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Friday, October 3, 2008

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 10/4-5

All times PDT.

9-12:30 PM: College Football, Iowa @ #17 Michigan State (ESPN2). Wait, my new "mid-major lineal title" just got created, and all my thoughts were on whether Oregon State had done enough to crack positive B Points next week! (It will depend a LOT on SoS... but why do I keep reading, like from blogger Ted Miller, "what if the Penn State game was the fluke"? Penn State's in my top 5! Didn't the Beavers lose to Stanford as well? Win that game, and their B Rating is probably over 1 even without a better performance against JoePa! And that's the only thing this entry has to do with the entire Big Ten.)

12:30-4 PM: College Football, #6 Kentucky @ defending 2004 Auburn-Utah titleholder #1 Alabama (CBS). Nick Saban is 1-0 this season in games against #6 teams in my C Ratings with the Auburn-Utah title at stake.

6-9:30 PM: College Football, defending Princeton-Yale title holder #4 Missouri @ #8 Nebraska (ESPN). Preceded at 3 PM by Auburn-Vanderbilt, so games REALLY got crammed on ESPN today. Blame the Breeder's Cup, but seriously, this seems like a natural opening for one more college football contract. But the SEC just re-upped and the Big 12 signed last year.
10-1 PM: NFL Football, regional action (CBS and/or FOX). The WNBA Finals, below, cleared out space for NFL Football to not be restricted to SNF.

1:30-4 PM: WNBA Finals, Silver Stars @ Shock (ESPN2). Man, the WNBA Finals can't even get an ABC slot on a weekend now? Blame NASCAR, running from 11-3 today with the AMP Energy 500. In other news, even women's basketball players think the WNBA stinks. I really wish supporters of women's equality in sports would put more chips on other sports like golf or softball. Basketball is either boring or incomprehensible no matter who plays it.

4-7:30 PM: MLB Baseball, Angels @ Red Sox (TBS) and 7-10 PM: MLB Baseball, Cubs @ Dodgers (TBS). I suspect some game time changes may occur if the Phillies-Brewers series ends early. Hey, by getting football out of the way earlier in the day we could fit baseball in here (SNF is 5:15-8:30) and have a whole day of college football! Thanks, WNBA, for bumping out the Chase for the Cup! (Baseball would have bumped out a primetime game, not an afternoon game as in past weeks.)

Al Gore, I'm waiting for my reward.

