29 December 2007

Exclusive Coverage of Evidently Quite Important Sporting Match

A few friends requested that I provide expert commentary and insight into this evening's football (Américain) game. Certainly they are not making fun of how little I understand about the game. I admit that I learned of this particular match when I was wrapping up some work at Starbucks yesterday; in a Boston accent I overheard:

Stranger 1 (turns around to speak over shoulder to Stranger 2): "So, ah, what channel ah you watching on Satuhday?"

Stranger 2: "Hah! Yeah, good question."

Stranger 1: "(exclusivity, something) (mahket something)"

So, the Fergusbergs told me there is an exceptionally important game this evening, in which the Patriots might win an awful lot of games in a row. This is big. Six-blade Schick big.

For your benefit, here is an exclusive, real-time, game-night analysis through the unbiased eyes of a sports-ignoramus.

All times in Eastern.

[9.27p] After a half hour of reading, I set down Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook and wolf down the remains of a steak dinner which got me in an appropriately high-testosterone mood for the Big Event. I turn on the TV, and see that indeed, the shindig is playing on 57 of our 59 channels.

[9.28p] Manning something. A guy wearing blue is on the ground, praying and complaining! According to the top of the screen, "NU" (must be New York, never good spellers) has 14 points and the red/blue flag-head has 16. The Pats are winning. This is good.

[9.32] "We've got a little skirmish in the Giants' backfield!" Mr. Wilfork poked someone in the eye. Is this normal? This is kind of cool, actually. Nyuk-nyuk. "While the skirmish is going on, the clock is ticking.. Jacobs something." Is skirmish like the standard word for this type of brouhaha?

What kind of name is Wilfork?

Wait, I've been called worse.

The refs punish the eye-poker, and then I think they change their mind. I don't think I've seen that before. Something about a timeout.

The commentators are really picking on this Manning guy. Wait, he's wearing blue, I shouldn't feel sorry for him.

[9.37p] A bad throw into the touchdown lane.

Endzone. Sorry, endzone.

[9.39p] Hey, that guy looks like a miniature Bryant Gumbel. Wait, it IS Bryant Gumbel.

Again with this "Manning."

Damn! Touchdown for Giants. It's 16-20. Boss something.

This is fun. Especially that I can fast-forward my TiVo.

[9.58p] We are at three-hyphens-out-of-four, and the score is 16-21 NY. I suspect Boston is cringing. But fear not! I believe we can pull ahead.

It appears that a number of individuals have been tackled. Commercial break.

(This is a perfect time for me to explain why, in real life, I refer to football players as mechanical engineers. I have nothing against MechE's. Rather, in grad school, all the guys in my mech-e class were football players. So I figured it was a thing everywhere. I mean, you're in a coffee shop and you see a tall wiry guy wearing a black turtleneck and you think "comp lit major," right? Same goes for football players.)

Hummer commercial? They're raping the environment!

Oh, wait, the game is back.

The commentators sound surprised that the New York team is trying so hard for a "game that doesn't matter." But they're winning. Why are they being so rude?

I note insightful banter regarding Brady as "golden boy," and, "hah hah, the prince got his crown tonight."

Okay, I'll shut up and watch for a bit.

(watches with confusion but a genuine intent to understand this game)

[10.02p] I am distracted by someone being called Eli. And he wears blue.

Junk, the NY guys are now at the 20.

"at the 20." Do I know the lingo or what?

[10.04p] It is probably safe for us to conclude that people named Manning and Seubert have some gravity in this matter.

Interlude: I've long wondered why companies like Motorola place such huge logos on the headphone/microphone things the coaches wear. Do they have to pay for the product placement? I mean, what's the total addressable market for that stuff? And...

Damn!!! Touchdown, Giants.

[10.06p] 16-28 NY.


(A perfectly-timed commercial break, a modern-day Send in the Clowns.) I've seen commercials for Taco Bell gorditas for five years and never been tempted to try one. Maybe it's the giant long windsock-shaped clear plastic meat bag they keep the ground beef in behind the counter. For real. I've seen it. A while ago there was a horrific accident in front of the one in Cambridge, and then the Taco Bell closed, and that must have impacted the local economy really badly, because nearby Walden Street and its feeble bridge have been shut for, what, three years? I mean, it's a BRIDGE people! We've sequenced freaking GENOMES in less time!

(auto-psychoanalytical flashback) When I was little, I used to watch boxing on TV with my family at midnight because it was an excuse to stay up late and maybe have popcorn, but I didn't understand what was happening, and I often came down with an ear infection the next day. Maybe that's why I am disinterested in sports today. (/flashback)

Mr. Brady advances the ball to the 20!

