Football - Catch

2010 Race for the BCS

Everyone has opinions. These are mine on some of the biggest debates in college football this season.

1. The SEC

At the start of the season, I told whoever might be listening that I thought UGA and Auburn would dominate their respective halves of the SEC. Then AJ Green was suspended, and I took back the UGA half of my prediction; I had no idea they would drop four in a row, and had I known how poorly the rest of the SEC East was going to play this year, I still would have picked Georgia to win the SEC East. So, either way, I was wrong about Georgia. On the other side of the conference, I picked Auburn and Alabama to be 11-0 when they met for the Iron Bowl. I was off by one team, and I'm proud about that.

2. Auburn and Oregon

For the last few weeks, I've thought of Oregon as the only unbeatable team in the regular season, mainly because teams don't have time to prepare for their hurry-up run offense. However, I also believe a championship caliber team could prepare for that in five weeks before a bowl game. Auburn's defense is suspect, but I don't think you can really gameplan for Cam Newton - stuff the box and he throws it, but spread your coverage and he sneaks out and around for 15 yards. So, if they met today, I figure Oregon would win. If they meet in January, I figure Auburn will win. And that's how I'll pick it if given the chance.

3. TCU and BSU

Both deserve a shot over a one-loss team - LSU, Wisconsin, doesn't matter - but only if Auburn or Oregon loses one of their remaining two games. That said, if the next question is which team deserves it first, my answer is BSU without hesitation. The no-brainer reasoning is based on their recent history against each other. BSU beat TCU in a BCS bowl last year and hasn't lost since or shown any reason why they would lose to TCU this year. Unless TCU can prove they're better than BSU (which they haven't), then BSU deserves the first crack at crashing the national championship.

Of course, some will argue that the Mountain West is much stronger than the WAC and BSU's schedule is, overall, weaker than TCU's. That is clearly true, but neither team was going to lose a conference game, so we have to look outside conference play, and BSU has a decisive advantage there. Both teams played Oregon State in what essentially amounted to home games, but I give TCU a small edge because it was at a "neutral site" instead of on a blue field. With Oregon State removed, their strongest non-conference opponents were Baylor (for TCU) and Virginia Tech (for BSU). A potential BCS conference champion is stronger than a perennial basement team in an up-year, especially since BSU beat Virginia Tech 2000 miles from Boise. Still, this is secondary to BSU beating TCU the last two times they've played. BSU should be ranked #3 behind Oregon and Auburn.

4. Cam Newton

As an Auburn fan, it's a stressful situation. Debates still rage over whether they were truly the best team in the country the last two times they were undefeated. In 1993 they were on probation for late '80s recruiting violations and couldn't even be seen on TV. In 2004 they were probably even better, but pre-season rankings locked them out of the title game. In 2010, the recruitment of their star quarterback is threatening their first chance at a national championship in decades. So what do I think? It's simple: Without proof, it's just hearsay, and it's not much of a story. If he took the money, then it's another season wasted for Auburn. If he didn't take the money, then shame on everyone who has already thrown him under the proverbial bus for it. Until we know for sure, it's a pointless story.

Perhaps most importantly: he is clearly the best player in college football this year, and 11 teams still lost to Auburn on the field. If those wins are vacated, the teams that lost to Auburn don't deserve any boost for it, because they still lost those games.
Baseball - Ripken Jersey

These are a few of my favorite balls.

Batting Practice Balls
Since the Braves moved to Turner Field, my brother and I have made a habit of getting to games early enough to catch 60-90 minutes of batting practice from the left field seats. We have caught many practice home runs, and occasionally got to play catch with a friendly outfielder until some jerk of a fan ruined the game by keeping the ball. We also almost started a fight with an usher who slammed his shoulder into my brother to steal a ball from him. An usher. My brother was 13 or 14 at the time.

Between the two of us, we have caught about 20-30 batting practice balls, mostly more than 10 years ago when we went to the games more frequently. But none of those compare to catching a live game ball. That's why these next two dates stick out for me:

The Home Run Ball
Date: July 6, 2002
Hitter: Moises Alou, Cubs
Pitcher: Kerry Ligtenberg, Braves
Inning: Top of the 6th
After the Braves batted in the bottom of the 5th, my brother volunteered to miss the Cubs' turn at bat and go get some snacks. With 1 out in the top of the 6th, Fred Mcriff singled to right-center on a 1-2 pitch from Kerry Ligtenberg. The next batter, Moises Alou, hit the first pitch to section 138 in the left field seats, where I made a juggling catch (thanks to interference from a fan who ran from 20 seats over). I was sitting in my brother's aisle seat while he was gone.

