Blog Fiasco

December 31, 2010

The NCAA: stupid or really stupid?

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — bcotton @ 9:14 am

There are few coaches in basketball that are so widely respected for both coaching ability and all-around-good-guyness as Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.  This is what makes his recent one-game suspension a thing of stupidity.  Izzo was punished for violating a new NCAA rule because someone “associated with a potential recruit” worked for a week at an MSU basketball camp for middle schoolers.  The amount this person was paid?  $475.  For services rendered, no less.  I have a friend who works at Purdue and her cousin is on a team.  Are we breaking the rules, too?

What makes this even more appalling is the lack of punishment for Cam Newton and several other Ohio State football players.  I’m willing to grant that the NCAA was unable to prove that Newton was involved in the dealing, and that no money apparently changed hands, but the same can’t be said for the Ohio State players who traded memorabilia in exchange for cash and services.  These players have all been handed five game suspensions, but they won’t be in effect until the 2011 season.  This means that they’ll still be playing in their bowl game on Saturday, and some of them will be in the NFL next year, which means they effectively face no punishment at all.

I feel bad for the student athletes.  They’re unable to make any money off their own effort while everyone around them is getting rich, but they’re subject to the arbitrary and capricious rulings of the NCAA.

December 29, 2010

Military intelligence?

Filed under: Musings — Tags: , — bcotton @ 7:38 am

Many news outlets, including my local paper, recently carried an AP story about a report issued by The Education Trust.  In the report, we learn that one out of every four people who take the U.S. military’s entrance exam fail.  The report and article use these findings to indict the education system in the United States.  Unfortunately, it is more of an indictment of the authors.  While the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is required at “hundreds” of high schools, it is by no means ubiquitous.  The sample, then, is not random, but largely self-selecting.  Consider also that the ASVAB is not required for officer-track students (i.e. service academies and ROTC), but only for enlisted personnel.  When I first read the article, I immediately realized that the conclusion wasn’t justified.

It wasn’t until I did some further research that I realized exactly how wrong the authors were.  As it turns out, ASVAB scores are given as percentiles.  In other words, to get into the Army, you need not get 31% of the questions correct, you need to score better than 31% of the other test takers.  This means that the military automatically rejects the lowest scores, no matter how good or bad they may be on an absolute scale.  The military grants waivers for low scores in certain situations, which is why only a quarter of test takers fail.

So the news here is that 25% of students fail an exam designed for them to fail.  In other news, water is wet.  On second thought, maybe this is an indictment of the education system, but not in the way suggested.  An elementary understanding of statistics immediately calls into question the credibility of the study.  One paragraph of a Wikipedia article ruins the starting point of the article.  The education system may have flaws, but the only flaws exposed by this article are the lack of statistical understanding and simple research ability possessed by The Education Trust and AP writers Christine Armario and Dorie Turner.

December 23, 2010

Christmas movies

Filed under: Musings — Tags: , — bcotton @ 12:44 pm

It’s that time of year again.  If you haven’t gotten your fill of Christmas movies, you’re running out of time.  If you’re not sure what movies to watch, that’s okay.  I’ve provided a handy list for you, that way you can be just like me. (Oh joy!)

  • A Christmas Story — The king of all Christmas movies,  I watch this one several times a year, generally early in the morning as part of the 24-hour marathon on TBS.  It rivals “Airplane!” as the most quotable movie of all time.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life — Frank Capra’s classic that flopped initially.  A gentle reminder that it’s the little things in our lives that truly matter — especially Zuzu’s petals.
  • Holiday Inn– It’s hard to go wrong with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  This isn’t technically a Christmas movie, but it did introduce the world to the song “White Christmas”.  There some racism in the movie, although it’s not intended to be insulting.
  • White Christmas — Fred Astaire turned this one down because he thought it would be a “Holiday Inn” retread.  The role of Bing Crosby’s comedic partner ended up going to Danny Kaye, who really makes the movie.
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol — There are approximately a billion versions of the classic Dickens tale, but none combine humor and a scary-as-all-hell Ghost of Christmas Future the way the Muppets and Michael Cane do.  Why they didn’t use the Ghost of Christmas Future as the inspiration for the dementors in the third Harry Potter movie is beyond me.
  • Miracle on 34th Street — The original, of course, not the 1994 remake.  And in black & white.  Colorization is stupid.  I take my “Miracle” seriously because it’s such a classic.
  • Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2 — I was about Kevin McCallister’s age when these movies came out, so my friends and I quoted them frequently.  I also found myself occasionally wishing robbers would target my house so I could fend them off in hilariously slapstick ways.
  • The kid pack: “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer“, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!“, and “Frosty the Snowman — Anyone who hasn’t seen these movies at least once did not have a childhood.  These are classic animated works that I still find entertaining.