I haven't had the opportunity to stand up in the living room and yell "SAAAAACKED" yet. My college friends might wonder why that's the only football term I know; it's because of the following overdubbed spoof on the PSAs that appeared at the end of the 1980s animated series "G.I. Joe":

[10.17p] Touchdown, Patriots! (22-28) A commentator said, "Ross was there but Maroney broke the tackle. And just like that, the Patriots have broken the drive of Eli Manning and the Giants. And closed within one spore."


[10.20p] During this commercial break, the nation likely reflects on what football players do during the commercial breaks. I also wonder what David Letterman and Jon Stewart are saying when they learn over and whisper in their guests' ears at the end of each interview segment.

Hey, that's a neat car commercial. Oh, wait, it's for ANOTHER HUMMER.

A clever E*Trade commercial about stock trading. (Woah. Their stock plummeted from 25 to 3.5 in 2007. They shouldn't be making commercials, they should be selling off their Aeron chairs.)

Goodness, a third Hummer commercial in the last hour.

[10.24p] Why did the commentator just say "tumor"?

[10.25p] Oh.

[10.31p] Let's see how my expert analysis stacks up against the current instant-blog posts over at SI.com (start at the bottom):

10:31 Let's see if the giants can do what no one else has done, hold on to the lead Rays201
10:31 nflatx: WTF are you talking about.. the played the '07 Dolphins TWICE!!! Those don't even count as games and they didn't score for the last half hour of the last one!! Osiris30
10:30 Osris30, cannot agree, one drive or Non-drive will not yet decide this match.... more to follow thankfully +40yrCowboyFan
10:30 i love my giants but i hate elisha! especially when the chargers used the picks we gave them for merriman, kaeding and rivers! we had them over a barrell and then gave up a draft and a half for elisha! WHAT?!?!?!?! damienw
10:30 in fifteen minutes history will be made. ironheart
10:30 either way, even at this point Pats are WAY better than 72 Dolphins. They played much tougher teams and pulled out. nflatx
10:30 comeon Belichick, work your magic! tarheelblue50

I feel outclassed. All I know is that "damienw" spelled "barrel" incorrectly. Maybe I shouldn't jump to conclusions, though. It could be part of the football vernacular; I remember wondering why Department of Defense grant solicitations always spelled "material" wrong as "materiel." Then I realized they're different [Wikipedia].

[10.34p] Something about "...leaves the Patriots with third and ten. If the Giants can get a stop here it'll be huge." We're at 28-23.

[10.35p] It's about time for more commercials. I think the signal to noise ratio of this game is about 1:1. Why are those Coors Light drinkers all holding their cans at the very bottom? (Is there a bottom equivalent for "tippy-top"? "Tippy-bottom"?)

[10.38p] Another commercial break. I am in shock after seeing the Wendy's "baconator."

Can someone call the Guiness World Records people? I think I exceeded our lifetime allotment of quotation marks.

[10.47p] A guy named Moss from the Patriots allows an albeit difficult-looking pass to slip through his grasp. Insert witticism about "a moss gathers no stones" here. Wait, his name is Randy Moss? Never mind, that's a joke in itself. A ribald forestry joke, yes, but still a joke.

[10.48p] Brady tries the same pass again and Moss catches it and PATS GET A TOUCHDOWN!

[10.54] During this commercial break I'll try to figure out what is meant by, "the Patriots, with 15 unanswered, are leading by three." Did I hear that right?

We interrupt this exclusive coverage to review the stats:

RUSHING: Maroney ATT:16. Faulk: TD:0.
DEFENSE: Hobbs TK:3, AS:0. Wilfork SK-YD:0.
PUNT RETURNS: McQuarters TK:1.

(That reminds me of the character whose fake ID says "McLovin" in the hilarious movie Superbad. Seriously; I laughed so hard that I was in pain for several hours. Here's the NSFW YouTube clip.)

[11:01p] It's 31-28. Or is it -26? I can't tell. The font they chose doesn't render well in NTSC. Bandwidth, people, bandwidth! Did you learn nothing in your Fourier Analysis class!?

(This reminds me of how thoughtlessly the U.S. - or at least Mass. state - license plate typeface is designed. How can you discern the zero from the "oh" from afar? Why didn't they put a slash through the zero?)

[11.03p] My whining was sidetracked when I noticed the current score of 38-28.

I could just shut this off. If I was in New Jersey, I could go where the Jets fans (and hence maybe the Giants fans) congregate for hot dogs cooked in hot oil: Rutt's Hut. If I was outside I could get fresh air. But no! dear reader, I have pumped myself up on medium-rare beef; I have read profanity-laced French recipes from Bourdain; I will not leave you yet.

[11.08] Prediction: there will be unhappy Giants fans tonight.

(I space out for ten minutes.)

