The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Is it possible to score only one point in NCAA football?

It appears that the answer is yes! On Friday the Texas Longhorns recorded a rare one point safety against Texas A&M:

But Texas holder Matt Nordgren dropped the snap, Dusty Mangum kicked the ball into the line and it rolled away just shy of the goal line. In the ensuing scramble for the football, officials ruled that A&M had gained possession of the ball then fumbled it into the end zone. A&M safety Jaxson Appel recovered the fumble just before several Texas defenders pounced on him. Game officials conferred for about a minute before ruling that the Longhorns would get a point for downing Appel in the end zone. The mostly orange-clad crowd of 83,891 exploded into cheers once the scoreboard recorded the point, tying the game at 13-all.

This got me thinking that it is at least possible for the kicking team to suffer a safety during an extra point attempt, resulting in one single solitary point for the defending team. A game could end with a score of 6-1!

Rule 7, Section 1, Article 1 of the official NCAA football rules states that a safety recorded during a try is worth 1 point:

Scoring Plays
ARTICLE 1. The point value of scoring plays shall be:
Touchdown ............................................................. 6 Points
Field Goal ................................................................ 3 Points
Safety (points awarded to opponent)................. 2 Points
Touchdown................................. 2 Points
Successful Try Field Goal or Safety.................. 1 Point

I could find nothing in the rule book indicating that the kicking team could not suffer a safety.
Therefore, if the kicking team managed to somehow lose 98 yards and get tackled in their own end zone, the defense would score a point.

Drug Innovations

You may think that I’m going to go off on some screed about drug companies in this post. Nope. This is about the “other kind of drug.” You know. The kind that you take when you are not sick.

Fun drugs are heavily regulated. For the sake of this post, let’s talk about alcohol, a fairly benign naturally occurring substance that is widely consumed worldwide and familiar to everyone. Alcohol is actually not heavily regulated compared to most “controlled substances (note the terrible irony of the term “controlled substance” as the more we attempt to control a substance the less we actually do control it. This is the lesson of prohibition and the subject of a future post). However, it is still much more heavily regulated than your average consumer product.

The regulation of alcohol is focused on making it undesirable. Taxes make it more expensive. The drinking age makes criminals of those ages 18-20. Various blue laws force consumers to stock up before Sunday, or before 9 o’clock. “Bar time,” intended to reduce binge drinking and alcohol addiction, instead forces thousands of intoxicated people to drive home simultaneously at 2 in the morning (and provides a goal to shoot for. “We’ve got to make it ‘til bar time!” they say. This place made its entire reputation off of the concept). Truly this is a wonderful example of government omniscience in action.

And those are just the rules that you know about. Behind the scenes are various complicated restrictions on container size, alcohol content (which varies depending on whether something is an ale, lager, malt liquor, stout, wine, malt wine, liquor, or beer. That’s just off the top of my head), labeling, and price. Advertising is severely restricted. Shipping must, by law, take place through a distributor. And every single state has different laws.

The point is that there is a lot of wasted money in the production of alcohol, and severe restrictions on which desirable qualities of alcoholic products may be presented to the public. If you have ever wondered why Coors advertises their beer as “cold tasting” even though such a sensation does not in fact exist (at least without the aid of certain other controlled substances), the reason is that they can’t say very much. Beer is often sold as refreshing, something to enjoy on a hot summer day. This advertising has been surprisingly effective, but the fact is that beer is not refreshing and is in fact a diuretic.

Almost all beers advertise their taste. Miller is currently running an ad, which states that in a nationwide survey more people said that Miller Lite had “more taste” than Bud Light. If only we could develop a beer with “more cold taste.” I might never leave the house.

Hamm’s (“The Beer Refreshing”) used to advertise with cartoon characters, a definite taboo in the modern climate.

Michelob Ultra straddles the line of acceptable advertising with its recent ads of incredibly fit people participating in rigorous exercise (generally with the woman defeating the man by a substantial margin) and then enjoying a beer. It is implied that the low-carb nature of the beer was responsible for the above average athletic performance. Low carb beers are very hot. Miller Lite, which has been low-carb all along, has seen a huge increase in market share since the beginning of the low-carb fad. Still, I am always shocked that these commercials are still on the air.

Not that I personally have a problem with them, I think that they are perfectly fine. But all beer commercials are lies, and if they could tell the truth we would be a lot better off.

Beer companies are great at spreading rumors. One prevalent rumor that I’ve heard is that rice beers (like Budweiser, which undoubtedly started said rumor) cause less severe hangovers than wheat beers (like Miller). This is simply not true, but it is an excellent insight into what advertising would look like if companies could tell the truth. They would emphasize a less severe hangover, a more pleasant high, and a lower risk of other negative consequences like addiction and alcohol poisoning. You may be thinking that this would be irresponsible. After all, there is not that much of a difference (really no difference) between the alcohol in one product and the alcohol in another. (Note: Except for the tequila at Cesar’s on Clarke St. on Chicago’s north side which definitely contains formaldehyde, paint thinner, and monkey urine. Just trust me on this, you’ll be better off for it.)

There is not much of a difference between alcohols now, but there could be in the future. One of the reasons that recreational drugs are inherently unsafe is that there is no incentive to make them safer. A beer company could pump millions of dollars into researching a safer type of alcohol (if such a thing exists) or techniques to make existing alcohol consumption safer, but they could not advertise that fact to the public, so there is no point. “Drink more with no hangover,” and “Will not cause terrible Diarrhea or impotence” are slogans that will never be heard as things stand today. Recreational drug research has been restricted for basically all of human history, and as a result, recreational drugs still come with severe side effects. Technology has improved almost every free market product, but beer has had the terribly bad luck to suffer from the regulation of one of the very first European laws, the Reinheitsgebot, and it has not changed significantly for literally thousands of years.

H.L. Mencken once described Puritanism as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.” This attitude has stunted the growth of the recreational drug industry for too long. The drug war (and the general negative sentiment against certain substances) is bad enough. Prohibition is prohibition; the effects are always the same. A black market will spring up, an underworld will develop, ancillary crime will increase, and the prohibited activity will continue largely unabated. There is a better way. Products are not inherently evil. All products have drawbacks, but those drawbacks are decreased, fixed, and debugged as the product is subjected to market forces.

In spite of ridiculously burdensome regulations the production of the American pharmaceutical industry is simply amazing. There is always room for improvement, but drug companies have improved the lives of millions of people who would otherwise live in horrible pain, discomfort, or not live at all.

Why not make a product that promotes enjoyment?

Update: Two carnival Instalanches in one day. Nice. Unfortunately blogger comments are down right now (and just convinced me to install Haloscan), but before they disappeared I read an anonymous comment that made some good points which I should address.

First, it is not that no strides have been made in drug development, I just feel that the wrong strides have been made. Legal drugs like alcohol focus on things like flavor (notice the proliferation of flavored vodkas, as well as the recent and mercifully over "flavored malt beverage" fad (Skyy Blue, Bacardi Silver, etc.)), calories, carbs, and other qualities unrelated to the intoxicating effect. "Street drugs" on the other hand tend to focus on addictiveness. They may make advancements in intoxicating effect, but usually the advancement is an extreme one, and most importantly, there is no incentive for street drug producers to focus on safety, as their product operates in close to monopoly conditions (so consumers have limited choices) and outside of the legal system (so product liability is not an issue).

Second, I am aware that alcohol is itself a chemical, and the idea of "improving alcohol" seems strange, but it is not impossible. Different types of alcohol already do exist (ethyl (drinking alcohol), methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol). It is at least possible that there exists an alcohol that is more pleasant to drink. Even if there is not, it is possible that other alcohol-like substances exist.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sign of the Apocalypse: Wisconsin Edition

No, it has nothing to do with our stupid looking quarter. (Corn?! Why corn? When I think of Iowa or Nebraska I think about corn. When I think of Wisconsin, I think of Beer, cheese (dairy), sausage, the Packers, and cranberries (nations leading producer), not disembodied cow heads and corn.)

Did you know that former Wisconsin quarterbacks Jim Sorgi and Brooks Bollinger made appearances in actual National Football League games in the same weekend? I'm sure that those of you who followed their respective careers at the University of Wisconsin are already seeking shelter. Smart move.

In other bad quarterback news, Shaun King guided the Cardinals to their second straight loss. Kyle Boller almost cracked the century mark in yards passing (if only he hadn't thrown that interception). Last and debatably least, the Bears signed Jeff George.

Tonight the Packers play the Rams. The Rams are always tough to figure because they have talent, but they're stupid. They have the tools to win, but the tools are in the possession of a monkey so there is no telling what he will do with them. Because of this fact, I have no idea how this game will go, but we have a little saying here at the EC:

When in doubt, bet against Mike Martz.

