December 10, 2012

Home Improvement Isn't Just An Old Sitcom with Tim Allen

This is a smoke detector.

This is a smoke detector on a 12 foot ceiling or so.

This is a smoke detector that was not fun to install.

So, just a few months ago, we had the pleasant experience of having a smoke detector go off at 2 in the morning.  Not chirping, mind you, but full-on alarm.  There was no smoke, no fire.  Just alarm noises.  A few days later, we had a second smoke detector do the same thing, at around the same time in the morning.
Two things I learned from this experience:  1) Children sleep through smoke detectors.  2) When one goes bad, replace them ALL.  So, after learning this life lesson, we bought a ton of smoke detectors at the "Depot" and I proceeded to install them all.  This one was not nearly as bad as the one I have to lean out off of the stairwell to get to.  Oh, and another thing -all of these are front-battery-loading models, so you don't have to take the smoke detector off of the ceiling and unplug it to change the battery.  I'd call that a major home upgrade.

Since this smoke detector delicious, I have also done several other fun home improvement projects like: Replace multiple light fixtures (no more "this house was built in the 90's" brass lighting) and every ceiling fan, including the 15 foot one on a sloped ceiling.  That was fun.  There are pictures.  Then there was the storm door, a WONDERFUL upgrade to the back entrance to the house, and then we have had a plumber here to replace the kitchen sink and various faucets (I don't do plumbing or climbing on the roof - I have my limits).

So now, we just need to have someone come paint outside (and chimney and maybe the fence) while I clean up some paint inside on my remaining days off and our house will be pretty darn close to exactly how we would like it to be for us to live in.  And then we can put it on the market.  I think that's how this seems to always work according to those I've discussed it with.

Next project!

December 3, 2012

Big 12 Bowl Selection Special

So, this is how my regular season of football wrapped up, watching Baylor beat Oklahoma State at home on Senior Day, and then hanging out for the (well done) montage of Seniors on the big screen.

Then I fully intended to hurry up on Sunday and write a nice post in which I predicted the outcome of the bowl selection activities (much like I predicted Eddie Lackey's first quarter pick-6, though that prediction diminished in value with my subsequent failed predictions throughout the game).  But, alas, I made no such post.  Instead, I did other things all day, and therefore, you will have to take my "I didn't think this would go this way" type of comments as fact.  Or not.  Doesn't really matter to me.  Anyway, here's some bowl game selection reaction from me, and we'll go in pecking order...

Fiesta Bowl - No surprises, Kansas State here as the champion of the league.  Should be a really good match-up with Oregon, and I'll be happy to see this game.

Sugar Bowl - Why is this here?  The Sugar Bowl didn't pick a Big 12 team.  EXACTLY.  For the second year in a row, the Sugar Bowl turned its nose up at the Big 12 to take a random other conference in as SEC fodder.  Last year's turning of a blind eye to Kansas State bumped the rest of the league down, and this year, Oklahoma gets left out in the cold.  Oh well, I guess they didn't want to front-load the Big 12/SEC matchups, since that's the tie-in that they have going forward.

Cotton Bowl - Well, when the Sugar Bowl drops the ball like that, leave it to the Cotton Bowl to pick up the slack.  Great pick of Oklahoma, and they will produce a better game against A&M than Texas would have (though I could see some Cotton Bowl committee members salivating over Texas vs. A&M...)

Alamo Bowl - Not surprising, picking Texas.  Should be a good draw to San Antonio.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - I'm not surprised to see TCU picked here, though originally I had thought Oklahoma State would be hanging out here before any of the 7-5 teams.  I guess their lackluster finish destroyed their bowl pickability?  When two 7-5 private schools are picked up above 8-4 Ok. State, something gives..  I will enjoy the TCU vs. Michigan State matchup though.

Holiday Bowl - Here comes Baylor.  Wha-what?  Yup, I am very happy to see Baylor picked above Tech & West Virginia of the 7-5 crew, especially given that 3 of the 5 Baylor losses were one-score, and we're riding high.  Also, given the Holiday, Pinstripe, and Meineke Car Care, I figured WVU to Pinstripe made sense.  I also figured the Dallas and Meineke would take 2 of the 3 Texas schools in the 7-5 range.  But I also thought Oklahoma State would go to

Meineke Car Care Bowl - Well, like I jsut explained, Houston was going to pick up a Texas school in my opinion, and with TCU & Baylor gone, they'll take Tech's high/low yo-yo team with a potential for an explosive offense to match up against what little offense Minnesota will bring to the table.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Certainly Oklahoma State will...what?  Oh yeah, West Virginia was a shoe-in in my mind for this since the second they got bowl eligible.  The thought of WVU-Pitt had some drooling, but we'll take WVU-Syracuse anyway.

Heart of Dallas Bowl - Ok, I seriously thought there'd be a Texas team from the 7-5 crew here, or maybe Iowa State would jump in, but no... Oklahoma State picked vs. Purdue.  Again, I did not see in my wildest dreams every 7-5 team in the Big 12 picked before Oklahoma State given they had a better conference record.  I could insert my comments about Gundy's hair or other tasteless jokes here, but I think I just did.

Liberty Bowl - There was no doubt that all our bowl-eligible teams would find a bowl, and Memphis is a fun city - here's hoping my Iowa State friends find some fun on Beale Street.  I'm not going to say I'll be glued to the set for the Tulsa matchup, but it could be a good game.

