Thursday, December 18, 2014

You Know It's Bad When Even Hollywood Calls It A Cave

It could be that this reaction is due primarily to the chicken coming directly home to roost, but still...obvious and shameful is obvious and shameful:



No doubt people have heard of major movie theaters nationwide canceling their screening of an edgy Seth Rogan and James Franco flick called The Interview, which pillories North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
Deadline Hollywood reported on the cancellations:
Ultimately, The Interview didn’t go well, and Sony’s controversial film appears dead. Regal and Cinemark said today that they will not screen the Seth Rogen-directed comedy, and other major exhibition chains including AMC and Cineplex are expected to follow suit.
And they did. This follows a vague threat of ‘9-11 style’ attacks on movie theaters (that doesn’t make much sense, but I digress) and President Obama even telling people to “go to the movies.”
One Hollywood actor who isn’t shy about speaking his mind is Rob Lowe, who posted the following viral comment on Twitter:
rob lowe

Needless to say, the director Judd Apatow was furious with the decision:
Then the director put it in perspective how ludicrous it is:
Apatow followed up with:
But then he consoled audiences:
Some notable people were appalled by the knee-jerk decision:
The rest of the Twittersphere weighed in:
On the one hand, I'd just like to point out that these are the same people doing and saying stupid things like American soldiers are evil/horrible creatures guilty of the worst atrocities in the known world.  These are also the same people who like to defend ISIS and other terrorist nations, uttering the non-sensical claims that if we would just listen and talk to them, they wouldn't want to kill us so much.  Isn't it amazing, then, that when the same political realities that give them a virtually automatic microphone and built-in audience to speak their own banal thoughts to the masses as informed experts suddenly turn around and harm "their work" they suddenly find something objectionable about caving to politically correct whims?

Just thought that was worth pointing out.  In this case, I happen to agree with most of the thoughts above - this was a terrible, terrible precedent to set, and absolutely the wrong move.  Time will tell if other situations turn out differently, or if this will morph into a new form of negotiating with terrorists and/or terrorist sponsoring nations.  I suspect Apatow is probably correct that more people will ultimately see the film now, but has the damage already been done?

I sincerely hope not.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

This Is Why They Play The Game, Part 2

With everything at stake today, it seemed likely that at least one big upset was going to happen, maybe more.

Pffft.

Not a single one.  The scores, at least at the moment:

#1 Alabama 42, #16 Missouri 16 (final)
#2 Oregon 51, #7 Arizona 13 (final)
#3 TCU 55, Iowa State 3 (final)
#4 FSU 37, #11 Georgia Tech 35
#5 OSU 52, #13 Wisc 0
#6 Baylor 38, #9 KSU 27 (final)

Not a single upset.  *sigh*

So, for K-State, it's a 9-3 finish to the year, and the promise of an above average bowl game.  It works, though I would say the theme of this year is missed opportunities.  They spotted Auburn 19 points and lost a marquee game that they really should have won.  Against TCU and Baylor, they just came up short when it counted.  Too many penalties, too many mistakes.  They didn't deserve either of those wins, unfortunately.  Brace yourself for another building year after losing Waters, Lockett, and a lot of other solid players.

Now, here's the silver lining.  As mentioned in the previous post, the TCU/Baylor mess is going to cause a whole lot of fury either way.  This sort of scenario is just about the most explosive scenario for the inaugural playoff system short of not having an SEC team in the mix at all (alas, Mizzou, I was genuinely rooting for you tonight...!).  The other factor here is Ohio State's obliteration of a very good Wisconsin team using their third string QB.  The talking heads are already talking about OSU jumping over both of the teams from the Big 12.  There are good arguments all around, not only endorsing one's own team, but also in gashing holes in the arguments of the others in the mix.  I don't envy the playoff committee - no matter what they decide, they're going to royally anger a lot of people who will be very right to be angry.

Regardless, hopefully all the gnashing of teeth will mean an immediate expansion to eight teams next year, and a clause that only league champions will be considered for automatic berths out of the Power 5 conferences (the others would be at large spots for the next three best teams regardless of conference).  Give me those changes for next year, and I think we're really talking some good stuff.

We'll see...

