BCS (Bowl Championship Series)

January 7, 2012

There are lots of reasons not to like the BCS system.  The one demonstrated this year is the idea that the ten best teams should appear in the five bowls.  In other words their mean ranking should be 5.5.  It was 8.7.   The Cotton Bowl did better:  7.0.  Maybe I should be glad that the BCS games have not televised in Canada (at least in a 80 channel cable package).

Computing Updates: IV; Pac 12; Eat Your Peas: II (Really!)

January 2, 2012

Today’s computing update is more about Tobae and less about me.  Other than without son and technogeek Mark at home, I am now her technogeek.

Tobae is an avid backcountry skier and for many years part of the team that teaches the Everett Chapter of the Mountaineers’s avalanche awareness course.  And to keep doing that she needs to take an instructors course from AIARE which she will be doing Wednesday through Friday this week.  And she has assignments, the difficult one being to deliver a five minute lesson using “instructor mediated video clips” with the thought these would be imbedded in PowerPoint and run on “somebody else’s computer”.   I’d never plan on doing such a thing myself!  PC vs Mac and different software versions, what are they thinking?   (Tobae “reassures” me that these are ski guides, not technogeeks, but she is the one doing this, not me…)

So instead of skiing today we spent the day in (okay there were many football games on so that was okay, more on this later).  She studied the huge decks of PowerPoint slides in the instructor resources trying to find some slides to illustrate her topic, the “wind slab” avalanche type, and finding appropriate video.  And around 2 p.m. I help her piece together five slides and an imbedded video in OpenOffice Impress.  For we have never had Microsoft Office on her computer, for her entire use of such functionality is that she keeps a spreadsheet of vertical climb (several 100k feet last year).  Then we saved the presentation on a flash drive in old style PowerPoint (ppt) along with the media file and I tried to look at it on my computer.  Mac PowerPoint 2008 would not read it.  LibreOffice would (I’ve abandoned OpenOffice as have many), but couldn’t save it in a form yet PowerPoint compatible.  Keynote read it and let me save it such that Mac PowerPoint 2008 would read it.  Of course it didn’t behave the same as her slide show, but the video did work.  (That this would be difficult I already knew, see above).  But is was workable and I saved it in many forms (some of which didn’t work at all back on her computer, also see above).  And I took advantage of the Microsoft at Home program afforded by the UW contract to buy Microsoft Office for the Mac 2011 on the cheap and install it on one of our personal computers, hers.  So she has it in the most modern format possible which actually imbeds the video right in the file.  But of course who knows what she will have in the conference room at Stevens Pass!

There is a simple rule here.  Never ever use any advanced feature of any presentation program and expect portability.  Ever!

Now to football.  Today was the “January 1 is Sunday” version of New Year Day.  TSN (Canadian cable channel “The Sports Network”) shows some content from ESPN.  We enjoyed the Georgia-Michigan State game.  Tobae is from Georgia, enough said.  But did the Rose Bowl follow?  No.  Or the Fiesta Bowl?  No.  I was reduced to our desperation system.  Finally finding my notes on how to create a proxy through Mark’s hacked router in Menlo Park, using the Firefox “Advanced > Network” to connect to it, and using the ESPN privilege of his cable provider we were able to watch both games.  Tobae had a year of trail-breaking with her friend Tim riding on Oregon-Wisconsin.  Sorry Badgers and sorry Tim, I was pulling for you.  I had to go with Stanford to honor Mark’s girl friend Christie, but I’m sure Miles Logsdon is quite happy with the outcome and that will have to do.  Why neither of these Pac 12 teams could put up points like the Huskies remains a mystery!

So how does this all connect with Eat Your Peas?  I believe I have come on the solution to the lack of a functional US Congress!  While Canada may not have ESPN, they have mastered the art of votes of no confidence and rapid fire elections.  Thus the simplest solution to my need for ESPN while in Whistler and my desire for a functional Congress is to have Canada invade and annex the US.  No longer would Rick Perry have to worry about his gaffes about Canadian oil being domestic, no more “rights” and “sovereign content” issues around material on Canadian cable, and no need to wait more than 90 days to replace Congress when it doesn’t do it job.

The Cost of News

November 6, 2011

Everyone is aware that newspapers are in trouble.  Numbers of subscribers down.  Fewer and fewer reporters.  Heavy reliance on the AP.

Yet we continue to subscribe (for 28 years now) to “The Daily Herald” and “The Sunday Herald”, which most people around here call the “Everett Herald”.  (They now tweet from @EverettHerald.)  There is little news, but the occasional letter from somebody we know, and it is certainly the best way to follow the ugly, nasty battle for County Executive being waged by two ethically-challenged candidates.

