Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random Thoughts

I know I don't update the blog nearly like I used to. Part of it is Twitter, where some of my brief thoughts and opinions now end up that I used to post here. Another part is lack of current events that I either a) understand enough to blog about, or b) care enough to blog about. Or c) want to keep good relations with online friends and relatives so I keep quiet about certain topics. Regardless, I hope to get back on the ball, soon. Here are a few thoughts I've had lately.

UT Football
  • It was very, very much Arian Foster's fault for the fumbled exchange Saturday. When one runs, it's natural to pump the arms up and down. Foster took a step, pumped the right arm up and the left one down. He took another step, started to bring the right one down and the left one up, in which to form the "basket" to receive the handoff. At the last millisecond, he changed his mind, stopped his right arm from descending and lifted it up again to put it on top and the left on the bottom. Unfortunately he chose too late and in the midst of moving the right arm back up, hit the ball in mid-handoff, knocking it out of Crompton's hand before he was ready. Now, was the handoff too early? Was Foster not expecting it so soon? Should Crompton have held on to the ball tighter? Those are questions only the coaching staff would know, who designed the plays and coach them. And they're the ones also saying it's Foster's fault. So why think different? Oh yeah... Crompton = scapegoat. Sorry.

  • Is our defense an average defense with flashes of greatness (Lowest rushing and passing yards for Tebow ever, only 6 points given up to Auburn and held them practically motionless in the 4th quarter, 6 INT's)? Or are they a good defense with flashes of mediocrity (Bad, bad tackling on D and special teams, made average QB and receivers at UCLA look like All-Pros, missing assignments)? I think the former.

  • Dave Clawson's "new" offense still hasn't had the time or personnel to run correctly. But the time is running out.

  • Fans should never, ever, ever boo. Ever. Never. None. Too boo is classless, regardless who you're booing (ok, if you boo a ref for a bad call, that's different). But to boo a college player who could be taking classes with your son or daughter... no sir. I don't care if you pay $500/ticket to see UT play, you have no right to boo. Paying money for a ticket entitles you to see a football game, period, end of sentence. It does not entitle you to a good football game, or even a mediocre one. It gets you in the gates to watch A game, and if you don't like what happens on the field, that's your own gamble you've lost. Unless you have to Pay Per View you can always stay at home and watch the game, and boo to your heart's content. Don't ever confuse purchase of a ticket with assured quality performance. It differs in this respect from purchasing a ticket to a play or a concert - you assume a promise of some kind of quality based on the performers' talent and skill. But, unlike a sporting event, there is no random element of other performers working to keep them from achieving greatness. So live with your choices, and if you don't like the product don't buy the ticket. But don't boo.

    More Later...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Actual Level-Headed Analysis of the UT-Florida Game

Tennessee / Florida Thoughts and Analysis (Link Fixed)

Last year's game was a disaster for UT; a year of cooling off has only confirmed that feeling. This year's game, however, shows very significant improvements:

* Play Balance Even considering the late hole, UT didn't end up as a pass-only team.
* Plays/Drive Largely due to the balanced playcalling, UT managed 2 plays per drive more. Florida also managed an extra play per drive, but a large part of that was not allowing the 1-play TD type drives. In both regards, UT actually did better.
* Yards/Drive UT improved their average drive distance by a full ten yards. Much of that was from the two drives with turnovers within 10 yards of the end zone. Florida's distance was actually decreased. Much of that decrease was due to some short-field plays and a rather bad UT punting game. But the defense performed much, much better.


Despite our initial read, UT played a much better football game than appearances would indicate. Florida deserved the win because they (a) have vastly superior special teams play (b) didn't have fatal miscommunications in their playcalling, and (c) effectively used the new clock rules to eliminate any possibility of a comeback. UT does deserve a lot of credit, though, for playing a hard-fought game and not giving up. Everything broke against them, but they did not "quit".
I would also add that in the first half (when we were not so far behind yet) we had an 11-play drive and and a 14-play drive. Yes, they both ended badly but it's a far cry from the 3-and-outs we seem to typically pile up in droves against Florida.