So, when all is said and done, a few things stand out.  First, 90% of the Big 12 are attending bowls, which no other conference has ever accomplished.  Only Kansas doesn't travel for post-season play.  Second, the bowls do not have great confidence in the state of Oklahoma.  Oklahoma gets overlooked by the Sugar, and Oklahoma State gets overlooked by everyone...

And finally, Baylor finishes strong, and ends up with a nice trip to San Diego in the process.  Good deal.

Sic Em!

October 3, 2012

Crazy cars

McLaren MP4-12C – Frontansicht (5), 30. August 2012, Düsseldorf So, this weekend, as we were driving down the Bush turnpike, we passed one of these - a McLaren MP4-12C. Retail price: $229,000+ from

Who can afford to own a car that costs that much?

As if that wasn't enough, yesterday I spied one of these: Aston Martin Vantage V8
Aston Martin Vantage - sporting its own retail price of $180,535+.

Gotta love living or working in Plano if you are a car-watcher.

Look, I'm not a "car guy" in terms of getting under the hood, or racing cars, or anything like that. I know a few guys who are, and want their souped up Audis or whatever. I also see the Fast and the Furious crowd pulling their modified Hondas into the Sonic parking lot - that's not me either. I'm just a guy who likes pretty cars, mostly sports cars, and enjoys observing them as they pass me on the highway (or vice versa).

I'll stick with my Chevy Tahoe.

Other cars I've seen on the commute include Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Maseratis, and more. In Plano, Texas. Who knew?


October 2, 2012

Texas State Fair

This is a picture of chicken fried bacon and a beer from the Texas State Fair.  I've had chicken fried bacon before, so this was not a novelty to me, and therefore not something I'm going to describe in my rundown of deep fried goodness that is the fair.  Just like corn dogs are not getting a mention either.  Or beer.

We went to the fair last Saturday (not the ideal weather day for the fair with all of the rain) and tried out some of the delicious fried foods that the fair has to offer.  Here's my rundown.
  • Fried Jambalaya - there's a reason this won the best taste in the annual competition.  This is a legitimately delicious food.  Basically it's doughy balls of jambalaya rice and sausage deep fried and served with a cream sauce.  Delicious.  Get one.  Or four.
  • Fried Mexican Firecrackers - basically like a mini-tamale of chicken and jalapeno deep fried and served with a southwest ranch-type sauce.  Good, but not the best.  Not like the jambalaya.
  • Fried Chocolate Tres Leches Cake - OK, I don't really like cake.  But I do generally like tres leches, particularly due to the super-moist sweet goodness.  I felt this one was a little more dried out and not quite capturing what I expected from the title.  It's OK, but not as good as:
  • Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie - I don't think this is a new one this year, but it was my first time to try it.  Basically a ball of pumpkin pie filling deep fried and served with a squirt of whipped cream.  This would be my go-to-dessert from the fair.
  • Fried Pork Wing - Not sure what part of a pig the "wing" comes from, but it looks like a drumstick, and it's coated in some sort of spicy sweet Cuban barbecue sauce.  I only had a bite of one, but it was pretty good.
In other exciting fair news, we won a purple monkey in the Midway, lost some needed paperwork somewhere along the way, and got really really wet from the rain.

Notable "did not try" foods: 
  • Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll - you had me at bacon, you lost me at cinnamon roll
  • Chicken Fried Cactus Bites - Seemed too much like a vegetable
If you go to the State Fair of Texas, let me know what foods you tried.  Oh, and I always recommend Fried Butter if you can find it - delicious.

October 1, 2012

Monday Movie Review: The Five Year Engagement

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OK, we watched The Five Year Engagement this weekend - gotta say, not quite what I expected from a Jud Apatow film.  From the folks that gave us Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Knocked Up and Bridesmaids, I kind of expected wall-to-wall funny.  Honestly, I have to say I liked the film, but it was not nearly as funny as some of the previous movies.  Not a bad watch for date night, but not a must-see film.

September 28, 2012

Friday - Fake Happy Hour: Faux Mojito

Here is how you make a fake mojito (if for some insane reason you are inclined to do so).  Makes a refreshing drink here in the late summer.

Muddle 1.5 ounces of simple syrup (you can use 1 oz if you want it less sweet) with about 5-6 fresh, washed mint leaves.

Add ice to the top, then add 1.5 ounces of lime juice and approximately 3 ounces of club soda (I top it off with the club soda and 3 ounces does the trick).  Mix it once or twice (I dump to another cup and back) and voila, faux-jito.


September 10, 2012

September Cooking Experiment: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Tried cooking some jerk chicken and festival last night, reviving our "cuisines of the world" experiments from last year.  The chicken turned out pretty good - definitely tangy - though our experiment with festival (a Jamaican fried bread) was less than successful, mostly, I think due to frying in a little oil instead of deep frying, and frying too hot.  Our result was a little bit too hard and somewhat burned on the outside.  Served that up with a salad, and it was pretty good.

But the best part of the meal?  Well, that was our dessert.

Pineapple upside-down cake.  It really ended up pretty good.

All of the recipes came from this Jamaican Travel website, and are listed below.

