January 22, 2017

Congratulations, you hoser

Tom Brady, man.  The only quarterback in history to deliver seven playoff performances with a passer rating higher than 112...the first in 2005.







Oh wait, there's a flag on the field...

Upon further review, Brady's squeaker last week was revised downward, so according to the updated Football Reference Immortality screen (here), this latest outstanding performance will only bring him up to six, in line with the great Joe Montana.

Whether this result will stand up after a linear correction is made for higher passer ratings overall in recent years remains to be determined.

(Puts away clipboard)

And oh yes, good show, Mr. (91.6) Rodgers*, thank you for all the excitement and we look forward to revisiting your efforts again next year.  And yes, bards will sing of your 2016 season for a thousand years, as well they should.


* Questionable musical choices notwithstanding, this is worth watching.

January 21, 2017

Zaza's lucky year


You are welcome

Pretty good Bollywood station in San Jose.

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January 20, 2017

Perhaps therapeutic

LA Kitten Rescue kitten-cam.

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For some, a day of celebration


All I can muster today

Another victory for Trumpist devolution

Once again the Army will select a foreign-made automatic pistol - not a steady, accurate, reliable sixgun - as its side-arm of choice.  Trump says nothing.  Sad!

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January 16, 2017

The significance of Diebenkorn, via NYRB

Universal acceptance, however desired, has its problems. The critics and historians, as they heap on the praise and outdo one another in feats of analytical subtlety, can smooth out the quirks and complexities that give an artist’s work its stand-alone power. Richard Diebenkorn was beginning to receive this kind of bland adulation even before he died in 1993 at the age of seventy. His achievement, so full of surprises and perplexities, has been muffled and sanitized. His evolution from the jagged melancholy of the figures and landscapes that he painted in the 1950s to the quietism of his later Ocean Park abstractions has been fast-tracked into an Olympian ascent. He’s been enshrined in the museums. I worry that an artist of whom nothing negative can be thought, much less said, is an artist who doesn’t really matter.

(link - paywall)

Saw it again last night, loved it

January 15, 2017

Sorry, still not 112

[T]here’s a case that Rodgers’s 36-yard pass to Jared Cook that got the Packers to the Dallas 32 with three seconds left is the most impressive throw in playoff history. Not most dramatic, mind you — there’s always the Immaculate Reception or the Helmet Catch or even Fourth-and-26. But as far as being impressive goes? Rodgers’s throw is in the conversation for no. 1.

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Immortality screen update

(Checks clipboard)

Sorry Mr. Rodgers, a passer rating of 96.7 does not qualify.

Yes, we understand you are the greatest football player in the world today, but the numbers are the numbers, sorry.

There is also this is this slightly damning passage from an article today:
When the Green Bay Packers have won in the postseason under coach Mike McCarthy, they have mostly been able to take a knee at the end of the game and let those final seconds be their closing argument regarding which team was better. 
When they have lost, however, more often than not it has been a major meltdown in which their ticket to the offseason was delivered on the final play of the game.  Five of McCarthy’s seven playoff losses have occurred that way, four of them in overtime, and one in each of the last three seasons.
I know this is a bit unfair, but the position you are applying for is Greatest Quarterback of All Time.  Successful candidates for this position should not lose the big ones at the end.

I'm afraid we'll have to grade this application INCOMPLETE.

(Puts clipboard away)

I'm sorry, but we do look forward to seeing your work next week.  Good luck.

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Bass sax ftw

January 14, 2017

Immortality screen: Tom Brady etc.

Tom Brady got his 6th playoff 112, winning ugly with two interceptions, squeaking past the wire with a passer rating of 112.2.

(Checks clipboard)

Still, under the rules of the Immortality Screen, he is the first human being in thirty years to match Joe Montana's record of six such playoff performances.  The current standings:


Five Playoff Performances with Passer Rating >112

  • Peyton Manning, ret.
  • Troy Aikman, ret.
  • Joe Flacco
  • Aaron Rodgers 

Six
 
  • Joe Montana, ret.
  • Tom Brady

Well, good work.  Eisengeiste congratulates Tom Brady on this fine performance.














Over to you, Mister Rodgers.


Simmons nails it

On my last podcast, a fired-up Mike Lombardi decided to compare every remaining NFL playoff team to a character from The Wire. I won’t spoil all of them, but there were two mortal locks on that list — the Patriots as Avon, and the Packers as Omar. Because 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.

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January 10, 2017

I don't think that word means what you think it means

'California drought isn't over'
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In other news, Guernville is UNDER FUCKING WATER.
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America's never gone to bed with a bad President, but it's sure woke up with a few

As honeymoons go, Donald Trump’s wasn’t much to write home about. He was voted in as the most unpopular president-elect in modern history and got slightly less unpopular in the weeks that followed, as the goodwill flowed. Even then, though, he clearly remained the most unpopular president-elect in modern history. Again, that was the honeymoon.