There are plenty of other movies out there that people make traditions of, but this is my list.  As I look back on it, I realize I actually haven’t watched many of these this year.  The good news is that they’re all very family-friendly, so I’ll have no problem getting my kids started on them early.

December 21, 2010

Status of the Internet

Filed under: Funnel Fiasco,The Internet,Web design — Tags: , , — bcotton @ 7:45 am

I’ve been meaning to do this since the Comcast DNS issues a few weeks ago, but I’ve finally put together a quick page with links to the status pages of various web services and sites.  You can check the status of the Internet at http://funnelfiasco.com/internet.html.  It’s a bit surprising how many sites don’t have obvious status pages.  It makes sense for popular sites to have a separate server for status information that users can find when they’re having problems.  I don’t have one for FunnelFiasco because this isn’t a popular site.  If I ever get popular, wake me up from my faint and I’ll stand a status page up.  If any of my dear readers know of sites that have status pages, send me a link or leave a comment and I’ll get it added.

I also had the chance to improve my CSS for FunnelFiasco while writing this.  Over the summer, I was able to find out how to get rid of tables for pictures.  Today, I mostly copied that implementation for “text tables”, or content where I use a table-like format for displaying the data, but don’t need the rigidity.  There are still a few things to work out, but I’m pretty happy with it so far.  Now to backport those changes into other pages.

December 10, 2010

Using up the turkey

Filed under: Cooking — Tags: , , , — bcotton @ 4:19 pm

My family came up for Thanksgiving this year, and like most American households, we had leftovers.  Of course, most of them were finished off pretty quickly, but what to do with that big turkey carcass?  We decided that finding a use for as much of it as we could appealed to our sense of thrift, our desire to reduce our environmental impact, and our love of homemade.  For decades people boiled turkeys, so how hard could it be, right?

We have a huge stock pot already, so we carved off all the meat we could and then dropped the turkey into a pot full of water.  Some carrots, celery, and onions were added, and then it was time to wait.  And wait.  We boiled it for a few hours, making the whole house smell like turkey.  Then it was time for the hard part.

The most important thing to do when making use of the turkey is to get all of the bones out.  This is a bit of a difficult task because the bones can be pretty small and if you boil the turkey too long, they become soft and are sometimes not immediately distinguishable from more edible parts.  It’s also important to note that you can’t feed the bones to your dog because they could splinter and cause severe injury.

Having never done this before, it took a bit of experimentation to get the process down.  What seemed to work best was to use a slotted spoon to skim off some of the floating pieces of fat.  Once that was skimmed off, I used a ladle to slowly add the stock to Ball jars.  At some point, the meat and vegetables make claiming any more stock difficult, at which point I began putting soup in the jars instead.  Using a fork to sort the bones out, I eventually got to the bottom of the pot.  From this, we got roughly 160 ounces of stock and a large coffee can full of soup, plus enough leftover meat to use in a wild rice soup recipe a few days later.

We let it all sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to float to the top and congeal.  That was skimmed off with a teaspoon and then we froze what were weren’t going to immediately use.  We may have only saved a few dollars, but we kept a lot of perfectly good meat from going to waste.  Plus, we now have plenty of turkey soup for those days when we just don’t feel like making dinner!

December 5, 2010

Comcast DNS problems

Filed under: The Internet — Tags: , , , , — bcotton @ 9:53 pm

As of this evening, it looks like Comcast is having problems with a few of their DNS servers.  The servers in Chicago and Detroit are offline, rendering the Internet nigh-unusable for many of their customers in parts of the midwest.  I haven’t seen any official announcement, other than the red lights on the DNS status page, but I’ve heard a lot of complaints from people using their mobile phones to connect to the Internet.  If you’re one of the affected customers, you can change your DNS settings to use any combination of the following servers:

  • OpenDNS: 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220
  • Google: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4
  • Level3: 4.2.2.1 and 4.2.2.2

It’s interesting to me how different this is than it would have been a few years ago.  With the popularity of smart phones, many people have access that doesn’t rely on their ISP.  I’ve already provided support to several people on Twitter who are once again able to waste a Sunday evening surfing the web.  I wonder how much of a credit I’ll get on my bill.