It has served us well in the past and I see no reason to change our philosophy tonight.
This is also Brett Favre's 200th straight game. I won't say anything more, as I'm sure Madden will mention it a few thousand times this evening. While Brett is healthy as usual, they have no healthy RBs. Ahman Green is still banged up (questionable at the moment) and it looks like Najeh "Duce" Davenport will get the start.

While you're waiting for John and Al to start talking about Brett Favre, why not read this NYT article about "establishing the pass."

Enjoy the game.

Raich v. Ashcroft update

Arguments are underway. Here are a few updates:

Will Baude is keeping track at Crescat Sententia. Just keep scrolling.

He points to an interesting post by Pejman Yousefzadeh.

Ann Althouse has running commentary.

And of course, the Volokh Conspiracy is watching one of its own. Just keep scrolling.

Good Luck Randy Barnett

The Supreme Court will be hearing oral argument in the Raich v. Ashcroft medical marijuana case today. Volokh conspiritor Randy Barnett will be arguing for the respondents. Follow the link if you want to find more information and links about the case.

From the (Legal) Underground

Evan Schaeffer is spearheading a campaign to help out the Anonymous Lawyer. The AL's site is quite popular and he would like to pursue a book deal based on his writings. Unfortunately, as he is anonymous and keeps up a certain character on his blog, he is reluctant to break character in order to pursue publishing contacts, etc. Evan, being the savvy attorney/blogger that he is, offered up his site as a launching pad for the AL's project, and humbly requests (read: demands) that those in the know spread the word. I am nothing if not a shameless shill for bloggers who would like book deals, as I happen to be one, and nothing would please me more than particpating in the initiation of a trendy lawyer/blogger book fad and subsequently cashing in on said trend. So if you're a law student/lawyer and you have a blog or know of a publishing contact, spread the word (especially if you read Anonymous Lawyer on a regular basis).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

NFL Overtime

Ivars Peterson at Science News Online has a new idea for overtime called the "first to six" rule (the first team to six points wins), and some analysis on how overtime was changed when the kickoff was moved back to the 30 yard line (giving a bigger edge to the coin-toss winner):

"This reduction in the impact of the coin toss on the outcome of the game is a trade-off because of the increase in the number of tie games," Jones writes. "Although fans would be happy that the outcome of the game is decided less by luck and more by play on the field, coaches may regret Monday morning quarterbacks second-guessing their decisions of whether or not to attempt field goals in overtime. Scoring three points still gives the other team an opportunity to score a touchdown and win the game."

Of course the Outsiders still have the best idea for overtime that I've ever heard:

In my improved overtime format, the team captains would meet at midfield for a coin toss, just as they did on Sunday when the Ravens played the Seahawks. But the captain of the Seahawks wouldn’t decide to kick or receive when he won the toss. Instead, he would have to name a yard line where the overtime kickoff would be placed. Then the Ravens’ captain would say whether he wanted to kick or receive. So Mike Holmgren might instruct his captain to have the kickoff spotted at the 43-yard line. Brian Billick would tell his captain, “If they put it anywhere inside the 40, we’ll receive. Otherwise, we’ll kick." Losing the toss really wouldn’t be any disadvantage, because both teams can determine what they think is a fair spot for the opening kickoff.

Essentially, this is like an auction. Both teams want to get the ball first, so it will be awarded to the team that is willing to give up more in field position to get it. In this scenario, neither team can have any complaint. The team winning the toss can’t claim the field position was unfair because it chose the field position. The team losing the toss can’t claim the field position was unfair because it chose whether to take the ball deep in its own territory or try to pin the opponents deep.

Practically perfect in every way.

The Pilgrims and Economics

as only Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok can present it:

It's one of the ironies of American history that when the Pilgrims first arrived at Plymouth rock they promptly set about creating a communist society. Of course, they were soon starving to death.

Fortunately, "after much debate of things," Governor William Bradford ended corn collectivism, decreeing that each family should keep the corn that it produced. In one of the most insightful statements of political economy ever penned, Bradford described the results of the new and old systems.

"[Ending corn collectivism] had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."

Breaking Packer News

The Packers just signed former Cleveland Brown James Jackson. As previously noted, the Packers have huge injury problems at the RB position, and a signing like this was inevitable as Tony Fisher and William Henderson were the only healthy backs left. Jackson isn't that bad of a player either. This is a good short term fix. (By the way, did the Dolphins ever work this guy out when they were going through their Lamar Gordon/Brock Forsey phase?)

Need some Thanksgiving reading?

The Carnival of the Vanities is at Interested-Participant.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Quick Football Notes

1. First of all, if you are in a fantasy football league, don't forget that there are Thursday games this week. Many a contending team has been done in by overlooking Thanksgiving.

2. Second, the following Packer/Badger RBs were injured this weekend:

Anthony Davis
Matt Bernstein
Ahman Green
Walt "The Wizard" Williams
Najeh Davenport
Nick Luchey

(Note: My deadly fantasy football team is only responsible for Green and Davenport).

Notice the Packers, who still managed to win, lost twice as many backs as the Badgers.

3. Detroit is really really sad except for Eddie Drummond.

4. Mark Campbell and Nick Goings combined to score six touchdowns on Sunday.

5. Josh McCown may not be a great QB, or even a good QB, but we know that Shaun King is a terrible QB, and he proved it with his four turnovers (3 picks, one fumble lost, four fumbles total) on Sunday. If McCown starts and just plays conservatively (the "Dilfer" strategy) this is probably a close game and the Cardinals' season is not flushed down the toilet. I mean, it was only the Panthers.

6. AJ Feeley's interception at the end of the game while in field goal range was Rubleyesque, and inexcusable.

7. After making 27 consecutive field goals, Phil Dawson missed two on Sunday.

Blogging will probably be light for the rest of the week (although I write a few post tomorrow) as I have to get in a lot of work before the long weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a nice holiday and enjoy all of the games.

The new TMQ is

here. Some of the best bits:

In other NFL news, Thanksgiving has become Throwback Day, with teams to wear old-fashioned uniforms and old logos on the home page. TMQ suggests this menu for your own personal Throwback Thanksgiving:

  • Wild turkey, shot with a musket and hand-plucked.
  • Dried maize; no corn-on-the-cob.
  • Ample, overflowing servings of lobster. (The Pilgrims considered lobster tasteless and complained in their diaries of having to eat it so often.)
  • Seal meat.
  • Hard apple cider. (Till the early 1800s or so, hard cider was in rural North America considered the only totally safe beverage, because the alcohol killed waterborne pathogens; children often drank diluted hard cider and went through the day slightly tipsy.)
  • For dessert: plums, grapes and stewed pumpkin. (There is no chance the Pilgrims ate pie at the first Thanksgiving, because they had no refined sugar. Until the 1800s, most Americans rarely tasted anything containing refined sugar.)

As you dig into your turkey, stuffing and pecan pie, washed down with a $10 bottle of wine superior in quality to any wine available to the 17th-century kings of France, remember how hard your ancestors worked, and how they sacrificed, in the dream that someday their descendants would be warm, well-fed and secure against nature. Considering that your forebears just a century ago had an average lifespan of 46 years and often shivered during winters while eating mostly salt-preserved food, try to get through turkey day without complaining about anything, okay? Happy Throwback Thanksgiving!

and while I'm at it, here's Bill Simmons on the Artest melee:

O'Neal (25 games) -- This was the one that bothered me. On one of the Detroit TV websites, they have a clip of Artest fighting those two guys in front of the Pistons bench -- the situation was a little more dire than it seemed on the ESPN replays. When O'Neal landed his Kermit Washington punch, from the Detroit TV replay, it looked like that guy was getting up to charge Artest again before O'Neal belted him. More importantly, what were they doing on the floor? Doesn't that make them fair game? By all accounts, O'Neal is one of the best guys in the league -- he does a ton of stuff for his community, wins awards, all that stuff. The fact that O'Neal, out of anyone, was so upset out there shows how dangerous it was. I bet this suspension gets knocked down.

I don't care about his community service, but I agree that O'Neal's suspension is a little high. For one thing, Jackson was more than 5 games crazier than O'Neal. And O'Neal did stay on the court. I think that once a fan enters the playing surface he's fair game. This precedent is well established in football and I see no reason that it should not be applied to basketball as at that point players have to worry about their safety.

Warning: Shameless Advertising Plug

I have recently added advertising from Amazon (on the right under the blogroll, and a search box down at the bottom).

If you plan on doing any shopping on Amazon this year, why not go through this (or your favorite) blog? It doesn't cost you a penny more and we get a small (but not insignificant) portion of the proceeds. Good old capitalism in action.

Thanks for your support.

