April 24, 2017

Detour

Ebert:  This movie from Hollywood's poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it.

Thomson:  Edgar G. Ulmer was Viennese. He had designed for Max Reinhardt and F. W. Murnau, and he came to America in 1930. He began directing in 1934 and worked for thirty years, usually on B pictures. He seems always to have been hanging on by his fingernails, yet he was plainly very smart and highly talented. Half a dozen of his pictures (Ruthless, The Naked Dawn, for instance) are still classics of the underground that existed before “independent” film came along. He was interviewed, and he talked like a pirate king. Yet how did he survive? And how is a film like Detour endurable? I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. The film is a portrait of hell, and brilliantly done. It was made for Producers Releasing Corporation, with Leon Fromkess as producer. The credits on the picture say that Martin Goldsmith wrote it from his own novel. Benjamin H. Kline did the photography. The film runs 67 minutes.




David Thomson, "Have You Seen . . . ?"

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April 23, 2017

Two Centers

Jusuf Nurkic of the Trailblazers played game 3 on a broken leg.  Here is what he had to say about that (in his rich Eastern European accent):

  • "I think nobody was expecting I play tonight.  But I try. I had to try."
  • "We know I'm not the same guy I'm supposed to be on defensive end and offensive end. But we decide to try. The start was pretty OK, but (the) pain level was high. I try to fight through, but sometimes just couldn't."
  • "That's a normal thing. I play with broke leg. So (there) should be pain."
  • "It's OK," Nurkic said, when asked how his leg felt afterward. "It's a broke leg. I can't heal in one day. I gave it my best (in) this time. I wish I was healthy. But, unfortunately, I'm not."
[ UPDATE - Nurkic's nickname is:  The Bosnian Beast ]

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Nenê (birth name: Maybyner Rodney Hilário) decimated OKC tonight, with 12-12 shooting in 24 minutes.

He was big.  He was strong.  He was mighty.  He was brutally effective.  He breathed fire. 
OK, maybe not the last one.  But the Rockets backup center and designated hit man was a sizzling 12-for-12 shooting, which tied the NBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss and practically burned down the house at Chesapeake Energy Arena. 
“It was kind of a man’s game and he’s a man,” said coach Mike D’Antoni.  “He was unbelievable in all facets.  That’s Nene.  It doesn’t surprise me...”
He tossed aside any and everybody in an OKC uniform that crossed his path, knocking them over in their orange uniforms like they were traffic cones and he was a tank.  He took interior feeds from James Harden for dunks.  He followed up missed jumpers by his teammates for dunks.  He went into the brutal rugby style scrums in the paint and ripped away rebounds for more dunks. 
Nene did everything in the 113-109 win that gave the Rockets a 3-1 lead in the series except drag the Thunder back to his cave and beat them over the head with a club. 
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The terrifying shortage no one is talking about

[W]e need to seek out new, sustainable poisons so we aren't reliant on foreign poisons. This is the only way we can guarantee our country's poison security, which is something we need to start thinking about. Unless mankind's course changes, we are headed for brutal wars over our poison supply. It may not be like the movies -- people wearing tire armor in a verdant, poison-free, flower-filled hellscape -- but it is coming.

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April 22, 2017

The Economist: Why Aren't Millenials Buying Diamonds?

A cogent, comprehensive explanation.

April 20, 2017

Oh yeh!

April 19, 2017

A learned discourse on the bolo punch

An ancient race

Pinus longaeva, is among the longest-lived life forms on Earth. The oldest Pinus longaeva is more than 5,000 years old, making it the oldest known individual of any species.

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[They're still pikers compared to Pando, though.]

April 15, 2017

Let's hope the new administration has the vision to do the right thing

Until just recently, cannibalism was considered rare and abnormal in both humans and other animals. Now zoologist Bill Schutt surveys the latest research and delves into biology and anthropology, as well as history, literature, mythology, and pop culture, to bring us the first full-scale work on what science has come to recognize as completely natural behavior.

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Timely

April 14, 2017

How afraid of Barry Bonds were pitchers?

This afraid:

April 13, 2017

Hard time

Pretty good move there, Ed, stringing barbed wire across the bike path.  Gangsta!  Thug life!
Yup.

