Friday, February 17, 2012

Big Time Football, Lifehacks, and the Death Star

Fried Horned Frogs. Looks like TCU is in some real hot water after a massive drug bust on campus including 4 football players. Way to make a splash in the world of big time college football the right way and earn the top spot in the current Fulmer Cup Rankings.

You gotta fight for your right to Wildcat. In one of the greatest rivalry news stories I've ever seen, a little girl refused to color a Kansas Jayhawk because her proud family are Wildcats through and through. Sure this is silly, but it's highly entertaining and I respect people that are diehard fans like this.

Bama is really excited about this kid. And I'm not going to lie, 105 pieces of recruiting mail to one kid is more than absurd. The waste in funds from an institution of higher learning is downright shameful. I'm okay with the money that goes into and drives athletics (in case you couldn't tell). However, I still believe in pragmatism and letting kids have some peace and quiet and you've violated all of the above Alabama with your recruitment process on this kid. Hope things go well for him, but I can't deny if I was in his shoes and was harassed by Bama that heavily I might be looking at LSU instead.

What sport provides the most exciting finish? Jon Bois of SBNation takes a look at close games. It's pretty interesting, of course you have to work within his definitions of "close". I think it's a fascinating look, but I feel like you could expand the definition of "close" games for the NBA, since finishing within 9 can still be exciting (it's just less likely to be as exciting completely up to the final buzzer). Also, I think he should have stressed better that in baseball a save situation is not necessarily terribly exciting even though it's only 3 runs. As far as the NHL, I think there is some influence with their recent change in the stick curvature. Scoring has become easier so it can be easier to make up the difference than it had been in the past. Especially because I think a lot of teams kind of let up after a high enough scoring differential (although I have no idea what that line is). Really interesting stuff overall.

The "agent" exception. Joe Nocera continues his war in the NCAA by examining an exception for hockey players that allows them to have contact with "advisors" which are really unpaid agents. Nocera wisely advocates this practice to be more widespread. The NCAA really refuses to look after the best interest of student athletes. Money quote: "It is only because the use of agents is so ingrained in hockey culture that the N.C.A.A. has chosen to look the other way. What it ought to do instead is adopt hockey's system for all its athletes in all its sports, giving them the same benefit – the counsel of an experienced advocate – that hockey players have. To do so, though, would require actually caring about the welfare of the athletes who play the games and make everyone else millions of dollars. Which is precisely why it will never happen."

Some things will never die. Grantland takes an interesting look at what the demise of football might look like. And I can't deny, a lot of the issues they are presenting are certainly knocking on the door. However, I could see a few potential remedies occurring to ensure the continuation of this well loved sport. One, there is the potential for waiver or imputing liability. Waiver is probably a little bit more difficult, but I'd imagine they could have players impute liability upon themselves somehow. Maybe I'm crazy, wouldn't be the first time. Second, I could definitely see Congress passing laws restricting recovery in these kinds of actions. Public outcry relative to the head injuries has certainly risen, but I think popularity (plus the lobbying dollars of collegiate and NFL football) can have a ton of sway to fix this. We'll see how it plays out.

Too big to pay. A man in North Carolina has been sued over his enormous hospital bill and soon it will be heard by the state supreme court. So this seems like a real interesting matter. Obviously hospitals pass on costs to individuals that can pay versus those that can't. Technically every business does that to some small degree, although places like Walmart pass on costs of theft to other customers (though that probably indirectly goes to an insurance they pay for). However, since hospitals are offering a service that they can't easily refuse to people they pass on that cost very directly to their consumers. So really that's why the man in this case had some outrageous costs that he had to pay.

The gentleman in the case claims gross overcharging, but the bill is supposedly not itemized so it's interesting to see how they're determining the cost. There's a line of equity between mitigating costs of theft of hospital services by non paying consumers and gross overpayment from those consumers that can afford the cost. Of course if it's found to be unreasonable that means the hospital will have to eat the cost which would probably lead to eventual bankruptcy (presuming the standard continues on to other parties). I'm curious how this plays out, though it appears technically the real issue at hand is whether or not the hospital can force collection without a trial establishing the costs and ordering a judgment for the collection.

Suing over poor education choices. A group of law school alumni from around the country are suing their law schools for misrepresentation of their job placement. Seems like a difficult case to win, but I'd hope at least some punishment is doled out on these law schools that have especially shady practices.

Legislating Pi. Apparently the state of Indiana once tried to legally change the value of pi to 3.2 (and some variations). Just brilliant. Who says good ideas don't come out of Indiana?