U2 and the IPod

Paul Boutin has an interesting article in The New Republic on the U2/Apple affiliation, and whether or not the IPod (or IPod like players) will have cultural significance rivaling that of the trasistor radio. He makes a lot of good points on this subject, and makes another interesting observation somewhat off topic:

The members of U2 are the first big stars to jump on the obvious marketing opportunity: In tandem with the new album, they've also launched The Complete U2 on Apple's iTunes Music Store. It's a download-only collection of every album the band has ever released, plus out-of-print singles and outtakes. The enormous one-click download dwarfs CD box sets with its 400-plus songs--enough to overflow 30 compact discs. You may never listen to all of it, but that's okay. It's about keeping the band's entire oeuvre handy in your pocket. Why didn't Springsteen think of this?

400 songs! One of the most important aspects of the MP3 era is that music distribution costs are now essentially zero. Of course, record companies woud prefer that no one notice this, but it is undeniably true. Transportation and storage costs used to act as a natural limit on the size of an album. The average album has about twelve songs on it, which reflects the amount of space available on an old fashioned record, or on a 74 minute compac disc. As these media are now close to obsolete (DJ use notwithstanding) it no longer makes sense to limit a new release of music to only twelve songs.

U2's 400 song release is simply making the most of the new medium, and they are wise to embrace it instead of resisting it. More musicians should follow their lead. They can now afford to give their fans more (and still make a fair profit, I'm sure), which is exactly how the system is supposed to work.

I can see clearly now...

About 7 years ago I had Lasik eye surgery, and it changed my life. I was blind as a bat before the surgery, but now my vision is slightly better than 20/20. Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok is seeing things clearly as well:

In 1998 the average price of laser eye surgery was about $2200 per eye. Today the average price is $1350, that's a decline of 38 percent in nominal terms and slightly more than that after taking into account inflation.

Why the price decline in this market and not others? Could it have something to do with the fact that laser eye surgery is not covered by insurance, not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and not heavily regulated? Laser eye surgery is one of the few health procedures sold in a free market with price advertising, competition and consumer driven purchases. I'm seeing things more clearly already.

See? Not all health care costs are rising.

Monday, November 22, 2004

I Like girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch

But Abercrombie prefers white guys. A&F settled a class-action lawsuit for discrimination in it's hiring and promoting practice. They agreed to pay $40 million to minority employees and applicants named in the suit. I've been paying some attention to this story ever since I saw a 60 Minutes expose about the case last year. 60 Minutes interviewed several minorities that had been fired, given jobs folding cloths where customers could not see them, or not hired at all allegedly because they didn't look "all-American" enough. They also interviewed several preppie sorority type white kids that had been repeatedly offered jobs while shopping at Abercrombie.

Based on personal experience I have to admit that there is probably something to this. I wear polo shirts almost every day and have spikey hair and I'm basically a preppie looking white guy and I've been offered a job three of the last four times I've been to an Abercrombie store. The first time I was even offered a Manager position because I had the look but also looked, to the person offering me the job, "old enough to have a degree." It does seem very strange since I'm sure they have a stack of applications in the back. However, I can't imagine a lawsuit against FUBU going anywhere and they actually come out and say who they want to sell and buy their cloths. Of course I have no idea what would happen if I applied for a job there. It might make for a fun experiment.

Richard Roeper sheds some light on the TO/Sheridan spot.

From today's Chicago Sun-Times:

With all that has been written and spoken about that extremely silly "Desperate Groupie" controversy, I don't think a single reporter, commentator or talk show host picked up on the fact that the Nicollette Sheridan-Terrell Owens sketch was obviously an homage to the immortal, powerhouse film "Raw Nerve," a 1999 classic starring Zach "Gremlins" Galligan and Mario Van Peebles as New York cops caught up in a world of sex, murder and mob intrigue. Sheridan has an explicit nude scene with Van Peebles, and the cameras do NOT cut away from her naked backside (not to mention her naked frontside and her naked side-side), and that sound you just heard was 15,000 guys clicking over to Amazon to see if "Raw Nerve" is available on DVD.

He also has a take on the Artest fiasco, in case you haven't heard enough about it yet.

The Artest formerly known as an NBA basketball player.

I don't think there is much to say on this story, as everyone involved is an idiot. But if you want to read way too much about it:

Ed Brayton blames the fans in Detroit (as I told my Michigan friends, at least no one was set on fire. In fact, maybe all of that beer was directed at ARtest by kind, generous fans who just assumed that he had been set on fire and decided ot put out the flames).

Ethan recommends some reforms (and Ahren takes him to task in the comments section).

Dan Drezner - Could be worse -- could be Celtic/Rangers. Plus he has this hilarious quote from Ron:

LAST UPDATE: Given that Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, this interview he gave last week to's Marc Stein seems unintentionally hilarious. The key bit: Can the Pacers really count on you for the rest of the season?

Artest: I'll be here for the rest of the season.

Even Peter King weighs in:

b. I'm not an NBA guy. At all. But the league has so many problems right now, from the I'm-not-going-to-try intimations from Latrell Sprewell to Ron Artest needing time off in-season to promote his hip-hop record to the Knicks paying Shandon Anderson (who?) more not to play over the next three years than the Red Sox will pay David Ortiz to play at an MVP level. This problem is worth 100 of those tempests combined. Watch the corporate sponsors tail off, and watch the advertisers dry up a bit. The league won't die, but what Madison Avenue person wants to be associated with this just-north-of-Vince McMahon trash?

c. You must be so proud, Ron Artest and friends. You sparked the Clemson-South Carolina brawl, at least from what the Tigers coach and players said after the game.

Juan Non-Volokh (the anonymous Volokh Conspiracy member) thinks that David Stern is a coward.

That should hold you for a while. And you can always read the 500,000 ESPN vignettes on the subject too.

Plagiarism, sampling, and the spaces in between.

The New Yorker has produced several fascinating articles in the last few months and this piece by Malcolm Gladwell is no exception:

Not long after I learned about "Frozen," I went to see a friend of mine who works in the music industry. We sat in his living room on the Upper East Side, facing each other in easy chairs, as he worked his way through a mountain of CDs. He played "Angel," by the reggae singer Shaggy, and then "The Joker," by the Steve Miller Band, and told me to listen very carefully to the similarity in bass lines. He played Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and then Muddy Waters's "You Need Love," to show the extent to which Led Zeppelin had mined the blues for inspiration. He played "Twice My Age," by Shabba Ranks and Krystal, and then the saccharine seventies pop standard "Seasons in the Sun," until I could hear the echoes of the second song in the first. He played "Last Christmas," by Wham!, followed by Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You" to explain why Manilow might have been startled when he first heard that song, and then "Joanna," by Kool and the Gang, because, in a different way, "Last Christmas" was an homage to Kool and the Gang as well. "That sound you hear in Nirvana," my friend said at one point, "that soft and then loud, kind of exploding thing, a lot of that was inspired by the Pixies. Yet Kurt Cobain"--Nirvana's lead singer and songwriter--"was such a genius that he managed to make it his own. And 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'?"--here he was referring to perhaps the best-known Nirvana song. "That's Boston's 'More Than a Feeling.'" He began to hum the riff of the Boston hit, and said, "The first time I heard 'Teen Spirit,' I said, 'That guitar lick is from "More Than a Feeling."' But it was different--it was urgent and brilliant and new."

Most of the article deals with a women named Dorothy Lewis, an expert on serial killers. Friends kept recommending that she see a new broadway play called "Frozen." When she eventually got around to seeing the play, she realized that it was about her (including the use of verbatim quotes taken from her work).

Read the whole thing.
(Hat tip, Jodi)

Friday, November 19, 2004

How do you separate the men from the boys in the Greek army?

Okay, that's a crude and tasteless joke so I won't finish it. However, it seems that a group of Greek lawyers are not too happy with Oliver Stone for insinuating the same thing in his new movie Alexander. the lawyers have sent a note to Stone and the studio demanding that the film include a reference in the credits stating that the film is purely fictional and not based on official documents of the life of Alexander the Great. Yannis Varnakos, who spearheads the campaign by 25 lawyers had this to say:

"We cannot come out and say that (former U.S.) President John F. Kennedy was a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and so Warner cannot come out and say Alexander was gay."

Okay, fair enough. But I've been racking my brain since I read this article trying to think of a movie about a historical figure that doesn't take some liberties with the story or propose an answer to a question that we don't and can't know the answer to and I can't come up with one.

Braveheart didn't really win the Battle of Stirling Castle by using really long spears. He also wasn't a little wiener like Mel Gibson. He was 6'7".

Steve Prefontaine didn't really hurt his foot diving into a pool. To it's credit, Without Limits got the story a little more accurate.

In real life, Frida wasn't hot.

And don't even get me started on this thing.

And who knows, maybe Alexander was gay.

Regarding TO

More stupid people here and here.