Also our defense held Tebow to 96 yards passing (a CAREER low) and 26 yards rushing (a 2nd place CAREER low). While overall not perfect, it's still an improvement over recent UF expectations.

Just like against UCLA (if the punt had not been blocked, or if they'd called a safety as they should've) there were several instances in this game that might've swung the game around - unlike last year when the rout was on early and often, and there was nothing UT could do about it.

It means that there are major problems, yes, but there don't seem to be whole-scale fundamental problems. The offense can move the ball through the air and on the ground, the defense can stop the pass and the run - it just doesn't follow through to their conclusions.

One big glaring thing, though - to essentially blame the loss on the punter is inexcusable. Chad Cunningham, 2nd string sophomore punter, pressed into duty because the starter is sitting out for DUI, had a 37-yard net punting average against Florida. While he admits he didn't place his kicks very well, keep in mind one of those kicks was returned 78 yards for a score, and another for 14 yards. The other two I believe were fair-caught. The point is that poor, poor coverage and tackling are what created that low average and not the punting of Chad Cunningham. To talk about replacing a kid who probably isn't supposed to be on the field punting for Div. 1 in the first place, and incidentally doing probably about as well as he could be asked to, is ridiculous. It also seems I remember 56 yards in 2 kickoff returns that weren't handled too well. Lay off the punter and concentrate on learning to tackle.

The Only Story Today Where You'll Find the Words, "Volunteers Improve"

Helping hikers' havens: Volunteers improve Appalachian Trail shelters
Fourteen years ago, while hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mike Crabill and his 12-year-old son stayed at the Double Springs Gap trail shelter. It rained that night, and the shelter was packed with 17 people.

Last week, Crabill returned to the Double Springs Gap shelter, this time as part of a volunteer construction crew that spent 10 days making extensive improvements to the three-sided stone structure built in 1963.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fantasy Football - A Metaphor for Voting?

It's a fairly well-known rule of thumb in Fantasy Football that, when drafting a running back you should also draft his backup. This is called "handcuffing". If you are lucky enough to draft LaDainlian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers (arguably the best back in the league) you should also draft fellow Charger RB Darren Sproles and "handcuff" them together. That way if Tomlinson ever goes down with injury and has to sit out a game or two, you already have his backup ready to fill in his spot in your lineup.

Now, I've always found this practice a little odd since you never know if their backup is any good - if Tomlinson goes down, the Chargers could go to a more pass-oriented offense in his absence and Sproles may not do squat. I've always simply drafted the 2-3 best RB's available in the league at that moment and assumed one of them would always be playing. That way your 1-2 combination are always 1st string backs.

Of course, choosing this way handcuffs yourself because you miss out on some options for decent back-ups. If, say, Jonathan Stuart of the Panthers were available when your turn came around wouldn't you be much better off drafting him as a backup to Tomlinson than his real-life one, Sproles?

But some people do that, and the only reason I can figure out is they expect their top RB to be injured sometime in the season and want to make absolutely sure they have a replacement in the wings ready to take over. So instead of choosing a top RB for his full skill-set, they handicap themselves assuming he's going to check out for a while and fall all over themselves ensuring the backup is right there and ready to take over.

Ok, long, long football analogy to explain this. A lot of people criticize the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP choice because, well, to put it bluntly McCain's an old dude and might die in office. They don't believe Palin's ready or qualified to step in and be president in the event of McCain's death. I have no quarrel with anyone's opinion of Palin's readiness to take over (although you have to admit being governor of a state - any state - at least has provided a good deal of administrative experience. So she wouldn't be going into it cold at least). Still, the point is they seem to be taking it for granted that McCain's going to kick it a year or so into office and Palin needs to be a quality back-up to go in and lead the team to victory. But they don't think she's a Jonathan Stuart. Or even a Darren Sproles. They think she's the equivalent of the 5th string rookie RB on the practice squad that should never play in a real game because he fumbles all the time. And that's fine, too, as I said everyone is entitled to their opinion of Palin's qualifications and experience.