[11.18p] Touchdown: Patriots! And then a commentator launches this obfuscated insight: "We have just four ticks of the clock beyond a minute for this one."

[11.20p] Frayble something. "This should do it."

I should really read this. I think we have it somewhere.

Wait, why are these grown men hugging their enemies with just over a minute left? (I mean, 61 ticks of the clock.)

It's weird watching the clock run down like this. I mean, bang or whimper?

[11.22p] 38-35! Go Pats!

There you have it, folks. A most historic game. Drive carefully, and have a good night, like it's first down and the goalie is in center field.

Please direct questions, comments, remarks, etc. in the comment area below. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect much of anything, really. Let's break for a commercial. This post will probably be deleted in a few days out of self-interest.

g-fav, "le footballeur extraordinaire"

22 December 2007

New President of RISD: John Maeda

According to Scott Kirsner's Innovation Economy blog, MIT Media Lab artist John Maeda has accepted RISD's offer to be their next president! [RISD page & video]

I have been a fan of Maeda's work ever since a friend suggested I check him out.


17 December 2007

How to Ask Questions the Smart Way


We're back from a fun weekend tour of CT and NJ to visit grandparents. (And to do some evening snow shoveling before it freezes the next day...)

Those of you who have used techie help forums know that there are good ways and bad ways to ask technical questions. Evidently there's been a document online with some thoughtful points on the topic of, "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way." Even if you're just using Apple's online help forums, it's worth seeing what (the particularly opinionated) geeks like to see before they'll stoop down to answer you.

Oh, and here are two humorous bits from McSweeney's:

"Yiddish Spam" by Matthew Brozik.
"Some Relatively Recent College Grads Discuss Their Maids," by Ellie Kemper.

Finally, for those of you who read xkcd, here is an article summarizing how to find resistances of various resistive grids: "Infinite resistive lattices," Atkinson and van Steenwijk, Am. J. Phys. (1999).


13 December 2007

Maybe, abhoring Pound less

Here is "Salutation" by Ezra Pound.


ps I was about to show you the poem verbatim, but then I noticed this, and decided against it.

pps Given the subject matter, this is really ironic.

12 December 2007

On TV: Physics educational show

It's back: PBS is again providing late-night (around 2.30 am on WENH here near Boston) showings of several episodes of the famous, freshman-level CalTech physics course: "The Mechanical Universe." It very clearly explains topics spanning vectors, inertia, and special relativity, and was pioneering in its use of computer graphics for education (by Jim Blinn).

I mentioned this last year in the hopes that some of you would find it interesting.

You can try a few episodes by setting your DVR to record the upcoming episodes. TiVo just needs the program title for a "Season Pass."

I still have the special relativity episode from last year's reruns because it explains space-time and simultaneity so well.


ps You might be able to see streaming episodes here.

11 December 2007

A dark comic strip

The Perry Bible Fellowship (I don't know why they call it that) is the work of Nicholas Gurewitch. Many of the strips are in quite different formats, take more than a few seconds to get, and, well, are pretty dark. (1) (2) (3) (4) I suppose it's like The Far Side, only... more so.

Hey, book signings in Rochester soon! Oh, wait, I don't live near Rochester.


10 December 2007

Contemporary Art @ MIT

Artists of the contemporary art association Collision Collective are exhibiting at the MIT Stata Center from Nov 30 - Dec 16 in Collision 12:mini [link].

Has anyone visited?


09 December 2007

Hot Buttered Rum

Tonight we trimmed the tree. Here is a recipe straight from How to Cook Everything (Mark Bittman - we like it a lot!) for a drink that keeps us warm...

However, I made these at work last year before Christmas break; there was a lot of nose-squinching when people saw butter, rum, sugar, and cinnamon sticks arrayed on the countertop. So maybe I'm alone on this one.


(copied from p807)

Hot Buttered Rum
Makes 1 serving

The grown-up equivalent of hot cocoa - perfect when you're chilled to the bone. Add a pinch of ground cloves, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg if you like.

1 cup water
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) rum

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a mug and pour boiling water over them. Stir and serve.


These Would Sell - Part 1

  1. Massless kitty litter ("New Scoop-Away Zero-g(tm)")
  2. EZ-install/-remove air conditioners ("Now with handles - and on rails!")
  3. Spice containers labeled up near the cap
  4. LED billboard for your car ("Next time use your turn indicator BEFORE you turn, dimwit!")


06 December 2007

Cold "Remedies"

A few things having to do with the common cold, said cold afflicting yours truly, for which he expects much sympathy and guidance, &c., &c.

Do any of you have a preferred way of dealing with or shortening the duration of a cold?

