Friday, August 30, 2013

Well, That Was A Terrible Start

My initial, off-the-cuff thoughts...

1. The defense was sloppy.  Tackling was poor, and they were just one step out of position way too much.  These things will improve over the course of the season.

2. The defense had no heart, no soul, no emotion.  At the end of that last drive, they were standing around looking dazed, confused, and tired.  There was no one slapping helmets, shaking fingers, or even waving their arms to get the crowd involved.  I'm pretty sure that someone will eventually step up to fill this void, too; until then, the D is going to lack heart and soul.

3. The offensive line was absolutely, positively, pathetically awful.  Remember, this is the same O-line -- literally, the same five guys -- who paved the way for offensive juggernaut Collin Klein last year.  He was good, but no one can perform like that without good blocking up front.  That blocking was wholly absent tonight.  For KSU to get a total of less than 50 rushing yards (or whatever it was, my blood pressure can't handle looking at any official stats right now) against an FCS team is, quite simply, inexcusable.

4. As predicted, NDSU is the real deal.  They smacked KSU in the face over and over and over, kept their composure when the game was slipping out of hand, and literally bulled their way into a win.  They completely controlled the last 20 minutes or so of the game, forcing their will onto a woeful Wildcat team that seemingly lost focus or interest in the game.  Or something.  I'm not sure what happened.

All I know is...


That's right, the first college football games of the 2013 season took place last night, and the NFL is wrapping up the pre-season this weekend!  I wanted to post primarily about K-State, but before that I wanted to offer a few random thoughts on the upcoming football season.

Johnny Manziel

Seriously?  The guy clearly violates a rule that the NCAA seems to hold as gospel (taking money), and he gets suspended for the first half of the first game?  What a joke.  The NCAA has proven over the past few years to be one of the most hypocritical and incompetent/corrupt "governing" bodies in sports.  Apparently, there is a different set of rules that the rich and/or famous play by, allowing them a slap on the hands with a wet noodle rather than genuine sanctions.  If this is their standard mode of conduct, then why wouldn't the top players and coaches (not to mention programs) cheat and violate rules at will?

My new 2nd favorite team

TCU.  I've always liked them.  They're scrappy, they're underdogs, and they've got great colors.  They were a regular double-digit winner and BCS buster before they got into the Big 12 and had a Big 12 budget, and they absolutely belong here.  A terrific odd stat from last year was that every team lost the week after playing TCU because the Horned Frogs' defense beat 'em up (legally, and in that great DEFENSE way you really want to see).  KSU pulled out the win against them, but lost the next week to Baylor.  They return most of that defensive unit, and get their best QB back this year.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if they made their way into contention for the Big 12 title this year, and I'll enjoy watching them win a lot (except against KSU, of course).

Thank you, Green Bay Packers

I joined up as an assistant coach for Connor's flag football team this year.  Games start in late September, and we're really excited to get going again.  The head coach is from Wisconsin and a GIANT Packers fan, so our team is, naturally, the Packers.  The green and gold has become the de facto 2nd favorite in our household because of flag football.  Recently, the father of one of the players sent a letter to the Packers organization with a team picture and a bit of our story, and they responded with tickets to spend last night's preseason Chiefs-Packers game in the owner's suite, and passes to watch warm-ups on the field.  AWESOME!!!  We had a great time, took tons of pictures, and soaked it all in.  The Packers' CEO, Mark Murphy, was a tremendously gracious host, hanging out with a bunch of 4th-5th graders (and us coaches, who were almost as giddy) all night.  It was a rare and great experience, and we'll post more about that on the family blog soon.


Okay, now for the main event.  Jake Waters was announced a few days ago as the starting QB, answering the single biggest question going into this season.  He is a virtual unknown.  From what I've heard and read, he was undersized coming out of high school, so he went to a community college in Iowa.  While there, he not only grew a few more inches and added arm strength, but he led Iowa Western to a 12-0 record and a NJCAA national championship while amassing 3,500 yards and a nation-leading 39 touchdown passes with a 73% completion rate (which, if you take into account receiver drops and intentional throwaways, is pretty much everything).  By all accounts, he has taken the path of quiet leadership like Collin Klein did, and has picked up the playbook very quickly.  He's got a phenomenal arm that will be very different from most recent KSU quarterbacks, and could spearhead an even more prolific offense than we saw last year.  He certainly won't be a bruising runner like Klein, but can apparently still scamper when necessary.