I just don't think you decide to choose against someone as the next leader of the free world because of what "might" happen to them. You choose them because of their qualities and ideas, and for what they will attempt to do while in office. To choose otherwise is foolish.

I don't care if the Second Coming of Abraham Lincoln was running as McCain's VP. You don't write off a presidential candidate based on the possibility they might croak in office and force the VP to take over.

Nor do you choose against a presidential candidate based on his age, unless you have seen ample evidence to convince you either his mind is not quite sharp enough, or his health is so bad that it's likely he won't live another four years. I think if we'd known about Reagan's mental decline in his second term (1985-88) like we do now, we wouldn't have been so quick to re-elect him to office. But again, that was a decision we would have made based on his ability to lead while in office, not what might happen if he died.

I'll try to wrap this up by putting this into football terms again. I see McCain as like LaDainlian Tomlinson from the Chargers. He's been the league a long time (for a RB) - drafted in 2001. Had his ups and downs, not the best back in the league anymore but has been pretty solid for San Diego over the years. His backup would be someone like Felix Jones - a rookie RB for the Cowboys, but toe-to-toe co-RB for Arkansas with Heisman Trophy winner Darren McFadden. Not quite as good, but still and excellent RB coming out of college.

Obama, by contrast, is Reggie Bush - 3rd year man out of USC with the Saints. Flashy, glitzy, lots of potential but still young and inexperienced. He's had trouble finding his groove with New Orleans and has been erratic (though this year looks promising for him). Biden would be like Edgerrin James of the Cardinals. Had some glory years with the Colts, been in the league since 1999, an aging once-star that's found some good years with Arizona.

So would you rather draft LaDainlian Tomlinson/Felix Jones or take your chances with Reggie Bush*/Edgerrin James? Depends on if it's very likely Tomlinson won't last the season and Jones has to take over, even though Tomlinson's potential point total will likely be much higher than Reggie Bush.

You have to be confident in the man (or woman) you elect and elect them for what they will do, not what might happen to them.

There's another analogy lurking there for those who fear Obama, if elected, is a prime target for white supremacist assassination. Not sure there's a good football analogy there, but there are some who choose against him for that reason as well. Both are good to take into consideration, but neither are good for making a final decision.

* Sorry - I just that moment realized I'd matched Obama up with a guy named Bush. That's pretty funny.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Holes in the Space-Time Continuum

I've got it figured out.

Yesterday, I kept having some odd dizzy spells. I'd turn my head, and about a second later the world would turn to meet me. Needless to say, it was quite disconcerting.

I'd be tempted to blame it on stress, or simply the fact I've had a head cold the last week or so I'm still getting over.

But I have deduced the real reason I was dizzy yesterday - the Swiss particle accelerator/atom smasher/supercollider/doomsday device went online yesterday. And I'm convinced it's altered the fabric of the universe in some way that is causing me to have dizzy spells.

See, yesterday there were three earthquakes - one in Iran that destroyed, like, 200 villages, one in Chile and Indonesia. Today there was another one near Japan. Coincidence? I wonder...

I also have made a startling realization...

Somehow...somehow...this black-hole creating machine somehow opened a rift in the space-time continuum, causing a rip in the reality fabric to happen about a week ago. Across the world in southern California. I'm convinced that that rip allowed the UCLA defenders to jump ahead 1-2 seconds in time, and let them block our punt. Also make all those miraculous catches in the 2nd half by conveniently blinking about 10 steps ahead of our defenders. It caused the ball to disappear out of Arian Foster's hands and reappear on the ground ahead of him. It also moved the ball ahead of Daniel Lincoln's foot on all his missed field goal tries.