I have another Pascal's Wager on the topic of global warming: Regardless of whether you think global warming is primarily man-made, the last thing we should be doing is contributing to it.
But if we're going to correct global warming as fast as I think we need to, we sure as hell better make sure we do it right. So what is causing global warming, and what can be done to avert it?
Well, there are some handy charts and data in this report from the EPA - admittedly all the data is from 2002 and the US, but it does suggest that in that year, 83.4% of US greenhouse gas emissions were from carbon dioxide. Methane accounted for 8.6%, nitrous oxide 6.0%, and other stuff 2%. I'll focus on the first three, in part since they affect the climate in different ways; the report claims that methane is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide in trapping heat, and nitrous oxide is over 300 times as effective as CO2, but also measures everything in terms of CO2 equivalents. Just because methane is more effective at causing climate change than CO2 per mass doesn't mean it actually outpaces CO2 and doesn't mean we should all go vegetarian, wannabe hippies out there, and if you wanna debate that I'm happy to open a Truth Court case. Even if it was contributing more to global warming than CO2, meat production isn't even the majority producer of methane and nitrous oxide - admittedly also produced in agriculture - would be an even worse problem. (Oh, and methane gets decayed after a few years anyway.)
I'm reducing CO2 to fossil fuel burning even though CO2 is emitted in other ways because fossil fuel burning made up 97% of gross CO2 emissions. (.9% came from iron and steel production, the closest competitor, and another .7% came from cement manufacture, totaling about 98.6%. Waste combustion, ammonia production, and lime manufacture were negligible parts of the emission of CO2 but I mention them because they nonetheless contrubuted more to global warming than other, non-CO2-producing factors I mention below. Gross emissions ignore carbon sinks.) Scroll down to Table ES-5; if I'm interpreting things right (let me know if I'm not, as I'm performing similar calculations throughout this post), about half of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, as of 2002, comes from generating electricity, with half of the rest coming from transportation, and 59% of the rest after that coming from industrial operations. (Later, the report says 31% of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning came from transportation, 17% from industry, and the rest from residential and commercial uses, including electricity in that count. 40% of CO2 from fossil fuel burning came from electricity.)
The leading causes of methane production were landfills (32.3%), natural gas systems (20.4%), "enteric fermentation" or animal digestion (19.1%), coal mining (8.7%), manure management (6.6%), wastewater treatment (4.8%), and petroleum systems (3.9%). (That totals 95.8%. "Stationary sources" - wood-burning stoves mainly - was the largest remaining source at 1.1% with rice cultivation not far behind.)
69.1% of nitrous oxide emissions came from "agricultural soil management", with most of the rest (12.7%) coming from "mobile sources" (related to, say, motor vehicle internal combustion). Manure management (4.3%), nitric acid (4.0%), human sewage (3.8%), and "stationary sources" (3.4%) accounted for most of the remaining 18%. Other causes of climate change are primarily used as substitutes for chemicals that were eating away at the ozone layer, but we're now finding the cure isn't much better than the disease; the production of a byproduct of most air conditioning systems, and leaks from electrical transmission and distribution, also are problems.
So let's see... throw them all together... fossil fuel consumption accounts for about 80.9% of the total... N2O from agricultural soil management accounts for 4.1% to bring us to an even 85%... let's throw in the three leading methane producers, landfills (2.8%), natural gas (1.8%), and "enteric fermentation" (1.6%)... that brings us to 91.2%. Split up fossil fuel consumption into electricity, transportation, industrial fossil fuel burning, and residential/commercial fossil fuel burning (think natural gas or oil heating systems) and that's eight things to take care of and if we're lucky, we can make global warming something akin to a distant memory. We probably can't reduce emissions from all those sources to zero, so let's make it nine (which if I wanted to, I could split up into groups of three over the weekend) by throwing in "substitution of ozone-depleting substances" (1.3%). That makes up over 90 teragrams of CO2 equivalent, and nothing else accounts for more than 60 Tg CO2 equivalent, so it's a good stopping place. We could get rid of up to 92.5% of current global warming contributions right here on Da Blog!
Fossil fuel consumption is the 800-pound gorilla in the room and we'll get to that over the weekend, but for now, here are my thoughts on the others, for the sake of further reducing warming. Each section will start with some words on what the same EPA report has to say on the matter, followed by my own comments that boil down to whatever I could find out on Wikipedia and the report.
  • Soil management: Anytime nitrogen gets added to (or is even present in) soil, microbes convert at least some of it to N2O. So use of any fertilizer that contains nitrogen, "nitrogen-fixing crops and forages", dumping "crop residues and[/or] sewage sludge" onto soil, "high-organic-content soils", and yes, animal droppings could be contributing to global warming. I know this is one thing the vegetarians will seize on and claim the best way to be green is to go veggie, but honestly, given the importance of nitrogen in helping plants grow, I'm not sure there's much that can be done here. I mean, to get the most headway, we'd not only have to reject meat, but beans, corn, and barley (although less beer might be a cause for celebration) as well, not to mention rejecting any nitrogen fertilizer when that contains the most potential for sustainability. But don't worry, I'll throw in a few more things we can look at to make up for it: iron/steel production, "mobile sources" of N2O, coal mining, cement manufacture, and methane from manure management.
  • Landfills: Specifically, organic wastes such as yard wastes and food, which the microbes get into again. Recycling seems to be pretty strong in the United States, but composting as an environmental policy is only starting to gain steam. Some places have separate services for the collection of yard wastes. Also, according to the EPA report, many landfills, including the largest ones, collect the gas emitted by their landfills and combust them - which produces carbon dioxide, but again, CO2 is, all else being equal, much less of a warmer than methane. Still, stopping more stuff from going into landfills is the best approach here.
  • Natural gas: mostly methane. Some methane is leaked from petroleum as well because oil and gas are often found near each other, but gas is the major source. I'm not quite sure how that changes the relationships between the fossil fuels in terms of what's most polluting. Read on over the weekend to find out why this is just one beef I have with T. Boone Pickens.
  • "Enteric fermentation": Mostly applies to ruminant animals, so when you're eating pork or fowl, compared to eating beef you're actually helping the environment! Dairy might be worth foregoing, but improvements in efficiency have allowed cattle populations to decline from 1995-at least 2002.
  • "Substitution of ozone-depleting substances": This refers to chemicals called HFCs and PFCs, which are regulated by the Kyoto Protocol, being used as replacements for the last environmental panic, ozone-depleting CFCs, which were long used in refrigeration and firefighting. It's important that as alternatives are developed that don't harm the ozone layer or cause a greenhouse effect, they are spread to developing nations like China and India, and to the rest of the developing world, with all due speed.
  • Production of iron and steel: Here's something I had to go to Google to learn more about. Here's what I learned from here, from an International Energy Agency report: This is largely because a lot of coal tends to be used in the process, and improvements in efficiency can only continue to help. Some countries engage in "waste energy recovery" which can be used to generate power and help the overall fossil-fuel issue. This is another thing that will probably never significantly go away entirely.
  • "Mobile sources" of N2O: Fuel combustion can produce N2O in addition to CO2, which is one reason I don't trust biofuels. This will be one of my criteria when I look at alternative fuels for our cars: low nitrogen content, not just low carbon content.
  • Coal mining: Methane was produced when coal was formed and has been trapped since, and coal mining releases it. A lot of it is required by law to be directed to the atmosphere or else it'll blow up. Obviously this will become less of a problem as we reduce our use of coal, but methane recovery schemes are progressing in the meantime and surface mining has grown popular, if sometimes controversial.
  • Cement manufacture: CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) is heated and produces CaO and CO2, the former of which becomes part of the process of making cement. According to the IEA: China, which produces nearly half the world's cement, has gotten better at preventing too much in the way of CO2 emissions. Use of substitutes for clinker (unground cement) could improve CO2 emissions.
  • Methane from manure management: Basically, this means don't keep animal manure in an environment that doesn't allow oxygen to reach it. "Solid waste management" and cooler, drier conditions are better for taking care of manure.
So that takes care of nearly 20% of global-warming-causing emissions. Over the weekend, we'll look at the other 80%.