The offensive line is completely intact from last year's squad, which will be a huge benefit when breaking in the new QB.  Running back John Hubert and the receiver corps is also back, providing a lot of experienced weapons all over the field.  Expect points this year, and lots of them.

The big question mark is the defense, which lost all but one starter from last year's Big 12 championship squad.  Ty Zimmerman will anchor the D from the safety position, and should provide some tremendous leadership and experience precisely where it is needed.  The Wildcat defense will likely have some struggles, especially early in the season, but the good news is that a defense can achieve greatness without marquee players when they are disciplined, consistent, and play smart.  Bill Snyder will ensure those things happen.

Regarding the first game tonight, don't expect a cake walk.  North Dakota State is riding a streak of two consecutive FCS (division 1-AA) national championships, and this year's team is supposedly the most experienced and talented team they've had in a while.  They're conditioned to win, they have a 6-3 record against FBS (division 1-A) teams over the past few years, they're confident, and they have great coaching.  I'm confident KSU will prevail, but I wouldn't be surprised if the game stayed relatively close until the later parts of the game.  If KSU does achieve a blowout, well, that'll just be a great indicator of how good KSU's year may be.

So, how will KSU fare this year?  I think it depends mostly on the chemistry and how quickly the new pieces grow into Snyder's scheme.  The Big 12 is supposedly going to have a bit of a down year this year, with no clear juggernaut in pole position; if the league as a whole is weaker, I'd say there's an outside shot for KSU to make a play for the league championship again.  They'd need to remain relatively injury free, have Waters immediately play well, and have the D gel quickly – and probably get a couple of lucky breaks along the way – but in sports I think it's okay to be a bit over-optimistic unless you're a professional prognosticator and your opinion actually counts.  J

Pessimistic Pick --- 7 wins, go to a minor bowl game

Optimistic Pick --- 11-12 wins, 1st place

More Likely Pick --- 10 wins, tie for 2nd place

Regardless…let the games begin!  EMAW, baby!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Three Words: Human. Bungee. Slingshot.

Oh yes, friends.  Oh yes.

I can't decide if I would actually try this or not.  Would you?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Almost Football Season...!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.  The weather is awesome, there's football, Christmas is right around the corner, and there's football.  In anticipation of the coming football season, I thought it would be fun to post this MentalFloss video talking about some of the more unusual college mascots around the country.  One of them is even close to home...

(I know, these colleges about more than just football, but America's #1 sport will forever be associated with colleges in my mind.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Odd Ways To (Supposedly) Improve Your Memory

Go figure:

1. Concentrate for Eight Seconds

These days we’re all about things being faster. That’s why this advice is invaluable: When you really need to remember something, concentrate on it for at least eight seconds. That can seem like a long time when you're running around trying to get a million things done, but it is worth it. Studies have shown that eight seconds is the minimum amount of time it takes for a piece of information to go from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.

2. Don’t Walk Through a Doorway

We’ve all walked into a room and suddenly realized we can’t remember why we needed to be there in the first place. Don’t worry, you’re not getting more forgetful—chances are it was the act of walking through a doorway that made you go completely blank. Researchers found that participants in both virtual and real-world studies were far more likely to forget what object they had just placed in a container if they were asked right after walking through a doorway than if they carried the object the same distance in a single room. Scientists have yet to figure out why, but something about entering a new place seems to restart our memory.

3. Make a Fist

If you’re having trouble remembering things at work, get a stress ball. The act of clenching your fist, if done correctly, can significantly improve your ability to recall information. Studies show that if you are right-handed, you should make a fist with your right hand before you try to memorize a piece of information. Then when you need to remember it, clench your left hand (the process is reversed for lefties.) Be sure to hold that position for a little while though; the study that discovered this had the participants squeezing for a good 45 seconds before letting go.

4. Exercise

At this point we should just accept it that science considers exercise the cure for absolutely any problem, and memory is no different. The physical act increases alertness and oxygen supply to the brain, and may even increase cell growth in the parts of your brain responsible for memory. One study found that right after light exercise, women were able to recall things better than they could before working up a sweat. And while a quick jog can help you out right now, it is even more effective over the long term. A different study found that women who kept fit over six months significantly improved both their verbal and spatial memory.

5. Sleep

At some point in high school or college, almost everyone has tried to pull an all-nighter before a big test (or so pop culture would have us believe). But even if you left your cramming until almost the last minute, it is more beneficial to get a good night’s sleep than to study until dawn. Studies have found that the processes your brain goes through while you're asleep actually help you remember information better the next day. Your brain is bombarded with stimuli when you’re awake, and it uses the time you are asleep to process everything. That's when it gets rid of unnecessary information and doubles down on remembering important things, like all that stuff in your biology textbook. Sleep is when it consolidates that information into a long-term memory. If you stay awake, your brain can’t go through this process.