Too bad you got caught.
Yup.

What'd you get, five years?
Nope.

Three years?
Nope.

Probation?
Nope.

Oh come on, you were guilty as hell, and they just fined you?
Nope.

Not even a fine?
Nope.  They sent me to thinking skills class.

Those...monsters!

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April 10, 2017

Odyssey at Oracle

Prologue

The charity auction went well.  As a member of the board of trustees I'm obliged to bid periodically, but there was no danger of my winning anything.  Palo Alto is rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and serious money was out for every item that came up.  Treasure hunts for kids were going for $6,000, week-long vacation rentals in Paris and Lake Tahoe were well into five digits, and a holistic health consultation went for a price that might also have bought a ranch in Argentina.

So, when the two front-row Warriors tickets came up, I placed a few perfunctory bids without much thought.  Flashing my paddle inattentively, I meant only to get the price up into the normal rarefied zone where the market was clearing.  But I had miscalculated.  A sudden hush brought me to high alert, a moment just long enough for me to reflect on my own ineptitude before the auctioneer fixed me in his gaze, pointed, and pronounced judgment:  "SOLD!"  As cheers erupted and a local tycoon high-fived me, my mind had already grasped in toto the double calamity of a deeply disgruntled spouse, and a straitened retirement.

From Quonset to Quonset in three generations

Only later did it occur to me that some good might come of this.  After some lively family dialogue,  two more tickets were procured at reasonable cost, and the boys took their seats along radio row.  The elders ascended to a more economical spot in the upper reaches of Oracle Arena.


Act 1:  A word from our 6th-best player

For a meaningless late season game, this one had some unusual overtones.  With John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Washington Wizards are one of the few teams that can match the Warriors' fine guard play.  They don't lack for size or toughness, either: they have a giant center named Marcin Gortat who sank every shot I saw him take in warmups, while chewing on a shot put he had in his free hand.  Also, he almost broke Kevin Durant's leg when the teams met in February.

Before the game the Wizards also were:
  • In possession of their first division title since 1979
  • In a position to sweep their (two game) season series with the Warriors, which no other team has done this year
  • But...flying in from LA on the second half of a back-to-back
We got off to a nice, competitive start, and then Shaun Livingston ambled onto the court.  I will not clutter this blog-post with yet another enumeration of his virtues, but geez he is good.  His feats in this game included a play where he beat the Wizards downcourt on his one good leg, received a touchdown pass from Draymond Green, and executed this tasteful and understated reverse dunk:

Wizards now plan to draft guys who can run fast next year

Livingston celebrated in his usual manner, jogging unobstrusively from the scene while bowing his head slightly in shame that he had not quite lived up to the Platonic ideal of the perfect basketball play, then sternly resolving to try to do better next time.

Here are some of the other things he did:




Let's analyze:

So, seven-for-nine, with most of his points in the paint.  Not bad for a guard off the bench with physical limitations.


Act 2:  The Wizard's Ball

You hear it all the time listening on the radio, but in person it was even more obvious:  Every Warriors game starts normally, and then, like a well-crafted horror movie, odd things start happening, usually in the vicinity of Steph Curry.  Curry gradually whips up the winds of madness until the very fabric of time and space is distorted and one questions one's own sanity.  He's like Cthulhu with better endorsement deals.

Here is the complete opus (embedded below), from which I would draw your attention to...
  1. The now-immortal quadruple-fake humiliation of Gortat (1:30)
  2. Finishing that crazy play by Iguodala (3:30)
  3. That mind-bending reverse layup (4:01)
    •  Jim Barnett:  "You don't see other people do that, do you?"  Bob Fitzgerald: "No." 
  4. That weird finger roll (4:25)
  5.  That other mind-bending reverse layup (4:50), and...
  6.  The bizarro floater (5:59) at which point no one seems to have the slightest interest in guarding him.



At some point you just don't know what to say, or you end up babbling.  Late in the third period I looked a couple of rows down and saw Ludwig Wittgenstein waving his arms and screaming like an idiot.

Now, calm in my study with my books around me, I can analyze the game dispassionately.  I have determined that Curry did in fact play very well, by which I mean he rained fiery death on the Wizards from all over the court:
Curry had 42 for the game.  Next-best on the Warriors was Thompson, with 23...