Jerk Chicken - we did this pretty faithfully, but had to use 3 jalapenos instead of the 6 scotch bonnet peppers, and used 4 chicken thighs and 2 breasts instead of a whole chicken.  Could have used more peppers, I think, but was pretty good.

Festival - Again, deep fried over lower heat, this might have been edible.  Could use more vanilla AND sugar if you want to sweeten it up - otherwise it was kind of like a naan ball.

Upside-Down Cake - This turned out just fine - if anything at all, we could have used a slightly smaller pan (note the overlapping pineapples in theirs, and the side-by-side in ours) and gotten a thicker cake, but it was still good.


September 6, 2012

Game of the Week: 2012 Week 2

So, sadly, it is another low-impact week on the schedule, which means the game of the week could be Florida vs. Texas A&M (but it's not).  Even though it's the Aggies' welcome basket to the SEC and season opener after the delay of their game last week, I'm not sure that game will mean much long-term - I could be wrong.  That game is 2:30 on Saturday on ESPN.

I probably would prefer to watch Air Force at Michigan (ABC/ESPN2) or Purdue at Notre Dame (NBC) at the same time.

The ACTUAL game of the week for me is Georgia @ Mizzou (6:45 PM Saturday ESPN2).  Missouri's welcome to conference play in the SEC, their first opportunity to knock off a big SEC East contender and make a run for it, or an utter smackdown if they really aren't up to the caliber of the SEC defenses.  We'll see.  I think it is worth an evening watch of a quarter or more.

Runners-up: Pitt @ Cinci (Thurs 7:00 ESPN), Utah @ Utah State (Fri 7:00 ESPN), UNC @ Wake Forest (Sat 2:00 PM ESPN3) and the Air Force/Michigan and Purdue/Notre Dame mentioned above.

August 29, 2012

Game of the Week: 2012 Week 1

So, as promised, I am going to give ya my "Game of the Week" to go watch.

This week, it's Saturday night's #8 Michigan vs. #2 Alabama.

This will see the returning BCS National Champions facing off against a highly ranked Michigan team in the neutral territory field of Dallas Cowboys stadium, which is an impressive venue, if you have ever been there.

Some close runners up this week include: Clemson vs. Auburn (Saturday), Boise State vs. Michigan State (Friday), and South Carolina at Vanderbilt (Thursday).

I'll be watching SMU vs. Baylor in addition to Michigan vs. Alabama.

ARE YOU READY!?!?!?!?!

August 21, 2012

We're all confused

I mean really confused.  A few times in the past week, water droplets started falling out of the sky and landing all around us.  Last Saturday, in fact, the water fell out of the sky so fast that it was creating puddles and lakes around us.

What is this plague that is happening?  Why is the sky spitting upon us so?

In all seriousness, the rain has been good.  The backyard is greening up.

Now I'm looking at what we need to do to plant some fall garden veggies out there.

August 17, 2012

Games of Interest Weeks 11-15 (picked pre-season)

Red River Shootout 2002And here's the final installment of my preseason "games to watch" picks for the 2012 FBS college football schedule.

All times are still Central where noted.

  • Week Eleven
    • November 8
      • Florida State @ Virginia Tech (6:30 ESPN)
    • November 9
      • Pitt @ UConn (7:00 ESPN2)
    • November 10
      • Georgia @ Auburn
      • Wisconsin @ Indiana
      • Georgia Tech @ North Carolina
      • Louisville @ Syracuse
      • West Virginia @ Oklahoma State
      • Baylor @ Oklahoma
      • Iowa State @ Texas
      • Texas A&M @ Alabama
      • Kansas State @ TCU
      • Tulsa @ Houston (4:00)
      • Boise State @ Hawaii (6:00)
  • Week Twelve
    • November 15
      • North Carolina @ Virginia (6:30 ESPN)
    • November 16
      • Hawaii @ Air Force (8:30 ESPN2)
    • November 17
      • USC @ UCLA
      • Ole Miss @ LSU
      • Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State
      • Kansas State @ Baylor
      • Oklahoma @ West Virginia
      • Stanford @ Oregon
      • Memphis @ UAB (1:00)
    • November 20
      • Akron @ Toledo (6:00 ESPN2)
  • Week Thirteen (Hmmm, is this rivalry week?)
    • November 23
      • Nebraska @ Iowa (11:00 AM ABC)
      • LSU @ Arkansas (1:30 CBS College Sports)
      • Arizona State @ Arizona (9:00 ESPN)
    • November 24
      • Notre Dame @ USC
      • Florida @ Florida State
      • Georgia Tech @ Georgia
      • Mississippi State @ Ole Miss
      • Michigan @ Ohio State (11:00 AM ABC)
      • Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma
      • Oregon @ Oregon State
      • South Carolina @ Clemson
      • Virginia @ Virginia Tech
      • Auburn @ Alabama
      • Kentucky @ Tennessee
      • Baylor vs. Texas Tech
      • Idaho @ Utah State (2:00 ESPN3)
      • Rice @ UTEP (6:00)
  • Week Fourteen (light week)
    • November 29
      • Louisville @ Rutgers (6:30 PM ESPN)
    • December 1
      • Oklahoma State @ Baylor
      • Texas @ Kansas State
      • Boise State @ Nevada
      • Oklahoma @ TCU
  • Week Fifteen (one game, people)
    • December 8
      • Navy vs. Army (2:00)
Well, that does it.  I hope you have printed all of these guides so you can go and set your Tivos and watch about 200 games of football or more this fall.