So see, it wasn't us - blame the scientists!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Is Hope All It's Cracked Up to Be?

I've tried to stay away from this as much as possible, but... :)

Missy encountered an elderly black man the other day that was impressed she (a white lady) was supporting a black man for president. She said:
And even today I’m still thinking about that man, and that hug, and the feeling of unity that I got with someone who I have nothing in common with. A feeling of hope that our world can change. And that’s why I’ll vote the way I will on Nov. 4th. Not because of Barack Obama’s color and misplaced white guilt. Because of his message of hope.


I’m just a housewife, in a suburb, and I want to believe that there is hope for everyone. For me and for that elderly Black man who crossed all kinds of lines to say thank you. Oh, sure, I’m glad that I’ve made that man happy. But he’s not the reason why I believe the way I do. I believe in hope. I believe in change. Because I’ve lived it. And I want my country to live it too. More of the same or something new. It’s up to you. Believe in hope, or don’t. It’s your decision.

I replied, in comments:

...I consistently fail to understand how a promise of “hope” - no matter how strong, no matter how pure, no matter how well-intentioned - tips the scales on whether a man is qualified to be President of the US? In a national security situation, how does “hope” make the correct decisions that safeguard the lives of millions of Americans and others around the world? How does “hope” come up with solutions to the dozens of crises that will require a President’s attention daily? What exactly is this power that you, and others believe, “hope” bestows on Obama that will give him these answers?

I am a very hopeful person, I always have been. I am deeply grateful that in many ways the racial divide is shrinking between blacks and whites. I also believe there is hope for everyone, even those who we look on as hopeless. But “hope” is a philosophical concept that requires no practical support, no nuts-and-bolts solutions. In this case it’s a magi wand that will seemingly be waved above all problems to make them go away.

Anyone - anyone - can promise hope. Anyone can promise change. Faith and hope are great ways to choose a religion, but not at all good ways to choose a human leader.

So, Missy, can you tell me how the “hope” that Obama offers translates into a successful, productive and unifying presidency?

She wrote back:

...No, I don’t think that everything wrong with our country and our world will be magically solved instantaneously at Obama’s inauguration....

...and continued to detail several policy differences between Obama and McCain that she supported.

I then said:

I don’t think that you believe the magic wand of “hope” will solve all the world’s ills, but I do think more than a few Obama supporters do believe something like that. That because Obama promises “hope”, he will do something…not sure what, but something….to cure the world. They won’t naively admit that they base their faith on this simple concept, but I see it a lot.

...that still does nothing to support the notion that Obama can be a good president. Can he? Sure. But I haven’t seen anything in your post that tells me why Obama - above all others - is the right choice.

If Joe Schmoe were to get up there and run for president, and offer you “hope” and “change” - would you vote for him? Probably not. If he offered to figure for more exploring energy alternatives before any new drilling, would you vote for him? That’s the same thing every Democrat offers. Same for several of the other platforms and talking points you mention. What is it about Obama, specifically, as a human being sets him apart so strikingly from all others that he is the man for you?

And it can’t be “hope” or “change” - anyone can promise that. We all know in today’s Washington that any and all campaign promises, by either side, are likely to be watered down, compromised, altered or simply forgotten when office is reached.

Where is this ability you believe he has to actually institute this “change”, how do you feel he has the best chance to bring them to fruition, and from where in his background (Senate, Congress, etc) does he draw the common sense and wisdom to lead us through national security and disaster crises?

At this point she hasn't responded, so I'd like to open the floor for debate.

What about Obama, specifically and personally, inspires you to believe he's the better choice for president on a practical level? It can't be in any way compared to McCain, Palin or any opposition, it has to be something detailing what about Obama in his history, experience, philosophy, wisdom, honor, whatever.... says to you, "Yes, this man will make the correct and wise decisions as Commander in Chief" and pull that lever.