Lifehacks. A very impressive list of lifehacks from Mental Floss. My favorites: the banana to fix CD's and the cookie bowls. I haven't tested either, so I don't know that they actually work but they're pretty darn clever either way.

The best $852,000,000,000,000,000 you could ever spend. Student at Lehigh University have calculated the cost of the Death Star and it's not cheap. Of course when you have the ultimate power in the universe as a weapon why on earth would you care about that kind of debt? Just avoid any poor aesthetic choices...

Beating traffic can be hard. Some idiot in a Porsche decided to swing around some road construction and got stuck in some fresh cement. Patience and following the rules of the road are a great way to avoid getting stuck.

Doggy Paddle. The NYTimes has a cool collection of photos of dogs in water. I especially like #4, but the dogs look vicious!

Air traffic. Here's an interesting video monitoring the air traffic before and after the Superbowl. A little long, but pretty cool.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Greek Pirates, Peyton's Place, and the NCAA

Avast ye Greeks! Reuters has a bizarre way of looking at the Greek economic problem involving a kiddie pool, a pirate ship, and some rubber duckies. Certainly it oversimplifies everything about it but it's at least entertaining. I wish it had a bit more of a substantive discussion of what's going on because it doesn't address the proposals and interests of the parties as much as I'd like. I know very little about what's going on, but personally I feel like they're just trying to avoid the inevitable: a Greek default. Frankly I've been saying I'd probably rather they just go ahead and default already because I think that ship is going to sink either way, so why not save some cost and just get it over with already? Hopefully they prove me wrong.

Hitch did it best. Hitchcock really was a master at movie making and a very entertaining guy. Here's a list of quotes from Mental Floss. My favorite was "One of television's great contributions is that it brought murder back into the home, where it belongs." Very amusing list, just like his movies.

I miss 18. So Dave's Art Locker did me a favor by taking Peyton Manning's face and mashing it with every single NFL logo. Fabulous.

Saying goodbye is the hardest part. Great look at the pains and struggles of facing retirement as an NFL player. I still remember being in the locker room for our last high school football game and having our coaches mention how that was probably the end for pretty much all of us (especially me because I was terrible) and it was a somber, surreal feeling. I miss it every time I smell the fresh cut grass.

I really, really, really hate the NCAA. As an institution that is and I'll detail some of my thoughts about that in a second. But here's an interesting piece about a journalist declaring war on the NCAA and their retaliation in response. In all honesty I can't blame them for this retaliation, it seems like a wise and fair move based on what is going on. I know Jay Bilas feels like questioning this guy's motives isn't fair, but I do think that is a legitimate thing to bring up (although I doubt that's guiding what he's doing). It's an interesting battle and I'm curious how this all ends up since the NCAA has a lot of money and power, but it's also experienced a lot of ill will. That being said, those ratings still keep climbing so clearly it doesn't mean that much.

As far as my NCAA hatred, I could go on forever about it but here's some of my basic thoughts. The NCAA itself as an institution is a farce and it needs to seize power back. It is a centralized body that comes up with a lot of silly recruiting and other rules, but doesn't ever really bother to enforce them. Who cares about an organization that doesn't really have any real teeth? There needs to be greater scrutiny served by the NCAA upon schools.

Also, conferences as separate institutions need to be abolished. I understand what the functional purposes were as collegiate sports grew, not unlike the beginnings of many of the professional sports leagues. However, they've long outgrown their usefulness and there is too much power in the conferences and not enough of a sharing of the pot of money. I'm fine with keeping conferences for structural matchup purposes, but conference commissioners hold too much power and keep the NCAA sports from developing into what they could be.

As part of fixing conferences, officiating needs to be based in the NCAA. How silly of a farce is it that the NCAA has refs but they really all come through the separate conferences? You can't tell me that an SEC ref has a bias against even other major conference teams, much less mid-major or minor conference teams. How idiotic is it to incentivize refs to have a built in bias based on who their paycheck is really coming from?

Finally, abolish the BCS, but even the conference commissioners seem to realize that's one they can no longer resist.

Tweet of the day. Courtesy of Yahoo!'s Shutdown Corner NFL blog's Doug Farrar, an evaluation of the Jason Whitlock incident from over the weekend. Whitlock is an inflammatory idiot and this is a great witness of that.