It's almost time for kickoff.

August 15, 2012

Games of Interest Weeks 6-10 (picked pre-season)

KentAkronHere comes the second installment in my pre-season games to watch selections...all times once again Central.

  • Week Six
    • October 4
      • USC @ Utah (8:00 ESPN)
    • October 5
      • Pitt @ Syracuse (6:00 ESPN)
    • October 6
      • Navy @ Air Force (10:30 AM CBS)
      • Arkansas @ Auburn
      • LSU @ Florida
      • Kansas @ Kansas State 
      • Georgia @ South Carolina
  • Week Seven
    • October 11
      • Western Kentucky @ Troy (6:30 ESPNU)
      • Arizona State @ Colorado (8:00 ESPN)
    • October 13
      • South Carolina @ LSU
      • TCU @ Baylor
      • Texas vs. Oklahoma (ABC)
      • Louisville @ Pittsburgh
      • Syracuse @ Rutgers
      • West Virginia @ Texas Tech
  • Week Eight
    • October 18
      • Houston @ SMU (7:00)
      • Oregon @ Arizona State (8:00 ESPN)
    • October 19
      • UConn @ Syracuse (7:00 ESPN)
    • October 20
      • Stanford @ California
      • South Carolina @ Florida
      • Michigan State @ Michigan
      • Baylor @ Texas
      • Texas Tech @ TCU
      • Alabama @ Tennessee
      • New Mexico State @ Utah State (2:00)
    • October 23
        • Arkansas State @ Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Week Nine
    • October 25
      • Clemson @ Wake Forest (6:30 ESPN)
    • October 26
      • Cincinatti @ Louisville (7:00 ESPN2)
      • Nevada @ Air Force (7:00)
    • October 27
      • USC @ Arizona
      • Baylor @ Iowa State
      • TCU @ Oklahoma State
      • NC State @ North Carolina
      • Mississippi State @ Alabama
      • Texas @ Kansas
      • Texas Tech @ Kansas State
      • Ole Miss @ Arkansas (2:30)
      • Florida vs. Georgia (2:30 CBS College Sports)
      • Michigan State @ Wisconsin (2:30 ABC)
      • Boise State @ Wyoming (2:30)
      • Hawaii @ Colorado State (6:00)
      • Michigan @ Nebraska (7:00)
  • Week Ten
    • November 1
      • Virginia Tech @ Miami (6:30 ESPN)
    • November 2
      • Washington @ California (8:00 ESPN)
    • November 3
      • Oregon @ USC
      • Houston @ East Carolina
      • Kansas @ Baylor
      • TCU @ West Virginia
      • Air Force @ Army
      • Oklahoma State @ Kansas State
      • Texas @ Texas Tech
      • Alabama @ LSU (7:00 CBS College Sports)
There you have it.  As I've gone through here, I've also noticed some opportunities to pick a "game of the week" or something like that, so maybe I will do that and even compare with what ESPN picks on their weekly podcast, I dunno.

Only 5 more weeks to go - did I miss your favorite game yet?

August 14, 2012

Aquarium Update

Armed with a 15% off coupon for plants during the month of August, I decided to do a little "gardening" in the aquarium, adding some live and artificial plants to complement those that I already had.  The two tufts of purple onion grass and the big plant on the left are artificial.  The giant Amazon sword in the back is real.  The other plants (large bamboo on the right, small sword in the front, and anubias) were already there.  The goal was to create more "rooms" or compartments in the aquarium so as to break up some of the line of sight between the fish - gives them a few more private quarters to retire to.

Oh, and not sure if you can see that they've already uprooted one of the purple onion grasses.  Will have to try to fix that this evening a little more permanently.  Kinda creepy how the flash made all their eyes stand out like that.  Zombie fish.

August 13, 2012

Games of Interest Weeks 1-5 (picked pre-season)

Alabama at Arkansas, 2010As we inch closer to football season, I am scouring the schedule to find games that are of interest to me in various weekends (which means you'll see lots of Baylor on the list).  Anyway, no telling if I will still find these games interesting the week they are actually on, but it's a start towards picking a "game of the week" or something.  All times Central where noted.