This Is Why They Play The Games

Part of why I love college football is that there is so much uncertainty.  This is really aggravating on those years when you're in the driver's seat, of course, but when you're on the outside looking in, well, it's hope that makes Saturdays so exciting.  In that spirit, here's the deal with the Big 12 today...
Baylor has been hoping its head-to-head edge over TCU would ultimately be the calling card that would catapult it over the Horned Frogs into the playoff.

The Bears still have reason believe they can make the playoff.

But it might not be the head-to-head advantage over TCU that gets them there.

Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff selection committee released perhaps it most controversial set of rankings yet.

In a stunner, the committee bumped TCU head of undefeated and defending national champ Florida State into the No. 3 slot. Baylor, meanwhile, was left on the outside looking in all the way back at No. 6.

The committee has noted it would only implement a head-to-head tiebreaker if two teams were close. At the moment, the committee doesn't see TCU and Baylor as being close, underscored by the three-spot gap. Committee chairman Jeff Long wasn't shy in saying the committee believes TCU is "better" than Baylor, either, even though the Bears beat TCU 61-58 in Waco on Oct. 11.

"It's a number of things we look at, and we believe TCU is better and deserving of that No. 3 rank over Baylor," Long said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday night. "We've certainly analyzed statistical data. We've compared those. We've contrasted them. We've looked at the facts, the quality of the wins. As we pointed out before, TCU has five wins over teams with winning records of .500 records and above, and Baylor has three, if you include Texas at 6 6. Those are factors we've taken -- certainly our coaches and others in the room look at the way the game is played, evaluate the games, evaluate the competition. Again, that's what this committee, human committee does. It evaluates the teams on their play in the game. That's one of the things we use to discern between teams."

Baylor has the opportunity to deliver a statement win to the committee this weekend against No. 9 Kansas State. Should Baylor blast the Wildcats, Florida State handle Georgia Tech and Wisconsin knock off Ohio State, it's possible the committee winds up with the Seminoles third, then TCU and Baylor vying for the fourth spot. In that scenario, perhaps the committee gives Baylor the edge, because of head-to-head.

But as of now, it's difficult to fathom that one game will narrow the gap enough for Baylor to pass TCU. Long, in fact, reiterated Tuesday that the committee would view the Bears and Horned Frogs both as equal champions of the Big 12, since the Big 12 recognizes co-champions.

"We will not determine a champion for the Big 12," Long said. "We will take the information that the Big 12 provides us."

For all of those reasons, the ESPN-affiliated statistical Web site FiveThirtyEight.com gives TCU a 96.3 percent chance of making the playoff heading into the final week -- the highest rate of any team. As long as the Horned Frogs avoid pulling a Kansas and allow Iowa State to hang around into the fourth quarter, they will be difficult to drop out of the top four.

Which is why TCU is sitting pretty. While the Bears might need help elsewhere.

Though maybe not much.

Baylor simply may need Georgia Tech to just beat Florida State. That would put the fourth spot back up for grabs, between, assuming they both won this weekend, Baylor and Ohio State.

The committee sees otherwise, but the justification for ranking the Buckeyes over Baylor is difficult to understand. The Bears have the better wins (TCU and OU vs. Michigan State and Minnesota), the better losses (West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech) and play in the tougher conference, at least according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The committee is also charged with picking the four "best" teams, not necessarily the four most deserving. How the committee could view Ohio State with its third-string quarterback as being better than Baylor with Bryce Petty seems incomprehensible.

So if Baylor takes care of business this weekend and Florida State's luck runs out, the Bears could join TCU in the final four.

One final aside: the scenario nobody seems to be talking about involves Kansas State. The Wildcats quietly moved up three spots to No. 9 this week, and can't be completely discarded from the playoff picture. Should K-State roll past Baylor, Wisconsin beat Ohio State and Georgia Tech finally take out the Seminoles, the Wildcats could conceivably slip into the fourth spot.

Heading into the final week of the season, playoff drama is cresting, nowhere more so than in Big 12 country.

After Tuesday, the Horned Frogs are feeling good.

The Bears are feeling nervous.

And the Wildcats are feeling anything is possible.

Who will be in?

Only four days to find out.
Worst case scenario, KSU ends up with another good bowl game -- Cotton or Alamo, perhaps? --  and another great year.  Best case scenario, a share of the Big 12 Championship and an even better bowl game.  Unrealistically optimistic scenario, the Cats obliterate a distracted and nervous Baylor, mayhem ensues throughout the day in the top 10, and the Cats slide into the #4 slot in the first playoff.  Isn't it fun??