Conglomerate is full of advice

In the wake of Professor Smith's series of posts concerning advice for would be Law Professors, Professor Hurt, Smith's new co-blogger offers advice for would be law students. I know at least a few of our readers are aspiring law students. Some of this advice seems pretty obvious to those of us that have already gone through the process but I remember grappling with this:

Criminal Incidents: Every law school application is going to have detailed questions about all criminal adjudications, including traffic tickets. Rule of Thumb: It's not the crime, it's the cover up!

I, like many college students, had a bit of a criminal record. Nothing serious, just your run of the mill speeding and drinking related tickets. The problem was that I had a very embarrassing sounding charge on my record. In May of 2001 I was issued a citation for "Deposit of Human Waste Products." Now before you jump to any conclusions, I did not receive this ticket for emptying the shitter of my motorhome in the K-Mart parking lot. I got it for taking a leak in the woods when I was at a graduation party. The Port-o-johns were full. Wouldn't you have done the same? Seriously, what guy has never taken a wiz outside? Anyway, I thought that admissions departments would take one look at that and think I was too trashy for law school. This was not the case. I explained what happened and I got into the best schools I applied to and it was never spoken of again except as bar conversation. So just disclose everything and it won't matter how much of a dumb ass you were in college.

Fisk Bill, Vol. 2

Since it is almost the weekend I'm taking the easy way out and relying on someone else's hard work for my football column. I think it's a good week for this because there are about 4 games this week that I think are "duh" games with regard to the spread. Bill Simmons picks every game every week, but we can be a bit more selective, so:

Cardinals (+3) over PANTHERS
Bill says - Shhhhhhhhhh ...
Paul says - He's right, let's keep this to ourselves. The Cards have a very nice defense. They have enough on offense to score at least 2 TDs per week. Carolina is horrible and should only be favored against the Dolphins.

(By the way, Stephen Davis is undergoing risky surgery right now that could be career ending. Since we are partially responsible for the injury for drafting him in a fantasy league, we wish him the best of luck. And for those of you who think that my drafting has no impact, I would just like to point out that Fred Taylor has been healthy for almost 2 years now, and I haven't picked him once. What do you have to say to that?)

Take the Cards, who will win outright.

Chargers (-3.5) over RAIDERS
Bill says - Strange line of the week, Part One.
Paul says - The Chargers are good. The Raiders start Kerry Collins and play bad defense. This will be a blow out. Take the Bolts. Obviously.

JAGS (-3) over Tennessee
Bill says - Strange line of the week, Part Two.
Paul says - The Titans just don't have it. Too many injuries including McNair. I know that Leftwich is hurt, but many in Jacksonville wanted Garrard to start, and he has shown why. Jacksonville doesn't have the most explosive offense, but it's only a FG, and I still don't have Fragile Freddy on a fantasy team, so they should be OK.

Falcons (-2.5) over GIANTS
Bill says - An unexpected holiday bonus. Who would have thought that we would get treated to the Eli Manning Face this early in the season? Should we send Tom Coughlin a fruit basket or something?

Paul says - Wow, that Atlanta defense is looking pretty good. Who's their defensive coordinator again? I mean, they were pretty pathetic last year and they've turned it right around (especially with the return of Rod Coleman to the lineup).

The Giants are playing a rookie QB in his first start against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. This should be fun. Ka-ching.

As for the Pack:

Bill says - TEXANS (+3) over Packers
Let's see ... the Packers have won four in a row ... the Texans have lost their last two games by a combined score of 80-27 ... and this is the strangest gambling season of all-time. Your honor, I think we've reached a verdict.

Paul says - PACKERS (-3) over Texans
What he said, except without the superstitious crap at the end. The one thing that the Texans have going for them is that they pass a lot, and the Pack can't really stop the pass, but their defense is bad. When we play bad defenses we score a lot, and the Texans don't have the horses to keep up with us, so to speak.

A few other football notes. You may have picked up on the fact that I'm critical of punter Brian Barker, as he's the worst player in the NFL and all, but apparently he is good at something:

Even though the Packers have third-round draft choice B.J. Sander available on the 53-man roster, they have no intention of making a switch. They value Barker’s holding for kicker Ryan Longwell at least as much as they do his punting ability and they aren’t willing to take a chance on affecting two positions in the hope of getting a few more yards punting.

“I think it would be difficult to do that now because of the impact it might have on the holding situation,” special teams coach John Bonamego said. “That’s just such a vital job and Ryan is having a great year. It would have to be something catastrophic; Bryan would have to get hurt or fall off and be really bad.”

We keep him because of his holding!!! Henceforth Mr. Barker will be referred to as Packer Punter/Holder Extraordinaire Brian Barker. Because it's tough to hold for field goals, it's not like a WR or backup QB can do it. Oh wait, yes they can.

In other news, the Football Outsiders are now officially affiliated with the Baseball Prospectus. This is a huge success for them, and as a result they will be publishing the first Football Prospectus next year.

If you want to read the best first-half wrap-up out there, take a look at Aaron Schatz's NFC and AFC reviews, including predictions for the second half. The Outsider's model correctly predicted the Chargers' offensive explosion before the season, and it makes for interesting reading.

And they link to this cheerleader blog too, not that you would be interested in such a thing.

Finally, Wisconsin still has a shot at the Rose Bowl if Michigan chokes against the Buckeyes and the Badgers defeat the Hawkeyes in Iowa. This will be tough, I know. And I also realize that the really stupid cartoon last week didn't help, so this week we have a different really stupid cartoon. As it is about soccer, which is, in my opinion, the sports opposite of football, perhaps it will have the reverse effect.

OK, that made no sense. Just watch the cartoon.

Now at your local Hardy's...

Try the new Instant Death Burger. Not since the Krispy Kreme liquid doughnut have I been more ashamed of America.

Update: Watch the commercial.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Math and the CTA

A quick update from this post. The CTA was denied extra funding and is now making threats.

You are all smart people. Tell me, what's wrong with this sentence, based on statements made by CTA president Frank Kruesi (reported in the Chicago Tribune):

Kruesi has warned the agency would have no alternative to imposing $55 million in service cuts on Jan. 2 if the state did not amend the funding formula to provide an extra $82.5 million to the CTA in 2005.

I can't comment any further because
my brain just tried to jump out the back of my skull, and now I have a concussion. I think I'll go lie down.

Call the FCC! It's back!

I suppose that I should talk about TO and the naked woman. I didn’t see it live, but I’ve seen it now. I have a new rule for decency standards, which is as follows:

If it gets through my firewall, it’s ok.

Simple enough. My firewall blocks sites about beer, wine, poker chips, and almost anything having to do with sex, but it did not block this.I could watch it at work, so it must be fine.

What is not fine, however, is the ridiculous reaction to the whole thing. When I got in to work this morning a friend mentioned to me that Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy thought that it was racist. When I was told this I assumed that he meant the reaction to the spot was racist, and that he perceived the uproar as being about the interracial aspect of the spot. I had not heard anyone mention anything about race as all complaints seemed to focus on Nicollette Sheridan’s naked back, which would make Dungy’s complaint stupid, but I was also not surprised that someone was trying to make it about race. Then, I went online and read this article on ESPN. He thinks that the spot itself is racist!

To me that's the first thing I thought of as an African-American … I think it's stereotypical in looking at the players, and on the heels of the Kobe Bryant incident I think it's very insensitive. I don't think that they would have had Bill Parcells or Andy Reid or one of the owners involved in that," he added, a reference to the coaches in the game.

First off all, Ewwww.

Now that would be offensive.

Second, what does this mean? They wouldn’t have had a fat old white guy do it? True. But what exactly is wrong with TO in this spot? He is jumped by the woman, not the other way around. He even turns her down at first. (Jeff Garcia: Oh, turning down Nicollette are we? If it looks like a rat...) He only acquiesces when she throws her naked self at him. Exactly what Kobeesqe stereotype is he portraying? I think so much less of Tony Dungy now than I did before. I think that his comments are bordering on racist. What exactly does he think of African-American men?

FCC Chairman Michael Powell had this to say:

"I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud,"

Apparently Powell’s idea of a perfect viewing night is a few Mickey Mouse cartoons followed by some wholesome Spin and Marty, and don’t you dare ogle Annette!

NFL scientists immediately began working on “flubber.”

This was not that risqué. The average Victoria’s Secret advertisement is much more revealing than this spot. But I think it’s a good thing that all of these people are overreacting because it will create a backlash. I’m willing to bet that the next episode of Desperate Housewives (on in the same time slot as MNF, by the way) is a ratings smash, as the back police have kept this story going for three solid days.

Those people who called the FCC to complain disappoint me. First call the NFL! They will be more responsive and won’t take it out on Saving Private Ryan.