Act 3:  I Accuse Myself!

Even before the final act, the Wizards were facing a long flight home.  Then it became much worse.  In addition to defeat, the Wizards found in their visit to Oracle...shame, dishonor, ignominy, disgrace.  Albert Burneko, a Wizards fan who writes for Deadspin, picks up the story:  
I am going to hold my nose and take a deep breath and summarize this as quickly as I can: In the closing seconds of the one-sided beatdown the Golden State Warriors put on the Washington Wizards last night in Oakland, Wizards guard Brandon Jennings committed a flagrant foul by shoving Warriors center JaVale McGee as the latter attempted a three-pointer.  


After the game Wizard's players spoke of honor and of unwritten rules, of not letting the other team show you up.  This sort of made sense until people started posting videos of them doing exactly what they claimed to despise, all season long.

Burneko concludes:
The very worst part is, you know the Warriors are loving this. To whatever extent they were making a deliberate statement by leaving Steph Curry and Draymond Green in the game in the closing minutes, they could scarcely have hoped it would work quite this well: to prompt one of the top teams in the East to blow out the back of its diaper and then blame them for it. The Wizards have given a megaphone to that statement. They have highlighted it in fluorescent yellow. We fucked up one of the East’s top teams so bad its players tattled on us to mommy. 
In my capacity as a person who does sports blogs for a living, NBA players giving heedless quotes about how their opponents are big meanies for stomping them too hard is the grade-A good shit. Mewl forever, pissbabies! On the other hand, in my capacity as a Wizards fan, I am going to wear a paper bag over my head for the rest of the month.



Epilogue

"What should we do this weekend?" I asked my wife.
"I don't know," she said.  "Could we go play some basketball?"
"Sure," I said.

And we did.

Joe Thomas on the atrocity du jour


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April 08, 2017

Rogue One, annotated

This is seriously good - an intelligent and worthwhile look at an intelligent and beautiful film.

"And they kept attacking me...!"

April 07, 2017

Yup


April 06, 2017

Death before dishonor

Géza Maróczy (pronounced GAY-zaw MAHR-otsee not MarOXy) died on May 29, 1951, shortly after reaching his eighty-first birthday. With his passing the chess world lost another of those world masters whose fame started in the previous century. In Maróczy, however, the chess world lost more than a grandmaster and a fine gentleman. It lost the unchallenged champion of chivalry in chess.
This chivalry is hard to describe. It is sportsmanship with a medieval touch. It is the Occidental version of the Asian’s anxiety about “face.” It is a basic and noble belief that a man should prefer to die than do wrong, to kill rather than submit to an insult; that honor is sacred.

The Magyar nation (often misleadingly called Hungarian) has always been famous for its chivalry, and chivalry was certainly the norm at the time Maróczy was born. An autonomous part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it had its own laws that respected the feelings of its indigenous Magyars. Dueling, for example, though outlawed in Austria, was common in Hungary. Nobles of the Budapest parliament often settled their disputes that way, a practice that was approved by the general citizenry. The typical Hungarian man was chivalrous, charming, proud, gallant, chauvinistic, and, at times, intolerant. Hungarian schoolchildren were taught in their Latin classes that Extra Hungariam non est vita (There is no life beyond Hungary), and, like grandmaster Rudolf Charousek, they held to that idea even at the brink of starvation.

Such was the atmosphere in which Maróczy grew up. He was born March 3, 1870, in Szeged, Hungary’s second city, where to this day the genuine Magyar lifestyle is most clearly preserved. This allows us to understand the sixty-one-year-old Maróczy’s decision, during the tournament at Bled in 1931, to challenge Nimzovitch to a pistol duel. It turned out to be much ado about nothing, though, when Nimzovitch flatly refused to participate in what he termed his own assassination. Maróczy was satisfied. To his way of thinking, refusal to accept such a challenge was, as a matter of honor, worse than being shot to death.

Yet Maróczy was hardly a warrior. He was, in fact, an extremely peaceful personality. I suspect that, had that duel actually taken place, Maróczy would have been hard put to decide which end of the pistol to hold.