Many early voting registration deadlines are tomorrow, and trust me, it's not really as hard as you think it is unless your state is actively trying to get you not to vote.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I hope this is anywhere near as good as what I was going for.

If it seems like there isn't anyone it seems like you can trust these days, that's probably because there isn't anyone it seems like you can trust these days.

Once upon a time, most Americans got their news from a handful of sources. There was your local paper (which probably got its national news from the Associated Press or similar), there were the network newscasts, maybe newsmagazines like Time or Newsweek, and that was the definition of what was going on in the world today. Today there are more places to get news than you can shake a stick at, from local news to talk radio to CNN to MSNBC to Fox News to blogs to other Internet forums to just people in the street. It's a bewildering array of news choices.

Once upon a time, a few suits in New York determined what Americans would talk about each day. Until conservatives in the 1980's started finding a liberal bias in what they reported, most people took this system for granted. Now there is no news monopoly, no news oligarchy. If you want to find out about voting irregularities in Ohio in 2004, you can. If you want to find out about the case against man-made climate change, you can. If you want to find out about the happenings of the Joe McLonewolf party whose only candidate is its namesake running for mayor of Nowheresville, Montana, you can.

But all this has made it a lot harder to at least have the idea that you really know what's going on in the world, at least if you're not setting out to be a partisan hack. Will you get your news from Fox, or from CNN? Will you get your news from the ABC station, or the CBS station? From Rush Limbaugh, or from NPR? From Huffington Post, or Drudge Report? From Talking Points Memo, or from Town Hall? Or will you drive yourself insane by trying to take something from all of the above? You don't need to know every single detail of what's going on in the world, at least theoretically, but the new conventional wisdom is that you can't trust anyone to decide what's important. Best to just take it all in, even though no one has that much time in the day.

But wait! What happens when different sources contradict each other? Frustratingly, you will rarely hear any of Talking Points Memo's claims debunked at Town Hall (or vice versa), you'll just see its very existence torn down. If someone says everything is going great in Iraq, and someone else says Iraq is going into the crapper, which is right, or how right is each claim? There are groups that publish exposes of inaccuracies, distortions, and omissions in the media, but a) they are ALWAYS partisan (and often more concerned with bashing their target than actually critically examining it and acknowledging where it might be right) and b) they focus exclusively on the mainstream media. These organizations are either lefty and complaining that the media is biased to the right, or righty and complaining that the media is biased to the left. Read the two in unison, and you get the sense that if the media is anything, it's just plain incompetent.

Seriously, after years of being pilloried by the right til the cows come home and seeing conservatives drift over to Fox News and the like, why on Earth would the so-called "MSM" still exhibit left-wing bias?

It's been said that having certain preconceived notions simply comes with the territory of being human, and that "bias" is inevitable. It's also been said that in response to complaints of media bias, the media started publishing all claims no matter how specious and started presenting every debate as having two sides, even if it's an evolution-v.-creationism debate where every last shred of evidence favors one side. Maybe people who watched ABC, NBC, and CBS were more likely to vote for Kerry because those three networks were in the tank for him; maybe it was because honestly looking at the facts of what was going on in the world would suggest Kerry was the right man to vote for. I wouldn't be able to say if the media has reacted like that or if it's to the extreme often suggested. Certainly cable news has essentially become a series of shoutfests driven by ideologues who draw immense cults of personality around them, embracing partisanship rather than getting rid of it.

I would suggest, though, that in addition to legitimizing illegitamate viewpoints, point-counterpoint debates may make it harder, not easier, to escape charges of bias, because if one side is seen as "winning", obviously you didn't make the other side strong enough. It couldn't possibly be that if both sides were as strong as they could be the first side would be shown to be correct.

I do know for one thing that regardless of whether the mainstream media is biased or even incompetent at what it's trying to do, it's not entirely blameless. The media has been slow to react to the new proliferation of voices and in many cases only pays lip service to the Internet and its allies - launching web sites and "I-Reports" or whatever they call their user-generated video with one hand while snickering at nerds-in-the-basement-bloggers the rest of the time, feeling that they're not really all that popular and beneath their notice. There really isn't much of a reason why the "mainstream media" needs to be separate from the Internet, strictly speaking, why it shouldn't cover the same stories and discuss the same issues that people online are debating, even if they sound like the deranged rantings of a crazy person. Especially if they sound like the deranged rantings of a crazy person, because thanks to the Internet, they won't go away if you don't lay the smack down.

The media's quest for journalistic integrity and sourcing is in many ways something that's sorely needed in the... non-mainstream media, for lack of a better term. If the blogosphere concerns themselves with correcting the MSM, maybe the MSM can concern itself with correcting the blogosphere. 2004-election-stealing conspiracy theorists, 9/11 truthers, (in 2004) Swift Boaters, and the like may want the media to look at their claims and publicize them, but I suspect that if the mainstream media actually did investigate them they would lose much of their popularity. And the media would do a more effective job at losing their accusations of bias than their recent efforts have been capable of. In fact here's an idea: Let's take the most far-out, extreme lefty you can think of, pair him up with the most far-out, extreme righty you can think of, and have them hash out any argument they may have, bombarding each other with points and evidence, until one side is throughly decimated and both sides become more sane.