And now it’s over.

A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that Trump has reverted to his pre-election standing, with Americans having major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which his presidency will lead the country. 

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January 09, 2017

JFK on art and the artist

via Ox Herding -

President John F. Kennedy: Remarks at Amherst College, October 26, 1963 - Partial Transcript

Our national strength matters, but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much. This was the special significance of Robert Frost. He brought an unsparing instinct for reality to bear on the platitudes and pieties of society. His sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation. "I have been" he wrote, "one acquainted with the night." And because he knew the midnight as well as the high noon, because he understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit, he gave his age strength with which to overcome despair. At bottom, he held a deep faith in the spirit of man, and it is hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself. When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, a lover's quarrel with the world. In pursuing his perceptions of reality, he must often sail against the currents of his time. This is not a popular role. If Robert Frost was much honored in his lifetime, it was because a good many preferred to ignore his darker truths. Yet in retrospect, we see how the artist's fidelity has strengthened the fibre of our national life.

If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. And as Mr. MacLeish once remarked of poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society--in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost's hired man, the fate of having "nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope."

I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.

Robert Frost was often skeptical about projects for human improvement, yet I do not think he would disdain this hope.

Finally, here is Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall"

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.
  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.
  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn't it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
  I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself.
  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

An Alaskan poem of the Qing Dynasty

Wrapped, surrounded by ten thousand mountains
Yuan Mei, tr. J. P. Seaton

Wrapped, surrounded by ten thousand mountains,
Cut off, no place to go....
Until you're here, there's no way to get here.
Once you're here, there's no way to go.


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January 08, 2017

Immortality screen update

Aaron Rodgers throws a 125.2 passer rating at the Giants. That gives him five playoff performances in which he has had a rating of higher than 112.  The people who have ever done this are:
  • Peyton Manning, ret.
  • Troy Aikman, ret.
  • Joe Flacco
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Tom Brady
and, oh yes, with six:
  • Joe Montana, ret.
Over to you Tom.

(link)


Also this:
Aaron Rodgers didn’t have to clear his throat on the afternoon of Nov. 23, with a gaggle of reporters gathered around him. Three days earlier, Rodgers and the Packers had gone to FedEx Field and been obliterated by the Redskins, 42-24. It dropped their record to 4-6. Whispers had started about coach Mike McCarthy’s job security. And also about whether Rodgers had started slipping a little bit himself.

Maybe an assault of clichés was the order of the day.

Or maybe this: “I feel like we can run the table, I really do,” Rodgers said that day, first to ESPN. “The offense is starting to click a little bit more, we’ve just got to put together a game where we’re more consistent from the first snap to the last. We’ve been, I think, getting closer to that.”

The quote was longer. The message was simpler: hop on-board.

That was 46 days ago. The Packers have yet to lose again.

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Annnd....they're back

Boasting a gait that can only be described as “berserker-esque,” Rawls carried the ball 27 times for 161 yards — a Seahawks franchise postseason record — and punched in a fourth-quarter touchdown. He finally provided that “beat the hell out of you” foundation Carroll wants but that Seattle’s offense has been badly missing for most of the season. For the first time in months, the Seahawks actually looked like the Seahawks.

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January 04, 2017

"The best knight who ever lived."

I'm not quite sure when I acquired Georges Duby's William Marshal:  The Flower of Chivalry, but this slender volume (168 pages) delivers.

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, aka Williame le Mareschal was the son of a minor Anglo-Norman noble.  He started with nothing but his name and some military training, but made good with martial prowess and a hard-won acquired facility for statecraft.