The Foul Ball
Date: May 2, 2010
Hitter: Nate McLouth, Braves
Pitcher: Bud Norris, Astros
Inning: Bottom of the 3rd
After watching the first two innings from the Chophouse, we moved to our seats behind home plate in Section 204. We were supposed to sit in row 15, but the rows in front of us were empty, so I moved us down to row 8. We missed the Astros' turn at bat, and Nate McLouth was just stepping in to lead off the bottom of the 3rd when we got settled. Within seconds, he fouled a ball straight back, about three seats to our right and one row behind us. A fan missed it, and the ball rolled straight to me.
_me 4/16/2006

Entry #2500

So when it comes to free online web site/blog services, this is my chronology. Some of the join dates are guesses. Some are posted on my profile when I login.

Geocities (fall 1996)
Angelfire (1997?)
Xoom (1997?)

By 1999 I had designed the layout of my web site from the ground up, so I ditched sites like Geocities and Xoom for space on a friend's domain, which lasted nearly four years. That site stayed online for years until it became so frequently corrupted by malicious attacks that I just had to stop rebuilding it to keep friends and family from going to it.

Livejournal (2/5/2004)
Facebook (10/28/2004?)
Xanga (2/8/2005)
MySpace (3/14/2005)
Twitter (11/27/2008)

I am pretty sure I narrowed my earliest Facebook presence to October 2004, but I didn't use it much until Spring 2005. I just know I joined in college, and I graduated in December 2004...

Entry #2500 here. The end?
Football - Catch

A Little Less Action

I found an interesting football article in the Wall Street Journal describing how the average NFL broadcast is divided up:
  • 11 minutes of action from the snap to the whistle
  • 11 minutes of coaches and referees
  • 17 minutes of replays
  • 60 minutes of commercials
  • 75 minutes of players between plays
  • 3-5 minutes of announcers, credits, and other screens
It's interesting that we spend so much time watching about 11 minutes of football. Condensed playback of those 11 minutes would allows to watch all 16 weekly games in the time it takes to watch just one full broadcast.
Earth in Space

American Patriotic Songs

Someone needed a list of these for something at the school, and I realized it was tough to find a single list that had them all, including the authors and dates. So here's a quick list. Let me know if I'm missing an obvious patriotic song that should be included.

Top 10 (listed chronologically):
  • The Star Spangled Banner, 1814, Francis Scott Key
  • America (My Country, Tis of Thee), 1831, Samuel Francis Smith
  • Dixie, 1860, Dan Emmett
  • Home on the Range, 1873, Brewster Higley
  • America the Beautiful, 1895, Katharine Lee Bates
  • You're a Grand Old Flag, 1906, George Cohan
  • Over There, 1917, Georga Cohan
  • God Bless America, 1918 (revised in 1938), Irving Berlin
  • This Land Is Your Land, 1940, Woody Guthrie
  • God Bless the USA, 1984, Lee Greenwood

Songs not included:
  • "Yankee Doodle" was a British lyric written before the American Revolutionary War, and it isn't clear who wrote it or when.
  • "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" was an Irish anti-war lyric written in 1863.
  • Anything contemporary that hasn't yet withstood the test of time. Sorry, Trey Parker.
_me 4/16/2006

We are World of Goo

I've quoted what I believe is the essential summary of Jon Erik Ariza's analysis of World of Goo, which he believes is one of the most important games of our generation. If you've played it, then this will make sense to you. If you have not, then perhaps you should. Either way, it's out there waiting for you. You can't stop progress...
World of Goo is a game that has some pretty obvious themes like [corporate globalization and consumerism], but it goes beyond that and touches on beauty, our past, the cost of progress, and our place in the world. There’s so much to this game but how do they fit it all within the confines of a puzzle title? Puzzle games like Tetris are brilliant in their own right but often lack all semblance of a storyline. They lack depth and meaningful themes, but somehow World of Goo transcends the apparent barriers of the genre -- some might even say the medium -- and delivers messages appropriate for the best of films or poetry, and does so with such tact and subtlety that many won’t realize how obvious it really is. When I stumbled on it, World of Goo went from being an excellent puzzle game, to being a tragic mirror with a glimmer of hope in a telescope aimed towards the stars.

