February 27, 2007

Bullshit Update

In the same 24 hours, Martin Scorsese won an Oscar and Dick Cheney almost got blown up by a fucking bomb.

I'd say SOTB 2007 has a clear favorite now.

powered by performancing firefox

February 24, 2007

Dear Old Dad

My dad turned 68 last week. About the same time, he came down with the flu and was in bed for most of the weekend. When I would tell people it was his birthday, they would usually ask how he's been doing. But in reply, I would always leave out the part about him being sick.

Because when you think about it, the word "sick" changes meanings as you get older. When you're a kid, sick just means you've got a sore throat or something. But once you're old, sick becomes much more serious. As in cancer, or emphysema, or Multiple Sclerosis. If I asked someone about their mom and they said, "Mom's sick" I wouldn't think of the flu. I'd assume the worst.

Dad's better now, so you can put away your stationery. But the incident got me to thinking: are there other words whose meanings change as you get older?

The only one I can think of is "single". As a teenager, my girlfriend would have murdered me if she heard me tell someone I was single. But now, as an adult, I'm undoubtedly single until I'm married (or at least engaged). Even if by some bizarre turn of events I could trick someone into being my girlfriend, I'd still be single. There's no box on your tax return for "dating exclusively".

Are there any other words like this? Does this interest anyone?

powered by performancing firefox

February 17, 2007

Apocryphal Sports Idea the Entirety of Which I Stole From Someone Else

Last weekend a friend clued me onto an interesting football discussion he found on the internet. Someone had made the bold claim that a team down 14 points late in the 4th quarter is better off attempting a 2-point conversion after it scores a touchdown (thus putting them down 8 point before the conversion) rather than kicking the extra point.

Conventional wisdom suggests you kick the extra point, which puts you down 7 points and in position to score another touchdown and extra point to tie the game and send it to overtime. 2-point conversions, of course, are far less successful, and failing on the first attempt would put you down 8 points, meaning your team would be forced to convert a second 2-point conversion attempt just to tie the game and send it to overtime.

But the numbers don't lie: going for 2 clearly makes more sense.

Two important things to keep in mind: (1) Getting to overtime, which is the coach's only chance at winning when he kicks the extra points, means you'll only win (roughly) 50% of the time. (2) If you successfully convert a 2-point attempt after the first touchdown, you don't need to go for two again. You're only down 6 points, which means a touchdown and extra point wins the game outright.

Back to point (1): given that extra points are sometimes missed (approx. 2% of the time), this means the conservative coach's overall chance of winning is below 50%. (98% x 98% = 96.04%, the chances of making both extra points. Multiply by 50% to see how often you win in overtime and you get 48.02%. (There are other less likely outcomes, such as missing the first extra point then successfully earning a two-point conversion, or making the first extra point then missing the second, which put the overall chance of winning at 48.44%.)

But the aggressive coach will actually win more than half the time. The success rate of 2-point conversions has fluctuated between 40 and 50% since the NFL began allowing them in 1994. Let's use 42%. Going for 2 after the touchdown(s) means you'll win without overtime 41.16% (42% x 98%) of the time and lose before overtime 33.64% (58% x 58%) of the time. The remaining ~25% of the time, you'll go to overtime and win half, for an overall chance of winning at roughly 53.76%.

So, what's interesting about this? If you know anything about football, you know this argument flies in the face of pretty much every coach's strategy, which is almost always incredibly conservative.

But I was reading about this last Saturday night, right after the NFL Pro Bowl. As I read the synopsis of the game, I realized this exact situation had occurred. The NFC was down 28-14 with 3 minutes left in the game. It scored a quick touchdown and tried a 2-point conversion (and failed). It got the ball back and scored again, this time earning the 2 points and tying the game at 28. The NFC's coach, Sean Payton, had defied all conventional wisdom and tried out the strategy. He had succeeded in tying the game while also (if they had converted the first 2-point attempt) giving his team a shot to win outright.

In the end, however, Payton's team made one mistake-- they scored too quickly. There was enough time left on the clock for the AFC team to march down the field and kick a game-winning field goal as time expired. The AFC won 31-28.

powered by performancing firefox

February 12, 2007


the boy slept late on purpose, betting correctly that feeling rushed on the day of the big event would leave no time for the anticipation which had recently come to dominate his life. hastily he threw on his pre-planned outfit: faded chicago bears sweatshirt, navy blue stocking hat and matching gloves. he hustled downstairs into the kitchen, where his dad filled a green thermos with hot cocoa and crammed bologna sandwiches into the front of his coat.

the man drove, his son quiet. eager and optimistic that this would be the year.

they shuffled to their seats. the boy grabbed the binoculars from around his neck and scanned the field below. they weren't too close, but they had a clean view of the action. satisfied, he passed the glasses to his dad and thought about how long he had waited to be here.

but they had no idea it would be so boring. weeks of unchecked hype begat delusions of miracle: hordes of graceful beasts moving in unison, savage and balletic. their imagination couldn't have prepared them for this reality. sheets of rain. runny noses. the rare flash of excitement leading only to another sustained and eerie silence.

three hours passed like this, their naked enthusiasm no match for the sluggish pace of the wet afternoon. the boy sat slumped in his seat, his father contemplating the expanding hole in his left glove, when suddenly it happened.

so fast they should have missed it.

the man shot up with a grunt, rousing his son, as his eyes strained on the brown missile soaring through the air, down, fading, finally landing gently in the lithe brown limbs stretched delicately out into the periphery.

"holy shit" the dad said. "did you see?"

his son stood speechless, mouth agape. he pulled the binoculars to his face and watched the round brown bird shudder itself dry on the tree branch below.

the two passed the lenses back and forth, whispering breathlessly about the mighty creature's plume, its talons, its stark yellow eyes.

the boy said "dad. what a superb owl."

the man looked down with a smile. the boy was right.

this was one superb owl sunday they would never forget.

February 6, 2007

Certain Blogs goes political

So this is my third consecutive entry to feature some kind of political statement, however unoriginal. Sorry. I'll go back to making fun of myself soon, but in the meantime here are two awesome clips from Iraq.

Normally I'd post the actual video but YouTube is fucking up so I'm just posting the links. Neither of these are violent or gory.

Support our troops:



powered by performancing firefox