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April 04, 2017

Buzz is fine



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April 01, 2017

Throw the ball to that guy

With Durant about to come back to spoil the Warrior's recent winning streak, I found myself last night wondering anew what they see in this guy.  In some ways I think of Durant as the Jeff George of basketball - his team never wins, but you come away from the game thinking "my goodness, what a talent!"

We see now how well the Warriors can play without him - so why has Curry been so deferential with Durant on the court?  Why did they all go to recruit him in the off-season?  Enquiring minds want to know.  So, to take a break from all the spreadsheet work I do at the office, I made up a little spreadsheet of all NBA small forwards with more than 550 minutes played this season.  The horizontal axis is minutes played, the vertical is True Shooting Percentage (definition here).


Oh.  They throw him the ball, apparently, because there is no small forward in the NBA more likely to convert a possession into points. Ok then...

But he's also kind of skinny and fragile looking, not known as a defensive player.  What if we replace minutes with the Bill Simmons 'STOCKS' (steals plus blocks) metric?



Ah.  In addition to being the most efficient offensive small forward, he is also one of the best in the Association at turning an opponent's possession into a turnover, significantly behind only the astonishing and terrifying Antetokounmpo.  Well, I reluctantly conclude that he seems like a useful person to have on your team.

If one were needed, here is a short little resume on Mr. Durant:

March 31, 2017

How to play basket-ball

The "Bounce-Pass"




The "Behind-the-Back Pass"




The "Spin-Move"




The "Dunk-Shot"




The "Up-and-Under" "Finger-Roll"




The "Pick-and-Roll"






The "Post-up" "Turn-around" "Jumper"



Here’s a fun stat that’s real: Livingston has never missed a post-up turnaround jumper. Not once. There was one time in a game in 2006 where he shot it and the ball hit the rim as it was going in, but that’s the closest he’s ever come to missing it. I’ve watched this video of him posting up Tony Parker maybe 60 times. He knows before he gets to the half-court line that he’s about to put Parker in the torture chamber. He doesn’t try to sprint into a fast break or cause any sort of chaos among the defense. He just very methodically, in his most serial-killer manner, dribbles up the left side of the floor, turns his back to Parker, waits for Parker to provide a little resistance so he knows what direction to turn, spins, holds the ball at an impossible-to-block height, and flicks it in as Parker fouls him. It’s perfect and perfectly reliable. No move is more dependable.  (link)


The "Same Thing the Other Way"

RNC is just spitballing here, but...

Your vehicle, sir

So I got this car.  Consumer Reports says the BMW 3 series sucks now, so after 13 years I have to get a different kind.  


It's a good car, it's fine.  But it is somewhat...dull?  Some driver's notes from Road and Track when they drove it back in 2014:
  • David Gluckman:  This car was good when it came out in 2009, and it's still very good now. Usually, when something's on the Grim Reaper's doorstep, you can find a fault or two that need to be addressed with the next generation. I really can't here.
  • John Krewson:  If it lacks some of the bells, whistles, open-grain wood, and staggering power of bigger Audis, that's okay. You don't notice. You're too busy not being bothered while the car just plain works.
  • Alex Kierstein:  It's fast, it's comfortable. It has a highly competent automatic and a great interior design. The seats are fantastic. It looks pretty sharp. Why can't I get all that excited about it? 
The morning after I got it, I was tossing and turning, as my subconscious tried to tell me something...something....

A hat.  I was thinking of a hat.  What hat? I asked my semiconscious self, as I tossed and turned.  What hat?!

Then it dawned on me.

This hat:

"You have chosen well."

I had purchased the Joubert-mobile.  If he were real and here today, this is exactly the car Joubert would drive, although he might think the S-Line badging a little too distinctive.

I wonder where I can get a plaid jacket and hat like that.


And then I just need a Mauser C96 for the trunk...


March 29, 2017

High praise...?

What direction did you give Leslie for that ['don't call me Shirley'] scene?
Jerry Zucker: I think we had shown him Zero Hour! previously because we wanted him to see the style. We told everyone that “playing it straight” doesn’t quite do it, because they think they have it, but they’re still winking. We told them to play it like they don’t know they’re in a comedy. Like no one told them. Just the way Leslie would have played this in The Poseidon Adventure, or any other of the films or television shows he had done. Leslie, more than anyone, really got that and relished it. He loved it. For the whole movie, Leslie didn’t need a ton of direction on performance.