The primary difference between “The Daily Herald” and “The Sunday Herald” is that the Sunday version is a big, bulky Sunday paper.  And it costs three times as much at the newstand: $1.50 vs 50 cents.  My first job on Sunday is to take Luna to retrieve the newspaper and then to separate the wheat from the chaff.  The wheat is harder and harder to find.  About a month ago, there was even a brief item from the publisher on the front page, below the fold, explaining that they had reorganized the content so that it could be printed on less paper and help the environment.  Today was my day to do a more quantitative analysis.

My Saturday paper weighs 5.3 ounces with advertising sections removed. Four sections: main, local, sports, “good life”.

My Sunday paper weighs 6.8 ounces with advertising sections removed. Four sections: main, viewpoints, sports, “money wise”. And USA Weekend and comics.  (I will not engage in debate over whether USA Weekend is an advertising section or not!  But for those doing their own calculations it does weigh 1 oz.).

Clearly there is little difference in content, other than the 30.5 ounces of advertising that I recycled.

To recap:  On Saturday news is just under 10 cents per ounce.  On Sunday news is over 20 cents per ounce.

Is Sunday news worth this premium?

Most of the front section is from other sources and in my RSS feed yesterday.  Only two articles written by Herald staff.  (Late addition Sunday evening:  my lawyer pointed me to one of these about how I could become part of a study of good driving.)  Much space consumed with two Herald created graphics: one a table of political spending, including the fascinating County Executive race and the other a graphic about demographics of voters in Snohomish County. And a reminder to have clocks fall back (but not to change batteries in smoke detectors).   Nothing too interesting in Viewpoints.  And with Election Day on Tuesday, not even a reminder of Herald endorsements.  Sports the tale of #6 Oregon dismantling the Huskies last night.  Buried within “Seahawk Game Day”, reminding me the game starts soon.  And some nice coverage of prep cross country:  state meet was yesterday.  Our local high school girls did very well.  Glacier Peak second in 3A, Snohomish seventh in 4A.  Money Wise lead story “250 ideas to pinch pennies”.  USA Weekend:  “Hottest new healer: Vitamin D”.

All the news fit to print?   Any news fit to print?

(Another late note:  I missed it, but Tobae pointed out an article.  The Saturday paper easily won:  Readers share close encounters. The Agy’s border us.)

OmniFocus Multi-focussed

October 22, 2011

I’m in Whistler today for a meeting of the council of our strata (US readers, condo association).  Was a must-do with a coming special assessment after 11 years of benign budgetary issues.  I drove up last night and could go home this evening, but there is a Husky game to watch.  So early tomorrow.  And after all I have bandwidth here.  And with bandwidth, I can be much more effective in getting things done.

Which leads to OmniFocus, perhaps the best known software of the Seattle-based OmniGroup and my way of Getting Things Done (GTD).  In a too rare act of using “Context”, I found a significant task at Whistler:  “Master French Onion Soup”.  This has been lingering for ~18 months.  And master in this instance means actually make it for the first time, which might then lead to improving and mastering.

This recipe seemed like a fine starting point, lots of 5-stars.  I read perhaps 20 of the 395 reviews.  The idea this would take 65 minutes seemed wrong from the outset, but a reviewer had suggested considerably longer times.  I found 45 minutes with the onions, 20 minutes reducing, and 10 minutes with the flour step about right and it is now simmering.  Somebody suggested I let it rest after simmering for several hours, then finish it off.  As excellent as this advice might be, it is my dinner and I plan to eat it at half-time.  I tasted about 30 minutes ago and added some pepper, but I think I’ll like the result.

The last piece of multi-focus is watching the Stanford-Washington game (and doing dueling commentary with Casey Rose on FB.) As I type this sentence Stanford 31-Washington 14.  I bet (well better said regret) that our commentary slows down.

30 Years of Husky Football

March 5, 2011

After 30 years as a Husky football season ticket holder, I’ve decided not to renew my tickets.

I like college athletics.  I competed in Division 3, as have both my sons.   I like to watch football.   That was something I did as an undergraduate at Caltech (won one game), something I couldn’t as a graduate student at UCSD (they had abandoned football after that loss), and didn’t at MIT as a postdoc.  Arriving at UW in 1981, brought new opportunity!  And certainly Division I football is the front porch of UW, a catch phrase popularized by past President Mark Emmert and now adopted by Interim President Phyllis Wise (though I think they would be hard pressed to show the connection directly by analysis of donor interest in academics, athletics or both).

Three problems for me:

One problem is that our athletic front porch is exceptionally ugly right now.