Maybe I'm just a wuss, but over the past couple of years (toddler germ-sharing perhaps?) I've gotten a few colds that've plain knocked me over and out of commission. Frequent business travel really cuts into one's resistance, so with those colds I've been trying a bunch of things other than Vitamin C (which is better for pre-cold health than intra-cold cure).

  • Airborne.
  • Cold-EEZE, an awful-tasting sucking candy with plenty of zinc gluconate, has been shown in a few reputable-sounding clinical studies (e.g. Cleveland Clinic) to reduce the duration of a cold. I've convinced myself that they work. One study (McElroy and Miller, 2003) explained in their abstract of a trial involving school-aged children that: "A total of 178 children, ages 12 to 18 years, was enrolled, of which 134 met criteria for efficacy analysis. The average cold duration with therapeutic lozenge use was 6.9 +/- 3.1 days, significantly shorter than the 9.0 +/- 3.5 days found in the control group..."
  • By the way, here's what a search for medical data looks like if you're a researcher [Go to PubMed and enter, say, Cold-eeze in the search field.]
  • This week, though, I went particularly hog-wild and bought two additional remedies to try. The first is ZICAM, a bunch of single-dose swabs-in-a-tube-of-zinc-liquid-for-your-nose. I think this woman's blog post describes it well.
  • Second, I picked up homeopathic oscillococcinum, a product that is evidently popular in France. Oscillococcinum comes in a bunch of tube-doses, each tube containing plenty of tiny little sugary dots laced with extract of something-or-other from wild duck heart and liver. You're supposed to let them dissolve in your mouth every 6 hours. A little odd, maybe, and my reading on homeopathy suggests that the dilutive process results in one or zero molecules of the desired substance per dose, anyhow. Placebo? I don't know. Actually, this stuff is for treating the flu, not the cold. (Vickers and Smith, 2004).
  • Water and tea.
  • Fatty foods. I crave Chinese food when I'm sick. Then again, I always crave Chinese food.

A few other things having nothing to do with my cold

A lengthy piece about Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh. (Yes, he composed much of the music for "Rushmore.")

A short essay by MIT's Gilbert Strang, "Too Much Calculus," extolling the virtues of teaching linear algebra early on.

The New York Times: "The 10 Best Books of 2007."

One of my favorite arcade games: Marble Madness.

Groan! Is Europe a country? You've probably seen this gameshow clip regarding Budapest.

Attention font nerds! T-Shirts for you from Wire & Twine.


02 December 2007

"There aren't enough minds to house the population explosion of memes"

I invite you to take a look at philosopher Daniel Dennett's brief note in the book What is your dangerous idea?. No, this one isn't an essay about atheism; rather, it is a meditation on the continuous ramp-up of information that we're all swimming in, as most recently enabled by the WWW.

Perhaps you're already sensitized to this, as, for example, wubbahead describes nicely in the opening of his recent blog entry.

Anyhow, here's a snippet of paragraph three of eight from Dennett:

The human population is still growing, but at nowhere near the rate that the population of memes is growing. There is competition for the limited space in human brains for memes, and something has to give. Thanks to our incessant and often technically brilliant efforts, and our apparently insatiable appetites for novelty, we have created an explosively growing flood of information, in all media, on all topics, in every genre. Now either (1) we will drown in this flood of information, or (2) we won't drown in it. Both alternatives are deeply disturbing. What do I mean by drowning? I mean that we will become psychologically overwhelmed, unable to cope, victimized by the glut and unable to make life-enhancing decisions in the face of an unimaginable surfeit. (I recall the brilliant scene in the film of Evelyn Waugh's dark comedy The Loved One in which embalmer Mr. Joyboy's gluttonous mother is found sprawled on the kitchen floor, helplessly wallowing in the bounty that has spilled from a capsized refrigerator.) We will be lost in the maze, preyed upon by whatever clever forces find ways of pumping money–or simply further memetic replications–out of our situation. (In The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells sees that it might well be our germs, not our high-tech military contraptions, that subdue our alien invaders. Similarly, might our own minds succumb not to the devious manipulations of evil brainwashers and propagandists, but to nothing more than a swarm of irresistible ditties, Nous nibbled to death by slogans and one-liners?)

(Get the whole thing here.)


01 December 2007

This week, go outside at night

Hello -

I know it's cold out (well, in New England, at least), but walk out into your yard for a moment some night this week, around 10 or midnight or whatever. Look up, near Orion. See that really bright thing? That's Mars. That's right, it ain't Jupiter, it's Mars. For those of you who aren't star-gazers: trust me, it usually ain't this bright. If you have a pair of binoculars, try taking a look.

And that's not all!

According to the free monthly star chart available from the kind folks at skymaps.com,
Dec. 18 will be "The closest and brightest that Mars will be until May 2016."