  • Week One
    • August 30
      • South Carolina @ Vanderbilt (6:00 ESPN)
    • August 31
      • Tennessee @ NC State (6:30 ESPNU)
    • September 1
      • Notre Dame vs. Navy (8:00 AM)
      • Troy @ UAB (11:00 AM)
      • Nevada @ California (2:00)
      • Colorado State vs. Colorado (4:00)
      • Clemson vs. Auburn (6:00 ESPN)
      • Michigan vs. Alabama (7:00 ABC)
    • September 2
      • SMU @ Baylor (5:30)
    • September 3
      • Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech (7:00 ESPN)
  • Week Two
    • September 6
      • Pitt @ Cincinatti (7:00 ESPN)
    • September 7
      • Utah @ Utah State (7:00 ESPN2)
    • September 8
      • NC State @ UConn (11:00 ESPN3)
      • Auburn @ Miss. St (11:00 ESPN/ESPN3D)
      • UNC @ Wake Forest (2:00 ESPN3)
      • Florida @ Texas A&M (2:30 ESPN)
      • Iowa State @ Iowa (2:30 Big 10)
      • Washington @ LSU (6:00 ESPN)
      • Arkansas @ La. Monroe (6:00 ESPNU)
      • Oklahoma State @ Arizona (9:30)
  • Week Three
    • September 13
      • Rutgers @ South Florida (6:30 ESPN)
    • September 15
      • Va. Tech @ Pittsburgh (11:00)
      • Sam Houston State @ Baylor
      • TCU @ Kansas (11:00)
      • Alabama @ Arkansas (2:30 CBS College Sports)
      • FIU @ UCF (3:00)
      • Notre Dame @ Michigan State (7:00 ABC)
      • Texas @ Ole Miss (8:15 ESPN)
      • BYU @ Utah (9:00 ESPN2)
  • Week Four
    • September 20
      • BYU @ Boise State (8:00 ESPN)
    • September 21
      • Baylor @ La. Monroe (7:00 ESPN)
    • September 22
      • LSU @ Auburn
      • California @ USC
      • Kansas State @ Oklahoma
      • Virginia @ TCU
      • Troy @ North Texas (6:00 ESPN3)
      • Michigan @ Notre Dame (6:30)
      • Nevada @ Hawaii (9:30)
  • Week Five
    • September 27
      • Stanford @ Washington (8:00 ESPN)
    • September 28
      • Hawaii @ BYU (7:00 ESPN)
    • September 29
      • Texas Tech @ Iowa State
      • Texas @ Oklahoma State
      • Arkansas @ Texas A&M
      • Baylor @ WVU
      • Ole Miss @ Alabama
      • Wisconsin @ Nebraska (7:00 ABC)
And that takes us through the end of September.  I'll keep scanning and update with any TV listings I find as well as times for the TBD games (maybe), and I'll be working on week 6-10 shortly.

Did I miss any "must see" games in your opinion?  Let me know.


August 10, 2012

In the Land of Looney Tunes

Roadrunner Closeup So I've thought about this often, but I don't think I've ever written a post about it, so here it goes: I live in a Looney Tunes cartoon.

OK, not really.

But I have noticed a substantial number of animals (wild or not) in my general area that match up with a large percentage of Looney Tunes characters.  Somehow growing up, I don't think I would have ever really thought of Texas as a locale for most of them, but I guess if Bugs Bunny missed his turn at Albuquerque, then maybe here he is.

So here's a fun rundown of animals that I have seen (live or squashed) within, say, a 3-mile radius of my house, as designated by their Looney Tune character names (and the animal I've actually seen to call it a "win").
  • Bugs Bunny (rabbit)
  • Beaky Buzzard (could be a buzzard, but I'm going with vulture on this one)
  • Cecil Turtle (turtle)
  • Daffy Duck (duck)
  • Elmer Fudd (yeah, I'm sure there are a couple of them around)
  • Foghorn Leghorn (chicken/rooster)
  • Speedy Gonzales (desert type kangaroo mouse)
  • Granny (I've seen her too, I am certain)
  • Henery Hawk (Red Tailed Hawk)
  • Hector the Bulldog (Bulldog)
  • Pepé Le Pew (skunk)
  • Slowpoke Rodriguez (other type of mouse)
  • Spike the Bulldog (double counting bulldog because someone in the neighborhood walks a pair of them frequently)
  • Chester the Terrier (Spike's friend, a terrier, on the cartoons.  A small terrier in real life)
  • The Stork (OK, no way have I seen a stork around.  But I have seen several egrets and cranes)
  • Sylvester (black cat)
  • Toro the Bull (Bull with intact horns - there's a longhorn just down the street)
  • Wile E. Coyote (coyote)
  • Road Runner (road runner)
  • Yosemite Sam (Yes, that guy lives here)
I'm sure there are more - I just browsed the list of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies characters from Wikipedia to make my checklist above - would be interested to see if they have canaries at the pet shop around the corner so I could mark Tweety off the list.

How many cartoon characters hang out around your house?

August 8, 2012

Olympic Fever

London Olympic Rings on the River Thames OK, so I haven't really been watching the Olympics all that much. There's a reason for that.  I've been doing other things.

However, I have (on three occasions) let myself get sucked into a multi-hour Olympics-watching festival, chanting "USA, USA" every time we qualify for a medal round or win some hardware.  I couldn't really find myself that into sculls when it was on during our anniversary outing, but I have been sucked into Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings' run at women's beach volleyball, and the track and field events sprinkled in between.

What I have found myself annoyed by, primarily, is the commentary and production of the Olympics for U.S. television.  Thanks, NBC.

While I can overlook the delays to prime time to attract more viewers (I mean, I wouldn't be watching in the middle of the day, so I get it), the delay should add flexibility to the production schedule, but apparently it doesn't.

Let's contrast some things:

  • Good Production: Consolidating a men's high jump heat into back-to-back jumps, showing the entire heat in under a minute.
  • Bad Production: Cutting to commercial in the middle of a volleyball game only to return with the score changed by 5 or more points.
  • Good Production: Showing entire races during track and field events
  • Bad Production: Showing dead-time in between events when there are other events with action being cut out.
  • Bad Production: Pretty much half of what Bob Costas says.
  • Bad Production: Comments made during the intro parade that some countries (like the one currently on your screen) are just fodder for the others to beat.
  • Bad Production: incessant talking over the entire opening ceremonies (because we are too dumb to figure it out).
  • Bad Production: cutting to commercial during the (delayed) opening ceremonies and returning with chunks missing (Sex Pistols anyone?)
Anyway, the opening ceremonies were the worst of it, and someone probably should never be involved in a live event (on delay) again for the way that was handled (go produce reality TV on a B-tier cable network), but the problems have persisted even into the coverage.  It's too bad, really.