1) I know and like Athletic Director Scott Woodward.  I was very disappointed to see him move to Intercollegiate Athletics simply to fire an 0-7 football coach.  His expertise was much more valuable in Gerberding Hall.  Two years later the question of whether he is a particular good AD is argued.  And so galling is the last day contract extension as Mark Emmert moved on.  And as reported in the Seattle Times, the unchallenged reasoning is laughable:

Emmert said he wanted to ensure that the position was solidified before he left UW.

(By the way Seattle Times, is there some reason that you don’t link to the underlying documents that you have obtained by a public records request so that a reader can do an independent analysis?)

2) And a good thing that contract was solidified, so that just a month later when embroiled in foot-in-mouth controversy, Interim President Phyllis Wise had her fiscal hands tied and firing Woodward would just create more angst and red ink.  Perhaps her public chiding of Woodward was more around anger over the actions of her predecessor?  And the chiding:  a university president doesn’t recognize that open discourse, even when embarrassing, is a core value of the academy?

3) The Husky Stadium renovation has been scaled down, but in no way in line with safety issues alone.  Do we need $300 million from the regional economy moving in this direction?  What is wrong with Qwest Field?  Tradition is argued.  So students are moving to the end zone?  See my second problem below for related commentary.

4) Scoreboard Baby.  Well researched about an era with a weasel football coach.  UW administration shares culpability, but I don’t see legitimate change occurring in response.  Prosecutorial discretion or not, the basketball rape scandal this year is a measure that from the top down, UW doesn’t care about its own reputation or credibility.

My second problem is schedule frenzy.  What happened to 12:30 p.m. games that lasted a little over three hours?  Game time is now most often announced on the Monday eleven days ahead.  How is one to plan life?  And games starting as late as 7:30 p.m.  Ever entered the north gates near the Dempsey during one of these late starts?  Nothing worse than an already quite drunk crowd.  Pragmatically I must shed tickets and getting face value (which varies too little across the stadium) is difficult.

My third problem is the loss of the track.  The Pac-12 championship will never return to Seattle…

My solution is simple.  Just buy re-sold tickets on StubHub for the games I can actually attend.  Thinking back to the economic model for stadium renovation there should have been much more concern in approving financing around this new reality.  The frustration of season ticket holders isn’t just a losing team.

Improbable Win

October 12, 2009

After an undergrad/grad/postdoc career in Division III, Washington Husky football was a strong attractor when I arrived at UW in 1981.  I miss perhaps one home game a year.  I’ve seen great stretches…I still wear my “ThreePeat” sweatshirt vintage 1993 Rose Bowl…but more recently seasons of frustration, capped with the 0-12 record in 2008.

Like many fans, I was not expecting the coaching change to yield the dividends we’ve seen.  It was reasonable to wonder whether we would win 3 games this year, much less be 3-3.  But the great effort in the loss to LSU to launch the season and the stunning upset of USC brought optimism, tempered by being run over by Stanford, not executing in South Bend, and reinforced by the first 56 minutes of Saturday night’s game with Arizona.

Many amazing things on the road, but what followed Saturday ranks as my most memorable home Husky moment.  Down 33-21, some fans had seen enough. Only this close because of two remarkable goal line stands…did we learn something from ND?  An efficient drive to make it 33-28.  And then on the first play of the Arizona possession after the kickoff, right in front of me, “the play”.  Arizona receiver falls, pass bounces off his foot, caught by Husky linebacker Mason Foster and returned for a touchdown, two point conversion, 36-33.  A few plays later game sealed with a fourth down interception.

Worth watching on YouTube.  In this set of fourth quarter highlights, “the play” begins at 2:44.

The Zone

September 8, 2009

I’ve enjoyed the pre-game Husky Huddle held in the Dempsey Indoor, northeast of Husky Stadium.  Good place to meet ahead of a game, hear the band, get into the excitement of the day.  And we have held an annual alumni event for friends of the School of Oceanography the last several homecomings.

So I was chagrined by the thought of change.  No more Husky Huddle.  In its place…The Zone…an open air festival on the east practice field.  Sorry this is Seattle.  Its rains.  There are some covered areas, but they would have held about 15% of the people in a good downpour.  This is not a good idea and a step backward.

It was worse.  A line to enter, to get banded as over 21.  A line to buy tickets for food and drinks.  A line for drinks.  A line for food.  With drink in hand, can’t be in the line for food.  Elbow to elbow in the over 21 area.  Vast areas beyond.  Horrible traffic flow for folk with seats on the north side of the stadium.

Add the pretension.  Over the top is catering by Metropolitan Grill with the Filet Mignon sandwich.  Please.

So note to DSW.  Bring back some sanity…