Mostly martial prowess
A few career highlights:
  • 1147 - Born, give or a take a year or two - not important enough for a firm record to be made.
  • 1166 - Knighted while on campaign in Upper Normandy, fights well.  
  • 1168 - Wounded in an ambush of his uncle's party by Guy de Lusignan.  Ransomed by Eleanor of Aquitaine, who had heard of his bravery.  Gets into the tournament business, discovers he's really good at it.  Financial problems solved.  [Good BBC documentary on this here.]
  • 1182 - Joins the court of Henry II, displays loyalty and courage, receives Cartmel as a reward.
  • 1183 - In exile for fooling around with Henry's wife?
  • 1189 - While covering the retreat of Henry II from LeMans, he unhorses the King's disloyal son Richard - the only man to ever do so.  Rather than kill the treacherous lad, William kills his horse instead.  This turns out to be a wise move because...
  • 1190 - Following the death of Henry II, newly-crowned King Richard the Lionheart welcomes William Marshal to his court.  In gratitude for his service, Richard honors his father's commitment and gives the 43 year-old knight the hand of 17 year-old Isabel de Clare, who (no kidding) has huge tracts of land.
  • 1190 - Named to Regency Council while Richard goes out on the Third Crusade.  Initially sides with King John in the ensuing civil war.
  • 1193 - Switches sides to the Loyalists.  His brother is killed during the conflict, so William inherits the Marshalship, with Richard's approval.
  • 1199 - Supports coronation of King John following death of Richard.
  • 1200-03 - Heavily engaged in defense of Normandy vs. Capetian armies.
  • 1204 - Sent to negotiate peace with Philip II, William works out a deal to keep his Norman holdings as well.
  • 1207-1208 - King John, displeased at William's kowtowing to Philip II, humiliates him at court and has various of his Irish possessions invaded and burned.
  • 1210 - "He was once again in conflict with King John in his war with the Braose and Lacy families...but managed to survive." - Wikipedia
  • 1213 - Taken back in favor by King John.
  • 1216 - Named to King's Council following death of King John, and made Protector of nine year-old Henry III.  Louis of France invades to claim the throne for himself.  Marshal campaigns to win baronial support for Henry.
  • 1217 - Aged 70, William charges at the head of the King's army at the Battle of Lincoln, and kills the enemy commander.  This ends the rebellion, the invasion, and Louis' claim to the throne.  There's apparently a good (2013) book on all this:  Blood Cries Afar: The Forgotten Invasion of England 1216, which (click click click) is on its way to me now.
  • 1219 - On his deathbed, asked by clergy to repent his sins he says:  
The churchmen work against us; they shave us too close.  I have captured in my lifetime at least five hundred knights whose arms, horses, and caparisons I have taken for my own.  If the Kingdom of God is denied me for this reason, I can do nothing about it.  Would you have me yield it all up again?  For God I can do no more than offer him myself, repenting of all the sins I have committed.
  • 1219 - Dies, aged 72.
[When Henry II died] the legions of poor men were waiting at the bridge of Chinon, sure of one thing:  they would eat.  And there was nothing in the King's house, not even a crust of bread.  [William Marshal] asked if there were any monies: no trace of such a thing.  And on the bridge, they could hear the poor men's anger swelling, shouting against the scandal, and threatening to destroy everything.  The poor had reason to protest.  Shame to the dead king who did not feed his people. 
On May 14, 1219, William Marshal fed the poor better than a king.  It was a king who would speak his eulogy, a fact that gave his relatives no little pride... [King Philip II  said]:  "William Marshal was, in my judgment, the most loyal man and true I have ever known, in any country I ever been."
  • 1220 (?) - Son commissions biography, manuscript now at the Morgan Library.
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Oops, it doesn't work, sorry

At the beginning of the 401(k) revolution, many employees were told 3 percent of their incomes would be perfectly adequate, as the Journal article reminds us. More recently, some, like Cindy Hounsell at the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, have said as much as 15 percent. Since Americans currently put aside about 5.5 percent of their incomes, this presents something of a challenge...

Ted Benna, the man most frequently credited for the 401(k) as we know it, says he doesn’t believe “any system currently in existence” can help most Americans finance their financial needs in retirement.

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January 03, 2017

Best modern anti-hate vector



More here.

From Malcom Shepard via Ezra Klein: "Leia Organa - A Critical Obituary"

Operation Rogue One remains controversial; critics note that Organa sacrificed the entire volunteer cadre, hundreds of troops and much of the Alliance fleet to acquire Designation Stardust intelligence, and that its ultimate success owed itself to her activation of a Jedi asset, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as she was captured by Imperial forces. Indeed, the coincidences behind her subsequent escape and organization of the defense of Yavin IV have been ascribed to the Force, singular tactical genius or pure luck – all ideologically fraught options.

Most historians now see the Stardust/DS-class superweapons as relatively minor parts of the Empire’s war machine (The Imperial-class Star Destroyer remained the primary engine of its force-projection capabilities), but Organa demonstrated the importance of stymieing these and similar efforts through her landmark analysis of the Empire’s ideology and political economy. Later published as The Head of Clay: Elitism, Warlordism and Weakness in the Galactic Empire, her papers proved that as competition for political prestige motivated the Empire’s factions, they would necessarily centralize power, organizing capital in progressively less efficient “superprojects:” initiatives a clique could explain to the Emperor and his inner circle in simple, direct terms, and control through a centralized command structure. Superprojects caught the eye of the inner circle, while more complex proposals (such as Holonet infrastructure improvements) and those requiring cross-clique cooperation (such as maintaining Clone Wars era advanced military technologies) fell by the wayside.

