd reason thinking about the premiere of Fox's Standoff. Despite its near-universal bad reviews, we watched the other night. Why? A couple of reasons.

First off, I'd be a leaf on the wind for Gina Torres, too. Unfortunately her character here - Cheryl Carrera - was neither a badass, nor someone who gave the impression that her "pussy tastes like sweet butter". As others have said, she was "wasted as the stock Disapproving Minority Captain". Still, I wouldn't mind "showing her my O-face".

Which brings us to the bigger reason for trying the paint-by-numbers romantic comedy-cum-procedural...Ron Livingston. The problem is, no matter how much everyman charm Livingston brings to the role - and he's loaded to the gills with everyman - the show sucks.

There's no chemistry between Livingston's character and his partner Emily Lehman (Rosemarie DeWitt). At least I saw no chemistry, but that could be because I found DeWitt to be uninteresting, implausible, and unappealing. If she were negotiating for my release, I'd beg for death to end her whining. In a show based on the relationship between its two leads, having one of them be a tomato can (who, unlike her grandfather, never rises to the moment) is a certain route to failure. Creator Craig Silverstein might have been going for a Moonlighting feel, but barely made it to tealight.

There was one bright moment, sort of. Special Guest Star ¡Tom Wopat! appeared in the opening sequence as a distraught father holding his sons captive. This prompted Livingston's Matt Flannery to divulge his secret affair with Emily. Unfortunately, his little speech felt cribbed from Mike Judge's first draft of Office Space. He griped about how bad his life was, how much he hated change, and how he didn't want life to get worse. Or, as Beavis himself might say: "I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life."

Maybe this was an attempt to be "clever" and "self-referential" and "meta". It looked more like "plagiarism". In a romantic comedy where the only humor is unintentional and a procedural where characters repeatedly defy procedure, channeling Peter Gibbons isn't going to save you.

All I can say to Fox, when the time comes to pull the plug, is "good luck with your layoffs, all right? I hope your firings go really, really well."

06 September 2006

I'd Have a Goofy Salute, Too

Photo by: Donald Starr/usopen.org

Mikhail Youzhny had arguably the best day ever for an unseeded player in the Open Era. First, he upset Rafael Nadal in a four-setter. That's a pretty big deal for the Russian, and sets him up for Saturday's semi-final against Andy Roddick. Then, in an even more mind blowing turn of events, he and his partner ¿Leos Friedl? of the Czech Republic ousted the number one tandem of Bob and Mike Bryan!

Of course, it didn't occur to me to record the day session (figured Rafa and James Blake would roll...I'm 1-1 on the day,) so I didn't see the singles match. And it doesn't occur to anyone to bother showing doubles on the tube, so I missed that as well. Oh well. I'll see his match on Saturday, at least.

05 September 2006

The Whole Nine Die Harder Team

Steven J. Cannell, television god, told Empire that plans for the big screen adaptation of the A-Team are moving forward.

But how will it better the chemistry of the original quartet of George Peppard (Hannibal), Mr T (BA Baracus), Dwight Schultz (Murdock) and Dirk Benedict (Faceman)? "I would like the original cast to play a part - to have their input into the movie and to star in cameo roles. As for who will play the new roles, I think Bruce Willis would make a good Hannibal!

"But I think the show needs retuning. I don’t know if BA can say ‘I pity the fool’ because that is so Mr T but Hannibal will certainly be saying, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ Little things like that will get a big laugh."
Yah. I'm laughing on the inside, I swear. The tears streaming down my anguished face are of joy, really.

Seriously, Bruce Willis?!? No, no, no. Peter Griffin.

04 September 2006

I do love a drooly dog

Since I like dogs a lot more than people, this was a pleasure to read. Fellow misanthropic cynophiles could do worse than to read about the exploits of Marley Grogan, a free-spirited*, energetic*, loyal*, affectionate* Lab.

For the rest of you, who don't think of humanity as a scourge, I suppose the evolution of the Marley's family - two young professionals begin their shared life, have children, and experience joys and heartaches along the way - may be interesting as well. For me, it's all about the dog. And what a great dog he was.

Sean has seen the scene

"Mama? Mama, why cain't nobody say my name rightly?"

"Babydoll, I don't reckon I know what you mean."

"Teacher says it's s'posed to be 'nounced 'Shawn'."

"What?! That's just crazy talk, baby. Your'n name's Sean. Any fool can tell how to say that right. Just like 'Seen'."

I jest. Honestly, I don't think this dude's mother is like Ma Kettle. It seems more likely that MSNBC's former weekday chief Meteorologist is probably just a little retarded. Or his parents were meth-heads. Or both.

Anyway, I didn't know he existed until this weekend. But watching CBS's crappy Open coverage (USA is so much better) my local affiliate is trumpeting his triumphant return as equivalent to the rise of Katie Couric to the network newsdesk. Hmm...maybe they are equivalent...fluffy, coiffed, pointless teleprompter readers sitting in where journalists don't tread.

01 September 2006

Adam Smith vs. Walter Shandy

Adam Smith rightly gets credit for formalizing the philosophy of free-market capitalism, with his masterwork, The Wealth of Nations (available in full, online), published in 1776. A somewhat radical read, even today, Smith argued against protectionism, governmental subsidies and monopolies, and the restrictive practices prevalent in his day and ours.

Those same anti-capitalistic tendencies are in effect today, paying farmers to let their fields lie fallow, granting trademarks in perpetuity, and giving out stupid patents so the USPTO can pay its own operating costs. Conspiracy theorists even believe that engines running on water have been developed and their creators silenced by big oil. (Then again, it's not like Detroit is jumping on the ethanol bandwagon.)

I've been reading Tristram Shandy, and was amazed at this very Republican sentiment - satiric in Sterne's case, unlike our modern GOP heroes of business:

But pray, Dr. Slop, quoth my father, interrupting my uncle, (tho' not without begging pardon for it, at the same time) upon what principles was this self-same chariot set a-going?----Upon very pretty principles to be sure, replied Dr. Slop;—and I have often wondered, continued he, evading the question, why none of our Gentry, who live upon large plains like this of ours,---(especially they whose wives are not past child-bearing) attempt nothing of this kind; for it would not only be infinitely expeditious upon sudden calls, to which the sex is subject,—if the wind only served,—but would be excellent good husbandry to make use of the winds, which cost nothing, and which eat nothing, rather than horses, which (the Devil take 'em) both cost and eat a great deal.

For that very reason, replied my father, "Because they cost nothing, and because they eat nothing,"—the scheme is bad;—it is the consumption of our products, as well as the manufactures of them, which gives bread to the hungry, circulates trade,—brings in money, and supports the value of our lands;—and tho', I own, if I was a Prince, I would generously recompence the scientifick head which brought forth such contrivances;—yet I would as peremptorily suppress the use of them.
Now, I'm no free-market libertarian, but I certainly prefer a free market to the virtual oligarchy we have today. After 200 years of the Smith experiment, we find ourselves pretty much where we started.