David Zucker: He just jumped into the water and swam. He knew what he was doing.

Abrahams: You can intercut scenes from The Poseidon Adventure with his performance in Airplane! and you can’t distinguish, performance-wise, between them.

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Uwe Boll waits for redemption

“The man simply cannot direct,” Razzies co-founder John Wilson told me. “He doesn’t know where to put the camera. He doesn’t know how to suggest to an actor how to deliver their lines. Doesn’t know how to come up with an edit where you can tell where the hell you are and what’s going on. That’s kind of basic.”

Cast and crew members have denounced the films. “BloodRayne was an abomination,” said BloodRayne star Michael Madsen. “It’s a horrifying and preposterous movie.” Willam Belli, who acted in and had a co-writing credit on Blubberella, compared viewing the finished product to “watching a car accident with clowns”...

At the height of his infamy, a petition titled “Stop Uwe Boll” garnered 357,480 digital signatures, and the domain uweboll.com simply contained the entreaty, “Please stop making movies.” Now, at last, he has. With no fanfare—with hardly any acknowledgement at all, in fact—Boll’s swan song, Rampage: President Down, was recently made available on iTunes and Netflix.

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Haven't seen yet, but will



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March 27, 2017

Right....

Pimco agreed to pay Gross $81 million to settle his breach-of-contract lawsuit, the proceeds of which will be donated to charity. (The statement noted that the suit has "never been about money," although Gross had been seeking at least $200 million in damages and accused younger co-workers of conspiring to get some of his 20 percent share of the profit-sharing bonus pool.) 

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AP approves 'they' as a singular pronoun, civilization totters

“We specify that you need to make clear in the context that the ‘they’ in question is just one person,” Froke said. “We don’t, among our own staff, want to open a floodgate. But we recognize a need for it, so we want to open it a bit.

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If I am reading this correctly...

So we're arguing over what The Bible says again.
[N]o one is disputing the larger point of Christ’s compassion for the poor, which is found throughout the New Testament.

Buuut....
As Erickson told me in an email: 
“I made clear in both prior and subsequent tweets that the Bible does require Christians to care for the widows, orphans, poor, and refugees (one reason I oppose the President’s immigration stance), but Matthew 25 does not."

Because in his reading...
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
...refers only to church leadership, not to the poor, because Christ referred to church leadership in that way in chapter 18, verses 6, 10, and 14.

This is chapter 25, verses 20-26.

*Sigh*

[Walks down hall.  Gets the Lattimore translation.]

Lattimore is my go-to guy in these matters.  Some would say that he is not the most ideal translator because as a primarily classical scholar he may have been a little under-equipped to understand the Hebraisms and other colloquial expressions that crop up in the New Testament.  On the other hand, he was the greatest Greek translator of his generation, and did try within the limitations of his poor capability to get the text into modern American English.  So, as Alec Baldwin said in another context, "I'm goin' anyway."

This comes up right after the Parable of the Talents.  And then Jesus said:
When the son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon the throne of his glory, and all the nations shall be gathered before him...

So I'm going with the topic here being every human being on earth, if not every human being that ever existed.  Continuing:
...and he will sort them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will station the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left.  Then the king will say to those who are his right:  Come, you who are the blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom which has been made ready for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me.  I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.  The just will answer him saying:

Now we are talking about the subset of people whose behavior was praiseworthy.  Continuing:
Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?  And the king will answer and say to them:  Truly I tell you, inasmuch as you have done it for any one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it for me.  Then he will say to those on his left:  Go from me, cursed, to the everlasting fire which has been made ready by the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was a stranger and did not take me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me. And they will answer him, saying:  Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and not take care of you?  Then he will answer them and say:  Truly I tell you, inasmuch as you have failed to do this for one of those who are least...
 Nice opportunity here to clarify that this is just about church leadership, if that was where he was going.
...you have failed to do it for me.  And these shall go to everlasting punishment, but the just to everlasting life.