After all, when you tune in to Monday night football, you want to see violent collisions, grotesque, Napoleon McCallum style injuries, and scantily clad cheerleaders, not some woman’s naked back.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Electric Slide

If this is true (and I certainly can't vouch for that) it is very interesting. Not only is this an indictment of hybrids, but also of car manufacturers in general for not producing a truly efficient (and cheaper) non-hybrid:

Few people realize that a hybrid’s power train adds roughly 10% to the weight of a car. Even fewer realize that manufacturers try to offset the weight penalty-- and add to the hybrid’s headline-grabbing mileage figures-- by the extensive use of non-hybrid gas-saving technology. Engine shut-off at idle, electric power steering, harder and reduced rolling resistance tires (at the expense of comfort and traction), reduced option content, reduced engine performance, and, in the case of the Ford, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) all help raise the cars’ overall efficiency.

Of course, if gas mileage is the ultimate goal, all of these strategies could be applied to a “standard” car. A non-hybrid model with the equivalent modifications would significantly narrow the mileage gap with its hybrid sibling. In fact, in normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and non-hybrid cars could be less than 10%-- hardly enough to justify the extra purchase price. And, lest we forget, the hybrid’s gas-saving advantage is not without its own particular environmental costs…

Read the whole thing.
(Hat tip, Orin Kerr)

Record Companies Know Not What They Sell

The National Banana Distributors Association today filed suit against four college students at North Carolina A&T for illegally distributing shared bananas. This suit comes in the wake of a nationwide campaign to snuff out illegal banana distribution, which has seen more than 400 lawsuits and an aggressive congressional lobbying effort by the NBDA to enact stricter fruit-copying laws.

Banana production and distribution, for most of human history, has consisted of banana farmers, who grow the bananas, and their distribution network, which packs and ships the bananas to destinations across the globe. Banana distributors (NBDA) have until recently always been involved due to the inherent difficulties of getting bananas to the public, as banana shipping was a delicate process.

Bananas used to require special shipping boxes to avoid bruising and to keep them from ripening too early. They also required smooth transportation and temperature-controlled trucks. The NBDA has had its network in place for over 150 years, first specializing in railway transportation, and moving to air transportation in the early 1960s. While the cost of banana production was low, and the profits generally quite small (with the exception of a few efficient and popular types of banana, specifically the patented “U2 banana” or “Bonona” which produces revenues in the tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis) the profits from transporting and storing bananas was immense.

On an average consumer banana purchase of about 35 cents, the producer would see only a fraction of a cent, while the NBDA would net between 10 and 20 cents.

Of course this all changed in late 1998 when Texas A&M freshman Sean Fanning invented “Banapster,” a revolutionary new banana that could be instantly transported anywhere over a simple phone line (or cable). It was easy to grow, delicious, and best of all, would immediately reproduce a copy of itself (spontaneous asexual reproduction) upon being shipped, leaving the shipper with another banana for his personal use.

Banana producers were wary of the new banana at first. An unfortunate side effect was that this banana was easy for anyone to steal. College students famously sat around for days at a time accumulating bananas. Even the Bonona was Banapsterized in 1990. The diminutive Danish geneticist Lars Ulrich, inventor of the Metallanana (popularized in 1991 in the “black smoothie”) railed against the technology in the media, calling it a violation of his "intellectual property rights." However most producers eventually embraced the technology as it allowed them to cut out a lot of overhead and sell directly to the public.

Smaller producers in particular benefited from the Banapsterized banana. Distribution costs kept many of them living at a subsistence level if they could even manage to get a distribution deal. The NBDA overlooked most of these smaller producers, as they still had exclusive deals with Bonona and several other large producers (The aforementioned Metallanana, an assortment of overly sweet Swedish influenced bananas, and of course the ubiquitous JayZana, whose signature “Black Banana” was cross-pollinated on the Banapster network with the revolutionary “White Banana” created in 1968 in Liverpool, England, to form the widely popular “Gray Banana”). They eventually came to regret this decision.

Even though the NBDA successfully shut down the Banapster Network in 1999, they could not stop the new distribution technology from spreading. After all, Banapster seeds were everywhere, and no one can monitor what goes on inside of phone lines. Large producers started using the new technology for distribution as well as promotion.

In late 2004 Bonona and the hugely popular Eminana both released early Banapster versions of their (soon to be released via conventional methods) new bananas against the wishes of the NBDA. Both bananas set sales records while outperforming most bananas firmly under the NBDA’s control.

Even though the NBDA is still fighting, and still suing their customers, it is clear that they will eventually have to have a major shift in their business models or face bankruptcy. They sell boxes, trucks, and advertising to producers, and now that producers no longer need boxes and trucks the role of the NBDA is greatly reduced. They may hide behind the notion of intellectual property, but this argument holds no water. New bananas are produced all the time. Many are sold via Banapster technology for easy storage on the B-Pod. Producers are still producing, as their profits remain largely unchanged, and even increased in some instances. Those producers that hold large touring farmers' markets have reaped enormous revenues due to the advertising potential of Banapster technology.

The truth is that producers no longer need the NBDA because producers are in the business of selling bananas, and people still want bananas. The NBDA moved bananas. Now that bananas move themselves, the NBDA will have to move on as well.

Or risk going bananas.


In an effort to move nearer to the top of all alphabetically ordered blogrolls, Prof. Gordon Smith has joined forces with Marquette University Law Prof. Christine Hurt, (who joined the faculty after I graduated, so I'm not familiar with her) to create Conglomerate which will replace Veturpreneur. Their first post on the Sears-K-mart merger is quite interesting.

I look foreword to Prof. Hurt's contributions, and, of course, more about cheese from Prof. Smith.

A quick technical note

On Monday I got into the office and my computer was full of spyware. I don't know when this happened, as it was fine on Friday, but it did. I finally think I've got it under control. A pox on the person who invented spyware. It made me want to read up on my cyberspace law just to find a cause of action to use against them. (Of course, finding a cause of action to use against spyware providers is an easier task than actually locating the offending party.) Alas.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Stuck in 1985

For those of us who can't bring ourselves to enter the world of 16-bit gaming (and beyond), but still wouldn't mind playing the hottest new games, there's a whole underground world of goodies out there if you're willing to look. Top on my list of 'NES games I want for Christmas' is Brian Provinciano's Grand Theftendo, a 'tribute' to GTA III written entirely (by hand) in Assembly Code. I've always been a fan of Techno's character design - love that River City Ransom - and color selection, so the fact Brian seems to draw inspiration for GTN from this rich cache is just icing on the cake.

Technical Note

Blogger is having some problems and they prevent me from editing old posts, and occasionally from publishing new ones. It is related to certain "advertising hyperlinks." That is, some unknown force has started injecting advertising into my posts, and when it does this the post gets all screwy (for an example, see the word "flowers" in the last post). I don't know how bad this is yet, or how long it will take to fix, but blogging will probably be light for a while.


It seems to be fixed now. Excellent.

Update 2:

Well they fixed it in the last post, but now it's popping up in this one. Grrrr.

James Randi draws fuzzy lines.

I'm a pretty big fan of James "the Great" Randi. For those of you not familiar with Randi, he is a former magician and escape artist who has become one of the top experts on pseudoscience and makes his living by debunking pseudoscientific and paranormal claims. He is the head of the James Randi Educational Foundation, an organization that, among other things, offers a $1 million prize to anybody that can prove, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. This prize has never been won (obviously) and no person that has attempted has ever made it past the first round of observation. I think that this is a pretty great organization. Pseudoscience and belief are growing problems in the U.S. and the world and it is great to have somebody that makes it his mission to fight this.

However, I was somewhat disappointed in an article I read in his newsletter. The article responds to a letter written by a fan that draws attention to a letter that Randi wrote denying (rather rudely) an applicant for the $ 1 Million challenge the chance to prove his ability to, uh, not eat. The applicant claims to have not eaten anything since 1998. Randi tells him, "If this is what you are saying, did you think for one moment that we would believe it? If this is actually your claim, you're a liar and a fraud. We are not interested in pursuing this further, nor will we exchange correspondence with you on this matter."

The problem with this is that, the person probably new full well that Randi wouldn't believe him and he almost certainly is a fraud and a liar. But Randi's job is to prove it, or rather, to provide for this man a stage so that everyone can see that he can not prove it. Every person that comes forward has a claim that is bullshit. How can he say that he will only test the ones that are more believable bullshit? He has this to say:

If you were running a site that considers unusual claims that might be true, even though they're probably not true, would you accept to investigate a claim that a man can fly by flapping his arms? Do you test a man who claims he can sexually arouse a woman just by looking at a photograph of her? How about a claim that someone is God? If a writer told you that he is the Richard Nixon, would that merit your serious attention? And what would you do with a claim that someone could inhale Zyklon B for 15 minutes and survive? A man writes and claims that he and his brother make the Sun rise every morning; do you look into that? A chap says he doesn't eat, and hasn't taken nourishment for many years; is that worth your time to investigate? A letter states that no lion will bite the writer ; do you investigate?