It was thinking like this, several months ago, that led me to launch Truth Court (okay, maybe the actual announcement was only a month and a half ago) after reading True Enough by Farhad Manjoo, proposing an initiative that would look at every shred of evidence at both sides of a factual debate and attempt to come to a coherent worldview or conclusion, if not by me then by someone else. At one time I had been considering also starting a new feature, possibly after the elections, that would take all the hot posts from the top blogs on all sides of the spectrum and unite them under a single post so you could see what all sides were talking about, which might encourage cross-pollination of information. Right now, I'm thinking I'm not going to do that - and that Truth Court may be becoming less necessary - for two reasons. One, the election will almost assuredly change the paradigms on all sides of the political debate, especially if Obama wins.

Two, the media itself is starting to shake into a new paradigm, taking to heart some of the suggestions I made above. People in media are starting to realize that they threaten to be overtaken by blogs and "new media", that the Internet and talk radio is not beneath their notice, and if they aren't, they should soon. The Edwards scandal may have largely shaken the mainstream media out of what complacency they may have had, by creating an easy base for accusations of liberal bias and generally embarrasing the media for getting scooped by the National Enquirer and following a policy of "the blind leading the blind" thereafter. And more importantly, it gave a preview of what could have been the media's future of irrelevancy and pariahhood.

That the media called around looking to fact-check and get to the bottom of Sarah Palin's qualifications and McCain's and Palin's statements caught some commentators by surprise and got them wondering if the press is finally serving the American people in the way they always should have. The recent popularity of "fact-check" segments is also an encouraging sign as well. Quite a few people on the left see the Bush years as the dark years that, they hope, Obama will pull us out of. It's somewhat fitting that the red state-blue state meme was started after the 2000 elections, because we may finally be pulling out of the dark years of barbaric partisanship as well.

Your helpful pop-up reminder

Be sure to watch the VP debate tonight, and I hope everyone reading Da Blog right now registers in time for their state's deadline, which could be only two days away - regardless of how well the ongoing voting series is working on you so far.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

Become your own human lie detector!

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 4

NBC's Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

The first year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. Now, NBC lists the game it "tentatively" schedules for each night. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site (note that this was written with last season in mind):
  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET. (Note: Last year, NBC listed a tentative game for Week 17; they are not doing so this year.)
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in "flex" weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night. (Note: Again, excluding Week 17.)
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
  • Rules NOT listed on NFL web site but pertinent to flex schedule selection: CBS and Fox each protect games in five out of six weeks, and could not protect any games Week 17 last year. Unless I find out otherwise, I'm assuming that's still the case this year, especially with no tentative game listed Week 17, and that protections are being scheduled now, after Week 4.
  • Three teams can appear a maximum of six games in primetime on NBC, ESPN or NFL Network (everyone else gets five) and no team may appear more than four times on NBC. At this writing, no team is completely tapped out at any measure, and even the Pats and Chargers could be flexed out of games to get some wiggle room. NBC appearances for all teams: PHI 3, CHI 2 (1 flexible), PIT 1, JAX 1, NE 3 (1 flexible), SD 3 (2 flexible), SEA 2 (1 flexible), TB 2 (1 flexible), IND 2 (1 flexible), NYG 2 (1 flexible), DAL 2 (both flexible), WAS 1 (flexible), MIN 1 (flexible). All primetime appearances for all teams: PHI 4, CHI 4 (1 flexible), PIT 4, JAX 3, NE 5 (1 flexible), SD 5 (2 flexible), SEA 2 (1 flexible), TB 3 (1 flexible), IND 4 (1 flexible), NYG 3 (1 flexible), DAL 4 (2 flexible), WAS 2 (1 flexible), MIN 3 (1 flexible), DEN 3, CLE 4, NYJ 2, CIN 1, ARI 2, OAK 2, NO 3, BAL 2, GB 3, TEN 1, SF 1, BUF 1, HOU 1, CAR 1.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:
Week 11 (November 16):
  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Washington
  • Prospects: Both teams are 3-1 in the tough NFC East. Probably will keep its spot, especially being the NFL's greatest rivalry, to the extent I wouldn't be surprised if CBS and Fox didn't bother to protect anything, especially Fox (who if they lost anything, say Bears-Packers, could take solace in getting the Cowboys and Redskins). That said, there's a reason I still have Fox protecting a game this week. See below.
  • Likely protections: Ravens-Giants, Titans-Jaguars, or nothing (CBS) and Bears-Packers (FOX)
  • Other possible games: Chargers-Steelers and Broncos-Falcons are the only games that look like they could be competitive right now, in addition to the games suggested above.
Week 12 (November 23):
  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ San Diego
  • Prospects: Indy is struggling and the Chargers at 2-2 aren't much better. If Indy keeps losing and the Chargers get on the winning track this could start looking lopsided.
  • Likely protections: Eagles-Ravens (Fox) and Jets-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Falcons and Giants-Cardinals are probably the front-runners.
Week 13 (November 30):
  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Minnesota
  • Prospects: 2-2 v. 1-3, but most power rankings seem to think Chicago will get better.
  • Likely protections: Giants-Redskins (Fox) and either Steelers-Patriots or Broncos-Jets (CBS).
  • Other possible games: It's Thanksgiving Weekend, so more teams like the Cowboys and Titans aren't available. Panthers-Packers looks like a decent enough selection. Falcons-Chargers looks good as well.
Week 14 (December 7):
  • Tentative game: New England @ Seattle
  • Prospects: The Pats are 2-1, the Seahawks are 1-2, and it's an 18-24 matchup in NBC's power rankings.
  • Likely protections: Cowboys-Steelers (FOX) and if anything, Jags-Bears (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Redskins-Ravens, Eagles-Giants.
Week 15 (December 14):
  • Tentative game: NY Giants @ Dallas
  • Prospects: This is why I had Fox protect Bears-Packers Week 11: so they could leave this week protection-free and maximize their chances of getting a marquee NFC East matchup back.
  • Likely protections: Steelers-Ravens, Broncos-Panthers, Bills-Jets, or nothing (CBS).
  • Othe possible games: Packers-Jaguars.
Week 16 (December 21):
  • Tentative game: San Diego @ Tampa Bay
  • Prospects: Not entirely gone to pot. It's 2-2 (but better than that) @ 3-1.
  • Likely protections: Panthers-Giants or Eagles-Redskins (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Patriots.
Week 17 (December 28):
  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Debunking - or legitimizing? - climate change deniers