Yes, siree, that's why they play the games.

EMAW!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!!!

First, I would like to extend a genuine and heartfelt thank you to all the current and former members of the military.  Your service truly embodies John 15:13:


Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

How much more so for people you don't know and will never meet?  To all of you who have sacrificed so much to preserve America and protect the rest of us...THANK. YOU.

But let us consider further on this holiday.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself just what it is that we are supposed to be thankful for on Thanksgiving?  Sure, it's for all the creature comforts and the almost incalculable blessings we enjoy living where we do in the time we do.  But do you know the real story of Thanksgiving?  Not the bastardized version that is taught in schools and repeated throughout secular society nowadays, but the real story?  Here it is (with just a slight bit of commentary thrown in)...
The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth century. The Church of England under King James I was persecuting anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs. A group of separatists first fled to Holland and established a community.

"After eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World, where they would certainly face hardships, but could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible. The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example.

"And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford's detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford's own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure. When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats.

"Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well. They were going to distribute it equally. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well.

"Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it. It was a commune, folks. It was the forerunner to the communes we saw in the '60s and '70s out in California – and it was complete with organic vegetables, by the way. Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. That's right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work!"

"It never has worked! "What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild's history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future. 'The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,' Bradford wrote.

"'For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense ... that was thought injustice.' Why should you work for other people when you can't work for yourself? What's the point? Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford's community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property.

"Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? 'This had very good success,' wrote Bradford, 'for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.' Bradford doesn't sound like much of a Clintonite" I wrote then "does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? Yes. Read the story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis 41. Following Joseph's suggestion (Gen 41:34), Pharaoh reduced the tax on Egyptians to 20% during the 'seven years of plenty' and the 'Earth brought forth in heaps.' (Gen. 41:47) In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. 

This is important to know and remember, for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, the motivation -- and, therefore, upon success, the thanks -- was primarily toward God.  Yes, the Native Americans provided critical help, but even then they weren't exactly thriving.  It was the combination of God and freedom (in the form of free market capitalism) that finally unlocked the winning formula that propelled us to a position of global leadership.

Some of our greatest leaders clearly understood this:

“I do recommend and assign Thursday ... next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” –George Washington (October 3, 1789)

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
 

God first, then freedom.  Why is this such an important lesson to remember and on which we should dwell?  Because we as a nation have strayed far from both of those things.  Various indices -- both economic and legal -- rate America as falling each and every year, with dozens of nations now more free, and it doesn't take much to see the secularism creeping into our institutions, our schools, and yes, even into our churches on a daily basis.  If we want America to once again be a global leader and a bastion of hope, we must reset our priorities on the things that worked before: God first, then freedom.

Let's be thankful for what we have, and mindful of what we need to do in the future to preserve and grow those tremendous blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kansas Vs. Pancakes

Ha!
In a survey conducted by the American Geographical Society, almost a third of all respondents said that Kansas was the flattest state. Some people even call it “flatter than a pancake.” But what does science have to say about that?

The first, and only, study that we know of that directly compared the Sunflower State to a pancake was done by a trio of geographers in 2003. For their tongue-in-cheek analysis, they acquired a pancake from IHOP, cut out a sample slice and made a topographic profile of it using a laser microscope (assuring us that they would “not be daunted by the ‘No Food or Drink’ sign posted in the microscopy room”). They then compared their pancake to an east-west profile of Kansas taken from a 1:250,000 scale digital model of the state’s elevation data, and calculated flatness estimates for each. 

A flatness value of 1.000 would indicate “perfect, platonic flatness.” The pancake was scored as 0.957, which the researchers said is “pretty flat, but far from perfectly flat.” The value for Kansas, meanwhile was ~0.9997, or “damn flat,” as they said. 

“Simply put, our results show that Kansas is considerably flatter than a pancake,” the team concluded. 

But that’s not the whole story. When the playful study first came out in the Annals of Improbable Research, Lee Allison, then the Director of the Kansas Geological Survey, quipped that “everything on Earth is flatter than the pancake as they measured it.” 