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January 02, 2017

Just a couple kids from Illinois having a good time

January 01, 2017

Great quarterbacks, regular season edition

As you have no doubt heard, there is a new man for our era, a quarterback who - finally - can be compared to the great Joe Montana.  I ordinarily take up this topic only once per year, after the playoffs, when we can review the various claimants (solely) on the basis of their playoff performance.  I do it this way on the theory that the playoffs are real football, and we ought not to base our assessment of a quarterback's quality on his ability to shell the Cardinals in a meaningless late season game.

But still.  There must be something we can add from the regular season to see how Montana is doing against that other guy.

So, I took the regular season data for some famous quarterbacks and computed IAYPA for their careers (omitting poor rookie and final seasons in some cases).  The results were as clear as mud:



One problem is that Montana looks fairly ordinary here. I wondered if changes in the game had diminished his accomplishments when viewed in hindsight. It turns out that this is the case:  adding the trend in IAYPA shows it has been rising steadily throughout the time period, and especially in the past 10 years or so:



We can normalize the data by subtracting the League average from each player's annual performance:



This seems better. Just looking at peaks we see Marino, Montana, Young, Manning, Brady, and Rodgers all reaching about the same elite level.  A couple of guys (Elway, Favre) start to drop out of the conversation.  And we can conclude that Marino, Manning, and Favre stuck around too long.

But the data's still too noisy.  It's crude, but here are the relative IAYPA career averages for each quarterback (I cut out a couple more bad end-of-career years for Favre and Manning):


So...Marino=Manning, Manning=Marino.  Works for me.  Elway and Favre just weren't as good as the rest of these guys, and that shows up more clearly here.  There's Steve Young, of course, whose peculiar career has always stood out on a IAYPA basis.  Montana and Young both arguably need to be adjusted down somewhat for the simple fact that they were both throwing to the Greatest Football Player of All Time, but I'll leave those adjustments to others.  You could take a half yard out of both of those guys and they still beat everyone.

Everyone, that is, except for Aaron Rodgers.  At the age of 33, Rodgers has delivered regular season performances that were, on average, as scintillating as Montana's, and almost a half-yard better than anyone else's (and anyone else was 0.5 - 1.5 yards better than the League).

Brady?  Sure, he's good - one of the best quarterbacks who ever lived, and the most viable challenger to Montana on the Immortality Screen.  But there's nothing in his regular season data that would make you revise your opinion of him above Montana, or, for that matter, Peyton Manning or Dan Marino.  And he's sure no Aaron Rodgers.

So this year's playoffs will be of great interest to me.  With one great game, Brady can claim a spot at the summit with Montana in terms of playoff performance.  Rodgers would need two.  But if Brady were to get one and Rodgers two, I'd say we have to look at the regular season data.  And when we do that I think it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that Aaron Rodgers has been better than Brady, and (given Montana's advantages in coaching and receivers) the greatest quarterback who ever played.

And yes, the Packers are going to be in the playoffs (and Rodgers, who had this nice play, may be MVP).

So much for the regular season.  Now let's play for money.

You know, for kids (enjoyed the movie, though)



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(My kids actually recommend this one.)

December 31, 2016

Dr. Kapital recommends

Johnny Bo Jakobsen knows a thing or two.  A good follow:

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(I'm not, though)

KPIG recommends

December 28, 2016

Hello! My name is Aaron Rodgers...!

I don't know what happened to Aaron Rodgers after week 10.  Well, I do know this:  he hasn't thrown an interception in six weeks.  Basically he woke up one day and started playing like the Space Jam version of himself:


As with the personal life of any athlete, it's too much to ask that the whole truth ever come out.  But I do hope that some day parts of his personal story can be told.  I'm guessing he had some distractions this season, and hope things are better now.  He's sure playing like they are.

The Morgan 4/4

The subject of a typical minor masterpiece by Peter Egan, the Morgan 4/4 is a graceful automotive legend, lightly burnished by Egan's closing paragraphs:
Barb stared out the cafe window and shook her head. "I really wanted that car when we first saw it," she said. "How could such a neglected, worn-out old car look so good, sitting there on the front lawn?"

"It's a Morgan," I said. "And no one ever throws a Morgan away."
Beard not included


With used copies still vaguely affordable, the Morgan apparently retains its appeal.  The Top Gear site, which should know, says:
Pros - Inexplicably charming, holds its value well
Cons - 'Handmade,' which is code for 'absolutely will break'

And also:
The car that it’s always been about, really. Up there in the top ten of reassuring old English clichés, it’s a gloriously impractical, modestly performing jalopy. Lovely.

And furthermore:
As fine a British institution as cold showers and a caning, and about as comfortable, the Morgan Plus 4 is an antiquated indulgence that you shouldn’t want but absolutely will the second you step aboard.

December 27, 2016

Matthew Inman with an all-too-accurate metaphor





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December 26, 2016

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Project Naming: Identifying the unidentified


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A word from Peter Sprague



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