I'm trying to allow myself to build a bit of a buffer of posts so I can work in advance with little pressure, so I'm going to keep today's post short and sweet. With luck, today's Random Internet Discovery (look at the "internet adventures" tag in the sidebar) will be about politics so you'll get some sort of political fix.

As I said yesterday, I feel strongly that, regardless of how you feel regarding its existence or cause, the consequences are too high (and are already starting to affect us now, in this generation) not for us to make an abrupt change in course. So I don't want any sort of distraction from global warming naysayers, or for anything that looks like it contradicts the case for global warming to impede our progress towards saving our planet. So I want people to take a look at this, this, this, and specifically this and this, look at the actual evidence (which is to say, not just to cite some wild-eyed nut or person who obviously has an interest who thinks man's not causing global warming just because) that's presented (and in the case of the Wikipedia articles, not already answered), and tell me why it doesn't matter, or why it's suspect, or why it's an outlier, or why it's inaccurate, or some other reason why it might not be as damning as it seems, or hell, why it's perfectly legitimate and valid. I may attempt to sort out everything in a post as soon as tomorrow, or I may never get to it as my schedule cramps up.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

As for the plot... what can I say? It's a plot.

(From Girl Genius. Click for full-sized discussions of idiocy.)

This post, like the last one, has nothing to do with politics or voting, so if you just came in yesterday and you have no interest in this sort of thing, just skip past it. If you're the sort of person who only ever came to Da Blog for the webcomic reviews, I have an OOTS review down the pipe for next week - which will essentially be a moment in time; I'll recap my thoughts on the past few strips, probably running through #600 - and that'll be it until the week after the election.

Phil and Kaja Foglio are miniature Gods of the webcomic community for their decision to switch Girl Genius from a print comic book to a fairly standard full-page webcomic - a decision that implicitly validated the webcomic form as a viable form, and which, to hear Phil tell it, partly came out of a feeling that the Internet was a good business model for comics and partly out of a financial crunch.

But what Phil and Kaja actually did was take the stories they were already writing for the comic book and just release them page-by-page to the web. The result shows, as the strip is rather clearly plotted with the comic book in mind, and there are some strips that make little sense on their own, including at least one splash page. A splash page that leads to another strip that tells us little that we didn't learn in the previous strip. While following Girl Genius for the past two weeks, I often found myself looking back at the previous strip to see how we got to where we are in this strip. In essence, Phil and Kaja are still writing a comic book, not a comic strip - or rather, are writing a graphic novel rather than a comic strip.

It's almost like, somewhat appropriately, in Victorian days where writers like Charles Dickens would publish chapters from their coming novels in serial forms in popular magazines - only that really describes the model that has seemed to be the status quo in print comic books, and what Phil and Kaja are doing is to release their novel a paragraph at a time. What I'm trying to say is, the result is rather awkward. When you have different media, you have different expectations and mechanisms for moving the story forward, and the Foglios are using a... different mechanism to say the least. Not that I fault them for doing so - that's what they set out to do, and especially given the serious nature of the subject matter, they can't be expected to change to a more episodic form. And they have certainly adjusted their style from the print comics, pages from which have been assigned what appear to me to be arbitrary dates and placed in the archive. Read from the beginning and it's obvious this was never intended to be released in an episodic form - the story establishes itself too slowly. That's why most webcomics start with a strip-a-day format and undergo Cerebus Syndrome later.

If there's any strip that has managed to balance the episodic format of the web with the coherent storytelling of the print format, it's - guess who! - Order of the Stick. Every strip is a coherent strip in itself, with its own gag wrapping it up, yet also makes sense as a page in a larger book. To pull this off, Rich Burlew will sometimes release multiple pages at once as double or even triple pages, and is flexible enough in the format that he'll even pull infinite canvas techniques that would be difficult to pull off on the printed page. The Foglios would benefit from double or triple strips on occasion, but that would increase their workload as they'd then have to complete another page faster.