It's also interesting to me that the larger point is valid even if we accept the alternate reading.  In either interpretation it is good to feed hungry people, give drink to the thirsty, take in strangers in need, provide clothes for those who need them, care for the sick, visit those in prison.  It is bad to not do those things.

I attended a Catholic conference once and heard (through a closed door) a nun just hammering a group of lay people, many of them quite affluent.  "There is no ambiguity," she said - clearly and deliberately - "WE are on the SIDE of the POOR."  Eight one syllable words.  So clear even a Bible scholar could understand it.

Nicholas Kristof has had enough...I can't say I blame him.


Addendum

Here is the text from Kenneth Wuest's Expanded Translation of the New Testament, which was intended to be as clear possible, using as many English words as necessary to convey the meaning of the Greek.
Now, when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He shall sit upon His throne of glory. And there shall be gathered before Him all the Gentile nations. And He shall separate them from one another even as the shepherd separates the sheep from the young goats. And He shall stand the sheep on His right hand and the young goats on His left. Then shall the King say to those on His right hand. Come, my Father's blessed ones. Inherit the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the foundation of the universe : for I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you received me hospitably, naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, in prison I was and you came to me. 
Then the righteous ones shall answer Him, saying, Lord, when did We see you hungering and feed you, or thirsting and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and hospitably received you, or naked, and clothed you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and we came to you? And answering, the King shall say to them, Assuredly, I am saying to you, in so far as you did this to one of these my brethren, to the least, to me you did it. Then shall He say to those on His left hand, Be proceeding from me, you who have been doomed, into the fire, the everlasting fire which has been prepared and is in readiness for the devil and his angels :  for I was hungry and you did not give me food, I was thirsty and you did not give me drink, a stranger I was, and you did not receive me hospitably, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not look after me. Then they themselves shall also answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungering or thirsting, or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not relieve your necessities? Then He shall answer them, saying, Assuredly, I am saying to you, in so far as you did not do it to one of these least ones, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go off after me. Then they themselves shall also answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungering or thirsting, or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not relieve your necessities? Then He shall answer them, saying, Assuredly, I am saving to you, in so far as you did not do it to one of these least ones, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go off into everlasting punishment, but the righteous ones into life eternal.

March 25, 2017

More on the quarterback data

So WDIJ put in touchdowns like that inferior website.  There are two reasons.  The first is that I have less certainty that TDs reflect quarterback skill in the same way that interceptions do, the second is that adding TDs increases complexity, but doesn't really change the rankings much.  Here are the two measures plotted against one another:


We know that YPA correlates strongly with winning in the NFL, so that's important.  We know interceptions are costly, and some quarterbacks throw a lot while others throw just a few, so we should adjust for that.

But I'm not convinced that throwing a lot of touchdowns is in the same category in terms of information add.  "Sure, you dummy," I hear you say, "that's why the coefficient's 0.2."  Well ok, but let's put Marshawn Lynch on the Packers for a moment, and let Rodgers hand the ball to him in the Red Zone.  Rodgers' touchdowns and Adj YPA will go down, but I don't think that makes him a worse quarterback.

So if I stick with IAYPA, who am I slighting?  I took each player's rank on IAYPA and compared it to their Adj YPA rank.  Here are the big changes:

IAYPA likes better than Adj YPA

  • Alex Smith (four ranks higher - #10 on IAYPA vs. #14 on Adj YPA)
  • Kapernick, Tannehill, Cutler, and Bradford are all three notches better on IAYPA, but stay in the same general zone.
Adj YPA likes better than IAYPA
  • Cam Newton (four slots higher)
  • Andrew Luck (three slots higher)
That's about it.  Everyone else rates within one or two slots on either metric.

Since all of these guys are in the same general zone, the argument becomes:  which is more important in a mediocre quarterback, the ability to drill the ball into the end zone, or the ability to move the chains without throwing it to the other team too often. 

But I also agree that if I am using IAYPA, I ought to take account of touchdowns in some way, because there's clearly some skill involved, and touchdowns have some passing relevance to the outcome of the game.  ("I always thought if you're kicking field goals you're on your way to losing the game." - Steve Young).

So what can we do about this?

I think I would, if I were not about to ignore the NFL for the rest of my natural life, do something like this.