On the other hand he states:

When we get dowsing claims, we recognize that these people can be honestly self-deluded, and the hundreds of tests we've done of them, when they'll actually submit to tests, have shown that to be true, in every single case. Dowsing is something that is not, on the face of it, an obviously frivolous notion. Nor is the ability to predict earthquakes, nor to sense the presence of a poisonous substance. Those, we can and will test.

I find it troubling that an expert on Pseudoscience is willing to say he'll test someone who claims that by using special powers they can find water underground because, on its face that's more believable than a man that says he can sexually arouse a woman by looking at her picture. Both are, on their face, total garbage. But Randi's whole foundation is centered around showing that none of these people can prove their claims. So how bullshit does it have to be to not get the chance?

Well, at least the BCS is still stupid.

One thing that I have learned about college football is that it often makes perfect sense in hindsight. It surprised many (including me) that the Badgers were beaten as badly as they were, but in retrospect it makes some sense. After all, I based my opinion of the Badgers largely on their wins at Purdue and at Ohio State (and against Northwestern at home). At the time, these seemed like impressive wins, but in hindsight, they were all cupcakes. Now that we have the benefit of almost a full season on which to base our opinions, it is clear that the four best teams in the Big Ten are Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin does not play Michigan, and it has played or will play against the two other Big Ten powers on the road to end the season. Both Michigan State and Iowa should have been viewed as very difficult games going in. This seems obvious now that we have all of this extra information.

Which makes the BCS even worse than usual this week. Auburn has looked good week in and week out. This week they just manhandled the 8th ranked Georgia Bulldogs. They have a fast, punishing defense and a solid offense. Oklahoma can score, but they can’t stop anyone. USC is very similar. Offensively gifted, defensively inept. Auburn is clearly a better team than both, but because the writer’s poll and coach’s poll both had OK and USC as the preseason #1 and #2, and the BCS relies on those polls for 2/3 of it’s total, they remain #1 and #2. (Also, read these comments from LSU head coach Nick Saban).

Many have complained this week that Auburn should jump OK, but I even have a problem with this, as OK is clearly better than USC (as is Auburn).

This is Auburn’s schedule. I don’t follow the SEC that closely, but I know that beating LSU, Tennessee, and Georgia is impressive. They will also have to play Tennessee or Georgia again in the SEC title game.

This is Oklahoma’s schedule. They have some very quality wins against Oregon (tied for 3rd in the Pac-10), Texas, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M.

This is USC’s schedule. It is not terrible, but not nearly as impressive as Auburn or OK. They have quality wins over Virginia Tech, California (barely), and Arizona State. They still play Notre Dame, but there is no truly impressive game here. Hopefully they will lose to the Irish (I can’t believe I just wrote that).

But you all knew that this whole system was a joke, so let’s move on to the NFL.

Turd is Turd

Robert "Turd" Ferguson should send chocolates to the referees. I don’t know if Ben Steele actually recovered that fumble or not. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen one team come out of a pile clearly possessing the ball and still not be awarded possession, but I’m glad that the Packers got it back and put it away. And I now that TMQ’s “Stop me before I blitz again” has been repeated in his column ad nauseum, but it would be nice if Bob Slowick and Mike Sherman would read it.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2
Leading 31-17, Green Bay had Minnesota facing first-and-10 on its 35 with 4:29 remaining. The Packers blitzed on five of the next seven Minnesota snaps, and the Hyperboreans -- see below -- moved easily to score the touchdown that made it 31-24. After Minnesota got the ball back, it faced first-and-10 on its own 34 with 2:18 remaining. Five-man blitz, 40-yard completion to Nate Burleson and the Vikings scored again on the next snap to tie the game and set up the fantastic finish.

A friend and I spent the last 15 minutes of that game screaming at his television, “Stop Blitzing! Please!” Had it not been a giant 44-inch HDTV with split screen capabilities which allowed us to simultaneously watch Mark Brunell’s truly scary passing which hurt several cheerleaders and an elderly woman sitting in the first row, we probably would have thrown a shoe at it.

It did not make any sense. We blitzed sparingly for most of the game and even generated pressure with our front four (kudos to Cullen Jenkins and KGB for a nice effort). Why start blitzing at the end of the game? Why leave Carroll in single coverage? And what was Jue doing back there?

Hopefully they will learn. Or perhaps Sherman can take over the defensive play calling as well. But in the end, we won, they lost, and the annual Viking Choke-a-thon is on.

Gone Fishin’

What is wrong with the Tuna and the Cowboys? Sure Vinny Testaverde is so old that his lineage is not so much Italian as it is Ancient Roman, and they can’t run the ball, and their receivers are all hurt except for big, slow Keyshawn, and Jason Witten is their best player and their linebackers are all midgets and hurt.
Other than that, what is wrong with this team?

By the way, Dorsey Levens outrushed the entire Dallas team last night by three yards.

Train Wreck

As I am forced to watch the Bears play every week, it is worth noting the fact that they are 4-5 and one game out of first. It is nothing short of astonishing. It is one thing for the old Super Bowl champion Ravens to win “without offense.” They at least had Jamal Lewis and Shannon Sharpe is they really needed to move the ball.

This Bear team has a good defense, but it is no Raven defense, and the A-train is no Lewis. Heck Krenzel is no Dilfer. But they keep scoring on defense and on special teams, and doing just enough to get it done (I mean, who wins an overtime game on a safety? How does that happen?! You can not fumble coming out of your own endzone in overtime, you've got to at least throw it away). The Bears have a tough schedule coming up, so there will probably be no miracle playoff runs like in the Jim Miller days, but it is still pretty amazing.

By the way, did you know that no Bear offensive player that accumulated an offensive statistic of any kind has a first initial that comes later than “d” in the alphabet?

Anthony, Bobby, Craig, Bernard, Desmond and David. Maybe when Bear management is reading their scouting reports before the draft they never get past the “d’s”! It would explain a lot.

Quick Hitters

I told you to ride the Cardinal’s bandwagon, and as a result, Eli Manning is starting next week. We all wish him good luck and a better wife…I mean life! A better life! I hope Brenda didn’t hear that.

Note to Drew Bledsoe – Troy Brown is no longer on your team, so don’t throw the ball at him.

As stated earlier, I watched the Washington-Cincinnati game on split screen, and as hard as I was on Mark Brunell before, he was actually much worse than his numbers indicated. The Bengals defenders dropped no less than six interceptions thrown directly to them. It was like watching a bunch of Koren Robinsons out there.

Peyton Manning threw five touchdowns again. It’s almost not interesting anymore.

New Orleans beat the Chiefs. Remember that the Saints do this every year. They start to look good for brief periods, and then they turn around and blow it. The blowing will commence shortly.

Joining Eli next week as a new starter is Patrick Ramsey, who won the position by not sprinting backward 20 yards on every play. And rumors are swirling that Joey Harrington may hit the pine in favor of Mike McMahon. As the Outsider’s Michael David Smith put it:

“My own opinion, as someone who has seen every pass Harrington has thrown this year, is that Harrington is not the Lions’ problem on offense. The problem is that Matt Millen has given Harrington exactly one teammate, Roy Williams, who consistently helps the offense. It would be absurd for Harrington to lose his job before Millen loses his.”

True enough.

Other notable injuries:

Priest is likely out one more week, as is Brian Gurlacher. Titan’s safety Tank Williams is gone for the year.

Lamont Jordan claims that when he threw his interception, he was aiming “out of bounds.” Aiming “out of bounds” and failing may be the sorriest passing exploit that one can accomplish, due to the fact that as a purely technical matter, “out of bounds” is a larger area than “the broadside of a barn.”

Finally, if you need a break from football, Bill Simmons latest NBA column is pretty amusing. Yeah, the NBA started up and I didn't even notice! And the Bucks are even 3-2! And almost beat Shaq's team the other day! And they have a guy named Zaza! I look forward to watching when the NFL season ends in a few months.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Discrimination in law school

I just wasted an hour of my life looking through my course catalog to determine what classes I would try to register for for the spring semester. I chose about 15 classes and listed all of them in descending order from classes I most wanted to classes I'd take just to fulfill a requirement or stay full time. When I was finished, I checked the availability of all of them. I got down to choice #10 before I had a class listed with more than 7 or 8 seats left after the 3Ls registered today. This wouldn't be a problem if I had an early registration time.

Problem is, I don't. Registration times are determined by number of credit hours. This, I believe is a fair system for undergraduates as there are many students who take some seriously unimpressive course loads and others that bust their butts. Here, however, everyone takes just about the same number of credits. The major exception is that some students do clinicals in the summer instead of getting jobs or internships. I certainly believe that these clinicals do some very worthwhile work. However, some of us have to pay the bills and can't afford to make $0.00 per hour.