It's just that I'd be a bit amazed if - as, paradoxically enough, I suspect they do - they had an audience that was much more than just the people along from the print comics, especially ones that hadn't already taken the massive archive binge, as the pace of the story and the incompleteness of the fragments would likely turn anyone else off from trying to follow it day-by-day.

College Football Schedule: Week 6

This post has nothing to do with politics. The rankings are based on my own college football ranking formula. I worked on this before most of the games of the weekend were completed, and only started moving stuff around once all the games were over. All times Eastern.
Top 25 Games
#6 Kentucky@#1 *Alabama3:30CBS
#2 Oklahoma@Baylor12:30FSN
#3 Texas@Colorado8 PMFSN
#4 *Missouri@#8 Nebraska9 PMESPN
#5 Penn State@PurdueNoonESPN
*Oregon State@#7 Utah9 PM THVS.
Texas A&M@#9 Oklahoma State7 PM
#11 Ball State@Toledo7 PMCSD.TV
Auburn@#12 Vanderbilt6 PMESPN
Oregon@#13 USC8 PMABC
Ohio State@#14 Wisconsin8 PMABC
#15 Florida@Arkansas12:30R'com/Y'hoo
#16 Kansas@Iowa State12:30VS.
Iowa@#17 Michigan StateNoonESPN2
#19 Texas Tech@Kansas State3:30ABC
Pittsburgh@#20 South Florida7:30 THESPN
Rice@#21 Tulsa8 PMCBS CS
San Diego State@#22 TCU6 PMmtn.
Arizona State@#24 California3:30ABC
Watchlist and Other Positive B Point Teams
Connecticut@North Carolina7 PMESPN2
Louisiana Tech@Boise State8 PM WEESPN
Duke@Georgia TechNoonESPNU
Western Kentucky@Virginia Tech1:30CBSCS XXL
Stanford@Notre Dame2:30NBC
South Carolina@Mississippi3:30Gameplan
Florida State@Miami (FL)3:30ABC
Boston College@NC StateNoonRaycom
Navy@Air Force4 PMVS.
Hawaii@Fresno State7 PTGameplan
Northern Illinois@Tennessee7 PMGameplan
This Week's Other HD Games
Florida Atlantic@Middle Tenn. St.8 PM TUESPN2
Cincinnati@Marshall8 PM FRESPN
Maryland@Virginia7 PMESPNU
Washington State@UCLA7 PTFSN/FCS
Big Ten
Big East
Rutgers@West VirginiaNoonESPN+
Mountain West
UNLV@Colorado State2 PMmtn.
Wyoming@New Mexico9:30mtn.
Akron@Kent StateNoonESPN+
Ohio@Western Michigan2 PMCSD.TV
Temple@Miami (OH)3:30Gameplan
Eastern Michigan@Bowling Green4 PMCSD.TV
Conference USA
SMU@Central Florida3:30CBS CS
Alcorn State@New Mexico State1:30
Nevada@Idaho5 PMCSD.TV
Sun Belt
Florida International@North Texas7 PMESPN+
Louisiana-Lafayette@Louisiana-Monroe7 PMCSD.TV
Bowl Subdivision
Army@Tulane3 PMCST

Nothing else matters. This is the ONE THING you should vote on.

What is the most important issue in this election?

Is it the war in Iraq? Health care for all? Illegal immigration? Surely it's the economy, right?


The most important issue in this election, the one that cannot be ignored under any circumstances, is global warming and climate change.

I don't care whether you believe in it or not, never mind that it's been confirmed to hell and back and the real debate is whether man caused it. To me, it's as simple as Pascal's Wager. If you believe global warming exists, and it turns out it doesn't, maybe you've spent some money on some things you didn't strictly need. Not the first time humans have done that. Maybe you even benefit from making those preparations. You reduce our dependence on foreign oil and thus our dependence on countries that hate us. You could just plain improve the quality of life for the average American.

Particularly important in these times, you could stimulate the economy with the investment. I don't want to hear Republicans whining to me about how we should "let the market decide" and "government interference is bad" and about how if we wanted solar and wind, the market would have made us all convert a long time ago. Horseshit. Coal and oil have been subsidized for years; a true "free-market" Republican would repeal those subsidies today, but of course, they won't. Any economist will tell you that when the economy gets tough, the best way to bring it out of the doldrums is to spend government money on investment, not tax cuts, because government investments create jobs and the government not only spends money on the people, it also directly buys from American companies who pass on the money they make to their employees.

But if you decide global warming doesn't exist and you don't need to do anything? And it turns out it does? Then... then you're screwed. Here's just a short summary of what could happen: more extreme weather conditions on both ends of the spectrum (don't you dare get the snowstorm of the century and say "what global warming?"), tropical regions (which means mostly third world countries) becoming desert and formerly fridgid climates becoming the world's new breadbasket, rising sea levels resulting in catastrophe for coastal cities and maybe even wiping out small, low-lying islands, declining oxygen in the world's oceans causing a complete breakdown in the global ecosystem, droughts galore and increased salt penetration into groundwater, diseases, all leading to more conflicts around the globe like what's going on in Darfur, maybe even the release of methane from the world's oceans and from Siberia potentially contributing further to global warming until the whole planet essentially becomes Venus. Oh, and it could mean more illegal immigrants crossing our border, more Iraq conflicts, and universal healthcare suddenly seeming like a quaint utopian goal.