6. Use Crazy Fonts

We’re all font snobs to some extent. When it comes to books, newspapers, or the internet, we want everything to be clear and easy to read. But researchers have discovered that one of the best ways to remember something you’ve read is to read it in a weird font. The size and boldness makes no difference, although the harder it is to read, the better. When something is unfamiliar and difficult to read, you are forced to concentrate on it more, allowing you to remember it easier.
Large, bold fonts may actually hurt your ability to remember, as studies found that when asked to memorize a list of words, people predicted they would recall bold words easier than non-bold words, and therefore studied them less, leading to the opposite result.

7. Chew Gum

If you need to remember a piece of information for around 30 minutes, trying chewing gum. Studies have found that people do better on both visual and audio memory tasks if they are chewing gum while they do them. Just the act of chewing seems to keep people more focused and improve concentration.
But if you have a pop quiz sprung on you, leave the Juicy Fruit in your pocket. People who didn’t chew gum did better on very short memory tasks, while masticating helped people stay alert during longer ones.

8. Write Things Out

These days it’s far more common to type up almost all the writing you need to do on your phone or computer. Shopping lists are saved on your tablet, phone numbers and email addresses under your contacts—it’s hardly necessary to remember anything anymore. That is, until you forget your phone and realize you don’t remember if you need to pick up bread and eggs. In the future, if you want to recall something, write it out in longhand. It doesn’t matter if you never actually read back what you wrote: Studies have shown that just the act of writing something out allows you to recall it in a way that touching a keyboard does not.

9. Know When to Turn the Music On—and Off

Many people like a bit of music playing while they work or study. And listening to music before you start reading something you need to remember does indeed give you better recall. But once you start work, take out those ear buds. Researchers have found that listening to almost any noise, including music, while studying is a distraction and you will recall less of what you read in the future. It doesn’t matter if you love the music or hate it; it has the same distracting effect as someone yelling random numbers at you. It might seem strange at first studying in complete silence, but science says it pays off in the long run.

10. Visualize

One of the weirdest and most effective ways to remember something is to associate it with a visual image. This can be taken to an extreme, where you can recall a huge number of pieces of information just by building up a detailed visual image in your brain. Let’s say you wanted to remember that J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. Rowling sounds like bowling, so visualize a bowling alley. Now add to this image a hairy potter. This hirsute man, his hands covered with clay, gets up to roll the ball down the lane. From there you could add other bits of information, for example the names of the different Harry Potter books. Eventually you have a place in your head full of information that you can access at any time. It sounds bonkers, but science says it works.

11. Doodle

If you are sitting in a boring class or meeting, don’t be afraid to start drawing hearts and flowers in your margins. While it can look like doodlers are paying less attention than non-doodlers, in reality the act of drawing is helping to keep their brain active. Just sitting there when you are bored makes it easier for you to tune out and as a result you will remember less information. In studies, people who were given a doodling task while listening to a boring phone message ended up remembering 29 percent more of what was on the tape than people who just sat still and listened. 

Interesting stuff, no?  It seems like I read about some other ways to improve the memory not long ago, but I can't remember what they were. 

Oh well... 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Samurai In The Kitchen

I really feel like this would enhance my ability to cook:
The one tool you don't want to skimp on when equipping a kitchen is a knife. A high-quality sharp blade can make cooking and food prep considerably more enjoyable, but so can a set of novelty kitchen knives that look like sheathed miniature samurai swords.

With this $60 four blade set, which includes a bread knife, a meat carver, a utility knife, and a paring knife, you'll be slicing and dicing like you're defending Feudal Japan. The set comes complete with a wooden display stand and a matching set of aluminum sheathes, perfect for protecting the blades when you're not hacking through soup cans or chopping through fruits as they soar through the air.

Oh yeah, baby-san!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Technology Help Desk Through The Ages

When it comes to figuring out new technology and getting help with that new technology, most of us fall into one easily definable category or another.  This is an oldie but a tremendous goodie...

 The funny thing is, it's always been that way, no matter the time period...

Being a member of the IT help desk team should get you some serious extra credit toward sainthood, I think.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How Animals Eat Their Food

My kids told me about this one, and I'm very glad they did!  Let the hilarity ensue:


Monday, August 5, 2013