The delay I can live with (though the first couple of times I "spoilered" myself by using Wikipedia to look up an athlete only to see what medal they won in the event I was currently watching made me smack my forehead).  I should know Wikipedia and our other internet friends will be far faster than delay reel to US television.  My bad.

The inane talking head business, though?  That I could do without.  And the "good stuff" on the cutting room floor?  That's inexcusable.

Still a few days left, NBC.  Fix it.

Oh, and I'm probably not watching anymore anyway.  Unless I get sucked in again.

August 4, 2012

Predicting the Future from the Past

Crystal ball (1)OK, so there is no real science to this, or there is, depending how you look at it.  Basically, here's what I've done:  Using my calculations, etc. from my fancy college football numbers algorithms (should I have been a baseball fan if I am interested this much in the stats? I guess if baseball wasn't so boring), I ran through the week 1 schedule of the 2012 football season and predicted the outcomes of the games using the 2011 season as seed data (this makes this completely unreliable, FYI, but this is provided for entertainment purposes only).

So, here's how you read this lovely chart below.  First I have them ranked by my "confidence factor" and I have the Away team and score versus the Home team and score.  In some of these games, it's a neutral site game and I just used whichever one was listed last in my input schedule file as the home team.  Then I've given a "confidence" on how much the model thinks you should trust the result (win/loss) - for my internal notes, that means Extremely High - factor of 2+, High - factor of 1-2, Good - factor of 0.75-1, Medium - factor of 0.6-0.75, and Low (coin flip) 0.5-0.6.  I've also formatted so that the winner is bold, to make it easier to read.

The scores really should just show spread capabilities and are not meant to represent ACTUAL predictions of scores.  Though it would be interesting to see how that plays out (I've run against some actuals from 2011 and it was OK in some instances, not in others.  Will be interesting to see how confidence metric versus score actuals plays out.  Perhaps after Week 1, I'll revisit these predictions to see if it is anywhere close.
edit: Realized this was backwards with Home & Away - and then couldn't really swap the columns, so for now you get it backwards (but now labelled correctly). Will work to fix in future predictions.

Prediction Rank Home Team Home Score Away Team Away Score Confidence
1 Utah 30 Northern Colo. 21 Extremely High
2 Oklahoma St. 39 Savannah St. 17 Extremely High
3 Indiana 23 Indiana St. 36 Extremely High
4 Akron 10 UCF 37 Extremely High
5 Tulane 20 Rutgers 31 Extremely High
6 New Mexico 15 Southern U. 34 Extremely High
7 Fla. Atlantic 18 Wagner 31 Extremely High
8 Kansas St. 38 Missouri St. 24 Extremely High
9 Mississippi 21 Central Ark. 33 Extremely High
10 Temple 30 Villanova 15 High
11 Middle Tenn. 22 McNeese St. 30 High
12 Idaho 24 Eastern Wash. 33 High
13 Air Force 36 Idaho St. 27 High
14 Oregon St. 28 Nicholls St. 26 High
15 Kansas 24 South Dakota St. 38 High
16 Maryland 23 William & Mary 31 High
17 Memphis 22 Tenn.-Martin 37 High
18 Duke 21 FIU 31 High
19 BYU 28 Washington St. 27 High
20 LSU 29 North Texas 21 High
21 Arizona 35 Toledo 45 High
22 Stanford 34 San Jose St. 23 High
23 La.-Lafayette 39 Lamar 26 Good
24 Houston 38 Texas St. 26 Good
25 UTEP 23 Oklahoma 35 Good
26 Vanderbilt 15 South Carolina 26 Good
27 Southern California 30 Hawaii 29 Good
28 Kent St. 19 Towson 34 Good
29 Mississippi St. 22 Jackson St. 33 Good
30 UNLV 19 Minnesota 33 Good
31 Boston College 17 Miami (FL) 25 Good
32 Fresno St. 33 Weber St. 34 Medium
33 Navy 23 Notre Dame 30 Medium
34 Wake Forest 24 Liberty 35 Medium
35 Iowa St. 26 Tulsa 34 Medium
36 Florida 23 Bowling Green 23 Medium
37 Louisville 24 Kentucky 21 Medium
38 Rice 22 UCLA 36 Medium
39 Virginia Tech 26 Georgia Tech 25 Medium
40 Nebraska 21 Southern Miss. 31 Medium
41 North Carolina 29 Elon 23 Low (Coin Flip)
42 Pittsburgh 22 Youngstown St. 36 Low (Coin Flip)
43 Michigan St. 20 Boise St. 30 Low (Coin Flip)
44 Auburn 20 Clemson 38 Low (Coin Flip)
45 Washington 27 San Diego St. 36 Low (Coin Flip)
46 Oregon 31 Arkansas St. 30 Low (Coin Flip)
47 Syracuse 23 Northwestern 29 Low (Coin Flip)
48 Alabama 26 Michigan 24 Low (Coin Flip)
49 Connecticut 25 Massachusetts 28 Low (Coin Flip)
50 Central Mich. 25 Southeast Mo. St. 29 Low (Coin Flip)
51 South Fla. 20 Chattanooga 27 Low (Coin Flip)
52 Florida St. 32 Murray St. 30 Low (Coin Flip)
53 Purdue 21 Eastern Ky. 30 Low (Coin Flip)
54 Colorado 25 Colorado St. 30 Low (Coin Flip)
55 Penn St. 17 Ohio 24 Low (Coin Flip)
56 Utah St. 24 Southern Utah 33 Low (Coin Flip)
57 UAB 25 Troy 32 Low (Coin Flip)
58 California 22 Nevada 38 Low (Coin Flip)
59 Texas 26 Wyoming 27 Low (Coin Flip)
60 Ball St. 22 Eastern Mich. 34 Low (Coin Flip)
61 Illinois 19 Western Mich. 34 Low (Coin Flip)