You invest in stopping global warming, you help bring the economy out of what now looks like inevitable if not in-progress recession - you don't invest in stopping global warming, and the recession may never end. Some studies suggest we may pass a "tipping point" at which warming would become unstoppable within five to ten years - if we're not threatening to pass it already!

Wake up, world! There is no such thing as too much climate impact mitigation too fast! Let's quit bickering between parties and nations and get to work! Yes, let's help China move off coal now, and let's reduce our own impact on climate change, and let's have Europe and all the other nations of the world reduce their own impacts on climate change as well! As a planet and as a species, we either drop everything right damn now and put every last one of our efforts towards moving to a clean energy future or we might as well commit global suicide - consequences be damned because no matter what the consequences may be, the impact of global warming could be and will be worse!

What we need is a president that will declare war on global warming, akin to the war on poverty, but with the same fervor and sense of national sacrifice that we brought to World War freakin' Two! We need a president willing to drop everything and get to work, and we need to get it THIS election! Unfortunately, actually saying that while still a candidate is a good way to LOSE an election, but all I want to hear is a sort of intimation, through low-level channels, not even sufficient to leak out to the general public, but enough to let people like me know that a candidate knows the scope of the problem and that they are willing to declare all-out war on global warming, to an extent even Al Gore would be impressed by.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Very interesting. (To me at least.)

I noticed that the logo on at least the first couple of FSN college football broadcasts included a new logo... and regionalized games were shown as "FS Arizona" or "FS Big 12".

Now it seems that the Oklahoma City Thunder will play on a renaming of FSN Southwest to... "FS Oklahoma". Not FSN Oklahoma. Just plain FS Oklahoma.

I smell similar changes coming to other markets and maybe even the linewide update of FSN graphics I didn't think was strictly implied, or necessarily possible.

Just a follow-up

I left links to my post earlier today on "The Importance of Voting" on Independent Political Report and Democratic Underground. I would prefer to have left a comment on a conservative site as well, but the only conservative site I'm really attached to is Newsbusters, which is not particularly wont to post anything connected enough to the subject for my comment to be particularly topical, given their focus on media bias.

I'm sure they'll all be deleted as spam for the moment, because I don't have much other than a single strip and a blog post that doesn't say much more than the strip does. By the time of the election, there will be a great mass of posts and strips that would get excessively fawned on if I made another attempt.

I'm making a slight change to the underlying code for the strip that will become apparent when the new strip comes up.

UPDATE: Gah. Errors corrected. Remind me in the future to look at the page ANY time I change the PHP code, even if the changes shouldn't show up yet.

The Importance of Voting

This is very important to me. I know all ten of you reading the strip probably aren't reading it for this sort of thing, and most webcomiceers would probably say go ahead and leave if you don't like it, but if you yourself are wondering, "Why would I want to vote?" - and even if you're not - I implore you to stick around. Not only because I want the readers for my own ego, but because I feel very strongly about this and I feel everyone I'm trying to appeal to needs to read this.

I understand why you might not think it's worth it to vote. Writing this, I found myself questioning my own desire to vote. It's been suggested, in an academic setting, that the impact of voting is so infinitesimal that, if the cost of voting is anything at all, it's not worth it to vote. Of course if no one votes, the system breaks down - not to mention there's suddenly a reason to vote again, because your vote suddenly becomes super-decisive. That remains the case for the first four or five votes before the value of your vote starts sinking back down to "why bother?" levels. You can see why even a member of the hundred-strong United States Senate might wonder why he'd bother to show up for all but the most narrow, party-line votes. (Of course, his votes are public so there's at least a little bit of incentive there.)

But over the next few weeks, leading up to the election, I aim to demonstrate why you - especially if you're in my demographic and age group - SHOULD vote, and hopefully deconstruct every reason you might have NOT to vote. That's the goal; if anyone has anything to add, any arguments I missed, they can e-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com. You can also leave a comment (possibly on this post) if you have any suggestions fo the series. If, after reading this entire series, you're still not convinced of the effiacy of voting, you can leave a comment as well and I'll aim to take care of any concerns you may have.

The Angst-O-Meter: Day 3 or Conclusion

(From Ctrl+Alt+Del. Click for full-sized surprises.)
This will be the last Angst-O-Meter, at least for now... I'm about to launch into something big and webcomics posts are about to be curtailed sufficient to force me to stop. Neither of the conditions I set when I started are extant; I just need to save time.
Last time, I set the Angst-O-Meter at 62%. Since then:
  • Ethan met Shannon, Christian's representative in absentia, and established her competence. I was concerned when Shannon announced her hatred of Christian that, despite the opening this now opened up for Ethan to escape some angst, it also opened up an opportunity for Ethan to find a little love and escape Lilah, offsetting those gains. So far, though, their relationship is purely strategic.
  • Meanwhile, Lucas attempted to get back on the dating scene, with disastrous results.
  • Ethan, post-strategy session, challenged Christian to find out who could run the store better. This was sort of a big bet on the strip's angst: if Ethan won, the status quo would be restored; if Christian won, Ethan would "work for me for free for the rest of your life." So a lot of the strip's standing was at stake here.
  • Lucas managed to recover some semblance of normalcy by getting back in with Kate. So it looks like the strip is managing to bounce back from the dark days of earlier in the summer.
And then came today's strip to shoot the Angst-O-Meter through the roof.