Journal choice. I need a new journal for taking notes at Church. I always like to have something fun/goofy. I had a Harry Potter one at one point and most recently I had a Tootsie Pop journal with Mr. Owl. Well that one is filling up so I need to find a new one. I think I've narrowed it down to these two: a sock monkey riding a Vespa or a Mork and Mindy one. Sorry to you kids that aren't familiar with Mork from Ork. Figure the Nanoo Nanoo probably won't be as popular but I got a kick out of it. I'm also open to other suggestions, but I'm trying to keep price reasonably low, so let me know if you know of any other cool one's out there.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Marriage, An Unrelated Matter on the Constitution, and a Purple Squirrel

On Prop 8. I'm going to try to give a better rundown on it after reading the decision (it's pretty long and I've got a number of things going on right now, so it might be a little while), but here are two great breakdowns about a lot of the issues at hand and the decision given. I felt like they're pretty even handed presentations and talk about it from a legal perspective. Also, here's the LDS Church's official statement.

Ladies and gentlemen to the 8th wonder of the world. No, I'm not talking about Hova, I'm talking about the U.S. Constitution. The NYTimes has an interesting, but misleading, piece on how the U.S. Constitution has fallen behind on influencing new constitutions. I'll explain a number of problems I have with it.

First, I don't feel like direct quotations of the Constitution necessarily translate to influence. I'll grant that I don't know what the evaluation standard is entirely, but from the way its presented it looks like they're looking for specific quoting. Could be interpreting that incorrectly though.

Second, for whatever reason our form of representative democracy has never really taken hold. Don't ask me why, but our bicameral system with a separate executive isn't particularly popular. I do know that one of the hesitations is the fact it is nigh impossible to get legislation through. The Founders intended it that way to try and protect the people from the oppression of the government. It has its pros and cons. Amending the Constitution is even more difficult, as the article points out. And I can't deny, on its face that's not a particularly attractive option. Especially for new governments forming, the people in charge want power! (My Constitutional Law professor always stresses that Con Law is about power.) Parliamentary systems grant more direct power to the legislature and often combining it with the executive (semi-presidential systems being an exception a la France or Russia). That makes passing laws a lot simpler and I can't deny if I was in power and forming a constitution, I'd be tempted to do the same. So that could explain a lot of the differences. I'd also imagine our system of federalism is not particularly common, but I'm not positive on that one.

Third, it's true, our Constitution does not enumerate many rights. Initially the rights granted in the Bill of Rights came as amendments and were not included in the original document. That really does limit a lot of the rights. Later amendments came to extend rights and the Supreme Court of the United States has expanded more of those rights through judicial interpretation. So the idea of enumerating those further rights is a little silly at this point. Of course our government, courts, and people haven't felt it right to extend some of the definitive rights mentioned in the article such as to food and housing.

So regardless of particular issues, I don't find it troubling that our Constitution isn't as influential. It is dated and a lot of it has been expanded through judicial review, so it may not meet the needs of everybody. But as they mentioned it's the longest living constitution around for now and that's just fine by me.

Iran knows how to party. Reuters has an interesting vid about the allies and influence of Iran. Enjoyable, though stuff I already was aware of from my political science background. Really the key thing is the Chinese and Russian support. 2 members of the UN Security Council adds up (though 1 is actually enough). So regardless of what the rest of the world may try, it's not going to have any real teeth as long as those two take care of Li'l Brudder. Mahmoud you're the only one for me.

And boom goes the dynamite. Apparently throwing a match down a Chinese sewer is a bad idea. Never would have guessed...

Just give me a team that can win. Everybody is excited because the Big Ten has finally said they want a playoff (after their recent bowl slump). Can't deny this is a big victory for college football, but the guys over at Vanquish the Foe (SBNation BYU site) seem to think this is promising for BYU. I can't deny that it is a good thing for us. It does increase our odds, presuming we ever play well enough to potentially qualify. But really that's the key issue, we haven't played that well for a while now. And so I'm not optimistic at all that we will field a potential national championship team anytime soon. I congratulate Bronco and the team for another 10 win season. That does mean a lot, not too many teams can do that as often as Bronco has done it. That being said, when you beat only 2 teams with a winning record in the season, that's really not saying much. Just hope the team gets better, we certainly have a lot of high points but the offensive line needs to figure out their run blocking and a running back needs to step up. Yes, I know Alisa showed some signs of brilliance, but we need a bit more than that. I'm willing to say that might have been the O line's fault though.

Just how big is Africa? Here's a sweet illustration. Of course Alaska didn't make it in there, but either way it certainly is impressive just how big Africa really is.