If your parents are willing and able to pay your rent, and you're willing to let them, you get to register early. If you want to be self-reliant, you register late.

I firmly believe that your registration time should be determined by something less arbitrary than credits, like a foot race or heighest number of pushups. But that's extremely unlikely.

Okay, I'm really just venting. Mostly. But if you really are interested in actual discrimination in law school you should read this series of posts by Rick Sander over at Volokh (this link takes you to Volokh's criticism of an LA Times article commenting on Mr. Sander's work. Follow the track backs at the bottom of the post to read the whole thing.) Mr. Sander argues that affirmative action programs are not only facially discriminatory against whites but also harmful to minorities due to the poor bar passage and graduation rates of students artificially elevated into schools with more rigorous programs.

I used to be sad...

now I'm kind of frightened. The University of Chicago held a concert featuring Ryan Adams on Saturday night (only fifteen bucks), and I can say without hyperbole that Ryan Adams is the most messed up guy out there. I mean, even Scott Weiland can get through a whole set, and he's on heroin most of the time.

What made this concert truly frustrating is that when the guy played he sounded pretty good. However, between every song he would talk about nonsense for at least five minutes. It was even a little amusing at first. He made fun of Toby Keith, told a few silly school-related jokes, not bad concert chatter. But he kept repeating it over and over and got weirder and weirder. His rants got longer and it seemed like he might just pass out on stage or storm off at some point.

Apparently, this is not unusual for Mr. Adams. He once received a poor concert review from Chicago music critic Jim Derogatis (Chicago Sun Times) for similar antics (read it here) and rather than simply ignoring it, left an F-Bomb riddled 12 minute message on Jim's voicemail (you should be able to hear the whole thing here, hat tip to Lane for the pointer). It is now the stuff of legend and frequently played on the radio (apparently Ryan also has a longstanding feud with Chicago based darlings Wilco).

It is also worth noting that Adams played only one of his hits (When the Stars Go Blue).

If you ever have the opportunity to see Ryan Adam, you should probably just skip it. It was painful.

Street Names

I've always liked that the streets in the city where I live are named after the signers of the United States Constitution. Every street in down town Madison, with the exception of State Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd is named after someone that signed the constitution. I think that nearly all of the signers are covered. It's not just the big names like Washington and Franklin. For example, I live on Dayton Street, about half way between Basset and Broom. There is also Langdon, Gorham, Gilman, King, Johnson, Sherman, Mifflin, Ingersol, Bedford, Carrol and Williamson. I would bet that you could find them all if you looked at all of the side streets and alleys. (You wouldn't believe how many students here aren't aware of the theme and think Broom Street is named after a tool used for sweeping.)

But I suppose that naming your streets after prominant terrorists would be interesting too.

The Carnival of the Capitalists

is at Trader Mike's. Apparently Mike just had his blog profiled in Barron's, which is really cool and deserves a hearty congratulations. I did some browsing around his site and if you're active in the market you should take a look around.

Thanks to Mike for the link.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I can't believe we lost to a team that can't even keep the lights on properly.

Oh well, there's always next year. Or next week when Michigan loses to OSU. By the way, why is it that when Michigan scores or gets a first down or picks up positive yardage or tackles a special teams player or refills the Gatorade jugs or wins the coin flip or mentions Braylon Edwards on the scoreboard, that they play the Notre Dame fight song?

Just curious.


ABC broke in on the Michigan-Northwestern game today to report this. Apparently, Dick Cheney was experiencing shortness of breath. Shocker. At the end of the "Special Report", the anchor noted that Cheney's EKG came back clean and that shortness of breath could also be caused by a common cold. Thanks, Dick. Somebody had better be on their deathbed next time they interrupt a Michigan game.

Required reading.

This is one funniest and scariest thing I've read all day.
(Hat tip Ed Brayton)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Spartans, Vikings, battle small furry animals, blue-collar workers.

I’m worried. Worried I tell you! Usually I can find some way to convince myself that both the Packers and Badgers are doomed. This strategy has been working quite well, as every time I put a positive spin on a team, or daft a FF player, they lose or get hurt (sorry Mr. Pennington). Unfortunately, things look good this week.

If you could pick a player to take off of the Vikings squad to make them vulnerable, it would obviously be Moss. Their offense has sputtered without him (28 points against the Colts is sputtering, trust me). The Vikings could resort to running the ball –returning is Onterrio Smith who finally made it back from the Waffle House, so to speak, and Mewelde Moore is healthy too. And Michael Bennett. And Moe Williams.

But, the Pack hasn’t been nearly as susceptible to the run since fat guy Grady Jackson recovered from his injury. The game is at Lambeau (for what it’s worth) so it looks like a pretty good situation. So I’m worried sick about them.

In other news, if you didn’t think that Mike Maartz was an idiot before, check out this personnel move that all Packer fans can appreciate. Sure Antuan got cut from possibly the worst team in football, but I’m sure he’ll help out the Rams. Nice job Mike.

The Badgers also look good provided these two guys don’t blow up our front seven. Michigan State has looked good at times his year – when Drew Stanton was healthy at QB. This week he’s out and inept senior Damon Dowdell gets the start. All road games are tough, but Michigan State has had problems stopping the run on defense, and moving the ball on offense. So I‘m worried sick about them.

By the way, the Badgers co-BCS-screwed brethren, the Auburn Tigers, play against #8 Georgia in a truly tough game. If they win, (especially if they win convincingly) they should jump Oklahoma, who plays the lame Nebraska. USC likewise plays the lame Arizona, who the Badgers narrowly defeated earlier this year in a monsoon.

Speaking of Arizona, keep riding the Arizona bandwagon (in the NFL). The Cards are 2 point dogs to a Giants team that lost their two defensive ends last week. The Giant offensive line also returned to form, as the Bears sacked Kurt Warner at least 84 times. The Cards are up and coming, the Giants are down and going. Ka-ching.

Also, the Eagles are favored by 6.5 against the Cowboys. They will rebound in a big way and possibly kill Vinny.

And I should throw in my college upset of the week just so my Michigan friends can read it - Northwestern will beat Michigan. Mark it down.

Finally, if anyone happens to be in Chicago for the Badger Game, I will be watching it here. Feel free to join me. Free brats, burgers, cheese curd platters, hot dogs, and $8 pitchers of Wisconsin beers. Life is good.

And just in case I’ve jinxed the Badgers and Packers, I know how to undue it: One more time!


While you're waiting for the afternoon football post...

why not check out the latest newsletter from Scott Adams (Dilbert)? I would start with TRUE TALES OF INDUHVIDUALS, like:

When our printer ran out of color ink, one Induhvidual asked, "Why don't we print it in black and white and then take a color photocopy?"


I was dining with a friend at our favorite Thai restaurant when one of the owners came by to show us photos of her new baby boy. Afterward, my friend remarked that she was surprised that the baby looked "so Chinese." I said,"Well, he does look Asian, since both parents are from Thailand, but what did you expect?" She said, "Yeah, I know, but I expected him to look more American since they've been living in the U.S. for 15 years."


(Note: The following post is about two cases of insanely bad judgment by two different Milwaukee talk radio personalities. If you think that it will bore you, know that there will be a football post around 2.)

I must briefly discuss Milwaukee talk radio, as there are currently two related talk radio events taking place. Individually they are not that interesting, but together they are quite revealing.

The first concerns Mark Belling. He is the host of a conservative talk show on AM 1130 WISN, and can (usually, but not right now) be heard from 3-6 every weekday. In my college days I had a summer job as a painter, and all painters listen to talk radio, hence I listened to Belling every day for a summer (the reason that painters do this is that if you actually listen to music on the radio for 8 straight hours you go insane, whereas if you listen to talk radio you merely acquire a warped world view). I am well acquainted with his show.

Belling has built up his show into a fairly powerful venue. He has won a Marconi Award (the radio equivalent of an Oscar) and frequently fills in for Rush Limbaugh when he's vacationing or at the Betty Ford Clinic or getting a divorce. Talk radio is big business in Milwaukee and the competition between Belling and Charlie Sykes (and to a lesser extent Jeff Wagner - the poor man's Charlie Sykes) has boosted both men to the level of "prominent local celebrities." Both have talking-head style TV shows, both do annual cruises with listeners, and both have managed to be very influential in local politics (particularly the ascension of Republican Scott Walker to Milwaukee County Executive, and the defeat of moderate Republican and State Senate Majority leader Mary Panzer).

Some time around November 1st, Belling referred to illegal Mexican immigrants who voted in the presidential election as "wetbacks."