. . .

[World of Goo is] not simply a game, but a work of art that can touch us in ways many outsiders don’t think a game can. The game covers themes that highlight not only the tragedies in our lives and our world, but also remind us to not despair, but to keep on pressing on into the unknown. After all, if we are World of Goo, then not even the sky is the limit.
_me 4/16/2006

Christmas on TV

These are my favorite Christmas movies and specials, roughly in the order that I want to see them. I rearranged this list in 2011, but I left the numbers in place from 2009. This has nothing to do with their overall quality as films, because otherwise Die Hard would be #1. Also, there are countless others that I don't know well enough to include. You can hate me. Feel free to disagree:

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
1. Home Alone
2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
5. Elf
6. Scrooged
4. The Santa Clause
7. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
8. A Christmas Story
9. A Charlie Brown Christmas
13. Fred Claus
14. The Santa Claus 2
15. Gremlins
16. The Nightmare Before Christmas
12. The Holiday
17. Die Hard
18. The Grinch
19. Love, Actually
20. Prancer
10. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
11. Frosty the Snowman

DigitalDreamDoor's top 100 list includes dozens of movies that I haven't seen, and the Wikipedia list separates them into useful categories (and lists a lot more). I still need to see Bad Santa, The Polar Express, and Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause; and I need to re-watch the classics that I don't remember well enough to include here (you know which ones, because they're not on my list).

Also, if anyone tries to tell you that I don't like Christmas Vacation, they just don't know what "it's not my favorite" means. :)
_me 4/16/2006

Pocket Retro Game Emulator

I want, I want, I want a Pocket Retro Game Emulator. It plays Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Gameboy Advance, NeoGeo (why?), eBooks, and FM radio tunage. It's a bit on the small side, but it has an AV-out slot for playing through a TV when I'm not in a car.

But think of the possibilities... Every game I loved that came out before my 15th birthday (plus a ton of more recent ones on the Gameboy Advance), and a ton of gems that I missed out on. Yeah, I can dig it.

If this thing operates exactly as advertised, I can't imagine NOT owning one.
_me 4/16/2006

Insurance Companies Not So Evil?

I'm not surprised that there are companies out there making larger annual profits than health insurance companies, but I had no idea their profit margins had sunk this low:
Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones.

Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.

Of course there are good insurance companies out there, but there are sharks out there too.

Speaking of insurance, who do you recommend for car insurance? I have a 2007 Camry that needs (I guess) the standard coverage, and I'm thinking about switching companies. The last ticket I received was for a fender-bender in 2004, and otherwise I'm a good, defensive driver who maintains my car. But I want to switch from a state provider (who used to be less expensive) to one of the larger ones (because with a larger client pool, their rates are now lower). Got any good or bad experiences with any of the big boys?
Baseball - Ripken Jersey

Baseball Movies I Own

The ones I own:
1976 - Bad News Bears
1984 - The Natural
1988 - Bull Durham
1989 - Major League
1989 - Field of Dreams
1992 - The Babe
1992 - A League of Their Own
1992 - Mr. Baseball
1993 - The Sandlot
1993 - Rookie of the Year
1999 - For Love of the Game
2011 - Moneyball
2012 - Trouble with the Curve
2013 - 42

Others I've seen:
1976 - The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
1985 - Brewster's Millions
1994 - Little Big League
1994 - Angels in the Outfield
1994 - Major League II
1996 - The Fan
2001 - Summer Catch
2001 - Hardball
2005 - Fever Pitch

Others I want to see:
1942 - The Pride of the Yankees
1953 - The Winning Team
1973 - Bang the Drum Slowly
1985 - The Slugger's Wife
1986 - A Winner Never Quits
1988 - Stealing Home
1988 - Eight Men Out
1994 - Cobb
1998 - Major League: Back to the Minors
2001 - 61*
2002 - The Rookie
2004 - Mr. 3000
2006 - The Benchwarmers
2008 - Touching Home
2009 - The Open Road
2010 - How Do You Know