Clarifying Allison’s retort in a paper from earlier this year, geographers Jerome Dobson and Joshua Campbell explain it like this:
“The pancake measured in the article was 130 millimeters, and its surface relief was 2 millimeters. Apply that ratio to the east-west dimension of Kansas, approximately 644 kilometers, and the state would need a mountain (2/130 x 664,000 meters) 9,908 meters tall in order not to be flatter than a pancake. Since the highest mountain in the world is 8,848 meters tall, every state in the U.S. is flatter than a pancake.”
 So, go ahead and rejoice, Kansans. Your state’s not alone in being flatter than a flapjack.
When your coastal friends don't believe you about this, bet them some money and then up the ante with this:
The state with the most land in the flat, flatter and flattest categories is, perhaps surprisingly, Florida. Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, Delaware, Kansas, Texas, Nevada and Indiana round out the top ten.
Bam!  Not even in the top five.

Also, I'm hungry now.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Do Women Really Make 22% Less Than Men?

Yep, let's go there:

The Census Bureau released updated data this week showing that the so-called “gender pay gap” between men and women reached a record low, with women earning 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.

But does this mean that a woman who performs the exact same job as a man gets paid 22 cents less on the dollar? Of course not. If companies behaved that way, they would face lawsuits. Their profits would also suffer: underpaid women would jump ship to competitors and overpaid men would drive up costs and reduce companies’ competitiveness.

The pay gap results from the choices women make. Once factors such as career choice, education and experience, hours and work schedules, and career interruptions are taken into account, the so-called pay gap falls to about 5 cents. Other factors, such as the cost of fringe benefits, likely explain some or all of the remaining gap.

For example, even within the government’s General Schedule pay scale that effectively prohibits pay-based discrimination, women make only 89 cents on the dollar compared to men. Why? Well, women make up 75 percent of all federal social workers but only 17 percent of all federal engineers. However, federal social workers make an average of $79,569, while federal engineers make an average of $117,894.

Differences in career choices do significantly affect earnings differentials between men and women. But does that mean we should limit individual choices, forcing women into male-dominated professions and men into female-dominated professions?

Attempts to reduce the so-called remaining “pay gap” through legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act would unintentionally harm women by forcing one-size-fits all jobs upon employees, thus taking away some of the choices women make, and by potentially subjecting women to increased discrimination in the hiring process.

While it may be true that the average women earns less than the average man, most women don’t measure their worth by the size of their paycheck, but rather their ability to freely pursue their own choices and happiness.

It's not rocket science, nor is it some giant sexist scheme to keep women down.

Can we please put this myth to bed now?  Just sayin'.

Agree or disagree?  Feel free to comment below...I think this could be an interesting discussion.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lightsaber + Katana = Awesome

What could be better than a katana or a lightsaber?  Why, both of course!

Fantasy Football Fantasy

It's hard to get a much more official welcome back to the football season than this:



Woo-hoo!  Foobah!!!
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Awesome Yo-Yo-ing

I couldn't yo-yo my way out of a breezy hallway, though I rarely have a desire to do so.  However, as I've said before, I do have an appreciation for awesomeness in all forms, and this video of the winner of the 2014 World Yo-Yo Championships certainly fits the bill.  An added bonus - he's an American from California.  Congrats and way to go, Gentry Stein!



I don't care who you are, that's just awesome.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Assassin's Creed In Real Life

One of the hot video game franchises right now is Assassin's Creed by Ubisoft.  The latest iteration of this series is Black Flag, set in the world of pirates.  One of the themes of the game is how the protagonist climbs, leaps, and bounces his way through the world of the game to accomplish his missions, especially using very high places as an advantage point from which to strike.  It's basically digital parkour.  So, it is only natural, then, for parkour experts in the real world to want to simulate the world of the game.  One group in particular was  selected to do an official promo video for the game at Comic-Con last year, and it's amazing.  Check it out:



I always enjoy seeing how videos like this are made; it's often just as interesting and entertaining as the video itself.  For a look at how they actually made this promo, here's the behind-the-scenes video:



Too cool!  Makes me want to go out and learn parkour...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Housekeeping For The Week

For those of you who don't know, we will be moving later this week.  As such, I will probably not be posting much over the next few days.  But, as soon as the craziness is over, I'll be back!  :)