This has caused quite a stir as several Hispanic groups in the area have been protesting for the last two weeks. Belling has been suspended from radio and television, and the groups are still trying to get him fired. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has run no fewer than 10 articles on this (see the "recent coverage" box on the right side). Now Belling should be condemned for this, as he has been. It is an offensive term (especially when applied to legal immigrants or American citizens, as it implies that they are law breakers). I think that there are more offensive terms, and that it doesn't approach the level of the infamous n-word, but it's still not a smart thing to say, to say the least. His apology was also lackluster, and a took a long time to deliver. He might be fired, and maybe he should be.

It is not surprising that Belling did this. Frankly, I'm surprised he didn't have such a slip-up sooner. Belling is interesting to listen to, but he's interesting because he's nuts. Completely nuts.

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, Page 2. Speaking of people who are completely nuts...

Another prominent Milwaukee personality has his own radio show. His name is Michael McGee. He used to be a city alderman, but ended up losing his position in the wake of some controversial (to put it lightly) remarks that he made on "60 Minutes in the early 90's:"

"(W)hen I say I want to wage urban guerrilla warfare, I ain't talking about Saudi Arabia. I'm talking about right here in our home court."

When interviewer Mike Wallace inquired, "What kind of violence does the Black Militia have in mind?" McGee elaborated: "Sniping at tires going on the freeway, sabotage, tearing down electrical wires. You know, complete chaos and confusion outside of our community."

By the way, if you're wondering why Ald. McGee wanted urban guerilla warfare on the streets of Milwaukee, in his own words:

"(I)f conditions for the black community...don't change...I will support such actions as [terrorism], as well as bombings, sniper attacks, assassinations, etc."

Lest you think McGee a total racist...

"there are whites that are involved in the militia, too, so don't anyone get that wrong, either. We have white members as well."

McGee has remained a leading figure in Milwaukee despite all of this, and his radio program, while not as influential as Belling's or Syke's, is still influential. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the former alderman was using money that was supposed to go to welfare recipients to fund his show:

A Milwaukee social services agency came under fire Tuesday in a new state audit for its spending of millions of dollars in welfare reform money on its own subsidiaries and executives and on radio personality and former Ald. Mike McGee.
The audit faults Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee for some $275,000 in payments to local radio station WNOV-AM (860) and McGee from 1997 through 2003.

The radio show was theoretically supposed to be a forum to discuss issues relating to Milwaukee's W-2 welfare program, but:

Auditors said, however, that they reviewed McGee's daily show and others and found little difference in topics covered.
"We question whether the financial support provided by OIC-GM actually resulted in programming substantially different from what the radio station would have broadcast in the absence of funding," the report said.

It seems that the topic of the show was, more often than not, a defense of the organization that had been funneling those hundreds of thousands of dollars to McGee., the aforementioned Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee, or OIC. The OIC, you see, was having its own problems.

McGee, who is the father of current Ald. Michael McGee (Note: current Ald. McGee has not promoted the idea of shooting out the tires of random cars like his father did. At least not yet.), has frequently defended OIC on the air since the agency's troubles multiplied earlier this year with disclosure of a kickback scheme involving OIC and W-2 money.

So what do we make of Belling and McGee?

Both have committed bad acts to be sure. In stark contrast to the 10 articles on Belling, the Journal-Sentinel has only two on McGee. I hope that both are punished accordingly (it looks like Belling is getting his due) but I'll leave you to decide which warrants more coverage; the use of a racial slur by an extremely right-wing talk show host, or the actual theft of money from welfare recipients from a left wing talk show host.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Train in Vain

I have a long commute, and I spend a lot of time on the "L." Recently the Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA") has been running ads on their trains and buses over the loudspeaker calling for people to pressure their state representatives and alderman to increase funding for the CTA. I have several million problems with this, but for the sake of my fingers and your brains, I'll restrict myself to just a few.

First of all, if the CTA were a business, it would be the worst business in the world. There are two reasons for this. First, they design their trains and buses to be uncomfortable to passengers. If you spend more than thirty minutes on any given CTA seat, you will have back spasms. Also, your knees will cramp up. You see, not only are the seats hard, uncomfortable, and generally covered in a mysterious greasy substance, but they also force you to put your legs in an uncomfortable position, as the trains outer wall angles in towards you at the bottom. This will henceforth be known as the "leg ramp."

In case that last paragraph was a bit confusing, take a chair and slide it up against a wall, so that when you sit in the chair your legs are parallel to the wall. Now sit in the chair. Not too bad right? Now you need something angled. A doorstop is perfect. In a pinch, a hardcover book will suffice. Place this object directly under your feat, angled against the wall. Now sit for 45 minutes. Now you have your own CTA style leg ramp! Remember, if you try and put your legs over to the side you'll likely bump into a really stinky bum. Your choice is between leg cramps and stench, and if you choose stench as so many of us CTA riders have in the past, you will also injure your back.

You see, the backs of CTA chairs are designed only for those who sit straight up with perfect posture, so long as that person has a substantial hump in their lumbar area. If, however, you are as humpless as I am it's going to be a long ride, especially if you are turning your legs into the stinky bum in order to avoid the leg ramp. In this instance you will be either cut by the sharp plastic edge which separates seats, or, more likely, gouged by the useless metal bar that has been inserted under the window sill for no reason.

And don't even think about sleeping! In another crack engineering innovation the CTA has developed the "arm-proof window sill." If you did want to sleep, you might try and rest your arm on the window sill, and your head on your hand. Unfortunately the window sill slants downward at about a thirty degree angle. You may be thinking that this is not a steep slant, and you're right, so just to make sure that your arm continually slides off (banging on the aforementioned useless metal bar) they coat it with a thin layer of grease. It is also worth noting that the headrests on CTA seats are actually handles for standing passengers to hold on to. They are just the right height so that if you lean your head backward (or if the train suddenly stops) you are gouged in the neck.

Many CTA captives can now sleep standing up and without a pillow. Some people actually take a pillow with them to work!

But severe and possibly permanent physical injury is not the worst thing about the CTA. It is actually relatively minor. In fact my biggest complaint with the CTA actually causes all of the aforementioned problems:

Bums and lowlifes.

Why are the seats uncomfortable? Why does it smell? Why is that banana peel from yesterday still on the seat in front of me?

Because the CTA wants to encourage their customers to get off of the train! Because if they don't, the bums will never ever get off. Can you imagine any other business actively creating a hostile environment to drive customers away? It is simply breathtaking. This problem, of course, stems from the fact that the CTA is viewed as a public utility and not a business. Public utilities cannot just deny service to some customers based on smell or yelling at me that I'm "going to hell" for fifteen minutes (Dude, I'm there already), or calling me a "stanky white person" for fifteen minutes, or for screaming into a cell phone for half an hour, or for vomiting (at least I hope that was vomit) in the aisle.

Any business would deny service to those with "no shoes or no shirt" but the CTA lets everyone on at the low low price of $1.75.

And now we get to the ads. Their are a few print ads on trains and buses, but only the CTA has the privilege of advertising on the loud speaker, which they do quite frequently. They never mention a fare hike or budget cuts, only a bigger subsidy. So in essence, even though they try to actively screw their customers, and even though they have many revenue raising options available to them, they instead request that their existing customers call their government officials in order to convince them to take money from non-customers to fund their rides to work.

I'm just astonished. It's been going on for three weeks now at least and I'm sick of it. So I have a few suggestions for them that will allow them to make more money and improve my life.

1. Raise the fair to $2.00.

2. Hire some security. If someone smells, throw them out. If someone is trying to sell me a bag of M&Ms, throw them out. It will keep customers happy.

3. Put in comfortable chairs. Please.

4. Every CTA message ends like this:

"DING DONG (bell ringing at 4 million decibels), doors closing."

Please get rid of the bell. Why is there a bell? Who thought "since we're going to make these people listen to the same voice announce the stop and that the door is closing over and over again, maybe we should put in a random bell noise. That won't get annoying the 400th time that you hear it."

5. Do not actively lie to your customers.

A few days ago a friend of mine was supposed to meet us at The Schoolyard. She got on what was from the outside a Brown Line train (which states that it will end its run at Kimball). However on the inside the train stated that it was a Purple Line train (which ends its run at Linden in Evanston. Here is the system map). This is not an unimportant distinction as the Purple Line runs express from Belmont (which is exactly one stop before the Southport stop, which is across the street from the Schoolyard) to Howard, which, as you can see from the map, is much closer to Evanston than it is to central Chicago. Everyone on board thought that it was a Brown Line train until it was too late. Hilarity did not ensue.

These are just a few simple suggestions that would improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. But I'm sure that the residents of the city will end up paying a lot more for this wonderful transit system because I live in Chicago, and that is how things work in Chicago.

So to the CTA, there's only one thing I can say:

Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
No way

You must explain why this must be.

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