August 1, 2012

Open Letter to Drivers (myself included)

Excerpt from actual police crash report - I am shown as "Unit 2"
So last week I got in a small vehicular accident - Let's start with I am fine, I was decelerating (is that a word?) when it occurred, no real trauma to me or anything, nobody was injured other than vehicle property damage, etc. though it might be a little bit before my car is back to tip-top.

But it made me think about driving a little bit and how horrible most people (myself included) are at driving.  So since then (while cruising in my sweet rental car), I've been observing stupid things that drivers do (every single day) and so I'm asking, for your sake and mine (and our insurance premiums), don't do these things:

  • Think you are a good driver -Let's be honest, you aren't.  Or at least the percentages are against you based on the number of people I see doing all these dumb things.
  • Use your cell phone for things other than talking - texting, getting maps, or dialing numbers manually to make a call all take your eyes off the road.  And most of you (and occasionally me), think that you are watching the road the whole five miles I drove next to you watching you stare at your phone.
  • Follow too closely - This causes all sorts of excessive braking, and at least one rear-impact collision that I pass on my way to work per week
  • Drive too fast - OK, I'm not going to say you have to go "grandma-style" under the speed limit, but on the tollways, I occasionally see people (and I'm especially talking to you, guy-doing-handstands-on-your-crotch-rocket-motorcycle) driving close to 100 and doing really dumb weaving in and out of traffic.
  • Drive too slowly - particularly in the left lane.
  • Ignore where you are going - Changing lanes?  Might want to check the mirrors and blind spot and use your blinker.  Backing up?  How about you look over your shoulder like they taught you in driver's ed?
  • Try to avoid traffic - TONS of traffic problems that I see are from jerks that are trying to zip up and around all the slow traffic and then merge in at the last possible second - causing, guess what, slow traffic.
  • Think you are more important than other drivers - Let's face it.  This is the crux of it all.  Most of the impatience and crazy driving I see is because you, the bad driver, think that you are more important than the other people on the road, and therefore are entitled to get there faster, with less hassle.  You think that you don't deserve the traffic around you and that you are so important that you must get to your (insert here: job, proctology exam, IRS audit, Kenny Chesney concert) quicker than the rest of us, so you do stupid things to get there faster, and you get irritated when your stupid things (or the stupid things that others do) slow you down.  Say it with me: you are not that important.  And where you are going is most likely not going to be enjoyable anyway.  And if you are that late, perhaps it is your fault, procrastinator.  Leave earlier next time.  Priorities.
Anyway, bad drivers of the world, this is just a starting point.  I am sure there are a hundred other stupid things you (and I) do that are stupid, dangerous, and contribute to the overall bad driving and heavy traffic on the planet.  Just stop it.  Give a little room for the car in front of you.  Leave yourself enough room to stop so the bad driver behind you doesn't slam into you when you have to stop suddenly.  Watch the road, not your ongoing game of Angry Birds or Words with Friends where you finally got to play "quinoa" on a triple letter score against your cousin.

Just be better.  And I hope, as a result, you never get listed in an actual police crash report as "Unit 1" or "Unit 2" or "Unit whatever."  Even if it's the OTHER bad driver's fault.


July 21, 2012

College Football By The Numbers

Floyd Casey 2It's almost college football time again and never really too early to start thinking about how the season is going to go.

As announced recently, the BCS is going away along with its magical poll-oriented formula for determining the champions, to be replaced by a committee to determine the finalists in the two semifinal bowl games going forward (though not yet this year).  To that end, though, I still fall on the side of computer rankings in some regards to take the subjectivity out of it completely - using stats, not polls, as input.  Anyway, I've got my nifty-difty database that I use to determine rankings, and I've actually found a way to modify it to make predictions (with some confidence metrics that I had to add given some of the initial outputs) for the outcomes of games.  So, using either 2010 or 2011 as input, I can predict what would be the outcome of any two teams going up against one another (and determine whether or not that prediction is any good).