Historians are somewhat unclear on who first said "three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad," but it was probably Darrell Royal.  The problem with this phrase, which has been endlessly invoke by bad coaches with boring teams, is that it recognizes one kind of optionality (interceptions) while ignoring another kind (touchdowns).  In point of fact, four things can happen:

  • The ball is not caught
  • The ball is caught by the other team
  • The ball is caught for a yardage gain
  • The ball is caught for a touchdown and everyone runs off the field cheering and throwing high-fives
It seems irresponsible to ignore that last one.

I know the TD/INT ratio is a sacred to some, but for me it's not useful.  Too much information gets destroyed.  If Brady throws 40 touchdowns with 10 INTs, that is not the same as if Alex Smith throws 12 and 3 in the same number of attempts.  So let's look at the data - who has the most positive optionality and the least negative optionality?  Oh Lawd...


So, there you have a pretty good supplemental indicator, I'd say.  Just a few observations:
  • Remember, this is everyone who played steadily over the past two years, plus Prescott.  No one stays on the field with an INT rate above 3% (Fitzpatrick lost his job), or a TD rate below 3%.
  • Northwest is good, southeast is bad.
  • Over past two years, Brady has been a rage-beast from the 24th dimension.  When the ball leaves his hand, as it often does (#14 in attempts despite missing games), it is six times more likely to end up in the end zone than in the hands of the other team.  So, ok, that does appear to be valuable.
  • Omar...I mean Rodgers...is comin'.  Rodgers is the one guy I would say IAYPA clearly has wrong, but Adj YPA doesn't fully correct the error.  This chart shows why he's valuable even with an average IAYPA.  And remember, he's getting a lot of shots of on goal, since he is #6 in attempts over this period.
  • Flacco is almost a coin flip, but his IAYPA is also bad, so we didn't think he was valuable anyway. 
  • Osweiler's a coin flip, but his IAYPA is also bad, so we didn't think he was valuable anyway. 
As a result of this, I will pay more attention to TDs, but not add them to IAYPA.  For me avoiding interceptions is the more important skill, and the one more reflective of quarterback value.  But quarterbacks with average IAYPAs who are northwest on the chart above (assuming comparable attempts) are more valuable than those who are not.

So I propose this summary chart:


Interestingly, the man who emerges as the closet thing to Brady (NE quadrant) is not Rodgers, but Wilson.

Now, you might not agree with my techniques, but if my system is flawed, that would imply that the results are flawed, and that would imply Russell Wilson is not one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.  And I am not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth Russell Wilson.

I believe this concludes my (already distant) relationship with the NFL

It doesn’t matter that there are laws, rooted in freedom of speech, in some places in this country that protect employees from punishment by their employers due to their political views or activities. Washington, D.C., is one such place. California, where Kaepernick played since entering the league as a rookie in 2011, is another. What Kaepernick dared to do was spit in the NFL’s eye.

Unless and until Kaepernick is back in the league under a contract commensurate with his résumé, blackballing is football’s payback.

(link)

March 16, 2017

When men were men, and hockey was war



As I was sitting in that hospital bed, I promised myself two things:

  1. I wasn’t going to let the hit affect me mentally.  
  2. It wasn’t to change the way I played.

You have to understand what hockey means to me. It was always my joy in life. I was a small guy to start with, and I made it to the NHL by playing a certain way. If I took my foot off the gas even just a little bit … if I was even just a little bit timid because of that hit, I wouldn’t be effective. I’d be letting my teammates down. I’d be letting the city down. The people of Detroit were in my corner every single day of my recovery. I mean, the response from fans was so overwhelming that I had to get two hospital rooms: One for me, and one to store all the flowers, cards, and stuffed animals that people sent to me. There was so much that I couldn’t take it all home. I donated all the stuffed animals to the pediatric ward.

Detroit is such a blue-collar town, and they love their Red Wings so much.

We had to get back to the Western Conference finals. We had to beat Colorado. We had to win a Stanley Cup.

I would close my eyes and picture the weight room and think, Soon.