Update, 10:29 PM: Engadget has a brief article up now.  Comcast has been providing updates via Twitter, but there’s currently no ETA for repair.

Update, 6:48 AM: Based on Twitter timestamps, it looks like Comcast engineers got things fixed around 2AM EST.  All of their servers are reporting OK.  I haven’t seen any explanation of what happened, but that will probably come later today.

December 3, 2010

Beonard’s Losers — 2010, Week 14

Filed under: Funnel Fiasco,Sports — Tags: , , , — bcotton @ 10:15 pm

Listen here!

Howdy, football fans!  Last week’s big loser sure wasn’t the BCS.  The moment Nevada upset Boise St., the BCS no longer was in the uncomfortable position of having to make excuses for excluding the Broncos from even the possibility of a championship.  Of course, it’s also worth noting that Nevada lost about a million dollars in bowl revenue by beating Boise.  Speaking of teams not in a BCS Bowl, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez was publicly mocked by a pop star this week after the coach cried during the end of the season banquet.  Fortunately for Rodriguez, the season isn’t over for the Wolverines, they’ll have a bowl to play in for the first time in three years.  The regular season isn’t over for some teams, so let’s take a look at this week’s games.

Illinois at Fresno State

Ron Zook’s tribe looked to be headed for a decent bowl game, until they suffered a late season collapse.  On Friday night, they’ll travel to Bulldog Stadium to take on the Central Valley pups.  The mutts haven’t fared very well against quality opponents, and they’ll need more than just a fierce bark to keep the visitors out of the end zone.  Beonard’s loser? Fresno State

Oregon at Oregon State

With a victory in the Civil War, the Corvallis chompers could wind up in the postseason.  To do that, they’ll need to pluck an explosive flock of Ducks.  Chip Kelly’s birds will play for the national championship if they win this game, so don’t expect them to overlook their rivals.  It’s hard to see that this game could even be close.  Beonard’s loser? Oregon State

Auburn vs South Carolina

With the rules questions for their quarterback solved, the Tigers can focus on winning the SEC Championship.  If they do that, they’ll play for the national crown in January.  First, they’ll need to get past Steve Spurrier’s chickens who want to get their first SEC title.  When these teams first met, the cats won by a touchdown.  This game may be closer, but the outcome will be the same.  Beonard’s loser?  In a close one, South Carolina

Florida State vs Virginia Tech

After losing their first two games, the Hokies reeled off 10 straight to win the ACC Coastal.  They’ll go for the conference title against a Seminole squad with two conference losses.  Both teams average just under 18 points allowed per game, so it’ll be up to the offenses to tip the scales.  The turkeys have scored at least 26 points in every game since the beginning of October, but the tribe average just three points per game fewer.  It’ll be close, but I think Frank Beamer has things worked out.  Beonard’s Loser?  In a close one, Florida State

Oklahoma vs Nebraska

It’s been rare lately to see balance between the Big XII North and South, but that’s exactly what we have this year.  Bo Pelini would like to take the Big XII title before the shuckers move to the Big Ten next year, but Bob Stoops has the wagons circled.  It’ll be a tale of two offenses, with the southerners in the air and the north on the ground, but in this battle, the south wins.  Beonard’s loser? Nebraska

And how about the one game from next week?

Army vs Navy

The Midshipmen sail into Philadelphia next week hoping to extend their streak to nine games.  Army seems to be at a disadvantage, though, gaining 40 fewer yards per game on the ground than their nautical counterparts. This may be one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in college football, but it’s becoming a little one-sided these days.  Beonard’s loser? Army

Well, friends, that wraps up this season of Beonard’s Losers.  I’m sad to say that this will be my last.  It has been a real pleasure doing this, and I hope there is someone else out there who will continue the memory of Leonard Postosties, the world’s foremost pigskin prognosticator.  Get me out of here, Percy.

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