Ethan just lost everything he was counting on on the flop (Shannon won't help even in subtle ways) and Christian just pushed him all-in (trying to get back with Lilah).

(Pardon the poker metaphors. I've just been trying to catch up on WSOP episodes.)

At this point, if Ethan loses this bet, it would send the Angst-O-Meter straight up to 100% and it would be game over anyway. There are only two reasons I'm not sending the Angst-O-Meter well over 75%: Lucas getting back with Kate and the fact that somehow, someway, Ethan has to win this bet for the sanity of the strip.

Yet I wouldn't be surprised if Christian won, given what Buckley has said in the past.

So the Angst-O-Meter, for now, jumps up to 72% on its last edition until at least after the election... and even if I would otherwise feel like picking it up afterwards, I might not under the ground rules I set for it anyway.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Five weeks in the books in college football...

If you had Week 4 in your "First Lineal Title Change" pool, collect your prize! If you had Week 4 in your "First Lineal Title Held By A Team That's Not Unbeaten" pool, collect your prize! If you had both... you obviously saw the Oregon State upset of USC coming (or you saw Mississippi State beating LSU, or you had Alabama losing by now).

It's funny... before Georgia beat Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl to unify it with the Auburn Title, the 2004 Utah Title was, in a way, the "mid-major" title. Now, if Utah beats the Beavers this week, the 2007 Boise State title, another title created by a mid-major BCS buster, could serve the same role - only going through Washington, Ohio State, Illinois, USC, and Oregon State first. As for Bama, although this means the Auburn-Utah and BCS titles are now both held in the same division, it's a long road to unification - LSU must beat Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tulane (two of those teams are ranked), while Bama must face Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Arkansas State (one of those teams is ranked and another is in positive B Points). It would actually have been a shorter road if Georgia had won, as Georgia would have had to face only Tennessee and Vandy, but Vandy is still ranked. Bama really runs the risk of losing to Kentucky this week, and if that were to happen we'd need another loss or a Kentucky-LSU title game for unification before the bowls, but the game is at home and Bama can handle the pressure.

Lineal title updates and the new C Ratings, including stylesheet changes and most logos, are now up (or should be up by the time 45 minutes have passed from the timestamp on this post). No logos past R for now, and UConn will have to wait for the Us. Many of the changes are a result of the ratings being more volatile early in the season.

I think I figured out why I couldn't load more than two files at a time in Freehostia's new file manager: it only opens up a new line if you put something new in the first line, not any later lines. So if I change the file in the first line, I get a new line, but not if I put something in the line I would normally put it in. Which sucks.

It doesn't help that the closest non-university supplier of USB drives that I know of has such a limited selection.

If you use USB drives... and you're fed up with losing caps and thinking of getting a retractable connector... and you want your USB drives to last a long time... especially if you store your stuff on them...

...then no matter how tempted you may be, do NOT pick up a SanDisk Cruzer Micro, especially the cheap kind. Most of the complaints I've read online have to do with the "U3" feature, but I have read a few people who, like me, have had a problem with the drive failing. Before this one, I've used four different USB drives, and all either stopped working (due to lost caps and bent connectors, or in one case, a connector that slid in and out) or got lost... but NONE failed anywhere near as fast as this one, which I got in May or June, and which failed in late August. I read one review that said not to press your hands on the part that slides in and out; unfortunately, I kinda have to to slide the drive into my computer, because it's not a perfect fit.

So I've sent that drive in to two different companies promising to fix it right up. Unfortunately, the first told me they couldn't do it, and the second told me they couldn't do it without doing an advanced recovery procedure that will set me back $825... if it works. And $150 if it doesn't.

I was panicking when the drive stopped working. It contained everything I had worked on (and was able to recover from my laptop's old hard drive) that wasn't on the web site or my desktop dating back to April of 2007. A list of books I was going to recommend/ask for... a file I was thinking of using for tracking election results... some other things too personal for me to mention and/or that I've just plain forgotten about... and perhaps most importantly of all, almost every ounce of work I had done on the 100 Greatest Movies Project... all threatened to be gone. But when I was confronted with that price tag, I was actually considering cutting my losses and walking away. Maybe I could find the previous USB drive and it would have most but not all of the things I was dreading losing.

I can cover it - thanks to a recent influx of cash associated with the start of the school year - but I'm not happy about it and I'm going to attempt to discern every penny I may make in the future from recovering this stuff, just so I can find out if it turns out to be worth it. And I may be about to attempt to make some money back right now. Unfortunately, I have heard bad things about PayPal but I don't know of any real competitors to it, so if you are willing to give me any sort of donation, e-mail me at mwmailsea at yahoo dot com and let me know so I know if it would be worth it to establish the account.