Can I swallow this bottle whole? A Native American tribe in South Dakota has decided to sue members of the beer industry for healthcare, social services, and child rehabilitation. I'm really curious to see how this plays out for a number of reasons. First, the legal status of Native American reservations is peculiar because they enjoy a pseudo-autonomous status. I can only imagine how murky that makes all of this and just somewhat unclear how it's going to play out. Second, their theory of negligence (I presume that's what they're calling it) is that the business continued to sell alcohol to the Native Americans even though they knew it was likely to end up on the reservation where it's outlawed. Should be an interesting case and I'm wondering if it can have some similar results like a lot of the cigarette litigation from a couple of decades ago. Potentially this could present some serious reform, so we'll see where it goes from here.

Old stuffy men in robes need to learn to deal with the modern world. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to allow tv coverage of Supreme Court arguments. This is great news, even though the justices don't like it. Look it's information that the public should have available immediately and I see no reasonable reason to keep the cameras out. They'll learn to deal with it.

I have no idea why this squirrel is purple.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Buffalos, Break ups, Battlestar Galactica (Well pirating it anyway)

I'm going to punch a cougar. Recently stumbled onto Guy on a Buffalo. And if you haven't seen it, it's hysterical. Very clever and very well done. Somewhat old news now, but I know it hadn't made the rounds with most of my friends. Seriously worth your time:

Breaking up is hard to do. Especially when you're breaking up with friends. It's something that happens to us all, we move on. Interesting insight from NYTimes on the process. Personally I just stick with the Seinfeld approach. Also the Times should know, George invented the "It's not you, it's me".

I love TV SOPA-ing much. The NYTimes about the fight amongst different industries over how to handle piracy issues. It's an interesting discussion and there are a lot of conflicting interests going on. Of course I liked the argument they bring up with their anecdote at the beginning, since I'm a big sports fan. It's a difficult thing to manage what you can or can't get as far as TV offerings, especially because cable and satellite providers won't allow for an a la carte package of stations (most of the time). So what is a fan supposed to do? The internet sure provides some easy answers and typically there are ads that still run, so the advertisers are still happy at least.

I guess Tweeting while you drive is a good idea. The Brazilian government is putting the new Twitter regulations to work demanding Twitter shut down a few accounts that tweet out information about traffic stops. Very difficult issue because the information will just flow to somewhere else. Initially they tried to argue that the accounts didn't offer anything useful for society other than those traffic stops which was a useful argument, but the users just added more valuable driving information. I think this is going to be a fight the Brazilian government loses against its own people other than blocking individual tweets as they come.

Polish Goal Line FTW. Slate asks if the Giants took the 12 men on the field penalty intentionally? Short answer: No. However, that seems like a real potential issue. Per Mike Pereira if you keep intentionally committing penalties as a defense to run the clock it will result in a touchdown for the other team. But there's still a little bit of a problem there since that allowed the Giants to run some serious clock (although the extra man wasn't to their benefit). They might need to look into penalizing defenses a little more during those crunch moments. Anybody got any good suggestions?

Super plays. Great quick (very quick) looks at a couple of key plays from National Football Post: The Manningham Catch and Victor Cruz's TD. I typically enjoy a bit more meat than that, but it was a good look since I don't have DVR to watch over and over what exactly transpires on such key plays.

June Jones is a class act. Always been a big fan of his work. Charlie Weis, not so much and no surprise there. June Jones allows recruits to transfer but Charlie Weis resists. I give a knock on the lauding of Mack Brown for releasing recruits though. At places like Texas, USC, and Bama it's typically to their advantage to let go of somebody who doesn't pan out because they've got 20 other guys dying for a chance that might pan out. Other low class loser, Brian Kelly, throws a recruit under the bus for going to another team. Way to pick on an 18 year old, Coach. You stay classy.

Eat more War Eagle. Graham Watson bringing the laughs about a recruit who spurned Clemson over the lack of a Chick-Fil-A in the area, even though there was one on campus. Seriously one of the better names in college football right there, Cassanova McKinzy. My favorite I saw was Leviticus Payne. Any other good one's out there?

I want a recount! Puppy Bowl struck with controversy as SBNation questions whether or not the right puppy got the MVP. Sadly forgot to watch the Puppy Bowl this year, but it's a wonderful Superbowl tradition and I'm glad that Animal Planet produces it. Although I actually somewhat appreciated Madonna's halftime show, minus a few mishaps.

Heads or tails? Mental Floss with a quick rundown on whether or not flipping a coin is really a 50-50 proposition. Apparently it's more likely to land on the side that's up to begin with. I would have anticipated one side to be heavier than the other or something so that's interesting. Wonder if they specially weight them for the Superbowl coin toss or other sporting events? A glad hat tip to anybody that finds out if that's the case.