(link)

Notes on the quarter-back position

There are 32 quarterback jobs in the NFL, and 28 men who have shown the ability to play the position at all over the past two years.  Here is the list, with combined 2015 and 2016 statistics (sorted by harmonic mean of TD/INT, Rate, and IAYPA ranks).  I include Dak Prescott, taking his 2016 season as down payment on a nice future career:



There are four teams that will have to play someone not on this list - a rookie, or Gino Smith or someone.  Some of the teams at the bottom are already moving on to their next option:

  • Brock has been traded by the Texans to the Browns, who will either trade him again, or cut him.  David Carr:  "Bill [O'Brien]'s system works, and I don't think he's coaching it poorly. But in the times we live, it's going to be difficult for him to have enough patience to stick with one guy. And it's not just the quarterback. It's the combination of quarterback and receiver. Julian Edelman practically lives with (Tom Brady) during the offseason. They go through game situations three times a week. How many times did Brock do that? Probably never."
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick will not re-sign with the Jets.  
  • Flacco is not only one of the three least productive starters of the past two seasons, he will, if Tony Romo is cut or traded, become the player with the highest salary cap number in the NFL.  No sign his job is in jeopardy...Ozzie Newsome is now reportedly looking to sign some receivers to see if that would help.
  • Blake Bortles - New coach Coughlin is not a fan.
That gives us at least eight teams - a quarter of the League, where there is not clear incumbent, or the incumbent has been awful for two years.

In the middle, Matthew Stafford, Alex Smith, Marcus Mariota are the median NFL quarterback, and therefore extremely valuable.  

Not far south you can see Colin Kaepernick, who had the fewest starts of anyone but Prescott, but has actually performed well.  INT/Attempt of 1.6% is well below median of 2.1%.  For all the criticism, he is better than what about 1/4 of the League has.

A bit further down we find Cutler.  He is the median quarterback on IAYPA, but his TD/INT ratio shows why Bears fans became exasperated.  Andrew Luck threw 46 touchdowns in 22 starts over the past two years, Cutler only 25 in 20.  I still think he could play somewhere, but his numbers are fully consistent with the criticism - he moves the chains but not the scoreboard.  But again, do the Bears really think Glennon is going to be better?

The view from the summit:
  • The Legend of Tom continues.  The best quarterback in football over the past two years, by a lot.  The typical competent NFL quarterback throws about twice as many TDs as interceptions (2.3 median for this group).  Brady's ratio the past two years has been 7.1... 
  • Dak Prescott had as great a rookie seasons as Dallas could have hoped for.  
  • Russell Wilson is not just good, but great, much better than people seem to realize.  This article says the offensive line needs repairing, but, like Rodgers, Wilson has shown he can perform at the highest level even with a weak supporting cast.
  • Rodgers' IAYPA has slipped, but he is, as Simmons says, the moral equivalent of Omar from the Wire: "Rodgers is Omar. He’s a one-man gang. You’re always afraid of him, you can’t ever count him out and you never know when he’s coming. And those three Hail Marys (THREE!!!!) were football’s equivalent of Omar escaping Marlo’s crew with the five-story balcony jump."
  • Drew Brees - just two years younger than Brady, and has more yards than anyone the past two seasons, with elite-level efficiency.  No sign of decay yet.
  • Kirk Cousins, who is demanding a trade on a one-year contract, is now one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
I've never seen it all so wide open.  One NFL GM commented on the Bears' signing of Glennon:  "I’d take Glennon over Osweiler in a heartbeat.  He won’t do it himself, but if he has people around him, he’s got a chance. And that’s three-quarters of the league at quarterback."

March 14, 2017

How to drive properly

World Rally Championship driver Kris Meeke said he “got caught out by a bump” less than a kilometer away from the end of the final stage of Rally Mexico... Meeke went flying off into a parking lot next to the stage road and unbelievably still won the rally.

From the cockpit:



(link)

'Smart vibrator' lawsuit climaxes with...

...somethingsomething...  Now that's what I call 'Big Data'.

At least we've found the local limit for this atrocious business model.

According to the lawsuit filed in the North District of Illinois Eastern Division District Court, the We-Connect app was transmitting information including dates and times of use as well as vibration mode and pattern to the company’s servers along with personally-identifiable email addresses without notifying customers.

(link)

March 12, 2017

The GOP healthcare plan swings into action