Trying to figure out how and if I can utilize this predictor throughout the year (and see if it is any good from accuracy's sake).  While I figure that out - for your enjoyment, here are the top 25 teams the past 2 years as calculated statistically from postseason results using my magic formula and not really caring who won the BCS National Championship (and the final AP place for that team in parentheses):


  1. Auburn (1)
  2. TCU (2)
  3. Oregon (3)
  4. Boise St. (9)
  5. Ohio St. (5)
  6. Stanford (4)
  7. Oklahoma (6)
  8. Oklahoma St. (13)
  9. Arkansas (12)
  10. Nevada (11)
  11. Alabama (10)
  12. Virginia Tech (16)
  13. Wisconsin (7)
  14. LSU (8)
  15. Texas A&M (19)
  16. Missouri (18)
  17. Michigan St. (14)
  18. Northern Ill. (29)
  19. Florida St. (17)
  20. Utah (26)
  21. UCF (21)
  22. Nebraska (20)
  23. Tulsa (24) 
  24. Mississippi St. (15)
  25. South Carolina (22)
  1. LSU (2)
  2. Alabama (1)
  3. Oklahoma St. (3)
  4. Boise St. (8)
  5. Houston (18)
  6. Oregon (4)
  7. Wisconsin (10)
  8. Michigan (12)
  9. Stanford (7)
  10. Oklahoma (16)
  11. TCU (14)
  12. South Carolina (9)
  13. Arkansas (5)
  14. Southern California (6)
  15. Southern Miss. (20)
  16. Michigan St. (11)
  17. Baylor (13)
  18. Kansas St. (15)
  19. West Virginia (17)
  20. Georgia (19)
  21. Clemson (22)
  22. Virginia Tech (21)
  23. Cincinnati (25)
  24. Toledo (NR)
  25. Arkansas St. (NR)
So look, it's not 100% in line with the polls, but it is directionally there (and some may say less susceptible to bias).  Now, how in the world to do pre-season rankings or predictions.  Hmmmm.  Guess we'll leave that to the subjective.

Though I might try to see what the results of week 1 might be based on 2011 team results...

July 20, 2012

Travel the 50 states

Blank USA, w territoriesSo, somewhere in my life I decided that I would like to visit the fifty states (and maybe throw the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. into the mix), and so far, I'm doing pretty well, with over 60+% under the belt so far.  I'm missing the middle section of the Canadian border, Alaska, Maine, the Caribbean territories, and a few select others that I have to find a way to get to to check that off the bucket list.  While at it, though, I thought it might be a good idea to start figuring out "what there is to see" in the various states, so that if I planned a trip there, I would know what exactly I would want to go see or do.  That being the case, I decided to start a list here of just a couple of things to see or do when visiting the various states.  Some of them, I'm clearly drawing a blank.  If you have ideas for any of these (if you live there or you've been there or know someone who has), throw them in the comments for me and I will try to augment the list.  Also know, this is a subjective list entirely based on whether it would interest me to visit that area or perform that activity, so I might not use your suggestion, but still appreciate it :).  Oh, and those in bold are still on my list to visit.  Thanks!

  • Alabama
    • Civil Rights Museum - Birmingham
    • Vulcan - Birmingham
    • U.S.S. Alabama - Mobile
  • Alaska
    • added - Historic Downtown Juneau
    • added - Mendenhall Glacier (via helicopter)
    • added - Mount Roberts - viewing bald eagle nests
    • added - Travel to Alaska via cruise
  • Arizona
    • The Grand Canyon - Grand Canyon National Park
  • Arkansas
  • California
    • Wine Country - Napa
    • Hollywood - Los Angeles
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
    • Walt Disney World - Orlando
    • Emerald Coast - Destin
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
    • Pearl Harbor - Honolulu (Oahu)
    • Haleakala - (Maui)
    • Hanauma Bay - Honolulu (Oahu)
  • Idaho
    • Boise State University - Boise
  • Illinois
    • Wrigley Field - Chicago
    • The Sears Tower - Chicago
    • Shedd Aquarium - Chicago
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
    • Churchill Downs - Louisville
  • Louisiana
    • French Quarter - New Orleans
    • Shreveport Casinos - Shreveport
  • Maine
    • added -  Mt. Katahdin
    • added -  Bar Harbor
    • added - Lighthouses
  • Maryland
  • Massachussetts
    • Old North Church - Boston
    • Fenway Park - Boston
    • Cape Cod
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
    • Las Vegas
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
    • Empire State Building - New York
    • Statue of Liberty - New York
    • World Trade Center Memorial - New York
    • The Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York
  • North Carolina
    • Cherokee - Cherokee
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
    • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum - Cleveland
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
    • Craft breweries (Rogue, Deschutes, Hopworks, Bridgeport) - Portland
  • Pennsylvania
    • Liberty Bell - Philadelphia
    • Independence Hall - Philadelphia
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
    • Mount Rushmore - Mount Rushmore
    • Crazy Horse Memorial - Crazy Horse
  • Tennessee
    • Tennessee Aquarium - Chattanooga
    • Grand Ole Opry - Nashville
    • Beale Street - Memphis
    • Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Gatlinburg
  • Texas
    • JFK Museum - Dallas
    • Dallas Cowboys Stadium - Arlington
    • Alamo - San Antonio
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
    • Space Needle - Seattle
  • West Virginia
    • added -  Black Water Falls State Park
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
    • Old Faithful - Yellowstone National Park
    • Devil's Tower National Monument - Devil's Tower
  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Washington, D.C.
    • The White House
    • The Lincoln Memorial
    • The Washington Monument
    • The Capitol
    • The Smithsonian Institute
    • Arlington Cemetary
    • The Vietnam Memorial
Anything else I'm missing?  What do you do in North Dakota?  Montana?  Maine?